It is rather apt that this story is ending at chapter 42, which for those of you who are acquainted with that seminal tome, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, will know is the answer to life, the universe and everything. Okay, maybe that's a slight exggeration... but this is the end of this trilogy.
Huge thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing! I hope you enjoy the ending.
"Are you leaving us already, you gorgeous boy?" Densi had become rather a favourite with the nurses during his stay, and he responded with a broad smile at this latest blandishment from one of his many conquests. "We're going to miss you." She reached out for one last hug and he responded enthusiastically. Shyness had never been a problem for Densi Deeks, who happily assumed that everyone loved him.
"Just like his father," Kensi sighed, watching her son kissing the nurse with considerable gusto.
"Great kisser, charming, handsome and irresistible?" Marty said hopefully.
"In your dreams. Not quite enough hair for comfort and a sucker for a pretty smile, more like." She shook her head in mock dismay and then retrieved her son from the nurse. "No offense, but I hope we don't see you any time soon. This family has already spent rather too much time in this hospital." The nurse said goodbye and blew a final kiss to Densi
The prospect of the medical bills had been starting to worry Marty, now that Densi was better. When he'd been ill, that was the last thing on his mind, because he would have done anything, paid anything to save his son. "Maybe we're entitled to a discount?"
"It doesn't work like that, more's the pity." Kensi was just grateful that they were going home – all three of them. Densi had bounced back from his illness with remarkable speed, and after three days of IV antibiotics was back to his old self and full of life once again. But neither of his parents would ever forget those hours they'd spent by his bed, hours in which everything had crystallised into incredible clarity. They had some hard discussions ahead if they were to attempt to reconcile the demands of working for NCIS along with their desire for a family life. One thing was clear – Densi was their first priority and every other decision they made would be with that in mind. But right now, they just wanted to go home and start to live again.
"Not now!" Marty looked at his cell with considerable disgust and only answered it when he saw who was calling. "Hi, Hetty. Yes, he's doing great, thank you. We're just on our way home right now." He rolled his eyes at Kensi. "Really? Can't it wait?"
Kensi tried very hard not to lose her temper. After all, Hetty had been incredibly good and given them as much time off as they'd needed. It was just that she wanted to take Densi home. They'd already missed Thanksgiving with him – his first Thanksgiving, and the anniversary of their engagement. Was it too much to ask that they be allowed a few hours of peace? Apparently, it was. "She wants us to go in, doesn't she?"
Marty nodded dejectedly. "We'll be there shortly." He ended the call and looked at Kensi helplessly. "Hetty says we need to sign some insurance forms. It turns out that the NCIS medical insurance cover extends to Densi and she needs to get the paperwork sorted out today." He wasn't pleased about the necessary detour, but at least it meant they didn't have to refinance the house to pay the hospital bills, so Marty supposed he should be grateful. He just wished it could have waited until tomorrow.
"We've not really got a choice then, have we? So let's just go to the Mission and get this over with." Kensi's voice was full of cold resignation.
Rightly judging that no further contribution was required from him, Marty followed behind her somewhat staccato footsteps as she strode down the corridor. Hetty's timing left a lot to be desired, that was for sure. "You want me to drive?" he offered when they got to the car, in what had to be an all-time record. Judging by her current form Kensi could represent the USA at any power-walking event.
"How many times do we have to go over this? You can't drive until you get the all-clear from the doctors. And you can't go back to work either. Okay?"
"How about you rub it in a bit harder? After all, you managed to stop just short of telling me how completely useless I am."
Kensi thumped the steering wheel in frustration. "I'm sorry. I'm not mad at you. I'm just mad at life. And Hetty in particular."
"It's not Hetty's fault Densi got sick," he pointed out.
"Why don't you stop being reasonable and just let me be mad?"
"Because I'd quite like us all to get home in one piece? Like you said, we've spent enough time in the hospital over the past few months. They could practically name a wing after us."
"Don't tempt fate," Kensi pleaded. "We've had enough bad luck this year."
"It hasn't all been bad." Marty turned round and looked at Densi, who was snoozing in his car seat. "Some of it's been amazing. Some of it I wouldn't change for the world."
"I bet you'd change what happened to your hair though." Satisfied she'd had the last word on that particular topic, Kensi drove out of the parking lot and said a quick prayer that she wouldn't be back here any time soon.
Marty pulled down the sun visor and studied himself critically in the mirror. "It's not that bad, is it?" He now just looked like a man with a very short haircut, rather than one who was critically ill. "I mean, it's not unlike Callen's."
"If I wanted a man with Callen's hairstyle, I'd have gone out with Callen." Kensi's mouth twitched into a smile. "I still could, I suppose. Nell and I could swap partners. If I paid her enough."
"Keep talking. This is sounding better by the second. Have you ever noticed what cute hair Nell's got? Cute short hair. We could be a cute couple together." Once his hair grew enough to be able to be classified as short, rather than newly-shorn.
"You keep dreaming, Marty. That's what you're good at. And just for the record, I love you, no matter what. With or without hair. But don't plan on keeping like that, alright?"
"Have I told you how much I love it when you're bossy?"
"Once or twice. Generally when I'm wearing black leather and bondage sandals. With optional whip." Checking in the rear view mirror, Kensi caught a glance of her sleeping son. "We're not going to be able to do this sort of thing much longer, you know. Pretty soon he's going to be walking and talking and repeating everything he hears."
"So we'll whisper."
"Won't work. Densi will just learn to lip-read, like his Mommy.
"Okay, then we'll learn Latin. Amo, amas, amat. And then if Densi wants to eavesdrop, at least he's going to get a classical education at the same time." Actually, that made a lot of sense.
Kensi just hoped that Densi took after her. She wasn't quite sure she could cope if he took after his father. And if he did, maybe they'd just have to try for another baby and hope number two turned out differently? Not that she would change a single thing about either of her men – except maybe for Marty's hair to grow back a bit more quickly. God, she really missed his hair!
"How about you run in and sign the papers and I'll just wait here with Densi?" Kensi wasn't sure how much tact and diplomacy she could muster right now.
"Hetty said she needed both of us to sign. Don't ask me why," Marty could see she was planning to object and held up his hands in supplication. "And don't shoot the messenger either."
"I already did that. Right in the butt. Remember?"
"How could I forget? That scar twinges whenever it rains. There are more subtle and less painful ways of getting your man, you know. Anyone ever tell you that?" Marty started to release Densi from his car seat.
Kensi got out of the car reluctantly. "Yes, but it worked, didn't it?"
"You could have just kissed me. That would have worked."
"I'll remember that next time I'm in the market for a new man, okay?" Kensi followed them into the Mission, aware that she was dragging her feet. "Of course, it could just be that you're a push-over." She just managed to avoid walking straight into her husband's back when Marty suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. "How about you give me a warning before you do that?"
"Sorry." Marty reached around with his free hand and started to pull her forward. "But I think you're going to want to see this."
They were all waiting there: the whole team – Hetty, Sam, Callen, Nell and Eric. And they were standing around a long table, laid with a white cloth and set for Thanksgiving dinner.
"None of us felt like celebrating Thanksgiving last week, with Densi in the hospital." Hetty stepped forward and took the little boy into her arms.
"And it wouldn't have been the same without you." It had taken a near-tragedy for Callen to realise that all his searching for his birth family had been pointless, because his real family had been here all along. You had to know what you were actually looking for before you could hope to find it. Finally, his search was over and he knew that he belonged.
"You did this for us?" Kensi was trying to take it all in: the turkey, the cranberry sauce, even Nell's justly famous pumpkin pie.
"We did it for you," Sam confirmed, with a broad smile. He pulled a slightly bedraggled toy rabbit out of his pocket and watched Densi's face light up with familiar joy as he spied his beloved bun-bun.
"You even got the salt and pepper shakers Nell gave us," Marty said in awe. The ceramic turkeys stood in pride of place in the centre of the table, just like they had done for every Thanksgiving for the past three years.
Nell realised that the good hour she had spent going through their kitchen cabinets searching for the condiment set had been worth every single minute, just to see the looks on Kensi and Deeks' faces. "They're part of our traditions for Thanksgiving now. And last week, we all realised that it wasn't the date that was important – it was the people. It's all about being together."
They would celebrate many other Thanksgivings together over the coming years, and though the team inevitably evolved and changed over time, some things remained inviolate. In the end, that which was really important endured. And when it happened that a well-loved face was missing, a place was set in their absence, their memory was toasted with love and grateful thanks. They might not share a common lineage, but they had forged their own family and the ties that had been formed would never be broken or forgotten
"Happy Thanksgiving." Kensi's heart was so full, and she had so much to be thankful for, that it almost seemed churlish to ask for more. But it would be wonderful if the next year could just be quiet and peaceful and totally uneventful. Actually, she would just settle for the next week being totally routine and boring. She was roused out of this happy fantasy when Sam gave a sharp yelp and stared at his finger in disbelief.
"Why didn't you tell me your son's started teething?" He'd grown accustomed to Densi's habit of putting things into his mouth, and had thought nothing of it, until the pain registered.
Densi beamed at his mother and started to dribble copiously. So much for her dreams of a quiet life, Kensi thought, and then picked up a table napkin and tied it around his neck. Sometimes you just had to go with the flow. And she'd get so bored if life didn't throw up the odd challenge. Right now, there was absolutely nothing Kensi would change about her life, because it was absolutely perfect, in every single way that mattered: she had the best friends in the world; she had a son she adored more than life itself; and she had Marty, who still looked at her as if she had lassoed the stars and who in turn was pretty much her reason for living. All the rest was just incidental. Life was very sweet indeed, when you knew you were loved. And so Kensi sat down at the table, surrounded by all those she cared about and she gave the most heartfelt thanks.
I've loved writing this trilogy and I hope you've enjoyed reading it too.
It all started 4 months ago, and clocks in at around 200,000 words!
To say I've been overwhelmed by reader reaction would be a complete understatement.
Please note: no plot bunnies were harmed during the writing of this, and they have all been rounded safely up and put back in their hutches.
For the time being...