I promised I would have this completed before Christmas! talk about impeccable timing...
Anyway, this ends as it began - with Deeks.
Part Five - Deeks
So, once again I am spending Christmas Day here in the soup kitchen, peeling potatoes. And, just like last year, Kensi is right by my side. Yet everything is different today. For a start, we're standing so close that our hips are nudging together, and every so often Kensi leans into me, or I lean into her and our eyes meet and we exchange smiles and looks that are so full of promise I fell as if my heart might just burst. It's funny how things can change so quickly. Not that I'm complaining, of course, quite the reverse. The only problem is that there are whole lot of things I want to say to Kensi and even more things that I want to do with her – but this isn't the time or the place. I wish we were alone somewhere…
The things is, every time I look up, I can see there are more people coming in, looking for somewhere they can get a decent meal and a bit of company, so it's not like we can just walk out, is it? Not without feeling like skunks. We've got so much and today means a lot to our clients. For some of them this is the best day of the year – food, warmth and company. So the best we can do is to push down all the feelings that are churning around inside, put our heads close together, and talk quietly, while all the time we peel more vegetables, chop them up and put them into pots, which are then whisked over to the stoves. And then my right hand is seized and held in a firm grip.
"I'm glad to see you stopped biting your nails, Marty."
"Only because you threatened to put nail polish on them." The way Angela talks, you'd think this was just last week or something – not twenty years ago. How come she can make me feel like a little kid again?
"I'm glad too." Kensi reaches forward and takes hold of my other hand. "I've always liked your hands – they're strong, but flexible. Like an artist's." With that, she looks up, gives me this dreamy smile and all of a sudden, I don't feel like a little kid any more. Oh no, I feel like a big boy. A very big boy indeed. I also feel that I want to get out of here right now. If I don't get out of here soon, I might just do something stupid. It's either that or I explode with frustration
Luckily, Angela is impervious to the way I'm feeling right now, and goes straight into proud mother hen mode. "Did you know Marty used to play the violin, Kensi?"
Oh great, now they're talking about me like I'm not here. I'm surrounded by women who are ganging up on me and giving away all my secrets. And the strangest thing is that I don't mind at all. In fact, I actually like it. I'm sandwiched in between the two women I love most in the world and it feels great.
"I think he might have mentioned it – once." She gives a singular smile.
Ah yes, I forgot about that one day, when I wasn't thinking and was rather distracted, I let it slip out that I used to play the violin in the dim and distant past. I regretted it immediately, but it was just a casual mention, and neither of us said any more about it, so I was sure Kensi had forgotten all about it. Only it seems that Kensi never forgets. I'm beginning to wonder what else Kensi has got filed away in her mind and I'm looking forward to finding out, very slowly and in exquisite detail. I want to find out all her secrets, everything that she hides from the world. I want to know every inch of her body too.
Kensi and Angela exchange knowing looks, and that's when I know I'm in trouble. If these two start working in tandem, then I'm in big trouble. There's no way I can resist both of them. Just as I'm getting ready to go on the defensive, Angela takes the wind right out of my sails. She was always good at that, but today Angela proves her complete mastery of me. Sometimes I think she knows me better than I know myself.
"Marty –I need you to do me a favour."
"Anything." I mean it. I honestly can't refuse this woman a single thing. She took me in and gave me a second chance at life. Angela believed in me when just about everybody else had given up hope, and she made me believe in myself. But there is no way that I am prepared for what she says next.
"I want you to promise me that you won't come here next year."
Her hands are gripping on to mine tightly, and when I look down for the first time I see the unmistakeable signs of age are written upon them. When did Angela start to get old? And just a little bit of the sparkle of the day starts to fade.
"Come on – this is our tradition. I'll always be here. You do know that, don't you?"
She shakes her head, and I can see there are grey hairs among the dark curls. I don't want Angela to get old, I want her to always stay the same and to always be in my life. For this first time, I realise how much I still need her. "It's time, Marty. It's time for you to move on and make a new life. I've given you a start, but now I need to let you go. You've never lived in the past, so don't start now."
"I'll always be here for you – you do know that, right?" I know I'm repeating myself, but I need to make sure she knows how much I love her. Only it's hard to speak, because there is this huge lump in my throat.
Angela gives me the sweetest smile and all of a sudden I am catapulted back in time to a Christmas Eve long ago, when I thought my whole world had come crashing down around my ears, and then I saw this woman literally holding out her arms, with her warm smile and her big heart just pulling me forward. I knew that I would be safe with her and that I could trust her. "I know, son – I know. Just like you know that you'll always be in my heart. But I reckon you've done more than your share of paying it forward. So next year, you take Kensi away somewhere nice for Christmas. Just the two of you. Promise me?"
I can't actually say anything right now, so I just nod. Kensi steps into the silence.
"And I promise to make sure he does"
How come Kensi knows I am going to be putty in her hands – hers to do with as she pleases? Not that I'm bothered or even that I will protest in the slightest
"You know I'll miss you, right? You and the soup kitchen."
"I know. And it's not like we're never going to see one another again, is it? But it's time, Marty. Time for you to make a new tradition for Christmas. Nothing lasts forever." Angela smiles at me, and gives my hand one last squeeze and then reverts to her normal sassy self. "Now – get back to work. Those potatoes aren't going to peel themselves."
Someone smacks my butt at this point. It could be Kensi, or it could be Angela. And much as I love Angela, I'm rather hoping it's Kensi.
So that's settled. Maybe we could get a cabin up at Tahoe, and go skiing all day and then lie back in a hot tub and stare up at the stars in the evening? Or maybe we'll go to Hawaii together. Anything is possible, after all.
"Next year, then? You and me, Kensi? Anywhere but LA?"
"Any time. Any place. Anywhere."
It should be a really romantic moment, despite the unglamorous surrounding, because it's almost like Kensi is promising me a future. We're standing there, looking at each other and trying to find words to say all the things we feel when this terribly familiar voice breaks in.
"That is presuming you are not scheduled to be on duty, of course."
I totally did not see her coming. Once again Hetty seems to have just appeared out of thin air. One of these days I am going to grab hold of her and make her tell me how she does it. But not today. Today I'd much rather just hold onto Kensi. Part of me still can't quite believe this is happening, despite the way Hetty's interjection has brought me plummeting back down to earth.
"You must be Hetty," Angela says confidently. I guess I must have mentioned Hetty once or twice, just in passing.
"I suppose I must be," she agrees. I always feel a bit wary when Hetty acts so pleasantly, like I'm just waiting for the steel jaws of a trap to snap shut around me.
"It's lovely to meet you at last. Marty's told me all about you."
Now, I love Angela dearly, but she really learns when to keep her mouth shut. Because things were going so well… I try very hard not to cringe, and try not to think about what she might say next.
"Really?" Hetty quirks that eyebrow up again, while the rest of her face stays completely immobile and expressionless. I feel my heart sinking into my boots. "And you must be Angela. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
Note to self – remember just to assume that Hetty knows absolutely everything and that you can never keep any secrets from her. It's easier that way.
"I wasn't expecting to see you here, Hetty." I feel like some token gesture is called for on my part.
She looks at me and then shakes her head. "And yet I'm here, aren't I? Is love making you blind, Mr Deeks?"
Well, there's no answer to that, is there? Mainly because I've only got eyes for Kensi.
"There was the small matter of your animal," Hetty continues. "Didn't you notice you'd left him behind?" Right on cue, Monty slinks around from behind her. For some reason he is wearing an elf costume and looks suitably mortified.
"Monty!" He bounds up to me and then sits down at my feet, throwing the most pathetic look you have ever seen.
God, he knows how to make me feel rotten. How could I have forgotten Monty? More to the point: what the hell was Hetty thinking of when she dressed him up like this and where exactly did she get that costume come from? Actually, I probably don't want to know the answer to that one. I'm just wondering how come Monty let Hetty put him into that costume, when then I remember how she's managed to coax Callen into a number of horrific outfits over the years. Clearly she has some sort of power that makes man and dog obey her. Or maybe Monty's just scared of her? Actually, that wouldn't surprise me, because Monty isn't nearly as daft as he looks. I kneel down to give him a hug, by way of apology for a)leaving him behind and b) allowing him to be subjected to Hetty's tender mercies, only I get kind of distracted, because the next thing I know is that Kensi is kneeling down on Monty's other side, and our heads nearly collide.
I pull back just in time to avoid a painful conclusion, and our eyes meet. And in that instant I'm hooked, I'm completely drawn in and I don't care that we are in a soup kitchen in one of the poorer areas of LA, or even that Hetty and Angela are both standing just a foot away, because the world has contracted right down to two people. There is only one thing to do – and I do it. I reach out my hands to Kensi and we stand up slowly. For a moment we just stand there, and I can see a small smile playing on her lips. That is it. That is officially the moment when I don't care about anything else any more.
So to hang with the consequences, because I don't care about anything except Kensi. There is only one thing that matters right now and she is standing her, holding onto my hands and giving me a look that is urging me on. So I kiss her – of course I do It's what I've been longing to do for hours. And she kisses me back, and we would probably go on kissing for the longest time, only I can't quite ignore the way there is this huge round of applause, a dog scrabbling at my leg and this little voice in speaking in my ear.
Once again we're interrupted, only this time it is Angela. "You've both been here long enough. It's time for you to go." She sounds strangely insistent.
Standing beside is her Hetty, but this is a Hetty I have never seen before. She has the strangest look on her face and if I didn't know her better, I might almost think she looked embarrassed. Clearing her throat, Hetty pushes something into my hand.
"I find I have been rather remiss with my festive gifts this year. This is just a small token of my esteem for you both."
It's the funniest thing, but she totally refuses to meet my eyes when she says that. I look down and see that I'm holding a file card, with an address written on it in fountain pen, and this rather cryptic message:
"Everyone needs to be somewhere at Christmas,
and this is where you need to be.
Everything is ready and waiting for you."
There's no signature, just this funny squiggle, which could say anything at all. If you squint hard enough, it might even say "love, Hetty". Except that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?
"So, what are you waiting for?" Hetty enquires caustically, having recovered her normal sang froid. "Victory?"
That's not exactly what I had in mind, but it'll do, because I don't feel inclined to go into details right now.
And then Hetty makes a shooing motion with her hands, just in case we don't get the hint. "Go on! Get out of here."
I don't have to be told twice and neither does Kensi. We high-tail it out of there, hand in hand like two high school kids. I know I'm leaving Monty behind, but hey – he's a big boy. And I'm sure he'd love to sleep over with Auntie Hetty or Auntie Angela. What they think about that idea remains to be seen.
"It's kind of like a treasure hunt, isn't it?" Kensi says, plugging the zip code into the sat nav, as I start the engine. I don't answer, mainly because I'm thinking that I want to find that the present at the end of the trail is Kensi. It's probably safest that I drive, because Kensi is a lousy driver at the best of times, and God knows neither of us really has our minds on the journey ahead – except as a means to an end. There is this whole host of anticipation and expectation building up inside me and it's taking me all my time to concentrate on driving and not be distracted by the fact that Kensi is wearing her tightest jeans and looking insanely hot. Things aren't helped by the fact she puts her hand on my knee, and then lets it move up until she's caressing my thigh. Landing up in the ER is so not how I want things to end today.
But some guardian angel is watching over us, because we reach our destination without incident, despite the fact that Kensi's hand moves steadily up to curve around my inner thigh, so that I'm biting my lips really hard not to cry out or just pull the car off the road. The house is incredible: it's high up in the Hollywood hills and it's sleek and modern, with gates that move silently open as we approach, just like someone is expecting us.
"Wow!" Kensi's mouth is open as she takes a good look at the house, where the dark wood doors stand ajar, with a man in a white jacket and dark pants almost standing to attention in front of them. "This is like Fantasy Island, or something."
No, this is how the rich live, I think. Not for the first time, I wonder why Hetty is still working at NCIS, when she clearly has no need to. Just for starters, she has more houses than I have suits. Not that I'm complaining, because as fantasies go, this one is damned near perfect, right down to the girl at my side. And the best thing is that it is all real – this is actually happening to me. To us.
"We've been expecting you." The man does this half-bow and ushers us inside, where everything is white – white walls, white flooring, white furnishings. We walk forward in silence and I think that Kensi as right – this is fantasy island come to life in LA, and I'm about to have my fantasies come to life.
"Miss Lang though you might wish to freshen up?"
Now, while this might sound like a suggestion, take my word for it that it isn't. It appears that gratification is going to be delayed, by order of Miss Lang. Sometimes you just have to accept the inevitable. Who am I to argue with Hetty – especially when she can put together something like this?
So we follow him upstairs, where we are ushered into separate rooms. Mine is minimally furnished – just a vast bed with pristine bedding – white, of course. I'm sensing a theme here, which continues when I venture into the bathroom. Looks like somebody went mad in the towel department. Do you want to hazard a guess at what colour they are? By the time I come out of the shower and back into the bedroom, there's a shirt and dress pants lying on the bed for me. For some reason, I'm not entirely surprised to see that they are both exactly the right size. As are the boxers. Now, that really worries me. How come Hetty knows that I wear boxers in the first place, far less what brand I prefer?
Anyway, time is moving on – it's getting dark outside, so I hustle into the clothes and run down stairs, trying not to wonder how Hetty has managed to arrange all this at such short notice. I never thought I would say this, but clearly there is more to Hetty than meets the eye.
"Perhaps you might wish to wait here for the lady?"
By now I have learned enough to do exactly as I'm told. This set-up is becoming increasingly like walking into some sort of parallel universe, but so far all is good, so I'm willing just to go with the flow. I know I've made the right decision when Kensi appears at the top of the stairs and then walks slowly down towards me.
"You look so beautiful."
And more than that – Kensi looks more beautiful than I have ever seen her. She's wearing this long dress in midnight blue that clings to every inch of her body; her hair is piled up on top of her head and I'm pretty sure those are real diamonds sparkling in her ears. But it's the look in her eyes that really blows me away. They are blazing with excitement and that in turn sets the blood rushing through my veins, so that I can hear it drumming in my ears, along with the thundering of my heart.
Now, I'm not normally one for huge, grand gestures, but there is just something about this house, and especially the way Kensi looks tonight that makes me offer her my hand as she finally reaches the foot of the stairs. And it might be corny, and utterly unlike me – but I bend my head to kiss her hand and watch as this flush appears high on her cheekbones.
"If you would like to follow me?"
Again, he speaks so courteously, but there is no hiding the fact this is another command, but we don't care. We follow him like a man in a daze. Or two people who have been given an opportunity to live out this incredible fairy-tale in real life. We follow him towards a set of double doors at the rear of the house which are standing slightly ajar, just like they are waiting for us to go through to the other side.
"The dining room," our guide announces, and then ushers us in.
And this is beyond amazing. Again, the predominant hue is white – but the room is dominated by floor to ceiling windows that give an incredible panoramic view of the city lying far below us. You can't see any of the dirt and mayhem, or here the pandemonium – no, we are floating above a sea of tiny pin-pricks of lights shining bravely through the velvet darkness of evening.
"I don't believe this is actually happening," Kensi says, just as the wall of glass starts to move silently to one side, revealing a terrace that wraps around the house. Below us lies an infinity pool, and I can hear the water lapping softly, the only discernible sound in the night.
Well, there's only one thing to do, isn't there? And one thing to say.
And I kiss her, like I've been longing to kiss her since the day we first met. I kiss Kensi with all the pent-up longing that has been building up. It's a fierce, hard kiss, but it is the passion with which it is returned that nearly takes my breath away. I feel like all my Christmases have come at once.
There is a discrete cough behind us, and we break apart to find our friend standing there, holding out a tray with two glasses of champagne.
"Miss Lang sends you her compliments. We are just serving the meal, and then we will leave you." For a second the impassive look desserts his face completely, to be replaced by a broad smile. "And I do hope you have a very merry Christmas."
"Oh, we will," Kensi assures him solemnly. The effect is slightly ruined by the entirely wicked sparkle on her face that hints of the pleasures to come. So we have to wait a while? What's a few more minutes when I can almost see what lies ahead, beckoning me forward irresistibly? It's almost as if Hetty has set this up deliberately, just to heighten the moment. Ah, Hetty. So small and yet so devious. How am I ever going to thank Hetty for giving us tonight? Could it be any more perfect?
"Here's to us." I raise my glass up high and Kensi does the same.
"To you and I. Because we've only just begun."
"I'll drink to that."
The champagne is cold and deliciously dry, but that's not why a shiver runs down my spine. Oh no, that is entirely down to the fact that Kensi is here, right by my side and tonight has only just begun. Who knows what could happen next?
"It was always you, Kensi," I confess. "Right from the moment we met."
"I knew you were the one." She takes our glasses and put them down on the table. "Only I tried so hard not to believe it. But I'm tired of fighting my feelings."
There have been occasions when people have accused me of talking too much, of not knowing when to stop. This is not one of these times. The only possible thing to do under the circumstances is to take Kensi in my arms and to kiss her.
And the whole city lies down in front of us, a pattern of lights that stretch down to the sea. I realise that I have everything I've been searching for right here in my arms and that tomorrow can be whatever I want to be. The possibilities are endless and the promise is infinite. And in the meantime, we have this house, tonight and the stars above.
After a long while, we go back indoors and eat a meal by candlelight, talking of everything and of nothing as we exchange long looks at one another and just think how wonderful life is right now, and how it is about to get even better. There is something about prolonging the moment we both know is coming that is incredibly erotic. Kensi sits across the table from me, and the soft shadows flicker across her skin, making it glow in the half-light. Our knees touch and every so often our hands do too. When I look into her eyes, it is as if I can see all the secrets of the universe just waiting to be discovered. She bends her head slightly and the candlelight turns her eyes to fire, and I feel a similar flame lick through my body. It is time.
We walk through the silent house, for everyone is gone now, leaving us entirely alone. The darkness feels like an old friend and is punctuated by a series of white candles burning bravely on each step of the staircase, lighting our pathway. We go slowly upstairs, with the silky fabric of Kensi's dress rustling softly so that it almost sounds like a sigh of anticipation.
This is not reality – we have shaken off all the earthly bonds that once tore us apart. This is hyper-reality, the world as it should be and I can't quite believe this is happening at long last. The feel of her naked body as my hands skim over her skin, the way her eyes adore me is almost beyond belief, but transcending all that and more is the way we make love. Oh, it is slow and sweet, gentle and yearning, the perfect culmination of so much yearning. It is also fierce and deep, so that there is a moment when everything goes dark, as the world has just ended. No matter, for I could die happy here, surrounded by love. The world expands and then contracts; explodes into colour and then cuts into black and I'm falling. Only Kensi is there to catch me: I'm in her arms and nothing else matters, for there is nothing else at all. There is just me, Kensi and this moment. Life is sublime and the world is just waiting for us. But in the meantime, the night is still young and there are so many things I want to do, so many things I need to tell her that a lifetime will not be enough.
"Best. Christmas. EVER," Kensi says emphatically, if slightly breathlessly.
"Like you said earlier: we've only just begun."
And I kiss her again and again and again, for I can never get enough of her kisses, the way she feels and the little moans of pleasure she utters just spur me on. Once again I experience that perfect moment when time slips away into nothingness and reality is confined to the immediate present and the series of sensations that are surrounding me, blowing everything else away.
Life is very sweet right now. In fact, it's pretty damned perfect. On a night like this, anything could happen. I'm going to make sure of that. Oh yes, life is sweet. Not as sweet as Kensi though, with her skin like satin and her wicked eyes and her tongue that could tease an angel out of heaven.
"I don't want this to ever stop," I confess.
"I keep telling you Deeks: this is only the beginning. I'm never letting you go."
Kensi is lying on top of me and she's looking down, with her hair falling forward. If I could capture only one picture of her, or hold just one image in my mind, then this would be it. I've finally found what I was looking for and got to the point where it really is a wonderful life. And you can't say much better than that, can you?
"And it's only going to get better," I whisper.
"You'd better believe it."
And I do. Finally, I can believe. Angela was wrong about one thing – there are some things that can last forever. Like love. I really do believe that.
It's nice when there's a happy ending, isn't it? And this story has more than one happy ending, because I was originally approached to write it specifically for a Christmas publication, only to be told it wasn't what was wanted. And that really threw me. I was so hurt and I felt I was being made to feel guilty for dreaming my dreams in my own way. I almost gave up writing at that point.
However, friends convinced me that it was a good story, and one that deserved to be told, so I published it here on fanfic. In the words of Kensi and Deeks "It is what it is." And the reaction to it has been so amazing – it has restored my faith in myself as a writer.
So I owe a huge debt of thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing: you have made me realise that I should never stop dreaming, and most of all that dreams are what you make of them.
Especial thanks must go to Anna and Lindy, for their continued support and encouragement, and most of all for their friendship – this story is for both of you, with my love.
A joyous, peaceful and very happy Christmas to you and all those you hold dear.