A.N. Because I’ve always thought Deeks must remind Hetty of someone…
Sometimes even she didn’t understand how she knew the things she knew, couldn’t remember how she’d acquired a piece of information or intelligence, or how she’d formed an impression. She’d mused from time to time that maybe she’d simply incorporated it into her DNA. As preposterous as that might sound to someone else, it made perfect sense to her. She was no longer the Henrietta Lange she’d been so many decades ago. She’d become Hetty, and Hetty could do things that were beyond the ken of mere mortals.
So she wasn’t particularly troubled that she couldn’t quite remember how she’d become aware of a certain young, brash LAPD detective. But, once aware, it had been only natural that she had become invested in him. Hadn’t it? He was, after all, quite capable, astute, intelligent, brave, and dedicated to protecting those who needed his protection. He shared those traits with the members of her OSP team, and he complemented their knowledge of military protocol and international threats with a welcome, and much-needed dose of street-savviness.
She told herself that those were the reasons she’d recruited him to her team, even if she would deny the recruitment. To the others, it had been meant to seem like the seizing of an opportunity, like she’d been making the best of the difficult situation of the team having been at odds with the city’s police force. It had been meant to seem as though she’d merely been responding to orders from above, and not that she herself had planted the suggestion.
But she had. Because it hadn’t been the seizing of an opportunity. It hadn’t even been a recruitment, if she was truly honest with herself. It had been, and was, the vicarious living of a life once dreamed, and lost, in the waking.
Hetty liked having her ‘office’ where it was. Just a step or two above, but seemingly an ocean apart. Henrietta Lange didn’t need physical barriers. She didn’t respect physical barriers. She maintained an atmosphere of privacy through the power of her personality. Those called to her presence were so taken up with it that they rarely noticed the absence of walls.
That absence of walls served its purpose well. It gave Hetty an unobstructed view of her team, and made her able to note each presence or absence, each mood, and nearly all of the interactions and dynamics among its members. And, when she couldn’t see directly, she had electronic eyes and ears to help her. She liked to think of it as a necessity, that she was obligated by her position to be an observer, even in those times when she might have…encouraged…that there be something to observe.
Where the young female agent and the police detective were concerned, she’d done nothing but plant the seed, Hetty insisted to herself. Not even that, she argued back. She’d merely found the seed, and invited it to fall onto fertile ground. There, it had taken root, albeit slowly, and requiring some tending. But she could see it now, even if they couldn’t. It was beginning to grow, lured from the ground by sunshine, and rained upon by gunpowder.
She saw it in him first, as some part of her had known she would. He reminded her so much of Richard, if she really thought about it. But her ego could never quite allow that awareness to rise to the surface. It would remain buried where she’d buried it, a lifetime ago. Instead, she told herself that he reminded her of a schoolboy, crushing on a classmate, teasing her mercilessly, just to give him an excuse to look at her, and smile at her. Just to have a shared experience with her. Hetty was the first to notice when his gazes lasted just a beat longer than necessary. Hetty was the first to notice him looking around every morning as though he’d lost something, and then found it again, once she’d arrived.
Some part of Hetty, the part she kept so well hidden that even she had become unaware of it, had known that she would also be the first to notice the smiles being returned, the teasing being accepted. Some part of her had known she would see a thinning of the protective shell enclosing each of them, eventually to be remolded into a single unit.
Something about the story unfolding in front of her always felt so familiar. Nostalgic, as though resonating within. A memory, tinged with newness. And more than a hint of the bittersweet.
Owen Granger. What deity had invited Owen Granger back into her life?
His appearance had brought her past forward to intrude into her present, coloring her vision and her understanding. And her responsibilities.
As she’d somehow known they would, the glances had lengthened, and deepened, in both directions. The banter had become softer, gentler, more encouraging. The atmosphere had become full of promise.
But then, Granger. And with him, questions, and doubts, and that intrusion of reality. And suddenly, what had seemed so promising, and sweet, morphed into something ominous. Something that held danger, not just to the holders, but to those around them, and those they were charged with protecting.
She’d been blind to it back then, as had Richard, their eyes too full of the future to perceive the danger of the present. Neither of them had seen it until it had been so close as to take up the whole of their fields of vision. By then, it had been too late. It had overtaken them, and they hadn’t been able to recover from it. Hetty couldn’t allow that to happen a second time. Her vision may have become clouded in the intervening years, but Owen Granger had brought it back into sharp focus, and it would have to guide her actions.
Still, and despite what others might think, Hetty had never considered herself a manipulator. Instead, she passed herself off as an opportunist. She prided herself on her ability to read people, and on the acuity of her perceptions. If circumstance presented itself, she might take advantage of it, knowing, with a considerable degree of certainty, how each of the participants would respond. So, just as she convinced herself she’d allowed the two to come together, she would now allow a new set of circumstances to pull them apart.
She felt the pain of it, just as they did. She saw the pain of it, despite the woman’s attempt to hide it. Hetty was all too familiar with the mask, having confronted it in the mirror on so many occasions. And she was also, regretfully, familiar with the harrowing look of loss in the eyes of the young detective.
She wondered if Richard had looked like that, once upon a time. If he’d looked stunned, and then momentarily bereft, and if he’d then attempted to cover it all with a stoic response, even as he neglected to remove the resignation from his gait. She wondered if he’d come to work each day after that, his eyes just a bit more shaded, his humor forced, his personality muted. She wondered if he’d thought about her as often as the young detective seemed to think about his absent love. She wondered if the young woman pined for the detective as much as she’d pined for Richard, all the while refusing to let it affect her work, but unable to stop it from breaking her heart.
When the danger became more imminent, and far less justifiable, Hetty could no longer let circumstance run its course. The reluctant puppet master broke through the fourth wall, and entered the story. The young woman needed saving, and Hetty would see that she was saved. In this one, critical aspect, their stories would diverge.
The couple who returned were changed. Broken, each in their own way, and nearly broken apart. She watched as they knit themselves back to wholeness, both individually and together, and wondered what her life might have been like had she and Richard had the same capacity to regenerate. For, despite what many might think, and despite the impression she always purposely left, Henrietta Lange was well-acquainted with the effects of cumulative trauma.
When circumstance conspired with circumstance to besiege the young couple yet again, when each of them was called upon to endure what neither of them believed they could, Hetty could offer only platitudes, and empty words of encouragement. For, while she was indeed acquainted with the effects of cumulative trauma, she was far less acquainted with the process of overcoming them.
So, as the young woman and her police detective endured, and struggled and, ultimately, triumphed, Hetty distanced herself from their story. It was no longer hers. They were no longer hers. They were a new creation, destined for new things, writing their own story. Henrietta and Richard had been, once upon a time. But they were no more. Their story had ended, a very long time ago.
But Henrietta Lange was herself a new creation, in name and person. She would not mourn what had not been hers to live. It was far too late for that, and she was far too practical to waste energy with pointless regret. Instead, she would be grateful that not all such stories had the same ending. She would be grateful for the good fortune that had been granted to the young couple, and she would celebrate it with them.
Watching from afar, by means known only to her, she knew the time was drawing near. She would have to work quickly, now. She would be at that wedding, damn it, by any and all means possible. And she would drink a toast to the new story being written, to the young woman and her police detective.
And to Richard.