Writer's block is a pain the .. you know what. Not only did I face not a lot of time but when I finally did have some time I couldn't figure out what to write!
Anyway this is going to be the second last chapter. I've decided that I need to finish this story off so am taking a slightly different route with this chapter. There will be snippets from their lives, not full adventures just little tasters of what goes on so there will be a lot in this chapter.
I hope nobody minds too much. Given the low reviews of the previous chapters I have the feeling that I'm not the only one a little tired of the delays in posting – fair enough, they haven't been very regular - and I figure that some readers have perhaps decided to wait until I'm finished. Getting this done and finished will also free me up to get back to Moving On (and hopefully Dear Diary) which have both been left for far too long.
There will be one final chapter to finish this off, hopefully not too far away.
On a note for future new stories, given the busy-ness of life I have decided that I won't start posting any multi-chapter stories until they have been completed off line first. That way all they will need will be a final polish and any editing based on comments and pointers from reviewers. So you might not see much of me for a while but I will still be writing when I get a chance. One-shots might feature more in my writing though.
For those who have reviewed the previous chapters and any recent posts that I haven't yet replied to, I'm working on it. I will get back to you. Thank you all so much for the support.
I hope you enjoy these snippets from the lives of Callen, Ally, Tabby & co.
Disclaimer – I don't own anything unoriginal.
Ca llen observed Tabby as she wandered between the different beds in the children's section of the furniture shop. He particularly noticed all the little things she did. This was a big thing for her – at least he felt like it was. They were shopping for her new bed. This was a new start for them all and they'd decided that the majority of the furniture in their home was going to be new. Some special pieces from their respective lives – very limited in Callen's case – were already in place ready for when they were all together. Today was bed shopping day.
The little things were giving Tabby away. Her gaze flicked back often to the princess carriage bed - though she avoided trying it out. Callen also noticed that she kept checking out the beds closer to it more often than the ones further away.
Callen glanced sideways at Ally before returning to observe Tabby.
"She likes the carriage," he said quietly.
"Really?" Ally asked. She focused her attention a little deeper on Tabby. "She hasn't tried it out yet."
"No she hasn't," Callen agreed. He did wonder why. "I think we should get it for her."
Ally glanced at him curiously. "Are you sure?" she asked. "She doesn't seem interested." She returned her focus to Tabby.
"She is," Callen corrected. Ally briefly looked back at him before turning back to Tabby.
"Really? Exactly how, Sherlock?"
Callen chuckled softly and slipped his arm around her shoulders bringing her closer. "Sherlock huh? You realise that is what I do? At least part of it anyway."
"Of course," Ally smiled. "So why do you think she likes it so much?"
"Because she keeps looking at it, trying out all the ones around it but never it. It's like she thinks she can't have it."
"It's not exactly practical. She'll grow out of it fairly soon."
Callen understood that Ally wasn't referring to length but the style. He also understood why. Things had been tight for them money wise for so long and it meant that both of them had grown accustomed to looking at things in terms of how long they would last and how useful they would be. Impulsive purchases were rare.
"So?" Callen shook his head. "Just because it's not practical doesn't mean she shouldn't have fun with it while she can."
Ally didn't have a chance to respond before Tabby came over.
"Have you decided which one you like?" Ally asked her.
Tabby nodded – reluctantly Callen noticed.
Tabby turned and pointed to a white bed with built-in bookshelf in the head board. "That one," she said.
Ally nodded her agreement. "Why do you like that one?" she asked Tabby.
"It's pretty and I like the bookshelf," Tabby answered.
"Tabby, why don't you go and give it another test before you decide?" Callen suggested
Tabby shrugged but headed back to the bed anyway.
Callen turned to Ally. "Did you notice?"
Ally looked at him. "Yeah I noticed. She wasn't overly excited was she?"
"Ally," Callen said. "She really wants the princess bed. She shouldn't be choosing something because it's practical at her age."
"Let me do this for her Ally," Callen asked. "Let me spoil her, just a little."
"It's not about spoiling," Ally said as she looked him in the eye. "It's just we'd have to replace it so quickly and it's not cheap."
Callen cupped her cheek. "You don't have to worry money anymore."
"I know but I don't want – " Ally stopped and studied him for a moment. Then she smiled. "We'll get her the bed," she finished just as Tabby came back to them.
A frown flittered briefly across Callen's face. He was delighted that Ally had changed her mind. He just wasn't sure why. There was something more in her eyes and he was sure that it had nothing to do with his reassurance about money.
Ally took Tabby's hand and knelt down in front of her. "Are you sure that's the one you want?" she asked.
Tabby smiled – though it didn't light up her eyes like it should have. "Yes."
Ally glanced over Tabby's shoulder with a little nod that had Tabby following her gaze. "What about the carriage? You haven't tried that one out."
Tabby looked away and shrugged but didn't reply.
"Tabby," Ally said in a soft encouraging voice.
Tabby looked back to her.
"Go try it out," Ally said softly.
Tabby was struggling to hide the excitement.
"Go." Ally encouraged her with a very light push in the right direction.
Excitement won and off Tabby went with a little skip to her step.
Ally rose and watched her with Callen. Tabby's movements were slow and studying while she walked all the way around the pink bed. Her fingers trailed softly over the carriage and then she climbed the small steps and laid down. Even from this distance they could both see the look her on face – the look that a little girl should have when she gets the chance to have the bed of her dreams.
"Much better," Callen murmured quietly in her ear. "What changed your mind?" he asked.
Ally turned to him. "You were right. It's not about the money. It's also not about you spoiling her. It's not entirely about Tabby either. It's mostly about you."
"Me?" Callen turned his attention fully to her at that.
"You." Ally repeated. "This is about you wanting to give her what you didn't have."
"A princess carriage bed? Somehow I don't think I would have been interested in that kind of bed"
Ally's smile got a little bigger yet gentler at the same time. "No, not the bed specifically. But a life where she is taken care of, where she doesn't have to worry about all the little things and she just gets to be a kid. It's not about the bed G. It's more about you wanting to take care of your family in the way you weren't."
"You think you know me that well?" he asked, a little shocked that she's seen so far into him so easily that she could come up with that when he hadn't even delved that far. There was no doubting she was right though.
Ally stepped a little closer and Callen's arms automatically slipped around her waist. "Yes, I know you that well. There is also a whole lot of you that I don't know yet, but intend to find out."
Suddenly Callen was a little nervous.
Ally continued before he had a chance to say anything.
"Then of course there are parts of you that I'll never know. And I'm okay with that."
Just as suddenly the nerves went away.
Ally moved out of his arms and took his hand, leading them both over to Tabby.
"So?" Ally asked. "What do you think?"
Tabby bit her lip and shrugged but didn't say anything. Ally sat down on the foot of the bed while Callen moved to kneel near the steps so he was closer to Tabby.
"I think," Callen answered, "that she likes it a lot." He raised his eyebrows asking the question of Tabby again.
Tabby nodded. Callen smiled. There was a definite sparkle in her eyes even if she did seem to be trying to hide her excitement.
"Can I help with anything?" came a voice from behind Callen.
He stood up and turned around. "Yes. We'd like this bed. We'd also like a mattress, the bedside table drawers and all the accessories and I'll give you a hundred bucks extra if you can have it all delivered in two hours."
The salesman's eyes widened. "Just give me a minute and I'll see what I can arrange." He hurried away.
Callen turned back to Tabby. Her eyes were wider than the salesman's. "Really?" she asked softly.
"Really," Callen nodded.
Tabby turned to Ally silently asking the same question.
"Really," Ally repeated with a smile.
Tabby's smile took over her face and her eyes. She even bounced a little on the bed.
Callen smiled and pulled out his phone.
"G?" came Sam's voice on the end. "What's up?"
"I need your help constructing a carriage. You free this afternoon?"
"A carriage?" Sam queried. "I thought you were bed shopping?"
"Tabby's bed is a carriage. So can you come over?"
"We'll be there," Sam agreed. "When?"
Callen turned around to find the salesman who was on his way back. There was a look on his face that gave Callen the confidence to say, "We'll need you in a couple of hour."
Wedding - Saturday 4th June
"I now pronounce you man and wife," the celebrant declared to a round of applause.
But instead of adding you may kiss the bride the celebrant continued. "Tabby will you please come and join us."
Tabby had been sitting with Hetty in the front row even though she was the bridesmaid. It was easier for her to sit rather than try and stand still – she was way too excited about today and what it meant. Sitting meant she could wiggle her legs without too much notice.
Tabby's eyes widened in surprise. Hetty gave her a little nudge and she got up and joined Ally and Callen in front of the celebrant.
Callen was grinning from ear to ear as he knelt down in front of her. He had hidden in his hand the bracelet he'd brought when he'd found Ally's engagement ring.
He gently took Tabby's left hand and then opened his other hand. Tabby gave a small gasp at the sight of the delicate silver bracelet with the sparkling red heart.
"Tabby," Callen said in voice that was filled with care, "You are mine, always. As I am yours. I'll always be there for you, always come for you and always," he smiled at her as he clipped the bracelet into place, "love you."
He watched a little tear drop down onto her check and gently brushed it away before he picked her up in a bear hug. He moved them both closer to Ally who moved to slip an arm around both of them.
With a small nod, Callen signalled to the celebrant to continue.
The celebrant smiled.
"I now pronounce you man and wife and daughter."
It might not be official yet, but today was the day that Tabby became his daughter as far as Callen was concerned – even if she was already calling him daddy. No paperwork would make a difference to how he felt and what he had promised to this little girl.
"You may kiss your girls," the celebrant finished with.
Ally and Callen kissed both of Tabby's cheeks at the same time before Callen gave Ally a lingering kiss filled with promise. There was only so much he could do with a seven year old in his arms as well.
"Kiss her properly!" came a voice from behind Callen and a cheer of agreement joined in from the rest of the small wedding party that had gathered in Hetty's living room.
Callen grinned as Ally blushed at little at some of the raucous cheering. He put Tabby down, gave her a smile sent her off to show Hetty her new bracelet. Then he pulled Ally into his arms for a proper first kiss.
Sam wolfed whistled from behind them and when Callen was done he turned to look at his best man.
"Better? Are you happy now?" Callen asked.
Sam grinned. "Much better."
Morning after the wedding
Ally lay with her head on Callen's shoulder and his fingers running gently over her shoulder and back.
"So Mrs Callen, where do you want to go for your honeymoon?" he asked.
She raised her head. "I thought you'd already organised these few days."
"These few days are just for us," he agreed. "But there's more than just us involved in this new life. There's also Tabby. If you could take her anywhere, where would it be?"
"Rome," she answered quickly and confidently.
"It was Paige and my favourite city when we travelled after we finished school. I've always wanted to take Tabby there and show her around, share that with her."
Callen smiled. "Rome it is."
Without shifting more than his arm he reached for his phone and started dialling.
Ally stopped him. "Wait. Are you really saying we can go? How?"
Callen grinned. "I have my ways."
"But we don't have a passport."
"Taken care of by my own personal assistant."
Ally's eyes sparkled. "Somehow I don't think you should let Hetty hear you call her that."
"How do you know I'm talking about Hetty?"
"Because there's no one else you would trust to set something like that up more than Hetty. You would want to be absolutely sure that we are safe."
"True," Callen agreed. He placed a soft kiss on her lips that lingered a little longer and suggested there would be more to come very soon.
"So," he continued, "can I make the call now to get things organised?"
"Not yet," Ally said. "Yes I'd like to take her to Rome, but can we go somewhere else first? Somewhere none of us have been. Somewhere we can discover together. Something that will be just for the three of us."
"Sounds perfect." Callen thought for a moment and then smiled. There was a place he thought might cover that. "With all your travelling with Paige did you go to Vienna?"
"No," Ally said with a shake of her head. "We wanted to but didn't have enough money for everywhere we wanted to go."
"Done." Callen picked up his phone again and this time she didn't stop him.
"Hetty, Vienna followed by Rome."
"As you wish …. G."
Callen grinned at the name and the slight pause from Hetty as she attempted to adjust to calling him that now he was officially family. Mr Callen just wouldn't cut it anymore.
"I will let you know when it is done," Hetty continued.
"Thanks. Bye Hetty."
Ally looked at him a little surprised. "That was rather abrupt wasn't it."
"We'll call back later and talk to Tabby. Right now, I have a very strong urge to be with my wife." He said as he rolled her onto her back. "Any objection?"
Ally smiled and cupped the back of his head to bring it down to hers. "None at all," she murmured.
Father's Day 19th June 2011
Tabby bounced into the bedroom, an excited bundle of energy.
Callen opened his eyes and watched her as she came round to his side of the bed. She was holding a tube-like present in her hand which she managed to put gently on the bed before climbing up next to him.
"Good morning," Tabby said in a very cheery sing-song voice. "Happy Father's Day, Daddy!" Tabby beamed and pounced on him with a hug and kiss on the cheek.
Callen didn't think he'd ever get bored of hearing her call him Daddy.
Ally chuckled quietly from beside him. Callen glanced over with at her after a glance at the alarm clock told him it was 5.24 am. A touch early he thought.
"You didn't tell me she'd be waking us up this early," he said. He had plans he'd been thinking about putting into action just before he'd heard movement outside the door.
He turned back to Tabby and smiled. "Good morning to you too. Thank you."
Callen wiggled Tabby off him into the middle of the bed and sat up, leaning against the soft headboard.
"To be honest," Ally said, "I'm surprised she wasn't in here at 12.01."
Callen raised an eyebrow.
Ally smiled. "She's incredibly excited about her present."
"Well then," Callen said as he looked at Tabby who seemed to be almost bouncing out of her skin with eyes so sparkly he was pretty sure that she could have lit up a room in the dark. "We shouldn't keep her waiting any longer should we?"
Tabby grabbed the present and handed it to him.
Callen started with the card – a home-made card with a Tabby-drawn portrait of their family.
"It's beautiful Tabby."
He knew exactly where it would go. The photo frame Hetty had given him last Christmas. Somehow they hadn't managed to get a photo into it yet, though he had initially planned to get one from the wedding to put into it. This would make the best first family portrait."
He carefully put it on the bedside table and Tabby handed him the tube.
Callen wasn't quite sure why but he was suddenly nervous. Something told him this was big – very big.
Carefully he unwrapped the tube and then removed the stopper at the end. He tapped out the contents – a piece of paper rolled up. He slowly unrolled it as he read. His breath caught and he felt the tears prick his eyes – there was nothing like these two girls to manage to turn the controlled G Callen to mush.
He looked at Tabby, whose eyes were sparkling a little more than before – with tears as well. Good ones of course .
"Really?" He looked over at Ally to confirm this was real.
Ally smiled. "It came while we were in rome. We thought today would be the perfect day to give it to give it to you."
"It is, but Hetty has been telling me that it wasn't back."
"We asked her not to. I'm sorry if we worried you," Ally said. He could see the concern in her eyes.
"I wasn't worried so much as impatient."
He turned his focus back to Tabby and smiled. "So I guess it's official. You're stuck with me now."
Tabby pounced again. Callen just managed to get the precious piece of paper out of the way before it got squashed. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.
"Yep," Tabby said and snuggled down closer. Ally moved in too and wrapped her arms around both of them. She noticed Callen glanced at the paper and she reached for it and held it up for him to see again.
Callen took in the words on the page hungrily.
It was official – really official
Tabby was his.
First Christmas together
Callen came down the stairs and smiled at Ally. "She was asleep before the third page."
Ally stood up and moved toward him. "She had a fabulous day. I'm surprised though that she wasn't more wired."
Callen slipped his arms around her and kissed her softly. "It was a great day wasn't it?"
They'd had everyone over to their place for Christmas lunch, which had extended to dinner as well. Everyone included Hetty, Sam and his family, Kensi, Nate and Eric. Ally's brother and his children had been invited too but they had decided to stay in Chicago and explore their new city while having a chance to create some new and positive Christmas memories this year. Her mother and father hadn't been invited. There was still too much rawness there and there was no way Callen was having anyone around that could hurt his girls on this special day. Hetty had agreed and helped him convince Ally that she wasn't obligated just because they were her parents.
It had been perfect. Loads of fun, laughter, love and family.
"Perfect," Ally agreed before she yawned. "I think it's time for bed too."
"I'll finish things down here then I'll be up."
Ally shook her head. "It'll be fine til the morning." She took his hand and guided him up the stairs, switching off the lights as she went past the switch.
Callen didn't protest. He was learning that if his wife was determined for him to come to bed with her it was rare that it was simply to sleep and he had no problem with that idea.
Ally closed the door and turned around to face him. She smiled as he stepped closer and lowered his mouth to hers.
After a brief but sensual kiss he raised his head enough so he could look her in the eye. "So you weren't implying we were to sleep?" he teased gently.
"Eventually," she said and pulled his head back to hers. Callen steered them toward the bed and tumbled them back onto the bed carefully. Ally put her hand on his chest and gently pushed him away.
"Wait," she said. She smiled and added. "I promise this will continue but I have one last present for you today."
Callen rolled over. "Don't take too long. I'm enjoying the present I was getting."
Ally chuckled softly. "So am I."
She reached into the drawer in her bedside table and pulled out a small festively wrapped boxed. She moved back to him, handed him the present and then continued on the path she'd previously been on which made it very difficult for him to concentrate on unwrapping this particular present.
"Ally," Callen growled.
She sat back and primly put her hands behind her back. "Sorry."
She wasn't and he could tell.
Callen ripped off the wrapping quick and looked at the box.
In his hand was a box of condoms. He wasn't exactly sure how they were a present when they had plenty in his drawer.
He looked up at her confused.
"Open it," Ally urged.
It was empty.
His heart started to beat a little faster. Did this mean what he thought?
He looked back up at her. Hope, he was pretty sure was in his eyes.
Ally smiled. "You told me to tell you when I was ready. Do you still want more children?"
Callen swallowed nervously then smiled and tossed the box over his shoulder and in what seems like a simultaneous movement had Ally on top and straddling him. She gripped him to keep her balance.
"You sure?" he asked.
"Yes," Ally answered firmly.
"Then, Mrs Callen," he said with a smile, "Let's see what else I can get for Christmas."
Ally chuckled. "I doubt it will be that easy, but I'm certainly up for some practice."
Callen swallowed the urge to correct her. After all, even though he'd seen it and even though so many other things match up with his Christmas Carol adventure last Christmas, it didn't mean that tonight was the night.
Either way, he was going to make sure tonight continued to be perfect. He pulled her down for a deep kiss and there were no more words.
There didn't need to be.
Their actions were enough.
Approximately 9 months later - September 2012
Callen looked at the little bundle Ally held in her arms. His Christmas dream was continuing to come true. A little girl.
Another perfect daughter to add to his rapidly expanding family.
Ally looked up at him. "You knew we were having a girl didn't you?" she asked.
Callen nodded but remained silent, drinking in the picture in front of him. One that until a couple of Christmas' ago seemed like a dead dream.
"You didn't tell me."
Callen finally spoke. "No. You wanted it to be a surprise. And I couldn't be completely sure."
"How much did you know?"
Callen looked at her and smiled. "A girl, born in September and that Christmas last year was a very exciting time for me."
"So that's what the look on your face was for. You knew that night this was coming."
Callen shook his head. "Not exactly. I knew that it was in my dream and that things were heading this way…. And I hoped."
Ally lent over and kissed him on the cheek. "Anything else you want to fill me in on yet?"
"Do you really want to know what's coming?" Callen asked.
Ally thought for a moment. "No. You're right. I don't. I like discovering things with you."
Ally looked back at their baby daughter. "Do you know what her name is supposed to be? I have a feeling your reluctance to choose from our list had to do with already knowing."
Callen nodded. "But if you don't like it we'll pick something else."
"Tell me," Ally urged. "I'd like to be able to call her something."
Callen smiled and gently stroked one finger over the cheek of his newborn daughter. "Samantha Faith - Sammy for short."
Ally looked down and then back to him. "Sounds perfect."
Callen looked at her. "Are you sure? They're very me orientated."
Ally smiled. "As is Tabitha Paige. I've always loved the name Tabitha and Paige – well that's self-explanatory."
"Next time Tabby's turn," Callen suggested.
"Next time?" Ally asked with raised eyebrows. "Should you be telling me something?"
Callen smiled. "Yes. I love you."
He lowered his head and kissed her gently before dropping an even gentler kiss on Sammy's head.
"I should go and get Tabby. I think it's time she got to meet her little sister."
Callen stroked her hair. "You two get some sleep. I pick up Tabby and Hetty and bring them back soon."
Ally nodded and rested her head back on the pillow. Callen carefully moved the sleeping Sammy to the crib beside her.
With a light kiss and a murmured goodbye, Callen left.
Tabby meets Sammy
"She's so tiny," Tabby whispered as she peered over the side of the crib carefully to look at the sleeping Sammy.
"She's beautiful Alyssa," Hetty said so gently. Callen almost didn't recognise her voice. Admittedly he had never witnessed Hetty in the presence of a baby before.
"Would you like to have a cuddle Tabby?" Ally asked.
Tabby's eyes went wide. "Could I? But she's sleeping."
Ally smiled. "Come up." She wiggled over to one side of the hospital bed and patted the spot beside her.
Callen helped Tabby up on the the high bed. Ally gave her a hug and a kiss on the top of the head. Then they got her settled with a pillow on her lap and the side rail of the bed raised up. Callen carefully lifted Sammy out of the crib and placed her in Tabby arms. He stood next to the bed and Ally guided Tabby on how to hold her safely.
Sammy's eyes opened just a little and she peered up at Tabby.
"Hi," Tabby whispered. "I'm your big sister."
Sammy stared for a moment then her eyes closed again.
Ally smiled. "I think she likes you."
Tabby looked up and tilted her head in question.
"She didn't cry. She must feel safe with you."
Tabby looked back and smiled at her little sister. "When can I play with her?"
Callen chuckled. "I think she might need to get a little bit bigger first." He looked over at Hetty. "Would you like to hold your granddaughter?"
Hetty shook her head. "Not granddaughter. Great niece."
Callen shook his head. "Not necessarily."
Hetty raised an eyebrow and looked over her glasses at Callen. He could see the slight confusion in her eyes. Carefully he picked up Sammy from Tabby's arms and took her over to Hetty. He placed her safely in Hetty's arms and smiled.
"Hetty," Callen started, "we would love it if you would consider our children your grandchildren. You've been a better mother to Alyssa than her own and you've always been there for me. There's nothing I'd like more than for my children to have such great roles models in their lives as you and Martha."
They had yet to ask Martha but he was sure she'd have no objection. She already adored Tabby and Ally and considered them her family anyway.
Hetty looked down at the sleeping baby girl in her arms, to Alyssa and then to Callen. "I'd be honoured," she said, the tears in her eyes coming through in her voice. "Absolutely delighted. Thank you."
She looked back to Sammy. Callen was sure it was to hide some of the emotion in her eyes.
He looked at Ally and smiled. Ally was snuggled up with Tabby and smiled back.
What a family! It was all mixed up from everywhere but it was perfect.
A family by choice. Not obligation or necessarily blood.
His perfect-for-him family.