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Voice In Your Ear

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The first person to know that Callen’s house was burning down was Eric. He’d drifted into work at 4am to begin analysis of information just arriving in from South Africa and had nearly spat his ‘not-allowed-in-Ops’ coffee across his deck as he saw the CCTV footage of Callen’s house. There was smoke. Flames and smoke. Quite a lot of smoke from the rear windows. Eric forced his voice into its professional calm and made the 911 call while running a quick search.

His next call was to a Mr. Ahneda Suvin.

“I’m sorry to bother you Sir, but your neighbor’s house is on fire and I need to know if he’s alright?”

“What? Who is this? My neighbor.” Mr. Suvin was understandably disorientated by Eric’s call, but Eric felt he could trump them man on the barometer of ‘concern’ right now because Callen’s house was on fire and Callen had been at home.

“David. David Elson? I’m from his work at the depot and a friend in a car saw smoke, could you please go check that he got out safely. Please?” Eric knew the call was being logged but he couldn’t care less because Callen was in the burning house. And being burned or unable to breathe…

“Okay. My god…I see it. I’ll go outside, hold on.”

Eric dragged his composure back into place as the feed showed Mr. Suvin leave his house in a fetching set of blue pajamas and begin to tug at Callen’s front door. Nothing. Mr. Suvin then took out the front window with a lawn rake.

Eric mentally cheered the man on and continued to make calls. Sam, Hetty, Kinsey, Deeks and Nell. Nell would want to know. He made sure that he didn’t contemplate how long the fire had been burning before he spotted it or why Callen hadn’t leaped heroically from a window yet.

Because Eric really needed to see Callen do some heroic leaping. Any minute now.

No leaping occurred, but fortunately for Eric’s heart-rate and Callen’s life expectancy, Mr. Suvin dragged the staggering figure of the senior NCIS agent around the front of the house and set him none too gently on the sidewalk before returning to attack the fire with a garden hose. Eric made a small note about the awesomeness of Mr. Suvin while steadfastly not looking at the man curled and coughing at the bottom of the screen.

He kept working assiduously until red and blue lights flooded the feed and EMTs, followed minutes later by a familiar large black man fell to their knees beside Callen.

***

Two days after surviving his house burning down, Callen swindled his way past hospital medical staff, won a colossal stare-down with Hetty and dropped his bag beside the sofa in the bullpen.

Not even Sam’s scowl or Deeks needling could convince their chameleon team leader to check into a hotel. Hetty had even offered to foot the bill.  Callen had merely put on his ‘blank’ face, pulled a pair of clean socks from his bag and asked about the investigation into the stolen guidance system.

Eric’s wolf whistle had drawn them all into Ops and Nell’s explanation of the latest intelligence had them prepping for a mission to find the Chechnyan Army traitor and the arms dealer planning to buy the equipment.

“If we can get Kensi into Ostenheir’s house we could access his computer, bug his office.” Sam leaned against the light bench, arms crossed, eyes darting across the passport blown up on the Big Fracking Screen in front of them.

Deeks looked perplexed. “I doubt he’ll make a note in his dairy, ‘Buying stolen Russian tech, Friday eleven-fifteen.’”

Sam directed a glare at the policeman while Eric smothered a smile, he thought Deeks was hilarious. But then, he’d never been teased by the man so his was a different perspective. Deeks never teased Callen either, likely because he appreciated his knees being in their correct configuration. Sam looked like the dangerous one but everyone in the L.A. office knew better.

“I’ll go in; Eric can help me hack his computer…” Callen’s smoke roughened voice trailed off at Sam’s exasperated arm drop and Kensi leaning her head forward to gently bang the light table.

“Do the words ‘smoke inhalation’ mean anything to you?” Sam asked scathingly. “Because you are not working a mission for at least a week, are we clear?”

Callen rolled his eyes and smiled winningly up at his partner. “I’m fine…”

“Hetty.” Eric coughed into his hand a second before the Operations Director walked in, trailed by Nell trying not to look amused beneath her bangs.

“Thank you Mister Beale, I don’t require a herald.” Eric winced and placed another mental point in favor of Hetty being a cyborg. “Mister Hanna, Miss Jones has your background ready for infiltrating Ostenheir’s house. Mister Callen, if you attempt to leave the building I’ll have you cuffed to the staircase...”

Callen seemed unperturbed.

“…by the ankles.” Hetty finished.

“Kinky.” The senior agent offered Hetty a slightly more natural expression of irritation. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not.” Hetty spoke as if she’d personally read Callen’s hospital chart. Eric reasoned that she had probably committed it to memory. “Mister Beale?”

Eric jumped. “Present?”

Hetty turned to him, hands clasped loosely at her waist. “As well as co-coordinating communication, I’d like you to ensure that Mr. Callen remains in the building.”

He blinked and looked over to meet Callen’s equally startled expression. “I don’t know if that’s possible.” He murmured, fairly sure that everyone in Ops could hear him.

“Of course it is,” Hetty smiled encouragingly. “I’ll leave you with some handcuffs Mister Beale.”

Eric nearly swallowed his tongue. There was no way in hell that Hetty had just implied what it seemed she had just implied. It was just Eric’s dirty mind, his dirty, filthy mind that instantly pictured Callen, naked and cuffed to the railing of the staircase. With Eric on his knees…

“Let’s move please.” Hetty left Ops and guaranteed that no-one made eye-contact for at least ten minutes afterwards.

***

11pm that night saw Eric alone in Ops going over the intel Sam had gathered and trying to pretend that Callen sleeping downstairs had no impact on him at all.

None what so ever.

“Anything?” The husky voice caused Eric to jump and look over at the senior agent settling himself onto Nell’s chair beside him. He tucked his feet up, rested his cheek on his knee and yawned.

Eric remained stone-hearted in the face of a sleep-mussed and unguarded G. Callen, but it was difficult.

“Err…yeah. I think the Chechnyan traitor is this woman, Andrena Drasov. Ostenheir has her phone number in his address book and it’s a recent addition. Information on her is sketchy but she is Chechnyan and only arrived in the US two weeks ago.”

“When the missile guidance system went missing.” Callen concluded.

“Gold star.” Eric grinned.

Callen smiled back. “Thank you.”

That smile made all sorts of things inside Eric begin to quiver and his mouth reacted before his brain could intervene.

“The couch in the bullpen is garbage, you should sleep here.” The absolute surprise on Callen’s face made Eric wish he could just shove his tablet down his throat to stop the epic stupid that seemed to spill forth whenever the senior agent came within three feet of him.

Callen released Eric from his intense blue gaze and looked around Ops. Chairs and computer decks, consoles and many, many screens.

“Where exactly?” he asked.

“Well,” Eric said quietly. “If I show you, you have to swear on Hetty’s biro of fury never to mention it to anyone, especially Nell.”

Callen chuckled a little at Eric before nodding in agreement. “I swear ‘may she pin my inseam while angry if I should tell.’”

Eric winced at the thought then stood up.

Callen followed as Eric dropped to his knees by the light table and easily slid away the wall of paneling on the long side. Beneath lay a thick foam pad covered with sheets, a pillow and a light blanket. Despite the diffused light emanating upwards, the area directly beneath the table was remarkably dark, particularly closed in on three sides as it was.

Callen looked at the arrangement that Eric had made as comfortable as possible. “You sleep here?”

“Sometimes,” Eric shrugged as he stood up. “I can’t even doze in a chair and even twenty minutes can keep me going when you’re on a mission.” He hoped that Callen would think the ‘you’ was a general term for all the agents and not just for him personally. Even though he’d mostly been all night in Ops when Callen was under cover, no-one else did quite the same amount of risky shit that their senior agent did. “You don’t have to, but I changed the sheets.”

Callen nodded absently, his eyes on the small nest beneath the light table currently covered in photographs of Ostenheir and Sam at their meeting earlier in the day. “Thanks.”

“Okay,” Eric wanted to say something else, but he couldn’t think of what.

Callen knelt down and crawled into the space, lay down atop the blankets and tucked the pillow beneath his head. Eric went back to his chair and kept his eyes on his deck.

“For saving my life too Eric, thanks.” Callen’s voice was even scratchier that it had been before.

“Shhh, it’s fine,” Eric’s fingers flew over his keyboard as he uploaded some information to his tablet. “I owed you one.”

Because being frelted would never stop being the stuff of Eric’s nightmares.

“Doesn’t matter, thanks.” Callen was mostly asleep.

“Go to sleep Callen.”

“Okay.”

***

The arrangement lasted ten days. It might have lasted longer save the archiving support staff had arranged an early meeting. And of course that meeting would be in Ops and of course Eric wouldn’t be informed of the meeting until he arrived at the house at 7am with the light table back to its usual configuration and Callen nowhere to be found.

That was until he stepped into the locker room two hours later, sweat-slick and short of breath, bag in his hand and aiming for the showers.

Eric slowed from his ungainly scramble to a trot at Callen’s side. “Sorry, I didn’t know they’d be coming in so early.”

“Its fine,” Callen granted him a quick smile. “I couldn’t sleep and heard their cars. A morning run is good for me anyway, Sam’s such a nag.”

Eric decided not to agree as he felt that Sam Hanna show colossal restraint in not stepping in to control the life-ending behaviors his partner exhibited. “So the Bullpen or Sam’s couch?”

Callen stowed his bag in his locker and drew out one of the house’s plain white towels. “Mrs. Rice-Hanna is the deadliest lawyer I’ve ever met and wouldn’t dream of refusing me their couch.”

“But…?”

“But I know when I’m outstaying my welcome. Last time there was some fierce and silent arguments between them. I’m not putting her through that again.” Callen was so obviously decided that nothing short of Sam dragging him home unconscious would change his mind.

“Um…” Eric hesitated, but why the hell not? “My couch is free, no Mrs. Beale to worry about.”

There, it was out there.

Callen turned to him with an astonished look. “Eric, you don’t have to offer. I’m fine.”

“I know, I know, you’re fine. You’ve moved around since you were three, perfectly happy staying in crappy motels, no roots to speak of and no man is an island I get that.” Eric knew he was running his mouth a little, but if he could convince Callen to stay, well, then he’d get more time to figure him out. If only for a little while. “I’m just saying I live alone and the couch is yours if you want.”

It was a testament to the strength of Eric’s spine that he endured the clinical, searching look Callen subjected him to for nearly a minute. He fidgeted with his tablet and began to formulate the words to rescind the offer.

“Thanks Eric. I will.” Callen seemed as surprised at his acceptance as Eric was.

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Oh. Just a…” Eric held up one finger and dug around in his pockets, pulling out his ring of keys. He twisted one single brass key from a flimsy split ring and handed it to Callen. “My key.”

Callen looked non-plussed. “Yarbett Court. Eric, I can’t…is this your front door key?”

“Yep. I know where the spare is hidden so you can have this one.” Eric bounced a little on his toes, “You can come and go as you want. No pressure.”

“I…thanks.” Callen took a deep breath. “Just tell me the spare isn’t in a pot plant by the stoop?”

Eric widened his eyes. “You guessed! Is that a bad place?”

For a split second Callen believed him, brows dropping in consternation before clearing in relief at the mirth in Eric’s expression.

“No it’s fine. I’d never think to look there.” Callen headed towards the showers, towel over one shoulder.

Eric mentally stopped his feet from following but allowed himself the luxury of walking backwards to the stairwell. “Good, because if it was too easy I thought I’d get one of those fake hollow stones. Maybe a red rock or something, there’s heaps of that in LA.”

Callen’s chuckle was muffled as he peeled of his t-shirt, causing Eric’s mouth to go dry at both the expanse of skin displayed and the scattering of scars.

Before he could pull his focus back enough to reply, Callen was gone and Eric’s tablet bleated at him for attention.

Back to work.

***

Ostenheir was tipped off. Not about Sam, thank god, but about the CIA operative currently bleeding to death on the floor of the warehouse the team had just raided. As Kensi applied pressure and Deeks kicked away the guards’ weapons, Callen turned on the warehouse computer and invited Eric in to take a look around.

Three hours later the CIA agent was alive but still unconscious and Hetty and Director Vance were using increasingly polite versions of each other’s names. Nell and Eric pulled their heads back into Ops when Hetty said ‘Director of NCIS’ in response to being called ‘Director of Operations’. With no sign of what must be her fuming temper, Hetty looked over the information gathered from the warehouse and turned impatient eyes on Nell when his colleague bit her lip and said, “oh” when examining one of the documents on her tablet.

“You have something Miss Jones?” Hetty asked in her ‘it better be good’ voice.

“Only that the time and place scheduled for Ostenheir’s ‘card game’ in the phone back-up we found is this afternoon…” Nell looked to Eric for encouragement. Give that Eric had no idea what she’d found, he tried his best to exude confidence in her abilities. “…is at a computer swap meet.”

Hetty raised an eyebrow.

***

Both Callen’s eyebrows came down in agitation. “Last time he went undercover he nearly died, Hetty.”

They were arguing over Hetty’s desk while Eric adjusted the earpiece he’d been supplied with and waited to see who would win.

“I’m aware of that Mister Callen.” Hetty remained seated, hands still on her desk. “I am also aware that you saved him and that you and the team will be keeping Mister Beale in sight at all times.”

“It’s still too dangerous.” Callen in a fit of temper was something to be seen, but Eric kept his gaze down so as not to draw either opponent’s attention. He was feeling enough like a bone being fought over by two dogs as it was anyway.

Hetty actually laughed. “That’s a little rich coming from you Mister Callen,” she scoffed. “Your concern for Mister Beale is noted, but the answer to your concern is to do everything in your power to keep him safe.”

“Fine.” Callen stalked down to the bullpen and began to hide a frightening amount of weaponry on his person. Sam, standing nearby with his coat covering his own arsenal, watched his angry friend with some amusement. It wasn’t until Hetty coughed that Eric realized he’d been watching Callen for longer than was appropriate.

There was a scary level of understanding in Hetty’s softened gaze.

Eric pretended not to see it and patted his pockets, “Anything else I need?”

“I think you have more than enough to deal with Mister Beale, and I’m very glad of it.” Hetty answered before taking a delicate sip of tea.

He turned his back before rolling his eyes a little at her cryptic reply.

***

 “Eric?” Sam’s voice over the comm. was almost as clear as it would be were Eric at his chair in Ops, rather than standing in a exhibition space before a fold-out table covered in suspect printer cartridges. “You know that I know more than a little about high end technology don’t you?”

Eric smiled his lack of interest in the dubious product before him and moved to the next vendor’s table. “I imagine your SEAL training was fairly comprehensive?” Plenty of components arrayed across a clean blue tablecloth, but none of them even cousins to a missile’s internal organs.

“It was.” Sam agreed over the top of G’s “Eric, put your phone to your ear if you’re going to talk. Less suspicious.”

“Okay.” Eric fumbled with his NCIS issued smartphone and lifted it to his ear. “You guys should all have ear-pieces if you need to do this.”

“Tell Hetty.” G just loved throwing requests like that over his head.

“We did until G’s kept falling out and getting smashed.” Sam pointed out. “Or shot.”

Eric could hear a smile in G’s voice, the senior agent running back-up on the fire escape in case a suspect ran. Because they always did. “It was one time and may I remind you that he was aiming for you. If I hadn’t pulled his arm down so the bullet hit the ground…”

“Hit your ear-piece.”

“…it would have hit you.” G finished with some small triumph.

“As I was saying,” Sam huffed a little but whether with laughter or irritation Eric wasn’t able to tell. “I know ordinance when I see it and there isn’t any classified military components here. Only a bunch of pirate DVD’s, motherboards and cobbled together Frankenstein computers that make Eric look like he’s gonna choke someone for mistreating the all holy technology he so loves.”

Eric took offense at that, eyes scanning yet another vendor, this time of the aforesaid pirated DVD’s. “There was no way that system would even function, let alone run the software he was including. I mean an Asus mother….”

“Eric, the stand by the coffee wagon, I think it might be….” Sam began.

“No.” Eric cut him off, fingers tightening on his phone. “I have it.” Because there they were, a small jumble of components, circuit boards and a paper enveloped disc all piled into a shoe box and set back from the vendor’s other wares. Waiting for their buyer to come.

“I’m moving.” Sam promised.

Eric watched as the somewhat aggressive woman operating the stand, straightened several parts before resting her hand right beside the shoe box.

“Eric, move away.” G ordered.

Of course, because Eric had all the luck of a tourist in Vegas, a tall, white haired man approached the woman and offered her a thin envelope. Eric recognized the back of the guy’s head from the surveillance footage he’s shown the team not two days ago. “It Ostenheir’s lawyer, he’s buying the parts.”

“Eric! Move. Away. Sam’s coming, get out of the way.” G sounded like he was running, a clink-clang as he probably jumped down the fire-escape steps.

But Sam was at least a few minutes away, the swap meet was terribly crowded and the SEAL had been four aisles over at the far end. The buy would happen and then they might lose Ostenheir. They had the cam recording Nell was currently filing while she sat in Eric’s seat, but they would need the lawyer.

He couldn’t be allowed to escape with the parts. It was up to Eric to stop him.

If it had been G or one of the others, they’d have put on a persona, charmed their way over and distracted the criminals long enough to give Sam time to come make an arrest. But this was Eric and he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would never, ever be an undercover field agent.

So he snatched the shoe box from the lawyer’s hands and ran.

Sam was big, fast and coordinated. He could get people to move just by brushing past them. Eric had no such training or talent. But he had one advantage his friends lacked, he was an out and proud geek and this was his territory. He rushed between the vendors, skirted piles of TIVO players and elbowed his way through several transactions with all the dexterity of a kid used to avoiding football players in school halls.

“Eric, no! Jesus fuck I’m gonna kill you.” G was yelling over Sam who was demanding their status while the lawyer apparently drew a gun and started shooting at Eric.

A brief glance showed Sam tackle the guy into the ground with an unpleasant crunch and also showed the vendor, a gun in her hand as well, dodging and weaving after Eric with an impressive array of hysterical crowd navigation herself.

Shouldering through a set of double doors, Eric ran up a wide empty corridor towards the EXIT sign at the far end. A duplicate banging of the door he just crashed through gave him enough time to drop down as a bullet flew over his head.

“Give it back.” She snarled advancing, while Eric tripped over his own feet and sat on his ass with the shoe box in his lap. “You have no idea what you just took.”

“Yes I do.” Eric was indignant at the assumption he was the technical equivalent of a purse snatcher. “Forcing your mother to steal this was pretty low; killing her to cut her out of her share was horrible.”

Andrena Drasov paused momentarily at that information before raising her gun to aim between Eric’s eyes.

“I loved her and still I killed her for that,” a nod towards the shoe box. “You will be easy.”

Eric didn’t close his eyes, because he knew. He knew. He…

The gunshot caused him to jump. Drasov’s pained grunt unable to distract Eric from the lovely view of G’s legs between him and the murderer; standing protective guard over Eric, fierce, gorgeous and likely ferociously angry with Eric for breaking the plan.

“Thanks.” Eric sighed, taking ample opportunity to ogle G’s ass as Sam came through the door gun first, super-cold expression second and took in the hallway tableau.

“Is Eric safe?” Hetty’s voice on comms. was even scarier than the lack of expression in G’s voice as he appraised Sam of Drasov’s leg wound.

“I’m fi…”

“He’s not hurt.” G interrupted, then turned around and stormed back to where Eric still reclined gracelessly on the carpet. “The parts are secure, but I’m going to kill him about fifty times for disobeying….”

“That’s good.” Hetty ignored G increasingly pissed diatribe, currently taking place in Eric’s face and including a hard grip on his upper arm dragging him to his feet and towards the door. “Don’t break him please Mister Callen, I like all his pieces in their correct order.”

“So do I.” Eric agreed, not at all afraid and feeling strangely warm from both G’s nearness as well as the abundant concern his friend’s anger was doing a fairly good job of hiding.

“I’m not making any promises.” G gritted out as Sam cautiously approached. It struck Eric as odd that Sam of all people, G’s best friend in the world, should be wary of the senior agent’s temper, yet Eric wasn’t troubled in the slightest. G was volatile and self-loathing, emotionally damaged and holding it together by the skin of his teeth. But he was also brilliant, loyal and just plain a good man right down to his bones.

He would die before hurting any member of his family.

“…because I swear Eric I will make you learn to shoot, no matter what Hetty says…” G continued.

“Hey,” Sam interrupted gently.

“Here,” suddenly G spun on his heel and pressed the shoe box into Sam’s chest. “You take them, before something gets broken.”

And with that, G holstered his gun and stalked out.

Eric looked up at Sam’s long-suffering expression.

“Should I be sorry?” He asked, because he really wasn’t. He’d made the decision to snatch the parts because at the time there hadn’t been another option.

“Nah, you did good.” Sam patted Eric’s shoulder and likely caused some tendon damage in the process. “G’s just a little off-balance at the moment.”

Eric could understand that, even if the cause was reaping benefits for him. “His house?”

Sam smiled. “Among other things.”

Of course, now Eric would have to reign in his internal crushing teenage self, “Anything I can do?” Maybe later.

The other man’s smile turned positively wicked. “I have some suggestions but that might be jumping the gun a bit. He’s still simmering. I’m guessing an explosion will come soon.”

Eric had never been witness to G losing his shit but imagined it would be an interesting and knowing Eric’s libido in relation to G, an arousing sight.

“Well, let me know.” Eric asked, looking up as Kensi escorted Ostenheir’s lawyer passed them and into one of their cars.

Sam just kept on smiling.

***

Eric couldn’t fall asleep sitting upright and never fell asleep at his favorite screen. At any screen in Ops really. Or, at least, he had never fallen asleep at any screen in Ops until thirty-six hours after being nearly shot in the face by an angry Chechnyan woman. He had the light table bed for any all-nighters and if he’d needed to sleep that badly couldn’t he have just gone and rolled around in Callen smelling sheets for the love of god?

No. Eric with his natural mastery of crappy luck, managed to fall asleep, upright at his favorite screen, while reviewing his hidden search.

He knew this because he blinked awake to the sight of Callen illuminated by the Big Fracking Screen, one arm tilted back to repetitively press a single key on the deck in front of Eric. Being Callen, the information tripping merrily across the entire Ops system was most likely being absorbed and stored in the deep reaches of his brain to be withdrawn at some future date. Maybe at Eric’s funeral.

“Err.” Eric knew he owned a voice; he just had to wade through his mortification to find it.

Callen pressed the button again and tilted his head slightly to read the newspaper scan currently occupying the lower right third of the BFS. It was a list of death notices from Illinois, 1977.

“I would have been six.” Callen said without a hint of emotion in his voice.

Eric blinked and forced his brain to come online. “Maybe. Without a confirmed birth certificate the closest I can estimate…”

Callen cut him off. “I saw the login page for the Romanian State Records Department.”

“It’s being difficult.” Eric confessed a little embarrassed at his failure. “Really old database with no cross-referencing. It should only take another few weeks.”

Callen was silent for several more minutes, his finger continuing to press every fourteen seconds exactly. Eric fidgeted and tried not to think about the consequences of getting caught until he finally cracked. Fingers flying, he disabled his work-safe cut out and nudged Callen’s hand away with his forearm.

“You don’t need to keep stopping the cut out anymore.”

Callen nodded. After another five minutes, he took a deep breath and said to the BFS, “Hetty didn’t ask you to do this, did she?”

Eric chewed at his lip. “No.”

Callen turned, something like anger flaring briefly in those blue eyes. “Then why?”

Weirdly enough it wasn’t the anger that set Eric off, it wasn’t fear or humiliation or anything to do with Callen’s feelings on the subject. It was Eric’s own damn frustration. Seething, low level irritation with the Ops system, with the internet, with his skills as a hacker and with the god-damned fucking Romanian State Records Department and their on again-off again never fucking consistent ISP.

Eric could count on his hands the number of analysts who could rival his hacker-fu and it didn’t matter how good he was because he couldn’t find out enough about Callen’s life to give the poor bastard some answers and if he couldn’t do that them what use was he?

“Why the hell do you think Callen?” Eric snapped as he stood up. “Why do you think any one of us goes a little off the grid when something about your child-hood is mentioned? Because what happened to you in Romania then back here is complete bullshit and it’s made you someone who can’t fucking trust anyone completely. Not even Hetty or Sam and I hate that and I just want to help, okay?”

He’d petered out at the end, because Callen’s expression had changed, gone from cold and mistrusting to be lit by sudden understanding. An understanding that made Eric very, very nervous.

Callen looked back to the BFS and the massive search it displayed. A metric fuckton of Eric’s time in designing, maintaining and analyzing everything the various engines discovered. From every server the search could touch.

Every server across the world.

His eyes closed for one long, considering minute before opening again to rest on that single key in front of Eric. The key that if not struck every fifteen seconds, would close the display and shunt the search back into the hidden recesses of the NCIS system.

The ‘G’ key.

“Eric,” Callen voice and expression were lighter than Eric had ever seen, one hand coming up to gently touch the cuff of Eric’s shirt. “You could just have asked me out.”

Unsure if this was more a tease than a genuine statement, Eric answered as honestly and steadily as he could with Callen so close and interacting with his clothes in such a lewd manner.

“Reason one,” he explained. “Hetty would have my balls in a jar on her desk. Reason two, co-worker. Reason three; Sam would have my balls in a jar on his desk. Reason four, technically you have authority over me so while I could sexually proposition you, it would be harassment if you responded and five,” Eric breathed in sharply at the slow wicked smile beginning to curl Callen’s lips. “…uh, five, Hetty would do something weird with some ancient Tibetan herb and render me impotent.”

“No she wouldn’t.” Callen was now right in Eric’s personal space, one hand resting inoffensively on Eric’s bicep the other a little offensively on the back of the wheeled chair just inches from Eric’s groin.

“Also,” Eric was proud of the depth of his voice because any kind of squeaking would be extremely humiliating. “…you might not have been interested. In me. As a guy, I mean.”

Callen leaned back, still smiling, eyes a warm, softened blue that Eric knew he’d never, ever seen before. “You know my background better than anyone Eric. Having sex with a man isn’t new to me.”

“Um, yeah but…” Eric licked his lips then did it again when Callen’s eyes fell to watch the movement. Oh Jesus, this was really happening. Why did he keep objecting? What was wrong with him? “...that’s you at work. You’d have sex with an octopus if your cover required it.”

Callen laughed out loud and the chair resting hand curved tentatively at Eric’s waist, a finger through his belt loop. “True. But you’re a lot more appealing than a crustacean.” Callen wasn’t coming any closer, his inching towards Eric now apparently completed with both hands getting time with Eric’s least favorite green striped shirt and nowhere else.

“Cephalopod,” Eric corrected, before his body decided that his brain should just shut the fuck up and let it take over. It did, broaching Callen’s courteous space, pulling him close and kissing that wicked mouth with a fair amount of pent-up longing and frustration.

After a minute or two of pressing lips and delving tongues, Eric forced himself to take his hands from Callen’s ass and pushed, reclaiming some of that earlier space between them.

“Ops,” he breathed into the skin just under Callen’s jaw, the faint stubble a delicious treat of sensation.

“Huh?” at least Callen seemed to be as incoherent as Eric. Probably from rubbing the hard length of his cock against Eric’s thigh.

“Ops, we’re in Ops.” Eric pulled back, regretfully letting go of Callen and straightening his glasses. “Hetty probably has a lens on us right now.”

Callen, the bastard, snickered into the palm of his hand. “I’m sure she does,” he swung around in a circle, arms wide. “Is this what you meant Hetty?”

Eric waited for either a phone to ring or Hetty’s face to appear like the visage of god on the BFS.

Nothing.

Callen turned back, arms open and welcoming. “She couldn’t see the bed under the light table remember?”

Eric actually gave it some consideration, his hands, erection and heart wanted to stuff Callen under the table and climb right in on top of him. His brain, annoying thing that it was, knew he just couldn’t. Somehow, he was sure, Nell would find out and frown at him or even grin and that would be worse.

“How about the couch at my place?” They’d have all the time in the world. He could cook Callen breakfast and watch him walk around his living room in ratty old jeans. Eric caught Callen’s hand and tugged till they stood inches apart again. “I hear it has good springs.”

Callen tilted his head considering Eric in a way that made his pulse leap and his hand grip tighter the fingers trapped in his.

“How about the bed?” Callen smiled.

The end.