A/N: Just a little One-Shot I wrote to try and get my muse up and running again. Please, as always, let me know what you think!
As a child Henrietta Lang had always been somewhat different from the other girls. While the dreams of most of her friends had been comprised of loving husbands and many well-behaved children Hetty had dreamed of a life in which we was free to do as she liked. She was a thrill seeker, even before she could ride a bicycle she was trying to go faster, lunching her little metal tricycle with her on it down the steepest hill she could find. The result had been less than stellar but the feeling had never left her, that feeling of absolute freedom as the wind blew in her ears. As she grew so too did her aspirations and dreams, no longer did she simply want freedom in her own life, she wanted control. A woman in charge, what a sight that would be.
She was in charge now, and comfortably so. She had friends in the White House, the secretary of the Navy was on her speed dial, and the director of NCIS called her personally with agency problems. The little girl who'd once climbed the tallest tree in her neighbourhood just to prove to her sisters she could do it was now one of the most influential people in the American Navy. But such things always come with a price and for Hetty that price was her lack of a family. True it had rarely bothered her over the years, her career was her life after all and she liked it that way, but every now and then she would take a step back and wonder, what if?
Now was one of those times. The email sat open and shimmering before her, its generic and politically correct invitation to a family reunion opening the door for doubts about her choice of lifestyle to creep in. Embedded into the email was a photograph of her eldest sister and her husband surrounded by their three children and those children's families. Hetty – despite dreading walking in alone, that strange, short aunt who could not even talk about her career – replied yes all the same. There was no point starting some sort of family feud over a simple reunion after all. Besides that she had not seen any of her sisters in many years, catching up would be well and good, she supposed, even if it was going to be lonely.
When she thought about it she was slightly surprised to realize it had actually been more than ten years since she'd last seen any member of her family, not since her mother's funeral in 1996 at least. She had never been particularly close with any of her family, siblings, parents or otherwise. Always being the black sheep of the group had caused them to drift apart and led to her departure from the family home almost as soon as she turned 18. And yet here they were, contacting her, inviting her to their gathering. Hetty sighed and closed her laptop with a snap.
Evening was her favourite time of day. It was then that the OSP headquarters emptied out and she was left alone in the beautiful old building with only a handful of people to keep the silence from pressing in on her. Settled at her desk and surrounded by her own style of decoration Hetty was attempting to salvage a perfectly good shirt which Agent Hanna had allowed some "bad guy" to bleed on. With a spray bottle in hand she worked away at the fabric in the dimming light, so focused on her task that she failed to notice the approaching footsteps until there came a knock at the open doorframe.
Looking up at last she was greeted by the sight of her lead agent gazing at her from the doorway. "Mr Callen," she greeted, gesturing for him to enter, "What can I do for you?"
Callen entered her office and took a seat opposite her. His face held a calculating look which told Hetty to expect a conversation in which he would be looking for some form of answers. Setting aside the spray bottle and shirt she stood and poured two glasses of tea, handing one to the man before her, who accepted it with a nod of thanks, before taking her seat once more and sipping her own tea slowly.
Callen remained silent a moment longer, gazing thoughtfully at the teacup now in his hands. "Something bothering you Hetty?" he asked finally, looking up and making no attempt to hide the fact that he was studying her reaction, "You've just seemed a little off today. I mean, you didn't even get on Sam's back about that bloodstain. You never let me get away with that, or is it just that you like him better?" The final bit was added with his trademarked smirk and a slight tilt of the head.
Hetty kept her professional mask in place as she sipped at her tea and considered her agent's remarks. Trust Callen to notice when she was having an off day, of course ever since she had attempted to resign following Dom's death she knew he had been keeping an eye on her. Theirs was an odd relationship, odd yet in her mind, perfect. She could not help but feel that if she had ever had a child they would have turned out something like the man sitting before her, but hopefully with a far better idea of what it meant to be loved.
Their relationship was unspoken which was part of what made it so wonderful and helped prevent it from interfering with their work. Many a night when Callen turned in on the couch at headquarters she would stop on her way out to cover him with a blanket while he slept, tucking him in like a boy. When she would come in to work the next morning he would be nowhere to be found, out for a morning jog or some such thing, but sitting on her desk and carefully folded would be the blanket. They never said a word about it. They never had to.
She looked over at the man, still sitting in silence and waiting patiently for an answer he knew would come and couldn't help but smile slightly. "It's nothing, Mr Callen, a simple family matter, that's all."
"What kind of family matter?" Callen asked with a smirk.
Hetty sighed. "A reunion," she replied, "A gathering at which we are each given the opportunity to judge one another and yet do it all with a smile and polite conversation." She hadn't meant to sound so cold about it but somehow describing the event as she actually saw it lifted a weight from her shoulders she had not even been aware she was carrying.
Callen did not look surprised by her description, how could he be with nothing to base it off of? Instead of arguing her point he simply drank the last of his tea and began spinning the cup slowly around on it's saucer with one finger. "If you hate the idea so much," he said after a few moments, breaking the silence which had enveloped them, "Then why are you going?"
Hetty frowned slightly as she pondered her answer, all the while taking Callen's cup and saucer away before he could break them and setting them next to her own. "Family is a complicated beast, Mr Callen," she said finally.
The agent across from her merely raised his eyebrows and nodded slowly. "So I've heard."
The day of the reunion dawned bright and sunny though Hetty's sprits could not have been lower. She had, over the last few days, found Callen's question floating constantly around her head. "If you hate the idea so much then why are you going?" Her answer had been truthful and completely so but she found herself wondering what exactly it meant. Complicated as the idea of family may be it did not oblige her to go. Yet the decision had already been made, the RSVP had already been sent and she didn't have it in her heart to stand her family up like that.
Therefore she spent the whole of her morning, while the team was out on assignment, rummaging through her wardrobe searching for something appropriate to wear. Nothing too flashy, of course, yet not too subdued either. Something which represented her position in life, independent and in control yet unremarkable and able to blend in. What she finally pulled out was a tailored suit, navy blue in colour and well fitted along with a pair of black shoes which she took back to her desk for a quick polish. She would be frowned upon, she knew, for not wearing more feminine attire but there was nothing new about that, she would only bow so low to please them.
The rest of the day was spent balancing the OSP's books and dealing with any other paperwork which had found its way on to her desk. In fact she kept herself so busy that she hardly noticed the passage of time and was only alerted to the fact that the day was in fact over when Nate shouted goodbye to her on his way out. Glancing around the building Hetty saw that it was all but empty and with a sigh she stood, gathered up her suit and made her way to the bathroom to change.
It was only when she left the bathroom, changed and groomed and ready for the evening ahead, that she noticed she was not truly alone. A sole figure sat in the bullpen, leaned back in a chair with his arms folded behind his head and his feet up on the desk in front of him.
"Mr Callen," said Hetty in surprise, "What in Heaven's..."
Callen grinned at her, swinging his feet back to the floor and standing up in one fluid movement. He was dressed as she had only seen undercover, in an expensive black suit complete with tie and polished dress shoes. His blond hair was slightly more spiky than usual and she could see he'd taken a shower after getting back from assignment. When she did not make any move to finish her sentence he moved forward and offered her his arm.
"I thought since everyone else at this reunion of yours would be showing off their family..." he let his voice trail off.
Hetty could not help but smile. She reached out and took his arm gently feeling as she did so a rush of happiness which made her smile all the more. Looking up at him she met his eyes and knew she did not have to say anything. Complicated it may be, but family was wonderful.