DISCLAIMER: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thanks to two extraordinary ladies, Debbie and Maxi, for the beta and constant encouragement.
CHALLENGE: Written for the FemSlash Advent Calendar::Dog Days of Summer 2008
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Stolen Moments in Time
Long, bare legs extended outward from the couch to rest equally bare feet comfortably on the edge of the coffee table. The seated brunette slowly moved her feet up and down in tandem from their crossed-ankle position as she scanned over the words of a formal-looking invitation she held in her hand. She didn't hear her lover enter the room behind her, not even when the other woman spoke.
"Hey, you'd better get a move on. We're going to be late." Fastening her badge to her belt, Nora took a moment to straighten the shiny gold shield. "I'm not wasting a good lie just because you're dawdling. I'm saving them up for the times when we're too preoccupied with each other to give a damn about the time." A smug grin crossed her face as she recalled having to use one of the lies from her vast repertoire just the other day when the two of them had decided to celebrate Earth Day by conserving water and showering together. So what if Earth Day had been well over a month before - at least they'd made the noble sacrifice when they had remembered.
Nikki continued to stare down at the elegant invitation, her feet picking up speed as if trying to keep up with an imaginary beat. Nora frowned and moved closer to her lover. Nikki only fidgeted when something was really bothering her.
"Nikki? What's the matter?" Nora moved around the couch and studied her lover, finally noticing what she held in her hand. "What? Something you can't get out of?"
"Huh?" Nikki's head snapped up and then promptly tilted back down to allow dark eyes to focus on the bolded typeface once again. "Um, more like something of a surprise." She ran her finger along the edge of the cream-colored cardstock, adding, "And something I can't get out of either."
"Please tell me it's not something I can't get out of, too," whined Nora, her mind already planning to take a colleague's evening shift at the last minute to avoid having to accompany Nikki to some ritzy soirée. She had no desire to watch eligible New Orleans bachelors fawn over her lover while she sat alone at the bar, wishing all the while she'd been able to figure out a way to hide a gun under the very clingy gown Nikki had made her wear.
"You don't have to go if you don't want to, but I'd really like it if you did." Nikki tossed the invitation on the table and turned her attention on her lover. "Otherwise, you'll be on your own for a few days."
"What do you mean for a few days? What is it some kind of marathon affair?" Nora watched as her lover wordlessly pushed to her feet and headed for the stairs. Half-way up, Nikki stopped and finally shot a reply over her shoulder.
"No, just a weekend affair; an old lover of mine is getting married one I almost married myself." Nikki looked off in the distance and sighed, before trudging the rest of the way up the stairs. Waiting until her lover had disappeared from view, Nora moved her gaze to the invitation which lay at a slight angle on the glass of the table. Easing forward, she sat on the couch and stared down at the elegant font. Finally, she reached out ever so slowly and took it in her hands as she began to read.
Mr. and Mrs. John Grey Jackson
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Mr. Terrence James Robicheaux
Saturday, the seventh of June
two thousand and eight
at seven o'clock in the evening
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
Nora read the words again, ignoring the various inserts that were spread across the table. She didn't care about the map which detailed the directions from the church to the reception or the list of hotels and restaurants in the area; she only cared about why Nikki felt she had to go to the wedding of her former lover. Did Terrence James Robicheaux still have some kind of hold over Nikki? Would seeing him again make Nikki question her choices? Lifting the shiny R. S. V. P. from the table, Nora made up her mind. There was no way she was letting Nikki go to the wedding alone.
"Nikki? Why did you pack five dresses?" Nora cupped her hands and pressed them firmly against the glass of the car's window as she peered into the backseat where her lover had just painstakingly laid her clothes across the seat, taking great care to avoid wrinkling the garments. Nora wasn't about to mention the five pairs of new shoes, still in their boxes, Nikki had stored on the floor mats.
"You said to narrow it down, and I did." Nikki couldn't understand the problem. After all, she'd left the other five dresses hanging in the closet.
"I meant down to one, preferably the one you plan to wear to the wedding." Nora pushed away from the window, but only after taking one last glance at the hem of her one and only dress, barely peeking out from underneath the heavy weight of Nikki's clothes. It was going to be horribly wrinkled by the time they'd made the five-plus-hour trip to Houston.
Nikki gave her lover a sideways glance. Surely Nora didn't expect her to have the same opinion as to which dress she preferred by the time the wedding rolled around as she did now. She always changed clothes at least three times before they went out and that was just to go dancing or to the local bar, not to attend a high-class social event. Smirking at Nora, she brushed by her lover and climbed into the car. The five dresses were staying put, as were the shoes - even the ones Nora didn't know Nikki had stored in the trunk.
Nora watched as Nikki slammed the car door closed and, with a slight shake of her head, walked around the car and slid into the driver's seat. For two weeks, she'd purposely avoided the subject of Nikki's relationship with Terrence, not wanting to think about what she was walking into until they were on their way. The drive to Houston would allow plenty enough time to question Nikki and perhaps put some perspective as to why her lover had been in such a funk ever since she'd received the wedding invitation. Putting the car in reverse, she backed out into the street.
Thirty minutes later, Nora was cursing under her breath and pulling into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, certain that Nikki's bladder had to be the size of an acorn. If her lover drank so much as an ounce of liquid, she'd need to go to the bathroom fifteen minutes later, and like clockwork, Nikki had asked for Nora to pull off the Interstate exactly fifteen minutes after their tires had hit the street outside their house. Nora did manage to hold off her lover for an additional ten minutes, but Nikki shot out of the car and raced toward the restaurant before the wheels had stopped rolling.
"Feel better?" asked Nora as she watched Nikki crawl back into the car with a large cup in her hand. The cycle had officially begun restroom, drink, restroom, drink, restroom, drink - and Nora began to wonder if they'd make it to Houston in time for the wedding the next day.
"Yes, thanks for stopping." Nikki sucked on the straw, drawing the liquid from the ginormous cup. Nora frowned slightly, figuring the additional thirty-two ounces would mean at least two dozen more stops. She knew it wouldn't do any good to suggest that Nikki not purchase anything when she used the various restrooms along their route as her lover always insisted that she owed the establishment something for allowing her to use their facilities. Nora would've preferred Nikki to just give them a couple of dollars and leave the cokes and such behind.
Putting the car in gear, Nora eased forward and pulled onto the feeder road. Maybe talking about Nikki's former lover would slow the consumption of drink. "So, tell me about this almost wedding."
"Huh?" Nikki released the straw and tilted her head, ready to ask what Nora was talking about when she suddenly realized what her lover was referring to. "Oh, yeah, TJ and I had gone to Vegas the summer before our senior year at LSU and had a bit too much to drink one night. We were next in line in one of those wedding chapels before we came to our senses." Nikki couldn't help but smile in memory. They'd both run out of there as fast as their inebriated bodies could carry them when they'd realized what they had been about to do.
Nora opened her mouth to ask who TJ was when she recalled the wording on the invitation Terrence James. "Did you ever talk about marriage again?"
"Nah, we slowly grew apart after that trip. I think the whole marriage thing scared us both. Neither one of us was ready to make that kind of commitment at that particular time in our lives." Nikki looked out the passenger-side window, seemingly deep in thought, and Nora began to wonder if perhaps she should take a wrong turn somewhere along the way.
Six rest stops later found the couple in Lake Charles, sitting in a corner booth of Luna's Bar and Grill. Nora had hoped that they'd at least be out of Louisiana by now.
"I'm thinking hamburger and fries," said Nikki, her mind already discarding two potential dresses that would prominently display the results of her menu choice. With a smile on her face, she moved her gaze to the 'out of this world' vanilla malt the menu proudly displayed, figuring she might as well go all the way.
Nora made a face, not one of disgust, but rather one of envy. The only dress she'd packed wouldn't allow her to overindulge. Resigned, she lied, "I'm not really all that hungry. I think I'll just get a salad."
"A salad?" Nikki looked up from her menu. "Your stomach has been growling for the past hour. A salad won't hold you to the Texas border, much less Houston." She returned her focus to the list of offerings. "At least have a sandwich. Here," she pointed to the special, "fried chicken breast on a sourdough bun. You love sourdough."
Nora's stomach growled loudly the sourdough certainly sounded good, and of their own accord, her eyes moved across the healthy side of the menu to the very unhealthy list of meals. She decided on a compromise of sorts just as the waitress stepped up to the booth.
"Ready to order?"
"I'll have a hamburger, all the way, a large order of fries, and a vanilla malt extra thick." Nikki snapped her menu closed and grinned, waiting to hear if she'd been successful in tempting Nora into something more substantial than a measly salad.
"Grilled chicken sandwich on sourdough and a Diet Coke." Nora closed her menu and reached across the table for her lover's, before attempting to hand them to the waitress. The woman ignored the menus, her focus instead on the side item Nora hadn't yet named.
"Fries or chips?"
"Huh?" Nora frowned at the question. Hadn't the woman been paying attention when she'd ordered?
"Fries or chips your sandwich comes with either."
"Just the sandwich, please." Nora extended the menus toward the woman once again.
"You'll still be charged for the side." The waitress seemed to have a one track mind a trait Nora seldom liked. She just hoped it wouldn't turn into an encounter similar to Jack Nicholson's in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
"No problem." Nora pasted on a smile and pushed the menus in the woman's direction.
"You sure? 'Cause . . ."
"Add her fries to my order," Nikki quickly interrupted. The throbbing vein near Nora's temple signaled her lover was just about to blow, and besides, Nora should be happy to discover the additional fries had eliminated another of Nikki's dress choices.
"Suit yourself." The waitress placed her pencil behind her ear and finally took the menus from Nora's outstretched hand. With a nod, she turned and headed for the kitchen. Nora barely waited for her to get out of earshot.
"Why should it matter to her if I don't want a side? I'm paying for it, and she'll still get her tip." Nora looked over her shoulder and grumbled a few more choice words, before turning her attention back to her lover. "And what are you going to do with all those fries?"
"Oh God, shoot me now." Head pushed back against the seat, Nikki moaned pitifully, eliciting a chuckle from her lover.
"I told you not to eat that extra side of fries." Nora spared a glance at the passenger seat, her eyes immediately zooming in on the undone seatbelt. "Hey, I also told you to buckle that."
Dark eyes fluttered open to fasten on green ones. "There is no way I'm putting any more pressure on my middle. You'll just have to drive carefully." Certain that her directive would be met, Nikki closed her eyes and resumed her 'oh, pitiful me' routine. Nora wasn't feeling very sympathetic.
"Fasten it, Nikki; it's not me that you've got to worry about; it's the other drivers." She checked the clock in the car. "We'll be at the Texas border soon, and you know how those people drive."
A memory of another trip to Texas had Nikki slowly reaching for the shoulder harness and gently pulling it across her middle. The driver of a Ford F-350 diesel, extended cab, dually truck hadn't seemed to be the least bit concerned that Nikki had been between him and the next exit. If she hadn't moved into the other lane, he'd have used all six of his tires to plow right over her. Fastening the ends of the seatbelt, she mumbled, "Stupid men in their stupid trucks."
Nora checked the side-view mirror and then eased into the left lane. A quick maneuver around a slow car was followed by a return to the right lane. She glanced over at Nikki, pleased to see that her lover had belted herself in. "You say something?"
"Not really, just a comment about men and their trucks."
Nora nodded in understanding; the dumbasses truly believed they owned the road and yield was something that only had to do with the amount of crops they'd brought in for the season. She'd often wondered if they were even successful with that kind of yield.
"Well, hopefully they'll stick to the feeder and country roads and leave the interstate to the rest of us." Nora placed one hand on the steering wheel and reached the other across the seat, sliding it gently into Nikki's. "So, tell me about you and TJ."
A big grin immediately crossed Nikki's face, and she forgot all about men and trucks as she launched into the first of many tales. "It began in elementary school. We were in the same homeroom, and just like the saying goes, trouble found trouble much to our parents' dismay. Why I remember this one time when TJ decided to put those sticky round things . . . damn it, what were they called?" She frowned and looked over at her lover. "You know, those things we used whenever the perforated holes in our paper tore. We'd lick the round gummy side and then put it on our paper so that it would stay in our ringed binder."
Nora nodded her head. "Oh yeah, I know what you're talking about. Weren't they called reinforcements?"
"Yes, that's it! Anyway, TJ used to lick at least a dozen or so and place them strategically on the seat of our teacher's chair sticky side up. Then, when Mrs. Crabtree sat down, they'd stick to her ass. She'd walk around the rest of the afternoon with whatever design TJ had come up with." Nikki laughed aloud.
Nora chuckled. "Didn't the other teachers notice?"
"Yes, and that was the best part. They hated Mrs. Crabtree almost as much as we did." Nikki grinned widely. "They never told."
Nora could only offer a weak smile in return, suddenly realizing that TJ and Nikki had known each other for much longer than she'd imagined. A wave of jealousy worked its way through her at the thought, and she mentally chastised herself for being so foolish. That was until Nikki remembered another small tidbit.
"You know, TJ once gave me an engagement ring." Nikki's eyes shone brightly in memory as her eyes focused on her left ring finger. She'd forgotten all about the ring.
"Um, yes, you did mention the 'almost' Vegas wedding," said Nora, suppressing another bout of irrational jealousy.
"What?" Nikki moved her gaze from her hand to her lover. "Oh, not then, there wasn't a ring involved then. I'm talking about earlier."
"Earlier?" It seemed that perhaps she'd been too rash in her attempt to discard her jealousy. Nora began to search for the next exit, wondering if Nikki would notice if she were to head back toward New Orleans.
"Yep, I squeaked out a 'yes' and TJ slid the ring on my finger."
"Yes? You said yes?" Nora put on her blinker, signaling her exit from the freeway in a mere 1.5 miles.
Nikki chuckled. "I sure did - right before I broke into tears when the ring broke in half."
"Broke in half? What the hell kind of ring breaks in half?" Nora kept her eyes on the exit that loomed closer and closer.
"You remember that pink bubble gum that was shaped like a cigar? Daddy had given us a box of them with paper rings around the middle, just like real cigars. We must've been around six years old at the time."
"Six?" Nora relaxed and drove past the exit. There were always plenty more should she need one later.
"I cried and cried, and then TJ suggested we go swimming. I ran home for my suit and forgot all about the ring. TJ always knew how to distract me. In fact, when we got older . . ."
Nora's cell couldn't have chimed at a better time. She had no desire to know what method TJ had used to distract Nikki. Placing the phone to her ear, she didn't even bother to check to see who was calling.
"Hello." A short pause was followed by a smile. "Oh, hey Dan. Problems?" Nora had already spied the next exit, eager to have a valid reason to return to New Orleans. She'd have to thank Dan later for his impeccable timing.
"What? You're kidding." The smile fell as Nora gripped the steering wheel tightly. "I can't believe it." She paused again. "That's not necessary, Dan, really." Nora sighed. "Um, okay. We'll see you Tuesday then." Closing the phone, she sped past the next exit. Having another day off was not what she'd been hoping for.
"Something wrong?" Nikki had heard Nora's parting remark and was fairly certain what the last part of the phone call had been about. It appeared her request for another day had been approved after all. It'd been months since she and Nora had had more than two days off at a time.
"No, not really. Dan just called to confirm your request for another day." Nora forced a smile. It wasn't that she didn't want to spend time with her lover. She just would have preferred to have been consulted, and she certainly didn't want to stay an extra minute in the same city of her lover's 'almost' husband's wedding, even if it wasn't to Nikki.
"Good, 'cause I booked us an extra night just in case." Nikki had every confidence in Dan, especially since she'd casually mentioned how hard Nora had been working as of late. She knew Dan was still very protective of his former partner, and she didn't feel one bit guilty about taking advantage of her boss's weak spot. "I thought we'd sleep in Sunday, order room service, and just kind of laze away the day. We haven't done that in forever."
The wattage from Nikki's smile stopped the rather strong words of disagreement from Nora. She'd wanted to leave the Houston city limits the moment the wedding vows were exchanged, having already made plans to use the Broussard case as an excuse to return early, but Dan's news that Billy Boudreaux had changed his plea to guilty in exchange for a lesser charge, right before he'd granted their extra day of leave, had squashed that idea flat. She took solace in the fact that TJ would no longer be in the city, having jetted off to the Caymans for the honeymoon. Maybe spending an extra day in Houston wouldn't be so bad after all. In fact . . .
"Perhaps we can take Tuesday and Wednesday as well. Boudreaux pleaded guilty."
Nikki almost squealed. "Oh that would be wonderful! I bet we can keep the suite, too. I wouldn't think it would be in use during the week."
"Yeah, Daddy's got connections. Besides, the wedding reception is on the top floor. We can stay and drink as long as we want." Nikki grinned. "There'll be an open bar."
Nora nodded. Thank God for small favors.
Two hours later, Nora wheeled in front of Hotel Zaza formerly the prestigious Warrick Hotel and had barely turned off the car's engine when an eager valet attacked, flinging open the door and startling Nora.
"Welcome to Hotel Zaza. Will you need assistance with your bags?"
"Yes, we will," said Nikki with a smile and an exaggerated New Orleans accent. The valet slammed the driver's side door and almost tripped over his feet racing to the other side of the car to open the door for the gorgeous brunette.
"You can go ahead and check in, and I'll take care of your bags and valet your car, if you'd like." He reached out a hand to assist Nikki from the car while Nora struggled to unfasten her seat belt. Her grumbles could only be heard by her lover.
"Damn good thing my foot wasn't in the door, and if he thinks he's driving my car, he's got another thing coming little pissant . . ."
Nikki spoke loudly to cover her lover's rant. "Thank you so much. Our bags are in the trunk, and more clothing and shoes are in the back seat." She smiled and started toward the door, knowing Nora would eventually follow.
"Have you looked at these prices?" Nora scanned the menu. She'd wanted to take Nikki out for dinner, but her lover had insisted they dine at the hotel's restaurant. Little did Nora know that the Monarch was one of the most popular restaurants in the city and extremely difficult to get reservations for, especially at the last minute. She'd guessed Arthur Beaumont had something to do with them getting a table.
"Daddy's treating tonight, so don't worry." Nikki set her eyes on the grilled wild salmon, before moving her gaze to the desserts. Her daddy had said the warm Valrhona chocolate cake was to die for, and Nikki was more than willing to take the risk.
Nora skipped over the smoked bison ribeye and settled for the Black Angus filet, deciding to change her earlier strategy for choosing from the menu. Maybe if she couldn't fit into her dress, she wouldn't have to go to the wedding.
By the time dessert had rolled around, Nora was in a relatively good mood, courtesy of her three glasses of Merlot. She, too, decided to chance death for the chocolate cake, but neither woman was able to finish the rich dessert, finally conceding defeat.
"We should've just ordered the cake and forgotten about the meal." Nikki stared down at her remaining portion, hating to leave any behind, but knowing death would indeed be imminent should she continue.
Nora pushed her plate away far, far away. "We'll do that next time." She felt very confident in her statement not that they'd remember, but rather that the odds that they'd dine at this particular restaurant again were fairly slim. She looked over at her lover and couldn't help but chuckle. It was clear that Nikki was toying with the idea of taking another bite.
"C'mon, let's go back to the room before we both explode." Nora reached across the table and took her lover's hand. In unison, the couple groaned softly and stood, before slowly making their way toward the exit. They hadn't quite made it to the elevator when nature called for Nikki, and to her credit, it had been well over fifteen minutes since she'd consumed her last glass of wine. Veering towards the restrooms, she tugged a laughing Nora behind. It wasn't until the two women were exiting the stalls that Nora wished she'd talked Nikki into going directly to their room's bathroom. She hadn't noticed the tall, attractive blonde, standing in front of the mirror.
"Nik?" The woman stared at Nikki's reflection, a tube of lipstick suspended in the air, inches from her mouth.
Nora watched as the woman placed the lipstick on the counter and turned toward Nikki. A huge smile crossed the blonde's face, and she started forward, being met half-way by Nikki, who rushed the rest of the distance to take the other woman into a loving embrace.
Completely dumbstruck, Nora could only watch, her mind finally catching up to what she was seeing.
TJ was the bride!!!
Nora stared up at the stark white of the ceiling, the light from the bathroom casting a bright ray across the room and illuminating everything in its path. It had been four hours since she'd slipped her keycard into the lock and entered the room alone.
She hadn't felt like a third wheel in a very long time, but she'd slipped back into the role as if it were meant for her. Even Nikki hadn't seemed to remember that Nora was in the room as her focus had been solely on TJ.
"God, you look good." Nikki had smiled that toothy grin and had given her 'old' lover the once over. "Where are you staying?"
"Here." TJ had returned Nikki's appreciative look with one of her own. "Damn, you're looking pretty hot yourself, Nik."
"Flatterer still as competitive as ever, huh?" Nikki had kept her hand on the other woman's hip a gesture that hadn't gone unnoticed by Nora. She'd frowned at the rather possessive grip she'd recognized from first-hand experience.
The two women had slipped into an easy conversation, and Nora had debated whether she should say something or just leave. She'd been fairly certain that neither woman would notice her absence one had to actually know someone was there before realizing that the person had left.
Finally, Nikki had come out of her haze. "Oh, where are my manners?" She'd smiled at Nora. "TJ, this is Nora."
Nora had forced a pleasant smile and had offered her hand, her mind still on Nikki's introduction. Nora? Just Nora? Not Nora my partner or my lover? A great big ball filled with insecurity and jealousy had quickly taken up residence inside Nora's gut. Now, completely alone in their room, she was kicking herself for insisting that TJ and Nikki catch up on old times while she went back upstairs.
"Stupid, Nora. You just sent your lover off with her oldest, dearest lover." Nora choked on her last word. On the interstate, from Winnie to Houston, Nikki had spoken about TJ with such love and devotion that Nora had been secretly happy that TJ had found someone else, but her old insecurities had pushed their way past her earlier happiness. Would TJ change her mind once she'd spent time with Nikki? Would she realize what she'd given up?
"Arrgghhh!" Nora placed a pillow over her head and screamed. She should've turned the car back toward New Orleans when she'd had the chance.
An hour later, the door to the room slowly opened just enough to allow a figure to enter, and easing the door closed, Nikki slipped into the bathroom and shut the door.
Nora never moved from her spot on the bed, the pillow still firmly in place over her head, even when the mattress shifted from the weight of a knee dipping on the end of the bed. Nikki slowly crawled to the headboard and slid beneath the covers. A muffled voice sounded from beneath the down pillow.
"Where'd you go?" Nora removed the pillow and turned toward her lover.
"To the hotel's bar."
"You've been drinking."
"Yes, well, there was alcohol at the bar." Nikki chuckled her reply.
Nora bit down on her lip, refusing to join in. Smelling another woman's perfume on her lover's skin was definitely not a laughing matter.
"You've been at the bar all this time?"
"No, we went back to TJ's room a few hours ago."
Nora swallowed her fears and trudged forward. "Oh? Did you have a good visit?"
Nikki didn't have a need for her detective shield; she knew exactly where Nora's overactive imagination was taking her. She reached out to push a lock of hair from her lover's face but stopped at the slight flinch Nora had obviously tried to hide. Instead, Nikki eased her hand into Nora's and pulled hard - hard enough to drag her lover from the bed and toward the bathroom.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Caught off-guard, Nora wasn't able to offer much resistance and soon found herself standing next to the tub.
"Strip," Nikki ordered, having already peeled her sleep shirt from her body, tossing it on the vanity.
"Huh?" Nora definitely wasn't functioning on all cylinders. She'd never had to be asked twice to strip.
An impatient Nikki helped her lover along, grabbing Nora's faded NOLA t-shirt and practically ripping it from her body. Any other time, Nora would have been turned on by her lover's aggressiveness, but her mind was stuck on TJ specifically, the hours and hours Nikki had spent alone with her old lover alone in the same room with an available bed there for the taking.
"Get in." Nikki had already started the water and had regulated the temperature, while Nora was playing another speed round of twenty questions in her head - the last one racing by as Nikki took her hand and helped her into the tub. Had Nikki succumbed to TJ's charms for old times' sake?
Totally numb, Nora allowed Nikki to lather her body and waited while Nikki did the same to her own. The removable shower head allowed Nikki to rinse them both free from the suds and only dampen their hair. Quickly toweling off, Nikki dried Nora, and then led her naked lover back to the bed. The entire process had taken less than fifteen minutes with no words spoken after Nora had stepped into the tub.
This time when Nikki faced her lover and pushed a damp curl from Nora's face, Nora didn't flinch. Instead, she leaned into the touch. Nikki smiled.
"I love you, Nora, and only you. You got that?"
Nora nodded. Nikki had known exactly what to say. She always did.
"Okay, it's late. Let me give you the shortened version now, and I'll explain it all after we've both gotten some rest." Nikki waited for Nora to snuggle closer before she continued.
"There isn't going to be a wedding tomorrow. TJ is on her way to the airport to catch a flight to New York. From there, she's on her way to France."
"What?" Nora was stunned. What had Nikki talked to TJ about?
"I promise to explain everything tomorrow, but I'm really tired right now. It was much more difficult to persuade TJ not to marry Terrence than me." Nikki chuckled. "There was a little more at stake this time."
"But . . ." Nora began, but a jaw-cracking yawn from Nikki halted her question. She'd just have to wait to find out the details. Nikki looked totally exhausted.
Wrapping her arm around her lover's waist, Nora pulled Nikki closer. Five minutes later, the brunette was sleeping the sleep of the dead, while Nora finished the evening as she had begun it staring up at the ceiling.
"God, these pancakes are good." Nikki moaned her approval, and Nora was ever so grateful that they'd managed to find a corner booth. Nikki's appreciation of food sounded much like her appreciation of Nora's skills.
"So, TJ was scared to come out to her parents so she agreed to marry this Terrence guy?" Nora took a sip of her coffee and tried not to wince at the familiar-sounding words, but even she wouldn't marry some guy just because she was afraid to tell her Momma she was gay.
"Yes, and get this. Terrence is gay, too. They were both terrified of what their families would think and thought this 'fake marriage' would get their relatives off their backs. Terrence's boyfriend was okay with it, but apparently TJ's lover, Cait, was none too pleased. She finally accepted an overseas job after TJ pulled this latest stunt."
"Wow, this all sounds like some kind of movie plot. How did TJ and Terrence hook up in the first place?"
"They work together. When TJ transferred to Houston last year, she and Terrence were assigned the same project. He actually introduced her to Cait." Nikki frowned as she realized she'd eaten the last of her pancakes while relating the story. She eyed Nora's plate.
"Okay, so what happens with the families now?" Nora chuckled and pushed her plate across the table. Nikki slid her empty one into its place.
"Terrence will be devastated at being left at the altar which will probably buy him a couple more years of 'heartache' before his family starts in on him again, and TJ will be able to hold her head up high if she ever returns to New Orleans." Nikki poured a syrup moat around her pancakes.
"But she's the one who bolted." Nora grimaced as Nikki proceeded to pour more syrup on top of the small stack of pancakes.
"Ah, but you see, Daddy called Marjorie Chatagnier and casually mentioned that he'd been told TJ had walked in on her fiancé and her maid of honor in bed together."
"Large Marge? She'll tell the whole . . . Oh, good one, Nikki." Nora grinned. Her lover wasn't just another pretty face. "Is that what TJ's family thinks?"
"For now, but TJ plans to tell her Momma and Daddy when they fly to France next month for a visit. They think she's taking a sabbatical to get over her heartache."
Nora looked down at the table in thought. She wouldn't want her Momma and Daddy to have to fly half-way around the world to find out that she was gay. She'd prefer to tell them in their own living room.
"Hey," said Nikki, reaching across the table to take her lover's hand, "you'll know when it's time. We've got five whole days to ourselves let's just enjoy."
Nora squeezed Nikki's hand and smiled. Her lover was right. It was so rare that they had time alone away from the job, friends, and family to just be themselves.
With a wink, Nikki returned her focus to her blueberry pancakes, and Nora chuckled as she watched Nikki dig in as if she hadn't eaten in months. Someday, everyone would know about their true partnership, and these special moments would become everyday occurrences. But, until then, Nora was going to cherish whatever stolen moments in time they could possibly share together.
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