“And I let you make it,” she whispered.
He closed his eyes when her hands came to rest on his bare back, longing for her to be closer, but unwilling to push, afraid he would ruin the moment like he had the past year.
“I should never have left,” he said.
“Did you hear what I said?” She asked. “What happened wasn’t just your fault. I let you go. I let you walk away without a fight. What does that say about me?”
He felt her step back, feeling the distance grow, but he stayed where he was, his mind struggling as the anger of Max Gentry flared through him. He couldn’t go to her with the darkness he was harboring, so he walked into the water, his jeans soaking up the salt water as he waded in, finally swimming out around the reef in the clear water. Even though the weather was warm, the chill of the Pacific sharpened him and he pushed out beyond the reef toward deeper water, swimming hard, with long powerful strokes, his thoughts fading away the longer he swam. When he finally stopped, he floated on his back, watching the wispy clouds drifting across the pale sky as the sun beat down on him. Each wave surged beneath him, lifting him, rocking him in a calming motion that always brought him peace. He let himself sink beneath the surface, his arms moving gently by his side, the water stilling the remnant voice of Max Gentry, cleansing the sins he had committed in the cause of justice. When he rose back to the surface, his teeth were chattering and he welcomed the warmth of the midday sun. He felt the pull of the waves as they moved toward the beach, drawing him back to her. He couldn’t resist that pull she had on him, no more than the waves could stop their headlong rush to the shore. He had tried and he had failed. So, he surrendered and followed the slow, relentless waves back to where she stood looking for him, rushing out of the water to wrap her in his arms, laughing as she screamed at the dripping wet, coldness of his skin, trying to escape, but laughing with him as they tumbled down together onto the warm sand.
“I hate you,” she said.
“You said that once before, but you didn’t mean it,” he said as he looked down at her, dripping water all over her face.
“You weren’t getting me all wet then,” she said.
The wind blew her hair across her face, and as he brushed it away, he saw the shimmer of tears in her eyes and kissed her, lingering there for a brief moment before covering her mouth with his lips, wanting her beyond reason, wanting to have what he had given up, needing her more than he thought was possible.
“I love you,” he whispered against her lips.
She kissed him deeply then, and he lost all sense of time until she rolled him over onto his back and sat straddling him, looking at him with dark eyes full of longing. He ran his hands up under her shirt, seeking the warmth of her silky skin and she shivered, smiling as he pulled her down onto his chest.
“You’re shivering,” she said.
“Then warm me up, Sunshine,” he laughed.
She took his face in her hands and kissed him tenderly and he drifted, closing his eyes, his mind shutting out everything but the intoxicating feel of her lips as she placed warm, sensuous kisses on his eyes and nose and along his jaw line, finally returning to his lips. He lost himself in her kisses and the touch of her fingers as they traced his collarbone and then down the center of his chest. She rested her hands on his chest and lay her head between them, and he felt her tears fall.
“Kens? Please don’t cry,” he whispered.
“How could I let you go?” She said. “The first few months I came here, I told myself we had done the right thing. That I was right to let you go. But the more I came, the more I watched the waves and listened to the gulls the more I missed you. I even stopped coming for a few months, but it didn’t help. I even looked for you when I was driving around, until my partner at the time asked me why we had circled the same block a couple of times. I thought I’d seen you go into a cafe and I couldn’t help myself. The jerk even put it in his report. I never spoke to him again unless I had too. Callen and Sam finally went to Hetty and she found me a new partner.”
“Jensen?” He said into her hair. “Nice choice, Hetty. Complete douche.”
“He almost got me shot the day before you saved Callen and Sam,” she confessed.
He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her up so he could see her face, his own showing the fury he was feeling.
“I have to go back and talk to Granger,” he said, the words rushing out as he pushed her aside and got to his feet. “He has to let me come back. You need a partner who will watch your back, not get you killed.”
He picked up his shirt and put it on, trying to hurry, afraid the decision had already been made, realizing how stupid he had been to leave her with someone like Jensen. Kensi was smiling when she pushed his hands away and re-buttoned his shirt, leaving her hands on his chest when she finished, kissing him softly as he fumed.
“I love you,” she said against his ear.
He stopped fidgeting as she wrapped her arms around him and he pulled her tightly to his chest, knowing just how precious she was to him and that now they had a second chance to make this work.
“Do you think it’s a good idea to go see Granger in wet jeans and a shirt covered in wet sand?” She said, with her eyebrows up and that smug smile he loved.
“They’ll dry on the way back,” he said as he pulled her toward the stairs. ‘And I’ll leave the helmet off so my hair can dry, too.”
“No way, Deeks.” She said coming to a halt and pulling out her phone. “I’ll call Nell and have her lay out some clothes for you.”
He had his shoes on by the time she finished her call and they raced up the stairs and headed back to the mission.
Sam and Callen stood in front of Granger with their arms folded across their chests and determined looks on their faces. Eric and Nell stood off to one side, slightly less fierce looking than the two senior agents, but no less earnest in their support. The group confronted him just as he’d finished a heated conversation with Hetty that had left her fuming and now silent, making them even more upset than they already were. Granger’s superior attitude had irritated Sam from the beginning and now the challenging look he projected had him seriously pissed off. He stood to his full height and stared back as only a Navy SEAL could, the muscle in his jaw flexing, resolved to get what all of them wanted.
“I guess I don’t have to guess what this is about,” Granger said lightly as he stood to face them.
“We want Deeks back,” Sam said firmly and they all nodded in agreement.
“You don’t pull your punches do you Agent Hanna?” He responded with a smirk.
“In this case? No.” Sam said. “His record here speaks for itself.”
“Show him Eric,” Callen ordered.
“If you’ll follow me, Assistant Director I have it all up on the screen in the bullpen,” Eric said with a flourish.
The man stared down at Hetty, who smile angelically back at him, making him shake his head. He walked by Callen and Sam, who fell in behind him as if on guard duty. Eric went through four years worth of cases that Deeks had been a part of, with Nell explaining the ramifications of each and Deeks’ specific contribution. It was quite an impressive display, and Sam found he had forgotten some of the incidents that might have failed if it were not for the detective. The times he had saved Kensi’s life made Sam realize just how effective he was as a partner and he heard a couple of grunts from his own partner as they relived the past.
“Wasn’t Deeks shot because his tradecraft was poor?” Granger asked. “And didn’t that put Kensi at risk?”
“That was when he first got here and he stopped her attempted kidnapping and killed a wanted terrorist,” Callen said. “The same day he was shot.”
Eric quickly typed something into his tablet and footage from security cameras in the parking lot of the hospital showed the entire firefight and Deeks’ collapse afterward. Sam watched Granger out of the corner of his eye and realized the man had never seen this footage, noting his intake of breath as Deeks fired.
“That wasn’t the last time he saved one of our lives,” Callen said quietly. “He always had our backs.”
“He followed the team to Romania, Owen,” Hetty said as she stepped quietly up beside him. “He didn’t have to do that, and I greatly appreciated it.”
“My wife would have been killed by Siderov if Deeks had broken under his torture,” Sam said. “He saved me and my wife’s life and I owe him.”
“I know why you’re in his corner Agent Hanna,” Granger said. “But what about you, Agent Callen? Any heroic stories you want to share at this little party?”
“You have all the reports. You know what he’s done. You’ve been in the field with him yourself, “ Callen answered. “And you know what he did in Afghanistan, not only for me and Sam, but for you as well. He saved your life that day Assistant Director and I wonder why you don’t want a man like that on this team.”
“Who said I didn’t?” Granger said, smiling as looks of disbelief and surprise settled on the faces around him.
“What are you playing at Owen?” Hetty asked.
“You know I only play to win, Henrietta,” Granger answered. “Especially when it involves the future of a highly trained team such as yours. I can’t afford to fail and neither can the rest of you. The stakes are too high. Deeks has been gone for almost a year and I watched this team try and regain its footing after he left. It was unbalanced and its effectiveness faltered. I needed to know if it was the loss of Deeks that caused it or if a replacement agent could right the ship. The replacements have been less than acceptable.”
“We need him,” Sam said. “Kensi needs him.”
“And there’s the tricky part,” he replied. “You want him back, but will the same problems come up between them again if he returns?”
“No.” Deeks said firmly as he rushed into the bullpen. “No, they won’t.”
“Somebody throw you off the pier, Deeks?” Granger asked, as he looked at the damp detective, and the trail of sand he left on the floor behind him.
“Sorry about my clothes. I meant to changed, but there was no time and we were in Laguna Beach at this cove and I went for a swim, but Kensi told me about Jensen almost getting her killed and I had to get here to tell you I need to be her partner,” Deeks blurted out without stopping.
“Take a breath, Mr. Deeks,” Hetty told him.
“Please,” he said to Granger, his eyes pleading as Kensi came to stand beside him. “I promise not to destroy anymore hotel rooms.”
Granger’s eyes briefly flashed with annoyance and then he looked at all of them in turn until his eyes settled on Deeks.
“Pack a swimsuit next time, Detective.” he said.
“Done,” Deeks said quickly.
“Welcome back, Mr. Deeks,” Granger said. “Now, since all of you are so good at pleading a case, someone please convince Hetty to share that bottle of pricey Scotch she has hidden in her bottom drawer.”
“Oh no, Owen,” Hetty said as she took Deeks’ arm. “Mr. Deeks deserves a proper welcome home. Nell? Go open the ‘64 White Bowmore I hid in the armory and let’s get this party started.”
“What did you guys say to convince him?” Deeks asked as he passed Sam.
“We let your actions speak for you, Deeks,” he answered as he pointed back at the big screen,
“And we made sure Nell left out the footage of you getting thrown in that canal in Venice,” Callen whispered.
“We’ve got your back, brother,” Sam said, his smile almost as wide as Deeks.
Kensi’s fingers found his as they made their way into the armory and Sam’s big hands rested on each of their shoulders, his laugh echoing through the building.
“Man, I love happy endings.”