"I just don't know how much more of this I can take!"

The statement caps off a long, dramatic rant detailing every tiny annoyance that Kensi's been mentally cataloguing for the past several days. She keeps her attention focused solely on the operations manager in front of her, doing her absolute best to ignore the smirk playing upon her partner's lips.

Damn that smirk. "No offense, but this was a terrible idea, Hetty," she says, shaking her head. "How anyone buys us as a couple is beyond me."

"She's got a point," Deeks quips. "It is kinda hard to believe that someone like her would end up with someone as charming as me."

Kensi rolls her eyes. "I want a divorce."

Deeks just laughs. "You would never divorce me, Princess."

A quick burst of heat fills her cheeks at the sound of his nickname for her, but Kensi merely sets her jaw, adamantly ignoring all that it does to her. "See? This is impossible, Hetty. The only thing this assignment is accomplishing is making me lose my mind."

"Says the woman I've had to ban from the kitchen if I value my life," he retorts.

Kensi ignores him, crossing her arms in annoyance. "I don't think you really get how – how maddening this marriage is. I want to strangle him from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. And then I dream about it."

"Should I be turned on by the fact that you dream about me and bondage?" Deeks smirks, unperturbed by the daggers Kensi glares his way. "Because I think I'm turned on by that."

"See?" Kensi exclaims, throwing her hands up in exasperation. "This is what I've had to deal with for the past two weeks. My partner has no sense of boundaries, figurative or literal, for that matter. No matter where I go, he's right there and I just…" She shakes her head again, truly unable to put her frustration into words.

"I think you're forgetting that we do share a house," Deeks replies. "You're just gonna have to move out if you want to get away from my irresistible charm."

"No. I should not have to. Have you seen our house?" Kensi questions, turning her fiery gaze upon him. Deeks just grins; unafraid, yes, but mostly he can't help but adore her little slip of the tongue. Our house, she had said. Our house.

(God, if only.)

He forces away the momentary burst of heartache, not allowing his grin to fade as she continues her rant. "We have more rooms than two people ever actually need. We have a bedroom. A guest room. A kitchen. A den. A dining room. A formal dining room. A –"

"A laundry room," Deeks interrupts, faux-helpfully.

Kensi just glares, though the memory sends a deep chill diving down her spine. She ignores it though, choosing instead to continue making her point. "Four bathrooms. A pool shed. A –"

"A nursery for all the Little Ferns."

"Deeks," she growls, the warning clear in her tone. "My point is that it's driving me crazy. I just want some privacy, is that so much to ask?"

"Maybe you should have thought about that before you screamed out that 'yes!' for everyone in a fifty mile radius to hear."

"Might want to work on getting your story straight," Kensi retorts. "Because in the story you told the other night, you had to chase me down and practically force me to say yes."

Deeks grins cheekily. "When did I ever say I was talking about that 'yes'?"

His implication is crystal clear. A few feet away, Eric closes his eyes as he spins around to face his computer screen, muttering under his breath. "I do not want to hear about that."

Kensi's eyes pierce him like a dagger, but Deeks is certain he'd probably take the warning a little more seriously if he couldn't see the color gently filling her cheeks. "Relax, love," he teases, a grin playing upon his lips. "You're not the only one struggling with some of the…complexities of this marriage. We clearly didn't try the whole living together thing before we decided to get married."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kensi questions, hands on her hips (and God, what a sexy image that is, Deeks can't help but think).

"It just means that for every complaint you have, I have two complaints."

Kensi scoffs. "Please. I'm the best wife you could ever hope to have," she retorts, indignance heavy in her tone.

"Oh yeah, the perfect wife." Deeks rolls his eyes. "Let's see – you can't cook. You won't clean. Your idea of a fun date is a threesome with Ben and Jerry on the couch, cackling like a hyena through six hours of a Kardashian marathon."

"You're the one who finished off the entire tub of Chunky Monkey," Kensi accuses.

"I like that you deny the ice cream part, but not the Kardashian part."

"You sat right there and watched the whole thing with me."

"Someone needed to be there to resuscitate you when your brain finally turned to mush."

"No one forced you to be that person." Her eyes sparkle. "Bret Turner would have been happy to take your place."

"Now my partner's a homewrecker. Awesome. Maybe we should rethink that dinner tonight."

"I don't think so," Kensi retorts. "Maybe I'm looking forward to dinner."

Deeks snorts. "You're never not excited about eating."

"And you're sleeping on the couch tonight."

"Damn," Eric mutters, squinting at his computer screen. "So much for cherishing each other for better or for worse."

(He breathes a deep sigh of relief when Nell finally arrives with Callen and Sam, because while he's a self-proclaimed master of many different skills, fake-marriage counseling is not one of them.)

Late morning sunlight filters in through thick, dusty windows, filling the upper level of the mission with a warm, inviting glow. She's alone on the wrap-around balcony, alone save for one other soul. A troubled soul; the tension radiates off of him as he silently approaches her, trailing gentle fingertips along the railing. Kensi says nothing; instead, she focuses on the activity beneath them, watching Callen and Sam as they return to the bullpen, watching as Hetty retreats to her small alcove of an office. It's not enough, though, to distract her from the flame kindling within her, a flame that nearly sparks as his fingertips graze her elbow.

She closes her eyes and swallows, her own fingers curling tightly around the railing – Kensi Blye can't ever remember a time when she'd felt quite this unsteady. It's the first moment they've been alone since last night – the first moment they've been alone as Kensi and Deeks, not as Justin and Melissa.

This morning, at least for a few hours, they're partners again, not happy newlyweds. They're partners, and Kensi can't help but feel the weight of what they'd done settle deep in her chest. The weight of the line they'd crossed; the weight of the inevitable consequences.

"It's like Vegas," Deeks had commented with a grin during a case about four months into their partnership. "What happens undercover stays undercover."

Kensi tries to ignore the chill that dives down the length of her spine as his next words echo back to her, accompanied by that teasingly seductive wink that he's all but perfected. "That goes for under the covers, too."

She'd playfully shoved his shoulder then, a sassy retort about him never having to worry about that easily leaving her lips. Back then, she'd never imagined that this could happen. That they could happen.

And now, two years later, it's exactly where they are. And no matter how many times Deeks tries to compare this job to Sin City, Kensi doesn't see how they ever truly leave this behind. How they could ever forget about it.

Their playful banter in Ops this morning had been the easy, effortless back-and-forth that makes up much of the backbone of their partnership – the good-natured teasing that Kensi can never just back down from, no matter how much she tries; no matter how well she knows by now that she always loses because somehow, Marty Deeks always has the upper hand. She thinks the ease with which they'd settled back into it should comfort her, but it's quite the contrary – instead, it ramps up her nerves even more.

She supposes it's because at the end of the day, they are both skilled at the same job – playing a part, hiding the truth. They could probably go on for months like this, with no one ever being any the wiser about what had really happened between them.

He's the first to break the silence, and while on one hand she's grateful for it, on the other she's secretly frightened of where this conversation will lead. "Do you – do you think we should talk?" he asks quietly, his voice devoid of the playful tone she's come to associate with him. It's replaced by a deep solemnity, a level of seriousness that, until last night, Kensi hadn't been certain he'd possessed.

But then again, before last night, there'd been a lot about her partner that Kensi hadn't known. Unconsciously, she shudders, images flashing vividly in her mind – the story that Deeks had painted for her last night had chilled her to her very soul. The hardships, the struggles, the utter pain that her partner had gone through in his life…she can't help but see him in an entirely new light.

At the end of the day, they're not all that different.

Two years ago, the idea of having anything in common with him was simply repulsive.

Now, though, it's become a secret comfort to her, something that makes it easier for her to trust him; something that breaks her down when he's standing at her door in the pouring rain after a rough case, something that makes it impossible for her to send him away under the guise of wanting to be alone.

She's been hesitant to accept it, though, because she's progressively become more and more afraid of losing it. With immense effort, Kensi attempts to shove that fear away to the farthest corner of her mind. "What – what do you think we should talk about?" she asks.

A million things; everything. His mind overflows with the answers to that question, a lake bursting free from its dam. But he knows Kensi; knows that the littlest thing can shut her down in an instant, so Deeks treads lightly, focusing on the uncomfortable conversation that had ensued after the briefing in Ops. "Hetty knows," he says quietly, attempting a casual lean against the wall.

Her eyes flicker to his for the shortest of seconds; it's not nearly long enough for Deeks to see into her mind – and oh, how he wishes he could see what's going on in there right now. She's guarded right now, now more than ever, and really, it's almost like a slap to the face after all the walls between them had been torn down in one night. She's trying to rebuild them all, to separate herself from him, and God, how it hurts.

He tries as best as he can to ignore the deep ache in his chest though; after all, he's spent nearly all of his life fighting through one pain or another, physical and emotional. It's something he's become quite an expert at over the years.

It's a moment before Kensi answers; when she does, her voice is steady, even. "Don't be ridiculous. She has no idea."

"It's Hetty – she knows everything." Deeks tightly crosses his arms. He's not entirely sure what his objective with this conversation is, though part of him is certain that if Kensi has her way, last night will never surface in conversation again. "That whole lecture – the unfamiliar feelings and emotions? She knows, Kens."

Kensi rolls her eyes; it's a futile attempt to appear nonchalant and unbothered. Truth is, a block of ice had dropped into her stomach at Hetty's words…and at the end of the day, Kensi's not entirely sure why. Is it simply because the idea that Hetty knows what happened between them last night means that Hetty also knows that Kensi gave in when she should have taken a step back; that she also knows that her cover as Melissa had fallen apart with every kiss, every lingering touch until the newlywed was little more than a memory to either of them, pushed aside in favor of two partners crossing that line into lovers for a night? Is it because that, now that they've crossed that line, Kensi knows that Hetty simply can't allow them to remain partners in the field? Or is it…something else?

Maybe it's always been something else.

She pushes the thought away, difficult though it is. "Everybody gets that talk, Deeks," she answers, hoping the waver she feels in her own voice isn't audible to him. "It doesn't mean anything. It's just…a precautionary tale."

"A precautionary tale," Deeks repeats, clearly unconvinced. "Are you sure about that? Because I don't –"

"It's nothing," Kensi interrupts, her voice an exasperated sigh. "Everybody gets that talk with an assignment like this – the very first time Callen and I went undercover together, Hetty sat us down and gave us that same lecture – it was a bit different because it was just one evening in a club, but still, it was the same idea."

"And you really don't think it's too much of a coincidence that she waits to give us that talk until after what happened last night?" He lowers his voice, knowing he's pushing the boundaries here – with all the eyes and ears within the walls of the old Spanish hacienda, it's neither the best time nor place to discuss this.

But he knows if he waits, well, they may never discuss it. "Last night changed everything," he whispers.

She doesn't voice it, but that'd been her fear all along. "It doesn't have to."

Deeks scoffs quietly. "It doesn't have to," he repeats, his voice flat with disbelief. "Just how do you suppose we manage that? How do you expect me to just forget what happened? How am I supposed to work with you every day and not think about – about us?" His eyes, blue as the sea, bore deeply into hers and for once, she doesn't look away.

Instead, she meets his gaze fiercely, a fire burning deep within her. "It's what we do, Deeks," she says evenly, pressing her nails into her palms. "It's what makes us good at what we do – how many different aliases have you played over the years? You get in, accomplish your objective, and then get out and leave it behind."

After what he'd confided in her just the night before, those words sting. He'd been sheltered by darkness and desire; now, in the harsh light of day, it's almost as if the struggles he'd shared with her mean nothing. Almost as if every shred of guilt, every demon from every assignment he's ever come out of, every night he's found himself haunted and shaking on the cold bathroom floor, unable to let it go… Deeks shudders hard, biting at the inside of his cheek.

He'd told her everything. And now, it's as if she's denouncing him as weak for not being able to forget it all – the bad, and the good. "And how many times have you done that?" he asks quietly, taking a step closer to her. "Because from what I gathered, you've never really done this before." He pauses for a breath, feeling his heart beat hard against his chest. "So maybe you shouldn't talk about what you have no idea about. Because it's not that easy." He swallows hard, fighting back the acid in his throat. "And I told you that much."

"Deeks, you know that's not what I'm talking about," Kensi defends, shaking her head. "I'm not talking about anything you told me last night. I'm not talking about anything you did undercover before." She holds his gaze for a moment, then finds herself unable to continue; the ache in those blue eyes wounds her deep to the core. "I'm talking…about you and me. That's all. I'm talking about you and me; I'm talking about us being partners. I'm talking about something that – something that should have never happened."

It's something he'd expected since the moment he'd awoken, but at the same time, there's nothing that could have prepared Deeks for the pain of hearing it. There's a distant corner of his mind that thinks he could try to agree with her – it shouldn't have happened…at least, not like this. He wanted her; Marty wanted Kensi. No aliases, which at the very heart of the matter were just carefully crafted lies – that's what stabs him most deeply. What had happened between them the night before had happened beneath the guise of a lie.

He'd wanted seduction; he'd imagined the feel of her skin against his, her body quivering beneath kiss after kiss, touch after feathery, gentle touch. He'd envisioned his tough, independent partner falling apart beneath him, reaching for him, begging for him with trembling whispers; quiet, frustrated whimpers as he only teased her slowly toward the brink, not quite ready to let her fall. He'd wanted perfection…and somehow, airing all of his past failures and shortcomings just didn't fall into that description at all. He can't…won't believe that their lovemaking was spurred by…by little more than pity. He won't.

He shoves the dark thought from his mind, wishing he were strong enough to banish it entirely from his memory. "In other words, a mistake," he bites out, his voice bitter. He can't help it – it just hurts. "We were a mistake."

With those words, he thinks he catches a momentary flicker of hurt in his partner's dark eyes, but Deeks tears his gaze away from hers before he can be completely certain. He turns from her, resting his arms on the railing as he looks upon the bullpen below – the bullpen he's still not certain he has a place within. Maybe he doesn't belong here – and maybe this latest mistake just proves it. Maybe this was the mistake they were all waiting for him to make; the excuse they needed to finally cut their ties with him.

"Boy, you can't do a single damn thing right, can you?" Deeks grinds his teeth into his lip, the snarling words of his father echoing in his ears. Dead or not, the man's legacy lives on…and Deeks isn't sure that's something that will ever truly die.

"That's not what I said," Kensi says quietly.

She makes no effort to clarify further. "You didn't not say it either," Deeks murmurs.

Kensi sighs. "Maybe we shouldn't talk about this now," she says, anxious to draw a close to the discussion.

It seems as though Deeks doesn't share that view, however. "Which means we won't actually talk about it." He pauses, tracing his tongue over suddenly parched lips. "But fine, go ahead, Kens, walk away like nothing ever happened. It's what you always do."

The accusation causes a burst of anger to rise up within her – she can't help it. Kensi can't even count the number of times she's tried to broach the subject of something mildly serious with him, only to have him laugh it off as nothing before changing the subject completely. Sure, maybe Kensi does tend to keep things close to her chest, beneath layers of armor she hopes no one will ever get through…but after all, so does Deeks. It's that indignation that colors her next words; they're out of her mouth before she can stop them, turning the air between them acidic and corrosive. "You walked away from Nicole like nothing ever happened."

There's a brief flicker of hurt in his eyes, and that's enough for Kensi to know that she'd gone a step too far. "You don't know anything about that," he breathes, wrapping his fingers around the railing.

"There was a lot I didn't know about you until last night."

"And you know what? This conversation is making me wish you still didn't know any of that." He glances her way, a slight, derisive chuckle slipping past his lips. "It's a mistake to tell you anything, isn't it?" With that, he turns and heads for the stairs, unable to be near her any longer. "Maybe you're right. Last night was a mistake."

"Deeks…" Her mouth goes dry, her words failing her as he walks away. Her fingers itch to reach out to him, because none of that had been what she'd meant to say…but then, what exactly had she meant to say?

He pauses midway down the stairs, his fingertips brushing the railing as he glances back up at her. Kensi can practically see the walls go up as he forces a slight smile – really though, it's little more than a grimace, and rather than disguise the pain, it only magnifies it. "Look, Kens, let's just finish this, okay?" he says quietly. "Let's just play it through until we can finally get rid of Justin and Melissa, and then we can forget it all and go back to the way we were. No harm done."

Deeks hesitates for a moment, the fake smile on his face fading as his teeth dig into his lip. "After all, you're right – it's not the first stupid mistake I've made undercover."

And that's the final nail in the coffin as he leaves Kensi on the terrace, alone save for the scalding, caustic burn of emotions she can't quite place.

His fingers are steady around the warm metal, strong and skilled from years of practice – on the street, on the force, undercover. He doesn't shake, doesn't tremble, and one by one his bullets tear easily through the heart of his target.

His jaw is set, his eyes cold as steel; there's no indication in his stance or his face that Deeks feels his own heart being shredded in his chest. He squeezes the trigger with calculated force, pausing only long enough to reload – once, twice, a third time.

He wants to clear his mind; he wants to calm himself. To ease the ache, the anger.

(He wishes it were as easy as shredding a simple paper target.)

When he finally lowers his weapon, Deeks knows he hasn't been alone for quite some time. No matter what Bates or Granger or anyone else says, he's been doing this job long enough that he knows when he's not truly alone. He'd felt the change in the air the minute the other man stepped through the door. He scowls as he removes his protective earmuffs; this is the last thing he needs right now – a lecture from a team leader who technically holds no authority over him. Not an agent, after all.

It's another long moment before Callen finally speaks, his blue eyes carefully cataloguing every small detail about the younger man – from the rigidity in his stance to the tension that surrounds him. "Don't you usually take out your frustration on the heavy bag?" he questions, his voice heavy in the silence.

Deeks just shrugs. "Guess I felt more like shooting things than hitting things."

Callen smirks. "Sounds like you've been partnered with Kensi for too long," he jokes. "Next thing you know, you'll be eating Twinkies for breakfast and keeping up with the Real Housewives."

Despite his sour mood, Deeks feels the corners of his lips twitch a bit. "If it ever comes to that, you have permission to shoot me."

"Noted," Callen replies with a snicker. "Though judging by that little display in Ops earlier, you two might end up shooting each other first." He expects a smirk or some playful retort about how Kensi's far too infatuated by her partner's charm to ever injure him, but neither come. What does come, though, is a slight shift in the air around them – so slight that, were Callen not trained to notice such small changes, he knows he would have missed it.

He lingers for a moment, simply watching the other man in silence. Deeks can feel Callen's sky blue gaze boring into his back, but when he makes no effort to speak, Deeks just sighs and turns to face him, crossing his arms over his chest. "So am I in trouble or something?"

Callen gives a nonchalant half-shrug. "Should you be?"

Deeks rolls his eyes. "You know, I feel like I just had this conversation with somebody," he says. "Oh, wait, that's because I did. With Hetty."

"You're the one who brought it up."

"Only because you're standing there watching me like a hawk." Which Deeks finds rather creepy, though he keeps that to himself.

"Team leader," Callen says simply. "It's my job to watch my team like a hawk." He pauses momentarily, letting the weight of his words hover in the air between them. "It's my job to make sure my team is…up to the task."

"And something's made you think I'm not?"

"I don't know. You tell me."

"You're the one who seems to be worried about it," Deeks replies. "I'm not."

"You're not?" Callen's eyes drift to the target at the far end of the range. "Because it looks to me like something's on your mind there, Deeks."

"Fine, you got me," Deeks relents, unable to keep the annoyance from seeping into his voice. "I surf. My alias doesn't. You do the math."

Callen nods, not entirely buying it. "So…you're telling me that the only reason you've put a hundred rounds through an innocent paper target is because you can't go out and catch a wave or two?"

"Who said the target was innocent?"

"Well…" Callen glances from the shredded target back to Deeks. "Considering you just tore that thing to pieces like it ran over your dog or something…"

"Is that why you stay up all night repeatedly taking your toaster apart?"

"Irrelevant, but I'll bite." Callen takes a step closer to the detective, all but feeling the tension radiating off the other man. "It's an exercise. It keeps my skills sharp, and it's better than staring at the ceiling when you can't sleep. Besides, I put it back together. I…don't really think you're putting that back together."

"Fair enough," Deeks mutters. He wants that to be the end of it, but it's not everyday that G. Callen pays him a private visit – he's a man of almost no words and yet, Deeks gets the feeling that he hasn't even scratched the surface of whatever it is he feels he needs to say. Another silent moment passes, and Deeks sighs heavily, unable to force back his annoyance. "Look, Callen. At some point I have to get back to my wife so the faster you get to your point, the better."

"Yeah, about that," Callen quips. "Might want to grab a box of doughnuts for your beloved on the way home. She seemed…well, okay, she was pissed about something. Probably something you did."

"Yeah, yeah. Always something I did."

"Is it…something I need to be aware of?" Callen asks quietly, back to business again as he watches Deeks' face carefully for any sort of reaction.

He doesn't get one – Deeks is good, and Callen thinks for a moment that the entire team fails to give him enough credit. "I think that we covered everything that needed to be covered upstairs," Deeks replies evenly, his eyes following what's left of his target as he presses the button to bring it in toward him. "The lack of progress in this case has gotten a bit frustrating, but we're hoping that changes tonight."

"Deeks." Callen crosses his arms, resting his body against the stone wall. "That's not exactly what I mean. And I think you know that."

Again Deeks rolls his eyes – he's had just about enough of this, really. "You know, I get enough cryptic comments from my partner, so I really don't need them from you too," he says. "Whatever it is you think you need to say, go ahead and say it so that I can get back to my job." He's sure that nothing his team leader can say right now would come close to hitting him the same way as what Kensi had said earlier. Compared to that, well, he thinks he can take anything.

Callen is unperturbed. "Is there something you think I need to say?" he presses, twisting the detective's reply into a probing question.

That does it. Biting down hard at the inside of his cheek, Deeks turns to face the other man, the annoyance within him shifting finally to nothing short of anger. "Just stop with this game, okay?" he snaps, unable to keep his temper in check. "Just…just stop."

"You know, you're not really easing my mind about the whole situation," Callen points out. Deeks tenses noticeably; the rigidity in his shoulders is undeniable. "I'm just saying, Deeks," he continues, easing into a different tactic. "As team leader, I'm trying to keep this assignment under control; I'm trying to keep an eye on everything. But at the end of the day, I'm watching from Ops while you and Kensi are the ones in charge. If there's something on your mind, if there's something that's distracting you…"

He trails off, weighing his words carefully. "It's your job to do your job. It's my job to step in when I think your ability to do that job is compromised."

Deeks scoffs. "So because I take some time to practice my aim, it means my ability to do my job is compromised. Right." Closing his eyes, the detective exhales heavily, pressing his palms flat to the countertop. "Look, Callen, I've been doing this for a long time. I was doing this job long before Hetty ever scooped me up and put me down here, and honestly? If I didn't know how to keep my focus, I'd have been made and gotten myself killed a long time ago."

"That's…actually not what I'm concerned about." That gets Deeks' attention, but other than a slight sideways glance, he makes no effort to face Callen. "I've been doing this for a long time too, you know," he continues. "My entire life has been about aliases. I know you're good at this job – you wouldn't be here if you weren't."

A slight frown tugs at Callen's mouth as some of his own past mistakes flit through his mind. "The problem is that…sometimes, you get too good at this job – sometimes, you get in too deep. Sometimes it's just easier to be someone else."

It's a statement that immediately hits home for Deeks – it's almost exactly what he had told Kensi just a few months ago, when she'd first met the infamous Max Gentry. "Sometimes, it's too easy," he'd said, bitter annoyance in his voice. Not with Kensi, but with himself – Max Gentry had always been his dirty little secret. It was an alias that gave him a thrill to play, but allowing Kensi to see who he'd let himself become; allowing her to see even a shadow of what he had once done… it carried a deeply acidic shame that still burns at him now.

He's not proud of some of the roles he's played; he's not proud of the things he's let himself do. But God, there have been times he'd happily disappear into those roles, just to separate himself from his true identity, from Marty Deeks.

He thinks that this particular alias is going to be the hardest to leave behind.

Exhaling heavily, Deeks finally turns to face his visitor, his expression passive. If there's one thing he's good at, it's keeping his face neutral; giving nothing away. "Better to be in too deep than not deep enough."

"Sometimes," Callen relents slowly. "This job, though…it's more than just becoming someone else. And I know I don't have to tell you that."

"And yet, you are."

Callen ignores him. "I'm just saying that, yes, it's important to be your alias. But at the same time, one of the things that can make or break an agent is knowing where the line is, Deeks. You can go so deep that you lose the objective. It's more than just acting out some part, whether it's for three hours or three weeks." For a long moment, he simply watches the detective, knowing he's got the skills and the experience for the role Hetty wants him to fill in this team, but…

He sighs. Honestly, he can't quite say what it is he's unsure of when it comes to Marty Deeks.

(Well, actually, that's partially a lie. He's got an idea, but he hopes to God he's wrong because splitting up a partnership that just works isn't something he wants to do.)

"I'm just trying to be sure of two things," Callen says finally. "One, I want to know that both you and Kensi can do the same job after this assignment as you did before. And two – I want to be sure that you both can actually finish this assignment."

"So basically you're saying we don't know how to do our jobs."

"No. I'm saying that I want you, right now, to give me a reason why I shouldn't pull you both out of there."

Callen isn't sure what he expects. Anger, maybe. Indignance. Annoyance. A full list of reasons that comes as easily from Deeks' mouth as any of his other ceaseless ramblings. What he actually gets, though, is none of that.

Instead, Deeks merely gives a wry chuckle as he crumples up what's left of his paper target and tosses it easily away. "If you really needed a reason," he says quietly, "you would have already pulled us out a long time ago."

"Maybe I should've."

Deeks lips quirk just slightly. He may technically still be the new guy on the team, but he's been here long enough that he's figured out how the rest of them operate. "And again, if you ever really thought that, you would have already done it."

With that, he puts his gun away and swiftly crosses to the door. But then, with his back to Callen and his fingers curled around the door handle, he pauses. "We've got this, okay? We're good. And when it's all over, everything will get sealed up in boxes in the archive room next to all our other abandoned aliases."

Then, for the second time that morning, Deeks turns his back and walks away without another word.