Title: New Traditions
Post 2x11; Disorder.
Summary: They could both use some new Christmas traditions.

A/N: My past tense is rusty, but that's how this one started writing itself, so I let it.

She'd never really been the sentimental type.

Flowers? She didn't like them. Sweet talk? Not really; she preferred action. Candy? Sure, she liked that, but Kensi would just rather buy it herself rather than receive a box of it from some member of the opposite sex who liked to think he was a lot closer to her than she would ever allow him to be. She didn't like dealing with it, and she didn't particularly know how to deal with it, especially when it came completely out of the blue.

Especially when it came from a certain messy-haired, surf-loving, usually annoying but strangely endearing liaison officer.

After the day's events, Deeks had insisted on driving her home. Actually, he'd given her a choice, though it wasn't much of a choice for her at all. Either he drove her home, or he drove her to the ER to make sure she wasn't nursing a concussion. In the end, she'd settled for the lesser evil, as she was sure he'd known she would.

She hadn't known that driving her home also entailed walking her to her door. Nor had she known that it included hovering while she opened the door. And that was exactly what he was doing – hovering – and Kensi had no idea why. She couldn't really say she was too opposed to it, though.

It wasn't until she'd had her door open for a good few minutes, when she was ready to say goodnight and send him on his way that he finally broke the silence, a solemnity in his voice that she hadn't heard since he'd talked her through the maze of lasers. "Look, about today, Kensi…" he began, and inwardly Kensi groaned. Callen hadn't said a word. Sam hadn't said a word. But Deeks…typical Deeks hadn't been able to keep from saying something. Whether it was right after she'd exited the room where she'd been talking to Talbot, or in the midst of the case itself when she'd found herself alone with Deeks. It was like it would kill him to keep his mouth shut.

She didn't say anything, and Deeks took that as his silent cue to continue. "I'm sorry about…about what happened. With Talbot, and with…you know. PTSD or not, it was still a stupid thing he did," he said quietly, and Kensi didn't need him to clarify which he he meant. "The last thing I mean to do is disrespect the guy, because I know he must have been something to be so important to you, but, uh…"

He hesitated, shuffling his feet a bit on the ground below. His eyes were cast resolutely downward, though the crystal blues did glance her way for a fraction of a second before he continued, his voice so quiet that Kensi for a moment wasn't sure whether she'd heard him at all. "Anybody who thinks coming home to you is like hitting the ground…they – they don't deserve you."

It was statements heavy with meaning like that that often had her running for the door, anxious to escape, whether from a first date gone too far, or from a conversation at work that had gone much too deep for her liking. She just didn't know how to respond to that; in fact, she had no words. On one hand, though Deeks had begun his statement by saying he meant no disrespect, Kensi couldn't help but feel the anger well up within her, as if Deeks had meant that Jack hadn't been good enough for her, as if he'd meant that she didn't know what or who was good for her even though she knew that wasn't what he was really saying. The anger was short-lived, though; overpowering that had been something in his voice, something in his words that gently washed over her, making her feel, for lack of a better word, special.

Interpreting her silence as a sign that he'd gone too far, Deeks cleared his throat, deciding he'd lingered long enough. Not for the first time, he was grateful for the elasticity their relationship seemed to have – no matter what happened between them, they always seemed to move past it and go back to how they'd been: friendly, flirty, playfully competitive. Hopefully, this time would be no different – hopefully the events of today would fade away along with the holidays; after all, he'd never really liked this time of year. "Anyway," he began, taking a step back. "I'm just going to…go. Night, Kensi." He paused, wavering on whether or not to wish her a merry Christmas; in the end, he figured the words would feel heartless after what he'd learned today.

He'd taken two, maybe three steps before Kensi called out to him. "Deeks, wait." She waited until he turned back to her before cocking her head slightly in the direction of the indoors. "You sure you don't, uh, want to come in?" she asked, her voice somewhat shaky as her mind continued to process his words, uncharacteristically serious for the Deeks she knew. There was nothing playful underlying them; nothing teasing, nothing insincere at all, and from the man in front of her, that was something she wasn't quite accustomed to.

Her words caught him by surprise; that much was evident in his eyes. "Come in?" he repeated, as if he hadn't quite heard her correctly.

She shrugged. "Yeah. I don't know. Have a drink, crash on the couch, relax a bit, find something on tv…"

He smiled softly. "More Miracle on 34th Street?" he asked.

Kensi gave a quiet chuckle. "I was thinking more along the lines of the game," she corrected coyly, lifting her shoulders in a slight shrug, realizing only too late that the game in question would have ended hours ago. If the knowing grin that tugged at Deeks' lips was any indication, he'd realized that as well. "Or not. I'm sure we could find something else on, though."

Even though she tried desperately to fight it, Kensi felt the heat flood her cheeks. She knew exactly how her words sounded; knew that if they sounded like that to her, then Deeks had picked up on it half a second before she'd realized it. That was one of the things about him that she found so absolutely maddening: he always seemed to be half a step ahead of her. And now, as she bit at her lip and briefly glanced down to the ground, she expected Deeks to utilize that extra half step. She expected him to see through to the very heart of her words; she fully expected to have to defend her invitation because she just knew, knew that he was going to throw out his usual playful quip, this time about how clearly desperate she was to spend her Christmas Eve alone with him.

He didn't, though.

Instead, he merely took a step closer to her, his eyes searching hers just a little more deeply than Kensi could say she was comfortable with. It took everything she had not to squirm under the intensity of his gaze; what in reality was just a few seconds felt like almost an eternity to her, and only after she'd forced herself to look away did she realize why exactly he'd been looking so intently into her eyes – he hadn't been trying to see into her soul after all. "I wish you had let me take you to the ER," he said quietly, repeating the words she'd heard too many times over the past few hours.

Kensi slowly shook her head, wondering just how her invitation had led into that; then again, she'd already figured out that Deeks' mind worked rather strangely at times. "I wish you'd stop saying that."

To his credit, Deeks gave a sheepish smile. "You were out cold there for a bit," he reminded her gently. "And you did mistake Callen and Sam for wise men."

"For starters, it was you, and I believe I corrected that mistake before my eyes had even refocused." Crossing her arms, she smiled sweetly, a slight spark of defiance in her eyes. "Looks like I'm okay, just like I've been saying." Deeks didn't speak, though one glance into his eyes showed clearly the skepticism he still held, and Kensi sighed in exasperation. "What?"

He chuckled softly, and suddenly, just as abruptly as he'd disappeared, playful Deeks was back. "You invited me in," he quipped as though that explained everything. "For that, you had to have hit your head pretty hard. I mean, the last couple of times I've been here…well, the only couple of times I've been here, you couldn't get rid of me fast enough. Tonight, you're not threatening me, so something must be up."

His words were playful, but even so, Kensi felt the sudden heat of guilt surround her as his implication sunk in. "It had nothing to do with not wanting to. The first time, we were running late for work and I barely even had time to jump in the car with you, let alone invite you in for breakfast. And last time, I…" She faltered then, unable to articulate the flood of thoughts in her head. Last time had been that other night he'd insisted rather vehemently on driving her home, after the debacle with the Russians. Stubbornly, she'd refused to get out of the car until he'd sworn to stay in the car.

She couldn't quite explain it, but that night it simply would have been too much. The camaraderie between them had been easy from the beginning; the playful back-and-forth between them was what had initially warmed her to the idea of working with him, having him as her official partner. She enjoyed having him around; wouldn't admit it to his face, but Kensi liked being with him. That night, though, it wasn't something she could handle – having him in her personal space, being alone with him…Kensi just kept coming back to the same explanation: it was just too much.

Something had changed that afternoon, at least for her, anyway. In the wake of the explosion, she'd crashed into Deeks, right into his arms. And Kensi guessed she'd been caught off-guard, but somehow, she'd also crashed straight into the sort of feelings she'd thought had disappeared with Jack – feelings she hadn't felt since him; feelings she hadn't wanted to feel since him.

There'd been only one thing she'd wanted as she'd gazed down into his eyes that afternoon. Only one thing, and it was very, very similar to the only thing she wanted to do anytime she found herself too close to him. On one hand, it felt so terribly like a betrayal to the one person she'd ever given her heart to, especially when thinking about the past and what had happened still managed to bring tears to her eyes. The wound wasn't fresh, but it was by no means completely healed either. And today had been the first time she'd ever vocalized what had happened; until now, she'd forced it away, burying it beneath a Kensi who didn't linger in the past, a Kensi who didn't let herself make the mistake of getting close again, a Kensi who refused to believe in love.

Unfortunately, the past had caught up with her; it had caught up to her right in front of the very team she'd fought so hard to prove herself to. And Deeks, who had to do little more than smile at her to have her wondering just what might be lurking out there, just beyond the boundary between first dates and second dates.

And that brought out the other side of her dilemma. On one hand, it did feel like a betrayal to feel that way, whatever that way actually was. On the other hand…it had been six years. For how long was she supposed to play this game with herself, this game where she'd convinced herself that all she needed in a personal relationship was what she could get from a first date? How long was she supposed to fight what could easily be genuine feelings? She didn't know; couldn't say because she hadn't felt them since Jack. She hadn't believed she could feel them after Jack.

And now Deeks was in her head; in her head and under her skin, and from there she really didn't want him to leave because before that, she hadn't realized just how truly lonely she'd been for the past six years. Kensi didn't want to return to that.

The silence drew on, and Deeks must have inferred just where her thoughts were delving. He'd turned his head, gazing intently at something off in the distance, offering her as much space as he could without physically stepping back. He simply waited, saying nothing. Truth was, the revelation had astounded him. He'd thought for certain that it was merely a ruse, made-up common ground she was using to gain the trust of their suspect. He'd done it before several times; would wager a guess that Callen and Sam had been there too. And he'd simply assumed the same of Kensi…

Before his thoughts could stray much farther, Kensi gave a heavy sigh, drawing his attention back to the present. As Deeks turned his eyes back to her, he couldn't help but feel a bit alarmed at how exhausted she suddenly appeared. She rested against the doorframe, the smile faded from her face. Her eyes had become unreadable; she'd shifted her emotional shield back into place, Deeks figured. "If you don't want to, it's fine," she said quietly, the soft words cutting through the heavy silence like a blade. "Long day, you know? Like I said, I just thought maybe we could relax a bit, have a beer or something."

Deeks lifted a brow, thinking back to the conversation they'd shared earlier. "Just a beer?" he prompted, hoping to elicit a smile from her once again.

Not only did Kensi smile; even though it intensified her growing headache, she gave a full laugh. "Well, if you're up for Christmas dinner, I'm sure we can find some ice cream to go with it." She shrugged. "Who the hell needs turkey and ham and cranberry sauce?"

Deeks smirked, shaking his head lightly in false disdain. "That's my classy Kensi."

She ignored that; well, most of it. Kensi couldn't quite deny that his use of the possessive, however teasing, had caused her heart to turn a little flip in her chest. Or maybe that was his smile – she couldn't be fully sure. Forcing away the slight pang of guilt she still felt, she tilted her head, a small, inviting smile at her lips. "What do you say, hmm?"

For the longest time, he merely held her eyes; what he was looking for there, Kensi couldn't say. She wasn't sure if he was weighing the pros and cons, the rights and wrongs, or whether he was simply trying to read her. It was odd, she had to admit. She wasn't trying to push him away; in fact, she wanted to stop him from walking away. As soon as that fluttered through her mind, Kensi had to break the contact between their gazes, certain that he could read her every thought.

Finally, Deeks exhaled heavily. He glanced briefly down at his watch, though both he and Kensi knew that was only for show – he had nowhere else he needed to be tonight. When he spoke, his words were very reminiscent of the same words she'd given him under different yet similar circumstances not so long ago. "Maybe some other time…"

When she'd said them, though, it had been almost as though a silent understanding had passed between them, a silent forging of trust. She'd felt as though a door had opened between them; now, as Deeks repeated the words back to her, she couldn't help but feel as though that door had been closed. And it was puzzling; Deeks was always the one pushing her, getting under her skin, drawing closer to her. And now that Kensi had ceased trying to back away, it was almost as though he were taking a step back.

And it angered her almost as much as it disappointed her – the reason for all of this was obviously the story she'd shared with Talbot. "Because of Jack?" she asked before she could stop herself.

Deeks blinked, taken aback by the directness of her question. "Because it's late," he said slowly, unsure of what exactly was the right answer; because of that, he took his usual approach as he answered - humor. "And because I'm guessing you've got one hell of a headache – I never make those any better for you," he joked. "You tell me that all the time – this time, I'm just not going to wait for you to yell at me first. Consider it your Christmas present," he added lightly. "Even if it's not as fantastic as the scarf you gave me."

"I didn't give you that scarf. And I want it back."

He chuckled. "Not a chance – it looks too good on me," he teased, and on that light note, he decided again to take his leave. "Night, Kens."

This time, he'd only just turned around before she stopped him again, this time with a revelation that he already knew. "I don't have family in Seattle," she blurted out, slowly crossing her arms over her chest. "That was just…I didn't want anybody to ask questions."

"I know."

"And it worked. It always works. Except on you, apparently." Closing her eyes, Kensi drew in a deep breath, already feeling the emotion threaten to swallow her whole. "Look. You heard everything I said to Talbot. I just…I don't do Christmas, okay? Whenever Callen and Sam ask, I always say I have plans, but I never do. I do a few gifts each year; something special for the few people I have to do something for," she said quietly. In front of her, Deeks slowly turned to face her once more, and though he didn't smile, there was enough warmth in his eyes to invite her to continue. "Other than that…I haven't had a Christmas since Jack – since he left. I don't put up a tree, I don't do any of that stuff because it's just…it just reminds me. And the ice cream and beer…" Pausing, she gave a quiet, mirthless chuckle, shaking her head lightly at herself. "It's not a family thing. It's a me thing. I sit on the couch late into the night, watching Christmas movies and trying to ignore the fact that the coming morning will be no different than Christmas morning six years ago." As the last words left her lips, Kensi met his gaze, fully aware of just how deeply she was opening herself up to him. "I make up plans so nobody will push, and yet, that's exactly what you did. You always push and it drives me crazy, but at the same time…" She couldn't finish; couldn't summon the words she needed, but it didn't matter because with one look into his eyes, Kensi could tell that Deeks knew.

She gave a small, somewhat sheepish smile then. "You pushed," she repeated. "And I…I think tonight was the first time I've really smiled on Christmas Eve since Jack. I guess…maybe I'm just not ready to let that go and turn in for the night."

For a moment, Deeks didn't reply, the only sound between them the quiet steps he took as he slowly closed what little distance remained between them. Honestly, he had no idea what he was supposed to say to that; that kind of revelation from the woman in front of him was something he'd never expected. A Kensi who trusted him with her life was one thing, but a Kensi who trusted him with the deepest emotions he'd ever seen her show? This was completely new to him, and everything within him screamed for him to be careful. Kensi wasn't fragile, but that didn't mean she was perfectly put together either. There were cracks in the façade; beneath the fearless woman he was certain could kick his ass any day of the week was a softer side of her, a softer side that he was seeing more and more little glimpses of as their relationship deepened.

And now she was standing in front of him, that softer side in full view. Reddened eyes, softly flushed cheeks, her guard not one-hundred percent down, but fairly close…the sight of her tugged at his heart, and while he'd suspected it before, at this point there was no doubt: it wouldn't take much at all to have him falling hard for this woman.

Deeks lifted a hand, scratching slightly at the back of his neck as he searched for the words with which to fill the growing silence. In the end, he decided on full disclosure – she'd shared her reasons for not having real Christmas plans with him, but he wondered if she had any idea as to why his family was never part of the equation around the holidays. "Tonight wasn't a one-time thing for me," he said finally, watching the confusion flicker through Kensi's eyes before clarifying. "The soup kitchen – that's generally how I spend my holidays…well, the ones where I'm not too far undercover. Thanksgivings, Christmases…sometimes just regular old days, actually. The days that the - the memories play back just a little louder than others. You know, eighteen years in a house where you're nothing but a mistake who can make nothing but mistakes can really screw a kid up." He forced a nonchalant smile, but Kensi knew him enough to see right through that. "Can't tell you how many years I spent sitting at the table trying to choke down Christmas dinner while having to listen to my dad go on and on about the same things year in and year out. Damn it, Marty, why can't you grow the hell up and stop throwing your life away? Ungrateful, selfish, useless kid – somebody oughta take that stupid surfboard and knock some sense into that empty head of yours." Pausing, he attempted to chuckle, though it sounded hollow even to his own ears. "And then he got a few beers in him and tried to do just that. Little more amusing than the shotgun incident at Thanksgiving, but, ah…"

Pursing his lips, he glanced downward briefly, just long enough for Kensi to see that though he fought his demons with humor and sarcasm, they were still demons. Though he laughed about it, though he managed to shrug it off, it clearly still affected him. "Deeks…"

Another quiet, forced chuckle. "So, yeah, Christmas dinner with the Deeks family…not a very merry affair. Kind of ruined any decent impressions I might've had about the holidays." His eyes found Kensi's again before he continued. "So I spend my Christmases helping out in the soup kitchen - it's a lot better than just sitting at home alone, for me anyway. I guess your guy Nate would say I have some deep-seated need to prove that I'm good for something, contrary to popular belief…" He smirked. "But at this point, the company is just nice, and I enjoy helping out. And yeah, I guess it does help me forget…certain things."

Kensi nodded in understanding, her lips quirking upward in the slightest of smiles. "What a pair we are, huh?" she quipped, her voice still rather thick with emotion. It took her by surprise then, just how much the distance between them had diminished; sometime during his story, he'd shifted closer to her, or maybe she'd come closer to him…she couldn't say. All she knew was that any other time, she might have punched his shoulder for invading her personal space. Not now, though. Now she couldn't deny that his closeness brought her the same comfort she'd found for the greater part of the evening, and like he'd suggested hours earlier, Kensi didn't particularly want to end it. Surprising herself even further, she found herself appreciating the growing openness between them, even if it did come at the expense of a bruise on her forehead and tears still clouding her eyes. Blinking a few times, she tried to force away that lingering, stubborn moisture.

Deeks gave a quiet hum of amused agreement. "Maybe. But we make a good team," he murmured, and before he could stop himself, he'd lifted a hand to her face. Tenderly he ghosted his fingertips over the still-growing bruise at her forehead before letting his touch drift lower, softly cupping her cheek. With his thumb, he slowly smoothed away the stray moisture that had escaped despite Kensi's best efforts to halt it. And between his sudden proximity to her and the sheer tenderness of his touch, Kensi felt the flutter of butterflies as they awakened in her stomach. Butterflies. Another feeling she'd thought dead after Jack…but here it was, and it was unmistakable. A chill raced down the length of her spine, and Kensi couldn't help but shiver, wondering briefly if Deeks even realized what he was doing, what they were doing, or if he was caught in the same trance she was close to losing herself within.

Her heart beat almost painfully against her chest; the sound echoed in her ears and she was sure Deeks had to be able to hear it too. A single touch had flooded her with heat, and suddenly her mind was flashing through practically every little touch they'd shared over the last few hours – their arms brushing innocently against each other, their hips bumping as he'd slipped past her in the crowded kitchen, his hand at the small of her back just a few times more than what could be considered accidental. And now he was standing just mere millimeters away from her, caressing her face like it was the most natural thing in the world, and Kensi would be lying if she tried to say that it didn't frighten her, because it did feel right. It did feel natural.

His name escaped her lips on a whisper, accompanied by the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. Deeks merely smiled, and that alone was enough to make her head spin. Feeling rather bold, he gingerly touched his forehead to hers just briefly, ever mindful of the bruise that marred her skin. "You should take some aspirin or something," he murmured, his breath warm against her skin, and never before had Kensi very nearly whimpered at a statement that was little more than doctor's orders. "Get some rest…"

She swallowed hard; when she spoke, she could summon just barely more than a soft whisper. "That kind of interferes with my tradition…"

Deeks smirked. "Maybe you need some new traditions."

"Maybe I do…"

It was the perfect opening, and Kensi wasn't going to let it pass this time. Her mind was made up before she could even think to stop it. Shoving the lingering guilt, the exhaustion of the day, and the aching in her head far, far away from that moment, Kensi tilted her head and then her lips were on his as she gave into a desire she'd been fighting for months. It was slow, it was deliberate, and when Deeks' fingers drifted from her cheek and threaded gently into her hair as he kissed her back, she thought she might simply collapse into him right then and there. For balance, or perhaps just to draw him closer, she clutched her fingers in his shirt, her entire body electrified as their lips mingled and meshed.

The softness of her lips against his was almost hypnotizing; his entire mind had short-circuited the moment her lips had captured his. She tasted sweet, but of what he couldn't tell – he could only place it as Kensi. It was almost too much for him, this entire moment – Kensi was beautiful, she was smart, and she could probably best him at just about any competition they might have, and yet, she was standing in front of him, her hands in the material of his shirt and her mouth on his, lips and teeth and tongue playing seductively at his own lips. And damn, all he wanted was more. More of this, more of her, but…

As the kiss drew on, the back of Deeks' mind slowly began to reawaken. Thoughts were hazy at first, but they soon cleared, and though her whimper of protest very nearly drew him back in, Deeks slowly broke that connection between their lips; other than that, though, he didn't move. Didn't speak, either – all the thoughts in his head that he'd tried to craft together into something he could articulate all shattered into pieces with a single whispered word from her lips. "Stay…"


She didn't give him time for anything more than that. Shaking her head slightly, she tried again, knowing exactly how her plea had sounded. "I – I don't mean…" She trailed off, unconsciously tracing her tongue over her lips; the taste of him lingered there and again Kensi nearly whimpered. In the back of her mind, she knew she'd probably hate herself for this in the morning; after all, she was a mess tonight. The case had gotten beneath her skin, Talbot had gotten beneath her skin, Deeks never didn't get under her skin, and beyond all else, she was rattled and hurt and lonely. She just didn't care right now. It wasn't that she needed something physical tonight; she just needed someone to be there. And it wasn't that she needed someone; she wanted Deeks. Exhaling deeply, she tried to steady herself; when she spoke again, though, her voice continued to tremble. Silently, she prayed he wouldn't make her say it again. "Just stay. Please."

Leaning forward, she tried to capture his lips again, but to her immense dismay, Deeks drew back. Confused dark eyes fluttered open, meeting an indecipherable ocean of blue. For the longest moment, he simply held her gaze, unable not to let his thoughts linger on just how adorable she looked right then, with her lips kiss-swollen and her cheeks lightly flushed and letting just enough vulnerability show through that it was all he could do not to scoop her into his arms right then – she probably wouldn't appreciate that very much, though.

It was truly an impossible dilemma he was left with. He couldn't deny her, but how could he oblige her? Especially tonight, especially after today. Letting his fingers slip from her hair, Deeks gently cupped her chin, making sure their eyes never broke contact as he spoke, his voice low, somewhat hoarse. "Kens, I – I can't be Jack. You know that."

Whatever she was expecting, it wasn't that. There were a million places she could take that, from hurt to disbelief to confusion to anger to indifference and back again so many times that her head would spin. And all of the emotions would be real, there was no denying that; she was raw, she was open, she'd come as close to being face to face with her past today as she could without literally being face to face with Jack again.

She'd told Deeks earlier that she hadn't gone after Jack because maybe she'd been hoping Jack would come after her.

It wasn't until today that Kensi realized that she didn't want that at all.

Her thoughts were racing, but with a deep sigh, Kensi forced them all to shut down. All of them, except for the one truth that, in that moment, shined brighter than all of the others. "Good, because I don't want you to be," she whispered.

And that time, as she moved in to kiss him again, he didn't resist.

Nor did he resist when she asked him, one more time, to stay.