DISCLAIMER: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks as always to mrswoman for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Seeing is Believing
By Ann


Nikki hurried up the steps, never breaking stride as she checked her watch. She and Nora had been asked to meet Dan in his office at 8:00 a.m. sharp, but a broken heel on her new boots had not only put her in a very bad mood, it had caused her to be ten minutes late. She raced through the doors, cursing Prada every step of the way as she practically sprinted to the chief's office. Pausing in the doorway, she immediately spotted Nora sitting in a chair and tapping her foot in apparent irritation.

"I was beginning to think I had the wrong time." Nora turned in her seat to greet her partner. The pair had been working together for months now, and Nora was still finding it difficult to make the adjustment. Something about Nikki kept her off balance, but she couldn't quite put her finger on the problem. For that matter, she wasn't sure if there was a problem; she just knew something seemed to always linger between them.

Nikki smiled despite her earlier frustration; Nora's presence always put her at ease. She also noticed they were alone. "Where's Dan?"

Nora sighed and motioned to the chair beside her. "He's late, and he knows how much I hate to be kept waiting."

"Didn't you hear? Good things come to those who wait." Nikki sat beside her partner, gracefully crossing her legs. A shiver went up Nora's spine, but she ignored it, just as she had all the other weird sensations she'd felt lately whenever Nikki was near.

"Not in our line of work. It's more like the early bird gets the worm." Nora turned to face the other woman. "And, speaking of which, how in the world did you find out about Mr. Nolan's other wife?"

A beautiful smile graced the brunette's face. "I have my sources."

"Well, I'd have never suspected him of killing his wife. He was so meek and mild."

Nora opened her mouth to further question Nikki about her sources when Dan's voice filtered into the room. "Hello, ladies. Sorry I'm late." He quickly walked behind his desk and took a seat, rifling through a stack of papers before facing the waiting detectives.

"So, why the early morning meeting?" Nora blurted, she was anxious to get to the point; being around Dan only served as a stark reminder that her life had changed significantly in the past six months. She liked Nikki, she truly did, but she really hated change. She just wanted to go back to the way things had been, to a time when she'd felt confident and sure of her course in life instead of the constant state of flux that surrounded her these days.

"I'd like for you two to have the entire day to study your next assignment." Dan answered cryptically as Nikki and Nora exchanged curious glances.

"What next assignment? We still have a backlog of cases to finish." Nora frowned, not understanding what was so important that they'd have to forego their other cases.

"Harrah's." Dan replied simply, handing over a folder to his ex-partner.

"The hotel or the casino?" Nikki asked, leaning towards Nora to get a glimpse of the information. Their arms touched, and Nikki took advantage of her position, allowing her shoulder to brace against Nora's. The blonde didn't give any indication that she minded the intrusion, so Nikki smiled to herself and began to read the material along with her partner.

"Blackmail? Where're the drugs and homicide?" Nora asked, shuffling the papers, searching for a reason why Dan would assign two of his best detectives to such a trivial case.

"The owner is a friend of the mayor. Some of his best clients are being blackmailed by one of the other players. He wants us to set the guy up."

Nora looked up sharply. "Why don't the clients just file charges? With enough of them pointing the finger, no one would question their claims."

"Well . . ." Dan began, shifting in his chair. "Nora, these games are held in private rooms. All staff members are chosen carefully by the owner and paid handsomely to keep their mouths shut. The clients know they can talk about anything and everything without fear of reprisal."

Nora was still confused. "That doesn't explain why the other players won't file charges against him."

"They don't want anyone else to find out about the skeletons in their closets. They want the guy caught, but not at their expense." Nikki supplied, glancing to her boss for confirmation.

Dan nodded. "Exactly; these clients are very powerful men. They can't afford any bad publicity."

"What's to say this guy won't sing when he's caught?" Nora never looked up. She was too busy trying to see if any of the powerful men's names had been noted in the reports.

Nikki smiled. "I'm sure the DA will offer him some kind of deal. He keeps quiet; he stays a free man. He just has to give up what he has and leave the city. That about sum it up, Dan?"

Chuckling, Dan replied, "You're good, Nikki. I knew you'd be perfect for this assignment."

Nora sat outside the dressing room of Saks, waiting for Nikki to try on her seventh outfit. So far, all she'd done since she'd awakened this morning was to hurry up and wait; two things she absolutely despised. She turned towards the dressing area just as Nikki stepped out, and her eyes almost popped out of her head as she barely kept herself from jumping from her chair.

"You're not wearing that."

Nikki looked up and gave her partner a wink. "What's wrong with it?" The brunette twirled around, glancing back at the mirror mounted on the side wall.

"What's wrong with it? There's hardly anything to it, that's what's wrong." Nora gestured with her hands to indicate the expanse of bare skin on display.

Nikki faced the mirror. The very short, red dress had a plunging neckline and was sleeveless, leaving the long tanned arms and shoulders exposed. "I'm fully covered." Nikki looked down again to be certain of her words.

"There's no back, Nikki. It dips all the way down to ... well, to... um, it's very low cut in the back. I don't think it's appropriate for your role."

"Nora, I'm playing a spoiled rich bitch. It's perfect. I wonder what your outfit will look like."

Nora leaned her head against the wall. She'd been too worried about spilling drinks on the patrons; she'd never given any thoughts to what she might have to wear.

"Oh, Ms. Beaumont, you look stunning in red." The clerk returned carrying another armload of clothing. Nora closed her eyes and groaned, cursing herself for offering to drive her partner to the department store after their lunch.

Two hours later, the pair walked from the store and towards Nora's car, both laden down with shopping bags and hangers upon hangers of garments.

"Nikki, Dan's never going to pay for all these clothes, shoes, purses, and um, various other accessories." Nora had just about died when Nikki had dragged her into the lingerie section. She would've climbed under the various racks and hid if she could; she'd never heard someone 'ohh' and 'ahh' over bras and panties before. She'd always bought her undies in the economy packs.

"He doesn't have to. I was in need of new clothes anyway. This was the perfect reason to add to my wardrobe. Besides, I'm sure I can get Daddy to pitch in and help. It is for a good cause, you know." Nikki winked and placed the packages into the backseat. Turning around, she relieved Nora of her load. With the excitement over her new clothes, she never noticed Nora watching her carefully as she bent over to put the bags in the seat.

Nora parked her El Camino at the rear section of the hotel reserved for the staff and climbed from the car. Grabbing her backpack, she headed towards the door, wondering what awaited her. All she'd been told to bring was a pair of black low heeled shoes, and for that, at least, she'd been thankful. She'd dreaded the thought of having to walk around all shift wearing spiked heels.

A staff member met her at the door and hurried her up the stairs. "Detective Delaney, Mr. Hudson asked me to acquaint you with the requirements of your job. I'm the only person amongst the staff who's aware of your true identity. Your chief asked that as few people as possible be told."

Nora nodded as she followed the woman into a small dressing room. "That's good; the fewer people who know, the better. It makes our job easier. Now, please tell me I don't have to wear a dress."

The woman chuckled and reached into a nearby closet. "No, Detective, black pants, long sleeved white top, and a vest."

Reaching for the clothes, Nora expressed her relief. "Thank God; I don't think I'd be able to last an hour in a dress and heels. It would just be my luck that the suspect caught on and tried to run. I'd hate to think of giving chase in a dress."

"Well, no dress for you. You can put your things in locker 3, and then come find me. I'll be upstairs, readying the bar."

Nora nodded and moved to the nearby bench; she quickly changed and placed her things in the locker, reflecting on her afternoon. She'd dropped Nikki off at the detective's house about two hours ago. Her partner was almost giddy at the prospect of playing her role, and Nora was so amused by Nikki's excitement that she'd forgotten to ask what the brunette had planned to catch the blackmailer's attention. Shaking her head, Nora turned to exit the room; she'd find out soon enough.

An hour later, the detective had been briefed on the specifics of her job. She was assigned to the high stakes poker room and was to make sure that the clients' drink orders were handled efficiently and promptly. She'd been instructed to stay in the room, staying next to the wall and making certain she was seen and not heard. Under no circumstances was she to approach a player without being beckoned. Nora smiled; she wasn't one for idle chitchat anyway.

The game was just getting underway when Nikki graced the room with her presence. Everyone stopped and stared as she waltzed in, and Nora barely managed to keep from dropping her tray on the floor. Her partner was wearing the slinky red dress and the most beautiful smile Nora had ever seen, but what captured the detective's attention more than anything else was the blonde on Nikki's arm, the gorgeous blonde woman.

"Ah, Ms. Beaumont, so glad you could join us. Please take a seat, and I'll have Edward get your chips for you." The owner smiled and gestured to a nearby chair, not missing a beat to motion to his second to secure a chair for Nikki's companion. Within minutes, Nikki was seated at the far end of the table, her friend just to the right and slightly behind her.

Introductions were made round the table, and Nikki made a point to smile and wink at the man responsible for the blackmail attempts. Once she was certain she had his attention, she turned and gently kissed her companion. This time, Nora did drop her tray, but thankfully, she'd already delivered her drinks to the table.

The owner snapped his fingers, and Nora quickly gathered herself and walked towards the group; her eyes glued to Nikki's hand. Her partner was lightly rubbing up and down her date's thigh. Nora blew out a ragged breath and focused on the owner.

"Would you care for something to drink, Ms. Beaumont?"

Nikki smiled and turned her gaze on Nora. "Yes, I'll have a white Zinfandel, and my partner will have a dirty martini."

The man at the end of the table grinned at the word partner. He was certain Arthur Beaumont had no idea his little girl was a lesbian, and he'd be willing to bet Nikki would pay big bucks to keep her love life a secret. Glancing at his cards, he quickly schooled his emotions; if he wasn't careful, his good humor could be misconstrued for the good hand he did indeed have, and he certainly didn't want any of the players folding too soon.

Nora nodded and turned back towards the bar; her thoughts definitely not on the case. 'Her partner?' Surely, Nikki was just playing a role, but she certainly seemed comfortable touching her date, and the other woman seemed to be just as comfortable, like they'd been lovers for years. A spark of anger filled Nora, and she had to force it back down. She'd have plenty of time later to figure out why she was feeling the way she was when the night had ended.

By the third night of their undercover operation, Nora was no nearer sorting out why she was so pissed at Nikki; her partner was just doing her job after all, but from the way the other woman hung all over Nikki, Nora began to wonder if this whole act wasn't actually an act at all. Both women seemed too affectionate towards the other night after night to chalk it up to just another facet of the undercover operation. Now, Nora was more confused than ever. She couldn't figure out why she was feeling so jealous.

The blonde detective placed the drinks on her tray and turned towards the table. Nikki's 'lover' had her head thrown back in laughter, apparently at something Nikki had said, and her partner's hand had slid completely under the woman's skirt. The suspected blackmailer slowly moved his hand under the table and smiled. Palming the miniature camera, he snapped photo after photo; his patience had finally paid off, he'd gotten his money shot.

An hour later, the dealer called for a short break, and the players leaned back in their chairs. Nikki's 'partner' pecked the nearby lips and excused herself to visit the ladies room. Nikki appeared to miss out on the table's conversation as she watched the other woman's hips swing rhythmically as she walked away. The suspect grinned and stood.

"Ms. Beaumont, could I have a word with you in private?"

"Why certainly." Nikki smiled and followed the man to the adjacent room. Nora narrowed her eyes and slipped the hidden hearing device into her ear. Waiting just a moment, she followed the pair, but stayed outside the room, positioning herself against the wall as she tuned into the conversation.

"Ms. Beaumont, your daddy is Arthur Beaumont, correct?"

"Why yes, do you know him?" Nikki answered in an innocent tone as if the two were about to carry on a civil conversation.

"I'd imagine he likes being a city councilman very much."

"Yes, yes he does. Are you thinking of running for the council, Mr. Peters?"

"No, I have something more lucrative in mind. You see, I'd imagine the people of this city would be very unhappy to find out that their favorite councilman's daughter is a lesbian. I wouldn't think they'd stand for such depravity and immorality. Just think of the bad publicity that would be generated if the media got hold of the information."

Nikki's face went white. "What are you getting at, Mr. Peters?"

"Well, I was just thinking that it might be in your best interest and, of course, the best interests of your father as well, that this information stayed under lock and key so to speak."

"Mr. Peters, you do realize this would be your word against mine and my daddy's. Who do you think the public is going to believe?"

"Photographic evidence doesn't lie, Ms. Beaumont, and I've got quite the portfolio of you and your lover, hugging and kissing, and not in 'friends-only' type of affection. I've also got a photo of your hand, snuggly nestled under your partner's dress. I think people will believe what they see, don't you?"

"What do you want?" Nikki played her part beautifully, allowing a hint of resignation to enter into her tone.

"$50,000 to start, and then I think another ten equal payments or so should do it."

"I don't have that kind of money."

"No, but your father does. I'm sure he'd be willing to fork out whatever it takes to keep his career from derailing. Of course, you'll have to tell him, won't you?"

Nikki smiled, confusing Peters. "No, I don't think that's going to happen."

"Ms. Beaumont, if you don't meet my demands, I will go to the media. You'll leave me no choice."

Nikki reached under her dress to the garter belt hidden beneath the material. Peters' eyebrows scaled up his forehead.

"Ms. Beaumont, I'm not interested in sexual favors. It's money I'm after."

"Mr. Peters, I'm not offering you sex. I'm offering you the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at interrogation time and at court."

Peters laughed aloud; however, he stopped mid-chuckle when Nikki pulled her badge from her garter belt and held it directly in front of his face. The man took one look at the shiny shield and turned to flee.

"Nora, he's all yours."

Nikki's voice filtered into Nora's earpiece, and the blonde detective immediately stuck her foot across the doorway, tripping the suspect and landing him flat on his face. Nora pulled her handcuffs from her pants pocket and quickly cuffed the suspect just as Nikki exited the room.

"Nice work, partner." Nikki grinned at Nora.

"Thanks. Nice work getting him to lay out the whole deal. The tape should be more than enough to get the charges filed against him." Nora's smile faded as Nikki's date moved over to join the pair.

"You got him. Good work, Nik. I guess you won't be needing me anymore."

Nikki smiled. "I'll always need you, Terri."

"Um, Nikki? Why don't you take your friend home, and I'll bring Mr. Peters in."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I think I can handle it." Nora forced the words from her mouth. The last thing she wanted was for Nikki to be alone with the other woman.

"Okay, I'll drop Terri off and meet you at the precinct."

"Sounds like a plan. I'll start the paperwork." Nora pulled the suspect from the floor and guided him towards the door, wearing a grin from ear to ear. She wasn't sure if she was happy because the operation was finally over or because Nikki was going to ditch her date to join her at the station.

Hours later, Peters was behind bars, and the two detectives had placed their last report in their outbox, ready to be filed first thing in the morning.

"Man, what a case."

"Yeah, but it was fun playing poker again after all these years."

"Will you get to keep all the money you won?"

Nikki laughed. "No, it's against department policy, but I've been invited to play anytime I want." The brunette gave her partner a wink and a smile.

Their easy conversation suddenly stalled with the flirting gesture. A nervous Nora stood to leave, needing to put distance between her and Nikki.

"Um, I guess I'll see you tomorrow."

"Hey, Nora? Would you like to get a drink?" Nikki smiled brightly, trying to put the other woman at ease and return to their normal banter.

The blonde hesitated, not sure if accepting the invitation would be such a good idea especially since she'd finally figured out what was bothering her about Nikki. An attraction to one's partner was definitely not a good thing.

Nikki extended her hand to the other woman. "Oh c'mon, Nora. Let's celebrate."

Nora looked at the offered hand and then shifted her focus to her partner's eyes, needing to judge Nikki's reaction to her next question.

"Nikki, Terri's more than a friend, isn't she?"

Nikki sighed and dropped her hand to her side. "She used to be my lover, but now she's just a very good friend. Does that pose a problem for you, Nora?"

Nora stared at Nikki, noting a sadness come over the other woman. The pain in the beautiful dark eyes was too much for Nora to bear.

"I'd love to get a drink with you, Nikki." Nora smiled and extended her hand to her partner.

Nikki's entire face lit up, and she took Nora's hand in her own, intertwining their fingers as she led the other woman down the sidewalk. Neither woman actually knew where they were going, but something had definitely shifted in their relationship.

The End

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