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Knight

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Dinner’s on me tonight. You know what I like.

 

Love, Nick

 

 

The note on Angie’s fridge was terse, but it made her smile anyway. Nick had pinned a twenty under the magnet beside the note, making good on the promise on the paper. Anyone else would have found their amusement in the obvious sexual innuendo—though Nick himself would have been confused and slightly embarrassed at the implication. Nick Jakoby wasn’t that kind of guy. He definitely had a mouth on him when they were in bed—Angie couldn’t help the little shiver that ran down her spine at the thought—but he didn’t leave saucy notes. He didn’t play romantic music, or run bubble baths for the two of them—mainly because they wouldn’t both fit into her tub at the same time.

 

But he had left some sunflowers by her door two weeks before, with a badly drawn smiley face on the card—which looked suspiciously like an Orc. He’d also taken to driving by her job on patrol. Maybe it was weird, or clingy, but Angie didn’t mind.

 

She liked knowing Nick was nearby if she needed him. It also made it easy to avoid Jeremy, because the Altamira had stopped asking for protection money. Officers Jakoby and Ward driving by every day probably had something to do with it.

 

“Sweet and sour chicken.” Angie muttered, smiling wider. “I know what you like.”

 

She opened the fridge, pulling a beer out of the door, before going for the takeout menu in the drawer next to it, and proceeded to place the order. It was past seven, but he wouldn’t be off of work until at least eight. He’d probably show up around nine or ten, with his hood drawn up over his head, hiding his skin and his ears, from view. If anything, he looked suspicious, which Angie had told him when he’d showed up with his pointy ears shoved up under the hood. “Better than looking like an Orc.” Nick had retorted, his expression serious. Angie sipped her beer, waiting for the Chinese to arrive, so that she could take a shower. She sniffed her sleeve experimentally, frowning.

 

“I smell like day old chicken wings,” she muttered. That was the other thing—Nick’s sense of smell was terrifying. He could tell how many people she’d touched at work, what she’d had for lunch.

 

When the delivery finally came, Angie put the bags on the kitchen table, and headed for the bathroom. She turned the water as hot as she could take it, and stepped under the spray, careful not to wet her hair. When she felt she’d sufficiently soaked away her less than stellar day, she stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself. Angie made for the bedroom, walking past the empty kitchen—which wasn’t empty. She furrowed her brow, and backed up a few steps as her heart beat sped up.

 

It was Nick. Angie sighed in relief before she grinned at him. Nick smiled back, his eyes bright. “You scared me,” she replied, walking over to kiss his cheek. He smelled like the lemony soap from the precinct shower, and his thick skin was smooth under her hands. Angie wasn’t a romantic either, nothing in her life had left her much room for fairytale fantasies of love or devotion. That, and Jeremy did his best to beat them out of me. But she couldn’t ignore the tingly feeling in her belly when Nick looked at her, when those molten gold eyes traveled over her body.

 

“Surprise,” he said, his deep voice thrumming through her. “I got off early.” Angie nodded, smiling wide at him. He was in his street clothes—the same beat up jeans, and white t-shirt combo, with sneakers Angie suspected were the only ones he actually owned besides his precious uniform. She never got tired of looking at him—the high cheekbones, sloping up to wide, gold eyes, which always seemed to be watching her. She kissed his cheek, and she could feel him inhale sharply as his hands grasped her hips through the terrycloth towel as he moved his nose across the skin between her neck and shoulder. This had to be instinct, the way he searched out her scent. Angie wondered if he could still smell the bar on her.

 

“I’ll get dressed, then we can eat.” Angie felt him inhale once more, his large hands skimming absently over her curves. She recalled reading something somewhere about Orcs and their sense of smell—though she hadn’t really believed it until she’d met Nick. It had said they identified their mates by smell, not only visual appearance. Angie headed towards her bedroom, wondering idly if she could still find that old article. Do I put on makeup? Are we past that point? Does he even care? Dating was always stressful, but this was on an entirely other level. Angie wasn’t sure whether Nick even noticed whether she wore makeup or not—she didn’t know many Orc women who did. She didn’t know many Orc women in general, but that wasn’t the point.  With humans it was all about what makeup she wore, when it was safe to leave things at his house, what to wear if she ever met their parents.

 

But with Nick, she was learning cultural cues, social structure…and when it was safe to leave things at his house. Which I still haven’t been to. After four months. Angie felt the familiar frustration bubbling up, but she stamped it down.  Not now. We’re not fighting about that shit tonight. They had so little time together as it was, with his work schedule, she didn’t wan’t to rehash the fight. It was the first argument they’d had, and Angie hadn’t quite been able to put the memory to bed. Nick hadn’t directly told her that he was hiding her from his friends and family, but the way he’d balked at the idea of her stopping by his home, or—god for-fucking-bid meeting his parents, it was hard for Angie not to feel like some dirty little secret.

 

“I promise it isn’t like that, Angie.” Just because Angie believed him didn’t make it any less of a point of contention between them, but things were going well outside of that, and Angie couldn’t stay mad at him. Especially when he made it up to her—over and over again until she had trouble sitting. She swallowed, and tried to think of something else. Angie slipped on a pair of leggings, before donning a t-shirt, and running some product absently through her curls.

 

Nick was still in the kitchen, waiting politely for her to eat, though he’d set out plates, cups and utensils. It was almost adorable, him sitting there, hands folded, his brow slightly furrowed with thought. Nick was almost too big for her tiny kitchen table, his legs bunched up underneath it, though he never complained. His eyes brightened when she sat down across from him, and started to unpack the food. “Um, how was your day?” he asked, leaning forward in his seat. He still didn’t have the small talk thing quite down yet, but Angie didn’t mind.

 

“Not great, but the tips were pretty good. No grabby guys today,” she replied, dishing some food out onto her plate before passing it to Nick. She’d been surprised at first, watching him put away enough food to rupture a human’s stomach, but now she was used to it. “How was yours?”

 

“We caught the guy stealing all the stereos in Elftown today, he was trying to unload them on an informant.” He managed to keep the proud smile off of his face, but he couldn’t hide the gleam in his eye, and the way he puffed out his chest a little. That was one of the things she liked about Nick the most—he was genuinely good. He wasn’t like the rest of the LAPD, he didn’t have an ego to feed, or deep seated bigotries he’d joined to be able to freely express. He wanted to make a difference, he wanted to do the right things. Pity the system’s so fucked it barely makes a difference.

 

Angie reached across the table to squeeze his hand, grinning widely. “That’s fucking awesome! I’m proud of you,” she replied, and he squeezed back. “I hope you got a promotion,” Angie joked, before ravenously descending on her plate. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was—her boss had refused to allow any of the girls to break for lunch. He’d said it was “all part of the industry”. Part of the industry my ass.

 

“Ward says I should be up for one soon.”

 

“Oh, yeah, how is Ward?”

 

They finished up dinner, and Nick insisted on doing the dishes himself. He liked to show her he was useful, that he was good to have around, though Angie had never needed convincing. Angie was heading to the bathroom to brush her teeth when he wrapped his arms around her from behind, burying his nose in her kinky hair.

 

“I missed you last week.” His body was warm, pressed against hers, and Angie couldn’t help but relax back into his embrace. She leaned her head back and kissed his chin.

 

“Work was crazy,” Angie replied, squeezing his arm. “I get it.”

 

“I wanted to come,” Nick said, turning her to face him, probably so that she could she the adorably earnest face he was making. His eyes were trained on hers, his expression imploring. “But it’s been so busy, and—”

 

“Nick. It’s fine. Stop talking.” Angie said, her voice stern, even though she was smiling at him. He nodded, a grin spreading across his own face in response. Angie of all people could understand having a demanding job, and she wasn’t going to bust his balls over it.

 

“Got it. Stopping.” Angie tilted her head up for a kiss, which Nick gave without question. A low rumbling growl made its way through his chest, and she sighed against his mouth. His fingers absently stroked the skin on her sides where her shirt had ridden up. He took great care not to scratch her skin with his claws. He kept them filed most of the time, but that hadn’t stopped him from meticulously checking her over every time they had sex—looking for cuts and scrapes, anything that required more than a good night’s rest or a hot shower to relieve. Angie wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, running her teeth over his lips. He growled again, and the hands at her waist tightened their grip, almost enough to bruise. Nick’s tongue swept into her mouth; longer, rougher and more sensitive than her human one.

 

He was a good kisser—for someone who didn’t have all that much practice. Filing his fangs was a recent decision,  and for Orcs, kissing wasn’t really considered romantically necessary, but that had never stopped Nick from attempting to make her head explode with his mouth. Angie rubbed her thighs together absently as she stroked his shoulders. Nick made a low sound in his throat as he sucked hard on her bottom lip, before grasping both of her small wrists in one of his much larger hands, and backing her into the wall. His dextrous tongue traced a path from her mouth to her ear, and goosebumps rose on Angie’s oversensitive skin.

 

“I can smell you.” His lips ghosted against her ear, and Angie shivered, before licking her suddenly dry lips.

 

“Such a big nose you have,” Angie replied, unable to help the little whimper that escaped her throat as he palmed her breast roughly through her shirt as he buried his nose in her kinky hair. She’d known his nose was sensitive, but not enough to smell the growing wetness between her thighs. Nick chuckled lowly, before lowering his head so that his breath puffed against her neck.

 

“All the better to smell you with, my dear.”

 

“And—ah!—what big eyes you have, Mr. Wolf,” she gasped as he nipped harshly at her shoulder. He released her wrists in favor of cupping and kneading her ass, and Angie sighed, letting her head loll to one side as Nick continued to bite and suck at her throat. The “no bruising” rule she’d tried to enact when he’d become a regular guest in her bed was a useless endeavor that he was almost physically incapable of following. He was so much stronger than she was, and Angie was more than willing to break that rule—plus a few others—in exchange for the raw, needy fervor with which he attacked her body. If this is what it’s like when I don’t see him for a week, I don’t mind his fucking schedule.

 

“All the better to see you with,” He replied hoarsely, as Angie stroked the length of him through his jeans. “Angie, take your shirt off. Please.” Nick said, tugging on the hem of her cotton t-shirt. She nodded, her fingers lingering at the edge of the offending garment. It was funny, how he could be so aggressive one minute, and then gentle and well mannered the next. I should move us to the bedroom, Angie thought absently, though when he began to impatiently tug at her clothing, his mouth hot and insistent.

 

“What a—fuck—big mouth you have.” Angie could feel him pressed against her, sandwiching her firmly against the wall. Nick sucked hard on her pulse point, and she found herself wondering how different it would feel if he had real fangs. The thought sent a surprising swell of wet warmth to the apex of her thighs. Almost instantly Nick groaned loudly, the sound a little pained as he ground his hard cock against her belly. He tugged Angie’s shirt up above her head, tossing it behind him, forgotten. She’d neglected to wear panties, so when his eager fingers stroked the crotch of her leggings, he  grinned lasciviously at their dampness.

 

“Are these cheap, Angie?” he asked, tugging frustratedly at the tight, clingy clothing. Angie shook her head dazedly, moaning as he pinched her nipple roughly.

 

“Yeah. Three bucks at Forever—hey!”

 

Suddenly Nick was ripping them off of her, the elastic snapping smartly against her hip as the waistband tore in his hands.

 

“Sorry. I’ll get you another pair.” HIs tone was only slightly apologetic.

 

And then his fingers were at her cunt, rubbing circles around her clit, and testing her soaking entrance. Angie moaned, her voice ragged. “Nick!” She wasn’t sure whether she was reprimanding him, or praising him, though at the moment it didn’t matter.

 

“Turn around, Angie,” he replied, his voice low and slightly strained, like he was holding back. She did so, stepping out of her ruined leggings. Angie braced her hands against the wall, pushing her hips out and up. Nick growled in what sounded like approval, his hands running over her bare skin. “You always smell so good,” he moaned, laving a rough kiss on the small of her back. He dipped a finger into her throbbing center, and pumped it a few times as he kicked out of his jeans. Angie peered behind her, all thoughts of making it to her bed completely forgotten as she clenched hard around his invading fingers. Nick was leaning over her, his golden eyes bright and almost glowing in the low light of the hall. He gripped his thick cock tightly in one hand, the flattened head leaking thick beads of pre-cum already. Angie expected to feel the throbbing-burn of him pushing inside her, but instead, his weight lifted off of her. She turned her head questioningly, but Nick was already kneeling down.

 

“Nick?” His breath puffed across the swollen lips of her pussy, and he dragged a single finger up her slit. He’d never done this before—not with her at least. She’d assumed he either didn’t like to, or was too embarrassed to ask. Either way, she waited with bated breath.

 

“Can I…?”

 

“Please,” Angie said breathlessly, hating how it came out sounding like a plea. Nick let out a light chuckle, but before she could respond, the words were driven out of her mind as his rough tongue made contact with her pussy. “Oh, fuck.” He worked his tongue through her folds, forward towards her clit, making her gasp. Angie’s legs shook, and she doubted that she’d have remained standing if his arms hadn’t been securely wrapped about her thighs, holding her upright.

 

“Sweet,” he grunted, the guttural sound of his voice making her pussy clench. He probed at her slick entrance, groaning when Angie couldn’t help but press her hips back eagerly, wanting more.

 

“Stop teasing me,” she whined, and felt him smile against her, that treacherous tongue undulating against her one last time before he straightened up, panting. Angie chanced another peek around her shoulder, but Nick was staring down at the apex of her thighs, his luminous eyes sending shivers up her spine. He grasped her hips roughly, yanking her back against his swollen cock, forcing the blunt head of him inside. She hissed, the sting of his sudden entry making her clench around him. Nick mumbled something in Orkish, his voice low and needy. I’ve really got to start learning that fucking language—“Fuck, Nick!”

 

He pulled back until Angie whimpered at the loss, and then thrust home, the force pushing her cheek against the wall. Nick leaned over her, shortening his thrusts as he pushed her hair aside to grip the skin of her neck between his teeth. Angie felt a primal thrill run through her as he bore down, his teeth bruising her tender flesh in their grip.

 

“Uorkormajal…Lat ayh uorkormajal… Angie!”

 

His mumbled Orkish sent another bout of hot sticky warmth to her thighs, despite the fact that aside from her name, she didn’t recognize a word he’d said. Can’t think.

 

Every thought was focused on the sensations emanating from between her legs. With every thrust Nick filled her to bursting, pushing her to her absolute limit. If not for the fact that he’d already been as deep inside her as he could possibly get on several occasions, Angie would have doubted that he could fit his cock inside her. Nick groaned, gripping her hips with rough hands as he ground out her name again, in between more unrecognizable words. There was a sweet ache where the blunt head of him pushed up against her womb, and despite it she still found herself pressing back against him, spreading her legs wider, so that he could fuck her deeper, harder, more.

 

Angie could feel that tingling tightness, deep inside, where Nick was rubbing against her walls in the most deliciously mind numbing way. Her breath hitched, and a strangled cry erupted from her throat when her Orc lover raised his hand to her ample ass with a loud smack, the pain sending shocks straight to her clenching pussy. Angie didn’t even have time to consider her orgasm before she fell headlong into it, clenching hard around Nick’s cock as she cried out. This seemed to be all he could take, and Angie felt him spurt inside her. Nick pressed himself against her hips, locking them together as he panted, emptying himself into her throbbing cunt.

 

“God… Angie…” Nick ground out, his face still pressed against her neck. There will probably be a bruise. The thought made her throb around him again, and he sucked in a loud breath. They stayed like that for a few heartbeats, until Angie’s knees threatened to buckle underneath her. He caught her with a gentle hand under her soft belly, sliding free of her tight hold with a wet sounding pop. “You okay? Sorry, I—”

 

“Please don’t be sorry,” Angie said, allowing him to help her upright, and look her over for any damage. “You don’t have to do that.”

 

“Yes I do.” Nick replied lightly, brushing her hair away from her shoulders to look distastefully at the mark he’d left between her shoulder blades. He tried to peer around her shoulder at it, but Angie slapped his hands away.

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“I hurt you.” Nick looked angry, but to at her. At himself. He reached around her back to stroke the skin just below the sore spot where Angie assumed the bruise was. Angie could see the beginnings of frustration in his molten eyes, and she grasped his chin with a gentle hand.

 

“No, you didn’t. Nick, I would have stopped you if you were hurting me. I promise.”

 

He didn’t seem satisfied with her answer, but he allowed Angie to grasp his hand and lead him to the bedroom. As she tossed her leggings into the garbage and donned a fresh t-shirt she watched Nick get into her almost too-small bed. It didn’t matter how they began the night, they always ended up wound around one another, with limbs entangled and Nick’s face buried in the hair he’d sleepily loosed from her scarf.

 

“You’d really stop me? If I hurt you?” he asked again in the quiet darkness of Angie’s bedroom. She stroked her fingers down his muscular chest, sighing. His question hung in the air between them. “Do you really think you could?” His voice was low, and colored with self loathing. She’d never really considered what she’d do if Nick had ever been violent with her—given his considerable strength, she doubted there was anything she could do besides hope to outrun him.

 

“That’s irrelevant, because you wouldn’t hurt me.” She replied, her tone brokering no room for argument.

 

“But I could.”

 

“You won’t.” Angie tilted her head up to find his gaze locked onto her, a frown etched onto his handsome features. “Look, if I said stop, would you stop?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“If I said no would you listen?”

 

“Of course!” Nick looked practically offended at the insinuation, even though he was the one questioning his own moral fibre. “I’d never…”

 

“Exactly. You’d never hurt me. Not on purpose, anyway.”

 

“That’s exactly the fucking problem, Angie!” He said frustratedly, sitting up. Angie sighed, rubbing her temples. She supposed she could understand his fear—she’d seen what he’d done to Jeremy. But Nick had never made her afraid for her safety, not once. Whatever urges he was afraid of, he’d never given her any indication that she was in danger, or that he was close to giving into them. Angie wondered whether Nick’s fears were of her, or for her. Either way, she was confident in her assessment.

 

“You won’t.”

 

Nick didn’t seem too keen on upping the ante from “disagreement” to “all out argument”, and he sighed, wrapping a large arm around Angie’s shoulders and drawing her to his chest. Angie fell asleep quickly, not hearing the words he murmured into her hair.

 

 

 

——

 

 

 

Nick woke first the next morning, and was struck with the insane urge to look at the mark he’d made on her creamy skin. Part of him was disgusted at the animalistic display, but part of him was… pleased. He liked holding  onto the scruff of her neck like a dog, growling out his claim. Angie slept peacefully, not stirring as he shifted the curtain of her kinky, impossibly curly hair to view the purpling mark on the place where her neck met her spine. He got out of bed before he could do something he regretted, like stay long enough to make himself late for work.

 

Angie was lucky—the bar didn’t open until eleven, meaning she got the luxury of sleeping in almost every morning. While Nick had to be up as early as he could manage every morning, rushing to the precinct. He showered, before checking his phone. There were several messages from his parents, and a terse few from Ward, which immediately made him nervous.

 

W: Hurry up. Internal Affairs here again.

 

Ever since the Wand, Internal Affairs had been breathing down their necks. It made Nick nervous, knowing that they knew something wasn’t right, that something wasn’t being shared. But Kandomere had made it explicitly clear—no knowledge about the Wand, the dirty officers, none of it was to be shared. Not with Internal Affairs, not with anyone outside of the Magic Task Force. He buttoned up his shirt, before checking that he had all of his things—badge, gun, taser.

 

“Well officer, I wasn’t aware this was going to be a hit and run,” Angie’s tired voice came from behind him, still groggy with sleep. Nick turned to find her standing in the doorway, wearing only a t-shirt. Her lion’s mane of hair was out of it’s nightly scarf—courtesy of Nick himself—and he watched as she ran a hand through it sleepily. “Leaving without saying goodbye?”

 

“I didn’t want to wake you up.” Nick couldn’t help crossing the room to bring her against his chest. It had never been like this with anyone else, the insatiable need he felt all the time to be near her, to surround himself with her scent. The second time he’d spent the night, he’d asked her about her perfume—only to discover that she never wore any.

 

“Irritates my nose,” Angie had replied, raising an eyebrow. “Why?”

 

“I’ll be back tonight,” he added, unable to stop his hands from straying underneath the hem of her shirt to caress the smooth skin beneath. Angie sighed, before rubbing her nose against his shirt.

 

“Okay.”

 

He breathed deeply before forcing himself to let her go. Angie leaned against the wall as he exited, and Nick’s mouth went a little dry upon remembering the events of the night before, which had occurred on that same wall. She flashed him a knowing grin.

 

“See you later.”

 

“Bye, Angie.”

 

It was still early, and there was almost no one outside on the two block walk to where he’d parked the cruiser the night before. He shrugged off the lingering giddiness, and tried to direct his focus onto his surroundings. He could almost hear Ward’s voice in his sensitive ears. Keep your guard up. Watch your back. Once you got your uniform on, nobody gives a fuck about those commendations, partner. Nick started the car, letting it warm in idle as he situated himself. His phone vibrated again against his hip, and Nick glanced at it.

 

W: You better be close.

 

He set the phone down on the passenger seat, and pulled out into the street. The L. A. traffic hadn’t quite started just yet, so Nick could navigate the city with relative ease. Angie also lived closer to the precinct than he did, so his ill-tempered partner wouldn’t be waiting much longer. By eight, he was pulling up outside station, the car slowing to a stop just indie the officer parking lot. There was a memorial for Hicks, Ching, Pollard and Brown by the door, and Nick tried not to glower angrily at it as he passed by—no one else knew what murderous scum they were, and unfortunately, it wasn’t up to Nick to inform them. His desk was right across from Ward’s, who was sitting, staring frustratedly at a cup of dark coffee.

 

“Sorry I’m late, partner.”

 

Ward looked up at him mutely, before jerking his head towards the chief’s office. Through the slightly drawn blinds, Nick could see Internal Affairs officers Yamada and Arkashian. The former was sitting on the edge of the chief’s desk, gesturing casually at the rest of the office, while the latter sat rather uncomfortably in a chair.

 

“What do you think they’re here about?”

 

“Who knows? Probably the four dead cops and the two live ones who witnessed their deaths.”

 

Nick felt a cold weight settle in his stomach. The Magic Task Force had already tied up any and all loose ends, erased all evidence. He supposed it didn’t stop them from feeling something was amiss, though there was nothing they could prove. “It’s been a year.”

 

Ward shrugged. “If they had anything, the MTF would have silenced them by now.” He sipped his coffee, eyeing the office. It was easy to tell that their presence made his partner uneasy, but he was right. Either they’d have been slapped with injunctions and investigations by then, or Kandomere would have made them shut up and disappear. “They’re chasing their tails.”

 

Like Ward, their presence unnerved Nick. “Yeah.” He replied, settling into his desk. “Chasing their tails.”

 

Paperwork took up the better part of their morning, and by the time they left for patrol, it was almost midday. Internal Affairs had long since left, and Nick swore he saw Arkashian’s eyes linger on him for a moment, just before departing. It was hot now, and Nick let the cruiser’s air conditioner run for a few minutes before they got in.

 

They drove in silence for a few minutes before Jakoby was compelled to break the silence. “How’s Sherri?”

 

“Better, now that I’m not getting shot on my break.” Ward’s tone was clipped, but not unkind. “When are you going to get yourself a nice big Orkish girl?” He asked, his head turned towards the window as they drove just under the speed limit, scanning for any unusual activity. Nick started, the car jerking a little as he tensed. Ward’s eyes flicked towards him, narrowed in annoyance. “You need me to drive, rookie?”

 

“No. I—no. It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m…” he debated whether or not to tell Ward anything at all. This was one of the few times that his partner seemed content to engage in idle conversation, and he knew Angie felt like he was hiding her. To her benefit, she was smarter than he’d given her credit for—because he was. Just not for the reasons she suspected. Nick wasn’t stupid, though most people assumed differently given a single look at his stocky frame. He knew he was a target, and he knew that most people—even some of the officers he worked with—would love to see him disappear for good. Adding a human lover into the mix… it was like asking for trouble.

 

But he also felt very strongly about Angie. He…liked her. Despite their differences, he’d chosen her, and it pained him to know she thought he wasn’t proud to be hers. Ward had always been tolerant enough, and he tested the waters, answering his partner’s expectant dig.

 

“I’ve actually been seeing someone,” he replied, trying to sound casual, but failing immensely. “She’s. Um, well I wouldn’t describe her as Orkish…”

 

Ward looked at him fully then, his eyebrows raised. “How would you describe her?” Nick was quiet for  moment before Ward prompted him again. “Jakoby. How would you describe her?”  His tone was insistent and demanding.

 

“Human. You, um, you actually know her. The domestic disturbance, about four months ago?”

 

Ward’s jaw dropped, and he turned in his seat to face Nick, his voice rising. “You’re fucking someone we responded to?” Ward demanded incredulously, slamming his hand against the dashboard. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

 

“I thought you’d take it better than that.” Nick replied with a frown, flexing his hands against the steering wheel. “We’re not just fucking. She’s my…. we’re dating.” Nick could practically hear Daryl’s eyes rolling, but he wanted to be clear. He felt driven to clarify that she belonged to him—frustration at Ward’s tactless generalization was churning in his gut. It was strange that his crude comments about his time with Angie would rile him up like that, but they had.

 

“Y’all are serious?” he asked incredulously, his tone indicating that somehow, that was worse. “

“I’m tired of fucking being shot at, Jakoby!” He replied, gesturing to the location of his gunshot wound.

 

“We’re cops,” Nick shot back, glancing from the road to the face of his partner. “We get shot at all the time.” Ward, for his part, looked equal parts shocked and disbelieving. Nick could hear his rapid exhalation of breath, his frustration palpable. “You’re in an interracial relationship,” Nick reminded him.

 

“Yeah, and I get shit for it,” Ward huffed, leaning back in his seat. “People are going to fucking hate you. Again.”

 

Nick nodded. “I know.” He grinned, and looked over at Ward. “But she’s really hot.” Ward grimaced instead of smiling back at him like Angie would have. “You’re worried this puts you in danger.” Nick replied straightforwardly, not bothering to check his partner’s expression. He could tell by his tone that Ward was worried, he didn’t want to be a target—not again. But he also didn’t seem angry, which was a massive weight off of Nick’s shoulders—one he hadn’t even realized he’d been carrying.

 

“Great. They’re gonna hate you more because you couldn’t be decent and take one of the ugly ones.” He glanced at Nick sideways, before chuckling. “Guess you won’t be makin’ that face anymore.” Nick looked at his partner in confusion.

 

“What face?”

 

“The ‘oversharing orc partner who’s getting his conjugal love on,’ face.”

 

“I make that face?”

 

“Fuck yeah you make that dumb ass face. You’re making it now.”

 

Nick cut the wheel, rounding a corner. It felt kind of freeing, not to treat his girlfriend—I can say girlfriend after four months, right?—like a secret anymore.

 

Ward grumbled as they slowed when they passed the bar, now realizing how easily Nick had worked it into their routine without him noticing. “Now I get why you drive by here all the fuckin’ time.”

 

“I haven’t told anybody. Just you.” Ward sighed heavily, and Nick realized this was exactly the kind of relationship he was trying to avoid. “And I’m careful. I don’t let anyone see us together.”

 

“That makes her feel great, I bet.”

 

“Yeah, not so much.”

 

Nick took one last look at Lopez’s in the rearview mirror, satisfied that Angie was as safe as she could be. Maybe Ward took pity on him, or maybe he’d become genuinely interested, but he spoke again.

 

“I used to drive by the hospital. When I first joined, and we got serious. Me and Sherri.” Ward’s voice was quiet, and it seemed he hadn’t thought about the memory for a long time. “Don’t hide her.” Nick could barely see his partner looking at him from the corner of his eye. “But once people know, you better be fucking ready.”

 

Nick nodded.

 

 

——

 

 

When he got off of work that evening, he stopped by one of the many mexican places on his way to Angie’s apartment, to pick up dinner. Angie hated cooking, and though she always didn’t do a terrible job at it, he found she was always appreciative if he took care of dinner—which usually meant takeout. His parents had been asking where he’d been spending all his time—he’d been telling them he was sleeping at the precinct, though he doubted they believed it.

 

Nick made sure to pull his hood up as he exited his car—after his talk with Ward, suddenly, driving the police cruiser around on his off time didn’t seem like such a smart idea—and headed for the entrance to the building. There weren’t a lot of Orcs that lived in this neighborhood, but they were a common enough sight that no one batted an eye at him being there, which reduced the likelihood of him being recognized. He knew she kept the spare key under the welcome mat, and Nick had simply stopped putting it back, hooking it onto his own keyring. Angie didn’t complain.

 

He opened the door, unsure of whether she would be off work yet. It was after eight, though if she had to close, she’d be home late. To his surprise, she was home already, and from the look of it, she’d arrived just before he had.

 

“Hey,” she replied, grinning tiredly. He came forward for a hug, kicking the door closed behind him. He sniffed her, frowning a little. It wasn’t her fault—she worked around people, their scents were bound to rub off on her. It just put him on edge when she smelled like strange people he didn’t know. Especially men. He was still embarrassed at the first time he’d scented another man’s touch on her bare skin, though Angie had told him he’d more than made up for his faux pas.

 

Even so, Nick couldn’t help but sniff her with distaste, and Angie caught it, rolling her eyes.

 

“You know where I work, Nick. I can’t help it.” He grunted in response, pulling her close and tucking her head under his chin. “How was your day?” Nick thought about Internal Affairs, and wondered whether he should share with her any of the unpleasant truths he and Ward had discussed earlier. He opened his mouth to speak, just as Angie sighed and wrapped her arms around him, pushing her face against his chest. Nick’s mouth snapped shut and he instead buried his face in her hair, the scent of fresh jasmine enveloping him.

 

“Long. And also considerably better now that you’re in it.” He felt her laugh against him, pressing a kiss against his shirted chest. He gestured towards the kitchen table when Angie managed to disentangle herself from his arms. “I brought dinner.”

 

“All hail the conquering hero,” she replied, flashing a bright smile. “Let me hop in the shower. I know I smell like guy-sweat and pork sliders.”

 

“Want to watch a movie? I’m off tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah, okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

 

ORC FUCKER.

 

The note was taped to Angie’s door, and she ripped it down angrily, balling it up in her fist. I’m going to catch whichever piece of shit did this and make them eat this goddamn looseleaf. Tears of rage pricked at her eyes, and she wiped at them frustratedly before closing the door. Nick hadn’t been by for days, but now she was glad—he never would have come back. He was terrified of the thought of someone seeing them together, which sent a hard weight to the pit of her stomach.

 

Someone knew. Someone knew about them, and resented it. Angie supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised—most people looked down on orcs for no reason at all—That’s relatable, she thought sourly, marching into the kitchen and tossing the note into the garbage. Though, she had to admit, now that someone knew about them, maybe Nick would stop the cloak and dagger act.

 

Maybe he’ll walk with me down the goddamn street, for chrissakes.

 

It was probably someone from in the building, for whom seeing Nick come in and out of her apartment was an inexcusable slight. This day had to come, she thought bitterly, putting her hair up in preparation for work. Four months of seeing one another, and only now being caught? Their luck had carried on far longer than she’d expected. Deciding that this was a conversation best had with Nick in person, she declined to say anything until she saw him next.

 

She double checked that her door—and all windows—were locked before exiting her apartment. There was no need to tempt the fates and get a nasty surprise when she got home that evening. She sighed then, wondering if this meant she’d have to move.

 

“You’re late.” Her irate boss was flipping down chairs with an angry slam, before gesturing at her to go clock in and begin her workday. She stalked over to the clock to punch in, but then turned, her chin raised defiantly.

 

“My shift starts at ten. It’s nine forty five.” Angie “I’m not late.”

 

“A good employee is in the building and on call at least thirty minutes before her shift,” Terry sneered, his greasy face triumphant. “Go read the employee handbook again. Since you got so much time.” Lopez’s was easily the shittiest bar in LA, and their only customers were criminals, and other shitty tippers. the main attraction was the waitresses, whose uniforms consisted of bright red spandex skirts, and midriff baring v-neck t-shirts with the bar logo printed on them. Tugging down her short skirt harshly, Angie clocked in. She’d tried to fight this fight before, and had almost ended up loosing her job. Jobs were remarkably hard to come by these days, and spending six months unemployed while she looked for a job below her qualifications wasn’t something she was interested in doing.

 

“Good. Now come finish flipping these chairs and refill the napkins. I don’t want you doing that shit when the customers get here.”

 

As she dragged tables and chairs to their proper locations, Angie couldn’t help thinking about the note again. She’d have to tell Nick—her phone buzzed, distracting her from her spiraling thoughts. She glanced up, making sure Terry was busy harassing one of the other girls before checking her phone. Speak of the devil.

 

N: What are you doing tonight?

 

She sighed with relief. The thought of someone watching her apartment sent uncomfortable shivers down her spine. It was heartening that Nick would be coming over, so she wouldn’t be alone. Though his being there would probably further anger whichever prejudiced neighbor had left her the note in the first place, she didn’t care.

 

A: Nothing. I’m off at seven. You coming over?

 

Angie couldn’t help the soft gasp that left her lips as he sent his reply.

 

N: No. I was thinking you should come over. If you want to.

 

He wants me to come over. To his house. Doesn’t he live at home? Angie’s thoughts raced, her mind a jumbled mess. I thought he didn’t want anyone knowing… Angie’s fingers tapped at the phone screen rapidly. She glanced up to check that her boss’ attention was still elsewhere.

 

A: You want me to meet your parents? Today?!

 

N: Is it too soon? You don’t want to? It’s fine if you don’t, we don’t have to do this now. Sorry, I just thought about it and I thought I’d ask you.

 

A: No! I want to. I’m just surprised. You know, you’ve been really secretive, I just didn’t think you’d spring meeting your family on me right now.

 

N: So you’ll come?

 

A: Obviously. I take it you’re driving?

 

 

“Angie, put that fucking phone down or I’m taking it!” Terry’s shrill voice rang out across the restaurant, and Angie hurriedly shoved her phone into her apron pocket, mumbling an apology. It was going to be a long, long day.

 

——

 

She was surprised when Nick picked her up from work, waiting outside for her in his old Jeep. “You’re just in it to win it today, aren’t you?” Angie replied amusedly, before sliding into the passenger’s seat. Nick’s hand dropped to her thigh, squeezing it comfortingly as he pulled off.

 

“My mom’s making dinner.”

 

It was only a ten minute drive, and since most of the traffic was past, now, they reached her apartment quickly Angie realized she still hadn’t told him about the note, but he was in such a good mood. As he got out of the car, she saw him reach reflexively for his hood to pull it up—but he didn’t. Simply leaving it down around his shoulders.

 

No. I’m not going to tell him. It’ll only scare him. Anyone leaving notes isn’t brave enough to do anything else, she thought to herself firmly. It’s done. There was no one in the hallway as she climbed the stairs to her floor, but that didn’t mean people weren’t watching through their peepholes. She scowled. Enjoy the show, asshole.

 

She was relieved to see that there wasn’t another piece of paper taped to her door. Nothing out of the ordinary. She couldn’t help but grin triumphantly, grasping Nick’s hand before leading him inside. They kicked their shoes off in the entryway, before Angie began stripping off her light jacket, and unzipping her skirt. “Let me just grab a shower,” she replied, and Nick nodded, his nose wrinkling. She ran over her wardrobe in her mind as she bathed, frowning. If he’d have given me a little notice, I could have bought something new, Angie thought irritatedly, before smiling softly to herself.

 

She was meeting Nick’s parents. Of course, her own parents weren’t even speaking to her, so this was really the only milestone she could check off—it wasn’t as though she could have brought him home, regardless of his race. The thought of it made her nostalgic, and for a moment she thought she could smell the trees and the rain, but she shook herself. This wasn’t the time to be mopey and homesick, especially when she couldn’t go home. Angie exited the shower, toweling off aggressively as she made a beeline for her bedroom. Nick had said his mother was cooking, and she didn’t want to keep her waiting.

 

She glanced up at the doorway as she rubbed lotion into her skin—Nick was leaned there, watching her dress. He averted his eyes at first, for a moment, but then brought them back to bear own her own. It sent a little thrill to the apex of her thighs, though she reigned in her runaway imagination. The last thing they needed was Nick getting wind of her. Angie dug through her drawers until she found a dress she felt she’d at least feel alright in. She never had much reason to dress up—though since Nick seemed to be a little less afraid of being seen with her, maybe she’d have an excuse to shop.

 

A dangerous thing.

 

The dress she put on was a little long for her short frame, and the train dragged a little on the ground. A long, flowy maxi-dress, with peasant sleeves, exposed shoulders, and a low squared neckline. Angie pulled her riotous hair into a quick bun, opting not to try and tame it.

 

“I look okay?” She asked, finishing the light makeup she’d decided to apply, although she still couldn’t tell if Nick noticed the change or not. He nodded emphatically.

 

“Like royalty.” He’d changed too, putting on a nice button down shirt over jeans that looked less worn than usual. She smiled.

 

“You’re not so bad yourself, Romeo.” Angie crossed the room to grab the wrap sandals by her dresser, using Nick to steady herself as she slid them on. His fingers gently caressed the skin of her shoulders, and he inhaled deeply.

 

“You smell so good,” he replied, his voice thick as his fingers became more insistent. Angie leaned up and kissed him, and Nick growled against her lips, pulling her against him. He worked his rough tongue against her own, and she couldn’t help but sigh, her hand fisting in his shirt.

 

Dinner.

 

“Nick,” She murmured against his mouth, his hand insistently drawing the hem of her dress upward so that he could caress the bare skin of her thigh. “We’re going to be late.” His lips traced featherlight trails down her jaw and the side of her neck, and Angie could fee him hardening against her belly.

 

“That’s fine.”

 

They showed up at his parents small duplex an hour later, with Angie’s cheeks rosily flushed and her hair slightly more messy than was probably acceptable. He’d refused to let her shower either, insisting that they couldn’t be any later, but when Nick helped her out of the car, and took a deep, pleased sniff of her, Angie suspected it was so that every orc within smelling distance would know she was taken.

 

“Just ring the bell, I’m going to grab my bag.” Nick gestured at the house in front of them, the brown paint a little worn on the wooden siding. The bell was just beside the door, and Angie pressed it nervously, her stomach tying itself into knots as she stood on the little porch. She heard the car door slam just as the front door opened. Orc women were slightly larger on average than human woman, and as Angie was barely five foot five on a good day, so she towered over her, the warm smell of food wafting out of the open door behind her.

 

“You’re Nick’s friend? You’re so small.” She replied bluntly, and Angie couldn’t help the shocked expression that flashed across her features. Orcs were known to be blunt, but somehow she suspected Nick did a better job of hiding that than others. She was still fairly youthful looking, despite the crow’s feet around her eyes, and the jaded tilt of her eyebrow ridge. She was stockier built than Angie, who suddenly felt very aware of her human limitations.

 

“Yeah. Hi, I’m, um, I’m Angie.” She held out her hand, but the orc woman looked past her, grinning toothily at her son. Her fangs weren’t filed, unlike Nick’s.

 

“Ulaorn.”

 

Nick came to stand beside her, his hand proudly on her shoulder. “Hey, Ma. You guys met? Where’s dad?” He was seemingly oblivious to the tension that was making Angie want to chew her nails off. Ulaorn moved out of the way stiffly to allow Angie passage into the house. It was well decorated, if a little old fashioned, with plastic covers on the living room furniture. Nick dropped his bag by the door to embrace his mother. “And we’re not just friends. Angie and I are dating, mom. I told you.”

 

“Dating? Like humans do?” Her voice was incredulous but not inherently disapproving. Nick rolled his eyes, and Angie got the feeling he got flack for quite a few of his choices. “Alright, alright, no need to get upset, Mausan.” She held her hands up placatingly. A gruff voice from the kitchen disrupted the moment.

 

“Ula, I think the meat is burning.”

 

The Orkish woman rolled her golden eyes, and turned toward the kitchen, irritation written across her features. “You know how to use a stove, Brun!”

 

An even larger Orc, older looking than Nick, but still spry looking enough to be intimidating in a fight as he ambled out of the kitchen, grumbling. “Just telling you.” He shoved his large hands into his pockets, before grinning toothily at Angie. “Nick, you never said she was so pretty!” Ulaorn flicked a finger against his ear and he hissed, grabbing the wounded appendage. “I can’t be polite either?”

 

“This is my father, Brun.”

 

His parents both had such Orkish names. She wondered what had lead them to give him a human one. Angie held out her hand, somewhat worried that Brun would take an immediate disliking to her the way Ula had—but he grasped it firmly, smiling warmly at her. “Welcome to our home.” Ulaorn turned on her heel and strode into the kitchen, leaving the three of them alone. Brun leaned toward Angie conspiratorially. “Ula is a little bit… overprotective. Don’t worry. She’ll come around.”

 

“I heard that!”

 

He stepped away, looking chastened. Nick squeezed her hand comfortingly, his face relaxed and cheerful. He didn’t seem particularly worried, which itself was reassuring. “Mausan ukon, come bring these into the dining room.” Nick disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Angie alone with Brun, who gestured at her to follow him through the opposite doorway.

 

“Come, we’ll set the table.” Angie followed after him into the small dining room. The other Orc was busy setting slim glasses by each of the chairs as she fidgeted awkwardly. “Plates are in the hutch. Behind you.”

 

“Oh. Right,” Angie hurriedly took down four porcelain plates. Nick’s parents reminded her of her grandparents, special plates for special occasions, a rarely used dining room for family gatherings. It was almost nostalgic, though she’d never been here before.

 

“How long have you and Nick been….friends?” Brun replied politely, passing her placemats. Angie swallowed thickly. If she told them four months, they might be offended she hadn’t met them sooner. But what if it was too soon, and his parents thought they were rushing things?

 

“About four months.” When in doubt, tell the truth. Brun’s face remained passive, as though the information didn’t phase him either way. “Nick mentioned he had two brothers?”

 

His face lit up. “James and Thomas? Oh, James lives in New York. And Thomas is in the Army. Stationed in Korea.” So Nick’s the only one that lives at home, Angie thought to herself, filing that away to ask Nick about when they left. He rarely mentioned his brothers, and she wondered if it meant they weren’t close—Angie herself didn’t talk about her own family for that same reason. Brun leaned back, looking at the table with an approving eye. “Looks good.” Nick clearly took after his father; burly, tall, big smile and deep belly laugh.

 

Nick’s mother came bustling into the room, carrying a steaming ceramic dish. Angie wasn’t sure what was in it, but it smelled mouthwatering. Angie suddenly became acutely aware of the fact that she couldn’t cook at all, which was why she and Nick had been subsisting on takeout and pasta as long as they’d been dating. Human? Strike one. Can’t cook anything in the same league as his mom? Strike two. She wondered miserably what strike three would be. One of the orc waitresses at work had said that an Orkish guy wouldn’t even look twice at you if you couldn’t cook. Maybe he’s holding out hope that I’ll develop the skill. 

 

 

“Set this in the center.” Ula replied gruffly, passing the dish to Angie roughly. “Make sure there’s room for the salad. And rice.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Ula made her nervous. Angie found herself even more determined than before to have the older woman like her, accept her. She smiled at Ulaorn, but her fanged mouth remained impassive. Nick had never mentioned whether his parents were religious or not, but she was inclined to think they were, when they bowed their heads to thank the Gods for their bounty and blessing. She sat awkwardly next to Nick, eyeing the food it seemed his mother wished she weren’t there to eat. Ulaorn removed all the dish covers herself, revealing perfectly cooked brown rice, and crisp steamed vegetables. But the real star was the meat. It was sliced, the skin browned and dark, but the inside was a warm red, moist and mouthwatering looking, surrounded by cut potatoes and fresh herbs, rosemary and something Angie couldn’t identify.

 

“That’s lamb,” Nick replied, pointing to it. Oh yeah. Nick did say mutton was traditional Orc food. Angie spooned some food onto her plate, thanking the terse orc woman again for the meal. Ula only nodded silently, giving Angie the barest of acknowledgements that she’d even heard her speak. “Dad, did you show Angie the rest of the house?” She could tell he was trying to make conversation, it was so quiet she could have heard a pin drop in the next house over.

 

“No, not yet. After dessert, though,” Brun replied cooly. Angie noted with no small amount of jealousy that the food was delicious. The lamb was tender and juicy, and the vegetables were well cooked and flavorful. Nick had never expressed disappointment at her lack of culinary ability, but Angie wasn’t a fool. Most men loved a good home cooked meal, and if she were in Ula’s shoes, she might think twice about a girl whose only abilities were waiting tables and ordering takeout. “So, Angie. What do you do for a living?”  Nick’s father spoke between bites, his amber eyes flicking up to meet hers evenly. It wasn’t like Angie hadn’t known that question would come, but she hadn’t anticipated how shitty the answer would make her feel.

 

“I’m, um, I’m a waitress.” She said softly, trying not to look and sound as embarrassed as she felt. “At a restaurant.” Lopez’s only serves wings, fries, and cheap egg rolls. But technically it counts, doesn’t it?

 

“And in the future?” Ula’s voice surprised her, Angie hadn’t been expecting Nick’s mother to address her directly.

 

Don’t say anything stupid like ‘I want to be a fucking singer’. “Um, hopefully own my own bar or something,” she replied lamely, busying herself by arranging the food on her plate. Nick gently elbowed her under the table, but Angie shied away.

 

“Didn’t you say you moved to L.A. to do music?”

 

“Something like that,” Angie replied, fixing Nick with a glare, her tone glacial. Either he’d understood her hint—to drop the subject—or he’d realized she was irritated, and was willing to drop it without argument. Either way, he promptly stopped speaking. “When I was younger.”

 

“And how old are you now?” Ula asked, her steely eyes locked onto Angie’s. She wanted more than anything to look away, but she couldn’t. Angie wasn’t sure what had made Ulaorn dislike her so intensely, but it was palpable. Angie had been nervous about making a good first impression, and it seemed she’d had good reason to: she had failed spectacularly. Nick fidgeted nervously next to her, his leg jiggling. Brun seemed nonplussed by the tension in the room, continuing to eat as though nothing was wrong. Angie swallowed thickly before answering.

 

“I’m twenty seven.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

It was impossible for Angie to discern what the other woman was thinking—except that she seemed equally as displeased as she had been the moment Angie had crossed the threshold. Is it because I’m human? Or…“Nick says, um, that you used to be a teacher?” Make small talk. “My mom used to teach too.”

 

“Yes. I retired ten years ago.” Her tone was clipped, glacial.

 

“Mom worked at that a school downtown. What was it again?”

 

“St. Johns.”

 

“Oh, my coworker’s daughter goes there.”

 

“From the restaurant,” Ulaorn replied dryly, taking a long sip of wine. Angie looked at her glass longingly—but she was a notorious lightweight. It wouldn’t do to get drunk her first time meeting Nick’s parents. Ula didn’t like her, and Brun seemed entirely indifferent to her presence. Dinner finished awkwardly in that fashion, with most of Angie’s tentative conversation starters shot down with two second answers that left little room for more conversation.

 

“Let me show you the rest of the house,” Brun replied, standing up from the table. “Let these two clear the dishes.” Back in the living room, Angie noticed several pictures—most of them Orcs, with a few human ones thrown in. He walked over to them, pointing. “That’s Nick.”

 

The picture was slightly faded, but she could see young Nick, holding a plastic police badge and wearing a play officer’s hat. He was grinning widely, standing in front of a box with torn wrapping paper. “How old was he here?”

 

“Seven. I got that for him for his birthday.” Next to it, was a framed picture of Ula holding her degree, dressed in graduation robes. “That’s Ula, getting her Masters.”

 

“Wow.” Angie felt shame and jealousy roil in her gut. College hadn’t been an option for her—leaving home at seventeen had assured that. “That’s amazing.”

 

“We value education in this family,” Brun replied. He couldn’t know how deeply Angie was stung by his words. Nick didn’t seem to mind, or treat her like she was stupid or incapable. But she also knew how valuable—and expensive—a college education was. She’d worked hard to graduate high school early. Anything to have gotten out of that fucking house.

 

“And this one?” Angie changed the subject, forcing an easy smile onto her face.

 

“Oh, that’s me. I’m a Pharmacist.”

 

Fucking fantastic.

 

“These are Nick’s brothers,” he replied, pointing. “James, and Thomas.” Incredibly, Nick was the runt of the litter. It was hard for Angie to believe, with him being so much larger than her anyway. It was a high school photo, but she doubted much had changed. James and Thomas were each at least a half head taller than Nick. Thomas was stockier, with less blue mottling on his face, and James was taller, slimmer. Brun led her through the kitchen, where Nick was washing up. Suddenly the image becomes clearer, she thought amusedly, grinning when he made a face at her.

 

The yard was lovely, even though it was small. The grass was green and well kept, with a grill in the corner by the fence. There was a little picnic table, which though a little dusty, was well maintained as well. “We’re having a cookout in a few weeks, you two will come, won’t you?” he asked, surprising her. I thought it was pretty clear your wife hates the very air I breathe, Brun.

 

“Oh. Um, yeah, definitely. If I’m not working, I mean, yeah. I’d love to.” She tripped over the words, wondering if this was what Nick felt like when he spoke. He was the nervous rambler, not her.

 

“We’ll see you then.”

 

It was evening now, and although it was dark, it wasn’t quiet. The noise of the city was all around them—cars, people, dogs, televisions. It was the thing she hated most about L.A. It was the thing that made her miss home the most. Nick was waiting inside for her, a frown on his face. What happened? “Angie, are you ready? We should get going before it gets too late. Work.”

 

Brun looked between Nick and Ula, who was glaring angrily at Nick. “You two alright?”

 

“Fine.” Ula said, before turning to Angie. “I suppose we’ll see you at the barbecue?”

 

“You will,” Nick replied, before Angie could speak. He hugged his father, and gave his mother a chaste kiss on the cheek, though he still seemed upset with her. “Bye.”

 

He grabbed the bag he’d brought with him, which seemed fuller than last she’d looked at it, and headed for the door. Angie rushed to keep up with him, bidding farewell to Nick’s parents. “It was so nice to meet you both,” She replied, smiling as sincerely as she could.

 

Nick was outside, yanking open the driver’s side door.

 

“Maybe I should drive?” Angie huffed, putting a hand on his shoulder.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Yeah. I see that.” Angie pushed the door closed and hugged him, pressing her front to his back. He sighed, dropping his head to the roof of the car. “Mind telling me what this is all about?”

 

“Mom’s just—”

 

“No. You sprung this whole thing on me. Meeting your parents? Randomly, for the first time?” Plus your mom despises me.

 

Nick sighed, before turning to face her. “Let’s go home.”

 

“And we’re going to talk?” She replied, her voice stern. Nick wasn’t wriggling out of this one. He nodded sheepishly, rubbing a hand along the skin of his head. “Okay.”

 

She walked around to the passenger side door and got in, as Nick slid into the driver’s seat.

 

“I talked to Ward.”

 

His voice surprised her, and Angie turned towards him. “About what?”

 

“About… you. I know you think I’m ashamed of you. I’m not. I can’t… I’m a target, Angie. I’m the only Orc cop.” Nick sounded almost relieved, as though now that he’d told her, he felt vindicated. Angie released a shaky breath. She had thought Nick was embarrassed of her, but the relief was short lived. He’s not telling me everything. Angie sighed.

 

“So… you were trying to protect me? Why didn’t you just tell me?”

 

“I thought it would scare you off,” he admitted, his expression chastened. “I didn’t want to put you in danger. It was better that no one knew.”

 

“Someone does know,” she blurted, the words escaping her mouth before she could stop them. She couldn’t keep it a secret from him now, especially not now that he’d told her the truth. “I got… I got a note on my door. This morning.” She saw NIck’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, though his voice remained even.

 

“What did it say?”

 

“It said… it just said…” She paused, suddenly nervous. Nick glanced at her expectantly, aware she was stalling.

 

“Angie.”

 

“It said Orc Fucker, Nick.” He let out a low growl at this, before looking at her angrily.

 

“You threw it away.” His tone was accusing. “You knew someone did that and you didn’t tell me? Angie what if they hurt you? What if they broke in?”

 

“They could still do that!” she replied, throwing her hands into the air. “All of those things could happen to me regardless of whether people know we’re together!”

 

“I wouldn’t have done this if I knew someone threatened you,” he replied, his voice low. “I never would have…”

 

“You wouldn’t have introduced me to your parents? You wouldn’t be seen in public with me?” Angie placed her hand on his lap, and swallowed her pride. She was right to be angry with him, he should have been honest. But Nick was only doing what he thought was best. And he had been right to be concerned. It was naive and foolish of her to think there would be no consequences, regardless of how bigoted they were in nature. “Nick, it was bound to happen. Unless you were planning on keeping me hidden forever?”

 

“No!” he said forcefully. Angie jumped, and he repeated it again, this time, his tone apologetic. “No. I… Ward said I shouldn’t do that.”

 

“Ward is right.”

 

“I’m right too,” he replied defensively, stopping at a red light. “It’s dangerous. And you have to be careful. Start checking in.” Angie fought the urge to roll her eyes.

 

“Are these my options? Martial law and curfews, or cloak and dagger secrecy?” Nick sighed with frustration, and Angie relented, holding her palms up placatingly. “Okay. Okay. I’ll text you more often. I just.. I don’t like when men keep tabs on me.” It reminds me of Jeremy.

 

“Angie I’m not him.”

 

Now it was her turn to sigh. “I know, Nick. I’m just saying.”

 

They pulled up outside of the building, and she could practically see him debating whether or not to go back to hiding himself. “Nick, please. Please lets not go back to that.”

 

“Okay.”

 

There were no more notes on her door this time either, which was a relief. As they shut the door behind them, Nick stretched and groaned.

 

“I could use a snack.”

 

“Are you serious?”

 

 

——

 

Angie slept beside him, curled around him with her head on his chest. Nick smiled lightly, coiling a lock of her hair around his index finger.

 

“It said Orc Fucker, Nick.”

 

He grimaced, subconsciously tightening his grip on Angie until she whimpered. “Sorry.” He murmured the words against her hair, kissing the top of her head. She wasn’t as worried as she should have been—sure, they might not know who he was, but they knew enough to identify what they were doing together. How could he protect her when he was the problem?

 

It didn’t matter now. They’d been seen together, he’d introduced her to his parents—they couldn’t go back now. He’d just have to find a way. Ugh. My parents. He wasn’t sure why his mother had taken such an immediate dislike to Angie, he could only assume it was because she was human. His mother was somewhat of a traditionalist, but she’d never batted an eye when James or Thomas had brought home Orc girls covered in tattoos or piercings. And aside from the tasteful gold stud in her right nostril, Angie was visibly more conservative than that.

 

“She’s not right for you, Mausan ukon.”

 

His mother’s words rang uncomfortably in his ears. Perhaps it was because he was the youngest, that she was being protective? Regardless, he’d chosen Angie and he wasn’t willing to let anyone come between them. Not even family. But his father seemed to like her, despite his mother’s every attempt to ice her out. That was a good sign, at least.

 

Angie mumbled something in her sleep, burrowing against his chest. She shifted, her thigh rubbing tantalizingly against his cock. He groaned quietly. He didn’t want to wake her, Angie hadn’t had the best evening. Even after they’d gotten home, things were tense. She mewled quietly, rubbing against him slowly. He could feel the heat of her through her thin, short pajama bottoms. All traces of sleepiness vanished as his body came roaring to life, his erection pressed against her inner thigh. He tried to move her, but she moaned in protest, wrapping her arms tighter around his chest, and pressing the wet heat at the apex of her thighs against his hip.

 

“Angie.” He tried in vain to move her again, but she wouldn’t budge. “Angie.”

 

“Hmm?” her voice was hoarse, and her speech slurred with sleep. She looked up at him with foggy eyes, hair falling across her face. “Issit time for work yet?”

 

“No, I just need to move you.” She stretched a little, and realization dawned on her face.

 

“Why?” she replied innocently, though her expression was practically lascivious. It’s three am. We should be sleeping. Angie ran a light finger across the seam of his sleeping pants, and he groaned, bucking his hips. Before he realized what he was doing, Nick grasped her hips, pulling her up and over to straddle him. Angie grinned and stretched sleepily, before leaning down to plant a kiss on his chest. “Still want me to move?” She asked, her eyes resting on his.

 

“More than anything.”

 

Angie laughed, undulating her hips to slide her pussy across the hard bulge that had quickly grown in his pants. “Better?” He groaned, his fingers pressing hard into the flesh of her sides as he held her, bucking his hips up.

 

“It would be better if you took those off.” Nick’s fingers went to work on the buttons of her pajama top, while Angie wriggled out of her shorts. He didn’t even bother taking it off all the way, simply pushing it open to reveal her breasts to his gaze. He ran a single finger between her breasts, down her belly, to the apex of her thighs, where her cunt was pressed against him. The only thing stopping him from being inside her was the thin layer of his pants, which he yanked down roughly, his cock springing free to rest against his stomach. Angie leaned back, her hands resting behind her on the bed as she tilted her hips up, allowing him to slide the flat head of his erection against her slick entrance. “So wet,” he said lowly, rubbing the head of his cock against her swollen clit.

 

“Nick…”

 

He loved when she said his name like that, rough and needy, the words breathless. His hands came up to caress her breasts, pinching her nipples, rolling them between his large, rough fingers. Her eyes fluttered shut, and she moaned, rocking against him. “Up.” He replied, holding his rigid cock upright so that she could sink down onto it. Angie moaned low in her throat as she stretched to accommodate him. Nick fought the urge to shove her down onto his throbbing cock, instead, choosing to savor the feel of her wet walls encasing him, inch by delicious inch until she reached the base, panting. He always gave Angie a minute or two to adjust, but tonight it was especially hard. The little mewling sounds she made as she shifted, the throbbing of her soaked pussy around him, it was almost enough to drive him over the edge.

 

“Fuck.”

 

“Can I…?” His tone was desperate, he knew, but he was moments away from loosing control. “I need…” he thrust his hips up experimentally, and Angie cried out, her back arching.

 

“Fuck yes, Nick.”

 

He pistoned his hips upward, forcing himself in and out of her pussy as she undulated her hips to match his thrusts. He growled, words falling from his lips in both English and Orkish.

 

“Mine…tug uorkormajal…mausan avreaukure!”

 

Angie tightened around him, leaning forward to grasp the headboard to gain the leverage she needed to slam her hips down against his as he fucked her harder. Nick grasped her hips, holding her as he sat up, forcing her to wrap her legs around him. Angie shuddered at the change in position as he leaned forward sniff at her throat. Nick hated this, this primal need he had, to bury his teeth in her neck, but Angie never seemed to mind. She moaned, tilting her head instinctively to give him access. As soon as his teeth bore down on the expanse of skin between her neck and shoulder, her cunt clenched around him, wetness seeping onto his thighs. Nick worked his tongue along the abused skin, growling as she cried out, her mouth falling open.

 

“Nick, m’close,” she murmured, and he grunted, grasping her hips as he pushed the blunt head of his cock against her womb, forcing her into orgasm. Angie cursed loudly, slumping against him as she shuddered, her cunt clenching him so tight he could barely move. He thrust once twice, before he followed her over the edge, holding her tightly in place until he’d finished. He leaned back against the headboard tiredly, pulling Angie with him. He was still lodged firmly inside her pussy, and the aftershocks of her climax rippled deliciously along his length.

 

He was hot, and sweaty, but comfortable, and refused to move. Angie seemed equally boneless, slumped against him, with a satisfied smirk on her face.

 

“We’ll change the sheets in the morning.”

 

His mother was right, Angie wasn’t right for him. She was perfect.

 

 

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

 

“Yeah, it’ll be fun. Other friends do them.” Nick replied, grinning at his partner. Ward was especially grumpy this morning—Nick suspected it had to do with Sherri—and wasn’t responding well to his latest suggestion.

 

“I’m not going on a fucking double date with you, Jakoby.”

 

“Angie would love it! And I bet Sherri would like dinner at a nice place—”

 

“Sherri’s not speaking to me right now, so she damn sure ain’t going out with me this Friday.”

 

Knew it.

 

“Why?”

 

“None of your fucking business,” he replied grumpily, crossing his arms. When he’d left from the apartment that morning, Nick had realized that now, he owed Angie some traditional dates. Movies on the couch was fine, when it wasn’t serious. I think I can say it’s serious, now. It had seemed like a nice thought at the time, but with the way Ward was acting, he’d just asked him to nuke an orphanage.

 

“Come on, partner. You can talk to me.”

 

Ward sighed long sufferingly. “I miss the days when you’d take the hint and shut the fuck up.”

 

“Those were good days,” Nick replied good naturedly, which had the satisfying bonus effect of pissing Ward off even further.

 

“We found a house in our price range. I wanted to put money down on it, but Sherri wanted to wait. I went ahead and did it. Now she’s pissed off, but it’s a great place! Better neighborhood, closer to work. But I ‘made the choice without her’. Or some shit.”

 

Nick shrugged. “Well, it’s like you said, Ward—”

 

“Don’t. Don’t give me advice right now. Just drive.”

 

“Gotcha. Well, let me know about Friday. Angie would love it.”

 

Nick glanced over at Ward, who rolled his eyes. “Keep an eye out, Romeo. We’ve had an uptick in Altamira activity this week. I’m trying to make it home to be mad at my wife.” Nick nodded, focusing on scanning the sidewalks as he drove by. Suddenly, he spotted someone in Altamira colors. Ward had spoken correctly. He narrowed his eyes. Something was… familiar.

 

Jeremy. He’d know that fucking scent anywhere. As though he’d called his name, the other man looked up and the cop car and sneered, jutting his chin out in challenge before holding up his middle fingers at them. Nick saw red, and swerved across the street, pulling the cruiser roughly to a stop. Ward looked at him in shock before speaking.

 

“What the hell are you—”

 

Nick didn’t hear the rest of Ward’s condemnation, he was already out of the car and striding forcefully towards Jeremy, who looked decidedly less certain than he had when Nick was in the car.

 

“Altamira, you pig motherfuck—”

 

Nick cut him off by grabbing his shirt, shaking him. “Say it.” He sneered. “Say it again.”

 

“Nick. Let’s go. You can’t arrest scum for walking down the street. As much as I hate it.” Ward was leaning on the hood of the cruiser, his body language languid, but his eyes alert and bright. “Come on.”

 

“Your master’s calling you,” Jeremy sneered, pushing Nick away from him. Nick turned to walk back to the car, his fists clenched. “I hear you hang around that little bitch,” he replied, stopping Nick in his tracks. “The lil’ homies seen you down there. Her place is on Harding—ain’t it?” His voice was mocking. Before Nick knew what he was doing Ward was stepping between the two of them as Nick swung, missing the other man by mere inches.

 

“Jakoby! Let’s go! That’s a fucking order!”

 

Jeremy took off, and Nick watched him go. I want to break his bones and strip his fucking skin off—“Get in the goddamn car you fucking maniac.” Nick moved for the driver’s side, but Ward cut him off. “Are you crazy? I’m driving. Fuck outta here.” He relented, and moved towards the passenger’s side.

 

“Mind telling me what the fuck that shit was about?”

 

“That gang banging fuck beat Angie.”

 

Ward whirled in his seat. “Her ex? What, like, recently?”

 

“No.” Nick admitted sheepishly. He wasn’t sure why he’d even pulled the car over. The moment he’d recognized Jeremy, it was like his body was on autopilot. Seek, Destroy. And then he’d learned that he knew that he and Angie were together, knew where she lived. He growled quietly, fighting the urge to exit the car and go after the threat. Threat.  Jeremy was a threat. To their relationship, and especially to Angie. “Before we got together. Lots of times. Bad.”

 

 

“He’s a piece of shit, but you have to have probable cause. If he lawyers up, it could be a real big fuckin’ problem.”

 

“He won’t.” Nick replied, his voice colored with certainty. “He’s a coward.”

 

Ward pulled out into the street, and Nick sat tensely in the passenger’s seat, waiting impatiently for Angie to send him the afternoon text that she was alright. After their tense conversation on the way home from meeting his parents, Angie had agreed—one text when she got to work. One at lunch, and one when she was safely home. It was well past one, and she’d taken to texting just after twelve. And with Jeremy’s disturbing revelation… He was moments from telling Ward to drive by Lopez’s, to see if Angie was alright, when his phone buzzed.

 

 

A: Busy shift, but I’m on break now. How’s your day?

 

Nick couldn’t tell her he’d run into Jeremy. He couldn’t tell her he’d come dangerously close to attacking him on the street.

 

N: Not good. Glad you texted. Was starting to worry.

 

A: Sorry. Gina’s out sick, and Terry’s on the warpath.

 

N: It’s okay. Don’t be sorry. Thai for dinner tonight?

 

A: Deal.

 

Their patrol concluded uneventfully, with Ward dutifully forgetting to write up Nick for his misconduct. The thinly veiled threat weighed heavily on him, especially knowing that even with him doing his absolute best, Nick hadn’t managed to keep his presence in Angie’s life a secret—she was in danger either way.

 

It was bound to happen. She’d been right, as loathe as he was to admit it. He doubted she was in danger of any gang retaliation—the Altamira wasn’t going to risk another all out war with the cops over a jilted ex. But Jeremy was dangerous. Nick recalled the night they’d responded to the call, Angie’s lip swollen and busted, her beautiful face bruised and bloodied.

 

Never again. Not fucking ever.

 

Though he was completely safe at the station—well, as safe as he was anywhere—Nick was overcome with the incredible urge to fight. To maim. Angie was his, and if he had to kill a whole gang to keep her safe, he’d do it. He shut his locker, before sighing heavily.

 

A: Home again home again, jiggity jig.

 

N: Be there soon. I’m leaving the precinct now.

 

He typed out another message, one about Jeremy, warning her to be careful, but he deleted it, shoving his phone deep into his pocket.

 

There would be time for that later. 

 

 

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

“Thanks for taking that last table, Kimmy.” Angie said, kicking off her work flats to slip on more comfortable sneakers for the drive home. `It was an hour past her clock out time, and if Terry tried to give her one more table, Angie was going to scream. Luckily, Kimmy had volunteered to stay later, which meant Angie could finally go home.

 

It had been a week since the incident at Nick’s parents, and thus far, the only thing he’d gone home for was clothes. Angie wondered whether or not she was still invited to the barbecue. She hated knowing she was the cause of the upset with his parents, but she’d been pleasantly surprised—awed, in fact—when he’d chosen her in direct opposition to his mother’s wishes. Angie had to admit she’d been wrong. Early on in their relationship, she’d pegged Nick as a mama’s boy—he’d always spoken more fondly of her than of his father, though their relationship seemed close too. But, despite her apparent displeasure at Angie’s existence, he’d sided with her, slowly moving more and more things over from his parent’s house to her small apartment. She’d even given up two of her dresser drawers for his things, though he’d never asked. Angie made for the exit to the waitstation, keeping an eye out for Terry. Just because she was off the clock didn’t mean he wouldn’t make her stay late with some menial task or another. Two weeks before, he’d had Angie and another coworker stay until ten o’clock, taking inventory on all the coin change in the building.

 

With no sign of the greasy demon, she exited the building, her keys jingling in her hand. Traffic was shockingly light, and she got home quickly, thinking fondly of the shower she was going to take once inside. Terry’s wandering hands—which she’d firmly decided to keep from Nick, considering how territorial he was on a good day—always left her feeling greasy and slightly violated.

 

As she unlocked the building door, Angie shot off a text to Nick, letting him know she was home.

 

A: Just walked in the building.

 

N: Good. Home soon.

 

He’s calling my apartment home. Angie’s stomach did a weird little flip, and her pulse quickened. She headed up the stairs, front door key in hand. She stopped abruptly, tension building in her spine. Angie’s heart raced and her stomach tightened—but this time, it wasn’t because she was thinking of Nick.

 

There was no note tonight. Her door itself had been spray painted this time, the insults permanently etched onto the lacquer for all to see. The writing was bold and inconsistent, as though many hands had taken part in the racist vandalism. The door handle was busted and dented, as though someone had tried to get in.

 

Orc slut. WHORE. Sinner. NIGGER SLUT. Pig Fucker.

 

Angie was numb. She didn’t even realize she was digging into her purse for her phone, her trembling fingers dialing Nick’s number. The trance was broken when she heard his voice on the other end, frantically calling her name.

 

“Hello? Angie? Angie. Baby what’s wrong? Angie? Ang you’re scaring me, answer!”

 

“Come home Nick.”

 

“What’s wrong? I’m almost done on patrol—”

 

Her voice broke, rising like the panic in her stomach. “Nick come home now! Please, you have to come home right now!” She heard Nick say something to Ward, and heard the sound of his partner cussing as Nick spoke louder.

 

“—trouble! If you won’t fucking drive I’ll— Okay. Good. Fast! Angie? Angie baby where are you? Are you home? I thought you said you were home?”

 

“I’m home. Are you coming?” Angie hated how weak she sounded, but she couldn’t help it. She couldn’t go into the apartment—what if one of them had managed to break in? Cold fear flooded her at the thought, and she shuddered, tears welling in her eyes. “You’re coming home, right?”

 

“Yes, baby. I’m coming.”

 

 

When Nick finally arrived, Angie was sitting on the stairs on the first floor, her head in her hands. She heard the cruiser pull up outside, and before the siren had even been cut off, Nick was throwing open the door and striding across the little lobby. Before she could speak, he swept her up, picking her up as though she weighed nothing. He buried his nose in her hair, and Angie could hear his heavy breathing.

 

“Are you okay? What happened?”

 

“Upstairs,” She said softly. “The door.” Angie could see the rage write itself across Nick’s normally benign features. He snarled, pushing her out of the way as he bounded up the stairs. “Another note?” He growled as Angie followed behind him.

 

“No. It’s worse.” She replied as he stopped short, almost causing her to slam into his back. His entire posture tensed as he took in the damage.

 

“Did you see? Did you see who did this?” Nick asked, his voice guttural. He stepped closer to the door, inhaling deeply through his nose. He turned to Angie, grabbing her arms. She cried out in surprise, and Nick let go of her immediately, backing away. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean—”

 

“No, I didn’t see. It’s okay, I’m not… I’m not hurt.” She knew he hadn’t meant to hurt her—Nick was so much stronger than she was, and he was upset. “But, the door… I thought maybe someone got in. I was too scared to go inside.” Before Nick could answer, Angie heard footfalls on the steps.

 

“You were right to call,” Ward replied, his head coming into view as he ascended. “You smell anybody, Nick?”

 

“No. But we should do a walkthrough anyway. Just to be sure.” Ward nodded his approval.

 

He tried the doorknob, and the handle gave easily, the door creaking open. Angie’s heart leapt in her chest as Ward pulled his gun, motioning silently for Nick to do the same. “Stay here.” He took the point, leading the way into the darkened apartment. Angie waited anxiously for a sound—any sound—from inside, but there were none. It seemed like hours later when they emerged, holstering their weapons. “It’s clear,” Ward replied, before pulling out a notepad and a pen.

 

“No one got inside?”

 

“Not that we can see,” Nick replied, pulling her close again. “This had to have been early in the day. Probably just after you left for work. No scents are left, and I don’t think they went in.” As Nick spoke, attempting to calm her down, Angie noticed Ward scribbling away on the notepad, before closing the door again, taking down the epithets written on it, frowning.

 

“Angie, who knows about you two?”

 

“I don’t know. Probably everyone in the building, now.” She said tiredly, gesturing at her defaced door. Of course, the nice old apartment super would be thrilled at having to strip the graffiti, re-paint and re-lacquer her door. It was already after eight, and considering that this was primarily a family building, she was willing to bet that anyone and everyone who lived on the second floor or above had seen the disgusting graffiti. Frustration and anger crashed inside of her like waves when she looked at it, and she couldn’t help but feel that maybe… maybe Nick had been right. It had hurt, not being able to be like literally anyone else, to show off her lover, to show that she was proud to be his.

 

But it had also been naive and foolish because they weren’t like every other couple. They were virtually alone in this—and hated.

 

“Ooohkay. Well, anybody in particular you know who’s pissed about it?”

 

Angie stared at him dully. “Are you kidding?”

 

Ward sighed. “Nick, maybe you should talk to her,” He replied grumpily. It was good to know all of Nick’s imitations of his surly partner had been fairly accurate. Nick nodded, before releasing Angie, only to spin her around to face him as Ward descended the stairs, likely to call in about what he’d seen.

 

“Angie he’s just trying to help. We have to ask those questions.”

 

She deflated a little, nodding. “I know, I know. It’s just… I came home, I was alone, and I was scared, and it’s like… Everyone hates us. That’s how this feels. It feels like everyone on earth just fucking hates me.” Angie sighed heavily, wiping a frustrated tear from the corner of her eye. “It’s like… It’s like everything I ever heard from every asshole all my life, except now it’s not just me that it’s about, it’s about you, and us, and…” For the first time, it was Angie who was rambling, and it was Nick’s job to quiet her, and allay her fears.

 

“I know.” The expression on his face was one Angie hadn’t seen before, a sort of resigned sadness—acceptance. The word she’d been looking for was acceptance. This was how it was going to be—this was the hill they’d have to die on to be together. “Ward will go on and make the report. I don’t want to leave you.”

 

Nick led Angie inside, scowling as they passed the defaced doorway. He sat her down at the kitchen table, before turning on the kettle. Angie had never really been a fan of tea before, but Nick’s habit had been growing on her, and as he lit the stove, she found herself looking forward to a soothing mugful. 

 

“Is Ward still outside?” Angie asked after a moment, unsure of why she suddenly felt so uncomfortable. She’d lived in that apartment for a year, it was home—so why did Angie suddenly not want to take off her jacket? Or her shoes?

 

“No. He’s probably back at the station now, filing the report.” Nick set her mug in front of her, having added just a little honey—how she liked it. “What’s wrong?” Before Angie could answer, Nick sat down, catching both her hands in his. “I checked the whole apartment, Ang. There’s no one here. Opened all the closets. Looked under the bed. Nobody. I promise.” How he’d known the source of her fear escaped her, but she was glad for his reassurance.

 

“Okay.” Angie hated feeling like this—weak, powerless, dependent. “I just thought… I thought they wouldn’t…”

 

“Do this again.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

She sighed heavily, kicking her shoes off under the table. All thoughts of a warm shower were forgotten, and Angie wondered whether Nick would mind too much if she went to bed smelling a little like bargain brand hot sauce. No. I’ll feel better after I bathe. “I’m going to go take a shower. Can you message the super? Let him know the door…. the door was defaced. He’ll probably come fix it in the next few days.” Somehow, that was worse than the initial vandalism—the fact that she’d have to live with it for days before the apartment superintendent got around to starting the laborious task. She wondered whether it would just be easier to buy a new door. “You know my phone password, right?”

 

Nick looked at her, a little shocked. “Why would I know your phone password?”

 

Jeremy did. “Oh. Right, um, it’s 9061. I think he’s in my contacts under ‘Robert Chang’.” Of course Nick didn’t know her phone password. He respected her privacy enough not to demand to go through all of her messages at the end of every day. As Angie made her way to the bathroom, she couldn’t help checking to see that everything was in it’s place—that nothing was missing or moved, which would indicate that someone had gotten into the apartment. Of course there was nothing; Nick and Ward had done a good walkthrough, and Angie knew that Nick’s instincts wouldn’t let him rest until he’d checked every corner of the apartment. She was safe.

 

Try telling that to my gut, she thought sourly, stripping and stepping into the bathtub. She didn’t take long. Though it wasn’t late, and on a normal evening, she’d have wanted to stay up with Nick for a bit, all she wanted was her bed. Preferably with Nick cuddled up beside her. But when she exited, she found him stationed by the door, his police baton ready in his hands. He’d changed clothes, out of his officer’s uniform into sweats and a tank top, exposing his muscular arms. Nick had set up a chair right in front of the door, and was sitting there, staring at it.

 

“Babe? What are you doing?”

 

He turned to face her, before jerking a frustrated thumb at the door. “The lock’s busted.” Angie felt the blood drain from her face. “You go ahead to bed.”

 

“You’re just… You’re just going to sit here? All night? Did the super text back?”

 

“Yes. He said the soonest he could get to us would be Wednesday.”

 

“You can’t stay there all night.” She put a gentle hand on his shoulder, the other clutching her towel. “We’ll just have to lock the bedroom door. Maybe push the chair underneath the handle so no one can push it in—” Nick shook his head and spoke, cutting her off.

 

“No. I can’t… I have to make sure you’re safe.”

 

“Nick, I can’t sleep without you,” she pleaded. Angie knew she sounded childish, but she couldn’t help it. The thought of sleeping alone after all of this—it sent shivers down her spine that jolted her even further into panicked alertness.

 

“I’m staying here.” His tone was resolute, leaving no room for argument, and Angie knew, for once, he wouldn’t be giving in. He’d be staying right there, all night. And there was nothing she could do that would make him move.

 

 

“Fine.” Angie spun on her heel, and walked straight into the bedroom, grabbing a shirt and some sleeping shorts. After roughly tugging her clothes on, she practically slammed open the door, making for the kitchen, and grabbing a chair of her own. She put it down loudly beside Nick, and climbed into it, before leaning her head against his shoulder. “If you’re staying out here, I’m staying too.”

 

“Angie—”

 

“No. I’m staying.” She crossed her legs on the seat, and stared forward stubbornly. Nick seemed as though he was going to say something else, but thought better of it, and his mouth snapped shut audibly. His tension was palpable, and though Angie was far from calm herself, her anxiousness was amplified by him being on edge. Every time Nick tensed at a sound—televisions from the other apartments, someone going up the stairs, a dog barking—Angie would tense too, her brain beginning to flood her system with adrenaline. But when the panic subsided, it left her more and more exhausted each time.

 

“You should go to bed.”

 

“Not if you don’t come.”

 

“You’re being childish, Angie.” Nick groused, his voice stern, but his touch just as gentle and loving as ever when he stroked the side of her face. “And I.. I just need to guard you, okay?” He sounded resigned, as though he knew he was behaving oddly, but couldn’t help it. She wanted to ask him whether this behavior was cop, or instinct driven, she wanted to know why he insisted on scenting her every single time he saw her—but she knew it wasn’t the time. He was right—Angie was being childish, but she didn’t want to sleep without him. She doubted she even could. One of her friends from work had told her about PTSD, said it was something she should look into, after Jeremy. Maybe I should google it, she thought tiredly, before squeezing his hand in her own.

 

“Okay.” Angie acquiesced, but didn’t move. “Can I ask why?”

 

Nick sighed deeply, though Angie didn’t get the feeling he was irritated with her. He rubbed a tired hand across his head and down his neck, before turning to face her. “I just… have to.” He replied after a moment, his voice laden with frustrated acceptance. So it’s instinct, then. “I want to find whoever did this and cut their limbs off,” he said quietly,  his hands clenched into fists on his lap. “But I can’t. The next best thing is to make sure they don’t come here again.” He looked up at her, searching her face for shock or disgust—which he wouldn’t find. Angie had never paid any attention to the bullshit eugenics reports linking Orcs to animals, or the biased claims that they were less evolved, less sophisticated, than the other races. Is it wrong that I want him to?

 

“Nick…” Angie paused, looking for the right words. But there weren’t any. There wasn’t a combination of letters and phrases that would make this different, make it so he didn’t fear for her safety at every given moment. Nothing that would make it so that he didn’t seem so afraid of himself. “I’m not afraid of you.”

 

“Maybe you should be.”

 

Angie didn’t remember falling asleep, but when she woke the next morning, she was in her bed, likely courtesy of her Orc boyfriend, whose absence in her bed was immediately noted. The sound of a drill jolted her fully awake.

 

I thought the superintendent wasn’t coming until Wednesday?

 

Angie peeked her head out of the bedroom door, and peered down the hallway. Nick was kneeling in front of the door, and was taking screws out of the handle. “What are you doing? Where did you get that?” she asked, stretching as she made her way over to him.

 

“Ward came by. I asked him to stop by Home Depot. Borrowed his drill, because I wanted to replace the locks. We can’t wait until Wednesday.”

 

I just need to guard you, okay?

 

“Ward didn’t want to stay for breakfast?” She joked, laying a gentle hand on Nick’s shoulder. He turned his head to kiss her thumb before resuming his work. “I hope I didn’t run him off.”

 

“No, he’s doing both of our jobs today. I called out. I wanted to fix this.”

 

Angie felt her heart swell. He’d called out of work, just to stay home and deal with her door? Speaking of work… Angie remembered she was on shift for the evening. But suddenly, dealing with Terry, fake smiling at customers… all of it seemed too much, especially after the night before.

 

“I think I’ll call out too.” Angie said softly, leaning down to rest her chin on Nick’s head. “Let’s just stay home today. I’ll make breakfast.”

 

“You’re going to cook?” Nick replied incredulously, removing more screws from the door. Angie shoved him and scowled, trying not to feel validated when he almost dropped the drill. Nick turned to face her, his expression apologetic. “I didn’t mean—”

 

“I can cook some things, you know,” She snapped sourly, crossing her arms. “I may not be a fucking masterchef like your mom, but I can cook!”

 

“I know, Angie.”

 

“Good.”

 

An hour and one loud smoke alarm later, Angie and Nick were huddled on the couch, eating breakfast from the diner a few blocks away. The instant pancakes she’d tried to make were being soaked off of the pan in the sink, and they’d had to open all the windows and disable the smoke detector in her kitchen when the pan had suddenly caught fire. Nick had graciously said nothing, and simply offered to go down the street to the diner to pick up some perfectly scrambled eggs, waffles, and bacon when he was done installing the new lock. Angie had her legs thrown across his lap as they flipped through channels, eating quietly.

 

“Did you really stay up all night?”

 

“The door was wide open, Ang. Anyone could have come back and come in.” His tone was short and grumpy, solidifying that he had, in fact, sat in that uncomfortable chair all night, staring at the front door.

 

“I was just asking.”

 

“Sorry, I’m… I’m still kind of on edge,” Nick admitted, sighing. “I put you to bed when you fell asleep.”

 

“I noticed when I woke up and you weren’t there,” Angie replied, swallowing a mouthful of food. “Thanks. For fixing the door. You added a chain?” He seemed appreciative that she was steering the conversation in another direction, and nodded.

 

“Yeah.”

 

When they were done eating, Angie cleared the plates, slapping away Nick’s hands when he tried to help. “You need to go to bed,” She replied, kissing his cheek. She could tell, however, that even though it was early afternoon, he was still riding the wave of adrenaline from the night before. She wasn’t sure what to do, or what to say to help calm him enough to rest. Not for the first time, Angie felt like she was missing crucial knowledge. Maybe an Orc woman would understand better, Angie thought bitterly, sweeping a lock of kinky hair behind her ear.

 

When she peeked into the living room, she could see him, his leg shaking nervously. Nick glanced around the room as though checking it for threats, repeating the motion anxiously again and again. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, before rubbing his temples with his thumbs, the heels of his palms pressed against his closed eyes. He needs to sleep.

 

Angie came back into the living room, and shut the television off as she passed it, before seating herself comfortably in his lap. “Not tired?” she asked, stroking the side of his face gently. Nick sighed, closing his eyes as he leaned his head against the back of the couch.

 

“Exhausted.” He couldn’t keep them closed for long, though, and after a few seconds, he reopened them, and sat back up, his arms encircling her as he searched the room for any sign of danger. If last night’s fear and anger had exhausted her, Angie had no idea how he was keeping his eyes open. His body was still on high alert, and wouldn’t let him sleep.

 

“I can help.”

 

Angie crawled off of his lap, and wedged herself behind him on the couch, sitting on her knees so that she could reach his shoulders without stretching. She went to work on the tension around his neck, her hands nimbly massaging the stiff muscles. Nick sighed appreciatively, scooting forward to allow her more room to work. His hand came to rest on her thigh, squeezing it gently in time with her ministrations.

 

“I didn’t know you were so good at this,” Nick intoned, the hard edge gone from his tone, though he remained alert and aware, his body still tense. Angie doubled down on her efforts, a strange sense of contentment and usefulness filling her. She wasn’t used to feeling needed. Nick was a grown, fairly self sufficient man—though his lack of ability to use a washing machine left Angie stunned—and Angie was fully aware of that fact. She felt honored that someone like him had chosen to be with her, but being needed was entirely new.

 

“I have a lot of hidden talents, thank you very much.”

 

Nick’s hand absently slid higher on her thigh, and though she tried to stop it, a reflexive whimper escaped Angie’s throat. Being so close to his keen ears, she had no doubt he’d heard the wanton little sound. His hand stilled immediately, and Angie could practically feel the change of atmosphere in the room. Nick’s posture had gone rigid again, though for a completely different reason this time, and she could hear him inhaling rapidly—he was smelling her. As soon as she got wet he’d know and he’d act on it, like clockwork. Activate thigh slip and slide in three, two—

 

Nick grabbed her, slinging her around his front. Nick’s head rested against her chest and he gently pressed a kiss between her breasts. God, I love him. Angie’s eyes widened slightly at the thought, and she tried to calm her racing heart. With his hearing, pressed up against her, he’d certainly hear her pulse quicken, and breath catch. I love him. The words played on the tip of her tongue, but Angie held them in. She wasn’t sure if he was quite ready to hear it—or even more, if she was quite ready to say it.

 

She wrapped her arms around him, before kissing him sweetly on the top of his head, the feel of his rough skin now familiar against her lips. His fingers found their way under her shirt, scraping his nails against her gently. “I don’t think this will make you less tired.” She replied softly, feeling him chuckle against her as he grew half hard underneath her.

 

“Suddenly I’m not so tired anymore.” Angie laughed out loud when he spoke, and Nick burrowed his head into her neck, inhaling deeply. As he did so, she both felt and heard him groan as he hardened further, rubbing the sizable—and still growing—bulge in his pants against the warm crotch of the sweatpants she was wearing. Angie sighed with pleasure, her head lolling to the side, allowing Nick full access to her vulnerable throat. Maybe it was some kind of genetic thing, written into her DNA, but even though Nick kept his fangs and claws filed, she still felt a little twinge of nervousness. It didn’t make her any less receptive of his attentions—she’d half dragged him to bed the first time, if she remembered correctly— in fact, it made her more-so. Even more, she knew if he had fangs, her thin human skin wouldn’t be any match. Sometimes, Angie found herself wanting him to let go completely, to bite down harder.

 

Nick’s hands found their way to her ass, massaging it roughly. “Yeah,” she laughed, her fingers tracing the grooves of his abs under his shirt. “You’re definitely not tired.” Nick’s catlike tongue traced a wet trail from her collar bone to the top of her breast, where he pulled her shirt aside to lave a kiss against it. Angie sighed with pleasure, undulating her hips against his. She tugged Nick’s shirt upward and he shifted, helping her pull it up and over his head. Angie gently traced the patches on his skin where blue met white, remembering when he’d asked her if she thought it was ugly. But to her, they were like puzzle pieces, fitting together to make up the man before her.

 

He mirrored her movements, tugging her shirt off to expose her full breasts; which he immediately began to fondle, tugging her nipples between his rough fingers. “Ang, you have perfect tits,” He replied suddenly, both making her cheeks burn, and cunt clench. “I love how big they are, and soft,” his voice was low, and Angie was almost afraid to speak—it was almost like Nick was talking more to himself than to her. He squeezed one of her breasts in his hand as if to illustrate his point, sucking her nipple into his mouth where he worried it with his teeth.

 

 

“Ah, Nick,” her voice came out sounding needy and breathless, but Angie didn’t care. He gripped her hips hard, groaning as he dragged her back and forth across his straining cock. He was muttering in Orkish, which he did when he was frustrated or couldn’t be bothered with English to express himself—in this case, Angie assumed it was the latter. His head was leaned back against the couch, his golden eyes narrowed to slits as he watched her. Picking up on his temporary passivity, Angie sat up and stood from his lap. Nick frowned, reaching for her. Angie batted his hands away, and before he could become more frustrated she began shimmying out of her sweatpants. She knew she wouldn’t have long before he grabbed for her again, so Angie went to work on his pants and boxers, tugging them low enough on his hips to free his erection, which sprang out to rest against his stomach. Angie had had partners before Nick, and so she’d seen her fair share of naked men—but she couldn’t help staring at his dick every time she saw it.

 

Angie knelt in front of him, planting her knees on the rug as she leaned forward, her fingers tracing random patterns on his inner thighs. She licked her lips, before sliding her pointer finger along the thick, engorged vein running along the underside of his cock. The flattened head sloped upward gracefully to a dull point, and Angie shuddered, thinking about how good it felt when that part of him cupped her cervix, pressing hard against her until she came. Angie leaned forward, laving a long lick against him. He tensed underneath her, his hips bucking slightly.

 

“Angie…” The sound of his voice sent a thrill through her. Nick was usually the aggressor—not because Angie wasn’t equally as eager, but because something about him changed when he got hot for her. She licked her dry lips, glancing up at her lover. His golden eyes were locked onto her, watching her every move with interest. She was a little surprised he hadn’t dragged her up from her knees to sink her down on the erect and throbbing appendage in her hands, but he hadn’t.

 

Nick’s hand came up to rest on her shoulder, and Angie wrapped her hand around the base of his cock, pumping it. His hand fisted in her hair, pulling hard enough to surprise her, but not enough to hurt. She sucked his head into her mouth, running her tongue along the tip. He growled approvingly, scratching his trimmed nails against her scalp as he kneaded her head like a pleased cat.

 

Angie flattened her tongue, allowing the head of Nick’s throbbing erection slide to the back of her throat.  Nick uttered something that sounded like a curse, and then groaned a word she didn’t need a translation for.

 

“Ma.”

 

More.

 

Angie swallowed slowly, her throat constricting around his dick. Nick gasped, jerking her head as he contorted. “Fuck!” She felt a rush of heat in the pit of her stomach, and rubbed her thighs together as he groaned her name amidst a string of words she didn’t understand. Nick reached down to roll her nipple between rough fingers. A little moan escaped her throat, and his fingers stilled, his hand moving up to grasp her shoulder. Angie allowed him to draw her upward, letting him slide out of her mouth with a wet pop. She couldn’t help the lascivious grin that flashed across her flushed face as he tugged her panties off with singleminded intent, dragging her back onto his lap. There was just something so primal about Nick when he got aroused, and Angie just couldn’t get enough of it. He sank into her without preamble, panting, the muscles in his neck tight from effort—he was trying to stay in control.

 

“Always so tight,” he murmured, leaning forward to lave his tongue against her throat, before nipping it with blunted teeth. Angie let out a whining moan as he slid deeper inside her, almost to the hilt. What had been mildly uncomfortable the first time was now a feeling she craved, him pressed deep into her soaked, throbbing center until she felt filled to bursting. She leaned forward, dragging her nails down his chest, and Nick moaned, unable to stop himself from rolling his hips into hers. Mirroring his movements earlier, she buried her head in the space between his neck and shoulder, her teeth pressed against his thick skin.

 

“You won’t break me,” she said softly, tightening around him as she thrust her hips forward, making her lover hiss in response. She drew up, squeezing his wide hips with her thighs, so that just the head of him remained encased in her wet warmth.

 

“A-Angie, no,” he said weakly, his voice hoarse. It was impossible for his resolve to hold like this—Nick was already gripping her hips with hard fingers, his biceps tense and trembling from the effort to not push her down onto his aching cock. Angie dragged her heated eyes up to meet his worried gold ones. “No—”

 

“Please, Nick. I want it,”  Angie’s voice was soft, but she knew he’d heard her. For a moment, she wondered whether or not he would finally acquiesce. Without warning, Nick growled loudly—Maybe I should have thought this through—and forced her down to the base of his cock. Angie couldn’t help the cry that escaped her lips, but Nick was undone. His luminous eyes were dark, his voice low and feral as he murmured the same set of words over and over. In the back of her mind, the sound of the couch creaking and groaning beneath them registered in her brain, but it was lost when he thrust upward hard, his hands on her hips stilling her, holding her as the onslaught continued. Angie gasped, throwing her head back and exposing the soft line of her throat to his hungry gaze.

 

“Uorkormajal nalt,” He growled, lifting her off of his hips and slamming her down with abandon. Angie cried out again and again, unable to do anything but accept what she’d asked for. Suddenly, one of Nick’s large hands came up to encircle her throat, squeezing just hard enough to limit her air supply, his other hand tightening its bruising grip as he pistoned into her, his cock pushing hard against her cervix. Panic rose in her for a brief moment, but this was Nick. He wouldn’t hurt her. The lead left her belly as quickly as it had come, pleasure surging again in it’s wake.

 

The lack of air had a surprising effect, sending shockwaves of pleasure running down her spine. He released, squeezing one more time before pulled Angie forward, and she laid limply against him, moaning wantonly as he changed the angle. “Jiak liwo puav ij mimba… shal ur belpak…” He groaned, the words barely discernible.

 

“Fuck, Nick, I’m—” her orgasm ripped through her without warning, and she stiffened in Nick’s arms, crying out. Looking back on it, she couldn’t remember why she did it, but in that moment, Angie was compelled helplessly to drive her teeth into his shoulder, the same place he’d marked her again and again. Nick seemed to stiffen, a whimper escaping his throat as he held her hips tightly against his, his cock pulsing rhythmically in her throbbing pussy as he came.

 

After a minute, Angie tried to get up, but Nick’s arms tightened around her midsection, holding her tight. Angie looked down at him questioningly, her brow raised. Nick’s head was pressed to her chest, his pointed ear against her heart. “Don’t move,” he said quietly, his voice strangely stern and authoritative. And thought Angie was normally headstrong and stubborn, she suddenly had no desire to disobey him. She stilled, relaxing her thighs and sinking a little further onto his still hard cock.

 

“Nick?” Maybe he heard the note of worry in her voice, but he glanced up at her, his eyes soft. The mood that had come over him seemed to vanish, and he straightened, bringing his mouth to hers. His tongue stroked hers gently,   as he pulled back to nibble on her plump lower lip the way he knew she liked.

 

“Are you…?”

 

“I’m fantastic.” Angie replied, grinning.

 

“In that case…” Nick rolled his hips upward, and Angie shuddered as her sensitive walls caressed his cock. “Round two?”

 

“I think I can handle that.”

 

 

~

 

 

Memorial day weekend was a few days away, and Angie was fretting. Nick had informed her his mother expected everyone to bring a dish—and he’d also informed her that she’d never made this demand before. Nick himself had the weekend off, he’d requested it months before. The Memorial Day barbecue was tradition, and the crime rate was usually fairly low—even petty thieves had families.

 

“She’s doing that just to spite me!” Angie replied, tossing her bag angrily onto the counter. Her keys followed.

 

“You don’t know that,” Nick replied weakly, his tone of voice implying that he very much knew that. Angie glowered at him, her eyes narrowed. He held up his hands placatingly. “Okay. She is. But I still want you to come.”

 

“She hates me,” She said sourly, slumping into one of the chairs at the kitchen table. “Why does your mother hate me so much?”

 

Nick sighed. He’d been wondering the same thing. “I don’t know, baby.” Angie wasn’t usually the type to care what anyone thought of her, but he knew that his mother’s disapproval had cut her deeply, though she hadn’t outright said it. “She’ll get over it.” Nick made sure to say this with more confidence than he felt. If there was anything his mother was good at, it was holding a grudge. But, she also loved him. He was her youngest, and eventually, she would get used to Angie. “How was work?”

 

“Is this you changing the subject?”

 

“Yeah,” he admitted, grinning lightly. Angie sighed, and shook her head, a small smile creeping across her face. “So how was work?”

 

“Shitty. I need to find a new job.” she sighed, shaking her hair loose from it’s ponytail. The action sent waves of jasmine wafting in his direction, and Nick couldn’t help but inhale deeply. He knew how much Angie despised her job—lately she’d been needing to give herself pep talks just to go in in the morning. Nick rummaged through the fridge for a carton of juice, and poured himself a glass.

 

“I already told you that you could just… let me take care of the rent while you look for a new one,” he replied, but Angie shook her head even as he suggested it. When he’d brought it up two weeks before, she’d been just as resistant. 

 

“No.”

 

“I technically live here. We could just consider it back rent,” He suggested, only to be met with her stubborn frown, her heart shaped mouth downturned and resolute.

 

“Nick, I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself.”

 

“It would be easier to look if you weren’t working those hours,” Nick retorted, and she nodded while rolling her eyes.

 

“Yeah, but I can’t exactly just stop paying all my bills, either. No, Nick.”

 

He let out a frustrated growl, but he knew they didn’t have time to continue the “discussion”. We’re supposed to be meeting Ward and Sherri in two hours. “We’ll talk more about it later. We’re supposed to be across town at eight.”

 

Angie’s eyes widened in surprise—she’d obviously forgotten. After a week of pestering his partner to ask his frustrated wife to come out for an evening, Daryl had finally relented. To his surprise (and irritation) Sherri had been up for it. It would also be the first time he and Angie would be out together in public. In real public, at a nice restaurant, where there could be no question of why they were together. Nick couldn’t deny he felt nervous, but he was proud. Proud to be able to show her off the way she deserved.

 

“There’s nothing to talk about, you’re not doing it.” She snapped, and Nick simply smiled and shook his head. He hated that bar—enough to briefly entertain thoughts of burning it down—but he knew it was ultimately her choice. He thought about following her down the hall and joining her in the shower, but Nick knew it wasn’t a good idea. They’d definitely end up being late. In the weeks since the attempted break in, everything had been quiet. He supposed it was somewhat out in the neighborhood now, that he was a cop.

 

Hopefully it made people less likely to fuck with Angie, too.

 

A few minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom, dripping wet. “Your turn.” The bathroom was humid and foggy from her shower, but Nick didn’t mind, bathing quickly. They were supposed to meet Ward at an Italian place that had a dress code. That had been Sherri’s doing—Ward had grumbled that she’d demanded they leave Sophia at home—adults only. When he exited the shower, a towel slung around his waist, Angie was in the bedroom, rubbing lotion into her tawny brown skin.

 

Angie tended to take a good long while to get ready to go anywhere,  so when Nick was finished buttoning up his nicest shirt, and she was fiddling with her hair in front of the old thrift store vanity she’d found a week after they started dating, clad in only her underwear. She was attempting to pile the mass of kinky coils on top of her head in a neat bun, but it refused to cooperate.

 

She settled on pinning it on top of her head, leaving a few errant curls down to frame her face. Nick watched as she went to start her makeup, pulling out products. His phone buzzed, it was Ward. Telling him he and Sherri were heading to the restaurant, and would see them there. He turned to Angie, who was staring into the mirror, squinting as she tried to determine whether everything was symmetrical.

 

“Ang, we have to hurry up.”

 

“I’m almost ready, I just have to put my shoes on.” Nick huffed at her obvious lie.

 

“And your clothes,” Nick replied, gesturing at the hunter green bra and panty set she was sporting. Angie rolled her eyes.

 

“Yeah. And that.” She waved him away. “I’ll be ready soon. I promise.” True to her word, twenty minutes later they were exiting the apartment. He’d worn his best button up shirt, and the only nicely tailored pair of slacks he owned, and Angie… she looked like royalty. The wine colored dress she’d donned hit just at her knees, with gold trim and billowing off the shoulder sleeves.

 

Nick rarely ever saw any of their neighbors, but this evening, the Waterford’s were bringing up their groceries. He’d only ever seen them once or twice in passing, and Angie had never been with him. Nick tensed, waiting for someone to drop a snide remark, or an insult—but no one did. The tired parents simple smiled—even if they did stare a little—and ushered their children up the stairs and out of sight. He released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and grasped Angie’s hand. “Ready?”

 

“Yeah, I’m starving,” she replied, wrapping one hand around her midsection to illustrate her point. They exited the building, heading for his car. “You want to drive?”

 

“Sure,” Nick headed for the driver’s side door, patting his pocket to make sure he had both his wallet, and his badge. At first he’d balked at the thought of using it to avoid issues, but after he’d seen Ward be hassled by another precinct’s best and brightest, he learned to show his badge just as quickly as his partner did. It was amazing—and sad—what that little glint of metal could do.

 

What it could mean.

 

Nick started the car, letting the engine warm up a little before pulling off into the street. “I think I’m going to bake something. For your mom’s Memorial Day thing,” Angie said, new determination coloring her voice. A black car pulled up alongside them, it’s windows tinted dark. Nick frowned as he nodded absently—it’s illegal to have tints that dark. Of course, he was off duty, and it wouldn’t warrant more than a ticket normally. But that little niggling annoyance in the back of his mind caused him to notice when the driver slowed down, dropping two or three cars back—but still well within visual range. That’s how we’re taught to tail, Nick thought to himself, glancing at the rearview mirror.

 

“Nick.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Angie’s beautifully made up face was lined with irritation. She’d obviously been expecting an answer to something, and he’d completely missed that line of conversation. He hesitated for a moment, before catching another glimpse of the car behind the minivan between them. He’d agreed to be open with her, and not keep things like this from her. But still, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her. It would ruin Angie’s night, and he wasn’t entirely sure they were being followed. It was entirely possible that it was coincidence, though his instincts were screaming otherwise.

 

“Nothing. Sorry. What did you say?”

 

“We need to go grocery shopping. For my cake.” Nick tried to hide the surprised rise of his brow, and the nervous glance in her direction. Angie sighed. “I found a tutorial,” she said a little defensively, and Nick nodded to placate her. “It looks really easy.” The one good thing that seemed to be coming out of this was that Angie was actually trying to improve something about herself—even if it was only her cooking. Nick looked at the rearview mirror every few minutes, trying to locate the the black sedan weaving in and out of traffic behind them. Always three cars back, still well within visual…

 

“I’m sure you’ll be great at it in no time,” he said distractedly, and Angie huffed, rolling her eyes as she glared at him. “What?” She could obviously still tell that something was on his mind, but unless an armed shooter emerged from that car, Nick wasn’t ruining her evening with his—admittedly strong— suspicions. Nick turned off of the highway, and began making his way through the streets to the restaurant. The black sedan had disappeared from behind them, and Nick felt himself calm.

 

“Good.” He muttered, starting when Angie looked at him questioningly.

 

“What?”

 

“What? Oh. I mean, we’re here. So good.”

 

“You’re such a bad liar,” Angie replied, her brows furrowed. Nick turned into the parking lot for the place they’d selected, and Angie grabbed her purse, preparing to exit the car. Just as Nick cut the engine, the car with the almost black windows that had been tailing them, swerved into the lot, coming to a stop a few spots away. Nick growled, immediately exiting the vehicle. He swiftly walked around to the other side of the car, blocking Angie from getting out.

 

Who the fuck?

 

The drivers side door opened, revealing Yamahara. Internal Affairs? What the hell is he…? Nick’s furiously beating heart calmed a little, but he remained suspicious. Ward had told him about how they’d tried their best to oust him—in a body bag. Yamahara’s partner, however, was nowhere in sight. He waved, a friendly smile on his face, though Nick felt anything but friendly.

 

“You know this guy?” Angie asked, her small hands pushing against his back. “Let me out, Nick, what the hell are you doing?”

 

He glanced at her over his shoulder. “I thought we were being followed when I was driving, but… I wanted to be wrong.” Her eyes widened.

 

“You—why didn’t you say anything?”

 

“Thought I was being paranoid,” he murmured quietly as Yamahara approached. Grudgingly, he moved aside to let her exit the car, and she stood to her full height—plus the heels. Though it wasn’t intimidating, Nick felt a new appreciation for her. She’d never stand a chance if it were to come to blows, but here she was anyway, standing confidently beside him.

 

“Clearly not,” Angie replied dryly.

 

 

“Evening, Officer Jakoby.” Yamahara’s voice bore an uncomfortable edge, it reminded Nick of the calm before a storm. “And.. lady friend.” He stared hard at Angie, an unreadable expression crossing his face. “Hope I’m not interrupting anything.” Before Nick could reply, Angie was speaking.

 

“You are, actually. We’re late for dinner.” He couldn’t hide the flash of disgust that flickered across his face, and Nick fought the urge to stand between the Internal Affairs officer and Angie. Nick wasn’t surprised that Yamahara seemed to dislike the thought of them together. He hated Orcs, and as far as Nick was concerned, he was the one responsible for the deaths of those other officers—not Ward. Yamahara laughed derisively, and Nick felt Angie tense beside him.

 

“How…lovely.” He obviously thought it was anything but. Nick cut in, before Angie could respond again.

 

“Why were you tailing us?” He asked, his voice deceptively calm. Yamahara and Arkashian had become near constant fixtures in the precinct. Ward suspected they were attempting to reopen the investigation into Chin’s squad, but there was no way they’d be able to. The orders to keep it closed came from far above even Yamahara’s pay grade, and Nick knew just what the Magical Task Force was capable of—and what they were willing to do to ensure silence. It was why he hadn’t told Angie about the Wand in the first place—he wasn’t worried they would break up and she would blab it to someone else; he was worried that they’d kill her if she knew.

 

It wasn’t safe.

 

Yamahara smiled at them silkily, and though Nick knew it was meant to disarm him, he felt slow revulsion creeping down his spine. He wanted to take Angie and force her back into the car—just drive. Drive right out of the state, right out of the country if he could. “Tailing you? I live in this neighborhood. Saw a friend, stopped to say hello. Simple as that.” Nick forced his face to remain neutral—calm. Yamahara was miles above him in the hierarchy, and no matter what happened, whatever his word was, that was what people would believe. If Yamahara said he wasn’t tailing them, not a soul would ever say or believe otherwise. Especially not up against Nick. Yamahara looked at them thoughtfully—it reminded Nick of the way children looked at zoo animals. “Although I must say, I’m surprised to see how…interesting your tastes run.” Yamahara practically spat the words, his distaste evident. Nick felt Angie thread her fingers through his. Interesting. Like a science experiement.

 

“I think if you’re through, we have a prior engagement to get to.” Angie’s tone was icy and clipped. If Nick hadn’t known her so well, he’d have been surprised at the callous way she dismissed Yamahara’s casually delivered jab. Nick, however, was rankled. He wanted to tear into the other man—literally. The only things stopping him were her comforting presence, and the fact that it was clear Yamahara had some ulterior motive.

 

“Unfortunately not,” He replied, his tone finally matching the words he spoke. “I’m just letting you know that there’s a meeting with the chief Monday. We’re discussing reopening the Ching case.”

 

“And by ‘we’ you mean you and Arkashian? It was Altamira. They even copped to it,” Nick replied, allowing just the right measure of irritation to seep into his voice. Of course he was annoyed. He’d spent a full day recounting the events of the evening during his debriefing. The events as told by the Magic Task Force, anyway.

 

“You and your partner better be there on time. I’ll let you get back to your…friend,” he replied, nodding. Sounds like whore when he says it. Nick simply stared at Yamahara, watching him stride confidently over to his car, before getting in. Nick’s eyes narrowed—for a moment, he thought he’d seen someone in the backseat. He shook his head to clear it. He was on edge, and that had made it more than clear that to some, Nick Jakoby still wasn’t welcome on the force.

 

Nick waited to move until Yamahara’s car had cleared the lot, and not a moment sooner. He glanced at Angie, who was watching the entrance to the lot as though she were waiting for Yamahara to return.

 

“You want to tell me what the hell that was about?”

 

“A racist in my department wants me to go down for some murders I didn’t commit.” He replied, sighing. We almost got blown to kingdom come over a Wand. The words were on the tip of his tongue, but Nick didn’t speak them, swallowing them down. “It’s not that complicated.” It’s more complicated than I can even begin to fucking explain.

 

Angie’s eyes softened, and she hugged him, burying her face in his shirt. “Fuck him. And his car is ugly.” Her voice was muffled by the fabric, and Nick laughed, sighing with relief. There was a niggling feeling, in the back of his mind, about what exactly Yamahara knew, but he didn’t pursue it. It was their night out. The other officer probably hadn’t known what they were doing, or who he was with, but he did now. His intention had been to intimidate him, and though it hadn’t worked, it had revealed something.

 

He just had to figure out exactly what that something was.

 

“Let’s go in. Fuck that guy,” Angie replied, stroking the side of his face with a gentle hand.

 

“Fuck him.” Nick agreed, and they made their way towards the entrance. Sherri and Daryl were already inside, waiting at the table they’d reserved. Though Nick and Angie had technically arrived on time, their little detour with Yamahara had made them late.

 

“Sorry we’re late,” Nick replied. Ward stood to shake his hand, and Sherri gave him a light hug. “Ward, you met Angie. This is his wife, Sherri.” Angie shook the other woman’s hand, smiling at her brightly. They sat down, and Sherri handed them the menus she and Daryl had no doubt already looked through.

 

“Traffic was that bad?” Sherri asked as they sat down, her face understanding and apologetic. “It’s always bad this time of day.”

 

“It’s L.A.,” Ward replied sourly, letting everyone within earshot know—who wasn’t already aware—that he wasn’t pleased to be attending their evening out. “Traffic’s part of the deal.” Nick shook his head, before glancing around. He couldn’t smell Yamahara or Arkashian, but that didn’t mean they weren’t being watched by someone else. Unless the table itself was bugged… Nick shook his head again, though this time to clear it. He couldn’t go down that rabbit hole—he’d never come out sane. Yamahara had unnerved him, but he couldn’t afford to dissolve into paranoia.

 

“Internal Affairs is trying to reopen the investigation,” Nick replied, not bothering to clarify. Daryl would know what he was talking about. His partner’s head snapped up, and he glanced at Sherri, who was listening with mild interest. She knew the cover story, but she also knew how much everyone on the force despised her husband and his partner; even she herself had urged him to change partners. Nick didn’t take that one personally—it was hard not to understand that she didn’t want her husband rolled through the ER on her shift. Again.

 

“It’s a grudge,” Sherri replied, sipping her water. “The chief can’t seriously be thinking about letting them do that.”

 

Angie sighed. “He must be. The guy followed us from my apartment just to fuck with him.” she replied angrily, opening her menu. “He said it was going to be on Monday.” Ward’s eyes widened imperceptibly, and he glanced at Nick. The exchange was entirely wordless.

 

What does he know?

 

No idea. But we’re going to find out.

 

“I’ve never eaten here before, how’s the food?” Angie asked, looking up over the menu.

 

“Oh, we’ve been here a few times. It’s okay,” Ward answered this time, appearing to shake off the news with ease. Nick wasn’t worried about them reopening the case—it was the complete opposite. It was obvious Yamahara had some kind of grudge against him, Sherri was right about that. He just had to figure out what his endgame was—there was no way the chief would be allowed to reopen the case, even if he wanted to, so what was Yamahara really trying to gain, here?

 

Nick tried to put the encounter out of his mind, flipping through the menu. Angie was chatting animatedly with Sherri—at least she was managing to have a good time.

 

“Ready to order?” Daryl asked, and Angie nodded, before looking at Nick.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Oh, and let’s get wine,” Sherri replied, reaching for the drink menu in the middle of the table.

 

“I support this,” Angie replied, grinning. “I could use a drink.”

 

Nick squeezed her thigh. “You have to work tomorrow,” he said softly. Angie scowled at him, looking scandalized.

 

“I’m an adult, and if I want to go to work hungover, that’s my business.” She snapped, raising an eyebrow at him as though daring him to challenge her.

 

“Just saying. I’ll be the one that has to get you up and put you in the shower.”

 

“And hold her hair while she vomits.” Ward replied, looking around for a waiter to signal.

 

“She always pukes,” Nick replied sympathetically. He was only half kidding—Angie did tend to get nauseous when she got drunk. Angie punched his arm, rolling her eyes.

 

“Whatever. I’m drinking.” Angie replied, shrugging.

 

“No wonder you and Sherri get along,” Ward replied, though he smiled innocently when his wife fixed him with an icy glare.

 

“Don’t start,” Sherri replied, the warning evident in her tone. Angie giggled next to him, leaning against his arm. It was weirdly comforting. Nick had never thought he would have this— to be sitting, eating dinner with friends, with his girlfriend. It was so…domestic. He’d dated before, but it had never been anything serious or steady, this was the first time Nick had ever done anything like this. He’d never introduced a date to his friends, to his family. He also strongly suspected it would be the last.

 

The waiter finally approached their table, unable to hide her shock at seeing an Orc sitting at the table. There were Orcs working there that Nick could see—none of them serving staff, all busboys—but he was probably one of the only Orcs in attendance that evening. If I’m not the only one, Nick thought to himself, glancing around.

 

“Uh, Hi. I mean, good evening. I’m Charlotte, I’ll be your server this evening. May I tell you a little about our specials this evening?” After everyone ordered, Charlotte returned with the bottle of wine Angie and Sherri were eagerly waiting on, pouring their glasses. Angie took a sip of her wine, before reentering the conversation

 

“I’m actually really surprised this whole thing worked out,” Angie replied, as Nick looked at her curiously. “I mean, Nick said he had to beg you to come,” she joked, and Sherri snorted. Ward rolled his eyes.

 

“I’m not so into double dates.” He said gruffly, and Sherri punched his shoulder gently. “But we needed to celebrate. Getting approved for the new house and all.”

 

Nick grinned at his partner, before reaching across the table to clap him on his back. “You got approved for the loan? That’s great!”

 

“You’re moving?” Angie asked. “To where?”

 

“This little suburb in Boyle Heights!” Sherri replied excitedly, and just for a moment, Nick saw resignation flash across Angie’s face. He knew she wanted to move, too, especially after the apartment got vandalized. But they couldn’t afford it, and unless she wanted to move with him into his parent’s house—Probably when hell itself freezes over—they wouldn’t be able to get out of there for a few years on his salary. “It’s got great schools, too, for Sophia.”

 

“Are you going to be changing your work district, too?” Angie asked, breaking off a piece of the complimentary bread their server had left on the table. Ward shook his head quickly.

 

“Nah. It’s only an added what, fifteen minutes to my commute?”

 

Nick nodded, releasing a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. He and Ward had just gotten used to each other. Nick certainly didn’t want a new partner now. Especially since knowledge of his relationship was probably going to be all over the office by noon on Friday. The thought gave him pause, but he pushed past it.

 

When the food came, the shadow Yamahara had cast over them had all but completely dissipated. Even Ward seemed like he was having a good time. He was glad to see Angie laughing and smiling—she’d been isolating herself since they’d begun dating. Most of her friends were through work, and while she occasionally went out with them, they weren’t close enough for her to feel comfortable disclosing anything so personal to most of them. Those that she did, had families of their own to worry about, lives they were trying to live, and didn’t offer her much support.

 

Nick was fine with Angie leaning on him, but he knew he couldn’t be her world. The person who was the most likely to understand Angie’s position was Sherri—and it seemed they liked each other.

 

It was heartening, to say the least.

 

Nick and Ward fought over the bill when it came, and after a tense standoff, decided to split it evenly between the two of them. Angie rolled her eyes, having given up trying to cover her portion of anything long ago.

 

“This was fun,” Sherri replied, hugging them as they stood from the table. Nick tried to ignore the whispers.

 

“Let’s do this again!” Angie agreed enthusiastically, as Ward and Nick locked eyes.

 

“I like how we’re not even a part of the planning process,” Nick said jokingly, and Angie elbowed him.

 

“Just the chauffeurs,” Ward replied dramatically, causing Sherri to shove him as they exited the restaurant. “Tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah, tomorrow.” Nick steered Angie toward the car. unable to stop himself from inhaling deeply—looking for Yamahara’s scent. He was long gone, though. Nick was grateful for that. Angie stumbled a little drunkenly, grabbing his arm to keep from falling.

 

“These heels were a bad decision on sober Angie’s part,” she mumbled, sniffing and looking at him expectantly.

 

“Sober Angie was just doing her best,” Nick replied, helping her into the car.                      He wondered if Ward was contending with an equally inebriated Sherri on the other side of the parking lot. “Buckle in.” Part of why Nick enjoyed doing things for Angie was the simple fact that she never asked; she was perfectly self self sufficient. Angie was capable. When Nick opened the driver’s side door, she was humming the tune to a song he didn’t know.

 

“Sherri said that guy was your boss,” Angie said, the words running together just a little. Nick had to force himself not to laugh—she was adorable when she was drunk. “Yama…something.”

 

“Yamahara?” Nick corrected, and Angie sighed exasperatedly as they drove out of the parking lot.

 

“That’s what I said.”

 

“You… never mind. Kind of, yeah. Internal affairs looks for corruption inside the force.” Nick explained, keeping his eye on the rearview mirror. Though the evening out had been nice, and a much needed change of pace, Nick found himself looking in the mirror every few seconds. Searching for another car, tailing them down the highway. But it was late, and traffic had eased up, making it easy to see that there was nothing following them. Still, he felt as though he were under scrutiny, as though someone was watching him. Angie’s hand found it’s way to his thigh, squeezing it comfortingly.

 

“It’ll be okay. You’re a good cop. Most cops fucking suck,” she spat distastefully before smiling brightly at him. “But you’re good. And I love you.” Nick gripped the steering wheel hard enough to hear the leather creak in his hands. He was sorely tempted to pull over on the highway, and question her until she gave an understandable answer. Nick had never said he loved Angie—though it was impossible to deny that he did. Somehow, he just knew. There couldn’t ever be anyone else.

 

“I love you too.”

 

Angie smiled at him, her heavily lidded eyes warm. Nick tried to keep his eyes trained on the road, his heard racing. He’d said it to her many times, though she hadn’t understood. It was one of the reasons he hadn’t begun teaching her Orkish yet—it would have been too embarrassing the first time he’d told her exactly who she was to him, buried balls deep inside her, his teeth sunk into her neck.

 

When they got home, Nick helped Angie up the stairs, though she protested. He walked her straight into the bedroom, where she threw herself down onto the bed and began kicking off her heels. He too began unbuttoning his shirt, undressing until he was just in his boxers. Angie slid into bed in the lacy thong she was too tired—and inebriated—to bother removing, after snatching one of his t-shirts.

 

“Petty theft? I’d have thought you’d know better, Angelica.”

 

“Kiss my ass, Nicholas.” She retorted, burrowing down into the blankets before shoving her ice cold feet between his calves. Nick pulled her against him, tugging the loosely tied scarf she insisted on wearing to bed off of her head to bury his nose in her hair. “You’re costing me a fortune in hair products, you know.” She grumbled. He did know—he’d watched her curiously a few times, as she’d dealt with her hair, wash-day was normally an all day affair. “Unless you’re trying to buy me a satin pillowcase so I don’t have to bother with the scarf.”

 

“They have those?”

 

“Welcome to the world of natural hair, Nick.”

 

Nick chuckled tiredly, closing his eyes as Angie’s breathing evened out. “I love you,” he spoke softly against her hair, and she moaned sleepily, turning in his arms to bury her head against his chest.

 

“Love you,” she murmured back, sighing as she fell asleep.

 

As was his way, Nick’s mind began turning over and over as he tried in vain to fall asleep. Now that he was alone with his thoughts, Yamahara’s thinly veiled threat crossed his mind. He wondered if work would be bearable the next day, or if he’d have to take refuge in patrolling once again. Would it be like when he first joined? Everyone actively hated him then—at least now they tolerated his presence. Some of them even liked him.

 

Nick grumbled to himself, before forcing the intrusive thoughts out of his head.

 

He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

 

 

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The first person to ask him about it was Nevins. Paul Nevins was a stockily built, middle aged man with graying hair and pale freckly skin. He’d been on the force longer than almost everyone else in the precinct, and he wasn’t one to beat around the bush. 

 

When Nick arrived in the locker room, he could hear a few of the other officers talking quietly amongst themselves. He could have sworn he heard his own name, but resisted the urge to concentrate on the background noise; it wouldn’t help him. He glanced around, before beginning to change out of his street clothes and into his uniform. Feels like everyone’s waiting on something.

 

Nick wasn’t stupid—Yamahara despised him. It was a bone of contention between I.A. and the rest of the precinct that Nick remained there—and probably a personal one between him and the aforementioned investigator that Nick was even still breathing.

 

Just as Nick was pulling on the white tank top he wore underneath his uniform shirt, when Nevins approached him. He tensed, his skin prickling as the older man approached him. They weren’t friends by any stretch of the imagination, but they’d never had any issues. Despite this, Nick turned to look at Paul, his face a cold mask. He could take the other man if he wanted to fight, he knew—but it wouldn’t be pleasant.

 

“Jakoby.”

 

He nodded. “Nevins.” Nick shrugged his arms into the coarse blue uniform, before beginning on the buttons.

 

“O’hara says Yamahara told him you fuck human women.” The older officer jerked his head at the man in question, a redhead who’d been particularly vocal about an Orc’s presence within the ranks of the L.A.P.D.. Nick’s carefully crafted cool expression was ruined as he widened his eyes in surprise. He hadn’t expected him to be so blunt. The sounds of conversation died around them as the other officers paused everything they were doing to listen. He could hear someone murmur from the other side of the room.

 

“It’s true. Look at his face.”

 

It was bound to happen eventually. Nick found himself wishing that Angie was there—at least if she was, he’d have something else to concentrate on besides how much he wanted to find Yamahara and rip his throat out.

 

“He saw me with my girlfriend.” Nick stressed the word. He himself didn’t see the difference—either way he was balls deep in her nearly every night. It seemed to make the other males feel better, more comfortable about the loss of one of their own. They’ll have to get comfortable with it. I’m not giving her up. As he’d predicted, Paul Nevin’s shoulders relaxed, and the man suddenly seemed a little less intimidating. “Angie and I are dating.”

 

“No offense,” said Nevins, holding his hands up placatingly. Nick unclenched his jaw, nodding stiffly. “You know how the rumor mill works ‘round here. Just wanted to make sure no one was lying.” More like you wanted to threaten me for sullying one of your kind.

 

 

Nick glanced around the locker room. Many of the faces he saw were neutral. Shocked, but otherwise nonplussed at his admission. As he’d expected, there was some thinly veiled disgust—Humans are so easy to read—though not as much as he’d expected; and some anger, though he doubted any of them hated him enough to act on it. Nick finished buttoning up his uniform shirt and headed into the precinct proper. Ward wasn’t there yet, his desk was empty. He sat, before beginning on some of the paperwork he’d been avoiding. Angie had been surprised when he’d told her how many papers and forms he had to file on a daily basis, and that was if he didn’t make any arrests. Wait. Nick paused, and inhaled deeply before frowning.

 

Yamahara.

 

His head snapped up sharply, and he grimaced, fighting back a growl. He’s here. He scented the air again. Or he was. Nick wasn’t sure if he was still in the building, but he’d been there. Possibly even just a few minutes before. He was probably there about the case again.

 

“You’re early for once,” Ward replied, startling Nick out of his thoughts. He hadn’t even heard him approach. His partner had come in with two cups of coffee from the kiosk down the street. Ward placed one on Nick’s desk, before nodding at him. “Is he here?” Daryl didn’t need to elaborate.

 

Nick nodded. “I can smell him. Don’t know where he is, but he was here. Ward inclined his head toward the chief’s office.

 

“Probably running his damn mouth to the Chief.” Ward said distastefully, a scowl flashing across his face. “What’d he say to you, exactly?” Nick took a sip of his coffee before replying.

 

“He told me they’re trying to reopen the Ching case.” Nick’s voice was quiet, so that the few other officers on the floor that morning couldn’t hear them. Ward leaned forward, his brow furrowed.

 

“They’ll never let him.” He took a swig of the bitter liquid in his cup. “So what the fuck’s he really want?”

 

Why did he keep looking into the deaths of those four? Officers died on the force every year—so why this case? Nick furrowed his brow as he thought, searching for the answer. He had a feeling that it wasn’t far off; he just had to play process of elimination.

 

Before they could continue, the chief’s office door opened, and the older man stepped out, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. He caught sight of them, before making a beeline straight for their desks.

 

“Chief’s coming.” Ward replied, draining his cup before tossing it into the trash can beside their desk.

 

“Jakoby. Ward.”

 

“Morning, Chief Daniels.” Nick replied, inclining his head respectfully. The man looked tired, his clothes slightly rumpled, as though he’d worked through the night and had slept in the office. Nick wouldn’t have been surprised if that was the case.

 

“You two. In my office.”

 

Ward sighed before rising the follow him, with Nick close behind. If Yamahara was here trying to reopen the case, of course Daniels would want to talk to them. Yamahara’s scent was strong in here, and it made Nick go tense. He was in here earlier.

 

“Yamahara’s requesting to reopen the Ching case.” Chief Daniels sat on his desk, folding his arms as he looked down at the pair of them. “Now you know why I can’t do that.” He rubbed his temples, and Nick wondered if he’d been visited by Kandomere again. He sniffed the air lightly, but couldn’t detect him. Doesn’t mean he hasn’t been here.

 

“He told me two nights ago, sir. That he and Arkashian were planning on reopening it.” I knew they’d never let him. Nick expected to feel relief, but instead, dread pooled in his stomach. This should have been the end of it, but he got the feeling that somehow, it was only the beginning.

 

“Hmm. In any case, I haven’t heard anything from upstairs about a move, so I want the two of you to play it quiet.” The chief rubbed a tired hand across his face. “You hear something, you bring it to me. I decide what the move is.”

 

“Chief he tailed me and my girlfriend.” Nick felt Ward nudge him, telling him to be silent, but he knew he needed to say something. “I think he knows something. Maybe about… it.”

 

Daniels raised an eyebrow, his jaw tightening. “How could he? They erased everything. And fucking trust me, they were thorough.”

 

Nick shook his head. “Everyone makes mistakes.” The chief waved his hand, dismissing them. “Quiet. The both of you.”

 

Nick felt frustration churning in his gut. He was right—he knew he was. Yamahara had to know something about the night Ward had put those dirty officers down. Why else would he keep trying to reopen the case? He’d never succeed; the MTF would put a bullet in him before they let him blow the cover on that.

 

Instead of heading back to their desks, Nick made a beeline for the patrol car. It was better they leave early anyway. Ward rounded on him, slapping his hand against the car. He spoke in a furious whisper.

 

“Are you trying to get us killed? I think you actually might be this time. ”

 

“What the hell are you talking about, Ward?”

 

Ward yanked open the driver’s side door. “You’re kidding, right? Whatever Yamahara and Arkashian know, the MTF will take them down. Not us. You got that? Not. Us. We can’t get involved. If we do, we become a risk. I like going home to my wife and daughter.” Ward slid into the vehicle, closing the door behind him. Nick clenched his fists, before doing the same.

 

“He fucking followed us, Ward! It’s more than the Ching case, I can feel it.”

 

Ward sighed heavily and rubbed a tired hand across his face. “You’re right.”

 

“You’re just—wait I’m right?”

 

“Yeah. There’s more. But it’s way fucking above our pay grade, and you need to leave it alone. So Yamahara’s a racist piece of shit trying to get you kicked off the force? Let the task force handle it. Think about Angie.”

 

Ward was right—about that, at least. Pursuing this issue with Yamahara could very well put Angie in the crossfire, which was the very last thing Nick wanted. Nick understood Daryl’s hesitation to involve himself—if they became variables, they risked elimination to avoid complications.

 

But what if he’s determined to involve us?

 

Nick knew he was right—he was on to something. Yamahara had to know about the Wand somehow—why else would he be interested in a dead end case? Nick didn’t feel right sitting out and letting the Magical Task Force handle it, but what else could he do? And then, there was the matter of Yamahara’s apparent vendetta. How could he stop him from dragging the both of them down with him when it seemed he intended to do just that? Nick was usually not one to ignore his instincts, but if everyone who was in the know was telling him to back off… Maybe I should listen.

 

Everything in him shouted that there was more, more they didn’t know, more they needed to know, and that no one was paying enough attention. Wasn’t that what they’d been taught at the academy?

 

“Humans are fallible.” Some of his classmates had been zoned out, not listening, but Nick had been paying rapt attention. He’d looked at Nick then, a younger orc, with his fangs messily filed. Mortals are fallible. You’ll miss things. You’ll miss a lot of things. But maybe, if you’re paying enough fucking attention, you’ll get the right guy.”

 

He rubbed his temples, and Ward sighed. “Look, I get why you’re caught up on it.” He rested an awkward—but still comforting—hand on Nick’s shoulder. “But until we’ve got more anything, all we’ve got is ghosts.”

 

Just then, Nick glanced up. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but his eyes were drawn to the precinct steps.

 

Yamahara.

 

The internal affairs officer was standing on the steps, looking straight at them. Nick felt his lip curl. Fucker.

 

If Yamahara kept trying to reopen the case, he’d bring the MTF crashing down around his own ears. All Nick had to do was be patient, and wait.

 

“Yeah, ghosts.” Except Yamahara is very much alive. “Let’s go.” Nick settled back into his seat, trying to ignore the weight of the eyes on him. He hoped Angie was having a better day than he was.

 

__

 

“I’ll drive.”

 

Nick sighed, dropping his keys back into the bowl they kept them in by the front door. “Just make sure you stay below the speed limit this time,” Nick replied, eyeing Angie seriously. He’d noted her tendency to speed, and though he loved her, Nick had a small heart attack whenever it came time for Angie to merge onto the freeway. She huffed.

 

 

“Oh stop it. I’ve never had an accident before,” she snapped, rolling her eyes. Ever since he’d gotten home, he’d been short tempered and ill, snapping at any and everything. Nick wasn’t sure why he felt so irritated and jumpy. More than likely it was because he’d been forced to let it go with Yamahara earlier than day when all he’d wanted to do was chase the bastard down and make him talk. . “And you don’t have to come. I’m perfectly capable of going grocery shopping on my own. I tie my own shoes and everything,” Angie replied sarcastically, locking the door behind them. “Especially if you’re going to be in that mood the whole time.” She paused by the steps, putting her hands on her hips. “Seriously.”

 

“Coming,” he groused, following her sulkily down the stairs. Angie had decided on baking a cake for. She, of course, had none of the necessary materials. She’d even forced him to watch the tutorial with her.

 

“That way, we’re less likely to screw it up.”

 

Nick chuckled a little to himself in spite of his bad mood. As though she’d read his mind, Angie glanced over at him from the driver’s seat.

 

“Everything good? You seem kind of..” Angie grimaced. “Annoyed tonight.” Although he hadn’t done much to hide it, Nick still felt a little guilty that she’d had to deal with his foul temper.

 

“Bad day. That’s all.”

 

“Well, if I can successfully pull it off, you’ll get to eat the test cake tonight,” Angie replied, her voice cajoling. If there was one weakness Nick had, it was sweets. “That’s He remained quiet for a moment, and then responded quietly.

 

“Can I lick the spoon?” Angie laughed so hard Nick thought she’d swerve into the breakdown lane. He could see her fighting to keep her eyes open wide enough to see the road as she devolved into a fit of riotous giggles. After a moment, she calmed, wiping the tears from her eyes before sighing heavily, the smile still on her face. He raised a single brow ridge in question, his annoyance palpable. “Oh my god, that’s exactly how your mom looks at me,” Angie replied, cartoonish shock coloring her expressive face, her brown eyes wide. Nick couldn’t help the snicker that escaped him, though he didn’t respond.

 

 

“In my defense, you have no idea how funny that was.” Angie flipped on the indicator as their turn neared, crossing traffic to the right side of the street. “You’re all gruff and mad, but you still want to lick the baking spoon? It’s comedy gold.”

 

“I’m a complicated Orc.”

 

“And no one understands him but his woman,” Angie sang, deepening her voice as she sang the lyrics. “Nick! Ya damn right.” Nick didn’t want to laugh, but he couldn’t help it.

 

“Did you lie to me about your age? Because I’m pretty sure Shaft was before your generation.”

 

“Did I say twenty seven? I actually meant forty.”

 

“I knew it.”

 

“Hey!” Angie replied, her voice thick with mock offense. “I think I look damn good for forty. My ass is pretty tight.”

 

“Best ass in L.A., if I do say so myself.” They pulled into the grocery store parking lot as Angie nodded sagely.

 

“You’d better,” The threat was delivered as a joke, but Nick couldn’t actually even remember the last time he’d looked at anyone else. It was like everyone else was static background noise, and Angie was the only thing that came in clear. “Okay, so we have to get a… what the hell does this say? Why can’t I read my own handwriting?” Angie grumbled quietly from the drivers seat, looking at the hastily written note she’d made before leaving the house. It listed all the ingredients, but it was a shame her handwriting looked like chicken scratch.

 

They exited the car, with Angie still squinting at the paper in her hands as Nick went to grab a cart. “Okay I figured it out. It says ‘springform pan’. Why didn’t I google this? I have no idea what that looks like.”

 

“My mom has one.” Nick replied, steering them towards the aisle with the cooking utensils in it. “It’s got this little latch at the side. I.. yeah, here, it’s this one.” He handed her one of the pans.

 

“Oh, good, and it’s an eight inch too, that’s what I needed.”

 

Again, Nick was struck by the sheer domesticity. He was grocery shopping with his girlfriend. Who was currently standing on her toes, attempting to reach a can of baking spray. He watched her for a moment before going over to help. Nick couldn’t help but admire the smooth curve of her back as she leaned forward, the shorts she’d hastily shoved on before they’d left the house riding up on her thick thighs.

 

Nick reached it easily, tossing it into the cart as Angie rolled her eyes at him. “Show off.”

 

When they’d gotten everything they needed—measuring spoons, the pan, a set of measuring cups, and a glass one with a spout—they left the supplies aisle. “I had no idea baking was so complicated,” she murmured, and Nick chuckled.

 

“It’s like chemistry.”

 

“I failed chem.”

 

“Who didn’t?”

 

Nick watched as Angie picked up a product, checking the price with a frown, before reluctantly tossing it into their cart. This is exactly why I can’t deal with Yamahara. Nick reminded himself. When he made K-9 officer, he’d get a pay increase, and a bonus. Only doing his job well—with no distractions—would make that possible. Then Angie wouldn’t have to  look at necessities like they were luxuries.

 

And maybe they could move out of her tiny apartment, too. “How was Ward?” She asked, checking the list on her phone once again. “Oh, and do we need toilet paper? I can’t remember.”

 

“Just get it.” Nick advised, nodding. “He’s… fine.” Nick couldn’t help but be put off by their disagreement earlier. He knew Ward was right about being careful, but Nick knew he was right to be worried.

 

 

“Don’t worry about the groceries, Angie, I’ve got them.” Nick replied as they approached the cash rack. She looked indignant for a moment, and opened her mouth to argue, but Nick cut her off before she could maneuver her way around him. “I’ve got it. Come on. I’m your boyfriend, aren’t I?” he asked, producing his wallet from his pocket as the cashier behind them began scanning their items. Angie rolled her eyes at him, before trying to sneak by him, but Nick wouldn’t allow it.

 

“Oh my god, fine.” She sighed, gesturing to the credit card machine. “I wasn’t aware the Jakoby’s were so well off,” Angie replied. She made a snooty face at him, before walking around to the bagging area to begin loading the groceries onto the cart.

 

“We actually get all of our money through investments my great grandfather made. Bootstraps, you know.”

 

Angie giggled. “Okay moneybags. I’m going to take these out to the car.”

 

Nick watched as she headed for the door. “$84.67.” The cashier was an older woman, with skin darker than Angie’s, and graying close cropped hair. “That little girl your friend?” Nick handed her his credit card, and though he still felt the slight churn in his gut from earlier, he couldn’t help but smile when he said it, nodding.

 

“I’m going to marry her, I think.” He waited for the shock to leave her face, but it wasn’t replaced by disgust or anger. Just serene acceptance. She smiled kindly at him.

 

“That’s nice. I like hearin’ things like that.” She handed him his card back as the receipt printed. “You have a nice—” she paused, shock coloring her face as she stared at something behind him. Nick turned. Everyone was looking.

 

“Someone go out there and help her!”

 

Nick shifted, trying to get a look at what had everyone mesmerized. Nick’s eyes widened as he dropped his wallet on the grocery store tile, mindless as he shoved people out of his way.

 

Kill him.

 

Jeremy. Had he recognized Angie’s car? Followed them? He wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter, because Nick was going to kill him. He had Angie by her arm, the metal cart turned over and their groceries spilled into the parking lot. He couldn’t hear her, but he could see the pained grimace on her face. Tear out his throat, break him, kill him, kill him—

 

There weren’t any thoughts but those. He was deaf with rage, adrenaline pumping through him as he barreled into the other man. Angie fell to the pavement with a yelp that didn’t register in his ears. Nick was panting, his chest heaving and pupils contracted into pinpricks. Nick raised his fist, smashing it into Jeremy’s face. Blood! Blood, kill him, snap open his ribs, eat his heart!

 

And then someone was on his back as he brought his meaty fist down again. Jeremy gurgled, his face a bloody mess. Nick shook himself, grabbing the other offender and tossing them off of his back—but then he heard Angie cry out. This time, he heard it through his rage. She’d hit the pavement hard when he’d thrown her, and she was sniffling, rubbing her shoulder as her elbow bled freely.

 

The fog began to clear, and Nick let go of Jeremy’s shirt, the unconscious man slumping to the pavement. His hands were sticky with warm blood, and there was a crowd of people he hadn’t noticed gathered around them. Some of them had cell phones out, recording, talking to the police, taking pictures.

 

Angie looked up at him, her eyes wide. “Nick…” He’d hurt her. He hadn’t meant to, but as the blood dripped from her torn shirt onto the asphalt, Nick knew it didn’t matter. It was his effect, not his intentions that counted here, and he felt disgust and shame welling in his chest.

 

“I’m sorry, Angie.” He wanted more than anything to go to her and hold her, kiss her, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t do that ever again. I shouldn’t even be allowed near her. Nick watched as she winced, glancing at her elbow. “I never…”

 

“I know, I know, it’s not your fault—” She rose to her knees, hissing when she put weight on her arm to rise. He shook his head.

 

“I have… I can’t.” The words wouldn’t come out, and as panic rose in his chest. “I hurt you. You’re bleeding, and it’s not him, it’s me.” Nick pressed the heels of his palms to his closed eyes and his head throbbed.

 

“Nick it’s not your fault, I know you didn’t—”

 

“The police are on their way.” Nick opened his eyes, and one of the grocery store clerks was standing next to Angie, a small first aid kit in his hands. “We told them how we saw that man attack you.” He pointed to Jeremy, who was still laid messily on the ground behind nick, both of his eyes swollen and bruised, and his nose a pulpy and broken mess. Nick looked down at his hands in horror. This was worse than when he’d fought him that night, the third time he’d ever met Angie. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Before he realized it, Nick was running, Angie’s pained voice calling him back.

 

I hurt you.

 

He kept going, rounding the corner out of the parking lot. He wasn’t even sure where he was going, he just knew he had to get away from her. Angie wasn’t safe with him, he knew that now. Monster. Everyone was right. He was an abomination, and their relationship had been doomed from the start. Nick loved Angie enough that he could let her go. He felt his phone going off in his pocket as he ran, but he ignored it. No, baby. No more. I’m sorry.

 

When he finally arrived, panting, it was like she’d known he was coming. His mother opened the door, her face sad. Worry lined her expression as well as she stroked the side of his face, sighing.

 

“Oh Mausan ukon.” She grasped his hand, leading him into the house. “I told you she wasn’t right for you.”

 

 

 

 

Angie’s heart was racing. She was falling down a hole of anxiety and fear and Nick had up and left, booking it after realizing he’d accidentally tossed her like a sack of potatoes. Angie had known Nick was strong—but this… this had been next level.

 

“Hey, cunt!” Jeremy’s voice was crude, and colored with cruel intent. Angie had known she’d not seen the last of him when Nick had royally handed his ass to him at the bar. She’d walked faster, trying to make it to the car without him accosting her. Not enough people out here—She glanced back, and found him closer than she’d expected. Jeremy had backhanded her across the face, startling her. “You fucking pigs now, whore? You’re gonna go from me to that?” He gestured crudely at Nick inside the grocery store. Angie tried to go for her purse, there was pepper spray inside. But in hitting her, Jeremy had overturned the grocery cart, sending her bag too far out of her reach.

 

He grabbed her arm, and Angie was certain he was going to break it. She prepared herself for the pain, while rearing her hand back to punch him—and then she heard it. The terrifying, animalistic growl. Nick’s coming. She knew it like she knew her own name; Nick was coming for her, and Jeremy was going to die.

 

He barreled across the lot, his eyes wild and singleminded. It wasn’t like when he looked at her, and there was passion there too—no. There was only one desire behind those eyes, and it was to see Jeremy in bloody pieces. He didn’t slow as he approached, and plowed straight into the other man, his hand loosing Angie’s arm on impact. She saw them hit the ground, hard, though the impact seemed to have no effect on Nick. He bared his teeth—an unnerving display despite his lack of fangs. Angie watched, her mouth open as Nick raised his arm and drove his fist into Jeremy’s face over and over. He’s really going to kill him.

 

Angie looked around, at the crowd that had gathered. She couldn’t let him do this. Not like this—if he did, Nick would go to jail. He’d be gone.

 

Angie rose to her feet a little unsteadily. Her mouth tasted like blood, and she knew her lip was split. “Nick! Nick stop!” She grabbed his arm, before throwing her arms around his shoulders. “Nick, it’s me, it’s Angie, baby you have to stop, you’re gonna kill him—”

 

And then she was airborne. Angie hit the pavement with a dull thud, sliding a little. Her arm throbbed—the thin material of her shirt had shredded on impact, and her elbow was bleeding profusely. She groaned, before sitting up. Nick seemed to come to himself then. Maybe it was the sound of her voice or the scent of her blood, but he could see her now. His expression turned pained as realization dawned on him.

 

 

“Ma’am?” Angie looked up. She’d zoned out while the officer had been talking to her. It was someone from Nick’s precinct, but she’d already forgotten his name. Angie almost wanted to ask for Ward—but that might make a bigger mess of this than it was already becoming.  “I said we can’t do anything about the footage. It’s already been picked up by two local news stations.” Angie was shocked it had gone viral so fast, but Orc looses it when girlfriend is assaulted in parking lot already had three million views and counting. “But Jeremy’s in custody. He’s trying to press charges, but with the footage… He’ll be in the pen for minimum five years. Could be more, if you press charges too.”

 

Angie shook her head. “I don’t like court. Besides, I don’t think he’ll try this again.” She’d seen them wheeling him away in a stretcher, finally conscious. He’d looked at Angie fearfully, afraid to speak, even when the officers asked him questions. Good. You fucking should be afraid.

 

They’d let her have her phone, but Nick wasn’t answering. Angie hadn’t really expected him to—she’d seen the shame and pain in his eyes. In spite of herself, she found herself opening her messaging app, texting him again.

 

Please come home tonight, okay?

 

“Okay, I think that’s all. Are you fine to drive home?”

 

Angie nodded. The EMT’s had bandaged her up fairly well, and the manager at the grocery store had replaced everything Jeremy broke, free of cost. Plus a gift card. “I think I’ll be okay. Nick…”

 

“He’s not in any trouble.” The officer reassured her, grasping her hand. “You be safe.”

 

“I usually try to.” She smiled, though it was the absolute last thing she felt like doing.

 

Angie knew Nick wouldn’t be home when she got there, but tears welled up in her eyes anyway when she returned to an empty apartment. He’d returned none of her calls, responded to none of her texts. Angie found that her too-small apartment suddenly felt three sizes too large without Nick in it.

 

By midnight, Angie had called Nick twelve times, and texted him countless others. Begging, threatening—it all got the exact same response. Resolute silence. Angie briefly considered attempting her cake, but she couldn’t even bring herself to do meow than unpack the groceries. It wasn’t even late, but she dragged herself to bed anyway, finally succumbing to the emotional exhaustion she’d been doing her best to hold at bay.

 

Angie laid her head on the pillow, her phone still grasped tightly in her hands as she sent out two last messages.

 

Please come home.

 

Please.

 

 

 

The next morning, Angie’s phone buzzed. She jumped awake, unlocking it before her brain even registered that she’d been texted. Her face crumbled. It was just the alert for next week’s work schedule.

 

And still nothing from Nick. Angie ran a hand tiredly through her messy hair. She hadn’t bothered putting a scarf on; a lifelong habit she’d broken when Nick had started sleeping in her bed. It had been disorienting waking up without him, reaching for him and finding him gone.

 

Angie let herself fall back into the pillows, unable to keep herself from checking and rechecking her notifications. Nothing, no responses. This is it, then. Angie’s vision fogged as tears gathered in her eyes, threatening to spill down her blotchy cheeks. Didn’t see it ending this way. Angie’s phone buzzed, but she’d given up hoping that it would be the Orc whose phone she’d been blowing up. She glanced at it uninterestedly. Facebook.

 

Angie turned over, burying her face in the blankets. “Still smells like you,” she murmured.

 

No.

 

Angie clenched her fist. She wasn’t going to just sit there and let Nick make all the decisions by himself. It was easy to do, he was so sure and steady, but this was her relationship too. No, I’m not fucking giving up.

 

And she wasn’t going to let it go without a fight. Angie dialed the number for the precinct, greeting the operator when she answered.

 

“Hi, I’m looking for officer Ward? Daryl Ward.”

 

“Hold please.”

 

It rang for a long time, and when Ward finally answered, he sounded irritated. “This better be you, Nick.”

 

“Try again.” So he didn’t go to work, either.

 

“Angie?” Shock colored his voice. “Is Nick with you? What the fuck happened last night? They ran that fucking clip on Fox!” Angie sighed, rubbing her temples. Of all the major news networks, it had to be the conservative one that hates Orcs.

 

“My ex found me again.” Angie replied quietly, her sore cheek seeming to throb at the memory. “He attacked me in the parking lot at the store, and Nick…” She paused, remembering the empty fury in his eyes. She shuddered. “I got hurt. He didn’t know it was me, and he hurt me by accident, and now he won’t come home.”

 

“What do you mean he hurt you?” Ward’s voice was suspicious, and Angie frowned. He’d never hurt me on purpose. Never.

 

“It was an accident. I was trying to stop the fight, and… I don’t even think he knew it was me.” Angie said quietly, glancing at the empty space beside her in bed. “I was calling to see if he’d come in to work, but..”

 

“As you can see, he hasn’t been here either.” Ward sounded annoyed, but Angie knew he was probably a little worried about Nick, even if he didn’t particularly want to admit it. His voice was a little quieter when he spoke next, softer. “Everybody’s seen that video, Ang. Everyone knows now. No damage done here, but you guys are going to have to be careful.”

 

“Why are you warning me?” Angie snapped, sniffling. “Nick’s not even here.”

 

She could practically feel Ward rolling his eyes through the receiver. “Have you tried his mom’s house?”

 

“No. I didn’t think she’d let me in.” Angie admitted, furrowing her brows. It had occurred to her, tangentially, that he might go home, but she hadn’t been certain. I’m also pretty sure Ulaorn would slam the door in my fucking face.

 

“It’s either there or the barracks. There’s a room here for off duty officers that need to knock out before they get on the road and go home. I’ll check there.”

 

“Thanks, Daryl.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he replied grumpily. “And Angie? If you find my partner, please try not to lose him again. All this paperwork is a bitch on one fucking person.”

 

“Got it.”

 

Angie ended the call and rolled out of bed. She headed over to the vanity to grab her spray bottle and deal quickly with the mess that had formed on top of her head. If she didn’t have dried blood on her face, and an ugly yellowing bruise, she’d probably have just run straight to Nick in her pajamas.

 

Instead, she forced herself to detangle her hair, willing her fingers to stop shaking, and her heart to stop racing anxiously in her chest. When she was done, and her kinky hair was piled in a messy—but untangled—knot on top of her head, Angie headed to the shower. She didn’t want their relationship to be over. She wanted to run to him and scream and cry and beg, to rush through her shower and jump in the car, her skin still damp.

 

But she didn’t.

 

Angie forced herself to move slowly, deliberately. When she was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she headed for the door, grabbing her keys on the way out. The drive was quiet—it was Memorial Day weekend, and people were already on the highway, heading out of town for vacation. Angie decided to take the long way, instead of waiting in traffic. And with each press of the gas, her resolve strengthened.

 

He’s not running away from me like this.

 

Not at least without some fucking answers. The pain in her chest was turning quickly to anger, and Angie shook herself, breathing deeply. No. She wasn’t going to go there to scream at him. That wasn’t the right answer either. She forced the building frustration away, concentrating on looking for his parent’s place. She remembered the street, but not the house number.

 

“There.”

 

She parked, unbuckling her seatbelt quickly. He fucking walked here? All the way from the store?

 

Angie was knocking loudly on the door before she’d even registered the thought that it was early still, and that she could quite possibly be waking everyone in the house. She paused, listening. Upon hearing nothing, she raised her fist to bang on the door again, but it jerked open.

 

Great. Why couldn’t it be fucking Brun?

 

Ulaorn frowned at her, dislike and displeasure written all over her face. “You need to go.”

 

“No, not until I see him.” Ulaorn was stockier and taller than Angie, and she knew that if it came to blows, she’d be down in thirty seconds flat. Don’t care. I’ll give her one good fucking punch before she lays me out.

 

“You cannot see him. It’s over. That’s for the best.” Her tone was clipped and icy, but this time, Angie wasn’t cowed.

 

“No! You do not fucking get to stand there and tell me that my relationship is over. I need to hear that from him.” Angie’s hands were on her hips, and she was yelling now. She didn’t care that the neighbors would probably be at the windows soon—if they weren’t already—listening to every juicy detail. “I know you don’t like me.” You’re probably actively wishing I’d fucking combust. “But I love your son. I woke up this morning, and…” Her voice broke a little as she swallowed thickly. “And it was like part of me was missing because he wasn’t there.” Ulaorn’s face was unreadable. Her body remained just as imposingly positioned, there in the doorway, but her face? Angie had no idea what she was thinking.

 

“Come.”

 

She moved, allowing Angie to cross the threshold into their sitting room. “Sit down, Angie.” Ulaorn sat on the couch, and she followed suit, her knees shaking a little as she lowered herself.

 

“I don’t hate you.”

 

Angie couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “I’m sorry, I really just can’t believe that.”

 

“You’re human. You don’t understand… I come from a long line of Orcs.” Ulaorn gestured at the wall Angie had seen last time, where the pictures hung. “Blooded Orcs. Warriors. When the Dark Lord rose, he chose two Orcs to be his generals.” Angie nodded, everyone knew this story. “Ghosh and Kynr. Ghosh was special, he was a fierce warrior, and he had never been defeated in battle. He had blood lust so strong that he went into battle rages, slaughtering dozens in moments.” Ulaorn sighed deeply before continuing. “And when he saw the carnage on the battle field, and the cost of the lives of his kin, he changed sides, and fought with Jirak.”

 

Angie sighed. “Not that I’m ungrateful that you’re finally speaking to me like I’m not a stray dog your son dragged in, but why are you telling me this?”

 

“Because Ghosh is my ancestor. He’s Nick’s ancestor. They were called berserkers. I feared that Nick would be the one to inherit the trait from me, and I was right.”

 

Angie shook her head. “What do you mean? You mean he just… snaps?” Ulaorn nodded.

 

“Nick is the most emotional out of all my children. He feels deeply, and because of this, he… When he is particularly emotionally vulnerable, violence can make him go…”

 

“Berserk.” Angie finished softly, rubbing a hand across her face. He’d never hurt me on purpose. She sighed deeply, closing her eyes. It seemed everyone was more afraid for her than she was for herself. Nick didn’t have an abusive bone in his body. Angie pointedly decided not to mention the fact that Nick seemed to loose control almost every time he got his hands on her, and it had never been an issue before. He was just trying to protect her; it wasn’t as though he’d deliberately attacked her. Even as she’d seen him come running across the lot, the intent clear in his eyes, she hadn’t been afraid of him. She’d been afraid for him.

 

Angie wasn’t stupid, she knew how much harsher the system was on Orc offenders. He wouldn’t get the death penalty—only because California had eliminated it years prior—but he’d be in there for the rest of his life if he’d killed Jeremy. Angie looked up at Ulaorn, determination written across her face. “I don’t care.”

 

“What?”

 

“I said I don’t care. I don’t care. I want to be with him anyway.” She watched Nick’s mother frown, and shake her head, and suddenly Angie understood. Ulaorn hadn’t hated her. She’d been afraid for her, just like everyone else. Urging Nick to leave her not because she was black, or because she was human, but because she was worried Nick would loose control and tear her throat out. But Angie knew he wouldn’t. He seems to have other, equally nefarious purposes for my neck, but none of them ever seem to involve ripping it open.

 

“You should care,” Ula replied quietly, clenching her hands on her lap as she spoke.

 

“Why? He’s never hurt me before. I’ve seen him like that before and… and he’s never hurt me.” Her voice was sure and steady as she spoke. “I love him, and I’m not afraid.” Ula looked at her, her luminous eyes seeming to bore into Angie’s, and the seconds ticked by slowly. Oh fuck, she’s going to make me leave, Angie thought to herself, clenching her fists tightly on her lap. She’s not going to let me see him.

 

 

“Because you’re the trigger.” Her words struck Angie almost like a physical weight. She clenched her eyes shut and sighed sadly, before opening them. “As the one he loves, you’re both his greatest asset, and his largest weakness. What you saw yesterday?” Ula   said, seeming to look through Angie then, as though remembering something better forgotten. “That’s only the slightest taste of what he could be capable of.”

 

Angie paused.“I want Nick. All of him. I can handle it. I know you think… I can’t. Because I’m human. Or maybe just because I’m me.”  “I can handle anything he has to throw at me, because I love him.” It was the first time she’d said it aloud to anyone other than him, and it appeared to have the intended effect. She stuck her chin out stubbornly, waiting for Ula to continue to list reasons why it wouldn’t work. So he looses control sometimes. It was certainly news that gave Angie pause, but certainly not something that made her want to be with him less. Angie took a deep breath before finishing. “But I know what I want, and that’s him.”

 

“You’ve been with my son for six months.” Ulaorn’s voice wasn’t mocking or stern—she was simply stating a fact. Angie nodded. It was true, she hadn’t known Nick as long as some of the other people in his life, but Angie knew herself well enough to be honest about her emotions.

 

“Seven, really, if you count from when we first met.” Her gaze remained steady and strong. “And I know I love him.”

 

“Love isn’t enough,” Ulaorn replied bluntly, though her expression softened. “But it’s a very good start.” Ula glanced at the stairs, before meeting her gaze steadily. “Nick said you were brave.” She smiled, and though it was a little tight, it was genuine. “You’ll need to be.” The Orc woman smoothed out a wrinkle in her skirt before giving Angie one last look—the final judgement. She seemed to be satisfied with her findings, and nodded once, curtly. “He’s very angry with himself right now. He won’t want to listen.”

 

“No, he wouldn’t even pick up the phone for me,” Angie felt some lingering bitterness work it’s way into her voice. Ula nodded.

 

“Tell him ve braje wiavhouav alnej, ve fehrleukuk wiavh alnej.” Angie narrowed her eyes in thought, before speaking, trying to pronounce everything exactly as she’d heard it.

 

“Ve.. braje?”

 

“Yes, good.” Angie couldn’t help but be surprised at the praise. She’d honestly been half expecting Ula to tell her she sounded like a dying donkey. The older orc looked at her expectantly. “Come now, the rest.” Angie could hear the remnants of her years as a teacher, the way she spoke, tilting her head, watching to see if Angie understood.

 

“Ve braje wiavhouav…alnej, ve fearleukuk wiavh alnej?” 

 

“Your pronunciation is good. Has Nick been speaking Orkish with you?”

 

Angie felt her cheeks warm. “More like to me. I only know like two words.” Ulaorn snorted derisively, shaking her head. Hopefully she won’t ask me which two. “What does it mean?”

 

“Jirak said it to his troops as they faced the Dark Lord. ‘Be brave with me, and be fearless without me’.” She paused for a moment, before continuing. “Say that to him, and he’ll come home.” She eyed Angie, and pursed her lips. “And then you’ll come twice a week to learn Orkish. It’s unacceptable he hasn’t taught you yet. Almost seven months and only two words? My son is disgraceful.” She snorted. Angie gave her a watery smile before rising from the couch.

 

“I’d better go.”

 

Ula nodded. She turned and headed for the steps, pausing for a moment before putting one foot in front of the other. Angie hadn’t seen the second floor of the house. There were four bedrooms up there, each with the door closed. She could hear loud, unfamiliar snoring coming from one of them, and Angie assumed it was Brun. The third time was the charm, and when she opened it, Nick was sitting up in bed, shirtless, staring blearily at the door. He’d probably been woken up by the noise she made, looking for him.

 

“I smelled you, Angie.” He said sleepily, and Angie’s knees almost buckled at the sound of his voice. “What are you doing here?” His eyes widened in recognition. “You should go.” Angie shook her head, watching as he pursed his lips. “I’m not… It’s not safe for you to be here.” She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed him. She’d known that for a few hours, when she’d believed they were really through, it was the loneliest she’d ever felt. Funny, considering it’s not like being with another person, being with Nick. It’s everything I love about being alone and nothing I hate.

 

 

“Would you just shut the hell up?” Angie replied tiredly, coming to sit next to him on the bed. Despite his apparent discomfort, Nick allowed it. He opened his mouth to speak, likely to protest again, but Angie spoke first, preempting him. “Look. Yesterday… was not ideal. I think we can both admit that, yes?” Nick nodded tersely. “Your mom told me everything.”

 

“And you’re still here?” The shock was evident in his voice; it was clear he honestly thought the idea of being with him anyway would send her running, eager to have him out of her life. “Angie I lost control. I could have fucking killed you!” He was furious, but not with her. With himself. “And Jeremy…”

 

“I swear to god if you express even an ounce of remorse for what you did to Jeremy, I might actually consider leaving you.” Angie snapped. “He deserved worse.” Her eyes darkened as she tried to ignore the memories. “Much worse.”

 

“Then why did you stop me?” Nick’s voice was quiet, and Angie could see him fisting his hands in the blankets.

 

“Because the absolute last thing I need is for you to go to jail, Nick.” She finally reached for him, stroking the side of his face. “I love you, and I want you in my life.”

 

Nick’s voice cracked a little when he spoke. “I love you too.” Nick rested his head in his hands, before sighing. “This is a big fucking mess, isn’t it?” He asked after a moment. “My mom said they ran it on the news. The video clip of me attacking Jeremy.” Angie had been hesitant to bring that up. Angie herself hadn’t bothered to watch it—what was the point? She’d lived it. And I’d really rather fucking not watch myself get decked.

 

“You mean of you defending me from Jeremy?” Angie snapped, pointing to her bruised face. “The video also showed that. And yeah. Ward told me it ran on Fox.”

 

Nick looked at her quizzically. “He told you? You didn’t watch it?”

 

“No. Why would I? I was there.” She pointed to her face, watching his hands fist in the blankets. “I don’t need to see it.”

 

The silence was thick between them for the first time, and Angie hated it. Most of all, she hated Jeremy, for managing to wedge himself between them even now. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. “Angie… I can’t.”

 

“Can’t what?”

 

“I can’t come home.” Angie gritted her teeth and shook her head. She opened her mouth to speak, but Nick cut her off. “No. I’m not… I’m not brave enough to take the chance that I could hurt you again. Worse.” Say that to him, and he’ll come home. Ula’s voice rang in Angie’s ears, and she swallowed nervously. No time like the present.

 

 

“Ve braje wiavhouav alnej, ve fehrleukuk wiavh alnej.”  Nick’s mouth dropped open a little as she spoke, his surprise at hearing the language coming from her mouth written all over his face. Angie fidgeted nervously, waiting for him to respond. “Did I say it wrong?” She asked after a moment, only to find herself pressed hard against Nick’s chest as he pushed his nose into her hair, inhaling deeply.

 

“Where did you learn that? Who taught it to you?” He asked, the timbre of his voice vibrating against her cheek.

 

“Your mom, actually.” Nick snorted.

 

“Seriously, who? Did you look it up?”

 

“I’m serious,” Angie replied, leaning away from him to meet his disbelieving stare. “Your mom seriously taught me. And she told me to start coming over twice a week for Orkish lessons.” She hadn’t thought it was possible for Nick’s eyes to get any wider, but they did. Angie couldn’t blame him; if he’d told her the same thing two hours ago, she’d never have believed him either.

 

“I died in my sleep and these must be the halls of my ancestors, because there’s no way that happened. Without me there to mediate.”

 

“Miraculously, your mother and I are capable of communicating without you courier messages between us.” Angie replied dryly, running a hand along the thick skin of Nick’s back. He sighed, drawing her head back to his chest as he tucked it underneath his chin. It was clear he’d been missing her, too. Nick’s rough fingers stroked the exposed skin where her jeans met the t-shirt she’d hastily donned. “No more muttering to me in Orkish while you’re trying to dig out my uterus,” Angie joked softly, and he laughed.

 

“You’ll… you’ll really let me keep you?” he asked after a moment, his voice raw and vulnerable. Angie couldn’t see his face, but she could feel and hear his heartbeat as it quickened. He was afraid of hurting her, but Angie was convinced he didn’t need to be. If he was going to loose control and rip her throat out, she was fairly certain he would have done it by then; six months was a long time to wait for that sort of thing. Not that I have any fucking frame of reference.

 

“As long as you promise never to fucking do that shit to me again, ever.” Angie pushed away from his chest hard, her brows furrowed. “I mean it, Nick. Either we talk it out or we don’t, but I can’t take the disappearing act.”

 

“I promise.” He looked down, regret making it’s way across his features. “I was terrified, Ang.” His voice was low and quiet. “It was like I was watching myself. Watching myself beat him into a bloody pulp and… I was enjoying it. I couldn’t stop.” Angie squeezed his arm.

 

“You know something? I didn’t feel bad, watching them wheel him away on that stretcher,” Angie said after a moment. Nick was dragging himself through the dirt, and for what? Some asshole who had a penchant for beating his girlfriends, selling drugs, guns, killing people, and God knew what other shit he’d done. Angie refused to allow Nick to continue to take himself to task for doing what she thought, at least, was the right thing. “He’s scum, Nick. He should have been in prison a long time ago. You were trying to save me. You did save me.” He looked away, but Angie caught his chin, forcing him to meet her eyes. “You did the right thing, Nick.”

 

He held her gaze for a moment before sighing. “You know not everyone is going to see it that way.”

 

Angie shrugged. “I can’t control how other people see it. I was there and I know what happened. You’re not in any trouble, by the way. I talked to Ward.”

 

“Fantastic. I bet he’s pissed with me for not coming in.”

 

“Bingo.”

 

“Great.”

 

“Just so we’re clear,” Angie replied, rubbing her nose along the crease between his hard pectorals. “You’re coming home, yes? And you’re not gonna do this again?”

 

“I’m sorry, Angie. I got so freaked out that I hurt you. I didn’t… I couldn’t even begin to deal with it.” She understood why he’d fled—she just wanted to be sure he wouldn’t do it again. “

 

“If we’re together, we have to actually work through these things together,” She replied softly, squeezing his arm. “Please don’t do this to me again.” Angie felt tears of relief pricking at her eyes. It was both frustrating and wonderful how much she found Nick meant to her, and while others might view his flight at proof that he didn’t want to be with her, Angie knew it was just the opposite. Nick’s heartbeat thudded against her cheek, and she closed her eyes, sighing deeply.

 

“I promise. Never again.” Nick wasn’t a man who gave his word lightly, and she knew that once he’d given it, he’d do his best to keep it. “I love you, Angie. Mausan avreaukure.”

 

“What does that mean?” she mumbled, wrapping her arms around his waist. He laughed a little.

 

“It’s how you tell someone you love them, in Orkish. It means ‘my treasure’.”

 

“So it’s not like.. a direct translation?”

 

“No. Orcs… we weren’t always the most poetic people Ang. Telling someone they were like gold to you is probably the highest compliment you could have given, back when we were living in caves in the mountains.”

 

“I can’t believe we’re discussing linguistics in your bed.” Angie laughed. It felt good to have him back, to settle back into the way things were supposed to be. There was still

 

Nick gave a low rumble in his chest. “Is there something else you’d like to do in my bed?” She could hear that he was only half joking, and the way he tightened his arms around her let her know the offer was real, and open.

 

“Isn’t the barbecue in a few hours? I still have enough time to get home and bake my cake,” She replied, knowing full well that there wouldn’t be any of that. He’d been away from her for too long not to reassert himself, even if he didn’t realize he was doing it. Nick ran his nose along the side of her throat, grunting in displeasure.

 

“You don’t smell like me,” He rumbled, the displeasure clear in his voice.

 

“Oh? Well I did sleep all by myself last night,” Angie replied cheekily, turning so that she was straddling his lap instead of splayed across him. She pouted up at him. “I had no big strong Orc to protect me. I mean, I considered having Terry stay over—” Nick growled fiercely and his hands tightened on her jean clad hips.

 

“Not. Funny. And I’m going to fix that right now.

 

“It was a little funny.” Angie couldn’t argue anymore as Nick’s mouth came crashing down hungrily on hers, his teeth scraping eagerly against her lower lip as he sucked it into his mouth. Angie moaned quietly, before pressing her hands against his chest. Nick stopped—reluctantly, and eyed her.

 

“What? What’s wrong?”

 

“We can’t, not here,” She replied, giggling. “Literally your dad is asleep across the hall.”

Nick snorted derisively, as if to tell her that was a poor deterrent. To illustrate his point, he ground his hips upward into hers, and Angie bit her lip.

 

“We’ll be quiet.”

 

And then his hands were under her shirt, tugging the hem up and over her head. Quiet. Yeah. Angie leaned forward to drag her teeth down his chest, and Nick released a ragged groan. She reached behind herself to unhook her bra and tossed it into a corner of the room before Nick could rip it off of her. He ran his thumbs appreciatively over her nipples, licking his lips as they pebbled beneath his touch.

 

“Take these off,” Nick commanded hoarsely, hooking his finger into one of the belt loops of her jeans. “Now.” Angie leaned up on her knees to unbutton and unzip them, but before she was even done, Nick was tugging them down her legs, sending her tumbling to the bed, laughing.

 

“Impatient much?”

 

He didn’t bother responding, he just leaned down to cover her body with his, his cock pressing insistently against the seam of her panties. Angie bucked her hips, grinding against him. “Now who’s impatient?”

 

Angie giggled, before wiggling out of her panties and wrapping her legs around his waist. “Barbecue starts at 11. You’re wasting time, you know.” Angie replied snippily, and Nick chuckled darkly, sliding the head of his engorged cock against her before beginning to push inside. There was nothing like that sensation, that sweet burning ache as he filled her. No wonder so many Orc women have such wide hips, she thought, hissing as he sank in further.

 

“Oh shit,” She cursed quietly, as Nick rested his forehead against her own, panting. She could feel him pulsing inside her, eager to move, but anxious for her comfort. He ran his tongue along the side of her throat, groaning as she undulated her hips, rocking the head of his cock against her womb.

 

Nick groaned quietly, pressing his face against the mattress beside her head. His chest was heaving with the effort not to lose control. Nick pulled back before rolling his hips into Angie’s, forcing his cock as far into her heated passage as it would go. He released a low growl against her ear, and Angie felt herself clench around him, moaning.

 

“Shh,” he uttered, grinning against the skin of her throat.  Angie wanted to complain, but he moved in her again, and the words were lost in a rough exhalation of breath. “Someone could hear.” He was mocking her for being the louder of the two of them, she knew. But how could she help it, the way his rough hands squeezed her ample hips and tugged at her taut nipples? He rocked into her again and again, until the headboard began tapping the wall with the force of his thrusts, though neither of them seemed to register the sound.

 

Angie’s legs were wrapped around him, her hips tilted upward as she met his thrusts with her own. Nick nipped at the skin between her neck and shoulder before pulling back, and sliding out of her. Angie whimpered at the loss, looking at him questioningly.

 

Does he want to stop?

 

Nick’s hands caressed her thighs appreciatively, his eyes traveling down the length of her body inch by inch. Angie fidgeted under his gaze. “What?”

 

“Lookaumn aav whaav iuk uorkormajal.” He replied, taking a single finger to her sensitive, dripping slit to test her wetness. Nick locked his golden eyes onto hers, and wrapped his tongue around the digit, sucking her juices off. “I’m looking at what’s mine.

 

Angie felt a pleasurable shiver run down her spine at his words. His. Without question. Nick shifted them, tugging her to the edge of the mattress, and motioning for her to flip over onto her belly. Angie’s feet found purchase on the floor just as the head of his cock nudged back into her throbbing cunt. Nick gave her a few shallow strokes, keeping just the head of his cock inside her.

 

“Missed this,” he muttered, and Angie moaned, thrusting her hips back and seating him further inside her. “Oh fuck, Angie.” Nick’s hands tightened around her hips, slamming her down onto his rigid cock. She could feel her orgasm building in her belly, making her walls clench furiously around him.

 

“Fuck, I’m—” Nick leaned forward and clapped his hand around her mouth as she cried out, muffling the cry that would have alerted his family—and probably his neighbors too—to the nature of their “discussion”. She moaned weakly against his hand as he thrust into her, riding out the wave of her orgasm. His teeth scraped against her neck, and Angie tilted her head to the side, allowing them to sink into her flesh. Nick growled, slamming into her twice more before shuddering.She could feel him throbbing inside of her, his cock pumping thick jets of cum against her cervix. If he could get me pregnant, I’m pretty sure that would have done it.

 

After a moment, Nick slid out of her, reaching for the towel on the chair beside his bed to wipe her off. Angie rolled over onto her back and sat up tiredly, her thighs throbbing. She was about to ask Nick if he thought they could sneak a shower, when suddenly the door opened. I thought I locked that!

 

Angie yelped, and dove behind Nick, who tore the sheet off of the bed to cover the both of them. It was only a small relief, when she peered around Nick’s broad shoulder, to see that it wasn’t Ula who had discovered them. It was a stranger, likely one of Nick’s relatives, as they shared the same purposeful cheekbones and graceful brow ridges.

 

“Uh, mom sent me to tell you that people are arriving.”

 

“Get out, Tom.” Nick's voice was gruff and irritated, but not angry. Wait...

 

“Yeah, yeah. Nice to meet you, Angie!”

 

Angie pressed her face against Nick’s back in horror.

 

“Please tell me that wasn’t—”

 

“Yep.” Nick replied, sighing. “That was my brother.”

 

 

 

 

To be continued….

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

 

 

 

 

“Do I still smell like… you know?” Angie asked, gesturing to herself. Nick had managed to sneak the both of them down the hall to the bathroom, where they’d hurried through a shower and crept back to his bedroom, narrowly avoiding his father. He’d never been one to deny an opportunity to bask in Angie’s scent, especially not when he’d been invited to.

 

She was tugging on her shirt, and Nick grabbed her hands, stopping them just underneath her breasts. He leaned down to press his nose against the bare skin of her belly, inhaling. He sighed, his eyes narrowed with pleasure. Of course you do. He planted a small kiss on her hipbone before standing. He couldn’t give Angie the answer she wanted, of course. His scent was in her, and a simple shower wasn’t going to erase that—not for an Orc nose, anyway. It had been mostly to appease her; Angie knew how sensitive his sense of smell was, and she was concerned that the rest of his family would smell the evidence of their earlier… activities.

 

He hated to inform her that they’d be aware either way, but she was already nervous enough as it was, and he didn’t want to make her feel even more ill at ease. “You smell fine.” Nick was also hard pressed to say he minded—There were certain human sensibilities he just didn’t have, and one of them was the capacity to be embarrassed by other people knowing he’d recently fucked her into the mattress. Still, he knew his relatives well enough to know that they’d politely keep silent about it. He hoped.

 

Angie ran a worried hand through her mass of kinky hair. Nick had snapped her hair tie earlier, and she’d been nervously patting her hair ever since. “Do I look okay?” she asked, gesturing to herself. “I wonder if we have time for me to run home and change..” she murmured, pulling at the waistband of her jeans. She looked up at him with expectant eyes, her full lips pulled into a frown. There was a little bruise on the side of her throat, where he’d gotten over-ambitious and bitten her, but it wasn’t too bad or noticeable.

 

“You look beautiful.” Then again, Nick always thought she looked beautiful. Regardless, his assessment seemed to calm her. It was after ten in the morning now, and though he couldn’t hear them—yet—Nick knew his family was beginning to trickle in, bringing food and noise with them.

 

 

“So I see your brother’s back from Korea.”

 

Nick rolled his eyes. He was, in truth, the baby of the family, and though he was grown now—Almost fucking thirty—they still treated him like the youngest. Nick hadn’t known Tom was back either, though he’d probably planned it to surprise their mother. Nick nodded, tugging on his own shirt over his head.

 

“Yeah, I think it was a surprise,” He replied, shoving his phone into his pocket as Angie remade the bed. “For my mom.” The hallway was silent when they peeked out, and Nick led her down the steps, where he could hear someone moving around the kitchen. The rest of his family would, of course, be out back, setting up the tables and gossiping about what Angie was like. I’m not stupid enough to think no one’s told them.

 

Nick sniffed the air tentatively, sighing with relief when he identified his mother. He poked his head inside, and Angie followed suit, greeting her for what was apparently the second time that morning.

 

“Hey, mom.”

 

“Finally awake, Mausan ukon?” She intoned, looking between the two of them. He still couldn’t believe Angie had managed to bridge that gap herself; Nick loved his mother, and she could be the most kind, caring, and self sacrificing person on earth—but she could also hold a grudge until the fucking Dark Lord returned if she felt like it. Angie seemed to have an uncanny sort of charisma, and not even his mother was immune to it. He watched her reach into the oven, pulling out a covered dish. Nick’s mouth watered. He did miss home cooked meals—though he’d never share that desire with Angie, who would take it as a personal challenge. And then their poor smoke alarm would never recover. His mother turned to Angie, before pointing her chin in the direction of a second pair of oven mitts.

 

“Angelica, take this outside please. On the main table, there’s a space for it, you’ll see.” Now that she was in Ulaorn’s good graces, Angie seemed loathe to leave them; quickly slipping the heat resistant gloves onto her hands and heading out the kitchen door into the backyard. Without missing a beat, his mother turned back to the stove, and began stirring something on it.

 

“So you got over it, then?” He asked bluntly, going into the fridge to grab a carton of juice. Out of habit, he began to lift it to his lips, only to be met with a sharp glare. “Sorry.” Nick ducked his head in apology, and reached for a glass from the cupboard beside the fridge.

 

“She’s… She’s a nice girl,” she agreed, before turning to eye him sternly.“I’m still worried.”

 

“Me too,” Nick admitted softly, moving to lean against the door frame. He glanced out into their little yard, and saw her greeting his dad, who swept her into a crushing embrace. Despite her slightly uncomfortable expression at the sight of his brother, she gave him an awkward hug too.

 

“I’d be more afraid if you weren’t.” His mother replied easily, nudging him with her elbow. “You take this outside. It’s the sauce for the lamb.” She pressed the gravy dish into his hands, and urged him out the door. It swung shut behind him, leaving Nick blinking in the bright sunlight for a moment.

 

As his eyes adjusted, Nick noted that his entire family hadn’t shown up yet—James wouldn’t be arriving until later, and half of his aunts and uncles hadn’t gotten there yet. It was still early. His father was attempting to run a string of lights between two posts, and Angie was holding them up in the middle as she gauged whether he’d hung them high enough.

 

“Higher. A little higher.” She replied, jerking her chin up. She caught sight of him and grinned, shrugging helplessly. Nick put the gravy on the table as he’d been told, before sighing appreciatively. It had actually turned out to be a pretty nice day; it was warm and bright, and the sky was cloudless and clear.

 

“I may have been in Korea a long time, but I still don’t think it was long enough for you to pull all these stunts.” Thomas’ voice was lighthearted, making Nick turn, grinning at his older brother. Tom was the middle child and Nick was the baby, making poor James the eldest, and neither one of them ever let him forget it. He didn’t need to ask if Tom had seen the video, the weight of it hung between them.

 

“Normally I manage to destroy many more lives and buildings, but some asshole called the cops.” Tom moved to stand beside him, clapping him on the shoulder. “Finally coming home?” Nick watched as he sighed, shaking his head.

 

“Nah. They’re thinking about stationing me there for good. I like it,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. “I haven’t told mom about it yet.”

 

Nick shook his head, before holding his hands up, motioning for Tom to be quiet. “Look, I just got back into her good graces. You better deal with this one by your fucking self.” They both laughed deeply, as Nick watched Angie step away from the lights to admire their handiwork.

 

“I fucking bet. I bet mom was super happy about your girlfriend, there.”

 

“Ecstatic.” Nick didn’t need any refreshers on what it had been like, his mother constantly pushing him to end things, for both of their sakes. But Angie was about as stubborn as Ula, and twice as contrary. A thorn in my side I’d kill anyone for removing. Nick felt a little flash of shame at the thought—he was trying to control his violent impulses, not encourage them—but swallowed it, because he knew it was true. “But she got over it.”

 

“Maybe she’ll go easier on me, now that you guys made up.” Tom replied, reaching underneath the foldout table and into the cooler to grab a beer. He tossed one to Nick, who caught it easily, twisting off the top with his hands. “I fucking hope, anyway.”

 

His brother downed a sip of his drink before glancing between the two of them again. “How did you two meet, anyway? And uh, sorry. About this morning. I didn’t see anything, by the way.”

 

Nick snorted, though that primal part of him was pleased by that. “On patrol, actually.”

 

“She’s a criminal?” Tom replied incredulously, and Nick elbowed him. “Ow.”

 

“Noise complaint at a bar turned out to be a domestic disturbance. And then we just kept…running into each other.”

 

“You gave her that prime orc bacon, you mean,” Tom barked, taking another swig of his beer. Nick again dug his elbow into his brother’s side, but it didn’t cut his laughter short. “It’s like a storybook romance. That’s disgustingly cute.” Nick drained the bottle, before tossing it into the trash can beside the table and reaching for another. “Is it… is it hard?” He asked after a moment, and Nick paused in opening his second beer of the afternoon.

 

“I mean… You know how people treat orcs on a good day. Adding Angie to that… well…” Nick shrugged. Tom nodded seriously.

 

“Yeah. I mean, I was talking about the sex, but that’s valid too.” Nick fought to keep from spraying beer all over the grass. Typical—his brother wasn’t asking about the dynamics of their relationship, how they were treated in public. No, what he wanted to know was how easily Nick could fit his cock into his girlfriend. He swallowed the amber liquid, before grasping Tom’s shoulder firmly. Part of him wanted to be jealous and angry, tell his brother to fuck off—but the overwhelmingly rational part of his brain settled on a taunt.

 

“Easier than you can imagine. She loves it when I—”

 

“Who loves what, babe?” Angie’s voice came from behind him, cutting him off mid sentence. Faux innocence dripped from her every word, and Thomas turned to look back and forth between the two of them with obvious amusement on his face.

 

“Just telling Tom about our Thai place.”

 

Thomas cleared his throat, nodding at Angie in greeting. “No hard feelings about earlier, right?” His voice was cajoling, as though he’d already apologized to Angie privately, and was only rehashing it publicly for Nick’s benefit.

 

Angie nodded sagely. “Of course! None whatsoever.” Thomas mumbled something about talking to their mother, and drained his beer bottle before tossing it into the trash and heading inside. “Were you about to tell your brother some of the dirty sordid details of our sex life?”

 

“Not all of them,” Nick joked, earning him a cute scowl. “He was asking… you know if we fit.” Angie’s eyes widened a bit, and she placed a hand on her hip.

 

“What did you say?”

 

Nick put his beer down on the table, and drew Angie into his arms. He pressed his nose to her throat before chuckling. “You get so wet I just slide right in.” Angie gasped, her cheeks coloring, before she giggled, kicking at his shin playfully.

 

“You fucking didn’t!”

 

“I hinted at it.”

 

“Fiend.”

 

Nick ran his lips down the line of her throat before pulling away. It wouldn’t do to get himself worked up—in a house full of his loud family members, there wouldn’t be anywhere secluded they could sneak off to. She giggled, before squeezing his arm.

 

“Did you talk to Ward to let him know you were alive and well?” she asked, rummaging in the cooler until she pulled out a wine spritzer. Nick nodded. While Angie had been finishing up in the shower, he’d shot his partner a few texts. If Ward was terse in person, through texts he may as well have been silent, giving one word answers to most of what Nick said. He wasn’t worried—Ward was probably expecting an in depth breakdown as soon as Nick returned to work. Going by in the morning to talk to the Chief was probably the best option, considering he’d technically been awol for a day, though Ward had covered for him. This was by far one of the less embarrassing scandals the LAPD had been involved in, even in the past six months, and Nick hoped its press would die even faster. I hate the thought of that fucking video going viral for months.

 

Even worse, they’d gone public in a way Nick hadn’t intended—their faces would be nationally—hopefully not internationally—known. “I texted.”

 

“Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but I’ll take it.”

 

More and more of Nick’s relatives arrived. One of his aunt’s friends approached and body asked Angie if she often stepped outside her own race. Angie, however took it in stride, swallowing the irritation that flashed across her face.

 

“Just the once, actually.” She’d replied sweetly, squeezing his arm. Nick almost growled with pleasure. I thought I was the possessive one.

 

The other woman walked away, her pointed expression a little wounded. “Oh, look.” Angie replied softly, pointing behind him. One of his cousins, S’atha, had arrived. In her arms was a cooing, blue and white baby. Angie’s expression was soft as she regarded the other woman. S’atha caught sight of them and waved at Nick. The two of them had been particularly close as children, though not as much of late. She picked up the baby’s chubby arm and waved it gently, making Angie giggle.

 

“Say hello to Uncle Nick,” she replied as she approached, and Nick hugged her, mindful of the fidgeting baby she held. “How are you?”

 

“What? No, how are you?” Nick replied, gesturing at her. He hadn’t known she’d had the baby. Nick suddenly felt a little guilty; since moving out, he hadn’t really been involved in the day to day with his family. “What’s their name?”

 

“Aarda. Like his grandpa. Right? Yes.” She cooed, tapping the baby gently on his nose. It was fairly flat, barely more than two raised slits. His eyes were still a muddy color, fairly unseeing but expressive. He gurgled happily, grasping her finger and bringing it to his toothless mouth. “I’m alright. Tired, most nights I don’t get any sleep at all.” She grinned happily. “I wish Kesharr was here, he was… well he was asking about you.” S’atha had done a good job of keeping the conversation fairly neutral, but the concerned lilt in her voice gave away. He shouldn’t have been surprised that everyone was asking about it—without actually asking about it—but foolishly, Nick was still shaken every time it was brought up. He saw S’atha glance at Angie, who was busily making faces at the baby, who crowed happily.

 

“Fine.” He replied, nodding, his eyes not quite meeting hers. “Her ex.” Nick offered, by way of information. S’atha nodded understandingly.

 

“You always had to be the different one,” She replied, adjusting her hold on Aarda. “Should have known you’d be the friggin’ first at everything.”

 

“You really think we’re the first?” Angie asked, rejoining the conversation. Her voice was a little distant, and if Nick didn’t know better, he could have sworn she looked a little sad. Nick had done a little googling himself, though the most he’d found was fetish art.

 

“I hope not,” he replied honestly, and squeezed her comfortingly. It was true—Nick had zero desire to be part of the first recorded interspecies relationship of their nature, but it didn’t seem like he had much choice in the matter; he wasn’t willing to part with Angie, so he supposed they’d be weathering every storm the world could throw at them. At least it can’t get worse, he thought sardonically.

 

Before he could say anything else, he could hear his mother clearing her throat loudly. a hush fell across the yard and she spoke. “You all ready to eat? Or liwo kulknej ukavarve?

 

Nick leaned down to translate into Angie’s ear. “Or will we starve?” Angie leaned against him, folding her arms across her midsection as his came up to join them. “You’re supposed to answer ‘Kulknej liwo nevas ukavarve akag osh.’ ”

 

“What’s that mean?”

 

“We will never starve again. After the Dark Wars, and my people were finally free of the Dark Lord, we vowed would would never go back to the hunger and death of the old days.”

 

Everyone around them echoed the answering phrase, applauding. A line began forming at the picnic table, where all the food had been painstakingly laid out. There was tons of it, though Nick didn’t doubt there wouldn’t be a scrap left when they all got through.

As they spooned food out onto their plates, his mother walked by.

 

“You’re alright? There’s enough food?”

 

“Ma, you made enough to feed an army. I think we’ll be alright.”

 

“Mm.”

 

“Have you seen S’atha? And the baby?” Angie asked, pouring a fragrant gravy over a small pile of rice. “He’s adorable.” His mother’s face brightened.

 

“Yes! The sweetest.” She grinned, her fangs gleaming. “I expect yours will be just as cute.” Angie jerked, bumping into him as she straightened rapidly.

 

“My what? Baby? I’m not, we haven’t’—”

 

“When the time is right, of course,” his mother replied easily, successfully ignoring Angie’s clear confusion. They hadn’t exactly broached the subject of children between themselves, though he couldn’t deny he’d thought about it. They’d been together for the better part of the year, and had never used protection once—and she wasn’t on birth control either.

 

We’re not even the same species, technically. I can’t get her pregnant. He’d meant it to be a comforting thought, but instead, it made him feel strangely bereft. There was nothing wrong with remaining childless. Don’t need another berserker in the family line. “Mom. Can you not?”

 

Ula held her hands up placatingly, and moved away to talk to other guests. Angie remained quiet until they’d moved away from the buffet, a little apart from the rest of his family and their various offspring.

 

“We never really talked about kids,” Angie said softly, pushing some food around on her plate. “You… do you?”

 

“I don’t know. Yeah, maybe. In the future,” Nick replied carefully. Angie smiled at him, though it was a little watery.

 

“We’d have to adopt, you know,” she said, her voice both hopeful and a little sad. “I don’t think we’re…compatible. Like that.”

 

“Then it’s settled.” Nick replied, taking a bite of chicken. Angie chuckled, before digging into her own plate as she shook her head lightly.

 

“Just like that?” Angie replied, lifting an eyebrow as she chewed.

 

“Just like that.”

 

 

——

 

(Unknown Number): Hey, it’s Sherri. Daryl gave me your number, I hope that’s okay!

 

Angie immediately saved the number. She hadn’t seen the other woman since their double date a a couple of weeks before, and she’d been… rather inebriated, and forgotten to take down her information. Luckily for her, Sherri Ward seemed to be more on top of things than she was.

 

A: Yeah, that’s fine! How are you?

 

S: Oh, fine. Just the usual—Daryl’s reading over some report, and I’m trying to get his attention and failing. I just needed someone else to talk to. Besides him, lol.

 

Angie glanced over at Nick, who was seated on the couch next to her, his head buried in a manila folder as he rifled through stacks of papers.

 

A: Yeah, that’s relatable.

 

“Hey. Hun. Nick.” Angie reached over with the tip of her toe, and poked him in the arm.

 

“Hmm?” He looked up at her for the first time in hours. Ever since he’d gotten home, carrying the huge stack of folders and papers—and one large blue binder—Nick had been completely engrossed in work.

 

“Let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving.”

 

“Can you go without me, babe? I really need to finish these.” With that said, Nick returned to whatever it was he was reading, scribbling something down on the paper before removing it from the folder to read the next one. “They’ve got me doing all this grunt work. A special fucking thank you from the Chief for going viral.”

 

Angie sighed grudgingly. It wasn’t fair to be upset with him for having more work than she did. Her job ended when she clocked out, his didn’t.

 

A: Hey, you hungry? Let’s go get something to eat.

 

S: You know what? I’m in. Let me see if Daryl will just keep an eye on Sophia.

 

“I’m going to grab something to eat with Sherri, then.” Angie replied, standing up from the couch, stretching. It was early evening still, just after six. It was still light outside, though that would be changing soon. Angie ran a hand through her kinky hair, shaking out any little tangles she’d caused by leaning her head back against the couch. It had gotten longer, coming down past her shoulders.

 

“Where are you going?” Nick looked up at her again, and Angie knew he was only asking so that he could request a snack on her way home. She grinned.

 

“I dunno. Chipotle, probably. Want me to bring you back a burrito?”

 

“Two?” He wheedled, wrapping his arms around her hips to drag her forward. He pressed a kiss to the exposed skin of her belly, where her crop top ended above her sweatpants.

 

“Oh my god, okay, two burritos. Anything else?” She asked, and Nick smiled against her skin before nipping her lightly.

 

“Yeah. Give me your panties.”

 

“What?! Nick I am not giving you my—”

 

“It’s not like anyone can see. Just leave them with me. Please?” Though the expression on his face was downright wicked, his eyes were earnest.

 

“Why?” Angie asked suspiciously, pursing her lips.

 

Nick blushed a little, the white spots on his cheeks turning crimson. “You’re about to start your period, right?” he asked, inhaling deeply as he pressed his nose against her belly.

 

“Um, well, yeah. I think so.”

 

“You just… you smell really good. Right now. And, you won’t be here, so…”

 

“Nick Jakoby are you asking me to leave my panties so you can sniff them while I’m gone?” Angie asked incredulously, her eyes wide. It wasn’t that she was unwilling—this is weirdly hot—it was more that she was surprised. Nick in the bedroom and Nick outside of the bedroom were two fairly distinct entities, and she wasn’t used to them meshing. At all. But, ever since the fight with Jeremy—who was apparently still in the hospital—Nick had been… different. Not in the sense that he’d become a different person, he’d just been…open. More open about how he felt, how his instincts were affecting him. Angie liked the new honesty, thought it had led her directly into this predicament.

 

“Well when you say it like that it sounds weird.” He grumbled, pressing his face against her skin. “If it’s too weird, you don’t have to. Forget I asked.” The tips of his sensitive ears were pink, and suddenly Angie felt bad about her rather visceral reaction. It wasn’t the weirdest thing she’d ever been asked to do, and due to Nick’s weird hangups about scent, she could certainly understand. But… did it have to be her panties?

 

“No, no, it’s not… well, it is a little weird, but not like, bad weird.” Angie replied. Nick pressed a gentle kiss to her belly in response. I wonder if every orc dude asks his partner to leave their underwear when they’re in heat. Nick’s embarrassed gold eyes met hers. The last thing she wanted was for him to feel ashamed or embarrassed of his needs. They’d been dating for the better part of a year, and this was the first time he’d asked her anything like that. “I’ll leave them, but you definitely owe me. Next time we go to your parents, we’re stopping at that sushi place with the bubble tea. And you can’t ‘we got food at the house’ me!” Nick chuckled lightly before nodding. He released her from his grip somewhat reluctantly, but he didn’t protest as Angie headed down the hall toward the bathroom, intent on giving him what he wanted.

 

Once inside, she shimmied out of her loose sweats, tugging her lacy boy shorts down her thighs. If she was being honest, she couldn’t imagine they smelled pleasant—she’d worked all day in them, only to come home and collapse on the couch after shrugging out of her uniform. She’d intended to shower, but, well, laziness had gotten the best of her.

 

I guess if he thought I smelled bad, he wouldn’t be requesting my underwear, Angie thought to herself, sniffing them lightly, trying to determine what made her scent so appealing. When she’d dressed again, Angie headed back into the living room, before tossing her still warm panties to Nick, who caught them easily. He brought them to his nose immediately, his eyelids drooping as he inhaled.

 

Angie hadn’t expected him to do that, and her jaw dropped open in surprise at his candidness. She also didn’t expect the warm rush to the apex of her thighs at the sight of him burying his nose in the lacy folds of her panties. Nick’s nostrils flared again—but this time, Angie was sure it was because of her, and not the scrap of cloth he held in his hands. He turned luminous eyes on her, and she swallowed dryly.

 

“I better go.” Her voice came out a little strangled, and she cleared her throat before turning on her heel smartly and exiting the room.

 

Before he gets up and stops me.

 

“I’ll be back with dinner a little later.” Nick growled in response, and Angie felt her stomach tighten. Stop that! We’re trying to leave, she told herself emphatically, hurriedly snatching her car keys off of the beat up hall table as she passed. Keep pumping out those hormones and Nick’ll be yanking the door off the car to get to us. Angie successfully made it out the door and down the steps without being accosted by him—accost is a rather strong word, considering I’d have gleefully participated—and her phone buzzed in her pocket. It was Sherri, checking in.

 

S: I’m leaving now. Where are we meeting?

 

A: Same. Chipotle? The one on Manning.

 

S: Works for me

 

Angie headed out of the lobby, having confirmed where she was going. Her phone buzzed again, and thinking it was Sherri, she picked it up, unlocking it.

 

It was Nick.

 

N: Don’t take too long.

 

Angie felt her cheeks warm, and for a moment, she briefly considered canceling on Sherri. No. That would be such a shitty thing to do. Nick can wait. Angie sent back a winking smiley, before pulling out onto the road. At the first stoplight, she paused to adjust her seat. Every time Nick drove her car, he never put the seat back where she liked it—or fixed the mirrors. The longer they lived together, the more Angie was privy to his habits, his peculiarities. One of which apparently being that he likes to drive my car with the damn seat a whole mile back from the wheel.

 

The light changed, and Angie took off, mentally reminding herself not to speed. It wouldn’t do for her to get pulled over—Nick would never hear the end of it. He was still dealing with the fallout of what had happened at the supermarket—which they’d not been back to since. Angie suspected he was shielding her from the worst of what was going on at work; he was doing double the paperwork—which Angie suspected had been foisted off on him by angry fellow officers—and he was spending almost an entire extra two hours out on patrol nights.

 

Angie tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she pursed her lips. Nick had grinned, telling her he could handle his own job, thank you very much, and Angie had known that beneath his gracious smile, he knew as well as she did that it was an unfair punishment. What had happened with her ex hadn’t been his fault, but no one cared. He was an orc. Whatever they could blame him for, they would.

 

 

Angie was so lost in her thoughts, that she didn’t notice the familiar black car just two vehicles behind her.

 

The parking lot was about half full, indicating Angie had arrived just in time for the dinner rush. She could see Sherri inside, already in line. Angie entered, waving.

 

“Hey, Sherri!”

 

“Oh, good! I was worried you’d gotten stuck in traffic, I was just texting you to ask if you wanted me to order for you.”

 

Angie looked at the line behind her, and grimaced. “Why don’t you do that anyway? I can just give you cash.” The older woman nodded, before Angie told her what she wanted and headed past the entry line to find a clean table. There was one by the window, and she sat, claiming it. She could see out into the parking lot, and reflexively checked for her car. It was where she’d left it, of course, on the other side of the lot where there were less cars. A few spaces away, was a black car that hadn’t been there before. She frowned. It looked familiar, but she couldn’t place her finger on why. Or why the thought of it left a sour taste in her mouth.

 

“That worked out pretty perfectly.” Sherri sat, placing the tray with their food on it in the center of the table.

 

“Yeah, for real. I have to bring two burritos home for Nick. Imagine how weird those cashiers are going to look at me.” Angie replied, gesturing at the people behind the counter. “So, how’re things?”

 

Sherri shrugged before smearing a bite of her burrito with the guacamole she’d ordered on the side. “Same old, same old. Sophia’s hanging out with her super cool dad probably eating way too much pizza, and not doing her homework.” Angie took a bite of her own food. “How are you?”

 

“Ugh.” Angie replied, and Sherri nodded, her face understanding. “First that fucking news clip,” she snarled, taking a vicious bite of her burrito. Angie still hadn’t seen it herself. Her face was mostly healed from Jeremy, though she still had a rather ugly blue spot just under her left eye where he’d struck her. “And now, Nick’s the fucking precinct workhorse. And he won’t even talk to me about it! Just keeps saying he’s fine, he’s fine.” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could even consider stopping them. Sherri was the only person she could talk to about this who would really get it—not to mention since the viral video, the vast majority of Angie’s friends had mysteriously gone MIA, either not wanting to be associated with her, or too wrapped up in their own shit to worry for a millisecond about what happened to her. Sherri looked thoughtful for a moment, before sighing.

 

“You’re not going to want to hear this, but there’s nothing you can do. I mean, you know that, right?” Angie scowled. She was right—she didn’t want to hear that. At all. “Don’t look at me like that, I’m right. There’s nothing you can do. You know he’s innocent, I know he’s innocent, but to them? He broke ranks. Made the department look bad. The first orc cop’s not supposed to be getting into street brawls with his human girlfriend’s ex.” Sherri chewed thoughtfully. “But once the punishment period is over, everything will go right back to normal.

 

“I hope so,” Angie replied. Since he’d gone back to work, Nick had been almost overwhelmed with assignments, and it didn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. He was already busy enough without the additional workload. Even living together didn’t seem to make her feel better. “How do you know this, anyway?”

 

“Daryl’s been on the short end of the stick once or twice. And he’s watched them freeze out other people enough times to know what’s up.” Sherri reached over to grasp Angie’s shoulder comfortingly. It wasn’t fair, but nothing in life—especially her life—seemed to go fairly.

 

After all, what idiot moved to California from nowhere Georgia expecting a big break? “You need to focus on something else. Nick’s a grown man. He can handle himself.” Angie almost protested, but didn’t bother. She knew Nick could handle himself; he’d been doing it long before she’d been in the picture, and likely long after she was out of it, if they ever broke up. The thing was, Nick was a pushover. At least, when it came to certain things. She could tell he tolerated a lot of shit at work that she herself would certainly have raised a fuss over—but Angie was human, and therein laid the difference.

 

It hurt her to see him being mistreated. Angie took a sip of her drink, her eyes wandering out the window and into the parking lot. Some of the cars had cleared out, but the black sedan was still there, just three or four spaces away. She couldn’t see anyone inside through the heavily tinted windows, but she couldn’t shake the feeling someone was inside.

 

“I heard you say something about wanting a job change last time I saw you, I think. Any leads on that?” Sherri asked, leaning forward. Angie scoffed, shaking her head.

 

“Zero. Surprisingly, no one wants to hire you when you’ve only got a high school diploma.” It was embarrassingly true—Angie had, in fact, begun a secret job search. Nick was too preoccupied with work to notice and commander it. With her luck, he’d probably grab the reigns of that tired old horse and demand she quit her current job and let him shoulder all of the financial responsibility. Nope. Not fucking happening. Sherri rolled her eyes, following it with an understanding look. “How’s the new place? You guys moved yet?”

 

The other woman beamed, shaking her head enthusiastically. “No, we move next week! I’m almost finished packing up the entire house. Daryl helped a little, but you know how men can be.” Angie nodded, smiling sympathetically. She did know how men could be. Lucky for her, Nick wasn’t that kind of man. “Obviously when we’re unpacked, you’re both invited over for dinner,” Sherri replied, and Angie laughed. “You’re laughing, but I’m serious. Being fully unpacked is something to celebrate. I found a box from when we moved in eight years ago. Of course it was all Daryl’s shit that he ‘forgot’ to unpack.” Sherri made show of doing air quotes with her fingers, and Angie choked on her drink laughing. She’d forgotten how nice it could be just to shoot shit with someone who wasn’t Nick.

 

“Ugh. It’s getting late. If I don’t leave soon, I’m sure Nick will come looking for me,” Angie replied, gathering their trash onto the plastic tray as she got ready to go. The other woman mirrored her movements, gathering her things and searching for her car keys.

 

“Yeah, me too. For a man who forgets to call as often as Daryl does, you’d think he’d know the difference between ‘missing’ and ‘busy’.” Suddenly, Sherri’s head popped up, pausing in her rummage through her purse. “Hey. I had a thought.”

 

 

“Uh, okay?” Angie quirked an eyebrow. “About… what, exactly?”

 

“Oh. Jobs. You should go back to school!”  Angie frowned and shook her head, but Sherri waved her off and kept talking. “Like you said. They won’t even look at you for these entry level positions without a degree, so why not go get one?”

 

Angie scoffed. “Oh, I forgot I had forty grand stashed away somewhere for a rainy day.” She retorted sarcastically, her pretty mouth set in a frown. In hindsight, going to college would have been a wiser choice than following a pipe dream across the country for nothing. But she hadn’t had the money then, and she didn’t have it now.

 

“No, it’s doable! Plus you’re a resident now. And besides, who says you’ve got to go to one of the big name colleges? My sister’s a college advisor at a high school, I’ll give her a call.”

 

Angie shook her head emphatically. “No. It’s just not—”

 

“It’s a phone call, what could it hurt?” Sherri wheedled, her tone cajolingly saccharine. I guess it is just a phone call.

 

“Fine. I guess it’s not a big deal. Just to check.”

 

“Just to check,” Sherri echoed, though Angie got the distinct feeling her friend was crossing her fingers under the table. Rather than argue her into submission, Angie said goodbye again, and ordered Nick’s dinner at the counter before heading out into the parking lot. Sherri beeped her horn once as she passed by on her way out of the lot. Angie waved, reaching into the pocket of her sweats for her keys. It was evening now, and it was starting to get dark.

 

 

She unlocked the car, placing her to-go bag on the passenger seat before reaching for the seatbelt. Angie turned the key in the ignition, before reaching for the gear shift to move out of park, and paused.

 

There was something taped to the windshield.

 

She hadn’t seen it on her way over—the paper was black. Unbuckling her seatbelt slowly, Angie opened the door a crack. She reached out, snatching the paper off of the car before slamming the door shut, locking it. Reflexively, she glanced into the backseat, checking for uninvited passengers.

 

There were none.

 

With trembling fingers, she unfolded the note. The letters were white, stark against the black paper. The message was short and concise, the threat plainly worded.

 

You are evil’s whore.

You will be cleansed.

 

 

For a moment, she was stricken with fear. It was just like at her apartment—only worse, because this time, there was no Nick on his way to her. She swallowed thickly, her eyes darting around the lot as she searched fruitlessly for the culprit. No. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel as she forced her eyes shut. I’m not going to be fucking intimidated by cowards.

 

The thought that someone had recognized her—most likely from the video—and had left that note…was shocking and made her gut churn with fear and anxiety. Suddenly, her eyes widened. The car! She hadn’t noticed it then, but the sedan… it was the same one Nick’s coworker… Yamahara had been driving.

 

Her eyes narrowed, and the fear burned into anger. She tugged her phone out of her pocket, tapping away at the screen until Nick’s contact info came up.

 

A: More notes. Starting to feel like I’m the one getting targeted.

 

She sent a picture of the paper to Nick. He responded almost immediately, the symbol for him typing a response coming up before the picture had even finished sending.

 

N: Come home right now.

 

A: I’m already on my way.

 

N: Did you see anyone leave the note? Did anyone else touch it?

 

A: No. I don’t know. I can’t drive if I’m texting Nick. And don’t call me either! I’m on my way. See you soon.

 

Nick sent another message, but Angie didn’t open it. She didn’t feel safe sitting in that parking lot now, even in her car with the doors locked tightly around her. She headed back to the apartment, glancing at the rearview mirror every few seconds, making sure she wasn’t being followed. It was key that she hadn’t seen Yamahara putting the note on her car. But she knew it was him—it had been his car, Angie was sure of it.

 

Nick was waiting for her outside when she pulled up, his face dark with worry. Angie grabbed his dinner, an exited the vehicle. Without preamble, he walked up to her, enveloping her in his arms as he buried his nose in her hair. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah. Just… shaken up I guess.” Her voice was muffled by his sweatshirt. He held her tightly for a moment, before sighing and relaxing his grip. “Come on, let’s go inside.”

 

The apartment was much as she’d left it, with Nick’s paperwork spread out across the couch. Since her spot had been vacated, he’d taken that too. Manila folders and loose papers were scattered everywhere.

 

“It’s like an office work bomb exploded in here.” She muttered, but Nick ignored her comment. She could tell he was mentally cataloguing everything; her movements, her tone. He kept inhaling deeply, as though checking her scent for any changes. “I saw Yamahara’s car. I’m sure of it. He followed me. Again.”

 

“You didn’t see him put that on your car, did you?” Nick asked, sitting down on the one free space before shoving his things unceremoniously onto the floor. Angie frowned, shaking her head.

 

“No.”

 

“Damn.”

 

“But I saw his car. I know it was him!” Angie knew she was repeating herself now, but there was no way. No way he could do this and get away with it just because he was a cop, right?

 

“Did you get the plates?” Nick looked at her hopefully, and more than anything, she wished she could say yes. It was him, she knew it was him—but without proof, it was their word against his, and somehow, Angie doubted that anyone would be eager side with them.

 

“…No.” Angie answered negatively again, her shoulders drooping. She’d been feeling—not confident, but certainly sure that Nick could do something. Yamahara had followed them once before to the restaurant, and she knew Nick had called that in—or tried to. Angie frowned, recalling the chief’s reluctance to act. She sighed, rubbing her temples. “I’m sorry.”

 

“For what?” Nick replied, placing a comfortingly warm hand on her thigh. “Ang, you didn’t do anything wrong. He clenched his other fist, frowning. “I want to know why he’s fucking following you. It’s me he has a goddamn problem with.”

 

 

“Yeah, me too.” It was true—Yamahara hadn’t even know Angie existed before he’d followed them to the restaurant. So why was he targeting her now? “Think it was him that put the other notes up on the door?” Nick looked thoughtful for a moment, and then scowled, nodding.

 

“I don’t know. He seems to have a penchant for leaving disgusting messages. But I don’t think he knew I was even in the picture until that night.” Angie leaned back against the sofa tiredly, shutting her eyes. Nick kissed her temple. She could barely hear him, his voice was so quiet. She felt, more than heard, the words murmured against her skin.

 

 

“Mausan avreaukure.” It was more than a statement, it was a declaration of his devotion. From what Angie understood about Orkish—she’d only been to two lessons so far with Ula, and she was still learning the fucking alphabet— it was a fairly straightforward language. Not a lot of flowery prose, and lots of direct statements whose meanings changed as the culture evolved. He was saying more than that he loved her—he was saying that he would protect her. Treasure her.  “He’s not going to get away with this. First thing in the morning, I’m talking to the chief again.”

 

It was reassuring, at least to know that Nick was nothing if not dogged. He wasn’t going to let this go, and that at least offered her some comfort. “I know he won’t,” Angie replied, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “You’re a good cop.” They sat in silence for a moment, before she sighed.

 

“You should eat something before it gets too late. I’m going for a shower.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick paused for a moment as he put on his uniform. Another long day, which would no doubt be made longer by the extensive argument he’d shortly be having with the chief about Yamahara.  Angie was still getting ready, dragging through the motions. He couldn’t blame her. Angie had hated her job before, but now it seemed increased exponentially. Though the ruckus around their viral stint seemed to be dying down, her friends were still avoiding her, and Terry was giving her worse and worse shifts at work.

 

He exited the bathroom, peeking into their bedroom, where Angie was still in her underwear as she applied her makeup. She glanced at him in the mirror. “Hey, I forgot to ask you last night. Can you, uh, put those panties in my hamper? I want to do laundry later.”

 

Nick tried to keep his face neutral, but failed, feeling the color rise in his cheeks. He’d been hoping she’d forgotten. It was embarrassing, but something in him had been…soothed, having such a strong source of her scent nearby.

 

“Sure.” He said stiffly, and reflexively touched the pocket of his unbuttoned shirt.

 

“Wait, you have them on you? Now?” she asked incredulously, turning to face him. Her eyebrows were raised in shock, and her lips were slightly parted. She’d seen the motion, and connected the dots. Nick’s shot at depositing them in the hamper at the foot of the bed undetected had been shattered.

 

“I, well—”

 

“You were taking my panties to work?”

 

“You don’t have to say it like that! It’s your scent,” he snapped defensively, crossing his arms over his chest. Angie giggled, which somehow made him feel worse. It was like salt in the wound—he was embarrassed enough by the bestial urge as it was. “It’s calming.”

 

“Yeah, no, I get it, I just… you’re taking my panties to work, Nick.”

 

“Look. Your scent’s the strongest in two places. Your throat, and, well…”

 

“My pussy?” Angie grinned solicitously, tracing a finger down the strap of the black bra she was wearing. the motion was so seamless he almost couldn’t tell that it was calculated. He swallowed thickly.

 

“Yeah.”

 

It’s a ploy. Don’t fall for it. You’ll be late for work, and Ward’ll be pissed as fuck.

 

Angie licked her lips, playing with a strand of her hair. Fuck. “So you were just planning to walk around with them in your shirt pocket all day?” She crossed her legs, her thick thighs resting one on top of the other as she leaned forward, resting her chin on her fist. The rational part of his brain—the smallest part, current situation considered—desperately reminded him that he would, without a doubt, be late for work if he did what he was considering doing.

 

Fuck.

 

“I was.” He admitted, his voice low.

 

“What were you going to do with them?” Angie was teasing him now, and Nick couldn’t quite find it in himself to be irritated with her. “Sniff them when you were alone?” Though her voice held an amused lilt, he could detect the changes in her scent. Minx.

 

Nick nodded boldly, moving forward to tug her to her feet. He growled, his hands tangling in the messy bun she’d pinned her curls into.

 

“Tease.”

 

“You like it,” She replied smartly, and Nick couldn’t disagree. He unhooked her bra with deft fingers, licking his lips in appreciation as her nipples puckered once exposed. He plucked one, grinning when she whimpered. Nick couldn’t hear the warning voice at all now, and as Angie’s scent bloomed around him, he found he didn’t particularly care.

 

He pressed his mouth to hers, sucking her tongue into his mouth. From the first cycle she’d had while they were together, it had been one of his most private desires. If Angie was a wagyu steak on a good day, on her period she was fucking caviar. Her scent spicy and alluring, making him want to do nothing other than bury himself inside her. He backed her up and her knees hit the bed. She sat almost instantly, looking up at him with hooded eyes.

 

“I love it.”

 

 

He kicked out of his smartly pressed uniform pants to lean over her, his eyes half shut with pleasure as he inhaled her.

 

“You smell so good,” he growled, grinning as Angie’s impatient fingers went to work on the sleeveless shirt he wore underneath his uniform.

 

“Off.”

 

Nick obliged, tugging off the offending fabric. Her chest heaved, the scent of her arousal making him giddy. Her lidded brown eyes watched him as he kicked out of his briefs too, exposing his hardened cock to her gaze. “Oreciouuk avhaumn…" He traced his fingers along the seam of her panties, which were pleasingly damp. He grinned. “Doesn’t take much, does it, Ang?” Before she could loose a scathing reply, Nick slipped his fingers beneath the hem, pressing them against her swollen clit.

 

“Nick—!”

 

Her voice was a breathless whimper, his name on her lips almost as big of an aphrodisiac as the blooming scent of her arousal around them. Nick groaned, dragging his rough tongue down the exposed skin of her belly, stopping just above her covered mound. Unable to help himself, Nick pressed his face into the side of her thigh, burying his nose his her folds. He licked at her through the thin lacy material of her thong, making Angie cry out in surprise and pleasure. Uncaring of her approval, nick tore easily through the material, exposing her juicy folds to him without obstruction.

 

 

Being so close to the source of her intoxicating scent was heady, making him almost lightheaded. The delicate folds of her cunt were swollen, both from her impending monthlies and his attentions. He spread her open gently with his fingers, his tongue lapping at her throbbing entrance.

 

“Oh fuck, Nick,” Angie whined, her hips trembling. Nick wrapped his lips around her clit, sliding a single, thick finger into her clenching pussy. So tight… She was so wet already, and Nick drank down every single drop eagerly. He hooked his finger behind her pelvic bone, and Angie shuddered, her voice breaking.

 

“Almost,” He crooned, laving another long lick against her sensitive clit. “Give it to me, Angie.” He added a second digit to the first as he wrapped his lips around her clit and sucked hard. Angie’s jaw went slack as she shuddered against him. She threw her head back against the mattress as she came, her thighs tightening around Nick’s wide shoulders.

 

She laid against the bed bonelessly as he freed himself, licking his lips. Her cheeks were red as she regarded him savoring the evidence of her orgasm on his face. “Does that… taste good?” She asked as he prowled up her body, trailing hot kisses up every inch of her exposed skin, paying special attention to the old scar on her shoulder.

 

He grinned against her throat. “So good.” Nick lined the head of his cock up with her entrance, rubbing it against her enticingly. Angie arched her hips, trying to encourage him to slip inside. “Jiak kij goaumn avo jargza mausan gajol shal lat, oreciouuk avhaumn.” He growled, the syllables barely discernible even by his own ears.

 

He pushed, the flat, rounded head of his erection pressing into the slick warmth of her still clenching wetness. Nick groaned, his head lolling back as he relished the feel of her. Never fucking gets old. Angie stroked his shoulders encouragingly, digging her nails into his flesh as he began to move. There was nothing he could compare this to, rocking in and out of her deliciously tight center, hearing his name rolling from her tongue again and again. He supported himself with a single arm as he palmed her breast, pinching and pulling her nipple as he thrust into her.

 

He could feel her clenching around his cock, her walls milking him as she drew closer and closer to the peak he drove her toward. Nick dug the fingers of his free hand into her plump ass, holding her in place as he pounded into her. Angie lifted her hips to meet his thrusts, crying out in pleasure as he lowered his head to her chest, scraping his teeth against her skin before nipping at her throat.

 

He’d never wanted to do this with any of the other women he’d been with—but with Angie it was instinctual. He had to drive his teeth into the creamy skin at the base of her throat, and Angie for her part never seemed to mind. He growled again, feeling his own end approaching rapidly as she whimpered.

 

“Mine,” he grunted, the words hot against Angie’s throat. “Mine.”  He repeated, the word more forceful as he snapped his hips against hers, feeling her pussy clench around him as she came a second time.

 

“Yours!” Angie sobbed as she raked her fingers down his back in her completion. Nick moaned, pumping his hips a few more times before he pulled out of her, thick jets of his cum pooling on the swollen lips of her pussy. Nick shuddered before pushing inside her one last time, kissing her forehead as they panted together.

 

Angie sighed, snuggling down onto the bed, her thighs relaxing on either side of him.

 

“We are so late.”

 

Nick’s phone buzzed—it was Ward no doubt, wondering where he was. He eased out of Angie, feeling almost guilty at the pleasure he felt at seeing their combined juices at her entrance, sliding slowly down her puffy lips.

 

 

W: Where are you?? Situation. Get here. Now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

 

 

Chapter Text

 Chapter 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bar was empty, save for a few brooding men in Janine’s section. Angie leaned against the wall in the wait station, waiting idly for another set of customers to enter—though the way things were looking, her shift would end without her getting sat even once.

 

She toyed idly with her phone, Sherri’s words ringing in her ears. You should go back to school! Angie frowned. It wasn’t doable. Wasn’t a realistic goal, especially since she didn’t have the money. And speaking of money… The way things were going at Lopez’s, she wouldn’t be making rent this month. As it was, she was already almost five hundred dollars short, and the month was almost over.

 

She’d been late on rent before, but now that Nick was practically living with her, she didn’t want to draw the ire of her landlord. Late rent was one thing, but another person living with her? Another person who’s an Orc, she thought wryly, pursing her lips.

 

Whoever Sherri had said she would call hadn’t contacted her yet, and Angie was torn between being relieved and disappointed. Her thoughts were suddenly drawn to Nick, and her stomach clenched, remembering that morning.

 

“I’ve gotta go, babe. It’s important.” He’d shoved his muscular legs back into his uniform pants after wiping himself off with a towel that he tossed into the hamper. “Ward’s worried.” Angie had still been dazed; laying on the bed still shaking from their encounter. It wasn’t like Nick to disentangle himself from her so quickly. Nor was it in character for him to kiss her briefly on her forehead as he swept out of the apartment, his face a blur of emotions.

 

She knew he wasn’t telling her everything—there was a crucial piece of the puzzle that she was missing, some integral fact that would snap everything into place with terrifying clarity. She hated feeling like Nick was keeping something from her, especially after… after he’d promised not to. Angie sighed, searching for her boss before opening her phone. She couldn’t help but feel like there was something she didn’t know. Yamahara… what did he want? Why was he harassing them? She didn’t doubt that Nick had told her the truth—he was a racist who hated him, and by extension her—but there was something else.

 

A: You okay? You left in a hurry this morning.

 

She waited for him to see the text message, but after a few minutes of inaction, she locked the screen and shoved the phone into her apron. He’s probably working.

 

Yamahara following her when she was solo had been more terrifying than she’d wanted to admit. She knew Nick thought of his brute strength as a curse, but… he made her feel safe. He still checked her over with questing fingers and nervous eyes every time they made love. And though at first it had annoyed her—didn’t he trust her to know her own limits?—now she simply considered it part and parcel of his affection.

 

“Eyes up, Nicholson. Stop texting your pet and go get your table. You’ve been sat.” Terry’s crude voice snapped her out of her thoughts. She frowned. My pet? She clenched her fists. Maybe Nick’s temper was rubbing off on her—because she suddenly found herself picturing pounding the absolute shit out of his face, until her knuckles bloodied. She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, before training them on him cooly.

 

“Don’t talk about Nick that way.”

 

Terry smirked, flashing yellowed teeth. “Oh, is that his name?” He asked mockingly, his voice grating against her nerves. It’s just your period, Ang. Don’t let him get to you. Angie squared her shoulders. She wasn’t going to let it get out of hand. But she wasn’t going to sit there and let him talk about her Nick like that. Not when she could say something about it. “I didn’t know you named pigs.” Angie felt the anger burning red hot inside of her. Terry was jealous, that much was obvious. Ever since they’d gone viral, he’d been even more abusive and short with her, and it wasn’t hard to figure out why. Terry had always been guilty of wandering hands and inappropriate touching, but this blatant nastiness… this was new.

 

And Angie wasn’t going to stand for it.

 

“Talk about him like that again, and I’ll knock your teeth in.” Angie was clenching her fist around the shitty POS system she used to input her orders. It’s weight in her hand had her thinking of using it to club the man standing in front of her. “I fucking mean it.” She hadn’t meant to threaten him—she’d meant to say something about his racism, something about the bigotry they were constantly dealing with—but she was tired.

 

She was tired of explaining it, of looking for sympathy, of justifying the beauty of what they’d found together to people who didn’t even want to understand it. What was even more shocking was that she’d meant every word. Angie wasn’t someone who was prone to violence, but in that moment, she wanted nothing more than to smash that machinery into Terry’s nose and hear the bones crack.

 

Nick is definitely rubbing off on me.

 

Terry, for his part, looked intimidated, but not cowed. “Threats now? That’s it, Nicholson, you’re—”

 

“Fired?” Angie snarled, slamming the POS down onto the metal counter. She was certain that whomever was in the bar could hear the altercation, but she didn’t care. She was done caring. “You can’t fire me, Terry, because I quit.” Angie threw her apron down onto the counter and grabbed her purse. “Fuck this shit.”

 

As she shouldered past him, Terry lost his balance, falling backward against the doorway. “I should call the cops! That’s assault!”

 

Angie rounded on him, grinning. “Call them. In fact, give them my name. I’m sure Nick will respond right away.” She turned on her heel and headed out of the bar, feeling freer than she had in years.

 

I could have felt this good months ago if I’d just listened to Nick in the first place.

 

Her heart beating wildly, she leaned against her car, tugging her phone out of her purse to check it.

 

N: Yeah I’m okay. Work stuff.

N: Actually, can you meet me at the precinct when you get off?

 

A:  Sure. Any reason in particular?

 

N: I’ll tell you when you get here.

 

Angie raised an eyebrow. He’d never asked her to meet him at work before—was something up with his car?

 

A: Guess what I just did.

 

N: ?

 

A: I quit my job.

 

N: You quit?? What brought that on? Wait, you know what, just come now. We’ll talk.

 

A: You have time to talk at work?

 

N: Special circumstances. I’ll see you soon?

 

A: On my way.

 

 

 

 

 

——

 

Nick shifted uncomfortably, staring into the eyes of the last person he wanted to see again. Well, both of them were the absolute last people he wanted to see just then, but especially the Elf.

 

Kandomere looked just as bored as Nick remembered from their last encounter, his shark’s teeth hidden behind his tight lipped expression. The chief stood awkwardly behind them, his face an exact mirror of both Nick and his partner’s discomfort.

 

This was the last thing I was expecting.

 

When Ward had texted him that morning, Nick hadn’t been sure of the emergency—what could be so pressing on a Thursday morning? But when he’d arrived, and seen the unfortunately familiar faces of the Task Force agents, he’d known.

 

It’s about the Wand.

 

Kandomere’s silvery eyes made Nick nervous, though he supposed his own had a similar effect. He cleared his throat, and asked a question that had Nick almost falling off of his chair.

 

“What do you know about Internal Affairs agent Tanaka Yamahara?” What’d Yamahara have to do with anything? He had to have something to do with a Wand—at the very least something to do with the one they’d encountered two years before. Otherwise, the agents would never have bothered them.

 

Nick swallowed thickly. I know he’s stalking me and Angie.

 

“He’s… he’s been bothering me. Us. My girlfriend and I.” He fumbled in getting the words out. “Following us.”

 

The Elf managed to somehow look both thoughtful and irritated. “Following you.” He gave Nick an expectant look.

 

“He tried reopening the Ching case,” Ward supplied, his sure voice cutting through the tension. “Denied, for obvious reasons. At first we thought he was just trying to set up some kind of frame-up, but…”

 

“We believe he knows about the Wand.” Montehugh, Kandomere’s burly ginger-haired human partner spoke next, cutting Ward short. “We’ve been tapping his phone since he requested to reopen the file. For obvious reasons.” He repeated the phrase. Though his face was expressionless, Nick could hear the smirk in his tone.

 

“How? How could he know about it?”

 

Kandomere shrugged, as though that particular bit of information was unimportant—or above their pay grade. “It’s possible he heard the rumors before we quieted them. In any case, this is a delicate situation.”

 

Delicate because the easy thing to do would be to kill all of them, though Nick doubted the Elf would want to get Orc blood all over his nice suit. Nick wasn’t stupid—he knew what this was about. It was as much about farming them for potentially useful information as it was about risk assessment. The wrong answers would get each and every one of them in the ground with a neat bullet hole between their eyes.

 

“The threats you and…” Kandomere paused, as though he’d forgotten her name.

 

“Angie.”

 

“The threats against you and Angie. Have you documented them?” Nick nodded.

 

“Mostly vandalism. Written threats.”

 

The two task force agents shared a look, and in turn, Nick glanced at Ward, who shrugged helplessly. He realized—somewhat belatedly—that this wasn’t about Ward in the slightest.

 

It was him they were interested in.

 

“Saying what, exactly?”

 

“Calling me a pig. It’s… Its been mostly about Angie, actually.” The words flashed brightly in his mind, making him tighten his grip on the arms of his chair until the wood creaked in his grasp. “Whore. They like calling her that.”

 

Kandomere nodded, before jotting something down in a tiny notebook. “I trust you’ve heard of Humans First.” The name made bile rise in Nick’s throat. Who hadn’t heard of them? The chief fielded that question, answering gruffly.

 

“Of course.”

 

They’d protested Nick’s joining of the police force, much the same as they’d protested every single equality or intermingling event since the 50’s. It was a small, but relatively strong and member’s exclusive group promoting what they called “human rights”. To him, of course, it sounded like all the same supremacy nonsense with a new set of speakers.

 

It was on most police department’s terrorist watchlists, though lately they’d been surprisingly quiet. Nick had expected to hear something from them, especially after what had happened at the grocery store. Interspecies mixing was likely very high on their list of “don’ts.” It was perfect fodder for them—“Look how violent they are! All the more reason humans don’t belong with these brutes!” But there hadn’t been any reports of racist protests in the works, and now almost a month later, Nick had almost expected not to have to deal with them.

 

Just my luck.

 

 

“The threats you’ve received are in line with ones they’ve left before.” He produced a manila folder, full of glossy black and white photographs. Nick shook them out into his lap before going through them.

 

Kandomere stood from his seat on the edge of the chief’s desk, and walked around behind Nick. “Miami.” he replied, pointing to the picture he held in his fingers; it was the outside of a building, and it had been defaced in a similar manner to Angie’s door; discriminatory messages splashed across the aging brick in spray paint. “Boston.” He pointed at another. This one was a picture of several notes, some of which were like the ones that had been taped to Angie’s car, white print on black paper. “Grand Rapids. And Brooklyn.”

 

They were all the same, notes, vandalism, property destruction. Until…

 

There were three of them. His hands trembled as he lifted the glossy photographs closer to his eyes, memorizing them. The last thing he wanted was to stare at the gruesome sights the pictures offered, but he had to know.

 

It was a little girl. It was clear she was a young orc, from the set of her shoulders, and the cheerleading uniform she wore. Couldn’t even be out of high school. She was strung between two poles, her legs and arms held open and away from her by heavy, metal chains. Probably iron.

 

Her throat had been slit, and there were dark bruises peppering her skin. Her face looked deformed, as though she’d been mercilessly beaten, and on her forehead, the word Whore had been branded into her flesh. His stomach heaved, and Nick closed his eyes, his hands tightening on the pictures until Kandomere cleared his throat.

 

“Those are crime scene photos, I’d appreciate if you didn’t damage them any further.”

 

He forced himself to relax. The next picture was a young man. Human. The same age, he assumed, from his letterman’s jacket. His eyes had been gouged out, and he’d likewise been branded, with Traitor singed into the skin just above his eyebrows. Nick gagged, before handing the photos back to Kandomere, unwilling to look further.

 

“What does this have to do with Angie?” He asked, his voice ragged. “Isn’t this out of your jurisdiction?” He settled his golden eyes on Montehugh, who regarded him just as cooly as Kandomere had. I wonder if he gave him pointers on how to come off as an emotionless terror?

 

“Nothing’s out of our jurisdiction,” he replied smoothly. “They want a Wand.”

 

And then everything clicked neatly into place.

 

“Yamahara’s in Human’s First.”

 

“Bingo.” Came Montehugh’s voice, and he raised an eyebrow, as though he expected Nick to make all the connections himself.

 

“They want the Wand. Tormenting the two of us… it’s just a sick bonus.”

 

Kandomere nodded. “You’ll want to move her, I imagine. For her protection.” Nick wanted to snarl, throw furniture, and plant his fist neatly through the thick wood of the Chief’s desk. Of course. Yamahara had known about them from the beginning. He’d known all of this from the beginning.

 

“I have a stupid question,” Ward piped up, leaning forward in his seat. “Has anybody… acquired this asshole yet? Anybody arrested him?”

 

Kandomere frowned. “We sent a team to his residence. He… he wasn’t there.”

 

“It was empty. Ransacked. Like he knew we were coming.”

 

The chair arm gave way underneath Nick’s grip, and it splintered in his hand. The loud crack brought everyone’s attention straight to him. “You’re telling me he’s out there? Plotting and unaccounted for?” His voice seemed to echo in the quiet room. No one answered, and Nick slammed his hand down on the desk hard enough to leave a dent in the wood. Did they not fucking get it? His mate was out there, unprotected. And completely unaware.

 

Not for the first time, Nick regretted not letting her in on absolutely everything. But now it was out of his control, spinning too wildly for him to grasp. He whipped out his phone, and upon seeing a new message from Angie, he opened it.

 

His eyes softened. Of course she was worried about him—even though it should have been the complete opposite. She quit her job?

 

“Tell her to come here.”

 

N: Just come now. We’ll talk.

 

“She’s on her way.” His hard eyes flicked up to Kandomere. “What are you doing about Yamahara?”

 

“If it was that easy to bust every magic worshipping cult in America, don’t you think we’d have done it already?” Montehugh snapped, frowning. “We’ve got squads roaming the city. When we know something, you’ll know something.”

 

Nick tossed the now useless chair arm onto the floor before standing. It wasn’t quite three yet, which meant Angie would probably be there soon, if she could avoid the midday traffic. What was he going to tell her?

 

Sorry baby. Remember the fucker that’s stalking us? Yeah, he’s hoping to torture the location of a fucking Wand out of us before brutally murdering us both. Want to go to dinner?

 

Nick began pacing back and forth across the tile flooring, oblivious to the many eyes watching his movements.

 

“Jakoby.” Ward’s hand on his shoulder brought him back, and he stopped in his tracks, turning to face his partner. “She’s gonna be fine. She’ll get here, you’ll tell her, she’ll yell at you, you’ll probably kiss or something else we don’t want to witness, and everything will be cool. Relax.”

 

Nick nodded absently. Angie’s upset was the least of his worries, if he were honest with himself. He’d kept the Wand from her for her own safety, and he knew she’d understand that. And regardless of that small fact, on the list of things he feared coming to pass, “Angelica being upset with me” ranked considerably lower than “Angelica being murdered”.

 

He’d felt much safer with himself as the issue. Now that he knew she too was running around with the target painted on her back, Nick almost longed for the days of secrecy, when no one had known who they were or what they were doing. At least, no one outside of their apartment building.

 

Suddenly, the chief’s intercom buzzed.

 

“Chief? You’ve got an Angie Nicholson here to see Jakoby. Is the meeting almost over?”

 

The older man’s tired expression deepened as he sighed. He pressed the response button and paused for a moment, swallowing thickly. “Send her in. It’s fine.” Nick turned to face the door, watching through the half drawn blinds as another officer—Parsons, by the looks of it—escorted her across the work area with the desks and toward the back of the room where the chief’s office was.

 

He was struck with the insane urge to throw open the door and rush to her, but he held himself in check—barely. At the sight of the other man’s hand on her shoulder, Nick bit back a growl. The danger they were in—quite suddenly, and seemingly without reason—had him on edge. That little feral part of his brain screamed to rip that hand right off, and present the bloodied scrap of flesh to his mate as a trophy, but Nick reigned himself in.

 

Her eyes lit on him and softened. She smiled, waving nervously. He’d been vague in the texts—he had no choice. He couldn’t have very well have told her everything that way. The door opened, and Nick could control himself no longer, grasping her hand and tugging her to his chest, rumbling. He couldn’t help pressing his nose briefly to her forehead, checking her scent for injury or sickness.

 

Perfect. As always.

 

The chief cleared his throat. “Jakoby.” Nick refused to feel embarrassed. He’d just learned someone was trying to fucking kill them. The least he’d do was feel bad about seeing his mate safe and secure.

 

When did I start calling her that?

 

He didn’t have time to think on it. Parsons excused himself, swallowing loudly. As soon as he heard the lock click, Nick turned to them, unconsciously placing himself between everyone else and Angie.

 

“Nice to finally meet you, Angie.” The chief smiled wanly. “I’m Gordon Daniels.”

 

Angie raised an eyebrow. “Nice to meet you. Am I… under arrest or something?” She glanced around the room. “Nick what’s going on?”

 

“Ang, you better sit down.”

 

 

“And when he reopened the case, we began monitoring.” Nick couldn’t tell if Kandomere’s strangely neutral tone was meant to soften the blow of his words, or if he was simply that detached from their predicament. Angie was gripping his hand tightly, her expression clouded and her brows furrowed. It was her processing face, the face she made when she received unsavory information, or bad news.

 

Nick knew it was caused by the latter.

 

They’d been brief, only giving her just enough information for her to understand. Nick knew this game, and though he had to play it in front of them, he’d tell her everything himself later. As soon as she’d entered, Kandomere and Montehugh had taken control of the conversation. They’d laid the facts out thusly;

 

There was a domestic disturbance two years ago, caused by a Wand. Responding officers Ward and Jakoby defended it from the Altamira, corrupt officers, and the Inferi until the Magic Task Force was able to take possession of it.

 

It had been fairly bare bones.

 

“What does that have to do with me? With us?” She asked, her voice calm even as her nails dug into the back of his hand.

 

“They want to know where the Wand is.”

 

“I don’t know that. I didn’t know anything until… now.” She replied, her tone slightly accusing. Nick winced. I wanted to tell you. “Though I guess it doesn’t help that they think my relationship is an unholy abomination.” Nick squeezed her hand comfortingly.

 

“No. It certainly does not.” The Elf agreed. Ward stretched, groaning.

 

“So why am I here, exactly?” He asked. “Not that I mind,” He amended quickly, though it was fairly obvious he did mind.

 

“You’re going to be the head of Angie’s security detail.” Kandomere responded without looking at Daryl, which Nick knew would irritate him. Nick growled low in his throat. This didn’t feel right.

 

“And why is Angie going to need a security detail?”

 

Kandomere’s silvery eyes lit on his, silently challenging him. Nick wasn’t fooled; just because the other male was smaller, more slight, didn’t mean anything. If anything, Kandomere would have been a formidable opponent. “Because Angie is going to be bait.”

 

“No.” Nick had spoken before Angie could even process what had been said. “Absolutely fucking not.

 

“How else are we going to catch them? Any bright ideas in that thick noggin?” Montehugh asked, his tone bored. Nick shook his head. She was already at risk. What exactly were they proposing? His protective instincts were going into overdrive. It was taking everything in him to keep himself from grabbing her and bolting out the door. If he had his way, they’d be halfway into the hills by now, with Angie thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “We put her somewhere public, wait for them to show, we get them. A honeypot.”

 

Nick’s stomach rolled at the thought of it.

 

“I’ll do it.”

 

Nick whipped his head around, his eyes narrowed. “I said no.” He replied, his voice barely above a growl. He couldn’t help it—she was his female, it was his job to protect her, and if she insisted on making it difficult, he would make her submit.

 

No. Calm down. It’s not the tenth century anymore, Jakoby. You can’t act like that.

 

Still, it was tempting. Angie raised an eyebrow at him, as though daring him to continue further. “And I said I’m doing it.”

 

“It’s not safe.” He grasped her chin in his hands.

 

“As much as I appreciate a tender moment,” Montehugh drawled, scrubbing a hand down his face. “We’ve got larger issues.”

 

Nick almost bared his teeth at him, but stopped short, settling for a grimace instead.

 

“What do I have to do?”

 

— —

 

The way Montehugh put it, her job was fairly simple.

 

Wait for the bad guys to come get me. That wasn’t so hard, right?

 

“Go home, pack up some stuff for the safe house, and we’ll meet back here in an hour.” Angie rose from her seat, feeling slightly numb. When she’d woken up that morning, the last thing she’d thought would happen would be this. Coffee? Check. Make the bed after a delightful morning fuck? Check. Find out you’re the target of a violent cult? Motherfucking check.

 

In the wake of all of this, suddenly she wanted her old job back. Her old life back. She quelled those thoughts easily with soothing ones—Nick’s eyes as they softened just for her, the feel of his breath on her neck in the middle of the night, his awkward blushes.

 

There was nothing she’d trade for that, not even her own safety. Perhaps that made her stupid. If so, she’d gladly take the mantle. Partly, she supposed this was his fault, but it couldn’t have been helped. Entering his life at all had made her a target, and she’d already come this far.

 

It seemed anticlimactic to abandon him now.

 

“I’ll take her home and get her packed.” Nick replied, but the chief shook his head. “I need you planning the rendezvous.”

 

Nick grimaced, looking as though he were about to begin a round of fresh protests. His entire posture was tensed, as though he’d snap at the slightest provocation. She got the feeling the thing he’d most like to do—besides breaking all Yamahara’s bones one by one—was nest down somewhere small and secluded. She remembered how he’d acted when the apartment had gotten vandalized—this was no different. Before Nick could protest, Ward placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Calm down. I’m gonna go with her, okay? She’ll be fine.” He tried to sound reassuring, but even Angie could still hear the thread of nervousness running through his voice. “We’ll be back in forty-five.” Nick didn’t seem particularly convinced.

 

“No. I’m going.”

 

“Look, you’re still slow on your reaction time. Especially with guns.” Ward replied bluntly, and Nick’s gaze darkened. “I’m going with her because I’m a better shot. I’ve got seven years on you, Jakoby.”

 

Nick glowered, clenching his fists. Before he could argue again, Angie wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pressing her lips against his throat.

 

“I’ll be fine. I’m a fighter, you know I’ll come back to you.” She didn’t particularly care who saw anymore—the worst possible thing that could have happened to them was happening now. Modesty just… seemed such a small fish compared to all the larger ones. He kissed her, his hands fisting in the hoodie she was wearing over her work uniform. It wasn’t the same as his loving kisses in the morning, pressed into her hair while he thought she was sleeping. Nor was it like the heated ones he gave her while he was deep inside her, driving all coherent thought from her brain.

 

This was desperate.

 

It was everything he was afraid to say.

 

Come back to me.

 

Please.

 

Kandomere cleared his throat. “We’re wasting time.”

 

Angie could see Nick’s lips pull back from his teeth in a silent snarl, baring them for an instant before he forced his mouth into a grim line.

 

“Let’s go, Nicholson.” Ward replied, clapping her roughly on the back. “You’ve got a big show to get ready for.”

 

The precinct was eerily silent as she headed back out. She could feel the eyes on her as she moved through the hallways, back towards the entrance. Angie wasn’t so stupid as to believe that the feeling was imaginary—the other officers knew who she was, and to some extent, why she was there.

 

It made her feel like a sheep in the lion’s den.

 

She could remember a conversation they’d had when they’d first started dating. She’d asked him point blank how the other officers would feel if they knew. Angie glanced around. Most of them weren’t looking directly at her—and purposefully so; instead choosing to stare pointedly at spots just over her head or shoulder. I guess now I have my answer. She thought, with no small amount of sourness. The bare minimum:  tolerance.

 

Ward steered her out the back to the parking lot, where the active vehicles were parked. “We’re gonna do this quick. No sentimental stuff. Clothes, essentials, shit you can’t live without. I want to be in and out in ten minutes.” For a moment, she wanted to be annoyed. Why was everything so rushed?

 

Angie felt a tendril of fear spread up from her belly. They’re probably watching the house. Right now.

 

The thought sobered her. She nodded, sliding into the passenger seat of the cruiser. Hopefully, Ward’s presence would be enough to deter them from making any moves on her, but… that was why he was there.

 

Just in case they were brave enough to try something.

 

He sped through the streets, flicking on his siren whenever they encountered traffic. Angie wanted to giggle—Nick would never use his siren unless it was a real emergency. But Ward, it seemed, had no issue with it, despite the unethical connotations. Other motorists sped to get out of their way as Ward took sharp turns, weaving in and out of traffic effortlessly. She peeked behind them—no cars following that she could see, anyway. Nick or Ward would probably have been a better spotter, but as it was, she’d just have to do.

 

“How long until we get to the apartment?” Angie asked, her voice quiet in the silence of the car. Ward hadn’t even bothered to turn on the radio, and for some reason, Angie didn’t want to either.

 

“Bout five, ten minutes.”

 

She felt fear and apprehension churning in her gut. What was there to be scared of? She was going home to pack her bag, and leaving. Ward would be there to keep her safe, and then she’d be back with Nick.

 

Nick was always praising her bravery, but today, for once, Angie didn’t feel brave. She felt small and alone. She wanted to be angry with Nick for lying, for keeping the truth from her, but she found that the well of irritation inside her had suddenly run dry. There was no space for that now. Angie supposed that in sort of an abstract way, she was upset with him, but the feeling was distant and almost unimportant beneath the knowledge that they were, in essence, being hunted.

 

Knowing about the Wand wouldn’t have stopped Yamahara from coming after her. Coming after Nick through me. Was this what Ulaorn had meant when she’d said Angie would be his weakness? She certainly hoped not.

 

“We’re here.” Ward unbuckled himself quickly, but stopped Angie from opening the door. “Would you fuckin’ wait?” He groused, and she dropped her hand from the car door, chastened. He peered around, his eyes flicking up and down the street, looking for signs Angie wouldn’t be able to read. “Alright, let’s go. Get your key out.” He got out first, before walking around to the other side of the car and opening her door. They walked briskly to the front door, which she opened quickly, and headed up the stairs to her apartment.

 

I half expected the door to be fucked up again.

 

The sheer normalcy in and of itself was surreal. It felt like Angie was the one out of place. Nothing was out of place, the hall in front of her apartment was quiet, and she could hear the sounds of televisions and people talking. She unlocked the door and stepped inside—and everything was as they’d left it. Nick’s hoodie was still hanging on the hook by the door, and her every day shoes were lined up underneath the coffee table.

 

“I’ll get my bag.”

 

Angie headed into the bedroom, and dug a duffel bag out of her closet. Just a few days. Only the essentials. She began tossing clothes into it. Underwear. Socks. Shirts… It didn’t take long to get her things packed up. If Nick was here, he’d laugh at how easily I get my shit together under pressure. The thought made her smile. “The longer you take, the less safe it is.” Ward’s voice rang loudly from the hallway, and Angie rolled her eyes, but shouldered the bag anyway. He was right, as much she didn’t want to admit it.

 

“I’m ready, let’s go.” They only took two steps down the hall before the front door burst open, the lock smoking from the gunshot.

 

It rang out suddenly and without warning, a loud crack that made her eyes widen and pupils dilate in fear. They shot the lock off! Her mind was a panicked mess, and if not for Ward shoving her flat against the wall, Angie still would have been standing directly in the middle of the narrow hallway. Everything was suddenly moving to quickly for her to process, the men in the doorway, Ward shoving her back towards the bedroom.

 

Another shot. This time, something warm and wet splattered against Angie’s face and she realized belatedly that it was blood. Ward’s blood. It painted the wall beside her head, and she dug her fingers into his hand.

 

“Ward? Ward!” he slumped forward, collapsing onto the floor, silently. They shot him! Ward was on the ground, and Angie’s heart was beating so fast she thought it might give out.

 

“Hello, Angelica.”

 

She screamed.

 

— —

 

Where were they?

 

It had been over an hour, and Ward had promised they’d be back in less. Nick knew he was probably being unreasonable. It was approaching five thirty, and the traffic was bound to have started up already. Ward was driving. That’s why he wasn’t answering his phone.

 

 

Angie…

 

Nick’s stomach was churning nervously. Something wasn’t right. He knew Ward, and if Nick was calling him, especially now, he’d answer.

 

“Have you heard anything?” He asked, not turning away from the window. He hoped they would come strolling in, Angie with her bag over her shoulder, waving at him. But every time the door opened, it was only other officers, glancing nervously in his direction.

 

“No. Our teams have reported no activity at their last recorded base. Nothing at Yamahara’s apartment. We’re combining the city. Relax. Your partner’s with her, right?” Chief Daniels was trying to be reassuring, but Nick couldn’t relax. His muscles were wound tight, bunching under his clothes as he struggled to contain himself. He absently dialed Daryl’s number again, frowning as it went straight to voicemail.

 

Where are you?

 

Someone’s phone vibrated, and Nick heard the sound, his heart immediately leaping to his throat.

 

“Montehugh, what’s the word?” The human man answered the phone, his voice steady. He had the volume too low for Nick to hear anything clearly, but when he turned, the other man’s posture was riddled with tension. It rolled off of him in waves as he gripped the phone tightly, his mouth pressed into a tight line. “I see.”

 

He glanced at Nick.

 

No.

 

“I’ll tell him.”

 

No, no, no, NO!

 

He pocketed the device, his face completely neutral. Nick wanted to scream, to throw his fist through the glass window and shatter it before tearing the agents’ limbs off one by one.

 

“Your partner was shot. Angie’s missing.”

 

Nick sank to his knees, his head suddenly cloudy. His mate was… Angie was taken. Gone. Stolen from him.

 

“Jakoby?”

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued….

Chapter Text

They’d ended up sedating him. Nick could still feel the grogginess playing at the edges of his consciousness. From what he could see with his swimming vision, he was in the dorm—a room full of cots for off duty cops who couldn’t make it home—or had no homes left to go to. The mattresses were thin, narrow and uncomfortable. It’s a miracle for them that I was even out that long.

 

“You were throwing furniture, man.” Nevins’ voice was slightly chastising. The older man was seated on the cot next to him, holding out an icepack. Nick raised a brow ridge in surprise; Nevins was quite possibly the last officer he expected to see just then. Especially not offering him something to ease the throbbing headache brought on by the sedatives. He took it cautiously, his face placidly neutral. The other man nodded, glancing at the door as he opened his mouth, as though checking to see if there was anyone else within earshot.

 

“I was?” His memory was hazy, but he could vaguely remember hoisting something over his head and heaving it through the glass separating the chief’s office from the rest of the floor. He flexed his hand around the icepack, the cold burning into his skin.

 

“Yeah.” Nevins scratched his beard, eyeing him. “You threw the chief’s desk right through the window. I think they’re still cleaning up in there.”

 

Try as he might, Nick couldn’t manage to feel guilty.

 

It’s their fault Angie’s gone.

 

The anger returned, molten and boiling in the pit of his stomach. Their fault. Their fault. The loss came back then too, fierce and agonizing in it’s intensity. He felt her absence more acutely every second, the lack of her scent was confusing and frustrating. This was worse—far worse—than when he’d self isolated. At least then, there was the knowledge that she would be safe and secure, away from him. Nick almost chuckled darkly. It was laughable now, the thought that he could have possibly lived without her by choice.  And now, that reality was staring him in the face, and it felt unthinkable. He could hear Montehugh’s voice ringing in his ears.

 

“She could already be dead, Jakoby.”

 

And that was when his vision had blurred, and they’d been forced to sedate him, lest he wreak further havoc. His memories of being… berserk—he hated using that word—were always fuzzy, more colored with emotion than rational thought. His shoulder ached, as though simply remembering the action had inflamed it further.

 

I wonder if I’m fired. Destroying the chief’s office is probably a fireable offense.

 

“Why are you here?” Nick ground out, forcing himself completely upright and swinging his legs over the side of the cot. “You’ve never been exactly friendly.” Paul Nevins frowned, looking distinctly embarrassed. Nick could remember—fairly vividly, in fact—Nevins confronting him a few weeks earlier, angry with him for his “defiling” of a human woman. He almost growled at the thought, but swallowed the reflex.

 

“Not my proudest moments.” The other man admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. “But they told me. The task force guys. They told me those Humans First guys took your girl.” He shifted uncomfortably, as though the personal diversion the conversation had taken made him nervous. “Nobody deserves that.” Nick almost snorted. I wonder if he’d care about saving Angie so much if he’d heard what she called him. He almost smiled, until he remembered that she was gone, the thought making him clench his fists.

 

Nick took the icepack, resting it against his throbbing temple. “They said to come back to the office when you’re ready. And to try not throwing things.” Nick frowned, shutting his golden eyes tightly.

 

“I’ll do my best. But no promises.” Nick waited a moment before getting to his feet. He could still feel some of the sedative lingering in his bloodstream, slowing his reactions—but it was better than being unconscious and unable to help Angie. And there was no possible way he could rest until she was back with him. He wanted to run out into the street and try to pick up her scent, track her. But it wasn’t just the knowledge that the trail would be long cold that stopped him—he needed to know what he was up against.

 

The knowledge that he would kill them had been plain in his mind since he’d woken a few minutes before, though he still hadn’t fully acknowledged it. And there would be nothing and no one strong enough to stop him from visiting every brutality he could think of on them if Angie was… if she was…

 

“She could be dead already, Jakoby.”

 

He grasped the doorknob so hard the metal bent in his grip. No. There was no way she was dead.

 

Angie was a fighter.

 

The office was quiet as he approached—Nick knew this because of the conspicuously missing glass panel in the window that separated the chief’s office from the rest of the room. He was rarely in this part of the building after hours, and seeing the normally busy workspace completely silent was almost eerie. As he approached the back office, Nick could hear the murmur of conversation fade to silence.

 

“Glad you’re yourself again, officer Jakoby.” Kandomere’s greeting rolled over Nick like water off of a duck’s feathers. He ignored it, shutting the door behind him. Kandomere liked to push buttons. It was how he observed people, learned about them.

 

“Where is she? What do you know?” Nick’s voice was tight with restrained emotion, his eyes narrowed and locked onto the senior officer. He’d been out for hours—a fact that filled him with no small amount of irritation, though he understood why they’d had to do it. It was time he could have been looking for her, time that they’d wasted.

 

“Your partner is fine, by the way,” Montehugh interjected dryly. “Not that you asked.” Nick barely managed to kill the snarl in his throat. He was walking a razors edge between clarity and the red haze of battle-lust; it wasn’t wise for either of the task force agents to prod at him. Nick cared deeply about Ward’s safety, but at the very least, he was accounted for.

 

Angie was decidedly not.

 

“Well when you lead with ‘she could be dead already, Jakoby’, you can see why that might be the part I focus on.” His voice was low, barely above a growl. Though the Elf didn’t seem afraid—and the humans certainly were, he could scent it on them—he was wary. Nick could tell he didn’t want a repeat of earlier. Good. “Where’s Ward?”

 

“He’s in the ICU, getting stitched up. Nasty arm shot, but he’ll be fine. Minor nerve damage in the bicep.” Montehugh replied, his voice so clinical that if he weren’t looking at him, Nick could have sworn he was reading off of an inpatient clipboard. He clenched his fists. And my mate? “Angelica’s location is still unknown. We discovered Yamahara’s car. Abandoned, near the highway. Agent Abdul Arkashian’s body was found inside.”

 

Nick swallowed thickly. “He… he killed him?” Nick’s head spun with the realization. Yamahara had killed his own partner. They’d been close, and it was easy to see that they’d worked together for years. Nick couldn’t imagine putting a gun to Ward’s head and pulling the trigger. But then again, he wasn’t an extremist with a penchant for dismemberment.

 

“We believe so. Maybe he discovered something Yamahara wasn’t keen on sharing. In any case, he’s deceased. We have teams combing the city, scouting out possible locations where they could have taken her.” Nick wanted to scream. Scream that it wasn’t good enough—they weren’t good enough. Why hadn’t they found her? Every second was another opportunity for her death—didn’t they get it? Nick found himself chasing the same thoughts, his mind turning over and over. Kandomere resumed talking to the chief, but Nick was unable to process his words. Nick assumed they’d begun sleeping in shifts—the chief and Montehugh, anyway. Nick doubted the other male slept  as often as they did. And if he did, Kandomere certainly wasn’t going to expose that level of weakness to the likes of them.

 

Nick threw himself into a chair, his foot tapping impatiently against the floor as his thoughts continued to circle round and round inside his throbbing skull. He’d already checked his pocket for his phone—but it wasn’t there. He assumed it had been “confiscated” by Montehugh or Kandomere for their dubious version of safekeeping. Either way, it was gone from it’s usual place in his front pants pocket.

 

Nick wouldn’t have noted its loss so keenly if he hadn’t been struck with the inane desire to read through their old text messages. Angie was… he had to believe she was alive. Had to.

 

If she wasn’t…

 

There wouldn’t be any point in considering that outcome—Nick would probably end up in jail, serving out a nice fat life sentence. After, of course, he’d given Yamahara exactly what he deserved.

 

“Have you contacted the family?” That was Kandomere’s voice. Montehugh mumbled something in response, but Nick didn’t catch it. At the mention of her family, a memory swam up, unbidden, from the depths of his mind.

 

“Ang, where do your parents live?” He’d asked her suddenly, impulsively. It was the fourth or fifth time he’d spent the night at her place—possibly sixth, depending on whether or not he counted that first night. “I want to send your mom a card for Mother’s day.” She’d snorted from the couch, not looking up from the book she was reading.

 

“Don’t worry about that.”

 

“What? It’s Mother’s day, Angie. You’ve got to do something .” Angie cleared her throat awkwardly before dog-earing her page.

 

“She’d rather not hear from me. Trust me.”

 

“You want to talk about it?” It was before, back when he’d been grappling with the idea of even letting her meet his parents. Angie shook her head, smiling. Nick noted that it didn’t quite reach her eyes.

 

“Nah. I’m… I’m over it now.” He nodded his understanding.

 

“Because I’m an Orc?” Nick asked, his tone neutral. It wouldn’t have bothered him if she answered in the affirmative—in his experience, most people didn’t particularly like Orcs to begin with, and if her family could be counted among them, then he certainly wouldn’t have minded not meeting them.

 

To his surprise, Angie shook her head. “No. Well, they probably wouldn’t approve, but that’s not really why.” She placed the book down on the couch beside her. Nick leaned against the living room doorway. “When you drop out of school at 17 to move halfway across the country to be a rock star, it tends to leave a bad taste in your parents mouths. Well, mine anyway.”

 

Nick, it seemed, was a little slow on the uptake. “So that means… no Mother’s Day call?” Perhaps it was his closeness with his own mother, the depth of their relationship. Either way, Angie smiled a little sadly and shook her head.

 

“No, babe. They disowned me.”

 

Oh.

 

Nick wasn’t sure what to say—or if he should say anything at all. “You… want to talk about it?” He asked again, tossing her book onto the coffee table before settling beside her.

 

“No. I’m okay. Let’s watch something.”

 

Nick let her change the subject, regretting that he’d even asked. He swallowed any and all further questions when she squeezed his thigh gratefully. She wasn’t okay.

 

 

“Yeah, I had Thompson contact them. No response from them as of yet.” Suddenly, Nick was partially glad for Angie’s absence. At least she didn’t have to hear that. He pressed the heels of his palms to his closed eyes in an attempt to force out the images his mind kept conjuring up.

 

Angie cold, and alone. Angie tied up, strung between the poles just like the young Orc woman had been, Angie with whore branded on her forehead and dried tear tracks down her death pale cheeks because Nick was too late, too late to save her—

 

Nick growled softly, his head snapping up.

 

“What time is it?” he asked, interrupting whatever conversation had been going on in his mental absence. Chief Daniels glanced at his watch.

 

“After four a.m..” He said tiredly, scrubbing a hand down his face. “Almost five.” Montehugh stretched, rubbing the back of his neck. He turned to Kandomere.

 

“We’re going in circles. We should break. Start fresh at seven.”

 

Nick wanted to ram his fist into the wall. No. They couldn’t stop. They couldn’t rest—he couldn’t rest until she’d been found. Despite the fact that it was only three hours away, Nick felt like any time spent not looking for Angie decreased the likelihood of her being safe when they found her. If they found her. Nick didn’t realize he was wringing his hands until the chief cleared his throat.

 

“You should get some rest, Jakoby.”

 

Nick wanted to argue. He’d been sedated for hours. During which, absolutely no headway had been made. He couldn’t go to sleep now—there had to be an angle they hadn’t explored, something they hadn’t noticed.

 

If not….

 

“I’m not tired.” He replied, his voice hard. Suddenly, he cut his eyes at Kandomere. “Did you impound the car? Is it here?”

 

“Of course,” The Elf snapped. Nick doubted his irritation had as much to do with Angie’s safety as it did the frustration of not being able to neatly close this case. Nick knew they thought of his involvement as a necessary evil. If they could have closed on this without informing him of anything, regardless of Angie’s involvement, he knew that would have been the more desirable option. They viewed him as a liability, rather than an asset. “It’s already been inspected—”

 

“Take me to it.” Montehugh sighed tiredly, and Kandomere’s eyes narrowed. It was a long shot, and even he knew it. Scents got old fast, most times dying out within hours. Minutes, if there were enough conflicting ones. But his car… Yamahara had spent a considerable amount of time in it. Maybe as much time as he’d spent in Humans First’s new base. If he could pick up one, just one identifying scent, he could find her. He knew he could.

 

“It’s already been inspected. Dusted for prints, vacuumed out, the whole nine. You’re not going to find anything we haven’t already found.” Montehugh’s voice wasn’t unkind, but it was hard and certain—he didn’t believe Nick would find a single shred of evidence.

 

Maybe they were right, but he wouldn’t—couldn’t?—rest until he’d inspected every avenue himself. “You can’t scent things like I can.” Nick retorted, his posture rigid. For a moment, it seemed as though the Elf would protest, but he didn’t. He sighed, snapping shut the manila folder he’d been inspecting and ending the tense standoff between man and Orc.

 

“Ten minutes.”

 

 

The car was in the impound garage, which had long since been vacated by staff earlier that evening. As they made their way through the station, Nick grimaced. Not for the first time since she’d been taken from him, Nick wished Angie was there. He was reminded of when he’d first started trying out for the academy, and had been faced with the same well meaning of people shutting doors in his face.

 

“This isn’t for you,” one recruit had said, directing him to a security company hiring nearby. But it is for me. He wrenched the double doors leading to the garage open, and shouldered his way through the strip curtains. The car was there. He recognized it on sight, although the doors had already been removed, and it was propped up on blocks so that the undercarriage could be inspected.

 

Shit.

 

Because the doors were off, it meant that every scent he’d hoped would be preserved had been diluted. But there was still a chance. He strode forward with confidence he didn’t feel, before sticking his head into the driver’s side doorway. Nick closed his eyes and tried to focus on sifting through the layers of scents.

 

“Eight minutes.”

 

Nick wasn’t sure if Kandomere’s tone was mocking or simply neutral, but he ignored it, directing every conscious thought to naming and mentally filing away every single cent he could trace.

 

First and foremost was the precinct, that strong, human-y smell that settled into everything it touched. Beneath that was the smell of the car itself—the sharp tang of the electricity, the oil, the burnt rubber of the tires. He stuck his head further inside, inhaling deeply.

 

He smelled salt. Rusted Iron…Grass. Grass and… sulphur?

 

His eyes popped open.

 

 

“Three min—”

 

“Sulphur. Somewhere with natural gas, I’m guessing. And iron. Lots of it. Rusting. Salt too.” It was strong, strong enough that Nick knew he’d been there, in that car, recently. At the very most, three days before.

 

Nick’s ears were ringing, blocking out every outside sound. He’d found exactly what they insisted he wouldn’t—a lead. His heart was pounding, and the high pitched whining in his head was making it difficult to focus on anything except this. The chief was speaking to him, his mouth moving rapidly.

 

“—supposed to find this place if that’s all we have to go on?”

 

“What?”

 

“How are we supposed to find it?” He repeated, biting back a yawn. Nick began mentally running back through his knowledge of L.A.. It helped that he had been born and raised there, the city’s in’s and outs burned into his psyche by time. It’s someplace abandoned. That much he could be sure. Rusting iron? Probably a warehouse. But the sulphur…

 

“It’s probably an abandoned warehouse. I smelled salt, so… near the coast, probably.”

 

Before Nick was even finished speaking, Kandomere was on the phone.

 

“Yes. It’s me. Pull up all the addresses on defunct warehouses in the Los Angeles. Along the coast road.” Nick’s hands shook. He could hear, faintly, the sound of someone on the other end of the line, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Maybe Kandomere has the volume low so I can’t hear it. That thought hadn’t occurred to him before, though it was hard to be surprised. Kandomere’s voice as authoritative and direct when he spoke next.

 

“Send me the list.”

 

 

 

— —

 

 

My head hurts.

 

It seemed like an understatement, but it was all Angie could piece together to describe the splitting ache at her temple. Her face felt warm and sticky, and sluggishly she realized it was probably her own blood. Yamahara did hit me pretty hard. Angie sat up slowly, her hands trembling but supporting her weight. Where am I?

 

It looked like a warehouse. The ceilings were high, supported by large metal beams, and there were rows upon rows of empty shelving. The windows—if there even were any—had to have been blacked out to ensure the darkness around her. She’d been dumped on the concrete floor naturally, and when she tried to rise from her knees, a weight at her neck tugged her backwards. Angie’s eyes widened as her hands flew to her throat. She hadn’t registered it when she’d woken—probably thanks to the concussion she surely had—but the iron collar was secured fast to a chain. Her eyes followed it, panicked. It was pinned to a peg in the concrete flooring, and a good tug told her that it was more than secure.

 

Angie tried to swallow, but her tongue was thick and heavy in her mouth. She tried to mentally retrace her steps. After going home… Yamahara had come just as they were leaving. Ward’s dried blood was still on her now filthy jacket, mixed with a healthy amount of her own. I hope Ward’s okay. He’d dragged her, screaming down the hall, and though she knew people were probably watching out of their peepholes, it would be too late. By the time anyone reported it… she’d be gone.

 

Taken.

 

When they’d reached the bottom of the stairs, he’d tugged her to her feet, holding her by her hair. He must’ve learned that from Jeremy. That was his favorite handhold too.

 

“Shut up.” He’d looked disgusted just to be touching her. “Or I’ll make you.” His voice was cold and self assured. He was convinced he was getting away with this—I guess he is, Angie thought humorlessly. There was a truck outside, with blacked out windows and a missing license plate. Someone else grabbed the back of her head, shoving her into the back. There were two benches, welded to the insides of the empty vehicle. Angie promptly sat, wrapping her arms around herself. Two other men got into the back with her, and Yamahara followed. Another man in a white mask closed the door.

 

“Alone at last.” He replied, smirking. He ran a hand tiredly through his hair, before tugging off the leather gloves on his pale hands. Angie watched him anxiously, her eyes following every movement. “Your guard dog is quite hard to avoid. We managed though.”

 

Angie grimaced.

 

“Don’t call him that.” Her mouth moved before she could quell the thought. Yamahara had frowned, a disgusted expression settling across his features.

 

“You’re not ashamed at all,” He replied, a measure of sick fascination coloring his tone. He regarded her much like she imagined predators regarded prey—as mildly interesting, but ultimately only good for one thing. “Out of all the others we’ve found… You’re not.” His voice carried the clear implication that he’d have preferred it if she was. Angie stuck her chin out.

 

“Why should I be?”

 

“You’re fucking an animal .” His eyes were wide now, disbelieving. “An animal whose only loyalty is to fucking evil .” For his part, it seemed as though Yamahara truly believed what he was saying—which made it all the more reprehensible.

 

“There’s only one evil person in this situation, and I’m staring him dead in his fucking face.” Angie’s voice was venomous as she spat the words at him. “Sounds to me like you’re jealous.”

 

Yamahara licked his lips. “Jealous?” His hand tightened on the seat. One of the men seemed to glance at him nervously.

 

“Brother.” His voice held a note of warning, one that Yamahara promptly ignored.

 

“Jealous.” He repeated, chuckling. “Jealous of a pig . Of something less than a man.” With icy calm, he clicked open the holster at his hip, cocking it. “Say it again.”

 

“Brother!”

 

The other man’s voice finally seemed to register, and Yamahara eased the hammer on the glock forward. Angie hadn’t realized how hard her heart had been hammering, how heavy the rush of blood through her veins had become. He sighed, collecting himself before turning his eyes back on her.

 

“The Wand. Where is it?”

 

A rock and a hard place. If she said she didn’t know, they’d kill her. But if she said she did—which I fucking don’t—maybe they’d keep her alive. Long enough for Nick to find me.

 

 

“Fuck you.” She spat, grinning in a way that her southern belle mother would have found decidedly distasteful.

 

And then Yamahara had hit her.

 

He’d slung the butt of the gun across her temple, and her world had gone black in a flash of pain. Angie vaguely recalled being told once that it was incredibly bad to get knocked out, something about cell death in the brain. Maybe when this is all over, I can sue Yamahara for my pain and suffering. She lifted a hand to the knot on her head, wincing. Yamahara won’t survive this. Nick’s going to kill him.

 

The thought lanced through her with alarming clarity. Even if Angie herself didn’t survive—a thought that sent fear racing down her spine—Yamahara wouldn’t either. Angie wondered idly how long she’d been out, how long it had been since they’d shot Ward. God, Ward. She prayed fervently that he was alright—she hadn’t seen where he’d been hit, only that he had been.

 

 

“Awake now?”

 

It was dimly lit, and at first, Angie couldn’t make out where the voice had come from. The echo in there was messing with her, making it hard to pinpoint him. After a moment of searching the shadows, she saw him. Yamahara was leaned against one of the empty shelves, watching her. He likely had been since before she’d woken up.

 

“I was hoping they’d send someone more polite.”

 

Yamahara remained silent. The seconds ticked by, and suddenly he was in her field of vision. He set down a folding chair just out of reach of her chain, and sat down.

 

“I’m through with the games, Angie. Where is it?”

 

“I told you earlier. Go fuck yourself.”

 

She saw his hands clench against the metal, before he calmed himself. “Don’t you understand? All these… creatures. These things, they’ve taken over. You’ve seen it for yourself—they take jobs, resources. Destroy neighborhoods. And you…” He sneered. “You’re willingly—”

 

“Yeah, I’m fucking a pig.” At least I can take the satisfaction of saying it away from him. Angie tried to rise, but dizziness swept over her. Oh right. Concussion. The world seemed to slant, and Angie grasped her head in her hands, whimpering.

 

“I’m going to ask again. Where’s the Wand, Angie? Where are they keeping it? Or do I have to get that thing you’re fucking in here and ask him too?”

 

Angie’s thoughts were muddled, but she knew she had to keep up the pretense. Its as either that, or get shot. And it seemed like Yamahara was very much in favor of doing the latter. From what she knew, the Magical Task Force had taken possession of the Wand before the Inferni could get their hands on it.

 

“It’s up your mother’s ass.” She replied, her voice tight. “Have you checked there?” Irritating him was dangerous, but attempting to answer his questions was even more so. She couldn’t give him any information even if she’d wanted to. It was almost funny, in a depressing sort of way. He probably knew more than Angie did, when it came down to it.

 

His hand tightened on something she couldn’t quite see, but it glinted in the low light. Suddenly, a sound registered in the back of her mind, a booming crash that she’d been ignoring in favor of the man before her. Is that the ocean?

 

“I thought you might say that.” He stood, before crossing the minute distance between them, and squatted in front of her. Angie swallowed thickly. There was a syringe in his hand. The cap was still on, but his finger was on the plunger, holding it lightly. The words escaped before she could reign them in.

 

“Get the fuck away from me.” Angie leaned back, attempting to back away. Yamahara grabbed her arm, jerking her forward. Angie’s neck snapped, and she groaned, her head throbbing.

 

“This is going to make you tell me whatever I want to know.” He replied, his voice mocking. “It might even make you feel good.” He stroked a single finger down the side of her face, and Angie jerked away, her stomach turning. He frowned at her action, gripping her shoulder hard enough to make her cry out in pain. “So you’ll spread your legs for pigs, but God forbid I touch you.” Angie almost scoffed. At least Nick’s not a murderer.

 

“Fuck you.” She ground out, gasping as the needle dug into her neck. Angie flinched, unprepared for the sensation of the cool steel sliding into her flesh. It was obvious he’d done this before, the practiced ease with which he found her veins, and pushed down the plunger. Angie kicked at him, her foot hitting his ankle with a satisfying thud. Yamahara lost his balance, toppling over. Angie’s foot came out again to strike his chest, winding him and pushing him back.

 

The sound of a gun cocking made her still, and Yamahara smirked, wiping his mouth. “I could kill you right now you fucking cunt,” he spat, rising to his feet. He dusted himself off, and held up a hand—signaling to someone Angie couldn’t see. “But first I want you to tell me where that goddamn Wand is.” Flecks of spittle flew from his lips, splattering coolly against her face. Angie groaned. It likely wasn’t the first time he’d drugged her, considering how sluggish and dim her thoughts already were—Though that could be the concussion.

 

He strode over to her, and grasped her curly hair in his hands, tugging on it until she was forced to follow. He reached for the folding chair then, and slammed it down in front of her. “Sit.” He spoke as though he were talking to a dog, commanding her. Despite her anger, Angie found her knees bending. What the fuck? Angie’s head was swimming—and it wasn’t just from the recent brain damage she had surely gained. Whatever Yamahara had injected her with, it was working fast. She felt as though she were sitting in syrup, her movements slow and uncoordinated when she pushed at him.

 

“Ge’off.” She muttered, weakly tugging at his hands.

 

“That’s much better.” He tapped her nose, smiling cruelly when her swing uselessly at her sides. “Let’s do a little test, shall we?” Angie wanted to scream, to curse, but it was getting harder and harder to form coherent thoughts without direction. “What’s that fucking pig’s name?”

 

“Nick.” The answer popped out of her mouth unbidden, and Angie narrowed her eyebrows. No. I’m supposed to lie… Yamahara grinned at her, licking his lips.

 

“Your full name. Tell me.”

 

No, no—“An..gelica…Ju..Juliette Nicholson.” Her tongue was thick and heavy, almost as slow as her mind.

 

“Where’s the Wand, Angelica?”

 

Don’t tell him, don’t tell him, don’t—“Dunno.” Her mouth moved without her permission, the damning truth reaching his ears in an instant. Yamahara scowled, tilting her chin up roughly.

 

“What do you mean ‘dunno’?” He grasped her chin tightly, in what Angie assumed would have been painful if he hadn’t just injected her with liquid happiness. “Answer me!”

 

“I dunno,” She repeated, honesty coloring her voice. He can’t make me tell him what I don’t know. Angie giggled softly to herself, much to Yamhara’s apparent frustration.

 

“The pig never told you?” He squeezed tighter, his nails digging harshly into her skin.  He’s gonna leave bruises, Angie thought giddily, a small smile gracing her lips.

 

“No. He’s gonna kill you, you know.” She slurred, the words running together at the ends. “Gonna cut yer head off.”

 

Yamahara shoved her angrily. Angie fell off of the chair, landing hard on the concrete floor. Her head throbbed painfully, though it didn’t stop the insane laughter bubbling out of her chest. It had to be whatever had been in that syringe, but suddenly the thought that Yamahara had gone through so much to kidnap her—and she had no clue where the Wand even was. She laughed again, rolling onto her back on the cool floor. Yamahara kicked at her, his foot connecting squarely with her side. She gasped in pain, rolling into a ball.

 

“Get up, whore.”

 

“Fuck you.”

 

He leaned down to grasp her arm, his grip hard. He hauled Angie to her feet, the chain at her throat tugging uncomfortably. He motioned to someone she couldn’t see.

 

“Unlock her.”

 

“Yes Brother. She… she doesn’t know where the Wand is?” The other person’s voice was apprehensive.

 

“Apparently not.” He released her wrist, his expression strangely joyful. “But we can still cleanse her.” That sounds bad. Cleansing definitely sounds bad. “Have the posts been set up?” The other man mumbled something Angie couldn’t make out, and Yamahara hissed angrily. “Then get it done!” He shoved her forward, with a grunt. “Walk.”

 

Angie stumbled forward on unsteady legs. She wasn’t sure where she was supposed to be heading, but she felt the pull of the chain at her neck, leading her forward. She moved blindly in the darkness, tripping over her own sluggish feet. Her body felt almost like it was too big for her, her arms and legs refusing to respond when she ordered them to.

 

When the door opened in front of her, the sudden influx of daylight was blinding. Angie cried out, shielding her eyes. How long… was I in there? She was surprised—though she’d had no idea what time of day it was, the darkness had made her incorrectly assume that it was night. So it’s been… at least a day.

 

Yamahara was behind her, prodding her forward with harsh shoves. She’d been right about the ocean—just beyond the defunct parking lot and a length of rusted fencing, the sea crashed against the cliffside. Despite his pushing, Angie managed a glance backward. A factory.

 

The man in front of her tugged hard on the chain, sending her sprawling to her hands and knees, skinning them on the uneven asphalt. “Up! Get up, you filthy bitch.” He snarled, his face hidden from view by the white masks they all wore. Apparently Yamahara didn’t get the group text about the outfits. She snorted with laughter, even as the man pulled her forward, dragging her already abused skin across the ground a few inches. God I hope this stuff doesn’t wear off before they kill me. Angie swayed to her feet, lurching after him.

 

“You know the best part about all of this? They’ll never even find your body.” Yamahara’s voice was just as unnervingly joyful as his expression had been. He glanced at her, exhilaration gracing his features. He thinks he’s right. Instead of terrifying her, the thought brought more insane laughter bubbling to her lips. Someone tugged on her chain again, dragging her shredded knees across the asphalt, embedding rocks and old glass into her flesh. “This place used to be a refueling spot for ships.” Yamahara was rambling now, his excitement palpable. He whirled on her, grasping her cheeks between his palms.

 

“He won’t even have a body for your casket.”

 

Just beyond the parking lot, she could see at least three other men setting up two posts, stringing a heavy length of iron chains between them. Fae folk don’t like iron. The though flitted across her mind briefly, though she didn’t—couldn’t—dwell on it. There was a small bonfire next to it, with a red hot iron sticking out of it.

 

I didn’t think murdered by cultists was how I was going to go.

 

They were across the lot in moments, and despite the mild euphoria the drugs had inspired in her, she still felt fear settling in the pit of her stomach. I’m going to die. I should have called mom back when she called me three months ago… But I didn’t. And now I’m going to die and I haven’t spoken to her in a decade.

 

“Every sin you’ve committed, every wrong… you’ll be cleansed of it now.” Yamahara was speaking again, and Angie almost wished he wouldn’t. If she was going to be brutally murdered, she wanted to brood beforehand. Not be interrupted by his pompous ass.

 

Pain exploded across her cheek. Yamahara had struck her—again—and Angie felt her lip split from the impact. Her head snapped sideways, and she stumbled. “Shut your disgusting mouth.” She hadn’t realized she’d spoken aloud; it had to have been the cocktail of whatever-the-fuck they’d given her, impeding her filters. Before she could respond and ask him to kindly stop hitting her before they killed her, Angie felt herself being pulled forward. She struggled, digging her bare feet into the soft dirt. It had to have rained recently, and the mud stuck between her toes.

 

Another man approached, cursing at her. Together, the two masked men and Yamahara lifted her easily onto the wood palette in the center of the two poles. There was a handcuff at the end of each chain, which they secured to her wrists before removing the palette, leaving her feet dangling. She groaned with pain, her back and shoulders aching from the weight.

 

“Bring the iron.”

 

Angie’s eyes widened with fear, and she renewed her struggles, tugging hard against the shackles. Sweat beaded on her forehead, rolling down into her eyes as she twisted—to no avail. She could see him, in the corner of her eye; Yamahara approaching with the iron rod. The tip was bright red, almost white with heat. Even from that distance she could feel it.

 

No, no—

 

Suddenly, the sound of squealing tires had everyone turning. A car? Angie glanced hurriedly between her captors, noting that they all seemed equally surprised.

 

“What the—?” Yamahara was shouting, his trembling hands going for his gun. The person behind the wheel didn’t slow down as they crossed the parking lot, seeming to speed up as they approached the fence. The car plowed through it, dirt spinning up around the wheels as they crossed the field. Time seemed to slow as the driver opened the door and rolled out of the car as it sped uncontrollably toward them. It missed the first post by inches, and mowed down two of the masked men—they’d been too shocked to move. Even Angie had ceased her struggles. Who..?

 

Her heart was beating harder than it ever had before, blood roaring in her ears, deafening her. Beyond the roar, she could hear faint shouting, more cars. And… her name?

 

“—gie!”

 

Someone was shouting her name. Angie’s dazed eyes snapped up, and she saw him.

 

“Nick?”

 

He was barreling towards her, moving faster than she’d ever seen him. Orcs are supposed to be slow… Someone was shooting at him, and Angie screamed as she saw the bullet rip through his shoulder. He kept moving, uncaring. Is he..? Angie had her answer as one of the masked men approached him, and Nick growled unintelligibly. He lunged forward, his fingers wrapping around the man’s throat. Snarling viciously, Nick ripped, pulling forward a bloody handful of flesh that made Angie nauseous to inspect. He shoved the body away—He just killed someone—and continued straight for her.

 

Strangely, she wasn’t afraid. She’d just seen him literally rip someone’s throat out and… nothing. Real fear had been when Yamahara had pointed his gun at her. That had been terrifying. But all Angie could manage to feel through the soup of the drugs was relief.

 

He crashed into her, pulling her to his chest. He was mumbling in Orkish, his words low and impossible for her to make out. “Nick!” She couldn’t process anything more than that he was here now, he was here and… where was Yamahara? Angie peered over Nick’s sluggishly bleeding shoulder, searching. There were more cars approaching at regular speeds, and she could hear the sound of a helicopter, distantly. There! He was high tailing it back across the lot, toward the factory. “Yamahara…” At the sound of the other man’s name, Nick snarled fiercely, clutching her tighter. He turned, following her gaze.

 

“No…running…” It took Angie a moment to realize that he’d even spoken words, and before she could say anything in response, he was off again, taking after Yamahara. More shots rang out—but this time, they were coming from somewhere else. Angie flinched, hoping she wouldn’t be hit. They were coming from the parking lot. Several armored trucks had arrived, and officers in riot gear stepped out, holding large—very scary—guns. They were taking aim at the remaining cultists, and shooting.

 

More people were getting out, and Angie sagged with relief. Even from that distance, she could recognize them—it was the two task force officers, Montehugh and Kandomere. Behind them, the chief and—was that Ward? Angie felt tears gather in her eyes.

 

“Angie!” Ward was jogging up to her, his arm in a sling. His face looked pale, but otherwise he seemed lively enough. Well, for Ward anyway. “Fuck, I can’t believe you’re okay.” His eyes lingered on what had to be rather large contusions on her exposed skin. “Well, relatively speaking.”

 

“I stalled for time with a concussion.” She replied, her voice lilting almost drunkenly.

 

“I see that.” He motioned with his good arm to the others. “Could one of you do something? Can’t get her down myself.” Kandomere stopped just short of the posts, eyeing the chains distastefully. Montehugh and the chief went to work on her handcuffs, and Angie watched as the remaining officers handcuffed one remaining cult member, ripping the mask off his face.

 

“Nick…”

 

“Nick went after Yamahara.” Angie answered, holding her head and leaning against Montehugh for support. “I have to…”

 

“You need to go lay down in the car. Right now.” Ward advised, attempting to steer her towards the lot. Angie shook her head. She needed to get to Nick. He’d already killed one person, and as much as she knew it was to protect her, she doubted he’d be able to live with himself if he continued. And worse, she knew from experience that he had trouble distinguishing friend from foe. What if one of the other task force agents found him first?

 

What if he was still berserk?

 

Lurching forward, Angie took them by surprise, throwing her body weight forward enough to loose her from Montehugh’s grip. She started across the field, narrowly ducking the outstretched hands of her less than pleased handlers. Kandomere murmured something she didn’t quite catch, and then she was halfway to the parking lot, her bare feet pounding against the broken asphalt. Angie forced her loose limbs to cooperate, ignoring the calls for her to wait, slow down, stop.

 

She reached the side door in record time, and it was still open. She stepped inside the darkened warehouse carefully—Angie wasn’t sure how many of them there were, and she wasn’t ready to take her chances. She squinted into the dark, before hazarding a quiet plea.

 

“Nick?”

 

A gunshot rang out in the quiet, and Angie’s eyes widened. She took off without hesitation towards the sound of the shot. What if it’s Nick and he’s hurt? What if… what if Yamahara killed him?

 

The thin metal shelves were all empty, and as she ran, she tried to catch a glimpse of what lay ahead of her. There! Two rows over, she could see shadowy figures. She could hear them too. She could hear Yamahara’s voice, pleading. Angie could see that her worry for Nick’s safety had been for naught: He had Yamahara by the hair while the other man’s arms dangled uselessly at his sides. Angie realized with shock that Nick had broken them—like a predator weakening prey.

 

 

“You and your fucking whore are gonna burn,” he spat, kicking his legs in a futile attempt to dislodge Nick’s tight grip. Nick didn’t respond to the statement, though Angie wasn’t sure whether it was because he couldn’t, or because he wouldn’t. Just then, Yamaha caught sight of her in the shadows. “This is what you betrayed your race for,” He ground out, his voice tight with pain. “A murdering monster—”

 

“No.” Angie replied quietly, stepping into the light. She didn’t try to stop Nick, or make him let go. Yamahara had to be stopped. It had to end. “That’s you.” At the sound of her voice, Nick’s head turned, and he regarded her with enlarged pupils.

 

Do it.

 

Almost as though he’d heard her thoughts, Nick nodded, slackening his grip. Before Yamahara could fall to the ground, Nick’s other hand came up, quick as lightning to wrap around his throat. He gurgled out what Angie assumed was another threat, but her orc’s grip was too tight for him to breathe, let alone make empty threats. His eyes bulged as Nick squeezed, tighter and tighter until Yamahara’s face was red, blue—I can’t watch this. Angie closed her eyes, covering them with her hands until she heard a sickening squelch. Before she could open them, Nick’s warm body covered hers, pulling her tightly against his chest.

 

He ran his nose over her filthy hair as his fingers skimmed her body, lingering at every raised bruise. He whimpered as he stroked the swollen knot on her temple, which was sticky with old blood. I’m safe.

 

I’m finally safe.

 

 

 

——

 

Nick was driving. The first two abandoned warehouses he’d checked—both within a thirty minute drive from the city—had been duds. He fidgeted behind the wheel, his fingers flexing against the leather grip. It had been exactly two hours since he’d cold-clocked Montehugh and stolen his phone. Well, give or take the few minutes it had taken to screenshot the list of warehouses, factories, and abandoned properties near the coast, and send it quickly to himself. I wonder if the chief is still calling me. He’d long since silenced his phone, so he had no idea whether there was a warrant out for his arrest.

 

Nick imagined the wanted poster byline; Wanted: One Orc. Knocked out a task force agent with one punch.

 

It had a nice ring to it.

 

Despite his daring escape, Nick knew that soon, he’d be out of time. Not only just to find Angie, but also until the MTF activated the tracker that was standard issue in all government vehicles. They’ve probably already done that, actually. If he didn’t manage to find Angie before they caught him up, he’d be facing jail time—with her almost certainly dead.

 

Nick couldn’t help but focus on the apprehension building in his stomach. The further away he drove, the less he felt as though he were finding Angie… and the more he felt like he was avenging her. Nick was in many ways an optimist, but even he knew that after the first 24 hours, their likelihood of finding Angie alive was… minimal.

 

It helped to think of it clinically, because Nick could feel himself slipping closer and closer to the battle rage that had made his ancestors great. He couldn’t focus on the pain welling inside of him. If he did, Nick feared he’d loose control and veer off the road, and he didn’t have time for that.

 

He had to find her.

 

I love you.

 

Her voice was clear as day in his head, and the ghost of her hand against his face felt more real than the seat beneath him. No. Focus. Find her. Nick had been driving with the windows down, in hopes of catching the scents he’d identified earlier. The salt of the sea was a constant, as it glittered darkly to his left in the light of the overcast morning. And…Rust. Iron. Sulphur!

 

He was close. In the distance, he could see a building rising against the horizon. It wasn’t particularly tall, but squat and sprawling, with two crumbling smokestacks reaching up into the sky. Nick threw his foot against the accelerator, and the car lurched forward as the speedometer climbed. As Nick reached the turnoff and crashed through the locked fence his heart hammering, he smelled it.

 

Angie’s blood. It was thick in the air as though she had an open wound. Or several. It wasn’t all fresh blood, but it was less than a day old. Movement caught his eye—He could see two posts, and the picture Kandomere had shown him popped into his mind’s eye. It looks the same.

 

He squinted—Angie! She was tied between the poles, her body suspended by thickly made iron chains. Nick’s instincts roared into overdrive as he slammed on the gas again, this time, with no intention of slowing down. He could feel himself slipping, his higher brain functions failing in the face of the heady scent of Angie’s blood, and the sight of her strung up for their pleasure.

 

Kill them all.

 

His mind was blank, his vision red with rage. He was beyond counting them, beyond planning their deaths to ensure the most pain possible. All there was left to him now was the dive to reach her, to avenge his mate. Rip. Tear. Kill. Nick threw his weight against the door as the car passed through the lot and into the grassy field beyond. It opened for him, and he fell out, rolling on impact. Nick was up again in seconds, his legs moving before he instructed them to. He could smell her, she was so close… But her scent was clouded with fear and pain, burning in his nostrils. Pain exploded through his shoulder, but he couldn’t be bothered to inspect the source. His mate was close, and there was nothing short of death or dismemberment that would stop him from reaching her now.

 

There was someone running toward him then, yelling. Nick snarled, his hand shooting out to grab the interloper’s throat. Had he been in his right mind, Nick would have simply incapacitated him—but his training was beyond his reach. Nick could feel the strength flowing through his limbs and he reveled in it. His fingers found the man’s jugular easily, and he pinched it between his large fingers, pulling. He roared as hot blood splashed out onto his arm as the man gurgled and fell before him. He tossed the gore in his hand onto the grass uncaringly, and resumed his dash across the grass.

 

He could smell her, see her—her eyes were open, and she was looking at him with an intoxicating mix of relief and wonder.

 

“Nick?”

 

He crashed into her, not slowing down as he took her into his arms. Mate. Safe. Nick buried his head in her hair, reveling in her scent, despite the acrid tang of fear that still permeated it. Safe. Alive. Alive! He grasped her tighter, crushing her small frame against his own. She uttered something it took him a moment to process. It was a name.

 

 

Yamaraha.

 

Just the mention of the other man was enough to make him growl fiercely. That much he’d retained. Only this time, there was no logical answer, no rational aversion to what he wanted to do. Protect mate. Kill. He turned slowly, shielding Angie’s body with his own as he surveyed the carnage around them. No one was approaching them, their attention focused elsewhere. Through the shouting and gunshots, Nick pinpointed the one person he wanted more than anything to destroy.

 

And he was fleeing.

 

“No…running…” Nick’s voice was bestial even to his own ears. It was either kill him, or leave him alive to threaten his mate again. Nick glanced down at Angie, truly observing her for the first time since he’d arrived. Her face was swollen and bruised, with a large knot on her right temple that had crusted over with old blood. Her lip was split and swollen, still bleeding sluggishly. There were cuts on her arms where they’d torn at her clothes uncaringly, and terrible bloody scrapes at her knees where her skirt ended. Nick roared.

 

Kill.

 

He took off after the other man, unable to help giving into the urge to chase him down like prey. He would end this threat to his mate once and for all. Nick could feel the damp grass sliding beneath his shoes as he ran, his eyes locked firmly on the retreating back of the dead man.

 

Dead soon enough.

 

Yamahara ran into an open door leading into the factory, disappearing into the darkness beyond. Nick kept pace, undeterred. He wasn’t human—he didn’t need to navigate by sight. He could hear Yamahara’s panicked breaths echoing through the empty warehouse, smell the tang of his fear as he closed in. Yamahara fired wildly behind him, the gunshot going wide and missing Nick by several feet.

 

“Fuck you, you fucking pig!” He cursed, turning sharply to race down another aisle. Nick, for his part, was unable to even understand the insult, simply ignoring him in favor of speeding up. Yamahara turned fear filled eyes behind him, his pupils dilating as he caught sight of Nick’s bloodstained face, closer than he’d thought possible. Nick caught one of Yamahara’s outstretched arms, tugging it out of the socket as he swept his legs from under him, causing the other man’s head to crack harshly against the concrete flooring. He cried out in pain as Nick fisted a hand in his short hair, dragging him to his feet.

 

Kill. Kill. Kill.

 

He watched the other man struggle with a detached sort of pleasure. “You and your fucking whore are gonna burn,” he gasped, his apparent discomfort at the cool gaze of his killer apparent. Nick reached forward, grasping Yamahara’s forearm. He bent it, hearing it snap satisfyingly. The other man screamed, kicking his legs futilely as he struggled. His eyes lit on something out of Nick’s field of vision, and he heard Yamahara snarl in disgust. “This is what you fucking betrayed your race for.” He kicked again, his useless arms swinging at his sides. “A murdering monster—”

 

“No.”

 

Nick turned at the sound of her voice. Even as banged up as she was, Angie was practically angelic to him; the sound of her voice soothing and inflaming him all at once. Mate will see she is safe. Protected. Only with me. “That’s you.” Her gaze lit on him, and Nick nodded, understanding the resignation he saw there. He needed no further prompting. He slid his hand around the other man’s throat, squeezing roughly. Yamahara called at his hand uselessly, his blunt human nails doing nothing to ease the growing pressure. His eyes bulged  as his face reddened, and then went blue as he struggled. Nick tightened his grip, feeling the sinews and cartilage squelching satisfyingly as Yamahara’s neck turned to bloody pulp in his grasp. He dropped the limp body to the ground, his chest heaving as he turned to Angie, who had covered her eyes with shaking hands.

 

He crushed her to him again, his fingers tracing the familiar lines of her shape. She was still trembling, her knees threatening to give out as he buried his face in her hair.

 

“You came for me.”

 

Nick growled in response, sweeping her into his arms. He sank down onto his knees, cradling her. In the quiet of the warehouse, the rage began to clear from his mind.

 

Where am I?

 

It came flooding back, the memory of what he’d just done punctuated by the body laying only a few feet from them. I found Angie! The realization had him crushing the air out of her, tears gathering in his golden eyes.

 

“Ang…”

 

Her head snapped up. “You’re back,” she whispered. Angie reached up to stroke the side of his face, her hands gentle. He was kissing her then, his mouth pressed hard against her own. He poured every bit of what he’d felt over that long twenty four hours into it; the longing, the terror—and now the relief. I found her.

 

“I thought you were dead, Ang.” His voice was hoarse and cracking as he spoke, unable to stem the tide of words. “I thought you were dead and he’d fucking killed you…” Nick sobbed once, before crushing her against him. Angie winced, and he loosened his grip immediately.

 

“It’s okay. I’m okay. Well, I’m not dead,” She replied, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I knew. I knew you were coming.”

 

“I’ll always come for you.” Nick kissed her again, more possessively this time, his tongue stroking the sore spots and cuts on her lips. “Always. You’re mine.

 

“Yours.”

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued….

Chapter Text

When she next woke, it was to the sight of a sterile hospital ceiling. There was a machine beeping next to her, though Angie wasn’t quite sure what it was monitoring. She shifted under the thin hospital sheets, wincing when her head throbbed in response. I guess whatever Yamahara gave me must have worn off.

 

At the thought of his name, a cold shiver ran down Angie’s spine. Oh right.

 

He’s dead.

 

Angie had never thought she’d feel such joy at the reminder of Yamahara’s well deserved demise, but there it was, settling in the pit of her stomach, along with a tinge of guilt. Angie peered hazily around the small room, gasping softly when she spotted Nick.

 

He was at the foot of the bed, sleeping in two chairs that he’d pulled together. His arm was in a sling, his shoulder heavily bandaged. He was wearing a set of doctor’s scrubs, likely because the hospital gown was too small for his large frame. The thought made her smile lightly, as she leaned forward to settle a light hand against his cheek.

 

Guilt settled over her as his eyes fluttered open—Angie hadn’t meant to wake him. “No,” she murmured gently, frowning. “I didn’t want to wake you up.”

 

“S’okay.” Nick straightened, stretching. He winced as he moved his arm, before settling it back into the sling. He grinned sheepishly. “I forgot.” He placed a hand on her thigh, the heat of his palm traveling easily through the thin blankets. “Are you…” He closed his eyes, as though struggling to get the words out. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you again when I was…”

 

Angie barked out a laugh, though it made her chest ache painfully. “You? Hurt me? Man, I’m practically invincible. If some angry cult members couldn’t off me, I think you’re in the clear.” She shifted again, wincing when her body protested. “How long have I been here?” Nick yawned again before scratching his head.

 

“A few days. Like three, I think.” He replied, an eyebrow ridge raised in thought. Angie couldn’t help but tease him, grinning.

 

“You think?”

 

“Well, we didn’t exactly arrive in the best condition.” It felt so good to hear him, to see him next to her. The hell that the past few days had been, combined with the almost certain death she’d faced down left her feeling grateful. Particularly for the man beside her. Nick squeezed her hand in his, and Angie knew the only thing stopping him from sweeping her into his arms was probably a combination of the I.V. in her arm, and her various injuries. His face was flecked with small healing cuts, though the worst of his injuries was obviously his shoulder, where the bullet had passed clean through.

 

Angie couldn’t help but lift a gentle hand to his cheek once more, reveling in the feel of his skin against her fingertips. I almost never saw him again. Before they could speak any further, the door burst open.

 

“I thought I told you to stop sleeping in here!” It was Sherri, dressed in her nurse’s uniform, with a stethoscope around her neck. She pointed irritatedly at Nick who for his part, looked thoroughly chastened. “She needs her rest. She had a grade three concussion, Nick.”

 

“I didn’t wake her up!” He replied defensively, frowning. “She woke me up.”

 

“Even worse,” Sherri snorted, grabbing the medical chart from the foot of Angie’s bed. “You should have told her to go back to sleep.”

 

She never thought that she’d ever be grateful for Sherri’s domineering, take charge attitude, but considering that she never thought she’d see Sherri again, it wasn’t quite as grating. “She’s right here, and can hear you; even through all the brain damage.” Angie remarked dryly, pursing her lips.

 

“We didn’t expect you to be up for another day or so. Had to put you under, your brain was so swollen from all the knocks. If your boy hadn’t already torn Yamahara’s arms off, I’d have done it myself.” Sherri snapped the clipboard back in to place before moving to stand in front of Nick’s makeshift bed, clearing her throat. “I need access to my patient, Jakoby.”

 

“I don’t remember tearing off any arms,” Nick grumbled sourly, still refusing to move from Angie’s bedside. They locked eyes in a silent battle of wills, and grudgingly, Nick inched to the side, allowing Sherri to move aside one of the chairs, and approach the bed.

 

“Can you sit up?”

 

It took her a few tries, but after leaning on Nick’s sturdy form for support, Angie swung her legs over the side of the bed. The room tilted dangerously for a moment as Angie’s vision swam out of focus, but quickly righted itself after a few deep breaths.

 

“Okay. I think I should take you for an MRI. And possibly a CT scan. Let me get a wheelchair. Don’t try to move on your own.” Sherri instructed, poking a finger into Angie’s chest.

 

“An MRI? Yamahara didn’t hit me that hard.” Nick snorted at her candidness, and Sherri rolled her eyes.

 

“No, but that cocktail of drugs he gave you? Did a number on your brain function. And a high grade concussion certainly did not help.” Angie sighed, watching as Sherri disappeared into the hallway. I wonder what I look like. Probably hell. She hadn’t groomed herself properly in days, and as she reached up to touch her hair, she gasped. It was pulled up into a pineapple at the top of her head, secured with one of her head scarves from home. She glanced at Nick out of the corner of her eye. He was blushing, and doing his absolute best not to look at her.

 

“Did you do my hair?” She asked incredulously, grinning when he nodded sheepishly.

 

“They weren’t doing it right.” He replied shortly, pursing his lips.

 

This man… fought tirelessly to find me, slept beside my hospital bed every night and… he twisted my fucking hair? Angie had never known so surely, so completely that Nick was it before. No one else. Just him. Only him. The thoughts and feelings jumbled together inside her head, making her swallow thickly as she stared at him.

 

“I love you.” She replied, the words tumbling out of her mouth without preamble. This time, Nick didn’t seem to be able to hold himself back, throwing his arms around her as he pressed his face to her throat. She couldn’t hear him, but she could feel his mouth moving against her skin, whispering words of love and devotion.

 

“Sorry to interrupt,” Sherri replied awkwardly from the doorway, the wheelchair in her hands. “But I’ve got to take her for tests now, Nick.” Angie knew that it took every ounce of strength in him to let her go, to peel his fingers from her arms and let Sherri help her into the rather flimsy looking chair. “She’ll be back soon.”

 

Angie glanced over her shoulder as Sherri wheeled her away, her eyes loosing Nick’s gold ones as they turned a corner.

 

“How many tests is it?” Angie asked, yawning. It was unimaginable that she’d already be tired after being awake less than an hour, but she was. “What kind of tests?” Doctors, nurses and patients all moved around her, involved in their own tasks and paying the two of them very little attention.

 

“MRI, to see how your brain is doing, and to check that hairline fracture in your shin. Then a blood test, and you’ll be back in your bed before lunchtime. Which might as well be dinner to you, because you’ll be out like a light right after.”

 

There was a doctor waiting in the room with the MRI machine, and he was flipping through a copy of what appeared to be her medical chart.

 

“Okay, miss Nicholson, I’m going to need you to lay down, here…”

 

 

——

 

 

She smells different.

 

Nick stood over Angie as she slept fitfully, frowning. she jerked in her sleep, kicking her foot out and almost hitting the wall. Ever since he’d had the presence of mind to scent her, there had been something… different about Angie. He’d artfully kept the fact that they’d had to sedate him a second time in order to get them both into surgery from her knowledge. No use worrying her further.

 

When Sherri brought her back from her tests, Angie was fighting to keep her eyes open. The bland hospital lunches that had been delivered to her room while she was gone were on the bed when she got back. He’d forced a few bites of food down her throat before she’d fallen asleep, and he’d ravenously demolished what remained. It was dusk now, and he doubted Angie would be awake again until morning. His own injuries had been fairly minor in comparison, and the doctors and security staff had given up trying to make him sleep in his own room, in a bed.

 

He stroked her head gently, before leaning down to inhale her comfortingly familiar scent. Something’s definitely different.

 

 

“I love you too.” He whispered gently, brushing his lips against her forehead. He’d almost wept with relief when she’d woken up—especially because he’d been told that she might not wake up at all.

 

“What do you mean by that?” Nick’s lips were pressed into a hard line as he stood over the doctor. He didn’t particularly enjoy using his size to intimidate people, but it certainly got him answers every time. The older man looked up at him somewhat sheepishly, his knuckles white as he grasped the medical chart with stiff fingers.

 

“I mean she… well it’s not very pretty, Mr. Jakoby. Angelica’s condition is severe. The concussion, on top of the blood loss… I’m just informing you of the possibility that she may not recover fully.”

 

“Like.. she’d be in a wheelchair?” Nick replied, his eyes flicking back to the unresponsive woman on the bed. Angie’s head was heavily bandaged, and her leg was propped up in a hanging sling. The doctor shook his head.

 

“No. She might… she may not wake up.” Nick couldn’t help the low growl that escaped his throat, and the doctor jumped, nearly dropping the clipboard. “Now, now it’s only a possibility. We’ll be able to better see what the damage has done when the swelling goes down. I just wanted to inform you…”

Nick shook his head, trying futilely to clear it. He sighed, and sat gingerly on the side of the bed, crawling over her until he could safely wedge himself between her small body and the wall. Careful not to jostle her head, Nick cradled her to his chest, reveling in contact he hadn’t had in days. It felt like years since he’d last held her, felt the warmth of her skin against his own. She groaned, mewling in her sleep as her fingers tangled in the thin scrubs he wore. “Settle down, Ang.” He murmured softly against her hair. “I’m here now.”

 

It was hard to fall asleep with the sounds of the hospital ringing in his ears, but Nick managed somehow.

 

When he woke, sunlight was streaming through the windows, and Angie was still asleep, her head buried in his chest. He stretched gingerly, doing his best not to move his sleeping girlfriend. His efforts, however, seemed to be in vain as she groaned, moving against him.

 

“Go back to sleep, Ang.”

 

“I would, but you woke me up.” She grumbled, rubbing her nose against his chest. “I don’t feel so good…” She groaned, rolling onto her back. Angie draped her arm across her eyes as Nick got up to close the blinds. Light sensitivity. The doctors said she might have that… From the drugs. Nick felt the burning anger and indignation at Yamahara flare up again, only to be calmed by the knowledge that he was finally gone.

 

He’d protected his mate. Avenged her.

 

A knock sounded at the door, but Nick couldn’t quite see who it was through the warped plastic window embedded in it.

 

“Come in.” Angie called, peeking underneath her arm as the door opened. This time it wasn’t Sherri, or any other nurse. Nick growled low in his throat in frustration.

 

“Glad to see you awake, miss Nicholson.” The elf’s sharp teeth glinted in the fluorescent hospital lighting, and Nick moved quickly to stand beside the bed, just in case. His logical mind told him that there was no way Kandomere would have allowed the both of them to be nursed back to health if he was only going to order their deaths now—but the primal part of him, the part that had taken great pleasure in squeezing the life out of Yamahara’s now empty eye sockets, told him to guard her anyway.

 

She’d already been taken from him once at the behest of the man who stood before him—he wouldn’t allow it to happen again. Even if it came to blows.

 

“You don’t sound particularly pleased one way or the other, but I don’t know if that’s just because of the whole mysterious elf thing you’ve got going, or because you just said that as a formality,” Angie replied dryly, inclining her head in greeting. Kandomere moved past the threshold, and took up residence in one of the uncomfortable chairs Nick had slept in two nights before.

 

“Where’s Montehugh?” He asked, peering into the hallway behind him. Both times Nick had crossed the elf, he’d had his human partner with him.

 

“He’s getting his nose realigned,” Kandomere replied smoothly, his silvery eyes locking onto Nick’s.

 

“Tell him I said sorry.” Nick winced, remembering the knockout punch he’d delivered to the other man. He meant the apology—he certainly hadn’t meant to break his nose.

 

The barest hint of a grin flashed across Kandomere’s face—so quickly that Nick wasn’t even sure if he’d seen it. “I shall pass along your sentiments.” He cleared his throat, before lacing his fingers together above his knees. “Tell me, officer Jakoby. What occurred between you and agent Yamahara?”

 

Nick had dreaded this moment. He’d known it was coming of course, but he’d hoped…

 

“I pursued him into the warehouse. He.. he pulled a gun on me. I killed him.”

 

“In self defense, of course.” It wasn’t a question, nor was it a prompt. Kandomere was telling him what his story was going to be. Nick had played this game with him before, and it seemed this time wouldn’t be any different. Any deviation, any sign that he would reveal the truth of Angie’s disappearance… and Nick suspected that Kandomere wouldn’t be opposed to eliminating them.

 

“Yes. Self defense.” More like so he’d never be able to lay another fucking finger on Angie, but sure. Nick took a breath and continued. “Yamahara worked for a cult organization called Humans First, who have been carrying out ritualistic murders on interspecies couples across the country. We were their next targets.”

 

“And the rumors about them seeking a Wand?” He prompted, and Nick swallowed, glancing at Angie. She was wise enough to stay quiet, watching their interaction with a keen eye, her chin resting on her raised knees.

 

“Unsubstantiated.”

 

Kandomere nodded, satisfied. “Good. We’re finished here. If you’ll excuse us, Officer…?” He replied, his voice dripping with authority and the expectation of deference. It took Nick a moment to realize what he was being asked—told. He wants to debrief her.

 

Alone.

 

“I’m not going anywhere.” There was no way in hell he was leaving Angie alone with Kandomere. “Anything you have to say to her, you can say in front of me.” He crossed his arms, settling back against the wall and thrusting his chin out. Angie sat just beside him on the bed, still under the thin sheets. Kandomere scoffed at his resolve.

 

“Don’t make us sedate you a third time, officer.” His voice was calm, but Nick knew a threat when he heard one. It was a fairly harmless sedative, and though the lingering effects were uncomfortable, none of them were long lasting. The real threat was being involuntarily unconscious and unable to get to Angie if and when anything went wrong. And that little animal part of his brain wouldn’t allow it.

 

He stayed silent for a few more moments, angrily staring down the smaller male before him.

 

“It’s okay. I’ll be okay. You’ll be right outside, right?” Angie’s voice was quiet as she rested her hand against his arm, her eyes encouraging. “It’s okay.” She repeated, leaning forward to press her lips against his cheek.

 

Nick huffed, and remained in place for a minute longer, hoping that his size and manner made the threat clear—if anything happened to her, Kandomere would be the one to pay this time. Nick had to stop himself from stomping across the room as he made his way to the door, throwing it open with far more force than necessary. “I’ll be right out here.” He repeated, throwing himself into one of the uncomfortable chairs in the hallway outside, a frown etched onto his features. Without missing a beat, Kandomere stood to smoothly shut the door behind him, cutting off the sound from inside.

 

Dammit.

 

“They kicked you out too, huh?” At the sound of the familiar voice, Nick’s head snapped up.

 

“Ward!” His partner looked a little worse for wear, his arm in a sling matching Nick’s. He didn’t look pleased to see him, but then again Ward never looked particularly happy about anything. Nick’s first instinct was to engulf the other man in a hug, but he stopped himself. Ward would probably shoot me if I did that. “How’s your arm?” He asked awkwardly, unable to think of anything else to say.

 

“Painful. Pretty clean shot, though. Should be able to get back to work soon.” He grinned tightly. “How’s your shoulder?”

 

“Closing up okay. I didn’t even feel it.”

 

The silence was so awkward, Nick was reminded of the first time they’d met, their first patrol together.

 

“Listen, I…. I’m sorry.” Nick stared at him, confused. Ward looked pensive, his brows knitted together as though he’d been thinking about saying this for a long time.

 

“For what? I’m the one who should be—”

 

“If I’d trusted you, Angie never would have gotten taken. I only went along… well, you know, chain of command bullshit. But I thought… I thought you were too emotional. That you’d make mistakes.” Nick shook his head, reaching forward with his good arm to rest it on Ward’s shoulder.

 

“It’s not your fault. It’s not.. It’s not anybody’s fault.” Except for Yamahara, and he’s dead now. Nick spoke slowly, unsure of what exactly he should say in response. Truthfully, at first, Nick had blamed Ward, a little. It was hard not to, especially when he’d been painted as too emotionally compromised to be trusted with the safety of the one person who mattered more to him than anyone else. But it hadn’t been Ward’s fault—Nick knew that even if he himself had gone with her, they probably would have succeeded in snatching her anyway. “I know you did your best. Angie’s safe now, that’s… that’s all that matters to me.”

 

“Good. Because they definitely fucked up your house.”

 

Nick groaned.

 

“Have you seen Sherri yet?” Nick almost laughed, the way that Ward peered around the hall before nodding.

 

“Yeah. You can guess what she had to say.”

 

Nick could only imagine. This was the second time her husband had been brought into the emergency room—probably on one of her shifts again. She’d probably given him an entire earful and then some—before throwing herself, sobbing, at him; thankful he was still alive.

 

Nick stared at the closed door to Angie’s hospital room, fidgeting. “What do you think they’re talking about?” He asked quietly, tapping his foot impatiently against the linoleum flooring. “Why’s it taking so long?”

 

“Well he has to ask her about what happened. All the shit she saw and heard, you know that can’t go beyond that room, Jakoby.”

 

Nick frowned, but didn’t disagree. He was right; Kandomere was probably grilling her, trying to see if Humans First knew where a Wand was, see what she’d learned from them. After all, they’d expected her to die—they probably weren’t particularly careful about shielding her from incriminating information.

 

After what felt like days, finally the door opened again. Kandomere crossed the threshold and nodded briefly in their direction, before striding confidently down the hall. Nick glared at him as he left, before shouldering past Ward and into the room. Angie was still sitting on the bed, though now her legs were dangling over the side and she seemed fairly lost in thought.

 

“Hey. Babe you okay?” Nick rested a gentle hand on her back, and her head snapped up.

 

“Yeah. Just… Yeah. Hey Ward. Your arm… God I’m sorry.” Angie mumbled, her expression pained. If he knew Angie, she was probably feeling immensely guilty over his condition, and blaming herself. Nick sat down beside her, pulling her close.

 

“Don’t be. I’d say Jakoby got him back fair and square.” Ward chuckled. She sighed, leaning her head on Nick’s shoulder tiredly. “What did he ask you?”

 

“What I knew. If they had a Wand, or any idea where to get one, which was a big fat no. Basically swore me to silence. No talking about the Wand, or… anything they wanted to do with it. If anyone asks, they kidnapped me because of Nick. Nothing else.” She recited, her voice clinical.

 

“Same thing they told us.” Ward replied, stretching. “I’m going to go see if I can find my wife and convince her to do something about this pain in my arm.” Ward grimaced cartoonishly. “Maybe she’ll kiss it better.”

 

Angie laughed lightly at this, and the sound put Nick at ease. “Oh? That’s all you want her to do?” She teased, waggling her eyebrows. She’d been through a lot, and it was nice to hear her laugh. See her smile. “See you.” Angie settled back against the pillows, pulling Nick with her. The hospital bed was small and cramped, and laying down next to her required him to wedge himself in between the wall and the guard rail. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but Nick found it hard to complain as Angie pressed her back to his front and he wrapped his good arm around her, burying his nose in her hair.

 

There it is again.

 

The heady jasmine scent that Angie exuded was just as strong as ever, wrapping around him comfortingly. But underneath it, was a tangy, spiciness he’d never encountered before—even when she was on her period. It didn’t even smell bad—just different. Strangely enough, it was also… mildly arousing.

 

She’s not in any fit state for that. Nick thought sternly at himself, willing his body to stop responding. It had been almost a week since he’d last been inside of her tight, curvy little body—she’d been gone for almost two full days when Yamahara had taken her, but before that, their schedules had been horribly misaligned. Nick coming home as Angie was getting ready for bed, or Angie falling asleep before he was finished with his paperwork.

 

He felt the beginning threads of desire beginning to twine their way into his gut—but even then, it wasn’t as powerful and animalistic as it usually was. It was protective too, this time. Angie wasn’t sleeping, she was simply resting against him, stroking the pad of her foot absently up and down his calf.

 

But… I can kiss her, right?

 

Nick pressed his lips to the side of her neck, and she chuckled lightly before shifting in his arms to look at him. Nick couldn’t stop himself from pressing his mouth hungrily to hers, attempting in vain to make up for all the lost time between them. It was remarkable actually, how all it had taken to break his resolve was a loving look and a small smile. He swept his tongue across her lower lip, pleading for entrance.

 

I want to taste you.

 

She moaned, opening for him, fisting her small hands in the material of his scrubs. “You’re still hurt,” she murmured against his lips, and Nick simply hmm’d at her interjection, sucking her tongue into his mouth. He shifted, using his good arm to tug her up onto his lap as he slid underneath her. The thin cotton panties that the hospital had given her hid nothing of the heat between her things as she pressed against him.

 

“Should we come back later?”

 

Angie squealed in embarrassment, almost throwing herself off of the bed. Nick caught her, steadying her as she swiftly climbed off of him, clamoring to the end of the bed. She tugged the sheets up over her legs, refusing to look at the door.

 

“Hey, Tom.”

 

His brother was two for two with interrupting them, and Nick was certainly going to have to find a way to pay him back for the inconvenience.

 

“Do you just… not knock? Do you not know how?” Angie snapped, before pressing a hand to her head. Her scent changed again—pain. Nick got up quickly from the bed, cursing himself for even thinking about having her when she was in this state, before glaring daggers at his older brother.

 

“Angie needs to rest.”

 

Tom grinned before letting out a deep, bellowing laugh. “What you guys were doing looked real restful,” he snickered, and Nick ignored him, pressing Angie back into the pillows. “Anyway everyone else is signing in, they’ll be here in a minute.”

 

Angie pushed Nick’s hands away, sitting up on her elbows. “Everyone else?”

 

Before Tom could answer, Brun barreled past him into the room, shoving Nick aside as he knelt next to Angie’s bedside. Nick caught himself almost baring his teeth at his father—an act of open defiance he’d never once felt the urge to do before. What is wrong with me?

 

“Liavavle daughavas!” He rumbled, affection evident in his tone. Nick caught Tom’s attention, and his brother rolled his eyes, pulling a face. It was no secret that Brun had always wanted a daughter, and since Angie was the closest to actually becoming family, he’d adopted her like a lost chick. Nick leaned down to whisper the translation into her ear.

 

“Little daughter.”

 

Angie blushed as his father grasped her hands, his expression worried. “Are you alright? You look awful!” His eyes traveled to the ugly bruise above her right eye. “Monsters.” He knew it must have been bittersweet: His family was there; they’d rushed to check on them as soon as the all clear had been given. Hers… was nowhere to be found. Still, he couldn’t see any of the pain or discomfort on her face as she smiled gratefully at Brun, thankful for his concern. They hadn’t even returned the call from the police, to add insult to injury.

 

“I’m okay. Nick’s the one who got shot in his heroic rescue.” Angie replied, gesturing to him. Was that…pride in her voice? “All I managed to do was stall for time.”

 

Nick rolled his eyes, frowning at her. “You have a grade three concussion.” He squeezed her shoulder. “I’d say you put up a pretty good fight.”

 

His mother cleared her throat from the doorway, silencing everyone.

 

“If I may interrupt?” She asked dryly, brandishing a reusable bag. Nick could smell the food from across the room, and his mouth watered. The bland, smartly portioned hospital food hadn’t been cutting it. “You’re going to need to eat good food to get your strength back,” she replied, pushing past his brother and father to settle herself in the chair beside the bed. She busied herself talking to Angie, grasping her chin and turning her head this way and that to assess her injuries, which his girlfriend bore in stride without complaining, even once. She rested her hand on the younger woman’s forehead, eyeing the swollen knot distastefully.

 

“What happened?” Brun asked, dusting himself off and settling on the edge of the bed next to Nick, while Tom took the second chair. “We heard… well on the news they said it was Humans First.” Nick nodded, sighing inwardly. At least this, he could tell them.

 

“They… they target interspecies couples. I guess Angie and I were just too high profile to pass up.” It was better that they didn’t know about the Wand anyway—and even in spite of Kandomere’s limitations, he probably wouldn’t have volunteered that information  of his own volition anyway.

 

“God…” Tom replied rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m… fuck that’s awful.” Brun cut his eyes at his older child, but he only shrugged. “What? I don’t even know how else to say it.”

 

Nick nodded. It had been awful.

 

They asked him more about what had occurred—what happened to the men that took Angie? How had they found her? Would everything be okay? He answered as best he could—there wasn’t a lot that he could tell them, beyond what they’d already been told by the news. By late afternoon, Angie was exhausted. And though she was loathe to say anything, Nick could see her fighting to keep her eyes open. His mother had demanded paper plates, cups, and forks in order to dish out the slow-roasted beef cheek she’d brought with her, in addition to the creamy potatoes and soft rice—Nick was close to a food coma himself. It was no wonder Angie was barely awake as it was.

 

“Well, I think it’s time to head home,” Brun replied, catching his son’s drift. “You’ll let us know when you get discharged, won’t you?” He asked, looking back and forth between the two of them. Angie nodded sleepily.

 

“Of course. You don’t—” she paused to yawn, “Have to leave on my account.”

 

His mother shook her head. “No, you should rest. Besides, it’s almost dinner time, and I have an army to feed. Apparently.” She threw a stern look at Tom and Brun, who feigned innocence. Nick rose to walk his family to the door. His mother was the last out of the room, casting a glance back at the already sleeping Angie. Oblivious, his brother and father continued on down the hall, while his mother placed a gentle hand on Nick’s shoulder.

 

“I have never been one for apologies,” She replied wiping an imaginary speck of dirt from his cheek as she regarded him affectionately. “But I was wrong.” She peered around him again at the human girl in the hospital bed. “You chose right.”

 

 

When Nick climbed back into the bed, settling Angie against his chest, she murmured sleepily. “It was nice of them to visit me.” Nick chuckled.

 

“They like you.”

 

“Apart from racist terrorists, who doesn’t like me?” she joked, yawning. Nick sighed contentedly.

 

Now if only he could take her home.

 

 

The hospital, Angie decided, was her least favorite place on earth. Sherri had bustled in bright and early to take Angie to consult with Doctor Gupta about her test results, and any treatments they thought that she might need. It was a constant process of vetting her wellness, and, well, she was beyond ready to be done with it all. At least at the warehouse they let me sleep in.

 

Currently, Nick was having his own run in with the hospital staff—they needed to check on the progress of his injury. And if it as determined that his care was such that it could be administered at home, he’d be released. Angie wasn’t so sure about herself. She still had headaches, fuzzy thoughts, and vertigo, though Sherri assured her those were all normal symptoms, and that her recovery was going well. All I know is I want to go home.

 

The doctor’s office was near the Nurse’s station, and when Sherri wheeled her in, she excused herself, closing the door behind her.

 

“Ah, Miss Nicholson. How have you been feeling?” He asked, genuine concern written across his wrinkled face. Angie had seen him in the hospital before, and she had a vague memory of him with surgical scrubs on—but she couldn’t place it. Likely it had been when she’d first arrived at the hospital, and her memories of that were blurry and distant at best. “Nurse Ward told me about your headaches, but I’m afraid that’s normal.” He grasped a manilla folder that Angie assumed was her medical chart, before flipping through it, stopping to skim a few pages.

 

“I’m feeling alright. Dizzy, still, though. Mainly that. And… I have trouble remembering what happened, but Sherri said that was normal.”

 

The doctor nodded, running a hand through his gray hair. “Yes, memory loss is completely normal in any grade of concussion. You’re not loosing any information, as far as we can tell. All the cognitive tests prove that. All in all, you’re making a fairly good recovery.” He flipped through a few more pages, and pushed his glasses up his nose. “Oh, my! And let me be the first to extend congratulations.”

 

“Thank you,” Angie replied, before furrowing her brow. “Congratulations on my recovery, you mean?” She asked confusedly, cocking her head. It didn’t hurt so much to move now, though her legs were still shaky when she tried to take her own weight. He smiled kindly at her, before shaking his head.

 

“The blood tests bring up all kinds of interesting information,” he replied, settling on the front of his desk. “Cholesterol levels, blood type, proteins and vitamins in your blood, et cetera. It picked up the human chorionic gonadotropin in your blood.” He paused for a moment, as though waiting for her to catch on, but Angie’s fuzzy brain was having trouble computing the information.

 

“I’m sorry Dr. Gupta, in English, please?”

 

“HCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy, and can be detected in the blood.”

 

The bottom fell out of her world. Angie could see the doctor’s lips moving, but couldn’t hear them over the rush of blood and her heart pounding in her ears. There was a slight ringing too, a high, keening noise that she couldn’t block out.

 

HCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy.

 

During pregnancy.

 

Pregnancy.

 

“I’m pregnant?” she replied softly, interrupting him. The older man seemed flustered, as though not entirely sure how to respond to her question. He’d probably only ever seen people react with joy to such news—not complete and utter confusion. I can’t be. I’m not. We’ve never… It’s not possible.

 

“Y-yes, I mean, that’s what the results say.” He straightened his glasses, a blush staining his cheeks. He went on to explain to her that she would be discharged the following day, and that Sherri would go over all of her care and needs—but Angie wasn’t hearing him. She stared at the window behind him, her eyes wide and her mind in turmoil.

 

I can’t be. Another test… should I do another test?

 

“—Nicholson? Are you alright?”

 

He still sounded muted and far away, but she nodded dazedly. “Yeah. Sorry. I… is it possible to do another test? Another pregnancy test?”

 

“I-I suppose if you wanted one, we could certainly arrange it,” He replied, surprised. “When—”

 

“Now.” Angie gripped the armrests of the wheelchair until her knuckles went pale. “Right now. Please.”

 

Sherri was still at the nurses station outside, and he waved her in, while Angie sat, wringing her hands. What would Nick say? Would he be happy? Would he even… would he even want to keep it?

 

“Can you take Miss Nicholson to the OBGYN’s office? She’d like to have a pregnancy test run.” Sherri squealed, leaning down to hug Angie, who couldn’t quite bring herself to return it. She was still in a daze; there was no possible way she was pregnant. She and Nick had been going at it raw for months—how was it possible that now was the time his seed decided to do it’s job? Calm down. It’s a false positive. Probably to do with whatever the hell drugs Yamahara gave you. You’re not pregnant.

 

You can’t be.

 

 

“I didn’t know you were trying!” Sherri replied happily as she wheeled Angie out of Doctor Gupta’s office. Angie laughed weakly—it was all she could do to keep from crying frustrated, angry tears.

 

“We weren’t.” The words came out harsher than she’d intended, but she couldn’t help it.

 

“Oh.” Sherri was silent for a moment, before placing an understanding hand on her shoulder. Angie wasn’t sure what she was feeling. Shock for certain. She’d always wanted to be a mother, but… like this? Being with Nick netted the both of them more than enough public vitriol to last a lifetime—she couldn’t imagine what bringing a child into that shitstorm would be like.

 

“It just…. why now? Of all the fucking times for this to happen… now is probably the worst.” Angie pressed the heels of her palms against her closed eyelids, fighting back the headache that was just beginning to form on the fringes of her consciousness. This concussion shit is getting really old, she thought frustratedly, rubbing her temples.

 

“It’s your body, Ang.” Sherri replied softly as she pressed the button for the elevator. “I won’t judge. And I won’t tell Nick.” Angie didn’t realize she was squeezing her hand until Sherri’s wedding ring dug into her palm. “Promise.”

 

Angie sniffled, her eyes watering. It was a lot. She’d just been getting used to the idea of going home to have a quiet normal life with Nick—nowhere in that equation had she included a child. If dating an orc got her kidnapped, Angie hated to see what being pregnant by one would bring. Not to mention we’re not even… we’re not even married.

 

It seemed like a silly hangup to have; wanting to be married before she had kids—but Angie couldn’t help it. Her minister father had drilled so many things into her head; some of them were harder to forget than others.

 

Daddy always did say I’d end up unmarried and pregnant. The kidnapping’s new, though.

 

The doors dinged and opened up into the maternity ward. It was almost comically surreal, watching the other women move through the ward—some were shuffling around, hoping to induce labor. One of them was being raced down the hallway in a wheelchair just like hers, clutching her stomach. Sherri wheeled Angie past the neonatal care unit, where at least a dozen newborns lay quietly in labeled cribs. Just past there, Sherri banked hard to the right, pushing open a pair of double doors.

 

The resident OBGYN was considerably older than the two of them, though her shocking red hair and bright makeup made Angie do a double take. She smiled warmly at them, before waving familiarly at Sherri. She swiveled in her chair to face them, sliding the paperwork she’d been perusing back onto the counter. “What can I do you ladies for?” She looked at Angie for a moment, her brow furrowed, before her eyes widened in recognition. “Well I’ll be damned. Never thought I’d see you, down here. I thought the ICU got this big star all to themselves.”

 

Sherri rolled her eyes. “This is Doctor Miriam Himura. Usually she’s more polite.” Miriam shot her a look.

 

“How was that impolite?” She sniffed, rolling her eyes.

 

“I’m Angie Nicholson.” Angie offered, by way of introduction. Miriam nodded knowingly, before replying.

 

“We all watch the news, we all know who you are.” She said honestly, grinning good  as she grasped the folder that Sherri offered her. “So. What can I do for you? Pelvic exam?” She pushed her cat eye glasses up her nose as she flipped through Angie’s medical charts. “Birth control?”

 

“Uh, no.” Angie stammered, shifting nervously in her seat. That probably would have been something I should have looked into eight months ago. “I need a pregnancy test.” The words stuck a little in her throat, and felt strange as they passed her lips. She’d never had to do this before. She’d always been careful… It’s not possible. It’s a false positive. It’s fine. The words were on repeat, spinning through her consciousness and making it hard to think with any measure of focus.

 

“Ooooh. Okay. Well, we can do that no problem. Quick and easy.” She walked over to one of the cabinets that lined the examination room, and produced a small, plastic cup with a twist off lid. “Fill this up, and we’ll see.”

 

“Pee in it, right?”

 

Doctor Himura snorted. “Well, yeah. I mean, please don’t shit in it.”

 

Angie laughed in spite of herself, and Sherri wheeled her towards the bathroom. Angie swallowed thickly, her clammy hands clinging tightly to the grips of the wheelchair. “I’ll be right out here.” She wavered. “Or… I mean I can come in, if you need—”

 

“No.” Angie replied, shaking her head firmly. “I…I can do this. I’ll be fine. Just wait here?” She pushed herself to her unsteady feet, which took two tries before she felt stable enough to move on her own. She grasped the guard-rail running along the wall, and used it to propel herself forward, swinging the door shut behind her. Angie collapsed onto the toilet, her lip trembling as she stared wordlessly at the cup in front of her.

 

What if it’s real?

 

Her grip tightened, until the little plastic lid creaked. What will I tell him?

 

With shaking fingers she unscrewed the cap, resting it on the sink beside her. Holding it underneath herself, Angie forced herself to still as she filled the cup. She washed her hands, and for the first time since she’d woken, she looked at herself in the mirror.

 

I look like shit.

 

Her toffee colored skin was washed out and pale in the fluorescent lighting, and the dark hollows beneath her eyes were more prominent now than they’d ever been. Her eyes were dull, and her lips were cracked at more than a little dry. Angie almost laughed. How can Nick even stand to kiss me when my mouth is like sandpaper? The twists he’d done for her were still pulled up into a pineapple on top of her head, the ends hanging down over her forehead like bangs. They weren’t the most even twists in the world, nor were they the neatest, but she was touched that he’d tried—that he paid attention enough to try. They at least, did a fair job of hiding the ugly knot on her forehead, courtesy of Yamahara.

 

Clearing her throat, Angie dried her hands, and put the cup in the little two sided cabinet behind the toilet. She sighed, squaring her shoulders. Well, this was it. She’d know now, one way or the other. Angie pulled open the door, and allowed Sherri to help her settle back into the wheelchair.

 

Doctor Himura was nowhere to be found, but Sherri didn’t seem particularly concerned, settling herself against the cabinets lining the examination room. “Where’s the doctor?” Angie asked, shifting in her seat.

 

“She’s running your test. It’s pretty quick, it only takes a few minutes.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Angie found her thoughts wandering back to Nick. He was probably back in the room, waiting for her. How would he take it—if the test was positive? Angie recalled the fond look in his eyes upon seeing his cousin’s newborn, and the cautious optimism with which he’d spoken about being a parent. But that was before.

 

Before someone had tried to kill her just for being with him. He’d been loathe to go public for specifically that reason, and it seemed that his fears had been completely justified. Absently, Angie rested a hand on her stomach. I don’t feel any different.

 

She still felt like good old Angie—plus a high grade concussion and a fracture here or there. That means… I was pregnant when they gave me those drugs. The thought roused her from the sleepy disassociation, snapping her thoughts back into alarming clarity. Maybe I’m not.

 

“Hey, oh, good, everyone’s all here.” Miriam poked her head through the door. “Sometimes people aren’t back from the bathroom when the test’s finished.” She slid inside, shutting it behind her. She’s done this countless times, Angie realized, after searching the older woman’s face for a tell and finding none. “Are you ready to hear your results?” She asked, her eyes flicking down to the paper she held in her hands.

 

“Yes please.”

 

“You’re pregnant.” She delivered the results clinically, carefully, and without any hint of emotion. She’s definitely done this a million times.

 

Angie grasped the armrests of her chair; digging her fingernails into the soft cushioning, her eyes wide. The doctor knelt down in front of her, resting a comforting hand on her knee. “Now. You’re only a few weeks along. It wouldn’t… well it wouldn’t be traumatic to abort now, if you wanted to.” Her voice was soft and nonjudgemental. Angie’s voice was hoarse when she spoke.

 

“How many weeks?” She croaked.

 

“By my count, at least five. Five to seven.”

 

Five weeks… Angie’s heart leapt to her throat, her pulse racing.

 

“Can I… Can I see it?” She asked, splaying her fingers over her stomach through the thin hospital gown. “I mean—”

 

“Yes.” Miriam nodded, squeezing Angie’s knee. “I can do an ultrasound, if you like.” Her tone was still just as gentle as before. Angie nodded hurriedly. She had to see it. That would make it real.

 

Sherri helped Angie out of the chair and onto the examination table, situating her until she was comfortable. “I’m going to have to pull up your gown, is that alright?” Angie nodded. “The gel is cold. Sherri can you grab the machine and wheel it in? It’s in the next room over.” Miriam squirted a glob of gel into her hands, before spreading it across Angie’s abdomen.

 

Funny, I can’t even feel it.

 

Sherri returned moments later with the Ultrasound machine. “Okay. Let’s do this.” She pressed the reader to Angie’s belly, far more firmly than she’d ever have imagined. It’s rougher than I thought it’d be. Doctor Himura made a few passes with the wand, before clearing her throat. Angie had been pointedly staring at her toes, unable to bring her eyes to the screen. She had requested this, but now…

 

“It’s okay.” Sherri replied softly, resting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

 

Angie forced her eyes up, dragging them up the cream colored machinery to the static of the screen. There, in the center, was a wriggling black sac, at the center of which…

 

Oh my god.

 

“Should I turn the volume up?”

 

“Yes please.” Her voice was hoarse. Suddenly, the sound of a quick, solid heartbeat filled the room, thudding against her ears. My baby. Neither Miriam nor Sherri spoke, something Angie was grateful for. “It’s real.” She murmured, staring at the screen with no small amount of wonder.

 

I’m pregnant.

 

“Can I have some time?” She asked after a moment, and Doctor Himura nodded, before directing Sherri to wipe the gel off of Angie’s stomach. “I just… I need to think.”

 

 

Dammit.

 

Angie had hoped—futilely, it seemed—that Nick would still be out on his check-ups when she returned to the room they shared.

 

Fuck you too, Fortuna.

 

He didn’t notice her at first, his expression thoughtful as he stared sightlessly out the window. And then he inhaled, taking notice of her scent. His eyes brightened as he saw her, rushing forward to press a kiss to her lips.

 

“How were your tests?” His eyes were bright and attentive—with just the slimmest sliver of worry. She couldn’t blame him—her recovery had been touch and go at best, she’d have been worried too, if their roles had been reversed. “Any good news?” There’s been some news, alright… Angie swallowed thickly. It was best to do it like a bandaid. Just tell him, get it over with, get it off of her chest. Her heart pounded, loud enough that she was partly concerned he’d hear it.

 

Both our heartbeats…

 

“I’ll let you two get settled.” Sherri’s voice gave away nothing—a small favor that Angie was immeasurably thankful for. She closed the door behind her, lingering for a moment before moving away down the hall. “Ang?” There was an expectancy in his eyes that made guilt pool in the pit of her stomach. It wasn’t like she was hiding anything, and it certainly wasn’t like she was lying…

 

“Yeah,” she replied slowly. “I got… well I got back all my blood work. Everything’s fine.” Nick narrowed his eyes worriedly, placing a hand on her forehead. “But there’s…” the words seemed to stick in her throat like glue. “There’s something else I should tell you.”

 

Nick nodded stoically, stiffening. Angie could tell he was doing his best to conceal his concern; he was probably busily jumping to conclusions, and with her luck, they would all be the wrong ones. He was steeling himself, preparing for the worst—which probably wasn’t the worst idea.

 

“I… In my blood work, they found a protein,” she rambled, unable to force out the two words she knew would most easily explain her nervousness. “It’s um… It’s released when…” Nick was sitting on the bed now, his hands clasped tightly. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

 

“Just tell me, Ang.”

 

“It’s a… well it’s released when you’re… when you get pregnant.” Angie forced the words out in a rush of air, her tongue refusing to hold them any longer. It was hard to push them out, but equally hard to keep them in. The seconds ticked by in silence like hours as his eyebrow ridges furrowed, his lips pressed into a thin line.

 

“When… when who’s pregnant?” He’d gone stock still, his hands tightly gripping the edge of the mattress. His eyes were trained on her, his pupils tiny pinpricks in seas of gold. “Are you… you’re not.” He shook his head. “We can’t… I can’t get you pregnant.” His voice was small, colored by disbelief. Angie chewed her lip nervously, picking at the dry, peeling skin nervously.

 

“I didn’t think so either, but…” She swallowed thickly. “I did two tests, and… I’m pregnant, Nick.”

 

Nick lurched forward off of the bed, sinking to his knees in front of Angie as he pressed his face to her belly. He inhaled deeply, wrapping his arms tightly around her middle, tugging her forward. “You’re sure?” His voice came out muffled, and Angie couldn’t help but laugh, running her hands over the back of his neck.

 

“Pretty sure.”

 

Nick turned his head to the side, resting his cheek against her blanket covered thigh. He chuckled, the sound reverberating in the small room. “I thought your scent was changing because… because you were about to get your period.” He took another deep breath. “But… you were pregnant.”

 

 

“We never even talked about this,” Angie replied suddenly, her lip trembling as she spoke. “I mean, we talked about it but we never talked about it! What am I going to do?” She hiccuped, the words coming faster than she could process them. All of her worries and fears were jumbling together inside her brain—and worst of all, she couldn’t process them properly; everything melding together into a whirlwind of emotional chaos.

 

This is the worst possible time for me to have a concussion.

 

Nick grasped her face gently, tilting her chin down toward him. “We’re talking about it now. It’s your body, Angie.” He swallowed. “I won’t make you go through with… if you’re not ready, it’s okay.” The unspoken questions loomed heavily in her mind, too—what if this was a one time fluke? What if there couldn’t be another time?

 

What if this was the only chance they got?

 

“What if I can’t get pregnant again? What if it’s just a one off deal, and we can’t have another baby?” Angie said quietly, the true face of her fears finally showing itself. “I’m scared, Nick.” It was almost comical—after everything she’d been through, everything they’d endured to get here—it was this that scared her the most. She’d never vocalized that fear, and now, to admit it over something so small they could barely see it on a microscope made her feel silly.

 

Angie wasn’t sure if it was coincidence, but Nick hadn’t moved his hand from her stomach. Not an inch. He rested his head against the chubby swell of her belly, his ear pressed against her, listening. How could I have ever thought he’d be anything but happy? His molten eyes flicked up to hers, and Angie was shaken by what she saw there—fierce pride, joy, and love. Is he proud of me? What could he possibly be proud of me for? Her mouth moved before she could stop it. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

 

“Ang, you lived. There’s nothing in the world more important to me than that.” He swept her into his arms, crushing her to his chest. “And you… you have my kid in there.” There was a note of awe in his voice, as though simply by being pregnant, she’d surpassed his expectations.

 

He carried her over to the bed, where he laid her down gingerly, still sniffling. He climbed into the bed beside her, wedging himself into his spot between her and the cold, unforgiving wall. Angie turned to face him, pressing her nose into his muscular chest. “What are you afraid of?”

 

“What if I’m a bad mom?” The words left her lips in a rush of breath. After all, I don’t exactly have the best examples to draw from…

 

“You wouldn’t be.”

 

“How do you know?” Angie demanded, pushing away to look him in the eye. Nick laughed, his fingers absently stroking her thigh.

 

“Remember when those guys broke in?” He asked, and Angie frowned, scoffing.

 

“Of course I do. You wouldn’t come to bed, you just sat there in the fucking hallway, all night.” Angie shuddered, recalling her fear—though by comparison to what she’d just endured, it was relatively tame.

 

“You did too.” Nick replied, his lips brushing her forehead as he leaned down. “You stayed right there. No explanation. No complaints. You just… stayed. That’s how I know.” He rested one hand on her knee, squeezing it reassuringly. “You’re resourceful. Resilient.”

 

“Don’t stop on my account,” Angie replied, unable to fight back the small smile that had crept across her lips. “I’ve never…I’ve never heard of a half human, half orc baby, Nick.”

 

“I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a legend or two.”

 

“Oh, that’s the perfect thing to base the future of our child on. Old wives tales.”

 

“These are war stories. Hardly wives tales.” Nick sniffed, as though his pride was ever so slightly injured. “There’s truth in them sometimes.”

 

Angie eyed Nick suspiciously before answering. “I hope it’s not the one you told me where the guy fucks a goat.” Nick grimaced at the mention of it, frowning. He muttered something under his breath, and though Angie didn’t catch it, it sounded suspiciously like “never should have told you that one”.

 

“No, it’s not that one.” He snapped, pulling away from her at last. “You should lay down.” Angie wanted to protest, but she was feeling cranky and achy; getting back into bed would be a welcome respite. Nick’s hand on her back was warm as he helped her back into the narrow hospital bed they were sharing. His back had to be killing him, the angles he had been contorting himself into. He slid in beside her, tucking her head under his chin. “It’s about a dragon slayer. Or something.”

 

“Or something,” Angie replied, her tone slightly mocking. She felt Nick chuckle against her.

 

“I’ll ask my mom.”

 

“You do that, I’ll ask google.”

 

He snorted loudly in response, climbing over her to lay down in the narrow space beside her. “Besides, I think my mom will know a thing or two about Orc births, considering.” His tone was slightly sarcastic, and along with the slight curl of his brow ridge, Angie could tell he was mocking her.

 

Without missing a beat, Angie fired back, unable to hold back the lascivious grin that worked it’s way across her face. “Yeah, almost as much as you know about putting the babies in there to begin with.” Nick growled, pouncing on her.

 

“I’ll show you just how much I know,” he murmured cheekily, his hands working their way up her thighs, pushing the flimsy gown up as they went.

 

 

 

“Not here! Someone will see. This isn’t very fatherly of you,” Angie replied, giggling when he nipped at the sensitive skin of her throat. Nick ground his burgeoning erection against her thigh, chuckling when she gasped softly.

 

“I seem to recall you saying something similar,” He growled, his hands fisting in the thin fabric of her hospital gown. Realizing he was preparing to tear it off of her, Angie slapped at his hands in warning.

 

“Don’t you dare tear it! How will I explain to Sherri why I need another dressing gown?”

 

“As artfully as you told me you were pregnant with my child?” Before she could spit out another angry retort, Nick laved his rough tongue against her neck, and the words died in her throat. She was concerned with someone walking by, peeking in the little window and seeing what they were up to, but it was growing considerably harder to maintain the worry—especially when his calloused fingers found the pebbled flesh of her nipple beneath her hospital gown, rolling it.

 

“Last time I said it, someone walked in on us,” she reminded him, though she was unable to push him away. Instead, Angie found herself digging her finger nails into his back through his scrubs, and leaning down to lave a kiss against the tip of his pointed ear despite her weak protests. “I don’t seem to remember you enjoying that very much.”

 

Nick didn’t answer her, only tugged impatiently at the hem of the comically thin garment. Angie shifted, wriggling until it was tugged up over the loose fitting granny panties that were apparently standard hospital issue. I probably make a pretty boner-killing picture right about now, Angie thought to herself, allowing Nick to tugged the offending clothing up and over her head. “I’ve gotta say, I’ve never felt less sexy in my life.”

 

“Stop it,” Nick chastised, frowning at her as he leaned back to pull off his own shirt. “You’re the sexiest inpatient on the planet.” Angie couldn’t help but laugh.

 

“Plain cotton granny panties? The biggest fucking turn on.” Angie said, snickering as he stripped off the panties in question, his eyes flashing as he ran gentle fingers over her still healing bruises littering her smooth skin.

 

“Not as much as the ass in them.” He rumbled. Nick leaned down to press his lips gently against the largest of the discolorations, mouthing words she couldn’t understand. He stopped above her bare belly. He pressed one large hand to her stomach, his lips following the path his fingers trailed over her skin. Nick’s lips found her thigh, nipping the sensitive skin as he pressed her legs apart. He licked his lips with surprising hunger at the sight of her. “Jiak yah lat evinaj be weav…*” His mouth was close enough to her that Angie could practically feel his lips on her cunt.

 

He laved his tongue along her swollen slit, it’s rough touch making Angie cry out, arching her hips toward his face. The pad of his tongue pressed against her clit as he drew her legs further apart, exposing her dampness fully to his hungry gaze. Angie wondered if maybe she should have been afraid of that instinctual, animal part of Nick, but she wasn’t.

 

She couldn’t be, when he pressed the tip of his finger into her clenching entrance, raking his teeth against the soft skin of her thigh. “Sou ukofav.” He murmured, before gently nipping the sensitive flesh of her clit with blunt teeth. Angie squealed, her thighs tightening around his head as he went to work; mercilessly sucking the engorged flesh into his mouth as a second finger joined his first.

 

“N-Nick!” Angie rolled her hips against his face, groaning as he dug his fingers into the soft cheeks of her ass.

 

“Quiet,” he said lowly, the sound of his voice vibrating against her. The low growl of his tone excited her even more, and Angie squirmed. Nick tightened his grip on her hips, smirking against her flesh. “Don’t want them to send Sherri in here.” He joked, and Angie frowned.

 

“Please don’t talk about my friend while your face is in my pussy.” Angie replied breathlessly, thrusting her hips up wantonly. Angie’s hands found her breasts, twisting and pinching her nipples as she rocked against him. God it’s been forever. She hadn’t forgotten the feel of Nick’s calloused hands on her skin, but somehow it felt different. Newer.

 

He crooked his finger inside her, and Angie let out a loud groan, her hips bucking. Nick slowly pulled his fingers from her body, making sure that Angie was watching as he sucked them into his mouth, as though savoring the taste. Angie watched him with baited breath and parted lips, her eyes wide. “Do I taste good?”

 

Nick crawled up her body, his golden eyes flashing. He pressed his teeth into the side of her neck, and Angie shuddered, her pussy clenching in anticipation. He growled against her. “Like caviar.” The head of his cock pressed against her, and Angie found herself angling her hips, trying to get more contact. He pushed against her, the flared head meeting only the slightest resistance as he sank in slowly, groaning.

 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck—“ Angie moaned throatily, throwing her head back against the pillows. Her thoughts were fuzzy and muddled, rendering her unable to focus on anything more than the feel of his thick cock pressing into her cunt inch by delicious inch. It’s either that, or the concussion. He’d barely bottomed out inside her before he was pulling back again.

 

His voice was a bestial growl in her ear as he thrust back in. “Tell me…you’re mine.” The words took a moment to register, and when Angie opened her mouth to answer, he grasped her breast, rolling her nipple between his fingers. The words died in her throat as she moaned, her nails scoring his back. “Tell me!”

 

“Yours!” Angie managed to gasp out, the words slurred with pleasure. “God, I’m yours!”

 

“Fuck, Ang…” His voice was hoarse, tight with the effort of controlling himself. “You’re…  fuck, you’re so tight.” Angie cried out, hooking her legs behind his hips as he thrust, forcing himself deeper into her pussy. Angie clenched around him, her eyes rolling shut. Suddenly, he withdrew from her, and Angie’s eyes popped open.

 

“What—” before she could finish, he slapped her on the thigh gently.

 

“Turn over.”

 

It took her fried brain a few moments to process what he’d asked—ordered—but she scrambled to obey, wiggling her hips for good measure as he caressed the globes of her ass. Nicks hands mapped the curves of her body, as though he were relearning it.

 

“Ma preciouuk avhan arttia*.”

 

He said I was precious. Angie didn’t have time to ponder the full meaning of what he’d said, because Nick’s throbbing cock was rubbing slickly against the swollen folds of her pussy, sending tingles up her spine. He pushed inside, the angle making the fit even tighter. Angie groaned—this was her favorite position. That information wasn’t lost on Nick—who Angie was sure loved stuffing his cock into her as far as it would go while his teeth buried themselves in the space between her throat and shoulder. This time was no different as Nick sank himself inside her welcoming pussy, his breath coming in hard pants against her back.

 

Angie felt his thrusts shorten, just as her stomach tightened, and whiteness tinged the edges of her vision.

 

“Nick—I’m cumming—” she choked out, her hands tangling in the sheets. True to form, Nick pressed his face into the side of her neck, his teeth clamping down hard on the soft skin he found there as he held her hips so tightly they almost ached as he emptied himself into her.

 

Good thing I’m already pregnant. Angie thought hazily, her body thrumming with post coital bliss. She barely felt nick pulling her up and against him, his teeth still embedded in her neck. Vaguely, she felt a warm wetness trickling down the insides of her thighs. Nick grunted, his tongue laving the sore spot he’d left, soothing it.

 

“No wonder you knocked me up,” Angie murmured, her eyelids fluttering sleepily. “Keep doing that, and there’ll be another baby in there.”

 

Nick chuckled, the deep timbre of his voice vibrating against her back. “With any luck,” he replied cheekily, his hands taking invisible paths up and down her sides. His softening cock was still embedded in her center, and though Angie was too tired to care, she noted that Nick didn’t seem in any particular hurry to disengage.

 

“I thought you took me to bed so I could rest, not so you could go ham on me,” She said, pulling forward just enough that he began to slide out of her. Nick shuddered, his grip tightening for just a moment before he let her go, laying down heavily on the bed beside her.

 

“It was a long con. Pretty easy, since all I needed to do was get you into bed.”

 

Angie laughed. “I always knew you were devious.”

 

They fell asleep that way, with her head tucked under his chin, and his breath ruffling her already messy hair.

 

 

 

To be continued…

 

 

Translations:

 

Ma preciouuk avhan arttia - More precious than gold

 

Sou ukofav - So soft

 

Jiak yah lat evinaj be weav - I knew you would be wet

Chapter Text

Epilogue

 

 

“I’m not doing anything for the rest of the day,” Angie replied, settling tiredly onto the couch. Nick chuckled, seating himself beside her before throwing an arm over her shoulders. “We shouldn’t have had to come home and put everything back.”

 

Nick snorted. “And by ‘we’ you mean me.” She elbowed him, grinning.

 

“Hey, I’m pregnant! I’m not supposed to do any heavy lifting.” Angie replied cheekily, before putting her feet up on the coffee table. They’d come home from the hospital, only to find the entire apartment in disarray. Of course the LAPD had paid for a cleaning crew, and some repairs, which Nick was eternally grateful for, but somewhere in there, communications must have deteriorated, because the department had moved every single piece of their furniture into the center of every room. Probably looking for evidence.

 

He wrinkled his nose—the chemical smell of fresh paint hadn’t fully erased the acrid tang of Ward’s blood from the air. We’ll leave the windows open tonight.

 

“I don’t think you’re far enough along to use that excuse, but I’ll let it fly this one time,” Nick responded, his hand finding the slight swell of her stomach. I wonder when she’ll start showing. Angie gaped at him comically, raising her hand to her chest as though he’d mortally offended her.

 

“This is how you treat your pregnant girlfriend? For shame. I bet Ula wouldn’t make me lift a single finger.” She was probably right; his mother would be beyond excited. She’d been ready for grandchildren since before Nick had even gotten out of the academy; and with Angie being human, she’d probably given up altogether.

 

Nick snorted in reply. “Yeah. Mom will be so happy I don’t think she’ll know what to do with herself.” Angie looked surprised, cocking her head.

 

“You didn’t tell her yet?”

 

“I figured… well, we should tell her together, right?” He didn’t bother mentioning informing her own family, something he was sure she was grateful for. Ever since she’d been hospitalized, her family had declined any and all invitations—sent by Nick, of course—to come and see her. He was glad Angie didn’t know about it; their rejection hurt and frustrated him, there was no way it wouldn’t be even more painful for her to process. Fuck them.

 

“How chivalrous of you,” Angie replied, smiling gently. “That’s probably also the time you should ask her about that donkey fucking guy.”

 

Nick rolled his eyes, struggling to keep in the laughter. “So now you’re mocking my cultural heritage?” He replied seriously, unable to keep the corners of his mouth from turning upward as he spoke. “And it was a goat.”

 

Angie burst out laughing. “Goat fucking is Orc cultural heritage? I think that’s something you should have told me before I seduced you.” Angie twirled a lock of hair around her finger, grinning.

 

“That’s how you remember it? You seduced me?” Nick said incredulously, and she nodded sagely. “If I remember correctly, you kept getting into trouble, and I kept saving you.”

 

Angie rolled her eyes. “Of course that’s how you remember it. Who invited who up for drinks? Who took who to the bedroom? And last but not least, who gave who their number? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.”

 

Nick laughed, holding his large hands up placatingly. “Alright, okay. You win. You seduced me.”

 

“And now our child will have a heritage of goat-fuckery to learn about in school, Nicholas.” She replied dramatically, throwing her arm over her face.

 

“I’m pretty sure I learned that at home, actually.”

 

“Then let’s make a pact—we’re never going to tell them about the goat story. I don’t want my kid as scarred as me.”

 

“It was like a thirty second story.”

 

“Thirty seconds was more than enough to make me a little nauseous, trust me.” She laughed. Suddenly, Angie sat up straight. “And now, randomly, I have to pee. Great.” As Angie moved towards the bathroom, Nick grabbed the laptop from underneath the coffee table. He’d been joking when he’d brought up those old legends, but he did want to read up on pregnancy symptoms. When she returned to the living room, she sat back down beside him, leaning over his shoulder to look at his findings.

 

‘What to expect when you’re expecting’. ‘Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth’. ‘Pregnancy, O.M.G.’” She read the titles out one by one, quirking an eyebrow. “I thought you said you were just gonna talk to your mom. And then I come back and find you shoving pregnancy books into our Amazon cart?” Her voice wasn’t mocking, though she was certainly holding back a giggle or two.

 

“I just.. Well I want to be ready.” He stammered, snapping the computer shut.

 

“It’s sweet.” She replied, kissing his cheek before laying her head in his lap, her feet dangling over the arm of their small couch. “I want to move.”

 

“Yeah. It’s too small here for us and the baby.” Sometimes Nick felt like the apartment was too small for just the two of them anyway—adding a child to the mix would make it almost impossible to navigate.

 

“Well, that, and all the shitty things that happened here.” Angie murmured, and Nick’s grip tightened on her for just a moment before he relaxed it.

 

“Then let’s move.”

 

“How will we afford it? I quit Lopez’s, remember? And I’m supposed to start classes next semester. You have Sherri to thank for that one, by the way.”

 

“I’d been telling you to quit for like months. And besides, if it gets really bad, we can always—”

 

“You’d better not say go live with your parents.” Angie replied, narrowing her eyes at him. Nick’s mouth snapped shut—he had been, in fact, about to suggest that very course of action. He wasn’t surprised at her protest, Angie was fiercely independent, and to her, that would be a step backward, and not a necessary middle ground to move forward.

 

“We wouldn’t have to pay any rent while we looked for a new place,” He said slowly, and Angie shook her head, wrapping her arms around his middle. She shook her head again, cementing her refusal.

 

“No. We’ll figure it out. We’ve got like eight months until the baby comes. That’s enough time, right?”

 

“A lot can happen in seven months.” He replied, rubbing light circles on her back where her shirt had ridden up. “In fact, seven months ago, I was pitifully single.”

 

“You didn’t seem so pitiful to me.”

 

“I was, I just didn’t know it.”

 

Angie giggled, slapping at him. “You’re such a dork. Pass me the remote.” Nick reached over her to snag the device in question from the coffee table, before passing it to her. Angie rolled over to face the television, pressed firmly against his side.

 

“You know we met four times before we started dating?” Nick murmured, his fingers combing through her freshly washed hair.

 

“Really? I didn’t remember it being so many.”

 

“When I responded to the domestic disturbance at Lopez’s, that was the first time.”

 

“Once at the station,” Angie continued, glancing up at him. “I remember because you tried to look all tough in front of your cop buddies.”

 

“Again, at Lopez’s. I should have picked up then how much trouble you like to get into.”

 

Angie snorted, shrugging. “What can I say? I’m an exciting person.” She looked up at him again, smiling softly. “And then in the rain. I invited you up. That was the last time.”

 

Nick poked at a particularly ticklish spot on her ribcage, and Angie squirmed, swatting at him. “That was the best time.”

 

“Yeah,” she agreed, settling back against him. “Yeah it was.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End