Title: Hold On Hope
Author: Mel
Rating: T, for adult language and situations
Disclaimer: I definitely don't own all the known and beloved NCIS: Los Angeles characters, they are being borrowed purely for fun. But all the other characters scattered throughout did stumble out of my over active brain.
Note: It only took me about five months, but here comes a sequel to "Feel the Tide," which was a sequel to "Truth Be Told." Since this has spiraled off into something of its own universe in terms of characters and events, it would definitely help to read those stories first. But in the end, the important facts are that this is a story with Deeks and Kensi as an established, married couple with a family of their own. At present, Deeks has quit NCIS and gone back to being a lawyer (but not for long), while Kensi stayed on as an agent. This story takes place about nine years after the events of "Feel the Tide," and about ten years from the current timeline of the show. Roughly. I hope to be able to post regularly every week or two, my job and craziness there will be the major factor in that. If you decide to read and join in on the journey ahead, I hope you enjoy and thank you for following, alerting, favoriting, and reviewing. I'll do my best to make it interesting. And as always, thanks to my beta, MioneAlterEgo, for being willing to help steer me along the way.

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind
But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

"The Cave" - Mumford & Sons

Despite the jumping of her heart, Kensi's breathing was steady as she accelerated the SUV, taking the corner of Sunset Boulevard towards Benton Way with a speed slightly faster than was probably wise. Kensi jerked the wheel again quickly, turning down La Fayette Park Place in Silver Lake and darting a quick glance at her partner in the seat next to her.

Completely unbothered by her borderline reckless driving, Cody Keppinger was finishing off a text, slipping the phone into one of the buttoned pockets of his cargo pants. Kensi had to allow a quick grin for her brother as he sat back in his seat, surveying the street as they passed through suburbia.

"You might want to slow down a little bit, Kensi. The housewives are looking a little scared," Cody commented dryly, his green eyes amused and a smile tipping up the corners of his mouth. Kensi grinned in response, keeping her eyes on the road to avoid pedestrian casualties. She followed the curve of the asphalt, her eyes narrowing when she saw an unexpected cluster of vehicles blocking the street.

Sitting up in his seat, Cody gestured to the left. "Right there. Looks like the party started without us."

Kensi slammed on the brake hard, coming to stop a hundred feet back from the collection of LAPD, fire department, and ambulance vehicles. Noting that the police officers were geared up with bullet proof vests, Kensi jerked a shoulder towards the back of the car, silently communicating to her brother. Cody nodded once in agreement and got out of the car, moving immediately to the back to open the hatch and pull on his protective vest. Kensi did the same, knowing Cody would suit up just as fast as she did. After nearly nine years of partnership she'd come to know and expect every shift of his movements. She knew where Cody would be in any situation and she could depend on how he would react. Always by her side, and always to back her up.

"What do you think is going on?" Cody asked.

"Not sure. I'll check in with LAPD. Call Westin and Murphy, make sure they know the situation here. And see if Eric has anything," Kensi replied, making quick strides towards the cordoned off area. The "NCIS" on her vest and her badge got her through, and Kensi made her way to the officer in charge. When the man turned around, Kensi grinned at the coincidence.

"Detective Kyle Porter!"

"Agent Kensi Deeks! What's it been, two years? What the hell are you doing here?" Kyle asked, his friendly manner turning serious as his eyes slid up and down, taking in her heavy protective gear. "Or maybe I don't want to know the answer to that. Good things never seem to happen when you guys show up."

Kensi's grin widened. "You know that just isn't true, Porter." Kensi paused, then allowed. "Okay, things don't always go smooth. But we get the job done."

"It's funny how you say that and actually seem to believe it," Kyle joked. His eyes lit with memory and he smiled at Kensi. "I can't believe I haven't seen you and Deeks for so long. How's my namesake doing?"

At the mention of her son, eight years old and a bundle of energy, laughter, and a stubborn perfectionist streak that was the even blend of his parents, Kensi grinned, pulling out her phone to show the detective a photo of her son Kyle, soaking wet and sandy from the beach down the hill from their house in Malibu.

Kyle Porter shook his head in amazement. "I can't believe how big he's gotten. He looks like you."

Kensi smiled widely. "It's funny, I would have said he looks like Marty." Kensi glanced at the photo, her eyes taking in the young face so familiar and dear to her. Kyle had her brown hair, but his smile and blue eyes were all his father's. "He's finishing up third grade," Kensi said proudly. "And very proud to have mastered his multiplication tables."

Kyle nodded, his face turning serious as an officer approached and passed along a verbal report that had Kyle agreeing before he turned back to Kensi, slightly distracted. "I don't object to you being here, but why are you here? We've got a hostage situation going on."

"We've been following leads on a Navy Lieutenant suspected of selling experimental satellite tech. His name is Andrew Steele and he's on shore leave here in the Los Angeles are. We think he's here to broker some deals, and his ex-wife and son live on this street. We were coming to question her, to find out if she's seen him," Kensi offered. She watched as Kyle sighed and crossed his arms, reasoning his response probably wasn't a good sign.

"We're both in the right place then. Steele is inside and he has his ex-wife, son, and a third unidentified man held hostage. A neighbor called in gunshots thirty minutes ago and when we arrived Steele had the house locked down. We don't know if anyone is injured. The negotiator is just trying to make contact right now."

Kensi nodded slowly. "Any idea about what's going on and what he wants from his wife?"

"No idea. Maybe it's a custody thing? We're still trying to get some idea of the players and why Steele took his kid and ex-wife hostage. We're running the plates of the cars in the neighborhood to try and figure out who the third hostage in the house is. What do you guys have?"

"Not much, but I'll see what I can find out," Kensi replied briskly, pulling out her phone. As she turned to leave, Kyle called her name.

"I know it's been awhile already, but I forgot to say congratulations on the promotion, Special Agent in Charge."

Smiling her thanks, Kensi wove through the crowd of LAPD personnel, ducking under the yellow tape to join her team at the outskirts of the police activity. Cody had been joined by Junior Special Agents Murphy and Westin, the two agents she and Cody had been working with and training for the last two years.

Even after two years it still felt strange to be the leader of their team. After a few too many close calls while undercover, Sam had taken a job with the Department of the Navy in Los Angeles. Hetty had volunteered to craft a position for Sam in NCIS, but the opportunity with the Navy had been too good for him to pass up. Sam oversaw the Navy SEAL recruitment and development, a dream job in shaping future elite Navy sailors. Considering Sam had been nearly killed twice when his cover had been blown, it was Callen who urged his partner to take a job away from the dangers of undercover NCIS work.

Soon after, Callen left NCIS and disappeared. As much as it had hurt and as much as she missed him, Kensi understood. He'd wanted his partner safe. And once he'd secured that, many of his reasons for staying in Los Angeles were gone. Although neither Hetty nor Sam had ever confirmed her suspicion, Kensi had a feeling Callen was searching for his family. And for answers to questions he'd had for decades.

At the time, Kensi had wondered if the changing dynamics might be enough to tempt Deeks back to NCIS. Deeks had been working at Carter and Son, Attorneys at Law, for nearly seven years at that point. Kensi knew he was satisfied with his work and was proud of what he'd done to help advocate for younger kids in rough home lives, or for parents who couldn't get away from the abusive relationships they were in without expensive legal help. And thanks to the pro bono work his firm allowed him to do, Deeks was able to provide much of that legal help for free.

Still, Kensi knew Deeks missed being an agent. She knew he missed the thrill of solving cases, of chasing after the bad guys and doling out decisive justice in ways the law, with all the nuances of grey, didn't always allow. And even with friendly co-workers at the law firm, she knew he missed working with her, with Cody, Hetty, Eric and Nell. She knew because she missed it too. Nine years of partnership with Cody couldn't replace the five she'd had with Deeks.

They were partners in other ways now. Married almost a decade and parents to an eight-year-old boy. And there was Hailey, Deeks' sister, in college and graduating from Stanford in a month. They were a family and partners in ways more layered and different than before. But Kensi still missed Deeks as her partner at NCIS. So she'd wondered. She'd wondered if the changing dynamics might bring about a change in how Deeks thought about his career and their future.

And even though a part of her had wanted things to go back to how they'd been, and even with their family growing up, Kensi had known deep down that the reasons for Deeks' decision to leave NCIS hadn't really changed. Their son still needed them, needed the security of one parent safe and away from a dangerous job. Even grown up, Hailey still needed her brother and sister-in-law in her life. And Deeks still felt just as strongly as he had when they'd found Hailey that he could help kids like her, and could make a difference in the lives of people who needed his help.

Although she and Deeks hadn't talked about the possibility of him returning to NCIS two years ago when Callen left, she knew he'd been thinking about it. The question was always in the back of his mind. Sometimes she saw it clearly, saw his yearning to be a part of the action she and Cody relived during retellings at barbeques or over drinks. And other days, like when Deeks was playing Frisbee on the beach with Kyle or after he'd won a particularly hard case, she saw the wisp of wanting in his eyes vanish like a passing cloud.

Deeks was where he needed to be right now. The future could change again, but Kensi knew he was happy. And considering they'd successfully weathered five years of partnership, nine years of marriage, guiding a teenage pseudo daughter into adulthood, and corralling a rambunctious son, Kensi knew they had plenty to be content with.

The transitions at NCIS went much smoother than Kensi had anticipated. Hetty had promoted her to Callen's position, and Cody to Sam's. Hetty's confidence in her had Kensi determined not to let their Operations Manager down, though the idea of being accountable to Hetty, and to training junior agents, left Kensi more than a little apprehensive. The dynamics had changed further when Hetty recruited two junior agents, David Westin and Liam Murphy.

"Eric's checking records on Steele's wife," Westin said, his phone up to his ear, his brown eyes serious but calm. Kensi nodded at David, appreciating his no nonsense attitude. Dwarfing even Cody, Westin was tall and broad, a former Marine and a product of one of the roughest African American neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. As a teenager he'd escaped from the gangs he'd grown up surrounded by, finding structure and a home in the military.

Westin turned away, exchanging words with Eric, and Kensi turned to Cody and Liam as they checked each other's weapons, handing them back to each other. She couldn't quite suppress the smile on her face at the old superstition. On his first day with NCIS Liam had been assigned his weapon by Cody, who had been checking it out to him and while doing the intensive inspection of the gun, found a missing spring. The next time they'd retrieved their weapons from the armory Liam had wordlessly handed his gun to Cody, who had recognized the gesture and handed his over in return for examination.

When Kensi saw the ritual played out again later she'd questioned Liam about it. He'd joked that the Irish were just superstitious, and Kensi hadn't asked further. Cody took it in stride, knowing that in teams formed like theirs that bonds often came from superstition and tradition that didn't always make sense to outsiders. But he'd known that in the end it didn't make a difference to question it. He just rolled with it. And as a result, Cody and Liam had formed a deep bond of trust and mutual respect.

Tall and wiry, Liam was a former NYPD officer who had left the department under mysterious circumstances that even Kensi didn't know all the details of. She had a feeling Hetty knew more than she let on, but having been protective of her own secrets, Kensi didn't push. She figured Liam had a right to privacy about his past, as long as it didn't affect her team.

Growing up on the west side of Manhattan, Liam had the clipped voice of a native, and the black hair, sharp feature, and blue eyes that marked him as purely Irish, even after the generations passed since his family's immigration from Ireland. He wore his origins as obviously as his accent. Even without being told, Kensi had surmised he'd grown up without money and in a blue collar family.

Early on and after a long day of work capped off by a drink at a local dive bar, Kensi had asked about Liam's family back home in New York. She'd seen him tuck the pain of history away, his eyes guarded. He'd deflected, saying he wasn't in touch with them, even as Kensi could tell the thought pained him. Instead of pushing him, Kensi had allowed Liam space. And sensing that he'd come to Los Angeles partially to get away from demons at home and a bit on a whim, Kensi had invited Liam into her own family.

Kyle had more than a little bit of a hero worship crush on Liam, and although Liam had a more serious personality than Deeks, they'd struck up a friendship when Deeks offered to teach Liam to surf. As it turned out, Liam was terrible at surfing, but he excelled at tossing a football on the beach with Kyle while Kensi and Hailey occasionally surfed with Deeks.

"What did the police say?" Liam asked, tucking his gun into his thigh holster, crossing his arms over a broad chest. Kensi passed on the information she'd gotten from Detective Porter, and Cody and Liam exchanged a look that had her instantly on high alert.

"What? What are you guys thinking?" Kensi asked sharply.

"Nothing," Cody replied automatically. Narrowing her eyes, Kensi shook her head.

"No, I know that look."

"What look?" Cody asked, his face the picture of innocence. Kensi wasn't buying it. The amused glint in Liam's eyes would have given them away if Cody's studied nonchalance hadn't.

"The look that says I'm going to have a whole lot of paperwork to fill out to explain one of your crazy plans," Kensi warned. Cody grinned at Liam, who chuckled and held up his hands in gesture of deflection.

"Don't worry, Kensi. There's no building for us to rappel down and no high speed boat chase in our future," Cody tried to reassure her. Shaking her head, Kensi wasn't comforted. She couldn't deny her team was effective, but often Cody and Liam were the more reckless of the two partnerships. She and Westin balanced their respective partners out, but being the voice of reason wasn't always the preferred option when decisions had to be made in a split second and lives might be on the line.

"But there might be a plan to sneak past the LAPD perimeter and get access to the house from the back in our future," Liam admitted, to which Kensi sighed.

"I would have thought that you of all people would appreciate not wanting to get in the LAPD's way," Kensi replied pointedly, noting Liam's past as a cop.

Liam shrugged nonchalantly. "The police don't do everything right. They're too cautious sometimes."

Curious, but knowing it wasn't the time to press for more information, Kensi filed that observation away. She knew Liam occasionally had a short fuse, it was one of the reasons his partnership with Westin worked. The more cautious of the two, David helped Liam from going off on a tear without thinking and endangering the team while Liam pushed his partner passed his slightly restrained decision making to take risks based on instinct and quick judgment. They both left each other a little uncomfortable sometimes but Kensi had seen how it worked for them. They seemed to bring out the best in each other.

Liam was in his late twenties while David was in his early thirties. Their slight difference in age wasn't really a problem between. Both men had been matured thanks to their respective histories. Both had grown up in urban cities and even with their backgrounds as different as night and day, they'd found a kinship in each other. Even in those moments when Liam flaunted rational thought and David had the charge of bringing him back to reality.

"Let's hold off on jumping the police line and invading the house. I know the officer in charge and he'll keep us in the loop. Besides, a hostage situation takes some precedence. There are three civilians in there and we need to see Steele make it out alive so we can question him," Kensi remarked. Cody nodded easily, following her lead. Although Cody would speak up if he had a diverging opinion, his Marine background practically programmed him to follow the authority of the chain of command. And Kensi was at the top of that chain on their team.

"What else do we know about Andrew Steele?" Kensi asked, feeling impatient to get some traction on their case and hindered by the police and hostage situation. As the leader of their team she didn't have the luxury of showing her impatience, not when her team was looking to her to set the tone of their investigation. And perhaps reviewing the case would give them a new angle to consider.

"He's a fairly low level analyst, monitoring the data from Navy satellites," Liam supplied. "But he has access to sensitive data, and that's probably what he's looking to sell. What he doesn't have is the ability to interpret the data."


Liam turned to Cody to answer his question. "Meaning he's going to be looking for someone to provide translation of what he's selling. He's going to need someone a little higher up in the Navy with different access willing to partner on this."

"And willing to sell government secrets to an outside source," Cody replied grimly, a hint of disgust edging his voice.

"Which is why it's important for us to question him and find out who he's been talking to," Kensi agreed. "What about who he's seen while he's in Los Angeles?"

"He just got in last night when the USS Rushmore came into port in San Diego. But before he left the ship this morning he triggered an internal security alarm he didn't know was there when he downloaded classified information to an external hard drive. The Navy's automatic system immediately labeled the breach as a threat and NCIS was notified, and we've been tracking him since he left the ship," Liam replied.

"Phone calls? Who's he been talking to?" Kensi asked.

"He made three calls to a burner cell early this morning, then one call to Emily Soren, formerly Emily Steele. Used his own phone for all the calls. The call to his ex-wife lasted about two minutes and then I'm guessing she hung up on him," Liam replied. When Cody's eyebrows furrowed in confusion, Liam continued. "He then proceeded to make forty-two phone calls to Ms. Soren, each lasting about fifteen seconds, probably to leave angry messages on her phone."

"He's persistent, I'll give him that," Cody remarked.

"He's also kind of a hotheaded idiot," Liam said dryly. "Cell phone tracking had him taking a fairly direct path west when he suddenly veered east to Silver Lake, where his wife lives. Downloading sensitive information and then practically sprinting to Los Angeles? And getting sidetracked by something his ex-wife said that set him off? This guy isn't really thinking straight."

"We need to figure out what lit the fuse," Kensi said, thinking it might help to get at the root of their suspect's motivation.

"I think I can help with that," Westin said gruffly, turning back to the team as he hung up with Eric. He glanced at Kensi, the worry in his eyes making her spine tingle in uncomfortable instinct. But David seemed to tuck that concern away, addressing the team.

"Emily Soren filed for sole custody of their son this morning. She's citing emotional and physical abuse from her ex-husband and requesting that the court refuse to allow Andrew Steele to see his son."

"I bet that set him off," Cody agreed. Westin hesitated, again looking at Kensi in a telltale glance that had her heart beginning to quicken.

"What is it, David?" Kensi asked, cutting right to the core.

"The motion was filed on behalf of Emily Soren by a lawyer at Carter and Son, Attorneys at Law. Marty Deeks."

Kensi felt the blood drain from her head, the weight of her balance settling in the balls of her feet. She swayed for a second, reaching out and gripping Cody's arm. Her brother looked at her strangely, his hand going to her waist in support.

"Kens, what's wrong? It's a coincidence, but it's not that odd that Marty might be involved."

Kensi looked around at her team wildly, looking for one of them to understand where her mind had gone. Because the words were screaming inside her head but she couldn't say them out loud. Not without wanting to fall to her knees. She found her answer in Liam, whose blue eyes darkened to night, his lips pressing grimly until he spoke, the words clipped and low.

"There are three hostages."

Connecting the seemingly disparate facts, Cody's face changed from confusion to concern, his hand tightening at Kensi's back. When Kensi turned to him, she found the reassurance she needed, but couldn't quite make herself trust.

"It might not be him. It could be a neighbor or someone else."

Taking a deep breath, Kensi nodded, wanting to believe. But then she heard Liam's frustrated words to her right as he held his phone to his ear, beginning to pace. And his frustration seeped into her, making her feel desperate in a way she'd never thought she would ever again. Not since she and Deeks had been partners and his absolute safety hadn't been a sure thing. He was supposed to be safe now. Away from the dangers of a job where guns and dodging bullets was an everyday occurrence.

"Come on, Deeks. Answer your damn phone," Liam muttered insistently.

Kensi took a deep breath, willing the oxygen to calm her, to try and bring rational thought back to her brain. The tight knot in her chest, like a band around her lungs making it hard to breathe, seemed to be working against her.

Refusing to be destroyed by uncertainty and inaction, Kensi lifted her chin, drawing on stubborn resolve. She couldn't fall apart. Not with her team needing her to be strong. And not with Deeks needing her.

Kensi felt that resolve slip a little as she caught sight of Kyle Porter, ducking under the police line and striding directly towards her. His face was pinched and serious, any humor from their earlier exchange completely gone. She knew he was going to confirm exactly what she didn't want to hear when he came up short in front of her, his expression schooled to try and be comforting.

"Don't," Kensi whispered. At the question in Kyle's eyes, she continued. "Don't treat me like I can't handle what you're going to tell me."

Kyle weighed her request for a second, and then nodded slowly.

"We just got confirmation. His car is parked down the street. The hostage negotiator was able to get Andrew Steele to admit he has his wife and son hostage," Kyle paused. "And Deeks is in there, too. Steele wasn't expecting him and he got nervous when Deeks tried to talk him down. I'm sorry Kensi, but Deeks has been shot."

To be continued