AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey all, this is to be my first multi-chapter NCIS LA fic. It's going to be fairly dark and intense. It will involve violence, sexual themes(though not graphic) and language. The story is basically about the insane emotional and physical sacrifices that these agents have to make in order to stay in character and how horribly wrong a deep cover can go. If that's not your cup, turn away.

If you're curious about how dark I can get once I get rolling, check out my CRIMINAL MINDS story HURT. While the themes are markedly different, the tone - and intensity - will be similar. I say this not to scare you away (please don't go!), but rather to forewarn you. If you're still interested, great - read on!

TIMELINE: This goes up to episode 2X12 - Overwatch. However, no Nell involved. The story stipulates that Kensi and Deeks have been partnered for about six months.

FEEDBACK: Please. And thank you.

J - tag.

"The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask."

-Jim Morrison

She's a paradox.

Flirting comes as easily as breathing to her and yet she abhors doing it professionally.

She has a deep and profound love for anything with a motor and yet she's probably destroyed at least a dozen cars in her twenty-six years of life.

At least.

She's constantly looking to make a connection and yet runs like hell every time a guy says he'd like to see her again.

Yeah, some would call her a paradox.

Deep down, though, she knows the truth.

She's a hot mess.

A mess of many makings.

Her father's, her country's, God's.

Mostly her own if she's honest with herself.


She's not one for excuses (she accepts her flaws if not her limits), but if anyone has a right to a few excuses from time to time, she figures that she's probably a prime candidate.

Because even as she rejects the excuses, she admits (only to herself and often only when she's consumed far too much alcohol for her own good) that every now and again, she wouldn't mind if the great big Universe took some pity (she hates that word) on her and cut her a break or two.

Right now, she thinks to herself, would be a great time for the Universe to start.

She blinks slowly and even this takes extraordinary effort.

She knows enough to know that something is very wrong with her, but she can't even begin to imagine what. She's not entirely sure she wants to.

There's a dull thickness to her body. It feels almost alien to her, just barely her own. When she tries to lift her hand, the appendage refuses the command and stays right where it is. She'd laugh if she could get her voice to work.

She hears sounds and she strains to figure out what they are. Or for that matter, where they are. Above her, she presumes – but that doesn't answer the question of where she is. She has this feeling that this answer should come easily to her, but it doesn't.

She hears the sounds again and finally is able to determine that it's actually a man's voice.

Right about now, she can only make out a few words at a time.

None of them making a whole lot of sense.

She thinks she hears the word beautiful, but there's no context to it.

And then there's a smell – and maybe a taste – right next to her face. It's salty and vaguely alcoholic.

She feels something wet on her cheek – like a kiss - and instinctively knows that she doesn't want whoever this person is to touch her again.

But he does – roughly.

If she could identify which part of her he's touching, she would. She can't though. The hideously thick fog around her brain, the paralysis that seems to be freezing her body, it's too much.

Then again, maybe it's for the best.

If she can't defend herself, can't stop this man from doing things to her - hurting her - then maybe she doesn't really want to know what he's doing.

Maybe that will make it easier to deal later on.

If there is a later on.

He's even closer now and his mouth is touching hers. She feels her lips being forced apart.

She wants to bite him – even orders her jaw to work.

It refuses.

She feels his rough calloused palms somewhere on her skin.

Touching. Caressing. Squeezing.

And then it occurs to her what he's doing (or maybe has already done, she's not at all sure). Panic swells in her and her heart starts to pound in her chest.

She begs her body to fight back. Pleads with it.

Please, please, please don't let him do this.

Nothing moves.

Please, please, please don't let this happen.


Please. Please. Oh, God, please. Please, fight back.


She blinks again and all she sees are hazy images above her. But she can still smell him and every now again, when he presses his mouth against hers, she can taste him as well and it makes her stomach violently seize.

"We don't have time for this," a cold voice says. She's amazed that she's able to understand it. Hopefully, that means her senses are returning to her.

Hopefully, that means her fight is as well.

Because there's a few things that she'd like to do this guy who can't seem to keep his disgusting hands off of her.

"There's always time for this," the man atop her says, a hint of laughter in his tone. He finds this whole thing funny. It's enough to make her see metaphorical red if not for the fact that she has the literal red of blood in her eyes.

"No. We need to get going," the voice says again.

This time, she thinks that maybe she recognizes the voice, but for the life of her, she still can't place whom it belongs to.

Considering what he's stopping, however, she's willing to call him the Universe for a few seconds.

Call him the Universe and say thank you.

Her gratitude doesn't last but a few seconds.

"Shoot her up," the voice tells the man atop her. "And let's get the hell out of here before her backup arrives."


It takes everything she has to focus on that word and what it means.

Dimly, she recalls her fingers scrapping against the too small keys of a phone. Desperately in-putting a four-digit code.

A code for what?

Her brain feels like mush, but through sheer force of will alone, she pushes forward memories of the last few hours.

She recalls a car ride and some kind of fight, some skirmish that had involved her being slammed against a wall. She remembers her head being whacked repeatedly against the hard surface (which would certainly explain why she can't focus, she realizes), and she remembers hearing glass shatter, but the most important thing she can pull up is a vague flash of her sitting in the backseat of a car, her hands cuffed in back of her. Still, in her hands is her phone and she sees her fingers frantically in-putting the Agent in Distress code.

Which means that yes, backup is on its way.

Her elation – and hope – doesn't last much longer than her gratitude for the voice had.

She feels a tight squeeze on her left arm, like something being tied around it. Then there's a sharp prick and a sudden rush of something as cold as ice water running through her veins.

And then everything is spinning and contorting and crumbling.

There are demons and ghosts just beyond the edges of her thoughts and suddenly, even through the feverish fog of her delusion, she has perfect clarity.

Suddenly, she knows exactly what is happening.

She's dying.

There's something in her blood now and it's flying through her.

She feels the tremors, feels the tightening of her chest and then sees the shadowy ghosts rushing towards her.

The last thing she hears is the Voice. He's leaning over her and his hand touches her face, almost gently (she has another flash then – one that seems to involve hands raking across naked skin, but that makes no sense, right?).

He says to her, "Rest in peace, Agent Blye."

So she does what she's told – which is something of a first for her – and she closes her eyes and tries to rest.

Backup arrives mere minutes later – two men racing from the car and sprinting into the warehouse, guns out.

Callen, as always, takes the lead. He gestures and points to Sam, telling him to go around the back.

He wants to call out for her, but he doesn't dare.

Just in case the bad guys are still around.

They're not.

It's a realization that comes to him quickly, if not coldly as he steps over the shattered remains of Kensi's cell phone. He leans down and picks it up, realizing that it's been crushed by the heel of a man's heavy boot.

"G, in here!" Sam calls out.

He jumps and rushes the voice, racing through an open door.

And then he freezes.

Everything in him turns to ice when he sees her lying on the cold hard cement of the warehouse, her body twitching violently, her hands spasming, flailing about frantically, blindly.

"Kensi," he whispers.

"She's overdosing," Sam says from his position just above her. He's turning her on her side, trying to control the overdose, trying to keep her from hurting herself even worse than somebody else already has.

And have they ever.

She's covered in jagged and bloody cuts and horrifically colorful bruises. Her clothes, while still on, leave little to the imagination with as torn as they are.

It takes Callen an uncharacteristically long moment to gain his wits about him – something he's loathe to admit.

But there are so many thoughts going through his mind.

So many fears.

He's sure that he's about to lose her.

Positive of it.

He barely hears Sam speak. It isn't until Sam says his name that he returns to the here and now.

"What?" he stammers, taking a slight hesitant step towards them. "What did you say?"

"I said she's dying, G," Sam tells him, looking deep into his eyes. "We don't have time for this."


"We have to get her to a hospital."


"Now, G!"

It snaps Callen out of the strange funk that his mind had sunk into. The leader part of his clicks on and suddenly he's ridiculously calm and cool.

"Pick her up. She doesn't have time to wait on an ambulance getting here."

He needn't have given the order; Sam is already holding her in his arms, pressing her tight against his chest, trying desperately to calm the violent tremors that are shaking apart her lean (and suddenly far too fragile) frame.

Callen looks around the warehouse and shakes his head, "Where the hell is Deeks? How could he let this happen to her?"

Sam doesn't reply. There's no answer he could give that will give any of them any comfort. After all, the options on this one aren't very good. Either Deeks betrayed them all and left Kensi to this horrible fate (Sam immediately rejects this option – Deeks might drive him insane, but he's Kensi's partner - he'd never let her be hurt if he could help it) or much more likely, he's dead and dumped somewhere in Los Angeles.

It's a horrible thing to consider and yet, he can't not.

Sam reaches out and touches Kensi's face, the tips of his fingers tracing a dark bruise that is already blooming beneath her left eye socket. "Hang on," he urges.

She shudders in response and calls out first for Deeks and then, her voice cracking horribly, she pleads desperately for her father.

It breaks his heart.

Henrietta Lange had long ago came to realize that there was a blessing in being her size – well many if she really thought about it – but one largely (no pun intended) significant one, especially right now.

That blessing, she muses, as she cuts between several towering scrub-adorned men who are huddled in the hallway of the West Los Angeles Medical Center, is her ability to move lightning fast and almost never be noticed.

She's down the hallway and in front of the much taller doctor within moments. He blinks when he sees her and stammers, "Ma'am?"

"My agent," she replies crisply. "How is she?"

For a moment, he looks confused. But then, hesitantly, "Agent Anne Cochran?"

"Yes, Agent Cochran," Hetty nods, grateful that whoever checked Kensi in had had the presence of mind to use an alias. Even now, even in such dire circumstances, preserving and protecting the base identity is key. It's all right if these men know that Kensi – or Anne in this case – is a Federal Agent, it's not okay if they know that she's an NCIS OSP operative.

The doctor glances down quickly at a clipboard that he's carrying and then looks back up and she sees the concern deep in his hazel eyes. She steels herself for what he's about to say, rationalizes that as long as it starts with "she's fighting", that will be okay.

"Go on," she urges, her voice dropping just a bit, taking on a gentle tone.

"Well as I told the two young men that came in with her, her condition is quite serious. Right now, we're just trying to stabilize her."

"What are her injuries?"

"She was beaten badly and suffered a fairly severe concussion, but that's not the worst of it. It seems she was injected with some new type of designer heroin."

"Prince Charming," Hetty replies.

"You're aware of the drug?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Well we've been seeing this Prince Charming drug a lot over the last few weeks and most of the time it doesn't…" He trails off, changes course, "It's causing your agent significant complications, especially to her heart."

Hetty meets the Doctor's eyes. "I trust that I don't need to tell you how important Agent Cochran is to my team." She pauses slightly and then adds in a much lower voice, "And to myself."

"No, your other agents made that very clear. I promise you, we're doing everything we can. If she has even a little bit of fight in her, I'm hopeful that we can pull her through this."

"Then we're all in luck, Doctor," Hetty chuckles. "Agent Cochran is all fight." There's enormous and unmistakable pride in her tone.

"Good. I'll let you know as soon as I know something more," he tells her. "By the way, your other agents are down in the cafeteria, I believe. They were both quite…emotional and there's nothing they can do up here."

She nodded. "Thank you." And with that, she turns and walks away, down the hallway, towards the elevator.

He watches her for a beat, thinking about the crazy life that he has and realizing that it doesn't handle a candle to the lives that these agents (and yes, he's quite aware that the woman he is taking care of is using an alias) are leading.

She's not even a little surprised to find the two men sitting across from each other at one of the long cafeteria tables. Neither of them is speaking or even looking at each other.

There's no companionship in this fear.

"Gentlemen," she says. They look up. She seats herself.

"Any news?" Callen asks first, almost tripping over his words.

"No, not yet."

Silence again.

"Director Vance is going to want a full accounting of how this entire operation went down."

"You mean how it went bad?" Sam challenges.

Hetty leans forward. "Now, both of you listen to me very closely. This job we do, it's dangerous and we can't control all parts of it."

"Hetty, if you're about to say that this isn't anyone's fault, please don't," Callen tells her. "We've all been through this far too many times to buy that line."

"No, of course not, Mr. Callen. It's quite clear that mistakes were made somewhere along the way. We need to know where."

"There are parts that only Kensi knows," Sam offers. "And Deeks. And we have no idea where the hell he is."

"Finding Mr. Deeks is priority number one," Hetty assures him. "But as we don't even yet know where to begin looking, we're best ensuring that we understand where we have been so we know where to go next."

Callen shakes his head, almost violently. "Dammit, she wasn't ready for deep cover yet."

"She's no rookie, G," Sam counters.

"She wasn't ready," Callen insists again. "I knew it." He looks up at Hetty, blue eyes sparking fire. "I warned you…"

Hetty fixes him with a hard look and he falls silent, still simmering, still shaking his head. "When Agent Blye wakes up – and she will, wake up - she can fill us in on the details that only she knows. Until then, let's start at the beginning."

For a moment, neither Sam nor Callen speaks. They both stare at each other, their faces mirrored, both showing a level of shock that seems almost odd. These two men, they've been through so much, they've absorbed so many tragedies and yet somehow, stupidly, they'd both allowed themselves to care again.

Hetty's seen this before – it's the nature of team undercover work. Even with grizzled and weary agents who know better, sometimes, the team gets too close, becomes too much like a family and when that happens, the breaking point comes quickly.

Sometimes it's not a good idea to force a pack out of a handful of lone wolves.

And yes, she's not even a little bit sorry that she did.

Though right about now, she's desperately wishing Nate wasn't on special assignment halfway across the world. She could very much use his kind of calm.

Unfortunately, he's not available to her and it's her job to get to the truth.

"Please," she urges. "There's nothing else we can do now, but…"

"We should be out there looking for Deeks," Sam insists. "Not sitting here telling stories."

"Again, Mr. Hanna, I agree. Do you have a place you'd like to start?"

"We can go back to the warehouse we found Kensi in, look it over. Maybe there's a clue…"

"Mr. Beal is going through all the video footage he can locate. If there's something to find, he will and he will update us immediately. Anywhere else?"

"The apartment Kensi and Deeks were at," Sam replies.

"Detective Bernhardt called me about fifteen minutes ago. He and his partner went there to check it out. They say it looks undisturbed, no sign of struggle."

Sam opens his mouth to offer another suggestion, but then reluctantly closes it.

Hetty leans forward. "Everyone is looking for Mr. Deeks. I even called Mr. Renko and asked him to return back to Los Angeles to lend a hand. He's on his way. As for us, as soon as we have even the slightly thread as to his whereabouts, we will jump in, but for now, the best thing we can do is wait here and pray for Agent Blye. And in the meanwhile, figure out how all of this happened."

The men exchange a wary look and then reluctantly, Callen – always the leader, even in fear - starts.

One Month Earlier

He's mid way through his second cup of badly brewed coffee when he sees her walk into the Mission, dark oversized sunglasses still on. She's trying to slide in without anyone noticing her, which alone means that she's trying to hide something.

Once quick glance at her messy hair and make-up less face tells him that it'd been a long night for her. He smirks, grins over at his partner Sam Hanna and then steps towards her.

"You look like hell," he says. His tone is entirely too chipper.

NCIS Special Agent Kensi Blye forces a smile as she turns to greet him. "I'm fine."

"Do I see gills?" Callen asks, leaning in.

"I think so," Sam confirms, also stepping towards her. He doesn't invade her personal space, but he comes close enough to inspect the side of her neck. "Yeah, definitely and they look a little bit…"

"No, they don't!" She puts her hands out as if to push them away from her. "I don't have gills and I'm not green around them."

The two men look at each other and shrug.

"She's kind of cranky," Callen notes, dropping himself down into the chair behind his desk. He picks up a thick pile of paperwork, does a very casual almost obligatory flip through it and then puts it back down.

"I've noticed," Sam nods, depositing himself into his own chair. Unlike Callen, Sam begins to carefully inspect the files in front of him.

"So, what was it? Too much vodka last night?" Callen asks casually, smiling. "Or was it the Jack again?" And then, smile widening, "Or was there a Jack."

"No," she replies, not at all convincingly. "No Vodka and no Jack."

"Ah, but sometimes, the classics work best when you're feeling slightly under the weather," a familiar voice rumbles from their side. Callen rolls his head to the side to see Hetty Lange walking towards them, a cup of tea nestled in her small palms. "Lemon tea, my dear."

"Thank you," Kensi replies, with more than a touch of affection. She slides off ger sunglasses (revealing bloodshot eyes) and takes the cup from Hetty. She sips it and then, in the direction of the boys, adds, "I appreciate the consideration."

"She sound to you like she's whining?" Callen asks Sam.

"A little bit," Sam confirms.

"Mr. Callen, Mr. Hanna, don't you have reports due in two hours?" Hetty reminds them, a slight amused glint in her eyes.

"Ooh, saved by mom," Sam chuckles.

Hetty is about to respond when the sound of loud whistle echoes across the room. In unison, all of them look up to see their tech Eric Beal. He's standing high above them, on the balcony, dressed in his typical khaki shorts and a shirt that likely even MC Hammer would have found too loud.

Callen doesn't miss Kensi's reaction – a sharp pained wince.

"We're ready," Eric says and Callen notices that while he's addressing all of them, he's specifically speaking to Hetty.

"Good," Hetty nods. To the others, "If you will all join me upstairs." And then she heads up the stairs. She joins Eric up at the top and they disappear back into the Ops room.

"So, are you hung over or actually sick?" Callen asks as he jumps from his chair, happy to have an excuse not to touch the pile of paperwork in front of him.

"Neither," Kensi growls, sliding in front of him and darting up the stairs.

Callen turns to Sam, "What do you think?"

"Benefit of the doubt so sick," Sam replies.

"I'll take hungover."

"Okay," Sam shrugs agreeably.

"Twenty on it?"


"I hate you both," she calls down the stairs.

And then promptly proceeds to nearly stumble over her feet.

Only a sudden hand, low on her back (maybe too low) stops her from pitching down the steps and falling into a pathetic heap at the foot of the staircase.

She looks up and forces something that likely resembles a smile.

Or a macabre grimace.

"Deeks," she growls at her partner (who seems to have appeared out of thin air, much to her annoyance.)

"Kensi," he replies smoothly and with a far too wide grin.

"Thanks for the save," she tells him.

"You're welcome."

"Your hand?"

"Sorry," he smirks and then takes perhaps a moment too long to remove his hand from her backside. She lifts an eyebrow and he meets her gaze evenly. It's an old school stand-off and neither is quite willing to look away.

"Oh, good, Deeks, we need a tiebreaker," Callen chirps, sliding between them and breaking their staring contest. "Hungover or sick?"

For a moment, LAPD Detective Marty Deeks seems surprised. He's been liaising between the LAPD and NCIS for almost six months now and he's still not completely sure that any of them want him around. The jokes and pranks they pull are usually at his expense as opposed to inclusive of him.

"Uh, sick?" he finally stammers, casting a side-long glance over at his partner. She doesn't look quite right, a bit pale and not quite put together.

Like maybe she's been up all night doing something.

"Two to one," Sam announces, coming up behind them and then passing them on his way into the Ops room. "I win."

"That's just because he's never seen Kensi hungover before," Callen shoots back. "Trust me, Deeks, it looks a lot like this." Even so, he's pulling out a twenty dollar bill and offering it to Sam.

"You suck," Kensi growls at him. She reaches out and snatches the twenty away from Sam. His only response is to chuckle.

"So, uh…how…uh…how often are you hungover?" Deeks asks her, more than a hint of amusement (and maybe intrigued curiosity) in his tone. He's wisely taken a step back and away from her like he knows the question might result in her taking a swipe at him.

And she hits hard – this, he knows from experience.

"Really? You, too?" Kensi demands and he's suddenly trying to avoid her eyes because he's fairly sure that they're shooting lasers of death and destruction at him right about now.

"I…" he puts up his hands in a show of mock protest, but the grin he's wearing pretty much sells him out.

"Ugh. I hate all of you," she amends with a growl and then moves past him, her gait meant to be sharp and purposeful, but looking a bit off wobbly instead.

"Congrats," Callen tells him, clapping his shoulder. "Welcome to the club."


Callen smirks and heads into the Crow's Nest. After a moment, Deeks trails him.

"So, what are we dealing with?" Callen asks, suddenly all-business.

Hetty looks around the room and addresses the techs in the corners of the room. "Unless you are deep cover cleared, please exit at this time."

The techs – two men and a women – do so instantly. Hetty closes the door behind them and closes the blinds, causing the room to go dark except for the bright reflective glow from the LCD screen.

"Deep cover?" Callen asks and his brow is furrowed.

"Yes. Mr. Beal, if you'll begin, please?"

"Right," Eric says. He pushes a few keys on his control pad. "Meet Charlie Wilson. Seemingly innocuous college student, aged twenty-two."

A picture of a handsome young surfer with golden hair and twinkling blue eyes comes up on the screen.

"And this is Charlie Wilson from two days ago."

A video comes on the screen of the same blonde young man wearing a hoodie and baggie jeans. The video shows him moving furtively down an alley. At one point, he turns towards the camera, revealing his face.

"Is that the same guy?" Callen asks.

"Unfortunately," Eric nods.

"He's been using pretty heavily then," Kensi notes, her tone grim as she takes in the now sunken in and sallow face of Charlie Wilson. He looks at least ten years older than he had in the previous photo.

"Right," Eric agrees. "And this is him when he was found last night."

Another image comes up, this one showing Charlie Wilson, naked, badly beaten and quite dead.

"Okay," Deeks says, "College kid runs afoul of his dealer."

"Yes and he's far from this first." Eric pushes another button and several dozen photos come up, all showing pictures of dead college students. "Most of these cases are overdoses, a few of them are like Charlie."

"What does this have to do with us?" Callen asks. "I don't see a military connection."

"I'm getting there," Eric replies. "These kids are overdosing from a new street drug called –"

"Prince Charming," Deeks puts in. When the others in the room turn to face him, he continues. "It's a new brand of heroin cut with some kind of designer drug. The upside is much longer and much more dramatic highs. Downside is that it's almost instantly addictive. There is no such thing as just trying it socially. You try it and you're suddenly looking at an expensive habit that just keeps snowballing until you're completely out of control. Even worse, it's very, very easy to overdose. The LAPD has been running into this drug and the trail of bodies it's being leaving behind it for about the last six months or so."

"What he said," Eric nods. "Which is where we come into this." He brings the video of Charlie Wilson back up. "Watch," he says.

The video shows Charlie slink around a corner and then come up to another man dressed in cargo pants and a hoodie. His face is obstructed.

Charlie starts speaking to him and almost immediately, the body language from the man in the cargos get aggressive.

Suddenly, there's a gun out and Charlie's trying to back away, but before he can, two men come up beside him and start hitting him. Hard.

The brutal beating continues for about a moment and then the man in the cargos turns to walk away. As he does, the camera catches his face.

Mid twenties and Latino.

Eric pauses the video.

"Meet Marine Corps First Lieutenant Paul Sanchez. Did two stints in Afghanistan and is awaiting orders to return for a third tour."

"And making some money in the meanwhile," Sam grumbles, eyes narrowing dangerously.

"He's just a low level dealer," Kensi says, "Charlie probably got an advance and couldn't pay him back."

"But why such violence?" Eric asks. "I mean it's not good business to kill off your buyer base, right?"

"No," Deeks agrees. "But Charlie probably got desperate and tried to blackmail Sanchez. Sanchez didn't have any choice, but to kill him."

"Okay so we have a Marine dealing heroin and killing his buyers," Callen says. "Since we know who he is, why don't we just pick him up."

"We have," Hetty cuts in. Immediately, the room gets very quiet. Hetty doesn't often take the floor; she's typically content to let Callen run the show, but on this one, she puts herself front and center. "He was picked up this morning by military police. After extensive questioning, I was called. It seems that Lt. Sanchez wants to make a deal. He knows who is at the top of the distribution chain and is willing to help us get to him."

"Has he told us the name?" Deeks queries.

"Christopher Kassel, thirty-five." Eric says and a picture of a man with deep olive skin, dark hair and green eyes comes up. "Born in Columbia to American parents. He's a former Marine as well, though from several years ago. He did four years and got out. After that, he fell off the map until about three years ago when the DEA started to attach him to several major heroin smuggling operations. No one has ever been able to get close enough to him to pin anything on him."

"Lt. Sanchez says that he can get someone in," Hetty tells them.

"Sanchez knows Kassel?" Callen asks, a bit incredulous.

"He claims Kassel hand recruited and trained him. And that one of his jobs is to bring new distribution pipelines to Kassel."

"New dealers," Sam translates.


"So, we're sending one of us in with Sanchez?" Callen asks.

"Two of you. Detective Deeks and Agent Blye."

Before either of them can say anything, Hetty points to Eric. He pushes a button and another video comes up on the screen, this one of Sanchez in an interrogation room, facing a NCIS agent.

"Chris is specific about what he wants in his new guys. They have to be young and look like they could fit in a college campus so I always try to recruit from actual campuses. Makes it easier. He wants them to be a bit rough around the edges, not clean cut. After all, they have to be able to sell to kids. And they have to always, always, always be attached. He wants a girlfriend so that if the new guys goes stupid, he has something to hold over them. Day one, he tells the new guy, 'you're gonna make a shitload of money, kid, but you fuck me and I will kill your woman.' And he has."

Eric pauses the video.

There's a moment of silence and then Deek says, "Wait, let me get this right, Kensi has to pretend to be my woman?"

Kensi groans.

Hetty ignores him and turns to face Callen. "No offense, Mr. Callen, but I don't think you or Mr. Hanna fit the requirements that Lt. Sanchez just laid out."

"No," Sam agrees. "G and I both know what clippers look like."

"Funny," Deeks replies, running a hand self-consciously through his shaggy locks. He glances over at Kensi, sees her smirking and adds, "Now come on, honey, defend your man."

"Bite me."

"Later, maybe. When we're alone."

"Deeks, I swear to God…"

"He's not Deeks," Hetty says. "He's James Reese, a computer science major at UCLA. Ms. Blye, you are Kara Barstow, a theatre student, also at UCLA." She hands both of them files. "By the time you are ready to go in, both of you will be thoroughly and completely backstopped."

"Hey, look," Deeks laughs. "We're engaged."


"Just think, honey, we already have a dog. You, me, Monty, kids on the way eventually. I'm thinking 2.5 of them."

"He's not going to survive this," Kensi says under her breath as she flips through the file, her eyes scanning the lines of information that have been created for Kara Barstow. She's never done deep cover before, but she understands the theory behind it.

It's a little bit like writing a story and then acting it out.

It's all about becoming the character. Or so she's heard Sam and Callen say a thousand times.

As she goes down the page, her mind begins to create the character and she starts to try to figure out how she differs from Kensi Blye.

How she is, in fact, someone completely different from Kensi Blye.

Kara Barstow is something of an orphan(something she can quite obviously relate to) – both of her parents are long dead, but she has a much older brother in Chicago.

Kara is flirty and just a little bit flighty. She's dramatic and girlish, not at all good at things like cars and guns. Still, she's independent and has a stubborn streak. She's a bit of a feminist, but more one in theory than practice. She likes her men to be strong and in control.

"I took the liberty of having Lt. Sanchez brought to the Boathouse," Hetty says, interrupting her thought process. "He will be waiting for you there. Question him thoroughly – he will be the one introducing the two of you to Mr. Kassel."

"How do we know he won't just immediately out Kensi and Deeks to save his own ass?" Callen asks.

"Sanchez has already implicated Kassel. He's in too deep. There's no way Kassel forgives him for what he's already said," Sam answers. Then he looks at Hetty. "Plus I'm guessing he was cut a pretty good deal."

"If he comes through and you are able to arrest Mr. Kassel and he then testifies, yes, he has been offered a very generous deal. Mr. Kassel is the big fish here. The Feds want him, the LAPD want him and Director Vance wants him. All have agreed to work together on this."

"I guess that's that then" Deeks says.

"Hetty, can I talk to you?" Callen asks, brow furrowing again.

"Of course," she nods. They stop towards the door of the room, but don't exit it.

Callen lowers his voice and leans in. "This could take weeks, even months. Kensi has never done deep cover before."

"True," Hetty replies. "But there has to be a first time."

"And I'm ready," Kensi says loudly, stepping towards them. Then she smiles slightly and shrugs, "I can read lips." Then to Callen. "But I am ready for this."

"You have to keep your cover every minute," he tells her and there's a sense of urgency in his tone. "Whatever it takes – whatever - to keep your cover."

"I know. I'm good at this."

"You're good at short cover. You're the best, but this is a different beast. Even one step off of the person you're supposed to be and you could end up dead. You can't be Kensi Blye pretending to be Kara Barstow. You have to be Kara Barstow. You have to act like she would. You can't be wondering how she should act in a situation, you have to know. In order to make this work, you have to lose Kensi and became Kara."

"I'm ready," she insists again. "I can do this."

"Then it's settled," Hetty announces. "Lt. Sanchez is waiting for you all at the Boathouse. Let's not keep him waiting."

Callen's look says he's unconvinced by this plan, but he closes his mouth and then turns and exits the room. Sam glances over at Kensi, who is wearing a slightly hurt expression.

"You know it's not personal," he tells her.

"I can do this," Kensi repeats, her voice low.

"I know you can and he does, too. He's just…G."

"Right. Just G."

And now maybe some of the hurt is turning into defiant anger.

"Whatever. Come on, Deeks."

"Sure, honey. By the way, how's that hangover headache doing?"

She tosses him a dirty look.

"Oh, come on," he says, "Don't be mad. Honey, I know just the best hangover remedy ever."

"I don't want to know," she tells him, moving quickly down the stairs.

He shrugs. "Let's see if you're still saying that after we get married."

That, of course, earns him a hard fist to the shoulder.

"You're lucky it wasn't a knee to the groin," Sam chuckles as he passes them.

Rubbing his sore shoulder, Deeks can't help but admit that Sam is probably right.

Paul Sanchez is a nervous guy, full of excitable energy and frayed nerves. When he sees the door to the interrogation room open, he jumps to his feet.

When he sees the two agents that enter – Deeks and Kensi – his eyes immediately track towards (and over) Kensi and a kind of strange cruel curiosity crosses his face. His appraisal of her is quite clearly sexual.

"Sit down," Deeks says, immediately taking control. He gives Kensi a look, the kind that seems to be asking her to let him handle this one.

She nods her head ever so slightly and then silently, she slides her body against the far wall of the room, arms crossed, the rigidness of her spine in direct contrast with her almost casual posture.

Sanchez sits, but he can't seem to keep his eyes from darting towards Kensi.

"On me, Soldier" Deeks tells him. "Keep your eyes on me. She's not even here."

Sanchez obeys, years of military training making him snap to near attention. This is clearly a man who is used to being told what to do.

"You understand what you're being asked to do?"

"Yes," Sanchez nods. "Get you in." When he speaks, Deeks can almost taste the cigarettes and alcohol that Sanchez had likely been gorging himself on in the hours before he'd been apprehended.

"Not just get us in, make sure you sell us. We have to be believable and we have to be able to get close to Kassel. You screw that up and you're going to spend the rest of your life behind bars."

"I understand," he replies and then, quite unable to stop himself, his eyes dart over towards Kensi again.

Before Kensi can say or do anything, Deek snaps, "Me. On Me." Once Sanchez is looking at him again, he continues, "Now, walk me through your typical recruiting process."

"What the hell was that?" Kensi demands as they exit the room.

"An educated guess," Deeks shrugs. "I looked over Sanchez's file on the way here. It said that he'd grown up in a single parent home, mother ran out on he and his father. As an adult, he'd had some domestic disturbance calls involving his first wife and there's a citation in his military jacket about a complaint of lewd behavior involving a waitress during one of his leaves."

"So he's a sexist pig," Kensi replies. "I can handle that."

"I know you can," Deeks replies softly and there's a hint of admiration in his tone.

"But you figured he'd more likely to respond to a man than a woman."

"I figured he probably doesn't have a very healthy view of women and is more likely to stay in line when being told what to do by a man."

"Good call," she says simply. She hates being dismissed by anyone (especially a piece of garbage like Paul Sanchez), but she understands the concepts of manipulation, leverage and pressure points and knows that ego has no place in this business. If by being a macho and commanding man, Deeks can get Sanchez to cooperate, well then, she can live with that.

Besides, she reminds herself, Kara Barstow is the kind of woman who would probably allow her man to lead.

As much as the very idea of ever being submissive to anyone burns at her, she understands that she needs to come to peace with it.

Kara and Kensi are not the same.

She has to be Kara.

"You nervous?" Deeks asks, breaking into her thoughts.

She's about to reply (with an honest yes) when she sees Callen and Sam approaching. Instead of whatever she was about to say, she pastes a large smile across her face and replies, "Not at all."

"She was lying," Callen says simply, lifting his eyes up to meet Hetty's. "But because I made her feel like she couldn't do it, she was insistent that she would."

"She was insistent that she would because it's her job," Hetty replies softly.

"And G, up until three days ago, we all thought this case we going pretty well," Sam reminds him. "She and Deeks were close to Kassel."

At that moment, Hetty's phone rings. She glances down at it, then gets up from the table and moves away.

"So what the hell went wrong then?" Callen asks Sam after a moment. "How did they get made?"

"We don't know that they did," Sam answers.

"What he did to her, it's much worse than what he's done to any of the other ones that he's killed. The others have just been beaten and killed. He tortured her. Maybe he didn't know she was NCIS, but he know she was law enforcement of some kind."

Sam doesn't counter that, knows he can't.

"Maybe," Hetty says suddenly, reappearing, her phone in her hand. "Ms. Blye can provide us with some of these answers." She meets their eyes, first Callen and then Sam. "She's stable and she's conscious."