Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS:LA or its characters…
Author's Note: So I couldn't leave last week's episode (Unwritten Rule ) alone. Yes, please, dearest tv series writers, more Callen and Nell interaction (doesn't have to be flirty or romantic, although I would quite enjoy that) and badass Nell.
The bar and grill is dimly lit but not yet vacant, though it's nearing closing time at about 3am. It's been a long, interesting day. Pretty standard as far as his life goes, but outside of the comfort zone for a couple of their people. One of whom he spots still perched on a stool at the bar. He thought she departed at the same time as the rest of their team, but her figure is unmistakable, looking like an illegally young patron with a fake ID as she slowly nurses a beer, the soft light making her auburn hair glow like a halo.
G Callen smiles to himself as he studies her, thinking of the incident she relayed to him earlier, about the old man on the scooter calling her a 'ginger bitch'. The 'bitch' part isn't amusing to him. Old man or not, he would've given the guy a stern talking to for calling Nell Jones such a name. But 'ginger'... not a common phrase in American slang, but an absolutely perfect descriptor of the young woman. Her hair isn't flamboyantly red, but a more subtle auburn hue, closer to that of ground ginger. And her personality isn't that unlike the spice. Seemingly smooth and comforting but with a subtle burning intensity. He honestly didn't think she would last in the beginning, but Nell Jones has more than proven herself and her fit with the Office of Special Projects. She's grown as an agent right before his eyes. He'd like to think he at least has had a little to do with it, but has to admit it's likely primarily Hetty's tutelage.
The smart, energetic young woman is looking a little down, which Callen admittedly doesn't like to see. His life isn't much to celebrate, so he tends to take joy in seeing his friends happy -and she is a friend, isn't she? Not just a coworker. He'd like to think so, anyway. And if they aren't really to the 'friend' state of the relationship, then he'll just have to do something about it, like try to cheer her up after a hard day.
So he grabs his nearly empty bottle, downs the last swig of beer, and leaves the table in the dark corner where he's been brooding. Honestly, he hasn't been purposely brooding. It's just something that sort of happens when he's alone, which, might as well face it, is a lot of the time.
"Rough day," he says after he places the empty bottle on the bar and asks the bartender for another. Nell looks up from her own slowly depleting supply of alcohol, and smiles tiredly.
"Yeah, I guess," she says. Callen frowns. She looks even more down than just the slumped posture indicated from across the room.
"I said it before, but I'll say it again. You did well today, Nell." Her smile brightens a little, but it's not quite the reaction he hoped for. "Are you rethinking your active field status?"
"No!" she says quickly, straightening on the stool and locking eyes with him. "It's not that." Her cheeks flush a little and she lowers her voice. "I actually enjoyed that part, the whole chasing down a suspect thing."
He feels his own grin broaden. "That's nothing to be embarrassed about, Nell. We're all adrenaline junkies. We have to be to do this job."
She nods, then returns her attention to the dark glass before her. His own fresh drink has arrived, so he takes a swig, letting the silence settle between them, testing it to see if it holds awkwardness or the more comfortable feel of friendship. It stretches on and he's happy to note that he doesn't feel compelled to fill it. He begins to study her again. She's still looking contemplative and a little sad. Obviously, he hasn't rooted out the issue that's nagging at her. What else did she have to deal with today? Besides cranky old geezer and bad traffic, and a confrontation with a suspect who assaulted her and tried to do a runner? Oh.
"Must have been a fun day fending off all those smitten..." Callen tries to think of a different term, one less derogatory, but can't. After all, they were clearly- "...nerds."
Nell laughs derisively.
"And then Eric showed up, too, didn't he?" Now Callen is beginning to see the problem. The technical operator has a painfully obvious crush on his partner, but as for Nell... she was definitely flirting with the notion for a while, but lately Callen has seen more than one look of frustration pass over her pretty face when Eric's feelings bleed through (more like spray all over the place like a giant, gaudy fountain).
Nell's forehead hits the bar with a thump. Callen is pretty certain the accompanying groan denotes her emotional state more than any pain associated with the act of cranium hitting hardwood.
"Why me?" she asks, sitting up once more and pinning him with a startling intense look, slightly accusatory, like he were personally responsible. Or maybe, just his being the nearest member of the male species has elected him spokesperson. He takes another, long, pull of his beer. This topic is now bordering on conversations girls have with one another. And not ones young women have with their older, male coworker. But hey, he wanted to be friends.
Okay, he didn't want to be friends this badly. So Callen plays it stupid with a shrug. Unfortunately this seems invitation to continue.
"Why do I attract the nerds?" she asks, her voice an exasperated quasi-whine in tone. She takes a breath, locks eyes with him again. Nell Jones does have lovely, expressive eyes. "Seriously. Why?"
He downs the rest of the bottle before placing it on the bar and turning back to Nell Jones. The girl hasn't figured it out yet. And he rarely gets to impart any wisdom he's learned in his screwed up life. So he might as well help a friend out... if he can.
"Ner-um- Guys like Eric," he says. "Not a lot of people get them, understand their interests, the way they think. You can."
Nell sighs. "True."
"And you're cute." This earns him a partial smile and a blush.
"And you carry a gun." This time he gets an eye roll.
"So then why do I only attract... um... guys like Eric?" she asks. And this he knows is her real problem, what has her sitting alone at a bar at 3 am, wondering what's wrong with her, when the answer to that is...
"Nothing is wrong with you, Nell," Callen says, being sure to hold her lovely hazel gaze. "And you don't only attract Guys like Eric."
She's giving him a look that says 'you're out of your mind.'
"You intimidate us."
Maybe he shouldn't have said us. But he did just down a beer in less than ten minutes after drinking fairly steadily for the entire night. And now Nell Jones is giving him a seriously incredulous, and slightly hurt look, as if he were mocking her.
"I'm serious, Nell Jones."
He probably shouldn't have placed his hand under her chin to force her to look up at him. Because her skin is so smooth and warm.
"Not only are you pretty, but you're tough. And intelligent. Too intelligent for some of us to handle."
"Some of us?" she asks, staring up at him with those damned big, piercing hazel eyes of hers. She's got to be drunk or pretty near it, but her eyes are as clear as ever.
"Yeah," he says absently, willing himself to remove his hand from her chin, his gaze from her face, and failing miserably. "Don't worry, Nell. You'll find someone who can handle you."
He really shouldn't be touching her face, staring into her eyes. And he really, really shouldn't be thinking about kissing her. But he hadn't been lying. More than just 'nerds' are attracted to intelligent women. God, did he ever have a thing for them. Smart women are just so goddamn sexy. Not really ever knowing what's going through their beautiful head, the mystery of them, the pride in being able to reach them, connect with them. But not Nell Jones. There will be no connecting with Nell Jones, beyond friendship. Even if he could handle her right and proper.
Thankfully, G Callen wins this battle, and breaks the moment, stepping back from the smart, cute girl... with a gun.
A/N: I tried to keep this straight friendship, but I just can't seem to resist throwing even just a hint of attraction in there, now can I?