Callen stepped out of the elevator, scanning the long hallway with a quick, habitual movement. It was empty, as he'd expected, but his gut was churning and a tense headache pounded at the base of his skull. His hand dropped to brush over the gun tucked into his jeans at the small of his back. It was a twitch he didn't usually allow himself, knowing that it could get him into deep trouble undercover. In the relative safety of the hallway, the quick touch wasn't dangerous, and it helped to settle his nerves.
Sam noticed the movement and shook his head. "You're getting jumpy, G," he said, but his own eyes never stopped scanning the hallway, and his shoulders were tense.
They were still all on edge, punch- drunk from too much bad coffee and worry and lack of sleep. It should have made them sloppy, but training and adrenaline kept them sharp. They'd both pay for it later. Sometimes, pushing though is worth it, Callen thought. His team had done the same for him after his shooting. It was his turn to repay that favour.
"Yeah, well," Callen said as they walked towards Deeks' apartment door, footsteps echoing lightly in the quiet hallway. "Better jumpy and alive than calm and dead."
They reached the door. Crime scene tape hung across it, kitty cornered. The bright yellow plastic looked disturbingly cheerful against the dark wood. Callen pulled the keys out of his pocket. Long habit made him cup them in his palm to keep them from jingling.
A sharp, distinctive crack from inside the apartment made him pull his gun, holding it low, next to his leg. "And sometimes it's for a reason," Callen muttered darkly. "On three?"
Sam nodded, pulling his gun before he lifted his hand, holding three fingers up. He folded them down one by one.
Callen turned the key in the lock on three, frowning when it twisted uselessly. "Lock's broke," he murmured and turned the handle, giving the door a healthy shove at the same time. It swung inwards, striking the wall with a sharp snap. The tape broke and dropped to the floor in a tangled lump.
A wiry, black clad man bolted through the open doorway, ramming his shoulder into Callen's stomach with enough force to take them both to the ground. Callen landed on the floor flat on his back, the air knocked out of him from the impact.
The back of his head slammed into the floor hard enough to make him see pretty stars for a long second. His gun skittered off, ending up just out of reach. He reached up and grabbed a handful of t-shirt, getting a sharp elbow to his side for his efforts.
They grappled, both throwing punches, but neither of them could gain the upper hand. Callen landed a solid blow to his opponent's ribs, feeling the sting of it all the way up his arm. The other man retaliated, striking Callen in the side. It made the brown haired agent twist away, hissing in pain.
"Freeze! Federal agents!" Sam shouted, turning his gun away. There was no way to get a clean shot, and he didn't want to risk hitting his partner.
Callen grunted as the wiry man slugged him in the face, then jammed his knee into his attacker's stomach, using the momentum to flip them both over so he was on top, pinning the wiry man in place with am arm pressed across his throat.
"I got him, G," Sam said, moving so that he could point his gun at the black dressed man's head. "Move and I'll shoot you."
Biting back a groan, Callen eased to his feet. Blood dribbled down his face from a gash across his eyebrow. A fresh bruise bloomed high on his cheekbone. He licked more blood from the corner of his mouth. Already, his back had started to stiffen up, and he knew that he was going to be truly miserable by night fall.
"Turn over. Hands behind your back," Sam snarled, pulling his cuffs and securing the black clad man's wrists. He hauled their attacker none-too-gently to his feet, then cast a worried eye over Callen. "You okay?"
The blue eyed man nodded. "Just peachy," he murmured, still catching his breath. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?" Callen asked his attacker. "Why did you attack me?"
A nasty grin curved his lips, but he stayed silent, eyes fixed on the pale green wall across from him. His clothing was plain, simple black with no decoration. He wore heavy combat boots, tightly laced. He hadn't escaped the fight unscathed. Fresh blood dotted his chin. A bruise darkened the skin around his right eye. One arm hung awkwardly at his side, pressed firmly against his ribs.
"You recognise him?" Callen asked, flexing his hand by his side. He retrieved his gun, checking it quickly before tucking it away.
Sam studied the wiry man's face for a long second, then shook his head. "No. Do you?"
"Nope." Callen lifted his phone and snapped a quick picture. "But I have a feeling that Deeks might."