Churches and Christmas were, in Callen's opinion, his version of Hell.
As a child every year he had been forced to go with whatever group home he was in, or with some of his more religious foster families to church. He would sit either with the group, or the said family, and be gazed at like a curiosity. He never listened to the services and frankly he never bought into the hype of it all, after all, he never got a present, unless it said Gift Boy aged (whatever he was at the time) Happy christmas, (Said Charity).
Never was it a gift, picked out with love for him alone.
Even his gifts, as an older teenager from Hetty, had been re gifted presents. So apart from the fact he brought her a gift, Duke a gift until his death, and the obligatory secret santa gift for work he didn't really bother.
This year it was different.
Nell had been sitting cross legged on his bed, looking in his opinion every bit like an angel in his blue checked shirt as she read a flyer that had been put through all the doors in the neighborhood.
"They have a Carols by Candlelight service on at the church down the road on Sunday." She said reading the flyer.
"Christmas carols G." She prodded.
He shrugged as he took the towel she threw at him and dried off from the shower, his other towel hanging dangerously low on his hips.
"Have those in the mall." He shrugged.
"Not like this," She shifted and he stopped to look at her. "It's Christians getting together, celebrating the birth of Jesus and hearing the whole Christmas story."
He turned to grab his clothes and get dressed.
"Yeah yeah, woman gets knocked up, lies to her boyfriend, rides on a donkey, has a baby in a stable and loads of people go and look, heard it before." He walked out to find his shoes leaving Nell looking shell shocked on the bed.
She scrambled to get dressed and joined him in the kitchen as he poured the coffee.
"G, it that what you think christmas is really about?" she asked.
He nodded, "Of course, I had to sit through those boring sermons as a child."
"I want to go." Nell said stubbornly.
"Ok." Callen said turning away.
"I want to go with you." She reiterated.
"Please G, I used to go with my family as a child, it would mean a lot to me, now we are going to have our own family, that I go." She batted her eyelids and placed a hand over the barely visible bump in her abdomen.
He sighed, "Ok, I'll go."
She beamed and he wrapped her in his arms, "You'll be wanting me to buy furniture next." He grinned.
She kissed his cheek, "When is the couch coming?"
"In an hour." He shook his head, "When Sam finds out he's gonna call me whipped."
She made a whipping noise and darted out to get dressed.
So, Three days later; Callen found himself, holding Nells hand staring at the outside of La Crescenta Presbyterian Church. The building was tasteful, not overwhelming and a man smiled as they got closer.
"Welcome." He shook Nell's hand and then Callen's, "Please come in and sit anywhere you find comfortable. We are a small church but we are friendly." He smiled, and surprisingly Callen found himself warming to the man. For a moment feeling self conscious of the back up gun he had strapped to his ankle.
He sat at the back, his back to the wall and checked out the room.
"Stop that!" Nell hissed.
"Stop what?" Callen asked.
She shook her head in disbelief, "Stop looking for the exits and checking the other members for concealed weapons."
"I am not!" Callen hissed in argument.
She shot him an 'I don't believe a word of it' look as the main lights went down and the many candles on the window ledges and around the church filled it with a warm glow.
The pastor took to a lectern at the side of the room and addressed the people in the room.
"Welcome to all of you, new and old to our Carols by Candlelight service. As you can see by the overhead projector, the words to our Carols will be placed here, as will the passages from the bible we will be basing our readings on this evening."
Callen sighed and got out his cell phone making sure it was on vibrate. He stopped as Nell elbowed him and went back to paying attention.
They stood up as the first Carol was sung, Nell surprised at how well Callen sang.
They sat down and Callen listened, his boredom evident.
He listened to the christmas story, unmoved, it was to him the same as a thousand times before.
Then he stopped as the pastor continued.
"Then as a refugee, the boy wandered lost in the wilderness. He endured the hardships of life and became a force for good."
He looked up interested.
Nell looked over at him and smiled.
"This child, had a bad start in life, he wasn't born in a hospital, or a palace, he was born in a stable, not a clean stable with medical care, but a dirty stable, with animals in. This to my mind shows that no matter how humble your beginning God can and will, if needs be, call you to greatness."
Nell looked over at Callen's face, he looked deep in thought.
They enjoyed the rest of the concert, Callen standing to one side at the end as Nell said hello to a few people before they left for home.
Callen was silent all the ride home, Nell said nothing until they walked back inside the house and she sat on the couch.
"Did you enjoy it?" she asked.
"I think I did." Callen said, "You go every year right?"
Nell nodded, "When I can, and we aren't working."
"So you've heard that story before. Not the bit about the baby, but the bit where he was older?"
Nell nodded, "My parents are pentecostal, I heard it all the time in church growing up."
Callen sat in thought and Nell waited, wondering if she should call Hetty for advice.
"So...this kid…" Callen started.
"Jesus?" Nell asked.
Callen nodded, "I mean, I have been to church and I know who Jesus is...kinda, I didn't really pay that much attention in church, we only went at Christmas, but he was sent from his country to another?"
Nell nodded, "Herod, the King of Judea, heard about the King of the Jews being born in Judea, a part of Israel, although it was called Palestine then. Anyway. This Herod, he ordered all boys under two years old killed, to try and kill him."
"Like a blood feud?" Callen asked.
Nell gave a small smile, maybe she now understood what was bothering him.
"Yes G, like a blood feud only bigger, but Mary and Joseph, Jesus' parents, were warned to get out of Judea by an Angel."
G scoffed, "Really?"
"That's what it said in the Bible. They took the little boy and went to Egypt to raise him in safety."
"Like my mother tried to do with me and Amy, saving us from the Comescu's."
"Yeah I suppose."
Callen stood up and walked to the first Christmas tree he'd ever owned. He looked at the lights sparkling in the darkness.
"I always thought that because I was different, especially when I found out I wasn't born in America, that everything I had been told as a child was true. That all immigrants are worthless, that I was worthless. But that's not true is it?"
He waited but Nell said nothing waiting instead to see what he came up with.
"I mean, I'm not racist or anything. but, I mean there might be good in me right? If Jesus can become a good man, even though he was lost like me. He helped others for the greater good. And then there's this Word thing? I mean that fights for peace, like I do right?"
"Yep." She smiled.
"So maybe...I'm good, and I've always been good?"
Nell walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around him.
"Yes G, you're good, and one day our child will know about you and your story."
Callen turned and kissed her softly.
"Thank you Nell, for getting me to go to that church. I mean I'm not sure if I wanna go all the time, but to know Christmas isn't all about donated gifts, re gifted gifts or looking good for the neighbors; but knowing that it's all about a child like me. A little boy, lost, who went on to save the world."
Nell laughed, "And you do it on a regular basis."
Callen smiled at her, "I wish I had paid attention at some of the school plays that Sam made me attend, maybe I would have known about this sooner."
Nell pulled Callen down into a kiss, "Merry Christmas G."
"Merry Christmas Nell."