Crossroads

Chapter 1

...

She woke slowly, struggling out of a dream that became a wisp of forgotten memories as soon as she opened her eyes. The room was grey with soft morning light and she eased over on her back and reached for him, finding only the cool reminder of his earlier presence. Regret immediately filled her as she lifted herself up on her elbow, hoping he hadn't left, hoping he had forgiven last night's confession, feeling shaky as she swept her hair away from her face and sat up on the edge of the bed. The glass-paneled doors to the balcony were ajar and a sharp breath of cold air stirred the dark red curtains and she saw him standing there in the blue striped pajama pants she found so sexy. Pulling on her robe, she moved tentatively to join him, making a soft sound to alert him to her presence, but he didn't turn, simply stood silently, his hips nonchalantly cocked at an angle that made her heart beat slightly faster. His back was bare as were his feet and his tangled hair moved sensuously in the soft breeze. She placed the palms of her hands on his back, and still he did not move or acknowledge her, but she heard him catch his breath as her hands moved down to rest on his hips. Moving even closer, she nuzzled his neck, letting her warm breath out slowly as her lips touched his cool skin, her arms wrapping him gently in a cautious embrace. He dropped his head and she could feel his muscles tighten as he gripped the railing of the balcony, but she wouldn't let him go, she couldn't, kissing him tenderly, hoping things hadn't changed between them, even though she feared they had for him. He groaned oddly as her hands slid up his body to his chest, pulling him tightly to her, wanting to feel that electricity that always moved her when their bodies came together.

"Come back to bed," she whispered.

He turned around to face her, his blue eyes as pale as the morning light, a touch of sadness still lingering there as his fingers toyed with her dark hair. He wouldn't look into her eyes, choosing instead to look past her into the room behind and the large four-poster bed that dominated their corner room. He suddenly pulled her close, his hands finding their way inside her robe, moving restlessly over her heating skin as she clung to him.

"Why?" His voice was soft with a hint of mischief that made her think they were okay.

"Why do you think?"

His nose nuzzled her earlobe and she shivered slightly as his lips rested gently on her neck, his tongue teasing.

"Your nose is cold," she laughed.

His hands began to slowly move across her back, his fingers teasing her skin lightly as they move down her body until he cupped her ass with both hands, a soft musical laugh escaping before his mouth covered hers, warm and sensual and maddening. He began to move her back inside, slowly stripping her robe off as he kicked the balcony door shut behind him, finally pressing her body against the bed and stepping away to look at her with a curious expression on his face.

"We could have so much more than this, Kens," he said softly. "But I can never leave you, so I'll accept whatever you're willing to give."

"I'm sorry," tears suddenly brightening her eyes.

"I know," he said with resignation.

He reached for her, drawing her to him until he was holding her gently against his bare chest, his head buried in her softly curling hair. She clung to him, afraid her words had broken what they'd had together for so long, afraid that being honest had cost her, had cost them, everything. When he stepped away, she could see the hurt on his face as he turned toward the bathroom, taking his jeans and a clean shirt from the suitcase on the window seat, leaving her trembling and uncertain. She heard the shower start and solemnly picked her robe up from the floor, slipping it on before going back outside on the balcony. The sky was becoming the brilliant blue that had stunned her the first day they'd gotten to Santa Fe, the Southern California sky she was used to paling in comparison. The morning air was crisp, hinting at the remains of the brief April snowstorm that had passed through the day before. Deeks had laughed with childlike enthusiasm as they'd walked across the plaza in the deepening light eating ice cream from the Häagen Dazs shop, the soft flakes of snow drifting down around them. They had watched two little kids, a boy and a girl, leaping and dancing around the center monument, seeing who could catch the most snowflakes on their tongues. Deeks' deep laugh at their antics was the beginning of the discussion that had ended in amazing sex and a heartfelt conversation afterward that had turned into an argument about their future.

Now she wondered if their relationship would survive the truth she had confessed last night, at least the truth as she knew it at the moment. She'd been afraid, but he deserved honesty and she had bravely expressed her true feelings, wounding him in the process. She wondered how long he would stay with her now that he knew she really didn't think she wanted to have children. She loved what she did. How could she give up the career she'd worked so hard for to be a stay-at-home mom? That wasn't who she was. It wasn't who he had fallen in love with, but things change and so do people, although maybe he had always wanted a conventional relationship, one she had never contemplated after Jack left and she'd joined NCIS. No matter what he'd said just now about never leaving her, she questioned whether he would keep that promise, if he could keep it and deny his own wants and needs. She knew his relationship with Ruthie, the little girl he had fought so hard to protect, had touched a deep chord, that seeing Joe with his baby son had made him crave a family of his own. Before he met Joe and his father George, his experience with family had been cruel, a punishment he had struggled through and finally escaped, seeing no need to embroil himself ever again in the kind of turmoil and pain family relationships could unleash on a person. He had charged into a solitary life looking for meaning and for fun, no attachments for long, just as she had done. When their paths had crossed and they had begun to walk the same path together, she saw no reason for it to change, didn't want it to change, as unrealistic as that might be. Now they found themselves at a crossroads and she shivered at the implications, refusing to believe it could all end bitterly. She loved him. He knew that. Whether it would be enough for him was what scared her. It made her search the deep blue sky for answers she couldn't see, her questions filling a void she didn't want to face, the void her life would be without him in it.

She had realized some time ago that he'd caught a glimpse of what a family could be when Joe had pulled him into his and for a single moment she wished he had never met the Atwoods, but almost instantly felt deeply ashamed of the thought, knowing what that family meant to him. They loved him unconditionally and had sustained him and fought for him, saving his life and his sanity and tears clouded her eyes at the startling memories their names brought to mind. It was why they were here in Santa Fe. His cousin Elan Hand was coming to meet them, coming to search for his long lost son and Deeks was here to help him. They had grown close and when he had told her about this trip she had insisted on coming along, looking forward to spending time with him, never seeing the trap this search inherently held for the two of them. Now all she could do was wait to see what the days ahead would bring, where their path would lead, whether to a crossroads that would separate them or to a single road they both could travel together. She was afraid to look back and afraid to look forward and she swallowed hard at the unknown they were facing.

...

The knock on the door interrupted his muddled thoughts and he steadied himself, adjusting his features so they wouldn't give away what he was feeling, not that he was exactly sure what those feelings even were.

"Hey, Cuz," Elan greeted him, pushing open the door and pulling him into a quick, powerful hug. "Kensi still in the shower?"

"Yeah," he managed to say.

"Lily's still asleep," he replied. "I tried to get her up, but she told me to get out. At least I think that's what she said. Still don't understand much French, but the hand signal was pretty clear."

Deeks laughed at that, thankful for Elan's early morning energy. He heard the shower shut off and moved quickly to the door of the bathroom, not wanting Kensi to walk out unprepared for company. He knocked softly and told her Elan was here, but got no reply. The door cracked open and she stared sadly at him.

"Why don't you two go ahead," she said too quietly. "I'll join you later."

"Okay," he replied too quickly and turned away without another word, grabbing his jacket as he hurried from the room.

"Slow down, man," Elan said behind him as he moved rapidly toward the stairs, needing to burn off the anxiety that was roiling his stomach and clouding his thoughts.

The two men then moved silently down side by side, Elan glancing at him a few times until they reached the lobby and Deeks stopped, his face expressing the turmoil he was unsuccessful at hiding.

"Let's go someplace else for breakfast," the words rushed out of his mouth as he headed past the front desk and out the heavy wooden doors of the inn.

The air sharpened him and he initially set a brisk pace as he headed up a street he hadn't been on before, staring straight ahead as Elan walked silently beside him. He could feel Elan's eyes on him, and became annoyed as he was forced to stop several times as the big man window shopped, and made short comments on the silver work and pottery on display while Deeks' stomach growled for breakfast. It was still very early and there weren't many people on the streets except for the crowd hanging around the corner ahead of them. He checked the sign hanging over the tiny screen door and then the smell of pungent spices and bacon wafted out of the entrance as a dark haired woman in a long tie-died skirt called out a name from a notebook in her hand. The screen door slapped shut behind the smiling foursome who followed her in and Elan stopped him with a hand on his arm as he asked a bearded man in a cowboy hat about the place.

"Pasqual's is the best, man," he said. "Try the Huevos Rancheros. You'll think you died and went straight to heaven."

"You have to have the pancakes," a blond woman in very tight jeans and an expensive leather jacket urged them. "They come with eggs and bacon and real maple syrup."

Deeks wondered how the woman could eat all that and not pop out of her jeans, but after hearing the enthusiasm of the crowd outside, he put his name in at the tiny green hostess station inside and smiled at the colorful and intricately cut paper decorations hanging from the ceiling and the charming murals covering the walls. When he came out, he found Elan surrounded by a group of women who had joined the blond in the tight pants, smiling as he explained that he was Arapaho and not from one of the local Pueblos. The ladies finally left him alone when their table was announced.

"Lily ever get jealous of all the women you attract?" Deeks asked as they stood in the warming sun.

"She thinks it's funny," he answered. "I think she's just giving me enough rope to see if I'll hang myself."

Deeks didn't reply and Elan draped an arm over his shoulder and walked him across the street to a bench and pushed him down.

"What's going on?" He asked.

Deeks immediately dropped his head, his left hand nervously brushing the hair at the back of his neck. His face contorted with uncertainly, as he struggled with his emotions, not wanting to distract from the real reason they were here.

"It's not important," he said.

"Bullshit!" Elan laughed. "After all we've been through together, you think I can't read you, Cuz? Are you in trouble again? Did you piss somebody off? You've only been here two days."

"Yeah, well, I seem to have a talent for pissing people off," he answered.

"Who was it?" Elan asked guardedly.

"Kensi."

Elan looked sharply at him, his eyes slowly softening as Deeks stared at him, a wounded look haunting his features.

"But you can fix it, right?" Elan asked.

"She doesn't want kids, Elan," his voice breaking as he stood up and walked back across the street.

Elan followed hesitantly, giving him time to collect himself and he was grateful for that. He heard his name called for breakfast and waited for Elan to follow him inside, the welcome distraction of getting menus and agreeing to the cups of coffee offered giving him a much needed respite from anymore questions. They both opted for the Huevos Rancheros, but Elan ordered a short stack of pancakes too, telling the waiter he wanted to compare them to his uncle's buttermilk pancakes, making Deeks smile at the poor excuse. They spent the next few minutes drinking their coffee as they listened to nearby conversations and when their breakfast was served they ate in silence, except for a short conversation about the pancakes.

"I don't know what to tell you, Cuz," Elan finally offered. "Except, maybe she'll change her mind at some point."

"I shouldn't have brought it up," he said, signaling the waiter for more coffee.

"Why did you?" Elan asked. "Did you ask her to marry you?"

"No," he replied. "She doesn't want anything to change. She likes everything just the way it is."

"And you don't," Elan's plain words lay starkly between them and Deeks simply shook his head, unsure what else there was to say.

"What's the point?" bitterness creeping into the tone of his voice.

"The point is, you're in love with her," Elan ventured, reaching across the small table to squeeze his arm.

"Yeah, there's that," he said, finally smiling.

Their conversation died and after paying the bill, they wandered the narrow streets, poking into a few of the shops that were open, remaining silent until they reached the plaza, where they stopped to watch the tourists milling around the native crafts people selling their work on the sidewalk in front of The Palace of the Governors. Elan put a hand on Deeks' shoulder, directing his attention to the unmistakable figures of the two women in their lives. They were trying on silver bracelets, talking warmly with each other and Deeks settled down on a bench to watch them.

"You're one lucky sonofabitch, Elan," Deeks breathed out slowly. "I don't get what she sees in you, man."

"Come on, Cuz. I'm a damn fine looking Indian," Elan laughed. "I'm her childhood fantasy come to life."

"You're full of shit," Deeks laughed. "It definitely has to be the hair."

"Don't give up on her, Marty," Elan said as he sat down next to him. "Kensi loves you, man."

"I know," he answered, following her as she moved among the growing crowd of tourists, her smile radiant as she engaged with the artists.

Watching her from afar gave him some perspective. It had been awhile since he'd been able to observe her this way, doing everyday things like a normal woman, at ease in a situation where neither of them was in danger, where she didn't have to watch his back or be on alert for someone trying to shoot them. She looked beautiful, her hair loose and dancing around her shoulders as she moved, her tall slender legs filling the pale blue jeans and making him long to be close to her. He had bought her that red and black leather jacket yesterday, and it touched him that she was wearing it this morning. He couldn't imagine his life without her in it, feeling a wave of sadness at the thought. Suddenly she saw him and her smile faded, replaced by a look of uncertainty that he chided himself for causing, a look he didn't want to see on her face when she looked at him. He was lost and he knew it, heartsick as he looked away from her, unable to come to terms with the change one conversation had caused. She was everything to him, his longing for children warring with his need to have her always in his life at whatever cost. He couldn't help but feel that the ground beneath their feet had shifted and become unstable as if they were walking on quicksand, and unsure of what their next step should be.

...

...