Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, places or show you know and love. I'm just happy that the people who do own them let us take them out and play with them sometimes.
Because I've been asked before: I never begin to post a fic until I have finished writing it. This fic is complete, on paper (well...on digits anyway) and ready to share with you in bite sized, nougat-filled pieces. I like to play with my audience a bit (cue maniacal laughter), so I chop my stories into bits. Assuming I have access to internet (read; no one has an earthquake or hurricane) for the foreseeable future, you will have regular updates until this is complete.
This fic is un-beta'd, so you may flog me with a wet noodle for grammar and spelling issues.
Chapter 1: You want to do WHAT?
The office was busy, filled with all of those standard, early-Monday-morning just-on-shift kinds of sounds. Callen was awkwardly melding the ingredients for a 'real' cup of tea; Deeks was sorting through a box of pastries looking for anything with chocolate in it that Kensi might have overlooked. Nate was tapping away on a keyboard, sorting through the past weekend's junk e-mails.
Sam sat down at his newly remodeled workspace, reluctantly pulled the morning's paperwork out of his in-box, and fiddled with the dial of the radio on his desk. The first few lines of Lynard Skynard's "Freebird" resonated in the open space.
"You know, G," said Sam, a small smile beginning to play at the corners of his lips, "this could be your theme song."
"I need a theme song?" Callen considered this for a moment. "If I'm going to have a theme song, I think it needs to be the James Bond theme. Something that captures my essence..."
"You think your 'essence' is ode-de-James Bond? You're delusional." Sam was grinning now.
"Delusional?" Callen looked over at Nate, who was doing a very bad job of disguising his interest in this particular conversation. The songs we pick probably say something about us, G thought, wondering if that should bother him. "Delusional, huh...so what would your theme song be?"
Sam answered without a pause. "I Need Love. LL Cool J. First rap ballad. Hot. Sexy..."
"LL Cool J, huh?" Callen stopped, pretending to think about that for a second. He fooled no one. The team braced for the wisecrack everyone knew was coming. "Nah...I see you more as a Will Smith kind of guy."
"Will Smith?" Sam snorted. "Rapper turned comic turned actor? Guy doesn't even know who he is."
"Not bad in Independence Day, though," Kensi interjected. "And kinda hot." The men around the table looked at her, Callen's eyebrows raised, Deeks's mouth hanging open, as they digested this latest bit of information about their friend. "What? I'm just saying..."
With a quick shake of his head, Callen got back to the business at hand—bothering his long-suffering partner. "OK, maybe not Will Smith...maybeeee...Vanilla Ice..."
"I will kick your skinny white a..."
Just which part of Callen's skinny anatomy was due for a kicking was drowned out by the shrill whistle from above them, and Hetty yelling "Lady and Gentlemen!" from the balcony. The team headed up the stairs and entered OSP's dark, cave-like nerve center. There, they found Hetty deep in conversation with a man in the uniform of a Naval medical officer. She broke off from what she was saying with an expansive gesture. "And here they are." The look in her eye would have been easy to miss, had her co-workers not been among the most highly trained observers on the West Coast. She looked worried, and she looked like she was trying to hide it. "Eric, if you would."
Eric spun in his seat and a collage of photos, bank records and maps soon appeared on the room's center screen. The team stepped forward, all business now, to hear the details of their latest assignment. Hetty began with an introduction. "Lady and gentlemen, this is Dr., excuse me, Commander, Robert Hutch..." Eric ducked his head in a failed attempt to cover a grin... "of the Naval Medical Center, San Diego...is there a problem, Mr. Beal?"
Eric turned red and began fiddling with his remote control. "No...no ma'am...it's just...Robert Hutch, Rabbit Hutch...it's nothing..." His attention moved fixedly back to the screen. "Commander Rabbit...I mean, Commander Hutch, brought this issue to the attention of NCIS." He pointed to the photo at the top left corner of the screen, which showed a very dead sailor on an autopsy table. "Seaman First Class Richard Boeing, Naval Special Warfare Training School, Coronado, died Thursday of an acute overdose of the painkiller Oxycontin during SEAL Hell Week training." Every head in the room swung to look at Sam, who gritted his teeth. To Sam, taking prescription pain killers during SEAL training (while understandable) was cheating.
Hetty broke in. "Commander Hutch believes that the drugs originated at NMC San Diego, probably in their Wounded Warrior Detachment." Everyone grimaced at that announcement. The Wounded Warrior units are staffed by men and women wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. No one liked the idea of investigating sailors and Marines who'd already given so much. Moreover, the Wounded Warrior Detachment was likely to be a tight-knit group. It wouldn't be easy to infiltrate and gain the trust of a unit bound by their common tragedies.
Callen looked the Commander over. "Why do you think the drugs are coming from there?"
"After Seaman Boeing died, the hospital ran a full audit of its narcotics, since we're the closest military hospital to Coronado. Now, Oxycontin is strong stuff. It's also extremely addictive, so hospitals keep fairly close track of where the pills go. That said, we use a lot of it, especially in a place like the Wounded Warrior Detachment, where the patients are legitimately in a lot of pain."
Callen grunted. "Getting shot hurts."
Hutch nodded. "So I'm told. All that said, while the number of Warriors in the Detachment here has been going up a bit in the past six months, the number of tablets of high-grade narcotics dispensed has been climbing even faster." He pointed to a series of financial statements on the screen. "This is the pharmaceutical line-item budget list for the first and second quarters of 2010. We've got a few more patients in the Detachment because of the Surge, but the budgets for Percocet, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Codeine…all the narcotics, has almost doubled in those same six months."
Sam spoke up. "Is any one doctor prescribing more than he was? Did you get anyone new in the pharmacy?"
"No. Nothing like that." Hutch shook his head. "In fact, the same amount of drugs is being prescribed as always has been." In answer to the confused looks he received, the doctor explained. "For guys with severe injuries, we give them a fairly wide prescription for narcotics. It usually says something like 'take one every four hours as needed for pain.' But most of the guys in the WWD are young, head-strong Marines. They usually don't take all of the meds we give them. I mean, do you?"
The assembled agents thought of their own medicine cabinets, half full of expired prescription bottles, and shrugged. "No," answered Kensi. "We just take what we need."
"Right. You take the meds until you feel better, and then maybe you stick 'em in a drawer until you get a migraine in a month or so. Maybe you even do what you're supposed to do and dispose of them properly." He looked around. The agents didn't meet his eyes. "Yeah. I don't either."
"So your Warriors aren't getting more drugs prescribed to them, they're just getting the prescriptions filled more often." Eric supplied.
Hutch nodded. "Yup. Where last Summer, we could expect a guy to get a prescription for 60 pills, fill half of it, swallow 15 pills over a few weeks and stick 15 in a drawer—and never even pick up the other 30 from the pharmacy, we're now seeing that same guy finish the whole 'scrip of 60, and maybe even asking for a refill. The problem is sorting out which of these Warriors are selling the extras and which are legitimately still in pain and taking the meds."
"So, that shouldn't be too hard to track down." Callen cut in. "Just find the guys who have been getting refills, and test their blood to make sure they're taking the meds. You're a hospital. Don't tell me you can't find opiates on a blood sample."
"We can, and we did." The doctor looked embarrassed. "They all came up positive."
Kensi looked confused. "You mean they all tested positive for opiates? Like they're all taking the pills? So there's your answer; the drugs aren't coming from the Wounded Warrior Detachment- they're taking their pills. Maybe someone told 'em they have to."
Eric spoke up again. "Yeah, it's not quite that easy, Kensi. Opiates are easy to fake on a drug test. Eat a bunch of poppy seeds and you'll fool the test."
Hetty's head turned a bit. "And we'll be talking about just how you knew that later." Eric blushed, mumbled something about 'Mythbusters' and looked anywhere other than at Hetty's stare.
"Wherever he learned it, he's right," stated Hutch. "The same chemical in the opium poppies that we test for is also in the kind of poppy seeds you've got in that morning pastry." He glanced significantly at the bagel in Sam's hand. Sam put it down. "We all eat them. We even put a poppy seed cake in some of the MRE's we feed the guys in the field with which'll trip the test. So what we need NCIS to do is to figure out who in the detachment is really taking more than the average amount of painkillers, and who is selling the narcotics and eating lemon-poppy seed muffins."
"So, what you really need," filled in Callen, "is a wounded warrior to stick in that detachment for a snoop around."
Hetty looked worried again. "Exactly, Agent Callen. We need a wounded warrior. Commander?"
Commander Hutch took a deep breath and looked straight at G. "When were you shot, agent?"
Callen's eyes widened, and he felt, rather than saw, his partner move to back him up. "May fifth, last year."
"Are the scars still fairly pronounced?"
"Yeah, you could say that."
"That will make it easier to sell you as a wounded Marine, but you still need a current reason to be in the detachment. Something that is still causing you problems."
"Well, I'm fine, so we'll just have to pretend." He grinned. "I'm pretty good at pretending."
"Not good enough." Callen looked down toward the voice and was surprised to find Hetty patting his hand. When had she gotten so close? How did she do that? "Dr. Hutch here is a whistle-blower. None of the other doctors at NCMSD will know you're there undercover. You need to fool them, too."
"What do you want to do; shoot me again?" The question was said with Callen's patented sarcasm, but his discomfort was obvious to everyone in the room.
"No, of course not," Hutch looked horrified, "but there are wounds that are both harder to treat and impossible to see. I'm a neurologist. I suggested, and of course you can say no, that we create some symptoms of a closed-head injury. Specifically, blindness."
"You want me to fake being blind? That's not…"
"No, that wouldn't work. The optometrist would see through it immediately. But there are some medications which, when properly combined, will induce temporary blindness."
"You want to BLIND me?"