Fireworks and Twinkies
A Valentine’s Day story
By Sweet Lu
“Deeks…” Callen smiled oddly at him as he walked into the bullpen, making him immediately suspect.
“What?” Stopping abruptly as he tried to read Callen.
“How’s Artie these days?” He asked as he came around his desk and joined Sam in front of the smart screen.
“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Deeks replied.
“So? Is Artie on a date or something?” Sam asked with a slight grin.
“No, but I have plans with my wifey tonight, and Artie has…you know…”
“A particular aroma that’s not appreciated at a romantic dinner?” Callen said.
“Something like that,” Deeks replied. “Besides, I’m an NCIS Investigator…agent person now.”
“And? You think that gets you out of playing a homeless wino when we need one?” Sam asked.
“Sorry Agent Deeks,” Callen said. “Artie’s services are required on this one. But don’t worry. Your surveillance gig will be over before you know it.”
“We do have showers you know,” Sam said.
“Yeah…no. Of course. But you’d think a few fringe benefits would come with the new badge.”
“Is our new investigator whining, Sam?”
“No…no, no. Well, maybe,” Deeks said quickly. “But come on, guys. Artie? That smell lingers, and I have big plans for Valentine’s Day.”
“He’s definitely whining,” Sam said.
“Okay. Okay,” Deeks replied, resigned to his fate. “When and where?”
The two senior agents laid out the case, which seemed like a no-brainer except for the location and the fact that he would have little overwatch once he was inside the abandoned warehouse.
“Why is it always a warehouse?” He asked.
“Because that’s where criminals store stolen Navy munitions,” Sam said in an irritating singsong voice.
“Investigators should know that, don’t you think, Sam?”
“He’s new to the job, G,” Sam said. “Kensi will have to get him up to speed on what’s required of him.”
“Where is she, by the way?” Callen asked.
“She’s driving back from Port Hueneme,” he replied. “You sent her there, remember? Shouldn’t the Special Agent in Charge remember who he assigns where?”
“I think that’s a touché, G,” Sam laughed.
“Maybe. Now go get dirty and smelly, Deeks,” Callen smirked. “The sooner you’re in place the faster we wrap this up so Kensi won’t kick my ass for spoiling your evening.”
“So what are your romantic plans for tonight?” Sam asked.
“Hah! You really expect me to tell you that?” Deeks shot back. “Not happening.”
“I don’t think he trusts us, Sam.”
“Probably shouldn’t considering we haven’t hazed him yet for passing muster and actually becoming an NCIS Investigator.”
“Hazing? What…why? He’s joking, right?” Deeks stammered. “Is that what this assignment is? You’re hazing the new guy?”
“You’re too old to be the new guy, Deeks,” Callen said. “And I’m too old to haze anybody. Right now we need Artie, and you’re still standing here.”
Weeds had forced themselves up through the cracks in the concrete lot outside the old warehouse. Half of the structure was made of corrugated, and the other half wood that looked as if it hadn’t been painted in a hundred years. He knew he was sulking, but he really didn’t want to be here and bad mouthing the building made him feel better. Not much, but some. It was falling down ugly and he wondered why the bad guys couldn’t have found a better-looking hiding place for their contraband. But he guessed it made sense. No one would suspect there was anything inside worth stealing.
He had called Kensi from the car and had enjoyed her blistering remarks about Callen sending him out on Valentine’s Day, especially with Artie in tow. She was not a fan of Artie, which hurt his feelings a little, but it was fun listening to her rant. He encouraged her of course, and had wished Callen and Sam could hear her descriptive threats of bodily harm. He promised that their evening would make up for everything, and she had warned him that it had better, which didn’t make him happy at all. He much preferred it when she was threatening Callen and Sam.
“Okay, Artie. Time to release your stinky charm,” he said before putting in his comms. “Going in, boys. Kensi says hi.”
“Did she threaten G?” Sam asked.
“In great detail,” he replied as he approached the side of the building next to a sagging chainlink fence. “Watch your back when she gets here, Callen. She’s dangerous when she’s mad.”
“Watch yours, Deeks,” he replied. “This was an inside job, so these guys are military trained.”
“Copy that,” he replied. “This place doesn’t look very secure. Is Beale sure this is where these guys took the stolen material?”
“Yes, I am, Agent Deeks,” Eric chimed in over comms.
“Just checking, buddy. Wouldn’t want to waste Artie’s valuable time.”
“Doesn’t he just hang out in your freezer?”
“Yes he does, Beale. And who knows what goes on in there…what with the frozen peas and ice cubes. Not to mention the steaks and chops.”
“Now I’m hungry,” Sam said. “And you’re still weird, Deeks. New badge or not.”
“Deeks. Quit stalling,” Callen said. “No cars in the parking lot so get in there and locate those weapons.”
He spotted a slightly open side door and quietly slipped inside. The interior was dark, and smelled of mold and gasoline. There was an interior wall with an open sliding door painted an unfortunate green. Beyond it he could see light coming into the larger space from clerestory windows. He moved stealthily toward the opening, listening intently for any sound.
“I’m in, guys,” he whispered.
Pulling his black watch cap down over his forehead, he peeked around the door. A gray van was parked at an angle in the middle of the space, but he saw no one and heard no voices. He entered and crept along the wall till he reached a stack of pallets in the corner where he could hide and observe. A small office jutted out from the back wall, but he couldn’t see inside. He decided to move in to take a closer look at what was on the other side of the van.
Two men suddenly stumbled out the door of the small office, arguing loudly and shoving one another. Deeks slid along the back wall until he was able to see the stolen Navy weapons containers stacked beside the gray van.
“Bingo,” he whispered, grinning until he saw one of the bad guys grab a weapon from one of the cases. “Sonofabitch.”
The man raised the grenade launcher to his shoulder just as the other man slammed into him, sending the projectile into the ceiling above Deeks’ head. The explosion knocked him off his feet and the old wooden building burst into flames.
“Noodles, dammit. Noodles!”
Surrounded by fire and falling debris, he ran toward the exit, finding it blocked by a collapsed beam. He looked back at the two men just as the ceiling came down on top of them and the munitions started exploding.
She reached for his hand through the smoke, shouting his name. He didn’t answer, still engulfed in the memories of his original plans for the day. It was Valentine’s Day, yet somehow he had ended up in this dilapidated warehouse down by the port that was burning down around him. This wasn’t part of his plans, but the best laid plans as they say. He blamed Callen for this, and if he survived he intended to kick his butt for ruining what was supposed to be a perfectly lovely evening.
Strong hands dragged him out into the fresh air and away from the building as sirens screamed, adding to his headache. He looked into Sam Hanna’s worried face, but Kensi shoved her way into his view, wrapping her arms around him so tightly he had trouble coughing.
“Looks like Artie got a little singed,” Callen said as he walked up.
Kensi would have hit him if Deeks hadn’t grabbed her arm. “It’s Valentine’s Day, baby.”
“Does he know that?” She fumed.
“He was only supposed to observe, Kens,” Callen said in his defense. “I didn’t send him in there to burn down the building and blow up the Navy’s munitions.”
“What the hell happened in there, Deeks?” Sam asked.
“You two just back off for one damn minute,” Kensi demanded. “You can debrief him after he sees a paramedic.”
“I’m fine, Kens,” Deeks said before coughing up half a lung.
“You didn’t look fine when I found you,” she said. “This is not what I wanted for Valentine’s Day.”
“Me either,” he replied as she pushed him toward the ambulance. “Hey…I am not going to a hospital today. I made plans for us and I’m not going to let two stupid douchebags fighting over a grenade launcher spoil those plans.”
“Okay, baby…but at least take some oxygen,” she said gently. “And maybe a long shower. A really long one.”
“Yeah…Artie’s aroma isn’t exactly romantic,” Deeks replied. “Sorry I stunk up the day.”
“You’re alive, baby,” she said, wrapping her arms around him again. “I don’t care how dirty you are or how bad you smell. I love you even when you stink. I love you every single day…not just on some date on a calendar. I don’t need anything, Deeks. Just you…alive and breathing.”
“Breathing is good. But, just to clarify…No gift? Or huge bouquet of flowers…champagne…or strawberries dipped in chocolate?”
“You got me all that?”
“No…but I thought about it,” he replied, as he stood back to watch her. “I thought about all the things most people give to the women they love on Valentine’s Day. But, I wanted it to be more special than candy and flowers.”
“But I like candy and flowers,” she said softly.
“You’re so much more than that to me, Kens. You’re fireworks…you’re…you’re a rock and roll band, baby, the dragon at Chinese New Years, the Aurora Borealis, you’re all the stars in the sky…you’re sunshine and gunpowder, Kens. You’re my world. So it’s not enough to just give you candy and flowers.”
“I think you’re hallucinating, baby,” she said with a concerned smile. “Smoke inhalation will do that.”
“I’m not hallucinating, Kens,” he said, kissing her softly. “I love you.”
“I love you too, baby,” she said and kissed him back. “So what did you get me?”
“All those descriptive terms of endearment not enough for you, yeah?”
“I know I said I didn’t need anything, but a girl likes candy and flowers every once in a while.”
“You mean I could have gotten off cheap with a box of Twinkies and some tulips?”
“Are you saying you really did make big plans?”
“What are they?”
“A surprise,” he said as he allowed the paramedic to pull an oxygen mask over his face.
The night was warm and Kensi finally stopped grilling him when he pulled into the lot at Marina Del Rey. He took her hand and led her to the dock and out to a huge white yacht moored at the end. They were welcomed on board with glasses of champagne and ushered back to the stern where a candlelit table was set for dinner. Two red tulips were the centerpiece, and a Twinkie sat on each of their dessert plates. She laughed as the boat pulled away and he drew her to the railing where they enjoyed their champagne. Neither one spoke until the boat headed out into the dark water of the ocean.
“Is it just us?” She asked.
“All ours for the next three hours,” he replied. “Dinner, fireworks off Catalina, and lounges on the upper deck where we can watch the stars together and maybe indulge in a little hanky-panky when the crew isn’t around.”
“Haven’t you had enough fireworks for one day?” She asked.
He watched as her thoughts turned inward, her eyes suddenly watering with tears. He knew she was thinking of the morning and the near miss he’d experienced. He brushed her hair back and pulled her into his arms, whispering in her ear.
“It didn’t happen, Kens. I’m good. I survived and we’re celebrating our love with all the trimmings.”
“But there will always be that chance,” she said.
“So let’s live life to the fullest, Kens. Fireworks and all. No looking back. Just love that we have this moment together.”
“This is all pretty extravagant for you,” she said.
“But the Twinkies were cheap.”
“I love you, Martin Deeks.”
“And I love you, Mrs. Bleeks.”
“Is that the real dessert, or will there be something a little more romantic?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see, Fern.”