The Navy Ball
The Navy-Marine Corps Ball; Washington D.C.
Callen approached Director Vance and Hetty from the west, trying to minimize the likelihood that either of them would suddenly turn toward the dance floor without warning.
"Something wrong, Mr. Callen?" Hetty asked before Callen had even announced his presence.
How does she do that?
"Special Agent Callen," Vance interjected, sticking his hand out, "Congratulations on the award, you deserve it."
Callen shook the director's hand, "Thank you, sir," he said, "but I have to give most of the credit to my team."
Vance chuckled, "I see what you mean, Henrietta." He patted Callen on the shoulder. "You're too modest. I read the report; you and your team did this country a great service." He looked around briefly and straightened his tie, before adding, "Now, if you'll both excuse me, I have to continue schmoozing my bosses."
Callen snorted and watched him approach the Secretary of the Navy with open arms and a big smile. "Glad that's not part of my job," he said to Hetty. Turning toward the bar, he ordered a beer and sat down on one of the empty stools. He hoped that he could keep Hetty from turning to face the dance floor for another few seconds while Sam finished separating Kensi and Deeks. Years of working with her had taught him not to use the obvious methods of distraction—she was too smart for that. He didn't even dare a look back to see if Sam had completed his portion of the operation.
To his relief, Hetty took a seat at the bar. "So, Mr. Callen," she said, "I am assuming that you need something from me?"
He didn't miss a beat, "Remember back in Moscow, when I was confined to that safe house for…"
He nodded, taking a short sip of his beer, "And I called you from the Sat-Phone after six weeks?"
She raised her eyebrows, "Yes, Mr. Callen, I do recall that particular call," she said. "Although, I am still not sure how you got a hold of a phone in the first place."
He waved his hand, "Not important," he said, glossing over that particular detail, "I told you that I was under house arrest while the others on my team investigated an intelligence leak."
She nodded, tapping her fingers lightly against the bar.
"And you quoted a verse from Carmina Burana…"
"Rex sedet in vertice—caveat ruinam!" she answered without missing a beat.
"Yeah, that one."
"Is there a reason you are bringing this up now, Mr. Callen?" She leaned against the back of her barstool and crossed her arms.
"Gibbs and I were discussing the undercover assignment—he was the one that discovered the mole and cleared my name… and I couldn't remember the translation."
"The king sits in majesty—but let him beware his downfall."
Callen nodded, "right."
Hetty looked at him for a few seconds before taking a breath and setting her hands in her lap.
Crap, Callen thought.
"Mr. Callen," she started.
He kept his face even and raised his eyebrows innocently.
"I do enjoy reminiscing with you about our shared history."
"In fact, this reminds me of a similar incident that happened recently," she said.
"It does, does it?" He leaned back against his chair and crossed his arms, mimicking her earlier movement.
"Yes, I seem to remember you reciting the entire poem to Mr. Hanna during an undercover assignment."
Crap. He hadn't realized she had been listening to the stakeout transmission.
She leaned forward and looked directly into his eyes. "In Latin," she added, taking a sip of the hot tea sitting in front of her. He hadn't even noticed she had ordered anything.
"So, are you going to tell me what this is really about, or am I going to guess?"
Crap. Before he could stop himself, his eyes flicked to the dance floor momentarily, where Kensi and Sam were now dancing, and then to Deeks, across the room.
Hetty kept her face even. "I see. How very… noble of you, Mr. Callen." She stirred her tea with the teabag and then wrapped the string around her spoon and set it beside the saucer.
He shook his head, "I'm not sure what you're referring to."
She hid a smile. "You make the assumption that I have no idea what goes on between my own agents."
He furrowed his brow and tried to read the expression on her face. "So… you either know that something is going on or you know that I know and are trying to get me to tell you by making me think you already know."
She kept her expression neutral, lips pursed.
Callen studied her, but it was useless. She was much better at this game than he.
After a minute of silence, Hetty spoke. "I care very much about this team, Mr. Callen, and very much about keeping my agents alive."
He nodded, not quite following.
"Sometimes, training and formal education are not enough," she continued, speaking slowly, as if she was choosing her words carefully. "My best example of this is your relationship with Agent Hanna. You became a better NCIS agent when you let him in. You no longer operate alone, and together, the two of you are stronger."
Callen's eyes widened as he realized what she was saying. "You had been watching Deeks for a long time before he joined us," he said. "You chose him for her."
After a few seconds, she nodded.
"You've wanted this all along."
"Wanted? No." She turned her chair around and surveyed the crowd. "I always hope that my agents are fulfilled in both their careers and personal lives."
From across the room, Callen watched Deeks leave the ballroom with what appeared to be an entire bottle of wine. He searched for Sam and Kensi, finally finding them, Kensi's eyes staring at the place where Deeks had just disappeared.
"What about the team?" Callen asked, watching Kensi. "Are you worried it will interfere with their jobs?"
Hetty shrugged. "If I were, do you think I would allow this to continue?"
Callen chuckled and shook his head. "No, I suppose you wouldn't."