What if Deeks were a Navy Commander? What if Deeks and Kensi were teenage step-siblings? What if Deeks rode horses on his adopted father’s Wyoming ranch? What if he fought dragons? These are all actual fan fiction stories of the “alternate universe” form, where the author has taken the characters’ reality and altered it in some way. What’s it like to write AU fiction? We asked our group of writers why they like sending Deeks out into another world.
Entering the main room, he found himself on the business end of three people – Agents Callen and Hanna if he remembered their file photos correctly and Agent Blye – all pointing their weapons at him.
“Whatever I did,” Deeks told them as he slowly raised his hands over his head. “I’m sure I can explain.”
“Who are you?” Agent Hanna asked.
“Marty Deeks, Commander Marty Deeks. I met with Agent Blye yesterday.” Deeks looked over at her. “Obviously I thought the meeting went significantly better than she did.”
“Who are you?” Agent Callen asked.
“Martin A. Deeks, Commander, US Navy. 987-00-4320.”
“Name, rank and serial number?” Agent Blye asked.
“Not exactly feeling the love. Can I put my arms down?”
“Are you carrying a weapon?”
“Does a devastating wit and a cutting sense of humor count?” He decided to keep his arms up. It was just easier.
– Tess DiCorsi, “Commander”
Of course, much of the fan fiction we’ve already explored could technically be termed AU. Pre-“Humbug” stories that featured Deeks and Kensi getting together fall into this category. Even a post-ep story that doesn’t match up with later TV events could count, as could everyone’s most satisfying fiction, the “fix-it fic.” But today we’ll focus on the slightly more extreme version of this story-telling.
The main reason our writers are drawn to AU stories is the sense of freedom they gain. Not having to follow the show’s established world, and established storyline, allows their creativity free reign. thepixiesmademedoit, for example, likes “the freedom to create original situations outside of what we see on screen” and notes, “The pros are the original ideas that are let loose. The best writers out there do this without you barely noticing; they feed you an original character and you find yourself caring about them as much as those who form our NCIS:LA team; they give you an original situation and you read while sitting on the edge of your seat.” Or as Tess DiCorsi puts it, “The pros – you get to write what you want without worrying about things the program had (raccoons come to mind) that made no sense.”
ZeGabz says that AU “gives the writer freedom to explore certain aspects of a character or relationship that canon often prevents from being explored. When done right, it gives writers the chance to delve deeper into the core of the characters without being limited by job titles or plot points established in canon.” Similarly, Jericho Steele notes, “While I love the structure of canon (I don’t have to build characters, someone else already did that for me), there’s a certain freedom in an AU that lends itself to my own creativity… From having Kensi and Deeks fighting zombies to placing the entire team in an entirely different time period… AU, if it’s done right, can place these character into situations that we’ll never see on the show.”
Other writers enjoy the sense of fun they experience from doing their own thing with the characters. peanutbutterer says, “I love both [canon and AU]. It’s nice to stick with canon and see what you can do within the confines of the show’s parameters, but it’s also very cool to put the characters we love in crazy situations and play with them there.” imahistorian doesn’t describe her work as AU, but notes, “some of my stories have veered pretty far away from established canon on the show, with Deeks and Kensi married, Deeks returning to being a lawyer, etc. The pros are that you can play with the characters a little, take them where the show either won’t, or is just taking its time doing.”
Much of Sweet Lu’s work away from wikiDeeks falls into the AU category. “I much prefer to write AU,” she says. “More possibilities and more emotion. The constraints of following the relationships established on the show are still the basis for the team interaction, but I inject more emotion and the characters develop closer personal ties. It’s more interesting to write that way. The show writers are great and have the show in hand. I’m not ever going to write for that show, so I go about my business and make myself happy by inventing new adventures for Deeks and new people for him to play with.”
Now, seeing him in a totally different environment, she smiled softly to herself as she watched a man she had thought of as a city boy, through and through, walk out into a pasture in Wyoming and whistle for a horse. He looked so sexy in the jeans and denim shirt he wore, a battered, straw cowboy hat tilted back on his head of tousled golden hair, that she had to swallow hard and try to control her desire to tackle him to the ground and have her way with him right then in the grass. He kept glancing back at her with a wide-open smile on his face and she was suddenly so happy for him and the peace he had found here that her eyes misted briefly. He deserved this kind of happiness, she thought. If anyone deserved to find a place to call home, it was this man.
His whistle cut through the crisp, morning air and she saw a large horse look up from far off down the pasture beside a stand of birch trees, its burnished brown coat contrasting sharply against the white trunks and shimmering yellow leaves. The horse tossed its head several times before starting toward them. A second whistle caused the horse to prick its ears and move into a trot, its head held high. Deeks walked back toward her as the horse approached, pulling a big carrot from his pocket and handing it to her.
“Sheila loves carrots,” he said as the large horse slowed as it approached. The horse only seemed to have eyes for Deeks, placing its huge forehead against his chest. He stroked the horse’s neck and she heard the animal almost groan with pleasure.
“I think I’m jealous, Deeks. This horse loves you,” Kensi said with a laugh.
“What can I say, I’m a lovable guy,” He answered as he stepped back.
– Sweet Lu, “Vengeance”
Exactly how extreme have our writers gone with their alternatives? For many, their AU’s have kept the basic world intact but expanded it with either an established Densi, new characters, or new settings. Kadiedid, for one, doesn’t go too far with alternate realities, although she has written about Deeks as an agent and married to Kensi (“The Legacy”). “I prefer to stick to the characters and come up with interesting problems and predicaments to put them through,” she says. “Why mess with something that’s really great to begin with?”
Sweet Lu has given TV Deeks a world that’s expanded beyond the team and his Los Angeles hometown. “I was getting bored with writing him in L.A. so I started placing him in situations that took him out of the country, such as Istanbul [‘Going Dark’] and Paris [‘Promises to Keep’], but only if it made sense story-wise.” In her story “Judgement,” “Not sure it’s extreme,” she says, “but… he works with an FBI agent and goes home with him to Wyoming and is accepted into that family as a son and a brother. Deeks on a horse… what could be better than that? He finds a father figure, a man who understands him and loves him and it surprises the hell out of him.”
Several writers have made more significant changes to Deeks’ world…
Deeks’ lips twitch in a grin. Not his trademark grin, but something much colder. “What is this really about, Kens?” he asks, and for just a second, a tiny, ridiculous second, Kensi almost recognizes him. But it goes as quickly as it came. “What are you trying to prove here? That you know me so well, or that it’s impossible that someone fooled great, perfect Agent Blye?”
Despite her best efforts to hide it, it stings. God, how it does. Because Deeks is half right about this. When they came into work this morning, and Hetty, Granger and Lt. Bates were waiting for them – for Deeks – in the bullpen, her heart had skipped a beat. When Hetty had managed to convince Bates to do the interrogation here, to give them a little time to talk to Deeks before he’d take him back to the precinct, a thousand questions had raced through her head.
How could they think that Deeks was a dirty cop?
Could it be true?
How could she had not seen it?
Why had he proposed? Was it all just part of a big cover?
What did it say about her, that she’d let him in her heart, despite her best judgment that people always leave?
Does she believe he could be a dirty cop? Absolutely not. But does she believe she could have been blinded by love? Kensi’s terrified of the answer.
– ZBBZL, “Unanswered”
ZBBZL has “written two stories that could be called AUs. My latest story, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more,’ is the most explicit one.” It’s based on the movie Clueless, and tells the story of what happens when Donald Blye and his teenage daughter Kensi move to Los Angeles to live with Don’s new wife Lauren Deeks and her teenage son, Marty. ZBBZL wrote another story called “Unanswered” which she described, saying: “I feel like ‘Unanswered’ could be labeled an AU too, because the idea of a dark, dirty cop Deeks is somewhat surreal to most of us.”
Tess DiCorsi has also tried some pretty extreme AU. “I had Kensi and Deeks get married after ‘Sans Voir” and join the CIA to rescue Cherokee (who I decided was Nate) [in ‘Scattered’], she describes. “I’ve jumped off the basic storyline a few times… I wrote Deeks as a Commander in the Navy [in ‘Commander’]… I kept him the same guy, just in different circumstances… He was part of an elite Naval Intelligence unit. So take Deeks, who on the program can keep up with CIA/DEA/FBI Callen, former SEAL Sam and Marine-raised/intense/highly-trained Kensi and give him all their training and more. He’s the same guy, just awesomely trained and no longer just keeping up. If I have him married to Kensi, he’s still making jokes and cracking wise as he joins the CIA and moves to Long Island. I always thought the best AU’s put the characters in different places or circumstances but they are the same people.”
peanutbutterer may take the prize for Most Alternative story, when she’s actually written Deeks in- literally- another universe. “Well, I’ve written several drabbles that were pretty extreme,” she describes. The most extreme is “either the space pirates, the genderflip, the zombie apocalypse, or the one where they’re all wizards. Hard to say!”
“Oh man,” Deeks panted as he pressed himself more firmly against the crate. The wooden, flammable crate. “Kensi is going to kill us.”
“Us?” Callen shook his head, lowering himself down beside Deeks. “Uh uh. She is going to kill you.”
“You’re the one that pissed off the dragon. Plus?” Callen waved his hand in Deeks’ general direction. “Hydro-mage. You should have doused it long before it reached the SRX.”
“Ever heard of fighting fire with fire? You could toss some flames in his direction and keep the heat off us a little, you know.”
“And risk scorching her car more? Fat chance of that. I’m keeping my pyrotechnics out of this particular encounter.”
Deeks stuck his head out for a second, only to wrench it back in as another blast of firey breath bore down on them. “I find it hard to believe that me pelting him with water will do us any favors.”
– peanutbutterer, “And Gunpowder” Ch.7 “Magical Realism”
On the whole, alternate universe stories may be less widely embraced than those based in canon. “I was stunned by how many people put ‘I don’t usually read AU’s’ in their feedback,” Tess DiCorsi described. “I understand there are many stories to read and if you don’t want to buy into Kensi and Deeks on a space shuttle flight that’s fine. I just wonder if it causes people to shy away from writing them because they think their work would go unread. I would do it again if I had some idea that worked for me– and Deeks in the Navy was suggested to me and I loved the idea that my biggest concern for writing it was doing the idea justice– but I could see why people wouldn’t.” Doing the AU story justice can be a challenge, and that challenge is the subject of next week’s Writing Deeks: Capturing Character.
Want to Read More?
To find the stories quoted above, follow these links:
Tess DiCorsi, “Commander”
Sweet Lu, “Vengeance”
peanutbutterer, “And Gunpowder” Ch.7 “Magical Realism”
We also asked each writer to recommend a short story they thought best represents their Densi. Jericho Steele’s “My Kensi” fits the definition of alternative universe. It was “born from an idea that popped into my head right after I watched the ‘Spoils of War’ episode,” he describes. “There were a few little things in that piece that bugged me and caused my darker side to come out. I’m pretty sure it was unintentional on the writer’s and director’s parts, but part of me was afraid that they were setting us up for a Jack-comes-back-into-Kensi’s-life-and-messes-up-everything-Densi.” This story and its follow-up “were what my nightmare wrought. This was not how I wanted things to go between them, but it stuck with me so I went ahead and wrote them down. I want them to get together, but sometimes we don’t always get what we want and life takes turns we didn’t see coming. What if Kensi’s feelings for Jack came back? What if she felt guilty for failing to help him the first time?”
Or, go back to the last Writing Deeks, Origin Stories.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.