June 21, 2005 – Gotta Love Tony! Challenge

In fewer than 1,000 words, write a story where Tony tells someone about a scene from a movie under unusual circumstances. Deadline: Midnight, June 24, 2005.

And at 1,448 words, I guess I missed the mark a bit. I thought about trimming it, but I like it best the way it is now and have decided not to compromise the piece. Especially since I don't think too many people are able to respond, if anyone wants to go over the limit, be my guest. ;) You have my permission as I set the challenge in the first place! LOL

This is my first venture into NCIS fiction. I haven't seen all the episodes, and as this is an itty-bitty challenge, it was agreed that Betaing wasn't required. Any errors in continuity et cetera are my own. I don't own these characters, just having fun with their universe.

Since it is so short, there is only the barest on continuity concerns: It takes place after 'Twilight'.



Tin Star

By Mouse

"You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If you're honest you're poor your whole life and in the end you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star."

- Martin Howe (Lon Chaney Jr.), High Noon, 1952

"Tell me a story."

Special Agent Tony Dinozzo stares at the child in his arms, her small hands pressed against his bulletproof vest, eyes huge in the twilight.

"A story?" Did his voice usually sound this hoarse?

Only after yelling for three hours…

The small head nods, eyes never leaving his face.


"What're you waiting for, Dinozzo?"

The voice of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is harsher than his but then he has more reason to sound that way. Their investigation has led them here, where it all started, and he's been yelling into a cellular 'phone and barking orders over gunfire for far too long. They are currently pinned down behind the barn on the Garvey property, near a field of rotting wheat husks. Three assailants roam the area, using the out buildings for cover, circling like wary coyotes closing in for the kill.

Three NCIS agents can be found along their trail, like breadcrumbs. There hasn't been time to deal with their deaths or their bodies.

He and Gibbs are the only agents left to guard their charge.

Tony's throat is dry and he licks his lips, desperate for water they don't have. He glances to his left and connects with the blue eyes of command. They seem to be the only colour remaining in a day being bleached of life with the setting sun, making everything shallow and dull, like cardboard.

"The little lady asked for a story."

Tony clears his throat. If they hadn't moved their only witness to the complicated homicide of Lieutenant Helen Garvey - her mother - she'd be a fragile corpse in a pink Barbie dress on Ducky's table right now. They'd managed to avoid that eventuality so far, but things went wrong from the get-go. Someone ratted and the enemy found them. Tony knew he'd have to take a number behind Gibbs to hunt that bastard down when they got out of this mess.

If they got out of this mess.

Gibbs cell 'phone ran out of juice while he was speaking with McGee earlier. That's what happens when you leave it on your desk without putting it in the charger. The technologically challenged Gibbs made some reference to paper cups and string being more reliable.

Tony's cell 'phone, however, had enough of a charge to reach McGee, who is currently stuck in traffic with their back up and mad as hell. He and Gibbs shared a smile on hearing the unexpected expletives. Now they wait and hope they can hold out until the cavalry arrives.

His 'phone is dead now. He winces at his choice of words. Not dead. Just… needs recharging.

He licks his lips again. Just needs… water.

He tries not to think about the few clips of ammunition they have between them.

He looks down at the child they've sworn to protect. She's a bright spark. Has entertained them on and off for the last two days. She's listed all the states and named their capital cities. She got a few of the cities mixed up, but it's the sort of information Tony doesn't keep handy so he's impressed. She knows a number of songs about animals. Can name all seven dwarves and sing the 'Heigh-Ho' song, repeatedly. She's seen 'The Little Mermaid' five hundred times, she says.

If Kate was here, Tony thinks, she'd be the one comforting the girl. She's good with kids.

Was good with kids. The ache tries to grip his chest and squeeze but he pushes it away before too much memory surfaces. Not the time. Not the place.

It doesn't help that Lieutenant Garvey named her daughter Katie.

"Tony." His gaze snaps back to Gibbs. "Story." His eyes flick towards the body of a downed agent, lying nearby as if in sleep. "Now."

"Okay." He takes a deep breath; he isn't good with kids. "Once upon a time, there was a man name Will Kane, and he was the Marshall of a small town in the Wild West. It was his last day on the job. He'd just got married."

Gibbs snorts. "'High Noon'. Cute, Dinozzo."

"At least you know it, unlike McGee." Some of their usual banter makes a brief appearance. "Nineteen fifty-two. Gary Cooper - who was fifty at the time, by the way - and Grace Kelly. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. John W. Cunningham wrote the story and Carl Foreman did the screenplay. One of the best westerns ever."

Gibbs holds very still and scans the area beyond through the narrow gap between the tractor seat and the engine, looking for movement. The equipment has been in the sun all day and it's still warm, though as night seeps into the earth, it will grow cold, and they'll wish they had warmer clothing. October can be a moody bitch of a month.

"Was there a dragon?"

Startled, he looks down at the girl again. It amazes him how resilient kids can be.

"No, but there was a… very bad man that the Marshall put in prison years ago and he's been set free and is coming to the town with his gang to kill the Marshall."

"Was he a Jedi?"

Tony frowns. "How old are you again?"

"Seven." Suddenly, her voice isn't very steady. She probably wonders if she's done something wrong by the expression on his face. Damn.

"He wasn't a Jedi, Katie." He tries to speak gently. Saying that name hurts. "He's defended the town a long time but the people who live there won't help. They're too scared. And his new wife doesn't want anything to do with guns. So he has to face these bad men by himself."

"That isn't fair," she states indignantly, removing one of her tiny hands from his vest long enough to push her blood stained cardigan to one side.

It's the blood of the dead agent who had been carrying her when they made the dash from the barn. The dead agent who is staring blindly at the sky with a few rounds in his bulletproof vest and one that destroyed the left side of his skull.

"Sometimes life isn't fair, Katie girl." Gibbs speaks with a very soft voice and Tony isn't entirely sure if his boss is speaking to them or has shifted to another place.

"But it turns out the Marshall's wife doesn't leave on the train after all and helps him fight, even though she doesn't like guns."

"What about the people?"

"They stay hidden or leave before the bad men get there."

"They should help him." She squints at both their faces in the growing gloom. "You'd help him."

"Of course." Tony adjusts his hold on her, as if he can protect her just by his presence. He has graphic knowledge that it doesn't work that way. "It's what we do."

"Why doesn't he leave?"

"He's tired of running. The final fight is… spectacular. Very good."

"Do the good guys win?"


A bullet pings off the tractor seat. So they didn't get the one with the sniper rifle after all.

"He's in the silo," Gibbs murmurs, more to himself than to anyone else.

"Where the hell is McGee?"

"Tony, on a count of three, I want you to take Katie and head back through the barn. Find a spot you can defend, maybe the hayloft and stay low. I'll cover you."

"And who's gonna cover you?"

"Stow it, Dinozzo." Blue eyes pin him. "That's an order."

"Got it, boss." He's keeping it light but he has a horrible feeling of déjà vu.

"One -"

"Are you sure -"

"Two -"

"Boss -"


Gibbs leans around the tractor and fires. Tony swiftly hugs the girl to his chest and runs as best he can, staying low and following a serpentine path towards the barn.

The bullets thudding into the back of his bulletproof vest knock him down just before he reaches the doors. Katie is under him, screaming. Damn.

The last thing he hears before he loses consciousness is a series of sirens and a rally of fresh gunfire; the cavalry has arrived. The last thing he sees before he can no longer focus on his surroundings is a cluster of three people, kneeling beside him, staring down at his face: Grace Kelly, Katie Garvey, and Caitlin Todd.