If such a place truly existed, Tahir Khaled was already burning in hell. He deserved an eternity of suffering for what he’d done to Michelle Hanna, and by extension Sam, Aiden, and Kamran. The thoughts marched, unwanted, to the forefront of Deeks’ mind as he kneeled on the ground with Kensi, his hands cupping her face, their first betrothed kiss still fresh on their lips.
There was nothing more to do at the scene of the bus explosion. No other agencies to notify. No one else who needed a statement. No more proposals to accept.
Deeks was anxious to leave.
He could admit there was something so them about becoming engaged wearing tactical gear in the immediate aftermath of a hellish case. But not this case. This place, even though it was where he just promised to marry the woman he loved more than life, felt wrong. This moment, despite the sun-rivaling brightness of Kensi’s smile, felt… off. The excitement and joy and all the goodness he’d experienced seconds ago were being snuffed out quickly by the storm clouds that were now taking up residence in his head and his heart.
Standing up, Deeks helped pull his brand-new fiancée to her feet. He bent over to brush the debris off the knees of her jeans, then smacked his own clean. Taking Kensi in his arms once more, he held her close, surveying the devastation around them for several heartbeats. The shards of glass and metal, the carcass of the bus, the smell of explosives and burning rubber. It would all be gone by tomorrow, as if it never happened.
But the devastation to Sam’s life would take much longer to heal, if it ever did. Deeks couldn’t even fathom what their friend was feeling right now. Devastation seemed like a perfect word, and yet he suspected it didn’t even come close. He shut his eyes and swallowed hard, trying to keep from imagining the pain he would be in had it been Kensi instead of Michelle. It didn’t work.
He’d come frighteningly close, more than once, to losing her this past year. Deeks could still remember the worst of it with painful clarity. Waking up after the helicopter crash to find her missing. Discovering her trapped under the chopper and repeatedly failing to free her. Sitting by her bedside every day for weeks on end, praying for her to wake up. Being unable to convince her that she would fully recover. Then later, listening and watching as she was abducted by a madman with a grudge. And crashing through a door to see him holding an electric saw to Kensi’s throat.
Yet all the worry and heartache Deeks recalled had already paled some, pushed to the furthest recesses of his mind and replaced by memories of the better times that followed. Like the moment Kensi woke up. The first steps she took toward him. The fingers of her left hand threading through his as part of her therapy. Being out in the field with her again. Making love and not being afraid she’d break. Hearing how she’d all but taken down the psycho CIA agent on her own had his accomplices not arrived. And mere minutes ago, Kensi, on her knee, asking him to marry her and him saying, “Yes, absolutely. What the hell, yes.”
They were engaged. And he should be happier about it.
He and Kensi had just taken the next step toward living their lives as fearlessly as they knew how, and Sam was on the way to see his wife in the morgue.
It may not have been the way he’d wanted it, and the timing certainly wouldn’t have been Deeks’ first choice. But as he told Kensi when he’d proposed to her comatose form, sometimes life doesn’t work the way you planned it, so you adapt. And that she did, by detonating a flashbang to offer him a ring. More bang than bling, without a doubt, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
So Deeks would adapt again too. He would allow the now small seed of joy that was being quashed by this train of thoughts to take over his heart and win the battle with the regret that was stubbornly refusing to let go. Regret for what they didn’t do soon enough to save Michelle. For what Sam, Aiden, and Kamran had lost and could never regain.
Unlinking his hands from the small of Kensi’s back, Deeks moved them to her face again. He allowed himself to find his tranquility in her eyes and began to get swept up in the delight he saw there. The much-needed yin to his yang, for the moment.
Kensi lifted her hand to his and tugged gently on his makeshift engagement ring. “I know the timing was lousy, Deeks, but talking to Nell it suddenly became so clear that there was no reason to wait, and every reason to –“
“No, you were right.” Deeks knew it, in his head. But he wanted to believe it in his heart too. And he didn’t need words for that. What he had intended to be a brief press of their lips turned into a much longer kiss. Deeks found the happiness he was seeking there, in the warmth of Kensi’s breath, the strength of her arms as they snaked around him, and the exquisite sensation of her body fitting against his.
He absorbed the love Kensi had for him, the gift she kept offering but he didn’t let himself take without doubt often enough. Today, right now, Deeks not only accepted it, but he reveled in it. He let it fuel the bliss that was still fighting, but finally beating back, the remorse.
When their kiss ended, Deeks touched his forehead to Kensi’s and drew in the intoxicating scents of sunshine and gunpowder. They helped to settle his previously uneasy mind, where he now imagined the not-too-distant future. He and Kensi would have what Sam and Michelle had: a strong marriage and happy, healthy children.
As Kensi said, life is short, and Deeks would not take it for granted. Michelle’s death would always be a bittersweet reminder of what they had and how easily they could lose it.
No longer two different sides of the same coin, Deeks was at peace with the decisions they had made, and the results of the past few days. Kensi’s perfect smile and the promise it held provided him with the last of the assurances he needed. He was home.
They were engaged. And he couldn’t be happier about it.