A SeSa2009 Fic Written for sapphyre blu

Thanks, again Lizzie for betaing the first part and giving me a little prod!

"Boss!" the overly shrill cry of very Junior Field Agent Peter Bradshaw nearly splits my eardrum.

The panic in his voice might've made me falter in my pursuit if it weren't for the fact that Bradshaw always sounds panicky. "What is it, Bradshaw?" I grate out, already predicting the answer. "Kind of busy here. Spit it out!" I order when he fails to respond immediately.

"Loomis is down," Bradshaw confirms the first half of my prediction. If not-very-Senior Agent Carl Loomis didn't fall down or otherwise manage to get himself injured every single time we're in pursuit of an armed suspect I might feel some actual concern for the fallen agent. More than likely, though, this is another of those times where once he's out of potential danger, he'll have a "miraculous" recovery. I swear Ducky's got more x-rays for Loomis than all my previous agents put together, and there's yet to be one single image that indicates any sort of break. It's a wonder he doesn't have radiation poisoning.

"And Maxwell?" I growl, already cognizant of the answer.

"We lost him," Bradshaw responds, sounding as though he's on the verge of tears. Again.

I never thought I'd miss ol' Stan Burley, but at least he wasn't afraid of danger. I can't help but wonder where Morrow found my latest team. I'm not the type to easily give up, but these two clowns are the worst recruits yet. I'm not sure they're even trainable. At least Burley eventually got the hang of things.


"Just stay with Loomis," I bark irritably. "See if you can get me some backup," I add before yanking my earpiece out, curbing further distraction.

I'll be damned if we tracked Theodore Maxwell and Frederick Halstad this far only to lose them both now. Maxwell may already be in the wind, but I still have a chance at catching Halstad. I know that he's armed, and that he knows he's already facing murder and treason charges, which makes this pursuit all the more precarious. If I give him any time to think, he could very easily find himself a human shield or two. Much as I want to take him down, I can't risk innocent lives to do it. I just have to try and chase him long enough for him to make a mistake and head into a less densely populated area where I can safely take him down.

I grimace as I witness Halstad begin to falter. He's wearing down, which means desperation is about to kick in, and there are still far too many bystanders to safely fire my weapon in an attempt to disable him. Not for the first time, I silently curse Bradshaw for inadvertently tipping off the fugitives to our arrival before we had a chance to corner them. It was additionally misfortunate that the pair was holed up in a downtown Baltimore apartment only to escape into the streets on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Why do so many people leave their holiday shopping until the last minute? Few have even noticed the murderer attempting to elude capture. That may be for the best, as drawing attention to him could well set off a panic.

Halstad stumbles and nearly goes down, only to have a passing woman reach out to steady him, completely unaware of the danger her selfless action is placing her in. Her kind act backfires as he grabs onto her, pulling her against him as he raises his gun to her chin and whirls to face me. The crowd begins to scramble, making a cacophony of frightened cries as they try to flee.

I skid to a stop, maneuvering my arms into what I hope he'll take as a signal of my submission. My gaze doesn't waver from the terrified eyes of his new hostage as I silently assure her that I will get her out of this situation intact.

As Halstad drags his hostage back a couple steps I take a couple cautious steps forward.

"Back off!" he screams at me, his voice shaky and his eyes wild with fear.

I stop moving and hold my hands up as though in surrender. Halstad knows he's going down; now I just have to keep him from taking anyone else with him.

"Shut up!" he bellows at me before I even speak. I nod silently, hoping that my complacency will lull him out of his panicked state. Otherwise, our little standoff is likely to end in disaster. "Drop your weapon!" he orders.

I carefully set it down. He's too panicked to think clearly and fails to instruct me to kick it away. I keep my attention completely focused on him, waiting for him to calm enough that I can start trying to talk him down.

My body tenses as a relieved grin suddenly spreads across his face. I can't risk looking, but even before I hear a vehicle approaching, I'm certain that Maxwell is coming to his partner's aide. Sure enough a moment later a van jumps the curb before coming to a halt a few feet away from Halstad and his captive.

"Just stay back," Halstad orders, sounding much more confident as he drags his helpless hostage toward the waiting vehicle. When I start to take a step toward them, the woman cries out and I can see the gun pressing into her jaw with bruising force. I can't allow him to get her into the van; that would be effectively signing her death warrant. Unfortunately, though my gun is still within reach, unless he turns his attention away from me, there's little chance I'll be able to get it and make a shot without giving him time to get off at least a couple shots.

"Ho ho ho!" a voice suddenly booms just as Halstad reaches the van. I can't afford to look toward the speaker, but I can hear him stepping closer. "Looks like someone's being naughty," the jovial voice tsks as he steps into my line of sight.

Oh, hell.

No good can come of this.

"Stay out of this, Santa!" Halstad chokes out as he stares wide-eyed at the newcomer.

"Now, now, Frederick," the big man in the red suit clucks and lets out a small bray of laugher. I tense again at the man's familiarity with the suspect.

"How'd you…?" Halstad blurts out, seemingly just as surprised by the man's recognition.

Santa only chuckles. "Frederick, really now…" he bellows. "You need to let Eve go," he suggests, giving the woman a warm smile and nod. "How are you, Eve?" he asks her with a wink.

"F-fine," she answers, though her voice is filled with doubt.

"How are little Barbara and Sherry doing?" he asks. "I know I saw your little girls on my nice list this year," Santa informs her with an encouraging nod as he boldly moves closer to them. I silently cheer him for calling attention to the fact the woman has children. The way he repeats Halstad's name and how he is trying to humanize the hostage to Halstad I wonder briefly if "Santa" is a trained negotiator.

"They're good," Eve answers shakily.

"Back off," Halstad orders, though once again he no longer seems so sure of himself.

"Now, Frederick, you know I can't do that," Santa informs him, fearlessly. "Why don't you let Eve go now, Son."


"Don't worry. I'll be right here," Santa gently assures him. "And I'm sure Special Agent Gibbs there wouldn't shoot Santa," he adds as for the first time he looks to me, laughing genially as he pats his ridiculously padded stomach with his apparently stuffed white gloved hands. Who is this guy? Despite the white wisps peeking out from his red hat, and the white beard that adorns his face, his piercingly green eyes and almost overwhelmingly bright smile give away his youth. I'm fairly certain I would recognize him had I met him before. Yet he seems to know me. Hell, seems as though he knows everybody.

"Now, Frederick, let's not draw this out any longer than necessary. I do have big plans tonight, you know. Ho ho ho…" Santa cheerfully reminds him. I can't help but wonder if he has some sort of death wish. Or possibly a mental disease. "I would hate to disappoint all the children waiting for me out there and abort the mission," he adds. "No ho ho. Abort the mission…" he repeats and though he still sounds as though he's laughing for the first time I catch a note of urgency in his tone. "I'd have to call in all the reindeer!"

He's signaling to someone, I realize. I squint slightly and notice for the first time that he seems to be wearing an earpiece. I'll be damned. Looks like I got my backup after all; Loomis or Bradshaw must've fed him enough information for him to identify Halstad and me. Who he is and why he's dressed as Santa Claus is beyond me, but he's using his resources impressively well as he tries to diffuse the situation.

Halstad hesitates for just a moment before he uneasily lets go of Eve. She looks to Santa as though he's the one running the show. In a way, I suppose he is. Nobody else quite knows what to make of the rather absurd situation his presence has created.

"Go be with your little girls," he gently prods her, easing himself between her and the gunman as soon as she steps away.

She nods. "Thank you, Santa," she murmurs gratefully as she slips past him.

As soon as Eve is safely out of the line of fire, Santa springs into action. Even I'm startled at his sudden change when he lurches backward, slamming Halstad back against the side of the van. He moves forward a little bit before ramming back again. Though the move would normally be rather effective, it seems as though the excessive padding he's wearing is lessening the force considerably.

I swoop down to grab my Sig but by the time I have it in hand and take aim, Halstad has managed to regain his hold on Santa and is working the van's side door open, keeping his gun pressed to Santa's neck.

Santa, though he is now cooperating with his captor, seems to be astoundingly calm as his eyes lock with mine. He pats his padded belly, and I have the distinct feeling he's trying to tell me something by the gesture, but damned if I know what it is.

"Stay back, Gibbs," Halstad warns once again as he begins pulling Santa backward into the van. Before they're even completely in the van begins to move.

There's no time to hesitate. Though Santa seems to have some training in dealing with hostage crises, if the van gets away his odds of surviving his abduction drop considerably. I don't have time to think of the consequences as I make a dash.

Halstad lets out a startled cry as I leap into the still open van door. He topples backward, dragging Santa down on top of him. My heart leaps into my throat as I hear his gun go off and Santa lets out a pained gasp.

"Pull over!" I demand, aiming my gun toward Maxwell. Instead of obeying, however, the man floors the gas pedal and veers into traffic. I nearly topple out of the van and am forced to drop my sig in an effort to save myself from being dumped into the middle of the busy road. It slides into the back of the van, out of my immediate reach. At least it's out of Halstad's immediate reach as well. I can only brace myself as Maxwell continues to try to throw me from the van by swerving recklessly from lane to lane as he speeds through town.

Halstad manages to roll Santa enough to train his weapon on me. Time seems to freeze as I realize that I have no recourse. Either I get shot and knocked out of the van by the impact of a bullet or I try to move further into the van and hope that I don't get thrown.

Santa raises his body and slams back against Halstad, knocking the weapon from his grasp. Santa draws back his fist and punches Halstad, though his plush glove cushions the blow considerably and his position is too awkward to give him any sort of advantage. Gotta give him credit, though; the kid has heart.

"If I'm…still in range, just wanted to…let you know we're on Light, just passed Lombard…approaching…make that passing…Pratt…headed toward the…harbor," Santa pants as he continues struggling with Halstad. It takes me a moment to remember that he's wired. "You know…in case you…want to…help us out?"

I brace myself as I hear the screech of tires and a honking horn as Maxwell once again swerves into traffic. Maxwell curses and jerks the wheel back the other way. I lose my balance and topple fully into the van. I scramble for something to hold onto but as Maxwell changes directions again I find myself sliding. And then I'm airborne.

Learning to fall properly is something that is drilled into Marines during training, and it becomes something of a second nature; without thinking about it, I bring up my arms to protect my head and tuck my body so that I can just roll to the ground instead of fighting the impact. I should be fine if I can avoid getting hit by traffic. Fortunately the ground I hit turns out to be the snowy embankment, and I let my body relax into the slide.

Even before I come to a complete stop I hear the commotion as Maxwell apparently loses control of the van and it careens off-road and down the steep embankment coming to an abrupt halt as it slams into the retaining wall.

I spring to my feet and race toward the van, ignoring the fiery pain I feel racing up my back. I have to make sure that Santa is okay and that Maxwell and Halstad don't manage to slip away. "You!" I yell at a good Samaritan motorist who is starting to approach the scene. "Agent Gibbs, NCIS," I identify myself. "I need you to keep people back," I demand of him. "And call an ambulance," I call over my shoulder as an afterthought.

I slow as I near the van, listening for signs of life. If Maxwell and Halstad are conscious, they are still armed. I pull my backup from my ankle holster and cautiously approach.

I wince as I see Santa staggering out of the van. He takes a few steps before collapsing into the snow. I keep my weapon trained on the open van door, but it only takes one peek inside to know that Maxwell and Halstad won't be any further problem today; or ever again, in all likelihood. Still, I waste no time securing their weapons and retrieving my own from the back of the van.

I holster my backup and turn my attention to Santa, who is still lying in the snow where he fell. "You okay?" I ask.

The young man looks up at me; his eyes fully focused and alert despite the patch of red that now stains the white rim of his hat. "This…reminds me of a movie…" he informs me as he struggles unsuccessfully to get up.

"There's a movie about domestic terrorists abducting Santa Claus?"

"Nah. Not that. This. I can't get up…I feel like that kid in 'A Christmas Story'. You know, the snowsuit that's so padded he can't get up after he falls?"

I smile indulgently down at him, though I have no idea what he's talking about. "Might be best if you don't move. Ambulance is on its way."

"Not here already?" he asks. "University Specialty Hospital's a block away," he explains. "Not that I need it," he adds as he tries again to sit up, to no avail. "Those two probably don't, either," he adds, his eyes flicking toward the van. "Good thing I had some extra padding."

"Could've used some for your head."

"Domestic terrorists?" he asks, quickly changing the subject. "Heard the BOLO but they didn't say what they were wanted for…guess Captain can't be too mad at me for skipping out on stakeout duty."

Before I can ask him any more on that, the first responders arrive. A block away, indeed.

"Two in the van, both unconscious," I inform the EMTs. "Be advised that they are under federal custody," I add and quickly explain the situation. Their injuries appear more life-threatening, so the first crew immediately set to work assessing the injuries and triaging. Fortunately a second group of responders arrive only a minute or so later.

I watch as the EMTs start their initial assessment of Santa. He's awake and alert, so everything seems as though it's going to be fine, though…I remember his gasp of pain when the gun went off. And he is having trouble getting up. I don't like the implication.

I stay back as they put a neck brace on him and carefully move him onto a backboard.

"This is totally unnecessary," I overhear him informing the paramedics.

"Sir, you can't stand up; we need to make sure you don't move and cause further damage to your neck or spine," one of the men informs him.

"I can't stand up because I'm wearing a fat suit!" Santa insists as they load him into the bus.

"We're taking him to University, over on Greene," the EMT informs me.

"Not the one a block away?"

"Specialty deals mainly with long term care; the Med Center is much better equipped for trauma and is only about a mile out."

Once I'm sure he's being taken care of I return my attention to the EMTs still working on the men in the van. Maxwell has already been pronounced, but they've getting Halstad loaded into the bus. I flash my badge to the EMT, who nods and motions me to the jump seat.

I remind them again to take safety precautions should Halstad awaken, but it seems very unlikely that any precautions will be necessary. Can't say I'm heartbroken when he codes before we reach the hospital.

While they work to see if they can revive the human maggot, I make my way to the phones to check up on my team.

"Boss?" Bradshaw answers, his voice quivering slightly. Whether he's crying again or is just scared, I don't know, and I don't care. I need to get him off my team.

"How's Loomis?" I ask, irritably.

"He's uh…he's down in X-Ray right now, but the doc thinks it's a…sprain…" Mmmhmm. I think maybe I'll talk with Loomis' doctor and see if perhaps the man of weak ankles, knees, wrists, and just about every other body part should be limited to a desk job.

After wrapping up the conversation with Bradshaw I give Ducky a call to come pick me up. He'll probably grouse about the scrapes that I'm fairly certain I acquired in my spill from the van, but it's better than spending the trip with Bradshaw and Loomis.

I'm about to take a seat in the waiting area when I overhear a familiar voice behind one of the exam curtains, "Tell the truth now; does this suit make me look fat?"

I roll my eyes as I hear a young woman giggling in response.

I start toward the exam curtain, but something else draws my attention.

"He left his post, Captain. Just skipped out on stakeout duty without following protocol," a whiney man was griping to his companion. "We could have lost Nolan!"

"One of my officers was just brought in," 'Captain' informs the woman at the desk. When the woman just looks blankly back at him, he adds, "He was dressed like Santa Claus." He sounds less than happy about that revelation.

"Oh, yes, Sir. Santa is being examined right now, if you'd like to take a seat--"

"DiNozzo!" Captain bellows out, clearly not liking to take a seat.

"Over here, Boss," Santa calls back a few moments later. I step back as the Captain and his whiney subordinate brush past me and disappear behind the curtain. I scowl as I hear the Captain begin dressing Officer DiNozzo down about abandoning his post, but catch myself smiling proudly as I hear DiNozzo retort, "You're right, Sir. It was wrong of me to stop watching an abandoned apartment in order to try and stop domestic terrorists from escaping with a hostage."

"You left your post without following protocol, Detective."

"I did," DiNozzo admitted readily, no hint of apology in his voice. "I alerted backup that I was leaving my post; there was not time to wait for a replacement. We were watching an empty apartment; I took a calculated risk that it would remain empty in the minute and a half it would take Oliver from getting out of the car and crossing the street."

"Detective DiNozzo--"

"Look. Sir. With all due respect, Nolan has not been back to that apartment in over a week. Odds are he won't be returning. He's in the wind."

The Captain ignores DiNozzo's reasoning and begins scolding him in no uncertain terms.

"Excuse me…Agent Gibbs?" a woman calls out from behind me.

I turn to see the hostage we rescued coming toward me. "I heard on the radio…I just wanted to come in and thank you and…Santa. Is he going to be okay?"

"Sounds like Detective DiNozzo is going to be just fine, Eve," I reply with a small smile, leading her away from the exam room curtains. I'm not sure why, but I feel oddly protective of the young man behind the curtain and don't want Eve to witness the undeserved dressing down.

"My name's Kat, actually," she replies sheepishly as she follows me to the waiting room.

It's only a few minutes later that the Captain and his sniveling sidekick emerge from the exam area. The younger man appears to be loaded down with several evidence bags; the most notable of which is the remains of DiNozzo's big red suit. My eyes narrow as I notice that the Captain appears to be carrying a gun, holster, and badge that he previously had not been carrying.

His loss is my gain. If today is any indication, DiNozzo's exactly the sort of man I could use on my team. Someone who isn't afraid of danger, who thinks quickly on his feet and uses his available resources well…and who isn't afraid to bend a few rules if it means saving lives. And who isn't afraid to stand up to his boss if his boss needs standing up to.

"If you'll give me just a minute, I'll see if DiNozzo's up for a visitor," I excuse myself and head back to the exam area again.

"C'mon. I'm fine. I don't need to stay for observation," I hear DiNozzo wheedling.

"You have a concussion, Mr. DiNozzo. I can't in good conscience release you unless you have someone to stay with you," I hear him

"So…do it in bad conscience," DiNozzo suggests. "C'mon, Doc…"

"Do you have anyone who you can call?"

DiNozzo's silence speaks volumes.

"I've got someone who can stay with him," I volunteer before I even realize I'm going to do it. Ducky won't mind watching over him for the night, though, I'm sure. "Doctor Donald Mallard will be here shortly to pick us up," I inform them as I step around the curtain. DiNozzo is sitting on the exam table, facing away from me. I wince as I see the large purpling bruise forming across his back.

"Agent Gibbs!" DiNozzo greets, a grin spreading across his face as he turns to look toward me. Without his disguise I discover that he's even younger than I expected, and appears--bruised back and stitches across his temple aside--to be in quite good shape.

"Detective," I reply with a nod.

"Former detective," he replies, his tone sounding light to an untrained ear, but I'm certain I pick up a hint of despair. "So I've got a ride and a Doctor to watch over me," he returns his attention briefly to the doctor, who nods his approval.

"I'll see if one of the assistants can round up something for you to wear. Sorry about the suit."

"It had a hole in the back, anyway," DiNozzo grumbled good-naturedly.

"It's lucky that that's the only thing that had a hole through it. Looks like that bullet would've hit your spine."

"Santa wears Kevlar. Who knew?"

The doctor shakes his head. "I'll send someone in with your discharge instructions."

"Rest, but not too much--gotta make sure someone checks me every few hours to make sure I'm still breathing and know who the President is," DiNozzo predicts.

The doctor lets out a small chuckle as he leaves the curtained area. As soon as he's gone, DiNozzo seems to deflate, revealing that he's not feeling nearly as well as he wanted the doctor to think.

"You okay?"

"Define okay," he replies warily.

"You did good today."

"Tell that to my Capt…my ex-Captain."

I shrug. "Rather tell it to your new Director."

"New director?"

"Director Morrow, NCIS. You'll report on Monday."

"You're…offering me a job? But why…?" Before I can answer, he does it for me. "It's my charming good looks, right? My quick wit. No…it's my bravery, right? I mean I did step in front of a gun and all and--"

I stop him with a light swat to the back of his head. His eyes widen at the unexpected act.

"You do that again, and I'll shoot you myself, Probie."

In the next moment I know I've made a great decision taking a chance on the kid as a bright smile spreads across his face.