“I just saw your partner, Agent Blye,” Granger said. “Agent Jensen was writing up reports like the rest of you should be doing.”
“It’s about all he’s good for,” Sam sniped. “He almost shot Deeks and that doesn’t make me real eager to work with him.”
“Whom you do, and do not work with is not your decision to make, Agent Hanna,” Granger was angry now and his voice rose as he spoke.
“No Owen, it’s mine,” Hetty reminded him.
“Can we just get this over with?” Deeks asked softly, silencing them all.
He turned and walked down the short hallway to the interrogation room and walked inside, sitting on the suspect side as Granger followed him in, a thin folder in his hand. He studied the man quite dispassionately and Granger raised an eyebrow as if to question what he was doing, but he continued, thinking that Hetty may be right. Maybe there was still some vestige of Max Gentry hanging around. Maybe it was Max who was pissed at this carnival Granger was putting on, or was it a puppet show. The man liked to let people know he was in charge and he was pretty sure the Assistant Director would make it quite clear who was pulling the strings, whether Hetty liked it or not.
“Something you want to say to me, Detective?”
“Asking me to make a statement, Judge Granger?”
“Don’t be a wiseass, Deeks,” he said very quietly, his eyes narrowing at the flippant comment.
“Isn’t that what you think I am?”
“I think you had better take this seriously, Detective, or you won’t be working here,” he said.
That sobered him and he knew then that Max Gentry was very close and he rubbed his hand across his mouth and closed his eyes, fighting the urge to say something reckless, to blow his chances of ever coming back and he wondered why he would do that. It had only been four days since he had finished his assignment as Max, and as hard as he had tried to shake that alias, he was finding it difficult this time. Five months was a long time to be someone as dark as Max. Even Kensi had noticed how rough he acted at times, and Sam had called him on some of his language when he’d had him over for a weekend barbecue. He couldn’t imagine what the team was thinking now, as they listened to him antagonize Granger for no good reason.
“I apologize,” he said, trying his best to keep his voice sincere.
“How long were you under?” Granger asked, his voice more kindly than before.
“Just over five months,” he answered, feeling his skin crawl.
“Tough go?” He asked.
“I assume you have my report,” Deeks said as evenly as he could, leaning nonchalantly back in the chair.
“I’m not asking about the facts of the case, Detective,” Granger said.
“You a psychiatrist now?” Deeks snapped before he could stop himself. “Trying to get inside my head and figure out if I’m too screwed up to work here?”
“Something like that,” Granger said calmly as he opened the file folder on the desk.
Deeks swallowed hard and sat up straight, closing his eyes as he felt a flash of anger and a deep sense of dread. He put both hands on the table, trying to calm down, to return to the person he used to be, to make light of it all somehow, but that part of himself just wasn’t there, and he found it hard to breathe.
“How many times have you gone undercover as Max Gentry?” Granger asked as he stared at him from across the table. “With the LAPD.”
Deeks let his mind drift back over the years, to his time with Ray and Nicole and the times before and after when Max’s special skills had been needed. Some assignments had been short or intermittent, while a few had been almost as long as this last one. He had been shot once, stabbed once and thrown out of a moving car, but he had also dished out some pain of his own. Max never backed down without a fight if it came to that. He had a reputation to protect, one he wasn’t proud of, but one that gave him an edge when he was out there all alone, a reputation that had kept him alive on numerous occasions. That reputation had saved Callen and Sam and was probably the reason he was here being interrogated.
“Sorry. Just trying to remember,” he answered softly. “Seven.
“Including the last one?” Granger asked.
“Plus the two times while you with NCIS,” Granger noted.
“Those don’t count,” Deeks shook his head as he stared back at the man. “Inconsequential.”
“Is that how you felt about trying to expose a possible buyer for Siderov’s nuclear weapons?” Granger looked more and more pissed as he spoke.
“That was a part time gig,” he replied, feeling more and more surly. “I wasn’t under deep. Just playing at it.”
“What do you want, Granger?” Deeks said suddenly, standing and swiping the folder off the desk, the papers inside scattering across the wooden floor.
“Sit down Detective Deeks,” he said with a measured, unflappable tone.
“Not until you tell me why I’m being questioned like I did something wrong,” Deeks said loudly. “I saved your agents. I went out on a limb for them and for this agency. I got my ass verbally kicked by the head of my department at LAPD for what I did and now you don’t think I’m fit to work for you? Well, fuck you, Granger.”
The door opened and Hetty calmly stepped into the room, followed by Callen. Deeks started to leave, but Hetty held up her hand and he stopped, his head dropping to his chest as he nervously fingered the hair at the back of his neck, trying desperately to calm down. Callen gently squeezed his shoulder, surprising him, and he looked up into the senior agent’s concerned eyes.
“I think we would all like to hear the answer to that, Owen,” Hetty said as she motioned for Deeks to return to his seat.
“He lost it out there, Hetty, and you know it,” Granger said. “He destroyed a hotel room in a fit of rage. That has me concerned and it should have you questioning his ability to stay in his right mind while he’s out there on the job.”
“It wasn’t even his job,” Callen was irritated as he stood next to Deeks. “He saved our case and our lives. If they hadn’t believed Max Gentry, Salazar would have killed all three of us.”
“He tried to choke you out, Agent Callen,” Granger reminded him.
“I was just being Max. I had to make them believe we had history,” Deeks said softly. “I actually thought it was funny. Making Callen out to be a Ukrainian swinger. Come on. You gotta admit that’s funny.”
“It’s not that funny,” Callen said, turning to stare at him with just a hint of a smirk.
“The point is, the story worked,” Hetty said.
“That doesn’t explain what happened in that hotel room,” Granger said.
“Why are you so concerned about that god-awful hotel room?” Hetty asked with contempt.
“Tell me why you ripped everything in it to shreds, Detective,” Granger ignored the question and sat back down and stared unblinking at Deeks. “Tell me what made you lose control out there after you saved Callen and Sam?”
“You’re right,” Deeks said as he tightly clasped his hands together on the table in front of him. “I did almost choke him out. I wanted to. Max wanted to. I was just so mad when I saw who Salazar had in that room. Shocked and pissed and scared. I had heard earlier in the day that he wasn’t just going to kill two cops, but he was going to make any other cop think twice about trying to infiltrate their gang. Salazar liked Max because Max is an asshole, a bastard who makes men pay if they screw with him. Salazar told me stories he thought Max would appreciate, stories about what he enjoyed doing to anyone who crossed him.”
Deeks stopped talking, trying to gather himself and everyone waited patiently for him to continue.
“I couldn’t let that happen,” he continued. “But I was so mad at Callen for being there. I had to take my anger out on somebody or I would have blown it and Callen was the logical choice.”
“Logical?” Granger growled.
“Yuri Kulish was the main buyer and besides, Sam’s too big,” Deeks grinned. “Even Salazar wouldn’t have wanted to go one on one with Sam. That’s why he had so many armed guards in there with him. The guy is vicious, but he isn’t stupid.”
“And the hotel room?” Granger persisted.
“I had worked with Callen for almost five years,” Deeks kept his head down as he spoke barely above a whisper. “He had nothing to say to me when I left here. No words of encouragement, no good luck wishes, no attempt to understand why I felt I had to go. Nothing. It hurt. I know that sounds dumb and childish, but it bothered me and when you are undercover, out there all alone, things like that fester and your mind makes them bigger than they really are.”
“Sam was right. I should have said goodbye. I should have talked to you,” Callen said softly. “I never wanted you to leave and I should have told you that. I’m sorry, Deeks.”
“The thing is, Callen, I’ve admired you since the beginning,” he said. “But in that room, in that instant, I wanted to beat the shit out of you and Max was just the guy to do it. I think I just wanted your attention and that’s the only way Max knows how to get someone’s attention. After I left, I got stinkin’ drunk, man. Not Max. Me. I hated myself for hurting you and for leaving here in the first place. I realized what a mistake I’d made and it sent me over the edge. That room never had a chance.”
“That’s all, Detective,” Granger said, finally standing to his feet. “I’ll let you know my decision. Until then, go home.”
Granger walked out and Deeks felt nothing but emptiness. He had confessed everything and he had nothing left, no sense of self, not even Max. He couldn’t even look at Callen, even though the man was gripping his shoulder. He was embarrassed by it all, so he stood and quickly left the room, not turning when he heard Hetty speak his name or when Sam tried to stop him. He looked briefly at Kensi, but the stunned look on her face made him want to run, to get away from all of them, to find himself, even though he had no idea how to do that anymore. He had wanted things back to normal, wanted to feel as he used to feel when he came here, but now he wasn’t sure that was going to be possible. He wasn’t sure where he belonged or if he would ever feel normal again or even what normal was for him now.
He leaned against his car, trying to decide where to go when he heard someone approaching and turned angrily to tell them to leave him alone. Kensi stood there in front of him, her face with that determined look, her eyes soft with concern and all his anger dissipated, leaving him feeling worn out with all the effort it had taken to face them all and tell the truth.
“Hey,” he said.
“You trying to leave without me?”
“I don’t even know where to go,” he said, defeated and just plain tired.
“Why don’t you let me decide that,” she said with a soft smile as she took his hand and led him over to a red Indian motorcycle hiding on the other side of her Cadillac.
“Are you kidding me?” He said as he ran his hand over the tan leather seat.
She silently handed him a helmet and then strapped on her own, straddling the motorcycle as he watched, a slow smile spreading across his face.
“You coming?” She asked with a seductive smile.
He put on the helmet, his eyes never leaving her face, his heart pulsing in his ears as he got on behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, his hands clinging to the soft leather of her jacket.
“Hang on tight, partner,” she said with laughter in her voice as she revved the engine.
“Whatever you say, Fern,” he replied, really smiling for the first time as they roared out of the parking lot.
Come back later this week for Part Two!