Callen slept after lunch, knowing he had four hours until his physical therapy appointment. After his usual twenty minutes he opened his eyes and he looked at the shelf across the room from him.
Something was wrong.
He lifted himself back onto the cushions of the couch and tried to see what it was that was bothering him.
Nate saw Callen wake up and watched him as a look of concern crossed his face, Callen scanned the room silently listening to see if anything was out of place. Then it occurred to him as he focused on the family photos. He had been in the house; Jackson had been here in Hetty's home, his sanctuary. He remembered when Jackson had given him the photograph of Hetty dead, he had said he had seen all the pictures in his house…there were no pictures in HIS house, but here… in Hetty's house there were an abundance of pictures of Callen growing up and pictures of him and Hetty.
A look of horror crossed Callen's face before he could hide it and Nate crossed the room and sat on the coffee table by the couch.
"Callen, what's wrong?" He asked.
"He was here…." Callen breathed trying to get his breathing under control.
"Who was here?"
"Jackson…." Callen pulled himself up to standing and hobbled over to the shelf, "The son of a bitch was here…right here!" he said moving the photographs on the shelf.
An old photo was hidden between the others Callen picked it up and promptly rushed to the trash can and filled it with the contents of his stomach. He wiped his mouth as Nate moved to pick up the picture.
"NO!" Callen said and snatched it out of his hand.
"Callen, this has obviously triggered something, if you show me maybe I can help you work through this." Nate said gently as Callen sank into an armchair grasping the picture fighting back the tears and emotion that came with it.
"He…he wanted her to see this, Even now…I thought he was gone but he wants to make mom hurt more." Callen said sadly.
Even though it was the last thing he wanted to do he handed Nate the picture, "I'm gonna have to tell her…aren't I?" He asked.
"About the picture? Maybe, maybe not we'll see." Nate said
"No, she doesn't need to know about that ever, No I meant about Jackson being in the house, we are going to have to reset all the alarm codes. I should call her," He said picking up his cell.
"I think she's still in her study, I'll tell her when your therapist gets here." Nate reassured him. "You want to tell me about the photo."
"No." Callen snapped.
Nate gave him the 'you know eventually you're going to tell me and I have all the time in the world' stare.
Callen sank back into the armchair.
"It was before mom saved me….Jackson…," Callen took a deep breath, "Crap, It's been years how come he still affects me like this?"
Nate, like a good psychologist, said nothing and waited.
Callen glared at him.
"Fine!" He snapped. "Jackson liked to beat me, that's nothing new, you can see that." He gestured to the photo
Nate looked down at the picture, A young Callen was chained up from the ceiling in what looked like a basement and a group of boys looked like they were hurting him, one held a whip, another a baseball bat and one who looked as traumatized as the other boys held a cattle prod. Callen himself looked like he was dead, his eyes were devoid of emotion as he looked at the camera lens, and Nate could tell that Callen knew the picture was at that time being taken and that the boy in the picture didn't care.
"I thought the police had it, or it was lost." Callen said almost to himself.
"You want to tell me about it?" Nate asked again.
"It was my fault, I….I ran away." Callen looked at the floor; tears he had hoped to hide treacherously leaked their way down the side of his face. "Jackson had given me so much grief, I had been sent back to many times, he had beaten me twice that week and I ran away before the monthly inspection."
"Monthly inspection?" Nate asked.
"In California, all group homes are inspected each month by a social worker or their representative, if there are any problem children or any kids go to the social worker with complaints or any kid is sent back too much, the home is put on report to improve. I was sent back too much and Jackson was put on report, instead of punishing the whole home, which is what he usually did, he made the other three boys in the picture punish me while the others watched…It wasn't their fault, if they hadn't done as he asked he would have beaten them too."
"Why did he pick those three boys?" Nate asked.
Callen's answer was no louder than a whisper, "They were my friends…They were taught as were the others that I was not allowed to have friends."
For a moment Callen smiled.
Nate looked at him confused, "You smiled, was that a nice memory?"
Callen, thinking of his friend Andy and how through everything Jackson had put him through, Just nodded at Nate. Andy had refused to stop being Callen's friend and had stopped him doing some very stupid things as a teenager. He hadn't seen Andy after Hetty had rescued him and he had always hoped Andy had found himself a nice home and family.
"Some kids are just stubborn." Callen said meaning Andy.
Nate thought Callen meant himself and looked at Callen, "You think this is your fault?"
Callen gave a small laugh, "No…well... yeah, some of it, I was thinking of Andy, he stayed my friend, he's the one with the Cattle prod. He called the police the night that Hetty came. He always looked out for me… I often wondered what happened to him." Callen said wistfully.
Nate made a mental note to find out.
Callen gently lifted his ankle onto the table in front of him.
"Is it hurting?" Nate asked.
Callen nodded, "I think my journey to the trash can twisted it a bit." He admitted.
Nate reached over and placed a cushion underneath it.
Callen sat back and looked at Nate. He didn't want to ask the next question, but not having an answer was going to drive him crazy. He took a deep breath, took the plunge and asked Nate, "Are you going to show mom the picture?" he mentally crossed his fingers that he wouldn't show her, he had promised to tell her everything about his time in care as a kid, but this…he hadn't told her. He didn't want her to think any less of him and there were still parts of his childhood he hadn't shared with her.
"No…but maybe, when you're ready…you should." Nate told him.
Callen smiled, "Ok, when I'm ready." He smirked knowing that would be the same day that Hell froze over.
Nate opened his mouth to admonish his friend knowing exactly what he was thinking as the Therapist turned up.
Nate got up and answered the door, "Oh I thought that we were coming to you."
The dark haired therapist smiled at Nate, "No, our regular physical therapist has been called away and I was told Mr. Callen was feeling a bit down this afternoon so I arranged with Miss Lange to come here to treat him."
Nate nodded and showed her into the room where Callen was laying back in the chair with his eyes closed. "I'll leave you to it." He smiled he grabbed the photo off the table and went to talk to Hetty about the alarm system as he promised.
"That's fine Mr. Getz; I plan to give Mr. Callen a thorough work out." She smiled as he left.
As Nate closed the door, He didn't hear the lock click behind him and he walked off to Hetty's office.
Mina Comescu put her bag down and looked at Callen lying with his eyes still closed and reached into her bag, pulling out a thin wire garrote she walked over to her dozing charge and pulled the wire taught.