The third time it happens is less than two months later, and this time he's the one coming apart at the seams. He's also the one who breaks his partner's nose.

Sometimes, Marty Deeks loves his job. It's fun and dramatic, and ever changing. He rarely knows what to expect from day to day, and that's a damned good thing.

Today, however, he hates his job.

On this afternoon, almost exactly fifty-eight days after he'd found Kensi Blye lying unconscious in her apartment thanks to her ex-fiancé, he's the one who clocks her hard enough to knock her out. The major difference is, Jack had only left a massive bruise behind. He actually breaks bones.

He tries to tell himself that he'd had no choice. He tries to tell himself that he'd had to do it in order to complete the mission.

That doesn't quiet the voices in his head, and it sure as hell doesn't change him from having a sudden frantic need to walk up to Hetty, tell her thank you for everything, put his badge on her desk and then turn and walk away.

That he doesn't is more cowardice, he thinks, than dedication to the job.

No, in all honesty, it's more than that. Deep down, he knows that the real reason he hadn't resigned had been all about her. He just couldn't walk away from her.

The case had been a complex one from the moment it had been handed over to the NCIS team courtesy of his so-called friends over at the LAPD. It had involved a nasty gunrunner with a bad temper and no class named Julio Cortez.

Unfortunately for him, Deeks knew the guy. Entirely too well.

Two years earlier, he'd worked for Cortez as part of an LAPD deep undercover op. He'd been a guy named Marcus Perry, a real son of a bitch if ever there was one. The drink too hard, screw too much and hurt too many kind of dude. The kind of guy that the world desperately needed to be locked away in either in a pine or cement box.

Truth be told, of all of the undercover assignments that Deeks has ever done, Marcus Perry is the one he'd like to forget the most.

Unfortunately, Perry had been their way back into Cortez's world. Two years ago, he'd been arrested with the rest of Cortez's crew in the middle of a move of hundreds of gang war type weapons across the US/Mexican border.

After a quick arraignment with the rest of the gang, he'd supposedly been shipped off to Wyoming thanks to a series of outstanding felony warrants there. Last anyone had known about Perry, he'd been behind bars awaiting trial for murder and a whole host of other crimes.

In any case, as far as Cortez was aware, Marcus Perry had been loyal.

And so, that morning, Deeks had walked into a seedy little dive in the heart of Hollywood, sat down at the grungy unwashed bar, ordered three shots of the cheapest Vodka available, and said, "Heard you need a guy for a job."

Cortez had turned his head slightly, regarded him with an amused smile, and replied, "Marcus. I'd heard whispers you were back around town, but I didn't dare hope. Last I knew, Wyoming was throwing the book at you." As always, Cortez had slipped in between Spanish and English, mixing words haphazardly.

"They were and they did. Let's just say I had one hell of a lawyer. Long legs, great tits, pretty much the whole fucking package you know? Anyway, babe got it all tossed out because the cops screwed up the bagging and the tagging."

"And so you walked."

"My way right out of that hellhole that was Wyoming."

"Nice. You oughta give me her number. Bet she could help some of the other boys who are still hanging out behind bars."

Deeks had shrugged. "Coulda maybe. Not anymore. Knew too much."

"Ah. Of course. You cleaned up well, I presume?"

"Ain't nobody gonna find her ever. They'll find fucking Hoffa first."

"Well done," Cortez had nodded, clearly impressed.

That'd been the point of Marcus Perry – he had to be meaner and more of a depraved creep than even Cortez was in order to get into the inner circle. Perry's lack of anything approaching a conscience made him an invaluable weapon to a sadistic gunrunner like Cortez. When guys needed to be made to disappear, Perry made it happen – or at least appeared to make it happen. Typically, the soon-to-be victims were whisked away, and hidden somewhere deep in the middle of the country, somewhere where they'd never be found again.

New name, new life, new everything.

Most of them didn't deserve it, but to stop Cortez, the LAPD and the Feds had been willing to do just about anything, including making deals with lower ranking scumbags. During the almost ten months that Deeks had been undercover with Cortez, they'd made at least a dozen of those deals. Thankfully, most of those little dirtbags had been so scared for their lives that they'd been happy for the second chance at life, and they'd gladly disappeared off the map.

Which meant that as far as Cortez was concerned, Marcus Perry had killed and buried at least a dozen men and women.

Chilling really.

"So what's the job?" Deeks had asked, signaling for a new set of shots. Another downside of Perry's – the man drank like a fish.

"I need you to make a woman disappear."

"Ex of yours?"

Cortez had laughed. "No. I take care of those ones myself."

"Right. So, who is she?"

"Los Angeles DA. Helen Price."

"You want me to do a DA?" Deeks had asked with some incredulity.

"Too big a job for you, Marcus?"

"Might be too expensive for you," he'd shot back with a smirk.

"That's my boy. Trust me, not too expensive at all. This bitch has made putting our old crew behind bars one of her calling cards. Only reason you escaped her is well, because the state of Wyoming got you first. She finds out you're back in town, she'll come after you, I promise."

"Sounds like it's about high time to shut her up."

"Permanently," Cortez had nodded. "You understand?"

"Certainly."

"I want it done by the end of today."

"Dramatic and immediate," Deeks had nodded. "That's really going to cost you."

"Like I said, don't worry about that. Worry about her. Dead. By midnight."

"What do you want for proof of death?"

"If you can get me a finger, that's preferable, but I'll take some really nasty pictures of her all over the morning news."

"I'll get you the finger."

"I have missed you, Marcus."

"Aw, I'm touched. Just remember my money."

"Have I ever cheated you?"

"No, but I'd certainly feel better if I was paid up-front for this."

"You know my rules, Marcus; money when the job is done and not a moment before. Gotta protect myself, too."

"Yeah. Whatever. And by the way, you have fucked me over before. You remember that reporter chick you threw at me?"

"Oh, yeah. She was unfortunate, now wasn't she? Eh, she was taken care of."

"True," Deeks had nodded, feeling his stomach roll. That girl had been one of the ones he hadn't been able to save. A silly reporter wanna-be who had stumbled upon the crew, and then tried to sleep her way to knowledge of the inner workings of the gang. When she'd been found out, it'd been too late for him to find a way to get her out safely. Cortez had murdered her himself. Horribly.

"How we do things, right?"

"Yep." Deeks had gotten up and started for the door.

"Hey, Marcus?"

"Yeah?"

"How'd you hear about my job?"

"Heard it from Tony. He said he heard it from Ryan. And you know, so on. They said you were sniffing around trying to find me. Well, here I am."

"Here you are. Good luck."

"Don't need luck. Never have," Deeks had replied with a cocky grin.

Then he'd left the bar, walked down the street about two blocks, gotten in his car, and driven around randomly for a good hour, just making sure that no one was following him. He'd parked the car about five miles from the Mission and jogged his way over, stopping briefly to get a couple of chilidogs from Kensi's favorite street vendor (the one she'd been banned from going to after she'd pulled a gun on him when he'd tried to cheat her…or something odd like that).

In regards to the car, Eric would surely send men over in a bit to work the vehicle over and ensure it hadn't been bugged in any way. Deeks had tried to tell them that Cortez didn't have the skills for anything high-tech. Still, operational policy dictated that all vehicles had to be cleared after an op before they could be allowed back near headquarters. Annoying, but logical and practical.

His partner had been waiting for him when he'd stepped inside, a cup of some half-empty ice-cold chocolate drink in her hand. "You okay?" she'd asked.

"Isn't that my line?" he'd replied, handing her one of the chilidogs.

She'd smiled, and almost immediately, he'd felt tension roll away from his shoulders. "Thanks," she'd said, before biting into the chilidog. "So…are you?"

"Okay?" He'd shrugged then. "Yeah. I just hate Perry."

"You…he…did some…"

"Bad stuff," he'd finished for her. "Really bad stuff."

"I'm sorry."

"For?"

"This job sometimes. It makes us…be people we hate." The way she'd said it, he'd been reminded of just how little the two of them really know about each other's pasts. She has secrets, he knows. Some of them awful, he's sure.

"Yeah. I'm cool, though. You?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"

He'd shrugged again, then changing the subject away from Perry, asked, "So, what's the plan? How we doing this thing with the DA?"

"We're going to set it up so that she and Callen are leaving a restaurant on a dinner date around eight tonight. You'll go after them as they come out. You'll shoot both of them. She'll be pronounced dead at the scene."

"And the finger?" he asks with a hint of distaste.

"Will be in Mr. Callen's pocket. A gift from the County Morgue." Hetty had said as she had come towards them, hands folded behind her back.

"They're giving us a…finger?"

"Indeed. And that's all you need know about it."

"That's creepy. On both counts," Deeks had muttered. Then, to Kensi, "Where will you and Sam be?"

"Sam will be the paramedic that arrives on the scene, the one that pronounces Price and Callen dead. I'll be enjoying a nice long dinner inside the restaurant, providing cover from behind the scene in case we get any unexpected visitors."

"Be careful."

"Why? Please don't tell me you're worried about me," she'd said, eyebrow up. He could see by the shifting of her posture that she'd been riling herself up to snap at him if he'd confirmed it.

So, of course, he hadn't. He likes to think that he's smarter than that.

"No, it's just…jobs for Cortez have a strange way of going upside down. He doesn't really trust anyone – even Perry - so sometimes he double-books jobs to ensure they get done. Usually ends up with a lot of collateral damage."

"There's nothing to worry about," she'd assured him. "As soon as you take the proof of death back to Cortez, we'll be there to arrest him, and that'll be the end of it. And then DA Price can nail his ass to the wall."

"And then I can retire Perry. For good." He'd looked over at Hetty, who had simply nodded her approval of his words, much to his relief.

Kensi, for her part, had smiled at him again, and not for the first time, he'd wondered just how deep inside his soul she really could see.

"It's almost over," she'd said, reaching out to rest her hand on his bicep.

He'd nodded.

How wrong she'd been.


Everything had started out according to plan.

District Attorney Helen Price was an unbeatable firecracker in the courtroom, but a complete loser in the love department. She was a woman with notoriously bad luck with men. Three failed marriages and two broken engagements had been enough to make a lot of tongues around City Hall wag.

They were sure to be wagging on Monday about her date with a handsome blonde man. Assuming, of course, that she made it to Monday.

At just after eight at night, arm in arm, she and Callen had passed by Kensi, who had been sitting by herself at a table, sipping from a glass of wine (her first).

As soon as they had stepped outside, Kensi had stood up, put a twenty-dollar bill on the table, and then moved to a place near the windows, where she could see the street better. Her hand had slipped under the hem of her white shirt, down to the butt of her Sig, ready to pull it as needed.

The moment Callen and Price had exited the restaurant, Deeks, who had been parked across the street, had gotten out of his car and stepped forward, a black ski mask over his face. He'd pulled a gun out and pointed it at them.

That's when everything had gone upside down.

Apparently, his fears about Cortez double-booking the job had been legitimate. A man inside the restaurant, an up and comer named Andre, had jumped up to take Callen and Price from behind.

Only the gun in his hand was loaded with real bullets instead of the blanks that had been inside of the one Deeks had been carrying.

Kensi had leapt into action, tackling Andre from behind. It had been one hell of a takedown, but it had also turned the whole op into a mess in a hurry.

People had been screaming and yelling out "gun" at both Deeks and Andre. And there he'd been, standing in the middle of the street, gun out, staring stupidly at Callen and Price, wondering what the hell he was supposed to do now.

Only the sound of Sam in his ear snapping, "Do it, Deeks," had woken him up.

He'd fired four times. Two bullets at Callen, two at Price. A pro at pretending to be shot and killed (some of it from horrifying personal experience), Callen had reached out with one arm, and pulled Price down to the pavement with him. They'd both hit the ground hard, then well-concealed blood packs in their clothes bursting and covering their shirts in sticky red liquid.

And then there'd been Kensi.

After she'd taken down Andre – thereby exposing herself as some kind of law enforcement – she'd been forced to go after Deeks. It would look completely strange if she'd just let the shooter of a Los Angeles DA walk away unscathed.

They had to sell the op.

Oh God, did they.

She'd come up on him quick, and maybe he'd panicked, not knowing how to get away, get the proof of death he needed, and get back to Cortez.

"Freeze," she'd yelled at him, standing just a few feet away, maybe less than two.

He'd aimed his gun back at her.

"Nowhere to go," she'd said. "Put it down."

"Okay," he'd replied. "Okay." He'd started to lower the weapon, and then looked over her shoulder, eyes widening.

In a normal situation, Kensi would never have taken the bait. She never would have so much as twitched an inch. But in that moment, she'd understood what he had been asking her to do. And so she had turned her head just slightly, as if looking behind her. Just a millimeter or two.

Enough for him.

He'd been on her immediately, pulling back his fist and punching at her. At the last moment, she'd seen the blow coming and tried to pull away, but all she'd managed to do was move herself into the path of his balled hand (which he'd intended to simply glance off her cheek). He'd struck her soundly against the nose, cracking the bone immediately.

And oh God, the sound of the bone breaking – the crack. It'd been awful.

She'd cried out in surprise, and fallen to the ground, hand over her bleeding nose. One hand had still been clutched around her gun, but she'd suddenly been in no condition to immediately go after him.

It'd been clear to him that she'd never expected him to hit her so hard.

He hated himself for it.

The only thing that had kept him from dropping to his knees to beg for forgiveness was the need to put Cortez behind bars for good.

Bad enough all the other things that Cortez had done in his life, but making him return to Marcus Perry, well that was damn near unforgivable as far as Deeks was concerned. Especially when it meant hurting her.

He'd made his way over to Callen and Price, reached down with a knife and cut into one of the blood bags, all while reaching into Callen's pocket and removing the (severed) finger the County Morgue had sent over.

Twenty minutes later, it had all been over. The finger had been handed to Cortez, who had smiled and given him an envelope full of money. And then Sam – and Callen wearing scrubs – had burst in, guns out, and made the arrest.

The first question he'd asked as soon as Cortez had been pushed into the back of a black and white had been, "Where's Kensi?"

"At the hospital," Sam had replied. "Broken nose."

"Really?" he'd said. Then, "I…I never meant to…I didn't…"

"You did what you had to do," Callen had cut in. "I'm sure she understands that."

"I hope so."

"Go see her," Callen had urged. "They should be pretty close to releasing her. I'm sure she'll need a ride home."

"She may not want a ride with me," Deeks had countered.

"She'll understand," Sam had said, echoing Callen's words. "We've all had to take our partner out before in order to sell a cover. Some of us just break a few more bones and enjoy it more than others."

"Oh, that only happened once," Callen had laughed. Then, "Deeks, keep us updated. But she's fine, really. You did good work today."

"Yeah. Is there um…is there something you guys do when you permanently kill of an alias? Something dramatic?"

Both men had shrugged. "Put him in a box. Bury him in the archives."

"Yeah, I was hoping for something…bigger."

"I'm sure Kensi has a few things she'd like to do to Perry," Sam had cracked.

"Well considering Perry is me, and most of what Kensi does to men she doesn't like involves the removal of vital…parts…I'll pass."

"Good call," Callen had laughed. Then he and Sam had turned and walked away, leaving Deeks to stand in the middle of Cortez's former hideout.

Thoughtful and hurting.


Two hours have passed since the conversation at the bar and even though his cell phone has rung a half dozen times, he's nowhere close to the hospital where he knows she is.

He has no idea how he's supposed to face her after breaking her nose. Yeah, maybe she will understand, but that doesn't change the fact that he'd just hurt the one person in the world that he'd promised himself he'd never hurt.

The past year is something of a blur to him.

Meeting her, working with her, and dammit, falling for her.

Two amazing nights later, and he's all kinds of messed up.

He thinks about his other aliases, very few of them good men. He thinks about Marcus Perry, the worst of the lot.

He thinks about the women and the liquor and the utter depraved way that he'd lived and acted while he'd worked with Cortez's crew. He thinks about lying in bed at night, wondering what kind of man willingly allows this kind of evil and darkness in.

Now, Perry hopefully in the past, he wonders what kind of man you have to be to survive it.

He takes his badge out of his pocket, and runs his fingers over the shield.

Somehow or another, he ends up back at his loft, sitting on the couch, his fingers curled tightly into Monty's fur. The pup leans in close, knowing only that his daddy is distraught about something, knowing only this his job right now is to make his daddy make that loud cheerful noise he makes when he's happy.

So he rolls on his back, feet up. He goes for silly and goofy, and just plain odd. His daddy pets him, and scratches his belly, but doesn't make the good noise.

"Sorry, buddy," Deeks mumbles, reaching for a bottle of beer. As he does, he feels the bite of his wallet in his back pocket. He reaches down and pulls it out, seeing Perry's license there. He takes it out and looks at it.

Then he gets up, tosses it into the fireplace (he thinks maybe it's a stroke of good luck that his loft is one of the only ones in the complex with a fireplace – at the time he'd rented the place, he'd been annoyed at having to pay extra for something he figured he'd never use). He lights it and watches as the plastic curls, breaks, bends and melts, sending a rancid smell around the room.

He steps away from the fireplace, and crosses back over to the couch. Picking up the beer again, he takes a healthy swig of it, thinking that maybe he'll drink himself to sleep tonight and deal with everything else tomorrow.

His partner has other plans for him.

Well, of course she does.

Just as he's finishing up the first bottle (and watching the flames peter out, leaving behind a charred and melted hunk of unidentifiable plastic in the fireplace), he hears a loud sharp knock on the front door of his loft.

Slowly, he gets off the couch, crosses over to it, looks through the peephole and startles when he sees her on the other side.

He opens the door, "Kensi?"

"Hi, partner," she says, her voice slightly nasally. There's crisscrossing bright white tape over the bridge of her nose, and considerable swelling and bruising around her eyes. A single black stripe rings her left eye.

"How'd you get here?" he asks, looking past her.

"Good to see you, too," she quips. Then, "Eric picked me up." She turns slightly, and nods at the blond tech, who is standing outside of his car, down in the parking lot of the apartment complex. "I told him I needed to talk to you, said you'd make sure I got home safe and sound. Not sure he believes me right now."

"I'm sorry," Deeks says, completely misunderstanding. "I never meant…"

"That's not why he doesn't believe me. He doesn't think you're a threat to me. Obviously. No, he's just ticked off because you left me in a hospital for hours. Just sitting there on a stupid bed looking like an idiot waiting for my partner to come pick me up. Do you know how much I hate waiting on anyone?" Her voice has sped up, and she's in full rant mode, her face flushing slightly. "I would have left myself if they'd let me, but oh no, apparently they don't think someone with a broken nose and looped on painkillers has any business..."

"I'm sorry," he says again, cutting her off. Then he steps outside the door and waves to Eric. He calls out. "I got it from here."

"You'd better," Eric grumbles before getting in his car and driving away. Deeks shuts the door, and ushers her into his loft and onto the couch.

She looks around then, almost like she's sniffing the air. "Admittedly," she says, "I'm a bit plugged up right now, but what is that horrible smell?"

"Burnt plastic," he replies. "I made sure Perry is dead and buried." He says it as nonchalantly as he can, but she doesn't buy it for a moment.

"Deeks…"

"It's a fine. You want a beer?"

"Yeah."

He gives her one, which she cracks open immediately.

After she's knocked back half the bottle and then taken a moment to think about what she wants to say, she starts with, "I'm not upset at you for what you did."

"I am," he says. "I…I should have come up with something better."

"You did the only thing you could to complete the job. We were stuck. You had to take me down somehow or we wouldn't have made the arrest," she insists.

"Not good enough," he replies, shaking his head. "My job is to protect you."

"No," she says instantly, her dark eyes blazing dangerously. "It's not. Your job is to be my back. My job is to be yours. Sometimes, Deeks, that means we have to play parts we don't want to."

He takes a sip of his beer, then says, "Do you know how many terrible things I did as Perry?"

"No, but if you want to talk about, I'm here."

He seems surprised for a moment. Generally, one of the rules of this job is that you pretty much have internalize the bad parts of it. You're expected to suck it up, and pretend that none of it ever affects you.

"I…you've done jobs like this, right?"

She nods slowly.

"Why don't you ever talk about them?"

She shrugs. "Not much to say."

"Right. Not much to say. Tell me something and.,.and be honest, okay?"

She's clearly suspicious of where he's going with, but slowly, she nods. "Okay."

"Do you consider me to be the weak link in our partnership?"

"What?"

"I'm serious, Kensi. You know what I mean. I'm the cop and you're the Fed."

"Which doesn't matter to me a bit, Deeks. Never has. You're my partner."

"Right," He gets up off the couch and starts pacing around. From the ground, made nervous by his daddy's clear anxiety, Monty whines.

"Deeks…"

"We all know that I got pushed on you guys by Hetty. You never wanted me and you all make it clear that I'm the outsider who gets tolerated."

"Deeks, it's all jokes," she says. She starts to frown, but her face, the skin of it already strained by her broken nose, protests. She winces, biting down on her lip. Thankfully, Deeks has his back to her, and doesn't notice.

"Is it?"

"What is this?" She seems legitimately confused, and maybe a bit worried. It's utterly unlike him to be acting like this. She doesn't doubt that he has some sensitivity towards the jokes from time to time, but he's always been really good at rolling with the punches and even returning a few of his own.

She kind of hates the idea that he might ever have taken the jokes seriously.

She really hates the idea that he might ever think she wants him to be anywhere but at her side and at her back.

"I'm just wondering. I mean, if I was reassigned back to the LAPD tomorrow – if I transferred back - and they got you a new partner, would it matter?"

"Would I be here right now if it didn't?" she demands, her face flushing with anger. Mixed in with the bruising, it makes her skin take on a bright purple hue.

"Maybe, I mean like it or not, we are partners, which means we have to work together. Unless I go back to the LAPD, I mean."

"Did…did I miss a fight between us?" she asks. "Because I sure feel like I did. Where is all this talk about going back to the LAPD coming from?"

"I'm just saying, maybe it's for the best."

"Oh, God. Is that…is this really about what happened earlier tonight? Is that what this is? Deeks, I'm fine."

"I…"

"Jesus, what is it with men? They say they like their women tough, but the moment we get even a small bruise on them, you guys freak the hell out."

"Bruise? Kensi, I broke your nose."

"Yes, you did. And I'm still fine."

"Bullshit. Why do we always have to play this game? You're clearly not fine. You have more colors on your face right now than there is in a bag of Skittles."

"Awesome. Thank you for that. Okay, if it's what you want to hear, I'm not fine. I hurt. I hurt a hell of a lot right now. And you are killing whatever buzz I had going on from the painkillers with whatever…this is."

"Maybe I should take you home so you can get some rest…"

She lets out a frustrated growl, and then gets up and walks towards him. "That's not what I want. What I want is for you to tell me what's going on here."

He runs his fingers through his shaggy blonde hair. "I just wonder if I'm any good at this. I wonder if I'm helping anyone."

"Pretty sure Helen Price thinks you are."

"Why? You saved her life, not me."

"We saved her life. As a team. And Deeks, you're part of the team. You're my partner. There's no one else I want as my partner. No one. Get it?"

"Why?"

"Because I trust you, and if you don't know by now how hard that is for me to say, then maybe you're right, maybe we have no business being paired up." She stares at him for a moment before adding in a quiet voice, "In any way."

His eyebrow lifts. "Any way?"

She laughs. "Really? You went there?"

"You went there first. 'In any way' implies other ways besides just work partners."

She sighs, but doesn't bother to deny it.

"Explain something to me, why do you refuse the idea of a you and me? You say you trust me as your partner. Do you not trust me that way?"

"Are we really having this conversation now?" she asks.

"What better time?"

"Fine. The reason I'm not willing to take that chance is because I've seen how this goes. How it always goes. I lose everyone," she says, suddenly sounding very tired and worn out "Everyone leaves me eventually. I've gotten used to it, but it never stops hurting. I think losing you would…I think it would kill me."

He steps towards her, into her personal space. "What if I promised you I'd never leave?"

"How can you make that promise when just five minutes ago you were talking about asking to be transferred back to the LAPD?"

"What if I didn't? What if I stayed right here? With you."

"This is getting really sappy," she laughs, clearly nervous.

"I don't mind," he says.

"Deeks, we can't do this," she whispers as he moves even closer.

"Why not? Why can't we allow ourselves a little bit of happiness? Look at us? Look at the world we live in. We have to be terrible people sometimes. Is it so wrong that every now and again, we want to enjoy something real and good?"

"No, but…"

"You're right, I can't promise you I won't ever leave. I obviously can't promise you that I won't ever hurt you, but I can try. I can…"

"Deeks…"

"And it's not against the rules for us to be involved. I checked…"

"You checked? That was optimistic of you."

He laughs. "On my best days, I'm an optimistic guy."

"And that's why I need you as my partner," she says. "Because I'm not. Every time I look around, I see just how awful people can be. When I see a guy walking down the street with his arm around a woman, I don't think 'they're cute'. I think 'I wonder if he's that good to her when he has a bad day at work'. And when I see a woman pushing a stroller, I don't think, 'I bet the baby is adorable'. I think 'I wonder if there are drugs in there'. That's where my mind goes."

"Your head really is a scary place," he says.

"You have no idea."

"I'd like to."

"You know this is going to end badly, right?" she says, her voice soft, almost like she's pleading with him.

"It doesn't have to."

"It will."

"Maybe not."

"Deeks."

"Shut up," he says.

"That's definitely my line," she chuckles.

He shakes his head, and then leans in and kisses her, pressing his lips to hers. He feels her arms go around him almost immediately, pulling him closer. After a brief moment, he pulls back, and looks down at her.

"Can you breathe all right?" he asks.

"Not really," she laughs.

"I can work with that."

"What?"

He leans forward and nips her neck. He hears her let out a soft moan, and can't help but smile. "You are beautiful," he says between petal soft kisses against her skin. Each creates a spot of coolness against her warm flesh.

"Deeks…"

He pulls up. "Why did you come here tonight?"

"I was worried about you," she says immediately.

"And if I told you that I'm fine?"

She smirks. "I wouldn't believe you."

"Look at that, I'm taking after you."

"And I suppose, in some ways, I'm taking after you," she says. "You make me laugh. You make me smile. You make the bad parts of the job less…awful."

"Thank you," he says, and then leans back in for a kiss. She laughs, making her lips rumble. "What?" he asks, again pulling back.

"So you think because we had this nice sweet moment that you're going to get something out of it?"

"I was hoping you'd comfort me," he says, returning his mouth to her neck. She feels one of his hands slide under the hem of her white shirt.

"Comfort you?" she says, tilting her head back so as to give him better access to her neck.

"It's been a hard day for me."

"For you? I have a broken nose!"

"I know. And my hand hurts from hitting you."

"Serves you right," she grumbles as he starts pushing her shirt upwards. As it rises up, exposing her smooth muscular abs, she catches sight of specks of blood on it, spray from when he'd originally broken her nose hours earlier.

"Probably," he admits as he pulls the shirt fully over her head, leaving her topless except for her white bra. Then, looking at her. "You really are beautiful."

She blushes and mutters, "I wish you'd stop saying that."

"I wish you'd believe it. I mean, actually believe it."

"I..."

"You know you're hot, but I don't think you have a clue how beautiful you are."

"Deeks, kiss me, please and just shut up, okay?"

"Okay." He leans forward and kisses her again, pulling her towards him. Aware of her breathing issues thanks to her broken nose, he makes the kiss short, and far more shallow than either of them would like. He's amused when he hears her whimper in protest when he breaks away.

If he has his way, by the end of the night, she'll be whimpering in an entirely different way.

Suffice it to say, he has his way.


He wakes up hours later, still feeling the exhaustion of not just the first time, but the double encores that had followed. No one should ever assume Kensi Blye for a wham bam thank you ma'am kind of gal, he muses to himself.

He turns slightly to his side, and can't help but smile when he sees her still lying beside him, her legs hopelessly tangled into his white sheets. Her nose is even more swollen and colorful now, but she looks peaceful and calm.

And yes, beyond beautiful.

He reaches over and moves hair away from her eyes. She stirs slightly, shifting in the sheets (and exposing a whole lot of skin to him), but doesn't come awake.

He slides himself behind her, and loops an arm around her, pressing his chest against her bare back and burying his face into the crook of her neck.

"Deeks," she mumbles.

"Don't you figure you should call me Marty by now?" he asks, pressing a kiss to her neck.

"No," she says. "You're Deeks."

"Okay."

"You always this much of a cuddler?" she asks even as he feels her lean back into him, one of her hands sliding over his as if to keep it where it is.

"Yes. You want me to stop?"

"No."

"Then shut up and go back to sleep."

"That's the second time tonight you've told me to shut up."

"Well, then I only have five thousand more times to go before I match how many times you've told me to do it."

"And counting," she grins before wincing as pain from her broken nose shoots through her face. "Ow," she half laughs/half whimpers.

"Yeah, that's what you get for mocking me," he says as he nips her earlobe.

"Funny…funny boy."

"That's me," he replies, chuckling against her. She can feel the way his chest rumbles, and she's amazed by how much she likes the feeling.

"Yeah," she says, sliding a hand back and gently caressing his bearded jaw. "That's you." Then she brings the hand down, slides it into one of his, pulls it front of her and tightens her hold. A moment later, she's sleeping again.

He pulls her closer (if possible) and closes his own eyes.


He's making breakfast for them when she comes out, freshly showered, her hair still dripping water. She's wearing her jeans from the previous night, but one of his LAPD tee-shirts. It's big on her, but he thinks it's never been worn better.

She laughs when she sees his expression. "Guys are so predictable," she says.

"Huh?"

"The shirt. I'm wearing your shirt and you're completely turned on by it."

He shrugs. "It's a…"

"Guy thing?"

"Yeah, but in a good way. We just like to…be around…you know, there's pretty much no way I can explain this that won't make me sound like a caveman."

"No, there isn't."

"Pancakes?"

"That's better." She steps into the kitchen and drops herself down into one of the chairs next to his kitchen table (which is a lot less cluttered than hers).

He comes over a moment later with two plates and puts them down. Then, looking at her. "I feel like I should get you some ice, too."

"Wouldn't help at this point. And really, it's mostly just…heavy now. Doesn't really hurt all that much."

"Good. You know I am sorry, right?"

"Didn't we do this last night?"

"Actually, we started to and then we did other stuff."

"Subtle, Deeks."

"That's me. Subtle as a brick. Or a rock. Or a fist or…" he stops when he looks up and sees her smirking at him, looking utterly amused.

The expression is somewhat new to him – not necessarily from her but overall. He's used to being humored, but what he's seeing from her, it's not the patient look that others give him, the kind that's somewhat patronizing.

No, what he's seeing from her, it's actual amusement.

He thinks about what she'd said the night before about how he makes her laugh, how he makes the bad parts of the job tolerable.

"Not just words," he whispers.

"What?"

"Nothing. You want syrup?"

"Yeah. And another stack of these. I'm famished."

"How is it possible that you eat the way you do and look the way you do?"

She looks up at with a slight petulant pout on her lips, "Did your mom never tell you not to ask a woman about her eating habits?"

"Oh, she told me, but I don't think she ever envisioned a woman like you."

"Is that a compliment?"

"Absolutely."

She smiles at him, he smiles back.

Then, "So does this mean you're willing to actually give this a go?"

"If I'm right, I'm never going to let you forget it," she says, trying to make it a joke. She's only somewhat successful, a hint of vulnerability seeping through.

"Well, first, I wouldn't expect any different, but second, sounds like a challenge and you know how much I enjoy those."

"I always beat you."

"Not this time, Fern."

She rolls her eyes, then says softly, "You'd better be right. Tim."

He leans down and presses a kiss to the top of her head, holding it there for a long moment. She reacts by wrapping her arms around his legs, and pressing her face against his stomach. It's sweet, and gentle, and emotional.

"Kensi, I…"

"Don't you dare," she says. "Just, please let this moment just be this moment."

"You have no idea what I was about to say."

"Maybe. Maybe not. But there's no way that I'm giving you a chance to screw this up in the first ten minutes," she teases.

"Me? I'm not the one with commitment issues."

"Deeks…" she warns. He's right, though, but she has no intention of dealing with that hurdle today. Later probably, but not now.

"Got it. Shutting up."

"Good boy."

"I can be taught."

"Doubtful. Now go get some more pancakes started," she says, pushing him away from her.

He laughs, and steps away, turning his back on her. He walks over to the counter, and pours some batter onto the grill.

"Hey, Deeks," she says after about two minutes of peaceful silence.

"Oh, you wanted some syrup, right?" he asks, turning back to face her. He's a bit surprised when he sees a serious expression on her bruised face.

"You are one of us," she says. "One of the team. And we're better – all of us – with you. If you left, we'd be less."

He swallows hard, tries to smile, and then stops himself, fearing that he might let out something overly emotional. Instead, mutely, he nods.

"Deeks?"

"What?" he croaks, afraid of what else she might say.

"You're burning my pancakes."

He spins back, and sees that indeed, the side of the pancake on the grill is now solid black. He flips it quickly, but it's clearly a lost cause. "Dammit," he groans.

He hears her laugh. It's an amazing sound. "Thanks," he says softly, not turning around. He doesn't need to; a moment later, she's behind him, her arms wrapped again around him. He pulls them tighter.

He's pretty sure he could live forever like this.

"I won't let you down," he whispers.

"You never have," she answers before pressing a kiss to his neck. She holds it there for a moment, her hair tickling his face. Then, just as he's thinking about picking her up and taking her back into the bedroom, she says, "Now you're burning the other side."

This time, he's the one that laughs.

And this time, she's the one who thinks that it's just about the most perfect sound that she's ever heard.

It's the morning after the third time they end up in bed together.

The third time, but far from the last time.

-fin