The Enemy Within

By Verda
Copyright 1999

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures. This is an Uber-Xena story. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was not written for commercial purposes.

LOVE/SEX DISCLAIMER: This story contains scenes depicting a love/sex relationship between two consenting adult women.

This is a continuation of the story These Dreams. You might want to read it before continuing on.

This story does depict a brief scene of attempted sexual violence. Some readers may be disturbed by this type of depiction and anyone who is sensitive to this particular issue may wish to read something other than this story.

Samantha sat at her drafting table, her mind going over the recent turn of events in her life. Last weekend with Tess had been incredible and the pretty blonde wished as she drove home Monday morning that it could have gone on forever. Then on Tuesday she spent the day Trying to explain to her mother why she wasn't quite ready to bring Tess over to meet them. On Wednesday she finally got together with Dusty, filling her in on what had been going on. Samantha was anxious for Dusty to meet Tess. She had been her best friend for more than half her life and her fondest wish was that Dusty and Tess would like each other. She had made arrangements for them all to meet tonight for dinner and was a little nervous about the meeting. A knock at the door brought the young artist back to the present. Walking to the door she wondered who would be knocking at this hour of the morning. Dusty and Tess would both be at work, and her mother never got up this early. She peeked through the peephole and was surprised to see Tess standing there. A big grin took over the little blonde's face as she opened the door to welcome the tall woman in.

"What a wonderful surprise. I thought you'd be at work."

"I missed you," Tess said encircling the little blonde in her arms and pulling her in for a tight squeeze. "I love you." She leaned down for a lingering kiss. "Three mornings in a row I've had to get up to an empty house, and I don't like it. So… I decided to do something about it." She led the beautiful little blonde over to the bed and sat down, pulling her down into her lap. "Samantha…I know it hasn't been very long…well…not in this life anyway…but…I want us to live together." Lifting a small hand and kissing it tenderly, the tall woman continued. "I want to wake up every morning to the sight of you in our bed." She looked around the little apartment and smiled. "Do you think you could give up all this and come live with me?"

"I don't know." Samantha said following Tess' gaze around the room. "This is an awful lot to give up," she laughed, before throwing her arms around her lover. "Oh Yesss…I can't think of anything I want more."

She was surprised when Tess abruptly stood and walked over and picked up one of the many boxes stacked around the room.

"Good. Lets get started then. I'll start taking these boxes out while you pack the things that need packing." She opened the door and gestured at a stack of boxes with her head. "I brought some boxes," she said over her shoulder as she started down the stairs.

The little blonde walked to the door and watched the tall woman walk to a large U-Haul truck parked in the parking lot.

"Pretty sure of yourself weren't you? Samantha said, hands on hips.

Tess put the box in the truck then turned to flash a most radiant smile at the beautiful woman standing on the landing. "Yep," she said as she started back up the stairs. "Now get to work woman, we have a lot do."


They spent the day packing and moving Samantha's belongings from the tiny bachelor apartment to Tess' spacious home. Home, Samantha thought to herself as she carried a box into the house. It really does feel like home. Of course any place would feel like home as long as Tess shared it with me.

She gave a sigh of relief. Almost done. She was looking forward to taking a long hot shower and relaxing for a while before they had to leave to meet Dusty for dinner. I wonder if there's time for that? she mused as she stepped into the entry hall. Her amorous thoughts were quickly erased at the sight of an exasperated Tess standing before her.

"I don't believe it!" Tess stared in disbelief at the letter in her hands. "After everything that's gone on between us, he has the nerve to ask for my help!" She wadded the letter into a ball and tossed it and the envelope into the wastebasket.

The little blonde put down the box she was struggling with and turned questioning green eyes her way. "Who…Tucker?"

"Yeah, Daddy Dearest himself. He's got balls, I'll give him that." She frowned when she noticed the box the small woman had just put down. "Hon…I told you I would carry the heavy boxes."

Ignoring the last statement, Samantha walked over and pulled the crumpled paper out of the basket. "What did he want?"

"I don't know, I didn't read that far…and I don't really care." She glanced through the rest of her mail with an unconcerned look on her face, pretending she had no interest at all in the contents of the wad of paper in her lover's hand.

"Come on Tess, aren't you even a little curious? I mean what could be so important that he would come to you for help?"

The tall woman lifted an eyebrow at her beautiful blonde partner. "Who is curious?" she said with a grin.

"Okay…so I'm curious…do you mind if I read it?"

Tess shrugged. "No, go ahead, it might be good for a laugh."

Samantha opened the wadded up paper and smoothed it out. Tess watched the expression on her lovers face change from curiosity to sadness as she read the wrinkled page.

"This isn't from Tucker… it's from his wife, Amanda. Did you know you have a sister?" Samantha said as she handed the letter to the tall woman.

"No…I didn't." Tess replied as she accepted the letter, and began to read in stunned silence.


I am writing to you because I need your help and I don't know where else to turn. I have recently learned of your relationship to my husband Marion Tucker. I am writing to you because I know he will not, and I would do anything to insure my little girl a chance to grow up. She has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a frightening diagnosis. If it's not treated, it can kill you within a few months, and in the worst cases, a few days. It starts in the bone marrow where the blood forms, and with every drop of new blood, death comes closer. This is the evil of leukemia; the cancer lives and grows in the blood, and neither the radiologists nor the surgeons can stop it. They try to arrest it with chemotherapy, which means they inject poisons into the bloodstream to kill the cancerous cells, but very few people are completely cured by this treatment. A remission is the most they can hope for. There is one other way to fight this enemy within and have a better chance for survival. A bone marrow transplant offers the greatest hope for a permanent cure. There are no guarantees, but this is the best chance she has. The chances for finding a compatible donor that is not related to her are astronomical. All family members are a remote possibility, but the best chance is a sibling. A full sibling would be the best chance scenario, but Megan is my only child, and you, to my knowledge, are her only sibling.

Tess, I know you and my husband have never had a good relationship, but I am hoping that you will not hold that against my little girl. She is such a precious gift to me, and the thought of loosing her without a fight is unimaginable. I have enclosed a picture of her, and hope that this will make her seem a real person to you, and not just words on a paper. I have also enclosed the business card for her doctor in hopes that you will call and make an appointment to be tested as a possible donor. Tucker does not think asking for your help will do any good, but I would sell my soul to the devil himself, if it meant I could save my daughter.

Thank you for your time.
Amanda Tucker

Shock was evident on Tess' face. She had no idea she had a sister. "I guess she considers me the devil," she said as she put the letter down and reached into the wastebasket to find the envelope she had tossed in there earlier. In it she found a picture of a smiling little red head that looked to be about nine or ten years old. In her arms was a fuzzy black puppy with a bright red bow around its neck. The little girl had her cheek pressed up against the dog's face and she was grinning from ear to ear.

It felt bizarre looking in the face of a stranger and knowing it was her sister. Turning the photo over, she saw, 'Megan and Buster, Christmas 1997' printed neatly.

Samantha watched the play of emotions in her partner's face as she looked at the picture. "What are you gonna do, love?" she asked, taking the tall woman's hand in her own and squeezing gently.

"The only thing I can do and live with myself," she said as she pulled the card out of the envelope and walked to the phone. As she listened to the ringing phone, she glanced at the photo again, "My sister," she repeated softly as a voice came over the line.

"Doctor Davies office."

"Hello…my name is Tess Richmond and I'm calling about Megan Tucker."

"Are you the sister her mother told us about?"

"Yes, I'd like to schedule an appointment to be tested as a possible donor."

"Wonderful! If you can get here before six, it will go to the lab tonight."

"Sure, I'll be right there."

Tess put down the phone and turned to Samantha. "I have to leave now if I'm going make it in time."

"Want some company?"

Tess walked to the beautiful little blonde and encircled her in her arms, lifting her off her feet. "Your company is always welcome, love." She nuzzled into the silky blonde tresses and captured an ear in her teeth. "Mmmm, I love you."

"I love you too, but if you keep that up, we're not gonna go anywhere."

Reluctantly, Tess put the small woman down. "When you're right, you're right," she smiled, "but when we get back…." She leaned down and brushed her lips against Samantha's.

"Did you forget we're meeting Dusty for dinner tonight? I'm afraid your lustful plains will have to wait till much later." She smiled seductively, "but when we get back…"


Dusty glanced around the busy dining room looking for Samantha's familiar face. She was a little apprehensive to finally be meeting the enigmatic Tess. No matter how strange the situation was she was sure of one indisputable fact - that Samantha was head over heals in love with this woman. For that reason alone she wanted to try to like her. She had been appalled at first when her friend had relayed the story to her of how they finally met. She had not gone into all the gory details, but Dusty had gotten the gist of the misunderstanding and turmoil that followed. She was not sure she could like a person that was capable of purposefully inflicting that much pain on someone. Especially someone she cared so much about. But Sam loved her, so she had to try. She would not risk loosing Samantha's friendship, and she was sure that if forced to choose between them… Samantha would choose Tess. Her first impression of Tess when she had seen her outside the health club had been that the woman was beautiful but arrogant. She spotted them across the room and started toward them. "Well…here goes nothing," she muttered to herself as she caught Samantha's eye and waved.

Tess looked up and smiled at the tiny woman as she waved at her partner. She was an attractive little brunette with soft brown eyes. Tiny was the operative word. She doubted the woman was five feet tall, even with her shoes on. She watched as Samantha stood and hugged her, then ushered her over for the introductions.

"Dusty, this is Tess."

"It's nice to finally meet you, Tess," Dusty said, extending her hand to the beautiful woman seated in front of her.

Tess took her hand and squeezed it firmly, a radiant smile lighting up her face. "I've been wanting to meet you so I could thank you."

"Thank me?" she interrupted with a puzzled look on her face.

"You were the catalyst that brought Samantha and me together, and I will be eternally grateful."

Tess' blue eyes sparkled with warmth and her smile was genuinely friendly. Dusty found she could not help but like her. "You're welcome. But to tell you the truth…when I first told her about you, I thought she was gonna turn into a stalker and get herself arrested." She grinned at the little blonde. "And sure enough…"

"Hey…I didn't get arrested," Samantha said as she playfully slapped her friend. "Although I could have been when I ran her down with my car." She sat next to the tall woman and indicated the seat across from them for Dusty.

"You two really are a pair to draw to."

"You can say that again," Tess said as she covered a small hand with her own and gave a quick squeeze.

Samantha pulled a slip of paper out of her purse and handed it to Dusty. "Oh, by the way…This is my new address and phone number. I moved into Tess' place today."

"Our place," Tess corrected.

"Our place," Samantha repeated, flashing a beautiful smile at her partner.

"Wow…that happened fast. You didn't even mention that you two had talked about moving in together last night…and today… you're already living together."

"I didn't know last night. She just showed up on my doorstep this morning and said she wanted us to live together. She was pretty confident too…the truck was parked downstairs waiting."

They spent the next hour-and-a- half talking and laughing over a wonderful meal, and at the end of the evening, Samantha was relieved to see that Dusty and Tess seemed to hit if off just fine.


Tess parked the car in the driveway and sighed. It was good to be home. It had been quite an eventful day. They had moved Samantha into the house, Tess had found out she had a sister who might not be around too long, and she had finally met Dusty…the person responsible for the best thing in her life. She walked around the car to Samantha and took her hand. The two lovers walked up to the door hand in hand. Opening the door and facing her partner, Tess scooped the small woman up in her arms.

"What are you doing?" Samantha asked, grinning broadly. "Can't wait till we get inside?"

"I'm carrying you across the threshold." Tess said as she bent down and placed a gentle kiss on the wonderfully enticing lips of her partner. "It's customary to carry your lady love across the threshold of your first home together." Her expression grew serious. "I have lived here for over five years, but until you came…it never really felt like a home." Tess' eyes sparkled with unshed tears. She leaned down again, this time to kiss Samantha's forehead "From this day forward everything I have is yours," she whispered, "and I promise to love you…" another soft kiss on upturned lips, "…and take care of you…" a nuzzle into fragrant blonde tresses, "…for as long as I live."

Samantha wrapped her arms around Tess' neck… she was speechless. Tears were making their way down her cheeks as the tall woman carried her inside.


Tess lay on her side watching the gentle rise and fall of Samantha's breasts as she slept. "I love you," she whispered to the sleeping woman as she softly brushed her fingertips across those oh so beautiful lips. Samantha stirred momentarily, then settled back down. It was still amazing to Tess that this precious woman was able to not only forgive her…but to love her. She lifted Samantha's hand and pressed it to her lips.



Tess awoke to the sound of soft breathing in her ear, and the feel of a warm body pressed up against her back. She smiled…this was perfection. Looking at the clock, she sighed. Almost time to get up. She had taken the day off yesterday to pack Samantha up and move her in, but she would have to go in today. Turning over Tess stretched her long frame and yawned. She looked at the sleeping form at her side and realized that she could survive anything life could throw at her as long as Samantha was there.

There was a hint of gray showing through the window; it would be light soon. Regretfully she eased herself away from the beautiful sleeping woman at her side. Much as she would have loved to stay where she was, her bladder was sending an urgent message that could not be ignored.

Samantha awoke to the sound of loud cursing coming from the bathroom. She bolted out of bed and ran to see what had so angered her partner. She found Tess pushing a towel around the base of the toilet with her foot. "What happened?" she asked, as she turned on the light so she could get a better look.

Tess was embarrassed and also annoyed at the little blonde. "Damn it Samantha, why do you always have to put the damn cover down on the Toilet?

Samantha realized what had happened and burst out laughing. She couldn't stop herself. It was just too funny.

"Go ahead and laugh. You're not the one who just sat on a closed toilet and peed all over herself," Tess said, walking to the shower and turning it on.

Samantha watched as her lover stepped into the shower and closed the door. She could tell that the tall woman was embarrassed, and she felt bad that she had been the cause. The laughing hadn't helped the situation, but she just couldn't help it.

Tess smiled as Samantha slipped into the shower and wrapped her arms around her, pulling her close. She was already over her mad, and was sorry for snapping at the little blonde like that.

"I'll try to remember not to do that any more. I'm sorry," the little blonde said, as she kissed the muscular back of her partner.

"I know," Tess said, turning in her lover's embrace. "I was just a little embarrassed. I'm sorry for yelling like that." She started laughing. "I guess it was pretty funny. Do you realize we just survived our first fight?" She took a step back and looked a little sheepish. "I mean the first since we've been lovers."

"Well, if all the fights we have are resolved this quickly, we won't have any problems," Samantha said, patting her stomach. "I love you."

"I love you too," Tess said, wrapping her arms around the little blonde. "You know…I'm going to be black and blue by the end of the week. I keep pinching myself to make sure this is real and not a dream." Pulling the small woman close against her body she leaned down for a kiss, and lost herself in the feel of the soft wet body in her arms. "Mmmm…I wish I could spend the morning ravishing you. I hate the thought of leaving. But at least you'll still be here when I get home and we can pick up where we left off." Reluctantly she released the little blonde and reached for the soap.

Samantha took the soap from her and worked it into a rich lather. Slowly she began to run her soapy hands over her partners beautiful body. "Are you sure you can't stay a while?" she said, standing on tiptoes and nibbling on a tempting ear.

"I can't. I have a meeting this morning with an important out of town client, and I just can't get out of it." Tess heard the words come out of her mouth, but her resolve was already starting to weaken. The little blonde had her wrapped around her little finger, and she knew it.

Samantha pulled Tess under the running water to rinse the soap off, but continued to let her hands roam over her lean nude body. She ducked her head and captured a soft brown nipple with her teeth, then sucked it into her mouth. Instantly she felt it harden.

"Oh God…Samantha," Tess moaned. "You're not making it easy…hmmm," She moaned again as she felt her lover's hand wander to the coarse curly hair at the apex of her legs, and her knees began to get weak. "You know I can't stand up when you do this to me." She opened the shower door and grabbed their towels, tossing them to the floor. Stepping out of the shower, she pulled the young artist with her to the floor. "You win," she husked, rolling on her side and facing her seductress. "You know…you're the only woman who has ever made my legs give out on me." Leaning over, Tess captured willing lips while her hand slid down Samantha's warm wet body. Breaking the kiss, the tall woman nipped her way down the little blonde's neck, then lower still to the young woman's breasts, licking off the beads of water before sucking an inviting nipple into her mouth. She intensified her sucking when she heard her lover groan, and felt her clutch her tightly, thrusting her hips to push her fingers deeper inside. When Samantha climaxed, Tess rolled over onto her back, pulling the young artist with her, and holding her as her breathing returned to normal. "This was worth being a little late for," she said, as she kissed the top of Samantha's head.

"Mmmmm," was all the young woman could reply.

Tess patted a well rounded butt. "I have something I want to show you before I leave. I guess I was a little too…ah… distracted last night to remember." She laughed and continued, "I almost forgot again this morning…you definitely are distracting, my love. Come on, let's get dressed."

"Make sure you keep your eyes closed," Tess said as she guided Samantha down the hallway. Opening the door at the end of the hall, she led the little blonde inside. "Now open them," she said as she stepped back so Samantha could get the full impact of the room.

Samantha couldn't believe it; the large guest suite had been transformed into a studio. The walls were covered with shelves of varying sizes. She saw that Tess had also installed new lighting to make sure the working area was well lit.

"Do you like it?" Tess asked, as she watched the little blonde turn in a circle to see the whole room.

"Oh Tess…I love it, but you didn't have to do this."

"I wanted to. You needed a pleasant place to work, and plenty of shelves so you don't have to keep everything in boxes."

"It's perfect…you even thought of the lighting," the little blonde said as she wrapped her arms around her lover's neck and pulled her down for a kiss. "I love you."


Samantha spent the day unpacking boxes. It was wonderful to finally have a place to put everything away.
She decided that for now she would put all of her toiletries in the guest bath. She had noticed that Tess did not like a lot of clutter. The woman had nothing on her bathroom counters at all except a hand-soap dispenser. She, on the other hand, had lots of clutter, but they were all necessary items. There was her flowered tissue dispenser, her shell dishes filled with flower shaped scented soaps, body lotion and
Bath salts. It was going to be interesting to learn to live with someone who seemed so set in her ways as Tess did. They would both have to make a few changes, but she was sure the little day to day adjustments the two of them would have to make would be well worth the effort.


Tess had been at off site meetings all morning and was looking forward to the date for lunch she had made with Samantha. As she got into her car, her cell phone rang.

"Tess Richmond," she answered, smiling as she recognized Samantha's voice.

"Tess… Doctor Davies just called. He said he needs to talk to you and that he will be at The Red Lobster at 1PM. He said that his schedule is a little tight today and wanted to know if you could meet him for lunch."

Tess wondered what he wanted to talk to her about. She hoped that the meeting meant that the tests had come back to say she was a match. "Okay, did he leave a number for me to call?"

"No, he just said he will be there and hopes you can make it. If not, he wants you to call the office and make an appointment to come in."

"Well, I guess I better go see what the verdict is. I'll call you after and let you know what happened."

"Okay, love, talk to you later."

Tess hung up the phone and glanced at her watch. It was 12:40PM; she should just about make it on time.

Tess spotted the distinguished looking man with gray sideburns immediately, and walked over to join him at his table. "Doctor Davies," she said as she sat across from him.

"Tess, I'm glad you could make it." He reached over and patted her hand with a big smile. "I got your results back and it was a perfect match."

Tess smiled back at the man. "That's great news."

"It really is amazing," he continued. "I never expected you to match, but we have to try for any possibility, however remote. I had explained this to Amanda…didn't want to get her hopes up too high. I wanted to meet with you and explain the BMT procedure and answer any questions you might have.

"When will you do the transplant?"

"Well, I already admitted Megan into the hospital to begin a "preparative regimen" of radiation and high dose chemotherapy to destroy the remaining bone marrow and any leukemic cells that may have migrated to other organs. The BMT will take place in ten days.

"Do I need to do anything to prepare myself?"

"No, just try to stay away from anyone who has a cold or the flu…try to stay healthy."

"How long will I have to stay in the hospital?"

"Just a day or two. The procedure used to collect bone marrow from a donor is called a bone marrow harvest. The harvest will be performed under general anesthesia. While you're under anesthesia, bone marrow is extracted with a needle and syringe from the rear hipbone where a large quantity of bone marrow is located. Several skin punctures and multiple bone punctures are required to collect enough marrow for the transplant. There are no surgical incisions or stitches involved - only skin punctures where the needle is inserted. Your body should replace the lost marrow within four weeks. After the harvest, you may experience nausea from the anesthesia and pain at the harvest site. These problems can be controlled with medication. Most donors resume normal activities in three to four days and completely recover from the harvest within two weeks. You may have trouble sitting up for more then an hour or two at a time for the first couple of days. The amount of pain varies quite a bit from patient to patient."

"What about Megan? Do you inject the marrow into her hipbone at the same site you removed it from mine? Or does she have to have these injections all over her body?

"The marrow isn't put back into her bones at all; it is simply injected into one spot, a vein. From there it travels through the bloodstream, automatically finding its way into the empty bone chambers. Once the injection is over, there's nothing to do but wait. And hope!


Tess walked to the nurse's station. She wanted to meet the little sister she never knew she had.

"Can I help you?" The nurse asked as Tess reached the counter.

"Yes…I'm looking for Megan Tucker's room."

"Oh, Megan...she's in 221...that's right around the corner on the right. Please stop at the sink before you enter the room and wash your hands. Megan is very susceptible to infection."

Tess nodded her understanding and continued down the hallway. The tall woman understood the need for caution. Megan's doctor had told her the child was undergoing a "preparative regimen," and that this regimen would completely destroy her immune system.

Tess was nervous. What if she doesn't like me, she thought.


Megan lay in bed, a small frail figure with a scarf tied around her head to hide the baldness. Tears were trickling down puffy little cheeks. She always tried to be strong for her mother - she knew how it hurt her when she saw her cry - but the little girl was alone now, and she let the tears come. Her mother had just left, and she felt so alone here in this little plastic world she was forced to live in, a world full of pain and weakness. She hated being alone here, but she was glad for the relief of tears that now she did not have to fight to hold back.

A sterile environment of see-through plastic curtains surrounded her bed. The plastic drapery was unique in that it had built-in arm-length gloves that make it possible for people to touch you. Megan was not allowed to eat anything she liked for fear of bacterial contamination of the food. It would be many months before she would be allowed any type of fresh fruits or vegetables. But the truth of the matter was that she did not really feel like eating at all. The doctors gave her medication to help control the nausea and diarrhea. They only helped; they did not eliminate it. The thought of eating was not very appealing, and to insure she took in enough protein and calories they were feeding her extra nutrients intravenously. Looking up, Megan saw a tall woman standing in the doorway looking at her. The woman smiled and walked to the edge of her plastic barricade.

"Hi, I'm Tess. Is it okay if I visit with you for a while?

Megan wiped the tears from her cheek, and gave a little nod. "I'm Megan."

"I hate hospitals... had to stay in the hospital once when I had my appendix removed. But at least I only had to stay a few days. It must be awful to have to stay in that tent they have you in."

"The medicine they give me kills off my immune system. That means that every little germ floating around that would not even make you sick can kill me, so I have to stay in here where they can control everything I come in contact with."

Such understanding coming from one so young surprised Tess, although she admitted to herself that she hadn't had a lot of experience with children. But Megan seemed older then her ten years.

"I think you're very brave. I would be scared in your place."

"I just don't have any choice." Megan's hazel eyes seemed to bore right through her. "I'm probably gonna die before too long," she said matter-of-factly. "I have to be brave for my mom. I don't want her to worry about me." Another tear started down her face and she wiped it away. "I hate it that I make her so sad."

"Hey...the doctor told me he thinks you have a very good chance. You need to believe's important."

Tess pulled a chair close and sat down. She wished she could reach out and touch the child…to comfort her. She wanted to say something to lighten the mood but was unsure what that might be. She found herself liking this sad little girl very much, and wishing she had been able to be a part of her life.

"What kind of things do you like to do for fun?" she asked, hoping to take the child's mind off her problems, if only for a few minutes.

"I like to swim, and I love to read," the little girl said with a wistful look on her face.

"What kind of books do you like to read?" Tess asked, sensing a subject that just might do the trick.

"The last book I read was 'The Secret Garden.' I really liked that one… mostly I read stories about kids and animals. I've been reading the 'Black Stallion' books; those are some of my favorites because I really, really love horses."

Well, Tess thought, something we have in common. "I was really into horses when I was a kid and I read all of Walter Farley's books… they were great. Have you read his 'Island Stallion' series?" She noticed the hazel eyes perk up a bit.

"Not yet. I guess I need to put those on my list of books to read."

"Yeah...those are a must read for someone who loves horses like I do."

"Oh I do...someday I want to have my own horse. Wouldn't that be great?"

That's my girl, Tess thought. Think about the future; you need more of those positive thoughts.

"I think that's a wonderful goal. You concentrate on getting better and getting out of here so you can make it come true." She smiled at the child.

"I don't think it will really come true…my mom's afraid of horses."

"Hey…never say never. When I was a kid I had to walk past a stable near our house on the way to and from school every day. There was a really old horse there named Dandy, and no one ever paid any attention to him so I would pet him, talk to him, and bring him treats. We became friends. Because of him, I wanted to learn to ride more than anything, and I set that as my goal. Next I had to figure out how to make it happen. I knew I couldn't afford lessons, so I just convinced the owner that I would work for free if he would let me ride. I did everything around there - mucking stalls, grooming, feeding, but I achieved my goal."

Megan gave her a big smile and she returned it. It was so wonderful to see a sparkle in her eyes and a smile on that previously somber face. I am going to make sure that dream comes true if it's the last thing I do, Tess thought as she heard footsteps behind her. She turned to see an attractive woman in her mid thirties with short auburn hair and hazel-green eyes walking toward them.

"Mom...this is my friend Tess. She loves horses too."

Amanda watched the tall woman as she got to her feet and offered her hand. Tucker had told her a lot about Tess, and she was frankly surprised to see her here. He had told her not to get her hopes up because the bitch was good at giving you a false sense of security, then pulling the rug out from under you. He also told her not to feel secure till the procedure was done and they didn't need her any more because he was sure she was just using this situation to attack him once again.

Amanda couldn't believe anyone could use a child that way, and now, after listening to the woman talk to Megan, she was sure she was right. She was certainly going to give her the benefit of the doubt. Megan's life was at stake. Smiling, she reached out and took the offered hand.

"It's nice to meet you Tess. I see you found a subject Megan never gets tired of talking about."

"It's nice to meet you too." The beautiful woman flashed a warm smile at the little girl. " I guess I'll have to come back again so we can talk some more...." Tess looked at Amanda. "...That is if it's okay with your mother."

Megan beamed at Tess. "Oh yes, please come back."

Tess looked at Amanda, silently asking permission to visit again.

"You're always welcome Tess… as long as Megan wants to see you, and feels up to it." There was no way she was going to take the chance of alienating this woman; she needed her too desperately. Besides, Tess seemed nice, and the smile on Megan's face was worth whatever it took to keep it there.

"Then I'll see you tomorrow," she winked at Megan. "Bye."

"I'll walk out with you," Amanda said. "Be right back sweetie." She followed Tess out into the hallway just as Tucker rounded the corner. "I wanted to thank you for everything you're doing for Megan…"

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Tucker interrupted as he stormed over to the two women.

"Tucker please…calm down," Amanda pleaded, trying to placate her raging husband.

"What's she doing here? I don't want that bitch anywhere near my daughter." He brushed Amanda aside. "You stay away from her you hear me?"

Tess could feel the fury building inside and she fought to push it down. She would have liked nothing more then to kick the bastard in the balls and watch him writhing on the floor in pain, but this was not the time or the place to get into a battle. "Loud and clear," she replied as she turned to walk away.

"It better be clear," he shouted as he grabbed her arm and spun her around.

She reacted so quickly that he was shoved against the wall with his arm twisted behind his back before he knew what happened. "Don't you ever touch me again, you son of a bitch." She pushed harder on his arm, then repeated his question. "You hear me?"

Dumbfounded with surprise, and by the strength of his older daughter, he could only nod in answer.

"Good," she replied, releasing him she turned and walked away.

As she rounded the corner, Tess felt the hate welling up inside her again. She closed her eyes and leaned against the wall, trying to slow the pounding of her heart and calm herself down. "I'm trying Samantha…I really am," she said out-loud to no one in particular. "At least I didn't beat the shit out of him." And there was no doubt in her mind that if this had happened a few months ago, she would have. Tears welled up in her eyes. Not from sadness, but from the rage she was trying so hard to control. She felt a hand on her arm and opened her eyes to see Amanda's tear streaked face looking up at her.

"Please don't abandon Megan…it's not her fault…please…" The weeping woman broke-down and buried her face in her hands.

"Shhh…it's okay," Tess said as she wrapped her arms around the distraught woman. "Megan is a sweet innocent child…I would never hold her father's actions against her any more then I would want anyone to hold them against me." She stepped back and lifted Amanda's face, wiping the tears away with her thumbs. "Having a sister is a new experience for me. I wanted to get to know her… try to have a relationship…I guess Tucker's not going to let that happen, but I promise I will not abandon Megan."

Amanda searched the blue eyes of her daughter's savior, and she saw only truth and compassion in them. This woman was not the monster Tucker painted her to be. Reaching over, she took the tall woman's hand and squeezed. "Thank you." She had seen how Megan had responded to Tess, and she knew how much the little girl was anticipating her visit tomorrow. Megan had been through so much, and the road to recovery was going to be a hard one. She was not going to take any little joy the child felt in this woman's company away. "You come by and see her tomorrow like you planned...I'll talk to Tucker."

Tess held the woman's hand for another moment. "Thank you," she said, then turned and walked away.


The drive home gave Tess a chance to calm down. She did not want to take this home to Samantha and she tried to put her father's words out of her mind…but they hurt. She had stopped thinking of Tucker as her father a long time ago, but today, for some reason, she felt like that little ten year old girl she had been so long ago that was so devastated by her father's rejection. Perhaps it was the fact that he had a little girl that he did care about that brought back those old feelings that there was something wrong with her to make him not want her. I don't need him anymore, she thought, but Megan does. I need to try to get along with him for her sake. She parked the car in the garage and just sat there a moment taking deep calming breaths. I wonder if they will tell her that I'm her sister? Tess thought as she got out of the car and started for the door. Probably not, if Tucker has anything to say about it. She walked through the kitchen, depositing her keys and leather carry pouch on the table. The house was very quiet, which probably meant Samantha was working. She did not even like the distraction of music when she painted.

Tess walked into Samantha's studio and found the little blonde at her drawing table.

"Hey." She watched her soulmate turn with a welcoming grin.

"Hey," Samantha replied. "Which one of these do you like better?" the artist asked as she felt her lover's long arms encircle her waist, and a warm body press against her back.

Tess rested her chin on Samantha's shoulder as she studied the two pictures on the table. "Well...for pure aesthetic value...I like this one..." she pointed to a picture of a tiny bare bottomed girl standing on tip-toes, trying to feed a handful of grass to a cow standing on the other side of a fence. The other picture was of the same toddler, but the little behind was no longer bare. "Of course...not having read the story, I don't know which one fits it better...but this one is just too cute." Tess was silent for a moment then continued. "I went to the hospital today to see my sister."

"What's she like?" the young artist said, turning in the tall woman's arms.

"Megan's a sad little girl…she's been through so much…" Tess leaned down and rested her forehead against Samantha's, closing her eyes. "What if she doesn't make it? It's not fair…she's only a little girl." Tess brushed at a tear as it made its way down her cheek. "I didn't expect to care so much…but I do."

Standing, Samantha pulled the tall woman closer in a comforting embrace. "She's gonna be have to believe that. Positive thoughts really can make a difference… and you don't want her picking up your negative vibes."

"You're right, I have to believe she's going to be fine... and I have to convince her too. She as much as told me today that she thinks she'll die." Tess took a step back so she could look into her lover's eyes. "Will you come with me to meet her?"

"Of course I will. I'd love to meet her."

"She's so bright should have heard her today explaining to me about her illness. I couldn't believe I was listening to a ten-year old child. She understands so much…" Tess sighed and pulled Samantha in close again. "Perhaps too much."


Amanda gazed at the sleeping face of her daughter, glad that the little girl had fallen asleep. She needed to talk to Tucker about Tess, and this was as good a time as any. No sense putting it off, she walked to her husband who stood looking out the window at nothing. He was still angry that Tess had dared to come here without even asking permission. Of course he would have said no, but she should have asked.

"Tucker, let's go get a cup of coffee…we need to talk...about Tess."

He glanced at the sleeping child and nodded his head in agreement. Yes, they needed to talk about her all right. He intended to lay down the law…talk to the nurses and let them know that bitch was not to be permitted to see Megan. He wondered how a she-devil like that could have come from his loins. She was smart…he'd give her that. But in Tuckers eyes she was no better then a common whore. Everyone believed that she slept her way to the top. The young woman started working for old man Reynolds right out of college as his personal assistant, and moved up in the company far too fast for there to be any other explanation. No one was surprised when the old man died and left all his business holdings to her. She'd had him wrapped around her little finger for the three years she had worked there. He had no family, no one to contest it, so she just took over. The change in power had been good for Reynolds Industries though; she was shrewd and business skyrocketed over the next few years. That's when she started to go after Tucker with a vengeance. The business and revenge had become her whole life. Now here she was trying to get at him through his little girl and he was not going to allow it. He didn't believe that bullshit she had given him about not wanting to hate anymore. It was just a trick to get him to let his guard down, but it wasn't going to work.

Tucker knew that his wife was afraid if he stood up to Tess that she would change her mind about the transplant. If only she understood Tess the way he did. Then she would know that you just could not let that woman get the upper hand.

They walked to the coffee machine in silence, each wondering how to make the other one understand. As they sat down in the waiting room Amanda finally broke the silence.

"I told Tess that she can see Megan whenever she wants."

"You had no right to do that. You don't know her like I do," he shouted, making no effort to keep his voice down.

"I have every right to do what I think is best for my daughter," she countered. "Megan has been to hell and back and I had gotten used to dealing with a very pessimistic little girl, but today she brightened up when Tess visited. You should have seen them together."

"That bitch is pulling the wool over your eyes…don't you see that?

Amanda got up and started to pace around the small room. This was not going to be easy. She walked back and sat down and covered one of his hands with her own. "What I see is that you and Tess hate each other…but that has nothing to do with Megan."

"Yes it does…" he interrupted, but his wife cut him off.

"Let me have my say Tucker," she said firmly. "Then you can have yours." She squeezed his hand again. "Please… hear me out." She watched as her husband nodded his head and returned the squeeze. Tears started to flow as she began to speak again. "We don't know how much longer Megan is going to be with us. God willing, the transplant will be successful and she'll live a long and happy life." Her voice was starting to tremble and she stopped talking to take a moment to compose herself. "All we have for sure is right now, and we have to do whatever it takes to make her happy now. I saw how she reacted to Tess today…she was happy. She wants to see her again…and I don't care what you, or anyone else says, if she wants to see her, she will see her. I don't care if you hate Tess…I don't care if she's the antichrist, she was kind and caring with Megan today, and that is all that matters. For Megan's sake, we have to give her sister the benefit of the doubt. You could be right about her motives where Megan in concerned…but what if you're wrong? Can't you just stop for a moment and think of Megan instead of yourself?"

Tucker dropped his gaze to his hands. He couldn't look his wife in the eye right now. She was right; he had to put Megan first, no matter what his feelings were for Tess. "Okay, we'll let her see her for now…see how it goes."

"Thank you." Amanda stood still holding his hand. "Let's go see if our daughter is awake."


Samantha grabbed her purse and headed for the front door. She was supposed to meet Tess at the hospital in a few minutes, and if she left now she would just barely make it. She opened the door and found her mother walking up the front porch steps. Damn, she thought, I don't have time for this.

"Mother, what a surprise, I was just on my way out." The little blonde stepped out on the porch blocking her mother's advancement. "I'm on my way to visit Tess' sister in the hospital."

Sarah breezed right past her and into the house. "Surely you can spare a few minutes to show you mother around you new home."

The young woman turned around and walked back into the house. "Okay Mom, but it's got to be a quick tour. I really need to go."

The older woman let her gaze sweep the large spacious living room. The beautiful hardwood floor was partially covered with a lovely Oriental rug. There was a large leather couch along one wall, and a love seat and matching recliner on another. An entertainment center stood across from the couch, with a large screen TV, two VCR's and an elaborate stereo system. The off-white walls were covered in Samantha's paintings to finish up the décor. "Now this is more like it, at least this Tess person has good taste." She continued walking through the dining room and into the kitchen. "Very nice Samantha…very nice. I love the gray and pink color scheme. I've always loved that combination."

Samantha glanced at her watch again. "Mother please…couldn't we finish the tour another time? I really need to go."

"All right…but next time I want the full tour." She turned to Samantha and put her hand on her shoulder. "When are we going to get to meet Tess? Every time I invite you two over, you come up with an excuse." She smiled and lifted her hand to the young woman's cheek, "Your father and I won't bite her, if that's what you're afraid of…we just want to meet her."

"I'm sorry… I have been avoiding you. It's just that this is all so new to me." She drew the stocky woman in for a warm hug. "I really want you to like her and I was just scared I guess."

Sarah cupped her daughter's face in her hands. "I know I can be a snob sometimes, but I really want to like her…so don't worry…okay? We'll be on our best behavior."


Samantha could hear the sound of her lover's voice drifting melodically out of Megan's room as she approached. She stopped in the doorway a moment and looked in. The little girl was laying on the bed, looking adoringly at Tess as she read to her. An attractive woman that Samantha did not recognize was sitting on the other side of Megan's bed. She assumed it must be Amanda. Her eyes drifted back to the little girl. It was clear she was lost in the tale her big sister was weaving.

Tess stopped reading as the young artist walked quietly into the room. "Megan, Amanda… I want you to meet my friend Samantha," she said, beckoning the young woman to come closer.

Amanda stood and walked around the bed, shaking the young woman's hand.

"Hi," the little girl said, shifting her gaze from her sister to the little blonde.

"It's nice to meet you Megan," Samantha responded as she sat down next to Tess.

The little girl turned anxious eyes back to the tall woman. "Please keep reading…I have to find out how he gets out of that cave."

Tess laughed. "Got you hooked huh?" She looked at the little blonde; "sorry…my public awaits."

Samantha sat and watched as her lover began to read again. Every once in a while Tess would glance up and make eye contact with the little girl, but she never stopped reading to the enchanted child. It was clear to the little blonde that there was a bond forming between the two, even if the child did not know the tall woman was her sister."


"It says here that laughter is a powerful weapon in fighting cancer," Tess said, looking up from the stack of books she had picked up to research the subject. "I think I'm going to take a VCR down there and bring lots of comedy videos to watch with her." Blue eyes found green, "it says that laughter and attitude are half the battle."

"Well if that's all it takes then the battle is almost won. I saw how into that story she was this afternoon. She didn't have time to dwell on being sick; she was too interested in you and that story to even consider it." Samantha replied as she walked over and began to massage the tight muscles in her lover's shoulders.

The tall woman smiled. "Yeah…she did enjoy that, didn't she? I want to spend at least an hour a day with her, but I want to leave a bunch of videos there so she can watch them when ever she wants." Tess relaxed into the young woman's touch, "Ahhh, that feels so good." She let her head drop forward, and felt the tension drain from her body.

"I didn't get a chance to tell you that my mom came by today to check out my new abode. That's why I was late meeting you at the hospital."

"Did she approve?"

"Oh yes…very much so. She asked me again to bring you over so they can meet you. I couldn't put her off any longer." Samantha walked around and knelt in front of the tall woman. "Would you mind if we go over there tomorrow night? I told her I would check with you and see if you had other plans."

Tess reached out and pulled the young woman onto her lap. "Of course I don't mind. You're my partner, they're my in-laws…it's about time we met."


"What if they don't like me?" the tall woman asked as she and her companion walked to the door and knocked.

"What's not to like?" the little blonde answered reassuringly giving her hand a little squeeze. "Besides, no matter what my parents think, I love you. That's not gonna change. Don't be so nervous."

"Well I've never been taken home to meet the folks before…it's a little scary.

Samantha began to rummage through her purse for a key when no one came to the door. "They're probably in the back and can't hear the knock," the little blonde said as she unlocked the door and ushered Tess inside. "Have a seat and I'll go find them," she said pointing to a comfy looking recliner.

Tess sat as requested and watched her partner disappear through a doorway.

Unaware that anyone was sitting in her living room, Sarah McBride walked into the room from the opposite direction her daughter had just exited. She had been thinking about Blue Eyes and wondering how much like this giant woman from Samantha's imagination Tess really was. "Hurry up Sam," she called over her shoulder, "they should be here any moment."

Tess cleared her throat to announce her presence. Oh, they must be here already, Sarah thought as she glanced in the direction the sound had come from and saw the spitting image of Samantha's paintings stand and extend her hand. The woman towered almost a foot over her small five foot one inch frame. Stunned, she stopped dead in her tracks.

"Hi…I'm Tess."

Sam had not expected his wife to stop so suddenly and ran right into her, sending her sprawling across the floor on her ample bosom.

Samantha returned to the sight of mortification on her partner's face, as her mother pulled herself up from the floor and burst out laughing. "So much for best behavior," she said and joined in the laughter. Looking at Tess, she added, "Well…I guess you've already met," trying very heard to stop laughing but giving up the battle as her father joined in too.

What a way to meet the in-laws, Tess thought as she too finally joined in the laughter. The tension had been broken and after she got over the initial shock of seeing the small stout woman slide across the floor, she had to admit it was funny.

Finally, Sam was able to take his eyes off his embarrassed wife and really look at the tall woman standing in his living room. Now he understood why his wife had stopped so suddenly. It was true; somehow Samantha had found Blue Eyes. "Hi, I'm Sam," he said as he extended his hand in greeting. "I'm glad you could come."

"Thank you for inviting me."

"I'd like to talk to Tess for a moment," Sam said, turning to his wife and daughter. "We won't be long."

Samantha turned to her partner, silently asking with her eyes if she was okay with this. Tess nodded and gave her an awkward smile. "Okay, I'll go help mom in the kitchen," the young artist said, smiling back at the tall woman.

Sam watched as they left the room, then turned to the beautiful blue eyed woman. "Please…sit down."

Tess sat. She couldn't help wondering what this was about. He had seemed friendly, but she was suddenly worried that he was going to attack her relationship with his daughter.

"As a father," he began, sitting down in a chair facing the tall woman, "I feel justified in asking you a few questions about your feelings for my daughter." He cleared his throat. "I love Samantha very much, and I don't want to see her get hurt."

"I don't either…I love your daughter more then my own life." Tess stated quite firmly. "When I found Samantha…for the first time in my life, I felt complete. I understand that you may have a problem with the fact that Samantha fell in love with a woman, but I can assure you that this is not a phase she is going through. We plan to spend the rest of our lives together, and I hope you and her mother can come to terms with that for her sake."

Sam smiled. "Sarah and I have talked a lot over the last week about the fact that our daughter is a lesbian. We had feared this was a possibility since she was a teenager, but at that time we thought it was a choice, and if we got her help, she could change. I have had a few years to worry and wonder what would happen when she finally brought someone home. This talk is not about whether Samantha should, or should not be a lesbian. She is…that is a fact. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I think it's just swell that Samantha is gay. No parent would be happy about something that had the potential to cause their child pain, but we have been doing some reading and understand that this is not a choice she made. If it had been a young man she brought home, I would still want to make sure he had the right intentions as far as my little girl is concerned. All any parent can wish for their child is that they find someone to love them with the kind of devotion you just expressed for Samantha." He extended his hand once again to his daughters beautiful partner. "Welcome to my family."


The procedure to harvest her bone marrow was finally over and Tess was back in her room. She wasn't in too much pain yet, but the anesthesia had not fully worn off. Her mouth was dry and she reached for her water glass on the bedside table. She wished they would just let her go home. Her face brightened up when she saw her little blonde partner walk through the door.

"Let me get that for ya," Samantha, picking up the glass holding it close so she could take a drink.

One little sip was all it took for Tess to franticly grab for the spittle dish on the table. What little water she swallowed came back up, followed by dry heaves so intense it made her chest ache. Samantha took the dish and held it for her till the heaving subsided and the tall woman was able to lie back again. The young woman took a tissue and dampened it to wipe around her mouth.

"Damn," was all the tall woman could say. Suddenly she was exhausted and she fought to keep her eyes open.

Samantha leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Don't fight it, love. The doctor told me you'll feel a little better after you sleep off the effects of the anesthesia." She sat next to the bed and took a large hand in her own, kissing it gently. "I'll be here when you wake up."

"Okay, I am kinda tired," the tall woman said, as her eyes fluttered closed, then opened again. "I'm glad you're here."

"Me too," Samantha said, as she squeezed the large hand again. She watched as the blue eyes shut for the last time, and Tess finally allowed herself to sleep. The young artist sat back and just watched the sleeping woman. She hated to see her so weak and in pain, but now, in sleep, she finally looked at peace. At least this part of the ordeal was over.

Samantha stood, looking out the window. Tess had been asleep for close to eight hours, and the young woman was glad her sleep had been undisturbed. She heard the bed creaking behind her, and turned to see blue eyes flutter open.

"How ya feeling?" Samantha asked, as she crossed to the bed and leaned over to give her beautiful lover a kiss.

"Mmmm…much better now." Tess reached up to stroke the soft skin of the young artist's face, then pulled her down for another kiss.

Samantha cupped the beautiful face of the woman she loved and gazed into devastatingly blue eyes. "I'm so proud of you…he hasn't made this easy."

"Would you take me over to see Megan…they won't let me walk."

"I would be honored to be your chauffeur." Samantha looked around and spotted the wheel chair. Pushing it over to the bed she said, "your carriage awaits m'lady."

Tess sat up, wincing momentarily at the pain in her lower back and hip. Carefully she transferred herself from the bed to the wheel chair.


Megan was sleeping and Amanda and Tucker walked to the vending machine for a coffee and a cup of hot chocolate. Samantha and Tess could hear Tucker's voice as they neared the couple.

"…at least now that this is over, I don't have to be nice to that she-devil any more."

Anger blazed through Samantha at the sound of the venomous words.

"If you call your treatment of Tess 'nice,' I would hate to see what your idea of bad is," she said, glaring at the man.

"I let her see Megan, didn't I?" He looked over at his older daughter sitting in the wheel chair. "I didn't have to do that you know." He turned back to the little blonde in his face and continued. "After all of her attacks on me over the last few years, she's damn lucky I let her see Megan at all."

"What about your attacks on her? I don't think either of you are exactly blameless, but at least she had a reason."

Tess watched in stunned silence as her champion battled on her behalf.

Tucker bristled at the little blonde. "She attacked me first, right out of the blue. She didn't even say why."

The young woman was so angry now she could feel her ears burning. "Why!" Samantha looked at him dumbfounded. "You have the nerve to wonder why." Could the man really be that clueless? "Do you remember a call from a grieving ten-year old girl who had just buried her mother?"

A memory long forgotten surfaced, "I…I had forgotten about that…" he turned to his wife as if to explain. "…It was so long ago."

Samantha couldn't believe it was such a trivial incident to the man that he had actually forgotten it.

"You forgot? It was so unimportant to you that you forgot? Your little girl called and pleaded for you to let her come live with you and you told her you didn't want her… to never bother you again." Tears started down the young blonde's face. "You devastated her…and it was so trivial…you forgot. What do you think something like that would do to a child? You pulled her world out from under her…and you forgot? She was all alone…needed her father, but he didn't want her. She must have thought she was really bad if her own father didn't want her." She turned to Amanda and wiped the tears from her eyes. "He forgot."

Samantha walked to Tess. She turned the chair around and started back to her room.

Amanda looked at her husband with a new understanding of his relationship with his older daughter. Now she finally understood why Tess was motivated to strike out at her father, and she couldn't blame her. She thought of her own ten-year old, shuddering at what an experience like that would do to her.

"I can't believe you did that to your own child."

"You have to understand…I was young. I couldn't even be sure she was mine. Was I supposed to just take her mother's word that the child was mine?"

"You took my word that Megan was yours."

"That was different…you were my wife."

"Did you have any reason to believe it wasn't your baby?"

"I wasn't ready for the responsibility of a child. It was easier to let myself believe I wasn't her father."

Amanda started to walk away. "I need to get away from here for a while. I'll be back later."

Tucker watched her walk away, wondering if things would ever be the same again. He had a lot to think about too.


Tess climbed out of the chair and sat on the edge of the bed. She was used to attacks, but this was the first time anyone had ever come to her defense. She reached for the little blonde and pulled her close. Tears started to flow as she buried her face in the silken tresses. "Thank you," she whispered, as she held on tightly. They stayed like that for long moments until the pain of sitting upright forced Tess to release Samantha and lie back down. Reaching for a slender hand, she pulled the young woman down to sit on the edge of the bed, then raised the hand to her lips. "I love you," she said, kissing the knuckles, then closed her eyes as the hand opened and caressed her cheek. Turning into the caress, she pressed her lips into the soft palm. "More than words can express."

Samantha wiped away the tears running down her partner's face. Tears caused from a mix of emotions. Anger and hurt from the stinging words of her father, and joy from the love and support of her lover, her friend, her soulmate. "I love you too," she said as she leaned down for a kiss.

Samantha's stomach picked that moment to growl loudly.

"When was the last time you ate?"

"This morning."

"You have to be starved. Why didn't you eat?"

"I promised you I'd be here when you woke up and I was afraid if I left to get something you'd wake up and I wouldn't be here." The young woman leaned over and kissed her beautiful partner. "You were feeling so awful this morning after the harvest I didn't want you to be alone."

"Well, I'm feeling better now and I want you to go get something to eat, then go home and get some rest."

Samantha did not want to leave Tess right now. She knew how emotionally vulnerable the tall woman was at the moment. What if that scum sucking father of hers decided to pay her a visit? "You don't have to worry about me starving, and I have no intention of going home to that empty house before I have to. I like it better here with you."

Tess smiled. "I like it better with you here too, but I want you to go get something to eat."

Samantha started to protest, but the tall woman put her finger to her lips to silence her.

"Please Hon…go get something, I'm fine." She smiled again, "Just don't bring it back here to eat. My stomach can't take the smell of food right now."

Realizing she was not going to win this battle, Samantha reluctantly agreed to go get something to eat. "Okay you win, I'll go eat…but I'm coming back." She leaned in for another quick kiss then turned and left the room.


Tucker sat alone watching his little girl sleep. He thought about this precious child. What if it had been Amanda back then and he had shut Megan out of his life. When he looked at it like that the full impact of what he had done to his older daughter hit home. "My God…If someone had done to Megan what I did to Tess, I'd kill 'em." Finally…he understood.

Megan stirred and he watched as the hazel eyes fluttered, then opened. "Hi Sweetie." He reached into the plastic arm-length gloves and stroked her face. He missed being able to feel her smooth skin, but for now this was the best he could do. "There's something I need to tell you." He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "When I was young, I had another little girl. She grew up without a father because… I was irresponsible and refused to take care of her. I'm telling you this now because you have a right to know your sister."" He looked away for a moment when he felt her little hand squeeze his through the plastic glove.

"It's Tess isn't it?" She looked at him with questioning eyes.

Nodding he asked, "How did you know?"

"Doctor Davies told me that brothers and sisters have the best chance for a match. She matched." She studied him a moment then added, "I'm glad she's my sister...I like her a lot."


Tess lay in bed waiting for Samantha to get back from the cafeteria. A smile crossed her face as she heard approaching footsteps, but it quickly faded as she turned to see Tucker. Turning away to study the ceiling, she did not even acknowledge his presence.

A lot had happened between the two of them over the years and Tucker knew the wounds were deep on both sides. He knew now that Tess had been right when she came to him and said she didn't want to go on hating anymore. He just couldn't see it at the time.

"Don't worry, I won't stay long. I just wanted to let you know that I told Megan that you're her sister...I won't stand in the way if you want to have a relationship with her."

Tess turned puzzled blue eyes toward her father as he spoke. "Why?" She asked suspiciously.

"Because for the first time today I realized how much I hurt you. Those wounds are old and deep, and have been allowed to fester for far too long."

"What made you realize that now?"

"When your friend talked about you as a ten-year old child...Megan's age...I realized I'd want to kill anyone who would hurt her that deeply." He found he could not continue to look into those blue eyes. He walked to the foot of the bed with his back to her.

"When you called me, it was just an annoyance. I didn't know you...or care about you. You may not believe this, but it never occurred to me at that time that you would be hurt so deeply. In my eyes, I was as much a stranger to you as you were to me." He turned back to face her, his eyes sad. "Until today, I had forgotten the incident even happened. Having Megan has made me more aware of how deeply children can be hurt. I'm sorry for the hurt I caused you, and if you're still willing I'd like to join you in that truce."

"I'm willing," she said, and held out her hand. "I have grown to love my sister and want very much to have a relationship with her. You're her father and I don't want to put her in the middle of a war between us."

Tucker reached out and grasped her hand firmly. "Agreed."


Samantha couldn't believe her eyes when she walked through the door and saw Tucker standing by Tess' bed. Quickly she crossed the room and positioned herself between the man and his daughter.

"It's okay Samantha, we've called a truce," Tess said, as she reached out and patted her arm. "Tucker was just leaving."

"Yes…I do need to get back to Megan." He turned and left the room.

The young artist turned a puzzled gaze to the reclining woman to make sure she was all right. "What did he want?"

"Well it seems my love, that you got through to him. Not only did he call a truce, he told Megan that I'm her sister." She patted the bed inviting the little blonde to sit. "You know…I was thinking about us while you were gone. We hadn't even finished moving you in when this situation with Megan came up." She reached out and took a small hand in her own and squeezed gently. "I know I've been preoccupied with her and I want to thank you for being so patient."

The little blonde returned the squeeze. "Hey…I signed up for the duration. I love you, and I understand your sister needs you."

"Just the same, thank you." She smiled at the young woman. "Know what I want?"


"You, me, a cabin in the mountains. I want to spend an entire weekend having my way with you…what do you say?" Tess wiggled her eyebrows.

"You can have your way with me anywhere you want."

Tess pulled her down for a kiss. "Anywhere?" She ran her tongue over soft lips, then nibbled her way along the young woman's jaw.

Samantha reluctantly pulled away. "Anywhere that's private…a hospital room doesn't qualify…now be good." She slapped her hand away playfully.

Tess turned over to grab the little blonde again and was reminded by shooting pain just where she was. "Okay, I'll be good…for now. But give me a couple of weeks and were going to take that trip to the mountains…that's a promise." She winked at Samantha.

"That's a promise I intend to collect."

"I'm counting on that," the tall woman said, as a yawn overtook her.

"You're exhausted Tess. You get some sleep and I'll be back first thing in the morning." She leaned over for one last kiss.


Tess pushed the hospital tray away and sighed. She had been able to eat a little, and the water went down with no problem. Thank goodness that awful nausea seemed to be gone. She got out of bed and grabbed the rolling rack that held her IV fluids and padded to the bathroom. The pain was not too bad she decided, and she thought about skipping the next pain medication to see what would happen.

Nurse Sinclair, a friendly round faced woman, greeted her as she exited the bathroom. "How would you like me to get rid of this for you?" she said, tapping the IV bag hanging on the rack.

"That would be great. I hate having to drag it with me everywhere." The tall woman padded back to the bed and held out her arm obligingly.

Samantha arrived to find Tess getting dressed. The IV hookup had been removed, and the tall woman was moving around unencumbered. "How are you feeling this morning?" she asked as the beautiful woman turned and flashed a radiant smile.

"A little sore, but otherwise pretty darn good," the smile broadened. "I been sprung!" Tess wrapped her arms around the little blonde. "I missed you," she said, dipping her head for a welcoming kiss. "Thank goodness I don't have to spend another night alone."
Tess had spent her adult life alone, and it had never bothered her before, but now the night seemed endless without her soulmate curled up in her arms. She draped her arm across Samantha's shoulders. "Shall we?" she said, indicating the door with her other hand.

"Where do you think you're going?" the round faced nurse said, as she pushed a wheel chair into the room.

Tess looked at the chair. "I can walk out under my own steam."

"Hospital policy states that we have to take you out in a chair," the nurse said, with her hands on her hips. "Now get in."

"You're a regular Nurse Ratchet," Tess grumbled, but she sat in the chair.

"Good girl. I didn't want to have to rough you up," Nurse Sinclair said smiling broadly. She started pushing the chair while Samantha followed them out the door.

"Could we make a slight detour?" Tess asked as they approached Megan's room. "I'd like to check on my sister before I go."

Nurse Sinclair smiled. "I figured you might. You stay as long as you want, and buzz me when you're ready."

"I think I'll go get a cup of coffee and let you visit with Megan for a little while," Samantha said. "She just found out she has a sister…you two need some time alone."


Megan smiled as she saw her sister being pushed into her room. This woman had become so special to her over the last couple of weeks. She truly seemed to care about her and never missed a day to visit. Your parents are different - they have to come - but Tess didn't, and she came anyway. She had made the little girl feel special, and it was wonderful to have someone to talk to that loved horses the way she did. It had been a shock to find out Tess was her sister, but it was a very welcome surprise.

"Hi big sister," Megan said as Nurse Sinclair parked the chair next to the bed and left them alone.

"Hi little sister," Tess replied. "Kind of a shock huh?"

"Why didn't you tell me you were my sister?" the little girl asked looking up into clear blue eyes.

"Your father didn't want you to know."

"Our father"

"No…it takes more than fathering a child to be a father. He's not my father, but he is yours and you love him…I respect that." The tall woman smiled. "You, on the other hand, can't get out of it. You're my sister and you're stuck with me." Tess reached into the plastic glove and took the child's hand. "I know we haven't known each other very long, but I've grown to care very much about you, and I wanted to tell you I'm really happy you're my sister."

"Me too," the little girl blinked teary eyes and smiled. "I love you, Tess."

"I love you too little Sis," Tess said, as she squeezed a small hand.


Morning found Tess feeling a lot better. The major pain was gone, leaving just a dull ache unless she tried to sit for too long. Walking did not seem to bother her at all, but she did seem to get tired a bit easier. Pretty good for only two days, she thought. "I think I'm going to go to work today," she said to the little blonde sitting across the breakfast table."

"Can't you take it easy just one more day?" Samantha replied. "Doctor Davies said to wait three to four days."

"But I feel pretty good, and I get stir crazy just laying around all day."

"What if I lay around with you?" the little blonde asked. "If you're feeling that much better, I'm sure I can think of something to keep you distracted." She smiled seductively.

"Come to think of it, I have been siting up too long. Perhaps we should go lie down and you can…distract me." Standing, Tess returned the smile and held out her hand to the little blonde.


"I'm glad I listened to the guy in the video store. That was one of the funniest one's so far," Tess said to her little sister, as she turned off the TV. They had just finished watching 'The Gods Must be Crazy'. "He said if we like this one, they made a sequel."

"Oh you have to get that one for sure," the little girl said yawning.

"You got it little sis," Tess said as she stood and stretched. "Well I've got to go pick Samantha up for our trip to the mountains. I want to get up there before dark." She reached into the plastic glove and patted Megan's cheek. "You look pretty beat. Why don't you get a little nap before dinner, and I'll see you next week?"


The two-hour drive had been worth it, Samantha thought as she carried her bag into the cabin. It was so peaceful here, no people hurrying around everywhere. The little blonde put down the bag she was carrying and went back outside to take in the beautiful scenery. She leaned against the porch rail and took a deep breath of fresh mountain air. Off to her left was the start of a thick forest of fur trees, lush, green and elegant. To her right about a hundred yards away was what appeared to be the landing of a ski lift, with lines going up and out of sight as it went up the mountain.

"I love having you up here all to myself," Tess said, stepping out on the porch and wrapping her arms around Samantha.

"Mmmm, a weekend with nothing to distract you but me. I think I like that," the little blonde replied, turning in the tall woman's embrace. "It's so beautiful here, I'm surprised there aren't more people around."

"Not many people come up here this time of year, but wait till ski season, then the place is packed." Tess bent down and kissed Samantha. "Come on, let's go up to the lodge and get something to eat. Then we can come back and I can have my way with you…all night long," she wiggled her eyebrows. "I always keep my promises." Tess took the young woman's hand, and led her down the steps. "This winter I'll bring you back for some skiing. Would you like that?" she said, as they turned toward the lodge.

"I'm afraid I'm not much of a skier, more like a snow plow," the young artist said, smiling up at the tall woman at her side.

"You just haven't had the right teacher," Tess said, putting her arm around Samantha's shoulders, and pulling her close as they walked up the hill.

The lodge was large and rustic looking, and there was a warm inviting feeling about the place. A rather effeminate man in his late forties welcomed them and greeted Tess like a long lost friend.

"Tess…I've never seen you up here this time of year."

"That's because it's the first time I've been here out of ski season." Tess turned to her companion, "Samantha…this is Michael, the proprietor of this place."

"Nice to meet you Michael," the little blonde responded. "Beautiful place you have here."

"Thank you," he said, lifting her hand and kissing it, then turning to his tall friend he said, "didn't know you were into robbing the cradle, Tess."

Samantha turned to Tess, a puzzled look on her face. "Is he implying I'm under age?"

"If the shoe fits sweetie," Michael said, winking at Tess.

"Just show us to a table and cut the wise cracks Michael," Tess bristled.


Walking back to the cabin after dinner, Tess realized that she had no idea how old Samantha was. She was living with the woman, and she didn't even know her age. "You know it's funny," she said, turning to the little blonde. "I don't even know how old you are. I never even thought to ask, it didn't seem important, but now… I'm curious."

Samantha smiled. "How old do you think I am?"


"Nope, turned twenty-three just over a month ago."

"A month ago…Samantha…why didn't you tell me you had a birthday. I would have done something to make it special."

"You make me feel special every day, but my birthday weekend was the best of my life. That was that first weekend we spent together. I don't think it could have been more special." She pulled the tall woman down for a kiss. "Now, turnabout is fair play. How old are you?"

"I'll be thirty-two on the twenty-first of this month."

"Wow, that's only a couple of weeks away. I'm gonna have to hurry if I want to plan a party."

"No way…no party…just us."

"But Tess…I want to make your birthday special," the young artist said pouting. Her mind started to turn. She had to think of something Tess would like for her birthday, and she only had two weeks to do it.



The trip had been wonderful, but Tess was glad to be home, anxious to see how her sister was doing. The flashing red light on the answering machine across the room caught her eye. Walking over, she pushed the button. The first message was from Amanda.

"Tess…we received the most devastating news this afternoon after you left," the voice on the machine began.

The tall woman heard Amanda's voice break as she tried to speak, and her heart stopped.

"The new bone marrow has stopped regenerating blood cells. They've given her a drug called GMCSF, which is an agent that activates the bone marrow and gives it a "push" toward reproducing healthy blood cells. The doctor said if this doesn't work, there's nothing else they can do for her. I can only pray that I will have good news to tell you when you return from your trip. Call me when you get home." The message ended. All the joy seemed to go out of Tess. She was trying to hold everything in, afraid if spoken, her fears would gain power and substance.

Samantha took her hand and pulled her down on the couch, wrapping her arms around the tall woman. "Let it out Tess," she whispered as she stroked her lover's back.

Tess felt herself losing control and she tried to push the little blonde away. "I'm okay Samantha…you don't need to baby me."

The young woman took her lovers face in her hands. "I'm not trying to baby you Tess…I love you…I just want to help." She wrapped her arms around her again. "Please don't push me away, you don't have to be strong for me…Let me be strong for you for a change."

That was all it took to release the floodgates. Tess lay in her lover's embrace, tears spilling onto her shoulder. She had grown to love her sister more then she ever imagined she would, and the thought of losing her was tearing the tall woman apart.

When she was able to compose herself, Tess pulled away from the comforting embrace. Angrily she wiped the tears from her face. She was angry at the world for letting this happen to Megan, and angry with herself for breaking down like that. This mushy vulnerable side of herself had started to surface when she met Samantha, and continued to grow till now she didn't even know herself anymore.

"I need to call Amanda."

The tall woman waited as the phone rang; silently praying that Amanda would answer the phone.

"Hello," the masculine voice came over the wire.

"Tucker…this is Tess. Any news about Megan's condition?" She would have much preferred to talk to Amanda, but all that mattered at the moment was finding out what was going on with her sister.

"I'm glad you called," Tucker answered his voice joyful. "Megan has responded well to the drug and her marrow has started functioning again."

"That's wonderful news. Tell Amanda I'll talk to her tomorrow."

Tess hung up the phone as the tears started down her face again. She did not wipe at them angrily this time though. She was too overjoyed at the ecstatic news. Rushing across the room, she wrapped her arms around the little blonde. "She's going to be okay," she said, pulling the young woman tight against her.

"Thank god," the little blonde responded, tears starting down her face as well.


"Hey little sis, I hear you've not been doing too well," Tess said, as she walked into the hospital room.

Hazel eyes tracked to blue and the little girl smiled sadly. "Look's like you went to a lot of trouble for nothing," she replied.

"I don't want to hear that kind of talk," the tall woman said as she put her arm into the plastic glove, and squeezed her sister's hand. "It's never trouble to help out someone you love, and it wasn't for nothing. I spoke with Doctor Davies this morning, and he tells me you're doing great."

The little girl turned over slowly, that small movement seeming to tire her out. She wanted to lie on her side so she could watch Tess without having to turn her head. "Could you read to me a while?" she asked softly. Even speaking seemed to take too much effort.

"Sure." The tall woman reached for the stack of books she had brought, and picked out 'The Island Stallion Races'. She started to read, but soon noticed that Megan had drifted off to sleep. She closed the book and just sat awhile watching the sad little girl sleep.

Tess started across the hospital parking lot; it had been a difficult visit. Although the medication had worked and her new bone marrow was busily regenerating blood cells, the setback had sent Megan into a depression and she was having a hard time believing in a recovery. The little girls eleventh birthday was only a little over two months away and Tess decided she wanted to give her a horse. She was hoping it would boost her spirits and get her back on a positive track. So it was a couple of months early - she really didn't care. Megan needed it now. The only problem she could see was her parents. She avoided Tucker most of the time, but her relationship with Amanda was pretty good. She would ask Amanda.

When Tess had bought her house five years ago, one of the selling points had been that is was horse property. She had it in the back of her mind that someday perhaps she would have the time to indulge in that pastime again. As she drove home her mind was working out all the things she needed to do to get the place ready. She needed to fence in an area in the back, and have a shed built for feed and tack. Her mind was still ticking things to do off her list as she arrived home.

Samantha was finishing up dinner as Tess walked in the door. "Hey…good timing." She wiped her hands and grabbed a couple TV trays. "I thought we could eat in the living room tonight. 'Sleepless in Seattle' starts in a few minutes and I'd like to see it again." She smiled at the tall woman. "It's a good one to cuddle up and watch with someone you love."

Tess wrapped her arms around the little blonde. "Mmm, sounds good. I love to cuddle." She bent down to nibble on an ear, "and you never know what cuddling can lead to." She took the trays from her lover's hands and started into the other room with them.


"How was Megan doing tonight?" Samantha asked popping a bite of steak into her mouth.

"She's really depressed…told me I went through the BMT for nothing." She took another bite and thought a moment. "You know I was thinking about buying her a horse and keeping it here for her."

"Oh Tess…that's a wonderful idea. She's so horse crazy, that would have to cheer her up." She smiled at the tall woman. "And I'm sure there's no ulterior motive on your part…like making sure she spends a lot of time over here when she gets out of the hospital."

Tess raised an eyebrow. "You know me too well." She took her last bite and chewed it thoughtfully. "But I really do think it will be good for her."

"How do you go about finding a horse for a little girl?"

"I'll call my old friend Tom," she sat back and pulled the little blonde closer. "He owned the stable I used to frequent in my horse days."

"I didn't know you had a horse when you were young," Samantha said, snuggling a little closer.

"I never owned one…but I rode a lot. We had a stable pretty close to us, and I used to hang out there a lot. I convinced the owner to let me muck stalls for rides. Then when I got to be about thirteen I convinced a couple of the weekend cowboys to let me exercise their horses for them."

"What's a weekend cowboy?"

"That's someone who loves to get out there on the weekend and ride the hell out of their horses, but can't take the time through the week to keep them in shape for it. So they need someone like me to feed, groom and exercise them. I kept at it till my hormones really started to kick in at about sixteen or seventeen…then it was good-bye horses…hello women." She pulled her young lover into her lap and leaned down for a kiss. "Worthwhile trade I might add," she said, capturing Samantha's lips and sliding her hand under her shirt to explore.


Tess sat across the table from Amanda wondering how to broach the subject of buying a horse for Megan. She was new to this sister business, but it did not seem too out of line to want to do this for the little girl. Now if only Amanda would agree.

"Megan mentioned to me that someday she would like to have a horse of her own, and I've been checking around to see if I could find a gentle horse for a first time rider." Tess took a deep breath and ran a hand through her hair. "I've found one that seems to fit the bill and the vet said she checked out sound. All that's needed now is for me to go make sure she's as gentle as they say she is…and write the check. I think it would be good for her and I hope you'll give your permission."

"We don't have a place to keep a horse."

"That's okay, she can stay at my place. I'll take care of everything…feed, tack."

Amanda studied the tall woman. Why would she want to buy her daughter a horse? That was not only an expensive item to buy, there was also the upkeep. She had seen Tess with Megan enough to believe that she did indeed care for the child, but this was a commitment that would go on for years to come. Could she trust the woman to keep that commitment and not disappoint Megan?

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"I'm sure…I spent a good deal of my childhood having a love affair with horses. This is not a hardship for me, Amanda…please let me do this for her."

"Okay…but you have to be in charge of the horse," she said smiling. "Tucker doesn't know anything about them, and they scare the hell out of me." She extended her hand.

"Deal," Tess shook the proffered hand, an enormous grin taking over her face. "I'm going to see the mare tomorrow…if everything works out, I'll be by with pictures of her tomorrow evening to show Megan. I'll call you one way or the other.


"I need you to ride her for me…I want to see how she moves."

Samantha looked worriedly at the small mare. "Can't someone else do it? I can't ride."

"That's why I want you to do it. I want to see how she reacts to an inexperienced rider." Tess rubbed the soft muzzle of the little mare. She would not have even considered her if she seemed spooky or ill tempered. "Please."

Samantha looked at the horse. She was tiny compared to Night Wind, the seventeen hand American Saddlebred gelding Tess had been admiring. They had come to find a horse for Megan, but Tess had fallen in love with the big chestnut gelding and decided to buy him too. After all, she reasoned, Megan would not want to ride alone.

"Okay, I'll do it, but if I fall off I'm holding you responsible."

"Deal," the tall woman said as she led the little Appaloosa mare to the small arena. She laced her fingers together to give her partner a leg up.

Samantha nervously held on to the saddle-horn and kicked the little mare. She responded immediately by moving into a quick walk. Tess had to smile as she watched her lover hang on for dear life when the little horse started to trot.

The mare performed well, responding to each command Tess instructed Samantha to give. A couple of times she was a little confused at the mixed signals the little blonde gave, but she never showed any signs of nervousness or bad temper, trying her best to do as requested. Tess couldn't wait to get her film developed so she could show Megan her new horse.


When Samantha and Tess arrived, Megan was waiting. She seemed a bit livelier today. Her mother had told her Tess was on her way over with a surprise, and she couldn't wait to see what her big sister would bring her. She grinned as Tess approached and called out, "What's the surprise?" She looked anxiously from her sister to Samantha. It didn't appear that they were carrying anything.

"Can't wait, huh? Close your eyes," Tess said to the excited little girl.

Megan quickly closed her eyes, grinning from ear to ear.

Tess reached in her pocket and held the photo of the little Appaloosa mare up in front of the child.

"Okay, you can open them now."

Megan opened her eyes and gasped.

"She's yours," Tess said, as she watched the hazel eyes grow large and round.

"Re…really mine?" the little girl stammered.

"Really yours," Tess replied. "She'll stay at my house, but you can come over when ever you want."

"She's beautiful," the little girl said as tears ran down her face. "What's her name?"

"Well, her registered name is Cotton's Candy, but they called her Candy. You can call her anything you like though."

Megan looked at Tess, tears still sparkling in her eyes. "Thank you. It's the best surprise I've ever had in my life."


Tess awoke, and the bed next to her was empty. She got up and padded into the kitchen and found Samantha putting the finishing touches on a breakfast tray. "Morning Hon…why the tray?"

"I wanted to bring you breakfast in bed for your birthday… Happy birthday, love…now go back to bed," she said, kissing the tall woman.

Tess pulled the young women close and deepened the kiss. "Mmmm, I think I'm going to like this birthday," she said, as the kiss ended.

Samantha turned her around and patted her butt. "Now back to bed with ya."

Tess arranged the pillows so she could sit up in bed, then waited while the little blonde settled the tray with scrambled eggs, bacon and toast across her lap.

"You eat your breakfast, and I'll go work on dessert."

"Dessert…for breakfast?"

"Mmm, special birthday dessert." The little blonde smiled. "Now make sure and leave room."

"Can't you stay and share this with me?" Tess looked up pleadingly. "You can't make me eat alone on my birthday."

"But I made that for you."

"There's plenty here, and besides, you said to save room for dessert." Tess patted the bed beside her.

Grinning, the little blonde climbed up next to Tess and scooped up a bite of eggs to feed her. They took turns feeding each other, and stealing longing kisses between bites.

When they had finished the meal, Samantha scooted off the bed and picked up the tray. Tess started to follow her, but the little blonde pushed her back down. "No, you're not done yet remember… dessert."
She hurried out of the room, leaving Tess to wonder what this special dessert could be.

As the minutes ticked by and Samantha did not come back, Tess thought about sneaking up on the little blonde and surprising her. Thinking better of that plan, she decided to wait as instructed, rather than incur the wrath of the young artist.

"Close your eyes," Samantha called from outside the room.

Tess closed her eyes as instructed. She could hear footsteps approaching and soon felt the little blonde climb up on the bed. Then there was the sound of a match striking, the smell of smoke and melting wax. Oh, she brought a cake, she thought, and wondered why she needed to close her eyes for cake.

"Open your eyes."

Tess opened her eyes and found a naked Samantha lying beside her with a generous dollop of whipped cream on her belly, and a lighted candle in the center.

"Make a wish," the beautiful blonde said seductively.

"I wish that on every birthday you give me this...special dessert," the beautiful woman said as she bent down to blow out the candle. She lifted the candle out of the thick whipped cream, licking it off and tossing it to the bedside table. Then she pulled off her nightshirt and tossed it to the floor. "I think you didn't quite get all the cake iced my love," Tess said, as she ran a finger through the cream and painted a soft pink nipple. Slowly she licked, then sucked till there was not a trace of cream. " cake I've ever had."

"Aren't you going to share?" Samantha said, pushing the birthday girl onto her back. She scooped up the rest of the whipped cream and coated her lover's breasts, then proceeded to lick them clean. She could feel Tess' heart speed up and hear her labored breathing. Moving up, the little blonde captured warm sensuous lips as her hands continued to tease her lover's breasts, carefully avoiding her aching nipples.

Tess was groaning loudly now, and arching her back to push her breasts harder into those wonderful hands. "Yesss," she cried, when she felt her lovers warm mouth engulf her right nipple, sucking and biting till she thought she would scream from the pleasure of it. Her body was shuddering all over, and she could feel the wet warmth spreading between her legs.

Samantha released her lover's breast and moved down her body, moaning when Tess instinctively spread her legs to give her access to her hidden treasures. She settled herself between those beautiful long legs, licking sweet nectar from the inside of her thighs. The smell of her lover's arousal was intoxicating.

Tess was frantic with desire as Samantha nipped and licked the inside of her thighs. Long fingers grasped red gold hair as she guided her lover to the center of her need. She felt the warm tongue stroking, then thrust inside. "Ohhh...Samantha...mmm...ohh," she groaned as the orgasm roared through her body. Collapsing back on the bed, she pulled her young love up and clutched her to her breasts. "I love you," she whispered.

Samantha pushed herself up, "I love you this much," she said spreading her arms out as far as they would go, then looking at her arms she added, "they aren't long enough."

Tess pulled her back down. "They're perfect," she said, capturing her lips, and letting her hand wander over the little blonde's body.

Samantha grabbed her hand, stilling it. "Not now love, I have something I want to give you."

Tess nuzzled her ear and whispered, "Can't it wait till later?"

"No...I want you to see it now." She scooted off the bed and held out her hand to her beautiful partner.

Tess smiled as Samantha led her down the hall to the studio. The little blonde released her hand and walked over to the closet. Opening the door, she reached inside and brought out a canvas. "I couldn't wrap it because it's still a little wet." She turned it around and was pleased to see Tess' eyes grow round with surprise when she saw the portrait of her sister and the little Appaloosa mare.

Tess gasped in surprise, the painting was breathtaking. Megan and Candy looked like they could just step right out, it was so life-like.

"Oh Samantha I love it…it's gorgeous."

The young artist had painted Megan like she had seen her in the photo, looking robust and healthy, sitting astride the beautiful little Appaloosa.

"Samantha…would you mind if we give this to Megan? I want her to see herself like this and use it to visualize her goal." She looked at the smiling child in the painting again. "I've been trying so hard to get her to visualize herself like this, but I think it will really help if she can see it."

Tess looked at her young love, hoping she would not find disappointment in those clear green eyes. The idea had come to her so quickly that she hadn't even thought before asking if she could give her birthday gift away.

Samantha was brimming over with joy that Tess was so taken with her gift. She thought it was a wonderful idea to share it with Megan. "I think it's a great idea," she said as she stroked her lovers arm. "The way you try to help keep her spirits up is one of the things I love so much about you."

Tess put the painting down and took the little blonde in her arms. "How did I get so lucky?" She bent down and brushed her lips against Samantha's. "I ask myself that question all the time, and I still can't figure it out."

"Luck had nothing to do with it…we're just meant to be together…simple as that."


Tess had been tied up in meetings again, and had gotten away from work late. Samantha was bringing the painting with her to the hospital so they could show it to Megan. It was going to be a few months before the little girl could experience the real thing, and this was the next best thing. She could look at herself astride her own horse, and believe it was really going to happen. As she turned the corner, she saw the little blonde waiting for her outside Megan's door.

"Sorry I'm late Hon," she said giving her a quick peck on the cheek. "Been waiting long?"

"Not too long."

"Good," the tall woman said, picking up the painting. "I can't wait till she sees it." She gazed at the painting lovingly. "It's so beautiful I hate to part with it, but I know she will love it, and that makes it okay."

"Tucker is in there with her…he got here just before you did."

Tess was not happy with that news, even though they really had been getting along. She was still uncomfortable around the man, and preferred to see her sister when he was not there.

"We'll just stay long enough to give her the painting. I'm really not in the mood to be around him right now." She turned and walked through the door with the little blonde at her side. Megan's face lit up when she saw them, and Tess smiled in spite of the fact that Tucker was there. "Hey little sis."

"Hey big sis," the little girl responded. "Whatcha got there?"

"Samantha painted a picture of you and Candy. We thought it should be down here so you could see it and imagine yourself riding her for real. Now I want you to promise me something. I want you to stop believing in the sick little girl you see in the mirror. Don't even look in the mirror - look at yourself in this painting, and believe this is the way you are now. When you believe something…I mean really, really believe it, you can make it happen. This is the way I see you, and I want you to see it too." Tess turned the painting around, and held it up for her sister to see.

"Wow Samantha, it's beautiful…Thank you." She studied the picture for a moment, then looked at her sister. "You really see me this way?" Megan said as she looked at herself in the painting. The Megan she saw was full of life, with her long red hair blowing in the wind.

Tess smiled. "I really do."

"Then I do too," the little girl replied positively. "You know, I used to feel sorry for myself and wonder, why me? But if I never got sick, I never would have known I had such a wonderful person as you for my sister. Sometimes it takes something bad to make something good happen."

"That's true," Samantha said, as she smiled at her lover.

Tess put her arm through the plastic glove, and squeezed her sister's hand. "Nothing but positive thoughts from now on…okay?"

The little girl squeezed back. "Okay, I promise."

"Well sweetie, we have to run. I promise I'll stay longer tomorrow." She looked at Megan's father and acknowledged him with a nod. "Tucker."

He nodded back. "Good-bye Tess."

Samantha stuck her hand in the glove and patted the child. "Bye Megan, see you soon."


As they walked down the hall, Tess found herself getting more and more annoyed at Tucker. He and Amanda knew the time of day she visited, and usually stayed away to give her time alone with her sister. Why did he have to come today? "He really pisses me off sometimes. He knew I would be there… he should have stayed away."

"Maybe he wanted to see you. Maybe he wants a chance to get to know his oldest daughter."

"He blew that chance a long time ago." She turned to Samantha, "You know, I can honestly say I don't hate him any more. But I don't think I could ever learn to love him. Too much has happened."

"I know, I don't blame you. I don't think he does either any more." She pushed the button for the elevator. "He realizes he started this whole thing, and now he's sorry and thinks if he hangs around, perhaps you'll come around."

"Well, for Megan's sake, I hope he doesn't hold his breath…cause it ain't gonna happen." She followed Samantha into the elevator. "Where did you park?"

"In the north lot. You…?"

"I'm on the other side."

With a quick parting kiss, they separated at the door. "I'll see you at home," Samantha said as she started off across the lot. She wished she had been able to find a closer spot, but what the heck, she needed the exercise. About half way across the large lot, she heard footsteps behind her. Turning she saw three young men, who looked to be in their early to mid twenty's. She picked up her pace and continued on, but kept listening to see if they were following her.

"Hey blondie," one of the men called out. "Was that your woman back there we seen you kissin?"

Samantha knew she was in trouble. She was too far away from her car to reach it in time, but she started to run anyway. She could hear them laughing behind her as they started to run too. Franticly she looked around for help, but there was no one in sight. She felt a hand grab her blouse and try to stop her, but she kept going and let it rip. Soon however, the hand caught her hair, and she felt herself being pulled backward and hit the ground hard. She lay on the ground breathing hard and looking up at her attackers. Two of them stood over her laughing, while the third stood back looking scared.

"C'mon guys, you scared her… now lets go."

The tallest of the three, an extremely nice looking fair-haired man, grabbed him and pushed him up against a car. "If you don't want to take a turn, that's fine, but shut the fuck up."

The third one, a rather overweight pimply-faced man knelt by Samantha, holding her down. The tall man turned and stood over the young woman, looking down with a cocky smile.

"You know blondie," he said, "me and Frank here have a theory about how to cure dykes like you. All you need is a good fuck by a real man, an it'll fix you right up." He grinned as he began to unbuckle his belt.

"Well I don't see any real men around here," Samantha spat.

Pimply-face back-handed her across the face for that remark, and she could feel her lip start to swell. He reached and ripped the torn blouse the rest of the way off, when suddenly Tess was there, out of nowhere. She kicked him in the jaw, and the sound of breaking bone shattered the silence. His unconscious body landed in a heap, blood dripping from his nose and mouth. She turned on the pretty boy then and he took a defensive stance.

"You're gonna pay for that bitch. You broke his jaw."

"Ask me if I care," Tess said advancing on him.

"You may have caught Frank there by surprise, but no woman's gonna take me down," he said, as he ran at her swinging a wild punch, which she dodged, then kicked him hard in the groin. He collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain.

Tess looked at the third man cowering on the ground. "What about you?" she said, walking toward him.

"He didn't do anything Tess," Samantha called to the rampaging woman. "He tried to stop them."

"I guess this is your lucky day," Tess said, standing over him. Turning she walked back to Samantha, her expression softening as her eyes fell on the young woman. She picked up the torn blouse and wrapped it around her shoulders, and pulled her in close. "Are you alright?" she asked, kissing her gently on the forehead.

"I'm okay." The young artist turned her head and the lamplight caught her swollen lip.

"Oh baby…I'm so sorry. Lets get you inside and have them check you out."

"No, I'm okay, I just want to go home…please take me home."

"We need to call the police and have this scum arrested first."

"Please don't call the police," Samantha begged a look of panic in her eyes. She had seen too many news stories of people being arrested, or sued and loosing everything when the criminals were injured, and it looked to her like Tess hurt them pretty bad. She couldn't take a chance on anything like that happening to Tess.

Tess saw the fear in her eyes and pulled her close. "Hey…it's okay. I won't call them if you don't want me to." She walked back to the would-be rapists and started going through their pockets, finding their wallets. She pulled out their drivers licenses, then tossed the wallets back. "I know who you are, and where you live," she said, holding up the licenses to pretty boy, who was still curled up on the ground holding himself. "If I hear of something like this happening to another woman, I'll find you, and next time you won't get off so easy." The tall woman slipped the licenses into her pocket and walked back to a shaken Samantha.

Samantha was overwhelmed at the speed and ease with which Tess took out her would-be attackers. She knew her partner kept herself in good shape, but was still shocked to witness the change that came over the tall woman when she was defending her. The look in her eyes had been frightening and, somewhere in the back of her mind, a memory surfaced. A memory of this woman…the woman she loved covered in blood and fighting an army of men to protect her, a feral grin on her face.

As Tess approached her, the young woman realized that the adrenaline rush that had been flooding through her was beginning to subside, and her legs were so shaky she felt like they were not going to hold her up any longer. She wanted to cry, but could not allow this weakness to show itself in front of her attackers. She could not bear to show them how much they really scared her. Tess seemed to understand and wrapped her arm around her for support, guiding her away from this frightening scene.

When they reached Samantha's car, the young woman couldn't hold it back any longer. Tears welled up in her eyes and poured down her cheeks. Her legs threatened to give out, and she grasped the tall woman tightly to prevent herself from falling. Tess wrapped her arms around Samantha and gently pulled her in for a comforting hug, but instead of soothing her, it only seemed to make her sob harder. The horror of what could have happened to Samantha hit Tess like a fist, and reflexively, she clutched her tightly. Tears ran down her face and fell on the blonde head resting on her breast. . "Oh God Samantha…when I think what could have happened…"

Samantha pulled away and saw the tear stains, and the pain reflected in her lover's eyes. She pulled herself together, seeing that she was not the only one needing comfort. "But it didn't, I'm okay…all I got were a few scrapes and bruises. You got there in time." A questioning look crossed her face. "What made you come Tess? How did you know…?

"I can't explain it…I just knew. I was walking to my car when I was overwhelmed with a sense of panic, and I knew I had to find you."

Samantha pulled the tall woman over again for a hug. "You're my guardian angel."

"I'm not quite sure you could apply the term angel to me," Tess said, kissing the top of her head. "Come on…let's get you home."



Tess knelt beside Samantha as she soaked in a hot bath allowing sore, tense muscles to relax. The fall the young woman had taken not only bruised her hip and shoulder, it had also scraped up the back of her left arm, and Tess was hoping the soak would help get the dirt and grit out so she would not have to scrub the wound. The young woman held a cloth covered bag of frozen peas to her swollen lip, and the sight of the injured young woman broke Tess' heart. Unconsciously, she kept stroking the little blonde's right arm that lay on the edge of the tub

Samantha stood up and reached for a towel, wincing at the pull to her sore shoulder. Tess took the towel from her. "Let me do that," she said, gripping the young woman's arm and helping her out of the bath. Gently she patted the little blonde dry, careful not to hurt her. Checking the back of Samantha's arm, she saw that the soaking did indeed do the trick, and all that was needed was a little disinfectant and a clean dressing. Tess rose and walked to the medicine cabinet and took out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and some gauze. As she finished dressing the wound, she gently kissed the gauze covering. "All better." Standing, the tall woman replaced the supplies in the cabinet. "You go lie down and rest, and I'll rustle up something for you to eat."

"You…cook?" The little blonde laughed.

"I didn't say I was going to cook, I said I would get you something to eat." She smiled, "There is a difference you know."

"Oh, well in that case, I want peppers and mushrooms."

"Peppers and mushrooms?"

"You were going to order pizza weren't you?"


"Then I want peppers and mushrooms on mine."

"You got it," Tess said as she leaned down to kiss the edge of Samantha's mouth.


Megan had been in the hospital for four months, and had been counting the days till she got to go home. Now that the day had arrived, she was ecstatic. The chronic fatigue she had been suffering from had eased up some, and her hair was starting to grow back. Tucker had installed an air filter system in their house to reduce the number of air-borne bacteria and dust. Tess had followed suit. Although it was not a necessity, it was certainly beneficial. The doctor had instructed that she be kept out of crowds, and avoid small children, especially if they had recently been vaccinated, and most importantly to keep her away from anyone they knew to be sick. Amanda had decided to school her at home for the time being to be on the safe side. Buster had been relegated to the back yard, and was no longer allowed in the house. The doctor had explained that it could take up to a year from the transplant for her immune system to be fully functional, and it was better to be safe than sorry. Megan was not happy with this, but understood the necessity. The most important thing was that she was going to be able to leave this sterile environment and see something other than the inside of the same hospital room, day in and day out.


Tess had spent the morning washing and brushing the little Appaloosa mare till she fairly gleamed, while Samantha took on the housecleaning chore. They wanted to make the house and horse as germ free as possible. Megan had been out of the hospital for almost a week, but this was her first visit to her sister's home and they were taking all the precautions the doctor suggested. The girl would not be allowed to visit the stable area. She could come out in the back yard in the hospital scrubs and mask that Tess had bought, and Candy would be brought up there so the child could briefly meet her and feed her some carrots. Then she would have to strip out of the scrubs and wash her hands before she could go to the window and watch Tess put Candy on a lunge line and put her through her paces.

Tess couldn't help being nervous. "What if she doesn't like her?" she said to Samantha, as the young woman joined her and the little mare.

"Stop being such a worrywart, she's gonna love her," Sam said as she swatted the tall woman on the butt.

"You're right," Tess said rubbing Candy between the eyes. "What's not to love." She heard the car pull up in the drive and smiled.

"This is it girl, she's finally here."

She led the little mare up to the yard and waited while Samantha went to get her little sister ready and bring her out. Candy seemed to sense her excitement and her ears pricked up in anticipation too. The tall woman watched as the sliding glass door opened and the little redhead stepped out into the yard. Even though her mouth and nose were covered with a mask, Tess could tell she was grinning from ear to ear.

Megan held the bag of carrots Samantha had given her as she walked to meet her horse for the first time. Reaching out she rubbed the soft muzzle. "Wow, her nose is so soft." She reached up higher and patted her neck. "I can't believe she's really mine." She giggled as the little mare nuzzled the bag in her hand, smelling one of her favorite treats. "You want some carrots, huh girl?" Reaching into the bag, she pulled out a carrot and held it up, but when the mare tried to take a bite she dropped it, afraid when she saw those big teeth.

"Don't worry, she won't bite you. Just break it into pieces and put it in the palm of your hand…she'll use her lips to pick it up."

Megan did as she was instructed, laughing as the soft lips tickled her palm as the little horse retrieved her treats.

Tess' heart swelled as she watched her sister happily feeding her horse, and she couldn't wait for the day when she could start teaching her to ride.


Eight months later.

Megan was so excited she could hardly contain herself. The horses were in the trailer, and she was waiting impatiently in the truck for Tess. They were going for a weekend camp-out and trail ride, just the two of them and their horses. She loved the thought of having Tess all to herself. The little girl idealized her big sister, and their shared love of horses made it even better. She wondered what was keeping Tess, and decided to go and hurry her along.

"I wish you were coming with us," Tess said as she pulled Samantha in for a good-bye hug. "I miss you already." She leaned down and claimed soft lips in a lingering kiss.

The kiss ended, and the young artist laid her head on the taller woman's chest. "Do you realize this will be the first night we've spent apart since we started living together?"

"Second night…you forgot the night I spent in the hospital, " Tess said, pulling her love to her breast for one more embrace before she had to leave. She laid her cheek on the beautiful blonde head and sighed. She did not like the way that sounded…living together…They did not just live together, they completed each other. Samantha was the other half of her soul. She took a step back so she could look into the young woman's eyes. "Samantha…" she lifted a small hand to her lips and kissed it gently. "We don't just live together…you're my life." She brought a hand to each side of the little blonde's face and said sincerely, "I love you…will you marry me?"

The question came out of the blue, but Samantha did not even hesitate to answer. Publicly committing herself to Tess was a dream come true. "Yes…I've dreamed of declaring my love for you in front of God, and everyone."

Leaning down to rest her forehead against Samantha's, the tall woman closed her eyes and sighed. "In front of God, and everyone."

Megan backed quietly away from the open sliding glass door. She had not meant to eavesdrop on her sister and Samantha, she just wanted to find out what was keeping Tess so long. The tender scene she had just witnessed played over and over in her mind. She had known that Tess cared very much for Samantha; she did too, but she had thought they were just best friends. Now suddenly, subtle little smiles and pats she had seen pass between them in the past few months took on a whole new meaning.

Tess thought she heard something, and looked up just in time to see Megan disappear around the corner of the house. "Uh oh…I think we had an audience," she said, giving Samantha a quick squeeze, then reaching down and grabbing her backpack. "Not quite the way I wanted her to find out about us. I guess it's time I had a little talk with my sister."

"Good luck," Samantha said, patting the tall woman's butt as she walked to the door.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Tess called over her shoulder, as she flashed the little blonde a smile. Walking to the truck, she wondered what would be the best way to handle the situation. Should she tell Megan she knows she overheard them and ask if she has any questions? The girl might be embarrassed to be caught listening to them like that. Then again, Tess was not sure just how much she heard. Perhaps the best thing would be to act like nothing happened, and then take the little girl into her confidence and tell her about the wedding plans. Either way, she would get to talk to Megan about her relationship with Samantha, but the latter would not cause the child extra embarrassment.

Megan smiled as she watched the tall woman walk to the truck. She had to admit that her sister and Samantha seemed perfect for each other, and she wondered why she had never thought of them as a couple before. She remembered watching the 'Ellen' show, and wondered if Tess was just afraid to tell her. Grown-ups are so silly, she thought to herself.

"You ready?" Tess said as she climbed in the truck and started the engine.

"Oh yeah," the little girl answered, grinning broadly at her big sister.

Well…she doesn't seem upset…that's a good sign, Tess thought, looking at the smiling child beside her.

"Megan…I…" the tall woman paused a moment to gather her thoughts. "I want to talk to you about Samantha and me…we …care very much for each other…" Darn, this is harder than I thought it would be. I've never been in the closet…never given a damn if anyone knew, but she's just a kid, how do I explain so she will understand. "I…"

Megan could see how flustered her big sister was, and although it was kind of funny, she decided to put her out of her misery. "You're gay, and you want to marry Samantha." She smiled up at her flustered sister. "I understand you know, I used to watch 'Ellen'," the child continued. "I think it's cool, I really like Samantha. Guess now I'll have two big sisters."

Tess pulled the child to her for a hug, Thank you Ellen, she silently said.


Megan felt honored that Tess and Samantha wanted her to be the hostess at their wedding celebration.
Her sister had picked her up so she could be there early to greet the guests and get them settled before the ceremony. Tess had also left her in charge of the caterers, and she was so pleased her sister trusted her with these responsibilities. It was not a big affair, and only their immediate families and Dusty had been invited. Tess had even invited Tucker, and Megan knew that she had done it for her.

The caterers arrived and Megan showed them where they were to set up, then went upstairs to find Tess. The guests should be arriving soon, and she wanted to see if her sister needed any other help before they got here. Tess was sitting at her dressing table in her robe, blow-drying her long dark hair.

"The caterers got here a few minutes ago and they're downstairs setting things up," the little redhead said, as she watched her sister dry her hair. "Anything else you want me to do before people get here?"

Putting down the blow dryer, Tess turned to the child. "Can't think of anything else I need right now except a hug." She pulled Megan in for a quick squeeze. "I love you Little Sis…thanks for all your help." She kissed the little girl on the forehead. "I don't know what I would have done without you."

Megan beamed from the complement and wrapped her arms around her sister's neck. "I love you too," she said as the sound of the doorbell rang through the house. "Uh-oh, they're starting to arrive. I'd better get down there," she said, dashing for the door.

Megan opened the door to find her mother and father at the door, and another couple she didn't know walking up the steps. They must be Samantha's parents, she thought as she opened the door and stepped back to welcome everyone in. Everyone was standing in awkward silence, when Megan remembered she was supposed to be the hostess. Extending her hand to Sarah she introduced herself.

"Hi, I'm Tess' sister Megan, and these are my parents Amanda and Marion Tucker."

Sarah smiled and took the girls hand. "It's nice to meet you Megan. I've heard so much about you I practically feel I know you. I'm Sarah, and this is my husband Sam…we're Samantha's parents."

They all exchanged their hellos when the doorbell rang again. "Oh, that must be Dusty," the child said as she started for the door. "Be right back." Megan retrieved Dusty from the doorstep and led them all into the large living room. "Everyone sit down and make yourselves comfortable, and I'll be back in a minute." She left them chatting while she went to check on the caterers and found them finishing up. The large table in the dining room was covered in a pale mauve lace tablecloth, and was filled with a multitude of sumptuous foods.

When Megan rejoined the guests in the living room, everyone seemed to be having a good time, so she decided to go upstairs to ask if it was time to take them all out into the garden. As she started up the stairs, she met Samantha and Tess coming down. They looked radiantly happy, Tess in a charcoal gray pantsuit with a pale blue silk blouse, and Samantha in a long dress of the softest lavender.

"Are they all here?" Tess asked, as she reached the bottom step.

"Yep, they're all in the living room talking."

Tess reached out and grasped Samantha's hand. "Shall we?"

They walked in to greet their guests hand in hand.

"Thank you so much for coming to help us celebrate our commitment to each other. It means a lot to us," Samantha said.

"We wouldn't have missed it for the world," Sarah answered, as she crossed the room and pulled her daughter in for a fierce hug. "I'm so happy for you…both of you," she continued as she surprised Tess with a hug as well.

This seemed to be a signal for everyone to come and hug the happy couple. Tucker approached them, but hung back a bit. Tess had saved his precious Megan's life, and over the last year he had grown to care for his oldest daughter. He sincerely wished he had not rejected her all those years ago, but that was water under the bridge and could not be changed. When the others were finished he offered his hand, sure that Tess would not be receptive to a hug.

"Congratulations," he said, shaking first Samantha's hand, and then Tess'.

"Thank you, it means a lot to Megan that you came," Tess said, giving him a subtle reminder that it was because of her sister that he had been included in the invitation. "If you could all follow us, we'll get started," she said, taking Samantha's hand and starting for the door.

Tess and Samantha wanted the ceremony to be out in the open air. For some reason, it just felt right. They led the small procession into the back garden. The side fence was covered in morning glories, and the roses were in glorious bloom, their fragrance filling the air.

They turned to face each other as their guests gathered around them in a semi-circle. Samantha realized that all her dreams really had come true.

"Tess…you have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. You lived in my dreams, and gave me comfort as a child, but the dreams pale in comparison to the reality of our life together. I need your love as much as I need air to breathe, for to be without either is to be without life. I can't imagine my life without you, and I pledge all my love and devotion to you for as long as we both shall live." Both their hands were trembling as she slipped the ring on the tall woman's finger.

Tess was standing facing Samantha, the young woman's hands held firmly in her own. There were other people in the garden, but all she could see was the beautiful face of the woman she loved. Listening to the beautiful sentiments, she was overcome with emotion. How is it possible to love someone this much, she thought to herself? If someone had told her a year and a half ago that she would be standing here about to publicly commit herself forever…body and soul to one woman, she would have thought they were crazy. Yet here she stood, gazing into the greenest eyes she had ever seen, falling into their beautiful depths, and never wanting to leave. Her heart was pounding as she tried to push back the emotions overpowering her trembling body; afraid she would not be able to speak the words in her heart to her beloved.

"I never believed stories about true love filling your heart and soul could be real. In my reality, that kind of love didn't exist…seemed impossible. Then I met you and my whole world changed. Suddenly my life was filled with love…joy… and endless possibilities. I will never know why I deserve your love and devotion, but I gratefully accept it. My heart is so full of love for you I sometimes think it will burst, and there is no longer room in it for the hate I carried with me for so many years. I believe that I have known you forever, over many, many lifetimes. The love we share is timeless, and so for us there is no time, only love, and love is eternal. Knowing this continues to fill my heart with a joy that knows no bounds. To you Samantha, I give my heart, and my promise that even in death, I will never leave you."

Tess slipped the ring on Samantha's finger, then raised it to her lips and kissed it as a sweet tear of joy made its way down her face. Leaning down, she gently kissed those perfect lips and whispered, "Forever and ever."

The End
March, 1999

I have to say I have never experienced the tragedy of leukemia and I got my information on the bone marrow transplant experience from the autobiography of José Carreras titled "Singing From the Soul"

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