Callen's voice startled Sam as he whirled on the sidewalk. He had been combing the front of the library for his partner for a few minutes, worrying that the man had disappeared despite his promise not to. Apparently the agent had kept his word, reluctantly coming up behind Sam with his hands shoved in his pockets.
Sam sighed in relief, his lips folding into a tight line to keep his first response quiet. Callen was spooked enough; he didn't need Sam yelling at him to compound that. "I'm not mad." He said calmly. It was hard to channel his father voice when it came to his partner, but it was the only way to keep from exploding.
He watched Callen relax, his slumped posture straightening a bit. Sam hesitated a moment before continuing. "Don't do that again. Ever. We can't lose track of you." He continued as Callen lowered his eyes slightly. "Are you alright?"
Callen nodded at the question. "Yeah. Head hurts." He said quietly, almost as an afterthought. Sam frowned at that, but Callen's head had been hurting since the start of the entire fiasco. It wasn't high on their list of priorities unless it was blinding agony, like before.
The ex-SEAL jerked his head towards the curb. "Come on; let's go back to the office." He lowered his voice, noticing a few passerbies giving the pair strange looks. They were supposed to be maintaining a low profile; so much for that. There was only so many ways to stay inconspicuous when a full grown man was shuffling his feet like a scolded child in the middle of a public walkway.
Callen brightened marginally at the mention of the familiar place, moving to fall into step with Sam as they headed for the Challenger. It wasn't too hard for him to keep pace with the other man; years of walking in sync made enough of an impression that even hypnosis couldn't overpower it. It made Sam smile slightly, his irritation starting to dissipate.
"I'm sorry." Callen said quietly as he ducked into the passenger side. Sam sighed as he crossed around the front of the vehicle, slipping in himself.
"Don't worry about it. I get it." And he did. Without having the situation explained to him, Callen would have assumed that he was about to lose another 'home.' Sometimes the instinct to run away before he was dragged away overruled any other sensible decision.
Mollified by the comment, Callen leaned back and put on his seat belt. He was quiet another moment before he started speaking, hesitantly. "I'm starting to remember other things."
Sam looked over at him quickly. "Like what?" He asked, trying not to sound too eager as he pulled out onto the main road once more.
Callen mulled over it a second. "A lot of running." His voice gained a little confidence, the careful speech and childish diction slipping away for a moment. "Playing with guns. Chasing people and knocking them down." He eyed Sam a moment. "Sister Ruth always said it wasn't right to knock people down, at the orphanage." He didn't struggle over the word, and Sam didn't know if it was because Callen had to say it so much in his life, or if the stutter was a thing of the past again.
Sam realized that he was supposed to respond to the comment. "It's okay for you to knock down some people, now. It's your job." He said mildly.
Callen's eyes widened. "Really?" He grinned slowly. "That is so cool."
Sam belatedly wondered if that had been a bad thing to tell the other man. "Only bad guys. And only if they are running away from you." He hastened to clarify.
Callen just rolled his eyes. "Duh." He stressed the word dryly. "Why would you knock down a good guy?" He went quiet for most of the car ride back to the OSP center, looking like he was trying to work through something difficult. Sam was silent, letting him think.
It wasn't until they were out of the car and heading to the doors that Callen spoke again. He turned his head towards Sam, frowning heavily. "Sam, do I shoot people?" He looked a little distressed over it.
Sam stopped still, his hand on the doorknob. He pulled back a moment, debating that. Lying to Callen wouldn't help him, and he knew it. He looked over at his partner a moment before nodding . "Only the bad guys." He said again, firmly.
Callen looked down at his hands for a second. "Do I help people?"
"Yes." The answer was instantaneous and sincere.
Callen straightened up again, nodding once like something had just been settled. "Alright." He reached out and tugged the door open himself, heading inside quickly. Sam hurried to keep up, wondering if he had just helped things or made them worse.
Eric intercepted them in the foyer, looking a little excited. "Hetty wants you in Ops."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Now?"
The analyst nodded. "Kensi and Deeks got Spencely to strike a deal about helping Callen. They want to run it by you." He looked relieved, and Sam couldn't blame him. It would be nice to have Callen back to his usual self, and quickly. He just wondered if that help was coming at a price.
"I don't like it." Sam's voice came over the speakerphone, sounding even more disgruntled than the words themselves.
Kensi sighed, holding her hands up a little in surrender even if he couldn't see it. "Sam, it's the best we can do. She doesn't think she can really bring him out, and she doesn't want to 'waste a lot of time trying.'" She quoted tiredly. "She wants to just get this whole thing over with."
"And that's why she is insisting on seeing Callen tonight, in her office?" Sam asked suspiciously. "And why no one can be with them when she does? No cameras or recorders in the room?"
Deeks snorted slightly. "Yeah, this one's pretty priceless. She says that other agents could distract him too much. The recording device thing is just her protecting her 'business,' she says." He shook his head. "Apparently hypnotists all use different methods, and she wants to keep hers secret."
"Like a magician." Kensi supplied, looking down at the black triangular device on the table a moment. "I'm telling you, she's a piece of work." Her eyes flickered to the screen, showing the woman in the interrogation room.
"I don't care if she's pulling rabbits out of Deeks's hair; she's not getting around Callen without someone else around." Sam sounded stern. "She's the one that did this to him in the first place. How do we know she isn't still working with Mallone? Why does it have to be tonight; why can't it be after we nab him tomorrow?"
Deeks frowned, looking over at Kensi a moment. "Those are very good questions." He admitted.
"I'm with Sam on this." Nell's voice came over the line. "She could do more damage if she is unsupervised."
"She does seem too eager to help out." Kensi agreed. "I have a bad feeling about it. But I don't think we have any other options. We have to agree."
"Agents." Hetty's unruffled voice cut in. "She believes that she has the upper hand in this situation. If Agent Callen cannot bring himself out of this mental state, she is our last resort. But she is not a sorceress; we do not need to act so afraid of her."
Kensi raised her eyebrows a little, confused. "But, Hetty…you just said she was in control. I think that's a good reason to be anxious."
"Have you ever been to Las Vegas, Agent Blye?" Hetty replied, and Kensi didn't have to see the woman's face to know she was smirking. "The house always wins, no matter how strong the hand of cards. We might not be in the room, but we will be listening nonetheless. Go ahead and take her back to her office. Agents Hanna and Callen will be there shortly."
Kensi smiled slightly, shaking her head. "No cameras or bugs in the room. That does leave a pretty big loophole." She realized, almost sheepishly. "We can agree to her terms, then."
Deeks grinned slightly. "Gee, Kensi. It's like you forgot we lie for a living."