G. Callen - To Be Opened Upon My Death.
It sat on his desk staring at him as he took his suit jacket off and hung it across the back of his chair, still mindful to her memory not to wrinkle the fabric. Kensi and Deeks sat with Nell and Eric in the corner talking quietly amongst themselves. Sam and Granger stood in what had been Hetty's office, talking quietly and shooting worried glances in the direction of the team leader. Callen sat, his fingers lightly brushing the large white and red envelope. For a moment he wondered how it had been placed there. But knowing Hetty she had arranged this beforehand...before…
He blinked back a tear. Not here. Not now.
He wanted to open it, but opening it would make it final. She was gone.
Hetty was dead.
She had died a few days ago, not fighting crime like she would have wanted to go, but a heart attack in her sleep. He smiled slightly as he remembered the conversation they had had about smothering her with a Hypoallergenic pillow if she got too old to remember to keep all her secrets inside.
He had been the one to find her. After failing to turn up for work, he had decided to see if something had happened to her. He knew where she was as they had had their usual family dinner the evening before. Callen and Hetty catching up on family stuff as opposed to the work they had left behind.
The previous evening had been comfortable, playing scrabble and drinking a new blend of tea that Hetty had wanted to try. It ended with Callen lying drowsily on the couch as Hetty read him Tolstoy in the original Russian. As the clock struck two Callen had woken as Hetty had pulled his blanket from the back of her couch and placed it over him. He had stretched and kissed her cheek goodnight as he left, waiting until the house lights were out and her bedroom light was on before heading home.
Climbing the stairs with Sam in tow the next day, he had been convinced she had just overslept. He had knocked quietly on her door and as he entered her room, he knew she was gone. The warmth and the safety he had always felt on entering her inner sanctum, was not there.
"Hetty?" He had said quietly, his voice shaking.
Walking over to her bed he knelt and reached out for her hand, pulling it quickly back as if burned.
She was cold to the touch.
Not caring that Sam was there, the tears began to uncontrollably fall as he mumbled a string of unintelligible Russian words.
Sam had quietly phoned for a paramedic, informed the team and Granger and then waited as Callen got a handle on his grief.
"Do svidaniya mama," he said softly as Granger and the paramedics had arrived at the same time.
Sam moved to see if he was ok, but Callen shook his head and walked off.
No one saw him again until the funeral.
The Office of Special Projects had been put on stand down with the exception of emergencies for a few weeks as they coped with the loss of their leader. Granger was appointed acting Operations Manager in Hetty's stead. He was surprised by a letter in her desk with detailed instructions on how she wanted her funeral to be conducted. And under no circumstances, was Callen to take the task on entirely on his own.
Granger and Sam had been concerned with Callen's disappearance. They had been by Callen's home to look for him but he wasn't there. Neither of them knew if he would even attend the funeral. But there he was as the team arrived, talking quietly to the priest who had also been a good friend of Hetty's. They watched as he placed a comforting hand on Callen's shoulder. He nodded in thanks and turned to his friends.
"Glad you could make it Sam," Callen said, looking broken and tired.
"Are you alright G?" Sam asked.
Callen shrugged and moved to take his seat and waited as the others joined him. The service went off as Hetty had instructed. The team was surprised at the sight of a few famous people who had come by to pay their respects.
Then the priest stood up to speak.
"Our last speaker today is Hetty's beloved son," he announced as the team looked around in surprise as they hadn't known Hetty had any family.
Callen stood up and without a word, walked to the pulpit.
"Hetty was a remarkable woman. I can honestly say she literally saved my life," he started, his hands gripping the lectern tightly. As he stared out over the crowd of people, he intentionally avoided the looks of surprise on the faces of his dearest friends.
"I had been heading down a hard road when Hetty found me. She took me in and taught me that there was good in the world. She gave me a place to call home and a family to care about and be cared by. She taught me that trusting others could be a good thing. More than anything, she was the first person to show me I was worthy of being loved. For that I will always be grateful." He looked sadly at the small coffin beside him, "Spasibo materi. Ya vsegda budu lyubit' tebya." He stepped down from the pulpit, put his hand on the casket for a second and took his place silently in the pew.
Not once did he say anything to the rest of the team as the service finished and they headed to the cemetery for the internment. In fact, the only emotion he showed was when they lowered her coffin into the ground. His hands balled into fists and he shook slightly, even though his face remained impassive.
He felt like his heart was being ripped out of his body and being pulled into the ground with her. For a moment he wondered if he had felt this before when his mother was shot on the beach in Romania. If this was how he had felt then it was no wonder he had forgotten his name, the pain was unbearable. He wanted to scream, to beg and plead with whoever was listening to bring her back. But he didn't. Standing still he swayed slightly with the force of keeping his feelings inside.
Sam and the team seemed to know he was off and moved closer while still keeping a respectful distance. Kensi touched his arm in support and he flinched slightly but nodded his thanks at the gesture.
He stood off to one side as many of Hetty's friends came up and offered their condolences. He shook hands and waited patiently until it was over, not correcting anyone who called him Mr. Lange.
Then he walked into OSP with the team, waiting for them to say something, when he saw the envelope.
He knew it contained the answers to many of his questions but opening it would make everything final and real. He sat down ignoring everything that was happening around him and stared at the envelope. The words G. Callen - To be opened upon my death, written on it.
Granger walked up to him, "How are you holding up?"
"Fine," Callen replied, brushing his fingers over the envelope again.
"Are you going to open it?"
"I should...but…" Callen picked it up and turned it over.
"But?" Granger asked.
"I can't do it," he admitted. "I can't open it and know what she kept from me. I can't make it real."
"It was good of you to step up as her son."
"I am not her son, legally, as she didn't adopt me but we have been family since I was fifteen.
"She never said anything." Granger was surprised and it showed. "I mean I knew you were both close but I never would have guessed that."
"It wasn't really important as it didn't have any impact on my job. Besides I only lived with her for a few years until I went off to college. I came back for a while before I joined FLETC then I struck out on my own."
"It explains why you went off the reservation to get the money to save Hetty when you thought she had been kidnapped."
"She's like my mother, but I would have done the same for any member of my team."
Granger pushed a little more, "But I know you were close."
"Like I said, she saved me. I owed her."
Granger nodded, "Vance has put the team on stand down for two weeks. Go home Callen and take all the time you need."
Callen looked at the suit on the back of his chair, "I'll put this back and then I'll take off." He carefully picked up the suit jacket and the envelope then headed off to wardrobe as Granger turned to the others and told them about the bereavement leave that Vance had allocated them.
He opened the door of his house and it seemed emptier than usual.
For a moment he imagined the first time he and Hetty had been in this house together. He looked fondly at the air plant she had bought him.
Maybe it's about time you put down some roots Mr. Callen. Her voice came through his memory.
"I can't ...not without you...you grounded me, taught me who I was, how am I going to go on?" He asked the empty room.
He walked into his kitchen, putting the envelope down on the counter as he opened the fridge and looked at the beer, but dismissed the idea of getting drunk, after all it wouldn't bring her back. Instead, he grabbed a bottle of water and sat back on his chair pondering if he should open it right away.
Several minutes later he walked back to the counter and stared at the envelope sitting there taunting him with her secrets. He wanted to open it but he didn't. Opening it would be a game changer as it would mean acceptance of the fact that she was finally gone. He wasn't sure if he would ever be ready that. However, it wasn't going to go away and he owed it to her to read what she wanted him to know. Opening the red and white envelope very slowly, he took out the contents and placed them in front of him. He took the pile and went back to his chair and placed them in his lap.
A smaller, white envelope lay atop the papers with just Callen on it.
He opened it.
My Dearest Son,
I know you are hurting, but be assured I had a good life. I am of course not sure how I died but I hope I wasn't smothered by you with a Hypoallergenic pillow."
He smiled at the reference to their conversation.
-However, I hope I went with dignity. After all death is no reason to lose one's manners.
Hetty's voice continued in his head.
I have some things in here you need to know. I know you have been wanting to know what I know. I wanted you to find out for yourself, to get the satisfaction of knowing that all your struggles and all of your sacrifices over the years were worth it.
"It was Hetty," Callen muttered as he turned the page.
You should know, you were never alone. Not once we knew where you were. I knew your mother for a long time and she was a dear friend. However, after her death I lost track of her children. I looked for years and you were fifteen and in Juvenile court when I finally tracked you down. I made arrangements to foster you but you left the establishment early. I was pleased when you didn't turn down my offer to take you in. All those years later when you asked why I didn't adopt you...I lied.
Callen looked in shock at the words in front of him, "You lied?" The verbalization of the word left him confused.
Yes, I lied.
The letter continued as if she had anticipated the outburst.
I lied because you were not ready to know that I couldn't adopt you at fifteen, because by eleven years old you were my son. I had adopted you then even though I still hadn't found you, but I found your father. I married him during a mission, before I realized who he was. He told me about you and told me how important it was that you didn't risk your life to go back to Russia to find him. He loved you. Oh my Mr. Callen, he loved you and Amy so much. His sorrow was plain to see. However, his work was such that many, many people who are alive today would have died without his help. Myself amongst them.
He knew I was CIA and that I was being hunted. He married me so he could, under the guise of a honeymoon, get me safely out of Russia. As we travelled I realized who he was and he told me how he had a friend watching over you. He knew about Amy's death and was heartbroken by it. His friend Hans Schreiber had sent him pictures of you growing up. It was a picture of you that he gave me that allowed me to finally track you down. He was concerned for you but knew as I did, that it was too dangerous for him to come to America. I hope by the time you read this, his enemies will have been defeated and that you two will have met. Nikita was a wonderful man who had your eyes and laugh. Sometimes when I miss him too much, spending time with you makes my longing less.
The one thing you wanted to know, you deserved to know...your name.
This is the one thing he never told me. I was told it was for your safety. I promise had I known your name, I would have told you.
Callen sighed as he had hoped that was the one thing he would have told her.
When I married your father I became your step-mother. As such I didn't have to adopt you as you were already mine. At the time of your adoption, I knew you only went by G. Callen. As I wasn't able to give you a family at that time, I instead gave you something else you had been longing for. A name. In my fondness for you and for the man I knew you would become, I gave you the names of your grandfather and father, two of the greatest men I knew. George Nikita Callen
Callen's hand shook. He had a name!
His ear to ear smile wasn't seen by anyone, but it didn't matter. He finally had a name and it was a great one.
"Thank you Hetty." He said it aloud, certain that wherever she was, she would hear it..
As my only heir, you are beneficiary of my entire estate. It's yours to do with as you wish, however, the sentimental side of me hopes you will keep Dovecote, the first home we lived in as a family.
He pulled the rest of the papers out of the envelope. Deeds to her homes, bank account records and the most important thing ever, a new birth certificate and adoption certificate with his full name on both.
A small, folded piece of paper fell out and landed in his lap. He opened it slowly.
I am very proud to have been your mother and no matter where you are, or what you're doing, I will be with you.
Alone and emotionally drained, Callen cried.
In two weeks he would be back at work fighting the good fight and from that point on it would be done in the memory of his mother.