He jerked awake, unsure why or what had woken him. It was still quite dark outside and he hadn’t slept all that well, but he knew he wouldn’t sleep again so he eased over onto his back as a lingering sadness filled him. Thapa’s words tumbled around in his head along with images of the final fight, unwillingly reliving his desperate fear when he’d fought to break through the doors to reach Kensi, and the relief that came when he thought it was over and all of them were safe. He’d seen that same relief in Callen’s eyes after he’d sunk the fire axe into his assailant’s back. They had both feared for their partners, but it was too good to be true that they would all come out unscathed.
He never thought it would be Thapa who would fall. That little man was one tough sonofabitch. A Gurkha extraordinaire. An improbable friend. An unexpected emotional guru. He was a warrior who had single-handedly taken out three attackers, sacrificing his own life for Sam’s in the process. Bereft at the loss that was still so fresh and hard to come to terms with, he threw off the covers and rose in the dark, feeling his way to the window, needing to look out on the world that was now a little more empty than when he’d woken yesterday morning. Harsh, orange tinged lights illuminated the deserted street, its emptiness seeming appropriate, matching the hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He’d toyed with the idea of calling Kensi last night as he’d struggled to let the day go, but being alone in his sorrow was familiar, and he hadn’t been sure he would have been able to talk about any of it anyway. He felt Thapa’s loss deeply. The man had almost helped him understand what the hell a ‘frozen lake’ was and how to navigate it, and he could think of no one else who might counsel him in the future. They were a tight knit team, but none of them revealed much about their private lives.
He had been so content yesterday morning, so happy as she woke him with soft, sweet kisses, something he never tired of. Over the last couple of months they hadn’t delved deeply into anything, talking mostly fluff and teasing one another when they weren’t wrapped in each other’s arms, simply enjoying the intimacy. The kissing was fun, the sex amazing. He smiled, recalling the moment she had introduced him as her boyfriend to her childhood friends, allowing him into her private world. He hadn’t said much, and really didn’t need to since her fluttery friends talked and laughed over one another as each in turn evaluated him with their eyes as they got progressively drunker. It was as if he’d been given a special gift, relishing the joy of watching Kensi laugh, watching her lose some of that tight control she always seemed to have over herself. It was a revelation. No Badass Blye, just delightful Kay Kay, a fun-loving woman out on the town with her girlfriends and him, the designated boyfriend waiting for approval. She had allowed him to see another side of her, and he thought she was probably looking for his approval in return, but instead he had lightly made fun of her and her friends, and he was sorry for that. Being with them gave her the release she needed after a tough day, rather like surfing was for him, and he should have realized that. He had enjoyed watching her that night, proud to be her boyfriend, proud to be with the most beautiful woman in the room. He needed her to know the pride he felt. He should have told her, instead of trying to be funny. The way the day ended made him realize there was no time to take anything for granted, to allow the good times to flit by without honesty.
He turned when his phone alerted him to a text message, and he smiled, knowing who it was before he reached it.
“Go with me to see Sam this morning,” She texted.
“Of course,” swallowing the sudden lump in his throat as he texted back. “Pick me up at 7.”
Her message was terse and needy, surprising him. He mourned for Thapa, but recalled the terrible feeling of shock when they’d heard Sam had been shot. She’d been visibly shaken, but he had instantly flashed back to the exploding squibs of blood on Sam’s chest as he sat tied to a chair in Sidorov’s garage. At the time, his own muddled mind had made it all seem too real, their bond forged in that struggle to survive, to stay strong in spite of the all-consuming pain. Yesterday it was for real, and he hadn’t had time to process it. To lose Sam would have been devastating. He had seen the look on Callen’s face, the pain of expected loss, the need to prepare himself in case he was left alone without the steady friendship he counted on every day. He himself had been afraid to think about it, spending the day trying to deny how deeply it had affected him. It had been easier to talk about his relationship with Kensi than the one that had developed between him and Sam. Thapa had died protecting him and he would be forever grateful as hard as it was to accept that ultimate sacrifice.
As he moved to shower, he wondered when his own expiration date would come. It wasn’t something he thought about too often. You couldn’t operate effectively if you were constantly thinking about dying. But now, he had Kensi and that changed everything. He knew she could take care of herself, but seeing her in combat with two experienced Gurkhas and not being able to reach her had both terrified and angered him. Even in the midst of all the chaos she had called out his name, her voice strident with concern, distracting her from the man trying to kill her, and that had terrified him even more. They had to talk about that. He couldn’t allow her to be distracted. It could get her killed and that would kill him in turn.
“This is what makes it real, Thapa,” he whispered as he stood under a steaming cascade of water.
He had showered quickly and had just pulled on his jeans when he heard the front door open and close. He moved out into the bedroom to find her standing uncertainly in front of him, her expression so vulnerable, and her eyes unable to hide it.
“You’re early. What’s wrong?” he asked as he moved to gather her into his arms.
“I just needed to see you,” she said, offering him a tentative smile.
“You missed me,” he whispered into her tumbled hair.
“Something like that,” she laughed, snuggling against him.
“Me too. Couldn’t get to sleep,” he said, her warmth welcome in the cool room.
She stepped back, her eyes searching his face as she reached up to brush an errant strand of damp hair out of his eyes. The smile that had touched him last night in the bullpen hovered tremulously as she placed her hands on his bare chest.
“I should have stayed with you last night,” she offered.
“Didn’t think I could tough it out alone?”
“You shouldn’t have to now,” she replied, lightly touching his lips with the tips of her fingers. “I thought you’d call.”
“I wanted you to have your private time,” he said.
“The bed felt empty,” she said softly as she tucked her head under his chin.
“Yeah, it did,” he answered, pulling her tighter.
“Tonight it won’t be,” she promised as her fingers began to fondle his nipple.
“What are you doing, Kay Kay?” he asked, huffing out a laugh as her other hand slipped down the back of his pants.
“I missed your ass, Marty Mar,” she replied in a sexy hush. “And your man nipples.”
“What’s that? Man nipples?” He laughed. “Is this the kind of thing you and your girlfriends talk about?”
“They wanted to know what you wear in bed,” she told him. “Mostly, they wanted to know if you sleep naked…and your nipples might have come up.”
“Where was I when this conversation took place?” He asked as his eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“When we sent you for more drinks,” she said, squeezing his butt gently.
“So the cupcake girls are naughty,” he said before kissing her lightly.
“I simply described your striped tank top and…” She was giggling now and he couldn’t help but smile.
“What about my shirt? It’s my favorite,” he said with a frown.
“Seriously, Deeks?” She laughed. “It’s horrible and ugly and you don’t need it.”
“What if I get cold in the night?” He asked, his grin back and widening.
“You really have to ask that?” She looked at him quizzically and he had to laugh.
“So you want me naked like at Mammoth?”
“Exactly like Mammoth,” standing taller as she leaned in to kiss him. “I don’t want to be distracted by those ugly stripes.”
“I don’t want you distracted at any time, Kens,” his voice suddenly serious, stopping what she was doing with her hands.
“You’re not talking about the tank top,” she said quietly.
“No, I’m not,” he answered, his eyes holding her attention. “You can’t worry about me in the middle of a firefight, Kens. I don’t want to be a distraction when we’re in the field. It could get you killed.”
“He had that knife at your throat, Deeks,” her voice trembling as her hands tightened around his biceps.
“Worrying about me made you take your eyes off that Gurkha you were fighting, Kens. It gave him an advantage,” he asserted. “You have to trust I can take care of myself. I need you to do that.”
“I do trust you, but I can’t promise not to worry,” she said earnestly. “Deeks, come on…we’ve already had this conversation.
“I know we have, but Thapa died and Sam almost did too. It scares me how close we come to that every day,” he said stridently, wrapping his arms around her, and kissing the top of her head. “I like waking up to you in the morning.”
“Like you said, Deeks. We’re not Mr. and Mrs. Bridget Jones,” she whispered against his cheek. “We’re more like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Just not trying to kill each other.”
“You’re right, Kensalina,” he smiled as he took a step back. “Or should I call you Kay Kay?”
“Still not funny,” she said slowly.
“I like Kay Kay,” he said softly. “And I like every part of you, Kens…the silly, girly Kay Kay and the tough, knife throwing Gurkha-like badass…the whole sexy package.”
“Yeah, all in. Even though you hate my favorite tank top,” he said with exaggerated fake sadness.
“Because it covers up your man nipples,” she said, cackling out the laugh that still scared him.
“Promise me that particular phrase will never leave this room,” he pleaded softly.
“Promise you won’t call me Kay Kay in public or at work,” she said, crossing her arms, a warning flashing in her dark eyes.
“Promise you won’t discuss my body parts with your girlfriends,” he demanded, standing tall with his hands on his hips.
“If you promise you won’t wear that tank top to bed tonight,” she said quite seriously before her face broke into that perfect smile he loved.
“Promise you’ll wake me up with that smile,” his face and voice going soft as he pulled her close.
“I promise, Detective Deeks.”
“Then I think we’re good, Special Agent Blye.”