Team Sidewinder, or Team Blindsided?

Nick O'Flaherty, of Abigail Roux's Cut & Run series, is just full of surprises. Nick, along with lead character Ty Grady, is a member of Team Sidewinder, the Marine Force Recon team that also includes Digger, Owen, Kelly, Sanchez, and kinda sorta not really Liam. Minions (the members of the Cut & Run fandom) weren't all that fond of Nick at first, to say the least. But as time went on, we decided he was okay. But, still, we were gonna keep our eye on that one. By the end of Touch & Geaux, not only had Nick blindsided us by being a standup guy, one we were rooting for, but something else wholly unexpected happened as well. Nick & Kelly.

Care and Veronica talk about Nick's whopping blindsides as we celebrate the release of Abigail Roux's Shock & Awe. First up, Care discusses her feelings about Nick and when, for her, he turned from bad guy to someone whose actions made complete sense. Then, join Veronica as she talks about the pairing out of left field, Nick & Kelly, which caught everyone off-guard, including the author herself.

Come on, right after the jump. You know you want to click it.

Nick: Love to Hate Love

I started the Cut & Run series when Amanda beat me over the head hard enough to finally pick up the books and take a leap. So, beginning of August last year. I raced through Cut & Run, and within a week had blazed my way through to the newly released Stars & Stripes. I tell you this so that my relationship with Nick, the Cut & Run fandom's new devil-turned-darling, makes a little more contextual sense.

I think the fact that I didn't have any time to wait between Divide & Conquer and Armed & Dangerous plays a very large part in my reactions. I didn't have to stew over events, I just kept racing along. Along with everyone else, my first exposure to Nick was the mother henning in Cut & Run after Ty takes his head knock. Of course, we didn't know this was Nick then, and even if we did, it wouldn't have meant anything. Same thing applies to Nick being the Recon buddy who went into the mountains with the Gradys.

But then we hit Divide & Conquer. The entirety of the remaining members of Force Recon Team Sidewinder turn up at Ty's place, and we officially meet Nick, as well as Kelly, Owen, and Digger. I immediately took a liking to Nick — he was sharp and funny, and he liked baseball, which is my secret love (at least, on the 8-15 year old kids scene!). Then, we suddenly have conflict. Nick, with his crazy sense of timing, decided to make a play for our Ty. This is problematic for several reasons, but being protective of Zane is one of the majors. Now, I love Ty and Zane as much as the next girl, but Ty is by far my favorite. Having Nick make a play was less of an issue for me than for some, because my preference is Making Ty Happy. And Ty wasn't having any of it, so... No big deal, right? Then... I kind of got to thinking. Nick has loved Ty for what, twenty years? Nearly? He was also drunk. Not a wise move, no, but if I had been holding a torch for someone that long, and suddenly found out they wouldn't be horrified at the thought of me on a romantic level? I'd have been pretty sorely tempted, too. I really can't blame Nick for taking the chance. If Zane got his head on right, he never would have the chance again, so... Strike while the iron's hot and all that. I still really liked Nick. Not as much as Ty and Zane, but I really did like him.

But, that Nick then not only stepped back entirely, he stayed back? And was even still there without hesitation come Armed & Dangerous, when Ty and Zane (and Julian and Cameron!) needed him so very badly — and with no hard feelings besides? And even made the extra effort to make up for his crappy decision? Well, that cemented the deal. Apparently, many people are announcing that it took until Nick found his shotgun on his boat before they hit that point, but I loved Nick from the instant he opened everything up to Zane, knowing full well that Zane was walking away with the man Nick wanted (who didn't want him, but still), knowing that he'd made a crap decision, and instead of withdrawing from Zane entirely, and just going silent, he laid it all on the line. It's been No Going Back since then.

There was a huge focus prior to Touch & Geaux's release on Liam. And whether or not Liam would be a partner for Nick. Someone, anyone, to take Nick off the playing field. And honestly, while I'm glad Nick is heading in a direction to be really, truly happy (lest we forget, I've already read Shock & Awe!)? I'm glad that Nick is coming to that realization on his own, that he's looking at maybe finding his equal, a real partner, and I am over the moon thinking that my so-loved Nick is finally coming into the love the fandom has to offer — rather than the vitriol and scorn he's "enjoyed" to date.

Nickels: The Ship That Appeared Out of the Fog


Look. Nick & Kelly wasn't planned. But you can't deny they belong together. The moment I jumped on board the ghost ship was about a quarter of the way through Touch & Geaux. Zane gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom:

...only to find Kelly and Nick both tangled on the floor at the foot of the bed. He knew they hadn't made it back to their room last night, but they had both started on the pullout sofa. It must have been uncomfortable as hell to make them move to the floor. Nick was using a pillow Ty had tossed him in the middle of the night, and Kelly was using Nick's stomach to rest his head as he snored. Zane snorted.

I could write a whole post analyzing this scene. Does it mean anything, does it not? Are they just two Marine buddies used to sleeping whenever, wherever, blah blah blah? But come on, it was just sweet.

As usual, I avoided fandom and tumblr until I was done reading. And once I got back online, what happened next? I mean, if I hadn't seen it "live" I'm not sure I would have believed it. So the best way I can communicate it to you is to break it down by date.

Prior to the release of Touch & Geaux
Minions: We love Liam!! We think. He could be evil. But we don't care, we LOVE him! Liam/Nick Ship 4eva!

April 1, 2013: Touch & Geaux e-book officially released.

After the release of Touch & Geaux
Minions: In between sobs. Nick and Kelly. Whoa. Did you read what I read? This should be a thing. Let's make this a thing. Consider it done. NICK & KELLY FOREVER. Minions have spoken. Fandom ship built.

April 6, 2013: Abi acknowledges the Nick & Kelly ship, and admits it was completely unintentional. In fact, Kelly was originally supposed to die! But it's too late. Now she ships Nick & Kelly, too.

April 6, 2013: Abi pops into a minion tumblr conversation to say that it has been pointed out to her that she is writing fanfiction for her own work. And tags her post with #I ship it. Well played, minions. Well played.

April 10, 2013: Abi releases a Nick & Kelly ficlet titled Shock & Awe with cover art designed by minion Carlo. Hottest line in the book? Hottest line in a book, EVER: "No, you don't say his name when I fuck you. You say mine."

April 11, 2013: Just so we minions know, Abi tells us: "Let's face it, even if I wasn't in love with them as a couple, it would be silly not to give you guys what you're asking for. So you got the Nick/Kelly ship (that I also fell in love with so it's not like I did you a favor or anything). You're getting the novella soon, because I love them." Just so we're clear. After all, maybe she didn't intend the ship, but she DID write it. We minions just picked up on what was already in the story.

April 13, 2013: Well, this was a shock to me. By going with the Nick & Kelly ship, Abi's plans for 2 future books — with one being a lead-in for an entirely new SERIES, got shot all to hell. But Nick & Kelly worked so well (and minion fandom being what it is), she went where the characters told her to go. "You ran with it and I followed. Readers are happy. Editors are laughing, I'm writing, Nick and Kelly are screwing now. I'm not upset that all my plans are now ruined." In fact, Abi sought minion advice as to how to proceed with her plans for Nick's standalone book and Kelly's series. I can't recall if she ever shared her decisions on these books. I also recall her promising a tattoo if Stars & Stripes won DABWAHA, and I don't remember any follow-up on that, either...

April 15, 2013: At the Boston Marathon, two bombs kill 3 people and injure approximately 264 others.

April 16, 2013: Abi, who has an established philanthropic history, announces that half the profits from Shock & Awe will be donated to to a charity benefiting Boston and the victims of the bombing. She later announced the charity to be One Fund Boston.

May 20, 2013: The official release date of Shock & Awe is announced to be November 11, 2013. Veteran's Day in the United States. An appropriate release day for the first book in the Team Sidewinder series.

May 21, 2013: The minions previously held a contest to name the Nick & Kelly ship. Nickels won out over a few other creative submissions. Abi, in response to the ship name, said, "I'm not proud of this, but I almost renamed Shock & Awe to Nickel & Dime... Just because I can."

I have to say, I've never seen anything like this. In just a matter of days (if that long), Nick & Kelly went from nothing, to subtext, to author-sanctioned canon who were getting a book of their own. And it's not as if Abi was pandering to her fans. She openly admits that she didn't see it at the time, but the Nick & Kelly pairing is there, on the pages in Touch & Geaux. And if she wasn't on board, I have no doubt based on what she has told us that Nickels would still be nothing more than a fandom ship.

Even when Nick & Kelly aren't tagged,
the questions are still about them.
Just a side note. Abi runs “The Interrogation Room” on tumblr. Although on hiatus currently, The Interrogation Room was a place where characters from the Cut & Run world would accept questions from fans. Often, we would gain insight into the characters, bits of new off-page canon would be released, and we would have fun watching the characters interact with each other. Remember way back when minions were shipping Nick & Liam, before Touch & Geaux was released? Nick and Liam each had 6 pages worth of questions tagged with their names. Most of the questions asked of Nick focused on excluding him from lead character Ty Grady's romantic radar. For comparison, Kelly, Owen, and Digger each had 2 pages tagged with their names. After the release of Touch & Geaux? Poor Liam must have felt lonely, with only 9 new pages of questions. Team Sidewinder featured more prominently, and so Digger has an additional 19 pages of questions and Owen an additional 26 new pages. Nick and Kelly? Exploded with 67 and 50 new pages, respectively. Yes, minions definitely saw something on the pages of Touch & Geaux, and we wanted to know more about it. (We also wanted to know if the rest of the guys knew, hehe.)

Although I'm still in the Cut & Run fandom, I'm not as active as I used to be. Some things in minion-land have changed from the "old days" of a year or so ago, and some things have remained the same. But I know that Nick & Kelly couldn't have happened if Abi were not as in touch with her minions as she is, and I'm ever grateful for authors who seek out and encourage fandom feedback and interaction. I bet Nick & Kelly are grateful, as well.

Tell us, readers, what are your thoughts about Nick? Did your opinion of him shift as the series went on? What about Nick & Kelly? Did you immediately know in Touch & Geaux, or did you warm up to the ship afterwards? Perhaps you shipped Nickels even before then. Or maybe you're still holding out hope for Nick & Liam?


  1. Great post Veronica and Care. Loved it. I didn't ship Nick and Kelly. I'm still not sure if I do either, so it will be interesting to read the novella and see what I think. I didn't pick up any kind of vibe between them when I read Touch & Geaux. Part of my problem is I don't like picturing Kelly as Jeremy Renner as the fandom has done. As the other Wenches know, he's one of my laminated list guys, so I think that has clouded my view of Kelly. Nick, I don't hate him at all. He had terrible timing when he made a play for Ty, but to me, he has proven himself to be a great guy. Time will tell.

    1. I didn't really ship Nick and Kelly either, honestly. Not at first. It's kind of grown on me - mostly because I want Nick for *me,* dangit, so shipping him with Kelly is Bad News. Turns out it really works, and I love it to bits... even if I don't get Nick after all. ;.;

      My headcanon also differs - fairly lots - from the rest of fandom. Anne actually got my pictures, almost precisely (I will battle to the death for James MacAvoy as Deuce), when she did her dream cast - which makes a lot of the fan art really just kind of pretty pictures with interesting notions rather than OMGOMGOMG.

      Nick... he had spectacularly shitty timing, but I love him all the same. Always have, always will. Even when he's being a shit, and I scare the hell out of everyone in my house yelling at him. XD


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