On the Run

Chapter 16

Morro Bay

Callen searched the house and the property and found his father working on an old truck in the barn. Callen had seen it in it’s disrepair state earlier that morning and had thought about asking to fix it up. He was surprised to see his father under the hood, working on the engine.

“Do you need any help?” Nikita’s head popped up, surprised to see his son. He’d come here after dealing with his employees to take his mind of Gale. It hurt too much being back at the house, knowing that his son didn’t want to have anything to do with him. He should have expected it, but it still hurt.

“If you want. Have you worked on old trucks before?”

A smirk appeared on Callen’s lips. “Yeah, with a friend, who has a thing for old trucks and cars.”

“Gibbs.” The name slipped out of Nikita’s mouth before he could hold it back. Jealousy was the reason for it, and he hated himself for that fact. He shouldn’t be jealous of this Gibbs, a man whom he’d never met, but thankful for being there for his son when he needed it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it like that. I would like to meet this Gibbs and thank him for being there for you.”

“Arkady told you about him?”

Nikita nodded. He furrowed his brow. “It should have been me who showed you how to fix up an old truck or car.”

Callen took in a deep breath and held his emotions in. He wanted to say, yes it should have, but what purpose would it have? It wouldn’t start up a time machine that they could climb into and go back to just before his mother was shot and changed history. Because he’d tried to do it in his dreams so many times, instead he’d wake up in tears. Wishing things were different didn’t help reality.

“Tell me what I can do to help.”

A small smile appeared on Nikita’s face, pleased that his son was trying to make an effort with him. One small step, he told himself. “Here, I’m having trouble tightening the nuts and bolts for placing a new carburettor in.

“Sure.” Callen stepped in and took the wrench from his father and tightened the nuts and bolts. Memories of working beside Gibbs on his old truck came flooding back to him. Back then, he’d wished it had been his real father that he was learning from, but Gibbs took him under his wing and made the most of the time they had bonding doing guy things. Here he was, alongside his real father doing just that. He scrunched up his face to hide the smile that wanted to overtake his face. Finally after all the years he’d searched, he’d finally found his blood. His father and an uncle. So why was he so mad? But working on the truck dissolved the mood he’d had since arriving the day before and he started to relax. The project working on the truck was what both men needed. A common purpose.

“Done. What’s next?”

“Driving gears and camshaft need replacing. They’ve become rusty from the sea air.” Nikita handed the parts over to Callen and watched him move under the hood and get to work. Nikita moved to the water pump and removed it to clean it out. He decided the hose needed replacing and went searching for a new part in amongst his well organised shelving of parts and tools.

A small hand appeared on Callen’s back and he heard a giggle. He turned with his greasy face and hands and found his daughter with bright blue eyes glowing back at him. “Dinner’s ready.”

He looked outside and realised that the sun was lowering. “I’m almost finished here. He looked over at his father, who had his head still in the pump over on the bench. He studied him working and noticed the small shake of his hands as he tried to attach the new hose. He finished tightening the screws and walked over to his father. “Let me, I can do that for you.”

Frustration had taken over for Nikita, he’d tried to do his best, but the small clamp refused to move into place and allow him to tighten it with his stupid hands. There was no other word to use for them, he told himself. His hands were betraying him quicker than he’d like. He stood back and watched his son finish the job in no time with ease.

“We can finish this tomorrow when I return from my trip out to sea.” Nikita slightly knitted his brow, but kept his mouth shut. His brother had told him about his son’s plan to be a fisherman rather than a farmer. It had cut him deep, but he hid his hurt. The time he’d spent under the truck’s hood had been good, he didn’t want to ruin it.

“What’s for dinner, Lou Lou?”

“Grandma has cooked blanket of lamb. Whatever that it.” The girl looked puzzled over why they would eat a blanket for dinner.

“It’s blanquette of lamb. It’s French. Sounds delicious. We better clean up and not be late then.” Callen ran, chasing his daughter back to the house, leaving Nikita to follow. Time with his daughter was more precious, but he had spent a few hours with his father, so he shouldn’t complain.

After scrubbing the grease from his hands, arms and face, Callen joined his family at the table. He kissed Alyssa as he sat down beside her, with Molly on his left. Nikita was the last to join them and he brought over a bottle of red to accompany the dinner. He opened the bottle and offered to pour, but Callen quickly stood up and took over.

“Here, let me.” Nikita nodded and Arkady watched on with interest at just how Callen would play this out. He was well aware that he’d spent the latter part of the afternoon with Nikita in the barn and so far no shouting had taken place. Nikita appeared happier than he’d been earlier and Callen was relaxed and sociable, unlike the night before.

“Grandma, what’s blanquette?” Molly inquired, her curious seven year old mind had her asking all sorts of questions.

“It means white, sweetheart. The sauce with the lamb is white, instead of its usual brown or red colour.”

“Oh!” Molly mouthed and nodded, tucking into her dinner. It looked like a casserole to her, her grandma was good at cooking casseroles so she’d been told by her mom. “Yum.”

“I’m glad you like it, Molly. I mean Lou Lou.” Joan Taylor sighed. It was going to take them a while to get used to their new identities. She was still getting used to having a granddaughter.

“It’s okay, Mom. Here, we’re still who’ve we’ve always been. But we do need to get used to it before we make an appearance around those in town.” Alyssa reassured her mother. She winked over to Molly who winked back. It had become a dinner past time when they lived with the Crawfords. Thinking back to the kind man who’d saved her all those years ago, she couldn’t help but shed a few tears.

Callen wrapped his arms over her shoulders and gently kissed her on the temple. “It’s going to be okay. We’re safe here.”

Alyssa nodded. “I know, it’s just that Steve Crawford was a good man and he didn’t deserve to die.”

“I’ll see if Hetty can find out how his sons are going. Okay?”

“Thanks. I’d like that very much.”

Camp Pendleton Medical Centre

Hetty’s phone rang as she stepped out of the elevator. She pulled it out of her pocket and answered.

“Mr Callen, what can I do for you?” It was necessary to keep what was going on with the team from her team leader, in case it brought him back to Los Angeles and into harm’s way.

“Have you heard how Steve Crawford’s sons are doing since the weekend?”

“Yes, both are doing fine, considering.” She was brief in her description, but she did have a great deal going on in her mind at that moment.

“Fine? Hetty, you never use that word. That’s something that Kensi or myself would use. What’s going on?”

“Both Crawford boys are recovering well, Mr Callen. You can tell your wife that there is nothing for her to worry about. Steve Crawford’s sister has come to take care of them and help them until they’re well enough to return home alone. She’s talked about hiring someone to manage the estate until the boys can manage it on their own, but I doubt either son would feel safe returning home. I haven’t heard any more on the matter.” She pursed her lips as she waited for her team leader to respond. She hoped she had appeased him and then she could deal with the other matter of her injured agent and detective.

“Okay, thanks, Hetty.” He paused before he continued. “Have the team you’ve put on the Russians found anything yet?”

Hetty’s breath hitched. News indeed had come through, but not the way she’d expected. The team she’d put on his case had come up blank, but Eric and Nell had found the cause for the fifteen car pile up on the PCH and it shocked them to the core that her people were now being targeted because of their relationship with Callen. No one was safe. She’d placed the mission on lock down, forcing Nell and Eric to stay inside the mission at all times. She’d ensured they had enough food and bedding to keep them comfortable until this disaster had been resolved.

“I will update you when I have answers, Mr Callen.” She disconnected the call and continued her walk down the corridor to the nurses station.

Morro Bay

Alyssa saw the confusion on Callen’s face and worried. “Greg, what is it?”

He looked at her and saw her worry. “I’m not sure. Something is going on back home, Hetty’s just hung up on me.” He sat down beside her on the bed. He rubbed his hand up and down her arm. “It’s okay. Steve Crawford’s sons are okay. His sister has come to take care of them until they’re fully recovered. But she doubts they’d want to return to the estate. Not after what happened.”

Alyssa shook her head. “No.”

Callen saw the guilt in her eyes and the slumped shoulders. “Hey, sweetheart. It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not yours either.” She met his gaze and she knew he carried just as much guilt on his shoulders as she did. They were a right pair.

“No. It’s…” He was going to say his father’s, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t Nikita’s fault either. How could he blame his father, when he was a victim in all of this. They all were. His father had done good, helping people escape behind the Iron Curtain. He was a hero. Thinking these things about his father made his heart swell. It repaired some of the hurt from over the years.

Alyssa noticed the change in him. “Greg. What is it? Something happened today, changed the way you are around your father.” Everyone had noticed the change and each of them thought that their chat that they had with him had sunk in. But it wasn’t that at all. It was the reality that Nikita needed him. It was a new thing for Callen to be needed in this way after spending most of his life alone. But time under Hetty, having the team need him and those times with the Hanna family, had rubbed off on him. He understood the need to be needed, although it was very much new to him. His wife, daughter and his wife’s family needed him also, to keep them safe.

“I met a good friend of Daniel’s.” He used his father’s alias, because the truth was, that Daniel was who his father was, in Morro Bay. “He said something to me about him, about his health and the farm.”

“Did he say what?” Callen shook his head. He turned and looked at the sleeping form of their daughter who had crashed after dinner. She still refused to sleep in her own bed in the bedroom next door, but neither Alyssa or Callen minded. Being together was all that mattered for them at the moment.

“I rang Hetty. She had our analyst do some digging and found that he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson Disease a few months ago. Arkady didn’t even know.” Callen heaved out a heavy sigh.

“You feel responsible, don’t you? To be there for him?”

Callen nodded. “I do. He needs me.”

“That’s natural. Have you spoken to him about it?”

“No. I didn’t want him to think that I’m only making an effort because he’s sick.” Callen pulled his t-shirt from over his head and headed into the bathroom. He stepped under the shower and revelled in the soothing water as it ran over his tired muscles. It had been an emotional three days and he’d used muscles he hardly used working on the truck. But he’d enjoyed it.

Callen dried off and stepped out with the towel wrapped around his waist. He pulled on the shorts he’d worn the night before and a soft cotton blue t-shirt. “I’ll be up early, I need to be down at the marina by four. I should be home around lunchtime.” He sat back down beside her and lifted her up onto his lap. He traced her face with his fingers, taking in the details of her face. He’d engraved her into his memory years ago, but he wanted to take in every additional crease and freckle that had established on her face since then. He loved her more than anyone he’d ever loved, and even more so since finding her a few days earlier. What she’d been through because of him, but hadn’t let it stop her from continuing on and doing what it took to survive, had made him proud. And then there was the amazing job that she’d done with their daughter, who had accepted him so easily into her life. She’d given him a family more than he’d had in a long time.

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