I - Christmas
Kensi hasn't been a fan of Christmas for a long time, which she thinks is understandable. That's what happens when your dad dies five days before, when the festive period is spent mourning him because the funeral can't be held until the military police release the body and things are on a go-slow over Christmas. Added to that, waking up one Christmas morning, years later, to find that your fiancée has left you, leaving you with only the ring on your finger - well, it's no wonder that she's been ready to cancel Christmas for the last few years.
This one isn't looking any better either. Nate is somewhere off the other side of the world - Kabul, last she heard - and has been radio silent for the last few days. She tries not to worry about that - after all, if something had happened to him, Hetty would have heard, and Hetty would have told them. No news is good news, she tries to convince herself, and sometimes she almost succeeds. But if she's honest with herself, she'd let herself dream, let herself wonder about her and Nate spending Christmas together and the dream had been so nice, so tempting, that she'd let herself forget that that was all it was. Now the realisation that that dream wasn't going to happen is all the more disappointing for the hope.
Things were even worse after the case they were on, the case where she ended up talking about Jack, laying her secret bare, for the first time in years. She'd told Nate about it, the first Christmas they were working together, where he'd noticed her mood was darker, that she wasn't entering into the Christmas spirit in quite the same way that the rest of them were. He'd found her taking her frustrations out on the punching bag in the gym, had asked her in that quiet Nate-way that he had if there was anything she wanted to talk about and she'd initially been tempted to punch him too.
Then she'd taken one look into those eyes and had found herself stripping off her boxing gloves, sitting down on the nearest bench and telling him everything.
She supposes that she should have known then, just from that look into his eyes and her reaction to it, that she was in trouble.
That realisation hadn't come until much later though, and no sooner had it than Hetty was sending him away to God knew where doing God knew what. He'd told her that he'd wouldn't be away long, that he wouldn't be in danger, but that was months ago and contact had been sporadic at best since then.
Which didn't help her mood, and thinking of Jack made her think about Nate which reminded her that she was alone which made her mood even worse.
She doesn't know what surprises her more - that Deeks even noticed that she was in a bad mood, that he took it upon himself to cheer her up, or that she allowed him to do it. Either way, standing in a soup kitchen, dishing out Christmas meals for the homeless, she's amazed to find that she's enjoying herself, that she's smiling. It's a genuine smile too, because she's realising how lucky she really is but she can't help her smile grow even wider when she feels her cell phone vibrating in her back pocket and she takes a step back from the food to slide it out and look at it. When Nate's picture smiles up at her, her heart literally skips a beat and she glances up to see Deeks looking at her curiously. Holding the phone up - facing her so that he can't see who's calling; that they've been able to keep things a secret this long is a miracle of Biblical proportions, she doesn't want to mess it up now - she motions over her shoulder, indicating that she's going to take it and he nods and smiles and goes back to his duty.
Kensi presses the answer button as quickly as she can, says "Hey," and hopes that it's not too late and she's missed him. A blast of static makes her heart skip a beat in not such a pleasant way, but then it clears and she can hear him clearly.
"Merry Christmas, Kensi."
She leans her back against the wall, looks up at the ceiling and smiles as she tries to keep back a sudden swell of tears. "Happy Christmas, Nate," she says quietly. Then, quieter still, "I wasn't sure if you'd be able to call... isn't it, like, the middle of the night for you?"
Nate chuckles. "Something like that," he allows. "But I wouldn't miss talking to you on Christmas for anything."
"Are you allowed tell me where you are?"
There's a sigh from the other end of the phone. "Not really. Let's just say somewhere where Christmas isn't a big deal. Where are you?"
"You're not going to believe this." Kensi barely keeps a most un-Kensi-like giggle back. "Deeks dragged me along to volunteer at a soup kitchen...we're handing out meals to the homeless."
"Please tell me Deeks is wearing a Santa suit. And if he is, get a picture. Please." The plea is heartfelt and Kensi doesn't even attempt to keep the laughter back, because the image is pretty damn funny. And also plausible; the shelter mustn't have a Santa suit because if it did, she's fairly sure Deeks would be wearing it.
"Sorry, but no," she says. "And no, I'm not wearing one either."
"Now that would be a picture." Nate pauses. "How are you holding up?" His tone is serious, concerned. "I know how Christmas is for you..."
"I'm ok," she tells him and she's surprised to realise that it's true. "I'm missing you... but I'm ok."
Nate sighs. "I miss you too. I'll try to get home soon, ok?"
"OK." Except that's not really a promise he can make, but the fact that he's willing to try to make it means more than she can say.
"So, are you nearly finished there?"
Kensi glances at her watch. "Another couple of hours or so. Then it's home to a large bowl of popcorn and 'Titanic'."
"I wish I could be there."
Nate's voice sounds wistful and Kensi's well aware that her "Me too" sounds the same. "I should let you go," she says. "This is costing you a fortune..."
Nate, ever practical, doesn't argue with her. "Call me when you get home?" he asks and she smiles, promises that she will before hanging up the phone and returning to Deeks.
True to her word, it's another couple of hours before the place empties out and all the cleaning is finished and by the time that's all done, Kensi is so tired that she can hardly stand. Deeks invites her out for a beer with some of the other guys and she's tempted, she really is, but she's tired and Leo and Kate are waiting for her so she cries off, doesn't even blink when he mocks her favourite movie.
She drives home, listens to Christmas music on the radio and even sings along to a couple and she's still humming when she gets to her apartment, turns the key in the lock, opens the door...
...and stops dead.
Because her apartment isn't how she left it, all messy and devoid of any Christmas spirit. There is a Christmas tree in the corner, a real Christmas tree that she can smell the moment she steps inside. It is festooned with white lights and red and gold baubles, a star twinkling merrily atop. Her coffee table, which had held the detritus of too many nights alone, is now perfectly clear; in the centre is one vase, which she knows wasn't in the house that morning, filled with a dozen red roses. Tea light candles line the fireplace, the coffee table, anywhere there's an inch of space, and the effect is nothing short of magical.
And coming out from the bedroom, there is Nate.
He's fresh out of the shower, she can tell from the curl and shine of his still damp hair, freshly shaven, clad in a white shirt and jeans. He smiles when he sees her there, just standing, staring at him, her jaw dropping at all of this, at him.
"You're supposed to be in Kabul...somewhere where Christmas isn't a big deal," is all she can say and he shrugs.
"I didnt exactly lie about that," he tells her, and a tilt of his head towards the Christmas tree reminds her of all the work he's done to turn her apartment into Santa's Grotto. "I got back late yesterday...I wanted to spend Christmas with you...to surprise you." He doesn't move, doesn't close the distance between them, and Kensi's still too stunned to move. She only registers that he might be getting the wrong idea when he blinks, tilts his head and looks worried. "Do you like it?"
Surprise forces a laugh to her lips, tears to her eyes. "Nate... it's amazing."
He tries not to look pleased, fails utterly. "You're earlier than I expected," he tells her. "I was hoping to hang this up somewhere..."
In his hand he is holding mistletoe and the reminder galvanises her into movement. "You don't need mistletoe," she chokes out and that's all that she gets out before she crosses the room, winds her arms around his neck and kisses him like she's been dreaming about in all her Christmas fantasies.
He smiles against her lips and she feels the mistletoe drop to the floor as his arms go around her waist, fingers stroking patterns, exploring. His hands slide down, over her lower back to her hips and she gasps against him as he lifts her up. Her legs lock around his waist without her even thinking about it and she's barely aware of him carrying her to the bedroom, of falling onto the bed in a tangle of arms and legs and laughter. Their clothes disappear quickly and when they are moving together, Kensi knows that whatever she might have been dreaming about, this is so much better.
Later - hours, days, weeks, who knows - they are out of the bedroom, still tangled in each other on the couch, the covers from her bed wrapped around them as they watch 'Titanic' and share popcorn. Kensi sits comfortably in the vee of Nate's legs, her back against his chest, her head against his shoulder and she is utterly content.
"You ok?" Nate murmurs during a quiet piece of the film, fingers brushing a curl of hair back from her face. The movement makes her shiver, something that doesn't go unnoticed if the wolfish smile on his face is anything to go by.
Kensi smiles too, reaches back to press her lips to his and favourite film or not, she whispers, "Best Christmas ever," as she turns around and forgets about 'Titanic' completely.
II - Lockdown
When the black and white picture appears on the screen, something happens to Kensi that has never happened before in her life, something that she would have sworn could only happen in movies and fairy tales - her knees go weak. Literally weak, weak enough to make her reach for the table beside her as if she needs something to hold her up and in the back of her mind she hopes that no-one else has noticed. No-one says anything though, not that she looks to check, because their eyes, like hers, are locked on the image on the screen.
Nate, not in Afghanistan or Syria or any one of a hundred hot spots that Hetty could have sent him to.
Nate, sitting behind the desk of a prison psychiatrist's office in Los Angeles, looking a little more rumpled than she's used to seeing him, wearing a jacket and shirt, no tie, a little more dressed up than he would be walking around Ops, but not enough to stand out when he's under cover.
Nate, in Los Angeles. A short drive away.
She's thrilled to see him, but she'd be lying if she said there was a little bit of her that didn't want to kill him.
He's been in town for only Hetty knows how long and he hasn't called her, hasn't made any attempt to see her?
OK, she tells herself sternly. He's undercover. He doesn't know who's watching him; it's safer for him, for her too, if she's not involved in his life right now. She knows that, understands it, has done it herself.
But she's never been on this side of the lie before, and it's making all the difference in the world.
Dimly, she's aware of Hetty's voice, of questions from the others, and she gives herself an internal shake. She's Kensi Blye, for heaven's sake; she worked damn hard to get where she is, made her way in a man's world and she's not going to ruin that by losing her head over a guy now.
She'll go about her business, she'll do her job.
And if she finds herself daydreaming about what she'll do to Nate when she sees him again, well, no-one really needs to know that.
Of course, none of her dreams come close to the reality, because reality comes later on that day, where they're all tired and stressed and on edge and they're in Ops and then she hears his voice. She turns to the door, and her jaw drops because she can't believe he's actually standing there. His eyes are on her and only her and she hears her voice say - ok, gasp - his name and the next thing she knows she's not standing still any more. She's all but sprinting across the room, throwing her arms around his neck and holding on for dear life. His arms go around her and she can sense his smile, the squeeze around her middle a little bit tighter (but discreetly so) than just good friends would indicate.
All too soon - though perhaps still too long for Ops, she doesn't really care - he lets her go and she steps back. She's very aware that everyone is looking at them, Deeks with a smirk on his face that lets her know she's going to be hearing all about this and soon, and she feels a blush springing to her cheeks. Nate makes a quip about being careful, that Eric will be jealous and people laugh and whatever tension there is is soon broken, and then Nate asks to talk to Hetty outside the door and he is gone again.
But not before his eyes meet hers and the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
She's thankful that the day is already almost at an end - that, in point of fact, they're into overtime if such a thing existed for them. Because that means she doesn't have long to wait before Hetty sends them home to get some rest, and even that relatively short space of time is too much because she can't stop thinking about Nate and his arms around her and that look that gives her goosebumps every time she thinks about it.
She goes home, changes the sheets on her bed in record time before she emerges to the living room, giving the place a cursory once over. That done, she finds herself pacing aimlessly, chewing her thumbnail and waiting for the door bell to ring.
When it does, she jumps, stares at it stupidly for a moment then wrenches the door open.
Sure enough, Nate stands before her, clad in the same clothes as in Ops, brow furrowed, looking for all the world as if he's ready to rock back and dodge a blow. "Nate." His name is a whisper from her lips and she can feel a smile forming there. Her right hand reaches out of its own volition, lands on his chest right above his heart and she knows she's not imagining how she feels it quicken at her touch.
"Kensi." It's the first time he's said her name, the first time they've been face to face in months and forget the smile, she can feel herself full on grinning, like her teenage self at a New Kids concert. He mustn't notice that because he shakes his head. "I wanted to see you," he says, stepping towards her, one hand resting her hip, "So many nights..."
"Nate." Her voice is strong, firm and it surprises them both. "Shut up."
That's when she kisses him.
It's a little like the first time she ever kissed him, in the sense that she knows what - and who - she wants and he's taken by surprise.
It's completely unlike the first time she ever kissed him, in the sense that this time, he hesitates for a bare millisecond before he is kissing her back hungrily. His tongue sweeps into her mouth, his fingers tangle in her hair and he pulls her close to his body with a strength and a ferocity which is unusual but no means unwelcome. She meets his need with her own, her arms winding around his neck, body pressing against his as she pulls him into her apartment and the last thing she registers is to make sure that he kicks the door shut behind him because she really doesn't want to give her neighbours a show.
Also, it turns out she didn't really need to change the sheets - they don't make it to the bedroom.
She's not sure how much later it is when they return to their senses, sweaty, naked, tangled up in one another. She does know that she's still smiling, hasn't felt this good in a long time and if the smile on Nate's face is anything to go by, he's feeling the same.
"Yep," he says, reaching up and brushing a strand of hair back over her shoulder. "I should have come here weeks ago."
She smiles down at him, brushes her lips across his. "I'll forgive you," she teases, "But don't think we're even just yet." A shiver that's more to do with cold runs down her spine and she shifts against him, straightening up just enough so that she can lift up and reach the couch, find the throw that's there and pull it down over the two of them. Of course, that opens a whole new part of her body up for exploration and Nate's never been one to pass up an opportunity for that.
So it's another while before they are lying side by side, her head against his chest, their legs entwined together, the throw covering them. Nate is, once again, the first to speak, fingers tracing a path up and down Kensi's spine.
"I really did want to see you," he says. "There were so many times that I nearly did...I'd find myself driving by here 'accidentally', like I was hoping you'd see me..."
"I understand why you didn't," she tells him, and despite her feelings earlier in the day, she really does. "You're undercover, anything could have happened..."
"That's not it." The fact that he interrupts her is a surprise, the words that he does it with even more so. "I knew if I saw you..." He takes a deep breath, his right hand lifting up to touch her cheek, brow once more furrowed, eyes more serious than they have any right to be considering what they've just done. "I knew if I saw you, I'd never want to leave."
There's a suspicious lump in Kensi's throat and tears prickle at the back of her eyes. "And that I'd never want you to," she admits.
That makes him blink. "I never let myself hope for that," he says and she shakes her head, presses her body and lips to his and hopes that her touch will chase those doubts away.
"I don't think I even knew it until today," she whispers a moment later. "But seeing you on that screen...then in Ops...I've missed you so much." He looks immensely pleased at that and she shakes her head, continues with, "Even though I wanted to kill you for not telling me you were in town..." She mock-growls it and he concentrates on the mock and not the growl, the grin on his face making her smile back at him.
"I don't know how long I'll be here," he tells her. "How long it's going to take...then I could be sent anywhere. You need to know..."
"I know. And I don't care." Kensi presses her lips against his fiercely. "Wherever you end up, for however long you're here...you're here. That's all that matters."
Nate reaches up, his hand resting on her cheek for a long moment before it slides around and into her hair, pulling her close for a kiss. Just before their lips meet, he whispers one word.
In point of fact, the rest of the night outstrips good by some way, moves into pretty damn spectacular territory but Kensi doesn't tell him that.
She's pretty sure he already knows.
"What's this about, Hetty?"
Callen's voice is curious, concerned and with good reason, because he knows, just like Kensi knows, that Hetty wouldn't summon the entire team together unless it was urgent, and they know it's not to do with a case because they're at their desks, not in Ops. If he's noticed anything strange in the fact that Kensi was down here before all the rest of them, that she's got her back to them and is resolutely staring straight ahead, then he doesn't say anything about it, just waits for Hetty to cut to the chase which she does, mercifully quickly.
"Nate has been attacked in Sana'a."
Even though she knew the words were coming, even though she's had almost twenty minutes to assimilate the information, Kensi still feels like someone's punched her in the stomach. She closes her eyes against the images the words conjure up because when Hetty had told her, she'd asked for all the details and Hetty had given them to her. She's been fighting nausea ever since and she knows it's not going to get any better any time soon.
She should have known Sam would demand details, and she can picture Hetty nodding slowly, holding out her hands as if asking for patience. "We believe that his undercover activities were compromised. He was lured to a meeting where he was set upon and beaten, probably with the intention of finding out what he knew." Kensi has already heard these words; even so, her stomach turns, and Sam makes a noise in the back of his throat that tells her he wants to tear the men who did this limb from limb. "Luckily," Hetty continues, "One of our other agents in the area learned what had happened and was able to extract him... but not before he was also stabbed."
It's back to Callen again and Kensi's eyes are startled open when a gentle hand lands on her shoulder. Glancing around, she sees Deeks staring down at her, eyes dark with concern. He looks back to Hetty when she speaks, saying, "They managed to stabilise him there... he's currently en route to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany where the very best surgeons are waiting to operate on him." Kensi's fingers, already clenched into fists, tighten still further and Deek's fingers tighten on her shoulder accordingly. "Miss Blye and I are leaving for there within the hour."
Kensi can feel their eyes on her back and she straightens her shoulders, turns to face them. She knows she must look as bad as she feels, if not worse, from the reactions on their faces - Sam and Callen are trained agents, seasoned agents, and they can keep a straight face in the most extenuating of circumstances. When they see her today, though, Sam swallows hard while Callen's jaw drops ever so slightly. It's one of the hardest things she's had to do in quite a while but Kensi makes herself meet their eyes, stands up straight and tall. It's the first time that she's ever made any reference, however oblique, to the fact that her relationship with Nate is more than professional and she's not going to apologise for that, not going to be ashamed by it. Not now. Not today.
Sam and Callen look at one another, then back to Kensi. "Let us know if you need anything," is all Callen says and she sags with relief, but only on the inside.
"Anything," Sam echoes and she nods.
"Thanks," she manages to whisper. "I'm going to..." She points towards the locker room but doesn't wait for them to say anything before she's moving in that direction.
Once there, she goes to the sink, braces her hands against the cool porcelain and takes several deep breaths. When she looks into the mirror, she realises why Callen and Sam had been so taken aback at her appearance - her face is chalk white, eyes rimmed red with emotion that is barely being held back. Taking another deep breath, she splashes her face with water before going to her locker, grabbing the holdall she keeps there and stuffing some clothes inside it. Her hands are shaking, she notices, and she tries to stop them, but it only makes them shake more.
The ride to the air force base is silent, and it's only when the plane takes off that Hetty speaks. "You should try to get some sleep," she tells Kensi and Kensi shakes her head, grins with little humour.
"I don't think that's going to happen," she murmurs and she's surprised when Hetty reaches over, places her hand over Kensi's.
"Still, you should try," she says. "Nate needs you strong and whole."
Tears creep up Kensi's throat, threaten to choke her and she forces them back. Slowly, she lets out a deep breath. "Hetty, I know we should have told you... about us..."
Hetty waves her hand, her other tightening its grip on Kensi's hand. "Dear heart, now is not time to worry about that," she says. "Whatever relationship you and Mr Getz may have formed, whatever rules may or may not have been broken, all that pales into insignificance against what we're facing now." She squeezes Kensi's hand again. "All that matters is Nate."
This time, Kensi has to close her eyes against the tears and Hetty reaches over, pats her hand. "It's going to be ok, right?" Kensi asks, and when Hetty doesn't reply, she knows that things are more serious than she may have thought.
She does manage to get some sleep; how, she doesn't know, but she wakes up when the plane hits the tarmac. Either the sudden start to wakefulness or the memory of why they're in Germany has her heart beating double time. The drive to the medical centre seems to take forever and when they get there, Kensi is only too pleased to let Hetty do all the talking.
She greets the reception staff in flawless German, introducing herself as Nate's next of kin, demanding to see a doctor for an update on his condition. It's said with such authority that a doctor is duly found, an American, who tells them in English that Nate is out of surgery, that everything went well and, most importantly of all, that he is going to be fine. He'll be able to be transported back to America in a couple of days and Kensi can feel her knees ready to buckle with relief. Hetty looks up at her, a wide smile threatening to split her face wide open, fingers closing on her arm. "This is Mr Getz's partner," she says to the doctor and that's all she needs to say.
Kensi is shown to Nate's room and she hesitates for a moment before going inside, takes a deep breath, steels herself. When she walks in though, she realises that whatever she expected, however prepared she thought she was, she wasn't nearly prepared enough.
Nate lies on the bed, eyes closed, sleeping. His face is a mass of bruises, one eye blackened and swollen, a cut running from the middle of his forehead to the corner of his eye. His arms are likewise bruised, and she doesn't even want to think about what his torso must look like. She hears herself suck in a deep breath, has to grip onto the doorknob to keep herself upright. Tears sting her vision and with no-one to see them this time, she lets them fall unchecked. When she can feels like she can move again, she steps towards the bed on legs that are still more than a little rubbery and she's grateful when she sinks down onto the chair beside the bed. Pulling it over as close to the bed as she can, she reaches out, takes Nate's hand in both of hers, brings it to her lips. The skin feels warm, familar and that's good for another few tears.
"You need to wake up, Nate." Her voice is weak, fearful, even to her own ears and she hates herself for it. Then she realises that Nate would be telling her that she shouldn't be worrying about something like that right now and she smiles, despite herself. He'll get a kick out of that, she knows, when he wakes up and she tells him that, yes, he was right, he's in her head.
But she wants to tell him that he's in her heart too, and that's far more important.
"Hetty's here," she says, hoping that the older woman's name will penetrate but Nate's eyes remain closed. "And everyone else wants to be... she's calling home now, telling them how you are... but you need to wake up, Nate." She brings her hands up, lays the back of his hand against her cheek. "Please wake up."
She's not expecting some Hollywood Moment, and that's a good thing because Nate's eyes stay closed.
Kensi keeps holding his hand, talks to him about anything that she can think of but eventually the shock and the journey and the time difference creep up on her and she finds her eyes getting heavier, her head dropping down. Giving into the feeling she scoots the chair back enough that she can lay her head on the bed, close her eyes and drift off.
She doesn't know how much later it is but she wakes when she feels fingers moving over her hair. She sits up with a start, finds herself looking in Nate's open eyes and she blinks stupidly. "You're awake," is the first thing she says and she curses inwardly at how inane that sounds.
Except that Nate just smiles. "Where am I?" he whispers, voice cracked and hoarse and Kensi leans over, pours him a glass of water, helps him bring it to his lips.
"Germany," she tells him. "Landstuhl Medical Centre, to be exact." He nods, leans back against the pillow and closes his eyes. He's pale, with dark shadows under his eyes and Kensi reaches up, pushes his hair back. It's longer than she's used to it, curlier too, and when the edges of his lips turn up, memories of the last time she saw him look like that, the morning he left, she leaves her hand where it is, lets her fingers play. "Do you remember what happened?"
He wrinkles his nose. "Bits and pieces. Not a lot." He pauses, swallows. "I remember thinking I'd never see you again." He opens his eyes then and her own fill with tears. "I didn't like that bit."
Kensi makes a noise that's somewhere between a chuckle and a sob. "Yeah... I wasn't too keen on it either." Her free hand closes over one of his, squeezing his fingers. "When Hetty told me... all I could think about was how much time we wasted... how there were so many things I wanted to tell you, things we never got to do..."
Nate's hand tightens on hers. "I love you," he tells her quietly and this time, the noise she makes is most definitely a sob.
"I love you too," she says, leaning over and kissing him. When she pulls back, she swipes her eyes impatiently, is more gentle when reaching across to do the same to his. "You are not to ever scare me like that again," she orders and he smiles as he catches her hand in his. "Yes, Ma'am," he says and while that's normally a salutation reserved for Hetty Kensi's not going to quibble with it. Not now.
"They say you should be able to fly back home in a couple of days," she tells him. "Hetty was talking to the doctors, getting everything organised..."
Nate blinks and she suddenly realises he was asleep when she was talking earlier. "Hetty's here?"
Kensi's smile is genuine. "Can you think of anyone else you'd rather have asking questions?"
There's a moment's silence while Nate thinks about it. "When you put it like that..." he says and she grins.
"So," she continues after a moment, "I thought when we get back, you can stay with me... I mean, you'll need someone to help you and, who are we kidding, most of your stuff is there anyway..." Her voice trails off as she hears herself and she shakes her head. "And that has nothing to do with why I want you there."
His fingers tighten on hers. "Do I get an official drawer?" he asks with a glint in his eye that is only half teasing. "Part of the wardrobe?" When Kensi nods, his eyes swing all the way to serious. "And would this be a temporary arrangement... or..."
"I was thinking more of a permanent fixture," she says and she knows that she's just done a complete one-eighty from any conversation they've ever had, where she's only been too pleased to keep her independence, keep him at arm's length.
But that was then, and today's events have put things into perspective for her.
A genuine smile spreads across Nate's face. "Sounds good to me," he says and as she leans down for a kiss, Kensi can only agree.
IV - K Blye
By the time Kensi makes it back to her apartment, it's the early hours of the morning of what has been the longest day of her life and any adrenaline that might have been in her system keeping her going is long gone. She feels so tired that she can barely keep her eyes open and the phrase "bone weary" has never been so appropriate. Her bones literally ache with tiredness - then again, she reflects, the ache probably isn't down to just tiredness. By the time the taxi pulls up to the curb, she's seriously regretting not letting her mom tuck her into the bed in her spare room with the hot toddy she'd promised rather than the bottle of warm milk she was reminiscing about giving Kensi when she was younger. Paying the cabbie, which requires finding her wallet in her bag, pulling it out, opening it and counting out the correct amount of money is a Herculean task and rather than expend any extra energy, she gives him enough of a tip that he's grinning at her as he drives off. Turning, Kensi considers the walk from the curb to her door and lets out a barely suppressed groan, the short walk suddenly seeming longer than ever.
Then she hears someone saying her name and after everything she's been through today, the door suddenly seems that much further away.
She wheels around towards the sound of the voice, falling automatically into her fighting stance, legs planted firmly on the ground, hands raised in fists in front of her. Of course, she realises too late that she is in absolutely no shape to fight anyone and if she was made to, she'd undoubtedly lose, but she keeps the stance up, her only hope that whoever was approaching her doesn't - can't - know that.
Belatedly, she realises that the voice sounds familiar and when the figure belonging to the voice steps forward, when the light of the apartment building hits his face, Kensi has to blink. Hard. Because the person that she's seeing, while it might be the person that she really wants to see most in the world, it can't be him.
It just can't be.
Then he takes another step forward, and another, hands held out in front of him, palms up as if he's warding her off. "Kensi," he says again and this time she knows it's him. He's actually here. "Kensi, it's me."
The word sounds more like a sob which is probably going to embarrass her in the morning but right here, right now, Kensi doesn't care. Right now, she closes the gap between them in less time than she would have thought possible, flinging her arms around his neck and holding on tight. His arms wrap around her, hold her tightly against him as he lifts her feet off the ground. Burying her head into his shoulder,she takes a deep breath, inhaling his scent and she can feel his breath against her neck, sending delicious shivers up and down her spine. The last of the day's horrors slip away like mist in the morning and Kensi is almost able to smile.
"I can't believe you're here." Her voice sounds strange to her own ears and she's surprised to realise that she's crying. It's funny, she thinks, that before today she could count on the fingers of one hand the times she's cried in the last couple of years. Today, it feels like she's never stopped.
Nate's hands slide slowly down her back, his arms loosening their hold. He pulls back and even though he's got the whole trained psychologist poker face thing down pat, when he sees the tear tracks on her face, realises that she's been crying, he reaches one hand up to cup her face, frowning in concern. His thumb sweeps up and down her cheek, brushing the tears away, sending yet more shivers down her spine. "Kensi..."
It's all he gets out, all she lets him get out. Instead, she presses her lips to his and kisses him the way that she's dreamed about kissing him for most of the last year. For the briefest second, there's no response but only for a second and then his lips are moving against hers, hungry and demanding, both his hands now on her face, sliding down her neck to her shoulders, to her back. He pulls her close to him, or she pulls him to her, as close as they can get but not close enough and then they're kissing and moving all at once, shuffling blindly towards the front door.
It's only when they get there, when Kensi's back makes sudden contact - hard sudden contact - with the solid, unforgiving wood, at the same time that Nate's left hand reaches under her shirt and makes its way upwards, right towards the site where a bullet hit her earlier that day, that things take an unfortunate turn. A surge of pain has Kensi breaking the kiss with a yelp because even Hetty's super strong painkillers apparently have their limits. Her hand goes to her side, her breath coming in shallow gasps that may be only partly due to pain and Nate takes a step back, his hands on her shoulders pretty much being the only thing keeping her upright, if her position bent over at the waist can be called upright.
When she gets her breath back, she manages to straighten, again more or less, letting the door support her back, her head tilting back against the door, blinking back tears of a very different sort. Nate is staring at her, eyes narrowed and he's not looking at her face but at her hand and where it's resting. "I'm ok," she tells him and from the lift of his eyebrow, she knows he's thinking that he doesn't have to be a very good psychologist to know that she's lying. Slowly, carefully, he reaches out, lifts her shirt and blinks at the bruise that he sees there. Kensi can imagine all too easily what it must look like; it was bad enough earlier today when Deeks saw it, time and intense fighting can only have made it worse. His fingers move towards the mark, stopping short of touching it, something for which Kensi is very grateful.
She knows he must have a million questions but all he says is, "Let's get you inside."
Nodding, speech still a little beyond her, she finds the keys in her purse which has somehow managed to stay on her shoulder through all of this and he takes them from her, finding the one for the front door easily and sliding it into the lock. He turns the key and opens the door, lets her in ahead of him, stopping when she does.
The state of the room that confronts them makes Kensi groan again. Deeks had warned her that the place had been tossed by Clairmont's men, that Granger had been going through it as well but even that didn't prepare her for how bad things actually were. The thoughts of cleaning all that mess up makes her bones ache even more and she shakes her head, looking up at Nate in the hope that he'll have some words of wisdom. Instead, she finds him looking down at her, face blank. Slowly he looks from her to the room then back to her again, before finally saying, "OK... even for you, this is messy." Against all odds, a smile forms on her lips, the barest ghost of one flitting across his face. "So, you've got a bruise the size of Texas on your side, your apartment is..." His hand gestures. "...This. You want to tell me what's going on?"
She nods. "I would love that."
He closes the door behind him, goes over to the couch and pushes anything that might be on it onto the ground. "Sit," he says as he heads towards the kitchen. Kensi's glad he can't see her as she sits down carefully, gingerly arranging herself against the cushions. There's a familiar hissing sound from the kitchen and when he comes towards her, he's got a bottle of beer in each hand. "Well the good news is that they didn't drink your beer," he says. "And your bottle opener was lying on top of the contents of your cutlery drawer. Looks like you've lost a couple of plates though."
"I'll live," she tells him, accepting the beer gratefully, closing her eyes as she takes a long swallow. When she opens her eyes again, he's sitting at the opposite end of the couch with that Nate look on his face, that look that he gets when he has to debrief her after a mission, that look he gets when he wants her to talk to him, to open up to him.
So she does. For once without prompting, she tells him everything. She tells him about this morning and Granger in the boat shed, about getting shot, about Clairmont and her dad and how she's just come back from her mom's house, about how she's talked to her for the first time in half a lifetime, about the pictures she saw that told her her mom had never given up on her. About how Granger has been keeping an eye out for her all this time, about Hetty and her dad's diary and how it feels to finally have some answers, some closure. She doesn't leave anything out, and by the end she's crying again but this time it's the good kind.
Just like always, Nate doesn't say anything, just lets her talk and she finishes feeling ten pounds lighter. That's when he takes her by the hand, leads her through the mess of her life towards her bedroom. "Sleep," he says simply, helping her to lie down on the right side of the bed, lying down beside her and pressing his body against hers.
She's out in seconds.
Next thing she knows, the morning sun is streaming in through the blinds bright enough to hurt her eyes. Which is absolutely interesting because until she opened her eyes, they were about the only part of her that didn't hurt. She tries to stifle the moan that threatens to escape but isn't very successful, a fact that has the bed dipping beside her as Nate moves, eyes flying open as he props himself up on one elbow, staring down at her with eyes full of concern. If she weren't in such pain she'd be quite impressed at the speed at which he's able to sit up - he's obviously got some new skills since being away for so long. "I'm not even going to ask how you are," he tells her, a knowing half-smile on his face, one that she can feel echoing on her own lips as she closes her eyes. Her smile grows wider as he continues, "I'm going to go get you some painkillers and then I'm going to run you a bath...then after that, we're going to have breakfast."
She wrinkles her nose, opening her eyes to see his face, concerned and serious and so Nate that if she could move, she'd tackle him right here and now and prove to him how much she missed him. "I don't think there's much to eat," she begins and this time a chuckle accompanies the full smile that spreads across his face.
"Notice I didn't say I was going to cook," he points out, and she grins because he knows her way too well. "That diner down the block is still there, right?"
Settling back against the pillows, she closes her eyes. "Why is it you always know just what to say?"
The bedsprings squeak as he stands and she hears his footsteps pad across the room. "Just lucky, I guess," quietly makes its way back to her and it's all she can do not to tell him that she's the lucky one.
She promises herself that when she can move again, she'll show him just how lucky they both are.
V - Surprise
They're on their way back to Ops when it happens. One minute, Kensi is happily driving back to Ops - well, not happily driving, not when their morning turned out to be nothing but a wild goose chase, not when Deeks is yammering away nineteen to the dozen in her ear -the next? The next she's pulled the car over one to the side of the road with a screech of tyres and not a little blaring of horns from other drivers. In the very corner of her eye she can just about make out Deeks looking at her sharply, grabbing the dashboard with both hands. Somewhere over the roaring that's in her ears she can hear him saying, "Kensi, what the hell?"
But none of that matters because all she can really concentrate on is stopping the car and getting out before she's violently ill.
She's successful at doing that and she vaguely hopes that a couple of good lungs full of fresh air will make her feel better, chase the nausea away but it turns out she's merely clutching at straws there. The first breath she takes proves to be her undoing and the next thing she knows, she's leaning over, emptying the contents of her stomach onto the sidewalk. Her eyes smart with tears, either from the sickness or from embarrassment, she's not sure which, and she's definitely not in a position to think about it too deeply, not when her stomach muscles are contorting of their own accord, twisting and forcing up what feels like everything she's eaten in at least the last week. She stays doubled over until there is literally nothing left to come up, and even then it takes a long time before she is in any way able to even think about straightening up.
When she does, she looks around for Deeks, sees him standing beside the car, just beside the front headlights. It's a respectful distance, albeit one that ensures he saw every humiliating moment. He's staring at her, brows drawn together in a frown underneath a lined forehead; worry personified. She
gives him a wan smile, or at least tries to, to reassure him; if anything, it only makes him look even more worried. He takes a step towards her, holds out a bottle of water and simply says, "Here."
Kensi takes it from him, trying not to notice how her hand is shaking. The bottle is cold to the touch, the liquid a welcome balm to her parched throat and it's all she can do not to gulp it down. She doesn't need Deeks to tell her, "Slowly... you don't want..." and he stops when she side eyes him, evidently coming to the same conclusion.
When the bottle is half empty, she tries straightening up fully and miracle of miracles she even manages it. She takes a deep breath, then another, grateful when the water stays down. Turning to Deeks, she pushes some strands of loose hair out of her face, opens her mouth to speak but Deeks beats her to it. "Get in the car," he says, managing to make it sound like an order, yet gentle. "I'll drive."
She wants to argue but doesn't have it in her. Slowly, carefully, she gets into the passenger seat, leaning her head back against the headrest and closing her eyes. When she opens them again, the car has stopped and she looks out the window in some surprise. "This isn't Ops," she says, stating the obvious, but Deeks doesn't call her on it.
"I know," is all he says. "Come on."
Too worn out to do anything but as she's told - and she tells herself that when she feels stronger, if Deeks tries to tease her about this, she will absolutely kill him and make it look like an accident - she follows him, only speaking when he turns into a doorway. "Clancy's?" The green writing is ornate and slightly lurid and signifies only one thing. "You're taking me to a bar?"
Deeks gives her a look, one eyebrow raised. "A pub, actually," he says and when she looks less than enthused, he sighs. "Kens... just trust me, ok?"
With a sigh of her own, she follows him, saying nothing as he tosses the keys on a table, holds out a chair for her. He heads for the bar, gives the bartender there a smile, receives a bright one in return. The woman seems to know him, chats with him amiably and when Deeks returns to Kensi, he's holding two glasses of pale coloured liquid, a spoon sticking up out of one. "Two ginger ales," he says, placing the one with the spoon in front of Kensi. Reaching across the table, he stirs it vigorously, waiting for the bubbles to disappear. When they do, he taps the spoon against the rim of the glas with a jaunty grin, sliding the glass further over to Kensi. "You should drink it," he says when she hesitates. "It'll settle your stomach."
She's suspicious, but once again Kensi does as she's told and she's surprised to find out that it actually does work. After a few sips, the bartender comes over, places a sandwich in front of Deeks, a bowl of soup in front of Kensi. "Homemade vegetable soup," Deeks explains as the bartender moves away. "And it really is. Homemade, I mean. Sarah's got a kitchen out back, you wouldn't believe what that woman can do with a cut of meat and some vegetables..."
That's the cue for Deeks's train of thought to wander off if Kensi ever heard one but he stops talking, just motions to the bowl and Kensi takes the hint, dipping the spoon inside and raising it to her lips. Deeks wasn't exaggerating, she realises quickly; the soup really is that good and she cleans the bowl in record time. When she's finished, she leans back in her chair, takes another sip of ginger ale and gives Deeks a smile.
He smiles back, but his next words change everything.
"How far along are you?"
Her jaw drops and she considers denying it, but only for a minute. Because then he's talking again and his voice is soft and serious and there's a lump in her throat that has nothing to do with sickness. "I'm not going to make any jokes, or tell anyone, not if you don't want me to. But you're my partner, and I'm a detective... that's what I do; I detect. So... how far?"
Kensi studies the water patterns her glass is making on the table. "Eight weeks," she tells him softly. "Too early to tell anyone... besides, I only found out for sure a couple of days ago."
"Hence the couple of days sick leave," Deeks guesses and she nods.
"I just needed time to get used to it before..." She shakes her head. "I'm still not used to it. I don't know when I will be."
Deeks shrugs. "Well, you've got, what, another seven months? So hopefully before then." It's a bad joke, they both know it, but she still smiles a genuine smile. She's still smiling when he speaks again. "You tell Nate yet?"
She shakes her head. "I don't even know where he is. Hetty sends him everywhere and he sends me an email when he can but-" Then she stops, realising what he said and what she's said in return and just what it means. Of course, the fact that he's grinning like a lunatic helps her realise it. Despite herself, she chuckles. "How did you know?"
"I'm a detective," he says again. "I detect." She glares at him and he actually laughs, properly laughs. "Kens, the last time you saw him after you hadn't seen him in months, you ran to him and jumped into his arms, in full view of everyone in Ops...God, man, Hetty..." The memory makes her cheeks flame scarlet. "Let's just say it gave me a clue."
Kensi shakes her head. "It's crazy," she tells him. "We only started last summer. I talked to him a lot after Dom died, and after Macy... we talked to each other."
"And one thing..."
"Lead to another. Then Hetty sent him off and it's been emails and postcards and a meetup when we can both manage it... after that thing with Sam in Yemen, he had some time... we met in Dubai..."
She stops when Deeks holds up a hand. "I'm getting the feeling that we're getting dangerously close to too much information," he tells her, but he's grinning and she's able to smile. "And that was approximately eight weeks ago."
Kensi nods. "And I know... I mean, I know I have to tell him. But I don't know what he's going to say, and I mean, to find him I have to come clean to Hetty and it's Hetty, you know? My head is spinning..."
She stops when Deeks leans across the table, closes one of his hands over hers. "He's going to be happy," he tells her. There's a significant pause and then he adds, "And if he hurts you... you know you can call me at 3a.m. and I'll be right over with a shovel, right?"
He's so sincere, yet so Deeks, that tears come to Kensi's eyes even as she's laughing. "Thanks, Deeks," she whispers, and he grins, patting her hand.
"Any time." He glances at his watch. "Speaking of which..."
Kensi nods. "Let's go."
The ride back to Ops is silent, as Kensi tries to figure out a way of breaking the news to Hetty. When she walks into Ops, she realises that she needn't have bothered. Because standing there, surrounded by Nell and Eric and Sam and Callen, is Nate.
"Nate," she hears herself say, and when he looks at her, when his eyes meet hers, it's literally like the world stands still. She wants to throw herself into his arms like she did the last time but shock renders her immobile and it takes Deeks bumping her shoulder with his to bring her back to reality.
"Good to see you, Nate," she hears him saying as Nate's eyes narrow almost imperceptibly at her, Nate-speak for "I know something's up with you, what is it?" Deeks is in full flight though and for once she's grateful. "What brings you back to sunny L.A?"
Nate shrugs his shoulders, looks around him with a bemused grin. "I don't actually know," he admits. "Hetty called me a couple of days ago, ordered me back here, something about a job for me..."
"Indeed I did, Mister Getz." Hetty's voice makes them all jump. "A very important job," she continues, index finger extended to the air. "Some might say the most important job you'll ever do." She pauses, glances over at Kensi. "But I believe I'll let Miss Blye fill you in."
Nate and everyone else is wearing identical expressions of confusion, and Kensi doesn't need Deeks's whispered singsong of "Bus-ted!" to know that Hetty's legendary, almost psychic, powers have once again kicked in. Shooting Deeks a glare the effect of which is muted by a grin, she motions to Nate.
She turns on her heel and heads for the exit, ignoring the questioning looks on everyone's faces, ignoring the way that Eric's mouth opens as if to ask a question. She's confident that Nate will follow her and sure enough his long legs close the distance between them in no time at all. "Kensi..." he begins when they reach her car and she stops him with a shake of her head.
He climbs into the car beside her and she drives without talking, without thinking and when she stops, she smiles because her subconscious had led her head, to the place where she and Nate had had their first kiss. It's a small beach, deserted now, though when things had changed irrevocably for them, it had been crowded with people and there had been a hot dog vendor in the car park that sold the best hot dogs that Kensi had ever tasted. She gets out of the car and he follows her, falling into step beside her and taking her hand. She squeezes his fingers as they walk, presses her body close to his and he breaks his grip on her hand to slide his arm around her shoulders instead, pull her close and press a kiss to the top of her head.
"I've missed you." The words are so quiet she could almost miss them. She looks up at him, sees love and doubt warring in his eyes. "So... you going to tell me why Hetty flew me halfway around the world?"
Kensi keeps looking up at him, take a deep breath and lets it out slowly before she speaks.
"I'm pregnant, Nate."
His eyes widen, his mouth opens but no sound comes out and Kensi finds herself filling in the silence.
"It's yours... I mean, of course it's yours, I don't know why I even said that... and I don't know... I mean, I don't know what you want to do, or if you want to do anything or..."
She stops talking when he kisses her, kisses her like she's dreamed about him kissing her, as if she's the only thing in the world, as if they are the only thing in the world. His lips move against hers as he pulls her closer to him, wrapping her arms around her waist and she winds her arms around his neck as he literally lifts her off her feet and spins her around, his lips never leaving hers. When her feet find the ground again, when their lips part, she is dizzy and doesn't know if it's from the kiss or the spinning but either way it provides a convenient excuse to lean against him, rest her head on his shoulder.
When he puts some distance between them, still with his arms around her waist, he is smiling broadly, looking down at her as if she's the greatest thing he's ever seen in his life. "Really?" The one word is laced with wonder, amazement and it's enough to make laughter bubble up in her throat.
"Yes, Nate," she says, looking down as his hands slide around to her still flat stomach. "Yes."
Shaking his head, he lets out a shaky breath. "OK... OK... so, we should probably talk about this."
Nodding, they find their way to a bench, sit down facing one another, her hands wrapped in both of his. "OK," he says carefully. "First thing... I'm happy. I'm really happy."
"But..." The word hangs heavy between them. "I know it might not be that simple. This... it affects you more than me. Your job. Your life. Your body. And I just want you to know... I'm there for you. No matter what you decide you might want to do."
Tears prick the back of her eyes, rise up her throat. It's everything she could have wished that he'd say to her and even though a few hours ago she would have said that she didn't know what she wanted, sitting her like this, with him, it makes all the difference in the world.
"I want this, Nate," she tells him quietly but firmly. "I want you... this... us." He opens his mouth and she knows what he's going to say, answers the question before he can even ask it. "And yes. I'm sure." Leaning forward, she presses her lips to his, kisses him deeply. When she pulls away, there are stars in his eyes and a smile on her face. "Come on," she says. "Let's go home."