DISCLAIMER: The characters contained herein are not my intellectual property. They belong to Nancylee Myatt and other people that I don't associate with. If they were mine, Nikki & Nora would still be in production and we would all be very very happy. This is for fun
read - me mucking about for some entertainment in another person's sandbox, not for money. While this has been beta'd, we're not perfect and I accept full responsibility for all mistakes.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This picks up about 8 months after Reasons. With only the first chapter of this being completed, updates are going to be coming a little less frequently than a schedule I would like to maintain. My hope is that posting this will spur the muse and I will be able to hammer out the other 8 chapters. This chapter is split into two parts and you will be reading that next week as hopefully it will buy me a little time to at least complete chapter 2. Thank you to my long suffering beta, the poor bastard has to put up with my awful spelling, bless you Dirk! Lastly, read and enjoy.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Here's to the Night
Chapter 2 Interruption
The bullpen of S.C.U is a bustling nightmare when I step inside. Detectives and uniforms are darting about and I know that the calm of last week has been swept away. The cause of the new current can only be one of a handful of things.
One, there have been multiple crimes of intriguing circumstance in the last sixteen hours.
Two, all hell's broke loose and the day of judgment those religious types are always blathering on about it has finally decided to tuck in to my beloved city.
Three, whatever's responsible for the call I received from my very annoyed partner has also spurred our department into its own special tizzy and the fine folks I work with are caught in the storm.
This lady's bettin' the house on option three. It's the only thing it could be.
I swing by Georgia's desk, wanting to talk to her, but as I approach, I catch the snippets of conversation she is having with the individual on the other end of the handset that's pinched between her shoulder and ear. The tone of the conversation isn't pleasant and I really don't want to interrupt.
I change course and hit up Detective Benny Armstrong instead. He always knows what's going on when I need to be caught up. I catch his eye and his face lights up. I smile back and offer a little wave.
In his mid-thirties, Benny has the body of a runner, lean long muscle with a solid chin and square jaw. Kind blue eyes and a baldhead that I think is shaven daily. The only thing that doesn't fall in line with the image he tries to project is the tattoo on the side of his neck, below his ear and near where the hairline would start. A spider is inked and outlined on his skin.
The one time I asked him about it, he shrugged it off and said something about misspent youth and his hometown. I would have inquired further, but Nora steered me away from it. Later she said that no one really knows except maybe his partner, Dominic Barrett.
Even that bit of mystery doesn't detract from the man's heart. He's a sweetheart and a damn fine cop. I'm going to exploit those traits today.
"Heya, sugga," I greet him and perch myself on the edge of his desk. He rolls back to accommodate me and looks up into my face as I speak.
"Beaumont, ain't it your day off?" he asks, biting on his lower lip.
"Was. Nora called me in, but I can't find her," I screw my mouth to the side and feign confusion. "Would you be a dear and tell me what bear stirred the bee's nest and where I can find my partner?"
Pressing his lips together, I watch as he contemplates my questions. I just know what this is going to come to and I'm not sure how many times I can say no to his offer for friendly drinks and maybe dinner.
"Depends," he drawls in a way that accentuates his deep gravelly voice that, while I'll never tell Nora, I actually find quite sexy, "Are you finally going to let me take you out for drinks if I answer your questions?"
"Maybe," I tease swinging my left leg trying to string him along.
His face breaks and he barks out deep, infectious laughter. I smile at him while he gets himself under control and he wipes a tear that's leaked from the corner from his eye. "Nikki, you're so full of it, but I'm gonna tell you anyway 'cause your partner is a doll and she sorta scares me when she stalks around here like looking at her wrong could get your ass shot." He props his left foot on his desk and says, "We've got visitors, F.B.I. and A.T.F. and you're partner was picked to babysit them. We are currently the errand bitches to the task force." He waves his arm about and emphasizing the chaos swirling around us, "Hence the mess you've walked into on your off day. And since she's your partner, it means you are also responsible for this insanity!"
That's kinda what I was thinking myself. I really wish Dan would have given us a heads up. Even an hour would have been better than the annoyed phone call that I got from my partner.
I sigh, nod and look around again, most of the detectives have their noses buried in files or their computer screens which mean research. The uniforms are zipping around dropping off files, folders and sometimes full boxes of stuff left and right.
"Yo!" Dominic calls out from across the room. He shoots me a small smile and then crosses the room to take up residence on the other side of his partner's desk. "What brings you by Nik?"
"Information gathering." I smile at him and he nods as his hands fold across his chest.
"Nice. Well, I'd love to let you chat my partner up, but we need to jam. Caught a floater and Harney wants us on it." He kicks his partner's leg and shoots up snatching the car keys from his side of the desk.
Effecting a long suffering sigh, Benny stands and says, "Look, you think about the drinks, hell bring Nora along." He grins at me and then jogs after the retreating back of his partner.
Sitting there, I wonder if I should read more into it than just a simple invitation for drinks. He couldn't possibly
Nah, Benny wasn't the type to hint, he has less subtlety than a bull in a china shop.
I hop from my seat and swing by our desks to check on any calls that I may have missed. Finding nothing, I pull my phone from my pocket and hit one to dial Nora's cell.
It takes a few rings, but when she picks up her voice is tight, "Delaney."
"It's me. Where are you?"
"Third floor conference room number three," she snips and ends the call.
Well this should be interesting.
I drop my phone back in my pocket and am about ready to head in my lover's direction when Dan steps into the bull pen and gives me a once over. "You have today off," he states and strides up next to me.
"Did," I say, "Nora called and said that we have to play nice with a few federal agencies. So here I am."
"Uh, Nikki, don't take this the wrong way, but you aren't on the case." His hands get stuffed in his trouser pockets and I feel a very undignified look spread over my face.
My eyes dart around the room causing me to decide on a better way to handle this. I grab his shirtsleeve and pull him towards his office. Once inside I spin him around and demand, "Just what in the hell is that supposed to mean?"
He sighs, a long-suffering sort of sound that just pisses me off more and says, "Nikki, Nora was requested specifically. It's a solo gig. You'll have a temporary reassignment with a new partner."
My jaw drops. My head spins. The heat in my face tells me that I'm flushed and it in no way, shape or form resembles the cute blush that rises when Nora catches me doing something she thinks is cute and I find embarrassing.
"Like hell," I spit.
"Well, detective," he annunciates my title to emphasize his point, "you have a choice, I chain you to your desk for the duration of Nora's assignment or you take a new partner for a little while."
I huff and roll my eyes. Jerk.
I don't bother responding as I spin on my heel and yank open the door. I'm about to storm out when he says gently, "Nikki, take the reassignment. You hate being at your desk more than Nora hates having to see the doctor."
"We'll see," is all I say as I start off in the direction of my lover.
I pinch the bridge of my nose and pray for the patience to not haul off and strangle Ann's boss. Since he came into the conference room, he's been alternating between asking questions and answering them himself non-stop. We have a task force meeting in ten minutes and I haven't had a chance to ask a damn thing.
A cell phone chirps and John has it to his ear before the beginning of the second ring, "Malone," he answers. "On assignment, New Orleans, what's wrong?" He jams his finger in his free ear and presses the phone closer to his other. "No, if they had listened to the recommendation, we wouldn't be in this situation so, I'm expected to drop everything and come clean up? I hardly think that's going to solve anything."
He snorts in that way that just conveys his annoyance and then spits, "Colin, I appreciate that, but you and I both know that neither of them are interested in listening to reason. They are after blood, period We should listen to Kay, if they want to " he stops and looks at the three of us in the room and somewhere in the second that he looks at us comes to a conclusion, "Stop. Look, give me a few and I'll come up. It's the last time Colin. I can't this isn't going to end well and I have enough blood on my hands. I don't need anymore and that's exactly where this is headed. Death and destruction."
He spins away from us and hunches his shoulders, causing his shoulder holster to bunch. For the first time, I can clearly see that it holds two side arms, one on the left and one on the right. I had thought the left side was clips, but taking the time to study him, I see the row of four spare magazines are clipped to the small of his back.
Is this guy waiting for a shoot out or just overly prepared? I'm about to ask Ann when he stops talking and the phone goes back to his pocket. He spins around to us, lips tight and jaw clenched.
He swallows once and says, "It seems I'm being called away. Ann," he directs his eyes, a storm of anger and defeat, to my friend, "I know this isn't your normal responsibility on the team, but you taking point here would be appreciated."
I look over at Ann and I can't read her face. Something's brewing behind her usually expressive features, but it's a mask now as she nods at her boss and says, "Say no more. I'll take care of it."
He tips his chin and then goes back to addressing the group, "I'll address the task force first, Megan and then turn the reins over to Ann. Is there anything that you want to cover in the initial gathering?"
Megan Diea, the A.T.F. agent assigned as lead for her agency shakes her head. The girl is on the smaller side, five-foot-two maybe, with layered blonde hair and a tailored suit. She looks like she should be a lawyer not a federal agent. "We stick to what we know, dole out the assignments and we'll be fine."
He nods and gather's his folder to place on the podium when officers and agents begin filing in. "Nora, come here a second," he crooks a finger at me and I rise from my position behind the table and follow. He pulls us to the side of the room and says, "I just wanted to apologize before I leave. Ann's spoken very highly of you and I was looking forward to see if the legend lived up to the actual person."
I raise an eyebrow in question. This isn't what I was expecting from a department head.
"When I come back to town, I expect you to join Ann and I for dinner. Maybe I can get the rest of my people together and we can enjoy a decent meal in your city."
"I, uh, sure," is all I can manage.
"Good." A genuine smile makes its way across his face and he squeezes my shoulder in that way that's supposed to reflect camaraderie. It isn't something I usually take to, but his actions and words are sincere that much is obvious. "Now, let's kick this off and then I can get up to D.C."
He marches away from me and I'm left standing there trying to figure out what his deal is. I mean looks wise he doesn't come off as a the usual federal agent, at least none that I've come across. His dark brown hair is lightly threaded with silver, a strong rounded jaw line, deep brown eyes and smooth shaven face are all pretty standard, but watching him move, he moves like a cop, he acts more like one too. It's the clothes too that give him away. He's not coifed in a suit, but instead, his feet are covered in a pair of boots, black slacks and a grey polo shirt are his attire. The arms of the polo shirt strain against his very muscular arms and his body type is compact at best, he's as tall as Nikki.
As the rest of the agents file in, I go back to my seat and Ann looks at me curiously. I shrug and point to her boss. She just nods and folds her arms across her chest as John begins to speak, "Good Morning, ladies and gentleman, for those of you that don't know me, I'm John Malone, director of the Special Investigations Unit in the F.B.I., behind me are the other agents in charge of this joint endeavor." He turns to us and points as he says our names, "Special Agent Ann Flemming, Agent Megan Diea of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency and Detective Nora Delany of the N.O.P.D."
"I'm going to leave the briefing to Ann, Nora and Megan." His gaze sweeps out over the small crowd of officers and agents before he finishes, "I'll be leaving for the White House in fifteen minutes, Agent's Flemming and Diea and Detective Delaney are in charge. If at any point I find that you have not followed their direction, regardless of which agency you work for, I will have you reassigned to an outpost in the coldest parts of Alaska. We are here to work as a team; I expect that to be done."
Grabbing his file folders, he turns on his heel and motions for Ann to step up and offering a brief, "I'll touch base with you tonight," to Ann and a nod of his head to us, makes his way out of the room.
My friend's chest rises and falls before she steps to the podium and clears her throat. "I'll make this brief as we need to split up and get started." She moves to the board to our left and points at a group photos of three men, "These are the Sung brothers, Li, Chow and Shun. Their speciality is weapons. In a week's time, they will be coming to town to drop off a major shipment at NOLA's Lakefront Airport."
Ann then turns to a large map of the U.S. and points to a few flagged locations while saying, "Our problem here is that these shipments have been garnering some attention. A few guns in the mix are hot. Some of them have been in shootings where the guns were supposed to be destroyed only to turn up in another part of the country in another shooting. There are reports in Boston, New York, Phoenix and Little Rock. All of them are tied to the Sung brothers and the weapons used were supposed to be destroyed."
She turns back to the podium and rests against it, placing her hands on either side of the stand. "Our job here is multilayered. One, we need to get enough together so that my A.U.S.A. can indict the Sung's; two, we need to find out why supposedly destroyed weapons are turning up to kill our own and three, determine who else may be involved." She pauses a moment to look at her notes. "Alright, from the F.B.I. we have Agents Beckwith, Nguyen and McPhearson, from the A.T.F. Smith, Holmes and Priddy and from the N.O.P.D. officers Davenport, Magana and Byrd. It's nice to have everyone aboard."
Megan motions with her head and we both stand flanking my friend. "Nguyen, Holmes and Byrd are with me," Megan says and steps down from the platform while three men rise and follow her out the door.
I glance at my paper and say, "McPhearson, Smith and Magana are with me," I say. "Brock if you want to take McPhearson and Smith to conference room three, I'll be along shortly." Magana nods and I watch as the two agents follow him out.
"That leaves me with Beckwith, Priddy and Davenport," Ann clips, "Gentleman we're in conference room four. I'll see you in a few."
The room is empty once again and Ann covers her face with one hand, rubbing her eyes, while her other rises, her index finger stretches out and asks for a moment.
Her hands drop and she looks at me. "Don't say it Nora. I'm sorry; I would have given you a heads up if I had known. And before you ask, John is a consultant for the White House. He has been since nineteen-eighty-seven and no I don't know what he's up to."
My hands go to my hips as I look her over. Crap.
"Fine, but why me?" I ask.
"Because he asked if you would be willing to work with us. I wanted to call and ask, but when I got the call this morning, and then the question was raised about finding a liaison for the department, there was no time, he just hoped you wouldn't cop an attitude straight away."
"And I would because?" I wonder.
"Because it's a notorious truth that the local agencies hate when we come in and muddy the waters. The nice thing is, is that my division at least, has a decent working relationship with local authorities, considering all of us in my department have come from police departments."
I give her a final once over and nod. There's nothing that can be done about it now. I might as well just deal. "Alright, let's just try to get through this and you and I will talk more tonight."
She nods and grabs her files to head out. Following suit, we split up as I stand in front of the room that holds my team.
Steeling myself before the entrance, I square my shoulders and enter the room. This should be fun.
My hands rest casually on my hips and Nora is staring back at me with her arms folded across her chest. The blue t-shirt she's wearing is pulled tight across her chest and the color brings out the tan she comes by so easily.
And here I thought the Irish were supposed to burn.
Her tongue causes her bottom lip to stick out as she presses her lips together. I just informed her of the conversation I had with Dan and really, she looks less happy about it than I was.
At least there's comfort there. It's a downright crappy way to be comforted but I know now that it wasn't her decision to keep me out of the case.
"So," she sighs, "What do we do?"
"What do we do with what?" Ann asks as she steps into our space.
Directing a glare in Ann's direction, she snips, "Dan's being an ass."
An 'oh' face appears on our friends features and she says, "Lemme guess, he's putting you on desk duty?"
"You knew?" I ask.
She shuffles her feet a moment and it's the first time that I've ever seen the confident woman unsure. "I knew that I could only have one person assigned to the detail for lead. Assuming protocol, you either got desk duty or a temporary new partner."
Nora sucks her teeth and a scowl plants itself on her features. "You didn't think to mention that?"
Sighing, she runs her hand through her hair. "It was a possibility." She looks between the two of us, her own look of displeasure marring her beautiful face. "I'm sorry. But this was the only time I was probably going to have a chance to work with Nora and I didn't think that it would be a huge deal, but if it is " she trails off and leaves us to fill in the blanks for ourselves.
Warring with her discomfort and my annoyance, I know I need to be more objective about this than I am. If I'm honest the problem I have is that Nora is working a dangerous case without me.
I don't like not being there for her as backup. The few times we've had to work independently of each other were taxing on us professionally and personally.
But, the logical part of my brain comes into play and voices the rational. We knew going into this that the job comes first, that we would have to set personal feelings and entanglements aside. Besides, at least there's going to be someone I trust implicitly watching my partners back.
"It's okay," I relent. "I'll take the new partner."
"You know who it is?" Nora asks surprised.
I shake my head. "Dan said that when I come in tomorrow I'll have all the information."
My Nora purses her lips and huffs. "Alright. There's not a whole lot that can be done about it now anyhow." She directs a look to Ann and the woman straightens.
"I'm gonna go finish up the new assignments." Directing a look to Nora, she says, "I'll see you in a few," and then looking at me and offering an apologetic smile, "Go get Jill, you guys can do some damage to our bank accounts, I'm gonna owe her for interrupting our vacation."
We laugh lightly and watch as Ann's back retreats behind the conference room door.
"I'll see you later." In an uncharacteristic show of affection, Nora laces our hands together and offers a squeeze before backing off. "How did you get here by the way?"
"I had daddy drop off a car." I manage a brave smile and say goodbyes, waiting to leave until after she shuts the door to the room she came from to talk to me.
Sighing, I trudge down the steps and out of the precinct to the SLK that I borrowed. Making the short trek to Nora's apartment, I knock before letting myself in.
"Hello?" Jill's voice calls from the living room.
"It's me," I offer and shut the door. Rounding the wall into the living room, I see Jill curled up on the couch with a book in her lap.
Her eyebrow rises in question as I plop down next to her. Shrugging, I say, "Seems your wife and my partner are on a case together."
"You aren't working with them?" surprise tainting the question.
Shaking my head, I answer, "Nope. I get to work with a new partner for the time being."
"Hmm," she hums, "Lemme guess, you aren't too pleased?"
I snort, "Pleased as punch about being left out of the loop."
"Well as long we're riding the bitter train, I'll join the punch and let you know I wasn't really too happy when John called and told Ann that her vacation was cut short for this new case."
It's the first time I've heard her speak about Ann's job in an annoyed tone. Truthfully, I've never really thought about their differing professions effecting their personal life. Nora and I blended that pretty well. There are rough patches and things sometimes need smoothing over, but for the most part our schedules are the same. It's never caused us to leave another out in the cold
Except for today.
"Does this happen to you two a lot?" I inquire.
"Not as often as you'd think, but when it does, I try to be understanding. I get it. She's out catching bad guys and saving people, but," she stops and holds up her thumb and index finger offering an inch of space between the pads of her fingers, "I do feel a bit put out."
"Being in love with someone who's schedule is pretty much random can be a chore," I joke, trying to take the bite out of the reality of the situation.
"Indeed." She sets her book on the coffee table and stands, slipping on a pair of sandals that were by the couch. "The upside is that I can shop or whatever and Ann doesn't say anything. She's cheap and hates to spend money."
Grinning, she offers me her hand and I take it so she can hoist me up from my seat. "Although today, I get to be annoyed with her because, this trip was supposed to be interruption free. My wife doesn't know it yet, but she's bought the two of us a few outfits."
I laugh with her and shake my head.
"She can buy you some new clothes. I can buy my own, but really, there's this sale at a few boutiques in the Quarter that I was going to go to today. You up for some new shoes?"
"Why bother asking." I wait as she grabs her purse and a pair of sunglasses to complete her ensemble. Looking stylishly put together, I approve of the low slung jeans, and spaghetti strapped tank top she's wearing. Simple, but on her it looks good. "Lead the way Nikki dear. It's been a while since I've perused the great city of New Orleans."
She follows me out and down to the car. I focus on the shoes that will soon be in my tender loving care and try to put aside the seed of worry and annoyance that's planted itself in the pit of my gut. Nora will be fine and I can work with someone else for a little while. It's not the end of the world.
I just hope Ann and Nora keep each other safe.
June Lee revs to life as I wait on Ann to get into the passenger seat. It's after six in the evening and my eyes burn from the amount of reports that we looked over today. As my new partner closes the door her phone starts to chirp. Quickly, she snatches it up and answers, "Flemming."
Fussing a moment with the seat belt she hits the option for speaker phone and sets her phone/palm pilot/mini-whatzit on the dashboard as she buckles herself in.
"Ann you have Nora with you?" the crackly voice asks.
"Yep, John. Shoot." Ann answers as she pulls the door shut.
"Good evening ladies. I just wanted to check in. Seems I'm going to be in D.C. longer that I would like," her boss explains. "What I wanted to do is just make sure you two touch base with me. Ann fill me in daily. Also, I'm having a courier drop a file that came our way from San Francisco. I need you to review and then send to who do we have in the city? I know we've worked there before." John trails off.
"Rory Castillo and his partner Gene Patel. They worked the Last Call case with us a few years back," Ann answers.
"Hmm, alright, call them and have them butt their nose in this new case. Send over the requisite paperwork to the superiors listed on the file." We hear paperwork shuffling in the background and then he picks up, "Ann, before you send it I want you to look it over. Give them your input and steer them in the right direction for the investigation."
Ann's face darkens as she asks, "Something I should know?"
He sighs into the phone, "I don't know. I took a cursory glance at the file, but it just bugged. The photos from the crime scene didn't I was missing something and I'm hoping you could shed the light. Also, I'll be sending Luce and Travis out for back up so let Rory and Gene know they'll have company."
"'Kay. Is there a reason why we're sending out a full team?"
"Part of that whole 'bugged' feeling I got. I think we'll need it." He stops talking as a muffled voice sounds behind him. He 'uh-huh's' a coupla times and comes back to us. "Where am I sending this file? I need you on it tonight."
"Send it to 231 Conti Street. #206," I answer for Ann.
"Will do. I need to go. Ann, we'll talk tomorrow and please do me a favor and beg forgiveness from Jill. I meant what I said this morning."
Ann sighs and pulls on her lip. "I will. She can ream you instead of me."
He snorts into the phone and says, "She knows how to get a hold of me. Good night ladies."
"Give'em hell, John," Ann smiles ruefully and hits the end button on her contraption.
I raise an eyebrow over at my friend as she tugs at her lower lip in thought. Her brow crinkles more and then suddenly she stops and her face relaxes. "Alright, to your place it is."
"Everything okay?" I ask, placing a hand on her thigh.
"Dunno," she says shaking her head. "Him in D.C. is no good. Things have been tense with the new administration and then this new case on top of the stuff he's sending over tonight. He's right, Jill's gonna call him and rip him a new one." She smirks and says, "Let's go. That file will be at the apartment within the next two hours and I need to smooth things over with Jill before she pitches a fit."
I put June in gear and we head towards my apartment. Ann and I never really talk shop when we're together. It's always catch up on the more mundane life things and the stuff that we do on our off time that fills our visits together. Getting involved work wise now, I think maybe that was a mistake because I really don't know what her job entails.
The cursory answer I got a while back was that she works for the Department of Special Investigations. The vague description she gave went something along the lines of her and a team of other agents spend their time in various parts of the country assisting local authorities with hard to solve murders, serial killings and missing person cases. But hearing John and getting a glimpse of her work world, I'm thinking it's a lot more involved than that.
I've never seen a federal agent, let alone a director, operate the way that those two seem to. What's more is that spending the little bit of time with them together as I did, there's a synchronicity between the two that's at the very least interesting and at most makes me wanna ask some questions later on.
I hang a left to zip up a side alley that'll put us a block away from my place when Ann's voice interrupts my thoughts, "Hey, is Paulette's still open?"
I think a moment as it's been forever since I picked up a bouquet of flowers. The last time was for Mother's Day this past May. Did I get 'em from Paulette's? "Uh, I think. We can swing by and check. There a reason why you need a flower shop?" I ask wryly.
"I'm cutting vacation short to catch gun smugglers and tonight I'll be looking at crime scene photos all night on at least two murders. I need to make amends and offer penance." She smirks and shakes her head, resigned to cutting short her time with her wife.
"You are so whipped," I tease and pull to a stop next to the flower shop in question. The open sign is visible and I kill the engine.
"Hey, better to be whipped than without consistent nookie," she teases me and then hops out of the car.
I laugh as she disappears inside and silently I have to agree. I've made my own trips to the flower shop since starting this relationship with Nikki.
It takes only a few minutes for Ann to slip back into the car with a mid-size arrangement of flowers. I look over and laugh.
"What?" she asks indignantly. "Look, these are her favorite flowers, Stargazer Lilies, Tulips and Carnations. If I play this right, I may only have to spend half the week on the couch instead of the whole week on the couch."
I shake my head and put June back out on the street. "Whipped. And really, I'll deny this if you ever call me on it, but it's sweet."
Ann grins at me as we pull up next to my apartment building. "I know. And see, there's that hopelessly romantic streak that I know and love." She playful reaches over and pinches my cheek. "It's one of your more endearing qualities, Nora Marie."
I muster a good natured scowl and kill the engine, thinking that I'm going to have my own bit of damage control to do tonight as well.
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