III. My Dinner with Kensi

From a booth in the back of the bar, Deeks scanned the surprisingly thin Tuesday night crowd and still no Kensi. He dialed her number. "Please leave a message at the tone."

"Kensi, it's me again. I'm still at Seaside Murph's. I still haven't had dinner yet and we still need to talk. It's..." Deeks looked down at his watch. "It's 9:45. I'll keep calling until you either answer or you show up. Answer. Or show up. Or both. Just talk to me."

After he blew off Kensi's female partner question, Deeks was called back to the new Police Administration Building to be debriefed by Deputy Chief Warner, Roger Bates, the head of Internal Affairs and two members of the DA's office. He finished with them just before six and was calling Kensi ever since. He was starting to wonder how much longer it would take to fill up her voicemail.

"Tim, your girl still hasn't shown?" Desmond Murphy, owner of Seaside Murph's, asked Deeks.

"I told you she was angry," Deeks replied sheepishly. Desmond knew him as Tim Davis, environmental attorney. When he brought Kensi here late in October for a beer and some college football, she was Tracy Jacobs, public relations executive for one of the movie studios. She was also the apple of Desmond's eye that night. He was probably old enough to be her grandfather but Deeks was pretty sure a few of Desmond's thoughts that night weren't grandfatherly.

Desmond joined Deeks in the booth. "I'd ask if you were stepping out on her but I can't imagine a man alive doing that."

"Oh, Desmond, if you only knew," Deeks sighed. "No, there was a conflict at work and I should have told her it was coming."

"I'm sure you're a good man and a fine companion but if I was you, I'd spend my time making sure someone that far out of your league, and my league too, was happy every single day."

"That's the new plan going forward."

"If she doesn't show, I'll buy you a beer. We'll both cry in it." Desmond started to slide out of the booth. "If she shows, you be the person she deserves. And if you're not, try to be."

"She deserves better than what she got today."

"Son, then you make sure she is never wanting again." Desmond walked to the door to greet another patron.

When his cellphone chirped, Deeks was hopeful for a second but that hope was dashed with one word - "Eric" - on his screen. "You need something, Eric?" Deeks asked.

"I'm sending you a photo as a head's up."

After his phone beeped, he looked again at the screen. "Oh crap," Deeks said looking at the picture. It was him standing on the ledge outside of Bates's window, 12 floors off the ground.

"Hetty would like some background on that picture," Eric told him.

"Where did you get this?"

"It showed up on a photo-sharing website. A tourist from Billings, Montana named Geraldine Ashford thought it was a movie stunt."

"It wasn't a movie stunt."

"Callen just visited with Mrs. Ashford. He convinced her it was not a movie but a desperate act of a disturbed man."

"He wasn't wrong. Though, once I was back inside the building, I thought it was cool."

"Hetty disagrees. The photo is off the website. I've scrubbed it from the photo-sharing site's cache but I'm looking for other pictures on the web and Nell is searching security cameras in the area."

"Sorry you two got stuck late doing this."

Nell joined the conversation, "I just want to hear you explain this to Hetty. That would be worth staying late for this."

"I had to get out of Bates's office. I took the scenic route." Deeks saw Kensi walk in. "I got to get off the line. Nell, if you find any video, edit it with me going off that bridge earlier in the year. Maybe I can sell Hetty on the humor of it." He e-mailed the photo to himself. Entertaining new wallpaper for his laptop.

As Kensi passed the bar, Desmond gave Deeks a big smile and two thumbs up. Good to know someone had faith in him.

As she sat across from him in the booth, Kensi told him, "You're buying."

"Whatever you want."

"I'm hungry."

"You usually are."

She lifted an eyebrow.

"Ah, thank you for coming." Deeks waved to the waitress, who dropped off the menus and promised to return.

"You disappeared pretty quickly after lunch."

"LAPD needed a debrief. Quinn's arrest is going to be a problem and they want to try to get ahead of it."

Kensi nodded her head. As she started to speak, Desmond returned. "Tracy, whatever the lad did to make you angry, he's at least bright enough to know he's wrong."

She lifted an eyebrow again at Deeks before transforming into Tracy for their host. "Tim needs to figure out he's wrong before he decides to act. Living your life with the motto 'it's easier to say I'm sorry than to say may I' has consequences."

"You're on your own, Tim." Desmond patted Deeks on the back. To Kensi, he advised, "The lobster risotto is excellent and if he's paying, quite expensive."

The waitress returned and Kensi went for the lobster risotto while Deeks ordered fish and chips. Alone again, Kensi asked what exactly did Deeks tell Murphy.

"I told him something happened at work that I should have told you about."

"Hetty told me you were put in a difficult spot."

Thank you Hetty, Deeks thought. "I had a job to do. You were the one in a difficult spot."

"How long were you all planning this?"

"I wasn't planning, I was told what to do."

"Deeks," Kensi warned.

"I got pulled into a meeting with Hetty, Callen and one of the deputy chiefs at LAPD the day I requalified and had my drug test."

"That was a couple of weeks ago."

"I kept hoping that the RDX would be recovered or the FBI, who have an agent in with the Aryans, would get to Fisk first." Deeks leaned in to Kensi. "I didn't want today to happen."

"But it did."

The waitress arrived with their food and two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, compliments of Desmond. As soon as the waitress left, Kensi grabbed Deeks's glass of wine and poured it into her glass. "You're also driving."

"I've already had four ginger ales. You think that's wise?" Deeks joked.

Kensi took a bite of her risotto. She smiled a little but got serious when she turned her attention back to the day's events. "Why didn't you tell me? I know how this was supposed to play out. I sold your story. But you were back on the case and I kept calling you."

"I was back in for about an hour. I didn't know who I could trust."

"I thought I was someone you could trust," Kensi said quietly.

"You are. Quinn showing up with some shaky evidence against Bates meant I couldn't contact you. I was under investigation which means he could tap my phone, he wouldn't have a hard time convincing a judge to tap yours."

"Why?"

"What happened this morning meant IA was looking at me for not only the shooting but for possibly being Fisk's mole. I knew LAPD and NCIS were about to make the bust. It didn't happen because of me. Maybe I shot an unarmed man to protect Fisk."

Kensi took the last bite of her risotto. "So if you were gone for a month..."

"I was never going to be gone that long. Fisk told Bates today the sale of the RDX had to go through by Friday. He's got a shipment of heroin coming up Mexico Sunday and he was having cash flow problems."

"You wouldn't have called me back until the weekend?"

"I asked anyone who would listen to tell you everything once Bates spoke to you and I was back on the case."

"Nobody listened."

Deeks disagreed. Nell may not have spilled the beans officially but Sunday was the best thirty two dollars he ever spent on breakfast. "I think Hetty would have told you by the end of the day if I was still out of NCIS."

"If she didn't."

"On or off the record?"

"On."

"I would have trusted Hetty's judgment as operations manager and continued my assignment."

"Off."

"You would have had company tomorrow morning around 5AM." Deeks chuckled. "You might not have recognized me. Bates originally wanted me to cut my hair and get a shave."

Kensi drained the last of their wine. "Would have served you right."

"I hated every single thing about this case."

The waitress reappeared to clear their plates. Kensi asked for another glass of wine, Deeks stuck with ginger ale. Deeks excused himself to use the restroom.

Walking back to the booth, Desmond grabbed his arm. "How's it going, my boy?"

"When she didn't dump the risotto on me and storm out, I figured she'd let me make my case."

"And?"

"Jury is still out. Thanks for the wine."

"Medicine cures, wine makes people happy."

Deeks was smiling when he returned to the booth. Kensi had her second/third wine. "Thank you for not leaving."

"Looks like you have a friend in Desmond."

"Only because I bring you here."

Kensi smiled.

Deeks got quiet and serious. "I'm sorry you were used in all this. I'm sorry I lied. I try hard not to lie to you. I'm sorry you got hurt."

Kensi's bravado replaced her anger and her pain. "I accept your apology about the lies but I wasn't hurt."

Deeks smiled and shook his head. Leaning in, he pulled his ginger ale out of her reach and placed his hand around the stem of her glass so she couldn't toss the wine in his face. "Liar," he said with no malice.

Kensi glared at him as he settled back into the booth.

"It was heartbreaking to see you in the bullpen. You were so unhappy. I couldn't even look at you while I packed up my stuff. I wanted to kill Sam and Callen for leaving me alone with you to say goodbye. I knew I was coming back..."

"That's why you ran when I wanted to talk."

"Damn straight. I told you we'd talk and we would have if I was leaving. But I wasn't having any conversation like that with you in that place. And I won't. Ever. Whatever we have going on, I'm not doing it with Sam and Callen around, with Hetty hovering or with Eric and Nell able to flip on a camera to follow along."

"So that's why you blew me off when I asked you about having a female partner."

"Yeah, well, about that."

"Yes."

"Bates was messing with you. When he called me to tell me I was back on the case, he said you were pissed. I figured he was channeling your anger at me and not NCIS."

"Because being angry at you is better?"

"Being angry at me wasn't going to cause you any more problems than you had already. Being angry at Hetty, Callen and Sam for not fighting for me was going to get you in trouble. Hell, Bates said he was surprised Hetty didn't fight for me."

"She didn't, did she?"

"No, and I was hoping that would tip you off. Hetty just firing me. A bro-hug from Callen, a nice to know you from Sam. Jesus, if I am ever run out of the building I would someone besides you to seem to genuinely mind."

Kensi looked at him skeptically. "Anything else I missed?"

"When was the last time I broke cover?"

Kensi started reviewing their cases together. Every time she thought she had an incident, either she broke cover or the operation changed from an undercover assignment to an arrest. "You don't break cover much."

"No. And I'm not a thug with a gun, either. I worked too damn hard not to be what I came from."

"So you never swore off female partners."

"I've been partnered with you for over a year." Deeks got a little quiet, "I worked with Jess before that. I did an art gallery forgery sting with Linda Jeffries from the FBI's Art Crime Team. There have been others." Deeks leaned in a little, "but I never had a partner as long as I've been with you. What I use to do for LAPD was usually by myself with either a handler or Bates monitoring things. With you, as much as it killed me to see you upset, it was nice to see someone cared."

"Do that to me again and orders or no orders I'll never care again."

"We good?"

"We're better," Kensi told him.

"Better's good. What are you doing Sunday?"

"Sunday?"

"Yeah, Sunday. LAPD is going to let Clarence Fisk's drug deal with the Mexicans go down, only Fisk will be represented by his new real estate lawyer, Dale John Sully. Wanna watch from the command center?"

"You can do that."

"Bates is letting me run the show so yes, I can do that. LAPD work takes precedence over my NCIS duties and I'm sure I can sell both organizations on you as an observer."

"Nell told me about last Sunday."

"Yeah, much like you, for a skinny, little person she eats a lot of breakfast food."

Kensi shot him a look.

"But it is the most important meal of the day so I was happy to make sure she met her daily nutritional requirements."

"Do you know where Nate is?"

"There was nothing in his room that gave away his location, probably intentional, but there was a small window and it was dark behind him. I was guessing Afghanistan but who knows?"

Both Deeks and Kensi answered his question simultaneously, "Hetty."

"So you're going to arrest some Mexican drug dealers."

"You can watch. It will be your own personal episode of Cops."

Kensi's mood lightened. "I'll think about it."

From her reaction, Deeks knew she'd be there. "We're still better."

"We're good."

Deeks signaled the waitress for the check. Desmond dropped by with it. "Tracy, did you take mercy on my friend here?"

"With you as his friend, maybe we both can straighten him out. His old boss mentioned he might look better with a shave and a haircut," Kensi said smiling ear to ear for the first time all day.

Desmond tapped Deeks on the chest, "I told you that son, months ago. What jury is going to take you seriously if you're looking like a roadie for U2?"

Deeks took two fifties out of his wallet and figured he'd overtip the waitress for leaving the two of them alone most of the night. "OK, I'm paying for this and let Erin keep the change. As for my hair," he turned his attention to Kensi, "ask Delilah how well that haircutting went for Samson."

"Samson? Really?"

"You two have a good night." Desmond walked to the bar shaking his head. "Be good to each other."

"You'd be amazed by my feats of bravery and strength today." Deeks fished his phone out of his pocket and emailed her the photo of him outside of Bates's window.

Kensi looked at the photo on her phone, then stared at Deeks.

"There were times when I couldn't answer my cell, I promise." Deeks smiled. "Hetty wants to talk to me about this tomorrow; you can watch her yell at me. I'm sure at some point she'll be sorry I'm back."

Kensi got serious. "She won't. She found you, you're one of hers."

"Funny, she said the same thing Sunday." Deeks stood. "I am glad to be back."

Kensi got up and eyed him head to toe. "Yeah, well, keep things on the straight and narrow Tim. I don't need another day like today."

Deeks threw his arm around Kensi's shoulder and leaned into her ear before she could pull away, "Selling Tracy and Tim to Desmond. She'd have forgiven a do-gooder like Tim."

His heart nearly stopped as she looked up to him. Her smiled was glorious as she leaned into his ear, "You walk me out like this, you're paying for the lobster risotto next time."

"Deal," Deeks told her. It was a debt he'd be happy to pay.

-30-

Author's notes: If you made it here, bless your heart! And thanks for reading and reviewing/favoriting. That's awesome. This was fun!