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running neck and neck

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Nick loves his job, loves being an NCIS agent. He loves chasing down bad guys, loves how every day is something new and his team are awesome, which always helps.

But Nick does not love being an NCIS agent when they’re in the middle of a big case that requires inter-agency co-operation. Mostly because the other agencies don’t always co-operate and that’s just a recipe for raising Gibbs’s blood pressure. And if Gibbs isn’t happy, it goes without saying that none of them are happy either.

And considering that the new partner of Gibbs’s favourite frenemy, FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell, happens to be an enormous dick, Gibbs is definitely not happy. With the case going badly, he is also grumpy, tired and frustrated which means that Nick is also all of those things.

Not even the fact that the case involves the NSA and that their resident expert is NSA analyst, Ellie Bishop, a.k.a. Nick’s best friend, wife and love of his actual life, and he gets to look across the bullpen and see her every second of the day, can lift his mood.

In fact, it’s what actually turns into the straw that broke the camel’s back.

To be fair, it’s not Ellie’s fault. No, it’s all the fault of Special Agent Kyle Harper, who’s probably as frustrated as any of them but who, as has already been stated, is a complete dick. Ellie’s explaining the implications of some of the chatter the NSA have picked up regarding Benham Parsa and the Brotherhood of Doubt, but whatever she’s saying, Agent Harper does not want to believe it.

They know that because his exact words as they discuss it are, “So, we’re just taking the word of NSA Barbie over there?”

For a split second, there is silence in the squad room. McGee’s face is twisted in a wince while Gibbs’s is perfectly neutral. Ellie’s lips are pressed together and Tony shakes his head as he tuts. “Oh, you’re gonna regret saying that.”

Nick can just about hear Tony’s words over the rush of blood roaring in his ears. Harper looks confused suddenly and realisation hits Nick like a two by four - Harper doesn’t know that he and Ellie are married.

Not that ignorance is any excuse.

Nick steps closer to Harper, who looks more alarmed than confused now, looks to Fornell as if for help. Fornell just purses his lips and takes a giant step away from him. “Oh, you’re on your own,” he says and he doesn’t sound unhappy about it. For the first time, Nick wonders if he shares the NCIS opinion about his partner.

He doesn’t dwell on that though. “That woman’s name,” he says, “is NSA Analyst Ellie Bishop. She happens to be one of the best people they have over there and she’s smart enough to raise the IQ of any room she’s in by a long way... that includes this one, despite your valiant attempt to lower the average.” He pours all the scorn he can possibly muster into his speech. It’s a lot. Harper opens his mouth to try to bluster; Nick doesn’t let him. “And even if that wasn’t true, she would still be a person worthy of respect. To say nothing of being my wife.” Harper’s jaw drops and the level of “oh shit” in his eyes makes Nick wish he had a camera. “So you keep her name out of your mouth unless you’re talking about her with respect. Do we understand each other?”

He’s standing toe to toe with Harper now and the other man takes a step back, looks between Gibbs and Fornell. “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?”

Fornell just nods. “Yep.” He pops the last letter with almost glee and that settles it for Nick. This guy hates his partner.

Gibbs, on the other hand, steps forward and says something completely different, in a voice that brooks no argument. “I’ve heard enough. This ends now. We’re all tired, frustrated. Take a break, go home, get some sleep. We’ll reconvene in the morning.”

Harper opens his mouth, looking for all the world like he’s going to protest but Fornell clasps him by the shoulder, curls his fingers and grips so tightly that his knuckles turn white. “Quit while you’re behind,” he orders, steering Harper towards the elevator.

Nick doesn’t take his eyes off them until he hears the ding that signifies the doors are closed behind them. “Good riddance,” he mutters, turning to find Ellie standing beside him. “Look,” he says, getting in before she can yell at him, “I know you’re an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to fight her battles for her, but you can’t expect me to sit there and let him talk about you like that.”

Ellie’s smile is fond, even if he can see a touch of exasperation around the edges. “You think I haven’t heard stuff like that before?”

Just like that, the roaring is back in Nick’s ears and he swears he can feel his blood pressure rising. “Well then, I’m going to need names so I can pay them a visit.”

“The only place you’re going is home, Torres.” Gibbs still has the he who must be obeyed tone going on. “And tomorrow when we’re back here-”

“I’m not apologising to him.”

For once, Nick doesn’t feel bad about interrupting Gibbs. Gibbs, however, is still not a fan of it. “Did I ask you to?” He bites the words off and Nick is taken aback. “Tomorrow, we work the case. No personal stuff. Am I clear?”

Nick wants to snort with derision. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Ellie cross her arms over her chest, send a glare his way. He gives her a quick glance, just to be sure, and when he is, he forces himself to nod. “Yes, Sir.”

Gibbs blinks and Nick figures that he’s actually surprised his boss. Then Gibbs looks from him to Ellie and back and something happens that rarely does.

Gibbs smiles.

“You have this effect on him all the time? We might have to keep you.”

He sounds highly amused and when Ellie shrugs and says, “Hardly ever. But hope springs eternal,” Gibbs actually chuckles.

“I knew I liked you.” Nick’s not sure if Gibbs is talking to himself or them, either way, unlike Harper, he’s going to quit while he’s ahead. Or at least running neck and neck.

“C’mon,” he says. “Let’s go.”

The others let him and Ellie head for the elevator alone and when they’re inside, away from prying eyes, Ellie steps forward, into his personal space, presses her chest against his. “You don’t have to fight my battles for me,” she tells him, a smile on her face and a look in her eyes that promises only good things for him. “But I do like watching you do it.”

She lifts herself up onto her tiptoes, brushes her lips over his in a brief kiss. He grins as he pushes a lock of hair back behind her ear. “Oh, you do, huh?” he chuckles, letting his fingers linger on her cheek. “Good job you’re stuck with me then.”

Elevator or not, he kisses her properly then, lets himself get lost in the taste and feel of her until the sound of the bell and the judder of halting movement brings him back to reality. Hand in hand, they walk to the car and if he breaks a couple of speed limits to get them home quicker, he thinks it was totally worth it.