For Maira the Panda …


There was a sharp whistle from the Ops Center as the team returned from lunch. Callen tossed his keys on the desk, motioned to his team, and headed upstairs.

On the Ops Center screen was a familiar list of names and phrases, all crossed out with various colors of marker and levels of intensity.

Eric sat at his console, looking smug. "I've got one," he said, regarding the team one by one. "I have got one." He waited for reaction.

Almost as one, the team heaved a frustrated sigh.

"Really?" Kensi said, rolling her eyes at Sam.

Deeks hung his head and looked at Eric. "Dude … that is old, old news. We finished – and I stress the word finished – this discussion four days ago. Let it go."

"Seriously, Eric," Callen said, trying to be nice. "Drop it. There's more important stuff to do."

Sam shook his head in silence, glanced at Nate and Kensi, and the three of them headed for the door.

"Don't you even want to hear it?" Eric said, with an air of mystery. "You're not even interested?" He grinned at Callen, who leaned back against the document table. Callen knew the others would come back. They wouldn't be able to NOT know.

Sam, Kensi and Nate sighed again and then turned back to the center of the room.

"You guys are so weak," Deeks said, shaking his head.

"Alright, Mr. Beal," Hetty said, entering the room. "We're all here … please enlighten us with your discovery."

Eric turned to the console and hit a few keys on the keyboard. The word "NaKed" came up in huge letters.

"Excuse me?" Kensi said, raising her eyebrows.

"Yeah … that," Deeks agreed.

Sam shook his head. "I should've just kept walking."

"Explain, Eric," Callen said – the order coming out more as a question.

"Nate plus Kensi," Eric said, clearly proud of himself. "NaKed." He smiled.

Nate and Kensi glanced at each other and then at the word on the screen.

"Oh … no way," Kensi said, hands out in front of her as if she were pushing something away. Then, quickly, looking back at Nate, "No offense."

"None taken," he said. "I'm right there with you."

Kensi turned front again and then quickly turned back to Nate. She opened her mouth to speak.

"Kenz," Callen interrupted. "Choose your words very very carefully …"

Kensi paused, closed her mouth and nodded, returning her gaze to the screen.

"There's no 'D' in Kensi," Sam said flatly. "No 'D' in Nate either."

"So it seems, Mr. Hanna," Hetty agreed.

"Actually," Callen added helpfully, "none of our names – first or last – contain even a single 'D'."

"Nice try, Mr. Beal," Hetty said, "and points for creativity, but we are still at zero it would seem."

She patted Eric on the shoulder and walked out of the room. The rest of the team smiled apologetically at Eric and turned to leave.

Quietly Eric said, "Deeks."

The team stopped and turned back, almost in unison.

"What?" Callen said.

"Deeks," Eric repeated. "Deeks has a 'D'."

Callen, Sam, Kensi and Nate all turned to look at Deeks, who suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable with all the attention. He chuckled nervously.

"New guy has a 'D'," Sam said. It wasn't a threat, but it sounded like it could have been.

There was a long pause before Nate spoke. "So," he said. "What exactly does that mean? In this context?"

"Well," Eric said, a bit confused. "I'm not sure, really. I just … well … 'naked' was too good not to use, y'know? So … I mean … um …"

"It means Nate, Kensi AND Deeks," Kensi said, a somewhat shocked and disapproving look on her face. Nate and Deeks glanced at each other and then both turned to Kensi.

"And that would be a 'no'," Kensi said, turning on her heel and quickly exiting the Ops Center.

Sam and Callen looked at each other and grinned as they walked out, leaving Nate and Deeks standing alone by the table.

"That was a pretty solid 'no', wasn't it," Nate said, with just a hint of disappointment in his voice.

"Yeah," Deeks said. "Pretty solid."

The two stood in uncomfortable silence. After a couple of beats they both gave a little laugh and made quick excuses to leave.

"I have some paperwork …" Nate said and headed out to the right.

"Weapons orientation …" Deeks said, pointing in the general direction of the shooting range as he headed out to the left.

Eric looked at the now empty room, the word "NaKed" still up on the screen.

"I bet they don't have these problems on 'The Big Bang Theory'," he said as he turned to his computer and got back to work.

- END -