The Sting, chapter 19
Authors Note: It's always lovely to find reviews, thank you so much! To me as the writer of this story, it really gives the feeling that what I did was appreciated.
Disclaimer: all the original characters belong to CBS and Shane Brennan. I just used them for this storyline. No matter how, I'm grateful for those who introduced agent G. Callen to us and make him into the agent he's become.
Los Angeles || Venice || five weeks later
"You're worried. About Callen."
Sam shot a glance at the woman who sat opposite of him, wondering when it was she got to read his mind so easily. He nodded. "Guess I don't have to. I mean, I'm not concerned about Deeks and Kensi at all. And well, Anna's with him, but — " his voice trailed off and he let his gaze go over the twinkling lights along the Venice Canal.
Catherine softly smiled. "You know, Sam, this is how Howard keeps looking after me, his younger sister. I guess it's something like 'Not too sure whether or not she can cope in this dark and grim world'." She spread her right arm and added "Well, just look around. Look at this... Yeah, I think Howard knows, deep down, I'll be okay. He just wants to keep in touch and tell me he'll be around..."
"To keep you safe." Sam chuckled. "You're telling me—"
"You're behaving like my big brother. Like a momma bear perhaps," Catherine agreed with a smile. "Look, I know how vulnerable he was. And you hate it not knowing where he is right now. Right?"
Sam just nodded.
"Boatshed." There was a question in Callen's voice, shivering, once in the water.
Sam knew it was a swim of only one hundred yards and a little. But with Callen's poor condition and with shots still coming their way, it was quite an expedition. True, as a Seal Sam was trained for long distance swimming, but usually not in his day to day clothing. And he had to admit, the water was freezing cold. The swim felt like hours this time. Avoiding bullets, carefully watching his partner stubbornly struggling to get to where they wanted to be.
With more trouble than he expected, Sam finally managed to open the hatch and hoist himself up into the interrogation room where Zamorra still sat, taken by surprise to see the large man appear from the water.
With a lot more effort, Callen got a grip on to the ridges, yet he wasn't able to get in. He gratefully accepted Sam's strong hands but moaned in agony when his friend hauled him up, and once inside he finally lie sprawled on the wooden floor, gasping heavily before he let out another low moan. He closed his eyes for a brief second, weaker than he could remember and his limbs feeling heavy like lead.
"G," Sam said, his breath evenly already. "Man, you can get up?"
A smug smile appeared on Zamorra's face as he looked down at Callen. "This is G. Callen? Even my grandma could —"
He didn't finish his sentence because Kensi and Deeks had entered as well.
"Zamorra, shut up," Deeks said and ordered immediately after: "And get up on your feet."
"Castor!" Deeks then shouted.
The uniformed colleague came their way and together they cuffed Zamorra, then guided the man through the main room to the upstairs room, locking him in for as long as necessary.
"Callen, you're okay?" Kensi frowned, not used to see the team leader so weak. For a moment she was scared he was shot or hurt by the burning car outside. Then she remembered how he was far from recovered.
"Gim'me... a minute." He coughed, still tried to catch his breath and wanting to get rid of the intense pain he felt after over-stretching his battered body. Slowly, he curled up to a more comfortable position, hushing another groan himself.
-"Kensi, what's going on in there?" Nell asked curiously, since there was no footage from the inside and only the coms of Deeks and Kensi worked.
"Sam and Callen are here. They're…" she paused half a second "okay."
-"Good to know. Firefighters and an additional team are on their way. Although the team should be in there already." With the last few words, Nell addressed herself as well. "You sure 'bout Callen, Kenz?"
The dark haired agent nodded. "As good as you may expect."
Callen and Anna || five weeks later
Anna entered the room after an early morning run, expecting him to be waiting for her with a breakfast plate. Nothing like that, which made her nerves spike, like weeks ago. Sweaty and all, she hurried to the bedroom where he lay on the bed.
"Callen? Callen...Callen!" She kept repeating his name until his clear blue eyes opened and he sat up, resting on his elbows and forearms.
Anna let out a soft sigh and the uneasiness left immediately. Somehow all the events of the past few months had taken their toll. Whereas she and Callen had grown closer than ever before she realized more than ever how unpredictable life was. Even now, weeks after he'd been discharged from the hospital, his energy level was still low and he was too skinny in her opinion. Good thing he got some sun on his healing body.
Anna recalled how Callen had called her, late on an afternoon and asked her to pick him up like they'd agreed upon earlier that very same morning, and grab a quick bite with Sam.
After they got home Callen went to bed early, tired of the events of the day. When he woke up, he was feverish and had a hammering headache and at the end of the morning he was back in the hospital.
The expression on the face of the nearly retired physician who sat opposite of three worried people was a grim one. "Things look far more serious than last time I saw him in here. There's a nasty bacteria that crept into his body, attacking the immune system."
"But... how and when?" Anna interrupted distressed. "He had a shower last night and nothing was wrong."
"The when or how don't really matter," Dr Lee addressed Anna as well as Hetty and Sam. "But I won't lie to you, the situation is quite severe and the next 36 hours will show if agent Callen will survive or not. One in five people with this vibrio vulnificus doesn't survive."
"Vibrio?" Sam sharply inhaled. Worry was in his voice as he also let his gaze go Anna's way. "We only had a cheese sandwich, all three of us, right?"
Lee shook his head. "The germ entered his bloodstream through the tiniest scrape on his knee. He must have been in contact with salt, perhaps brackish water."
Sam murmured a confirmation, then closed his eyes and bowed his head. When Callen had tackled Sam to keep him safe, he probably landed on his knee. Scratched it. No big deal, things like that happened in their line of work. But now the only escape from getting shot or burned by fuels or in touch with a car on fire may just as well be fatal for his best friend — the water in the marina.
"I... I should've asked him to stay at the office."
"Nonsense, Mr Hanna. You are all too aware that Mr Callen in here would refuse to take your advice, nor an order I would've issued. Beside him being stubborn enough we've never experienced any dangerous situations near or in our boathouse ever before, have we?"
Still, Hetty felt a pang of regret herself too. After all she had more or less forced him to replace her while she decided to personally take care of destroying the threats that kept coming from Vasquez' systems. Callen detested office work, yet did as she'd asked. And even managing an operation proved to be rarely dangerous for her boy.
All three of them were lost in thoughts when Lee explained "His system was in shock upon arrival in here and not far from sinking into a coma. I don't have to tell you that the recent liver damage weakened his health and this attack on his immune system, well..."
Lee felt it was useless to continue. He slowly breathed out as he realized that two days before his retirement special agent Callen's life was in his hands, again. He'd saved him before, like he did with uncountable other patients. However, he'd lost many patients as well.
But right now, he'd do everything within his power and not stop until he knew there was nothing left to do.
Callen and Anna || present day
"Hey," he welcomed her. "Crap, must've fallen asleep again."
She nodded and eased out a breath. "It's so not me, this... I'm still worried about you, Callen."
He chuckled and Anna was mesmerized by the boyish smile on his face. "Nothing to worry about I'd say. Somehow I am in need of a long shower session, and by the look at you, maybe I'm not the only one."
He threw off the light comforter and got on his feet, looking over his shoulder with a grin Anna couldn't resist.
It was only afterwards her gaze was drawn to his left knee. The wound was still far too ugly but less worrisome, perhaps because they got used to taking care of it. "Will you be able to put the medicine and dressing in place?" she asked.
He glanced at the wound himself, serious and frustrated. Then he chuckled again and replied "Of course. I'm a big boy, you know?"
Flashback || Five weeks earlier
"Vibrio?" Anna asked. She never heard of it before.
Lee nodded and explained. "Sometimes it is called a flesh-eating bacteria, entering the body through the skin. He developed a sepsis which we need to fight. On the positive side, agent Callen arrived in here quite soon and since I know of his previous medical situation, treatment started soon. However, he is in a poor condition. Any ordinary antibiotics would work on you or me. Not on him right now."
Hetty sighed audibly and stated "But you found a way out, right?"
Lee shot her a comforting short smile. "Well, CDC advised me. As I said, the next days have to prove if it works out indeed. In any ordinary case, he'd be sick as hell using these blockers in the combination with the injectable ceftazidime. We'll keep him asleep as long as we can. But it's the only way to destroy the bacteria right now."
"Will it be good enough to prevent the bacteria destroying any part of his body?" Sam dared to ask.
Lee shrugged. "That is too early to tell."
Callen and Anna || present day || Haiti, hotel Satama
Anna had been petrified when Sam had asked about the idea of the possible loss of limbs. Which was strange, since Callen was wounded beforehand. But it honestly had freaked her out to think he might be disabled for the rest of his life. Never had she imagined a thing like that happening to him.
Seeing him around right now she was so very grateful to see him like this. Still not in his best shape, but more relaxed than she'd experienced before. It had been director Vance's decision to grant him as well as the other team members some weeks off. Actually, to go into hiding. From each other and from any possible enemy. Three whole weeks after Callen was released from the hospital, everyone disappeared. In Anna's own situation, there was a positive move as well, since all arrest warrants against her were cancelled.
Now here they were. Haiti.
He had insisted to travel this way, but Anna was the one who booked the hotel. Far too fancy in his opinion but he actually appreciated the fact that they'd be together and he could recover properly.
Okay, she'd asked him why Haiti, but actually and deep down she knew. It was all about the last case he really was involved with, before he was shot. The kids he'd saved during his undercover action. He'd asked her and Hetty so many times if they were okay.
So when Callen mentioned where he planned to stay, Anna knew.
They now sat at the balcony of the hotel, enjoying a cup of coffee. She let out a small breath of satisfaction.
"You know I could stay in here forever. They have a great Spa in here, I heard."
Callen shook his head with a soft smile. "You're nearly unbeatable, miss Kolcheck. Very decadent, don't you think?"
"The country needs our money."
He hummed. "Not the country, Anna, as in the government." He caught her eye and made her see further than the sweetly colored houses up in the hills. "This is the tourist section in here. That, over there, is the true Haiti. People live in sheds. All they do is survive. There's no time to enjoy the view, let alone that they ever experienced being in a hotel or a Spa. These people in there, they need our money." He let out a sigh. "Still… there's no way you can pay all of them."
He placed his empty cup on the table next to him. "We need to go, Anna."
She tilted her head just slightly, not knowing what he meant.