This a birthday present for Cris, who is amazing and awesome and deserves a far better fic than I can write. But I hope she likes this anyway! Her birthday is actually tomorrow, but tomorrow I'm WiFi-less so this is getting posted now.

This is post Collateral 4×8.

Just a fine point, I've never been wined and dined at Crustacean, so I got everything from Google and it may be completely wrong.

You still owe me dinner, Crustacean, eight pm. No sneakers, no jeans, and wear a jacket!

Dinner. Dinner with a friend who also happened to be her partner and the most important person in her life. But not a date. It wasn't a date.

That was what she told herself as she stood tapping her high heeled feet impatiently on her living room waiting for the knock at her door.

Sure, she had outdone herself getting ready. Fiddling with her hair until it fell in silky waves over her shoulders, pulling out the best perfume she owned and wasting a half hour on makeup.

Kensi Blye didn't even do dates anymore. She didn't do the fuss of getting ready, the anxious waiting for the chosen man to arrive, the subtle flirting at the table, and that last long awaited kiss by the front door when he finally dropped her off.

That was a practice that dwindled in number for a couple of years before finally bring pushed off the table completely. He was never polite enough, was never funny enough, never smiled so brilliantly that the grin light up his entire face.

A wicked voice hidden in the back of Kensi's mind told her that the men she went out with never fit her newly created standards because only one man did. The man who just so happened to the one who would be knocking on her door tonight and dining with her at an expensive Beverly Hills restaurant. Dinner at Crustacean paid for by the loser, that had been the hastily made bet. And she had won, but the smirk on Deeks' face when she'd insisted on claiming her winnings told her that he believed he won as well.

God, she wished that she could cancel or change what her prize was. Making Deeks buy her breakfast everyday and a never-ending supply of Twinkies would have worked just as well and wouldn't have ended with her standing in her living room in a midnight blue evening dress and four inch matching heels. The worst part was that this was what she craved. An evening with him that wasn't crashing on one of their couches with beer and bad takeout to watch the latest reality TV disaster.

He would probably show up in dark wash jeans, insisting they were dressy enough for the prestigious Crustacean and pick fun at her dress and shoes while simultaneously leering at her with those crystal clear blue eyes that seemed to pierce her through with the emotions they held inside of them.

She hated how much she wanted his compliments. Hated how much she had looked forward to this night ever since he announced in the bullpen that Kensi was taking him on a date this Friday night. Hated the little bubble of excitement that popped up inside of her when he stopped by her desk earlier that day to say when he'd be picking her up.

And now he was late. Only a few minutes, but late all the same. But what did it really matter? It wasn't a date, he didn't need to make some lasting good impression so she'd be inspired to except his invitation to a second date and look forward to taking him to meet her mother.

This plan, this night was most likely a mistake anyway. What good could come of this? Sam and Callen didn't do these things. They don't get dressed up for nights and have to remind themselves a thousand times before the knock even came that it wasn't a date. They didn't flirt constantly on the job. They didn't end up waking up wrapped up in each other's arms after falling asleep on a tiny couch with itchy cushions. They didn't do those things because that's not what partners do.

Partners just don't do what they do. They don't text each other whenever some pesky emotion cripples them and expect the other to appear at their door in only moments. They don't flaunt innuendo in front of every witness around them. They don't absolutely burn with jealousy when some attractive woman has the audacity to flirt with their partner.

Partner; oh how she's come to despise that word and it's double meaning.

The knock came swiftly and suddenly, tapping out some musical note she couldn't quite place and destroying the thick haze of worry surrounding her thoughts as Kensi remembered just why she was so excited about what this night had to hold.

She waited until he knocked again, the silhouette of his body clear against the gauzy curtains hanging in front of her door. Revenge, she told herself, payback for being late. That was why she didn't rush to open the door, surely it wasn't to still her heavily beating heart and take a few deep breaths to calm the racing fear deep within her.

"Ms. Blye! Ms. Blye, your carriage awaits!" His voice was muffled through the door, but she just knew that grin was present, prominently displayed where it almost cracked his face in two.

"And you're my escort?" She quipped, finally opening the door for him.

"I can be if you want." His eyes trailed over her body, widening slightly when he took in her dress.

She would've have smirked at his obvious attraction and admiration of her outfit if her pulse wasn't quickening at the sight of Marty Deeks, Marty Deeks scruffy LAPD Detective standing on her doorstep in dark slacks and a crisp white button-down with a black vest over top of it.

"You're late." She attempted to push past him to where his car sat waiting in the parking place he always parked in. So much that her neighbors now ask her how her cute boyfriend is doing. She always answers, she never refutes them.

"Sorry, Princess." He grinned and stuck out an arm, leaning against the doorway to prevent her from escaping. "Let this gentleman walk his delectable date to the car, will you?"

"I'm not your date, Deeks." She tried, pathetically, to shove his arm out the way, but he held strong.

"Humor me." The words were soft, lighthearted, but his eyes were serious, and tinged with a bit of pleading.

"Whatever." Kensi rolled her eyes and leaned back against the doorframe. "I told you to wear a jacket."

"Oops." Deeks shrugged, shoving his hands deep inside his vest pockets. "Guess I was distracted by fantasies of my hot date, which were not even close to the real deal by the way."

"Thanks, I think." She crossed her arms over her chest and nodded to the arm he was using as barrier between her and the car. "You planning on letting us leave anytime soon?"

"Of course, my lady." He tore his hand from the frame and spread it in a sweeping gesture towards the waiting car, grinning brightly back at her, Deeks offered out his arm.

Barely choking back a snort of laughter Kensi brushed by him, ignoring his outstretched arm. "Where are the keys?" She called over her shoulder, the heels of her shoes clacking on the sidewalk.

"Nope, I'm driving tonight." He'd caught up with her and was strolling beside her, casually twirling the key ring around his index finger.

"Give me the keys, Deeks."

"You really should call me Marty, it's much more intimate for a first date and you know much I love intimacy." He pulled back as she lunged for the keys. "Especially the intimate kind of intimacy."

"I'm driving, Deeks!"

"Not gonna happen." He said resolutely and swung open the passenger side door for her. "In you go, Princess."

With a disproving growl she slide into the car, careful not to let her dress hike up around her hips and let him shut the door behind her, before he entered in the other side and settled in his seat with a self-confidence and smug smirk on his face when he pushed the key in the ignition and pulled out of the parking lot.

They got maybe two miles down the road before hitting a red light and Deeks turned to her, curious.

"Oh my God, Kensi. Are you actually pouting."

"I don't pout." She shot back, folding her arms tighter around herself and shifting on the upholstery of seat.

"Kens?" His voice was probing, insistent, and God, did she hate that voice, hated how readily it made her spill her secrets and fears, the secrets and fears she had spent so much time hiding and guarding with well formed walls, only for some LAPD Detective to tear them down with a few questioning words. And that voice, that damn voice that so easily tore down those walls, that voice was such a balm for the very same wounds it exposed.

"Hey look, if you're really upset I'm sorry. I can pull over if you want?"

"It's fine, Deeks." She sighed, resisting the urge to reach over the console between them and squeeze his fabric covered thigh.

And it really was. It was always fine with him around, better than fine sometimes, because he was always there. Whether it was putting out his hands to pull her from a room filled with lasers, staying with her mother instead by her side just because she asked, or something as simple as showing up with beer after a particularly tough day, he was always there. The last person to always be there for her was her father, with Jack it became so she played the other role. But she wasn't strong enough for that role, her shoulders could barely hold the weight of her own pain somedays, she couldn't handle someone else's too. And somedays she oh so badly just wanted to give up her title of BadAss Blye and let someone hold her until the pain disappeared. Just until the weight was gone and she could finally breath again.

"Kensi? Hey Kens, did I lose you?" His eyes were darting back and forth from the road to her face, amusement and genuine worry obvious in their depths. "You good?"

"Yeah, I'm good." Her answer was short, clipped, but real.

He smiled softly down at her and flicked the radio to her favorite station, the techno one he absolutely despised, but still had made number one on his presets even though they never rode in his car, but he still did it, because of her. It was always because of her.

So she did what she knew he wanted her too. She relaxed against the seat, kicked off her heels beneath the dash, and tilted her head back against the headrest, praying to God and anything holy that the motion wouldn't crush her perfectly formed curls. And good it felt to simply relax for a moment, to do nothing but close her eyes and let the sensations surround her. From the loud music, to the delicious way the scent of Deeks' cologne filled the cars interior.

"Kensi?" His voice cut through her thoughts and she looked up, surprised to see they were already there and a baby faced valet was rushing up to the car.

"C'mon sleepy head, let's go get you a warm glass of milk before bedtime."

"Shut up, Deeks." She lightly smacked his shoulder, and offset it with a soft, sweet, completely un-Kensi like smile in his direction. A smile that made him continue to stare at her as she pushed her feet back inside her uncomfortable shoes and began to open her door only for Deeks to quickly rush out of and around the car to open it for her, a cheeky grin plastered to his face the whole time.

"What are you? My knight in shining armor." She said dryly, stepping onto the sidewalk on unsteady feet, immediately thankful for the support of his arm.

"Of course, Princess." He gave her arm a firm squeeze and turned them around to hand the keys to the waiting valet.

It's not a date, Kensi reminded herself for the umpteenth time as they walked into the pricey restaurant, still arm in arm. Definitely not a date, she almost hissed out loud as his other hand gently trailed over her side and she felt his hot breath so achingly close to her skin.

His reservations were confirmed and before long an attractive hostess in a tasteful black dress was leading them past the tables, booths, aquariums filled with bubbling water and gorgeous multi-colored fish to a staircase that would take them to the top level of the restaurant.

When they were seated at a small table covered in a crisp white linen cloth with menus spread in front of them, Kensi glanced at Deeks quizzically.

"Hey, Shaggy?"

"Hmmm?" His response was a low grunt, his eyes never leaving the menu.

"How the hell did you get reservations here? There's like a ten year waiting list unless you promise your first born."

"C'mon Fern." He looked up then, seriousness clear on his features. "Like I would give away any of our mutant ninja assassins."

"Deeks." Her eyebrow arched and her glaze threatened to skewer him.

"Easy, Princess. I've got contacts, someone just helped me score the reservations." He shrugged, his eyes returning to the menu. "God, I just wish they would help me pay for stuff."

"Hetty?" Kensi guessed.

"No, I wouldn't ask my boss to help me take my coworker out on a date-ahh!" Deeks winced and reached down to grab his leg under the table. "Let's save the physical stuff until you invite me in for coffee, okay?"

"Deeks!" Under the table, her foot got ready for another kick.

"Gotcha, shutting up now."

It wasn't until desert was in front of them that they spoke beyond their usual teasing banter.

With a sly glance in his direction, Kensi scooped up a tiny bite of cake off his plate and popped it in her mouth, ignoring his cry of protest.

"Hey." With a growl, Deeks swooped down and started shoveling pie off her plate into his mouth.

"Oh my God, Deeks!" She hissed, simultaneously wanting to punch him, and enjoying the smell of his shampoo wafting up to her nose as he bent over her plate.

"Serves you right, thief." He pulled back, and wiped chocolate from his lips.

Stifling a laugh, Kensi scraped together what remained on her plate and pushed the last bite into her mouth. "I'm actually shocked that you agreed to this, Deeks."

"What? Letting me steal your food?"

"No. This. Dinner at a fancy restaurant with me."

"You won the bet, Kens."

"I know, but still."

"Would I have loved getting you back on the surf to kick my butt again? Hell yeah, but I love seeing you all dolled up sitting across from me looking absolutely beautiful just as much."

There it was. That word. Kensi had heard it only a few times in her life and and every time it sent shivers down her spine and tiny tingly pulses through her.

For of his positive attributes Jack didn't handle or pass out compliments well, she heard him say something completely unnecessary sweet only a few times.

Her random dates used the words hot or incredible. This was the first time in a long she'd heard that particular word directed towards her, sent with a sweet and shy smile across the table as Deeks suddenly looked slightly sheepish.

That word was so different than others he could have used. It held implications. Implications of emotional attachment and maybe something else. Something that shone in his clear blue eyes as he watched her carefully now.

"Thank you, Deeks." She almost whispered, her eyes focused on the tablecloth.

"You need somebody to say it."

"What?!" Her head shot, and instantly her eyes were liquid fire.

"I get the feeling the guys you choose aren't exactly concerned with making you feel appreciated."

"I don't know where the hell you think you think you're going with this, but you are way out of lin-"

Tossing his head slightly to flick back his curls, Deeks interrupted her. "You come into work everyday, Kensi and you put on this big show. You pretend like you're not human, like you don't have the same emotions like the rest of us, but you do, Kens. You act like this because you are so determined to be that tough, strong woman who wouldn't let anything scare her. And you are. But I think you're even more scared of no one ever seeing that pain, that emotion you really do have, and being able to take some of it for you. Because you can hide behind your walls all you want, Kens. But one day they're gonna crush you."

"I think we're done here." She mumbled, setting down her napkin and beginning to rise on shaky legs.

"No. Hey, Kensi wait." He stretched around the table and grabbed her wrist, tugging her back down. "I'm sorry. That came out wrong, I didn't mean it like that."

"No, I think you said exactly what you meant."

It hurt like hell. His words hurt like hell, but they were honest. And that was all she could really ask of him. Too many people had lied to her, too many people were lying to her. Honestly, even if it was painful, was greatly appreciated.

Deeks liked to bounce around the truth and honest statements, so this, these words must have been difficult for him to utter. To utter without resorting to his usual defense mechanism of humor.

So it stung, but she'd get over it. And so would Deeks, when he stopped looking like he wanted to throw himself over the balcony to the cold, hard floor below.


"No its fine, Deeks. It's fine."

"I'm sorry." He was staring at her, guilt obvious in his expression.

"It's fine." She breathed out. "Just shut up, okay?" A small chuckle escaped with the last word and Deeks looked up her curiously.

"So you're not going to kill me?"

"Not today" She grinned. "Though I probably should after that stunt you pulled with the madam the other day."

"Hey." He rose a hand in self-defense. "I tried to warn you. But somebody wouldn't listen."

"You didn't lift a finger, Deeks!"

"You handled the situation just fine by the looks of it."

"No thanks to you." She lifted a shoulder in a half shrug.

"Kensi, if it some guy in there or anyone I didn't you could handle by yourself I would've had them on the ground before they touched you. But hey." He smiled broadly at her. "I've never seen someone that you can't handle by yourself."

"Thank you." Her eyes narrowed at him, and Deeks quirked an eyebrow.

"So you're really not going to kill me tonight?"

"It's not in my immediate plans."

"Because I can call the waitress back over and you give her orders to poison my drink or something." Deeks lifted his hand to call the waitress back and Kensi pulled it back down, pinning it to the table with her own.

"Stop it."

"I probably deserve it." He grinned, his gaze darting down to where she was holding his.

"You do, but I don't want to lose my partner. It would take ages to train another one."

"You love me!" He shot back.

"About as much as Callen loves vegetables." Kensi smirked, sliding her hand off his and into her lap.

"You sure that you don't want to invite me in for coffee?" Deeks walked behind her, pushing his hands deep into his pants pocket as she unlocked her front door.

"Very sure. And you didn't need to walk me to the door." Kensi leaned against the doorway and crossed her arms.

"What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't?" Deeks grinned and leaned on the opposite end of the doorway.

"You're not a gentleman at all, Deeks." She softly kicked his foot.

"Alright, Ms. Blye I suppose this is goodbye." Deeks pulled himself away from the doorway.

"I'm crushed, Detective." She slapped a hand to her chest.

"I would be!" He scoffed. "I mean, I'm pretty amazing."

Shaking her head, a grin stretched across Kensi's face. "Goodnight, Deeks. And thank you. I had good time, really." She started through the door.

"What? No goodnight kiss?"

A thousand thoughts raced through her mind and she was terrified by how much she enjoyed some of them. So turning swiftly, Kensi grasped his jaw and pulled him down, planting her lips carefully on his cheek, ignoring how he difficultly swallowed by her ear.

His scuff scratched her lips in the most delicious way possible and his skin felt warm beneath them and Kensi cursed the moment when she pulled away.

"Goodnight Deeks." She said again, pulling back, and entering the apartment.

"Night, Kens." She heard him whispered behind her as she pushed the door shut and leaned back against it, trying desperately to catch her breath.

That was the best evening she'd had in a long time. The best evening she's spent with a man that she could remember. Anyone else and she'd be desperate for a second date. But that wasn't a possibility. Anything more than a causal dinner wasn't a possibility with Marty Deeks.

And that was all it had been. A causal dinner. Nothing more.

It wasn't a date. It definitely wasn't a date.

Happy Birthday, Cris.