Title: Take Me Out
Rating: T for a few adult words
Spoilers: Up through 3x20 "Patriot Acts"
Disclaimer: Nope, still not mine.
A/N: Thanks as always to the best beta I know, MioneAlterEgo, who always makes brainstorming and speculating fun. Thanks for reading if you do and a review is appreciated if you leave one.

"Deeks, what the hell are you doing here?"

Kensi paused before she turned the corner, the hostile tone from the speaker instantly putting her on alert. Leaning against the wall, Kensi angled her head so she could peek around the corner, taking in Deeks standing in the hallway to her left. His posture would look relaxed to the casual observer. But Kensi could see the tension in his shoulders, could read the discomfort in how he crossed his arms, turning to address the two men behind him.

"Davis, Foley, how's it going?"

"Fine until you showed up. Do you even still count as a cop anymore? Shouldn't you be off solving drug deals and murders with the Navy?"

Kensi narrowed her eyes, instantly disliking the first detective who addressed Deeks. They'd been finishing up interviews to close out a case and on their way back to OSP when Deeks remembered he needed to turn in some paperwork at the LAPD. He'd volunteered to drop her off and run the errand on his own but Kensi had pointed out that was a waste of time driving across town and back.

She hadn't been able to quite place the discomfort that passed through his eyes at his words. But the second they'd entered LAPD he'd been on alert. Eyes sweeping and searching as though he were entering hostile territory and they could be attacked at any time.

At first she'd wondered why. But she remembered Deeks was not thought of well by his fellow detectives, as was evidenced by the two men who had approached Deeks when she'd left in search of a vending machine and caffeine.

"Last time I checked drug deals and murders still count as crimes. What about you guys? Any moles you need me to ferret out for you while I'm here? Any cases you can't figure out and need me to solve? I've got a few minutes before my partner gets back."

Kensi bit the inside of her mouth to keep from laughing at the not-so-subtle jab Deeks made at the detectives' professional abilities. And really, it was true that Deeks and NCIS had helped LAPD clean house during the Clarence Fisk case in a way they hadn't been able to accomplish on their own.

But when one of the detectives narrowed his eyes, Kensi could see the resentment boiling below the surface. And Deeks standing there, calm and confident, seemed to only fuel the man's anger.

"Where is that partner of yours? I hear that girl is one smokin' hot piece of ass."

Kensi rolled her eyes skyward, annoyed more than anything. She was used to her physical appearance being the thing that men zeroed in as the most memorable thing about her. And she enjoyed proving them wrong. She liked to think members of law enforcement might give her a little more of a benefit of the doubt, that they might consider she was capable of more than wearing a short skirt and playing the honeypot, but she wasn't terribly surprised that a couple LAPD detectives couldn't quite manage a more creative comeback.

What surprised her was Deeks' instant reaction. Gone was the casual stance and the confident set of his shoulders. Deeks had moved quickly into the other man's personal space, one hand balled into a fist at his side while the other shoved the man once in the shoulder. Deeks used his slightly taller height to his advantage, staring the other man down with eyes that were suddenly furious and cold.

"What the hell is the matter with you? I won't allow you to talk about my partner that way. She's not some 'girl' you can just talk about like she isn't a person. She's a federal agent and she could kick you hard enough to make your grandchildren cry," Deeks replied, his voice carefully controlled and laced with fury Kensi could tell he was barely reining in.

The other detective didn't seem to get the hint, his mouth lifting in a rude smirk. "I think we see how it is. She's yours and you want us to back off. It won't be the first time you couldn't keep your hands off your partner. Or maybe she's just too much for you to handle? If the rumors are true it wouldn't surprise me you can't manage to keep a woman like that satisfied."

Kensi watched Deeks' fist tighten, his knuckles turning pale under his tan skin and she decided she'd heard enough. Good natured teasing of her partner was one thing. She, Callen, and Sam had engaged in getting a rise out of Deeks on an almost daily basis. But there was never the tinge of malicious intent as there was from the one detective. She was strangely struck by feeling overprotective of Deeks. He might be the likely target of the NCIS team's teasing, but he was theirs. And they protected their own.

She knew he could fight his own battles. But he didn't have to. Not with her around.

Turning the corner and coming into view, Kensi saw as one of the detectives nudged the other, both men turning their heads to look at her. Their eyes swept over her appreciatively, not bothering to try to hide the admiration of her. And if she allowed a slight sway of her hips as she approached, she didn't examine the impulse too closely.

But she also didn't miss the concerned glint in Deeks' eyes as he turned to her. His dark blue eyes swept over the placid set of her face, clearly trying to determine how much she'd heard. When his eyes met hers she saw the regret that furrowed his brow as he read in her eyes what even she couldn't hide from him.

Kensi tried to ignore the strange tug that lodged itself below her heart and suddenly made her breath catch. She knew that look he was giving her. She could read the anger and unhappiness he felt that she'd heard the detectives talk about her, marginalize her. She really couldn't care less. There was only one LAPD detective who had an opinion that mattered to her. But the fact that he cared enough? It was enough to make her respond impulsively, in a way she hadn't even thought to until that second.

She sidled up to Deeks, bumping his hip with hers and invading his personal space. It was something they did on any given day, standing near each other, constantly shoving, nudging, and touching in ways that had become natural and unthinking on both their parts. She'd become used to his touch, even sought it out without meaning to. But this movement, and her hand on his arm, stroking down to his closed fist in a blatantly intentional touch, was different. It was as obvious as a jumbotron sign and as loud as a tsunami warning siren. And she raised her eyes to meet those of the two detectives staring at her, the shock on their faces equally readable as they picked up on the message she was obviously broadcasting.

He's mine. I'm his.

Deeks didn't shy away from her, the only indication of his surprise the slight widening of his eyes as they settled on hers, a confused question beginning to form on his lips. Kensi gave him a quick shake of her head, silencing his response as she turned back to the two detectives, fixing them with her most bright smile.

"Deeks, are these friends of yours?" Kensi kept her tone light, but she felt Deeks shift from one foot to the other at the pointed inflection she'd allowed to creep into her voice at the word "friends." No one else but him would have been able to hear it.

"Kensi, this is Detective Carl Foley and Jim Davis. Guys, my partner, Agent Kensi Blye."

Reaching forward to shake each man's hand in turn, then Kensi leaned back and angled her body towards Deeks. She laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently and smiling at the way Deeks startled a little in response to her touch. She couldn't be sure but she thought she felt him shiver under her hand.

For an undercover operative used to thinking on his feet, he wasn't seeming to catch on to the angle she was trying to play. Nobody messed with her partner but her. And Sam and Callen. She didn't care what the detectives thought of her. But she did want to mess with their heads a little.

"What were you guys talking about? An interesting case?" Kensi asked brightly, her eyes curious and seemingly oblivious to the conversation she'd interrupted. The two detectives had enough decency to look a little chagrined, and then the previously silent one, Detective Foley, she thought, looked behind her, his desperate eyes catching on something on the wall.

"The charity softball game. We were discussing this Saturday's game."

Kensi raised a skeptical eyebrow, internally shaking her head. The whole lot of them were so transparent with their discomfort she almost had to laugh. But then, most people were willing to be bullies with the benefit of numbers. And most decent men, or at least men pretending to be decent, wouldn't be complete, insensitive ass-hats to a woman's face. The second she'd shown up she'd balanced the scale, and made it less easy for the detectives to be sexist and obnoxious to her face.

"You coming, Deeks? Not that you can hit worth a damn," Davis asked, using his comment to slide back into thinly veiled contempt. Deeks didn't rise to take the bait but Kensi narrowed her eyes at the detective. She was growing weary of how these cops were so ready and willing to verbally castrate her partner.

Reaching for Deeks' waist, Kensi tugged on his belt loop, letting her fingers lightly graze the warm skin at his hip and catching his incredulous eyes with her own. "Charity softball game? Sounds like fun. We should go."

The light of panic flashed briefly through Deeks' eyes and was gone almost fast enough to make her think she'd imagined it. But she knew better. He could try to hide things from her but he would fail every single time.

He hadn't outright lied to her before the Clarence Fisk case. And when she'd thought he was gone she'd been so blinded by her wildly tumbling emotions that she hadn't been able to see the signs of his reluctant deception, open only for her to see. Deeks was a very good liar. But after the Fisk case she was suddenly in tune with every single tell he had. Maybe it was because he didn't bother to keep things from her anymore. He didn't lay his soul bare, but he didn't lie to her. Or maybe it was because almost losing him had made her even more aware of him.

"Yeah, Deeks, you should join us. Bring your partner here. I'm sure everyone in the department would love it if you came," Davis continued, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

"And it's for charity," Foley piped in, trying to deflect some of the obvious tension building between Davis and Deeks.

"I don't know, we'll see," Deeks replied quietly. Kensi frowned, about to push further, when Deeks fixed her with a stern glance. Seeing the anger in his eyes, she felt her heart flip painfully and with a stab of shock. He was angry at her.

Kensi barely paid attention to the goodbyes thrown her way as the detectives moved on. But she felt the absence of Deeks' body warmth at her side as he pulled away from her, his back stiff as he strode towards the elevator. Suddenly at a loss as to why he would be angry at her, Kensi had to jog to keep up.

She wanted to ask, but the grim set of his lips and his eyes trained ahead and away from her, refusing to meet her eyes as they rode the crowded elevator down to the first floor, made her swallow her words. She wracked her brain, trying to think about why he'd be mad at her. She'd allowed the detectives to think there was something going on physically between her and Deeks but she didn't see the harm in that. It didn't matter what they thought.

It couldn't have been the touching. Although Deeks joked about inappropriate touching from Sam or Callen, he never complained when she touched him. If anything, he practically preened when she took the hands on approach with him.

Deeks got into her SUV, pulling his seatbelt on and waiting for her. Starting the car, the silence in the cabin was almost deafening as she merged into traffic, heading back towards OSP. Kensi waited for Deeks to speak, each passing second making her more and more apprehensive. She didn't know how to handle this version of Deeks. He was angry with her and she didn't know why. And as she puzzled over the possibilities about why and still came up blank, her own anger began to grow.

She'd done him a favor back at the LAPD. She'd looked out for him, protected him how a partner should. And now he could barely look at her?

Unable to take the silence any longer, Kensi finally turned to look at Deeks while they were stopped at a light, her impatience clear in her voice. "Deeks, what's going on? Why are you pissed at me?"

Deeks' eyes swiveled to hers, wide and incredulous as he barked out a short laugh. "Are you kidding me? You actually wonder why I could possibly be mad?"

Confused, Kensi raised her hands impatiently. "I was just helping you give those guys a hard time back there. Let them keep thinking their idiotic thoughts and drawing moronic conclusions. I don't see why you should be mad at me."

Deeks was shaking his head at her and the movement just spurred her on, feeling like he was dismissing her, dismissing her efforts to look out for him.

"Why do you care so much what those guys think?" Kensi asked angrily. Deeks froze instantly, his furious eyes meeting hers.

"I don't care what they think. Not about me. That's never mattered to me before. But I care what they say about you," Deeks replied, his tone stubborn. Kensi rolled her eyes dismissively.

"I don't care what they say about me, Deeks. You shouldn't either."

The silence that followed her words stretched on a little too long and Kensi finally glanced over at Deeks, surprised to find him shaking his head, his lips set in a firm and angry line. Once again, she puzzled over what she'd said. She couldn't find the right answer. All she knew was that Deeks was even more furious with her than before.


"Pull over."

"What? Here? Why do I—"

"Pull over!"

Kensi finally obeyed, narrowly missing hitting another car as she jerked the SUV to a stop off the road and next to the sidewalk. Her heart pounded at Deeks' harsh words, so full of uncharacteristic anger. He was out of the car before she could respond. Kensi unbuckled her seatbelt, her fingers fumbling as she reached for the door handle. Before she could exit the vehicle and follow him, Deeks leaned into the car from his side, fixing her with an angry stare.

"Stay in the car, Kensi."

Once again adrift and uncertain in the storm of Deeks' anger towards her, Kensi was left with barely being able to string words together. "What? Why? What did I do?"

Deeks glanced away from her, mute for a moment. Kensi waited in the painful still of the silence, her eyes fixed on Deeks, waiting for him to reassure her. To tell her that things were fine, that he wasn't really mad at her.

He'd never been able to stay mad at her. It was one of the things that had always comforted her about him. As much as she teased him, pushed him away, and irritated him, he always came back. She pushed the line sometimes, intentionally sought to see how far she could push him. It was her own way of testing the limits, of trying to figure out what it would take for him to give up on her.

Up until that moment she thought there wasn't anything he wouldn't take from her. Kensi knew she wasn't the easiest partner or the easiest woman to be around. But Deeks had always taken everything she threw at him, everything she was, in stride. She hadn't realized until that moment how much she depended on that loyalty, on his constancy.

Deeks swallowed, his jaw tightening when he finally turned his head to look back at her. The anger was gone from his eyes but Kensi didn't feel relief. Regret filled his blue eyes, chased by something that looked like sadness and longing. And Kensi had no idea what to do with those emotions. They were strictly in the category of feelings they didn't dwell on and didn't discuss.

Somehow the afternoon's events had pushed Deeks over the edge of a precipice they'd both skirted the edge of for months. And Kensi wished instantly that she could take it all back, that she could rewind the afternoon and tell her past self not to respond to whatever impulse she'd had in toying with those detectives and setting Deeks off.

"You didn't do anything. I get it, you don't see it. I just need to figure some stuff out. On my own."

Deeks offered her a tight smile, then stepped away from the car, shutting the door behind him. In her rearview mirror she watched him walk away, his head bent down in a way so uncharacteristically discouraged.

Completely at a loss, Kensi sat in her car for several long minutes. When she finally looked in her rearview mirror she was surprised to see the tears gathering in her eyes. Blinking rapidly and refusing to let them fall, Kensi swiped at her eyes and looked back in the direction Deeks had gone.

But it was too late to follow him. He'd long since melted into the pedestrians on the sidewalk, gone from her view.

She wasn't sure if she was relieved or upset that she couldn't go after him. And that troubled her more than anything else.