In the Blink of an Eye

Chapter 3

Later that evening, Nate, once the team's psychologist until he was reassigned, arrived at the address that Hetty had given him for Eric and wasn't surprised to find that it was an old beach house, as Eric had mentioned on a number of occasions that he loved to surf early in the morning before coming into work. Nate had never been to the tech operator's place and he suspected that Nell was probably the only one on the team who had. Eric struggled to connect with the rest of the team for a number of reasons and the doctor realized that they probably hadn't ever made much of an effort to connect with him.

Nate knocked twice on his front door and when Eric didn't answer, he thought that the younger man might be out in the ocean somewhere, but as he turned around to leave, he looked along the beach and finally saw Eric sitting in the sand a few feet away, staring out over the water.

The doctor slowly approached him and without saying a word, took a seat beside Eric, who didn't even flinch as he did so, but Nate's silence didn't last long as he spoke up first saying, "You certainly do have a beautiful place here. How are the waves this evening?"

Eric still didn't turn to look at him as he answered, "They're amazing. My house is worn and old, no matter what I do to fix it up, but the view makes living here totally worth it. I should have known Hetty would send you here. I didn't think you were in town."

"I got back from the Middle East almost a week ago," Nate replied. "I meant to come and visit you guys sooner, but I've been busy."

"Then you shouldn't waste your time here with me," Eric responded despondently. "I'm not going to change my mind about quitting. I can't do it anymore."

Nate looked over at his friend as he answered, "I didn't come here to convince you to come back to work. I came here to talk, in hope of trying to help you cope with the terrible thing you were forced to do this morning."

Eric finally looked back at Nate as he chuckled and then replied, "I killed someone. I know that Sam, Callen, Kensi, and Deeks have to do it quite often, but I'm not them. The engineer was a bad guy, but out there somewhere there are people that cared about him, loved him, and now they'll suffer a loss because of me. How am I supposed to cope with that, to get over that?"

"Because we all have the ability to move past anything, no matter how tragic the circumstance is, if we allow ourselves to," Nate responded. "Your compassion and the pain you're feeling right now is what makes you human. You can get through this, Eric. And once you feel that you have, then you can decide whether or not to return to work, though I'm getting the feeling that there's more to your decision to quit. Am I right?"

"I don't know," Eric answered as he turned away again.

Nate continued to look at him as he replied, "I think you do. Please, talk to me."

Eric responded, "What exactly do you want me to say? That I'm not good enough to be a part of our team? That I'm not as good as I pretend to be?"

"No, because you are as good as you've said you are and you know it," Nate answered. "In fact, you're better and Nell would be the first one to admit that. Computers and all that genius stuff you do is not what's the problem here. Until now, you were one of the most confident people I've ever seen. You don't consider Nell, Callen, Sam, Kensi, or Deeks killers even though they've killed a number of people, yet you now think you are and it really terrifies you."

"We're just going around in circles now," Eric replied as he stood up and brushed the sand off his clothes, as did Nate. "I really can't do this right now. I appreciate you coming by to check on me, but I'm tired."

Nate responded, "I'm here for you any time you need me. Please, call me when you're ready to talk."

The tech operator nodded and then answered, "All right. Thank you, Nate. I mean it. I am grateful you came by to make sure I was all right. I just… I'm still trying to register everything that happened this morning; trying to figure out if there was anything else I could have done."

"You saved Callen's life today and it was a righteous kill," Nate replied. "You have nothing to be ashamed of."

"I wish I could believe that," Eric responded, then walked away, leaving Nate behind as he watched the younger man until he entered his house, disappearing from view.

Meanwhile…

Somewhere in an apartment building across town that housed a large number of drug addicts and stoners, the mercenaries that had shot up the warehouse they had stashed the supercomputer and the engineer in, while trying to kill the four agents, were all busy regrouping after they had all dispersed in order to escape from the cops. The leader of the large group was angry and screaming at his men, as because his plans had fallen apart and now had just found out that the man they had hired to break the supercomputer's encryption was now dead and not in the agents' custody.

One of the men spoke up saying, "I don't know how NCIS found us so quickly, Devlin. Most likely it was because Mitch's old team got sloppy and didn't cover their tracks well enough. Now that he's dead, what's next?"

Devlin punched his fist into the table, causing it to break, then answered angrily, "We need to take back the computer from the police, just like we stole it before and I don't care what it takes to do it. I won't stop now."

"We're all with you," his right hand man replied. "You know that, but even if we are successful, Mitch is dead. How are we supposed to get the information that we need from the computer?"

"We need to find us someone else who can get us what we need," the leader answered smugly. "I need you to find out who else has the knowledge to encrypt the information from the lab it was stolen from in the first place. If there isn't anyone else there, find me someone that can."

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