The Prickly Pear
Henrietta Lange takes pride in her ability to spot a good agent and turn them into a great one, but how exactly did she spot the agents we know today? A series of one-shots exploring how each agent came into her sights.
This is an idea based around Callen and Hetty's conversation in the episode "Fame" concerning when Deeks (and Callen) became blips on Hetty's radar. I know that this first chapter may no longer be plausible what with season three's revelations about Hetty's connection to Callen's past but I wrote this long before those episodes came out and, honestly, I think the idea still stands when you consider that the point of this piece is to explain how each team member came to her attention as a potential agent (or analyst, computer tech, etc.) and not necessarily how she first learned of their existence.
There are only a couple of other things I want to mention. The first is that the only character whose age will be specified is Callen and I got that by doing the math based on the year (1983) on the door at his old foster home in the episode "Pushback." All years mentioned are based off that or anything else we may have heard in the show. I try to avoid making stuff like that up if I can. The second thing worth mentioning is that I am not putting these up in order as you will notice in this chapter, but rather as the ideas come to me.
All characters you recognize are the property of NCIS Los Angeles' rightful owners. This fanfiction is written solely for my amusement, no money has been made whatsoever.
The year was 1993 when Henrietta Lange first laid eyes on the chameleon that is G Callen. Whether or not he remembered their first encounter was debatable and Hetty sincerely doubted he did but that did not make the event stand out any less in her mind. She had been lead agent of an NCIS team stationed out of Washington DC at the time and already rising in the political ranks when her team was given the lead role in the multi-agency investigation into a new wave of home-grown terrorists operating within the United States. Both the FBI and CIA joined them in the investigation which ended up unearthing a massive cell in the middle of the city with connections nationwide. Still it was not the outcome of the operation which stood out in her mind, nor the fact that she had played such a large role in it, but rather her interactions with the team from the FBI.
From the start they had been pushing to know more, to get updates as soon as they were discovered, to always have an agent onsite. She had, of course, refused on principal. It was disruptive to the work environment to have each team stepping on each others' toes for information. Instead there was a clear cut chain of command and Hetty organized it so that all information pertaining to the case was sent through it in an orderly fashion to avoid any misunderstandings. Though at a glance the system she put in place seemed to have worked beautifully Hetty knew better. The FBI team always had a leg up on everyone else; they arrived at locations before they were called, when interrogating suspects they used information they should not have had, and so on and so forth.
It was not until the end of the investigation that she discovered how they were doing it and to this day the agents involved did not know she'd found out. She'd been on her way to the director's office to brief him on the final outcome of the case when she had noticed, out the window, the FBI team filing out of the building. Waiting for them was a nondescript silver car parked along the curb and as they approached a young man hopped out of the driver's seat to greet them. Hetty had not been at all surprised to discover that the FBI had its own drivers; it fit so well with their mannerisms as an agency. It was only when she got a slightly better look at his face that she realized he may not have been a driver after all.
He couldn't have been more than 24, a mere child in the world of agents, and yet he received a quick clap on the shoulder from the FBI's lead agent as they greeted each other. He didn't look like anything special. He was not a particularly large man nor was he outrageously well built, instead he had the slightly stocky build of someone who was athletic yet didn't frequent the strength machines at the gym. His blond hair was cut short, just brushing the top of his ears and his bright blue eyes shone in the sun, somehow managing not to look nearly as innocent as they should despite their being nothing sinister about them. He was dressed, unlike the rest of the FBI team, in jeans and a dark T-shirt but the badge Hetty could see hooked to his belt confirmed her suspicions about him.
She had seen him around the building all throughout the case, never once with a pass but always looking exactly as if he belonged. She had thought nothing of it, had not even noticed it was the same man time and time again, listening in on their conversations, reading over their shoulders... Hetty was shocked to realize, as she looked back over the case in her mind, that she had even spoken to him, told him information about the case without meaning to. He had tricked her, he had tricked everyone; she had to admit, the kid was good. But then that was to be expected, what with the amount of bragging the FBI had been doing the last few years. He, she was sure, was their prodigy. She'd heard a considerable amount of talk concerning him over the last few years; the rumours, if they were to be believed, said that he was a born operator, perfectly suited to undercover work and a natural at all aspects of the job.
Watching him now as he spoke casually with FBI agents who could make even the most powerful of men squirm, Hetty had to give the boy credit. He had done what only a very elite group of people had ever managed to do, beat her at her own game of deception. Talent like that should never go to waste and she decided, at that moment, to keep her own eye on the FBI's little prodigy. With that thought she watched the agents pile into the car seemingly in order of seniority until finally only the boy was left standing on the curb. With his hand on the door handle he glanced back up at the building and for a split second their eyes met, just long enough for him to give her a quick smirk before sliding into the car with his coworkers. A smirk which, to her complete surprise, Hetty returned.
It was nine years before Hetty came face to face with the FBI's little prodigy again and by that time he was no longer their golden boy. Sure the undeniable talent was still there but he had proved himself to be, on occasion, more trouble than anyone was worth. Through her years of watching him she had seen him move from the FBI to the CIA and from there on to the DEA then on to a tour of duty with the KGB in Russia before returning home to the United States for a second go around with the CIA then FBI. That was where he found himself now, unhappily employed by the FBI and looking, yet again, for a change of scenery.
Sitting before her in the LA office she now ran as Operations Manager, Hetty noted that G Callen looked almost nothing like the young man she'd first seen back in DC all those years ago. The years had clearly changed him, or perhaps it was just this last case. Either way he was scruffy and unshaven, his dirty blond hair was longer than it had been and hanging haphazardly into those pricing blue eyes which, though they had not lost their colour, were now bloodshot and tired. He was very pale, only emphasizing the bruising around his left eye and the stitches hidden beneath his bangs. He was dressed in a baggy, long sleeved shirt and jeans which had obviously seen day days and just visible from beneath the sleeve of his right arm was a cast, clearly holding a broken wrist in place. Hetty had also noticed when he had sat down that he was probably nursing a few broken ribs.
Facing him from behind her desk Hetty decided to break the silence which had fallen over them. "Rough case?" she asked, eyeing his injuries critically.
Callen shrugged slightly. "You could say that."
Hetty took the vague answer in stride, he was an undercover agent after all, vague is what they did best. "Well Mr. Callen, my name is Henrietta Lange."
"I know who you are," said Callen with a smile, "The same way you know who I am. Rumours travel and they travel fast."
Hetty nodded, glad for the lead into a topic she knew they had to discuss. "That they do," she agreed, "And if those rumours are to be believed you have become something of a liability lately, this latest case for example, the rumour is that it was you who compromised your cover leading to your, current state." She gestured to his battered body.
Callen let out a snort of cold, humourless laugher and nodded slowly while smiling wryly at nothing in particular. "Well the rumours are wrong then," he said coldly, "The op was going fine until the FBI bureaucrats and their superiority complex decided to get involved."
Hetty had to smile at that. She knew plenty about what happened when people whose minds were not adapt for undercover work tried to get involved in an operation and she had no trouble believing that the higher ups in the FBI chain of command would blame the failed op on the agent involved. Callen's frustration was warranted and she just hoped she could use that to her advantage. "So am I to assume that your superiors do not know you're here?" she asked politely.
"I donno," said Callen with an unconcerned shrug, "I would doubt it. I don't make a point of telling them where I'm going and I'm not exactly the easiest person to find..."
"That is true," Hetty agreed, nodding slightly, "I've heard you can be next to impossible to find, that - despite your love of breaking the rules - you are still an asset to any team."
Callen raised the eyebrow that was not roofed by stitches and smirked slightly. "I've heard the same thing about you," he said swiftly, "I've also heard that bending the rules - as I prefer to call it - is not something you object to entirely."
Hetty allowed her own face to mirror his smirk as she studied the scruffy man sitting before her. "There is a position availed at NCIS," she said finally.
"Is that all the information I get?" Callen asked, tilting his head to the side just a touch.
"Do you need more?" Hetty returned, studying his reaction.
Callen blinked, considered her for a moment then smiled. "No ma'am."
Hetty smiled. "In that case, welcome aboard," she told him, leaning across the desk and shaking his good hand before standing up. She made to leave her office but paused at the door, turning back around to look over her new recruit once more. "And Mr. Callen?" she added, "You will need a haircut, a shower and a shave." She wrinkled her nose. "And a new wardrobe."
Callen actually laughed. "Of course mother," he replied.