Hetty hated how familiar this scenario was starting to feel. She stood in the waiting room buffeted by all the flurry of medical staff, like a ragged flag on an enemy's war field. She had missed the opportunity to talk to Callen about his illness and here it was asserting its presence, forcing her to evaluate her priorities. She was dull to the pain and to the foreboding of losing Callen. She had imagined her life without him so many times; times when he didn't know she existed. That picture scared her. Thoughts of Clara, the list of foster homes, the nights spent bailing him out of jail, watching him join NCIS, his discovery of his Romanian heritage and his kamikaze mission to save her in Romania, rolled over and over in her mind like an old black and white movie show. She could have done things differently. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It may have changed things, then on the other hand, it might have made no difference at all. Hetty let out a sigh and pulled herself together…rose colored glasses weren't an option.
"How bad?" A deep masculine authoritative voice broke her reverie. She jolted back to reality. "Hetty –"
Hetty swallowed slowly composing herself and trying to find her voice, "I don't know. I haven't heard anything as yet," she said avoiding the intense stare coming from Sam.
"He was ok when I left. He looked tired but ok. If I had seen anything Hetty, I would've called him on it. I would have stayed," said a contrite Sam.
"Not your fault Mr. Hanna. This rests on my shoulders alone. I should have told him and not let him dictate the terms. Let's hope it's not too late. Any word of the developments in Miami?" she said changing the subject. However her tone didn't change. There was a deep sadness there. There was no point harping on the blame game. Their closed investigation had been suddenly ripped open.
"Not much. Kensi is still waiting on the results from the interrogation of the 6 Islamic youths and their leaders. Meanwhile Eric and Nell are searching for any known links between the group we arrested and the one in Miami," Sam informed Hetty.
"Did you tell them about Mr. Callen?" she said quietly.
"No. I figured they had enough on their plate. Once we find out then…" He looked down at his small but fierce boss. Suddenly she didn't look so fierce. She resembled a desperate mother waiting anxiously for news on her son. He placed his strong arm around her shoulders and drew her close. He felt her tremble at the touch. "Hetty, come and sit down. I'll get us a cup of tea."
"No, no I am fine," she whispered unconvincingly.
Sam smiled gently, "Please do it for me." She looked up at him. Knowing Sam the way she did, she nodded kindly without saying a word and gave in.
Hours passed. Hetty and Sam remained sitting together while waiting for news on Callen. Neither said anything, they didn't feel they needed to. There was only one thought coursing through Sam's mind; the longer the wait, the more serious the prognosis. It was then Dr. Taylor approached the pair, "Hetty…Agent Hanna. May I?" he motioned to the chair opposite them. Sam nodded, as did Hetty.
"Sorry it took so long but with Mr. Callen's history we had to run a myriad of tests. Most of them took a while to process. We needed to be thorough," explained Dr. Taylor not looking particularly distressed.
"So? How's G?" asked an anxious Sam, as Hetty placed a hand on his knee.
"Mr. Callen's collapse was due to exhaustion, low blood pressure and dehydration - nothing menacing. His palette count is no worse than before, which considering what he's had to endure the last few weeks, is remarkable." Suddenly Dr. Taylor saw Hetty and Sam transform in front of him. They were thankful and happy. Sam had to struggle to hold back the tears. "I take it you're relieved then?" he smiled.
"Oh you don't know the half of it Dr. Taylor. Where do we go from here?" asked Hetty.
"He needs a couple of days in hospital for observation. We need to get his body well enough for it to start functioning normally again, so that means rest and plenty of it. We rehydrate him and bump up his immune system. No excuses this time. No special world saving missions, or early discharge…nothing. I will chain him to the bed if I have to. Then it's weekly checkups until I'm satisfied. He knows this already."
"G's conscious?…He's awake?" asked a surprised Sam, dying to see his partner.
"Yes he is and quite lucid. We've discussed his condition, the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia and he took if fairly well. He was curious as to the effects and the treatments and whether or not he could continue working…which was quite interesting. Says a lot about the man," explained Dr. Taylor sporting a wry smile.
"Yes, yes it does. So he was ok with it?" asked Sam surprised.
Smiling, Dr. Taylor shook his head, "No I didn't say that. He took it well but I wouldn't venture to say he's ok with it. This is where you all come in. He doesn't want a hospital appointed psychologist…heck he doesn't want one at all. But Callen needs to talk about his condition and the effects it's going to have on his life. If you can't get him to open up he will find it difficult and this inability to cope will be detrimental to his ongoing treatment."
"Good to see some things don't change. He is stubborn as always. There is someone who can help…I just need to find him and fly him in. I will make sure he speaks to a professional. Thank you Dr. Taylor. May we see him?" asked Hetty, making it sound more like an order than a request.
"Of course. This way."
Back at OPS
"Agent Blye, I need to get in touch with Hetty urgently. She isn't answering her cell," demanded Director Vance via the Sat link.
"She's…I don't know where she is," responded Kensi trying to remain cool under the dominant stare of Vance.
He looked murderous but proceeded nevertheless. "With the intel provided to the Miami branch by Mr. Beale and Miss Jones, we managed to come up with a common denominator…a certain Brenko. The team has him in custody awaiting questioning," explained a tense and abrupt Vance.
"You have Brenko…Mikhail Brenko? Are you sure?" asked Deeks feeling somewhat braver than Kensi.
"Mr. Deeks the man they have in custody matches the prints and the visual recognition that was supplied to us by your intel team. So the answer is yes. I'm going to speak to him soon and I would appreciate that you use all your technological might to locate Miss Lange…immediately." Vance ended the conversation and the visual link by his usual cut-throat gesture.
"Man he can be an asshole," said Eric silently spinning on his chair.
Nell shrugged her shoulders, "I suppose that's why he so good at his job."
"Maybe…but we need to find Hetty ASAP…Eric?" said a disconcerted Kensi walking around nervously.
"Initiating GPS as we speak…ok…narrowing….narrowing….got it. She's at the hospital. Why?" asked Eric looking at Kensi and Deeks.
"Oh that's right, she was going to take Callen for a check up. If her cell's off, use the emergency pager," said Kensi hoping this nightmare would finally end.
Callen saw them enter his room and he could see how worried and frightened they were, so he smiled and pulled himself up straighter; looking braver than he felt. His body protested but he fought the fatigue. "So back here again. They should name a wing after me," he said trying to lighten the mood.
"Not funny G. Good news though…Doc said you're ok. But you have to stop scaring us like this?" said Sam moving closer to Callen's bed.
"Sorry…" Callen mumbled feeling incredibly uncomfortable as he saw Hetty.
Hetty had previously stood at a distance but now she moved closer to the bed and grabbed Callen's hand. Her face was unreadable; it wasn't gentle yet there was a hint of emotion, which one he wasn't sure. Callen responded in kind, scowling in confusion. "Mr. Callen you gave me an incredible reminder of our mortality today. I don't ever want to live through that again. I thought you dead and I'm not ready to lose you yet, not by a long shot." Her hand gripped tighter and her voice became sterner, "You will do as the doctor says. You will remain here until he is confident that you may be discharged and you will not coerce, threaten, bribe or charm your way out. Am I clear Mr. G. Callen?"
Callen cocked an eyebrow and smirked, "Absolutely crystal clear. I will behave I promise."
"Good and as to the other matter of the leukemia…we will need to talk about that when you are ready. I'll be calling Nate." Suddenly Callen's eyes shot to Sam.
Sam smiled lifting his hands in appeasement, "It's ok G…Hetty told me."
Callen wasn't happy as he looked at Hetty, "Does confidential mean anything to you Hetty? You had no right."
Hetty took a moment and ran her aged hand down Callen's face cupping his cheek, "You need to learn to trust. You need to learn to let people care about you. You need to understand how important you are to us all. You are not a hindrance, you are neither a burden nor a nuisance that we tolerate. Let us love you Mr. Callen, accept it and stop fighting it…please. I had to tell Mr. Hanna. I had no option…we are family after all." Then she let her hand slide to his hand. Sam just smiled. He could see that Callen was doomed.
Callen found it hard to maintain his composure. His eyes welled with tears and a few escaped their prison. Hetty smiled. Sam reminisced as to why G. Callen had become his best friend and brother. He could be cold and heartless. That came with years of conditioning and the nature of his job but it was far from whom he really was. Moments like these, when he was stripped of his defenses, when he inadvertently allowed himself to be unmasked, Sam caught glimpses of that little boy that lost his innocence that fateful day on that Romanian beach. It was his face Sam saw crying at Hetty's touch. He understood now why his leaving had hurt Callen so. That little boy had been left so many times and it was that little boy that needed protecting.
Suddenly Hetty's pager sprung to life and it shattered the moment like a thunder strike on a still night. They all jumped.
"That's your pager," said Callen, his curiosity biting whilst wiping away the tears. Suddenly that little boy was gone…again.
"I'll need to take this."
With Hetty gone, Sam moved closer and sat next to his partner, "Sorry G…I forced Hetty's hand. I forced her to tell me."
His eyes still red, he looked at Sam, "No one forces Hetty to do anything she doesn't want to. My secret never stood a chance." Sam laughed once, then laughed again louder as a small smile crept onto Callen's face.
"But seriously this whole damn situation sucks."
Callen didn't want Sam's pity but he was just too tired to play the hero. He was going to let his defenses down…a bit and revel in some human comfort especially Sam's. He wasn't sure how he felt. The nature of the doctor's revelation came as quite a shock, although Callen knew something hadn't been right for a long time. He had been too worried about Sam and his family to bother looking after himself. He wasn't afraid of dying, heck he faced that possibility everyday. He was afraid of wasting away and the burden he'd become to his friends. He could not handle that at all. So he'd fight this and he'd win because Callen didn't lose.
"What? The fact that I'm here again or that I've been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia," said Callen, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Everything…our life these past few years. The stupid choices we've made. It's just a damn slap in the face." Callen let out a chuckle watching Sam beat himself up over all again. "You know what, this is a sign. A warning, an omen that we should focus on what's important in our lives."
"Sam really? The God excuse? Please. You know I'm an atheist…this happened because it just did and we don't need omens or signs or fortune cookies to tell us what's important, Sam. You said a few days ago that I didn't have to come and get you. But yeah, I did. You are important to me, Raina, the kids. How could I have ever faced them if I had done nothing? How could I have faced myself if I didn't bring you home? Kensi's important, Eric and Nell, Hetty and even Deeks…and Hetty's right, you guys are important because you are the closet things I've ever had to family. This thing…it's happened and I'll deal with it," said Callen smiling wholeheartedly.
"We'll deal with it G. There is no way I am or any of the team is going to let you deal with this on your own. You need support and you need family around you…"
Callen started shaking his head, "No…no. I don't want them to know. They'll only look at me differently and start second guessing my decisions. I'll lose their respect Sam."
"Are you serious G? They need to know. There can be no more secrets between us. You'll never lose their…our respect G. It'll make us stronger," finished Sam smiling at his friend.
They shared a moment and suddenly Callen pictured himself with a future and he returned Sam's smile. For the first time in a very long time, a twinkle shone in Callen's blue eyes.
Hetty walked in solemnly. Kensi's call and Vance's subsequent reprimand troubled Hetty greatly. She had to get back to OPS. They didn't see her worry. They didn't see Hetty change from concern to levity, "Good to see you boys playing nice…excellent."
"Bad news Hetty?" asked Callen. She had forgotten how well he could read her.
She smiled but it didn't reach her eyes, "No just the usual… Director Vance updating me on developments of a mission in Miami. I'll fill you in later Mr. Callen. Mr. Hanna you're needed at OPS as well." She moved closer to Callen, "I will come by later and we will talk. For now mull over what I said and REST." She patted his arm affectionately, smiled at Sam and left.
"So G…I'll swing by after my shift and we'll catch a game on TV. Then in a few days when you're out, Raina and the kids would love to have you over for dinner…put some meat on that skinny ass of yours," laughed Sam. "Good to have you back G."
"Yeah…" Callen meant it.
Sam left and Callen watched the door close. He felt calm despite the death sentence he had been dealt. His eyelids heavy drooped closed as he fell asleep into restorative slumber.
Back at OPS
"How's Callen?" asked Deeks livening up at the sight of Hetty.
"Well and getting the much needed rest he deserves, Mr. Deeks. Now to pressing matters, Miss Blye you said Director Vance is interrogating Brenko himself?" asked Hetty facing Kensi.
"Yes…Is Sam coming?" asked Kensi looking over Hetty's shoulder.
"He'll be here shortly Miss Blye then you can fill us in," said Hetty when Eric piped up.
"Incoming video call…Director Vance, Hetty."
"Hetty, I see you got my message," he said. Hetty looked at Leon. She knew his pissed off face, this wasn't it. This was worse. Something was wrong.
"Yes. Leon what's wrong?" asked Hetty and Sam quietly made his entrance.
Leon took a breath, "I tried to interrogate Brenko. He refused to talk quite adamantly. He said he would only talk to you. Are you ready Hetty?" said Leon curtly.
"Now?" asked a surprised Hetty.
"Yes…Agent Thomas, you may begin." They saw a frenzy of images and movements as the camera was readjusted to focus on the prisoner.
"Brenko, this is Miss Lange," said Leon who was sitting adjacent to Brenko.
A sickly smile spread over Brenko's face, "Yes I know Miss Henrietta Lange very well. Her file is quite a read."
"Mr. Brenko I am at a disadvantage. You know me but I don't know you," continued Hetty unnerved. The rest of the team stood holding their breath at the sudden revelation.
"No you don't. I'm not as interesting as you and your adventures," baited Brenko.
"That's enough Brenko…enough with the games. You said you'd talk to Miss Lange. I've got you Miss Lange, so talk," pressed an angry Leon.
"Now I know you can detain me on suspicion of trading weapons but you have no proof. So you will let me go," said Brenko smugly.
"We will be the judges of that Mr. Brenko. Who do you liaise for? Who is your supplier?" asked Hetty moving closer to the screen. Sam was at her back.
"You see the conglomerate I allegedly liaise with gave me a few Get out of Jail free cards if ever the moment arose. I will be using one now," continued Brenko.
"Enough with the games Mr. Brenko. What is the conglomerate called?" asked an annoyed Hetty.
"You may have heard of Koba amongst your travels, Miss Lange." Brenko dropped the bomb. Hetty looked like she had seen a ghost. Her face went pale as her hand gripped the edge of the table. "Oh…yes I can see you have."
"Enough Brenko…" said Leon tersely, not wanting him to dictate and derail the interview. He too, saw Hetty's reaction.
"No." Brenko moved closer to the camera and stared directly at the diminutive woman. "Miss Lange, understands what Koba means. My Get out of Jail card is G. CALLEN." Hetty didn't say a word as she stood stoically. Kensi turned to Sam, then in turn to Deeks. They shrugged their shoulders. What had G got himself into now? thought Sam.
After a moment she found her voice, "Director Vance we need a moment. Your private line please." Before the video link was severed, she heard Brenko laughing. She didn't look at anybody as she made her way to her desk.
The team was left dumbstruck. "What the hell happened?" asked Sam looking lost.
"I have no idea. Who or what is Koba? Why is Callen involved?" asked Kensi looking at Deeks.
"Hey I'm new here. This is twisted and wrong…Eric, Nell?" asked Deeks.
"We're on it. Every time we search Koba we get an error message that we can't hack," said Eric, almost in utter disbelief.
Hetty sat in her chair and took a deep breath, picking up her phone, "Leon, this is all I know and it's not much." She spoke for a while. Then she stopped, "Yes, I understand. You must let him go. He is but a minnow. He might lead us to the bigger fish." She stopped again and listened to Leon talking. She was quietly shaking her head. "Please if you ever valued our friendship and my loyalty, let Brenko go or else Mr. Callen will die." She stopped again for a short time. "Yes and Leon thank you." She ended the call and hated the fact that scum like Brenko would be released but they had no choice. She pulled the scotch from the drawer in her desk along with a glass and took a long drink. Now she'd have to face her agents. Hetty stood and lifted her head and saw Sam glaring at her.
"How much did you hear?" she asked coldly.
"All of it including the part about them killing Callen," spat out Sam. "What or who is Koba?"
"Not much is known, Mr. Hanna. But they…he…she whom ever they are, need to be taken seriously. Mr. Callen doesn't know anything either and I want to keep it that way for now. Your silence on the matter is of paramount importance Mr. Hanna. Are we agreed?" said Hetty, leaving Sam no choice but to agree.
He nodded unhappily, "I hate keeping secrets from G."
"I know Mr. Hanna, as do I. But presently we have no other option."
Three Days Later
The team accepted Hetty's vague explanation although they weren't entirely convinced. Normal routines and habits started to return, except for Hetty, who seemed to be particularly overprotective of them all. Sam had arrived to pick up Callen from the hospital and take him home. He'd be at work in the next day or two. Light duties were on the agenda for a while which he didn't seem too pleased about. "G, it's only for a while," said Sam slapping his partner on the back.
"Easy for you to say. Come on, you can carry my bag. Make yourself useful," said Callen smiling. He started to walk out of the room when Sam called out having noticed the flowers.
"G! The flowers? Secret admirer?" asked Sam whilst turning the card over. It was then that he froze.
"Someone called Koba. I told the delivery guy they probably weren't for me but he insisted. Just leave them or pass them onto the nurses," grumbled Callen. He just wanted to leave the infernal place. Sam took the card and placed it in his pocket.
Would there ever be peace for Callen…
Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx FIN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Readers of my previous story, I hope you have recognised the name? Did you have that "ooooo" moment.
I couldn't help myself…it was just too tempting. A sequel may be on the cards, but not yet…Thanks for the support.