Author's Notes: In "Betrayal", Episode 3x9, Callen made reference to a scar on Sam's calf, a bullet that Hetty had removed. I've always been intrigued by how that happened, what sort of situation would lead to Hetty being the one to dig out a bullet...

I own very little and absolutely nothing related to NCIS:LA.

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;

the most massive characters are seared with scars."

-Kahlil Gibran


Hetty was waiting to hear from him, but Agent G Callen could only stand and stare at the covered body in front of him.

It might be Sam.

Hell, it probably was Sam.

His best friend. Tortured, killed and burned, far from home, without his partner backing him up.

Dammit.

Callen swallowed thickly and reached for the sheet. As the fabric slid from the charred body, the smell of cooked meat was overwhelming for a moment, nearly breaking his resolve. The face was gone, most of the skin. He pulled it all the way off and looked at what was left of the tall man laid out before him, looked for some clue that this was or was not the best friend he had ever known.

When he looked at the legs, when he saw it, he took a deep breath for the first time in days, thanking whatever forces cared to listen. He reached for his phone.

This wasn't Sam. It couldn't be.

NCISLANCISLANCISLANCISLANCIS LANCISLANCISLANCISLANCISLANC ISLANCISLANCISLANCISLA

"Sam!" called G, his eyes sweeping the warehouse for any remaining hostiles, but he was pretty certain there were all down. "We clear?"

The big man's voice was tight when it echoed the all clear. G holstered his weapon and walked through the aisles of packing containers until he found Sam, leaning against the wall. G knew immediately something was wrong.

"Sam?"

"Bad bounce off a container or the floor or something," muttered Hanna through clenched teeth. G's eyes took in his partner's pinched face and reached out to steady him when he wavered slightly on one leg. That was when Callen saw the blood that had begun to drip around Sam's right foot.

"You're hit?!" G immediately dropped to one knee looking for the source of the blood. He lifted the leg of Sam's jeans, craning to see the small hole in his partner's calf, blood running slowly down the dark skin.

"Stupid...wasn't even close...would love to see the crazy cartoon trajectory of that..." Sam continued to mutter.

"Hey," said G, rising to his feet to look closely at Sam's face. "You okay, big guy?

"Yeah," answered Sam, balancing on his left leg. "I just thought this sort of stuff didn't happen. Or only happened to people like Deeks." G smiled and rested his hand on Sam's shoulder.

"Hospital?" The muscles rippled and tensed under Callen's hand.

"Please, no." G eyed Sam critically. It was a new battle with them, luckily one they hadn't had to fight often, but it was there. And G hated it.

"Bullet's still in there, man. It's hospital or..."

"I know. Besides," Sam said, wiping the sweat from his face and gave his partner a strained smile. "It'll probably make her day."

NCISLANCISLANCISLANCISLANCIS LANCISLANCISLANCISLANCISLANC ISLANCISLANCISLANCISLA

G got Sam settled in the small infirmary at headquarters. He helped the big man lie down on the exam table and looked up to see Hetty watching him from through the doors behind Sam. Hetty had a killer poker face, but it didn't take much of a gambler to see that the Operations Manager was less than pleased.

"You alright, man?"

"Lovely," was Sam's short reply.

"I'll be right back." Callen stepped out of the infirmary.

"Why here, Mr. Callen?"

"You know hospitals, Hetty. Loud, crowded, lots of waiting and paperwork," said G breezily, attempting to usher the small woman into the room.

"Mr. Callen." It wasn't a question.

"He's tired of hospitals," said Callen, very quietly.

"If it was you, he'd have had you strapped down in the back of an ambulance and en route to the nearest one in very short order."

"It's because of me," G hissed, anger rising up so fast it surprised him. Hetty pursed her lips gently and thought for a moment.

"Ah," she breathed, understanding. "When you were shot." Callen took a deep breath and let it out before he began.

"Sam was there everyday. Operations, family, didn't matter. He found a way. He stayed long past visiting hours, if he left at all. Language books and crosswords and tacos and..." G trailed off. Sam's strong presence had kept Callen from going stir-crazy and bolting, doctors be damned. "Ever since then, Sam has been...I don't know, nervous in hospitals. He hides it well, but I know him, Hetty. I can't label it and God knows we've never actually talked about it, but...something in him gets tighter and tighter when we're in one for a case or an interview or anything." Callen finally met his manager's gaze. "I couldn't do that to him, Hetty. I couldn't. It's not that bad...and he wanted to come here." G smiled ruefully and shook his head a little. "He even said it would probably make your day." Henrietta Lange sported a small, knowing smile.

"Say no more, Mr. Callen. Let's see to our patient, shall we?"

NCISLANCISLANCISLANCISLANCIS LANCISLANCISLANCISLANCISLANC ISLANCISLANCISLANCISLA

"Bullet hole in Sam's calf?"

"Nasty scar, I dug that bullet out myself."

"There's no sign of it on the body."

"Thank God," breathed Hetty.