Timeline: Post 2x03 "Borderline."
All my thoughts and thanks go to Jess, my awesome twin, for the proof reading, the support and her very existence, and to Mel for suggesting taking a break to relax, and give this a shot.
He's sitting at his desk when Kensi surfaces from the lockers room, freshly showered after a hard session in the gym. She's about to mock him for using extra time on the morning, delicate that he is – and a smile already tugs at her lips just at the thought of this new nickname of his that she came up with earlier in the desert. But then, she notices what he's doing and the teasing comment dies before reaching the tip of her tongue.
The sight of Deeks, quiet and focused, his eyes never leaving the sheet of paper on his desk and pen in hand is definitely something Kensi is not used to see. Really, she can't even remember one time when he did his paperwork in time, even in the little time he's been there with them. And, she never pictured Deeks as the kind of guy who actually writes his reports; she imagined that, lazy and laid-back as he is, he would just try and sneak in her laptop, steal hers and just make a few changes before sending it to Hetty by email. So, seeing him still in OSP after the regular work shift – it's not that late, and she's sure Callen and Sam (Callen, at least) are still there, somewhere – well, it surprises her.
And it puzzles her, too.
Ever quietly, but not enough so she's sure he can hear her nearing the bullpen, she leaves her gym bag by the bench and comes to her desk to gather her things. If he does hear her, he doesn't acknowledge her presence and keeps going, his bottom lip caught between his teeth as he seems to be looking for words.
Kensi lingers there, taking an excruciatingly slow time to clear her desk. She sits on her chair and, opening a drawer, she draws out a little box where she hides her candy. She takes it on her lap and quickly swallows a couple Oreos. Even the noise doesn't make her partner lift his head to look at her. Since he clearly intends to pretend she's not there, she allows herself to stare at him without even trying to hide it.
She sees his left hand lifting to the nape of his neck, scratching the skin there, as he's still biting on his lip. Clearly, the few lines he just wrote must not satisfy him, and tonight, it seems to bother him enough to stay late in the office to get it right. It both surprises her, but in a way, Kensi can't quite say it really does; she has already caught a glimpse of what laid beneath the funny, witty exterior, and even if she will never say it to his face – or anyone's, really – she knows deep down that Marty Deeks is much, much more than just that.
Kensi still doesn't know if she really believes in everything he's ever said to her – the guy does like to emphasize stories to look better, and she's pretty sure he makes up some. But, she's always been one to trust her gut, or evidences; and, if she's honest with herself, she has many of them, all leading her to the very same truth: Marty Deeks, self-proclaimed LAPD's finest, is indeed a damn good cop. It kind of hurts to admit it, but Kensi doesn't like to lie – to herself, she does it quite a lot, but about this… It just doesn't feel right. Deeks is infuriating, maddening, and most of the time, she just wants to rip his head off – and God if she didn't want to abandon him in the desert today, but still, she reckons there's something worth giving it a try.
Maybe not today – definitely not today, more likely – but someday, she thinks this could work. This partnership. Kensi has never believed she needed, or even wanted someone by her side, plenty able to do everything on her own, but Deeks… He had found his way under her skin easily, and she couldn't find it in her to really be bothered by it.
And, it was the reason why this bothered her – Deeks ignoring her. Deeks was always there; always. Sneaking in behind her, breathing in her ear; touching her stuff without asking first, asking personal questions. Deeks respected no personal space, nor privacy. He asked away, wanting to know it all about her. He made observations out loud, from her candy habits to almost Nate-like comments, trying to psychoanalyze her. Deeks was perceptive, sometimes, but mostly annoying. Plenty annoying, with that cocky smirk of his, the rising of his eyebrows at her, his mocking roar of laughter.
Right now, it dawns on her that this is her partner. This is who Deeks is. And, maybe, maybe she kind of likes him that way. Or, she'll learn to not want to harm him because of it. So, a silent, professional Deeks is not what she wants – needs from him. If she's the serious one, he has to be the joking, teasing one; he has to challenge her, and keep on with the banter, and she has to be annoyed by it. That's just the way it is.
And Kensi took comfort in the regularity of things, the constancy, the habits. Some things never changed, and it needed to stay that way. So much was out of her control, however painful and hard it was to admit, and she didn't want this to be part of them. She wanted Deeks to tease her, or, just only say something.
She clears her throat, and, tentatively, she calls out to him, breaking the silence. "Hey, Deeks. There's only one Oreo left. You want it ?"
She sees him smiling before he lifts his face to her. He puts down his pen, and, crossing his arm on his desk, he finally meets her gaze. "Wow, Kensi Blye, sharing ? What's the catch ? It's past its use-by date ?"
She snorts. "No. Still good. I just hate to leave a single one only. That way, I'll go and buy another box tonight. Just, try and imagine it: what if tomorrow I want more than one, and I only have one left ?"
Deeks rolls his eyes at her. Leaning onto his elbows, he rests his chin on his hands, ready to follow her train of thoughts (God if he doesn't think her mind is a scary place), a small smile on his lips. "Makes sense, I guess. But, no thanks. I'll have you know that I prefer Twinkies."
"Me, too," she replies before thinking. "But, I like diversity. I don't discriminate."
"Oh, so noble of you," he mocks, bowing his head just a little. "I'll try and remember that when Christmas comes. I'm pretty sure you'll cost me more than any jewelry kind of girlfriend."
Kensi turns her head, avoiding his gaze. Part of her just screams that she should say something – she is not his girlfriend, and he's not to offer her Christmas presents, chocolate and candy like…like someone who cares, or just any other guy who tried to win her over. But, she rationalizes, Deeks doesn't know that. He doesn't know that she really, really wants to forget the holiday even exists, and it wouldn't be fair of her to be upset with him because of this. Shaking her head, she shrugs the thoughts away and turns back to him.
"You need help with that ?" she asks. "Did Hetty threaten you if your reports didn't improve in quality ?"
"It's not for Hetty. LAPD's paperwork."
"Oh." Even she realizes how lame it sounds, as he cocks playfully an eyebrow at her. "Why don't you go home to finish it, then ?"
He laughs. Not the laugh she's used to, though. "Didn't know I was meant to leave immediately after the day ends," he says quietly. But he composes himself again quickly. "I'll keep that in mind from now on. I just – I guess I'm more productive here than there. Once I'm home, I try to just forget about the day. I don't want to be the kind of guy married to his job, you know ?"
Oh, how Kensi knows the feeling. Even though she fails at not being committed to the job, so much there's quite nothing else in her life that matters as much. But, it's not what hits her the hardest. His words, sharper than usual, though his tone is nothing but calm and collected… She doesn't know where it comes from, but, anyway, she doesn't like it.
She's about to call him out about it when Sam and Callen come in. Bags across their shoulders, ready to leave. "Sam and I were thinking of going out for some beer," Callen tells her. "You in, Kens ?"
She looks back at Callen, and she sees from the corner of her eye that Deeks has gone back to his report. She gives him a pointed look, and with a light tilt of her head toward her partner, Callen gets the message. Loud and clear. The look of surprise on his features only lasts a second before he turns to the newest addition to their team. "Hey, Deeks. What do you say ? Beer, maybe pizza or something. You in ?"
Deeks lifts his head quickly, shocked blue meeting Callen's own cobalt orbs. With a short nod of his head, the corner of his mouth lifts. "Thanks, but – I need to get this done. Maybe some other time. But, thanks, really."
Callen shrugs, and goes back to looking at Kensi. "So, Kens ? What about you ?"
Earlier, she would have been pleased and all in. After spending the day with Deeks in the desert – the entire day with her partner only, missing death by a short breath (something that happened on a daily basis, but that still could be worrisome) – Kensi wanted to relax. Her plans went more along the lines of going home to a bubbly bath and some reality-TV, but pizza and beer just held the key to her heart, too.
Right now, though, she didn't really want to anymore. Shaking her head, she speaks softly. "Not tonight. But, I've heard of some new place supposed to open on Friday night. Maybe we could go, then. All four of us," she adds, but Deeks keeps writing, back to his own world where, tonight, she can't be a part of. "Ask Eric, and Nate and Hetty, maybe."
"I'm not sure Nate is gonna be around a lot," Sam says. "But, hey, yeah, why not ?" He pats Callen on the shoulder, and smirks. "Guess it's just you and me, then. What about something a bit more tasty than beer ?"
Both partners wave goodbye and leave, Sam already talking about wine like an expert; he is, she remembers with a smile. Kensi goes back to staring – observing Deeks. He's closing down on her, she can see it, and it really, really doesn't please her at all. He might not know her well enough, but, damn, everyone knows that this is her little game. It's hers only, the shell Nate fights so hard to break through, hoping to see the walls crumble bit by bit, and Deeks, her talkative, annoying partner has no right to steal it from her.
Deeks isn't one to push her away, that much she knows. She is the one drawing boundaries meant to fence him out. She is the one telling him time and time again to stay behind the line, not even daring to come closer and try stepping on it. She doesn't have to say it, really; he knows it implicitly. Still, he loves pushing her buttons, but, somehow, he always stops right before she snaps. Before he goes too far, before he reaches that dark corner inside her, the one the tough façade veils and conceals, the one that really hurts when hit right in the core.
She wonders what she did for him to be like that tonight. Be like her.
"Hey, Deeks," she calls again from her desk, the scratch of his pen on the paper and her voice the only sounds in the bullpen. "What was this undercover op about ? No op should ever require someone to go to such lengths."
"Nothing special," Deeks says quietly, his eyes still roaming over his report, giving it one last look before putting his pen down and folding the papers. "Someone needed to watch out. Organ trafficking. Homeless people, or prostitutes. We got many dead in the streets these last few six months. It's kinda stupid, in a way," he adds, finally looking at her, though his gaze is hollow, almost blank. "They don't eat nor sleep properly, some have a really, really bad hygiene, but…It's an easy market. It's – it's all about the illusion and false hope, you know ? You tell people you've got organs to save their loved ones, they pay you, and then… Anyway, no one's gonna report them missing, they're too afraid to go to the police, so sometimes they hide the bodies, try to give them some dignity back, you know ? So no one finds them, no one sees them in that state. They erase any kind of proof before we find them without even meaning to. And then, they don't wanna talk when we do."
She doesn't speak immediately. She's too shocked to. His quiet tone, the sorrow so evident behind it, startles her. She had never imagined it could be this bad – she had never even cared to, anyway. What he does when he's not there, back at LAPD… Well, she had never given it many thoughts. When he was there, he was there, and it was all she focused on. When he wasn't… she only waited for him to be again. Be back with them, back to them, to her.
He's her partner. That's where he must be, she rationalizes.
"And…do you need to go back, these days ?" she finally asks when she finds her voice again.
"Sorry, but no. Not for some time, I think. You'll have to deal with me."
He's not trying to be sharp and harsh, she thinks. She hopes, at least. He just sounds resigned. Sad. And Kensi really doesn't know why. "Don't say it like this," she lets out in a breath – honest to God, it almost sounds like a weak plea to her own ears. "I don't want you gone."
He's up and gathering his things before she even realizes it. Folding his laptop in his bag, he speaks again, without looking at her, this time. "It's okay, Kensi. Really, it is. I know I screwed up big time with Sam, ever since the very first day. The guy clearly doesn't like me, he couldn't even let me sit at the desk next to his. Callen," he goes on, rubbing a hand over his beard, "I guess he gives me a chance because Hetty did. And you… Well, I know you don't want a partner. Not me, but not anyone either, right ?" he says, now locking eyes with her.
He's not even angry, or really hurt. He looks sad. It's the best word Kensi can come up with to describe the look on his face. Deeks is sad, and resigned, like he's done that many times before. Being the new guy no one likes, turning into the guy who's been there for a long time and that people still don't like.
She kind of hates that he's feeling like this because of her, because of something she did or said. Yes, she was never a big fan of his, and yes, she never was happy to have someone forced on her by Hetty. Not after what happened to Dom, not after getting the vivid proof that everyone does indeed end up leaving her alone.
But, she has nothing against him. Maybe Deeks isn't the most appreciated cop in this town, and maybe he sucks at liaising, but he's a nice guy. He's funny and goofy, and, really, getting to work with him, is like coming up for fresh air. And maybe, maybe it wouldn't kill her to tell him. Maybe it wouldn't hurt Callen or Sam to make him feel like he's not just the temp Sam teased him for being, all these months ago.
He's there to stay. It's Hetty's decision, and eventually, his to take, too. But, with him knowing it or not, he's here to stay. Hetty just doesn't go and ask for someone to come in, inviting them in, if she doesn't see something special in them. They're a family, a weird one, maybe, but all of them, together, they're a family. Everyone is there for a reason, lost and confused and broken, just a bit, but together… They fit.
Deeks fits, too.
She first thought that he and she could never be more different. But, in a way, he's so much like her it's scaring her. So much hurt underneath that tough exterior, so much depth behind the persona of the funny, teasing guy who loves worming his way under her skin, straight to her heart. They bicker and banter, but, deep down, that guy – Kensi just knows that this guy is not just gonna be a chapter in her life, a page that she will turn someday.
Deeks…He's annoying, maddening, infuriating. He's many things, but above all, he's her partner, now. In their lives, in their line of work, a partner – well, a partner was the closest thing they had to feeling like they meant something to someone. They might be married to their job, but, above all, they were joined together by it. Therefore, she just couldn't let him think he didn't mean something to her.
He meant a lot, actually. Already. So fast, so quickly. So easily.
She remembers the little, the tiniest pang at her heart when he had told her he was leaving. The sharp, unsettling feelings she had been overwhelmed with when Hetty had said he was missing. The surprising anger, too, when Callen had asked if there was any military angle to his assignment. Another one, she had thought. Another man saying he would be back, that he would be there, only to disappoint and leave, taking another shred of her heart along. Another one, and one she never got to really know, just like Dom. Dom was a nice guy, a nice kid, but he had been taken away from her even before she could get to consider him a real friend. Deeks – she hates to admit it, but she really thinks that if she had gotten a minute to herself, alone, after Hetty told them about the news…
She thinks she would have cried. Or, at least, allowed herself to regret her attitude with him, treating him like no less than a burden, an embarrassment she couldn't wait to get rid of. But then, Callen had come in OSP, saying Deeks was okay, and she had asked how he could know, and he had said that Hetty had met with him… There he was, injured, beaten and definitely not fine, but he was there.
He was there, he was back like he promised he would. And, even if he had needed some help about that, it had been enough. Enough for the walls around her to erect again, stronger than ever. Kensi simply couldn't let it – the slow agony of the news of his disappearance, and possible death – affect her like it had, she couldn't let him know that, hearing about the possibility of him never coming back had simply destroyed the small fire of hope deep within her. The hope that he would never put her through everything the others had, before him.
So, she had gone along with the easy banter, the jokes, the flirtation, even, because it was easier. Easier to make it seem like she wasn't thrilled to get him back, or that she thought that the big bad feds were so much better than him. He never took anything seriously, and in a way, it was everything she needed from him.
Clearly, tonight, he's upset. And, weirdly, this affects her more than anything else. The guy she pretends not to be attached to, the guy she treats like an outsider, mocking him, teasing him way more than any sort of sibling rivalry should allow to, well… This guy, his obvious sadness, the dark thoughts she can hear running through his mind, they mean so much more than what she could ever imagine.
Hearing him say he knows they don't like him – but above all, that he knows she doesn't want him there… It just kills her. It literally takes her breath away, and steals all the words of the world from her. She just doesn't know what to say – if there is something to say after this. There he laid it down for her, the undeniable truth that they do make him feel like he doesn't belong here, every day, with every single teasing comment, every time they don't laugh to one of his jokes, with every glare from Sam, every doubt Callen voices to Hetty about the fact that she brought Deeks in.
They're mean. She is mean, and only now does it hit Kensi with a sudden awareness, a sick feeling of being the one to hurt someone who never, ever did a thing to her. Deeks never had the pretention to come and replace Dom. He was asked to, and he took a position that had been vacant for long at the time, and was now really his. He had never asked to be there, and they – she had made it harder than it should have been.
Pushing back her chair with an abruptness that doesn't go unnoticed by either of them, she gets up quickly and crosses the small distance between their desks, stopping his hand on his bag by circling her slender fingers around his wrist. "Deeks," she lets out, her voice just barely above a whisper, that he has to listen carefully to hear her. "Deeks, you know it's all jokes, right ? Tell me you do. Please."
He can't lie. Most of the time, he thinks they are just jokes. But, some just really hurt. He can't lie and say they don't, particularly coming from her, she who is supposed to be his partner and have his back. But, right now, seeing those dark eyes on the verge of welling, the quick blinking of her lashes holding back the wetness gathering, the frustrated, traitorous tears at the corner there against her will. Deeks might not know her much, but for all he knows, Kensi Blye doesn't just tear up at anything. His partner certainly doesn't cry often – he wonders if she ever did in her adult life, even. He just knows she must be angry at herself right now for letting those escape, and that, that's just enough to ease the rising frustration building up inside him.
It's not only frustration, or sadness. It's more complicated than that. He desperately needs them – her, mostly, to appreciate him, to want him there. Because, here, with them, working at NCIS, is a big deal. And, working with someone else, being a member of a team, is something new for him. He can't see how this can work if they still treat him like the outsider, the annoying younger brother who tags along and whom they tolerate because Mom said they had to be nice.
Deeks looks into her eyes for a minute, ever aware of the warmth of her fingers wrapped around his wrist, her thumb absently stroking the inside. He sees her bottom lip shaking, and Kensi biting on it to rein in the trembling. "It's okay, Kensi. I just – I overreacted, okay ? It's not you, it's me."
"No, it's not. It's not you. Deeks…" She bites on her lip again, and takes her hand back, lacing her fingers with the ones of the other, folding them on her stomach. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for making you feel like I don't care. I do, Deeks. I really do."
"So, next time I come back, you're gonna allow me into your car ?" he asks, the ghost of a smile on his lips.
She doesn't buy it, though. And, he knows she doesn't. He puts his bag down, and walks to her, leaning back onto his desk. Arms crossed above his chest, he looks at her, and ever slightly, he nudges her with his elbow. "Kensi. It's okay, you know. I get it. It's not you, and, I guess it's not me, right ?" he says, and she finally tilts her head to him, looking at him from underneath her lashes. "It just takes time. I'm not asking you to like me right upfront. I get that you don't – and you don't want to, huh ? You don't want to like me because you're wary. You don't want to let me into your family because you care about them, and the guys care about you, too. So they don't like me because they don't know yet if they can trust me with their girl. It's okay. That's normal. Just... I won't let you down, Kensi. I'm not asking you to believe me now, but – just put that in a corner of your mind, and someday, I promise I'll prove it to you and you'll know you can trust me."
Kensi unfolds her arms and clenches her hands on his desk, steadying herself. It's too much, all of a sudden – his apologies, he who has nothing to blame himself for. His soft words, his soft tone, Kensi can't quite handle them. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry about the guys, and I'm sorry for what I did. Or, what I didn't. Earlier, in the desert… We never asked you if you were okay. And, we shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have done that. You're my partner, Deeks. It's my job to make sure you are okay, and…"
She turns to him, shifting her body so she's fully facing him, and she comes in front of him, standing at his feet. Close enough so she can feel the electricity jumping from his body to hers, the sudden rush induced by a proximity they've never shared. Tentatively, she reaches for him, resting her hands on his arms, gently grabbing his biceps. "It's my job to be there. But, even if it wasn't my job… You're part of the team, Deeks. You're one of us, really. And…we care about each other. So, I care, too. About you."
He smiles. But, he knows this has to end before it gets out of hand. Before it gets further beyond what he knows none of them would be comfortable with.
Emotions. Feelings. Worse, confessions.
So, he smiles, and laughs quietly. "Wow. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you like me, Ms. Blye."
Her eyes widen for a second, and then, she laughs too, sticking her tongue at him. She applies a gentle pressure on his arms for another couple seconds before taking her hands back, tucking them in her front pockets. "Hey now, we don't want that." She pokes him in the ribs with one finger and steps back, walking back to her desk to take her bag.
She turns to him, Deeks now smirking at her. It reaches his eyes, this time. She knows it won't be enough, that words shared one night, born from sorrow and heartache, won't change anything. The hostility, the wariness won't just go this easily. It'll be hard.
But, they're in this together, right ?
"So, I've heard there should be some wicked waves by Santa Monica Pier tonight," she says. "Eric said that this morning."
"Yep. Later tonight. Very, very early on the morning, too." He winks at her. "Why ? You wanna learn ?"
"Not really. But…" She switches off the lamp of her desk and throws her bag across her shoulder. Reaching for her drawer, she takes her box of candy, and then she walks to him, switching off his lamp, too. "There are food stands there, right ? I'm bringing dessert."
He cocks an eyebrow at her, surprised, but not able to hide how happy he is. Throwing an arm around her shoulders, he's even happier when he sees that she doesn't shrug or slap his hand away.
There's definitely something there, he thinks as they leave together. He can see an interesting future for them, that much is clear.
And, who knows ? Someday, Kensi Blye might end up really liking him.
As they sit on the beach, fries and pizza and Twinkies between them, fingers brushing as they pick up food, Deeks thinks they're definitely heading on the right path.