Deeks slowly made his way into the bullpen, gearing himself up for the teasing he knew he was about to face from the other members of his team. It didn't usually bother him, much, but he was so tired after working a short op for LAPD last night that he wasn't really in the mood for it. He knew it was coming though, because he was about half an hour late and they never let it slide for him. If Kensi came in late, it wasn't an issue. But he was still the new guy and hadn't been able to make it out of the hazing stage yet.
"It's about time!" Sam boomed from his seat, shaking his head chastisingly and looking pointedly at his watch.
"Ah, you know how LA traffic is," he mumbled, sliding into his desk chair. Deeks sat his bag down next to his feet, glancing longingly at the empty coffee pot sitting in the little alcove behind the desks. Kensi must have noticed where he was looking, snickering and taking a loud gulp of coffee out of her mug.
"Sorry partner, we would've saved you some coffee, but we didn't know if you would bother showing up at all. You should've grabbed some on your way from catching those waves, what's ten more minutes?" Kensi laughed, moaning exaggeratedly after taking another sip of coffee.
"I wasn't surfing," Deeks defended, rolling his eyes at Kensi's dramatics.
"Your hair is still wet Deeks," Callen said, pointing toward his slightly damp hair with a pen.
"From my shower," Deeks answered, focusing on his computer booting up instead of letting the team see they were getting to him.
"But if you were stuck in traffic, your hair would be dry by now. If it was wet from a shower," Sam pointed out, leaning back in his chair and looking smug.
"Fine, you guys caught me. Can we drop it now?" Deeks asked, starting on one of the forms he had to fill out for his Op last night. He wasn't too concerned about what his team thought about his late arrival, having told Hetty about the Op when it was assigned to him last night. She just told him to be careful and come in when he could. He was never sure how long his assignments would take for LAPD, so he was happy it was a short one and he would be able to be back with his NCIS team before they had any cases to work. It wasn't a very hard assignment, and he wasn't really sure why he was chosen to take it, but there had been a close call with an informant that left him in a bit of a sour mood. He was doing his best not to let it show though, not in the mood to talk about it.
"Wow Deeks, you usually aren't this pouty when you get caught. Afraid Hetty will be mad?" Kensi chuckled, looking back toward Hetty's empty office.
"Maybe that's what he needs. A good old fashioned Hetty lecture," Sam chimed in, folding his arms and looking up like he was imagining it in his head.
"Aw come on Sam, weren't you late a few weeks ago because you just had to get those fresh snap peas from the farmer's market?" Callen asked with a smirk.
"That was one time, G! And you know I had to get there before that yoga instructor bought them all for her juice bar," Sam justified, looking affronted. "And besides, I called Hetty and let her know I'd be a little late."
"As did Mr. Deeks," Hetty said, startling the team as she stepped out from behind a pillar. "Now why don't you all get back to work and let Mr. Deeks focus on filling out his reports from his overnight Op with LAPD." Hetty left as quickly as she came, giving Deeks a light pat on the arm as she passed by. He nodded his thanks to her and resumed his typing.
"Why didn't you tell me you were going on assignment last night?" Kensi asked, looking offended.
"It was last minute and wasn't a big deal. I do these all the time," Deeks answered, shrugging. He and Kensi were in this weird place where she was friendly with him in private, but around others, she acted like he was a nuisance. He didn't know her well enough to know if this was how she was with everyone at first, or if it was just him. It wasn't like he wasn't used to it, not being the most popular in LAPD either, but he never really worked as closely with someone for as long as he did Kensi. And he still felt like the outlier.
"I knew it wasn't traffic," Sam grumbled, turning back to his own stack of paperwork. Sam could never stand not being totally in the right, grasping at straws to justify any argument he made. Deeks was fine to let him have his win, however inconsequential it was. Sam still made him slightly uneasy, seeing some of the same traits in him as he did his father. It wasn't like he thought Sam was a horrible man like his dad, not at all. But they both had the same no nonsense attitude when it came to things. And neither liked to be questioned. Deeks found that out the hard way with his father, many times, during his mouthier years.
"You still should've told me Deeks. What if you were hurt?" Kensi asked, looking slightly upset.
"I'm sure you guys would've been notified," he murmured offhandedly, paying more attention to his work than the conversation. Kensi scoffed, pulling him away from his task.
"That's a bit callous," Callen noted, eyeballing him a little.
"I didn't think it really mattered, as long as I'm here to do my job. Which I am, so can we drop it?" Deeks asked, ready to have the attention off of him. He didn't know where this was coming from all of a sudden. No one had really cared what he was up to in his free time before this. And no one shared what they were up to during theirs. "Hetty usually knows, if I'm able to call beforehand, so ask her if you want the Deeks deets." Kensi huffed out a small laugh at his dumb play on words, seemingly placated by his joke enough to drop the subject. He was glad for it, not in the mood to be grilled or teased topic of conversation turned from him to football, with Callen and Sam arguing about who had a better shot to make it to the Super Bowl. He tuned them out, focusing on getting his paperwork for LAPD and NCIS done before any new cases popped up. They always ragged on him for being behind in his paperwork, but they didn't seem to realize that he had to do double, needing to submit reports for both of the agencies he worked for. Again, he would just brush off their teasing, finding it easier to just accept it than try to change their perspectives. It carried on this way for the next hour, the team chatting around him and him piping in here or there to keep up appearances.
"Why is it so quiet today?" Kensi moaned, standing from her seat and stretching.
"You want someone to commit a crime so you aren't bored?" Sam asked, snickering at his youngest teammate. She stuck her tongue out at him as she walked toward the gym.
"I'm gonna go work out, if anyone wants to join."
"Not so fast Kensi, your wish has come true," Eric called from the top of the steps leading to ops. "We've got a case." Kensi sprinted up the stairs, patting Eric on the back as she passed him. He stumbled a little, rubbing his back at her too aggressive greeting.
"Need some ice?" Callen chuckled, walking with Sam up to ops. Deeks quickly saved his place in his reports and shut down his computer. He hoped this would be a simple case, not awake enough for one of their more intricate and tricky assignments.
"Meet Petty Officer Brandon Combs. Three days ago he reported to his superior that he had been approached by a strange man on his way home from a run. The man wasn't threatening, but Petty Officer Combs got a bad feeling about it and decided to let someone know about the incident. Apparently he was right to be worried, because he missed check in this morning. When they went to check his residence, it had been ransacked and there was no sign of Combs," Nell explained, putting the pictures up on the big screen for everyone to see.
"Do we know if this is military related? This could be personal," Callen wondered.
"That's what we need to find out Mr. Callen," Hetty replied, walking up to stand in front of the group. "Find out what you can and determine if this is our case. If not, we can send it off to the proper authorities."
"I bet LAPD would love us doing all the legwork and dropping a neat little case in their laps, eh Deeks?" Sam snorted, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Yeah, maybe," Deeks mumbled, staring down at the giant table in the middle of the room.
"Really Deeks?" Kensi scoffed, breaking him from his preoccupation.
"Sorry, what?" Deeks murmured, looking up to find everyone staring at him. Had he missed something?
"Were you listening to this briefing at all?" Sam asked, shaking his head in disappointment.
"Investigating the disappearance of Petty Officer Combs, I got it. I didn't know I needed to be an active participant in the disparaging of the police department I work for," Deeks muttered.
"Where did that come from?" Kensi questioned, staring at him in confusion. There might have also been a bit of concern, but Deeks couldn't trust his perception right now.
"Sorry," Deeks sighed, before cutting himself off. He didn't really know why he was apologizing though. That just seemed to be what they expected of him.
"Mr. Deeks, would you join me in my office for a moment?" Hetty suggested. Deeks knew a command when he heard one, but he could appreciate Hetty making it sound more like an offer he could refuse. He didn't have a death wish though.
"Sam and I are going to head to the base to talk with Combs' superiors. Kensi and Deeks can go to his apartment and check things out," Callen declared, smirking down at Hetty. "As soon as you're done with him, of course." Hetty gave them all a short nod and strode from the room, in the way that only she could. Deeks followed after her, not wanting to wait around for any more heckling. Was that cowardly or childish? He didn't really care. All Deeks wanted was this day to be over with.
Somehow, by the time he got to Hetty's office, she already had a fresh pot of tea waiting for him. Deeks accepted the cup out of politeness, not wanting to incur any more of her wrath. Even though he wasn't sure what the issue was.
"I'm sorry," Deeks said quietly, taking a sip of the tea just to give himself something to do.
"And what exactly are you sorry about? Have you done something I need to know about?" Hetty asked, clasping her hands together on her desk. Deeks really must be off his game if he walked himself into this one.
"Whatever I did wrong, I guess. I'm sure someone would be able to find something," Deeks sighed. He was just too tired and frustrated to do the mental gymnastics with Hetty. It was like he'd built up this idea in his head of what being on a team would be like and the fact that he was so wrong so far was getting to him. It wasn't always a big deal, but it kind of niggled at him whenever he came back from anything to do with LAPD. His old colleagues would antagonize him about his new role and how he must think he was so much better than them with his fancy new friends, when in reality, he felt more alone than he did during his deep undercover stints. At least then he could pretend to have friends. Here, he was just constantly reminded that he was still an outsider.
"Mr. Deeks?" Hetty said, leaning forward a bit in her seat. "I feel like I lost you there for a few moments. Is there something you'd like to talk about?"
"Not really, no," Deeks answered evasively, trying not to fidget under her intense stare. He realized she wasn't going to let him get away without saying something. "I suppose I'm a little out of sorts after my Op last night, but I can assure you I'm good to go today."
"I've never been pleased with the idea that you could be taken away from us in a moment's notice. There isn't much I can officially do, but I could put a word in with your Captain. Just a little note about perhaps passing over your name more often when a new case comes in," Hetty proposed.
"No!" Deeks blurted out before composing himself. "I mean, you don't have to do that. It really isn't that bad. I'm just getting used to serving more than one master. But I'm good at adapting, that's what makes me so good at undercover work." Deeks wasn't going to admit that he couldn't afford to piss off the brass and lose his LAPD spot, in case NCIS didn't end up working out. He always kept a backup plan to fall back on.
"Very well. But I would advise you to think about taking a bit of time off. Give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries?" Hetty suggested, taking a small sip of her tea. Deeks breathed out a sigh of relief, feeling the conversation finally shift from the probing of his employment choices and feelings.
"I don't think that'll be necessary, but I'll keep that in mind," Deeks said easily, setting down his cup in preparation to go meet up with Kensi and get back to work. "Don't worry about me, I'm all good." If only he knew how wrong that statement would turn out to be.