“For the last time, G,” said Sam irritably as the two of them walked into HQ. “I am not...”
G elbowed him lightly, but it wasn’t necessary: Kensi and Deeks were very obviously standing in the middle of the room, staring at the bullpen.
“The last time this happened,” G commented as he and Sam came up behind the other two agents, “was when Hettie first arranged the bullpen.”
Kensi, typically, did not twitch. Deeks started, a little. “Yeah, um,” he said.
By then, G and Sam could see what he and Kensi were staring at.
“What is that?” G asked.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Kensi said.
“I know what it looks like,” Deeks said.
“It looks like a fifth desk,” Sam said.
“Yeah.” G turned around. “Did anyone see Hettie?”
“No, she’s...” Kensi began.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Callen?”
G turned around and looked down at Hettie, who was looking up at him a little too serenely.
“Why do we have a fifth desk?”
“Because Ms. Hansen will join us this afternoon,” Hettie said, handing him the folder she’d been holding. “I trust you will all welcome her well.”
“I’m sorry,” Kensi said, sounding not remotely sorry at all. “Who?”
Hettie had already walked off, though, so G - who was already flipping through the folder - answered her: “Another agent.”
Sam looked about as pleased as G felt, or Kensi sounded. “We don’t need another agent.”
“Yeah, well,” G said. “Do you want to tell that to Hettie, or should I?”
“She likes you better.”
Tori Hansen had not yet set foot through the door, and Kensi disliked her already. G had passed on the folder once he was done with it, and so the entire team had memorized Hansen’s personnel file by lunchtime.
Hansen wasn’t an outright probie but, at two years of experience, she might as well be - and Kensi didn’t care how perfect her record or her class grades were, or how shining the recommendations from her previous supervisors. The easy smile and the blonde girl-next-door looks in the folder did not help any, either.
The woman who walked in at two in the afternoon looked slightly different than her photo on file. She was a little older, of course, and the chin-length layers instead of the long braid added to the effect. The photo also couldn’t communicate Hansen’s compact, fluid gait.
“Second-dan in ninjitsu” was one of Kensi’s reasons for disliking the woman before meeting her.
At least, she thought, a little viciously, nobody told her what to expect. In dark blue dress slacks and an obnoxiously turquoise shirt, Hansen stuck out like a sore thumb in the informal OSP hub. She stopped by the bullpen, probably because it was the only area on the ground floor that looked anything like a workspace at a first glance.
Sam and G were both studiously ignoring her, or at least seeming to; Kensi knew what it looked like when G was pretending to not survey someone. Deeks, of course, was grinning at the pretty woman.
Kensi would elbow him for it later.
“Hi,” Hansen said, flashing them a relaxed grin that wasn’t helping her case any. “I’m looking for Agent Callen?”
That meant G had to look up. Still, he put on a particularly disinterested manner as he said, “Yeah, that’s me.”
Hansen walked into the bullpen area, stopped in front of G’s desk, offered her hand and said, entirely too cheerfully, “Agent Hansen, reporting for duty.”
G stood up and shook her hand, offering his best crooked lawyer smile. “Welcome to OSP, Agent Hansen.”
“Please, just call me Tori.”
Predictably, G did not offer a first name - or, rather, first initial - in return. “These are the rest of the team: agents Sam Hanna and Kensi Blye, and LAPD liaison Marty Deeks.”
Kensi plastered on a smile and Sam nodded, but Deeks would need to be slapped upside the head later because he grinned at the new girl to split his cheeks. Of course.
Either Hansen was completely oblivious to the lukewarm welcome, or she was a passable actress.
Barely a beat has passed. “Agent Hanna will show you around,” G said, with the gesticulation that went with that smile.
Hansen smiled at Sam. Sam’s sideways glance at G as he stood up said, very clearly, that G was going to be a dead man later.
G’s returning grin said that, as usual, he couldn’t care less.
Sam returned a few hours later, carrying a rolled sheet of paper and having left Hansen at Hettie’s desk. He came over to G’s desk, and dumped the sheet of paper in its middle.
G picked it up. It was one of the gun range targets. He rolled it open.
There was a single hole in the middle of the target, too large to be a single bullet but not looking like any cluster G had ever seen. He looked up at Sam, eyebrows raised.
“All bullets on the dot,” Sam confirmed. “Every damn time.”
Sam pulled Kensi’s temporarily-unoccupied chair and sat down next to G. “Seriously.”
“Good as advertised?”
“Best I can dry-test her, yeah.”
“Well, at least that tells us why Hettie grabbed her.”
Sam replied with a half-nod.
“Think she’s ready for a wet run?”
Sam’s shoulders twitched in his version of a shrug. “Can’t test her any better in here.”
“All right.” G picked up the folder that Hettie had dropped off earlier and handed it to Sam.
Sam’s irritated glare was as irritated as could be expected. “Why am I on babysitter duty?”
“Because you’ll ride her the hardest,” G said, and immediately continued: “And because I’ll be watching your back, so you’re the one she’s least likely to get killed.”
Sam snorted. “Yeah, right. That makes me feel safe.”
So maybe Tori was magic with a gun, or a throw knife. And maybe she never, ever lost a sparring match to either Sam or Kensi. And maybe G really did keep giving her the dangerous assignments, but that was because if he was going to risk the lives of anyone he actually knew and liked then he wanted to know that she was really up to the task.
Running into the warehouse that held twenty-or-so heat-packing bad guys and one Tori with only a knife, hoping like hell that they would make it in time, those considerations seemed to matter a little less.
The main floor was quiet when Sam and G barged in through one door and Kensi and Deeks through the other. The only other person standing was Tori, slightly worse for wear but overall whole, one foot on one bad guy’s back and covering the room with two guns.
And smiling like a kid with ice cream. Of course.
“Do we have zip ties?” she called out to the rest of team. “Because I’m pretty sure we don’t have enough cuffs.”
“Yeah, we do,” G replied even as he surveyed the scene. “We’re going to need ambulances here,” he said into his comm. Every single man on the floor was beat up, bleeding or both.
“On their way,” said Eric’s voice in his ear, overlapping with Sam’s: “You mind explaining what happened here, Tori?”
“They tried to kill me and they’re not my supervising agent, so I beat them up?”
That made G turn around and pay proper attention to her. “Excuse me?”
“If you keep doing this because you figured I’m going to come out on top, that’s one thing,” she said. “But if that was the case, you wouldn’t abort. So.”
Her tone was what caught his attention, really. Her reply to Sam was standard-issue Tori flip-and-perky, but her reply to him had more straightforward steel than he’s heard from her yet.
“So, let me see if I got this straight,” he said, keeping it flip himself. “Trying to get you killed is okay so long as I don’t worry about you?”
She must’ve got it, because she flashed him a smile. “That’s because there’s no reason to worry.”
Kensi’s list of Reasons To Hate Tori Hansen had gotten longer in the twelve weeks they’d had her. Not only was the woman an impossible shot who could take on both Sam and Kensi on the mats, but she was absolutely impossible to shake out of the disgusting friendly perkiness, entirely too damn good at wrapping people around her little finger in the field, and - to add insult to injury - had a big damn motorcycle.
And then it got worse.
G was the first to notice Tori entering that morning, which was no surprise as his desk was facing the door and also because G was a complete cat sometimes, and Tori was carrying a plastic bag.
“What’s in the bag?”
“You’ll see in a second. And good morning, everyone.”
“Good morning,” Sam replied.
“Good morning,” added Deeks, coming up from behind Tori with yet another coffee. “What’s in the bag?”
Kensi glared at him. Tori smiled. She put the bag between her desk and the couch as she sat down, and that meant G had to get up and walk around in order to get to it. Predictably, he’d only gotten behind Tori’s chair when she started bringing out the objects in the bag. The objects that were, unmistakably, framed photos and which G picked up as soon as Tori placed them on the desk.
“Sister,” G said, turning the first photo around towards where Kensi was sitting before putting it down on the table. “Friends,” he said to the second one, which was a group of several people who looked around the same age as Tori. His eyebrows shot up on the third one. “Husband?”
Sure enough, that was a wedding photo, with Tori in what could have just been a nice white dress. But Kensi knew what a wedding dress looked like, and the young man with his arms wrapped around her was definitely wearing a dark blue tuxedo.
A young man that looked remarkably familiar.
“Is that Blake Bradley?”
“I didn’t know you’re a moto fan,” Tori said. “And three out of three,” she added, glancing up at G.
“You’re married. To Blake Bradley,” Kensi demanded as she got up and came over to take a closer look at that photo.
“Is he famous or something?” G asked.
Kensi looked up from the photo to stare at him, but Deeks got there first.
“He’s only Kensi’s sports star crush,” he said, “if you call riding bikes really fast a sport. Ew!”
Kensi punched his shoulder. Hard.
G’s eyebrows were still raised. “I can’t decide which is weirder,” he said to Kensi. “That Tori is married, or that you fangirl her husband.”
Kensi glared at G, considered hitting him too, but decided it wasn’t worth her effort. She ignored him, instead, turning back to Tori. “How did you two meet?”
Tori shrugged. “Through a friend?”
G held up the last photo, of a teenaged Tori with two boys, the three of them grinning widely at the camera. “One of these friends?”
Tori tapped her finger against the boy in a yellow shirt. “This one.”
“Your husband know where you work?” asked Sam, who’d silently come up behind Kensi in the meantime.
“He knows I’m NCIS,” said Tori, sounding vaguely apologetic in an I’m-entirely-not sort of a way. “Kind of hard to hide that, as he was there before.”
That wasn’t Sam’s military voice, though, and Kensi couldn’t help but think that Tori had misjudged Sam’s intention. By G’s quick look he thought so, too.
“Hey, maybe she can get you his autograph,” Deeks said to Kensi, breaking the sudden tension. “Ew!”
Kensi punched him again.
G had seen a lot of really weird shit in this line of work, but impossible mutants that materialized out of thin air were new. He’d emptied a clip into one by instinct, but that just got the brute to focus on him.
The next second, something brilliant blue slammed into the impossible monster, knocking it back. It took G another second to figure out that the brilliant blue something was someone and, specifically, Tori.
Tori, who proceeded to drive off all four impossibilities, including the one that had damn near tore Sam’s arm out of its socket, and then fished out and flipped open her civilian cell phone as the glow faded away, completely ignoring the rest of the team as they regrouped by the cars.
“Hey, is this Jayden?” she asked in a too-sweet voice that could be nothing but bad news. “This is Tori Hansen. Do you know who I am? Of course you don’t.” The sweetness gained an edge on that last one, and then disappeared completely. “I’d say I’m sure Ji can explain it to you but he gave you the run of the show, so right now? I don’t think either of you is fucking up to the fucking job.” Her venomous tone was turning more furious by the word. “Do you fucking mind explaining to me what the fucking fuck were fucking nighloks doing in LA? Of course you didn’t know, if you fucking knew than I wouldn’t fucking need to do your fucking job, would I? No, shut the fuck up, your mewling isn’t interesting. Just fucking do your fucking job from now on, or I’m not the one who’ll call for explanations next time.” She disconnected the call and then immediately punched in something from speed-dial.
G exchanged a look with Sam, but Sam didn’t seem keen on interrupting Tori just yet, either.
“Fucking nighloks on the fucking streets,” Tori said by way of a hello. “Jayden’s fucking clueless. Yes, of course I called him. No, shut the fuck up, Shane, no, I’m not fucking overreacting, my team is fucking here. Yes, that team. Yes. Well, thank you.” She flipped the phone shut and pushed it back into her pocket. Then she finally looked at them, frowning. “Sorry about that,” she said. The murderous rage was gone, but she still didn’t sound quite like Tori.
Or like the Tori they knew. Or thought they knew.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” she added at Deeks, who raised his arms and took half a step backwards, very nearly hiding behind Kensi’s back even as G took half a step forward. His weapon was still in his hand, but he hadn’t thought to reload it yet. Sam was behind him, arms crossed, probably trying not to look like he was nursing one of them.
“What the hell was that about?” G demanded.
Tori opened her mouth, took a deep breath, and then said: “That’s a really long story.”
There was a whine of sirens in the distance, which meant the LEOs would be on the scene shortly. G didn’t really feel like playing that game right now. There were too many questions, and he was starting to feel exposed out here on the street. Those monsters - nighlocks? - had appeared out of nowhere, and there was nothing stopping more from showing up. “Boathouse,” he ordered. “You’re riding with me,” he added, pointing at Tori. Like hell he was letting her out of his sight any time soon.
The first thing Tori did when they entered the boathouse was make a beeline for the tap and open it. Instead of flowing into the sink, the stream of water snaked around Tori’s arm, glowing the same impossible blue that Tori had before.
Sam didn’t know what to think of that little trick, though Deeks looked like he did when talking about comic books. Kensi’s expression was more neutral as she sat on the edge of the table, watching. G was tense, and it was obvious, at least to Sam, that he was scared, too.
“Care to explain what the hell happened out there?” G demanded. His tone was harsh.
“The most condensed version is that the so-called paranormal exists,” she said. Her tone was expressionless like a soldier’s, but her shoulders were tense and her eyes wide, and her movement as she raised her glowing arm in emphasis could be called jerky on anyone’s scale. “And like with any sort of people, there are normal people and bad people and those whose job it is to stop the bad people. Those things before were the current threat, and they should never have made it here.”
“Current threat?” Kensi asked. Sam could tell by her tone that she was still trying to process things. Hell, he was too.
“Just like anything else,” Tori repeated. “You stop one and another one rises.”
“Let me guess - Jayden is whoever’s supposed to be dealing with those nighlock things, right?” G asked. His voice had lost its edge, but with his arms crossed and that tone, he was definitely in interrogation mode now.
It struck Sam in that moment just how young their newest agent was. It wasn’t something he usually thought about, and she usually acted more mature than Deeks on a good day anyway. There was something in the way she stood, though: shoulders too straight and eyes too wide, looking right through them as she answered each question promptly. “Submissive” was not a word he’d associate with Tori under normal circumstances.
Deeks looked like he wanted to start shooting questions at Tori, Kensi’s expression was disturbingly blank, and G was in the middle of freaking out still. Sam’s shoulder hurt like a bitch, and none of the others were being rational about this entire thing, and he gave it five more minutes before Hettie was calling them with questions, so he really wanted answers when that happened.
“All right, that’s enough,” he said towards G. It got him a sullen look, but he just met it calmly until G backed down. He looked back at Tori. “Relax. This isn’t an interrogation,” he told her, trying to keep his tone gentle and steady, ignoring Deeks’ soft snort. “Those monsters were nighlocks, and someone named Jayden is supposed to be dealing with them. Where do you fit in?”
“Seven years ago - almost eight - ” She swallowed. It looked as if she wanted to look away, but she didn’t. Instead, her shoulders straightened. “Then it was us. It was ninjas.” She raised her arm slightly again. “I’m a water ninja, specifically, but,” she shrugged, “we come in several elements. Or without elemental affinity, sometimes.”
“Ninjas,” Sam repeated. The word felt faintly ridiculous; the concept of ninjas had become so sensationalized by the media and pop culture, she might as well have claimed to be an alien. “Jayden’s a ninja too?”
“No,” she said. She paused, hesitating, but G got in first.
“Then what the hell is he?” G demanded.
“I stopped keeping track of kinds of mystical warriors after the first dozen I ran into.”
“Wait, eight years ago, you were, what, seventeen?” Deeks asked.
“Seventeen going on eighteen,” she acknowledged. She smiled a little, weakly. “I refuse to talk about my eighteenth birthday.”
Eighteen was too damn young for that sort of thing. She’d been just a kid, fighting monsters that three federal agents and a police officer couldn’t take on. Finding out monsters were real and their newest teammate was an elemental ninja just seemed like information overload, and the kid was still spooked to all hell. Pushing wasn’t going to get them anywhere right now.
“I’m hungry. Anyone else hungry?” Sam said, forcing his tone towards light and casual. G and Kensi both opened their mouth at the same time, but Deeks got in first.
“I could murder a pizza. There’s a great place just around the corner from here. Probably quicker to just call it in and go pick it up. Kensi and I can go,” Deeks said. He didn’t wait for Kensi’s response, half dragging her out of the boathouse instead.
Which left Sam between an upset G and a freaked out water ninja. Fantastic. At least he knew how to deal with G.
He finally let himself sit down and let go of his left arm, grimacing a little as a fresh wave of pain hit him. His shoulder was probably dislocated, and now that he only had one idiot to deal with, he could check. “A little help here?” he asked G.
“Um.” That was Tori, though, gaze skittering between him and G. “I can fix that. This,” the still-glowing water flowed down her arm and gathered into an orb in her palm, “is good not just for killing things.”
G stepped between Sam and Tori, and Sam had to resist the urge to sigh or shoot his partner. “G, sit down and let the girl show us what she can do. If she wanted any of us dead, she could have just let those monsters tear us apart.”
G, of course, was being his typical stubborn self. Sam couldn’t see the glare his partner was sure to be leveling at Tori though, but it was evident in his posture and tone. “If you hurt him, I won’t give you the chance to regret it.” A promise, not a threat, but at least he stepped aside.
Tori dumped most of the water in the sink, leaving just a thin layer wrapped around her hand like a strange glove.
“I can’t knock out the nerve-endings to it’s going to hurt a little,” she said, voice still too hesitant, if calmer than before, “but it’ll hurt less than the alternative, and there’ll be no residual tissue damage.” She closed the distance between them as she spoke, coming to stand by the chair. “Here we go.” Her hand closed over his shoulder. There was no force in the touch but his shoulder slid back into place without resistance. Sam nearly inhaled sharply at the feeling of tissues sliding and shifting, unlike what having a dislocation forced back usually felt like.
She was right: it hurt, but a whole lot less than the alternative, and when she removed her hand it felt as if he hadn’t been injured at all.
The entire thing had taken a few seconds, at most, from her resting her hand on his shoulder to moving it away, and finally he broke eye contact with G to look down at it, rotating his arm slowly. He gave G a reassuring look before focusing his attention on Tori again, giving her a smile. “Sit down, kid. You did good.”