Disclaimer: The characters and situations depicted herein do not belong to me. This story is purely for entertainment purposes. No infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: I'm jumping on the post-"Neighborhood Watch" bandwagon, because holy overload of feelings, Batman. As always, I'd love to hear what you think.

For Jess and Elaine, two of the best people I have the privilege to know, both on and off the page.

They pull up into the driveway, glancing between the house and each other.

(She finds it ironic that the neighborhood thinks it can keep people at arms' length with a fifteen foot wrought-iron gate.

She's tried an even bigger one on her heart, and it just doesn't work.)

She reaches for the door handle, and she hears Deeks open his mouth.

"No," she says, pushing her sunglasses on top of her head as she exits.

He grins at her over the car. "I didn't say anything."

She pins him with an I call bullshit look. "You're not carrying me across the threshold."

He feigns being affronted. "Who says I wasn't expecting you to carry me across the threshold?"

And they're off.

The first night, they pause in the doorway of the master suite, rigid as the doorjambs on either side of their bodies, and stared as though the queen sized bed was as unbelievable as the Pacific rising majestically out of the Sahara. She'd anticipated having to sell the whole married couple thing – failure to do so will be their downfall – but she hadn't realized it could also be her undoing.

Deeks seems to sense her hesitation and, as he has a thousand last chances ago, saves her from herself. He crosses the room in two long strides and then flops dramatically facedown on the bed. The corners of Kensi's mouth twitch upward as he sighs deeply and mutters half in her direction and half into the mattress. "Ah, TempurPedic, you irresistible temptress, you."

She steps toward him, kicking his heel with the toe of her boot, and he cranes his neck to look at her full-on. Locks of his hair are flirting with his brow line and it takes all the willpower she has left inside her not to brush them away.

(There are lines, after all; borders that should not be crossed.

Then again, Kensi Blye has never met a challenge she couldn't accept, and Deeks has never found a rule he couldn't break.

The sense of inevitability matches the bold pattern of the duvet cover.)

She sits gingerly on the bed next to him, his denim-clad thigh sending static shockwaves through her even at the simplest of contact. She needs to survive this in order to make sure they survive the mission; these feelings of complex simplicity, of accepting what she's taken so long to acknowledge: not only is Deeks not going anywhere, she doesn't want him to.

There's much to be said for denial, for building a wall to contain feelings that could get her killed, but she realizes all the stonemasonry in the world is useless when someone wields a jackhammer. And in her case, the jackhammer is a sharp-tongued blond-haired devil with a surfboard, a badge and a dangerous glint in his eye.

Caught in the wind of her history, she'd always been sure she'd prefer a crowded room over solitary with him because in the former, at least she'd been taught protocol: hide behind an outfit or a badge; someone else's name and someone else's mission. But he'd effortlessly refuted all those lies despite how fully formed they'd been, and it turned out he was ten times more dangerous than an assassin with an AK aimed at her heart. Deeks didn't just have her in the crosshairs; he'd already fired, and she could feel her footing slipping from beneath her just as fluidly.

(She's finding she doesn't much care. Not about her own self-preservation or reservations, not about misreading situations or waiting on someone's permission to not only live the life she's got, but also live the life she wants.)

She's nearly lost him three times already: once to her own rage and revenge, once to a Russian assassin attached to a desperate father and once to a debt that even after so much time still feels unpaid.

She'd picked herself up after she'd lost her father, Jack and Dom, but there is something about Deeks – perhaps that he really is the only one she trusts; the one into whom she puts what little faith this world has left her – that makes it feel like she might not survive if he didn't.

It was why she made more of an effort not to talk in circles like they had when Hetty had "fired" him; why their discussion in her mother's garage was so weighted with questions far beyond the scope of either her father's case or an assassin's bullet. When he'd asked "what am I supposed to say here?" she'd known he wasn't talking about her mother, but that hadn't been the time, place or mental state to address it. It was why she'd promised him she'd come in, why she'd translated I love you into you're the only one I trust.

(She'd known the message had been received when he requested a beer every day for the rest of his life. It was a pointed promise, something that pierced her like a sword, and It was why when the smallpox case came along, she'd steeled herself for potentially the greatest landmine she'd ever walk, Russian lasers be damned, and told him as clearly as she could how losing him would feel.

The fact that mere weeks later he slides a wedding band on her finger, cover be damned, feels like a harbinger of things to come.

In spite of the lies and the legends, this is who she is, and it's where she's supposed to be.

Accepting that makes it easier to focus on the task at hand, and she looks down at him, lifting her jean-clad leg and unzipping her boots. "What side of the bed do you want?"

He sits up so quickly she nearly loses her balance and has to grip the edge of the mattress to stop her from tumbling to the floor. "Kens," he starts, and her smile widens as an uncharacteristic ruddiness starts to color his cheeks. "We don't – "

She crosses her arms and lifts an eyebrow – she thinks it's in teasing, but later she'll wonder if it wasn't actually an invitation – and replies, "We've been married for," she pauses to check her watch, "exactly three hours and already you're tired of me in the bedroom? That must be some kind of record, Deeks."

He remains quiet for a long moment, searching her expression for something she cannot name, and for once, she's the one wondering if she hasn't pushed it a little too far.

She knows he dons a goofy persona to counterbalance the things he's seen. It's the opposite of her, whose seriousness while she does her job stems from the justice she was denied. It's dichotomous but equal – safe – something she's not felt since the MPs showed up on her doorstep, the warning shot in a war she'd fight well into adulthood.

(She'd had that damn Celine Dion song stuck in her head all the way home from the movie.

As she sat on the stairs, staring but not seeing and her emotions as incongruous and impenetrable as the officers' uniforms as they stayed with her while Social Services was en route, she'd known with absolute certainty that her heart had done the exact opposite, stopping, and was never to function properly again.

As she looks down at her partner – that word; God, that word, the one that means so much more than two syllables – she feels a flutter in her chest and warmth run over her as the charged room restarts everything she'd thought she'd lost.)

He laughs quietly and sits up, then surveys the pile of bags in the corner that the prep team had placed prior to their arrival. "You hungry? I think they went grocery shopping before we got here. I could make us something."

"A husband who cooks? How progressive of you." The smile on her face belies any sarcasm that threatens to sharpen the edges of the comfort they've worked so hard to build, and when he bumps her shoulder in teasing acceptance, as it always does, the fleeting contact is enough to make her feel flush all over. They've taken to touching more of late, not anything anyone would necessarily notice, but instead brushing the away dust their collapsing worlds has rained down on them in the ashes of the aftermath of everything they've seen and done.

(Survival is sometimes hard to believe, let alone live, and apart from each other, the only thing they can trust is feeling the other person's body safely beside them.

Personal space ceases to exist because their ends cannot come when the universe is unable to figure out where one body begins and the other ceases.)

He ends up making them grilled cheese sandwiches and joins her on the back porch overlooking the backyard pool. Handing her a plate and sitting next to her on the lounge chairs situated on the deck, a comfortable silence fills between them, muting the sound of the lapping water.

She nearly chokes on Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles when she realizes this is about as close to her definition of "perfect" that she's ever been.

She's thought for a long time about how to get to that place of wholehearted love, unflinching as hellfire and brimstone made of equal parts choice and consequence rains upon it, but now she understands just how much she wants to get back to a place she's never been before: that unwavering sense of belonging and home.

(For a long time, she'd thought it was about finding the calm in the storm, but in actuality, it's about finding someone willing to brave the elements in the first place.)

They talk about nothing in particular at dinner, probably because there is too much to say and so few words with which to say them. So much of their lives are lived on the edge, forever in countdown mode and waiting to either jump or be pushed.

(She's starting to realize she's already fallen.)

She should be happy they'd spoken in tongues that day in the bullpen, but instead she feels the slow burn, torturous flames of if only screaming her name.

This is the turning point, and she can't help but smile at the fact that despite her absolute certainty and determination his persistent flirting wouldn't get him anywhere, she realizes can now admire the view from the palm of his hand.

(The acceptance is as much an old enemy as it is a welcome friend.

But if there's one thing she's learned, it's that no matter how far, no matter how fast you run, things catch up with you in the end, and a choice has to be made. It's as much about resolution as it is about risk, and sometimes you just have to lower your armor and surrender.

For the first time since she was a teenager, she's ready to stop running.

The white flag is waved and everything resets.)

She looks up from her plate when he sets his beer bottle down on the table and barely murmurs her name. She demurs with the slightest shake of her head and finishes her own drink, rising and clearing their plates.

(As she stacks his plate on top of hers, she rests a hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly, and when he looks up at her with a slightly puzzled expression on her face, she simply shakes her head again.

There's no reason why this time. She just wanted to do it.

The stalemate shatters in the still night, and the narrative changes from if to when.)

They catch a bit of the Dodgers game, her attention split between the dossiers of the neighbors Eric and Nell had completed prior to the op. As she does when working on her laptop, she leans forward, back arching out. Inevitably her neck becomes stiff – she's a glutton for punishment if ever there was one – and she starts to roll it back and forth in an effort to relax the tendons. She's barely made it one full revolution before she feels tentative fingers on the back of her neck. When she stiffens, he stops, and she hears his breath catch as he fumbles for an apology.

Instead she does what Kensi Blye was trained to do: look up at the sniper aimed for her heart and leave herself a wide open target.

"A little lower."

He hesitates for a second and then resumes his movements, and she doesn't know what relaxes her more: the gentle massage or the fact that when she'd taken one step forward, he hadn't taken a step back, but instead met her stride for stride, in spite of how unsure their path was.

She finishes reading and then leans back, but Deeks' hands don't meander much. Instead, he tentatively slides his arm around her shoulders – whether his hesitancy stems from the same sparks she feels shock her as they dance down her spine or his worry she'll haul off and hit him, she can't determine – and in that moment she doesn't worry about what this is going to mean, or that it's finally now in a moment of now or never. Instead she curls into him, resting her head on his shoulder, and feels the smile as it slowly spreads across his face when he rests his cheek on the crown of her head.

(The wind chimes hanging above where they ate dinner whisper welcome home.)

There's still a bit of awkwardness as they slide into bed that night, and he silently asks her if she's still okay with it.

(Her only reply is to throw the covers back and prop her pillows in the preferred position.

She at once loves and loathes the innuendo that floats through her mind, doubly so because it comes in Deeks' voice.)

He leaves a respectable amount of space between them – a telling metaphor if ever there was one – and as she shuts off the lamp perched on the bedside table, she rolls onto her right side. He repeats the action and even in the darkness she can still make out the vivacity that brightens his eyes – that same one that tries to keep her from descending into hell even as they're two steps away from it; that glint that, despite all the death they see, is her tether to not only the living, but also faith and hope.

(Faith, hope and love; in their case, not virtues but instead promises to keep; a reward for the many miles they've traveled before they can sleep.)

She rests one hand beneath her pillow, the other on the mattress, and his own fingers brush against hers for a moment before she slides her palm across his knuckles and links their hands together.

(They wake up with much more than just their hands tangled together. He's halfway on her pillow and her left leg is snug between his calves, his body heat warming her chilled toes in the grayish light of dawn.

They lie still for close to half an hour, just looking at each other, whispering throaty good mornings and how did you sleeps.

He kisses her forehead before rolling out of bed to take a shower, and it's not the blankets that make her warm in his absence.

It's the knowledge, absolute and undying, that that moment was another harbinger, this time of happiness, not doom.)

It's not all perfect, far from it, but then again, when has anything been easy for them?

(It also means more, given her nature, that they have to fight for it.

And she will, every single time, because she knows he's in it as much as she is.

He tells her every morning just by being in the bed next to her.

If he's not going anywhere, then neither is she.)

"Have you done something wrong?"

(Her answer of no is instinctive and its veracity never wavers, even under Hetty's steely gaze.

After all, there's nothing wrong with falling in love.

The only reason she forces a laugh and feigns disbelief at the mere notion of being more than partners with Deeks is because in a world that has robbed her of so much, this is one thing she's determined to hang onto.)

She kisses him.




As she's tending to the minor cuts and scrapes brought on by the shrapnel of their final showdown with the Russians, her head buzzes, and this time it's not because of the adrenaline of their gunfight finally evaporating into the ether. He's finishing up briefing all the local LEOs on the scene and reenters the house, bypassing the sunken living room in which she's sitting. She hears the freezer door open and he returns with a fresh bag of frozen peas, placing it wordlessly on her shoulder.

She smiles her thanks and he just looks at her. She knows there's something on the tip of his tongue and she wants to prompt him to say whatever it is, but there's a part of her that needs him to come to her this time. She's still not sure if that kiss was necessary to shield the cover or to shelter her own heart from beating too much longer in a jealous rhythm, and knows he's probably as confused as she.

(The only thing she knows for sure is that she wants to do it again, and everything changes if she does.

Then again, the law of averages states everything happens eventually, and that this anachronism – trying to date when they've in a sense been married, not only on this op but inside the walls of the MIssion – will balance itself out in the end.)

He sits next to her and she can feel his heat seeping into her bare legs. He brushes a strand of hair off her forehead, and there is a moment where she forgets to breathe. His eyes flicker down to her lips and he finally draws her toward him, brushing his mouth against hers so lightly she lets her eyelids flutter open to see if it's actually happening. He pulls back and presses his lips to her temple, and she realizes nothing more will come of this, not in this house and not while this case is still so inescapable.

But it wasn't a goodbye; it was definitely a hello and the reset clock from earlier in the mission starts its countdown.

He brushes his thumbs over her cheekbones and smiles back when she offers him a small, soft one of her own. He takes the Neosporin and Band-Aids from her, carefully applying gentle pressure as he cleans up her wounds.

She repeats the gesture for him.

In sickness and in health, after all.

Once Melissa and Justin are squared neatly away, contained in cardboard corners, she returns to her apartment. It always takes her a little bit of downtime to shed an alias; they are forced to don it so fully that it wraps around them like a second skin, and it's always a process to slither back out of it. There's always a residue, something left over; it's not a switch that can be easily turned off.

(This is the first time she doesn't want to leave the job outside.

This is no longer home, nor a safe haven.

It's too empty to be.)

She tidies a little bit – oh, if only Deeks could see her now – and wonders if he truly understands just how much he's affected her. And as the wall clock warningly tells her she's got less than five hours before she's supposed to report into work, she realizes that this time her insomnia does not come from adrenaline or the need to shed the skin that accompanies every alias and alibi.

It comes from the fact that it just feels wrong to be going to sleep alone.

They had teetered so much on a precipice of domesticity and "don't ask, don't tell" for those few weeks, and she's ready to freefall, understanding that Marty Deeks is no longer the best LAPD could do.

He's the best she can do.

He keeps a half-smile constantly on her face, on her toes rather than on her guard, and has been there when she's most needed him. He's heard her when she feels like she's screaming into the wind unheard; followed her when her only companions are the demons that seem to follow her wherever she roams. He reminds her that priority of life isn't something just reserved for the people they protect, but also the reward deserved for running into the breach when the darkness chases everyone else out.

He reminds her that while she's a survivor, she's not bound by her past, and he gives her a reason to look to the future.

She sinks down onto her couch, once comfortable and now cold in his absence, and fingers her cell phone as it rests on the edge of her coffee table. She hears the palm trees scraping against her windows in unmitigated curiosity as she decides on her opening gambit.

It turns out she doesn't have to make a decision.

There is a tentative knock at the door.

There's nothing reserved about the smile on her face when she sees him again on her doorstep, like so many times before.

His hands are in his jean pockets, and they look at each other as the wind picks up, trying to usher him inside. Her eyes sparkle with the same mirth that is his trademark, but she again beats him in saying anything.

Opening the door wider she warns, "Definitely not carrying you over the threshold."

In the end, they never say "I want a divorce," because at the bottom of it, they just don't.

In the end, he changes the caller ID for her on his cell phone to "Sugar Bear," while "Hubby" replaces "Deeks."

(Neither has any intention of ever changing it back.)

In the end, it's a beginning.