***Warning – Cliffhanger ahead***
"Callen, is that you?"
G. Callen turned around and smiled as his eyes fell upon an old friend. "Andy! Man…how long as it been? 12 years at least…"
"Yeah, it's been a long time" Andy said with a grin as he shook Callen's hand. "How the heck are you?"
"I'm doing good, how about you?"
"Can't complain, can't complain."
"Hey, I'd like you to meet my partner, Sam Hanna. Sam, this is Andy Billings. He's an amazing pilot, flew me out of I don't know how many messes before I joined NCIS."
"Nice to meet you, Andy," Sam said with a smile.
"And these are the other members of my team, Marty Deeks and Kensi Blye." The two junior team members greeted Andy with friendly hellos.
"Sam, Marty, Kensi," Andy repeated their names as he shook each of their hands. "Guess I'm going to be flying you all home today."
"Yeah? That's great, Andy," Callen said. "It will give us a chance to catch up."
"Let me just finish the pre-flight check and then you can board. You've gotten yourselves a sweet little private plane. I'll be back with you shortly."
"Wow, a private plane? This is going to be great," Deeks said. "Guess that's our reward for solving the case in such a professional and speedy manner."
"I just want to get some shut eye," Sam said, covering his mouth as he yawned.
"Didn't you get any sleep last night?" Callen asked, giving his partner a curious look. "The beds in our room were pretty comfortable, I thought. I slept like a baby."
"Just couldn't sleep," Sam shrugged.
"You want to talk about it?" Callen asked.
Sam shook his head. "It's nothing, G…just a little insomnia." He'd had an uneasy feeling ever since they had wrapped up the case the previous day. There wasn't any real reason for it and it was nothing he could put his finger on. Hopefully, once they returned back to Los Angeles, the feeling would go away. He'd be happy just to get home and hug Michelle and Kamran.
"Well, let me know if you change your mind…" Callen said, looking concerned.
"I'm fine, G," Sam forced a smile and gave Callen a mock punch on his upper arm. The last thing he wanted was to worry Callen. "I'm just anxious to get home. That's all it is."
"Okay…if you're sure," said Callen.
"I'm sure," Sam insisted. "It's all good."
"Oh this is nice," Deeks settled himself into the soft leather seat. "You're not going to have any trouble falling asleep in one of these chairs, Sam."
Sam sat down in a seat by a window and Callen sat next to his partner while Kensi took the seat next to Deeks. A few minutes later, Andy walked into the passenger cabin. "Hey guys, everyone comfortable?"
"More than comfortable," Deeks smiled. "All you need is some foxy flight attendants and this would be perfection."
Kensi reached over and socked Deeks' arm.
"Don't you ever learn, Deeks?" Sam asked, grinning.
Deeks rubbed his arm and gave Kensi a flirtatious smile.
"There's a small refrigerator over there with some snacks and drinks which you're welcome to. Also, I hate to do this, but I've got to ask you to stow your weapons in the lock box," Andy said apologetically.
"What's the matter, you afraid we're going to shoot up the plane?" Callen smirked as he handed over his weapon. Sam, Deeks and Kensi followed his example.
"I don't make the rules," Andy said with a smile. "You guys should buckle in. After we're in the air, why don't you come up front and keep me company, Callen."
"Sounds good," Callen said, nodding.
"So G, are you and Andy really good friends?" Sam asked, looking at his partner after Andy had headed back to the cockpit.
"We're friendly," Callen said, shrugging. "We haven't spoken to each other in years, so you do the math."
"Hope that never happens to us," Sam said musingly. "Hope we don't lose touch and stop talking for 10 or more years…"
"That's not going to happen to us, Sam. We talk to each other every day, even when we're not on duty. Andy and I didn't have the kind of relationship you and I have. We weren't partners, more like friendly acquaintances," Callen said, looking worried once again. Sam was definitely not his usual cheerful self today. "What's eating you?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing, G…just tired…"
Callen gave his partner a long look. Something was bothering Sam and it wasn't just a lack of sleep. He wouldn't push it though, at least not yet. "You should try to get some rest," he finally said quietly.
Sam nodded and leaned his head back against the chair, closing his eyes. Maybe if he slept, when he woke up, everything would be okay.
Once they were in the air, Callen headed to the cockpit. "Hey, Andy, how's it going?" he asked as he settled himself into the co-pilot's chair.
"Skies are calm. Don't see any potential storms ahead. It should be a pretty smooth flight."
"So, I guess I won't be having to jump out of the plane with people shooting at me," Callen said, laughing.
"Why would you say that?" Andy snapped.
"Huh?" Callen gave Andy a confused look. "That was the last flight I took with you…remember?" Andy sure was a lot more high strung than he remembered.
"Oh yeah," Andy chuckled. "Forgot about what a daredevil you used to be. Have you calmed down at all?"
"Maybe a little bit compared to those days," Callen said. "But I still have my moments."
"I'm sure you do," Andy said.
"How about you?" Callen asked. "Are you still with Jessica?" Andy and Jessica had been dating exclusively back then. They had been together constantly. Callen remembered her as being a very pretty girl, shy and sweet.
"Yeah…we're still together…" Andy replied, his expression serious. "We…we have two children…twins…Sarah and Samuel. You want to see a picture?"
"Love to," Callen replied. Andy dug a photo out of his wallet and passed it to Callen. "Wow, Andy. They are great looking kids. How old are they?"
"You must be really proud of them."
"Yeah…I am… How about you, Callen? Anyone special in your life?"
Callen shook his head. "No, still searching for the right person."
"Maybe it's better not to have that person," Andy said quietly. "Then, if something happens to you, you're not leaving someone behind to grieve…"
"I guess so…" Callen wondered where this was all coming from. He had never remembered Andy being this morbid in the past. He wondered if he had just forgotten or if Andy had changed from the man he used to be.
Callen sat with Andy for a while longer, talking about insignificant things. "I guess I'm going to go check on my team," he finally said. "Want me to get you a drink or something to eat?" He got up from the chair and headed towards the cockpit door but was suddenly grabbed from behind.
"Sorry, Callen…Afraid I can't let you do that." Callen gasped as he felt the sudden, searing pain of a knife entering his abdomen. "Andy?" Callen whispered breathlessly as he slowly sank to the floor. His hand clutched at the stab wound and blood oozed out between his fingers.
"I'm really sorry, Callen," Andy stared at Callen, his face pale as he held the bloody knife. "When I heard it was you…I didn't want to do it, but, I didn't have a choice. They have my family, Jessica and the kids. I just didn't have a choice. It's nothing personal."
Callen tried to focus on what Andy was saying, but the pain was making it difficult. "I…we could have helped you…who…who did this?"
Andy shook his head. "I don't even know. I'm not going to make it out of this either…we all have to sacrifice. My children are innocent. They don't deserve this. I have to save them."
"How…how do you know they'll be safe? You're not thinking clearly. Let us help you. Wh…what's to stop whoever this is from killing them, even if I'm dead?"
"They'll let them go…I know they'll let them go. They have no reason to lie."
Callen knew he was quickly losing his fight against passing out. "Andy…Andy get Sam, please get him. He can help us. He can help both of us…"
"Sorry, Callen. I'm afraid I can't do that." Andy went over to the cockpit door and locked it, then dropped the knife into a cardboard box and began shuffling through the contents. Finally, he found what he had been looking for and pulled out a gun with a silencer attached to it. He calmly sat back down in the pilot's chair and pressed some buttons causing the plane to start a downward course. He then took the gun and shot out the radio and some other controls as well.
"I'm sorry about your team, Callen. They seemed like nice people. It's a shame they got caught up in this because of you…" He turned once more towards the man he had once called a friend. Callen's eyes were closed and he was no longer conscious. "Guess you should have stayed a lone wolf."
Andy then took the gun, carefully aimed it, and proceeded to shoot himself in the head.
"What the hell," Sam exclaimed as the shaking of the plane interrupted his light slumber. "What's going on?" he asked Deeks who shrugged his shoulders. Sam unhooked his seatbelt, stood up and headed towards the cockpit. "Everything okay?" he called out as he put his hand on the door handle and tried to open it. "G? The door is locked. Let me in."
Sam waited for a few moments, but there was only silence and no one came to the door. He started to get a sick feeling in his stomach. Obviously, things were far from okay.
"Damn it, let me in there! G, what's going on? Answer me!" Sam pounded on the door but to no avail. There was only silence behind it and the door remained tightly closed. Sam shook his head in frustration at being unable to help his partner. This was bad…This was really bad. "If you can hear me, I love you, G" he shouted as he hit the door one more time before heading back into the passenger cabin.
"What's going on, Sam?" Deeks asked as he and Kensi looked at him with anxious eyes.
Sam shook his head. "The cockpit is locked. I can't get in there. They're not answering me. I don't know what the hell is happening, but I think the plane is going down." As if confirming what Sam had said, the plane began shaking more violently and it was obvious that they were descending.
"Oh my God…" Kensi whispered as her eyes immediately began to fill. "Deeks?"
"It's okay, baby…it's okay," Deeks tried to reassure her as he grabbed Kensi's hand and clenched it tightly. "I love you, Kensi…no matter what happens…remember that…"
"I love you too," she said, her eyes fixed on his. Was this really happening? Were they about to die?
Sam fell into his seat and seat belted himself in as a multitude of thoughts ran through his head. What had happened to G? Was he even alive? Was he never going to see Michelle or his children again? He glanced at Kensi and Deeks and wondered if their life together was about to be snuffed out before it really even had a chance to begin. "Kensi…Deeks…If I don't get another chance to say it…It's been a real honor knowing both of you."
"You too, Sam," Deeks said, his eyes filled with emotion.
"I love you, Sam," Kensi said softly, choking back a sob.
"Love you, Kensi…you too, Deeks…"
"Love you, Sam."
Sam put down his head, closed his eyes and began to pray. He wished he could have had a few last moments with his partner. He hated to think he had died alone or was about to die alone. He wished he could have said goodbye to his wife and children…
The plane was shaking even more violently now. It felt like it was falling apart. Deeks and Kensi gazed at each other, each wanting the other's face to be the last thing that they saw as the plane finally made contact with the ground.
(To Be Continued)