Disclaimer: Although these characters are my own, I am adding this in case someone would see any resemblance of the characters of Xena and Gabrielle, who belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights is intended.

Subtext disclaimer: Anyone against two consenting adult females in a loving relationship, or are too young, or it is illegal where you live, please go elsewhere. To those who remain WELCOME and thank you for your time.

As always thanks to April-for her patience and teaching on this writing thing.






Neither Kate nor Sam slept very much their last night together. It was a combination of not wanting to waste a minute, and just the overwhelming sadness of separating. It had been such a marvelous week of fun and discovery, and a fulfillment of getting to know each other--three dimensionally. They had so many things in common, but yet not dependent on the other to fill the day.

It had been a time of emotional growth and a deeper connection for the visitor by

starting to let go of the past and slowly reaching out to the future. A reason Kate couldn't sleep was that she was trying to figure out a way to make the relationship keep working and growing. If there's a will, there's a way. And if it could work on will alone, it would be a piece of cake! But they still needed time together to keep getting closer. Both women worried that by being back to telephone and email contact, they would lose some of the precious emotional and physical ground they had gained this past week.

The accountant thought logically in terms of facts and figures: time spent, money spent and how to balance out the distance factor in her mind. There was a formula or equation that would give them the answer they needed and wanted.

Why, just in saved telephone bills, she could probably pay for part of a monthly air fare!

The athlete thought in terms of setting goals-to be at a certain stage or place at a certain time, to exercise a certain amount of repetitions, to do so many sets of lifts or crunches. So she figured there is a certain amount of time they had to actually be together to continue to grow as partners, so that became her goal-finding a way to achieve that.

By morning, they had both unknowingly reached the same answer by entirely different routes. Sam, still being less aggressive in the relationship, was still trying to think of a way to bring up the subject when Kate started talking-jumping right in as they were still lying on the couch together.

"How soon do you think you can come back? I mean...if you want to." The words were soft and almost timid.

Sam rolled over to face this wonderful woman, the one person who had been able to help her change her whole life. So she smiled and rolled her eyes. "If I want to come back? You've got to be kidding!" Gently smoothing the worry lines on the woman's dark brow with her hand as she spoke. "I've been trying to figure that out myself-if you would be so kind as to ask me back."

They had made great progress together, especially the last week, and Kate wanted it to keep growing, even if it took longer than she wanted. In the long run, knowing it would be worth the wait. So now it was Kate's turn to look surprised at the comment. "OF COURSE I want you to come back. If I could have my way you wouldn't be leaving....yet. And since it's my turn to visit, but not really up to traveling yet, we'll take turns buying your airfare. No-don't interrupt. Just think of it as a way we can be together more often. There's a picnic for the company in two weeks. Think you can make it back then? Or would it be too soon?" Giving Sam every chance not to feel obligated, but making sure she knew she was wanted and welcome.

Samantha had a hard time meeting the blue eyes so close to her. "I think the next two weeks will seem like the longest ones I've ever lived through. But I would be happy to come back for the picnic...and for you." The last words were just a whisper, but they were heard.

Kate's face cleared some, encouraged by the acceptance, though it was still shadowed in sadness at their parting. "Great! It's a date---you will be my date, won't you?"

Green eyes widened at the thought. They had never really put a name to, or talked about what had grown between them. They had just enjoyed their time together here, as they wanted. But they were definitely a 'couple' in both of their minds. Might as well use the terms-they were only words--the feelings were already there. So those green eyes softened along with her voice as she accepted. "A date, huh? Sounds good to me." But the accountant popped back up for a minute without warning, tilting her head. "You sure it's OK to alternate the air fare?" Wrinkling her nose as she asked.

Kate cupped Sam's cheek, stroking the soft skin with her thumb, and Sam leaned into it. "Just think of it as a way that we can see each other twice as much. We'll see how it goes-just take it one day at a time, with always a visit to look forward to and plan." Planting a tender kiss on the other's forehead.

They even changed Sam's baggage-leaving clothes behind so she only took her carry on to take back. On her next trip here, she could again travel with just her carry on bag, and Kate could pick her up outside the airport. It made them both feel better having physical evidence there to show that she was coming back.

Sam had decided to be just dropped off and wait alone for take off. Not thinking she could keep a brave front up in front of Dad. Kate argued, but Samantha finally won out-if Kate would be the one to drop her off-to spend every possible minute together.

How could she turn down that request, though it was made reluctantly, because of the public driving? She just could not seem to get past her own emotional response to her scar. No one else seemed bothered by it, but her. The longer this feeling lasted, the more she knew she was in trouble by letting it get the best of her. But the extra time together made her agree. And so they left for the airport as late as possible-holding hands all the way there. They pulled up to the doors of Sam's airlines and stopped. Turning to each other, the moment of truth had arrived. Kate again started-picking up the hand she was holding and kissing it. "Be sure and call me when you get home." A lump started growing in her throat, but continued, looking into the face she would miss so much. "I want you to know that this past week has been one of the best I've ever had, and it's because of you. You are so special to me, and I do love you very much. Come back to me soon-I'll be waiting for you." Tears slowly coursed down the tanned face.

Sam was also having trouble with excess eye water overflowing their banks. Being a writer didn't seem to help find the words to express how she felt, but knew she had to try, especially after her friend had spoken to her from the heart. With a shaky smile, she also kissed the hand holding hers. "I'll call you as soon as I walk into the apartment. I guess the Telephone Company will start making big bucks again! And you're right, this has been the best of weeks for me-because of you. I don't know what I did to deserve this chance of happiness with you, but I'm hanging on with all I've got-holding onto you. I love you very much." Barely able to get the last words out.

Kate just whispered. "Hold on tight-cause I am too, and we'll get through this and work out something. I promise."

It was time to part, and Sam made another leap of faith-and to her it was a leap to someone who had just opened her heart again. Taking Kate's face with both hands, she leaned forward and brushed lips-just a touch. Then pulled her closer yet for another kiss that tried to express what her words hadn't covered.

Kate was surprised that Sam would initiate this public display of affection, but reveled in it as a big step forward in her friend's trust, and so responded in kind. Both were a little desperate to hang onto this last moment.

Samantha broke off first, again ending it as she had started it, with a soft and gentle meeting of their lips. Looking into each other's eyes and touching foreheads, they smiled slightly. The smaller woman closed her eyes for a second and then pulled away. "Better get going-talk to you later." And with that shaky comment, Sam grabbed her bag and got out, turning to wave for a second and then walking into the building.

Kate waved back, but as soon as her friend disappeared, laid her head on the steering wheel, fighting to gain control of her emotions, so she could safely drive home. Home-now it would be empty and would echo without her friend to fill it with teasing and laughter. "Two weeks-let's just get through the next two weeks, and then she'll be back." That would be her mantra: Two weeks.

And day-by-day the next two weeks did go by. They went back to emailing and calling each night. The first few calls were difficult as they got used to being separated. But they resumed their routines, and Sam posted the first installment of the series of the story they had worked on together. Kate had grown from just proofreading to helping with story lines and keeping the people true to their character, which Sam greatly enjoyed. Finally someone to share this part of her life.

With the writer's heart opening up some, her personality also changed; taking time to say hello to people at the health club and smiling at her unknown neighbors when in the elevator together.

When those slow two weeks had finally passed, Sam took the red-eye out on Thursday night to squeeze as much time together as possible. Kate was waiting for her outside the terminal and was engulfed in a hug as soon as her friend jumped in and started chattering. "Oh, I've missed you! And look at this-no cane anywhere-good for you! Why didn't you tell me? But first, let's get out of here and go home."

Kate had returned the hug with all the loneliness leaving her as she felt Sam's arms around her. Life was good again, and she was more than willing to get on the road to take her home. Home-ah, such a nice word now.

Upon arriving, Sam threw the carry on bag in her room and the two women poured glasses of wine and sought out their haven on the couch. It was so nice to be back-it felt so right to be here. Leaning her head on the slightly taller shoulder, and sighing. Now that she was here and relaxing, the day was catching up on her, as it had started early, being too excited to sleep. Kate's head was leaning against hers and they just enjoyed these first moments of being together.

"Well," The hostess said after a while, taking the wineglasses out to the kitchen and returning. "I think it's time to get some sleep. I didn't get a lot last night waiting for today to get here. Do you want to..to stay..in here?" She didn't want to assume anything, and gave her friend the choice.

For Samantha there was no choice. "Even if I could move, which I can't, I wouldn't. I don't want to be anywhere else then right here, if you don't mind. I've been dreaming of your arm around me every night for the past two weeks." A confession she hadn't meant to slip out.

In response, the dark-haired woman just shook her head and smiled. She got up, locked the house and came back to their couch. Lying back down, Kate drew the other woman close to her as the lights went out and threw the blanket over them. Same blanket-she couldn't move it during these last couple weeks as it was a reminder of what they'd shared, and hoped to share again. In the dark, as they relaxed against each other Kate murmured, "You know, I haven't been able to lay here like this since you left. It was just too lonesome with just me." Tightening her hold for a moment.

Her partner chuckled softly. "And for me, I kinda abandoned my bedroom and slept on my couch-pretending I was here and imagining you behind me. Aren't we just the pair though!"

And with those silly comments, they fell asleep, happier than they had been in two weeks. It might only be a short time together, but it was still another building block for their future, and another baby step forward.

Friday was spent finishing up some work and then taking Baby Girl out for a drive as long as it was nice. Kate's leg was a lot better, but still a little weak, so she didn't feel it was safe to drive it yet. And she liked Sam driving her around, enjoyed seeing the sparkle as those green eyes danced with fun.

Saturday was the picnic, an annual employee event, and a show of appreciation for all the hard work that had been done. There were tables of food and coolers of beverages. They even had some games set up, though Kate couldn't talk Sam into playing any of them. She enjoyed walking around with her friend, and introducing her to people. Her scar had healed to the point where some make-up covered the majority of it, but still felt it there. She felt eyes on her that weren't there, and resisted the urge to check on it with a mirror-that wasn't how she thought she'd react to this, and it didn't used to be her. This was a family based business, and she had grown up with some of these people, and so was as relaxed as she got out in public. The general public still made her anxious, though she could find no reason for it.

Walking towards a picnic table, the two friends got ready to eat. Samantha had never seen so much food at one place like this. There was no way she could try everything, so she asked Kate what to do. "How do you choose what to eat? It all looks so good, but I can't even try a quarter of the different things here."

Kate looked over at the plate of Sam's that was already almost full and smiled. "I just take what looks good till I run out of room. But I don't take a lot of any one thing. That's the strategy I've worked out over the years, and remember I've had years of experience growing up with this every summer." Then she smirked as she finished. "But don't forget to leave room for dessert!"

The sandy haired head whipped around to look back at the speaker. "DESSERT! Oh, you've got to be kidding! I'll be lucky if I can eat this!" Some people around them heard her exclamation and laughed along with Kate.

The taller woman pointed to the end of the long table that had at least a half a dozen forms of desserts including cakes, pies and bars. They managed to clean their plates, and had room for one small dessert each.

As the sun was beginning to set, Samantha and Kate left for home. Once leaving the main area of people, Kate reached over and took her friend's hand, linking their fingers loosely as they walked. The writer looked up and smiled, moving closer to her. "Have a good time"? Questioned the hostess, tilting her head to see the other's face.

"Oh yeh." Was the immediate reply filled with eagerness. "Everyone was so nice and made me feel welcome. Like a part of the group. I'm glad you asked me to come. Thank you." Squeezing the hand she was holding.

Once home, they collapsed on the couch for a while, feeling lazy and still too full. The stereo was playing softly in the background and the lights were low for a relaxed atmosphere. Another day over, another day closer to them parting again, but they tried to ignore that fact and just enjoy the time together, so they ended the day together sleeping close on the couch.

Sunday was a quiet day-going over some of the stories they had talked about. They worked well together as each knew their strengths and respected the other's ideas and comments. That night they danced to their song, swaying slowly in time to the music, and enjoying the closeness of it as much as the actual song itself. Their time apart had not diminished anything they felt for each other-this was not just an infatuation-they wouldn't have been willing to work so hard to make it work if it didn't have the depth of feeling that it took to be long lasting. The two women went to their respective rooms to change into their night ware and meet up in the living room, but before Kate could leave her room, Sam walked in slowly and sat on the bed looking every place but at her hostess as she began to speak.

"How about we move in here tonight-there's more room, and you usually hog the blanket!" Holding her hands like she was praying, and continuing to fail at making eye contact. Her voice was hesitant, though still trying to keep the subject light as her heart was about to beat out of her chest. This was another step forward in building the relationship she wanted to keep, and knew it was time. Also knowing, no further steps would be taken without her initiating them-would never be urged or pressured to start something she wasn't ready for.

Kate sat down next to her-amazed that her friend was sitting in her room and making this suggestion. Not that she wanted to argue the point, oh no, not her! But she wanted to make sure that they both were ready to change things, as it made their relationship take a more serious turn. She took Sam's hands and looked into big green eyes. "Sure we can stay here, if you want to. I haven't wanted to suggest it, to push you at all. I'm also fine with the couch. As long as I can hold you-I don't care where we are." She left the room to shut off the lights and lock up and returned to find that Sam hadn't moved a muscle. Again, she tilted up the other's chin gently and asked. "Are you sure about this?" She questioned softly. "It's OK if you change your mind-really. We can leave here right now and sleep on the couch--I just want to be with you, and it doesn't matter where it is."

Sam looked up into those beloved blue eyes and locked hers with them. Then she stood up and stepped closer to the taller woman. "Baby steps, remember? It's time for another step." Taking Kate's hand, she stepped back to the bed, pulled down the spread and blankets and climbed in, bringing her partner in with her. Kate turned off the light and lay on her back-reaching over to this amazing woman next to her, bringing her to her shoulder, whispering softly. "Now what's this about me hogging the blanket?!" To which they both laughed-breaking the tension that had built up in the last 15 minutes. Again they slept peacefully-together.

In another two weeks it was Sam's turn to have a reason to come over. A problem with a story she was working on and needed to physically lay it out for Kate to see and help with. Kind of a weak plan, but it worked! Considering how she was a writer that came up with ideas all the time, she was a little ashamed of herself at the lack of originality. It was just another long weekend, but every day counted that they could spend together.

And so the pattern was set. Two weeks was the longest they could stay apart. Every reunion a celebration, every parting a heartache. In between times they worked as hard and as long as they could to make the time pass. When together, the couch was still their own little island-their calm time, but now they slept in Kate's room. That bridge had been crossed and burned behind them-never looking back.

Sam's inexperience with family life took a bit of adjusting, so used to being alone, and having no one to answer to, it was hard to get used to Kate having this invisible connection with her relatives all of the time. Also she was a tad bit jealous at having to share Kate. Unreasonable-yes. Irrational-of course. Human-unfortunately.

Since they had chatted a little after getting home from the airport from another red-eye flight, Saturday morning found them sleeping in. Sam's snuggle time was interrupted by the phone ringing. Kate grabbed it on the second ring, hoping not to wake her friend. After all, the coffee was not made yet!


"Morning darling-are you still in bed?" Came the cheerful voice of her Mother.

The daughter rolled her eyes at the question. "Yes Mom, still in bed. Remember that Sam's flight came in late last night, and we stayed up and talked for a while before going to sleep. What's up?"

The voice on the other end was hesitant. "Well, I was just wondering if sometime this morning you could come over and help me with moving some things around. Nothing heavy. I'm just bored with the living room arrangement and could use some help, and of course your opinion. Bring Samantha with you-I'd love to hear any ideas she'd have. A fresh point of view."

"Sure Mom, we'll be over in a little while. Just gotta get up and get something to eat-and some coffee for Sam. We'll see you then. Don't move anything till we get there, OK?"

"Thank you dear. I'll see you both later. Give Sam a hug from me. Bye." And with that, hung up.

The guest was now waking up in the middle of the one sided conversation. It sounded like her friend was getting roped into some chores at her Mom's house again. Any time someone needed something-it was 'call Kate. She'll do it'. Sam thought she was being taken advantage of, and because she was only half awake, and indeed had not had her coffee, confronted her hostess about it.

"What did your Mom want so early this morning?" Still trying to snuggle on the shoulder next to her.

Kate smiled at the movement and wrapped an arm around the smaller woman. "Oh, she just needs some help at the house: move some stuff around and our opinion on where to put things. She's bored with the living room arrangement."

The words slipped out from Sam without thinking. "I could tell her where to put some stuff." Sounding a wee bit catty. She could feel her partner stiffen up at the words and wished she could take them back.

"Hey-remember that's my Mom we're talking about. What's she ever done to you to make you grump like that? She's been nothing but kind and welcomed you into the family literally with open arms." Speaking very distinctly, and instantly on the defensive for the people she loved unconditionally, even from another that she loved.

A slow blush burned the visitor's face as she raised up on her elbow to look into hurt blue eyes. "Sorry, that came out wrong. It just seems like that whenever I get a chance to be with you, she's got something for you to do. Where's your Dad-can't he help?" Trying to soothe some ruffled feathers, and dig her way out of the hole she was in.

Kate laughed dryly at the suggestion. "All my Dad's tastes are in his mouth. He thinks plaids and stripes go together. 'Gives the room some zip to it' he says. And he never wants anything moved. Mom moves the furniture around, and he's tripping over it for a week. I mean the big furniture like the couch, he runs into it. Like he can't see something that large? Besides, I don't mind helping her out-she's always been there for me." Finishing the lengthy speech on a soft note.

Sam felt bad about what she'd said. No not WHAT she'd said, but just the way it had come out. "I like your Mom, you know that. It just seems like they take unfair advantage of you sometimes. I don't like to see you walked on, that's all." Trying to bring peace to the discussion, now bordering on an argument.

Now Kate got up from the bed and started pacing, trying to keep her temper under control. Her friend just didn't understand the concept, so she walked back over to the bed and sat down-sighing very loudly, to make sure Sam knew that she was trying to stay calm. She had a long fuse, but when it burned down, it was not a pretty sight. And anyone-ANYONE taking potshots at her family, made her see red. "Samantha," Taking a hand into her own. "You just don't understand. I'm not being taken advantage of. I LIKE to do things with and for Mom. Family is all about give and take-and I'm not doing all the giving and them doing all the taking. We're there for each other. It's really nice to know that help is only a phone call away-no matter when or for what. I know you didn't have much, or any family life growing up, but this is what family life is like-the good, the bad and the ugly. We share it all, because we're a part of each other-so take some time and think about what that means. I can't, and won't take sides, because there are no sides to our family. We're all on the same side." And with that, she got up and started to leave the room. "I'll start your coffee and then take a shower. Mom said for you to come too as she values your opinion-and your strong back too I imagine. You're invited, but you don't have to go along if you'll be uncomfortable." And with that, walked out the bedroom door.

Sam pulled a pillow over her face. "Stupid friend-stupid friend. You really blew that one. How can you compare your nothing family with a neat family like them?

She counted to ten to get her emotions under control as she realized that she had just inflicted pain on someone who meant so much to her. "Well, better get it over with soon, or it'll only get harder," So she got out of bed and followed her friend's path to the kitchen. Leaning on the counter watching Kate work, she coughed softly to get her attention. "Uhm...I'm sorry about that. You're right about everything. I don't know what family life is like and I love yours. I guess I was just a little jealous at having to share you when our time together is so short, and they get you every day. I'm really sorry, and I'd love to come along, if you can stand to have me in the same car with you. Guess I'm green eyed for a reason." Finishing the apology by looking up and silently pleading forgiveness.

Kate listened to the apology and understood her completely. So she smiled and ruffled some already ruffled looking hair. "That's OK. I'm sorry to come down so hard on you-but I want you to learn what being a family is about so you can be a part of us comfortably. It will take some time, but if you give us, and yourself a chance, I know everything will work out. OK?"

The guest nodded her head and smiled a little. "OK-deal. You go take your shower and I'll get something ready for breakfast. Have you gotten real food yet?" Trying to get back their easy rapport from the night before.

Kate laughed and started walking to the bathroom. "Just look in the fridge and salute me when I return." And with that she disappeared.

Curiosity pulled the visitor to the appliance and open the door. The thing was full-fresh food. Eggs all neatly place in their little holding cups in the door. Milk that didn't look chunky, and not a sign of green anywhere than where it belonged! Well, well-let's see what I can whip up for her. And the sandy colored head disappeared inside.

Her shower completed, the hostess opened the bathroom door and was greeted by a delicious smell of food cooking. Since she was dressed, she followed her nose to the source of the aroma.

Sam was just finishing up her cooking, and looked up to smile at her friend, then saluted smartly. "I am impressed. I also made us something substantial to eat as long as we'll be working hard this morning-it's also a peace offering." Looking hopefully across the counter. "I made us ham and cheese omelets, hashbrowns and toast. Go sit down and I'll get your plate. I'll eat with you, and then while you're cleaning up I'll get ready to go. Sound like a plan?"

Kate's mouth was watering-her protein drink forgotten. "OK with me. Here I'll take the plates. Just grab some silverware and sit down." Two glasses of orange juice were already setting on the table. "This looks wonderful, but you didn't have to do it as a peace offering. I'm not mad anymore-but that doesn't mean you can take the food away." Holding her plate close to her for protection causing them both to laugh.

So it was that their first argument was done and survived, and they ate their feast, again in a relaxed atmosphere, talking over their plans for the day. As they finished, Sam got up and headed for the bathroom for her shower. When she disappeared, Kate picked up the plates and glasses and put them in the sink to wash. Just then the shower started up. An evil smile formed on the dishwasher's face. She waited about three minutes and then turned on the hot water to fill the sink. Almost immediately a scream came from the bathroom. "Revenge is sweet." Purred the culprit.

Out came Sam with just a towel wrapped around her, dripping water as she stomped into the kitchen area. "You did that on purpose! When I did it, it was a mistake, and honest mistake. Now you pay, pretty lady-big time. And don't fake an injury cause I won't fall for that again." And the race was on-around the kitchen island and into the living room, circling the couch several times before Sam leaped over the back of it in a move that surprised Kate, landing on the cushion and jumping into her friend with a full body block, taking them both down onto the carpet.

Poor Sam couldn't win for losing. In this case, losing her towel positioning in her last jump at Kate. Just after she victoriously said "Gotcha now!" She felt a sudden draft of cool air. Looking down, she first saw blue eyes filled with tears from laughing, and looking down further down, saw no towel. "Uh oh." Was her next response.

Kate howled hysterically at her butt naked friend as Sam grabbed the towel and took off to the safety of their room. She was still on the floor several minutes later when Sam came back out, now fully dressed. The laughter had stopped, but she was still wiping her eyes when she looked up-then started laughing again. "Oh sweetheart, that was priceless. The look on your face-first so thrilled at catching me, and then your eyes got just huge when you realized you were missing something. Oh, my stomach hurts from eating too much and now this. Wait till Mom hears about it." Crawling to her feet to sit on the couch.

A horrified look swept over Sam's face. "You are NOT going to mention a word of this to ANYONE-got it?! It's just our little secret. You spill the beans, KATHRYN ELIZABETH, and I'll tell some stuff about you at the next family supper, even if I have to make it up-they'll believe me!"

Still drying her eyes, she reluctantly agreed. "OK-OK. I promise I won't say anything, though Mom would really get a kick out of it. But I won't say a word." The long legged woman got up and walked past her friend heading back to the kitchen, slowing down to whisper in her ear. "Your face isn't the only thing on you that's gorgeous, sweetheart." Then continued on to wash the dishes so they could leave. Sam dropped her jaw at the remark and blushed again.

Both minds were going 900 miles an hour. The visitor secretly pleased at the compliment, though embarrassed that she had exposed herself like that. And the dishwasher washed the dishes with eyes closed, and a smile on her face, remembering all that she peeked at in those few seconds.

For Kate, it was getting harder to keep things as slow as they were going. In her head she knew what they were doing was the best way, but her heart whispered to her those nights she held her friend close. She ached to tell her and show her how much she loved her. Concentrating not to let her hands wander while the object of her desire slept peacefully in her arms. Not that they didn't have their

times when close just wasn't close enough. They did a whole lot of old fashioned ''necking' on that couch too! It would always start out innocently enough. But soon it seemed to always turn into some really heavy breathing, and Sam started it just at often as Kate did. But Kate knew that this last step into their physical relationship had to be started by Sam. It was the last wall, the last barrier for her

to break through-the risk of being totally vulnerable to someone else. And until

her partner took that step; they wouldn't cross the line-as difficult as it was on them both. But something still held her friend back, and pushing the issue would get them nowhere. So head continued to win over heart.

The weeks passed by, and their visits kept adding up. On one of those visits, Kate learned more about why her friend was as cautious of people as she was. They were settled in bed one night just talking with the lights out before going to sleep. It was a relaxing time, and Sam found it easier to talk about personal things in the cover of darkness. No one was watching her face, and not having to meet anyone's eyes. Nestled onto her favorite shoulder, she sighed at how comfortable this was. Something that she thought would never happen. Kate heard the sigh.

"What was that big sigh for?" Long slender fingers stroked the sandy hair slowly.

Again content with her world now that she held the most important part in her arms.

"Uh, nothing much really. It just feels to good to be here with you." She answered guiltily. Well it was at least half-truth.

But Kate knew her voice from the endless hours on the telephone, where she had learned to read every inflection because she didn't have a face to rely on for its meaning, and sensed there was more to it than that. "What else?"

The answer stared with another sigh. "Oh. Just remembering some things from the past. I've never really talked much about it, as there wasn't much to talk about. One of the few times my parents took an interest in me was when they tried matching me up their friends' son. They thought the merging of the two families would be good financially and of course another step higher socially. I finally came in handy, I guess. Brandon was a few years older than I was and he seemed nice enough. I was still trying to please my parents, even though I had moved out on my own. After about 3 months of dating, he thought we should start sleeping together to 'test the waters' before we got married. Well, I had never led him to believe that I wanted to marry him, and we certainly had never been anywhere close to that type of relationship. Well, Brandon didn't see things that way. I guess he was seeing dollar signs and his parents when he looked at me. And since he considered himself quite the catch, didn't like being shot down when I refused him. I told that not only would I not marry him, but that I didn't want to see him again. He raged at me that there was something wrong with me since I couldn't respond to him. That I was just an empty shell of a woman and would always be alone because I was only half-alive. And with those parting comments, he walked out of the apartment. I guess I believed him, since I couldn't respond to him, and so just stopped trying. Why put myself or anyone else through that again? He was the last one I dated till I met you. I....uh had never felt anything with anyone else. There was no spark or shiver, or really anything with anyone I had dated. So I just worked that much harder at my business, and threw myself into the stories I wrote. I figured that was as close as I would get to a happy ending....until I met you."

Kate continued to stroke Sam's hair as she heard this confession, trying to hold back the tears for the younger version of the woman she now held. She was both horrified at the pain her friend must have gone through, and furious at the idiot who planted the seeds of doubt in the mind of a very sensitive and feeling woman. How dare he hurt her like that! The tears started rolling down her cheeks as she continued to listen. When there was only silence, the taller woman cleared her throat before speaking. "I am so sorry that you went through that sweetheart. He was so wrong about you, and you've suffered these years needlessly because of him. The last thing you are is an empty shell. You have so much love and compassion, and inside of you beats a heart of gold, because you are a very giving person. I'm glad that you found out that he was wrong, with me. His loss is my gain, but now I understand more why we're going in baby steps, and that's fine with me. You're in control of this. I will follow where you lead, cause I am happy just to be here with you." And with that she pulled the woman of her dreams into her arms and proved how wrong 'idiot boy' was. Breaking her own rule of starting something in the bedroom, but feeling that Sam needed to have proof that she was nothing like that. Reluctantly pulling apart, when the need for air became necessary, they moved back to their original positions with Sam's head on her shoulder. And as Kate was drifting off to sleep she heard a very quiet "Thank you" from beside her, and held on that much tighter in response.

Another two months passed, and in total six months since that first email, so of course they had to celebrate by getting together. Kate was waiting outside the airport as Sam practically ran out of the building, but stopped dead in her tracks for a moment. The hostess with the most-est had brought Baby Girl to pick her up! Throwing the carry on bag into the back seat, she followed into the car. Not caring that the top was down and anyone could see them, she grabbed the driver into a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"Hi! What made you bring Baby Girl into town?" She asked and bounced back onto her side of the car. God it was good to be back!

Grinning ear to ear at both the sight before her, and being able to surprise her friend with the car, she answered. "Well, I figured it was an extra special occasion, and I worked real hard in therapy to strengthen my leg so I could drive. Who better to share my first trip out driving her, than you?" Feeling herself drown as she looked into those sparkling green eyes. Before she could embarrass herself in public, she just grinned again and reached over to squeeze the shoulder next to hers. Then they were off to go home.

They had decided not to do anything formal to celebrate, as neither of them enjoyed that kind of thing. So they ordered out pizza as they had the first night of the first visit. Happily munching their way through supper, they caught up on all the little things they never got around to on the phone. There was always something to talk about-it could be a funny story about Kate's family, or Sam talking about how she people-watched at the health club. After stuffing themselves, and putting everything away, Sam disappeared for a few minutes, then came back into the room with a small wrapped package. When Kate saw it she smiled at her friend.

"Time for the gift exchange? Well let me get mine too, then we can open them together." She went to their room and also came back holding a small box wrapped up.

Seating themselves on the couch, they just looked at each other for a moment then handed their gifts to the other. Kate, being Kate, of course couldn't wait and so started unwrapping hers. Her eyes shining and a silly child-like grin on her face-like a kid-a big kid! Lifting the cover she looked down-first her eyes got big, and then filled with tears. Reaching in she took out a par of earrings-small ones with their birthstones side by side.

Sam was relieved that her friend understood what the colors of the stones meant. She had wrestled with herself wondering if it was too much to put them together, as it seemed like such an intimate thing to do. But her heart won out, though still anxious for the reaction as she didn't want to presume on Kate's part just how she saw their connection. But the look of pleasure on that face instantly made up for all the hours of doubt. "I know you don't wear a lot of jewelry, but these didn't seem too big or gaudy and you can wear them with jeans or something more formal."

Kate was still holding them up and wiping her eyes. Hardly believing that Sam would show her feelings by putting their stones together-it really signified that she thought of them as a serious couple. So gathering her partner

In her arms, held her close. "They're perfect-just perfect. And putting our birthstones together like that makes them so special. I love them-and you. Thank you."

Sam returned the hug-not really wanting to let to. These times were so precious to her, a gift in themselves. That thought made her remember the gift still sitting in her lap. So leaning back, she picked up her present and slowly unwrapped it, wanting to savor every moment. Lifting the cover off, looked inside. Lying there was a necklace-two gold hearts side-by-side, overlapping in some paces, connected in others, and a little apart in others. Samantha picked it out with shaking hands and held it up.

Kate watched closely for her reaction-not sure how she would take the symbol of the two hearts together. It was plain to see that she was overwhelmed. "Uh, look on the back of it--I had it engraved with our names. Good thing they're short ones!" Trying to lighten up the situation. Sam still had not spoken-but her face spoke volumes, as she looked over at her friend, and shook her head.

"I'm speechless-me, a writer, with no words to say. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Can you put it on for me?" Turning her back and lifting up any hair that might be in the way.

Kate reached around and put the necklace in place-her hands slightly shaking as she closed the clasp. She couldn't resist also kissing the bare skin on the neck so close to her.

Sam closed her eyes and leaned into it. How could life get any better than this exact moment? Well, she knew the answer to that one, and would have to confess tonight. Turning back again, she fell into arms that held her close. "Thank you so much-it's just too wonderful for words." Closing her eyes and smiling.

They eventually set the boxes and wrappings aside-Kate had also put her earrings on, and settled in next to each other for a while to get their emotions under control. Sam rested her head on the slightly taller shoulder, and Kate leaned over to kiss her forehead. With lights low and music playing in the background, it was one of those times that you never forget the feeling of.

After a while, Sam took a deep breath and sat back up. Her face very serious as she took a larger hand into hers. "I know this is a special night, and I don't want to ruin it by any means, but I've got something to tell you-to try to explain. I know the last couple months have been hard on you. You have been nothing but patient and kind to me. No don't interrupt." Holding her free hand up as she saw Kate was about to say something. "I have to say this. Anyway, it's not what you think it's been. The reason I've stayed at this place emotionally and physically with you is not because I don't want to complete our relationship-far from it. God, it's really been hard for me not to just let go with you." With those words, tears filled her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

Kate was stunned into silence, not knowing what to expect. Reaching out with her free hand, wiped the tears away. "It's OK sweetheart, whatever it is we'll work it out. I promise-don't cry. It just tears me up inside to see you like this."

Now the comforter was sounding like she would need comforting as her voice started to shake-she was scared now. What could it be that would make her companion act like this?

Sam smiled a little. "It's not a bad thing really. It's just that as wonderful as it's been between us, I just know in my heart that if we ever finish what we start....I'll..uh ..never be able to let you go. It will be my commitment to you. I won't be able to keep flying back and forth anymore. It would just be too hard--and it's near impossible now. Every trip is wonderful, and I love being with you. But everytime I leave, I leave a little piece of me here. So I've been waiting till we would both be really ready to make that kind of decision. I trust you with my life, my heart and everything else of me. I've...never given myself to anyone and you will have that too. Do you understand what I mean? Did I explain it good enough for you?" She looked almost scared as she met the blue eyes staring at her, waiting for her reaction, holding her breath unconsciously.

Of all the reasons that Kate had thought of why Sam had never gone beyond this point, this certainly wasn't one of them! True, she had initiated and very actively participated in their 'heavy breathing sessions', and seemed as reluctant has herself to stop. But stopping because she loved her so much was a revelation. The taller woman had known for a while that she wanted this relationship to be a commitment, but was waiting for Sam to reach the same point. All the time she was thinking this, her partner was waiting for an answer-watching the other's face at the play of emotions passing over her. Kate finally realized she hadn't spoken and shook herself mentally and softly asked. "How long have you felt this way-about us being permanent?"

Sam looked up and thought for a moment. "I don't know-a while. All this traveling really made things clear to me, feeling like I belong here with you. My apartment is just some rooms that I stay in until I can come back here-it's not home to me. Home is here with you" Answering as honestly as she could, and still looking very serious-she was going out on a limb, so to speak in admitting

how she felt. "I've thought about all the changes it would bring to both of us. You're used to living alone, and so am I. But we seem to get along really well, as long as I keep the green eyed monster in check!" Smiling as she said it. "I already love your family as my own-excuse me-more than my own family. We have a lot of things in common with working on our stories and exercising and I could help out Dad with the bookkeeping part of the business. The idea sounds like heaven, but it also scares the Hell out of me. We'd have to figure a lot of things out to see if you want to take me on or not. But the bottom line is simply, I am not happy without you. You compliment me, complete me, and the only place that I've ever considered 'home' is what I've found here with you. Not in the house I was raised, and not in the apartment I rent."

Blue eyes crinkled with the smile on her face though her eyes were full and her voice was thick. "You ARE home when you are here. It's just not the same when you're gone. It's too big and empty and hollow without you here with me. Here I've been waiting for you to realize this, and you're already there!" Taking the smaller woman into her arms and hugged her, and then kissed her as she had wanted to for such a long time-with a passion and hunger that had been held in check, but now being able to release it. And it was returned in kind! They acted like they hadn't seen each in months instead of weeks. Both women were finally free to express their deeper feelings.

Sam finally gave in to the need for air and pushed herself back. Looking at her love whose eyes were only partially open, and a much darker shade of blue, she said thank you silently to whoever had brought them together. Then as her mood lightened she teased. "Well, this couch has seen a lot of firsts for us, but I don't think it needs this too." Laughing shakily, still trying to catch her breath, she reached over with her right hand to stroke the cheek so close to her. Only Kate flinched a little bit-it was the side of her scar, almost invisible with make-up.

"What's wrong? You're still not worried about your face with me are you?" Concern edged the voice. After all this time, she thought she had gotten her friend past this point.

The dark head lowered with shame. "Yes, it still bothers me. Some days I can't get the make-up on right since I've never needed to use it much before. Then I feel like I'm drawing attention to it instead of covering it up. I seem to be getting worse about dealing with it than better."

Sam had been wondering something for a while, but didn't feel it was her place to push it. But now that they would be true partners in life, she voiced her opinion. "If this is something that still effects you this way, why not just go to a Plastic Surgeon and have it removed? Life's too short to suffer like this. Just ask me-I know." It seemed like a logical solution.

Kate looked back up, but wouldn't make eye contact with the woman next to her as she spoke. "Because then I'm admitting I'm vain about myself and my looks. But it's not getting any better. I look around and see people with far more dramatic things that they have to live with, and I feel guilty that I feel this way. I'm sure many would trade places with me in an instant. I don't notice how a lot of people look, but feel they are looking at me. It's like I have two sets of rules-how I look at the world, and how I think the world looks at me. Somehow I've had something taken away from me-something inside."

Green eyes were very serious as she listened to everything Kate had said. "Well, then we'll have it taken care of. Those same people you talk about would also trade places with you in an instant if they could remove their problems and

disabilities. It's not a sign of vanity to want to be like you were before-you lost a bit of your identity with the accident-the woman in the mirror looks like someone else to you. Just like I shouldn't have had to live with my inside scars without trying to fix them. You have taken so many of mine away and healed me, why not let me help you take this away and heal you? I'll be with you every step of the way, just like you were for me. I love you-all parts-the perfect and the not so perfect-because it's all part of you. So please let me touch you." Reaching out again and laying her hand on the cheek. "Sometimes I need to do that to just reassure myself that you're real and not just one of my stories." Finishing this comment by using both hands on the tanned face and pulling her close for another long kiss. It felt so good to be free-free of the pain and doubts she'd lived with so long. And she would do anything to have Kate feel the same again. Maybe happy endings aren't always works of fiction, as this certainly felt real!

Kate thought about everything Sam that was telling her. Could it be that simple a problem to fix? It wasn't wrong in any way to fix something, if it was fixable? Looking at it from a different perspective made it seem like she'd been making a mountain out of molehill. Not quite that simple, but not the guilt-trip she'd been putting herself through. Her partner was right, if no one else would suffer through something that could be fixed, why should she? She should have talked this over with her a long time ago, and maybe it wouldn't have gotten so out of control in her head. With that last kiss from Sam, the lid that Kate had kept on her emotions was about ready to explode, and was just hanging on by a thread. But they still had to finish the conversation Sam had started-before they had veered off in her direction, grateful though that they did!

Looking into those beautiful green eyes she began. "Would you feel comfortable and confident enough to move here? To let your apartment go and live here permanently? It's a big step-the biggest so far. There is no question that I want you here-I do-more than I can ever tell you. If this night ends the way I think we both want it to, there's no going back to where we were. I wouldn't be able to let you go either. If you want to move in here-I'll fly back with you and help you clean everything out and close that chapter of you life with you. We'll have your furniture shipped here and put it together with mine. Do you have a lease, or are you renting month-to-month?"

"Uh, I pay month to month, but have to give 30 days notice before moving out. I don't care if it sits empty part of the month if it means moving here as soon as possible. As for furniture, I don't have a lot more than the essentials. I don't entertain so haven't stocked up on showy stuff. I always hated the things my parents would buy just for show-a sign of their social status. What about my computer business?"

Kate just grinned-it was really going to happen! "Remember your motto-have hard disk, will travel. We'll just bring in another phone line for your computer and we'll be set. I'm sure a good accountant like you can use that as some sort of tax deduction." Not being able to resist teasing her friend's practical side. "And you know that you can take over the bookkeeping for our business, especially since you're practically one of the family. Dad already mentioned that-if you can stand him looking over your shoulder for a while. He's been wanting to retire, but didn't trust anyone to do it but him. I guess you passed his test." Then she got another idea. "How about only getting one way tickets, and driving your car back ourselves? We could have the ultimate ROAD TRIP-and a little vacation. Think your Saturn can handle it?" Poking her friend in the ribs.

Sam's head was spinning at all the information. Kate made it all sound so easy-and really it was about that easy. She had no real ties to where she was, so there was nothing and no one holding her there. With a big sigh the writer realized that in her mind, the big step had already been taken. Her heart was already here, and it was just the physical move to get the rest of her here.

Smiling at the face still watching her so intently, she nodded her head. "Sounds like a plan to me. And I haven't traveled that much so driving back would be fun! Just think of all the money we'll save on air fare and telephone bills from now on!" And they both laughed--ever the accountant!

Then Kate got a serious look on her face. "But I wouldn't change one dollar I spent to talk to you and have you visit, because they helped bring us to this point." She took Sam's hand and got to her feet. "I think it's time we get some...sleep. It's been a very emotional evening for us both."

Turning off the lights they walked through the darkened room to their bedroom door where Sam stopped her. "I'm a blank sheet of paper, Kate. You're going to have to talk me through this. I don't want to mess this up with you." Her voice was a little shaky.

Pulling her into a hug, the taller woman closed her eyes for a moment before speaking carefully. "You won't be able to mess this up, sweetheart. You please me by just being here. Whenever you touch me at all, it makes my heart beat faster-and your kisses...God I could drown in them, they are so wonderful." Then she kissed those lips to prove that particular point, and then deepened it, finally letting her hands wander wherever they wanted to go, listening to the small gasp as her hands touched bare skin. They were well on their way to crossing that line before they even entered the room. Kate just slowly led her to the bed-her lips never breaking contact-traveling from lips, to cheek to throat.

Sam suddenly found herself lying on the bed with no recollection of ever moving. Then there was a candle lit and then another-just enough light to make out the form coming to join her. This was the time they'd been waiting for, building towards and walking to, in 'baby steps'. She felt Kate slip onto the bed and move to her.

Her soft voice broke the silence in the room. "I just wanted to be able to see you. You'll never know how much this means to me-I've told you how much I love you, and now I can show you. So you'll never have any doubts left. We belong together-and this is just the start."

The smaller woman just reached out and pulled Kate onto her, speaking in a voice much deeper than usual. "You talk too much, my love." And then effectively stopped most conversation for a long time. Except for sighs and soft moans of love and names whispered off the walls.

It was a night of discovery for both of them. For Sam, everything was new-the sensual feeling of just skin-on-skin, a kaleidoscope of emotions that Kate brought out that she never even knew existed in her. And the other woman did 'talk her through', by whispering in her ear, murmuring against her skin, and telling her over and over how wonderful she was.

For Kate, it was beyond any daydreams she had allowed herself. Her lover had so much passion in her once she let herself let go and expressed it. The lack of experience was lost amongst the tender devotion that Samantha gave with every touch and look. Making love-building on the love that was already there, they spent the night enjoying the work they had put into building this relationship-this joining of hearts and souls.

As dawn started to lighten the sky and the room, two people slept --still tangled together-in each other's arms and their legs entwined. They had peaceful and relaxed expressions on their faces, knowing that this was just the beginning for them. The first day of sharing their lives, and looking forward to every one that they would now spend together-no distance between them in any sense of the word. Their scars healed-by the love of the other.


To be continued.

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