"Hey, guys," Deeks said quietly, and stifled another coughing fit. They scared him, leaving him breathless and spent for long minutes at a time. The urge to cough peaked, then eased off, letting him settle back against the pillows in relief.
"Deeks," Callen said with a nod. "How do you feel?" He was wearing a pair of dark jeans and a black long sleeved t-shirt.
He looks like he's going goth, Deeks thought wryly. The blonde man waved his good hand. "Been better," he said, keeping his voice low in deference to the woman sleeping on the bed next to him.
Callen smiled. "Let me guess, Hetty's influence?"
Deeks shook his head, swallowing a spoonful of lime jello. "Nope. My doctor threatened to tie her down to a bed and sedate her if she didn't get some rest." He paused reflectively. "You missed quite a showdown. I thought Kensi was going to flip."
Sam chuckled. "I bet."
Deeks' eyes tracked to Callen's face. The blonde haired man winced. "That looks painful," he muttered. "I'd ask if you pissed Kensi off, but she's been here all day."
"I heard that," Kensi protested drowsily. "I only hit Callen once, and he deserved it."
She pushed herself up right on the bed, brushing her hair back from her face. She'd found a clean shirt from somewhere and had changed into it. The blue sweatshirt was folded neatly on the chair.
Deeks caught a splash of colour on her jeans and realised for the first time that it was his blood, dried into the fabric. The sight sent a chill through him. He swallowed hard, fighting to tear his gaze away from the smears.
"What'd he do?" he asked, willing to be distracted from the serious conversation he could sense looming. "Was there Ho-Ho's involved?"
"Borrowed her brand new car without asking, and wrecked it," Sam supplied, with a chuckle. "Sweet little red convertible."
Callen scowled. "We were undercover. I needed transport. It's not my fault that the suspect decided to ram me," he protested. "Anyway, Hetty gave her a replacement."
"I hadn't even driven it," Kensi said mournfully, then turned back to business. "Now we've ascertained that I didn't hit you, who did?"
"This guy." Callen pulled out his phone and found the picture he wanted, holding it up so that everyone could see the screen. "We went back to Deeks' apartment, and he came bolting out."
"Knocked Callen ass over teakettle, and started wailing on him," Sam added. "You recognise him, Deeks?"
Deeks nodded. "Yeah. Gary Williams. Son of a bitch almost got me shot on the last undercover we worked together. LAPD kicked him back to desk duty after that."
"Were you friendly with him?" Kensi asked, swinging her legs a little. "Sounds like there was bad blood between you two."
Deeks blinked, a memory flashing through his mind.
The scent of old engine oil mingled with dust, rising in the air to clog his throat, choking him. The gun dug a little deeper into his ribs as he talked wildly, trying to convince the thug behind him that they'd stumbled into the warehouse by accident. Trying hard to undo the damage his partner had done by charging into the building blindly, without proper intel or back up.
The memory faded. He shook his head, trying to clear his nose of the phantom scent of old oil and dust. "Not so much." He shrugged and regretted it, wincing. "Though he did stop by my apartment about a month after that to apologize. Said he'd been too keen." He stopped talking, letting his gaze drop to the blankets covering his legs.
"But?" Kensi prompted gently.
He didn't look up. "Why does there have to be a but?"
She exchanged a worried glance with Callen. "It just feels like there's a but."
"Being too keen wasn't his problem," Deeks said, and sighed. He stifled a yawn, jarring his injured arm as he shifted on the bed, trying to get comfortable. Everything ached, and as much as he wanted to take another dose of painkillers, he knew that they would knock him out. He shifted again, biting back a pained groan.
Kensi leaned towards him. He tilted his head, one corner of his mouth lifting. "I'm okay. Just really, really stiff," he muttered. "No, Williams' problem was that he didn't feel anything- no sense of fear, no worry… nothing. Man has a mind like a computer, but I always got the sense that he didn't understand caution."
"Why do you think he came after you four years?" Sam asked. The dark skinned man was leaning against the wall, arms loosely crossed over his chest. "After all this time, why now?"
Deeks squashed the pillow under his arm, thinking. "The ring leader we took down was rumoured to have a fortune stashed somewhere. Williams must have thought that…" He stopped talking as another memory hit him.
The clean white sheet on his bed pressed against his face, the scent of Downy detergent almost drowning out the rancid, desperate scent of the man standing behind him. He tried to speak, but his tongue felt large and thick in his mouth. The words came out slurred, unintelligible. He tried again, teeth catching his lip as he forced the words out. "What do you want?"
The wiry man behind him laughed and let his weight fall on Deeks' back, his weight forcing the air out of the other man's lungs. "Tell me where you hid the money."
Something cracked, an explosion of pain roaring though the blonde man. Deeks watched the world turn to red and black lace, wondering if this was what it felt like to die.
A warm hand on his arm jerked him back to the hospital room. He flinched away, the quick movement sending pain tearing through him. Cold sweat dotted his skin.
"Deeks?" Kensi snapped, one hand hovering over the call button. Her partner had hold of the other one in a vice grip that felt like it would leave bruises.
Her partner was chalk pale, eyes wide and dark. They slowly tracked to Kensi's face.
"Bits and pieces keep coming back," Deeks said tonelessly. "Williams thinks that I took the money from the drug ring and hid it somewhere. He sounded desperate for it. I wouldn't put it past him to try again, if he thinks he can get away with it."
Callen shook his head. "He can't. The LAPD are holding him for assaulting a federal agent."
Deeks smiled mirthlessly. "Don't hold your breath. I wouldn't put anything past that man." A hint of colour came back to his cheeks. "You couldn't hold him because you have no evidence linking him directly to my crime scene, right?"
Sam nodded. "LAPD kicked up a fuss and made Hetty release him to them. We couldn't argue because there's no direct link."
"No, Deeks," Kensi shook her head, already knowing where her partner's thoughts were going. "It's a really bad idea."
"I want the bastard caught and punished," Deeks said stubbornly.
Callen leaned closer to the bed, bruises standing out in the artificial light. "What are you thinking?" he asked.
Deeks pushed himself higher in the bed and met the other agent's eyes. "Use me as bait."