She watched him from the doorway, working out everything that frustrated him on the punching bag. She knew that he had talked to Hetty, and she knew that Hetty had told him everything that she knew. She didn’t know what that was, but she knew that it wasn’t enough. It could never be enough.
She was sure that Hetty knew, she knew every family that Callen had been placed with. But she knew Callen didn’t remember. She scarcely remembered herself except for his eyes and some photos that her parents still had. She had been 18 months old at the time and he was seventeen. He was one of the first foster children that her parents took in and he had run away a couple of days before his eighteenth birthday. She only knew this because her parents told her. The only thing she remembered was his blue eyes. He had held her awkwardly, and if it weren’t for the pictures she wouldn’t have even known he had done it.
When she left home to go to LA and take the job with NCIS she had taken the pictures with her. Something her mom had said years ago about a love of the ocean paired with some things that she had found out from friends and family, she thought she may find him. She hadn’t ever shown the pictures to anyone. She wasn't ready to tell Callen, and it was better if no one else knew. She wanted to tell him, but she didn’t know how to approach it, and she was sure he would always see her as that baby again, maybe as a sister, but never in the way she wanted him to look at her.
She slipped from the gym and was heading back upstairs when Hetty stopped her.
“Miss Jones. My office, please.”
She nodded and followed Hetty.
“I believe you have something to tell Mr. Callen,” Hetty prompted.
For a moment she worried that Hetty knew how she felt about him, and she could feel herself blushing.
“Unless you were too young to remember him,” Hetty said. “Though, I doubt that is the case.”
Nell nodded. “I remember him. My parents have pictures. I remember all of them. Even the ones that I didn’t meet.”
“You should tell him,” Hetty said with a nod. “Show him the pictures. Help him remember that someone did care.”
“You’ve always known who I am, haven’t you Hetty?” she asked.
Hetty nodded. “I know your parents wanted to keep him and he thought he was too old for that. When Nate recommended you for the job, he knew I would give you a chance because of your parents. I believe he was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t fire you.”
“I was shocked when I saw him the first day,” Nell said softly. “I knew it was him, but I couldn’t believe it.”
“Tell him, Miss Jones,” Hetty said softly. “I believe it would be good for both of you.”
He ran his finger over the photo. He had so few things from his childhood that sometimes it hurt. He wouldn’t admit it to Sam, or to anyone else, but there were times when he wished he had tried harder in the foster system, times when he wished he hadn’t have run from the things that scared him. Some families had been horrid and others wonderful. Some he ran from out of fear, but others he ran from because if he stayed his life would have been too normal and the confines of that terrified him. As a kid he didn't think that he deserved normal, but now as an adult he couldn't help but wonder how his life could have been different.
He was just slipped the papers back into the envelope when the doorbell rang. Rising he walked to the door and looked out the peephole. He could just make out a familiar red head, so short that she almost wasn’t tall enough to be seen through the small hole.
“Nell?” he asked swinging open the door. “Why are you here? What’s wrong?”
She took a deep breath and looked at him. “Can I come in? Can we talk?”
Callen nodded as stepped aside, ushering her into his house. “You want to sit?”
He could feel her eying up the single chair in the room, and for the first time since moving in, he wished he had more furniture.
“I actually wasn't going to stay, I just needed to give you something,” she said, shoving a couple of photos into his hand.
He looked down at them silently. Flipping through then, he saw himself surrounded by a smiling family. In the last photo he was grimacing as he held a small baby with strawberry blond hair. He looked up at Nell and shook his head.
“Where did you get these?”
“Do you remember them?” she countered.
He shrugged. “A foster family. I was seventeen and about to leave the system.”
“What happened with the family? Was it horrible? Did you hate it?” She asked.
“They were nice. But I just didn’t fit in, and what was the point, I was almost too old for the system anyways. They’d have kicked me out on my birthday, so what was the difference of a few weeks,” he said with a shrug.
Nell shook her head, tears threatening her eyes. “That isn’t true. They wanted you, and they would have let you stay regardless of your age. The state wouldn’t have paid them anything but they didn’t care.”
“You don’t know how foster care works, do you, Nell?” he asked bitterly. “You live in a house with people that don’t want you there, but tolerate you because they get paid to.”
“They weren’t like that,” she said, tears finally spilling from her eyes.
He looked at her, and frowned. “Why does it matter so much to you? And where did you get these pictures?”
“That’s my family,” Nell said, tears streaming down her face. “That little baby that you’re terrified of holding in the picture is me.”
She turned and was out his front door before he could stop her. Dropping the pictures on the floor, he ran after her. He caught up with her at her car where she was crying too hard to get her key in the lock. He took the keys from her hand and pocketed them before sliding between her and the car and wrapping his arms around her, letting her sob against his chest.
She pulled away after a few moments and looked up at him. “Please give me back my keys, Agent Callen.”
“No,” he said softly. “I want you to come back inside. I’m sorry I upset you.”
“I would like to go home,” she said shaking her head. “Now please return my keys.”
He took her by the shoulders and silently guided her to the house, thankful that she didn’t seem to object. He stopped inside the front door long enough to bend down and pick up the pictures before steering her into the kitchen. Pulling out one of the stools under the breakfast bar, he guided her into it.
He grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge and set one down in front of her before pulling out the other stool and sitting beside her.
“I remember you,” he said softly. “I never knew it was you, but I remember you. When I couldn’t sleep, I would slip into your room and watch you. One night I fell asleep on the floor of your room and your dad tripped over me in the morning.”
“You left them,” she said softly. “They didn’t take in another kid until I was eight because of that. You were the first kid to run away and it devastated them.”
“I was almost eighteen, I didn’t think they’d let me stay so I left before they kicked me out,” he said softly.
“I have eight brothers and sisters,” Nell said with a frown. “Only two are related to me by blood.”
Callen nodded. As a kid in foster care he had been used to being shoved from home to home, and even when people were nice, he had always believed there was an ulterior motive. When he had run away from his last home he had done it because he was sure that he didn’t need anyone, and certainly not them. They had been nice to him, and he remembered that it had made him angry and resentful. It wasn’t fair that they were so nice when they would be kicking him out after his birthday. But looking back, he saw that Nell was right. They had never told him he had to leave; leaving had been his decision.
“Tell me about them,” he said softly as he reached out and smoothed her hair back from her face.
He had to see her again. Outside of the office where no one was watching the two of them. He had wanted to reach out to her at work, say something to her, thank her for the pictures, and the stories, and for just being there. But he didn’t know how. He especially didn’t know how when they were at work and everyone else always seemed to be between them.
He had almost approached her when she was walking down the stairs to leave work, but he realizes Kensi and Deeks were still sitting at their desks, and he would be caught for sure. And if they questioned him it was only a matter of time before Sam caught on and started questioning him. He was sure Hetty already knew, but he wasn’t ready to talk to his teammates about what had happened between he and Nell.
He was getting ahead of himself he was sure. She had come over to tell him what she knew, but he knew that was all it could have been. She couldn’t be interested in him as anything more than a friend and a co-worker. Maybe as a big brother, but he knew there was no way that she was having the same feelings about him that he was about her.
He caught her staring at him in ops one afternoon, and she blushed when he caught her. It was one of the sweetest things that he had ever seen, and for a moment he let himself wonder if maybe she was developing the same feelings for him that he had for her. Maybe there was a chance. Maybe if he suggested something safe, she’s agree to it, and he could see how she acted outside of the office.
“Come furniture shopping with me tomorrow.”
Nell turned around to look at Callen. “What?”
“It’s clear that I need some furniture. Not a lot. Just a sofa. Maybe a table for my laptop and a desk chair,” Callen said softly. “Come help me pick it out.”
“A bed?” she asked, her eyes locking on his.
“I thought you didn’t need furniture. Part of the whole vagabond secret agent thing,” she said raising her eyebrow.
“Maybe I decided when people show up at my door it would be nice to be able to let them sit somewhere other than on the barstools that came with the house,” Callen said. “So will you help me?”
She looked up at him and considered his question. True they had talked long into the night earlier in the week, and she had been pleasantly surprised to find that the agent actually did have a relaxed side to him. He had told her stories of different foster homes he had been in, good ones and bad ones, and why he never felt he fit in any of them.
In return she had shared what it has been like for her as a kid, growing up with foster kids coming and going, some staying and being adopted by her parents, some going to other homes, and some going back to their birth parents. She hadn’t shared with anyone before what that was like, and it felt nice sharing it with Callen.
The next day he had acted like nothing had happened. Not even a nod in her direction or a glimmer of recognition. That has hurt. She hadn’t expected him to be her new best friend at work, but she had thought he would make some sort of small acknowledgement of their conversation. He had caught her staring at him, and she immediately was mortified. She had turned back to the monitor, her cheeks burning, as she tried to focus on her job.
And now, three days later he wanted her to go furniture shopping with him over the weekend. She was tempted to say no and leave their one night conversation as just that – a conversation about his past that he has a right to know about and not a prelude into a friendship or relationship outside of the office.
She almost said no, until she caught his blue eyes staring intently at her and she felt herself nod. “Ok.”
“Thanks,” he said. “And maybe after we could get some dinner somewhere?”
“I guess,” she said, her heart jumping into her throat.
“I can pick you up in the morning if you want,” he said with a smile.
“Yeah. Ok,” she said with a nod. “Thanks.”
She stared after him as he walked away, wondering how his mind worked. One moment he was cold and calculated, the next warm and thoughtful. She liked both sides of him, and the more she got to know him, the more she wanted to know him more. She could feel the childish crush that she had on him fading, and she found herself wanting his friendship and confidence more than anything else. She still held onto the idea that they could possibly be more that friends, but for the first time since starting at NCIS she felt that she would be content if Callen counted her as a friend.
He wasn’t sure why he asked her to go furniture shopping with him. The only reason he has was because maybe if she knew that he had furniture she would come over to his house again. He hadn’t wanted to admit it, but he liked talking to her. She was different from all the other women he had ever known, and she was the first one that seemed to understand what his childhood had been like.
He felt closer to her after one night of talking then he was with anyone else that he worked with, with the exception of Sam. There was something different about her. It was a shame that she would never be interested in him, how could she be given their history. If anything she'd treat him like the big brother that he could have been, she certainly couldn't think of him as anything more.
She was sitting outside waiting for him when he pulled up to her apartment building and he immediately worried that he was running late. He slipped from the car and opened her door before she could get to it.
“I didn’t keep you waiting long, did I?” he asked before he closed her door.
She shook her head. “Nope. I was ready early and it was such a beautiful day out that I thought I should enjoy it.”
Callen nodded and closed the door. As he slid back into his own side and started the car he couldn’t help but feel nervous. He knew looking at furniture wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world, and Nell probably had better ways to spend her day.
Two hours into the shopping trip he had been proved wrong. Shopping for furniture, or at least shopping for furniture with Nell, was fun. And he was pretty sure that she was enjoying herself as well. She seemed to know what he would like as well as what he would need in his house, and he had let her talk him into a lot more furniture than he thought he could ever use. At the same time he could see that she was practical. While most people would have tried to talk him into the eight piece bedroom set, she talked him into a bed, a side table, and a dresser. She was that way with everything she picked out for him, and he quickly found that it was easier to agree with her, than argue and have her stare him down in a way that was chillingly like Hetty.
When she had broached the idea of a flat screen TV and DVD player with an entertainment cabinet to hold it, he had readily agreed. While he didn’t watch TV or movies that often he couldn’t get the image of curling up on his new sofa and watching movies with her on a Friday night.
“Callen?” she asked as they were leaving the mattress store, which was their last stop before dinner.
“What, Nell?” he asked, turning to her.
She yawned. “I’m too tired to go out to dinner, would it be ok if…”
He cut her off; disappointed at the turn the day suddenly took. “I can take you home then, you can get some sleep.”
“It’s rude to interrupt,” she said, glaring at him. “I was going to ask if you wanted to order delivery from my place, but if you want to be rid of me you can just drop me off. Or better yet, don’t ask someone to spend the day with them when you don’t really want to.”
He grabbed her by the back of her shirt as she started to walk away.”I’m sorry, Nell. I figured you were getting tired of me. I would love to go to your place and relax with some delivery.”
She turned around and smiled warily at him. “You sure? You’re not just saying that because you feel bad for me?”
“I really mean, Bug, I want to come over,” he said, the nickname slipping out before he could stop it.
“What did you call me?” she asked, shaking her head.
“Nothing,” he said. “I didn’t say anything.”
“You called me Bug,” she said shaking her head. “Why?”
“Promise you won’t get mad?” he asked softly.
“That’s how I’ve always thought of you. Your dad called you his love bug, and after I left and time passed, Bug was what I called that little chubby faced baby,” he said with a shrug. “So many homes and so many other kids, I didn’t remember names or faces. I couldn’t tell you the names of anyone else in your family, but I remember the little baby bug.”
“Oh,” she said softly.
“I won’t call you that again,” he said. “It just slipped out.”
She looked up at him and smiled. “You can call me that. I sort of like it. But on one condition.”
“What?” he asked.
“I’m calling you G,” she said with a nod.
“Ok,” he said. “But only outside of the office.”
“Right. In the office, all business. Outside of the office however,” she said smiling up at him.
He nodded. Outside of the office they could be this, and maybe with a little luck, they could be something more. He met her eyes and smiled, wondering if there was a chance at something more between them.
She called in an order for Chinese as Callen made himself comfortable on her couch. It took a lot of restraint on her part to not just throw herself at him. She had been nervous when he picked her up that she would say or do something stupid, or that she would get bossy and insistent over what he needed in his house, and she was sure at the end of the day that she had been. But surprisingly, he had seemed to enjoy that side of her.
He surprised her by coming up behind her in the kitchen as she hung up the phone.
“Wine?” he asked.
She stepped back startled before nodding. “There should be an unopened bottle in the fridge.”
She watched as he crossed the room and tried not to sigh out loud as she watched him dig out a bottle of wine. She wondered for a moment what he would do if walked past him and nonchalantly ran her hand over his ass. She tried to repress a laugh and failed.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, closing the fridge and turning to her.
“Nothing,” she said, still snickering.
He nodded which only made her laugh harder.
“Nell?” he asked stepping beside her. “You’re starting to worry me. Do you feel ok?”
She managed to get herself under control and looked up at him. “I’m fine, G. Honest.”
He nodded. “One day, I want to know what was so funny.”
“Maybe one day I’ll tell you,” she smirked at him and giggled. Closing her eyes she tried to will herself to stop giggling.
“Nell?” he asked softly, shaking his head. “What is it?”
She shivered as he stepped closer. She bit her lip and looked up at him. “I may have a bit of a crush.”
“On who?” he asked.
“Whom,” she said, stepping backwards.
“What?” he asked, looking puzzled.
“It’s on whom, not on who,” she said with a nod.
“Ok, on whom?” he asked, with a grin.
“Can we talk about it later?” she asked, slipping around him and grabbing the corkscrew from the drawer. “Like after a bottle or two of wine.”
He nodded and took the corkscrew from her. She was reaching up on tiptoe to get down two glasses from her highest shelf when he stepped behind her. Pressing his body against her back, he grabbed them and handed them to her. Taking a deep breath she willed herself to be calm and in control. It wasn’t like her to lose control like this, and she was sure that he wasn’t even aware of what he was doing to her.
The doorbell rang, saving her from further embarrassment as he stepped away from her.
“I’ll go get the food,” he said, reaching for his wallet. “I’ll meet you in the living room and we can maybe watch a movie while we eat.”
She nodded and carried the bottle of wine and glasses into the living room. Setting them down on the coffee table she cleared it of everything else and dropped the clutter onto the bookshelf beside her movie collection. She ran her fingers over the titles, trying to decide what would be the right sort of movie to watch with G. She had an eclectic collection, but she didn’t want to pick anything that would be too romantic, or too bloody, or too silly. She was still standing there when he came into the room with the food.
“I don’t know what you’d like,” she said, turning to him.
He shrugged. “I don’t watch many movies, so it doesn’t matter. Probably anything you put in will be new to me.”
“We don’t have to watch a movie,” she said softly.
He crossed the room to stand behind her. Placing his hand on the small of her back, he leaned forward and pulled a movie from the shelf and handed it to her. “I want to watch a movie with you, Bug.”
She silently nodded, scared to ask what he meant by that comment. Clearly she was reading too far into everything tonight. She let him put the disc into the player and fiddle with the remote. She filled the wine glasses and grabbed a box of noodles before settling into the corner of the sofa.
As the movie played in the background they traded boxes of food and emptied the bottle of wine. When the bottle was empty he went to her kitchen and got another, and filled her glass.
“I should stop,” she said, looking at the red liquid. “I weight a lot less than you and I can’t hold my liquor.”
“Are you calling me fat?” he asked, faking outrage.
She giggled. “No, you’re just perfect. Almost too perfect.”
She blushed as the words left her mouth and quickly took a drink of the liquid in hopes of shutting herself up. She could feel him staring at her, and she looked intently at the glass in her hand. When he grabbed the glass from her and set it on the coffee table, she looked down at her hands. She knew he was about to deliver a lecture to her about working together and being professional, and how he wasn’t interested in someone who has been a baby in his last foster home.
He didn’t say any of those things. Instead he cupped his hand under her chin and pulled her face toward his. She knew a soft cry escaped from her mouth as his lips touched her. His hand drifted from her chin to stroke the side of her face as his other hand touched her back, pulling her closer to him. Her own hands settled at his waist, lightly stroking his hips. She whimpered as he pulled away.
“So whom do you have a crush on?” he whispered, his breath warm against her cheek. “And you better not tell me Eric.”
“Eric likes boys,” she answered. Her eyes flew open and her hand covered her mouth. “I didn’t just say that. G, you can’t repeat that.”
He leaned down and kissed her again. “All I heard was you didn’t like Eric.”
“You,” she whispered against his lips. “I think I have a crush on you.”
He pulled her against him and kissed her again. She sunk into the kiss, enjoying the feel of his lips against hers. When his hands slipped under her shirt, she suddenly pulled away with a jerk and looked at him, her eyes wide and her brain confused.
“What is this Callen? What are you playing here exactly?” she asked, slipping from his grasp.
He looked at her, confused. “What happened to G?”
She buried her face in her hands. She was messing this up. Kissing him had been perfectly lovely until her brain got involved and now she was messing everything up. In her head she has already tried and failed at a relationship with the elusive agent, and now she was hurt and confused over something he hadn’t even done yet.
“Nell?” his voice was low as he wrapped his arm around her. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said, not looking up. “I’m just being stupid. I think maybe I’m losing my mind.”
“I think I need to say something,” Callen said slowly. “And then you need to say something. And we’ll take it from there.”
“Ok,” she said as she tried to pull away from him. She knew what he was going to say. She was overreacting and she needed to calm down and return to the rational person that he knew her to be.
“I like spending time with you. I like talking to you, and listening to you, and I’d like to do more of that,” he paused and ran his fingers over her back. “I think you feel the same way, but I’m not sure. When I asked you to help pick out furniture, I did it because I wanted you to be comfortable coming over to my house, because I’d like for you to come over again.”
She looked up at him curiously. “Come over as in the way friends come over?”
“Yes,” he said with a shrug. “And maybe as more than friends because I think that’s where this is heading.”
“Oh,” she said softly, the meaning of his words surprising her.
“Unless I’m wrong about how you feel about me?” he asked.
“I’m not a one night fling sort of girl,” Nell said softly.
Callen nodded. “I know. I’m not asking you to be.”
“What are you asking?” she questioned.
“I’m not sure yet,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t want to lie to you and tell you that I want more than I can handle. I’m not good at relationships, and I don’t want to lead you on, but I want to see where this could go.”
She nodded. “Ok.”
He grinned and quickly kissed the top of her head. “I’m going to put in another movie, if you’re up for it.”
She nodded. “Maybe something on the top shelf.”
He looked over the titles and grinned. “Chick flick it is.”
When he came back to the sofa he refilled her glass of wine before handing it back to her and grabbed his own before pulling her into his lap and settling back against the cushion. She was sure in the shifting that a full glass of wine would end up on her sofa, and she was pleasantly surprised when she found herself settled against his chest, his arm around her waist, and both glasses still full.
“So what was so funny earlier?” he asked, running his fingers across her waist.
“I was staring at you while you were getting the wine out, and the view was so nice, I starting thinking of what I would like to do to you,” she said softly.
“Were you checking me out?” Callen asked with a laugh.
“Absolutely,” Nell answered happily as she snuggled closer to him.
She had fallen asleep in his lap halfway through the movie. She has turned in her sleep so the side of her face was resting on his chest, and her arms were loosely around him. He gently rubbed her back and she cuddled closer to him but didn’t wake. He couldn’t help but smile at her sleeping form. She was always so high energy that it was strange to see that she slept so peacefully.
He swung his arm out to grab the remote and turned off the movie when the credits started to roll. He knew he should wake her, send her to bed and head home, but there was something calming about her sleeping against him, and he wanted to hold onto that. He flipped through the TV channels and finally settled on an old black and while movie. Maybe he’d wake her when it was over if she didn’t wake up before then. As the old movie played, his eyes drifted shut.
The next time he opened his eyes, sunlight was streaming through the window into his eyes. He blinked heard a soft laugh. Looked down, he saw Nell was still lying on top of him, but her eyes were intently watching him.
“I thought you didn’t sleep through the night,” she said with a smile. “I thought you tinkered around and practiced your Russian.”
“German,” he said stretching. “I’ve been practicing German lately.”
“Waffles?” she asked as she sat up.
“Do you want waffles for breakfast?” she asked. “Real waffles, not the frozen kind.”
He nodded. “Ok.”
She stood and headed to the kitchen. Sitting up he stretched and cracked his neck. She had been right; he had slept the whole night. It had been early morning when he had fallen asleep, but he hadn’t woken up, which was progress. He looked at this watch. Four and a half hours straight of sleep was probably a new record for him.
Standing, he headed into the kitchen where she was pulling out ingredients and heating a waffle iron. He caught her around the waist as she walked past him, stopping her. She looked up at him and he could see both curiosity and caution in her eyes. With a smile, he leaned down and softly kissed her on the lips.
“Morning, Bug,” he said as he pulled away.
“I didn’t dream last night, did I, G?” she asked looking up at him. “You did kiss me, and we did talk, right?”
He nodded. “You didn’t dream that.”
“Oh, good,” she said with a grin. “I was hoping I didn’t.”
Callen couldn’t help but grin back at her as she went back to making waffles. He sat at her kitchen table and watched her. She had put on a pot of coffee while she was cooking, and handed him a cup when it was ready. It was such a domestic scene that in the past he would have fled from it. But with Nell, all he could do was watch, and not even worry about why he felt so comfortable with her.
“Do you have plans today?” he asked suddenly.
“Not really,” she said with a shrug. “Do some laundry; answer some emails, nothing that can’t wait.”
“Want to go on a road trip with me?” he asked.
She paused by the table and nodded. “Of course.”
“I thought we could drive up the coast, go to the beach, and maybe buy some kitchen clutter at one of the stores,” he said, taking her hand in his.
“Kitchen clutter?” she asked, raising her eyebrow.
“Whatever you need to make breakfast at my house,” he said with a nod.
“I’m going to be making breakfast at your place?” she asked.
“Maybe, eventually. I mean, if you wanted, or needed, or something,” he shrugged, at a loss for words.
This was too fast. He was all but inviting her to move in and all he had done was kiss her. If he kept going like this, she was going to freak out and show him the door and the only thing that would be left between them would be awkward encounters in ops. This was why he didn’t do relationships. He didn’t know how to. One night stands with fake names were easier. Trying to navigate emotions with someone that he worked with that he didn’t even know he could be interested in two weeks ago was impossible. He didn’t know what to say or how to say it, and he knew eventually he was going to crash and burn.
She sat down in the chair beside him and squeezed his hand. “I’m not really good with relationships, G. Expectations and the pressure to be the person that the other person thinks that I should be freaks me out. But I really like you, and I’ve really liked you for a long time. And I want to spend time with you, but I don’t want to rush this. I want to go slow and see how it goes, and just take out time getting to know each other.”
“So, no road trip? Or no kitchen shopping?” he asked slowly.
She laughed. “We can do both. I just don’t know how soon I will be using the kitchen stuff to make you breakfast. Maybe dinner, but not breakfast. Not right away.”
He nodded. “I can handle that. And we can go as slow as we need. I’ve never really dated someone while being myself, so it’s going to be a learning experience for me too.”
“Never?” she asked with a grin.
“Nope. Always used a fake name. When you don’t have a first name, you tend to invent one, and a cover to go with it from a young age.”
“I like knowing the real you,” Nell said with a smile.
He squeezed her hand. “I like that I’m not pretending.”
He dropped her off at her house after dinner and kissed her on the doorstep. They both knew that if she asked him in, they would be moving too fast, so instead he said goodnight at the door and headed back to his car. Closing the front door behind her, she leaned against the wall and slowly sunk to the floor. The weekend had been more unbelievable than she ever thought possible. She was almost positive that the whole thing would crash and burn in the morning when she got to work, but until then she was going to enjoy the feeling that came with the possibility of a new relationship.
After a quick stop at a kitchen store where she had carefully selected the necessities for his house, they had spent the day at the beach holding hands and walking in the surf. She had found that outside of the office, when he didn’t have specific plans or an agenda, he was easygoing. She knew that he always kept one eye on his surroundings, but he wasn’t obvious about it, and instead of feeling paranoid when she was with him, she found that she only felt safe.
She could easily get used to him in her life, and it was a shame that everything would change tomorrow. With a sigh she headed into the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. She had just curled up on the sofa when her phone beeped with an incoming text. Flipping it open, she couldn’t help but grin.
Dinner tomorrow night after work? I’ll grill steaks and you can show me what all these kitchen things do.
She typed a quick reply accepting his invitation before letting out a squeal. Clamping her hand over her mouth, she looked around at her empty apartment before laughing. She knew a million things could go wrong at work and dinner might not happen, but she couldn’t help but be excited that he wanted to have dinner with her.
It had been two weeks, and Callen was starting to go a little nuts. He had never waited beyond a second date to sleep with a woman, and not sleeping with Nell was starting to get the better of him. They had both decided that they would take things slow, but after two weeks he wasn’t sure how much slower he could go.
This weekend. It had to be this weekend. Somehow he had to convince her that she needed to spend the whole weekend, nights included with him. At this point, it wasn’t even about the sex, but rather the fact that he wanted to watch her sleep and hold her until they both woke up in the morning. The one night that he had spent with her sleeping on top of him had been one of the best nights ever, and he knew that it would only get better.
It scared him when he thought about how much he cared about her after just two weeks. He had always promised himself that he wouldn’t get involved with a woman that he worked with, and especially not one that knew all about him, but he couldn’t seem to help himself when it came to her. She was different from anyone he had ever dated. Usually he went for the tall, leggy women with long flowing hair. His type was more Kensi than Nell, but he had never been attracted to Kensi as more than a little sister, and he couldn’t seem to get enough of Nell. She seemed to be everything that he hadn’t known was missing in his life. She understood what his childhood must have felt like, seeing firsthand what foster kids went through and how the system impacted different children. She understood that he had never fit in before his team at NCIS and he knew that in a lot of ways she felt the same.
He was driving her crazy. She appreciated that he wanted to take things slow. And she appreciated that he was acting like a perfect gentleman, but after a while, that got boring. And while it was perfectly lovely to spend the night on the sofa cuddling and kissing, she needed more. She wanted to, and needed to, take the next step in their relationship.
She opened the top drawer of her dresser and pulled out a green lace bra and matching thong. With a little luck, she would be showing off the sexy underwear before the night ended. She slipped into a simple blue dress, and zipped it up, before slipping on a pair of nude heels. Looking in the mirror, she smiled. When she had bought the dress a few months back, she hadn’t been sure what possessed her to do it. It was a simple a-line sundress with a beaded waist line, but it didn’t look anything like what she wore to work.
She knew she had made the right choice when she opened her door, and saw the way Callen was looking at her. She grinned and him and grabbed her purse.
“Ready?” she said, looking up at him.
He swallowed hard and nodded. “You look amazing.”
She looked at him, examining his clothes, the fine cut of his suit and the expensive silk of his tie. “Does Hetty know you raided the wardrobe?”
“Not if you don’t tell her,” he answered with a grin, smoothing down his tie.
She leaned up and kissed his cheek softly. “I know nothing.”
He offered his arm and walked her to the car. As he opened the door for her, she turned and looked up at him. “G?”
“Hmm?” he murmured.
“I’m tired of waiting,” she said simply, before sliding in the car.
She caught him grin as he closed the door, but he didn’t answer her until he was behind the wheel. “Can you wait until after dinner? Because if not, I need to cancel our reservations.”
She laughed. “I can wait that long, but I just wanted you to know.”
“Noted,” he said softly, his hand covering her knee. “And agreed.”
She nodded. “Ok then.”
“Ok,” he said with a grin.
She was going to be the death of him, and he wasn’t sure that he was going to care. After dinner they had gone back to his place, and he hadn’t taken long for them to end up in the bedroom. She hadn’t been kidding in the car when she said that she was tired of waiting, and as he unzipped her dress he was sure that what was underneath was the best present that he had ever received.
The green lace stood out against her pale skin, and had to laugh as she stepped out of her dress and spun around, showing him the full effect of her undergarments.
“You like?” she asked, as she looked coyly up at him.
When he nodded, she had grinned, and stepped closer to him. Her hands had quickly undone his tie and unbuttoned his shirt. She was gently folding the tie when his pants dropped to the floor and he stepped up behind her, wrapping his arms around her bare waist. He softly nuzzled her neck when she pulled away and looked up at him.
“Hang up those pants,” she said softly.
He laughed. “They look nice beside your dress.”
“My dress can get wrinkled, I didn’t borrow it. If Hetty sees the wrinkles in those pants, she’ll have your ass,” Nell said with a grin. “And I’d rather keep that part of you for myself.”
He laughed and nodded. Only Nell would be that practical about borrowed clothes, when what she clearly wanted was nothing more than to have her way with him. He eyed up the petite woman as he carefully hung up the pants. There was no telling what that much energy would be like in bed, and he couldn’t wait to find out.
She nodded in satisfaction at his pants and he stepped toward her, wrapping his arms around her and carrying her to the bed. With a grin, he dropped her in the middle of the bed, and crawled beside her. They stared silently at each other for a few minutes without moving. Finally, Nell started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Callen asked.
“You,” she said with a grin. “You just look confused. Like you’re not sure what to do next.”
“That’s because I don’t,” he said with a smile. “This is new for me.”
“Sleeping with a woman is new for you?” Nell asked, as she lifted herself up on her elbow to look at him.
“No,” he said with a smile. “But feeling this much for someone is new for me.”
She opened her mouth, but the only thing that came out was a soft squeak.
“I'm falling for you, Nell,” Callen said softly. “And that makes this different. Because this means something. It isn’t just something fun, or something that feels good. This isn’t just sex, this is making love. And I don’t really know where to start.”
She leaned in and kissed him, her lips soft against his. He smiled against her lips and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her on top of him.
After that, everything came naturally, and soon she was underneath him, gasping for breath. He has collapsed on top on her when he was exhausted, and he was sure that he was crushing her, but when he had tried to move, she had wrapped her legs around his back, trapping him.
He brushed a sweaty strand of hair from her face, and kissed her forehead.
“I’m never letting you go,” she whispered softly.
He grinned, and leaned down, pushing one of her legs off of his back. Rolling them both over, he laid on his back with Nell still cuddled against him, and looked at the ceiling as he tried to catch his breath. In the past he had always run when things got to serious, or when he thought that he might be feeling something, but for the first time, he didn’t want to go anywhere.
Nell finally unwrapped herself from him, and rolled onto her back, her head tucked in the curve of his arm.
“I’m hungry,” she said suddenly.
“I just fed you dinner,” Callen said with a laugh.
She nodded against him. “And now I’ve worked up an appetite.”
“What did you have in mind?” he asked, his hand gently rubbing her arm.
She turned and looked at him. “Popcorn. And wine. Maybe some ice cream.”
“That’s all?” he said with a grin.
She slipped from the bed and pulled a t-shirt from his dressed drawer. Slipping it over her head, she looked back at him. “Maybe a movie on the couch, if the hot guy I’m seeing gets up and joins me.”
“Just a movie?” he asked. “Because if that’s all that’s going on, I may as well take a nap.”
She stood in his doorway and grinned. “It may be a clothing optional movie.”
As she headed down the hall, he ran his hands over his face. She was going to kill him for sure. And he was going to let her.
“So, my lovely Nell, what's new with you?” Deeks asked as he careened into the booth and sat beside her.
She looked out to where the rest of the team was playing pool and shrugged. "Just sitting back and watching."
"They make a good team don't they?" Deeks said as he took a sip of his beer. "You should go play with them. I'm sure they'd welcome you."
"Why aren't you playing?" she asked.
He snorted. "I wasn't really feeling like they wanted me there. So I thought I'd come sit with my Nell Bell because at least she enjoys my company."
"They enjoy your company," Nell said with a grin. "You're part of the team."
"Please, they just barely tolerate me," Deeks said with a grin. “Callen looks at me some days like I'm something he scraped off the bottom of his shoe.”
“He doesn’t treat you like that,” Nell said with a laugh.
Deeks snorted. “Yes he does. But it’s ok. I’m used to it. I mean look at my beautiful partner. You’d never know we were secretly hooking up. Because she thinks she’s too good for that when everyone’s watching.”
“I think it’s time to cut you off for the night,” Nell said as she pulled his beer away from him.
“I’m just telling you the truth, Nell Bell,” he answered as he grabbed the bottle back. “Not my fault that I’m the outsider. Well, it is. Because I refuse to sign those agent papers that Hetty gave me. But why would I want to with those two? Sam’s the nicest one, and that’s because he avoids me.”
She reached out and gently touched his wrist. “You know you belong, right Deeks?”
He shrugged. “Whatever.”
Nell looked at Deeks with a frown. She was used to dealing with kids who didn’t feel like they belonged and she had always been able to pull them into her family. Tonight she felt like she was looking at Deeks for the first time, and she felt like she was seeing the same lost look that she has seen on the faces of children that her parents had welcomed into their home. It was the same lost look that she had seen on Callen’s face before.
“You were in foster care for a while, weren’t you?” she asked.
He stared at her silently before nodding. “Three years.”
“Long enough to feel like you didn’t belong,” she said. “How many homes?”
“Four,” he said talking a drink from his bottle. “Then my mom got clean and came and took me back.”
“So you weren’t at any of them long enough to fit in, just long enough to want to fit in. By the time you went home, you were in high school?”
“Another place you felt like you didn’t belong,” she said. “Except you had Ray.”
“We’d be friends since I was six,” he said. “What, did you read my file that Hetty must have on me?”
She shook her head. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“Yeah?” he said. “Well, don’t tell the others. I don’t need to be their charity case.”
“You’re not a charity case,” she said quickly.
“I would be if they knew,” he said. “Be nice to Deeks he was a foster kid. Though, I’m sure even with that bit of history, Callen would still look down on me. He’d the real deal and I’m just a wannabe. He’d tell me at least I had a family while he had no one.”
"That's not true, Marty," Nell said softly as she watched Callen laughing with Sam. "He's a good guy. You two just don't really connect. Maybe because you're too much alike."
Deeks snorted. "We're nothing alike."
She raised her eyebrow. "At the core you're alike. You react to things differently but you're both hurt children who want a family."
"Maybe," he said with a frown. "Doubtful. But maybe."
As he slid out of the booth and headed to the bar she sighed. She knew that when she first came to NCIS that Deeks hadn't quite fit in yet, but she thought that he had grown out of that. The team worked together so well, and she had been sure that he and Kensi had come to a better conclusion about their relationship than secret hookups. She thought that they were at least what she and Callen were. Her eyes drifted over to the pool table where Callen's arms were around Kensi's waist as he was trying to help her aim the cue stick. Maybe she and Callen only had what Kensi and Deeks had. Maybe he was never going to tell anyone about them.
With a sigh she slipped out of the booth and waved to Deeks before she walked out of the bar. She needed to clear her head in the fresh air. She knew Callen had expected her to stay the night at his place, but after talking to Deeks she wasn't sure that she wanted to.
He saw her leave the bar and he frowned. He pulled away from Kensi who was giggling too hard to stand on her own and gave Sam a quick nod. He saw Deeks watching him out of the corner of his eye and he sighed. Maybe Deeks had said something to her to make her leave.
He walked over to the bar and sat down beside him. "Why'd Nell leave?"
Deeks shrugged. "Didn't ask. Maybe she'd just tired."
"Or maybe you said something to her," Callen challenged.
Deeks shrugged. "Whatever. Maybe I did, but it's none of your business."
"What did you do, Deeks?"
"Why's it always my fault?" Deeks asked. "We were just talking. She's a single woman. I'm aloud to talk to her, flirt even. You can't tell me that I can't."
Kensi choose that moment to stager over to them and wrap her arms around Deeks's neck. "I want to go home."
Deeks shook his head. "You swimming there princess?"
"I feel floaty," she answered with a grin as she kissed his cheek. "I want to float home."
"Ok, Fern. Let's get you home," he said as he stood.
"You going to stay with me?" she asked.
He nodded. "Anything you want, partner."
"I want you," she slurred.
"Ok, Fern. We'll talk about it once we get you home," Deeks said with a laugh.
Callen watched the two in silence. It was apparent, not only from the way that Kensi was hanging on Deeks, but also the way that Deeks was responding that he hadn't tried to hit on Nell. Which most likely meant that Deeks wasn't the reason that she had left.
That meant that he was the reason.
With a sigh he watched Deeks and Kensi stagger out the door and hail a cab.
He looked over at the pool table where Sam was setting up a new game and talking to a few guys that Callen didn't recognize. He shook his head and headed to the door. Sam would be fine on his own. He needed to find Nell.
She had just settled into her pajamas with a glass of wine when she heard the knock on the door. Looking through the peephole, she was surprised to see Callen on the other side. She had been sure he would go home and wonder why she wasn't there, but she hadn't thought he would come to find her.
"Callen," she said, swinging the door open.
"What did I do wrong?" he asked.
"What?" she asked "You didn't do anything."
"Why did you leave?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I was tired. Deeks and I had a deep conversation, and it was too much like talking to foster kids when I was growing up, and it was just exhausting."
"So it wasn't me?" he asked.
She shook her head and wrapped her arms around his neck. "It wasn't you. Not really."
"What's wrong, Nell?"
She sighed. "Deeks and Kensi."
"Are sleeping together." he answered.
She nodded. "Deeks said she's ashamed of him that's why no one knows."
Callen laughed. "She was hanging all over him at the bar. She's not ashamed of him. She's just skittish."
"Is that was you are?" she asked. "Is that why you're keeping our relationship quiet. Or isn't it a relationship?"
"So, it is my fault?" he asked. "Because I haven't told the team, you left the bar."
"No. I didn't say that," she answered quickly. "I just want to know why."
"Because it's private," Callen said. "It doesn't mean that it doesn't mean something. It just means that I'm not ready to share something so private with the team. They've never known me to date anyone. And I don't know how they'd respond. So I'm not ready to say something."
She nodded. "Ok. Will you be ready one day?"
"Yes," he said as he leaned down and kissed her. "This is something that I'll tell them about one day."
“So who’s the girl, G?” Sam asked with a grin.
Callen put down his binoculars and looked at him. “What girl?”
“The one you’ve been spending all your free time with,” he said with a grin. “The one you’re hiding. I’m not stupid; I know there’s a girl.”
“Can we just focus on the stakeout here, Sam?” Callen asked as he pulled the binoculars back to his eyes. “There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Come on, G. Just tell me who she is. Is she hot? Leggy with long blond hair right?” Sam asked.
“It’s just a fling, Sam. Just some girl that doesn’t mean anything to me,” Callen said, turning to his partner. “Just someone to keep the bed warm, ok?”
“And how warm is that bed?” Sam asked with a grin.
“Ah, guys,” Eric’s voice came over the dashboard comm. “We can hear you in ops. Hetty, Nell, and I are all in here, and I don’t think we want to hear where this conversation is going.”
Callen didn’t move the binoculars from his face as he closed his eyes. He knew that Eric really meant. Nell had just heard every word that came out of his mouth, and he had just called their relationship a fling. The irony of the word wasn’t lost on him as he considered that flinging what exactly what he had just done to their relationship. Flinging it right out the window. He didn’t need Eric to tell him that she was upset, he already knew it.
Nell could feel her stomach churning at Callen’s words. Just a fling. That was what he had chosen to tell Sam about what he was doing in his free time. Having a fling. She had asked him a few times if maybe it wasn’t time to tell the team that something was going on, but he had refused, saying he wasn’t ready. Now it was suddenly clear why. He had just been playing at the relationship. Even thought had said it meant something, it was clear now that he was just telling her what he thought she wanted to hear.
“Miss Jones,” she felt Hetty’s hand on her shoulder. “I think Eric can handle things for the rest of the day. You’re not looking well.”
“I’m fine Hetty,” she said, steeling herself. “I can do my job.”
“I do not doubt that,” the older woman answered gently. “But the offer stands.”
“Nell,” Eric said softly, his hand reaching out to her. “You are great at your job, and I know you can do it. But right now, I think you need some space.”
She looked at Eric, and nodded. “Fine.”
“I’ll be over later with pizza,” he said with a sad smile. “We can talk if you need.”
“Ok,” Nell said softly as she gathered up her things.
She felt weak as she walked out of ops. All of her usual energy was gone and she felt like a deflated balloon. Part of her wanted to stay at work and confront him, but she didn’t know what she would say. Instead she got in her car and went to his house to clean out the things that she had been keeping there.
After sticking her things in her car she pulled out the photos of him that her mother had given her, and unhooked his house key from her keychain and dropped it all on the kitchen table. Closing the door behind her she made it to her car before the tears started to fall.
By the time Callen got back to OSP he was on a mission. Running up the stairs to ops, he slipped inside and looked around. With the exception of Eric, the room was empty.
“She went home,” Eric said, turning his chair to look at Callen. “Hetty sent her home actually.”
“I didn’t mean what I said,” Callen said, crossing the room to sit in Nell’s chair. “At least not the way it came out. She isn’t just a fling.”
Eric nodded. “I’m not the one you should be telling that to.”
“I don’t know how to make her believe me,” Callen said with a sigh. “How mad was she when she left.”
“She wasn’t mad,” Eric said slowly. “She was hurt. She looked like someone had just kicked a puppy in front of her and laughed about it.”
“I’m not laughing,” Callen said softly.
Eric nodded. “I know. And while I feel like I should be mad at you on Nell’s behalf, but I kind of feel bad for you.”
“Thanks,” Callen said with a nod. “Any idea how I can fix this?”
“You’re on your own there. Nell finds out I helped you, she’ll be mad at me. And I’d rather that not happen,” Eric said with a nod.
“Just let her know that I wasn’t talking about her,” Callen said sadly. “Let her know that it meant something.”
Eric nodded and Callen stood and slipped from the room. If he was lucky, he could get out of the office before Hetty saw him.
“Mr. Callen, a word in my office before you leave,” Hetty’s voice came from the bottom of the stairs.
He nodded and followed Hetty into her office.
“Is there anything you would like to say about the events of today, Mr. Callen?” Hetty asked as she sat down.
“Not really,” he said shaking his head.
“You lied, Mr. Callen,” Hetty said softly. “Either to your partner or to Miss Jones. And in either case, that lie cause a lot of hurt.”
Callen nodded. “I know Hetty.”
“And what? And maybe it’s better this way. I’d have messed it up sometime, hurt her eventually, it may as well be today,” he said with a sigh.
“So you are giving up?” Hetty asked. “Then perhaps it is good for you to end it now.”
“I don’t need a lecture right now, Hetty,” Callen said.
“No. You need a swift kick in the ass,” Hetty said soundly. “But I’m not going to give you either. It is your life to live, and as long as it does not affect the way you or Miss Jones operates here, I will leave you to sort it out.”
“Thanks, Hetty,” he said dryly. “Because up until now you’ve done a great job of staying out of my life.”
“There is no need to become angry with me, Mr. Callen,” she said smoothly. “When what you need to do is ask yourself what possessed you to tell that lie in the first place.”
Callen nodded at her and stood, knowing that he had been dismissed.
He slunk out of the office before his team could see him. He wasn’t in the mood to hang out with any of them, or make up an excuse of why he wasn’t.
When he got home, he found his house empty. As he closed the door he frowned. Finding her there had been his last hope. But he could tell she had already come on gone. Photos and a key lay on his kitchen table, and as he looked at the pictures he realized that there was a good chance that he could never get her back.
He pulled out a bottle of whiskey from the cabinet and didn’t even bother with a glass and he carried it and the photos into the living room. Sitting on the floor, his back resting against the sofa they had picked out together, he lifted the bottle to his lips while staring at the photos. He had just started, but he knew it would be the only thing he did that night.
She could tell at a glance as soon as he walked into ops that he was hung over. For just a moment her resolve wavered, but taking a deep breath she continued pulling up the info that Hetty had requested. As Eric explained the case to them, she caught herself watching Callen, looking for some sort of acknowledgement that she was in the room. She wasn’t surprised when she didn’t get one. He had either told the truth to Sam the previous day, and she meant nothing to him, or he was doing what he always did and was running instead of facing things head on. Either way, she would be better off without him.
She could feel Eric staring at her and she shrugged at him before turning back to the monitors. As she began to tell the team what the case was, she knew that he voice was shaking, but she shook her head at Eric when he tried to take over. She could do this. She could do her job, and not be effected by Special Agent G. Callen.
"We believe that the Sergeant was involved in drug smuggling, but no one has ever been able to prove it. Now we believe that he's escalated to murder in order to keep the drug trade going," she spoke the words, reading them from the tablet in her hand, but she wasn't even sure of what she was saying.
It had been a simple question, who’s the girl. He could have said anything. He could have said he met someone that he likes and he wasn’t ready to bring her around, or he could have said he wasn’t ready to talk about it. Or he could have even told Sam the truth. But he didn’t do any of those things. Instead he had said it was a fling. One of the worse things he could have ever said.
He missed her. He missed her small body cuddling against his at night. He missed the way she filled his house with energy and laughter. She had silently wheedled her way into his life and changed him, reminding him that he was capable of being loved, and showing him that he could have a family if he wanted. And because he was him, he ruined it.
He hadn’t meant to fall for her. The start of the relationship had been subtle. She had been there to talk to after he Hetty had shared all she knew about his family. She had shared what she could herself, and he knew that as she did, she was sharing a part of herself. She made herself available to him, and it was the best offer he had found. Knowing who she was, and vaguely remembering the last family that he had run from had meant something to him. Falling for her hadn’t been something he had planned, but she had edged her way into his heart the way her family had when he was seventeen. And once again he had run from it instead of towards it. Running was where the trouble had started, and now that he looked back, that was where it had ended as well.
For two weeks after she moved her things out, he tried to act like nothing was wrong. He was professional with her at work, and he went home alone. He tried to move on with his life as though she had never been a part of it. And for a while, with the help of a few extra beers at night, he was able to do that. But he woke up one morning on the sofa she had helped pick out, and he knew he had to get her back.
He waited one evening until she was alone in ops and quietly slipped in, locking the door behind him.
“Nell?” he asked softly, walking up behind her. “Come home?”
She looked back at him and shook her head. He could tell from the way she was chewing on her lip that she was trying not to cry and he knelt beside her.
“Please?” he said, taking her hand in his. “I miss you.”
She nodded and took a deep breath. “You miss me at night, that’s all.”
“It’s more than that,” he said softly.
She shook her head. “No. I gave you a chance. I told you what I wanted, a chance at a real relationship, something more than sneaking around and sleeping together. I was tired of hiding everything. I wanted people to know, and I didn’t care what they thought. And you didn’t want that. And when it came up, you called me a fling, nothing serious. I can’t forget those words.”
“I told a stupid lie to Sam,” he said softly. “And I shouldn’t have, and if I could take it back I would. I’m sorry.”
“I played my part, I told you what I knew about your childhood, I brought you everything my parents had that belonged to you when you ran away,” she said pulling her hand out of his grasp. “I gave you everything I could, and it wasn’t enough. So let’s just go back to being professional because despite everything, I love my job here, and I will not lose it because of you.”
“What if I make it up to you?” he asked.
“It’s too late,” she said, trying to slide out of her chair.
He placed his hand on either side of her chair, not letting her out. “One more chance. Please.”
“Why?” she asked softly.
“Because I’m tired of running. I ran when I was seventeen, and I’m still running today, and maybe it’s time to settle down,” he said, running his finger down her face. “Maybe because I found a reason to stop running.”
“Maybe it’s too late,” she said, her lip trembling as the first tear slid down her face.
“Come away with me this weekend. We can leave tomorrow after work. I’ll talk to Hetty and plan everything. I’ll tell everyone that we’re going if you want me to. Please,” he begged softly.
She started to shake her head. “I don’t know G, I can’t forget what I heard, it just keeps echoing in my head...”
He leaned in and kissed her while she was still talking. When her arms wrapped around his neck he took the opportunity to pick her up out of her chair and pulled her against him. Her legs wrapped around his waist as his hands held her close. He poured everything he had into that one kiss. Pulling away he looked in her eyes, which were now overflowing with tears. She blinked rapidly, but they only fell harder. He set her down gently on the floor and tried to wipe them away with his fingers336.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I wasn’t talking about you when I was talking to Sam. I wasn’t even thinking, I just didn’t want him to know it was you and that’s the first thing that came to my mind.”
She stepped back and looked at him. Finally she nodded. “Talk to Hetty.”
He gave her a sad smile. “I promise, I will fix this.”
She nodded again, but didn’t smile, and his heart sunk a little. He could tell from the kiss that she was fighting against her feelings for him, and it broke his heart that he had hurt her that much.
She watched silently as he gave her a sad smile, his emotions exposed for her to see. She regretted leaving as soon as she was back home with her stuff. She had waiting up the whole night, expecting that he would show up at her door with dinner and an apology. He hadn’t and she had spend the night with Eric eating pizza and crying. She hoped he would show up at work with flowers and an apology. Instead she had spent the whole day with Eric, both of them trying to be professional and deal with her heartache and the same time.
Now it was two weeks later, and she was starting to think that it was too late. But when he kissed her, all rational thought left her head. She felt her eyes tear up, and she knew in that instant that she missed him, and she would agree to go away with him this weekend even if it ended in disaster just so she could have a few more days with him.
On the way home she stopped and bought some new clothes. If nothing else she was going to look great when he broke her heart again. She walked past the lingerie store, on the way back to her car, but turned back and looked in the window. With a smile, she headed into the store.
She was just tossing her bags in her trunk when Callen drove up. Slipping out of the car he first kissed the top of her head then put his hands out for her bags.
“What are you doing, G?” she asked.
“I figured I’d take you to work, that way you don’t have to leave your car there over the weekend,” he said with a shrug.
She stepped back and looked at him. “Who are you and what did you do with the G. Callen that I know.”
“I told you, I want to make this up to you,” he said slowly. “And I thought I’d start by taking you to work. Coming in with you. Letting people see us together.”
“It’s like invasion of the body snatchers,” Nell said shaking her head.
He leaned against her car with a sigh. “I’m trying here, Nell. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but I’m trying.”
In that moment she felt sorry for him. He was looking her with his blue eyes totally unguarded and for the first time she realized that he really did care about her. She closed the gap between them and wrapped her arms around his waist. Laying her head against his chest, she just stood there silently until his arms wrapped around her.
“How about we figure it out together?” she asked softly.
“Do you want to take yourself to work?” he asked, resting his chin on the top of her head.
“What if a case comes up and we can’t leave?” she asked. “I’ll be stuck there until you get back.”
“You’d be stuck in ops anyways,” he answered.
“Not always,” she said with a shrug.
“I’ll leave my keys in my desk, if you want to leave or need to leave and I’m not there, take my car. I can always get a ride to your place with Sam or someone,” he said.
“You’d tell Sam to bring you to my place? And let him know that I have your car?” she asked in surprise.
“I’d do anything for you, Nell,” he said, his voice soft and rough, causing her to shiver. “I’ll show you today, and this weekend, and as long as it takes.”
She nodded. “I miss you, G. And I agreed to go away with you because I miss you. But can you please try to not break my heart again?”
She pulled away and looked up into his eyes, still clear blue and unguarded. She wanted him back in her life, but she knew that she needed more than just spending the night together. She wasn’t sure how to go about having a relationship with the agent, but it was something that she wanted to try, and she could only hope that he genuinely wanted to try to. As she looked in his eyes, she could tell that he did, but she could also see the fear in them. He would try, but he was terrified of messing up again.
“If people know about us,” she said slowly. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, Nell.”
“Think anyone on your team is going to care that we’re involved outside of work?”
“Probably not,” he said slowly.
“Think maybe they’ll be happy you found someone that likes the real you?” she asked. “Not a cover, not an alias, but the real you?”
“Probably,” he answered.
She reached her hands up to cup his face for her final question. “Do you think maybe if you’re going to do or say something stupid in the future it might be nice for them to be able to stop you?”
His face relaxed into a soft smile at that and he nodded.
She grinned up at him. “Now, take me to work, talk to Hetty, and let’s get our weekend started as soon as possible.”
Callen stepped into Hetty’s office, feeling more nervous than he should. He knew Nell was right, they weren’t doing anything wrong, but telling Hetty about them, asking for a few days off the grid, which was unnerving.
“M. Callen,” she said with a soft smile. “Please, sit. I hope you have come to tell me some good news.”
Callen sat and shifted nervously in his chair. “I think that it’s good news.”
“You and Miss Jones have finally made up then I assume?” Hetty asked knowingly. “I was starting to give up hope.”
“I think I’m in love with her, Hetty,” he said softly. “And that scares me. And Sam asked, and I panicked.”
“I was there,” Hetty said softly. “I know how much she was hurt by your words. Even if you were not talking about her, you were lying because of her. She’s young Mr. Callen, and she needs to know that you see her than more than just some kid to fool around with. I know who her parents are, and I know what she told you. She had always cared about you Mr. Callen. Her whole family has always cared. Perhaps it is time that you let people in.”
Callen nodded. “I know. I know I messed up Hetty. And I’m trying to make it up to her. I wanted to keep it to use because I didn’t want other people involved, but I’m seeing now that maybe that could be a good thing.”
“Your friends care about you Mr. Callen. And about her. You can trust them with this. It's time to stop being the lone wolf and join the pack.”
“I know Hetty,” he took a deep breath. “I want to take her away for a couple of days. I’m hoping to leave after work and driving up the coast. We’ll be back before work on Monday. We’ll leave our phones on if anything happens.”
Hetty nodded. “You will be back on Tuesday, not Monday. And do not worry about your phones; we will be fine without you.”
“Tuesday?” he asked.
“There are no pressing cases, no missing children, or dead marines. Finish up your paperwork, and you and Miss Jones are off until Tuesday. If you hurry, you can leave by lunchtime.”
“Really?” Callen said leaning back in his chair. “Just like that?”
She nodded. “You never take time off, Mr. Callen. The fact that you want to take time to spend with Miss Jones says a lot.”
Callen nodded. “She’s special.”
“Make sure she knows that Mr. Callen,” Hetty said with a soft smile.
“I will,” he said standing. “I’ll go tell her we’re leaving sooner.”
When he got up to ops he was surprised to find Deeks and Kensi inside talking to Eric. He turned to Nell and smiled, gently resting his hand on her shoulder.
“Hetty said we can leave after lunch, and we’re not to report back until Tuesday,” he whispered in her ear.
She looked up at his and grinned. “Sounds wonderful.”
“Eric, can you call Sam up here?” he asked.
Eric looked at him and Nell and nodded. Picking up the phone he called down to Sam’s phone and asked him to come up.
“No whistle?” Callen asked.
“Not a case,” Eric said with a shrug. “But congratulations on working it out.”
Callen nodded. “Thanks.”
When Sam slipped into the room, Callen turned to face his team. “I just wanted to let you all know that I’m taking a few days off.”
“You sick or something partner?” Sam asked, looking him up and down. “I’ve never seen you take time off by yourself before. You’re usually trying to tag along with me.”
“I’m not taking it off by myself,” Callen took a deep breath and looked back at Nell. “I’m going away with someone special for the weekend. We’ll both be back on Tuesday, so you’ll have to manage without us.”
Kensi looked at Nell and smiled. “Us? You’re taking our analysis with you?”
Callen smiled at Kensi and nodded. “I am.”
Deeks turned to Kensi and whispered in her ear. She rolled her eyes and whispered back. Callen couldn’t help laughing when the detective’s eyes became wide.
Sam looked silently at Nell and back at Callen, his eyes shifting between the two of them for a few moments before he nodded. “Keep it out of the office. I don’t want to walk into ops and see something that will blind me for the rest of my life. We all know how uncomfortable that can be, don’t we?”
Callen didn’t miss the way Kensi and Deeks’s faces both turned a little red and he tried not to laugh. Sam had told him what he walked in on in the shooting range one afternoon and he didn’t envy his partner at all. For as much at the two partners tried to deny that they had a thing they always failed miserably at it, and everyone knew they were involved.
Callen nodded. “Don’t worry. We plan to keep it out of the office. Totally professional at work.”
Nell looked at Sam and nodded. “What he said.”
Callen surprised himself by reaching his arm out to her and pulling her against him. “Except right now. Right now we’re going to be a little unprofessional.”
She smiled up at him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He knew that he was putting her on the spot, but he knew that she wouldn’t care. He needed to make a point, and that point was that he wasn’t ashamed of her, and he wanted his team to see that she meant something to him. And more importantly he wanted her to see that she meant something.
Sam watched them for a moment before nodding. “You look good together. As long as no one confuses you for her dad.”
Nell laughed but Callen glared at his partner. He couldn’t help but worry that people might think that.
Nell looked up and caught him glaring, and poked him in the side. “They are not going to think that, G. They’re going to wonder how the short geeky girl got a hot guy.”
Everyone laughed at that, and Callen opened his mouth to argue her logic when she pulled him down to her and kissed him. Her lips on his shut him up, and for a moment he forgot that the whole team was watching.
It was Deeks’s clearing his throat that made him pull away from Nell. Red faced he looked at them.
“They’re cute together aren’t they?” Deeks asked. “And they’re really good at keeping it out of the office.”
Kensi poked him. “Like you’re any better.”
“Hey now, I didn’t stick my tongue down my own throat,” Deeks said indigently.
Sam cleared his throat. “I’m going to go down and get some work done. I’d like to get home at some point today.”
Callen nodded. “I’m going to finish up some paperwork, and Nell and I are leaving at lunchtime.”
When she grinned up at him he couldn’t help but lean down and tenderly kiss her forehead before following Sam out the door. As he headed down the stairs to his desk, he smiled to himself. That had actually gone better than he imagined.
He wasn't surprised to find Sam standing by his desk when he got downstairs. With a sigh he followed his partner into the gym.
"Just say it," Callen said with a sigh.
"Say what?" Sam asked.
"Whatever you're thinking."
"I was just thinking that I'm proud of you," Sam said carefully. "That little display was out of character for you, but that's a good thing. I've always thought that you needed a good woman, and I think Nell's good for you."
"You're not going to lecture me about age differences or anything?" Callen asked, the surprise evident in his voice.
"Nope," Sam said, shaking his head. "I'm not. But I will tell you that if you ever hurt her again, you'll answer to me."
"What do you mean?"
Sam laughed. "Really, G? Because I called you out on who you were seeing, and you said it was a fling, and then the two of you looked miserable for a few days. And now I'm suddenly realizing why."
"Ok," he said with a nod. "I maybe could have handled that better."
"Maybe?" Sam asked with a laugh. "Next time you get yourself stuck, come see me and I'll help you out."
Callen nodded. "Will do."
She had been surprised when he called everyone together in ops and announced they were going away for the weekend. She had been even more surprised when he had wrapped his arms around her. By the time she kissed him she had surprised herself.
She tried to finish up the work that she had, but when she caught Eric humming the Jeopardy theme she knew she wasn’t accomplishing anything more than staring at the clock.
“Want to talk about it?” Eric asked, sliding away from the computer.
“About what?” she asked.
He shrugged. “The fact that you’re in love with him.”
Nell shook her head. “What’s there to talk about, Eric? I’ve already told you everything already.”
Eric laughed. “That was just the opposite of everything we talked about.”
“Honestly? I don’t know. He stopped me in ops last night, said he wanted another chance and wanted to take me away this weekend. This morning he showed up at my place to get my stuff and drive me to work. Then there was that scene with the team up here,” she shrugged. “I don’t know what’s up with it.”
“He’s in love with you, Nell,” Eric said with a smile. “That’s what’s up with it.”
She frowned. “Maybe.”
“He is Nell, he may not have said it, but he is,” he said softly. “I’m happy for you.”
She nodded. “You make a good best friend.”
“I try,” he said with a grin. “Now if only I could find that special someone.”
She smiled at him and slipped from her seat to wrap her arms around him. Eric’s track record when it came to dating was sketchy at best. She had tried to help in the past, but somehow that had been an even bigger disaster.
“Trying to steal my woman?”
Nell turned around to look at a grinning Callen leaning in the doorway.
Eric looked up at him and shrugged. “Not my type.”
Callen looked at him and nodded. “Right. Forgot about that.”
“Hey, Callen,” Eric said with a grin. “Don’t ever tell her anything you don’t want her repeating when she’s drunk. Because she has no filter.”
Callen laughed. “I have seen the lack of filter firsthand.”
“But she’s cute, so what can you do?” Eric asked with shrug.
“You ready?” Callen asked.
Nell nodded. “I just need to finish one thing.”
“I’ve got it, Nell,” Eric said with an easy smile. “You two get out of here.”
As Callen slipped into the car beside Nell he let out a deep breath and rested his head against the steering wheel. He didn’t regret what he had done, but he couldn’t help but feel sick over all of it. For as long as he had worked with the team they had never met anyone that he was involved with. He never even shared with anyone except Sam if he was even seeing anyone. He had always kept the two separate, and was always careful to not let them overlap. He knew that was partly because he had never been serious about anyone before, but he knew even if he had he wouldn't have let them know about what he did or let her meet his co-workers. He had decided years ago that the two world wouldn't mix. After today, that had all changed. He had let down his guard to the entire team to prove to Nell that he cared for her, and he knew the team would never look at him the same way again. He had also blended his two world together in a way that he'd never be able to separate. For the rest of the time that the team was together they would always know he had been the first to toss the rule about not dating people that he worked with. He knew that after today that it wouldn't be long before Kensi and Deeks went from just having a thing to actually having a relationship.
“I’m sorry,” Nell said softly, he hand reaching out to touch his knee. “I shouldn’t have made you do that.”
He covered her hand with his own, weaving their fingers together. “They’re going to see me differently now, Nell.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
He took a deep breath. “I don’t know.”
“They still trust you as team leader. And they’ll still follow you anywhere. The only difference is now they know you’re human with human emotions, and human needs,” Nell said softly. “You know Sam’s whole family - his wife, his kids, you’ve spent vacations and holidays with them. Is Sam any worse at his job because you know he has a wife and kids?”
Callen shook his head. “No.”
"It's no different for you," she said softly. "They'll adjust. It'll be ok."
"Even Kensi and Deeks?" he asked with a laugh.
"They'll adjust nicely once they realize that if we can be in a relationship then they can too," she said with a grin.
"And you think that's a good thing?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I think they're good together."
"Like us?" he asked, almost scared to hear he answer.
She gave him a soft smile. "I think we have potential. And I do want to see this through."
He nodded as he started up the car. He knew that it was worth it, and he knew that he made the right decision. Even thought it was something that he had never planned on doing,
She stared out in the window in deep in thought most of the trip, only offering a single word answer when Callen asked her something. She knew he probably thought she was being rude, but she could make her brain stop thinking long enough to carry on a conversation with him. She wasn’t sure what to make of the change in his attitude all of a sudden. A part of her thought that maybe he had been brainwashed and the guy she was with wasn’t the Callen that she knew. She couldn’t get the scene from ops out of her head and she wasn’t sure why he had felt the need to put their relationship in the spotlight like that. She was glad that the team knew, but she also felt slightly embarrassed by their display.
She was abruptly jarred out of her thoughts when Callen suddenly turned into a roadside diner. She looked over at him uncertainly when he turned off the ignition.
“What’s going on, Nell,” he asked softly.
“Nothing,” she answered quickly. “I’m just tired.”
“Nell,” he said, reaching his hand out to brush her knee. “Come on, what’s up.”
“I just feel like this is a dream, and I’m going to wake up, and it’s going to be over, and nothing will have changed, and I’ll still be alone.”
He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Nell. I never meant for any of this to happen.”
“Why didn’t you come after me?” she asked in a small voice.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“The night I packed my things. Eric came over with pizza and beer, and we kept betting on how long it would take for you to show up at my door with an apology. And we tried to guess what you’d bring, maybe flowers, or candy, or liquor. And we sat there the whole night. And you never came.”
“I got hideously drunk,” Callen said slowly. “And I just sat there on the floor the whole night, staring at those pictures. By the time I thought maybe I should go after you, I was too drunk to drive. I tried to call you. I called Deeks accidently and Kensi answered, and I only vaguely remember talking to her with him yelling in the background, and when I got off the phone, I polished off the bottle and passed out.”
She nodded. “I could tell you were hung over the next day.”
“And I wanted to call or come over the next night, but I chickened out. You didn’t even look at me at work and I figured I had lost my shot.” he said sadly. “So I grabbed a fake id and went to a bar.”
“Oh?” she asked fearfully. “And?”
He shook his head. “And nothing. I decided that maybe being celibate the rest of my life wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”
She nodded and stared silently at his hand on her leg.
“I promise, Nell. Nothing happened. No one caught my eye because none of them were you,” he said softly.
“I sat at home,” she said softly. “Eric came over almost every night and we stayed up talking and drinking, and eating whatever junk food he thought would make me feel better that day. A couple of nights he stayed over and I went to the beach with him in the morning to watch him surf.”
“He spent the night, hu?” Callen asked with a grin.
She glared at him before laughing. “You’re such a pain.”
The smile fell from his face as he nodded. “I know.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Nell said with a sad smile. She looked over at the diner and then turned back to him. “Do you want some pie?”
“Pie?” he asked.
She nodded. “Pie.”
“Because I’m a firm believe that pie makes everything better. Pie and ice cream,” she said with a grin.
“Have you been taking lessons from Kensi?” he asked with a shake of his head.
“No,” she said. “My mom taught me that when I was little.”
“She’s a wise woman,” he said with a nod.
“You should meet them sometime,” she said softly. “Or re-meet them I guess.”
“I think maybe I’d like that,” he said as he gently squeezed her knee. “So, pie?”
She nodded, and then paused. “Do you think the whole weekend will be like this?”
“Like what?” he asked.
“Awkward conversations followed by food,” she said softly.
He took a deep breath. “I think it’ll have its moments. I didn’t ask you to go away thinking it would be some perfect weekend. I asked you to go away so we could try to work things out and talk about what was going on, and what we wanted, and about what happened, and deal with it all.”
She nodded. “Ok.”
“And when we get into the town of where we’ll staying we’ll make a grocery run and you can get whatever you think we’ll need to eat if we decide we don’t want to leave the cottage the whole weekend, and we’ll go from there,” he said with a smile. “And I’m hoping talking and eating isn’t all we do, but whatever happens, it’ll be whatever you’re comfortable with, and I’m ok with that.”
She bit her lip and looked up at him slyly. “I think there will be more than talking and food. I went shopping yesterday, and I may have packed with make-up sex in mind.”
He laughed. “I like that idea.”
She had loaded their shopping cart with food, and while he was sure they wouldn’t eat it all over the long weekend, he figured they could by a cooler before heading home and enjoy it there. She had stocked the cart with typical cook-out food: burgers, steaks, and hotdogs. Some premade sides were included as well as chips and dessert. He could tell that she didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and he was grateful for that.
“Got everything?” he asked with a grin. “There’s enough for an army here.”
She bit her lip and looked up at him. “Too much?”
He laughed and pulled her against him. “No. You’re fine. It looks like we won’t need to go out at all, which is fine with me.”
She nodded. “That’s what I was thinking.”
“Now all we need is a few packs of beer and a couple of bottles of wine and we’re set.”
“Tequila,” she said with a grin. “We need that too.”
“I don’t know, I’ve been told when you drink that much you have no censor,” he said with a laugh.
She raised her eye brows and looked at him. “Do you want me to censor myself this weekend?”
“Tequila it is,” he said with a nod.
“It’s beautiful,” she said as they pulled up to the cabin. “How did you find this place on such short notice?”
“It’s mine,” he said softly.
He took a deep breath. “It’s mine. I bought it about six months before I started working for Hetty. I was planning on retiring, just getting away from it all, and this place fit the bill. So I bought it.”
“Wow,” she whispered. “It’s beautiful.”
“I remodeled it myself. I was just finishing up when Hetty pulled into my driveway and offered me a job,” he said with a soft smile. “Since this place was done, and retirement was sounding boring, I took it.”
“How often do you come back here?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Couple of times a year. Not enough to justify owning it, but I can’t sell it, and financially I don’t need to sell it, so it sits here empty a lot.”
“That’s sad,” she said with a frown. “We should come visit it more often.”
She awoke with a start and looked around the empty room as she tried to figure out where she was. Callen’s cabin the thought suddenly came to her. She was in his cabin, and everything was ok. She reached out to the empty side of the bed and felt the sheets. Still warm. He couldn’t be far.
She grabbed his button-down shirt that they had tossed to the floor earlier and slipped from the room. She could see a faint light glowing outside and she slid the sliding door open and stepped onto the deck. She could see him in the hot tub in the corner. His back was to her, his arms resting on the back of the tub, and he was staring up at the sky.
She crossed the deck, slipping the shirt off before slipping in the tub beside him, her head coming to rest on his arm. With a smile he turned his head and gave her a soft kiss beside her ear.
“Did I wake you?” he asked.
She leaned into him, enjoying the feel of the warm water against her bare skin. “I woke up and I was alone.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said softly. “We can go in if you want and I’ll try to just lie there quietly.”
She slipped closer to him, her head resting on his shoulder. “I like it out here.”
“I’m glad you agreed to come,” he said as he wrapped his arm around her.
She nodded against his chest. “We’re going to be ok, G.”
She closed her eyes and leaned against him, the jets in the water lulling her to sleep. She knew that she was secure in his arms and didn’t worry for a moment that he would let her drown.
It only felt like a few moments when he nudged her awake. She blinked a few times and looked up at him.
“Sun’s coming up,” he said. “It’s worth watching.”
She sat in silence with him as the sun came up over the small lake that was a few hundred yards away. As the pinks and yellows colored the sky, she let out a content sigh. Callen pressed a kiss to the side of her head and muttered against her hair.
“What?” she asked, looking up at him.
“Nothing,” he answered quickly.
“G? What was it? What did you say?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he repeated.
“G?” she asked, looking up at him. “What was it?”
He shook his head. “Just words. Words that I don’t know if I’m ready to say out loud.”
“Ok,” she said softly. “I think I’m going to head back inside, maybe get a few more hours of sleep before breakfast.”
She slipped away from him and started to step out of the hot tub when he stood and stepped behind her. His hands on her bare hips pulled her back against him, stopping her from getting out.
“Don’t go in just because you’re mad,” he whispered.
“I’m not mad,” she said. “I just need some time alone. I’m tired.”
She gently pushed his hands off of her hips and stepped out of the tub. Grabbing the shirt that was laying on the deck she slipped it on and headed into the house. She was pretty sure what he has whispered into her hair, and while she appreciated the words, it didn’t mean anything if he couldn’t say them out loud.
He sighed and sank into the water. He knew that he was in love with her. Everyone else knew it, and he was sure that she even knew it. But he didn't know how to tell her. He'd never felt this way before, and he'd never told someone that he was in love with them before. At least, he hadn't said it and meant it.
It was different with Nell. And they both knew it. And that made it harder.
He thought the weekend would be a good getaway for them. He thought that it would be a chance to start over and he thought that they would be able to start over with laughter and kisses. Instead all it felt like there were doing was hurting. He knew that they were exorcising demons that needed dealt with, but he was starting to wonder if he would ever be able to stop hurting her.
With a sigh he pulled himself out of the water and pulled the towel off the railing that he had set their earlier. Stepping into the house he followed the trail of water to the bedroom where he found her lying on the bed. With a frown he stood in the doorway watching her for a moment before stepping into the room and sitting on the edge of the bed. He reached out and wrapped his hand around her ankle, gently rubbing it.
"Go away," she said softly.
"No," he said. "We need to talk."
"I don't want to," she said, sounding like a stubborn child.
"I'm sorry, Bug. I'm trying, you know that you mean everything to me," he said as he slipped further up the bed to wrap his arms around her.
When she didn't fight against him, and instead rolled over and buried her head against his chest, he frowned and kissed the top of her head. He could feel her shoulders begin to shake as she started to cry. Pulling her closer he closed his eyes and sighed. She was hurting again, and it was his fault again. He was starting to worry that he would never learn.
He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. "I love you, Nell."
Almost instantly her tears stopped and she looked up at him in wonder. "What?"
"I love you, Bug," he repeated. "I've never said that to someone before and meant it, and I never thought that I would. But I do."
"Thank you," Nell said softly.
"Thank you?" Callen asked. "I pour out my heart and all I get is a thank you?"
She looked up at him, her eyes red with tears and she nodded. "I want to say it, and I know I feel it, but it hurts."
"What hurts, Bug?" he asked.
"Feeling this way about you. It hurts. And I feel like it's never going to stop," she said as the tears began to fall again.
"I don't want to hurt you," Callen said gently. "I know I keep doing it, but I don't mean to."
"I know you don't," she said softly.
"But that doesn't make it hurt less," he said with a frown. "What can I do?"
"Just hold me," she whispered.
He nodded and wrapped his arms around her. he could feel her tears slowing and finally stopping. Soon her breathing became less ragged and she fell asleep. He wished that he could do the same. Instead he started at the ceiling and tried to figure out what would make thing better.
She dangled her legs over the pier as she lay back to stare up at the clouds. Her feet tickled the water and she wiggled her toes, causing the water to splash around her. She was tired of this weekend. In the beginning it had sounded like a good idea, but what she really wanted was to be back in her apartment, talking to Eric, and not stuck with Callen.
She felt like all of a sudden he was a stranger. She knew that a part of it was because he was trying too hard to please her, but at the same time, she knew it was because she was too scared to let him in. Instead it was easier to lock him out, and keep her heart intact. And at the end of the weekend when they went back home, she would think about then what would happen long term.
Her eyes were just drifting shut when she saw a cell phone dangling over her face.
She sat up and turned to look at Callen.
"Call him," Callen said.
"Call who?" she asked.
"Eric. I know you want to talk to him about me, and I'd rather you just did it instead of thinking about it."
She bit her lip and looked up at Callen. "This is our weekend."
He nodded. "And you need to talk, and you don't want to talk to me. So call Eric."
She shook her head. "No."
"Why not?" he asked.
"I need to be able to talk to you," she said with a sigh. "If I can't then they're no point in trying to make this work."
"Ok," Callen said carefully. "Then talk to me."
"I don't know how to," Nell said softly. "I know what I want to say, but I don't know how to get the words out."
"I'm not going anywhere, Nell," he said softly. "I promise. I'm staying. I want to make this work. I want you, and I know you love me. And I know I hurt you, and I want to fix that."
"What if we can't fix it?" Nell asked.
"We can fix this," he said. "I promise."
"You hurt me," Nell said softly. "You said I was a fling and then you just left me. Even if I didn't think you were serious when you said it, once you didn't come back I started to believe it."
"And now?" he asked. "What do you believe now?"
She shrugged. "I don't know."
"Yes you do," he pressed. "What is it?"
She took a deep breath and shook her head. "I want to believe what you say. And I know you're trying to be different. But what if different wears off?"
"I'm still me, Bug," he said carefully. "And I'll still mess up sometimes. But everyone knows, and Sam has my back, and he's going to help me out, and make sure I don't screw up to bad. He's already threatened me if I hurt you."
"So I should call him to come up?" she asked with a sad smile.
"Haha," he said as he sat down on the pier beside her.
She looked out to the water and frowned. It shouldn't be this hard. He was trying and she wasn't letting him. He wanted to fix things and she was making them worse. She thought about her family and sighed. She had searched her whole life for Callen. Since she was a kid she had been interested in the boy behind the pictures. Once she met him, it hadn't been long before she fell in love with him. But she had never thought that he could feel the same way. In the back of her mind, he had never grown up from the kid that ran away from her parents house.
"You left," she said slowly as she stared out to the horizon. "You didn't tell my parents that you were leaving. They just woke up and you were gone. And we never knew where you went. I came to LA because I got a lead that you might be in LA. I took the job at OSP because I knew it would give me the technology I needed to look for you. I never expected to find you there."
She paused as Callen's hand reached out for her own. He squeezed his fingers around hers but didn't say anything.
"That first day that I saw you, I knew. I knew that it was you, and I knew that I had spent so many years looking for you because I fell in love with who you could be when I was a kid," she said. "And when I got to know you, there was so much more that I could love, and I never thought that you would let me in enough to show you."
"I'm trying to," he said softly.
"I know," she said. "But I'm still scared that that little boy that ran away will run again. I'm scared that you'll never outgrow that and you'll never outgrow your need to be alone."
"I don't want to be alone," Callen said. "I want to be with you. From the first day that I saw you in OSP, I knew you were something special. You felt like family, and I only recently figured out why. You've always been my family and I'm tired of running."
"I don't want you to run," she said.
"Good," he said with a grin. "Because I think you're stuck with me."
"We'll come back soon," Callen said with a grin.
She ran her finger across the kitchen counter and sighed. "I know."
"You get to see Eric when we get back, and have girl talk with Kensi," Callen said. "You know you miss them."
She nodded. "Maybe. But I'd still rather stay here."
Callen nodded and took her hand. While the first couple of days of their vacation had been filled with tears and confessions they had salvaged the second half and in the end he knew that they were going to make it.
They had spent most of the trip talking, and he was amazed to find that once Nell started talking to him, neither of them could stop. They has spent one night in bed just talking about the scars that he had and Nell had kissed each one, declaring that they were healed. Somewhere along the line he realized that both of their hearts were also healing.
Now that it was time to leave, he was sad to go, but at the same time he found himself looking forward to going back, and not hiding their relationship from the team.
"Come on," he said as he tugged her out the door.
She followed him, and softly patted the doorframe as she stepped outside. "Bye, house."
She turned around in the car and watched silently as the house faded in the distance. Callen kept his hand on her knee and squeezed as the house disappeared around a bend.
He caught her arm as she was walking out of ops and pulled her down the hall to the storage room. Looking around to make sure no one was watching them he opened the door and tugged her inside.
His lips were on hers before she had time to ask him what he was doing. As she wrapped her arms around his neck, she lost herself in the feel of his lips on hers and his hair beneath her fingers.
He pulled away first and looked sheepishly at her. “Sorry about that.”
She smiled up at him, taking a moment to catch her breath before answering. “That was most unprofessional, Agent Callen.”
“Unprofessional would have been lifting you onto the table in ops and kissing you in front of Hetty and Eric,” he said with a nervous laugh. “This was just a necessity.”
She frowned and unwound her hands from around his neck. She found his hand and laced her fingers through his. “Was it that bad?”
He nodded but didn’t answer. While she had watched everything from the safety of ops she knew that it wasn’t the same as being there being forced to run from a building that was rigged. She had watched in fear from ops as the team came running from the building, and she knew that he was still blaming himself for the concussion that Sam had, and the stitches that Kensi was currently receiving at the ER.
“They’re ok, Callen. Everyone’s ok and they’ll all be back in the office in the morning,” she said softly.
"I screwed up," he said with a sigh. "We should have gotten out when Deeks said to run. But I hesitated, and I made them wait. I thought I knew something that Deeks didn't."
"Did you do it because you're the one in charge, not him?" she asked softly.
Callen shook his head. "No. I don't think I did."
She leaned up and gently kissed his cheek. "Why did you hesitate?"
"I thought he was wrong," Callen said slowly. "I thought that we had more time, and when he said he has seen a set-up like that before I blew him off. He tried to warn me and I didn't listen."
"Because he'd just a cop," she said with a shrug. "He'd just a cop so he doesn't know as much as the special agent in charge."
Callen pulled away from her and stared into her eyes. "No. How can you even think that? How can you even ask that?"
"You sure?" she challenged.
"Yes, Nell, I'm sure. I don't blow Deeks off because he'd a cop."
"Then why do you blow him off?" she asked.
He stared silently at her, unsure how she had gone from his supportive, loving girlfriend to someone challenging him about his job and the decisions he made. He didn't blow Deeks off. He didn't.
Except he had. And she saw it.
He let out a sigh and shrugged. "I don't know why. Because he's low man on the totem pole. He's been here the shortest amount of time."
She shook her head. "He's been here longer than me."
"That's different," he said with a frown. "You're Nell. You're smart. He's Deeks. He's a goofy surfer."
"Who was right today," Nell said softly. "He's smart, G. You just don't give him the chance to be. He's just Kensi's partner to you."
"Does he need to be anything else?" Callen asked.
"Sam's like a brother to you. Kensi's your little sister. You're even relatively nice to Eric most of the time. You treat us all like family and you leave Deeks on the outside," Nell answered. "He needs a family too."
Callen nodded. "I never thought of it that way."
"Deeks would never tell you how he feels, but Kensi and I can see it. Did you know he spent three years in foster care after he shot his dad while his mom went through rehab and worked on getting her life together?"
"I didn't know that," Callen said softly.
"If anyone would understand what you went through as a kid, it would be him. But you've never taken the time to get to know him, so you wouldn't know that."
He stared guiltily at the floor. She wasn't wrong, but he wasn't sure why she was bringing it up now. It was bad enough that he had almost gotten half of his team killed. Now wasn't the time to rub his failure in his face. He turned to leave when she grabbed his wrist and pulled him back to her.
"You don't get to walk away," she said with a soft smile. "You're not going lone wolf on me. I'm right here, and I love you, G. I'm not trying to punish you. But after today I have your attention because you feel badly, and I know right now you'll listen."
He resisted the urge to pull away from her and instead stepped closer to her and rested his head on her shoulder. "What do I do?"
"I'll call Deeks and see if they're released Kensi and find out whose apartment they're staying at. And we'll go over and see for ourselves that Kensi's ok and that Deeks isn't mad. And on the way we'll stop and see Sam. Maybe bring him a six-pack to help with his headache."
"I'd rather just go back to our house," Callen said. "Maybe just talk."
She shook her head. "Nope. You need to deal with today, and the best way to do that is to see your team with your own eyes so you know they're ok. After that we'll go back to our house."
He couldn't help but smile at her last two words. Our home. While he hadn't officially asked her to move in, and while he wasn't sure that she was ready to give up her apartment and make what they had permanent he loved that she felt comfortable enough in his house to make it theirs.
"It'll be ok, G," she said with a smile. "And once you see for yourself, you'll feel better."
The quick stop at Sam’s house had made him feel better. His partner was relaxing in front of the TV with an ice bag and his kids acting as miniature doctors. When he tried to apologize for not listening to Deeks, Sam had only laughed and said that he would be fine.
Now that he was standing outside of Kensi’s apartment he was having second thoughts. Maybe it would be best if he left her and Deeks alone for the night and just went home. The only thing that stopped him was the glare that Nell was giving him from the passenger seat.
“Fine. I’m going,” he said with a sigh as he fished the box of chocolate out of the back seat.
Nell grinned at him as she slipped out of the car. “It’ll be fine.”
He nodded and started walking slowly to the door. He wasn’t surprised when Deeks answered the door but he was surprised when Deeks’s hand shot out and hit him in the chest, pushing him back into the front lawn.
Deeks turned to Nell and nodded. “Kensi’s inside if you want to go on in. I need to have a little talk with Callen before I decide if he can see my partner.”
Nell shook her head and stepped beside Callen. “Back off, Deeks.”
“Go inside, Nell,” he answered. “I won’t hurt him too bad.”
Nell looked at Callen who nodded and with a sigh she stepped away from him and went inside. He watched her close the door before he held his hands up in surrender.
“Go ahead, Deeks. Take a swing,” he said calmly. “I deserve it. I didn’t listen and I almost got the team killed today.”
“You almost got my girl killed,” Deeks said as his hands dropped to his side. “I almost lost her, and I couldn’t stop it because you wouldn’t listen.”
“I’m sorry, Deeks,” he said with a sigh. “I was wrong.”
Deeks shook his head. “She’s all I have, Callen. And some days she just barely tolerates me, and I don’t dare think that she’ll ever love me, but she’s all that I have. And I almost lost her. Because you’re so busy hating me that you can’t listen when I’m right about something.”
“I don’t hate you, Deeks,” Callen said, shocked at the idea.
Deeks laughed bitterly. “Well you certainly don’t like me. You and Sam and all your guy bonding. You’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not one of the guys.”
“I don’t dislike you, Deeks. I may have never taken the time to get to know you outside of the office, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like you.”
“No one likes me,” Deeks said bitterly. “I’m just waiting for Kensi to find someone better and she’ll forget all about me. It’s ok. I’m used to being disposable.”
“Four foster families in three years will make anyone believe that,” Callen said evenly.
He watched as Deeks hands balled into fits and he closed his eyes and braced himself for the impact that never came. Instead he heard the sound of a body hit the ground and a rhythmic thump. When he opened his eyes, Deeks was sitting cross-legged on the ground, punching at the dirt.
“She shouldn’t have told you that,” he said without looking up. “That wasn’t her story to tell.”
Callen knelt on the ground beside Deeks. “You’re right. You should have. But I was busy not getting to know you. And I should have.”
Deeks didn’t answer and continued to stare at the ground. Callen sighed and rolled back on his heels. This was the very reason he hadn’t bothered to get to know Deeks. Sam didn’t require a lot of emotion or talking. They knew each other and they were comfortable enough with each other that words weren’t often needed. Kensi and Nell were woman and therefore easier to talk to, and he didn’t even have to talk to Hetty for her to understand. Deeks was different though. Deeks was just as broken as he was and that made everything more difficult. He didn’t like being alone with himself, and he couldn’t believe that being with Deeks would be any better.
“She does love you, you know,” Callen said softly. “You can see it in her eyes. Even when you two are driving each other up the wall, you can tell from the way her eyes smile that she’s in love.”
“I mean it,” he said. “I’ve known Kensi a long time, and she’s had a handful of partners before you, and she’s never looked at them or treated them the way she treats you.”
“And you think that’s a good thing?” he asked, still looking at the ground.
Callen nodded. “I know it is.”
Deeks shrugged. “If you say so.”
“I let Nell pick out all the furniture for my house,” Callen said with a soft laugh. “I hadn’t even kissed her yet, and I just let her take over and tell me what I needed. The only thing I realized that I wanted or needed was her, and I didn’t know how to tell her.”
“I’m not good with words,” Callen said slowly. “And for a long time I didn’t know how to tell her that I loved her. And I thought that she should just know because of how I treated her. But she needed to hear the words.”
“Kensi loves you. And one day she’ll admit it,” He said with a nod. “But for all the fake self-assurance that she puts up, she’s still that scared kid that lost her dad, and you need to make sure she knows that you love her, and that you’re never leaving. Her dad left, Jack left, and she’s got to wonder when you’re going to leave.”
“Then tell her,” Callen said. “As soon as she feels secure, she’ll tell you how she feels.”
“She could have died today and she wouldn’t have known,” Deeks said angrily.
“But she didn’t,” Callen answered. “So you get another shot at telling her.”
Deeks nodded and Callen stood and offered him his hand to help him up. Deeks took it and he pulled him to his feet. Before he could stop himself, he gave Deeks a quick, awkward hug.
“Are we going to be ok?” Callen asked.
Deeks shrugged. “Depends. You going to stop treating me like a joke.”
“I will listen to you when you try to tell me something,” Callen said slowly. “And I will respect you. And the next time Sam and I have a guys night, I’ll make sure to invite you. But I’m not going to stop making fun of that blond mop on your head.”
Deeks grinned. “I’ll take what I can get.”
“Now, I bought Kensi some chocolate, so why don’t we go in before she comes out looking for it,” Callen said. “Plus I’m sure Nell starting to get worried that I let you beat me and she’s going to have to take me to the ER.”
“I could take you,” Deeks said with a grin. “You wouldn’t have to let me. I’d just do it.”
Callen laughed and shook his head. Maybe Nell had been right and he needed to give him a chance and really get to know him. From the look of it, Deeks needed someone besides Kensi in his life.
Nell turned and looked at Kensi. "It looks like they're talking. And no one's bleeding."
She poked at the stitches in her arm. "Well, at least no one else is going to need stitches tonight."
"Callen's sorry, you know."
She nodded. "I know."
"But?" Nell pressed.
"But nothing," Kensi answered. "It's the job and sometimes people get hurt."
Nell took a deep breath and stared at her friend. She had expected Kensi to be sleepy from the pain pills or wired from the explosion. She hadn't expected the sad, quiet person that was curled up at the end of the faded couch.
“I think I’m in love with him, Nell,” Kensi said softly.
“You need to tell him,” she answered with a soft smile. “He feels the same, and he’s scared to tell you. He thinks you don’t care.”
“I care. Sometimes I think I care too much,” she answered. “Today, if he had disobeyed Callen and left when Callen told him to stay, I’d have followed. I’d have picked my partner over my team leader. And that’s scary.”
“Your partner was right and your team leader was wrong,” Nell said with a shrug.
“That shouldn’t matter,” Kensi said. “I should follow Callen without question.”
Nell burst into laughter at Kensi’s words. Following Callen without question was something that she’d never do, regardless of how long they were together and watching Kensi try to tell her that she would was hysterical.
"Nell?" Kensi asked. "You ok?"
"I'm sorry. Just the idea of following Callen and not questioning him. That's just stupid."
"He's our team leader," Kensi said.
"He's a human being who sometimes makes mistakes," Nell said. "He's fallible. He can make mistakes, and you need to call him on it when he does. He's lucky you all survived today. I watched it from ops. Eric watched me cry when the building blew. And I thought it was all over. All because he wouldn't listen to his team."
"I never thought of it like that," Kensi said with a yawn. "He's Callen. We just always listen and follow."
"If you think he's wrong, tell him that," Nell said. "Now, can we get back to you and Deeks?"
Kensi frowned. "It's no secret that he and I have a thing."
"It's no secret that you're sleeping together," Nell said with a laugh.
"How is it you and Callen kept the two of you secret and Deeks and I can't?"
"Because we never fooled around at the office," Nell said with a nod. "We waited till we got to someone's house. It's harder to hide when you keep getting caught."
"It started out as just a thing," Kensi said slowly. "But it's so much more. I'm in love with him Nell, and I never felt that before."
"So tell him," Nell said.
"I can't," she said with a nod. "It's a secret sort of love. Because if he doesn't feel the same then he'll just laugh at me."
"But he does feel the same," Nell said.
She watched Kensi ponder her words, and she noticed that her eyes were beginning to glass over. A quick glance at the coffee table and she saw the bottle of painkillers and she suddenly realized that Kensi was going to be incoherent in a few more minutes.
"Kensi, can you focus for a second?" Nell asked.
She nodded. "What."
"When you feel better, and when you're not high on pain killers, tell Deeks that you want to talk about your relationship. And then just let it happen."
"Can I do it tonight?" Kensi asked with a grin. "I'm feeling pretty good tonight, maybe tonight's a good time."
"Tomorrow. Why don't you wait until tomorrow."
Kensi nodded and Nell couldn't suppress her grin when Kensi's eyes slipped shut. She stood and grabbed a blanket from the back of the sofa and threw it over the sleeping agent. She peaked back out the window to make sure Deeks and Callen were both still unscathed before grabbing a magazine and sitting down.
When the guys finally came in, she pressed her finger to her lips and motioned to Kensi. Deeks grinned and scooped her up from the sofa and carried her down the hall.
"Talk go well?" Nell asked.
Callen nodded. "It did. You were right, I never really tried to get to know Deeks."
"Going to make an effort?" she asked.
"Yes, dead," he said, causing her to roll her eyes. "I'm going to make an effort. Take him out the next time Sam and I go out."
"Ready to go?" she asked as she stood up.
He nodded. "Past ready."
“Come home with me?” she asked softly as she stared up at the ceiling.
She had wanted to ask him for weeks, but the timing never seemed right. There was always a case or paperwork, or some sort of crisis that kept her from asking. She didn’t want to ask when she knew they wouldn’t be able to get away and she didn’t want him to have any work related excuse to give.
Plus, she was scared. Things had been going well between them since they came back from their weekend together and she didn’t want anything to ruin that. She wasn’t sure how he was going to feel being around her family, and she wasn’t sure what her parents would think of her bringing a previous foster kid home as her significant other. Besides the obvious age difference, there was also the fact that for a brief time he had been family.
He rolled over and propped himself up on one arm and stared down at her. She could feel the blush creeping up her neck and onto her face as his blue eyes silently watched.
“I mean, maybe not right away, but I thought maybe,” she trailed off as she closed her eyes. “Forget I said anything.”
“I didn’t say anything, Bug,” Callen said with a laugh. “How can you possibly be upset when I didn’t say anything?”
“I’m not upset,” she answered. She wasn’t. She was hurt, but that was different.
“I want to go, Bug,” he said softly. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask because I didn’t want to rush you if you weren’t ready to tell them, but I want to go. I need to tell them I’m sorry for leaving, and I want to make things right between us all because I don’t plan on leaving again, and I need them to know that I’m not that guy anymore.”
She opened her eyes and looked up at him. “Oh.”
“We can leave whenever you want,” he said with a soft smile. “We’ll talk to Hetty in the morning. It’ll probably have to be a short trip. Two, maybe three days at the most, but we’ll see about maybe a longer trip at Christmas time.”
She bit her lip and stared at him for a few moments as she tried to make sense of his words.
“You’re stuck with me, Bug,” he said as he leaned down and kissed her nose. “You’ve got me, and I’m not going anywhere.”
“Mom? Dad?” Nell called out as she poked her head in the front door. “I’m here.”
She felt Callen’s hand rest on her shoulder and she smiled nervously back at him.
“Mom?” she called out again as she heard footsteps coming down the hall.
“Nell? Honey?” her mom called out as she hurried down the steps.
Nell grinned and stepped inside as her mom reached the bottom of the stairs and held her arms open to her. Nell relished the hug for a few moments before pulling back and looking toward the door.
With a smile she ushered Callen inside, and turned back to her mom. “Mom, I’d like you to meet someone.”
Her mom let out a small gasp and reached out to him. “Cal.”
Nell bit her lip nervously as Callen stepped toward her mom and accepted her hug. She could hear her mom whispering against Callen’s chest, but wasn’t sure what she was saying. Finally her mom pulled away and looked up at him. With a smile she turned to Nell.
“I’m not surprised,” she said with a laugh. “If anyone was going to find him, it was you.”
Nell looked at Callen with a smile. “It’s always been him.”
Her mom patted Callen’s arm for a moment before gently swatting at him. “Don’t run off like that again.”
“I don’t plan to,” he said as he stared at Nell. “I have everything I want right here.”
He was standing on the deck watching Nell play with her nieces and nephews when her mom stepped up beside him.
“She’s spent her life looking for you,” she said with a smile as she looked at her daughter in the yard. “Since the time she was six I knew that she’d bring you home one day.”
Callen shook his head. He has seen the pictures, but suddenly he wondered if he was missing something. “What happened when she was six?”
“She found pictures of you in a box in the closet. We had always kept scrapbooks of all the kids that came through, but after you left, we couldn’t bring ourselves to keep doing it.”
“The scrapbooks?” he asked. “Or being foster parents?”
“Both,” she answered. “We had 5 kids when Nell was six, and I was pregnant with her youngest sister. Three of the kids we had adopted, she and her older brother were birth kids, but at six, she didn’t see the difference.”
Callen nodded. In some homes the kids that were foster kids were treated as second class citizens, and he envied Nell not seeing a difference between all her siblings from such a young age.
“She brought the pictures to us and wanted to know who you were and where you had gone. We didn’t know how to answer her. She knew stories about everyone else in the picture, but we never talked about you,” she paused and frowned. “For a long time we didn’t know how to talk about you.”
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I shouldn’t have just left like that. I never thought about what it would mean for your family. All I knew was that my experiences taught me that it was better to leave before I was kicked out.”
“We understood,” she said. “You weren’t our first hard luck case.”
“But I was the last that you took for a while,” he answered. “Nell told me that much.”
She nodded. “We explained to Nell that you chose to leave us, and she said that one day she would find you. Her dad and I nodded and didn’t give it another thought. A few months later she became very interested in how the foster care system worked, and a couple of years after that, when she was eight we started taking in kids again. It helped us heal, and get over what happened with you.”
“But Nell didn’t forget,” he said with a sad smile.
“No, she didn’t. She asked questions to our social worker about how to find people that had aged out of the system. And she kept telling us that one day she was going to bring you home. She kept looking all through middle school and high school. When she left for college we thought she had stopped. When she took the job in LA, she called and asked for the pictures. I think her dad and I both knew then that she was onto something.”
“Was I the only kid that you didn’t know what happened to?” he asked.
“There’s a few others that were placed back with their families that we lost touch with,” she answered slowly. “But you’re the only one we every really lost.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything. When he had agreed to go away with Nell then had both been unsure how her family would react, but standing her talking to her mom he wasn’t seeing any of the anger or judgment that he had worried about. He also didn’t see anything that resembled the unaware people that he had once remembered them being.
“When Nell said that she was bringing someone home with her, we hoped it would be you.”
He laughed. “I never thought I’d be the guy anyone woman’s parents would be glad to see her bring home.”
Her mom smiled. "Can you honestly say that you've ever wanted to meet a woman's parents before?"
Callen could feel his face redden at the question. He had never bothered to meet the parents of any woman he had ever dated before. Even when he was married to Tracy he hadn't thought about what her family was like. It was something that they never discussed and something that he had never cared about. But with Nell it was different. Maybe it was because he had once known her parents, or maybe because for the first time he was ready to set down roots.
"Welcome home, Cal," her mom said with a soft smile. "I have no doubt that Nell will convince you to stay around this time."
Callen nodded. "I promise, I don't plan to every break her heart again."
"Again?" she asked. "Again as you did unknowingly as a kid or again as in careless words spoken in haste?"
He laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. "She told you about that did she?"
"One week she was excited over meeting someone, and a few weeks later she wouldn't talk about it, just that he didn't think of her the way she thought he did."
"She shares everything with you all doesn't she?" Callen asked.
"As much as she can," she answered. "You know, it's all secretive with her job at the TV station."
Callen heard the tone of voice, and sighed. No one knew what they did. Sam's wife had a clue, but outside of OSP no one else could know. But watching Nell with her family, and hearing her talk about them, he knew how hard it was on her. And now that he was seeing her family face to face he didn't feel right lying to them.
"You know it's not a TV station," Callen said slowly.
She nodded. "We know. We know she's too smart for that, and you're definitely not TV studio type."
"You know I can't actually tell you what we do," he said carefully. "I wish I could, but what we do, we can't talk about it."
"Just promise me one thing," her mom asked. "Promise me that you'll keep our little girl safe."
He nodded. "I can promise that. She's amazing at what she does, and we don't let her out of the office all that much."
"I'd tell you that you're lucky to have her," she said gently.
"But I already know," he answered.
"But," she said softly. " But, I think that she is luck to have you."
The rest of the weekend flew by, and when it was time to repack the suitcases and Callen was surprised to find that he was sorry to leave. He knew that they both had jobs waiting for them, and cases that needed solvers, and killers to track down, but for a moment he thought that he could give it all up.
She looked over at him and laughed. "We are going back to LA."
"I didn't say we weren't," he said quickly.
"I know that look, G," she said with a grin. "It's the same look I usually have when I'm packing up after a few days at home. But when you get back to LA, you'll be glad you did."
"Are you glad you when you get back?" he asked. "Don't you ever want to just stay here, settle down, get married and have kids."
"Ok," she said with a laugh. "Who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend? Because he doesn't talk about marriage and babies."
"Maybe he should," Callen said, the words surprising him.
She shook her head. "No, I don't want to have this conversation now."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because it isn't real," she said with a frown. "If you say it here, when we get back to LA, it's going to be different and it's not going to matter what you say here."
"It's not going to be different, Bug," he said with a frown. "I'm still the same person. I still feel the same way about you regardless of where we are."
"Then say it when we're home," she said with a sigh. "Please don't say it here."
"Ok," he said carefully. "But we're not done talking."
She nodded and crossed the room to wrap her arms around his neck. With a grin her wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off the ground. She giggled in his ear as he twirled her a couple of times around the room. With a grin he fell onto the bed, pulling her on top of him. She leaned in and kissed his nose and then his lips. He lost himself in the moment, enjoying the feel of her against him. He know it wouldn't matter where they were, here on in LA, the feeling that he had weren't going anywhere, and for the first time in his life, that didn't scare him.
He dropped her off at her apartment when they got back to LA. He had hoped she would just grab some things and stay the night with him so they could talk. He was disappointed when she said she had some things to do and gave him a soft kiss before closing the door in his face.
Now it was three hours later and he had been sitting on the couch for over an hour, reliving the weekend. Six months ago if anyone had told him that one day he would want to settle down into something that looked like a normal relationship and a normal life he would have laughed. The past few days however had shown him exactly what he was missing out on.
For the first time in his life, he had found something that looked like a family that was worth holding on to. And for the first time he found himself thinking about what it would be like to watch Nell chase their own children around the backyard one day. He could teach them to play catch; he had done it enough with Sam’s kids that knew how to play. He could build them a tree house in the backyard with a rope ladder to climb up. One that they could pull up after themselves so no one could bother them.
He could be a father.
The thought made him smile.
He had been alone in his house for too long, and it was time to start making some changes. Tomorrow he was going to pick Nell up and take her to work and tell her what he wanted on the drive in.
He heard his front door open, and he sat up with a grin. Maybe he wouldn’t need to wait until morning after all.
“Nell?” he called out.
She stepped into the room with a grin. “Yes. Unless some other woman has a key to your house.”
“Hetty,” Callen said with a shrug. "Kensi. I think that's it."
Nell laughed and dropped down on the couch beside him. She leaned her head against his chest and he wrapped his arms around her with a smile.
“I thought you had things to do,” he said.
“I did,” she answered. “And now I’m done, and I was lonely.”
“I was lonely too,” he said as he kissed the side of her head. “I’m glad you came over. Because I want to ask you something.”
She pulled away and turned to him. “I don’t want you to ask.”
“You don’t even know what I’m going to ask,” he said with a shake of his head.
“We haven’t been together that long, and I don’t want you to ask me something because you’re on some sort of happy family high and then you regret it later.”
“I won’t regret it later,” he said softly. “And if for some reason it doesn’t work out, then we talk about it and decide what we want to do about it.”
“I can’t say yes to something that big until we both know for sure,” she said, her eyes wide.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Callen said with a shrug. “I mean I’ve never done it before, but it’s the next natural step.”
“So you’re only asking because it’s the natural next step?” she asked.
“Well, you’re here so much anyways,” he said. “There’s really not much difference.”
“Not much different?” she asked. “It’s very different, it’s, wait, what are you asking me?”
“I was going to ask you to move in with me,” Callen said. “What were you thinking I was asking?”
He watched in silence as Nell’s face turned red as she tried to hide against his chest. He gently rubbed her back as her shoulders started to shake and he wasn’t sure what had just happened to upset her that much.
“Nell?” he asked. “What’s wrong? What did I do?”
Finally she pulled her head away and he realized that she was laugh. He grinned and kissed her, pleased to see that she wasn’t upset.
“I thought you were going to ask me something else, and I was quite sure you had gone mad,” she said as she gasp for air. “But you were only talking about living together.”
“What did you think I was, oh,” he said, as he replayed the conversation. “Eventually, I’m thinking that’s where we’re headed, Bug. But when I do it’ll be an event. It won’t just be the two of us hanging out together. When I’m ready to ask, you’ll know.”
“Ok,” she said with a nod. “I’m glad you weren’t asking yet. But I would like to revisit that one day.”
He nodded. “One day I’d like to see little kids playing in the backyard. But not right away.”
“I’m young,” she said with a laugh. “We have time.”
“So will you move in with me?” he asked as he took her hands in his.
She nodded. “Of course I will.”
~*~4 Years Later~*~
Callen was adjusting his tie when he heard a knock on the door. “It’s open.”
“Can I hide in here?” Deeks asked as he poked his head in the room.
Callen nodded. “What are you hiding from?”
“Kensi,” Deeks said with a sigh as he flopped onto the floral sofa. “Why is the furniture in this place so ugly?”
Callen shrugged. “I don’t think it’s that bad. And it’s probably secondhand.”
“Churches should be classier,” Deeks said with a sigh.
“Nell liked this one. She said it reminded her of the one she went to when she was a kid, and it was either have the wedding here, or fly us all back to have it there.”
“Fine, I guess it’s not too ugly,” Deeks said, his hand picking at a snag in the fabric.
“Why are you hiding from Kensi?” Callen asked as he adjusted his tie. “She getting all girly over the dresses and wanting you to make an honest woman of her?”
Deeks snorted. “I wish. She’s mad because her dress is too tight and she said if she sneezes the seam may rip.”
“Did you feed her too many donuts again?” Callen asked with a laugh. “You know Sam and I warned you about that.”
“Well, no,” Deeks said slowly. “But we wanted to wait until after the wedding to say anything.”
Callen’s face turned serious as he looked at Deeks. “Marty? What’s going on?”
“It appears that Tabby’s going to be a big sister,” Deeks said.
“Really?” Callen asked with a grin. “When?”
“In about 6 months,” Deeks answered. “We’re not ready to tell anyone yet, because this is about you and Nell right now, and it’s not like Kensi’s showing or anything but apparently some parts of her are preparing for the baby, and it’s making clothing difficult.”
“I don’t want to ask what part of her dress is tight, do I?” Callen asked with a laugh.
Deeks shook his head and tried to hold back his grin.
With a laugh Callen turned back to the mirror and started to fiddle with his tie again. “When are you going to make an honest woman of her?”
“As soon as she lets me,” Deeks said with a shrug. “I’ve been carrying the engagement around with me for over two years.”
Callen laughed. Before Deeks and Kensi had announced that Kensi was pregnant the first time, Deeks had planned an elaborate dinner to propose to Kensi only to me turned down. He hadn’t expected their relationship to weather that, but if his math was right, their daughter had been born almost exactly nine months later.
Ever since, Deeks had asked her a couple of other times before giving up and sliding the engagement ring that he had bought for her onto his key chain. He had announced that when she was ready to accept it, it would be there. Two years later, it was still there.
His engagement to Nell has been just the opposite. She had squealed and jumped up and down when he got down one night at work as everyone was leaving. The proposal has been simple and the engagement was just long enough to plan a wedding. He could see in the mirror that Deeks was deep in thought. With a sigh he crossed the room and joined him on the couch.
“Jealous?” he asked with a grin.
Deeks nodded. “A bit. I mean, I get it. I understand her reasons for saying no, and I know we’re still a family, especially with Tabby and another on the way, but I’m jealous.”
“Does it help that I’ll admit to being jealous of you?” Callen asked. “I never thought that I wanted kids before but watching you with Tabby, I’m excited for the day that Nell and I can announce that we’re having our own.”
Deeks grinned. “You get her knocked up on the honeymoon we can raise our kids together. Maybe ours will be a boy and yours will be a girl and they'll l fall in love one day and we’ll be the proud parents at the Deeks/Callen wedding.”
Callen snorted and rolled his eyes. “There is no way my daughter would ever fall for a scruffy looking surfer kid like yours.”
“How do you know my son would be scruffy looking?” Deeks asked.
“Tabby looks just like Kensi, so I figure all the good DNA’s been used up,” Callen said with a smirk.
“If it wasn’t your wedding day,” Deeks threatened with a grin.
“If it wasn’t my wedding day what?” Callen asked. “You couldn’t take me regardless of the day.”
A knock on the door made them both look up as Sam stuck his head in. “We ready?”
Callen nodded. “Ready.”
“It was a beautiful wedding,” Kensi said as she came up beside Nell.
“Thanks,” she answered with a soft smile. “I feel a bit like a princess.”
“You look the part,” Kensi said.
Nell looked down at her wedding dress and grinned. The beaded, strapless bodice flowed into a full floor length skirt that was gathered in the back to hide the train. She had never imagined that she would wear such an impractical dress that weighted almost as much as she did, but once she tried it on, she had loved the way it made her feel.
“So when it’s going to be your turn?” Nell asked with a grin. “If you’re going to keep having babies, with Marty, you really should marry the poor guy.”
“I can’t believe he told you,” Kensi said with a gasp. “We agreed to wait until you and Callen were back from your honeymoon.”
“Deeks didn’t tell me,” Nell said soothingly. “I can see it on your face, it’s women’s intuition. You’re positively glowing.”
Kensi looked over at Nell and grinned. “Where’s your champagne, Mrs. Callen?”
Nell laughed. “Mrs. Callen. How strange does that sound.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” Kensi pressed.
Nell could feel the heat rising in her face as she looked out over the crowd. Her eyes rested on Deeks who was dancing with Tabby on the dance floor. She grinned as Tabby stood on her father’s shoes, and let Deeks guide her around the floor. It didn’t take long for Deeks to pick her up and spin her around a few times before hoisting her up onto his shoulders.
“Nell?” Kensi pressed. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she answered. “Just being careful.”
“Are you?” she asked.
Nell shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Kensi grinned. “I hope you are.”
“And I hope you put Deeks out his misery,” Nell said with a smile. “He loves you, Kensi, and he’s never leaving you. Why do you keep saying no?”
Kensi shrugged. “At first I was scared. Then we had Tabby and that seemed like enough at the time, and by the time I thought that maybe it wasn’t, he had stopped asking.”
“We talking about me?” Callen asked as he stepped beside his wife.
Nell smiled up at him and shook her head. “We’re talking about stubborn people who won’t do what they should.”
Callen looked at Kensi and laughed. “I have no clue what my wife is talking about.”
Nell grinned at the word. Wife. She still couldn’t believe that she had the one thing that she had wanted since she was a child. She and G were family. She knew without a doubt that he was no longer that standoffish teenager that didn’t fit in anywhere. Instead he was a grown man, who was loved by everyone around him and who had created his own family that was stronger than blood could ever be.
She watched in silence as he nudged Kensi and grinned at her. Kensi rolled her eyes at him before going to join Deeks and Tabby on the dance floor. Nell felt Callen’s arm wrap her around her shoulder and she leaned against him.
“Watch,” he whispered.
She cuddled closer to him as she watched Sam pluck Tabby from Deeks’s shoulders she Kensi could properly dance with him. She watched Kensi’s hand creep into Deeks’s pocket and pull out his keys. Nell couldn’t help but grin and squeeze Callen’s arm as Kensi slipped something from Deeks’s keychain and hold it up to him. When Deeks’s face lit up, Nell let out a squeal of excitement and as he dropped to one knee on the dance floor, she looked up at Callen, her eyes shining with tears.
“What would you say if I said I thought we were pregnant?”
As Callen’s face broke into a grin, everything else in the room faded away. She heard people clapping and a few whistles, but she wasn’t sure if it was because of the spectacle of Kensi and Deeks or because of the way her husband scooped her off the group and let out a whop of excitement.
In the end, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that everyone finally had their happily ever after.