Pete walked in first, Deeks hadn't said anything the whole walk back.
"Marty how are you?" Jess said standing up as her boy walked in the room.
"I'm fine ma." Deeks snapped.
"Did you and Pete talk?" Kensi asked.
Deeks looked at Pete annoyed, he really didn't want to do this.
"What I have to do this now? In front of an audience?" He snapped.
"It's not an audience," Jess said gently, "It's people who care about you and want to help."
Deeks glared at Sam, "Yeah right."
"Deeks we didn't know, it was not meant to hurt you but to help you. You were nearly hurt in that fight the other day, we didn't want to lose you like Dom."
"I can defend myself, you don't believe me?" Deeks squared up to Sam, "Do you wanna take me on...any of you….you think you are man enough. I've had better men than you try and take me on...come on!" his voice rose to a shout.
"No one wants to fight you Mr. Deeks. They just want to understand."
"Understand what?!" He snapped. "What do they need to understand...I'll tell you what they need to understand...They betrayed me, they followed me, they attacked me...they are just as bad as…" He turned. "They don't trust me."
"We do trust you Deeks." Sam said, "I owe you for what you did for Michelle and myself."
"THEN WHY DO THAT!" Deeks shouted.
"You were holding back in the fight, you could have gotten yourself or Kensi hurt."
Deeks shot a horrified look at the woman he loved. "I would never let Kensi be hurt."
He backed away from Sam. "I can defend myself, yeah I held back...I had to...I'm not...not him. But I never let Kensi get hurt, or you guys."
"We were just worried, I mean we care, you are a part of the team."
"No...no I'm not. I'm just the cop, the comic relief that you all laugh about, remember….The Temp?"
Callen looked at Sam guiltily remembering the conversation on Deeks' first day as liaison.
"It wasn't meant to mean anything Deeks, like you said, 'Cops love nicknames it makes them feel wanted.'
Deeks shook his head, "Yeah because on your first day in a new job you want all your team members to think you aren't good enough to pull it off."
"We have never thought that." Kensi argued.
"Yes you have, my case with Traynor… you thought I was weak then...Stupid cop, fell for his partner and couldn't protect her, I know that's what you think now...with Kensi."
"Sit down please Mr. Deeks." Hetty said as she gestured to a chair with a cup of tea in front of it.
Reluctantly he sat, chancing a glance at the faces of the others in the room.
All he saw staring back at him was love from Jess, Pete and Kensi. Care and concern from Hetty, Callen and Sam. Feeling ashamed he dropped his head back down.
"You need to talk to us, tell us what you are feeling?" Hetty asked.
Deeks looked over at Pete and Jess sitting together, they had been his rock for many years.
Jess taking him into the shelter and 'not' fostering him, but allowing him to live there and be close to where he had promised he would be.
Pete understood the look of panic that Deeks shot him.
"He's uncomfortable talking to anyone about this, but we talked and he said he would explain." Pete placed a supportive hand on Deeks' shoulder.
Deeks took a deep breath.
"When I was shot, you had a suspect list. One of the names on there was Gordon John Brandel. He was my father."
"I remember, you said you shot him when you were about 21 at a thanksgiving dinner?" Kensi said.
"I lied." Deeks admitted.
"You didn't shoot your father?" Sam asked.
Deeks gave a cold laugh. "Oh I shot him alright. Only it was a while before that. I was eleven and after i shot him he punished me by killing my mother and unborn sister."
Even Jess gasped at that revelation, she hadn't know.
He looked ashamed and stood up pacing the length of the room.
"SEE!" He exclaimed turning to Jess. "I knew if you knew you would regret helping me."
Within a second she had crossed the room and wrapped her arms around him.
"I don't ever regret anything, except maybe you not allowing me to adopt you. Marty I am as proud of you as your mother was."
Deeks pulled away, "No...I got her killed it was my fault, If I hadn't run...If I had just stayed there…"
"Then you'd be dead kid." Pete interjected, " We've talked about this before. You can't go living your life on should'da, could'da, would'da's."
"I failed, her I didn't fight hard enough." Deeks mumbled as Pete held him tight, steadying the conflicting emotions that were running around in Deeks' head.
"You were eleven -years -old, you should have been playing ball and riding bikes, not fighting for your life. How you lived like that and didn't grow up the carbon copy of your father I'll never know." Sam said trying to appease the detective.
Marty turned away and walked to the canoes hanging like bright ornaments on the wall.
"I did…" He said so softly his words were almost imperceptible.
"Deeks?" Kensi asked.
"You remember Max...Max who was Ray's best friend, Max who went out with Nicole...that Max, that Alias? He isn't an Alias at all, he is me. Deeks is my Alias, Deeks is the man I wanted my mom to be proud of. Max is the me I try to hide." He paced up and down the corridor.
"Max was an alias, you said so." Kensi asked confused.
"I am more Max than Marty, especially this time of year. I find Max easier to be. Max fights, Max defends himself, Max doesn't fail…"
"Who did you fail Mr. Deeks?" Hetty asked, "Your mother and sister?"
Deeks glared at her. "Yes!" he exclaimed wishing she would let him go now.
"No...no Deeks, you were a child, you didn't need to witness that or to have it happen to you."
"Didn't need it but I got it, I made a promise to my mother, that I would stay close, the stupid policemen took me away to a foster home. I couldn't stay so I left and went back to where I had to wait. But she never came back. I always wondered if I had stayed, would she have lived. Would I have been a good big brother?"
"You would have been great." Kensi stated.
For the first time in a long while they saw a genuine smile. "I really could have been." He agreed.
Jess motioned Deeks to leave the room with her, she walked down to her boy, "Come make me a decent cup of tea child." she said giving Pete the nod to go on as they left the room.
"There are some things that Jess wants to make sure you know about Deeks." Pete said.
"Will it help?" Callen asked.
"I think so," Pete replied. "It's just about how he was, when we first found him."
He looked over at Hetty, who nodded. "I do believe it is about time. I do not think Mr. Deeks can keep this to himself any longer."
Pete sat back, "I noticed him first, he came in with a family I knew acting as if he was with them." Pete gave a small laugh, "He was a small kid for his age, he was skinny and looked half starved. He had a freshly sutured cut under his left eye and some fresh and some old bruising visible."
He waited as the people around the table had different reactions to that information. Kensi was horrified, Sam was angry and Callen just had a look of acceptance. Pete noted all those reactions and continued.
"We thought he was maybe with another family, he came in most nights with different families and was assigned to the family room to sleep. Most nights we would find him alone in a closet with a blanket, or in a secluded corner of the large rooms. But never with the family he had come in with. I followed him a few times but lost him. Then one night he was turned away as he came on his own. Jess followed him two blocks to an alleyway. She watched as he knelt where a few month ago a woman had been murdered."
Pete pulled a newspaper clipping out of his back pocket, It had a picture of a terrified blonde headed boy kneeling by the body of a woman looking lost and alone. The headline read; Local woman slain by husband. They looked shocked at the picture."
"Is...is that Deeks?" Kensi asked.
"Child welfare took him in and had him fostered with a nice family in Santa Clara, he was there for two days before he ran away. According to his social worker at the time he kept disappearing from each home he was placed in, but he turned up at the shelter each time he went missing. Jess had a word with his social worker and managed to foster him. But Marty refused to be fostered so Jess made a deal with him. He would stay at the shelter and go to school, in return he would earn his room and board by raising a puppy and getting good grade. We promised he would not be moved from the shelter and he kept his promise."
"Why would Deeks refuse to be fostered?" Sam asked.
"He probably got bad placements." Callen assumed.
Pete shook his head, "The placements he had were great."
Callen let out a scoff he couldn't keep inside.
Pete nodded, "Foster kid?" he asked.
"Once or twice." Callen replied.
"Well Jess went to see all of Marty's placements, she wanted to know what went wrong with them. She found nothing, it was just that Marty kept insisting that each placement was too far."
"Too far?" Kensi asked.
Pete let out a sigh, "When Marty's mother died, she had told him to stay close by, made him promise and he wouldn't break his last promise to her."
Kensi wiped away a tear at the thought of her partner keeping a promise like that.
"The thing is, people assume he had it easy and he didn't. He refused to take anything from anyone he hadn't earned. He worked his way through school and despite a few pitfalls, he was a well behaved kid."
"What about Max?" Sam asked remembering what Deeks had said about him being like Max.
"Max...Max appeared when Marty was about 12. He would get into fights and say Max did it, he wouldn't take responsibility for the fights even when we saw him have them. He would go off for days being mean and moody, at first we thought it was just a teenage thing. However Marty would be really mad for days. It took a year before we found out his father was getting to him from prison and Marty was taking one day a month, skipping school and being taken by friends of his father to the prison to see him. Martin had been the name his mother called him, Max was what his father said he should be, he would warp the kids memory of his mother and fighting was the only way that Marty could express himself. Jess and I...put a stop to it, Brandel's friends never approached Marty after we found out, but he was so ashamed about how he had reacted that he promised he would never be Max again."
"But he has Max Gentry as an alias."
"He was working on a case and a kid who knew him as Max pulled him in as a contact who could help them, so Max was reborn. Max was tough and no one in the neighborhood messed with him."
The others nodded, they had all seen the Max alias and he was tough.
"The thing is, Max is Marty's biggest fear, he is what his father told him he should be...what he is afraid he will become. When he fought you in the alley Sam, he held back. He has to hold back, when he doesn't he's at risk of being more Max than Marty."
"But if he went through all of that and he still became a lawyer?"
"He wanted to help to give back to other kids, he worked his way through law school, but after realizing that he was helping kids after they had been hurt he decided to follow in the footsteps of Jessica's brother. He's a cop."