Author's note: This, it's… rather dark. Not the darkest of the dark, for sure, but a far cry from light. That's my thing. If it's not yours, consider yourself warned. That said, I'm still rather new to this fandom, and feedback is much appreciated. Hope you enjoy…
On the Importance of Adrenaline
She was just this side of a complete breakdown, and he didn't know what to do.
He'd never seen her like this.
He'd seen her take too many kinds of beatings and shake them off, seemingly without a second thought, to understand what was going on now.
It had been two hours since their cover was blown.
Two hours tied to old wooden chairs, hands bound behind their backs, in a tiny windowless room that left them nothing to do but stare at each other.
He stared at her, anyway.
She avoided his eyes.
The torture had started mentally.
Their captor had brought in an assortment of heart-stopping tools – among them a scalpel and a cigar-cutting implement that looked far too likely to easily fit a finger.
He'd left them there in full view.
Terrorize first, and torture later, it would seem.
He'd come back again, after giving them several minutes to anticipate the pain that was to come.
He hadn't gone for the hell-tray of tools.
He'd approached Kensi first, then Deeks.
Methodically snapped her right index finger, then his.
And when they were both biting back groans of pain, the terrible little man had turned and left them again.
He'd been back twice since.
The first time, another finger snapped.
The second, he'd whispered in Kensi's ear.
Deeks had only caught snippets of phrases, but it had been enough.
And if he hadn't understood from what he heard and what he knew of the kinds of torture captured female operatives faced, he would have understood from the gesture the fucker made before he went back out the door.
Gesture was the wrong word, really.
He'd traced the inner seams of her blue jeans - with a knife.
And now here they were.
And the normally bulletproof Kensi Blye was trembling, swallowing hard on deep, desperate breaths.
She still wouldn't look him in the eye.
"Kensi," he started.
"Shut up, Deeks," she muttered.
"Look at me." And when she didn't, he added: "I dare you."
Finally her eyes flickered to him, and there was anger, flaring among all the other emotions.
But then it died down, and an incredible thing happened.
Kensi Blye gave in to the fear.
And started talking.
"I can't do this," tumbled from her mouth.
"No, don't… don't misunderstand, okay?" she told him quickly. "I can take pain. Or whatever else they want to dish out."
"It's this room. These chairs. I don't like quiet. I don't like being still. I don't even go home until I'm ready to crash, and even then, I keep white noise…" She stopped, maybe giving away too much. She strengthened her voice, told him: "I just need something to fight. The guy can break my kneecaps, long as I get to hit him back. It's just…" She struggled to find the words. "It's an adrenaline thing."
He nodded, filled in:
"It's like a drug."
"No, it's not," she disagreed, taking in another ragged breath. "It's not a high. It's not, like… a fix. It's a necessity, it's -"
"Like food or water," he tried.
But she shook her head.
"It's like sleep. You can get up in the morning after three nights with almost no rest, and you can function, but there's so much… fuzz… in your head… And this…" She looked around the room, avoided his eyes again. "We can't do anything but sit here and fucking feel it… And my head is so full of…"
"Fear," he supplied, fully expecting her to contradict him.
But she didn't.
She went silent again.
And he wished she wouldn't.
That she was still shaking was far less obvious when she was speaking.
He knew a bit about what she was talking about.
They all did, in their world.
But looking at her now, he realized she lived and breathed it.
Adrenaline kept her flying through fear and pain almost without feeling it.
It was the thing that made her amazing.
It was also the thing that tore his heart out, looking at her now.
He'd seen a hint of this before, when she was forced to stand still and silent for so long in a maze of red lazer beams, death imminent, and no one to fight.
This was immeasurably worse.
And he wanted to give her something to hang onto, no matter how bleak their circumstances.
"You can still fight," he murmured, and was rewarded when she met his eyes.
"I can barely move," she told him after a moment.
"Barely is still barely," he pointed out quietly.
And all he intended was for her to strike out as best she could when their captor returned.
Maybe it would anger him, maybe the pain would get worse.
That would happen anyway, and for her there would be comfort in the fight.
But she stared at him now, something gathering in her eyes.
It was intense, and a little scary.
And he was about to ask what she was thinking when she murmured -
"Thank you, Deeks."
- and launched herself backward -
- thrashing -
- crashing -
Chair and all, she smacked hard into the floor.
"Kensi!" He tried to stop her, tried to get her attention, keeping his voice low.
She wasn't listening.
She was using every bit of movement she could manage to smash herself - and the chair she couldn't escape - against the walls and the floor.
"Kensi!" He tried again.
He heard a sickening snap and winced.
She wasn't going to accomplish anything other than breaking her own bones and alerting their captor to a struggle.
"Kensi!" He tried again, one last time.
But then there was another snap.
Not a bone, this time, but – was that the snap of wood?
She stopped thrashing and wriggled – and he found himself laughing with relief as she disentangled herself from the now-broken chair.
She'd actually done it.
She'd actually fucking done it!
She held her broken left arm against her side as she approached him.
Clearly in pain, but – she looked calmer.
She looked like Kensi.
And she was behind him, no doubt struggling to remove his restraints with one injured hand, when she whispered in his ear:
"Thank you, Deeks."
Five minutes later they were stealthing through a disturbingly quiet warehouse.
Weapon in hand (such as it was), she looked obscenely comfortable moving through the open space.
That was it, wasn't it?
A fighting chance.
All she needed.
Their 'weapons' were broken chair legs, but it was better than nothing.
Approaching a tiny, walled-off office, they could hear voices.
There were two men.
Deeks crept close enough to peer through the slightly-ajar door, with Kensi on his heels.
Both men were armed.
Neither was the one who had been in to hurt them.
He exchanged a look with Kensi in the darkened space.
They couldn't speak without being heard.
Couldn't make much of a plan.
They had the element of surprise, but they'd lose it trying to get through the door.
They could wait.
He held Kensi's gaze, figured they were both probably weighing the same options.
Their best of them was to be ready to attack when the men emerged from the room on their own.
But there was a problem, and he knew they both saw it.
The longer they waited, the more likely their torturer would return.
Find them here, or the empty storage room where they'd been held.
And then where would they be?
Not in control, that was where.
It all flew through his mind, and likely Kensi's as well.
And without a word, she nodded to him to move next to the door.
Her eyes said 'get ready'.
And she moved away from him – intentionally putting herself in full view of the men in the office.
He got it.
He was hidden.
And it took a second or two.
He could hear his own heartbeat.
Could have sworn he could hear her tense breathing from ten feet away.
Then – from inside the room -
"Hey!" one of the men called.
And the second he was through the door – Deeks cracked him over the head.
It wasn't enough to knock the guy out – not with a wooden chair leg.
But he stumbled, long enough for Kensi to pin him – one-armed – while Deeks dealt with the next guy through the door.
They were at a distinct disadvantage – he had enough trouble fighting with a pre-broken finger, and she was worse off.
But within moments her knee was on one guy's neck and he had the other one held at bay with his own gun.
He waited a moment, until Kensi's target was unconscious and she could steal his weapon, too.
Then he pistol-whipped his own target – knocked him out.
And they looked at each other, catching their breaths.
He moved to the window, looked out.
"Neither one of these guys has keys," she confirmed. Then, finding a cell phone in one of their pockets: "No service out here."
He returned from the window, met her eyes.
"So the other guy has the car. And he'll be back. And we can't call for backup. Is that about it?"
"Excellent." He thought for a moment, then told her: "Least we're armed. We wait for him, we're in control."
But Kensi gave him a look like he was crazy.
"You want to sit around?"
"You got a better idea?" he asked her.
She turned on her heel, and walked right out the main door.
She was determined as hell as they made their escape on foot.
It was ridiculous.
The warehouse had been out in what he could only call the middle of nowhere.
They were walking in a deep roadside ditch, so as not to be spotted if their captor should be driving by or looking for them.
Which made sense, but the terrain was rough enough to be an annoyance for him.
And a hindrance, for her.
She wouldn't admit it, of course.
She struggled along like she wasn't struggling.
"Hey," he finally said, after a near-stumble. "When you were thrashing around like some kind of Tazmanian devil -"
"This devil saved your ass," she shot back.
"We'll update the scorecard," he told her. Then got back to his original point: "You hit your head?"
She said nothing for a moment, then:
"You know I'm hard-headed."
"The most," he allowed. Then: "Still… Could be miles, right? Before we find a phone?"
"Yeah," she acknowledged. "But hitchhiking isn't exactly an option. Our luck, first car to come along would be theirs."
"Right, but it's late," he countered. "It's gonna be dark soon."
"Yeah, well, all the more reason -"
"Or we could wait it out. Hide here, until we have the advantage? We'd see headlights coming. They wouldn't see us. We could walk on level ground." He hesitated, then added: "And call me crazy, but you – we, we could get a little rest."
She walked on.
He sighed, following her.
She was relentless.
Shoving her body forward, step after step.
And he resigned himself to waiting.
Even Kensi couldn't will her body to cooperate forever.
It didn't take long.
Less than a mile down the road, she stopped, sunk to her knees, and grabbed at the ground in front of her to steady herself.
He approached without a word – a rarity for them.
She immediately tried to get to her feet – but he pulled her back down.
"Deeks!" she admonished, shoving him away.
"Kensi." He returned her name quietly.
And after a second, she gave in.
Taking a moment, taking a breath.
But she looked miserable.
Looked trapped, again.
And he realized – this particular bout of stubbornness, it wasn't for its own sake.
It was like before.
She couldn't handle the stillness, the quiet, the moments in which she couldn't do anything but feel the full weight of all that had happened.
He started to say something and stopped.
Because it wasn't like them.
It wasn't comfortable.
Earnestness, seriousness… emotion…
It was foreign and difficult.
And yet, there she was, starting to shake a bit again.
And he reached out, and coaxed her body until they were half sitting and half laying down, next to each other against the rough, overgrown grass.
"Sometimes…" he managed to say, not daring to look at her face. "Sometimes, quiet is… you know, it's not about… It's just, about comfort."
She said nothing for a long moment, and again, he didn't dare look at her face.
Finally she spoke, her words quiet:
"Not for me."
And he thought long and hard, not about what to say but about whether to say it, before he finally moved to look at her, and dared to touch her face.
"Let me show you."
And he put his arm around her shoulders, and pulled her toward him until they were curled up together.
And he dared to just hold her.
This woman, who might kill a man for that.
But she didn't, and they stayed there.
Still and silent, and together, while darkness fell.
He promised himself that they'd get back to civilization tonight, even if she passed out and he had to carry her.
He realized, looking up at the darkening sky, that this was one of those moments.
Where words and relationships started to mean different things.
'Partner' was about to mean a lot.
Maybe too much.