Into the Woods

Author's Note: This is a mini-crossover with NCIS, with a very light sprinkle of The Unit on top. It is based almost entirely in the NCIS: LA universe, which is why it's being published here instead of in Crossovers. It prominently features an original character – one who has made several guest appearances in fics I wrote for the NCIS section a couple of years back. There is enough character information on her here to satisfy most readers, but if you want more background on her and her relationship with Tony DiNozzo, you can head over to the NCIS section and skim through "From California to Peoria in Under Four Hours," "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" and "Second 'B' for Bastard." Elements of those stories figure into this one, so those of you who HAVE read those stories may find certain bits of background or situations that sound familiar. This is a story of many chapters, so god bless you if you make it through. On the plus side, the entire story has been written, so it will be updated pretty quickly, chapter to chapter. I hope you enjoy!

PROLOGUE

The image was clearly Callen. He had a puffy left eye, and a swollen lip. His cheeks were ruddy and red, having taken more than one or two punches to the face. He had a small cut above his right eye and dried blood on his chin. He was looking defiantly at his captor, who was standing out of frame. The wounds were fresh. Callen looked tired, but focused. Steady.

The camera went wide, to show his entire body. He was tied to a chair in a non-descript room with little natural light. He was wearing khaki pants and a bright blue shirt – the exact outfit that Hetty had picked out for him less than a week before.

Aside from the bruises on his face, it was clear from the wide shot that Callen had taken other hits, but he wasn't anywhere close to passing out and didn't seem to be in any severe pain. The wrinkles and dirt on the shirt and pants were consistent with him being placed in this situation against his will – fighting, one supposed – but didn't seem to indicate anything more. Nothing he was wearing was ripped, torn, or bloody. His bare arms showed no injuries, no needle marks.

A man in dark clothes with a mask on came forward and put a pillowcase over Callen's head. The camera shot went to close-up again – just the upper chest and head. Out of frame, from the left – in front of where Callen sat – came a black-gloved hand with a gun. The gun was placed against the bound man's chest, which suddenly began to draw in sharp breaths. In fear, perhaps, or as a calming exercise. One shot was fired. The noise and force of the close impact made the body jerk upward, the chair and body falling sideways, out of frame.

The masked man behind the chair ducked out of view for a second as he righted the chair. Dark red blood covered the front of Callen's bright blue shirt. The pillowcase was pulled off and Callen's head was there, lolling forward, motionless. Lifeless. The masked man lifted up the face and pointed it towards the camera.

The screen went dark.