Disclaimer: I own nothing but an over active imagination
Eric Beale whistled as he walked down the dark halls of the NCIS' Office of Special Projects Headquarters, clutching a cup of coffee and a bundle of files. He loved this time of morning; no one was there. It was just after his sunrise surf and just before the morning rush – the lull between the high and low. It meant that no one irritated him with stupid questions or annoyed him about his lack of regard for the dress code. He could have time to think (and maybe check facebook, twitter and tumblr). He just had to burn the confidential files and then he had one whole hour free.
His whistle bounced off the walls and echoed back at him. Anyone not used to the lower levels of the Mission would be unnerved but Eric practically lived there. His Ops room saw more of him than his apartment. He shifted the half full coffee mug into the hand holding the files and opened the door.
A petite red head looked up at him from her seat on the floor. "Eric?" Nell Jones asked, with a confused expression. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question," His green eyes darted around the small disposal room, taking in the sea of paper that literally covered the floor.
She shrugged sheepishly, "I'm trying to organise some things and everyone keeps interrupting so I hid in here."
"Is it morning?"
He sighed then shoved the files into the furnace, sliding the creaking door open and shut quickly. "You need this more than I do," He handed her his coffee.
"Eric…" She didn't know what to say.
"I would tell you that staying up all night working is bad but-"He held up a hand when she went to cut him off, her expression irked. It was their sign to let the other speak and had been since he'd worked out her tendency to finish his sentences. "That would be hypocritical, so I won't say anything."
She smiled brightly at him, brown eyes sparkling. "Thanks." She took a sip and moaned in delight, "You have no idea how much I needed this."
"Oh but I do," He nodded as if emphasising the countless memories of late nights and early mornings spent working. "But I do."
"Still, you didn't have to,"
"My mother raised a gentleman," He shrugged off her thanks. She was his partner; partners looked after each other. Eric glanced down at the papers, "Wouldn't it be easier to use a computer?"
"It would," Nell agreed, bobbing her head. "But Hetty is old school – there needs to be a paper copy of everything."
"Think of the trees,"
"Yeah, you can tell Hetty that,"
He balked at the thought. However absent their boss was at the moment, she was still scarier than an invading army. In fact, Henrietta Lange would probably scare the invading army into retreating. "I'll pass on that," Eric said after a moment. He leant down to pick up a piece of paper, "Do you want some help?"
She grabbed it out of his hands, moving at lightning speed. "I can't." Nell looked up at him, her eyes gazing at him apologetically. She couldn't let him see what she was working on.
"It's okay," He held up his hands. "I'll leave you to it then," He straightened and stepped towards the door, opening it. "Come visit me in Ops when you're done. Your computer's getting cobwebs."
"I feel like I haven't been up there in weeks," She sighed, resting her head on the wall behind her.
"Hasn't changed much," He told her with a little shrug. "Hunter's just stricter than Hetty with some things."
"I heard she won't let you whistle anymore."
"Apparently it's a violation of Health and Safety – whistling is noise pollution and disrupts the working environment."
"That's a bit…" Nell trailed off, unable to come up with a word.
"Stupid," Eric supplied bitterly. "It's not about to make people deaf and it's not like we ever do anything normal around here anyway."
"And it's nicer than just yelling at everyone," He continued his tirade, letting his frustration. "And everyone recognises it – they all know what it means."
"Come forth and be amazed by your brilliance," Nell guessed, smiling ruefully.
"Yes," He straightened his glasses. "And yours too. It's just a stupid rule."
"But it's a rule nonetheless and complaining about it, Mr Beale, will not change my mind," Lauren Hunter, their acting boss, said as she paused by the door. "And you're needed in Ops. We have a case that needs immediate attention. You can catch up with Miss Jones later," With that, the tall brunette turned on her heel and ambled back to her temporary office.
Eric frowned, "Why am I the one that always gets into trouble?"
"You're not," Nell said, trying to cheer him. "She doesn't get on with Callen either."
"Yeah, I guess. You're just lucky that you have immunity."
"You're Hetty's minion," Eric clarified colourfully. "You're untouchable."
She frowned a little at the description, "I'm not a minion. I'm just-"
"Doing what Hetty tells you, I know," He finished her sentence and shrugged. "I'll just be glad when she's back."
Nell looked down at the mountains of paper that surrounded her, "You and me both." Then maybe she could go back to her real job- and her partner.
"Mr Beale!" Hunter's shout echoed down the hall.
"See, in this case, a whistle would have been nicer," Eric backed out the door, grinning at he as he spun on his flip flops and walked back to Ops.
Nell smiled and shook her head at him before taking a sip of his coffee and going back to work.
It was lunchtime when Nell walked into the Ops Centre. "Hey," She greeted, walking over until she was standing at his shoulder.
He grunted in reply then blinked when he saw her reflection on his screen, "Hey." Eric brightened a little. "You wouldn't happen to know who runs the charity gala thing that's on tonight, would you?" He turned and gave her his most imploring look.
Rolling her eyes a little, Nell leant over him and typed into his computer. "How have you managed without me for three months?"
"Thank you," He gasped as his answer filled the screen. "That's the guy we want."
"So the charity thing is just a front?" She guessed, straightening up.
"Yep," He nodded, rapidly typing. "Bill Linus. Gets navy weapons from his petty officer sons and sells them on the black market. Hunter's tracked him from Europe."
"Interesting," Nell studied the face on the big screen. "He doesn't look like an arms' dealer." The man was in his 60's with wispy white hair and a gentle smile.
"They never do," Special Agent G Callen strode into the room, his partner, Sam Hanna, on his heels. "So it's definitely his party then?"
"Yep," Eric nodded, hitting a button and bringing up the guest list on the big screen. "And you now have two tickets." Nell moved out of the way so the others could see; it was their operation after all.
"Two?" Sam queried. "I thought Callen was going in alone."
"Ah, Hunter told me to buy two." Eric said nervously. "Was I not supposed to?"
"You were," Hunter walked in. "You'd never get in by yourself, Agent Callen. No one goes to those things alone. You'd stand out if you went without a date."
"But Kensi's already been seen by Linus so she's out. And as long as Deeks' hair is, he won't pass for a girl," Callen argued with her, blue eyes flashing with anger. He did not like being told what to do and he abhorred people going behind his back to get their way.
"Miss Jones," Hunter turned to the younger woman, "You're cleared for field work, aren't you?"
Nell blinked, feeling like she was missing something. "What?"
A/N: This is a friendship/pre-ship fic. As cute as they would be together, I don't think it will be happening for a long time and they are adorable as friends (or at least I think so). Anyway, reviews are Oreos.