A/N: I wrote part of this during an in-service, so at least I got something out of those two and a half hours.


Neighbors

Callen looked around Kensi and Deeks' bar, watching as the last couple of patrons straggled out. Even though the bar hadn't been open all that long, they'd already acquired a handful of loyal regulars. Deeks locked the front door and flipped off the glowing 'OPEN' sign while Kensi wiped off tables and teased him about something Callen was sure he didn't want to know about. They looked happy and relaxed despite the late hour and full day of work they'd already put in at the mission.

"Hey, you know anything about real estate?" Roberta's question pulled him from his contemplation and he turned to see her coming around from the other side of the bar where she'd been cleaning glasses and restocking, a thin, glossy book in one hand.

"Uh, a little bit. You can't help picking up something with Deeks talking about house-flipping all the time," he answered, wondering where Deeks' mom was going with this. If she wanted his opinion on houses, he had a feeling she was about to be sorely disappointed. "Why, you in the market?"

"As a matter of fact, I've been thinking of buying something a little smaller," she answered, flopping the brochure down on the top of the bar in front of him and settling onto the barstool to his right. "Have a look." There was no possible way he could ignore Roberta's demanding tone, he'd learned that two days after she started working at the bar.

"Ok, but I should warn you that my taste in houses is probably a little different than yours. I like things…sparse."

"Oh honey, I know you have issues with furnishings, I've seen how you keep the apartment upstairs," Roberta said, rolling her eyes dismissively. Callen didn't bother asking why she'd been in his apartment. "Anyway, just look through this and tell me what you think."

They spent the next 20 minutes flipping through a truly nauseating number of pictures while Roberta described the changes she had in mind and Callen decided that he would never be moving again if he could help it.

"Well, this certainly is a beautiful house," he agreed once they'd blessedly reached the final page. Roberta nodded, seeming pleased by his assessment. Somehow Callen couldn't help but feel she had ulterior motives for showing him the pamphlet; he was hardly the first person anyone came to for things like this.

Kensi wandered over, smiling as she caught sight of his slightly bewildered expression. "So, what are you guys talking about?" she asked teasingly.

"Your mom was just telling me about some houses she's been looking at," Callen informed her with a smirk of his own. He was sure Roberta would love to tell her soon to be daughter-in-law all about her house hunting in minute detail.

"Why are you looking at houses?" Deeks asked, sounding concerned as he came up behind Kensi and casually rested a hand on her back. "You love where you live now."

"Yeah, but I want to be closer to you kids now that you're finally getting married. Sometimes I feel like I barely get to see you," Roberta answered with a dismissive wave of her hand even as she hopped off her stool and moved aside so Deeks could get a better look at the pictures. He quickly flipped through the pages, a frown forming as he scanned the address at the bottom of one page.

"Mom, this place is just one subdivision over from ours," he said. And there it was. Callen had to force himself not to laugh at Deeks' expression of outright horror.

"Yeah, I figured it would be real convenient, especially since I've been spending so much time here at the bar," Roberta explained nonchalantly. "Plus, it means I can drop by…whenever."

"Roberta, I don't know–don't take this the wrong way, but do you really think that's the best idea?" Kensi asked in a gentle tone and Callen could see she was trying extremely hard not to insult her.

"Why, because I'll finally be close enough that you two won't be able to hide things from me anymore?" she concluded baldly. Deeks drew in a short breath through his teeth.

"Mom, we talked about this," he said tightly. "You promised you wouldn't crowd us."

"Yeah and maybe I don't agree with what you said. I seem to remember you doing a lot of the talking during those conversations."

"It's not anything against you–"

"Well it certainly feels like it is."

"Mama…" Deeks sighed and roughly brushed his hair off his forehead.

"Ok, this is not doing any good," Kensi interrupted before the conversation could escalate any further. "Why don't we just call it a night and we can talk about this again once we've had time to think it over a little bit, ok?"

"Yeah, that's probably for the best," Deeks agreed, looking slightly apologetic.

"Oh, you do what you think is best," Roberta said in an aggrieved tone. Deeks shook his head, but allowed Kensi to wrap her arm around his waist and lead him towards the door.

"Night mom," he called over his shoulder which Roberta acknowledged with a dismissive wave of her hand.

She shook her head as they left, looking remarkably like her son when he was pissed off. She turned to Callen. "Is it so wrong to want to know what's going on in my son and his fiancé's life?"

Callen chuckled nervously and once again fell back on his favorite excuse. "I, uh, I don't know that I'm the person you should be asking that." When Roberta continued to stare at him he sighed. "No, I don't think it's wrong. But I do know that Deeks and Kensi are just trying to protect you. We see some of the worst humanity has to offer and that can be a heavy burden to carry."

"Yeah, I've heard that same spiel from before so save it. I survived Martin's father and a hell of a lot more as a single mother, I think I can handle this." Callen merely raised an eyebrow. "What, you don't think I can?" Roberta demanded when he didn't say anything, placing a hand on her hip as she glared at him.

"You have to admit that when Kensi was in a coma, you weren't exactly a calming influence," Callen said honestly and Roberta actually looked slightly offended.

"Well excuse me for having emotions. I suppose you think it would have been better if Martin just kept it from me until it was all over. Or even better, maybe he shouldn't have told me at all."

"Roberta, I'm not trying to start a fight with you. There is a reason, besides keeping his sanity, why Deeks doesn't tell you everything that goes on in his life. And a part of it goes back to what you said about his father; he doesn't like to see you worrying about him. I think he thinks you've already done enough of that."

Roberta sighed, slipping behind the bar again. She surveyed the rows of liquor bottles and grabbed a scotch at random along with two glasses. She remained silent as she poured them each about a half a glass and then unceremoniously took a healthy gulp. Callen merely waited until she looked back at him, her expression almost melancholy.

"You know, I was terrified that something was going to happen Marty his whole life. Even after he...after we got away from his father, I still couldn't bear to let him out of my sight some days out of worry that he was going to get hurt somehow," she told him quietly. "Drove him crazy. So imagine my surprise the day he told me he was joining the LAPD. I was furious and terrified for him. And now he's doing even more dangerous work." Callen smiled slightly as he imagined a hyperactive teenage Marty Deeks interacting with his overprotective mom.

"Even when I don't know the whole story, I still worry. It kills me every time he walks in here with bruises and stitches. Or worse when he doesn't answer my messages for days and I know he's probably in some terrible country getting blown up again. I don't think anything will ever stop from worrying about him, he's my child." Roberta shook her head and threw back the rest of her scotch and Callen thought absently that Hetty would be appalled.

"Actually, we don't get blown up that often," Callen joked, adding, "In other countries at least." Roberta didn't look amused but she only rolled her eyes at him instead of unleashing the full power of her wrath.

"Look, I know my son thinks I'm an annoying and wishes I would just mind my own business. And I know I drive him crazy sometimes," she acknowledged. Callen resisted the urge to comment on 'sometimes'. "All I want, is to be a part of his life. Even if I can get past him keeping the work stuff a secret, I don't know why I have to dig for every tidbit about his personal life too. Do you know how long it took him to tell me about the engagement? It was months."

"To be fair, he didn't really tell any of us for a while."

"You're just full of excuses for my son, aren't you?" Roberta said accusingly though there was no real heat to words. Callen smirked to himself as he considered her words. There was a time when he would have actively avoided involving himself in Deeks' personal life or played the situation for all it was worth. For some reason, he had absolutely no desire to do so now.

"If you tell Deeks any of what I'm about to say, I'll deny every word, but Deeks is more than just a colleague now, he's a friend, practically family for lack of a better word. Even if it doesn't always seem like it, I care about his well-being. So as his friend, I'm suggesting you might want to pull back a little. Deeks and Kensi will share things with you when they're ready and that's their right." Roberta just stared at him for a full, unnerving thirty seconds. Then, surprisingly, she laughed.

"You know, I think this is the most I've ever heard you talk," she said. It seemed like most of her anger had dissipated and Callen relaxed slightly, hoping that she wasn't biding her time until the next she saw Kensi and Deeks.

"Maybe I just save up for the important things," Callen said flippantly and Roberta eyed him knowingly.

"I bet Martin would find this whole conversation very interesting," she drawled with a hint of a smirk.

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

"Uh-huh." She gathered up their glasses and set them in the nearby sink before grabbing her purse from under the bar. "Well, as lovely as this little chat has been, I have an appointment tomorrow morning and you shouldn't miss out on your beauty sleep. Lord knows those circles under your eyes don't need to get any bigger." Callen shook his head, sidestepping the dig at his sleeping habits.

"Be honest with me, you were never really considering buying that house, were you?" he asked, genuinely curious. He found it difficult to imagine Roberta enjoying being so close to her son in the long run.

"Nah," Roberta said with a shrug. "I just wanted to make 'em sweat a little. Thought maybe they'd pop out a couple grandkids to appease me." Somehow Callen thought she wasn't being entirely truthful, but he let it go. He'd stuck his nose where it didn't belong enough for one night and he wasn't even sure he'd done any good.

"Now that's just evil," he said and Roberta smirked as she headed for the door.

"Make sure you clean up and turn off the lights before you go to bed, kiddo," she called out.

"God help you, Deeks," Callen murmured to himself.


A/N: When I first started writing this, Callen was supposed to be much more of a troublemaker, instead he's turned out to be rather helpful. I may write a second chapter if I'm feeling ambitious.