It was her fifth call. All the others had gone unanswered, making her anxious and a little angry. She had expected to see him in the bullpen when she’d returned to OSPs, hoping to hear what had happened with Whiting, but she found his desk empty and his messenger bag gone. She had called him then, but it had gone to voicemail, as had the last three calls, reminiscent of the time he’d cut himself off from her after being tortured by Sidorov. She knew this wasn’t like that, but why wouldn’t he pick up? Had he been arrested? Was he sitting in a jail cell all alone again? Then she heard his voice. It was rough and he sounded distant.
“Deeks. Where are you?” She asked softly, suddenly unable to be angry with him.
“At the end of the Santa Monica Pier,” he replied. “Can you come?”
He sounded unsure of her answer and she felt the first prick of fear.
“Are you alright?” She asked.
“The answer to that is a little complicated,” he said, sounding exhausted.
It was early, but already dark outside and a little cold and she hurried to her car, needing to get to him, to touch him and assure him once again that he wasn’t alone. Her mind raced with all the possibilities, but at least he hadn’t been arrested. Not yet anyway. They’d joked that morning about skipping town if that became a possibility, but now she seriously considered it. The thought of him being put on trial and convicted of murder scared her. She thought it scared him too. A former cop sentenced to prison faced long odds just staying alive every day. It would change him. He would have to become a person he hated in order to survive, and she didn’t want any of that for him. For them.
As she approached the pier, the garish lights of the Ferris wheel and the amusement park that surrounded it seemed to mock the seriousness of their situation. She wondered if he had come here because it reminded him of his childhood. Maybe he was taking stock of his life, seeing familiar sights and the ocean before it was taken away from him. She parked in one of the garages and jogged across the street to the Promenade, pulling her light jacket tightly around her as the wind off the ocean picked up. It seemed to take forever to walk the length of the pier, but she finally saw him standing in the shadows, staring out at the dark sea.
“Deeks?” She called out hesitantly, hoping to see him smile, but unsure if she would.
“Hey, baby,” he replied, subdued as he turned to look at her.
There was a wounded look on his face and resignation and her heart suddenly began beating wildly as she took two long strides and wrapped him in her arms. She wanted nothing more than to comfort him and protect him, to be there for him during whatever was coming.
“I thought you’d been arrested,” she whispered, causing him to lean back and stare at her.
“I’m sorry. I should have called you, but I needed to process it all.”
“Deeks… I called four times before you answered.”
“I didn’t look at who called, I just didn’t want to be ordered back in before I had a chance to think,” he replied and turned back to stare out to sea.
“Where’ve you been all this time?” She asked gently, slowly rubbing his back as she leaned into him.
“Just walking,” he replied. “Came down to the beach. Walked some more. Watched some surfers for a while. Ate a couple of fish tacos. When it started getting dark I came here.”
“You want to talk about it?”
“It’ll just piss me off if I do,” he replied and she heard the anger ripple beneath the words.
“Just tell me, baby. Please?” She pleaded. “What did Whiting say?”
He turned to look at her, running his finger down along her hairline, his face softening as he leaned in to kiss her tenderly on the lips. His breath was warm against her mouth when he pulled back, his thumbs brushing across her cheeks as he held her head in his hands.
“Why did I confess to that woman?” He asked, tears glazing his eyes, now so full of regret. “I have no way out, Kens…I’m trapped, and it’s my own damn fault.”
“Is she charging you?”
“No…” he said, dropping his head as he slid his hands down her arms to take her hands.
“Then what?” She asked, needing to know.
“She strung me along, Kens. Even bought me coffee… and at times… at times I actually thought I might get out of it…that she might not remember what I told her,” he said, finally laughing softly as if the whole thing was a joke. “She even apologized for almost getting you killed. She actually sounded sympathetic about what you went through.”
“Did you believe her?”
Yeah… I did,” he said, biting his lip as the wind tousled his hair. “But I knew… I knew there was more. A person doesn’t change that much, even after a near death experience.”
“You saved that woman’s life, baby,” she said, suddenly pissed at the woman. “What more does she want from you?”
“My help,” Deeks’ laugh was bitter and she reached up to cup his cheek. “The IA dragon lady says I’m the only one she can trust. Crazy, huh?”
“Trust you to do what?”
He turned away from her then and leaned over the railing and stared straight down at the turbulent water below.
“She didn’t say… exactly. But she heard everything I said about killing Boyle,” he replied solemnly.
“She’s blackmailing you?” Kensi felt chilled by the wind whipping around them, and by the coldness of the woman who held their future in her hands.
“She’ll drop the case if I help her,” he said, his voice barely audible above the waves crashing into the pilings beneath them.
“Deeks? Who is she after that she needs your help to get?”
“She thinks Lieutenant Bates is dirty?” Kensi asked sharply.
“Yeah… I think she does,” he said.
“Do you think he’s dirty?”
“I told her she should look at him, but, to be honest… I don’t know. Not that it matters if I believe it or not,” he said as he turned to face her.
He pulled her to his chest and hugged her tight and she could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
“He stood up for me in some tough situations,” he said against her ear. “He got me transferred to undercover work when I went to him about getting away from Boyle. And he didn’t have to sign off on me becoming a liaison with NCIS when Hetty asked. But he did, Kens. And if he hadn’t, I would never have found you. How do I turn on someone like that?”
“She’s not giving you a choice, Deeks,” she said, leaning back to look at him and brushing back the hair blowing across his face.
“What if I resign?” He asked quietly.
“I’d like that, but it might just piss her off,” she reasoned.
“And she could go ahead and charge me,” he whispered in resignation. “Sonofabitch.”
Kensi felt deep anger boiling up inside and the first stirrings of hate for a woman who would do this to the man who’d kept her from bleeding out in an asphalt parking lot.
“Maybe going on the lam isn’t such a bad idea,” he said, smiling sadly as he clung to her. “We know how to go dark. We could tell everyone we’re eloping and just never come back.”
“We could do that.”
“You don’t sound convinced… and hey… you’re right,” he said, suddenly stepping away from her and stuffing his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. “I love you, Kens. You don’t deserve to be caught up in this.”
“Don’t do that!” She shouted into the wind. “Don’t you dare try and push me away. Not now. Not ever. I love you, you big dumb idiot and I’m not going to let you go through this alone.”
“And what if I go to prison, Kens?” He asked, his anger and rage exploding uncontrollably. “What then? You want to be married to someone who might be in prison for twenty-five years? How is that fair to you?”
“None of this is fair, Deeks,” she said grabbing his arm as he started to walk away. “Whiting is forcing you to do something you don’t want to do.”
He turned to look at her, searching her face with wounded eyes filled with tears. “I love you, Kens. I love you and I can’t risk losing you. God, Kens… I need you… and as much as I respect Bates and hate what she’s asking me to do, I’ll do whatever she wants. I can’t see any other way out of this.”
“You’re not alone, Deeks. Remember that. You’re not alone anymore.”
He nodded as her own tears fell, clinging to one another as the wind howled around them, the waves loud and powerful as they pounded against the foundation of what seemed like solid ground.