Chapter 56: Pace Yourself

Shortly after their "non-conversation," Hetty noticed Callen was becoming more restless with every minute that passed. Besides the slight shivering, he kept shifting in the chair. A couple of times, he moved enough to cause the blankets to slide off his shoulders. He did his best to pull them up over his arms. But the second time, between the cast on his right hand and the IV in his left, he gave up tugging on the covers.

"Are you uncomfortable, Mr. Callen?" Hetty finally asked, while getting up from the couch. "You seem a bit fidgety."

"I want to get up."

"You are up."

"No, I mean..." He looked up at her with a hint of agitation. "I want… to walk."

"Oh. Well, let me go talk to your Nurse." Hetty walked to the door, opened it, but then stopped and turned back to him. "I'll only be a few minutes." She gave him a warning glare over the top of her glasses. "Don't do anything foolish. Unless you wish to extend your hospital stay."

To her relief, he was still safely seated when she returned with Nurse C.J.

C.J. deposited a protein shake on the small counterspace. "The doctor left orders for you to walk whenever you feel up to it." He crouched down beside Callen's chair. "But that's with the stipulation that we make sure you don't overdo it," the nurse continued while wrapping a blood pressure cuff around Callen's upper arm. "Let's get a blood pressure reading first, just to be safe."

A couple of minutes later, C.J. pulled off the Velcro cuff. "You're running low. Which means the florozine is doing its job," he explained. "As long as you stand long enough to adjust to being upright, you should be good to go."

Before the nurse had time to unplug the IV machine from the electrical outlet, Callen had already pushed the covers to the side, and was standing in front of his chair.

Hetty exchanged looks with C.J. and shook her head. "In case you haven't noticed, patience has never been one of Mr. Callen's virtues."

The nurse fought back a smile. "Oh, I've noticed."

Too focused on getting his balance and evening out his breathing, Callen was oblivious to his boss's comment and subsequent eye roll.

With the IV machine in tow, C.J. followed close beside Callen, from the room, to the nurses' station, and back.

Hetty had posted herself just outside the doorway of the hospital room, anxiously watching as Callen was in the process of walking farther than he had in over a week. His gait was slow but steady, with only one stop to allow, what must have been, a wave of pain to pass. When they returned to the room, she noticed Callen was practically holding his breath, attempting to control his shivering.

"You did well," C.J. praised while helping Callen lower down into his chair. "Your endurance is remarkably good for being confined to the bed for as long as you have." C.J. plugged in the IV pump and then turned back to Callen. "How do you feel? Besides being cold."

"I'm good," G shakily breathed out.

After thanking the Aide who had just finished putting fresh sheets on the hospital bed, Nurse C.J. assisted Hetty in arranging the two layers of blankets over Callen. He then moved the protein drink to the small table between Callen's chair and the bed. "When you've had a minute to warm up, I need you to drink this."

Callen made eye contact with the nurse and nodded once.

C.J. glanced at Hetty and then quickly turned his attention back to his patient. "Dr. Lee wants to run your labs again… just to make sure you're on target for discharge. Just wanted you to know that someone will be here, pretty soon, to draw blood."

Looking up at the nurse, Callen's impassive expression never wavered as he answered with another single nod.

As soon as C.J. had left, Hetty moved to Callen's side. "Perhaps another cup of tea would help?"

"Maybe."

Callen looked up at Hetty and her heart squeezed when she saw the sheer misery his eyes suddenly held. He's been putting forth such an effort to school his emotions in front of the nurses. Her only consolation was that this was a sign that he was finding his way back to his 'old self.'

Hetty prepared Callen a little bit of tea, hoping it would provide some warmth. She was surprised when he didn't pull his arms from beneath the covers, allowing her to hold the mug while he drank from it.

Callen had taken only a few small swallows when Kensi stuck her head in the door. "Knock, knock."

"Come in, Miss Blye," Hetty greeted, before assisting Callen with another sip.

"Good morning." Kensi placed a small white box on the counter and walked to where her boss was hovering over Callen. "Hey, Callen."

G lifted his eyes to meet hers. "Kenz."

"Has Hetty been taking good care of you?"

Callen's lips formed a slight smirk.

"I brought donuts if…"

Kensi was interrupted by a knock at the door.

A dark-haired young lady, wearing burgundy scrubs, entered the room carrying a caddy filled with supplies. "My name is Elizabeth," she said, placing the caddy on the bed. "Is it Mr. Carter or Mr. Callen?" she asked sweetly. "There seems to be some confusion in our system."

G pushed himself up a little straighter in his chair. "It's Callen."

"Mr. Callen, I'm here from the lab to draw blood. Does it matter which arm?"

Callen flashed her a brief, apprehensive look and then shook his head.

Still holding the tea mug, Hetty stepped out of the way.

Elizabeth donned a pair of gloves and then gently slid the covers off of Callen's shoulders, exposing both arms. She carefully picked up his right arm, examined the crook of his elbow, and then did the same with his left. "How 'bout we use this one," she said, more than asked, still examining the left arm.

The technician deftly tied off a tourniquet just above Callen's elbow, and prepped the inside of his arm with an alcohol wipe. More closely examining the prospective vein, she palpated the bend of his arm. "Wow, Mr. Callen." She wrapped her fingers around his forearm. "You must be cold."

Kensi let out a single chuckle. "Ha. That's the understatement of the year."

By the time the lab tech had gathered her needle and collection tubes, and had knelt down beside his chair, Callen was shaking all over. His trembling was so intense, Elizabeth had to practically pin his arm in order to get a precise stick.

Hetty let out an audible sigh of relief when the tubes were filled and the needle was removed from his arm; Callen had barely winced during the process.

The young tech had only just taped the gauze over the puncture site, when Hetty and Kensi were moving to cover Callen, tucking the blankets around him as tightly as possible.

When Elizabeth had gone, Hetty held the mug for Callen to finish the last bit of the lukewarm tea. After doing something on her phone, she began organizing bags and totes she planned on taking with her.

"Miss Blye, I've sent a message to Mr. Hanna. I let him know I'm leaving for the office, but that you are here with his partner. He said he'd come relieve you as soon as he has taking his family home from the airport. He estimates he'll be her somewhere after twelve-thirty… Oh… And I'll have something delivered to you for lunch."

"That won't be necessary, Hetty. Deeks went for an early surf, and then he's coming up here."

"We will see, then." From where she stood, Hetty turned her attention to Callen. "You need to drink that shake soon. And eat some of your lunch when it comes."

Callen set his jaw and averted his gaze.

"I mean it," she said, with seriousness in her tone. "Eat."

Now looking up, Callen gave her an annoyed look. "I will."

At this point, Kensi was, rather comically, looking from one to the other, like watching a tennis match, as they spoke.

"I'm checking in with Miss Blye to make sure you ate something."

"Okay."

"Okay, then." Hetty gathered up her bags, picked up an empty thermos, and exited the room.

"So, Callen." Kensi walked to where she had placed the pastry box. "You want a donut?"

"No thanks."

"Yes, you do," she countered playfully.

"No… I don't."

Not taking 'no' for an answer, Kensi picked out a plain donut, tore off a very small piece, and just sort poked it in Callen's mouth.

He scowled up at her while chewing and swallowing the small bit of donut. "Kenz?!" he warned.

Kensi shrugged. "Hetty said to eat."

"I …" he began, until another tiny portion of donut was pushed into his mouth. This time he swallowed hard. "Kensi," he said, with no genuine ire in his tone. "Stop it."

The brunette just smiled mischievously at him and made to force-feed another piece.

This time, Callen easily dodged her attempt, quickly turning his face away from her.

"Okay. Okay. I'm leaving you alone…," she conceded. "Except you really do have to drink that strawberry shake thing over there."

Callen's eyes went to where she was pointing. "No thanks. You can have it."

Deeks stuck his head in the door. "She can have what?"

Kensi spun to where her wet-haired partner had stepped into the room. "Callen won't eat the donuts I brought him. And now he's trying to give away his protein shake."

"Donuts?!" Deeks tossed his satchel onto the couch and made a beeline for the white bakery box. "You brought donuts?!"

Ignoring her partner's donut box raid, Kensi opened the shake container, put a straw in it, and brought it to where G was, not so eagerly, waiting. "Do you want me to hold it, so you don't' have to get out from under the blanket?"

Callen eased up straighter in the chair, but didn't answer.

Kensi took his non-response as a 'yes.' She positioned the shake and guided the straw in between his lips.

Despite the disapproving face, G consented and slowly consumed the nutrition shake, while Kensi patiently held it for him.

When G finished the shake, Kensi seated herself on the couch beside Deeks.

They had been engaged in light conversation for just a little while, when Callen pushed his covers to the side and guardedly stood up from his chair.

"Whoa!" Deeks jumped up. "Where are you going?"

"Bathroom," he answered while beginning to take careful steps toward the restroom.

"What. Wait." Deeks scrambled past Callen and quickly unplugged the IV machine. "You're forgetting your 'little friend' here." Deeks managed to narrow the gap before Callen ran out of IV tubing.

A short time later, Callen came out of the restroom, accompanied by the IV machine he was rolling. But instead of turning toward the chair, he reached for the door that led into the hall.

This time, it was Kensi who jumped to her feet. "Uh, Callen? Where are you going, now?"

"For a walk."

Kensi and Deeks shared a look of confusion, and then proceeded to practically trip over each in other to catch up to him before he got too far gone.

The pair stuck by his side as he walked past the nurses' station to the end of the hall, back to the other end of the hall, past the elevators to the adjoining wing, down that hall and back… twice…

"Callen?" Kensi finally broke the silence. "You've been walking a long time. Aren't you getting tired?"

G glanced her way, but didn't answer.

A few minutes later, when it was obvious that Callen was slowing down some, and leaning more heavily on the IV pole he was holding on to, Deeks tried his hand at being the 'voice of reason.' "Don't you think we should be heading back to the room now?"

"I'm good." G's tone was soft but, surprisingly, convincing.

Deeks looked at his partner and shrugged.

G had just made it back to the end of his hall when he stopped with a grimace, paused for a moment, and then continued walking.

The second time Callen winced and stalled for a moment, C.J. spotted it from where he was coming out of a patient's room. The nurse put whatever was in his hand down on a cart, and then began making his way down to where his determined patient, and his two escorts, had resumed their stroll.

"Mr. Callen," the nurse greeted as he approached. "I was wondering where you'd gone. I need you to come back down to your room so we can take care of some things."

C.J. could easily see the relief on Deeks and Kensi's faces when they looked at him with wide eyes, and simultaneously mouthed 'thank you.'

The nurse waited for Callen to pass and then joined the formation, lagging back a little, next to Kensi. "So how far did he walk?" he asked her, keeping his voice low.

Kensi answered with a raised eyebrow.

"Too far then."

"Definitely."

C.J. and Kensi entered the room, just behind Deeks, Callen, and the rolling IV machine.

The nurse turned off the IV machine and then snatched a couple of gloves from the wall dispenser. "Mr. Callen, I need you to have a seat for me, please. Dr. Lee reviewed your lab results and gave the okay to disconnect the IV."

Callen hesitated a moment, but then carefully eased down into his chair.

C.J. folded himself down onto one knee, just to Callen's left side. While wiggling his fingers into his gloves, he continued, "We're going to leave the needle in place until you're discharged… just as a precaution." The nurse skillfully disconnected and capped the tube leading to the pump, and then secured the needed and short tube, remaining in G's hand, with several strips of tape.

"There ya go." The nurse pushed back up to stand and immediately zeroed in on the patient's forehead. He leaned in a little closer, and with his gloved hands, tilted Callen's head back a little. "That little steri-strip just doesn't want to stay on." He reached into his scrub pocket, dug around a few seconds, came out with a small package, and carefully applied a new steri-strip.

"Let me know if you need anything," Nurse C.J. said as he was about to leave the room. "And… uh… you might want to pace yourself, Mr. Callen. I don't want you overdoing it and having a set-back."