DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: T for Teen
PAIRING: N&Ms (Nick/Mandy)
PROMPT: Picture # 9 1Hour2Write January Picture Challenge
SUMMARY: Nick has a scare that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

A/N: This fic is the result of a writing exercise at the 1Hour2Write LJ Community. Feel free to try the exercises linked in my profile.

A/N2: Thanks to the brilliant and stunning Guerilla!Beta, the ending of this story was saved from total ruin.

REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.

Nick raced home so fast he was sure there would be a line of police cars behind him, but luck was on his side. There wasn't a lot left in this world that scared him, but the thought of someone he cared about being in danger was still at the very top of that short list. Hearing that Mandy had collapsed in the lab set his heart to pounding and he broke every traffic law on the books getting home to find her.

The first diagnosis was leukemia, and it left Nick feeling like the whole world was coming down around him. He praised every saint and god known to man when the tests came back negative and held Mandy in his arms well into the dawn of the next day. After several more batteries of tests they finally found the source of her illness. When the final verdict came down to nothing more than a really bad case of anemia, Nick thanked the doctor, all of medicine and every religious figure throughout history. And then he laid down the law with Mandy about her dieting.

For some reason she had been dieting ever since Christmas, and after a month of being scared out of his mind about her health, he was done being patient about it. After they got home from the clinic he sat her down and demanded to know exactly why she was so hell bent on making herself sick. When she finally told him the answer, he had to laugh. She was worried about being too fat in their wedding pictures.

Nick, always the black sheep in his family, solved the whole thing by herding her back into the car and heading straight for the strip. Before his next shift there was a ring on his finger, and they had a picture of the two of them wearing jeans and t-shirts with a breakaway tie around his neck and a borrowed veil on her head. The last thing anyone would pay attention to in their wedding picture was Mandy's weight.

It always surprised him when Mandy worried about her weight. It seemed like such a silly thing to concern herself with, especially when he loved her no matter what she looked like on any given day. He appreciated natural curves on a woman, and tried to make sure he told her as much. But six months later he noticed she wasn't eating again and he immediately became alarmed.

After Henry called to tell him Mandy had gone home early when she became light-headed, Nick asked Catherine to cover for him. He had reached the end of his patience and was prepared to confront her about his concerns. Stopping at the bakery to pick up some bagels, he then made a side trip to the florist for a nice bouquet. Nick knew he needed to deal with the whole mess, but he didn't want Mandy to think he was mad either.

He walked softly through the house, going from room to room, in search of his wife. Not finding her anywhere, he moved to the back door after noticing the dog scratching at the screen to go out. Just before he opened the door he looked out and found Mandy sitting on the deck, staring out into space.

Gently pushing the dog back, he slipped out through the screen door with the flowers still in his hand. Normally he would be completely taken by the sight of Mandy lounging in the sunshine, but there was a strange feeling in the air. There was a heaviness to her posture that worried him far more than anything to do with her eating habits.

One arm was draped over her middle, and her head was resting on the other one as it leaned on the back of the chair. She was obviously lost in thought. She didn't appear to notice his entrance, but the moment she spoke he knew she had heard him. Without turning away, she asked, "Was it Henry or Wendy?"

"Henry…" Just as he spoke, his cellphone began to ring. Looking down at the ID, he chuckled, "And Wendy."

Mandy shook her head as he dealt with their other worried friend. "Yeah, Wendy… It's okay, I'm home right now… Yeah, we'll talk later… Thanks."

She turned away from him as Nick closed up his phone. "They're just worried about you, Sweetheart."

"That's not the point." She rose slowly from the chair and picked up the plate of half eaten croissant beside her. Mandy continued to look away from him as she headed for the door.

He reached out with his free hand and stopped her from going inside. "What is the point, Mandy?" She sighed with his question, but still wouldn't meet his gaze. "Honey, you have to know…this isn't what I want."

Her eyes finally met his and what he found in them frightened Nick to the very core. "You don't?" The sadness in her stare made his heart clench into a tight fist.

Nick dropped the flowers from his grasp and wrapped his arms around Mandy in less than a second. "Of course not! My God, Mandy, the last thing I want is for you to hurt yourself anymore with these stupid diets. I wouldn't care if you were five hundred pounds, just as long as you were happy and right here in my arms."

When he felt her body begin to tremble, Nick first thought she was crying. But as her giggles reached his ears he became completely confused. He pulled Mandy back to look into her face and found a huge smile waiting for him.


Mandy only smiled broader at his confusion. She reached up and laid her hand on his cheek then she leaned in and said, "You're about get your wish." Shaking his head, Nick tried to make sense of her words.

She reached into her pants pocket and fished out a plastic rod. Holding it up for him to see, she smirked and said, "You're gonna have to put your money where your mouth is, Stokes, because I'm about to get a whole lot bigger." As she turned it around, Nick found a very clear plus sign staring back at him.

It took a few moments before the whole thing registered in his head; Mandy wasn't dieting, she had morning sickness. As the smile grew on his face, Nick's arms tightened around Mandy and he lifted her straight into the air. "Hot Damn!"

"Nick!" Mandy gave a delighted squeal as she clung to his shoulders. "Put me down!"

Slowly, Nick lowered her until her feet were on the ground. For a moment he simply stared at her, his eyes sparkling and his grin wide. Sobering, he ran a finger along her cheek. "Are you okay? I mean, you know, both of you…are you okay?"

"I think so. I mean, I thought I just had that stomach bug Henry had a couple weeks ago, but then it didn't stop." Mandy reached up and covered the hand he had resting by her ear. "When I got to the point that even thinking about food made me want to puke, I sort of suspected."

Shaking his head, Nick's soft smile met her answer. "Sort of?" The blush in her cheeks warmed his heart even more. "Don't you ever scare me like that again. My heart can't take it."

Searching his face, her eyes seemed to be looking for a clue to the emotions in his eyes. With a slow nod, Mandy quietly said, "Okay."

Nick chuffed out a laugh. Eyebrows going up, he asked, "Okay?"

Mandy grinned and looked up at him through her eyelashes. "Okay. I promise not to scare you into a heart attack." She brought his hands down to the soft curve of her stomach. "It might be nice to have you around for a while longer… You know, for diaper duty at least."