Going Dark: Epilogue
"Hetty, the launch codes are secured," Callen said and let out a long sigh. "But, Bennett got away."
"I'll alert the CIA," she replied. "They'll want to deal with him in their own way. Now, how's your team?"
"Sam was wounded, Hetty," Callen felt his hand shake as he spoke the words and the strong emotions he had been trying to keep in check were suddenly fighting to get out.
"How bad, Mr. Callen?" Hetty's voice was quiet and apprehensive and he knew she was keeping her own emotions tightly controlled.
"He was hit high in the chest, close to his left shoulder. The surgeon's still working on him," Callen replied. "We got him back to the ship before he lost too much blood, so I think he's going to be okay."
"And Mr. Deeks?" Hetty asked.
"He's exhausted, but he won't go to bed until he sees that Sam's all right." Callen smiled as he remembered how stubborn Deeks had gotten when he tried to talk him into lying down while Sam was in surgery.
"It was his plan, Hetty," Callen said. "He came up with a way to draw Bennett out and when I was surprised and captured by the Iranians, he figured out a way to take them on with Sam's help. I was impressed with how he handled himself. He's a good agent, Hetty."
"Sounds like the three of you bonded on this op," Hetty said and he noted the pride in her voice.
"We worked well together, Hetty," Callen said. "And we all came out alive."
"Then bring your team home, Mr. Callen," Hetty said.
"I don't know when that will be Hetty." Callen said, unable to keep the weariness out of his voice. "We'll have to wait until Sam is strong enough to endure a long flight on a military transport."
"You let me worry about transportation, Mr. Callen," Hetty said. "You just keep me posted on Sam's condition."
"Thanks, Hetty," Callen said.
Callen grabbed a couple of coffees and headed back to sickbay. He found Deeks snoring in a chair outside surgery, his head rested on the back of the chair and his long legs splayed out into the cabin. The corpsmen good-naturedly stepped over them whenever they had to pass. Callen had just settled in the other chair when the surgeon came out.
"Mr. Callen?" Doctor Raitt said as he stepped between the two agents. He smiled down on Deeks as a particularly heavy snore filled the room.
"Doc, you might want to stand across the way when I wake him," Callen said, knowing Deeks might forget where he was and come awake swinging. It had been a long, stressful day and a fierce firefight and Callen was glad he'd made Deeks secure his gun before coming to sickbay.
"Deeks, wake up," Callen said, kicking his foot lightly and standing back. Deeks' head snapped up and he was on his feet in an instant, his eyes unfocused as he started to charge one of the corpsman that had just walked into the room. Callen stepped in front of him, wrapping his arms around him and pushing him back down in the chair as he spoke calmly to him about Sam being out of surgery. Deeks struggled briefly, but finally blinked his eyes and became aware of where he was. He smiled sheepishly at the corpsman, apologizing as the man quickly left the room.
"How's Sam?" Deeks asked as he brushed his wild hair out of his eyes and stood up nervously in front of the surgeon.
"He came through the surgery just fine, and the bullet didn't do as much damage as I initially thought it had." Dr. Raitt said quietly. "You can sit with him if you like."
Deeks immediately dropped back into the chair and put his face in his hands, stroking his chin and shaking his head.
"It scared the shit out of me when I saw Sam go down," Deeks said softly. He spread his legs and rested his elbows on his knees and as his head hung down, he clasped his hands tightly behind his head.
"But it scared me more, when I saw them shove you into that room," Deeks looked up at Callen and he saw the haunted look in his eyes. "I thought you were both dead, Callen, and I couldn't catch my breath. I thought I had lost you both." His eyes filled briefly with tears, but he rubbed them clear and smiled.
"Is that coffee for me?" Deeks asked.
"Yeah, Deeks," Callen said and watched as the young agent gathered himself. "Come on, Deeks, let's go see Big Ass Sam."
Their laughter lightened the atmosphere and they went in to be with Sam and wait for him to wake up.
"Mr. Callen, I have news about your transport back to the states." Hetty sounded cheerful as Callen downed his third coffee of the morning.
Deeks was still sleeping and Sam was already asking the doctor when he could go home. Sam was recovering nicely and after four days in bed he was driving the corpsmen crazy. All three of them were anxious to leave Istanbul and the tight confines of the ship. It had provided a safe haven when they needed it, but they were all getting a little claustrophobic, especially Deeks. This operation didn't hold good memories for any of them, but for Deeks the ship brought back all his feelings of guilt over the death of Bowers every time he opened his eyes, so he was sleeping a lot, but having nightmares. When he was awake, he wasn't proving to be very good company. So when Hetty called to talk about transportation, Callen couldn't wait to hear what she had to say.
"Hetty, I'll take a slow puddle-jumper, if it will get us off this ship and headed home," Callen told her.
"No puddle-jumper for your team, Mr. Callen," Hetty said. "SecNav is sending his personal plane to bring you all home."
"Don't joke with me, Hetty," Callen said softly. He may have bonded with his team, but he couldn't wait to spend some time alone, so he was not in the mood for joking around.
"Why would I joke about a thing like that, Mr. Callen?" Hetty said. "I'm quite serious. You quite possibly kept this country out of a war, and SecNav knows that. I've heard he's been lording it over the head of the CIA just a bit, as has Director Vance."
"I don't know what to say except when can we come home, Hetty?" Callen asked, not able to keep the stress and exhaustion out of his voice.
"The plane will be there tomorrow, Mr. Callen," Hetty said. "You all deserve a little pampering, don't you think?"
"Thank him for us, Hetty. It means a lot." Callen said. He couldn't wait to tell the others and he smiled for the first time in days.
SecNav's plane was certainly not standard Navy issue. It was more like a corporate jet and a big one. A medical team was on board to assist Sam on the flight back and there was plenty of space to stretch out and find privacy. The food was good, not standard Navy issue either, especially the coffee. Hetty had warned them that there would be a stop in Washington, so SecNav and Director Vance could greet them, along with a few other bureaucrats, and they dressed up for that, although they all felt somewhat embarrassed by all the attention. Director Vance pulled Callen aside for a private chat.
"I have news about Ron Bennett," Vance said quietly. "It seems the CIA let it be known that one of its operatives had lured a team of Iranian agents into a trap in which they were all killed. They dropped the name of that operative to some very interested people and yesterday his body was discovered floating in the Black Sea. His head was missing, but fingerprints confirm it was Ron Bennett. I thought you'd like to know."
"Thanks," Callen said with a cold smile. "I never understood why he turned on his own country after so many years. He was a talented agent."
"From what I hear, the CIA has found that he wasn't quite as perfect as they thought," Vance said as he walked back to stand with the SecNav and finish shaking the hands of his agents.
Deeks had been very quiet when she finally got him alone after their plane had landed and everyone got a chance to welcome them home. He had stayed close to Sam until they loaded him in the ambulance for a trip to a local hospital at Hetty's insistence. After that, he had spoken privately with Callen, watching silently as the team leader walked off alone. After that he had looked lost and seemed surprised when she had come up beside him and taken his hand. On the drive home he had asked her if she could take him to the beach, so she drove over to Venice and parked by his favorite surf spot.
He walked out until he was standing on wet sand and didn't seem to notice that the ends of the waves were breaking over his shoes. The sun was almost down and he stood with his eyes closed in the waning golden light, his hands stuffed in the front pockets of his jeans. She stood quietly by his side, watching him, knowing what a toll this operation had taken on him, both physically and emotionally. She saw his head drop and when he opened his eyes he looked over at her and turned and pulled her tightly into an embrace, holding her like he would never let go and she felt tears sting her eyes.
"I missed you," his voice was rough and he stepped back to look at her, holding onto her arms and stroking them gently with his thumbs.
He dropped down onto the sand and pulled her down with him, sitting cross-legged in front of her with his head on her shoulder. She ran her fingers through the soft curls at the back of his neck and slowly stroked his arm until he captured both her hands and held them in his lap. She could tell he was fighting his emotions so she stayed quiet and waited for him to say what he needed to say.
"The day after my seventh birthday, my dad beat me up pretty bad..." he said, but stopped as the story caught in his throat. "My mom came into my room to see how I was and I told her that before I blew out the candles on my cake, I had wished for an older brother. When she asked why, I told her that an older brother would protect me and would keep dad from hurting me."
He raised his head and stared out at the darkening waters of the ocean and she could see the turmoil he was feeling by the tension in his jaw.
"I've been on my own for a long time, Kens," he said. "I never knew what it felt like to have someone really care enough to protect me, until you. I don't have many close friends, maybe only Ray and Pete. But on this op, I began to know what it felt like to have brothers who would take care of me and who would fight to protect me. Sam and Callen took care of me, Kens. I've never had that before. When Callen said we were going dark, I knew what that felt like, I knew what that meant. It meant we were on our own without help, without protection. But Kens, that's been my whole life. I'd gone dark my whole life until I met all of you."
He paused to collect himself and she saw tears standing in his eyes, which he roughly wiped away before he continued. He briefly sketched out the plan they had come up with to lure Bennett out and then his voice became so low she almost couldn't hear him over the pounding waves.
"I was afraid, Kens," he said. "When I saw they had captured Callen, I was scared to death. I thought Sam was dead and that Callen would die there on that filthy floor far from home. I was scared I had lost the two men I thought of as brothers, and it made me mad. Thinking of you was the only thing that kept me from just blindly starting to fire. I knew you were waiting for me and if they were gone, then I had to come back for you."
She took his face in her hands and kissed him gently. They held each other for a long time until she heard him sigh deeply.
"Please don't tell them about the brother thing Kens," He asked.
"Because they might not feel the same way," he said.
"Can't you just talk to them about it?" Kensi asked.
"It's a guy thing, Kens."
"Time to go home, Marty."
Thanks to all of you for following this story and for all the kind comments and constructive criticism along the way.