Callen wasn’t sure what woke him at first, but as his senses sharpened he heard raised voices from below. Sitting up, he reached for his gun and checked the clock. It was close to three in the morning, and the bar had been closed for almost an hour. He quickly pulled on his jeans and got up, slipping on the tee shirt he’d thrown on the chair last night. He moved through to the living room to the door and quietly opened it, his weapon held close against his leg. Deeks’ familiar, but exasperated voice wasn’t hard to distinguish, and neither was the softly spoken rebuke from his mother. He was hesitant to interrupt, but he relaxed now that the bar wasn’t in the process of being robbed. He moved to the top of the stairs anyway, only feeling slightly guilty for eavesdropping. He could hear Sam’s voice in his head telling him it was none of his business, but he was awake and curious about what they could be arguing over.
Most of the time Deeks’ relationship with his mother amused him. She was funny, and he rather enjoyed watching just how easily she could push Deeks’ buttons. He found it fascinating. Their interaction always seemed to carry an edge, hinting at something deeper and more complicated. Not that he had much experience with close family relationships. Maybe that’s what made him so curious. He’d never had an in-depth conversation with Roberta, but when he’d moved in above the bar she’d fussed over him a bit despite his assurances that he was quite capable of arranging his own things, and really didn’t need extra towels or help organizing the tiny kitchen. She’d raised her eyebrows at him, looking unconvinced, and then just ignored him and went about moving a few of his personal items to where she thought they should be. He politely stopped her when she’d pulled open his underwear drawer and started to organize that. His interference hadn’t fazed her, and her smart assed remark reminded him just whose mother she was.
He heard the back door close below, and started to return to his room until he heard Deeks let out a yell of frustration and the sound of a glass breaking. He took a deep breath and decided to go down, once again ignoring Sam’s voice in his head warning against getting involved.
“Hope that wasn’t the expensive stemware you’re so proud of,” Callen said softly, coming up behind Deeks as he sat at the bar cleaning up whatever he’d broken.
“Hey…sorry I woke you,” he replied, sounding tired and disgruntled. “I forget you’re up there sometimes. Stemware’s fine.”
“You’re not usually here this late,” Callen said, sliding onto the barstool next to him. “Your mom okay?”
“Mama? My mama’s a survivor, brother,” he replied softly. “It’s just that sometimes she likes stirring things up. Gets her juices going.”
Callen remained silent, unsure how to respond to that.
“She’s a fighter though. Always has been. I’ll give her that,” Deeks said. “Never took crap from anyone except good ol’ dad. Seems like they were always going at each other…until he decided to shut her up.”
Callen rose and went around behind the bar and pulled a bottle of Jameson’s off the shelf. He set a glass down in front of Deeks and one for himself.
“I’m not a big whiskey drinker,” Deeks said, leaning back as Callen poured them both a shot.
“Yeah, but it sounds like you could use some.”
After he was settled back on the barstool, he lifted his glass and raised it toward Deeks. “To mothers and fathers and all the unresolved crappy feelings they leave us with.”
“That sounded deeply embittered and profound,” Deeks remarked, smiling softly for the first time.
“At least you have your mother in your life,” Callen replied. “I never got to know mine.”
“Sorry, brother. Didn’t mean to bring up bad memories,” Deeks said.
Callen shook his head and brushed off his remark with a subtle wave of his hand. They both remained quiet for a while, slowly sipping their drinks. Callen began to feel comfortable, surprised that Deeks could remain silent for so long. It was unlike him, and Callen decided to share the connection he was feeling with the younger man.
“Hetty gave me a picture of my mother a while back,” Callen breathed out. “She was beautiful. Really beautiful. And…she was a spy.”
“So it’s in your blood…the spy part anyway.”
“Guess so,” he replied, raising his glass with his signature smirk. “To spies and absent fathers.”
“I’m glad my dad is absent,” Deeks said, downing his remaining whiskey in one swallow. “He was a sonofabitch.”
“Not sure what mine was or is,” Callen said. “Just wish I could have had more time to find out.”
“Have you heard anything?”
“No intel that I can find,” Callen replied, refilling both glasses. “Know where yours is?”
“After I was shot in that convenience store, Hetty came to visit me in the hospital at the end of the day,” Deeks said quietly. “She told me he’d died in a car accident a couple of years after he got out of prison for trying to kill my mama and me. Didn’t quite know how to feel about that.”
“Still not sure how to feel about my father either,” Callen said, staring unblinking into his whiskey. “But, like your mother, he’s a survivor. At least I hope he still is.”
“To survivors. Us and them,” Deeks said, touching his glass to Callen’s. “You ever think about going to Russia to find out what happened to him? Does Arkady know anything?”
“Arkady’s not happy with me right now. Blames me for what happened to Anna,” Callen admitted. “And as for Russia…I’ve heard it’s a nice place to honeymoon.”
Callen tilted his head and took a sip of whiskey. “Not really. You should probably stick with Peru. I’m sure it’s lovely this time of year.”
“You miss him,” Deeks stated.
“I guess I do,” Callen replied. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him until they took him away. Now I’m just pissed.”
“I spent most of my childhood pissed at my father,” Deeks said softly. “Never did me any good though. Fighting back made me feel a little better about myself, but mama hated seeing me hurt. It’s what we were arguing about earlier.”
“That’s going to need some clarification.”
“I let it slip that I’d been hurt in Mexico,” Deeks said, with an embarrassed smile. “She wanted all the details, and as usual, I wouldn’t give her any.”
“Cause it would have made her crazier than she usually is,” Deeks replied, sounding exasperated again.
“Didn’t want to tell her you were blown up and almost killed by a rocket?” Callen asked with a smirk. “I can understand that, but at least she cares what happens to you. Don’t take that for granted, Deeks.”
“She still feels guilty that she couldn’t protect me from my dad,” he replied. “It would scare her when he beat the shit out of me. I don’t want her to be scared for me anymore. What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her.”
Callen reached over and gently squeezed his shoulder, saying nothing before turning back to his drink.
“Did I ever tell you she tried to organize my underwear drawer?” He finally offered.
Deeks barked out a laugh, and a wide smile covered some of his embarrassment. “Sounds like her. Sorry, brother.”
“It was actually kind of sweet, now that I think about it,” Callen said lightly. “Didn’t get a lot of that sort of kindness growing up in foster homes.”
“I’ll talk to her, cause she won’t stop if I don’t,” Deeks warned. “Not that she listens to me.”
“Copy that,” Callen said. “But you do realize how lucky you are, don’t you?”
“Yeah, no…of course,” Deeks replied, cracking one of his soft smiles. “It’ll take some getting used to though, now that Mama is running the bar. Now I’ll have two women trying to run my life.”
“I’m pretty sure Kensi will have your back,” Callen said.
“I’m not…at least not where my mama is concerned,” Deeks said. “Mama is a force to be reckoned with.”
“Callen…if she asks you what happened to me in Mexico…”
“Don’t think I can hold out against her interrogation techniques?” Callen asked with surprise. “That kind of hurts my feelings, Deeks, since I am a trained Federal agent. Besides, neither you or Kensi really shared much about what you went through out there after we split up.”
“I was unconscious, remember? And Kens has trouble talking about it,” Deeks said. “I don’t remember anything after we were hit until I came to in a church. The rest is kind of a blur, but I do remember fighting over a shotgun in a moving car. After that…nothing…until I woke up in the hospital in Balboa.”
“We were lucky,” Callen whispered.
“Yeah, we were.”
“If Sam hadn’t been with me, I wouldn’t be here,” Callen said quietly.
“I don’t know how Kensi did what she did,” Deeks said. “Eric showed me a map…Callen…she dragged me for miles. How amazing is that? I mean I know she’s a ninja warrior, but…”
“She must really love you, Deeks,” Callen interrupted. “You should probably marry her.”
“I think you’re right, brother,” Deeks said, his smile wide and easy. “You and Sam want to be my best man…men?”
“Aren’t I always? Wait…don’t answer that. I mean…if you’re not interested,” Deeks’ stammered as his grin slowly faded. “I’d understand.”
Callen stared at him, hearing Sam’s voice in his head, warning him not to take this too far.
“I’d have to check my calendar,” he finally said, looking doubtful. “In case you didn’t know…I have a very active social life. Just ask Sam. But, I may be able to move some things around.”
“Okay, okay…” Deeks began to smile again. “So…is that some sort of weird yes?”
“Honestly, Deeks…I’d be honored.”
“Thanks, brother,” Deeks replied softly. “Another toast then…to the two best men I know.”
“And to the best couple…ljubit’ i druzhit’.”
“Say what?” Deeks asked. “That’s not some bizarro Russian hex, is it?”
“I’m gonna be your best man. Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know…it just sounded creepy.”
Callen shook his head and laughed, reaching out to put a hand on Deeks’ shoulder.
“It means “to love and friendship.”
Deeks’ eyes watered with tears and a smile softened his face. “I’ll drink to that…not that I can pronounce it…”
“ljubit’ i druzhit’.”