Indisposed

Layers of the Onion

Sunday Night

Nell turned onto her left side. Five minutes later, she rolled to her right side. Another five minutes passed and she rolled onto her back. She stared at her bedroom ceiling as endless questions ran through her mind.

What happened with Kensi’s big dinner? Did she straighten up her apartment before Deeks arrived? Has dinner evolved into something besides eating? Why hadn’t Kensi updated me?

At last, at 2:40 a.m., she sat up in bed and reached for her phone to text Kensi. A response came back immediately:

Words can’t describe it!!!

Nell was puzzled and tried to read between the lines. Did that mean dinner was a resounding success or a gigantic flop? She assumed Deeks was still there or Kensi would have elaborated.

No other text was forthcoming so her thoughts drifted to her partner. What was Eric doing? Was he writing some new code? Was he playing a computer game with people in Singapore or Johannesburg? Was he thinking about her and wondering what she was doing?

Normal people would be sleeping. But nobody ever said computer people are normal. I could text him.

“Or not,” she said aloud.

The phone chirped with a text as she held it. “Yikes!” Her cat, Mr. Bubbles, did not appreciate the disturbance. He gave a petulant meow and jumped down, sauntering into the closet to sleep among the shoes.

She frowned when she saw it was her chatty, insomniac cousin in San Francisco. She would keep her online for hours whining about gluten-free stuff and the rowdy fifth-graders she taught.

Not now, Marilyn.

Another text popped up. She smiled. It was from Eric.

U awake?

Duh! Why aren’t you sleeping?

Too busy thinking. What’s a five-letter synonym for ninja?

Nell paused. Then it hit her. Hetty!

Brava. When’s she coming back?

This week, I think.

Must hide Oreos.

Nell giggled. Afraid she’ll sniff out our stash?

Of course.

Are U worried?

Absolutely!

Don’t worry. I’ll protect you. I’m an armed federal agent.

U scare me sometimes, but in a good way!

Keeping it real, Beale.

U rhymed! Cute.

Go to sleep.

It would be better with U.

Nell grinned. They were becoming more and more like Kensi and Deeks all the time, except she didn’t hit Eric as much or as hard.

Maybe we can do something about that. ‘Night, Eric.

Good to know. Sweet dreams, Nell!

Nell laid the phone on the nightstand and slid down in the bed. “Yes!”

Monday – 5:30 a.m.

After getting a few hours sleep, Nell got up and decided to go into work. A couple of overnight techs she passed downstairs didn’t find it odd in the least. They gave her a brief nod of greeting before turning back to their screens and their subdued conversations.

When she strolled into Ops, she found Eric already there. A bakery bag and two cups of cappuccino sat between their desks. She slid into her seat. “Hi.”

“Hi, yourself. Hungry?”

“Sure.”

He pulled out two large blueberry muffins. “Wait. What if Hetty returns today?”

Nell touched his forearm. “Eric, Eric, Eric. You are worrying way too much about this.” She paused to take a large bite of her muffin. “Delicious,” she murmured. “Which is why I brought this.” She pointed to the tote bag at her feet. Eric leaned over and peeked inside.

He sighed in relief. “Dustbuster. I knew I could count on you.”

“What would you do without me?” she teased as she took another bite of muffin.

Eric shuddered. “Hope I never have to find out.”

They ate in silence for a few moments. “You’re like an onion,” said Eric.

Nell frowned slightly. “I have a sharp, sometimes offense smell?” She pretended to sniff her underarms.

“Don’t be silly. You have many layers and I want to peel them away to reveal the real Nell,” said Eric with a hint of a grin.

“That sounds . . . interesting. Sexy, even.”

“Yes, it does,” agreed Eric.

Nell nodded slowly. “Something to ponder.”

Further conversation was cut short as the phone rang. The caller ID showed the downtown precinct of LAPD.

“Back to work,” sighed Eric.

“We’ll explore that onion theory later,” said Nell. She cleared away the bakery bag and napkins before inserting her Bluetooth.

“Looking forward to it,” said Eric.


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