AN: First shot at an NCIS: Los Angeles fic. Semi-implied Deeks/Kensi. As always, enjoy!

It's the universal rule: there is no promise you'll be alive tomorrow or two seconds from now. Being the society that we are, we dance around death, laughing and mocking it in the face as we dodge bullets- whether they are made from lead alloy or harsh, unforgiving words. We are selfish in the fact that we think that it won't be us. When a bomb explodes in southern Afghanistan, we watch the television screen with apathetic eyes. Our minds reassure us that that would never happen over here.

And we're wrong. Even as a member of an undercover unit, I've flipped the bird at death, grinned heartily with the boys at the wounds. Battle scars, proof that I won that round. Every single one of us- Sam, Deeks, Callen, and I- we're all playing a game of Russian roulette.

Kick the bucket, push up daises, check out, swim with the fishes. No matter what cute bow you tie around death, it all ends the same: a wooden box and a concrete slab with your name.

It's thoughts like these that keep us up at night, though the guys won't admit to soul-searching the depths of their minds, and I wouldn't either if Nate asked me about it. Of course I trouble myself with the fact that I've written out an impromptu will, listing off objects to various people. Then, I think about people like Callen, who have no one to give things away to or have nothing to give away, and I admit that I am far luckier than some.

During this short time we have, we are taught to make the most of it. In a mere second, we could have our covers exposed and be gone, hightailing it out of everything we've grown accustom to. Sam jokes, saying that the only thing he will miss are the doughnuts, but along with everything else in our lives, the joke is merely a cover.

It's the universal rule: the world is exactly how you perceive it to be. How does Hetty see the world? Or Nate? Eric? Are there really that many different worlds spinning around mine? My life would definitely be different if I saw the world the way they saw it. But would it be worse or better?

These are the thoughts that keep us awake at night. During the day, we are speed demons and daredevils, racing through corridors of warehouses or down pothole-filled back roads of Los Angeles. During the night, we're kept awake by reruns of crime drama shows, laughing at the plot holes and odd techniques they use that would get us killed in an instant. There, again, death pops into the conversation, always the gorilla in the room.

Sometimes, I want to tell Callen that never knowing is probably the best thing that's happened to him, but only someone who knows would believe that. I would like to never know what it's like to believe the last words were truly your last.

Nate says that I should be able to accept death because I'm human. Funerals are merely rituals to celebrate a person's life. I respond by sarcastically asking him when he dies, can I bring the balloons and cake. He stares at me blankly, with the shrink-face on, that says "I can see right through the mask you're wearing." And damn him, damn them all, because they can. I suppose that's what happens when you're so incredibly close to people, when you trust them with your life.

It's the universal rule: take nothing for granted. Because in this split second, in this single blip on the universal timeline, things are not okay, no matter what Sam is whispering to me. The shooters are pacing near the entrance to the warehouse, ready to fire down another one of my teammates.

"You can't stay with me." Sam sends me one of those hard glares he's always packing for when Deeks acts up or Eric rambles on about tech gear.

"The hell I can't. You're hurt, I'm protecting you."

"I'm not hurt, I'm-" He silences me as the shooters move forward. Maybe he thinks I was going to tell him I'm fine. For once, Sam is wrong. I try to pay attention to what's going on around me, but there is a fine haze covering my vision, and the voices start warbling together, different pitches coming from every direction. There is one voice, though, that rushes to me in an instant. I feel the weight of his hand on my shoulder, pressing against where he thinks the wound is bleeding.

"Kenz? How bad?"

"Bad." My lack of complaining lets him know this is serious. This isn't like the bank, where the blood is fake and we're all going to have a round of drinks afterwards.

"Sam, we've gotta get her outta here." Another set of pops ring throughout the room. The shooters are down. Usually, this is the time we all share that familiar look of triumph. Now, I fight to stay coherent as someone taps on my blood-soaked shoulder. "Ambulance is on the way." I nod, but the movement jostles my shoulder, which in turn sends a pain shooting through my upper chest. The haze is stronger, but I keep blinking, clearing away some of the fog to drink in the situation.

Sam is pacing near the giant double doors, talking in a low voice to someone on the phone. Probably Hetty or Eric, updating them about the shooters. About me. About me dying. Callen is ripping off a piece of his undershirt and twirling it round and round on his hand. Sliding the jacket off my shoulder, he inspects what he can without worsening the injury.

"Thanks." He cracks a small smile.

"You shouldn't thank me. I notified Deeks. He'll be here any second and you know how he gets worked up. Especially about you."

"He shouldn't." Our fearless leader shrugs, keeping the smile on his face, and presses down on the wound. We both know it should cause me more pain and we both wear the same expression when it doesn't. The only thing I'm physically aware of is the amount of warm liquid pumping out of my body, the way it tickles at my neck and clings to my hair. My mind flashes to what my shower floor will look like tonight when I wash all this blood out. My mind reminds me that I may not have that luxury.

Sam hangs up the phone and turns to look at me. Look at me, dying. I can hear Deeks coming down from the second floor, his voice carrying through the silence.

"Callen! Is she all right?" When he doesn't respond, I turn my head to see if I can get a read off Callen's expression, but I can't find his face. Nothing comes out when I try to speak up for myself. There's a hard pressure, though, as the haze returns. Deeks keeps repeating something, but I can only make out my name. "Kensi, Kensiā€¦ Kensi, no, Kensi..." There's no chance for me to reply as the compressions on my chest continue in vain.

"The ambulance is here." Why didn't I hear the sirens? "Kenz, just hang on. The ambulance is here." The compressions cease. I can hear Callen relaying the events, telling the paramedics about my condition. "The bullet's lodged in her chest, below her right shoulder." It feels as if I'm being dumped into a tank of ink. The air I inhale is thick and my blood feels cakey, plastered to my skin.

Someone kisses my forehead and I shiver at the contact. It's the last thing I do before I let go.