Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Author's Note: First of all I'd like to remind you that this is no love story or whatsoever. And to be very, very honest, I struggled some time with this chapter. Simply because Mr. Callen got himself in trouble and is temporarily out of action. Because of that, I found this chapter perhaps a bit too boring, but in the end it was needed! And then there's this: working my way through what may go on in hospitals took some time as well. So please don't be bothered with it if I made some annoying mistakes…
And as ever, thank you so much Teresa, Wotumba and CH, for reading and reviewing.
So here he was, sitting with his best friend, whereas it should be Anna who should be holding his hands.
Los Angeles || Sherman Oaks Hospital || 08:50 PM
Then Sam remembered how the first aid said something about a set of cellphones Callen had carried with him and he suddenly was more optimistic. Of course his friend found a way to stay in touch with his fiancée. He took the bag and quietly left the room, though he knew he wouldn't disturb Callen at all. Making phone calls in the Intensive Care units still was not allowed.
With a soft smile he took both Callen's phones. The cellphone issued by their employer and a burn phone. A wise decision, of course, of his friend.
He found a quiet spot and let his thumb go over the round scroll button. No last used numbers, no calls received either. Then he came to the contacts. 'Bingo', he thought when he saw the four letter word: home.
A quick glance at his watch showed that this still was a decent hour left to make a call. That was, if Anna stayed in about the same time zone, which he didn't know for sure. He hummed, inhaled and pressed the button.
The phone rang four times until it was answered.
He shook his head. "No. It's Sam."
There was an awkward silence on the other side and so he said "Anna?"
"This is not Anna speaking, but ehm, Ellie."
Sam understood. "Elisabeth."
There was another moment of silence. "I want you to give me your phone number."
"Elisabeth," he said as patiently as possible. "This is my partner's phone and I didn't expect you to answer this phone."
"I can't help you."
She ended the phone call after this short message before Sam could explain anything. And although that surprised him, he actually he did admire the choice to do so too. He was curious about the woman, but at this very moment he tried to reach Anna to inform her.
Sam took his own phone and hesitated a short moment, then called their former boss. First and above all because she should know too that Callen, her protégé, was hospitalized. Secondly, Sam assumed Hetty may somehow know of Anna's whereabouts.
Before he even got the chance to introduce himself, explain and ask; Henrietta Lange answered the phone with a "How bad this time, Sam?"
For a second or so Sam was dumbfounded. How could Hetty have heard anything already? And so he assumed she did some kind of deduction. True, when was the last time Sam made a spontaneous call to Hetty? Never at this time of the day anyway.
Then he allowed himself to smile; he had been blocking and ignoring all the sounds that belonged to a hospital, which Hetty probably caught immediately.
"Hetty... Callen should be okay, they say. He's still at an ICU though here in Sherman Oaks, with a head wound they're observing. He's been stabbed too, so yeah I'd say he's seriously wounded but not critically at all. I figured Anna needs to know, but I can't reach her. So I thought perhaps you had another way to contact her."
"But of course mister Hanna, I'll take care of that."
For the better listener worry crept in her voice when she said "Sam, do keep me informed of his condition. Is he... are you out of the woods as well?"
Sam doubted for a moment how to respond, and decided to be as honest as he could be. "For now I figure he is. Could be — nah, I'm pretty sure that he made some new enemies. Nothing that we won't be able to deal with, though."
While he was speaking, he heard another incoming call, so he said "Hetty, gotta go, got another caller waiting."
"Please do inform me, you know, if anything changes, Sam."
Not the usual way he used to have a conversation with the veteran spy who used to be their former operation manager. "I will. Give me a call if you contacted Anna."
Then he hung up, only to see an unknown number light up in his screen.
He answered the call with a polite but anonymous "Hello?"
"Is this Sam Hanna speaking?"
Sam hummed positively, concentrated on the voice and said "Elisabeth. Ellie... yes, this is Sam Hanna indeed. We just called, with a different phone."
He heard her inhale as if she now understood. "Okay. He... agent Callen told me to contact you in case anyone tried to reach me by that cellphone. 'Cause no-one but him knew." There was a longer pause. "You... if he's not in a position, uhm... is he—"
She didn't have to finish her question.
"He's hospitalized. As a matter of fact, I'm with him at the moment."
Sam wondered why he'd feel comfortable enough to share this with someone who was practically unknown to him. Still, it felt okay. "He's supposed to be alright. Since I found this phone I'd hoped to contact—"
"His girlfriend." She finished his line.
"Indeed." Sam said. He paused a few seconds to find the right words. "Listen, are you still in a safe place or has Callen given you directions what to do next?"
"He left me your number. Just in case that… To make a call if some unknown person would call me, or came at the door. And if he wasn't going call me, I knew you were the one to call." Her voice was calm and Sam never heard uncertainty in it. "Which would be tomorrow morning, since I need new medication and a medical check-up."
In Sam's opinion this was a typical Callen move, to make sure there'd be a Plan B, especially for those people he'd feel responsible for. This woman was one of them. Not because his friend thought she was a weak person, but because she still was in danger and she needed to stay safe.
He wasn't sure how and if he was able to help her and so he said "Let's keep in touch. For your information, our team arrested Poliakoff."
He literally heard her sigh.
"That's good news, I know. Listen, like I just said, I'll get back to you as soon as I can and I'll let you know more, about G and this Romanian gang that hunted you."
"Callen," Sam corrected. "Try and get some rest and stay low."
Sam was already intending to end the call when she said " He said the same, you know. That I should rest, stay unseen."
"I know. He's a good guy, Elisabeth."
Impossible. Just like Callen it was as if she needed to have the last word, and somehow she never agreed with him, but managed to change the subject. Of course she didn't see how deep dimples appeared on Sam's face when he smiled, then greeted "Bye, Ellie".
He then heaved a deep sigh, put this second phone back in the bag since he'd saved the number of the last caller in his own phone by now. He tucked this one in his own pocket, took a magazine and went back in the room to sit with his friend. He hardly ever took the time to relax in a way like this and knowing situations may change every single moment, Sam stretched his legs and leafed through several articles without really reading it.
He probably dozed off for a moment since he was startled by a soft moan and the rustle of fabric. He checked the time, at 11:20 PM nearly two hours had passed. The way his friend became restless was either a sign of his situation that deteriorated or that Callen was waking up. Either way, Sam pressed the alarm button and within a minute two nurses came in.
Sam explained why he warned them and while one of the nurses started to check Callen's drips, the other took a small penlight from her pocket and carefully opened one eyelid to check how his pupils reacted. This was repeated with the other eye and after some humming noises only she made some notes on the chart she took from the cassette next to the entrance. Her colleague had taken a thermometer and inserted it in Callen's ear until it beeped. She mentioned numbers and with the little experience Sam had, he understood she meant the amount left to enter the IV and the pace it entered, followed by temperature.
The nurse who wrote down all stats then addressed Sam. "All what's to be expected. His responses are good, which is positive. The fact that he became more restless is probably because he's running a light fever. It may be caused by an inflammation. We'll check the wounds, see how they look." She shrugged a bit and added "Meanwhile we should change the dressings too."
"I get that," Sam answered.
The nurse put the paperwork back in its holder, stepped back to the bed and removed the comforter, and together they rolled the patient on his right side so that the wounds could be checked.
Sam looked away, not that he was prude but he was more or less feeling annoyed now Callen's battered body was exposed. The hideous hospital gown wasn't covering the back. He knew his friend would feel extra vulnerable if he only knew.
The nurses worked in unison and Sam felt he was intruding so he left the room.
He was about to sit down when he heard his name being called.
Sam smiled at the small woman who just entered, her eyes red-rimmed and while he shook his head seeing this, he said "Nell... I didn't expect to see you in here anymore."
He swallowed back the words that nearly came automatically 'you don't have to behave like Hetty in a case like this', or any other remark. He just couldn't because he noticed how she already was on the verge of bursting into tears. This was not the time to ask anything or question her about what made them decide to execute with a mission like this one. Sam stepped closer to her and held her for a moment until he felt she relaxed a little.
She looked up at him, focusing on what she thought what his thoughts were. "You don't appreciate what I arranged."
He forced a smile. "Nell... it wasn't you alone. Vance pulled some strings too, I know."
"And Callen. I mean, he planned this all out, expecting that once one pawn started panicking all kind of systems were set in move."
She looked up and Sam noticed there was a hint of admiration in her hazel eyes for everything Callen managed. "It worked, Sam. I've contacted director Vance, the deputy DOJ and Europol. Right now, it's dominoes falling, everywhere in the States and even as far as in Europe. With bluff poker, like Callen initiated."
Then, tears took the real overhand and she angrily wiped her hand over her eyes.
Sam let her, knowing it was also a way to lose some adrenaline.
Still, sobbing and sniffing, she continued "But never at all cost. This is not what I expected and I never forgive myself if —"
She bit her lip, keeping it from quivering and desperately tried to get back in control.
Sam gently let his hand rest on her shoulder in a comforting way. "Nell... he'll be alright."
She nodded and slowly caught her breath again. Then Nell carefully chose her words. "Sam... I don't want this. I mean, I'm not — You all need, we all need Hetty, or Rogers, or someone suitable. Not Nell Jones, information analyst. This is far from the real me".
This was not the place or time to talk over things like this, but it made Sam think back of the conversation he'd had with Callen earlier that day, actually only hours before. How the team ought to be shaped was something he didn't actually want to think of right now, but fact was that they'd need a whole new equilibrium.
"Nell, listen. I get your feelings are all messed up right now, although I don't see why. There wasn't anything you did wrong or should've reconsidered. You and I know both that agents are exchangeable. If necessary, we offer our lives all for the good course, and there'd be nothing you could change. So, just reconsider. Sleep on it."
He chuckled softly when he said in the most Hetty-like voice "And sleep you need, miss Jones."
He more or less sent her away and shook his head on the reaction of the young colleague, then heaved a deep sigh. How would they really form a team without a team captain? Sam really didn't know, but he had a whole night to think of any possible way.
There's a battle ahead
Many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road
While you're travelling with me
Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win
[Crowded House – don't dream it's over]