Tonight We Drink Alone
He stood, hurt flooding through him at her words.
It didn't hurt that she had tasered him earlier in the day. He wasn't even upset that she had threatened to kill him if he went rogue on her or used the information she had just given him to find Arkady Kolcheck.
What hurt was the fact that she herself had told him a long time ago than they should never end the day on an argument, instead they would sit, drink tea together and make their peace.
But not tonight.
Tonight he was being sent home and she would drink her tea alone. She didn't want him around.
He turned, not seeing the look in her eye as he closed himself off and walked away. Envelope in one hand and grabbing the dirty jacket he had been wearing for the past few days in the other. The concerned look Sam threw him as he walked out was ignored.
Sam had made his peace with Hetty and he had assumed that as usual, Callen would be sitting when he was ready to leave, drinking either tea, or something stronger. A small laugh would come from something one or the other would say and he would know that as of tomorrow, all would be fine.
But not tonight.
Kensi and Deeks had left earlier and as Sam closed up his laptop and stood up, he shot a concerned glance in Hetty's direction. She looked him in the eye and then picked up her phone.
He realized that she didn't want to talk to him so he decided to head back to the home he had been in earlier, hoping this time it wasn't empty.
Callen sat on the floor, barefoot and dressed only in jeans. The envelope lay on the floor between his feet and his gun on the floor beside him. A glass of scotch was in his hands and he was staring into it's depths, not willing to drink it, not wanting to drink it alone.
"G?" Sam's voice called as he walked in the door.
Callen didn't move or acknowledge him in anyway.
He heard Sam walk around his house, and waited.
His bedroom door opened and Sam stepped in, a look of concern crossing his face.
"Am I going to have to put a chip on you again?" he asked as he moved a step closer.
"She hates me," Callen said not looking up.
"Joelle?" Sam asked thinking that after the day Callen had, he didn't need Joelle walking out on him.
Sam crouched to sit beside Callen, surreptitiously moving Callen's gun out of reach.
Callen turned to him and gave him an I'm not crazy look. "Sam?"
"I'm worried about you," Sam said flatly.
"Why…?" Callen asked. He had come back. He had explained his actions. After all, he had only been trying to protect the integrity of NCIS while looking for his friend. The idea of Arkady languishing in a Russian prison was not one he wanted to entertain. Arkady was a friend...maybe even close to family, maybe the only person, apart from present company, that he could fully trust. Well not fully trust as it was Arkady after all, but he could trust him, even if it was to not trust him. Callen smiled as the irony of that statement rolled around in his head.
"Glad you find it funny," Sam said observing the emotions flooding his friend's face.
"What?" Callen asked confused.
"My worrying about you is funny?" Sam leaned back letting the wall support his frame.
Callen sighed, "Anyone worrying about me is funny."
"G?" Sam growled in warning, "We care and we worry, especially when you go off the grid like that."
"I was doing what I thought was best for the team, for NCIS...I just…" He sighed in defeat, "What does it matter now anyway?"
"It matters that you should trust us." Sam picked up the envelope and turned it over in his hands, "What's this?" he asked.
"The information I was looking for. Hetty gave it to me."
"You gonna open it?"
Callen took it off him and threw it on the bed. "Nope." He took a drink out of the glass in his hand and stood up.
"I'm going to sleep."
"You don't sleep G," Sam replied as he rose.
"And yet I own a bed. A bit wasteful if I didn't use it." Callen smirked as he turned.
Sam lifted Callen's glass up and passed it to him.
"It's half full G."
Callen lifted the glass to his eye level and for a moment admired the amber liquid it contained. "It's not about whether the glass is half full or half empty, it's about how fast you can steal the bottle."
He turned and carried the half emptied bottle to the kitchen.
Sam followed him, "How are you feeling G?"
Callen slammed the bottle on the counter gripping it tightly. "Fine...freaking perfect...how about you Sam? You been tasered today?" He snapped rubbing his shoulder which still held some residual muscle ache from earlier.
He turned and shoved passed his friend, "Go home Sam, I'll see you tomorrow."
Sam put a hand on his shoulder, "You trusted me earlier. Trust me now G, talk to me...please."
"I know better now." Callen snapped, he ran his hand over his face and moved to his chair sinking down into it, "I'm sorry Sam...look, go home. I'm fine."
"You are not fine, everyone was worried about you today, Hetty was…"
"I don't care what she was...there is a lot of things she was. She was the nearest thing I had to a mother and the one person I trusted fully on the whole planet. She was my savior…" He stood up and started pacing, "I loved her Sam, like...I think like a child loves a parent. We made mistakes, we argued but we always made up." He stopped and turned to his partner. "One thing she always taught me was family never sleeps on an argument. Never…" He looked over at the glass in the kitchen. "When I was a teenager, you know she took me in," he said his voice lowering.
Sam walked over to the coffee pot and switched it on. "This needs coffee and so do you. You told me she saved you when you were going down a dark road." He continued as he grabbed two mugs from the cupboard.
G moved over to the bar stools and sat down.
"She did and then she promised me the one thing I had wanted for a long time and I took it. She promised me a home, for as long as I wanted."
Sam looked up surprised, Callen had never told him that bit.
Callen smiled as Sam handed him the mug of coffee, "She did, and...well, I wasn't the best of house guests for a while. Hetty and Duke had their work cut out with me."
Sam sat next to his partner imagining how he could have gotten into trouble.
"First week I was there I was well behaved, by the time the second week hit, I was waiting for my social worker to come and move me. So I started pushing my boundaries...I broke into Hetty's study after I heard her and Duke talking about a file they had on me. I thought she was sending me back…"
"You're still alive?!" Sam spluttered as he heard the story.
Callen smiled. "Hetty and Duke sat me down and I thought they were gonna kill me," he admitted.
"What did you do?" Sam was really interested in learning more about Callen and Hetty's earlier relationship and more insight on how his partner ticked.
Callen sipped his coffee and sighed, remembering that day like it was yesterday.
He sat at her large oak dining table, his hands in his lap nervously rubbing his thumb and forefinger together, refusing to look at the two other adults at the table.
"Mr. Callen, we had a discussion not less than a week ago about my house rules and how than room was not to be entered under any circumstances and yet Duke informs me he found you in there going through my private papers?" Hetty sounded disappointed and he couldn't understand why so he asked her.
"You expected more from me?" The surprise in his voice was plain to hear.
"I did Mr. Callen." Hetty waited as she saw the surprise and concern cross his face...and was that ...fear?
"You gonna call Social Services on me?" he asked, his voice quivering with fear and fake bravado.
Hetty stopped a smile at the bravery her charge was showing.
"No Mr. Callen I am not, however, I would like an explanation of why you chose to invade my privacy?"
Callen stayed silent for a few moments waiting for the small woman to get angry or the man to pull him off the chair and start beating some sense into him. However, neither of those two things happened. Both Hetty and Duke sat quietly and waited.
Slowly, Callen lifted his head. The pain and tears he was holding back visible on his face.
"I thought you were different, you promised me," he said softly, his voice full of pain and accusations. "You told me that I would never have to go back to Social Services ever again...I heard you both talking about my file."
"Eavesdropping is never a good idea unless you have good information to start with Mr. Callen," Hetty admonished.
Callen had the good grace to look abashed.
Duke stood up and moved to go closer to Callen who flinched and got ready to run. Before getting too close, Duke sat in a chair near Callen.
"We were discussing your file as I was looking for information on you."
"Whatever they said I did...it's a lie...well, some of it anyways," Callen said ashamed knowing than most of it was actually true.
Duke smiled, "I used to be in the British SAS. I have access to all sorts of information G. I was trying to find your parents."
Callen gave a scoffing laugh, "Why bother?"
"Because someday, you might just want to know."
Callen crossed his arms protectively across his chest.
"They don't want me so I don't need them. I don't need anyone."
He wanted to get up and walk away needing to let off the nervous energy, but he remembered Hetty's rule of not leaving the table without permission, so his leg started to bounce and he looked away instead. Duke placed a hand on his knee to stop it bouncing and Callen moved swiftly back knocking over his chair.
"Sorry Callen." Both G and Duke said at the same time.
Duke picked up the chair and motioned for the boy to sit down.
"I know you mean well Duke, but my parents obviously didn't want me. They threw me in the system and never even bothered to give me a name," he grumbled.
"Do you know that for a fact Mr. Callen?" Hetty asked.
Callen shook his head, "I don't know nothing."
"You mean you do not know anything," she prompted.
"Well then, instead of supposition how about we let Duke look and see if he finds any facts for you. Then we let you decide what to do with the information he gleans, shall we?"
G could feel himself calming down at her soft spoken words.
"We are not angry with you Mr. Callen, we just wish to know why you took it upon yourself to break the rules. There is one other rule in this house that you will need to know living here."
Callen took a deep breath and tensed.
Hetty smiled, "No matter how bad the day is and how we are to each other, we are family Mr. Callen. Duke and I will finish each day with a drink to reestablish our friendship, especially if we have had a falling out."
"You want me to have a drink?"
Hetty smiled, "Yes...I think a nice cup of camomile tea would be perfect right about now."
"...And that is how it started Sam…" Callen said putting his now empty coffee cup down. "No matter what happens between us, the stuff she kept from me about my mother or the things she has learned over the years, we have always sat and had a drink together. If nothing else, it would reinforce that we were still a family."
"That's nice," Sam smiled.
"That's the problem!" Callen stood up and started pacing. "This time she went too far. She physically hurt me on purpose. She tasered me!." He walked to the back door, "I explained and told her it was for the greater good. She even went so far as to get the information I was after. But she's forbidden me to use it." He placed a hand on the window looking at the tree with the swing in the yard, remembering simpler times.
"So don't." Sam advised.
Callen laughed, "I'm not suicidal. She said she would terminate me with extreme prejudice if I used that information without her consent."
Sam watched him as he turned back. "So if you're not going to use them, and you and Hetty are ok, what's the problem?"
"We are not ok."
"You holding the taser thing against her?"
Callen shook his head, "She didn't know. I mean I would have preferred her to ask me, but that's not my problem Sam. She wouldn't have a drink with me. I think...I think she doesn't care anymore."
"G you're her favorite, you know that. Maybe she was struggling with what she had to do to you today."
G shook his head, "If it had been that then we would have sat down and talked it out over a cup of tea or her Scotch. I think I've lost her Sam and it hurts...here." He pointed to his chest. "This is why I never let anyone in...I don't know if I can go back Sam."
He slid down the wall and sat back on the floor as Sam's heart fell into his gut.
"G, you're not thinking of going lone wolf again are you?"
"G, you scared us all the past few days. You were out of character by using CIA resources and stealing!"
"I was undercover. I knew you guys would be there," he argued.
"We didn't know," Sam countered. "Give Hetty a week or so and I'm sure she'll get over it."
"Outwardly maybe Sam. But will I? Hetty was special. She helped me, taught me so much and she never hurt me. Now what do I do?"
"You move on G and keep moving forward. She cares for you like a mother, we can all see that. We also know you love her. Trust that feeling."
"I don't know if I can Sam," Callen stated shaking his head, "But I will try. I just hate to end the day without sharing a drink with her, it feels wrong."
Sam smiled. He understood his partner's pain and took the half full bottle of scotch and placed it on the table with two glass tumblers.
"Have one with me G. I know it's not the same, but it's a start," he offered.
Right then Callen realised even if his relationship with Hetty was irrevocably damaged, he still had his partner to count on as family.