Kensi Blye sat in the semi-dark of the boat shed, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her heart was breaking, and she knew there wasn't anything she could do about it. That was the frustrating part. She was a seasoned federal agent with a gun and the will to use it, and there wasn't a damned thing she could do to change what had happened.
And what was worse—if such could be said of a situation gone so completely out of control—was that she should have seen it coming. She should have known that Callen would take the initiative, take the shot if he thought there was even a remote chance that the Chameleon would get away.
But she hadn't seen it coming, and now G Callen, master of the undercover op, was sitting in an LAPD jail cell, under arrest for the murder of a not-so-innocent man.
And maybe the worst of it all was that he'd done it in full view of a public that hadn't even known his name 24 hours ago. His career—his life—as he knew it, was gone.
She looked up, startled. Standing near the table was a very concerned-looking Marty Deeks. She pushed up off the couch, dashing away the tears she hadn't been able to control.
"I didn't see you," she said.
She wiped her hands on her jeans, then tucked them into her back pockets to keep from fidgeting.
"You okay, Kensi?" he asked gently.
Her eyes slammed shut, more tears leaking through her feeble attempts at control. She could take a lot of things, but Deeks' pity wasn't one of them.
"It's okay," he said, taking a few steps toward her.
"No," she said, more sharply than she'd intended. "It's not okay. It's not going to be okay. He's in jail, under arrest for doing what he's paid to do. He did what the rest of us couldn't, and this is how they repay him?"
Her voice had steadily risen until she was nearly shouting. Deeks winced, causing shame to flash through her. It wasn't his fault, after all.
"S'okay," he said, a smile ghosting across his face. "I can take it."
She sighed, kicking the small coffee table with the toe of her boot.
"Have you seen him?" Deeks asked.
Kensi shook her head. "He won't allow it. No one but his lawyer. God, I don't even know why he did it."
"Hey, I'm sure he had a good reason—"
"Don't," Kensi said, spearing him with her gaze. "Just don't. I don't want platitudes."
"It's not a platitude, Kensi," Deeks said. He held up his hands. "You know me better than that."
"It's just—I can't lose him," she said, her tears close to the surface again.
"You're in love with him, aren't you?" Deeks asked.
She looked up at him, shocked. How could he have known? She thought she'd hidden it away. She'd been so careful not to let it show, not to anyone, but especially not to Deeks. It wasn't that it was wrong; relationships between agents were inevitable, and NCIS was more liberated than most federal agencies. They didn't ban them outright, only discouraged them as much as they could. But her partner could be more juvenile than a thirteen year old girl at times; she hadn't wanted to take the teasing, so she'd just kept her feelings to herself.
And she'd been hurt before, which had made her cautious. While she might believe that Callen wouldn't hurt her intentionally, she also knew that he didn't feel the same way. He was closed off in many ways, the result of a lifetime of pain and a raft of unanswered questions that wouldn't let him rest. Apart from his friendship with Sam Hanna, she doubted he let anyone get close to him. She wasn't naive enough to think that she could change all that, but that didn't stop her from wanting to try.
She rubbed her hands over her face. She was tired, so very tired now. Tired of hiding, tired of life never giving her a moment's peace. Just so very tired.
She felt strong arms circle around her, and instead of pulling away, she leaned into her partner, hooking her arms around his waist as he pulled her in close.
"When I first joined NCIS, I didn't get it," he said quietly as he stroked her hair. "You guys did things that the LAPD could never get away with, and then you'd laugh and joke and go on as if nothing had happened." He paused for a moment before going on. "Callen always seemed to be unaffected, no matter what was going on. But he's not a robot, and I get that now. The joking, the teasing, the laughter, that's all his way of coping. But even still, every man has his breaking point. Maybe he finally found his."
"It's just not like him," she mumbled into his shoulder.
"Yeah, about that."
Kensi pulled back. "What? You know something?"
"No," Deeks said, shaking his head. "More like suspect."
When he didn't say more, she punched him lightly on the arm. "What?"
"You're such a girl," she said. "Now what do you suspect?"
Deeks took a deep breath. "What if it was all a setup?"
"It was a setup," she said. "The Chameleon set us all up, and now the Iranians have what they were looking for. A good agent may be dead and another agent is in jail because of it."
"No," he said, again shaking his head. "I mean, what if Callen shooting the Chameleon was a setup? What if the guy's not really dead, but Callen needed everyone to think he was?"
"That doesn't make any sense," she said, pulling out of his arms as she paced the small sitting area. "Even if it were true, he wouldn't do it in full view of a live camera feed. He as good as outed himself. He'll never be able to work undercover again." She turned and faced her partner. "Besides, Hetty would never go for it."
"She's done worse," he muttered. At Kensi's sharp look, he rushed on. "All I'm saying is, maybe we don't have all the facts, and until we do, maybe we shouldn't go crucifying your boyfriend."
Kensi rolled her eyes. Of course he'd tease her about it, now that he knew.
She thought about what he'd said. What if Callen were running an op that none of them were aware of? She'd seen the resignation letter on Hetty's desk. Henrietta Lange never ran from a fight she knew she could win, which meant that maybe she didn't know.
"Why keep it a secret from the rest of us?"
Deeks shrugged. "That I couldn't say. What I can say is that I've learned to trust Callen's instincts in the last couple of years. If he thought it was the only way, he'd do whatever he had to."
"Yeah," she said, gusting out a sigh. "Doesn't change much. He's still in jail, and we still don't have any authority."
"Have a little faith," he said. "Callen's a good man. He'll make it out of this."
"Yeah, but at what cost?"
Deeks just looked at her, and she could see the uncertainty in his eyes. She crossed the sitting area and pulled him into a hug.
"Thanks," she whispered.
He pulled back, confused. "For what?"
"For being a friend. I needed one today."
"I'll always be there for you, Kensi," he said.
The words carried the weight of a promise, and she felt some of the pressure on her chest lift. She didn't have to face this alone, and for that she was grateful.
"Now," he said, a smile lighting his eyes, "we need ice cream. And beer, although maybe not at the same time. How do you feel about Chinese?"
"What are you babbling about, Deeks?" she asked, frowning.
"Well, you're going to dish on your feelings for Callen, so I figure we need supplies."
Her frown deepened. "What makes you think I'm going to tell you anything? You're worse than a thirteen year old girl when it comes to gossip. I tell you about this and it'll be all over headquarters by the end of the day."
"I'll paint your toenails," he said enticingly, waggling his eyebrows for effect.
She felt the rest of her bad mood lift in the face of his silly words, a smile tugging at her lips at the hopeful look in his eyes. "Yeah, okay."
Kensi rolled her eyes again, but couldn't stop herself from smiling. She found she didn't want to. It might be nice to talk about Callen with someone for a change. It wouldn't solve anything, and it wasn't likely to make her feelings change in any meaningful way, but not shouldering the burden alone anymore was an attractive idea.
"But you're buying," she said, wagging a finger at him.
She turned and headed for the door, her partner sputtering at the injustice of it all as he followed her out.
They hadn't settled anything, and she doubted they would until they talked to Callen, but she no longer felt like the world was coming to an end. Not today, anyway. And that, at least, was something.