The workday ended and no one on the team had located a replacement teacup. But it was not from lack of trying. Kensi and Deeks returned to the Mission and were sitting in Kensi’s car.
“I have to buy dog food and walk Monty, but I’ll meet you at Taco Paco at 7:30,” said Deeks.
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Not just a plan; it’s a date,” said Deeks with a smile.
Kensi smiled, too. “Even better.”
Deeks headed for the grocery store while Kensi went to a yoga class. By 7:15 she had showered and changed and arrived at the taco place. Deeks had insisted this was a date, so she’d traded her jeans, plaid shirt, and boots for a flowered sundress and sandals. She even had time to paint her fingernails and toenails fire-engine red. Now she stood on the deck and watched surfers far out in the Pacific.
“Hey, baa . . .by. Wanna beer?”
At first, she ignored the inebriated guy in board shorts.
“HEY! I’m talking to you. You deaf?” He staggered toward her and he lost his grip on his surfboard. It clattered onto the deck.
Kensi sighed heavily. Really? Why is this clown bothering me?
She turned her head a fraction. “I heard you and no thanks.”
“No thanks? No thanks? I don’t think so, bitch.” A thick tattooed arm shot out to grab her. But Kensi anticipated him. She caught his arm and twisted it up and behind his back. He doubled over and howled in pain. Heads turned their way and jaws dropped.
“You owe me an apology,” said Kensi. “Or I could dislocate your shoulder or maybe break your arm. How you gonna surf with your arm in a cast? Your choice, pal.”
The guy sputtered out some curses and finally, “Sorry. Limme go! Come on. NOW!”
“What was that? I didn’t hear you.”
“We’re done here.” Kensi released his arm and he stumbled and fell flat on his face. As a coup de grâce, Kensi toed his surfboard until it slid over the edge. Thunk! It landed on the sand below.
“Oops. Next time you’ll think twice before assaulting a federal agent.”
As she turned around, she saw Deeks approaching. His eyes went wide and he grinned. “What the hell, Kens?”
“I’m tired of jerks hitting on me.” Her expression said it all.
The guy moaned and writhed on the deck. “Is he okay?” asked Deeks.
“Only his ego is bruised.”
Deeks was always amazed by his partner. “Never a dull moment with you, Fern.” He looked around and grabbed her elbow. “Come on. We can’t eat here. Everyone is gawking at you.”
“Fine. Tacos seem overrated right now anyway.”
“Exactly. Let’s go to that noodle bowl place.”
Deeks propelled her down the beach to another restaurant. “There’s a fifteen-minute wait,” said the waitress.
“We’re in no hurry,” said Deeks.
Kensi’s back was against the wooden rail. Deeks crowded her with his body and braced both hands on the rail on either side of her. “Guess you’re not carrying in this little number or you would have shot that poor guy. You look fantastic, by the way.”
She patted her right thigh. “A federal agent never goes naked.”
Naked. Wow. That brings up some interesting thoughts.
“Good to know. I wouldn’t want to be surprised in case my hand somehow inches up that leg.” Even as he was speaking, his hand ventured under the hem of the sundress and slowly moved up until he encountered the thigh holster. Kensi squirmed a little, but kept eye contact with him.
“I don’t know why, but that’s really a turn-on,” he whispered. “Beautiful woman who’s also dangerous and maybe a bit naughty. Are you wearing anything else under here?”
Kensi felt robbed of breath. As she focused on Deeks, everything else diminished. The talking and laughter of the diners, the clink of glasses and dishes, even the roar of the surf receded to the fringes of her consciousness. Her world narrowed to the two of them.
“Deeks.” It came out as a breathy sigh. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he inclined his head as their lips crashed together. He dropped his hand and pulled her close.
“Would you look at that,” said Callen. He and Gemma were seated at a table on the far side of the same restaurant.
Gemma followed his line of sight. “What? Did you spot a suspect?”
“No. Two of my agents engaging in a very PDA.”
“That couple by the rail? Are they working a cover?”
“No, they’re just working each other.” Callen sighed and shook his head. “I shouldn’t be shocked. It’s been simmering since day one. Now it’s bubbling over.”
“They look good together,” said Gemma wistfully.
“I don’t know what to do about it.”
Gemma gave him a look. “Why do you have to do anything? They’ll figure out their boundaries for personal and work stuff.” She picked up the menu and swatted his arm. “Have you decided what to order? Because I have and I’m hungry.”
Callen re-focused on his date. “Right. Kensi and Deeks can do their thing and we’ll do ours.”
Gemma smiled. “Wise answer.”
Deeks and Kensi separated, but only because they had to breathe. Deeks rested his forehead against Kensi’s. “Wow.”
Finally, Kensi found her voice. “Yeah.”
“Uh, excuse me, sir. Your table is ready,” said the timid waitress behind them.
“Thanks.” Deeks kept an arm around Kensi’s waist as they followed the young woman to a table on the side of the restaurant.
Gemma discussed her interview with the DEA while she and Callen ate.
“DEA? Is that really what you want to do?” asked Callen. “Why don’t you come work with us?”
“There are no openings at present with NCIS. Besides, Migs put in a good word for me. I’ve worked a lot of drug cases and think DEA would be a good fit.”
Callen’s cell buzzed. It was Eric with a 911 alert. He looked at Gemma and shrugged. “Sorry. It’s work.”
“I’ve been monitoring eBay and found one teacup. An exact match.”
“Positive. Nell and I managed to super glue almost all the pieces back together so we could examine every angle. But it’s pretty pricey.”
Callen went silent when Eric told him the current prices. “I don’t care how much you have to bid, get me that teacup! I’m texting you my credit card number.”
“I’m on it.”
“And Eric . . .”
“Thanks. I promise never to rat you and Nell out for eating junk food in Ops.”
Eric laughed and reached for a handful of chips. “Excellent.”
“Teacup?” asked Gemma with raised eyebrows. “Let me guess, some priceless antique you’re tracking?
Callen ran a hand over his face in relief. “In a way.” He proceeded to tell the story and when he was finished, Gemma sat back and laughed.
“Your life is on the line, Callen. I only met Hetty when she came to recuperate at her sister’s house. But I’ve never met two sharper women than Migs and Hetty.”
“So you don’t think Hetty will be fooled?”
“Not for a second.” She studied him for a moment. “You could tell her the truth. It’s not like she’s going to fire you.”
Callen pondered the idea. “Maybe. But you haven’t seen Hetty in Mount St. Helens mode. And I’m already committed to the cover-up. You know yourself, it’s hard to abort an operation half way in.”
“True. Good luck then. Let me know how it works out.”
“Oh, I will. In fact, I propose a wager. I think I can fool Hetty; you say no. Loser has to cook dinner next time.”
Gemma’s face lit up. “Next time?”
“Absolutely,” grinned Callen.
“Well, Agent Callen, you need to make sure your oven is in good working order.”