In the movies fireworks meant excitement, parties, family, grilling, the sort of happiness that could only be fictional, or perhaps, they meant something grimmer, a disguise for gunshots, sparks flickering off blood.
In his youth fireworks, the 4th of July meant an excuse for his father, Gordon to escape to dark brown bottles, arguing the holiday as a reason for the excess liquor; not that he ever needed an excuse anyway, any small objection delivered with trepidation by his mother always met with violence, a reaction that always sent him hiding in his room during the youngest years, the boom of the colorful displays just another thing to fear, another shudder coursing over his small frame.
And it wasn’t until Ray, until there was another influence besides fear in his life that he found himself stumbling down to the beach to watch those same fireworks, ignoring every twinge of guilt over leaving Roberta alone in that house, alone with the enemy, alone when he purposely drifted off on the sand itself, the neck ache better than a bruised cheek.
And God, somehow fate placed him back on the beach now, blue eyes trained on the water, reflecting the colorful explosions above, all the cells of his body begging to go numb, to ignore the present, the past, what was surely the future.
The slight wind teased at his curls, longer than usual, though undercover ops didn’t leave much open time for barber appointments, when he scanned the beach for the only reason he was there, the bright lights and sounds of the holiday providing a timely opportunity for a meet, a handler slipping close and away in the blink of an eye, though his quick glance over the crowds of chatting “oooohhhing and awwwing” crowds didn’t render any familiar faces.
“Deeks.” The low whisper almost made him jolt, sending his rate up a notch, perhaps from the surprise, perhaps from the sound of his name for the first time in weeks, even from his own lips, paranoia settled in like a stone in his gut.
“Bates, I wasn’t expecting you tonight.”
“Ehh,” despite the older man remaining tucked behind him, eyes certainly on the display in the sky, Deeks could hear the shrug in his voice. “Usual guy needed the night off for flipping burgers, apparently his dad burns ‘em, so I’m getting my toes in the sand.”
“There isn’t much for you this time around.”
“I’ll take what you can get.” Nodding heavily, he slipped a hand deep into the pocket of his shorts, retrieving the small flash drive that was hiding within and passing it backwards without a glance, barely even feeling Bates’ fingers during the swift pass off.
“Good seeing you, Deeks.”
“Good hearing your voice, boss,” he barely mumbled to the sound of shifting sand, blatantly aware that turning around would reveal nothing but an empty patch of sand, a hard to swallow truth that forced a vision into his head of simply watching the fireworks on a holiday, bumping into a coworker at the beach, grilling burgers with a teasing father, happy, fictional family.
In another life maybe he’d be one of the happy humans frolicking along the beach, nothing on his mind other than who’d drive him home after a couple beers, but for this life… for this life he’d try to preserve their contentment, an unrecognized duty that fulfilled him and killed him, and God, maybe one year he could watch the fireworks without imaging the terrible actions occurring beneath them.
“It’s not exactly Disneyland,” she murmured, rumble of the sentence felt easily through the connection of their bodies, dark curls brushing the scruff of his chin as she arched her neck slightly, examining the spray of colors in the dark sky before them.
“You hate Disneyland.”
“Not their fireworks.” Tilting her head back a bit more, she granted him the sort of small, but beautifully genuine smile that clenched his heart and pulled at his tongue to profess love all over again, something he’d done enough times to set a blush upon her skin and a roll to her eyes nearly every time; though this moment he managed to keep his lips shut as she landed her own to his jaw, exactly the sort of tender kiss to remind him of the playful and deceptive edge to her words, how there was no where else she, either of them, would rather be.
Even if the where happened to be curled up beneath a soft, light blanket in the bed of his truck, parked at a tiny gas station that sat at the outskirts of a small Arizona town, watching the display of fireworks without the glare of Los Angeles or the heaviness of their duties in that city, this road trip/getaway/engagement celebration/pre honeymoon honeymoon just beginning even as the holiday drew to a close.
“At least there aren’t any illegal activities this year,” he snorted, barely keeping his laughter in check after seeing the rise of her eyebrows.
“We should have reported that.”
“We can’t report our neighbors for having fireworks.”
“We can when it’s illegal,” she twisted slightly, resting her head on his shoulder. “And scaring the hell out of our dog.”
“Got a damn good show out of it, baby.” Slipping a hand down to rub a circle over the small of her back, he appreciated, for the thousandth time that night, that week even, the simplicity of the moment, lack of fear over their phones buzzing and signaling back to Los Angeles, though those particular electronics were currently shoved within the depths of his glove compartment.
“And Monty would be far more traumatized by this, us cuddling without him, poor guy needs to believe in being essential to them.”
“I’m sure he’s tricked Mom into plenty of snuggles,” she sniffed, almost snorting aloud at the image of the odd duo, dog rarely watched by anyone other than his mommy and daddy, though Kam was briefly considered for the role of temporary foster parent, ideas of the mutt serving as a fluffy distraction from the innocent girl’s pain shot down by fear of assigning yet another responsibility to her father, the shattering man more weighed down by grief, exhaustion, duties, than she’d seen him before.
But those thoughts, all consuming as they may be, didn’t belong with tonight, nor would Sam himself want them plagued by pity for him.
Tonight was about peace, the natural state of their bodies pressed together, the shapes he drew over her back, occasional kisses he pressed to her hair, the day of tranquility still ahead of them.
Tonight was his murmur of “I love you” as his fingers flitted over her engagement ring and the flutter of her eyelids as she fought sleep even with the booming echoing above them.