A/N - This one took me by surprise and wouldn't let go. I'd blame my DD and her current obsession with this song, among others, but it's really the bunnies fault. So the last three days this has been my obsession, one I have needed to get out of my head before I can focus on finishing up The Last One He'd Fall For.
It's a one-shot. Inspired by the song Legends Never Die - which was playing over and over on repeat in my ear while I wrote, edited and tweaked it. Lucky I like the song! Not exactly my normal style but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
Enjoy and would love to hear what you think.
LEGENDS NEVER DIE
Hetty studied the company she had at her dining table. The four courses had given her plenty of time to observe their current mood and listen to the conversation - stilted and unsettled as it was. The mood, not unexpectedly, was very different to when Dom died. After all, Dom hadn't been with them long. The connections, though young, were strong but not yet fully developed. That had made it a little easier.
Dom hadn't been their leader.
The grief that hung over the gathering was like a heavy, dark shadow, dulling everything to almost black. They'd hurt before yet pulled together to get through. She was concerned this time it might be too much. She hoped she was wrong.
Hetty lifted her glass of wine and cleared her throat to gather their attention. "To Special Agent G Callen. Team mate. Leader. Friend."
"Family," Sam corrected swiftly.
"Indeed," Hetty inclined her head in agreement. "Family. Gone but never forgotten."
The way they sipped from their respective glasses gave Hetty further insight into how they were at that moment and influenced how she proceeded with the next part of the evening.
"I know you grieve," Hetty said. "This is … beyond anything we have been through before. But I know this. He would not want you to give up. In your hearts he is still with you. Each of you have been influenced by your time in his presence, learned from him. Reach inside, find that something he has left you. Hold onto it."
Hetty turned her attention to Sam. His years of military training gave him an aura of strength she knew he would share with the others to help them get through this, even though he too was shattered by the loss of his partner and brother. He would step up and lead this team out of the darkness until the time came when they were ready for someone to fill the void left by Callen. It was something she would not rush them into. They needed time to heal. With that in mind she would call upon Sam first, here and now, to help start the process.
"Sam," she said. "What is the greatest lesson he taught you?"
Sam's shoulders lifted and lowered slowly with the deep breath he took before he spoke.
"He taught me to be more flexible. To trust my instincts even when they went against everything I knew as a SEAL." Sam smiled, tight as it was there was a hint of amusement to it. "In the beginning partnering him was a nightmare. There was a huge learning curve. He flew by the seat of his pants so often, would go off script at the drop of hat. He taught me that sometimes you have to change as you go to get the outcome needed."
"He was definitely a go with the flow kind of guy," Deeks agreed.
Hetty took a moment to study Deeks. The way he kept his gaze on Kensi, even from the corner of his eye, throughout the night spoke volumes. His focus had been her, his attention never wavering completely away from his partner. No doubt he would push his own grief aside to help her first because Kensi was taking this harder than the rest of them. Unsurprising, considering the circumstances, but it broke Hetty's heart all over again to see her quiet and in so much pain. Kensi had barely spoken through dinner and Hetty was sure Deeks' murmured words of encouragement throughout the night was the reason she hadn't fled earlier.
"Deeks," she refrained from using Martin even though the situation called for an informality, a closeness of family. Martin didn't fit. "What about you? What did he leave you?"
The smile that lifted the corner of Deeks' lips didn't last for long. He lifted Kensi's hand to his mouth for a brief kiss and kept hold of it on the table as he spoke. "Team. He taught me how it should feel to be a part of a team. You all did but… to be supported fully by your leader and know even when we didn't agree, he still had my back. Not something I tended to feel before."
It had taken the two men, similar yet so different, time to mesh but to her delight it had happened. Hetty was glad Deeks had recognised that in Callen.
Sam chuckled, a sad tone threaded through it. "For a guy who tended toward lone wolf more often than not," he said, "he certainly had a way about him for having your back."
Callen had the ability to be both sides of the coin. It was only a flip away for him to change if he felt the situation needed it. It had made for some interesting times in the past.
The choked back sob and the expression in Kensi's eyes made it clear to Hetty she wasn't ready for it to be her turn. She may not even be ready by the end of the conversation but Hetty needed her to be a part of this. It would be a small step, one she hoped would have a profound impact on Kensi's recovery. She moved on.
Eric, grief clear in his eyes, swallowed. "I … He taught me we are all as important as the other. In the field or not. We were a team. We succeeded together or we failed together. That and it's sometimes better to not ask and just do what has to be done to save the world."
Hetty smiled. "Mr Callen learned long ago there were times when it was better to ask forgiveness later rather than permission first."
"He taught me," Nell started without needing to be prompted, "that size doesn't matter. That I could do anything I set my mind to, no matter what mountain I had to climb to do it. He helped me learn martial arts. Found instructors who would teach me what I needed to know so size didn't matter." Nell smiled, her eyes shined with tears that were yet to fall. "He said big brothers always protected their little sisters but sometimes, when they couldn't be around, little sisters needed to know how to kick arse themselves."
Sam nodded. "I can see him saying that."
Hetty agreed. She'd known Callen had been working with Nell, known he'd worried about her more than the others. Hetty had offered to take care of it but Callen had assured her he wanted to. She'd let him, seeing something in his determination to take care of this for Nell which hinted he was opening up to the idea of family. She'd been hoping to see that in him for years and had been more than happy if Nell turned out to be the catalyst.
Hetty turned her attention to Kensi. It was time. "My dear," she said gently, "I know this is hard, but think. What is it he taught you?"
Tears slid down Kensi's cheeks. Deeks brushed them away, love shining through the gentleness of his touch.
"Sacrifice," Kensi whispered.
The tearing pain in Hetty's chest felt like a knife at the despair she heard in that one word. She couldn't let Kensi continue to feel that way. "No," Hetty shook her head. "You are wrong."
"He'd be here if it wasn't for me." Kensi glanced down, the motion of her arms hinting at the movement of her hands to cover her stomach. "For us."
"He saved you," Hetty said. "Both you and your child." As young and unborn as it was, the child Kensi was carrying was as much a part of Callen's family as the rest of them.
"He should've stayed in there with me."
"The vault was too small, you know that Kensi." Sam reached out and put his hand on her shoulder from where he sat on her other side. Deeks shifted his chair closer and Kensi leaned into him, no doubt seeking comfort and support from the man she loved.
"It was big enough Sam," Kensi said. "He didn't need to die." Trapped in a building about to blow, Callen had pushed Kensi into an old bank vault and closed the door on her before informing the rest of the team where to find her once it was safe. It was just before that the revelation of the child she carried had been shared with the team.
"There wouldn't have been enough oxygen for the two of you to last until we got there," Sam added.
"He could've tried." The pain in Kensi's voice had increased.
"Then none of you would've survived," Deeks reminded her.
Kensi remained silent this time, though the obvious struggle she was having with her emotions showed clearly in her expression. Pregnancy hormones aside, this was always going to be one of the most difficult losses Kensi had faced in her life. Her bond with Callen was long and strong.
"Kensi," Hetty said, "He loved you. Love. That is what he showed you. He wanted you to live and be happy. To love. He wanted your child to grow and thrive. He wanted -"
"But he'd just found -" Kensi's sob took the rest of her words away.
"Sometimes we have to make ...the best of a bad situation." Hetty refused to use the word sacrifice, even if it was what he had done. She didn't want Kensi to continue to have those thoughts. She sighed. "He knew that more than most."
Deeks pulled Kensi tighter against his side and rested his head against the top of hers.
"What did he teach you Hetty?" Nell asked.
Hetty's relationship with Callen was more complicated than most. So much had transpired between them. Good. Bad. And many other forms. Some things she wouldn't, couldn't divulge. She smiled when she worked out her own answer.
"Faith," she said. "Sometimes our past appears to lead us in a particular direction, like the current in a river. It seems inevitable you will end up following it. He taught me our past does not define our future. We make choices. Sometimes those choices are exceptionally hard but we have to have faith we made the right one, even if at times we feel we had to choose between two impossibly difficult options. We need to have faith in ourselves and not question it. Or it may well destroy us and our future."
Callen had come from a hard life, a lonely life. Not the worst but certainly not an easy one. It had him heading down a path of destruction. Hetty had stepped in, unsure of her own choice to interfere but unable to stay away any longer. There had been times when she had doubted, times she had wondered what she had been thinking taking on a troubled teenage boy. But as the years went on Callen had proven she had made the right choice, as difficult as it had been. She'd learned from him not to regret her choices, though she did still struggle at certain times. Doubt, he'd once told her, opened the door for mistakes because when you started questioning your decisions you lost precious time. To do the job he did, lead as he had, he'd needed to have faith in his training, in his team and the choices he made with the knowledge he had about the situation they were heading into. That lesson was one she would hold onto right now. It would hopefully help her be a beacon, in some way at least, to this grieving team who had lost a piece of themselves, who needed a little faith right now to get through the darkness to the light on the other side. She hoped tonight would ease the trial tomorrow's funeral service would be for them.
Sam lifted his glass this time. "To G. A hell of an agent and an even better brother. To a legend who will never die because he lives on in us."
Hetty stood at the now deserted grave side and stared at the spot the coffin had been lowered into. A driver waited in the car for her, the others already on their way to Sam and Michelle's.
"I'm sorry Hetty." She didn't turn at the familiar voice as much as she wanted to. "I never wanted to hurt you," Callen's voice continued.
"Hurt me?" She shook her head. "What about you?"
"It had to happen," he continued. "I couldn't let them be hurt for me."
Hetty sighed, her heart aching even more than before. "You were just finding happiness."
"And you'd just found your god-daughter again and now… You know she has to run right?"
"I know." Too much loss because of a cruel enemy who would never let go until Callen had been destroyed.
"The box has everything she needs to start again."
"But she will not have anyone. How will she cope? She's losing so much." It had been years since she'd seen her god-daughter for any great length of time. Distance and Hetty's job had come between them physically though they both had known the other would always be there for them if needed. It had worked well for a time as Hetty hadn't wanted to bring her too close to the dangers of her life.
"She's strong Hetty. You gave her that. I promise she'll know how to find you if she needs you."
"But I will not be able to find her." Her soul screamed at the reminder this relationship too would now end.
"I'm sorry you are losing her because of me."
Hetty shook her head. "I am not." As much as it hurt Hetty couldn't be sorry. "She gave you six months of happiness. She helped you find your heart again. To finally love."
"She did. But still-"
"No," Hetty said firmly. "No regrets. Please. Not when it comes to her. I would not want to change a thing, even with this." Eight months ago when her god-daughter had moved to Los Angeles it had been a blessing for more than Hetty. After their introduction she had watched Callen let the walls down, his smile become freer, his laughter truer. An air of happiness had practically shone around him. Hetty had seen the possibilities the moment they had met and done everything she could do to encourage them to spend time together. Cliche as it might sound, he had found the other part of his soul. After a couple of months Callen had come to the conclusion there were risks in life, and in love, worth taking.
"If they think I might still be alive they'll go after her. They'll think she'll be the one I'll come for no matter what."
And they would be right. He would come for all of them if he could, but for her? He'd fight a legion of the Hounds of Hell if necessary to keep her safe.
"I will do what you ask. I promise you one more thing. I will hunt him down and make it safe again." She wouldn't rest until the bastard who had torn her family apart was sentenced to depths of Hell himself.
A twig cracked behind her and she turned.
There was no one there.
Roughly three years later.
Sam sank into the seat on the other side of her desk. "It's done Hetty. It's finally over."
The enemy that had torn her family apart was dead. At Kensi's hands no less. If only Kensi knew what it was she had done - it was much more than taking down one of the bad guys. Yet they would never know what this particular enemy had cost them years ago. Hetty had tracked him, worked out a plan and made sure her team was in place to take him down legitimately - at least as legitimately as discreetly planted evidence could be. There had been no room for failure because, without appropriate cause, someone else would've had the job and she wasn't going to risk it being bungled and him being set free. The mission, at least from the team's perspective, had lasted eight long months.
Hetty slumped back into her chair as relief washed over her as Sam's words confirmed it once more. Tiredness followed close on its heels. She was done. This was her last action, the last thing on her list. Her resignation would be on the Director's desk by morning and she would be gone soon. Her replacement would occupy this seat by the end of the month - because she was prepared. She knew exactly who she would leave this office, one she'd put her blood, sweat and tears, her heart and soul into for so long, to. She wouldn't let just anybody take over.
It was unfortunate the team wouldn't truly understand why she chose to do this now. She couldn't tell them. It was a secret she needed to take to her grave.
The team had survived their devastating loss. They had rallied around each other, found their way back. It hadn't been easy but they'd done it. She'd never given up on them, had fought hard, knowing he wouldn't want her to give up either. It was a bigger team, the load needing to be spread a little more after the arrival of Kensi and Deeks' baby. Now a few weeks beyond two years old, Donald Gregory Blye-Deeks, was one of the bright spots in their lives. Known affectionately as Donnie G after Kensi put her foot down when Deeks had started calling him Donnie D. She was not having her son named after a duck, no matter how famous. His smile and mischievousness reminded them of one of his namesakes in particular.
"Thank you," Hetty said to Sam. "I think we could all appreciate a long weekend. Wouldn't you agree, Mr Hanna?"
Sam's look was more than a touch skeptical. "Reports?"
"On my desk by close of day Tuesday." There was no rush. She had no doubt due to the difficulty, and importance, of the mission the memories would still be crystal clear even after a couple of days reprieve.
"You will inform the others?"
Sam nodded and rose from the seat. He took two steps then stopped and turned back to her. "Hetty."
She eyed him over the top of her glasses. "Yes?"
"I get the feeling there was more to this than we know."
"Your instincts have always been impressive." It wasn't an answer as such - even if it was.
Sam's lips twitched, the smile close but the concern too strong for it to break through. "But you won't tell me more will you?"
"Again, impressive." He knew how to read between the lines.
Sam stared at her for a moment before a look of resignation and acceptance shifted over his face. He nodded and walked away, this time not stopping until he reached the bullpen. Hetty waited until the team had left before she rose and retrieved her bag from its hook. She had one thing left to do to finish this.
A short while later she arrived at the grave site and placed a tootsie pop on the top of the headstone.
"It is done," she said, her voice no louder than the slight rustle of leaves in the trees. "Wherever you are, know this. We got him. Know it is finally safe. And wherever you are," Hetty smiled, a lone tear slid down her cheek. "It is my most fervent wish and prayer that you are happy."
Three weeks later:
Hetty glanced around her office to make sure nothing had been missed before she closed the lid on the last box of her possessions. Her time here was done. It was her last day in the office. What she would do after this she wasn't sure. She needed time to let go of this life and figure out how she wanted to spend the rest of her days.
Hetty turned toward the voice, Nell's, which held a touch of confusion.
"This," Nell held out a piece of paper, "was sent to one of your email accounts. It came in late last night. I found it when I was clearing things out and closing them down."
"From whom?" Hetty studied the details on the paper. Numbers. Coordinates if she wasn't mistaken, and a time. No date.
"We can't track it," Nell surprised her by admitting.
Sam appeared at her shoulder. Hetty was unsure where he'd come from which made her realise all the more that she was ready to get out of the cloak and dagger business… almost.
"Are they coordinates?" Sam asked.
"It appears so." Hetty dragged her gaze from the compelling numbers back to Nell. "Do we know to where?"
"It's a road. A small one on New Zealand's South Island."
"Do you know anyone there?" Sam asked.
Hetty shook her head. "No. I do not." She knew plenty of people in many places around the world but not there.
"Are you going to go?"
It was tempting. A good mystery always tended to pull on her curiosity. "It would give me something to do in my retirement."
"It could be a trap."
Sam's words drew Hetty's attention to him. "Indeed. But what is life without a little risk?"
"If you go I come too. I am not letting you walk into a potential trap without backup. Not ever again."
Hetty saw the determination in Sam's eyes. Given her track record she knew if she didn't agree, he'd simply follow her, or worse, not let her leave his sight until she changed her mind or promised she wouldn't go.
"Very well," Hetty agreed. "When will you be free?"
"Whenever you are," Sam said. "Just tell me when."
A week later:
Sam pulled the car off the road into a clearing beside it.
"This is it?" Hetty asked him.
She glanced at the clock. Perfect timing. Two minutes from the time stated on the message. They both exited the car and took a walk around, surveilling things from more than a tourist perspective. Sam crossed the road and looked down into the valley behind them.
"There's a small village over this way."
Hetty's focus however had settled on a lone cottage, at least from this distance it looked like a cottage, further down the hill along this particular road. She retrieved her binoculars from her pocket. The cottage was nothing spectacular but for some reason she was drawn to it.
Sam's footsteps crunched on the gravel. "What do you see Hetty?" he asked when he was by her side.
"Just a house." She watched as the door opened and a small light coloured dog raced out followed by a young child. Hetty couldn't help but smile as she tracked their progress. The young girl as eager to play as the puppy she chased. High pitched yapping reached her ears and as did the hint of a childish giggle.
"Only a girl and her dog." A sound, a word perhaps, carried on the air but Hetty couldn't make it out. Most likely the girl's name if the reaction of the child was anything to go by. She dragged her attention from the playful scene to find the source. A woman stood at the foot of the front steps. Hetty's breath caught in her chest, something akin to hope flaring in the vicinity of her heart, though she fought hard not to let it grow too fast. She adjusted the binoculars to get as close as possible and focused on the woman's face. Her heart sped up and tears sprang to her eyes.
Hetty drew in a much needed breath and passed the binoculars to Sam, pointing to indicate where he should look, unable to find her voice at that moment in time.
Sam looked down at Hetty. "Is that -" She nodded. "Did you know?"
"No," Hetty said. "I have not seen or heard from her since she left."
"Why did she do that? Leave and not look back?"
The team hadn't been privy to the reasons. It had been better that way. They only knew she'd needed to leave, that she hadn't been able to handle staying surrounded by the memories of him.
"She needed to run and hide. It was the only way."
"I don't understand." Sam looked confused. "Hetty what's going on?"
Hetty sighed. She had never intended to reveal the truth but it was obvious Sam would need more now. "The mission before I resigned."
"What about it?"
"One of Callen's enemies, worse than Janvier. It was the only way."
"Did you want to meet them or keep chatting?"
Hetty froze at the voice, one familiar even after all this time. She didn't turn, afraid it was a figment of her imagination, afraid of what she might not see. Sam on the other hand spun instantly, his hand on his gun.
"G?" There was disbelief in Sam's voice, but also hope.
"Good to see you Sam."
Slowly Hetty turned, her heart pounded against her rib cage, hope blossomed, replacing the fear.
There he was, standing not five meters from her, looking relaxed and … dare she hope, happy. She watched Sam walk toward him. Callen pushed off the tree he'd been leaning against and came forward. Sam almost crushed Callen in a hug when they met in the middle.
"Big guy I do need to breathe."
Sam let go. "You're alive!"
Callen nodded and, after another hug and a back slap, the two men started back toward Hetty.
"Good to see you too Hetty," Callen said.
"You're here." It was obvious but Hetty couldn't think of anything else to say. Words continued to fail her. Not even in her wildest, most hopeful dreams had she expected this. She took a tentative step forward.
"I am. You got my message."
"We did." She drank in the sight of him - of the healthy glow to his skin, the sparkle in his blue eyes, the lack of tension in his body. She didn't think she'd ever seen him this relaxed. And then his arms were around her, hers around his waist and the physical connection eased the last of her doubts. He was here. Truly here with her.
"How?" Sam asked. "How did you survive?"
Hetty stepped back to study Callen further.
"The how doesn't matter Sam," Callen said. "It was unfortunate but it had to happen. Now," he smiled and focused on Hetty. "There is someone waiting down there, Hetty. Someone very eager to see you again. She's missed you. She's also looking forward to introducing you both to our daughter."
Hetty gasped and turned her head to look back down at the house in the distance. The three small figures were still playing in the front yard. She turned back to Callen. "You are together?" she asked.
"But -" Hetty replayed the last conversation they'd had, by his 'grave'. The words he'd spoken - and not spoken. He'd said enough to let her think what he needed her to. "She was never going to be alone was she?"
Callen smiled. "I didn't lie to you Hetty. The box brought to her everything she needed to start again. To me. Then we moved on, together, and started fresh. It was the only way to be sure she was protected enough to be safe from him."
"Because she was always with you."
"Why now?" Hetty asked.
"Because it's safe. You made sure of that." Callen smiled. "Come. They're waiting."
Hetty followed Callen and Sam to the car. She smiled, her heart lighter than it had been in years, as they headed down the hill. The banter happening in the front seats between the two men was as if they'd never been apart.
Suddenly her retirement was looking a lot brighter. She'd never really considered the southern hemisphere as a possibility but now the idea of six months in the north and six in the south was appealing.
Time with her family, all branches of it?
The perfect retirement plan.