Chapter 2: Mother Hen Epidemic
Sam positioned himself in the chair next to the bed. He stood guard all night, as promised, waking Callen twice during the early morning hours when it appeared he was having a nightmare.
By the time Monica was back on duty at 7:00 am, Callen's temperature was close to normal and he was resting more comfortably.
Sam stood up and stretched the kinks out of his back. The morning sun was now filtering in through the closed blinds and Sam noted how pale Callen was. The black eye he had received during the Homeland Security op was beginning to fade, and the scrapes and cuts to his face and arms were healing.
But then Sam caught a glimpse of the bruises on Callen's arms; the ones he had put there himself, two days ago, when he had restrained his disoriented, combative partner in the parking lot. It seemed that Callen had no recollection of this incident. But Sam remembered. He had twisted Callen's arms behind his back, unaware that he had just sustained a broken wrist in a fall. He could still feel G's body go limp beneath him, losing consciousness from the pain when Sam had forced him face-down into the pavement.
A lump formed in Sam's dry throat. He pictured Callen lying on the headquarters' floor after they had carried him back to the office. Callen had regained consciousness for only a few seconds, but the frightened look on his face was still etched in Sam's mind; G was more terrified than Sam had ever seen him. Callen had made a feeble attempt to scoot away, afraid that Sam was going to hurt him again.
Guilt suddenly came crashing down on Sam and he sank back down into his chair. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind of the negative flashbacks. He expected Hetty and the others to arrive shortly and he needed to pull himself together before they got to Callen's room. He had to be strong; for the team—for G.
Kensi and Deeks reached the hospital around 8:00 and found their Senior Agent sleeping and Sam sitting next to the bed.
"Morning, Sam," Kensi greeted, keeping her voice quiet. "You sleep at all?"
"Enough." The big agent rose from his chair and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm surprised you two beat the 'little ninja mother hen' to the hospital this morning."
"Oh, we didn't," Kensi said. "We just passed her. She's down at the nurses' station getting a report on Callen's condition."
"More like interrogating the staff," Deeks corrected, also keeping his voice volume quieter than normal.
Just then, the 'little ninja mother hen' entered the room. She joined Kensi and Deeks at the bedside. Hetty studied Callen for a moment and it was apparent she was not pleased. He was still too pale and too weak to suit her. "Mr. Hanna," Hetty said softly. "The nurses informed me that you had a rather turbulent night."
Sam looked down at Callen and let out a breath. "He was in a lot of pain. And his fever went up again. It took some persuasion, but he finally let them give something to help him sleep."
"Persuasion? I'm not going to find more injuries on my Senior Agent, am I?"
Sam glanced down at the bruises he had left on Callen's arms. He knew Hetty meant no harm, but her words caused a sudden pang of guilt in his stomach. He looked up at Hetty and forced a smile.
"Mr. Hanna. You look exhausted. It's time for you to go home and get some rest. And you need to eat a good meal while you are away."
"I can't leave."
"You're going to end up in a hospital bed yourself if you don't start taking better care of yourself. Go home."
"Hetty. I told him I'd stay."
"Mr. Hanna. That was not a suggestion." Hetty turned toward Deeks and Kensi. "Mr. Callen no longer requires protection, but I would prefer for someone to remain with him. Would either one of you be so kind as to sit with him in Sam's absence?"
"Kensi stayed while Sam went home last time," Deeks said, looking at Hetty. "So I guess it's my turn."
"Hetty. You don't understand," Sam protested. "I can't leave. I told G I'd stay right beside him and wake him up if he had a nightmare. I gave him my word."
"Aahh… The persuasion you referred to."
Sam looked down at his partner and nodded.
As if on cue, Callen shifted his position and then winced. The groan that followed was barely audible.
Hetty knew there was no threat big enough to force Sam to leave his partner's side. He had made a promise and was not going to budge. But Sam, no matter how big and strong he might be, still needed a healthy meal and proper sleep.
Hetty pursed her lips and brought her index finger to her chin. "I see… How long do you think it will be until the medication wears off?"
Sam didn't hesitate in answering, "It's been a little more than six hours. It shouldn't be too much longer."
"Then I'll leave Mr. Deeks with you. As soon as your partner is awake and oriented, you will go home. And you are not to return until you have had at least eight hours sleep. Do I make myself clear?"
Sam looked away and let out a quick breath.
"Yes, Hetty. I understand."
"Good… Miss Blye, we'll leave your vehicle for Mr. Deeks in case his services are needed on a case. You can ride with me to the office."
While passing her keys to her partner, Kensi and Deeks exchanged wide-eyed expressions that said 'help me.'
Kensi had never had the 'privilege' of being a passenger in her Operations Manager's car and was not looking forward to the awkward ride to the office. Then, suddenly, she got a mental picture of Hetty driving with the top down on the car, wearing little driving gloves, goggles, and a scarf. Kensi had to clear her throat to keep from laughing out loud.
Deeks was finding no humor in the uncomfortable assignment he had practically volunteered for. He was being placed on babysitting/nursing duty for a federal agent who happened to be his team leader. He assumed Hetty was leaving someone with Callen around the clock so that he would not give the hospital staff too much grief. But very few people were ever successful in getting G Callen to do something he didn't really want to do.
The little lady in charge had one final instruction before she and Kensi left the hospital room. "Oh. And Mr. Deeks, it is imperative that you force fluids when he is awake. If he needs a little encouragement, simply remind him that he may be able to avoid a very unpleasant procedure that is scheduled for later today."
With the women now gone, Deeks stood with his mouth gaped open. "What?... They're going to… if… he doesn't pee?"
"While I'm here?" he whined.
"Yes, Deeks. And if you know what's good for you, you won't mention the 'unpleasant procedure' to him. Just make sure he drinks a lot of water and juice."
Deeks took a seat on the vinyl couch, peered over at Callen, and shuddered.
Hetty and Kensi had been gone for about forty-five minutes when Callen began to move.
It took G a little longer than usual to force his heavy eyelids open. But when he finally did, there sat his partner as promised.
Sam crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. "It's about time. I was about to start poking you with a stick to see if you were still alive."
"What time is it?" Callen asked, his voice sounding tired and raw.
Sam looked at his watch. "It's 9:17."
"What day is it?"
Callen's eyes narrowed. He brought up a hand and rubbed his forehead as if trying to wipe away the confusion.
Sam pushed up from his chair and made his way around to the other side of the bed. After raising the head of the bed, he poured some water into a Styrofoam cup, placed a straw in it, and offered it to Callen. Sam was surprised when G took it without protest, but was not surprised when he tried to give it back after only two sips.
Callen looked down and frowned at the contents of the cup.
"Would you rather have some juice?" Sam asked pointedly.
"Drink that and I'll see if I can find you some."
Callen took another drink of water and then shifted his position slightly. "When can I get out of here?"
"No more questions till you finish your water."
"What… Am I three?"
"That was another question."
Callen rolled his eyes and resumed drinking slowly from the straw.
Suddenly, there was the chime of a cell phone coming from the corner of the room. Callen stretched his neck so that he could peer around his partner's huge form. There sat their LAPD liaison, studying his phone. Callen had not even noticed Deeks was in the room until then.
Almost immediately, Sam's message alert sounded as well. He and Deeks had received the same text from H. Lange: Gentlemen. I am fairly certain that Mr. Callen is awake by now. If he IS, and I find out Mr. Hanna is still present, heads WILL roll. (Please note that I did not attach the laughing out loud abbreviation or a smiley face symbol to my previous statement.) Mr. Hanna, remember my orders. Go eat a good meal and get some sleep. Now move it!
Sam shook his head. "How does she do that?"
Deeks continued to stare at his phone in disbelief. "Heads?... Plural?... Why is mine going to roll? I'm where I'm supposed to be."
Ignoring the whining detective, Sam pocketed his phone, placed both hands on the top of the bed rail, and leaned in a little closer to Callen. "Look, G. I've got to go for a while." He took the empty cup from Callen and placed it on the bedside table. "Deeks is going to stay with you till I get back."
"Guys. I don't need a babysitter. I'm fine—really."
"Not my call, G."
Callen lowered his eyes and turned his head away from Sam. "Hetty," he said under his breath.
Sam knew he had struck a nerve. His partner was frustrated, maybe even embarrassed, at the thought of having to be looked after. Deeks was not nearly as experienced at reading Callen, but the blonde sensed it, too.
Sam hoped he could restore a bit of his friend's dignity before leaving. "Yeah, Hetty goes a little overboard with the 'mother hen' thing. She just sent me a text, threatening to do bodily harm if I don't go get something to eat and sleep for at least eight hours."
Callen looked up at Sam with a weak smile. "A tiny mother hen, who happens to be trained in the use of every weapon known to man."
Sam chuckled and pushed himself up straight. "I'll see you later. Don't give them trouble or I'll have to kick your skinny butt when I get back." Before he exited the room, he turned to Deeks. "Let's go see if we can find some juice."
Deeks followed Sam to the nurses' station, suspecting that finding juice was just a tactic to speak to him alone; he was right.
Monica retrieved two little plastic containers of apple juice, as requested, and handed them to Sam. Sam, in turn, placed the foil-covered containers in Deeks' hands. "Make sure he drinks these. And get him to drink some more water. There's a clipboard on the table next to the bed. They need us to log how many ounces he drinks on the intake log. Got it?"
"And don't ask him if he needs help with something. He'll look you right in the eye and say he can do it, even if he can't. If you think he needs help, just do it. But don't coddle him."
"Got it. Hydrate. Log. No coddling."
Sam, seemingly unshaken by Deeks' echoing, paused and looked in the direction of Callen's room. "And remember, he's in a lot of pain. He's just really good at hiding it until he gets tired or his fever goes up."
"And keep the bed rails up. If the nurses give him something to help him sleep, he could fall out of the bed. And when he's not drugged, he's likely to try to get up on his own."
Deeks shook his head and smiled.
"What?" Sam huffed.
"You actually refer to Hetty as a mother hen?"
"Just go give him the juice."
Sam turned on his heel and made his way toward the elevators, leaving Deeks standing there with two containers of juice and a smile on his face.
Deeks' smile disappeared when he opened the door to Callen's room, realizing that he was now taking over Sam's roll as caregiver. Ginormous shoes to fill. Deeks took a deep breath and entered the room.
"They only had apple," he informed Callen while handing him one of the containers. "The nurse sent you two for now."
Callen held the container with his left hand and studied it for a moment. In an attempt to peel back the foil cover, he used his other hand to pinch the little tab on the side. G flinched and drew back his right hand.
Deeks thought, at first, that the pain was caused by the IV needle in Callen's hand. Then he remembered that Callen's wrist was fractured and that the doctor was waiting until the IV was removed to cast it.
"Can I help you with that?" What did Sam just say about asking if he needed help?
"No. I've got it."
What a surprise.
Callen switched the juice to his right hand and began pulling on the rim of the foil top. But he lacked the grip in his right hand to secure the container and let out a frustrated sigh.
Remembering Sam's advice, (just a little bit too late), Deeks pulled the key ring out of his pocket, used one of his keys to punch a hole in top of the container, and then stuck a straw in it.
Callen looked up at Deeks with an expression that resembled bashfulness. "Thanks."
Deeks was taken aback by the agent's vulnerable demeanor. He knew that, as awkward as this arrangement was for him, it must be much more uncomfortable for Callen.
Deeks readied the next juice container and extended it to Callen when he had finished with the first one.
Callen responded with a questioning look, but then took it and began drinking slowly.
A little while later, a nurses' aide trudged into the room, went into the bathroom and began running water. Within minutes, another aide arrived with a set of folded sheets and white towels draped over her arm. Without a word, she jerked the privacy curtain so that it now surrounded the bed. The other aide came out of the bathroom carrying a plastic basin filled with soapy water. Detecting the non-caring attitudes of these two women, Deeks was almost sorry that the case had been solved; the limitations of who was allowed in Callen's room had been lifted.
Deeks could hear Callen's quiet protest through the curtain. "I can do this." Deeks heard the agent take in a quick breath. "I don't need any help." A hiss and a few soft grunts and groans followed. "I can do it myself… Please."
Then a faint whimper came from behind the curtain. Deeks had heard all he could stand. Upset, he stepped into the hall and leaned against the wall. His stomach was in knots. He guessed that if he was this angry over the way they were 'manhandling' Callen, Sam would be going all Kung Fu on them if he were here.
Monica was making rounds and spotted the blonde detective standing outside the patient's room. She immediately noticed he wasn't wearing his usual playful smile. "Everything okay?" she asked.
"They're giving him a bath."
"You shouldn't have to stand out here. They're supposed to pull the curtain. It's protocol."
"Oh, they did. It's just…" Deeks looked up at the nurse sheepishly.
"Maybe they don't know everything he's been through, but I think they're being a little bit too rough. I mean… I think they're hurting him."
That's all Monica needed to hear. She marched into the room to investigate.
Deeks' chin dropped to his chest. I can't believe I just did that. The mother hen thing is apparently contagious!
Soon after, the door opened and two grumpy nurses' aides filed past Deeks, but not without shooting him dirty looks. Deeks gladly took the looks, knowing they would no longer be hurting Callen.
A few minutes later, Monica stuck her head out the door. "You can come in and have a seat."
Deeks hesitated, but entered and sat down in the corner of the room.
He listened as Monica addressed the patient from the other side of the privacy curtain. "I'm really sorry. They have been written up before for being rude to patents. I'll make sure you don't have to deal with them anymore… Let's try this again… Here are some clean washcloths and towels. I've warmed up the water. Do as much of this as you can and if you need help with anything, let me know when I get back. I'll bring someone with me and we'll get your bed changed too."
Over the next ten minutes or so, Deeks heard the sound of sloshing water, mixed in with some grunts and groans from Callen as he would reposition himself. Even though the movements were causing Callen discomfort, it was obviously much more tolerable than having someone roughly push and tug on his sore body.
Monica returned a while later with another nurse. She retrieved some of the hygiene items from the bag that Hetty had sent and set the bedside tray up so that Callen could brush his teeth. After putting a fresh gown on the patient, they carefully rolled him to his side and methodically replaced the sheets with clean ones.
When the curtain was pulled open and secured to the wall, Deeks could see that Callen was exhausted. His head was turned away from the door and he was staring blankly at the window blinds. Maybe the look was as much defeat as fatigue.
Monica emptied the basin, tidied up the area and returned to the bedside. "Are you comfortable? Is there anything you need?"
Callen looked up at her with tired eyes. "Pants," he whispered.
"Could I have some pants?"
"Oh… Let me check what Miss Lange packed for you." Monica went to the closet and returned to the bedside holding a pair of boxers in one hand and lightweight flannel pajama bottoms in the other. "Which do you prefer?"
Callen signaled with his eyes, indicating the pajama pants, and the nurses assisted him in putting them on.
Monica pulled the sheet up to cover Callen. "We're going to disregard the turning schedule for now," she said, raising the head of the bed. "It will make it much easier for you to drink if we leave you on your back for the time being. Oh, and they should be delivering lunch trays in just a little while. If you need anything at all, just press the call button." The nurse looked over at Deeks and tapped the top of the water pitcher before exiting the room.
He got her message loud and clear. Force fluids. I get it already!