It was a bone chilling mid-January day and team Gibbs had planned on staying inside the warm office building…well, warmer than outside.

Tony was huddled up in his cubicle, blanket wrapped around his shoulders, steaming cup of coffee in his shivering hands.

"W-why is it so damn cold in here today?" He swiveled his chair to whine at McGee, who like Tony, was shivering cold.

"M-maybe the boiler b-blew again." His boney hands attempted to rub his arms back to life. Tony moaned, complaining he should have stayed home.

"Whatever it is, I do not like it." Ziva looked like an Eskimo with her fuzzy parka tightly bound to her head. Her jaw clenched to keep from stuttering.

"Oh and here I thought it was nice. We've got a dead Marine." Gibbs walked in from the Director's office, looking particularly unaffected by the cold.

"Aren't you c-cold, Boss?" Tony looked up disbelievingly, Gibbs blinked amused.

"Nah, this is paradise." A ghost of a grin filtered in and out, before he went to his desk to grab his bag. He was in the elevator before anyone could blink.

"You coming?" The elevator dinged and the team scrambled out of their desks like little children to get in the elevator before the doors closed.

The car ride was a bit warmer; Tony got his hands on the Charger's A/C and turned it all the way up to boiling. They sat back with a sigh of relief as the warm blowing air started to stop their shivering.

"So, what is the situation, boss" McGee who was sitting in the back seat, taking out his tablet and began login into the Navy database.

"Chief Petty Officer, Daniel Rygart's body was found Fairy Stone Lake this morning by a couple of park rangers. Two bullets to the back of the head, execution style according to reports by the LEOs."

"Deal gone bad? It wouldn't be the first time." Tony held up a map of Virginia, looking for Fairy Stone State Park, from what he's heard, it is apparently quite beautiful in the spring and summer time, but notorious for being a death trap in the winter, being caught in the little mountain system of the Appalachians was not the smartest thing to do.

"Don't know yet, DiNozzo. What is my next turn?" Tony gave the direction and Gibbs sped off, sending the little Gibblets pressing further into their seats.

When they arrived, the LEOs were just wrapping up their investigation; the body had been dragged from just off shore to what was probably a boat dock in the summer.

"They moved the body?" Gibbs growled, unhappy that they have probably just dislodged any evidence back into the frozen lake…something vital and important.

He turned to the nearest LEO, a Trooper I by the looks of it, young and slightly spastic. "Who moved the body?" The officer stood frozen under Gibbs' glare. "The l-local M.E., sir, they had to check for signs of death…We followed all procedures." Team Gibbs felt sympathy for the poor officer.

"I will have a word with him later." The state trooper gave him the M.E.'s number and apologized profusely for any difficulty they may have caused.

Tony pulled the officer off to the side. "Don't let Gibbs push you around too much. He's just grumpy, Ok? Pull yourself together Trooper…" "Kendal" "Kendal….wait—really? Trooper Kendal? Have you ever seen State Trooper, was this awesome crime drama of the 1950s…"

The trooper was either in awe or stupefied by Tony's behavior, because he stared, mouth open for a good minute. "Err… sorry, I got carried away there…"

Instead the officer's lip quirked upwards in an appreciative gesture, "Thank you, agent DiNozzo. It's just that this is my first big crime scene, I'm kind'a caught up in the action at the moment, sir." Kendal fiddled with his Kevlar before sighing, "I gotta' go finish my duties, sir. Or the Capt'n will have my head." Kendal laughed out before sending off a mock salute.

Tony huffed out, turning around he realized Gibbs was watching the whole thing. "Heya, Boss! What's up?" Gibbs merely smiled and handed him a sketchpad. Not sure whether to blush or grin at the silent praise, he snatched the pad and scampered off.

As Gibbs stared at his retreating figure, he felt a clench in his gut…never a good sign. Surveying the area, he began looking for obvious threats to his team. Ziva and McGee were gathering up evidence on the other side of the clearing, up by the rock mounds. Tony was still slightly visible through the dense pines, but was becoming increasingly less so. He felt a parent calling a wandering child back, "Don't stray too far, DiNozzo." He went back to interviewing the local LEOs to gather any more information about the dispatch and witnesses. But he could not shake the feeling today was going to give him loads of trouble.

Ziva and McGee started climbing further up the hill, checking to see if the shooter had passed through the rocky ridge to make a hasty get away. It seemed that their hunch was spot on. They found a discarded glock, with two bullets missing out of the magazine clip. Further up they went, they found a blood trail, an even bloodier hoody, and oddly enough, a red female wig.

"What was Petty Officer Rygart up to?" Ziva held up the wig by a clump of faux-hair, placing it into an evidence bag. "Obviously nothing good." McGee replied placing markers at the signs of evidence. They started shooting photos; one photo flash caught the reflection of something glinting down the hill in the direction of Tony. Suddenly, a deeper chill than the cold January air filled their bones.

"SHOOTER!" Ziva yelled in desperation, fortunately Tony heard and jumped behind a tree trunk before the gunman began to fire. There was a moment of silence where Tony, back still planted on the bark, peered from behind the bullet-pocked tree and began searching for his attacker—they were hidden very well. A shot grazed his left ear, yelping he fired back, he heard a yelp in return and knew he had clipped his shooter.

The sound of scampering and snow crunching met his ears. He squinted, looking for any unusually movement in the forest, then quickly a smallish blur went off to his left, further into the woods and away from his team. Despite knowing 'you don't chase after what's trying to kill you', he chased off after the assailant; he was beginning to catch up too. Though the rifleman was beginning to look more like a small, feral child than an adult did, he noticed both a bloody patch in the assailants shoulder and waist. "STOP! FEDERAL AGENTS, STOP RUNNING RIGHT NOW!" the figure stopped and turned. Tony gasped it really was a small child.

A boy about thirteen years old with dirty, matted brown hair, stunning honey brown eyes, and the most vicious snarl he had ever seen. Tony tried acting reproachful, though gun still armed defensively; it only seemed to set the boy further on edge as he rocked back and forth ready to strike out. If he was being honest with himself, it was kinda' terrifying.

"Stop…Ok, kid. I'm not gonna' kill ya'. So put the rifle down and we can work this out, m'kay?" The boy actually hissed at his approach, definitely a feral child…that knows how to use a gun…perfect.

"I…hunt…why…shoot…?" The words were gravelly and horse; Tony couldn't help thinking if he knew how to talk, the kid must have had a family. His gut dropped to his feet, "So you were out hunting?" His voice raised pitch only slightly. He wasn't trying to kill him, oh god, he just shot an innocent kid.

The boy held out two rabbits and a raccoon. "Need food…" The boy looked deeper into the woods, before grimacing and clutching his side, "hurts…" The boy collapsed to the ground.

Tony dropped his gun to the forest floor and sprinted over. "Shit! I'm so sorry, kid, come on, we'll get you fixed up."

Tony felt tears starting to leak out, both his and those honey brown. He wiped is thumb over the small child's wet cheeks.

Patting him lightly, he said, "You gotta' live kid, I'll make sure you live good from now on." He pressed his hand against the wounds, causing the little boy to sob. "Stop…please…"

"Nope, no can do, little man…It's my fault, so I'm going to fix this." He heard his team call out to him from a distance, but he couldn't bring himself to respond. He could only focus on keeping this little boy alive.

"Do you have a name?" He shook the kid lightly. "Name?" He didn't seem to know the meaning of the word, so he pointed to himself stating, "I'm Tony."

The boy remained silent, "kid?" he shook him lightly. "…Eradin." The boy mumbled out, it sounded like he said Aladdin, but Tony wasn't going to ponder it too heavily. "Ok…Eradin, I'm going to take you to the rest of my team, ok? We'll get you to a hospital and make you all better." The boy looked up tired and suspicious, he gave a watery smile in response. Still Eradin relaxed against him. He gathered the boy up in his arms and took off into a dead run towards the crime scene.

But before he could even see the clearing, he was sideswiped by a large furry mass. He managed to get underneath the kid and cushion his impact, but he came to the full realization he was staring face to face with an enraged black bear. Of course, he would run into a bear…only natural. Shoot a kid, meet a bear. Shooting the thing was out of the question, he had dropped his gun a long while back, and to make matters worse both hands were being used to keep the kid from bleeding out. Should he play dead until the bear left? No, the kid might not make it then. It would be even worse to run away, then they would both be dead, unless he ran really fast.

Despite the ever ranting cycle of thoughts running through his head, he knew protecting the kid in his arms was most important. Staggering to a stand, he hoisted the kid against his chest and made a run for it. And he ran, even as razor sharp claws pierced his back and side he kept running. His lungs were all but useless, the fall must have broken a rib or two. But those honey brown eyes stared at him fiercely, still alight with fading life. That's all that mattered.

He finally saw the clearing, just as his vision was beginning to dim, that damn clearing popped up into sight. He stumbled, his foot catching on a root, back searing with pain at the motion, and nearly dropped the kid. He managed to right himself and run towards the group quickly as possible.

Officer Kendal, who was on the lookout for Tony as soon as Ziva called out "shooter," noticed Tony falling over himself trying to get out of a thicket with a small person in his arms. A loud roar drew his attention to the bear closing in behind him, and began shooting.

The bear brought down its great paw on the stuck agent and caught him on the shoulder. Another officer, the lead captain shot a round that managed to hit the bear in the ear. The bear, being clipped, charged at its new attacker and charged, where it was brought down quickly.

Tony finally managed to untangle himself and Eradin out of the thicket, but his legs seemed to be made of jello, because they refused to support him and he was practically crawling with a child in his arms. The LEOs stared dumbfounded at the extremely battered NCIS agent, one audibly gasped.

"Agent DiNozzo!" Kendal sprinted to the collapsing agent. DiNozzo saw Kendal and placed the boy in his arms. "Get…him to a…hospital," he gasped in between wheezing breaths. His lungs had collapsed a while back, as soon as the bear struck him; it broke a few ribs, one of which stabbed at his lungs. Eradin…he was looking at him from Kendal's arms, his face was scrunched in sorrow. Tony felt a vague sense of surprise at the face; he shot him, yet he is crying for him? He suddenly had the sense of drowning and he was suddenly scared. He didn't want to die, he wanted to see the kid live, grow up and have a family.

Voices and images began to blur into a liquid haze. Kendal's voice was coming in and out like an old analogue radio signal. He started to lose all sense in his limbs; he fought the numbness, but quickly realized he was losing to the darkness.

"Agent DiNozzo…come on, look at me…. Someone! ETA on that Medvac!" For someone so timid, even for a greenhorn, officer Kendal certainly as the makings of a fine captain. The world was becoming a blur of activity, like the world was being played in fast forward, but he was stuck in regular time.

On the edge of his blackening vision, he saw his team emerge from the forest, each with different shades of ashen gray. "Tony!" "DiNozzo!" Aw~ they care, isn't that nice. "Hey guys…how's it hanging?" He couldn't really breathe anymore, but that's okay. Everyone was safe. Epic plus side, he wasn't cold anymore. He was beginning to wonder why everyone looked like they were about to cry over him. He just did his job in the end. McGee and Ziva reach him first looking stunned, Ziva with all the medical training Mossad had to offer couldn't even fathom how to handle wounds this large and deep, so she held his hand—not that he could feel it, but the gesture was appreciated anyway. McGee kept chattering, about new medical tech jargon and bear attack statistics…way to go probie.

"DiNozzo, you still do not have permission to die, do you hear me?" A firm hand gripped his scalp, but not in a painful manner, Gibbs, big, bad Gibbs always trying to tell him what to do. He supposed it didn't hurt that he always wanted to listen. However, he had the feeling that he couldn't do it this time.

Instead he quipped, "Got'cha, boss… didn' feel like leavin' the party anyway… was having too much fun. But do me a favor? Look after Eradin will ya'." His coughing was becoming very bad; those wheezing breaths were disconcerting to everyone who surrounded him. Tony's hazel eyes shifted from the artic blue of his boss to the honey browns of the boys. The boy looked sad, he struggled against Kendal's grip and slipped free, he plopped himself next to Tony and began to keen. Concern crossed Tony's face as he stared at Eradin, the boy didn't look like he was going to make it. He realized the boy only wanted comfort, so he managed to shift an arm to weakly hug the child, rubbing his thumb along the boy's shoulder. The ringing started quickly enveloping him in a dull roar, seeming to turn his fading vision from a black and orange kaleidoscope to completely pitch black. However, he kept up the motion.

He closed his eyes, suddenly very tired, "Come on…little man. It's alright…It'll be ok…" the thumb motion stopped and went limp against Eradin's shoulder. Eradin sobbed and curled up into a ball in the nook of Tony's arm, before passing out.

"Tony?" Like an out of body experience, Gibbs felt his trembling hand reach out to Tony's neck; it was cold, very, very cold. No thrum of a heartbeat pulsed against his fingers; the boy's heart had gone silent as well. Tony had wanted the boy to live, so he vigorously attempted CPR on the boy, and was loosely aware someone was doing the same to Tony.

Screeching sirens echoed in the distance, for thirty minutes neither breathed, no living person dared to, the other person sat back on his haunches and stared. "His ribs are completely smashed, boss. He's gone." It was McGee, very quiet and very haunted. It made him pause; Tony was now grey and blue, the boy looked the same…he stopped and sat back.

His boy was dead. He died…and where was he? Back in the forest? He didn't know. Eradin was dead too, exsanguination. Deep down he knew this would happen, the damn gut of his was never wrong. Why couldn't he have done something more? He could have gone to Tony's side, couldn't he? He failed to protect them, to be honest, he felt like crying. Eventually, tears did stream down his cheeks. McGee stared in shock, Ziva felt nearly inconsolable, and everyone was staring at their tragic hero.

Then the ambulance arrived.


The murder of Daniel Rygart was Sandra Dixon, a former lover and ex-Navy Seals, who was discharged due to psychotic tendencies. She didn't even leave the crime scene before she fell into a black bear den. She fell on a hibernating cub, crushing it and waking up its mother. Upon seeing her dead cub, she mauled Sandra to beyond point of recognition; her ring finger and an earring were found in the bear's stomach upon autopsy.


xxX Note to readersXxx

While I want you to be honest with me, this is my first published NCIS story, so be gentle. :D

P.S. I have no idea why this one is dark, it just is. I hoped you enjoyed.