Step by step, heart to heart, left right left, we all fall down like toy soldiers. Bit by bit, torn apart, we never win, but the battle wages on for toy soldiers. Eminem

"Get away from that thing, Probie!"

McGee turned around and couldn't help but grin at the sight of Tony DiNozzo pinned against the wall, shaking in fear of the thing that his co-worker stood in front of. "You can't tell me you're seriously afraid of snakes? Come on, Tony, I've seen you face down a hundred things more dangerous than this guy!"

Tony shook his head, turning his back on the reptile. "Isn't there something about yellow and red being bad colors on a snake? Like, deadly kind of bad?"

"That's black and red." McGee said, inching the cover of the container up. "And he's sitting on top of a flash drive."

"Oh come on." Tony glanced out the window, then back at the tank holding their cold-blooded friend. "This guy could be back any minute and you're going to play Steve Irwen?"

"You'd rather go back to Gibbs and tell him we passed up a chance to get valuable information because you're a little squeamish?" McGee shot back, inching his fist into the enclosure.

Tony leaned against the counter, hand buried in his hair. And he'd thought this was going to be a good day. Why not? He'd come in this morning humming – actually humming – because it was just one of those days where you woke up feeling good with the world.

And then he'd found a twenty dollar bill in the elevator, along with a single penny, head's up. And the inevitable dead body hadn't showed up first thing, when the team barely got their "good mornings" in before being thrust head-long into other people's business. Instead, it had waited until almost ten o'clock, giving Tony time to get through the massive amounts of paperwork/e-mails that he'd carefully, purposefully forgotten about.

And then, when the dead body did come, Gibbs had sent him and McGee to canvass the house and nab the computer, which was far more pleasant than looking at somebody's life on paper.

If only there wasn't that snake. "Seriously, McGee, do you even know what you're doing? That thing could swallow your hand."

"That's pythons, Tony, and are you actually admitting your worried about me?" McGee flashed a smile at Tony, hand still inching closer to the snake, which hadn't moved since they'd entered the house.

"I saw Anaconda when I was eleven, McGeek, so cut me some slack." Tony should be looking for anything that might tell them who Ted Murphey – the latest dead petty officer – was, but he couldn't stop watching as his co-worker slid his hand closer to the reptile, making sure to move in slow, steady movements. "It's like a car accident. You just want to look away but you can't."

"Told you it was easy." McGee flashed Tony another look, this one triumphant, as his hand closed around the flash drive.

That's when the snake's head flashed, and inch-long fangs sunk into McGee's wrist.

"Woah!" Tony said, stiffening, hand going automatically for his sidearm though he didn't know what he was going to shoot. The snake? McGee, for sticking his hand into the snake's space?

For his part, McGee didn't make any noise, just lifted his hand out of the tank just as slowly as he'd put it in. Once it was fully removed, he pocketed the miniature storage drive and examined the gouges in his wrist, which probably wouldn't have been bleeding so profusely if the snake hadn't bit exactly on top of an artery. "Ouch."

He looked away from the wound, because if he kept staring he probably would scream. Instead, he tucked his hand up under his armpit and cocked his head at Tony, who still had his gun out. "So did you get the computer?"

"I'm getting you a band-aid." Tony muttered, rummaging around in the drawers. "Or at least a towel…Geeze, McGee, what were you trying to prove?"

"I was a Boy Scout for nine years, Tony, I know how to tell snakes apart." And trees, and moss, and mushrooms. It was probably how he passed ninety percent of his outdoor training courses. "And he didn't mean to bite me, he was just…defending his territory."

Tony snorted, though his round eyes and pursed lips gave McGee the impression that the senior agent was more concerned about the bite than he was letting on. "I'm finding you some bandages." Tony stared at McGee's crossed arms and, though McGee was certain that he couldn't see the stain blooming out under his shirt, the other man's face softened slightly, "Make sure you keep pressure on it, 'kay?"

McGee sighed, put the cover back on the terrarium (doing it one handed made it seem much louder), and was just looking for a computer to go along with the flash drive when he heard the commotion.

"Hey – Woah! Hold up!" There was a crack, which McGee, from his years at NCIS, could identify all-too-well as the sound of a skull hitting a hard surface, like a sink, like the floor.

And, really, he probably wouldn't have been as worried if it wasn't Tony calling out, Tony's head undoubtedly hitting the floor.

The laptop was forgotten, the terrarium was forgotten, even his hand, now throbbing steadily to the beat of his heart, was forgotten as he thrust it down his side, scrambling for his gun even as he pressed his back against the wall, sidled quickly down the hall, arm stiff, gun down.

Which suddenly reminded him: the first time he'd shot a gun was in Boy Scouts, too.

There was another shout, and a groan, and before McGee could even get to the door of the bathroom Tony emerged, an arm around his torso black and muscular, definitely not belonging to the Italian-American.

McGee would have been concerned about the blood dripping into Tony's eyes, and the red welt on his head that would bruise if it wasn't for the person following close behind his friend, one hand holding Tony tight to him, a human shield, the other bearing the agent's gun.


"Geeze, McGee." Tony's eyes, to his credit (or perhaps it was just a testament to just how many concussions the agent had sustained) were just slightly unfocused as he stared at McGee, easy smirk firmly in place, "I could've sworn you said you cleared the house before you started playing Snake Man."

But the smile didn't fool anyone. Right at that moment, Tony realized it was going to be just another one of those days.


We've been wanting to write an NCIS story for months now, and with three of our other stories magically wrapping up at the same time, it seemed like the right time to do it. This is just hte prologue, so all characters will eventually get their limelight, and the nasty villian will become way nastier before the end.

Anyways, please review.