Callen's bigger problem

Chapter 17

Callen awoke and reached for his crutches.

Opening his windows and looking out across the immaculately kept gardens of his mother's house he breathed in the ocean air. Only slightly, could he still smell the faint smell of smoke from what was left of his bolt hole. He didn't want to rebuild another, but maybe a small shack for relaxing down there….not a safety bolt hole, but a space his own nonetheless. He knew he was starting therapy with Nate today, the idea made him feel jumpy but excited as well.

Callen quickly washed and dressed and hobbled down to the kitchen to find Hetty still there.

"I thought you would have left already?" He said surprised.

She smiled at him, "It's a big day for you today, and I thought I would give you the option as to whether you wanted me here or not." She said as Nate sat at the table drinking his coffee, surreptitiously watching them.

"You don't have to," Callen said worried he was putting her out.

"I want to, if you want me there, I won't step on your toes but I do want you to know I am around if you need me,"

Callen leant down and kissed Hetty on the head, "Thanks mom….would you stay…just for today?" He asked.

Hetty smiled and picked up her teacup, "I will not sit in your session, but I can work from home today, I will be in the study, and Callen, your cereal is already in the bowl." She added as he opened the cupboard door.

Callen looked along the counter to the blue bowl with the lucky charm cereal in it. He smiled as he realized she had added extra mini marshmallows to the bowl. Pouring in the milk he grabbed a glass of juice and sat next to Nate.

"It's nice to see this side of Hetty," Nate remarked.

"She is a great mom, I'm lucky to have her." Callen admitted around mouthfuls of the sugary cereal. "I think without her I would have turned out a lot different, she taught me that I could be more than what I was."

Nate looked up at that "More than what you were?"

Callen shrugged, well, if the therapy was going to start…

"I was nothing; I was raised to know I was nothing, that nobody wanted me and then taught by Jackson that I was less than nothing… If mom hadn't come along when she did…." He stopped remembering the man they had arrested a few months ago who was brought up in the system whose life had turned out the complete opposite of Callen's. "She got me an education, got me into college and then the services, eventually steering me toward the DEA, CIA and NCIS."

"So….she made you?" Nate prodded.

"No! She saved me; I would have been Mast…Yoska's slave had she not saved me." Callen stated, putting his spoon down and taking the bowl to the kitchen and emptying the rest into the trash.

"Can we talk about that?" Nate asked.

"What?" Callen countered knowing what was coming next.

"Yoska Comescu, it took him three days to break you, can you tell me how?" Nate asked gently.

Callen got up and walked to the small patio off of the living room and sat in a chair staring towards the ocean.

"Jackson talked to him….he told him …..Everything about me, what I was afraid of what he had overheard me saying as a kid…my biggest fear" Callen trailed off and watched the ocean again. He took a deep breath and collected himself and carried on. "He knew and with that and the electrocutions and beatings."

"You want to tell me…." Nate waited watching the fear; the uncertainty and the resolve to change things go through him.

"He beat me as much as Jackson had when I was a child…as much as some of the others….when I couldn't take anymore, he played video of the team working without me and then he said…he said…." Callen stopped Nate could see the tears welling up in his eyes and him trying to keep his masks in place. "He said I wasn't wanted, he was right, he knew about how my family didn't want me and then I heard Hetty said she wanted me dead…he said she told him I was more trouble than I was worth."

"You know now though that she meant Yoska, she wanted Yoska dead for hurting you," Nate told him.

"I know that now!" Callen snapped.

Then he calmed down and looked at Nate, "Do you know how it feels to be told your whole life that you are worth nothing and that no one wants you. This is reinforced every time you find yourself in a home with a family and after a few hours or a few days or weeks….just as you think this might be the one….the last, they turn around and say sorry kid, it's just not working, or it's not you it's us…like a bad break up line." He smiled grimly remembering the past, "Or the best ones….the ones where you want to leave, just so you live to see your next birthday."

Nate sat silently unsure what to say.

"Then, you think the one woman who cared; who actually loved you is dead." Callen said his throat choking on the last word. "I know now that I lost my memory, but the next thing I know….I'm in a cage in…his…I'm in a cage and they tell me she lied, she wasn't dead but she didn't want me either….then he beat me, he had a collar…electro shock collar, I only had to think wrong and he knew." Callen walked into the living room and poured himself a large scotch from Hetty's cabinet and drank it in one gulp.

"For you guys it was only three days, As far as I knew I had been there for months, my memory came back and he told me she didn't want me and you didn't…It hurt…he hurt me, but he wanted me. It was all I had." Callen admitted.

Nate sat.

He had known that Callen had abandonment issues from his life as a child, but never had talked to him about his feelings about it as much as he had tried to today and Nate admired him for that.

"I think we should stop for today….if you're ok with that," Nate suggested.

Callen let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

"Thanks…..Wow, I'm tired." He said.

Nate smiled, "I heard about your bolt hole. Hetty thought you might want to rebuild it… Hetty said if you make the plans while your leg is healing she'll arrange for a Hut to be built to your design. You want some help planning it?" he asked.

For the first time that day Callen let out a real smile as he reached into Hetty's desk and got out some paper, pencils and a ruler.

He took them to the dining room table and the pair of them spent the afternoon planning Callen's new bolt hole.


Hetty walked into the kitchen and started pulling vegetables out of the fridge, "So did you boys have a productive morning?" She asked.

"It was good," Nate said and Callen looked up in surprise, "He really engaged well. We made great progress."

Hetty set a plate of raw vegetables in front of them and then a plate of Sushi.

"You two eat lunch. After lunch you have an appointment with a physical therapist for your ankle." Hetty said pointing at Callen.

"Don't worry, I'll take you." Nate smiled and they relaxed and ate while in between bites of Hetty's delicious Sushi they discussed tomorrow's session.

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