"Of fine lines" will be updated soon, I promise.

Reviews are appreciated!

Disclaimer: It's not mine.

They begin on a Wednesday.

In the middle of a crowded gym, both falsely mourning the death of a man neither really cared to know. There are leather jackets and gym bags, phone numbers and a man with an eye-patch that wants them all gone in one way or another.

He watches her walk away with a glint in her eye, and it feels a whole lot like a challenge.

Counting her footsteps until she rounds the corner and disappears for what he knows will not be the last time. One of the boys yells out his name from the arena behind him.

It is day one.

They find her in the midst of a botched-up surveillance Op that was never supposed to come down to this. The solace she normally finds in the crack of a gun evades her, and she feels the metal running through her veins long before it runs over her bruising hands.

She fights honorably, and the last man standing brings her to her knees with a well-placed shot that is just enough to keep her alive.

He spits and swears (because this was supposed to be much easier).

And somewhere deep inside her mind, she hears the low hum of a promise that she has broken.

It is day four hundred and sixty-eight.

He rejoins her on a Tuesday.

Mind lost in an explosion he'd never had the chance to apologize for. A relationship that was never quite that, and never quite anything else, has not yet become a memory –but he will not cry for her-.

She runs down the stairs, tense.

Calls out for her friends, asking if they're safe, and he sees only recognition in her eyes as she rounds the corner.

(Later, she will stop him from pulling the trigger. And he will feel the heartbeat of a life he almost ended underneath his palm for months afterwards)

He never thanks her for it.

She never asks him to.

It is day one hundred and fifty-seven.

On day three hundred and eighty-five, he wakes up to find her curled into his side.

Her TV is still running, the commercials reduced to a gentle hum. He'd followed her home the night before, fuming over yet another one of her risky ventures.

(Because he has nightmares about losing her. About turning his back and hearing the pull of a trigger that is not meant for him. About watching cars drive away that do not send them links and do not ask for anything in return. About finding her and about leaving her. And when he opens his eyes he is always sitting up with an arm stretched out before him, as if he was reaching for something that was not there.)

And because he is Deeks, and because she is Kensi, and because they are them, the argument that ensued, the angry words that followed, led them nowhere but everywhere they could not go.

"I-I can't lose you." He chokes this out reluctantly. Not because it's not true, but because he knows her limits, and knows that this may be enough to shut her down.

But her eyes soften ever so slightly and she shakes her head.

"You're not going to."

And even though this shouldn't make him feel better, he stubbornly believes that she would not lie to him.

So he lies to himself instead.

He hates Russians.

He hates their little black books and Cold War vendettas. Their maze of lasers and the way they make his partner shake.

But he will always harbor a feeling of indebtedness to those men. Not only because they gave him a chance to prove to himself, but because they'd never read the same book about the frequency of light and because the smile Kensi gave him after their tumble to the ground made his heart ache.

And the first time they'd ever met, she'd sent him a silent challenge.

It is here, lying in the aftermath of an explosion that could have killed them both, that he realizes that he has already lost.

This is day two hundred and thirty one.

She knows them by sound.

One eye swollen shut and the other sees everything in a hazy sort of yellow that makes her head spin. They all smell like cigarette smoke and sweat.

So she listens for their footsteps: heavy and slow, light and uneven. The sound their boots make and the low rumble of their voices. The feel of their hands against her face (rough and inquiring).

"I give her three days," laughs one of her many captors when she first arrives.

(This is twelve days ago, and he has turned impatient and admiring all at once and she hates it.)

They slam her face first into a wall, the unmistakable feel of a gun pressed tenderly against her neck. Her thoughts clutter at the forefront of her mind. She knows that they must be speaking to her, but she cannot hear them over the voice of a man she has nearly forced herself to forget.

'You promised.'

And she sees his tortured eyes and his clenched fists. All the apologies she could reach for, and none of them can explain how this was not supposed to happen.


The sound of her name from his lips strikes her. A swift kick in the stomach and all her air is gone. He turns to go, and she opens her mouth over and over and over again.

But she cannot say his name.

(They drop her on the floor once they are done. Crooked and raw, she does not sleep and she does not move. Eyes half shut, desperately trying to forget all that she cares about. Because if she does not know, then they can never force it out of her.)

It has been four hundred and eighty days.

There is a man named Jack and there is a woman named Jessica.

There is a speeding car that leaves a mark and a fight on a bridge that makes them all laugh.

He does not want to talk about his father.

She does not want to know about her mother.

Neither of them cares much for hotel rooms or hospitals, but they find themselves in both somewhere along the way.

And they find comfort slowly, painfully.

And they fall in love so incompletely that they almost do not notice.

(Then they do, and it scares them.)

And there is not a date for things such as these.

He searches for her.

Because he always has, because he does not know how to do anything else, and because that dream of turning around and finding her gone has become a sick reality.

Hetty looks on dejectedly. She has lost too many agents.

Callen leaves for long periods and does not call to check in.

Sam yells and pushes and fights, and while that does not bring her back, it makes Deeks feel better about his anxiety.

He does not sleep much these days.

And he can feel her whispering 'you'llgetmebackyou'llgetmeback' over and over again from somewhere far far away.

Day four hundred and eighty six.

And that does not change a thing.

"Are you ready?"

She raises her eyebrows at the question.

He smirks.

Callen's tense breathing from the other end of the earpiece has them both on edge as they wait, crouched in the shadows around the abandoned hospital. He has tied and retied his shoes multiple times over the past three hours. She has reviewed the details of the impending bust to the point of memorization.

He does not remember hearing Callen say "Go". Only remembers her tensing ever so slightly in the seconds before she springs to her feet. How the air turned thick and sour after they kicked in the side door and pushed through fallen ceiling beams toward the center of the building.

She is right in front of him, ducking and weaving through the debris, and he almost reaches out to pull her closer but does not.

Four shots ring out of the muffled silence; a fist slams into him from the side.

There is nothing but movement and the color gray and the sticky black blood on his cheek for what feels like hours.

And when the dirt settles back onto the tile, she is gone.

(Callen reports that the drugs had been moved long before the raid.)

He blames himself for letting her dive headfirst into a setup. For falling behind and for not even considering in the midst of it all that she might not be okay.

And he has failed her before. The memory dark and deep, covered with red gauze and panic.

He could not save his mother and he could not escape his father. The copper on his teeth and behind his eyes and everything is hard to swallow. When his best friend ran a red light and paid the price with his life. How he takes little pieces of everyone he has lost and carries them around on his shoulders so that he is never truly alone.






'I promise.' He whispers to no one (and so nobody whispers in return).

He does not care.

A man slides down the wall beside her on day fifteen of her captivity.

She tries to turn her head towards him, but ends up curling her knees into her stomach (as if she is afraid he might hurt her) instead.

"Callen," she croaks out.

"You've had us worried sick," he chuckles, eyes scanning their surroundings curiously. She does not respond, if only because she knows that he is not real.

"I mean a day or two of no contact? That's almost routine. But fifteen days?" He shakes his head. "Even I would have checked in by now."

His words feel heavy on her hands. She knows very few of his stories, but knows with a certainty that they usually involve daring escapes and close calls. And she doubts that he has ever let himself fall as far as she has, and hates herself for it.

Because every movement is accompanied by a lurching sensation that sends her shaking back into submission. Her muscles are locked and her fingers tingle uncomfortably.

And she would ask for his help, but she does not know how to reach him.

"Callen," she tries again, but he is already moving away from her and towards the door.

She closes her eyes, because she cannot watch him leave.

Day four hundred and eighty three.

On day four hundred and ninety, he finds her.

(More accurately, he slams a man named Jorge Ramos into a wall and promises to put a bullet straight through his heart if he does not tell him where she is.)

And somewhere between that moment and the second he jumps back into his car and speeds away, Callen and Sam have rejoined him. Silent and supportive, worried and tense. He appreciates them now more than ever, and hopes that one of them has alerted Hetty.

They drive two hours north of the city on a route that should have taken three.

And if in the last raid, she did not cross his mind enough, he thinks bitterly that he might have redeemed himself on this pivotal second try.

There was a woman named Jessica that he once cared for, but never quite loved.
And he did not mourn her the way she deserved but he did miss her (like hell in the beginning of it all).

But this time, when he bursts through that door to find his partner lying there, beaten and bruised, red and blue and black all over, he does cry. For both her and for the relief that floods his heart.
(He will deny this later, mostly to himself, because the others would never bring up something as serious as this.)

Eric has called an ambulance before he can ever muster up the sense to ask for one.

So he gathers her up in his arms, terrified that he will break her.

The defeated chant of "she'll be okay she'll be okay she'll be okay" runs through his mind all the way back down the stairs.

She is lost in dreams of fire when suddenly, her world tilts.

Agony flashes through her chalky bones, her teeth rattle and her eyes roll. If she concentrates through her body's protest, she can feel the soft skin of another on the back of her neck.

She is being carried.

And the steady thump of a familiar heartbeat from somewhere beyond her haze tells her that she is safe.

(She does not know what day it is.)

He is next to her when she wakes up, just as she was for him a lifetime ago.

"Hey," he chokes out, startled.

She stares up at him for a long moment, and he can almost see her mind working to catch up with the events of the past few weeks. And he is nearly overwhelmed with a feeling of immense gratitude that she is here with him now, because he had been certain that he'd lost her.

Slowly, she reaches out to him, her hand trembling from the effort. Intertwining their fingers, she closes her eyes once again.

They both know that there are many things that need to be said to one another.

(Like how she's had his heart since day three hundred and eighty eight, but his attention for much, much longer.)

They both know that the healing process is slow and unsteady.

(And maybe one day she will admit that she no longer dreams of Jack. And maybe one day she will have the courage to step outside of her self-set boundaries and give them both a chance.)

But for now, she sleeps her exhaustion away.

And he (with her hand wrapped tightly inside of his own, and the memory of her thankful smile), does as well.

It is day four hundred and ninety three.

They begin on a Wednesday.

And they do not end for such a very long time.