Disclaimer – shocking, but I still don't own anything related to the show or the characters.

The bright red '3:30' glares at him from the clock on his bedside table.

Deeks groans internally as he buries his face into his pillow, "Of course it's 3:30," he thinks to himself. He has been dreading this day on and off for over a week, so it seems only fitting that he would wake up at this exact time. The time when, a year ago, his world was about to be turned upside down.

He wants to forget almost everything about last year. He had started it alone; spent months worried about his partner and whether or not she was safe and then he spent more months worried about her even though he saw her practically every day.

He had told Makar that she was the person he cared about most on this planet and now, that hardly seems like enough to describe how he feels about her and the comfort and contentment he finds in their bold, all-in relationship. He suppresses a shudder at the thought of how close he came to never experiencing this.

Attempting to calm himself, he turns to face his sleeping girlfriend. She's curled up on her side, one hand extended out toward his side of the bed. He takes in her soft curves, the way her hair falls over her shoulder and across her pillow, and the way her lips are parted as she breathes softly. He smiles at how innocent and unassuming she looks in her sleep and he loves that he gets to see this side of his kickass partner.

He doesn't want to wake her, but as his thoughts wander back to the significance of the current reading on the clock, he can't help but reach out for her. He needs to touch her, to reassure himself that she's here.

Kensi is drawn out of her slumber by the gentle touch of a hand softly stroking her neck, fingers ghosting in a line across her throat. The reverence of the action sends small shivers down her spine.

"What are you doing?" she mumbles, her voice rough with sleep, her eyes never opening. She feels Deeks' hand still at her words, as he realizes that she's awake.

"Nothing. Sorry. I…uhh..just thinking," he stammers out softly as he tucks her hair behind her ear and rests his hand on the side of her neck, his thumb gently brushing her skin, "Well, more like trying not to think."

Even in her barely-awake state, she doesn't ask about what because she doesn't need to.

She knows what he's trying not to think about. She knows what today is.

After all, you don't exactly forget the day you were sure was going to be your last.

She opens her eyes and takes in the sight of him as he lies facing her. His muscular arms, always providing more comfort than she ever imagined she could find in another person. His golden curls, even more mussed up than usual. His blue eyes, unfocused and darkened by the memories she knows he's replaying in his mind.

Lifting his hand from her neck, she places it on her waist as she pulls herself closer to him, snuggling against his chest. She lets out a small sigh when she feels his arms pull her even closer.

"I know," she whispers, her voice is heavy with emotion. She doesn't trust herself to say anything else.

Kensi really doesn't want to talk about this. Despite his advice all those months ago about making peace with what happened, she still finds it easier to just ignore it.

She doesn't want to think about the shock that ran through her body at the first glimpse she'd had of Jack in nine years. She doesn't want to think about her stupidity in getting captured on purpose to talk to him. She doesn't want to think about the physical pain she endured at the hands of her captors.

And she especially doesn't want to think about how it had almost cost her her life. This life, the one with the man lying next to her, who is more than she thinks she could ever deserve.

So she might not want to talk, or even think about it. But if he does, she will try.

Kensi loses track of how long they lay there, arms wrapped around each other, but it's long enough that she thinks Deeks has fallen asleep. So when he starts to speak, it startles her a bit.

"I wish I could stop thinking about it. I don't want to think about it," he speaks so softly that she has to practically hold her breath in order to hear him. "I mean, you're here and you're safe and we're good," he pauses to drop a lingering kiss on her forehead. "We're so good."

She gives him a gentle squeeze, "We're great," she replies and she feels him nod.

"Yeah. We are," he agrees with the slightest of smiles. "And I...I don't actually think about it a lot. It's just…" he trails off as he teases the ends of her long silky hair with his fingers.

"It's today," Kensi finishes his thought quietly.

Deeks gives her a defeated nod and closes his eyes as she starts rubbing small circles on his back. He can still remember so clearly the exact moment a year ago when his heart had simultaneously lodged itself in his throat and dropped to his stomach.

What had started out as annoyance with the middle of the night wake-up call rapidly turned into one of his worst nightmares coming to life.

He can still hear Nell's words and no matter how hard he tries, he can't forget them.

"As of 72 hours ago, Special Agent Blye disappeared into the mountains...being held by a group of Taliban fighters...The mission is to locate and rescue Agent Blye."

He had focused on the words "rescue Agent Blye", repeating them over and over in his mind the entire flight to Afghanistan. They hadn't even known if she was still alive but he couldn't let himself linger on those thoughts. He had felt, in the very depths of his soul, that she was still out there somewhere. He had no doubts that he would have known if she was dead.

And then that goddamn picture had usurped every thought that had been running through his head after they left Los Angeles. Even the knowledge that the image may not be authentic hadn't been enough to stop his mind, his heart, and his world from going into a tailspin.

"Thinking that you were gone...that I had lost you…" he trails off and she can tell he's trying to keep it together. "It was the single worst moment of my life," he finishes. "And I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for you and what you must have been thinking—"

"You," she cuts him off, her words quiet and muffled slightly by his chest, "I was thinking about you. About the night we had before I left. About how I thought I was never going to see you again."

She stops there, taking a few deep breaths. She pulls back to look at him, threading her fingers through his hair. The tears are threatening to fall but she wants her next words to be clear.

"I was thinking about how I never got to tell you that I was falling in love with you too," she doesn't miss his soft intake of breath at her words, "And I want to tell you now, but I'm so far past falling, Deeks."

His eyes bore into hers, silently willing her to continue. In the intensity of his stare, she sees his crappy childhood, a lifetime of feeling like he wasn't good enough for anyone or anything, and she sees the turmoil from everything that happened last year.

And behind all that, she sees what she sees every day, what she's come to appreciate more with each passing moment and what always take her breath away. She sees his kindness, his loyalty, his adoration. She sees the man who always wants to do what's right, what's best for everyone else. And she sees her partner. Her steadfast, trustworthy, talkative, and sometimes infuriating partner. Five years ago she couldn't believe she was "stuck" with him. Now she can't imagine what her life would be without him.

A year ago she had believed she was going to die but now, she doesn't think she's ever felt so alive. And it's all because of him.

"Kens," his voice shakes her out of her thoughts as his hand moves to brush stray hair off of her face, "I think you drifted away on me there."

"Sorry," she shakes her head slightly as though to clear her head, "lost in thought I guess."

Deeks sends her an apologetic, slightly pained look, "I didn't mean to bring all that up. I don't want you to -"

"No...Deeks," she interrupts quickly, realizing where he thought her mind had been, "they were good thoughts."

"Really?" he looks at her skeptically. Considering what this conversation had been about, he was not convinced.

She nods and her face breaks into a small, almost shy smile, "It's just…" she lets out a small sigh and her eyes lock onto his before she says what she's wanted to tell him for weeks, "you make me really happy. And...I love you. And I just wanted you to know that."

Kensi didn't have time to even begin deciphering the look he gives her before he rolls them slightly so he is hovering over her and his lips are crashing into hers. When he pulls away a few seconds later, both of them breathless, his eyes are bright and sparkling and completely focused on hers.

"God," he utters as he exhales, "I love you too, Kens."

The soft, radiant smile that adorns her face undoubtedly matches his own and she reaches up to pull his face back down to hers, placing a slow kiss to his lips.

Deeks pulls back first and pecks her on the nose before he rolls onto his back. Pulling her into his side as she drapes her arm across his stomach, he presses a kiss to the top of her head.

"Last year was horrible," Deeks begins, "and you know things won't always be easy…" he trails off, thinking not only about the risks in their line of work but also of the Internal Affairs investigation that they'd only just found out about last week.

And then there's just the simple fact that they're Kensi and Deeks. And if he's learned anything in five years of being her partner, it's that while they may love each other, they can still drive each other crazy.

Taking a deep breath, he wraps his arm more tightly around her shoulders and he smiles when he feels her place a soft kiss to his chest.

"Things won't always be easy," he repeats, "but this..." he squeezes her shoulders, "this is so worth it."

"Mmm," Kensi hums in agreement, already drifting back to sleep, "You know what else will be worth it?"

"Pancakes for breakfast?"

He feels her body shake gently as she laughs quietly. "You know me so well."

"I told you I did," he reaches down to pull the comforter up around their bodies before he settles himself against his pillow and he feels sleep pulling him back under. "If you're lucky, maybe I'll even make you s'morescakes."

When he doesn't hear Kensi respond right away, he closes his eyes and just as he is drifting off to sleep, she whispers into his ear.

"I'm very lucky."

A/N – a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about Spoils of War and realized that the one year mark was today and wanted to write about it. I've also started working on the next part of No More Games though I can't make any promises as to when that will be out.

Thanks for reading – hope you enjoyed it!