Timeline: Post 2x10; Deliverance.
Summary: It's somewhat uncharted territory for both of them, she knows – for him, learning to place his trust in someone other than himself; and for her, somehow harboring feelings that her trusty second date rule should have protected her from, but clearly hasn't.
Defiance, thy name is Kensi Blye.
Put Deeks in front of her in a battle of wills and she could stand there motionless forever. Put Sam in front of her in the gym for a little training and she can hold her own, no problem. Put a leering, uncooperative suspect in front of her and still she'd emerge as the victor, her shell unbroken while the suspect in question collapses beneath the weight of his.
She's defiant. She's determined, she's unyielding, and above all else, Kensi is simply strong.
Right now, though, her resolve is faltering. Her resolve is faltering and she's powerless to do anything about it. All she can do is stand…stand, and pray that placing her life in her partner's hands was not a mistake. "You'll get me back," she'd said, though at the time she'd been much more certain of that fact than she is now. And the sudden uncertainty has nothing to do with Deeks, but everything to do with her pounding heart, her aching feet, her racing thoughts, thoughts that constantly remind her of the gravity of the situation.
She doesn't know how long it's been. Minutes. Hours. She's lost all sense of time; even though she feels the weight of her watch on her wrist, she doesn't dare lift her hand. Unable to see the grid of lasers that surrounds her, Kensi doesn't dare tempt fate – just the slightest graze of a fingernail could throw this terrifyingly enclosed space into fiery oblivion.
She can't deny it – she's terrified. The fear pulses caustically through her veins, burning her from the inside out and even though she knows she must not move if she wants to survive, it's taking everything within her not to make a run for it. She's antsy, anxious; she can feel the lingering heaviness of imminent death as it surrounds her, consuming everything except her will to survive – the same will to survive that screams in one ear for her to get out of there while whispering a command to remain frozen to the other. And Kensi doesn't know which she wants to listen to.
You're better than this, she tries to convince herself. After all, she's been trained in life-or-death situations; those situations were part of the job description and if Kensi hadn't excelled at her training, she wouldn't be here now, period. She's capable, she's qualified, she's strong…and yet, her body, her strength, everything seems to betray her. She's alone, kept company only by her fear and the invisible beams of light that could end her in merely a second's time.
She feels the beads of sweat as they form over her forehead, her neck; she feels the damp stickiness on her cheeks as the droplets mingle with stubborn tears that squeeze their way out without her permission. This isn't how it's supposed to end; not that she's given much thought to how it is supposed to end, but Kensi's certain it can't be like this.
Her knees tremble and Kensi closes her eyes, praying to any deity out there to at least grant her the strength to stay on her feet. She doesn't trust herself to drop to her knees, not even where she stands. The warning dances through her mind with a frightening cadence, and though her brain never actually finishes the thought, it doesn't have to. One wrong move…
Swallowing hard, she slowly clenches her fists in an attempt to stop the trembling in her fingers. It's unnerving, being stuck here and unable to move, and in her mind, Kensi realizes that's probably the point. Book or no book, they don't care if she becomes collateral damage. Who's to say that they ever intended to trade her back anyway?
She shudders involuntarily, wishing there was some way out of this. Something that would allow her to see the lasers, something that would allow her to make her way into the daylight again. If only she knew exactly where the beams of light were…if she knew that, she knows she'd be able to maneuver her way out. At least, she thinks she'd be able to maneuver her way out – she's good at squeezing through small, tight spaces. She just doesn't particularly like to.
Dampened tendrils of dark hair cling to the back of her neck, making the sticky heat in the small room feel ever more oppressive. It's heavy upon her skin, the heat; she's not entirely sure if it's really so warm or if it's more because of the stress and the tension radiating from every inch of her body. And that tension has her coiled so tightly that she could burst. Her heart pounds frantically against the wall of her chest; she's deafened by the erratic sound as it echoes in her ears. Her lungs burn angrily; she can't breathe. Desperately she tries to draw in oxygen, but Kensi can't seem to find enough. She can do little more than pull in shallow, harsh breaths, and that's simply not enough to mean anything. Suddenly she's overwhelmingly lightheaded; the small room spins around her and she knows she won't be steady on her feet for much longer.
She's going to collapse. She's going to collapse in a heap on the floor, breaking an invisible beam of light on the way down and rendering her strength – what little bit remains - meaningless. And that, the realization that death is literally millimeters away only drives her further into this silent panic that's eating away at her from the inside out. She can't stand here any longer; she can't.
And so she tells him, when he's standing in front of her almost an eternity later, his eyes wide and his voice fearful as he suggests the bomb squad. Just the thought of waiting any longer when he's so close yet so far…she just can't take it. She needs to get out of there now.
She's shaking as she maneuvers her way through the grid, shaking so vehemently that she's afraid of breaking the beams. And maybe she does – she has no idea. Either she's not touching them, or Deeks' plan is working – it's not a question she really wants the answer to, though. And it seems she doesn't have to find it out until the very last hurdle, the one receiver that Deeks can't reach.
So close, but so far…
She almost breaks right then. And Deeks, utterly maddening Deeks – he's standing in front of her, calmly guiding her even though she can feel the tension that surrounds him just as it does her. At that moment, she wants nothing more than to get to him.
His arms are outstretched toward her, his palms expectantly upward. His eyes convey everything his lips cannot say. She knows what's coming; knows what he's asking of her, but if ever there was a time that she trusted Marty Deeks, it's now. It's now, and slowly she's reaching out to him, her trembling hands in his surprisingly steady ones.
They've only got one shot at this – one stumble, one hesitation, and it's all over.
He keeps calling her name; she's not sure why. Not sure of much at all except that she wants to run right into his arms because at the moment he's the best damn sight she's ever seen and if he gets her out of here…
She's not listening to him; he doesn't even know if she realizes he's there. She stands in near darkness, her back to him, and Deeks thinks for a moment that she probably doesn't want anyone to find her. Too bad, he thinks with the slightest smirk. He's here, and he's not going anywhere. "Kensi."
He's right behind her now, no beams of red light forcing him to keep his distance. Very slowly he reaches out to her, murmuring her name one more time as he lays a hand atop her shoulder. "Kens?"
Where her skills in perception were lacking in the moment, her reflexes certainly are not. Startled, she gasps and quickly spins as she's ripped away from the memory, her dark hair fluttering around her shoulders as she moves. Eyes wide, she takes in her perceived attacker; she can't ignore the warmth that floods her when her head, a bit slower than her heart, realizes that he's no attacker at all, but rather the same man who had come to her rescue earlier. "Oh my God," she breathes heavily, a hand over her racing heart. "Deeks…"
He smiles. "Who else would I be?" he asks playfully, loosely grasping her upper arms – he'd caught her as she spun into him.
She shakes her head, and if Deeks squints in the darkness, he'd swear he could see the faintest tinge of pink in her cheeks. "Don't – don't sneak up on me like that," she admonishes, unable to completely conceal the tremble in her voice. It strikes her then as her eyes linger around some arbitrary point on his chest – she's afraid to fully meet his eyes. He'd seen her at her most vulnerable; he'd held her eyes as she'd placed her life in his hands, the greatest amount of trust she could have in someone. His words might have betrayed the depth of his own nervousness, but those crystal blue eyes of his…Kensi hadn't been able to look away. Everything she needed in order to trust him was right there. He might have answered her whispered "Are you sure?" with an uneasy "No," but the answer in his eyes had been a clear, resounding "I'm going to get you out of here, I promise."
She's torn from the memory by the gentle touch of his fingers at her cheek; softly, oh so softly he brushes her hair back from her face, much as he'd done when she'd landed atop him in the wake of the explosion. "Sorry," he replies quietly, and so lost is she in the sudden electricity that floods her at his touch that it takes her a moment to recall just what exactly he's apologizing for.
He offers what he hopes is a reassuring smile, silently wishing that she'll give him one in return – he's certain he still needs the reassurance as much as she does. Almost cautiously, he draws his thumb tenderly over her cheek once more before letting his hand settle once more at her arm – if the subtle brush of his fingers on her skin as he tucked her hair behind her ear was enough to set off sparks within her, then the direct caress is enough to start a blazing fire deep within her. "In my defense, I, uh, called your name about five times." Pausing, he shrugs. "I was…worried."
Kensi takes in a shaky breath. She has a reply just on the tip of her tongue, a quick, superficial response that sounds a lot like "I'm fine," but at the last second she rethinks it. She's not sure she can make it sound genuine. Instead she clears her throat, staving off the falling of an extra beat of silence between them. "I, uh," she hesitates, silently hoping that he doesn't call her out on changing the subject, "I thought you went home hours ago."
Deeks shrugs. "I guess I didn't," he replies, and while the words are characteristically his, stating the clear obvious, his tone is decidedly solemn. "I, uh…I wanted to make sure you were okay."
She knew he was going to ask that, perhaps because it's the question she can't answer. If she lies, she knows he'll see right through her; if she tells the truth…well, problem with that is that she's not entirely sure what the truth is. Physically, she's fine. Perhaps even better than Deeks, she thinks abruptly. Smiling just slightly, she chances a glance upward, catching his eye for a short moment. "I'm not the one who cracked my head on the concrete," she points out quietly.
Wincing, Deeks lifts a hand – a hand that Kensi immediately misses along her arm – to the back of his head, gingerly touching the bump that's already forming. And really, he's surprised a bump is all it is. He'd been thrown backwards by the force of the explosion before gravity took over, pulling him down with Kensi on top of him. His entire body utterly aches, but none of it had hit with the same sickening crack that his head had hit with. Probably have a splitting headache in the morning, he thinks. "It's fine," he says quietly, still far more concerned for Kensi than he is for himself. "It's just a bump."
Kensi doesn't press, simply offering a slight nod of her head and ignoring what might have been a perfect playful comeback during any other situation – now, though, is just not the right time or place. "You should go home, keep some ice on it, or something," she says, cringing when the words sound much less helpful in the open than they had in her head.
He smiles then, and even though it's only the ghost of a smile, it still makes Kensi feel somewhat lighter inside. "On a scale from taking a beating from the ringleader of a human trafficking ring, to pepper spray? I'd say this falls somewhere in the middle," he quips, prompting Kensi to roll her eyes. "So I'm fine."
"Only you would rank the pepper spray as the most painful," she retorts with a slight grin. "Only you, Deeks."
Deeks chuckles, though the sound lacks the mirth Kensi's used to hearing in his laughter. He says nothing, though he's certain that if Kensi were to take a good look at his face right now, she'd see that pepper spray isn't actually at the top of the scale. There's something else, something more painful than that, something he hadn't truly realized the depth of until it was staring him in the face.
Truth is, he's been avoiding the moment he has to go home. Normally, compartmentalizing isn't a problem for him – to be skilled at the depth of the undercover work he's done, he has to be good at it. He can't afford to carry anything with him from one alias to the next, and he's been doing this long enough that it's almost second nature to him. Except, apparently, when it comes to this. When it comes to Kensi.
Exhaling heavily, he allows his hand to find its way back to Kensi's arm before he delves into the reason for his unease. Callen had claimed the operation, thereby claiming the fault for it, but to Deeks, those had merely been words. Callen wasn't the one with her in the car. Callen wasn't the one who stood by and watched as Kensi offered herself to them. Callen wasn't the one left helpless next to a car with blown-out tires while the criminals sped away with Kensi in their clutches.
The sound of his name breaks into his thoughts; it's questioning, but not at all pushy and Deeks knows that if he doesn't say what he needs to say, it's going to haunt him. He's already lost one partner; he's not okay with the thought of losing another, and he'll be damned if he lets it be Kensi. "There – there's something…" he says hesitantly, almost as though warring within himself against the words put together by his mind. His serious tone draws a deep shiver through Kensi's body…but then again, that could also be because of her proximity to him. The distance between them seems to be shrinking more and more with every moment, and Kensi can't say for certain which one of them is doing it.
He doesn't elaborate just yet; instead, he glances downward, avoiding the dark eyes that lift upward in search of his. "What happened today," he says finally, his voice barely above a whisper, "shouldn't have happened. And I – I just keep going over it, over and over again in my head. And what Sam said weeks ago, and what you said, what Hetty said…all the – the trust stuff," he manages to get out, rather ineloquently. His brow furrows in frustration as he realizes he's really getting nowhere fast. Closing his eyes, he draws in a deep breath; holds it for a moment before exhaling slowly and beginning again. "I'm sorry, Kensi. I should have had your back, and I – I didn't. I should've had a plan; it shouldn't have come down to them taking you – as your partner, I should have stopped that. I –"
He doesn't let her interruption deter him – his mind has been filled with the tragic what ifs from the moment she'd left his sight right up until the moment she was in his arms on the concrete. The chunk of time there was vast; so much could have happened in that span of time and Deeks knows he would have never forgiven himself. "I should have stopped you – I should not have let them take you, Kensi," he repeats, remorse heavily coating his words. "I should have never let you go."
"And you would have gone instead?" Kensi posits, lifting a brow in question. "Come on, you saw the amount of space between each of those beams," she points out. "I barely made it through – do you think you would have been any better?"
There's a playful lilt to her words; hearing that, Deeks' lips quirk in just the tiniest of smiles, though it's gone after a mere second. "At the very least, I should have done more than just – than just standing there, watching."
Kensi doesn't miss a beat. "Come on, Deeks, we both know that's the best thing you could have done," she replies, her voice steady."If you'd done anything at all; if you'd taken a shot at them, tried to stop them, we would've both ended up dead."
He swallows hard, and now that she's willing to meet his eyes, he's the one avoiding the contact. "Still…" he murmurs, and Kensi's heart clenches at the thought that he's not convinced, that he thinks otherwise.
She sighs, knowing exactly the thoughts that are rushing through his head; thoughts that have been rushing through his head since the moment she was removed from his sight earlier. "Look," she begins softly, refusing to continue until finally, finally their eyes meet. And his blue ones are stormy, reflecting his still-troubled heart. "What did I say to you when I walked away?"
He blinks. "Wh-what?"
"When I walked away from you and let them take me – what did I say to you?" she persists, fully aware now that at some point in this conversation, her palms had found his shoulders – she doesn't draw them away once she realizes. "What did I say?"
The corner of his mouth quirks upward just a tiny bit, but enough to let Kensi know he now knows exactly what she's talking about. For a moment he hesitates, flicking his tongue out to moisten his lips. "'You'll get me back,'" he whispers.
"I knew you would," Kensi replies softly. "I knew you would – I trusted that you would." Pausing for a second to let the words sink in, she smiles softly, allowing her arms to loop the rest of the way around his neck. He tenses; they're so close that she can't help but feel it, but relaxes quickly as the conversation carries on – silently, though. Through their eyes, through their very souls.
Before she knows it, Kensi's in a state similar to where she was before Deeks found her. Her heart pounds, every breath is a struggle, and she feels the dizziness start to settle in again, but this time she knows it's not because one wrong move could kill her in a mere second. This time, it's because she's in his arms with her own wrapped around his neck; this time, it's because she can't seem to escape from the ocean of his eyes; this time, it's because every breath she takes delivers his masculine scent to her nose and makes her wish rather abruptly that she could go home to sheets and pillows that carry that same scent deep within the threading.
These are dangerous thoughts, especially for a woman with a strict no second dates rule, but logically even she has to admit that there are two major arguments to that – one, there simply hasn't been a first date, so the rule means nothing in this case anyway, and two, there were never real feelings in any of those infamous first dates. Here…well, it's a different story, and she can deny it all she wants, but at the end of the day, there are feelings, and they've been growing every day since he became a part of their team, her partner – and it's obvious that if Hetty has her way, Deeks isn't leaving them anytime soon. And Kensi is completely okay with that, even if he does press her buttons and get under her skin a good portion of the time – she still can't imagine not having him around.
Suddenly there's a lump in her throat and Kensi swallows hard, but when she speaks again, her voice is still slightly raspy, slightly hoarse as it carries the weight of her emotions along with it. "And you did," she finishes, her eyes never straying from his. "You did get me back."
And before either of them can process the motion or even figure out which one of them initiated it, she's in his arms completely, snugly wrapped in his embrace. "I had to, Kens," he replies quietly. "I had no other choice – I had to get you back. I had to."
It might be too much; it might be just a little too far on the other side of that line he knows they can't cross, but at this point, he just doesn't care. He came far too close to losing his partner today; too close to never seeing her smile again, too close to never winning – okay, he relents, mostly losing – another playful verbal sparring match with her. And he'd come far too close to never having this, the feel of her in his arms. Terrified as he'd been before, he never wants to let her go.
So he doesn't care if he crosses the line. Breathing in her scent, he slowly turns his head, nuzzling softly at her temple. "I wasn't going to lose you," he murmurs, pressing his lips to her skin in a tender kiss. "I was not."
The conviction in his words takes her breath away, but it's the tenderness of the kiss that leaves her reeling. Her heart flutters at the sudden yearning she feels deep within, something awakened by the electricity pulsing through her body. And damn it, here in his arms with his lips dancing along her temple, it becomes utterly clear that all of her trusty mental repetition - I am not attracted to him; I'm not; he's annoying, he's arrogant, he's maddening - suddenly means nothing at all because no matter how annoying, arrogant, and maddening he may be, she is attracted to him, and she wants him more than she's ever wanted anyone else before.
And it would be so easy just to turn her head just a little more, so easy to lean into him just a bit more and capture his lips with hers. So easy. It's what she wanted to do earlier; landing on top of him as he'd broken her fall, gazing down at him as his arms encircled her, feeling as the moment seemed to reach into eternity…she'd wanted to kiss him. He'd saved her life and she'd wanted to kiss him. She'd wanted to kiss him before he'd saved her life but the fact that he had only made the desire that much more intense, so intense that she's here in his arms imagining how his lips would feel against hers, how he would taste, whether it would be fast and frantic or slow, much slower, much more thorough. And all she has to do is make that simple move; she has the moment, the perfect moment…
In the end, though, she doesn't.
In the end, that apparently perfect moment simply passes and either she slips out of his arms or he lets her go – doesn't matter which one, though; all that matters is that she's not in his arms anymore and Kensi doesn't like that. Doesn't like the chill, doesn't like the sudden feeling of emptiness. But what can she do other than stand before him, watching as he mentally collects himself and wondering desperately what's going through his head?
There's an odd heaviness in the air now, a tension that puts a sinking feeling in the pit of Deeks' stomach - he's not entirely sure what just happened here. Lifting a hand, he slowly massages the back of his stiff neck, knowing that's another ache that will haunt him by morning twilight – he'll likely be skipping his early surf tomorrow, that's for sure. And even if it wasn't for the pain…Deeks isn't sure he'll sleep tonight anyway.
And Kensi…she's strong, he reminds himself. Her moment of vulnerability is long gone, and he assumes that she'll have no trouble finding sleep tonight, no trouble at all. At least, that's what he tries to convince himself of.
Reaching out once more, he tenderly brushes his knuckle along her cheek, and even though it appears innocent on the outside, his touch feels so heartachingly intimate to Kensi that she can't help but sigh, wishing he'd simply gather her in his arms again and take her home. Instead, he takes a step back, back toward the doorway. "I'm really, really glad that you're okay," he says quietly, and with one glance she loses herself in his deep blue eyes – errantly she thinks she could maybe fall in love with him just for his eyes alone. "I don't know what I would have done if…if, you know." He pauses, then somehow stumbles through the rest of his words. "You can, you know…give me a call if you need anything, or want anything, or…anything."
Absently Kensi nibbles at her lip, offering little more than a small nod in response. His touch lingers for a moment, just along her jawline and if he'd had a little more courage in the moment, a little less concern for what it would mean for their relationship, he knows he would've kissed her. He knows, because she's standing there, looking nervous and lonely and confused and strong and beautiful all at once, and it kills him to gesture to the doorway before uttering what's clearly a much too casual goodbye. "Night, Kens."
She responds in kind, and then he's on his way out; he's out of her line of sight before she finally finds the words that seem to have eluded her for much of the evening. "Thank you, Deeks."
There's no response, and Kensi can't say for certain whether he'd heard her or not; it only takes a moment though for her to decide that she's had enough uncertainty for one day.
She needs to know that he knows. That he knows she's grateful not only for today, but for all the other times he's had her back; that she's grateful for the moments they've shared, moments where he's allowed his shell to crack just enough for her to get closer to him. She needs to know that he knows that while he was concerned about getting her out alive today, she was concerned that he would end up hurt. And she needs, desperately needs him to know that she would do the same for him.
And from there, they can only move forward. It's somewhat uncharted territory for both of them, she knows – for him, learning to place his trust in someone other than himself; and for her, somehow harboring feelings that her trusty second date rule should have protected her from, but clearly hasn't.
With these thoughts floating around in her head, Kensi realizes there's only one thing to do.
Taking a deep breath, she steadies herself.
And then, without waiting for logic to catch up to desire and convince her of all the reasons why this may be a bad idea, Kensi goes after him.