It's way too early o'clock when Sam's woken by a text message. He grumbles and mutters threats of bodily harm. Until he reads it.
He tells his wife to go back to sleep and dresses quickly. He's in the car within two minutes.
After Deeks was shot, Sam set up an alert system. It notifies him if emergency services are called to any of the team's residences or if they are identified as a victim. This is the first time it's activated and he hopes it's the last.
The roads are empty and he drives more than a little over the speed limit. Turning into the street, he finds his way blocked by an LAPD cruiser. He parks and sets off at a pace just short of a run.
The air is heavy with the smell of smoke, enough to make him cough as he reaches the section of road in front of the apartment block. The flashing lights play across tired and worried faces. Organised chaos prevails and when he can't see his teammate, he turns to the nearest resident for answers.
"There was a fire in 2B," says the middle-aged man, clutching his bathrobe tight around him. "Old Mr Curtin probably left the hot plate on again."
"Was anyone hurt?" asks Sam as he continues scanning the crowd.
"Mr Curtin's already been taken to the hospital. Would have been a lot worse if Marty and his girlfriend hadn't broken in and saved him." The man points in the direction of the ambulance further down the road. "They're real heroes."
Sam smiles and shakes his head as he walks towards the ambulance. Of course Deeks would have pulled on his cape. Though from the descriptions he's heard of Deeks' passing parade of girlfriends, he's a little surprised she was involved in the rescue. Maybe he'd finally found a good one.
He just hopes they haven't sucked in too much smoke. He knows from experience how insidious smoke inhalation can be. You think you're fine and then it knocks you on your ass. He'll be insisting on them going to the hospital for observation.
The back of the ambulance is open and he spots Deeks immediately. That hair is recognisable from twenty paces even at night. He has a blanket draped around his shoulders, an oxygen mask over his face, and harsh coughs rack his body. Monty leans against the running board, his head resting on Deeks' feet.
Sam takes a few more steps, turning his attention to the woman who, going by the severity of her coughing fits, got the worst of it. And stops. He's seeing things. But then she's pushing the oxygen mask off and the EMT is trying to put it back on, and yep.
He watches, feeling a little like a voyeur, as Deeks takes her hand in his and talks to her. Monty picks up on her distress and shifts his head to her feet. Kensi's shoulders relax slightly as she relents to the EMT's ministrations.
Sam waits until she's settled before making the final approach. Eight feet away, he announces his presence with, "You two don't get enough excitement at work?"
Deeks lets go of Kensi's hand as their heads snap up. Monty, the wonder dog, just ignores him.
"Sam. What are you doing here?" asks Deeks, his sentence punctuated with a wheeze.
"Heard you tried to burn the place down. Thought you might need to be bailed out." He smirks a little as Deeks shuffles to put some distance between himself and Kensi.
Deeks immediately launches into an explanation of her presence. "Kensi was over for dinner and had a bit too much to drink to drive home."
Kensi doesn't attempt to talk, she's having enough trouble breathing. She thumps Deeks on the thigh instead.
"And she just happens to keep her sleepwear at your place for those times?" Sam gestures to Kensi's pajama pants and oversized tshirt.
The EMT interrupts any further denials.
"No," Kensi forces out in a hoarse whisper, trying to take the mask off again. "Don't need the hospital."
Sam grabs her hand and squats in front of her. "Kens, you're going to the hospital and they're going to keep you there for as long as needed." He brushes his knuckles across her cheek as she shakes her head. "You don't want to end up with a tube down your throat because you think you don't need medical attention like the rest of us mere mortals. This could get very serious very quickly."
She picks up on the note of experience in his tone and reluctantly nods her assent. Sam helps the EMT get her up and settled in the ambulance. She starts to shake and an edge of fear appears in her eyes.
He smoothes his hand over her hair. "I'll be by to see you later. Do what they tell you."
Sam steps down from the vehicle and Monty whines as he tries to jump up into it to follow his master.
"Could you take him?" asks Deeks.
Sam gives his best put-upon sigh. "You'd better not be lazying around at the hospital for too long."
Deeks coughs pitifully. "What happened to as long as needed?"
"That's for Kensi."
Sam waits until the ambulance drives away before starting the walk back to his car. "Come on, mutt."
When there's no patter of paws, Sam looks back to find Monty still watching in the direction of the ambulance's exit. "Monty, come on."
Another whine and the dog stands and heads towards the apartment block.
"Really?" Sam shakes his head and picks him up. "Has the smoke made your brain more addled than normal?" Monty sneezes and then tries to lick Sam. "Please don't. And no way am I giving you mouth to snout so don't even think about passing out."
Between his body starting to succumb to tiredness as the adrenaline and worry wears off, and the weight of the dog, the return to his car feels longer than it is. "You've really let yourself go since you retired. Deeks needs to take you for more walks." Monty responds with a low bark. "So, tell me. How long has this thing been going on between Kensi and Deeks?"
Eric is hanging over her shoulder before she can minimise the window.
"Kensi and Deeks making out?" he continues. "You got a thing for Deeks I should know about?"
"Why do you assume it's Deeks I have a thing for?" Nell turns to find Eric grinning at her. She slaps him on the arm.
"Oww. You started it." He turns his attention back to the video. "That's the building security cam footage from today's op, isn't it?"
"And why are you watching it?"
Nell purses her lips. Maybe a second opinion would be helpful. She rewinds. "Watch it carefully. What do you see?"
Eric sits down next to her and focusses on their teammates' impromptu lip lock that provided enough of a distraction to allow Callen and Sam time to slip out of the building. She stops it as Kensi and Deeks are chased off by a security guard and looks at Eric expectantly.
"I see them making out." Eric holds his hands up in confusion. "What are you getting at?"
Nell sighs. Like most males in her experience, they need it spelled out to them. "Didn't you notice their body language? How stiff--" Eric smirks and she slaps his hand. "Okay, not the best word. How formal they were?"
"And?" Eric gestures to the screen. "It must be awkward, having to be passionate with your partner."
"But this is far from the first time they've had to do it," she argues, pulling up another video. "This is from four months ago."
The footage shows a far more intimate situation, causing them both to squirm uncomfortably. Nell pauses it only a minute in. "See the difference?"
"Okay," agrees Eric. "They could've had a fight this morning. Maybe Deeks ate Kensi's donut." He glances at the frozen scene and his face reddens. "And that sounds vaguely euphemistic."
"They didn't have a fight."
"Well, what's your theory, Detective Jones?"
She leans towards him and lowers her voice. "They're seeing each other."
"And now they've broken up." Eric holds up his index finger, thinking he's worked it out.
"No." She shakes her head. "Present tense."
The cogs start turning and then grind to a halt as he shakes his head and says, "You've lost me."
Visual aids haven't worked, she's going to have to walk him through it. "They've started seeing each other recently."
He points to the screen but avoids looking at it. "They weren't seeing each other then?"
"So let me get this straight." Eric takes his glasses off and rubs the bridge of his nose. "They played a very realistic couple before they started seeing each other, but now that they're together, they're awkward?"
"You've got it!"
"Not really," he admits, replacing his glasses. "I feel like I'm taking a quantum mechanics final and, depending on the result, Schrodinger's cat will kill me. Or not."
She leans in closer. "They're obviously keeping it secret. So making out during an operation presents all sorts of dangers. Like what if they get carried away? Or if we notice that the kissing seems more real than before?"
"So they hold back."
"Got it now?"
"Got it." Eric gives two thumbs up.
"Good." Nell makes a mental note to take Eric people watching, but they have a more immediate concern. "So what are we going to do about it?"
"Why do we have to do anything?"
"Because," Nell toggles back to the first video, "while they pulled it off today, that is not going to work in a situation where someone is really watching them. They'll get made and possibly blow an op."
Eric shrugs. "Just tell Callen then and let him handle it."
"And possibly break up a relationship and a partnership?" Nell steeples her fingers and rests her chin on them. "We just need to let them know so they can make sure they're not too obvious. You're going surfing with Deeks on the weekend, aren't you?"
"No, no, no." He pushes his chair backwards and waves his hands. "You know how bad I am at this. I'll get flustered and end up telling him I want to make out with Kensi and then he'll kill me and blame it on a freak wave."
Nell rolls her eyes. "Chicken."
"I just know my limitations." He points at her. "You should talk to Kensi. In fact, as she's a woman--"
She grins. "You have such sharp observational skills."
"Haha. Just show her the two videos side by side and you might not need to say anything more." He makes the voila gesture with both hands, obviously pleased with himself.
"That might just work." She grabs her iPad. "Do you know whether Kensi's left yet?"
"Kensi, you go in the north side." Callen indicates the door on the building blueprint. "Sam and Deeks will come through the loading bay."
Deeks interrupts from the other side of the table. "Kensi should go in behind Sam and I'll take her position."
Callen hears Kensi suck in a deep breath beside him and intervenes before she can berate her partner. "You the team sniper now, Deeks? That point," he taps his finger on the plans, "gives Kensi the best position to cover our asses."
"And who's covering hers?" The note of insistence in Deeks' voice grows. "I'll go in with her."
"Deeks," she growls. "I have a gun, actually I'll have two, and I know how to use them. Do you want me to demonstrate?"
"You want to take over planning this op?" challenges Callen.
"I'm just saying that she shouldn't be going in alone." Deeks meets his eyes for a moment before focussing back on Kensi.
"She can take care of herself." Kensi straightens to her full height and Callen can practically feel the tension radiating from her.
"Not saying you can't."
Kensi snorts. "Really?"
"But there's more--"
Callen feels like a referee at a game where the rules have been changed without telling him. He holds up his hands and waves to get their attention. "Hey. What the hell's going on?"
"Nothing," hisses Kensi through gritted teeth.
Deeks replies with a sharp, "Kensi."
"We're on the clock here." Callen leans his hands flat on the table. "If there's something going on that's going to affect the operation, I need to know now."
Kensi fixes them all with a look that dares them to question her competence. Just don't expect to keep your heads if you do. "I'm ready to go."
"No, you're not," says Deeks, his tone laden with a gravity Callen's never heard from the man before. "You tell them or I will."
"Don't." Kensi shakes her head as she engages Deeks in a glaring match.
"It's way past time, Kens."
From the set of their bodies and knowing just how stubborn Kensi can be, Callen forces the issue. "Do I need to get Hetty up here to sort this out?"
There's another thirty seconds of silence before Deeks takes a deep breath and opens his mouth. "Kensi's--"
"I'm pregnant," says Kensi, the words spilling out in a rush to beat him.
Callen blinks and almost asks her to repeat it. He glances at Sam who's looking slightly stunned, the same expression he's sure is plastered on his own face. Definitely hadn't seen this one coming. Though now that he thinks about it, she has been wearing loose shirts in the last month and doesn't work out in the gym during the day.
Neither Kensi or Deeks notice the silence, they're still too busy staring each other down.
"Okay," starts Callen. "I'll have to check the regulations, but I think you're clear for field work during the first few months at least."
"She's nearly twenty weeks," says Deeks.
Callen's a little lost, this isn't an area he has any experience in. He turns to Sam, who shakes his head and says, "She probably shouldn't be going through the door."
"Eric, see who's available." They don't have time for this. "Kensi, you'll run the op from here."
"Happy now?" she bites at Deeks.
Deeks throws his hands up in the air. "What did you expect? To still be kicking in doors as you go into labour?"
"I know what I'm capable--"
Callen almost smiles at the image. Yeah, that's exactly what Kensi would expect. "Okay you two. Time out. Get your heads back in the game. We'll talk to Hetty about suitable," Kensi bristles at the word, "duties after this is over."
"Um, guys," Nell breaks in. When she has Callen's attention, she gestures to Kensi and Deeks.
Callen's mind is already back on the mission and he doesn't hide the note of frustration in his voice as he says, "Yes, Nell?"
She rolls her eyes and steps over to Kensi, touching her arm. "That's wonderful news. You two are going to be great parents."
Callen joins in what's a brief round of muted congratulations as Kensi's still pissed at Deeks and the clock is ticking. He adds the future of that partnership to the list of things he really doesn't want to discuss with Hetty.
She doesn't walk in on them kissing or sharing a private moment. She doesn't overhear a stray sentiment.
She doesn't need to.
She just knows.
After all, she is Hetty.