“You’ve never been the most…” Nell paused, tongue darting over her glossy lips, shimmery in the faint darkness of their booth located at the back of the emptying restaurant, either uncertainty or the alcohol consumed over their evening filled with laughter and food keeping the end of her sentence from escaping her lips. “Traditional of relationships.”
Running her fingertip over the rim of her glass, Kensi managed a light shrug, a smile driven by both amusement from Nell’s sorta response and fondness over the memory she had just shared lining her lips.
Granted, she hadn’t made these plans of a night out with her friend and coworker with the intention of spilling the news of her partner slash boyfriend’s half proposal to the present company, but the clever woman surely would have stumbled upon the truth eventually, and God, they really needed to stop allowing such private moments to occur in camera-filled hallways and corridors, needed to follow that work rule about boundaries or something that was mostly ignored, but that was his fault, completely and utterly his fault.
Silently she reminded herself to pick up the check, a thank you to Nell for graciously, subtly, and somewhat regularly wiping the camera footage of less than professional encounters.
Traditional, definitely not. Their relationship was overflowing with quirks and occasional disadvantages, some of which were their tight-lipped operations manager popping up on flat screen monitors at just the wrong moment.
Even when it wasn’t okay, they were okay.
“It’s for the best,” Kensi smirked, pushing her empty glass away with her fingertips and crossing her arms over the tabletop. “Have to keep Sam and Callen on their toes, they need the entertainment in their lives.”
Hawaii, Las Vegas, Australia, Norway, Jordan, the Amazon, a thousand other places he continuously made ridiculous and almost tempting plans for them to visit, whether in a less than casual quip as they barely managed to avoid being fried by a Tesla coil or an attempt to hijack her regularly occurring trips to Hawaii, she wasn’t in the habit of accepting his invitations to jump on a plane and run away from LA.
Mammoth was the exception, a nervous acceptance to his flustered proposal that led to what was quite possibly the most blissful getaway of her life, not to mention the countless unheard of restaurants and hidden coves he’d pulled her to throughout their entire partnership, not that she could turn down a delicious meal, especially if he was paying, and she swore that they’d walked every stretch of sand in Los Angeles since he first started insisting that she follow him to the beach, realizing that she wasn’t quite as indifferent over the waves, sand, and surfboards as she attempted to portray.
She swore she loved every second of it.
She wasn’t in the habit of inviting him to jump on a plane and flee LA and the new, emotionally and physically exhausting pressures of their jobs either, but here she was, and when the heaviness that seemed to be molded to her heart and shoulders for the past weeks, even months, finally began to evaporate with the plane lifting them away, the idea of Hetty’s displeasure over their sudden cashing in off days didn’t seem nearly as overwhelming.
“Very out of character, Special Agent Blye,” his soft, yet amused tone came from the window seat to her right, his uncanny ability to read her mind both irritating and refreshing. “Sure you don’t have a parachute in your bag, just in case you change your mind?”
Her reply came in the form of an exasperated snort and a roll of her shoulders, the tiny seat ridiculously uncomfortable and the lightness of the moment after the constant intensity of the job incredibly freeing.
A rented cabin in the middle of nowhere Maine, somewhere they wouldn’t have phone service or any connection to Henrietta Lange was probably perfect, anything to put the pressures of now constant mumblings over the mole that had infected their agency and made Owen Granger’s fuse even shorter and Hetty Lange far more cryptic, interagency communications near impossible and Nell stretched to the end of her limit far behind them, if even for a few days.
“I bet you’re reconsidering those papers now,” she murmured, the softly spoken sentence appearing out of thin air as she cocked her head toward him, the question repeated in her dark eyes and lips pressed thinly together.
It was a conversation they’d gone over more than a few times over the past months, since that hellish Internal Affairs investigation and Granger pulling him aside shortly after her ex fiancé dipped back into her life for just a day; the Assistant Director offering just a few insinuations of a new badge and leaving LAPD behind, trading in the title of Detective for Special Agent.
And maybe then it had been the proper choice, choosing the safety of NCIS and the family he’d found there, pushing the uncertainties of the police department into his past, but now, with their agency plunged into this chaos, everything was an uncertainty.
“I don’t – I don’t know, Kens.” Dragging a hand through his unruly blonde curls before twisting slightly to face her, an odd mixture of confusion and longing mingling in his deep blue eyes and a hand landing on her forearm to smooth his thumb over the long sleeved tee encasing it. “I could’ve signed that paperwork years ago.”
Hetty had a habit of delivering him files lacking only his messy signature, leaving little room for his decision in the affairs. One he signed, bringing him into the mission and their team, making him her partner despite her initial reluctance. The other still sat in his bottom desk drawer, dust gathering and ink fading, persistence to leave it there, stay true to his original choices strong, until last December, but perhaps fear wasn’t the best motivator for such decisions.
“Why didn’t you?” The question escaped before she could pull it back, answer already known, just not acknowledged.
“It wasn’t the right path,” he shrugged, answer simple, yet not entirely complete, unwilling to mar the tranquility that had begun to envelop them the moment the last minute tickets were purchased, bags packed and Monty delivered to Julia’s, the woman sure to spoil the old dog she thought of as a grandchild.
They needed an escape, from the dangers and life threatening incidents of their career choices, from hidden truths and flat out lies, hell, even from the stress of house hunting; their realtor driven out of her mind by their trademark banter over the number of bedrooms and paint colors in the master bathroom. An utterly exhaustive process that was made entirely worth it every time he was reminded of exactly who his partner in this scenario was.
A year and a half into this all in relationship and a part of him couldn’t find a way to believe that there was a ring hiding in his nightstand drawer, meant for Kensi Blye’s hand.
A thousand muddled uncertainties crowded his mind over the title “agent,” not one uncertainty haunted his mind over her.
“Why Maine?” Her inquiring tone pulled his puzzling thoughts into new territory, her hand sliding up to clasp with his, clearly ready to drop darker subjects and focus on exactly what this trip was supposed to be.
“Figured we should stay in country this time, but don’t worry, Norway is up next.”
“We can get Callen to pick us from the airport.”
“I bet he’d actually show,” Kensi snorted in response to his immediate pout, callback to his mistake and how he continued to answer to it for the following weeks with electronic music and paying for lunch, clearly still sharp, gently nudging his ribcage with her elbow she dropped her head to his shoulder restlessly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
“You have to forget about that eventually.”
“Like when I forgot about you eating the last piece of cake?”
A chuckle fell from his lips as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, thumb rubbing a soft circle on her upper arm and scruff lightly scratching her skin when he leaned down to press a kiss to her temple. “I’m glad we’re doing this,” he mumbled into her hair before moving up again, lips landing on the top of her head, comforting gestures, an unspoken reminder that he was there; there during whatever drama could and would be caused by their work, there to hold her when nightmares hit, there during the darkest moments and helping to bring the light for the most blissful ones.
Life wasn’t okay, but they managed to be somewhere near perfect.
And his soft utterance above her head, a light, playful quip over elopement just as she started to slip into the embrace of sleep, fingers loosely curled in his shirt and his shoulder used as a makeshift pillow, simply had to be her imagination, brought on by the haze of exhaustion, had to be.