Rainy Night in L.A.

Eric drove back to his apartment. Nell had followed him there after work so he could pick up his credit card.

“AT-choo.” Nell started digging in her purse for tissues.

“Your pretty dress is all wet,” said Eric. “We have to get you out of that.”

Nell looked up in surprise.

Eric grimaced when he realized what he’d said. “What I meant was, uh, because you know, you don’t want to catch cold after just getting over the flu. Not because you need to be naked or anything even remotely like that. You know what I mean.”

“I . . .think so.” Nell looked faintly alarmed.

“You need something warm and dry.”

It’s that sake messing up my brain and my tongue. Maybe I should kiss her again.

With an impish grin, Nell said, “Or somebody warm and dry.”

Eric’s eyebrows shot up. He wasn’t sure how to respond. Before he could come up with a clever retort, traffic began moving again.

In a couple minutes, they were at Eric’s front door. It was still raining and Nell was again sneezing. Eric fumbled and dropped his keys. Nell laughed.

Finally, they got inside. Eric rushed over to cut off the air conditioning as Nell stood there shivering.

“Come on.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the bathroom. “Get out of those wet things and I’ll find you something to wear.”

He came back in a minute with a tee shirt and thick socks. He averted his head as he pushed the door open. “Here you go, Nell.”

“Eric, I’m still dressed. You don’t have to close your eyes.”

“Uh, okay.” He turned around and handed her the clothes. Their bedraggled selves stared back at them in the mirror.

“We look terrible,” said Nell.

Eric frowned. “Yeah. I need aspirin.”

“Me, too.” Nell kicked off her shoes. She had to grip the edge of the sink to keep from falling down.

Eric began opening drawers. “Oh wait, I think it’s in my gym bag.”

When he returned from the bedroom, Nell had shed her wet clothes and pulled his tee shirt over her head. It was a baggy mini dress on her. Eric smiled. She looked adorable, like a munchkin. He pointed to her feet. “Your toes are purple.”

Nell looked down. “I’ll have you know that shade is Orchid Breeze. The hot new color for summer.”

“Of course. Why didn’t I know that?”

“Because it wouldn’t have been in a computer manual,” said Nell.

Somehow that was insanely funny and they both doubled over laughing.

When Eric got a grip he said, “Okay, Ms. Orchid Breeze, you need to sit down before you fall down.” He steered her to the living room and made her sit down on the couch. He went to the kitchen and got two bottles of water.

They threw back a couple aspirin and Eric plopped down beside her. They sat in companionable silence, listening to the rain. Nell massaged her temples.

“Too much sake,” she said.

“Yeah. But it was fun.” Eric pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I had a great time.” She turned toward him as she pulled on the socks. “Will we do it again?”

Eric managed a smile. “Absolutely. But not on a work night.”

“We could call in sick tomorrow,” she said with that impish grin.

“Callen would kill us. Besides, Vanessa and Richie might take over the place if we’re not there. I would not want him rearranging my desk.”

Nell drew her legs up and curled into a ball. “Goodnight, Eric.”

Eric studied her for a moment. “Goodnight, my little Orchid Breeze.” He could not have imagined Nell becoming such an essential part of his life. He actually resented her when she first joined NCIS. But now, well, things had definitely changed.

He went to the bedroom and got a lightweight blanket and wrapped it around Nell. She mumbled and snuggled into it. Then he took off his shoes, snatched a throw pillow, and stretched out on the floor in front of the couch. He wanted to be close in case Nell needed something in the night.

Probably not how Deeks and Kensi do things, but we’re not them.

His eyelids were drooping and he yawned widely.

Wednesday Morning

“Outstanding,” announced Migs after reading an e-mail.

Hetty was puzzled. “It’s our usual breakfast of croissants and jam.”

“Not that, silly. An agent in the L.A. DEA office is retiring at the end of the month. Not a moment too soon, in my opinion. Real pain in everyone’s posterior. Why, I recall one case where . . .”

“Your point?” prodded Hetty.

“The point is, there will soon be a job opening. I will casually mention this to Gemma the next time I see her. She would be perfect for it. Not to mention it would put her in the same zip code as Mr. Callen.”

Hetty sipped her tea. “They’ve had one dinner date and you’re already designing wedding invitations.”

“I think they both recognize a good thing when they see it.”

“Oh, bugger,” snapped Hetty. “Another e-mail from Owen.” She looked at Migs and sighed. Perhaps you should retire from the DEA and open a matchmaking service. You take such a keen interest in my agents’ lives. Maybe you could find someone for Owen so the man will let me do my job in peace.”

Migs pretended to give it some thought. “Let me see. Genevieve is too whiney; Joan could never keep up because she needs to lose at least 50 lbs. and Pamela . . .”

“I was joking, Migs,” said an exasperated Hetty.

“You sure about that?”

Hetty replied to Granger’s e-mail and slammed her laptop shut. Eric and Nell would have cringed at the force she used.

“Well now, how is our favorite detective?” asked Migs, changing the subject.

Our detective? You’re claiming him as well?”

Migs rolled her eyes.

“Our Mr. Deeks is in court this week. I imagine he’s not in the best humor.”

“But Kensi will cheer him up when it’s finished. You need to blow off some steam and I know just the thing. A new gun range opened not far from here. You can pretend you’re shooting Owen. What do you say?” Migs had the audacity to giggle.

Hetty scrutinized her with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “Bring it, sister.”

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