Friends and Neighbors

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or any rights to LA NCIS, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Summary: Callen's breakfast meeting with a contact goes badly and Sam's not there to have his back. No slash.

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Chapter 2

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With his jaw clenched, Sam bent down, took a deep breath and unzipped the body bag. Breath whooshed back into his lungs as the sightless eyes of a stranger stared up at him out of the body bag. But as he raised his head, he noted the other bags spread throughout the diner, making his relief temporary maybe even premature. Bowing his head, he closed his eyes, steeled himself to walk over to the next corpse, prayed that G wasn't among the mortality number.

He heard someone come to a stop at his side but he didn't react, didn't know if he was capable of keeping himself together if some punk cop tried to remove him from the crime scene.

"Friend of yours?" a curious, amused voice asked.

Instantly Sam was on his feet, hands flying out…to grip G. Callen's shoulders in a painful grip. "You OK?" voice urgent even as his eyes swept over his friend, did his own inspection, hand reaching out to the blood coating Callen's shirt, not mislead by Callen's smile.

"Fine," Callen calmly returned. "Blood's not mine," he offered, eyes traveling down to his stained shirt front as if disturbed by the state of his clothing. As if that would ever happen.

Exhaling, eyes lifting to Callen's, Sam tightened his grip on his partner's shoulder and then released it, stepped back to give Callen his personal space. "So what happened? Your contact …"

"Was late to the party," G answered, hand waving to the destruction. "Guess when he saw the carnage he bailed on me."

Sam's brow creased in confusion. "So then what went down?"

"Couple of gang hits," Callen revealed, starting to walk away, past the body bags and the police officers on the scene. Sam had to do a quick four step run to gain his side.

"You get involved?" Sam asked, already knowing that G didn't know how to back down from a fight or not play protector to one and all.

"Shot two of them," Callen stated, his tone conveying that it wasn't something he enjoyed, especially when the gang members were either teenagers or in their early twenties.

Sam watched Callen, could tell this was going to be another thing that weighed on his friend. "Doing the hit in public, in a busy restaurant, they clearly were OK with killing innocents who got in their way. You couldn't sit there and wait until they killed more people, G."

Callen's reply was grim but firm, "I know."

When they had reached Callen's car, Sam's hand shot out to grip his partner's arm, stopping him from climbing into his car. Sam knew that if Callen slipped away from him now, he wouldn't be able to get the other man to talk about the day's occurrences, probably ever again.

Callen turned back to Sam with a sigh, knowing that the psych session was going to start. "I don't need debriefed, you know. This wasn't an NCIS crime scene. I already did my Q&A with the boys in blue."

Not allowing his frustration to show that Callen was already distancing himself, Sam asked, as if the answer didn't matter, "Was I ever going to learn about this if it hadn't been broadcast on the news? Were you even going to call me and say you ran into a little bit of trouble?"

"Couldn't," G shortly answered, enjoyed seeing Sam's anger come to life. "Phone's in about fifty pieces."

"Take a bullet hit?" Sam levelly asked even as he told himself Callen was fine, that no matter what had happened half an hour ago, his friend was in one piece.

"No," and Callen smiled. "I threw it at one of the gang member's head. The 3G network kinda went off line after that.."

Shaking his head at Callen's unorthodox survival methods, Sam grumbled, "You know what? I want a new partner."

There was no worry in Callen's expression, only amusement. "What? Why?" he chuckled, not believing Sam's statement for a second. Sam had been his partner for three years and he didn't see that changing in the near future.

"I want someone who doesn't get shot every six months," Sam retorted, his tone sarcastically judgmental, ignored the clench in his gut at the word 'shot', at the memories that resurfaced all too easily.

"I'm not shot," G snorted back good-naturedly, smile widening at Sam's raised eyebrow of condemnation. Holding his hands out to his side, he cockily announced, "Not even a scratch on me."

"Not yet," Sam snapped back.

There was a challenging spark in Callen's eyes at his partners' threat. "You planning on throwing down on me?" but he couldn't keep the laughter out of his voice.

"Me? No. Wouldn't waste my time trying to knock sense into you. No, it's Hettie who's going to give you a beat down when she sees your phone's toast."

And for the first time, there was a glimmer of worry in Callen's eyes.

"So who picked the meeting spot?" Sam asked, certain he already knew the answer.

"Me," G answered without hesitation.

"Well, next time, G, pick a better neighborhood," Sam gruffly advised, starting to walk away to his Dodge that was probably blocking traffic.

"Hey don't disrespect my hood," Callen called at his partner's back, got a sick sense of pleasure when Sam halted in his tracks and slowly turned back to face him.

"Come again?"

"This is my neighborhood," pride in his tone, his eyes taking in the surroundings as if they didn't speak of violence and unsafety and fear.

"Since when?" Sam darkly asked, stalking to his partner's side again.

"Monday. Got an apartment a block down from here."

"You're moving," Sam stated, resolve in his tone and no room for discussion in his eyes.

"This coming from the guy who harasses me endlessly that I move too often," Callen scoffed lightly.

Ignoring the bait, Sam lowly repeated. "You are moving, G." Because their job was dangerous enough, Callen was a magnet for trouble as it was, his friend didn't need to be surrounded by trouble 24/7.

Callen smiled and leaned casually against his car. "I don't think I will. I really like this apartment. It's not too warm or too cold, not too noisy or too quiet."

"You're on gang turf?!" Sam hissed as if it should be obvious, that he shouldn't have to spell it out for G.

Shrugging, Callen said, "I'm not that territorial."

Leaning close, Sam growled, finger jabbing G in the chest. "You Are Moving." But Callen only laughed and climbed into his car, started the engine and gave a wave to Sam before leaving him behind.

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About ready to call it a day, Callen closed his case file and noticed for the first time that there was a newspaper in his tray. Giving the "squad room" a glance to see who had played delivery boy, he realized that he was the last one in the office. Picking up the paper, he flipped it open, couldn't help smile when he saw that it was the classified section and several "apartments for rent" ads were circled nice and big in red ink. He laughed out loud when he noted that two words were underscored three times in the one add. "Safe neighborhood."

Standing up, Callen headed out of the office, newspaper in hand.

He had had a lifetime of rotating neighbors, had made it a point to not get to know any of them. But a close friend like Sam, that was a novelty for him. So choosing between his neighbors or his friend? There wasn't much debate.

Besides, the apartment was too big for his taste.

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The End.

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Thanks for reading.

Have a great evening!

Cheryl W.