By Sweet Lu
Deeks methodically went about his early morning chores of cleaning and disinfecting the bar. Kensi had gone for a run, so he was alone with his turbulent thoughts, still conflicted over what had happened in the past twenty-four hours. When he heard the back door open and close, he finally realized he’d been cleaning the same section of the bar top for the last fifteen minutes. Callen walked in and dropped his go-bag on the floor, his expression a mixture of exhaustion and confusion, not unlike his own after he got home last night.
“Coffee’s made,” Deeks said.
Callen said nothing. He didn’t look at him either. He just nodded and helped himself to a cup. He slid onto one of the barstools and drank deeply of the hot dark liquid. Deeks returned to his chores, picking up empty beer bottles and glasses from the tables. Callen looked closed off, so he let him be as he walked around to the back of the bar and began washing out the glasses. It wasn’t unusual for them to forego conversation when they were alone here. It always seemed to be up to him to initiate a dialogue, but today he wasn’t interested in talking, even though he was curious about the man’s dark mood. As the silence lengthened, the mundane tasks took his mind off Callen and allowed him to concentrate on trying to figure out what the hell had happened yesterday.
“Hey? How was graduation?” Callen finally asked.
“Yeah…not sure how to answer that just yet.”
Callen looked up at him, his eyes that piercing blue that could freeze you in place when he wanted to. He was definitely engaged now and Deeks was sorry he’d said anything.
“Want to explain that?”
“It’s a simple question, Deeks. Either you graduated or you didn’t.”
“Did and didn’t,” Deeks replied. “Hetty was involved, if that makes things any clearer.”
“Does it ever?” He replied with a knowing look.
“Do you ever get use to her manipulating things for her own satisfaction?” Deeks asked.
“What the hell did she do?”
Deeks told him, reliving once again the moment he was told he had washed out of FLETC. Even though he had his badge, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was somehow unearned.
“For all I know, I did fail. And that the only reason I have my NCIS badge is due to her actions,” Deeks said. “Not my own accomplishments.”
“Is that what you really think?”
“If I’m being honest…I’m not sure what to believe,” he replied. “I won’t deny I struggled with some things, but I was in the top three percent of my class overall.”
“I’m not surprised,” Callen said.
“About which part?” Deeks quickly asked. “That I struggled? Or that I killed it on the range, tactical ops, legal, and all the intelligence tests?”
Callen smiled for the first time. “So you’re telling me you didn’t struggle on the intelligence tests? That’s a stretch, Deeks.”
His teasing felt good. Familiar.
“Listen, Deeks. Hetty will always have her own agenda. She’s always two or three moves ahead of all of us on any given day. She must have had a reason for pulling you out of that graduation ceremony, but she’ll probably never tell you why, so don’t expect a better explanation than the one she gave you. She had her eye on you all those years ago for a reason. It took a while for Sam and I to see what she had seen from the beginning. You wouldn’t be an agent if she didn’t think you earned it.”
“And do you think I’ve earned it?”
“Before I answer that, ask yourself that question,” Callen replied. “Because if you don’t believe you earned it, than what I or anybody else thinks won’t make a difference. You can’t doubt yourself out there, Deeks. You never have, so don’t start now.”
“Yeah…no…you’re right…as usual.”
“Not sure that’s true…about being right all the time. I am human, Deeks.”
“Wait. Seriously? You’re actually human? Not Captain America?”
“Sorry, sorry. It’s just that you’re like the perfect super agent…at least to me.”
“Sam might disagree on that one, and you know better,” Callen said. “But I do occasionally screw up and misread situations.”
“Want to explain that little confession?”
“Maybe,” he replied and looked away. “But first… Don’t look back, Deeks. Whatever happened, or whoever gave you that badge doesn’t change the fact that you’re an NCIS agent now. A good one. And I’m glad to have you back on the team. All of us are.”
“Thanks, brother,” Deeks said. “I’d hug you, but I have the feeling you might knock me on my ass if I did.”
“Good intuition, Agent Deeks.”
“So, what’s going on?”
“Hell if I know,” Callen said, and got up to pour himself another cup of coffee.
Deeks didn’t press, allowing the man some space to decide if he wanted to share what was obviously bothering him. Even though they weren’t terribly close, it wasn’t hard to read his mood. He was tempted to follow his natural inclination to lighten the bad vibe he was feeling, but he hesitated, unsure if it would help or be a distraction Callen might hide behind. Not that that had ever stopped him.
“Now that I’m an NCIS agent…can I call you Grisha? Not your full name…cause I really have no idea how to pronounce that Russian alphabet soup of a name. But Grisha…that I can manage…or G. Or not.”
Callen laughed lightly and turned to look at him. “I see the trainers at FLETC didn’t dull your rambling sense of humor.”
“I couldn’t get a laugh or even a teenie-tiny smile out of any of them.”
“They are pretty hard core.”
“That’s an understatement, brother,” Deeks said and shivered at the memory. “Want me to make that coffee a Black Russian?”
“Is that one of the interrogation techniques you learned at the academy?” Callen smirked. “Get ’em drunk so they’ll reveal personal information? Kinda old school, don’t you think?”
“Sometimes the simple ways are the best ways.”
“That sounds like something Hetty would say…and do,” Callen said softly. “She could drink us both under the table.”
“You know a bartender is like a priest, right? Whatever you tell me won’t leave this bar.”
“Picturing you as a priest is weirdly disturbing, Deeks. But make it an Irish whiskey…I’m a little put off with all things Russian right now,” Callen said.
He pushed his coffee over to Deeks, who poured a generous dollop of Jameson’s into his cup. He splashed a small amount into his own and waited.
“Anna lied to me,” Callen said, and took a swallow of his now fortified coffee. “She told me she was working with Rebuild US to help one of the small towns hit by the wildfires. Even told me the motel they were staying in. I drove up to surprise her. She wasn’t there. No one else from the group was either. Never had been. It was all one big lie. I have no idea where she is or what she’s doing.”
“I was going to…propose…if you can believe that.”
“I had no idea you two had gotten that serious,” Deeks said.
“I was. Not sure about Anna after this,” replied sadly.
“Have you called Rebuild US?”
“What’s the point? I’m not even sure she was ever a part of it.”
“Could she be back undercover somewhere with the CIA?”
“I’m not sure I want to know.”
“Come on, man. That’s not true,” Deeks said. “I may not know you very well even after all these years, but I do know you don’t let things go, especially if it concerns a person you care about.”
“If she cares about me, why lie? Why not tell me the truth?”
“Maybe she didn’t want to be talked out of what she was about to do,” Deeks said. “You’re actually a lot alike in that regard. You’re both stubborn and focused, and have a tendency to go rogue.”
“I’m afraid for her,” Callen said. “And I have no way to help her if she’s in trouble.”
“Maybe that’s the way she wants it.”
“Or maybe it was her way of dumping me,” he replied. “Just disappear…never to be seen again.”
“You really think she’d be that cruel?” Deeks wondered.
“I don’t know what the hell to believe anymore,” Callen said with a touch of anger. “Maybe I was meant to be alone. When Hetty recruited me she told me it would be a lonely existence. She gave me an out…a normal, happy life with someone I cared about. But I didn’t take it. I couldn’t.”
“Because I needed to find out who my father was…and to discover my real name…the one you can’t pronounce.”
“And you’ll search for Anna too. And you’ll find her…Grisha and whatever the hell the rest of your name is. It’s what you do.”
“You sure about that, Agent Deeks?”
“I passed all my tests at the academy. So officially I am a damn good agent with a badge to prove it, and I’ve got damn good intuition. You won’t be able to let this go and you know it,” Deeks said. “You told me not to look back. So take your own advice. Forget the lie and last night. Go find her, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
“Fresh out of the academy and already giving advice,” Callen said with his signature smirk. “As Hetty says…you’re a cheeky bastard, Marty Deeks.”