When the Bough Breaks

Chapter 9

After getting off the phone with Hetty, Callen walked back into the main room of his home, where he, Sam, Kensi, and Deeks decided to go while they worked to put together a game plan for what they were going to do next. Until their latest call to Hetty, they still didn't have much to go on, as their suspects' phones were currently turned off and the batteries removed so they couldn't be traced and there were no charges on their credit cards as of yet either. Nell told her teammates that she'd call them right away if that changed.

"I can't believe it," Deeks spoke up once Callen finished explaining to them what Hetty had told him over the phone. "Why would Booker betray us like this? He went on a couple of dates with Nell. From what I understood, I thought he really like her and he and Eric used to get together to play video games."

"That's what I said," Callen stated. "None of us were exactly friends with him and we didn't really try too hard to become so, but Booker never once indicated that he hated working for NCIS, nor did he ever say anything about having financial problems."

Sam crossed his arms as he continued, "He fooled us all. Who knows the man's reasons for hurting us like this, but it doesn't really matter. The truth is, he put a bomb in where we all worked and helped whoever he was working for hurt us where they could hurt us the most. I don't feel bad that he's dead."

Kensi nodded in agreement, then answered coldly, "I just wish I could have been the one to pull the trigger."

"We all do," Deeks replied as he stood up from his seat on the couch, one of the few pieces of furniture Callen had finally put in after years of living there. "I'm guessing that the police and other agents SECNAV called in are probably looking through Booker's home in search for plans or evidence pointing to who he was working for?"

"Yeah, but maybe we've got something better," Sam responded. "We didn't know much about him, but I vaguely remember him mentioning something about his mother. He sent the woman money every month to take care of her, while she remained inside a nursing home."

Kensi quickly spoke up again as she asked, "Yeah, but you don't think the others will think to go see her too?"

Callen smiled as he answered, "Yeah maybe, but not right away, which gives us time to go and visit her ourselves. She probably won't know anything about what he was planning, but I'm betting he said goodbye in some way or another. He would have planned a trip to somewhere where there is no extradition in order to get away with his crimes. I doubt he was expecting he'd die for them last night."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Deeks asked. "Let's go pay the woman a visit."

Meanwhile…

Nell slowly walked through the hospital corridors and ducked into each of the wounded agents', as well as the other analysts' and techs' rooms to quickly pay her respects to them as they were all friends, then she finally arrived outside Eric's room and stopped. She wanted to be with him more than anywhere else, but a part of her was terrified to go inside. He was still in a coma and hooked up to all kinds of equipment to help him. Eric was always so happy-go-lucky and eccentric, except for when he became nervous whenever it came to him having to talk to her about anything other than work. It was one of the things she loved most about him. To see him like he was now, it scared her more than she ever thought it could and she wasn't exactly sure why.

"Nell!" a voice suddenly called out to her from down the hall as she was about to go inside. "Wait, can I talk to you?"

When she saw that it was the man she had started to see recently, whom she had gotten into the argument with Eric about the day before, she stared at him as he walked closer and pulled her away from the room, then she asked, "Colin, what are you doing here? I thought I told you that things were complicated for me at work right now and that I wouldn't be available for awhile."

The man gently touched the bandage on her forehead that hid the gash she had received from the bombing, then he ran his fingers through her hair, and replied, "Yes, you did, but I figured you'd be here with your friends and I wanted to see you, to make sure that you're okay. How are you really?"

"I'm fine," she quickly responded as she pushed his hand away from her face and then motioned for him to have a seat in the chairs in the waiting room nearby. "Listen Colin, now's not really a good time. I'm here to visit my friends and things are really difficult right now. I shouldn't have… shouldn't have led you on and made you believe that we could… make this relationship work. I…"

"I don't understand," Colin interrupted before she could say anymore. "I thought things were really good between us. I thought we were hitting it off and that maybe we might be ready to take our relationship to the next level. I really like you, Nell."

Nell shook her head sadly and then stared over toward Eric's room until she finally looked back at the man standing before her, having suddenly made the realization that she should have known all along, as she slowly answered, "I'm so sorry, Colin. I wish that there was a way for me to tell you this without hurting you, but… I'm in love with someone else and I know that he's in love with me too. Those were the last words he said to me just before all this happened; before I ran out of the room in anger and left him behind."

Flashback to yesterday morning in the ops center…

As Nell walked in after going to have a talk with Hetty about the information Callen and Sam had learned about their first victim, the woman who had stayed late that night in the office, she looked over at Eric, then at the large screen along the wall as she asked, "Were you able to find anything on our second security guard, uhh… Preston Jenkins?"

"No, not yet," he replied as he looked back at her nervously, then quickly turned back to the screen too as soon as she looked over at him again. "She's a little more difficult to dig up information on that's not common knowledge. So, I heard that you started going out with some guy you met out in D.C. when you went for that meeting over two months ago. He's a lawyer, right?"

"Yeah, a lawyer from down here in L.A. that was there for a meeting with a new client," she responded. "How did you know that? I haven't told you about him."

Eric looked at her again sheepishly as he answered, "No… no you didn't. It's just that I… I uhh… I found his business card on the floor last week. It must have fallen out of your pocket and since you've been back you've been going out to see him quite a bit. At least, you haven't been free to come over to play World of Warcraft in the last several weeks and you've been coming in the last few mornings differently, like you always do when you start dating someone. I just assumed…"

Nell stopped what she was doing and turned to him as she angrily asked, "And why does what I'm doing with him matter to you? Yes, I've been going out with him a lot and I like him, a lot."

"It doesn't really bother… bother me… really," he replied even more nervously. "I just was wondering. If you want to date him, I suppose that's fine with me. It's just that…"

"That what?" Nell asked more coldly than she meant to come off. "I have every right to see whomever I like and I'm sorry that my dating him has been interfering with your stupid game! I like him and he likes me."

Eric looked hurt as he turned away and nervously fiddled with the iPad in his hands, then he softly responded, "I'm g…glad he does and he… he should. Anyone who gets to know you should. It's just that… I don't…"

She interrupted him again as she said, "I will date anyone I like and if you have a problem with that, then you're not the man I thought you were. I thought you were my friend."

"I am your friend," Eric finally spoke again boldly, no longer letting his nerves stop him from saying what was really on his mind, as he suddenly looked at her with a deep sadness and disappointment in his eyes that she had never seen in him before. "I will always be your friend, but I wish you could see me the way that I see you. I love you, Nell. I've been wanting to tell you I have been in love with you for so long now, it's just that I haven't been able to because you make me more nervous than anyone I ever knew. I've never been able to find the words, until now, for whatever reason. I'm sorry if you think that I wouldn't want you to be truly happy, even if it meant that your happiness was not because you were with me."

"Eric, I… How can you do this to me?" she asked in frustration. "I can't talk to you anymore. I'm spending the rest of the afternoon downstairs. Please, just leave me alone."

She left the room in anger and when he was alone once again, Eric stared at the door as he slowly sank into his chair and then answered sadly to himself, "I'm sorry, Nell."

End of flashback…

Colin looked toward the room as well while she drifted off in thought and then replied, "I see. It's your friend from work, isn't it; the geek that you talk about almost non-stop?"

"First of all, Eric isn't a geek, I mean, he is, but in a really good way and he's a lot more than that. And second, he's a good man, who's smart and kind, and he's the best man I know," she responded confidently.

"I know that," he answered in frustration. "I didn't mean to insult him. It's just that I thought that the two of you were just friends. I really like you, Nell. I want the two of us to be together for a long time. We've only been out together a few times, but the two of us are perfect for each other."

Nell sadly replied, "Unfortunately, deep down I always felt like something wasn't quite right between us, but I ignored it because I really liked you too. I didn't understand why I couldn't shake that feeling off, but now I do. I'm sorry, but I can't… We're through, Colin. I hope you can understand."

Colin patted her shoulder gently and then he responded, "In time, I think I will. Is your friend going to be all right?"

"I don't… I don't know," the young woman cried fearfully. "He's hurt, badly, and I've been terrified to walk into his room because the man lying in that room is not the man that I know. Oh God, I need him to be okay."

"I knew she would admit her true feelings for Eric when she was ready," Hetty said softly to Nate as the two of them watched Nell with the stranger she was dating from a distance. "I just pray that Eric will pull through so she can finally be able to tell him, instead of this other man, or she will never forgive herself."

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