He had been sitting in the bullpen when Hetty walked in.
"Mr. Callen, You've got a letter." She said surprised handing him the plain white envelope with his name on. No alias, but his actual name.
'Mr. G. Callen'
C/O Department of Children and Family Services
425 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, CA 90020
He looked surprised. "How did this find me here?" he asked.
"I was your last placement remember, they still send correspondence to my home from time to time." she admitted quietly.
"So it's safe?" he asked worried he had been burned.
"It's safe, apparently this person has sent two letters before, looking for you."
Callen gave a curt nod and opened the envelope.
He scanned the contents and stopped.
She nodded towards her office as the team looked concerned in his direction.
"Mrs. Dalton. My teacher in my freshman year...just before I...well ya know." he grinned sheepishly referring to his time in incarceration.
She nodded knowing what he was referring to. "So Mrs. Dalton?" She asked.
"I need to see her, she's in the hospital. Cancer." he said sadly. "I need to tell her...to let her know that her trust in me was not misplaced."
He looked at the letter in his hand, "Please...I need to tell her the truth, she's not going to survive, but I...she deserves to know, it wasn't her fault."
Hetty could see the guilt that was eating away at him and nodded. "Go, come back to my house afterwards and we will talk."
Callen nodded and grabbed his bag and walked out.
There were very few times in Callen's life he looked back on fondly. But this had to have been one of them.
He had been 14 years old when he first met Mrs. Alice Dalton.
Having just been transferred to Cerritos High school in the ABC unified schools district. He had walked into the main reception with his bag and his transcripts. Mrs Dalton had been sitting in the office and was working on her lesson plan as the boy walked in.
He had an air of...not arrogance as she first thought, no, an air of resignation as if he was preparing for a fight knowing he was going to lose.
Ms Allerton the school secretary looked up at the newcomer and smiled.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Yeah." Callen slapped his transcripts down on the desk. "I'm a new transfer."
"Callen…?" She asked.
He sighed, "Just Callen."
She looked at his paperwork giving him a disapproving glance, another wanna be tough guy.
Alice put down her pen and watched him. Something about him interested her.
"So...Callen…" Ms. Allerton sneered on his name and G sighed. "You're transcripts are missing 3 months."
G gave a sheepish smile, "I was between schools."
"Oh?" She looked at him, "Truant?"
G shook his head, "No."
"Home-schooled?" she asked.
"No...no home so can't be homeschooled."
She looked at the address on his transcripts. "Oh an Orphan."
"I'm not." G argued.
In his mind he wasn't an orphan. If he didn't know who his parents were and no one else did how did they know he was an orphan. After all they were probably out there looking for him right this moment and with child services moving him all the time he was getting annoyed that his parents would never find him.
"Fine." She dismissed him, and carried on filling out his paperwork. "Your classes are here." she handed him a sheet of paper. You have lunch at 1.15, only...you are not wearing the right uniform. I assume your….carers knew about the school dress code."
Callen shrugged, "I only got there this morning."
She looked him up and down and noticed that he was wearing Jeans, a grey hoodie and scuffed and broken sneakers.
"You will have to see the principal until you can be properly attired."
"What?" Callen asked.
"You need to have a kit for gym and proper school colors, only Black, Gold, White and Red are accepted. We do sell sweaters and t-shirts with the school crest on, were you sent with any money for these?"
"Lady, they are never giving me money. it's a wonder I managed to steal a banana for lunch…" he trailed off realizing what he had admitted to.
"Very well...You'll have to just hope the principal will let you go out looking like that."
Callen blushed and looked down at his clothes. They weren't much but they were his.
He knew that being different was not a good thing, especially in a school and he was now in for a rough ride.
"Listen I turned up, but I don't have to stay." he grabbed his bag and went to leave.
"Can I help you?" Alice asked.
"No...you and your stuck up school are obviously better off without me." he snapped.
Alice chanced a glance at the transcript. "I don't think so. I think you would be an asset to the school."
"I'm not a narcissist so I'm not gonna stay here and be gawked at. I didn't know about the damn dress code lady, so just let me go." he turned and pulled the door but it was locked.
"LET ME OUT!" he yanked at the door but it refused to budge.
"Mr. Callen, I would at the very least like a chance to talk to you...maybe in my office."
She pointed to a door marked "Alice Dalton Vice Principal."
Callen's shoulders slumped, he was doomed and he knew it.
Following her into the office he sat and fished a card out of his bag. "Here." he said holding the card towards her.
"What's that?" Alice asked.
"My social workers number, call her and she'll move me."
"Now why on earth would i do that."
"You're not going to expel me?" he looked surprised as Alice laughed.
"Of course not. I was going to offer you a uniform, well we have a few t-shirts and pants and a set of gym clothes."
"I ain't got the money for this...you want me to have it you'll have to talk to my case worker."
"I'm not giving it to her, I'm giving it to you." Alice argued.
"I don't take charity."
"But you do steal?" Alice prodded.
Callen looked ashamed and fished the offending banana out of his bag and put it on the desk.
"So call them, have me arrested."
She shook her head. "No...I tell you what you help me out and I will give you the clothes in trade, how does that sound."
Callen looked at her warily, "What would I have to do?"
"Help me out with a bit of tidying after school, maybe clean the boards for me, eraser washing?" She asked.
Callen weighed it up, he could help and still make it back to the center in time for curfew...if he ran.
"Ok, but this is between us ok? I don't want no one knowing."
Alice nodded. "Very well, now lets see what we have."
"I just need a pair of pants and a shirt."
"And a gym kit and maybe some sneakers, what size are you?"
"8 and 6." he replied resigned to giving into this woman. He didn't know what it was about her that begrudgingly got his respect but she did get it nonetheless.
"So, two shirt, one pair of pants, one gym kit and a pair of sneakers...oh and a locker combination."
She handed him a piece of paper. "You'll need somewhere to store all that extra stuff."
He put the paper on her desk, "I'll keep it with me." he told her knowing that if he wanted to keep it he should keep it on him.
She smiled, showing him to her personal bathroom so he could change he quickly did so and came out looking cleaner, having washed his face and more presentable.
"Nice...there now, class is about to start, you head there now and I'll see you back here after school."
"Yes Ma'am." Callen said and hurried to his first class.
During that day Alice took the time to find out all she could about her new student and wasn't surprised that he turned up as soon as the school day ended.
He worked diligently until 4 then he turned to her, "I have to go ma'am, I have curfew at 4.45."
"Very well, I will see you tomorrow alright?" Alice asked hoping he would come back to school. He was a smart kid and she hoped that she could help put him on the right road.
Callen smirked as he looked back at her from the door. "Maybe...I'm not promising anything." he grinned.
He walked down the corridor until he got out of the building and then ran full pelt for the group home he'd been dumped in for the foreseeable future. He didn't like the house parents but as usual he never got a say in the matter.
He made it inside the door just as the house father turned up to lock up.
"Callen, you're late." He snapped, "Up against the wall."
Callen waited as he locked up and turned to him.
"This is not a good start for your first day." He said, "What have you been up to?"
"School finished an hour ago long enough for you to get home. I read your file boy, what were you up too...turn around and assume the position."
Callen turned and waited while he was frisked.
"I ain't stolen anything, I ain't a thief," he argued.
"I beg to differ, you raced out of here this morning and we had some food missing."
Callen shrugged, he couldn't say he hadn't taken it because he had.
He stood there panting with anger as he was patted down.
He held his breath as he heard his bag being opened.
"That's mine!" he argued.
The house father scowled as he looked in the bag. "You've been stealing, according to your file you don't need new clothes till september but you aren't wearing what you left in this morning, so where have you been?" he pushed Callen in the shoulder.
Callen turned to face him, "I haven't stolen anything!"
The man reached into his bag and pulled out the new gym kit and his old sneakers.
"You stole these, admit it."
"NO! I didn't!" G. grabbed the clothes and stuffed them back into his bag.
"Get to my office." The man ordered.
Callen swiped up his bag and begrudgingly followed him to the office.
Callen turned up at school the next day in his old clothes before the first bell and went round the back of the school and changed his clothes. Stuffing his other clothes into a trash bag he hid it in a hedge on the edge of the grounds where he knew he would be able to see it for most of the day. He sat on the bench before the other students turned up and ate a sandwich he had stolen from a convenience store on his way to school. He made a note of the price of the sandwich with the intention of paying the store owner back as soon as he could after all he wasn't a thief, but he had been denied a meal in the home last night for stealing that banana in the morning.
He raised his hand to his eye which was still sore from last night, as were his ribs. The house father was adamant that none of the kids in his home were tardy, or thieves and Callen wasn't going to break his good record.
Watching as Alice's car pulled in Callen put his trash in the can and headed to help her with the box she was taking out of the car.
He kept his head down and took the box.
"Thank you." Alice said with a smile.
"'s ok." Callen's breath hitched as the box hit his rib. He carried it up the stairs and to her office as she walked in front of him and her phone rang.
"Hello...oh...Paul...yes, yes I called the lawyer...What? No! you can't take my stuff! At least give me a chance...but my mother's album…" She sagged against the wall as Paul laughed at her down the phone. She slammed the phone shut and turned to Callen.
"I'm sorry about that," She opened the door to her office. "You can put that down there." she noticed him wince as he put it down.
"Callen...look at me...please?" she asked.
Slowly Callen raised his head.
"Your eye!" she exclaimed.
Callen looked away. "I got into a fight with a kid in the home, he tried to take my stuff." Callen lied.
Alice took it at face value, "OK. You should try not to fight, remember our school values, you must be the first to give respect. Try it. it might work for you."
Callen nodded he did like her and didn't want to let her down.
Over the month he stayed when he could and helped out everyday after school.
One day he stopped as he walked into her office.
The room was decked with balloons and there was a cake on the table.
"I'm sorry, I just wanted to empty your bin." He said as she sat there with two bottles of coke on the table. "I didn't realize you were busy."
"I was waiting for you." she smiled.
"Why?" Callen asked surprised.
She looked at the cake and the balloons. "You can't guess?"
Callen shook his head.
"Happy Birthday G. Callen." she smiled.
"Happy what?" He looked stunned.
"What?" Alice looked confused, "It is your birthday today isn't it?"
Callen shrugged, "I don't know?" he replied honestly, "I've never had one."
"Never?..." she was stunned. "Well," she smiled covering quickly. "According to your records today is your birthday and you are now fifteen years old. so happy birthday."
She held out a bottle of coke to him. He took it and stared at the cake, or more accurately the candles on the cake.
"What are they for?" he asked.
She smiled and lit them. "Blow." she instructed.
"Excuse me?" he coughed on the coke he had just swallowed.
"Blow the candles out."
He looked at her like she was nuts, "why light them if you want to blow them out now?"
She laughed, "It's tradition, you make a wish."
"For what?" he asked.
"Anything you want." She replied with a smile.
"Anything?" Callen asked.
"I suppose, not sure if you'll get it but if you make a wish on your birthday it's all the more special and may come true."
Callen shot her a look that implied he didn't believe her, but he had grown to trust her so he wished and blew out the candles.
"Now what?" he asked.
"Now we eat cake," She said cutting him a slice and handing it too him.
He laughed and ate his first slice of birthday cake ever.
Three days later his life changed dramatically.
He had been walking around killing time on a sunday afternoon when he spotted Mrs Dalton coming out of a motel room.
"Callen?" she called noticing him.
"Hi Mrs D. you ok?" he asked.
She smiled sadly, "Yes...yes, I'm just between homes right now, you know what it's like."
He nodded he did.
She put two large empty boxes in the back of her car.
"You need some help?" Callen asked.
"Don't you have things to do?" she laughed.
Callen shook his head, "I'm kicked out till 4, and it looks like rain so I'm free if you want anything doing." He looked at the black clouds rolling in overhead a storm front had been forecast for a few days and he wasn't looking forward to getting wet.
"I'm going to get some things of mine, if you want to join me." she went to her car and waited as Callen got in the passenger side.
He sat in the car as she pulled up outside a storage unit and waited for half an hour.
"Give me a second G." she said as she let herself out and pulled out her phone.
He opened the window a crack and listened as she talked to her ex-husband on the phone.
"What do you mean you are busy...you're in a bar!" she snapped, "I want my stuff...I don't care about the money I want my mother's photos. They are all I have of hers." She stopped and wiped her eyes, "Please Paul, I'm outside there now, don't do this to me...Paul?" she looked down at the now dead phone. "Damn it." she wiped her eyes looking away from the car. She walked up to the door to the storage unit and placed her hand on there for a second.
"So close…" she sighed.
"Close?" Callen asked from beside her making her jump.
"Oh, my...G you made me jump."
"What's in there?" he asked.
"Remnants of my failed marriage."
"Ok...so what was close?" He asked again.
"Nothing really, it's silly. Just my mother's photo albums, pictures of me and my parents as a kid. I will get them one day. Come on, let's head back, you don't want to miss your curfew."
Callen looked up at the number of the storage locker and climbed into the car.
Six hours later he was in front of the same storage locker again, Albums at his side, sitting handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
"So you broke in to steal pictures?" The cop asked.
"I wasn't stealing them, I was taking them to their owner. I'm not a thief." he argued.
"Tell it to the judge kid." the cop drawled.
Callen sighed, he knew this was going south, he just hoped he'd get a smack on the wrist and let go like last time.
Paul Dalton walked into the station, Alice hot on his heels, followed by his house father and his social worker.
"I want him charged." Paul said to the people sitting in the room with him.
"He's just a kid." Alice argued, "He's a good student but he makes mistakes."
"Mistakes, he broke into my storage locker he could have wrecked anything." Paul argued.
"Callen is a troubled child." his social worker agreed. "He's been coasting by but considering his age I have to agree he needs to be charged, it might be the shock he needs."
"No...He was just trying to get me back my property," Alice argued.
"You don't know that for a fact." His house father argued, "He's stolen from the group home a few times; I agree, he needs to be charged before he gets into any more trouble."
Alice couldn't believe it, Callen was being railroaded.
"I won't be a party to this, you all all railroading this young man. He's a good student, has a good morale compass and you all want to brand him a delinquent."
The officer in charge looked to his social worker, "If Mr. Dalton, still wants to press charges then we really have to go with it."
The social worker nodded and went in with the police officer to inform Callen.
Alice waited outside as Callen was told.
"NO!" his disbelieving yell was heard outside. He had only tried to help.
Moments later in handcuffs he was taken outside of the room.
His eyes met hers as he was led away. In shame at what her husband had done she looked away and Callen's head dropped.
She blamed him.
It wasn't until after the trial during his three weeks incarceration that he received a letter from her telling him that she was sorry for his predicament and she hoped that he would forgive her.
He paced his room for an hour before he felt that he needed to get out of there and go and see her.
He had made his way out of the facility having tested it's limits a few days before, stole a car and headed to Los Angeles to find the address that was on the back of the letter.
After being chased for eight blocks by the police he finally crashed the car into a pole.
Not wanting to go back to Juvie he scrambled out of the car and ran until he was tackled by another officer and brought down.
Again his life was going to take another turn, and again it was the intervention of another powerful woman.
He looked at her and was surprised how much respect the officer was giving her. After all she was the shortest grown up he'd ever seen and he told her so.
Callen smiled as he remembered his first meeting with Hetty as he pulled up outside the care home in the letter in his hand.
Walking to the reception he asked for Alice's room.
A young woman turned as he said her name.
"Mr. Callen?" she asked.
He nodded, "I'm Victoria Dalton, Alice is my mother. She's been asking for you. I wrote you the letter." She gave a small laugh, "I wasn't sure you were going to get it." she said nervously.
"I am sorry I didn't get here sooner, how is she?" he asked the young woman.
"Not too good, some days are better than others. Today seems to be a good day." she picked up the items she had walked out to the lobby to get and walked towards her mother's room. "How do you know my mother?" she asked.
"She was my teacher in the high school." he admitted.
"Oh...I thought...I don't know she seemed determined to speak to you. I thought because of the address you were a secret, long lost brother or something."
Callen shook his head, "I would have been proud to have been though." he admitted.
Walking into the room he unconsciously held his breath at the sight of the frail woman in the hospital bed.
"Mrs D?" he said quietly.
"G...G Callen, are you really here?" she croaked her voice raw and holding out her hand.
He took it and moved closer to her.
"I'm here." He said, "I hear you've been asking for me."
She smiled painfully, "I have...I needed to let you know that I didn't blame you. I wanted you to know I was sorry."
"You were sorry?" He looked confused, "I betrayed your trust, I stole your stuff and you're sorry?"
"You stole from my mother?" Victoria looked concerned but her mother waved her away.
"You were stealing from my ex-husband I know that what I wanted to know was why?"
"I was taking them for you, you wanted your albums...did you get them?" he asked.
She nodded slightly, "Yes, after the trial the judge gave them back to me. I came to visit you after I got them back, but they said you had escaped and been paroled to a new foster home. Did it turn out alright?"
Callen smiled and nodded, "It did...I found my place, and I found my direction. I used what you taught me. I gave respect and I found it in return."
"What did you end up doing?" she asked.
For a moment Callen looked at the other young woman in the room. "Can I trust you to keep this confidential?" he asked.
"I'm a federal agent for NCIS. I work on undercover criminal cases. If you ever see me in the street you can't call me by name." he warned the young woman.
"I'll remember," she promised.
"A federal agent, so you are on the right side of the law." Alice smiled surprised, "I am so proud of you."
Callen squeezed her hand gently. "It is thanks to you and another great woman I met."
"Hetty Lange?" Alice asked.
"You know her?" it was Callen's turn to be surprised.
"She called me when you got the letter, she's promised to cover all my medical expenses. She is a very generous woman." Alice told him.
"I just wanted to say thank you," Callen said.
Alice pointed to a chair, "Sit and visit a while."
He did so sharing a nice afternoon with the woman who had meant a lot to him.
Hetty stood up and walked into the bullpen.
"Mr Hanna, Ms Blye and Mr. Deeks. I have a request of you. Strictly voluntary but I feel Mr. Callen would appreciate it. He is attending the funeral of an old friend I think he might appreciate some support." she told them.
Sam looked shocked, "He never said, of course we will be there."
Hetty smiled he knew they would be there for there team leader. "I have clothes in wardrobe for you, we have an hour."
They sat at the back of the church as Callen and a young woman held hands throughout the service.
It had been a week since Alice had passed on and two months since Callen had first gotten back in touch. He had grown close to her daughter now counting her as a little sister.
Vikki in return counted him as a big brother and a tower of strength and today they both needed as much strength as they could get.
Vikki's father sat a few rows back, not wanted nor needed at the funeral. However now was not the time or the place so Vikki after a few words with him to behave had let him stay.
Callen walked behind the coffin his eyes never leaving it for a moment holding Vikki's hand as tight as he could his arm across his body as his other hand supported her waist.
"Who's that?" Deeks asked looking at them.
The others shrugged but followed the mourners out of the church to the internment.
The pair stood silently as the coffin was lowered into the ground, Vikki turned to him and he held her as she cried.
Paul moved to comfort his daughter but she moved closer to Callen and away from him.
As they left he walked over to them.
"Why are you here?" he asked angrily recognising him from years ago.
"Mom wanted him here." Vikki said rounding on her father, "She didn't want you here, so why are you here."
"I cared about your mother, I am paying my respects."
"Well it's about time you paid something, you never gave her child support."
Paul shook his head, "This isn't the time or the place Victoria. Maybe we can talk after the reading of the will."
Callen snorted, "So that's it, you're still taking from her?" he snapped. Vikki smiled at his fire in defending her mother.
The team moved as one when they heard Callen's voice rise.
"Me!" Paul looked incredulous, "You did time in Juvie for stealing from her, you're the thief not me."
"I never stole from her." Callen growled, "I stole from you, to give her what was rightfully hers."
"Well now they are mine, we are still married, her possessions belong to me." He grinned at Callen.
G moved like lightening, pushing Paul up against a wall, "what she owned belongs to her daughter, you aren't getting a thing."
"We will see little thief, I can fight it in court."
"We will fight you, I'll pay for Vikki's lawyer."
Paul laughed, "You...you're probably a two bit hood and a junkie, there's no way the likes of you can afford a lawyer, I know all about you…" he threatened.
Within seconds his team were there, "Mr. Dalton, I suggest you walk away and leave your daughter and the family in peace to grieve, before we have you arrested." Hetty said the warning in her voice evident.
Sam and Deeks escorted him to the entrance of the cemetery and watched as he drove off.
"Creep." Deeks shuddered as he and Sam turned to go back, "Did you hear the lies he said about Callen. I mean there is no way Callen ever did time."
Sam looked away, he had only recently found out about that and had promised to keep his secret. "Lets check on the others." he changed the subject and walked towards the group.
"Miss Dalton? I'm Hetty Lange."
Vikki smiled and hugged the smaller woman. "Thank you so much for coming, my mother always regretted she never got to meet you in person. I owe you so much, mom's medical bills alone were crippling me."
Hetty smiled, "My pleasure my dear."
"Will you all please, come to the wake, mom always liked a good party."
Callen laughed at that, "That's true." he agreed, "She was the first person to give me a birthday party."
The others looked amazed.
"Who was she to you G, a foster mother?"
Callen shook his head, "Vice Principal of my high school, mentor...all around morale compass...and the reason I went to jail."
Both Deeks and Kensi gasped.
"It's a long story I'll tell you someday."
Vikki looked at the others, "I'll remind him so he doesn't forget." she grinned.
"Who are you?" Deeks asked realizing that they hadn't been introduced.
"Victoria Dalton, my little sister," Callen winked at her.
"Your…?" Deeks started and Vikki laughed.
"Not by blood, by friendship." she explained. "Mom wished he was the son she never had, and apart from...dear old dad I have no family so we adopted each other.
The team watched as Callen and Vikki linked arms and walked towards the car taking them to the wake.
"He seems to be ok." Kensi said watching as he laughed at something Vikki said.
"He lost a mentor this week, but over the last month he's gained a small piece of family." Hetty told them as they turned to follow. She was pleased that by moving him from his last foster home and having child welfare place him in the ABC unified school district not only had he learned a lot, but he'd found a piece of himself while doing it.
She smiled as she watched her 'son' open up a little more and let someone else into his inner circle.
"Come...Mr. Hanna, I think I'll ride with you." she informed him as Sam looked on shocked. As Kensi and Deeks moved quickly to their car Hetty turned to Sam. "Lets go be there for our boy, like a good family should be."
Sam nodded, he couldn't disagree after all strange and mismatched as they were, they were still a family.