A/N: This is essentially the same story, only focusing more on what was going on in Deeks' mind. Keep in mind, it's difficult to try and write the same story twice.
Thank you, to all who have reviewed. I really wasn't expecting that kind of response, but again, Thank you.
A GIVE AND TAKE SITUATION
"Deeks." He ignores the sound of her voice, ignores the softness of it telling him exactly what he's afraid to accept. He keeps counting, continuing to push on the center of the boy's chest. He won't stop, he can't. This is just a kid, a kid who twenty seconds ago was still alive, crying for his mother.
He hears her call his name again, but he just shakes his head. He can't stop. But then he does. All it takes is a strong hand on his shoulder, and he finally stops. His heart is beating, pushing violently against his rib cage. The adrenaline pulsing through him causes his hands to shake.
His heart is beating, but the boy's isn't.
He looks towards Kensi, overwhelmed at the feeling of hopelessness clouding his thoughts. When he sees the sadness in her mismatched eyes, he accepts that they're gone, that both boys are dead. Slowly, he lets his hands fall to his sides, fighting back the nausea caused by the immense amount of blood coating his arms.
He hears Callen cancel the ambulance, and he lets his eyes close. He thinks over the last few minutes. That's all it's been. Less than five minutes ago, he was climbing out of Kensi's car, laughing as they readied themselves to confront a group of armed men. At the time, Deeks had thought the worst thing the men were capable of was treason. As he sits, feeling the blood of a boy who couldn't have been older than fourteen soak through his jeans, he realizes how wrong he had been.
Deeks remembers the twisted, perverse grin that had been on the face of the boys' attacker before he acknowledged that Deeks and Kensi had stormed in. He remembers the look of indifference on the former Marine's. He remembers the looks of fear on the boys' faces as they fought against what was happening, neither knowing it was almost over.
Deeks lets the anger consume him, he welcomes it. Anger is easier to deal with. He allows it to push aside the sadness that threatens to break him. As he listens to the approaching sirens signaling the arrival of their backup, he lets the anger assume control, guiding him through the motions he knows he needs to make.
He doesn't say anything when Sam hands him a small hand towel. He just stands and backs out of the way as a technician begins taking pictures of the two dead boys. He follows Kensi and Sam towards a man in a dark, grey suit.
When asked, Deeks tells the suit what happened. He tells him that he followed his partner, gun raised, ready to shoot if need be. He tells him about finding two men who didn't deserve to live, and two boys who did.
But when Deeks tells the suit that he had performed CPR in an attempt to save the boy's life, he leaves out the part about the boy screaming for help, pleading with anyone who would listen, saying that he didn't want to die. Deeks doesn't tell the suit that the boy had cried for his mother before his eyes had closed and his heart stopped beating. Deeks doesn't tell anyone that he had wanted to cry with him.
When the man in the dark, grey suit smiles a forced smile and offers a hollowed 'thanks', Deeks just nods his head, holding on to the anger fueled by the suit's apparent apathy towards what had happened.
He just leans against a railing, watching as body bags are loaded into a van, one after another. He keeps his eyes on the van as he uses the hand towel to wipe away at the blood. It's sticky and clings to the towel. It isn't until he sees two officers approaching, each holding on to a bag whose inhabitant is much too small that he lets his hands drop, the towel hanging loosely between his fingers.
As the last body bag is loaded into the van, he sees his partner slowly, cautiously approach him. He takes a deep breath, letting his shoulders fall as the van pulls away. He feels the old railing shift as Kensi's weight rests against it. He knows she's watching him, gauging his reaction. He knows he should say something, should tell her that he's fine, or ask whether or not she is, but he doesn't. Right now, all Deeks wants to do is scream and let out all of the frustration that's been building over the last half-hour.
He doesn't know how to do it, though. He doesn't want to surf. He doesn't want to associate anything he loves with this situation, with this day. He wants to escape, to run away from all of the emotions pulling him in different directions.
Deeks tosses the stained hand towel towards the ground as he pushes himself from the railing. Not knowing what else to do, he starts walking towards Kensi's car, trusting that she'll be right behind him.
He doesn't notice as the endless parking lots and abandoned industrial buildings begin to blend into the horizon of the city. Neon signs dimmed by the brightness of an LA afternoon blink in the shade of palm trees and high-rise buildings.
As the car comes to a stop, he finally takes the time to look around. He knows that they're close to the office, a few more miles and he can start to put this day behind him.
He starts thinking about the boys, knowing that their bodies are halfway to the county morgue. He thinks about their last moments, the fear and pain they must have felt. Slowly, he starts to wonder about who they were, what had happened for them to end up in that abandoned building in the middle of nowhere.
Who were they? Deeks stares at the dashboard as he realizes that he doesn't know anything about them. He wonders what they would have been doing if they hadn't ended up in that building with those men. They had probably just started noticing girls. He doesn't know whether they were the type of boys to play video games and waste hours in front of a computer, or the outdoors type, constantly keeping busy. Deeks tries to remember if there had been any sign that the boys had been into sports—muscle definition, a tan. All he can remember is that they were small, and that there had been too much blood.
He wants to get back to the mission, wants to go home and try to forget that any of this ever happened. As Deeks begins thinking that tomorrow he'll have a chance to start over, to try and make it a better day than today, he feels the familiar weight of guilt start to build in his chest. The boys aren't going to get tomorrow.
The guilt mingles with the anger, each emotion fighting for control, and Deeks can't take it. He wants to scream, to hurt someone, to let all of his anger out. So he does. He tightens his fist and slams it into the side of the door as hard as he can. He screams as he feels the temporary release of frustration. He hits the door two more times before falling back in his seat.
He stares at the ceiling, concentrating on the pain in his hand, which is preferable to the pain in his chest. He sees Kensi staring at him out of the corner of his eye. He waits for her to say something, but prays that she won't. When the car slowly starts to move again, he lets out a shaky breath he hadn't known he was holding.
He refuses to cry. Not because he doesn't want Kensi to see, but because he isn't ready to face those emotions yet. He knows he'll have to, but he's determined to push them aside for as long as possible.
He keeps waiting for Kensi to try and force him to talk, for her to ask him to tell her what he's thinking. He knows that before this case is filed away, he'll hear at least one person tell him that there wasn't anything he could have done differently, that there's no reason for him to feel guilt. They've all seen innocent people die; it's an inevitable hazard in this line of work. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier.
He's brought out of his thoughts by the slamming of a door. He turns and sees Kensi staring at him, one eyebrow raised high as a shy smile forms on her lips. For a moment, he wonders how she does that, how she's still able to smile after what they've just seen. Then he remembers that she's seen it before. Death is an inevitable hazard.
He feels the sadness return, pushing at the anger. For a moment, he fears that the anger will leave, and he'll be left in her car a broken mess. When he realizes that he isn't going to last the night before he breaks down, the anger comes back. He pushes the door open and climbs out of the car before slamming it shut behind him.
He doesn't say anything as Kensi walks in step with him, her shoulder barely ghosting against his. They walk into the office, and he can feel the atmosphere shift with their presence. Though no one quits talking, the general volume of the room lowers a considerable amount as everyone takes in the disheveled and blood smeared appearance of the two partners.
They only stare a second before they're back to their work, each trying to act as though they hadn't been caught off guard by the gory display. The look on Nell's face is enough to force the anger aside. The barely concealed horror that had momentarily shined through her eyes is enough to let him know that it's as bad as it looks.
He pushes past his partner, wanting to hurry to the showers but not finding the strength to move faster. As he walks through the doorway leading to the gym, he hears the sound of sneakers squeaking against the varnished floor, the occasional echo of the ball bouncing.
Deeks is so focused on getting to the showers that he doesn't notice when the squeaking of the shoes stops or when the playful trash talk morphs into hushed whispers. He just keeps walking, trying to find the anger again, but failing to find anything but sadness.
The showers are empty, the mirrors outlined with dozens of beads of water from the steam of a previous shower, letting Deeks know that someone had recently been there. He catches a glimpse of his reflection, and immediately turns away as he feels the nausea from earlier make itself known.
Out of habit, he reaches for his gun. Pulling it out of its holster, he sets it on one of the benches in front of the mirrors. Slowly, he removes his phone and badge, adding them to the bench. With each movement, he feels where the blood has dried his clothes to his skin, creating an uncomfortable reminder of how much blood the boy had lost.
A part of him registers that the door has opened, but he doesn't turn to see who it is. He doesn't care. Instead, he pulls his shirt up over his head, swallowing back the bile as he feels the dried blood trying to cling the shirt to his skin.
It's too much. He doesn't want to be covered in the boy's blood any longer. Stepping forward, he quickly turns on the hot water, bracing himself for the temporary cold. He lets his head rest against his arm, allowing the wall to hold his weight as he watches the blood slowly dissolve from his chest.
He tries focusing on the swirls of pink gathering and disappearing at his feet, on the steadily increasing heat falling on his neck before covering his back. It isn't until he feels the presence of someone standing next to him that he knows who had opened the door after him. He should have known it was her all along.
He hears her hiss as the water burns her skin. Several seconds pass as he wonders if she's going to say anything. It isn't until the water cools, relieving the burning sting on his skin that he feels her hand on his arm. The small gesture almost does him in. He feels the anger leave and accepts the fact that the sadness has won.
Her shy smile turns into a sad one as she squeezes his arm, softly asking if he had planned on streaking. He surprises himself when he manages to smile back, the absurdity of worrying about clothes a welcomed reprieve from the nightmare replaying in his mind.
She squeezes his arm once more before stepping out of the shower. Promising she'll be right back, she quickly turns and makes her way towards the door. As soon as she's out of site, he lets the sadness take control.
He turns and lets his back slide down the wall, stopping only when he's made contact with the tiled floor of the shower. He presses his palms to his eyes as a single heavy sob shakes his body. He stays like that, counting to ten before letting his hands fall from his face.
As he moves to straighten his legs, he feels the uncomfortable feeling of water trapped in his shoes. Looking at his blood soaked jeans, he quickly kicks off his shoes before standing to unbuckle his belt. He has to push down to remove the saturated clothing.
He lets the clothes fall to the floor with a sound that can only be associated with a heavy wetness. Closing the curtain behind him, he works to make sure the water removes all traces of the boy's blood from his body, paying extra attention to the dark red trapped along his nail beds.
He's almost embarrassed when he realizes silent tears are mixing with the tepid water. He doesn't try to stop them, choosing instead to let them fall while he focuses his attention on removing the now invisible blood.
The metallic echo of the adjacent stall's curtain rings sliding across a metal bar alerts him to his partner's return. He steadies his breathing as he turns his face towards the showerhead, trying to let the now cool water rinse away any evidence that he had been crying. It's calming and helps drain the remaining frustration out of his body.
He waits for Kensi's shower to end, wanting to give her time to leave before he steps out of the stall. Somehow, he already knows that she'll be waiting for him. He takes one last look at his hands, insuring that they're clear of blood before he peaks through the shower curtain.
He isn't surprised to see Kensi sitting on the bench, steadily running a towel through her hair, but he is surprised to find his gym bag and a towel on the floor, carefully placed within his reach. For a moment, he feels stupid for having not thought past getting in the shower, but he quickly pushes that feeling aside when he remembers how he felt when he had first walked into the shower room.
He bends down and grabs the towel, wrapping it around his waist before grabbing the gym bag and walking towards the bench. He drops the bag on the bench, but regrets it when he sees Kensi flinch from the unexpected sound.
He watches as she turns towards him, her dark eyes meeting his. For a moment she looks worried, the concern etched on her face enhanced by her sharp features. But after a moment, he thinks he sees relief break through the worry. He isn't sure, and he doesn't have time to really see before she stands and tosses her towel towards the hamper and moves to gather his ruined clothes.
He stares at the small, black bag sitting on the bench until he hears his partner leave, listening for the slow squeak of the door's hinges grinding together as the door closes behind her. He pulls out a worn pair of sweatpants, and begins the task of getting dressed.
He allows himself to fully look at his reflection this time, focusing on the fact that he sees no traces of what had happened in that abandoned building. He grabs a handful of paper towels and wets them in the sink before grabbing his gun and scrubbing at the bloody handprints.
Watching as each towel gradually turns to pink, Deeks questions why the color had ever been labeled as 'feminine'. Eventually, he manages to remove the small smudges of blood decorating his phone and badge. He grabs his wet shoes and heads towards his locker, hoping he has an extra pair of sneakers hidden within the small, overcrowded space.
He tightens the laces, deliberating taking his time, prolonging the moment before he has to sit at his desk and face the rest of the team. He stands in the darkness of the empty locker room, trace amount of light shining through the small, overhead windows serving as the room's only source of illumination.
Eventually, he starts walking. Car keys in hand, he decides he isn't ready to talk to anyone yet. He doesn't want to have to sit and write out everything that had gone wrong in the old building. Everything had gone wrong, only it had started long before he or Kensi had arrived.
He keeps his head down, careful not to meet anyone's eyes as he walks past the desks. As soon as his hand is on the door leading to the parking lot, he turns and manages a smile as he tells his partner bye.
He squints his eyes against the sun's rays, which are still bright despite its low position in the sky. He feels as though he's on autopilot, moving along as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened. He makes each turn, each stoplight as though all of his attention is focused on getting home, except it's not.
He constantly replays the moments before they had walked into the building. He had felt the familiar rush of adrenaline, the momentary fear that something could go wrong. He remembers taking off his jacket, smiling as Kensi slammed on the brakes, sending gravel flying before they both jumped out of the car.
He had laughed. Laughed and made some ridiculous comment about her driving, something about the Dukes of Hazzard. She had laughed, too, deciding to take it as a compliment. That was before they had gone into the building. Before they had learned about the two boys.
He pulls in front of his building, shutting the car off and letting the autopilot fade. He waves at a passing neighbor, giving a hurried hello before disappearing into his apartment.
Leaning against his front door, Deeks feels lost. There's no feeling of comfort, no sense that it's okay to relax. He feels too exhausted to go out. He doesn't trust himself to drink, at least not alone. No matter how much he could try, he knows his mind is too wired for him to just go to bed.
As Monty stretches from his corner by the couch, Deeks smiles and bends to scratch the dog behind his ears. The dog is happy, oblivious to his owner's discomfort. Grabbing the leash, Deeks opens the door and leads Monty towards the beach.
He doesn't walk far, no more than a mile from home. Normally he'd take Monty towards the pier, letting him off his leash so he can snap at the waves as they come in. Now, he keeps him close, wrapping the leash around his wrist to close the distance.
Looking around, he sees people continuing as though it were any other day. Several people stop to watch the sunset, one woman trying to get her small, unwilling son to pose for a picture. Deeks feels a small laugh work its way through him as the toddler continues to ignore his mother's pleas. "James, look at Mommy. Come on, look at the camera. James David, please. Wave at Mommy."
Deeks doesn't stay to watch the sun set. Instead, he turns his back to the horizon, choosing to watch as the shadows grow along the pavement leading back towards his apartment. He doesn't want to be told that he needs to talk about it, or that he needs to move on, accept that bad things happen. He knows he needs something, but at the moment, he has no idea what it is.
As he starts to climb the stairs to his apartment, he feels Monty tense at his side. The dog's ears are perked, and Deeks can tell that he's alert but not threatened. As they near the top of the stairs, Deeks smiles when he sees a clearly pissed off Kensi.
"Deeks, open the freaking door!"
His smile grows, and the words are out of his mouth before his mind can protest. "Well, isn't this nice?"
He lets the banter play out, allowing it to hide the grief, letting it pull him back where he wants to be. He's happy when she pushes him for a response, stubbornly being Kensi. But as they settle on the couch, he braces himself, preparing for the emotional confrontation. Logically, he knows that there's nothing neither he nor Kensi could have done differently. No one knew the boys were there, no one knew there were going to be hostages.
He sits in silence, only deciding to speak when Kensi reaches for her second slice of pizza. "So, did you want to talk or watch TV?" Once again, he doesn't know which he wants, but he gladly reaches for the remote after she gracefully leaves the choice up to him.
As they argue over which show to watch, he realizes that she's probably just as lost as he is. She doesn't know what to say just as much as he doesn't know what he wants to hear.
They sit side by side, him choking on his beer when Kensi snorts as a woman with too much make-up cries when she's voted off the show, or Kensi kicking him when he decides to judge the contestants based off of their looks.
"Come on, Kensi. They ALL suck equally. The only way to decide on a winner is to pick the hottest."
Another kick to his side. "Sorry. Cutest?"
The night goes on, each settling in to the comfort of the routine, the familiarity of their partnership. Bad things are going to happen, they always have. It's even okay to let it bring you down from time to time. The hard part is not letting it keep you down.
He knows he had fallen, even if only for a moment. As he readies for bed, he thinks about his partner, about the two boys, and the men responsible for their deaths. He knows Eric and Nell will figure out who the boys were, who they had been. He knows that the men who had ended their lives can never hurt anyone else again. And he knows that his partner will be there tomorrow, constantly pushing him, giving him what he needs to be himself and to get through the day.
Because sometimes death is a part of the job, and there's nothing anyone can do to change it. He can only rely on his partner, try his best to have her back, and make sure he's there when she needs help, because he knows she's doing the same for him.
It's a give and take situation, a give and take partnership. They each give all they can, and expect the other to take it. Neither expects anything less.