A/N - So this is the final part to the series. Was supposed to be a one-shot and posted separately but since it's taken so long I'm just going to add it here. The name fits (at least in my head) with the rest of the series - Dying, Letting Go, Moving On & Living.
It's a long chapter but the only places I could see breaking it up meant really short chapters so enjoy as there is no cliffhangers.
Line breaks are usually for a change of scene and person. If it is confusing who is what let me know and I'll add a little note but I think it should be pretty evident who's pov it is for each scene.
I've had this ending in mind for a very long time, long before my hiatus happened it was drafted. I hope that I have built up to this sufficiently and you enjoy.
Kensi spun around at the unexpected voice.
"Alex?" Kensi blinked just to make sure she wasn't imagining Alex standing there, right in front of Callen's desk.
"You need to find him."
There was a desperation in Alex's voice that started knots forming in Kensi's stomach. "Callen?" she confirmed, though it was highly unlikely Alex was here for anyone else. Deeks was on assignment, Sam was in the gym. Goodness knows where Hetty had disappeared to.
Alex nodded. "He's gone off. I don't know where he's heading. He's turned off his phone. Pulled the battery out." The words were rushed, the tone desperate and worried.
Kensi picked up her phone. "Did he take his car?" she asked as her eyes darted around the office. Surprisingly there was no one around at that point. But then Alex wouldn't have turned up like this if there'd been a risk.
"Yes." Alex started to pace.
"Eric. Find Callen." Kensi paused. "Yes. Now!" She hung up and turned back to Alex. "What's going on?"
"I'm not sure," Alex admitted, still pacing. "He's blocking me."
"I thought you were always with him. Hey," Kensi held up her hands when Alex spun around to face her. "Not a criticism okay. I still don't know how this whole angel business works."
Alex let out a breath. "Sorry. I know he's feeling anxious," she said. "Hopeful. Scared but he wants to keep everyone out of whatever this is in case it doesn't turn out."
"Okay," Kensi nodded. "I take it this is about his family." If it was work Callen would've been here and they'd be helping him. She's really hoped he'd trusted in them enough to not do this again. But then again, she couldn't blame him for wanting to keep them safe. She'd done the same not too many months ago about her father.
"Yes. That much I got, something about his father." Alex ran her hands through her hair, frustration evident in the action. "But after that," she shook her head. "All I can get is his emotions, not his thoughts and that he's headed south. Damn. Sorry. I forgot that bit."
Kensi's eyebrows raised. From all the conversations she'd had with Callen about Alex, and her own personal interactions, she didn't seem the type to swear.
Kensi quickly called Eric back with the additional information. "Bloody stubborn man," she muttered and turned back to Alex. "He's disabled the gps in his car."
Alex frowned. "Can Eric find him?"
"Oh, he'll find him and when I do." There was a definite threat in Kensi's tone.
"Let's find him first. Then I'll help."
Kensi almost smiled. No doubt Hetty would make it three. Not to mention Sam.
"How's he blocking you?" Kensi asked.
There was an exasperated smile on Alex's face though Kensi noticed a touch of admiration too.
"He started reciting the Russian alphabet backwards over and over to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
Another time Kensi would've laughed out loud however, given the situation, the two women only shared a quick smile.
"Okay." Kensi took a breath and recapped. "So family, father and he's going south. Can you watch over him?"
"Of course. Always." Alex nodded. "If I figure anything else out I'll let you know but I don't know the area he's driving through so I'm not sure how much I can do."
"Just watch him, no one else can do that like you can." Kensi hadn't really thought too much about their angels watching over them. It had just been something in the back of her mind, just a feeling of knowing; and a comfort in that knowing. Now it was very much at the forefront and she was incredibly grateful for Alex's presence in their lives.
"Good luck Kensi," Alex said. "Hurry please. I have a bad feeling about all of this."
Kensi nodded and started to head up stairs. She turned back but Alex was already gone.
"Thank you," she whispered, somehow confident that even though Alex wasn't there, she would know.
Callen drove. It was automatic. He knew the area he was headed to. He couldn't think about it, about what he was doing or why. If he did he knew Alex would know.
It was rare that the emotions about her death resurfaced these days but they had just after the call he'd received that morning. What he didn't know about his past overwhelmed him briefly before he got control. She was gone because of his past and he didn't want to lose anything more, anyone else, because of it. If only he could uncover the mysteries from his past maybe it wouldn't take more from him so he was going solo once again.
The funny thing was instead of it being a simple choice, like it used to be, he'd actually had to fight back the urge to call in his team. He'd even had the phone in his hand and halfway to pressing Kensi's number. Except that the warning from the caller on the other end of the line reminded him of the one from Keelson and all that had followed and that had brought the lone wolf back howling.
He had to protect her. He couldn't risk losing Kensi. So he did the only thing he could think of to stop Alex knowing. Because if she knew Kensi would know, because Alex had been fighting so hard to stop him doing exactly this - and those two women tended to be on the same side when he was being an idiot. So he did what he did to stop himself thinking - he challenged his brain so hard that he had no choice but to focus on that one task he was thinking about.
Callen pulled into the entrance to the industrial area and drove through to the empty allotment that he'd been told to go to. There was no one there - a quick glance at his clock showed him to be one minute late. His Russian slipped, and Alex made the most of it, but only her voice.
G, don't do this. Wait for backup.
Callen could hear the worry in Alex's voice and tried to push it out of his mind. "I have to," he said, out loud. There was no one but her to hear him. "I can't bring them into this." His eyes darted all around, trying to find some sign of who he was there to meet.
Of course you can. They care about you. They can keep you safe. Wait for them. Please G. Don't.
If there was one thing worse than her calm tone, it was this one. Begging and scared.
"Alex, don't. Please. I need to do this. You know why."
It wasn't your fault.
"My past took you away from me. The more I know the safer I can keep her."
"He's here," he interrupted as he heard the sound of an engine approaching. "Please Alex."
G, I wish you wouldn't.
Callen knew that tone and let out a small sigh of relief. She was still worried, still scared, but she'd accepted his decision and she wouldn't say anything to distract him even though he knew she would stay with him and watch over him.
Callen stepped out of the car and walked slowly toward the now stationary motorbike and rider. The rider shifted from the bike, pulled out an envelope from the storage box on the back and moved toward him before he tossed it on the ground a few steps from Callen's feet.
Callen paused. Something didn't feel right. His gut was telling him to be on guard, that there was more. He pushed it aside, probably just remnants of his conversation with Alex, though he kept his awareness on high alert. He took the couple of steps closer and reached for the envelope. "What's this?" he asked as he straightened up.
"You wanted to know your father." The voice was distorted through the helmet which hadn't been removed.
Callen kept his eyes on the rider as he slid his finger under the barely sealed flap. It was only when he had pulled out the contents that he glanced down. There was a photo of a man and a date but nothing else. There was nothing familiar about the man, no flashes of his past, nothing hinting of recognition. He almost doubted that this man had anything to do with him. The tension in his gut and the instincts he usually trusted screamed this was all wrong.
Callen glanced back up and held the photo out. "This is it? It's not much to go on."
The helmet came off at the same time as the rider pulled a gun from behind his back and a shot blasted the papers out of his fingers. Callen fell back to the ground, his hand automatically reaching for his gun but another shot which sent gravel flying around him, and came precariously close to his knee, stopped his movement. He looked up at the rider and froze.
The face, particularly the eyes, in front of him he'd never forget.
Not a him. It was a her.
A very specific her.
His version of Vance's Kia.
And Callen knew he was in a hell of lot of trouble.
They were on their way. Eric had managed to track Callen's car through traffic cams. As soon as he'd found it he directed Sam and Kensi, who were already on the road headed in the general direction, on a more specific route.
Kensi felt the shiver of fear run up her spine as Alex's words echoed in her ears and she repeated her own version.
"Bad feeling." She wasn't quite sure now was the time explain to Sam about angels, but the words and the emotion she could hear in her voice he would hear too, and they were enough for Sam to push the accelerator to closer to the floor. Kensi felt her body forced back into the seat and sent a silent request to her angel to keep them out of sight of any police.
Will do came the strong, reassuring voice of James in her ear.
Callen stared at her. Those eyes, even after all these years were still filled with pain.
"How'd you find me?"
"Doesn't matter. I have you now. On your knees, keep your hands on your head."
There was a satisfaction in her voice. She finally had him. This was actually the closest he'd ever been to her. Maybe, just maybe if she would listen he might be able to explain and get himself out of this. He didn't rate his chances very well but it was worth a try.
Callen moved carefully. He had his gun tucked into the back of his pants but she had a very steady gun pointed at him. Any movement on his part would just hasten his demise. He'd already gotten away from her three times, all of those only by a hair's breadth, but he knew this time was different. This would need a miracle to get out of.
G, hold on. They're coming. Alex's voice was very gentle but scared.
Callen didn't know whether to be relieved or not. There was dread in his heart. He knew this girl, knew she was good and here he was caught, only a few metres from her with a gun trained on him. If she pulled the trigger he'd be dead, he knew that. There was absolutely no way she'd miss. He needed to stall her, keep her talking. Give time for the miracle to arrive.
"What made you think I wasn't dead?" Callen asked.
"Someone like you doesn't die."
The gun stayed steady, her pain and revenge filled eyes stayed on him. A twitch of a muscle in the wrong direction was probably all that stood between him and her pulling the trigger.
"You just hide better," she continued. "It took a while and then I had to find a way to get you to come to me."
"Yes." She smiled. "The family you don't know about. Never good to have a vulnerable spot in your line of work. But at least I found it."
Callen wasn't sure if she knew about Kensi but that would have been another way to get to him.
It was like she'd read his mind.
"Your girlfriend was a possibility but I figured that would bring you with back up rather than on your own given she's one of your team." Hetty must have hidden the marriage details well if she thought Kensi was only his girlfriend.
"So you just want to kill me?"
G! Alex's voice slipped in, just a brief protest to remind him to not antagonise his potential killer. Callen breathed and tried to relax to help him plan rather than just react.
"No, not just kill you." She tossed another photo in front of him. It was the same as the one she'd blown out of his hand.
"Take a good look. That's your father. And this is as close as you are going to get to ever seeing him."
There was a more than a touch of triumph in her tone and the adrenaline rushed through his body, his heart pounded and he felt the sweat trickle down his back.
If, by some miracle, he could get out of this, the photo might help him find his father, find answers. Given how much she seemed to want to make him suffer, his earlier doubts about this really being his father faded a touch. She'd most likely want the knowledge that she really had placed his father's image in front of him, not just some picture. He continued to stare at it trying to find something to commit to memory that might help. But now that he had time to look, he realised it wasn't a very clear photo. Maybe there was something in the background, some identifying mark, monument or horizon. He was still studying the photo when it suddenly burst into flames.
Callen's gaze flew to hers and there was a satisfied smirk on her face at the distress he'd been a moment too late hiding.
"As close as I can get to having you watch your father die like I had to watch mine."
"Your father wasn't who you thought. He did horrible things." To children but he didn't really want to go there right now with her.
"He was my father. I was ten and he had never done anything bad to me."
"But the others." There was a flicker of something in her eyes. Maybe some part of her knew what her father had done, or suspected. Callen opened his mouth to say more.
His mouth slammed shut, not at the words but the flare of determination that he saw in her eyes along with the pain.
"Time to die Agent Callen."
Callen stared at the gun. He could see the tightening of her fingers and, in what felt like slow motion he saw the bullet heading straight for him but he couldn't do a thing about it. His body was frozen place. Regret filled his mind because a part of him had known his angel was right, he should've waited. What was the point of having a guardian angel if you didn't listen to them. She'd never steered him wrong before.
The bullet got closer, spinning through the air. It's target, his heart, acquired accurately. His heart, not his head because that was where his bullet had landed to kill her father.
Callen heard a scream and felt something slam into his chest, knocking him to the ground and then everything sped back up again and the sound of gunfire filled the air. He heard the squealing of car tyres, crunching of gravel and footsteps. Then Kensi's voice calling desperately to him from a distance. Yet he felt no pain, the bullet didn't hurt. Odd.
That was when he smelt it. Lilies and freesias. That floral scent that was just Alex.
Callen opened his eyes, the weight pinning him to the ground finally registering as a body and looked down.
There was the face of his angel, tears falling from her eyes, down her pale cheeks. She rolled off his chest onto his shoulder. His arm tightened around her automatically. Barely a heartbeat later he saw the blood.
"Alex?" He shifted slightly.
She sucked in a breath and blood trickled out of her mouth. The crunch of footsteps sliding to a stop beside him barely registered until he heard Kensi's voice from just above him.
He could hear the disbelief and confusion in Kensi's voice. It mirrored some of the emotions slamming through him. But he couldn't take his eyes off Alex.
Alex reached her hand up to his face. His hand covered it. How was she here? Was he dreaming or was he dead?
"I couldn't let you miss out again," Alex said before she turned her head and smiled up at Kensi. "I just couldn't."
Callen couldn't comprehend what was happening. So many how's running through his mind. How was he alive? How was she? He looked her over and saw the blood was so much more than just before. His hand moved to find where it was coming from, to try and stop it. It was instinct and that was all he could work with right now with the confusion of the situation swirling in his mind.
Alex caught his hand to stop him. She shook her head slightly. "I'm sorry," she whispered, her voice weak. Her eyes slowly closing. Callen's throat tightened and tears pushed at the backs of his eyes. No. This wasn't happening. Not again. He had to be having some awful nightmare. Something to teach him not to do this lone wolf thing again.
Then he heard Kensi sob, sensed that Sam was there too, right next to Kensi. But still his eyes couldn't be torn away from Alex lying there in his arms.
He had to wake up. He had to. This couldn't be real.
Sam's voice pulled Callen back. How long he'd been staring at Alex he wasn't sure but he finally looked up to see Kensi was standing there with Sam's arms wrapped around her, her eyes locked onto Alex's face. Callen could see despair in Kensi's eyes and something in him knew this wasn't a nightmare.
Finally able to move Callen gently shifted Alex out of his arms onto the ground. Not knowing why, but still feeling it was the right thing to do, he removed his jacket and placed it underneath her head, to protect her from the rough surface. Even though it wasn't like it would make her more comfortable but he had to do it. He just had to.
Callen stood up and shifted toward Kensi who finally dragged her eyes off Alex and stared at him.
"Callen? How?" Her voice was barely above a whisper but he heard the despair, pain and confusion in hit.
Callen shook his head and pulled Kensi from the safety of Sam's arms into his own. Tears fell from his eyes.
"I don't know Kenz."
Sam moved away, pulled out his phone but Callen kept his focus on Kensi. Holding her, taking comfort from her touch as he hoped she would take from him. His brain tried to make sense of what had happened and even though deep inside he knew this was real, he couldn't quite believe it.
Hetty answered the phone in ops on the first ring. Her eyes still locked on the screen in front of them.
"Mr Hanna, clean up crew is already on it's way." Somehow she'd already been on top of things, how she didn't think she would ever know. However, backup was on its way which had included two ambulances.
"Thanks Hetty." Sam's voice in her ear sounded very much like she felt; confusion, uncertainty and a touch of relief.
"Mr Hanna, is he alright?"
There was a brief pause on the phone before Sam replied. "He's alive. Confused."
"As are the rest of us. Take care of them." As much as she wanted more from Sam, she doubted he could give it to her. She doubted even Callen could give her answers at present. No doubt it would take time for them all to process this.
"Always Hetty." Sam disconnected the call and Hetty placed the phone down carefully.
"Hetty." The voice was tentative, cautious.
"Yes Eric." Hetty pulled her attention from the screen to her technical specialist.
"What was that?" Eric pointed to the video screen where he had the video on replay and in slow motion. She had no idea how to answer that question at this point. She needed a few moments more for her brain to truly grasp, if that were even possible, what had just played out in front of their eyes.
"I take it you have done as I asked," she said instead, "and removed all copies of this footage with the exception of ours?"
Eric nodded. "All done."
"Good." Even in the midst of this … moment… Eric had been able to function and do his duty, just like she had though she couldn't remember much about what she had actually done. She turned to walk away.
Reluctantly Hetty returned to face Eric. He nodded at the screen. He wanted answers and for once wasn't going to be afraid to push. She admired that.
"That," Hetty's gaze drifted to the video, now paused at the point in time when one became two, "would be what you would call a miracle Eric."
Eric turned back to the screen. "A miracle?"
"Not just any miracle. A true, unexplainable miracle." At least one that she wasn't about to try and explain to anyone. "One," she added, "that we are most grateful to be on the receiving end of."
"G, you okay?"
Callen turned his head, Kensi still held comfortingly in his arms and looked at Sam as Sam pocketed his phone. The confusion still clouded his mind. He saw it in Sam's face too.
"I don't know, Sam," Callen answered honestly. "I don't know. I'm alive. I don't how."
There was no answer.
"Kensi?" Sam asked.
"He's alive. I'm good," Kensi murmured, her head still rested on his shoulder.
Callen dropped a kiss on Kensi's head and shifted. Her arms slipped from around him but his hand found hers. He didn't want to lose that connection with her. She was the only thing right now that didn't confuse him. The three of them moved toward the other body.
"Who is she G?" Sam asked.
"She was …..". Callen looked at Kensi, "My Kai."
Kensi's eyes went wider, understanding bloomed in her eyes. She knew the story.
"She witnessed me kill her father. He ran a human trafficking business, children stolen from families and sent to …" He didn't want to say it. "They were used as slaves, of many kinds." That was as close as he would get to describing the truth of what he'd had to work with his team to stop. "To her though, he was just a loving father."
"I thought Hetty had killed off that alias," Kensi said.
Callen nodded. "She did. But she didn't believe it and kept looking. Finally found something to bring me out."
Callen dropped Kensi's hand and moved over to where the shot picture was. Her shot had gone straight through the face on the picture. He'd be lucky to get anything from it, that was even if there was anything to get. He suspected that she'd planned it that way, put a mark on the back, placed herself in a position so that she could shoot it from him without harming him. She'd had a plan. Goodness knows how long she'd been working on it and it had been effective. She would've killed him.
She just didn't know about his angel.
Callen glanced at Alex's body and swallowed against the lump in his throat. Kensi slipped an arm around his waist and he leaned into her, grateful she was there. He almost laughed at that. He'd done this without her to keep her safe, yet here he was with her and Sam and so very glad he wasn't alone.
A few more tears fell from his eyes. He didn't have the strength to fight it and he knew neither Kensi or Sam wouldn't call it a weakness.
Callen didn't understand what had happened. Why it had happened. Alex had said she didn't want him to miss out again. But he wasn't missing out. She'd worked him through so many things, both her and Kensi together. He was enjoying his life. Not necessarily today but in general life was good.
Callen looked at Kensi who still looked just as confused but before he could say anything more, there was the sound of vehicles. They turned and watched them come closer. It looked like Hetty's cavalry had arrived.
Callen watched with Kensi as Sam instructed the medics on what to do with the bodies. Thankfully there were two vehicles and the bodies were loaded into separate ones. Callen vaguely heard Sam's instructions that told the medics the two different locations for the bodies to go to. He was sending Alex to Rose. No doubt Hetty would make sure Rose kept this confidential.
Whatever this was.
Kensi shifted beside him and pulled away. He missed her warmth. "I'll take your car back," she said to him as she held out her hands for the keys. "I'll see you at the office."
Callen frowned. Kensi rested her hand on his arms. "Go with Alex," she told him before she turned to Sam. "Follow him and bring him back when he's done. Keep her safe."
It seemed a strange request to keep a dead body safe but then this was a strange situation. Perhaps making sure Alex was delivered safely to Rose would help with answers later.
"Kenz?" Callen stared at her.
She smiled. "It's okay. I'm fine. Keep her safe." She glanced at the vehicle holding Alex's body.
Callen nodded and pulled her close for a kiss before he reached into his pocket for his keys.
"This doesn't change anything with us," Callen told her. That he knew. He hoped it would reassure her. He couldn't imagine what was going through her head given what had transpired. With everything they'd been through together working through the pain, guilt and grief of Alex dying, and to have this happen, even he didn't know what to think.
Kensi looked at him, smiled again and shook her head. "It does. But nothing we can't handle. I'll see you soon. Go. They're ready to leave."
"Why would she do this?" Callen asked, not of anyone in particular. He was watching the video on the big screen in ops. Alex's body was in Rose's capable hands. Hetty, as suspected, had informed Rose to keep this off the record. She was running a DNA test on Alex, Hetty having sent the pertinent records to her. Not that he expected anything less than a perfect match but at least it would give them some kind of solid, factual, answer.
"Why?" Eric repeated. "How about 'How'?"
Callen glanced over at him. He felt a little sorry for Eric. Eric lived in a world of rules and pathways that always lead somewhere. Not always where you wanted or to the answers but there was always a reason in the end and the how's were easy to define.
"I doubt we'll ever get an answer to how," Callen said. "But why, that's another story."
Eric looked about to ask how that would be possible since Alex was dead but Hetty stopped him with a look. Callen saw it.
"It's complicated Eric," Callen told him. He looked back at the footage that was replaying on the screen. One second he's there in the line of fire, no way out. There was no way she'd miss. The next this blur from nowhere crashed into him and he was lying on the ground. Alex on top of him, protecting him.
"Why Alex?" Callen whispered, but there was still no answer. Just like there hadn't been when he'd travelled with her body. He'd asked the question many times, begged her to talk to him, but she'd hadn't answered. He hadn't realised how much he liked knowing that if he really needed to talk to her she would always be there for him. He hoped that she would come back; that this was just temporary. Life without his confidential angel to talk to or slapping him upside the head when he needed it wouldn't be the same.
"Why?" he said again, this time to no one in particular.
Callen turned, watched Kensi walk into the room and toss two envelopes onto the table in the centre of the room. They slid to a stop perfectly in front of Hetty. Her eyes had locked with Callen's the moment he had looked at her.
"Miss Blye? What are these?"
"My resignation and a request for a desk job. Your choice Hetty which one you accept."
There was sounds of confusion and muttering but it was all white noise to Callen. His heart had skipped a beat or two at her words, his breath briefly halted in his chest. He saw her mouth move but didn't hear anything. His focus shifted from her eyes to her mouth and watched them move again.
"It turned pink."
It took a moment for the words to register fully in his already confused mind and then he moved. Within a breath he was in front of her; had his hands buried in her hair and tilted her face so he could look into her eyes again.
"Kenz?" Was she really saying it? Was this real? So much today didn't seem like it.
Kensi nodded, a sad smile twitched on her lips. "She didn't want you to miss out again." Kensi's voice broke. "She knew."
Tears were filling Kensi's eye's and Callen felt similar ones in his. Happy mingled with sad. There was nothing more to do. Callen kissed her. Slow, deep and with the hope that somehow she would know this made him happy, even with the hell of a day they'd had so far.
Callen pulled back and took a breath. "I'm going to be …" He wasn't sure he could say the word. It was like if he said it he'd break this spell and it would disappear.
"You already are," Kensi assured him, "but you're going to be again."
Kensi's hand rested on his cheek and she smiled again. This time more happy than sad.
"G." Sam voice penetrated the bubble that Callen felt held just him and Kensi.
"Any chance you want to let us all in on what's going on?" Sam asked.
Kensi and Callen looked at each other for a few more moments.
"You want to tell them?" Callen asked her.
Kensi shook her head. "You do it."
Without letting her go, his hands still buried in her hair Callen turned his head toward the others.
"We're having a baby."
There was stunned silence for a moment before Hetty nodded. "Ah, that explains these then." She held up the envelopes. "Are you sure? Have you seen a doctor?"
Kensi responded this time, Callen's eyes already back on hers. "We're sure, but no, I haven't seen a doctor yet, but the stick turned pink." It didn't mean the same thing to the others as it did to him. She'd made him a promise and she was keeping it.
Callen cut Hetty off. "We're sure Hetty. Trust me, we're sure."
Callen kissed her again.
"I love you Kenz."
"I love you too."
Callen pulled her in for a hug which ended up being cut short when Sam pulled Kensi from his arms. The congratulations and hugs kept her from his arms but not his eyes. When he finally pulled her back in them, hers wrapped around his waist and she looked up at him. He could see it in her expression her thoughts had followed his back to Alex.
"How many more times is she going to give you to me?" Kensi asked quietly for his ears only.
"I don't know."
Callen needed to talk to Alex. She wasn't talking to him here even when he called out to her. He knew deep down exactly where he needed to go, he just wasn't sure when he could get away.
"Go," Kensi whispered. "I'll cover for you."
Callen pulled his head back to look at her face.
"Go," Kensi urged again. "Go see her. I know you need to."
Callen kissed her again, let her go and turned to walk toward the door. Kensi's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Tell her thanks."
Callen smiled. "I'm sure she already knows but I tell her anyway."
Callen knelt down and placed the bouquet of lilies on the joint grave.
"Hi," a soft, unsure voice came from behind him.
Callen rose and turned around. There she was. His angel. Just as she'd always been only this time her eyes were as unsure as her voice; and that most definitely wasn't normal.
"Hi." He stepped closer. "Why?" he asked. Tears shimmered in her eyes.
"You know why G," she whispered.
"Kensi says thank you." Callen took a breath and slowly let it out. "And she wants to know how many more times you are going to give me back to her."
Alex smiled. "Tell her at least once more, as always … for as long as I can."
"Quoting Pirates to me?" It was one of the last movies they seen in the cinemas together before she died. They usually preferred watching movies at home.
Alex smiled again. A tear slid down her cheek. Callen stepped forward and gently caught it, his finger lingering on her cheek. Another fell but he didn't catch that one. He looked in her eyes.
"How?" Maybe he could give Eric an answer.
"I wasn't trying," Alex said softly. "I didn't even know I could. There's a catch to coming back which makes it quite difficult."
"You can't want it for you." There was a definite shudder to the breath that she took before she continued. "If there's any part of you that wants to come back for yourself, the powers that be won't let it happen."
"What if you'd been late?" What if the bullet had reached him before she was in between. He'd be dead but she'd be alive. His brain couldn't comprehend what that would mean.
Alex grinned a little but it didn't reach her eyes. "You know me G. I hate to be late." That he knew. Very well.
Callen turned at the sound of Lily's voice and the conversation halted. Alex stepped back from him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw both her hands on her face wiping away tears as she turned slightly away from Lily who was running to him. He caught her in his arms and smiled. Lily's smile was so bright he felt like it could light up the middle of the night as if it were day.
"I'm going to be a big sister," she said excitedly.
Callen couldn't help but remember the day she'd dropped that little bomb on him about how cool she would be as one.
"So I've been told," he said as he relished the feel of her in his arms. He still couldn't get over how real she felt to him and how lucky he was to have her in his life and wondered if perhaps he should pass a message onto those powers through Alex.
"I'm going to have a-"
"Lily!" Alex cut off his little excited angel quickly. "Nope. You know what we talked about."
Callen couldn't help the smile that spread across his face as Lily squeezed her lips together and nodded. She turned back to Callen, her eyes so wide and bright. "Sorry. I'm just so excited."
Callen chuckled. "I can see that."
"I promise Daddy I'll watch over… the baby. Always."
"I know you will. You'll be amazing, and pretty cool."
Lily smiled at him and he knew she remembered too. She kissed him on his cheek before she turned to Alex. "Mummy, why are you crying?"
Alex tried to wipe away the tears quickly but there was no way that Lily hadn't seen them.
"It's okay Lily," Callen said. "Sometimes we cry when we're happy."
Lily pursued her lips in thought while she looked at her mother.
"I'm fine, Lily," Alex assured her with a smile. "Can you go back to James please. I just need to talk to Daddy for a bit more."
After a brief moment of quiet, Lily turned back to Callen and smiled. "Don't leave without saying goodbye."
Lily slipped down to the ground and skipped off to James who was standing a reasonable enough distance away that their voices wouldn't reach.
"I was never going to be late," Alex said. Callen saw her eyes were still on Lily as she spoke. "There's a price," she continued. "For one to come back, one has to go the other way."
Callen frowned and his mind slowly put the pieces together of what she had said. "Someone has to die?"
"Yes. The balance must be kept." Alex finally pulled her gaze from Lily and returned it to him. "I could never have left her, G. I was never going to be late."
Callen stepped closer and pulled her into his arms. "You sacrificed yourself for me." God, what had he done to deserve this kind of love? He wasn't worthy of this. Though no doubt if he told her that she would argue, and most likely win.
"For you," she told him. "For Kensi. The baby." She lifted her face and looked up at him. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry?" Now he was confused again. "You saved me. What's to be sorry about?"
"I never wanted you to have to go through that again. To have you end up watching me…like that all over again."
Though she couldn't say all the words, Callen understood. She died in his arms a second time - the same way. He'd managed to block out that part, to some degree. The confusion of what had happened, and how, mixing in with the miracle of her saving him.
"If I'd known you would have to go through that again.." she started to say.
Callen placed a finger over her lips to stop her. "You'd have done it anyway. It's who you are. You will to do anything for those you love. Plus, I get the feeling you didn't really have much say in what was going to happen."
There was a brief moment before Callen continued. "How did you come back Alex?"
"One moment I was praying for Kensi and Sam to arrive, then she was going to shoot." Alex sniffed and her hand swiped at the tears on her cheeks. "I screamed with everything I had, I don't know to what end, and then suddenly I was there." She paused and he waited, knowing there was more. "They let me come because it wasn't about me and they knew I would pay the price." Her eyes drifted to Lily before they returned to him. "I couldn't let you die G. Not when you were about to have everything you've wanted, not when you were going to have a chance to be a Dad … in the real world. But I wish-"
Her words stopped when Callen cupped her face, his thumbs stroked her cheeks. "Thank you," he said.
Alex took a shaky breath and nodded. She smiled for him finally, though the smile still held sadness. She took another breath, seemed to give herself a mental shake herself and smiled a bit brighter.
"G, I can't come back again," she told him. "It's a once only deal. You'll have to be a bit more careful."
"Go home G. Go home and celebrate with Kensi."
"How can we-"
"No G." Her voice was stern, not something he heard all that often. She shook her head firmly, a determined glint in her eye, that he was all to familiar with, even if there was sadness still lingering. "No," she repeated. "Do not grieve for me or mourn me again. Let's leave it with I saved you. Celebrate." This time she cupped his face. "Go home and celebrate you and Kensi and the baby. Celebrate living. Celebrate life. Live G, live every moment with everything you have. That's all I ask. Promise me?"
Callen nodded. A lump in his throat he wasn't sure if he could speak through it.
"I love you, G. I always will and I will always be watching out for you. For you all."
"I know." Broken voice or not, he had to say it. "I love you too." Callen pulled her into his arms and held her tight, his chin resting on the top of her head. They stayed like that for a few moment.
"Go now, G. It's time."
Callen let her go and stepped back.
"Lily," Alex called. Callen turned and watched his little girl skip over to him.
"Bye Daddy. Love you," she said brightly.
Callen crouched down. "Bye Lily. Love you too."
Lily kissed his cheek and squeezed him tight before heading to Alex who picked her up in her arms.
Callen rose and smiled. "Bye," he said softly, turned and walked away. He looked back just before he rounded a corner that would take them out of view. He saw Alex with Lily still in her arms. Lily's hand brushed away tears that, while he couldn't see, knew they would be there. They looked at him and smiled.
We'll always be here for you G. Live, please.
Live. Celebrate. She wanted him to do that and after all she had done, he couldn't deny her that. He didn't break promises to those he loved.
A/N - So this was where I had originally planned on leaving it. It wraps things up, we can assume happily every after. I just felt that if I followed their lives any further it would never end, and it does need to end somewhere.
However, that being said, plot bunnies don't tend to take kindly to being told what to do and just today decided there was going to be an epilogue to this epilogue (Because that was essentially what this was to the other three parts of the story). I decided not to include it here as it is in a different style to the writing so I'm going to sit on it for a day or two and then post it as the final chapter.
I hope you've enjoyed this chapter and if you are still with me, thanks for staying so strong for this bumpy ride.