A/N Written for the NCISLA Fanfiction Challenge. Please review!

"Come on Kens, look at me," he pleaded. He watched her face but saw no sign of her having heard his voice. He held her left hand in both of his as his eyes drifted between her face and the green bouncing lines on the screen monitoring her heart. How could he have let this happen? He was supposed to have her back. He was supposed to keep things like this from happening to her.

"Kens, please… wake up. I'm so sorry… please forgive me," he said softly. He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumbs and tried to keep his emotions in check. Hot tears threatened to escape but he furiously wiped at his eyes and tried to sit up straighter in hopes it would help his resolve to be strong for her.

"It's okay Kens. I know you want to wake up but you're so damn stubborn sometimes… Please, please come back. I can't do this without you… I can't… I don't… not without you… please…" he whispered.

Unable to keep the tears from falling any longer, he laid his head on the side of her bed and gave in to them. Her hand still in his, he drifted into an uneasy sleep as he recalled the events that led up to this horrible reality.

Three Days Earlier…

"Morning Sunshine!" Deeks said grinning at Kensi as he sauntered into the bullpen.

"Why do you have to be so cheerful on a Monday morning?" she asked grumpily.

"What are you talking about? I'm always cheerful," he said with his patented smirk. He was rewarded with the rolling of her eyes which was exactly what he was hoping for.

The daily banter between the two of them was legendary and sometimes the staff would find an excuse to work near the bullpen at the beginning of the day just for the entertainment value. He would push her buttons and eventually she would explode or physically punch him in the arm. On certain days it could be quite comical. Mondays were always the best, however.

"What? Did Kensi get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?" he asked sarcastically.

"No, I did not and for your information, I'm not grumpy. You're just overly… overbearing," she sputtered.

"I'm overbearing? All I did was say good morning! Oh, wait… I'll bet they didn't have your favorite donuts this morning and that's why you're so grumpy."

"I'm NOT grumpy Deeks!" she said raising her voice.

"She sure sounds grumpy to me, does she sound grumpy to you Sam?" Callen asked as they both entered the bullpen.

"She sure doesn't sound happy. What did you do Deeks? Eat her donuts again?"

"For your information, Kensi is grumpy because she didn't get her favorite donuts this morning and I had absolutely nothing to do with it."

"I'M NOT GRUMPY!" Kensi yelled as she jumped up out of her seat which caused everyone to stop what they were doing and look directly at her.

"Miss Blye, are we having difficulties this morning?" Hetty asked as she walked up behind her.

Kensi sat down heavily in her chair and replied softly, "No Hetty, I'm just fine."

"Good. Then I suggest you all get busy and finish those reports before noon today."

The blow up had occurred as scheduled and soon everyone was back to their regular routine… except for Kensi.

Deeks looked over at his partner and felt a pang of guilt for pushing her buttons but he also couldn't deny the fact that he sort of enjoyed being able to get her to show emotion, even if it was anger. He was one of the few people who were able to get past the huge barriers she placed around her heart and he did so as often as possible. After he was sure she had calmed down, he reached into his bag and pulled out a small white bakery box. He quietly walked over and sat it on her desk then went back to his own. He pretended to work on his reports but managed to watch her reaction over the top of the paper he was reading.

Kensi ignored her partner at first but when he placed the box on her desk, her curiosity got the best of her. She slowly opened the lid to the box and a huge grin spread across her face. Inside were three of her favorite donuts. She looked over at Deeks and smiled as she bit into the first one. He may drive her crazy at times but he also knew how to make up for it.

Deeks knew he was forgiven the moment he saw her smile. Unfortunately his favorite pastime of watching Kensi eat her donuts was interrupted by Eric and his annoying whistle.

"We've got a case!" he said loudly.

Kensi and Deeks were going to the apartment of a missing Marine named Richard Nichols. Evidence had been found connecting Nichols to the theft of a highly classified experimental antidote for nerve gas poisoning from a government owned testing lab in San Diego. Sam and Callen had driven to Camp Pendleton to arrest him but when they arrived, they learned he was AWOL as of this morning. He was not at his home on the base but Nell had found another residence in his name in Los Angeles. Kensi and Deeks had been sent to his apartment to do the honors.

As they walked up to the door Deeks asked, "So, am I forgiven?"

"Probably not. What are you referring to?"

"For earlier, when you were grumpy."

She sighed and glared at him as she rang the door bell.

"I meant when you were… you know… upset."

"I wasn't upset Deeks. I was just tired and you were… you were annoying me."

He frowned slightly, wondering why she was so tired on a Monday morning. "Wild weekend?" he asked dreading her answer. Since the day they had admitted there was a 'thing' a few months back he had basically stopped dating and had been spending more of his spare time with her. He didn't remember making a conscious decision not to date. It just sort of happened. They never talked about it but he secretly hoped she had stopped dating other guys. Now he was worried she hadn't.

She looked through the window then knocked loudly on the door when she couldn't see anything. "No. Just having trouble sleeping," she replied."

That was a gross understatement. Ever since their neighborhood undercover op she had been lying awake at night arguing with herself over the pros and cons of having a real relationship with her partner. When she did finally fall asleep, she would inevitably wake up reaching for him and find herself extremely disappointed when he wasn't there. When he arrived all happy and smiling this morning, she couldn't help but be jealous. Jealous that he obviously had no problems sleeping and insanely jealous of the person he had spent the weekend with that had made him so cheerful.

He was partially relieved by her answer but still not convinced. "Have you tried warm milk with cinnamon? I tried it last week and it seems to help."

"You having trouble sleeping too Deeks?" she asked somewhat hopefully.

"Uh, maybe." He reached over to try the door knob and found that it wasn't locked. He reached back for his gun and sent her a look which she understood completely. She pulled out her gun and they both moved to either side of the door as he shoved it open then yelled, "NCIS, Federal Agents! We just need to talk to you Nichols!"

When there was no answer he slowly stepped inside and she followed closely behind him. The place had been ransacked. There were CD's lying everywhere and all the cushions on the couch and chair had been shredded. They quietly made their way through the apartment with their guns raised. They entered the bedroom where the devastation was worse. There had obviously been a computer on the desk recently but it had been taken along with all the disks and some of the cords. She was looking at the books strewn all around the nightstand next to the bed when she heard Deeks call her.

"Kens, in here," he called from the bathroom.

As she entered the tiny room she gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Lying in the tub, totally submerged in bloody water was Richard Nichols. There were shallow cuts in his abdomen and thighs and the one in his chest still contained the knife used to torture him to death.

Deeks pulled out his cell phone and called Callen, "Looks like we found our missing Marine."

An hour later, Callen and Sam had joined them at Nichols apartment. The forensics team had thoroughly tagged and bagged every possible clue and was packing up their equipment to leave. Nichols' body had already been removed.

"Got anything yet?" Callen asked as he and Sam found the junior partners in Nichols' bedroom.

"Nothing official. We talked to some of the neighbors but no one seems to have heard anything. We were just talking about the condition of his body," Deeks said as he deferred to Kensi to continue.

"His hands were bound behind him and he had been gagged. The wounds were intended to inflict maximum pain but were not life threatening."

"Except, of course the last one that went right through his heart. I'm pretty sure the lab will tell us the water was added to the tub after he was dead," Deeks commented.

"Why do you think that?" Sam asked.

"Unfortunately I've seen this before," Deeks said sadly. "The victim is cut which is painful enough, and then pure alcohol is poured in the wound. I'm guessing they got the information they needed. They probably filled the tub with water in hopes of destroying any evidence."

"You've seen this before? Where?" Callen asked.

"I was working undercover as a drug dealer and was forced to watch the ring leader 'discipline' one of his men suspected of stealing from him. He didn't kill him though… well, at least not then."

Callen shook his head and said, "Let's get back to Ops and see if Eric and Nell have found anything."

The ride back was quiet. Too quiet. Kensi wasn't used to silence coming from her partner. It was unnerving.

"Hey, what's up?" she asked glancing over at him.

"Nothing. Just thinking."

"Don't strain yourself," she teased hoping to get him to lighten up.

He smiled briefly but again became quiet and stared out the window.

"What's wrong Deeks?"

He sighed and leaned back on the headrest. "This case just brings back some unpleasant memories."

"From when you were undercover?"


"Wanna talk about it?"

"Not really."

She let it go. If he wanted to tell her about it he would when he was ready. She wasn't going to push him.

He sat quietly for a few more minutes then said, "Thanks Kens."

"Thanks for what?"

"For having my back. And for being a damn good partner."

She looked over at him and smiled then added, "You're a pretty good partner yourself Deeks."

He remained quiet as they finished the ride to the Mission. His thoughts were reluctantly dragged back to a time when he was on his own. No backup. No team. Just him, working alone to bring down an illegal drug operation. He had done it too but not without sacrificing part of his soul to do it. It had been four months of hell but he had convinced himself it was the only way. Maybe it had been at the time but he was thankful for the team and the way they operated cases now but most of all, he was thankful for his partner and the way they worked together so well.

"Got anything new?" Callen asked as he entered Ops with Sam, Deeks and Kensi right behind him.

"There are no cameras on the apartment complex and without an exact time of death we really can't pinpoint any particular vehicles that pass by the nearest traffic cam," Eric said disappointed.

"We did however identify a few of his close friends," Nell said as she put their ID's up on the screen.

"Hey, we talked to that guy this morning," Deeks said as he pointed at one of the pictures and looked at it closely.

"Yeah, he was a couple of doors down from Nichols and he was the only one who seemed disturbed by the murder," Kensi added.

"Bradley Northcutt, recently discharged honorably from the Marine Corps after serving four years. His record is clean except for a drunk and disorderly incident a couple of years back," Nell clarified.

"Deeks you and Kensi go back and see if you can get any more information from Northcutt," Callen ordered. "Nell you and Eric see if you can dig up anything else on him, Sam and I will track down some of his other buddies."

"On it," Deeks said as he and Kensi left Ops.

When they arrived back at the apartment complex they immediately noticed the open door to Northcutt's place. They approached cautiously and entered quietly with guns raised. After a quick check of the small apartment they found no one.

"Looks like he left in a hurry," Deeks said noticing the clothes tossed on the bed.

"Well, we know he didn't kill Nichols but he definitely knows something about what's going on," Kensi suggested.

"How so?"

"I don't think he knew Nichols was dead until we told him this morning. He obviously got scared and left soon after we did."

"Probably worried he was next," Deeks replied in agreement. He got out his cell phone and called Ops.

"Eric, do you have a vehicle registered to Northcutt? Looks like he took off before we got here."

"Uh, yeah. 1988 Ford pickup. Looking for it now. Shouldn't be too hard to find. I'll call you back as soon as we get something."

Kensi and Deeks put on their gloves and began searching the apartment.

"Doesn't look like he's been living here long," Kensi observed.

"Kens, not everyone collects stuff like you do. He could have been living here for years. Callen's place looks like this."

She rolled her eyes but didn't comment.

"But… I think you're right. It's like he was just staying here temporarily. The fridge is too empty and there's not even a trash can in the kitchen. People on the run don't usually take trash cans."

They continued to search the apartment but didn't find anything helpful. As they were about to leave, Deeks phone rang.

"What have you got Eric?"

"I found the truck."

"Great. Where?" he asked as he and Kensi began walking toward her car.

"Well, it's on the 110 but…"

"North or southbound?"

"Neither. It's in a crumpled heap in the median. It was reported as a fatality accident. Witnesses say it was run off the road by a large black van. I'm working traffic cams now."

"When did this happen?"

"About fifteen minutes ago."

"When you find the van call us. We're headed to the scene. Let Callen and Sam know. If any of Nichols' other buddies were part of this they may be in danger."

"What?" Kensi asked frowning.

"Northcutt's dead. Someone is tying up loose ends."

To Be Continued...