DISCLAIMER: Please do not be offended if you or a loved one has one of the names Sam and G discuss in this fic! I have nothing whatsoever against any of these names in reality, and intend no offence whatsoever. It's just for the sake of the banter in the fic. Thanks. ;)
G is for...
On their way back to HQ, Callen and Sam made a stop at Gus's Donuts for coffee and a sugar injection. They had spent the last few hours surveilling the traffic passing in and out of a secure warehouse out in the sticks with no refreshments for miles around, and breakfast was now only a distant memory. Heading back to the car, Callen looked up at the familiar sun-bleached sign above the store.
"Who exactly is 'Gus', anyway? The manager's name is Arvin."
Sam was already tearing into his paper bag. "For all you know, your name could be Gus."
Callen stopped in his tracks. "Wow. You think I could be the Gus? Heir to the low-priced donut empire?" He glanced around at the cracked forecourt. "Just think, all this could be mine..."
"At least then I'd get something worthwhile from the relationship," Sam replied, and took a huge bite from his bear claw.
"That was mean," Callen said. He headed around to the passenger door and swung it open.
Settled in the car, they took a few minutes to eat and drink. Licking sugar from his fingertips, Sam looked over at his partner.
"So, what do you think it is?"
"What do I think what is?" Callen replied, mouth still full.
"Your name." There was the tiniest hesitation in Sam's voice, probably something nobody else would pick up. But Callen did, and he understood. He hadn't always responded very well to questions about his roots, so he could see why Sam felt he had to tread carefully. He also knew that Sam would never intend to upset him, he was just deeply curious, so he decided to give the guy a break.
"I don't know," he said, as casually as he could. "I honestly have no memory of it."
Sam nodded and sipped his coffee.
"To be honest," Callen went on, "I kind of stopped thinking about it a long time ago."
"Yeah. Of course I used to wonder all the time when I was a kid. It's funny, I sort of collected all these possible names, and I would just run through them over and over in my head, as though I'd know it when I heard the right one. And because none of them ever jumped out at me like that, I figured I just hadn't heard the right name yet. I would always get excited when I heard a new 'G' name to test out." He felt suddenly awkward at the confession, and stopped. He extracted a second donut from the package in front of him and took a bite. After a minute he spoke again. "When I got older, into my teens, I thought it was pretty cool to just be an initial. I dug it. I was pretty full of myself." He smiled and shook his head. "Then by the time I grew up, I took the name I had for granted, and over time I just thought about it less and less."
Sam said nothing, just returned his stare when Callen looked his way, and his dark eyes made it clear what G's honesty meant to him. Callen felt another twinge of self-consciousness, but also a surge of warmth in his chest. God, I want to kiss you, he thought. But there were pedestrians passing by the car, and he could never completely shake the sensation that at any given moment Eric might be watching them via traffic cameras at Hetty's behest. Yes, most of the time it was reassuring to know the team had eyes on every corner of the city. But it could also make a guy paranoid.
"We should head back," he said.
Sam fired up the ignition, and as they pulled back into traffic, Callen propped his elbow out the rolled-down window and enjoyed what little breeze stirred the city's dustbowl air.
"Y'know, most of the names that begin with G are pretty uninspiring," he said. "Greg. Gerard. Gordon. Glenn. If I do eventually find out what my name is, it'll probably be a let-down."
"Huh. George... Gavin... Grant." Sam patted the palm of his hand against the steering wheel as he thought. "Gerald." He laughed. "I think I see your point."
"Yeah. I mean, who would want to wait their entire life just to discover that they're named Graham. Or Garth."
After that, the bug got into Sam's head too. As he drove, he punctuated the silence with every new name that came to mind. "Gideon. Guy. Gene. Garrett..."
"Garrett Callen." G smiled appreciatively. "Sounds like a cowboy."
"Then I guess it suits you."
"I could look good in a Stetson," Callen mused, squinting at his reflection in the wing mirror. "Actually, there is one name I've always kinda liked: Gabe." He looked back at Sam. "Gabe Callen. That sounds pretty badass, don't you think?"
"Sure it does, tough guy." They took a right turn into the welcome shade of a street lined with hulking office buildings. "On the other hand, you could be Gaylord." Sam fought hard not to smile, but he had a hopeless poker face around G.
Callen said nothing, his expression speaking plainly enough. Sam laughed.
"Who knows, maybe you could pull it off? Special Agent Gaylord Callen." He cracked up again.
"You're hilarious. And I'd rather not be outed by my own name, thanks." As they passed through more of the faded concrete scenery, he continued to ponder the possibilities. "How about something more exotic, like Giuseppe. Or Giancarlo," he said, rolling that last r off his tongue. "Maybe my parents were Italian," he added when he saw the look Sam shot at him.
"Yeah, 'Callen' is a really authentic Italian name."
"Okay, maybe just one parent."
Sam's short cut had saved them a few sets of lights, but now they were back in an unavoidable, congested tangle of roads and the sun was in Callen's eyes again. He twisted the passenger side visor to make a little shade.
"I guess I'm happy with plain old 'G'," he said. "I think it you say a lot about me with that letter. Generous, gregarious, good-looking, genuine-"
"Grumpy," Sam cut in. He glanced at the bag of donuts on the dash. "Gluttonous."
"Oh, and you're one to talk."
"I have a lot of muscle to feed. What's your excuse?"
"You're my excuse. Dragging me out on fruitless missions into the ass end of nowhere on an empty stomach."
"I think you'll find it was your bullshit intel that led us out into the ass end of nowhere, not me."
Callen rolled his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes. It was too hot – and he was too tired – to bicker about the case. There would be time for that when they got back and faced Hetty.
They finally escaped onto a relatively clear stretch of six-lane highway that took them back across the city. Sam accelerated and threaded the Challenger effortlessly between the other vehicles, relaxing visibly.
"You know, on the block where I grew up, there was a kid named 'Gazelle'," he said. "Gazelle Williams."
"You're kidding. Was he fast?"
Sam grinned and shook his head. "No. He weighed almost two hundred pounds at twelve years old. Now, I bet he would have considered himself pretty damn lucky to be named 'George' or 'Graham'."
As he powered them past a dirty white van, Sam tapped Callen's knee and pointed.
"There you go," he said, pointing to the logo emblazoned on the van's side: Gary's Storage & Removal. "How did we forget 'Gary'?"
"No," Callen said immediately.
"What do you mean, no?"
"It is absolutely not 'Gary'."
"Why not? It's a pretty common name."
"Sam." Callen reached out and touched his partner's shoulder, eyes pleading. "If we ever find out that that's my real name, I want you to shoot me. I'm serious."
"You're an idiot."
"And after you've shot me, make damned sure they just put 'G' on my grave marker."
"It's really that bad?"
"Really. Worse than 'Gaylord'."
"Yeah. At least I could get you to shorten that to Lord."
"Ha! I'll let Hetty dress me in drag before I call you my lord. You can keep your god complex to yourself."
"Now there's a name I could get used to," Callen said in awe. Mischief played at his lips. "God."
"Don't you dare take that name in vain." Sam tried to mask his amusement with a warning tone, but Callen was hard to fool.
"What's the problem, big guy?" he asked, voice low. "You shout it out all the time when we're in bed."
The car swerved, just a little. Sam got it under control at once, his gaze never straying from the road ahead, but Callen's face broke into a satisfied grin.
"You're so cute when you're embarrassed," he said.
"And you look pretty smug for a guy with frosting on his face." Sam flashed Callen a dangerous look, and floored the accelerator. He knew a secluded backstreet not far from here that was a blind spot for the traffic and security cams. The perfect place to stop for a private moment, and wipe that smile off G's face.
And maybe come up with a few new names for him while he was at it.