Sharp, throbbing pain woke him from a sleep so deep it had been like drowning. Disorientation washed over him, leaving him confused and more than a little bit frightened. Where the hell am I? he thought, and opened his eyes. Gently glowing machines broke the darkness. The gentle beep of a cardiac monitor told him that he was in hospital. It was a sound he'd grown to know well after his shooting.
There was pressure around his arm. Gingerly, he flexed his fingers, wincing when the pressure turned into sharp pain. He ached all over. His chest hurt, pain flaring with every breath, and his throat was sore. It felt like he'd been screaming for a very long time.
A sound close by his head brought his eyes open again, gaze turning towards the noise. Kensi shifted in the chair, leaning forward to tentatively touch his hand.
"Hi," she said, and forced a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. A book lay open on her lap, and he idly wondered what she had been reading. "How are you feeling?"
A thousand flippant remarks sprang to his lips. He swallowed them back, the fear and worry and exhaustion in her eyes letting him know that this wasn't the time or the place for his brand of gallows humour. "Like someone hit me with a truck," he rasped after a few long seconds. "I finally piss you off enough that you ran me over?" he joked wanly, knowing that the sarcasm in his tone wasn't hiding the vulnerability of the question.
"I'd never do that," she replied with quiet honesty. "Damn it, Deeks. You really scared me this time."
He wasn't sure what he'd done this time to end up flat on his back in a hospital bed. "What happened?" The words slipped from him before he could stop them. "Memory's fuzzy. I can't remember…"
There was a hint of panic in his tone. She took his hand again, squeezing his fingers. He tightened his grip, clinging to her like a falling man clings to an outcropping of rock. The contact helped to convince him that it wasn't all a trick, that it wasn't all going to go spinning out of his reach and leave him behind, broken and hurting, just like things had before.
"Kensi, what happened to me?" he whispered, voice filled with urgency.
"You were attacked. Drugged, and beaten in your apartment. We think your attackers were looking for something," she told him quietly, watching some of the panic fade from his eyes. "The doctors think that the drugs are messing with your memories. Once they're out of your system, your memories should return."
She picked up a small cup of water. A straw stuck out of the top of it. The sight of it made him aware of his raging thirst. His mouth felt as dry as tinder. He touched his dry tongue to even dryer lips.
"Drink?" she asked, and leaned towards him before he answered.
He sipped from the straw, rolling the tepid water around his mouth before swallowing it. Even that tiny effort left him exhausted, eyes drifting closed once more. The darkness lurking behind his lids scared him, so he flexed his hand again, letting the wash of pain chase back the exhaustion.
The effort of talking made him cough. She grabbed his shoulder, bracing him until the spasm passed. Pain made bright stars dance across his vision. The coppery taste of blood filled his mouth. He pressed his tongue against his lip, finding a tiny knick that was bleeding a little.
"You okay?" Kensi asked, watching him with worried eyes. "I can get the doctor." She shifted, looking ready to bolt for the hallway and start yelling for help.
Shaking a little, he sank back against the pillows, shoulders heaving as he struggled to get his breathing back under control. "Bit my lip," he said finally. "Or it opened when I was coughing."
Without a word, she passed him the cup of water again, letting him wash the thick taste of blood from his mouth. He managed three mouthfuls before the effort tired him. "So, how long?" he asked again.
She glanced at her watch. "Almost twenty-four hours." She debated whether to tell him more, then decided to leave the details until he was stronger. Some things could wait. He needed time to heal before she hit him with the damage to his apartment, the fact that she'd found him bleeding out in his own bed.
The fact that I thought he'd tried to kill himself. I should have known better. Shame flashed through her, streaking away as he reached for her hand again, muscles trembling under the effort. The utterly lost look in his eyes made her grab his hand and hold on tight.
"Feels like longer," he muttered and yawned.
"For all of us, I think."
He shifted on the bed, rolling his shoulders. The stiffness in his back was driving him to distraction. "I had the strangest dream," he murmured. "Something about a dog," he added in a bemused tone, trying to remember.
Unaccountably, Kensi blushed a little. "That might have been my fault." She held up the book, tilting it so that he could read the title.
"Ah, The Call of the Wild." He lifted his eyebrows. "I love that book."
She smiled, handing it over to him. "So do I. My father used to read it to me when I was younger."
He shook his head, running his fingers over the worn binding. Tired amusement flared in his eyes. "That's one hell of a bedtime story." The amusement died, leaving him looking sad and tired and a little bit hurt. "Books were an escape for me when I was small... I'd hear him downstairs with my mother and…" He stopped talking and shook his head. "And find a place to hide with a book until he passed out," he finished bitterly, one eyebrow lifting again. "One hell of a cop, huh?"
Kensi stared at him, chest aching for the young boy he'd been. He tipped his head to look over at her, misreading her silence as disapproval, then looked away again, fixing his gaze on the book.
"I don't know why I'm telling you this." He shrugged awkwardly. "It's all in the past now anyway."
"I want you to listen to me, okay?" She touched two fingers to his cheek, using gentle pressure to turn his face to her. "Marty Deeks. In the time I've known you, I've seen you do stupid, reckless things. I've seen you take down suspects twice your size. I've seen you hold the hand of victims that needed someone to listen to them." She paused to make sure her words were sinking in. "In all of that time, I've never seen you be anything but a good man, and a great cop."
His lips parted, eyes wide with pleased surprise. "Kensi…" he started to say.
She shook her head. "What your father did when you were a child wasn't your fault," she added softly. "And if you tell anyone outside of this room that I said that, I'll not only deny it, but I'll replace your deodorant with pepper spray. Got it?"
A small, pleased smile touched his lips. "Got it."
Satisfied, she turned back to business. "Now, Hetty wants us to go over this list…"
"Hope it's not as long as the last one," he grumbled.
"If it is, I'm eating all of your jello again."