Kensi watched as her partner stared off into space. She wondered what was bothering him but decided not to press. She sat at her desk and tried to work on a report Hetty was waiting for but she found it hard to concentrate. Her partner was sitting at his desk turned toward the windows, fiddling with a pen and was obviously ‘zoned out’. She searched her brain for something that could have triggered this unusually quiet and contemplative version of her partner but she couldn’t think of anything that might have brought on this peculiar behavior.
Her curiosity finally got the best of her. “Hey Deeks. What’s up?”
He turned back to her and smiled but it wasn’t his usual carefree grin.
“Nothing. Just thinking.”
“About what?” she asked tentatively.
“Nothing important. Don’t let me keep you from finishing your exciting report,” he mocked.
She snorted and replied, “You’ll be in just as much trouble as I am if we don’t get these finished before we leave.”
“Wrong again, Princess. I’m done,” he smirked as he closed the file and began gathering his things. Sam and Callen had finished theirs and left an hour earlier.
“What? No way!” she sputtered.
He ceremoniously placed the folder in his out box then put on his jacket. “Have fun. I’m going surfing.”
“You… I mean… why are…” she stuttered then sighed loudly. “Fine. Just leave me here to suffer Hetty’s wrath alone,” she said dramatically.
He laughed and winked, “Better you than me. Night Kens,” he said as he walked out.
She just stared after him. Something was definitely bothering him. He almost always waited for her to finish up and usually suggested they go for a burger or pick up take out on the way to either his place or hers. She glanced back at Hetty’s desk to see her talking quietly to someone on the phone. She turned back to the report with a renewed determination to finish up then go find out what was wrong with her partner.
He drove to his favorite surfing spot and was a bit disappointed to see the small waves. While they were obviously ‘surfable’ he was in need of something a bit more challenging. He stuck his board in the sand then sat down to watch the beginners struggling to learn.
Their work day had been uneventful but for some reason he had felt the need to be alone. He knew Kensi was probably worried about him but his recent revelation needed further examination. His thoughts drifted to the topic that had intrigued him earlier in the day.
The report he had been working on made him wonder what would happen if Hetty had actually resigned. Yes, they had worked without her for a short time last year but they knew she was coming back which made it somewhat bearable. What would they actually do without her? How could the team function at their current level of success without her contacts and the endless number of people who owed her favors? How could they function at all?
He smiled as countless memories flashed across his mind. He had learned so much from her in the two and a half years he had been their liaison. He was quite sure he wasn’t the same person he had been before he met Hetty.
He had learned to take more precautions with his life and his safety not to mention the safety of the team. Unfortunately he had learned the hard way what happens when you unintentionally lead a bad guy to the rest of the team. He shivered when he thought about how close Kensi had come to being taken or killed.
Hetty always seemed to know what was going on with each of them. How she did it he wasn’t exactly sure but he had learned how important it was to keep an eye on his teammates, especially his partner. He knew where Kensi was most of the time but he would never tell her that. She would probably permanently maim him if she knew. He couldn’t help but smile at the thought.
One of the most important things he had learned from Hetty was how to work with a team. He was used to working alone and hadn’t really needed anyone else. He had to admit it was nice knowing someone had your back on assignments and yes, even in everyday life. How he had managed to become part of such an elite team, he had no idea but he had Hetty to thank for it.
Loyalty was another thing he had experienced. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for one another. He had never really had that before. Not as a child, obviously. Not as a lawyer and certainly not as an LAPD officer. He had been a loner and had managed to wander through life that way. Of course he’d had Ray as a friend as a teenager but admittedly it wasn’t an ideal friendship. Ray had been a negative influence during that time but when you grow up the way he had, any friend was a welcomed friend even if they were bad for you. They had managed to turn it around in recent years but Ray was no longer in his life since he was now in witness protection. Best friends are hard to find. He smiled again when he thought about who he considered to be his best friend at this point in time. Without a doubt it would have to be his partner.
She knew more about him than anyone on the planet. With the exception of Hetty, of course. He was sure she knew everything. He hadn’t told Kensi much about his past. Some things were just too painful to talk about. He also didn’t want her to look at him differently so he kept a lot of his nightmares to himself which was something else he had learned from Hetty. She was the master of keeping her own secrets but she also knew when it was time to inform them of important things.
Well, most of the time. He had also learned how to deal with ‘lone wolf’ behavior because of her. When she had run off to Romania, he had seen firsthand how much they all respected and cared about her. He didn’t think twice about going with them to find her. They were a team and Hetty was in trouble. Again, the concept of loyalty made him proud to be a part of their incredible team.
When Kensi had run off to find her father’s killer, he had known what he had to do. She was his best friend and she had needed him whether she knew it or not. It’s what friends and partners do. He felt a twinge of something in his chest when the thought flashed across his mind that there might be something more between them. He shook his head and pushed it to the back of the ever growing jumble of thoughts. He couldn’t think about that. Not now. It was dangerous and… well, it was just dangerous territory.
He watched as a couple held hands and walked along the water’s edge. The sun was beginning to slowly dip toward the horizon and he couldn’t help but wish he wasn’t sitting here enjoying the evening alone. The twinge in his chest again presented itself when he subconsciously wished his partner was sitting next to him. This time he didn’t push the thought away. He trusted her with his life but could he trust her with his heart? He had trusted a precious few with his heart and most of them had let him down in some way or another. Yes, he trusted Kensi to have his back and to be a loyal friend but he knew deep down that she was also the only one who could truly hurt him. Not physically but emotionally. He wasn’t ready to take that chance. He wasn’t sure if he would ever be ready to open himself up to that possibility.
Some wounds never heal and he was all too aware of that fact.
Hetty had made sure he was there for Kensi when she needed help. He assumed she had done the same for him. For someone who rarely trusted another human being, it was strange to realize that there were now several people he trusted with his life. He had Hetty to thank for that too.
He watched as the couple moved further away. He had been sitting for over an hour and the sunset was just beginning to splash the sky with beautiful colors. He loved this time of day. The sounds of the gulls, the waves and the salty ocean breeze could always calm his soul. As he watched a group of children building sand castles, he became suddenly aware of another presence nearby.
He didn’t turn around to look. He just smiled and said, “Finally get that report finished Fern?”
Kensi walked up and sat down cautiously next to him. “How did you know it was me? I could have been a serial killer or worse, an old girlfriend,” she said with a smirk.
He laughed and turned toward her with a shrug, “I don’t know. I just knew it was you. Besides, if it had been an old girlfriend, she would have probably done the same thing as the serial killer.”
Kensi grinned and pointed at his board, “I thought you were surfing.”
“Too flat for me today. I was just enjoying the sunset. What are you doing here?”
“Looking for my partner. You know, the one who was shockingly quiet this afternoon.”
He turned back to look at the sunset but didn’t answer immediately. After a couple of minutes of comfortable silence he finally asked, “Would you say you had spent more time building relationships during your lifetime or burning bridges?”
“Oh no. You’re getting all philosophical on me again,” she teased. “Why do you ask?”
“Just humor me. Which is it?” he said watching her.
“Definitely burning bridges. You know how I treated my mother when I was a kid. That pretty much sums it up I think,” she said sadly.
“But now you have the opportunity to fix that. You have a second chance. Not many get that opportunity, Kens.”
“I know. And we’re doing pretty well, I guess.”
“I’m really glad,” he said then paused for a minute as he looked at his feet. “I’ve definitely been a bridge burner. I’m sure you knew that.”
She frowned and looked at him, “Maybe when it comes to all those ex girlfriends but I honestly can’t understand why you have such a hard time with people from LAPD. You’re very good at your job, you’re professional when you deal with witnesses and suspects and you get along with all of us just fine.”
He looked up surprised and stared at her.
“What?” she asked.
“You think I’m professional?”
“When it comes to dealing with witnesses and suspects,” she clarified smiling.
He grinned briefly then looked back toward the ocean and replied, “My temper used to get the best of me, I guess. I should really make more of an effort to rebuild some of those bridges but I always manage to rub people the wrong way.”
“I think we’ve all done that from time to time.”
“You ever wonder how Hetty managed to cultivate all those contacts over the years? Especially since she has so many aliases?”
She pondered it for a minute and replied, “Well, just think about it. How hard is it to get angry at a four foot, nine inch tall woman? She’s deadly but no one would ever suspect it. And she’s very diplomatic.”
“I guess you’re right. I never really thought about it. But just so you know, I’ve been scared of her since the moment she stepped in that bar and offered me the liaison position,” he said as he turned to her and grinned. “Seriously, I don’t want to be a disappointment to her. I find myself taking pride in my work, my reports. I’ve taken all those extra courses she’s suggested to please her. I guess you could say she’s made me a better cop. I know for a fact I’m not the same man I was when I first met you guys.”
Kensi smiled and nodded. “I know what you mean. She’s like a parent to most of us.”
“She’s listed as my next of kin,” he said quietly.
“She’s your family,” Kensi replied.
He smiled again and reached up to brush her hair away from her face, “You’re my family too, Kens. You all are. Hetty has managed to show me what family really means. Blood doesn’t matter. It’s the relationships that matter.”
He turned back to watch as the sun finally slipped below the horizon. He reached over and took her hand in his but said nothing. He felt her shudder slightly and realized how much the temperature had dropped. “It’s getting chili out here. Why don’t we grab a pizza and go back to my place. Monty misses you.”
“I miss the little mutt too. I’m also starving since I skipped dinner to look for my wayward partner.”
He stood and pulled her up with him. He grabbed his board and headed toward the parking lot never letting go of her hand. “We better hurry then. We must feed the Kensi monster before it’s too late!”
Kensi laughed and turned to look at the smile on his face. She realized, not for the first time, just how much that smile meant to her.
Hetty arrived at her usual time before dawn at the mission to find a package on her desk. She looked around but saw no one. She sat in her chair and carefully removed the brown paper from the box. Inside was a tiny, petite bonsai tree in a small porcelain container. She marveled at the craftsmanship used to trim the delicate plant. She noticed a card taped to the box and she slowly removed it.
She considered herself to be a hard woman. It took a lot to rile her and even more to touch her emotionally which was why she was surprised to feel a tear slipping down her cheek as she read the note.
I could say it a thousand times but it will never be enough. I can honestly say the last two and a half years have been the best of my life and I owe it all to you. You have taught me more than I can possibly mention here but I have included my ‘top ten’ list of things I could never thank you enough for teaching me. Most of all I want to thank you for taking a chance on this broken cop and for believing in me when I couldn’t.
Ten Important Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Hetty Lange
Safety comes first for myself and my teammates
It is important to keep tabs on your team, especially your partner
Working together as a team is much better than working alone
Be loyal to your friends and teammates
Keeping your past from interfering with the present is preferred
Going ‘lone wolf’ is unacceptable, except when it is
Earning the trust of your teammates is paramount to all else
It is important to cultivate relationships rather than burning bridges
Taking pride in the job you do makes you a better person
Family is everything
Thanks for giving me a family!