BONUS – Rally
11:45 A.M., The Next Day
Joy listened to the soft sounds outside of her hospital room. She lay in the freezing-cold room on her side, covered with white sheets and her fuzzy pink blanket. She stared out the window, the TV having been turned off forever ago with no desirable programming on. She liked the quiet. It was soothing. She had lost all track of time while staying in the hospital. The days and nights were roller-coasters of awake, asleep, nightmares, nurses, visits, and drugs. She didn't know what day it was anymore. Joy sighed softly. The nurses had told her Grandmother that it would be normal for the teenager to forget things due to the level of painkillers they had her on. Joy didn't think that "forgetting things" should include what day it was, but maybe she was wrong. Her hand tightened momentarily on the cell phone she held. She glanced at its screen, pressing the button to bring it back to life. It lit up and showed her the time and what day it was. She felt relieved. Again. Dumb drugs. She thought for the thirtieth time.
Callen's visit the day before came back to her thoughts. Joy's eyes traveled down to the pink, fluffy, stuffed kitty that he had brought her. She had kept it on her bed ever since he had visited. In a strange way, the toy had helped her to realize that the pain had a purpose. It wasn't just a random thing that had happened, her getting shot. Her action had saved a life. His life. G Callen's life. And no one knew except for the secret agent people. She needed to keep it that way, too. When her Grandmother had asked where the stuffed cat had come from, she had simply told her a friend had visited. When pressured for the friend's name, Joy used the deflective questions that Kensi had taught her to distract her Grandmother from the answer. It had worked. The secret agents would remain secret if she had anything to do with it.
Joy looked down at her cell phone. She suddenly remembered that G Callen had given her his cell phone number. A bolt of excitement jolted through her. She brought her phone closer to her eyes and quickly began looking through her contacts, hoping that she had actually saved his number. It would be just like her drugged self to have gotten his number and then forgotten to enter it in her phone. She smiled a little when she came to the entry of "G" without a last name. She knew it was his number.
Moving in a drug-induced whim, she decided to text him. After all, it was boring here, at present. If he responded, she could have a conversation. If he didn't, at least she'd said what she had forgotten to yesterday…
Joy typed on her phone's keypad.
Thank you again 4 the pink kitty. It never leaves my side. Hope ur doing good.
She hit 'send' before she could care too much.
Just then, her Grandmother returned, opening the hospital room door. Joy put her phone down and gave her a weak smile.
Her Grandmother brought in several bags of items that she thought would interest Joy and make her stay in the hospital easier. To Joy, it looked like she'd raided all of the nearby stores in a frenzy. Going through all of the items would take the rest of Joy's waking hours.
Joy wondered if G Callen had gotten her text only a few times.
The next day, Joy entertained herself with television and watching the movies her Grandmother had picked up for her the day before.
Somewhere in the middle of "Princess Diaries: II," Joy exhaled, bored. She like the movie well enough, but the pain in her shoulder was increasing and her Grandmother had been gone for awhile—to where, she couldn't recall—and was supposed to be back soon. And, she was just plain tired. This getting shot business was pretty awful.
Any ideas on what I can do? She thought quietly at God. She could feel Him near, but He didn't reply, seemingly letting her know that she could do whatever she wanted.
Joy sighed, picking up the pink, stuffed kitten she had sitting next to her on the bed. She stared at it, slowly appreciating the intricacies of the fake, white whiskers, the soft, pink fur, complete with dark pink stripes, the beautiful, cool-blue glass eyes, and large, raspberry-colored satin bow around its neck. As she stared at it, she realized that the kitten had eyes the same color as G Callen's. She smiled to herself. The blue was exactly the hue she remembered his eyes being. Suddenly, it hit her that the kitten's expressionless look closely resembled the serious look G Callen kept on his face; the one he would wear when he wasn't joking. She let out a surprised happy sound. It was too perfect and too funny that the gift he had given her had any likeness of him in it. She quickly looked over the stuffed animal again, wondering if there were any more similarities between the kitten and G Callen. She couldn't find any more, but that didn't wipe the happiness off her face. She was simply delighted with her discovery.
"Well." Joy said quietly, talking to God as she held the kitten and petted its head. "I guess we should name this little one… It's a pity I think of it as a she, otherwise I could name it Callen…" Joy grinned as she was almost positive that God let out a short laugh. She held the kitten in one hand, raising an eyebrow at it. "Really? You don't think G Callen would like a pink kitten being named after him?"
I'm thinking no.
"Well, I think he'd laugh."
I'm the One laughing, Joy.
"Yeah, I hear that… It's a she anyway, so he won't ever know about that, right?"
Not from Me.
"So, what do I name her?"
He didn't respond, so Joy assumed He was letting her choose again. She worked through all the names that she liked. Thinking about color-specific names, both in English and Spanish, she went through her lists and took note whenever she found a name that worked. She didn't want the kitten to just have one name, so she worked on it until she was pleased with the entire feel of the long name.
She picked up her cell phone, ignoring the pain levels that were rising, and began texting Callen.
Thought I shld tell u I finally figured out a name 4 the pink kitty u gave me… Rosalee Ann Trinity Fluff-N-Tuff. Last name is in honor of u. (:
She sent the text and smiled at the phone before putting it down. Even if he didn't respond, she was glad that she had made the effort to let him know that she liked his gift enough to name it.
The next day was a painful one for Joy. There were antibiotic shots that were needed for her injured shoulder, as well as poking and prodding required to check its healing. She kept Rosalee nearby for everything. And when tears escaped, she would squeeze the pink kitty close and bury her face in its fur. It was nearly evening before she felt like smiling, finally resting underneath the drug's workings in her system.
Hours after her Grandmother had fallen asleep in the small recliner, Joy found herself staring at the barely-lit walls and wondering where her father was and when he would call. She was concerned that her father would panic. He was in another country, and no doubt he would be frantic until he was able to get back to Los Angeles. Joy knew her father would drop all of his work to get to her. He would probably beat himself up for not staying with her to protect her. She exhaled softly. He would baby her and not let her out of his sight for a long, long time. That's how this would go. And she would be sick of it.
Blinking tiredly, she thought of the man she had saved again, and how all those in his office seemed to be so worried about him. Kensi… Nate… That little boss lady—what was her name? That computer guy… Was his name Eric? And, of course, Sam. The one who she had been sent to in the first place. Agent Sam. He had looked so exhausted the last time she had seen him. Nate had informed her that Sam had watched over her until she was safely out of surgery that night. She didn't remember any of it, but she believed it. Sam was a protector. He reminded her a little of her best friend's really big, really tough, protector-dog, Max.
For a moment, Joy wished she could text Sam and tell him she was grateful for all he had done. Especially that he had believed her. Joy's heartbeat sped up a small bit as she thought through what would have happened if she hadn't done as God had told her. What if she hadn't gotten to Sam when she had? What if she had quit listening on the bus? What if she had gotten afraid when she saw how big Sam was and left? What if Sam hadn't believed her? What if G had died?
Tears pushed at Joy's eyes. She looked down at the stuffed kitty. Rosalee Ann Trinity Fluff-N-Tuff. Last name in honor of Callen. She petted its head silently. The soft fur was proof that he was still alive. G Callen's gift to her. She realized then that he probably hadn't understood why the last name had reminded her of him. She had completely forgotten to explain it to him!
Before she knew what she was doing, she was pulling out her phone and writing a text, trying not to wake up her Grandmother with her keystrokes.
I 4got to explain y the name "Fluff-N-Tuff" reminds me of u. "Tuff" is how most pple c u. "Fluff" is how u r rlly, b/c ur rlly kind.
Joy sent the text to G Callen wondering why she was texting him so late at night. What would he think?
She swallowed and put her phone down. Is he even getting my texts?
Don't worry about it.
Joy tried to sleep.
The next day, around eight in the morning, Joy got a text message from a number she didn't recognize.
Hey Joy this is Sam, this is G's new number. Your texts make him smile. Keep it up!
Joy had to work hard not to make any excited noises. She just closed her eyes and smiled, clutching her phone. She was grateful that Sam was making sure that she could still have access to G Callen. And further, Sam's text showed her that hers had gone through. She was elated.
That day, dealing with nurses, antibiotics, checkups, and wound cleanings didn't seem so bad. She had an updated number for G Callen in her cell phone. She was happy.
The next day, really early, Joy was awake and in a good mood. She asked her Grandmother to start some of her favorite morning music. Since her Grandmother had bought iPod speakers before, she turned the music on and smiled as Joy quietly sang along with Kari Jobe.
During the singing, Joy found herself wanting to share her enthusiasm for the day. She started texting all of her friends and waking them up cheerfully. Eventually, she grinned mischievously to herself and sent a quick text to G. Callen:
Good morning! Just wanted 2 wish u a good day of work! ~Joy
She put her name on the end just in case he didn't recognize her number on his new phone.
Whenever six-forty-five in the morning rolled around, several of her friends started texting her back. Joy caught her Grandmother shaking her head at her as she texted madly with one hand. Joy summed it up to her Grandmother not understanding how she did it.
"It's an acquired skill." Joy told her Grandmother quietly.
Her Grandmother just let out a soft laugh.
The next day, Joy was thrilled to find out that she would be released from the hospital in three days if she continued to heal properly. She was also excited to get to talk to her father on the phone. The news had finally gotten to him. She was right about his reaction: he was worried sick, angry that he hadn't been there to prevent her getting shot, and frustrated that she had been so far from home so late at night, art show or not. He was only upset for a little while, though, and was saying over and over how much he loved her and he would be home soon and he was praying for her and, well, he loved her and he was so glad she was alive.
Whenever her Grandmother stepped out to talk to the doctors in charge of her care, probably wanting to scold them for taking so long to check up on Joy, the teenager pulled out her phone and sent a text to G Callen, feeling like he needed to know that she was getting better.
Rosalee & I get to go home in 3 days! Oh, they finally reached my dad. He will b home soon. Hope ur doing good.
Joy gave G Callen some air for five days. She was too busy getting healed, dealing with guests, and returning home. It was a flurry of activity that was smoothed together by the drugs the doctors still had her on.
When she finally found herself alone on her livingroom couch, her father leaving her alone for longer than ten minutes, she let out a sigh. She realized that she had been either following directions or assuring her father she was fine for the last two days. She hadn't been allowed to do too much since she'd been brought home. Her father had even gone so far to ban her friends from the house until he felt she was up to it. It was beginning to get really annoying, but she knew he was doing it out of love. She couldn't find it within herself to be angry, because she loved him, too. She was glad that she was still alive for him to take care of her.
A pang of pain shot through her shoulder and with it, she heard the gunshots in her head. She winced, holding back her whimper, hugging herself with her uninjured arm. Her heart raced as the flashback of the moment she got shot played through and quickly ended. As soon as it stopped, Joy quit holding her breath and wiped away the one tear that had escaped. Of this whole healing thing, the flashbacks were the worst. She worried how she would deal with them once they took her off of the medications that kept her numb.
"Ugh." She muttered under her breath. She hoped she had stayed silent enough to not alert her father who was cooking in the kitchen. He knew about the flashbacks, but he wasn't able to help them go away anymore than she could wish them away. Joy didn't want to bother him with them anymore. At least, if she could help it.
Joy didn't want to think about it anymore. She looked down to the blankets at her feet on the couch. Rosalee was there, staring at her with that look. Joy smiled. She picked up her phone from beside her. She texted G Callen:
I'm home finally. Dad & Grandma r ruling my world n making me stay still. So bored! Hope I'm not bothering u... Take care n hope 2 hear from u soon.
That night, while she watched the latest action movie with her father, who had fallen asleep in his recliner, her phone received a text message. When she looked at the screen, her heart nearly stopped. G had replied!
Don't text me anymore. Easy to trace. If you need to talk to me call. Don't store my number with my name.
Joy pulled back from the phone, hurt. She processed what his meaning was several times, explosions from the movie echoing in her ears. Each time she read the text, she came up with that he was pushing her away. But then, she realized she was wrong. He did want to stay in touch with her. He said if you need to talk to me call. It was an open invitation, provided she needed him. He was being safe. Texts were easier to trace. Don't use his name…
She opened up his contact information in her cell phone. She had him there by his first name. That needed to be stealthier. She had lots of nicknames for all of her friends. She just needed to get a perfect one for the Agent. Joy thought hard for a few minutes. She couldn't think of anything that really showed his personality. She stared up at the livingroom's ceiling, watching the television light dancing off of it. Help?
What do you want from him, Joy? God's gentle voice asked.
The question paused Joy's thoughts. It was a good question. And, after a few seconds, she had her answer: I just want him to respond to me. I don't want for him to disappear from my life yet. Can we be friends? Or, am I crazy?
Joy hugged herself with her uninjured arm. Maybe she was crazy. He was a secret agent and she was a kid who had saved his life. Maybe she was supposed to let him go.
She felt God hug her, being comforting. He whispered, You want back-and-forth conversation. That's healthy for you both.
Whenever He said "back-and-forth," Joy saw in her mind a tennis match. A small smile came across her lips. That was it. She just wanted G Callen to return the ball she had served. Got it. She thought triumphantly.
She worked to edit "G" in her cell phone. In the letter's place, she typed in "Rally".
The next day, by noon, Joy had talked herself into thinking that letting the Agent know that she had nicknamed him warranted "needing" to talk to him. She decided to call him, scared out of her mind that he will brush her off. Or, worse, get upset at her childish reason for calling. She waited until her father left to fix them lunch. Since she had already been speaking with friends on her cell phone, her father would probably think she was talking to another when he heard her voice. Since it was a Saturday, Joy wondered if G Callen would be at work or off. Would he answer his phone or just leave it?
Joy dialed his number, concluding that if he didn't answer, she would not be offended.
She was surprised when he answered after the second ring. His voice sounding a bit happier than the last time she had spoken with him at the hospital.
"Hey."He said as his greeting, his voice indicating that he knew exactly who she was. In the background, she could hear outdoor sounds.
"Hi!" She replied, not hiding that she was pleased that he answered his phone. "Are you busy, or do you have a sec?"
"Not busy." Callen said. "Just shopping. And walking."
Joy blinked, surprised that he was actually not being weird, and was speaking to her. "Um, well, I just wanted to let you know I nicknamed you."
"Really?" He sounded curious.
Joy smiled, "Yep. 'Rally.' What do you think?"
He paused for a few moments, then asked, "Like the video game?"
"No, like the tennis term."
G Callen quipped back, "And that's the best you could do?"
"You don't like it?"
"I didn't say that."
Joy hesitated, then told him, "Yeah. Best I could do."
"Hmm." Callen asked, "So… Is that how you have me in your phone?"
"Yes, Rally." Joy replied in playing tone.
"I guess it sounds cool…"
"Because you are…" Joy added.
She could almost hear the Agent smile over the phone. "Well, I'm sorry, but I haven't thought up one for you yet."
"I figured." Joy told him truthfully.
"Really?" He asked, sounding a touch surprised.
Joy nodded to herself, saying, "Yep. You're busy a lot." She was silent for a moment, then offered, "Want me to think one up for you?"
"Knock yourself out."
"'Kay." A thought occurred to Joy that he'd known that she was the one calling him. He most likely already had her saved in his phone. "Um, wait… How do you have me in your phone right now?"
He hesitated for a moment and then told her, "That's classified." His voice indicated that he had been caught.
"It's something stupid, isn't it?"
"It's for safety reasons, and safety is never stupid."
"Riiiiight." Joy drew out, narrowing her eyes playfully. Adults were so weird. "I'll call you back with redemption tomorrow. Tell Sam I said 'hi'."
"Maybe." G replied simply.
Joy play-gasped, not being able to resist telling him, "Wow, you told me the truth! There's hope for this friendship yet."
"Hey, I have NEVER lied to you." He said, seriously.
"You didn't tell me you were changing numbers."
"That's because I knew Sam would tell you."
"Lies." Joy said, a small giggle slipping.
G exhaled. "Goodbye, Joy."
And only God saw that at the exact same time, both Joy and G hung up their cell phones and smirked.
...To Be Continued in "Pure Agony"...