In the Blink of an Eye

Chapter 12

Hours passed by since Eric had begun working on the encryption and the longer it took for the young man to do so, the more impatient his captors were growing. Over an hour ago, Kang suspected that Eric was slowing down because the scopolamine in his system had begun to wear off and so to make sure that he remained under their control, Kang injected more of the drug, once again into the crook of his arm. Doing so slowed Eric down even more, as it took time for the drug to take effect, but now NCIS' tech operator was finally working again like he had first begun.

Most of Devlin's men had returned from whatever tasks their boss had sent them on and the room was once again filled with a number of heavily armed mercenaries, who were all settling in to relax until something more came up. When Devlin came back, he walked over to stand in front of his right hand as he began to argue with him until he finally stopped, then came over to Eric.

"We're running out of time," he said angrily as he stood over the younger man. "I need the names I've asked for now."

"I'm working as fast as I can," Eric answered flatly. "I've told you this is going to take time."

Devlin looked closer at him in order to see if there was any sign of deception showing in his eyes, then when he found none, he responded, "If you don't finish within the next hour, our men are dead. If that happens, then you will be dead too. Finish the encryption. Do I make myself clear?"

Eric nodded and then replied, "I understand what you want. I'll keep working."

"Good," Devlin answered, then turned to look at his friend again. "If he finishes the encryption in time and you complete your task in rescuing our friends that are still alive, then I want you to continue seeking out the rest of the Navy's operatives, and take the rest of them out. The Navy will pay for killing those of us they've allowed to suffer and die needlessly while under their services."

"You have my word," Kang responded. "And when the computer tech is finished?"

Devlin looked over at Eric, then back at his friend, and replied quietly so that only Kang could hear, "Do with him whatever you like. I just want him dead. Oh, and I need you to send men to take care of Kitchell and Dorn. I've learned that they've both been arrested. Kitchell won't talk, but I want him dead nonetheless. All loose ends must be tied up."

Kang smiled as he answered, "It's already being taken care of as we speak. I've already been alerted to the situation. Once they leave wherever they're currently being held for questioning and resurface, it will be done."

"I'm certainly glad you've come back, Ryu," Devlin responded. "None of the other men have ever measured up to your skills and loyalty."

"You saved my life and kept me from rotting in prison for the rest of my life," the ex Black Dragon replied. "I'm glad I can be here for all of this too."

It was then that there was suddenly an eruption of gunfire coming from outside the building the mercenaries were currently holed up in. Devlin and Kang shouted out for their men to fire back, not caring who the intruders were, and it wasn't long before they discovered that NCIS and the LAPD had somehow managed to find them.

Kang, Devlin, and at least five other men remained inside to guard over Eric and the computer, while the battle continued around them. Eric didn't even flinch as he continued typing away per Devlin's and Kang's orders, nor did he stop when the familiar voices of his friends sounded from behind him, as three of the five men were shot down and the rest faced off against four very angry looking NCIS agents, their guns raised high. Unfortunately, the remaining mercenaries remained between them and their friend.

Callen spoke first as he called out, "You know who we are and why we're here, Devlin. I suggest you and your men let our friend go unless you want to end up like those dead on the ground around you."

Devlin smiled as he stated, "We have no problem dying for our cause."

"And we have no problem with killing cops or agents like you," Kang answered and then aimed his gun directly at Eric's head. "Nor do we have a problem with putting a bullet in your friend. He'll be dead before you can take another shot. What we do next is all up to you."

"Actually, I have a better idea," Devlin responded as he placed his hand over Eric's to stop him from typing, then lifted him up by grabbing his shirt, placed a gun in his hand, and helped him aim it in the direction of the agents. "Eric, I want you to keep this trained on your friends here. Kill the woman if they move."

Each of the agents stared at their friend in confusion and with worry as they could see that he was not himself, then Kensi lifted her weapon higher toward Devlin and Kang, as she glared at them and asked, "What the hell did you do to him?"

Fassbender smiled and replied, "I'm sure that somewhere in your line of work you've come across a little drug known as scopolamine. It's a very clever tool when wanting cooperation from your enemy."

"Eric, if you can hear me, we're going to get you out of this mess," Sam said calmly as he continued to glare at the criminals before them.

"Why go through all of this?" Deeks asked. "What exactly are you after?"

Devlin looked over at Eric and then back at the agents as he answered smugly, "You'll never know. Mr. Beale, change your gun's direction. Point the barrel at your own head and pull the trigger."

Kensi, Deeks, and Sam all cried out in fear for their friend until all of a sudden, Callen swiftly fired his own weapon directly at Eric, the bullet lodging itself deep into Eric's left shoulder and causing their friend to collapse to the floor unconscious. Despite the shock of what their teammate had just done, the other agents just as swiftly fired upon the rest of the mercenaries, using the brief moment of distraction to their advantage to take them out.

Ryu moved in front of Devlin to protect him as the fight erupted, then took a bullet in his arm, fired by Kensi before she rushed over to Eric. Devlin managed to break away as the rest of the men fell around him, though Deeks and Sam quickly took off after him, as Callen ran over to fight against Kang, who fought as fiercely his old gang's name implied. The fight was difficult, but in the end, Callen was the victor, as he finally knocked Kang down using a broom handle lying nearby to render him unconscious, then rushed over to help Kensi fight to save Eric.

As she was holding her hands firmly over Eric's wound, his blood trickling out heavily from between her fingers, at first all Callen could do was stare at what he had just done, but he snapped out of his own shock as he quickly pulled out his phone and called for an ambulance while the fight between the rest of Devlin's team and the LAPD slowly ended and the majority of the mercenaries were dead on the ground as well. The rest still alive were currently being arrested.

Sam and Deeks finally came running back into the room and seethed in anger toward the men responsible for their friend's condition as they observed their partners fighting to keep Eric alive until the paramedics arrived. Slowly, Eric reawakened when Kensi's pressure tightened and the younger man fearfully tried to focus on his friends in confusion as a tear slipped down from the corner of his eye. Then, his eyes closed once again as the pain increased drastically and flooded his senses.

Callen gently placed one hand on top of Eric's chest and the other on the side of his face and neck, then spoke up softly saying, "Everything's going to be all right, Eric. You're going to be all right. We're here now. Just hold on."

"That's right," Kensi added as Deeks came over and knelt down as he began to work on breaking Eric's leg free from the shackle the mercenaries had cuffed on him. "You need to stay with us because we need you. We all need you."

Late in the middle of the night…

Nell, the agents, Nate, and Hetty all had gathered in the waiting room at the hospital shortly after Eric was brought in, then took a seat while they waited in fear for the doctors to come out and explain to them of their friend's condition. Everyone remained close together for comfort, except for Callen, who had walked off to stand on his own. Hetty noticed this and then walked away to find her agent who had no first name. She observed his mood for a few moments and then finally came over to speak with him.

"I would think you would prefer to stand with the rest of your team at this troublesome time, Mr. Callen," Hetty spoke up softly.

He shook his head as he responded, "I can't do that right now, Hetty."

Already knowing the answer, she asked, "And why is that?"

"Eric killed a man yesterday to save my life and in return, I shot him," Callen replied angrily. "Now he's fighting for his life because of me. This is my fault."

"From what I understand, you saved his life," she answered with a nod. "If you hadn't have done what you did, Eric would have died in that old car garage for sure."

Callen finally looked back at her as he spoke again angrily, "He still might and if he does, it will be because of my bullet and god knows however much of that drug those bastards dosed him with. I know it was the right call, Hetty, but what if he won't see it that way? What if he dies, before I have the chance to apologize? We should have known Eric could have been in danger the moment he shot Calder. If we did, none of this would have happened."

Hetty looked down somberly and then looked back up at her agent as she responded, "If Eric should remember all that has happened, I believe that he will truly understand and be grateful that you acted as you did. He knows what was at stake. As I am sure you must have realized by now, Eric has been feeling the same way as you, but for shooting a complete stranger and an evil man. When he wakes, you and he shall have a lot to talk about and that conversation just may be the very conversation needed to draw him back to where he belongs."

"And if he doesn't wake up?" he asked again.

"I have to believe that he will, Mr. Callen," Hetty replied firmly. "Eric Beale is much stronger than he appears."

Callen nodded and then said, "He's proven that on more than one occasion, especially today. I'm just sorry that none of us besides you and Nell have ever seen it before all this happened."

Hetty smiled and then stated, "What's important is that you all realize it now."

Six hours after Eric was brought into the emergency room, the doctors finally came out with news regarding the condition of their friend. The wound in his shoulder was extensive and he had lost a lot of blood, but they deemed confidant that they would be able to repair the damage and that Eric should recover in time.

As for the drug, the doctors found very little left inside his system once the agents had let them know exactly what to look for, as scopolamine didn't normally show up on any toxicology report unless it was brought to the doctors' attentions, and encouraged them that it shouldn't have any long lasting effects.

Nell sat beside Eric's bed over the next three nights, where she had been pretty much ever since he had been admitted to the ICU, with her hand resting on top of his free one, as his left arm was up inside a sling. The only time she wasn't with him was when her friends encouraged her to go home and get some sleep and something to eat. Hetty and the rest of their team, including Nate, had been in and out, but it was on the fourth night, a night that Nell was with him alone, when Eric's hand finally twitched beneath hers and he slowly began to wake. The movement startled her.

"Eric!" she cried as she stood over him and gently placed her hand on the side of face to let him know that he wasn't alone. "Oh, thank god! It's all right now. It's all over. You're safe now."

"Safe… from what?" Eric asked groggily after he finally, slowly opened his eyes and worked to focus on where the voice of his best friend was coming from. "Nell?"

She answered, "Yeah, it's me. I'm so glad you're all right now. I've been worried sick. Oh, here are your glasses. You might be able to see better with them on again."

After she helped him put his glasses back in place, he looked around the room and then stared back at her in confusion as he asked softly, "What am I doing in a hospital bed? And why… why does my shoulder hurt? What happened?"

"Do you not remember?" Nell asked in worry, not remembering until then that one of the side effects of the scopolamine was also short term memory loss.

"I remem… remember killing a man, but… that's it… I think," he responded and continued staring at her in fear. "What aren't you telling me?"

It was then that Hetty slowly walked into the room as she replied, "What happened is a very long story, Mr. Beale. One that we will share with you in time, but right now, you should rest. You have been through hell over the last few days. We'll be here for you when you wake again."

Eric didn't have the strength to argue as he slowly did fall asleep again, while keeping a tight hold of Nell's hand. The team finally told Eric the truth of what happened a few days later once Eric was feeling better. The last thing he remembered ended up being that he had quit. He didn't remember researching Mitch Calder from home, meeting up with the friend who had betrayed him, and he didn't remember being kidnapped by Devlin's men, or being shot by Callen. Eric was shocked by the revelation, but didn't appear to be angry at anyone. He just remained despondent as he asked them all to leave the room so that he could sort all of what he had been told out.

However, Callen remained behind so that he could have the conversation Hetty had told him he needed to have with the younger man and when Eric finally looked over at him, Callen spoke up saying, "I'm so sorry… sorry that I…"

"Shot me?" Eric cut in when the agent couldn't seem to get the words out. "It's all right. It sounds like you saved my life."

"It was the fastest thing I could think of," Callen continued, but then stopped when he saw Eric look away, knowing that he was ashamed of everything since he had shot and killed the engineer. "You can't blame yourself for any of this, Eric. Not for killing a man to save me, not for getting kidnapped, and certainly not for helping a group of terrorists. You had no power over what you were doing."

Without looking back at him, Eric answered remorsefully, "Not only could I have killed you or one of the others that day at the warehouse when I took that shot, but I also could have gotten a number of innocent people killed if you guys hadn't have shown up when you did. I would never have been able to live with myself if that happened."

Callen responded, "And none of that did happen. We stopped those men and you didn't shoot us. In fact, that shot was perfect. And now, Devlin, Kang, and the rest of their men still alive are in prison where they'll remain for the rest of their lives, however short that might be. A lot of that is thanks to you."

"I appreciate the encouragement, but it's going to take time for me to process all of this," Eric replied as he finally looked back over at his friend. "I appreciate that you all told me the truth, but…"

"We told you the truth because it was the right thing to do and we didn't want you to begin to remember any of this on your own," Callen answered. "In time, you'll come to realize that you did nothing wrong. In fact, you helped us bring down them all down. If you hadn't have done all that research on Calder or left us that message while you were being kidnapped, we wouldn't have gotten the information we needed on the men responsible for this mess. There's a reason why you're a part of our team, Eric. You're the best at what you do. I mean, who else can shut down the entire internet, besides you? That was incredible! Nell was certainly impressed and so were we. I'm just sorry that we haven't told you sooner how important you are to our team. Please, don't quit on us."

Four and a half weeks later, the team was working on another case involving the death of a naval lieutenant. They didn't have much information to go on, even though they had a number of suspects. Nell worked hard to gather the information on everyone involved, but she wasn't faring as well as she usually did and she, as well as the rest of the team, knew why.

They were missing their friend until one day, Eric suddenly walked back into the ops center as he said, "What do you want to bet the wife did it?"

Everyone turned in surprise at the sound of Eric's voice, and looked at him happily, then Nell suddenly ran up to him, kissed him deeply on his lips, and finally responded shyly, "You're back; I mean, I knew you would be."

"Yeah, I couldn't really stay away," Eric replied as he stared at Nell in shock over her kiss, while the others in the room just smiled, all thinking that it was about time. "I uh… I was reminded that I was a part of a team. I hope that I still can be."

"Of course you are, Mr. Beale," Hetty answered as she smiled, then looked at him sternly. "However, you should still be at home recovering. Your six weeks of leave are not through yet."

The young tech operator finally looked between his friends, then at the woman who hired him as he responded, "Yeah, I know, but… I… I was getting restless at home. I wasn't sure if I could do this anymore, but I realized that if I don't, I'd hate myself even more. It'll still take me some time to… to…"

Hetty walked over to stand in front of him, then held out her hand, and smiled as she replied, "Welcome back, Mr. Beale. Whatever took you so long?"

The End

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