Sam had lost count of the number of times over the years he had made the drive to or from Camp Pendleton. He felt sure he could have driven the route blindfolded, and perhaps that was just as well, for on the return to LA from Hetty's new beach house, only a short distance from the Camp, he spent more time with his eyes on Callen than on the road in front of him. After the past couple of days, he found it hard to believe Callen was there, actually there in the car, next to him. A little banged up, but alive. Sam silently thanked every God he could think of that they'd got Callen back before Janvier had been able to do him too much harm, and now, spurred on by the thought of the doctor waiting to see them, he drove quickly with only half his eyes and thoughts on the road, the other half on the man sleeping in the passenger seat. He hadn't been able to miss how his friend had limped out to the car barely able to take his own weight on his injured leg, and once Callen had painfully eased himself into the Challenger, Sam made an excuse to go back to the house so that he could talk to Deeks privately.
"When you say you 'patched him up'…?" Sam began.
"Yeah, don't start," Deeks held his hands up defensively. "You have no idea how difficult he is to help… Well, maybe you do. I did my best. I had to threaten to ring Hetty to persuade him he needed to get out of the wet clothes he was wearing! He's had a shower of sorts... like I say, I did my best. He's got a bullet wound to the thigh he eventually let me stick back together with plasters and a bandage, but Sam, it needs stitches, don't let him tell you it doesn't. If he moves too much, it starts bleeding again. And he's got some hellish bruising below his ribs. God knows what Janvier did to him… his arm and hand are a mess. Oh, and he's come close to passing out a couple of times."
"Great," Sam sighed. "Thanks, Deeks." Deeks clapped his hand sympathetically to Sam's shoulder, but there was hesitation still in his manner.
"What is it?" Sam probed apprehensively, dreading what more Deeks could be holding back.
"It's… I mean, wow, I don't know all the ins and outs, you know what he's like, he's not talking…"
"Spit it out, Deeks."
"Joelle. She's dead." Deeks watched Sam's expression change through a variety of emotions, ending with a grim look as he processed how this news would affect his partner. "From what I gather, she was helping Janvier because he had her family…"
"Nick and Peter," Sam said with comprehension. Deeks nodded, and made an ushering motion to send Sam back to Callen and his car.
"Take care of him," he said lightly, and then in a more solemn tone he added, "And be safe, okay? If Janvier could get to Callen…" Sam nodded soberly.
Oblivious to Sam's concern, or at least doing his best to ignore it, Callen dozed for most of the return journey. And though Sam was relieved that Callen was getting some clearly much needed rest, it did little to alleviate his overall anxiety. Callen wasn't exactly well known for taking mid-day naps. Sam also had to tamp down on his own impatience: he wanted to know exactly what had happened, how Janvier had got hold of Callen, what he had done to him, how Callen had escaped. Where Janvier was now, and what he was planning. The drive, less than two hours on an average day, and much quicker with the urgency propelling Sam now, nonetheless seemed to take forever. The dragging sound of silence, punctuated only by occasional muted whimpers from Callen as he shifted uncomfortably in his sleep, didn't help.
As they finally navigated the outskirts of Los Angeles, Callen woke up and Sam watched him observe the familiar streets with a kind of disjointed and faintly intrigued detachment.
"Wasn't sure I'd see LA again," Callen admitted when he realised Sam was watching him curiously. Silently, doing his best to comprehend horrors he probably would never fully know of what Callen had suffered over the past few days, Sam pulled up in a residential street a couple of miles from the boatshed. "What are we stopping here for?" Callen asked suspiciously.
"Just a precaution," Sam responded. He got out of his distinctive black car and moved quickly round to the passenger side to open Callen's door for him. He wasn't sure he kept the surprise from his face when Callen made no fuss, and even reached out for Sam's arm to ease himself out. Sam made an effort not to make a big deal of it as he helped Callen hobble carefully to a car across the street.
"What, you just happen to keep spare cars lying around LA now?" Callen raised his eyebrows.
"Well, you know…" Sam paused, and felt as though he could almost see some of the weight he'd been carrying guiltily around the past few months lift off his shoulders as he slipped back into the comfortable routine of bantering with his partner. It had been a long time. "I learned from the best," he winked.
Ducking his head in appreciation, Callen eased himself into the new car, a non-descript silver SUV.
"That you did… This one got a name?"
"Yeah… Andy the Ambulance."
"Right," Callen sighed. The two were silent as Sam drove the final stretch of the journey to the boatshed. Sam pulled up and killed the engine, and sat still for a moment, gazing at his partner intently.
"G… Let this doctor of Deeks' help you. Please? I can see you're hurting…"
Callen rubbed his good hand over his face as he sought for a reply to Sam's plea, but he was saved from responding by Kensi rushing out to greet them.
"Callen!" Tears formed unexpectedly in her eyes and she blinked them away as she opened his door. "There's a doctor inside… she says Deeks sent her? For you? How badly did he hurt you?" Just like Sam had earlier, Kensi scanned him up and down, and with embarrassment Callen tried to shrug away the unwanted attention, but even though he'd started to slip his injured hand uncomfortably inside his jacket to hide it, she had already noticed. "Oh my god," she whispered, wide-eyed and still pale with partially dissipated shock from the morning's events.
"Come on Kens, give the guy some room," Sam said gently, nudging her out of the way as he came round once again to lend a hand to Callen. Kensi nodded, holding the car door wide. With reluctance, Callen allowed himself to be helped out of the SUV and into the boatshed.
Inside the boatshed, Callen averted his eyes from the unknown woman sat at the table talking politely with Connor, and Sam helped him across to the couch. He cursed the warm feeling of blood once again on his thigh as he carefully sat down. There was no chance at all he'd be allowed to simply lick his wounds in peace, and in any case there wasn't time. He needed the doctor to do her thing, patch him up quickly, so that he could get back to hunting down Janvier and the stolen hard drive. It was the only reason he had agreed to Deeks' plea to get the woman involved.
"Agent Callen?" He looked up. The woman was standing, had crossed the short distance to the couch, and she greeted him gently as she looked him up and down appraisingly. "I'm Dr Laura Andrews, I'm a friend of Marty… err, Deeks. He said you could use my help, and I can see that he was right…"
"We'll give you some privacy." Worried sick by what she had seen, Kensi had followed anxiously into the boat shed close behind Callen and Sam, but she knew Callen wouldn't want a fuss now. "Come on Connor, let's wait outside… Sam?"
"I'm staying," Sam said gruffly, eyes on his partner. Callen didn't have the energy to argue what he knew would be a lost cause, and assented with the merest fraction of a nod. Kensi dropped a hand to squeeze Callen's shoulder in a mixture of concern and sympathy as she made to leave, and the corners of his mouth lifted in a ghost of a smile that didn't reach his eyes in response. There was a moment of utter stillness after Sam closed the door behind the two of them, the bang sounding loud in the heavy silence.
"You wanna tell us what happened, G?" Sam demanded gently, sitting down on a chair next to the couch with his elbows on his knees as he leant earnestly forwards towards his friend, a mirror of the doctor in the chair next to him.
"Does it matter?" Callen answered unenthusiastically. He was reluctant to relive any part of the ordeal.
"Maybe just give us the highlights," Dr Laura intervened. She was an ex-police doctor, not easily rattled.
"How do you know Deeks?" Callen asked.
"Ah, Deeks…" she smiled at him, and Callen knew instantly his attempt at deflection wasn't going to wash with her. "I worked with him… many years ago. We kept in touch. He's called in a favour now and then." She paused. "I still need to know what happened… Where are you injured? Deeks said you were having some troubles staying conscious - that's a nasty head wound you've got."
Callen sighed. Clearly Deeks had said too damn much… but he did the need the doctor to sign him off, so he decided it was best to cooperate.
"I got kidnapped…" It sounded ridiculous. "I got knocked out, taken to a ship. Kept tied up for a couple of days, while my captor sought revenge for a spot of bother I caused him a few years back…" He gestured to his right arm, falling silent as he hoped he'd said enough.
"You're limping," Sam said pointedly.
"Oh yeah. He shot my leg a little bit too."
"The gunshot on the video!" Sam exclaimed with sudden angry comprehension.
"Yeah, well… He saw me signing to you guys. Didn't please him too much," Callen said with another sigh. "He aimed for my hands… got my leg instead, thankfully."
Moving her hands towards Callen's head, silently asking his permission with her eyes as they talked, Dr Laura began to examine his head wound. "Food, water?" She enquired.
"No food. Some water."
"And what about since you've been free? Have you had anything to eat or drink since then?"
Sam felt guilty that he hadn't even considered that Callen's weakness could have been down to simple malnourishment for getting on three days. He rose and crossed to the fridge, returning with a bottle of water from which he removed the top, and placed it in Callen's left hand.
"Drink," he said gruffly, and somewhat to his amazement Callen obeyed, eying Sam over the bottle as he did so.
"What about food?" The doctor pressed.
"Some… Not much," Callen admitted, wincing as Dr Laura cleaned his head and applied two neat butterfly strips to close the wound. 'Not much' consisted of half a sandwich Deeks had made for him but which his stomach had rebelled against, and a tootsie-pop. Probably not quite what the doctor or Sam had in mind, but he couldn't face the thought of trying to eat anything again at the moment for fear of it not staying down.
"Little and often," the doctor said briskly. "Keep up the fluids…" She nodded to the half full water bottle Callen had set aside. "Now, we'll have to have a look at that hand… and your leg is bleeding."
Callen looked down from where he held his hand protectively against his body to see that once again blood was seeping right through the jeans he wore, and he cursed under his breath. Hetty was not going to be pleased he had bled over two pairs from her spare wardrobe.
"It needs stitching," Sam said, remembering what Deeks had told him.
"Marty told me," Dr Laura agreed, reaching for her kit bag. "Better sort that first." Without speaking, Callen stood up and fumbled with one hand to undo his belt and jeans. Hiding his embarrassment, he allowed the doctor to pull his jeans down to his knees before sitting back down on the couch. "I think you'd better lie down," Dr Laura advised and though he pressed his lips together with irritation, Callen did so. Sam noted how he was extra careful to keep his right arm away from the back of the couch as he positioned himself with his left leg nearest the doctor. Callen was never one to admit to pain, but it was abundantly clear he was still in a lot of it.
"Just a graze," he stated dismissively as Dr Laura unwound the bandage Deeks had applied and peeled back the bloodied dressing underneath. The doctor let out a breath that was close to a whistle as she looked at the wound.
"It's a little more than a graze," she informed him, cleaning it up. "Let's pop some local in there, shall we?" Before Callen had a chance to protest she administered the anaesthetic smoothly, and began to give the wound a more thorough clean. "A few days old…? No signs of infection though, that's good."
"Yeah, well, salt water will do that," Callen said resignedly.
"Salt water…?" Dr Laura echoed questioningly.
"Jumped ship, swam to shore," Callen answered through a grimace of pain. This time it was Sam's turn to whistle. He hadn't really considered exactly how Callen had got free – he'd just been glad he had got free.
"And then walked all the way to Hetty's beach house? With those injuries?" Sam raised his eyebrows. "No wonder you're exhausted. You need to stay in bed for a week!" He was only half joking, the concern evident in his voice.
"It seemed a better option than hanging around to be beaten or blown up," Callen explained, and the doctor gave a little laugh of amusement.
"Fair enough," she replied. "Let's get this stitched up, and then we'll look at your hand."
"Can't wait," Callen sighed.
Author's Note: I owe you all an apology for keeping you hanging SO long. Unfortunately technology and I have fallen out... my hard drive with all my writing on died #sobs
I have the bulk of this story printed out (THANK GOODNESS) albeit needing to be pieced together from various edits, but there is a chunk in the middle that I'm having to re-write sadly. Unfortunately this is taking aaaaages as I don't really have much spare time! Bear in mind I started writing this in 2019... it is a mammoth piece of work. I will do my best to continue to update regularly but I don't want to rush and find I've missed bits or done a bad job of proof reading as I put it back together. I wanted to post another chapter to reassure you all it is a complete story, I will not leave it hanging, and I hope you will all stick with it (and me) xx