Well…hello. I apologize for the long delay. My muse just up and disappeared. This installment is perhaps a bit short, but a bridge for the rest of the story. I hope you enjoy.

Lady Winter

"G…seriously man, don't do this!" Sam demanded, forcing himself not to shake his partner. That would just cause unnecessary pain.

The silence stretched out for a long minute.

"G, I really need you to wake up," he urged again, but this time he was rewarded by the softest of groans.

"Just stop yelling," Callen murmured.

Sam heaved out a sigh of relief.

"Don't do that to me, man," he snapped, his voice a little harsher than he had intended. If Callen noticed, he didn't say so. Instead, he remained as still as he had been before, but now his eyes were open just a little.

"Could have just let me sleep," the agent added, sounding slightly offended.

"Are you being difficult on purpose? How many times do I have to tell you that you have a concussion?"

Callen didn't respond for a few moments, obviously gathering his wits.

"If I had a tape recorder, you'd be appalled at how much you sound like Hetty," he said, and tried to smile, but the effort looked like it was just too much.

Sam let out a long sigh. "I know you have a hard time accepting that people care about you, but that won't make it any less true."

Sam was rewarded with the tired eyes widening a little and caught a flicker of surprise pass over Callen's features. "That's not true Sam… I don't have a hard time accepting that people care about me," he protested weakly, his voice gravelly.

"I don't believe that," Sam said, a little anger in his voice.

"You just don't understand," G said softly. "I know you guys care – I just wish you didn't care so much."

Sam stared at him for long moment and he realized almost immediately that his partner was telling the truth. Like a wave crashing down on him, Sam suddenly understood more of what drove G. Above all, Sam knew that G Callen liked doing good – and avoiding hurting anyone he didn't have to. Being close to people – trusting people – opened up a world of chances that you could get a person hurt – physically or emotionally. Committing to anything more than a job was taking too much of a risk for G. Having people in his life that genuinely cared about him was like setting himself up to lose them or hurt them.

Gently, he smiled at G. "I know you like to control everything, but you can't force people not to care about you."

G grumbled something unintelligible that might have been something along the lines of he'd find a way someday. Sam just chuckled.

"I know we've been talking super-heroes, but you really aren't Clark Kent, so let's work on the possible for now, alright?"

"Like getting out of here before we're embarrassed by being rescued by Deeks?" Callen murmured.

"Yeah, like that. We'll never hear the end of that."

"We need a plan," G said, obviously trying to focus. Sam nodded, but couldn't help but think his partner looked worse for the wear. "Hetty's got to be looking for us. We need to find a way to tell her where we are." His eyes darted around for a moment and landed on the path of destruction that the Challenger had caused. "How are you feeling Sam?" he asked suddenly.

"I know where this is going G, and you can forget it," the Navy SEAL said quickly, crossing his arms over his aching chest. "I'm not leaving you down here."

Callen gave him a long suffering look. "I know you don't want to leave me – I haven't been missing all of your subtle hints that two are better than one. I'm not trying to be heroic here – but if you can climb that hill and flag down a passing car, we'll be getting out of here much sooner."

Sam glared at G. It infuriated him that his partner could make the situation sound so logical and obviously necessary.

G gave him what Sam was sure was supposed to be a reassuring smile. To Sam though, it looked like a painful grimace. "You'll only be gone a few minutes. I can't walk – so there's no way I can make that climb, and you know it."

"I hate it when you're so reasonable," Sam growled. "Normally that's my job – I'm the voice of reason and you're the one with the stupid ideas. This is still stupid," he said petulantly.

Callen chuckled. "But it's also reasonable."

"What are you going to do if…if…" Sam stumbled, trying to think of an argument. "…if some wild animal comes down here, attracted by all that blood and tries to…eat you?"

G actually had the gall to snort in amusement, after which he immediately flinched in pain from the effort. He recovered quickly enough, gesturing to the Sig that was lying on his outstretched left thigh.

"Just what kind of animal is going to come eat me Sam?"

"I don't know, a wolf or something," the dark-skinned man replied, flustered.

"Then I'll shoot it and we can finally eat something. I'm starving!" the senior agent reminded his partner.

Sam refused to be baited by G. "And what about your concussion? You seem to have a serious issue of not following my directions of staying awake."

"I'm awake now, aren't I?" G said innocently. Sam groaned.

"Just how am I going to explain to Hetty that I broke protocol and left my injured partner who then got eaten by some wild animal?"

"Easy, just tell her that I made you do it."

"You're not helping things here G."

The injured agent sighed. "Look Sam, we both know that if we just sit down here, waiting for help, it may never come. We have no way of knowing if there are any signs of the accident up on the road. You know I hate to admit it, but I'm not…going to make it down here for too long. I know this goes against all of your training and your gut instinct, but I think you have to agree that it might be the only way we're both getting out of here alive. You need medical attention too."

"I hate to admit it when you're right," Sam said unhappily.

G looked relieved that his partner was finally on the same page, and with that relief came a look of exhaustion.

"Promise me you're going to stay awake," Sam pleaded.

"I know…I know…I have a concussion. I'll stay awake. You just find help."

Sam hesitated a moment before, hating this idea again. "G…"

"Sam," Callen deadpanned. "I will do my absolute best to stay awake. Scout's honor."

"You were never a Scout," Sam growled softly, but nodded. "Fine. I'll be back. Soon," he said, emphasizing the last word to let G know that he was expected to be awake when Sam returned.

"I'll be right here," G joked. The former SEAL rolled his eyes and turned to go, but was stopped by his partner. "Hey Sam…" There was a serious tone to G's voice that made the man turn to meet blue eyes. "Be careful. I know you're hiding the hurt as much as I am."

Sam was stunned for a moment. He didn't know why – it wasn't as if he didn't know that G Callen was almost as perceptive as Hetty was. Still, even Sam didn't really think he was hiding the worst of his own aching injuries – it was more training than anything. That set the two men apart. G hid his pain as a matter of pride and a long standing belief that being alone in life meant you took care of yourself and didn't show weakness. Sam hid his pain to carry on – a SEAL never gave up and injury was just par for the course.

"I will be," he finally assured Callen.

G nodded a little, obviously satisfied with the sincerity in his partner's voice.

Sam smiled and shook his head a little, and moved off into the darkness, feeling lucky that the moon was full and that even through the trees, the ground was visible. As he moved off, slowly but shortly, he glanced once more over his shoulder.

Callen had collapsed back against the tree, looking exhausted, but on guard. His left hand was wrapped around the hilt of the Sig and his eyes were alert. Sam was relieved.

Satisfied, he started his ascent, hoping this decision would bring the two of them that much closer to getting out of this alive.