DISCLAIMER: *sigh* Nope. Still not mine. There'd be more snogging if they were mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This one was a lot of fun to write! Thanks to Mel (aka imahistorian) for her constant encouragement and coaching, and for her patience in waiting for my plot bunnies to come out of hiding. I couldn't ask for a better beta, fangirl buddy, and friend. And thank you to ALL who stop to read this! I hope you enjoy it!
"Girls, girls! You're both pretty!"
Sam Hanna's irate tones cut through the bullpen, interrupting Hetty's otherwise peaceful morning tea. She took a long draw from the delicate china cup and shook her head in disbelief at the petty bickering taking place between her team leader and their LAPD liaison. Somehow or another the two had gotten into an argument over who was a better shot under pressure, with tales of their feats of marksmanship growing increasingly more fantastic (and less believable) by the minute.
"I once shot a guy while dangling by one foot out of a helicopter."
"Oh yeah? I once shot two guys from 50 yards while hanging out the window of a Chevy Cobalt going 75 down the 110."
"Know how I know you're lying? You were in a Chevy Cobalt. Never would've made it up to 75."
"Why do I feel like someone should be belting an Irving Berlin show tune right now?" Eric Beale's voice echoed down from the upstairs walkway.
"I don't care if they spend the rest of the morning singing Wagner arias," Kensi growled, "as long as they STOP ARGUING."
Nell Jones cautiously stepped into Hetty's office and slid into a chair, casting wary glances toward the bullpen all the while.
"Attempting to stay out of the line of fire, dear?"
"Something like that," Nell conceded. "I don't know what's gotten into them this morning."
"You know," Hetty began, "there's quite a simple way to solve this."
"Have them shoot against one another upstairs on the firing range," Nell replied.
"But their argument is about being able to focus under pressure. The firing range is designed to eliminate distraction while practicing."
"Miss Jones, can you think of no tool at your disposal, or at Kensi's, that might prove sufficiently distracting to our two bickering agents?"
A slow smile of comprehension spread across Nell's face. "Hetty, that is… That's evil."
"We must use the tools we are given, Miss Jones, and in our line of work we must be willing to play hardball. Go. Talk to Miss Blye. See if the two of you can't come up with a plan to put an end to this ridiculous fuss and take both of our braggarts down a couple of pegs in the process."
Ten minutes later, an ear-splitting whistle silenced the escalating argument still unfolding at the desks below. Nell and Kensi were perched on the half-way landing of the stairs, hands on hips, looking for all the world like two fierce, avenging angels. The room fell silent as Kensi spoke.
"Okay, you two. Enough is enough. We're settling this. Both of you, grab your weapons and meet us at the firing range. Sam, Eric, you'll want to come, too." Both women turned on their heels and stalked up the stairs.
What choice had they, really, except to follow?
In the firing range, Nell spelled out the rules.
"There will be three rounds: visual, auditory, and tactile distractions. Three shots will be fired each round, but the same target used each time. The shooter with the most shots closest to the mark will be declared the all-time Distracted Shooting Champion. No more arguments, no more discussions. Are there any questions?"
Eric's hand shot up in the air.
"Who's going to be doing the distracting?"
"That," Kensi clarified, "is why we invited you and Sam. It'll be up to the four of us to distract the shooters."
Sam grinned from ear to ear. "Oh, this is gonna be good."
"So who's shooting first?" Callen asked.
"Age before beauty," Deeks volleyed. "You go first, El Capitan."
Callen gave a short bark of laughter as he stepped up to the line and began to check his weapon. Sam positioned himself at the light switch while Nell manned the pop-up decoys and Eric and Kensi began making paper wads out of targets from the wastepaper basket. On Nell's mark, the barrage of visual distractions began—paper wads, decoys, and flickering lights—but Callen managed to land three shots in the target's center mass. He took a bow before turning to Deeks.
"Your turn, Detective. Let's see what LAPD training can do."
Deeks squared up to the line and took aim, but this time as Nell counted down Kensi moved to the side of the room to stand within his line of sight, turned her back to Deeks, and very slowly bent at the waist as though reaching to pick something up. She timed it just so, turning to shoot a come-hither glance over her shoulder just as Nell reached "one!" When his target came back, all his shots had managed to land center mass, but one had ventured just outside the centermost circle. The team hooted with laughter, and even Deeks himself had the good grace to laugh it off.
"That's just mean, Kens. But that's okay. That's o-kay. I'll catch up. Even Superman has his kryptonite."
"Wait a second," Kensi goaded, "did you just refer to my ass as kryptonite?"
"Actually, I was referring to Callen being Superman. He's gotta have a weakness somewhere, it's just a matter of finding and exploiting it."
The auditory distraction round went off without a hitch. Despite the team's best efforts-including Eric's very convincing chicken squawks and some borderline-pornographic sex type noises recreated with alarming accuracy by Sam-both Callen and Deeks managed to land all three of their shots within millimeters of the target's exact center.
In the final round, tactile distractions, Callen deferred to Deeks, insisting that the cop take the first shots so he'd know what he had to beat.
"Okay, fine, but let's lay down some ground rules first, shall we?" Deeks eyed each of the bystanders in turn. "First: nothing below the waist. Second: nothing below the waist." Kensi rolled her eyes in feigned annoyance.
"Please. Like Sam or Eric want to lay a hand on you, and I'm pretty sure you couldn't pay me and Nell enough money to grab your—"
"Whatever. Just—those are my conditions."
"Okay, agreed, nothing below the waist."
Deeks nodded but continued to eye Kensi until he stepped up to the line. Yet, no matter how she ran her hands across his biceps or through his hair, she couldn't manage to break his concentration. Deeks' final shots landed with stunning accuracy, and while he stepped away from the line with a fantastically self-satisfied smirk on his face Kensi looked almost appalled.
"I think I'm losing my touch," she gasped. "His shots should have been all over the place."
"That's what she said," Eric snickered from behind her, and Sam, Deeks, Callen, and even Nell erupted into peals of laughter. Only Eric's surprisingly quick reflexes saved him from a fist to the chest, but as the laughter died down Nell noticed Deeks eyeing her with a small degree of panic.
"I can't let Callen win, Nell," he whispered. "Not after Kensi so blatantly used her very unfair tactical advantages against me. My own partner, betraying me…" He performed a melodramatic knife-to-the-heart gesture and for just a moment Nell felt sorry for him.
In that moment of weakness, Hetty's voice echoed in her mind.
"Miss Jones, can you think of no tool at your disposal that might prove sufficiently distracting? We must be willing to play hardball… take both of our braggarts down a peg…"
Her eyes narrowed and she took a bracing breath.
"Let me field this one, Detective Deeks. I'll do the best I can."
Callen was stepping up to the line, already focusing all his attention on the task at hand, determined to prove himself the better shooter. With a quick shake of her head and a look of warning at the others Nell sidled up beside him. Nothing more than a split-second glance and a slight furrowing of his brow told her he was even aware of her presence.
Kensi counted him off.
Callen fired his first shot. Center mass. Nell hadn't laid a finger on him.
Second shot, same result. Deeks cast a panicked look at Nell, who only edged closer and tilted her head toward him.
And just as Kensi opened her mouth to call the final shot, Nell puckered her lips and blew a warm, teasing breath of air against Callen's ear as her fingers grazed down the back of his neck. In that same split-second, just as Kensi shouted "Three!", his eyes widened, his hand twitched, and his third and final shot veered sharply to the left.
"Oh, no way! That's cheating!" he cried indignantly. "How is that-? Can she do that?"
"She didn't do anything illegal," Sam replied. "She barely touched you."
"Yeah, but…" Callen's voice trailed off as he regarded Nell with a mix of alarm, curiosity, and something that looked like he might actually have been a little turned on. "That can't possibly be fair."
"Rules are rules," Eric crooned. "Just admit it, Callen. You lost. To Deeks."
"It was a tie. No way could he beat me in a fair match. And besides, at least I didn't get distracted by my own partner's assets."
"In my defense, Kensi has some very appealing assets."
"You are so predictable," Kensi laughed, shaking her head.
Sam turned back to Callen. "How come you never get distracted by my assets?"
"No offense, Big Guy, but you're not really my type."
"Oh, I think we all learned a little something about Callen's 'type' today," Kensi snorted, inciting another round of sniggers from the group.
"Hey Kensi, how's your 'thing' with Deeks working out?" Callen volleyed.
Kensi called across to Nell, who'd been watching the exchange with barely concealed amusement. "Hey Nell, you think you could teach Callen to whistle?"
"Uh, whistle?" she asked, sudden apprehension coloring her tone.
"I know how to whistle," Callen interrupted, attempting to stall the line of questioning; he knew Kensi well enough to be wary of the mischievous glint in her eyes.
"Yeah, teach him to whistle," Sam cut in, winking conspiratorially at Kensi as he picked up on her train of thought. He turned to Callen with an expression of mock-innocence and batted his eyelashes. "Whistling is easy, G. You just put your lips together… and blow."
"Desk duty. All of you. Three weeks," Callen grumbled as his whole team howled with laughter, except for Nell who was studiously avoiding eye contact and biting her lip hard in a failed attempt to keep a straight face.
"Come on, Dad, you can't ground us! That's Little Mother's job," Deeks teased.
"Watch me," Callen challenged, a smirk tugging at his lips.
"And they're still arguing," Kensi moaned. "Unbelievable. Sam, I give up. Callen's your partner, can't you do something about this?"
"Hey, Deeks is your partner," Sam answered back, shrugging noncommittally. "You keep yours on a leash, and I'll see what I can do about mine…"
The two continued their good-natured sparring as they made their way back to the bullpen, with Nell and Eric casting one another a look of commiseration and heading back to Ops. Callen and Deeks were left standing alone as they cleared away their weapons and examined their newly-ventilated targets; nine shots were fired, but both men found themselves staring at only one of the bullet holes. After a long pause, Deeks spoke, shaking his head with disappointment.
"I am so screwed," he mumbled. Callen sighed heavily and flicked the safety on his weapon.
"You realize that in a situation like this, there can be only one appropriate course of action?"
Deeks glanced up at Callen, noticing for the first time the hints of determination and plotting in his leader's expression.
"What's that, El Capitan?"
A devious smile spread across Deeks' face. "Turn-about is fair play?"
Callen nodded, a matching grin settling on his own features. "Fighting fire with fire. There's gotta be some way to get them back for this."
"I think a truce might be in order. Teamwork? We'll need it against those two."
"Partnering with you? Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?"
"I guess so."
"Well, I guess that's one way to end an argument."
And for the rest of the afternoon, Deeks and Callen were friendly—downright cooperative with one another. They didn't know if they'd be able to well and truly get back at Kensi and Nell for the stunts they'd pulled, but both men knew they were going to have a lot of fun taking their turns to distract them.