"So how many times have I saved your life now?"
Sam's joking, but Callen takes a moment to think and then shrugs. "Don't know. Plenty. Next time, get the antidote into me another way, okay?"
"Baby," Sam says and punches Callen's arm, a crucial few inches below the injection site. "You've gotta toughen up."
"Ha, ha, I get any tougher and I'll…" He lets that thought trail off, partly because he can't think of how to finish it -- it's been a really long day and he's spent too much of it worrying about Sam -- partly because he's doing some adding up of his own. "I've saved your ass seven times," he announces.
It's Sam's turn to get a distant, thoughtful look. "Okay, I'm cool with six, though if you're counting the time in the mountains --"
"Totally counting it," Callen says with an emphatic smack to Sam's leg as payback for the punch. "Unless you're about to tell me you've got wings that sprout when you're plummeting to your death."
"Well, you dragged me back up, breaking my arm in the process, so I guess we'll never know."
"Your arm was broken in the fall and I've seen your back. You're no angel. And you definitely don't sing like a bird."
Sam rolls his eyes. "Give it up. I sang better than you in the bar and we both know it. Now tell me about this mythical seventh time."
Callen stares down at his beer and turns coward, hating himself for it. "Six is right. I miscounted."
"No, you didn't," Sam says gently, picking up on Callen's mood change at once, the way he always does. "Seven. I want to hear it. Spill."
The bar's busy enough to give them privacy, their booth tucked away at the back. Callen picks at the label on his bottle and turns his head to meet Sam's patient gaze. "Christmas. You know the one."
Not easy to forget coming around with a gift and finding your friend about to eat his gun.
"I stopped you," Sam says and his voice is a bare whisper. "Don't go there, G. You weren't yourself. Too much shit, too short a time. It's was hell on all of us. I'm not even sure you'd have done it."
"I would," Callen says and tastes the truth of it, bitter-sour. "I really would. But you said --" He takes a deep breath. "You said if I did, you'd follow me. That the next bullet would be for you and they'd find us both with our brains decorating the walls."
"I said a lot of stuff that night." Sam smiles, just a little. "Talked 'til my throat was hoarse. If I said that, I don't think I meant it, though, to be honest. Not the way I see myself going out."
"You made me think you did," Callen tells him. "Right then, you looked like you did and I -- I couldn't do it. Couldn't be the reason anyone else died. So I let you take the gun and I saved your life. See?" He finishes the beer his hands have warmed and grimaces. Tastes foul.
"Well," Sam says after a pause, "I'll tell you one thing; if you ever try it again, do it better, or I'll kill you myself. And I do mean that. You scared me. Didn't stop shaking for days thinking if I'd started out later, hit a couple more red lights, I'd have been too late."
"No, you don't," Callen says, secure in the knowledge that Sam's the one person in his life who'll never give up on him, never hurt him. "So. Seven."
"Six and a half," Sam says firmly and his arm comes around Callen's shoulders, pulling him tight. "And that's only because I know you hate needles so I'm feeling sorry for you."
"Uh, this is nice, big guy, but you're hurting my arm," Callen says after a few moments of soaking up the hug without letting anything show on his face.
Sam's fingers find the exact, precise spot, where the needle went in and press down hard before removing his arm. "That's for scaring me spitless again, you heroic asshole."
Callen smiles, wide and bright. "'Heroic'?"
"Figure of speech," Sam says hastily. "Another beer?"
"Sure. And speaking about wings --"
"Make mine extra-spicy. In fact, make them the suicide wings."
"Only you," Sam mutters and orders him a plateful, just the way he likes them, hot enough to make his eyes stream and his nose clog up.
Like they'd done that Christmas, as he sobbed against Sam's shoulder, held and rocked and scolded, Sam's voice broken, raw.
Return to Home
Click here if you'd like to send feedback