Hello everyone and thank you for a lovely welcome to the NCIS:LA section - it was great to receive such encouragement for my first piece. This is the promised companion piece, looking at the same time from Deeks' perspective.
Still not mine and Christmas is still six months away.
He goes on vacation and he misses her. Which he finds strange, considering it's by no means the first time they've been separated. It's not until Sean innocently remarks that he's never heard him talk about anyone as much as he does about his partner that he realises quite how much time they spend together.
His first instinct is denial: he doesn't talk about her all that much, Sean just doesn't understand what it's like when you spend all day with someone. And then they're friends too, so there are all those weekends and holidays they spend together.
He conveniently forgets that Sean is a cop and knows perfectly well what it's like to spend all day with someone.
He forgets to mention that when he was in hospital after the shooting, she was the only person he really wanted to see. And that he's relieved when she texts him on the weekends, because that gives him an excuse to invite her for a run along the beach – with Monty, of course; or drag her to the hardware store because he can't remember what colour his wall is and he can't put off repairing that scrape any longer; or watch her get animated over complete rubbish on the television because secretly he likes that soft blush she can't resist when he teases her; and then persuade her to order Chinese because he doesn't want the evening to end – and okay, because neither really likes cooking.
And he definitely doesn't tell Sean about the time he fell asleep on her couch and woke up in the middle of the night to find himself next to his partner – in her bed – with her so close his hazy mind couldn't resist the urge to slide his arm across her. He'd held his breath for a few seconds, waiting for her to turn over and yell; when she didn't, he let his arm relax, his fingers landing on the soft material over her stomach. He stayed awake for a while, savouring the quiet closeness. For twenty-one nights he'd consciously avoided touching her, burying himself in professionalism, finding it a little surreal to be sharing a bed with his partner as though she was far more than that. Then, giving in to his urge to touch her could have caused complications far beyond the two of them. Now – well, at some point he has to start testing the waters if he ever wants them to leave the purgatory of flirting behind for even a chance at something more.
In the morning, he'd stirred slightly, awake just enough to realise they had both migrated to the middle of the bed; pressed together so haphazardly that he was half on top of her, her legs entangled with his – and he had hoped like hell she didn't wake up because he would have had a difficult time explaining the way her hip was nestled against an unmistakable erection. For a moment, he had pushed guilt to the side of his mind, just about able to pretend that he was allowed to wake up like this, that it was natural to have her in his arms. A voice in the back of his head had nagged that no, this wasn't right – they shouldn't have been in the same house, never mind the same bed – and that he needed to find a way to extricate himself without waking her. He was still considering his options when he drifted back to sleep, content to remain like that.
He'd only woken properly half an hour later, when she twitched awake, stretching a little as she came round. He'd realised they were still in the same position and deliberately kept his breathing even, not wanting to break the illusion just yet.
She hadn't moved for a while and he couldn't help wondering what she was thinking. Did she like this, waking up next to him? Was she happy to stay there, waiting for him to leave sleep behind? Did she realise how easy it would be for him to roll on to his back, pulling her with him and kissing her good morning until she was breathless?
Too soon, she'd eased away from him; he heard her move towards the kitchen and the familiar sound of coffee brewing but only dared move when the shower came to life. He'd been in the kitchen, rummaging through cupboards in search of food, when she'd blinded him with a towel over his head with an instruction to make himself presentable. She didn't need to tell him she quite liked him wandering around her kitchen in his boxers – he could see her eyes darken and her face flush slightly. He'd thought about playing on it but something told him not to ruin this easy atmosphere – so much easier than it really should be – so he just laughed and obeyed.
And right after he doesn't tell Sean all that, he knows Sean has guessed anyway. His friend has known him a long time and, frankly, he doubts he's all that difficult to see through even if he was a stranger. He's talked about Kensi far too much for anybody to believe this partnership isn't headed for something more; he can feel his side of their mutual facade crumbling too quickly to salvage.
He shoves his phone into Sean's hand, looks away from his amused gaze and runs towards the sea, shouting behind him not to miss the wave. As he reaches the water, he turns to check his friend is watching and sees him talking into the phone, hopefully not saying anything too embarrassing.
Before he left, she told him to have a good time, a little wistfully. He's been planning this trip for a while, but they never really discussed it and suddenly he was leaving and they still hadn't realised that would mean being separated longer than they were used to. When he landed, he wanted to text her immediately, send her photos of the places he visited, maybe even call her from the train as they headed for the coast after the first couple of days. He's waited over a week to even contact her, hoping the urge to know she's okay will fade. It hasn't.
He rides a vicious wave, the salty air whipping his hair into his face and stinging his eyes slightly, all the time hoping he doesn't fall – because he's by no means sure that Sean wouldn't send that version rather than any repeat. As he jogs back to his friend, board under his arm, he wonders what she's doing and when she'll check her phone.
"You met Sean?" he says, laughing as Sean's hand waves between him and the lens in greeting. "You'd love it here, Kens. Well, if it wasn't so cold," he corrects, knowing she'd never get used to the changeable temperature. "And it rained a bit when we first got here. But the last couple of days have been amazing." They have – gloriously sunny, the sea calling to him from the moment he looked out of the window of his room. "Waves are totally different here. I'm still king, though." He blows a kiss at the camera, knowing it will make her roll her eyes. "Back Friday, K – well, if I don't decide to stay." He winks before Sean ends the recording, hoping the short clip is enough to make her realise he's thinking about her.
Sean shakes his head. "You got it bad, man," he says, mildly, handing the phone back.
He sends the message, hoping she'll see it soon and wondering how to respond to Sean. "We're just used to seeing each other all the time."
He doesn't miss the other man's raised eyebrows, scepticism oozing from his expression.
"Whatever you say. You wait till I tell Anna. She'll grind you down."
"That woman could make me admit to starting a war. Doesn't count," he retorts flippantly, turning away to stow his things in an attempt to avoid further conversation.
His friend chuckles, clearly unconvinced, but he lets the subject drop as they walk back to their hotel. It's a walk he's enjoyed for the last few days, up a winding path towards the seaside town, but today he just wants to be back so he can check his messages without giving Sean the chance to comment. Then, as they approach the door, Sean suggests a quick beer in the bar – and with a reluctance he doesn't even want to begin analysing, he agrees.
By the time he's able to check, it's nearly an hour after he sent the message, thirty minutes after he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and knew instinctively she'd replied. He reads her message – Very funny, idiot. You'll pay. You been on the beach all day? – and can picture the wry smile on her face as she composed it. He knows it's about half past nine in LA now and she'll have been at work at least an hour. He vaguely remembers that it's today that the new communications equipment arrives and grins at the thought of the others sitting through Eric's lectures and then Nell's testing; he knows it'll take all of Callen's patience to put up with Sam and Kensi whining about the new technology.
He wonders what she's doing now and hopes she's sitting at her desk rather than pursuing whatever or whoever is threatening them this week. He wants to ask whether she's okay but knows that will make her withdraw and then he'll never get the reassurance he wants.
Most of it. Gotta make the most of the weather. How ya doing without me?
The response comes quickly and he knows she's safely in the office – she would never be that quick if she was in the field. All good. The guys say hello. Sean looks nice.
He frowns. What does that mean?
Sean looks engaged, he types hastily, and his girl is scary. Anna's not at all scary – just persistent – but that should stop her taking any thoughts of his friend looking 'nice' any further. Trying not to sound desperate, he adds, You picking me up Friday?
They'd talked about it before he departed and she'd left it at 'if I have time' – and even though he thinks she'll make time, he'd like to be sure he's not the only one who doesn't want to have to wait longer than necessary to see each other.
It's an anxious minute before she replies.
As long as nothing unexpected happens. Make sure you don't miss the flight.
He snorts. As if. It's four days till he's home and he tries not to think about what it means that he can almost say how many hours.
He holds out till Wednesday before sending another video, this time of him licking an ice cream cone suggestively. Sean can't stop laughing, unable to resist commenting that he doesn't think he should be a part of this. He just echoes the laughter and tells Sean he's making sure people don't forget him, before aiming a wink at the camera for the one person he hopes never even tries to forget him.
She texts him after she's seen it to say that she'll never let him near ice cream again. And he already knows he'll play on that when he gets back.
On the train back to London, he reads and tries not to think about seeing her so soon. He's grateful for his ability to lose himself in the pages because otherwise he thinks he'll work himself up to teenage angst levels and that really doesn't fit with the impression he'd like to give.
He tries to sleep on the plane but finds it unusually difficult; normally he's so used to grabbing sleep at any opportunity, not knowing when he might next be able to, but now he finds himself restless, unable to settle long enough to stop his mind working overtime. He wishes Sean was with him and even glances at the woman next to him, half-contemplating starting a conversation that's bound to make her think she's sitting with a lunatic.
He checks his watch too often and time crawls by. He promises himself he'll wait until they're close to landing before texting her – after all, she'll want to know he's on time. Eventually, he lets himself turn his phone on, trying not to be disappointed that she hasn't contacted him.
Bored. Haven't been able to sleep. How was your day?
Her response is almost instant. Stop texting on the plane!
He frowns. Not quite what he wanted. Not until you answer the question, he sends back, petulantly.
The face he knows she's pulling floats into his mind. Routine. Nothing even worth mentioning. Now turn it off!
He wonders if she knows why he asked the question: he's checking she's still coming. He's spent the day hoping nothing will happen to stop her.
I'm sure someone proved it's not dangerous now. Think we're landing soon. You should probably leave, honey-pie.
The pet name will annoy her but it's all part of his plan to wear her down. One day, it will seem normal for him to use the endearments she claims to hate.
She doesn't answer the message but he knows she's coming. It'll take her at least an hour to reach the airport so she's probably already in the car, singing along to the radio and tapping her fingers on the wheel. Sometimes he thinks she doesn't even realise she's doing it.
His mood suddenly brightens, his limbs relaxing into the seat and the tension dissipating even though he's far too tall to be able to stretch his legs out properly. It's obvious that his improved mood is because he'll see her so soon and he doesn't even try to persuade himself otherwise. They might not be ready to talk about the situation they're in but he needs to learn not to shy away from the thought if he ever wants them to be ready. This thing is fast becoming a thing he can't ignore; yet something tells him that he has to let her try to ignore it, at least for a while longer. They can't afford to leap headfirst into anything and he needs her to be sure of herself before she can ever be sure of him. She's too important to him to take any risks.
As the plane taxies towards the landing gate, he sends a quick text just to say he's landed but doesn't expect a response yet – she'll almost certainly not have reached the airport. He collects his bag and joins the queue to get through immigration, hoping his edgy anticipation won't be mistaken for suspicious nerves. The last thing he needs is to be hauled away for questioning.
His phone beeps whilst he's in the queue: Don't keep me waiting too long. A glance to the front of the inordinately long queue tells him she might have to wait a while for the multitude of Japanese tourists and businessmen to be processed.
He's tired and all he wants is a familiar face and a car he can fall asleep in. It seems like a long time since he left London and already his vacation is acquiring the sheen of a slightly surreal memory, a world away from the life he normally inhabits.
It's a long fifteen minutes later before he accepts his passport back from the official and heads towards the crowd in the arrivals hall, hoping he doesn't look too bad after being subject to a ten-hour flight in the company of strangers. His eyes flit quickly across the waiting throng in search of an impatient pose and a dark head but he can't see her anywhere. For a brief moment he worries she's not come, but the sensible part of his brain knows better and points out that it's quite hard to spot one dark-haired woman in what seems to be a sea of them.
You hiding? Can't see you.
He thinks she might call but instead she texts back telling him which advertisements she's near and he scans the room, his eyes still unable to find her. As his gaze slides back the opposite way, she waves and catches his eye.
He can't stop the smile spreading across his face when he sees her, instantly quickening his pace. She's grinning manically and he wonders if she realises her expression has slipped beyond her control.
"Hey Kens!" he calls when he's in earshot, careful to keep his voice light. "Knew you couldn't stay away!"
She rolls her eyes and it's like he's not missed a day. "Shame you couldn't," she retorts merrily.
He drops his bag on the floor as he reaches her, laughing. "Nice greeting. Couldn't you have started with Welcome back?"
"Too easy. Gotta keep you on your toes."
For a moment, it's awkward, because he wants to hug her but feels too self-conscious. They don't really hug, although perhaps, he realises suddenly, that's because they're never really apart long enough these days. They don't avoid touch – it's just another aspect of this game they play – but he's always been careful to keep his touches innocent, at least on the surface. A hand on the back; the stroke of an arm; a finger lightly brushing stray hair out of an eye. He's never sure if she knows she reciprocates.
He breaks first because he doesn't think she will, pulling her into his embrace easily. It's only a few seconds but the jolt of sensation that shoots through him is unmistakeable; it makes him wish he could kiss her as though he's entitled to show everyone she belongs to him.
She pulls away – reluctantly, he thinks – and looks behind him. "Isn't Sean with you?"
He shakes his head. "Nope. Flew straight from London to San Francisco to see his folks."
She nods. "You got everything?" she checks, reaching out to relieve him of the deceptively heavy bag that is his carry-on. "Oof. What have you got in here, Deeks?"
He looks sheepish; he probably should have warned her. "Bought a few books in the airport. Might have gone a bit overboard. It's what happens when I'm not supervised."
"Clearly. Come on – I'm parked pretty close."
As she turns from him, he reaches to pick up his massive backpack, preparing to follow her. Later, he'll wonder what comes over him as he asks the question that will signify a change in their relationship.
"Hey, Kens – you miss me?"
She stops and he can see her shoulders tense as she considers her response. His question was posed lightly and he can't be sure she's caught the undertone to his words. This time, a flippant answer isn't enough. He wants the reassurance of a proper answer.
It feels like minutes before she turns but it's no more than a few seconds before she meets his eyes, her own mismatched pair now so familiar to him that two weeks away could never make him forget the shades.
"Yes," she says, and it sounds like an admission that neither of them is ready to face right now, even if now is the time to make it. If this thing is ever to have a chance, they can't just keep forcing it into a box.
He says nothing because he doesn't need to. They'll talk about it one day – and at least now they know they'll both recognise that day when it arrives.
I thought I'd find Deeks' voice easier to find than Kensi's but I didn't - somehow the way he uses humour to cover everything escapes me slightly. I'm working on my next piece (and possibly even contemplating an M story, dum-dum-dum...) but those of you who are familiar with me know I'm not the fastest poster in the world...!