A few weeks later …
Gunny knew that there had been other times in his life when he had been more nervous than he was at that particular moment, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember any of them. Standing in front of a plain white door with a familiar name stenciled across the name plate, he felt like a young student standing just outside the principal’s office, the rest of his life measured in solitary seconds. He had been in the same spot for several minutes, silently thanking whoever decided that solid doors were better than those with windows. There was no way that the office’s occupant could know that he was dragging this out for as long as possible.
He should knock, he knew that, but his hand refused to rise to rap against the wood paneling. Maybe he should leave and come back later, when his legs were finished knocking together and his heart had slowed to a less tachycardic rate.
No. He couldn’t leave.
He had made a promise and one of the many traits that made a Marine a Marine, was that they kept their word. Once they made a promise, they would die before breaking it.
Just knock on the door, you big idiot, what are you scared of?
The question he had just asked himself rattled around in his brain for a lot longer than was really necessary before he answered it himself.
I have no freaking idea.
His forgotten companion remained motionless by his side, the dog’s tail making a soft swishing sound as it swung back and forth across the tiled floor of the hallway. Short Round cast an inquisitive look up at his master and friend, wondering just how much longer they were going to stay in the same place. The animal didn’t really mind, it was one of the many things that he’d been trained to do all those years ago. He was content to remain fixed in that spot until the end of time, if that’s what his master required of him. It was a little aggravating because he could both hear and smell the person on the other side of the barrier between them, and he was itching to get closer to that particular person as soon as possible.
But it appeared that his friend had developed a bad case of indecision and maybe he needed a little ‘help’ in breaking the momentary lapse of movement.
Gunny was so lost in his thoughts of how he could escape without alerting the person in the room to his presence, that when Short Round let out a sharp bark toward the door, the Marine literally jumped off the floor.
“Geez, buddy… don’t do that.” He reached up to place his hand over his heart that was now thumping madly against the inside of his chest. As his breathing slowed, Gunny patted his friend on the top of his head, ruffling the fur between the dog’s ears, just the way he liked it. “You’re going to give daddy a heart attack one day.”
Short Round just glanced up with a look that said the words Who? Me?, that Gunny would have sworn the animal understood exactly what he’d just said. Turning away, the man started to step around the corner and out from in front of the door that for some reason had him shaking in his boots. He was about to call the dog to his side, when the door slid open and the woman he’d been avoiding stepped out to great them. Well, one of them anyway.
“Hey, Short Round… how are we today?” Carmen Snyder knelt in front of the animal, her hand dipping under his chin where she knew he liked to be scratched. The dog curled up into himself, his right leg thumming against the floor as the tickling sensations cascaded down his side to his tail. “Such a good boy… yes you are… now where is that scruffy looking Jarhead that you’re always hanging around?” She’d caught sight of the nervous man the moment she came through her door, but she didn’t want to add any more anxiety to him than what he was already feeling, so she kept her eyes on the dog.
“Who’s scruffy looking?” Gunny stepped up, false indignation painted across his face and he let the Jarhead comment slide as well, Carmen one of the few he allowed to refer to him by the moniker that some would call an insult.
Carmen had her retort ready in an instant and was chuckling lightly as she slowly stood, but when she finally turned to actually look at the man’s face, she froze. For a moment, she didn’t recognize the man standing before her and it took her a moment to catch her breath. “Oh Gunny… nice to see you.”
Smooth Carmen… real smooth.
Something warm and tingly took flight in her stomach and fluttered its way up into her chest and she fought down the sudden urge to reach out and touch him.
Gunny stood before her, his previously unruly beard was now neatly trimmed in a tight goatee, his long hair slightly shorter but still long enough to be pulled back into a short ponytail tied behind his neck. In all of her years working at the hospital, she would be hard pressed to come up with an image of anyone who looked as good as he did at that moment. Either he had caught the shift in her demeanor or his own self-consciousness kicked in, because he dropped his eyes to the floor as his hands suddenly found themselves with nothing better to do than to twitch uselessly at his side.
That only gave Carmen time to sweep her eyes over the form-fitting, Navy blue shirt that was stretched taunt across the man’s chest, sculpted across his corded muscles. If her eyes hadn’t popped out of her head already, they surely did now. When she dropped her own eyes to the floor, she couldn’t help but notice how the pleated khakis he was wearing set off his strong legs and narrow hips.
Holy sweet Moses.
She almost swallowed her own tongue.
“Carmen?” Gunny reached out to steady her when she looked like she was about to tip over.
Shaking her head to clear out the cobwebs that had suddenly taken up residence in her brain, Carmen recovered quickly. “Yeah… hi.”
Yeah… hi. Really? If she could have kicked herself without him seeing her do it, she would have.
“Hey… I… uh… I’m here for our appointment.”
He glanced up at her as he scratched lightly at a spot over the left side of his collar-bone, a trait that she knew as one of his ‘tells’. It was a small comfort that he appeared as nervous as she was. She didn’t think the man could be any more adorable if he tried and it left her rather flummoxed.
“Yes ma’am.” His military bearing returned and the little, shy boy was quickly replaced with the professional military man that he had been in another life. “I was told to be at your office at 1600 hours for a counseling session now that I am officially working for the hospital.”
The world crashed back into Carmen and her brain started working again. Gunny was standing before her, wearing the uniform of the men and women who were assisting with the rehabilitation of the patients suffering from PTSD and depression; many of them having recovered from those afflictions as well. Her glowing recommendation, as well as a call to the hospital’s personnel department from a mysterious and yet commanding Henrietta Lange, had gone a long way to secure his position. There was also a letter of appreciation from the LAPD regarding his assistance in taking down a local drug dealer, signed by a Detective Martin Deeks. When the director of patient services had met Gunny and Short Round, they had both been fast-tracked into the fledgling program where animals, especially former military or police dogs, were paired with patients to act as helpmates.
So far, the results had been astounding.
“Well then, why don’t you gentlemen come on in and make yourselves comfortable.” Carmen gestured toward her office, allowing her guests to enter before she followed, closing the door gently behind her.
Gunny waited beside one of the chairs in front of her desk, Short Round standing beside him. They remained that way until Carmen lowered herself into her own seat, the Marine’s politeness touching her already pounding heart. She removed a small notepad from a side drawer and took a pen from the many sitting in a coffee cup on her desk. They simply stared at each other for several moments, neither quite sure how to start.
The tension built until they had no choice but to laugh lightly at the ridiculousness of the situation. When she looked up at him, the boyish grin on his face was almost her undoing and she knew she had to get the session in hand before it grew even more awkward. Carmen quickly cleared her throat and proceeded to safer aspects of his life now that things were changing. “So, how are things at your new place?”
Gunny had recently moved into one of the small apartments over at the rehab center that housed the staff members who were to remain on-site. It had given him a place to stay and he was able to be on short notice in case some rapid interventions were required. To those on the outside, it didn’t appear to be much of anything, but to the Marine who had seen combat and life out on the streets, it was a step in the right direction… not only for his own recovery, but for a chance to serve his fellow veterans who had suffered the same as he had.
“Things are great… the guys are wonderful and have made me feel right at home.”
Carmen’s heart swelled in her chest. “I’m so proud of you… Pops.”
Gunny grinned at the new nickname he’d been saddled with by several of the much younger patients and staff members. He’d taken it in stride and quickly become the designated ‘father’ of his wing in the center. “You guys think you’re so cute…” He caught the serious expression on her face and he shifted his response quickly. “…but thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Carmen shook her head. “You did it all on your own… I merely suggested that you and your partner would be perfect additions to the new program over there.”
His eyes cut to hers, locking her in place with an intensity that she’d never experienced before in her life. “No, Carmen… you’ve done so much more than that, and I… we… will be eternally grateful.”
Carmen wasn’t able to hide her blush this time. When she was brave enough to finally look up at him, the affection she saw reflected back at her in the depths of his brown eyes took her breath away.
Seeing that he was making her face turn a soft shade of pink, Gunny felt like he needed to bail her out. “Well, now that we’re here… what do we talk about?”
She had so many questions to ask him about who he was, what his past was like, and how he’d ended up living out on the streets, but there was one that had been nagging at her from almost the first moment she had met him. Clearing her throat so that he would hear her clearly, she smiled as she spoke. “You know my name, but I only know you as Gunny.”
He chuckled at the simplicity of the request, his heart soaring at her curiosity to find out just a little more about the real ‘him’. “I thought you guys would have dug that up when you hired me.”
“Personnel has all of your pertinent employee information and I have your file right here.” Carmen tapped the folder sitting in the middle of her desktop with one long finger. “I figured it would be something that you would want to share with me… but only if and when you want to.”
Her sweet request caused a burning sensation to tingle in the center of his chest and for a moment, Gunny remembered what it was like to accept the affection of a beautiful woman. Her smile was warm and making him feel something that he hadn’t felt in far too long… pride. Earlier, she’d said she was proud of him and her kind actions only reinforced that statement, almost making the man blush.
Now, here she was, letting him decide how much to share, treating him with with dignity that he was afraid that he’d lost when he could no longer function in normal society. Gunny had met too many people who had treated him like he wasn’t worth their time or effort or even their humanity. But there had been others… Robby and the folks who worked with the street ministry, giving the homeless jackets and food… an LAPD detective who slipped in and out of his world without much fanfare but who had stood with him and became a good friend in a matter of hours… and now there was this breath-takingly beautiful woman who was willing to spend a little time with him while he talked about how his life had taken too many hits for him to deal with on his own.
The world was turning and Gunny was almost a little afraid to hold on too tightly for fear of it slipping through his fingers once more. Then Carmen smiled that shy one that he felt she reserved for him and him alone, then Short Round nudged his leg with the side of his muzzle, the bond of love with the animal bringing a gentle tear to the corner of the man’s eye. He wiped it away quickly and turned slowly to focus on the request that Carmen had made, a fire of bravery swelling up within him with the heat of roaring blaze.
“I will share my name with you…”
Something in his tone caught Carmen’s attention and she slid forward in her seat, the anticipation tugging at her patience. When his lips curled into a sly grin, her heart skipped a beat and she wondered if her lungs were still working.
“ …but I would like you to answer a question for me before I do.”
Her nod was quick and emphatic.
Gunny’s mouth suddenly went as dry as cotton but this was too important to stop now. “Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee, maybe grab something to eat… or something?”
Carmen sucked in a breath, hoping she didn’t sound too anxious. “Why, Gunny… are you asking me out on a date?” For a brief moment, she feared her teasing response would cause him to beat a hasty retreat, but she saw the proud Marine he had once been in the way he squared his shoulders and set his burning gaze on her.
“Why, yes ma’am… I guess I am.”
Her answer was a tender sigh. “Yes… I would love to.”
Gunny paused, waiting for her to lift her eyebrow in annoyance as he held back his portion of the quid pro quo. He didn’t make her wait too long.
“Gideon… my name is Gideon.”
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Deeks felt his girlfriend’s arm encircle his waist as she slipped up behind him as he stood on the back patio of her bungalow that they were now sharing. The warmth of her body pressing against his bare back caused him to momentarily forget exactly what it was his mind had been focused on just a moment ago.
Kensi gently pinched his side. “Liar.”
Chuckling softly, Deeks spun within the circle of her arms, his hands dropping to her hips and tugging her closer. “You think you know me so well, don’t ya?”
“Pretty well… yes… yes I do.” The brunette draped her arms over his shoulders, letting her hands curl easily into his blonde hair. “And I always know when you’ve got something rattling around in that oddly-shaped gourd at the top of your neck.”
Deeks leaned closer, his lips pressing against the middle of her forehead. “Oddly-shaped… wow, thanks for the ego booster.” He felt rather than saw her grin when she leaned against him.
“Your ego is just fine… really fine in fact.” This time, she pinched his ass.
They were content to hold each other for a few more moments before he nuzzled into her hair, inhaling the soft scent of lavender and cinnamon from her shampoo. “I was just thinking about Gunny and Short Round… wondering what they’re doing… if they’re okay.”
Kensi picked up on the concern in his tone and the softness words. “I know… and I can’t tell you what it means to me that they were there watching over you and Monty.” She hadn’t talked about how helpless she had felt sitting up in operations listening to Callen and Sam’s report over the speakers. Her mind had played out all the bad scenarios of what if the dealer had grabbed Deeks instead… what if the gun shots had hit him or Monty… what if… what if… what if.
“Stop it.” His mouth tickled her ear when he whispered tenderly next to her cheek. “I know you too and I know when that adorable mind of yours starts running through all the things that could have gone wrong.”
Kensi took a deep breath, taking him in and the fact that, once again, the fates had been on their side and he had come home to her. “I just hated that I wasn’t there with you.”
He pressed his nose against her temple, his arms gripping her tightly. “Kens… you’re always with me.”
The kiss was soft and heated, lasting until they finally had to breathe. When they pulled back, Kensi brushed his nose with her own, her eyes alight with contentment and the knowledge that just like her boyfriend, she was home as well. She ran a finger across his bottom lip, letting the earlier conversation continue. “I heard a certain Marine and his faithful canine are now part of the hospital’s service animal program… thanks to a phone call from our boss and a letter of recommendation penned by a sexy LAPD detective.”
“And here I thought moving in together meant that we were exclusive.” His lips curled into a smirk. “Now I have to wonder which hunks down at the precinct have caught my girl’s eye.”
“Is it Danners? He looks kinda cute with those bow ties he likes to wear.” Deeks was beginning to enjoy this.
“Danners, really? He’s old enough to be my father…” She was going to hit him, and soon.
“Too old, you’re right… maybe Sims then, I heard that his hair replacement therapy is going pretty good; the last patch they gave him actually took root.”
Or she was going to hurt herself laughing.
“I mean it Marty…”
“The hair is always a big selling point with you, isn’t it? Must be Sergeant Sullivan then… ever since he hmmmmphhh…”
Kensi cut him off by clamping her hand over his mouth and glaring at him with a look that let him know that he’d made his point but if he didn’t want to spend the night on her couch, he’d let it go. He chuckled behind her hand and just before she pulled away, he licked her palm, illiciting a small shriek that morphed into soft laughter when she caught his boyish grin. She slapped playfully at his chest but he caught her arm and tugged it to his chest, the silly moment slipping away when his eyes turned serious.
Deeks dropped his chin to her shoulder as he traced nonsensical patterns on her back with his other hand. “I was just so glad that he was willing to accept the help and is now helping others. Sometimes… sometimes they prefer to remain shadows, not really part of this world.”
Kensi felt a pang of long forgotten memories of her own time spent living as a shadow on the streets and felt his description was accurate. “You get to the point where you have to decide if you want to live or just exist. I think Gunny has made his decision and I’m proud that you were there for him. You always find a way to touch everyone that you come in contact with… it’s one of the many things that I love about you.”
Kensi turned her head and pressed her lips to his cheek. “Really, really.”
Deeks let the shiver run its course through his entire body, ending at the tips of his toes. He nestled into his lover’s embrace, letting the strength and heat of her body ease the tension that had been plaguing him over the past few days. Hetty had informed him of Gunny’s acceptance of the position when the hospital offered it to him and he felt no small measure of satisfaction that not only had the drug case been closed quickly, but before there were any more victims. He did feel sorry for Angel, a man who seen the suffering and hurting of too many people and had only wanted to help, but his actions had been misguided, only adding more pain and suffering.
“Maybe after he gets a little more settled, we could drop by and check up on him?” Kensi’s hands cupped his jaw, forcing him to look right into her mismatched eyes. “I’m sure Monty would like to see his friend as well.”
Deeks rested his forehead on hers. “And that’s one of the many reasons why I love you.”
Just before he slanted his lips across hers, she heard him whisper in that tone that lit her on fire.
Find out more about how you can help those in need (and win an autographed photo of Eric Christian Olsen) by visiting our Pets of the Homeless page.
Marty Deeks and the other wonderful characters of NCIS:LA are the property of Shane Brennan and CBS. Neither CBS, NCIS:LA, nor Eric Christian Olsen are involved in wikiDeeks’ Pets of the Homeless campaign.
Randy (Jericho Steele) is a contributor for wikiDeeks.
You can also find more of his great stories on FanFiction.net.
Thanks to Lindy AKA Sweet Lu for the wonderful feature image.