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
SPOILERS: Post Ep for S10XE18
PAIRING: N&Ms (Nick/Mandy)
SUMMARY: Nick has to answer one of life's little mysteries.

A/N: I've been watching last season to get ready for the next and I decided there needed to be more N&Ms. This is the result. All errors belong to me, because I wasn't about to make any betas sort through my mad wanderings this time. That...and it's been a really busy summer for all of us.

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.

Thankfully, it was a quiet afternoon. After a solid week of back to backs and being short-handed thanks to the Professor's run in with Dr. Jeckyll, Nick was more than ready for a nice quiet afternoon, just hanging out at home with nothing to do and nowhere to be. The only thing keeping it from being a perfect day was waking up to a cold bed.

Nick supposed he should just be grateful not to be surrounded by puking police officers. And that led him to the next order of business; food. He crawled out from under the covers and eventually made his way to the kitchen in search of sustenance.

With paper in hand, Nick carried his breakfast to the living room. He was going to take advantage of his down time with the sports page and then a little bit of X-Box mayhem. He was two articles in on the upcoming NFL draft and he was already tired of reading about the great Tim Tebow. He set the finished plate down on the coffee table and then turned to the side and pulled his feet up to rest on the couch. Sinking down into the extra soft comfort of his overstuffed sofa, Nick felt totally relaxed. From his randomly tousled hair, to his tattered Rebels baseball t-shirt, to his favorite pair of gym shorts, Nick was the absolute picture of relaxation and comfort.

The same could not be said of the fuming little spitfire who burst in through the front door. "That's it! I'm done! I am never again going to get talked into participating in another of David Hodges' exercises in self-promotion! The guy's a freakin' menace."

"Is that where you've been?" Nick looked up from his paper and then had to restrain his laughter at what he saw. Mandy was wearing a pair of rolled up, way too big fieldwork coveralls, her "butt kicking" boots, a yellow safety helmet, and a very sour expression. Struggling to hold back the giggles, Nick asked, "What in the world are you wearing?"

Mandy dropped her oversized purse on the floor and gave an exasperated sigh. "Because I don't weigh twenty pounds, the only coveralls I could find and get into were Riley's old ones, and apparently she was a lot taller than I remembered." Mandy put her hands on her hips to exaggerate the point and Nick could see the rolls at her ankles and wrists.

Seeing his little Mandy with those coveralls all bunched up around her was more than Nick could take, and he burst into a fit of laughter. When he felt Mandy's red hot glare burning into his face he put his hands up and tried to get control of himself again. "I'm sorry, honey, but that's funny."

It was obvious to him that Mandy did not agree when she huffed out of the living room, but not before she stopped to throw a loose pillow at his head.

Once he recovered his faculties, Nick jumped up from the couch and went looking for Mandy. Eventually he found her in the bedroom, dejectedly staring at her appearance in the full length mirror. He tried to slip in behind her, but she spotted him right away and moved out of his reach. "C'mon, Mandy," he said with a little pout for effect.

"Don't even try any of that Texas charm on me, Nick Stokes. I am not amused." She kept her back to him and disgustedly tossed the safety helmet to the floor, which left her hair coming out in spikes around her mangled ponytail.

Nick realized there was something more serious if Mandy was that bothered. He moved to stand behind her once again and put a soft hand on her shoulder. "Why don't you sit down? I'll help you with those ugly boots."

With a heavy sigh, Mandy turned and dropped to the edge of the bed. "Thanks."

Dropping to one knee, Nick grabbed Mandy's right foot and rested it on his belly as he unlaced the work boot. "For a woman who normally has such great taste in footwear, why in the world would you buy such ugly looking boots?"

Mandy shrugged a little and said, "Something that ugly, you don't care what filth gets all over them. And besides, they're really comfortable for standing in without having to use three sets of insoles, so I didn't have to get them two sizes too big."

Smiling as he pulled the shoe off of her foot, Nick had always been oddly turned on by Mandy's little feet in those big wooly bully socks. He looked up at her through his eyelashes and caught her in mid-grin and full blush. "You're a sick man."

"Hey, it's not every woman whose guy thinks her comfy clothes are sexy." Nick waggled his eyebrows to add an even more suggestive tone to the simple gesture. He knew she was feeling better when she rolled her eyes at him, but the blush continued to grow on her cheeks and her neck was flushed, too.

Nick moved to the other foot and started in on the laces when he asked, "So, you gonna tell me what's bothering you now?"

"It's stupid." He watched her shoulders tighten again and he knew that even if she thought it was stupid, it still bothered her, and that made him want to fix it.

"Stupid or not, it's got you all tied up, so why don't you just tell me what it is and we'll deal with it together?" Nick had her other shoe off and he was gently stroking her ankle with his thumb as he spoke.

When she continued to stare at the small space between them, Nick closed the gap as he stood on his knees between her legs and then reached in to left her chin. "I'm not goin' anywhere until we clear whatever this is up."

Mandy gave him that gentle little smile, with just a touch of tremble to show that she was still unsure, and it melted his heart. Nick had spent a considerable amount of time cataloging all of Mandy's smiles. The goofy ones, the laughing ones, the sexy ones, and even the sad ones. It was one of the sad ones she was using now. His hand moved from her chin to softly stroke her hair and he leaned his head in to rest on her forehead. "What is it?" his voice was barely over a whisper.

"You'll laugh." Nick shook his head slightly. Mandy, the girl who loves to make people laugh, is also the girl who never wants to be laughed at, and it's just one of the many reasons he fell for her.

"Not like it hasn't happened before," he was rewarded with the hint of chuckle, so he went on, "and that's gotta be better than keeping this all balled up inside and letting it turn your face into a foot."

She heaved a dramatic sigh and pushed Nick out of the way when she stood up and started pacing. "I know it's stupid, especially given the circumstances, and why this got into my head in the first place, I don't know, but it's there and it's stupid and it's just poking at me."

Nick only got up and plopped himself down on the edge of the bed to wait it out. He knew that once Mandy started in on one of her rants there was really no point in trying to interrupt her. He just had to wait until she wound herself down at the end of the long string she had to pull in order to get where she was going.

"I mean seriously…why does it matter?" Even though she stopped and looked directly at him, Nick knew the question was not meant for him, so he just sat there. "It matters because I never got to be that girl. What's so wrong with me that this never happens to me? Okay, so I'm not tall and brooding, so I'm not bubbly and all kinds of hot, does that really mean I'm not worth it?" She spun around and glared at Nick and he knew he was probably getting ready to take on the responsibility of every male on the planet. "Well, does it?"

He was about to try stumbling through some kind of defense, even if he had no idea what she was actually talking about, but instead Mandy threw her hands up and gave a dissatisfied growl. "I just don't get it. Not once in my whole life has it ever happened. Not once! So, what's a girl gotta do to get guys to fight over her? Does she have to be stupid, or helpless, or what? What is it that makes guys DO that?"

Nick was dumbstruck for a full thirty seconds before he was able to say anything. Shaking his head in an attempt to clear the fog, he asked, "Who's fighting over who? And why the hell are you trying to get anyone to fight over you?"

Stopped cold in her tracks, Mandy spun around to clarify her rant. "I'm not trying to get anyone to fight over me. I don't even want it…not really. But it, you know, might have been nice…to be that wanted…just once." The more she spoke, the redder Mandy's cheeks got, and Nick couldn't help but smile widely as the full realization of what she had just said dawn on her. "Oh God… How pathetic is that?"

She turned away and started for the bathroom, but Nick was instantly on his feet and captured her in his arms. "Oh no, you're gonna have to let me enjoy this part." As she feigned an attempt to break free from his grasp, Nick only rocked her back and forth, laughing the whole time.

"Come on, Nick."

"Nope, I am not lettin' you go until we have this out." She turned in his arms until they were facing each other. Facing each other as best as they could anyway, with Mandy's face hiding in his chest. "So, who's fighting over who at the lab this time?"

"Whom," her muffled reply came back.

"Don't even go there. My English was just fine…now, answer the question." Nick could never resist a chance to torment her about the use of proper English, no more than she could resist correcting him. "Spill it."

Once again her muffled words eked out, "Hodges and Henry."

"What? Were they fightin' over who was the bigger Momma's Boy?" He delighted in the giggle he could feel against his chest.

"No, but that's probably next." It was Nick's turn to chuckle. Mandy had those two figured out down to the letter, and he loved all the snarky little jokes she made about them when they were out of ear shot.

"So, then who were they fightin' over? You know, other than the express delivery chick bringin' in the state test results." The two lab techs had been having a war for more than a year over which one of them was getting to the front desk to sign for express deliveries. That was when old Simon retired and his replacement was a six foot Scandinavian goddess in blue shorts, with a scanner holster, named Kirsten.

"Who do you think?" The disgusted tone of her voice told Nick everything: Wendy.

"Okay, I get it." Startled she looked up at him from his chest. "Those two idiots are falling all over themselves because of Wendy? And now you're in a snit because they didn't do the same to you?"

"Well, when you put that way, it sounds silly." Nick grinned to see the goofy look on her face.

"All right, then let me put it this way. You want Momma's Boy Number One, with the hypochondria out the wazoo and the personality of a cold sore to fight with Momma's Boy Number Two, who's such a tight-ass he squeaks when he walks and thinks a good time is sorting his socks into a color wheel, to impress you so that they could try to win your heart, or whatever? Seriously?" The blush in her cheeks had changed to crimson with his description.

"Well, not exactly."

"And you want to know what it is that Wendy's got that makes these mouth-breathers scrape and fawn for her affections? Wendy? The chick who can't seem to figure out where she wants to be, and flits around the lab without ever realizing that Sanders, Archie, Hodges, Roy in accounting, apparently Henry, and Phil in the motor pool have all been after her since about day freakin' one. That's who you want to be like?" Nick laid it all out on the line for her.

"She's not that bad."

"Whatever." Nick rolled his eyes at her weak defense. "Guys have to fight over girls like that, because it's the only way they can know where they stand with them."

"Okay, then where does that leave me?" He gave her an incredulous glare and she rolled her eyes. "Right, other than the obvious." She looked down between them. "But where am I on this grand scale of yours?"

"On my grand scale…you're the kind of girl that most guys aren't smart enough to figure out. You know who you are and you aren't afraid to show it. You make a guy work for your attention. You're not just gonna bat your eyelashes at whatever bag of testosterone comes walking by." He reached a finger in to tuck it under her chin, bringing her eyes up to meet his. "And if the guy manages to get past all of that, he better know himself and what he wants, because anyone willing to let you go didn't deserve you in the first place. A guy doesn't fight over a girl like you, Mandy."

"Why not?" Her brow scrunched down below her short framed glasses and Nick had to struggle not to chuckle at the sight.

"Because a guy has to fight for a girl like you." He squeezed her a little tighter and added, "Something this precious has to be earned."