Title: Take Me Out
Rating: T for adult words/situations
Spoilers: Up through 3x20 "Patriot Acts"
Disclaimer: Nope, still not mine.
A/N: This is a bit later than I originally planned to post. I went on vacation to the Pacific Northwest last week thinking I'd have all sorts of time to write during the gloomy weather. And it turned into 9 days straight with sunshine and not a drop of rain, so the beaches and rain forests were calling. Thank you so much for the reviews, favorites, and alerts, such enthusiasm is so encouraging and much appreciated. Additional thanks to MioneAlterEgo for being such an awesome beta and sounding board. I've run out of the words to express my gratitude. And thanks to Angela6257 for the reassurance. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the conclusion to this story. And thanks for leaving a review if you do!
"Hey, is your partner okay?"
Deeks looked up at the question from Kyle, their informally appointed team captain. They were at a timeout between the four games they were playing and the green team, the team Deeks and Kensi were playing on, was getting pounded by the competition. They were taking a break in the second game and Deeks had been sitting in the dugout, staring off into space, a little bit heart sick, a whole lot worried, and even more confused than he'd already been that day. With what had happened over the last few hours worry, mixed with a fair share of anger, was winning out.
After Kensi had walked away from him a few hours before, she'd approached the rest of their team, exchanging handshakes and greetings. Kensi had effortlessly turned on the charm, becoming her first-date-Kensi-best. Deeks had watched her, equal parts annoyed and amazed. He knew she was good with a cover. He just hated seeing her put one on because of him and what was going on between them.
If things had been normal between them she might have been a little subdued and quiet, might have looked to him for support with meeting officers from the LAPD, looked to him for safety in numbers. But as it was, Kensi had walked away from him, forged on ahead because that's what she did. She always kept moving, left the discomfort of things she didn't want to deal with behind her. Deeks had watched her go, wondering with a pang if he wasn't one of those uncomfortable things she didn't want to deal with.
Finally, Deeks had trailed behind Kensi, nodding to the cops and others he knew and introducing himself to those he didn't. Luckily the unknowns were cops that didn't really know Deeks, or hadn't formed opinions about him, so they were welcoming and friendly to him and Kensi. And it appeared that Foley had kept his word to try and stop the rumors that might have spread about Kensi and him.
Deeks felt like he could relax a little, though there was still a knot in his stomach as he watched Kensi put on her act. He wanted to figure out how to fix things with her but the demands of where they were, the fact that they had an obligation to meet, took precedence. Sure, it was just a couple of softball games for charity, but it still meant delaying a conversation he was beginning to feel was inevitable despite how stubbornly Kensi was avoiding dealing with it or him. Despite all that, when one familiar face approached he'd been able to react warmly without pretense or hesitation.
Kyle was a detective in Robbery Division and they'd worked together years ago before Deeks had moved on to his undercover position. When the tall, dark haired, green-eyed man reached out to shake his hand Deeks had been able to give Kyle a genuine smile and slap on the back.
Out of the corner of his eye he'd seen Kensi watching him with Kyle, clearly trying to gauge their history and relationship. Finally glad to have a welcoming face to introduce Kensi to and prove that not everyone on the LAPD disliked him, Deeks had motioned Kensi over. She'd looked a little surprised but came easily enough, turning her body towards him with instinctive familiarity when his hand went to her shoulder to draw her closer. Deeks wondered if Kensi realized she did that, turned her body towards him, stood too close, in a silent admission of a relationship built on more than just the foundation of co-workers and friends.
He suspected Kensi was kicking herself for her earlier accusatory outburst. He didn't really know how to fix things between them. But it wasn't in him to shut her out altogether. It might have been what she expected, what she felt she deserved after her unexplained territorial reaction to Cara, Sara, and Tara. He would have been lying if he said there wasn't a part of him that wanted to stay angry with her.
Deeks figured that despite the occasional facade he put up that at least Kensi knew him and would think better of him than as the kind of guy to sleep around with any willing woman. Even if she didn't realize it he knew he wasn't that guy. Hadn't been that guy for awhile now. But when the options were staying angry and being apart from her, or giving a little and maybe trying to start to mend the breech between them, he felt like he had to try and bend a little.
Still, there was a part of him that objected to giving even an inch. Sometimes it felt like that was all he did with Kensi. He gave and she took. He watched and reacted to her. She moved and he shadowed. Earlier that week he'd felt like he'd reached his own personal tipping point in how much he could accept from Kensi while not thinking about the feelings and emotions attached to them as partners, friends, and whatever else they were. But on Friday, realizing Kensi wasn't ready for the discussion about them as "whatever else," he'd given in and let things return to so-called normal.
He wasn't even really sure he was ready to call their relationship anything more than a partnership or friendship. Just because he knew he felt more for her didn't make it easy for him to put a label on it and change everything about how they worked together. But at a minimum he knew there were aspects of their relationship, feelings that had to do with trust and possessiveness, that bled into how they thought about each other. He wasn't necessarily looking to put a ring on her finger. But he felt like they couldn't keep going in the same cyclical pattern of ignoring what Kensi didn't want to talk about.
And then she'd gone and done the unexpected, pulling the rug out from underneath him once again. She refused to consider their relationship beyond partners and friends but she couldn't help those reactions that gave her away. There was something more there, even if she didn't want to acknowledge it. And although Deeks had retreated and allowed Kensi to put that physical and emotional distance between them, it wasn't because he wanted to. He didn't really know how to reach her. But that didn't mean he wouldn't try. Just as soon as he figured out a plan of attack.
"Kyle, this is my partner, Kensi Blye. Kens, this is Kyle Porter, we worked together when I was in Robbery Division."
They shook hands, Kyle giving Kensi a welcoming smile. "Great to meet you. Anyone who can take Marty on full time as a partner deserves admiration and respect. And a lifetime supply of Excedrin."
Kensi burst out laughing, the first genuine reaction since their earlier disagreement and even Deeks couldn't help but smile even as he shook his head at Kyle.
"And you guys wonder why I don't come to more of these things. Who needs enemies with friends like the LAPD?" Deeks joked, although his voice held that hint of truth he couldn't hide that he genuinely felt that way. Most other guys would have brushed past it, but Kyle immediately sobered up, giving Deeks a friendly squeeze on the shoulder.
"Sorry, Deeks. You know how easy it is to pick up bad habits from those Homicide guys. If you ever want to come back to Robbery Division I'd be glad to be partnered with you. It really hasn't been as much fun since you left. So if you ever get tired of NCIS, you know you have a place somewhere."
Involuntarily, Deeks' gaze slid over to Kensi, meeting her dark eyes with his. He silently asked her the question, more interested in her reaction than in actually following through with Kyle's offer. Did he want to go back to LAPD? Not really. But if that was what Kensi wanted, he might consider it. He couldn't help that impulse to give her what she needed, to put her before himself.
Kensi read the question in his eyes and she shook her head quickly, with just enough force that couldn't be mistaken as ambivalent. It wasn't much, and it wasn't followed up with an emotional declaration of words. But that wasn't Kensi. Her actions had always spoken louder than the things she said since so much of what she really felt was never voiced out loud. But knowing that about her, Deeks could take that offering for what it was: a small step forward.
"Nah, I think I'm good where I'm at. Besides, Kensi doesn't want to have to house train another partner," Deeks replied with a teasing wink at Kensi. Her eyebrows knit together in a visible sign of how his words bothered her but Deeks merely shrugged. She was never going to say she wanted him around because she cared about him and didn't want to be partnered with anyone else. He'd just been putting the words out there she probably would have said to cover up any real emotion.
Internally Deeks sighed. He'd been doing it so long, covering up what he really thought or felt with humor and making himself the source of derision before others could, that it was painfully natural. A good shrink would probably say he used humor to deflect away from uncomfortable situations.
Most of the time it didn't bother him too much. He was confident enough about his abilities as a cop to not care what most everyone else thought. Most of the time he thought he was a decent enough guy. He wasn't entirely sure he was a good man. There were enough secrets, enough black in whatever blank, white page he might have been, that his slate would always be shaded with grey.
It couldn't possibly be cut and dry and on good days Deeks thought he might be a good man, even tricked himself into seeing in Kensi's eyes that she thought he was worthy. But on bad days, when he questioned his past and whether he really did enough to even the scales, the look in Kensi's eyes sometimes wasn't enough and he began to question himself.
Sometimes he wanted to ask her. But he feared her confirming his darkest thoughts as much as he longed for the reassurance only she could give him. And without anyone telling him otherwise, reassuring him that his darker thoughts were just a passing thing, his normal self-confidence took a hit.
The opinions of a few people mattered. And it was hard sometimes when the one person he wanted that good opinion from was the one who had the biggest difficulty admitting it. The rewards with Kensi in the last two years, from earning her trust and confidence, felt like he'd scaled a mountain or slayed a dragon. The fight against the very real emotional barriers Kensi had erected all around her sometimes seemed like an impossible battle. But he'd always innately known, even before he really knew her, that she was worth it. But God, sometimes it was exhausting. Sometimes he just wanted to know, flat out and clearly stated, that his efforts were appreciated. That some measure of his deep regard for her was reciprocated.
Whatever Kensi might have said, whether it was reassurance or a quip while rolling her eyes, was lost as Kyle called the rest of the team over. After a quick assessment of abilities Kensi had started off as pitcher while Deeks took the left outfield position. Kyle played third base, within distance so he could huddle with Kensi and the catcher if needed.
Kensi was a very good pitcher. She threw with confidence and precision. Initially the few pitches that didn't make it past home plate to the catcher's mitt were pretty easily caught. Deeks caught the hits that made it to left field, throwing with power and speed to the other players on his team to get batters out. They were only seven inning games and the first game went fairly quickly.
But in the fifth inning, with the score 4-2 in favor of the green team, Kyle pulled in a new catcher. From a distance Deeks recognized Jim Davis. And he sighed, watching the back of Kensi's head as she stood with Kyle and Davis on the pitcher's mound. When the huddle broke up and Kyle returned to third base while Davis took over at home plate, Deeks called out to him.
"What's going on, doesn't Davis have another team to play for?"
Kyle shrugged, easygoing by nature. "They had too many players. And he wanted to play catcher. I didn't see any harm in it."
Deeks clamped his lips shut, resisting the urge to object. It was all just a game. And a game for charity. Surely Davis could behave as something resembling a grown, mature man.
An hour later Deeks was both grimly satisfied and discouraged to have been proven wrong. After Davis began as catcher he'd begun signaling calls to Kensi that she didn't agree with. Initially she shook them off and threw what she wanted to. Davis then started off with taunts and angry words for Kensi that could be defended as jokes but where clearly more pointed, which she studiously ignored. And then he fumbled several incoming throws as runners came towards home, allowing the other team to score. They'd finished that first game three runs behind, losing their two point lead in less than two innings.
Continuing on into the second game, the camaraderie and fun with the other members of the team slowly faded as Davis blustered and bullied from home plate. As the catcher he controlled the flow of the game, dictated the plays and told the other players where to be and when. Kyle tried to intervene, calling a timeout to talk with his catcher. From left field Deeks could tell Davis blew Kyle off. And Kyle, both as team captain and as Deeks remembered, a peacemaker, had not pushed their fellow detective to adjust his behavior.
His next tactic had been to talk with Kensi and, Deeks had a feeling, implore her to play along with Davis. Deeks watched the way Kensi's back straightened and how she kicked her sneakered foot against the red dirt of the pitching mound. He knew she didn't like it, especially didn't like giving in to Davis of all people. But she finally nodded and Kyle gave her shoulder a grateful squeeze before he jogged back to third base, resuming play in the bottom of the seventh inning of their second game, the green team down by two.
It all happened so quickly that Deeks barely had time to react, let alone let off a shouted warning.
On the other team, Samuels hit the ball with loud thunk and Deeks dove for the line drive towards left field, catching it after it bounced once. Seeing Calhoun heading for home plate from third base, Deeks threw the ball to Davis, who managed to catch it and tag Calhoun out. Samuels had managed to make it past first and was running towards second when Davis threw the ball wildly. There was desperate and uncontrolled force behind the throw and Deeks could only watch from left field as it flew towards Kensi like a magnet, striking her in the face.
Kensi dropped to the edge of the pitcher's mound onto the grass as if she'd been knocked out cold and Deeks was running towards her, his heart leaping to his throat as he yelled her name. He didn't have far to run but the distance felt like the length of a marathon as he watched her still form, unresponsive and facing away from him on her side.
Deeks slid to his knees, turning as he went so he was facing Kensi's front where she'd curled her body inward. He felt the damp grass soak through his jeans at the knees, felt the impact of the ground as his knees hit hard, knew his jeans would be stained from the grass and that he'd later pay with aching knees for his desperation to get to Kensi.
Ignoring the twinge of pain, he leaned over Kensi and brushed her hair from where it covered her face, careful as he examined what he could see of her. It wasn't until she moaned and stirred under his hands that he realized his heart felt as though it had stopped and he wasn't breathing. Relief made the spots of black in his vision disappear as he sucked air gratefully into his lungs and his heart picked up speed, working overtime to make up for the previous lack of blood pumping through his body.
Deeks heard their other softball teammates in the background, heard Kyle calling for the onsite nurse, but the only sound he cared about was Kensi's voice saying his name. The only sight he wanted to see was her eyes opening to look at him.
"Kensi? Can you hear me? Open your eyes for me. Please, Kens," Deeks whispered, not really caring that he was pleading, and really not caring who heard his anxious request of his partner.
Kensi was still out of it so Deeks took advantage, running his hands over her body, giving her a cursory check with a light but inquisitive touch he knew she wouldn't allow had she been fully conscious. He was quickly satisfied that she hadn't hurt herself when she fell so he turned his attention to her head, rolling her gently to her back and cradling her head between his hands so he could examine the side of her face where she'd been hit. And the earlier black spots of his vision were replaced with an angry haze of red as he took in the already swelling side of her face around her left eye and the involuntary tears that had pooled at the inner corner of her eye.
Allowing a light graze of his fingers over her cheekbone, the arch over her eyebrow, and her nose, he was concluded that none of the bones of her face appeared to be broken. Despite his quick touch Kensi gasped in pain and then yelped, her eyelids flying open and her wide eyes finally staring up at him.
It was an incredibly unguarded moment between them and Deeks read the pain, followed by embarrassment, chased by annoyance, that passed through her eyes. He watched the way she struggled to quickly rebuild her mental defenses, even thought he saw regret flash through her eyes. Whether that was regret that he'd seen her in such a vulnerable moment or that she felt the need to yet again have to wall herself off and hide her reactions from him, he wasn't sure.
But when he reached forward with his hand to wipe away her tears he didn't miss the pink blush that almost matched the side of her face where blood had rushed to her injury. And Kensi's eyes shifted from his, taking in how his knees were tucked against her side and his free hand was at her waist, holding her secure against him from where she laid on the ground.
"I'm okay, Deeks. Really," Kensi insisted, clearly reading the skepticism on his face. When she began to bend forward at the waist, trying to sit up, Deeks was torn between wanted to help her and demanding she stay lying down until the nurse could check her over. Knowing she would do what she wanted anyway he figured it would be better to help than hinder her.
He helped her sit up but was quick to use his body to prop her up, sitting behind her with his knees at her sides and her back against his chest. What surprised him was that she allowed her weight to rest on him. He straightened one leg out along her right side and kept his left knee bent, his sneakered foot next to her thigh.
Kensi brought a hand up to gingerly touch the side of her face but let it fall away as she hissed in pain, her hand dropping to rest on his grass-stained knee. Her head was bowed, the back of her neck bared to him and he could only hardly see the side of her face where it was turned slightly towards him but her eyes seemed to be fixed on his knee, on the green and brown stain that was clear evidence of his haste in getting to her.
She was conscious and seemed relatively okay. He could be grateful for that. But he couldn't help but also wish that he knew what she was thinking. She wasn't pulling away from him, wasn't trying to put physical distance between them. They had the excuse of the situation to explain away some of his concern and their close proximity. But even that wasn't enough to completely dismiss the intimate way he was holding her. Or that she was allowing.
Deeks knew how it probably looked. He knew it would likely destroy any efforts he'd made to eliminate the possible rumors of a physical relationship between him and his partner. But he knew that in that moment he really didn't care. Dismissing the rumors and ignoring the feelings didn't make them go away. It just made him miserable, confused and angered Kensi, and resulted in situations like they'd found themselves in the last few days with uncertainty and misunderstandings keeping them from really communicating. And he was just tired of it.
Whether it was her injury, the last few days, or some kind of new awareness, Kensi didn't seem anxious to put distance between them. It was a strong impulse in him to ask and inquire about what she was thinking. But he pushed that aside, wanting to assure himself that she was really okay after taking a softball in the face. Deeks looked up as Kyle finally arrived with the nurse. Deeks stayed in position behind Kensi, watching as the nurse checked her over despite Kensi's repeatedly insistence that she was fine.
Kensi was trying to stand on her own but Deeks held her back and tight against him with a firm arm snaked around her waist. She shot him a slightly irritated look which he studiously ignored as he leveled his gaze with the nurse, a kindly looking older woman.
"Is she really okay?" Deeks asked, disregarding Kensi's verbal protests at his concern.
Holding out a cold compress for Kensi to hold against the side of her face, the women nodded and gave him an encouraging smile. "She'll be fine. If it had been a regular hard ball we might be having a different discussion. She has a mild concussion but with some icing and rest your girlfriend should be perfectly fine."
Deeks felt Kensi stiffen at the word "girlfriend" but he chose not to react or draw any attention to the label, instead pushing forward with more questions. "Should she go to the hospital?"
"Oh my God, Deeks, no! I'm perfectly fine-"
Deeks cut her off with a sharp look and surprisingly, Kensi pressed her lips shut as she seemed to realize the inflammatory and weighted word she'd used.
The nurse shook her head quickly while giving him a sympathetic smile. "I don't think it's necessary. Just ice and rest. If she starts behaving differently or experiences extreme pain then a trip to the hospital might be warranted."
Deeks narrowed his eyes, feeling the weight of worry for Kensi overruling rational thought and categorically ignoring how he might have normally reacted. "Are you sure you know what you're doing? Are you a licensed, practicing nurse?"
Instead of responding as if insulted, the nurse merely smiled. "You're free to take her to the hospital, though I suspect she may be unwilling to go. I can assure you that the human head is pretty hard and even when knocked around the brain does a good job of repairing the damage."
"I'm sitting right here. And no, I'm not willing to go to the hospital. Deeks, stop badgering the woman." Kensi turned to look at Deeks fully, shooting him an irritated stare. "And stop being an ass. I'm okay, alright?"
Deeks frowned and then opened his mouth to object but Kensi whirled away from him, reaching a hand towards Kyle.
"Kyle, help me up?" Kensi asked. Kyle looked at Deeks briefly, then leaned forward to take Kensi's hand and pull her to her feet. Kensi braced her other hand on Deeks' thigh, using it to push herself up from the ground. Deeks felt her fingers tighten on his leg and he watched her worriedly, getting to his own feet but keeping his eyes on her. And when Kensi swayed slightly, any remaining color in her face leaving as she almost turned white, he was right there to wrap an arm around her waist, letting her use him for balance. Her hand gripping his forearm told him that while she might be relatively okay, she was definitely not fine.
Deeks was about to again push forward the idea of the hospital when Jim Davis' voice cut through the small crowd of people that had formed around the pitcher's mound.
"Damn, Kensi! You took that ball in the face like a champ! When are we gonna to get back to the game?"
Kensi must have felt the anger shake through him, must have clued into the visceral reaction that caused him to straighten and tense with fury. Her fingers on his forearm tightened as if she were trying to hold him place, keep him next to her.
He spared her a quick glance, seeing that some of the color had returned to her face and she was more stable on her feet. He glanced at Kyle, who nodded at him quickly in silent support as he stepped away from Kensi. He heard her saying his name, her voice exasperated and annoyed but he kept moving, pushing through the people around them to find Davis halfway to home plate from the pitcher's mound, casually tossing a ball in the air and catching it, seemingly nonchalant about knocking Kensi unconscious.
When Davis finally looked his way he seemed to startle a little at the thunderous look on Deeks' face and he took an involuntary step backward, catching the softball in one hand and holding both hands up in a condescendingly conciliatory gesture.
"Hey, man, no hard feelings, alright? You know how it is, heat of the moment during a game."
"'Heat of the moment'? You throw wildly or without really looking, knock my partner unconscious, and you can't even manage an apology? You could have really hurt her."
Davis rolled his eyes. "I know you two have this thing going on between you but calm the hell down, Deeks. She should have gotten out of the way when I threw the ball. But she's standing up, talking. She's fine-"
The last word out of Davis' mouth was cut off as in a flash Deeks swung his arm forward, catching Davis in the jaw, the other man hitting the ground like a stone. Deeks hadn't aimed to knock him unconscious, he wanted Davis to feel the pain of the impact of his fist. Going undercover as different people had given him a wide range of useful skills. And Deeks had learned a thing or two about punches and pain during his time as Jason Wyler.
"Don't tell me what she is, you son of a bitch. I'd tell you to apologize but I know there's really no point since you're an insensitive dick. Stay away from her."
Davis slowly got to his feet, shooting Deeks a furious gaze as he shook his head and rubbed his jaw painfully. His eyes turned cold as his right hand formed into a fist and he took a purposeful step towards Deeks.
"Don't start something you can't finish, Deeks," Davis warned. Deeks steadied himself, having already prepared for the possibility that Davis wouldn't back down, having already accepted and welcomed that as an outcome. He knew he could hold his own against Davis. But he couldn't not to do something to stand up to the man who had hurt and insulted his partner.
Before he saw her move, Kensi had insinuated herself between him and Davis, her palm flat on his chest as she stared him down, her eyes angrily challenging him. "Deeks, stop. There's nothing going on here worth a fight."
Deeks met her eyes, feeling the words threaten to explode from within. She was wrong. In his opinion, Kensi injured was one of the few things that warranted a violent response. It was his job to protect Kensi, to look out for her. A calm voice in his head tried to tell his overreacting brain that he couldn't possibly protect her from everything and although Davis was somewhat culpable, this was still basically an accident. And there was no way he could always protect her from those.
"Guys, let's take it down a notch, alright?" Kyle said, his voice calming and steady to Deeks' right. Deeks spared the other man a glance, reading the plea in his eyes that they keep things from escalating. And Deeks allowed a glance around to the people in the distance, taking in the cops he knew, their families, their children. Deeks felt the tension quickly melt away. There was no way he wanted to get into a fistfight while a bunch of kids watched. That was a little too painfully close to his own childhood memories.
Deeks took a step back, watching as Kensi's face relaxed with relief and she moved with him, shadowing his movement, her hand still resting on his chest. Allowing his anger to dissolve, Deeks gave her a half smile, to which she mustered up a cautious smile back. She watched him warily, as if she were waiting and looking for the Deeks she knew to take the place of the angry man he'd been moments before.
Kensi must have seen what she needed to in his eyes because her hand dropped and she took a slight step away from him. It wasn't until that moment that Deeks realized how close to him she'd been standing. And, looking around, he saw that the crowd of people had dissipated, moving off to other activities. Thankfully it looked as though Davis had also made himself scarce.
His attention drawn back to Kensi, he watched as she reached up to press the cold pack against the side of her face, her eyes averted away from his. Deeks reached forward, gently lifting her chin with his finger, forcing her to bring her attention to him. And he read the mix of pain and fatigue in her eyes as well as the undercurrent of something else he couldn't quite put his finger on.
As if his scrutiny made her uncomfortable, Kensi pulled her chin free of his grasp and she cleared her throat. "I'm going to go splash some water on my face. Then could you take me home? I think I need to lie down."
Feeling once again as though they were in some murky no-man's-land of emotional denial, Deeks gave her a teasing smile. "Calling it quits before you managed to make me buy you ice cream and cotton candy? You surprise me, Fern."
His joking words were met with silence and Deeks looked up at Kensi, finding her looking back at him with an inscrutable expression. She seemed to mentally shake herself and she finally gave him a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Yeah, you surprise me too. I think I've had enough for today."
Deeks nodded as Kensi turned to head towards the women's bathroom, wishing her words hadn't brought a thick lump to his throat. They were just words. But he couldn't help but think she'd been saying more with what she didn't vocalize.
Fifteen minutes later Deeks was still sitting in the dugout, thinking about Kensi, when Kyle had come up and asked him if she was alright. At first Deeks didn't know how to respond. Physically she seemed fine. But everything else was uncertain in ways he couldn't begin to untangle.
"She's okay, thanks, Kyle. I think we're going to head out. Sorry to leave the team short players for the last two games."
Kyle shrugged, unperturbed. "Don't worry about it. Despite Davis' typical idiocy it was fun for awhile. You should come to more of these, Deeks. And bring your partner."
Deeks laughed even though the idea wasn't very humorous to him. "This is the first LAPD social event I've come to in two years and my partner came out of it with a concussion. I think getting her to come to another one is going to be near impossible."
Kyle gave him a knowing grin and a quick slap on the back. "I don't know, Deeks. I saw how she looks at you. I'm pretty sure she'd follow you anywhere."
Deeks watched Kyle go, too dumbfounded to ask the other detective what he'd meant. He had no doubt Kensi would follow him into a gunfight or even into a burning building so she could cover his back on the job. And off the job he knew he could count on her too. But was there more to it than that?
Casting a glance at the women's bathroom, Deeks was starting to get worried at what was taking Kensi so long when Tara, one of the women from earlier, approached him with a reassuring smile.
"Kensi will be out in a few minutes."
Surprised that Tara, a woman Kensi only knew peripherally, was giving him the information, Deeks was quick to nod. "Uh, okay. Is she okay?"
"She's fine. I was just coming into the bathroom and I heard the tail end of a conversation she was having with Cara. It wasn't exactly friendly."
Curiosity and apprehension flared in his chest and Deeks reminded himself that Tara had said Kensi was fine. And there was no question in his mind that Kensi could handle herself against a woman like Cara. Tara continued when she saw the interest in his eyes.
"Cara was saying something about Detective Davis, that you shouldn't have hit him and that you overreacted because you were protecting your girlfriend. I think she may have even called you a coward and it looked like Kensi wasn't responding well to that."
Deeks chuckled and shook his head. Kensi could be just as protective of him as he was of her. "No, I imagine she didn't."
"Kensi reminded Cara that it was Davis' ball that hit her in the face but Cara said it was Kensi's fault for getting in the way."
Worried that things might have escalated, Deeks pressed Tara for more information. "What happened next?"
"I might have told Cara to shut the hell up and leave."
Gaping in surprise, Deeks had to blink twice at the woman in front of him. The woman who, up until the last few minutes, he'd thought was as shallow as a rain puddle in the Mojave Desert. "You what?"
Tara blushed and glanced away. "It was just too much. Cara always wants what she can't have. She has Davis and then she sees you with Kensi and she wants something else. I know it doesn't really make sense, why the three of us hang around. But we're just looking for something like what you two have. And it just seems more likely that we'll find it around cops."
Hearing the implication behind Tara's words, Deeks struggled to keep up. Sometimes he wished people would just say what they meant rather than the constant innuendo.
"I don't know what you think it going on, but Kensi and I are just partners—"
"Marty, please," Tara fixed him with an impatient stare. "I'm not a complete airhead badge bunny. Give me a little credit. Even if I couldn't see how you two look at each other, I would know you are more than just partners. Kensi pretty much confirmed it for us."
Deeks was speechless, trying to figure out why Kensi would allow these women, would allow anyone, to think they were more than partners. She'd so adamantly put a lid on their discussion, on even the consideration of their relationship as anything more than partners and friends.
Out of respect for what he thought she wanted, and still feeling the need to keep those boundaries, the very boundaries Kensi had so carefully constructed, in place, Deeks shook his head. "I don't know why she would say that. We're not like that."
"Maybe it's not that simple. Maybe she's changed her mind," Tara suggested quietly. Deeks shook his head, having a hard time understanding what could have changed in the last four hours.
"What do you think motivates women like me?"
Deeks paused at the seeming non-sequitur, feeling as though she were asking him a trick question. Tara smiled softly, shaking her head. "That's one reason I've always liked you, Marty. You're not like the rest of them. Kensi is a lucky girl. But really, do you have any idea why some women like cops?"
"Can't be the money or prestige."
"No. It's because cops are heroes. Honest to goodness heroes. Not all of them, of course. But some of them. And even the most independent woman wants a man she can admire and be proud of. You are that for Kensi. It doesn't matter what label you put on it. Anyone can see that."
Tara offered him up a wry grin before she turned to leave. "And pretty much any woman, including the most independent among us, is lying if she says she doesn't like seeing her man worried for her and even defensive of her."
Left in a confusing storm of his own thoughts, Deeks could only watch as Tara walked away. What. The. Actual. Hell?
Confusion was replaced by irritation and Deeks was walking before he'd had the actual presence of mind to tell his feet to move. He was rounding the corner to the entrance to the women's restroom when a small sliver of common decency stopped him from barging right in. Deeks pounded loudly on the door.
"Kensi, are you alone in there?"
"Deeks? Yes, what—" the surprise in Kensi's voice was replaced with shock as he entered the women's bathroom, catching a glimpse of his own annoyed expression on his face in the bathroom mirror. Realizing he hadn't actual thought his plan through to completion, Deeks was suddenly struck with a wave of discomfort. He glanced around the bathroom, falling back on his usual defensive mechanism of humor.
"So this is what a girl's bathroom looks like. I always figured it would be more pink. Maybe with glitter. And unicorns."
Exasperated, Kensi shot him a glare. "As if you've never been in a women's bathroom before."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Deeks cocked his head to the side. "Contrary to what you might think, I don't have trysts in public bathrooms. Well, hardly ever."
Kensi snickered before she could catch herself and Deeks felt the answering pleasure he got from making her smile, even if it was a fleeting moment.
"Deeks! What are you doing in here?" Kensi finally demanded, cutting off his attempt at humor. Dropping his typically confident and cavalier façade, Deeks straightened to his full height, determined to have this conversation whether Kensi was ready to or not.
"What's going on? Why would you tell those women we're a couple?"
Kensi's cheeks flushed with color and she looked away, her questing gaze giving her up. She glanced at the tiny windows, situated too high and small for her to escape through, and at the door behind him, her only avenue of physical escape. Which he had effectively blocked off. Deeks waited patiently. Kensi was the one thing he could patiently wait for. To a certain point.
"I didn't tell them. Not exactly. I may have implied—"
"Fine, you implied we're a couple. I thought we agreed," Deeks pressed, feeling that desperation rising through him, feeling the need to keep things as they were and not shake loose the foundation of what they had. But he pushed that need, that fear of possibly losing Kensi, aside. What he was risking could be worth more. "Partners and friends. Why would you pretend like we're more than that?"
"I wasn't pretending," Kensi replied hotly, then her lips clamped shut and she flushed and looked away from him, turning her dark eyes to the ceiling. He knew that look. It said she was embarrassed and that she wished she could take back the words. And above all that she didn't want him to know it.
Deeks wanted to tell her that of anyone in the world she could be herself with, that of anyone in the world she could trust to always be there for her, it was him. He wanted to tell her but he recognized deep down that he could say the words every single day, but until she believed him there would always be this space between them. It was a physical and emotional space, as effective as a wall but impossible to discern the boundaries.
"Kensi, what are you afraid of?" Deeks asked quietly, his voice curious and without accusation.
"I'm not afraid," Kensi replied quickly, her voice low in a way he wasn't used to hearing from her. Studying her and watching for every twitch of muscle, every lift of her shoulder that gave her away, Deeks pressed on.
"So you weren't pretending and you're not afraid. But you don't want to figure out what else we are. You'd rather keep things as they are with all these unanswered questions and confusion between us," Deeks concluded, waiting for Kensi to respond. When she didn't, just stared down at her shoes, immoveable by fear or maybe her lack of feelings for him, Deeks felt any hope he'd had that they might finally figure things out vanish like vapor. Like something he couldn't see, couldn't touch, couldn't smell, couldn't taste. And maybe it had never been there in the first place. It frustrated him that Kensi made him question everything he thought he knew.
Discouraged and knowing he wouldn't force her to discuss it, Deeks rubbed a tired hand over his bearded jaw. Maybe he couldn't force her to face her feelings but he wasn't about to stick around for the circular dance they kept doing. "Okay, fine. You don't want to talk and I'm tired of trying to get you to. I'm going to walk out of this bathroom and we'll never discuss it again."
Turning to go, Deeks didn't hear Kensi as she came up behind him, her hand grabbing for his wrist to stop him. He looked back in surprise at her face, at the worried fear that shifted through her eyes and the unhappy set of her lips, turned down in a slight frown.
"What is it, Kensi?" Deeks asked, his voice full of the exhaustion he felt. Exhaustion at fighting feelings he knew were too strong to dismiss and exhaustion because he was tired of feeling as though Kensi didn't think he was someone worth getting over her fear for.
Kensi watched him carefully, several long seconds passing as she seemed to mull over her words, finally uttering one sentence that revealed all her fears. "I can't lose you."
Deeks looked back at Kensi, slightly perplexed. He realized it wasn't fear of what they could have together that held her back, but fear of what might happen. And that was just like Kensi, to anticipate the possible unfortunate outcome rather than consider the possible dream.
"I'm not going anywhere. Not if I have anything to say about it," Deeks replied quietly, keeping his eyes on hers, letting her see and understand the absolute conviction behind his words.
He turned his body back towards her, reaching forward to cup her face in his hand, letting his thumb brush lightly over the increasing swelling around her eye. "As long as you need me," Deeks paused, then amended his words. "As long as you want me, I'll be there for you. With you. You just have to say the word."
Her skin warm under his hand, Deeks kept his eyes steadily on Kensi, watching her wide brown eyes and her skeptical gaze shift toward thinly veiled hope. He thought he saw something that looked a bit like the desire he'd seen earlier in her face but he was still feeling uncertain about what Kensi was thinking and feeling.
"What's the word?"
Deeks blinked at Kensi's soft question, at the hint of playfulness that lifted the corners of her lips. His heart pounding at what her question might mean, his brain thrilling over the possibilities, he grinned back at Kensi.
"Anything will really do. A good old-fashioned 'Yes,' or maybe you could ask me to be your boyfriend. I follow directions really well, so 'Kiss me, Deeks' would also be appropriate—"
His words were muffled as Kensi stood up on her toes, in one smooth movement falling against him and winding her arms around his neck as she angled her head to the left and kissed him. One of her hands rested at the side of his neck, her fingertips threading into the hair at the nape of his neck while her lips moved over demandingly over his, challenging him to respond.
Even he was taken aback by his surprised non-reaction. Kissing Kensi was definitely something he'd thought about. But like everything about her, he couldn't have possibly been prepared for the reality.
It wasn't just the feel of her lips on his. It was the press of her body up against him, the warmth and firmness of her from knee to chest. She'd practically shoved him against the bathroom door and trapped him there with her body, stepping between his legs so that her thigh was tight between his. As a default, and in need of something to hold on to, his hands had gone to her waist, his fingers tightly gripping her hips the only reaction that made sense. He wanted to keep her there, keep her pressed up against him, forever.
Venturing a hand away from her hip Deeks kept the pressure of his finger light but also with enough weight that she would have no doubt he was intentionally touching her. He was finally being allowed to touch Kensi intimately. He wasn't about to pass up the opportunity.
As his hand went up past her hip, seeking the dip of her waist before continuing up her side, his fingers grazing her ribs and then the side of her breast, Kensi broke away from him, her surprised gasp against his lips making his stomach flip. Her reactions were the most honest he'd ever seen from her. There was no pretense and no calculation. There was just Kensi, surging forward once again to fuse her lips onto his, her lips so incredibly soft his only response could be to kiss back.
He reached a hand to her neck to angle her closer, and allowed his other hand at her hip to slide around to her backside to pull her even closer. He swore he thought he felt the muscles in her abdomen contract against his as his demanding hands sought to touch every inch of her he finally could. Sliding under her shirt, his hand drifted over the flat plane of her stomach, felt the quivering muscles under the soft skin, thought his eyes might cross when in response to his hand on her bare skin Kensi opened her mouth to kiss him deeper, her quiet sighs coming quicker against his mouth.
So focused was he on the signals coming from Kensi's body that Deeks almost missed her saying his name, her voice low and breathy, in his ear. But when she took his earlobe between her teeth and lightly bit down, he yelped and stilled his movements, leaving his hand under her shirt to move around to press against her spine. Kensi chuckled at his reaction, kissing his ear softly to try and make up for the sting of her teeth.
"No offense, but I really don't want this to go much further since we're in a public bathroom," Kensi whispered in his ear. Rationally seeing the wisdom in her words, Deeks tried to get the rest of his body to agree. It was a difficult message considering Kensi's physical proximity, but Deeks somehow managed to reign himself in.
The immediately frenzied kissing cooled to a quiet and strongly thrumming awareness as Deeks felt his heart rate begin to slow, then pick up again as Kensi kissed her way from his ear to his chin, her lips brushing against the scruff of his jaw as she went. She paused at his lips, kissing the indent of his chin before she moved to the side of his mouth.
He had her, had Kensi Blye, warm and compliant in his arms, kissing him as if he meant something to her. Something more than her partner and friend. And Deeks could have just enjoyed the moment, could have prolonged the moment and ignored the feelings and questions in his mind. But feeling the mental press of doubt, Deeks opened his mouth, knowing he was probably about to ruin the moment between them. But he was also unwilling to kid himself further.
And Kensi surprised him again, just as she had when she kissed him. She cut him off with a hand over his mouth, her eyes dancing as she whispered her next words, her face flushed with a tinge of self-consciousness.
"Yes. Will you be my boyfriend? Kiss me, Deeks."
Happy to obey, Deeks nodded agreeably and captured her lips with his, swallowing any fear she might have felt at saying such blatant and revealing words and replacing it with as much as he could tell her nonverbally. That he would be everything for her, would do anything for her, and he would always be there for her.
Tearing his lips away from hers, Deeks couldn't help the laugh that practically exploded from his chest. "I can't believe you just asked me to be your boyfriend!"
Kensi's blush deepened and she tried to shrug it off. "The way this day has been going, somewhere along the line I realized I was kidding myself that I didn't already think of you that way. I just haven't known what to do about it."
Deeks smiled at her softly, seeing the wheels turning behind her eyes. "You don't have to do anything about it Kens, just allow it to be. We'll find our way, whatever it is."
Uncertainty still furrowed her brow a little but Deeks smoothed it away with a kiss to her forehead and then to the injured side of her face. He brushed the stray hair that had escaped from her ponytail before he pulled back to look at Kensi's face, relieved to see her worry replaced with contentment.
It was comfortable to hold her in his arms. And it was all too easy to look at the beautiful woman who was allowing her to hold him and feel emotions ready to burst forth, ready to be spoken out loud. But he held back, knowing that even if he felt them and knew them to be true, there would be time for them later. For now, seeing the tired light in Kensi's eyes, he would do what any good partner, friend, and boyfriend would do.
"Time to get you home, Kens. You need to rest."
Kensi hesitated for just a second and he narrowed his eyes. She bit her lower lip before turning wide eyes to him. "Before we go, there's one thing…"
Deeks watched her carefully, knowing the expression on her face, reading her like a junkie looking for their next fix. He rolled his eyes in humor. "But first you want some ice cream. Do you want some peanuts and crackerjacks too?"
Kensi nodded happily, following him from the bathroom. And when she took his arm with her hand and allowed her fingers to find his so she could twine her fingers with his he tried not to grin like a fool. Seeing Kensi's slightly embarrassed smile back, he knew he failed.
"Don't get too excited, it's just ice cream. And you get to buy it for me."
Happy to oblige, Deeks led Kensi over to the ice cream stand. It was a long line and they stood quietly for a few minutes, Kensi's fingers brushing absentmindedly against the back of his hand. Deeks leaned over to catch her eye, curiosity finally getting the better of him.
"What finally changed your mind?"
Kensi didn't have to ask what he was referring to. He could tell she knew. There had to be something that had finally made her shift her thinking and allow her to think about them as more than partners and friends. He thought it had to be something big, considering how hard she'd fought the possibility.
"I didn't get it at first. But it started with the grass stains on your jeans," Kensi replied. Deeks furrowed his brow at something so small and Kensi shrugged. "After the ball hit me the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was you. And then when you wouldn't let me get up I was looking at those stains on your knees and it told me everything I needed to know."
Deeks stayed silent, feeling as though this might be his one opportunity to hear the pure and unfiltered extent of Kensi's thoughts about him.
"I knew that in all the big ways you'll always have my back. But I saw that in all the small ways you'll always be there. You'll be the first one to come and the last one to leave. I still struggle with really believing that. But that's me, not you. And you prove me wrong every single day. I'd be stupid to lose that because I've been afraid."
"You don't have to be afraid, Kensi," Deeks replied quietly. She smiled softly at him, squeezing his hand tightly in hers.
"I know that. Just as I know I'm still going to be afraid. And just as I know you'll keep reminding me that I don't need to be. As long as I have you, I'll be good," Kensi said.
Faced with the very deep implications of Kensi's words, Deeks could only look back at her with wonder. Kensi wasn't the kind of person who openly declared her feelings. And as far as declarations went hers had been pretty tame. But he knew the depth of what she'd said. So he responded with the only thing he knew she needed: confirmation.
"Well, I plan to remind you a lot. I'm not going anywhere."
Kensi's smile widened beautifully, her eye drinking him in as she nodded eagerly. "I know."
He might have said more but realizing the full weight of Kensi's realization, that she could allow herself to finally believe him without doubt, was enough for now.
And when Kensi ordered a triple scoop cone of ice cream Deeks merely shook his head and reached for his wallet. He'd never really been able to deny her anything. She'd handily captured him long before the softball game.
Considering the outcome, he wouldn't have it any other way.