Author's Note: And so it draws to a close. I have mixed emotions; I am glad to actually finish it, and saddened at the same time. Thank you all for your amazing and wonderful support! I will be starting on one of my other plotlines either today or tomorrow; and I hope to see you all then! Wishing you much love and imagination-Elle


Hetty was awake and alert when Sam and Callen visited her; under an assumed name in one of the smaller, quieter hospitals. Their doctor assured them that there was no internal bleeding or swelling, and she would be back to work in no more than two days. Then they went in to see the feisty woman.

To say she was less than pleased that Callen had refused medical attention would be a gross understatement. Sam had to admit seeing his tough partner try to explain his way out of a full examination was amusing, but ineffective. Protesting the entire time, Callen had been whisked away by their doctor, almost as if Hetty and he had prearranged it.

Hetty then demanded and received a full report on the Tayga situation; not showing remorse or surprise when Sam informed her he had taken lethal action against Kimball. She then ordered him to go home; dismissing him for the day.

But Sam could not wind down; he headed to the office to complete paperwork. His mind was racing and finally he let the pen fall to his desk with a clatter. He rested his head in his hands and took a deep breath, at last allowing the adrenaline that had built up to drain out.

"You sleeping on the job again?" Kensi's voice was teasing. He glanced up and saw her and Deeks settling down at their desks too.

"Didn't Hetty dismiss you guys? Send you home?" The older man frowned. Deeks raised an eyebrow, but it was not his voice that answered.

"Didn't she send you home?" Callen asked as he sank into his chair, scratching at a fresh white bandage.

Sam didn't respond, just surveyed his partner head to toe. Callen was much cleaner, and the bruises didn't look as angry. The cuts and scrapes looked well treated and the little bits of glass-the doctor confirmed the broken mirror had embedded small pieces in his cuts- were gone. Satisfied, Sam returned to his paperwork.

Callen was a little surprised Sam didn't reply, but Kensi and Deeks monopolized his attention for a moment.

"Did the doctor let you go or did you escape?" Kensi said laughingly, but concerned.

"There was no reason for him to hold onto me; I thought I would get my report done before I went home." Callen shrugged, wincing at the pain in his shoulder he felt at the action. Deeks explained that LAPD had successfully handled the situation at Union Station.

"They're going to get all the credit, of course; but Briggins and his cohorts are going away for the rest of their lives; if they are lucky." Deeks concluded.

"What are they going to do with Point Charlie?" Callen said with little emotion; noticing Sam sent him a glance, but then returned to his paperwork. Callen almost felt hurt.

"The body was…taken care of." Deeks said carefully, obviously not comfortable talking about it with Callen. Kensi, in a blatant attempt to spare her partner more embarrassment, distracted Callen.

"I still don't know how you could have known where the bomb was?" She asked, tilting her head.

Callen paused, feeling a small smile play across his face. "Sherry once told me she wished that whole sign would show nothing but departures. I just guessed."

Kensi gave a short laugh. "Lucky guess."

Callen nodded, glancing over at Sam. His partner did not look up. Frowning, Callen grabbed his own file and began to viciously fill out the lines, digging his pen into the paper forcefully. Kensi noticed the little exchange; so did Deeks. They looked at each other; eyes widened, and looked at their own desks quickly.

Silence descended as the agents worked, broken only when Nell and Eric stopped by to say good night. They had no surprise in their eyes when they spotted all four agents, although neither looked happy that Callen wasn't home resting.

"Hetty is going to be steamed tomorrow." Nell cautioned. Callen shrugged again, this time keeping his face from flinching.

"I think she'll understand." Callen said quietly. "Good work today."

Eric and Nell glanced at each other and shut off all the lights except for the bullpen's, then left. A few minutes later, Kensi could no longer stifle her yawns.

"I am heading home, guys." She stood, grabbing her jacket tiredly.

"You okay to drive, Kens? You're pretty exhausted." Deeks said with concern. "Want me to give you a lift home?"

The dark-haired woman paused, then nodded. "Thanks, Deeks." Her partner stood and grabbed his keys.

"See you guys tomorrow." He said faux-cheerfully. "Another day in paradise! And Callen?"

The lead agent looked up. "Yes?"

Deeks reached over and tapped his white bandage. "Try not to let it fester. It gets worse the longer it sits."

Callen frowned slightly. He knew Deeks didn't mean his wounds; but the two agents were gone before he could reprove Deeks for trying to be Hetty. But then again, Hetty might have told Deeks to say that for all he knew. He rolled his eyes and looked at Sam, expecting his partner to be looking at him and they would share their little laugh and head shake like they always did.

Sam was not looking at him.

Callen frowned, rolling his pen between his fingers. "You ignoring me?"

Sam didn't answer; he didn't even show any sign he had heard Callen.

"You're mad." It wasn't a question. Callen knew his partner enough to know that set of his shoulders.

"I'm not mad." Sam finally said. "Just disappointed."

"Is this about stealing your car? I'm sorry. I took good care of it; didn't even scratch it." Callen said, and that sparked a reaction in his partner.

Sam looked up wearily. "It isn't just about stealing the car, G."

"Then what is it?" Callen frowned.

"It was that you felt you had to steal the car." Sam's voice was strained like he was holding something back.

"I didn't think I had time to explain everything to you, Sam." Callen said, trying to apologize without saying it.

"What makes you think you had to explain everything? How many times have I gone along with your crazy plans not knowing everything?" Sam shook his head, and Callen could see his partner was angry, despite what he said.

Callen paused. "I am sorry, Sam. I…didn't think."

"No, you didn't!" Sam exploded, causing Callen to flinch. Sam instantly scaled his voice back, but the anger and pain was still there. "You didn't think about anyone but yourself!"

Callen's head snapped up and saw his partner staring at him sadly. "We said we would do this together. Do you know what together means anymore, G? Do you still trust me?"

"Of course I trust you, Sam!" Callen said instantly, eyes locked with Sam. "Do you still trust me?"

Sam was silent for a long time. "Yes, I still trust you. But you are scaring me, G."

"Scaring you?" That was something Callen had never heard Sam say before.

"You get all defensive and angry when Kimball shows up-understandably, I will give you that, but I have never seen you that detached before. Then, you go all crazy on me, disappearing and stealing my car. Then, when I finally track you down; I find you beating the hell out of a man, and it didn't look like you were going to stop!" Callen started to speak, but Sam wasn't finished. "And then you throw yourself into that bomb thing without thinking; like you have nothing to lose. It scares me that you push me away; it scares me into thinking you are going to go get yourself into something I can't help you with. "

There was a long moment, then Callen spoke. "I am sorry, Sam. For everything. You are right…I didn't think. And I pushed you away. I am sorry." He repeated, looking down at his desk.

Sam was grateful Callen at least apologized. He felt tired. He shook his head once, then let out a small sigh.

"I can't stay mad at you when you are doing that."

"Doing what?" Callen glanced up part way.

"You know what; that kicked puppy routine you got." Sam shook his head again. "You do that when you feel guilty. And you should feel guilty; this case was tough on all of us, watching you struggle with it. I'm not mad; I understand. Just…promise me you won't push me away next time."

Callen looked back up at Sam completely this time and watched his partner for a moment. Sam knew it was a lot to ask, it was almost a rhetorical statement. He was surprised when Callen gave a small smile.

"I promise to try not to." He grinned. "You are getting a lot harder to push, you know. You should lay off the doughnuts."

Sam laughed in spite of himself, and felt the rift in their friendship begin to heal with the sound of Callen's chuckle joining in. Yes, he still trusted Callen-although he would be checking for his keys for a couple weeks-and he knew Callen trusted him. He would have never shared his past with him if he hadn't. He also knew Callen's biggest problem was he didn't trust himself. Maybe if he learned that; he would be able to have faith in others more.

Listen to you; acting like Nate all of a sudden. Sam thought with amusement at himself. He watched his partner for a second, realizing he hadn't responded to Callen's light joke yet. He also knew he didn't have to. Callen knew that Sam would take what he could get. That would have been the end of it…but something was still bugging him in the back of his mind.

"Hey…G?" He asked cautiously. "Can I ask you a question?"

Callen nodded. "I think I owe you that much."

"Damn straight you do!" Sam snorted. Callen made a face.

"When I stopped you from killing Kimball…" He trailed off, unsure how to continue. Callen's face went stony, but he nodded.

"If I hadn't been there…would you still have stopped?"

Sam believed so…he wanted to believe so. But he wasn't sure; there had been something in Callen's face he had never seen before. He couldn't believe his partner would actually have killed Kimball; but that man he saw wasn't his partner. He had told Callen the truth; he had been scared by the actions Callen had been taking. But that was what had scared him the most; Callen hadn't been his partner in that moment. Or was he?

Callen looked in pain as he thought about his answer. Finally he seemed to arrive at the conclusion he wanted.

"I would like to think I would have. But I don't know." He said honestly. "I'm just glad I never have to find out."

Sam exhaled quietly. "Me too." He admitted.

"We good?" The look in Callen's eyes pained Sam. Callen knew Sam had every reason not to trust him then, he knew Sam had been angry, he knew Sam had been hurt. But the hope that his partner was still his friend was palpable, as was his fear that the answer would be no. His voice betrayed none of that emotion, but his eyes did.

"We're good." Sam nodded. He tossed a crumbled ball of paper over to Callen's desk suddenly, and his partner caught it effortlessly. "As I recall, we had a game to finish. I believe you said something about wiping the floor with me?"

Callen looked up, relief flooding his face as he realized he was forgiven. Not only had Sam forgiven him, he knew that Callen would not want to go home that night. "I feel like I should give you a handicap for playing at four in the morning."

"It's only two." Sam shot back.

Callen took the shot half-heartedly; his mind was elsewhere. Sam started laughing at Callen's miserable shot that had bounced off the trashcan into Deeks's leftover coffee cup, and he felt himself join in; their mirth combined into an amused harmony; soothing away the discordant memories jangling in his mind for the first time in a very long time.

Callen felt something that had been knotted in his stomach relax. Sam had forgiven him; he had almost been sure he wouldn't…that this whole situation-the memories, the anger, and the recklessness- would have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. But it hadn't; they were still them, partners, friends…brothers.

And somehow, he felt they always would be.