Full Summary:

Callen's in hospital, fighting for his life yet again. The question isn't will he make it. It's how the woman by his side, begging him to fight, to come back to her won him over. Him with a psychiatrist? Really? She'd be the last one he'd fall for. He's right, just not quite the way he thought. From their Hetty orchestrated first meeting, through Karaoke, Christmas, Tequila shots and much more, how did she become 'The One'? Trust. Friendship. Romance of the slow burn variety. And a whole lot of close but not quite moments.

Author notes:

I'm back with, yes, another Callen/OC story. And I'm heading back to my roots. It's romance, pure and simple. Though it does include the whole building of trust and friendship that leads them there.

This was my NaNoWrimo project this year and it got me 111,118 words written during November and it's also another one of my taking things back project, though initially it was nowhere near this big.

I had a lot of fun in November getting to know Jessie, my new OC, better and giving her and Callen so many close but not quite moments in this slow burn romance of theirs. So be warned. This is going to take a while!

I'm hoping I've kept Callen in character, but there is a possibility that he might not be in some ways. As always I walk a fine line when I explore this side of Callen that we don't really see but I hope that the side I show is an extension of the Callen we know and love; a side that would come out in him - with the right girl.

This is AU, but has a lot of chapters that have been inspired by some event in the show but I've not necessarily kept them in chronological order.

So, welcome to the ride (currently sitting at 57 chapters of varying lengths!) I hope to hear from you in the reviews. Let me know what you think, even what you'd like to see between them. You never know what the bunnies might do with some fresh ideas.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters - unless they are the OC's. I thank the creators that allow us to play in their world and with their characters and, even though I really wish for Callen to have his happily ever after, I thank the writers for not making that happen in the show, otherwise I'd have had no reason to make sure that Jessie met Callen and that would be such a shame.

We start in the present and then hop back to the beginning next chapter.

I hope you enjoy.


Sam pushed the button that opened the sliding glass door to Callen's cubicle in ICU. Trepidation settled over him as it had every other time he'd crossed the threshold since Callen had been admitted. He saw the deep auburn haired woman who sat beside Callen, her face streaked with tears and shadows under her eyes. She held the limp hand of his partner in hers tenderly against her cheek.

"Dammit G," she whispered, "don't you dare die on me now. I promise, any bet you want, just come back."

Sam's gaze shifted from the woman to his partner. Broken. Battered. Bruised. Pale. Not a good look for Callen at all. Even when he'd had five bullets buried in him Sam wasn't sure he looked this bad. And it wasn't just the look. No one would say whether they felt Callen would pull through or not. Just that it was one step at a time. One moment. One breath. And a whole lot of hope.

Sam moved further into the room, put his hand on the woman's shoulder and squeezed it in what he hoped was reassurance, even if he didn't feel it himself.

"Jessie," Sam said quietly. "You should eat something. Take a break. Five minutes. I'll be right here with him." Sam was pretty sure she hadn't left Callen's side for more than visiting the bathroom since she'd been allowed in ICU after Callen's lengthy surgery. He'd brought her more than one meal, though at the most she only seemed to eat half of it, but at least that was something.

"I don't know how you keep doing this Sam," Jessie whispered ignoring his comment. "You've been his partner so much longer than I've been around. How? There's been so many times I've been by his bedside these last few years not to mention all the times I've worried you two weren't coming home. So help me when he wakes up -" The sob stole her words and shook her body.

"You'll what Jessie?" Sam rubbed her back gently with the faintest of hope that it would comfort her. "Ask him to retire?"

Jessie didn't have a chance to respond before multiple machines that were attached to Callen started screeching. The automatic door slid open at the first sound and within moments the room was flooded with staff. Sam pulled Jessie back from the bed quickly. He kicked the seat she had been sitting on to the wall as well, to make room for the doctors and nurses.

"G! Don't! Please," Jessie begged from where Sam held her tight to keep her out of the way. He knew how much she would want to be there working alongside the other doctors, fighting for the man she loved. But that wasn't her place, not this time.

"Jessie," Sam urged, his mouth close to her ear so she could hear him over the noises of the machines and the staff. "Let them do their thing. You know them. Trust them."

Within moments the team of doctors and nurses had Callen's bed moving and were racing it, and him, out the door. Sam had caught brief words that he understood among the rest of the medical jargon. Internal bleeding, hemorrhaging, pulse thready, heart weak. Words that ripped his heart apart as he held a shaking Jessie tight in his arms. Whether the shaking was from her trying to break free from his hold or to keep herself from falling apart, Sam couldn't be sure. He suspected a mix of both especially since she would've understood so much more than he had of the words that had been shouted.

As the door slid closed behind Callen, a cry ripped through Jessie and Sam felt her body start to collapse. Sam kept his hold firm and slid them both to the floor. Jessie's body shook with the force of her crying and she buried her head against Sam's chest. Tears came to Sam's eyes. He didn't bother to fight them. His friend, his brother, was most likely dying and there wasn't a thing he could do to stop it. Nothing but hope. Something Sam was struggling to find a shred of. And from Jessie's reactions, she felt the same.

"Jessie," Sam said, his usual gruff voice soft and filled with pain even his own ears could hear.

"How Sam?" Jessie cried.

"He's my partner. What else am I supposed to do?" There was nothing Sam wouldn't do for Callen. No limit to how many times he'd fight for him, be by his side willing him to get better. No matter how much it ripped Sam apart and it had, more than once.

"It hurts," Jessie whispered. The pain so clear and strong in her voice that Sam had no doubt this was tearing her apart way more than it was him.

"I know," Sam whispered back, his thumb stroking her back in a similar way he did for Kamran when she was distressed or upset, hoping it would have a similar effect. "Don't give up on him please Jessie."

Jessie shook her head against his chest. "I won't. He's a part of me. I can't. I just don't know what else I can do."

"Stick by him through everything," Sam said, though he knew the words weren't advice. He was simply reminding her what she did. She'd stood by Callen and fought for him since she'd arrived at the office; essentially thrown into the lion's den as a replacement for Nate with a team of the most closed off people who didn't like to talk, especially to a psychiatrist, that Sam had ever worked with. "That's all we can do," he added.

Sam wished with everything in him that there was more they could do. But there wasn't. Nothing other than to hope and pray. Everything now was up to Callen and the team of doctors.

"I know," Jessie said quietly, "but I wish it was a bullet."

Sam's hand stilled on Jessie's back at her words. "What?"

Jessie lifted her head and looked at Sam. Tears still filled her eyes even though the sobs had eased, the pain still clear in them behind the shine. "He knows what he's doing with those," Jessie said to him. "And he has a damn good track record for beating them and you know it Sam. But a car accident?" She shook her head. "Like this? How does he fight that?"

Sam sighed. He knew where Jessie was coming from. Callen did have a lot of luck surviving bullets.

"With everything he's got," Sam said. "And you know as well as I do that that's a lot. He'll be fighting. Fighting to win and to come back to you." And with those words of reassurance for her, a glimmer of hope grew in Sam because he knew how important Jessie was to Callen.

"I hope so. I can't lose him too. I'm not sure I could survive it."

Jessie's head dropped down to Sam's shoulder and he tightened his arms around her. Callen and Jessie had been through a lot over the last few years. It had taken his stubborn partner a while to stop fighting and actually let Jessie in, let her love him. At one point Janvier had almost destroyed that but they'd fought through and came out stronger though Sam still remembered the weeks of wondering if Callen and Jessie would survive it. In the end she'd been strong and brave enough to accept the, now very personal, reality of the danger that came with being involved with Callen. But their last heartache was still new and raw. Sam worried that her comment wasn't just words. An unexpected, though welcomed, pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage at four and a half months, barely a couple of months ago. The bond between Callen and Jessie was obvious to Sam. He'd watched over the years their relationship blossom and shift deeper, watched them fight together, side by side through everything, even when it hurt, and not give up on one another. It was something Sam had almost resigned himself to never seeing with his partner until Jessie had shown up and he'd witnessed the way she'd won Callen's trust and friendship and then more.

Sam dropped his head back against the wall and sent up a prayer to whoever might be watching over Callen. His partner finally had a life that didn't revolve around the next mission, had a woman who loved him with everything that she had. Someone he loved in return the same way, letting her all the way in beyond the fortified walls Callen kept around his heart. Sam prayed with everything he had that Callen would make it and have a chance to enjoy this life that he loved, with the woman he loved.


The voice beside him was unexpected, unknown, yet there was a touch of familiarity to it. Callen opened his eyes and turned his head to see who it was. He frowned. "Mom?" She smiled, though there was more than a hint of sadness to it.

Callen glanced around, confused, and took in his surroundings. He was looking down into a hospital room. His focus settled on the body on the bed surrounded by doctors and nurses frantically working.

On him.

It was his body lying there.

Suddenly the bed shifted, orders were shouted and Callen watched as his body was wheeled out the door.

"What's going on?" he asked. The door slid closed, almost silently between him and his body, and he turned to face his mother again. Her face familiar even though it had been so long since he'd seen more than a photograph of her.

"You have to fight," she told him.

"I am." At least Callen thought he was but then he wasn't quite sure what was happening right now.

"Then fight harder," his mother demanded of him, "or you'll leave her alone."


Callen turned in the direction his mother pointed. His gaze landed on the only two people left in the room.

His partner Sam.

And Jessie.

His Jessie.

The woman who had found her way into his heart with a hell of a lot of patience, love and gentleness. The one who had made his life so much more fulfilling than he'd thought he would ever have, or that he felt he deserved.

Sam's arms were around Jessie where they sat of the floor, Sam's back against the wall. Jessie was crying into Sam's chest, her hair covered her face. It was the one sound that always ripped Callen apart and made his heart hurt. He'd never liked it when she cried. When Jessie cried it meant her heart was hurting - badly. And he hated that more than anything else because it was the one thing he couldn't fix for her. Injuries, cuts, illness. Those he could work with. He simply did what she told him she needed because being a doctor she knew what had to be done. Hell, he'd even stitch her up if he needed to and given how much he disliked needles that was saying something. Thankfully he hadn't had to do that yet.

Callen lifted his gaze from Jessie to Sam's face and a sliver of fear ran up his spine. So was Sam. At least there were tears falling down Sam's cheeks. Sam crying made it even more clear to Callen that things were very bad indeed.

"Don't leave her alone," his mother said. Callen could tell she was closer but couldn't pull his eyes from where Sam and Jessie were.

"She won't be alone." Callen's heart ached at the thought of leaving her but he knew she'd be taken care of. "Sam'll make sure she's not." So would the rest of the team.

Because that's what family did.

Callen felt a familiar hand on his arm and looked down. He was amazed that he recognised his mother touch after so long.

"She'll be missing half her heart and soul Grisha." There was a sadness to his mother's voice, one that hinted she'd experienced that kind of heart ache. "That's not something I would wish on anyone. That is something very hard to recover from." Callen wondered how long his mother and father had been apart before she died. Perhaps one day he would find answers, that is if this wasn't the end.

"You have to fight harder," his mother implored him.

"How?" Callen turned back to Jessie, her body still shaking as it was held safely in his partner's arms. He wanted to reach out, tell her everything would be okay, be the one holding her but he wasn't sure that was the case. He was having an out of body experience and that in itself told him things weren't okay.

"Fight," his mother demanded. "With everything you have. Your life and your future, and hers, depend on it."

Callen tried to remember what happened. Why was he here in the hospital yet again? A trickle of memory started and more followed. There had been screams then a crash that had pulled his attention to the side of his car. Bright lights and then the pain.

A truck.

Instinctively he'd floored the accelerator the moment he'd seen the truck but there hadn't been enough time. It was already out of control and so close to him. Everything had then happened in slow motion The truck had slammed into his side of the car and sent it tumbling through the air. He didn't remember it coming to a stop. In fact he didn't remember anything in between then and now.

A truck.

A stupid accident.

Callen shook his head and determination flared in him.

No. No if something was going to take him from Jessie it had to be a hell of a lot bigger than a truck. He wasn't giving up. He wouldn't give her up. Not now. Not ever, at least not while there was breath in his body and a heart to beat in his chest.

"Hold on Jessie," Callen whispered. He didn't know if she would hear but he hoped somehow she would, even if it was only in her heart. "Hold on."

The room, Jessie, Sam and his mother suddenly disappeared and then he felt. Like he never had before.

The pain took his breath away briefly before he dragged in another one. Parts of him felt like they were on fire and he heard so many voices and noises. Yet, even though every damn part of his body hurt, he was happy.

Feeling meant he was still alive and fighting.

Feeling meant there was still hope.

Hold on.

The message repeated in his head, not just for Jessie but for himself too. All he had to do was hold on for just a little bit longer, then a bit longer still and he'd make it through. He would see her smile again, watch her eyes sparkle in amusement, darken with passion. Hold her in his arms and be able to tell her that everything would be okay. Finish her Christmas list and do so many more things that they'd yet to do together along with the many things he loved to do with her.

They just had to keep holding on and not let go.

And that was something they were very good at doing with each other.