Lost Lambs

by channelD

written for: the 2008 NFA Secret Santa fic exchange

rated: K plus

genre: drama

setting: season 6, but no real spoilers

disclaimer: I own nothing of NCIS

# # #

Chapter 1

December 23, noon

The windshield wipers slapped their bases harshly before rebounding to combat the fallen snowflakes once again. The slaps were growing steadily louder, a sign that they'd soon have to stop the car and once more break the accumulating ice off the wipers. "Oh, to be in Hawaii now," Tony sighed. It would be his turn to get out and freeze his fingers breaking the ice when they stopped.

"Why did you pass it up?" Tim, the driver, asked, glaring at the messy road. They were going through forests in northern Virginia. Even on this pre-holiday travel day, traffic was minimal due to the relentless sleet and snow that had been falling lightly since midnight…just enough to gum things up. "I thought that was your plan for Christmas this year."

"I decided I'd rather accumulate the leave time. With the double time working on Christmas, that's all the more time to spend in St. Moritz in January."

"St. Moritz. Do you even know how to ski, Tony?"

"You know, that is so really not the point, McGee," Tony said airily. "There will be plenty of lovely ski instructoresses willing to help me out. Unlike your people, from the tundra states. Is it true that your babies are born wearing mittens and skis?"

Tim grinned in spite of the verbal dig. "Actually, Tony, back home it's going to be 62 degrees today. We're getting that warm wave up from Texas. Tomorrow the high will be 65, and 70 on Christmas! My folks are already planning to have Christmas lunch on the patio. I can't wait to get there."

"That's not a white Christmas!

"Yeah. And for once, I don't care!"

"You're flying out tomorrow?"

"Yep. 7 a.m. I'll be walking in the front door by 11, local time. Ahhhhh…" He smiled in bliss.

"Yeah, well, I'll be thinking of you while I scrape ice off my car again and again. Speaking of which…it's your turn, I think."

Tim pulled off the road. "No, it isn't. I got out and scraped the ice when we stopped at that service station."

"And you were under the overhang, and protected from the snow."

Angrily, Tim got out. Sometimes it was better not to keep arguing. "All right, I'll do it. Consider this my Christmas present to you."

"What?! This is all you got me??" Tony said, but smiled and turned up the car heater while Tim carefully broke the built-up ice off the wipers.

Back in the car, and taking off his gloves to rub his cold hands, Tim said, "We should try to cut down on our stops. Gibbs said we should try to be back by 3, and we haven't even reached the spot where Darrow and Urban were last seen."

"Why are we supposed to be back by 3? Gibbs find some last-minute pre-holiday work for us, d'ya think?"

"There is no 'us' in that argument, Tony. I am flying home tomorrow, remember? Maybe he's got something cooked for you, though."

"Mmmmm…cooked…" Tony sighed in bliss. Secretly he envied Tim's escape to the family, and home cooking. Heating up a small roast for himself on Christmas day wouldn't be the same. "Well, how should I know what he's thinking?"

# # #

At that moment, back at NCIS, Gibbs was concentrating on the possible case against seamen Joshua Darrow and Charles Urban. Both young men, not long out of high school, were AWOL from the Navy; both were suspects in a series of burglaries in northern Virginia. Right now there was nothing solid to tie them to the crimes, other than the fact that a witness had seen the Navy emblem on the belt of one of the masked intruders, and both were AWOL from Newport. Finding them, and bringing them in for questioning, was the first step.

Possibly, but only vaguely so at this point, Darrow and Urban might be tied to the case of another seaman, one Roy Jasinski, who was currently in lock-up in Quantico awaiting trial on home invasion. If Jasinksi had any accomplices, he wasn't talking.

Outside the weather was a little dreary, and certainly cold, but he'd heard several comments from NCIS employees that it was nice to have a real white Christmas. It happened so seldom in D.C. There were maybe two, three inches of freshly-fallen snow on the ground, with another couple possible before the slow-moving low pressure system drifted north in the next few days. Just enough to make things cheery-white by day and colorful-sparkling in the glow of Christmas lights at night. Children who'd never seen the beauty of an outdoor Christmas light bulb lightly covered in snow would ooooo and ahhhh tonight.

Vance came by, dropping Christmas candies on everyone's desk. He continued to show that he was a man who loved tradition and holidays. Then again, he was also a family man, who would be flying home to San Diego tomorrow morning. And Gibbs would then be (very reluctantly) in charge of NCIS until Vance's return Sunday evening. Gibbs nodded his thanks to Vance as his boss moved on. If they could get further on the case—if DiNozzo and McGee found the men—then it could sit until the next week, if need be. It had been Vance who suggested in this morning's management briefing that everyone be back at HQ by 3. Gibbs hadn't asked why, but given the weather, he was just as glad. No need to be worrying about his men travelling on slippery roads in the dark.

# # #

"There's the turn-off—McGeek, you went right past it!" Tony gave Tim a light Gibbs-slap.

Tim checked the rearview mirror, saw no one was coming, and backed up to enter the barely-marked road. "Don't hit me while I'm driving, Tony," he chided.

"Sorry. I'll save it for when we get out. Now the house we're looking for is said to be about half a mile down this road…weather-beaten, shabby, wooden fence missing some posts… "

But the house, when they found it, was empty and appeared to have been for some time. There was no mail in the mail box at the road. Tony considered phoning Gibbs, but then decided to wait until they knew what was in the house. Breaking in, they found the house clean, and nearly uninhabited, were it not for some furniture. Someone was away for a long stretch.

"Or maybe not," said Tony to Tim, while picking up a piece of paper from under the kitchen table. "This is an appointment card at the Hunks and Hunkettes Hair Salon for January 12 of next year. How far in advance do you make your beauty parlor appointments, McGlamour?"

"I do walk-ins at the barber's; same as you, Tony," Tim said easily, while wondering how long Tony had been waiting to use McGlamour. He bagged the card as possible evidence. "No Darrow or Urban here, though. I think—"

He was cut off by the sound of a car's engine revving. Tony glanced out the door's window. "Hey! Someone's hotwiring our car!" Tony pelted outside, Tim close behind. Teenagers…!

"Hey! You! That's government property!" Tony yelled. He came to a dead stop, as did Tim, on seeing the three guns suddenly pointed at them.

"Take it easy," said Tim, as he and Tony held up their hands. "Nobody needs to get hurt." But he had a sinking feeling as he recognized two of the men: Darrow and Urban.

"Shut up," said Urban. "We thought you might come nosing around after us, NCIS. We're just getting the jump on you. Now take your sigs out slowly and toss them toward us."

Tony and Tim complied, and did the same with their cell phones when ordered. The man Darrow scooped up all the items.

"Now turn around," Urban directed.

They did, slowly, wondering if this was It. But Urban then directed them to put their hands behind their backs, and the third man swiftly handcuffed their wrists. Next, the men blindfolded them and then shoved them roughly into the back of a van, slamming the door shut. Tony and Tim were silent, listening for clues that could help them escape.

Footsteps moved away, crunching a little on the sleet-mixed snow. After a few minutes a loud whooshing sound was heard. "Aw, man…" Tony sighed.

"What? What was that?"

"A sound big city cops know. They just torched our car."

Tim thought, a little troubled about their NCIS car burning. "Well, it's not like we have to pay for it…"

"That's not it. These guys are eliminating clues that might lead to our whereabouts. It'll make it hard for NCIS to find us."

"Yeah," Tim sighed. "I guess I might be late getting home for Christmas…"

The van engine started up, and the agents were on their way…to somewhere…both knowing that they were in serious trouble.