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 infringements on their rights are intended.

Subtext disclaimer: Anyone against two consenting adult females in a loving relationship? Bye-bye. Under age? See ya later, like when you’re old enough. Illegal where you live? Sorry, but again, back out. Anyone left? WELCOME. And thank you for your time.

April, thanks for giving me the courage to try my hand at this, and to a friend who also told me not to stop after Part III.

djhw57@hotmail.com
 
 

SCARS IV

By djwood


 
 

One green eye slowly opened as the sunlight sneaked through the blinds. ‘OK, I’m really here—this isn’t a dream. I am laying half on something warm and soft—and it ain’t a body pillow!’ The eye closed again and Samantha reviewed the last twelve hours in her mind. Just last night she was unsure where their relationship would be. Would Kate be ready to consider a long-term partnership? And now later this morning, they would be making plans for her to move here permanently! A tinge of color flushed her face as she remembered the rest of the night. It was funny that she was even awake yet, as the time they had actually spent sleeping was minimal. Not being able to resist opening that eye again to see if Kate was awake, found those beautiful blue eyes staring back at her—still softened with sleep, and a look on her face that defined the word ‘priceless’. What’s that commercial: One take out pizza $20.00. One pair of earrings $100.00. Waking up next to that face, priceless. "Morning." Was said quietly-a little shy at this new level that they had entered into.

"You sure it’s morning? Maybe we’ve got a couple more hours before we have to get up." The non-pillow squeezed the other’s shoulders and placed a light kiss to Sam’s forehead. "How are you feeling this morning…any regrets?" Still not totally able to believe they were really, finally together.

"Only one." Came out quietly and seriously.

Kate swallowed hard, and her body stiffened up. What could possibly have gone wrong? It was the best and most meaningful night of her life, where she had totally given herself over to someone else. Trusting another with not only her body, but also with her heart and soul. A deep breath was needed and taken. "What is it that you regret, sweetheart?" Not sure she wanted to know, but had to ask.

"That the night has to end, and we have to leave this sanctuary and join the real world. I don’t want to let go of the magic here, that you made happen." Stroking her hand across the copper colored skin that she was lying against.

Not even aware that she had been holding her breath, Kate sighed quite audibly. "Well, that just popped out a few gray hairs, thank you very much! You had me terrified. But any magic made last night was what we made together—you as much as me. I don’t know if I told you more than a hundred times, but you are wonderful, and I love you very much." Pulling the smaller body on top of hers to hold her closer yet, and proving her point quite thoroughly.

A number of minutes later, when the blonde had a chance to speak again, looked down at her friend with a puzzled look and asked. "Terrified? How did I terrify you?" Sounding completely innocent and confused.

"When you said you had one regret, I jumped to the conclusion that I had done something wrong, or that you weren’t happy with…us." Still sounding a little shook up.

Laughter bubbled up as Sam looked at the beloved face. The face she hoped to wake up next to for the rest of her life. "If I were any happier, I’d just burst at the seams—I’d break out into song—I’d yell out the window that that Kathryn Elizabeth loves me and only me….." About to continue on, but was interrupted by a pair of soft lips.

"Mmmm—I get the picture. But I love you just as you are packaged, so don’t bust—and you can sing to me anytime, cause I love your voice—but I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate being awakened at this hour to hear that I love you—so true that it is. Maybe we can think of some other way to use up some of this excess energy that you’re feeling." Rolling the other woman onto her back, Kate began to let all 5 of her senses take over: the taste of her lover’s skin, the sound of her voice as it responded, the smell of her shampoo and soap and just her, the sight of that face with a look only for her, and the feeling of being complete when in her arms. And so the early morning passed by unnoticed, seemingly only moments instead of hours.

They were awakened again, this time by the sound of a growl—someone needed to be fed. "Oops—I guess it’s time to get up." By the blonde with an empty stomach, and a need for caffeine. So they untangled themselves from each other and the sheets reluctantly to end this time together. But it was only the first of countless ones to come. Some phrases sound so trite and saccharine, until something happens and your own life reflects it. ‘This is the first day of the rest of my life’ seemed more like a joke than anything, until it popped up in Sam’s head. "It IS the first day of a new life for me’—and she couldn’t help but spill a few tears of happiness, making sure Kate didn’t see them. Today was not a day for tears.

So they returned to the real world by getting up and dressing and making breakfast together. Together, as in Sam cooked and Kate set the table and poured juice, but it was a system that worked. If it were up to the host to provide breakfast, they would be living on protein drinks and breakfast bars! So setting the table seemed the best solution for all concerned.

As they sat down to eat, the ‘table setter’ brought up the subject of the move. "I suppose we should sit down and make a list of what we need to do to get you here permanently, huh?" Smiling at her partner because it sounded so good to her ears, and was way beyond nice to be able to say.

"Uhmm-yeh. I guess first is getting the airline tickets booked. I have the car in the airport parking lot so we don’t have to call a cab. Then I have to give notice on the apartment…." Counting things off on her fingers as she named them.

The tall body pushed back her chair, and interrupted. "Wait…wait… I better write this down." Getting up from the table and grabbing paper and pen from the counter. Sitting back down, she made a flourishing movement of the pen in hand over her head before writing. "OK boss—your secretary is ready to take dictation as long …as…you…speak…very…slowly." Looking up from the paper and wiggling her eyebrows at her partner.

A lighthearted laughter bubbled from the petite blonde. Even the drudgery of moving was going to be fun with Kate. "OK Madam secretary: #1 airline tickets, #2 give notice for apartment, #3 call for disconnection of phone and electricity in my name, #4 order the moving van to haul everything here, #5 start packing." Finishing up as she ran out of fingers, and looking across the table at the dark head bent over the paper, writing away.

"OK" The secretary said. "Got number 1. What was number 2 again?" An innocent look on her dark features as she looked up.

Green eyes widened at the comment. They’ll still be at this tomorrow at this rate! "You only got one thing written down in all this time?! Give me that!" Reaching over to grab the tablet, but only touching air.

Pulling the paper against her chest, a pout formed the ‘secretary’s’ lips. "No—Mine. I told you to talk slow." Then a grin stole across her face. "Oh, I got them all. I was just yanking your chain. Might as well have some fun while we’re doing this." Holding up the paper and showing a neatly handwritten list.

Sam just shook her head. This was definitely going to be an adventure—this moving experience, and most likely the rest of her life. My, what a lovely thought. As she was contemplating this, and staring off into space, the object of her thoughts brought up something else.

"You know, we should probably go over to the folks’ and let them in on the good news. They will probably insist on a party to celebrate another addition to the family." Speaking quietly, knowing that the ‘family thing’ was still a new concept to her friend, never really having much of one.

The green eyes widened at the comment. "Oh yeh, we gotta get over there before we do anything else. I don’t want to be on their bad side before I’m hardly on ANY side." Joking, but only half way, and looking a little apprehensive.

Kate got up from her chair and walked around the table to hug her soon to be roommate by the shoulders. "Oh sweetheart, don’t worry. They’ll be thrilled when we tell them. They’ve seen how good you are for me, and they’re glad I’ve found someone to share my life with. Besides the fact that they like you and enjoy spending time with you. It’s pretty simple—they want me to be happy—you make me happy—so they’re happy." Dropping a kiss on the blonde head. "I’ll finish getting ready and then we can decide when we want to leave."

Sam grabbed an arm to halt the other’s departure and looked up to speak. "I want you to know how much I appreciate you going back with me. I could do it by myself, but having you with me makes it a lot easier—not only work-wise, but just in general. Thank you." Finishing softly, still looking up.

The tall form knelt down by the chair, so they were eye to eye. "But that’s the point Sam, you don’t have to do anything alone again. And neither do I." Punctuating the point with a tender kiss. It was one of those moments the writer thought she’d never have of her own. And so she held the memory close to her heart, along with the person who had spoken them.

After getting ready, they drove over to Kate’s parents’ house. Getting out, a tanned hand clasped the smaller one in hers, and looked at her an eyebrow raised, silently questioning at how cold it was. Her answer was just a pair of shoulders shrugging. Best get this started so she calms down and relaxes, cause the way she’s looking, pretty soon she’ll be passing out on me! Entering through the back door, the two walked through the kitchen, and followed the sound of the voices. Both mom and dad were in the living room reading different sections of the newspaper. They looked up as the young women entered the room—Kate still holding the cold hand in hers, and Sam lagging behind.

"Hi mom—morning dad" Walking over to the couch and sitting down.

"Hi" Added the visitor quietly, being led by the connection of the other’s warm hand, and ending up next to her on the couch. Still she did not let go, as if it were a lifeline keeping her afloat. And she was usually drowning when it came to matters of ‘family’, never having learned to swim in those waters.

"Good morning darling." Then turning her attention the young woman she had kind of adopted over the months. "Good morning Sam dear, it’s so nice to see you back. How long do we get to keep you this time?" Winking at the blushing blonde.

"Uhm…" Stuttering and stammering, so the daughter took over.

Well, that’s the good news, and that’s why stopped so early to see you both. We talked last night, and I convinced her to move here permanently. Either I wore her down, or I’m growing on her, but hey, whatever works, huh?" Poking her partner in the ribs, trying to get at least a little smile, and then added. Isn’t that great?! No more finding excuses to get together." Leaving no doubt how pleased she was by the sound of her voice.

Both sets of newspapers dropped, and two heads turned to look at them. Total silence for a second, and they both jumped up and pulled Sam to her feet so they could express their happiness in hugs.

"Oh Sam, how wonderful! When is this going to happen? Soon I hope." Said mom, hugging the blonde to her again and smiling over the shoulder at her daughter, who was wearing a pretty silly grin. Then it was dad’s turn.

"Hey Sam--that’s great. It’ll be so good to have you here all the time. I worried about you being so far away from us in the city every time you left until you returned." Said dad, giving her a bear hug and lifting her off the floor, and then kissing her on the cheek. A mischievous look came over his face as he spoke again. "So you think you can put up with this one all the time? You’re a brave girl!" Laughing at the growl coming from the couch. Looking pleased with himself that his teasing had worked. "Now-now Kate, you know we love you, but you do have your moments…"

"Now dad," Admonished mom. "You know she was only a little grumpy when Samantha was gone." Turning to Sam she added. "I’ve never seen her so consistently in a good mood as when you are here, dear."

Two tan hands pushed the dark hair back from her face as she rolled her eyes at her parents. "Oh geez, you guys—don’t be telling her that! She’ll never let me forget it!" Arguing, even though she knew it was true. Life was just better when she shared it with Samantha.

During all this, the woman of the hour just stood there. Mom still had an arm casually draped around the trim waist, unconsciously holding the young woman to her. Overwhelmed by all the attention, affection and their happy response at her news, she just couldn’t take it all in. So this was what it was like to be in a family—to belong—to fit in. Wow! Tears threatened her, and she tried to push them away. But when she looked down at her companion and saw the happy grin, she couldn’t help but wipe her eyes.

Kate had never been so proud of her parents. Over the months of Sam visiting, they had known that she was becoming very special in their daughter’s life, and so accepted her without question. Now as they shared in her happiness, she again realized how lucky she was.

Questions then started like bullets from a gun. They answered them all as best they could, but let them know they were just getting started to plan, but wanted to get going as soon as possible.

"What can we do at this end, girls?" Questioned dad, wanting to make things run as smooth as possible.

"Well dad, I was thinking. I’m going to call to have another phone line brought in for Sam’s computer, as she’ll run her business from there. So when we can schedule that, if someone could be there, that would be good. And we’re going to drive her car back, so I’m sure the moving van will get here before us. Maybe you guys can unload it into the garage till we get back, and figure out where everything’s going to go. Can I leave both vehicles parked here so there will be room in the garage? But for God’s sake don’t let Robbie get his hands on the keys to Baby Girl. He’s strictly passenger material yet."

Sam looked at Kate as she named all these requests, as they seemed to go on forever. "Uh, that’s a lot to ask Kate. We can do the computer line when we get back. I don’t want to interrupt anyone’s day…" Stopping when she saw their faces.’ Uh- oh,’ she thought. ‘ What did I do now?’

Kate pulled her back down on the couch to sit next to her, taking her hand again. "We’re not asking anything too much, sweetheart. They WANT to help us get settled, OK? It makes them happy to help, and makes things a lot easier for us." Staring into the green eyes intently and then winked. "Besides, it’s best to give the boys specific things to do, than to let them think of things themselves. Who knows what they would think of? You want to see your recliner on the roof as we drive in?"

First Sam gulped as she heard her nickname of sweetheart spoken in front of the folks. Then again when she thought of what the boys could do. They were very strong with wicked senses of humor—loving to pick on Kate. So it was conceivable that she could be a tool to even some scores!

"Oh—OK. Sorry." Looking up at Kate’s folks—her surrogate parents now. "Sorry. You’ll have to give me some time to get used to all this family stuff. It’s all new to me. I’m sure this isn’t the last time I’ll goof up, but if you will have patience, I’m sure I’ll catch on sooner or later." Smiling at the people who had accepted her as a part of their own so effortlessly, and squeezing the hand holding hers. When she turned, and green eyes met blue, both sets were swimming, and at that point no one cared. Mom was wiping her eyes, and dad turned away sniffing. They all thought it was tragic that this lovely woman had the history that she did, and would love to get the other set of parents alone in a room to do some serious chewing! Kate had told them a little bit, but just enough so they would understand when Sam sometimes reacted the way she did.

"Well." The long legged woman said as she stood up and pulled the shorter one up and against her so she could slip an arm around her shoulders. "I guess this is a good time to head back home and get it all started. You do realize this means I’ll be taking some time off to help her right?"

"Sure kitten—whatever you need." Dad was quick to agree. "You hardly ever take any time off, so we can stumble around till you both get back. Sam, does this mean that we’ll be one of your clients now?" Asking, as they all walked towards the door.

Green eyes rolled. Here we go! "Yes, if you want, I’ll be happy to take over the books on the business." Winking at her partner.

Dad looked pleased at the offer. "Good. I just kept doing it cause I wanted to keep it in the family. So with you moving here, it will." Patting her on the back with his big hand.

Time to get moving, thought Kate, before we’re all passing the tissue box around! "We’ll let you know when we’ll be leaving and such as soon as we know, OK?" Hugging both parents on her way out the door.

Of course they had to hug Sam too, and say how happy they were she was moving here.

Kate claimed her hand again as they walked away, and whispered in her ear. "Get used to it, sweetheart. That’s just the way we are." Noticing that the hand was now warm.

The writer looked up and smiled. "Oh, I can get used to it. Good things are easy to get used to. And your folks are definitely good."

After returning home, Kate called the Phone Company to have a new phone line brought in that week. Then she booked their flight for the next day—luckily there were still seats available. Traveling during the week helped. They also called a moving company to order a truck and driver so it would be scheduled at Sam’s end. By afternoon, the basics were done.

So the rest of the day was spent tying up loose ends for work so that they could leave without worrying when they’d be back. Sam used Kate’s computer to get caught up on any bookwork needed to be updated and sent a new story to be posted so that was done too. Kate got all her work in order and set aside to give to dad in the morning. All that was left was to pack—really the visitor hadn’t unpacked much because she had arrived just the day before. All the other woman needed was a couple changes of clothes and her daily necessities, which wasn’t a lot. There was still the scar to cover, but with her friend to help her, and the talk they’d had the night before, it seemed a lot less prominent. Sometime during the night, part of it had healed—on the inside.

"Wanna order some Chinese tonight? Then we won’t have leftovers in the fridge while we’re gone." Asked the ever-practical accountant as she looked in the fridge. She was feeling restless and it was hard to sit still. Her whole life was turning upside down, and nothing would be the same again. It was nervous energy flowing through her and keeping her on her feet: arranging pillows, straightening covers and blankets and moving pictures.

A dark head popped out of their room and watched the activity as she answered. "Sure, Chinese is fine. The number’s posted by the phone, along with a couple other take-out places—the ones I don’t have memorized." A sheepish look on her face for a moment before looking serious. "Now you want to tell me why you can’t sit still?" Her voice turning softer as she walked into the living room to join her partner.

The shorter of the two turned and faced the other—caught. A flush slowly rose from her neck and moved up. "I don’t know—yes I do. I’m excited to get this started. I’d like to leave right now so we can begin our lives. I can’t wait to say good-bye to the airport when we drive out of there tomorrow, and not have to think about going back. No more traveling to see you--to spend time with you. Then I’m also terrified at all I’m changing—it’s not what I’m leaving behind. That’s nothing. It’s what I’m coming into." At this point Kate grabbed the pacing body and brought her down onto the couch next to her. The blonde continued a bit more slowly and calmly. "Sorry. I hope everything will go smoothly. That you won’t ever—ever regret asking me here. That I can make this work, and that I can make you happy…."

"HEY!" Interrupted the object of insecurity. Throwing both arms around petite shoulders and holding her close. "Where’s all this coming from? Of all times to be insecure, the day after our first night together shouldn’t be it. I know it’s a big step. It a big step for me too—though not as much as for you, since you’re the one moving. But you’re the logical one—do the list of pros and cons. As far as I’m concerned, the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide. Like being able to do this every day—to hold you—to talk to you without being connected to a phone."

Sam hung her head and wouldn’t look up until a hand under her chin forced her to.

"Come on sweetheart and talk to me. What’s really the problem? You still want to do this? Are you having second thoughts about uprooting yourself from everything familiar to start over, here?" Trying not to sound as nervous as she felt in asking the questions. But they had to talk these things over, even if the answers could break her heart.

A surprised look met the tan face now. "Oh yes! Always! Don’t ever doubt that! Answering quickly and confidently. Then lowering her voice as she continued, and starting to twist her hands together, until they were grasped and held between two larger ones, so she continued. "But just look at my track record—short though it is. I certainly wasn’t the apple of my parents’ eyes. And Brandon hung around only doing his parents’ bidding—not that he really wanted to be with me. I was just a means to justify an end. I want this life with you so badly, I can taste it. And it scares me how much I do—how much you mean to me—how much I love and need you. All these feelings are so overwhelming." Now she looked intently into the blue eyes, needing her to understand what she was feeling.

Kate cleared a suddenly full throat. God, what a twenty-four hour period of emotions! And if she felt like a passenger on a roller coaster, Sam must be just

a-flying. It hit her again, wondering how her partner turned out as normal as she did with the life she’d had. ‘If I ever meet those people who did this to her—who hurt her like this, I will not be responsible for my actions!’ But out loud she said. "Good. I’m glad—cause I want you here beside me more than I can tell you. So we’ll get through the next few days as best we can, OK? Just talk to me when it all gets to be too much…like I said earlier. We don’t need to go through things alone anymore." She ended the sentence by holding the smaller woman to her again, thinking that it’s just a matter of giving her time to get used to being wanted and loved.

That little talk was enough to put Sam’s concerns to rest for a while. They ordered their supper and ate it on the couch while watching a movie. Their flight left early so they made it an early night. Not that they slept right away—both wanting to, and needing to be reassured that the dream was in fact reality. And as Kate whispered in her lover’s ear in the darkness as she nibbled on a particularly delectable ear lobe. "Practice, practice, practice." Causing a happy giggle from the blonde who complied quite willingly!

Dad picked them up in the morning so there wouldn’t be a vehicle sitting at the airport, since they wouldn’t be returning by air. Despite not being a morning person, the writer was pretty awake. Of course it helped that she’d gotten a jolt of caffeine. She couldn’t wait to get her own coffee maker back home, cause it had a timer, so she would wake up to the smell of fresh brewed. Home? Bring it home? Not FROM home? She smiled to herself that she was thinking of this house as her home. Though it had seemed to welcome her from the first time she walked into the place.

"Penny for your thoughts." Commented dad to his front seat passenger as he pulled into the airport terminal.

Sam grinned at that. "Penny, huh? Hope you pay better than that! In today’s economy, a penny’s not going to buy much." Hearing a snort from the back seat where Kate had been listening.

"She got ya dad—better loosen up those purse strings or be in the dark." Laughing again at her father and his thrifty ways.

Pulling up to the curb, he turned to face both of ‘his girls’, and looking like he was hurt by their comments. "Well, now everyone out. I don’t need to take this abuse from my own family. I can get that from strangers. " Trying to sound serious, but failing at the comment and facial expression.

They had stopped at the airline doors and with that comment both women got out. Dad also got out and took their bags from the truck of the car. The ‘girls’ grabbed their bags, and hugged dad who was standing on the sidewalk to say good-bye.

Grabbing their bags they started to walk away. "Bye dad—see ya in a few days—we’ll call." Called out Kate walking backwards to still face her father.

"Yeh, bye----dad." Chorused in the adopted daughter as she joined her partner. "I’ll keep an eye on her—but keep some bail money handy just in case!" Watching as her friend almost fell down at the comment and turning too quickly to walk forward.

"HEY!!" Looking properly outraged, till she heard everyone laughing—including people who had no idea if what they heard was the truth or not! "You are like so DEAD!" She called and started chasing the comedienne into the building.

Once entering the building, they calmed down to just a laugh and poke in the ribs as with the security in an airport, you don’t make any wisecracks, unless you want to miss your flight, or have an urge to spend time in a small room! Their wait was uneventful and after they boarded the plane and got settled in their seats, turned to each other to grin. It was finally starting! The last flight they would have to take with different addresses, and it was being taken together. As the plane taxied onto the tarmac and then took off, Kate reached over and took the smaller hand in hers, with a slight squeeze, and felt the responding one.

Well, one jolt of caffeine can only last so long, and soon a blonde head nodded off to nap-land and as usual, migrated to the slightly taller shoulder. Kate shook her head. How in the world can she always know where I am when she’s sleeping? Pleased though that it worked out that way, as she loved the feel of that particular weight against her. Not as much as she loved it when ALL of Sam’s weight was on her…. Oh don’t go there—not here—not when I can’t do anything about it

While sleeping beauty got some zzzs, the dark head was lost in thought, trying to mentally work her own list of things to do so they could leave as soon as possible. It shouldn’t really take too long to pack everything up, the kitchen and electronics being the most time consuming. Sam had said she didn’t have a lot of stuff, so today they can make the necessary calls and get some boxes from the moving company and start packing. Her heartbeat accelerated thinking about not having to be apart from her partner any more. No more empty house at night. No more single setting at the dining room table. No more phone calls to stay in touch with her. Now she would be able to just reach out and actually touch her! With these things decided, the blue eyes closed and relaxed for the rest of the flight. Having to wake Sam to eat the snack, they then talked quietly until they landed.

With only carry on bags, they could just walk off the plane and to Sam’s car to head to her apartment. Kate had to tease her friend as she got into the passenger seat, asking what midget had sat there last! To which she was rewarded with a slap to her arm.

The apartment was one of several similar looking ones. They took the elevator to the 5th floor and Sam unlocked the door, stepping back to let her guest enter first, and then following in and turn on some lights. Kate looked around—it was nice and comfortable, pretty quiet in colors, but a classic decorative style. The end tables and walls were quite sparse in nik-naks and personal pictures.

"Well, here it is—pretty much like I told you." The now hostess said, and then added. "Just somewhere to live." Not sounding defensive, just a little sad.

Kate turned to Sam and addressed her comment seriously. "It’s a nice place you have here. You really have good taste in putting a room together. We’ll have to make some changes when we get everything home. Maybe exchange some stuff and buy some others together, if you’d like, so it would be ours, not yours or mine?" Making it into a question.

"That would be nice—I’d like to pick out some things with you—thanks." Said the blonde--touched that Kate would understand about moving into an already established residence. Wanting to be a part of the place, but feeling shy about saying anything about it.

"Well, I guess it’s a date then when we get back, huh?" Wiggling her dark brows at her partner then continued. "OK, let’s get started. First off—phone—need food. Then we need to get some boxes from the movers to start packing. What’s a good place that delivers?" Looking around again then, but now looking at what needed to be done.

"Uhm….well, I don’t do that kind of thing often here, not like you do anyway. But there is a deli that delivers food that’s close by." Thinking out loud.

"Sounds great. Why don’t you order while I throw our bags….where?" Looking around with both their carry-ons in her hands.

Sam pointed to the door to her room. "In there. Do you trust me to order lunch for you?" Reaching for the phone.

"Sure. You know all the things I don’t like!" Chuckling and walking away.

So the writer ordered, and after that called the moving company so she could pick up some boxes while waiting for dinner to be delivered. Leaving as soon as she hung up the phone, came back just about the same time as the food arrived, with as many flattened boxes as her Saturn would hold. After downing the sandwiches and potato salad, they started to put the boxes together and setting some in the kitchen and living room.

"I’ll take the living room and you wanna do the kitchen?" Said the electronics nut.

"Sure—at least I’ll know what all the things are in here." Teasing her friend about her lack of culinary interest.

"HEY! I resemble that remark!" Shaking her head and turning to the entertainment center, carrying an empty box. Soon all that could be heard was the sounds of cupboards being emptied and boxes being filled.

"You’ve got a nice collection of CDs Sam." Complimented the guest. "Quite a variety. It’ll be fun to put them all together."

"Yeh—I’ve never really looked at everything you’ve got. " Came the muffled response as her head was inside the cupboard reaching for the items in a far back corner. Suddenly she thought of something, and quickly backed out, knocking her head as she stood up. "Ow!" Rubbing the sore spot.

"What did you do?" Asked Kate, stopping to look up with a hand full of CDs.

"Uhm, nothing. I just uh—goofed. Why don’t you let me do that for a while and you finish up the cupboard---your—your arms are longer than mine." With a panicky expression on her face, though trying to control it.

"Sure. I can do that. But you wanna tell me what you’re stuttering about?" Looking back into the almost empty drawer. " What ya gotten hidden in here?" Joking, but interrupted.

"NOTHING! I mean, nothing but music." Jumped in a guilty voice, already moving into the room to change places.

"OK. Let’s trade then." Looking down at the CDs in her hand to put them into the box, before getting up. "What’s this?" Looking more closely at the specific CDs in her hand. Looking up, blue eyes opened wide. "DISCO? You’ve got DISCO?! Disco fever. Disco Live. Disco Dancing’s Greatest Hits. Wow." Still reading labels, not noticing at first how quiet the room was. When she looked up, she started to laugh at the expression on her friend’s face. Kind of a deer caught in the headlight look.

Not knowing what to say, she defended herself as best she could. "Uhmm—yeh, so I like disco. It also helps me with my Saturday cleaning. I don’t smoke, drink much, or hang out in bars. Disco is my only ‘vice’, besides writing." Then looking very sheepishly at her partner.

Those blue eyes just sparkled with amusement. "Sam, there’s nothing wrong with disco. I like it—love to dance to it. It’s just that disco and you—are not a match that I would have put together. Not that you’re dull or boring or anything like that" Hastening to add. "It just doesn’t match up with your accountant personality. It’s a surprise." Wiggling her eyebrows to the woman now by her side. "Think we can buy a strobe light and install it in the living room?" Trying to sound serious.

"Oh God—that’s why I didn’t tell you about this. I’m never going to live it down." Covering her face with her hands.

The rest of the afternoon was spent boxing things up, and soon they were piling up in the corners of the rooms—marked and folded—ready to go. The bathroom was done as much as they could. Tomorrow morning before the movers came, they would finish up what little that needed to be done at the last minute and pack up the computer. They had decided to take that with them, as neither of them were comfortable with the chance of it being damaged in the truck or losing anything that was stored in it, though everything was copied onto hard disk.

While finishing up the items in the entertainment center, Kate came across a couple photo albums. Thinking this would be fun, called her friend over.

"Hey look what I found! Let’s take a break and see how embarrassed you can get!" Standing up and walking over to the couch—patting a spot next to her.

Sam had looked up with her partner’s first comment, but didn’t really smile as expected. " Well, if you’re looking for the kind of funny pictures that I’ve seen of you, you’re going to be disappointed. Mother and Father weren’t big on taking informal, and on the spot kind of pictures. If there was a special holiday, or event, they called the family photographer, and he came in to ‘capture’ the moment on film. Everything nicely arranged and staged. Don’t want anything around that they couldn’t put on a wall to show off at the next dinner party." Sounding more sad than angry at her childhood. Sitting down on the couch next to Kate, she opened up the first photo album.

By now, the other woman wasn’t so sure she wanted to even look at the albums. This was supposed to be a fun and happy time for the two of them—starting a new life together. Not looking back at unpleasant memories. "Hey sweetheart, if you don’t want to look at these, that’s OK. I just keep forgetting how different our lives have been. I’m sorry—I spoke without thinking." Laying her hand on top of the smaller one holding the albums.

"No that’s all right. Like you told me—you shouldn’t have to think before talking to me. Besides, there’s nothing so bad in them—just kind of blah, compared to the ones I’ve seen at your house and at the folks’." Then trying to lighten up the atmosphere added. "Besides, you can still see that a cute kid I was—such an angelic face—just like the one I have now." Turning to look at her partner with as sweet a look as she could muster---while crossing her eyes. Causing the other occupant of the couch to burst out laughing.

Kate put her arms around her partner and pulled her onto her lap. Leaning back against the couch then tapped the photo albums. "OK. Let’s see what this wonderful woman of mine looked like before I was lucky enough to find her." Making a joke of the situation, but also letting Sam know how they were in this together—whatever ‘it’ turned out to be.

Snuggling against her favorite shoulder, the blonde opened up the top photo album. She wasn’t exaggerating at all. The two albums were completely filled with professionally taken photos: seated around the dinner table for a holiday feast, sitting on a couch in the formal living room—everyone arranged to their best angle, outside the house in the snow for a Christmas Greeting. Even the snow was nicely arranged—all smooth and clean—no lumps or dirt showing.

With every page turn, Kate wanted to shake her head—how can these even be memories—they all looked the same from year to year. If it wasn’t for the aging of the only child in the photos, she wouldn’t be able to figure out what year was what. But that’s not what she said. "Wow—they are nice and clear—and everyone actually gets in the picture. Before dad got a camera with a timer on it, it always looked like mom was raising us by herself, as he took the pictures! And you’re right sweetheart; you were an angel, just like now. Though I do like this one where you’re missing your front teeth." Rubbing the other’s back in a comforting motion.

Oh yeh, I remember that one. Boy, was father mad at me for smiling that year. Said that I ruined the whole holiday—how was he going to able to hang a picture on the wall where I looked like that. But he changed his tune when people came to the holiday parties and commented how cute I looked with my front teeth missing. Then it was all his idea." Reaching out to touch her younger face with an index finger.

Well, that was the last straw for Kate. Snapping the albums shut, she tossed them aside. "The pictures we take together are going to be as totally opposite to those as they can get. With me behind the camera, some will be burred, some will have your head cut off, and I sometimes don’t know what I took it of, or why." Then smiling and raising an eyebrow added softly. "And I do have an instamatic camera, so I don’t have to take them anywhere to get developed—those will be the most fun of all. Just so you’re forewarned."

The cloud that had been hanging over them fled with all the love and laughter that the taller woman had put into her little speech. The green eyes changed from somber to shining in a matter of moments. "Oh my love, I have no doubt what so ever that life with you will be as far removed from my childhood as humanly conceivable." Losing her hands in the dark tresses, she met her partner half way for their lips to meet and to be slowly lowered to the couch cushion, where they extended their ‘break’ for while longer than expected. The photo albums slid to the floor, no longer of any importance or consequence.

Sam insisted on taking Kate out to eat for supper—no place fancy, but it a nice menu; anything from steaks, to seafood, to salads. It was good to relax after the long day they’d put in. Enjoying the food and each other’s company, they sat around for a while after eating with a glass of wine. When they finished, they pushed themselves slowly out of their chairs to leave. The day’s physical activities were making themselves known in their muscles. And the wine had made them feel relaxed and tired. Time to go back to the apartment and rest up for the next day. A day they were both looking forward to—driving out of the city and into their future together. Both were smiling as they stood up from their table, wishing they could take the other’s hand as they left. But just being together was enough for now, and they could hold hands driving all the way back, and all night long if they wanted to. As they were walking out of the dining room, laughing about something, Sam’s face suddenly lost all its color as she looked ahead of her.

Kate saw the change and instinct made her place a hand at the small of the other’s back and step forward so they were side by side, though not knowing why. But it couldn’t be anything good, feeling the tension in the back she touched, and a slight trembling. She looked around to see what could have done this to her partner.

Sam couldn’t believe her eyes—her last night in this town, and she had to run into him. Not in three years had their paths crossed, except for tonight. She knew he had spotted her. Now would he have a little tact and ignore her? Nah, here he comes. Taking a quiet breath she waited for the confrontation, and she wasn’t disappointed in her assumption.

The tall blonde man walked right up in front of the writer, blocking her way to leave. With a very insincere smile he greeted her. "Well, well. If it isn’t little Samantha. Long time no see." With his usual arrogant voice and look—the snob!

How had she missed seeing what a jerk he was while they dated? Had he always talked like that to people? Had she been that lonely, as to not notice his lack of personality, or had he changed that much in three years? "Hello Brandon." Greeting him quietly. "Excuse us, we are on our way out." Continuing to try to walk past him, but no such luck at getting away.

"Hey—wait up there ice maiden." Using the same tone of voice he had used that night in her apartment with his little speech before he had left. Looking her up and down, and then at her companion, continued. "Still haven’t found anyone to melt that frigid little body of yours?" Laughing at what he considered a smart comment, and making the mistake of grabbing her arm as she tried to pass by.

Two things happened almost symotaniously. Kate growled and went to step forward; almost happy they had met so she could get rid of some of the anger she felt towards him. But before she could take that step forward, Samantha took charge.

Shrugging her arm free of his grip, green eyes blazed. "Don’t you DARE touch me." Her voice intense with so much suppressed anger and pain, that Kate hardly recognized it. Stepping up closer to him she let her voice rise with emotion and volume. "You gave up that right three years ago, thank God. It was the best decision I ever made, kicking you out of my life that night. And as for saying that I don’t know how to feel? FEEL THIS!" Reaching back, she slapped him across his face—knocking the smart look right off it!

Now, as to who was more shocked at the verbal and physical outburst would have been a three-way tie: Samantha, Brandon or Kate--each for totally different reasons. The little blonde hadn’t realized until that very moment just how much anger she still held inside about him, though not thinking he was right any more. Someone else had proven his theory very wrong. And Brandon had no idea that the little mouse-like girl he’d taken out was capable of standing up for herself like that--or was strong enough to actually hurt him. Then there was Kate, who was amazed that her lover would be able to handle running into him again with such mental confidence and strength—and not to turn into the girl he had hurt before upon running into him. She had definitely grown beyond his reach.

Her companion gaped for a second and then smiled. ‘Way to go, sweetheart’, she wanted to yell and do a little dance. ‘You stood up for yourself, and exorcised a demon from your past, all on your own, bravo!' Keeping her physical contact with the other’s back—now slowly rubbing her thumb up and down in comfort and support.

So the woman who had lived an invisible life for all this time, and went about her way quietly as to not attract attention, spent her last night in town the center of attention, as the whole restaurant watched the exchange. Those who had heard the man’s comments smiled as he got his come-uppence for talking like that to the woman. The other patrons were just enjoying the show. After bringing her arm back to her side, she gave him a look that should have made him shrink to about an inch high. Then she turned to the taller woman next to her and asked in a very controlled voice. "Ready?" Not really looking back or waiting for a response, but just walking out, as all she could see was red.

Watching a perfect handprint appear on the suddenly quiet man’s face, Kate gave him a look of total disgust and followed her lover out of the door. She had thought about adding a matching one on the other side, but refrained, knowing that it would have been anti-climactic—very enjoyable, but not worth the effort. Besides, Sam deserved to have this shining moment all to herself. Exiting the building and looking up the street towards where they had parked, she saw a familiar form leaning against the building shaking a hand up and down. Hurrying to her friend’s side, asked the question uppermost in her mind. "Are you OK? Is your hand OK?" Concern filling her voice, but hesitant to reach out to that hand to look closer. She still looked pretty wound up and didn’t want to surprise her and end up on the receiving end of reaction, so gave her some space.

Closing her eyes for a second, Samantha took a deep steadying breath. "OK? I haven’t felt this OK since…since…" Then smiling. "Since waking up next to you this morning. And this morning doesn’t even count on the same Richter

scale as that…that jerk in there." Pushing off from the building, she reached out with her good hand to Kate, oblivious to anyone that might be around, and started walking down the sidewalk toward the parked vehicle. Speaking quietly as they walked, Sam said. "You know, I don’t condone physical violence, thinking there should be a better way to resolve things. But…damn, that felt good!" Sounding surprised at her own reaction. Dropping the larger hand as they reached her car, unlocked it for them. Once inside she leaned back in her seat, and apologized. "Sorry you had to see that, but something just snapped when he touched me."

Turning in her seat Kate searched the still pale face. "Sorry? I would have paid big bucks to see him fall on his spoiled little……butt. He looked and sounded so conceited, that I wanted to punch his face just because, besides the fact that he hurt you. But I also wanted to hug him and say ‘thank you—because of your stupidity, she’s mine now. And there’s not a cold part on her anywhere’!" Whispering loudly, as she would have said it to him, causing the driver to smile and blush at the intimate comment. "I was right when I called him an idiot for what he did then, and he’s still an idiot. Some people never change with the passing of time except to get worse. I think you did just what you had to do for a sense of closure. Now let’s get back and put some ice on that hand. I don’t intend on doing ALL the work tomorrow." Finishing her pep talk with a teasing tone to her voice.

So with a hug from the passenger, and a tan hand resting on her shoulder, Sam drove back to her apartment. They relaxed on the couch, with some crushed ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a wash cloth on the injured hand. With the power she put behind it, had she used a fist, it probably would have broken both his jaw and her hand!

Using an innocent inflection. "I suppose it would be in bad taste to start calling you slugger, huh?" Questioned the owner of the long legs that were stretched out on the couch, her dark head resting on the other’s lap—their usual position for the evening.

Flicking the other’s nose, Sam replied. "Yes, that would be in bad taste. Besides, I like your other names for me a lot better."

Smiling at the answer replied in a softer tone. "Speaking of which, let’s get some sleep, sweetheart." Getting up and pulling the petite form up by her good hand and then enclosing her into a hug commented. "I’m very proud of you, besides being just crazy about you." Kissing her forehead.

Snuggling against the warm body holding her, the host answered. "Thank you, my love. Thank you for letting me handle this myself. Thank you for being here with me….and thank you most of all for loving me." The last words a little thick coming out.

Pushing the smaller form away, and holding her by the shoulders so she could look into the green eyes said with a voice full of love. "Oh Samantha—loving you is the easiest thing in the world to do." And with that wrapped her arm around her lover and they went turned, walking slowly into the bedroom and got ready to sleep. It seemed strange for Kate to be laying in this unfamiliar bed, and for the hostess it was strange to have someone there with her—a nice strange, though! They got comfortable with a blonde head claiming her place on the shoulder of her partner. Although physically tired from their long day, and emotional drained from the experience in the restaurant, the adrenaline was still racing in them both, making sleep impossible.

Quietly, the voice on the shoulder said. "You asleep yet?" Whispering in case her partner had drifted off. Not wanting to wake her up.

"Nope. I can’t seem to close my eyes. I’m tired, but every time I try to go to sleep, they keep opening on me. You got any sheep for me to count, or did we pack them up already?" Trying to sound serious, but failing as small hands found an especially ticklish spot.

Moving over from the broad shoulder, to lay half on top of her partner, so they were face to face, Sam suggested in a deeper voice. "Well, if neither one of us can sleep, I suppose we could try out these bedsprings. See if they work as well as yours do." Lightly kissing the full lips below her.

Blue eyes darkened as the suggestion sunk in. "Why Miss Samantha!" Using a very fake, thick southern drawl. "I do believe you’re trying to seduce little ‘ol me." Using her hand to fan her face. Then returning to her normal tone "And you know I never turn down an invitation—or a chance at loving you. Are you sure your hand is OK?" Trying to be the practical one for a change, but having a really hard time concentrating as those wandering lips had left hers, and were roaming down around her throat to her ears and back again.

Not taking the time to leave her explorations, ‘slugger’ answered the question while continuing to travel. "Hand? What hand? I don’t feel a thing—there. Now other places…" Ending that conversation, and all others for quite a long time.

The moving van was to arrive at 10:00AM, so the two women got up, ate and then finished packing what they had needed that morning. Then they emptied out the fridge, wiped it and the cupboards off, and by 10:00 that was all done. The truck arrived, and two men came in and choreographed the move—what would leave first, and how to best make the room in the truck count. They brought with them more boxes—tall wardrobe boxes so the women could fill them with the hanging clothes, and stay one step ahead of them.

By noon the apartment echoed with their voices, and Sam made one more sweep through each room to make sure nothing was left behind. Giving the OK sign, the truckers left the apartment, and drove off, and started on their way to Kate’s. The only things left were what they were taking with them: the computer, a traveling box full of CDs and their luggage. Always thinking of savings, Sam had tried to talk Kate into filling a cooler with food and drinks for economy, but was turned down by laughter.

"No—this is a mini vacation—our first. We’re going to enjoy ourselves and relax: no schedules to keep, no time frame when we have to be home, no certain place to be." Looking very happy with the idea.

"Oh—I don’t know if I know how to do that." Said the accountant, looking doubtful, never having done anything like that before. She was a planner, which made her such a good accountant.

"Well, if you start to shake from organizational withdrawal, we’ll look at your map, OK?" Shaking the dark head at the thought, knowing they probably would be doing that very thing, long before the day was over!

"You are too kind." Came the reply, and looking down at her computerized map, highlighting the best route to get from point A to point B, holding it with her sore hand. The ice had helped it, but it was still a little painful. Apparently she had put all three years into that single swing! Smiling a little and flexing her hand, she started to walk towards the door where their things were stacked. "Well, let’s get this stuff loaded, then we can get started ourselves, hmm?" Grabbing one bag and walking out the door to the elevator with Kate right behind her, carrying part of the computer to store away safely. In half an hour, it was all finished.

Walking slowly, the renter went from room to room—her residence for the past four years. Kate let her make this last round by herself, sensing she needed some time alone to say goodbye to this part of her life. As the writer left each room, she shut off a light, mentally closing the past with it, then joined her friend at the door, smiling up into the face of her future. "OK, let’s go."

They walked out and she locked the door for the last time, dropping the keys off to the manager’s office.

Kate waited for her at the car’s passenger side. Seeing the blonde walk towards her, her breath caught at the sight. What a beautiful woman—and to have her in her life. Shaking her head at the wonder of it. She was so lucky to have found her—a million in one chance. No lottery could have made her life as rich as it was at this very moment.

They got in the car together, buckled up, and Sam started the engine, turning towards her life partner, and gave her a silly smile—meeting a goofy grin from the other side of the vehicle. Together they yelled as they pulled away into traffic: "ROAD TRIP!"

Continued



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