Hi all, Jess here, thank you for reading, and sharing your thoughts with us. All your positive messages and encouragement mean a lot to both of us. We hope you continue to enjoy the story. Also, hoping everyone continues to stay safe and healthy.

xxxxx

"Hetty? It's Nell." Nell clutched Eric's hand tightly as she spoke into the cell phone. "Kensi and I found the boys."

"Is everyone okay?" Hetty asked.

Nell sighed nervously and looked up at Eric who gave her an encouraging smile. "Uh...no, not really. There's been some trouble. Callen, Sam and Deeks are all in the hospital. They're being examined now."

"How bad?" The nervousness in Hetty's voice was clear.

"We don't really know yet."

"I'm going to be on my way. Where are you?"

Nell gave Hetty their location and the name of the hospital they were at.

"Thank you, Miss Jones. I have a plane on standby. I should be there within a couple of hours. Please let me know if there are any further developments."

"I will, Hetty. It will be good to see you."

"I'll be there soon."

Nell clicked the phone off and leaned into Eric who wrapped her up tightly in his arms. "Hetty's coming?" Eric asked.

"Yes. I know how worried she must be. I'm worried too. I feel so bad for everyone...and for Kensi...she and Deeks just got married and now…" Nell trailed off.

"Hey now, don't be thinking the worst," Eric said as he gently rubbed Nell's back. Deeks is strong. They all are. I have a really good feeling they're going to be just fine."

"I hope you're right," Nell said. "I'm just so glad that you're okay. I don't know what I would have done if…"

"I'm fine, Nell." Eric kissed the top of Nell's head comfortingly. "They will be too."

xxxxx

Kensi nervously clasped and unclasped her hands as she waited for the doctor to finish examining Deeks behind the curtains in his ICU room. Her thoughts were all over the place and she was trying very hard not to focus on the negative ones. She had to think positively. She had to believe that Deeks would be okay and focus on doing everything in her power to help him through this latest roadblock in their lives. She met the doctor's eyes as the curtain opened and he left Deeks' bedside.

"Any change?" Kensi asked anxiously.

The doctor shook his head. "Patience is going to be key here. On the good side of things, there is no apparent damage from the fentanyl exposure. He has no burns on his skin and his breathing was not compromised. As far as his brain injury goes, that is more unpredictable. He could wake up today, two days or weeks from now. We also don't know what kind of effects he may have suffered as a result."

Kensi couldn't keep the stress out of her voice. "That...that doesn't sound very good at all," she said, on the verge of tears.

"I'm not trying to scare you," the doctor said kindly. "I'm just making you aware of what could happen. It doesn't mean it's going to. I just want you to be prepared."

Kensi nodded as she nibbled on her lip. This was so much more than what she had ever envisioned happening. Even after the whole nightmare in Mexico, Deeks hadn't been unconscious for too long. Multiple concussions were taking their toll on him now. She was beginning to think she needed to keep him home, encased in bubble wrap. "Okay."

"You take care of yourself and I mean that literally," the doctor said. "Eat and rest as best you can. He's going to need you strong and healthy when he wakes up."

Kensi nodded with a smile. She liked that he had said when Deeks woke up and not if. She knew there were no guarantees, but she needed to remain positive. She needed to believe her husband was going to get through this.

xxxxx

Sam laid in his hospital bed, his eyes on his partner who was asleep in the other bed. His own injury wasn't too bad and he would be released from the hospital in a day or two. He had no idea how Deeks was doing and Callen was basically a mess at the moment. The only good thing was that he was in a regular room and his condition was stable. On the negative side, he had a bad bruise on his back, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. They were observing him closely and hoping he didn't develop pneumonia.

"Why are you staring at me like that?" Callen asked hoarsely, not appearing to be particularly happy.

"I um...sorry," Sam said as he fidgeted in his bed. "How are you feeling?"

Callen shrugged. "Alright, I guess."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Why did I even bother to ask?"

"Well, how are you feeling?" Callen challenged his partner with his eyes.

"As Deeks would say, touche," Sam said.

They were silent for a few long moments before Callen spoke. "How is Deeks?" he asked solemnly.

Sam shook his head. "I don't really know. Eric and Nell are supposed to update me when they get some word. I haven't heard anything yet."

"I hope he's okay…

"You and me both."

Callen nodded. "Some trip...If we ever decide on a career change, I don't think travel agency work is in our future."

"At least not in mine," Sam said glumly.

"Come on, Sam. I went along with it. How on earth could we have ever imagined what would have happened to us? These weren't ordinary circumstances. It's like there were some kind of crazy beings somewhere in the universe controlling everything."

"Yeah...I guess…" Sam said, looking unconvinced.

"A freak blizzard, Sam... Did you anticipate that?"

"Of course not."

"The house we were staying in collapsed," Callen said with a smirk, his eyes twinkling. "Did your crystal ball tell you that could possibly happen?"

"Well no," Sam said, grinning, but then his grin slowly faded, and he sighed. "I shot you, G."

"Are you trying to tell me you did that on purpose?" Callen asked. "Anyhow, that's the least of my problems at the moment."

"That's not really the point, though is it...I should have been more careful. I could have…" He shuddered, unable to even think of the fact that he could have killed his best friend if the bullet had taken a different path.

"It was an accident, Sam, and I'm going to be fine." Callen's eyes were sincere as he gazed back at Sam. "You need to forget about it."

"Not that easy…"

"Well then you can buy me a nice steak dinner when we get home," Callen said with a grin. "The place of my choosing, anywhere I want."

"I could do that," Sam agreed, his lips moving into a faint smile. "Anywhere you want."

"Anywhere I want…" Callen said musingly. "I haven't tried LA Prime yet. That might be a possibility."

"Wow, that's pretty high brow, G."

"You're not saying I'm a cheap date, are you?" Callen teased.

"No, no I'm not," Sam said, chuckling. "I said wherever you want, and I meant it. It's the least I can do for you."

Callen yawned, his eyes suddenly getting heavy. "I think I'm going to rest for a little while. Dream about what I'm going to eat at that fancy dinner you're treating me to."

"You do that, buddy," Sam said, looking fondly at his friend as Callen drifted off to sleep.

xxxxx

"I believe the doctor said to eat and rest, Ms. Blye." The soft voice coming from behind made Kensi jump, even when it shouldn't have been a surprise at all. "And I don't think he meant that about our Mr. Deeks. But, speaking of which, how's our boy doing?" Hetty finished with a kind smile, her hand coming to rest on Kensi's shoulder as the Ops Manager took in the sight before her.

Deeks' eyes were closed, but at least his face was a mask of calmness. No pain lines or any signs of distress. On the contrary, Kensi's face clearly displayed all the tension she was feeling on the inside. A rare display of emotion that only slipped out of the agent's carefully constructed walls when something shook her core and lowered her defenses.

"I'm okay, Hetty. I'm not really hungry." Kensi said instinctively, a well-rehearsed line from the many times any of them had been at the hospital. "Besides, Deeks needs me here, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be."

"Who said anything about leaving?" Hetty asked, as she raised her hand and shook the take-out bag she was holding, but still Kensi's attention was all focused on the man lying on the bed in front of them. Kensi's fingers caressed Deeks' golden locks and her other hand held his for dear life. "I brought takeout. A burger and fries, nice and easy does it." Hetty offered.

Slowly, Kensi took her hand from Deeks' hair, and turned towards Hetty. Her other hand however, staying right where she could stay in contact with her husband. "Thank you, Hetty, but ..."

"... I'm not really hungry. Yes, I know. But you still need to eat. How do you think Mr. Deeks will react when he wakes up and finds you on a hospital bed besides him because we allowed you to go hours without any food. Don't think Ms. Jones didn't tell me you barely touched your breakfast." Hetty finished in a calm tone, as if she was talking to a young child, and not a seasoned agent that wouldn't react well to an authoritative tone when her nerves were already on edge.

Kensi smiled, noticing that for the second time someone said 'when' and not 'if' and it filled her with new certainty that Deeks would in fact wake up.

"Thanks, Hetty." Kensi said, taking the takeout bag from her boss' hand, all the while hoping Hetty knew it was meant for a lot more than just the food. Even if Hetty had made questionable decisions in the past, that had ended with one or all of them in danger or injured, she was not to blame for this. And even on the times she had been to blame, deep down Kensi knew Hetty was usually in a difficult position. Right in between worrying about the fate of the world and national security, and caring for men and women she had practically helped raise and mature into the agents, liaisons, analysts and tech operators they were now. And she couldn't honestly believe at any point, Hetty had had the real intention of causing any of them harm.

But that thought also brought with it a new sense of anger. It burned from within as Kensi slowly realized that Hetty hadn't been to blame, but neither have any bad guys. Those previous times Deeks had been hurt, at least the good guys had won, and the world had remained a better place for at least a few more days. Before the next bad guy decided to start the cycle all over again. But this time, this injury, this new disaster, served no purpose. It didn't save civilians, it didn't punish the evil, it didn't stop a war. It just injured three good men, when they were just trying to have a good time. It had been just a freak accident and that made it all the more difficult to accept. That out there, somewhere, some unknown force had been conspiring against them, moving the pieces of the game with the only intention of hurting these men. Of hurting, her man.

"Kensi, eat." Hetty's soft voice drew Kensi away from her desperate thoughts. And Hetty's understanding smile said she had thought about it too. But in life, things some time just happened, without any real explanation or purpose and you just have to ride the wave the best way you could and hope to still be standing after the water recedes, or at least be willing to stand back up, if it knocks you down.

"Sorry." Kensi muttered with a sheepish, apologetic smile gracing her lips. One of the few sincere smiles in her last 24 hours.

Still with only one hand, Kensi managed to open the bag, take out the burger and fries and make quick work of her dinner. Her other hand, never leaving Deeks'. "Thanks, Hetty. It was really good."

"You're welcome, Ms. Blye. Now, I know you won't be leaving this place no matter what I say, but I already talk to the doctor and nurses on call. They have prepared a bathroom in a nearby room for you to shower, and in the meantime, they will move Mr. Deeks to a more private area and bring in a rolling bed for you to accompany him." Hetty explained, passing Kensi a go-bag she had personally prepared.

"Thank you, Hetty." Kensi said, sincerely surprised at the lengths Hetty was willing to go sometimes to help them all. If only that had always been her priority. But again, deep down Kensi understood Hetty had a lot more to worry about than any of them even understood.

"As I said, no one is asking you to leave. But if you would like to visit your other teammates after taking that shower, I'll be more than happy to keep our boy company. He's in good hands with me," Hetty offered tentatively.

Kensi did want to make sure her other teammates were okay, but she was also sure that if anything had gone wrong, she would have already been informed. And she didn't feel quite ready to see Sam yet. Her worry didn't allow her to see 'deep down' yet and the outermost part of her mind and heart still felt some apprehension at facing the man who had the camping idea in the first place. She didn't want to blame Sam, but human beings had the unfortunate need to blame someone when things didn't turn out the way they wanted. And Sam was just the easiest scapegoat now.

"Thanks, Hetty. But I don't want to leave Deeks alone for any longer than necessary. I know he's safe with you, but I need him to know I didn't leave him." Again. Kensi knew in Mexico she had all but made up for her actions during the Sidorov mission, but every time Deeks was hurt all those memories resurfaced and she felt the raw, all too-familiar pain all over again, as if the Deeks lying on a bed in front of her was the one just hurt by Sidorov, and not one injured some other way.

"Are you angry with Sam, Ms. Blye?" Hetty inquired. She knew it was probably true that Kensi didn't want to leave Deeks, but she had seen the wheels turning on her agent, and she sensed there was more to it than Kensi was letting on.

"I'm not, Hetty. I know this wasn't his fault. He's not to blame." Kensi tried to explain. But Hetty's face told her she had said too much and maybe shouldn't have used the words 'fault' or 'blame' as they evidently gave some of her feelings away.

Seeing Hetty's lips part and words beginning to form, Kensi felt the room beginning to shrink around her. Needing an escape, she took in a long breath, before finally releasing Deeks' hand, breaking their connection. "Thanks, Hetty. I'll go take that shower now." Grabbing her go-bag, Kensi made a quick exit out of the room, even when she didn't even know where she was supposed to be going for that shower. But she was sure any nurse could point her in the right direction.

Sighting sadly, Hetty could do nothing but silently stare at the retreating form of her agent. "I sure hope you don't blame Sam too." She spoke instead, words directed to the man on the bed, and not his recently departed wife. "Maybe his plan didn't turn out the way he wanted, but I sincerely believe he had the best intentions."

Remembering the forgotten tension between her two most different team members, Hetty hoped this setback wouldn't throw her team back to how things were during those first years after the LAPD detective joined her team.

xxxxx

Not even 10 full minutes after she had left, Kensi was back at Deeks' side. In the same small ICU space, since she hadn't given any time to the hospital staff to move Deeks to a new area.

Hetty briefly considered proposing again that Kensi visit her other teammates, but not wanting to add to her agent's distress, she decided against it. Instead saying her goodbyes and promising to be back in the morning. Then stopping at the nurses' station to make sure Deeks would still be moved to a bigger area where they could accommodate a rolling bed, before going to visit her other team members herself.

Stopping at Sam and Callen's room, she was not surprised to find her other boy sleeping. But she was even less surprised to find Sam intently staring at his partner, a look of equal parts concern and guilt plastered on his face.

"Hello, Sam. I'm glad to see you." Hetty said as a way of greeting.

"Hetty... hmm, hi. I didn't know you were here." Sam said quickly, scratching his throat as he worked hard to school his features and hide all his previously openly displayed emotions behind his familiar mask of calmness. But no matter how much he tried, the guilt was still there.

"Ms. Jones called me on the way here. I had my own plane on standby, so it was a quick trip. How are you feeling, Sam?" Hetty explained quickly, wanting to judge Sam's emotional well-being more than his physical one as Nell had already informed her his injuries were minor.

"I'm okay, Hetty. Will be out of here in no time. It's Callen and Deeks we should worry about."

And there it was, the reason why her team's emotional state was her most prominent concern. When injuries happen due to a bad guy, it's easy for her team to come together against a common enemy. But when they happen after one of their civilian ideas goes wrong, the law enforcement brotherhood can get blurred and fingers start to be pointed in all the wrong directions. Including to oneself, when one holds an unwarranted blame that shouldn't be placed on anyone but destiny.

"I worry about all of you. But how is Mr. Callen doing?"

Sam's response was word by word what the doctor had told him during his last visit. Showing Hetty, her senior agent had probably been mentally repeating those lines for the past few hours. Trying to remind himself that Callen was in fact doing as well as can be expected and still expected to make a full recovery.

"And how's Deeks doing? Nell and Eric were supposed to come update me, but they never showed up." Sam finished after giving his boss a brief recount of Callen's condition.

Hetty raised her eyebrows at those news. She had been told Eric hadn't been injured, even after a close call. But it was unlike her analyst and tech operator to just disappear and fail to honor a promise. And after everything that just happened, she couldn't help but worry.

"Is everything okay? Did his condition worsen?" Sam asked hesitantly, having picked up Hetty's apprehension.

"No, no, Mr. Hanna. Mr. Deeks is okay, and his condition remains stable. No injuries caused by his stunt with the drugs. And the brain injury hasn't shown any bleeding, so even though he's asleep, the doctor is hopeful." Hetty summarized what Kensi told her, kicking herself from letting her worry about Eric and Nell show. But at least she had the presence of mind to say asleep and not unconscious.

"That stunt saved us all, you know." Sam said sadly, thinking how even injured with another concussion, Deeks had again risked his life to save them.

"I know, Sam. I didn't mean it in any negative way. But when Nell told me, it sounded like the kind of 'fly by the seat of your pants' stunt that Deeks so often pulls while undercover." Hetty said with a fond smile, remembering how that attitude was one of the first things that caught her attention about the young detective. It was so unlike her methodical team and just what they needed.

"And how's Kensi?" Sam asked next. Completely ignoring Hetty's attempt at some levity.

"What's that, Sam? Kensi's perfectly fine. She wasn't injured, right?"

"She hasn't come to visit..." Sam sighed sadly. Even before they went all-in, Sam was used to Kensi spending most of her time with Deeks during shared hospital stays, like post-Mexico, but before, she always found the time to also visit her other teammates. And Sam said as much when Hetty innocently tried to explain that Kensi was just with her partner like Sam was with his.

"She's angry, right?" She blames me. But that part remained unsaid.

"I wouldn't say angry, Sam. I think she's just worried and needs some time to get her thoughts together." Hetty wasn't really sure what Kensi or any of them were thinking, she needed Eric and Nell to fill in more of the details of the trip and rescue before she could make an accurate assessment and decide how best to help her team.

"If you say so." Sam said, unconvinced. Because how could Kensi not blame him, when he couldn't stop blaming himself.

"Everything will be okay, Mr. Hanna. Sometimes time is all that's needed to heal some wounds. Physical and otherwise." Hetty just hoped her words were the truth, a sort of promise, and not the empty words of a woman that was just too tired to argue the contrary, and too broken to continue trying to prove the universe wrong. Years in this business sure took a toll on a person, even when at one point she had truly been the master of the universe.

Sam just nodded, his eyes going back to stare at his partner. Remembering his words from before he fell asleep, and how Callen seemingly truly didn't blame him. So, hopefully, Kensi and Deeks would share that sentiment. And, hopefully, in due time, he wouldn't blame himself either.

Hetty stayed with Sam and Callen for another half hour, chatting with Sam about anything but the camping trip, while both of them continued to look over Callen out of the corner of their eyes.

xxxxx

After leaving Sam and Callen's room, Hetty went in search of her two unaccounted team members. Her worry easing as soon as she stepped into the waiting room, finding Eric and Nell hunched over together on two chairs in the back of the room, both fast asleep.

Silently walking towards them, Hetty looked Eric and Nell over, wanting to make sure for herself that both of them were really okay and uninjured.

For a second Hetty then thought about waking them up and insisting they go home, but quickly decided against it. Just as time, proximity is sometimes all that was needed, and her team was better together, even if they were technically in three different locations of the same hospital. For a brief moment, she also considered taking up a seat and staying with them, but uncomfortable, hospital chairs were getting to be too much for an old(ish) lady, so instead she turned to leave, for the third time that night promising to be back in the morning.

As Hetty was about to walk back towards the elevators, something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye and she kneeled to grab the discarded tablet, which must have slipped from Eric's lap. And in that brief second, all the pieces fell back into place, and the world began making sense again. Her boys' smiles as they made crazy faces to the camera and the beautiful snowed-in background at their backs, a perfect picture of calm and brotherhood and the only promise Hetty needed to know everything would be alright.

After making quick work of sending the pictures to her email, Hetty smiled to herself, in a brief moment of clarity, remembering that when all is said and done, and when all the sadness and loss is stripped away, only our relationships remain. And in that sense, her team would always be more than okay. At least for as long as they still had each other. Together they could get over any blame, guilt, pain, sadness, or any other emotion they might be feeling. Her team was a big, happy family, and THAT'S really all that was needed.