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Campaign Update & New Chapter for Near Life Experience (10/13)

1. Campaign Update (Last day of the campaign)

Hell yeah!

I mean I don't think I need much more than that 'cause Nikki & Nora fans are some of the best, hell at this point given the obstacles, I'd even be inclined to say that Nikki & Nora fans are the best. The campaign blew by it's goal and are pushing for $60K 'cause budgets sometimes get blown up when there are unexpected increases in expenses. So that means, that if you can...DONATE HERE and if you can't donate, 'cause, well, I get that too, tell people about it, there's that thing called facebook, I avoid it, but some don't, twitter, blogs, street signs, banners, sky writers, billboards, radio, streaking at national sporting events (although that might get you in more trouble than necessary and I'm not bailing you out, so on second thought)...you get the idea. And lastly, thank you.

Title: Near Life Experience
Disclaimer: Not my characters – except for one or two. The rest of the ladies and gentleman contained herein belong to entities with a higher pay grade. Thanks for allowing li’l ole me to play; I promise to return them as I found them…just like the tools I borrowed from dad when I was a kid. Also, this is unbeta’d so…mistakes are really all me. Sorry about that.
Fandom: Nikki & Nora
Pairing: Nikki/Nora
Rating: PG-13-ish, there are some adult concepts and themes, but nothing too over the top.
Summary: Nikki's not really "Nikki" and Nora's sings a different tune.

A/N: There are some rough topics in this chapter and it's a bit shorter than most of the others, but I thought I should warn you, nothing is shown and I'd never write it right. The fact that I'm implying it is about all I can stomach. Regardless, you've been warned and this light touch is all I'll ever get into concerning human trafficking while providing some statistics from the F.B.I.

Ch. 10 – Injection

“Shift starts soon,” Darius reminds me. Like he needs to. Like I don’t know when the fuck I’m needed inside.

I roll my eyes at him instead. “Hmm,” I tut. “Still haven’t figured out what we’re going to do.”

“You do know how to pick’em, Nikki.” He shakes his head and the beads in his hair click together.

“Ain’t that the truth,” I mumble and pick at the skin along the side of my thumb. It’s already irritated, red and a little bloody from the last twelve hours of nervous, annoyed worry.

“Well, you know what I’d li…” he tries not for the first time in the last few hours. I shut him down the first time. I’ll shut him down every single time. We don’t need the blood of a cop on our hands.

I couldn’t…wouldn’t…even if…Not her.

“Shut your mouth, Darius. That hasn’t ever been and will never be an option. Especially with her.” I snap at him as my hand clamps over his shoulder and I dig my nails into his flesh.

“She’s done a number on you. Can’t believe a little blonde, you’ve known a month or two’s went gotten under that ‘gator skin of yours.” His eyes narrow at me; his tone, dark and prodding.

“What the fuck do you expect me to say? Huh, Darius?” I snap back at him, lashing out by shoving him against the door. “What the fuck makes you think I went looking for this shit?” I shove him again, harder this time. “I sure as shit didn’t want it. We don’t need it. We’re so close to getting out and walking away I can fucking taste it!” I shove him again. “So don’t fucking sit here and patronize me like a love struck school girl, you dick!”

He takes my abuse; his jaw shut tight, muscle corded under dark skin. “Well, we’ve been doing this too long to get cold feet. We’re a few days out…”

I nod, biting back the sickness rising in the back of my throat.

“We could cut bait and keep on, keepin’ on,” he suggests grudgingly.

I glare.

“Then we stick to it. The plan is still The Plan,” he states sobering up. “I’ll say this, if you’re protecting her, if you think she even got a whiff of what we’re about...if you think she’s been playin’ you and you aren’t sayin’ anything to me about it…So help me, Nikki…”

I bite my lip. Shake my head. I don’t think so—didn’t seem like it when she told me.

But, I still can’t answer him. I don’t know for sure and can’t trust myself.

That was the worst thing about last night. Was she playing me? Has she been using me for something job related and getting a little of that itch scratched on the side?

Was anything more to her than something she was doing for her job?

I hate to admit it, but that idea hurts the worst out of all’em.

She said all the right things, was kind, gentle when she needed to be, when she knew I needed kid glove treatment.

Was it all an act?

If it was, “She’d deserve an Oscar if she was playing me,” I tell him finally, unable to voice anything else or admit there’s a chance he may be right.

It hurts too much to think about it and what it may mean if he is. Too may sacrifices have been made over the last few years to stop all this now.

Maybe if it were just me, maybe if it was just me put in the crosshairs, I’d indulge. That’s not the case. More’s riding on this than just my life and…

Darius and I…

We were blood in and we are blood out.

Our lives have become so interconnected that when this is all over, the idea of him not being around is ludicrous. We’ll go wherever we go, but it’ll be together.

So, how do I fix this? I can’t trust myself, but…

“You’ll have to meet her,” I say, a plan forming quickly.

“What?” his question dripping with the same ‘what are you on?’ tone that I get from him when I come up with my truly crazy ideas.

“It’s the only way to be sure. I introduce you to her, you get a read on her and we go from there,” I explain to him. “Look,” I lick my lips, sure that this will work, “you’ll be more objective here. If she’s gaming us, you’ll know. If it’s bad, we’ll talk, options, ‘cause it means…”

He nods. “And if she passes?”

I shrug. “We pretend like we never met and I go off and lick my wounds with you somewhere far away from here.”

He softens, just a fraction at that.

I’m not stupid. We’re playing a type of roulette that ends in only two ways; both endings do not contain a horseback ride into the setting sun with a lover.

“Okay,” is his concession.

I straighten myself; start to gather my purse and gym bag. I push the door open and slip out. His hand reaches out, offering me my bags. As I take them, his now free hand closes down on my wrist and he pulls my tip half into the cabin. “Tell me this, Nikki,” he’s quiet and I have to strain to make out his words, but once I do… “If she was just some girl, some random chick that worked at an office somewhere, when we were finally done, and all this was put to bed, what did you plan to do? Where were you gonna go?”

“Does it matter? What was is not what is and what is is a shit pile that I need to dig us out of now,” I snap back at him.

“I think it does,” he retorts, his normally dark eyes are near black right now, shining in the late afternoon sun. His lips are pressed together and grim.

I can’t answer that question.

He deserves an answer I can’t give him.

Instead, I wrench my arm away from him and slam the door to my car closed. I turn my back and march towards the rear entrance of club. The squeal of my tires covering up the vicious sound of the back door slamming against the concrete as I wrench it open.

The girl’s that are in the back room by the vanity tables and prep area turn their head to look my way. “Mind your own fucking business!” I snap, marching straight to a private dressing room.

There’s a girl in there getting ready. I toss my bags on the small couch before grabbing her around the arm and tossing her into the hallway.

“Wait, my…” she protests, shocked and flustered.

I locate the rest of her outfit and fling it towards her before slamming the door and locking it.

Spinning around, I survey the room to only be faced with my reflection against the large mirror against the back wall. The can of hairspray is snatched from the dresser. I wind up and let it rip, satisfied by the sound of shattering glass and my lack of reflection.

Looking at nothing is better than any other view the room can offer.

I can’t remember which etiquette class I was at where they insisted that fidgeting wasn’t something a proper lady did. The words come to me so easy, “A lady does not fidget, her hands stay folded in her lap properly. If there’s a drink in hand, the other is to remain in your lap. Back straight, shoulders squared. You must look poised at all times.” The rest of it’s fuzzy, but I remember that.

Mostly because, right now, it’s all I want to do.

Darius and I are so close to finishing this. One more dog and pony show and we’re done. We can get out of Dodge, hell we can disappear forever.

We just need to make it through this.

Paula Connolly is also a woman I think would be disaster to cross. She reminds me of a family acquaintance from my other life. Perfectly poised in every way, but she’s got eyes and ears in places that make her dangerous.

I pull a large lungful of air in and let it out slowly. This meeting’s going to be the death of me.

“Hey,” Geno grunt-whispers next to me, “where is sh…”

The door to her study opens and the woman in question breezes through with the ever present “assistants” hot on her heels. Most assistants don’t carry concealed or look like bouncers. “I apologize for my tardiness,” Paula says, sounding not the least bit apologetic. “My previous meeting ran a little bit longer than I was anticipating.”

Anticipating Geno's gruff response, I shush him with a well-placed hand on his knee and a smile for our host. "No trouble at all. They made sure we had things," I hold up my coffee cup for example, "to keep us occupied. Is everything okay?" I ask out of pure politeness.

She waves me off with a smile and well-practiced shrug. "Right as rain. There were just some additional needs that needed attended to we weren't anticipating." She clasps her hands together and declares, "Enough about that. Let's focus on what we're here for. I can't tell you how excited I am. Scott was saying that you'll be the ones to get everything sorted. Rusty's been looking to branch out, or so that's the rumors that have been whispered into my ear."

"Rusty is," Geno confirms. "We're here for him and to move more product."

I shoot him a look. Why is he talking? He came in as a stand in for Darius. My partner had some last minute things to see too.

"Expand I think, is what Rusty wants to do," I step into the conversation.

She looks up from the cup of tea that she was fixing for herself and a small, amused smile flits over her face. Straightening, she brings the cup with her and sips at the steaming brew. "Interesting, expansion. I don't think I've ever quite..." She trails off before rolling her shoulders and tilting her head at me. "I suppose that's all we really are though, right dear?"

"We are what?" I question not sure where she's going with this.

"It's all business after a fashion. 'Product,'" she clarifies.

I lift my right shoulder in a half shrug. "We all have to earn a living," I hear myself say, the words my father spoke so long ago coming forward, "We are facilitators of commerce. There are needs that need to be met and we help get those needs met."

She smiles, bright, wide, approvingly. "So true. It's just rare that I meet another soul, another woman, who understands that so easily."

I return her smile and say as easily as I can, "Well, it was one of the few lessons my daddy taught me. That, and that if pressed, I could sell snow to Eskimos."

"Your father was in the business, child?" she wonders and crosses her legs.

"In a fashion. He was also involved in local politics so he knew how to play many a game. Moving product that we wish to keep discrete was just one of his many side projects," I answer, this time providing a completely honest response. It's been so long since I've given one of those when it comes to family; the reply cloys to my tongue, leaving a slightly bitter after taste.

"Hmm," she hums, "Well, it was sage advice to pass down to his daughter. Tell him he should be proud." She nods and sips her drink once more before setting it down on the saucer and placing it on the coffee table between us. "Then let's move this along, shall we? I'm sure there are things you two would rather be doing today than prattling on with me about our work." She tilts her head to the bright blue sky beyond the window. "Too much of a lovely day to be cooped up here."

"Of course," I say. I reach into my purse and pull the small vial from it. "Would you like to sample?" I offer.

She shakes her head. "Scott was quite clear on what he wanted and he sampled it quite a bit. Those arrangements have all been finalized. Rusty said that you two would want to review his merchandise before finalizing payment."

I try to mask my surprise. I look over at Geno and he smiles. It's small, uncertain. Something neither of us need right now. "My boss said that I'd need to look it over, but that he'd trust my opinion." Beads of sweat pop up along Geno's hairline. This isn't his usual world.

I have to feel bad for him a bit, here. So I step in and try to cover for him, "We may want to sample. I'm sure you can understand. Quality is important for these sorts of things."

"Of course," she says and stands. Going to the window, she draws the blinds and spins back to one of her assistants. "Bring two," she directs and the blonde one slips through the door. "I'll have you know," she says as she sits down across from us once again, "That I'm very excited about this. Expanding Rusty's business in such a way..." She trails off and crosses her legs, lacing her hands together over her top knee. "I just think that he's going to enjoy the returns he gets out of this. I know the initial overhead can be a bit much, but it really is recouped inside a month or two."

"Hmm," I hum a non-committal agreement.

"I'll give you a bit of advice here. Maintenance. You have to keep them maintained. I have a few people I go to to keep mine in pristine condition. I'll make sure you get the contact information of the physician and groomers I use," she says proudly.

As I open my mouth to clarify, two young children step through the partially open door followed by her assistant.

“Briefly, I’ll be supplying a half dozen like these two here.” I watch as she stands and steps behind the kids. “This is Tommy and Marisa.” Her hands go on a shoulder of each child. “The others will range in age from eleven to fifteen. Three boys, three girls. The one-hundred-fifty k can be deposited into an account, whose numbers I will provide to you.”

She nudges the children closer to Geno and me. I’m not sure what to do, so I offer them a little nod as I try to get passed the buzzing in my ears.

“Rusty didn’t seem too particular on race. So I’m assuming mixed is okay?” she asks resuming her seat from across us. When no answer is forth coming, she takes it as agreement. “Lovely. Why don’t I leave the four of you to get better acquainted? Sample my product.”

She moves to stand, when everything appears to slow. The door way is pushed open. A body is shoved through, knocking the boy into the end table and the little girl into Geno. I barely register the body of the person struggling to get up near my feet as I hear, “Found this one outside.”

I look down and see Nora blinking back up at me. Her left eye puffy and bruised. Horror scrawled across her face.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)
OH crap!!!!!! Now that is really sending things down the drain!!! How is Nikki going to save Nora??

Which isn't a bad way to get the conversation between them going again.

Waiting for more :)
May. 6th, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)
I'm late in replying, so I'm just gonna say thanks and then toddle off. =0D
Apr. 24th, 2013 03:26 am (UTC)
Oh man! I'm sorry but Nikki better help Nora one way or another.
May. 6th, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)
I'm also late in replying to you. I apologize, but I think I'm getting your questions answered so...thanks for reading!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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