"So... what's with you and Rich?" Dani said, as she helped Nikki inventory the closet off of the gym that held furniture and tools dating seemingly from the Civil War.
"Nothing, I hope." Nikki straightened up from digging through a box that looked like it held nothing but scraps of wood and dust. She slapped her hands together and stepped away from the cloud she generated. "I went out with him last Thursday, but..."
"It's complicated?" She wondered if she should have registered her complaints about Rich a long time ago, even if she did sound like a back seat kid, complaining that 'He's looking at me!'
The entire Rich Thomas problem might have been fixed, and Nikki wouldn't have to deal with that ghost from her past on a daily basis. If he was trying to start up a relationship with her right from the day she returned to town, was that a good thing? All Dani knew was that Rich had been practically invisible around the Mission for the last three days, keeping busy with work instead of loitering in the halls.
Meaning he was straightening out because Nikki was in town. Was that a good thing, or bad?
"Major complicated. Then there's the whole baby problem."
"Aurora's adorable, but yeah, I can see how you wouldn't want to get stuck with someone else's responsibility."
"Huh?" Nikki went pale, then a moment later went red. Then the glisten of tears touched her eyes.
"Hey!" Dani caught hold of her hands and led her over to a splintery bench splattered with enough different colors to have survived a paintball war. "What's wrong?"
"Nobody knows, do they?" She wiped at her eyes with her clean wrists and leaned back against the wall for a few moments. "Arc does a fantastic job, keeping things quiet. I was terrified of the gossip when I came home, but..." She sighed.
"Knows what?" Dani sat down next to Nikki and dug in her pockets. No luck -- no tissues.
"You heard about the big mess, when I was trying to come home?"
"Yeah, you broke up with Brock and left him, and then his boss kidnapped you to use you as a shield for some deals he was trying to make."
"Brock was working for the DEA, getting evidence to use against Ringo. It turns out all the witnessing Mum and Daddy did when he was here did have some effect. Delayed, but..." Nikki closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tight around herself. "I was pregnant, and Brock ordered me to abort, so I left."
"Good for you," Dani whispered.
"He knew I wouldn't abort. He did it to make me leave, before I got hurt. But Ringo decided a pregnant woman and then a new mother would be the perfect decoy. Nobody would suspect what he was up to and ... There was a fight and Brock nearly got killed and an accident and... I was seven months along. My baby lived for a little while." Her eyes snapped open and she gasped, fighting a sob. "I named her Mercy Grace. She's buried at Quarry Hall, in the willow garden."