Callen woke groggily from his dream? Repressed memory? Nightmare? As he scanned the room around him he saw Hetty, sitting in a nearby chair. Ever present was a cup of steaming tea.
"I thought you had given up couches now that you have your own place, Mr. Callen," she said handing over the cup.
Setting it down on side table he stretched and ran a hand thru his tousled crew cut. Grinning ruefully, which had become an unconscious trademark, he said, "Sorry Hetty. It just kind of happened. Tough day."
"Indeed." She looked into his eyes which still held the merest hint of confusion brought on by his sleep. "Bad dream?" she inquired.
Callen felt, as he often did, that Hetty was some sort of witch that could see into his soul. "What makes you say that," he countered, moving on the offense trying to get the upper hand. He casually picked up the tea and took a sip.
Hetty stared at him with those eyes boring into his soul and it was all that he could do to stop the tea cup from rattling on the saucer. She was unnerving.
"Uh-huh. Well now that you are up, would you like to accompany me, Agent Deeks and Agent Blythe to the soup kitchen? We are going to assist in the serving of food to the less fortunate. A bit of charity work on Christmas Eve. Always makes me feel good. I have been doing it for decades when I have the opportunity."
Callen didn't think he let his jaw drop but he definitely had to place the tea cup back on the table before he dropped it. He was unable to stop a slight look of disbelief from crossing his face. Of course, Hetty zeroed in on it.
"This surprises you? Surely you see me as a charitable person? Besides, you can meet such interesting people at these events," she added innocently.
Callen nodded slowly, still trying to sort out the fragments in his mind. Dream? Memory? Had he really met Hetty years ago when he was a teen? After that Christmas Eve in the soup kitchen, Callen had dismissed the whole incident as a hallucination brought on by the beating his foster father had given him two days earlier. The beating that should have killed him and would have had his foster brother not saved him and in doing so lost his own life. The reason Callen had been on the streets those long years ago. The guilt that he still carried around with him to this day.
That Christmas had been the catalyst for a major turning point in his life. The point where he got his act straightened out and moved in a positive direction towards his future. He spent a few months on the street before heading back into the foster system to finish his schooling. He stayed out of trouble as best as he was able and as soon as he was eligible, he joined the Navy. He learned to shut the world out, adopt a don't care attitude about his past, live in the present, and keep everyone at arm's lengthen. During his time on the streets he developed 'Callen's Coping Method', what he still employed today much to Nate's chagrin.
To speculate, for a moment, he might have met Hetty more than 25 years ago, on a random Christmas Eve, in a church, was mind blowing and too much coincidence for a man with his belief system. No, it had to be a dream. That was the only logical conclusion he could reach.
"I understand, Mr. Callen. Time. And Merry Christmas," she said repeating the words of his dream as she walked off into the night leaving him wondering about the nature of miracles.