Sam watched G. work the heavy bag. Right. Left. Right. Left. Elbow. Elbow. Elbow. Right. Step. Step. Right. Right. If there hadn't been such a manic intensity to it, Sam would have thought G. was just working out, instead of working out his demons. Sam had tried just letting G. figure it all out on his own, but it had gone on for far too long; all these early mornings and evenings spent in the gym was starting to wear on G., he wasn't going to be able to keep it up much longer before he collapsed.
"G.?" Sam called out as he approached. He had learned the hard way that G. did not react well if surprised and he had no desire to get another black eye anytime soon.
G didn't break his stride or turn around, but in between punches he paused long enough to say, "Hey, Sam. We got a case?"
"No. I wanted to talk to you. G., you gotta stop this."
"Stop what?" Right. Left. Elbow. Elbow. Elbow. Left. Right.
"You gotta talk to someone, G. It's been weeks."
"We talk. We're talking right now." Left. Right. Left. Right.
"G.," Sam said, unable to prevent himself from releasing a frustrated sigh.
"Six years, Sam." Elbow. Elbow. Elbow. "She never said a thing."
"You really expected her to?"
"I asked her once, why she never called me G. You know what she said?" G. stopped working the bag, took a deep breath and let his hands drop down to his side. "She said that G.'s not a name, it's a letter. A letter. Like I didn't know that."
"G.," Sam said, reaching out, resting his hand on his partner's shoulder and squeezing lightly.
"Look, at least come have a drink with me. Maybe a burger too. You need more meat on your bones."
G. gave Sam a quirk of a smile. "You been checking out my bones?"
"Oh yeah, I spent the whole day today checking out your pasty white ass."
"Good to know."
"I'm sure it is, now hit the shower and meet me in the parking lot in ten minutes."
"Sam..." It was more of a sigh than a complaint.
"Did that sound like a request to you? 'Cause it wasn't one. You stink. Shower, then we're heading out for beers and you're going to actually talk to me." Sam poked G. in the chest. "And don't make me have to track you down. I will find you and I will not be happy when I do. And you want me to be happy, don't you G.?"
Obviously resigned to his fate G. sarcastically replied, "It's what I live for."
Sam glared and cuffed G. on the back of the head. "Now get out of here. See you in ten."
In what was most likely a misguided attempt at being an ornery pain in the butt, G. kept Sam waiting in the parking lot for close to thirteen minutes, which was a load of bullshit because Sam knew G. could shower and shave and change in under six minutes if needed, but since Sam was in an obliging mood he let the obvious dig slide. "Get in," he said, opening his passenger side door.
"You know, I do have my own car, Sam," G. protested weakly, mostly because he knew Sam expected him to more than anything else.
"I know. I don't care. Get in."
G. muttered something under his breath that Sam couldn't quite catch but he was pretty sure his parentage had either just been insulted or put into question. With overly exaggerated movements G. threw himself into the car, slammed the door shut and buckled up. "Happy?"
"Ecstatic. Adrian's?" Sam asked as he put the car in gear. "I'll get you a burger, some potato skins, and that crap you call beer."
"I'll have you know that what you call crap is actually an award winning microbrew, known for its malty flavor and long lasting aftertaste."
"It's crap, G. Why can't you drink something normal, like Budweiser or Guinness?"
G. shook his head. "Heathen."
Sam chuckled at the insult. "You know it!"
They drove in silence for a few minutes before G. sighed. "Sam," he said, his voice hesitant and just a little bit broken.
"You don't gotta say anything G., not yet. Wait until you got some beers in you first."
"I've never been one for liquid courage."
"First time for everything, right? Besides, you're a light weight, one drink and you'll be spilling all your secrets."
"I am not a light weight."
"Yes, you are."
"That was one time!"
Sam cocked an eyebrow at G. for that, but chose to stay quiet.
Sam cleared his throat.
"Or so... Give or take. Whatever. Hey look, we're here!"
"Smooth change of topic there, G., real smooth," Sam said as he pulled into a parking spot.
"A man's got to do what a man's got to do," G. replied.
They walked to the bar together, out of habit checking it out before entering, seeing who loitered nearby, what the state of the exits were, if anyone inside appeared to be packing. They took their favorite booth, the one in the back corner half hidden by an old cigar store Indian and with a good view of both the front and rear exits.
Sam started a tab for them and ordered them a round of drinks and potato skins to get things started and then sat back and watched G. rip his napkin into a thousand little pieces.
"Planning on throwing a parade?" Sam eventually asked.
Startled, and a bit confused by the question, G. looked up and said, "Huh?"
"You got all the confetti you need tight there," Sam explained, pointing to the pile of shredded napkin.
"Oh." With a sweep of his arm, G. cleared the table, shoving the bits of napkin into his hand and then cramming them into his pocket.
"Talk to me G."
G. rubbed the back of his neck, a nervous tell that Sam had been trying to cure him of for years. He was given a few moments reprieve as their beers and the appetizers arrived.
"Hey there, I'm Kay. You boys ready to order?" Sam had been to Adrian's and other hole-in-the-wall bars like it often enough to know that the waitresses at these kind of places came in two types, the kind that were looking for a good time and the ones that were looking for nothing more than someone to mother, even if only for the time it took to serve the food. He thanked his lucky stars that today they happened on the latter instead of the former.
"I'll have a Red Devil," Sam said, pointing to the burger with the jalapeño, pepper jack and hot sauce combination on the menu. "Medium rare."
"And for your side? Jojos, potato wedges, steak fries or regular?"
"Wedges. With extra salt."
"And for you?" she asked G. as she jotted down Sam's order.
"American, but skip the tomato."
Sam glowered at him. "That's just a cheeseburger then G."
G. shoved his menu placard into its stand along the wall. "No, it's a cheeseburger made with bleu cheese and has mayo."
"It's not red, white and blue without the red," Sam pointed out, teasing G. just a little. "Without the tomato it's just white and blue- that'd be a Finland then."
"Or Greece. Or Somalia, Honduras, Israel, Scotland, Antarctica-"
"Antarctica? Really, G.?"
"Yes, Antarctica. Or, for that matter, Federated States of Micronesia. But, to make you happy I'll add ketchup. Ketchup's red and it'll have colors of American flag, as well as twenty three other countries, but that's neither here nor there since it'll have the necessary red, white and blue. Will that make you happy?"
"I'm always happy."
"Liar." G. turned to Kay. "Can I get an American, medium well, hold the tomatoes with regular fries?"
"Of course, honey," she said, patting his arm lightly. "You don't let your friend there bother you, there's nothing wrong with a man knowing what he wants and asking for it. I'll bring you boys another round in a few when I bring the burgers. "
"That'd be great. Thanks, Kay."
Once they were alone again, they sat sipping their beers and munching on the potato skins for a few minutes before G. finally broke the silence. "She was right, you know."
"I know what I want."
"A cheeseburger?" Sam asked, trying to break the ice by being deliberately obtuse.
"To know who I am."
"Hetty knew, Sam. About Romania, the Comescus, my sister... my mom. Hetty knew this whole time and never told me."
"I know. But I don't know what to tell you. She's... She's Hetty. I get that you're pissed. Hell, I'm pissed, but she didn't do it to hurt you."
"She said she was trying to protect me," G. admitted softly as he hunched over his beer, staring at it like it somehow contained all the answers to the universe.
"She probably was." Wanting to protect G. came with the territory of knowing him. There was something broken, almost delicate, about G. made Sam instinctively want to shield him from everything bad out there in the world
Kay arrived then, her tray brimming with their food, extra napkins, ketchup, hot sauce, and beers. G. offered her a shy smile while Sam thanked her. The next few moments were occupied by rearranging the table to their liking, the condiments being used and then pushed up against the wall, napkins set aside for later, and beers moved away from the edge.
Sam watched G. long enough to recognize that G. was more intent on playing with his food then eating it. "G., your tomato-less pathetic excuse of a cheeseburger is not going to eat itself."
G. picked up a fry and swirled it through the ketchup. "I always wondered, you know? Why I couldn't remember. Most kids remember bits and pieces from when they're little, but not me. I had... flashes sometimes- like the beach and that damned toy soldier, but, come on, what five year old doesn't know their own name?"
"One who had witnessed their mother's murder," Sam said softly.
"Yeah." G. let out a short chuff of a laugh as he absentmindedly stabbed his burger with the ketchup smeared fry. "That'd do it."
"So how's that non-American American?" It wasn't a subtle subject change, not at all, but if it got G. to quit moping long enough to actually eat something Sam didn't care.
After a minute G. took a big bite and make a big production of pondering it as he chewed. "I feel more patriotic already."
"Really," G. replied, stealing one of Sam's wedges.
"Hey!" Sam protested, more out of form's sake than anything else.
They talked about inconsequential stuff for the rest of the meal, their typical back and forth about things like just what Kensi saw in her last two guys and if was anything ever going to happen between Nell and Eric, until G. suddenly asked, "Remember that notebook? From that warehouse that blew up? The warehouse with the files?"
He didn't elaborate further, but Sam hadn't needed him to, he knew instantly what G. was talking about. "The one with all the addresses of every foster home you ever lived in."
"Yeah." G. rubbed the back of his neck again. "That was her, Hetty. She was the one who got me out of the orphanage and into all those homes. She said she was determined to find me a family, but I was a challenging child and it never really worked out."
Sam thought about the few facts G. had let slip about his childhood. Thirty seven homes. Drunk, abusive foster dads. Never belonging. Never finding a home to call his own. "No, it didn't. Not then anyway."
G. looked up, confused. "What do you mean?"
"You got us now. Me, Kensi, Eric, Nell, hell even Deeks. We'd do anything for you, man, just like you'd do anything for us. If that's not family, then I don't know what is."
Sam cocked an eyebrow. "Hell, I know." He lifted his glass, about to propose a toast and waited for G. to lift his own. "To family," he said.
"To family," G. echoed as they clinked their glasses together.
Author's Note: The following episodes are referenced in one way or another in this story: S1E1 "Identity", S1E6 "Keepin' It Real", S1E24 "Callen, G.", S3E1 "Lange, H.", and S3E4 "Deadline".