For the longest time, Kensi perches on the edge of the bathtub, feeling the chill from the porcelain slowly seep into her skin, despite the fluffy robe she's wrapped rather tightly around herself. She's certain, though, that the trembling she feels isn't from cold.

No, she's completely certain that that's from heat.

It's not exactly that she had run away after she and Deeks had made love – no, she'd stayed with him, tangled together in the sheets as their bodies cooled, mentally guessing the tiny shapes he couldn't seem to help drawing upon her shoulders, her back, any patch of skin he could reach. She'd rested her palm atop his chest, feeling as the beat of his heart slowly returned to normal. And she'd sighed as she felt him press a kiss or two to the top of her head in the afterglow; she'd shivered as he repeated in a low, nearly inaudible whisper just how beautiful she is.

But as the afterglow had faded, shades of panic had begun to set in. Her thoughts had begun to race, and after a few moments, it simply became too much – plus, if she stayed there in his arms, he'd know something was wrong.

So she'd quietly pulled herself from his arms, whispering a quiet promise of "I'll be right back" before slipping from the bed and wrapping her robe around her shoulders, escaping as calmly as she could to the bathroom.

And she's been here ever since.

She doesn't know how much time passes – could be merely minutes, could be hours, but it all seems to blur together in her head. What she does know, though, is that she can't hide out in the bathroom forever.

That's exactly what she's doing – hiding.

And she hates herself for it because Kensi Blye does not hide.

Then again, she's never really found herself in this position before. On the other side of the door, her partner lays in bed and Kensi's not sure just how she's supposed to crawl back under those covers with him, not just tonight, but for the rest of this assignment. And then, once it's all over, they'll go back to being partners, day in and day out.

Partners who'd taken it a step too far.

Partners who'd shattered the boundaries between them, boundaries that were there for this very reason.

Partners who couldn't unravel themselves from each other now no matter how hard they tried.

With a sigh, Kensi rubs her tired eyes, unable to deny the simple truth of it all: if she's honest with herself, really, truly honest, this scares her.

It scares her that, right now, she's not in control. She's not in control of the situation; she's not in control of this assignment.

She's not in control of her own emotions, and that's what really terrifies her.

It scares her that every time she thinks she's ready to stand and slip back into the bedroom, a deep shiver slowly pulses its way through her body, accelerating her heart and undoing everything she'd attempted to calm herself – steady breaths, counting the tiles on the floor, silently reciting the same mantras over and over in her head. And just one thought, one thought of her partner, the man on the other side of the door, is enough to undo every last bit of that.

The flashes keep forcing themselves to the front of her memory, no matter how desperately Kensi tries to fight them back. The heat in his kisses; his mouth on hers, lips and tongue slowly seducing her, guiding her to surrender control of the dance she had initiated. The delicious sensation of skin on skin, no barriers nor space between them. The shivers that consumed her with every touch of his fingertips; the sparks that seemed to erupt upon every patch of skin touched by his lips.

The way it had felt…to just let go.

Even now, she trembles.

At first, it had been about making him feel good – making him feel wanted, needed, because no matter how desperately she tries to deny it, she does need him. She needs him by her side, needs him as her partner. She needs him to be the one backing her up because she doesn't trust anyone else the way she trusts him.

She'd listened to the story of his past, fully possessed by every agonized word that left his lips, and beyond all else, all she'd wanted to do was take it all away. To capture that pain and send it away, a sealed bottle to the sea. She'd wanted to protect the little boy who'd never felt good enough; she'd wanted to prove to the man beside her that he did mean something to her, that she wouldn't be here now if not for him, the man who'd held his hands out to her when they barely even knew each other, when trust was still shaky and the bond between them had barely begun to form. Maybe he felt like he didn't belong with this team; maybe he felt like he'd never belonged anywhere. But one thing Kensi had been certain of as she'd looked into those ocean blue eyes – he belonged here, with her.

And from the first kiss, it had been about making him see that. Making him feel that, believe that.

But somewhere along the line, she'd lost herself. Maybe with the first kiss, maybe the second; maybe with the first time his palms splayed against her bare abdomen or the way his first name had felt upon her lips; maybe with the very moment that they'd ceased to exist separately, coming together as a single entity, two souls so tightly interwoven that to pull them apart would be to leave them both irreparably broken. Somewhere, she'd lost herself in a crashing wave of sensation, physical and emotional feeling.

Somewhere alone the line, she'd broken the rules – not any sort of written, tangible rules, but her rules. Her own personal rules. And, if she's honest with herself, she's been breaking those rules for awhile now. She'd begun bending the rules when she'd started spending nights curled up with him on her couch, when she'd put how simply good it felt to be with him above keeping their partnership strictly professional. She'd turned a blind eye as those rules had begun to splinter beneath the pressure, the weight of a partnership becoming a friendship becoming…a thing. But as long as those lines weren't crossed, as long as the rules technically weren't broken, she'd ignored it.

Resting her head in her hands, Kensi exhales deeply, trying for the hundredth time to quell her racing thoughts, her racing pulse. One thing's for certain – there's no ignoring it now.

Unbidden, her thoughts drift back to the moment several months ago, when she'd thought she'd lost her partner for good. When LAPD had severed their ties with NCIS, dissolving Deeks' liaison position…or so Kensi was led to believe.

In the end, she'd never in her life been more relieved to be lied to.

She'd been angry, certainly. She'd been angry for days. But at the end of every single one of those days, there was no question about it – she would have rather been lied to, than to lose her partner completely. She would have rather been lied to than to lose him, her Deeks. Even now, Hetty's words from the lowest moment of that day echo in her head.

"Are you upset because Mr. Deeks was a good partner…or is there something more?"

Whether or not it'd been something more then…well, it is now. Undeniably.

She can deny her feelings for him all she wants, but there's no denying the physical intimacy they'd just shared, a physical intimacy that, for her, had gone so much farther than just physical.

Would you take it back?

Do you regret it?

The answer to both questions…is no.

(That scares her more than she's willing to admit.)

Eventually, Kensi finds herself back on her feet, emerging back into the bedroom. She tries to be as quiet as possible, but the soft click of the bathroom door seems to echo unbearably through the darkened room. Kensi cringes with the sound, but there's no motion from the bed.

He's still there – part of her had wondered if he might slip out, choosing to spend the night on the couch or maybe even lounging by the pool, gazing up at the stars in the night sky. The rest of her, the part that knows her partner, silently chastises her for wondering at all – she was the one who ran. Not him.

As she silently makes her way back to the bed, Kensi's bare toes encounter cotton fabric crumpled upon the floor. It's soft and rather familiar, and without a second's hesitation, she reaches down and collects the fabric with trembling fingers. She doesn't need to recognize the threads in the material with her fingertips to know those same fingertips had lifted the fabric up and over her partner's head not that long ago; doesn't need to catch the scent of him woven deep into the cotton to know it's the simple navy tee he'd been sleeping in for the past several nights.

A quick glance his way reveals lighter fabric covering his shoulders – a simple white t-shirt, maybe, that he'd grabbed thoughtlessly from the dresser, perhaps unable to find in the dark the one Kensi had taken off of him. This one. The one in her hands, the one that smells so undeniably of him.

The next moment passes by in a quick, heady rush. It's sheer impulse that has Kensi untying the belt of her robe, letting it fall gently from her shoulders to the floor below; it's desire, undeniable desire that leads her to slip his shirt over her own head. His scent surrounds her immediately, leaving her with a distinct ache deep in her chest. For a quiet moment, Kensi simply closes her eyes and breathes in, wrapping her own arms around herself. It's a moment of weakness, but here, in the dark silence of night, she allows it. Just this once.

And, just this once, she doesn't chide herself for hearing his playful voice in her head, teasing her about how much she loves his scent. She'd denied it then, but here and now, tucked away in the deepest, most hidden part of her soul, she can't deny it.

And then, the most dangerous thought of all crosses her mind before she can even attempt to stop it: if she can sneak it away without him ever noticing, she's keeping this shirt.

(That desire has the heat in her cheeks raging into an almighty fire.)

His scent surrounding her, Kensi slowly slips beneath the covers determined to force herself quickly into sleep. It doesn't work, though – the memory of what just happened in this bed leaves her restless and within minutes, she finds herself on her side, facing her partner's back. She wants to reach out to him, to touch him somehow, but she settles for a mere whisper that's all but lost to the shadows. "Deeks? You awake?"

It's the same question she's asked nearly every night. Always the same routine - her partner relaxes, she struggles. He closes his eyes, she stares at the ceiling…then the wall, then the tiny flicker of light filtering in through the curtains, then him. She's always been a restless sleeper, tossing and turning sometimes all through the night.

She doesn't know if she wakes him, or if he'd never really fallen asleep, but every time she's asked, Deeks has answered. Just a quiet rumble of "yeah" followed by a gentle "Can't sleep, Kens?"

Sometimes, they've just talked until one or both of them dozed off. A couple of nights, he's gently coaxed her into his arms, gently stroking her spine or her hair. "Is this how you charm the ladies?" she'd asked playfully one night. He'd simply smirked, then nudged the boundaries of partnership a little further by nuzzling into her hair, making her shiver with his smooth "It's working on you, ain't it?"

It was.

But she'd die before admitting that to him.

Tonight, though, there's no reply from him and she's taken by surprise at how disappointed that leaves her. Kensi won't say she wants to talk…but at the same time, well, she wants to talk.

She wants the reassurance that they're still them.

She wants to be sure that what just happened won't irrevocably change things between them…because she can't lose him.

She can't.

With a heavy sigh, Kensi finally settles onto her back, staring up at the darkened ceiling. To any deity that might be listening, she silently prays for sleep to quickly find her – not just sleep, but blissfully dreamless sleep, because she knows if she dreams, she'll dream of him.

She'll dream of them.

And that…well, that's not something she can handle right now. Not with all of her conflicting emotions – she'd wanted it, but she'd known they shouldn't. She'd known it was a bad idea for their partnership, but all she'd wanted to do was make him feel that he mattered to someone, to her. She'd secretly wanted him, wanted this for so long that at some point, it had begun to seem inevitable…

Tonight, inevitability had come to pass.

And it shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have.

But oh how incredibly hard it is to convince herself that it was wrong, that it was a lapse of good judgment when he'd left her feeling more alive than she'd felt in years.

When she wakes, the first thing she does is recognize just how very content she is. In the haze of early morning, there are no repercussions, no consequences from anything that had happened the night before – just warmth, comfort, tranquility.

Happiness, even.

A slight smile dances at the corner of her lips – she can't help it, really. Tucked securely beneath the covers and wrapped snugly in a pair of strong arms, not even badass Kensi Blye can deny that this feels good. With the quietest of sighs, she slowly stretches against her companion, feeling the reassuring heat of his body against hers as her muscles protest the movement. It's that ache, deep within her bones, that finally draws her back to reality.

Her eyes flutter slowly open in the dawn sunlight as it fills the bedroom with a gentle golden hue, the beginning of another day. Or perhaps the beginning of the rest of her life, as she'd often said when she was younger, innocent, untouched by the horrors of the world. It surprises even her, after all she's seen and all she's lived through, that there was a time in past where she'd believed the future could only grow brighter.

But that…that was a Kensi whose father had yet to be murdered; that was a Kensi whose fiancé was still there in the mornings. That was a Kensi who hadn't lost so much, who hadn't had so much taken from her.

She's spent so much time chasing the demons of everything that's been taken from her that, to a certain extent, she's allowed it to consume her – the push for answers in her father's murder, the truth behind Jack's sudden disappearance, all of the other unanswered questions that dot her past. But while she's been fighting to reclaim all she's lost, the man beside her, her partner, the one person she trusts more than anyone else…he'd never really had anything to lose in the first place. He'd never really been given anything, and what he'd earned himself, well, he'd never been able to feel as if he'd deserved it, no matter how hard he'd worked for it.

And perhaps the most heartbreaking realization of all is that he'd hidden all of it beneath the humor that's always come so naturally to him, and no one had ever really cared enough to dig below the surface. It's not as if he'd ever made it easy, though – no one would ever catch him with a smile that fades a second too soon, a grin that doesn't quite meet his eyes. He's good – better maybe than even Kensi herself. But that doesn't stop her from quietly berating herself – she's a special agent, trained in reading through the most elaborate of lies because if she couldn't do that, what use would she be to this team?

But in learning to see through the lies of the darkest criminals, apparently she'd failed at being able to read her partner.

(Or maybe, she'd never really cared before.)

That's not true, though, and her heart clenches as the thought circulates in her mind. She's always cared about him; no matter how many times she's called him annoying or irritating, he's always meant something to her. She'd just never really made the effort to break through the surface.

Maybe, just maybe, she was afraid of what she'd find. Maybe she was afraid that pushing him would mean she had to reciprocate, that she had to let him push through, discovering all of the secrets she's tried so hard to keep hidden. Or maybe she was afraid she wouldn't know what to do with what she might find – she'd failed when trying to help Jack fight his demons.

She shivers at the thought – Deeks has never let her down; he's promised to be there, to watch her back, to look out for her. "I'm not going anywhere," he'd said one dark night, curled up beneath a blanket with her on her couch, just after the mystery of her father's murder had finally been solved. And truly, she believed him – looking into those ocean blue eyes, she can't not believe him.

But Jack had told her the same thing.

Deeks isn't Jack, she tells herself.

But she can't silence the need to be a little more cautious after Jack, because while she's strong and badass and deadly on the outside, on the inside she's not sure she can survive that kind of heartbreak again.

Her thoughts heavy, for a few moments Kensi allows herself to simply lie there with him, her distracted eyes focusing somewhere on the ceiling above. She concentrates on the steady pressure of her partner's arm, draped possessively over her middle, holding her near him as he sleeps. The soft tickle of his breath plays upon the sensitive skin of her throat, skin those lips had caressed several hours before. And every so often, he shifts slightly in his slumber, nuzzling deeper into the crook of her neck and God, there's no denying how good it feels.

But only for a moment more does she let herself enjoy the strength of his arms, the reassuring presence of his body, his scent. And then, as carefully and quietly as possible, Kensi gently extricates herself from his grasp, smiling softly as the soft cotton of his t-shirt rubs against her skin.

That soft smile lingers as she stands for a moment by the side of the bed and watches him sleep – after everything he'd confided in her the night before, if he can find a moment's peace in slumber, he deserves it. And truly, it's more that reason than the fact that she's apprehensive about facing him that keeps her from waking him.

His nose twitches softly, and it's just about the cutest thing Kensi Blye has ever seen. And it's as she stands here, wearing his shirt and watching him sleep soundly that she knows for certain that she could never believe any of the negative beliefs he has about himself – she could never believe that he's the evil monster he's felt he is. She could never believe that this man had ever done anything without the benefit to the greater good at the forefront of his mind.

This is the job they do – it's not always glamorous, and it's not always rewarding. It's not always beautiful and yes, sometimes the things they have to do can fracture bits and pieces of their souls. And Kensi knows Deeks will feel regret until the day he dies over some of the things he's done – but the truth of the matter is that if his soul had been damaged irreparably, if his heart had grown cold and dark over the years he's given to his craft, he would feel nothing at all.

So while he might question it, Kensi doesn't doubt for a second that there's still a soul in there worth saving.

With that, she quietly snags a sports bra and a pair of leggings from the dresser and slips into the bathroom, knowing that a good run will help her clear her mind more than anything else.

When he wakes, the first thing he does is reach for her. Before he's even fully emerged from sleep, before his eyes ever even open for the first time that morning, Deeks is reaching over the other side of the bed, seeking the woman he's shared it with for the past several nights; the woman he's woken up with in his arms most mornings of this assignment. What he grasps, though, is little more than empty, cooled air. She's gone – she's gone, and he's alone.

The scent of fresh coffee faintly tickles his nose, and rather than lie in bed wondering where she'd gone, he pulls himself to his feet, blinking in the sunlight. The mask of contentment is already upon his face - sleepy, slightly glazed eyes, lips curved in a lazy smile as he stretches his tired muscles. To outside eyes, the morning finds him securely back in character, Marty hidden deep beneath the disguise of Justin. He's the husband still blissfully in love with his wife, the husband who can't imagine ever being this happy, this complete, without his other half.

Inside, though, there's a heavy sense of dread deep in the pit of his stomach. Because last night…

Well, bottom line, it should have never happened.

Then again, never is a harsh word – maybe it could have happened back before he joined NCIS, back when he was merely Jason Wyler; and maybe it could happen sometime in the future, if the desires of his heart were ever to lead him back to LAPD full time. It shouldn't have happened here, though. Not while on assignment, not while under the guise of cover stories.

He can't lie – it's something he's wanted for a long time. Kensi Blye is gorgeous; she's his best friend and there's no one he'd rather spend his free time with. But God…he'd always imagined it under different circumstances.

He'd imagined that he would slowly seduce her, not that she would pity him for his sorry past.

As soon as her lips touched his, he should have stopped it.

He should have separated himself from the cover well enough to know when the line had been crossed; to know when they were in danger of writing a chapter they couldn't erase, couldn't lock up with their aliases in the archives room in the end. The kisses are one thing; his desires and the ache in his chest when he thinks about ending this are another…but last night…

Last night, he'd crossed a line he's never crossed before.

He's…gotten close to subjects in his assignments before. He's gotten closer to some than he'd ever intended to – Nicole Martindale comes immediately to mind. But never, never has he crossed this kind of boundary with a partner who will be his partner long after the assignment comes to an end.

At least, he hopes she'll still be his partner. If not, well, he's really got no reason to stay with NCIS. He's LAPD; it's who he's always been, and he's not ready to walk away from that. But at the same time, he's not ready to walk away from her.

He just prays she doesn't choose to walk away from him.

Deeks knows his partner…and for once in their tumultuous whirlwind of a relationship, he wishes he didn't. They do the same dance – one step forward, ten steps back. He pushes, she pulls back; she pushes, he closes down. They both run from anything dealing with emotion because communicating those emotions comes easily for neither of them.

It's why he's never faced those demons in his past.

For now, though, he tries to push it all from his head. He's Justin now, not Deeks. He can't afford to risk blowing their cover because he can't keep his own desires underneath the surface.

Making his way downstairs, Deeks follows that delicious scent of coffee right into the kitchen – it's one of the few things that Kensi can make very well, and he pours himself a generous cup before making his way to the front door, one last idea of where Kensi might be in his mind.

And as he steps outside, he can't stop the smile that tugs at his lips as Kensi jogs her way to the front steps, stopping to grab the morning newspaper from the ground. "Morning, sleepyhead!" she greets playfully, and God, he tries, but Deeks finds his eyes immediately following the curves of her body.

He could so get used to this. "I thought you were going to wake me up," he chides gently.

Kensi grins, completely in character – Deeks is actually rather proud of her…then again, she's always been good at hiding from things she'd rather not face. "I was going to, but you were doing that cute little twitchy thing with your nose."

He smiles, lifting his coffee mug to his lips. "I have a tendency of doing that when I'm happy…"

She coos softly, a smile at her lips as she asks if he's had breakfast yet – she should know better than that, though. He contemplates teasing her, joking that he values his life too much to ever eat without her. In the end, though, he says nothing, taken entirely by surprise as she puts a hand on his chest and kisses him on the cheek, her demand for pancakes whispered breathily in his ear. In response, he playfully taps her backside with the paper as he follows her back inside.

He's in the kitchen when she emerges fresh from the shower, her damp hair falling in loose waves around her shoulders. Her stomach rumbles as she makes her way downstairs, following the delicious scent of breakfast. That's one thing she'll definitely miss when this assignment is over, her partner's skills in the kitchen. Whether it's breakfast, dinner, or dessert, one thing's for certain and that's that it definitely beats her steady diet of almost daily takeout.

She'd never admit it to his face, though.

He glances her way as she hovers in the doorway, and oh, the smile that touches his lips sparks heat in the pit of her belly. "I was beginning to get worried," he quips, cocking his head slightly toward the clock on the wall. "Thought I was going to have to come drag you out of the shower before breakfast got cold."

Kensi chuckles, slowly drifting her way toward him. "You're not even done yet," she points out, her eyes skimming the kitchen. While she'd playfully demanded pancakes, it seems that Deeks had chosen to go far beyond that. A stack of pancakes sits cooling on a plate to the side of the stovetop, just waiting for syrup and powdered sugar and whipped cream, but he's also got eggs and bacon and toast and for a fleeting moment, the thought crosses her mind that maybe he does in fact believe she's eating for two. "Anything I can do to help?"

Deeks pauses his stirring, narrowing his eyes at Kensi despite the teasing sparkle within. "I'd rather you just go sit down," he says cautiously. "I promise I'll bring it to you when I'm done." She pouts, and it's all Deeks can do to keep a straight face. "I don't want to call the fire department out here before noon, after all."

"Hey," Kensi protests, playfully elbowing him in the side. "I'm not that bad…"

"Right." Deeks resumes stirring, and a quick peek into the bowl in front of him reveals rainbow-speckled batter, a sight that has Kensi's lips curving into a smile. "Remember that one time you tried to make brownies?" Deeks questions. "Or that time you tried to make spaghetti?" Pausing, he sighs dramatically, shaking his head. "You can't even make Pop-Tarts."

"Technically you don't have to make Pop-Tarts," she points out. "Some of them are actually better untoasted."

"Baby girl, you would be so lost without me."

Kensi hums softly, snaking an arm around his back in a half-hug. She falters for but a second, unprepared for the momentary flash that flickers in her imagination, a quick memory of her palms splaying over his shoulders, his back, his hips. There's a flutter of heat deep within her core, one she tries so desperately to ignore because she can't be Kensi right now; she has to be Melissa and Melissa is used to this. Melissa is quite familiar with the way Justin makes her feel. Melissa wouldn't be overthinking what had happened the night before and she wouldn't be so cautiously watching the line that should have kept them separated; no, Melissa would be…Melissa. She'd be sweet, and contented, and just utterly happy after their night of lovemaking…and maybe, just maybe, wanting it all over again…

(Oh God.)

Shaking her head slightly, Kensi puts an abrupt halt to that train of thought. "I'm sure I could find someone else who'd be willing to cook for me," she replies, her voice playful and much steadier than she'd expected it to be, thank goodness. "Maybe I'll even find someone who cooks better than you do."

"Maybe," Deeks smirks. "But I know for a fact that nobody else could ever love you the way I do. In spite of all your flaws, and all."

Kensi smiles, happily allowing Melissa to take over here. It's really the only thing she can do – they never know who might be watching, and while they can talk freely in here, someone could always see them from the outside. "So what all are you making me?" she questions, resting her head against Deeks' shoulder. "What smells so good?"

Deeks smiles, setting the bowl down on the counter. "Honestly?" He turns his head, closing his eyes as he nuzzles gently into her still-damp hair – God, what he'd give for the two of them to not be playing their undercover roles right now, for this to be real. For this morning and last night and…everything. He wants it all – he can deny it all he wants but denying isn't making the tug he feels deep in his chest disappear. "Pretty sure it's you."

Heat rises in Kensi's cheeks – she can't help it and she can't hide it either. Just as she can't deny the warmth that spreads through her or the way her heart flutters at his words, the gentle vibration of his voice at the top of her head. Her eyes close as the memories flood her again – his hands, his whispers, his kisses, the sheer heat between them – and it's all she can do not to lose herself because damn, she's not supposed to want it that much.

She's not supposed to want him this much.

She can't want him this much.

(But God, she does.)

"Such a charmer," she murmurs, a soft smile on her lips. For a moment, she pushes everything else from her mind – all the distractions, all the concerns. For a moment, she's Melissa, and for a moment, even if only for this moment, Kensi allows herself to enjoy this. They've crossed a line, she knows, and things will most certainly change between them now – maybe it's cowardice, but that's not something she's ready to face.

Deeks just smiles, his whispered reply dancing through soft, dark strands. "That's why you fell in love with me, Cupcake."

"I think I fell in love with your cupcakes," she corrects, a teasing lilt in her voice. "That's what this is, isn't it?" she asks, unable to mask the slight excitement in her voice. "That's what you're making me."

He grins – she's right. If Marty Deeks is sure of one thing, it's that Kensi Blye loves her sweets, and no matter how much sugar she drowns her pancakes in, she's going to want dessert at some point. So while she'd still been in the shower, he'd thrown together a bowl of cake batter, speckled like confetti with rainbow sprinkles. "That's what I'm making you, Princess," he says, playfully slapping at her wrist as she reaches toward the bowl. "Nuh-uh! For later. Go eat the pancakes you demanded," he laughs.

Kensi pouts. "A little cake batter never hurt anybody…"

"Well, that's not entirely true, because raw eggs…" He shrugs, gently nudging her toward the table. He knows she's not going to move, though, especially as he leaves the bowl unattended on the counter in order to cross the kitchen and check on the biscuits in the oven. "I can't have you getting sick – I've got work to do, which means I can't spend days taking care of my sick wife." Grabbing the nearest oven mitt, Deeks opens the oven and pulls out the tray of golden biscuits. "So you'd better keep your paws out of my cake mix," he warns one more time.

But he knows, even as he says it, that she's not going to listen to him. And sure enough, as he closes the oven and turns to face her again, he catches her with the spoon from the bowl at her mouth.

He doesn't quite know what makes him do what he does next. Instead of chastising her from across the kitchen, he watches as she sneaks a few more bites (does she really think he doesn't see her?) before he quietly slips behind her, wrapping his arms around her from behind. He feels her stiffen as he gently pulls her back against his chest, but she doesn't protest. "I thought I told you to go sit down…"

His voice is low and suddenly oh so close to her ear, effectively shifting the atmosphere in barely a second's time. A deep shiver quickly works its way through Kensi's body, quickening her heart and leaving her thinking maybe, just maybe she should have listened to him. She swallows, his proximity to her making her struggle to find her voice. "You – you did. But I just wanted a taste…"

Oh God, he's pushing the boundaries with this one and she is so going to kill him the moment they step into Ops later this morning, but he doesn't let the fear of certain death stop him from basking in the effect he has upon her. "Maybe your husband does too," he whispers, and before she can even react, Deeks gently, oh so gently presses his lips to her neck, just underneath her jaw.

Kensi gasps – that's something she can't hide. It's ridiculous and a bit embarrassing just how quickly he gets to her – with just a few kisses to the pulse of her throat, he's got her knees unsteady and her breathing erratic, not to mention what it does to her heart. Her eyes flutter closed, and she's almost one hundred percent certain that the sound that reaches her ears in her voice is a soft, quiet moan.

As she relaxes against him, Deeks grows just a bit bolder. He's got to admit, he's not really thinking about the consequences right now because, well, they can't really go further than they've already gone. They've made that blind leap into the realm of intimacy; anything else is just stoking the fire that remains. So he doesn't hesitate as his fingertips drift beneath the hem of her top, brushing lightly against the warm skin of her belly underneath.

And Kensi…suddenly, she can barely breathe. Electricity pulses through her body; she's a live wire right now, tuned so completely into his frequency from the touch of his hands to the sparks erupting upon her skin beneath his lips. Her mind comes to an abrupt halt, delicious thoughts mixing with memories of the night before and God, the hard, fast beat of her heart against her ribcage threatens to bring her completely to her knees. She whispers his name; it's supposed to be a warning, but really, it comes out as little more than a murmur laced with desire. "Deeks…"


His husky whisper teases its way around her, weaving a subtle thread of seduction through every fiber of her being, and for a quick, fleeting moment, she's certain that anything he asked her for right now, she'd give him in a second.

And then, suddenly, he's gone. His arms disappear from around her and she's left with little more than the chill of stolen kisses against her skin. Confused, Kensi blinks her eyes open, holding to the counter for support, and it's only after a second that she realizes she's been tricked. The bowl of cake batter that she'd claimed…it's gone.

Not gone, but securely back in her partner's possession on the other side of the kitchen. Shakily she turns to him, attempting to glare at the victorious sparkle in his cerulean eyes. "That – that's not fair," she whines.

He just grins. "I had to stop you somehow. You were going to spoil your breakfast," he says, carefully pouring the rest of the batter into a tray of cupcake liners. "There was going to be none left for the actual cupcakes."

"God, Deeks…" It's about all she can muster as she reaches up, raking a hand through her hair.

"I did warn you, you thief."

He winks, and that does nothing to calm the frantic flutter of butterflies in her belly.

It's after breakfast, as they're rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher that the conversation turns to the progress of the case once more. She's tried to string phrases together a thousand ways in her mind to breach the subject of going in to Ops today for their usual check-in. No matter what she tries, though, the words just won't come, perhaps because Ops is the one and only place where they can completely drop their covers.

And at the front of both of their minds, they know what that means. It's just a matter of which one of them finds the courage to bring it up. Either way, they need to talk about it. About them. About what happens now, because if the morning had proven anything at all, it was that while last night had changed nothing between them, it had changed everything between them.

The banter and the jokes are still easy; but the unanswered questions are much closer to the surface now, and soon, neither of them will be able to ignore it.

After trying and failing for what feels like the millionth time to find some way to breach that subject, Kensi finally gives up, selecting a different subject. "So, I ran into Brett Turner while I was out jogging this morning, she announces conversationally, eying the tray of cupcakes that Deeks had pulled from the oven moments before. She wants one…but she'd rather have them iced. And besides, she's kind of learned her lesson for the day about sneaking sweets before they're ready.

"Oh yeah? How'd that go?" Deeks asks, his curiosity piqued.

Kensi shrugs nonchalantly, resting casually against the counter. "Seems like a nice, normal guy," she says, taking a seat at the table. "He lives down the street with his fiancée, Polina – they're planning to get married next summer."

Deeks nods. "I've seen her – blonde, short hair, right? Prances around like she owns the whole neighborhood? I bet she's a wild one," he muses.

"You're such a pig." For a moment, Kensi contemplates countering with a few of Brett's defining features…after all, two can play this game and she plays it quite well. In the end, though, she doesn't. "We got to talking a bit – just some small talk about some of the other neighbors. Nothing really useful, but maybe Eric and Nell can pick something out of it. Either way, he invited us to dinner tonight and I said we'd be there."

"But I had plans," Deeks protests, pursing his lips into a frown.

Kensi just snorts. "Like what?"

His frown quickly morphs into his trademark charming grin. "Well, you see, I was kind of hoping for a little snuggle session with my beautiful wife this evening."

A tiny giggle slips from Kensi's lips, and if Deeks isn't mistaken, he thinks he sees the tiniest bit of a blush in her cheeks. "Maybe after," she replies, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Brett said it'll be fun – he seems a lot more…mature than Kara and Nathan."

Deeks smirks. "Be nice, Sugarbear – Kara and Nathan are just young and so in love." Pleased with the snort of laughter his comment elicits from Kensi, he closes the dishwasher and moves closer to her. "But if you want to go, we'll go. We'll have a good time," he adds with a wink.

It's a moment later before she replies, voicing a concern that had been at the back of her mind since the conversation with Kara and Nathan. Gently she worries her lip with her teeth, feeling her stomach begin to twist with an odd anxiety, one she can't quite place – does it stem from the weight behind her request? Or is it…something else? She's not sure, and really, it's not something she wants to spend a lot of time analyzing – she can't. "About that… there's just – just one thing…"

She stiffens, feeling the gentle glide of his fingertips along the small of her back. They're no strangers to touch, a playful punch here, a grab of the arm there, a lazy arm draped over her shoulders or around his back…but now, after last night, it seems so much more. There's a fire there, a delicious tension that instead of being resolved with their intimacy, has only seemed to grow hotter, burning brighter. "Yeah?" he breathes, and damn it if the low rumble of his voice doesn't send a shiver down the length of her spine.

Swallowing hard, Kensi gathers the strength to finish her request – for some reason, she's certain that had she made it a week ago, even a few days ago, it wouldn't be nearly as hard as it seems to be now. She's not quite sure she likes the implications of that…or maybe, maybe she likes it a bit too much. "It's just that…there's just something that I think…"

Uncharacteristically she stumbles over her words and he can't help but whisper her name, just a gentle breath of the nickname he likes to think he's claimed as his (it's a logical nickname, but oh how he hates hearing Callen or anyone else utter it). "Kens…"

She nods, more to herself than to him. When she speaks again, her voice is steady, though to her own ears it sounds nothing like her. "I just think it would be for the best if…" There's a moment's hesitation as she plays the words over in her head, debating them one last time. "Tonight, at dinner, maybe we shouldn't – maybe there shouldn't be…a baby."

It's as if the air shifts suddenly around them; what had been fun and playful just mere seconds before is now heavy, quickly filling with a sweltering unease. It's a rough sort of tension, one that he hasn't noticed between them in quite some time; now, it's back and more oppressive than ever, and quite abruptly Deeks feels as if he's never been farther away from her. He feels like he's just been punched in the stomach because to him, it's not just about their cover story; it's not just about the fact that he hadn't consulted with her before writing a baby into the mix.

He can deny it all he wants, but in his heart, in his very soul, Deeks knows he'd kill for a life like this. It's not like anything he's ever had before, and it's certainly not something he feels like he could ever deserve. But this life – happily married to his soulmate, making a career out of something he (his alias, anyway) loves, the idea of starting a family and not having to worry about not being able to provide for them…Deeks loves what he does now, but at the end of the day, well, it'd be nice to have this for more than three weeks.

It'd be nice to hold onto it, because God knows it's not something that will ever fall into his hands again.

Swallowing hard, Deeks tries to ignore the twist of the knife deep in his heart. "Yeah, okay," he answers, and though his tone is flat, there's no mistaking the note of hurt laced within it. "As you wish."

Kensi exhales, lifting a hand to rub at her eyes. "Deeks, that's not - I didn't mean - "

She doesn't get the chance to say what she means.

At least, not for now, because when she turns around to face him, Kensi finds that she's alone, just as she'd left him both last night and this morning.