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Kensi exits her bathroom clad in soft pajama pants and a tank top, head tilted slightly to the right so that she can thoroughly towel-dry the full length of her hair as it hangs in front of her shoulder. She finally feels somewhat relaxed after the long day they all had. After they had nabbed Vandenberg at the hospital, Callen had assigned Sam and Grace to take him to the boat shed for interrogation and Kensi had been only too glad that she and Deeks were being allowed to escape for the night.

Or. Rather. She had escaped and Deeks had also escaped, she thinks to herself. Separately. Very, very separately. Which is completely normal…so why am I even thinking about it?

She heaves a sigh and tosses her damp towel aside as she passes her laundry nook. Partially missing her intended target, the towel lands half in and half out of the basket full of dirty laundry that's sitting on the floor waiting to be washed. She thinks briefly about going back to fix it, but decides she'll take care of it later and instead pads into the kitchen to see about some sort of late night snack.

By the time they'd gone back to the Mission and she'd changed out of her hospital scrubs and returned them to wardrobe it had already been relatively late. The drive home hadn't taken her too long, but once she'd gotten here she'd decided that the first thing she'd craved had been a warm, soothing bath. The result was that it's now really late and she can't remember the last time she'd eaten anything. Of course, if you hadn't spent forever in the tub, you could've fixed that problem a lot sooner, she muses as she opens the refrigerator and pulls out some leftover mac and cheese that ought to be just the perfect thing.

Frowning at the plate of food as it spins slowly around and around in her microwave, she thinks about the reasons that she'd spent so long soaking in the tub. They can only partially be chalked up to wanting to relax the tension of a long work day. She grudgingly admits to herself that the biggest reason she'd nearly turned herself into a prune just now revolves around her partner. She snorts involuntarily as she anticipates what he'd say if he knew. It'd probably be something along the lines of first you're thinking about me in the shower and now the bath, Kiki? I think you have a problem.

Her laughter fades as soon as that thought crosses her mind. She wonders if she agrees with his imagined comment. Does she have a problem? Do they? For what seems like at least the tenth time since arriving home, she mentally replays what had happened between them in the hotel room this afternoon. It had been playful, just two partners exchanging a bit of friendly sparring once Deeks had tossed her down on the bed. It wasn't anything terribly unusual for them – they were always pushing at and testing the boundaries of their partnership and their friendship. It didn't cross a line, not really, she tells herself. At least not until you pulled him down on top of you and decided it was a good idea to put him in a headlock with your legs. What were you thinking? And then Nell walking in…

She shakes her head, her mouth quirking into a wry smile. She's going to have to talk to Nell tomorrow and explain that it wasn't what it must have looked like to an outside observer. As for the question of what it wasshe's saved from further reflection on the matter by the beeping of the microwave. Deciding that she isn't going to get any closer to an answer that night and that she's probably over-thinking it all anyhow, she resolves to let it go for the time being.

So of course, as luck would have it the moment that she decides this, her phone rings, Deeks' name popping up on the caller ID. Sighing, she glances briefly at the time before answering the call. "Deeks. It's nearly midnight…what do you want?" Though her words are abrupt, her tone is merely curious. She takes her snack from the microwave and retrieves a fork while she waits for him to reply.

"Did you know that women are about thirty percent more likely to give their phone number to a guy if he's carrying a guitar?" Her partner asks, in a tone that allows Kensi to perfectly picture the smirk on his face. His voice sounds slightly tinny though, as if he has his phone on speaker.

"Why am I not surprised that you know a statistic like that?" she says, taking a bite of the gooey mac and cheese while leaning against her kitchen counter, phone tucked neatly between her ear and her shoulder. "Though I'd like to know where you got that so-called 'fact' from. Doesn't sound like good science to me."

She can hear Deeks chuckle in response, though again it sounds like he's somewhat far away from his phone, and Kensi now thinks she can also hear some unusual noise as well. She continues to enjoy her late night snack as she listens and tries to figure out what the sound is. It sounds sort of like a snippet of a song being played from a distance, almost as though her partner were somewhere where music is being played in the background. She groans inwardly. "Deeks. Please tell me you're not calling from some dive bar needing a rescue?" She'll kill him if that's what was going on. Saving him from yet another ex or girl he wanted to brush off for whatever reason really is the last thing she needs tonight. Especially at this hour.

"Nope, though there is beer here," is the entirety of his answer, and, knowing him as well as she does, she'd swear that he's enjoying being cryptic with her.

"Well then where are you?!" she exclaims, her exasperation finally spilling over into her tone.

"Why don't you open your front door and find out?" he replies before terminating the call.

 


 

When Deeks had pulled up at Kensi's bungalow, he'd sat in his car for a full five minutes after he'd killed the engine, wondering if this were really a good idea. They'd had a long day and it was really late. On top of that, he'd pushed the boundaries of their unnamed, unspoken, yet ever present thing pretty hard today, throwing her on that hotel bed. Twice. He should've known better than to think she wouldn't retaliate, but he'd not quite expected to find himself sprawled on top of her, fighting to free himself from a chokehold that she'd applied – with her legs no less – and his head perilously close to places that he really shouldn't be thinking about when it came to her.

Places he couldn't afford to think about. Places that were hard not to think about, even without practically being forcibly pushed there by Kensi herself. Nell walking in at that particular moment did not help, he thinks to himself, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

He sighs and taps his fingers in an absentminded rhythm against the steering wheel as he gazes over at her small house, considering whether or not he should simply re-start the car and drive away. She might not even still be awake, he thinks, though the faint light he can see from a few of her windows makes him think otherwise. Glancing over at what sits in his passenger seat, he makes his final decision. He reaches for the objects he'd brought with him, takes a deep breath and gets out of the car.

He looks around carefully as he crosses the street, taking note of the surroundings with extra care, but waiting until he's on her walkway before pulling out his phone and hitting the speed-dial button for her number. Sitting on the top of her front steps, he sets the six pack of beer down to his left before turning his phone to speaker and putting it down on the step next to him as well. When she answers the phone, he can't help but smile to himself as she tries to be grumpy with him. She sounds too alert to have been asleep though, and he's glad that he hasn't disturbed her.

If he's honest with himself, only part of why he'd come here tonight had to do with wanting to make up for pushing things so far at the hotel. And speaking of pushing things, he winces slightly as he remembers bringing up the joke about mutant-ninja-assassins again – that was almost more of a potential problem than the wrestling around had been. He seems to keep gravitating back to the topic a lot lately – pushing it, pushing her – and he's not quite sure why. Though he has a sneaking suspicion it all has to do with the op he's been working for Granger. He's living two completely separate, but parallel, lives at the moment and he half-wonders if maybe the reason he keeps forcing that particular joke at Kensi is because he's trying even harder than usual to strive for normalcy in their routine so that she doesn't notice that anything is different with him.

Keeping the team, especially Kensi, in the dark about this op over the last few months hasn't been easy. Even though lying is an essential part of what they all do every day, and he knows – oh how he knows – that he's good at it, he hates it a lot of the time. And he really hates lying to his partner. He'd hoped – promised himself, really – that he'd never do it again after what had happened with the Fisk case more than a year ago. He suspects, no he knows, that if she ever finds out what he's been doing now, she'll be livid – and he can't say he would blame her.

But you signed on for this, didn't you? And it wasn't like you didn't have some idea what it might take to carry this thing through. He takes a slow breath, trying to focus. Remember the end-game. Do this right, and any of Granger's objections to you becoming an agent will be laid to rest for good. Of course, his mind can't leave the alternative alone either. If it goes wrong, though, you could lose the job you actually have…not to mention…

He forces this internal argument to the back of his mind as he banters with Kensi over the phone, purposefully keeping his end of the conversation somewhat vague in order to pique her curiosity just enough. Deeks hopes that he's judged accurately, though, as he hangs up his phone, continuing to tune the acoustic guitar that rests easily in his lap. He knows he's risking that she'll just blow him off and go to bed, but he thinks he knows his partner fairly well, and there's little that will drive her crazier and spark her ever-present desire to know than when he refuses to reveal what he's up to.

When he hears the soft noise of her front door swinging open behind him, he smiles to himself but doesn't look up at her immediately. "Hey there, partner," he murmurs. "Glad you decided to join me."

 


 

When Deeks had hung up on her, she'd stared at her phone for a few moments, feelings of slight irritation at her partner warring with the urge to figure out what he was doing. Finally, rolling her eyes and putting down her interrupted snack, Kensi walks slowly to her front door. No sense in rushing, now is there? Don't want to give him the satisfaction. She grabs a hoodie from near the door, quickly slipping it on and putting her keys and phone in the pocket.

She isn't sure exactly what she'll find when she steps outside, but she can safely say that seeing Deeks on her front steps, next to a six pack of beer and tuning an old guitar was not at the very top of her list. She can't help the chuckle that escapes her lips. "Wow. You must really be afraid of what kind of footage Eric might be able to find from Touching Wood's so-called glory days," she says with a smirk, closing the door behind her and moving to sit next to him on the step, the pack of beers between them.

He smiles at her – his wide, genuine smile that lights up his entire face – and laughs along with her before answering. "Nah. Not really. Just…I owed you," he says softly, before looking down and continuing to tune the guitar slowly.

Kensi's eyes follow his hands, watching his long fingers work with the strings and tuning pegs. For all the time they've spent together, she's never really paid much attention to his hands unless they were in the firing range and she was watching him shoot. In this new context, it strikes her that his fingers are actually quite elegant. The thought hits her unexpectedly and it unsettles her slightly. Forcing it to the back of her mind, she tilts her head and looks at him inquiringly, putting the focus back on him. "Why do you think you owe me?"

Deeks simply shrugs, declining to comment for a moment as he finishes what he's doing with the guitar. A silence that is mostly easy falls between them before he lifts his head again, staring out into the darkness beyond the lamppost in her front yard. Shrugging again, he turns to face her. "I promised, and a promise is a promise, right?"

She looks at him for a moment, feeling that that's not really the whole story but for some reason she's unwilling to press him on it right now. She doesn't know exactly why she gives him the free pass when she senses that he's holding something back from her – maybe it's because she really does want to hear him play and doesn't want to ruin the moment, maybe it's just because she's tired – but whatever the reason, she nods. "Right," she murmurs.

Instead of replying, Deeks positions his fingers on the frets and strums a few chords experimentally. They float out into the late night air at an alarmingly loud volume. "Deeks!" she hisses, "not so loud – you'll bother my neighbors!"

He just shakes his head. "Your neighbor over there," he points his finger to the house to her left, "isn't home. The house over there," now he points across the street, "is for sale, and the one on that side," he gestures towards the house to the right of hers, "has a gigantic yard in between us and them. Don't worry about it, Kens."

Kensi shakes her head, opening two of the beers he'd brought with him and passing one to him. "I don't know if I'm impressed or weirded out by the fact that you knew all that."

He chuckles. "I can think of better ways to impress you, Fern," he murmurs with a grin.

She knows he didn't really mean it that way, but she can't help the flash of heat that races through her at the comment. Taking a sip of her beer, she recovers quickly, scoffing at him. "It's lucky you're not trying to get my number. With lines that bad, I don't think even carrying the guitar around would help you."

"Well, lucky I already have your number then," he counters without missing a beat, taking a drink from his own beer before setting the bottle down on the step below where they're sitting.

She's suddenly not sure exactly what it is they're doing right now, but it feels uncomfortably close to crossing over that line they're always walking. That line that they really shouldn't cross. So before whatever is happening can go any further, she reaches out and shoves his shoulder playfully. "Just get on with it, Shaggy," she says with a smile, "it's getting late."

 


 

Without saying another word Deeks starts playing – at a much softer volume than he had a few moments earlier. Before he'd driven over, he'd thought long and hard about what song to share with her, and Touching Wood's "greatest hits" hadn't even merited a flicker of consideration. Ultimately he'd decided on a gentle, slow ballad he felt like he'd known practically forever. As he sits here next to her now, the calm, country-tinged melody flowing from the guitar, he knows he's made the right choice.

He finds it easier to start singing without looking at her, so he focuses his energy ahead of him, concentrating on the lyrics as they paint a picture of lazy summer days spent driving in the sunshine. Deeks has always loved this particular song, associating it with a sense of peace and ease that was often hard to find in his everyday life. He knows it probably isn't what Kensi had been expecting, and he doubts she truly understands how personal the song choice is to him, but Deeks knows, and that's what is important right now.

He knows that in a couple of days he'll be going back under for Granger, and he has a gut feeling that things with that case are about to accelerate rapidly. He doesn't know whether he'll be able to achieve his intended goals, and he doesn't know how long it will take him, even if he ends up being successful. He's also having a harder time predicting exactly what will happen next, and he regrets more and more the fact that it seems as though a large part of the outcome of the mission will rest on the unpredictable shoulders of a woman he doesn't really know – and who doesn't know the real him – and who he really doesn't trust very much. But it's the only plan you've got, so you're going to have to suck it up and deal.

Deeks would much rather have had Kensi working with him on this, but Granger had said that involving her and the rest of the team was out of the question. He'd said he needed the "flexibility" that Deeks' position as liaison offered – made it easier to work the case part-time, he'd said. But Deeks knew what that really meant. It would just be easier to get rid of his job if things went south. Having all of this weighing on his mind was a large part of what had driven Deeks to uphold promise to sing for Kensi. He couldn't bring himself to say it. That would break the unspoken rules of their thing – namely don't talk about the thing – but with what he felt might be ahead of him in the next couple of weeks he desperately needed just a quiet, normal moment with his partner.

Or, as normal as they ever got, at least.

Deeks finishes the last chorus of the song, and the music fades away gently. They sit there in the stillness of the night air, a light breeze rustling the leaves of the neighborhood trees. For the first time since he'd started playing, he turns to look at Kensi, trying to guess how badly she might mock him. He's a bit startled to see her regarding him with what seems to be appreciation, a soft smile on her face. She doesn't immediately say anything, and Deeks runs a hand through his hair nervously. He's about to break the silence when she finally speaks up.

"Well, Deeks…I have to say…I am impressed," Kensi says with a broad smile that instantly dissipates his nerves.

 


 

Grinning in response, he opens his mouth to reply. "Oh, reallllly? So, theoretically, I would have gotten your number, then? I mean, if I didn't have it al-"

"Don't," she tells him warningly.

"But-"

"Deeks," she says, laughing even though she's trying to keep her tone stern. "Don't ruin the moment."

He pauses for a moment and just looks at her, a flicker of something she can't quite name passing through his eyes before it's gone. He picks up his beer again and nods before taking a long sip.

She was curious this morning when she'd discovered that he'd been in a high school band, but she was even more curious now that she'd actually heard him play and knew that he was actually, truly good. She can't help but ask the question that's been at the forefront of her mind since he'd played the first few chords. "How'd you learn to play?"

She's expecting some typically flip answer, so when he's silent for an even longer moment and a flash of something else, deeper and more serious than the look of just a moment earlier, crosses his face, she's slightly surprised. He hesitates a second longer before finally speaking. "Ray brought this home one day," he indicates the guitar. "Years ago…said he, uh, 'found' it. He thought he'd learn how to play…but he got tired of practicing pretty quickly and he didn't care much when I said I wanted it, so…"

He pauses for another long drink from his beer and she begins to think he's said all he's going to say when he starts talking again. "I, uh…picked it up here and there, but it was actually my mom who really taught me. I'm not sure who taught her, actually," he chuckles, but it's not a fully happy sound. "But whenever there was a spare moment, which wasn't often…she'd show me what she knew. It was…one of the good things," he says quietly before finishing off his beer.

Kensi doesn't speak for a moment. Knowing what she does of his childhood, she understands the importance of him sharing that memory with her. It is, in its way, as meaningful as sharing the song itself was. From the look on his face Deeks' mood seems to be shifting to something darker and more somber, and Kensi finds herself wanting to distract him from it. Looking back on it later, that will be the only explanation she can find for what she does next. Before the words can even fully register, she finds herself blurting out. "Teach me,"

Deeks' eyebrows raise in surprise as he looks at her. "Excuse me? Did you just say-"

Before she can lose her nerve, she nods. "You heard me."

He stares at her for a long beat before a slow smile steals over his face. "I'm sorry, did Kensi Blye just admit she knows less about something than me?"

Rolling her eyes, she huffs out a breath at him. "Are you going to make me regret asking?"

"Are you going to answer all my questions with more questions?"

"Will you teach me or not?" she's getting a bit annoyed with him now, but the even the irritating quality of this sort of exchange is a relief compared to seeing the pensive expression he'd worn a few moments earlier. This, at least, feels somewhat like normal territory for them.

He seems to consider her request a moment longer before abruptly standing up, the guitar in his left hand, and moving to stand behind her on the step. Confused, she twists to look up at him. "Deeks? What-"

"I'll teach you, but you've got to scoot down a step," he nudges her hip gently with his foot, prompting her to frown at him slightly before giving in and moving down so that she's sitting on the second step. A bit of shifting and jostling on both of their parts finds Kensi with the guitar suddenly in her lap, and her partner sitting directly behind her on the top step, his warmth along her back. Suddenly, Kensi's not so sure this is a good idea.

She's even less sure when Deeks takes her right wrist in his hand. "Okay," his voice is low and close to her right ear and she barely stifles an involuntary shiver – thankfully, though, she manages to. He's sitting so close to her that if she hadn't, there was no way he would've been able to miss the reaction, and she can only imagine the merciless teasing she'd be in for then. "Okay," he starts again, clearing his throat, "you're going to strum here," he puts her right hand on the strings. "I'll play the chords. Put your left hand on top of mine."

Slowly, she slides her left hand up so that her fingers are laying over his on the frets of the guitar. And if she'd thought that this might be a bad idea before, now, with Deeks' arms all but embracing her as he helps her play, she thinks it might be downright dangerous. But before she can change her mind or even say anything at all, he's started singing again – the same song as before – and moving his hand along the frets to shape the chords. She quickly moves to catch up with the song's rhythm, letting her right hand pass back and forth over the strings a bit shakily.

It's not anywhere near as clean and polished as the version Deeks had originally played for her, but they manage to stumble through the song together with Deeks stopping every now and again to explain the chord progression. A few times they go completely off course, which results in laughter and a bit of fumbling before they get back on track. By the time they finish, Kensi's smile is impossibly wide and she hopes that Deeks' mood has lifted as well.

 


 

"How'd I do?" she murmurs. He can barely hear her due to the quick pace his heart is beating, and the fact that she's speaking softly and still facing away from him.

"Fine, uh, good," he says, leaning back to put a bit of distance between them before he turns her around and does something stupid like kiss her. That would definitely be crossing the line, and it would probably get him punched or elbowed. And given where she's sitting, my shoulder probably wouldn't be her first target this time. That thought is enough to have him scooting back even a bit further. She turns around on her own as he moves, peering up at him before commenting. "Only good?"

When their eyes meet, she seems much more in control of herself than he feels, and he tries to match her tone. "Well, princess, there are some things even you can't learn in one night." Her gaze narrows and he can't help but chuckle. "But all things considered, you did pretty well." She smiles at him then, and he returns it for a moment before standing slowly and stretching a bit. "Ow." His legs are stiff from sitting on the hard steps, and his back is slightly tight from leaning forward for so long when he was teaching her the song. It was all more than worth it though, he thinks.

And he keeps thinking it as they say goodnight and he takes his guitar and heads back down her walk. He turns once when he's almost back to his car and sees her still at the door, holding what's left of the six pack of beer. Their eyes meet and she waves at him before slipping inside. He stands still, looking at the spot where she'd been and breathing in the quiet, cool, slightly damp night air before closing his eyes and focusing intently, trying to preserve the memory of the evening. He isn't sure exactly what is ahead of him in the next few days but he does know that this, tonight, was exactly what he'd needed to get him through it.

 


 

Kensi leans her back against the door for a moment after she slips inside, closing her eyes and thinking back over everything that has just happened between her and Deeks. She's not sure what really prompted him to come over and sing for her tonight, or what truly made her ask him for the impromptu guitar lesson. She doesn't know whether this has just been another example of the problem she's beginning to be sure that they have.

As she locks her door and moves through her apartment to put the beer and her forgotten mac and cheese in the refrigerator, there are only two things that she is sure of. That whatever the motivations behind – or the consequences of – tonight might turn out to be, she's glad it happened.

And she's equally glad that when Deeks had started singing the first time, she'd impulsively slipped her phone out of her pocket and used it to record him. At first, as she'd been doing it, she'd tried to tell herself it was so that she could have something incriminating on him later…but now she knew she didn't want to use it against him. She'd enjoyed the entire evening too much, and it had been too personal – for both of them – to tease him about. She takes her phone out again as she moves down the hallway towards her bedroom, playing the recording as she slips into bed. Listening again to the tones of Deeks' voice and the gentle melody of the guitar, Kensi slowly starts to fall asleep. She doesn't have any more answers about herself and Deeks and their thing than she did when she'd been sitting in the bath earlier. If anything, she has more questions.

But though she doesn't know exactly what's going on with them, or what lies ahead – something that would normally drive her up the wall – for the first time in a long time Kensi feels surprisingly at peace. As the last notes of the recording fade away, she's already drifted into a deep and easy sleep.

 


 

THE END.