DISCLAIMER: Not mine. These ladies and some of the other characters belong to Nancylee Myatt and Co.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This takes place in the Why Don't You & I A.U. but no spoilers really.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
One Percent: I-The Scum
The night is raucous; alive with the sound of music spilling out of the bars that line St. Peter Street. It is warm and sticky, but a breeze cuts through the grid of streets that make up the Quarter. It makes the night tolerable, even with the mass of moving bodies. Laughter up ahead pulls the young man's attention away from the phone in his hand. He quickly surveys what's happening around him. A group of girls dressed in short skirts, impossibly high heels, and variations on halter tops lean into each other as they stop at the corner of the street.
The phone is slipped into his back, right pocket before he runs his hands through his stringy, strip of brown hair on the top of his head. Sweat drips from his temples and the back of his neck, rolling down his face and back. The sweat makes the heat and grim acute, causing him to feel that much more soiled than he was a few seconds ago. Some of the sweat's already soaked into the collar of his thin, cotton button up, staining the collar a deeper blue.
The footsteps echo around him. People pass him, glancing off his shoulders in a way that becomes numbing. It's one of the many hazards of living in any city and also of being down in the Quarter on a Saturday night. Squaring his shoulders as he nears the intersection, anxious to get to MacCailin's on the next block.
Stopping with the others moving his way, he shifts his weight from left to right waiting on the flow of traffic to change in their favor. A small mass of people surround him, looking to move on, just like him, eager to get to the next stop tonight. The cars going against them barely come to a stop as he readies himself to move forward.
The surge of bodies around him causes his foot to rise as he takes his first step. The sting in his back barely registers as his foot plants itself on the warm concrete. He stops, getting slightly jostled as bodies move around him, anchored to the spot as another sting, rips along his right side. Another one goes deeper; instead of the grunt or whimper of pain, bitter, coppery warmth fills his mouth. An unnatural chills sweeps over him, instantly cooling the slick sweat he was used to. He coughs and dark spittle flies from his lips. It spatters itself on the back of a woman in a white tank top. The red dots spread a little as the fabric soaks them up.
As he drops to his knees, the screams are distant, faint. The pain begins to ebb and he grows warm. Falling to his side, the concrete's a bit damp. A few puddles reflect back the colorful lighting. His lips press together and his eyes flutter closed. His breathing brings in the scent of the street, dirty and soiled, before it slows and stops.
The lamp against the far wall of the small, dingy hotel room provided the only light when Nikki let the right side of the thick, polyester curtain fall shut. The faded, robin egg blue material thumped against the window sill and let loose a bouquet of stale cigarette smoke and cheap air freshener. Looking over her shoulder, she saw her partner for the night settle on a similarly colored bedspread. The bed's springs protested under the weight and it was no mystery that it had seen far better days.
"They're on their way up," she informed the man she'd first been partnered with years ago. "Ready?" she asked as she pulled her gun free of its holster to check before they were needed in the adjoining room. She flicked the safety off and holstered the gun as Ron stood and nodded.
"Still having a hard time with why you let your partner out there?" Ron snapped his gum and finally asked what had been on his mind all night. He knew Nikki had done stings like this before. He'd been with her on the first two jobs. Nora, his old partner's new one, hadn't, at least as far as he was able to put together. Of course, it wasn't that long ago that he and Nikki reconnected. Nikki'd changed. He had to.
She gave him no response as her hand rested on her gun. She neared the door to the adjoining room and looked back at him, a thin manicured eyebrow rose as he came up behind her. She was first in this round. They'd taken turns tonight, much to his annoyance. He hated sending in anyone smaller first.
"Don't," Nikki hissed.
"I wasn't " Ron tried to defend himself.
"Bullshit," Nikki bit off. "It's my partner in the other room. Act right, Baird."
His lips pursed, but took the order for what it was and squared his shoulders, waiting with her for the signal. He and Nikki pressed the ear buds deeper, waiting. No one wanted risk a wire in the field, so they'd bugged the room they were using for the stings.
It took longer than expected to for the door to open and Nora's voice sounded in their ear. He watched Nikki's shoulders drop slightly, before rising again as she pulled her gun free again and put her hand the door knob.
He listened as Nora baited the man in the room with her. It didn't take long for him to offer payment to the detective next door. It took the blink of an eye for Nikki to push open the door and raise her gun with him close on her heels.
They both stopped short to watch as Nora pressed the heel of her four-inch heels into the john's throat to silence his protests. Ron holstered his gun and moved around Nikki to flip the guy on his back and cuff him. "Mike Foxtrot Hotel, we are clear in two-twenty-eight," Ron barked into the mic at his wrist and then read the collar his Miranda rights.
"Good?" Nikki asked her partner who was straightening out the purple, mesh miniskirt. Nikki gave the outfit her partner had on a hundredth look that night, from the tips of the peep toe, glittery, starred heels, over the thigh-highs with exposed garters, miniskirt, and sequined, gold tube top. The hair and make-up were different things all together, the mussed hair and heavy eye shadow. Nikki shook her head and tried to hide the smile at her partner from everyone in the room.
Nora nodded and asked, "That makes three. We're done, right?"
Two officers in grungy jeans and dingy, faded t-shirts walked through the room's main door before Nora had a chance to respond. Ron, not missing a beat, handed off their collar and responded to the question, "We are. Good work tonight, ladies."
As the other three left, Ron shut the door and turned back to the duo. "Go get changed while we strip the room," he directed and moved to the antennae on top of the T.V. where the lone bug was hidden.
Nora didn't need to be told twice. She headed for the bathroom and Nikki watched her go.
Ron pulled the bug from the back of the antennae and grumped, "Beaumont, put your goddamn tongue away and you didn't answer my question."
Shaking her head, Nikki looked towards Ron. "I thought seeing her would answer it for me."
The brunette's eyebrows wiggled briefly before Nora's protest could be heard behind the thin bathroom door, "I heard that, Nikki!"
Ron snickered , "Dumbass."
"He pissed on my clothes!" Nora shouted as she slammed the driver's door of her car. The action garnered the look of several uniforms and a tech or two as they approached the crime scene.
Nikki hid her smile with the back of her left hand while using her right to flash her badge at the uniform holding up the crime scene tape.
"I liked that shirt and those jeans " Nora continued to whine behind her. Nikki did feel bad. Those jeans did hug her lover in all the right spots, but when Nikki kindly offered to bag them and have them dry cleaned, Nora's indignant rage grew tenfold. Nikki promptly shut her mouth and let her partner rage.
The upside to it all was that on their way home, Nora still looking like she was ready to work a corner, a call had come in that sent them out to the Quarter.
"Hey, Delaney, how much?" David Keenan from C.S.U. barked and took another picture of their approach.
"Go back to photographing the dead, David," Nikki warned. "She's liable to shoot you in front of anyone and I don't want to have to deal with the paperwork if it happens."
"Fuck off," Nora grumbled and brushed against him, adding a little more force with her shoulder when she connected. Nikki laughed as he stumbled and nearly landed on his butt.
There was a round of laughter from the crew that surrounded them, but Charlie's wide eyed, open mouthed gape had Nikki in stitches. Her fit of laughter got her a smack to the shoulder and a low growl, "Both of you, shut the hell up."
"Didn't say a word," Charlie mumbled and went back to scribbling on his clipboard.
"Who's the unlucky man ruining a night of debauchery for the tourists?" Nikki squatted down and looked over the body. The man was lying on his stomach, arms jutted out, and raised above his head. The blue shirt he had on was stained a dark crimson.
"No I.D." Charlie stated. "I'll run prints when I get back. For right now, he's Mr. Doe."
"Took a shot in each lung and one in the kidney," Nora surmised from her standing position next to Nikki.
"Come on down and have a closer look," the brunette detective suggested right before blocking the half-hearted kick from the blonde. "You wound me, sug."
"Stuff it, Beaumont," Nora growled again.
"Now, ladies, no need to reduce yourselves to a wrestling match on my account. Give me a few minutes, I'm sure I can drum up a large enough audience and charge a decent admissions price," Charlie suggested, wiggling his eyebrows as they both glared. "But, you'd be right, Nora. Stabbed in each lung and the kidney."
"Are you going straight back to work on him?" Nikki asked, standing up and wincing as her knees popped on her way up.
"Nope. Ice." Charlie scratched at his forehead while he answered. "As you can see," he indicated to the stripped pajama bottoms and thin grey t-shirt he had on, "I wasn't really working when the call came in."
"The shoes are a nice touch," Nora snickered at the mismatched pair he wore. "Have to admit the one dress shoe and the one sneaker make it sort of classy."
"Those in glass houses, Nora, should not throw those stones," Charlie warned as he waved an arm at her attire. "What were you two getting up to?"
"Sting operation with my old partner," Nikki explained. "Nora wanted to see how it felt working the other side of the law."
"Everything you hoped it'd be?" Charlie grinned.
"You have no idea, Ophoven, no idea." Nora replied and clapped him on the shoulder. "We should go talk to the first responding team and start taking in interviews."
Nikki nodded and scanned the crowd. "Seems like our night just got a bit longer."
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