Cal isn't exactly cowering behind Gibbs, and he's not exactly not cowering. He doesn't want Gibbs to get shot, but he doesn't want to get shot himself, either, so he rather guiltily stays crouched down, making himself as small as he can, as if he's trying to float a lie, and hopes this situation resolves itself as quickly as possible - well, as quickly as it can without either of them getting a bullet in any part of their bodies.
Chasing down a suspect was never supposed to be this dangerous in Cal's life. The last time he felt as vividly in harm's way was trying to secure himself and Torres a ride back to the hotel in Zulia. And that was in Mexico with, so he thought, a bloody drug cartel after his arse. At least then the solution had been simple; throw money at the problem, make it go away.
If money would work in this situation, he'd happily throw hundreds of dollars, his credit cards, his entire wallet, whatever, but what they really need is flak jackets and for Gibbs to have proper backup, instead of a mouthy scientist who probably couldn't fire at an actual person even if he had a weapon to hand.
"Bollocks. We're screwed."
Gibbs looks back over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow, and his nonchalance in the face of bad guys with big guns is not reassuring. "Nah. They're cowards. Gonna get the drop on 'em, they won't see it comin', it'll scare 'em shitless."
He makes it sound easy. Cal would really like to believe it was so simple. "Just try not to get shot."
Amusement. Oh great, Gibbs actually thinks the idea he could end up getting hurt is funny. Cal asks himself again why he ever got involved with another federal agency, why he didn't listen when he was told NCIS were cowboys, crazy people, and why he likes working with them. Sometimes he could really do with having a better instinct for self preservation.
Gibbs checks his clip's full, idly rubs a hand up into his hair. "Bet ya didn't expect to get shot at today," he says cheerfully, and Cal aims a glare at the back of his head.
"Nope," he agrees, much less cheerfully.
Gibbs appears impervious, throwing a grin over his shoulder, and yes, the smile does indeed reach his eyes and is probably genuine, and Cal fights with the urge to throttle the man. Because a) he actually likes Gibbs, even if it's a liking mixed with a huge helping of thinking he's certifiably mad, and b) in a throttling contest, he's pretty sure his rapier wit wouldn't be much competition for Gibbs' potent combination of brain and brawn. He doesn't much fancy becoming a greasy puddle on the pavement.
He just hopes they get out of this alive, and that neither Gill nor Kate then decides to kill them for getting into it in the first place. He's grateful Gibbs has his sidearm and isn't afraid to use it, but he also has a vivid memory of Ben bleeding profusely from his chest wounds, and he doesn't want a repeat of that, doesn't want anyone getting shot on his behalf or because of him, doesn't ever again want to watch anyone he cares about get hurt for any reason.
Just because Gibbs has a gun doesn't render him bulletproof, sadly; the idea he would probably step into the line of fire instinctively to save Cal if necessary is also not a great comfort.
"Stay there," says Gibbs, like Cal's capable of doing anything else right now. Then he's gone and Cal curls himself in as small a ball as possible and hopes like hell nothing else goes pear-shaped.
Nothing happens for a moment, then: "NCIS! Hands where I can see 'em."
It sounds like Gibbs has caught up with their target, and Cal holds his breath involuntarily. Several shots go off, and he winces at each one, then there's the sound of a scuffle and footfalls beating a swift retreat.
He waffles about going out to help. He wants to be brave, he wants to not be hiding here like a child, but he's also bloody scared. He's not remotely certain he'd be a help rather than a hindrance, either, suspects that's exactly why Gibbs left him behind, and he feels useless.
He's faced down guns before, he spent hours with one pointed at his head, but when someone is even slightly willing to talk, he still has the upper hand. These guys? They're not so much with the words.
There's silence for a minute or so - well, probably a minute. To Cal, it feels like several hours have gone by, but the scientist in him points out the sun hasn't moved in the sky and nothing else has happened, and so therefore he's probably being melodramatic.
He strains desperately to hear something, anything. It suddenly occurs to him Gibbs could've been shot, could be lying there bleeding out. If he was trained for this kind of thing, the idea would surely have him sprinting out to check on his (albeit temporary) partner, but he's not, so it just punches him in the stomach and leaves him quietly reeling and listening still harder.
He's so intensely relieved to hear Gibbs alive, it still doesn't occur to him to move. He lets his head fall back against the wall and feels the relief course through him. "Yeah?"
"Goddamnit, Lightman, will ya come here?"
Gibbs' pissy voice is enough to kick him into action, and he scurries down the alley and round the corner to where Gibbs has just finished cuffing one of their suspects. The lad looks considerably younger and more scared than he did before his gun was taken off him. Cal is learning Gibbs tends to have that effect on people.
"His buddies scarpered, but I reckon this one'll sing like a nightingale once you get 'im in your cube." Gibbs winces as he drags the boy to his feet. "Do me a favour and hold him a minute, okay?"
It's only then Cal realises there's blood on Gibbs' arm, and he goggles.
Gibbs sees him notice and shrugs his good shoulder. "Fuckin' horrible shot, this kid, too scared of hurtin' someone. Bullet only grazed me but it stings like hell."
"I'll call 911."
Gibbs looks at him for a second like he's just suggested they do a song and dance number in the street. "Why?"
Cal opens and closes his mouth for a few seconds like a stunned goldfish. "Er... 'cause he just shot ya?"
Gibbs still doesn't appear to understand. "So?"
"So... maybe this would be a good time for paramedics. Or, y'know, some police. Possibly both."
Amusement returns to Gibbs' face in spades. "I'm a federal agent, Cal. I need the police like I need a hole in my head. And this-" he indicates his shoulder "-is a job for a first aider, not a paramedic. I bet Gill's got a first aid kit in her office, right?"
Cal nods dumbly. He doesn't know know, but if Gill doesn't have first aid supplies stashed within easy reach, he'll eat his shoes.
"So we take this chump back to your office. Gill can fix me up, we grill him, we get this sorted, have a drink, go home. Work for you?"
Cal opens his mouth to point out Kate might have one or both of their guts for garters if Gibbs doesn't get properly seen to, but he's not sure if it's an expression they use over here, and besides, while Kate's feelings for this lunatic masquerading as a fed are obvious to the Lightman posse, Cal's pretty sure she wouldn't thank him for potentially outing her.
And she also carries a gun.
Cal may not be the world's leading expert at taking a hint or being remotely tactful, but even he knows enough not to piss off a woman who can sprint in heels and casually wields a Sig Sauer like it's an extension of her arm.
"Okay," he manages finally.
"In the meantime, could ya-" Gibbs gesticulates as best he can with his bad arm, since the other hand is still holding on to their suspect, and Cal finally gets the message and takes over.
"You're nicked, Sunny Jim."
"I'm what?" says the kid, and Cal sighs. Lost in translation.
Gibbs gives him a look.
He sighs again, wilting rapidly. One way or another, he feels like tangling with these people is liable to get him killed, or at least maimed. "You. Are coming. With us." The boy stiffens. "Don't even think about it. He's got much better aim than you 'ave, son."
Gibbs glares, the lad also wilts, and Cal relaxes slightly. Nobody got shot - well... no one got shot in a way that requires hospitalisation, apparently - they have someone to talk to and might get to the bottom of the case, and he's survived another day working with NCIS.
He's still unsure how he ended up in a position where not being dead feels like an achievement, but in the circumstances, he'll take it.
~ fin ~