Embracing Home

Summary: Callen simply said he didn't need anyone. He didn't realize that they were his home. 2010 Summer Challenge. No Pairings.

Written Solely to the Song: "Already Home" by Thousand Foot Krutch


Callen's heart stopped. He couldn't believe what he was seeing.

Before him, the dark landscape of the interior of the NCIS Headquarters stretched, lightning flashing outside of the windows, illuminating things to where he could momentarily see.

The lights were out and darkness ate at the heart of the usually busy and full office area.

He stood in the hallway of the entryway. The doors were tightly shut behind him, he knew, since he had just entered. Yes, it was late at night, but it shouldn't be so quiet! Where was everyone? The morbid silence was maddening. He couldn't even hear the sound of the vehicles on the nearby highway.

He took a hesitant step forward.

Sam was supposed to be waiting for him. Kensi had talked about getting pizza for the long night ahead of them.

What happened?

There was no way Hetty would be gone when she, herself, had justcalled him in.

His heart began to pound.

Is this a joke? Some sick way of making me take back what I said?

"I don't need anyone." He had said to Nate, right after Nate had made some comment about going solo on an undercover mission that didn't warrant it. Sam, Kensi, and Eric had all looked at him from where they sat or stood, suddenly frozen, stopped in their movements.

"Really?" Sam had said into the silence. There was only a hint of humor in his voice. There was a tone of daring in it, suggesting that G should rethink what had just exited his mouth.

He had changed the subject deftly after that.

The lightning flashed again, this time revealing something between the four desks in the Bull Pen.

Callen was shocked at what it appeared to be.

So shocked, that his notion that this might be a joke was completely lost.

He drew his gun as he suddenly became totally on guard. He looked around carefully before he approached what looked like Kensi laying still on the floor, on her side, her back towards him.

Coming close enough, he could see.

It wasKensi.

Her brown hair, her soft white arms, all of her, was lying on a bloody floor. She wasn't moving. Her white shirt covered in blood, and her jeans equally saturated, too. Bullet wounds covered her—at least six.

Callen inhaled, trying hard to understand what he was seeing.

His lips parted in a silent sound as he knelt down next to her, trying to find a pulse on her bloody neck.

His breathing accelerated. She had no pulse. No warmth. She was completely gone.

No.

Pain shot through Callen like the cold shock of jumping into frozen water as he realized: the only female Junior Agent that had kept up with Sam and he over and over again wouldn't be assisting them ever again. Wouldn't be laughing at their jokes, or cracking them back like a whip.

The girl that had kept him feeling like he was a big brother was dead.

His sister.

His coworker.

His friend.

Dead.

Tears pushed at his eyes.

He pushed them back.

Now was no time to get emotional. He was in danger if Kensi had been killed. The killer could be watching him right now.

Callen looked away from Kensi's body and around the office from where he crouched on the floor. In the nonexistent light, he could just make out several aides' bodies laying around Hetty's area.

Hetty.

Callen rose and headed to her desk area, moving slowly, keeping his guard up.

Reaching her office space, he was only a touch relieved that the aides were the only bodies he found. They were NCIS employees.

A quick lean over, feeling for warmth or pulse, informed him that they were both long gone.

Just like Kensi.

Where was Sam? Nate? Eric? Hetty?

G felt his heart beating out of his chest.

What if they were all dead? What if?

He couldn't take the silence mocked by the single thunder peals coming from outside.

Callen took off toward the stairs that led up to Eagle's Nest.

In case of a breach, that one room would be able to lock down like a fortress.

They had never had to use it before…

G stopped at the top of the stairs.

There was no glow coming from the still-open doors.

Fear began to close in on him. If the room hadn't been activated…

No, not the others.

Looking around from where he stood, he could make out bodies in archives across from his position.

There was one ten feet from him. One of Eric's techs.

He knelt next to the guy to find the same prognosis: shot dead.

G's heart was pounding so hard he almost couldn't breathe. He didn't want to know what he would find in Eagle's Nest, but he knew he needed to go in.

He forced himself to walk in, mentally trying to prepare himself for the worst.

One step, after another, gun poised, he was ready to see… Ready to know.

But he really wasn't.

Tears sprung to his eyes to find the bloodied bodies looking like they had been caught in a last stand.

Sam was closest to the door, gun still in his limp hand. Hetty was up against a chair behind him, her blood everywhere. Eric and Nate were just visible behind the center table.

G couldn't stop the tears that started as he dropped to Sam's side, frantically trying to find a pulse.

He was getting nauseous, anxiety shutting out his logical thoughts.

Sam was cold, and his eyes were open, staring into space. There was no pulse. Not a shred of life.

Callen breathed faster and faster, panicking.

"No." He heard himself whisper over Sam.

It looked like his partner had been shot several times in very vital places. He had died quickly... Died like a Navy SEAL: protecting others.

Callen stood up shakily.

He had lost partners before.

They had never felt like this.

His emotions were about to overtake him.

The last shred of his consciousness was screaming at him to check the others—he was going into shock and the others might still need his help.

He checked them, moving like a zombie.

Hetty, gone.

Eric, frigid.

Nate, long dead.

All of them shot multiple times.

His hands were covered in their blood as he stepped back from Nate and Eric's bodies.

The smell of death and blood he had dealt with before. Many times, in fact. But, that smell, mixed with the fact that these were his friends… his family… Never.

That's what this was. Someone had massacred his family.

On our turf.

G found himself backed up against a screened wall, shaking, tears blurring his vision.

The silence of a death-filled Headquarters tormented his ears, the thunder cracking every few minutes.

He cried.

He didn't care if he was in danger.

He didn't care if someone came in and shot him right then.

He was alone again.

He couldn't take that. Couldn't bear it.

He slid down the wall to the ground, still shaking, still crying.

If they were dead, he didn't want to live anymore.

No more death. No more. No more others. Just mine.

The thoughts echoed and echoed in G's mind, haunting him loudly.

He hated himself for not being there with them. For not having fallen with his family. With Sam. With Hetty. With them all.

He began to not be able to breathe he was crying so hard. He didn't want to be logical anymore. He didn't want to be tough. He wanted it to end. All the loss, all the pain, all the turmoil. The running, the lies, the panic, the life of an agent—he was done with it.

In the dark, his eyes fell on the gun in his bloodied hand.

How many times had it looked like a good idea to him in the past?

He allowed his blurred vision to track to Sam's body. Sobs wracked him harder.

The last time he hadn't been okay in the head, it had been Sam who had talked him out of anything stupid.

To kill himself now would be wasting all the times Sam had saved him.

And now, that was all he had left of his partner. No. Not just a partner. His brother. His only brother. The only brother he would ever have.

Callen took his gun and threw it as hard as he could into a batch of television screens on the other side of the room.

The screens shattered effectively.

Somehow pleased with his action, knowing that Sam would be, too, he gave in to the sobs and pain, collapsing to the cold floor.

He knew from experience that if he cried hard enough, long enough, he would pass out. Then this would seem like just a bad dream.

So he cried.


"G!"

The tears were still in his eyes.

Someone was trying to wake him, shaking him by his arms.

In reflex, Callen brought up his hands to fend off the person. He struggled, working to open his eyes to see if this was the killer or the LAPD.

The cobwebs were refusing to clear, probably due to his brokenness, so he tried to buy time with struggling.

His eyes finally focused on who was latched onto him.

Above him was Sam, looking down at him, extremely concerned. "G, wake up." He said forcefully.

G's heart nearly stopped.

He parted his lips and became still in complete shock.

Sam stared at him, his worried look deepening.

Nate came into view behind Sam.

"Um, he just lost all color." Nate commented, sounding agitated.

Sam gave G another shake. "Breathe, G." He commanded.

Callen tried to, but he was so elated and confused at what he was seeing, he didn't know how to get a hold of himself.

They were all dead. Dead. I touched them. Felt their blood. Their bodies were cold. Wait. Was this a joke? No—I felt their dead bodies! They are alive?

Callen's mind was going between severe confusion and absolutes so fast it was making his head swim even more.

Nate came a bit closer. He asked quietly, "Callen, are you all right? You're crying."

G finally found his voice. "Kensi, Eric, Hetty… Are they alive, too?" His voice was wavering. He felt the hot tears trickling down his face.

Nate and Sam looked at him strangely.

Sam recovered first to say reassuringly, "G, it was just a dream. We're all alive." Sam watched his partner take in the information slowly. "You laid down for a nap two hours ago. I've been trying to wake you up for the last few minutes. You were tossing and turning pretty bad…"

G swallowed trying to get his senses to calm down.

He moved to sit up, discovering that he was on the couch in Headquarters. Sam helped him get into the seated position.

Callen looked past him in shock, taking in the "normalness" of their office.

It was daylight still, a golden glow filling up the indoor air. Employees that he had just seen lifeless, were now doing their work. A few of them over by the coffee pot talking to each other and smiling.

There was no dark. No death. No bullet holes. No smell of blood.

Did that mean the attacker hadn't been there? Did that mean that the attack was still coming? What did it mean? Was his family safe, or were they still in danger?

G felt Nate sit down beside him on the couch and put a hand on his upper arm.

"G." Nate said, switching into the tone he used exclusively for victims of trauma. "Calm down. Breathe. You're going into a panic attack."

Callen tracked his eyes back to Sam, who was crouched on the floor in front of him, and Nate.

Both were watching him intently, worried.

He realized that he was barely breathing. And he couldn't seem to take in air.

The feeling of no control swirled around him.

He couldn't shake the visions of his coworkers lying there, bloody and lifeless. They were there, painted in reality in his mind.

Sam's eyes had been open, staring into space, dead…

Chills washed over Callen as his mind danced from the sight of each of the people he cared for lying dead, shot to death. Kensi, Hetty, Eric, Nate… Sam.

But… It didn't happen? Then why does it feel so real?

Nate was saying something about calming down again, but Callen didn't hear him as his vision began to move, dizziness sweeping over him.

He closed his eyes to stop the movement, but still felt it in his head.

Strong hands were then helping him to lie down again, slowly.

His world whirled around, the sight of a pitch-black, night-lit, death-filled, NCIS Headquarters lit sporadically by lightning becoming his reality for another instant.

His heart was pounding again.

But they're dead!... Alive? Was it a dream? But I was there!

Sam's voice broke through the flashback, "G, I'm right here."

Sam's voice felt like a warm breeze through the cold of death that haunted him. He tried to hold onto that sound as his world felt like it was falling over and over again.

Sam's voice went on, lowly, patiently, strong and definitely alive:"I'm fine, G. So is everyone else. We're fine. Now, breathe!"

Hearing those words spoken, that everyone else was fine, coming from Sam, the one whose death had hurt the worst, brought more tears to his eyes.

He was powerless to stop them. The tears were beyond his control.

The deaths had been beyond his control.

He couldn't control anything at all.

It scared him deep inside to the point of suffocation.

Callen realized his chest hurt; a squeezing that wouldn't stop was making his lungs feel trapped.

He fought to bring in air.

The strong hands were touching his arms and shoulders, but not his chest, so they weren't behind his inability to breathe.

G tried to remember how to command his lungs to relax, to bring in air.

Nate's voice said quietly beside him. "His heart is racing, Sam. Full-blown panic attack. Keep talking to him."

"G, come on, man, breathe!" Sam urged a bit louder.

There was a strong, forceful shake that paused Callen's frantic mind.

It felt like Sam, grasping his upper arms, had jerked him hard.

For a moment, G was able to get some air through the whirling dizziness.

Sam's voice returned, lower, closer to his ear. "The dream is over. Done. Whatever you saw wasn't reality." Sam squeezed his shoulders hard, to the point of bruising. "Calm down and breathe, G. I'm not letting you go until you do."

That was just what Callen's tumultuous world needed to hear: that he wouldn't be left alone.

It was enough of a rope into the panicked confusion of G's mind to cling to.

He grabbed on and held tight, choosing to believe what Sam was saying even though it completely contradicted what his senses had told him from the past.

Callen, eyes still shut, still fighting the dizziness, nodded weakly a few times at Sam.

He finally found the command to relax his lungs and bring in some air.

He inhaled through parted lips.

His chest still hurt, like it was starving for air.

He pushed the air out and took in more air. Again, then again.

Callen still felt like he was falling.

Sam seemed to sense things weren't okay yet, because he refused to let G go.

As he breathed, G felt the heaviness of the dream lighten. A strand here. A bit there. It became lighter and lighter… Not so real.

Two hands found his wrist's pressure point and timed his heart.

Nate's voice said into the silence, "His heart is slowing down." The hands carefully put Callen's hand back down. "I'm going to get him some water."

G finally opened his eyes. He was relieved to find that the room wasn't moving as much. He still felt that if he moved, he would fall.

Sam was over him, not releasing him.

Sam's eyes were filled with quiet concern. He watched G carefully.

Callen closed his lips, then parted them to ask the question he had asked before, but stopped himself. He didn't really need the answer if Sam had him in a death-grip that was beginning to hurt.

Sam was alive.

Sam saw the question in his partner's eyes; reading his mind, like he did a majority of the time they were together.

He gave G a half-smile. "Do I look dead?"

Callen wanted to smile back, wanted to prove he was alright, but he couldn't.

He was still struggling with the feeling of death.

He answered in a rare moment of vulnerability, "You did."

Sam loosened his grip on G and lowered himself to rest on his haunches.

He nodded once. "I can see that."

The silence stretched between them.

Sam finally released him completely and pulled the brown throw from the back of the couch down to drape over G.

G stared at him, wondering why he was being covered.

"You're shivering." Sam supplied.

Callen realized that he was cold. It was as if the cold from the dream, the cold he had felt, had followed him back to reality.

Thisisreality. He thought to himself weakly.

Weariness washed over him as his body relaxed finally, releasing the tense muscles that had been affected by the panic attack.

Callen found he was able to breathe again without pain. His heart was slowing, and the dizziness was fading away.

But now, he was exhausted. As if he had just run a long distance.

He blinked tiredly, finding himself staring into space.

Sam just stayed beside him. Silently. Keeping his thoughts to himself.

The silence with the regular background noise of the office became lulling.

G fought to keep his eyes open.

"G."

The voice jumped Callen back to awareness.

He had passed out.

He felt slightly disoriented.

There was dim light around him, a few lamps on somewhere away from his sight.

Sam had said his name.

"Come on, sit up and drink this." Sam's voice said lowly.

Strong arms were then helping G to sit up slowly.

A Styrofoam cup was put in front of him filled with an unmistakable scent: apple juice.

Callen moved his hand to take it. He didn't understand why they were asking him to drink apple juice, but he currently didn't care.

Sam said to drink, so he would.

He drank half of it before he tasted the addition in the drink. He stopped drinking, pulling back.

"G." Sam said, tone indicating that leaving the cup half-way drank was not good enough.

Callen caught his breath and shook his head, murmuring, "There's something in it."

Behind him, Nate's voice calmly said, "It's five-hundred milligrams of magnesium carbonate mixed with apple juice."

The fogginess in G's head wasn't going away.

Having a hard time understanding why they were doing this, he repeated, "Magnesium?"

"It's a natural muscle relaxant." Nate said soothingly. "It won't do anything to you besides help you calm down."

Sam added, "Drink the rest."

G was considering not doing what they were asking, but Sam was already pushing the cup towards his mouth.

Callen gave in before he knew it and drank the rest of the stuff.

They lowered him back down onto the couch.

As soon as G was back down, the weariness washed over him again.

He forced his heavy eyes to stay open to watch Nate leave and Sam sit down in the big armchair that he had apparently moved closer to the couch.

It became obvious in the dim light that Sam was becoming comfortable because he was not planning on going anywhere.

Relief came to Callen like sunlight at midnight.

He wouldn't be left alone.

The dream surfaced briefly in his mind before he could stop it.

Re-seeing his friends' lifeless bodies again made him realize that he needed to say something to Sam… just in case the chance never came again.

"Sam?"

Sam looked at G, intently listening. "Yeah."

G began quietly, "What I said before…"

He wasn't quite sure how to word what he wanted to say.

His partner half-smiled in the dim light.

He knew what comment G was referring to. The "I don't need anyone" comment. "Don't worry about it, G."

I knew you didn't mean it. Sam's voice communicated to him.

"No." G said, still fighting to put words together in his sleepy state that wasn't giving him a break. "When I said that…" He paused, trying to explain to himself in his head before saying it.

Sam waited patiently.

Callen said at last, "I didn't realize that this was home. You guys…" He hesitated again, and then said quietly, "Family."

Sam moved to reach over from his armchair to grasp G's arm. He squeezed him hard, then released him, settling back into his chair.

They looked at each other for a few moments, their brotherhood completely understood between them.

Sam finally moved, setting his feet up on the short, coffee table that had been pushed to the side.

"Get some rest." He said, easily.

He had told G the same thing hundreds of times while Callen had been in the hospital from being shot nearly a year ago.

G recognized the familiar safety that came with the comment.

Sam wasn't leaving.

He would watch Callen sleep like he had done in the past.

And when G woke up, he'd still be there, watching his back.

G allowed himself to be lulled again by the sounds of… Home.

This time, there was no nightmare.

The End