Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Charmed (2018)
Challenge/Prompt: ficlet_zone 8: Babylon 5 Episode Titles: Midnight on the Firing Lane and fffc Bingo: Light
Warning(s): Spoilers, Cannon Character Death
Word Count: 2,021
Date Written: 6 November 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners (is it Spelling Entertainment again this time?), not the author,and are used without permission.
She shouldn’t be here. She should have been in bed hours ago. She’ll be having to walk through the front doors of the precinct and face all the judgmental looks she always receives, which are even more frequent these days than they used to be, perhaps even more so than when she first joined the police force. She hates the looks of pity and doubt they give her, and each memory that flares up in her mind encourages her finger to pull the trigger of her gun again and again until she’s emptied out another chamber.
Niko sighs, stops, and reloads her gun. She should be going home, but what’s the point of laying in a lonely bed when she knows she won’t sleep? Mel couldn’t see her tonight -- she was doing something yet again with her sisters, of whom Niko knows she’s growing jealous --, and besides, she’s not really ready to face her either, not with everything that’s happened recently, knowing that her partner had been suspicious of her girlfriend and her sisters before her death, and certainly not knowing that is definitely something Mel’s hiding from her.
Niko wastes no time in unloading another barrage of bullets, firing just as fast as the machine can give her new pinups. It’s almost a wonder the nighttime supervisor hasn’t come in here to try to make her leave, but all the other crews do their best to work far, far around her. Unlike the people she sees every day, they try to not look at her at all -- not with pity or sorrow or suspicion. They don’t like her -- they haven’t since day one, but the feelings are more intense now -- and they won’t deal with her as long as they don’t have to.
Niko sighs and bends to retrieve another round of bullets. The firing lane seems to swirl around her, and she stops, bending over. Her breathing’s suddenly labored, and the exhaustion seems to weigh on her to the point she could curl up right here in the lane and sleep -- or die. She thinks she’d much rather just die and get it over with. At least in death there are no more lies, and Mel’s still lying to her, still hiding truths from her when they both promised just a few weeks ago that they were done with the secrets.
She can’t do this, Niko thinks, sinking down. She shouldn’t even be trying to do this, not with everything she’s been through recently. Just because her partner proved to be the one doing the killing doesn’t mean he was wrong about Mel and her sisters. They are hiding something. Niko knows that beyond a shadow of a doubt, just as she knows that if she presses Mel too hard she’ll just shut her out again.
They’re investigating their mother’s death. Niko’s certain that’s one of the secrets Mel’s keeping from her, but it’s just one. There are more. How many more, she doesn’t know, but she knows there are more. She wishes she could just have it out with her, but she knows pressing Mel for the truth will be completely unsuccessful -- unless she does want her to leave her, which she doesn’t. Mel’s the one good thing left in her life. Without her . . . Without her, Hell, Niko’s really not sure if her life’s even worth living anymore.
The other cops used to look at her with distrust because she’s gay and a minority to boot. They used to not trust her and make fun of her because she was a strong woman in love with another woman. Niko’s no idiot. She knows exactly what they think of her, what they thought then and what they think now. There’s more than one mind wondering if she had anything to do with her partner and the murders he committed, more than one person waiting for more bodies to start showing up so they can point an accusing finger at her.
Niko’s never killed before. She’s had plenty of close calls, but she’s never had to actually kill anyone before. She knows she will one day -- it’s all in the line of her duty as a cop --, but she dreads the moment that time will come. She doesn’t want to kill anybody. That’s part of the reason why she became a cop in the first place: to do her best to make sure people, especially women who are as judged as she and Mel both have been, live, not die.
Her bottom lip trembles. She runs a hand over her tired face. When was the last time she was actually able to sleep? she wonders. She used to be able to sleep with Mel. The best sleep she ever got was with the woman she loves curled around her body. Whenever everything was nuts before, whenever she was trying so hard and getting slapped back down at every single opportunity, she had always been able to count on Mel to give her peace and love and to make sure she got some sleep and food when she needed it. She used to be able to lure her to sleep when nothing else in the world would convince her to close her eyes.
And now she can barely trust her enough to make love to her. It isn’t that she doesn’t trust her at all. Niko knows Mel would never hurt her, but she still can not trust someone, even the only person she’s ever truly loved, when she knows that person is lying to her face. She can’t trust her, and she can no longer close her eyes around her, no matter how much pleasure Mel gives her. She can no longer be happy with her, no longer feel safe with her.
Which means she no longer feels safe anywhere. Having released the next clip strip she’d intended to load into her gun, Niko stays crouched on the firing lane, her hands running over her face. She trembles. She’s not safe anywhere, not here, not at home, not with Mel. She no longer knows what’s true and what’s not.
There’s a part of her that still wonders how Tripp could ever have committed those murders. He’d seemed so certain that Mel and her sisters had been the guilty party, but had that been real or just a ruse to make her look elsewhere? She had certainly been blinded. She’d thought she could trust him -- that he was the one man in her life upon whom she could rely --, but she’d been wrong, terribly, tragically wrong.
Was she wrong, too, to trust Mel? She’d known her her entire life. She’d loved her for most of that time. But she was hiding something. She was lying to her every day. Those lies may not endanger her life, but did they endanger somebody else’s? Was she lying to protect her from something or lying to protect herself and her sisters, or even just her own self?
What had happened to her mother? What had Marisol Vera been into? Could she have been involved with something that had caused her death? Was it a murder and not an accident as she and Tripp had written in their reports? Was it a secret that now endangered her daughters? Did Mel know what it was? Was she out to stop someone, whoever had killed her mother, at any cost? Or was she still as far from the truth as Niko now felt she herself was?
She’d always known people lied and hid things to protect themselves, but she’d never thought Mel would lie to her so blatantly or so often. She’d certainly never imagined the real life Tripp had led or that he would take others’ lives or his own. She had been so wrong about him. Was she wrong about Mel too?
What is she doing? Niko wonders. She’d said something about going out of town with her sisters and not knowing when they’d get back. Had they returned? If she went to their house, could she see her? Would Mel even want to see her at this late hour, especially with her sisters being there? Does she even want to see Mel? It isn’t as though seeing her would reassure her of anything any more. Every time she sees her, it only brings home even more the reality that she’s living in a world filled with secrets, deceit, pain, and death. Niko doesn’t want any more of that.
But she also doesn’t need to stay here any longer or she’ll be hearing questions tomorrow. Her fellow cops already don’t trust her; they’ll trust her even less if they know she’s been out here on the firing range for hours and will never believe that she’s just trying to work out her frustrations or, better yet and still more impossible, tire herself out so that she can finally sleep for a few hours. Maybe she can call in tomorrow. She’s called in in the past over lesser matters. A faint trace of a smile ghosts over her lips as she recalls calling in to stay with Mel, to keep loving her all day long . . .
The smile vanishes as her heart hurts again. She can barely stand looking into Mel’s eyes now, knowing that she’s hiding something from her, knowing she’s still lying to her after promising her that the lies and secrets were all over. They’ll never be over, Niko fears, not as long as Mel is in her life, but she’s still the only good thing she has. She trembles but manages to shove herself up to her booted feet and walk out of the precinct with her head held high and her eyes hardened pass the point of tears.
She keeps walking in the same position, the same angry look on her face, all the way to her car, but once she slides behind the wheel, she remembers how many times Tripp had sat in there beside her. And she remembers the dates she and Mel had gone out on in her little car -- and the times they’d simply sat here in her car, listening to music, and made out. The four walls of her automobile seem to crush in upon her. Her car definitely holds too many memories; maybe it’s time for a new ride.
Maybe it is time for a new everything -- a new place, a new life. But again, doing that would mean leaving Mel. She can’t leave her. Despite everything, she still loves her! Niko cranks, wipes some of the tears from her eyes only to have more fall in their place, and drives away. She drives purely by instinct and finds herself outside the Vera household. She parks and watches in silence for several long minutes, staring up at the light that’s on in Mel’s window.
It would be so easy to walk up that familiar driveway and knock on their door, so easy to let herself fall into Mel’s arms and weep, so easy to make love to her again tonight . . . But in the end, she asks herself, what would it solve? Anything? She admits the answer to herself with a shake of her head: nothing. It will solve absolutely nothing.
She might get a few hours’ sleep if she’s lucky, if she could find the strength and reassurance to shut her eyes in Mel’s presence, but even if she does sleep tonight, tomorrow, she’ll wake with all the same old questions and problems still facing her. She still won’t be able to trust the woman she loves. She still won’t know the truth about Tripp’s death -- his apparent suicide, which she is yet to believe it was -- or Marisol’s death. She still won’t know why Mel’s lying to her, why she won’t let her in after all they’ve shared before. She still won’t have one soul in this world who she can still trust.
Tears speeding down her face, Niko drives on down the road and heads back to her apartment for another sleepless, pain-filled night, what few hours are left of it to survive anyway.