The Day After

What is that noise? wondered Eric It took a moment for him to pinpoint it. My watch. He pressed a button to silence the rude thing. Nell was still asleep beside him and looking cute in his tee shirt. He smiled and thought how much he liked this little scene of domestic coziness.

She was curled on her side and her hair was sticking out at weird angles, probably not unlike his own. He jostled her shoulder and whispered, “Nell, we have to get up.”

She mumbled and opened one eye. “Why?”

“Because we have to go to work.”

She sighed. “Work. Right.”

“The good news is your dress is more than likely dry. You can shower first, then I’ll shower and we’ll go to work.”

Nell raised up on both elbows. She looked at him as if he’d grown a second head during the night. “Do I look like the kind of girl who does the ‘walk of shame’? ”

“What? Oh, like when Kensi wore the same shirt two days in a row?”

“So you did notice.”

“I may have heard Sam and Callen talking about it.”

“Well? Do I?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What?” Nell glared at him the way Kensi did with Deeks.

Eric swallowed nervously. “I mean, of course not. You are a perfectly nice girl and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

For good measure, Nell punched him.

He grabbed his shoulder. “Ow! You don’t have to go all Kensi on me,” he whined.

“With narrowed eyes, Nell said, “I better not hear any water cooler talk about us in the coming days.”

“Is there an us? Of course, there’s an us, but we don’t have a water cooler in Ops. We have bottles of water,” he pointed out.

Nell continued to glare at him.

“But . . . I get your drift and I’m going to stop talking now.”

Nell tossed back the covers and headed for the bathroom. Eric flopped on his back. “I’m an idiot,” he mumbled.

Five minutes later, Nell returned. She wore her dry, but wrinkled dress. She flung the tee shirt and it landed on Eric’s face. It smelled of her perfume. Eric laughed.

“Are we an item now?” he asked. He felt the bed dip as Nell sat down beside him to put on her shoes. She pondered the idea. “We can be whatever we want to be,” she smiled. She pulled the tee shirt off his face and leaned down to give him a quick kiss. “See you in Ops.”

Eric was zoning out in front of his computer. There could have been a DEFCON 1 alert scrolling across it and he would not have noticed. His mind was replaying the previous night’s events. His fingers kept turning a small object over and over.

Will things get weird now? It can’t be any weirder than Kensi and Deeks. They make it work somehow.

They tried to present themselves as nothing more than bickering work partners, but everyone knew. Even Hetty, in her sly way, encouraged the relationship.

A large cup of coffee appeared in front of him. Nell slid into her seat beside him. She also had a large coffee.

“Thanks,” he said. They sipped in silence. Vanessa and Richie had yet to appear.

“Did last night really happen?” asked Nell, turning to him.

“Awesome evening.” Eric couldn’t hide his smile.

“Yeah. Except for the throwing up part, which we will never mention again.”

Eric nodded. “Agreed. Oh, I found this in the bathroom.” He handed her a button.

“Good. I would have been mad if I’d had to replace all those buttons.”

Behind them, Vanessa and Richie strolled in with pudding snacks in their hands. They sat down at their computers and tore into them.

“Who eats this stuff for breakfast?” asked Vanessa.

“Appears that we do,” said Richie between mouthfuls.

“We’re doing vegetarian for lunch.”

Richie shrugged. “If you say so.”

“I do say so,” confirmed Vanessa. But she tempered it with a smile.

I’m in love, thought Richie.

He scooted closer to Vanessa. “Think they saw us last night?” He nodded toward Nell and Eric.

Vanessa cut her eyes in their direction. “Pretty sure they didn’t. I know a thing or two about losing a tail.”

“I like a strong, confident woman.”

Vanessa gave him a look. “Do you say that to all the tech women?”

“No, usually anytime I try to talk to one she proceeds to beat the crap out of me.”

“My poor Richie,” cooed Vanessa as she patted his forearm. “They haven’t discovered the diamond in the rough, the genius behind the goofball.”

“Wow! Usually I’m called an annoying little prick or a supercilious twit.”

“Strong language,” gasped Vanessa in mock horror.

“Exactly. I’m glad you appreciate my inner man.”

“I don’t know if I’d go that far, but you have definite possibilities.”

“Then I’ll do my best to live up to your expectations,” nodded Richie.

The week was dragging for Kensi. Late cases at the Mission and Deeks having to be on standby to give his testimony in court kept them apart. But they talked or texted daily. One night they had planned to meet at the beach for tacos, but Deeks had a flat tire and then got stuck in a big traffic jam on one of Los Angeles’ notorious freeways.

It was just after one o’clock. Kensi was at her desk picking at a tuna sandwich. Her cell rang suddenly and she saw it was Deeks.

“How’s it going?” she asked.

“There’s good news and there’s not-so-good news. Which would you like to hear first?”

“The good news.”

“Okay, the good news is that one miscreant wisely took his attorney’s advice and pled guilty. He had no choice really. He was clearly seen on surveillance video committing the crime.”

“So what’s the not-so-good news?”

“Some clown pulled the fire alarm and now we’re all standing out in front of the courthouse in 95 degree heat waiting for the all-clear. Meanwhile, my extra-strength deodorant is failing me.”

Kensi laughed. “Better you than me. You know, probably a raccoon wouldn’t mind the smell. Might even find it sexy.”

“Good to know. But my raccoon isn’t here to experience it. Hang on, a news crew is panning the area. Maybe you can see me on TV.”

Kensi got up and fumbled with the remote. “Nope. Don’t see you.”

“I’m to the right of the entrance.”

“Oh, wait. Now I see you.”

Deeks grinned and waved. Without thinking, Kensi waved back at the TV. She dropped her hand and glanced quickly behind her. That was silly. Hope nobody saw me.

“Now they saying we can go back in,” said Deeks. “Here’s the culprit now.”

Kensi watched as two cops literally dragged a twenty-something guy in faded jeans and torn tee shirt out toward a waiting patrol car. “Hey man, what’s the big deal? I accidentally leaned on the alarm. Is that a crime?” he whined.

Deeks laughed. “Gotta go.”

“Will you be back at work tomorrow?” asked Kensi hopefully.

“Are you lonely there, Fern?”

“I’m doing double duty because my partner is not here to help with these cold cases.”

“You miss me.”

“Shut up.”

“Good talk. Later, Fern.”

Sam and Callen were sitting at Hetty’s desk when Nell came down to the landing and leaned over the rail.

“Callen, you have a call in Ops. A Detective Ryan-Davies from the San Diego P. D.”

Sam laid his newspaper aside and looked up. “Did you say Ryan Davis? Because I knew a guy by that name from LAPD. Total jerk.”

“No, this is Ryan-Davies, hyphenated, and it’s a woman,” explained Nell with the utmost patience.

“Sorry. My bad.”

“Be right there, Nell,” said Callen.

“What gives, G?”

Callen tried to tamp down his excitement. “Not sure.”

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