Always

Summary: Always watching. Always her. Callen watches Deeks… Watching. OneShot – Kensi and Deeks and the birth of a partnership. From Callen's point of view.

Warning: -

Set: Story-unrelated… Perhaps somewhere during Season 2? Okay, okay. Post ep 2.04.

Disclaimer: Standards apply.


Deeks pushed their buttons.

Each single one of them. He had Kensi hating his guts two minutes – less, even – after they met in person. Sam thought he was one of the most hilarious – and annoying – people in the world. Eric found him mildly amusing, Nate loved him as the epitome of an LA TV cop, Callen himself doubted he would ever fit in with them. They were the special operations unit, they worked special. They worked different. They worked in teams, in the field, in the op center, wherever they went. They had each other's backs. When Kensi was stuck in a firefight, they came with a helicopter. When Eric's cover blew, they went in. When Sam busted a drug dealer, they were his backup. There rarely was a mission one of them took on their own, not because they weren't capable of it but because that was the way they worked. Nobody was left behind. Nobody went in somewhere all by himself.

Deeks was a loner.

An annoying, childish, professional, dead-serious loner. Callen appreciated a man who took care of himself and his issues. He was similar. But while he had learned to trust his partner and colleagues to have his back, Deeks had not. He had always been by himself, had always had to take care of himself, had to fight his out by himself and had to make sure he was safe. He didn't fit in, didn't match their attitude when it came to field work. He tried to figure out things by himself, tried to take the weight of an operation onto his own shoulders without trusting his partner – Kensi – and his colleagues to contribute. He might make fun of it. He might joke and make those innuendoes that drove Kensi crazy and might grin the grin that made Sam want to silence him immediately, but underneath his contrasting outer shell he was the most restless and hard-driven person Callen knew. Himself excluded, of course.

And that, he figured, was the problem.

Deeks just wasn't the partner-type. He might joke around, calling Kensi Princess and Partner, asking her whether she had missed him and such. But Callen got the feeling he wasn't really into it, was using the allusions as a cover to hide the fact that he didn't need a partner, didn't even want one. Perhaps it was that he still was reminded of what had happened to his last partner. Perhaps he always had been this way and never would change. It didn't really matter, since he was there and – so it seemed – wouldn't go away anytime soon. He ate Kensi's donuts, read Sam's books, teased Nell and cowered when Hetty came near his desk (a table, nothing more, since after Dom they had simply stripped it bare and left it to its own devices). He was there, grew on them like a puppy with the bad habit of chewing one's shoes as soon as it was left unattended. But nothing changed the fact that he was Kensi's partner, and as such, Callen reckoned, he had certain duties.

One not so minor one of them consisted in the fact that he was supposed to keep Kensi safe.

He was supposed to have her back. He was supposed to play her husband, lover, best friend and arch enemy whenever it was necessary. He was supposed to work along with her, develop strategies with her, do everything to ensure the success of their missions. Ensure their survival. Because, as Callen knew very well, any mission could go down the drain at any second and he had only gotten out of some pretty deep shit because he had had Sam at his side. This wouldn't happen all too soon with Kensi and Deeks, he was pretty sure. After seeing them go undercover together for the first time – as an engaged couple, of all – he had the feeling there was a lot Deeks still had to learn. (Kensi, too, but he was prepared to give her credit because he knew how much she disliked Deeks. But still, then, she should be able to put aside her personal feelings when working in the field. He would have to talk to her, too.) Actually, Deeks hadn't fared too bad. He had the experience, he was a good cop. He had tried to coax Kensi into acting like a couple – putting an arm around her in the shop, staying close – but there was too much playfulness in his actions for Callen to be sure he had only wanted to be professional. Deeks enjoyed pushing Kensi. Everything in his demeanor screamed it. And while Callen was of the opinion that they were professionals, and that professionals didn't need to be told how to behave when assuming an undercover identity, he was of the strict opinion that people ought to talk to each other, at least a bit, before the mission. He wasn't sure Kensi had, and he was quite sure Deeks hadn't. So if they had just gotten all that out of their system before going undercover – perhaps Kensi wouldn't have objected to Deeks pulling her close, and Deeks wouldn't have tried to draw her anger onto him that much.

Kensi disliked Deeks.

It wasn't an excuse, by far not, but Callen was prepared to give her the benefit of getting used to her partner first. Besides, she was a Junior Agent, and a woman, too, and while they prided themselves in treating her as an equal neither he nor Sam could deny that they did feel protective towards her. Like she was their little sister or something. Deeks, clearly, didn't feel anything like that. More than they did, he treated her like an equal, but his respect for her was buried underneath a layer of professional mistrust, watchfulness and badly timed humor. In this case, and since they couldn't count on Kensi to be the rational one in this relationship, Callen would have liked Deeks to be the one who made certain things clear. But obviously that hadn't been the case and he resented Deeks for not being able to adjust to Kensi better. Yeah, the guy had issues when it came to partnership, but this was Kensi. More specific, their Kensi, and if anything ever happened to her because Deeks didn't get over his trust-issues – God help him Callen would kill him.

And then, one day, Callen watched Deeks.

Deeks was always watching.

Perhaps it was a trait he had picked up as a cop, or perhaps it was something he had learned in his childhood. His eyes swept the room as soon as he entered, taking in every person inside, everything there was to see. A silent inventory, every morning, when he first came in and when he left in the evening. His eyes didn't miss anything, Callen was sure, though not even he seemed able to gouge Deeks's reactions entirely. The cop was used to hiding his emotions behind his goofy grin. But after a week of careful observation Callen knew that there was little Deeks missed. He noticed Kensi's new haircut (thought that comment earned him a well-deserved punch), Hetty's change in decoration and Nell's speed in encrypting. He was the one who saw the insignificant detail that led to the capture of an international terrorist. He saw… Deeks saw more than Callen would have thought he would, and he was impressed. But he also saw something else. Yes, Deeks was always watching.

Watching Kensi.

And something in the intensity with which the man stared at his partner – not an uncomfortable and by no means an obvious stare – had him pause and think. Callen wasn't the team shrink – that place was Nate's, once and forever – but he knew people. And, even more, he knew his people. And somehow – nobody knew how it had happened and perhaps it was better that way – Deeks had become one of them. He still was annoying, managed to say the wrong things at the wrong moment, was the one who got blamed for all the little, minor annoyances in the office: missing pens, misplaced reports, strange calls. And more. Deeks was the one everyone turned to when something seemed off, Callen remembered the day when Kensi hadn't been able to find her keys because Deeks had used them to pry open the locked cupboard in the kitchen in which Eric kept his cookies. Deeks was the one all of them automatically blamed when there was no coffee left. Deeks… Deeks was the one who belonged with them but who still set himself apart by just not wanting to fit in the normal way. Instead, he became a normal anomaly.

Maybe, Callen thought, it had been the way he had lost his last partner.

Deeks and Traynor had been too close. Her death had affected him greatly, everyone knew. But while Sam and Kensi put it away in the back of their minds, Callen remembered the look on the face of the man when he had been shown the image of his dead partner. And sometimes the shadow of that pain was visible in his eyes when he looked at Kensi.

So perhaps, he wondered, that was the reason Deeks never really tried to belong one hundred percent? Or was it just the fact that he didn't want to risk getting involved again? Was it about him, about Deeks, or about Kensi? About ethics in general? Other issues? Try as he might, Callen couldn't find an answer to that question. He only knew what he saw, and the longer he watched, the longer he witnessed the way Kensi and Deeks grew closer. She stopped snapping at him every time he said something stupid. He stopped pushing her buttons on a regular basis – or, at least, stopped displaying the satisfaction it gave him in such an open manner. Kensi already trusted him as her partner, that much was clear. It had been "Sam? Callen? You okay?" once, now it was "Deeks?" Callen couldn't deny it – he felt a slight twinge when he heard her call out. He never had had a sister, but it had to be something like that, he reckoned. At the same time he was okay with everything as long as it meant someone he trusted had Kensi's back, and had it completely.

Deeks didn't seem like he was her partner.

He fought it valiantly. Be it out of wrong-directed worry about the fate of his earlier partners or because he simply had issues in general, he didn't seem to want to be her partner. The odd thing was: he couldn't help himself. A few weeks into their partnership and he was hers already, bound to her by something far stronger than friendship alone. Kensi might struggle as she tried, and he might fight it, but they were in it up to their ears and there was no turning back now.

Proof filtered into his suspicions as Callen watched them.

Deeks regarded Kensi with humor, yes. He, too, was senior to her and knew more about actual undercover missions. He enjoyed teaching her as much as he enjoyed learning from her. But there was a new-found respect in his eyes, too, whenever he looked at her, and something that resembled the feelings Sam and Callen had for Kensi: the feelings of a brother regarding the progress of their little sister with pride. But that last part was tiny, barely existent. For the most times he watched Kensi as if she was a diamond: beautiful and dangerous, rare, hard enough to cut – and for all of it the more precious. Only he seemed to know that Kensi, as opposed to a diamond, was vulnerable, and he started to make a habit of cheering her up when she was especially down. Callen wondered whether he should ask her whether she realized Deeks was especially annoying every time she felt bad but dismissed the idea. She wouldn't thank him for it, he knew.

So he watched Deeks. And turned away whenever the tiny smile gracing the lips of the LAPD cop whenever he watched his partner became soft and tentative. It seemed too private, too intimate, and Callen felt like intruding in something personal. How long, he wondered, would their strange relationship survive? He could only guess.

And pray.