In Too Deep

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Thirty Five

She hadn't seen him in twenty three days.

Granted, it had been her fault.

But twentythree days of not seeing Vicious, of not talking to him because they both weren't sure if her phone had been tapped, or her house had been bugged—either way, they were both taking extreme measures to keep each other safe.

To hell with keeping each other safe.

Twenty three days of going to her normal job and coming back home to nothing felt like slow torture. Time didn't stretch faster. Days didn't seem to be moving as fast as she wanted it to. She seemed to be stuck in an endless loop.

Nova asked for more shifts so she didn't have to think about the other life she was missing so much. Everything was annoying and normal people were insufferable to deal with, and she fought against the urges to numb everything and everyone. There were other things that she wasn't able to get rid of, like her need for Vicious. She filled her days busying herself with work and friends in hopes of quenching it. She was doing everything to try and keep him out of her mind, but it wasn't easy when every customer that walked in either dressed like him, or she found herself trying to look for him in them.

She could not handle the radio silence and was not very good at it. She started staking around drug dealers' spots hoping she could catch a glimpse of one of Vicious' gang member, fully prepared on making him tell her where their leader was and send him off with her new contact number, which she had changed and could be the reason why Vicious had not contacted her. So far, she had met no one. And when she had almost gotten herself in trouble with a dealer who had suspected her of being the police, Nova ended up buying drugs from him to convince him that she wasn't. She never went back there again.

She had reached the darkest aspect part of her life when she had decided to drugs could help her cope, and she had sat and thought about it. What if Vicious had someone watching her? What if they had seen her buying drugs? Vicious would come running if he knew she was considering taking it.

He didn't come.

When she took her first and third, it was easier not to think about what she was missing. It helped her, even if it was for a little while. But when she started having blackouts, forgetting conversations and was doing poorly at work—flight with two customers, at the end of the day, she ended up losing her job.

Nova flushed down the pills. It was a bad idea in the first place, and she was never going back down that road again, even if she would wake up with his name on her lips and a mini-orgasm ripping through her sleep. Enough moping. Enough suffering. She knew he wasn't doing this to make her suffer. He was doing it for both of them—so they both didn't end up in prison. When she remembered that, she got her smile back.

It was Sunday afternoon, Nova was enjoying her lunch outside a cafe, the blazing sun shining relentlessly on everyone. She was sipping on her coffee when the waitress walked over to her, asked if she was Nova before she gave her the phone. Apparently, someone wanted to talk to her.

Confused because no one knew she was at the cafe, she pressed the phone to her ear and listened in.

"Hello?"

"949 East Burnside Street. Eastside motel, room number six," the voice rumbled out, and before she could ask what that meant, the phone clicked.

The waitress took the phone back while Nova's face erupted in confusion. Who was that? It wasn't a voice she knew. Despite wanting to forget about the strange phone, she found that she couldn't. She wanted to know who that was. She wanted to know what was in the motel.

However, it could be dangerous. She could be walking into anything, but what the heck, there hasn't been any interesting thing in her life for weeks now. It was the closest thing to a thrill she was going to get. You're an idiot. Probably.

Nova got into her car, a black BMW–courtesy of Vicious, and punched in the address in the GPS map.

She waited in her car for ten minutes before she managed to gain some confidence. Walking up the wooden stairs to get to the second floor, another row of doors greeted her. Nova walked past the doors, hearing her heels clicked on the cemented ground until she got to room number six, and hesitantly, she stayed rooted in her spot and didn't knock. Instead, she glanced behind her, at the parking lot but there was no one there. Not even a car expect hers.

Taking an encouraging sigh, she knocked thrice. No one answered. She knocked again, but nothing. She stepped back to make sure she got the room number right, and she did, so why was no one answering the door?

Next thing she did, she twisted the handle and surprised to see the door jerk open. Her hand found her stomach, smoothing down creases on her dress. The air conditioning prickled a little at her neck and she forced herself to take a breath. She stepped through the door, and just like that, any nervousness or fear was immediately replaced with a flood of shock.

"Jesus," the words escaped from her mouth when she found him laying on the bed, shaking. She closed the door behind her and approached the bed, not bothering to take a look at the rest of the room.

Nova dumped her bag on the ground and sat on the bed, taking in the bags under his eyes and a line of sweat pearling at his temple, his breath rough and low. He was also shirtless, but that didn't matter. She put the back of her hand to his forehead, and he snapped his eyes open, which looked tired and dry. But he did look surprised to see her.

"Nova," Vicious dragged her name out quietly as he covered her hand with his, which grazed her cool fingers across his hot skin.

"You're sick." She took off her shoes and got on the bed, grabbed a hold of his head, pulling him against her chest to wrap her arms around him. He jerked a little in surprise and she tightened her grip, running one hand through his hair and back, lingering on his forehead. "Have you taken anything?"

"What are you doing here?" he decided to ask instead, and she was a little surprised by his question since she had to ask him the same thing as well. She was here because someone wanted her to be. And she did want to be here. She was glad to be here.

Where have you been all this time?

"Doesn't matter. You're too sick, Vicious," she supplied, and then he moved, disentangling himself from her arms and slowly taking the empty spot next to her. His arms folded against his chest. She hated seeing him like this. She was used to him being so energetic. "You need to see a doctor. You have a fever."

In response, he laughed, which ended up with him coughing. When it subsided, he looked at her with hooded eyes. "No hospital, remember?" He looked away, closed his eyes, and sighed. "You shouldn't be here."

"Why not? I want to be here."

"You shouldn't be seeing me like this."

She scowled and crossed her legs, watching his pale face. "Is that why you're here? Because you don't want anyone to see you like this?" she guessed, but he should know that she rather much preferred him vulnerable.

"Yeah," he offered hoarsely. "Ain't nobody wants their boys to see them weak."

"So, you would rather lie here alone with no one to help until the fever takes pity on you and leaves?"

"That's the point."

"Hey." She tapped his arm, and he opened his eyes wearily, lashes matting together as he blinked slowly. "You need to see someone. If your fever gets any higher, what do you want me to do?"

"Not call 911. Hospital's too dangerous for me. Too many people watching." With half-lidded eyes, he watched her. "I missed you." With weak movement, his finger reached her face as Vicious trailed it down her cheek before swallowing painfully. Then he put his hand out.

She wanted to say so many things. Too many questions to ask, but she knew he was having difficulty speaking, so she wasn't going to press or say a lot. Nova chewed the inside of her cheek as Vicious turned to get a better look at her.

"Don't move. I'm going to go out and get some things." Obviously, she couldn't sit there and do nothing about his sickness. She gripped his arm before she rose from the bed, too fast for him because when he reached out to catch her wrist, she was already up.

"Don't leave." She whirled around to the sound of his voice. Vicious stared at her. "Stay," he told her with as much firm as he could muster.

"But you need—"

"Don't leave."

She chewed on her lower lip and stared back at him, the whites of his eyes were red. "Okay, I won't go anywhere, but I need to cool down your temperature." With that, she hurried to the bathroom, grabbing a towel and running it under the sink. She soaked the towel before she ducked inside the room.

When Nova sat on the bed again, Vicious blinked up at her, eyebrows halfway up, and she ignored the way his lips tried to twist into a smirk. He was already shirtless, so there was no need to battle with removing his shirt, and despite being intimate with him, this felt like a new degree of intimacy. He was sick, and she was tending to him. It couldn't get any more intimate than that.

The hard lines of his stomach and the tattoos that marred his skin was something she tried to avoid when her hand found his forehead, and the second it did, he slipped his eyes shut. Nova pulled the damp towel over his forehead, down his cheek, wiping away the sweat and down to his neck. Running back into the bathroom, she soaked the towel again and rushed back out, doing the other side of his face and neck before pulling it down, feeling the hardness of his collarbone.

The slight moan he lets out told her he was enjoying it and pulled him forward enough to drag the wet cloth across the back of his neck, running the wet towel down his arms, tracing the tattoos littering them, and then the sides of his body.

When he poked her, she looked up at him. "What?"

"Got a lot of shit to deal with. Make me better."

"How am I supposed to do that when you won't let me leave?" she lets out frustratingly, trying not to think too much of the fever that was consuming his body. Nova could feel the radiating heat coming off from him, could feel it through the towel as she trailed it down his chest again.

"You're right," he admitted in a low voice, nodding slightly, just enough for her to see that he wasn't planning on changing his mind about it. She was touched and honestly quite happy he wasn't keen on letting her off his sight, but he needed a doctor or at least some meds.

Vicious coughed, racking his body forwards, and Nova grabbed the bottle of water on the nightstand and passed it to him.

"How is it that the first time I get you back, I find you sick. How did that happen?"

He gave a breathy chuckle as he wiped the fresh line of sweat at his temple. "That's a good fuckin' question." Then he stared straight at her like he knew like his next question was important to him. "How did you cope?"

How did you cope without me?

"I got fired from my job."

"Why?"

Nova swayed a little, face going neutral. "I just couldn't be there—" She shook her head as he interlaced their fingers together. His skin was so warm against hers, and when she stared at him, she drew in a breath. "My body was there, but my mind wasn't, so I kinda messed up a lot. And I also did drugs like three times, but I gave up on that."

Vicious' eyes widened a fraction in surprise. "You just keep surprising me." He tightened their locked fingers. "What were you tryin' to forget?"

"You," she confessed as she licked her lips. His eyes dropped to them as he licked his own lips as if he was imagining the last time they had kissed.

He pinned her with a look so intense she felt her stomach dipped and her toes tingle. "Did it work?"

"For a little while."

He laughed again, a smirk tugging at his lips as he looked her up and down, and then drew their locked hands towards him, his soft lips brushing against her knuckles. "Then I'm glad you ain't using anymore. Anything that's keeping me from your head ain't worth shit."

She grinned at that, then dropped the towel on the nightstand to crawl closer to him. Nova leaned against the headboard and stared down at him while her fingers found their way into his locks. Vicious closed his eyes briefly, emitting a sigh of relief.

"The FBI isn't watching me anymore," she announced, although, she felt like it was something he would know about before she tells him.

"I told you."

"Then, why didn't you come back for me?" She hated how low and sad her voice got, how her voice cracked a little—a sudden plea in her tone, which explained what she had felt for weeks. "I thought it was supposed to be temporary and it's been more than a week since I've been FBI free. Why didn't you call or text—come over? I waited for you, like an idiot."

Vicious opened his eyes, which softened when they gaze upon her. His hand reached for hers that was running through his hair, then drew it down to his chest, right on top of his heart. When he responded to her question, his own voice sounded small, as if he had gone through the same emotions she had.

"Cause I just got back to Portland. Didn't want you to see me like this."

Her lips stretched into a smile. "Why did you leave?"

He sighed. "One of my boys got arrested in Atlanta. Had to go check it out and see if I could help him."

"Is he....he's not going to rat you out, is he?"

"Nah, he's loyal to a fault. He got five years, but he ain't got nothing to worry about when he knows I'm gonna take care of his family." He smiled absently. "That's the kind of boss I am—they give me their loyalties, and I help their loved ones."

"That's generous of you."

His grin was brief and wicked. "Don't look at me with that googly eyes. I'm still the big bad wolf."

Nova chuckled. "Yeah, you look really bad from where I'm sitting."

His eyes danced with smug amusement.

When he managed to fall asleep, Nova ended up slipping out of the motel room. She bought Chinese takeouts for them and had time to drop by the pharmacy. She didn't forget to shoot Jess a message that she was driving out of town for a family emergency.

The room was quiet when she walked in with her bags, finding him still sleeping, but at least, he wasn't shaking. She dropped the bags on the ground and walked to him, touching his forehead lightly. He was still too hot, although, a little less than before. She shrugged off the jacket she had taken from her house and tied her hair in a bun, returning back to sit on the bed. Nova contemplated waking him up to feed him and give him his pills, but Vicious looked so tired, and being awake made him suffer.

She walked into the bathroom again to fetch the wet towel, walking back into the room to run it over his chest, face, and arms. When she did it a few more times, she put it away and increased the room's air conditioner. She crawled onto the bed, adjusting his head on the pillow, and when she did, she caught sight of his phone under the pillow.

Fishing the phone out from under him, she slipped out of bed to make a phone call. It rang six times before he picked up, and she made sure she wasn't speaking loud enough to wake Vicious up.

"Hey."

There was a happy chuckle that came from the speaker. "Hey, mama," he dragged the words out. "It's good to hear your voice. I've missed you."

She grinned into the phone. "Yeah, me too." And found that she really meant it.

"How's boss doing?"

Nova looked behind her from where she was standing by the window, seeing the rise and fall of Vicious' chest before she looked away. "Doing the best I can to keep him alive. How are you?"

"Ah, you know, my survival instinct is still high." He chuckled. "Has he..." he coughed. "Has he spoken to you about your FBI friend?"

Her ears perked up as she straightened. "No, he hasn't. What about him?" She looked over her shoulder again. He was still soundly sleeping. What about Ben he hasn't told me?

"Oh, oh! Never mind, forget I said it. You didn't hear anything from me."

"Screw!" she hissed out, alarmed and curious to know.

Screw groaned loud enough for her to hear and sighed. "Your friend, uh, he paid someone to dig deep on Vic, and the guy had plenty enough to send him away for a few years. He was supposed to meet up with your Ben guy to give him the evidence, but we swept in at the right time and took him. Vicious killed him, so now, your friend knows he was killed, but can't prove Vicious did it. He's putting a lot of heat on the boss."

Nova bit the inside of her cheek so hard she tasted blood on her tongue.

"He wants to take him in, but Vic's been bouncing around for weeks now. Ma, if this was anyone, we would have taken care of him a long time ago."

Since Ben is my friend, Vicious won't kill him. Because I made it known that I would be upset if he did, likely get myself far away from him.

This time, she bit down harder on her lip, flinching at the sharp pain she felt. When she heard a slight groan behind her, she quickly hung on and walked back to bed, slipping the phone back where she found it. He didn't move, and neither did he open his eyes. He was still sleeping.

Nova laid on the bed and focused her gaze on the sleeping Vicious. She tried to divert her mind on something else, but she couldn't remember the last time she had felt exhausted. She touched his forehead again, then leaned forward to place her lips on his skin. Drawing back, she tried to rest her eyes for a little while.

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