Our story begins on December 26, 2015; approximately a year after the Shield disbanded. Most of the Christmas crowds were winding down, and it is now that we find ourselves in a casino on the Strip.
A year ago, Charlotte Flair was essentially a nobody. Her father had disowned her (something about refusing to continue the not-so-legal family business), and she was looking for a fresh start.
She had come to “Aces & Spades” with every intention of getting that fresh start, but nothing had come to fruition. The job didn’t pay well, her apartment was a ten-minute walk from the busiest part of the Strip, and poor Charlotte was stuck offering the most uninteresting game: Casino War.
But it would seem tonight, luck was finally in her favor. The last ugly Christmas sweater family had just left, the parents and grandmother drunk beyond belief. Flashing them a smile, Charlotte leaned back in her chair and scanned the crowd. There weren’t too many people left in the casino...except for one.
A young woman was making her way over. Her hair was platinum blonde, a pink ribbon holding it in a ponytail. Her pink pullover was pretty and put together, a simple silver chain dangling from her neck. And for some reason, Charlotte found herself smiling.
“You still open?” the woman asked, already parking herself on one of the stools. Nodding, Charlotte leaned forward and tried to look professional.
“Until they shut the building down.” Inserting a deck of cards into the shuffler, she turned back to the woman and smiled. “What’s your name?”
“Lexi.” She instantly rolled her eyes. “Actually, my real name’s Alexa Bliss, but honestly?” Charlotte stifled a chuckle.
“Your parents pick that name?” Lexi nodded with wide eyes.
“The last name wasn’t their choice, it’s just… I’m not a cutesy person, you know?”
“I never would have guessed.” Lexi chuckled as Charlotte started dealing cards.
The two ladies chatted as they played; Charlotte had learned the art of charisma from her father, and Lexi loved to talk. The latter’s mother had the last name Kaufman, and she was considering changing it to that. Other then that, it was mostly just small talk up until the third game.
“You sure you’re not cheating?” Charlotte chuckled as Lexi collected her third win. Her opponent laughed,
“As surprising as it may seem, I’m not one of the bad ones.” When Charlotte rose an eyebrow, she quickly explained, “I’m a cop.” Leaning back, Lexi drew back her pullover to reveal a shiny badge clipped to her waist.
“So...what’s a cop doing in a casino?” Lexi shrugged.
“Just trying to blow off steam.” Rising, she smirked, “And unlike most people on the Strip, I know when to stop.” A small smile appeared on Lexi’s face. “It was nice meeting you, Charlotte.”
“You too.” And as Lexi walked out of the casino, Charlotte found herself smiling. Suddenly, the walk home to her mysterious boyfriend Jericho didn’t seem so bad.
It had been three weeks since their first meeting, and they could happily call themselves friends. Charlotte had learned Lexi’s parents were struggling financially, working as writers at a small paper in Ohio. They hadn’t spoken since she was 16, right before the big move to Vegas. No explanation was given why, but Charlotte didn’t press.
The day the dominos fell, it began like any other. Charlotte was at her usual table, and Lexi was playing her in Casino War. The former was quieter than usual, something the latter noticed.
“You okay?” Lexi asked as they flipped cards. Barely looking up, Charlotte shrugged.
“I’m not sure.” Lexi instantly knew why. For the past few days, she had heard a lot about Charlotte’s boyfriend, Jericho. He was mysterious, moody, and would leave for days at a time. She had been reluctant to give advice, afraid it would make things worse.
“How’s he doing?” Another shrug.
“He won’t say anything to me. Every time I try to start a conversation, he’ll just say, ‘I’m working.’” Lexi nodded, thinking.
“You want some advice?” Charlotte finally looked up; eyes wide, she reached across the table and squeezed Lexi’s hand. “Tell him to turn himself in. I’m not saying that as a cop, but a friend.” She nodded.
“Okay. Thanks, Lexi.” They stood to go, and Lexi called after her.
It was 45 degrees out; typical for Vegas in December. Drawing her white jacket closer, Charlotte bent her head down and walked home, away from the lights and sounds of the Vegas Strip.
She still didn’t understand why she had a job there. Her teenage years had been filled with parties and cliques, but Charlotte had left it all behind. Her father would probably say she was a shell of her former self; on the contrary, she felt stronger than ever.
The apartment she and Jericho shared was in an unassuming gray building. Getting into the elevator, Charlotte thought about the conversation they were about to have. Why she had even fallen for him in the first place.
He had been one of her first customers. Much like Lexi, they had struck up conversations quickly; Jericho knew her well. Now, as the metal box ascended, Charlotte wondered if she had been played.
She truly loved him; their relationship simply couldn’t continue. Affection wasn’t normal for either of them (it never had been), but Jericho had grown cold over the years. He was never abusive, and for that, Charlotte was thankful.
The doors opened, and she stepped out. Taking one last deep breath, Charlotte walked down the hallway and opened her door. She was greeted by silence.
Jericho was nowhere to be seen. His laptop was gone, and from the looks of it, he hadn’t been back for hours. The only sign of life was a note on the kitchen table, which Charlotte picked up in trepidation.
I don’t know how to explain this...but I’m in too deep. I’ve pissed the wrong person off, and now I’m in trouble.
I’m sorry I’ve been distant; I was just trying to keep you safe. He doesn’t know the location of this apartment, but I don’t have time to pack up and leave. I hate having to ask this, but I need you to leave.
You made me happy, made me feel human, and understood. I hope someday I can tell you in person.
The next morning, a coffee-deprived Lexi stumbled into work. Sleep had not come easy for her, having spent most of the night worrying about Charlotte. There didn’t seem to be any mysterious deaths yet, but that could very well change.
She had lucked out in terms of work location; there were no Seth Rollins types. Everyone seemed happy, including Lexi. Well, most of the time, in her case.
Grabbing a cup and filling it to the top with black coffee, Lexi settled down at her desk. There were no new files on her desk, and she had just finished up a domestic abuse case involving two men (Blake and Murphy, she thought were their names). The trial was well underway, which meant someone had a little extra free time.
Turning on her monitor, Lexi took a sip of coffee and went to the news site she didn’t read. A headline instantly caught her attention.
Hacker Killed In Shoot-Out
“Oh, no.” Setting down her cup, she scrolled through the article. There were no details about the condition of the body; the victim was described as a blonde man in a white scarf. Shaking, Lexi pulled out her phone and scrambled.
Charlotte had shared a picture of her and Jericho at a bowling alley together. Opening it, Lexi was greeted by the image of a blonde man in bracelets and a black scarf. Swearing under her breath (something that didn’t happen often), she furiously dialed her friend’s phone number.
“Come on,” Lexi muttered, rocking on her feet and biting her thumb. “Pick up, Charlotte.” Unfortunately, she didn’t; the next three calls didn’t take either. Why wasn’t she picking up?!
The worst things ran through Lexi’s mind. Had Charlotte been there? Had the culprit tracked her down to silence her? There were so many horrible possibilities, but before she could dwell on them, a voice called her name.
“Kaufman!” Right, she had finally gotten it changed. Looking up, Lexi saw her boss, Lieutenant Mojo Rawley, at the door to his office. Pointing, he motioned for her to come over.
“Okay,” Lexi whispered as she rose from her chair. “Everything’s alright. Charlotte is fine.” But as she walked into Mojo’s office, her heart pounded like a drum.
“Shut the door.” Mojo’s words were sharp; he was a no-nonsense officer, but his words still scared Lexi. Closing the door behind her, she heard him say, “Please sit.”
“I’m good, thank you.” Even her voice was shaking. Swallowing, Lexi waiting for Mojo to speak, pinching her fingers behind her back.
“This morning, we got a call from ‘Aces & Spades.’ You heard of it?”
“Sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., $50,000 were drained from their main account. Problem is, no one there authorized the withdrawal.” Lexi did not like where the conversation was going.
“What does this have to do with me?” Mojo frowned.
“I just find it interesting that just three hours after that call, your bestie’s boyfriend bit it.” Her mouth fell open.
“You’ve been watching me?” He shrugged.
“I keep an eye on everyone.” That wasn’t true, and Lexi knew it. Mojo’s crush on her was no secret, but he had never explicitly asked her out. Just hints, here and there. How was she supposed to tell him, “Sorry, but I’m gay?” There was no way he’d believe her.
“She didn’t do it,” Lexi snapped. Smiling, Mojo said calmly,
“Listen, I’m not accusing you of any wrongdoing, Alexa. In fact, I want to help you.” He was moving toward her, causing Lexi’s throat to tense up.
“What do you want?”
“Just one kiss, and this all goes away.”
Chapter 4: Darker and Edgier
Chapter by Six (HMSquared)
I am so sorry this went un-updated for a few weeks. School just started back up and then I proceeded to get an ear infection, leaving me tired and uninspired to write. But before you get out the pitchforks, there is some good news.
After a lot of deliberating, I started a TV Tropes for The Hounds of Vegas universe. If you want to edit or at least give it a read, it can be found here.
Charlotte found herself at her usual table and lost in thought. She wasn’t sure how to feel.
It had been three long weeks since Jericho’s death. The police hadn’t been able to find his body, which meant there couldn’t even be a proper funeral. And before Charlotte could even begin to grieve, she had been dragged down to the station and questioned. For hours, they had pegged and prodded, asking where the money was. She had no idea, which was the truth.
Today was her first day back and, as usual, not much was happening. Except today it stung, because Charlotte could usually lose herself in a game. Not today.
A flash of pink caught her attention. Heart shooting through the roof, Charlotte looked over. Lexi was at the other end of the room, and boy, did she look different.
The pink pullover was gone, replaced by a leather jacket. The bottom quarter of her hair was now bright pink, flowing down her shoulders. And overall, Alexa Kaufman’s vibe had changed.
Lexi scanned the room. Spotting Charlotte, her blue eyes lit up in happiness. Flashing a small smile, she crossed the room, just the tiniest bit wobbly.
“Nice boots,” Charlotte said, gesturing to her black ones. Ignoring the comment, Lexi sat down and set her bag on a chair. Clasping her hands together, she stared down at the table. “You okay?”
“Where have you been?” Lexi’s voice was cold and upset. Swallowing, Charlotte whispered,
“Trying to recover from Jericho’s death. The police questioned me last week, asking about the money.”
“What’d you tell them?”
“The truth, that I don’t know who took it or where it is.” Lexi stifled a scoff, but Charlotte decided not to comment. “What about you?” Her friend looked up, and a sarcastic smile formed.
“I got fired for resisting my boss’ urges, slapping him, and storming out of work. Meanwhile, he keeps his job and gets to keep being a pervert.” Lexi shook her head in anger, grin a mile wide. “Not that I’m surprised, of course. He and the captain have always been friends.”
“I’m sorry.” Charlotte stared at Lexi, keeping her voice soft and calm. “You want to play a game?”
“Why the hell not?” As the shuffler began to whir, a smell hit Charlotte’s nose: alcohol. She started to follow it, jumping when Lexi grabbed her wrists. “There a problem, Charlotte?”
They stared at each other, blue eyes on blue. Swallowing, Charlotte shook her head, legitimately frightened.
“No… No, Lex.” She could feel the pressure on her wrists, breathing a sigh of relief when Lexi silently released her grip. By now, the shuffler had finished doing it’s job, waiting.
They played in silence for half-an-hour, Charlotte thinking about what to do. Part of her wanted to believe Lexi was just drunk, but she knew her friend was angry. And something told her not to leave it alone.
As they wrapped up their last game, her eyes fell to a patch on Lexi’s bag. Black letters on white spelled out the words Lucky 13 ; it sounded vaguely familiar, but Charlotte knew that if she asked, Lexi would bite her head off.
“I’m glad you’re okay.” Lexi’s words were somehow way too loud, and Charlotte jumped.
“Thanks…” Nodding awkwardly, her younger friend turned and left, fidgeting with the zipper of her jacket. Watching her go, Charlotte turned and walked in the opposite direction.
The casino had a bar, run by one Amy “Lita” Dumas. They had spoken on a few occasions, mostly chatting about women’s rights and wrestling. Now, Charlotte found herself pulling up a stool.
“How’s Lexi holding up?” Lita walked over, cleaning a glass with a towel. Smirking, Charlotte replied,
“I keep forgetting you can see my table.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“What do you know about Lucky 13 ?” Lita chuckled, sticking out her tongue.
“It’s a bar about two blocks away from here. I know a bartender there named Paige, we’re good friends. But, Charlotte…” Setting down the cup and towel, Lita leaned forward to look Charlotte in the eye. “Don’t do anything brash, for Lexi’s sake and yours.”
Chapter 5: That Escalated Quickly...
I've kind of gone radio silent on this, and there was a reason for that.
This chapter is my first ever collaboration with someone, and I think I scored big: AttackPlatypus, the author of The Horsewoman of Las Vegas. They took all the information I gave them and wrote this amazing chapter in one night. They nailed the characters and the setting...I am so thankful for everything, as this turned out way better then my original plan.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Paige had been told that ‘Lucky 13’ was a ‘destination’ bar. A local icon that had served celebrities, dignitaries, and all sorts of other important people. When she told people what she did and where at she would occasionally get raised eyebrows or even an impressed comment.
The allure had long since worn off for Paige. All she saw was work.
She had just set heavy case of bottles down behind the center bar when the chimes over the door tinkled. Paige sighed, filling her lung to tell the newcomer that the bar didn’t open until three. But then she shot a glance up at the clock that hung inside the hanging shelves. It was Two fifty-nine fifty-nine.
“A little early, don’t you think?” Paige asked the newcomer with a raised eyebrow.
“Your sign says 3 PM, it’s three…” the tiny blonde muttered as she settled into her usual seat. Her name was Lexi Kaufman and she spent an unfortunate amount of time at Lucky 13. Not for the history, not for the company, but because it was walking distance from her apartment.
“Fair enough,” Paige said in a non-committal voice. “The usual then?” she asked with a raised eyebrow. The blonde was looking rough, the same clothes she’d left the bar in yesterday, hair full of greasy build-up, and dark circles under her eyes.
“Actually…” Lexi said with a false smile “...I was thinking of a fuzzy navel? Maybe a sex on the beach?”
Paige rolled her eyes. “Double whiskey, neat, coming up.”
Lexi sighed to herself as she waited for her drink. She was, unsurprisingly, the only one present this early in the bar. But that suited her just fine, she could work up a good buzz before had to deal with anyone else.
Lexi had begun the process of crawling into a bottle shortly after she’d been run off the Clark County Sherrif’s department, and she’d been giving it her all ever since. Yet no matter how much rot gut she poured down her throat she could never quite shake the bitterness. She’d been a good cop, she had always believed that. Even been told it by her former co-workers often enough. But those same people had vanished like water in the Nevada desert when Lexi had filed her complaint.
Her former Lieutenant had been a bonafide hero, or that’s what the world believed. He’d won a few medals, got his name on TV, the whole deal. But he’d also liked to get very friendly with his female subordinates, too friendly. So Lexi, tired of the routine, had filed a complaint against him. And that’s when the whole sad story had begun.
They couldn’t punish her for it, not publicly. Some of the brass had even gone on record saying how much courage it had taken for her to do it. They’d promised her their full support in righting the wrongs done to her and others. That had lasted as long as the public attention had, then the real reaction had set in.
It hadn’t been anything overt, nothing she could point to. But the whole department had suddenly seemed to tilt against Lexi. Everything from how people had treated her around the precinct to the details she’d been assigned. Suddenly she encountered nothing but obstruction while her every move was hyper scrutinized. And if you held up anyone, at any job, to that much study you would eventually start finding mistakes.
As good a cop as she had been, Lexi was no more perfect than any other human being. But whereas in most cases the kind of mistakes she had made would have been written off as just part of the job, hers had been ruthlessly and efficiently documented. Then anyone who was close to her started seeing their own careers sidetracked. It had gotten to the point that Lexi had begun telling her friends to stay away from her, lest she drag them down too.
Lexi had been determined to endure all of this, hoping it would pass. Then one day she’d been called into her new CO’s office and confronted with a letter of complaint. It had supposedly been filed by one of the people she’d arrested though he really hadn’t seemed to be the letter-writing type. But with this in hand, plus the nearly year long paper trail of her mistakes, she’d been given a stark choice. Quit, or be fired.
So here she was. Lexi’s hand shook slightly as she accepted the whiskey from the bartender and raised it to her lips.
Paige, who had retreated into the kitchen after depositing the drink. She’d allowed herself a slightly heavier pour than usual for the blonde’s first drink. This was because she wanted her distracted for the next few minutes.
The phone rang several times before an unfamiliar voice answered. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s Paige from the bar. You said to call you if she showed back up. Well she was here right when we opened.”
Charlotte was still wearing her blackjack dealers uniform as she pulled her car to a stop outside the bar. She felt very self-conscious in it but she threw her coat on over it and forced herself to head inside.
Her friend needed her.
In truth, Lexi had been in need of Charlotte’s help for almost a year now. Charlotte had been doing her best but she was perpetually feeling overwhelmed. It was all she could do to keep her own head above water, nevermind a whole other person. But Lexi was a good person at her core who had simply fallen on hard times. And Charlotte wasn’t the kind of person who could just walk away from a situation like this.
The moment Charlotte stepped inside she caught the eye of the bartender, a pale woman with a British accent whose name was Paige. Charlotte didn’t really know her but she asked the other woman to keep an eye out for Lexi and she had come through. Charlotte was just drawing her coat more tightly around her when, to her surprise, she saw that Paige was hurrying toward her.
“Good timing…” the British woman told Charlotte without any sort of preamble “...You should probably get your friend out of here.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” Charlotte asked, startled.
“Nothing, yet…” Paige said ominously. The British woman shot a glance over her shoulder toward the bar where Charlotte could see Lexi staring moodily into a tumbler. A man was standing beside her and seemed to be trying to chat her up. Charlotte could tell instantly from Lexi’s expression that this had been going on for some time, and that her friend was rapidly losing patience.
“Right, I’ll get her, thanks for-” Charlotte started to say but a sudden loud thudding sound followed by a pained shout and started exclamations. Whirling toward the sound, Charlotte just had time to see the tall man who had been talking to Lexi staggering backward holding his nose. Then Charlotte was off, hurrying down the short ramp and toward the bar.
Lexi had listened to more than enough of this ass hole’s clumsy flirting. Ordinarily, she wouldn’t have been stupid enough to try and fight someone who was over a foot taller and probably close to 100lbs heavier than herself. But alcohol could do wonders for confidence. So she flung the remains of her drink into his face and punched him in the mouth. Or she meant to, the height ratio’s being what they were...she ended up driving her fist into his chest.
But the two things together, drink and punch, were enough to send him staggering backward. He didn’t stay stunned for long however and a moment later he was advancing back toward her only to be checked by another patron.
“Hey! Easy, man, chill!” the guy said as he tried to hold the first man, who Lexi recalled had introduced himself as Corey, back.
“Get off me! This is my damn bar!” Corey snarled but the other man wouldn’t let him go.
“Relax, go walk it off,” he said. Clearly he, if neither Lexi or Corey, understood just how disastrous an actual confrontation between the two of them would be.
“Yeah, go walk it off and find yourself a hooker...or a blow-up doll,” Lexi muttered. It was then that she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Lexi...we need to be going,” Charlotte hissed to her friend. Lexi turned to look at her with eyes made bleary by the alcohol. But before Lexi could even bring Charlotte into focus that was an angry shout.
“Get the FUCK off me!” Corey shouted as he shoved the man restraining him, hard. This man went careening backward into Lexi and his weight was enough to send her sailing off her stool. Even over the sound of the developing scuffle Charlotte heard the cracking sound as Lexi landed awkwardly on her arm.
“FUCK!” the shorter blonde snarled as she landed.
“Oh my god! Lexi are you-” but then Charlotte herself was bowled over. It seemed that the man who had just been shoved had come with friends that night. These same friends hadn’t taken kindly to Corey shoving their companion and now a full-on brawl was breaking out.
“Oi! Knock it off! Quit acting like ass holes or I’m calling the cops!” Charlotte heard Paige shouting as the bartended sprinted toward the fracas. Charlotte caught a glimpse of her trying to tug one of the combatants away. Unfortunately for her, the man suddenly drew his fist back quickly, sending his elbow into Paige’s face. The bartender’s head snapped backward as she went over backward.
Charlotte felt a flash of anger at this but was going to do the smart thing. She was trying to drag Lexi away when another man was sent away from the fight. Charlotte tried to get out of the way but her leg got trapped against the metal railing that separated the bar from the rest of the seating area. She went down very awkwardly and felt a pain shoot up her calf.
The fight probably only lasted thirty seconds or so and for the rest of it Charlotte just tried to cover up Lexi as best she could. When some sort of order was eventually restored, she found herself hobbling clumsily out to her car with an obviously injured Lexi leaning against her. Paige was on Lexi’s other side, grimacing painfully anytime her neck shifted.
“I can find my own ride to the hospital, really…” Paige said as she helped Lexi into the back of Charlotte’s car.
“Don’t be dumb, I owe you for calling me earlier and besides that I’m free and an ambulance isn’t,” Charlotte said as she had to bite down on her lip to keep from whimpering as she got into the car. Fortunately, it was her left ankle and not her right.
“Well, OK then, next round is on me...if I still have a job after this,” Paige said sadly as she slipped into the passenger seat, rubbing her neck.
“Why wouldn’t you?” Charlotte asked, curiosity overcoming her pain for a moment.
“Well...the loudmouth jackass who caused this? He’s my ex and...he kinda owns the bar.”
Paige and Corey's history will be expanded on in more detail, do not worry!
Chapter 6: Unhealthy Mannerisms
Chapter by Six (HMSquared)
Based on the summary I have, I think we've got about two more chapters left after this one. Enjoy, my dear readers!
Charlotte didn’t like hospitals. She had been to them so many times (her father’s associates were incredibly stupid), and something about them made her uncomfortable. Now she was swimming in it; the smell of ammonia, the intercom messages, the beeping machines, the nurses checking on her every two seconds as they rushed from room to room.
Luckily, she hadn’t suffered any terrible injuries. In fact, Charlotte had gotten out relatively unscathed compared to her friends: Paige had sprained her neck and would be wearing a cast for the next several months, while the dealer had only sprained her ankle. Then there was Lexi.
Hobbling down the hallway on her crutches, Charlotte thought about it all. Lexi had managed to snap two bones and tear three tendons in her arm from the fall; the bones would heal, but the tendons required surgical repair. She had been whisked away from her two friends, the doctors prepping her. Now came the best part: waiting.
Coming up on her room, Charlotte slowed. Lexi was lying in bed, a splint holding her right arm in place. She seemed very calm for a woman who had punched Corey Graves only a few hours ago; the alcohol had finally worn off.
“Knock, knock,” Charlotte whispered, entering the room and trying to avoid hitting anything with her crutches. Looking up, Lexi smiled. “How are you doing?”
“Okay, I guess. Just waiting for them to call me.”
“Ah, the unpredictability of hospitals. Bound by their rules.” Charlotte grinned as she settled onto a tubular footrest. Unsurprisingly, Lexi didn’t smile.
“I hate this...sitting, listening to them talk.” Her voice hitched slightly. Charlotte had a suspicion about the nature of Lexi’s reaction, but couldn’t think of a good response.
“Accident prone as a kid?” The younger blonde shook her head.
“Surprisingly not, considering all the cheerleading I did.” Her face fell once again, eyes sparkling in an unhealthy way. Charlotte tried to think.
“You don’t talk about your past life. Are hospitals a reason for that?” She instantly winced, but Lexi smiled at her friend’s brashness.
“I guess you could say that.” Scratching at her wrist, she whispered, “I wasn’t the happiest kid in high school. Sports were my life, but I never felt like I was good enough, you know?”
“I started…” Lexi hiccuped, obviously trying not to cry. “I started thinking food was bad for me. I had no desire for it, no care about my body. And then one night at dinner, I just passed out.
“My parents took me to the hospital. They had to keep me overnight, and it was just...several long weeks of trying to swallow food again. Thankfully insurance covered it, but I still felt horrible.” Lexi shook her head. “A month after my time at the hospital ended, I packed up my stuff and drove to Vegas, started training to be a cop.”
“Do your parents know?” A nod came from the younger blond.
“I wrote them a letter. Didn't want them to think I hated them. And honestly, it was for the best. They were trying so hard to make ends meet, and I was one less thing they needed to worry about.” Charlotte nodded, staring at the floor. Something had crossed her mind.
“Lex...I’ve been thinking.”
“Yeah?” Lexi shifted, a hopeful look on her face.
“This new behavior; it’s not healthy. If Paige hadn’t called me, things could have gotten way worse. You need rehab.”
“And why is that your decision to make?” Lexi snarled, looking at her friend with sudden hatred in her eyes. “Why should you be the person who gets to tell me what I want?”
“It’s just a suggestion, Lexi,” Charlotte replied, raising her hands in a “calm down” gesture.
“But at what point will it change?” Lexi’s voice was hot with anger. “At what point will you abandon me, just like everyone else?!” Settling back into the mattress, she shook her head. “You should go.”
“Okay...okay, Lex.” Slowly rising, Charlotte grabbed her crutches and limped out of the hospital, doing her very best not to cry.
Charlotte found herself sitting in Lucky 13 , holding an empty glass and thinking. Paige had given her a key to the place, understanding she didn’t really have a place to go. Since Jericho being alive was still very much a possibility, Lita had been providing housing for the time being.
Corey’s bar was an interesting place, Charlotte realized. It was very small, housing only a bar and a few round tables. Everything was decked out in light wood, and the rock music flitting through the speakers was quieter then expected. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Lucky 13 was a favorite among the residents of Las Vegas.
Her phone vibrated. Picking it up off the counter, Charlotte sighed when she saw Lexi’s number. What mental state was her friend going to be in?
“You’re out of surgery, I take it?”
“And hello to you too, Charlotte.” The older woman let out a chuckle.
“I guess I deserve that. How are you doing, Lexi?”
“I’ve been out for an hour, so things are still kind of weird. They’ve got me on these great drugs, though.” They both laughed at the dark joke. “Charlotte, I’ve been thinking.”
“You were right. All this drinking...it’s not good for me. I talked to one of the nurses, and she recommended a place. I’m going to rehab.” A huge smile crossed Charlotte’s face.
“That’s…that’s really good to hear, Lex.”
“I’m glad.” Lexi’s voice was soft; the anesthesia hadn’t quite warn off. “It’s nice seeing you happy, Charlotte. I mean…” She trailed off in laughter. “I love you. You know that, right?”
Silence filled the bar. Charlotte remained on her stool, phone in one hand and her mouth open. How on Earth was she supposed to answer that?
“Never mind. Listen, I should probably go, the doctors will be in soon. I’ll let you know when I’m headed off to rehab, okay?”
“Okay. Talk to you later, Alexa.”
The weeks passed, and Charlotte couldn’t get the phone call out of her head. As she lay in bed trying to sleep, Lexi’s words pounded her skull.
“I love you.” Jericho had told her that a few times, but she had never taken it romantically. Now, sipping a cup of coffee in Lita’s living room, Charlotte found herself close to tears.
She had been in denial all this time. Not about her sexuality, that she had figured out years ago. No, what Charlotte had denied was her feelings. The feelings she had for her best friend.
Swallowing, Charlotte reached for her phone. Lexi had started rehab a few weeks ago, living in the facility full time. Paige was out of the hospital as well, meaning she was up for a conversation.
“Paige, it’s me.”
“Charlotte! Good to hear your voice again, love. How are things?”
“They’re…” Charlotte wanted so badly to stall, but she couldn’t. Before she could stop herself, the tears began to flow and a tiny sob escaped her.
“What’s wrong? What’s on your mind, Flair?”
“No.” Charlotte shook her head, hiccuping. “No, not that. I…” She paused and took a deep breath. “I’m in love with her.”
“Then why are you crying?” There was something in Paige’s tone, a touch of humor.
“You knew, didn’t you?”
“I’ve known since the first time we met.” She was smiling, not that Charlotte could tell. “Friends can show such wonderful dedication...but there was something else in your eyes. I could see it.” Paige waited for her friend to calm down, wondering what would come next.
“When she gets out of rehab...I want to tell her.” Charlotte looked at her reflection in the window. “She makes me happy like no one else does.”
Chapter 8: It's About The Journey, Not The Destination
Chapter by Six (HMSquared)
This last chapter is really short, but you know what? I'm actually happy with it.
Thank you to everyone who joined me on this crazy journey into the lives of Charlotte and Lexi. There is so much more to come for this universe, and I can't wait for you guys to see it.
It was a sunny, yet cool day. Charlotte found herself standing on the tan stone steps, staring up at the white building. It felt so strange that they were finally here.
Lexi had been in rehab for two months, trying her hardest to get better. Charlotte and Paige were so thankful for that, since they had chipped in the cost. Every few weeks they got an update email; the staff had nothing but good things to say about the former cop’s progress.
A shape was moving toward the glass door. Charlotte watched it stop at the front desk and sign some papers. The receptionist gave a one-arm hug, which she returned. Then, looking out front, she smiled.
Lexi looked like a new woman. Opening the door, she closed her eyes and basked in the sunlight. It felt amazing to actually be out among the general population...be able to see Charlotte again. Visits were allowed during rehab, but they had agreed it would be best to wait.
Her glance turned to the woman at the foot of the stairs. Charlotte gave an encouraging smile, not sure what else to do. Lexi grinned, color in her cheeks, then started toward her.
Everything was moving in slow motion. Blood pumping in her ears, Charlotte watched as her best friend approached, gaining speed. Lexi’s arms were out wide, an encouraging sign. They both knew what was about to happen, and at any moment, they could stop it. But they didn’t.
It was Lexi’s first ever kiss, and Charlotte’s first kiss with her. Arms wrapped around the dealer’s neck, the former cop closed her eyes, inching closer on her tiptoes. For a few moments they stood there in the sunlight, eyes closed and enjoying the moment.
There was so much unspoken emotion poured into this kiss. So much time had been spent thinking about what they would say to each other. But none of it mattered; they broke apart, a breathless smile appearing on Charlotte’s face.
“Hi,” Lexi replied, just as stunned. Pulling her into a hug, Charlotte whispered,
“I’m so happy to see you.”
“Me too, Charlotte. Me too.” An engine came to life behind them. Paige was sitting in her black van, letting her two friends have their moment. Turning to look back at her, Charlotte grinned.
“Guess someone’s impatient.” Lexi smiled, remembering they had an open house that day. Taking her hand, they walked to the car together and got in.
They weren’t sure what would come next. All that mattered is they were together: Lexi, Charlotte, and Paige.