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: whedonistic.tendencies@gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


White Riot
By Whedonist


Sliding the suitcase under the bed, Nikki glanced around her dorm room. Her side of the room was finally unpacked. The few pictures that she had rested atop the ancient, school provided desk/bookshelf. It was an industrial piece of furniture meant to be functional not look pretty.

She really wished it looked a little better. The nicks, dents and stains marring the top and sides gave testament to how much it had actually weathered. Her eyes shifted from the desk to the off white walls down to the twin bed. When she and her father had come to visit the university, she had made it a point to visit the dorms. If she was going to go to school here and have the full collegiate experience, living in the dorm was going to be part of said experience.

Nikki had found that she could live with a lot of the ancient furniture. She could live with the not so clean smell that permeated the place and the dreadful industrial lighting. What she could not handle was the mattress. She knew without a doubt that she wouldn't get a decent night's sleep no matter how sleep deprived she was. So her father had bought two new mattresses for the space. Her roommate's already set up and waiting for her to make up and use.

She sucked in her lower lip and began to chew it absently wondering if there was anything else that she needed to do. She ran down the check list in her head and knew everything was done. She was getting ready to turn to the closet to make sure she had left enough room for her roommate, when the door opened.

Turning to face the individuals as their voices carried through bringing laughter and a soft threat of violence Nikki smiled brightly as she took in the two grinning faces. The girl, who she knew to be named Erica Jamison, greeted her with a bright wide smile. The boy smiling in the exact same way held two large suitcases in his hands and one stuffed under his arm. Nikki remembered the few letters they had exchanged over the summer and assumed the boy was Erica's cousin, Darius Jamison.

"Hi," Nikki beamed approaching to help lighten her new roommate's load. Taking one of the boxes from Erica's hand, she set it down on the floor.

"Nikki," the other girl gushed as she tossed the last two boxes on the bed. "It's so nice to finally meet you." She grabbed her cousin's arm and said, "This is Darius. Darius, I'd like you to meet my roommate, Nikki Beaumont."

Nikki held out her hand, as Darius gently took hold and raised it to his lips, offering a soft kiss to the back of her hand in greeting. "Jeremiah Darius Jamison at your service, cheri." He looked up into her eyes and winked, "Most call me Darius."

"Nice to meet you, Darius." Nikki winked back, liking the young man instantly. "Would ya'll like some help unpacking or unloading?"

Erica shook her head, "This all there is. Didn't really know how much room I was gonna have." She went to the closet and peeked in, noticing the space arrangements, she giggled as she poked her head back out of the closet and looked Nikki over. "I see space for our shoes is going to be a problem."

Nikki blushed and admitted, "I tried to leave you as much space as I could."

Darius looked between the two and slapped his hand to his forehead, "Saints help us! Tell me you aren't as bad as her?" He lifted up one of the suitcases and shook it for emphasis. "I had to talk her down from two suitcases full of shoes to the one."

Nikki and Erica locked eyes and immediately grinned, knowing that this was going to work out just fine. With any luck, the two girls wore the same shoe size and they could combine their efforts.

Nikki shoved her foot into the boot and triumphantly zipped up the side. Admiring how Erica's new boots fit, she let her gaze travel over to her roommate of the past eight months. She lingered on Erica's tight clad legs and traveled up to the woman's top. Even though she wore a sweater that was a size too big Nikki could not stop herself from appreciating the curves she knew to be hidden underneath.

Licking her lips, Nikki was about to comment, but blushed and admonished herself for the thoughts. These thoughts weren't new to her. She'd been thinking of Erica in more of a less friendly fashion more recently. She wondered if this was the way it always goes.

In high school, she played her role and was on the cheerleading squad. She also remembered the lingering glances she gave the other girls. Looking a bit too long at their bodies after practice. At the time, she didn't think it was skeezy. Now she wasn't so sure. Now, Nikki knew better and realized that while the other girls were checking each other out to see who's ass was fatter, she was checking them to check them out.

Over the course of the last few months, Nikki struggled with the knowledge that she was indeed, at the very least, bi-sexual. At least that's what she called herself, unwilling to go 'completely gay'. The bi-sexual moniker was something that she could handle right now. Contending with decidedly steamy thoughts about a girl while knowing the girl was not only your best friend, but your roommate to boot was almost more than Nikki could handle.

Silently she chastised herself; she couldn't fathom how it had come to her feeling this way. Erica was always nice, always there to lend a supportive ear. Erica had also proven to be the one person Nikki felt the most "herself" with. Being who she was, coming from the Beaumont family, there were expectations that she had to meet; with Erica, there were no expectations. There were no obligations. Erica not only respected, but also accepted Nikki for everything she was and wasn't.

Yeah, what wasn't there to fall in love with?

"Nikki?" Erica waved a hand in front of Nikki's face trying to garner a response. She had been calling Nikki's name for a few seconds, but the brunette hadn't responded.

"Uh?" Nikki grunted gracelessly, jerking away from the hand waving in front of her face.

"I was saying, darlin' that Darius is going to be here shortly." Erica rested her hand on her hip, cocking it out to the side. "You 'bout ready to go or am I flying solo and leaving you in La-La Land?"

Blushing, Nikki shook her head. "Nope, I'm here. Ready to blow off some much needed steam."

Stopping her friend from moving Erica took Nikki's hand and cupped her cheek with the other. "You alright? You've been, Nikki, I don't want to say off, but cher, you ain't been right for a spell. "

Guiltily, Nikki looked away and broke the intimate embrace. Coughing, she struggled to find her voice, "I'm…good, Rica. I promise. Just with all these damn tests and that paper for end of term."

Erica eyed her friend carefully. Deciding to let it drop, she offered one last comment, "Well, if there's anything else, you know Nik, you can come to me. I'll love you regardless of what you have to say."

Unable to say anything Nikki nodded lamely in response. She was saved from further embarrassment as a knock on the door broke the tension in the room.

Erica moved to open the door and Darius came bouncing in. "You two fine young ladies ready to make the patrons in the French Quarter blush?"

Nikki smiled as she grabbed her coat, following Erica and Darius out the door, down the steps and to the car. It wasn't long before they were in front of the only place the three of them could agree to, St. Peters.

Erica followed Nikki in as Darius took up the rear. Her heart thudded in her chest as she watched Nikki's confident swagger. Erica Jamison never thought she'd fall for a white girl, but a rich, white girl who's daddy was a major player in New Orleans political arena. The only issue for Erica was that she really didn't know what to do.

There were times when she felt Nikki at least felt the same way. That she may just reciprocate the feelings that Erica had harbored from their first meeting, but then Nikki would always qualify whatever happened with, "I can't believe what a good friend you are" or something equally inane.

Shaking her head she took a seat across from the one that Nikki chose. She gave her roommate her drink order. Erica allowed her gaze to linger on Nikki as the other woman sauntered up to the bar and placed their drink orders. Guiltily she looked away as Nikki began flirting with the bartender. A finger hooked under her chin and tilted her head up. Her cousin's smiling face met her gaze and her expression softened.

"Now, I know my Thumper isn't sittin' here with one of the prettiest girls in Nawlins and her down right devilish older cousin pouting." He let go of her chin and scooted a bit closer to be heard above the din of the bar and music. "You wanna tell good ole Darius, what's troublin' you?"

Erica glanced away and couldn't help let her gaze land on Nikki or rather, Nikki's backside. Darius followed her gaze and laughed. "Y' know, ever since you and Nikki been friends, I ain't seen you not smile." He poked her ribs playfully as she batted his hand away. "A course, I ain't known her long either but I ain't seen her without an equally sappy look."

Erica's head jerked around to look at her cousin. He didn't say what she thought he just said. He shook his head and pressed, "Cheri, I won't claim to understand it, but if she makes you happy…I suggest you let her know. A girl like her won't wait around forever."

Unable to stop the insecurity, she asked, "And if I go and ruin one of the best friendships I've ever had?"

Darius shrugged unable to answer. "Ain't love worth the risk? Better to know than not."

As Erica was about to respond Nikki came back to the table with their drinks. Laying the beer in front of Erica, Nikki's hand lingered as it brushed against the smooth mocha skin of her friends. Warmth spread through her and she blushed.

Darius nudged Erica's leg with his foot and looked pointedly between his cousin and Nikki. Once Erica caught on Darius stood and said, "There was a fine lookin' woman that was eyeing me when we got in. I'm gonna go see if I can track her down." He picked up his club soda and beamed. "You ladies holla if you need me." With that he turned around and melted in with the crowd.

Nikki shook her head. Darius was certainly a character but time in and out he'd proved one of the best people she'd ever met. Looking over at Erica, Nikki smiled. She still marveled at how right it felt just being around her. This hadn't ever happened with anyone else. This was new, strong and it scared her. Add to the fact that she couldn't express her feelings to her friend and it was enough for Nikki to knock back her whiskey sour in a fourth of the time it usually took her.

Pulling on the collar of her blouse, Nikki fidgeted. Tonight seemed a bit warmer than usual in the club, which really was nothing more than a dive that happened to play decent music instead of the mass produced synthesized crap that was standard fair. The floor was painted black and she usually ignored the times her feet stuck a little as she walked. The stools and tables were at least twenty years old but there was a charm to the place that she and Erica couldn't seem to get over.

"Nik," Erica started, "you know how earlier I said you could tell me anything?" She waited on Nikki's nod before continuing, "There's some stuff I want to talk to you about."

Nikki swallowed the last of her drink and asked, "What is it, darlin'?"

Silently, Erica cursed Darius for his persistence. In a way she knew he was right, but that still didn't take away from her nerves or the cold sweat that began trailing down her spine as she committed to confessing her feelings to Nikki tonight. Standing, she grabbed Nikki's hand and led them towards the back of the club.

She led them through the small sea of people on the dance floor, past the long line to get into the bathroom, to a back door that led to an alley behind the bar. Knowing it was kept open; she pushed through the heavy security door and turned left to a stack of crates that were resting along the wall. The fresh air did wonders for her head, but caused her to shiver as the already cold perspiration chilled further on her body.

Sitting down, she waited as Nikki followed suit. Their knees touched as Erica turned towards her friend and grabbed both hands. Swallowing, Erica's posture stiffened as she began confessing. She smirked, realizing their situation was a walking talking cliché, her, a scholarship student from the ghetto falling for the moneyed, popular girl from the 'right side of the tracks'.

Absently, Nikki rubbed her nose. The ray of sunlight peeking through the crack of the hotel blinds warmed her face. She turned her head, burrowing further into the crook of her lovers arm, effectively shielding her eyes from the natural alarm clock. Drawing in a contented breath, she wasn't sure which smell she preferred. The body holding her, the sweet smell of the flowers in the hotel room or the lingering scent of a night spent in bed, on the floor and against the wall.

The arm holding her tightened and she heard, "Bien-aimé, you can't sleep all day. We've got plans."

"But, it's eeaaarrrrllllyyy," Nikki whined into the body holding her. A lazy smile infected her features that she hoped couldn't be seen.

"Nicollette Joyelle Beaumont, we will not be wasting the day away in bed," Erica's voice full of mock severity.

Groaning, Nikki turned over, scooted up the bed and covered their entwined forms with the sheet. Pouting at her girlfriend, she said, "I just knew telling you my full name would give me nothin' but grief."

Erica reached up and smoothed the crease that formed between Nikki's eyes. "And yet you didn't mind a lick when I was using it earlier this morning or last night," she stopped and tapped her finger to her lips as she drawled the last part, "or the night before that."

"Well, Erica Frances Jamison, you said it so sweetly before. Wooed this Southern Belle right off her feet." Her eyes danced with merriment as she traced her love's full bottom lip. "My full name can only be used as it falls gracefully from these gorgeous lips in the heat of passion. Not as you sit here and scold me as if I'm a child."

Erica's eyebrow rose elegantly as she licked her lip and caught the tip of Nikki's finger. She laved the tip with her tongue before releasing the digit and said, "But, Nikki, you misbehave with the best of Nawlins upper echelon of rich, spoilt girls."

Nikki's response was that of a four year old, as she stuck her tongue out and made a face at Erica. "Now, now just because I come from a certain background doesn't mean I was spoilt."

Erica pursed her lips and offered Nikki a disbelieving look. Conceding, Nikki said, "I just happened to be Daddy's favorite."

"You're your daddy's only," Erica pointed out.

Laughing, Nikki pulled Erica closer, running her hands down the other girl's smooth, lithe back and whined, "You weren't supposed to mention that." Adjusting their position, Nikki turned Erica face down and straddled her lover's thighs.

"Hmm," Nikki's lover hummed in appreciation of the hands kneading the slightly sore muscles of her back. Melting under her girlfriend, Erica mumbled, "Since this is the last day of our break, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to stay in bed a bit longer."

"Uh-huh," Nikki said triumphantly. Knowing her light massages worked nicely on her girl. "Considering that it's not only Spring Break, but our year anniversary, I feel that we should set up camp here the rest of the day." She teased a knot out of the middle of her lover's back admiring the contrasting skin tones along the way. "Room service is a wonderful thing."

"Indeed," Erica agreed. "With the start of the new term you know we're barely gonna see each other."

Nikki groaned, "Don't remind me."

"And if I'm gonna finish early I need to double up this next quarter," she reminded Nikki.

"You do know that graduating a year and a half early isn't all that important?"

"It is if I wanna get outta law school before twenty-five."

Reluctantly, Nikki agreed, "I suppose." Stopping her ministrations she stretched out, lying directly on top of Erica. Stretching her arms out Nikki entwined their hands as she rested her cheek between the other girl's shoulder blades.

A shiver coursed down the other girl's body as Nikki melted into her. She let out a low hum of approval. Silently she wondered at how well things had worked out. How amazing her life had become with Nikki as a friend and then as her lover. With that girl on her arm, Erica felt like she could conquer the world. In a few years time, she'd be working with the N.A.A.C.P and Nikki would be doing whatever Nikki wished to do.

It was still a sticking point with Erica; her girl didn't seem to have a driving need to do anything. She was at Loyola to get her dad off her back, but Nikki had no real idea what career she might want. For Erica, her driving passion had always been about the fight for equality. She'd seen the discrimination since early childhood and had been on the receiving end of more than just passing racial comments.

Nikki always joked that she was the reincarnation of Martin Luther King Jr. and that pleased her. Erica couldn't think of another person that held her respect in such away. Although, much to her annoyance, Nikki became the one thing she wanted more than she did a position at the N.A.A.C.P.

A series of kisses broke her from her comfortable musings. The feelings of contentment that had wrapped around the young lovers began to be replaced. With each kiss Nikki placed on Erica's back a slow need began to build in the pit of her stomach. She groaned and turned over, trying hard not to dislodge the brunette on top of her.

Instinctively their lips met. The kiss began slowly then a small part in Erica's lips allowed Nikki's tongue to slip in. Hands roamed and legs entwined. Wanting to slow things down, Erica pulled back and flipped them over. She knew, with Nikki at the helm, the girl would satiate the need burning equally through both of them as quickly as possible. Erica wanted this to last.

Her arms braced her weight as they settled on either side Nikki's head. Her leg slipped between the other girl's thighs as a devilish smile curved the corner of her mouth upwards. Feeling her lover shudder below her, Erica smiled and set herself at a nice, even pace rocking their bodies together.

Nikki bounced into the apartment calling out for Erica. "Baby, I'm back!" She set her purchases down next to the couch in the living room. When no reply came, she looked around and noticed the red light on their answering machine blinking. She walked over to the end table and hit 'play'.

Nikki let out a small sigh of annoyance. It wasn't that big a deal, but she was hoping Erica would be home so they could cook dinner together. Today was her last day of class before Christmas break and while Erica had one more evening class to attend, Nikki had celebrated by dragging Darius to a sale at Saks. Nikki shrugged. Easy come easy go. She'd just have to cook dinner for both of them as she silently cursed Dr. Carter for his stupid project.

Passing by a thin table that ran along the back length of the couch she smiled at the photo of Erica and her on their a0nniversary trip this last April. While it was only mid-December the trip seemed like a warm, distant memory. Convincing her lover to allow her to take them on a trip to Los Angeles had been like pulling teeth. Eventually she wore Erica down.

Making a note to try for a little get-a-way over New Years, Nikki thought of possible locations. Convincing her daddy that these were sorely needed and that she needed to pay for Erica too was always fun. Looking over at a picture of her and her father together a pang of regret washed through her. Despite her and Erica being together for nearly two years she'd yet to come clean to her father. Instead they both remained in the closet. One day she'd tell her daddy, but she knew it would be no time soon.

She walked back over to the bags, grabbed the handles and moved down the hall to their bedroom. She set them on the bed and began taking the shoe boxes out of the bags. She'd gone a little overboard, but these shoes weren't just for her. Erica would end up wearing them too. In fact, Nikki had bought her a pair of pumps that she knew her lover would die for. Smiling as that particular box was pulled from the bag, she decided that instead of wrapping them and placing them under the tree, as she'd intended, they'd be sat on the bed as a surprise for Erica when she returned.

After stashing the bags away Nikki noticed it was a little later than she thought. She knew the school library was open until eleven tonight. She also knew that Erica's group was nothing if not industrious perfectionist. They would be there until the very end. Resigning herself to a night alone, Nikki got ready for bed. As she settled in, she picked up the book that Erica had asked her to read, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. She settled in to the bed with the book on her lap and set off reading.

The shrill ringing of the telephone startled Nikki from her sleep. Absently she reached over for the receiver on Erica's side of the bed. Finally grappling with it, she pulled it from its cradle and mumbled an annoyed, "'Ello?"

"Hi, is Erica there?" came the chipper bouncy voice from the other line.

Letting some of the fog clear, Nikki glanced over at the clock and realized that it was way past eleven p.m. It was actually nine in the morning and as she quickly glanced around there was no trace of Erica coming home the night before. Resisting the panic that welled up she told the girl on the other end of the line, "She's actually not here right now, can I take a message?"

"Yeah, if you can just tell her that Janine called and we just needed the closing piece for our presentation that we'll be all set and I'll see her in class."

"I'll make sure she gets the message," silently adding 'After I strangle her for not coming to bed at last night.'

"Thanks. Nikki, right?" Janine asked.

"It is," her reply short.

"Good to actually put a voice to the face. Hopefully we can meet up sometime, between the picture she has of you two and the way she talks, we'd have fun."

"That'd be just swell." Gathering a bit of patience, she ended the call, "Janine, I gotta get goin', but I'll make sure Erica gets the message. Take care."


Not bothering with another platitude, she replaced the receiver and rubbed her eyes. Sitting up, she swung her legs towards the floor and sat on the edge of their bed getting her bearings. Grabbing her robe, she padded out into the living room, hoping to find Erica curled up on the couch.

Much to her annoyance there was no one there. In fact, the place looked exactly like it had when she got home last night and forgot dinner in favor of a book and sleep. Worry wrapped itself along the base of Nikki's spine. Unsure of what to do, she called Darius.

"Yo," came the gruff answer.

"Darius, it's Nikki." She chewed her bottom lip deciding on how to approach her concerns. "I don't mean to bug you, but Erica didn't come home last night. Did you hear from her?"

The voice quickly became laced with concern as he asked, "Cher, I ain't talked to Erica since Sunday night dinner."

Nikki moved to the kitchen table. Slouching down in a chair, she nervously picked at the table top. "Darius this isn't like her. She always calls."

"I'll be over in a five minutes," Darius said, ending the call.

Nikki unwound the phone cord and put it back on the hook. She looked around the kitchen, lost. Acid turned sourly in her stomach. Coffee would have been nice. She shook the idea off knowing her stomach couldn't handle it.

Instead she moved into the living room. Unconsciously she took to walking the length of the room. She tried to figure out where Erica could have gone. If she hadn't gone to Darius, Nikki was at a loss. The only family she had was Darius, her grandmother and a brother that she didn't speak to. Her not coming home last night made no sense to her lover as she wouldn't have gone anywhere else.

It was less than five minutes when Darius let himself in with the key he had to their apartment. He approached Nikki cautiously. He knew by looking at her that the lines marring her face were from worry. She may have only woken up a little bit ago, but the concern wore at her.

"Nik," Darius said softly.

Unthinking, Nikki rushed him, hugging him tight.

He tried to soothe her. Rubbing his hand up and down her back, he said, "You still in bed clothes. Why don't you get dressed and we'll head out. See if we can track down that wayward girl of ours."

Nikki nodded into his neck and released him. "I'll be right back."

Darius watched her rush to the bedroom and looked around. He smiled as he remembered helping the girls move into this place. It was right after their freshman year ended. The place and the move had been good for them both. Nikki came out a few moments later, a t-shirt of Erica's that had the Southern Poverty Law Center's logo emblazoned across the chest and a pair of jeans made up the brunette's outfit.

She walked to the couch and sat down to put on a pair of socks. She reached under the coffee table, grabbed her tennis shoes and laced them up. She stood absently running her fingers through her hair and looked at Darius.

"Where are we gonna look?" she asked nervously.

Darius motioned for her to follow him. They headed outside and he locked the door behind them. He led her out into the crisp winter morning trying to think of places his cousin would go.

Darius followed Nikki into the police station. He watched as she stood tall and ripped into the front desk clerk. "Now, here I am, twenty-four hours later and my lov – my roommate still isn't home." Nikki placed her hand on her hip and growled, "I want to file that missing person's report. And I want to do it now."

The officer at the front desk meekly shuffled a few papers and placed a small stack in front of Nikki. Darius would've laughed if he wasn't just as pissed off. They had scoured every place either could think of for his baby cousin yet hadn't turned up anything. As a last ditch effort, 6 hours earlier, they had come to the police station to file a missing person's report only to be turned away until Erica had officially been missing for twenty-four hours.

Exasperated by the attitude's of the cops they had talked to, they'd set up camp at a café down the street and waited the six hours in thick silence. Darius scratched the back of his neck nervously as a cop eyed him from across the room. He missed when Nikki spun around and latched onto his arm. He felt himself stumbling backwards as Nikki pulled him to a set of chairs against the wall.

Unsure of what to do he placed a hand on Nikki's knee as she filled out the paperwork. He watched as she pulled a photograph of Erica from her purse and softly ran finger over the image. Clipping it to the report she stalked back up to the clerk. He followed once again and heard Nikki say, "Are you going to let me talk to someone or not?"

Sighing the clerk picked up the phone and a few minutes later a detective came to usher them to an interview room down the hall. Darius held Nikki's hand as they both told the officer as much as they knew. It was a scant thirty minutes later that they were released from the dingy, stuffy room and told that someone would contact them as soon as they had any information. The parting advice for them was to stick by the phone in case Erica happened to call.

Dejected they shuffled out of the police station. Darius guided Nikki through the dark streets and escorted her home. He wasn't sure what his next moves were going to be but he needed to go ask around. The places he needed to go weren't the places Nikki ever needed to see. In fact, when they finally found Erica and if she knew he even thought of taking Nikki to where he needed to go, he'd lose his hide. That much he was sure of.

Silently they entered the apartment. Dutifully he escorted his cousin's lover to her bed, tucking her in with promises that he'd be back before she even knew he was gone. Watching her for a while, he left satisfied when he knew she'd finally fallen asleep.

He sighed into the cold December air. Thinking about his cousin and how much she'd changed since rooming with Nikki. He didn't care that they were together. He didn't care that Nikki was exactly from the type of background that he and Erica used to make fun of growing up. Nikki was unique in that way. She'd never let her money get in front of who she was. If nothing else about the girl had caused Darius to like and respect her that alone would have.

He looked up as his senses told him he was almost at his destination. While some areas of the city were quiet and sleepy, this neighborhood was not. It teamed with life, sick, decrepit life twenty-four hours a day. He walked into the rundown apartment building and up the rickety stairwell, by-passing three people passed out on the steps. The third floor landing contained the smell of stale piss and cigarette smoke.

A stereo playing indiscernible music caused the walls and door to thump softly as the bass seemed to be turned all the way up. Shaking his head, Darius didn't even bother knocking as he entered Erica's brothers, his cousin's place. He could never reconcile how Erica ended up one way and Ozzie so drastically different. Where Erica was smart, poised and had her shit together, Ozzie was the polar opposite, his list of failures barely overshadowing his list of felonies.

Darius shook his head as he looked around. It may not have been a house, but the crack house still applied. Ignoring the looks he was getting, he followed his cousin's voice into the kitchen. As he rounded the dingy corner into the small space, any hope he had of getting help abandoned him.

Nikki lingered on the edge of sleep. The rich aroma of coffee was persistent in forcing her eyes to open. Knowing Erica liked to surprise her some mornings with breakfast in bed, Nikki's smile grew. She reached up, brushed hair from her eyes and sat up.

Her Erica was too good to her, she knew it, but couldn't resist her loves pampering even if she had wanted to. Turning to the other side of the bed undisturbed cold sheets caused Nikki's face to fall in remembrance. Erica wasn't here. She wasn't home. She wasn't anywhere. At least nowhere that Nikki had found. They had suffered through the Christmas holidays and New Year without Erica around.

Suppressing the tears that came automatically she stuffed herself into her robe and shuffled out to the kitchen. Darius's small smile was her greeting as he offered her a cup of coffee. Mumbling her thanks, she sat down at the kitchen table.

"Where you wanna start lookin' today, Nik?" he asked pulling out a chair next to her.

She sipped the hot beverage, shrugging. She didn't know. They had looked high and low for the past two weeks. Hospitals, shelters and morgues. You name it and they had been there. They watched the shared bank account of Nikki and Erica and no charges anywhere, no credit card transactions. It was as if her lover had disappeared.

The most infuriating had been the complete lack of assistance from the local police department. It seemed as though no one was willing to help. The detective assigned to the case took one look at Darius and then at her and rolled his eyes. It wasn't until she introduces herself and her last name registered that he had even wanted to entertain the idea of investigating the disappearance.

"Nicollette," Darius got her attention by the full use of her name and continued, "We ain't gonna stop lookin'. I've known Rica since her and I were runnin' around in diapers. She wouldn't have just up and took off."

Biting back the tears, Nikki shook her head. "That's just it, Dar. I know too." Her jaw clenched as a tear slipped fear and tracked down her left cheek. She let it fall into her coffee. She watched it drop and ripple the beverage. A sob escaped and the rest of the tears she'd been fighting off since she sat down fell.

Darius moved from his seat and pulled Nikki to her feet, wrapping her up in his arms. He held her as she shook. The tears soaking through the thin t-shirt he wore. His heart tore as he cursed whoever was responsible for Erica's disappearance and Nikki's pain. He rubbed her back as the tears subsided, providing the only comfort he could.

They stood in the kitchen holding each other. Neither knowing what to do or say. The shrill ring of the telephone caused both to tense and wince. Absently, Darius reached behind him and plucked the receiver from the wall.

"Yeah?" he answered.

"Hello, this is Detective Doucet with the N.O.P.D. I'm looking for Ms. Beaumont," the voice on the other end of the phone sounding gruff and tired.

"Hang on." Darius covered the mouth piece with his hand and motioned for Nikki. He whispered, "Doucet's on the phone. He wants to talkatcha."

Nodding, she took the receiver and said, "This is Nikki."

"Ms. Beaumont, this is Detective Doucet. It seems there's been a break in your roommate's case. Can you meet me at the Second District precinct?"

Nikki nodded numbly then realized he couldn't see her. Absently she said, "Yes, we'll be down as soon as possible."

Hanging up the phone, she turned to Darius. A small smile graced the corner of his lips and she turned to get ready to leave. Darius finished up in the kitchen and went to the living room to make his 'bed'. Since Erica's disappearance, he had taken to spending the night at Nikki's. It wasn't a permanent thing, but it was comforting in its own way.

Nikki came out of the bedroom a few minutes later, once again wearing a t-shirt of Erica's, this time it was a Los Angeles Lakers shirt. Slightly worn, but Darius recognized it as the one he'd bought for her four years ago for her birthday. Nikki grabbed her purse, keys and jacket while Darius followed her out into the clear January morning.

It didn't take them long to reach the precinct off Magazine Street. The apartment the girls shared was on the East side of Tulane's campus off Benjamin Street. Even in traffic they were there in fifteen minutes. The precinct wasn't as busy as the last time they'd been there. But the festive holiday decorations were down, it was a small comfort as Nikki walked to the front desk. Giving the woman her name the clerk announced her presence to Detective Doucet. It was a few minutes later that the detective escorted them back to an interview room.

As she took in her surroundings Nikki realized that this was the room where they had first put in the missing persons report. It was the same drab cream colored walls that looked like they were washed with a layer of gray. The room held only a cheap metal table with three equally uncomfortable metal chairs with thin green vinyl seats.

She watched Remy Doucet walk into the room and take a seat opposite to Darius and herself. She tried to read his features, to look for any tell that would indicate good news or bad news. The only thing she realized is that he looked tired. Warring with herself she fidgeted. She wasn't sure what to expect. While her heart hoped and wished for one, her head spoke another.

The detective ran his hands over thinning black hair as he sat back in his chair. Lacing his fingers on top of a manila folder he leaned forward and said, "Ms. Beaumont, Mr. Jamison, thanks for coming down."

Nikki's hand was firmly planted in Darius' under the table. Mutely she nodded and waited for him to continue.

"Last night," the detective started in, "there was a raid on a house in the Eighth Ward. There were a few people arrested. There were also two bodies found after the raid was finished. I was called in to identify the body on your friend's M.P.R.." He sighed and watched the faces of the two in front of him fall. "I'm sorry," he said, standing. He pushed the file across the table and offered, "Here are the details that I can offer. It's still an open case. I'll leave you two for a bit."

Not offering anything further, he turned and slipped quietly from the room. Numbly, Nikki stared at the folder in front of her. She knew what she was coming down here for. Her head did at least. The rest of her wasn't prepared to deal with the implications. Releasing her cramped hand from Darius she thumbed the edge of the folder unsure of what she should do.

Darius made the decision for her and slid it in front of him. He opened the folder to a clean headshot of his cousin's lifeless body laid against the bright steel of a morgue table. His jaw clenched and his teeth ached. Of any of his family, his cousin wasn't supposed to end up like this. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep the tears from spilling over. Lifting up the photo he memorized the information of where she was found. Where the house was and in what condition her body was found.

There was no information on who was arrested, but that didn't matter he had ways of finding out.

He would find out.

It felt like hours as the two sat there staring at the last photograph of Erica that would ever be taken. Detective Doucet came back in caring a tray of coffee cups. He smiled sheepishly as he set the tray down. He passed out two of the cups and kept one for himself. Gathering the folder, he sipped his coffee and flipped to the back page. He looked up and said, "I know this is hard for you, but I need to ask some questions."

Nikki picked at the skin around her left thumb. It was already cracked and bleeding, but it was a distraction. She heard herself say, "Go ahead."

Remy watched Darius nod, then asked, "Ms. Beaumont, how long did your roommate have a drug problem?"

Nikki's head whipped up at the accusation. "Excuse me?"

Detective Doucet repeated, "The girl's drug problem, how long or didn't you know?"

Heat burned in Nikki's chest as she glanced over to Darius who shook his head. "Why," Nikki ground out, "do you think she had a drug problem?"

The detective scratched the back of his neck and sighed. Apparently neither knew. "Where she was found. How she went missing. The state of her finances. Women just don't end up in a crack house for the beignet's, Ms. Beaumont."

"Our finances are linked. That money is as much hers as mine." Her eyes burned as her mind began to link the things the detective before her wasn't saying. While it hadn't been the first time, this was certainly the most offensive time that someone had jumped to conclusions. "I assume you know who her brother is?"

Remy nodded and said, "I've had a look."

Nikki held her hand up and ticked off the list, "She's black, she came from a poor family, she's a woman." Her rage burned a bit brighter as she spat, "Her family's all but dead, except for Darius, her grandmother and her good-for-nothing-crackhead brother. Obviously she must be a dealer, addict or whore."

Remy held up his hands to try and stop the attack. Nikki stood, placing her hands, palm flat against the cool steel table. "You went and wrote her off." She leaned over and poked a finger at the detective's chest. "I haven't. I already know the rest of your questions and I'm not answering them. She was a good woman – "her voice broke and she breathed in to control the tears, "she was the best person I've ever had the pleasure of knowing."

Darius gently placed a hand on Nikki's upper arm and whispered, "Nik."

She shrugged his arm off and stared at the detective in front of her.

"Ms. Beaumont," Remy tried, "the facts of the case are just that. Everything I have gives me all the information I need. You best just sit and calm down." His teeth ground themselves together.

"When are you going to release her body?" Nikki interrupted him.

Remy shrugged.

Nikki reached in to her purse and grabbed a card. She tossed it on top of the folder. "Call them when she's ready to be picked up. I'd like to have it done soon." She motioned Darius up. They moved to the front of the door and Darius held it open.

As Nikki was about to leave, Remy's voice stopped her, "You know sugar, slumming it the way you are, I'd be careful."

Nikki turned on heel and stood in front of the smirking detective. "Come again?"

A sneer passed over Doucet's features as he repeated, "You keep slummin' with that over there, you gonna end up the same way one day."

A hard crack echoed in the room as Nikki spat, "Fuck you, detective." She shook her stinging hand and nearly ran out of the room. Darius stood there, rooted. Surprised at the turn of events.

Remy rubbed his cheek, sure that there was a hand print on his face. "I'd go get your meal ticket, boy. Wouldn't want her runnin' off now would ya?"

Darius looked the man over realizing that he wasn't worth much of his time. He opened his mouth to say as much, but stopped. Instead he said, "You're lucky that's all you gonna get." With that he spat at the detective's feet and followed his friend out, hoping to catch up with her.

"Cher, you know this is crazy," Darius pleaded with Nikki. Her only response was an eye roll as she went back to staring at the contents of her closet. Finding what she was looking for, she snatched at the hangers and tossed the clothes at the bed.

Darius could only shake his head. It had been three weeks since Erica's funeral, five weeks since her disappearance. They had knocked on every crack house and drug dealer's door that Darius could dig up. Unsurprisingly, they had turned up nothing.

Darius was about to say something when a knock at the door drew his attention. Leaving Nikki in the room, he approached the front door and asked, "Who's there?"

"It's Arthur, Darius," The reply came.

Smiling, Darius opened the door and eagerly shook the offered hand. Arthur glanced around the apartment and shook his head. By the boxes and the packing supplies strewn about the room, he knew his little girl was in rare form. He understood that the death of her roommate had hurt her deeply. It had affected him as well as he had liked Erica and came to respect her in ways that he hadn't ever had when it came to his daughter's friends.

Darius spun, ready to walk towards the bedroom and back to Nikki when Arthur's hand clamped around his upper arm. "Darius," he whispered, "how is she really?" His eyes roamed over the living room and he shook his head.

The younger man shrugged and answered, "She's Nikki, Mr. Beaumont. And what she's getting' ready to do is pure craziness."

Arthur nodded and released his hold on his daughter's friend. "It may not be a bad thing. I've been able to keep Erica's death and Nikki's involvement out of the papers. Maybe getting away for a spell will give her time to heal."

Nikki came out just then loaded down with suitcases. Her face lit up as she saw her father and Darius talking. Dropping the suitcases, she rushed to her father and wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him tight.

"Daddy," she breathed. She buried her face further into his suit, inhaling the comforting scent of his aftershave.

"Heya there, little one." He pulled her off him and wrapped his hands around her upper arms, scrutinizing her appearance. "You about ready to go?"

She nodded and looked behind her at the bags in the hallway. Darius had already started picking one of them up when Arthur said, "I've got a driver here to do that young man."

"It's really no…" Darius' protest was lost as Arthur shushed him again.

"Put the bags down. Why don't you two go on down and tell the driver that I need some help up here." He shooed the two young adults out of the room and watched as they scurried down the steps.

Nikki came out of the apartment complex and saw the car waiting at the curb, she waved at the driver and said, "Daddy could use some help upstairs." She watched as the tall broad-shouldered man tipped his hat and took off in the direction of her apartment.

Darius leaned against the black Cadillac and opened his arms. Nikki wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his chest. "You know," Darius whispered into Nikki's hair and rested his chin on top of her head, "You don't have to go."

Nikki nodded and said, "And you could come with me. I wish you would."

"You know I can't, kouzin. I wish you'd stay," he replied honestly.

Nikki pulled back and looked up at Darius. She shook her head. "I can't. We've spent weeks looking for anything and everything. I'd spend the rest of my life if I knew it would yield something." Her throat grew tight and she coughed to clear it. "With no help from that racist, pig of a cop, to coming home to an empty bed…" She looked away and swiped at the tear that leaked from the corner of her eye. She swiped it away and sighed.

"Darius, I need to get away before I…I can't be here right now," she pleaded with him, hoping he'd understand.

His jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed. Looking down at her, he saw the truth to her words and could only nod. Afraid that if he spoke his voice would crack and he'd lose it. Nikki had offered to take him with her. She said that half the money that was Erica's now belonged to him, that he could afford the trip, but he couldn't leave. His maw-maw needed him here. Nikki was really his last tie to his cousin. It would be hard not see her almost every day.

He watched as Arthur and the driver climbed down the steps of the apartment building loaded down with bags. He laughed a little and said, "I can't. You know that." Hooking a finger under chin, he met her eyes. "I'll be here when you get back t'ough."

He pressed the phone to his ear and listened, "Darius, you said you was gonna come with me today. Where are you?"

Sighing, he rolled his eyes. "Tia, I would, but I forgot about the test today. I'm sorry."

"What test?" the woman on the other end asked confused.

"Nikki has her test today. I promised her first. She needs me here more than you need me to take you to the mall." Darius fidgeted on the hard wood of the bench. He'd been sitting for nearly an hour and only had few more minutes to go, but Tia had been whining in his ear for the last five minutes. He hadn't meant to break the promise to her. It couldn't be helped.

"You know, Darius," Tia snickered, "Ever since she came back, you been chasin' her around."

Darius teeth ground and he said a silent prayer that she wasn't gonna make a fool of herself. He really did like her, but…

"She's a snooty, white bitch, tryin' to piss daddy off runnin' around with your black ass. She ain't ever gonna give you what you want from her."

"It. Ain't. Like. That," he said as calmly as possible.

"D'hell it ain't. She's got you wrapped around her finger like the good little negro you are." Tia sneered, "Go and give her what she needs. I ain't gonna be here when you realize she's playin' you for a fool."

"Lose my number, Tia." Darius slammed the phone down and banged his head off the booth wall. He knew it was going to end this way. Tia had been jealous of Nikki since his kouzin came back to town.

Three months ago he'd picked her up from her eight month get-a-way and he'd never been happier to see another person in his life. Tia had their relationship pegged wrong from the jump. He didn't dote after Nikki, he watched out for her like he used to watch out for Erica. He would continue to do so until Nikki told him to get lost.

He also knew that would never happen. In the wake of his cousin's death, Nikki and Darius had forged a bond stronger than family. She had insisted on burying Erica in the Beaumont Family Cemetery, much to Arthur Beaumont's protestation, but Nikki insisted and what Nikki wanted, her father usually acquiesced to.

So three months after her return, Darius sat in the county court house, waiting on Nikki to finish up her entrance exam to the New Orleans Police Academy. It had to be the craziest idea he'd ever heard spill from the girl's lips, but she was insistent, had told him that it "felt right" to try and make some changes.

When he went with her to fill out the paperwork she'd laughed and said, "I was sittin' on this beach in Puerto Rico and it was so peaceful. Didn't matter any, 'cause all I could think about was her. The way she fought, her passion. Someone needs to make sure that doesn't die. I can't be a lawyer. Too bookish. I can be a cop." She stared at him as a tear tracked down her cheek and he brushed it away with the pad of his thumb.

"Dar, I can make sure that someone doesn't have to go through what we did. I need to." She smiled at him and it was then that he saw a small spark of life in the big, brown eyes of her's. The way he figured if this crazy idea gave her that life back she'd been missing since Erica's death, he'd do whatever she wanted.

He looked up as the doors to the exam room opened, a few people spilling in to the hall. One of the guys looked like he just found out he had terminal cancer, another guy looked green. Following the two, Nikki was all teeth and bounce. She launched herself at Darius as soon as she saw him, ignoring the looks from the two men that came out before her.

"Gah! I'm so glad that's over!" She squeezed him tight and then pulled him down the hall towards the exit. She strode out into the afternoon sunlight and slipped her sunglasses on. They walked briskly to a café across the street. Sitting in a booth towards the back, Darius let Nikki's infectious mood sweep him away.

"That was really pretty easy. The test wasn't bad, but Dar, it felt right, ya know?" She was practically bouncing in her seat as she sipped the café au lait.

"So you think you passed?" he asked, a smirk peaking at the corner of his mouth.

She nodded enthusiastically and he just smiled. She was coming back to life and he couldn't be happier.

Darius just nodded. He grabbed her hand and said, "Look out Nawlins. This city ain't gonna know what hit'em when you get out on the streets."

She smiled brightly and lifted her coffee mug, "To our Erica."

He raised his own and they clinked softly together. "May she be happy and at peace."

Nikki nodded and squeezed his hand. This wasn't where she thought she'd end up, but it was definitely a place she could live with.

The End

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