Chapter 59: Preparing for Departure
To Sam's disappointment, Callen's eyes didn't stay closed for very long. He woke up cold, and insisting that he had rested enough and needed to get out of bed.
"No, G. You overdid it today. The nurse said for you to stay put the rest of the night."
"What if I need to go to the bathroom or something?"
"Okay!" Sam barked. "Except for that,"
A few moments of silence passed. "I need to go to the bathroom."
"No, you don't."
Callen scowled. "How do you know?"
"Because my seven-year-old tries that one… every night at bedtime."
Suddenly shivering more intensely, G's frown deepened. He let out a shaky breath and turned his head away.
Sam allowed his partner to sulk for a few minutes before opening a protein drink and holding it out for him to take. "Here. Drink this."
Callen didn't respond. He just stared blankly at the window, to his left.
Callen jumped and his head quickly jerked toward Sam. Breathing hard, he blinked a few times. Then his wide eyes went from Sam, to the protein shake, then back to Sam.
Sam lowered the drink and paused a moment, giving his partner time to catch his breath.
Sam's tone softened. "After you drink this, maybe you need to get some more rest."
Callen absently took the container from Sam. "I'm not tired," he said weakly.
A smile tugged at one corner of Sam's mouth. "Yeah, right… You need a straw?"
With his lips slightly parted, Callen gave Sam a confused look.
"Do you need a straw?... For your protein drink."
Callen looked down at the container in his hand, as if he had forgotten he was holding it. His gaze traveled back up to Sam. "I think so."
After handing Callen a straw, Sam sat down on the little, crunchy, vinyl couch and crossed one leg over the other. He took in a long breath, curtailing the knot that was attempting to form in his stomach. Like so many times over the past few days, he had underestimated the residual effects of G's head injury. Glancing over at his trembling partner, Sam, once again, made a mental note to do better at avoiding sudden movements, and loud noises, until G was back to one-hundred percent.
Sam was relieved that, by the time Nurse Esther came on duty at eleven, G seemed to be thinking more clearly. In fact, he was alert and back to arguing and bantering a bit. The downside, was the realization that, keeping G down, might be a bit of a challenge. And after the way Callen had fizzled out earlier in the day, Sam was determined to prevent his partner from doing anything that would jeopardize his chance to be discharged.
Callen's last time out of bed for the night, was a little after midnight. He had complained that the protein shakes were leaving a nasty taste in his mouth, and insisted he needed to get up and brush his teeth.
Sam finally consented, knowing that this might also be G's last opportunity to get up before the next dose of medicine was administered.
To Sam's relief, the one-o'clock Florozine made G drowsy enough to rest quietly for the next few hours; rest they both needed.
Sam's eyes flew open. He jumped up from the couch and quickly made it to the bedside. "Sorry, G. Have you been calling me long?"
"No. That was the first time," he said hoarsely. "I need this rail down so I can go to the bathroom."
It was then that Sam noticed that the covers were jumbled, and Callen was lying at an angle. "How long have you been trying to lower the rail yourself?"
Callen lips pressed tightly together. He let out a breath through his nose. "A while."
Sam began pulling back the layers of blankets. "Why didn't you ask for help?" he chided.
"You were asleep."
Sam released the rail and let it slide down. "And?"
"I know better than to mess with the bear when he's sleeping."
Now shaking his head, Sam offered his forearm for Callen to grab on to. "Come on, stubborn."
Callen made it to the bathroom, and to his chair, without any difficulty. He was just about to sit down when Nurse Esther knocked, cracked the door open, and poked her head in. "Morning, boys." She looked directly at Callen. "How are you feeling?"
"Great. Go ahead and have a seat. I'll be back down in a few minutes to check vitals and get you set up to shower."
When G was seated, Sam walked to the small closet and opened the doors.
"What are you doing over there?" Callen asked, trying to peer over to where Sam was now noisily searching through the shelves.
"Kensi texted that Nell brought some clothes up here yesterday. I see the shirt she said she put on a hanger…" Sam removed the slate-blue, long-sleeved shirt and hung it on the handle of the closet door. "But I'm not seeing… there it is." He pulled a teal canvas tote from the shelf and deposited it on the small cabinet.
When he placed the boots on the floor beside where G was sitting, Callen studied them for a moment, and then looked up at Sam with a questioning look. "I'm going home today?"
"That's the plan."
Callen visibly relaxed as he closed his eyes and let out a breath.
Sam couldn't help smiling at the look of relief that had just washed over his partner. After nine long days in this hospital room, G was finally well enough to leave. Sam felt his own inward sigh of relief, imagining how good it would feel to be home with his family.
Sam was suddenly jarred from his thoughts by an incoming phone message. He slid his phone out of his back pocket and looked at the screen. "It's Kensi…" he said aloud. "What? This early?" Sam paused to send a reply. "Kensi and Deeks will be here in a little while," he said, still looking at his screen. "They met for an early run and had to cancel because it started pouring rain." Sam made eye contact with his partner. "As soon as they change clothes, they're heading this way."
Sam had just put his phone away when Esther returned. She hung some clean towels in the bathroom, and then checked Callen's temperature, pulse rate, and blood pressure. She eyed his forehead from where she was putting away the blood pressure cuff. "I don't expect that steri-strip will survive another shower, Mr. Callen. But it's about time for it to come off anyway."
Suddenly, G was jerking his head to the side, attempting to dodge Sam's hand that was reaching up and pulling the small bandage from his forehead.
"What was that?" Callen asked, sounding as annoyed as he looked.
"Your steri-strip. It was barely hanging on. Did you think I was going to punch you in the face or something?"
"Maybe?" G's narrowed eyes were still directed at his partner.
"When have I ever hit you in the face, G?"
"Lots of times."
"I never have hit you for real… It was undercover work."
"It sure felt real to my face."
At that point, both men realized that the Nurse was standing to the side, eyebrows raised, waiting patiently for this wave of bantering to conclude.
She shook her head. "I bet work is never dull with you two."
"You have no idea," Sam grouched.
Esther moved to the small table next to the bed, and opened the drawer. "Let's get you headed toward the shower, so you can be done by the time C.J. brings your morning meds."
While Esther applied the waterproof covering to Callen's cast, Sam pulled several items from the canvas tote and carried G's jeans, boxers, and shaving kit into the bathroom.
G scooted forward in his chair so that Esther and Sam could help him out of his hoodie. When they peeled off his t-shirt, he shivered hard.
Esther placed a consoling hand on his shaking shoulder. "I'll go get the water warmed up for you."
By the time the nurse had the water set to a satisfactory temperature, Callen had made it to the bathroom door. Esther stepped out, making room for her patient to enter, giving him a sympathetic smile as he passed her. "Mr. Callen, if you get into trouble, or you just get too tired, pull the red cord in the shower stall. Someone will be right in to assist you."
"I'll stay close," Sam assured.
G slowly turned his head toward his partner and quirked an eyebrow at him. "I'm sure you will."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you're in full 'Momma Bear' mode."
Nurse Esther almost suppressed her smile, before exiting the room, leaving the two men to hash things out on their own.
Half an hour had passed when Deeks and Kensi arrived. They opened the door, but stopped within just a few steps through the doorway. Both looked around in confusion that no one was in the room.
They had just exchanged shrugs when they heard Callen's exhausted, but frustrated voice coming from the other side of the bathroom door.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm taking that wrap off your cast."
Only a few moments had passed when G began to protest. "Sam, stop it! I'm not a two-year-old. I can dress myself."
"Shut up and let me help you."
"I don't need your help."
"Why are you so stubborn. It's not going to kill you to let someone take care of you."
"If you need something to take care of, maybe you should consider getting a puppy."
"Just stand still."
"See? You almost fell over because you're being so hard-headed."
"Let go of me… Seriously, Sam. You're smothering me… I've got this."
"Fine! Do it yourself."
Kensi and Deeks had not moved from where they had stopped near the entrance, when the bathroom door suddenly swung open and Sam came bounding out. The two immediately began awkwardly gazing around the room, looking at everything except the big, grumpy SEAL.
Sam stopped and stared at them for a moment. "What?" he asked gruffly.
"Nothing," Marty responded, still avoiding eye contact.
Sam huffed before making his way over to the window
Deeks and Kensi exchanged nervous looks and then quietly seated themselves next to each other on the couch.
They were sitting in silence, and Sam still staring out the window blinds, when Callen finally came hobbling out of the bathroom, wearing only a pair of jeans.
"Where's my… shirt…" he trailed off, crossing his arms across his, still bruised, torso, seemingly uncomfortable when he realized the younger team members had arrived.
"Chair," Sam mumbled, after barely glancing back at G.
Callen visually located the garment in question and, after flashing a brief, bashful look at Kensi, made his way to where his blue shirt had been neatly draped over the back of his chair. But when he reached for his shirt with his right hand, his left hand reflexively went to upper thigh, barely catching the top of his loose-fitting jeans before they slid completely off of his hips.
"Whoa, Callen," Deeks said, sounding somewhat impressed. "Good save."
Kensi didn't miss that Sam had now angled himself so that he could inconspicuously keep an eye on his partner.
With his jeans now pulled up and secured, Callen took another chance at reaching for his shirt. It wasn't until he slipped his arm into a shirtsleeve, that the jeans suddenly plummeted southward again. He was able to catch them, and yank them up, but not before briefly exposing almost the entirety of his pale blue boxers.
A universal sigh of relief was released by those observing, when Callen, somehow, managed to shrug into his shirt without losing his pants. But then the tension returned as G began to struggle with the buttons of his shirt.
Deeks watched with narrowed eyes, and Kensi started biting her bottom lip; both of them desperately wanting to assist.
Kensi made to get up, but stopped when Sam grouched, "Don't help him, Kenz. He's got this."
She reluctantly eased back into the couch cushion, and resumed her lip chewing.
A few seconds later, Callen was shaken by a sudden chill. His eyes closed tightly as he paused long enough to let the shivering subside. When his eyes opened again, he let out an unsteady breath, carefully lowered himself into his chair, and returned to the tedious task of attempting to get his casted hand, and his hand with the IV needle still inserted, to work together to manipulate the row of small buttons.
After what felt like hours to those who were helplessly watching, Callen had only managed to fasten three buttons.
G looked down at his shirt. Frustration took over his features when realized that, the few buttons he had put so much effort into, were not even lined up with the correct buttonholes. He tilted his head back a little, closed his eyes, and let out a breath, as all the fight seemed to leave him.
No longer pretending to gaze out the window, Sam had turned and was fully facing his partner at this point. He actually looked to be about to intervene when there was a tap on the door.
Nurse C.J. came into the room. "Morning everyone."
"Good morning," Kensi and Deeks chorused.
Callen met eyes with the nurse and then immediately began to frown at the medicine cup the man was carrying.
C.J. glanced down at his hand and then wrinkled his nose. "Yeah. It's that time. But on the bright side… I just heard that it's discharge day."
G seemed to be, either too tired, or too preoccupied with what was coming next to hear anything that was being said. He took the cup of water the nurse handed him. And despite his obvious disapproval, swallowed the two capsules without argument.
Like shooting from the free throw line, C.J. bent his knees and shot the empty medicine cup into the trash can.
After exchanging "high-fives" with Deeks, the Nurse wiped the smile off his face and looked directly at Callen. "We're working on getting your Florozine ordered. It may be a few hours, but as soon as it arrives, I'll print out your discharge papers."
Callen acknowledged with a single nod, and then folded his arms over his chest, lowered his head, and closed his eyes.
The moment the door closed behind C. J., Sam rounded the foot of the bed, walking over to where his partner was sitting. He reached down and gave the side of Callen's thigh a couple of quick taps.
Sam's chest tightened when his partner gazed up at him; suddenly looking exhausted, cold, and absolutely miserable. It's barely past seven in the morning and he's already worn out.
"Stand up a minute," Sam said softly, while signaling the request with his upward facing hand.
Giving Sam a puzzled look, G uncrossed his arms and used the chair arms to slowly push himself up to stand.
"You can't leave here half-dressed," Sam said, and then went to work unfastening the three misaligned buttons.
From over on the couch, Kensi and Deeks shared looks of amusement at how quickly Sam's 'tough guy' façade had crumbled.
But just as the second button was undone, G jerked to the side, losing his balance while grabbing hold of his jeans that were, once again, sliding down.
Sam quickly caught G by both upper arms, holding him until he was steady. "This isn't gonna work." Sam went to the counter, and pulled a belt from the teal tote bag.
Sam's expression conveyed nothing but 'business' as he returned to where he had left Callen standing.
G was still holding his jeans in place with his left hand. Only now, his casted hand was clutching the front of his unbuttoned shirt.
Seemingly oblivious to his partner's desperate attempt to retain a bit of dignity, Sam stepped in even closer. He slipped the end of the belt through the first beltloop, but was blocked from proceeding to the next by Callen's hand, that still had a death grip on the waistband.
"Hold up your arms," Sam instructed quietly, tapping G's left wrist a couple of time.
Callen just stood there, eyeing the belt Sam was holding.
Sam tilted his head to the side and a small smile broke through. "You can let go, G. I'm not gonna let 'em fall."
Callen glared up at Sam. "You're all up in my bubble, partner."
Sam chuckled. "You don't get to have a bubble right now, partner. Move your hands."
Just when G looked as if he was considering complying, he swayed a bit, and then quickly righted himself.
Sam let out a breath. Hurry up, G… before your medicine kicks in and you fall completely over."
Callen's eyes narrowed. "I'm not gonna fall," he countered stubbornly.
"Yeah, right. Tell me that when you need help getting up out of the floor."
G frowned even harder. "Sam. I'm no' gonna fall," he said tiredly, not sounding quite as emphatic as he probably had intended.
"Why are you being so stubborn, G?" Sam asked, still holding the belt that had only been strung through one loop of Callen's jeans. "Just move your hand and let me do this."
Callen hesitated another moment, and then let go.
With G's hands now out of the way, Sam reached around Callen with both arms, deftly feeling for, and slipping the end of the belt through each loop. When he had fastened the belt, and slipped the end through the keeper, he began fastening the row of buttons on Callen's shirt.
But with just two buttons left to go, G shuddered hard enough to lose his footing.
In an instant, Sam and Deeks were on each side, carefully lowering him down into his chair.
Callen shook again, then closed his eyes and lowered his head.
The next time he opened his eyes, Sam was crouched down in front of the chair, looking worriedly at him.
"You okay, G?"
"Yeah," he breathed out. Callen's eyes fell closed again.
"Are you dizzy?"
Callen shook his head, slowly, a couple of times. "Jus' got really sleeby," he slurred. He forced his heavy eyelids open and looked to his right, and then to his left.
Sam studied him a moment. "What do you need?"
G gave up trying to keep his eyes open. "My hoodie."
Now Sam was the one looking around the room. "Esther must have moved it when you were in the shower."
Kensi opened the closet door. "Got it," she said as she pulled it off the hanger.
Sam quicky fastened the remaining two bottom buttons on Callen's shirt, and then the cuff button at his left wrist. Then Deeks and Sam pulled the black hoodie over his head.
Callen began, lethargically, trying to push his hands into the sleeves. Between his sleepy state, and the cast on his right hand, he was failing miserably. Progress was halted when he ended up caught in a tangled mess of his own making.
With a slight eye roll, Sam shook his head. "Be still, G. Let us do this."
Not left with much choice, since he was too tired to break free of the twisted hoodie, he relaxed and allowed the others to work his arms into the sleeves.
"Kenz," Sam called, looking back at the brunette. "Your hands are smaller. I couldn't button his right cuff over that cast. His shirt sleeve…"
"I'm on it," she replied, before Sam had finished his request. Kensi knelt down on one knee beside Callen, inched her hand up through the cuff of the right hoodie sleeve, and gently pulled the bunched-up shirt sleeve down into place.
By the time she slid her hand out, Callen's eyes were closed, and he had gone completely limp. Kensi rose to her feet and looked down at him. "Well, that was fast."
"Yes. It. Was," Sam agreed. "That Florozine hasn't even been in his system fifteen minutes." Sam grabbed a pair of dark socks and squatted down in front of Callen.
Callen was so out-of-it, he didn't even seem to notice when Sam lifted his lower leg and began tugging a sock onto his foot.
Sam had just zipped Callen's boots, when C.J. stepped into the room. He stopped and took in the patient's sleeping form. "Boy. That was fast."
Deeks, Kensi, and Sam all smiled back at him.
"That's what we said," Kensi said, her smile broadening.
"Well…" the nurse said with a shrug, and then held up a protein shake he had in his hand. "Well, this isn't happening. I was hoping to get one of these in him before he conked out."
"We'll make sure he drinks it," Sam assured, while pushing himself up to stand.
"Thanks. That would be great." C.J. placed the container on the portable table and exited the room.
Turning their attention back to Callen, they all noted that there was a slight tremble that wasn't there before. Without a word, the team went to work layering him with the three blankets that had been left folded at the foot of the bed.
When Callen was tucked in to their satisfaction, Kensi and Deeks sat down on the couch. Sam moved to sit in a chair, leaned back, and crossed one leg over the other thigh, keeping a close eye on his partner.