Sam's leg was aching and he was annoyed by the time he reached the flight deck where he then proceeded to have a ten minute discussion-arguement with the deck Chief. The Chief was sure no one could have gotten up on deck without his crew knowing and wasn't about to let Sam go up and check. The Chief explained to Sam like he was a two-year-old, that a swipe card was required to access the deck and people rescued from places that can't be mentioned were not issued access cards. Sam suggested equally patiently that someone onboard who used to have an access card was now missing it, because his partner had lifted it.

It took a call up the chain to the Captain before Sam was finally allowed on deck. A sailor was assigned to escort him to ensure his safety and Sam, who was tired of arguing, let the man trail behind him. It didn't take Sam long to find Callen who was exactly where Sam predicted.

The agent lifted his head and watched Sam approach. "Who's your friend?" he jerked his chin towards the sailor who was amazed to find Callen sitting on the deck.

Sam turned to the ensign and said, "Thanks for the escort seaman. I can take it from here. He and I are gonna sit here for a few minutes and enjoy the view," Sam told him as if they were on the deck of a cruise ship and not a 102 ton aircraft carrier. The ensign was about to object when Sam added, "We could go back and discuss this with the Captain if you want but I think he might be a bit pissed having his lunch interrupted for a second time." The ensign turned a little green at that remark since he'd been standing there the first time when the Captain had been disturbed.

"It's lunch time?" Callen piped up. "Did you bring me takeout?"

"I'm going to take you out and throw you overboard." The sailor who'd been turning to walk away stopped and Sam hastily added, "Just kidding." He lowered his body onto the deck next to Callen, leaning against the metal structure behind them. "The walls close in?"

"Something like that," Callen agreed his eyes fixed on the horizon.

Sam let his gaze trail out to the sea too. "Whose card did you lift, to get out here?"

Callen gave a little shrug. "Don't know. Some pilot I bumped into."

Callen was dressed in a navy's pilot jumpsuit not a hospital gown. "You took his clothes too?" That was a bit cheeky Sam thought.

Callen ran his hand absentmindedly down his pants leg. "Don't worry, there is no naked pilot tied up in a closet somewhere onboard if that is what you are thinking. I found the laundry on my way here. Procured clothes from there."

"Stole," Sam corrected. "You left them in quite tizzy down in the medical center. They're not use to your disappearing acts. They kind of want you to come back."

Callen vehemently shook his head. "No way. I'm fine."

"You are never fine," Sam laughed. "I had to call the Captain of this huge ship to get permission to come up here to retrieve you and bring you back to the infirmary." A muscle in Callen's jaw uncontrollably twitched. "But of course we both know that isn't happening."

Callen started rubbing his thumb against his forefinger, a habit he had when he was agitated or thinking. "I can't go back there Sam. They keep sedating me."

"It's for your own good G. Your body needs to rest, recover. You came close to buying the farm back there." Sam's tried to keep his voice even but Callen detected the worried undertones.

"When I can't wake up, I can't escape..." the shorter man swallowed hard, "the nightmares."

Sam shifted his gaze back to his partner and said "You were beaten, by someone with a hose, when you were eight for getting dirty."

Callen's jaw clenched at Sam knowing that fact. He wondered when he blabbed that aloud. "My foster father. He had a bit of a cleanliness is next to Godliness complex; I was neither. Who else knows?"

Sam shifted his gaze back to the sea again. "Just you, me and the fishes in the river. You were delirious with a high fever." They sat in silence again for a while before Sam bluntly asked, "Who's Kira?"

Biting on his lower lip, Callen tried to convince himself to be honest and trust Sam wouldn't judge him. Trust had been so beaten out of him as a child that even thinking about opening up to someone made Callen feel uneasy and ill.

Sam could see the war going on within Callen and he patiently waited; either Callen would tell him the story or he wouldn't and that would say a lot about their relationship after five years. Had Sam made any true inroads into Callen's life? Made it past any of the reclusive man's barriers?

Physically, Callen started to lightly tremble and Sam thought maybe he had pushed Callen too hard given the fact he was still trying to recover physically and mentally from being beaten, shot and dragged across a foreign country. Sam was about to tell Callen never mind, when Callen drew up his knees, dropped his head on them and started to silently cry.

Sam was a physical man, who believed touch and human connection helped heal, so he wrapped his strong arm around Callen's shoulders and drew his partner's head against his shoulder.

"I never cried for her before," his muffled voice rose from Sam's shoulder. After a while, Callen pushed back, sat up and wiped his eyes on his shirt sleeve.

"Sorry, forgot about your shoulder," Sam said in a way of an apology. He hadn't thought about the partially healed bullet wound in Callen's shoulder when he had drawn the man into his embrace.

"That's Ok. Doesn't hurt as much as killing Kira did," he replied philosophically before he broke down and told Sam the whole story, leaving nothing out, not even how he turned the gangs on each other.

Sam listened quietly in a non-judgmental manner; this was a huge step for Callen, to trust Sam enough to tell him something about his past of which he was obviously ashamed. This took their partnership dynamics to a whole new level. Sam hoped by Callen telling this story, maybe it would help him heal one of the demons that haunted his past.

Sam listened to the whole tale and at the end said, "You didn't kill Kira, G."

"I didn't pull the trigger but my actions caused it to happen," Callen replied bitterly.

"What else could you have done? Killed an innocent old woman whose only crime was being the grandmother of a kid who got caught up in a gang? Would that have been the better choice?" Sam asked trying to get Callen to see reason. "There was no choice."

"Oh there was a choice," Callen stated, his voice full of certainty. "I screwed up and because of that a little girl got killed."

Sam looked puzzled; he was lost as to where his partner was going. "What choice?"

"The one I made when I first placed in that foster home; when I met Kira. I should have kept her at arm's length, not started to care about her. Then she would have been safe," he said harshly. "I was stupid and believe me I learned my lesson after that never to let people get close."

"Yeh, you learned a lesson, but not the right one. You can't go through life shutting everyone out," Sam insisted.

"Worked so far," Callen replied in an off-hand manner that irritated Sam.

Sam gave a little shrug and caught his partner's eye. "You let me in, at least partway."

Callen snorted and turned his head to face the sea. "And that was probably a mistake too, one you and I will both be sorry about."

"Our partnership, our friendship is not a mistake, G. You're my brother. You're part of my family and I promise I won't ever do anything to break your trust in me," Sam said with all his heart and soul.

Callen closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the grey metal structure, trying to process Sam's words and the way it was making him feel. He always wanted a family and Sam was offering it to him with no strings attached; Callen desperately wanted to accept the gift yet it was so hard. "As my brother, would you speak to the doctor and get me out of sickbay. I can sleep in the crew's quarters."

A small smile quirked the side of Sam's mouth. In his own way, Callen was telling him he accepted Sam's offer. "I could probably arrange that."

"Good. Otherwise I am sleeping here which I think would annoy the hell out of the deck Chief."

"Yeh, he is already a bit displeased with you and me both," Sam chuckled.

"How about, my brother, you carry me back below deck. I'm really haven't fully recovered yet. And I could use some food. I'm thinking a bacon cheeseburger," Callen wheedled.

"Ok, now you are just pushing it'" Sam replied.

Callen batted his eyelashes at Sam. "But you said we were family. Isn't that what brother's do for each other?"

Sam laughed and clapped a hand on the back of Callen's neck. "You have a lot to learn my brother but no worries, I'll be happy to teach you."

"Yeh, ah no. I'm not liking the sound of that. You know what, I changed my mind, I don't think I want a brother," Callen said though Sam knew he was not serious.

"Too late. You don't get to choose your family. Michelle, Jasmine and I have already chosen you. Buckle your seatbelt my brother; you are in for the ride of your life."

The sun set on the horizon and while Sam and Callen's present journey was drawing to a close, a new one had begun for the Brothers of the Heart.

The End

Author's Note: I really was amazed by all the reviews and I loved reading each and every one. I had fun writing this and it sounds like many enjoyed reading it which is so cool. For those of you that asked about the next story, it is actually nearly finished; I was writing it before this intriguing challenge came up which I simply felt compelled to do. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be able to start posting the next story. Haven't numbered the chapters yet but I think there will be at least twenty plus. As always, it is Sam and Callen centric but has the rest of the team too, unlike this one.