Sam couldn't remember the last time his SEAL training had slipped. In fact he was pretty sure it never had. Maybe it was his time away from the Navy and the discipline or the fact that he was supposedly off duty, and not even on a current NCIS case.
But instead of calling Eric when he saw G go down, he called 911. End result was the same, but the domino effect of events to follow shifted pretty drastically.
He'd ridden in the ambulance with G and had paced the waiting room for over an hour before it occurred to him to call anyone at the office. Macy should know. Eric and Nate and Kensi should know. It was weird not needing to worry about contacting family. Or maybe contacting Macy and Nate and Kensi and Eric amounted to the same thing.
They'd stabilized him and moved him to surgery by the time he'd thought to call and it was almost another hour before the majority of the team arrived. Macy had had him give his report to Eric over the phone and then Eric and Mike ordered to begin the investigation.
After almost two hours of pacing and trying to make small talk, Kensi rounded up Mace and Nate to go get dinner in the hospital cafeteria. They'd been told that Callen would be in surgery for at least eight hours, which put them well into the early hours of the morning. She tried to convince Sam to go down with them, but he made it clear that he wouldn't be moved until G was out of surgery.
Fifteen minutes later Sam looked up at the ding of the elevator door. Thus far he and his team had been alone in the waiting room, and he was hoping that it would remain that way. He wrinkled his brow in confusion when he saw Nate. "I thought you went down to eat with everyone." He hoped it was a subtle enough - but not too subtle - hint that he wanted to be left alone for a while.
"I did," Nate said, setting one of two Styrofoam boxes on the low table in front of Sam. "You need to eat too."
"I'm staying here until he comes out," Sam said, staring at the floor between his feet. He didn't want to argue with anyone and he didn't want to play word games with Nate.
"I didn't say you needed to leave, I said you needed to eat." Nate took a Coke out of his jacket pocket and set it in front of Sam and pushed the chicken sandwich closer to him.
Sam gave him a small smile of gratitude. He wasn't very hungry, but one thing he'd learned in the military was to eat when he had a chance, because you never knew when the next chance would be. He popped open the top of the clamshell box and made himself start eating.
Nate leaned back at the opposite end of the same sofa Sam was sitting on, picking over his salad. "What's in the bag?" he asked, pointing with his fork at the small white plastic bag at Sam's feet.
"G's wallet and phone and stuff. His clothes were a total loss, but when they moved him from the E.R. up here, they gave me what seemed salvageable."
Nate nodded. "His gun?"
"We were off duty. He wasn't carrying. It's probably in his duffle. Maybe locked in his desk… I really don't know." Sam tossed the box back onto the table and scrubbed his hands over his face. "I saw it go down and still don't know what happened." Part of him knew not to give Nate an opening unless he wanted the man crawling around in his head, but it was eating at him that he couldn't understand what would cause some random asshole with a machine gun to open up on G in the middle of a public parkway.
"What did you see?" Nate asked predictably.
Sam popped the top on his Coke and leaned back. "I dropped G by his hotel. He's getting all 'time to move on' again and, you know, whatever. He never lives in the same place for more than a couple months at best. I didn't think there might be a reason this time."
"Callen saying he doesn't want to stay where he's at anymore isn't a good enough reason to start assuming something's wrong. If it was we'd all live in a heightened state of alert," Nate said around his dinner. When Sam had no comment to that, he swallowed and continued. "Mace has Eric looking for any traffic cams that may have caught what went happened."
"I caught what happened," Sam snapped. "For all the good it seems to be doing us."
"Eric's looking for any electronic evidence, Hetty's putting out a BOLO to all body shops for a black van with three bullet holes in the rear, Renko is going over the scene and Mace told the doctors to preserve any bullets or other trace evidence and there's a courier standing by to get everything to the D.C. forensics lab." Nate stabbed the air with his fork as he added, "You did the right thing. We'll catch these bastards later. You stayed with G and got him help as soon as you could. You did exactly what you should have."
Before Sam could think of an answer to that their discussion was interrupted by Callen's phone ringing in the plastic bag by Sam's feet. He dug it out and looked at the display. He rolled his eyes at the small screen.
He frowned. Gibbs was the agent from D.C. who'd just come out - just left that morning - after they'd worked together on the terrorist cell case.
"Why would G have Gibbs flagged as being from I.C.E.? He's NCIS like the rest of us, isn't he?" Sam asked over the ring-tone.
"Let that go to voice mail and then turn it off," Nate advised. "We can call back when we have good news."
Sam gave Nate a level look, "You mean 'if'?"
"I believe in being positive. Also? They wouldn't have brought him into surgery if they didn't think he'd make it." Nate went back to his salad, watching as Sam powered down the phone and tossed back into the bag. "As for it saying 'ice', I think that's the 'In Case of Emergency' I.C.E., not the immigration guys. Gibbs is listed as Callen's next of kin. Well, Gibbs and you."
Sam leaned back against the sofa, kicking the leg of the coffee table in front of him. "I do not want to be the one making that call, Nate. If the doctors come out and tell us that… what? He's brain dead but he can be an organ donor? Or he can be in a coma or a vegetable for the next ten years?" He ran his hand over the top of his head and then covered his face. "I know he doesn't have any actual family, but who the hell am I to make that decision?"
"His partner," Nate said simply. "And one of two people he trusts enough to do what's best for him. And the only one that's currently on this coast." Nate set his salad down and leaned in towards Sam. "If, if it comes down to it, his whole team will be there for him. But he trusts you, Sam."
Sam nodded. "Man, I hope to god it doesn't come to that."
Nate picked his dinner back up. "We all do, Sam. We all do."
Everyone had come back up from dinner and they were alternately pacing and dozing in uncomfortable burlap and wood chairs. After a long while where no one even attempted small talk, Macy pulled a chair up next to Sam.
"Look, I know the timing here sucks, and given this… things may change, but…"
Sam looked up at her, exasperation and impatience written on his face.
"When you called, I'd just gotten off the phone with Director Vance. I'm being transferred. Gitmo. And it looks like I'll be taking Mike with me."
Sam blew out a breath. "Who are we getting?" he asked, far less impressed by the news than he would have been six hours ago.
"Well, for some reason, he thinks that as long as Hetty stays on as operations manager, that you and G can manage without a lead agent." Macy tried to make it seem like the guys were being promoted more than she was abandoning them, even though at the moment it felt a little like that.
"Look, G's not going to be back for weeks," Sam refused to say the understood 'if ever', "Which means we're going to be down, what? Half the team? How the hell are we supposed to function like that?"
"Like I said, timelines may change, decisions may change in light of what happened. I'm going to call in…" Macy checked her watch, " Well, about three or four hours it'll be work time on the East Coast. I'm going to ask Vance if I can stay at least as long as it takes to find and apprehend whoever did this to G. But I wanted you to know what was going on in case he tells me that I have to ship out sooner rather than later."
Sam nodded and scrubbed his hands over his face. He supposed it was better to be warned than not, but he was feeling more like Macy was just piling on. "Let me know what he says," he said after a while. He scowled and sank further into the sofa as he realized that if Vance insisted on Mace shipping out, he'd be the one stuck explaining to Callen that once again, the family he'd managed to create for himself was being broken up.
Then it occurred to him that at least having that sucky conversation meant that G had survived to have that sucky conversation.
It was four a.m. before the Doctor Alexander Vick finally came out of the O.R. Sam couldn't help but notice that the guy looked as exhausted as he felt himself. Nate woke Kensi up and they all crowded around.
"I'm not entirely sure how," the doctor began, "But all eight bullets managed to miss his heart and the major arteries. One went through the lower part of his left lung, but we were able to repair the damage with minimal tissue loss. One went through his liver and kidney, so we're watching carefully for sepsis, but the others were through and through and mostly skin and muscle damage. He has two broken ribs, but they'll mend. For a guy who just took eight bullets," he held up a stainless steel kidney dish with three slugs in it, "he's supremely lucky. They're moving him to recovery now."
There was a collective sigh as they all let out the breath they'd been holding for almost ten hours. Nate reached up to squeeze Sam's arm and they exchanged relieved smiles.
Macy grabbed an evidence bag out of her purse and wrapped it around the dish and the slugs. "Thank you," she said for the team. "We appreciate everything you did for him. I'm going to get these sent off to D.C."
"I'm not saying he doesn't have a very long recovery in front of him, but barring complications or infection, I think he has a good chance of making a full recovery. I'm going to check on him and update his chart. It was a long night for all of us; you might want to get home soon and get some sleep. He'll be in ICU around lunch time if all goes well." The doctor gave them a reassuring smile and headed for the door.
Sam tagged along after him. "Can I just see him for a minute? I was there when he went down. I'd feel better if I could just see that, you know…" he shrugged a little, not at all above playing on a nice surgeon's sympathies.
The doctor gave Sam an appraising look. "I'm pretty sure you're not family…"
"I'm his partner," Sam said, hoping it would be enough.
Doctor Vick sighed. "He won't be awake; you know that, right?"
Sam nodded. "I just want to see him."
"Come on," Vick finally said turning to the door again. "Just while I finish his chart."
"Thanks," Sam said gratefully.
Despite the warnings Doctor Vick gave him as they made their way to recovery, Sam was startled by the number of machines that could be hooked up to one human being.
"A respirator?" Sam asked, cutting through the medical babble he was barely hearing anyway.
"Just for a little while. If everything looks good in the next couple of hours, they'll take him off of it before moving him to ICU."
Sam nodded, "Can I…?" he pointed vaguely in the direction of G's bed.
"Sure. I'm going to go work on my notes at the desk. I assume I don't have to tell you not to touch anything?"
Sam smiled weakly, "I wouldn't know where to start."
As the doctor moved off, Sam approached G's bed. Between the respirator and all the sensors and monitors and I.V. lines and bandages and surgical drains, Callen was barely recognizable.
"Man, G… you are one hot mess…" He leaned against the edge of the bed, carefully sliding one hand under G's where it lay on the sheet. He turned his hand over so that his thumb could stroke over the back of Callen's fingers between the I.V. line and the pulse oxygen monitor. He let out a huge sigh. "But you're gonna be okay. You hear me?"
A few minutes later, Sam looked up when he heard Vick talking to someone by the recovery room door.
"He really shouldn't have any visitors - I told his partner that he could have a minute but I really can't just start letting friends in right now," the doctor said apologetically.
"Actually, I'm his doctor," Nate said leaning on the doorpost.
"Oh!" Dr. Vick said, holding out a hand, "My apologies, general practice or…?"
"Psychiatrist," Nate said bluntly shaking the surgeon's hand.
Vick looked at Callen quickly and then back at Nate. "Oh, I didn't realize… I mean…"
Nate choked back a smile. "Operational psychiatrist for NCIS. I work with these guys. Get into the bad guys' heads. Not that I don't keep an eye on the team too, but it's not my primary responsibility. On a good day."
Doctor Vick had the grace to look a little abashed.
"NCIS?" Vick asked, blushing even deeper. "Oh boy… when…" he stopped and cleared his throat. "When Mr. Hanna said he was his partner I thought he meant…" Dr. Vick raised his eyebrows in a 'fill-in-the-blanks' look.
Nate did laugh out loud then. "Sam and G? Uh… no. Well, not that they've told me, anyway." But he did take a minute to study the way Sam was perched carefully on the edge of Callen's bed now, talking to him even though G was still out, holding his hand, carefully around the medical equipment. He shifted his attention back to Dr. Vick. "Like I was saying, as far as I know, they're just good friends and partners at work. If there's anything more to it, you'd have to ask them."
But now that it had been said, the more he watched, the more Nate couldn't completely discount the other doctor's assumption. He filed the thought away and decided to watch them even more carefully than normal. Just to see if Doctor Vick had seen in twenty minutes, something he hadn't noticed in three years.