Final part – as promised.
I hope you enjoy.
Three minutes. That's all it had taken to lose G Callen. Three minutes to drive to the boat house and bust down the door.
In three minutes, G had killed two marines and then disappeared, seemingly into thin air.
Sam was furious.
He tried to focus, but the all-consuming anger was eating at his insides. Why hadn't he trusted his intuition? Why had he let Hetty and G talk him down? Why hadn't he tied G up, stuck him in a closet somewhere until he'd been convinced that nothing bad would happen?
Now G was gone. Apparently kidnapped by three rogue Marines – who had a very fast boat at their disposal.
Sam was beyond furious.
The crime scene was taped up and there was a coroner there, and Sam was left to babysit the entire situation. Kensi had gone right away to the marina's offices, and just a few minutes before had reported that Alvarez's brother – who had been providing them visual security – was gone, no doubt spooked by what had gone down inside the boat house. The only good news was that Eric was now going through the security footage.
That didn't make Sam feel much better. He wanted answers. He wanted to know where G was.
They'd found blood near the swinging barn-style doors that led out onto the private dock where Donald Aldrich had moored his expensive cigarette boat – so one of the party of four – including G – was injured. He hoped to God it wasn't G.
"Hetty," Sam barked into his ear piece, unable to control the anger in his voice. "How did this happen?"
He'd already asked her that. Twice.
"Mr. Hanna, we're still unable to determine that. We have no idea how they knew that Mr. Callen wasn't who they thought he was. You must remember that we have no idea who or what they think he is. For all we know, they still think he's Ryan Ellis – they probably don't know his real identity. Chances are they found out somehow that he was working for NCIS or at the very least wasn't working for them after all." She tried to sound soothing, but Sam could hear the worry in her voice. First Dom – and now G. Sam wanted to feel bad for her – but found he was too angry for that. He wanted to blame someone, and she seemed like a good target.
"You should have listened to me Hetty – you knew that I thought something was off."
There was silence over the comm, and Sam instantly regretted his words. Kensi, Eric and Nate could hear him too. He never should have been so public in such an accusation.
When Hetty responded, her voice was stiff. "Indeed, Mr. Hannah. You're quite right."
"It's no one's fault!" Kensi practically yelled over her comm, anger heavy in her voice. "We couldn't have known this would happen – and Callen would be furious if he knew you two were talking like that," she scolded.
Sam's guilt doubled, but he couldn't find his voice to even try to apologize.
"I…have something," Eric said weakly, interrupting.
"Go ahead Mr. Beale," Hetty replied.
"I've managed to upload the video footage from the marina. It isn't much because the camera that can see the private dock isn't exactly close…but…"
"Go on Eric," Sam urged, trying to be calm.
"Well, I can make out three men coming out of the boat house in a hurry – it's Aldrich, Dietrich and Perez. They're carrying Callen – it looks like he's…" Eric trailed off for a moment, then regained his composure. "…unconscious. They got on the boat and took off, and I can definitely see Dietrich pitch Callen's cell into the water," he added.
"So we were right – now they have G," Sam growled.
"They wouldn't have taken him with them if he was dead," Kensi said quietly over her earpiece. "Why would they?"
"He's not dead," Hetty said firmly. "And our job now is to find them – and bring Mr. Callen home. Mr. Hanna, Miss Blye, please finish with the crime scene and be back here as soon as you can. Mr. Beale – start a search on all three of our drug smugglers – we'll want to know where they might go – and properties or people they are linked to. Nate, I'll need you to look again at your profiles of these three men and let me know what their intentions will be now. Let's move people. We have a missing agent to find," she said, a veneer of confidence in her voice.
She sounded so much like Callen giving direction that it hurt Sam's ears a little. She was right though, there was no point in wasting any time – the longer they went without finding G, the better chance of him winding up dead . Like Dom.
Sam couldn't stop that unbidden thought. He'd let Dom down – and now he'd let G down.
It was a sentiment that he couldn't shake no matter how hard he threw himself into the investigation.
He and Kensi returned to operations and after a few hours of intense waiting, Eric had lists of addresses for them to go to. Too many.
Hetty contacted Deeks, and soon LAPD was helping them knock down doors.
Together, Sam and Kensi went to twelve locations the first day, but there was nothing. Old girlfriends, current girlfriends, family…friends. No one had heard or seen from Perez, Dietrich or Aldrich. Sam wanted someone to be lying, wanted someone to be hiding something, but there was absolutely no evidence that this was the case.
They'd discovered early on in their investigation, that it appeared the Marines had been very careful to keep what they were doing private – even from those they were closest too. Simmons' was the only one who was married – and his wife couldn't comprehend what was going on when Nate had sat down to tell her that her husband was dead – because he was a drug smuggler – and that his friends had kidnapped a Federal Agent. She accused him of lying and was genuinely in complete shock as Nate gave her the full story.
That was bad news for the NCIS team – no one knew anything and not a single haunt of any of the three missing Marines turned up anything useful.
They had worked through the night, and all through the day – and by the time 24 hours had passed, they were no closer to finding G than they had been when the op had gone south. All they knew was the blood they'd found by the door's had been G's.
"We need to rest," Nate said regretfully, the psychologist in him warring with the friend of Callen part.
The team stared at him stupidly from where they were gathered in the Ops room. Sam felt his chest tighten. Everything was starting to feel like Dom.
"We can't just stop looking…" he started to protest.
"Sam – we've exhausted every lead, and we've all been up nearly thirty-six hours. We can't keep on like this," Nate reasoned, his voice pained enough that rationally, Sam knew he didn't just want to abandon the search – but the former SEAL was feeling very reasonable.
"This is just what happened with Dom! The leads dried up and we just gave up!" he snarled.
"Mr. Hanna, that's enough!" Hetty suddenly ordered, so stern that they all froze. Sam's back straightened like he'd just been yelled at by a drill seargent.
"No one is giving up on Mr. Callen. We will find him – but we need to be at our best. I want everyone to go home, eat a good meal and do your best to sleep. We'll reconvene in the morning, early, and we'll start a further search. In the meantime, I will have analysts going over everything so we have something to work with. If anything – even the smallest thing comes up during the night, I will call all of you," she said, then her voice softened a little. "I promise."
Sam wanted to argue, wanted to fight, and kick and tear everything apart to find his partner, but he knew that Hetty was right. It was so hard to reign himself in without G there. When everything had happened with Dom, G had been his voice of reason. A lot of the time, he hadn't liked what G had to say, but ultimately, his partner had been right – even down to the end. G's sixth sense had told him that they shouldn't leave the country – and it had been infallible.
The others were reluctantly turning to go, but Hetty touched Sam on the arm and he flinched. A million emotions flashed through him – shame, regret, anger, frustration – all directed at Hetty, but he paused and waited.
When everyone had filed out, Hetty looked him in the eye. "We're going to find him Mr. Hanna," she said, conviction in her voice. "I need your help. I can't waste time calming you down – I need you to focus."
Sam ducked his head. "I know," he grumbled. "But this is G…"
"…yes. And I can't lose him either," she said, her voice rough with emotion she rarely shared and Sam's eyes snapped up to her face. "That's why I need your help and your trust. And we also need to keep something else in mind. Mr. Callen is first and foremost a survivor. We have to keep in mind that he is an asset to us, even in this situation."
Sam stared at her. He hadn't thought about that, but she was right. Through the years, he'd seen G come through situations that most people wouldn't have. He'd seen his partner talk his way out of the most deadly of situations – had seen him do things he would have considered impossible.
"What if it fails him this time Hetty? What if all that charm and luck…are all used up?" He wasn't comfortable voicing his fears, but he'd rather tell her than Nate – especially today.
"We can't afford to think like that Mr. Hanna. "
She was right – and Sam carried that thought home with him. He forced himself to eat – it was something he'd learned to do while being a SEAL. A person needed food to survive – to remain strong and alert. It was out of necessity that he ate – not because he tasted a single thing that night. Then he went for a run – thinking about G and his turtle story – but it was good because by the time he got home, the extra physical labor had finally exhausted his adrenaline riddled body, and despite hating himself, he went to bed.
He slept like a rock. Hetty didn't call.
The next day was much of the same – they visited location after location, person after person. The Coast Guard had been searching marina's and coves for close to two days, searching for Aldrich's boat. Alvarez's brother had been picked up, but the man knew nothing. Sam had seen to his interrogation personally. He hadn't even know what his brother was up to – Alvarez had told him that it was a secret government project and had shown him some faked documents with "Classified" stamped all over them. The only reason he'd ran was fear.
Sam's nerves grew thinner and thinner, but he forced himself to act like the SEAL he'd been – the agent Hetty had hired – and the partner and friend that G Callen knew. He held his temper in check to the best of his ability.
By the third day, the team was wearing badly. They all looked depressed and sleep deprived, despite going home each night. Sam was having nightmares, and from the look on Nate's face – he was too.
When Sam and Kensi arrived back that evening from another round of fruitless searching, Sam was surprised to see a rental car parked out front. Waiting inside was Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He was in the ops center, peering over Eric's shoulder at something, and he looked tense and upset. The gray-haired man wasn't alone – he'd brought Abby and Tony DiNozzo.
"What's going on Hetty?" Kensi asked.
"Gibbs, Agent DiNozzo and Abby are here to help us," Hetty replied tiredly. In any other circumstance, Sam would have protested – but he was grateful to see Gibbs and the other NCIS team.
G didn't talk about it much, but Sam knew that he and Gibbs had a long standing friendship. Sam had always guessed that Gibbs was as close to a father figure as G might have ever had, and it was obvious in the way they interacted that they not only respected each other, but that they would kill for each other.
Gibbs turned to greet them, and when he shook Sam's hand, it was as firm as ever. "We're here to help," he told Sam unnecessarily, but it was still good for Sam to hear.
"We'll take all the help we can get," Sam assured the older man, and he could see worry around Gibbs' eyes. "I'm afraid we haven't gotten very far," Sam admitted.
Gibbs nodded. "It's like they fell off the face of the planet. But they'll mess up eventually," he said confidently.
The next morning, they thought Gibbs was right. The Coast Guard had found the boat.
Sam drove at a speed level G would have approved of, Gibbs in the passenger seat that Callen would have occupied. Kensi, Deeks and DiNozzo followed close behind, Kensi's driving skills barely keeping her from losing Sam. If Gibbs was rattled by the driving, he didn't show it.
"Hetty's worried about you," he commented finally.
Surprised, Sam glanced at Gibbs, then pressed his lips together. "She should be worried about G," he responded smoothly.
"She is," Gibbs responded, cool eyes staring out the passenger side window as the traffic fell behind them. "She won't make it if we don't find him."
Sam was a little startled. Hetty had always seemed made of stone. It took him a minute to recall how Director Vance had been there after Dom's death – and Callen having several long talks with the indomitable short woman. Had that almost driven her to leave NCIS? Had G convinced her to stay?
"We won't make it without either of them," Sam said, his voice tight with emotion.
"I'm not letting Callen off so easy," Gibbs said casually. "He owes me a drink."
Somehow, that statement spoke volumes.
"He owes me a drink too," Sam said, a smile cracking his face for the first time since G had been kidnapped.
The rest of the ride was silent, but Sam felt better in a way. When he'd first met Gibbs, he'd been a little put off by the cool appraisal of the older man – the way he felt that Gibbs was judging him. It didn't take him long to realize that Gibbs was checking to make sure he'd have G's back. In a way, he'd been a little jealous. G guarded his personal affection like it was the Crown Jewels – and it had flowed out so easily with Gibbs that Sam had immediately disliked the camaraderie – but after some reflection, he realized he'd built the same kind of relationship with G. Now, he liked Gibbs – trusted Gibbs – trusted him because he knew G did.
When they got to the inlet where the Coast Guard had reported finding the boat, it was already abuzz with activity – there was police tape and LAPD, and Deeks sprang out of the car to do his special job – liasing with the local police. In moments, they were through the police line and trekking down a sharp, rocky incline to a small beech where the cigarette boat had very obviously washed ashore. A small Coast Guard Cutter was anchored out a ways and there were a couple of uniformed police and two Coast Guard Lieutenants standing near the boat.
"Agent Hanna? I'm Lieutenant Perkins."
Sam shook his hand and quickly introduced the rest of the team, and saw that Gibbs had already moved past and was already looking over the boat.
"I'm afraid it's not better news," Perkins said, and Sam forced himself not to flinch. "It looks like the boat washed in on high tide, it got caught on some jagged rocks – there's a good sized hole in the stern – but the most interesting part is the body inside." Seeing Sam's jaw tense, the man waved a hand. "Oh no…it's not your agent. It's Petty Officer Perez."
"He's been stabbed," Gibbs called and the Lieutenant nodded.
"Yes – stabbed, a clean wound, right under the ribs and up into the heart."
"Well, that's very Callen," Kensi said dryly, but there was a little hope in her voice. "If he got the upper hand…"
"We're still at square one," Gibbs said, striding over, rubbing sand off his hands. "We have no idea how long Perez has been dead for and where the boat was before it washed in here."
"Boss, we should get the boat back – run forensics, see if there's anything that tells us…" Tony DiNozzo trailed off. "I mean, I'm sure you guys already planned on doing that."
Sam just nodded, and moved off to see the body himself. Kensi was clearly hoping it was G who had stabbed and killed Perez, but the Marines could have had a falling out – one of them could have just as easily have killed Perez. Gibbs was right – it left them more questions than answers.
Hours later, the boat was on a flatbed and Perez was in a body bag – heading to Rose in the morgue. As the sun set on another day with G Callen missing, Sam felt hope starting to slip away.
The next morning was spent combing the beach again for anything they might have missed, and when they got back, there was only a little news. The boat gave up nothing but a little more of G's blood – not enough to be seriously concerning, but enough that they all knew their friend was injured.
Perez's body was only slightly more interesting. Rose had confirmed what the Coast Guard Lieutenant had said – one stab wound, instantly lethal, but she did note that from the body's state, Perez had been dead less than 12 hours before they'd found him.
Abby found something else of interest. Perez's shoes had a type of algae-like residue on it and she commandeered a lab to figure out just what it was and where it had come from.
Gibbs was surprisingly calm – obviously hoping that somehow, they'd received a break.
On the sixth day since G had been missing, Abby identified the substance on Perez's shoe – it was actually seaweed that grew on rocks in caves along sea coasts that would flood with water during high tide and then empty out again.
They spent the rest of the day searching the coast between the marina that Callen had been kidnapped from and the beach they had found the boat on. The problem was there were quite a few caves – and some of them were hard or impossible to see and find.
By that evening, even Gibbs looked like he was nearing his breaking point. It was like finding a needle in a haystack – and no amount of technology could help them now. Hetty looked ready to curl up in her chair and never move again. Nate didn't even bother trying to assess everyone – it was clear they were all beyond the point of keeping it together. Kensi's eyes were rimmed in red and Deeks was uncomfortably quiet.
Sam was starting to lose hope. When he got home that night, his heart was heavy in a way he hadn't experienced in a long time. It was worse than losing Dom – only because G was like a brother at this point. It seemed like the time for hope had passed.
The office was somber the next morning as Kensi and Deeks left with DiNozzo to accompany the Coast Guard in more cave searches, though no one knew exactly what to expect or if they were chasing ghosts.
Hetty sat at her desk, staring at an untouched cup of tea that had long since gone cold. Gibbs was nowhere to be seen, but Sam had a feeling he was lurking somewhere, trying to figure out what to do next.
Sam was just considering the punching bag when he heard Eric choking from the ops center.
"Hetty!" he called, his voice a mass of emotion. Sam couldn't help it – he ran. Eric came flying out of the ops center, one flip flop on, one off, his eyes wide, an incredulous look on his face, and he almost smashed into Sam.
"Eric! What is it?" Sam demanded. The computer geek looked like he was about to hyperventilate as Hetty rounded the corner and Gibbs appeared seemingly from nowhere.
"Callen!" Eric gasped out.
"What? Where?" Gibbs demanded and Eric, who looked like he might faint, just pointed. Sam stared at him in confusion for a moment, then turned to see where Eric was pointing – which was the front door.
"Callen…on the security cameras…outside." Eric managed to get out. Sam released Eric's shoulder, uncertain of when he'd seized them and didn't ask another question, almost falling down the stairs in his attempt to get to the entrance. Nate was faster, having been standing down in the bullpen, and having heard the whole conversation. The operations psychologist flung open the door to a semi-surprised, dirty, disheveled, and obviously injured G Callen.
G recovered his composure long enough to smile at Nate. "Boy is it good to see you," he murmured, and promptly collapsed. Nate lunged forward, catching the wayward agent, but stumbling under G's dead weight. Luckily, Sam was there finally, and caught Nate before he too fell.
In seconds, Nate recovered his balance and Sam released him. By that time, Gibbs was there fingers flying out to touch G's neck. "Erratic, but strong," he told them instantly. "Must have used the last of his strength to get here. Stubborn."
Without waiting or asking, Sam moved around them and bodily took G from Nate, easily lifting the unconscious agent like he was no more than a rag doll.
"Over here!"Hetty called, gesturing to the big leather couch that G had slept many a night on, and without any regard to Callen's truly disgusting state, she gestured for Sam to set him down on the expensive piece of furniture.
Sam was startled when Gibbs gently, but firmly pushed him out of the way. He was going to protest, but Gibbs was already on his knees next to the couch, steady fingers unbuttoning what was once a very nice blue button down shirt that probably had cost Hetty a small fortune. The agent in Sam noted that the shirt was crusted in dried sea water – like G had taken a swim in the ocean with his clothes on. His designer jeans were stiff with salt as well, but there was also dried blood on his shirt, showing up as dark black spots.
Sam's stomach flip flopped.
Together, Gibbs and Hetty pealed the shirt away, leaving G's chest bare. Sam had expected things to be bad – but what they saw was a surprise.
Callen had some colorful bruises adorning his torso, like he'd been punched or maybe kicked, and there were two relatively shallow knife slices, like he'd been in a knife fight, but other than that, his upper body seemed fine. His wrists were rubbed raw, and it was obvious he'd been restrained, and he had a nasty bruise starting next to his left eye and creeping up his temple and a little down into the cheek bone, and there was a gash on the top of his head that was scabbed over and starting to heal – it looked like he'd been cold cocked.
Hetty didn't hesitate to help Gibbs with G's jeans, and Sam almost wanted to smile, thinking how exposed and irritated G would be if he knew he'd be lying in the middle of the bullpen in only his boxers. It wasn't like Hetty hadn't seen him that way before – but still.
Besides some bruises, a swollen right ankle and scrapes that looked like they might have come from crawling over rocks, G's legs were also relatively unharmed.
"Eric," Hetty practically bellowed. "Call our doctor and get him here right away."
"Already done," the computer wizard responded, obviously having recovered himself. "I've also contacted Kensi – they're on their way back," he said helpfully.
"Good job Mr. Beale!" Hetty commended, even as Nate reappeared with a blanket, which Sam took from him, and quickly covered G.
"Well I'll be!" Abby said, bounding in after receiving the news. "You mean he rescued himself?" she said with joy.
Nate gaped at her for a second, then he, Sam, Hetty and Gibbs all exchanged a look, and Gibbs started to chuckle. His laugh sparked an uncontrollable laugh to spill out of Sam, and in moments, they were all laughing, and Hetty didn't even try to hide the few tears that escaped.
"Well, isn't that just Callen for you?" Sam remarked, and they all laughed again.
It turned out that although he was dirty, unshaven, and slightly injured, the only thing else that Callen was suffering from was dehydration and the fact that he'd barely been fed – he hadn't even needed stitches.
When everything had went wrong in the boat house, he had managed to get his gun and had shot Simmons first and then Alvarez, but he thought it was Dietrich who had smashed him over the head with his pistol. Callen had woken up in a sea cave – a long, deep one with little light – but full of the drugs the men had been smuggling. They had found a dry room in the cave all way in the back, that was completely cut off during high tide. He recounted that the men had argued about what to do with him – they didn't know who he was, but Aldrich had accidentally overheard an officer at Pendelton quietly telling someone on the phone that Ryan Ellis would be taking care of the problem with the drugs – an unlucky turn of events for G.
For days, the three remaining Marines had debated what to do with him, but they clearly didn't realize just how dangerous he was, and when Callen had finally freed himself from the ropes they'd tied his hands with, he'd gotten the upper hand on Aldrich late on the fifth day, right before the tide had gone out all the way. He'd knocked Aldrich into the swirling waters and managed to grab a knife. Dietrich tried to shoot him, but Perez had panicked and gotten in the way. G had used the opportunity to make for the boat – which he assumed was tied up outside. Perez and Dietrich, not far behind him, caught up with him on the boat, and he'd been forced to kill Perez in self-defense, but Dietrich tossed him off the boat and had come after him again. By the time he'd taken care of Dietrich, the boat had been pulled away by the outgoing tide.
For a day, he'd stayed at the cave, trying to figure out what to do, but he was out of food and water, so he'd decided his only chance was to brave the sea and the rocky outcropping and try to make it to a beach. He didn't talk much about the swim, but everyone was shocked he'd made it. When he had finally made it, a little proverbial old woman had picked him up out of pity off the side of the highway and although she'd wanted to take him to the Hospital, he'd asked her to drop him off near NCIS, where he'd come the rest of the way on foot.
After such a fantastic story, they'd all stared at him like he'd completely lost his mind.
Sadly, neither Hetty, Sam or Gibbs had seemed all that surprised.
Dr. Malachi had come and gone, issuing bed rest warnings after dressing the wounds and said the salt water had prevented any infections from setting in, and that, as usual, G had been lucky.
Gibbs stayed on a few days, fussing a little, but seemed convinced that Callen was fine. Sam remembered when the senior agent had come to LA when Callen had been shot. He was glad that G had friends like Gibbs.
Finally, the DC team took their leave and things quieted down – and despite Nate's attempts to pyscho-analyze G, he seemed more interested in Sam's state of mind. Sam spent his days dodging Nate and furtively keeping an eye on G.
G stayed on the couch in the office at Hetty's insistence – and all she would say was there, he could hardly get into any trouble. G must have been tired, because he hardly argued – and he stayed put for four whole days.
On the second day, Sam brought him cinnamon buns and tea.
"Mother hen," G teased softly.
"Magnet for trouble," Sam responded.
"Worry –wart," G replied, sipping at his tea.
"Reckless moron," Sam added.
"Debbi-downer," G shot back.
"Lucky SOB," Sam said, but this time, there wasn't enough joking in his voice and G was silent for a minute.
"I know G, I know what you're going to say… I couldn't have prevented this, sometimes these things just happen, everything turned out just fine, you didn't even have to go to the hospital…blah blah blah…" Sam trailed off, then looked his partner in the eye. "I should have found you."
"In a sea cave?" G responded snarkily, but then instantly looked apologetic. "Sam, I'm ok. I knew you guys were looking for me – I knew you'd find me eventually – you were on the right track – one more day and the Coast Guard would have found that cave. You know me, I just couldn't wait."
Sam considered his words for a moment. They weren't meant just to placate him. They were true. He sighed.
"Just…next time at least find a payphone or something. You almost gave Eric a heart attack."
G looked surprised that he was going to drop it so quickly, but then he grinned, blue eyes sparkling. "I like to go for dramatics. You know, we don't have a doorbell," he said seriously. "I got all the way here, and I realized there was no door bell and that no one would hear me if I knocked…"
"Come on G…" Sam said with a roll of his eyes, and reveled in the fact that he had his partner back. In three minutes, G Callen had disappeared into a world of danger – and in three minutes, he'd managed to put Sam back at ease with just a few words. Leave it to G to run life as fast as three minutes.