At The End Of The Day
An NCIS Fanfiction
By Maxie Kay
A series of short one-shots, exploring how the team wind down after a mission
At the end of the day, Callen is reluctant to leave the Mission. He is normally the first to arrive in the morning, and the last to leave each evening. Not counting Hetty, of course. But then Hetty seems to be omnipresent, as well as omnipotent. OSP is fashioned in no small way by her personality and Callen often wonders how much she has influenced him, but he hasn't quite come up with an answer yet. For a long time, he never left the Mission at nights, preferring to sleep on a couch, while everyone politely pretended they either didn't know, or that there was nothing peculiar about a grown man with no home to go to. Their tactfulness had been a pleasant surprise. And then Hetty had to go and change everything, by getting him that damn house. Somehow, Hetty knows everything – or at least she gives the impressions that she does. Sometimes Callen wonders if Hetty knows more than she has divulged to him about his past, but he reasons that she wouldn't be so cruel. She knows how much the past haunts him and how deeply it has coloured his present. But she still shouldn't have interfered and got him committed to that house. There was no need for that. He doesn't need that – he never has.
At the end of the day, Callen goes home alone to his empty house. It's just a house, although once it was a home, filled with memories, as well as the normal detritus of family life, along with a normal compliment of furniture. All that is gone now and his footsteps echo on the bare floorboards as he walks through the empty rooms. He is reluctant to stamp his personality on the place and senses that maybe this sparseness, the frugality of this way of existence says something about him. Only Callen doesn't want to think about that, so most evenings he sits down on the floor and eats his takeaway food in silence. Once upon a time, a long time ago, it was his home, for a few months. And then he moved on to another foster family. Only now he has returned to this house and he is reluctant to turn it into a home once again. He's not quite sure why that is, but Callen is definite that he doesn't want to think about it. For the time being, this house is just somewhere to store his few belongings and a place to sleep, and that suits him fine. He doesn't need anything else. Why would he? Possessions only tie you down.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, Callen is lonely. Once he had a wife, he even had a dog – but no more. He took nothing from the marriage, nothing except his memories. Sometimes he wonders about those – if there is no-one to share the past with, does it cease to exist? When they parted, was what they once had together lost forever? Does she ever think about the way things once were, the way they once were – and, just supposing that she does – does she cry, or is it only like a distant dream, something that happened to someone else? But she's gone and he's moved on and there are no regrets. Only he does miss the dog.
At the end of this particular day, Callen is just about to leave the Mission, in fact his hand is hovering over the light-switch when he hears footsteps and voices. Today was tough: things didn't work out. Sometimes that happens, but it never gets any easier. He's written his report, they all have, but you can't close off your feelings as easily as you can sign off a file. For once, he is not the only person who is reluctant to leave work and go home. Callen looks across at his team and sees the looks in their eyes and he knows that tonight is not a time for anyone to be alone. So, they all leave together, four people who are each alone in their different ways and they go on to have several beers and a few slices of pizza to soak up the alcohol. They know, without saying a word, exactly how each of the others is feeling and they need to be with him, just as much as Callen needs their company. Tonight, despite all that has gone before, was a good night.
At the end of the day, when he turns off the light and crawls into his sleeping bag, Callen decides that he is far too old to sleep on the floor like some college kid after an all-night party. He has to move on, to move forward or he's going to be stuck in the past forever. Maybe a bed would be a good first step. Along with a chair and a decent TV. He can always leave them behind if he decides to leave, it's not like he's making a commitment.
At the end of the day, when Callen finally closes his eyes, he thinks that he wouldn't have spent tonight any other way. He smiles as he recalls the stupid jokes; the way Kensi kept sneaking glances at Deeks when she thought he wasn't looking; the way Sam had clapped him on the shoulder and said "tough day", and Callen knows he's not alone after all – he's got his team. And, at the end of the day, maybe that is enough to be going on with. For now.