When the Bough Breaks

Chapter 11

Once she said goodbye to the man she thought she was really beginning to care about, Nell finally walked into Eric's hospital room and very slowly made her way over to stand at his bedside. As she looked down at his frail, almost lifeless form that looked very small beneath the large ventilator keeping him alive, she couldn't help, but begin to weep openly. Seeing Eric this way broke her heart and there was nothing she could do, but be here for him and have faith that he can fight his way back.

She reached out and gently took his hand in her own, then held onto him for several minutes until she leaned over to kiss his forehead and finally let go so that she could take a seat in the chair pulled up beside him, the whole not saying a word, despite there being so much that she wanted to say to him.

Stillness swept though the room for almost an hour until Nate walked in and silently took a seat in the chair set up beside her, then before the psychologist could say anything, she spoke up first as she said softly, "You know you were right before, about me… and Eric. You said you know how much he means to me and I denied that I felt anything for him. Well, I was wrong. I was horribly wrong. I just don't understand why it took this… this to happen for me to finally see it. He's always been here for me, always been here to listen, to comfort me when I needed someone to talk to during or after a hard day at work, he's somehow always known what I needed, even before I knew what I needed. Why couldn't I see it until now, now that it may be too late to tell him how I really feel?"

Nate looked at her and replied sadly, "It's impossible to know why it sometimes takes a tragedy such as this to allow people see their true feelings. I don't have the answer you're looking for, but what's important right now is that you finally do realize the truth and that you prove to him how you feel by continuing to do what you're doing. That's enough."

"But he won't know that I love him," Nell answered as she looked over at Eric once again as tears continued to fall from her eyes in silence. "If we lose him… I don't know what I'll do. I don't know, if I'll be able to continue working for NCIS once this whole mess is cleared up even we do all get our jobs back."

"Luckily, there'll be plenty of time for you to think about that after this whole mess is solved," Nate responded. "SECNAV won't be too happy with Hetty and the rest of you, so I have a feeling that you won't be required to solve another case for some time, even after the new headquarters is built."

Nell smiled through her tears and then replied, "Hetty will give them hell if they try to fire us."

The psychologist nodded and laughed, then answered, "Yes she will."

Nell began to laugh as well as she looked around the room, then stopped when her eyes landed on Eric's personal affects, which he had on him at the time of the incident, lying on the small table over in the corner of the room. She made her way over to them and carefully began to go through the items, all while Nate remained quiet as he watched her. She soon came upon Eric's cell phone and when she turned it on, she noticed that there was an email with a couple of photos attached waiting to be sent to the rest of their teammates, an email he didn't get the chance to send.

"Eric was about to send the others something just before the explosion," Nate said as he looked down at the phone as he stood beside Nell to see what she was busy studying. "What's in the photos?"

"He found photos that help us link Cosgrove to the bombing," she responded quickly as she began to dial Callen from her own phone, waiting for the agent to pick up. "I just don't think he realized what he had."

Nate took Eric's phone from her to look at them more closely as the agent finally picked up and Nell cried out, "Callen, I think I found what we've been looking for, I mean, Eric did, but he didn't…"

The agent with nothing, but a single initial for his first name quickly interrupted her, so as to get her to slow down, saying, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, take it easy, Nell. What are you talking about? Is Eric awake?"

"No, no not yet," she replied a little calmer. "But before the explosion, Eric was working on gathering background information on our three victims, but apparently he found much more; photos that can help us link Cosgrove and Booker together. They may give you what you need to link him to the explosion and maybe it can lead you to nail Mikkelsen too. I'm sending the email to you now. Go and get the bastards."

"We will," he answered. "Thank you, Nell."

As she and Callen hung up their phones, Hetty walked into the room and she said, "Well done, Miss. Jones."

Nell shook her head as she responded, "It wasn't me, it was Eric."

"I know, I heard most of that conversation," the small woman stated. "And you found the message that Eric meant for you to find. Now, we have to prove Cosgrove's connection to this dastardly plot and perhaps it will lead us to proving Hans Mikkelsen's involvement as well. I just pray that we can solve this soon. I can't hold SECNAV off much longer. Owen is demanding that I call you all in by six o'clock tomorrow night, or none of you may have a job come the day after tomorrow."

"They'll do whatever they have to do," Nate spoke up again confidently. "A time limit has never stopped them before and since the terrorists have made this case personal, it won't stop them now."

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