The first time that it happens, they're almost nine months into their partnership.
She's angry and emotionally raw, and he feels terrible for her, and perhaps that's a volatile cocktail to begin with.
Speaking of cocktails, that's maybe where the trouble really kicks into gear. They're out at a bar together (his bar – the one with the flavored condoms, but oddly enough, on this night, she hasn't made a single crack about them yet). It's just the two of them, sitting at the bartop, knocking back shot after shot of Jack.
As they drink, both of them feeling the effects of the alcohol as the night wears on, he's trying to convince her that what had happened earlier in the day – awful though it may have been – was not her fault.
She's not having it, though.
Because Kensi Blye doesn't ever fucking miss with a gun.
Today, however, she not only had missed her shot, but a kid of maybe twenty-two had died because of it.
Long ago, she'd stopped seeing herself as young – far too much life lived at continuous and relenting high speeds for her to be able to claim the label of youth any longer – but others, those not in this life, well to her, they're all kids and they're all innocents and they must be protected. At any cost.
Today, she had failed in that.
Deeks tries frantically to explain her to the handful of reasons why she should cut herself slack – it'd been a tight shot to begin with and the distance had been significant and the kid had suddenly moved into the bullet and…
None of that matters to her.
All that does is that a twenty-two year old kid, who had stumbled onto the end of a shoot-out between the good guys and the bad guys, had ended up paying a horrible price for his simple youthful (albeit naïve) curiosity.
And he had paid that horrible price because she had missed her fucking shot.
She's been suspended for a week, though it's an administrative thing and not a disciplinary one. The action reports that the rest of the team had filed support her completely. They all say the same thing – horrible and unfortunate, but not her fault. She, of course, disagrees completely.
Still, the reports lay it out pretty simply.
The moment the kid had stumbled onto the scene, thinking that it was somewhat cool to actually get to see a real life gunfight, the bad guys had viewed him as leverage and one of them had pulled him close and put a gun to his head.
Too much had been at stake to surrender the fight because of one kid – these bastards had been moving bomb making materials in and out of the country. Already, their little toys of destruction had claimed a dozen lives. These guys had to be stopped, absolutely had to be or far more people would die.
Which meant that the kid was either to be seen as collateral damage or someone else to be saved. Typical for this team – for her – she had chosen the latter.
"I have the shot," she'd said softly, lightly touching her ear.
"Are you sure you get the shooter?" Callen had asked from where he was crouched down behind a bullet-ridden car several paces away. Over the earpiece, his voice had sounded small and mechanical.
She'd peered up and around the wall that she and Deeks had been behind. She'd gauged her shot, lined it up and then replied, "Yeah, I can do it."
So much certainty, so much calm.
"Then take the shot, Kens," Callen had said.
She'd glanced back at Deeks, who had simply nodded a grim "go ahead" and then she had turned around, aimed her Sig and fired a single shot.
Killing someone always happens in slow motion. At least for her it does. She can always see the trajectory of the bullet, almost Matrix style, as it cuts through the air. She can always see the faces of the men she kills – their surprise, their shock - moments before the bullet crushes into them, ending their lives.
She tries not to think about it that way – ending lives – but it is what it is.
It's a strange thing to realize that what you're really good at is taking lives.
Still, again, it is what it is.
This bullet had started out no different for her. It had powered through the noisy air (the sound of other bullets also crashing into the metal of cars and nearby dumpsters echoing loudly in her ears) intent on its goal – the man who was holding the kid hostage.
The shot had been fired perfectly – it had been certain to hit its mark.
But then the kid had changed the game; overwhelmed by the fear of death, he'd suddenly jerked in his captor's arms and tried to get away. He had thrust himself forward and therefore, directly into the path of the bullet.
He'd been dead before he'd known it.
"Oh, God," she'd heard Deeks say. She'd been able to say nothing.
And then she'd just stared, shocked and horrified to such a degree that her body had refused to obey such simple commands as "move" and "duck". Only fast action by Deeks had kept her from taking a few bullets to he own head. He'd stepped in front of her, pushed him behind her, and fired off round after round. And still, she hadn't moved an inch.
It hadn't been until the gunfight had been over, and the NCIS team had clearly won the battle, when sense had begun to return to her – albeit very slowly.
"Kensi!" Callen had called out, he and Sam rushing over, a rifle slapping loudly against Sam's massive back as he ran towards her.
She'd looked up at them, wide-eyed, her mouth slightly open as if trying to figure out what to say, but knowing that no words could explain this. Or make it better.
"Kensi?" Sam had asked, kneeling down next to her. "Kensi?" When she hadn't responded, he'd turned to Callen, "I think she's in shock. We should get her to –"
Only the impending threat of a trip to the hospital had snapped her completely out her funk. "No…no, I'm…I'm fine." Then, pushing her hand against the wall, she'd forced herself to her feet. And nearly fallen in the process when her jellied legs had for a moment, refused to support her.
Deeks had been there again, though; hand on her back to support her.
She'd given him a grateful look and then moved away from all three of the men. She'd crossed the battle zone in several quick strides and made her way over to the corpse of the kid, his light blue eyes still open and forever staring upwards. Alex O'Hara, born and raised in Culver City. Dead at twenty-two.
Thanks to her.
It'd taken everything she'd had in her not to completely lose her mind at that moment. But like a pro, she'd held it together.
Now, sitting next to Deeks at the bar, all she wants to do is drink and forget.
Which, of course, means that all he wants to do is talk and help and make her understand.
She wonders why they can't ever be completely on the same page at the same time.
It's her fault, really, what happens next. Realizing that he's not going to stop pushing and trying to help, she sighs dramatically and says "Fine, let's talk, but can we do it elsewhere?"
And of course, he agrees.
His mistake is that he decides against bringing her back to her own apartment, and instead brings her to his.
She's plastered, he figures – though he's not much better – and her apartment is the kind of place where there are too many different and creative ways to accidentally do harm to yourself, especially when you're absolutely blitzed.
So he calls a cab and has them brought back to his apartment.
It's once they're inside the front door when everything goes upside down in a hurry. He's locking it, his fingers stumbling repeatedly over the deadbolt, when he feels her hands on him. And she's not just supporting herself anymore; she's running her hands over his chest, her fingers flying over the rough flannel fabric.
He feels his heart start to pound frantically in his chest.
He turns towards her and before he can ask what she's doing, her lips are on his and she's kissing him like no woman has ever kissed him before.
He's drunk, but he has some sense in him. Enough to know that for so many reasons, he should probably stop this.
But then her hands on his shirt and she's not just unbuttoning it, she's damn near ripping it open. He hears the tiny sound of buttons hitting the ground, and then she's breaking away from him only long enough to shove him against the wall. He grunts as his back collides with the hard surface, but he doesn't have long to dwell on the flash of pain he feels before her lips are on his again, ripping away his oxygen – and his sensible protests. He feels her press her body against his, just about molding it to him.
"Kensi," he manages when she finally moves her mouth away from his. It comes out as little more than a squeaking gasp. "We…should…we shouldn't…"
"Shut up, Deeks," she growls, and then he feels her place one hand on his hip. He looks down and sees that her other hand is on his belt, and she's deftly unbuckling it. In the back of his mind, he's a bit amazed by how coordinated she is, even in her highly inebriated state.
"Oh, Kensi," he says. He tries to put his hand over hers to stop her progress (and damn has she made progress in such a mind-blowingly short amount of time), but she roughly pushes it away.
It's quite clear to him that she has no intention of being halted.
He feels the alcohol settling on him, fogging his brain – or at least he thinks that that's a viable excuse for allowing this to happen.
And then he feels the cold air hit his legs as she yanks his jeans down, leaving him only in boxers and his freshly torn open flannel shirt.
"Nice," she purrs, taking a moment to look at him, her eyes heavily lidded. "But the shirt has to go." As if to prove her words, she leans forward and shoves the ripped flannel off of him. It floats to the ground, joining his jeans and belt, which are pooled around his ankles.
It occurs to him, then, that he's pretty much naked (save his boxers and his boots) and she's still completely dressed. Somehow, that doesn't feel fair at all.
"Kensi," he says. "Uh…"
But then she's pressed back up against him, her hands roaming over his chest. He just about collapses to his knees when he feels her press a kiss against the area just below his heart. After everything that has happened - her touch, her kisses - that one is just about enough to drive him absolutely over the edge.
He pulls her up towards him and forces her to meet his eyes. She looks angry and hurt, but also very turned on. She's beautiful like this. No, she's always beautiful, but like this, well she's almost a scary kind of stunning.
A frantic overexposed and shockingly vulnerable kind of stunning.
"Are you sure about this?" he asks, and he's not terribly sure what answer he wants – or needs – to hear.
She doesn't answer at all, at least not verbally. Instead, she just kisses him again. This is one is slightly softer, but still passionate. She weaves one of her hands into his messy hair, pulling him closer.
He gives in. He knows he shouldn't – he knows that this is a very bad idea – but he tries to rationalize that she needs him right now. He tries to rationalize that if this is all he can do to make her feel better about had happened earlier in the day, than maybe what's happening between them now is completely acceptable.
A moment later, when her hand is cupping him through his shorts, all protests and rationalizations fade away.
He slides a hand beneath the hem of her shirt and pushes it upwards, exposing her skin. And then he kisses her back and doesn't stop until they both pass out from exhaustion.
Morning comes far too soon for his liking. Sunlight shines in through the window closest to hid bed, splashing down on his face. He groans, the memory (and the pounding headache) of the hard drinking from the night before hitting him like a freight train as he tries to sit up.
A moment later, another memory hits him.
A much more passionate one.
Hands, mouths. Touching, kissing, caressing.
Rhythm and…cries of ecstasy and need. He looks around at the room, which shows that all of the action hadn't been in the bed.
"Oh, Kensi," he says. "What have we…"
He turns to his side and to his great shock, sees that she's not there.
He hears nothing but the sound of cars outside of his apartment.
He climbs out of his bed (taking one look down at his naked body), and then reaches for a pair of flannel bottoms. He pads his way down the hallway and into the front room, stepping over his clothes from the previous night, including his torn shirt. "Kensi?"
It doesn't take him long to realize that she's gone.
He laughs slightly, but he has to admit, while he's not all that surprised that she bailed before he'd come to, he is deeply annoyed.
And then he's worried. He hopes that his inability to stop what had happened last night – his weakness and his rather selfish need for her – hasn't damaged something good.
He hopes it hasn't changed things for them.
But of course it has.
And he's sure she knows it, too.
He tries calling her several times during the week she's on administrative suspension, but she won't pick up. He doesn't dare ask Sam or Callen if they've heard from her because then they'd know that something had happened between their female agent and their LAPD liaison and he just doesn't want to get into with them. So instead, he's tried dropping by her place a few times, but on each occasion, either she's not in (it's hard to tell because she parks her car in an underground garage) or she's simply not answering the door.
Either way, the first time he sees her after their night together is a week later, back at the Mission. She seems like herself, so much like herself that he can't help but think it an act. In any case, she's been completely cleared back to duty, which is a relief for everyone. In the presence of the rest of the team, the partners joke and tease each other like normal (she tells him he needs a haircut, he says he thinks maybe the she's putting on some weight on the backside thanks to all the ho-hos), but he doesn't miss the way that she's refusing to make eye contact with him.
It's not until they're in her car, on the way to a crime scene, when he says softly, his eyes on the road ahead of them, "So are we going to talk about what happened?"
She laughs. That's okay; he'd been expecting it. She may not realize it yet, but even if he doesn't know all of her secrets, he gets her. He knows that when she's uncomfortable or nervous, she falls back on the things she'd learned from her father. Namely, how to lock all of her emotions as far down and away as she can. In short, he'd taught her how to be strong and never show weakness.
He wonders if she sees their night together as weakness on her part.
He's pretty sure she does.
"That's not an answer," he says.
"There's nothing to talk about, Deeks," she replies, her voice tightly controlled and cool. Like she's trying to stop the conversation in its tracks.
"Really? Nothing at all? Because I'm pretty sure I can come up with a few things like you know, you jumping me and what happened…afterward."
"Nothing happened afterward."
He blinks. "You're...just going to pretend it didn't happen? That's the path you're going to take on this one?"
She sighs. "We're working," she says. "And this isn't the time or the place for this discussion."
"You're absolutely right. The time or the place for this discussion would have been a couple days ago when I tried to call you. Or maybe when I dropped by your apartment so that we could talk this out. Weird how in both cases, you wouldn't answer."
She shrugs, but doesn't bother denying that she'd been avoiding him.
"Look, what happened…"
He pushes on, "I don't want it to cause issues between us."
"Only for you," she mutters. "I'm fine."
He stares at her a moment, trying to feel her out. He knows that she's not fine – if she had been, she wouldn't have gone out of her way to avoid him – but he also rather instinctively knows that he's wasting his time trying to push her into talking about it. "Fine," he says.
"Great. Now can we do our job?" there's a hint of something in her tone – bitterness, sadness, he can't be sure.
It's several minutes later, and they're almost to their destination, when he can't help himself (he was never good at knowing when to quit) and says quietly, "You owe me a new shirt, you know that, right?"
He sees her hands tighten on the steering wheel, knuckles turning white.
"I mean I really liked that shirt. Really liked it."
"Deeks," she growls.
"It was soft and comfortable, and it looked great on me."
"Would you please shut the fuck up?" she suddenly snaps.
"Okay then, there's the emotion I was looking for."
"You're an idiot."
"Maybe so, but I'm an idiot who cares about you. Who cares about us."
"We're fine, Deeks."
"I don't think we are."
"Why?" she demands. "Why aren't we fine?"
"Because something happened between us –"
"That something was a mistake, and we both know it."
"Okay, granted, but it still happened."
"I'm sorry," she says.
He blinks, and then laughs. "Are you just fishing around in your head for ways to make me shut up?"
"Is it working?"
"Does it ever?"
"No," she says, and to his relief, he thinks he sees a small smile form. It's enough to push him onward.
"So tell me then…why did you leave in the morning? I'm just curious. Did you forget to feed your fish or something?"
"I don't have any fish and as for why, I don't know, I just did."
"Just did," he repeats, clearly not buying it.
She parks the car then, and turns to face him, her eyes dark and unreadable, "Don't you get it, Deeks? I don't want to go back to that night. It was a horrible night, and I don't want remember it, okay?"
"Right, yeah, got it," he says quietly, hurt by her words more than he cares to admit. "Loud and clear."
She knows immediately what she'd done, and if she could take her thoughtless words back, she would. She hadn't meant that part of the night – she'd meant the shooting and killing the kid part. She thinks maybe she should correct herself, but then decides not to. Maybe it's best that what happened back at his apartment be locked away in the same box. It's so much safer that way. To body and soul.
"We're here," Deeks says, and then he's out of the car, slamming the door behind him, his stride long and angry as he moves towards the crime scene.
Even if she doesn't really want to correct her prior words and the meaning behind them, she knows that she's going to have to make this up to him. Hurting him is not something she enjoys even a little bit. He's her partner, her friend and after that night, whether she's willing to admit it or not, so much more.
She watches him walk away for the briefest of moments – and it kills her.
It pains her the idea of losing someone else – especially him – because she's afraid. "Deeks," she calls out, despite the voice in her head telling her not to. "Deeks!"
He turns, and he looks so serious and so incredibly hurt that it almost breaks her heart. "What?" he asks softly.
"I am sorry," she says. "That shouldn't have happened. And that's on me."
He looks around, as if making sure that no one else is watching or able to listen in, and then he makes his way back to her, slipping into her personal space. To her credit, she doesn't pull away.
"I didn't stop it," he says. "And that's on me. But I'm not sorry it happened."
For a moment, she doesn't have a response to that. Finally, weakly, "You should have. Stopped it, I mean."
They're both looking at each other and thinking the same thing, which is that they're glad that neither of them had stopped it. Even if it means this super uncomfortable conversation outside a crime scene.
Neither of them can say that, though, because that would mean a whole different and much more uncomfortable conversation about mutual feelings and emotions. Neither of them are even close to ready for that. So this will do. For now.
"Are we okay?" he asks, after they've been staring at each other for far too long to sell the idea of nothing going on between them. They're both glad that Sam and Callen are about ten minutes – now much less – behind them.
"Yeah, we're okay," she says, and lifts her hand as if to touch his forearm. She pulls up short, though, and oddly, he feels the absence of her contact even though she'd never actually placed her hand upon his arm.
"Can we go solve a case now?" she asks, laughing slightly nervously.
That's the moment when he knows that this – whatever this is - isn't resolved between them. It isn't even close to over.
But he simply nods because that's what he's supposed to do at this moment, that's what she needs him to do, "Let's do this, partner."
She smiles – a beautiful and full one – gratefully, and then pulling out her badge, she steps towards the crime scene, all of her prior discomfort sweeping easily away as she enthusiastically enters the world she knows – and can control – best. "Hi," he hears her call out. "NCIS."
He follows a moment later, knowing that he'd follow her anywhere.
And that, he realizes, is half the problem.
A problem that isn't going away for them anytime soon.