Okay, so here it is, the final part of Phoenix. Apologies for not getting this posted sooner, but real life has been a tad on the busy side recently.
Many huge thank yous to everyone who has read, alerted and left me the most wonderful reviews. I've been truly amazed by the response.
Biggest thanks go to the Mel (aka imahistorian) for so many reasons there isn't room to list, but mostly for just being a fantastic friend when I've needed it most x
This might not be what everyone is expecting but, to be honest, I never intended to end this story any differently. I hope you enjoy and many thanks for reading :)
A small smile lifted the corners of Sam's mouth as he observed Kensi and Deeks' interaction from his position just outside the armoury door. Having noted the length of time Deeks had been absent from the bullpen after going in search of his partner, Sam's own curiosity had peaked and he'd gone in search of both of them. He'd had no intention of intruding upon a private moment, rather the protective instinct he felt more strongly than ever for them had spurred his need to know they were okay. And pulled into each others firm embrace, it was apparent that they had made the necessary moves in their need for communication. Hit with an unexpected wave of relief Sam took a breath then stepped quietly away from the door. Turning to exit the armoury he really shouldn't have been quite so surprised as he was to find Hetty observing, not just him, but all three of them.
"They needed that," she noted with a purposeful nod of her head, ignoring Sam's mild start at finding her almost directly before him. "It was an important step."
Hazarding a brief glance over his shoulder to where Kensi and Deeks still remained, Sam added a nod of agreement. "You think they'll be okay?"
Hetty smiled affectionately as her own gaze drifted passed Sam to her two junior team members.
"I like to think, Mr Hannah, that with age comes knowledge and perhaps even a touch of wisdom," she answered carefully, her hands clasped firmly in front of her. "Unfortunately it does not come with powers of clairvoyance. So I must confess to having a great deal of hope, rather than an absolute belief, in a positive outcome."
The underlying caution in Hetty's response wasn't something Sam welcomed, the effects of recent events clearly tempering even her drive and optimism. However, he found himself nodding in agreement once more, knowing it would be naïve to think that there were guarantees for such things. Deeks had certainly taken the first steps towards his recovery, but a long road still lay ahead, one which would no doubt be scattered with obstacles that would need to be overcome in their own unique way. The support of his team, of his friends, of this group who cared far more than sometimes they admitted, was vital and Sam was determined they would not fail him.
In some ways the whole team remained locked within a state recovery, their final series of dealings with Isaak Sidorov so brutal and unforgiving in their very nature that each one of them felt a pain and loss tug at them. But if Deeks could recover, if they could help get him through this, then perhaps they could all get through it and allow themselves to collectively heal.
Glancing once more at Deeks and Kensi, their continued interaction and the peace they seemed to have found, Sam couldn't prevent his mind from wondering back to the chaos that had led them to this. To that room; to the screams; to the sound of that damned drill; to the fear that swirled about them like the dankest of mists, unyielding in its hold. Shaking his head in attempt to clear the burst of memories he looked back around into Hetty's warm but pensive gaze.
"Just doesn't seem like a fair deal sometimes," he murmured almost to himself.
"In saving the lives of others we run the risk of losing ourselves?" Hetty questioned, though Sam recognised the rhetorical intention behind it and remained quiet. "You're right, Mr Hanna, it's not fair. This job has the potential to take so much from each of us. Blood, sweat and tears barely scratches the surface of it." Pause. "But it's about the people, not just those we protect and save, but those who stand beside us in our endeavours. They make the sacrifices a little easier to bear, they give them greater purpose. And after a while we find we do this for them as much as for those who don't even know we exist."
Sam nodded solemnly, a frown creasing his brow in a single line. It wasn't that he disagreed with anything Hetty had said, her sentiments held true, it was just that he could feel an internal tug against it.
"I'm not sure Deeks would agree with that right now," he countered softly.
"Oh, I think he'd surprise you," Hetty replied with a small smile. "You and Mr Deeks have come a long way together in the last few months. Don't now base the value of that journey on what was lost, rather than what has been gained along the way."
Sam paused as he considered the older lady's words. Hetty often veiled the truth of her words behind mild riddle, but rarely were they so complex that the person they were intended for couldn't pull them apart with relative ease. This occasion was no different.
"It wish it came from an easier place. I wish it wasn't this hard."
Clasping her hands together and interlocking her fingers, Hetty pointed her joined index fingers at the former SEAL with sharp purpose.
"How long did it take for you to trust, and I mean really trust, Mr Callen?"
Considering his answer carefully Sam pushed his thumbs heavily into the pockets of his jeans before speaking.
"Almost a year."
"Hmm, and this is a man, an experienced agent, whom you spend all day, every day with."
"So you're saying it's me?" Sam sighed.
"No, Mr Hanna, I'm merely saying that we each have our own predetermined measure and value of trust, and it comes to us in it's own time and in it's own way," she emphasised. "For Mr Deeks, much like Mr Callen, trust appears to come far easier, because their lives have taught them to have little expectation of it. But for you, your training as a SEAL has taught you that it is nothing short of an imperative."
Sam remained quiet as Hetty continued, the determination of her words clear in the strength of her tone, though the volume wavered little.
"You and Mr Deeks are extremely different people and although those differences have never stopped you working together as part of an effective team, they have never allowed you to become closer than that. And that's a sad thing because your similarities carry so much more strength than your differences."
"Deeks and I have similarities?"
Hetty smiled at the scepticism she clearly heard, especially as it came with just a hint of what she believed to be hope.
"Ah, Sam, you are two of the most fiercely loyal people I know. You both care deeply for those around you and neither of you are afraid to show it; you share an amazing capacity for empathy and an ability to relate to the people around you; you put the needs of others front and centre, above any needs of your own. Yes, you have many similarities." Pause. "Including the harbouring of unnecessary feelings of guilt."
Releasing a deep sigh, his gaze falling momentarily to his feet, Sam's words were quietly earnest.
"He was there because of me, Hetty."
"He was there because it was his job, Sam," she countered quickly and firmly, a single finger raised and pointed in his direction. "Can you honestly say that you would have reacted any differently if the roles had been reversed?"
"You've said yourself that trust is often forged in fire and flame," she began, pausing a second to choose the words which would follow.
"Trouble with that is it tends to leave a big pile of ashes behind." Sam injected, unsure of where this was leading.
"Yes, but it is what rises from those very ashes that matters, Mr Hanna. The trust you and Mr Deeks have found and entrusted to each other, even today, is proof of that. You've both allowed a phoenix to rise from those ashes, and I don't doubt it will be strong and powerful and help you both recover from all of this." Pause. "It will help breath new life and faith into all of us."
"You really think so?"
Hetty smiled widely, taking in the unusual sight of Sam lacking in confidence, actually in need of a reassurance she was more than happy to provide.
"Oh, Mr Hanna, of that one I am pretty much certain."