Hetty: "Take her out to dinner, after the case is over."
Callen: "Agent Giordano?"
Hetty: "Mmhmm. Then take Sam out the next night. You know how he gets."
Dialogue from "Keepin' It Real"
Some days I fear running an undercover covert NCIS operation is not unlike watching over a kindergarten class--only with more weaponry and less finger paints. It's not that I don't appreciate the tremendous amount of stress my agents are under every single day or question their skill or loyalty to the cause. It's just that none of them have ever really learned how to play well with others.
The exception of course is Mr. Hanna. His training as a SEAL and his very nature make him a team player to the very depths of his soul.
He would do anything to help a teammate, to save a brother in arms. He would lay down his life to protect his partner. So to watch him cut himself off from the person who means the most to him on this Earth is distressful and disheartening. However, more to the point, it is a threat to the operation. So it's time to nip it in the bud.
From the look on Mr. Callen's face, it appears perhaps he also sees the similarity to a kindergarten class and that he's just been called to the principal's office for pulling some classmate's pigtails. I motion for him to sit down across from me. He knows he's in trouble as I offer him no tea. "Mr. Callen, what have you done this time?"
He folds his arms across his chest and clearly pouts. "Come on Hetty? Why do you think it's always my fault? It's Sam who's being unreasonable."
Clearly he understands why I've pulled him into my office. "That might be the case, but Mr. Hanna is never unreasonable without -- I hate to say it -- a reason."
He sighs, resigned. "Fine. It's my fault, but I have no idea what I did."
The fact is he probably truthfully has no idea what he's done to upset Mr. Hanna. Part of what makes Mr. Callen such an incredible undercover agent, sadly also leaves him entirely clueless when it comes to real relationships. Growing up alone, fending for himself with no one to watch his back, makes him careless in ways he really can't help. That doesn't excuse him from whatever he has done to make Mr. Hanna so upset. "Really? I find it hard to believe that a man of your investigative skills is unable to determine what exactly it is you did to piss your partner off so thoroughly."
He smiles ruefully, a challenge etched across his face. "Well I don't know. Everything was fine. He got back from Jakarta. He was happy to be home. We went out for a beer and I brought him up to date on our pending cases. I even gave him a DVD of the Lakers' games I had Eric compile for him while he was gone."
There is clearly more to the story. "And then what happened?
"Nothing. I left soon after as I had an early tee time the next morning."
If this rift between Mr. Hanna and Mr. Callen didn't have the potential to bring the entire operation down, I might find his ignorance amusing. He really doesn't have a clue. "Did you tell Mr. Hanna about this?"
He narrows his eyes. "That I was playing golf? Yes."
Small steps. "By yourself?"
"No, with Agent Brickman."
And there it is. Now to make him understand. "So you left Mr. Hanna at a bar after he had been away for six weeks working undercover within a terror cell, so you could go golfing the next morning with the agent from the FBI you had been working with while Mr. Hanna had been away risking his life for his country?"
I watch the realization wash across his face, even as he fights it. "You can't think that's what's behind this. Sam hates golf."
"And yet, he plays a round with you every time you ask and he got you a lifelong membership to that course you like for Christmas last year."
And he's still fighting it. "It was just golf, Hetty."
Sometimes you have to use a hammer. "Obviously, to Mr. Hanna it wasn't. What you did Mr. Callen – however inadvertently – is the equivalent of two-timing your partner in the bed that he bought you."
His eyes blow wide and he squirms in his seat. Mission accomplished. "That's the metaphor you chose to go with? Really?"
I stand up and walk to his side, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It seemed apt. And the most direct way to get your attention."
He gets it now. "Fine. I messed up. Big. Time. How do I fix it?"
I fight to keep the smile off my face. "I suggest you woo him."
He looks at me, his expression incredulous. "Woo him? That's your advice."
Perhaps there are a few more truths to make him see. "Mr. Callen, how many partners did you go through before I placed you with Mr. Hanna?"
He sighs again. "I didn't keep count."
I lean back against the edge of my desk and look down at him. "I did. It was 23. It was 23 over a very long four years. And of those 23, how many of them requested never to work with you again?"
He fights the urge to roll his eyes at me. "I have no idea, but I'm sure you'll tell me."
"Twenty of them. The other three requested never to work in the state of California as long as you still lived here."
He shrugs his shoulders, going for nonchalance. "Come on, was I really that bad?"
"Yes, you were. You were reckless, headstrong and first and foremost someone who would have always rather to have worked alone. You have trust issues -- well earned ones, mind you -- but trust issues never the less and you never let your partners get close enough to you to watch your back."
He doesn't like what he's hearing but he knows it's the truth. "And how am I different now?"
I step forward and pat his shoulder again. "Oh you're still reckless and headstrong and your trust issues will probably never go away. But you know now, you're stronger working with a partner, with *Sam* then you ever were by yourself. The two of you compliment each other in ways that you both need."
I look him directly in the eyes. "If you don't fix this, you could lose that. And I don't think I have to tell you, it would be a great loss indeed."
His eyes reveal everything. He knows he can no longer function without Mr. Hanna by his side. It obviously scares and comforts him at the same time. "So woo him?"
"That's my advice. And Mr. Callen, for all our sakes, do it quick."
My agents live in a world of lies and deceit and the only real and truthful relationship they'll ever get to have is with their partner. The one person who sees them at their worst and still extends a hand to pull them up from the perdition they willfully jump into each and every day.
Mr. Callen needs his Sam to be his touchstone and his lighthouse. He knows this and so does Mr. Hanna. So I have no doubt he will find a way to make it up to him. And even if his attempts leave something to be desired, Sam will forgive him because Mr. Callen is his lifeline too.
Some say partnerships such as theirs are like a marriage, but I disagree. This is a bond forged in fire and tempered in combat. The silent vows made here are stronger than those made at an altar because here they are not simply pledging their hearts. In this world, they are pledging their very lives. Finding a match in this profession is rare and precious. So I have no doubt that Mr. Callen and Mr. Hanna will be watching each other's backs for many years to come.