DISCLAIMER: I don't own Nikki & Nora or the other characters associated with. Nancy Myatt and others do. I'm just playing with them for some recreational fun and entertainment. The original characters I do. The series title and story titles are as follows and belong to the entities as stated below (I thank each group for the entertainment and inspiration): Series Title - Why Don't You and I – Carlos Santana and his record company 1.1 - Despite All This – Cock Sparrer and their record company 1.2 - White Riot – The Clash and their record company 2.1 - Corozon de Oro – Rancid and their record company 2.2 - Leave the Pieces – The Wreckers and their record company 3.1 - Up to My Neck – ACDC and their record company 3.2 - Whiskey Sour – Sixer and their record company As a side note: If any of you are looking for the above music, you may find the better known bands, but you may have trouble with Sixer or Cock Sparrer…if you wanna give them a listen, contact me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I had been off work sick. That translates into me being bored. That usually means badness. The good was that I started reading some fanfic about a show that never saw the light of day except for a pilot episode that's available on YouTube (thank you, Ralst). There's a few things you should know about me, I love detective stories, with the caveat that they are well told and the science isn't bunk *cough – CSI – cough*, I love femslash, there are a few fandoms that play to those things that I dig. Nikki and Nora did. So my mind took a little adventure as I was bummed that this show didn't make it. I think that it would have been great. It sort of reminded me of Firefly in so far as the way the cast gelled from the moment they appeared on screen. Firefly had that. Nikki & Nora did as well. What I've planned are three sets of two stories in each set. Here's the first of the lot.
THANK YOU'S: The creators of the show, the music that's listed above, Winddrinker for some beta work and to Abby who served as primary beta for this side project.
PLEASE NOTE: I really suck at spelling, it's a proven fact. While this has been through a round of beta work, I'm sure there are mistakes…Oops. Blame me 'cause it's usually all my fault anyhow.
FEEDBACK: Good, bad, I usually take it all…leave it here or drop me a line: whedonistic.tendencies@gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Despite All This
By Whedonist


The closet doors swung open and Nora shoved a few shirts to the side to make room for the freshly laundered clothing. It was one of the tall blonde's least favorite chores. She didn't mind dishes or sweeping the floors. Hell, even cleaning the bathrooms and windows was preferable to doing her laundry. Yet, here she found herself every Sunday, separating and folding to make sure she had clean clothes for the week.

Turning to her bed, she grabbed the shirts and pants that were on hangers and put them away. Sighing, she wiped her hands on her jeans and looked around her room. It wasn't the biggest apartment in the world, but it fit her just fine. She was one of three people that shared the two bedroom apartment. It sat amongst a set of apartment buildings that promised students of the University of New Orleans off-campus housing.

She'd been living here since she started at the university two and a half years ago. At twenty-one years old, Nora Marie Delany graduated with an Associates of Arts in Criminal Justice and was studying for the entrance exam to the New Orleans Police Department. With any luck, she'd have a beat and a badge this time next year.

Satisfied that the place was clean enough, she grabbed her keys and purse off her dresser and headed out. Running through the small list of things, she decided to swing by Tommy's first and pick him up. They could hit the grocery store together before heading over to her parents' for dinner.

Traffic was light on a Sunday evening and before long she was double parked outside Tommy's house. She honked the horn and he appeared a few minutes later. Slipping off her sunglasses she watched as his mother came out behind him and waved at Nora. Nora smiled and waved back as she waited for her boyfriend to get in the car.

"Hi babe," he said as he slipped into the passenger seat and leaned over to give her a kiss.

Nora accepted the kiss, feeling the stubble grate on her cheek. "Hey you." She returned his smile as she slipped her sunglasses back on. She signaled and moved her car back into the flow of traffic.

Signaling for a left hand turn, she asked, "So, did you happen to take a look at those apartments?"

He'd been living with his mother since graduating high school. While that wasn't a complete area of contention, it had started to be an aggravating factor once he graduated from the trade school and landed a job as a full time mechanic at one of the best car dealers in New Orleans. She liked the man. They had been seeing each other for a little over a year and a half and Nora was finally feeling confident enough to consider moving in with him. Provided he could find adequate housing for the two of them.

Tommy shook his head. "I'd been meaning to go on my lunch break, but Andy had a couple cars that needed rushed."

Nora nodded as she turned into the parking lot of the grocery store. She slid the El Camino into a spot half way down the parking lot. Signaling for Tommy to get out, she said, "Can you run in and get a couple loaves of bread? Mama asked me to bring it for tonight."

"Sure, anything else?" Tommy asked.

"Nope." Nora smiled as she watched him walk towards the store. Halfway up the lot he stopped and turned back.

He smiled sheepishly as he approached the open driver's door window. "Uh, Nor, I'm sorry, but I forgot, I'm a little strapped until I get paid this comin' Friday."

Nora rolled her eyes and reached for her purse. Handing a ten dollar bill through the open window, she sighed. She watched as he made his way back towards the store, losing sight of him once he passed through the sliding doors. The blonde leaned her head back against the seat and shook her head. Tommy was cute, he was mostly nice and usually didn't pull that 'guy' shit that her first boyfriend had, but he did have his faults. His management of money was definitely one of them. He was twenty-two still living with his mom and more often than not acted sixteen.

Growing up with three brothers, Nora was used to it. Hell, if she were honest, it was something that she'd come to expect from guys, but that didn't make it less annoying. She fingered the charm bracelet he got her for her birthday this past January. It was sweet, but it was simple. To be honest, Nora's girly wants far outweighed the tom boy that lived inside of her. She liked romance, she always had. She and her mom were the only two girls in a house of six. Growing up, Rosemary Delaney spent her Friday nights with her daughter, watching old films.

Nora grew up watching the classics; Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and other films with great, all consuming romances. Where the guy would come in and sweep the girl off her feet. Okay, so Casablanca was a little less sweeping than it was full of angst, but that didn't detract from the overall message.

The passenger door opened and Tommy slipped in, placing the brown paper bag between the two of them. "Got two loaves of bread." He smiled and shut the door.

The blonde nodded and started the car up. Pulling back out into traffic, she pointed her car towards her old neighborhood. A few minutes later and she took the turn that led her down into familiar old roads.. The open window of the El Camino allowed a fresh breeze to blow through and her nostrils flared at the scent. She smiled a little as fond memories of growing up flittered through her mind. The people may have changed and moved, but the place stayed the same.

Pulling up to the curb across from her parent's house, Nora killed the engine and stepped out into the unnaturally tepid early summer evening. They approached the front door, when she saw her father's head peek out. The door swung wide and his stout frame filled the open space. She smiled and rushed to give him a hug.

"Hi, Dad." Nora said, wrapping her arms around his waist and squeezing.

"Hi there, pumpkin." He let go of her and stretched a hand out to Tommy. "Tom."

The man took the offered hand and shook. "Hi, Mr. Delaney."

Ushering the two inside, Nora's mother's voice rang out from the kitchen, "Nora is that you?"

"Yeah, mama." Nora answered as she hung her purse by the door and took that bag of bread from Tommy. She watched as her father ushered Tommy into the living room to watch T.V. while Nora went to find her mom.

Nora waited patiently in line, paperwork in hand as the clerk worked impossibly slow. She'd been down at the Academy's office since nine in the morning filling out the requisite information for the background, credit and criminal history check. Her father, a retired N.O.P.D. Lieutenant, had offered to push her paperwork through, but she had declined. If she was going to get in, she would get in on her own. The only problem with that was that now, three hours later; she was still waiting in line and developing a headache.

Sighing, she shifted the weight on her feet and leaned back. As she leaned back, a body behind her responded. Standing straight, she turned and offered an apology, "Sorry. Excuse me." A hint of color tinted her cheeks as the woman behind her shrugged.

"It's okay." The woman held out her free hand in greeting. "We've been in line for about the same time. I'm Ann."

Nora shook the offered hand and laughed. "Nora. Are you applying to the force?"

Ann waved the packet of forms in the air and smiled. "Yeah, but I think the wait to drop the paperwork off may just do me in."

Blowing the bangs from her eyes, Nora nodded. She turned to the line in front of her and counted. "Well," she said, standing sideways to talk to the other woman, "there are only three people ahead of us. Maybe by the end of the year?"

"Ha! Sweetie, we'll be lucky if we get out of here by the end of the century."

She warmed at the smile as she quietly appraised Ann. Slightly taller than herself, she was trim, fit. One could even call her lanky with soft, shoulder length brunette hair and warm blue eyes. "Considering it's only eight years away, you may be right."

They chatted aimlessly as they waited in line. Slowly shuffling forward across scratched and stained linoleum, Nora presented her paperwork and found herself wanting to wait on Ann to finish up. Five minutes and two-hundred-eighteen tiles later, Ann sidled up to a distracted Nora.

Feeling brave, Ann poked the other woman in the side and smiled at the startled look. "Well, I promised them my first born, but barring anything hugely damaging on the psych eval, I'll be starting in the August group."

"Then I guess that means we'll be seeing more of each other?" Nora asked, hopeful. In the short time they stood together in line, Nora felt comfortable around the woman. Considering the blonde didn't have many friends finding someone that she felt a connection to was rare.

"I guess so," Ann replied. "Hey, what are you doing the rest of the day?"

Nora ran through her "To-Do" list and realized it was pretty complete. Shaking her head, she said, "Not much."

"Look, I…," she stopped and fidgeted with the strap of her purse before continuing, "I know we just met, but uh, how would feel about getting some coffee?"

Nora's hesitation caused the brunette to rethink her offer, but stopped as a small smile pulled at Nora's lips. "That's not a bad idea."

Ann's face lit up and she tugged on the arm of the blonde. Moving down the hall, she led them outside into the stifling July heat that only New Orleans seemed to be able to offer.

Nora pressed the phone to her ear as she listened to Tommy whine on the other end. She stood up from where she was seated and shut the door so her roommates couldn't hear the rest of the conversation.

"Nora, I just don't see why you gotta do this. I know your fam-"his petulant voice sounded in her ear before she cut him off.

"Tom," she said as quietly and forcefully as possible, "this conversation that we're having now isn't going to happen. You knew what I was going to do when we started seeing each other over a year ago."

"I know, doll, I just want you to be safe. Cop jobs aren't known for safety."

The blonde twisted the phone cord in her hand as she rested against her dresser. Sighing, she rubbed the throbbing vein on the left side of her forehead. With her starting at the Academy three months ago, he'd become increasingly competitive and Nora, despite her best efforts to be understanding, was at her wits end.

She pushed off her dresser and moved to sit on the bed. She sunk into the mattress and fell backwards. Dreading the words she was about to say, her teeth ground as a slight twitch in her right eye began. "Tommy," she interrupted his ranting, "We really need to talk. Meet me over at Perk's in a half hour." Knowing that he would be there, she didn't bother saying goodbye, just placed the receiver in the cradle.

A half sigh, half raspberry sounded in the room as she slipped on a pair of shoes, grabbed her keys, some money and a jacket. A casual wave to Kristina and Beth in the living room and she was out the door. November in New Orleans was cool. It had rained the last three days and today the threat still loomed. She looked up into the sky and saw the outline of the sun straining through the heavy gray clouds.

Slipping on her jacket, she started towards the coffee shop. Hoping the rain would allow her a reprieve, she walked quickly. The café was the halfway mark between Tommy's mom's and her apartment, officially making it a nice meeting spot for the two lovers if time was an issue. It was also semi-neutral territory where she knew he wouldn't make that much of a fuss.

Truthfully, he had to have seen this coming. After his stalling with finding them a suitable place to live and ultimately his reluctance to leave his mother's house, Nora knew it was just a matter of time. Since August, he'd grown a tad sullen and his temper began showing itself more and more. He picked fights when she couldn't meet with him and pouted when she had to leave in the morning.

Her head was bent as she watched the blocks of concrete pass underneath her. As she came to an intersection she looked up and realized that she was already at the corner of the café. She stepped through the door, thankful to be inside. Spotting a two person table by the window to her right, she slid into the chair to wait.

Nora's head rested casually on her hand as she watched customers come and go. She saw Tommy walk in a few minutes later. She waved him over and tried to smile. A lame attempt, but her soon-to-be-ex's was only slightly better. He slouched down, offering her only a quiet hello.

Unsure of how to start, she decided coffee was in order. "I'm going to grab something to drink. You want anything?" she asked as she stood to get in line. He shook his head and she trotted off. The line was short and the grungy looking clerk behind the counter offered only a slight nod as she was handed her coffee.

Quietly she made it back to their table. The small trip giving her the chance to steel herself for the impending conversation. Setting the cup down, she slipped back into her seat. "Tommy, we need to talk."

His only response was his arms folding across his chest as his lips tightened into a thin line. Nora shook her head and forged ahead, "There isn't really, this isn't easy, Tommy."

He snorted and spat, "It'd be easy if you remembered what the hell it is that you are."

Her eyes narrowed as she said, "What is it that I'm supposed to remember?" She suppressed the anger and hoped he wasn't gonna say what she thought he was.

Foolishly, he carried on, "Nora, I thought we were on the same page." His arms unfolded as he ran his hand through thick blonde hair. "You're a girl, Nora. You ain't a guy like your brothers. You should leave that shit to the men in your family. Your mom's got the right idea."

Nora's jaw clenched as she gripped the mug of hot coffee in her hand. Ignoring the burns her palms were suffering, she launched out of the chair she was seated in. Before she knew what happened, Tommy was alternating between cussing and screaming in pain as the coffee ran down the front of his shirt. She snatched her jacket off the back of her chair and spun around to watch as he tried to soak up the dark liquid with napkins.

Tugging on her Jacket, she stopped in front of him and dug the point of her index finger into his chest, shoving him back into his chair. "Lose my number Tommy LeBoux. Pretend you never met me." The threat in her voice clear, she turned to leave.

A hand clamped around her upper arm and spun her around. His face was red and the usually calm blue eyes were alive with rage. "You ain't goin' anywhere you dumb cunt," he hissed.

A fist clenched at her side. "Let me go, Tommy."

He pulled her closer and before he knew it, Nora's fist came up connecting squarely with his jaw. She watched as his hand let go of her left arm and he stumbled back. He scrambled, waving his arms as he crashed into the table they were just seated at. He landed on top and tried to stop the table from tipping over. Instead, he crashed to the floor as Nora took off out the door.

The clink and clatter of the restaurant provided a steady back noise for Nora and Ann as they sat at their booth.  They had been studying for the past two hours, firing questions at each other.   The final written exam was in two days and for both women, preparation was key.  Thankfully, the place they were at was used to students taking up tables for study groups.  Currently, the two had been through a dozen drinks and a dinner.  Picking at her left over fries, Nora popped one in her mouth and waited for Ann to fire the next question.  

She watched the brunette skim over the list of questions and answers.  Over the past eighteen weeks, Nora and Ann had developed a friendship that Nora had a hard time labeling.  Since her breakup with Tommy, Ann had become almost a constant fixture.  They went out when time permitted to the movies, clubs and restaurants.  Some nights they stumbled into one another's apartments tipsy and fell into bed. 

 A slight blush rose to Nora's cheeks as she remembered the last two times she had spent with Ann.  Nothing overt had happened, but Nora couldn't deny the flush of arousal and mild embarrassment as she lay cradled in Ann's arms or like the last time, she had woken up spooning the other woman.  She had also recognized that much to her annoyance, it had felt right.

 Ann had filled a void in her world that she didn't think was there.  They shared the intimacy and friendship that she had yearned for with Tommy.  The conversation and responsibility of maintaining the relationship came off more as an even split between her and Ann.  That irony was not lost on Nora.  The fact that she wasn't an overtly touchy-feely person, but would not shy away from the hugs, hand holding or the head resting that Ann was accustomed were strong indicators that Nora could not ignore.

 The only problem was that she didn't know what it meant.  Her roommates had casually joked with her, but she had denied them up and down.  Stating that they were good friends and nothing more.  It was, unfortunately, their light teasing that forced her to step back and take a look at the friendship, for her own feelings towards the brunette.  Reflecting, Nora noticed a myriad of small things that added up to creating a nervous confused mass of blonde 

 From the way the worries of the day seemed to fall away when they were together, the smile that stuck with her for at least two hours after they had left each other's company, to the strong desire to just be around Ann because watching her talk and laugh made Nora feel better with just about everything.   Nora let out a small sigh as Ann looked up from her notes and grinned. 

 "I think," Ann said, setting the notes down and leaning back in the booth, "that we should call it a night."

 "Getting tired, Flemming?" Nora's eyebrow rose as she smirked.

 "Sweetie, it takes a lot more than a couple of hours studying to make me tired."  Ann's face lit up with a smirk of her own, letting the entendre linger in the air.

 Refusing to rise to the bait, Nora asked, "So, now what?" 

 She watched Ann shrug and run long, graceful fingers through her hair.  "Desert?" 

Nora shook her head and looked at the table top not covered in notes and books. The entire table to her left was stacked with dishes. Ann had put away the appetizer, the salad, soup, mashed potatoes and her open faced pot roast sandwich and yet she was still thinking about desert. Norahad absolutely no idea where the girl put the food. Ann had a runner's body and pianist fingers. "You do know that that food goes places, right?"

Ann shrugged, "I'm twenty-one years old. I have a metabolism an eight year old would be jealous of and…" she wiggled her eyebrows as she finished up, "Any weight I gain goes to my boobs or my butt."

For good measure, Nora chucked a cold fry at her head. She winced as Ann dodged the projectile and watched it sail through the air, landing on the neighboring table.

"I really don't know what to do with you." Ann laughed. "I can't take you anywhere. Throwing food around. Making a scene. Didn't your mom ever teach you better?"

"I'll have you know that my mama taught me right, you are just a horrible influence!" Nora grinned back.

"Well then," Ann said, fishing a twenty and a ten dollar bill out of her back pocket and throwing them on the table. "I say we blow this joint and allow me to further influence you in all the decidedly naughty ways my pretty little head can think of." She stood and began tossing their things into her backpack. She grabbed Nora's hand and led them out of the restaurant into the cold January night.

Nora nearly purred as the fingernails of her friend lightly scraped her scalp. They had been sitting in the back of Nora's car, cuddled together under three blankets watching the meteor shower and then just star gazing for a while. In late January the nights turned cold, but the temperature didn't seem to bother either woman.

The night was quiet, hushed. The mood had turned introspective at some point and Nora couldn't seem to break the silence that draped over them. She wasn't sure if she wanted to. To just lay there enjoying another person's company without expectation of maintaining conversation was a small gift that Nora intended to enjoy.

So instead of speaking, she relished the silence and the soft, warm body her own was curled against. The blonde's head rested neatly on Ann's shoulder as the other woman's arm draped across Nora's shoulders, holding her close. Nora's hand rested lightly on a strip of exposed skin above Ann's waistband. Unconsciously, she ran her fingertips along the smooth skin.

It was moments like this that were not only increasing in frequency, but also intensity. As much as she tried, Nora couldn't ignore the idea that she was more than likely falling in love, but moreover falling in love with another woman. A certain chill gripped her when she thought of the ramifications of what those ideas meant. Of how her family would react and perceive her after the fact. It was a terror that she shoved down and locked away. Virtually ignoring the panic.

The other issue was how exactly did Ann see her. Was she alone in her visceral response to the other woman? Did the pit of Ann's stomach grow warm whenever Nora touched her? Nora didn't know the answer and was too petrified to even ask. The information that Ann had offered about her personal history wasn't a lot. From everything that she had gathered, Ann had moved to New Orleans three years ago at the age of nineteen. From the bits and pieces she'd pulled together, Nora knew enough that her family wasn't much a part of her life, but she did have friends in Richmond that she kept in contact with.

She closed her eyes as Ann began to absently play with her hair. Hunkering down, both women tightened their hold on the other and listened to the sounds of the night.

Sweat dripped in Nora's eyes as she circled her opponent. After three hours on the obstacle course and an hour on the driving course, Nora found herself in the gym with Ann sparring on a set of mats to the left of a boxing ring.

She used her right upper arm to catch some of the sweat that had begun to sting her eyes. The sounds of ropes twirling and soft smacks to either flesh or warn leather sounded in the gym. She breathed deep and caught the odors of too many hormones and stale sweat. It hung in the air and clung to every available free surface.

She watched Ann bounce on the balls of her feet. The brunette was trying to anticipate Nora's next move while Nora was trying to do the same. They were at a stalemate and merely circling each other.

"Delaney, you want to fight or stare at me all day?" Ann teased.

Giving as good as she got, Nora said, "Please. The only reason you wanted to work out was to check out my ass in these pants."

An upturned eyebrow and a smirk was the only thing Ann gave. Nora ducked just in time as she saw Ann's shoulder drop. The gloved fist flew a few centimeters from her face. She quickly used the opening and managed to get a one-two shot in on Ann's stomach. The victory of her hits was short lived as a foot swept out and knocked into the back of her knees. Her next coherent thought came when she looked up. Ann had pinned her, sitting on the blonde's chest while she used her knees to pin down Nora's arms.

A broad grin graced slim, chiseled features. Nora's breath caught in her throat as Ann leaned down. For the briefest moment, the noises of the gym went away and the only thing Nora could hear was the hard steady beat of her own heart.

Just as suddenly as it began it ended as Ann cleared her throat. Confused, Nora looked up at her friend and saw a deep, ruddy blush extend to the top of Ann's forehead to the tips of her ears. As Ann helped her to her feet and helped pull her gloves off, Nora wondered what just happened and if what she thought was going to happen was only imagined.

The groggy blonde blinked against the harsh, early morning sunlight. Squinting, she realized that once again she found herself in Ann's bed with the brunette cuddled against her. For a few minutes, Nora closed her eyes and basked in the warmth and intimacy of the moment.

Her body tingled every place Ann pressed against her. Slowly, she opened her eyes and studied the woman resting on her arm. Ann's features, soft and relaxed in sleep, stole Nora's breath. Gently, she took her free hand, swept a lock of hair away from Ann's face and traced a light finger down the woman's temple. The traitorous finger slid slowly across her cheek and down the long slope of her neck.

The touch stirred the other woman and Nora looked down into clear, blue eyes. Unthinking, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against the one's belonging to Ann. The moment stretched on as their positions shifted slightly and Ann gained some leverage. The brunette deepened the kiss, pulling the taller woman against her. Instinctively Nora's lips parted and invited Ann's tongue in to meet her own.

Thoughts drifted through as their embrace continued. Nora marveled at how different this felt. The softness of the lips gently teasing her own. Her body's immediate and enthusiastic response to the caress. The embrace moved slowly on. Neither pushing for more, just content with how things seemed to naturally remain in stasis as they adjusted to this development.

Grudgingly, Nora broke away, resting her forehead against her partner's. Her breath came in deep as the fog receded from her mind.

It was Ann's quiet, "Woah." That brought Nora fully down from her cloud of euphoria.

Realizing what just happened and allowing the full weight of the implications to settle on her chest, Nora tried to push Ann away, but found herself trapped, wrapped up in deceptively strong arms.

"Nora," Ann pleaded gently, "don't. Don't run away."

"I – you –," Nora stumbled unable to find her voice.

Ann pressed her index finger to the full, trembling lips of her friend, quieting her down. "No. This doesn't – don't name it, don't talk about. Please, Nora, let's just enjoy it for what it is."

The panic Nora felt slowly receded. She stared into frightened cerulean eyes and her muscles slackened. Steeling herself, she realized that it didn't have to be anything. Whatever they wanted. Ann had responded to and obviously had wanted it as much as Nora.

"I'm sorry. I just …," Nora stumbled again.

Smiling slightly, Ann nodded. "I know. Not what…it's okay," she said, deciding that less was definitely more for this situation. She pulled Nora back down and held the other woman close. It wasn't as if she hadn't thought about kissing the blonde, she had a great deal. She just never figured that Nora would have wanted it, much less initiated it.

Ann felt Nora nuzzle into the crook of her arm and she squeezed the other woman's shoulders. Unsure of what to do or say Ann's gaze fell on to the dresser across from her bed. She looked at the smiling faces of Jill and Lee. Her best friends. The one's she'd left in Richmond to come here and start fresh. Of course, it wasn't like she could count Jill as one of her best friends anymore. They didn't talk much and most information about the other was spread as Lee acting as the middle man.

What a nightmare that had been.

The three had met their freshman year of high school and had become virtually inseparable. She had watched while Lee and Jill shared a very turbulent relationship for the first half of their sophomore year and had helped Jill put herself back together when they broke up. It was during that time or Ann thought, maybe it was something that just happened, but before she knew it, she'd fallen in love with Jill. Hard. Deep. Devastatingly.

Of course, falling in love with your best friend never actually works out the way you think it will. Mostly, Ann mused, it ends in tears.

As Lee had slowly built a solid friendship with Jill again, he had noticed the changes in Ann. It was his insistent prodding that forced her to come clean to him one night. After that, he would point out things that Jill did only when Ann was around. How they acted towards each other. Lee's observations gave her the courage to confront Jill. She'd written her a letter because words didn't work for her the way they did for most people. Writing seemed to work best. So Ann wrote a letter and had delivered it to Jill.

They hadn't really spoken since then. It was one of the myriad of reasons Ann moved south. That and the never ending trouble her parents were always in. The last she'd heard of her father, he was serving time for drug trafficking and her mom was turning tricks to support her habit. Lee had been the one to deliver that information not more than three weeks ago.

A slight tremor shook Ann from her thoughts. Her gaze traveled to the blonde curled into her side. She ached when she realized that Nora was crying. Placing a soothing hand on Nora's back, she whispered, "Nora, sweetie, what's wrong?"

Nora looked up and shook her head. "I…"

Ann pulled Nora up so that they were eye level. "Scared?" Ann asked.

Nora nodded as Ann wiped the tears trailing down her friend's cheeks and tried for a reassuring smile.

"Would it help if I said I was, too?" the brunette ventured.

"Maybe." Nora sniffled and ran her hand through her hair. She pulled back so that she was resting against the headboard. "I care about you, Ann. Way more than I should."

"Why is that bad?" Ann shifted her position so that she was cross legged facing Nora.

"It's not, but we can't…if my family found out, the academy. This could ruin everything." Nora's arms folded across her chest as she chewed on her lower lip.

"Who says they have to know?" the brunette countered.

"And why didn't you tell me?"

Confused, Ann cocked her head to the side and asked, "Tell you what?"

Rolling her eyes, Nora waved a hand between the two of them. "That you know…"

Ann's shoulders squared and her back straightened. "Tell you that I wanted to kiss you? That I'm a dyke?" She watched Nora's reaction and shook her head. "Of course, that's it, isn't it?" Unable to sit anymore, Ann got up and began pacing the length of her room. "That's homophobic bullshit, Nor. Why should I have to introduce myself as Ann Louise Flemming, the dyke? Do you introduce yourself as Nora Delaney, the closet case?"

Reacting quickly, Nora rose from the bed and stood in Ann's path. Placing her hands on Ann's shoulders, she said, "I'm sorry, again." Nora looked away, unable to meet the pain reflected back at her. "I'm scared. And the fact that I'm saying that to you…"

Ann pulled the blonde into a hug. She whispered into Nora's neck, "I'm sorry…that was harsh." She felt Nora shrug and she herself sighed. Gently she sat them on the edge of the bed. "Nora," Ann turned towards the blonde, causing their knees to touch and said, "I really do understand how scary this, but…do you like me?"

Blinking, Nora said, "We didn't cover that?"

"Yeah, we sorta did, but I want to be clear. I like you. A lot. I think you like me, like I like you." Ann shook her head and said, "And there were entirely too many 'like's in that sentence. We don't have to do anything you don't want or tell or say anything to anyone." Pleadingly, Ann grabbed Nora's hand, threading their fingers together and said, "This can be us, here. In our rooms, behind closed doors. I'm okay with that. Given the field we're going into, we sorta need it to be."

"You would be okay with that?" Nora watched Ann's reaction as the other woman nodded almost hopefully. Nora's head raced with all the possible ways of how this couldn't work. Of why it shouldn't. Her mind spat at least a dozen reasons at once, but her heart said something else and her gut was in agreement with the quiet persistence of her heart.

Decision reached, her hand rose and gently caressed Ann's cheek. Her hand went back, wrapping in soft brown hair to pull the other woman forward. Their lips met as Nora conveyed her decision through the action and caress.

Looking around her room, Nora sighed. She'd given up trying to figure out whose clothes belonged to whom. Between the Academy's demands on her time, life in general, and the moments she stole with Ann there was absolutely no time to maintain a clean house. Add to the fact that the women had come to some unspoken arrangement that led to half of the other's wardrobe ending up at the other's. Nora was in short, screwed.

"Nora, have you seen my green shirt?" Ann asked stepping into the room as she dried her hair off with a towel.

"Nora! You're dad's here," Beth's voice called from the living room.

Both women's eyes grew large as they looked around the room. The tousled sheets, the clothes and their current state of undress, Nora in a pair of jeans and her bra while Ann was in nothing but Nora's robe. The robe her parents got for her for Christmas.

"Nora?" her dad's voice came from down the hall.

A small squeak came from Nora and Ann's eyes grew large. Unthinking, Ann slipped into the closet and shut the door. Nora grabbed the first t-shirt she saw and pulled it over head. Her dad entered the room with a slight knock.

"Nora," her dad said, smiling. "We're gonna be late." He stood and examined the room. His lips formed a thin line as he said, "Sorry, but you know how your mama gets. I'll wait in the living room."

She watched as he spun quickly out of the room and shut the door. Ann's head peaked out a moment later, looking sheepish and wide eyed.

Nora looked from her then down at the bed she was standing by. Gracelessly, she fell forward, planting her head firmly in a small pile of clothes and bunched blankets. She felt Ann's comforting hand on her back and she let lose a muffled scream.

She turned her head and looked up. The brunette's apologetic gaze and encouraging smile pushed Nora up. "Well," she said.

"Yeppers." Ann looked over the other woman's shoulder spotting the shirt she was looking for. She reached around and snatched it from the edge of the end table. "Ha! I knew I left that here."

"We should…" Nora said.

Knowing what she met, Ann placed a firm kiss to the corner of her lover's mouth and hopped off the bed. "You're dad's waiting. If we're late, your mother won't be happy. I've only met the woman a few times and I already know that much about her."

Nora nodded and finished getting ready. It took another ten minutes on hair and make-up then they were out the door. The car ride wasn't too bad, but it was filled with silence. As the idea of the party and what lay ahead for them loomed, Nora began to rethink the surprise she had in store for her girlfriend. It wasn't something she had planned on, but it seemed like a great opportunity.

One morning, Nora had answered Ann's phone and began talking to Lee. The man effortlessly pumped Nora for information and had slipped that they were going to be graduating the police academy in few short weeks. Lee had wished that he could see that, but with his new work schedule knew he wasn't going to make it.

A week later, Nora had called and offered an invitation to Lee and Jill to the graduation party her parents were having for her. Knowing that Ann didn't have any family, she had talked her parents into making it a joint celebration. She had Bobby use her car and pick up the two from the airport last night. Currently, they were waiting with the Delaney clan at her parents' house.

They pulled into the driveway fifteen minutes later and Nora's stomach was a knot. She waited for her father to leave her sight, disappearing behind the house to the backyard. Turning to Ann, she unconsciously grabbed her hand.

"Babe, you okay?" Ann asked, squeezing the blonde's hand.

Nora nodded. "Just…look, when you get back there, please do me a favor and don't be mad."

A slim eyebrow rose. "What exactly did you do?"

"Uh, it's sort of a surprise." Nora tried for an encouraging smile, but thought she'd failed as the slight scowl marred Ann's usually easy going features.

"Uh-huh. Well, let's get on with it. I reserve the right to exact revenge after this is all over," she called over her shoulder and followed the path Nora's father had taken. She shook her head and wondered what exactly Nora could have done. As she rounded the corner of the house, a large banner read 'Congratulation's Nora and Ann!' Under it stood the Delaney brood along with two very unexpected faces.

Nora stopped right behind Ann, discretely placing a hand on the small of her lover's back. Neither was given any time for as soon as Nora stepped into view the backyard erupted into cheers. It took less than ten seconds for both of them to be pushed forward and clapped on the back, hugged or cheered on for becoming part of the police department.

Swept up in the moment, Nora plastered a smile across her face and split her attention to the well-wishers and Ann. Her lover was slightly ashen as the brunette broke away from her brothers and approached Lee and Jill by the picnic table. Finally managing to grab a coke and make her way over to Ann and her friends. Lightly, she touched Ann's shoulder. The other woman shrunk away and spun to Nora.

"I…Nora, this is Lee and Jill," Ann tried to smile, but couldn't manage it. "I think you and Lee have talked before."

Nora grinned trying to displace her lover's unease. "Yeah. Hi, Lee. Nice to finally meet you." She shook the offered hand and turned to Jill. "Hi, Nora Delaney."

Jill's smile never quite made it to completion as she perfunctorily shook the other woman's hand and said, "Jillian Ness." Turning to Ann, she said, "I'm…"

Ann cut her off, "I really can't deal with this right now."

With that the three stood there and watched Ann's retreating back. Nora looked between the two as Ann made her way further away, disappearing among the woods that lined her parents' backyard. Nora moved to follow her, but was stopped by Jill's hand.

She looked at the woman, pretty with dark, chestnut hair. Fine features and high cheekbones. "This is my fault. I'm sorry," she said. Nora watched her chase after her lover and noted that Jill looked and moved like a model.

The blonde turned to the male of the group, looking him over. Lee was barely an inch taller than she, with sandy blonde hair with the build of a linebacker, broad shoulders, a barrel chest with a narrow waist.

"Sorry about that," he waved a hand towards his two absent friends. "They've got…ah…issues."

"Why didn't you tell me that seeing you two was going to upset her?" Nora asked quietly.

Sighing, Nora turned on heel and followed after the two women. She followed the voices as she moved deeper among the trees. She stopped short as she saw the two women standing together. She slipped behind a large tree. Jill's arms clutched to her chest as Nora noticed Ann's hands were being firmly gripped by the other woman's.

"You don't think I know I fucked up?" Jill asked.

Prying her hands away, Ann turned away and spat, "You haven't said more than two words to me in nearly two years. Three if you don't count the day I left or the fight before that. I figured talking to me was the last thing you wanted."

Running a hand through her long hair, Jill pleaded, "I was freaked out. I was scared and didn't know what to do."

Jill turned Ann to her as Ann whined, "I can't. Nora. You've no right."

Nora watched Jill search Ann's features. Sighing, Jill said, "You and the blonde?" Ann nodded and Jill asked, "Do you love her?"

"I care about Nora. She's a pretty amazing person. You'd like her." Ann unconsciously stepped into Jill's personal space as Nora listened.

"Do you love her like you love me?" Jill tried again.

"I…" Ann's face fell as she softly admitted, "You were the first. Jill, it's not fair. Loving you came to me like breathing. It's just something that's always been."

Nora released the breath she was holding. For some reason hearing her lover's admission didn't sting like she thought it would. Deciding to bench the conversation she wanted to have with Ann for later, she let them have their privacy. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do with what she just saw, but something was going to have to be done.

As she stepped out of the woods, her father's figure strode in her direction. She looked over to find that Lee was talking with her brothers, Bobby, Patrick and Terry.

"Nora, can I see you for a minute." Her father stepped into her line of sight. Grabbing her by the elbow, he led her to a more private spot at the edge of the yard. Quietly, he reached into his pants pocket and removed a small blue box. Shoving it in his daughter's hands, he said, "That was your grandma's. I figure you could have it."

Nora opened the box and smiled as a medallion of St. Francis of Assisi lay nestled in the box. Her father helped her put in on and she slipped the empty box in her pants pocket.

She watched her father play with the label on his beer bottle before he spoke. "When I came to your place earlier…Nora Marie, I've only ever wanted the best for you. So listen here young lady, what you're playin' with will only get you hurt. The Force doesn't take too kindly to the path you're headed down." His jaw set and he looked up, meeting his daughter's gray eyes. "Whatever it is that you're doin', I suggest you end it 'fore anyone finds out or worse yer mama. It'd just about kill her." Not saying another word, he turned and strode off.

A pair of underwear went sailing into the corner of the room as Nora finally managed to remove all of her clothing while Ann reclined on the bed. Slightly sweaty but content, Nora crawled over her lover and settled into the open arms that were waiting for her. They hadn't actually made it to the bed after coming home from the bar.

After the party yesterday, Nora warred with herself. It had scarred her that her father had said anything. The admonishment hurt. The fact that he wasn't going to say anything to anyone provided only a small bit of salve to the wound. The other issue was that she was still compelled to see where this thing with Ann would take her. Another part needed to see Jill and Ann together. So she had invited Jill and Lee out to Ann and her's favorite bar. There the four of them had danced, drank and laughed. Nora loved seeing Ann as open and happy as she had been tonight.

She also yearned to have friendships like her lover seemed to share with her friends. It was also during their third round that Nora had come to several realizations. The first and foremost being that she loved Ann. Had fallen head over heels in love with the woman. The second was that even though Ann's hushed admission to Jill still left Nora with a hope that one day they could get there, she saw tonight that that wasn't ever going to happen. Watching the two together was heartbreakingly beautiful.

Lee had took her out on the dance floor and as they slowed down in their movements he had offered an apology. His bittersweet smile conveyed to Nora the things he couldn't really say. They had danced through a few songs and he spoke of his time with the two. He seemed to think that when Jill was in Ann's orbit the rest of the world could be burning and the only thing that mattered was the two of them. He confessed that he'd always felt a bit like the third wheel.

Nora had only offered a tight lipped smile at his apology and shelved the information. So they had come back from the club and Ann had jumped Nora before they even got through Ann's bedroom door closed. The blonde allowed it to happen was even an active participant, loving every touch, moan and whimper that she had caused in the brunette.

It was during her return to earth that the third realization had hit her like a ton of bricks. Nuzzling into the supple skin of her lover, Nora grabbed Ann's hand and threaded their finger's together. "Ann?" Nora whispered.

"Hmm?" came the tired reply.

"I think we should stop seeing each other." Nora winced as Ann shot up and reached for the lamp on the bedside table. Trying to calm her down, she pulled Ann back down to resume their comfortable position. "Quit freaking out. I need to tell you a few things."

"Nora, you…" Ann tried.

"I…what? Baby, please just shut up and listen to me." Nora lifted the hand she held and placed a few kisses on the knuckles, trying to take the sting from her words. "Listen first, and then start yelling."

Knowing she had Ann's attention, Nora propped herself up on her elbow and turned to look at the clear blue eyes she'd come to adore. She rested her free hand on Ann's alabaster chest and said, "I love you." She smiled a little at the warmth that infused the brunette's features, taking a second to cherish the moment. "You aren't in love with me."

A protest started to form on Ann's lips, but Nora silenced them with a slim finger on full lips. "It's okay. Let me talk. I've come to a few conclusions tonight. The first was that I'm in love with you. The second was that you don't love me, not like you should." She removed her finger and took Ann's free hand again. "The third was that we should stop this. You deserve to be with someone you love and I deserve to be loved in return."

Fighting the tears that pooled, she sniffed and said, "Ann, I want you to be happy. Seeing you with Jill. I don't know the full story. Really don't wanna know it, but you love her. I think she loves you too."

Ann removed her hand from Nora's and swiped at her own cheeks first and then at Nora's. While the truth of what Nora said was apparent, she didn't think that it would hurt like it was. "I'm sorry."

The blonde smiled slightly and shrugged as best she could. "I don't think there's anything to be sorry for. If I put two and two together right, she's decided to pull her head from her ass. That's why she came down here wasn't it?" Ann nodded as Nora continued, "I want you happy. That's the most important thing to me right now. If she does that, you should be with her."

Not having any words, Ann's tears dripped down her cheeks and fell from her chin. She couldn't believe this was happening. Pulling Nora to her, she tightened her hold letting her tears fall into Nora's blonde hair. "I should go," she heard Nora say.

Ann shook her head no and whispered, "Would you mind…" She bit her lower lip and asked, "Stay? For tonight? Please?"

Knowing that she would, Nora settled against the pillows. She repositioned herself and asked, "Now what?" Her smile was crooked as her chest tightened. She read Ann's silent plea and opened up her arms. The brunette fell into them and she snuggled in. She reached for the bedside lamp and flipped it off. Her arm returned to its position and threaded through her love's hair, okay with the fact that at least she'd have tonight.

The End

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