A/N - Sequel to Callen Claus from a 'few' years ago. I would suggest reading it first if you haven't because otherwise some of this might not make sense but hopefully you'll still get the warm fuzzies from this if you don't.
This tale has wanted to be told for so long and I had some quiet time to sit down and write it this morning. Apologies for any errors. All mine. I hope you enjoy and would love to know what you think.
Disclaimer: Don't own anything from the show. Thanks to those who do for not minding that we play with their characters. But I am so claiming my little OC.
Callen Claus - Undercover.
It was three days before Christmas and Callen, being the ever supportive partner, was trawling the shops with Sam. This year Sam had managed to get Kamran's presents sorted early. The big guy had been rather chuffed with himself when he'd come into the office a few weeks ago and announced he was done.
That was until yesterday when Kamran had come home and raved about a toy that her best friend had. Sam had promptly gone into the closest thing Callen had seen to panic mode, which considering what they did for a living, said something about just how wrapped around her little finger Kamran had him.
They'd already tried two proper malls and major toy stores to find nothing and were now hitting the streets for the smaller ones with hope dwindling each time the shop assistants gave them the same line. Sorry, all gone. The problem was it wasn't the latest 'must have' toy which probably would've been easier to source, just as long as you had the money for it. Ebay usually delivered if you had the resources. Except Ebay wasn't delivering this time. They'd already checked. However it was something that even Callen had seen in Kamran's eyes that she really … really liked and wanted.
The crowds were bad and Callen's banter with Sam was stop and start as they dodged the last minute shoppers that Callen hated. So many people going in so many different directions with bags poking out from all sides. He was pretty sure that he had a few scratches on his arms from the pointy end of those bags.
Callen almost crashed into a bell-ringing Santa when he dodged out of the way of a woman whose arms were piled high with boxes and bags. He murmured an apology to Santa after making sure the man was stable again on his feet and moved to catch up with Sam. A small voice called out to Santa and something about it made him smile. Whoever she was sounded so very excited. He caught up with Sam, the smile still on his face, when he heard her call out again asking Santa to wait. He swore his heart leapt in his chest and then his steps faltered. There was something about that voice he couldn't place but he knew it was important. A moment later Callen felt a hand on his arm and that voice was right there at his elbow.
Callen stopped and looked down into a pair of big green eyes in a little face surrounded by a halo of blonde curls.
"Santa. It is you," she said, excitement swirled in her eyes.
"Abby!" Callen looked up and saw a man and a woman pushing through the crowd. The man crouched down when he got to her. "Abby, don't run off like that please. You scared us."
"But it's Santa." After a quick glance at the man as she spoke, she returned her gaze back to Callen. "I told you about him." She smiled and Callen couldn't help it. He smiled back, because that smile, one that well and truly appeared not just on her mouth but in her eyes, was impossible to resist.
The man stood up. "I'm so sorry. She's," Callen saw the look the man gave the little girl. The smile, the sparkle in his eyes, dare Callen hope, love. "Very excited," the man continued, "about Christmas this year."
"No problem." Callen crouched down eye level with the little girl. "How are you Abigail? What's got you so excited about Christmas?"
Abigail's eyes widened. "You remember me?"
"How could I forget?" Callen reached out and ran a finger gently down her nose, just like he had last year. He was delighted to see the spark of memory in her eyes. "How's that polar bear of yours?"
"On my bed." Abigail smile widened. "And he's got lots of new friends."
She threw her arms around Callen's neck unexpectedly and almost knocked him off his feet. Callen felt a hand on his back that stopped the fall and knew Sam was now right behind him.
Abigail nodded. "Santa." Her voice dropped to a whisper and she loosened her grip on him so she could move back a little and Callen could see her face. "I have something I've wanted to tell you for ages."
"Well then, lucky you found me. Though I was hoping no one would recognise me. Last minute shopping and all. Guess I should work on my undercover skills for next year." Callen heard Sam snort which he knew covered a laugh but ignored him and kept his focus on Abigail.
"I'll always recognise you. Anyway," her smile got even bigger. "I got a new mommy and daddy. Just after Christmas last year. I wanted you to know."
In a moment Callen had evaluated the little girl, pulling from his memories of last year and of this very brief encounter. The pink cheeks, the lack of sadness in her eyes. The healthy glow to her and the clothes that looked new and well cared for, just like she did. That was all positive but he still felt a small degree of tension shift into him.
"A new mommy and daddy?" Callen kept his tone happy for her, kept the smile on his face and hoped she wasn't too perceptive because he wasn't sure what was in his eyes. He remembered the question from her that had filled him with dread last year. The question he couldn't answer and how this sweet little thing had worried that she'd made him sad. He shifted the position of his arms, tightened them around her and rose, keeping her tucked safely into his side. Her arms tightened around his neck but she didn't protest. Callen's heart felt warm at her obvious trust in him. Having her there let him protect her, unnoticed he hoped by anyone else, while he sized up these new people in this little girl's life. A little girl who had tempted him so much to go back to see if she'd found a place of her own. But he hadn't because he knew if he found her still in the orphanage without a new family there was nothing he could've done to prevent his heart from shattering for her.
Callen looked at the man standing before them. Callen saw the smile he gave to Abigail and caught the one she gave back. "That's my new daddy." She reached out and touched the man's cheek. He caught it and kissed it making Abigail giggle; so light, so happy and so free of sadness. It made Callen's heart ache, in a good way.
"And that's my new mommy," Abigail pointed to the woman standing next to the man, whose arm was around her shoulders.
"Hi," the woman said, a soft gentleness to her voice. "I'm sorry Abby disturbed your shopping."
"Nothing to be sorry about," Callen assured her. "Miss Abigail can disturb me any time she likes."
Abigail turned her head back to face him. "Santa, did you know?"
"Know what?" Callen turned back to Abigail. He'd seen enough of her new parents interaction with her that, adding Abigail's reaction to them, had settled the tension that had risen in him.
"That I had new parents? A new home?"
Thinking on his feet around an enemy? Easy. Thinking on his feet dressed as Santa each year? A little more difficult but putting on the suit, beard and hair and having time to get into Santa mode helped. Thinking on his feet as himself playing Santa? This was a first.
Callen dropped his voice lower. "Actually I didn't but don't tell anyone." A little crease appeared in her forehead and Callen continued quickly. "See Abigail, I don't check my list of updates until the last possible moment. It gives the children time to get back on the nice list. Sometimes we have a bad year and we just need a little extra time to make things right. I hate worrying about the children on the naughty list and whether they'll switch."
"So when do you check it?"
"I'm just helping my friend here," Abigail glanced at Sam behind them with one of those precious smiles Callen hadn't forgotten, not even needing the photo to remember, "with some last minute shopping and then that's what I'll be doing."
"So how are the new parents working out for you?" Callen asked, directing the conversation away from Santa's list.
The smile brightened on her face so much.
"Perfect. I've got my own room. It's blue and there's a zoo of animals on my bed to keep my polar bear company. He loves it too. And," her voice dropped again, "There's always something to eat and my daddy gives the best cuddles." Her eyes went a little wide. "I mean next to you," she added quickly.
Callen chuckled. "I think I can handle Daddy's giving better cuddles. It's okay."
There was a look of relief on her face and her gaze slipped to her new mother. "Is it okay if Mommy's beat you too?"
"Abby we should let…" Callen didn't miss the uncertainty in Abigail's Mom's voice or the look of confusion. "Santa get going. I'm sure he's got a lot to do." She reached out for Abigail and, after Abigail planted a quick kiss on Callen's cheek, she went into her mom's arms freely, easily and with no sign of hesitation. Callen saw the relief in her mom's eyes now that Abigail was back safely with her. The slight lingering anxiety about these new people slipped away. If there were any problem, Callen had a feeling Santa would've been someone Abigail would've told.
"Merry Christmas Santa," Abigail said with a smile before her head dropped and snuggled down onto her mom's shoulder.
"Merry Christmas Abigail," Callen said. The new family walked away with Abigail looking back once with a big smile. Callen winked and waved.
Oh boy. How to explain this to the big guy?