Not sure if/when this fits in the show's timeline. May be too AU because there's not enough awkward Eric/Nell in it. Definitely before kissy-fish.

10 days ago. 9:07am. OSP


"Hey," she replies, distracted, as she makes her way to her desk . "Sorry I'm late." The guilt over the pact they made just 3 days ago-coming in early and staying late until this case is closed—is evident on her face.

"No worries. Traffic?" Eric asks, always willing to be understanding.

The word makes her think of the women they haven't rescued. Nell pauses, locks eyes with him. Is this the moment? She pushes the thought away. I'm at work. Kensi is our priority now. Kensi, Sam, and the human trafficking operation they were hopefully going to end today.

"No. No traffic."

"Okay," he says, easily moving on. "The material you sent this morning is already on the boards for the briefing. Looks like Hetty and Callen were up all night too. Have you seen what they sent?"

"After 2am? No," she says standing and walking to one of the smart boards to review fresh intel. "Have you seen Marty yet?"

"Looks like someone kicked his dog."

His words, this sentiment, shock her out of the fog she's been in since her encounter in the laundry room this morning.

Hurt. Helplessness. Anger. Nell didn't pass Deeks on her way in, but she's certain Eric is right.

She rushes back beside him and leans in. "Listen Eric, Kensi and Sam come first. Getting them out of there and shutting this thing down is what I'm focusing on. Or will in about 30 seconds."


"But I need you to do a background check for me. Please?"

"You're pretty good at getting dirt, Nell. What kind of background check can I do that you can't?"

Nell gives Eric a look.

"Oh! You mean background, like a not-at-work background? So what, hack his computer? His phone? Who is this guy anyway? I'm guessing he's not an NCIS priority."

"Man. Early thirties. I'm texting you his picture now. His name is Mitchell Hardy. He lives in my building."

"So he's a Nell Jones priority?" Eric asks jovially, trying to cover his jealousy with teasing.

"He is now," she replies menacingly.

"Yeah," Eric holds up his phone showing he saw the picture. He tries to diffuse her tension with a joke, "This joker does not look like your type."

"Type! I don't have a type!" she exclaims with the first real smile she's had on her face in three days.

Nell feels like her life is a bad sit-com when Callen and Deeks choose this moment to storm into Ops.

Eric miraculously holds his tongue, but Nell doesn't miss the evil glint in his eyes or his comically pursed lips.

"We're all here. Let's just get started," Callen addresses his skeleton crew. He turns to the boards. "Where are we?"