He remembers. There are no scars to mark the wounds but he remembers with the clarity that fear endows. Standing in front of the mirror after his shower, he can see in his mind's eye, the bruises that marked the gunshots.

The first one - right over his heart, another just below the ribs on his right side. Those had been courtesy of assassins sent to kill the man he had been assigned to protect. He had gone down in the first few seconds of the firefight. The pain had been excruciating and he'd curled up into a ball, fighting back tears he was ashamed the other might see. He had recovered, wiped away the embarrassing moisture and nodded when Hondo asked if he was okay, then made some silly quip to cover his fear. That fear had disappeared, for a while at least, overshadowed by the anger he felt when he found Carol trying to murder her own father. It was only later, back at the station when he'd had time to take a good long look at the holes in his vest that the pain and the fear had settled over him and he wondered if he had made a mistake in leaving narcotics to become a SWAT officer. For days after that, he had been dreading going out on calls, knowing that the vest would protect him but still unable to free himself of the fear of being shot again.

Deke nearly dying after a bullet struck him below the protection of his vest had not helped his confidence any. That had frightened him more than he could ever tell anyone, made him seriously consider asking to be reassigned to narcotics. It was TJ who noticed his reluctance, TJ who had taken him aside and assured him that the fear was a natural reaction and that if he had not been afraid, then there was something seriously wrong with him. After that, he had stopped letting the fear rule his life, instead using it to make him stronger, more confident. TJ had noticed the change in him, silently applauding with a nod and a smile as Hondo sent them off in different directions.

The latest one – though he hates to think that it will happen again, has left a large bruise on the left side of his chest. The bullet had hit him with the impact of a speeding truck, knocked him off his feet and into the nearby swimming pool. For minutes that seemed like hours, he'd been unable to draw a breath or to move. The inability to breathe had been somewhat of a blessing he supposed, it had kept him from drowning as he lay helplessly face down in the water. Then Hondo had rescued him, turning him over and helping him to the shallow water by the steps. He'd stood there, waiting for the trembling in his legs to stop, smiling because he knew that no matter what, his friends had his back.