Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS: Los Angeles or any of its characters

Mixed Partners

The crack of dawn wanly shone on the tropical, concrete, Los Angeles skyscrapers, under a dark-blue and faintly pink sky. In her untidy, bachelor-like apartment, NCIS Special Agent, Kensi Blye, was up and ready for her life-saving work in her worn-out jeans and white V-neck shirt. Her dark tresses draped sleekly around her shoulders.

Before she was out her apartment door with her messenger bag, however, her smart phone rang.

Her partner and LAPD liaison, Marty Deeks, was on the line.

A year ago, Kensi would've been rather annoyed by her partner calling her this early outside of work related issues. But now this had become something she'd highly encouraged.

Both she and Deeks had changed dramatically in the aftermath of his brutal torture. For a time, Deeks wouldn't answer her calls, or accept her friendship, as he suffered through a dark, bleak period. But now that he'd decided to welcome her back personally in his life, and returned as her partner at work, Kensi decided not to take him for granted again.

She'd always be there for him as a friend, no matter what time of day.

She urgently answered the call.

"Deeks is there something wrong? Is there a new case?"

"Not that I know of," answered Deeks breezily on the line. "I'm just calling to check up on you, Kensalina."

Kensi was taken aback. She was so not the one who needed to be checked up on.

"I know all about you and Nell's little girls gone mild stint last night," filled in Deeks smugly. "I bet you girls watched some Pretty in Pink, and munched down chocolate and marshmallow ice cream with some Oreos and milk on top."

With an annoyed smirk placed on her lips, Kensi was rather amused by how far off Deeks was. In actuality, she and Nell went to the monster truck rally, and bumped into Hetty Lange. In the presence of the always unpredictable Operations Manager, the evening was anything but mild. But Deeks didn't need to know everything she does after work.

"I know you went out with Callen, Sam, and Eric," Kensi exclaimed, inwardly forming a rebuttal to his snarky comments about her and Nell's cliché femininity. "I thought it would be good for you to have a night out with the guys. You know, to give your delicate male hormones a break from all of that domineering estrogen."

She heard him chuckle at that on the line.

"That's why I hung out with Nell," she finished.

"Well, that whole male bonding thing predictably turned into a complete disaster," Deeks griped. "Granger showed up."

"Oooh." Kensi grimaced.

"Yeah, and his idea of male bonding was to gruffly growl at everyone, and to turn Eric's face fifteen different shades of petrified white," quipped Deeks. "With da Chief huffing around like a coffee deprived Basset Hound, and me and Eric desperately looking for an exit, it was only natural for our resident bros to have a wonderful time heckling the show."

"I'm sorry you didn't have a good time," Kensi said sincerely into the receiver.

"Well, maybe you can make it up to me, partner."

"How do you mean?" questioned Kensi, tilting her head quizzically with the phone placed more closely against her ear. She was curious about the "make it up to me" comment. Had he wanted her to suffer through an evening with Granger, too?

"I thought we could get a quick bite of breakfast and hang out before work," Deeks exclaimed simply.

"What if Granger shows up for some reason?" teased Kensi.

"No worries, even da Chief can't get reservations in my car," Deeks assured her. "It will be just us, partner."

Kensi smiled at that. The prospect of joining Deeks for a likely cheap, take-out, breakfast in his car was not entirely objectionable. But there was somebody else she needed to meet with before work.

"Sorry, Deeks, but I can't. I'll see you at work."

"There must be something wrong with our connection. I think I just heard my foxy partner turn down some generous free food."

Literal minded as ever, Kensi checked the bars on the screen of her smart phone. "No problems with my end."

Deeks laughed slyly. "Nope, no problems there. No need to tell me. But, seriously..."

"I'll make it up to you," she abruptly cut him off.

Kensi ended their connection and was out the door.

She didn't want to turn down Deeks, especially after all they'd been through since his torture. But there was someplace she really needed to be. And she needed to be there alone.

With the bright California sun out in full force, the gleaming streets were only marginally cluttered with traffic. Kensi drove to a towering dilapidated gothic structure that used to be the Palace Theater. She supposed it was once the kind of place that hosted glamorous movie premieres with Hetty's old movie star friends in attendance, decked up in their best, stylish duds.

But three years ago it harbored hidden terrorists, along with the rats and roaches.

It was probably safe to assume that the families of bugs and vermin still resided there, considering the city still hadn't decided to tear it down yet. But the terrorists had since relocated.

Kensi managed to park her car close to the condemned building and switched off her engine. She then silently slid out of her car.

Quietly sprinting along the side of the building in a seedy, deserted alley to get away from the pedestrians, Kensi leaned against the increasingly decaying structure and shut her dark eyes heavily.

"Hi, Dom," she heaved under her breath.

For Kensi, this building wasn't just another neglected and forgotten piece of Los Angeles buried under the relentless, jumbled city. It was a massive towering tombstone for her young partner. Logically, Kensi knew her partner had an actual grave in his hometown in Alexandria, Virginia. But that was too far away for her to pay her respects.

So the location of where he had fallen would just have to do. She could visualize his headstone:

Dominic Vail

Beloved Son And Devoted Friend.

If she could properly visit his grave, Kensi would be unlikely to place a rose on top of it. She wasn't much for flowers. All she could bring was her respect and tremendous regret.

Dom Vail was someone she utterly neglected and failed.

He was her partner prior to Deeks, and this was the third anniversary of his death in the line of duty. With each passing year, the death of this partner had gotten a little... Kensi didn't know how to described it in her thoughts.

She tried to speak to Dom's parents whenever she could on the phone. They were always generous to her, but their son's brutal death was still a sharp blade in their hearts. It was still like that for Kensi, Special Agent, Sam Hanna, and all the others who worked with him and knew him. But that blade had dulled a little with each passing year.

She deeply knew that Sam, and Special Agent In Charge, G Callen, still kept the slain agent's beloved green space alien bobble-head he'd once placed on his desk.

Her relationship with Dom was fundamentally different from Deeks.

For starters, Dom was younger and a new graduate of MIT. He was green on the field, but was hungry for experience to be as skilled as everyone else. Deeks was a LAPD detective who expertly knew the streets, and experienced plenty of its dangers and learned the skills to meet them, before he even became a liaison for NCIS.

Dom was perfectly game for following protocol, while Deeks was too naturally street savvy to care for such things. He'd rather stick with his gut instincts, and handle investigations in a clumsy spur of the moment manner.

In spite of his young age, Dom was determined to be respected as an adult, whereas Deeks was hell-bent on remaining twelve-years-old forever.

Kensi and Dom were more like mentor and student. He never looked at her as if he had some perverted x-ray vision, and he never said inappropriate things (unintentional or otherwise). He didn't flirt like crazy, either. Or at all. It wasn't that kind of relationship. If Dom did harbor any kind of crush on Kensi, it had totally escaped her. They never really got the chance to truly know each other. He never got the chance to fully become one of them.

In spite of the differences between her two partners, she couldn't help how Deeks' bloody torture reminded her more and more about Dom lately. Like Deeks, Dom was captured and tortured. But unlike Deeks, Kensi couldn't save him in time.

The young agent gave his life to protect Sam, something that still scarred the senior agent. He was just so young.

The memory of Callen shaking his head up to her on the roof, to signal that Dom was gone, while Sam desperately, even violently, tried to revive him, seared painfully inside her mind.

She then couldn't help but remember when Deeks was shot multiple times just months after Dom's passing. He somehow cheated death. She recalled how the incident instantaneously reminded her of Dom.

With his undeserving demise, and Deeks' frequent close calls, Kensi soberly wondered if she was lethally jinxed when it came to partners.

Her partner before Dom had also lost his life.

In the wake of all of these chaotic deaths, Kensi selfishly forced Deeks to promise to never die on her in the line of duty. That was shortly before his fateful torture. It was an unrealistic and irrational spot she'd put him in, but she needed him to make that promise. So far he'd kept his end of the deal.

She didn't want to lose Deeks like all the others. She inwardly admitted she had something of a thing with him. A thing that compelled him to give her one hell of an impulsive kiss before he went off to get tortured. Suffice to say, she'd never experienced anything like that with her other partners.

She had no clue what these jumbled feelings could possibly morph into. After he was rescued, Deeks brokenly confessed to her that thoughts of her smile and laugh kept him alive. But she honestly didn't know what Deeks truly wanted from her in the midst of all their constant mixed signals. All she knew was that it was her job to keep him safe.

But still, she wished she could've done that for Dom. She may never had been as close to him as she was with Deeks, but he was a friend, and his death still hurt. Between him, her father, and her fiancé Jack, Kensi desperately wished to never again lose anyone she had left to tragedy.

She spent an additional ten minutes leaning against the old theater in the alley, gazing up at the soulless black arched windows. She desperately tried to reminisce about happier times with her young deceased partner. But her chest remained hollow.

She then trooped on over to her parked car and drove to headquarters. Luckily, she arrived just before 9 AM. Hetty wouldn't be reprimanding her for being late.

As soon as she made it inside the luxurious, high-tech, Spanish missionary designed building, with her messenger bag strapped over her shoulder, she found her shaggy, dirty blonde-haired partner waiting patiently for her. He was garbed in his usual T-shirt and jeans, and had a white paper bag in hand.

"Oh, there's my partner," he said eagerly as she approached closer to him. But there was also a tinge of respected sensitivity in his voice. "How are you coping?"

"Coping?" Kensi frowned with a tilt of her head. "What do you mean?"

"Yeah, last night with the guys," Deeks began awkwardly, "Sam raised a toast in memory to your - partner."

Kensi nodded hesitantly. Sam would do that.

She wordlessly rounded into the bullpen, with Deeks following after her.

Callen and Sam it would seem were late today.

Kensi set aside her messenger bag, and sat at her perpetually cluttered desk. Deeks placed the paper bag reverently amidst her various beloved knickknacks. He gently hovered over her shoulder.

"That's why I called to check up on you this morning," he said to her, tentatively tapping his fingertips on her desk.

"Was it?" Kensi knitted her brow.

Earlier, Deeks hadn't given any indication that was his true reason for calling her. But as far as she was concerned, precise communication was never Deeks' strongest suit. She found he hardly ever meant what he said half the time. She tried not to allow herself to get frustrated over this. But, she honestly thought they'd gone over and settled the matter.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Deeks offered to her meekly.

Kensi heaved a deep sigh. It was a crystal clear answer to this delicate query. Ninja Assassins such as herself disliked opening up about their feelings. Especially when tragedy was involved.

Deeks obviously already knew how she felt about losing a partner, when she forced him to make that promise to never die on her. He also knew of the loss of her father, and how it greatly affected her, and nearly destroyed her.

"I'm fine," she insisted steadily, gamely masking any emotion.

By the look on his face, Deeks deeply knew that was untrue. But after years of being her partner, he knew it was pointless to press her into opening up when she didn't want to. He instead gingerly nudged the paper bag toward her.

"Here, I got you something."

Kensi looked at him wearily. She then dug her hand into the bag and pulled out a glazed pastry.

"You got me a cronut?" She gaped at him.

"Well, you've never had one." Deeks shrugged sheepishly. "And that alone makes it a crime against food humanity, Kensalina. Considering you've seen me wolfed down these delicious yummy yummy goodies like eight thousand times."

"Try a kajillion," Kensi countered dryly, rolling her eyes.

"Touché," commended Deeks.

"But seriously, you honestly ordered me a cronut all the way from that bakery in New York without ordering yourself one?"

At her fierce look, Deeks flinched.

"Well, not exactly," he admitted guiltily. "I ordered half a dozen, but, well... you didn't show. And the sugary little temptresses kept singing to me with their heavenly aroma."

"I take it this is the supposed breakfast you intended," Kensi surmised, in a tone she'd use when analyzing a case.

Deeks wafted the confection in her face.

"Eat me, I'm delicious," he said in a high-pitched sing-song voice.

At her lightly annoyed deadpan look, he coyly exclaimed, "Saved the best one for you."

Kensi snickered at that, feigning annoyance that her partner chose pastries over her.

"Why can't you just simply love doughnuts like all the normal cop stereotypes?"

"Because I'm a special and awesomely unique cop stereotype." Deeks smiled at her broadly.

"Yes, you are," Kensi conceded with a perturbed nod and a teasing smile.

She warmly reflected on the night she visited his apartment, gifting him with a bag filled with unhealthy and possibly deadly junk food. He was still suffering through the trauma of his torture. When he accidentally found the stale cronut she brought for him, but was unable to present to him sooner, he was absolutely touched.

Kensi won back her partner that night, in spite of the pastry growing stale. She had heard the old saying that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach, but that was a startling result.

It wasn't really the cronut.

Kensi shoved aside that unwanted and intrusive thought.

"If you want, we can hang out tonight," Deeks offered kindly, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly. "I keep telling you that you don't have to face these things alone."

"I know." Kensi gazed down at her cronut. "But I think I want to be alone tonight."

In truth, Deeks was already making her feel better. But, Dom's death, and her failure to protect him as a partner, still weighed guiltily in her mind. In spite of her special closeness with Deeks, she doubted she would ever confined in him about Dom. She was just not comfortable opening up about losing a previous partner.

Deeks looked at her a little dejectedly.

Abruptly, Callen and Sam filed into the bullpen, pumped and robust from their obvious workout in the gym. They spoke energetically amongst themselves about the Lakers game.

As Callen sat next to Kensi at his desk, he eyed the pastry in her hand.

"Is that a doughnut you got there, Kens?"

"Oh, not quite a doughnut, my friend," Deeks chimed in brightly. "That, in actuality, is a cronut. It's a hybrid between a croissant and a doughnut."

"A croissant and a doughnut hybrid?" Callen raised his brows. "Oh, yes, Kensi actually told me about this."

"So someone put a croissant and a doughnut together?" commented Sam across from his desk. "Is that like breeding a Poodle and a Labrador together?"

"A little bit, only this is much more edible," said Deeks. "Not to mention controversial. There's a lot of copycats and bakers who wildly claim to have invented this baby. But it's true perfectionist will always be that dude in New York. I only order mine directly from him."

"Sounds like a lot of effort just to get some stupid pastry." Sam scoffed.

Callen rolled his eyes from his desk, and leaned back comfortably in his chair. "Completely impractical. We've got an abundance of bakeries here in Los Angeles, and this city is obsessed with anything involving designer hybrids."

"Yeah, but this dude dips his in a specially made oil," Deeks explained pointedly.

"Maybe we should dip you in a specially made oil and glaze you to the ceiling in the gym," Sam countered half-playfully.

Kensi flashed a lit up smile at that idea.

Completely undeterred, Deeks responded, "So long as I taste like a cronut, I think we're all winners."

"If cronuts taste like you, I'll stick with Labradoodles," countered Sam wearily.

"Oh, c'mon, where are we, in high school?" Deeks retorted indignantly.

"That's what you get for being the class clown," said Callen.

Kensi smiled secretly to herself, and took some nibbles off of her perfectly glazed and sweetly soft cronut.

She couldn't decide if she was actually disappointed that Deeks explained more of the technical aspects of the makings of these pastries, and not used the America-and-France-made-slow-sweet-love analogy, like he used with her on the night he welcomed her back.

The nighttime LA lights blazed up the heated skies, wrapping the city in a polluted glowing dome.

Kensi found herself stepping up to Deeks' doorstep. Unthinkingly, she lightly rapped on his apartment door. Deeks briskly answered, a deeply surprised look etched on his scruffy face when he saw who his visitor was.

"Hi," Kensi said to him in a broken smile.

"Hey," Deeks replied. "I thought you wanted to be alone tonight."

Kensi shrugged. She supposed it was her turn to send out mixed signals.

"I don't really want to be alone, I guess."

With a soft, triumphant look sparkling within his blue eyes, Deeks grinned.

"Come on in," he invited eagerly. "I was just getting ready to pop in the perfect pick-me-up."

The next few hours were something of a blur to Kensi. She sat on the couch with Deeks, surrounded by his odd assortments of frilly feminine pillows, as well as his multicolored striped ones. The girlie pillows drastically clashed with the surfer, LA hipster, decor that mostly made up his bachelor pad.

The two ate some take-out pizza, and guzzled down some beers. One of Deeks' favorite movies, Gremlins 2, played on his TV screen.

Deeks' equally shaggy and mangy mutt, Monty, laid on the middle of the floor with his front paws resting comfortably on his daddy's cat pillow. His brown eyes were glued up to the screen, deeply fascinated over the anarchic antics of the ugly gremlins. He tilted his head up at them occasionally. None of this seemed to disturb his canine PTSD.

Kensi had never seen many of the movies Deeks was into, and this was no exception. The movie was blatantly cartoony and surreal. It featured a big production musical number with the slimy puppets performing "New York, New York." It wasn't that much of a wonder that Deeks would like this movie.

Even though Kensi would rather watch a straight up horror flick, the creature feature comedy did earn a few chuckles from her.

From the corner of her eye, she noticed Deeks would secretly glanced at her from time to time when he thought she wasn't looking. It was a subtle gesture plainly reading he was enjoying her presence. Not only that, he was enjoying her presence alone, and outside of work. These were soft, admiring gazes, not the rather playful x-ray stares he use to sneak at her.

Kensi thought of the last time they sat on this couch together. He was still recovering from his torture, and she wanted to watch one of her horror movies with him to cheer him up. But as she described the movie's plot to him, he fell asleep, mumbling something about a love story.

Kensi's mind went wild over the possibilities of what he could've meant by that. But, Kensi icily reminded herself he was barely conscious when he made that comment, and was just likely muttering gibberish. He honestly wasn't giving her mixed signals then.

But he sure had given her lots of secretive looks of gentle admiration since he returned to work. He had been giving them during the course of the movie.

As Deeks and his bomb sniffing canine buddy became engrossed with the film's outlandish climax culminating with the bad gremlins receiving their gooey comeuppance, a sudden memory of Dom snuck up on Kensi.

It was the day he proudly displayed his space green alien bobble-head on his desk. A desk that was now Deeks'.

Callen teased the young agent for being the type of adult who plays with dolls, prompting the unembarrassed Dom to explain the difference between dolls and bobble-heads. He also proudly informed the team that his bobble-head character was part cyborg as well as alien. He used to love monsters and science fiction. Just as much as obscured events in ancient history, and the dead language of Latin.

For once his memory didn't make Kensi's chest feel hollow.

When the credits began to roll, (along with Daffy Duck popping up to make snide comments for some reason), Deeks noted the small smile forming on his partner's lips.

"So, I take it you think the movie was alright."

"Yeah, I think Dom would've liked it."

Deeks gaped at her. Kensi never spoke of her previous partner by name to him. She never spoke of him period.

Kensi was quite surprised she actually blurted that out.

Deeks stared at her intently, silently urging her to open up about this phantom partner. Instead, Kensi decided to express some gratitude for being there for her and cheering her up. She deeply knew that was why she came here to begin with.

"Thank you," she told him graciously.

"You're welcome," Deeks replied.

As the two warmly withheld their soft gazes, Kensi was glad she'd come to him. It was nice to know he was there for her, just like she was for him after his torture.