Just a little chapter, because I've been missing Hetty.
Chapter 55: Callen's Way
Hetty looked over to where Callen was still sleeping in his chair. He was slumped over a bit too far to his left for her liking; perhaps shifting some of his weight off of his injured hip. She considered, for a moment, getting up from the couch and pushing him up straighter in his chair. But she quickly abandoned the idea, not willing to run the risk of waking him. He needed all the rest he could get… this had been a rough nine days.
Her chest tightened, replaying once again, the events of the day the team returned from their investigation at the McFerrin plant. She had sensed something was "off" with her Senior Agent. Without question, G. Callen had always been good at masking pain… he was a master of avoidance. But she, of all people, should have seen through his deception.
Maybe she had been too involved in managing the case to pick up on the signs. Or perhaps, Mr. Callen had pulled out all the stops this time, trying to avoid being banished from the case. But, whatever the reason, the delay in medical attention had proven to be a huge mistake. And to make matters worse, his condition had further deteriorated when he slipped away from them, disappearing into the city; she had underestimated his desperation.
Hetty inhaled through pursed lips, and slowly released a breath, feeling a bit more than a twinge of guilt. Like so many times before, she felt as if she'd failed him. She carried a great sense of responsibility for all of her agents; for their safety and wellbeing. But this one… this nameless orphan… held a special place in her heart.
Hetty shook her head, pushing these thoughts from her mind. She couldn't turn back time. And she had made the best decisions based on what information she had at the moment.
She was inwardly scolding herself for revisiting this matter, when she noticed Callen suddenly flinch in his sleep. She suspected he might be dreaming until she watched his features hold a grimace for several seconds before relaxing again. He's hurting.
Hetty continued to sit in silence, watching her agent sleep.
Callen barely even stirred when C.J. came by to get a blood pressure reading and change out the IV solution.
The breakfast tray had come and gone before Callen finally began to rouse. He slowly opened his eyes, located Hetty, and then immediately let his eyelids slide shut again. "What time is it?" he mumbled in his 'I'm not quite awake' voice.
"Half past eight," Hetty said, now looking toward his chair over the top of her glasses. "Are you going back to sleep?"
G cleared his throat. "No."
She placed her palms on her thighs and pushed herself to stand. "Is your throat dry?"
"A little," he replied, without opening his eyes.
Hetty's eyes narrowed as she suddenly focused on Callen's face. She moved quietly to his chair and, unbeknownst to him, she leaned over so that she was practically face-to-face with him.
Trying to get a better look at the wound on his forehead, she lightly grasped his jaw and made to tilt his head back.
Callen's eyes flew open at the unexpected touch, and then he immediately startled at the nearness of his boss's face. "Hetty!"
With puckered lips to suppress a smile, Hetty released his jaw and straightened. "Is something wrong, Mr. Callen?"
Callen continued to look at her with wide eyes. "What are you doing?
"Examining your forehead. I believe your long shower has caused the steri-strip to loosen some."
He blinked at her a few times and then let out a breath. "Well, I'm awake now."
"Good." She took a step back. "Then you can drink one of these protein shakes your nurse left for you."
Now Callen looked more annoyed, than startled. "Hetty…"
She held up a palm to stop his words. "This is not up for discussion. You haven't eaten anything this morning." She opened the shake container, inserted a straw, and held it out in front of him.
Callen just sat there; lips tightly pressed together, stubbornly glaring at her.
Hetty met his obdurate glare with one of her own. "Do you need me to hold it for you?"
"No," he ground out, while using the chair arms to push himself up straighter. He gave Hetty another exasperated look before pulling his slightly trembling left arm from beneath the covers and accepting the shake container.
Callen's nose scrunched a little after the first sip. And following the second drink, he lowered the container to his lap.
"Drink all of it, Mr. Callen. Doctor's orders." Hetty began making her way toward the window.
G frowned at the vanilla shake, and then took another sip. "When am I getting out of here?"
"Well..." Hetty opened the blinds, causing Callen to wince at the sudden flood of sunlight. "Dr. Lee said that if you tolerated showering on your own this morning, improved your calorie intake, and there were no more episodes with your blood pressure, he would consider discharging you tomorrow. So, finish the shake."
While Callen worked on his protein shake, Hetty worked on tidying the room; returning items to his shaving kit, bagging up the dirty laundry, and organizing the closet.
When the shake container was finally empty, Hetty dropped it in the wastebasket and returned to Callen's side. "Is there anything else you need?"
"Yeah," he answered, his voice soft and shaky. "I need you to take me to some place warm?"
Hetty smiled sympathetically and lightly patted his shoulder. "I have just the thing."
She glided over to the counter, pulled a huge thermos from a tote, and proceeded to pour tea into a navy-blue mug.
A half-smile appeared on Callen's face. "Hetty. Do you need some help? I think that thermos is bigger than you are."
Hetty's expression never changed as she turned toward his chair. "Brewed early this morning," she said, now holding the mug out for him. "Lavender, with a just a touch of Valerian root."
Callen shakily reached with both hands, took the mug, and looked up. "Thanks, Hetty." His eyes conveyed the same sincerity revealed in his tone.
"You're welcome." Hetty regarded him with a small smile and a slight nod, and then stood silently while he drank his hot beverage.
Callen's shivering had lessened a great deal by the time Hetty took the empty mug from him.
She, once again, tucked the covers around his shoulders, and then had a seat on the couch.
It wasn't long before she noticed a distant look in Callen's eyes, and a worry line in his forehead.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
G snapped out of his thoughts. He turned his head toward where she was sitting and his eyes met hers. "Talk about what?"
"Whatever is troubling you."
Callen did his best to relax his features. "Nothing's troubling me."
"Really, Hetty. I'm fine."
"Mr. Callen, first of all, I was operating undercover long before you were born. And secondly, I know you well. I am not fooled by that impassive façade."
Callen's lips pressed together to form a straight line. He let out a breath through his nose and averted his gaze.
Hetty paused a long moment before asking, "Is it your current situation? Or something from your past."
"Hetty," he protested weakly.
Hetty lowered her gaze, and then placed the palms of her hands on her lap.
Finally, Callen gave her a sideways look. "Is this your way of getting me to talk? The old silent treatment?"
Hetty began daintily smoothing out imaginary wrinkles on the thighs of her pantlegs… and waited some more.
Callen cut into the silence with a faint amused chuckle. "You do remember I've been trained in resisting coercive interrogation techniques."
"Oh, Mr. Callen." Hetty stopped her movement, lifted er head, and put on her best innocent look. "I would never pressure you to talk."
One corner of G's mouth lifted into a half-smirk. "Remember, Hetty. I know you, too."
The room fell back into silence.
Almost two full minutes had passed when Hetty finally spoke again. "Are you disturbed by your history with Antonio Zamora?"
From where she was seated, Hetty barely caught the subtle tightening of Callen's jaw, and his brief glance in her direction.
She threw her hands up in surrender. "I'm just concerned for you. Your Honduras report seems to be missing… some significant events. I would hate for you to go through life, still haunted by this case."
Callen visibly relaxed as he lowered his head. "I'm haunted by a lot of cases," he said flatly.
Hetty took in a long breath and let it out slowly. "As are we all." Her eyes became sad. "I suppose it's just one of the hazards of the job."
After another long pause, she looked toward where her Agent was sitting, trying to get a read on his state-of-mind.
He was doing his best to appear apathetic; focused on controlling his breathing and working to maintain his poker-face. But Hetty didn't miss the slight furrow in his brow or the storm cloud brewing behind those blue eyes. He was definitely processing something… But what?... She might never know.
Most likely, he would just tuck it away somewhere and deal with it in his on time… alone. That is G. Callen's way.