Title: Truth Be Told
Rating: T for now, I'll note when it goes higher.
SPOILERS: This assumes "Plan B" has happened and takes place in a future from there forward.
Disclaimer: Still not mine. Somehow I don't think that's going to change. It will also come as no surprise that I'm not an expert on the intricacies of working undercover. Just keep that in mind and that it's all in good fun and this is fiction.
Note: Thank you for all the alerts, favorites and reviews. If you actually take the time to review, an extra big thank you. It's extremely flattering to realize people are interested in this story. I hope it continues to hold your interest. And finally, thanks to LisaG16, from who I got the idea of adding a little bit extra to a scene in this chapter.
Truth be told, being an undercover cop wasn't nearly as exciting as most people thought.
Ninety-eight percent of the time it was pretty boring. Deeks would spend weeks, even months and years, living the mundane life of whoever he was impersonating, establishing a background and a person to fit whatever situation the LAPD needed. Depending on the case it usually involved hanging out in clubs or shady bars, drinking heavily with criminals and occasionally putting himself in morally questionable positions he didn't like to remember the next day.
It was all about lulling suspects into a false sense of security and building their trust in his alias. Enough to allow him close, enough to allow him to gather the evidence needed to make the arrest. All that work usually culminated in an adrenaline rush of arrests and the occasional stand off but even those were something of a rarity. He'd seen more action when he'd been a beat cop in the beginning of his career with the LAPD. Before his penchant for lying and blending like a chameleon earned him the attention of those upstairs.
Marty Deeks had no illusions. Most cops saw him and other undercover operatives like him as a necessary evil. They were the risky ones. The ones who did their jobs so well it was hard to tell what side they were on. And there was a part of him that enjoyed keeping others on their toes, always guessing at his motivations. It came from years of practice at not letting anyone too close.
He wasn't lying when he told people he loved his job. As an LAPD undercover cop he loved the access it gave him to worlds he never would have had a chance to approach any other way. In its own way it was very freeing to be someone else. He could spin a story better than any bestselling author and watching people, especially bad people, take the bait was extremely satisfying. Especially if it brought down someone who had flaunted the law to the point that good and normal people suffered.
But there was the side to his job that wore at him and made him wish for a different career. Living the life of someone else for weeks and months on end made it difficult to remember who he was when the job was done. Sometimes he was juggling several aliases at once, which made his head a very crowded place to be. His life had often been a long series of undercover ops mixed with a week or two back as himself. Usually just long enough to do the paperwork and then he was gone again. Gone from his apartment, gone from the places he liked to visit, gone from the few friends he had, gone from the beach he liked to surf at, gone from the trappings of a life he hardly ever got to live.
And he coped with it knowing that what he did mattered. But it was a lonely life. His fellow police officers never wanted to get too close. For all his charm and success with women relationships were almost always short lived. It was hard to be considered reliable relationship material when he disappeared without contact for long periods of time. Not to mention never being able to be who he really was. Playing a cover as a lifestyle was never a permanent situation. But sometimes it felt like his life was just a series of covers. And because he didn't know any other way to be, he portrayed that life well. Carefree, worry free and not bothered by the loneliness.
Pretending had served him well for years. Being able to compartmentalize helped. Most days if he didn't think about it for very long he even managed to convince himself. That had all begun to shift when he assumed the identity of Jason Wyler and encountered the NCIS OSP team.
Rationally he knew that as an LAPD cop he'd done good. There was a long list of criminals he'd help put away. But the world that the NCIS agents worked in was so much bigger than anything he'd imagined. It had been Sam who told him that if the world heard about the horrible things they prevented from happening then they weren't doing their jobs right. Humble brag or not, it was true.
And in the fourteen months since he'd been officially named as Kensi's partner he saw what a difference they made. It was hard work with long hours and very little gratitude beyond a simple thank you passed down the chain of command. But it was about a million times more exciting than being an undercover cop.
Aside from the practically weekly shootouts and confrontations with dangerous criminals, and the occasional head concussion from getting nearly flattened by a car wreck, working with the NCIS team was about as fulfilling as anything he could imagine.
Prior to his assignment to NCIS he wouldn't have even needed the fingers on both his hands to count off the times he's shot someone in the line of duty. The times he'd had to had been pretty intense but they were few and far between. At NCIS it was a regular occurrence. And it was a necessary occurrence.
There was also the excitement of working with the NCIS team. He couldn't remember meeting people as focused or devoted to their work. And he recognized kindred souls in Sam, Callen and Kensi. Souls touched, damaged and strained from the rigors of undercover work. Strained and pulled to their breaking point but never breaking and always stronger in the end. Deeks admired that and couldn't help but be jealous of it at times. He didn't break under the strain but sometimes it felt like he was awfully close to caving in.
And he knew that most of the time he didn't even fully understand the implications of the cases they solved. Reasonably, in some cases the only person who really grasped all the nuances was Hetty. Years of working in a military setting had taught the others not to ask questions of their superiors, and Deeks was more than satisfied being in the dark along with them. He trusted the people he worked with to leave the knowledge and the answers in their hands.
The trust within the team was new as well. It had taken some time but he was pretty sure he was winning them over. Sam and Callen were hard to read but they had come to accept that he was there and was more than capable of watching their backs. For reasons he still couldn't fathom Hetty had trusted him virtually from the start. And it was that gift of her trust that made him unwilling to compromise it in any way.
And then there was Kensi. Her trust had been hard fought for and hard earned. And even though he was a confident guy under even the worst of circumstances, for months he'd wondered if he would be able to earn Kensi's trust. He recognized the baggage she carried as similar to his own and had vowed to himself from the start that he would be worthy of her trust, if she ever gave it to him.
He recognized the shields she had up, the defense mechanisms in place to keep others away. He used humor and nonchalance, she used seriousness and implacability. Even from the start he recognized that he could trust Kensi. It had still taken several months for him to actually take the step of trusting her but it had happened somehow without his even realizing it. And once he trusted her there was an innate need that he had for her to trust him in return.
It had become his private focal point, to prove himself to her, and when he finally realized he had her trust it had stunned him to realize he'd had it for months. The lines of their relationship were like those left by the ocean waves on the sand, ever changing as the tide came in and went out, erasing, overlapping and smoothing out with time.
Settling into life as part of the NCIS team had eventually become seamless. It had almost surprised him to feel the relief and almost physical weight lifting from his shoulders. Years of undercover work had been trying on his body and mind. But now his undercover missions were usually of shorter duration and he was never alone. At a minimum Kensi was by his side and the others were always nearby. And there was something in him that was gratified to know he was counted on as back up, that Kensi, Callen and Sam knew they could count on him to be there. It was a responsibility he gladly shouldered.
His previous missions had almost always been solo, with little to no contact with the trappings of his normal life. Calling the NCIS team's support like a family seemed at times too sentimental and at times perfect in it's description. Especially since his experience with families was extremely dysfunctional.
Deeks did love being a cop. It had been what defined him for so long that he couldn't imagine being anything else. But if he had to admit it, he loved working with NCIS more. He wouldn't trade it for anything, even though a part of his mind, the insistent and annoying part that he tried to ignore, kept trying to remind him there was very little permanence in what he was doing. Permanence was not something he'd ever had in his life. The only constant was change.
And that annoying and insistent part of his mind was proven right, more than a year after his first encounter with NCIS and the day after sustaining a concussion while giving chase to a suspect.
The week had started out simply enough, and really pretty mundane for them. No big cases, just a lot of paperwork backlog. Monday morning he'd spent filling out reports and forms until his eyes crossed, needing a moderate number of breaks in the day to keep his concentration focused. Kensi often rolled her eyes at his reasoning, that taking more frequent breaks helped him concentrate better, but he also noticed she never disagreed too strenuously when he suggested a run to the nearby Starbucks, a practice fight in the gym or a round of firing on the shooting range.
Sam and Callen could be single-mindedly focused on their paperwork and could only be rarely tempted away. But even as she grumbled and insulted his short attention span, Deeks could almost always pry Kensi away. That hadn't always been the case, but her defenses around him had lessened over time. And he'd be lying if he said he didn't get a fair amount of pride and pleasure from that. Getting behind Kensi's defenses was an accomplishment few could claim.
The afternoon had seen the team chasing down the would be terrorist and his stint at the hospital, followed up by an enjoyable evening camped out on his couch with Kensi and Monty. Even though she would never admit it, he knew she'd been worried about him. And that was one way he knew he had her trust. Kensi would put herself on the line to help almost anyone. But she kept her emotions close to her chest. The fact that she couldn't hide her concern for him told him he meant something to her more than she would willingly admit.
But on Tuesday, whatever plans he'd had for recovering from his injury that week and his plans for the next few months were re-shuffled outside of his control.
On his way into work he'd stopped by one of the many coffee shops he now frequented, thanks to a carefully managed disorganized schedule thanks to his shooting, and picked up coffee for the team. It was a small consolation for all the paperwork Sam and Callen had likely had to fill out thanks to his injury and subsequently ordered home rest, but he knew it would be a welcome peace offering. And when he finished off the coffee order with what he knew was Kensi's favorite blended drink he didn't examine it too closely.
And he refused to acknowledge the curious rapid beat of his heart as Kensi approached him with a warm smile, taking the drink he offered with a murmur of gratitude. The warmth in her eyes was different than the usual annoyance and slight exasperation.
Callen and Sam immediately began pouring the coffee, Sam ribbing Callen with a good natured tone about the sheer amount of sugar and cream he added to his cup. Deeks watched with a grin, turning as he saw Kensi approach out of the corner of his eye, offering him his choice from a box of donuts. He raised an eyebrow at her, then smiled after a quick glance affirmed she'd already made her choice, which sat on a plate at her desk. Kensi shrugged.
"You brought the coffee, I brought the donuts. I'd say something about 'great minds' but I don't want you to get any ideas," Kensi warned. Instead of rising to the challenge, Deeks merely chose a donut, taking a bite and watching the interplay between Callen and Sam and enjoying the feel of Kensi's hip against his where they leaned against his desk.
Her physical closeness surprised him. They worked side-by-side all the time, both figuratively and actually. And Deeks had long taken a certain amount of pleasure in breaching Kensi's carefully constructed personal space. She often put him in check with a sharp glance or a well placed shove, but even that had lessened over time. But she very rarely was the one to place herself within his personal space. He tried to ignore how much having her there pleased him.
Sam and Callen were still arguing when he turned with a cheerful smile on his face to Hetty who had approached from her desk, a serious expression on her face.
"Mr. Deeks, a word?"
Shooting a questioning glance at Kensi, which she returned with a shrug of one shoulder and raised eyebrows, he followed Hetty to her desk.
Kensi watched him go, curiosity making her strain to watch as Hetty began speaking to Deeks. She narrowed her eyes, trying to concentrate and lip read when Callen stepped in front of her, nodding his head to the side. Kensi immediately tensed, realizing he wanted to speak with her about her actions the previous day. Not wanting to delay the inevitable, she followed him away from the desks, trying to stand casually next to the couch as Callen studied her silently. Unable to quell the nervous movement, Kensi crossed her arms over her chest.
"You want to tell me what happened yesterday? What were you thinking, crawling into a multiple car pile up? I don't think I need to explain how dangerous that was."
"I was thinking, Callen. I knew Deeks was in there. And I thought he could be hurt and I could help him. That's what partners do, isn't it?" Kensi asked, honestly confused by Callen's questioning. She knew he wouldn't be happy with her actions but she couldn't see how she'd been wrong. Deeks had needed her and she could help. That was the end of the story as far as she was concerned.
"Yeah, it is. But not at the expense of your own safety. It was foolish of you to put yourself in harm's way like that. He might have been just fine until the paramedics got to him."
Kensi shook her head stubbornly. "And he might not have been. You didn't see all the blood, Callen. I couldn't just stand to the side and wait. And I know if it had been me in there Deeks would have been the first person to try and get to me. Could you have just patiently waited on the sidelines? If it were Sam?"
Callen was silent for a moment and Kensi knew she'd struck a nerve. His grudging smile confirmed her thought.
"Probably not. But I need you to think before you leap. It's good that you and Deeks are finally getting along as partners. It's clear he trusts you and you trust him. And I know that doesn't come easy to either of you."
Kensi involuntarily glanced at Deeks, still talking with Hetty and nodded slowly. "No it doesn't." She murmured, surprised at Callen's observations. And that he'd noticed the trust building between her and Deeks. She was still surprised that such an unexpected link between them had managed to form. He was the last person in the world she would have thought would work as her partner. But despite the odds they did work.
"But keep in mind that the team needs you. Both of you. Preferably intact."
Kensi smiled slightly at Callen's words and nodded in agreement. She glanced again towards Deeks, wondering at the line of tension she saw in the muscles of his shoulders, her brow furrowing as she wondered what Hetty was telling him.
Deeks followed Hetty to her desk, sitting in one of the chairs facing her and bracing his elbows on his knees so he could lean forward. His neck started to tingle uncomfortably as Hetty took a few moments to flip through a file on her desk before she raised her eyes to his.
"Mr. Deeks, you have done exemplary work here over the last year."
"Uh, thank you?"
"I don't want you to think that what I'm about to say next is a reflection of your performance. If I had my way you wouldn't be put in this position."
"Then why do I feel like I'm about to be fired?"
Hetty smiled slightly, her face tinged with a little sadness.
"It's because of your excellent record that the LAPD and FBI have need of your services."
Deeks felt his stomach drop as her words sunk in. Another undercover operation. Without a conscious thought, his eyes flew to Kensi, watching her chew on the straw of the blended coffee drink he'd brought her. He resisted the urge to try and physically rub away the dull ache suddenly pulsing over his heart.
Finally bringing his gaze back to Hetty he voiced the most important question he needed answered.
Hetty studied him carefully, seeming to weigh her words before she spoke.
"Uncertain at this time. A detective from your office is arriving in an hour to brief you. I'm sure he can answer all your questions."
Deeks looked down at his hands, trying to reconcile the roiling of his stomach. He was trying to get a handle on the feelings tumbling through his head and failing miserably. He hadn't realized until that instant how accustomed and attached he'd grown to NCIS. The threat of that all changing was practically throwing him into a full scale panic attack. Taking a deep breath and focusing on Hetty's words he finally met her gaze again, his confusion finally seeping through.
"A detective is coming here? Why am I not reporting back to the LAPD for briefing and prep? And did you say FBI?"
"The detective will explain how the FBI is involved. I asked Captain Scott if we might assist with backstopping your alias and technical support of the operation. He generously allowed the interference."
Deeks rubbed a hand over his jaw, feeling oddly embarrassed and touched.
"Isn't that a bit outside of the NCIS mission?"
Hetty simply smiled in the way that often made him think she could read his mind.
"In the strictest sense of the word, perhaps. But we take care of our own, Mr. Deeks."
Touched beyond his ability to speak he nodded, not even realizing his gaze had shifted back to watching Kensi and Callen deep in discussion about something until Hetty's voice brought his attention back to her.
"The detective will arrive shortly. Might I suggest that you inform Ms. Blye of your upcoming assignment?" Hetty asked gently. Running a hand through already disheveled hair, he exhaled slowly.
"What do I tell her?" Deeks muttered to himself, unable to keep the uncertainty from his voice. Hetty answered, her tone indicating she was as aware as he that this assignment would upset the team in many ways, but perhaps Kensi the most.
"You may tell her your duty lies elsewhere for a time. You will not be replaced while you are gone. And I hope to be able to offer you status as a permanent agent upon your return to us."
Deeks snapped his eyes to Hetty, stunned by her words. He was well aware she didn't make statements or promises lightly. Becoming an NCIS agent was more than he ever could have expected. For awhile he'd wondered if it was really what he wanted. Being a cop was who he had been for so long. But feeling the elation in his chest he innately understood that being an NCIS agent was something he wanted. It would make this, his place on the team and as Kensi's partner, permanent. Any apprehension he had about leaving the LAPD dissolved. Knowing what he would come back to might just make getting through this last undercover operation with the LAPD bearable.
Being a cop, working as a detective with the LAPD, it had become comfortable. Too comfortable. He was good at it, despite the occasional contrary opinion of his fellow police officers. And he was proud of being good at something. But it also felt stagnant.
Working with NCIS was challenging. It left him uncertain and unsettled at times. But he learned more, he had to work harder, and the rewards were infinitely greater. To try and aspire to be a great NCIS agent felt like a struggle worth the attempt to accomplish.
Nodding his thanks because he was afraid of what he might say, Deeks stood and returned to the bullpen of desks where Sam was busily working away. Callen and Kensi were standing off to the side by the couch, having what looked like a serious conversation. Normally Deeks wouldn't have interrupted, but what he had to say couldn't wait. Ignoring the curious glances from Sam, he immediately approached Callen and Kensi. She glanced at Callen, seemingly trying to finish off the conversation she'd been having with the senior agent.
"Are we good?"
Callen nodded cautiously, his piercing eyes fixed on Kensi's face. "Yeah, we're good. Just keep what I said in mind."
Kensi nodded vigorously, then turned to Deeks as he approached and Callen returned to his desk, her expression teasing.
"Did Hetty find the stains on your suit jacket from last week's mission?"
Normally Deeks would have had a ready retort about how the only reason he'd gotten the red wine stain on the jacket was because Kensi had spilled her glass of wine on him to sell her cover as his drunken date but he couldn't quite muster up the humor. Noticing the seriousness of his expression, Kensi's expression changed to one of concern.
Nodding his head away from the bullpen in a silent suggestion Kensi quickly nodded, following him towards the gym. Mercifully, the gym was empty when they entered it and he stopped under the basketball hoop, turning to face Kensi with a deep breath.
For an instant he was startled by the expression on her face. There was a mixture of fear, concern and caring there that he wasn't used to seeing so nakedly in her eyes. But in a flash it was tucked away and her face was decidedly serious and free of emotion. But he knew better, he'd seen it. And even if Kensi could school her facial features, he could still read her eyes.
"It's not by my choice but the LAPD needs me for an undercover op. I don't know how long it's supposed to last. I don't even know the mission. A detective is going to be here soon to brief me."
As he spoke he watched Kensi's face, looking for any sign of emotion. Her face was placid, almost as if he were telling her the weather forecast. But he could see the tightening around her eyes, the way she suddenly blinked furiously and the almost resigned look that passed through her eyes. Anyone else, and even a few months earlier, he would have questioned what he saw. But he knew her. Just as he knew that she wasn't going to want him to push her into admitting she might be upset at his leaving.
"I see. Did Hetty say anything about your replacement?"
Deeks tried to ignore the returning ache over his heart at hearing Kensi's question stated so matter-of-fact.
"She said I wouldn't be replaced while I'm gone—"
Kensi interrupted him before he could continue and tell her the rest, waving a hand dismissively.
"I'm sure it doesn't matter. Callen, Sam and I can manage just fine. We did before."
Deeks recognized the sharp words and the unsaid words for what they were. And he tried not to let them cut as deep as they did. He knew Kensi's method of coping was to push away and if necessary, hurt the person she was trying to push away so they wouldn't dare come back and harm her further or make her feel what she didn't want to. He knew all that and it still hurt. He knew all that and knew he should be the bigger person and try to explain but he just couldn't.
There were days when he felt like they'd come so far together as partners. Days like yesterday when she'd literally crawled over broken glass and twisted metal to be by his side. They were partners, always able to count on each other. And certainly something a little more. At a minimum they were also friends. And there was a long simmering tension between them neither of them wanted to name. But then there were times like right at that moment when Deeks was practically slapped in the face with Kensi's defensive reactions that he questioned whether she really trusted him or not.
Knowing he had months of an undercover op to prepare for, knowing he would miss Sam and Callen, Hetty, Eric and Nell, and especially Kensi, and it was hard for him rationalize her reaction. It was like she couldn't be bothered to pretend she cared. On top of knowing he would have to give up on a life he'd come to love and enjoy, he couldn't deal with her baggage on top of his own. Not at that moment anyway.
"Yeah, it's not like you really need me around getting in the way. I'm going to start working on tying up my paperwork by the end of the day and I need to be ready when the detective arrives."
And feeling the anger churning in his stomach he knew he needed to get away from Kensi. Knew he couldn't look in her eyes and knew he couldn't pretend to go along with the game of letting her push him away. So instead he took the coward's way out and pushed himself away, turning on his heel and leaving her in the gym without a backward glance.