Title: These Battles We Inevitably Lose
Kensi/Deeks, even though she's not in this particular scene. More like Deeks & Sam discuss Kensi.
Missing scene for 2x15; Tin Soldier.
Summary: "You can't fall in love with her." Never before have Sam's words felt so futile.

There's a war currently raging inside of Deeks.

A rather brutal and bloody war, one where neither side has a clear advantage.

It's between Deeks the cop and Deeks the man, and it's enough to have his stomach clenching and twisting violently. He's glad he's not the one driving, because he's certain he would have wrecked the car by now. He's sure it's not showing on the surface – at least he hopes it's not showing on the surface, but he's an utter mess right now, all because he can't reconcile the warring sides within him.

Detective Deeks repeatedly tells Sam to slow down. He's trailing too close, so close that he fears the suspects will discover they're being tailed. Detective Deeks knows his protocol; he's had a few too many undercover operations blown because of careless following. He knows exactly what a safe distance is; knows exactly what to do when it seems like his suspect is getting suspicious. He knows when to speed up, when to slow down, and when to finally make himself known and apprehend the suspect. Because despite what his fellow officers at the LAPD might think of him, Deeks is a damn good cop and he knows how to get the job done.

Marty Deeks, however, is another story entirely. Marty Deeks wants nothing more than for Sam to punch it past one-forty on the speedometer. Wants Sam to hit that accelerator and squeal the tires violently on the pavement, because to him, there is nothing more important than catching up with that car. Nothing.

Adding to the frantic swirl of fear within him are the images from not so long ago that he just can't shake. Images that seize him, paralyzing him to the point where he can't believe he ever managed to be of any use before. It's so vivid, this endless filmstrip in his mind; so vivid and clear that for a moment, Deeks swears they're more than just flashbacks. It's almost as if he's back there.

Back there, standing helplessly with his gun outstretched as Kensi walks away from him and toward the Russians. He remembers the surge of protectiveness that came over him as she offered herself up to them; the only thing he'd wanted to do then was put a bullet into each of the Russians' heads. Kensi was calm, but then again, he can count the number of times he's seen her shaken on one hand and still have fingers left over.

One of those times came just after that; the end result of letting her go with the Russians. Surrounded by the eerie red light of the lasers, it had been the first time that Deeks had really been privy to all of her emotions – she hadn't been strong enough at the time to keep them hidden away. Her eyes, those dark, beautiful eyes of hers, they'd been filled with fear and desperation; the sight had filled Deeks with fear and desperation, because he hadn't been so sure that he could answer favorably the plea in her eyes, her silent plea to get her out of there. Beads of sweat on her face, her hair matted damply against the back of her neck, the slight trembling of her body as she tediously worked her way through the maze…it had been torture to watch; torture to know that one wrong move could abruptly take her away from him.

She'd probably kill him if she knew, but when she was finally safe and in his arms, Deeks had sworn never to let anyone take her ever again.

And yet, that's the situation she's found herself in yet again. On some level, Deeks knows that he had nothing to do with it this time, but that doesn't stop the guilt from churning deep within his stomach. He's her partner, after all. She can take care of herself, certainly, but he's supposed to ensure that she doesn't have to. He's supposed to have her back.

Of course, he's not even sure that she's in danger – he just has a bad feeling. And even though she's been playing the psychic for the duration of this op, he can't deny that his 'bad feelings' are generally well-warranted.

Besides that, he simply cannot force himself to move past one utterly sickening fact: the last time he watched his partner being directed into someone else's car, the cost had nearly been her life.

Suddenly, Deeks finds himself jolted out of his thoughts as Sam slams his foot on the brake, bringing the car to a very unexpected stop on the shoulder. Deeks lurches forward, throwing out a hand to steady himself, but the abruptness of the motion is enough to leave his heart pounding and his eyes wide. "What the hell, Sam?" he blurts out, lifting a hand to rub at his neck where the seatbelt had caught him – he's certain it'll be rather raw later. There's anger in his eyes as he looks to Sam; anger that's mixed with fear at the prospect of losing valuable time sitting on the side of the road.

Sam simply stares at him; the anger in his eyes is mixed with disapproval. "What are you doing, Deeks?" he asks calmly. Callen's antics in the car are one thing; dealing with Deeks while trying to drive is another beast entirely. He thinks Kensi must have the patience of a saint, because this short stint of playing Deeks' partner is certainly testing him, that's for sure. No way that he could do it full-time like her.

It'd started out with minor fidgeting, shifting in his seat every couple of minutes. And then, it intensified. Sighing heavily. Tapping his fingers on various parts of the car's interior. Looking at his watch every thirty seconds. More shifting. And then it had culminated with Deeks telling Sam how to drive.

It's maddening.

Even more maddening is the fact that Sam knows what it's about.

And it's not about the case.

Deeks stares at him, confusion fighting its way into the midst of the warring emotions in his eyes. "What am I doing? You're the one who tried to eject me headfirst from the car."

"Don't tempt me, Deeks," he replies before hitting him with the same question again. "What are you doing?"

Deeks shakes his head. "Anytime you want to clue me in on what you're talking about, that'd be great," he quips back. His gaze darts toward the open road, and damn it all he wants is for Sam to get back to driving.

He doesn't do that. Instead, he exhales deeply before giving a simple, clipped clarification. "With Kensi."

"With – with Kensi?" Deeks repeats, his blue eyes going wide. He can't quite figure out where that came from; it's possible that he's a bit more transparent than he thinks when he contemplates. And that's something he's been doing for the entire duration of this ride – contemplating Kensi and her safety. "You saw those guys, Sam. They're armed and I don't like that there are three of them and only one of Kensi. She's good, but I don't think she can be that good."

Sam Hanna is not a blind man; he knows there's far more to it than that. He's not deaf either, and the answer Deeks just gave him is the entirely wrong answer. It's an answer that screams of Kensi and not of the operation. It's a dangerous answer. "That's not what I'm talking about."

"Then what –"

He's blunt; he's found that's the best way to get something into Deeks' head. "You can't fall in love with her."

Deeks blinks. Whatever he was expecting, it certainly hadn't been that. And even so, he can't quite deny that the words hit him rather funnily in the chest. When he's regained control of his voice, he gives a quick snort of laughter. "Are you kidding me?"

He's trying to laugh it off, but there's a discomfort there that doesn't go unnoticed by Sam; he feels as though he's hit the proverbial nail on the head. "No," he says sharply, giving Deeks a look that wipes the nervous grin right off of the blonde's face. "I am dead serious."

For a moment, Deeks can only stare. Although the accusation came as a shock, he finds himself unable to shake the sense of guilt that's settling over him. He feels as if he's been caught red-handed, even though he's done nothing. "I don't – she's my partner, Sam."


A realization clicks for Deeks then; furrowing his brow, his voice is much colder when he speaks again. "If this has something to do with Traynor…"

"Traynor?" Sam shakes his head. "No. This is all Kensi." He lets out a breath as Deeks stares blankly at him. "You look at her too much."

"I look at her too much," Deeks replies dryly. "So, what, I'm supposed to not look at her when she's talking to me? So she hits me for not paying attention while she's talking?"

Sam glares. "Stop it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. And it's not that." Deeks says nothing, and Sam shakes his head in growing annoyance. "Do I have to draw out everything for you? It's when she's not talking that's the problem. I see you watching her from across the room; I see the way you look at her at the end of something extreme – a shootout or some other rough case. The way you looked at her after she told Talbot about Jack; the way you looked at her when Talbot knocked her out and we were waiting for her to wake up.

"And it's the way you look at her," Sam continues. "And before you argue that tons of men look at her all the time, it's not like that. You don't look at her like you want to shove her against the wall and have your way with her." Deeks flinches at the bluntness of his statement, and it's just more evidence to Sam's suspicions. "You look at her like – like you're in constant awe of her. I've seen that look too many times, Deeks, and it never leads to anything good when it's combined with work."

Discreetly, Deeks rolls his eyes – he's had just about enough of this and thinks the time would better be spent catching up to Kensi. "So I'm not allowed to look at her."

"If you were just looking at her, it wouldn't be so bad. But you're distracted by her."

This time, Deeks has his own comeback. "Because we're partners. Don't act like you're not distracted by what's going on with Callen."

"Nuh-uh. Completely different." Sam watches Deeks for a moment, trying to gauge just how in to the case the other man is; he doesn't like what he sees. "The job is still what's at the front of my mind. I'm not distracted. I can do my job. You…I wonder about right now, because during this whole case? There are a million things that you should be running through in your mind. But this whole drive, your mind has been on Kensi. Your mind has been on Kensi since we made her the bait back at the club. And don't argue," Sam says quickly, catching Deeks as he opens his mouth to protest. "I can tell, Deeks. You have a tell."

He stops for a moment, allowing his words to – hopefully – sink into Deeks before he continues. "You can't fall in love with her," he repeats, and if possible, his voice is more demanding than before. "You can't, because the moment you do, that's the moment you put her life in jeopardy. That's when you screw up a fragile op because your head is clouded and you're thinking about her instead of the case. That's why there are rules, because you get caught in a firefight with someone you have feelings for, you can't think straight." His eyes harden severely, so much that Deeks finds himself struggling not to cower beneath the other man's gaze. "And I swear to God, Deeks, if you get Kensi killed because you're too preoccupied with being her knight in shining armor than with actually backing her up like her partner should be, then I will hunt you down and I will personally kill you. And then you can bet that Callen will kill you again. Mike Renko will probably show up about that time, wanting some too."

For a moment, Deeks is struck by a bit of what he won't quite admit is jealousy. Kensi might not have much of a biological family, but the family she does have is something Deeks has never really found himself a part of. It's something that's always eluded him, so much that he's tried to convince himself that that inherent sense of belonging is just a myth. It's clear just how deep the relationships within this team go; Callen, Sam, Kensi…Deeks knows all of them would give anything for each other, knows they would trust each other with their lives without question.

He kind of thinks that, no matter how long he's with them, he'll always be just on the outside of that little circle. Nobody's going to kill for him if he gets hurt, he thinks wryly.

His thoughts must show in his eyes, he assumes, because Sam softens a bit as he speaks again. "You're part of this team now, Deeks," he says quietly. "But Kensi is too, and we look out for our own. We protect our own."

Deeks scoffs, shrugging off the sense of insecurity and falling back on humor yet again, the one thing that's never let him down. "Yeah. I'm feeling very well protected over here, that's for sure."

Sam finally smirks. Reaching across the center console, he lands a good-natured punch to Deeks' shoulder. "Kensi's good. She's not going to put you in any danger."

The implication is plenty clear; it's one that cuts Deeks to the bone. "I wouldn't put her in danger, Sam," he says quietly, and Sam finds himself almost taken aback by the degree of sincerity in the other man's voice. With all the jokes and the sarcasm, he has to admit that it's not something he's heard from him often. "I – I wouldn't. If something happened to her because of me, I'd give up my badge and my gun right there on the spot. I do care about her – she is my partner." For a long moment, Deeks simply holds the other man's eyes, unsure whether or not it does anything to enhance his credibility – he knows he doesn't have a lot of that as far as Sam is concerned. "I wouldn't put her in danger," he repeats.

Sam sighs, turning his eyes forward again. "Not on purpose." For a couple of seconds, the silence is heavy between them, heavy and oppressive, and just as Deeks is about to say something to break it, Sam speaks again. "Which is what I'm getting at. You wouldn't put her in danger on purpose, but there's always the possibility that you might put her in danger by trying too hard to protect her. And Kensi…" A brief smile flickers over Sam's lips. "She's a sister to us. The little sister who's too daring and too stubborn for her own good. She doesn't need any help finding trouble. The important thing is that when she finds it, she's usually pretty damn good about getting herself out of it."

That much is true, Deeks has to admit with a slight smile. It fades quickly, though, because even though he'd love to believe otherwise, Kensi isn't perfect. He's seen her get caught in situations she couldn't get out of; too many of those, he realizes, are situations that he too is involved in.

His eyes shift downward, staring blankly downward. The knot in his stomach is twisting again, and he swallows hard in an effort to hold himself together. This is unusual for him; usually he's better than this. But when Kensi's involved…that, apparently, changes everything. And Deeks isn't really sure when that happened.

"Look," he begins quietly. "I know she's good. I know I'll end up being the one in trouble someday, and she'll have to come in and kick some bad guy ass in order to save me." At that, Sam can't help but smirk. "But I'm not the one in danger right now, and I don't know that she actually is either, but…the last time I watched Kensi climb into some bad guy's car, she was this close to not coming home. The last time I stood by and did nothing, she almost didn't make it out alive. I just – I keep seeing that. I keep seeing it all and I'm feeling just a bit more than a little useless as her partner right now, so I – I'd appreciate it if you'd just stop, okay?" He tries to harden his voice, but the look in his blue eyes is unmistakably a plea. "Stop wasting time lecturing me and start the car again. Get back on the road and follow that car. Because those guys…" His voice falters, and Deeks can feel Sam's appraising eyes on him; he refuses to meet the other man's gaze. "Those guys could turn a gun on her and have her bleeding on the backseat before she can even blink."

The image is just as gruesome and as unacceptable to Sam as it is to Deeks. Saying nothing else, he shifts the car quickly into drive again and eases onto the highway. The conversation is over – for the moment, anyway. Sam still isn't settled, though, and a frown works its way to his lips. Truthfully, he feels no better about anything than he had in the first place; in actuality, he feels as if this was a battle he'd been destined to lose. He can only hope Deeks hears something he's said and tries to draw himself back instead of falling farther. Then again, he knows that's easier said than done as well.

Either way, he figures he's going to be keeping just as much of an eye on Deeks from now on as he is on Callen. Somebody has to try and keep them out of trouble...Sam chooses not to admit that that too is a hopeless battle.

Damn it, he thinks. If it's not the lone wolf, it's the puppy love.