The team had taken over the back corner of O’Malley’s and everyone was acting quite jovial with a couple of exceptions. Sam, of course, was the center of attention, laughing deeply at the many toasts to his freedom and the hard to stop jokes about Ray Turner’s toupee. Callen stuck close by his partner, unable to let go of that protective streak that had him on guard all day. He would periodically shoot surly glances at Deeks, who was being exceedingly quiet, and smiling only slightly when teased about the god-awful, smelly piece of fruit that had caused them all to scatter. The two men stayed at opposite ends of the group and Deeks spent more time at the bar than he did at their table. Kensi couldn’t even get him to stay with the team for long.
“What’s up G?” Sam asked, noticing the clinch of his partner’s jaw as he watched Deeks sitting alone at the bar.
“What makes you think something’s wrong?” Callen said in that low, wary voice that always tipped his hand.
“Are you serious? You’ve been shooting daggers at Deeks all night,” Sam laughed. “Reminds me of his first day back after…”
Sam stopped mid-sentence and turned away from his partner to stare at Deeks for a long moment.
“What happened?” Sam asked. “And don’t tell me nothing. It’s been a long day with a lot of lies flyin’ around, so tell me why you’re angry at Deeks.”
“He played Devil’s advocate a little too convincingly this morning,” Callen said. “When I called him on it he said he wasn’t questioning your character, but he was Sam, and it pissed me off.”
Sam dropped his head and began shaking his head slowly as he stared into his wine.
“Ever think I might have deserved that?” Sam asked as he looked over at Deeks again.
“What? No way. The only thing you deserve from him is his loyalty,” Callen said tightly.
“You were in Iran, so you never heard what I said to him before Sidorov took us,” Sam said softly. “We were running surveillance and I was angry. We were forced to be partners, and I told him I didn’t like anything about him. Not his hair, not his clothes…Nothing. Told him he was different, and I questioned his character G. I didn’t trust him. And then he saved my life and kept Michelle safe.”
“You never told me,” Callen looked stunned.
“I should have trusted him,” Sam said. “So I’m not surprised he still doesn’t quite trust me.”
“Are you talking about Deeks?” Kensi asked as she sat down across from them.
“He seems a little off tonight,” Sam replied.
“Yeah, a little,” she answered. “He never thought Sam was guilty Callen. He’s loyal. You should know that about him by now. He backs all of us up all the time so quit being such a shit to him.”
“Now who’s pissed?” Sam laughed. “You better watch yourself G, or she’ll kick your butt.”
“He doesn’t seem to want your company either,” Callen observed coolly.
“Yeah, well, I kinda did an about face on him today,” she replied quietly.
“Mind elaborating on that?” Sam asked.
“The blond from the martial arts studio?” Callen asked.
“She was hot for him. Flirty. Suggestive,” Kensi said softly. “I told him to do whatever it took to get information that would clear you, Sam.”
“Yep. Anything,” she replied. “I could tell he didn’t want to, but…”
“Deeks didn’t want to get it on with that little hotty?” Sam interrupted. “Something you want to tell us Kens?”
“Monica,” Callen smirked. “You were jealous of Monica last year even though he was undercover and working her for information.”
“I might have been slightly upset with him at the time,” she replied unconvincingly.
“Now that is quite an understatement, my dear,” Hetty interjected as she brought her glass of scotch over to join them. “I’m quite sure he saw the irony in the situation.”
“He pointed that out just before we got here,” she confessed. “He’s not talking to me right now.”
“I believe you two need to do a little fence mending,” Hetty said firmly, nodding in Deeks’ direction. “Don’t let this get out of hand Mr. Callen. You’re a bigger man than this. Holding a grudge will not do either one of you any good, and I need you working as a team.”
“What about Kensi? She screwed up too,” Callen whined defensively.
“Good Lord…sometimes I feel as if I’m running a bloody kindergarten,” she snapped.
“I’ll take care of it Hetty,” Sam said as he rose and headed over to the bar.
They all watched as Sam slapped Deeks softly on the back and slid his hand up to gently squeeze the back of his neck. Deeks turned toward him, a tentative smile slowly widening into the crooked grin they were all so familiar with. Sam pointed back at them and then said something only Deeks could hear and they heard them laugh together. Deeks suddenly became quite serious, searching Sam’s face before glancing back toward the group who were finding it hard not to watch. Sam continued to whisper in his ear and they saw Deeks’ body language slowly change, relaxing as his laughter carried back to them. Sam ordered a pitcher of beer and when it came, he laid a hand on Deeks’ shoulder and nodded toward his waiting team mates. It took a moment, but Deeks finally acquiesced and slid off the barstool and let Sam guide him back to the group. He shot a defiant glance at Callen, who softened his look and poured him a glass of beer, while Kensi bumped against him the way she always did.
“Sorry about the Durian,” Deeks said sheepishly. “Just trying to stay current.”
“That was a disgusting food choice even for you Mr, Deeks,” Hetty commented lightly.
“Deeks might have just found us an alternative to tear gas,” Callen said with a warm smile. “Good job today, man.”
Deeks seemed surprised by the compliment, but clinked Callen’s offered glass, and the tension eased.
“It’s worse than tear gas,” Kensi shuttered. “I could have used it to rescue Deeks from that cougar, Heidi. She had her claws into you from the moment she saw you.”
“You didn’t have a problem with it at the time,” Deeks challenged quietly.
“Not until she shoved you up against the door.”
“You saw that?”
“Didn’t like it much.”
“She’s not your type.”
“I hope not,” he said with a cocky grin. “She was a hooker I didn’t arrest once.”
“So her interest in you was purely professional,” she quipped.
“As was mine,” he said softly. “This time and the last time.”
Deeks laughed easily, cocking his head in acknowledgement before raising his glass in a toast to Sam, all of them joining him in solidarity.