Late afternoon heat beat down on him as he slammed the car door and stalked across the gravel lot towards the darkened warehouse door. He was armed to the teeth and ready to kill. Callen and Sam were hidden somewhere behind him. He didn't look for them, just let his eyes play over the run down building in front of him.
It had changed in the years since he'd last been there- tires and car doors lined the fencing, and the windows had all been broken, turning the glass into deadly snow on the gravel.
Movement in the shadows beyond the doorway caught his eye. Heart racing, he slowed, squinting and realised that it was nothing more threatening that a scrap of fabric, flapping in the scant breeze.
Distant anger thrummed though his body, locked at bay by sheer, stubborn force of will and bone deep training. He'd pay for the detachment later, but now it was all that was keeping him moving. Stopping to think would tear that control from him, and that would let the fear lurking deep below the anger loose. It would leave him too frozen to function, so he clamped down on the fear and the anger, keeping them locked away.
"Any movement?" he muttered, knowing that the receiver sewn into his shirt would pick up the question.
"Nothing. Place looks deserted," Sam murmured back. "You sure this is the right address?"
Deeks snorted. "Oh, yeah. Believe me, what happened here isn't the sort of thing you ever forget. Kinda branded the place into my memory, you know."
The two other agents stayed quiet. They all had things that had cut them deep and left scars behind. It was just a matter of how well you could cover those scars at any given second.
"I'm going in," Deeks said, and pullet the gun from his holster. He flexed his newly bandaged arm, hissing a little as pain shot though his palm.
It passed quickly, fading into a background hum as he realised exactly what had been flapping in the door way. His blue sweatshirt hung from a hook, one arm soaked with still tacky blood.
The breath left his lungs in a rush that almost took his legs out from under him. He forced himself to straighten, locking down the fear and the worry and the anguish so that he could do his job. Time to finish this, he thought bitterly and stepped into the warehouse proper.
The woman fastened to the chair in the centre of the drew his eye. His partner was sitting bolt upright, eyes alive with anger as she stared at the cuffs binding her body to the chair.
"Kensi," he whispered. "Are you okay?"
It brought her head up in a rush, the anger in her eyes morphing into sheer relief. She nodded, lifting her wrists up in a mute plea.
"Deeks," she whispered back as he carefully crossed the wide open space around her. "He's in the office. There's a woman with him. They're working together."
"That's why you said partner on the call," he muttered, her seemingly out of place comment suddenly making perfect sense. "You were trying to warn us."
He crouched by the chair, fumbling with a key as he unlocked the handcuffs. She took it from him and finished releasing herself, patting his shoulder in relief. His lips quirked into a quick grin at the contact.
"Damn, I'm glad to see you," she muttered.
"Bet you'll be even more glad to see this," he said, and handed her a gun from the holster on his hip.
She took it from him, automatically checking the safety. "I'm sorry, Deeks," she muttered as they spread out, walking towards the free standing office tucked into one back corner.
He glanced at her with honest surprise in his blue eyes. "What for?"
"I went back to your apartment," she said and ducked her head, colour staining her cheeks. "He must have been waiting outside."
Light gleamed on his watch as he reached over, pressing his fingers against her hand in a light touch. "Don't worry about it."
"His partner killed your neighbour." Soft misery wound around the words. "I tried to save her."
He closed his eyes for a beat, then forced them open, chasing the rampaging emotions back into the boxes where they belonged. "Thank you."
The warehouse walls were painted white, but it had faded over the years, turned into a muddy grey that made the large space feel surprisingly small. Large oil stains marked the cracked concrete floor. The scent of old machinery hung thick and heavy in the air.
"I hate this place," Deeks said quietly as they walked. His shoulders felt stiff, locked tight with tension. The dust in the air made him squint and take shallow breaths, fighting not to cough.
"I was starting to feel like that," Kensi agreed.
They reached the office block. The glass in the windows had long been broken. It littered the floor in dangerous, noisy shards.
She pointed, outlining a basic plan with quick, efficient hand gestures. He studied the movements, then nodded, lifting the gun as he headed away to the right.
Kensi crept to the left. Her footsteps were quieter than his, less body mass coming down on each step.
He paused just beyond the door, listing intently. Low, muted voices came through the closed door. The wood muffled the words, but from the pitch, he had a feeling that he was listening to an argument.
"Ready?" Kensi mouthed, and grabbed the door handle.
"Ready." He nodded, finger slipping over the trigger of his gun.
She yanked the door open in one smooth move, lifting her gun as she stepped from behind it.
Williams looked up, mouth falling open in surprise. "Detective Deeks. You're early."
Deeks fixed his gun on his old partner's chest, keeping his aim steady even as his muscles burned. "Yeah, well. I never was one to be late."
Williams smiled. "You remember Anna, right?" he asked, reaching over to grab the woman's sleeve. She turned, eyes blazing with fury as she lifted the gun in her hands and fired.