Summary: It’s our way of saying goodbye.
Word Count: 6733
Nobody ever talks about it, but it’s something we all do – just in case. Because we run these stupid risks and we never quite know how long our luck is going to last, so we write things down, just in case. And then we seal the envelope, and write “to be opened in the event of my death” across the front and then we pray that day isn’t going to come any time soon. Of course, for some of us, death came too damned soon, and the contents of their letters have already been read out to the chosen few. The rest of us, well, I guess we hope our words will never be read, that we can retire and go and sit in the sun and remember the good old days, sweetened by the passing time. But, just in case, just to make sure we’ve said everything that needs to be said, we write our letters. It’s our way of saying goodbye.
TO MY TEAM:
TO BE OPENED ONLY IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH
I hope that when this is read aloud, at least one of you is sitting saying “God, she was a tough old bird,” and if it isn’t you, Mr. Deeks, I will be sadly disappointed. As you know, I have always prided myself on being an astute judge of character, so if I am wrong at this juncture, please have the common decency to say those words now, and the rest of the team can then castigate you for your poor timing.
So, now that you are all sitting comfortably, I have a few last words for you. First of all, do not be sad. I’m going to repeat that, to make sure you don’t forget it: do not be sad. I had a bloody great life and it was very sweet. It was also very long, and I’ve begun to get more than a little weary of all the lies and the duplicity; hence my decision to leave in order to address some outstanding issues. If I do not return, then know that I died as I have lived –- doing what I wanted. Believe me, I have only resigned from NCIS because I felt there was no other option. I was under no pressure, and the decision was mine and mine alone to take. So please, have no thoughts of avenging my death. Be quite sure that is the last thing I want. But you may tell Director Vance that, like the donkey in GK Chesterton’s poem, “I keep my secrets still.” And they are my secrets, so bury them with me and let them be forgotten.
So, this is goodbye. And I find it difficult to write these words, knowing that I may not see you again. I’ve known many agents over the years, but you were my team, and therefore you will always be special to me. You were my agents, and I respected you, but more than that, I cherished you all. I only hope that you already knew that. In a world where superlatives are sadly overused, please know that for me, you were quite simply the best. For your skills and your dedication to duty, for your hard work, but most of all, for your friendship and your loyalty, you have my utmost admiration.
Thank you for everything, and if you should remember me, I hope you do so with laughter and smiles, because believe me, life is too short for regrets. So go out and raise a glass to me, raise it high and remember –- I regret nothing.
With my deepest affection and admiration
TO G CALLEN
TO BE OPENED IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH
Hey bro. Well, I did it. I got there first. And don’t be mad at me, because this is one competition you didn’t want to win, believe me on that one. Still, I bet you’re mad. You always were a sore loser.
God, this is difficult to write. I’ve got to ask you this favor, and it’s a big one. So make sure you’re sitting down, okay? I need you to look out for my kid. Make sure he’s okay, you know? His Mom, well, she’s a good woman, even if she wasn’t the right woman for me, but a boy needs a man in his life, so I’m asking you to be that man. You’re going to hate me for this, but that’s okay. You meet my boy and you’re going to love him, I promise you that. And then you’re going to love him for me. Got that, G? You’re going to love him because I’m not here to do it myself. Don’t feel like you have to take him to baseball games (although that would be good, ditto basketball and football -– ask Deeks; I’m sure he can score some tickets from somewhere) but do talk to him. Please. Make sure he knows that he can come to you if he needs to talk. Maybe you tell him about me, if he asks. Scratch that. Tell him about me. Tell him how great I was, the biggest badass agent there ever was. Lie if you have to. Actually, lie anyway. But make sure he knows how much I loved him -– how much I will always love him.
As partners go, you weren’t too bad, I suppose, even if I did have to keep hauling your ass out of trouble. We had some good times and I’m sorry I screwed things up and left you. So look after yourself and maybe think about trying to lead some sort of normal life, will you? Buying some furniture for that damn house of yours would be a good start. Right now, it looks like somewhere a serial killer or a pornographer would live, and that ain’t a good look, believe me. Maybe if you try to pretend you’re normal, you might actually find a woman who wants to stay this time around. And before you ask who I am to be giving you relationship advice, just remember I’m dead and have some respect, okay? Besides, you know I’m right. I always am.
Here’s to the good times, Callen – and there were a lot. Don’t be too hard on your next partner, just because he (or she) isn’t me. By the way, I lied before. You were the best damned partner a man could have. We had a blast, and I’m sorry it had to end like this.
Give my kid a big hug and tell him his Daddy loves him.
PS: You want to beat some sense into Kensi and Deeks? Those longing looks are getting a little old. Just tell them to get on with it already. God, I wish I could see the looks on their faces when you say that.
DO NOT OPEN UNTIL AFTER MY DEATH
Are you wondering why I didn’t address this to any of you specifically? I hope so. I want to be that “international man of mystery” right up to the end. But there’s another reason, and this one is serious: you all stood by me and went right up to the line and then you crossed right over it and never looked back. I know you did that because you thought it was the right thing to do, but I also know you did it for me. And I’m getting choked up just thinking about that. I never deserved a team like you. Do you know how humble you made me feel? And how proud I was of you all? If one of us has to die, and I’ve got this bad feeling that is how things are going to work out -– if not in Prague, then somewhere else -– then I’m glad it is me. It seems like it would square the circle, make some sense out of this whole stupid mess. So anyway, this is for all you –- for my team. I want you all to hear what I have to say.
Sam: I want you to take over. You should have had your own team a long time ago and I’m guessing you’ve been offered one many times. If I’m right in that, you stayed because of me. And that makes me feel terrible. I should have realized, knocked some sense into the shiny head of yours. So take this team and make it even better. Take it with my blessing. And Hetty, I’m counting on you to make he does that.
Kensi: you’re Wonder Woman, do you know that? You’re as good as any guy I’ve ever worked with, only you look a hell of a lot better in a dress and high heels. Look after the guys for me, will you? And let them comfort you, because that will help everyone. Men don’t cry, you see –- but they can comfort a woman. So let them do that, okay? And when you kiss Deeks, slip him the tongue. You know you want to. We all know that. Except maybe Deeks.
Marty: swallow that damned pride of yours, sign the papers and join NCIS. You’re wasted in LAPD; you know it, I know it -– the whole of NCIS knows it. The only thing holding you back is yourself. And then take Kensi out. We’re all fed up waiting and you know she’s probably not going to make the first move. And then tell Sam he owes me $50, because he always reckoned Kensi would cave in first. And be happy, okay? You deserve it.
Hetty: I’d like to be flippant and say “So long, and thanks for all the fish”, but somehow, I just can’t. Thank you for everything –- and I mean that. There are secrets coming at me left, right and center and I can’t make sense of it all yet, but I know that you have always acted in my best interests, even if I didn’t always appreciate it. You’re an amazing lady and I love you.
Guys – it’s been a blast. Don’t mess up now, alright?
PS: For the love of God, please find out what my first name is. How stupid will my gravestone look with just an initial and a surname? And do not let Hetty choose what I’m going to wear in my coffin. I’m begging you. There’s no way I’m going up to the Pearly Gates in a shiny suit and a paisley patterned shirt.
TO DETECTIVE MARTY DEEKS
ONLY TO BE OPENED AFTER MY DEATH
If you’re reading this, then it’s because I’m dead and I want to make sure that you’re okay about that. I don’t want you going into one of your moods and pouting for days, because things happen. Sometimes they happen for a reason, and sometimes they just happen. And no quips about my handwriting either. I know this letter is all over the place, but that’s because I’m a mess just thinking about everything. Hetty has resigned and I’ve got this really bad feeling about everything. If I’m wrong and we get back in one piece, then the first thing I’m doing is tearing this letter up. So don’t flatter yourself that this means anything, because it doesn’t.
I want to make it clear that I’m not in love with you. I never have been and I never will be. For starters, I’m not looking for a relationship, and even if I was, you’re not my type. I like men who are tall and strong, who make me feel like the sun shines out when they smile. I want someone who is going to be there for me, come what may, someone I can trust, who makes me laugh and who never lets me get too big for my boots. Someone who comes round with take-out food when I’m down and watches crappy TV with me. And you’re not that man. You never were and you never will be. My heart has never turned over simply because you walk in through a door. And you’re not the sort of guy who would ever risk his life for mine. You’re just so not my type. I was never in love with you, not for one single second. But you knew that, didn’t you?
Take care of yourself, Marty. I’m only saying this because we were partners and I feel responsible for you. It’s not like I feel anything for you. I just want to make sure you stay alive. So listen to Callen and Sam, will you? They’ve actually got some pretty useful things to say. And stop thinking you’re invincible, some old-fashioned hero, because that’s not you at all. You’re just the guy from LAPD we got landed on us. Nobody asked us how we felt about things. I never asked for you to be my partner, I never had any choice in the matter.
Are you mad at me now? Mad enough to want to keep on living? I hope so. Because you’re a special guy, Marty. Maybe you might have been the guy for me, if only we’d had a bit more time. I don’t love you, because I don’t do love. Love hurts, you see. But right now, I’m aching all over and wondering why I didn’t just take the risk. It could have been amazing, Marty. We could have been amazing. If only I’d been braver, who knows what might have happened? But it’s too late now, so go on, keep going forward.
PS: I love you. Always have, always will. But you knew that, didn’t you?
PPS: Did I ever tell you how great your hair is? It’s really, seriously great. So don’t listen to Callen and Sam if they rag you about it, because they’re just jealous. And how about the fact I love the way your hands look in the black latex gloves? Did you know that? And then there’s your butt. I always like walking behind you so I can see your butt. Oh Marty, I could go on writing a list that goes on for pages about all the things I love about you. I’m definitely tearing this letter up when I get back. I don’t even know why I’m still writing. I guess it’s just in case – so you’ll know you were loved.
PPPS: (or is that PPSS? Who cares, right?) Did I tell you that I love you?
TO KENSI MARIE BLYE
TO BE OPENED IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH
Well, it’s over. Everything has to end, I suppose. Will it surprise you to know that I’ve put all my affairs in order and I’ve even written a will? I wouldn’t want all those years in law school and all that money to go to waste, after all. And I’d put off sorting things out for a long time, but it was finally time to put things straight, just to make sure everything is sorted. So Kensi, here’s my first and last letter to you. I wish I was writing it for any other reason other than to say goodbye, but things are seriously messed up around here right now and I’ve got the feeling we’re all about to do something so stupid that there’s a good chance one of us won’t come back. And knowing my luck, and the fact I’m just a cop, not some NCIS super-hero, there’s a good chance it’s going to be me. So, just in case I don’t get the chance to tell you in person, I’m going to write it all down.
It’s late and I’m sitting here, remembering how you looked today and thinking that as you read this, you will already know that I am dead. And there are things I want to say, things I never quite got around to telling you. So here goes nothing. I want you to know this one thing — I love you. I want you to know that more than anything else. I wonder if you ever guessed how I felt? You don’t have to pretend that you love me back, although that would be great, because it doesn’t matter now anyway. But I do love you, even if I never said it. I’ve burned all my bridges now, but I don’t care because it was important that I got this one chance to tell you.
Kensi, if I did mean something to you — and I hope I did — remember me, but don’t grieve. I don’t want you to suffer when you hear I’m dead. Don’t forget me, but don’t forget to keep on living. Live your life and be happy, because you deserve to be happy. Working with you was great. I know I used to really bug you at times, but I hope you can remember the good times as well. But you -– God, you were great, Kensi. I just wish I’d said that to you as well. You were a seriously great partner. I wish I’d been brave enough to see if we could have been great together in other ways too.
When I came round in the hospital after the shooting and I saw you were waiting there, that’s when I knew how I felt. I saw that look in your eyes, like you’d been worried or something and when you bent over the bed, I could see myself reflected in your eyes and I wanted things to stay like that forever. It just seemed so right and this is all so wrong, but it might be the only chance I have to say these things. You’re in my head, Kensi and you just won’t go away. You’re in my heart and my soul. And now, all I have to do is close my eyes and I can see you again. I’m sitting here with my eyes shut and you are right here with me. And whatever happens, I’m okay with that.
Tell Ray it all worked out fine. Thank you for all the good times. And don’t feel bad, because you made me very happy, even if you never knew it.
All my love
Epilogue: Ten Years Later
“It’s been too long.” Kensi sighed with satisfaction as she looked across the table at them. “The old team -– back together again. I’d like to say you haven’t changed but…”
“We couldn’t both be bald. It’s against NCIS regulations.” Callen looked across at Sam’s corn-rows and smiled. “He dyes his, though.”
“All these years and you’re still not funny.” Sam stretched his legs out and surveyed the beach. “I’ve missed this.”
“You shouldn’t have moved to Washington then should you?” Callen had never quite got over that decision. He missed Sam more than he would ever let on.
Trying to act nonchalant, Sam shrugged. “It was too good an offer to turn down.” But despite the extra money and the chance to be a team leader, Sam sometimes wondered if he’d made the right decision. Moving across to the east coast meant not just leaving his old team, but also his kid. Sure, there were things like Skype and they met up as often as possible, but it wasn’t the same as living in the same city. Still, it had been the right decision to move and at the right time, because nothing was ever the same after Prague. Everything had changed after that.
“How’s life in the hot seat treating you?” Kensi looked across at the familiar Santa Monica sights and realized how much she had missed this –- and how much she had missed them.
“It’s given me a new admiration for Hetty, I can tell you that.” On their return, Callen had taken over as operations manager, being made permanent in the post a year later. One of the biggest difficulties he’d faced was the realization that he had to wear a suit and tie every day. “I sometimes miss being out in the field, but there are benefits. Like having a life outside NCIS.” He reached down and pulled a folder out of his briefcase. “I was going through some old files and I found these. Remember?”
Kensi stretched out a hand and opened the folder, seeing the small stack of letters inside, each one carefully addressed in the individual writer’s distinctive handwriting. “Why are they still here?” They should have been handed back when they returned, not left lying in some file where anyone could see them.
“Someone messed up, I guess. You want to read them?” He’d been dying to do this since the moment the file was placed on his desk, but it hadn’t seemed right to do it alone. Callen knew he had to bring the old team back together for this. They had to do this together.
“Why not.” Staring at the envelopes brought back so many memories, Sam thought. Maybe they could turn back time — just for a few minutes — and remember things the way they used to be.
“Kensi?” Callen’s voice aroused her out of her reverie and she reluctantly dragged her eyes away from the last envelope in the pile, the one that was addressed to her and bearing the instruction “to be opened in the event of my death” in familiar writing. Who would have thought Deeks had such nice writing? She looked up at Callen, but her heart was flying back over the years, remembering so many things. “Is that alright with you?”
“Sure. Why not?” She’d been a different person back then; she’d had all these dreams… But there was no sense in going back over all that again. The past was past and nothing could change that. Kensi fixed a bright smile on her face and blinked away the tears that threatened to fall. “Who’s going to start?”
“I’ll start. At the beginning.” In his mind he could almost hear Deeks say “a very good place to start,” but Callen pushed that thought away and instead reached out and opened the envelope addressed “To My Team”, cleared his throat and then began to read it aloud. It was as if Hetty was sitting at the table with them and they could almost hear her voice coming down across the years, as sharp and precise as ever. When he finished, they sat in silence for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts and memories of the incomparable Hetty. To hear exactly what she had thought of them -– to know that they were her agents — was the ultimate accolade and more moving than anything else. It was a form of validation, the acknowledgement that they had indeed done something right to earn such respect from her. And not only respect, but love. Then Callen stood up and raised his glass. “To Henrietta Lange –- a true lady.”
Sam and Kensi also rose and held up their own glasses, the sun highlighting the myriad of tiny bubbles that fizzed gently away. “To Hetty.” They clinked the glasses together and smiled. This was a day to remember the good times, not to be sad. In the end, despite everything, there were surely more happy memories than sad ones?
“I still miss her,” Callen confessed. “She was a hard act to follow. Still is. Even after ten years, it still seems like her desk, not mine.”
“That’s because the scent of her tea is steeped into the wood,” Sam said wisely. “Sensory memory is one of the strongest kinds there is.”
Kensi had to agree. Sitting here in the sun, with the scent of the ocean filling the air, how could she not think of Deeks? “I hope you still have her letter opener and frighten the life out of new recruits with it, Callen. She gave me a duplicate, you know. I keep it on my desk at home. God, I wish she could be here with us today. The table feels so empty without her.” There was another person missing to, but she wasn’t going to mention that.
“You know that’s not possible. It’s too much to ask her to come all the way from Paris, just for lunch.” One of Hetty’s old flames had turned up in Prague and their relationship was not just rekindled, it had positively burst into new flames. She and Alain had an apartment just off the Boul’ Mich and seemed happier than ever. “Come on -– it’s your turn next, Sam.”
Sam took a deep breath and stared at the letter, remembering exactly how he had felt when writing it, and then began to read. Callen sat in stunned silence as Sam’s voice seemed to seep into his soul. “You need to give that to him,” he said, when he was able to speak. “Seriously. I know things haven’t always been that great between the two of you, but you need to let him read that letter.”
“Maybe. He’s young, thinks he knows everything right now. Maybe I’ll give it to him later.” Sam wasn’t sure if his son would want to read it at the moment.
Kensi shook her head. “Callen’s right. Don’t leave things like this, Sam -– not while you’ve still got a chance of changing them. Let him know how much you love him -– before it’s too late. Don’t leave these things unsaid, not even for a day.”
“I can’t believe you would have trusted me to look out for him. That was an honor, man. And it would have been a privilege.”
“You were my partner,” Sam said simply, summing up their entire relationship with that one phrase.
“I can’t believe you knew how much I fancied Deeks!” Kensi confessed. “I thought I did this great job of hiding it.”
The two men exchanged glances. “Yeah, right. You used to look at him as if he was chocolate –- so good that you wanted to lick him all over.”
“Really?” Kensi could feel her cheeks burning.
“Really,” Sam confirmed. “Everyone knew it. Well, everyone but Deeks.”
“He could be pretty dense at times. Sorry, pretty but dense.” There was absolutely no malice in Callen’s words, but they were tinged with an unmistakable nostalgia.
“Ah, but he made up for it with those big blue eyes, didn’t he, Kensi?”
“Whatever you say, Sam.” Kensi could remember pouring her soul into her own letter, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be confronted with her thoughts, even ten years down the line. She was even less certain if she wanted Sam and Callen to hear them.
Callen reached out and squeezed her hand. “It was a long time ago. Think of these letters as being like our version of an NCIS time capsule. And remember, when we wrote those letters, we didn’t expect to be around when they were read.”
“I suppose so.” Kensi took another sip of her champagne and then thought she might as well finish the glass. She held out her glass for a refill. “No sense in letting it go flat.”
Callen opened his letter while Sam recharged each of their glasses. “This one’s to all of you.” He looked at his handwriting and remembered how absolutely certain he had been that Prague was the place he would die. Only things hadn’t worked out that way, and here he was, sitting in the sunshine, drinking champagne as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Mostly, that was true -– but he did have some lingering regrets. “Okay -– here it is. My thoughts, preserved in aspic.”
It was more difficult to read out than he had expected, because it was like being catapulted back in time and he was once again that younger man, wondering what held in store for him, wondering if he had any sort of a future left for him or even one that could be measured in days rather than hours.. Things had worked out better than he’d expected –- well, mostly. But life had to go.
“You got your wish, Callen –- and I got your team.” Sam smiled at the symmetry of the way things had happened.
“You made it your team, Sam.”
“And you found out your name,” Kensi reminded him. “Only to discover it didn’t really matter that much after all.”
“You always were a contrary bastard, G.”
Callen smiled at the irony of it all –- after all these years of hunting for clues about his past, when he had finally uncovered the secret of his name, he discovered that it was actually irrelevant –- it didn’t change who he was, or complete him in any way at all. In the end, when all was said and done, it was just a name. And having been known as Callen for over 40 years, it was rather too late to suddenly change. So he’d stayed Callen. It was nice to know his name, and it wasn’t a bad name; he just felt totally indifferent, because it didn’t actually add anything. It was just a name. All those years of obsession had been misplaced. But at least his tombstone wouldn’t look stupid.
“So –- do you insist on supervising your agents’ wardrobes ala Hetty?”
“God, no. I’ve always had lousy taste in clothes –- just like her. It was a moot point which one of us was more clueless -– her for choosing the clothes, or me for actually wearing them. No, I leave all that up to Nell.”
“Do I hear my name? I hope you’re all saying nice things about me?”
Kensi grabbed hold of her hand and pulled Nell down for a kiss. “Would we dare do anything else? Given that you’re married to the Director of OSP and he’s the protective type?”
Callen had finally found what he was actually searching for two years after Prague, and found it had been right under his nose the whole time. At first, Nell had been his assistant, but he soon realized that she meant a whole lot more to him. In fact, she meant everything to him. “You’re just in time to hear Kensi read her letter now.”
Nell sat down beside him, and entwined her fingers with his. “Has it been strange –- reading them, I mean? You wrote them, thinking you were going to die, but now you’re all here -– well, you three are. It must be difficult, reading those letters.”
“It’s more disconcerting, than anything else,” Kensi said. “Not to mention embarrassing.” All these things we never felt we could say out loud – why was that?
“Kensi didn’t realize we all knew she fancied Deeks,” Sam explained.
“Not everyone,” Kensi protested. “You didn’t know, did you Nell?”
“Of course I knew, Kensi! How could I not know?” There was a time when I fancied him too, only I knew I didn’t stand a chance with you around.
That just made things worse, Kensi thought. Not only had she been a deluded fool, she’d wasted so much time. If only she could go back, she’d do things completely differently the second time around. Only there was no going back, and there was no way she could put off reading the letter any longer.
Kensi picked up the envelope and ripped it open with her thumbnail. As she began reading the traitorous words out loud she was aware of a subtle change in the atmosphere at the table, as if the air around them had become charged with electricity before a storm. She quickly realized that they were literally hanging onto each and every single word as she spoke, almost as if she had written some finely crafted and deathless prose, rather than just firing off a letter on the spur of the moment. She wanted to stop and remind them that it was just a letter, not a big deal by any stretch of the imagination, and that in any case, Deeks had never known what she had written, so it really didn’t matter. It was just a collection of words on a piece of paper that had been lying unread in a file for over ten years. They really shouldn’t make such a big deal about it. Because she wasn’t.
When Kensi got to the end of the first paragraph and said “So don’t flatter yourself that this means anything, because it doesn’t,” Nell hitched in a sharp intake of breath and gave Callen an anxious look, which he returned in spades. Kensi saw quite clearly that she wasn’t fooling them for a second. More than anything, she wished desperately that she had damned well made sure she’d retrieved this stupid letter when she got back from Prague and torn it up, burned the pieces and then scattered the ashes to the four winds.
“You’re just so not my type,” her voice said, reading out all the lies she’d written and sounding strangely vulnerable, as if it belonged to a complete stranger. “I was never in love with you, not for one single second. But you knew that, didn’t you?” And her voice wobbled slightly, and then broke completely.
“Oh, Kensi.” Nell’s hand reached out across the table and took hold of her own, squeezing it sympathetically. She didn’t know if she could bear to listen to any more of this.
Sam could not remember a time when he had felt more uncomfortable. “You don’t have to read any more.”
“This was just meant to be a bit of fun,” Callen agreed. He’d never meant to hurt her, nor had he the slightest inclining of what she had actually written. If he had thought for one moment that Kensi would be forced to expose her soul in this way, to relive all her hopes and dreams in front of them, he would never have suggested this.
“It’s fine. I’m fine,” Kensi said determinedly and continued reading her traitorous words. When she came to “I never asked for you to be my partner, I never had any choice in the matter”, her tears could no longer be checked; they welled up until her eyes were so full she could scarcely see and then they rolled down her cheeks.
“Why are you crying, Mommy?” Her son materialized in front of her, small face screwed up anxiously. “I don’t like it when you cry.” His chin wobbled ominously.
“I’m fine, darling.” Kensi reached down and pulled him into her lap, hiding her face in his soft curls, hugging the beloved little body close to her. The letter fluttered from her hand and fell down onto the table.
“I’ll continue for you, shall I?” a familiar voice said behind her. Kensi nodded blindly, unable to speak. “I’m going to skip to the good part. ‘PS: I love you. Always have, always will. But you knew that, didn’t you?’ You cribbed that line from the Beatles, by the way.”
Her little boy nestled his head under Kensi’s chin and said, “I love you too, Mommy,” with all the sweet innocence only a four-year-old could muster.
Nell looked longingly at the last letter in the file, which still had to reveal its secrets.
“Daddy – make Mommy stop crying.” The little boy clambered off Kensi’s lap and wrapped both arms around his father’s leg, staring up at him with wide blue eyes that were full of anxiety. Tearing his eyes away from Kensi’s letter, and especially the fresh tear stains that marred it, the man folded it in half and put it carefully in his pocket, before swinging his son up onto his hip and hugging him tightly.
“He’s your absolute double,” Nell said, with a slight tinge of envy in her voice. She wasn’t jealous, not exactly, but sometimes it hurt. Life wasn’t fair, she knew that, but did it have to be so unfair to her and Callen?
Sam looked at the little boy and grinned. “Only partly house-trained, never brushes his hair and crawls all over women, you mean? That’s a bit unfair on the kid. He might grow out of it.”
Kensi shrugged her shoulders. “I’m trying with the hair, believe me, but he’s very strong-willed.”
“Gee, I wonder where he gets that from?”
“His father. Why couldn’t you just be on time, for once in your life, Marty? You should have been here a half hour ago.” She glared at him in mock anger and then raised her face up for a kiss.
“I heard enough. I didn’t want to interrupt when you were reading your letter.” Marty sat down beside her and arranged their son so that he was sprawled across both their laps. “Someone here decided he needed to visit the bathroom. And then he wanted to sit and chat to me while he was there. Our son has the least bashful bladder in the world. ‘You’ll know you were loved,’ is a great line, by the way. Even if you stole that one too — from Lou Reed, this time.”
“Get on with it.” Sam pushed the last letter over towards him. “Stop prevaricating and just read the letter, Deeks.”
“Are you okay with me reading this, Kensi? If I remember correctly, I got a bit personal.” The last time he’d seen her this emotional was on their wedding day in Prague.
“More personal than Kensi revealing how much she loved your butt?”
“Excuse me? I’d like to make it clear I still love his butt. And his hair.”
“And don’t say anymore,” Deeks pleaded. “There’s a pair of small ears here. And an even bigger mouth.” Marty opened the letter and a broad grin spread across his face. “Okay, before I read this aloud, just remember I was feeling really stressed at the time. And Eric had this amazing grass and we’d gone down to the beach and… “
“Excuses, excuses.” Sam shook his head. “You told her, didn’t you? Confessed your undying love and all that.”
“Do you want to read this, Sam? Or are you just jealous that I got to make the big romantic gesture? Even if she never knew about it. Until now.”
Kensi could feel the color rising in her face again and it deepened as Marty read his letter for the first time in ten years. And the memories it all came flooding back as he spoke – all the memories for ten years ago and all the memories since then. So much love. She’d never thought it was possible to love and to be loved like this. Sometimes it still seemed like a dream.
“You still make me very happy, you know.” Marty gave her a small smile. “Funny how it all worked out, even without the letters.”
Kensi just smiled at him through misty eyes.
“Mommy’s going to cry again. Kiss her better, Daddy.” The little boy draped his arms around both of their necks.
“I still say you should have called him Densi.” Sam said. “That would have been the coolest name ever.”
“I wanted to, but Kensi overruled me. And I’ve learned not to make her too mad.” Marty looked across at her and hastily amended his last statement. “Well, not on purpose, anyway. She said he would either have to become a pro-surfer or a rock star, with a name like that. Which I didn’t actually have a problem with.”
“Nobody is going to elect a President called Densi Deeks, Marty. So get over it.”
Callen kicked him underneath the table. “For God’s sake, just kiss her Deeks. You don’t have to hide it any longer. Not that you ever could, of course.”
“You knew?” He looked crestfallen.
“They all knew,” Kensi confirmed. “Every single one of them. How come they all knew when we didn’t?”
Marty didn’t care about that. All he cared about was the fact that when he closed his eyes, he still saw Kensi. And even better, when he opened them, she was still there. “I want you to know this one thing,” he whispered, quoting the lines he’d written a decade before. “I love you. I want you to know that more than anything.” When he’d written that, it was because he thought he would never get the chance to say the words out loud. But now the wheel had turned full circle and everything was complete and perfect, right down to the little blond boy who lay sleeping contentedly and who definitely knew he was loved.