For fan fiction writers, a character with as many holes in his life story as Marty Deeks has just begs for origin stories, which show us how he came to be the man we see today. Our group of writers has occasionally tackled full-on origin stories that take place completely in the past, offering us a completely immersive look into his backstory. More often though, we get enticing glimpses through flashbacks during stories set in the present. Either way, filling in these gaps offers these writers an inviting opportunity to exercise their creativity. (Spoiler alert: story outcomes discussed ahead.)
They rush to clean it all up, to hide the damage before it’s too late, but even at the age of five, Marty knows that’s entirely impossible. He’s not the only one who knows what’s at stake – as the other boy’s fingers close around the baseball in the midst of the glass, he turns to Marty, willing to take all of the blame. “Tell him it was me,” Ray whispers quickly. “Tell him I broke it, and maybe he won’t… you know.”
But even if it had been Ray, it doesn’t matter one bit to Gordon Brandel. To him, everything is always Marty’s fault. Always Marty’s fault when things get broken; always Marty’s fault when things get screwed up. Always Marty’s fault for merely existing. And this time is no exception.
The damage is already done. And when his father arrives home from drinking with his buddies, Marty knows he’s in trouble.
Let’s start from the beginning, or even earlier. phillydi wrote a story called “Sins of Another Father” that explored Deeks’ family history dating back to World War II. “I decided to make his mother the Scandinavian side of the family and his father’s family was from Germany,” she describes. “I tried to explain why his father became the man that Deeks eventually shot one day. What led up to that?… It explained why he hated his father so much and that the sins of the father can go back in time and be long reaching. It also explained why Deeks became a cop (in his genes) and why he became the man he is today.”
No area of Deeks’ missing background has been explored more thoroughly than his childhood, but the degree of detail varies from writer to writer. thepixiesmademedoit hasn’t explored Deeks’ backstory fully. “The nearest I got,” she says, “was a single chapter in ‘Natural Equilibrium,’ which focused solely on the immediate aftermath of Deeks shooting his father. I wanted to write about the person who had been first on the scene, the police officer who had had to deal with this young boy who’d just shot his father. I felt strongly that that person had the potential to become a big influence in Deeks’ life, depending on the level of understanding, empathy and sensitivity shown during those important first moments after the shooting.” In her story, the officer goes on to become “an important father figure to Deeks, and you can see (hopefully!!) the influence he has had over his life.”
Sweet Lu feels strong ties to Deeks because they share certain elements of their childhood. “…Discovering that his father was probably an alcoholic made me connect with the character,” she says. “My father was an alcoholic, so it wasn’t difficult to imagine what Deeks went through as a child. It’s one of the reasons I write about him. The amazing thing about Deeks is that he kept his humor intact and I think it helps him cope and hide the darker impact his childhood experiences had on him. I have eagerly delved into Deeks childhood, drawing on my own emotional experiences. I have never been afraid to tackle where and who he came from, exploring all the possibilities that the show has left blank. They have not given us much of a backstory for him, so I simply went with my gut and with what was interesting to explore. I can picture the loneliness, the fear, the need to escape, his resolve and his small strengths. Those are just a few of the things he has dealt with growing up that made him a survivor. As I always say… he’s tougher than he looks or projects to others. On the show he doesn’t share all of this, but in my stories he does and other people’s responses also make for good emotional stories.”
She has explored Deeks’ tough childhood through flashbacks in several stories where his past intrudes on his present. “One is about a teacher who helped him called ‘A Different Kind of Hero,’” she describes. It “is done with flashbacks from the teacher’s point of view. It allowed us to see him from afar and I could describe him so we get an idea of how he looked and how he reacted to kindness.”
“I just wanted it to stop,” he said sorrowfully, conscious of the fact that he now had company. With the recent burst of adrenaline continuing its way through his bloodstream, leaving his senses heightened and a bitter taste on his pallet, it had been hard to miss the nearing footsteps. However, any worry he might have felt from having a stranger join him remained solidly overshadowed by the sole focus he had for the man who had not just been the source of his fears, but his nightmares too.
“He your dad?” the detective asked gently as he lowered his own weapon, momentarily surprised at the child’s awareness of his presence. He could feel the storm of emotions radiating off the boy’s body in waves as he nodded in confirmation, never turning from his wounded father
“What’s your name?”
“I need you to look at me, Marty,” the detective replied firmly.
…Jim took the opportunity to look the boy once over. His blond hair was dishevelled and sweat-soaked, his face bruised but Marty’s ocean blue eyes remained bright and piercing and they immediately focused in on the weapon Jim had in his own hand. Flexing his fingers around the revolver he still held, Marty was unsure as to whether he was ready to relinquish what had so suddenly become a source of his own security.
ZBBZL felt a strong pull to write about Deeks’ past in order to understand the man we see today. “I guess that I wrote his backstory the way I thought made more sense to explain the man he is now,” she says. “The man I wish they would explore in depth on the show, instead of only using him as comic relief. I usually make his childhood brutal, but I don’t make his father a monster like many authors do. I don’t think that people are born evil, so I’ve given him good memories with his dad, which makes it even more complicated to hate him for Deeks. I see Gordon as a man who lost control of his life (unemployment, tragedy, early parenthood, whatever you want) and who gained that control again over abusing his family. I see his mother as a woman who let herself be abused because she was in love and emotionally unstable, but found the strength to fight back and draw the line when her husband took it out on their son. I think I give that strength to Deeks, too. He’s not a victim, and refuses to see himself as one. But it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t wear scars from his past on his body and soul, and I try my best to do that justice. I think I put more psychology in his character than the show does.”
imahistorian took what “has become somewhat accepted ‘myth’ about Deeks’ past, that he grew up with an alcoholic and possibly abusive father,” she says, and used it to develop a backstory for what Deeks’ mother might have been like, and what might have become of her. “In my story ‘Feel the Tide,’” she describes, “I tried to also think about what kind of person his mother might be and why she might not be a presence in his life at the present. The show has never confirmed or denied she is or is not in his life, but I made the assumption that she is not, and felt I had to come up with a compelling reason for that. And because emotional angst can be fun and challenging to write, I made his mother a pretty weak, selfish person who wasn’t able to give him resolution on his history with her or his father. The lack of resolution was what was interesting to me. Tying it up into a neat bow doesn’t always make for interesting storytelling.”
This origin story actually came in the form of his mother’s reappearance in present-day Deeks’ life. imahistorian says, “I think the choices I made about Deeks’ mother help to explain how he doesn’t seem to have family, and how he doesn’t mention his mother. At least not that we’ve seen. But I think because in the character of his mother that I created that he did (at one time) have a close relationship with her, that it might help explain the way he relates to some women.”
“Mind if I steal a chair?” comes a voice. Kensi glances up from her book into the bright blue eyes of a scruffy blonde boy who appears to be a few years older than her. She throws on her poker face, hoping he hadn’t been able to gauge the dark thoughts running through her mind. “My friend needs a seat.”
“Which one?” she asks curiously. He points over to a stronger-built guy who looks a few years older than him, standing in line waiting for coffee. She raises an eyebrow, expecting him to point to another person, but his arm drops back down to his side. “Why do you need three chairs?” she asks, puzzled.
“Lonely girls like to linger at joints like this,” he replies with an impish grin. “Leaving room for any interested parties,” he adds with a wink. Kensi bites her bottom lip, holding back a snicker, but she can’t hide her amusement.
“You’ve really thought this out, haven’t you?” she snorts, unable to suppress her smile.
“Oh, yeah,” he replies, “It’s a foolproof plan, trust me.”
Beyond developing the details of Deeks’ past in an abusive household, our writers have also touched on other times in his life before NCIS. ZeGabz wrote an origin story “called ‘Three Coffees’ set in a coffee shop, in which a high school and then college-aged Deeks meets Kensi without actually meeting her. “The main trait I sought to portray in writing a young Deeks was his compassion- it’s my belief that his kindness stems from a desire to have people live in a nicer world than he grew up in. I also chose to make him a bit of a flirt, because by the time we meet him on the show, he’s fairly comfortable around women.”
His early careers in law and law enforcement remain a bit of a mystery to most. Kadiedid is one writer who has touched on it. “I speculated that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of people before the cases got to court,” she explains. And Sweet Lu’s latest story, “The Collector,” “explores his early years as a cop. It is an open book, because the show has given us only ‘The Debt’ and that was when he was already a detective. I guess I’m just someone who looks in the blank spaces and between the lines, and joyfully fills them in.”
Coming up with all this backstory from the paucity of available clues can be a challenge. For ZeGabz, the hardest part is “Simply getting it on paper. It can be hard to produce something substantial without a specific plot, and often when I do revisit Kensi or Deeks’ past, I do it in short flashbacks. But I don’t want them to feel like fillers, because exposition is extremely important, as pasts are very definitive.”
As phillydi puts it, “Well it’s all open territory isn’t it? I had to make it believable which is why I had it take place close to my home in a setting I knew well and I also had to do some research on the Amish and how they were discriminated against after World War II along with other German immigrants who came to this country. It was a challenge but fun stuff.”
Like with any story, issues of characterization weigh on these writers’ minds. “The hardest thing was probably trying to make it realistic,” explains imahistorian. “Not giving it too much tragedy because Deeks may have been affected by his past, but he’s mostly risen above it. Also, just trying to make it true to his character, to see that he could have gone through abuse and abandonment by his family and still could have become the man he is today.” ZBBZL too deals with that same challenge of “staying true to the character while giving him depths that the show doesn’t.” She says, “I try to write him as someone who hasn’t fully recovered from his past, but who’s done a lot of work. Someone who grew from that hurt and pain.”
“Come on boy,” Deeks said softly as he knelt down in front of the dog. “I bet you’ve got a sweet tooth, you just don’t know it.”
The dog snatched the Twinkie and wolfed it down, licking his lips as he looked for more. Deeks stood up and walked away and the dog followed him around to the side of the patrol car where Deeks opened the door. The dog looked at him and then jumped in the back seat, moving over as Deeks got in beside him. Bates glared at both of them and then got in his car and drove off, leaving the others snickering.
“What are you gonna call that mutt, Deeks?” The cop asked as he and his partner got in the front seat.
“I was thinking of an old fashioned Western name like Monty,” he answered as he fed the dog another Twinkie. “What do you think, Monty?”
While origin stories seek to answer the question, “How did Deeks become the man we see today?,” stories in the alternate universe genre ask “What would happen if…?” If Deeks and Kensi knew each other as teens? If Deeks had joined the Navy? If dragons attacked? (Yep, dragons.) And actually, pre-“Humbug,” if Deeks and Kensi were a couple? For the next couple of weeks we’ll talk to our fan fiction writers about what it’s like to let their imaginations run wild and write Deeks in an alternate universe.
Want to Read More?
To find the stories quoted above, follow these links:
thepixiesmademedoit, “Natural Equilibrium”
ZeGabz, “Three Coffees”
Sweet Lu, “Savage Beast”
We also asked each writer to recommend a short story they thought best represents their Deeks. aslycsi1315 suggested her story “Forgotten,” which contains elements of an origin story. It “shows my angsty Deeks when he’s forgotten on his birthday like in ‘Drive,’” she says. “I use his childhood hobby of playing the violin as a glance back into his past.”
Or, go back to the last Writing Deeks, Mysterious Deeks.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.