Well here's the final chapter of Rogue. I've had a blast writing this story and I can only hope you enjoyed reading it half as much. Your reviews and messages were the driving force in this story and I'm so grateful to you all for taking the time to send them to me.
(I kind of changed the narrative in this chapter to make it seem more like the present. It just seemed right when I wrote it. I hope you don't mind!)
Disclaimer - I still don't own it, even after all these months!
Random P.S. - I just saw Red Tails today, and Daniela Ruah has a pretty big part in there - she was awesome!
"Come with me."
Kensi raises her head from filling out yet another post-action report and turns to her team leader with questioning.
It has been two weeks since they took down Barden and were in the process of getting rid of what remained of his 'grand operation'. In all, they found ties to six people in the Pentagon, four members of the CIA, and a support staff of 19 members of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. There were even plants working in the Coast Guard, DEA, and ICE. It was an exhausting task, one that had crossed through more red tape than even Hetty was safe cutting. But it was well worth the reward.
Now here they were, back in the OSP building and waiting for the next case. And what a wait it was becoming. Whether it was because of the fast paced week she'd had before or just a general calming of the world, she gets the feeling that she's spending most of her time sitting on her hands.
Nell is still working with the team, and though the first few days had been uncomfortably strange for everyone, her invaluable information helped them bring down most of the men in Barden's plot. Things had finally returned to normal. Almost.
Things between Kensi and her team leader were…icy, to say the least. He hasn't said more than a handful of words to her in the time since everything happened and hearing his voice again startles her. She watches as he walks out of the bullpen and around the corner. Catching Deeks' sympathetic look does little to calm her as she stands and follows him out.
He hadn't gone far, walking down the hall far enough to be out of earshot from Deeks and any other wandering ears. They stand in silence for a moment before Kensi cracks, unable to handle this lasting silence.
He holds up a hand. "Don't." There is a long pause and she briefly wonders if he will walk away again. But he simply bows his head and sighs. "Don't explain. I understand why you did what you did. I don't like it," he adds, raising his voice above its previous tone, "but I can understand it. I would have done the same to protect this team."
Kensi watches him in a state of relieved surprise. From the reluctant look in his eyes, she knows that he isn't only talking about her in his statement.
"He wanted to protect you," she says quietly. "And everyone else. He didn't want any of you to be pulled into the mess he got into."
"It wasn't his choice to make," Sam retorts, his voice lacking the bitterness with which he'd spoken before about his former partner. Kensi knows that he was slowly working toward accepting Callen's actions as well as her own, but like anything important, it would take time.
"You would have done the same thing, Sam. You said so yourself."
Sam nods slowly and his expression lightens. "Next time, just come to us, okay? We're a team for a reason."
Kensi returns her nod and looks out the window they'd stopped near. Something inside her hurts at bringing up Callen again – the same thing that had happened every time he'd crossed her mind in the past week.
"You miss him."
Sam's voice startles her out of her thoughts. She looks at him and sees a small hint of a smile playing at his mouth. There was sympathy mixed into his look and Kensi can't try to deny the obvious truth.
"Yeah. I do," she answers quietly.
Sam nods once again. "Callen never did know what was good for him."
Kensi gives him the closest thing she can to a smile in response. Things weren't okay – they would take time – but they soon could be. But they could never be the same as they were. Working with Callen has changed her.
And so the months go by, every day another battle to wake up and get back into the swing of things. She finds herself wondering whether the entire ordeal had ever happened at all. But the pain reminds her.
The team sees its changes, too. A call comes in from high above and asks for their junior-most agent to pack up his bags and catch the first flight out to Manila. It's a great opportunity for him to move up the ladder and refine his field and technical skills, and the team is happy. At least they try to be happy. Losing a member is never easy, whether it's through death, scandal, or transfer. They give Dom a heartfelt send off and return to the everyday grind.
She doesn't expect to hear from him. Why would she? Callen had left her with no warning and no idea of where he would go. She tried to ignore the nagging idea that he could have died bleeding out from his wound and instead focused on the fact that he was more than capable of taking care of himself. It was one thing he was good at.
But he does cross her mind on occasion, during the moments in the office or at home when everything is still and quiet and no one is around to distract her from the memories. Somehow, he always finds a way into her thoughts and the nagging pain that his departure left returns. Sometimes, she finds herself foolishly glancing through case files or reading through news headlines to see if anything that sounded like him has surfaced. She knows there is next to no chance of actually seeing anything, but has to try all the same. She's constantly on edge, even more so than she's used to.
It's this mood that follows Kensi through the months after the ordeal with Barden and into her present situation: trying to force information from a less than willing suspect. Lately, she has been quick to frustration and even quicker to anger, and neither helps in an interrogation. The man in front of her can easily spot her short fuse and uses it to his advantage.
After her threatening bluff is called, she glares in his direction and walks out of the small room to where her team should be waiting. She doesn't look for them, instead choosing to focus on the file in her hands and begin ranting her annoyance.
"Unbelievable! The guy refuses to give up anything - I even tried the whole 'you-talk-and-I'll-do-you-a-favor' card and nothing!" She throws her file down on the table, enjoying the loud slap echoing through the room and leans against the worn wood. With a scowl, she watches the man in question sit with that damned smug grin through the flat-screen TV.
"Got any other bad ideas?"
The voice from behind strikes her like something from a distant memory and she wonders if it's all just another trick of her mind. The sound is exactly as she remembers it and entirely different at the same time. It's harder yet softer, stronger yet weaker than her memory has been fabricating the past three months. Though the words are all too familiar.
She turns slowly, abandoning her position on the table and instead facing him. The situation is familiar and she is instantly taken back to a darkening night, a long, elegant dress, and the dangerously handsome man that is standing in front of her once more. He isn't wearing a tux, but rather his usual outfit of dark jeans and a deep blue shirt. His piercing blue eyes are watching her intently and she is momentarily transfixed, much like the first time she met those eyes.
He smirks at her apparent daze, but there is no teasing in his stare. Something else is present in his eyes as he watches her emotions flash across her face. Kensi's surprise at seeing him here – not only back in L.A. but in their own safe house – isn't masked or hidden from his view.
She tentatively steps forward, almost willing this apparition to disappear and leave her frustrated and abandoned once more but nothing happens. He makes no movement as she inches closer, close enough to reach out and touch. And as she stares into his face, seeing her own reservations and deeply buried relief reflected through his eyes, she does the only rational thing her mind can think of.
She hits him.
The crack of her knuckles reverberates through the room and surprises the man on the receiving end of the blow. If he'd been expecting a warm, cheesy welcoming, he had another thing coming. And she isn't done yet.
Rearing back, she balls her fist and tries to strike again. Callen, now alerted to the threat, easily dodges her swing and removes himself from her line of fire.
"Kenz, calm down!"
Kensi glares and lunges again, hoping to release some of the pent-up anger and frustration toward the man who has caused her so much misery. "Don't you start that with me!" she says, mid-swing.
He sees her coming and once again dodges, this time using her emotion-fueled state to his advantage. Grabbing her wrist, he spins her around and captures her arms. Her body is thrown flush into his and Kensi refuses to let her anger be calmed by this long-awaited closeness.
"Take it easy," he says again, this time lower and more insistent. His breath is hot on her neck, tickling the stray hairs that have fallen out of her messy pony.
Ignoring the effect he has on her body, Kensi throws her hips back and her arms down, breaking his grasp on her. She wheels around to face him, drawing in deep breaths as she stares him down from a safe distance.
"Take it easy? You show up here after three months and tell me to take it easy? I didn't know if you were alive or dead, Callen!"
"Well, I'm not dead," he replies, his smirk firmly in place even after her attack. And while his good mood should only be fueling her anger, she can feel it crumbling away. "Nice hook," he says, rubbing his jaw absently.
"You deserve it," she states, her voice lacking some of the bite it previously possessed. "You left, Callen. And I had no idea where you went."
Callen shrugs and offers his standard, vague answer. "I was around."
She doesn't smile at his response. "So we're back acting like this? Like nothing ever happened?"
"No," he counters, the smirk faltering and finally disappearing from his face. "Something did happen, Kenz. Look, I'm not good with the whole 'talking it out' thing," he groans, running a hand through his short hair as he turns away from her. She resists the urge to throw in an "obviously". "But there's no way around it. We…both know something happened between us – something that wasn't just a heat of the moment deal. What we have is more than that."
She waits as he watches her expectantly and can't help the flop her stomach does at his words. The idea that he tried to put words to something that had evaded explanation for so long was somehow more touching than any poetic declaration could have been. Especially from a man like him. So she takes pity, moving the conversation back to something they are good at: banter.
"What we have?" she questions, stepping closer. "It's been three months. Maybe I've moved on." He snorts but she can see the worry flash through his eyes. "What? Is that so unlikely?" she hounds, advancing again to within inches of him. He doesn't move back. "That a man might actually want to stick around and be with me?"
"Kensi…" he warns, his eyes filling with some suspicion and apprehension. It's the closest thing to nervous that she's ever seen on him. She doesn't blame him after the welcome she gave him earlier.
"I guess I could try to remember what we had," she whispers before brushing her lips against his. She pulls back quickly, unable to resist torturing the man who has tortured her for months. He groans as she teases him, pecking his lips once more. "We can keep playing this game."
"No," he interrupts, his arms darting out to hold her away. "No games."
Her breath hitches at what she sees in his blue eyes and her teasing smile falls. "No games."
A ghost of a smirk returns to his lips before he pulls her close, kissing her deeply. She melts into his touch, winding her arms around his neck and responding to his passion with a greater intensity than any time before. After a few breathless moments, they part. Instead of pulling away, Callen pulls her forward and holds her close, as though wishing never to leave again.
Eventually they part with a smile and she turns her attention back to the fact that she is in the NCIS boatshed and her team should be around. The thought crosses her mind that they are, and she quickly turns to Callen with another question.
"Where did Sam and Deeks go?"
"They headed back to OPS," he says coyly. "Seems that they thought it'd be safer for them there. They'll be back later for him," he adds, pointing at the screen.
She nods in agreement. "So you talked to Sam?"
"Well, as close to talking as Sam and I have ever been," he answers, but his face retains a smile that tells her it must have gone alright. "Still the same old SEAL, I see."
She nods and watches him closely. "So things are okay, then?" she asks and he gives her another shrug.
"But why did they let you in here?" she asks. Callen gives her an obvious look and she knows the answer immediately. "Hetty."
He nods. "Apparently, she's got it in her head that she wants another agent. An old agent, actually."
"Well, we do have a vacancy."
This time, he shakes his head. "Not be on a team. Lead a team. My team."
She understands his answer faster than she expects, partly because it was something she'd wondered before. "Your team? Your old team?" He nods. "What about Sam?"
"Are you kidding?" he laughs. "He has the same power and less of the accountability. He was more than happy to dump it off on me. With the provision that he gets to drive," he adds, earning a smile from her.
"Well then," she says, her voice sly, "I guess that means you're my boss now."
"I guess it does."
"And something makes me think that people wouldn't consider what we're about to do to be a smart thing."
"No, I guess not," he responds, wrapping an arm around her waist as they make a break for the door.
"You know, you're right," she smiles, placing a hand on his chest before they get to his all too familiar Mustang. His eyes question her and she smirks in return, rising up to kiss him once more. "I do have another bad idea."
"I'll bet you do."