Chapter 1: Restless Night
Sam opened his eyes. The room was dark, except for the glow of the IV machine leading to Callen's right hand. The big ex-SEAL stretched, stiff from sleeping in a contorted position on the too small, too hard, hospital couch. He hoped the crunching sound of the vinyl had not disturbed his partner. To say Callen was a light sleeper would be an understatement. Sam had often seen G go from being asleep, to being up, dressed and armed within seconds of the tiniest sound or the slightest movement in the room.
Sam settled, as quietly as he could, back into the vinyl cushions, careful not startle his partner. Callen needed to rest. He had sustained a concussion, and fractures to his ribs and pelvis, when he was pushed (more like tackled) to safety by Sam, barely avoiding a sniper's bullet. And now, in addition to all the bruises, abrasions, and broken bones, he was severely dehydrated. Sam felt troubled that Callen's physical condition had continued to deteriorate since the fall.
But, even more disturbing, were the emotional blows his partner had received over the past few days. There had been strong evidence that Callen's identity had been compromised through a security leak. Consequently, he had been relieved of his position as Senior Agent. That alone would have proved devastating. But, because of safety concerns, he had been instructed to permanently cut all ties with his team.
Sam remembered the anger and frustration he'd felt upon receiving this mandate from the Security Board. He recalled seeing a tear on Kensi's cheek and the look of shock on Deeks' face. Even Hetty was unable to maintain her stoic façade. It was heartbreaking to watch their friend and colleague crumble, and then withdraw.
Sitting there in the dark hospital room, a sense of relief washed over Sam. He took in a deep breath, closed his eyes, and smiled. The team had not lost Callen after all. The bad guy had been apprehended and their Senior Agent reinstated. Sam sighed. Now they just had to get his partner through the next six weeks of rest and recuperation. Knowing G Callen, this was not going to happen without a fight.
Sam's eyes opened and he realized he had drifted off to sleep again. He pressed the button to illuminate the numbers on his watch – 22:05. Callen had been positioned on his left side for a while and Sam expected someone would be in to turn him and take vitals when the 11:00 pm shift started. That would give his partner at least another hour before being disturbed.
Within seconds, Sam could hear Callen shifting in the bed and making soft grunting sounds.
"G. It's dark in here for a reason. You're supposed to be sleeping."
Callen stilled for about a minute and then started moving again. It sounded like he was struggling to reposition himself.
"What's going on over there?" Sam got up from the couch, walked around to the opposite side of the bed where Callen was facing, and pulled the string to turn on the light above the bed.
Callen stopped moving and squinted up at his partner.
Sam shook his head in disbelief. The IV tubing was tangled around both of Callen's arms and was caught between the mattress and the headboard, causing his right arm to be trapped in an uncomfortable extended position above his head.
"How did you manage to do that?"
Callen tiredly frowned and looked down at the mess he was in.
"It's a wonder you didn't yank that thing out of your arm." Sam reached down between the top of the mattress and headboard and freed the tube from the bedsprings. Then he proceeded to carefully untangle the tubing, allowing Callen to return his right arm to a more comfortable position.
Callen glanced up briefly, a look that his partner understood said 'thank you.'
"The doctor doesn't want you moving around a lot right now," Sam said quietly. He pulled the covers up over Callen's right shoulder. "You need to close your eyes and try to get some sleep." He turned off the light and went back to his spot on the tiny couch.
Within a few minutes, the rustling of the sheets and the soft moans resumed.
"Now what's wrong?"
"I need to turn over." Callen's voice was weak and raspy.
"They want you on your side right now. They'll be in to turn you in a little while. You need to stop moving around."
But the movement didn't stop.
"G. Don't make me come over there," Sam warned playfully.
Callen stilled… "You're not a very nice nurse," he mumbled.
Sam smiled. "You're not a very compliant patient."
Callen tried his best to remain still, but the pain in his hip was becoming more intense by the minute. In fact, he could not find a spot on his body that did not hurt at that moment. He shifted his weight and a hiss escaped.
Sam returned to the side of the bed and pulled the string to the light. He did not like the look of distress in Callen's eyes. "I can't believe I'm doing this." Sam removed the pillows that were tucked behind Callen and between his knees, allowing him to settle onto his back. "Better?"
Callen closed his eyes and gave Sam a nod, struggling to mask the pain and slow his breathing.
"You know, they'd give you pain medicine if you'd just ask."
"Don't need it."
Sam rolled his eyes.
Callen had been sedated for the first twenty-four hours after being admitted through the ER. But now, the orders stated that the pain medication was to be administered at the patient's request. G requesting pain meds?... Not a chance.
Sam turned off the light and returned to the couch.
Just a little while later, the door opened and light from the hallway dimly lit the room. Monica stepped inside to find two blue eyes staring back at her. "Oh, you're awake. My shift ends in a few minutes. Would you like something for pain before I go?"
"Yes!" Sam said almost simultaneously.
"Give it to him," came a weak response from the bed. "He's way too grumpy."
Sam huffed. His partner was clearly a master at deflecting anything that resembled nurturing.
"Are you sure?" the nurse asked. "You haven't had anything for pain tonight."
Sam huffed even louder. "Tell that to the patient in the next room who can't sleep because you're moaning and flopping around."
"See what I mean?...Grumpy."
Monica smiled at Sam and then turned her attention back to Callen. "Landon is working eleven to seven. If you change your mind, tell him when he comes by to check vitals, or just press the call light." The nurse turned and exited the room, closing the door behind her. She hoped the next shift would be more successful in persuading 'Mr. Carter' to consent to the pain meds—he needed to rest so his body could heal properly.
Landon made his rounds a while later. Sam was not surprised, but felt mildly frustrated when Callen, once again, refused pain medicine. But at least the male nurse was successful in getting him to drink a few sips of water. Of course, this was done with the warning that the doctor had written orders for him to be catheterized the next day if there had been no urinary output by then. There was no doubt what G was thinking when he accepted the cup of water; the look of horror on his face said it all.
"Make sure he continues to drink some whenever he's awake," Landon said to Sam while setting the Styrofoam cup back on the bedside table. "He has been given enough IV fluids that his kidneys should have functioned by now." The nurse flipped off the overhead light and exited the room.
The dark room was filled with the sound of crunching plastic as Sam resumed his contorted position on the couch. "You know what, G? I bet you're the only patient in this hospital that is so stubborn, even his kidneys are non-compliant."
"Would you just not bring that up again?"
"I'm just sayin'."
Over the next two hours, Callen's breathing became more labored and Sam could hear him attempting to stifle his groans. Why would someone opt to lay there in pain when relief is available? Sam wondered if anyone understood what made G Callen tick. He didn't.
It was now 1:30 am and Callen was still in obvious discomfort. Sam was considering rolling him up in a sheet and forcing him to take the medicine. Then he noticed something was off; well, even more off than G being restless and in pain.
Sam walked to the other side of the hospital bed and turned on the light. Callen's forehead and the top of his gown were wet with perspiration. His eyes were open but unfocused. The restless squirming had returned and his breaths were coming in shallow pants. Sam pressed the call button.
Landon arrived within minutes to find a concerned Sam standing beside the bed, his palm gently resting on top of the patient's head. Sam stepped back so that the nurse could check Callen's pulse, blood pressure and temperature. Landon sighed when he recorded the thermometer read-out.
"His fever's up again, isn't it?" Sam asked.
The nurse looked at Sam and nodded. "I don't understand why it has spiked again. I'm going to get him something for the fever and see what's ordered for pain."
Sam hated this feeling of helplessness. He stood over his feverish friend who was weakly moving beneath the white sheet. The events from the past few days had overtaxed Callen's body and now, the return of the high fever, was inflicting another blow.
Landon soon returned with two syringes.
Even in his state of delirium, Callen noticed. He looked up at Sam and shook his head.
"G. He's going to give you something to bring your fever down and help you rest."
Callen's eyes pleaded. "No," he whispered.
The image of Callen in the emergency room, pleading with them to not sedate him, flashed into Sam's mind. He could still recall Callen begging him to make them stop. Sam knew he had had to allow them to administer the injection. But the look of betrayal in G's eyes had almost brought Sam to his knees.
Callen shook his head and repeated his soft plea. "No"
Landon leaned over the bed and caught Callen's gaze. "This is a different medication than before. This goes straight into your IV. I don't even have to stick you."
The patient was not persuaded. He looked back over at Sam. "No more medicine… Don't make me."
Sam lowered his voice. "You've been tossing and turning all night. The doctor said you need to rest, or you're not going to get better."
Tears pooled in Callen's eyes. "Sam… when I take it… I can't wake up… I can't make them stop… Please… Don't let them…"
Sam understood; G was afraid of the nightmares. Seeing his partner so vulnerable and scared was gut-wrenching. The man who lay before him was not the quick-witted, daredevil (and bullheaded) agent that he had been privileged to work with for the past several years. This man was confused and afraid; frightened by the past that haunted him each time he tried to rest.
Sam leaned over the rail of the bed and placed his hand on Callen's upper chest. "I'll tell you what. Take the medicine and I'll sit right here. If you start having a bad dream, if you even start to stir, I'll wake you up."
Callen stilled and stared into the eyes of his loyal partner.
"You have my word," Sam assured him quietly. "I'll stay right here 'til you wake up."
Callen shut his eyes, trying to calm his pounding heart and erratic breathing.
Sam traded a glance with Landon. They both remained patient and still.
When G opened his dull eyes, he tiredly eyed the needles in the nurse's hand, looked back up at Sam, then to Landon. Callen swallowed hard and then gave them a hesitant nod.
Sam was pleased that, within five minutes of Landon administering the fever reducer and pain medication through the IV line, Callen drifted off to sleep.