Author's Notes – I hold no rights to the characters of NCIS:LA.

This is a sequel to my story What Now. I suppose it is possible to read this one without the background offered in the first story, but I think it will be a struggle to understand some of the underlying issues that will be addressed.

I had a couple requests for a sequel but when I completed that story I had no intention of continuing the piece. However, that has apparently changed! I have been tinkering with this notion for the last couple weeks, but wasn't sure I wanted to venture forward. I wanted to write a story that touches on the idea of finding footing in a relationship where one person comes from a not so storybook background in regards to love. Rather than starting from scratch, it seemed to make more sense to build on the one story I have written that meets that criteria! So, here we go!

I am really excited to see where this goes. The first chapter turned out to be much longer than I typically write, so I decided to break it up into two parts. As always, please feel free to offer comments and suggestions. I love getting the feedback and it really does help to guide the story in some ways.

Additional note – I am returning to writing! I have not looked at this story (or any of mine) for quite a long time. I spent the afternoon re-reading this and remembered how much I loved the idea! I pulled the original posting of this story and I am replacing it with this one. For those who read the story the first time, it is essentially the same. I tweaked a few sections and corrected some missed errors. I do my own proofreading, so any mistakes are mine. I also broke the original chapter one into two parts.

Please read and review. Offer suggestions and let me know what seems to be working and what doesn't seem to be working! If you see a variance that does not make sense, please let me know. I promise you that I have made technical errors in past stories and I am always impressed when they are brought to my attention. If I did indeed mess up, then I will personally own up the mistake and congratulate anyone who finds the error!

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"It's only been a week, G."He says the words like they offer a valid explanation for everything. Honestly, they should explain everything. A week of relative calm. In between the moments of panic and the nightmares. Moments of normalcy. Easy laughter. Banter and teasing. Moments of reflection. Of learning to trust it's over. He can't hurt her anymore. The hold that had been placed on her all those years is now gone. No reason to fear.

Except she is afraid. It seems more so than when everything was actually happening. She seemed fearless then. The things she did. The way she lured the man out. Put herself on the line. That took more guts than he had ever recalled seeing from anyone. When she burst into the interrogation room and took Kensi's gun. Held it in her hands ready to end his life. Ready to erase him from the planet. To take someone's life. Even if the man deserved it, he knew what that would do to her in the end. Once she realized what she had done.

It was shock. He is aware of that. The majority of her actions during the investigation were due to shock. The way she disconnected. It was a means to an end. A way to survive. He knows that. Everyone knows that. The question is where do they go from here. It's the first time he has left her side since he walked back into the safe house that night.

In the moments that followed her breakdown, Callen struggled to reach her. Struggled to get her to hear him and make her understand just how much he needed her to fight. To let him in. To trust him. And she did let him in. At least a touch. She still has never spoken about Herrold. Told him what happened. He wonders if she ever will. She doesn't flinch when he touches her now. But only if she knows he is there. There have been a couple times where he thought she sensed his presence, but the violent recoil of her body made him realize he had taken her by surprise. Now, he makes sure to let her know he is in the room if she doesn't acknowledge him first.

She spends hours playing the piano. It really does seem to have some sort of cathartic effect on her soul. He never interrupts her when she is playing. Or singing. He just listens. Takes in the words of the songs. The feel of melody. It seems to be the one thing that calms her completely. He fights to not be jealous of the way everything melts away when the music is flowing from her fingertips. No matter how irrational his jealousy is, it just seems unfair that it isn't him that can calm her like that. Which is why he is here. With Sam.

"I know, Sam. I just wish there was more I could do for her." He pulls the cup to his lips and takes a slow sip as he stares out at the people walking around outside the coffee shop.

"What else could you do, G." The look his partner gives him makes the larger man realize just how serious he is. He really doesn't think he is doing enough to help her. "C'mon, man. You haven't stepped foot back at OSP since the night we caught Herrold. You aren't leaving her side. You aren't working. I doubt you are even sleeping." Catching the look from Callen. "Fine, sleeping less than you already do. Which isn't a hell of a lot anyway." Locking eyes with him, "What else is there for you to do?"

Breaking the contact, Callen takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. "I don't know. I honestly don't." He takes another sip of the beverage before re-establishing the eye contact. "It just doesn't seem like enough. She spends more time playing the piano than anything. And the words she sings have got to be some of the saddest ones I have ever heard." He shifts uncomfortably as the feeling that he is revealing too much of her story with Sam threatens to silence him. But, damn, he needs to talk to someone. "The first couple days, I thought it was a good idea. I remember her playing during the investigation and it calmed her. Took her to a place that seemed to ground her." He stops talking and closes his eyes as he leans his head back against the booth behind him.

Sam's voice interrupts, "And now?"

He straightens his head and looks at his partner, "I don't know Sam. Now I'm not so sure. She is talking less over the last couple of days. The glimpses I had been seeing of Nell are fading again. The more she plays, the more she slips into her head."

Sam contemplates for a moment before continuing. "Maybe Hetty is right Callen." He waits for Callen's expression to change as his brain comprehends what Sam is saying.

Callen shakes his head. "No, Sam. Hetty is not right. Nell does not need to be shipped off." Sam's mouth starts to move and Callen puts his hand up to stop the words. "Even if it is to spend some time with Nate."

Not deterred by his partner's discomfort with the idea, "It's Nate. Nate." Callen refuses to look at him. "You know what I think." His partner locks eyes with him. "I think Nell leaving to stay with Nate is more about you than her. And that is a really dangerous game to play, G."

Callen starts to open his mouth and then stops. Damnit. Sam's right. He knows he is. Callen is being selfish in that regard. He can't imagine Nell gone. Even if it is with someone he trusts explicitly. Knows won't hurt her. Would protect her with his own life. Callen isn't so sure he can handle letting Nell walk away not knowing if she will come back. What if she goes and realizes that this life isn't for her. Realizes that being with the team is more than she can handle. Being with him is more than she can handle.

The two men finish their drinks in silence as Sam gives Callen the time to process what needs to happen. For both their sakes. Nell needs to work through what happened to her; the past and the present traumas. Sam knows there is no way the two of them can embark on a healthy relationship if they try to put the past back in some box. It will only be a matter of time before the box explodes and then they will both be irreparably damaged. As much as he knows Callen is scared of losing Nell, Sam knows not dealing with the reality of what they are facing is a death sentence.

The processing is interrupted by the distinctive tone of Sam's phone. He answers it quickly having already surmised who it is from the ringtone. Callen laughs as Sam nods in all the right places and fights the eye roll that is threatening to break through. "Yes, Michelle. I remember. I will stop on the way home." And there's the eye roll. "No, I won't forget." After a few more words of confirmation, Sam hangs up the phone to a rather amused Callen. "Not a word, G." Seeing the smaller man move to speak, "Your time will come, man. I'm warning you. That whole thing about karma is true you know."

Callen simply laughs in response as the two men rise from their chairs. Tossing a couple dollars on the table for the waitress, they move out the doors and towards their cars. Stopping at Sam's car, Callen turns to give the large man a hug before making his way to his own car. Pulling out his phone, he checks for messages he already knows won't be there. Fighting the urge to call and check on her, Callen pulls out into traffic and heads towards the store. Maybe a change in tactics will help pull Nell out of this place she has landed. He smiles as he walks through the doors of the local market to gather the necessary ingredients for dinner.