Title: Four Calling Birds
Feedback address: email@example.com
Date in Calendar: 17 December 2007
Fandom: Bad Girls
Word Count: 3001
Summary: On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DW07
Disclaimer: "Bad Girls," the characters and situations depicted are the property of Shed Productions, Independent Television (ITV), etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. This site is in no way affiliated with "Bad Girls," ITV, or any representative of the actors.
(Special thanks to Ncruuk, for her help with this hapless American! Here's a snippet of our
11-10-07 IM conversation that gave me such a great line! Licks and slobbers!)
[13:03] ncruuk: I'm about to teach you the perfect English phrase
[13:03] ncruuk: no Nikki/Helen takes on America fic can be complete without it
[13:03] ncruuk: it must be delivered by Nikki
[13:03] ncruuk: to Helen
[13:16] shatterpath: sorry, was reading a book!
[13:16] ncruuk: I think that's allowed :)
[13:16] shatterpath: you have me curious
[13:16] ncruuk: "You fat bastard..." delivered with a smirk and in an affectionate tone
[13:16] shatterpath: ?
[13:17] ncruuk: when one has just completed stuffing oneself with the majority of a 2 person pizza, without assistance
[13:17] shatterpath: ah, i see!
[13:17] shatterpath: Helen does strike me as a woman of... appetite
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds.
++ Nikki ++
It has been an excessively long day. After being up hours before the sun to catch the train, we are at long last arriving in New York. The raging storm in Washington was thankfully left behind as the morning sun illuminated the varied terrain of the East Coast. We spent the day lazily cuddling in our seats, indulging in mediocre food, napping and watching out the windows.
New York seems to stretch on forever, seemingly hours of urbanization flashing dizzyingly past the window. Now, I'm a native born and bred of the largest city in the United Kingdom, but this place has a heartbeat of its own.
The announcement for Pennsylvania Station rouses both of us from our laziness and we hurriedly shove our things back into holdalls and prepare to disembark. As we brave the cold waiting for our larger bags stored in the massive train's belly, I can't resist teasing Helen. "Now aren't you glad I persuaded you not to worry about a wardrobe?" She scowls but doesn't rise to the bait. A new wardrobe is one of our goals here and each of us only has two larger bags that stack neatly. Since we knew ahead of time that we would be here for nearly a month, it seems only sensible.
And this is New York after all! Outside of Paris, where better? I'm quite looking forward to seeing my beautiful woman fussed over and dressed up in all manner of styles. After all, I get the benefit of it as well! Hopefully, she'll remain calm about the money...
Thankfully, there are yellow cabs lined up waiting for the disembarking passengers and we queue up with the others. In the controlled chaos we are quickly settled into a warm cab to shiver away the cold. It is only four thirty and already dusk is approaching.
"Where too?" the cabbie asks in a harsh accent that vaguely reminds me of Jo.
"Do you know a restaurant in the Bronx called Rosa-Jo's?"
"Rings a bell, sorta," he muses as we lunge into the stream of heavy traffic, making both Helen and I cringe at the chaotic and aggressive energy surrounding us. "Lemme check the machine."
He pokes at a GPS unit I hadn't even noticed and we sit back to enjoy the ride as best we can.
++ Helen ++
Unlike charming Bubba, this man appears to live up the bad cliché of the rude New York cabbie and the ride passes quietly, except for his occasional mutter and shout at other drivers. Honestly, I don't mind, as I'm far too intrigued with this towering, crowded, chaotic city around us to pay our driver any mind. Even more than my first taste of American urban life, this is a city at its best and worst. There are holiday decorations in every storefront, thousands, even millions of people rush to and fro. It's fascinating.
As we move north along the highways, the surroundings become darker and more dangerous. Sometimes the danger is obvious, other times subtle. This place has a different beat than downtown.
"Here ya go," the cabbie's voice startles me from my staring and it is once again time to move locations. Honestly, it's growing old fast. Spending a good length of time here with our friends is very, very appealing. After ensuring our bags are on the curb, Nikki pays the man and wraps me in a strong hug.
"Tired, my love?"
"Mmm hmmm," I hum into her throat, feeling better in her arms. "I think that I'm not the sophisticated world traveler that I'd like to be."
Cupping my face, Nikki brushes her thumbs over the soft skin below my eyes where I noticed the dark exhaustion in the mirror in the loo on the train. "You looked tired. Good thing that we're spending some time here, hmm? We'll take it easy except for a bit of shopping. Spend some time with Jamie and Jo and Gabe, yes?"
Tenderly reminded of why we're in this particular spot, I breathe out the exhaustion of the many thousands of miles of travel that I have endured so recently and close my eyes for a brief moment. "Thank you, Nikki," I murmur and reach up to tug her head down for a brief, heartfelt kiss. "I feel better now."
++ Nikki ++
Reassured, I press a last kiss to Helen's nose and move to retrieve the bags. Rosa-Jo's takes up the entire corner of a massive old brick building I remember Jamie telling me is full of flats, I mean, apartments. Inside, it is warm and homey, not yet crowded with customers. An older man watches over the counter and I make an educated guess to his identity.
"Hello," he greets warmly in a gravelly voice. "Welcome. Can I get you a table?"
"Thank you. Actually, we're looking for Jamie and Jo."
That brings a steely look to his eye, even as the smile never wavers. It also brings an older woman, obviously of Mediterranean descent, from the kitchen. "Wait," she says, surprise laced in her tone. "Are you the friends from London?"
Happily, I nod, as does Helen where she stands at my side, holding my hand. "Yes ma'am. We've popped in for a visit."
"They certainly described you dead on," the man chimes in and offers a hand. "Charlie Polniaczek. Pleased to meet you."
"Nikki Wade. This is a lovely establishment."
Introductions are passed between us four and we are pressed into a table where two chairs are whisked away to make room for the bags. "You girls hungry?" Charlie asks and Helen's stomach answers with an urgent rumble.
"Sorry," she flushes. "The food on the train was awful."
"You leave it to me."
In short order, there is a large pizza, thick with basil, mozzarella and surprisingly pretty slices of tomato for our ravenous bellies. For such a small woman, my Helen can be a creature of consumption extremes. While I'm perfectly content with two slices and an unexpectedly decent pint of beer, Helen declares war on the pizza, which stands no chance. "You fat bastard," I tease affectionately, smirking at her mock scowl.
++ Helen ++
Sated at last, and out of pizza besides, I sprawl back into my seat and sigh gustily. "I feel much better with good food in me. Beer's not too shabby either. Obviously, Charlie made a good guess." Since Nikki's on her second glass, I'm assuming that she agrees. "Now we just need to find a place that serves passable tea."
That makes Nikki choke with amusement, but our names being unexpectedly called out stops any response to my comment. In the gathering crowd, we can't make out anyone familiar until Jo herself stumbles around a table in her haste. Good thing Nikki's reflexes are quick and she stands with just enough time to scoop Jo up from a tumble and turn it into a bear hug.
"Damn it's good to see you!" exclaims our American pal, grinning wildly at my lover, who does the same.
"Likewise. I'm glad you're here."
As Nikki sets Jo's feet back on the floor, her hands slide down and abruptly she recoils as though burnt. "What?"
I think I might have said the same thing, alarmed at Nikki's expression and the way she jumped.
"Is that a gun?"
There's a puzzled moment where I drop my eyes to Jo's right hip, shadowed by her heavy winter coat. And there it is, the menacing outline of a heavy pistol beside the golden shield of a police badge. Something perverse and a little dangerous wakes up in my head. "Or are you just happy to see us?"
The comment sounds suggestive even to my own ears and the two dark-haired women stare at me for a long moment while I smile innocently. Jo cracks first, her gawk curling into a delighted smile, before dissolving into laughter. Even as Nikki smiles somewhat bemusedly, Jo pulls me to my feet to be squeezed breathless.
++ Jo ++
Normally my pop wouldn't call me while I'm on the clock, but he did say that it was important. Boy was he right! To say I was stunned to see the pair of striking women we met in London would be the understatement of the century. But I don't understand how the hell they can be here and must splutter a question to that effect, because Helen grins at me. "We made a friend in the FBI who really wanted to meet Nikki."
"Agent Mulder, I'm betting," I say with a long-suffering tone that amuses both of them and I finally let Helen go so that we can all sit. I hafta shove a monstrous suitcase aside and steal a chair from a nearby table, but I manage. "So that's how you got around Homeland Security?"
I remember how disappointed the girls were back in August when they found out that Nikki was unable to travel to the US because of her criminal record. "It turns out that being a Sentinel," Nikki says and I hear the slight sneer on the word, "turns out to be more important than being an ex-con. I received a letter from the President himself."
That startles me, but not too much. After all I have that invitation upstairs for the upcoming party at the White House to meet the Bartlets. The Sentinel Program is a pet project of the First Lady in particular. The presence of the two Londoners only reinforces that. "Man, Jamie's gonna shit bricks when she sees you two," I grin. "She hardly stopped talking about you two since August. Lindsey's even worse!"
We chuckle over the actions of my kid and her Sentinel, but there's the usual worried edge in my tone.
"What's wrong?" Helen asks me softly, reaching across the table to cover my hand with her own.
"I just worry about Jamie. It gets harder and harder for her to be away from Lindsey. I'm about ready to send her to Las Vegas for school, except that I don't know who would have the bigger conniption fit, me or her dad."
They nod sympathetically and I note how they lean towards each other, probably reminded of how their early years were, inside that damn jail I heard only a little bit about. Frankly, it was enough. What a horrible situation they were in! But is it any worse than all the miles between Jamie and Lindsey?
That gets me thinking, then smiling. Pops might have made the first phone call, but I'm making this next one.
++ Nikki ++
Helen and I relax while Jo makes calls on her mobile. First is to someone named Blair, Jamie's aunt, if I remember from various scattered phone calls, to arrange for Jamie to get out of school to see us, and then to her captain to expertly wheedle some time off. After hanging up she shrugs at us and grins. "I don't really work with the NYPD that much anymore, despite the badge and gun. I've been on a task force to stop child exploitation for years now. Luckily, it lets me pretty much set my own hours." Then she takes a good look at us and how tired we must look, despite napping on the train. "I know you guys are wiped, but do you think you could come with me to go get Jamie? She'll freak when she sees you, and would probably try to kill me if I keep you to myself tonight."
Truthfully, spending more hours in transit isn't at all appealing, but I look to Helen for her opinion. Her expression is a mirror to my own, but then she smiles warmly. "We came all this way for her. How far is it?"
"About forty miles," Jo responds, despite Helen not looking at her.
"Only forty miles, Sweet'art," she whispers and rubs noses with me. "Not so bad."
"No," I agree. "Not so bad. But you're driving Jo. You crazy Yanks are all on the wrong side of the road!"
Except for being caught in the horrible traffic, the trip is pleasant. The further we travel from the New York core, the more the scenery becomes more and more rural. Obviously very familiar with the route, Jo takes back roads past luxurious estates and wide swathes of heavy forest. It's beautiful country.
Eventually we come to a pair of great wrought iron gates where Jo has to let in the dark cold to get to the security keypad. It looks more like a manor than a school, only the more modern buildings shattering the illusion. Jo leads us to some dorms and the sense of anticipation grows as we move past rooms full of girls and a minority population of boys of all ages and types.
Unconsciously, I note that I can feel the faintest tug at my perceptions... almost as though I know exactly where Jo is leading us.
++ Jamie ++
Augh! Christmas break is so close! Only two more days and we can all go home for the holidays. I'm jumpy with anticipation, after all Lindsey's flying in on Friday and that's why I'm getting off from school a day early and...
Something else is making me jumpy. Ignoring Tisha chattering, I try to figure out what the strange feeling is. It's like how Lindsey makes me feel, only... only more like Dace and Alexis. Startled and a little scared, I jump to my feet and look around. There's another Sentinel nearby, I'm sure of it!
But, I'm not scared or anything. Now I'm just confused. So I head for the door and stop dead in my tracks.
"No way!" I squeal in delight, racing across the last dozen feet to tackle Nikki right there in the hallway of the dorms. "What?" Is all I can splutter in confusion as she catches me, only stepping back a couple steps, grinning wildly.
"Hiya, Jamie," she greets me in her cool English accent. "We found a way to visit."
Helen's with her, of course, and she touches my arm and shoulder with gentle hands. And mom's right here too, with the sappiest grin on her face. All I can think to say is, "wait until Lindsey hears that you're here!"
And mom hands me her phone to do just that!
++ Helen ++
Jamie doesn't tell Lindsey why she's calling, though by the way her voice shakes with excitement, one would have to be daft not to figure out that something is amiss.
"Here, Linds, talk to somebody for me," Jamie grins wildly and thrusts the phone into my hands.
"Hiya, Tiddler," I say warmly into the little mobile and Lindsey's spluttering on the line goes silent.
"He... Helen?" Her voice is quiet and very little-girlish, almost scared.
"Och, child. Nikki and I figured out a way to come visit America."
"But... but you said you couldn't."
Poor wee thing sounds like she's about to cry and I do my best to reassure. "I know Sweet'art, but things changed and we're here now. Jamie tells us that you're visiting soon for Christmas?"
Nikki leans in cheek to cheek with me to speak as closely to the little phone as best she can. "Hey Lindsey. We're excited to be seeing you again. You're nine now maybe you can help Jamie and Jo show us New York? Hmmm?"
My Nikki has always been so very good with those weaker and more vulnerable than herself. It was one of the things I noted about her in Larkhall and has never changed with time.
"You're really there? In New York with Jamie?"
"Yes," I reassure her. "We're right here and waitin' to see you." A squeal echoes down the line, a happy, unfettered sound, and the phone on the other end clatters, followed by quiet. Startled, I stare at the little device in my hand. "I think she dropped the phone."
"Off to jump on her mom, I bet," Jamie chuckles where she's ensconced comfortably under Nikki's other arm. "Just hang up. She'll be calling back soon. Or Catherine will."
++ Jo ++
The forth phone call in this progression of events is an even happier event, Lindsey nearly incoherent with delight. It takes a minute of Jamie laughing her calm to get everything settled as we make our way through the snowy darkness back to New York. It's late now, almost nine PM, and our European visitors are already dead to the world in the backseat.
"Sure Linds, we'll be there. Have your mom email the flight information. Well, email to my mom anyway. Sure, of course we'll bring Helen and Nikki! Don't be silly."
Her name startles Nikki awake, but Helen remains completely unaware. Tapping Jamie's shoulder, I see it all in the rearview mirror, Nikki gestures for the phone.
"Hang on Linds, Nikki wants to talk to you."
"Hey there. We'll be right at the end of the ramp to give you a big hug. Both of us. Shhhh, everything is going to be fine, Linds. Really! I would never lie to you, Honey. Helen's sleeping, but she'll be with me tomorrow, no worries. Now, you get some sleep okay? Sure, here she is again."
Taking back the phone, Jamie reassures Lindsey that they both have some homework because of missing an extra few days of school, but they'll help each other out. For a few minutes they chatter happily before my daughter tenderly tells her Sentinel goodnight.
Blowing out a great, gusty sigh, Jamie sags into her seat and doesn't speak for a long minute.
"Everything okay?" I finally have to ask, patting her knee, and get a weary smile.
"Yeah. It'll be great for us all to be together again. I'm just tired out from all the excitement, y'know?"
"Oh, I understand completely. It's been a crazy day."
Nikki's smile in the mirror is complete understanding.