DISCLAIMER: I don't own Nikki & Nora or the other characters associated with. Nancy Myatt and others do. I'm just playing with them for some recreational fun and entertainment. The original characters I do. The series title and story titles are as follows and belong to the entities as stated below (I thank each group for the entertainment and inspiration): Series Title - Why Don't You and I Carlos Santana and his record company 1.1 - Despite All This Cock Sparrer and their record company 1.2 - White Riot The Clash and their record company 2.1 - Corozon de Oro Rancid and their record company 2.2 - Leave the Pieces The Wreckers and their record company 3.1 - Up to My Neck ACDC and their record company 3.2 - Whiskey Sour Sixer and their record company
As a side note: If any of you are looking for the above music, you may find the better known bands, but you may have trouble with Sixer or Cock Sparrer
if you wanna give them a listen, contact me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I had been off work sick. That translates into me being bored. That usually means badness. The good was that I started reading some fanfic about a show that never saw the light of day except for a pilot episode that's available on YouTube (thank you, Ralst). There's a few things you should know about me, I love detective stories, with the caveat that they are well told and the science isn't bunk *cough CSI cough*, I love femslash, there are a few fandoms that play to those things that I dig. Nikki and Nora did. So my mind took a little adventure as I was bummed that this show didn't make it. I think that it would have been great. It sort of reminded me of Firefly in so far as the way the cast gelled from the moment they appeared on screen. Firefly had that. Nikki & Nora did as well. What I've planned are three sets of two stories in each set. Here's the first of the lot.
THANK YOU'S: The creators of the show, the music that's listed above, Winddrinker for some beta work and to Abby who served as primary beta for this side project.
PLEASE NOTE: I really suck at spelling, it's a proven fact. While this has been through a round of beta work, I'm sure there are mistakes Oops. Blame me 'cause it's usually all my fault anyhow.
FEEDBACK: Good, bad, I usually take it all leave it here or drop me a line: email@example.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Corazon de Oro
The tip of my finger scratches the corner of my eye trying to rid it of the sleep that's crusted in the corner. As I remove the grit the rest of my senses kick in and I take stock of where I am, who I am with and what happened last night to give me the mother of all hangovers.
Vaguely, I remember a time when I used to wake up slowly. It was a lazy sort of way to greet the day, but there's this saying that goes 'you've got it until it's gone' or wait it goes something like that.
Sighing I shake my head and sit up. It's a bit too early for me to start waxing philosophical. I look over at the bedside table and see my I.D and badge, declaring me Nikki Beaumont, Plain Clothes Officer of the New Orleans Police Department. It took them an extra try but at least my full name isn't displayed.
Another grin comes over me at the idea of today, February sixteenth, nineteen-ninety-eight, being my first day in my new position. I shake of the sentimentality and sit up to extract myself from the bed, careful not to disturb the body lying next to me.
I quietly slip on my robe and make my way over to the bathroom. It's early and I need to get ready. I lock the bathroom door and move to start the shower. Adjusting the temperature of the water, I let my robe fall to the floor and slip into the shower. Groaning in pleasure as the water hits my stiff muscles I think about my wardrobe choices. Do I go for a suit or just a nice pair of pants and blouse. I lean back into the water and begin my usual routine.
Oh, I can wear those new heels I bought last weekend with my black silk slacks and green blouse. Warming to the thought of finally being able to wear actual clothes to work instead of the polyester blend of the uniform makes me damn near giddy.
Sure becoming a plain-clothes officer isn't a huge thing but it was a step in the right direction, career wise.
And if nothing else at least all the rest of my stepping will be done in better footwear.
Finishing off my shower, I rinse my hair one last time and turn the water off. It's always a bit depressing when I run the hot water tank out. Stepping from the shower, I grab a towel and wrap my hair. The bathroom is hot and steamy, but I'm not quite ready to open the door up yet.
I take a moment and gather myself. With any luck, the woman who was lying beside me will have taken the hint and be gone. I unlock the door, grasp the handle and push outward wincing in anticipation. . I tiptoe out into my room and release the breath I was holding, my bed is tussled but empty.
I look at the pillow and there is a note lying on the top. I walk over, pick it up and read:
I had a great time last night. Call me when you want to get together next time.
Well isn't that just cute. I sigh and crumple the note up, tossing it in the trash.
Shaking my head, I turn to my closet and plot my outfit.
Today is going to be a very, very fun day.
"Officer Beaumont, you think we should try and make some progress on the string of B and E's that's been making these," Ron Baird holds up the metro section of the paper that reads 'Rash of break-in's trouble New Orleans residents of 3rd Ward' and snickers. "Or should I just drop you off at the mall to hit up the shoe sales."
I smile sweetly and tilt my head. Tapping my finger to my lips, I feign giving thought to his question and say, "You think your wife would like to come with me, darlin'? I could show her a thing or two." I wiggle my eyebrows and his face goes red.
He goes back to his paperwork and I laugh. Oh, how I've come to adore Ron. When I was first assigned to this precinct, he took me under his wing. When he found out who I was, he shrugged. When he found out I played for the home team more often than not, he laughed and started asking for pointers. Now eight months after my promotion, he's still the best partner I could have asked for.
Especially for being as green as I was hell, as I still am.
"What about your contact?" He leans in over his desk and the gut he sports spills a little over the top. I keep on him to get to the gym with me, but he never wants to go.
Making a point, I poke a finger at his stomach and say, "First of all; you, me and the gym. I could make it just as much fun as watching the Saints on Sunday. Second, he has indeed. I got a call this morning. Right before I left home."
His eyes light up as he reaches behind him to snag his sports coat from the back of the chair. I follow him and we're out the door as I fill him in on what Darius gave me.
The breaking and enterings we've been working on for the past few weeks have all had a similar theme. Of course the people in the area are playing the 'see no evil' game which has made it hard. Three homes hit in less than two weeks. Forensics hasn't pulled anything and no one has tried to fence the stolen property.
We've been spinning our wheels to say the least.
That is until Darius called me this morning with a potential location of the burglars.
Ron turns left on Amsterdam and the trees get scarcer. The pretty fall colors of late September give way to a line of warehouses that look more beat up than that coffee table I donated to the Salvation Army.
We circle around the block of the warehouse and park on the opposite side of the street. Stepping out of the car, I tug on my knee length leather coat after checking to make sure that I have an extra clip secured opposite of my gun. While I'm not expecting any trouble, it usually doesn't prevent it from popping up at the most inopportune times. Gotta love Murphy, the man's more reliable than some of the laws of physics.
Now there's a thought trouble that R.S.V.P.'s so you know when to expect and how much. I giggle a little and my partner shoots me a look. Shrugging, I nod in the direction of the warehouse and he motions for me to follow him. I actually dislike the fact that he always has to go into a place first, but I allow this one concession.
If only to save myself from his wounded boyish ego.
We round the corner at the end of the building and see one of the back doors propped open by a brick. Ron inches closer as he looks back nodding at me. I take the signal and crouch down. It's moments like these that remind me who I am and the reason of why I continue to do what I do.
I got in to the force for her. To keep her alive, if only in spirit. I stay in it because the danger loving, quasi-bad girl inside me loves doing things like this. Erica's probably looking down from on high and laughing her pretty little tush off.
I ready myself as Ron swings the door wide. He takes the upper part of the entrance and I go in low. Nothing actually happens, just the door banging off the back of the building. If anyone didn't know we were here, they do now.
The nice thing is that the inside is lit up, exposed light bulbs dangle from beams in the ceiling. The bad thing is that there are stacks of pylons and crates scattered around the warehouse floor, lots of blind spots. The word 'death trap' springs to mind and I know that if anyone is in here, they have the advantage.
I nod at my partner and we split up. I go left, he goes right. Our actions and gait mirror the other's as we move slowly forward. As light as we move, our echoing steps give us away. Adrenalin pumps through me, speeding my heart rate up the deeper I go.
The hair on the nape of my neck stands on end. I sense it before I hear it.
A scuffle, light and creeping.
I resist the urge to call out to Ron. Instead I stop moving, straining to hear around me. Ron's stopped too, I can't hear him anymore.
I peer between the stacks of pylons through the dust infused light. Across the gap that separates me from my partner, I see him looking around. Our eyes meet and we both nod. Knowing there is at least one other person here with us, we decide to move forward. I take the first step, losing sight of him.
It's not more than five seconds later that a crack echoes off the wall. Ron grunts and I hear something clatter to the floor.
I turn right and start off in his direction. Crossing the gap, I don't have time to see the large piece of wood come sailing through the air.
A hard, wet thunk sounds and I go down as pain radiates from left side. My face presses against the cold, dirty concrete floor. Ahead I can hear two people talking. I blink and try to see through the pain and shock.
Between not being able to see and breathe, I barely manage to make it on all fours.
I crawl forward, intent on getting to my partner. I try to call out to him, but the words come out a hiss of air and nothing more.
This can't be happening.
The grunting and wet smacks are getting louder.
I look down to my right hand, but my gun isn't there anymore.
Where'd it go?
I stop and fumble at my ankle, absently noting the new types of pain the movement brings. Removing the small thirty-eight special from my ankle holster, I resume my crawl.
Slowly, my breathing eases. It burns with each small intake, but I'm thankful of anything that I can get.
As I round the corner to where Ron's supposed to be, there's two men standing over him. One holds a gun and the other is laughing.
I watch transfixed as the hammer on the attackers' gun goes back.
Thinking goes out the window. It's all reaction.
Two pops echo and the last thing I see before passing out is the sole of Ron's shoe.
The gentle, steady beep of a machine pulls me from my dream. I cling to it as it's one of those more memory-type dreams than an actual dream. In it, Erica and I are in our apartment. It's a lazy Saturday morning. I remember her coming in with a tray of coffee and beignets.
Her smile is the last thing I see before my own eyes open.
I blink against the low lighting of the interior of a hospital room. My tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth and my lips feel like they haven't seen a tube of lipstick or lip gloss in ages.
"Kouzin?" Darius' voice sounds from out of nowhere.
I try to lift my head and realize that was a very very big mistake.
"Shh, shhh don't move," he says as I feel the warmth of his touch on my left arm. Another hand smoothes away some of my hair and he coos, "You're gonna be alright, Nik."
I try to speak but the raging case of cottonmouth prevents much more than a rasp from coming out. Sensing my need, Darius lifts a cup and pulls out a few half melted ice chips. He holds them up to my lips and I suck them in gratefully.
I give the chips a minute to work their magic before I ask, "What the hell happened?"
His hand grips mine as he says, "The warehouse I sent you to, there were a few people inside. They got the drop. Ron's fine. Been in and out of here nearly three, four times a day. Your daddy's been by just a bit more." He smiles and falters as my scowl manages to get the message across.
I want to know why it feels like I went ten rounds with Evander Holyfield.
"You took a pretty good hit." He motions to the monitors behind me and finishes, "One of the guys cracked you in the ribs with a loaded piece of wood. Two of the nails punctured your lung."
I raise my eyebrow and can't seem to find the words. I quickly think back and try to remember what happened. I remember getting hit. I remember crawling to Ron. The rest after that is a blank.
"I " The words fail me.
Darius only offers me a smile. He sits back down and asks, "How much you want to know?"
I needn't say anything. I know my death grip on his hand says enough, says it all.
"Apparently the two assholes that got the drop on you were also about ready to shoot Ron. You capped both of them and then passed out. Then the punctured lung you had started to hemorrhage internally." His jaw tightens and he breaks away from me, eyes and hands both. He rasps, "They lost you on the way over."
"I really don't see why I have to do this?" I whine as my father wheels me from the hospital entrance to the car that's waiting on us at the curb.
He clucks behind me and chuckles. "Now Sweetpea, the doctor and your captain said you have got to take at least a week and recuperate. You've still got a few broken ribs young lady." He stops when he gets to the car and spins the wheelchair around. Dropping to one knee, he hooks a finger under my chin and meets my annoyed gaze. "You need a bit more time to heal, Nicollette Joyelle and there will be no more of this whining. Do you understand me young lady?"
My face tints red and I only nod.
Double damn the bastard that caught me in the side.
Instead of protesting more, I shut my mouth and allow my father to take me to the waiting limo. The door opens right before we get to the curb and I'm pleasantly surprised to see Darius scramble out of the back.
His smile is bright and wide as he tries to put on a consoling face.
I see it there in his eyes. He's secretly enjoying this. He knows how much I hate being coddled.
However, being treated as an invalid or as if I'm about to break isn't something I take kindly to.
"Nikki," he says as he holds his hand out for me to take. Scowling, I take the offered hand. Moving is pretty difficult right now and standing's more than painful.
He helps ease me up and into the car. It's a standard limo. Black leather seats, sun-roof. I lean back into the seat and listen as Darius and my father struggle with wheelchair and the trunk. With a few colorful words and added banging, they finally manage to put my chair away. They both enter from the door opposite me.
"So," I say crossing my arms gingerly. "What do you two have planned for lil' ole me?" I know between the two of them that they've cooked something up, but they've kept it a secret.
A surprise if you will.
I'm not sold on liking this surprise.
"I thought," Daddy starts, "that it'd be nice to take a trip to the family home. We can rest and relax for a few days." He smiles that politician smile. The one he uses to convince constituents that siding with him is the best option.
I look at Darius and he's inspecting the carpeting. I'm sure it's very interesting.
Sighing, I relent. It's not like I was going to do much at home. I would have probably gone against doctors orders and gone into the precinct to catch up on paperwork. I roll my eyes and ask, "Phone?"
Darius produces a new phone from the inside of his jacket and says, "Yours got crushed. I re-programmed all your numbers."
"Thanks, Dar." I smile and take the phone. The menu options are a bit weird, but I can adjust. I find the phone book and hit send on Ron's home number.
His wife picks up on the third ring, "Hello?"
"Nikki, hi!" her enthusiastic greeting causes me to pull the phone away from my ear a little. The woman has a set of pipes on her. I also know that I'm her favorite of all Ron's partners. She was worried when I came for Sunday dinner when we were first paired months ago.
Her worry died shortly after she realized of the two of them, I was more likely to steal her away and not Ron. I think she gets a kick out of it...
And I don't think it hurt that their sex life has improved by all her husband's accounts.
"Let me go give the phone to Ron. He was hopin' to talk to you before you went away for the week." I hear her bustle around the house. A T.V. sounds in the background and I know exactly where he's at, in front of the T.V. watching Sports Center. I swear that man and ESPN have a better relationship than any married couple I've ever known.
"Nik?" he asks.
"Heya there, sexy." I smile as his soft chuckle sounds in my ear.
"How's the ribs?" he asks.
"Not bad. You?"
"Livin'," he answers. He sighs a little and follows up with another question, "See you in seven days?"
I grin. "Five if I have it my way."
"Good. I'll keep your stack of reports warm for ya." We both laugh and a bit of the tensions ebbs.
The tension's not intentional, but neither of us knows what to really say. We sure as hell aren't going to admit to one another that we're both in pain and a little shaken. That goes against the partner code.
"I look forward to it. Take care, Ron. See you soon."
"I'll see you then, partner." He offers nothing more as the phone line goes dead.
The unwritten rule is passed down by action only. We won't talk about what happened in the warehouse. We won't discuss the damage it did to us, physical or emotional.
But, we'll be there for each other a bit more now. That much is obvious.
I close the phone and lay it next to me. I lean my head against the back of the leather bench seat, close my eyes and enjoy the ride to my daddy's childhood home.
Daddy trots off once we get me up to my room and allows Darius to help me unpack my things. He's quiet as he helps put away the clothes they packed me for the week. Something's bugging him. I mean there is probably a list of things that should be at this point, but this is something specific.
The question is, do I give him time to say what he wants or do I confront him?
Despite our bond, there are some things that he's just not comfortable sharing or talking about. Like when Erica's brother was found dead in his apartment last spring.
He kept that from me.
I think maybe it was so that I wouldn't get dragged down into it. His dreams got sidelined when Erica passed. A twinge of guilt blossoms in my chest and I wonder what we would be doing if that never happened.
Would Erica and I still be together?
I laugh a small bitter laugh and shake my head. I need to stop these foolish thoughts.
Of course, we would.
He looks over at me questioningly. I shrug. What exactly could I say?
"Kouzin," he calls me that. He's been calling me that for years. After my first anniversary with his real cousin. His hands outstretched and there's a small stack of notes in his hand.
I raise a delicate eyebrow and he tosses them on the bed.
"Those were on your voice mail at home. Shelly, Kristina, Tonya, Rebecca and Stephanie." He looks at me sadly. "They want to know when you will have time for them." His voice is laced with bitterness and concern, "When are you gonna stop this, Nikki?"
I reach for the small stack unable to meet his eyes. I don't even bother to flip through them; instead I throw them in the trash next to the bed.
I feel my bed shift and sink as he sits down next to me. "I got to them before your daddy did."
I manage a small thank you. It's not as if I'm ashamed. Well, not really. Those were one-night stands. Something to take the edge off and relax. No strings and all that. I guess I didn't make myself clear when I didn't return the first few calls from some of them. To be honest, I couldn't really put the names to the faces. I'd remember the faces, but the names elude me. Who was who on which night.
Sensing he's not going to get much more out of me, he sighs resigned. I wish there were answers for him.
I don't have many answers for myself right now. Since Erica's death, it's like I've been looking for something and even though I know I won't find it, I still can't help but look. I need to. She'd want me to.
Of course the only thing I manage to find in this inane pursuit is a hangover in the morning and an empty heart.
I watch Darius stand and walk towards the door. Without looking back, he shuts it and I'm left alone.
Gingerly, I bend over and take my shoes off. Between the drive and the chastising from Darius, I'm pretty tired. I manage to snuggle under the covers and shut my eyes.
Maybe a few hours of sleep will do me good.
I grumble as my daddy pushes me around the grounds. It's been three days since we arrived here. Three days where I can barely move on my own. Three days that I have not only my father and Darius clucking around me like a gaggle of mama hens, but three of the house staff as well.
"Can I get you anything, Miss?", "Would you like more tea, ma'am?", and it's all the same.
I should feel grateful that I have people around to do this for me.
But, I've been away from this too long. If I'd had my way, I would have spent this week at home, alone.
Instead, I get to spend today of all days here, near her. Darius went out and picked up some flowers for us. I would have forgotten.
Anniversaries seem to only bring me misery. I get to remember the day my mama died, the day Erica was born and then the day she died.
It's the reason I'm here instead of in bed. Today's my Erica's birthday, September Thirtieth. She would have been twenty-six today.
I'll have to make it a point to forget sometime. Today isn't the day.
I look around at the grounds. The fall colors are beautiful. Breathtaking really. I'm glad this is her final resting place. She at least has pretty things to look at. The browns, oranges and reds of the leaves would have delighted her.
The ride stops as my father parks me next to a stone bench. Coming around he sits down on the dirty bench in his cream linen suit. I shake my head knowing that the dry cleaner is going to charge him double to get the dirt out of his pants.
He squints in the afternoon sun and takes my hand. "You know, pumpkin, your mama and I used to come out here when we were dating. She'd just love to grab a blanket and picnic basket. She'd lay there watchin' the leaves fall for hours or sometimes, she'd let me read a book to her."
I squeeze his hand. I know he doesn't like talking about mama that much. I sympathize. I don't like talking about Erica much either. He doesn't know we share a very similar bond of course, it's not like I gave him a chance to understand.
I swallow and let the moment be. The regret aches. Of all things I've done, I've only regretted one thing.
Despite the respect they both seemed to share for the other, I never gave him a chance to really get to know Erica. They would have really liked each other, I think. Maybe they would have argued about politics, but it would have been fun to watch.
I look heavenward and close my eyes. I send out a small prayer that Erica will forgive me for not tellin' my daddy about us.
"Yeah, Daddy," I answer, looking his way.
He offers a small pat to my arm and says, "I miss her too."
If he only knew
I try and tuck my feet under me, but that causes a world of pain. I stop and reposition myself so that my feet are stretched out in front. Scooching up, I make sure her headstone is within arm's reach. Darius is behind me.
He's silent and unsure of what to do. I know that this was his family. His little cousin. I know he feels this as much as I do. Even though we loved her in different ways.
Blindly, I reach behind me and tug at his pant leg. "Come on handsome, come sit and visit with us."
He takes the cue and plops down on the other side of her grave. Taking the flowers from his hand, I lay them across the top of her headstone.
"Thanks, Darius," I say, squeezing his hand. "You know, sugga," I say as my hand caresses Erica's name, "you'd be real proud of our Darius."
"Hell, Thumper, you'd be more proud of your Nikki." He smiles over at me. "She's gone all responsible. Working for the five-oh. Catchin' bad guys." I watch as he picks at a blade of grass. "You two coulda been somethin' like out of the movies. It woulda been good to see."
I swipe at the tears that leak down my cheeks. I don't know what to say. Instead I focus on her name and on the inscription, "The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important."
He takes my hand allowing me the grace to take a moment and gather my thoughts. I finally manage to pull it together enough and say, "Rica, it's hard. I miss you some days more than I thought. You know my mama left my daddy pretty young too. I'm not sure how he did it with me around." I sniffle and Darius hands me a handkerchief from his pocket.
"Happy birthday, baby. I miss you," is the last thing I can manage. I press the tips of my middle and index finger to my lips then press them to her name.
It's then that Darius rises, leaving me alone to sit with my girl.
I'm really not sure what I would be doing if she hadn't come into my life. I'm just grateful that she did. Drawing in a shuddery breath, I manage to rest my back against her headstone.
I don't get out here often and most days her memory is bittersweet, but there's something in the air today that makes it hurt more.
I close my eyes and rest my head against the cold marble.
I know something's gotta give somewhere, I'm just not sure where and what right now.
Shifting in my seat, I look and notice Daddy studying me again. Truth is I'm still trying to figure out what the hell happened. We had two days left at the house, but he came in this morning and informed me that he had pressing business to get back to in the city.
That wasn't a huge shocker, but he's not left my side since dropping Darius off. We've been in the city for an hour the last twenty minutes of it sitting in his favorite restaurant. He's also been studying me. It's like he's trying to figure something out.
Really, I wish he would just ask about whatever's on his mind. It would save me the frustration.
The salad in front of me should look appealing. It should look like the twenty-five dollar plate that it is. Right now, the only thing that I can think is that it looks like a wilted mass of green stuff that my palate will not tolerate.
I glance up again and his eyes shift away. Sighing, I pick my napkin up from my lap and lay it on the table, signaling my completion of the meal. I manage to cross my arms over my chest lightly and stare him the eye. "What is it, Daddy? You've been looking at me like I have an extra arm or horns."
Slowly he finishes his bite then sips at his wine.
So this has turned into a power struggle.
I wouldn't mind usually, but today I'm irritable and fed up. "Out with it. I'm not playing games here," my tone is hard and the look I'm sending him should do the trick.
His lips press together thoughtfully. Resting his elbow on the table, he leans forward and asks, "What is your relationship with Darius?"
Is that what this is? I pretty sure I made our relationship clear.
"We're friends, but you already know that. We've talked about this."
"We have, but given the interaction I saw between the two of you, it would be remiss of me not to ask." He sucks his teeth for a minute and I watch his left thumb roll across the tips of his fingers. I've seen this look a bit too much.
The very few times it's been directed at me, my father and I go for weeks without talking.
"And what exactly, young lady," he says this as he leans back in his chair as if he hasn't a care in the world, "was your relationship to Erica?"
Panic, swift and sudden, sweep in. He can't know.
I stop the lie that forms on the tip of my tongue. He can see it on me. I draw in a breath and steel myself for the impending revelation. "Daddy how did you ?"
"I saw you yesterday at her grave," he says, offering nothing more.
You know, I had been regretting not telling him what and who Erica was to me for nearly three years. Maybe it's time he knows.
"She was my girlfriend," I say as I look him in the eyes.
"Girlfriend as in girl that is a friend?"
Rolling my eyes, I realize that I'm going to have to lay it out there for him.
It had to happen sooner or later, may as well be now.
"No. As in my lover." I take a sip of water and start back up, "I've kept some things from you that I probably shouldn't have. Erica and I were together since my freshman year in college. I'm gay."
I try to reach for his hand. To console him as much as I need to be consoled, but he pulls it back, avoiding my touch. I'd be lying if I said the slight rejection didn't hurt.
What hurts more is the look of shock that's clear on his usually easy going features. I take my hand from the tabletop and rest it with the other in my lap.
I knew this would be hard for him, but I need him to understand. "Daddy, please just listen."
His jaw twitches and before I have a chance to make my case he says, "What's there to understand, Nicollette Joyelle? Not only have you lied to me and made a fool of me, you have chosen to live a life style that goes against what your mama and I have taught you."
For the first time, I'm shocked by the disdain I hear. He's disappointed that much is clear, but I wasn't expecting this.
"Just when exactly," he spits, "were you going to tell me? Were you ever?"
My mouth drops open, at a loss for words. We stare at each other and finally a few moments later the shock wears off.
Anger seeps in.
I run fingers through my hair and say, "You know what Daddy, I expect this from other people, but you?"
My hand drops and I look at the table.
I just can't look at him right now. I bite my cheek to stave off the tears that have pooled. Knowing he needs to hear this, I raise my head and look at him. "I understand your shock, but let's get one thing clear, how you and mama raised me is exactly the way I live my life. Erica was kind, sweet, smart and principled. She was everything you could have wanted for me."
I reach behind me for my purse and jacket. Standing, I carefully pull my jacket on and pull the strap of my purse over my shoulder. "You have a choice here, Daddy. I did not. I hope you make a good one."
I say nothing more, and walk as quickly as my injured body will allow outside. I turn right and round the corner of the street to grab a cab to go home. Screw my bags he can have a driver drop them off.
We shuffle into the department conference as I steel myself for an hour of progress reports and updates on cases. I'm fully aware that this is part of the job. I do, however, have things that need to be done. Ron and I are up to our eyeballs in paperwork.
I take a seat in the fourth row, next to my partner. He leans over and whispers, "What you wanna bet, Chambers takes thirty minutes just to beat us up for the uni's not meetin' quota?"
I grin and shake my head. That would figure.
A few minutes later and everyone is situated. The lights dim and our captain Derrick Chambers steps up to the podium. "Alright, everyone quiet down. Let's call together the department meeting for the first Monday in December. Please note it is December Seventh, Nineteen-ninety-eight "
Definitely time to zone out.
I study my nails and realize I need to get a manicure, two weeks is entirely too long. Of course, if that idiot, Labeau hadn't run when we tried to collar him, I could have saved myself a two-hundred dollar dry cleaning bill and the French tips I had put on the week before.
I sigh and shake my head. At least Friday night was nice. Darius threw me a nice little get together at the apartment. Happy birthday to me. Twenty-eight and pretty much alone. I guess that wouldn't bug me so much, but since I've stopped what Darius so lovingly called it, "Fucking around." Boredom has a tendency to creep in.
He did his best as did Ron. They both had two or three girls lined up to introduce me to. All of them were
Well, they just weren't the right one.
Darius asked after the party ended what would be the right one. I laughed.
I'm not sure there's another out there that would fit the bill.
Brandy, bless her heart, brought a co-worker and while she wasn't my type look wise, she probably was the best out of the bunch.
A quick elbow to my side has me glaring at my partner. His eyes are slightly dazed and he's pointing up at Chambers.
"Nik," he whispers, "uh go on up."
I look at him sideways then up at Chambers. He grinning like a fool in my direction and I know I missed something important.
I rise from my chair and lean down to Ron. "What's going on?"
He stupidly grins back up at me and shakes his head. "Hot Stuff, you just got yourself a Detectives Shield."
Darius and I scramble inside out of the rain. The inside of the café is loud and chaotic, but we manage to steer our way around to a side table that just cleared up. I take the seat facing the door and he puts his dripping jacket on the opposite side.
February in New Orleans can be quite a pain in the ass, not to mention hell on my hair. I help him clear the table and place an order with the waitress who's buzzing around.
As she leaves we both watch her backside, admiring the nicety of it. Darius is the first to look away and ask, "So you gonna tell me about this new assignment or am I gonna have to find out the hard way?"
Rolling my eyes, I lean back in my chair and say, "It's a switch to a different division, Narcotics. The last case Ron and I worked lead us to some of the larger dealers, as you well know." I pause and offer him a beaming smile. "Thanks for the tip by the way."
He grins back and shrugs. "It's what we do."
"Speaking of," I say and take a small fold of bills out of my pocket and press them into his hand, "I want to make sure you get paid as a C.I."
He looks at me funny and then at the money in his hand. "Kouzin'?"
"As a full fledged detective, I've been able to tap into the department resources a bit more. I pushed and got you the max amount twelve-hundred a month." I wink. "Consider some of that back pay, sugga."
He shakes his head and slips the money into his pants pocket. "As long as you ain't footin' the bill personally, I'll gladly take from Nawlin's finest."
The waitress comes back and sets down our drink orders. I take a sip of the latte and sigh. It's damn near perfect.
"So," he leads in playing with the lip of his mug, "you talk to your daddy yet?"
He just had to bring that up. I frown in his direction and say, "No. He can talk when he damn well wants. I haven't decided if I'm gonna listen."
"Nik, it's been what four, five months?"
I do a quick calculation and say, "Since the first day of October. It's what the twenty-first. So yeah a little over five months."
His face turns dark as he looks out the rain-clouded window. Nodding, he looks at me grimly.
What else am I supposed to say? I'm not the one with the problem. It's his.
He drains his coffee and takes my hand giving it a reassuring squeeze. He stands and starts to put on his coat. Looking down at me, he smiles and says, "Give me a call after you're done and don't kill me next time you see me."
I look at him funny, wondering what the hell he's talking about. I stop wondering when my dad appears behind him.
I send Darius a scathing look and acknowledge my father with nothing more than a slight dip of my chin.
My father clears his throat and says, "Would you mind if I took a seat?"
I raise my eyebrow and then, finally, relent gesturing with my hand for him to sit.
His smile is warm and genuine as he sits down across from me. Funny, I didn't notice Darius leaving. The boy's in serious trouble next time I see him.
An odd silence settles over us. It's uncomfortable and annoying.
I wait for him to say something.
Nothing comes, so I decide to end the silence, "Is there's something that I can do for you?"
It's cold and probably out of line, but I just can't seem to give a shit right now.
His hands go up in an apologetic gesture as he says, "I had heard you got promoted. Going to Narcotics. I spoke with Darius yesterday and he was kind enough to help me set up this meeting."
He shrugs off his coat and leans forward, dropping his voice, "I wasn't sure if you'd talk to me, pumpkin, but I have a few things to say to you."
I sigh and lean back in my chair. This should be good. I pick up my latte and take a sip, grimacing as the cold and bitter drink runs down my throat.
He accepts my silence as permission to proceed. "This is a bit odd. I'm not sure where to start. I suppose the first would be to ask for your forgiveness." His hands fold together in front of him and he continues, "I reacted rashly and poorly to what you told me about you and Erica. I was a horse's ass and if we could, I'd like to take back that particular conversation."
"That's supposed to make your silence from the last five months okay?" I ask.
"Well, no. It's a start. I've done quite a bit of thinking and I've come to this decision. Your life is your own. You are a beautiful, intelligent woman who has got the world at her fingertips. You are my daughter. That above everything else should come first. You and I, pumpkin don't have a lot of family left. It'd be a shame to lose each other over who you choose to take to your bedroom "
"And that's just it " I lean forward and poke him in the shoulder. "There's no choice, Daddy. It's just what is."
He leans back and takes hold of my hand. "I'm sorry, I misspoke. Not who you choose, but let's just say who you love. The heart wants what the heart wants, my dear. That can't be changed. I know that here." He takes the finger that just poked him and uses it to tap the side of his head. He then takes the whole hand and lays it palm flat against his chest, over his heart and says, "I was having a harder time with that here."
He releases my hand and I blink back tears. Picking back up again, he says, "So, as my daughter I will love you no matter what. God, himself could not change that fact. Moreover, I'm sorry for forcing you to tell me the way that you did, that couldn't have been easy."
I can only nod and wipe away the few tears that escaped.
"I talked to Darius about Erica a bit, about your relationship with her. I'll tell you it explains quite a bit. I'm sorry I wasn't there to support you as much as I should have. He says that you two were very much in love."
I smile and say, "We were. As for your support I never gave you that opportunity. You shouldn't shoulder that alone. That was partly my fault."
He smiles a little and nods. "Fair enough. I also came to say congratulations on the promotion."
I take his hand and squeeze. "Thank you."
"We're okay?" he asks, hopefully.
"I think we will be. I love you, Daddy."
"And I love you, Nikki. Don't forget that. It may take me a while to come around sometimes, but this," he raises our joined hands, "doesn't change. You're all I have left. I will hold on to you with both hands until I take my last breath." He laughs a little to break some of the tension created by the seriousness of the conversation and it lightens the mood instantly. "Hey, why don't we go and have a celebratory dinner over at Rex's.?"
"That," I say, standing, "sounds like a wonderful idea."
"Splendid." He helps me with my coat and I wait as he shrugs his own back on. We move to the front of the café, preparing ourselves to dart to his car, wherever it's parked.
My hand rests on the handle when he asks from behind me, "So what does this mean about my grandchildren?"
I roll my eyes and dart into to the pouring rain. I don't have the heart to tell him his grandchildren aren't in the foreseeable or even distant future.
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