He stood still in shock as he walked into the scene in the waiting room.
Hetty and Granger stood to one side as Michelle hugged her crying children.
Kamran sobbing and holding her mothers leg tightly in the fear that she too would leave and Aiden, uniform on, his cover in his hand, let a lone tear fall. Trying to be strong for his mother and sister. Though like his father, his eyes were expressive and they turned on the newcomer in the room, which is what stopped Callen in his tracks.
He’d seen those eyes before, that question...though unspoken, it was screaming from the teenagers eyes.
He knew then why Hetty hadn’t called him with an update. He took a step back and his hand reached for the wall, for some stability.
“He promised….” Callen breathed.
He looked over at Hetty, whom he realized with shock was crying too, “No!..Hetty?” he asked.
Michelle looked up at him and shook her head.
Hetty stepped away from Granger and took a step towards Callen.
“Mr. Callen....I….” She started as he stepped away shaking his head.
He wanted to be there for Michelle, to comfort her and the children, but he couldn’t….Sam was dead.
He’d promised, it wasn’t fair….Sam was dead.
He remembered in Romania, he’d broken down as soon as Kensi and Deeks had left the abandoned garage they were using as a base. He’d told Sam about his mother’s death, what he remembered and how awful he felt knowing that she had been shot and killed right in front of him.
“I never want to lose anyone I care about like that again,” he had said, the devastation evident on his face.
Sam had walked over and placed a hand on his partners shoulder, “I promise G, you’ll never lose me like that...I’m gonna grow old and grey and push you around in a wheelchair when you’re too old to walk. Singing at you till you go deaf.” He laughed and relaxed as for a moment Callen dropped his guard and allowed himself a small smile.
The others in the waiting room couldn’t believe it as Callen turned his back on them and walked out.
Aiden ran past them all and followed Callen out into the corridor.
“So that’s it?” Aiden called after Callen.
G stopped, not turning around, but he waited.
“My father dies, saving your life and you leave!”
“I...please…” Callen didn’t turn to face the boy.
“He was your friend, your best friend.”
Callen couldn’t turn, he couldn’t look into those eyes...Sam’s eyes.
“Uncle Callen…?” Aiden’s voice cracked. “Don’t let them get away with this...make him count, don’t let him have died for nothing.”
Callen gave a terse nod, straightened his shoulders and walked out without looking back. He went back to work.
Kensi stood at the edge of the bullpen, holding Deeks’ hand.
He understood she couldn’t walk in there. Nell held onto Eric in Ops, tears coursing down her face, while he shed a few himself. The team was in shock, crushed, but Callen pulled them together.
“What have we got?” He asked, walking into Ops, Kensi and Deeks having followed him as he ran into the mission.
“Callen...I...We’re sorry…” Eric started.
“Don’t!” Callen snapped, “Don’t let my partner die in vain, give me something...anything.” He clenched his hand as he tried to keep a lid on his emotions. “I need something on the sniper. We need to do this for Michelle and the kids,” he said, his voice flat and leveled.
Eric and Nell nodded and turned their attention to the screen, finding the guy who had shot Sam and sending the team to deal with him.
Eventually, the day was done.
Hetty and Granger, having helped Michelle home with the children, returned to the mission.
Kensi and Deeks, having realized that life was too short, went home with Kensi’s idea of things moving too fast now having flipped to things were moving too slow. They needed the time together to reaffirm what they felt for each other and to solidify their commitment to one another.
Hetty and Granger sat in her office, watching as a dejected Eric and Nell left together hand in hand.
“It’s been a hard day Owen,” Hetty said pouring a scotch for the both of them.
Owen took his glass and nodded, taking a sip he looked over at her. “You going to be alright?” He asked, concern in his voice.
Hetty nodded, her eyes and face tired. “I always hope that the last time is the last time I will lose an agent.” She took a sip and stopped as she notice movement in the bullpen.
Owen followed her gaze to see Callen sitting at his desk, his back to them.
“You won’t resign again will you? They need you here,” he said keeping his voice low. “He needs you here,” he reiterated.
Her eyes glistened as she thought with a start that she was glad it wasn’t him.
Callen stood and slammed his laptop shut. Without even noticing they were there, he walked away from them to the gym.
Owen stood up, “I’ll go,” he offered.
Hetty stood as well, “No...like you said earlier, they are my children. He’s hurting and needs to know we are here for him, and that he is not alone.”
“We’ll both go.”
Callen hadn’t even bothered to put the gloves on or wrap his hands. He wanted to feel the pain and felt he deserved to feel the pain. Just once more, he hit the bag, once more...one more time.
They stood in the doorway, waiting for him to see them or acknowledge their presence.
“You promised,” he snarled as he hit the heavy bag. “You lied!” He hit it again. A few flecks of blood flew up as he split a knuckle. “Never again!” Callen vowed as he hit the bag again. “No more…”
Over and over he punched the bag, until exhaustion hit him and he crumbled to his knees.
Concerned, Owen and Hetty crossed the room.
“Mr. Callen?” Hetty asked, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Callen flinched and shook her off. “I’m fine,” he replied and reached blindly for a towel he knew was there somewhere. He wiped the sweat off his face and stood up. “I’m fine,” he reiterated, walking off towards the showers.
Hetty shot Owen a look of concern and silently begged that he follow the senior agent and possibly talk to him. Granger gave a curt nod and followed.
The water was loud and Callen was already standing under the spray, using the water as a cover as he cried for the loss of his partner, best friend, brother. Granger waited out of sight as he heard the sobs Callen couldn’t keep quiet. As the water ran cold Callen realized he was curled up on the floor in the locker room. Anyone could come in. Shaking his head he got up and turned the water off.
“She’s worried about you, you know,” Granger called before he walked around the corner.
Callen dried off quickly and got himself dressed.
“She doesn’t need to be,” he countered. “She quitting?” he asked, his voice not giving anything away.
“Do you think she should?” Granger baited him.
“NO!” Callen turned as Granger came around the corner. “She can’t, they need her.”
“They need her?” Granger sat on the bench as Callen towel dried his torso and pulled a shirt on.
“They will need her to keep them together, help them move on,” he clarified
“What about you?” Granger asked.
Callen whipped his head around and stared angrily at Granger, “You probably haven’t noticed but people who get close to me end up dying, I call it the Callen Curse.” He threw his towel angrily into his bag and grabbed the handles.
“Don’t call me that...you don’t get to...Sam….he...just don’t.”
“Callen, they will need you too. Did you send the email to Vance already?” He asked.
Callen looked at him in surprise, “You knew?” he asked.
Granger nodded, “The second you slammed the laptop shut.”
“It’s done, I’m leaving,” Callen told him.
“No your not. The team needs you.”
“I can’t stay.”
“Do you blame Hetty?” Granger asked suddenly.
Callen looked shocked, “No of course not!”
“But you blame yourself.”
Callen threw his bag down in frustration. “I should have had his back, that bullet was meant for me!” He all but collapsed on the bench next to Granger. “Why did he do it? He has a family. Michelle and the kids...they need him.”
“You needed him,” Granger said. “He was being the man you know, your partner.”
“Don’t!” Granger snapped. “Don’t belittle Sam’s memory by saying something stupid like you were not worth saving.”
Callen looked away and swore for a moment he saw Sam standing in the corner smirking at him for being chewed out by Granger.
“I won’t,” Callen vowed.
He wasn’t happy. How could he be? He wasn’t sure how he’d ever face Michelle again.
But there was one thing he knew how to do and that was to move on.
And move on he would.
Watching Sam smiled, his partner would eventually be ok.