The bonfire flared as someone threw another log on and sparks danced upward into the sky, swirling in the wind gusting in off the dark waves. They heard a sudden burst of laughter and Sam trained his binoculars on the group of surfers and a variety of attractive women lounging around the fire, Deeks' smile the widest among them. He put down the binoculars when he heard Callen grunt as he tried to get comfortable after sitting in the same position for over four hours.
"How's your butt feeling, partner?" Sam asked.
Callen looked over at him with raised eyebrows, before turning to shoot another series of surveillance photos of the people on the beach.
"Just taking up the slack while Deeks is undercover," Sam said with a grin.
"Deeks woulda snapped off three or four one liners about butts by now," Callen said.
"I didn't hear any snappy comeback from you," Sam sniped.
"But," he said, drawing out the word. "I thought of a couple."
"What time is it anyway?" Sam asked, grimacing as he readjusted his own position.
"Well at least one of us is having fun," Sam said. "This op was ready made for him."
"I told him it was too easy for him," Callen said. "I warned him to be careful he didn't lose focus."
"And how did he take that?"
"He was pissed," Callen said as he turned to look at Sam. "Made it a point to remind me how long he's been doing undercover work."
"You're worried about him," Sam stated.
"And you're not?"
"Not as much as you," Sam replied.
"Now it's a competition?" Callen laughed.
"Just sayin'. You've been acting weird ever since he told us he wondered what it would be like to have older brothers...that he hated," Sam replied. "Be honest. That bothered you."
"You really believe he thinks of us as older brothers?" Callen asked quietly.
"He's the one who brought it up," Sam said. "I don't think he hates me, though. I'm too lovable and we have history. You? Maybe."
Callen didn't answer, just raised the camera back up and panned the scene.
"Heads up, Sam," he said quietly. "I think the boss is finally making an appearance."
"About time," Sam said as he leaned forward, the binoculars trained on the man and four bodyguards making their way towards the bonfire.
"Not exactly dressed for a beach party," Callen murmured.
"They're all armed, G," Sam said quietly. "And they are definitely ex-military."
"Wish we had earwigs on this one," Callen complained.
"He was in the water too much," Sam reminded him. "Just like he told us he would be."
Both men stashed their equipment and checked their weapons before quietly exited the car. They made their way down the row of parked cars in the lot, checking the scene as they moved, finally stopping behind a small utility building. Deeks was now on his feet, facing the man that Eric and Nell had identified as the leader of this specialized group of assassins, his smile gone. Callen jumped when the man backhanded Deeks across the face, and would have charged if Sam hadn't held him back.
"Not yet, G,"
The women began to back away as the surfers and bodyguards surrounded Deeks. He was holding his arms out trying to placate the boss while he talked, but the words were lost in the wind. The two agents had no way to get closer, the building the last place for cover before the open sand of the beach. Two of the body guards moved to stand on either side of Deeks as he pleaded his case, pointing at Benji Shay, the surfer he'd been working for information since this operation began, a man who looked a lot like Deeks.
"Get the suspicion off yourself," Callen said, whispering encouragement Deeks couldn't possibly hear.
The surfer charged him, but Deeks sidestepped him, slamming a knee into his midsection as he passed by, shoving him face first into the sand. The bodyguards grabbed Deeks by the arms and yanked him away, as the leader shouted commands. Two of the other surfers from the party helped Benji up and began dragging him toward the parking lot, while the two bodyguards shoved Deeks after him. Callen and Sam kept cover behind the building as the men got closer, watching Deeks as he searched for them among the cars.
"Not much joking from you tonight, Jimmy," the leader said, shoving Deeks into the side of an SUV.
"You're not very funny yourself, Kavanaugh" he said. "I've proven myself over the last three weeks. You said so yourself."
"My contact at Pendleton told me you were there last year with an NCIS team," Kavanaugh said, grabbing his grey hoodie in both fists, pressing him against the car as he yelled into his face.
"And I'm telling you it wasn't me," Deeks said, pushing him angrily away. "I wasn't even in the state last year and I can prove it."
"He's lying, boss," Benji yelled.
"Shut it, Benji," Kavanaugh growled.
"Who's your source at Pendleton?" Deeks asked. "Get him down here and we can talk."
"It's a she. Sergeant Jessica Herrera and she described you perfectly," Kavanaugh laughed. "Said you had the prettiest eyes she'd ever seen. Blue ones. Not hazel like Benji's."
"Federal agents," Sam and Callen shouted in unison as they rushed into the open with guns ready, making their way towards Deeks.
All four of Kavanaugh's bodyguards started firing at once and Deeks dove for cover behind the next car, hiding in the shadows as Callen took cover behind a pickup truck. Sam fired as he ran forward, ducking down next to a beat up sedan as bullets shattered the windshield.
"Deeks?" Callen shouted.
"I'm good," he yelled.
Deeks began to make his way between the cars, trying to get to where the team was, but a bullet took out a headlight right next to his head so he moved cautiously over to the next car, finally seeing Callen crouched by the front tire of the pickup. Just as he reached him he saw a shape emerge from the shadows behind him and Deeks instantly shouted a warning and tackled him to the ground as bullets peppered the side of the truck. Callen rolled away from him and fired twice, taking the man out, shouting at Sam to watch his back.
"Deeks?" Callen said as he turned to look for him.
"Yeah," he said, groaning softly as he struggled to sit up. "Give me a damn gun, G."
"Here you go, Blue Eyes," Callen snickered as he tossed him his backup weapon.
"Thanks, brother," he said.
Callen made his way to the next car to back up Sam, who was pinned down by Kavanaugh. He waited patiently until the man made the mistake of peeking around the back of the SUV. Callen's bullet hit him square in the head and the firing ceased as his remaining men made a run for it.
"Sam?" Callen called out.
"I'm good, G," he answered, as he stepped from behind the sedan that now sported a multitude of bullet holes.
Callen went to check a couple of the downed bodyguards, kicking their weapons away as Sam called Eric.
"Where's Deeks?" Sam asked.
"Behind the pickup," Callen said, motioning to where he'd last seen him.
"Deeks?" Sam yelled. "Get your baby blues over here."
They saw him move slowly out from behind the pickup, but he was not alone and both agents quickly raised their weapons as Benji pushed Deeks toward them, his arm wrapped around his chest, holding his sagging body against him.
"He's been hit, G," Sam said softly as he saw the blood that saturated the left side of the hoodie.
"Let him go Benji," Callen said loudly, moving slowly forward.
"Not a chance, dude," he laughed. "This bastard's my ticket outa here."
"Did you shoot him?" Sam asked as the two agents began to move apart.
"Nope. Somebody had already done that for me," Benji smiled as he edged toward his car, dragging Deeks with him.
"Deeks. Talk to me," Callen said.
Deeks stared at him and then blinked slowly before groaning, his head dropping to his chest as he slumped against Benji. The surfer struggled to hold him up as he went completely limp, his full body weight dragging the man's arm down. Benji tried to keep his gun trained on the agents, but they kept moving farther and farther apart.
"Drop the gun Benji or we're going to shoot you," Callen said very deliberately, his eyes intensely focused and angry.
Benji tried to keep Deeks' body in front of him but his weight was too great and he began to slip out of his grasp. Realizing he was losing his cover, he swung the gun back toward Deeks' head, but stopped when Sam shouted at him.
"You hurt him, you're dead."
Deeks suddenly fell forward out of his grasp and Benji threw the gun down and put his hands up.
"Don't shoot, don't shoot, okay?"
Callen was on him quickly, shoving him face down onto the hood of the nearest car and cuffing him.
Sam rushed to Deeks, who rolled over and sat up, staring up at him with a broad smile.
"Good plan, yeah?" he said.
"What the hell?" Sam stood frozen in front of him, looking at Callen as he turned to stare at Deeks.
"You're not shot?" Callen asked, his face getting redder by the second.
"Yeah, but it's just a graze," he said, looking down at his bleeding side.
"What the hell was that?" Sam asked, none too pleased.
"Well, I thought you would read my intent and realize the plan," Deeks said with a broad smile.
"You expected us to read your mind?" Callen said with a smirk.
"Thought we were on the same page," Deeks said, giggling as Sam shook his head. "You know, since we have that mutant telepathic communication thing in common now."
"Callen and I have that. Not you," Sam grumbled.
"Aren't you going to help me up?"
"No." Both men said in unison.
"Seriously? You're pissed cause you couldn't figure out my intent?" Deeks asked as he struggled to stand up.
"You wondered what older brothers do?" Sam asked. "Well they don't take crap like what you just pulled."
"Really? Come on. It worked," Deeks said. "I thought you were mind readers."
"Now you're just being annoying," Callen said as he and Sam turned and walked toward the incoming police cars, pushing their captive ahead of them.
"That's a kid brother's job," he yelled after them.
Callen and Sam turned Benji over to the tactical squad to be taken to the boatshed and then checked in with the police and then the EMTs, getting a couple of scratches from ricochets taken care of.
"You patch up the other agent?" Sam asked the medic.
"What other agent? I've only seen you two," he answered.
"Looks like a surfer?" Callen added. "Wearing a bloody grey hoodie over board shorts?"
"Sorry. Haven't seen him," the man said.
"Deeks?" Both men shouted in unison as they headed back to where they had left him.
"He wouldn't pull another stunt would he?" Callen asked as they searched the dark parking lot.
"G," Sam said as he pointed to a shape lying between two cars.
Callen reached him first, gently turning him onto his back in the course gravel. He moaned as Sam put pressure on the bleeding wound in his side, mumbling when Callen lifted his head and shoulders up into his arms. He opened his eyes and looked slightly unfocused at Sam, smiling softly as he held out his bloody hand for him to help him up.
"I fell down," he said weakly. "Dizzy."
"Let's go, brother," Sam said, pulling him up as Callen got his shoulder underneath his other arm and lifted him to his feet.
With his arms draped over Sam and Callen, the three men walked slowly toward the ambulance.
"Did you miss me?"
"I won't miss kickin' your butt if you ever pull another stunt like that again," Sam said.
"It's Callen's fault," Deeks said.
"How is any of this my fault?" Callen asked, stopping to gape at him.
"I got shot saving your life," he reasoned. "So it's your fault."
"He's got a point, G," Sam said as they started walking again.
"You're taking his side?" Callen asked in amazement.
"He's gotta be right sometime," Sam replied, finally cracking a smile.
"Thanks, brother," Deeks grinned.
"Shut up, Deeks," Callen said.
"Is he always this grumpy?"
"Only when you annoy him," Sam replied.
"So all the time then?"