Dinner with Roberta went significantly better than Deeks could have ever hoped. Aside from a few awkward moments, she and Kensi got along remarkably well. Kensi seemed to find Roberta’s sense of humor hilarious rather than off-putting as Deeks had feared.
“I’m sorry I sprung that on you,” he told her as he drove Kensi back to her apartment. Normally she would have just stayed over at his house, but that was definitely out of the question with his mom there. He could only imagine the inappropriate comments she would make at their expense. A few of his former girlfriends had found that out the hard way.
“It certainly wasn’t how I ever expected to be introduced to your mom, but I’m glad you did,” she said, giving him a smile that absolved him of any lingering guilt. “I had a really good time tonight and she seems really nice.”
He heard something unspoken in her voice and glanced over to see her pressing her lips together.
“OK, I might regret asking this, but what are you thinking?”
“Deeks, you don’t have to worry. It’s nothing bad.” She was silent for a minute and then said, “I’m just wondering why I’ve barely heard about your mom until now.”
“That is a loaded question,” he sighed, tilting his head back. “Can we wait until we get to your apartment? This is probably going to take a while.”
“Won’t your mom wonder where you are?”
“Eh, she probably thinks we came here to have sex anyway,” he said and Kensi gave him a horrified look. “I’m kidding. I’ll text her.”
Kensi let them into her apartment, kicking off her shoes and dropping her bag along the way. She grabbed a couple bottles of water, then sat down, patting the spot next to her. Deeks cleared away a few spare shirts and empty dishes, joining her with a deep sigh.
“Is this the type of conversation where we need to have a couple beers first?” she asked, her tone only half-joking.
“No, I don’t think so. It just isn’t my favorite topic.” Kensi took his hand, squeezing it gently.
“Whatever you tell me, Deeks, I’m not going to judge you for it.” He could see in her eyes that she meant it and like a thousand times before, he was amazingly grateful for her trust in him.
“Ok, whew.” He blew out a short breath, glancing away for a second before he started. “After my dad went to prison, my mom got super protective of me. I didn’t realize how much at the time because she worked full-time and was just as crazy- and I mean that in the best way possible- as always.
“Then in my teens, I started to get in trouble with Ray and do other stupid crap. Somewhere in there I figured out that she was terrified I was going to end up in the same place as my dad.”
“That’s awful,” Kensi murmured and he realized how it must sound to her.
“Honestly, I don’t blame her, Kensi,” he said, needing to defend his mom. Even though she drove him crazy at times and put his dramatics to shame, she was so much more than that.
“I was super close to going to juvie myself a couple times. I spent my entire high school career thwarting authority to some degree, even when I didn’t intend to. The first time Mom really let herself stop worrying for two seconds was when I got accepted into college. She was ridiculously excited, and even more so when I made it into law school.
“Once I became a public defender, she was always bragging to everyone how I was going to be the next Robert Shapiro. She was ridiculously happy.” He chuckled softly at the memory, recalling his frustration when she played up his talent to unbelievable levels.
“So, what changed?” He leaned against the back of the couch, looking at Kensi a little sadly.
“I hated being a lawyer.”
“Yeah, Tim, thanks. No, I get it. It’s not your fault,” Deeks assured the man on the other line of the phone. “If you find anything new, call me. I don’t care what time. Yeah, talk to you later.”
He hung up, resisting the urge to smash his phone into the wall. It had been a remarkably bad week; neither of the cases he was assigned were going well. One involved a known drug dealer who, despite his many citations and previous arrests, would probably walk. The district attorney didn’t have enough evidence to reasonably convict and Deeks was legally obligated to defend him to the best of his ability.
His second client, a 21-year-old mother named Desiree, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and second-degree murder. She’d stabbed her ex-boyfriend five times after he broke into her apartment and threatened her. Her ex later died at the hospital.
She had no witnesses and no one was willing to speak on her behalf or regarding the ex-boyfriend’s abusive behavior. If he wasn’t able to convince the jury that she was in immediate danger and defending herself the night of the attack, she would be spending a minimum of fifteen years in prison.
To top it all off, Social Services just moved her two kids into foster care without visitation rights.
Groaning, he sank onto the couch, rubbing his hands over his face. He felt completely helpless, useless. He was dreading meeting with Desiree tomorrow. She was scared, putting all her faith in his ability to get her home to her babies, and he would almost certainly fail her.
There was a pile of case files on the coffee table that he needed to review for tomorrow, but he didn’t have the energy. He’d been sitting there for an indeterminable time when the doorbell rang loudly and insistently .
“Charlie, I’m not really in the mood for poker tonight,” he called out as he swung the door open and found his mom instead, waiting with a tote bag in one hand and the other on her hip. “Mom, what are you doing here?”
“It’s Thursday,” she responded, shooing him away from the door and striding in. “You know, the day we always have dinner? I know you might have forgotten since you cancelled the last two weeks.”
She gave him a pointed look over her shoulder while she pulled out several containers of food from her bag. He closed the door, shaking his head at her, and joined her at the table.
“I’ve been busy, Mom.”
“I know and I’m so proud of you.” Giving him a fond look, she cupped his cheek. “That’s why I brought dinner here. It’ll give you the strength to work through all those murder cases.”
“Mom…” he squeezed the bridge of his nose, resisting the urge to say something he would regret. “This is really not a good night for all of this.”
“Nonsense,” Roberta said. She frowned, examining him critically. “A good meal will perk you right up. You’re looking a little thin, sweetie. You need to take better care of yourself.”
Accepting that he wasn’t going to be allowed to wallow in peace, Deeks grabbed a couple place settings from the kitchen and started setting the table. Roberta was busily warming up the food she brought while she shared about a high school friend she’d met up with recently.
He was only half-listening so he didn’t notice that she stopped talking until Roberta came out of the kitchen.
“That pot roast actually smells amazing‒”
“What is this?” Roberta interrupted, her expression unreadable for once. She had something clenched in her fist and waved it in the air, too fast for Deeks to get a good look. “Why the hell do you have an application and handbook for the Los Angeles Police Department?”
“It’s nothing, Mom,” he insisted, already knowing that she wouldn’t buy it. “I was just checking it out.”
Roberta’s eyes flashed, her laidback demeanor vanishing in a second and replaced with fury. He remembered facing this same version of his mom many times throughout his life when he screwed up in some way. For all Roberta Deeks might appear to be a care-free, former hippy, she was a force to be reckoned with when angered.
“Martin, this has your name and Social Security number on it.” She waved the application again, shoving it towards his chest. “You don’t put your Social Security number on a paper unless you mean business.”
“Mom, please, can we not do this right now?” he quietly begged. “Just pretend you never saw these papers and we can still have a nice dinner.”
Roberta chuckled, looking astonished at his suggestion and shook her head.
“No, I’m not going to forget it. I want you to tell me why you’re thinking about quitting the job you’ve worked so hard for,” she said, crossing her arms.
“You wouldn’t understand.” He turned away, fighting the urge to snap back.
“You’re sure right about that, Martin. I don’t understand why you’re risking everything after years of talking about becoming a lawyer and fighting to make a good name for yourself. It makes no sense.”
Deeks spun back around, the frustration and anger that had been building for far longer than the past week finally breaking free.
“I’m leaving because I am sick of watching the very people who belong in jail go free,” he spit out. He jerked his finger at the stack of files. “Last month I had to let a rapist go, a man who assaulted a little girl, because the police made a mistake when they arrested him.” Roberta made a choked noise, covering her mouth, but he ignored her shock. She’d wanted the truth and he wasn’t holding back. “I see drug dealers, killers… completely terrible people walk free and there’s absolutely nothing I can do.”
“That doesn’t mean you should put yourself at risk,” she said in a hushed voice. Deeks sighed, suddenly exhausted again as his anger-induced adrenaline evaporated.
“At least this way I’ll be able to make sure these criminals actually end up in prison.” He shrugged. “I can make sure things are done by the law so when a case goes to court, it doesn’t get thrown out on a technicality.”
“No, it’s too dangerous,” Roberta repeated after a minute, the fire back in her eyes. “We didn’t escape a violent life only for you to get killed by some terrorist.”
“Mom,” he groaned wearily. “I’ll be a beat cop, there won’t be any terrorists.”
“Don’t get smart with me, Martin. I’m serious. If you put yourself in that kind of danger, it’ll be like a kick in the teeth after everything we’ve been through.” Her voice trembled, nearly undoing him. “You have other options besides becoming a cop. You don’t want to be a lawyer anymore, fine. Get a job as a manager somewhere or become a teacher. You have options that won’t put you in danger every single day.”
“I’m not changing my mind. I can’t‒” he paused, grasping at his hair in frustration, and wishing he had some way of making her understand. “I can’t live like this anymore, mom. I’m sorry.”
Her expression caved for a moment and then she squared her shoulders, tossing the application and pamphlet on the table so they slid across the surface.
“Well, I’m sorry too, but if that’s your decision, I don’t think I need to be here anymore,” Roberta said, not looking at him as she grabbed her purse.
“Mom, please don’t leave like this,” he begged, reaching for her arm, but she evaded him.
“No, I’m not going to stay around to watch you get yourself killed.”
“I can’t believe it. You’d rather I spend my life in a miserable job than do something that will make a difference and that I can feel good about.”
“No, I want you to live,” Roberta responded, rounding on him. “Don’t make this my fault. I did the best I could to get you out of that type of life. If this is the way you want to repay me, fine by me.”
“This has nothing to do with you, Mom,” he snapped, realizing a second too late that it was exactly the wrong thing to say.
“That’s obvious. Enjoy your life, Martin.” Her eyes were hard as she avoided his gaze completely and walked through the door, slamming it behind her.
9 Months Later
Deeks reclined in the hospital bed, holding a limp ice pack to his head, his left arm temporarily supported by a sling. He and his partner had answered a civil disturbance call to find a heavily drunk man wielding a knife and shouting at his wife outside their apartment. As soon as he saw them, the man started swinging, nearly hitting a bystander.
While his partner cleared the room, Deeks had disarmed the man, which proved more difficult than he’d anticipated. After a tenuous struggle, Deeks incapacitated him, but not before he was slammed into the ground.
Somehow, he’d managed to last two months and eleven days on the job without injury. Despite his throbbing head and arm, he felt oddly exhilarated. For the first time in years, he actually felt worthwhile.
“No, I want to see my son. I know he’s here at this hospital so don’t pretend he isn’t or I will sue you. I know lawyers.” Deeks sat up suddenly at the unmistakable sound of his mother’s voice. They’d barely spoken since she’d abruptly left his apartment months ago and when they did speak, their conversations were stilted and uncomfortable. He heard someone trying to calm her, speaking in hushed, reasonable tones, but Roberta’s voice only rose.
Struggling out of the bed, he tossed the now useless ice pack on his bed and pushed the curtain aside.
“Mom, what are you doing here?” he asked. Roberta was attempting to move around a harassed-looking nurse, talking non-stop the entire time. Almost immediately, he knew it was too late to forestall an incident. When she finally noticed him, she gasped, rushing past the nurse.
“Oh my god, you’ve been beaten,” she said, touching his face as she shook her head.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Deeks tried to assure her. “I just have a dislocated shoulder. Once they pop it back in, I’ll be good as new.”
“I swore I’d never let you get hurt like this again.” He was mildly surprised that she was referencing the violence he’d experienced as a kid, even as vague as it was, since they never talked about it.
“I’m not eleven anymore and this wasn’t Dad.” Although he kept his voice low, he saw the effect his words had when she stiffened.
“I don’t care who did it, you’re still my son and I’m not going to just stand around while you’re hurt,” she said, turning in a half-circle and raising her voice again, which gained the attention of several more people. Taking a quick breath to calm himself, Deeks attempted to redirect the conversation.
“Mama, please just calm down for two seconds. How did you even end up here?” he asked.
“Someone from your office called me,” she explained. “He said you were attacked by some psycho with a knife.”
“OK, psycho is kind of a strong word and I definitely need to have a talk with Foreman about revealing confidential information,” Deeks said, gently taking her by the elbow and steering her towards his cubicle. It wasn’t much better than being out in the open, but at least it gave the illusion of privacy. “Here, sit down for just a second and breathe.”
She shrugged off his arm, obviously not ready to be calmed and Deeks felt the pounding in his head increase with a vengeance.
“Don’t treat me like a child, Marty. I said this was too dangerous and now look what happened. You probably have brain damage and‒”
“‒your arm will never be the same again. What if you’d been stabbed? And they just have you sitting there waiting without any help,” she continued, addressing a random doctor as he passed by. “You wouldn’t even know if he’d died.”
He knew that her hysteria would only build from here and did not feel like dealing with the inevitable aftermath.
“Mama, you need to leave,” Deeks said firmly.
“I am not going anywhere. I’m gonna make sure that you get proper medical care and not passed off on some medical student.”
“For once in your life will you just listen to me, Mom? I don’t want you here.”
“You don’t mean that,” Roberta said, dismissive as always.
“Yes, yes, I do. I want you to stop trying to control my life,” he insisted. “I’m not your little boy anymore, but you can’t seem to see that.”
“Martin, that’s not fair.”
“Really, Mom? Last time we talked, you couldn’t even stay long enough to hear my side of things.” He swayed suddenly and Roberta moved towards him, but he held her off with his good hand.
“Just go home,” he repeated quietly, turning his back on her. He didn’t check to see the look of regret or pain in her eyes, knowing he would end up apologizing if he did.
Deeks paused in his story to take a sip of water. His throat was slightly scratchy from so much talking and he needed the mental breather. This was never his favorite topic to talk about and Kensi hadn’t interrupted him once.
“What are you thinking?” he asked her, curious and a little worried by her silence. She stood up unexpectedly, walking back into the kitchen. That didn’t bode well.
“I think this is a conversation that definitely requires carbs,” she answered, reaching into the freezer. She came back, this time with a tub of ice cream and two spoons. Prying the lid off, she handed Deeks a spoon and then curled up next to him again.
“Ah, the Kensi Blye cure for everything: chocolate and ice cream.” She smirked at him, ate a bite, then tapped his knee with her spoon.
“What happened after your mom left?”
“Eventually a doctor fixed my shoulder, gave me a prescription and I went home,” he said with a shrug. “I’m not proud of it, but that moment with my mom was building for a long time. And as horrible as it sounds, I actually felt relieved. As much as I love my mom, and I do love her, she does not handle a crisis well. Before that day, whenever she would freak out, I’d do whatever it took in order to calm things down, and then we’d go on like nothing happened. That day, really since I’d made the decision to become a cop, drove home that it wasn’t going to work anymore.”
“That had to be very painful for both of you,” Kensi commented. “I’m guessing things didn’t improve after that conversation.”
“No, they didn’t. I mean, I probably could have patched things up,” he said, licking his bottom lip and shaking his head. “But I realized if I stayed in contact with my mom that she would constantly be in that state of panic. Every time I didn’t return a call or she heard about an incident that involved LAPD, she would assume the worst. I decided that I couldn’t put her through that.”
“Which explains why you didn’t have anyone listed as your next of kin when you started with us.”
“Pretty much. My mom already had enough stress in her life by that point after my dad and everything else,” he explained, adding, “She didn’t deserve more.”
“You were protecting her. That’s very honorable, Deeks,” Kensi said, taking his hand and gently squeezing it.
“Well, it wasn’t a completely noble gesture on my part. I also didn’t want to deal with knowing I was basically killing her every time I was injured on the job.” He smirked sardonically. “It’s a lot easier to make reckless decisions when you don’t have to worry about anyone else.”
“Hey, I get it. Having to worry about other people is a big responsibility. It’s the reason so many people in our line of work are single or don’t maintain long term relationships. You know it’s one of the biggest struggles I have with my mom since we reconnected.”
“Either way, it kind of sent me down a path of isolation. When I ran into you guys, I didn’t have much beyond my work. It was my entire purpose in life,” he said. It was also a pretty miserable existence, particularly compared to what he had now.
Kensi nudged his shoulder, drawing him out of his musings.
“You never said how you guys reconnected.”
“It took a few years and practically dying to figure out that I was just hurting both of us.”
Deeks levered himself off the couch slowly, shuffling toward his bedroom. After his heroic escapade on Kensi’s behalf, he’d spent a couple extra days in the hospital to make sure he was actually healing. Kensi had left a little bit ago after dropping off some food and attempting to clean up around his apartment. It was equal parts amusing and disconcerting watching her wash dishes and sort through his laundry.
While he appreciated the gesture and offer of companionship, what he really needed was a few minutes to himself. Between all the excitement at the hospital ‒ who knew that ripping your stitches open while running to save your partner would turn you into a minor celebrity ‒ and the various visits from his NCIS coworkers, he didn’t have much time to think.
Near death experiences had a funny way of putting things into perspective. There’d been so many close calls in the last year alone, but something about this time had seemed more… real. As he’d fallen to the ground in Frank’s store, pain exploding through his ribcage with his shooter standing over him, he’d known he was going to die.
He closed his eyes briefly, pressing his hand over the higher bandage on his chest, the memory of the second bullet piercing his skin and flesh flashing through his mind. Even that slight pressure made him hiss and he hunched against the pain.
When he’d woken up in the hospital, in a world of pain, he’d been almost as surprised that he was still alive as he was to find Kensi sitting next to him.
The questions about his next of kin had felt like an added punch in the gut. After the first few injuries, no one at LAPD had ever questioned his lack of emergency contact. They rarely worried about him beyond the timeline for recovery and how long he’d be out of commission.
As he’d stumbled over the question, a wistfulness had filled him. It wasn’t until Hetty offered to be his next of kin, that he realized that feeling was regret. For the last several years, he’d convinced himself he didn’t need anyone, but it was a blatant lie.
Grabbing his keys off his dresser, he ignored the slip of paper that clearly stated he wasn’t supposed to drive for another few weeks. By the time he made it to Orange County about an hour later, he was slightly regretting his hasty decision. All his muscles had seized up and he felt a little nauseous since his medication had worn off.
It took him an embarrassingly long time to get to the front door and as he painstakingly walked down the long sidewalk, he noticed all the changes since he’d last been there. A tree he remembered being barely a foot tall last time he visited was now nearly his height.
Drawing in a quick breath, Deeks pressed the doorbell once and waited. After a minute, he heard the locks clicking and the door swung open.
“Martin,” Roberta breathed out when she saw him, taking a step back.
“Hi Mom,” he said as she regarded him with a stunned expression. Then she crossed the threshold and threw her arms around him, squeezing him tightly.
“Oh, I’m so glad to see you.” Even though his ribs protested the force of her hug, Deeks just held her close and tucked her head under his chin. She pulled back after a minute, giving him a quick once over. “Like usual, you’re too skinny. Come on in. I have some leftover meatloaf and potatoes I can heat up.”
“No, Mom, I don’t want you to go to that kind of trouble‒”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Roberta said, tugging him through the door. “I haven’t seen you in years. You’re coming in and telling what you’ve been doing all this time.”
As they walked into the kitchen, he couldn’t keep a smile back. It was followed by a small wave of regret that he’d missed out on his mom, in all her ridiculous loudness, for so long. He just stood back and watched her move around the kitchen, which was significantly more elaborate than the tiny one they’d had when he was growing up, and start to fix him a plate.
Noticing him lingering in the doorway, she turned, suddenly looking unsure and slightly awkward.
“I mean, you don’t have to stay if you have things to do. I bet you have a nice girl waiting at home for you.”
“No, I don’t have anywhere to be,” he assured her. “And there’s no girl at home.”
“Well, why the hell not?” Roberta demanded, setting the plate down with only a cold piece of meatloaf on one side. She turned, crossing her arms and regarded Deeks with narrowed eyes.
“My work doesn’t exactly lend itself to relationships,” Deeks admitted slowly. He glanced down, wondering if he’d ruined the moment by bringing up the topic so early.
“So, you’re still with LAPD then?” It was a carefully phrased question and he realized she was treading just as gently as he was.
“Actually, I’m a liaison with a federal agency.”
“Oh,” she murmured, pulling out a chair and slowly sitting at the circular table in the middle of the room. “I guess I’ve missed a lot.” After a moment, Deeks joined her, moving carefully so he didn’t aggravate his wounds. He knew that on top of the everything else, his mom was not ready to know about his recent brush with death.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
“Why did you come today, Marty? After years of no calls or anything, what’s different about today?” she asked. Her voice shook slightly and Deeks felt his throat tighten.
“I missed you.” He cleared his throat ineffectually. “I, uh, I had a couple pretty rough days. Well, more like a couple rough years and it made me realize how much I was missing out on by cutting you out of my life.”
“Oh Honey, I missed you too.” Getting up again, she rounded the table, and bent to hug him. “And I think we both said some things we regret the last few times we saw each other.”
“Does that mean you forgive me?”
“Always.” She ruffled his hair, even though she was barely taller than him, even while he was sitting. Leaning back, she squinted one eye at him, adding, “Just don’t do it again.”
“I won’t,” he promised. Kissing the top of his head, Roberta hugged him again. “Mom, you know I’m still going to be doing the same job, right? Nothing’s changed there.”
“I know,” she said, a wealth of meaning in the two words as she turned to face him. “I know, Kiddo.” There was a touch of sadness in her eyes even as she smiled at him and turned back towards the counter. “So, what have you been up to for the last five years? I’ve been pretty busy myself.”
Deeks sat back, smiling as she rambled into a story about the new job she’d started a few months ago.
It was well after midnight by the time Deeks finished talking and he felt completely exhausted, yet oddly relieved. Although he’d never purposely kept Roberta a secret from Kensi, he’d always avoided the topic as much as possible.
Kensi had finished the ice cream some time ago and was curled up against his shoulder. She glanced up at him with a fond smile.
“Thanks for trusting me with your story,” she said, stretching her neck to kiss his cheek. “I know it’s not easy to talk about this sort of thing.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. My relationship with my mom was still kind of tenuous for a while and I honestly didn’t know what would happen once I introduced you two. Especially since you’re in law enforcement too.”
“I get it, Deeks. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my mom either.” She squeezed his hand, absolving him of any guilt with the simple gesture. “And I’m the last person to judge anyone for their familial issues. I’m proud of you for working things out.”
“Well, it’s not exactly perfect,” Deeks admitted. “For a couple years I barely told her about anything that happened at work.”
“When did you decide she was ready?”
“I didn’t. She invited me over for dinner one night after you were sent to Afghanistan.” He felt Kensi stiffen slightly beside him and he slipped his arm more firmly around her back. “I was fairly miserable without you and still kind of messed up from Sidorov’s fun and games. I tried to hide it but, uh, mom knew something was wrong right away.
“She asked me what was going on.” Deeks shrugged, remembering how exhausted, in mind and body, he felt. “I didn’t have the energy to pretend I was OK so I told her that I’d had a couple of hard cases and a close friend was transferred to another state.”
“Close friend?” Kensi repeated, sounding slightly amused.
“Yeah, Mom didn’t believe that either. You wouldn’t believe how much she’s quizzed me about you. Anyway, I thought that telling her anything, even with leaving out a bunch of details, would put us back at square one, but, uh, I was wrong. Mom didn’t press me for more information, or try to convince me to quit. She just said she was sorry and if I needed to talk, she was always there.
“Sometimes Mom still can’t help panicking when she finds out about a really bad op and I don’t usually handle that very well. And of course, she has zero filter or ability to keep national secrets…but mostly we’ve managed to avoid any major blowups.”
“I’m glad,” Kensi murmured, brushing his cheek gently. “Whatever their problems might be, our moms are responsible for who we are now.” Deeks dropped his gaze, feeling oddly exposed as she gazed at him with such love and compassion. “I’m glad I got to meet the woman who helped you become such a good man.”
His throat tightened at her words, at her trust in him.
“Oh, Mama’s going to love you,” he joked to cover his discomfort at Kensi’s praise.
“I’m serious.” Pulling his head down, she kissed him, smiling against his lips. “I think we’re both happy to have you in our lives.”
Deeks’ relationship with his mother certainly wasn’t perfect, but he had to admit that Kensi was right. His life was certainly better with her in it.
A/N: As always, thanks to Lyssa for her suggestions and proofreading.