Suffice to say that Deeks re-emerges wearing the Hetty-approved outfit. Even if he is accessorising it with a pained expression.
"She's got no taste at all, does she?" he whispers.
"Absolutely none." It's an open secret, after all. Everybody knows that. Except Hetty. And possibly Callen. I look great, with this wide belt cinching my waist in, and if you really must know the truth, Deeks doesn't look too bad either. Except for the shirt. Of course, I could just rip it off him. That would work much better. What a pity I have so much self-restraint. Too much self-restraint for my own good I sometimes think.
"I'm your manager," I announce when we arrive at the spa, which just screams 'you need to more money than taste to even think about coming in here'. How I would love to manage Deeks… he wouldn't know if he was coming or going, but I can guarantee that he would love every single minute of it. I bet I'd have fun too. However, I really do have to keep my mind on the job. Only I've said 'really' again, haven't I? It's like he is leeching his way into my consciousness, little by little. And I'm letting him. I'm not putting up the slightest resistance, am I? "You were in a boy band and now you need some work done before you make a comeback."
"I was the lead singer, wasn't I? The one all the girls scream over and have my poster on their walls?" Deeks strikes a pose: shoulders back, head turned slightly to one side and hips firmly thrust forward. He's disturbingly good at that, like he's modelled for an underwear catalogue or something. Now, that would be a best-seller…
Once upon a time, I was one of these little girls. With me it was the Backstreet Boys. Donnie was my favourite. He still is, only now he comes second to Deeks. I'm sorry, Donnie – but I've grown up and moved on. But you'll always be my first love.
"Don't be ridiculous. You were the drummer. The one nobody notices. It's typecasting, given that slight hump you're developing."
"I don't have a hump." Nevertheless, he cranes his neck around, just to check, as we go in through the doors. Keep them on their toes, that's my motto. Only then I drop the ball. Just when I'm about to launch into my story, Deeks takes over. He launches into this whole story and I just stand there wishing the floor would open and catapult him straight down to hell.
"We're going to need the works here," he announces in ringing tones, pointing to me as if I'm too dumb to speak for myself. Excuse me, Deeks, but I don't think they heard you way over in Pasadena. "Probably a booty lift, a tummy tuck, micro-lipo to the hips. Basically, we're going to need an overhaul to the whole undercarriage here."
What did he just say there? My ass is great. I know it's great and Deeks definitely knows it's great. He saw exactly how great it is this morning in the gym. Didn't he? Do I need to get myself some new leggings? Has the lycra started to go? Please tell me my ass isn't starting to sag? Somehow, I manage to resist the temptation to check, but it's not easy. In fact, it is only slightly less difficult than restraining myself from punching my partner right where it really hurts.
As if that opening salvo wasn't enough, Deeks continues babbling on. Does he know he's only got minutes left to live? "And then we'll deal with the head. Do the nose – again. And hopefully get it right this time."
Now, that is rich, coming from a man with nostrils the size of the Grand Canyon. Can you get a nostril reduction? Or should I just wrap duct tape over his nose and mouth? I will get my revenge one day, no matter how long I have to wait.
"And then we'll do the ears."
I am not listening anymore. My ears do not stick out. Well, not much. And Deeks is a fine one to talk. Don't think I don't know that's why he keeps his hair long and drapes it cunningly in front of his ears – it's protective camouflage, that's what it is. But it doesn't fool me. However, I am a professional, so I stand there and take all this abuse with a smile on my face. It's a fixed smile, but it is a smile. Deeks will be smiling on the other side of his face by the time I'm finished with him.
The receptionist doesn't bat an eyelid at all, even though Deeks is clearly talking absolute nonsense. I bet she's jealous of me.. On the other hand, I'm almost certain I saw her slip Deeks her number, so maybe she's just desperate? Or in need of new contacts?
The nurse giving us a guided tour happens to mention that they have a special liquid diet, prepared by a Beverley Hills chef. This place gets more ridiculous by the minute.
"Kiki loves a liquid diet," Deeks says cheerfully. "Actually, that's her problem. One of her problems, I should say. Booze. Drugs. Sex. You name it: she's into it. You wouldn't believe the trouble we had hushing up that sex tape she made. It wasn't so much the full frontal nudity, but the whole stuff with the malamute. That really got people wound up."
That's it. He's gone too far this time. I smack him on the arm, as hard as I possibly can, making sure I hit him right on the taser burn. Sure, it's petty, but it's actually a hell of a lot less than he deserves. Hanging is too good for Deeks. A sex tape? Me? And with a malamute? What is a malamute exactly and is it as rude as it sounds? I'm just about to say something that will put Deeks firmly in his place once and for all, when who should we spot but the elusive Gillian? Okay, my revenge can wait. I entice the nurse away and leave Deeks to do his bit, i.e. grabbing hold of her.
That was a mistake. A huge mistake. The next time I see Deeks, he is barely recognisable. And he can barely see either. I'm not going to go into what happened, but let's just say there were half naked women and lots pepper spray was involved. Talk about karma. That's the least he deserved after what he said about me. Now who's the one in need of some plastic surgery? On the downside - Gillian is long gone.
"I can't take you anywhere, can I?" At least I've had the tact to wait until we're back in the car before I say this. I'm driving, of course, on account of the fact Deeks can't manage to open his eyes and just sits there, whimpering in a pathetic manner, clearly designed to evoke the maximum amount of sympathy from me. And it's working, although I'm doing my best no to show it. "Do you know how much grovelling I had to do to persuade them not to press charges against you? They thought you were a peeping Tom." I'm trying very hard not to look at him, on account of the fact he looks grotesque.
"I told them I was a police officer."
"Well, that worked well for you, didn't it?" I say sympathetically and then sneak another look at him. "That looks sore."
"Sore? No, not really. Not compared with putting your face into a pan of boiling oil." Deeks forces one eye open and I can't help wincing when I see how bloodshot it is. "It was pepper spray, Kensi. She used a whole can on me."
"I know. I can smell it." I lean my head over and sniff. "It's all over your shirt. And it's never going to come out. You've ruined that shirt and Hetty is going to kill you." Which will save me the effort.
"What about my face?"
"What about it?" This is one time when I am definitely not going to offer to kiss him better, on account of the fact his face is all red and blotchy. It is definitely not the best look Deeks has ever modelled. "I guess Hetty's not going to get her deposit back when she returns you to LAPD looking like that, is she?"
"I should have known it was too much to expect just a little bit of sympathy. Or support." Deeks leans back against the headrest and sighs. "Go on. Just have a good laugh at me and get it out of your system. Or maybe take some photos to show everyone. You could post them on your Facebook page, for maximum humiliation."
"Or we could swing by the hospital? Just to be on the safe side?"
"Don't strain yourself. I'll live. I might be half-blind and facially scarred, but I'll survive."
Men are so pathetic, aren't they? Only it does look painful. "We're going to the hospital, Deeks. So don't bother pretending to be brave and long-suffering."
"You've really got the tender touch, haven't you Kensi?"
Oh, he has no idea how tender my touch could be. None at all.
"This is me being nice, Deeks. Which you don't deserve. Not after the way you went on about my ass."
"What did I say about your ass?" he protests and forces both his eyes open. I try not to cringe. "You've got a great ass. It's one of the things I like best about you."
One of the things? What else does he like? And does that mean there are bits of me he doesn't like? Which bits exactly? I need to know. "You're leering at me, Deeks, aren't you? Stop it right now. And if my ass is so great, how come you went on about me needing a booty lift? Or saying that my whole undercarriage needed work? You made me sound like a car. It was insulting."
"It was the ears, wasn't it? That's what you're upset about."
"I am not upset about my ears. There is nothing wrong with my ears."
The silence in the car is defeaning.
"There is nothing wrong with my ears," I repeat, very slowly and very clearly. "They do not stick out, do they Deeks?"
"Not that much. Are we nearly there yet?"
Why do I get landed with a partner who has all the tact, diplomacy and emotional maturity of a six year old? And why does he have to be so darn cute? Answers on a postcard please, and send them to me, care of the locked ward of the psych wing, because Deeks is going to drive me completely mad. And whether that is mad as in insane, or just mad with lust is anybody's guess.
"You do realise that once you can see again, I am going to get you back for every single thing you said back there, don't you?"
He manages a half-smile. "I wouldn't expect anything less. And I can't wait." The smile turns into a leer.
"Stop right there. We both agreed that we are not discussing your kinky fantasies. Ever."
"I don't remember that. Was there a memo? Oh no, wait a minute. That's no good. On account of the fact I can't actually see t read anything right now."
"Seriously?" I nearly smack right into this Escalade that's dawdling along and have to break sharply, sending Deeks hurtling forward until the seatbelt stops him.
"Great. Just add a broken collarbone to the list of my injuries," he says in long suffering tones.
"Seriously, Deeks? It's really broken?" Great. A one-armed, partially sighted Deeks isn't going to be a whole lot of use to us. Hetty is going to kill me.
"No, I'm just a bit sore." He rubs his shoulder and winces, in a brave fashion.
"And what about your eyes. You can't see? Not at all?" This isn't good. Not good at all.
"I didn't say that. I can see, it's just kind of blurry. But it's nice to know you care."
"I don't care. Not at all. And it was your own fault anyway. I just don't want to be stuck with a partner who uses a seeing eye dog and pees all over his shoes."
"You care," Deeks says smugly. "And I only pee over my shoes when I'm really drunk."
And you wonder why I rue the day Marty Deeks walked into my life?
After a brief detour at the hospital, where the nurses make an inordinate amount of fuss over Deeks (who sits there and laps it up) and then patch him up, we head back to the Mission. I must say, the man seems to have remarkable powers of healing. It's either that or they gave injected him with something pretty powerful, because already his eyes are a lot less swollen and his face is losing that blotchiness.
"It's my Norwegian heritage," he says, a propos of nothing.
"The ability to heal quickly. This ivory skin can take a battering, but it just keeps coming on back and looking as good as new. I guess it was all these years we were roaming the seas – all that fresh air and sunshine."
"Or maybe it was the whale blubber your ancestors smeared all over themselves?" Deeks loves to go on about this supposed Norwegian heritage of his. I don't believe a word of it. Although I could see him standing on the prow of a long ship, now you come to mention it. As well as not being too averse the odd bit of drunken revelry. But I am not going to give him the satisfaction of saying that. "Is that why you're always so bothered about slathering on sunscreen? Some sort of throwback to the good old days?"
"You have skin this good – you don't abuse it."
I am tempted to abuse Deeks, only I think he would like it. No, actually I am almost certain he would definitely enjoy it. Perhaps even as much as I would. So I hold my tongue and concentrate on getting us back to the Mission in one piece. You wouldn't believe the fuss Deeks made at the hospital over what is a fairly small bruise from his seatbelt. It's no more than eight inches long. And that talk of possible whiplash was ridiculous. I reckon it was just a ploy to get more sympathy from the nurses. That, and the opportunity to whip his shirt off, so they could see the evidence at first hand and then coo over his impressive pecs. One of the nurses even had the cheek to take me aside and give me a lecture about the importance of always being alert when driving. I told her that I am an excellent driver, which is nothing less than the truth. It's hardly my fault if having Deeks sitting next to me is distracting.
Once we're finally back at base, I keep a firm grip on Deeks' arm, because he's got this unfortunate tendency to dawdle along. Callen said later on that I looked like a mother dragging along a recalcitrant toddler, but I reckon he's just sore about what I said earlier on.
"What about Gillian?" he asks.
"I found her. Deeks lost her." And then I haul Deeks off to the showers before he can say anything. That pepper spray really stinks.
When we finally make it into Ops, it turns out that things have been moving on considerably. The team's identified our four men as being members of a terrorist cell originally operating out of Mogadishu, who are into MME – as in Murder, Money-laundering and Extortion. They sound charming. No wonder Gillian is running scared. There's just one problem – we have no idea what these guys look like right now, or what they might be planning. But there are a couple of leads we can follow up. Eric and Nell have managed to track down a likely address for one of the terrorists, and they've also located a long-time buddy of Gillian's, who might just be able to tell us where she is. Do you want to guess which team gets which assignment?
"One of these days Hetty might actually trust us."
We're on our way to the friend's house. Deeks looks at me sideways. Now that he's showered and changed, he looks almost normal again. By which I mean he looks good enough to eat. "She trusts us."
"You think? Then how come we get the mundane, run-of-the mill jobs and they get all the prime, seat-of-the–pants numbers? In exotic locations."
"Because they're the senior agents?" he suggests.
"So it's got nothing to do with the fact that they're both guys?" This has been bugging me for ages.
"I'm a guy," Deeks points out, wholly unnecessarily. Like I hadn't noticed that vital fact. It's not like I was labouring under the illusion that he was just a girl with an unfortunate excess of facial hair, after all.
"I know. And you've got the misfortune to be working with me. Just think – if I was 'Ken', then it might have been you and me out in the Grand Cayman Islands." That had rankled, really rankled. Sure, it gave Callen 'closure', but there was a distinct possibility he might have gone and blown everything all over again, given his personal connection with the suspect. Plus there was the fact that he and Sam weren't exactly on the best of terms at them time, which is a less-than-ideal situation for partners to find themselves in. We should have been sent out there. Sun, sea – and Deeks and me. My mouth waters at that thought.
"I'd rather be here in LA with you, than be anywhere else with 'Ken'. And it wasn't so bad, was it?"
"The ice cream was good," I admit. And that almost-kiss was even better. A real kiss would be better still. We've never talked about what almost happened: not one single word. I wonder why?
"Wasn't it just? Maybe we should do it again?" Deeks isn't talking about ice cream, is he?
Maybe we should. And the next time, maybe we should make sure we're not going to get interrupted, just so that things can reach their natural consummation? I don't say any of that, of course. If I did, that would ruin everything. It was nice of Deeks to say that he'd rather work with me than a guy, but it doesn't mean anything. I know he likes me, but what I don't know is if he really likes me - as in likes me in the way a guy likes a girl. That time with the ice cream when we almost kissed wasn't planned – it just happened. It was one of these things that we are never going to recapture. The moment came and the moment went and nothing happened in between. And nothing's happened since. Absolutely nothing.
"We're here now."
We're at our destination and it's time to get out and start doing what we get paid for, which means I don't have to think about any of this stuff anymore. Not until I'm alone, and get to wondering 'what if'… What if we had actually kissed? I think about that a lot. I think about what it would be like to kiss Deeks and what it would be like to have Deeks kiss me. I think it would probably be kind of great. And I think that I'm probably never going to find out.
"I can think of one very good reason why we should get sent out to the Caymans next time," Deeks offers, as we walk up the path.
"Go on then." He's going to tell me anyway, so I may as well get it over with.
"Because you look one hell of a lot better in a bikini that Callen ever would. You've got a great rack and you know it. And the rest of you is pretty decent. Apart from those ears, of course."
Deeks is smirking and I punch him on his sore arm once again. But it's a light punch, the sort of punch that good friends give when they're sharing a joke.