Well, this is it… the last chapter. After working on this story for so many years, it is sort of bitter-sweet. Glad to have finished it, but it sort of feels like I'm losing an old friend. Thank you to those of you who have stuck with me through all the long breaks, and to those who have left messages and reviews. You have been such an encouragement.
P.S. If anyone is interested in continuing the story past the hospital stay, you are certainly welcome to "run with it."
Chapter 60: The Getaway
A few minutes after tucking Callen in, Deeks, Kensi, and Sam received simultaneous text notifications. They each pulled out their phones and began reading a group message from Hetty.
:As you may know, the medication has been shipped and is expected to arrive in approximately three hours. Your instructions are to bring Mr. Callen directly to the office when he is released. I have a conference call at 2:30. When I've finished my call, he will be going home with me, at least for the weekend:
"Naw!" Sam said loudly enough to rouse G for a moment. Then Sam began keying in a message of his own.
:I'm taking G to my house. My wife already set up a room for him.:
Less than five seconds later, Sam's phone began to ring. He looked at it a long moment, and then let out a breath before finally answering. "Sam."
Sam stiffened. "But he's comfortable at my place." Wincing at the apparent sudden volume increase in his boss's voice, Sam jerked the phone away from his ear. He got up from his chair, snatched a magazine from the end of the couch, held it up to the phone, and began crinkling the pages. "Het… We're break.. up." And with the jab of his index finger, he ended the call.
He looked up to find Kensi and Deeks gawking at him with open mouths, and large eyes.
"Uhhh," Marty began. "Did you just hang up on Hetty?"
Sam sank back down in his chair. "She's not being reasonable."
Sam's phone began to ring again. This time, he ignored it.
"Aren't you going to answer it?" Kensi asked worriedly.
The ringing stopped.
Four seconds later, Kensi's phone began ringing.
"Don't answer that," Sam said gruffly.
"But it's… Hetty."
"Yeah," Deeks agreed absently, while gazing anxiously at the phone his partner held in her outstretched hand. "It's Hetty."
Kensi and Deeks continued to sit, frozen, staring at the phone screen as if it were a bomb that might detonate at any second.
With a prolonged, agonizing wince, Kensi tore her eyes away, looked up at Sam, and then back at her phone. A small whine escaped her lips, before she gave in and answered. "Hetty?" she said sweetly. Then she slowly lowered the phone from her ear, stood up, and took the few steps to where Sam was sitting.
Sam shook his head negatively, waving his hands from side-to-side, repeatedly mouthing the word 'no.'
With an apologetic look, she held the phone out to within his reach.
Sam looked away a moment. Suddenly, he uncrossed his leg, sat up straighter in his chair, and then practically snatched the phone from her. "This is Sam," he answered.
Kensi quickly returned to the couch where she and Deeks sat on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting what was bound to be a train wreck. They couldn't hear Hetty's words from that distance. But they could hear her voice… her tone. And it was loud. And not happy.
Sam glanced up at them once, his lips parted as if he wanted to speak. "Hetty…." "I…" "But…" "He's…" was all he was able to fit into Hetty's rant.
Finally, Hetty's voice fell silent.
Sam rolled his eyes and huffed out a breath of air. "Yes, Hetty. I heard you." After lowering the phone, checking to be sure the call was disconnected, Sam leaned forward in his chair, extended his long arm, and gently tossed the phone onto the couch cushion beside Kensi.
"Well?" Deeks asked impatiently.
"Well what?" Sam grouched.
Deeks and Kensi continued looking at Sam, both with raised eyebrows, anticipating a reply.
Holding on to his scowl, Sam turned his head away from the younger team members. "He's going home with me."
"Hetty agreed?!" Deeks asked, his voice raising an octave or two.
"No. But I'm taking him to my house when we leave here."
Kensi began chewing her bottom lip.
Deeks pursed his lips and let out a whistle. "She's gonna be pissed."
Kensi visibly relaxed and crossed her arms. "You know, come to think of it, Hetty really is too small to take care of him anyway. What if he needs help getting up?... or falls?"
"Exactly," Sam said, flipping both palms upward for emphasis.
"He could stay at my place," Kensi offered. "Hetty wouldn't think to look for him there."
"Do what?" Marty squeaked. "Don't you think that would be a bit awkward?"
"I would give him his privacy. He can have my room and I'll sleep on the couch."
"Nope." Deeks shook his head. "He should come to my apartment. I have way more space."
Kensi's nose scrunched. "You think Callen would want to share a couch with your mangy mutt?"
Deeks put on his best 'indignant' face. "Monty is not mangy… I keep telling you all, he has a… skin condition."
"Yeah." Sam chuckled. "It's called the mange."
The arguing, and picking at one another, continued for the next half hour, until someone came to the door with Callen's breakfast.
Kensi moved closer to the portable table and began staring longingly at the tray of food. "Oooo. They brought him jelly today. And mandarin oranges."
Sam looked at her with a half-smile. "You might as well eat it, Kenz. G's not going to."
"Really?" Then, without a moment's hesitation, Kensi wheeled the table over to the couch and sat down. She opened a few packages and generously slathered the strawberry jelly on the toasted bread.
She had just sunk her teeth into the first piece of toast, when she realized Callen was blearily blinking at her.
"Oh," she mumbled through the toast she was already in the process of bighting in to. "Were you 'anting to eat thi'?"
Callen's heavy eyelids blinked a few times before answering her with the tiniest of smirks.
G's groggy amusement was short-lived, when a protein shake appeared right in front of his face. He slowly lifted his eyes to find Sam standing over him.
"Your nurse said you need to drink this."
Callen squinted at the protein drink and let out a small breath of air. He slowly scooted himself up straighter in his chair, pulled one hand from beneath the blankets, and took the container. After taking a couple of sips, he looked back up at Sam. "When am I going home?"
"In a couple of hours."
A faraway look came across Callen's face. He turned his head away and peered toward the window. "Do I have a car here?"
In his peripheral vision, Sam caught Deeks and Kensi's eyes suddenly go wide, as they stopped what they were doing and stared at Callen.
"No, G." Sam answered, managing not to laugh at the idea of his partner driving in his condition. "Your car is still in the lot at work."
Callen's faraway look turned to one of confusion before he turned to face Sam. "Are you giving me a ride home?"
"Yes," was Sam's simple reply, not really wanting to get into the argument of why he wasn't taking him to his own place. "Now drink that shake."
Callen blinked groggily at Sam a couple of times and then took another drink.
G eventually finished his drink and was, immediately, handed a cup of apple juice. He frowned down at the Styrofoam cup before bringing it up to his lips for a sip.
When his cup was empty, he placed it on the table in front of him. Without a word, he pushed the rolling table away from him, tossed the blankets off to the side, and began to stand.
"Hold up, G." Sam jumped up from his chair in time to see Callen make it to his feet. "What are you doing?"
Callen's first step was a little wobbly, but he quickly recovered, and walked to the restroom on his own.
When he came out, he opened the door that led to the hall and began slowly exiting the room.
"Now where are you going?" Sam asked, while shaking his head.
"You could have said something," Sam grumped, now following close behind his partner.
When they returned to the room, Callen was miserably cold, and shivering so badly that Sam was holding on to his upper arm to help him stay upright.
Sam helped him ease down into his chair and then carefully covered him with the blankets that had been tossed aside earlier.
Kensi poured Callen a cup of tea from Hetty's humungous thermos. "It's not all that hot, this morning. I'll get ask someone at the nurses' station to stick it in the microwave for a minute."
When she returned, Callen shakily took the mug from her and gave her a quiet "thanks."
The next hour passed with Deeks and Kensi taking and joking with one another; Callen sipping on his tea and nibbling on a few crackers while, seemingly, using every fiber of his being to control his shivering; and Sam, not so inconspicuously, keeping an eye on his partner.
Ten-thirty rolled around and C.J. entered Callen's room. "Well, Mr. Callen? Everything's been taken care of and you are officially ready to be discharged."
A sigh of relief was felt, more than heard, throughout the room before the nurse continued.
Still looking at Callen, the C.J. handed Sam a small white paper bag. "This is enough Florozine to last until Wednesday. A thirty-day supply has shipped and should be here Monday afternoon. Someone will contact Miss Lange when it arrives."
C.J. began shuffling some papers on a clipboard. "I need to read some information to you and have you sign… You are to get lots of rest… only short walks… no physical activity until you've been cleared by neurology. Even though the bleeding in your brain has stopped, you need to take precautions so that you don't get your heartrate or blood pressure up. Do you understand?"
Callen looked up at the nurse and nodded twice.
"Good… It's imperative that you not miss a single dose of your Florozine, and that you take it at the scheduled times: two capsules, every six hours… seven am, one pm, seven pm, and one am. Do not operate a motorized vehicle and don't consume alcohol while taking this medication."
"Aww, bummer," Deeks added from the background.
The nurse smiled and then continued with discharge instructions. "The side effects of the Florozine, which I'm sure you are very familiar with, are: dizziness, occasional blurred vision, temporary drowsiness, decreased blood pressure, feeling of extreme cold, and decreased appetite. Speaking of appetite…" C.J. looked up. "Dr. Lee wants you to continue supplementing your meals with protein shakes until your appetite returns."
The C.J. paused and visually scanned the room. "I meant to bring a few of those shakes for you to take home with you – just to get you by until someone can get to a store. I'll go get them we're done here." The nurse flipped to the next page, and held the clipboard up for Callen to see. "You're scheduled for a repeat MRI in two weeks. That'll be done here at the hospital, in the Outpatient Center. The date and time are right here, along with the information for your follow-up appointment with Neurology. Also, the Orthopedist wants to see you in five weeks to do another x-ray of that wrist. If everything looks good, they'll remove the cast on that visit. His office number is at the bottom of this page. Someone will need to call and set up that appointment. Dr. Lee said to call his personal cell number if there are any questions are concerns. I handwrote that number right here."
C.J. looked up to find his patient was gazing toward floor, looking completely overwhelmed.
After exchanging looks with Sam, C.J. let out a breath, and then looked at Callen apologetically. "I know this is a lot of information. But it's all written down in these papers that are going home with you. And I've already faxed a copy to Miss Lange… Okay?"
Never looking up, Callen answered with a half-hearted nod.
"Alright… I need you to sign right here…" C.J. got down on one knee next to Callen's chair. Using the chair arm to help support the clipboard, he positioned the form and waited.
Still looking a bit lost, Callen did not seem to process what the nurse had asked him to do, nor did he look at the pen being held out for him to take.
Sam waited several long seconds before finally intervening. "G."
Callen blinked a couple of times and then his gaze traveled to where Sam was standing.
"The nurse needs you to sign that paper."
G looked at the nurse who was still kneeling beside him, and then down at the clipboard in front of him. "Sorry," he whispered. Now that he was coming out of his fog, Callen sat up a little straighter and took in a deeper breath. Accepting the pen that was being offered to him, he signed on the line the nurse was indicating with his finger.
"All-riiighty," C.J. groaned a little as he hoisted himself up to stand. "Mr. Callen?"
G made eye contact with the nurse.
"A transporter will be here with a wheelchair, to take you down, in about…" He glanced at his watch… "Twen…"
"I can walk," Callen quickly objected.
"Ha." Sam shook his head and then mumbled, "Why am I not surprised?"
"I know you can walk," C.J. explained, trying not to smile. "But it's hospital policy. Everyone leaves the floor in a wheelchair."
G let out a soft, disgruntled breath, but didn't protest further.
"What was I saying?" C.J. brought his right index finger to his temple. "Oh, yeah. Someone from transportation will be here in twenty to thirty minutes." He turned and gave Kensi and Deeks a quick look before his gaze stopped on Sam. "Who's driving him home?"
Sam held up a hand. "That would be me."
"If you'd like, you can move your car to the discharge zone while we're waiting." He handed Sam a piece of paper. "If you put this on your dash, they won't tow you." The nurse snatched a couple of disposable gloves from the wall dispenser. "In the meantime, Mr. Callen, let me get that annoying IV catheter out of your hand."
Sam immediately went to the closet and began gathering up tote bags.
Deeks moved to the counter. "I'll help get this stuff to the car." He picked up the oversized thermos and Callen's shaving kit.
Kensi handed her partner the Tootsie Pop basket and watched the blonde follow Sam out of the room. A hiss from Callen had her suddenly turning her attention to where the nurse had just removed the IV needle, and was now beginning the process of taping a cotton ball to the top of Callen's hand.
"Sorry," C.J. said, as he pocketed his roll of tape. "Those things really sting coming out." After discarding the needle and gloves, C.J. looked at Callen. "Do you need anything while you're waiting? Bathroom? Something to drink?"
Callen looked up briefly. "No. I'm good."
"Alrighty then. If you need me, I'll be down at the desk doing some charting."
Sam and Deeks had barely made it back when C.J. entered the room, followed by a young man pushing a wheelchair.
C.J. looked at Sam, reached into a plastic tote bag he was holding, and pulled out a small paper sack. "Here is his medication. You'll probably want to get him home and situated before his one o'clock dose is due. Otherwise, you could end up carrying him in from the car."
With a half-grin on his face, Sam hmphed. "I'm not carrying him anywhere. If he passes out, I'm leaving his skinny butt in the car."
C.J. chuckled as he returned the small pharmacy sack to the plastic bag. "I put a few protein shakes in here for him," he continued. "And a copy of his discharge instructions."
Sam clapped his hands together once. "Let's go home, G." He lifted the covers off of Callen, laid them on the bed, and then reached out a took the bag from the nurse.
Callen pushed the hood of his jacket back off of his head and then slowly rose to his feet. Then he just froze in place, glaring at the wheelchair that had just been pushed directly in front of him.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Just sit down in the thing already, so we can get out of here."
After frowning a few more moments at the offensive mode of transportation that awaited, Callen complied.
In the short time it took for the transporter to wheel Callen onto the elevator, the team's customary bickering and bantering had commenced.
"Hey, Sam," Kensi began, "My SUV is parked out front. I don't mind driving him."
"Absolutely not. You know your driving makes him carsick." Without even looking at him, Sam pressed a pair of sunglasses into G's chest. "Here. Put these on."
The elevator car now descending, Callen slipped the mirrored shades on, and then his gaze traveled from person to person as they continued arguing.
"I can drive Kensi's car," Deeks quickly offered.
"Nope. He'll be fine in the Challenger."
"But your car is so low to the ground," Kensi pointed out. "Don't you think he's going to have a hard time getting in and out of it?"
"Guys?" Callen interjected. "He's… right here."
Sam continued as if his partner had not spoken. "He's riding with me, and that's final."
When the elevator door slid open, Callen made to stand, but was immediately stuffed back down in the chair by his partner's large hand pressing against his chest.
And to Callen's dismay, the debate on who should take Callen home with them, and who should drive, resumed as they headed down the hall.
They had barely made it through the automatic exit doors that led to the sidewalk when Callen mumbled something about finding his own way home, and then, without warning, stood up from the slow-moving wheelchair and began limping down the sidewalk, away from them.
The young transporter stood there with a surprised look on his face while there were simultaneous shouts from the others. "Callen!" - "Nononono!" - "Uh-uh, G!"
Within seconds, Sam had G's upper arm in his grip and was steering him back toward the group. "Have you lost your mind?!"
Callen stopped and looked at Sam, his expression something of a mix of frustration and despair. "I just want to go home… My place… Sleep in my own bed."
"G. You don't even have a bed. How are you planning on getting up and down out of the floor?"
"I can manage. I always have."
"I know you have. But this time, it's not happening. The doctor said someone has to be with you… in case you get dizzy… to make sure you eat and drink… and take your medicine on time."
Callen lowered his head.
Sam's features softened, as well as his tone. "Look, G. I get it. But it won't be for long."
With a little nudge from his partner, Callen made a U-turn. Then as a group, minus the transporter guy who had given up at this point, they began slowly progressing toward the black Challenger parked at the curb.
"Just think of the alternative, G. You could be going home with Hetty."
Callen came to a stop and his eyes met Sam's. "Hetty?!"
"Yep. I'm supposed to take you to the office. She's planning on taking you to her place."
Callen shook his head. "Oh no. Not going to Hetty's." And, with another light tug, he began walking again.
Sam was still chuckling at Callen's response, when he pressed the remote to unlock his car. "So suddenly, my wife's casserole surprise doesn't sound so bad, does it, G?"
"Hetty's going to be ticked," Callen warned.
"Nah. She'll get over it." Sam reached and opened the passenger door. He waited for G to, rather painfully, ease himself down into the seat and then stretched the seatbelt out long enough for his grimacing partner to reach across and grab it with his left hand. "You need help with this?"
"I got it," G answered through gritted teeth.
As he closed the passenger's door, a sense of relief washed over Sam. G was gaining some independence, and finally heading home.
Sam popped the trunk and added the white plastic hospital bag to the collection of the totes he had brought down earlier. But just as he slammed the trunk shut – Vroom! – the Challenger began to rumble.
What?! Sam jumped backwards.
Inside, Callen was just as surprised. Because sitting next to him, in the driver's seat, was none other than Hetty Lange herself.
With a huge mischievous smile on her face, Hetty handed Callen an orange Tootsie Pop. "Buckle up and HANG ON!"
She slid the sports car into gear and took off, leaving smoke and tire marks in her wake.
Sam, Kensi and Deeks just stood there in silence… their mouths open… stunned.
The three of them were still staring at the spot where the rear of the black Challenger had disappeared, when Deeks finally spoke. "What just happened?"
"Hetty just happened," Kensi answered absently.
Still gazing down the road, Sam began slowly shaking his head. "Yes. She. Did."
With his voice sounding far off, Deeks added, "The Little Ninja."
Hetty had just happened. And she was doing what she always did when this nameless orphan was in trouble; taking on one of the biggest, most frustrating, challenges she had ever known… the challenge of taking care of Callen.
Thank you for reading!