Kensi doesn't scream when she wakes in the middle of the night, doesn't cry either. Sometimes, Nate thinks it might be easier if she did. Because when he wakes beside her, reaches out to snap on the bedside light, the face that she turns on him, the empty look in her eyes, cuts worse than any tears ever could. He says nothing, does nothing, just waits patiently for her to blink, for some small part of her to come back to reality.
When she does, it reminds him of a puppet whose strings have been cut and she leans into him. He wraps an arm around her, pulls her close against his chest and presses a kiss to the top of her head. "It's ok," he whispers, even though it's not. "You're safe now... I've got you."
A shivers runs down her spine and one of her hands reaches out and makes a fist in the material of his t-shirt. "I hate this." She grinds out the words and he doesn't need to look down at her to know that her jaw is clenched. "I just want it to stop."
"It will." He doesn't say anything else for fear of sounding too shrink-y. "You just need to give it time."
Kensi snickers; he decides to take that as a good sign. "I never was very patient," she says and it's his turn to smile then.
"I remember." Her hand loosens its grip on his t-shirt as she swats at his chest and he catches it mid-air, brings it to his lips. She looks up then and her eyes, dark and serious, meet his.
"When I was there," she tells him, a shudder racking her body on the final word, "memories of you... of us... were the only thing that kept me sane. Now I'm here, with you, and all I can remember is being there." She laughs but there's no humour in it anymore. "I feel like I'm going crazy."
"You're not." It's his best shrink voice and he doesn't care. "You're processing what happened over there. And it's hard, and it feels like it's not getting any easier right now... but it will. " He takes both her hands in his then, squeezes hard. "And I'm here... every step of the way." He rests his forehead against hers. "No matter what."
There are tears in her eyes that she's trying so hard to keep back and, not for the first time, he feels a stab of anger towards Hetty for her part in what happened to Kensi in Afghanistan. "Promise?"
"I promise." It's easy to say it and mean it, and the pair of resignation letters sitting on the kitchen table back that up. They might have spent most of the last couple of years apart while he was on various task forces all over the globe, but he's had enough of that, enough of the secrecy and the lies and chasing ghosts, white and otherwise. It took almost losing Kensi to make him realise that and he'd promised, somewhere in the Afghan desert that if - when - he got her back, he would never let her go again.
And if nothing else, Nate is a man of his word.