The rain was incessant, accentuating the heavy dread that seemed to hover in the air around them. He had asked Kensi to go back to her place several times, but she had refused, insisting she wasn’t leaving him alone tonight even if it was the day before Halloween. Callen had called for the fourth time in the last hour and Deeks had finally exploded at him, throwing the phone across the room and shouting at Kensi to leave.
The team had been on edge most of the week, none of them acting normal, especially after last year, with Callen being particularly vigilant. Deeks had surreptitiously tried to book a flight out of town earlier in the week, but Eric had alerts on his phone and all his devices and Hetty had ordered the tickets cancelled, leading to a volatile confrontation in the bullpen. Hetty had been unflappable in the face of his angry recriminations and demands, simply shaking her head at his pleadings to let him face his long dead father alone, wanting no one to be hurt this year. Sam had finally draped an arm across his shoulders and guided him back to the gym, where he worked out his pent up emotions on the heavy bag, Sam holding it steady until he’d exhausted himself.
“You don’t have to stay,” he told Kensi again, as he paced between the kitchen and the front room. “Nothing will happen until tomorrow anyway.”
“Nice try, partner,” she said, handing him a beer.
“This supposed to calm me down?” He asked with a quick grin, the first she’d seen tonight. “You didn’t slip any drugs in this did you?”
“You saw me open it, Deeks,” she said, stepping closer as he looked at the bottle suspiciously. “Besides, that’s a Hetty move.”
“Is she hiding behind the curtains again?” he asked, looking quickly around the brightly lit living room. “She seems to like scaring the shit outa me.”
“That’s not funny,” Kensi said, but noticed he was serious. “Really Deeks… I’m sure she wouldn’t do that, not this time of year.”
“Not sure of anything this time of year,” he said sullenly. “She should have let me leave.”
“Did you really think we would let you do that?”
“Should have,” he mumbled, pouting as he slumped down on the sofa.
“Did you talk to your mom about what’s been happening?” she asked softly.
The suddenly wild and startled look on his face gave her the answer, but the dark anger it changed into surprised her. She moved to sit next to him, but he rose and moved away, his hand nervously dragging through the scraggly long hair at the back of his neck.
“Did she say something?” Kensi asked.
“She told me she had to be gone before Halloween,” he whispered and when he turned to face her he looked stricken.
“You think it’s happening to her too,” she stated, completely stunned.
“I was glad she was leaving. I wanted to protect her,” he said softly.
“And she wanted to protect you,” Kensi replied angrily as her frustration mounted.
“I have to call her,” he said, searching for the phone he had slung into the corner.
The heavy knock on the door made them both jump, and they instinctively moved closer to their weapons that rested on the side table. Deeks looked pissed and wary as he walked to the door, pausing uncertainly and nodding to Kensi before yanking it open.
“Detective Marty Deeks?” A man in a long, dark raincoat asked, holding an LAPD badge up in front of him.
“Yeah… what’s this about?” He asked. “And who the hell are you?”
“Detective Charon. IA sent me to bring you in for questioning,” he said firmly.
“It’s almost eleven at night. Can’t this wait till morning?” Deeks said, getting more pissed by the minute.
“Apparently not,” the man said flippantly.
“Never seen you before.”
“Don’t know you either, but this ain’t a social call, so move it,” the man said. “Boss is waitin’ and he can get pretty hot when you don’t follow orders.”
“Deeks, wait…” Kensi said quickly as he grabbed his jacket.
“It’s fine, Kens. This won’t take long… right?” he asked the dark haired man.
“Not for me. I’m just here to bring you in,” the man shrugged, looking bored.
“Why in the middle of the night?” Kensi asked as she stepped in front of Deeks.
“How should I know, lady?” the man said, obviously irritated.
“Deeks, maybe we should call someone,” turning to reason with him.
“I got orders detective, which means you got orders, now get your butt out to the car,” the man said, his face flushing an unusual shade of red as he spoke.
“He’s right, Kens. IA’s already on my ass,” Deeks tried to placate her. “I don’t need to stir up more trouble for myself by refusing to come in.”
He shrugged into his leather jacket with the hoodie, which he pulled over his head before following the man out to the plain sedan. The rain was falling in sheets now, and she could barely see him as the detective opened the back door. He turned and raised his hand to her before folding his long frame inside, the dull sound of the door shutting him inside thudding into her chest and leaving her barely able to breathe. She thought of running out to stop him, but seemed frozen in place, unable to move until the car pulled away into the dense downpour.
Deeks pulled his jacket tightly around him in the chill of the car. He could see his own breath and that pissed him off even more than he already was. To be taken in for questioning was one thing, but to be driven to headquarters in the dead of night, in a prisoner transport car with a metal grate between him and an obnoxious detective was definitely a message he had no trouble deciphering.
“You must have screwed up pretty bad to get assigned a car without a heater,” Deeks sniped.
“Is the dirty little liaison cold?” The man was grinning as he looked at him in the mirror.
“You’re out of line, Detective Charon,” Deeks snapped.
“Oh… I never color inside the lines, Detective Deeks,” he said smugly.
The man’s laugh was almost as cold as the car, and Deeks’ anger flared and he reached out and grabbed the metal grate separating them. He screamed, jerking back to cradle his burned hand against his chest, staring in shock at the grate now glowing as if it were molten fire. He fought the sudden urge to vomit, and scrambled for the door handle, trying to get out of the car.
“Oh, Marty Boy… no way out this time.”
The familiar, deathly quiet voice filled him with mind numbing fear, and the so-called detective continued to laugh as he frantically pulled on door handles that wouldn’t open.
“No friends rushing to the rescue this time to save your pathetic little ass,” his father’s voice slowly sliding around him like dark tendrils of smoke, the smell of filth and decay clogging his mouth and nose.
“But it’s not Halloween,” he whispered, as if his dead father would confess his mistake and leave.
“My new friends don’t play by the rules, you stupid boy,” the nasty voice hollow in his ear. “But, Charon says you don’t either… says you’ve been a bad, bad boy. Maybe we aren’t so different after all.”
“I’m not like you,” Deeks screamed defiantly.
The car careened through the streets, turning in different directions so often he had no idea where they were and he curled into the corner of the car, trying to prepare himself for what was coming. He was sweating, even though the inside of the car was freezing cold. The entire metal grid in front of him was now glowing with white fire, but it offered no heat, just the noxious smell of sulfur.
“Time to pay for your sordid little crimes, Marty Boy,” his father’s voice wheedling, and he swore he felt the man’s breath on his face even though there was no one there.
“Did you do this to Mama, too?” he asked desperately.
“She was never any fun. Wouldn’t tell me where you were no matter what I did,” the singsong voice hissed. “But then I found you… trick or treat and here we are.”
“Leave her alone,” Deeks voice suddenly loud as his rage began to block out the fear. “You hurt her enough.”
“Don’t blame me… she started it. And you… you little bastard… you always had to stick your nose in, didn’t you?” The familiar litany floating in the air as the metal divider began to hiss as if water were being poured over it.
The car roared across a speed bump and everything was suddenly normal again. The detective stared straight ahead, his laughter silenced. The car smelled like old cigarettes instead of sulfur, and the metal grid was black again, but a residue of ash coated it and when he touched it with the tip of his finger it was cold.
“Where are we?”
“Someone wants to meet you,” the detective said in a voice devoid of emotion.
“Answer my question.” Deeks shouted.
“No need to get pissed at me,” the man said reasonably. “I’m just the ferryman.”
“Then tell me where in the hell we are?” Deeks choked out, realizing his words weren’t far from the truth as soon as they left his mouth.
“Your daddy told us this was your sanctuary,” Charon said. “Now it will become your own special hell.”
The car moved slowly forward, the windows too fogged for him to see outside, but he could hear and he could smell. The ocean. His place of escape from the terror that was his father. Now the sonofabitch was taking that from him and a deep sadness filled him along with a rage he couldn’t control. He slammed a fist into the window, absorbing the brilliant pain as if he deserved it and making the ferryman laugh again.
“My job is complete,” Charon pronounced formally as he opened his door. “Fare thee well, poor passenger. I will not see you again.”
Then he was alone. The inside of the car, once icy cold, was now becoming uncomfortably warm, the heat building as the grate began to glow with licking fire. He began to sweat and choke on the foul, nauseating fumes, until he had to strip off his leather jacket and hoodie, leaving him in his white t-shirt. A red mist slid out of the air vents and formed into tendrils that swirled around him like a living thing, its hot breath sliding over and around him and he began to hyperventilate, fumbling with the door handles even though he knew the doors wouldn’t open. It was as if long fingers were caressing his face and a soft, malevolent laugh made him jump as something brushed across his ear.
“Who are you?” he whispered, pulling his knees to his chest and panting through this living nightmare.
The thing slithered around his body and he began to tremble, his breath coming in short, quick gasps, his mind suddenly filling with memories not his own. He felt rage and fear and dark, unwanted agony, but the feelings weren’t familiar. They weren’t his. It was like looking into the fun house mirror last year, but full of distorted images of someone who only looked like him. He flushed with chills when he realized they were his father’s memories and he grabbed his hair, pulling down hard to try and dispel the disturbing images and thoughts, but they only grew in intensity.
“Why are you doing this?” he screamed.
“One should know the cause of one’s suffering,” the entity’s voice whispered behind him.
“Who are you?”
“I am The Great Demon of the sea, whose name you are not worthy to speak.”
The door beside him suddenly opened and he was forced out onto the cold sand, and he drew in a shaky breath and was instantly on his feet, running toward the black water. Wisps of ominous smoke curled and writhed around his feet and he stumbled to his knees, but he fought to get up, a deep, compelling need to get in the water choking out every other thought. Black and red tendrils slithered over and around him as he ran for the crashing waves ahead of him, his mind on fire with fearful images and stunning pain.
Troubling memories of his childhood washed over him. The night he’d stayed late at the beach to work on his moves on a friend’s boogie board, a trail of wet sand giving him away when he’d tried to sneak back in the house. He’d paid dearly for his mistake, his father telling the doctor he’d broken his ankle boogie boarding. Similar memories assaulted him as he ran, and there was no escape. His father hated his love of the ocean, calling the people who hung out at the beach morons and bums, always warning him to stay away with the threat of retribution. Tonight he’d drawn him to the one place where he’d always found peace, wanting the ocean he loved to finally be the death of him.
Something kept forcing him forward, and he finally stumbled into the surf, rushing toward the oncoming sea as if it were his only hope, even though he knew what awaited him. Wisps of laughter so deep he felt the sound in his bones cascaded around him as he dove under the crest of the cold wave, the salt stinging his eyes. When he surfaced he began swimming as hard as he could, his powerful strokes drawing him away from the beach and from the car that had brought him here. The water should be freezing, but seemed to glow with fire instead, as something large and scaly brushed against his leg. He took in a mouthful of water as the thing circled him and he stopped swimming, knowing he wasn’t alone.
The water was suddenly turbulent, tossing him about as the winds whipped across the dark ocean, the creature laughing as swirling black smoke obscured his vision.
“How do you like my new friend, Marty Boy?” his dead father hissed.
“Fuck you,” he shouted as he fought the boiling sea.
“You do not respect the dark forces in your life,” a slimy creature said as it rose out of the water beside him, long strands of glistening seaweed draped over its swollen face and curled around its shoulders and down its scaly chest.
“Fuck you too. I’ll never give in to my father,” he spit out, choking on seawater as he was suddenly sucked below the surface.
The creature curled around him, spinning him deeper and deeper until he thought his lungs would burst. His mind clouded as he fought to free himself and reach the surface, desperately needing to breathe, his eyes unseeing, the earlier glow around the creature now just inky blackness. He clawed at the slimy thing, his heart pounding as seaweed tangled around his arms and legs, but he couldn’t get free. His mind sought out the good things in his life. If he was going to die he wanted Kensi’s smile to be the last thing he remembered and her laugh the last thing he heard, if only in his mind. He stopped fighting, simply spreading out his arms and legs as he’d always done in the ocean, letting it cradle and rock him, finding the same peace he always found. The ocean had always been his refuge, his oldest friend. He could think of no better place to surrender his life than in the solitude of the sea.
When he felt himself being lifted by a powerful force, he thought he was dreaming or actually dead until he found himself floating on the surface. He took in great gulps of air, but was unable to move. The water was ice cold now and his body completely numb.
“You are not what we were told,” the whisper echoing across the suddenly calm surface of the black water. “You are at one with the sea and the sea is one with you. We will not destroy that.”
He thought he heard his father screaming, but the curdling sound was drowned out by the surf crashing onto the beach. His energy was gone, and it was hard to even tread water and he slipped beneath the waves as his body drifted toward shore.
Strong hands pulled him from the depths and cradled his head above the surface of the water, the voice encouraging him to breathe as he was pulled toward the beach. He wanted to tell him it was okay, that he wasn’t afraid anymore, but no sound came out, so he stared up into the clearing sky and waited. The feel of course sand on his back revived him and he looked up into the intense face of G Callen, who hovered over him and seemed about ready to kiss him.
“What the…?” coughing harshly as he pushed away from the man.
“You’re alive,” Callen said, the words halting and choked with emotion.
“Yeah,” Deeks said softly, finally realizing what Callen was trying to do.
“I thought you drowned,” he said, covering him with his jacket and then sitting back on the sand beside him.
Deeks rolled over and coughed out more water, shivering violently while Callen held his shoulders.
“How’d you find me?” he finally managed to ask.
“I staked out your house,” he replied. “I followed you. It happened again didn’t it? Kensi called. Said IA took you in, but it wasn’t IA was it?”
“Normally, I would make some joke about your weird need to stalk me, but not tonight,” he said through chattering teeth.
“It’s after midnight,” Callen said. “It’s Halloween.”
“Yeah, I figured it might be,” Deeks said as Callen grasped his hand and helped him sit up.
“Want to tell me what happened?”
“You’ll think I’m crazy if I do,” Deeks said, dropping his head between his knees.
“I’m sorry it happened here,” Callen said. “I know how much you love the ocean.”
“Still do,” he replied. “I think that love might have saved my life, and you, of course… my creepy friend and closet stalker.”
“Couldn’t let it go, could you?” Callen smirked as he helped him to his feet.
“Looking for anything normal right about now,” he replied, flashing a brief grin.
“Halloween for you is never normal,” Callen said solemnly.
“Yeah,” he said softly. “I think that burning car on the beach says it all.”
Callen wrapped an arm around him and helped him walk slowly up the beach toward Kensi, who was running towards him with Sam not far behind. They had come to support him as they had since this craziness had begun and he had no idea what to tell them about this time, wondering if they would even believe him. When they all surrounded him, he turned to look back at the ocean. A soft glow just below the surface moved out to sea on turbulent waves and he shivered as his father’s faint, lingering scream carried back to him on an errant wind.
Trick or Treat, my friends…and watch out for slithery things.