“I hate this world.”
Marty Deeks studied the figure of his fiancée, currently hunched before the fire he’d set blazing in the hearth. Those were the first words she’d spoken since they’d arrived home.
“I hate it. Why are we even here, if all we’re going to do is hurt each other, and kill each other?”
Deeks hesitated, not certain whether to let her vent, or try to assuage her angst. It was a bit of uncharted territory for him, albeit welcome. This wasn’t the first time she’d broken down with him, but each time before had been followed by her chastising herself immediately afterward, for her self-perceived weakness.
I went along with her then, because I knew she needed to feel strong. And she is strong. But today…
Today had been different. Today, she’d been no less strong. If anything, she’d shown the depth of her strength, the source of it. She’d shown her compassion. She’d allowed herself to hurt, and she was still in that space. She’d not shaken it off, nor tried to escape it. She’d stayed with it. Or it had stayed with her.
To a very young Kensi, compassion had been almost anathema, even as she’d exercised it. She’d considered herself to be tough, hardened by the many losses of her youth….her happy home, her mother, and then, in devastating fashion, her father. She’d been bent, but not broken, not even on the streets of LA, where she’d pitifully turned for solace. Having grown what she’d considered to be an impermeable outer shell, she’d been repeatedly taken by surprise when something penetrated, and found her core….which was, it turned out, not so steeled as she’d thought. In spite of herself…or maybe because of herself, and the life she’d lived, Kensi had developed a deep well of compassion.
David had tapped into that well today. But the problem with compassion was that, once acknowledged, it demanded one to see things that one would rather not see, and feel things that one would rather not feel. It demanded that one confront the human condition, up close and personal. And it demanded all of those things without benefit of protective armor.
Kensi hadn’t hesitated at all when David had asked her to stay with him. She’d known his situation, even if he had not, yet she’d agreed immediately to bear it with him. She’d reacted viscerally to the photographic evidence of what had happened to his young son, at the hands of a madman wielding the power of chemical weapons. She could only have wished that the pain of it, the knowledge of it, the horror of it, had been unimaginable. But she’d seen it for herself. There had been no imagination required, and no amount of distraction to remove the image, and the fact, from her mind.
“No! You didn’t hear him begging to speak to his wife one last time. You didn’t see what I did. You didn’t see that beautiful, beautiful boy, and how much David loved him. You didn’t see his whole body become contorted, and blue. You didn’t see the pain in his face!”
As mighty as was the temptation to draw her into his arms, Deeks resisted it. To hold her now would be to tell her that what she was going through wasn’t necessary. Wasn’t right. But some part of him, some wise, weathered part of his soul, knew that it was necessary. That she had to feel what she was feeling, and confront it, and confront all of the things that had contributed to it.
So he simply sat beside her, and softened his voice to a whisper.
“I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m even sorrier that it happened. No one deserves that, least of all a little kid. David and his wife didn’t deserve to lose their son at all, let alone in such a horrendous way. David didn’t deserve to die tonight, either. And his wife didn’t deserve to lose him.”
She barely noticed the tears running down her face, and would have denied that she was crying, her cheeks having become so accommodated to wetness over the past few hours. Still, she reflexively wiped at them.
“Why? Why did it have to happen? Why did any of it have to happen?”
She’d turned to look at him, begging for an answer to herunanswerable questions.
“I don’t know. Just add that to the bazillion other things I don’t know. All I know is that, as bad as I feel for you to have gone through it, I’m glad you were with him. Like I told you, he was lucky to have you.”
I only hope I’ll be that lucky one day, when it’s my turn.
Shivering involuntarily at the memory of a few hours ago, when he’d been afraid that it had been his turn.
Kensi sniffled. “I’m not sorry about that. I’m glad I was with him. It was the least I could do. I just…. I wish I could have given him back his son. I wish I could have stopped that madness in the first place. I wish he’d never have had to go through any of it. I just wish this world wasn’t so horrible.”
Deeks finally gave in to his temptation, and reached out to his fiancée, his hand rubbing circles into her back, his voice barely above a whisper.
“You and I, Callen, Sam…all of us…we fight it every day, for real. When we’re lucky, there are millions of people who never even know how bad things might have been. But we can’t fight every battle. We can only fight the ones in front of us, whether that’s taking down a bad guy, or standing beside someone in his last moments.” He paused, waiting for his words to sink in. “I guess I like to think that there’s something equally powerful, and good, about each of those things. That any day we can ease someone’s pain, even if only a little, or any day that we can bring some lightness into someone’s life…that’s a good day.”
Listening, Kensi studied her fiancé.
“You know, I’ve always wondered how you do it. I think it’spart of what made me fall in love with you. I mean, you’ve been through some terrible things. We all have. Yet, it seems like you wake up almost every day smiling, and doing something to make me smile, too. You even get Sam to smile. Before we lived together, I used to wonder if there was something in your morning latte. Now I realize…it’s just you.”
Deeks succumbed completely to his desire for contact. He turned her to face the fire again, and moved behind her, his arms finally filled with the woman he loved.
“It’s not just me. It’s just that I learned, a long time ago, that there are limited things I can change. So, when I can change something, I do. And when I can’t, I …”
She preempted him. “You let it go. I get that’s what I’m supposed to do. I just don’t know that I have it in me.”
“I can’t always let it go, either, Kens. And, just for the record, I would like some credit for the fact that I haven’t yet burst into the song.”
“All right. Sometimes, I can let it go. And, when I can’t… I mourn it.”
The word resonated with her. “I think that’s what I’m doing now. I’m mourning all the things I couldn’t change for David, and his son. And his poor wife! She’s already lost a child and now her husband….”
“You know there are people whose marriages fall apart over things not even half as bad as what they had to deal with. But they stayed together. From what you’ve told me, it sounds like they found their strength in one another.”
She nodded. “They did. The only thing David wanted was to hear his wife’s voice.”
“And you made it happen.”
Reminding her of the good she’d done. Thinking about this afternoon, when he’d wondered if he might ever hear her voice again. When he’d longed to, in those seconds that had seemed to stretch into years.
“But I couldn’t change anything else. I couldn’t keep him from dying.” Her voice breaking again.
He squeezed her closer. “But you were with him. He wasn’t alone. He was with someone who cared about him, and his son, and his wife, even though she’d never met any of them before today.” He leaned forward to nuzzle her neck. “There’s something beautiful about that. Something….. I don’t know the right word. Maybe …. sacred?”
“You think I did something sacred?” Incredulity in her voice.
“Well, you said yourself that he’d called you his angel.”
‘Hmph. Some angel. I didn’t exactly have a miracle in me, did I?”
Deeks pulled his arms tighter around her. “You made the last moments of his life meaningful, and you gave him solace. I’d call that pretty miraculous.”
Kensi couldn’t quite get there with him.
“Is it wrong that part of me wishes I could have been out in the field with you? It’s so weird. I think I feel safer when I’m standing behind a gun than I do having to open myself up to someone else’s anguish.”
Deeks had been trying not to think too hard about his day in the field, and now he faced a dilemma. Should he tell her? Or would it unnecessarily frighten her? Would it make her untrusting of Turk? Would that be a bad thing?
He was out of control today. And he seems to be around a lot. She trusts him, from Mexico. What if she’s teamed up with him, some time, and doesn’t know to watch her back?
Which made the decision for him. Not that he would have had any choice. Kensi had long ago demonstrated her ability to read him.
“What? Did something happen? There’s something you haven’t told me, isn’t there?”
“Relax, baby. There just hasn’t been time.”
“We have time now.” Insistent.
“Okay. Well… uh….Turk….it turns out he had a personal connection to this case. His former partner had been tortured and killed by Naser. So he was focused on avenging his partner’s death.”
“That’s never good. Hasn’t Hetty always told us to leave our personal agendas at the door?”
“Right. So, of course, that’s what everyone does.”
She smiled at the sarcasm. “No, of course not. I’m just saying it could have been a problem.”
Deeks couldn’t restrain a snort. “It was a problem. He was driven. I mean driven. I showed up to back him up, and he didn’t even say ‘thank you’ before he went after Naser and left me behind in a firefight.”
Kensi felt the involuntary tensing of the muscles in her fiance’sarms, and turned herself around to face him.
“He left you in a firefight? Alone?”
Deeks flattened his lips. “Kind of.”
She stared at him. “Kind of. And?”
He hesitated before telling her, despite his resolve to do so. She’d already been more fragile with him this evening than he could remember. But keeping secrets was poison to a relationship, as he well knew.
“And….he was gone for a long time, and Callen and Sam hadn’t gotten there yet. And I ran out of ammo.”
“You….” Unable to hide her shock and fear for him, even after the fact.
Once he’d started, there was no way he could hold it back.
“I was in this shallow alcove, and there were at least three of them, and all I had left was my knife. Which I took out, stupidly enough. And I thought….” Stopping himself, fearing his voice would break.
“Baby…” She reached out to him, cupping his cheek.
“I thought I was done. And I thought….. I just thought, ‘ so this is how I go out’. The crazy thing is, I was more angry than scared, at first. I thought I’d been stupid. And I was angry that we would never get to have the life we want to have together. And then, I thought…I hope she knows how much I love her, and how sorry I am.”
Deeks pulled her close, welcoming the familiar weight of her. “I’m okay. Sam and Callen showed up, and nothing happened.”
Nothing besides me looking death in the eye, and blinking.
In time, Kensi sat back. “To think that I was there, comforting a dying man, at the same time that you might have been dying, all alone.” Shivering at the thought. “Why does the world have to be so awful?”
He shook his head. “I sure as hell don’t know. But I do know that it’s not all that way. Just look at today. David had you to stand beside him. I had Sam and Callen to get me out of that mess. Bad things happened, but good things happened, too.”
“You came home to me. That’s a good thing.” Smiling through her tears.
“And you made sure that the last thing David would know in this life, was kindness. He gave you his story, knowing you wouldn’t let it die.”
“He was right, I won’t. But it might take everything I have in me not to kill Turk for almost letting you die.”
He smiled. “I’m not that angry with him. Not that I wasn’t terrified, but I get what it’s like to feel like you need to avenge someone. It’s just that I feel like what you did today was more honorable, and more important, than what Turk planned to do.”
She picked up on the word. “Planned? Are you saying he didn’t avenge his partner? He didn’t kill the guy?”
“No. He pulled back, in the end. I guess his better angels won out.”
“Hmph. Those angels again.”
Deeks turned her face to his, holding her chin.
“I know you know this. David was right when he called you his angel today. You comforted him, you bore witness, you showed him how important his life was. You made it matter. Even if that lousy flash drive was never going to go anywhere, you made it important. That’s what matters, babe. You said it yourself, tonight. Love is all that matters. What we do for one another. And you did everything for him.”
Kensi looked pensive. “So, that makes me his angel?”
She smiled. “So, what does that make you, to me? Besides everything, I mean. Are you my angel?”
He grinned at her. “I left my wings on the porch. Those feathers are a bitch with the vacuum.”