More Than Meets the Eye

chapter 7

Deeks made Jess a cup of tea and walked out to look at the ocean.

The water had always calmed him and he felt better just watching the waves lap back and forth, to him the sea reminded him of himself. Untameable, changeable and wild. It gave him a sense of control over himself and his destiny.

He had been 13 when Pete had introduced him to surfing. The idea of being out there on a board taming and moving freely on a wave, had, the first time he'd tried, filled him to the brim with tears of joy.

He had sat on his board after riding his first wave, his back to Pete, tears spilling down his face and mixing with the salt water around him. Feeling safe, whole and free for the first time in his life...he never wanted that feeling to end.

Mostly it hadn't, with both Jess, Pete and the others at the shelter all taking an interest in their youngest permanent resident Martin Brandel had thrived.

There had been hiccups along the way of course, his father trying to manipulate him from prison, his temper flare ups, which with the help of Pete teaching him to surf became fewer and further between them.

With the help of his mismatched family, he had found himself. Jess had hoped that he had knocked all his demons on the head, but each year he had taken a week.

The one day that haunted his dreams still came back to hurt him. She was prepared, always making space at the shelter for him as soon as word reached her that he was back in town.

They never talked about what he did that day, but after the first few years word got around that if Martin Brandel was in town it was a good idea to steer clear.

Occasionally he would turn up at the shelter with a split lip or bloody knuckles, he would grab the first aid kit and patch himself up. Be given a cup of tea and a listening ear from Jess and Pete and would crash in his room.

After the first few times, Marty had managed to convince Pete to not let Jess come into his room when he was screaming. He had confided some of what had happened to him before his mother died, but as he woke up his fist flying trying to protect himself on those occasions they convinced her that having Pete nearby to help with his flashbacks was a far better option.

Two years passed until the first time Marty had called Jess 'Ma.' He had just been told he was going to be a valedictorian for his years' graduating class and he had come running into the shelter holding the letter proudly in his hand. Grinning he had called for her and calling her Ma she had turned on instinct. It wasn't until after he had explained that he would do extra shifts in the corner store to make enough money for his graduation gown so he could stand up with everyone else that he shyly asked if she and Pete would be there as they had allocated him tickets for his family.

She and Pete had beamed as he had sat there nervously awaiting her answer.

"Please Ma?" he asked.

Jess had burst into tears and wrapped her arms around him. "We would be glad to be there for you son." She had replied.

He had jumped up whooping and run for the door. "I gotta tell Ray. He's gonna be stoked!" he exclaimed and ran out of the building.

Jess had stood there, tears streaming down her face realizing even though he still would not let himself be formally fostered or adopted, he had at least accepted her as a part of his life.

Now she was leaning on the doorframe of the boat-shed, watching her boy as he worked through the idea of letting his new family in.

"Do you think they will hate me?" Deeks asked as he continued to stare at the water. "I know they're all in there judging me, thinking I'm too weak to be on the team."

"Nonsense," Jess retorted, "No one is thinking anything of the sort."

"You don't know them Ma, Kensi is tough, amazing, smart and beautiful. Sam is a hard as nails ex-SEAL and Callen is a legend in his own right and they are ALL Federal Agents, I'm just a cop, I am the replaceable member of the team, the new guy, the nobody."

"Martin Deeks, you stop that right now, you are not a nobody, how many NCIS/LAPD liaison's are there?" She asked.

Deeks turned away, "One." He mumbled.

Jess smiled.

"And how many Federal Agents are there?" she asked.

"I don't know…" He shrugged, "Maybe hundreds?"

She smirked and carried on, "Well...maybe you are a bit more irreplaceable than you think you are."

He shrugged again, some part of him knew as always that she was right, but he didn't want to believe it.

"She's right you know." Sam's voice came as he walked out behind Jess. "You are irreplaceable, you do belong with us."

For a second Deeks' hands balled into fists.

"You mean that, or do you feel guilty because you found out how messed up I really am?" Deeks snapped, "I'm sure Pete filled you in on the colorful chapters of my childhood."

"He told us. It was not your fault." Sam assured him.

"Damn right it wasn't." Deeks turned away as he felt anger rising, "You could have taken the time to know me, to find out...I knew about you, and your wife and kids, I knew about Kensi and I even took the time to find out as much as I could about Callen, you guys were my team, I knew as much as I could to protect you. None of you took the time to get to know me, I was just the cop assigned to the team."

Sam looked and realized that Jess had gone back inside to give them some privacy.

"I was wrong Deeks, will you forgive me and allow me to help you?"

"I don't need your help, I don't need anyone's help. I've been handling this alone for years, I'll continue to handle it alone."

"You don't need to man. Talk to Nate, Me, Hetty...anyone. You can't keep it bottled inside, you need to talk to someone."

"Why?" Deeks snapped, "So I can be the weak link on the team?"

"No, so you can be the strong link that keeps us working well with LAPD. So you can be the guy Kensi is in love with, and the guy who keeps us on our toes, respecting the environment and making our lives seem not as bad as they could be with all the bad we have to encounter. We want you to deal with this, we want to help, will you let us?" Sam asked waiting to see what Deeks would do.

Deeks stared at the water. Should he go back in, would he be deemed as a weak person if he took them up on their offer?

He had always provided for himself, dealt with his own problems, could he trust the team to actually have his back and help him without being hurt?

More than anything he wanted the nightmares to stop. He wanted to make it a whole year without having to basically run away, his whole world crumbling as he coped with the memories that would assail him. He just wanted it to stop.

He wished that he could go back to where no one knew about his weakness.

"I can't go back, can I?" he asked. "Back to before, before you all knew?"

Sam shook his head, "Nope. But if you want, we can move on. We made a mistake...I made a mistake Deeks and I'm sorry, but I had your best interests at heart. I didn't want you to be venerable like Dom was, Kensi can't lose another partner again. We can't lose you and we want to help you...Let us please?" he asked.

Deeks choked up, they had actually wanted him wanted to help him.

He looked past Sam where Jess was standing waiting to see what he would do.

She smiled as Deeks nodded.

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