a/n: Fair warning: this story isn't finished, I'm not sure on the timeline for updating, and multi-chapter romance is completely outside my wheelhouse. But hey, let's try it anyway! ;) Thank you, K, for the assist.

Now I found another fork in the road
And I'm just guessing as I go
What the next move is gonna be

~ Zac Brennan, 'Your Next Move'

Deeks shakes his head. "You guys don't need a liaison officer."

"I agree," says Hetty, sliding a folder across the bar. "I told him we already have one."

He takes the file and opens it, finding a copy of his LAPD identification photo and an application that's already been filled out.

"Who are you guys?" His eyes scan the papers, reading details of his life he knows he hadn't shared. "How did you get all this information?"

His address, his phone number, his SSN. His work history, education, references. Notable busts. Less notable disasters. His official reprimands.

"I mean, the only thing missing here is..."

Hetty holds out a pen, offering him the chance to add his signature. She smiles. Maybe. It's kind of hard to tell.

"No need to date it."

He thinks about this mysterious woman, about her secret team and her offer - about the world he could open up with a flick of her pen; about the doors that would simultaneously close behind him.

"No, there's not," he agrees, closing the folder and sliding it back. He returns his attention to his drink.

"I'm sorry, Hetty. But I'm not the guy you're looking for."

"He's asserting his independence," Nate explains. "It's a power thing. Authority issues."

Hetty's lips narrow ever so slightly. "Not what I would have expected," she breathes out across her desk.

"Not something you say very often, I imagine."

"Not something I say very often, Mr. Getz."

Hetty's gaze drifts over to the bullpen. Sam is working through his operational report, apparent by the sheer volume of paperwork strewn across his desk. An anomaly for Sam. Callen is reading, although it is unclear what. His focus is pulled down. Internalized. Kensi is staring across at the empty chair next to Sam.

"You'll find her the right partner, Hetty. You always do."

"That's the problem, Nate. I already found him."

Nate's frown disappears for a moment. "We're not in the Scottish Highlands. There can be more than one."

"Don't be too sure of that," Hetty cautions.

Nate's lips settle back into a frown.

"Were I just looking for an agent, I could have filled that seat long ago. I have any number of good agents at my disposal. But Ms. Blye doesn't need another agent. She needs a partner. Someone who supports her. Someone who challenges her. Someone she can come to depend on in the field and out of it."

"Careful, Hetty. You're starting to sound less like a super-spy mastermind and more like a real human being."

"Of all people, Mr. Getz, you should appreciate the need to find the right fit for the team both physically and mentally."

"I know." He nods. "I'm just not sure Kensi's ready for that kind of trust."

"I'm not sure she ever will be. But if there's one thing I have learned as a super-spy mastermind it's that there is a delicate balance between pushing too hard and not pushing enough."

"Besides," she says, rising from her chair, signaling an end to the discussion, "who wants to live forever?"

Kensi smooths the hem of her slightly-too-short-but-not-quite-scandalous black dress as she re-crosses her legs. She slides a noodle off her fork and refocuses her gaze across the table as he launches into what she thinks must be his third courtroom drama story in the last 45 minutes.

The ice clicks softly as she swirls the last of the liquid around the bottom of her glass and debates ordering a second.

"I was just lucky the judge was in a good mood," he says with a shrug of his broad shoulders. Richard. Thirty-four. Brown hair, brown eyes. Looks slightly better than good in a suit. Muscular compared to the average guy in the restaurant. A little below average compared to her co-workers. Modest. Good teeth.

"It sounds like it was a little bit more than luck." She sweeps a stray tendril of hair off her face, tucks it behind her ear, and widens her eyes a little bit to make sure she appears suitably impressed.

A smirk tugs at the edge of his lips. "Probably."

Modesty falls off her list of his attributes as she weighs the pros and cons of sopping up some of the cream sauce with another piece of bread. Her dream guy wouldn't mind, but Richard wasn't him so she decides to play it safe.

"More drinks?" asks the waiter, pausing at their table on his way back to the kitchen.

Richard drains the last of his two-olive martini. "Please."

The waiter nods toward Kensi's glass. "Ma'am?"

She glances at the melting ice and then up at Richard. She thinks about the investment banker. And the photographer. This isn't the best date she's ever had, but she's certainly been on worse. She smiles. "Sure."

"I'll be right back."

"So, Charlene," says Richard, once the waiter has gone, "being a flight attendant must be exciting."

"Yeah, it is. Very."

He smiles at her pleasantly, waiting for more.

She spent the better part of the morning in a speedboat chase with a narco-terrorist. She's sure there's something exhilarating about being a waitress some 30,000 odd feet in the sky, but a specific example isn't coming to mind.

When she doesn't elaborate, he asks, "Have you always loved traveling? Or was it the cranky, stressed people crammed into small spaces that appealed to you?"

He pauses for laughter.

She obliges.

"You must have so many interesting stories."

"I do, yes. Definitely!" Maybe she can come up with an anecdote about a patron with a peanut allergy, or a malfunctioning oxygen mask. She pulls her napkin off her lap and sets it on the table. "But first, I'm going to visit the ladies' room."

She slips out of the booth and makes her way to the back of the restaurant, weaving between tables as she goes.

Once inside she heads straight for the sink, primping her hair and waiting for the lady at the hand-dryer to leave. When she does, Kensi leans on the counter and looks at herself in the mirror. Looks at Charlene in the mirror.

When she made her online profile she thought she could be herself. She thought she could be Kensi - just without the job stuff. Non-agent Kensi. It had a nice ring to it. The unarmed and non-lethal version of herself. But the more she tries to pretend the more she realizes that Kensi without the job stuff isn't Kensi at all. Being an agent is who she is and when she tries to pretend that part doesn't exist she has a really hard time being herself.

She sighs, reapplies her lipgloss and tucks it into her clutch. She takes a deep breath.

Kensi Blye may not have shown up tonight, but Charlene is here. And Charlene is going to get laid.

She adjusts her breasts, tugs at her skirt and pulls open the bathroom door. She takes a confident step into the hallway and crashes into a wall of lean muscle.

She lets out an unladylike nonverbal and grabs on to steady herself.

The muscle grunts and grabs her back.

So much for confidence.

"God, I'm so sorry! I wasn't," she shakes off the impact, sweeping that pesky tendril back into place as she looks up at her victim, "...paying attention."

Blue eyes twinkle above a cocky smirk. Blue eyes she thought she'd never have to see again.

"Detective Deeks."

"Agent Blye." His hands release her arms. "You good?"

She clears her throat. "Yeah, good."


His face is almost healed, but there's still a little yellow around his eye from the bruising. "And you're okay?"

"Well, I do have to pee, but otherwise I'm in perfect working order."

She realizes she's still got a hand on his chest and she pulls it back as if it were burned. "Sorry."

He's still smirking. "Forgiven."

She crouches down to the ground to collect her clutch and regroup, her composure apparently having been knocked loose in the collision. She blames Charlene.

When she stands again she's Kensi and she likes the way it feels.

She smirks back at him. "Guess you got that hug after all."

He grins. "Yeah, I guess I did."

"Lucky you." She puts her hand on his shoulder and lifts her foot, adjusting the strap of her heel before setting it back down.

She tugs on her skirt and straightens her spine, meeting his eyes briefly before breezing past him. "Have a good pee, Detective."

She hears his parting shot as she makes her way into the dining room. She doesn't give him the satisfaction of looking over her shoulder to see if the smirk is still there. She's sure it is anyway.

"I always do."

Another glass of JD and a slice of New York cheesecake later, Richard escorts her out of the restaurant. She tucks her bare arm into his suited one as she passes Deeks' table.

The detective's wrapped up in a leggy blonde who's pressed so firmly against him she's practically a barnacle, sharing one side of a two-sided booth. Blondie's giggling and flirting and working way too hard. It's overkill, really, but Deeks is clearly enjoying himself.

Kensi makes an effort to avoid eye-contact, but she needn't have bothered.

He doesn't see her.

She sees him again that night, his cocky smirk drawn across the inside of her eyelids as Charlene's fingers dig into Richard's mattress.

She doesn't quite call out his name, but she thinks it.