Author's note:- Firstly, and very unusually for me, this story is already completed in four parts and will be posted over the next few days. Secondly the reason it's here is a short story in itself. Suffice to say it's all Sarah's fault, if she hadn't gotten us broken down on Route 81 near midnight in freezing conditions, well. . . apologies if you're waiting for me to post on my other stories. I hope that you can forgive me.- J

Spoilers: None, but this is set mid to late season 3 for character development and timeline.

Summary: Tony and McGee are transporting a prisoner when they have a little car trouble.

Disclaimers: This story is written for pleasure and not profit, as an homage to a show and characters that I love, in the hope that the writers and producers won't mind.

Breakdown

McGee turned to look at Tony with an expression of frustrated annoyance. "So how do you figure this is my fault?"

"Because," Tony stated, looking out of the front windscreen into the cold dark night, the very cold dark night, "you were in charge of transport." He looked back at McGee. "I was in charge of prisoner collection." He glanced up into the rearview mirror to see the frowning face of their handcuffed prisoner in the backseat, and flashed him a quick Dinozzo smile. "You doin' all right Griffin? Handcuffs not too tight for you?" He didn't wait for a reply. "McGee here would like to apologise for the delay in getting you to your new accommodations. Wouldn't you Agent McGee?" He turned back to McGee and grinned, again not really waiting for a reply. "See, the prisoner is all collected and snug on the backseat, but the transport. . ." he gestured vaguely at the front dash and the still flashing red warning lights.

McGee's frustrated expression tightened. They had gone together to collect Griffin, and they had gone together to collect the car. "How do you figure. . ."

"OK, Probie, who signed for the prisoner, filled in all the paperwork?"

"You did." McGee confirmed.

"Fine, so the prisoner is my responsibility and he's sitting there," Tony smiled into the mirror at him, this time giving him a little wave. He looked at McGee "And who signed for, and is therefore responsible for, the car?"

McGee sighed, resigned to agreeing with Tony's twisted logic. "I did."

"So you see, your responsibility, you clearly didn't check it properly before we left, hence we're stuck here freezing our asses off until help arrives," he glanced at the reading on the dash, 24 degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing, and, with the clear star filled sky, only likely to get colder. He allowed just a frisson of fear, before he dismissed it as irrational. Help would be there before the cold had time to cause them any problems, and the prisoner was securely handcuffed in the back seat, the doors security locked. All they had to do was sit and wait for help, and tease McGee of course.

"Speaking of help," McGee took the opportunity to change the subject. "Don't you think it would be a good idea to call for some?"

"Gee yes McGee, I think it probably would, and, since it's your fault, I think you'd better call Gibbs and. . ."

"Oh no, I think this is a job for the senior field agent, as you keep pointing out. ."

"Hey," Griffin spoke from behind. "Will one of you just call for someone to get us out of here before we freeze to death."

Tony and McGee looked at each other.

"We could always call Abby," McGee suggested, "get her to tell Gibbs."

"Good call, Probie," Tony agreed.

McGee took out his cell and hit the speed-dial for Abby's lab, he glanced at the clock, already past 11, but Abby had been pulling several really late shifts on this case and he was confident that she would be there. The phone only rang twice before she answered. "Hey Abby, Tony and I have run into a small problem with this prisoner transport, the car. . .Hey. . .What the. . ." McGee turned at the sound of the opening door as Griffin dived from the back seat, pushing himself quickly to his feet, he scrambled across the few feet of uneven ground that led to the steep banking alongside the road and began to clamber up it. "I'll call you back."

"Hey," Tony's cry mirrored McGee's as he clicked off his safety belt, and threw his own door open, climbing out and drawing his gun in a single fluid motion. The cold air hit him like a wall, and he drew in a sharp breath, his feet crunching on the frozen grass. He looked up to get bearings on his fleeing prisoner, who was already halfway up the bank, and gave a soft curse. Vaguely his mind registered that this shouldn't have been possible, that the doors in back of the car were fitted with special security locks, but how this had happened was, at the moment, unimportant what was important was getting their prisoner back in the car as quickly as possible, if just to avoid being exposed to the sub-freezing temperatures, because Griffin had no chance of getting away. He was cuffed, for a start, which made running a lot more difficult, and Tony had at least ten years and a couple of levels of fitness on the guy. So what the hell was he playing at making a run like this when the conclusion was inevitable? Not to mention the fact that they were in the middle of nowhere, one road and a few miles of forest surrounding them. No chance of escape and Tony hadn't pegged the guy as crazy, ruthless, calculating, yes, but not crazy. "Stop, Griffin, or I will shoot you." Tony yelled, hoping to bring the farcical escape attempt to a halt before it got any further. He fired a couple of warning shots into the banking just above Griffin's head.

Griffin didn't even pause; he carried on with his frantic scramble up the slope using his hands to grab the iced grass to steady himself.

Tony swore again and hesitated, drawing a line on the back of Griffin's leg. He could easily take the shot, bring him down, but they were a long way from medical attention, in freezing conditions, and he could easily nick an artery. The guy would bleed to death before help arrived, and it wasn't his only option, with a little exercise he could bring him down without injury, so maybe he should. . . He cursed, this time at his own indecision, and holstered his weapon, the decision made by the fact that Griffin was about to clear the top of the bank, at which point he would disappear from sight. He ran forward and began his own scramble up the steep surface. The icy cold slicing into his fingers when he had to grab onto the grass. He heard the door slam shut on the other side of the car and McGee's own crunching footsteps as he crossed the grass following him, but he didn't look round. He didn't need to; McGee would be there to back him up.

Tony was panting slightly, as he crested the banking, not just from the exertion but also from breathing in the freezing air. He could feel the cold ground as though the soles of his shoes weren't there, like walking barefoot on icy blocks. He tried to ignore it as he scanned for his missing prisoner.

Griffin was running across the grass, about two thirds of the way to the forest tree-line around fifty yards away. Tony drew his weapon and set off at a dead run after him. Now he may not have the choice, because if Griffin did make it into the trees then his chances of escape would increase from the farcical to the possible, and Tony couldn't let that happen, for all his light banter Tony knew just how dangerous Griffin could be. If he got away he would kill again, there was no doubt about that, so it wasn't going to happen, even if that meant shooting him in the back. Still, he would try to run him down first.

McGee was close on Tony's heels, his warning shots had given the younger agent time to catch up, and he cleared the top of the bank only a couple of paces behind Tony. He did his own assessment and drew his weapon, moving slightly to Tony's left as he set off after him, so that he too would have a clear shot.

Griffin was almost at the tree-line and although Tony had made up some ground he knew it wasn't enough. He stopped and took aim. "Hold it Griffin," he fired a couple more warning shots into the ground, and dirt bounced up by Griffin's feet. "Next shot won't be a warning."

Griffin stopped just a few feet short of the trees and raised his cuffed hands overhead.

"Now turn around," Tony instructed, relieved that he hadn't been forced into taking the decision to shoot. It was hard enough to shoot people who were shooting back at you, near impossible to squeeze the trigger when you were going to hit someone in the back, and even though he acknowledged that it was necessary, if the person escaping would harm others if they got away, that didn't seem to make it any easier. He drew in a couple of long slow breaths, settling down the adrenaline fuelled panting, and shifted his footing to a more relaxed stance as his cell rang. He glanced across at McGee and gave a nod. McGee's gun was already leveled on the prisoner, but he raised his hands slightly, tightened his grip, as he took over responsibility for watching him.

"Tony," Abby's voice sounded a little panicked, "What's going on, I just got a call from McGee and now he's not answering his cell and he said you were having trouble and. . ."

"Hey Abs, calm down," Tony stated. "We just had a little car trouble; we need you to send out someone to pick us up. . ."

"But what about. . .?"

"Griffin decided to go for a little jog in the cold, but don't worry about it, we have everything under control."

"You're sure?" Abby asked sounding unconvinced.

"I'm sure. So if you could just send help." There was a slight pause. "And Abs you don't need to tell Gibbs about this, I mean we'll be there with the prisoner shortly, and he doesn't have to. ."

"Err, Tony, it may be a little late for that."

Tony closed his eyes briefly, his expression turning pained. "He's there with you isn't he?"

"I've got you on speakerphone," Abby admitted guiltily, "I was worried about you." She added in justification.

"Any reason she should be worried Dinozzo?" Gibbs asked.

"No, Boss, the only danger we're in is from a little frost bite."

"Good, I'll send someone out to help," he emphasized the word, "you bring in your prisoner."

"Thanks I. . . ." Tony wasn't sure what alerted him to the danger, some movement in the trees, a precipitous movement by Griffin, maybe it was even the muzzle flash as the first bullet was fired, but he was moving and shouting out a warning before he heard the first shot. "Down, McGee!" He thudded to the hard ground in a roll, pushing McGee sideways as he went.

Rolling out of the move he pulled his gun up into a two handed grip, his cell dropped, dismissed as unimportant as he returned fire, bullets, from more than one automatic weapon, thudding into the solid ground around him and whistling over his head. He aimed for the bright muzzle flashes, his mind frantically working on strategy as Griffin picked himself up and turned to head for the trees. No, he wasn't getting away. This time it didn't take thought. Tony's mind was way beyond that, it was pure reaction, and he pulled the trigger, once, twice, double tap, and Griffin went down. "Make for the trees!" He yelled at McGee, who had recovered enough to start returning fire himself.

McGee didn't need telling twice. Tony would draw fire while he made cover, then he would fire so that Tony could do the same. He waited until Tony let off his next shot and then ran, skidding into the cover of the trees as Tony emptied his weapon. Then he was firing, and Tony was running, zigzagging his path, bullets pounding into the ground all around him, until he dropped behind McGee, panting heavily he dropped the clip from his weapon, pulling another from his jacket pocket and clicking it into place. "Damn," he stated. "Where did they come from?"

McGee didn't have time to answer as they were both forced to duck into the shadow of the trunk, automatic fire cutting through the undergrowth around them in a cacophony of sound and movement.

They, whoever they were, were covering their retrieval of Griffin who was still a few feet from cover. Tony managed just a glimpse of two dark figures moving out to drag him back before he was forced to duck his head back in. He drew in a breath and got his first indication of pain, a slicing white stab, that lanced up from his right side, his hand went instinctively to press on it, to hold it against the agony, and he held the breath, swallowed back the wave of nausea, closed his eyes and screwed up his face, and waited in the vague hope that it would ease off. He let out the breath long and slow, gently easing it out forcing his muscles to relax, bringing his hand up, he could just make out the glistening sticky substance on it, couldn't tell what colour it was, even in the bright moonlight, but he knew that it was red, bright red blood. He had been hit.

He wasn't sure when, he hadn't even felt it until now, his body too pumped up on adrenaline and action to even notice, but now that he had noticed the pain was breathtaking, and still he didn't have time to deal with it. They were both still in danger. He didn't even have the luxury of assessing how bad it was, until it brought him down, stopped him from functioning, it would have to wait, because right now, if they stayed here, they were both going to die. They were outnumbered, out gunned and could easily be out flanked. They had to move and they had to move now.

"We need to get out of here," Tony stated, managing to keep his voice steady.

McGee, nodded his agreement. "No way we can make it back to the road," he stated, looking across at the fifty yards of killing ground between them and the slope. "And even if we could the car's no use to us."

Tony looked around, "So we move deeper into the woods."

McGee licked his lips nervously and nodded. It wasn't a good option, but it was their only option.

"OK," Tony leaned out and let off a couple of shots, sparking some return fire, as soon as it died down he cautiously backed off into the trees, McGee following closely behind.

NCISNCIS

Abby flinched at the sound of the first bullet, then her shoulders scrunched up and she almost put her hands up over her ears as the thudding, whizzing sounds from the weapons fire continued, because if she couldn't hear it maybe it wouldn't be happening, maybe all of that firepower wouldn't be aimed at two of the people that she loved, and they wouldn't be in danger or maybe even. . . .The thud of the cell hitting the ground snapped her out of it. Tony's shouted instructions reassuring her that they were both still alive, still fighting. She looked up at Gibbs, his eyes had narrowed in concentration his brow drawn down, as he listened and assessed. He pulled out his cell, pinched his fingers to the bridge of his nose and began snapping out orders.

She turned her attention to her keyboard, tapping the keys rapidly as she accessed the information that she knew that Gibbs would need, writing down the exact coordinates of the tracker on the car and Tony's cell. Worryingly, McGee's cell was still registering in exactly the same place as the car. She handed the note silently to Gibbs as he ordered a chopper and an assault team. It was seamless, almost telepathic teamwork. The paper appeared in his hand at exactly the point he needed to give the coordinates to dispatch, and he read them off without a pause.

He clicked his cell shut, he had to move, get to the chopper, get to his team. Ziva would meet him at the helipad, but he allowed himself a moment, allowed Abby a moment. His eyes finally meeting hers for the first time since the shooting started. For just a split second he acknowledged the fear, his fear, her fear.

They could lose both of them.

"I won't let that happen!" he stated, as though the thought had been spoken. Then he was moving, making for the door, a terse, "keep monitoring Tony's cell," and he was gone.

Abby turned and stared at the speakerphone and flinched again at another rapid burst of fire. Yeah, monitor the sound of people trying to kill her friends, her favourite pastime.

NCISNCIS

Paul Griffin looked down at the body of his brother and tried to deal with the emotional onslaught. This shouldn't have happened; they were supposed to be freeing his little brother, not getting him killed. It had all been so carefully planned, the car, the location, the timing, everything down to the last detail, and now, now it was all for nothing. Anger and grief surged through him, flowing up from his gut, flooding his brain, his blood swirling and boiling. He wanted to scream, and wail, and tear off his skin in the hope that it would release the pain that was trapped in his chest, in his head. He wanted to rip everything around him apart, to quell the burning boiling anger. He did neither, standing instead and absorbing it all into one place, forming it, shaping it into an explosive charge of emotion, ready to use, ready to direct at those that had done this, the agents that had killed his little brother. "Don't worry Gil," he said, his tone tightly controlled, "I'll make them pay for this." His eyes flashed with anger. "I'll make them pay."

TO BE CONTINUED. . .