A moment of shocked silence filled the room before Callen shook his head, agreeing with Kensi. "No. We'll find another way, Deeks. It's too risky right now." He paused. "We need you back on the team. Someone has to keep the cookie monster here in line."
Kensi glared at the gentle tease, but didn't speak. Her mind was whirling. You're not strong enough, she thought. The words came to her lips, but she bit them back, knowing that her stubborn partner would only see them as a dare. You're not strong enough, damn it, but you have enough guts for two men. You'd do this regardless of if it's a good idea.
"Damn it, this might be our only chance. We have to do it. I'll be okay," Deeks snapped, but there was an edge of sheer exhaustion in his voice that made him less that convincing.
He sucked in a sharp breath to continue, regretting it bare seconds later when the dry air triggered a coughing fit that left him pale and shaking as his heart tried to thunder its way out of his ribcage.
Kensi pushed a cup of water into his hand, watching anxiously while he sipped it, trying to ease the soreness in his throat. The cool liquid helped. He nodded his thanks, aware that the other three agents were watching him carefully, as if he would fall apart at any second. He hated that feeling, so he straightened his spine, squaring his shoulder as much as he could.
"I'm okay," he rasped and set the cup down, the water hitting his empty stomach making him feel a little queasy. "The doc says it's a good thing. Means my lungs are improving."
"You can't work an operation like this," Callen said flatly. "What happens if he attacks you? You'd never be able to defend yourself in time."
"That's why I'd have back up." Deeks shook his head. "Anyway, I didn't do too badly not so long ago," he said pointedly.
Kensi stared at him, the image of him standing, gun raised even as blood soaked through his bandages, flashing through her mind.
"No, you didn't," she agreed softly. "But Callen is right. This is different."
A light knock on the door halted the argument before it could start again. Deeks' doctor walks in to the room, a clipboard in her hands. "Good evening, folks. I hate to interrupt, but we need to take Mr. Adams here down for another series of chest x-rays." Her smile faltered, sensing the tension in the room. "Don't worry, they're perfectly routine in cases like this. They give us a good idea of how the bruising is healing."
"Hey, doc," Deeks said slowly, fatigue making him bite off the words. "When di you think I'll be able to get out of here?"
She shook her head. "A week, maybe less if you rest and heal. It doesn't pay to take chances with blood loss and lung injuries like yours. Why?"
"What if I signed out against medical advice?" he pressed, ignoring the way Kensi's spine straightened with anger next to him.
The doctor pursed her lips, frowning. "I would strongly advise against it, Mr. Adams." She shrugged. "Why the rush? Is there somewhere that you have to be? Because whatever it is, isn't worth your life. You'd be risking blood clots, permanent lung damage… maybe even a stroke if you have a clot and it goes to your brain while you're moving about."
"What if it is worth my life?" he asked softly, dangerously.
She sighed, shaking her head. "I can't stop you if you're bound and determined to do this.
"Doc, can you give us a minute?" Callen interjected softly.
She picked up her clipboard and headed out of the door. "See if you can talk some sense into your friend while I go and chase up my techs, will you?"
The door snicked closed behind her, leaving the room in a soft, strained silence.
"Would you mind telling me why you've suddenly gone all lone-wolf on us?" Kensi snapped. Her eyes were alive with anger.
He glanced at her. "There are things that were left out of the file. Things that make leaving Williams running around like a madman dangerous," he said, then paused, taking a drink of water, hoping no-one noticed the way his hand trembled around the glass. He knew that he was reaching the limits of his endurance.
"Come on, Deeks. Level with us," Sam rumbled. "You put the whole team in danger if you do this. We deserve to at least know the full story."
"Yeah, you do. LAPD should have told you." The blonde man nodded. "The drug lord had a daughter, Anna. She was sixteen at the time of the bust. Williams was obsessed with her- he thought that she was our best way to her father. His handler disagreed and warned him off, but now and again, we'd see her, and I'd catch him looking at her like she was... disposable. Like something he wanted to use up and then throw out."
The three agents exchanged shocked glances, minds working overtime as they processed the information.
"Why didn't Williams go after Anna first?" Kensi asked and ran worried eyes over her partner. The set of his shoulders told her that he was exhausted, and hurting. Dark circles ringed his eyes.
"He didn't know where to find her." Deeks absently rubbed his chest, wishing that the nagging soreness would go away. "We put her into foster care, but she ran away. No-one has heard from her since.
Footsteps approached in the hallway. Deeks glanced at the door, knowing that he didn't have time to tell them the rest of it. He caught hold of Callen's arm. "We have to stop him. If he finds her, he'll kill her and make what he did to me look like a paper cut."