Author: Tristian Makhai
Feedback address: 24 June 2010
Date in Calendar: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fandom: Nikki & Nora
Rating: PG, we think.
Word Count: 3125
Summary: A moment is all it takes to give in.
Warnings or Spoilers: None, unless spoilers from my own future work count. To which there definitely is.
Archiving: Ask and ye shall receive
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD10
Disclaimer: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended. All subsequent character backgrounds and or imagine personalities the product of a deranged mind.
Author's Notes: Originally intended for the FSAC:09, this piece...didn't turn out as I expected. It redetermined its place in the character's timeline unexpectedly this morning, and I'm still not quite sure to make of it at this point. Additionally, the characters are going to seem 'off' compared to the pilot, namely as this is roughly a year into their partnership /before/ the pilot is set and are based from a larger story series I've been working on for ages. Nikki didn't come from Vice but instead Undercover, and in a different city. Nora will use a few phrases that are not particularly American, but are explained by her Irish father. Taken out of context, I do understand this might not make complete sense, but I just ask that you suspend your disbelief a little more than usual. Beyond that, I do apologise for any tense inconsistencies. I'm still working on figuring out FP POV. And I'm sure the writing skills are a little rusty these days from disuse.
Thank you so much to the ever-patient AJ who not only was understanding, but generous enough to read through it for me. Thanks also go to Sakura, one because she is awesome and inspiration in her own right, and also because she helped me spot more errors. ^^ So much gratitude and love for you guys.
It was the sort of day you dreaded each year with the return of summer, a day you knew no matter how much you prayed and hoped against, was coming. The mercury soared to intolerable levels, and the humidity beyond that; the sort of day when the only way you could survive was a hot shower to wash the day away and an air conditioner and fan to stake out after. The problem, however, I discovered when I finally finished for the day and returned home: it was also the sort of day the bloody power companies would have an epic screw up and plunge the entire neighbourhood into a hot, sweaty, and reliefless hell.
The groan that fled my throat was heavy and half growl when I realised that no power not only meant no air con, but no fans. Just brilliant. Now, I could make do without the recycled cool air, but fans were essential to my continued sanity to stave off the dead air laden with moisture and heat. No fans meant my partner and I were at the mercy of Mother Nature's whims and with recent days to consider? It was not going to be a restful night. Shit.
Determined to dwell on a stroke of ill fate for no more than a moment, I made the quick journey up the stairs and propped the main door open after locking the screen. A few minutes later and every door or window that could be shifted was thrown open in an effort to entice whatever breeze might blow into the house. Once satisfied, I backtracked toward the laundry room and set about pulling my sweat-soaked shirt over my head with a disgusted noise. My boots, socks, and pants soon followed, sorted into their appropriate baskets. On any other day, I would've thrown a load into the machine but the municipal power company ensured no chores would be done tonight. Pausing a moment, I glanced at the display on my cell phone and quickly calculated an estimate before shucking my undergarments with a wrinkle of my nose and sigh of relief before making the dash to the bathroom and a coveted shower.
Two hours later when an exhausted, sweaty, and very irritated brunette stumbled in through the gate and leant against it heavily to slam the wrought iron shut, I lifted my head and offered a crooked half smile.
"Please tell me they got their asses in gear and restored our power," Nikki pleaded.
"Promise to not kill the bearer of bad news?" I asked, deliberately keeping my pitching my voice for warm and calm, soothing if I could manage it. My partner was in a bad way and it wasn't just knowing her that told me this, but knowing what to read in her body, and the tension in her very stance. The way Nikki held herself spoke so many volumes about the woman and if you were blessed enough to learn the words, she became an open book. Few learnt her language, though, but for me, it was just instinctive intuition; I couldn't explain how, but when it came to Nikki, I simply knew how to tread.
"Shit!" Nikki snapped out in response, temper tightly reigned in so the expletive became her one allowance to the frustration sweeping through her. It wasn't the simple fact we were without power or were condemned to a night of heat and humidity, but the news threatened the proverbial camel.
It had just been the kind of day my partner was still learning how to fully deal with, stretched that far in too many directions, and then forced into another impossible situation. She'd dealt with stress before, both back in DC and during her entire tenure undercover, but there'd been outlets. Outlets she could neither risk nor indulge and her sanity meant she'd never go there again. Most days she could cope admirably enough with the bureaucracy and media, most days the public's scrutiny and love affair with her private hours were ignorable. And most days, she could hold her composure flawlessly, allowing no flicker of her true emotion to shine through. Unfortunately, though, the entire week had fallen into an entirely different category, far away from the desired 'most days'.
"You okay?" I asked, keeping my tone steady and relaxed, trying to provide a calm to whatever chaos raged in Nikki's head and heart. Pulling my feet from the chair I'd propped them on, I straightened in my seat, but otherwise, remained where I rested.
It was experience and instinct guiding my decision even as I might've preferred to actually approach my partner to offer that comfort with physical touch. Nikki's moods were mercurial, though, when too much stress heaped itself upon her slender shoulders, and her temper darkly explosive match. She hid it well, tightly suppressing her worryingly great capacity to sustain a rage, both social training kicking in and a greater desire to move beyond the dark life she'd lead for so long. Cracks occasionally appeared in the extroverted personality Nikki wore with seemingly effortless ease, but each time, we'd both worked hard protect my younger partner and limit just how raw a state Nikki truly reached.
That wasn't to say everything had been particularly easy or smooth between us, as I am in possession of a wicked temper by my own right. It took a great deal, however to break my calm and provoke my fury. Oddly enough, as rocky as a time we'd had when first discovering each other's respective darker sides, it hadn't erupted into a fight, though the argument *had* been explosive. We'd come devastatingly close to destroying not simply our partnership, but any hope of a friendship too before finally breaking our respective self-destructive patterns. While the memory still caused a dark crease of worry and pain over my heart, we'd managed to come a startlingly long way, both as a team and personally.
It was those memories now that guided me through the chaotic and tormented terrain my partner occasionally revealed herself to be. It was the trust we'd built both initially and later completely reforged that lent me the courage and surety to reach out to my partner first with my words and eventually an outstretched hand. Experience taught me the fine steps to the delicate rhythm we'd fallen into, but it was soul-born instinct leading me through its unheard tempo.
The half smile that greeted my words was tired and more than a little world weary, but it spoke enough, and I pushed myself to my feet before Nikki could even voice her reply. "Glad to be home," she confessed, her smile deepening when I didn't hesitate in approaching her, leaving my forgotten bottle on the table. The hand I extended was open and palm up, a clear invitation and guileless gesture as my gaze locked on Nikki's, never wavering once. Even as the younger detective extended her own hand, fingertips sliding across the sensitive surface of my palm, I didn't flinch despite the dance of exquisite agony the touch elicited. I know my lips twitched, but that was the only response I surrendered, knowing the scrape of Nikki's nails was deliberate and intended to make me flinch. Nikki had come a long way in curbing her self-destructive instincts, but her habit of self-sabotage was a hard one to break and one I knew would take a lot of time, patience, and understanding, not to fix or even erase, but to live with and accept as simply a part of who she is and has been.
Her dark eyes of murky sable and clouded chestnut searched me thoroughly but found nothing in the gaze I kept carefully neutral and reserved by reflex. As her chest rose in preparation for a sigh tinged with frustration -both at herself and her inability to break the combination of reserve and composure I kept- the breath turned sharp with the sudden shift in my eyes and what I let show. Where before there was a smooth and calm green of a summer's freshly trimmed grass, brilliant viridian flashed, positively electric with the bursts of gold laced jade. Richer than any gem was the audible emotion Nikki realised shone through in bands of platinum, pale in the wake of malachite brilliance. My gaze wasn't warm with affection, it instead seared Nikki's soul even as the worry lurked amongst the rapidly shifting colours, every imaginable shade of green on the spectrum on stark, startling display. Compassion warred with deeply simmering heat, provoking an answering flush of emotion from the brunette as I laid myself bare and exposed to Nikki's stunned, thirsty gaze.
My eyes spoke volumes, more than any amount of words could ever say, but like my voice, I choose with very particular intent just what and how to speak. Every statement was carefully crafted more deliberately than a diplomat's address to a foreign power, or to his own peers. For me, I took utmost care in expressing myself -be it with words or actions- lest they be misconstrued or taken from their rightful context. What Nikki saw in that moment was nothing like she'd witnessed from me in our brief history, but experience suggested few -if any- felt the weight of an unguarded gaze lacking my usual careful filters. It stole Nikki's breath and seized her heart as effectively as the constriction of a closed fist. Breathing became a forgotten pastime as thought and fear fled until she finally heard what I sought to tell her, and for once, Nikki listened.
The breath her lungs finally demanded and corrupted her brain into taking shook violently, torn ragged by the tight constriction of her throat. Reflexively, her hand shifted within mine, seeking a tighter grip as she pressed her palm against my own and drew me closer with her tight fingers. A breathless moment later and I found myself with an armful of trembling brunette, arms locked around me as she pressed the length of her body against my own, fitting seamlessly.
In spite of the heat that still hung heavy in the air, four bourbons, a shower, and a couple hours of my partner's company while we ate a cool, fresh dinner later and I'd finally found lassitude that came as both an effect of the alcohol and Nora Delaney's natural charm. When she so chose, she could put anyone at ease, from victimised children, hard killers, and even a jaded, half-fractured partner rubbed raw from too much bullshit she can't handle any more. And in truth, it was less the smooth liquor coating my tongue in smoky sin and more the gorgeous woman stretched out in all her resplendent glory behind me that settled my emotionally strung out ass down.
Well, 'settled' being a relative term, mind.
Despite having more than ample enough furniture to lounge on, I'd situated myself on the floor, leaning against the sofa Nora occupied. My sweet partner had tried to move and make room for me before I scolded her liberally and plunked my ass down right there on the tiled floor. It was blissfully cool, I'd explained, and afforded me the most gorgeous view in the city, simply by tipping my head back. Her green eyes had been sceptical, but she quieted down, recognising the stubbornness I'd unleash if pressed too hard. It wasn't a worry, of course; if there was anyone in the world, let alone this city, who knew when to poke and prod and when to just leave me be, it was Nora. I don't know how or why she has a way of delicately picking her way through the emotional minefield I become, but I'm damn thankful every day.
After one like today, and the week I'd managed to have, lying half-sprawled on the floor with my partner within reach is the best therapy I could ask for. It's a quiet, undemanding peace we somehow managed to wrest from the chaos that is our beloved city and I attribute a great deal of it to the woman behind me. I might've made sure the walls around the townhouse stand tall and secure, noise from the city buffered enough to create a solitude, but it is Nora who fills this place. Oh, I can clearly see the mix of both our personalities in both decoration and evidence of hard work from the renovations, but it's something intangible of my partner that warms and pervades the very space of the property. I don't quite feel like a stranger in my home, but on nights like these, I can't help but wonder how in the hell I ended up here. What life or persona I have I hijacked to exploit for a case?
But this isn't a cover or an op. This is my life and I'm not Nick Asher anymore. Here, I'm not even Nicola Beaumont, daughter of a city councilman and heiress of a family legacy. Here, surrounded by the heat and fierce strength of my partner, I'm finding out just who I am and how to reclaim that.
The play of fingertips at my temple drew my attention and I found myself tipping my head back to turn into the touch as it teased in amongst the loose curls adorning my head. My cheek brushed against the warm, bare thigh left exposed to the still too-hot air, leaving the skin damp and tempting. Her hand played idly, an affectionate, happy smile tugging at her lips as she gazed at me. Firelight from the scattered candles provided all the light we could need and coupled with the fine sheen coating her skin, bronzed my partner in the most exquisite of hues. With her golden, sun-kissed colouring, she was a sight to behold and though she regularly took my breath away, tonight, the sharp tightening in my chest hurt almost too much.
"Hey." Her voice was a burr, pitched low and into the quiet, lilting of her heritage she acquired when tired or relaxed. "You doin' all right?" she asked, head tilting to the side in a feline question as her tongue rumbled smoothly over the vowels and trilled the 'r' in a way that chased a shiver down my spine and lit across the surface of my skin.
"Absolutely," I exhaled through the pressure, sliding the words passed the swell of something I didn't quite know how to deal with. "Just thinking," was my excuse and, while no less true, didn't quite touch the level of tension gnawing at my gut.
The furrowing of her brow was barely noticeable as too perceptive of a regard was focused upon me, but a moment later it smoothed over as Nora accepted my words with an ease and calm she had in unbelievable reserve for me. "'Bout what?" The invitation to either speak or hold my tongue was casual and delivered with a lazy stretch that made my palms itch as she resettled.
For several moments I failed to respond, too taken in by the sight of my partner to form words or breathe for a terrifying beat. Unwarranted, the muscle that had so steadily plodded away minutes before tripped a pace. Then, my heart was trying to catch up, hammering hard against my ribcage and lungs, quickening my breath.
Concern edged into Nora's sea green eyes as she pushed herself up on an elbow, leaning closer. Her proximity is a heady rush, even with the worry writ into the planes of her body and again I felt the world tip off-kilter and closed my eyes against its spin, trying to push back the vertigo my partner inspired within my heart. It's always like this with Nora, both that night and to this day.
It's always like this: quiet, comfortable and then the charge becomes too much, the air between us electrifies and I feel /alive./ From the moment I met a half-broken and very bruised woman surrounded by a pulsing beat and press of bodies, intending only to impart some information, it had been like this. My very skin burns, nerves twitch with the need to feel, and for the first time in forever I'm trapped in the moment. It's undoubtedly easy to see how that came to be my last case undercover, with how effortlessly I became undone around the woman.
Those same fingers slid down my cheek, smoothing over skin flush with heat and life as I reopened my eyes. I can't even think to guard my gaze as I look up into the woman half-curled to lean close, her hand still upon my cheek, fitting to the line of my jaw. When my lips part to release a ragged exhale, I can feel the twitch of her fingertips against my neck where they've curled. And then I can't stand it, every tendon and ligament tensing with the pull of muscle fighting to rise. To flee. To do /something./
"Nor," my broken address is a plea, breathless and terrified. As warm jade widens, I know the moment she sees it, the moment she realises and I wonder will the cool, careful Nora prevail? Will she have the strength to prevent this and halt the thunder of blood and want in both our bodies? Because god knows, I don't.
Her lips are on mine before I can truly realise she's moved, the whisper of cushioned dampened by the rush in my ears as my senses fill with Nora. The fingers she has against my neck curl and pull me closer by the nape, and I follow. My paralysis of before shaken away in the wake of a sudden tremble that has me rolling to my knees as I press into her mouth.
The flavours of her groan are as sweet and powerful as a summer storm, suffusing the air around us and within my lungs with an awesome need. I swear I can feel the change in air pressure and when I press my sweat-slick forehead against hers, meeting her half-way, I struggle against the crushing waves. Fingers are again stroking my face, tracing lines and finding old marks and when I opened my eyes again to find her a hair's breadth away, I break into an unrestrained smile.
"Hi," she whispers, her mouth mirroring the curve of mine and I want to taste her happiness and trace that path with my tongue.
"Hey," my response is husked, half-catching to almost split the small word in two. And there, surrounded by my partner and the home we've accidentally built around us, I do taste that smile and as from the first breath in a dim club, she explodes across my senses, stealing me away from a half-lived lie.