Warning: Language, reference to canon character death
G. Callen: “Someone once told me extreme situations occasionally call for extreme measures”
– Found, NCIS: Los Angeles, 1×21
Episode Tag to “Found”; therefore, follows a few months after my story “Gravity”. Technically a sequel, as an OC introduced in “Gravity” is mentioned, but can stand-alone without being too confusing.
Callen’s gaze remained steady on his hands even as he acknowledged the question in a surprising manner, “I lied to Sam today.”
Under any other circumstance he would have smirked at the surprised expression he could imagine crossing Nate’s face. Instead, he continued to study his palms; they had been scrubbed clean hours earlier but in his mind’s eye he could still see and feel the sticky blood coating them. Nate’s footsteps slowly entered the bullpen, echoing loudly in the desolate building, and paused in front of the desk.
Still, Callen waited. He wasn’t completely ready to have the conversation, even if he had invited it himself.
“Lied to him about what?”
Now he allowed the smirk, as well as a lifting of his eyes to the psychologist, before answering, “Don’t read too much into this. I just know that you’re going to have to sit and psychoanalyze all of us soon. Might as well get mine out of the way.”
“That didn’t answer my question.”
Callen nodded once, impressed that the younger man hadn’t backed down under his snarky words and exhaled, considering his answer. He nodded a head towards an empty chair as he began to gather his thoughts, debating how much information to divulge and what to hold back.
The last few hours had been strangely frantic and subdued all at once. The initial shock was still wearing heavily on most of the agents and staff; though Callen had pushed his own away the second he had given the news to Kensi via a shaken head. Notifications had been made, paperwork had been filed and Hetty had sent them on their way for the evening. He had watched his team, his friends, try and process the fact that their Probie had been shot, minutes after escaping. The situation only made worse for them now that they knew he had been mere miles away the entire time.
The whole evening, while everyone else floundered in shock, all he could hear in the back of his mind was a female voice saying, “It’s inevitable Callen.”
“I told him, none of us gave up on Dom. Which isn’t true.”
“Why isn’t that true? We didn’t.”
“No,” Callen replied cautiously, suddenly afraid of what the doctor would think of him if he spoke completely truthfully. “I did give up on him. Not right away; but, once a few days passed? A week? A month? I knew we wouldn’t get him back. Not alive anyway. It was inevitable.”
“You were coping,” Nate responded, guarding his words with a casual tone. “That’s understandable.”
“Good to know,” Callen muttered back, frowning slightly. “I would have sent Abramson to be tortured,” he added, internally cursing his sudden loose tongue. “Hell, I would have been okay with doing it myself.” Callen heard, rather then saw, Nate’s surprise as the younger man coughed suddenly in response to his statement. “Oh come on Nate, you’ve seen, some, of my file. Don’t act so surprised,” he added flippantly, more aggravated at himself for talking in the first place, then for Nate’s unspoken judgement at his words.
“You wouldn’t have tortured him Callen.”
“Sure I would have. If it had gotten us back a body to bury. Dom’s parents deserved that. And I’m sure Abramson would have deserved every second in the room with me,” Callen shot back, forcing himself to leave off any explanation of how it wouldn’t be the first time he had done something of that nature.
Hetty’s suggestion had momentarily scared him. Not because of what it implied; but because of how perfectly fine he really was with the idea; and how quickly he remembered exactly the type of place where they’d be letting Abramson think he was going. He wondered if his team had realized just how fast he had worked out what Hetty was implying.
“Don’t sell yourself so short Callen,” Nate replied quietly as he stood up, surprising the older agent with how fast he was retreating. “I’m going to head home. You okay here?”
“Yea, I’m fine. Like I said earlier, don’t read too much into this. It’s just been a rough day all around.”
“Yea, I hear ya’,” Nate whispered and walked out of the bullpen. Callen heard the heavy building door close a few minutes later leaving him again in silence, only broken by the sound of his own thoughts.
He wondered if the team would bounce back from this. They all knew loss, even the loss of colleagues. They lived with the danger every single day. But a death like Dom’s; one moment everything they had feared for months had been erased…and then thrown back in their faces seconds later. Callen knew Sam would be fine, he had seen worse in war. He also knew Hetty would grieve, move on and continue to keep them all in line just as she always had.
It was the others that scared him.
Nate and Eric, functioned within the protection of four walls. They viewed missions through a screen and lived vicariously through their colleagues actions. Kensi, for all her attitude and bluster, hadn’t ever truly experienced even a taste of what happened earlier. Callen made a note to keep a closer eye on her for a while. The tears she had tried to hide as they were leaving the theatre and the tough face she forced on for appearances were all signs that she wasn’t nearly ready for what Callen knew people in the world, in their field, were capable of doing.
Things he was capable of doing.
“You didn’t lie to Sam,” Hetty’s voice broke in on his musings and this time Callen did laugh.
“How do you do it? You’ve got little cameras and audio on us don’t you?”
The look he received in answer to his questions only made Callen wonder how close to the truth he might be as he had given up on his private “psychic” theory a few years earlier.
“You didn’t give up on Dom Mister Callen. If you had, I would have benched you months ago,” Hetty’s tone held a complete faith in his character that Callen wasn’t even sure he possessed for himself and he looked up curiously at it, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “You didn’t give up on her either.”
Unfortunately for Callen, that wasn’t the shoe he was expecting and his normally schooled expression fell away to complete shock as Hetty merely gave him a small, mysterious smile and walked away back towards her alcove leaving Callen to wonder, once again, exactly what the small woman knew and how she knew it. Hetty’s words to him from earlier, words he had used himself to the team, played back and he silently mouthed them once again remembering another woman who had used that exact phrase more then once over the five years he had known her.
He forced the shock off his face as he studied Hetty’s form from across the room and contemplated how to ask what he suddenly, desperately, needed to know.
The bathroom door slamming close stirred Callen out of the numb shell his brain had become during the drive back to their small apartment in Cairo. He could hear the water turning on and glanced down at his own body, disgust churning his stomach at the stiff clothing that clung to him due to his sweat and another man’s blood.
He quickly shed his clothing down to his boxers and grabbed a heavy plastic bag, stuffing the garments inside before approaching the bathroom door and knocking softly. When no voice answered his knock Callen slowly opened the door and stepped inside with the bag.
Aileen merely nodded in the direction of a pile of clothes behind her when he entered; her attention never wavering from where she stood at the sink, scrubbing at her fingernails, hands and arms with a scrub brush. A glance at the pink water that ran down the drain sent Callen’s stomach rolling once again.
It had been a bad one.
Without another word he grabbed her discarded clothes, ruined far more then his own, and stuffed them into the bag as well before tying it up and tossing it out into the main room. He watched her frantic motions, beginning to fear that she was going to injure herself with the action, for a few more seconds before breaking the near silence, “A?”
Her answering gag was all the warning he received before a well-known ballet began in the bathroom. One of his hands reached down and flipped open the toilet as the other grabbed her and steered her to her knees in front of it as she removed bile and water from her body in painful sounding heaves. He waited until she had leaned back against the tub with a thud to flush the toilet and hand her a bottle of water.
“That was a waste of time,” Aileen’s voice broke the silence that had fallen over her since they stepped into the car to come back four hours earlier.
“Maybe he really didn’t know?” Callen replied, closing the toilet seat and sitting in front of her on it.
“He knew,” she whispered, her eyes staring at him, but probably seeing the broken figure of a one time “asset” that they had left in an abandoned building in Alexandria after a very long tag-team interrogation. “But he’s too committed to his bullshit agenda to talk. I know how to make people talk G,” she continued, anger coloring her words, flushing her face and privately reliving Callen because the ash grey tone to her skin had been scaring him.
“Hey, we’ll find Marcus. He’s a good officer,” he insisted, sliding down to the floor and leaning against the tub next to her.
Her answering snort of amusement unnerved him. It had been four and a half years since that fateful night in London; but the last month or two she had been different. The drive she had always possessed was still there; however, sometimes he thought that’s all she had left inside. The beautiful vibrant CIA Officer who believed in what they did and why they did it, even if she didn’t always agree with it, had become a machine. It was only the fact that she still got violently ill and disgusted with herself after they were forced into more severe methods of information gathering that told him the woman he had allowed in closer then any other partner before was still there somewhere.
“A? Red?” he prodded with the nicknames he had given her over the years.
“You’re right,” she finally answered verbally, nodding once. “We will. Only when we find him, we’ll be slapping another star up on the wall. It’s inevitable Callen. People in our line of work go missing? They’re dead. We might as well just accept that.”
“Yea, well, I don’t accept that,” Callen shot back sharply. Her answering shrug set the rage that had been building ever since she began shutting herself off the last few months into overdrive. “So what then? If I suddenly disappeared you’d just move on with your life? Fuck it, it’s just G. He doesn’t matter. What’s damn near five years of my life. You’d just accept it as, what’d you say? Inevitable?”
“Of course not!” she shouted, turning to stare at him in legitimate shock. He watched her blue eyes search his face, looking for some explanation as to why he would ask her such a question. “You’re different. You’re my partner.”
“Is that all I am Aileen? Your partner?”
Silence answered his question, and sent a ball of dread into his stomach, before she finally exhaled and whispered, “No.”
“Good,” he breathed out, nodding in relief. Gently he reached up and turned her face to his once again, meeting her eyes once more before continuing, “Because if you ever disappeared? I’d make them talk any way possible. Nothing and no one would stop me. I’d find you.”
“Promise?” she asked in a broken voice that had Callen thinking it was time they both got out, preferably for good. Though he knew that would never happen; this wasn’t their job, it was their life.
“Promise,” he replied before leaning over and kissing her lightly on the lips and then forehead.
“Yes Mister Callen,” the small woman replied, meeting Callen’s eyes from across her desk.
“What’d you mean? Who’s her?” he asked, having decided to play dumb while he led into the million dollar question.
“Mister Callen, I’m tired.”
“Fine,” he replied, sharper then he originally intended. “Do you know who Aileen Flynn was?”
“More then that Mister Callen. I knew Miss Flynn for many years. Even before you did. I may have even imparted a few pieces of wisdom on her as well.”
In that moment Callen felt as though all the air had been sucked out of his lungs and he was suddenly very grateful that he had chosen to sit after approaching Hetty’s desk. He waited a full minute and when he realized she wasn’t going to elaborate he just asked, “Do you know what happened after Seattle? Do you know why The Agency all but erased her?”
“That I do not,” she admitted with a heavy sadness in her voice that told Callen she was speaking the truth. It also told Callen that the older woman might, possibly, miss the redhead as much as he did.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“I didn’t feel it was my place to bring up the subject,” Hetty admitted. “Your time with the CIA is one of the more classified parts of your file and even I do not know all of it. Some doors are better left closed.”
“Is she dead?”
Hetty stood and seemed to be considering his question as she moved around the alcove collecting her things. She finally gestured towards the door and Callen followed her, resigned to leaving for the evening and heading back to his empty room at the long-stay hotel in Venice Beach.
It wasn’t until they had reached Hetty’s car that she spoke again, words that resonated in Callen’s mind, “I don’t know for certain Mister Callen. What I know from experience however, is quite different.”
“Yea?” Callen prodded, slightly embarrassed to realize he probably appeared as an over-eager child.
Hetty shot him a warning glance at his interruption, but continued as though he hadn’t spoken, “If an operative of such a talent as Miss Flynn were dead; why the need to make her, figuratively, disappear? What does that accomplish? Remember, they can not erase memories Mister Callen. If she is still alive after Seattle, there’s a damn good reason she hasn’t come looking for you herself.”
“Maybe she didn’t want to,” he replied, deciding that cynicism was better then blind hope. “It’s not like I looked for her very hard.”
“You chose the wiser option,” Hetty responded in that all-knowing tone of hers. “Had you pursued things too closely immediately after The Agency could have very easily made life very difficult for you.”
“I didn’t pursue anything Hetty,” he tried explaining. “I just smiled, nodded and accepted it after a few days of confusion over why they were telling me the woman I had worked with for five years never existed.”
“So what? It’s been six years. The department you two worked for doesn’t even have the same name anymore. If it’s bothering you so much now, then do something about it now,” she replied, her tone switching from all knowing to something you might hear when addressing a very stubborn teenager. “Goodnight Mister Callen.”
“Night Hetty,” he whispered off-handedly as he stood outside their building and considered her words. The Directorate of Operations had been renamed National Clandestine Service less then a month after Seattle. Callen knew this had also caused a bit of a shift in the bureaucratic landscape at Langely. He needed answers and he had a promise to keep.
Little did Callen know at that moment that within a few weeks time, before he could even begin to ask any questions, a man named Eugene Keelson would come into his life and throw everything he had ever wanted into his face forcing him to choose his priorities.
And, once again push five years of his life, a promise and a redhead back into a box inside his mind.