Title: A Place to Begin
By:
Jessica
Pairing:
Kensi/Deeks
Rating:
T
Timeline:
Post 2x17, Personal. Mild references to 2x18, Harm's Way.
Summary: For now, they've got a place to begin. And from there, all will fall into place in due time.


She's growing so sick and tired of these damn abandoned warehouses. Seems like all the criminals have one, and nothing good ever comes of them. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for them to hide in, waiting to ambush her or her partner as they turn corners. It keeps her on high alert – heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, breath held. She knows the drill, knows that even the slightest wrong move can spell danger for her, for her team.

And yet, though all of her practiced moves are perfect, Kensi can't shake the feeling that something is already very wrong. It's quiet, too quiet, she thinks. That unnerving kind of quiet. Her stomach churns as she moves stealthily through the warehouse, ears and eyes more than ready to pick up the smallest sound, the quickest movement. But there is none. There's no indication that anyone has ever even been there.

But somehow, Kensi knows differently.

Gun outstretched before her, she moves quickly yet quietly, the dread in her stomach growing as she approaches the nearest corner. Something is waiting for her, she knows. Something, someone…

She thinks maybe she should call out for her partner – where is he? – but she doesn't. She's fearful of alerting anyone to her location, her partner's location. So she stays silent, completely on alert as she tries to quell the impending sense of doom within her.

But that only grows stronger with every step she takes.

And then when she turns the corner, her heart stops cold in her chest. The sight that greets her is the most horrific she's ever seen, and she's seen some pretty horrific ones in her line of work. Her knees wobble and her gun nearly slips through her fingers as she takes in the sight of her partner on the ground before her.

The shock fills her so completely that Kensi can do no more than stand there, mouth agape as she tries to find her voice, his name on her lips. Nothing comes, not even a shallow whisper, not a startled cry. Her eyes burn, but tears don't cloud her vision – she's certain nothing will be able to blur this image from her mind, either now or later.

It's hard to believe that just an hour before, he'd been right beside her in her car. He'd been teasing her about her sweet tooth; she'd teased back about some girl he'd struck out with the night before. He'd said something, something that had her fist playfully landing at his shoulder.

And now he's lying lifeless on the ground just feet away from her, never again to taunt her about the bag of Snickers bars that she swiped from his desk, never again to fix those soulsearching blue eyes upon her, never again to flash that smile of his at her, the one that leaves her weak in the knees.

A dark ocean of blood pools around his body, so much that the metallic scent reaches Kensi's nose and leaves her stomach lurching – she's no stranger to blood, but this is different. It's always different when it's personal.

She counts four wounds, one at his knee presumably to take him down, and three in his chest, his blood soaking the material of his shirt. It makes her dizzy and she reaches out to the wall to steady herself, but it's too far away and she crashes unsteadily to her knees; there's no pain that shoots through her body, though. She can't feel anything right now but shock.

His gun lays a good four feet away from him, obviously of no use to him when he'd needed it most. He probably never even got a single shot off, Kensi realizes with a burst of nausea. It's likely he was ambushed. They – whoever they are – were waiting for him to walk into their trap.

And then, the guilt creeps in. She wonders why she didn't see it before.

She wonders why she never heard the shots.

She wonders why she never heard him yell in pain, because surely he did.

She wonders why she can do no more than just kneel there, staring at the bloodied, lifeless form of her partner – the second she's lost in a year's time. She doesn't need to crawl her way over to him; doesn't need to check his pulse to know that he's gone.

She wonders why she wasn't there for him.

She wonders if she could have saved him.

She wonders if maybe she got him killed.

-:-

Kensi Blye is no stranger to nightmares.

None of them are, not with this job they do.

It only takes one particularly harrowing day to awaken her subconscious demons; only takes one day to ensure that she won't sleep that night. It's nothing new to her, and she's come to expect them – they're entirely predictable, after all.

They plagued her for years following the murder of her father, sticking with her until midway through college.

She had them for months after Jack left, until the moment when she was finally ready to accept that he was gone, that he wasn't coming back.

She had them for weeks upon weeks after Callen's shooting. They haunted her after Dom was taken…and then after Dom was found. She even remembers the few nights after her staged shooting in the bank; her dreams had seemed all too eager to torment her with the what-ifs of the operation – what if it had all been real?

What if she'd actually found herself bleeding to death on the floor of the bank?

Would anyone have ever come for her?

Or would she have breathed her last breath as the ceiling overhead swam in and out of her vision before finally growing dark?

She's seen it all.

After all, she's no stranger to nightmares.

So it's no surprise that she dreams about him too. Tonight, well, she'd even expected it well before slipping under the covers, but that doesn't make it any less unsettling when she wakes feeling as if she's just run a marathon. Her heart thumps wildly against her chest; she's breathless and finds herself feeling much more exhausted now than she'd been before bed…and she'd been pretty damn exhausted then as it was.

Despite that, she knows beyond a shadow of doubt that there will be no more sleep tonight. Roughly she pulls herself from the bed – doesn't need to throw back the covers because they're already scattered rather haphazardly, half on the bed, half off. She doesn't pause to pick them up, though; right now, she suddenly needs to be as far from here as possible. She needs to have as much distance between herself and her dreams as possible.

It's simple. She needs to get out of there. She's restless. Needs to move.

So she thinks about a run…but she stops that thought before it can even really take flight.

Deeks was out running when…when it happened.

Of course, it hadn't been at a quarter to four in the morning, and he likely hadn't been running because the alternative was surrendering to his subconscious mind and the need for a few more hours of precious sleep, but that doesn't matter. He'd been out running.

So Kensi knows beyond a doubt that if she does the same, she'll think of him with every mile, every block, every single step. Even with her iPod blasting in her ears, even with every other possible distraction for her mind, she knows she'll think of him. Only of him.

And that's why, once she's dressed, she's reaching for her car keys instead of lacing up her running shoes. She doesn't question her destination; doesn't stop to berate herself for her moment of weakness – there will be plenty of time for that later, she knows. For now, she's struck with an overwhelming need to see him. She can't explain it; doesn't try to because she's not so certain she'll like the answer.

She's there in almost record time, though she's not sure if that's because traffic is light or if it has more to do with her driving – on a normal day, she's a ten-above-the-limit kind of girl. Tonight…well, she can't pretend that tonight is anything even close to resembling normal, because a normal night would never find her here – God, she hates hospitals.

Despite that, she's fairly certain that, even though it's that time of night that's too late to be late and yet too early to be early, there's no place else she can imagine herself being right now. There's an urgency in her steps as she makes her way quickly down the too-familiar hallways; it's an urgency that somehow manages to squash the inherent chill in her bones that comes from simply being in this building.

It's almost deserted this late at night, and for that, Kensi is grateful. She flashes her badge to the few who question her, fabricates a quick story about needing additional evidence and for once, it matters not to her that she's lying. In fact, either she does it passably or else there's something in her eyes, something in her face that stops them from stopping her. Either way, she's grateful because she thinks she'd do anything to see him now, and she knows his fondness for the nurses wouldn't stop her from taking them down if need be.

Within moments, she's standing just outside his room; for a second, she hesitates before quietly pushing her way inside, finally feeling that elusive sense of calm drift over her as she takes in his peaceful form. He's alive; that much is evidenced by the steady rise and fall of his chest and never before has Kensi been so content just to see someone breathe.

Quietly she steps inside, careful not to wake him. She knows he needs the rest, but aside from that, he's still Deeks; he's still the same oftentimes maddening partner that he was before all of this. If he were to wake now, she knows he'd tease her about…well, about everything. The fact that she's at his bedside well after visiting hours have concluded, well before they're even to begin. The fact that she flashed her badge to the nurses just to see him; the fact that she barely did more than tie her tousled hair into a messy ponytail before rushing out the door.

He'd never let her live this down – he wouldn't even need to know why she's there – her presence is more than enough. She's lying, though, if she tries to pretend that the idea doesn't make her lips curve upward in at least the ghost of a smile.

Before she even fully realizes what she's doing, she's reaching out to him, tenderly brushing a knuckle along his cheek. Closing her eyes, she concentrates for a moment on the warmth of his skin – he's alive, she tells herself. You haven't lost another partner. Still, the images from her dream flash through her mind yet again; they're much less vivid than before, though. Kensi's not sure if that's because been a good hour since she awoke from the nightmare, or if it's because she's satisfied to have the proof right in front of her.

She chooses not to think about it, because deciding on either one is likely admitting some sort of weakness. And Kensi Blye has no weaknesses.

Not even for the kind of scruffy, messy-haired, surf-loving detective who just happens to be her partner and never misses an opportunity to worm his way under her skin. Certainly no weak spots for him.

She ignores the fact that she has to try convincing herself of this over and over again.

She tells herself that it's his current state of vulnerability that endears him to her so much right now – she'll never tell anybody, but she knows she was guilty of holding Callen's hand a few times as he slept in the hospital, recuperating after his shooting. She tells herself that it's that unmistakably soft and feminine side of her, the one she tries to keep somewhat hidden in the midst of her testosterone-laden teammates. It's the side of her that wants to look out for them, to heal them, fix them. First Callen, now Deeks.

That's what she tells herself, anyway.

Doesn't really explain the boldness of her next move, though. Gently, almost reverently, she lets her touch drift from Deeks' cheek and into his disheveled blonde hair, her fingers combing slowly through the messy locks. She's almost surprised at the softness of the strands as they thread through her fingers.

When she realizes what she's doing, she can only smile.

She thinks she'd be mortified if he were to wake right now. Knows that, despite the meds flowing through his system, the ones that soothe his pain and ease his slumber, he'd still find the strength to get out one playful quip about how she can't keep her hands off of him.

Kensi doesn't let that stop her.

She's always been a bit daring, after all.


She's frozen to the spot, her dark eyes filled with the horror that grips her from within. There's not a thing she can do; no matter how loudly her brain screams at her feet, they won't move. Her arms won't reach. She can't remember ever being consumed so entirely by fear, because fear is generally not something that Kensi feels. It's generally something that she ignores.

It's not something that she can ignore now, though. It encases her, like icy fingers wrapping around her very heart and squeezing as hard as they can. She can't breathe; no matter how hard she tries, she can't seem to draw in the oxygen she needs. The world begins to spin around her, everything blurring and mixing together…everything except for him.

She sees him perfectly. Vividly. And while she's struggling to breathe, he's doing just the same. He, however, has an excuse. An excuse created for him by the telltale wounds that dot his chest – too many to count, Kensi realizes as her stomach clenches violently.

He's alive, but for how much longer, she can't say. Already he's lost a lot of blood; it pools around him, soaking his clothes and matting his unruly blonde hair, and the more he tries to move, the more he loses. Kensi thinks vaguely that maybe she should say as much…but then again, she also knows that she should be doing something to save him.

So why the hell can't she move?

His anguished eyes lock with hers, and Kensi feels her heart ripped to shreds by the agony in his gaze. He knows he's dying and the realization sends a chill down the length of her spine, but somehow he finds the strength to lift himself from the ground and push himself onto his stomach – she wishes he hadn't, though, because the cry of agony that's wrenched from his lips at the movement is enough to ice her blood.

But that's nothing compared to what his next utterance does to her. It's quiet, almost a whisper, but Kensi knows she'd hear it over the loudest of sounds and it nearly brings her to her knees. "Kens…"

She can't tear her eyes away from his. They're dark and quickly growing cloudy, but that doesn't mask the desperate plea contained within. He's terrified, she's terrified; he knows she's his final lifeline and she's nothing more than helpless before him.

He's realizing it. Realizing he's going to die. Fear floods him, but it's Kensi that feels every last bit of it. It's Kensi who feels the panic mounting, the desperation growing. The minutes are brutally wrenched away from him, from them; he's seconds away from the end and everything that has ever made Kensi who she is – her resolve, her stubbornness, her strength, her resilience, her determination – all of that seems to have slipped away. She's merely a shell of the Kensi Blye that he and everyone else knows.

"Kensi, please," he chokes out desperately, his voice garbled by the blood that fills his throat. His strength is fading fast; at this point, the dark red of the blood that pours from him is in stark contrast to the ghostly white of his paling skin – it's a similar pallor to that which colors Kensi's own cheeks, but for vastly differing reasons. He's dying; she only feels as if she's dying.

"I – I can't…"

But what she can't do, Kensi's never able to say. Her quavering voice trails into silence, broken only by the violent cough that overtakes her partner. He can't breathe; she's no doctor, but she doesn't need the medical degree to know that the blood is rapidly flooding his lungs.

It's horrifying – the one liquid that gives life is the very same one that's drowning him. Killing him.

And then he falls silent, the last of his strength leaving him for good. His head falls to the pavement with a sickeningly dull thud, and it's only then that Kensi regains the slightest bit of control over her frozen body.

She screams.

-:-

The second time, she wakes with her alarm and finds herself grateful to it for pulling her out of her own personal hell. Even so, it's not soon enough; it takes a good few minutes before she's able to calm herself down, before she's able to stop the shaking and convince herself that, once again, it's only just a dream. And yet, just like the first time, it had felt so very real.

It's been a few days since Deeks was released from the hospital; she knows Callen and Sam and Hetty have all stopped by to check in on him – he is, after all, one of theirs – but Kensi…she hasn't quite been able to make herself do the same. Hasn't seen him, hasn't spoken to him. She's caught herself with her cell in her hands a couple of times, but though she thinks about it often, she can't make herself hit the speed dial that will connect her to him.

She doesn't know why.

That's partially a lie, though, and Kensi knows it. She wants to talk to him; wants to see him, but at the same time, seeing him now would hit home the realization of just how close she came to losing another partner, losing him. Even now, after she's successfully removed herself from her nightmare, the very thought is like a block of ice in her already volatile stomach. She's afraid to move for fear of jostling it too much – she hates the weakness that inevitably goes hand-in-hand with nausea.

When she thinks she's got just a bit of her control back, Kensi draws her still trembling body to a sitting position, pulling her knees in to her chest and wrapping her arms around them – she needs a moment more before she can pull herself from the bed and begin going about her morning routine…or, rather, lack thereof.

That's something she hasn't been able to ignore since his shooting – she's found herself over-thinking every little move she makes. She supposes it's a good thing; in their line of work, they can never be too careful, after all, but still. It's exhausting, looking over her shoulder at every turn. It's exhausting, plotting out different routes to work every day; trying to remember whether or not it's been long enough since she's stopped at a particular coffeeshop, a particular grocery store, even a particular gas station. Sometimes, she craves the simplicity of routine…

And then she thinks of Deeks, and the thought banishes itself from her mind, leaving her feeling mildly guilty for ever thinking it at all.

With a heavy sigh, she glances over to her rather cluttered nightstand, gleaning from the red numbers of her clock that she should have been out of bed ten minutes ago, but for the moment, she doesn't care about that. Instead, her eyes dart quickly to another timepiece; before she can stop herself, she's reaching out and wrapping her fingers around the one object on the nightstand that isn't actually hers. It's the object that she clung so desperately to while he was in surgery, the one she, rather childishly, kept even after he was placed in his own room. In her defense, he hasn't asked for it…but then again, she hasn't seen him since the hospital.

She thinks she should probably give it back to him at some point.

For now, though, she allows herself to hold onto it, the pad of her thumb gently stroking the face of the watch just as it had a number of days before. It's calming to her, somehow; she doesn't let herself linger on the reasons for that.

Instead, she likens it to her collection of jelly bracelets. It's not so much that she thinks it'll bring her luck, but comfort.

And God, does it bring her comfort. Inexplicably, yes, but Kensi doesn't question it.

She hasn't seen him since that night at the hospital. Truthfully, she's been avoiding him – she doesn't quite know what she's supposed to say to him. She doesn't know if things have changed. Uncertainty; she tells herself that's what's keeping her away from him.

She knows she'll have to face him at some point, though. He is her partner, after all.

And honestly, she'll be glad to see him when he's back at work again – she says nothing, lest Callen and Sam tease her more than they already do, but she's been quietly counting down the days.

It's not just that she needs her partner back. She does, but she also knows that once he's back at work with her, once she can see him everyday and know that he's just fine, then she'll be able to stop dreaming about him.

She hopes, anyway.


Deeks doesn't miss.

She's shot beside him in the shooting range a number of times before, so she knows his aim is comparable to hers (even though hers is, of course, the best at the end of the day). He's a cop, so of course he knows how to handle a gun – he's pretty damn good with one, actually.

So good that Kensi trusts him completely to have her back in a dicey situation.

He's saved her before and she trusts him to do it again if necessary, even if it clashes with everything she's always been – the girl who doesn't need to be saved.

But for some reason, she lets it clash.

She lets it clash because while Kensi doesn't need to be saved, there's a little something she's learned about him in her months of working beside of him, and that's the fact that he kind of needs to save the day. Or perhaps it's a bit less grandiose than that, but he's not the type to just stand back and wait while the action unfolds.

No, he's got this damn hero complex about him. She knows it stems from a number of things – his home life growing up, his fellow officers (though they're loathe to claim him as one of their own) at the LAPD, Jess Traynor…he doesn't talk about it, but it doesn't take Nate to get inside his head as far as this is concerned. He's never really belonged anywhere; he's never really belonged to anyone.

Marty Deeks spends a good portion of his time trying to prove, probably more to himself than to anyone else, that he's good enough. He hides it well behind the smiles and the jokes and the projected over-confidence, but underneath all of that, there are wounds that he's been trying to heal himself for years and years.

He wants to be there for someone. Somebody's hero.

He wants to be needed.

He wants to be needed by his partner.

He needs to prove to himself that he can be there for her when it matters the most.

And there's that precarious push-and-pull between them again. Deeks needs to prove that she can rely on him. Kensi strives to prove that she can stand on her own.

And yet, they make it work. It works for them…nine times out of ten.

This is that tenth time.

And he should have stayed in that damn hospital bed.

As soon as Sam's words echo through her ears, it's as if everything slows around her as she rapidly becomes hyperaware of her surroundings. Deeks isn't the target after all – she is. As soon as the realization fully hits her, they hit her.

She handles them. Two unarmed guys are no match for Kensi Blye.

It's the one who is armed that gives her pause.

The world seems to stop as she finds herself staring down the barrel – she's about to end up in that hospital with Deeks…that is, if they don't abduct her injured form. The thought chills her, but she only has a second to linger on it before the shots ring through the air from behind her would-be shooter.

He's standing there in the doorway, clearly agonized, using every last little bit of strength he has to hold himself upright and to aim his gun. Unfortunately, it's not enough – the bullets from his gun fly harmlessly past her attacker; she's not sure where they end up.

Deeks doesn't miss.

But this time…he misses. Whether it's due to his lack of strength, his pain, his exhaustion, or something else…he misses.

And that only captures the attention of her shooter. Kensi barely has time to register what's happening before one more shot rings through the air.

Suddenly, Kensi's cursing his damn hero complex with everything that she is.

She wishes he'd just stayed in that bed.

The air is ripped from her own lungs as the bullet tears into his skin, wrenching a cry of shock and pain from his lips. Forgetting the shooter, Kensi sprints toward Deeks, a deafening roar in her own ears as her world shrinks to little more than herself and her partner. Before she can reach him, he slumps against the wall, his eyes wide with shock. Blood quickly soaks through the bandages covering his chest – the exertion required just to pull himself from his bed and outside has ripped open his existing wounds, but what horrifies Kensi the most is the new one.

His gun falls harmlessly from his grasp as his hands fly quickly to his abdomen, covering that new wound. Despite the pressure from his hands – which can't be much, Kensi realizes, in his weakened state – the blood simply pours from him, coating his hands, his skin, his clothing. It's too much, too fast, and as Kensi wraps her arms around him and tries to soften his descent to the ground, she swears she can feel the strength leave him with his blood. "No, don't you do this, Deeks," she demands, her voice wavering. "Don't you dare do this to me."

His eyes fall closed then; he can't even muster the strength to look at her, let alone speak. Her own vision clouded, Kensi searches frantically for a doctor, a nurse, security, anyone, but the only people around are the horrified bystanders whose faces bear the same shock that she feels pulsing through her veins. "Come on, Deeks…"

She sucks in a breath, but before she can call out for help, she feels hard metal – the shooter's gun, she realizes a moment too late – crack against her temple. The force of the blow stuns her and knocks her to the side; she's seeing stars in her vision and when she can finally shake her head to clear it, she's sickened by what she sees.

She thinks it's probably a very similar scene to what happened that morning in the convenience store. Deeks, helpless on the ground. The shooter, standing above him, gun aimed toward him. Point-blank range. Dizzy, she can't react quickly enough.

She's the target.

But they're sure as hell sick and tired of Deeks interfering.

One more bullet to his chest ensures that he'll never do so again.

-:-

Disoriented, it takes Kensi a moment to figure out why she's on the cold floor of her living room. Only a moment though; then it all comes crashing back to her.

The day she'd been waiting for had been more of a challenge to Kensi than she'd thought it would be. At least some of her worrying had been for naught – she hadn't had to figure out what to say to him because his shooting was never explicitly mentioned. Fine by her and, she suspected, fine by him. And really, it was like he'd been there the entire time. His first day back, and he'd come in with a smile and a bit of a prank – typical Deeks. She could deal with that.

It had been the necessities of the case that had thrown her off balance.

Sam and Callen…half a world away in Yemen.

That basically left her alone with Deeks.

She's certain that's why she's dreaming about him again – his proximity to her during the entirety of this case, along with the trepidation that was to be expected in the face of Sam's blown cover.

Needless to say, everything about it had put her on edge. She'd been thinking too much, feeling too much, just…too much. It'd been overwhelming.

It probably wasn't the best way to handle things, but she'd come home, kicked off her shoes and settled on the couch for a night of late night television and a few beers. Anything to distract herself.

And yet, it seemed to have the opposite effect. She'd fallen asleep on the couch; she's not sure for how long, but as there's no hint of light in the sky outside, she assumes it hasn't been long at all. Long enough, though, for her to lose herself in another dream, one that had her so very unsettled that her awakening had come as she toppled off the couch and into the floor.

Her shoulder aches from the impact, but that's negligible in the long run.

She sits up, but makes no effort to remove herself from the floor; instead, she rests her back against the couch, closing her eyes as the images continue to wash over her. It's getting frustrating, especially since, with his return to work, she was supposed to stop dreaming of him.

So then it has to be something else, she thinks with disdain.

Rubbing at her temples – damn, does her head ache – she lets her mind drift. She's just too tired to stop it, really. And maybe, she thinks with insight she imagines Nate would be proud of, maybe she keeps dreaming of him because she's put so much energy into not thinking about him during the day. Maybe she keeps seeing him because she's spent so much time pretending that she hadn't almost lost him.

She doesn't really want to, but for the first time since his shooting, she allows herself to reflect. She allows herself to think back to those terrifying moments between the time she'd heard the news from Hetty, and the moment she'd finally seen him for herself. And terrifying truly was the word for it – for someone her colleagues sometime describe as fearless to the point of being insane, Kensi had been frightened. Anxious, worried, uneasy…none of the words seem to truly do that feeling justice.

And it's a feeling she remembers all too vividly. Thinking back to Hetty's solemn words, it was if her heart had been plunged into the iciest river. Even now, they ring through her ears accompanied by the gravest of scenarios, no doubt colored by what she herself had seen in the past couple of years. Callen had spent weeks in the hospital, and Dom…well, Dom had never even made it there.

It's been a year since Dom, a year peppered with occasional reassurances from Callen and Sam, and don't go there's from Nate, but even now, Kensi knows she'd be lying if she tried to say she didn't still feel some of the guilt for him. She was his partner. She should have checked up on him. She should have made sure he accompanied them to their team outing that night.

And Deeks…

Kensi groans, rubbing at her tired eyes. In so many ways, it was the same thing. Dom had been the newest member of their team – the proverbial weak link. He'd been the easiest member of their team to get to. And now, Deeks had proven the same.

She's confused by something, though. Deeks had been targeted because he kept a predictable routine that made it easy to get to him. Yet, everything she knows about him – his lack of punctuality, his spontaneity, all that – it seems to point to the very lack of a routine.

Another stab of guilt makes itself known – he's her partner, and she seems to know less about him than a few criminals who'd never even met him.

Don't do that, she hears again in Nate's voice in her head.

Still. She thinks maybe she should have said something when Deeks came in nearly every morning with coffee and doughnuts from the same place…instead, selfishly, she'd taken advantage of the fact that he always brought her one as well.

She thinks she should have said something when, several mornings a week, he came bounding into work with a grin on his face, bragging about the same cute blonde at the same gym who (supposedly) could never keep her eyes off of him.

She thinks she should have said something when he was bragging about being on a first name basis with bartenders, waitresses, convenience store owners…all that. It all suggested a routine, but Kensi…she'd been blind to that.

It's not like her to linger, and especially not for this long.

She's not ready to admit that there's a reason for that.

She's not ready to admit that there's something just under the surface, something that's keeping her from letting go and moving forward.

She's not ready to admit that losing him would mean so much more than losing another partner.


She's seen her share of LA's demons in her job, but Kensi's long since decided that the beauties far outweigh the day-to-day ugliness – she doesn't dare say that aloud, though, lest anyone think she's losing her touch. She's not. She just likes to take in the scenery on her days off.

And taking in the scenery is exactly what she's doing today. She stands at the end of the pier, the feel of the wood beneath her fingertips. In front of her and all around her is the deep blue expanse of the Pacific, mingling seamlessly with the sky at the horizon in the distance. The waves glitter in the sunlight, the occasional white crest matching the few thin, wispy clouds that dot the sky above, but mostly, she's surrounded by beautiful, endless blue.

She's only seen a deeper shade of blue once before, in a certain someone's desire-laden eyes.

Almost as if on cue, his arms wrap around her from behind. Suddenly, her picture of perfection is complete. Closing her eyes, she sighs and allows herself to rest against him, smiling as the warmth of his arms and that of the sun combine to offset the tiniest chill from the gentle sea breeze as it tickles her skin.

She smiles as she feels his lips brush against her temple, once and again. Usually, Kensi can do without the showy displays of affection, but right now, she's in too good of a mood to protest. Besides, there's the indisputable truth that, above all else, it does feel nice.

He says something, something decidedly cheesy yet endearing at the same time, but Kensi finds herself more distracted by the motion of his lips than by the words that slip from them. Unconsciously she tilts her head, granting him better access as he dots kisses down her jaw, lingering for just a moment at a particularly sensitive patch of skin before finally drifting to her neck. She moans softly – can't help it, really. Despite her relaxation, her heart pounds wildly in her chest and she's certain he knows it when he nuzzles at the pulse point of her throat, lips and tongue doing their best to reduce her to a quivering mass in his arms. It takes all of her willpower not to squirm.

Swallowing hard, Kensi forces her eyes open, struggling to clear the haze in her mind and remind herself that they are still out in public; they aren't nestled in the privacy of the bedroom. "You – you can stop now, you know," she quips, though the words are admittedly halfhearted.

"Mm," he hums lightly, the low vibration tickling sensitive skin. At that, her willpower shatters and she does squirm in his arms. "But where would be the fun in that?"

Kensi bites her lip, fighting back the inevitable grin of delight. "The fun would be in not making a scene on the pier…"

"Maybe I want to make a scene on the pier."

She smirks. "Deeks, you make a scene everywhere."

His lips are by her ear again before she can even register the movement. "You love it," he breathes before nibbling playfully at her earlobe, coaxing a quiet giggle from Kensi's lips. It's decidedly girly, but with Deeks' arms around her and his lips driving her crazy in completely innocent ways, she can't bring herself to care about that. So what if he makes her giggle? Just as long as he doesn't do it in front of Callen and Sam…they'd never let her live it down.

Deeks grins at her lack of reply and presses one more kiss to her skin, just behind her ear. "I can't wait to get you home," he whispers, his words a silky promise of all things seductive – she nearly melts right then. "'Cause if you think I'm driving you crazy right now…"

She snorts, grateful that he's behind her and can't see the blush in her cheeks that would give the utter truth of his words away. "I never said you were driving me crazy."

"You didn't have to."

"See, that's the problem with all you men," she retorts, twisting in his arms and finally coming face to face with Deeks. "You all think you're just so good," she embellishes with a fake moan, "but really, you're not near as good as you like to pretend you are."

"That's okay," he breathes, dotting a single quick, chaste kiss to the corner of her lips – a single, chaste kiss that inevitably leaves her wanting more. "I'll just have to show you how good I can be." He grins. "Again."

Kensi smirks and slips out of his arms; he watches her intently as she moves around him, placing him between her and the sea. Turning with her, he rests his back against the railing, his eyes discreetly roaming over her as she stands in front of him – it's the devilish glint in her eyes, though, that captures him completely. "Then why don't you stop talking about it and take me home?"

His grin widens and he turns her sultry challenge completely around. "You want me to take you home…I knew I was driving you crazy…"

She rolls her eyes and turns away from him, but not before he catches the tint in her cheeks. He teases her – of course – but she doesn't look back and instead begins to slowly make her way back up the pier, knowing that he'll follow; as it is, she can feel his eyes burning through her as she walks away.

It's then that everything begins to change. The breeze, gentle and comfortable just moments before, suddenly bites at her skin; the sudden shift is almost painful, almost as much as the acidic, sinking feeling in her stomach. It's a sense of dread that burns her from the inside out; it's amazing, really, how quickly she can go from feeling so light and carefree to…this.

It's a feeling she knows rather well – something is wrong. Something is about to happen. As discreetly as possible, Kensi goes on full alert, her dark eyes scanning the crowd for anyone, anything suspicious.

But she never sees it coming.

He does.

The next several seconds pass in a blur of color and noise – she hears him shout her name, though to her ears it's almost as if he's calling her from miles away. She feels the crowd separate around her, almost as if they know something is going to happen, as if they know it has to do with her. She feels the air crackle with electricity, as if it too is ripening for whatever is about to happen.

There's a moment, just the tiniest second, where everything is still.

And then he slams into her, forcing her to the side amidst the crowd of stunned onlookers. She crashes awkwardly into the railing on the side of the pier; for a moment, she sees stars and knows she'll have a bump at her temple, but all thoughts of that dissipate as she hears the deafening crack that echoes through the air. One, two, three – gunshots.

Aimed where she'd been standing not five seconds before.

Aimed where he now stands.

-:-

At least this time, she wakes before the damage is done. In the dream, anyway. This time, she never sees the bullets tear through his chest…but that doesn't stop her from knowing that they do. She's seen the outcome; she knows exactly what happens.

They all end the same way, with Deeks bleeding on the ground in front of her.

She doesn't need to see it to know it happens.

She doesn't need to lose him to know that she will.

Forcefully throwing the covers back, Kensi pulls herself out of bed. Without bothering to turn on the light, she stomps her way to the bathroom, deciding that a shower should help clear her mind. But as the scalding water pours over her skin, Kensi only finds herself drifting back into this latest dream.

It's the first one she's entirely unable to explain.

She thinks maybe it's the one that unsettles her most of all.

And it's because she can't honestly say that the feelings from the dream are ridiculous.

Instead, while she's stayed awake dissecting every other dream, she decides she's not even going to give this one the time of day. She's not going to let her mind turn those images over and over; she's not going to force herself to relive it again and again.

She turns, ignoring the burn as the hot water washes over her face.

By the time it runs cold, she's frustrated to find that it hasn't washed away the images of the dream…much less the feelings.

No, those remain.

Both the fear from having him gunned down in front of her again, and the unfettered delight of being in his arms.


He pushes her back against the door – a little roughly, if she's honest, but she's the one who started this game and there's no way she's not playing along now, especially with his hips pressing rather deliciously against hers. The friction itself is enough to tear a tiny moan from her mouth, though it's muffled by the urgency of his lips against hers.

And urgent they are – his kisses are hungry, desperate, demanding; they spark a flame somewhere deep within Kensi, a flame she can't ignore, a flame that rises up and slowly consumes every inch of her in this desirous heat. She couldn't be passive against him if she wanted to be – and God, she doesn't want to be. Her lips meld just as fiercely with his, locked in a ceaseless battle for dominance lest he actually think he's won that.

He's already managed to undo most of the buttons on her plaid button-down; somewhere along the way he was distracted by the smooth, heated skin underneath. Kensi shivers; the feel of his hands on her dizzies her and silently she's grateful that she's caught so snugly between his body and the door.

It's not long before his shirt ends up somewhere on the opposite side of the room; Kensi can't be bothered to care where it lands when she tosses it away, especially once her hands are free to roam unabashedly over the muscles of his chest and abdomen. God, she wants him, and the heat that floods her as he growls her name only reaffirms the truth of that.

One of his hands buries itself in her hair, tangling the strands so she's certain she'll look an utter mess by the time this encounter is through, but at the moment, she doesn't care a bit about that. The fingers of his other hand finally resume their task of undoing the buttons on her shirt, and with a bit of help from her, the offending material finds itself forgotten on the floor, revealing a vast expanse of soft skin for him to explore.

He wastes no time, either. She shivers as his touch skates over her back before encountering lace. "This – this is probably a bad idea," he breathes between kisses even as he toys with the clasp of her bra. "Probably a very bad idea…"

Her fingers dance southward, playing idly at his belt. "Then maybe you should stop me…" she challenges. Her dark, lust-filled eyes hold his as she oh-so-slowly begins to undo it, very nearly undoing him in the process. She says not another word as she tugs it from the loops, inadvertently pulling his hips into hers in the process – her breath catches, but other than that, she silences any outward reaction.

His belt falls freely to the floor below and her fingers are toying with the button of his jeans before he finally responds. Taking her by surprise, he captures her hands with his and holds them against the door, much to her combined dismay and exhilaration. There's an almost feral glint in his blue eyes, and Kensi trembles as he leans in close, slowly flicking his tongue over his own lips. "Not a chance," he replies quietly, and then he claims her mouth once more.

At some point she finds herself in his arms, kissing him fiercely as he tries to maneuver them through her dark apartment, his destination a bit more comfortable than the hardness of her front door. By the time they make it to her bedroom, there's not much left that separates them; that becomes abundantly clear to both of them as they tumble onto her bed.

It's intense, ridiculously so. But then again, everything between them is.

It's not long before they're a tangled mess of limbs and blankets and she's crying out for him, crying out his name with a desire that goes so much deeper than primal, superficial lust.

And it's not Deeks either.

It's Marty.

-:-

Her face burns as that particular dream fades away. She just barely suppresses the rather childish urge to cover her face with her pillow – instead of being alone in her bedroom, she feels almost as if the entire world was watching that sequence of images along with her.

It's not her typical nightmare – not a nightmare at all, actually.

It's completely inexplicable…and yet, it makes absolutely perfect sense that she'd dream something like that tonight.

After all, he'd kissed her that night.

Of course, it had been nothing but professional – well, as professional as possible, under the circumstances. And it's not like she hasn't done similar things to sell coupledom before, but this…

She keeps flashing back to the dark street outside of that club; it'd been empty of people except for her and her partner, and the suspects they'd been trying to get close to for the entire night. But getting close enough to hear their conversation had almost resulted in having them made. To avoid that, she and Deeks had gone for plan B.

It's a part she's played with Callen a time or two before – the extremely drunk, slightly lost couple that cares more about finding a secluded spot than about finding their way back to where they'd come from. As soon as he'd registered eyes upon them, Deeks had taken action.

He'd pressed her against the wall of the building and covered her lips with his, taking her so by surprise that she's certain she whimpered just a bit. It must've worked, because she'd heard them chuckle and go back to what they were discussing.

They'd gotten the information they needed…no thanks to Kensi, though. It'd been as if her brain had short-circuited the moment Deeks' mouth covered her own; she wouldn't have been able to relay what words had been exchanged if she'd needed to – thank goodness for microphones and the like. Her world had narrowed to the feel of his lips moving against hers – convincingly, she thinks – and the feel of his body against hers.

With Callen, she'd never fallen completely out of the investigation.

With Callen, she'd never actually shivered.

With Callen, she'd never found herself lingering on it hours and hours later.

This is ridiculous, she thinks, tossing herself onto her side. She's thoroughly exhausted, and her yawn is evidence enough of that, but Kensi's imagination is far too wired for her to even hope for sleep again tonight. Within minutes, she's on her back again, images in her mind running a million miles a second.

It strikes her as she gazes up at the ceiling that it may not be the shooting that's haunting her – the last few nights she's dreamed of him, there haven't been bullets. If she's honest with herself, she's noticed the change – noticed it, and ignored it, hoping it would disappear.

With her father, with Callen, with Dom, with everything…as time passed, the nightmares all disappeared. They pop up from time to time, certainly, but she certainly doesn't find herself fearful of sleep because of them.

It's different with Deeks.

Time has passed, but rather than disappear, the dreams have shifted. They've become less about his shooting…and more about Deeks.

They've become less about losing him, and more about having him. Wanting him.

His grin flashes before her eyes then; she alarmed that it's accompanied by a light fluttering in her stomach.

She thinks, for a brief, uninhibited moment, that she might be just a tiny bit in love with him.

But then again, it's Deeks.

So the very thought is just absurd.

Isn't it?

And that's the question she lays awake pondering for the rest of the night.


It's been three months since he was gunned down in that convenience store.

He's completely back; it's as if he hadn't taken two bullets to the chest in the first place.

She's the one deteriorating.

She thinks maybe she's losing her mind.

Her brilliant solution is to distance herself from Deeks – she's been trying to get herself paired with Callen or Sam whenever possible over the past couple of months, and she thinks she's done it discreetly enough that no one has really noticed anything…off.

Except for Deeks.

And that's the flaw in her brilliant plan – it doesn't work on him because he's Deeks. Because he's the partner who loves nothing more than to be underneath her skin at all hours of the day. He's the partner who loves nothing more than to rile her up and press her buttons; loves nothing more than to get some kind of response out of her. Nobody else would dare play with her quite like this, she thinks. Deeks, though, he's like the exception to her every rule. The more she tries to distance herself from him, the closer he seems to be to her.

It drives her absolutely mad.

And that's why she finds herself lingering at the mission late one night, hoping for the kind of conversation she'd so often dreaded over the past few years. Conversation with a certain person.

Nate's back from Yemen, or Oman, or maybe Qatar for all Kensi knows – he never really says. He's back for nothing more than a short stopover of sorts; a few days of paperwork before heading out on yet another mysterious assignment. Kensi has a three day window; it takes the whole three days to convince herself to seek him out.

She catches him in his old office late on the third night; she knows he's leaving early the next morning. She wonders, perhaps, if maybe she's not hoping that, because of that, he'll just turn her away.

And yet, she knows he won't. He never would.

He's at his desk, reading through a file of some sort while she hovers in the doorway; she's not sure if he knows she's there; there's no surprise in his eyes though when he looks up, alerted to her presence by the soft knock on the door she finally forces herself to give. He smiles up at her; not for the first time, Kensi finds herself realizing just how much she misses that smile; just how much she misses him. Though she's often been reluctant to take it, Nate's general presence has always filled the Ops center with a sense of tranquility.

She steps inside, gently closing the door behind her before she speaks. "Do you have a moment?" she asks quietly, and though her words are strong, her body language is more timid. She knows Nate picks up on that immediately. "I mean, I guess you're not actually…you know…"

She's not really sure what he is anymore. He's still part of the team – that'll never change. But whether or not he's still their team psychologist, she's not sure.

She finds – unsurprisingly – that it's easier for her to come to him without his having a definite title, particularly that title.

For a moment, he simply watches her – he can tell something is bothering her, but then again, being able to tell that is part of his job. It's something big, though; something that has her seeming so unlike the Kensi he knows as she stands near the door, almost in the shadows. Quickly he glances at his watch, knowing he has an early flight in the morning, but also knowing that he can never say no, not to her. "For you? Always," he says warmly, and with that he closes the file he'd been reading, fixing her with his gaze.

His eyes are nothing less than utterly inviting, filled with the warmth that Kensi's always tried to resist giving in to before. Tonight, though, she welcomes the comfort.

She welcomes him, because she knows she can't keep doing this.

Crossing the room, Kensi takes a seat on the small couch against the wall; almost as soon as she does, Nate does the same. She finds herself grateful for that; it makes him feel more like her friend than a shrink.

That's where she starts. "I know you've been doing all of these assignments for Hetty this year, so I guess it's not really like you're still our…you know." Again she doesn't say it, her eyes on her hands in her lap. She shrugs. "I don't really know who else to go to, though."

And so she launches into it, more open with Nate than she thinks she's ever been. She leaves out some of the details, of course, but suddenly a good portion of the dreams that have been plaguing her are out in the open; she doesn't feel as though a weight has been lifted from her, but there is a measure of solace in the fact that Nate understands.

The confessions feel utterly foreign as they pass by her lips, but Kensi presses on – she's started, so she might as well finish. The fear, the confusion, the despair, the anxiety, the…loneliness – somehow it all comes tumbling out and by the time she's done, she's wishing she felt at least somewhat lighter.

She doesn't.

For awhile, there's merely silence. Kensi keeps her eyes downward, feeling the heat of Nate's psychologist stare upon her, the one that always leaves her feeling as though none of her thoughts are truly just her own. She has no idea what he's thinking – for all she knows, he's probably deciding she's certifiably insane. She's got news for him though – Deeks has beaten him to that diagnosis, albeit playfully.

And there he is in her head again. Just like that.

At long last, Nate finally speaks. His voice is soft, filled with understanding, but his words don't offer the comfort that Kensi had been so desperately craving.

"I think you know who you need to talk to."

It's not the answer she'd wanted to hear.

And so, when she leaves, she instead makes a different decision.

With the exception of strictly scheduled catnaps on the couch, Kensi's giving up sleep entirely.

If Callen can live like that, then damn it, so can she.


Her mind is clouded, faded images from hazy dreams flitting aimlessly through her subconscious. She's not entirely sure just where she is – somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, that's about all she knows. That in-between, where everything's just a little blurry and a lot confusing, and she's not sure whether she should pull herself from it, or if she should give in to the temptation of deep sleep. She's really not sure she has a choice, though.

She hears voices, or maybe just one – she's not entirely sure. It's muffled, almost as if calling her from miles away. She's not sure whether she wants them to go away or come closer – Kensi finds she's almost afraid of the outcome either way.

It grows clearer, though, and Kensi forces herself to concentrate. The voice, it's utterly familiar, and it's calling her name, over and over – she doesn't know why, though. She feels a hand on her back, but when she turns there's no one there. All she finds is bright light; it blinds her, and when it clears, there is nothing.

Nothing, except for the familiar voice.

"Kensi…"

She groans softly, and suddenly she's breaking through the proverbial surface, leaving the odd lights and images of her dream world behind. The haze in her mind clears only a bit though; she's still locked within the grips of exhaustion, after all. Her neck and back are stiff, but it takes her a moment to realize exactly where she is. Not on the couch, where she'd told herself she could allow herself to nap. Not in her bed, where she'd told herself she couldn't sleep.

She's at her desk at Ops, arms folded beneath her head. The past few hours are little more than a blur to her. Kensi's unsure what time it is, but she remembers making the decision to stay late tonight – she'd had paperwork to finish up. She remembers Callen and Sam making their way out early, tickets to a Kings game in their possession. She remembers Hetty checking in on her on her way out, warning her not to stay too late. She thinks she remembers the rest of the staff as they trickled out…somehow, though, she doesn't remember seeing Deeks leave.

She remembers feeling the exhaustion as it began to press in on her from all sides, making the words on the paperwork in front of her blur together. The lack of sound sleep was taking its toll on her, making it all but impossible to concentrate.

She'd pushed the paperwork aside then. Five minutes, she'd told herself. Just long enough to rest her eyes and banish some of the cobwebs from her mind.

She remembers closing her eyes; remembers laying her head down upon her desk, her arms neatly folded beneath it…

And now she's pulling herself from what had been more than a quick, five minute nap with the help of his voice and the feel of his hand slowly rubbing at her back. Actually, the latter threatens to relax her back into sleep, but Kensi fights the urge, allowing it simply to soothe her rather than sedate her.

It takes an almost inhuman amount of strength to lift her head from the desk, but then again, Deeks does teasingly call her Wonder Woman. Blinking slowly, she finally gets her eyes to focus in the dimly-lit bullpen – it's then that she realizes just how late it is. She's the only one left…well, and him. Her tired eyes lock with his concerned ones, and under any other circumstances, witnessing that concern for her would leave her feeling rather indignant. Not now.

She tells herself it's just because she's so tired.

He's kneeling beside her, and to her slight displeasure, once her eyes lock with his, he lets his hand fall away from her back, breaking the contact between them. He smiles at her, though Kensi can tell it's more than just a bit forced. "What are you doing here?" he asks quietly.

Holding back a yawn, Kensi gestures to the paperwork in front of her…well, the paperwork that's become scattered rather haphazardly over her desk. "I'm working. You should try it sometime."

He smirks lightly. "I'm a big fan of that kind of work," he quips. "Any day I can get paid for taking a nap is a good day."

"I wasn't…" She doesn't bother finishing because he sees right through her. There's no point in pretending. Instead, she surrenders with a nonchalant roll of her eyes and a sigh. "Fine. I fell asleep at my desk. We've all done it."

"Uh-huh." He's studying her intently and it takes all of her willpower not to drown in his deep blue eyes. "So just how long has it been since you've slept?" he asks.

She's not so far gone that she can't state the obvious. "Couple minutes."

He chuckles a bit, slightly shaking his head. "Not really what I meant." Deftly, he reaches up and gently closes the file she'd been looking at before falling asleep. "You need to go home, Kens," he says, letting a hand drift, rather dangerously, to her. Almost unconsciously, he smoothes her mildly tousled hair, a bit surprised when she doesn't slap his hand away.

It strikes him then, even with his heart clenching for her, just how utterly beautiful she is. Even exhausted, disheveled, maybe even a little bit broken, she's gorgeous.

He wonders if she truly realizes that.

He'd give anything to say it.

Instead, he pulls himself to his feet and extends a hand to her. "Let me take you home?"

It's a question, but the look in his eyes tells her that there's no way he's taking no for an answer. That's Deeks, after all – pushy and demanding at times, but even Kensi can't deny that he means well.

Without a word, she accepts his hand and lets him pull her to her feet.

-:-

It's still dark when she wakes.

She slowly blinks her eyes, letting them adjust to the darkness as she slips from the most peaceful sleep she's had in…well, at this point, she's not sure how long it's been. Judging by the darkness and the late hour at which she came home, she's only been out for an hour, maybe two at the most. She's still exhausted, yet calm. Almost tranquil.

And it only takes her a moment longer to realize why.

And just a moment longer than that to realize that it truly does all tie back to him, whether she wants that or not.

It seems this latest dream of hers hadn't actually been a dream after all.

It's all a blur; she must have drifted off sometime during the ride from Ops back to her place. She doesn't remember getting out of the car, doesn't remember entering her apartment. And she certainly doesn't remember slipping beneath the inviting covers of her bed.

And she certainly doesn't remember him slipping into bed with her.

But he's there, though. And she's curled against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. His arm is around her; hers is draped over his chest. She's warm, cozily warm, and even though it's likely crossing seventy-five different lines to be so intimately close to her partner, she can't deny that it just feels nice. Good.

Despite those cozy feelings of warmth, Kensi can't help but hope that, in a moment of somnolent weakness, she didn't actually ask him to stay.

She can't remember.

She hopes he doesn't say one way or the other, though.

Almost unconsciously, her fingers dance lightly over his chest; though she's seeing the motion and realizing it's probably a bit too bold, Kensi can't stop herself. She's almost mesmerized by the motion, combined with the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathes, and she thinks, as her fingers hover just above where she knows one of the scars from his shooting is, it could almost be enough to lull her back to sleep.

The movement gives her away, though, and she realizes that her companion wasn't really sleeping at all. "Kens," he murmurs sleepily. And then he whispers the two words that, under any other circumstances, would have her on the defensive. "You okay?"

He asks her that a lot, actually. After shootouts, car chases, intense interrogations…it's as if it's become second nature for him to look out for her. Before, the realization would have ruffled her feathers mightily – it would have left her feeling that he didn't think she could do her job.

There's something different about it now, though.

And it's something more than just the fact that she knows he knows she's capable of doing her job.

It's going to take her some time to come to terms with these…these feelings.

For now, she simply sighs, ceasing the motion of her fingers and instead laying her palm flat on his chest. Even through the material of his shirt, she can feel the heat of his body, the faint beat of his heart, and from that, she draws a little more comfort. "Yeah," she answers finally.

Deeks doesn't respond to that directly. Instead, his soft voice delivers a quiet entreaty, an invitation to take full advantage of their partnership, to let him be there for her. "Tell me what's going on with you."

She contemplates not answering. She knows it would be easy to close her eyes and relax into his warmth, letting it guide her back into sleep. So very easy.

But she doesn't. For reasons she can't quite comprehend (but then again, it seems there's very little she can fully comprehend when it comes to Marty Deeks), she delves into the scattered mess that is her mind as of late…and finds herself inviting him along. "It's…been awhile since I've really slept…"

"I figured," he says softly. "Insomnia?"

She doesn't know why he asks; she's sure he knows that's not the case. "Not…really," she says slowly, hesitating for a moment before she goes farther. "I keep having…these dreams…"

"Nightmares?"

She shifts uneasily against him. "You could call them that…"

He's silent, but his fingers take up a gentle, soothing dance over her spine. For a moment, Kensi simply closes her eyes, absorbing the comfort – she figures that, just this one time, under the cloak of darkness, it's okay.

It's then that she figures out why he doesn't respond. Deeks is offering her a way out. Her always pushy, always nosy partner is offering her the chance to leave her confession at simply that. She finds it a bit ironic that the one time he does that is the one time she presses forward.

She figures, she's come this far, so why not?

"I do this, from time to time," Kensi begins, suddenly incredibly aware of just how intimate the situation really is. She's curled against him in her bed, willingly opening up some of her deepest secrets to him. It doesn't stop her, though; she does, however, rethink how she attacks it. She throws in a bit of glossed-over background information, necessary tidbits to prove, perhaps more to herself than to him, that he's not the only one she dreams about. "You know, Callen got shot about two years ago…it was pretty bad. There was a while there where we…we weren't sure if he was going to make it. It was…honestly terrifying. I don't even remember how long I had ni – how long I dreamed about that," she rephrases, unable to say the actual word. "And then, when my…when my last partner went missing, that stayed with me for awhile too." Almost desperate for something to do, her fingers begin to flutter over his chest again – she catches herself almost immediately though.

She doesn't need to elaborate for him to know exactly what she's been dreaming of. Deeks knows her well enough, and the way the invincible Kensi Blye is curled against him now, letting him hold her like this…really, she doesn't need to say anything at all.

And she doesn't say anything else; she's not sure she can. She doesn't want him to hear her try to speak around the lump in her throat; doesn't want him to know that her eyes are suddenly clouded not by exhaustion, but by moisture. She's not ready for him to know that the very thought of losing him terrifies her more than she can freely admit.

It's a good five minutes before he breaks the silence that's settled over them. "You know, I had nightmares too," he admits in a would-be nonchalant tone. It would be nonchalant if the admission wasn't accompanied by the pounding of his heart and the tightening of his stomach. And it's accompanied by those because it's not a simple admission. "Still do, sometimes…"

To Kensi, though, it does appear simple. "Of course you had nightmares," she responds softly, resisting the urge to trace her fingers over where she knows his scars are. "You're the one who got shot, after all."

He opens his mouth as if to reply, but seemingly thinks better of it and simply allows Kensi's words to trail once more into silence. He's not quite sure how to reveal what he really means; he's not sure if it's too much or too little or too something else for her to hear right now.

There's a lot between them that remains unspoken. Secrets, pieces of the past, the depth of the attraction they both feel but won't – or can't – admit…to say there's a lot is actually an understatement, he thinks. She'd said it best that day in his hospital room, when he'd been teasing her about being shot – there remains a lot they haven't shared, and the best thing to do is just respect the pace. Respect the partnership, the trust as it continues to grow between them.

After a great deal of thought, he shakes his head and settles on two simple words, knowing that in itself is enough to put them on the same page.

"The Russians."

He's unsure how many nights he'd laid awake pondering the what-ifs of the situation as they invaded his dreams. He's dreamed of the maze of lasers more times than he's comfortable remembering – he's seen the beams broken by her hand, by her losing her balance, even by an errant lock of hair. He's let her hands slip from his sweaty, trembling grasp, leaving her behind as he escaped. He's come to her far too late, finding her broken body among the ruins…

He's lost her more times than he's saved her.

Nightmares, indeed.

Even now, it's too much for him. Closing his eyes, he swallows hard and concentrates on the feel of her against him in an effort to banish those images.

For a long time, there's merely quiet as a silent understanding passes between them. There's a connection, and it goes so much deeper than their partnership. It's not the right time to bring that to the surface, but it's enough for now to acknowledge its presence.

For now, they've got a place to begin.

And from there, all will fall into place in due time.

Shifting against him, Kensi draws him out of his thoughts with a soft yawn. "I'm so tired…" she murmurs, more to drift away from the latest topic of discussion than anything else.

He lets her. "Then sleep, Kens…" he coaxes gently, hesitating for but a second before adding the words that, in broad daylight, might in fact get him shot again. "I'm not going anywhere."

He knows Kensi. He knows a bit about her family; he knows about her last partner; he knows about Jack. He knows, on some level, that this is what she needs right now, even though he also knows she'd never admit it aloud.

She lifts her head then at his words, and even in the darkness Deeks can see the plea that hides behind her eyes. "Don't say that," she says, suddenly hyper-aware of his proximity to her, his arms around her, the fact that she could move just a tiny bit and be able to lock her lips with his… Shaking the temptation away, she focuses on his eyes, so deep, so blue, so…filled with a list of emotions that she's not ready to name lest he see them in her eyes too. "Unless you mean it." There's a hint of desperation in her voice, but Kensi's much too exhausted to care.

Tenderly he touches her cheek, holding her gaze for the longest moment before he speaks again, his words quiet, deliberate, and nothing if not completely genuine. "I'm not going anywhere," he repeats.

And truly, he means much more than just this moment.

As she settles back against him, he tests the boundaries between them by wrapping his arms fully around her, drawing her into his embrace. She doesn't fight him, doesn't try to push him away. Instead, she merely gives in, partially because she's too tired to fight, and partially because the notion that he cares for her fills her with the kind of warmth she hasn't felt in...possibly six long years.

Feeling his own drowsiness gnaw at the edge of his consciousness, Deeks glances over to the nightstand, his eyes lazily checking the time. It's then that his gaze lands upon something else there on the nightstand, something he hasn't seen in quite some time.

"You have my watch," he says quietly, his voice colored by a slight tinge of awe. He won't pretend to know how Kensi Blye's mind works, but there are some things that don't need to be explained.

She hums softly, grateful that he can't see her face – she feels the rush of heat that floods her cheeks. He was never supposed to catch her with that, after all. But now that he has, she has no choice but to own up to it. "I have your watch…"

"Hmm."

"It's kind of like a jelly bracelet, you know."

He doesn't, though. And she knows he doesn't – that's what makes it okay for her to admit it.

He doesn't ask her what she means.

And he never asks for it back.