Author's note: I do not own the characters of Nikki & Nora.
I'm trying something a little different here by writing the same story twice, only one is told from Nikki's POV and the other from Nora's POV. There is a reference to my story "The Alley" so you may want to read that first.
WITH THIS RING - Nikki POV
As I pace the floor my nerves began to fray. Not being by Nora's side on this one was tearing me apart.
She went in as a decoy over an hour ago and still hasn't come home. An underground fight club of men versus women was bringing in big bucks for the illegal gamblers taking their chances on the fighter of their choice. We'd been working on this one for months and finally managed to get a solid lead. After a heated argument, I was ordered to stay home while she went on her own.
I glance at my watch as I chew on my bottom lip. Nervously, I start cracking my knuckles - one of my horrible habits. And I wait.
And wait some more.
Finally, after almost three hours, I hear the front door open. I take in a deep breath and breathe it out slowly. "How'd it go?" I yell to her as I walk into the other room to greet her, trying to be calm.
"I'm in," I hear her answer before the thud of her duffle bag hitting the floor.
"Next time I..." As I entered the room I stopped dead in my tracks as she approached me, her right eye red and swollen. "Jesus, Nora!"
"I'm fine. It's nothing," she said as she waved me off and headed into the kitchen.
"Nothing?" I followed right behind her, demanding answers.
"In order to get in I had to be convincing. I couldn't go in acting like a little prissy cheerleader." She grabbed a bag of something from the freezer, God only knows how long it had been there, and placed it over her eye as she sat down on the kitchen chair.
"Hey! Just because I was a cheerleader doesn't mean..."
"Nikki. It's a joke."
"Not funny. Let me see." I knelt down beside her and placed my hand under chin, turning her face towards me. I couldn't help but let out a hiss as I took in the sight of her puffy eye that was sure to be a nice black and blue by tomorrow. "What the hell hit you?"
"Some bitch, actually. I couldn't get a name."
"I thought you were supposed to be fighting men?"
"I am, but the person behind this whole thing is a woman."
"Yep. They sized me up, made me go a round with a scrawny little guy that might still be picking his teeth off the mat. Next thing I know, they bring me to a small office in the back and this huge, six-foot-something Amazon woman comes in. She asks all sorts of questions and then boom! She nails me right in the face. I got back up, charged at her and returned the favor."
"Are you out of your damn mind, Nora? Wait, don't answer that because you are." I stood up, shaking my head.
"That's what she wanted me to do. If I'd laid there, crying like a sappy baby she would have beaten the shit out of me and tossed me to the curb."
"DON'T do that again, you hear me? We need to play this one right..." I couldn't hold the tears back any further.
"Nikki. Hey. It's okay. I'm going to play this safe, I promise." She put her arms around me and I melted in her embrace. "I probably won't even have to fight anyone because we'll get this all figured out before then, okay?"
I moved away from her just so I could look at her beautiful green eyes, "Maybe we shouldn't do this. This is too much. I'll talk to Dan and we can figure out another way."
"I can't back out now. I have to see this through. Hey, I didn't go getting sucker punched for nothing." A smile spread across her face.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and snuffed. "Okay. So what's next?"
"I should..." Her explanation was interrupted by the ringing of her cell. She grabbed it, looked at the number and looked at me, "It's her. Hello?...Yeah...what? Tomorrow night?!? I can't...no...I know, I know...okay. I'll be there." She hung up the phone and tossed it on the table.
"What's going on?" I asked with hesitation.
"Remember when I said we'd probably wrap this up before I had to fight someone? Yeah, well that would mean that we'd have about 24 hours to do that because I'm fighting tomorrow night at 11pm."
"No. No. No. You can't. It's too soon," I said as I leaned against the counter and ran my fingers through my hair.
"I have to!"
"Then I'm going in with you."
I put my hand up, "I'm going and it's not up for discussion. I...I can be the manager or something."
Nora rolled her eyes.
For once, she didn't argue. Maybe she'd been hit in the head a little too hard.
The next morning, we got to the station and walked into Dan's office to fill him in on what had happened last night.
"Everything go okay last night?" he asked, motioning to Nora's black eye.
"It went fine," Nora said as she sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk.
"You sure? Looks like you've already had a fight."
"She was testing me."
"Yeah, a woman's running this thing, can you believe it?" I sipped my coffee as I took a seat next to Nora.
"Well, you guys have got a full plate because another body turned up on the shore early this morning. I know you're busy with this fight thing but this is the fourth body in a month that's washed up and I need to get to the bottom of it so everyone's gutta pitch in."
"Any I.D. on the victim?"
"Nothing yet. Just the same as the others, male, severely beaten, broken neck. They've got him downstairs. We're waiting to get the toxicology work up on him to see if there's Meth in his system."
"Come on, Nora. Let's go check out the dead and bloated guy and get it over with." I got up and pulled her by the arm.
Nora rolled her eyes. "Why'd this have to happen at breakfast time? Geez!"
"Hey, Nikki, can I talk you you for a second?" Dan asked as we were about to leave his office.
"I'll meet you downstairs," Nora said as she left, shutting the door behind her.
"Everything okay with her and this case?"
"If you ask her she'll say yes, but..."
"That's why I'm asking you."
"I think we need some help with this one. She's fighting tonight and I'm going in as her manager because there's no way in hell I'm letting her go in there alone. Do you think you'd be interested in playing a gambling man?"
Dan leaned back in his chair, "I dunno. Too many of us go in there and people might get a little nervous with all the new faces showing up."
"I just think this is a little too much and she's in way over her head, but it's too late to back out now."
"Okay, let me talk to my sources and see if I can get in there somehow."
"Thanks, Dan. I owe you one."
"I'll put it on your tab," he said with a smile. God, he's cute. I know he and Nora had some action going on at one time, despite what she says, but I don't blame her one bit.
I left his office and started walking downstairs when I saw Nora coming back up.
"I saw that guy last night," Nora said as she met me half way on the staircase.
"What? Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. He was sitting at the bar when they were taking me to her office."
As everything started to absorb in my head, all I could do was sit down on the steps and put my head in my hands. "So that explains why the guys have been beaten, they've been fighters from this club. Nora, you CAN'T do this tonight. You..."
"What am I supposed to do? Call and tell her I'm sick or something? You know I can't do that."
I got up and started walking back to Dan's office.
"Nikki? Nikki, wait."
"There's no discussion on this one." I knocked on Dan's door and he motioned for us to come in. "Nora saw the dead guy downstairs at the club last night."
"He was at the bar. I'm positive it's him."
"Tell her she's NOT going back there tonight, Dan."
Dan sat there for a moment and tossed a folder onto the top of his desk. "I can't do that."
"What?!?! Are you freaking crazy?"
"We have a chance to bust these people and stop these murders. This is a huge break. If I pull her out now then we risk them moving to another location, it'll take time to find them, more bodies pile up, I get more heat from the Governor."
"Pardon my French, but fuck the Governor. Nora's putting her life on the line here."
"And I will be there to back you two up. My guy is working on it as we speak."
I put my hands on my hips and started pacing like a wild woman. "Great. Your GUY is gonna get my foot up his ass if anything goes wrong tonight, so help me God."
"Nikki, calm down," Nora said as she tried to get me to stop moving.
"I need some air," I said as I stormed out of the office and went out to the back parking lot. I took a deep breath of the warm June air and closed my eyes, hoping it would all go away.
Nora and I walked into the club and I immediate felt my skin crawl.
"Who's this?" the mystery woman asked as Nora set her bag down.
"My manager. Wherever I go, she goes."
The woman got up in my face. "I didn't invite her."
"I know, but if there's no her then there's no me." Nora tugged me towards her. "She won't give you any trouble, right?"
"Right," I answered, hesitantly. What I really wanted to do was rip the bitch's face off for hitting Nora.
"I've got my eye on you, sweet thing. Babyface, go get ready. The fight starts in twenty minutes." The amazon woman walked away, sneering at me as she passed.
I sneered back and watched as she went over to the betting booths.
"She's a prize."
"Told ya," Nora said as she started taping up her wrists.
"Please be careful." I helped her put on her gloves. I wanted to kiss her but noticed that Dan had arrived and was over at the betting booth closest to us. "Boss is here."
"Great. He better bet on me," she joked as she slammed her gloves together. "Come on, let's get this over with."
We walked over to the ring and got set up in the corner. Before too long, the fight was ready to begin.
They announced the fighters and for some reason Amazon woman really had given Nora the name Babyface which was lamer than lame. At least her opponent was called something cool...Scorpion.
The bell rang and I swallowed hard as each of them started swinging at one another. Punch after punch, they got used to each other and moved around the ring.
He swung and missed and she quickly took advantage of it by landing a solid smash to his ribcage, sending him stumbling, doubling over. But it fueled his rage and he came at her like a wild boar. One swing and his glove collided with her nose while the follow-up swing crashed into her stomach, bringing her down to her knees and then all fours. She spit out her mouthpiece, spattering blood all over the canvas as she tried to catch her breath. Luckily, the bell rang and the ref motioned for them to get to their respective corners. In a clean fight, the ref would actually check on the fighters but this was down and dirty and it didn't matter how much you bled, the fight would go on.
I climbed in as she sat down on the little stool, leaning in close to her ear, "Let's stop. I can't do this," I said, trying my damnedest not to start crying at the sight of the blood covering her beautiful face.
"No," she said as she spit blood into the bucket and wiped her face with the towel, quickly staining it red.
I sucked in a breath and held it as I cleaned her up and readied her for the next round.
The bell rang and my heart sank.
She got up and was out there for a few seconds when another crushing blow from her opponent came flying into her ribcage, knocking her back and doubling her over this time. I looked into the crowd at Dan and gave him the look of death. He shook his head as an indication that we couldn't pull her out.
It killed me.
Nora straightened up just as the guy gave her an evil sneer and swung towards her head. But Nora moved backwards, making him hit the air between them and she sent a swing of her own right to the side of his head. He staggered back and she quickly followed with a series of strong hits to his kidneys and then right in the middle of his stomach. He sank to the mat and the ref started counting...
"...eight...nine...ten! Knockout!" he grabbed Nora's right arm and lifted it high in the air. "Your winner!"
The crowd went wild, a mixture of cheers and boo's. All I could do was keep from crying.
Nora walked back to the corner of the ring where I was standing and I helped her out of the ring. "You okay?" I whispered in her ear.
She nodded but the look on her face said something different.
"Good fight, Babyface," the woman said as she approached from out of the crowd. "You've proved yourself tonight. Take a few days, rest up because you'll need it. You're fighting someone a little bigger next time, which will bring in a LOT of money if you pull it off." She reached out and stroked the side of Nora's face. She palmed a wad of cash in Nora's hand before walking away.
I wanted to rip the woman's arm off when I saw her touch Nora, and it took everything within me to refrain from doing so. NO ONE touches her like that but me. "Come on, let's get you home."
I got her home and stood close by as she gently eased herself down onto the couch. Kneeling down in front of her, I took her hand. "I was scared to death for you tonight. To sit by and watch someone beat the shit out of someone I love and make them bleed was torture!" I could help it, I started to cry.
"I'm fine. I told you I could handle this." She put her hand on my face, stroking it softly.
"You're NOT fine, Nora! Just because nothing's broken doesn't automatically mean you're fine. You were lucky." I snuffed the tears away and ran my sleeve over my eyes.
"I'm tired. Can we talk about this tomorrow? Please?" She gave me the saddest look I've ever seen.
"Sure, sweetheart. Let's get you up to bed."
"I think I'll just stay here," she mumbled.
Before I could argue she was fast asleep.
In the morning, I snuck out of the house as Nora continued to sleep. I didn't want to wake her.
The day dragged without having her there. But that changed when Dan came up to my desk. "Nikki. I just got a call from a fisherman down at the pier. He found a body caught up in one of his nets."
I stood up and grabbed my jacket, "Let's go."
We raced to the scene and saw the netting lying on the wooden docks with the bloated body wrapped up in it.
When we walked up to it both of us cursed. "Shit. That's Scorpion."
Dan rubbed his forehead. "What the hell's going on in that club?"
"See, that's why I want Nora OUT of there."
"He lost so I bet that's why they killed him."
"But every woman couldn't have won every time, there's no way. So why aren't there women washing up?"
"I dunno. Maybe this woman's got man issues. The ultimate way to tell them they're not worthy is to kill them?"
Dan turned to the officers on the scene, "Hey guys, get me copies of all your photographs and witness statements if you could."
"Sure thing," one of them replied.
We walked back to the car and drove back to the station. I slipped away and called Nora. "Hi, Sweetie. You feeling okay?"
"A little better. Am I missing anything?"
"The guy you fought last night..."
"Don't tell me."
"Yeah. He's dead."
"Shit. You've got to be kidding. What the hell's going on?"
"That's what I'd love to know, darlin'. Looks like your Amazon friend doesn't care much for her male fighters." Out of the corner of my eye I saw Dan approaching, "Look, I gutta go. Get some rest, okay?"
"'kay," she said as she hung up.
I closed my phone and got back to work.
The night of the fight came to quickly for the both of us. As I helped Nora get ready, I did everything I could to keep myself from wrapping my arms around her and refusing to let her go. I leaned in and whispered in her ear, "If you're in trouble, just throw the fight. There's no point in staying in there and getting your brains bashed in."
Nora nodded and I could tell she was scared. "This is gonna suck. Did you see how big his arms are?"
"I'm trying not to think about it."
Nora put her mouthpiece in and sighed as she walked into the center of the ring. It felt like only a matter of seconds between that time and the sound of the bell ringing.
Her opponent towered over her and she ducked and weaved more than she would have against someone closer to her size. Unfortunately, it was wearing her out and the crowd began to boo.
He started to get pissed and I saw the flames in his eyes as he reached out with his left arm, grabbed her wrist and threw a punch at her head with his right - catching her in the eye and splitting her wide open. Instinctively, my hands covered my mouth at what was happening in front of me.
Her head dipped forward for a moment before his left glove connected with her jaw and swung her head to the right - spraying blood into the air. She staggered as if she were drunk and then fell backwards onto the mat. She was out cold. Blood ran down the side of her face and staining the canvas beneath her.
I ran to her and quickly knelt beside her as the ref announced him as the winner. "Nora? Nora, sweetheart can you hear me?" She didn't respond. I looked out into the crowd and saw the worried look on Dan's face. This definitely wasn't going according to plan. "Nora? Nora?" Still nothing. I started to panic.
As I looked up I saw two large men coming into the ring and the Amazon woman right behind them. "Get her in the back," she barked at them.
They pushed me out of the way and grabbed Nora's unconscious form, dragging her out of the ring by her arms and legs.
"Hey! Don't pull her like that!" I yelled at them as I climbed out of the ring, chasing after them.
I followed them into the back room where they placed her onto the floor and she remained motionless. The two men left the room, leaving me with the woman. I knelt down beside Nora and tried again to get her to wake up, "Nora, wake up for me, okay?"
"You two are more than business partners. I can tell the way you look at her and care for her safety."
"What the fuck do you know? You haven't got a caring bone in your body." I turned my attention back to Nora, wiping blood from her face only to watch it get covered again as it leaked from the open wound above her eye. Blood seeped from her mouth and I gently turned her over onto her stomach so she wouldn't choke. She stirred a little and moaned. "It's okay, baby," I whispered in her ear. "I'm right here."
"You're a lucky woman. She's beautiful. Too bad she likes it rough. Does she let you hit her when you..."
That's when I snapped. I stood up and charged towards the woman, knocking her to the ground, punching her over and over. She hit me back and I ignored it. I flipped her over and pinned her hands behind her back, inches away from snapping a set of cuffs on her but I couldn't do anything yet and risk blowing our cover. "Don't say another word about her!"
She laughed, taunting me, "What? It was an innocent question."
"Shut the fuck up," I warned through gritted teeth. "Not another word!"
"Okay. Okay. Now get off of me."
She stopped struggling with me and I didn't know whether it was a trick. I got up and kept a close eye on her.
There was a light knock at the door and it opened to reveal a small, elderly Indian woman holding a basket on her arm. Her eyes fell upon Nora and she knelt down beside her.
"Wh-what is she doing?" I asked, panicking.
"Shhh," the woman instructed me, "let her do what she needs to do. Just sit quietly."
I sat next to the woman while the Amazon freak sat in the corner of the room, observing like a hawk. It creeped me out but I had more important things to worry about.
The Indian woman gently rolled her over. I flinched as I saw the blood run down the side of her face.
She placed incense by the left and right side of Nora's head and then one above her. Lighting them, she chanted something and closed her eyes. Then she dipped a small white cloth in a bowl of brown liquid, chanted some more, lifted it upwards and then wiped it over the cut above Nora's eye.
"Oh, Nora," I whispered under my breath as I tried so hard not to cry.
The woman chanted and waved her hand over Nora's head. She cleaned the cut which had now stopped bleeding. "She has slight concussion and will wake soon."
My body relaxed slightly and I started biting on my thumbnail.
She shut her eyes and began moving her hands above Nora's chest and then her abdomen. "Bruised ribs. Healing," she said as her hands hovered over her right side. But she frowned slightly when her hands moved above Nora's left side and I immediately started freaking out. I knew what was coming next and I had to think fast as to an answer. Then my mind skipped ahead and wondered if this woman was a psychic and would reveal that Nora and I were both cops. I swallowed hard and squeezed my hands together as the woman began to speak. "Bullet wounds. Two. Healed. Scar on her lung."
I felt like I needed to say something so the words came tumbling out, "Asshole ex-boyfriend. She left him, he shot her." I left it at that. I was amazed at the power this woman had but freaked out all the same.
The woman opened her eyes and took out a small suture kit and began stitching her wound closed. She did it neatly, quickly and gently. Stroking the side of Nora's face, she smiled, "Rest now and wake soon." She gathered her things and left the room quietly.
The Amazon woman came out of the shadows and stood behind me, "Stay with her. I need to take care of some business and my guests outside."
I needed to get in touch with Dan so I whipped out my cell, walked into the far corner of the room to keep as quiet as possible and made the call.
"I don't have time to talk. Find out where..."
"I'm on it already. They tossed him in a van out back. Taylor and Phillips are tailing them. How's Nora?"
"She'll be okay, I'm with her now."
"Try and get out of there as soon as you can."
"I'll try." I hung up and went back over to Nora's side.
Her eyes opened slightly and her head rolled towards me. "Nik?"
"I'm here, baby," I said as I kissed her hand and stroked her face. "You okay?" She nodded and then started to get up but I stopped her. "No, don't get up. Lie still for a minute."
I removed my hand and helped her sit up, leaning her against the desk behind her.
She reached up at her cut and her fingers traced the black stitching. "Ow."
"Yeah, you took a good smack to the head." I looked at her and couldn't help but touch her face again. "Listen, we need to go before our cover's blown. Do you think you can walk?"
I put my arm around her and helped her up. "Okay?"
"Yeah. Let's get out of here."
We got outside to the car and wasted no time in taking off. I was anxious to get home and far away from this place.
No sooner had we stepped foot inside the door when Dan called on my cell. "Hello?"
"Hey. We got 'em."
"Where?" I said, relieved.
"Taylor and Phillips got them just in time, but they beat the shit out of the guy pretty good, he's in a coma."
"Oh geez. What about the woman?" As I talked I helped Nora upstairs to bed.
"Are you two still there?"
"The guys sang like songbirds so I sent a couple of unit back there to pick her up."
"If she's still there. If she caught wind of the bust then she's long gone."
"We'll get her, Nikki."
I was torn. Part of me wanted to go out there and get her and the other part of me wanted to stay with Nora and make sure she was okay. "Call me the second you get her."
"Okay. Talk to you in a bit." I hung up and tossed the phone on the nightstand. "Alright, Missy. YOU need to stay put for a few days."
"Mmm. No argument from me, I feel like shit." She closed her eyes for a moment and then reopened them. "Why do I smell like patchouli?"
I laughed slightly, "Long story. I'll tell you later after you rest, okay?"
"I take it that was Dan that called."
"Yeah," I said as I sat down next to her. "They took the guy that you fought out to the pier and beat him into a coma. Phillips and the gang stopped him before they actually killed him."
"But he won the fight, why would she have him killed?"
I shook my head, "Honestly, and this is going to sound messed up, I think she cares about her women fighters. It's like a twisted game to her."
"What makes you think that?"
"She helped you after you got hurt. This old Indian woman came in to take care of you."
"She burned it around you. It was as if she were a human x-ray machine."
"Why are we talking about this? You're supposed to be resting!"
"What are you talking about?"
"She...she put her hands over you and saw...it was like she saw inside you. She saw the bullet wounds."
"What? You're joking."
"No, I'm not."
"That's fucked up."
"You're telling me! I had to sit there while she did it. It scared me."
She started rubbing my arm and my body ignited in warmth. "I'm sorry, baby. Sorry that you had to sit by and go through all of this. You were right, it went too far."
"Excuse me? Did you say I was right?"
"Yes, don't gloat."
"Mark this day on the calendar. Nora..."
"Alright. Alright. Stop. You don't want to aggravate an injured woman do you?"
I smiled at her, thankful for having her home and finally safe. I leaned down and put my lips over hers, giving her a soft kiss. "I love you, Nora."
"And I love you, Nikki. Thanks for saving my ass."
"Anytime. Now get some rest." I patted the side of her face and left her to sleep.
I heard a loud thud and it woke me from my sleep. Looking next to me I noticed an empty bed so I knew it had to be Nora. My first thought was that she'd gotten up and fallen, but as I walked down the stairs I heard a familiar voice that didn't belong to Nora.
Grabbing my gun, I walked towards the kitchen.
"I hate liars but I hate cops even more." I heard the woman say to Nora. "Where's your little cop friend Nikki? Huh?"
"Right here," Nikki said as I moved into the doorway, nearly jumping out of my skin at the sight of Nora on the ground with a gun to her head. "Put the gun down and get off her, nice and slow."
"It would be a shame if Nora was shot again, wouldn't it Nikki?"
I saw the woman move the gun down to Nora's abdomen and dig it into her ribs. My knees went weak at the sight and I pushed the flashbacks of the night in the alley out of my mind. "Put the fucking gun down, don't make me ask you again!"
Nora took the woman off guard and rolled her to the left, but a single shot rang out. "Nora!!!" I screamed, moving closer towards them. They were wrestling on the ground and I couldn't see the gun but I heard another shot and it took my breath away. "Oh God, Nora!" Nora moved away and I quickly ripped the gun out of the woman's hand.
"I'm okay," she mumbled.
I checked the woman's pulse and didn't find one, then I turned my attention to Nora. Dropping to my knees, I ran my hands all over her and kept praying I wasn't going to find a bullet wound anywhere on her body. And I didn't. I sat next to her and took her in my arms, thankful that this was finally over.