Evil plot bunny has been whinging non-stop about the lack of maims in recent chapters, so I had to placate him somehow.
The result might not be quite what you expect though...
I'm no saint: I never have been and I certainly don't plan to become one anytime soon. In my book, martyrdom is seriously overrated, not to mention the downright painful death that is part of the job description. And then there is the not inconsequential matter of how it is so final. So terribly final, even if you do get a great write-up afterwards. Generally, I try to stay on the right side of the law. I guess there is still that much of the lawyer left in me, and I am still registered with the State Bar Association after all. I like to think of that as my insurance policy for the future – just in case. You never quite know what is going to happen, and it's always good to have something to fall back on, isn't it? Not that I can quite see myself getting back into those suits and ties, but you never know, do you? Come to that, I never saw myself settling down and planning a wedding either, which shows you exactly how much (or how little) I really do know about life.
There's still a part of me that will always be a lawyer, I guess, although sometimes it gets buried pretty deep, what with all the stuff we do here in NCIS – like shooting first, mainly because it's either that or risk being shot yourself. Not that you have much choice, a lot of the time. Well, not if you want to stay alive and breathing and more or less in one piece, that is. Anyway, back in the days when I was still practising law, I thought I'd only be meeting up with the bad guys in court. I never dreamt I'd be chasing after them with a gun, or haring half-way across Europe, or even driving one of the coolest cars in LA with my even cooler (and yet hot at the same time) partner at my side. Of course, back then I knew even less about life than I do now, although at the time I thought I knew everything. Oh, the sweet arrogance of youth. I'm kind of rambling here, but the point I'm trying to make is that generally I try not to let my baser instincts take hold of me too often. This whole business with Darla is testing that resolve, though. It's pulling me in all sorts of directions that I don't like, and I'm doing my best to resist the lure, but it isn't easy. And there is no escape, not even at night. You see, I've started having these recurring dreams where Kensi and I go after Jack and we get him when he's alone…
I take the first punch, pulling my arm back and then smacking my fist forward into his face, so hard that I can hear the bone in his nose crunch into a hundred pieces. Just as he is staggering back, I stand to one side and let Kensi take out all her pent-up anger out on him. Kensi doesn't fight fair. It's worth saying that upfront. Generally guys do not kick each other in the junk. We might go for the knee to the groin in extreme circumstances, but usually we all hold to the unwritten tacit code: you don't mess with the gear. Kensi, as is only too obvious, is not a guy and therefore she has no such inhibitions – she just goes straight for the prize. I think girls usually fight dirtier than guys do. And they look a whole lot hotter when they're fighting too. Obviously. That goes without saying, doesn't it? What guy doesn't get a secret kick when watching a cat fight? (If any guy tells you he doesn't then he is lying. Take it from one who knows and who has also lied). Anyway, over the years I've seen Kensi unleash an eye-watering variety of different punches and kicks to the crotch to assorted unsuspecting men, who all tend to end up as somewhat less of a man once she is finished with them. Basically, Kensi could do an illustrated textbook on how to unman a guy. And if she's pictured wearing one of those little, tight black dresses with thigh-high leather boots, then that book is virtually guaranteed to be a best-seller. Come to think of it, if she wore a bikini instead, then it would definitely top the New York Times book lists. It might even rival the sales of that 50 Shades of Grey book, which isn't nearly as good as you'd think, by the way. To date, Kensi has never practised her crotch-kick on me, and I'm hoping to keep it that way. I haven't sung soprano for twenty years and I kind of like my stuff exactly the way it is. But when it comes to Jack Reynolds, then as far as I'm concerned, he deserves every single ounce of pain.
So, the way this dream goes down is as follows: the dream-me stands to one side like a complete gentleman and watches as Kensi inflicts her devastating kick on Jack. It goes like this: he's still semi-crouched over, hands over his face and assessing the damage to his nose (news-flash: it's broken, you moron. Didn't you hear the bone shatter when I punched you? Not to mention the small matter of the blood pouring down your face, which is always kind of a giveaway) so he doesn't see it coming. Which is a pity, because that kick is a thing of beauty and it really deserves proper attention being paid to it. Kensi gives this half-pirouette and lashes her leg forward to get the maximum amount of force at the moment of impact. And what an impact it is. She straightens her knee just a fraction of a second after her foot hits the target, just to drive the blow that little bit further home. The trajectory and velocity are perfect, and her aim is flawless. The result is that the force lifts Jack of his feet, he lets out an anguished squeal and his hands shoot down to cradle his ballst. Or rather, where his balls used to be, because I wouldn't be surprised if Kensi has managed to relocate them somewhere far up inside his torso. He staggers a bit before landing on his sorry butt and lies in the dirt, whimpering pathetically. Like I said, it's a great kick. It's the sort of kick you dream about. Which is what I'm doing, isn't it? I'm dreaming about my fiancée kicking her former-lover in the gear and I'm loving it. Now, that is weird. Seriously weird. I guess a shrink would have a field-day with my subconscious is telling me, and I'm kind of glad Nate is nowhere around.
I'd like to make it clear that it's only in my dreams that I take revenge –or rather where I watch Kensi take her revenge. She deserves to be able to give Jack just a little taste of the hell he put her though. I wonder what Kensi dreams about? Does she dream of beating Jack into the ground, or does she dream about watching me smack him stupid? It would be kind of interesting to know, but I'm not going there. Because this case is so personal to both of us that I have this feeling that if we ever talked about our dreams then it probably wouldn't take much to convince each other that we are above the law. We could justify our revenge and we could start to believe that we could get away with it. And we probably could.
That's another thing that frightens me. When you've investigated as many cases as I have, you learn an awful lot. You learn what to do and what not to do, if you know what I mean. That's possibly why there are some people in the law enforcement business who give into temptation and start to use that knowledge to swing the balance of probabilities in their favour. Those that are caught will tell you that they were just trying to make life just a little bit easier so that they could guarantee the right result when the case eventually goes to court. Oh, believe me: it would be so easy to take all that knowledge and to put it to good use. We could save a whole lot of time and money and get Darla away to safety that much quicker. Believe me, I am tempted. So the few nights when I don't dream about working Jack over, it's because I'm lying awake, thinking about how very easy it would be to ambush him and end all this right now. End it all permanently.
I told you I wasn't a saint and now you know how true that is. Right now I would happily strangle Jack Reynolds with my bare hands. Only I'm not going to, no matter how much I might want to. Once you take that first step outside the law, then the next step is even easier to take and before you know what is happening, there you are – you've become one of the people you used to arrest and send to trial. I've seen it happen too many times – good cops going bad - and I know how easy it is to give in to temptation. And then there is Darla. That's another thing that is stopping me, because if just one thing went wrong, then we'd be putting that kid in even more danger. So there is only one way to do things – the right way. We'll build a case against Jack that is stronger than Fort Knox. And then maybe I'll be able to sleep properly again. Until then, there is this part of me that wants to beat the crap out of him, and that part is growing bigger every day, so that I'm frightened I won't be able to contain it for much longer.
I've got a temper, you see. A really filthy temper. Normally I keep it pretty well-hidden and I guess people would probably describe me as an easy-going guy. Which I am – most of the time. But with my genetic background and less-than ideal parenting, there was no way I could escape scot-free, was there? I reckon I've actually come out of it all pretty well, and I've learned how to control my rage. Most of the time I do a decent enough job, but there's been a few times when we've e been working a case and it just all gets too much. Like when my last partner, Jess was killed. I lost it big time and I nearly did something really stupid then. I was this close to pulling the trigger and blowing away the guy who set her up, and nearly had me killed too. I'm not proud of that. And then when I worked undercover as Max Gentry, itt was like an excuse to give in to the dark-side of me, and just let my temper have free rein. The shameful thing is that I enjoyed it. It was kind of liberating. I actually liked being Max for a bit, because for once I wasn't hide-bound by convention and the societal norms. You probably didn't think I even knew words like that, did you? Far less be able to use them correctly. Hey – just because I'm letting you read about my life doesn't mean that I'm telling you everything about me. Give me a little credit, won't you? And, just for the record, I majored in Psychology back in my pre-law days. Which is another reason I don't want Nate getting inside my head – because I know too damned much. I know just how screwed up I am and how very easily it could all go terribly wrong.
So, our investigation into the sordid life of Jack Reynolds continues, and each piece of evidence we uncover makes me feel just that little bit more nauseous. No, scrub that. The more I learn about Jack, the more I feel like heaving my guts up. The more I discover about him, the more I detest him. What Kensi ever saw in him beats me, although my guess is that she was still going processing a whole lot of emotions after her father died, and then Jack appeared on the scene – the older man, the Marine, just like her daddy. Or not. Sometimes it's a mistake to try to read too much into these things. I wonder what she sees in me? No, I'm not going there. I might not like the answers, you see.
It turns out that Jack was still married to his wife the whole time he and Kensi were together. Clearly, he thought he could just start a new life, to the extent that he stopped paying the bills for his old life, leaving his wife and kid staring foreclosure in the face. Mrs Reynolds sounds like she had a lot of guts, because she did her best, going out and working two jobs and trying to keep things together, as best she could. It wasn't enough though. It was only when things got so bad that Darla came home from school one day with one of those back-packs full of enough food to keep a family over the weekend that Mrs R finally saw the light, got herself to a lawyer and filed charges against her scum-bag ex. So, there was Jack setting up home with my girl, building himself a new life (and don't forget that in the process he was systematically ruining Kensi's belief in herself, draining away all that confidence until she felt empty and worthless) and all the while his wife and kid were starving and one step away from going to a homeless shelter. What a guy. What a hell of a guy.
Now, it's a funny thing, but the Marine Corps doesn't really like its men skipping out on their family responsibilities like that. It doesn't sit very comfortably with the whole ethos of being a Marine, and it sure as hell doesn't do a whole lot for their image if it gets out that one of their own is a dead-beat dad. So, once the lawyers got involved and his whole new life looked like falling apart, jolly old Jack conveniently developed PTSD. Now, don't get me wrong: PTSD definitely exists, and it's a hell of bad thing for anyone to go through. But Jack no more had PTSD than I have a Marine buzz-cut. He just knew exactly what to do and precisely what to say and somehow he managed to fool some of the best doctors in the country – and Kensi too. And you know that Kensi is no knock-over, far less anybody's fool. She is a knock-out though – no doubt about that. Every time I look at her my stomach does this lazy back-flip and I wonder once again how I ever got to be so lucky. I just have to look at Kensi and I want her, which is great – but it's also kind of inconvenient at times.
Anyway, after a while, Jack decides to bale out on Kensi too. I guess maintaining a real relationship is too much like hard work for him, so when it gets too much, he just ups and leaves. A few months later, he resurfaces and goes back to the Corps and pleads a reoccurrence of his PTSD . Somehow wangles himself an honourable discharge. Maybe they just want rid of him with the least possible effort? After that, Jack starts building yet another new life for himself, only he doesn't bother even trying to see Darla at all. And then her mom dies. It's just one of these things that happen out of the blue – she has this massive brain aneurism. The weakness has been there since birth, like some freaking time-bomb just ticking away and one day it just bursts as Mrs Reynolds is walking out to her car. She collapses and is dead ten minutes later. There was nothing anyone could do. Given the amount of head injuries I've had, that actually makes me kind of nervous. You can only cheat fate and beat time for so long. And so far I've been lucky, only one day that luck it going to run out. It always does. The only thing in this world that it's not finite is love. Yeah – I'm in love and I've got it bad. So sue me. And then tell me you aren't as jealous as hell.
After her mom dies, Jack gets custody of Darla, on account of the fact he's her only living relative. Believe it or not, he's also managed to get himself this cushy number as a civilian contractor at Pendleton. Go figure that one out. And please tell me if you manage to make any sense out of it all, because I sure as hell can't. That's the other thing about luck - it's so fucking indiscriminate it could make you weep. If there was any justice in this world, Jack would be serving time already, but instead he gets custody and that's when all the trouble begins. According the school, Darla becomes quiet and withdrawn. Her grades drop and she doesn't seem to have many friends any more. They put it down to her mom dying, of course. I mean, who is going to suspect this upright ex-Marine of abusing his kid?
"The conniving bastard!" Kensi fumes when she learns about Jack's duplicity – all his lies and the general way the man has less morals than a skunk. Only that's unfair to skunks.
Actually, Kensi says a whole lot more than that; in fact she uses some very colourful language indeed, and what's more she uses no less than three different languages too boot. However, I've censored all that, because while it is undeniably interesting, it is also unprintable. Let's just put it this way – I am seriously impressed with the range and depth of Kensi's language skills. She is very inventive and never repeats herself once throughout her harangue, which impresses me even more. Is there no end to her talents? God, I hope not. And I'm looking forward to finding out in great detail, once we're alone.
"Do you feel better now?" Hetty asks solicitously, when Kensi finally has to stop in order to draw breath. Her face is actually kind of red and her eyes are wild and she has never looked quite so unrestrained or quite so desirable. Kensi, that is. Not Hetty. Just in case you were thinking that either the lack of sleep or my previous head injuries are doing strange things to my brain, I'd like to make it quite clear that I have never, not for one single instant, had any sexual thoughts about Hetty and I never will. Kensi, of course, is a different matter altogether. The day I don't have at least a hundred sexy thoughts about her is the day they declare me brain-dead.
"No." Kensi is standing there hands on hips, breasts heaving and looking so freaking hot it takes all my willpower not to throw her down on top of Hetty's desk and… And I'll leave the rest to your fertile imagination, because I'm not going to even think about one of my favourite fantasies when Hetty is standing right there. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I think she can actually read minds. Not really. Well, only sometimes. But I'm still not going to take that chance. Just in case. Because you never know, do you? Especially not with Hetty. Actually, I never know what to think when I'm with Hetty. Or even what to think about Hetty in general. Just when I think I've got her sussed, then she turns around and shows yet another side of herself. And now I come to think about it, that's kind of true about women in general – you just never really know and you never will know, so there's not much point in stressing about it or trying to make some sort of sense – you are much better just to go along with the flow. God, why didn't I realise that before? Life could have been so much simpler.
Hetty doesn't say anything in response to Kensi's monosyllabic response. She just raises one hand in the air and snaps her fingers and, hey presto - two seconds later, Callen and Sam are standing at the side of her desk. I wonder if she's going to snap her fingers again, make them both roll over and then sit up and beg, only I don't say that. Come on, of course I don't. I have learnt some subtlety, tact and discretion over the years. Not a whole lot I'll give you that, but enough to know that I need to keep my mouth shut right now. I'm not completely stupid and while Sam and I might be buddies, I still have a healthy respect for the guy. On account of the fact he is seriously big and consequently could do me some serious damage. Who wants to appear in their wedding photos with two black eyes and all four limbs in plaster?
"Miss Blye is in need of a serious workout, gentlemen. Can you oblige?"
They take one look at Kensi and then move smoothly into action, leaving her no time to protest, just linking their arms through hers and lifting her slightly off the floor before making for the gym at high speed. I just hope they know what they are in for, because Hurricane Kensi is not going to take any prisoners.
"Take a seat, Mr Deeks."
I do as I'm told. It's easiest that way, I've found, when dealing with women in general, but especially when Hetty is the one issuing the orders. Resistance is definitely futile where Hetty is concerned. Actually I find it almost impossible to resist Kensi too, but for entirely different reasons.
"Oh dear, this is all rather stressful, isn't it?" She steeples her fingers, all the while looking at me over the rims of her glasses.
Now, this is the sort of habitual understatement I have come to expect from Hetty, only today there is something different about the way she says it. Her voice almost sounds weary. And for the first time, I can see that Hetty is getting old. Normally, she seems kind of ageless, but today she looks old and she looks tired.
"Tell me about it." There's not really a lot more I can say in response.
"And then there is the wedding on top of all this. And the other matter too."
Oh yes, so there is. That would be the thing we never really talk about. We make general statements to other people, but Kensi and I only talk about it in private. "We're happy for Nell and Callen. Really, we are." And that's the truth. We are happy for them – but we're as sad as hell for ourselves. It's complicated, but that's just the way things are.
Hetty leans forward and smiles. "I know you are."
Say what you like about the woman (and I have, on several occasions) but nothing gets past her, and although she doesn't make a big song and dance about it, she has a heart of gold. Pure gold.
"We'll get there. I promise you."
That seems to reassure her, because she sits back with a contented air. "I'll hold you to that. And for God's sake – make sure you mail those wedding invitations tonight!"
Damn. I knew there was something I'd forgotten to do. It's all this not sleeping – or dreaming about Jack when I do sleep – it's doing things to my head. No matter, we can get them written tonight and then bring them in here tomorrow and dump them in the out-tray underneath a pile of other stuff. The way I see it, after all I've done for my country (including getting shot) for a ridiculously low wage, the least they owe me is the price of a few lousy stamps, don't they?
After a couple of hours absence, Callen, Sam and Kensi return. She looks kind of subdued, almost embarrassed; Sam is trying not to smirk and not being terribly successful and Callen? Callen is walking very gingerly.
"What happened?" Well, somebody has to ask, don't they? And it might as well be me. Besides which, I really want to know. I mean, I've got my suspicions, but I want them confirmed
Sam just puts his finer to his lips, not entirely hiding the smile that toys at the edges of his mouth; Kensi blushes and Callen just limps over to his desk in painful silence.
"You didn't?" I look at Kensi incredulously. I mean, I know girls have no inhibitions about the crotch-kick, but this is Callen, for crying out loud.
"I told you not to say anything!" Sam says, and shakes his head. Huh, he knew that would make me ask. In fact, I reckon he wanted me to ask. He's sneaky like that, is Sam.
"She did." After confirming my worst suspicions in a very subdued voice, Callen sits down gingerly, but can't quite manage to subdue a whimper as sensitive parts of his anatomy come into contact with the seat. Somehow I manage to refrain from offering him a cushion.
"It was an accident," Kensi protests. I get the feeling this isn't the first time she's said that to Callen. Maybe it's some kind of warped justice, seeing that wole pregnancy business was an accident too?
I guess it's time for me to leap into the breach. "Sure it was," I say soothingly. Come on, even Kensi wouldn't knee the senior field-agent in the balls on purpose, no matter how angry she was. Would she? Maybe it's time I poured a little oil on troubled waters? "Good thing you've got one baby on the way, Callen. You weren't planning on a big family, were you?"
Okay, that didn't quite come out the way I meant it to. Even if it is true.
Callen gives me this look of utter contempt, just as Hetty appears clutching an ice-bag, which she drops into his lap. Now, Hetty is small and it didn't have that far to drop, but it was kind of full and ice is heavy. So of course Callen goes green and doubles up and we're all trying very hard not to laugh. Except Callen, of course. Mainly on account of the fact he's too busy trying not to throw up to do anything else.
Basically, it's just another day at the office.
"You'd never do anything like that to me, would you?" I ask Kensi much later on. It's night-time, but neither of us can sleep, so we're sitting outside, staring up at the stars and drinking beer.
"What - give you a thunk in the junk?" she replies sweetly. "No – not unless you did something really stupid – like nearly dying on me again."
"Believe me, if you ever kicked me like that, I'd be happy to roll up in a little ball and die," I assure her. It's like every guy's nightmare.
"So I'll restrain myself." She nudges a little bit closer and once again I marvel at how two bodies can almost merge into one another. It's like we're two parts of a greater whole and that life only really makes sense when we are together. Kind of like the way my life only started to make sense when Kensi walked into it. It was like I'd been waiting for her for so long. Kensi just completes me in ways I'd never begun to imagine. "Because I can't imagine life without you."
So what if things are still kind of screwed up? We've still got each other and that's all that really matters. As long as we are together then we can face any odds, overcome any obstacles.
Her next statement comes out of the blue. "I have this fantasy, you know?"
Of course I do. I have them all the time. And if I'm very good, Kensi sometimes lets me act them out. So far she's not contributed any of her own though, apart from all the stuff with the handcuffs, which doesn't really count, because everyone does that – don't they? Likewise the feather and the mask. Anyway, that's kind of beside the point, because I'm really interested in where this conversation is going.
"You want to tell me about it?" And that way I can let the anticipation build up really slowly. I wonder if it requires any special purchases, or if we can just make do with stuff around the house?
"It's about Jack."
Okay, all passion is now officially extinguished. Talk about the ultimate contraceptive summed up in one four-letter word.
"Jack?" I say weakly, feeling decidedly deflated, in more ways than just one.
"Yeah. And today I kind of acted it out, because I was so mad and Callen just kind of got in the way."
"I dream about you kicking Jack in the balls," I confess. I'm feeling kind of guilty, like maybe it was my fault she whacked poor Callen, after I told her about imagining I was shooting Jack back on th target range at Pendleton.
"Really?" Her eyes sparkle wickedly. "Do I cream him?"
"Honey, you totally maim him. Nobody could do it better. You get him right in the sweet spot."
There's a short silence while she digests that and then give a guilty shake of her head. "I wonder how Callen's feeling tonight?"
It's a safe bet Callen's not feeling half as good as I am right now, on account of the fact all my gear is in perfect working order, plus I'm sitting out here with the hottest girl on the planet at my side – and who is wearing only a well-washed t-shirt that is practically transparent. There's a slight chill in the air and that shirt hides nothing at all, which is incredibly distracting.
"Sore"? I venture and let my hand move slowly up to curve around her breast. I don't much care how Callen feels right now, if you want the truth. All I care about is how amazing Kensi feels as we just melt into each other's kisses until the stars explode in the sky.
For the first time in weeks I actually sleep without dreaming of Jack.
The next day Callen is almost walking normally, even if he is wearing rather loose-fitting pants. Sam is in first, as ever (he's slightly anal about being ultra-punctual – or "early" as the rest of us call it) and he's left his partner the thoughtful gift of a bunch of black grapes on his desk. Callen doesn't take that particularly well, but he's hardly in a position to do much about it right now. So basically things are getting back to normal, when I get this call from my buddy Ron over at Central.
"Deeks? We've had this kid on the phone, asking for you by name. She seemed to think you were still working for LAPD."
Well, I am – technically. Only I've been on secondment to NCIS for so long that it's easy to forget that at times. I'm uncomfortably unaware of those papers Hetty gave me months ago and which are still sitting in my desk, just waiting for my signature. One of these days I really have to give some serious thought to signing them.
"What did she want?"
"Wouldn't say. Just asked me to give you a message from Darla. She wants to meet you this morning." Ron pauses for a moment. "And Deeks? She sounded awful young and awful scared." Experienced cops learn to hear when somebody is genuinely in need of help.
I thank him and scrawl down the details, aware that my heart is pounding fit to burst inside my chest. She's picked a coffee shop at the Burbank Mall for some obscure reason. It could be a trap. I mean, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Jack has got wind of all our careful plans – but I don't think so. Mt gut tells me that this is Darla and that she needs help. Now. And I'm going to make sure she gets it. I really don't like the thought of her hanging around in public by herself. Jack, for all his sins, isn't stupid and I kind of doubt Darla has managed to hide her tracks particularly well.
"Got somewhere to go," I announce, in as off-hand a manner as possible.
"Where?" Sam throws me this suspicious look.
"Coffee run." Which is the truth – sort of. If you squint a bit. It's just not the whole truth or even the exact truth. But I don't want to scare Darla off by arriving mob-handed. She asked for me and me alone – and I'm not going to let her down. And would you believe, I even manage to stick those wedding invitations in the out tray before I leave. Organised or what? And then I get the hell out of the bullpen before Kensi begins to smell a rat. She's going to kill me later on, I know that. She might even take the ultimate revenge and whack me in the lunchbox. Maybe I should stop by the sporting goods store on the way back and get myself some protection?
Things are starting to move towards a climax now. The question is: will Deeks be in a fit state to enjoy it? Evil plot bunny is quite beside himself with joy at the amount of damage (both real and imaginary) inflicted in this chapter and is urging further devastation.