The Navy Ball
Los Angeles, California
Two weeks prior
It always felt real.
The screaming pierced his ears, ricocheting through his brain like a shotgun. Much later, he realized the ear-shattering noise belonged to him. The pain in his back molar was blinding, white hot, enveloping his brain. He couldn't breathe, couldn't move. Just when the stars were ascending and darkness was appearing in his periphery, the drill stopped. Deeks heard a voice from far away ask the same question for the fourth time.
"Is Quinn an agent?"
He moaned, which was not the answer Sidorov was looking for, apparently. Seconds later he felt his jaw crack as one of the men pistol-whipped him across the face. He tried to breathe through his nose, but choked on his own blood. Turning his head toward the two men in front of him, he got a quick glimpse of Sam through the door. The look on his face was an unfamiliar one to Deeks. Terror. He was terrified that Deeks would break and Michelle would die.
He steeled himself and was able to utter two words through the mouth guard. "Who's Quinn?" He heard the drill start again and seconds later, so did the pain.
It was the screaming that always woke him up. Deeks sat bolt upright in bed, breathing heavy, his sheets soaked with sweat. Morty, always a true friend, hovered above him, his furry face inches away. Deeks scratched his ears lightly and swung his legs over the side of the bed. The alarm clock read 12:00a.m.
He grabbed a yogurt out of the refrigerator, tore the top off, and leaned against the counter. Next to him was a pile of LAPD paperwork from a recent undercover assignment and his cell phone. He picked the phone up and scrolled through his contacts slowly.
How long had it been since he had heard her voice?
He shut the phone and tossed it unceremoniously onto the counter. After he had gotten out of the hospital, his injuries had prevented him from returning to the field. The doctors had estimated the cast would stay on for a month and it would take about six weeks for his ribs to heal. Since then, he had been stuck at the LAPD office, pushing papers and creating undercover identities for his old teammates. It was like his own personal hell.
He lifted a spoonful of vanilla yogurt into his mouth, catching site of his partner's name scribbled hastily on the side of his cast.
"So you won't forget me while you're gone," she had said with a smile.
Two days later, while at work, he realized that she had also drawn a unicorn on the underside, knowing full well that he couldn't see it. The mythical creature had first been noticed by a fellow LAPD officer. The man wasted no time pointing it out to everyone else in the office.
Deeks: 0, Kensi: 1.
She could never get to him fast enough.
The abandoned building was on the north side of the city, two miles from where Sidorov had been holding Michelle. Kensi had the gas pedal to the floor on the expressway, weaving in and out of traffic. Callen was a mile ahead of her and still five minutes out.
She was gunning it through a residential area when she heard LAPD and CIA announce that they had the building surrounded.
We aren't going to make it, she thought.
A few minutes later, Callen was on scene directing officers into the building. She said a quick prayer as she rounded a corner at 65mph. Next to her, Michelle was hanging on to what Deeks referred to as the "oh shit" bar and talking to Sidorov on one of the Russian women's recovered phones.
If Michelle could distract him long enough, he might not see them coming.
Kensi was still a ways down the street when the gunfire started. She flinched as it pierced her eardrums. As she brought the car to a screeching halt at the end of the road, a stream of LAPD officers entered the building from the west.
"KENS!" came Callen's voice. He sounded out of breath. "If you can hear me, call an ambulance."
Her breath caught in her throat. As she dialed 911, she raced toward the building. Speaking quickly to the dispatcher, she gave the location of the warehouse and added that someone on scene would direct the rig when it arrived.
A moment later, she saw him.
Her partner was being carried out of the building by Callen and an LAPD officer, one arm slung over each shoulder, feet dragging behind him. Behind them limped Sam Hanna. Michelle, a few yards back, ran directly into Sam's arms.
"Callen!" Kensi shouted. "The ambulance is on the way."
Callen laid Deeks down on a nearby stretcher. Kensi went immediately to his side and surveyed the damage; his face was swollen, blood caked on his chin and shirt. As she knelt next to him, she noticed his breathing was unsteady and his chest was rising unequally.
"Oh God," she whispered. "Sam?"
Sam was already kneeling next to her. "One of Sidorov's men got him in the ribs with a chair. I think his arm may be broken too." Sam leaned over and lifted Deeks' head and torso off the stretcher, leaning him against his chest. His breathing improved slightly. "Deeks."
No answer. His eyes were closed, head resting on Sam.
"Deeks!" Sam said louder. "I swear to God if you live, I'll never make fun of your hair again."
Deeks eyes fluttered open momentarily. His mouth was set in a steely line and he took a few short breaths through his nose. "Swear," he said.
Sam chuckled. "I swear."
Kensi clasped her partner's hand and felt his fingers wrap around hers lightly. "The ambulance will be here soon," she whispered. "Just hold on."
She turned around, searching for the source of the voice, but nobody in the near vicinity seemed to be calling her.
Callen's voice, louder this time, penetrated her eardrums and snatched her away from her injured partner, lying helpless in Sam's arms.
Her head shot off the desk, papers flying in every direction. "Huh. Yeah?" she said, looking blearily at Callen, standing over her.
"Tired?" he asked, a sarcastic note creeping into his voice.
She huffed and wrinkled her nose in denial. "No," she lied, adding a short laugh for emphasis.
He raised his eyebrows expectantly.
She let out a short sigh and dropped her head back on the desk. "It's like…" she looked at her wristwatch, "zero dark thirty, Callen."
"Hetty wants you to follow up with the bartender from that club on 7th." He tossed a set of keys next to her on the desk. "Sam and I will meet you at the boatshed in an hour to question Lt. Snyder." He turned to leave. "Oh, and better wake up Sleeping Beauty," he added, motioning to her replacement partner, fast asleep in Deeks' chair.
Kensi grabbed the keys and pushed herself into a standing position, yawning.
She turned back toward Callen, waiting.
"Make sure Dorneget wipes the drool off his chin before Hetty sees him."
On any normal day, the combination of Deeks' hectic schedule and his need for REM sleep would have prevented him from socializing with his surfing buddies. For the past few weeks, however, he'd considered joining them on a number of occasions. This should have been a red flag in and of itself; he had never really been much of a drinker, his father's alcoholism had destroyed any desire to indulge on a regular basis. That being said, at exactly 12:15, he left the house to join his comrades in their scheduled debauchery.
Truthfully, he had been spiraling downward for the last few weeks, a trajectory that he had done nothing to stop. The injury-imposed limitations were slowly driving him mad. No surfing, no fieldwork, and no strenuous exercise were compounded by the absence of Kensi and being stuck in an office all day.
His cast had been removed that morning and the appearance of his ridiculous skinny wrist and arm made his mood sour even more. His doctor was impressed with how his ribs were healing, and Deeks had told a little white lie about the pain he was experiencing. After all, it only really hurt when he took a deep breath… or coughed… or moved. He had been self-medicating with Land Shark in the evenings. Although his brain told him that this petulant cycle needed to stop, the sudden absence of his real life had become unbearable.
As he pulled up to the bar, he felt his mood lift slightly.
Joe's Saloon and Bathhouse: 01:00
She saw him on the way out.
Kensi had finished interviewing the bartender at Joe's Saloon and Bathhouse, and was making her way through the crowd when she turned around to ensure Dorneget was behind her. His mop of unruly blonde hair was just visible over the mob of people waiting for drinks by the bar, and she had to crane her neck to see him. The immediate flutter of her heart was cut short, however, by his actions over the next seven seconds.
She watched as he salted the neck of a leggy blonde, licked it slowly off, threw back a tequila shot (egged on by a group of what appeared to be frenzied douche bags), and grabbed a lime wedge out of the woman's waiting teeth.
The crowd cheered and Kensi fought the urge to cross the room and kick him in the balls.
She nodded to her partner, unblinking eyes still fixed on Deeks. "Thought I saw someone I knew," she said.
As she turned toward the door, he saw her.
His eyes widened, jaw hung open. He had been made.
She continued forward without pausing and pushed the door of the club open roughly, hurrying toward the car. The anger was bubbling up like lava and her stomach was in knots. She didn't even bother lying to herself about why she was so upset.
He had kissed herand a month later, he was spending his days licking the necks of scantily clad beach floozies and doing God knows what else.
She ignored him.
She yanked open the driver's side door.
He jogged over, holding his rib cage and taking short breaths. He grabbed the car door and bent forward slightly, trying to catch his breath. She noticed that his cast had been removed and most of the bruising to his face and neck was now gone.
"Hey," he said, still splinting his ribs with a hand.
She took a breath through her nose and gritted her teeth. A minute went by before she spoke. "This is Special Agent Dorneget," she said. "He's filling in while my partner is away."
Deeks saluted the man standing on the other side of the car before turning back to Kensi. "So, how is your partner doing?" he asked pointedly. "You guys were close, right?"
She narrowed her eyes and clamped her mouth shut.
Deeks let the door go and took a few steps backward. "Close, like… you know, peanut butter and jelly… vodka and cranberry juice—which is incidentally the only way you'll get me to drink cranberry juice. I don't care if it's good for your kidneys, the stuff is nasty." He shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged, "maybe you should give him a call. I'll bet he's having a really hard with this whole injury thing."
He had a point, and she knew it.
Kensi didn't say anything to him. She just shut the door and started the car without making eye contact. Peeling away from the curb, she watched as Deeks' form got smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror until disappearing from site. As she drove, she let her mind wander to the place she'd been avoiding for weeks. The kiss was the reason they hadn't seen one another in three weeks. It was the reason they hadn't talked in two weeks and it was the reason she wasn't going to pick up the phone and call him right now. She had dared him to say something he actually meant and he had, without using any words, dared her to do the same.
When they arrived at the boatshed, she filled Callen in on the details of her conversation with the bartender and then watched the tail end of Sam's interrogation in silence.
"Something wrong?" Callen asked, raising an eyebrow in her direction. "You look like someone just ran over your puppy."
She shook her head. "No, actually… I think I must have eaten some bad sushi at lunch…" She clutched her stomach for effect and added, "Oh yeah—it's really… bad."
Callen looked skeptical.
"Serves me right for ordering California rolls from a place called Al's Pancake World, right?" She forced out a laugh and grabbed her bag off the table. "So… I'll see you tomorrow, then."
As the self-proclaimed creators of the "sushi excuse," she knew Sam and Callen's suspicions would be immediately aroused, but failed to care. She needed to clear her head and that couldn't happen unless she got away from NCIS for a few minutes, where everything reminded her of Marty Deeks.