By Any Other Name

The Ops Center was quiet as Callen and his team regarded the large screen in front of them. A flip chart near the main document table was also crowded with writing. As information was developed on the chart – "old school", as Deeks put it – Eric would lift it and add it to the document on the screen. The list of names got longer and more detailed as the team worked. Finally, Callen threw down his pen and pushed the papers across the table, at no one in particular.

"This is useless!" G said, frustration evident in his voice. "I don't care what they say – it just can't be done!"

The rest of the team sighed and nodded, intently focusing on the lists of names before them.

"I think you're right, G," Sam said, shaking his head. And then, as he crumpled and tossed a piece of notebook paper across the room, "And it's not fair!"

"No one ever said this would be fair, Mr. Hanna," Hetty reminded him. "And there may be a reason for it."

"Yeah …" Kensi offered. "Maybe it was done intentionally."

"It's possible," Nate agreed. "I mean … the best way to avoid the situation is to make it impossible to put a name on it."

Eric sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I have run every conceivable combination through every coding and encryption program I have," he said. "Lots of combinations; nothing that makes sense."

"They're out there laughing at you, you know," Deeks said, nonchalantly taking a gulp of coffee from his travel mug. "It's not like not having a name for it is going to keep it from happening."

"That's not the point, new guy," Sam muttered.

"Sam's right," Callen acknowledged. "It's not about stopping it. It's about knowing what we're up against."

"Let's go over them again," Nate suggested. "Just to be sure."

Kensi sank into a chair, her voice taking on a full-fledged whining tone. "Again?"

Hetty pulled herself up to her full height – such as it was – and turned to the lists. "Again."

"Fine," Callen said. He pointed to the first name on the list. "Kallen", he said.

"It's pronounced the same," Kensi said, in a tone that indicated that she'd mentioned that fact several times before. "It's confusing. People won't know if it's describing you or us."

"But it'll be written," Callen reminded her, as if he were speaking to a child. "So the 'K' will stand out."

The rest of the group shook their heads.

"Strike it, Mr. Beal," Hetty said. The name disappeared from the screen.

"OK," Callen said. "Then how about 'Calsi'?"

"Sounds like a part of the Califorina university system," Sam grumbled.

The team all nodded.

"Gone," Eric said, as he erased the name from the list.

"Nensi," Nate offered. "Or … 'Kate'?" He shrugged.

"Nensi … Sensi … doesn't matter," Sam said, frustration evident in his voice. "Either way it sounds like one of the evil hyenas in 'The Lion King'."

"Seriously," Deeks agreed. "And 'Kate' would just confuse people." Nate nodded.

"Could we drop my name for a little while and work on something else?" Kensi asked, eyebrows raised and annoyance in her voice.

"But you're the only girl," Eric said, almost apologetically.

"Thank you for that, Mr. Beal," Hetty said.

Eric blushed bright red as Callen and Sam exchanged amused looks. Deeks chuckled and tried to hide his laugh with a cough.

"O….kay," Eric said. "So … Callen and Hetty."

An alarmed look started to form on G's face, much to Sam's amusement.

"That would be … 'Getty'." Eric added the name to the list.

"There's already one of those in LA," Callen said with a touch of relief. "Not sure it would be right to hijack the name." He turned to Sam and whispered, "Not on a dare."

Sam chuckled as Hetty spun around. "I heard that, Mr. Callen," she said, the beginnings of a grin forming. "And you should only be so lucky."

Callen put his two hands over his heart, using his top hand to indicate his heartbeat.

"You could put her with me," Nate offered.

"That would be 'Hate', Mr. Getz," Hetty said, dismissively. "Which seems somewhat counter-productive." Kensi laughed.

"Or 'Netty'," Nate said, under his breath. "'Netty' isn't that bad."

Deeks sidled over to where Sam was standing and put his head on Sam's shoulder. "There's always you and me," Deeks said, in his worst flirty tone.

"Yeah," Sam snorted in reply. "We could be either 'Dam' or 'Seeks'. I don't see that workin' for us."

"I like 'Dam'," G said, exchanging an innocent look with Sam that made it seem as if he were actually considering it.

"Do not make me use the word as a verb," Sam said, threateningly. "Or you will be 'seeking' medical attention."

"What about me?" Eric said, nearly pouting. "No one's even mentioned me."

The group turned to see Eric, looking at them expectantly.

"Alas, Mr. Beal," Hetty said, apologetically. "Names that begin with vowels simply do not lend themselves to portmanteau."

"Well, it's not fair," Eric repeated as he spinned back to the console. He drew a large, crude "X" over the entire list on the screen. "The whole original cast has all these options," he continued. "They all fit so well and are so … perfect."

Callen, Sam and Kensi rolled their eyes. They'd heard this all before.

"They've got 'Gabby', 'Tabby' and 'Tibbs'," Eric counted them off on his fingers. "There's 'McAbby' … the nearly world-renown 'Tiva'… and even Kate (who, I might remind you all, is DEAD) has 'Kibbs' and 'Tate'." He threw up his hands. "Take any combination and you've got a cool little moniker for the fanfic people."

The team nodded in agreement, even though they knew there was nothing they could do to counter Eric's comments.

"But us," Eric continued. "Hottest new show of last season …"

The team looked quite pleased with themselves.

"… we can't come up with one workable pairing that can be used without having to explain it first." Eric looked around the Ops Center. Even the dozen nameless Ops Center extras were looking at him sympathetically. Eric stood and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" Nate called after him.

"I'm talking to Shane," Eric said as he disappeared down the hall. "Clearly, I need a new character name."

There was silence as everyone looked at each other, sighed and stretched a bit. They'd been working for hours and were ready to call it a night. Suddenly, Callen's face lit up and he ran for the door.

"What the … ?" Kensi said, as he rushed past her.

"Eric!" Callen called behind his comm tech. "Eric!"

Eric stopped just as he hit the edge of the set. "Yeah?" he said, looking up at Callen.

Callen looked down with an impish smile. "Ask him what the 'G' stands for, will ya?"

Eric smiled and nodded. "Will do," he said, serving up a mock salute as he disappeared into the backstage.

Callen walked back into the Ops Center, a sly smile on his face.

"He's not going to tell you, you know," Sam said with a smirk.

Deeks stepped forward, nodding. "Not unless this is our last season," he said.

"Which it most certainly is not," Hetty said as she walked towards the door.

"Because you know you're not finding out your name until the final episode," Kensi said, playfully punching Callen on the shoulder.

"I know," G said, following the rest of the group out of the room. "But you can't blame a guy for trying."