Author's Note: Don't mind me, just dragging this out a bit more. But in all seriousness, sorry for the wait. I think I'm going to be wrapping this up in the next threeish chapters, depending on how things pan out. I'm sorry it's taken so long and I hate having so much time between chapters, but I think everything I've written has been relevant to the story and the journey Deeks is going on. It was always important for me to have Deeks work through the trauma, instead of brushing past all that. It might be boring for some people and that's fine. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a good whump and done story and have written a few in other fandoms, but most of the time, the aftermath to getting better is what I focus on most. So thanks to everyone who has stuck with me. I know I'm slow, but this will get what I hope is a proper and satisfying ending.
"Where are you taking me?" Deeks asked, for what was probably the tenth time during their drive to wherever they were going. Kensi had come over and told him she wanted to take him somewhere and since he didn't have anything better to do, he went. He'd assumed that she would tell him where they were going once they were on the road, but he was wrong. And by the determined look in her eyes, she wasn't going to give the information up until she was ready.
It had been a week since the talk with the team and things were going pretty well. Deeks had seen everyone a few more times and it wasn't as awkward or strained as it was before. They weren't best friends, but he was enjoying their company. Things were finally starting to settle into a nice routine.
All that didn't mean that he'd decided on what he was going to do career wise though. A part of him felt like going back might ruin things. What if working together would remind them why they hadn't meshed well? Losing what they were building felt like something that he wouldn't be able to handle, after everything. It felt like he'd already lost so much.
But could he let that fear stop him from going back to the job? Wouldn't he always wonder what it would've been like if he didn't try? Deeks had never left anything before, without a clear plan ahead of him. Going from lawyer to officer had been a big leap, but he'd been passionate about it. What was he passionate about now? He still wanted to help people, but he could do that in other ways. It was deciding which way that was the issue.
"We're here, so you can stop asking," Kensi scoffed, pulling up outside of a building. It looked like some sort of community center or church, but he wasn't sure. And he still had no clue what this was about.
"What is this?" Deeks asked, fiddling with his seatbelt, but not taking it off.
"I've had a few close calls, on a couple of cases," Kensi said quietly. Deeks' eyes snapped up to meet hers. Even though they'd been talking a lot more than they used to, Kensi still didn't like to offer up too much about herself. Especially things this serious.
"I'm sorry," Deeks said sincerely.
"I always had backup and nothing ever went too far, but it still sticks with me sometimes," Kensi admitted. Deeks always hated the cases where Kensi had to put herself out there as "bait" for a suspect. It was always so risky, especially when she was dressed in a way that made carrying a weapon impossible. Kensi could handle herself hand to hand with the best of them, but it was still so dangerous and unfair. "I never wanted to talk about it with anyone, because I didn't want them to see me in a different way."
"I get that," Deeks said. Once you were a victim, it was hard to shake that image.
"People don't usually understand, unless they've been through it themselves. I mean, they can on some level, but it's not the same as someone with a similar experience."
"So what did you do to help deal with it?" Deeks asked. It was kind of a relief that Deeks hadn't been able to tell this about Kensi. She was either very good at suppressing things or she'd been able to work through it.
"I found people who could relate. People who I could talk to who didn't know me and wouldn't judge, because they were like me," Kensi explained. "Man, it was terrifying at first. And you know I don't admit things like that."
"But walking into that room was scarier than walking into a shootout. I didn't have backup and I couldn't fight my way out. I had to decide to stay there and open myself up. And when I finally did, it was like a weight had lifted off of me."
"I decided to stop giving what happened to me power. I took my power back." Deeks could see the normal fire in Kensi's eyes as she spoke. He wanted to be where she was so badly. But it still seemed impossible. Like he would never be able to think or talk about what happened to him without feeling weak and disgusted.
"Is this where you took your power back?" Deeks asked, gesturing toward the building.
"Sort of, but not exactly."
"Is this another shrink? What would Nate say if he found out I was stepping out on him?" Deeks joked. He'd dodged the doctor successfully after their talk. It may have been helpful, but Deeks was still desperate to keep as much as he could separate from the job. If he went back, he didn't want a note in his file that would follow him around for the rest of his career.
"Not a shrink. A support group."
"I'm not trying to force you to do anything," Kensi said quickly, before he could argue with her. "I just wanted to give you an option you might not have thought of. You don't even have to go in." Deeks could feel the urge to start fidgeting, but he shoved it down. Squirming in his seat like a little boy wouldn't help anything. He could tell Kensi to take him back home and he was pretty sure she would listen to him, but was that the right call? It was definitely the easier one. But nothing was ever accomplished by skirting around the hard stuff. It would always be there, waiting to show itself at the worst possible moment. And knowing it was there, lurking just under the surface, would make getting better impossible.
"Okay," Deeks said again, unclipping his seatbelt. He felt like if he didn't move right then, he never would. Sort of like when he was making his escape from Carly's house. But instead of desperately leaving a place he never wanted to see again, he was going toward a place that could change everything.
"Do you want me to go in with you?" Kensi offered. Part of him wanted to take her up on it, but Deeks knew that this was something he had to do alone. Kensi had already done so much, just by bringing him here. Now it was up to him.
"No, but thanks."
"Well, I'll be here when you're done," Kensi said, reclining her seat back a little as she got comfortable for the long wait.
"I don't think this is a parking spot," Deeks pointed out.
"I'm a federal agent. I can park wherever I want," Kensi scoffed, flipping her hair over one shoulder in exaggeration. Deeks smiled, appreciating Kensi's attempt at lightening the mood. Maybe their banter would start to feel natural soon. But for now, Deeks had work to do.
"I'll see you," Deeks said quietly, not waiting for a response before he stepped out of the car and closed the door firmly behind him. He doubted the solutions to all of his problems were in the building in front of him, but it didn't mean going inside wasn't worth his time. And even if he gained nothing, at least he'd be able to say he tried.
Deeks walked slowly to the entrance, battling internally at the urge to put on a persona. If Marty Deeks didn't go inside fully as himself, what would be the point? It would be easier to put on a front, as if this were a case, but then all the work would be for nothing. Deeks had to suck it up and do this.
The building looked as bland on the inside as it did on the outside. It wasn't like he was expecting a big sign somewhere that said "this is where you dump your trauma," but he felt like there should've been something. Not the struggling neighborhood church vibe he was getting. Or maybe he was just searching for something to focus on, instead of what he was actually there for.
"You here for group?" a man asked suddenly from behind him. Deeks was glad he wasn't carrying, since his first reaction was to reach for his gun. He turned around quickly, making sure he wasn't in grabbing distance to whoever was talking to him. Deeks found an older man who was holding his hands up in surrender. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"You didn't. It's fine," Deeks waved off, trying to flash an easy smile. He could tell it came up short.
"Great. So, are you here for group? Sometimes people wander in, looking for a clothing drive or soup kitchen. Not that I'm saying you look like someone who needs one. Although, there's no shame if you do. I volunteer at a few on occasion and have been down on my luck myself once or twice. Wow, I am rambling. I'm Edgar," the man said, holding his hand out for Deeks to shake. Deeks was caught off guard a bit, not used to being around someone who talked more than him. He accepted the man's greeting, trying not to cringe at the feel of someone else's hand on him. Touching was still iffy at the moment.
"I'm Deeks. And I'm pretty sure I'm in the right place," Deeks replied, leaving out the fact that he wished he was looking for somewhere else. What he wouldn't give to be wearing Artie and shuffling around a soup kitchen right now.
"First timer?" Edgar questioned, giving him a knowing look. The look that said that the person knew everything Deeks was trying to hide. The look that people would give him when he had bruises as a kid and he claimed he'd gotten them by falling off his bike.
"That obvious?" Deeks asked, forcing out a fake laugh.
"My first time, I didn't even make it in the building. So you're doing better than I did. The second time wasn't much better. I came in, immediately left again, then hit a parked car on my way out. Didn't even talk until my fifth time," Edgar said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. Deeks genuinely smiled a little at that one. "Now that I've gotten started, I bet everyone else wishes I would shut up."
"I can relate to that," Deeks mumbled. "I've gotten similar comments in my lifetime."
"Well then, I think we'll get along just fine," Edgar declared, nodding confidently. He checked his watch, then glanced around Deeks toward a door leading to another room. "Want to go in with me? No pressure, but Wade always seems to get the best donuts, if you leave him in there for too long."
"Can't say no to donuts, right?" Deeks chuckled, gesturing for Edgar to go ahead of him. He didn't think he would mention being a cop, since he wasn't sure how people would react. Would they clam up around him, seeing him as if he were in a position of authority? Or would they deride him, wondering why someone who was supposed to help people deal with stuff like this was struggling himself? It would be best to keep personal details to a minimum.
Deeks followed Edgar into the main room of the building, where there was a circle of chairs in the middle. He was surprised to see only men in the room and felt a pang of appreciation for Kensi. If he'd been the only man, he would've felt completely out of place. Like he was encroaching on a safe space for women. And he had to admit, seeing other men dealing with the same kind of thing he was made him feel a little less alone.
He wandered over to the refreshment table, but avoided grabbing any food. Deeks still didn't fully trust food yet, as ridiculous as it sounded. It wasn't like anyone had tampered with everything in an effort to get to him, but he couldn't help thinking about Carly's drugged food. He grabbed a bottle of water, just to give himself something to do with his hands, then sat down in one of the chairs. Edgar sat down next to him, giving him a supportive thumbs up. The first hard part was over, but now it was time to actually do the work.