DISCLAIMER: Not mine. These ladies and some of the other characters belong to Nancylee Myatt and Co.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Whispers and Ashes: I. Lucky
By Whedonist


Arthur Beaumont

"Rosemary Nicoline, if you don't get your nose out of my sauce," I warn, stopping short of rounding the kitchen island to prevent the heel of bread disappearing into the pot and coming back up dripping with sauce.

She blows on the steaming treat, the smell of the simmering Bolognese I've been letting cook for the past two hours filling the kitchen. "Arthur," she admonishes after she swallows the morsel and replaces the lid, "warn a girl before you sneak up on her."

I roll my eyes at my ex-wife and focus on putting on my apron. I've no urge to splatter myself finishing dinner.

"That shirt's a good color on you," Rosemary offers on the pale purple shirt, rounding the island to straighten out my tie and patting it down before she runs her hands down my chest. She has always been touchy.

"A gift from my daughter," I retort and scoot her out of the way to check on my water. I still need to put the pasta on, the bread is in the oven cooking, the sauce is almost done, just one last… "Make yourself useful, dear, and open up that bottle of wine. It needs to breathe."

She winks at me and says, "Of course." I watch her briefly saunter over to the wine before I turn my attention back to the stove.

Reducing the flame on the sauce, I go back to the boiling water and start adding the Pappardelle. It'll need about ten minutes to cook and as I glance at the clock, I realize I'm fine with time. Nikki's never been the most punctual creature, taking after me in those regards. I have some time yet.

I hear the cork pop on the bottle and look over my shoulder. Her mother sets the cork next to the bottle and pours herself a taste in one of the glasses she'd pulled out earlier. "So," she starts as she swirls the pinot, "tell me, do you know anything about our daughter's newest paramour?"

"No more than you," I say and turn to her taking the offered glass of wine. I'm a little annoyed with this information. Rose's most recent return to the city has caused old wounds in my daughter to reopen. I quiet that bit of annoyance and say, "Seems she's been tight lipped with you just as she's been tight lipped with me." I sip the room temperature liquid, enjoying the surprised look that crosses Rosemary's face more than the sweet, peppery tang of the wine.

"Hmm," she hums and rests the lip of the glass to her lips. "I don't think I like that." She sets the glass down and licks her lips.

"The wine or the unknown?" I ask.

"The wine is wonderful," she cuts me off. Her pink, lacquered nails drum along the edge of the tiled island. "Nikki tight lipped has never and will never be a good thing." Her thin brows knit in the most peculiar way as she says, "Remember when we sent her to my sisters in California. Two weeks in Los Angeles, barely a word about what she was up to, but she comes home with that dreadful creature…"

"Kiki, was the young lady's name," I provide and prevent the smile with another sip of wine.

"Kiki, that's right. I swear, Arthur…" She trails off and sighs, in that overly dramatic way that I've found a genetic trait passed on to our daughter.

"Need I remind you that you took off to Mauritius as soon as you saw them? Well, right after you hid your grandmother's silver." I set my empty glass down and turn back to the stove. Her silence is enough of the admission that I need.

The pasta is done just as I timed it. I make short work of draining, rinsing it off and placing the colander in the pot to cover and keep warm. The front door opens just as I place the lid.

"Daddy? Mother?" I hear Nikki's voice call from the front of the house.

Rosemary and I both look at the clock and then exchange a look. Nikki's on time.

Our daughter does not run 'on time'.

"Let's go," Rosemary tuts at me, ushering forward and then pulling me back by the apron strings. "Take that off, you look ridiculous."

"Right," I stammer, quickly undoing the strings and pulling it over my head to place on the island. Rosemary is already at the front of the house.

"Mother," I hear Nikki greet. "This is, Nora Delaney," I hear just as I round the corner and hit the bottom of the staircase to watch Nora shake my ex-wife's hand.

"Nice to meet you, ma'am," my daughter's date offers.

Wait…that's her…"Nikki?" I ask, feeling my face pinch.

"Daddy," my little girl offers me a beaming smile before she steps forward and kisses my cheek. She steps back and rubs at the smudge of lip gloss I can feel she left behind. "You remember Nora, right?"

I nod unable to offer much more.

"Arthur," Rosemary chastises and I'm finally able to find my wits and my manners.

"Sorry," I shake my head and offer my hand to Nora. "It's good to see you again."

"You too, sir," she says as Nikki steps behind the blonde and relieves her of her coat. "It's a nice home you have," she stammers, shuffling her feet a little as Nikki fusses over her.

"I'm going to show Nora around. Is dinner almost ready?" Nikki asks, taking Nora by the hand and starting up the steps.

"Five minutes," I say and call out as they're midway up, "Nikki, not to sound…I just…I thought you were bringing the girl that has had you so preoccupied?" I finish delicately.

My daughter offers me a smirk and says, "I did, daddy. Nora's my girlfriend."

My mouth opens on its own as I watch them disappear around the corner at the top of the steps.

"Arthur, dear, flies are starting to get in," Rosemary says to me as I feel a finger push against my chin and close my mouth. "Although, it seems you've met Nora before."

"Rosemary," I hiss and drag her back to the kitchen, "Her and Nikki are on the same squad."

"And I fail to see what your problem is, if they're on the same squad or not," she says smartly, her arms folding across her chest as I busy myself preparing the rest of our meal. She takes the bread from the oven and begins transferring the slices to the basket I'd laid out.

I transfer the pasta to a large serving dish and try to calm myself. I head to the dining room to place the food on the table. I turn back as she is right behind me to hand off the bread she put in the basket. The towel she placed over it is steaming slightly.

It's not like it's a bad thing. I try to talk myself down. Obviously, Nora is able to handle the job. She also appears to be stable with a job which is more than I can say for some of the ladies my daughter's brought home.

But, then…

"She's putting her career on the line with this woman," I say aloud.

"Oh," is all Rosemary can come up.

"Really, woman? All you can muster up is an 'oh'?" I snap again.

"Really, man, is that all you can seem to care about?" she responds, folding her arms across her chest. "There's a look there, Arthur, it's new."

"You would know that how?" I bark back at her before backtracking, "I'm sorry…that was…"

"Regardless of where I've been, I'm her mother. Around or not, a mother knows. It's an unfortunate connection all mothers and daughters must suffer even if they wish they didn't." I watch as she sifts her weight.

Boards creak overhead and I sigh trying to relax. It's not as if I can control her. It's not like I don't like Nora, for as much as I know her.

"Arthur," my ex-wife starts, "I fail to see why you're that worried. You fussed and fought with Nikki when she enrolled at the N.O.P.D. for months…"

"I'm still not quite over that," I admit.

"So, if something were to happen between them that would hurt Nikki's career…" she trails off and shrugs, raising her hands palms up above her shoulders before letting them fall.

My mouth pinches and I open my mouth to respond, but Nikki and Nora's decent from the upper floor echoes and I clamp my mouth shut. Instead, I run a hand through my hair and try to collect myself. I really do wish I had another person besides the one before me to commiserate with.

Rosemary's never felt the same. Not the way that I did when I first laid eyes on my little girl. It was like a piece of me had been removed and made into something else, something I couldn't control, and something that fills me with a worry unparalleled. When I held her, I saw Nikki's future play out in the blink of an eye, her growth, her angst ridden teenage years, seeing her off to college, and then walking her down the aisle.

That vision gave me hope and pride and joy. Rosemary never understood that. She never understood why I was in fits after Nikki came out, worrying about her safety, her quality of life, her future and its happiness. Of why I mourned.

The worry and the mourning multiplied when she signed up for the police force.

And now this?

How much can a father take when his sole purpose for existence is hell bent on giving him a heart attack?

"Daddy?" Nikki's voice causes me to turn. Her eyes are bright, her smile is wide. She's glowing.

My little girl is glowing and happy, extremely so by look of it. The painful ache in my chest recedes and floods with warmth and pride of seeing her smile that way.

I guess it's settled. "Let's eat, pumpkin. I need to give a good grilling to that lady friend of yours." I take her arm and lead her to the table where Rosemary and Nora are already seated. I walk Nikki to the chair next to her partner and kiss her cheek. "Love you."

She kisses me back and whispers, "Me too."

I blink to clear my vision and take my seat at the table. I have a woman to get to know.

Part 2

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