It was over a month before Callen and Jess saw each other again. G had been sent to Washington DC to testify at a budget hearing in Hetty's stead. She had begged off the hearings this time around, preferring to stay back in Los Angeles and keep and eye on things.

"Lest we forget what happened last time, Mr. Callen," she'd said.

Hetty figured that her staying in LA paired with Callen being in DC would head off any potential case-related disasters.

Callen figured that as long as he was going to be in DC for the week, he, Jess and Tony should get together. His job required him to live undercover virtually 100% of the time, meaning that Callen didn't have a huge circle of friends. He wanted to grab any opportunity he could to expand that circle, particularly with people who actually knew him as Callen and not one of his 187 aliases. So he'd proposed an evening out, and Tony and Jess had leapt at the chance.

As luck would have it, Bob Brown and most of The Unit were also scheduled to be in DC, debriefing after a long, boring mission keeping an eye on a couple of middle Eastern diplomats who were also playboy wannabes. The guys were thrilled at the prospect of "a night out with grown-ups," as Jonas put it. Even helicopter pilot Billy Wilcox was able to join them, having been sent to DC for disaster training for the upcoming hurricane season.

On the appointed evening, the entire group filled a small suite at the Hay Adams. They'd chosen a private party over something in a public place, just to maintain everyone's cover. The last thing OSP or the Pentagon needed was a identity-confirming photo in the DC tabloids of a half-dozen men and one woman causing a situation at a local bar. A scenario that all of them could, too easily, imagine.

Jess had to admit that the evening was a bit odd. "You know," she'd said at one point, "it's awfully crowded in here, considering none of you officially exist."

"I exist," Tony said, almost pouting.

"Yes, you do," Jess assured him. And then she told him he couldn't have anything more to drink until he ate something.

Two hours later – after some high-spirited storytelling, scar comparisons, toasts to Hetty and Vance and Gibbs, and several re-enactments of the diversionary water drop (after which Tony was fairly certain they'd have to reimburse the hotel for the carpet), it was time to head home. The Unit had an early transport the next morning, Billy had a flight class at 0700, and Callen was due at the hearings by 9am. A round of hugs and handshakes later, the group was dispersing, with Tony, Callen and Jess the last ones out.

"I'll call the Front Desk tomorrow and deal with … well … whatever," Tony said as they locked the door and headed to the elevators. He looked at Callen. "You okay getting back to your hotel?"

"I'll grab a cab," he said. "I'll be fine."

"You've got stuff in Tony's car," Jess reminded him.

"Right," Callen said. "Guess I'll swing down to the parking garage with you and THEN I'll catch a cab."

The three of them were pleasantly tired and relaxed and didn't even realize that the elevator doors that opened in front of them were for the freight elevator and not the passenger car. They stepped inside and Jess hit "P2" for the parking garage. It was at that moment that Callen noticed the three men standing in the back corner of the elevator. And it was at that moment that Tony noticed that two of the three men standing in the back corner of the elevator had guns. Jess felt Tony and Callen both tense as the elevator doors closed.

But … that's another story.