I suppose you could call this a 'thank you' piece, mostly because of all the great reviews and support "Fool Me Once" received. So, as yet another heart felt 'thank you' to everyone who stuck it out with that story, here's another one-or at least the first chapter.

a posteriori |ˈā päˌsti(ə)rēˈôrˌē; -ˈôrˌī|: adjective;

relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge that proceeds from observations or experiences to the deduction of probable causes.

• [ sentence adverb ] (loosely) of the nature of an afterthought or subsequent rationalization.

Adverb; in a way based on reasoning from known facts or past events rather than by making assumptions or predictions.

• (loosely) with hindsight; as an afterthought.

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: Latin, 'from what comes after.'

Chapter 1: More Questions than Answers


Special Agent Callen is quickly beginning to associate the smell of peanut butter with death, the tacky residue of jelly with fear as sticky fingers claw at his neck, blindly reaching for reassurance and safety.

It was quiet and unexpected, almost like it always is. Walking through the front door to find Agent Conners reading the paper, patiently listening to the ramblings of his five-year-old charge, Callen had thought he was in time, had thought he made it before the other shoe dropped.

He hadn't known this shoe had already been let go, it just had further to fall.

Not three seconds after walking into the kitchen, it happened. A small pop, more from the window than the actual shot, and then the sound of Connors slumping onto the table, his coffee cup spilling beneath him blending with the blood to saturate the newsprint.

The other shoe had reached the ground.

Between the shocked silence of the little boy and the panicked screaming of his mother, Callen had let instinct and training take control, quickly grabbing the little boy and pulling him to cover, out of the line of sight.

Now, trying to silence the mother long enough to explain to her the importance of remaining in the utilities closet long enough for backup to arrive, Special Agent Callen can't help asking, "Where the hell are Kensi and Deeks?"


At first, she thought a rock had hit her windshield. The small and sudden pop followed by a crystallized blemish against the glass. She had thought the jerk of his shoulders had been a reaction to the assumed rock, a condition of being startled. It wasn't until she heard the quiet gasp and saw the unexpected stiffness in his posture did she realize she was wrong.

"Deeks?" She doesn't wait for an answer, just pushes the accelerator, and turns the wheel. "Deeks? Talk to me."

"Can't. Too busy trying to remember how to breathe." His teeth are clenched, muffling the sound as he pushes his head back into the headrest. His hands press against the vest, the one that was supposed to stop a bullet.

As a series of additional pops hit the side of the car, she tries to aim them away from the oncoming bullets, pointing the taillights towards the direction of the shooter as her back tires get taken out. "Get out of the car, hurry." She leans across him, pushing the door open before pushing him, ignoring his grunt of pain. "Get down."

She knows he knows what to do, it just makes her feel better saying it out loud. It gives her a semblance of control, something she knows she really doesn't have as she squats next to her bleeding partner, taking cover behind a car in the middle of the desert, nothing more than a chain of rust red ridges offering shelter, both to them and the shooter.

"How bad is it?" She asks, slamming the door shut and reaching for her phone as she moves to undo the Velcro keeping his vest in place. Kensi Blye knows how to multi-task.

"Are you gonna call me a baby if I say it hurts like a bitch?" Deeks tries to smile, wincing only once as she pulls the vest away, ripping the embedded material of his shirt out of the wound.

"Why point out the obvious?" She tries to match his smile, tries to hide her worry, but the sight of his shirt quickly staining red cuts it short. It's like watching a rose blossom in fast forward, the petals opening to reveal the life inside, and Kensi has a sudden thought of the Queen of Hearts painting the roses red.

She props the phone between her ear and shoulder, holding it in place as she listens to the rings, letting it drop to her lap when it goes to voicemail.

She looks at Deeks, that Cheshire smile trying to shine through despite their current trip down the rabbit hole. Another series of pops and then a pause. "Can you walk?" she asks, looking to the ridges.

"Is the alternative getting shot again?" There's that smile.

"Probably." Another few pops.

"Then I can run."

As Kensi helps her partner off the ground, both keeping low enough to take advantage of the sheltering car before making a run for the nearby hills, she can't help wondering why Sam isn't answering his phone.


Sam angrily tosses his phone into his passenger seat as he forcefully applies pressure to the gas pedal in an attempt to close the distance separating him and the safe house. A phone call from Eric telling him Sherrie Miller's location had been compromised was all it had taken for him to abandon the interrogation in favor of meeting his partner in order to help secure Sherrie and her son.

A second call from Callen telling him that the agent in charge of watching them had been taken out, and that the shooter was still on the premises had caused him to lose his temper, taking his frustration out on his phone.

As he nears the property, he pulls the car over and takes out his gun, raising it at the ready as he prepares to make the rest of the journey on foot so as not to alert the shooter.

He squints his eyes and lets his mouth quirk into a dimpled smile as he slowly approaches the home, the camouflaged boots of the sniper making indentations in the dirt as their owner readjusts his position in order to get a better line of sight.

"Do. Not. Move." The words are soft, but still carry the desired threat, the promise of death should they be ignored. The sniper only jumps slightly, the unexpected appearance of a gun pointed at his head catching him off guard. Sam continues to smile that dimpled smile as the sniper lets his head drop in defeat before raising his hands into the air.

As Sam handcuffs the man's hands behind his back, he looks towards the house wondering when the remaining backup will arrive.


"Sonuvabitch!" Deeks mutters breathlessly. He leans his back against the rock wall, letting it support him as he attempts to slide to the ground, the muscles in his legs failing halfway down.

"You okay?" Kensi asks, checking her gun as she kneels beside him.

"Peachy," Deeks tells her, removing his hands from his stomach to reach for his own gun, his fingers leaving bloody fingerprints along the barrel. "Be even better if there wasn't a bullet in my gut, but what can you do?" he jests, aiming for laidback indifference as he watches the edge of the ridge for any sign the shooter decided to follow them. The sound of Velcro being pulled apart forces his eyes back to his partner.

"What are doing?" he asks, watching as Kensi continues to remove her bulletproof vest. "There's a guy shooting at us and your taking off your vest?"

"I'm gonna put it back on," she explains, letting the vest drop to the ground before removing her over shirt, leaving her in nothing more than a dark tank top. She promptly presses the button-up to Deeks' abdomen, applying pressure just above his navel, trying to stop the free-flowing blood.

"Press down on this," she orders, forcing herself to ignore the hiss of pain the act elicits from her partner. As he replaces her hands with his, she grabs her vest from the ground, the loose sand sticking to the smears of Deeks' blood. "I've got one bar," she tells him, looking at the smudged screen on her cell phone.

Deeks awkwardly tries to reach behind him, his goal to retrieve his phone from his back pocket. However, as the movement stretches his muscles, an embarrassing cry of pain managing to escape, he gives up the effort. "Try calling Eric, see if he can send back up."

Kensi already has the phone to her ear, her gun held tightly in her hand as half her attention is focused on the static tinged ringing and the other half listening for approaching footsteps.

Eric answers before the second ring even begins. "Kensi, where are you guys?"

Kensi is about to tell him, about to ask for back up. Her mouth is formed in a small 'o', the word "we" on the tip of her tongue. But then she hears it, the telltale sound of boots rolling across the rocks, heel to toe, heel to toe.

As the sound of gunfire filters through the speakers echoing through Ops, Eric and Nell look at one another nervously, wondering what the hell is going on.