Christmas in Dark Places

by iheartGibbs

Secret Santa gift for Enthusiastic Fish.

Acknowledgements: Special kudos to Sevvie for helping me come up with an idea and to Oz for the seriously amazing BETA work! ;D You rock!

Category: Gen

Category 2: Action, H/C, drama, angst(ish) [hey – I tried!

Rating: T (PG-13)

Characters: Entire team, but primarily McGee and Tony.

Pairings: None, really. Hints at both McAbby and McGiva.

Spoilers: None. Well, season five for McGee's hair.

Warnings: None

Kinks: None

Word Count: 9,723

Summary: A particularly dangerous case leads to two team members working undercover. Their covers blown, they are thrown into a maze of underground caves while two murderous villains play a hunting game. With one man seriously injured, will they find a way out in time?

Chapter One

"But I really don't want to cut it," McGee whimpered, giving his beautiful hair a farewell glance in the mirror.

"That's the price of working undercover, Probie," Tony said, taking a little extra pleasure in torturing his coworker. "But if you can't handle it, I'm sure…"

McGee stiffened and responded immediately. "I can handle it," he said confidently.

Fortunately for McGee, the standard Navy haircut was not as extreme as that mandated by some of the other military branches and his cover did not include undergoing basic training, but impersonating a transferring IT specialist from another base.

"If you want, I can save the clippings for you," Abby offered, as she prepared to give McGee his requisite haircut.

"That is somewhat disturbing," Ziva remarked.

"No thanks, Abby. I can always grow it back."

"That would be nice, Timmy," Abby said with a smile. "I like it longer."

"I prefer it short," Ziva countered.

"Too bad we can't make Tony's longer," Abby lamented, eyeing the older agent skeptically.

"Bite your tongue," Tony said sharply. "My hair is fine as it is. Besides, I don't need longer hair to pull off my undercover role. It's all about the attitude."

"Which you have in abundance," Ziva quipped.

"Very funny, Zee-vah," he replied, tossing a surreptitious glance at his own reflection in the mirror. He looked just fine, as far as he was concerned. He had successfully played a thug before and pulled it off with flying colors. Besides, the background Abby and McGee had planted for him couldn't be breached.

Tony shook his head at McGee's wince when Abby cut the first lock of his hair. "I can't believe you even passed the physical exam."

"I'm not really in the Navy, Tony," McGee reminded him. "And I could pass the physical if I needed to. I've spent a considerable amount of time working out over the past year."

"I have noticed, McGee," Ziva assured him.

"Thank you, Ziva."

Tony rolled his eyes, but was halted from further comment by the entrance of Director Shepard. She smiled brightly at the group of people gathered in Abby's lab.

"Do we need to review the case again?" she asked, her anxiety about sending the two men into such a dangerous situation showing through in spite of her efforts to mask it.

"McGoo has it memorized, I'm sure, but will probably freeze up and forget to act when push comes to shove," Tony began, surprising himself by the digs he was making at his friend. McGee had come a long way the past few years and he knew his remarks were unfair, he just couldn't seem to stop himself.

"Thanks, Tony," McGee muttered.

"Aww," Abby said, bending down to embrace the younger man. "That was uncalled for, Tony," she scolded.

"Don't worry, Abs," Tony continued. "I'll be there to watch his back."

"DiNozzo," Gibbs barked.

"Sorry, Boss," he winced, but couldn't move in time to avoid the sharp smack to the back of his head.

"McGee doesn't need you undermining his confidence right now," Director Shepard advised Tony. "As you know, we already have three injured agents as a result of this situation, and your team is being brought in against my better judgment. I don't want to see anyone hurt."

"They can handle it," Gibbs said, with more confidence than McGee actual felt at that moment. McGee took a deep breath and allowed himself to consider the chain of events that had led him to be here.

Another team's investigation of a missing marine had turned into his murder inquiry. The team had made very little headway, and it seemed as if their every move had been anticipated. Not only was the original team unsuccessful in identifying a suspect, but three of their agents were now in the hospital recuperating from injuries sustained from following up on a lead gone wrong.

Tony had been the first approached to go undercover. It was believed that the perpetrator's connections had impeded the original team's progress. Learning from her past mistakes, Director Shepard had briefed the entire team on the situation before sending Tony on assignment. McGee had worked with Abby to create Tony's cover, and Gibbs' team had been working in tandem with the remainder of Pollock's team to try to get a break on the case.

Now, although he tried hard not to show it, McGee was nervous as they made their final preparations. While he was confident that they wouldn't be recognized by anyone involved in the operation, he also knew there was a strong likelihood that there were connected spies in several departments, including the area to which he was about to begin 'working'. He was even more worried for Tony, who was apparently heading straight into the center of a nest of vipers.