DISCLAIMER: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

We Are Family
By Ann


An ornate wooden bench sat nestled between two ancient oak trees, its location offering the perfect view of the entrance to the police station. The off-duty policeman propped himself against one end and kept his eyes trained on the building's doors as he nervously worried with the brim of his hat. He wasn't looking forward to delivering the message he'd been saddled with, but if truth be told, he feared his momma far more than his sister. A shadow behind the glass doors alerted Bobby Delaney that someone was about to exit the building.

"I'm going to be the laziest human on the planet this weekend," said Detective Nora Delaney with a huge smile, pushing the heavy door open and holding it for her partner to pass through. "I can't believe we managed to talk Dan into letting us off for the entire three day weekend."

Nikki Beaumont nudged Nora with her hip. "Me either. You know, I think this may be the first time I've been off on July 4th since I joined the force." Nora's idea of lazing around certainly sounded like a wonderful idea. Nikki couldn't wait to spend three whole days with her lover – just the two of them with no one around to bother them.

"Um, Nora?" Bobby had made his way across the street when he'd seen his sister exit the station, but now that he was standing face-to-face with her, he wondered if perhaps telling her the news over the phone would have been a better idea.

"Hey, Bobby," Nora greeted warmly as she stepped closer to her brother. "Nikki and I were just on our way home. Want to stop off at O'Malley's for a beer?"

"Sure, but I need to tell you something first." Bobby didn't want to delay the inevitable any longer. Besides, he knew that one beer usually led Nora to two and then three, and he wanted his sister to be completely sober when she heard what he had to say. She'd used the 'I had been drinking and didn't remember' excuse before.

Nora glanced at her lover and shrugged. "Sure, what's up?"

"Momma asked me to tell you that she expects you tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. sharp to help her get ready for the day's events." Bobby spoke as quickly as he possibly could but slow enough for Nora to catch every word. He wasn't about to repeat his momma's demands.

"What are you talking about? Momma and Daddy always go to Shreveport to celebrate the 4th with Aunt Louise and Uncle Buster."

"Not this year. Aunt Louise and Uncle Buster are coming here, along with the rest of the family. Momma's planned an impromptu family reunion," informed Bobby, nervously chewing on his lower lip. He really shouldn't have told Nora that last little tidbit.

"A family reunion? She's not said anything to me." Nora widened her stance and put her hands on her hips, a sure sign that she was far from happy.

Bobby lowered his head and stared down at a hairline crack in the sidewalk. "Um, well, it's possible that I was supposed to mention that to you the other day. I'm . . . ow!" Bobby moved away from his sister and rubbed his shoulder. Nora packed quite the punch, especially when she was angry.

"Damn it, Bobby! I'd have signed up to work tomorrow if I'd have known Momma was throwing one of her spur of the moment 'let's get as many family members together as we possibly can' parties. Everyone gets into a fight by the day's end, and you and I are expected to calm the ruffled feathers. Last time Momma invited all the family over, Cousin Jerry gave me a black eye when I tried to step between him and his latest girlfriend. I'm not going."

Nikki stood by quietly and listened as Nora got angrier and angrier. Nora loved her momma dearly, but the woman could light a fire under her lover like no other, herself included. And combine Nora's anger at being left in the dark about the upcoming family gathering, and Nikki was certain that their weekend plans had been ruined. When Nora got into a foul mood, especially one caused by her momma, she held on to it tightly for at least a week, sometimes two.

"You've got to come, Nora."

"No, I don't."

"You know what will happen," warned Bobby, "If you're not there by 10:30 tomorrow morning, Momma will come looking for you."

"Let her," Nora answered in a defiant tone. Nikki stifled a chuckle, her lover sounded as if she was six years old.

"What do you think she'll do when she knocks on the door of your apartment and someone else answers? Someone else who now lives there?" Bobby was standing toe-to-toe with his sister. He'd never been happy with her decision not to tell the family about her relationship with Nikki.

Nora's face lost all color. Her momma would do exactly as Bobby had proposed. She spared a glance at her lover and then returned her gaze to her brother. "I'll be there." Turning on her heel, she started for the car, leaving Nikki to say her good-byes.

"No beer I guess." Bobby shrugged and offered a forced smile.

"No, guess not." Nikki watched Nora climb into the car. "You really should've told her sooner, Bobby." She shook her head sadly and turned to walk away.

"Nikki!" Bobby waited for the detective to glance over her shoulder before continuing, "For what it's worth, I think you should be on Nora's arm tomorrow."

Nikki sighed and nodded. "Yes, that would've been nice. Thanks, Bobby." Turning back toward the street, she headed for her lover. Their weekend plans had been shot to hell.

Nancy Delaney stirred the large skillet of flour and oil, making certain the roux continued to darken evenly without sticking or scorching. She glanced over to see her daughter barely moving the spoon around the skillet she'd been assigned.

"Nora, pay attention to what you're doing! Your roux is going to burn."

Nora sighed and began to stir more briskly, her thoughts far from caring if the roux burned or not. She and Nikki hadn't said more than a dozen words to each other the evening before, and they'd gone to bed without so much as a goodnight peck on the cheek. All because she'd allowed her momma's latest plan to invade her every thought and spread like a virus until she was analyzing every single time she'd ever been manipulated by her momma. Nikki had finally thrown up her hands and gone to bed. She hadn't budged when Nora had finally crawled in beside her or when she'd climbed from the bed two hours ago to go help her momma.

"So, have you met anyone recently?" The elder Delaney could change her tone from scolding to inquisitive in a drop of a hat. Although, her daughter's current relationship status always managed to work its way into the conversation, usually very early on.

"No." Nora expertly scraped the sides of the skillet and then resumed her stirring motion.

"No? Nora, you're not getting any younger. You need to start beating the bushes and find yourself a man."

"Momma, I really don't have the time. My job is very demanding," Nora said, reasonably pleased with her reply. She just hoped her momma wouldn't push the envelope.

She really should have known better.

"I think I'll have a little talk with Dan. He needs to give you more time off so that you can concentrate on your social life." Nancy paused for a moment and evaluated the color of her roux. She continued with her stirring, deciding it wasn't quite dark enough. "On the other hand, if you were to date Dan, then you probably could work whenever you wanted. There're perks to dating the chief, you know."

"Yeah, like getting transferred to another precinct where I'd have to start all over," muttered Nora as she removed her skillet from the burner and held it out for her momma to inspect. A quick shake of the head had her putting it back on the heated coils and resuming her stirring. "Besides, I don't think of Dan that way."

"You're too picky for your own good, Nora. Dan's a good catch. Maybe you should change your mind."

"I don't think so, Momma."

"Okay, suit yourself." Nancy shrugged and turned her focus back on the roux, only for a moment though. "Oh, I told Bobby to ask Dan and a few of your friends to the party. I'd like to meet these people who monopolize your time."

Her momma's statement caught her by surprise, and her mid-stir stopped abruptly, causing a small glob of roux to fly from the pan and land on her arm. The hot grease sizzled when it hit her skin, and she hissed in pain, reflexively dropping the spoon and reaching for her injury. Nancy quickly removed her roux from the heat and moved to do the same with Nora's skillet, before turning her attention on her daughter.

"Are you okay, Baby?" She led Nora to the sink and turned on the cold water. "Let's rinse this off, and we'll put some aloe vera on it." Nora just nodded and allowed her momma to take over, as usual; but this time, she didn't mind. Her arm felt like it was on fire.

Nora watched as her momma tore off a leaf on her aloe vera plant and gently applied the substance to her burn. She briefly wondered if the injury was serious enough for her to get out of attending the party.

Nora was finishing her second beer when the first guest arrived. She'd managed to help her momma chop all the vegetables and place them and the crawfish into the large vats they used for their big gatherings. She had been pleased to discover her daddy had made plans of his own, and a traditional barbeque dinner would be available as well. Beer always tasted better with barbeque.

"Hey Nora." Bobby crossed the yard and took a seat on the bench next to his sister. "Sorry for not telling you about everything sooner."

"That's okay, Bobby. It was probably better that you didn't. Momma would have been pissed at me for months." Reaching into the cooler, she lifted a beer and handed it to her brother. They both grimaced when they heard a loud engine racing up the hill. Cousin Jerry was on his way.

"Wonder what color hair his date will have?" asked Nora, taking a healthy swig from her bottle.

"Well, the last one had pink hair, so I'm going with black. You know, like those Goths wear?" Bobby leaned back against the bench and watched as the other guests began to pull in to the area his daddy had marked off for parking. His eyes almost popped out of his head at the sight of a familiar car.

Nora chuckled, imagining Jerry's date. "What do you think Momma will say if he brings someone with tattoos and piercings?" She smiled. "At least it would take the heat off me, and she'd quit trying to set me up with Dan."

"Um, Nora?" Bobby kept his focus on the dark sedan, hoping against hope that he was wrong about the identity of the driver. The door opened and a long, sexy leg came into view. Nora was going to kill him.

"Huh?" Completely relaxed, Nora hadn't noticed the tone of her brother's voice. She'd been too busy enjoying her beer and watching her daddy and uncle argue over how much sauce should be spread on the ribs.

"This morning Momma asked me to give Dan an invite," started Bobby, figuring he'd put the blame on Nora's boss.

"Yeah, she told me. That's okay, Bobby. Dan knows I'm not interested in him."

"She also told me to tell Dan to ask a few of your colleagues."

Nora shook her head in understanding. "Yeah, she told me that, too."

"Have you spoken to Nikki today?" Bobby watched as a long-legged brunette was warmly greeted by their momma. The elder Delaney gestured toward the bench he and Nora were sitting on, and she began to lead the guest their way.

"No, she was asleep when I got up, and when I went home to change, she'd left me a note saying she had gone to the mall for the 4th of July sales. I tried to call, but I got her voice mail." Nora had hoped to apologize to her lover for the way she'd acted the night before, but she wanted to do it in person, not over the phone.

"I think Dan must've been able to get through to her." Bobby hadn't given much thought to exactly which colleagues Dan might extend the invitation to. Nora was definitely going to kill him.

Nora came out of her fog and turned her attention to her brother. "What?"

"Nora, look who came," said Nancy, stepping close to the bench, her arm looped through the arm of Nora's colleague.

Nora looked over at her momma and then jumped to her feet, her beer bottle slipping from her hand and landing on the grass. "Nikki!" Nora's eyes raked up and down her lover who was decked out in short denim shorts, a red cotton camp shirt tucked neatly into her shorts, and a jeweled covered belt. A pair of new sandals completed the ensemble.

"Dan and the others had to work, but Nikki was able to make it. I can't believe you've never brought your partner to visit, Nora. She's such a lovely woman. Perhaps if you and she went out together, you'd get more attention."

Nora swallowed hard. Her momma had no idea how right her suggestion had been. Every time she and Nikki had gone out together, they'd gotten a lot of attention thrown their way, usually in the form of hoots and hollers when they'd made out on the dance floor.

"Actually we have gone out together, Mrs. Delaney," Nikki stated matter-of-factly, adding, "But we ended up going home alone." She held onto the important point that it'd always been together.

"Those men must've been blind," said Nancy, turning at the sound of someone calling out her name. "If you'll excuse me, I think I'm needed in the kitchen. We're so glad you could come, Nikki." With a smile, she headed back toward the house.

Nikki looked around the large back yard, taking in the tall oak trees and the small pond. She could just picture a young Nora climbing to the top of the trees and fishing in the still waters. "So, this is where you grew up."

"Um, yeah," squeaked Nora, her mind still trying to catch up with the fact that her momma and Nikki had met and had actually spoken to each other.

"Relax, Nora, your momma just thinks we're partners," she paused dramatically, "not partners." Bobby stifled a chuckle, while Nora plopped down on the bench, leaned her head back, and squeezed the bridge of her nose.

"I can't believe this is happening."

"You want me to go?" asked Nikki, trying to keep the hurt out of her voice. She hadn't seen anything wrong with coming to the party, seeing as how she'd received the invitation from Dan who'd been asked by Bobby who'd been told by his momma to invite Nora's colleagues.

"No, I just need a minute to take this all in."

"Nora, if you'd just . . ." Bobby started, only to be interrupted by his sister.

"No!" She blew out a breath and gave her lover a smile. "They just can't handle it."

Bobby glanced back and forth between the two women, noting the pain in both their eyes. "No Nora, it's you who can't handle it." Looking down at his sister's shocked expression, he turned and walked away.

Nikki sat alone at one of the many picnic tables and looked across the yard at her lover as she spoke to yet another possible suitor. It seemed that the family gathering had a second theme beside patriotism. Mrs. Delaney had told her relatives to invite any eligible bachelor who might be interested in her daughter. She was certain Nora's momma would deny the allegations, but the evidence was overwhelming, and by the looks of things, Nora was at the end of her rope.

"Hello, Nikki, sorry I haven't been able to get back to you sooner," said Nancy Delaney as she slipped over the bench and took a seat next to the detective. "Did you get something to eat?"

"Yes, Ma'am, thank you; more than enough in fact." Nikki smiled at the older woman, wondering how someone so nice could be so conniving. Nancy gestured across the yard at Nora.

"That girl is going to be the death of me. So many wonderful gentleman to chose from, all ready and willing to provide for her, and she shoots them down. I'm just glad she didn't bring her gun, or you might be investigating a series of murders."

Nikki was suddenly glad she'd left her own gun at home. "I don't think Nora is looking for someone to take care of her. I think she wants an equal."

"So, she's talked to you about what she'd like to see in a man?" Nancy scooted closer and leaned in conspiratorially. "Do tell."

Nikki frowned and stared down at the surface of the table; this wasn't exactly the topic of conversation she wanted to have with Nora's momma. "Well, she hasn't actually come out and said what she's looking for in a mate." She purposely avoided referring to a specific gender.

"What has she said? What attracts her to someone else?"

Nikki searched her memory and tried to remember what she'd heard Nora say. What attributes about herself had her lover mentioned?

"You want to know what I'm attracted to, what I'm looking for?" Nora stood at the end of the table and stared at her momma, livid beyond belief that she'd been set up and, more so, that she'd subjected Nikki to the Nora Inquisition. Nancy opened her mouth to defend herself but closed it quickly when Nora held up her hand.

"I want someone who is kind and honest, funny and carefree, sincere and loving, patient and loves me for me." She looked directly at Nikki. "Someone I consider family just as much as my blood kin, more so in fact."

"Oh Nora, you're never going to find anyone with all those traits." Nancy sighed, finally realizing why Nora hadn't been successful in her search.

Nora met her momma's eyes. "You're wrong, Momma. I already have." She walked around the table and stepped close to Nikki. Leaning down, and without a second's hesitation, she softly kissed her lover's lips.

For the first time in her life, Nancy Delaney was speechless.

The End

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