Chapter 4: Nurse Anna

Deeks sat across from Callen's hospital bed. He leaned back in his chair and crossed one leg over the other. The detective munched on cheese crackers and, slowly, turned the pages of the magazine he was, once again, pretending to read. He didn't know if the Senior Agent was still ticked off at him for not lowering the bed rail so he could get up to go to the bathroom, or if he was just wearing his trademark, unreadable expression. Callen's head remained turned, facing away from the door, and he'd been staring at the wall for the past ten minutes.

Marty turned another page, peering inconspicuously over the top of the magazine, a stealthy surveillance technique he had perfected from years of practice. Wait. Is Callen even blinking?

"You know, Deeks," Callen said hoarsely, still gazing blankly at the wall, "that magazine would be much more interesting if you were holding it right side up."

Busted! So much for 'stealthiness.' Who was he kidding, anyway? Special Agent G Callen knew all the tricks of the trade—probably was the originator of some of them. Deeks tossed his magazine prop onto the couch next to him, stood up, and walked to side of the bed.

Callen turned his head slowly and his blue eyes met those of the detective who had been 'spying' on him.

Marty narrowed his eyes. Callen doesn't look angry; he looks tired… maybe even defeated.

"Deeks, I'll be okay up here without a sitter. You don't need to stay."

"Really?" Deeks dug the car keys out of his pocket and picked up a container of juice from the table next to the head of the bed. "Then who would do this for you?" he asked, using exaggerated movements to punch a hole in the top of the container and insert a straw. "Huh?"

Callen blinked slowly up at Deeks and then the corners of his mouth turned up slightly, amused.

Deeks handed the juice to the patient. "Your cranberry beverage, Sir."

Callen took it and looked away, beginning to sip on it with an air of nonchalance.

The detective resisted a small smile as he took a step closer to the small table and picked up the metal intake clipboard. Sam would be impressed by his skills in the area of hydrating Callen, he was certain. He used the included pen to write the latest drink type and ounces down.

Callen was about halfway finished with his 'beverage' when Marty lost his grip on the heavy clipboard and accidentally dropped it. It hit the tile floor with a loud crash, causing Callen to startle and choke on the liquid he was about to swallow. The coughing that ensued was obviously very painful, Callen's hand going to his side.

Deeks went into panic mode. He reached up with both hands and grabbed two fists full of his own blonde curls. "Sorry! Sorry. Sorry," he said, guiltily, wincing at the pain he had caused. Marty took the leftover drink from the agent's shaky grasp, and watched helplessly while Callen spent the next couple of minutes doubled over, trying to stifle his coughs.

The coughing finally subsided.

Callen slowly sat up, closed his eyes in relief, and took short, shallow breaths.

"I'm really, really sorry," Deeks reiterated, picking up a napkin from a nearby table and handing it to Callen.

Callen wiped the sticky, pink liquid from his chin and neck, looked up at Marty with watery eyes, breathing hard. "It's okay, Deeks... I'm good."

"Is there anything I can do? Anything you need?"

"Yeah," Callen replied softly. "Find my clothes so I can get out of this place."

Deeks bit his lip for a moment. "Uhhh... Anything that doesn't involve helping you escape?"

Callen shook his head and closed his tired eyes.

Marty pulled the nearby chair a bit closer to Callen's right side, somehow managing to do it quietly, and sat down to watch and wait.

Nurse Monica entered the room a few minutes later. Her eyes immediately went to the exhausted blue eyes of the patient who looked over at her. "Have you slept at all today?" she asked him quietly.

"I think so... It all sort of runs together." Callen turned to Deeks. "What day is this?"

"It's Friday," Marty responded, trying not to be worried by the fact that this was the fourth time he had been asked this question. He was certain that Callen was extremely tired. "And, no, you haven't slept today."

Monica stepped a little closer to Callen. "I know you don't like taking meds, but you need to rest. I'll leave a note in the chart, asking Dr. Lee if he can prescribe something that isn't as strong. He'll be making rounds this evening after the clinic closes... Also, I wanted to let you know that our weekend rotation is about to begin and you'll have a new nurse at shift change."

Callen turned to face the window and his breath rate increased slightly.

Deeks and Monica exchanged worried glances. After his bad experience with the two nurses' aides earlier today, it was not surprising that Callen was apprehensive about having another new face in his room.

"You'll like Anna," Monica assured. "I personally requested her. She's young, but very good—a favorite with our patients. Landon comes on at seven in the morning. If you have any complaints, let him know and I'll take care of it... Okay?"

Without a word, Callen gave her a quick glance that affirmed he understood.

"Good. Anna will be in to meet you as soon as she takes report." The nurse smiled at Deeks and left the room.

Callen bent his left knee and repositioned himself in bed. Marty was concerned by the grimace and the moan that followed; Callen was quickly losing the ability to school his emotions. Deeks hoped that either Callen would fall asleep, or that reinforcements—namely Hetty or Sam—would show up soon.

A few minutes after 3:00, a young, bubbly nurse, wearing colorful Disney character scrubs, entered the room. Except for the long, blonde ponytail, she looked a lot like Nell.

The nurse glanced at Deeks and made her way to Callen. "Hi. I'm Anna. I'll be taking care of you for the next sixteen hours." She laid a clipboard and a small IV bag on the bedside table and then looked down at her shirt. "I apologize for the scrubs. I was scheduled to work pediatrics—they reassigned me when I got here."

Anna picked up the blood pressure cuff and placed it on Callen's arm. "I need to check your vitals, hang this antibiotic piggy-back, and then you... need to get a little sleep before the supper trays come—Monica's orders."

Callen peered drowsily up at the nurse and Deeks was sure he saw a slight smile form on the Senior Agent's face. Marty shook his head. Callen was apparently impressed by the little nurse. She was so young and energetic, yet self-assured and proficient—who wouldn't be mesmerized?

Anna recorded Callen's blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, and picked up the IV bag. "As soon as I get this started, we need to see about getting you turned... Monica said you've been on your back all day."

The nurse removed the empty IV bag, attached and hung the new one, and made adjustments to the IV pump. When she checked the needle placement in her patient's hand, she noticed the small bruises that had resulted from the multiple attempts to find a vein for the IV. She glanced across and saw the same bruising pattern on the patient's left arm.

"I see they had a time getting an IV started. I'd have had a meltdown by the second stick. I sooo hate needles."

Callen looked up at Anna and his smile grew.

"Really?" Deeks piped up. "A nurse who hates needles? Isn't that like... an oxymoron?"

Anna looked at the blonde who was sitting behind her. "Yeah. My parents thought I was crazy when I told them I wanted to become an RN. But my husband encouraged me to go for it. He thinks my 'little hang-up' helps me relate to my patients better."

Marty furrowed his brow in surprise. "You're married? You don't even look old enough to drive."

"I hear that a lot," the nurse said with a smile, before turning back around to address the patient. "Okay. Now, to get you off your back… You prefer the left side?"

Callen's small smile disappeared. "Yes."

Anna pulled back the sheet and lowered the head of the bed. "How much help do you need?"

"I can do it." Callen looked to his left, away from Deeks and Anna, and reached for the metal rail.

Deeks shot up and made his way to where the nurse was standing.

The nurse looked to the side, giving Marty a questioning look.

Deeks responded by widening his eyes at her and shaking his head.

"I'll tell you what," Anna said, while Callen was in the process of tightening his grip of the rail, "let's turn you with the draw sheet. I don't want you to strain yourself and not be able to rest."

Callen looked as though he wanted to protest, but just didn't have the strength. He let go of the rail, lowered his arm to the mattress, and gazed blankly at the wall in front of him.

Deeks walked around to the opposite side of the bed and looked up at the nurse. "Tell me what you need me to do."

"Let's lower the side rails, first."

Deeks fumbled, just for a moment, with the release buttons, but then successfully lowered the rail. He was grateful he had already practiced this little maneuver, without the nurse being present.

"Alright, with your left hand, grab the edge of the draw sheet, just below his hips." Anna demonstrated on her side and Deeks copied. "Now, grab the sheet with your other hand, just at his shoulders." Deeks mimicked her movements. "Now, work your hands toward him, gathering up the sheet as you go... That's it. On the count of three, we're going to bring him over to my side a little. Don't drag him. Lift him just enough to clear the bed... Ready?... One, two, three."

Callen was gently lifted, moved to his right, and lowered to the mattress. The nurse placed a pillow between the patient's knees and continued with her instructions to Deeks. "Now, reach across him and grasp the edge of the sheet that's in front of me, at his hips and shoulders, and slowly pull toward you."

Marty was a little apprehensive about this step. No matter how gently he turned Callen, he figured it was going to cause some degree of discomfort—he figured right. About halfway through the turn, Callen winced and groaned.

"Sorry, man," Deeks apologized. Callen seemed so focused on maintaining his composure that Marty doubted he heard his apology.

"I know this is rough," Anna consoled, completely picking up on how painful this was for her patient. "I'll try to make you more comfortable. Just hang in there for a couple of hours."

Callen licked his dry lips and nodded.

Nurse Anna motioned for Marty to place a hand on Callen's upper arm to keep him in place.

Deeks did what she wanted, realizing soon after that this was probably going to count as "coddling" to Callen, who didn't like to be touched. He looked at Anna and silently begged that she hurry.

While Deeks held Callen on his side, the nurse smoothed out the draw sheet and adjusted the pillow that was beneath the side of Callen's head.

Catching the tenseness between the two men, Anna soothed smoothly, explaining, "He's going to hold you there while I untie your gown… It's sort of in a bind."

Her words helped a little, causing Deeks to take a quiet, deep breath. Callen didn't make a move to acknowledge her.

Anna pulled on the ends of the gown ties, unfastening them, and noticed that one of the knots had left a red indention between the patient's neck and right shoulder blade. She frowned, and gently massaged the reddened area, causing Callen to close his eyes and relax down into the mattress.

Deeks could not help a small smile at his Senior Agent's response. With all the pulling and poking and prodding Callen had endured the past few days, a little positive human touch seemed to be what he needed right now.

Anna was pleased that her patient was relaxing, so she didn't stop, hoping that he might fall off to sleep. Something caught her eye as she rubbed his back. She leaned in closer and noticed that there was a scar in the exact spot where the gown tie had left a mark—a bullet wound? It caught her off-guard. Still slowing massaging with her right hand, she looked up at Deeks with narrowed eyes. "Is this…?" she whispered.

Deeks nodded, understanding.

The nurse peered down at the part of Callen's back that was now exposed. Besides the bruising in the middle of his back, she noticed two more similar scars; one above, and one below the left shoulder blade. She looked up at Deeks with a questioning expression, and used her free hand to hold up three fingers.

Marty responded by holding up five fingers.

Anna looked down at Callen and drew in a deep breath. Who is this man?

The background information on this patient was limited; the nurses had only been told that he was in some type of law enforcement and had been in protective custody until yesterday. But Anna sensed that the battered man, who lay before her, had seen things, and lived through situations, that few people had. The nurse was suddenly hit with a sense of sadness for him. Snap out of it, Anna Harris! You have a job to do.

The nurse shook her head, as if clearing her thoughts. Anna stopped rubbing his back and gently replaced the gown. She placed pillows behind her patient, securing him in a side-lying position, and motioned that Deeks could release his one-handed hold on Callen's upper arm. They raised the side rails quietly. By the time Anna covered Callen with a sheet and a light blanket, he was asleep.

Deeks was still standing at Callen's left side when Kensi and Hetty arrived at 4:45. He reactively put his index finger to his lips. "Shhhh." He made his way around the foot of the bed to where the two women were standing. "This is the first time he's been asleep all day," he said softly. "They want him to rest at least until time to eat supper."

Kensi grinned playfully at her partner, and asked, whispering, "Oh… Was there some male bonding going on while we were away?"

"More than you ever want to know."

Hetty took a seat in the corner, on the vinyl couch. "Has he run any fever today?" she asked, keeping her voice low.

"Uh… I don't really know," Deeks answered quietly.

Kensi clicked her tongue in mock pity, then scolded in a whisper, "What kind of sitter are you? You're supposed to know these things."

"I was more like a circus act than a sitter; and I don't think Callen likes the circus. At all."

"Oh… so you guys aren't best buds now… how surprising."

"Let me put it this way, if Callen wasn't in such bad shape, I'd be in the next room right now… in traction."

Kensi's next sarcastic jab was interrupted by the door being partially pushed open. She and Marty turned and looked at the door behind them.

Sam stuck his head in. He scanned the room. Seeing only Deeks and Kensi, he assumed the coast was clear. He stepped through the door, confidently strolled toward the younger pair stationed at the bedside, and stopped in his tracks when someone cleared their throat from the corner of the room—Hetty!

Sam sighed, his head sagged, and he slowly turned to receive his reprimand.

Hetty tapped her watch. "Mr. Hanna," she said in a forceful whisper. "Did I not give you strict orders to get at least eight hours of sleep before returning?"

"Hetty. I couldn't sleep any longer," Sam quietly protested, shrugging his shoulders in defense. "My house has been like Grand Central Station for the past hour. My family is packing for a trip."

"Oh, I see. So, your wife is going to Virginia to help her sister with the new twins. How long do they plan to be gone?"

"Two weeks… Wait. How did you…?" Sam shook his head. "Never mind."

"Well, at any rate, you owe me a couple of hours more of sleep."

Escaping Hetty's glare, Sam picked up the intake log clipboard.

Anna stepped in the room, unnoticed (except by Hetty, who looked at the girl, measuring everything about her in a moment.)

After studying the intake log, Sam looked up at Deeks and nodded his head.

He didn't have to say it out loud; Deeks was sure the ex-SEAL was impressed with his hydrating skills.

Sam placed the clipboard back on the table and turned to Deeks. "So, how'd it go today?"

Kensi playfully punched Marty in the arm. She said lowly, "Oh. Deeks was just telling us how he aggravated the daylights out of Callen while we were gone. Something about Callen wanting to put him in traction?"

Sam put one hand on his hip, cocked his head to side, and looked at the detective with dark, narrowed eyes. "You aggravated him, Deeks?" he asked quietly. "Did you coddle him? I told you not to coddle him."

"No, Sir. I did not coddle. I would never coddle your partner. There was no coddling—at least not by me." Deeks noticed Anna's presence by the door and pointed in her direction. "If any coddling took place, it can be blamed on this woman."

The nurse smiled warmly and stepped further into the room. "Hi. I'm Anna," she said, while reaching to shake Hetty's hand. "You must be Miss Lange. They told me you stopped by the nurses' station a little while ago, when I was passing out meds."

Now certain the young woman was safe, Hetty smiled at her. "Please, call me Hetty. It's a pleasure to meet you." Hetty motioned to Kensi. "This is Special Agent Blye."

The female agent gave the nurse a quick, firm handshake. "Kensi."

Hetty resumed her introductions. "I believe you have already had the privilege of meeting Detective Deeks… And this is Special Agent Sam Hanna."

Sam nodded politely. "Good to meet you."

Callen suddenly flinched, causing a small rustle against the bed sheets, and all eyes went to him.

Still peering over at Callen, Hetty continued, "And the patient, who you probably know as Greg Carter, is Special Agent G Callen."

Callen's body jerked, again. But this time, he began to stir, inhaling through his nose.

Sam hurried around to the side of the bed Callen was facing. He watched intently until his partner opened one eye and squinted up at him.

Everyone saw Sam's demeanor change; he crossed his arms, shifted his weight to one leg, and smirked down at Callen. "So, how bad was it, G… here all day… with Deeks as your nurse?"

Callen searched for Deeks, but could not turn his head far enough to see the detective who was standing behind him. G squinted back up at Sam and replied with a weak, scratchy voice, "Hetty might as well have left me here with a monkey."

"Hey!" Deeks protested. "I'll have you know, I was an excellent caregiver!" Marty made a pouty face, and continued in a lower tone, "I just had some minor mechanical issues, with the equipment… No one left me instruction manuals."

Anna walked to the bedside and was now standing opposite Sam. She placed her tiny hand on Callen's right shoulder. "Let's go ahead and get you turned over so you'll be ready when the food comes. They're running a little behind with the trays; some sort of problem with the warmer."

Deeks raced to the other side of the bed, bumping Sam out of the way. "Let's do this." He laced his fingers together, turned his palms outward, and dramatically feigned cracking his knuckles. He was so eager to demonstrate his newfound nursing skills, he missed the daggers the big SEAL was glaring at him.

The nurse lowered the side rails on her side of the bed. Deeks pressed the release buttons on his side, and eased his rail down—like a pro.

With the pillows now removed from behind his back, Callen bit down on his bottom lip, obviously preparing himself for the pain that would result from being repositioned.

Sam saw. "Stop biting your lip," he ordered.

Callen did not comply.

With Callen now on his back, Sam could see blood on his lower lip. Sam shook his head. "G. Your lip was almost well and you busted it open again." Anna held a box of tissues out toward Sam. He pulled one out, and handed it to his partner as soon as Deeks stepped out of the way.

Callen made a single swipe across his lip with the tissue. It was apparent he didn't share Sam's degree of concern over the busted lip.

The side rails were raised, and the patient was covered. The nurse raised the head of the bed.

Callen blinked a few times, as if trying to clear his vision. His head drooped forward and he closed his eyes.

Sam lightly gripped Callen's shoulder. "G. You okay?"

A few moments passed and Callen finally managed a single nod.

Anna left the bedside for a moment, returning with a wet washcloth. "I'm afraid I may have raised your head up too quickly," she said. She gently blotted the patient's face and then draped the washcloth across his forehead.

When the dizziness began to pass, Callen took in a deep breath, reached up with a shaky hand, and removed the damp cloth from his forehead. He opened his eyes, blinked a few times, and scanned the room. He lowered his head and looked down at his chest, seemingly embarrassed by the five faces that were staring down at him sympathetically.

Sam noticed the pink spots on the front of Callen's hospital gown and saw this as a distraction for his uncomfortable partner. He pulled on the stained fabric with one hand, and pointed to the half-full juice container with the other. "What happened here? Have something against cranberries?"

Deeks winced. He wondered if Sam would throw him out the fourth story window when he found out he had been responsible for causing Callen to go into a painful coughing fit.

Callen peered down at the stains. "I missed my mouth," he lied, surprising Deeks.

Marty let out a breath, relieved that Callen had covered for him. Maybe he doesn't hate me THAT much, after all.

Sam huffed. "You missed your mouth? How in the world could you miss something that big?"

Callen slowly raised his head and flashed his partner a weak look. To those watching, it appeared to simply be a twitch of an eye. But Sam understood; G doesn't want to talk about it.

Before Sam had a chance to change the topic of conversation, a supper tray was delivered, and placed on the portable table.

Sam instinctively went into 'hover mode.' He came around to where the tray had been placed, lowered the bed rail, and then positioned and lowered the table over Callen's lap, in what seemed like one fluid movement.

Marty watched with amazement. Operating hospital equipment—must be something they do a lot of in SEAL training.

Callen, however, was not so impressed. He turned his face away from the food, eyes looking troubled.

"Come on, G. You need to eat or you'll never get your strength back," Sam reasoned.

With his gaze still averted, Callen reached across and scooted the table away.

Sam, in turn, rolled it back in place, over Callen's lap. "Stop being so stubborn," Sam grumbled.

"Sam?" Hetty gently warned.

Callen swallowed hard. He set his jaw and attempted to move the table again. This time it didn't budge—Sam was holding it securely.

Sam's frustration grew. G's gone all week without food. Why won't he eat? "G, pick up the fork and eat your food or I'm gonna feed it to you."

Callen's brows raised and his breathing became choppy. He glanced at the tray, gulped in a breath of air, and then quickly looked away.

Anna, 'taking her life into her own hands,' stepped in between the patient and his huge, protective partner. She crossed her arms and stared sternly up into Sam's eyes.

Sam stared right back into her green eyes.

Then suddenly, Sam's shoulders sagged and he let out a breath. "Sorry," he said softly. He shook his head. "He's just gone so many days… "

Anna reached out and placed her small hand on the big agent's arm. "I know," she whispered, her eyes consoling.

Sam stepped away. He looked back, apologetically, at his Operations Manager, and then took a seat beside her on the couch.

Hetty reassured him with a nod, and a pat on the knee.

The nurse rolled the table away from the bed and returned to lean in closer to her distressed patient. "Mr. Callen, are you nauseated?" she asked quietly.

G shook his head, negatively, avoiding her gaze.

"Maybe we need to just take smaller steps. Many of our patients, who have been through trauma and haven't eaten in a while, find that tackling a whole meal at once is overwhelming. They develop almost an aversion to food. And with the nausea you experienced with your head injury, it is possible your mind is just telling you not to eat."

Callen glanced at her so quickly that she would have missed it if it had not been for the deep blue flash from his eyes.

Anna was not certain her patient was fully attending to what she was saying, but her words seemed to have had a calming effect—his breathing was slowing and he was now more relaxed.

The nurse continued with her proposal. "What if I pick something off the tray for you to eat later?" She moved to pick up a few items from the food tray and stepped back beside the bed to show him.

Callen looked up at the two packages of saltine crackers Anna was holding in her hand. Some of the distress left his eyes.

"…And you choose something to eat now… Just one thing," she said, pulling the portable table closer to the bed.

After a short pause, G cautiously peered over at the food tray. He slowly scanned his options and his eyes stopped on the container of green Jell-O.

"Lime Jell-O it is." Anna opened it, placed a plastic spoon in the gelatin, and handed the container to Callen. She removed the iced tea from the tray and sat it, and the crackers, on the little table beside the bed. "I'll check on you in a little bit," she told him reassuringly. Anna left the room, taking the 'dreaded' supper tray with her.

Callen just sat, staring down at his not-so-interesting food choice, dread welling up inside him.

Sam, seeing the look in his partner's eyes, started to get up, but was stopped by a little hand placed on his arm, squeezing it once.

Hetty rose from the couch and walked to the bedside.

Callen looked up to find Hetty looking at him over the top of her glasses. His eyes widened.

For just an instant, Hetty saw a lost, frightened little boy.

"You know, Anna was right, Mr. Callen," she told him gently. "Remember the African proverb, on how to eat an elephant?"

G looked away for a moment, and then back to Hetty. "Yes," he answered softly. "One bite at a time."

"That's right… Just take that first bite."

Callen wedged the cup of Jell-O between his right forearm and his lower chest, and used his left hand to take the first bite. He swallowed, waited a few seconds, and then slowly consumed the green 'elephant' in a cup.