Title: Fool Me Once…
A/N: This is a team fic, but will mostly focus around Deeks, with a lot of Nell, Eric, and some Kensi. There will be hints of Kensi/Deeks and Nell/Eric pairings, nothing that wouldn't be in the show.
Chapter 1: Can You See Me?
It's weird how the mind works. It can completely shut down, block out all external stimuli in the hopes of offering protection. She realizes that's probably what happened, probably the reason she doesn't remember how she got in the car. She knows she's in a vehicle, she can feel her body moving in the seat as tires travel over pitted road, the buckle for the seat belt pushing into the bruised flesh at her knee.
Her eyes are closed, squeezed shut, her nose wrinkled, her lips a tight line—the universal face of pain. She's vaguely aware of someone holding her, strong fingers digging into her back, a warm palm pressing against her right side.
She smells gun oil, blood, soap, and something distinctly male. She keeps her eyes closed, feeling safe against him. Slowly, she recognizes that people are talking, her sluggish brain realizing that someone else is in the car, someone else has to be in the car, someone has to drive.
"…out of it. Shock maybe?" Someone says from far away.
She knows that voice, she hears it everyday. She turns her face, her cheek rubbing against the fabric of her savior's shirt, her hands fisting in the soft material.
"Nell? You with me?" he asks, his breath tickling the top of her head, blowing against her hair. She feels his voice, that deep rattle as her ear presses against his chest.
She forces her eyes open and jumps back, her mind deeming it okay for her to once again take control. It's weird how the mind works.
Deeks lets her go, removing his hand from her back but keeping a firm hold on her side. She stares at him for a moment, noting the concern outlining his face, before she allows her eyes to follow his arm, tracing the path to her side.
Her dress is ruined, the blood seeping through his fingers staining the light brown material a shiny, dark black.
She looks back at him, at his side, a mirror image of hers. The entire left side of his shirt is wet, blood soaking through, clinging fabric to skin.
Forcing her eyes away from the proof that everything's not okay, she looks for her voice, finding it and not liking how young it sounds.
"We were shot," she says.
He gives her a crooked smile etched in sadness. The lines around his eyes crease in pain as he answers her.
"Yeah, we were."
Seven hours earlier…
When he was younger, his mom didn't want him to surf. She was always afraid of undertows, sharks, and the possibility of landing wrong.
"Marty, you could get killed. What if the wave smashes the board against your head? It could snap your neck."
Deeks would try to laugh it off until he realized that just made it worse, heightening her worry, making her think he wasn't taking any threats to his well-being seriously. She had followed him to his lessons, sitting beneath an umbrella, pretending to read as she watched him struggle to stand on his board. It took a while, but she eventually learned to trust him not to drown because of stupidity.
Now, nearly twenty years after his first lesson, Deeks sends out a silent prayer, thanking whoever's listening that his mother no longer feels the need to come out and watch him surf. He rubs a pruning hand over the back of his head, wincing at the soft flesh and the already noticeable bump.
It had been a rookie mistake, something he hadn't done in years. He had gotten too close to the edge of the board, sending the side beneath the water, taking him down with it. The wave had kept going, sweeping his board into the air before bringing it down hard on the back of his head.
He had emerged from the water, coughing and scrambling to the shore, his face burning with embarrassment. Looking around at the near empty beach, he sends another thankful prayer that no one had been watching.
He doesn't live directly on the beach, but he's close enough, as close as you can get on a detective's salary without referring to a cardboard box as your home. It's almost a mile, not far enough to bother with a car. Normally, he'd bring Monty with him, letting the dog get his exercise and have a little fun while splashing in the ocean. But the overgrown pup's got a vet appointment later than afternoon, and the last thing Deeks wants is to ride around in a wet dog-scented car.
Tucking the board beneath his arm, he massages the fresh knot on the back of his head as he runs up the stairs leading to his front door. He frowns when he notices a brown paper bag resting on the welcome mat, his last name written in large, block letters with red ink across the front.
Deeks turns and casts a careful eye around the apartment complex, finding no one but the young-at-heart Mrs. Nolan, the only person who thinks it's okay to wear a tube-top after sixty and is probably one bottle of tanning oil away from embracing melanoma as her close and personal friend.
He nudges the bag with the end of his surfboard. When there's no sign of impending doom, he deftly bends forward and picks up the bag, expecting it to be heavier than it is. When he pushes his front door open, Monty lazily casts his eyes in Deeks' direction, not even bothering to lift his head from his spot on the couch.
In turn, Deeks leans his board against the wall, walking towards the kitchen while he opens the bag. "No, don't hurt yourself, Boy. No need to show you love me or anything. It's not like I feed y-." He trails off as he peers into the bag, one hand reaching inside.
Years spent working undercover has helped groom Deeks into being ready for any situation, helped prepare him to expect the unexpected. Turning the bag upside down and emptying its contents onto his countertop, he can't help thinking that his previous handlers, and maybe even Hetty would forgive him for being dumbstruck as he takes in the many photos pushing up against his coffee machine.
There are dozens of photos, some having been taken during the day, others at night. All of them obviously done without the subjects' knowledge.
They're all there. Several photos of each of them.
A picture taken through Callen's kitchen window showing the agent opening a beer bottle. A picture of Sam at a gas station, an unopened bag of chips in his hand as he pumps gas. Eric standing at a crosswalk, his attention focused on the phone in his hands. Nell resting on her balcony, her foot propped on the railing as she paints her toes. Kensi talking to a stranger, her smile soft as she tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. Hetty sitting at an outdoor café, the newspaper spread out before her. Deeks walking down the street, his face squinted against the sun as Monty tests the limits of his leash.
Laundry mats, parking lots, check out lines. Pictures of the entire team taken while they were seemingly at ease, all off the clock. None of them even aware they were being watched.
Reviews are greatly appreciated. The next chapter should be up soon, whether or not anyone asks for it.