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Ellie’s eyes feel as if they have cement embedded on top of them and she forces them open slowly, wincing as the bright light hits them. She squeezes her eyes shut almost instantly, twists her head away and presses it against something solid and warm and inviting. A deep breath tells her that whatever is solid and warm and inviting also smells damn good as well as damn familiar and she shifts against it, trying to get her bearings.

She’s lying down, she realises. But not in a bed, the surface underneath her is too hard for that. But she’s not entirely lying down because she can feel a pair of arms around her, propping her up. She frowns, trying to remember where she is and that’s when a hand starts to move across her hair.

“Hey, Ellie.” It’s Nick’s voice, soft and... a little worried? “Come on... open those eyes for me.”

It’s almost a plea and she’s never heard Nick sound like that in her life. She pulls in a deep breath, opens her eyes again and looks right into Nick’s dark eyes. He grins down at her, his fingers tightening in her hair and she can see the relief in his eyes. She runs her tongue along her lips, finds them dry and it’s hard to open her mouth, her voice only emerging as a whisper when she asks, “What happened?”

“You fainted.” She moves her head away from the warm, inviting pillow of Nick’s chest to look around, a sharp spike of mortification rising in her chest when she realises that she’s in the middle of the bullpen. That’s right, they’d all been in front of the screen, pooling their leads when she’d heard a faint buzzing in her head, had wondered if the monitor was malfunctioning. A look up and she sees McGee standing to one side of them, a concerned frown on his face. Gibbs is on the other side, face made of granite as always. Which is good; if Gibbs was looking concerned she might actually burst into tears of embarrassment.

“Straight into my arms,” Nick continues. “You know, if you wanted my attention, you didn’t have to go to such extremes.” He’s joking but she can tell it’s more for the benefit of Gibbs and McGee. She can see how he’s forcing himself to smile, can hear the “Please don’t ever scare me like that again,” in his voice. She really wants to lift her hand, touch his cheek to reassure him, let him know she’s fine, but they’re in the middle of the bullpen and she’s willing to bet that more than one pairs of eyes turned towards them when she went down. It’s probably why McGee and Tim are standing on either side of her, their version of a human fence - one glare from Gibbs and everyone would be back to their work in double quick time.

She settles for smiling at him, telling him softly, “I’m ok.” Placing one hand on the ground, she uses it to push herself up, but it’s Nick’s arm around her waist that does the bulk of the lifting. He keeps it there once she’s standing which proves to be a good thing because she wobbles on her feet, obviously enough that Nick tightens his grip on her with a, “Whoa,” and even Tim is reaching over to steady her.

“You guys, I’m fine,” she says again, even if she can tell that she’s leaning on Nick a little more than she usually would.

Nick who is staring at her with his brow deeply furrowed. She’d find it hilarious if she wasn’t so mortified. “Maybe we should call Ducky,” he says. “Or Jimmy.”

Ellie’s not able to look at him sharply, she’s rather afraid turning her head too quickly will knock her over again. She settles for turning it slowly, honing her glare. “I’m not dead, Nick.”

“I’m pretty sure they covered everything in medical school,” Nick counters. “It’s not like they stopped at cadavers...”

“Torres.” Gibbs stops him before Ellie can, barking out his name like an order that has Nick all but snapping to attention. “Take her home. I’ll see you both tomorrow.” Ellie opens her mouth to protest but a look from Gibbs has her snapping to attention too. “That’s an order, Bishop.”

Nick doesn’t speak again until they’re sitting in his car. Before he turns the key in the ignition, he looks at her. “We should get you to the doctor.”

Ellie lets her head fall back against the headrest. “I don’t need a doctor.”

“Emergency room, maybe. They might see you more quickly...” Nick continues like she hasn’t spoken and she reaches out, lays a hand on his wrist.

“Nick.” She can feel his pulse thrumming under her hand. “I don’t need a doctor.”

His head snaps around to look at her and when he speaks, his jaw is clenched tight so that she see him forcing the words out. “Healthy women don’t faint for no reason.”

A smile plays around her lips. “We both know I’m not sick.”

Nick, however, is as far from smiling as she’s ever seen him. “I know, I know, it’s a condition, not a disease, you’ve told me. But let me tell you, baby, that sounded a lot better before you were collapsing in my arms!”

Ellie hasn’t hear Nick use that particular tone of voice since Abby locked him in her coffin. He’s got the same wild look in his eyes now that he did then and she sighs as she slides her hand up his arm. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

Nick shakes his head, shifts in his seat so that he’s facing her. His hand covers hers and he squeezes her fingers tightly. “It happened so quickly... one minute we’re there in front of the screen and you’re laying out all the puzzles pieces and I’m looking at you, like, bam, that’s my badass wife and how lucky am I? Next thing I know, you’re white as a ghost and your eyes are rolling back...” He shudders, his voice trailing off. “I barely caught you in time.” His other hand cups her cheek. “Ellie, if something happens to you...”

“It won’t.” Her free hand goes to the back of his neck and she leans in to rest her forehead against his. Too late she remembers that Nick had already lost one woman that he loved, realises that of course he’d be terrified of that happening again. “It was just a sudden drop in blood sugar... take me home and feed me, I’ll be fine.”

Nick draws in a shaky breath. “You and your food,” he grumbles but she can see the beginnings of a smile there.

“Honestly I’m more worried about Tim and Gibbs,” she says, not moving, keeping her forehead resting against his. “Do you think they guessed?”

Nick straightens up, rolls his eyes. “They are trained investigators and they’ve both had kids,” he points out. “McGee’s probably already on the phone to Abby telling her she needs to start knitting some little Goth unicorn booties.” He moves his joined hands down to Ellie’s stomach, the grin that Ellie’s getting so used to spreading across his lips. “I think you can get used to being wrapped in cotton wool from here on out.”

Ellie feels an answering smile coming to her own lips. Somehow, that doesn’t sound so bad.