A springboard story from "Vengence" season 3.

Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS:LA nor the wonderful characters.

Chapter 1

"Ok, talk to me!" hollered an angry Callen staring straight at his brother in arms.

"G…you can't understand; once a SEAL, always a SEAL," yelled Sam towering over a frustrated Callen.

"So make me!" Sam abruptly huffs and turns away from Callen shaking his head. "Right I'm just not good enough any more? I'm not in your unit…"

"You know that's not true," Sam turned to face a flustered Callen.

"Really…we visit a SEAL training camp, you bond with a SEAL team and suddenly everything else doesn't matter, our partnership doesn't matter, NCIS doesn't matter. I respect them…I do Sam and I respect you. But I can't agree with you on this. Remember the reasons you retired…Raina, William and Latisha," continued Callen as his voice started to become louder and more determined. "What happens to them when you don't come back?" The last question made the partners freeze. They stared at each other for what seemed an eternity. The magnitude of Callen's implication was a slap in Sam's face. Callen didn't want him to go. He needed the big guy. He didn't want to lose his brother.

"Raina and I have discussed it, G. She's cool with it. It's only a short tour, a specialized assignment. Seems like you're the only one having issues with it," Sam said quietly, trying to defuse the situation. He didn't want them to part with so much hurt and anger. He truly wished Callen would understand.

Callen looked at Sam and he felt so betrayed, hurt and so very afraid for him. Callen couldn't protect him thousands of miles away. He didn't want him to leave. "Fine. Your mind's made up. Don't know why you bothered even telling me." Callen couldn't stand to look at Sam any longer so he just stormed off.

"G! G! G!" bellowed Sam. Callen didn't stop.

That was the last time Sam and G spoke. That had been 18 months ago.

Callen had become very acquainted with the imperfections of the ceiling of his Spartan abode. Night after night he was so tired he couldn't wait to hit the proverbial sack, but he'd continuously lay awake replaying Sam's goodbye knowing he couldn't have stopped it, even though he had tried. It had been 18 months already with 6 to go. Sam had visited Raina and the kids whilst on leave. He tried to reach out to Callen, but Callen always managed to be on assignment. Hetty noticed the familiar pattern but she wouldn't intervene…she couldn't. This was a brother's quarrel.

It was 4am, his body was aching and Callen couldn't stand it any longer. He decided it was time to dissect the sacrificial toaster and practice Pashto, having already mastered the Romani dialect thanks to Hetty. He hadn't been feeling right recently. His joints were stiff and more painful than usual. But what really annoyed him were the constant headaches. It seemed like there was never a reprieve. He put it down to old age and the stress of work.

Callen had finished pulling out the toaster's element as the sun rose. That was his cue to go for his morning jog. He stared at the toaster, which wasn't going to give him any toast this morning. He really didn't care; he hadn't been hungry lately anyway. He was doing up his shoelaces when his phone rang. Hetty. What does she want? thought Callen. He really needed to go for a jog this morning to try and clear the fog that was in his head. Reluctantly he answered his cell, "Yeah."

"Mr. Callen. OPS now!" was all Hetty said as she hung up her end.

That brief interruption to his morning left Callen staring at his phone. He knew their relationship had deteriorated somewhat due to his erratic and belligerent behavior, but she was never rude, never impolite. Callen changed into garments more suitable for work and raced his Aston over to OPS. Hetty was never one to mess with when her manner was brusque.

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The mission building was quiet. It was too early for the average NCIS staff to start their day. Callen swiped himself in and walked through the darkened corridor, aiming for the shaft of light emanating from Eric and Nell's precinct. He scanned around looking for any clues as to the mysterious call, but he found none. However he did notice, Kensi and Deeks' bags hanging from their respective chairs. OK, the team's been called in…it's a work thing, not personal. Dodged that bullet, thought Callen as he climbed the stairs two by two.

He arrived in the neon infused room to find Deeks and Kensi sitting solemnly near each other, Hetty standing by the touch panel counter looking like death warmed over but what concerned him the most was Eric and Nell's reaction to his appearance. They were startled and stood at attention…Nell's eyes were red and Eric couldn't meet Callen's eyes.

"Ok…I got here as fast as I could. What's going on?" asked a bewildered and suspicious Callen.

Hetty looked at Callen and he saw pain and pity radiating from the old woman. Callen had felt uneasy about the call before but now, he was simply scared, "WHAT?" he raised his voice.

Hetty turned to Eric and nodded. Eric punched a few keys and a video came to life on the screen. "The CIA received this overnight. It was relayed to us immediately," said Nell her voice wavering.

The screen showed scenes that Callen had seen numerous times and he was so nonplussed by it all, "Terrorists bargaining yet again…we don't give in to them Hetty, and it's not our jurisdiction. Why are we here?"

Hetty couldn't face Callen. She didn't know how to prepare him for what he was about to see. She didn't want it to be happening, "Keep watching Mr. Callen."

Callen shrugged his shoulders and shifted his weight. His knee was killing him. Callen kept watching and listening. The terrorists went through their demands as the camera scanned the eight kneeling soldiers. They were dressed in desert fatigues, blind-folded, bloodied with their hands tied behind their backs. Suddenly Callen started feeling sick…he recognised the last soldier…it was Sam!

Callen felt his head explode as the contents of his meager dinner came rushing up. He quickly turned and ran from the room. All the others could hear was Callen's retching and heaving.

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