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? Bye-bye. Underage? 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.

Thank you M and JJ for the continued support.

Any comments may be sent to djhw57@hotmail.com




By djwood


It seemed like the leftovers from Thanksgiving were hardly eaten and Kate was talking about getting a Christmas tree.

"But Kate, it's hardly December yet. Won't it be dead by Christmas? Sam asked truly confused.

"Nah...this is when we always get our trees. When would you get yours?" Right away realizing her mistake of asking about family matters, so quickly amending it. "I mean when did you get your own tree at your apartment?"

The blonde head drooped a bit. "I...ah...never bought one. Christmas was a rough holiday for me to get through. You can imagine how 'warm' my family holiday was. I really had no one to buy for that wasn't an obligation, and didn't have anyone to share it with, so I just wrote a lot more, and worked a few more hours."

The blue eyes filled at the years of pain her partner had lived through, and was determined to change that...starting this year! "I'm sorry sweetheart...but be prepared, there is nothing sedate about our family Christmases."

That brought about a smile to the petite face. "Kate--sedate doesn't describe your family on any day! And I think it's wonderful. So how do we go about getting a tree? I assume there is some tradition with it." Smiling more at the child-like look that came over the tanned face.

"Well." Taking the small hand in hers and pulling her to the couch and putting the smaller woman in the crux of her shoulder. "Let's see. We usually go as a family and everyone picks out their own tree and stacks them all in dad's big truck for delivery. Then at the next family supper we all decorate mom and dad's. We each have our own ornament with our name on it, and we put those on last...when the rest of the tree is finished. And then the youngest member puts the angel on the top. So we have a family tree at mom's, but also a tree at our own home, and our own traditions we make for ourselves."

A far away look danced in the green eyes as she inhaled all this information. It sounded more like a storybook than real life. Families really existed that did this? Wow. "That sounds really wonderful, love. And when is the mass tree purchasing day? And does everyone come with?" The question asked, but a larger one left unasked.

The long arm squeezed the smaller woman closer to her. So many hurts and insecurities to heal. "Of course everyone comes...Dad drives the truck with mom, and we all follow. We go to the same tree farm every year...then we spread out trying to find the perfect tree before anyone else does!"

A soft laugh came from the writer. "You guys competitive? How unusual!" The teasing note back in her voice.

"I'll ignore that...and this year we'll get the best one out there cause I'll have you with me. I've never had someone with me before." The voice getting soft.

"I can't wait to do this with you and your family." Sam sighed.

"Our family."

"Hmmm...Is there anything we can do to start our own traditions? Things you've wanted to do but never did?" Not being able imagine anything more than that!

"Sure...I've stayed at mom and dad's on Christmas Eve cause there was nothing and no one to come home to, and I didn't mind it as I've never had someone...and we usually get together Christmas Day to open gifts and a big dinner. But to have you here...I want to sit in our home in front of our own tree with the lights on and maybe open up our gifts...our own time. Sound good to you?" Kissing the forehead next to her.

"Sounds wonderful...I can't wait." Leaning closer and wrapping an arm across the trim waist.

"How about you? Anything you've always wanted? You're the writer with the imagination!" Wanting to add her dreams too, but wanting to ask without hurting her. After all this should be a happy talk, not sad or full of regrets.

"You know me...I always have dreams." Smiling...then looking out into space. "Being with you and the family, will take care of a lot of them. Belonging somewhere is a dream come true. But maybe picking up a dated ornament each year that has something we've shared or had happen to us during the year. How about Christmas shopping?" Intrigued with family traditions.

"Oh yeah...we draw names for adults and buy for the little kids. And we usually all get together to buy mom and dad something. We do that the night we put the trees up. We can get things from both of us this year...if you want." Sounding hopeful. It was going to be just unreal to have Sam to share this with!

Usually so confident and upbeat, it was always a surprise to hear any hesitation or question or sadness in her friend's voice. So she laced their fingers together and kissed the larger one's hand. "That sounds great to me...not only to be a part of all this...but even more so to be able to share the holidays...and every other day with you. You're the best gift I could ever wish for, and never thought I would have."

Kate cleared her throat. "Same here sweetheart...my life and heart are so full with you, that I can hardly believe that it's happened." Then she smiled. "Guess it paid off to leave some big bucks with the milk and cookies for Santa last year. Pushed me right off the naughty list to the top of the nice one!" Both of them laughing.

Sam was not too sure her roommate wouldn't actually try it! "Personally, I like you on the naughty list." Whispered the smaller woman to her lover.

"Samantha May! Don't say that now! You know Santa's elves are everywhere and hear and see everything...don't blow my cover...I just got them hoodwinked!" All serious in her look and tone of voice.

It was this ability to enjoy life and make life enjoyable that the writer thought was one of her most endearing qualities. So she played along with the game. "Oh, excuse me----angel." Speaking in a loud theatrical whisper.

"You can talk like that cause you're on the 'permanent' nice list. I had to work my way up."

"So your mom says." Enjoying this playful teasing.

Blue eyes rolled at the mention of her mother. "Oh no...don't start that again!" Knowing that it was another season for her mom to 'remember' past holidays of her eldest child's youth.

"Well, when do we go tree shopping?" Changing the subject to safer territory.

The blue eyes rolled again. "Geez...you don't shop for a tree...you hunt and listen for the one that calls your out to you. And the hunt is this Saturday. So get your long johns out. It takes a while sometimes. I'm gonna be real picky this year to find a perfect tree, as I did finding my best friend and partner." Gathering the blonde into her arms even closer and indulging in a 'preseason' kiss. Gotta practice for when the mistletoe is put up!

"Thank you my love...and I'm sure whatever you find will be wonderful. I don't even know what to look for...I mean listen and hunt for." Amending her comment just in the nick of time!

"I'll explain Saturday...it's not that hard."

Yeah sure! Not that hard?! When Saturday arrived and the vehicle caravan had reached its destination, Sam found out that Kate wasn't kidding when she said she wanted a perfect tree.

"Don't like the shape."

"The trunk is crooked."

"Double top."

"Tilts to one side."

"Got a hole in the branches."

"Too tall."

"Too short."

But by the look of the rest of the family, finding a tree was a serious business. No one else was sawing yet either. Then all of sudden, Sam heard her name being called. "Sam...over here...and hurry!"

Which brought the smaller woman running to the sound of her friend's voice.

"Here it is...what do you think?" Doing a Vanna imitation at the tree next to her.

"It's beautiful...but you sure we didn't look at that one before?" Beginning to think that all fir trees were looking a like.

"No...we haven't been over to this section...no one has! Do you like it?" Dark eyebrows lifted in excitement, even as the dark pony tale tilted left and right, still looking for any flaws...and finding none...passing the Kate Inspection.

The blonde smiled at the tree and her friend. "Yes I do...it will look perfect in the living room. Hurry and cut it down before Jack comes over...you know I noticed he's been keeping close tabs on where you are."

"Yeah...he's stolen some of my best finds. While I would go look for a saw...he's sawing. By the time I get back----. But not this year! Bought my own saw last week." Wiggling her eyebrows in amusement.

"Ah yes...that Christmas spirit of all fair in love, war and Christmas tree stealing." Giggling. Then giggling more watching the tall form crawl on her stomach under the perfect tree to get the saw and herself to the trunk.

"Now...hang onto the tree truck while I cut it down.' Came the muffled order.

"OK...but I'd rather enjoy the scenery...those jeans look really nice from here...the long johns making them snug in all the right places." Whistling.

"Sam!" The lumberjack could feel her face blushing at the comment.

"Can't help it...you've got it...you're flaunting it...and I can't help but admiring!"

Ignoring the remarks Kate continued. "Just hang onto the tree. I gotta cut it straight so it will sit in the tree stand right."

"OK...got it." Reaching in past the prickly needles to grasp the trunk. And then the sawing began. But the tree was heavier than the petite woman thought and when Kate finished cutting it down, it started to tip, and Sam couldn't hold it up...it fell right on top of the wood cutter!

"UMPH! HEY! Remember me...down here? Get this thing off me!"

But the sight of it all was too much for the usually serious accountant...a Christmas tree with legs! First came the giggles, and then the laughter...bending over with the strength of them. She saw the tree move as Kate struggled to get out from underneath it. The tears rolled down her face, and she dropped to her knees...just howling at the absurdity of it all. "Oh Gosh...I can just see the headlines now...'WOMAN ATTACKED BY ROGUE CHRISTMAS TREE...FILM AT 11:00'." And then laughing some more.

Though muffled...the voice amidst the branches was not as amused. "OK smarty...just help get this off me, and be careful not to break any branches." Totally helpless as she was still on her stomach, couldn't even make a face to show her indignation. But even if was at her own expense; it was really good see Samantha enjoying herself so much.

So the blonde gently pulled the tree off her friend and Kate got up, stretching her back and shoulders. Just as she was brushing the last of the snow off, Jack came up to them, looking at the felled tree.

Kate smiled at her younger brother. "Sorry Jackie...not this year. It's ours...keep looking."

And the two women dragged their prize to pay for it and tagged it with their names and lifted it into the truck bed. Then they found mom and dad to help them. Sam noticed that her friend wasn't quite as picky about this one, and it made her smile inside that her partner was so choosy about their first tree together. But they did help the folks find a beautiful tree for the home place living room, and Kate did check it out for any major flaws.

It was the kind of day that Sam wanted to sit back and watch...the camaraderie of the family as they packed the truck with their prized finds, and then making the rounds dropping off each one. They had volunteered to go with the folks and set their tree up and did so before going back home to their own.

"Let's just leave it in the garage while we move things around and get the decorations and stand out." Suggested the experienced tree-setter-upper.

"OK...where's the stuff? Downstairs?" Asked the blonde already heading for the basement door. She couldn't wait to get the tree up and start decorating it, and then sit back and turn the lights off and just enjoy. But she also wanted to savor every moment of every step...her first real Christmas.

Kate was busy moving furniture and shifting things around so the tree would fit in front of the living room window to 'share' its perfection with those not so lucky!

"Yeah...downstairs. The shelves to the right as you reach the bottom of the steps. Three boxes." Picking up an end table to store in the spare bedroom for the next few weeks.

"Three boxes?" Called out Sam, surprised. What all is there for three boxes?

"Yes...three boxes. One for outdoor lights and decorations, one for the tree lights and decorations, and the third full of other Christmas decorations for around the house. See? Organized! HUH!" Sounding very pleased with herself.

"Oh...I'm impressed!" Came the reply as the writer made her way down the stairs to retrieve the boxes of decorations. Her three trips took the same amount of time for the furniture to be moved.

"There..." Digging through the 'outside' box. "Let's get the tree stand out and bring the tree in."

"Kate?" Asked with a puzzled look.

"Hmmm?" The dark head still in the card board box.

"Why would the tree stand be in the outside box? It's an inside thing."

"Cause it's too heavy to be in the inside box...it would break ornaments."

"Organized, huh?" Smiling at the illogical logic.

"Never mind...I know what I mean." Sounding a bit sheepish at being caught after patting herself on the back a bit prematurely.

"OK...sure whatever you say." Teasing her friend. "Anyway...did you find it?"

"Yep." Pulling it out of the box and setting it up on the carpet. "OK...here's the plan. We'll bring it in...and set it in the stand, and I'll crawl underneath and lock it into place. PLEASE hold onto it this time?" Shaking a finger at her partner. "Or maybe YOU should crawl under there and I'll hold the tree."

"I can do that as long as you promise not to do anything on purpose...like you did with the shower water."

An ear to ear grin broke out on the dark features and made the blue eyes sparkle. "Oh yeah...the water race...that was fun. Love that towel." Snickering.

"Kate!" Spoken through clenched teeth.

"OK...I promise. I'll just stand here, holding the tree and reminisce while you're

working." Looking over the petite woman to the ceiling.

Green eyes rolled and a blonde head shook in disbelief. "OK then...let's go get it," Leading the way to the garage.

So the tree was pulled in on an old sheet to help with any loose needles. The stand was centered to the window and Kate lifted it into the holder. Then Sam crawled underneath to tighten it. True to the new holder's promise...no falling...no trippage. But the whistling of the strippers' song, was slightly annoying!

Standing back to admire the tree they tilted their heads left and right to make sure it was straight. So far...so good.

"OK." Bright green eyes sparkled. "What next?"

Again opening her mouth to ask a question of her partner's past, Kate again closed it. Best not go that route. "First layer is the lights. My least favorite. When I put them on I would unravel the ball of wire and be mad at myself for not being more careful the year before when putting it away, and promising that this year will be different. But then when I take the tree down, I'm usually just wanting to be done with the whole thing, and just ball it up again." Smiling sheepishly. And true to her description, on top of the 'inside' box was a jumbled ball of green plastic wire lights.

"Oooo Kate." Wrinkling her nose at the sight. "That looks nasty."

"It looks worse than it is...kinda." Trying to find the end to start unraveling the glob. Slowly, by tugging and pulling, the lights went from a ball to a single strand lying on the carpet. "There...see?" Looking proud.

"Yeah, and it only took 20 minutes." The blonde said shaking her head. "Now what's next?"

"Next I tie you up with them and have my way with you." Walking towards her friend holding the end of the lights...smiling evilly.

"Later on, my love...later. Let's get this going." Sounding like a little kid. And in a way she was...this was all new to her and the excitement showed in every look and movement.

Blue eyes again were torn between happiness and sadness of all her partner had missed. But she was glad that she was getting to show her. "Plug the lights in to make sure they work, and then we wind them around the tree...bottom to top...and then connect the star to that later. Be careful though...the needles will poke you." Warned the voice of experience.

Together they strung the lights around...doing the squint test. Sam at first thought she was just being set up for a joke, until Kate pulled her back about 6 feet and made her do it The gaps in the lights actually showed up! Adjustments were made till it was even all over. Next the ornaments came out...each one protected with boxes or tissue paper, and Sam had questions for each one they placed...large ones on the lower branches and small delicate ones to the top. The writer laughed when she pulled out a miniature black mustang convertible...a baby Baby Girl! It took into evening to do it and the dark haired woman to tell all the stories of which bulbs were gifts and some of the past Christmases...like the year the tree fell over, but amazingly no ornaments broken.

The taller woman excused herself for a second, for a 'bathroom' run, but snuck back with the camera to surprise Sam as she was carefully putting an ornament on.

"Oh you!" Yelping when the flash went off. "I could have dropped it! Why didn't you tell me? I would have checked my hair." Smoothing it unconsciously, a bit too late.

"Cause that's the fun of some pictures. When we get done, I'll set the timer and we can have some taken together in front of our tree...that could be a tradition...if...that sounds good to you." Hesitantly asked, but plainly hoped for.

"Anytime I can be close to you sounds good to me...you know that." Jabbing the tall shoulder. Then back to the task at hand...again zoning into Christmas mode. "Ornaments are all on."

"Almost all." Handing her a small box...wrapped. "This is a little early...but...well...just open it." Blushing slightly.

Unwrapping the small box, Sam opened her very first ornament...a pretty silver and blue ball dated '2000 Our First Christmas'. Her mouth formed an 'oh', though no sound came out, but she looked up with her face shining in happiness.

"Oh thank you." Throwing her arms around tall shoulders. "It's perfect...I love it...our first Christmas ornament to start our tradition."

"Yep...the first of many." Smiling down at the face she loved so much, sliding hands around the body pressing against hers. Then bending a bit lower, gave a tender and slow kiss...helping express what she couldn't find the words for.

And the writer, whose use of words came so naturally, was speechless and returned the kiss, deepening it, then leaning closer into the solid form, losing herself in the magic.

Finally pulling back, glazed eyes gazed at the other. "Hmmm...well...now we have a choice." Kate said...her voice deepened and roughened. "We can finish the tree now or we can finish it later...or tomorrow." Stealing another kiss as persuasion of her opinion of the situation.

"Oh...how much is left?" The blonde torn between wanting to finish what they had started, but also wanting to continue what they were starting now.

Kate realized that this first time putting up the tree was a special time for her friend, and wanted her to enjoy the whole process, so shaking her head to clear it, she smiled down at the slightly flushed face. "Not a lot...let's finish and enjoy our first tree together, hmm? Let's put the star on, and see how it looks." Walking over to a box she had set aside, opened it and brought out a golden star with multi-colored tiny lights. "Here." Handing it to Sam. "Put it on...push it down till it's solid."

"Kate...I can't reach---OH!" As she was lifted up like a child, and so set the star on top and plugged it into the other lights. Immediately they started blinking merrily. "Oh Kate look...it's lovely." Not even realizing that she had been lowered back down but still held gently.

"Yep...we have the perfect tree, and now it's the perfect Christmas tree. The only thing left is the tinsel. I love how it looks when it's done, but it's really putsy...a real trial to my patience. How about I make some pop corn and we'll throw some on." Grinning to herself...knowing the response that comment would receive.

"THROW?! Oh not...not this tree. You go make the popcorn and I'll start this. It looks so great now...all it needs is the finishing touch."

After her microwave duties were completed, Kate came back into the room and tried to help with the tinsel...tossing it...clumping it...laying on blonde hair, till they had an all out tinsel fight. Tinsel on themselves...the carpet...the couch...end tables and lamps.

"OK OK. I give up" Laughed the taller tinsel covered woman. "We've got more on us than on the tree." Laughing as she started to pick up pieces and put them up.

Now they both worked together...Kate gathering it and handing it to the blonde, who placed it on the branches almost as if each strand had a pre-arranged designated spot. Twenty minutes later it was complete...lights blinking...star flashing, and the whole tree shimmering with silver reflections.

Finding their spots on the couch, they turned off the other lights, ate their popcorn and listened to some seasonal music.

"Care to take a stroll around the dance floor?" Asked the dark haired woman to her friend as she lay with her head on the other's lap.

"Anything special?" Asked the petite blonde...standing up after her partner had risen.

"Everything is special with you in my arms. This song here is nice." Holding out her hand to take her lover into a close embrace. They moved together to the slow song of being home for Christmas...the words having special meaning to them this year. No words passed between them...none were needed. When the song ended, they continued to hold hands as they shut off the colored lights and made their way to their room, still under the spell of the season, the song and each other.

The old house of the folks was bursting at the seams with people and noise. After everyone had eaten, they were all in the living room sorting through boxes of ornaments and decorations. Kate seemed to find places for the mistletoe –and then be able to 'place' Sam underneath it for a discreet smooch. They all worked together to empty the boxes and Missy was lifted up by Aunt Kate to put the angel on top of the tree. There was only one box left. Mom opened it up and smiled at everyone.

"Come and get your ornament when I call your name." Then she unwrapped each one and read the name written on it, and the 'owner' would come forward and place it on the tree. Some of them showed age in the style and design, but all priceless to their owner. Sam sat back on the couch next to her friend and watched the tradition unfold, a sense of peace settling over her. This would be a scene she could be a part of year after year and the thought made her smile. So lost in her musing, she didn't hear her name called...certainly wasn't expecting it this year.

"Sam..." Was repeated.

And the tanned hand holding hers squeezed slightly. "Sweetheart." Whispered her partner to her.

"Hmm?" Still smiling but looking a bit confused.

"Sam...go up and get your ornament." Explained her friend.

"M-my ornament? But how...I mean...why...Oh wow." Was all she could stutter as she got up on shaky legs to get her own Christmas ball from Kate's mom. It was bright green with 'SAM' printed in gold. Seeing it brought tears to her eyes.

"We were thinking of using Samantha...but you've always been our Sam. Is that all right?" Questioned mom as she handed the ornament to the blonde who was in shock.

Nodding her answer as she was not able to speak above the lump in her throat, she walked over to the tree and looked at all the different colored one with names hanging...looking...and then finding Kate's bright red one with her name blazed across it in silver. She hooked hers on a branch close by so they were together.

And when she turned back, saw that her partner understood and appreciated the gesture.

Now that the tree was complete, everyone turned their attention back to talking about everyday things...catching up on each other's lives. The writer sat down again next to her taller friend and poked her with an elbow.

"You knew...and didn't tell me!" Not angry, but surprised and touched.

"Of course I knew...and it's a good thing too. If word hadn't gone out that mom had gotten yours...you might have ended up with 5, as everyone was planning on getting one for you." Blue eyes shining happily. Life was as good as could be

for the dark haired woman. Looking around the room at her family tonight it reminded her how lucky she was...compared to so many. Not only with Sam, but a majority of people would not have this support or acceptance. She sat back and laced her fingers with her friend, enjoying this time.

The next couple of weeks were full...Sam was over to the folks several times learning and helping with the holiday baking...another new experience for her: cookies, bars, cakes, sweets and candies. Along with keeping the accounting business caught up for the year end reports. Then there was the shopping for gifts. It was like the first time for Samantha, as with her parents she got them an addition to a miniature old time town that was on display yearly in the den so no thought was needed for that. She got a brochure in the mail showing the latest building...she filled it out and had it sent to her. Now for the members of her new family she tried to think of things they would enjoy and fit their personality. The hard part was trying to get Kate to go with her to pick them out together. She didn't feel confident to just go buy them herself without a second opinion. Even though repeatedly assured that anything she thought would be great, the blonde assumed that 'someone' was just trying to get out of walking the mall when it was so seasonably crowded.

"Come on Kate...if we go now it won't be as busy to shop." Trying again for some company.

"At this time of year it's never NOT busy at the mall." Came the grumbling reply.

"Well I didn't say it wouldn't busy...I said it wouldn't be AS busy now. I've got everything we've talked about written down and where to get them so it's in each store and back out and we shouldn't have to be gone that long." Reasoning with the person who didn't like crowds and tight places was not easy. Not defined as claustrophobic...but just liking room to breathe.

"Well…if I have to shop, might as well go with you and have some fun. I've always had to do this every year anyway...at least now I'm not alone to fight the crowds." Looking on the bright side of a usually dreaded trip. With that the tall form turned to get their coats and start the SUV to warm up.

Leave it to the account to have it all organized. Even to the point of instructing the driver where to park so they could make a circle and not backtrack! She was also right that the stores were not as packed...though still busy.

The tall woman was laden with bags and packages when they were finished, and noticed the very light load that her friend was carrying. "Hey...how did I get the job of being pack mule?" Looking pointedly at the few things in the smaller woman's arms.

"Cause you kept taking them from the sales clerks." Explaining the situation as if to a child, and then changing the subject. "Do you want to stop at the food court for some ice cream before we go?" Suggesting their favorite snack to relax before heading home.

"Chocolate chip?" Quipped the alto voice.

"Is there any other?" Laughed her partner. For which she received an elbow in the ribs. It was just as well that Kate's arms were full as they walked along. They tended to be affectionate to each other...holding hands or an arm around each other. They had that freedom at home and from Kate's family. Neither one was much for a lot of social activities, and so were not used to being on their guard of keeping their distance. They were just two people in love.

Sam left Kate at the table with the extra chair heaped with their purchases, and went in search of ice cream. Coming back with their prize, she set it down and tugged the dark ponytail. "Here you go my…friend." Stuttering over something other than what she would have normally said.

The dark head looked up with a question in her eyes at the unfamiliar term until she saw green eyes darting around the area for who ever might be within hearing distance. A sigh escaped her. "It's too bad we have to be so careful, huh?" The taller woman asked quietly as she picked up her spoon for her cold treat.

Those same green eyes widened for a second then lowered in guilt. "Sorry. I shouldn't let it bother me, but I just figured that's how we would play it in public." Wondering if she figured wrong.

Wanting to raise the face across from her to meet her eyes, but not being able to follow through her normal action of reaching out, she spoke softly. "Hey...look at me...please?" Smiling when she could see here friend's face. "I've never hidden anything about me. People can accept me as I am...good and bad together. Any more than I wear a badge. But I can understand if you want to keep things casual. Just so you know though. I've lived my whole life in this town, and those who know me well, will know about you because we live together." Keeping her friend's foot in reality.

"It's not that I'm ashamed of how I feel about you...I'm not. I just don't want to bring any attention to me. No need to ask for trouble especially when we're so happy, and at this time of year. I want to enjoy my first Christmas with you...not be upset by outside pressure. Do you understand what I mean?" Hoping fervently that she did.

Kate did understand. Her partner was always sensitive to others, like wanting to please her own parents, but always failing, and still unconsciously not doing anything that might get back to them and upset them. No matter how weak the bond...they were still her parents. Though it did sting a little, she was sure with some time, everything would straighten out. "Sure sweet...uhm, Sam I understand." Frowning as she stopped herself from her use of the usual endearment. Her appetite was gone, but had managed to get about half of her food down before pushing it way. The left portion was noticed, as it was unheard of to leave anything, so a change of subject seemed the best course of action.

"Well, did we get through the whole list today, or do you need to entice me here again with the promise of food?" Raising an eyebrow.

Sam gave a quiet sigh of relief that she hadn't done any damage with her knee-jerk reaction out in public. "Luckily for you we are all done shopping...now we start to wrap."

Leaning forward and whispering so no one would hear, even though the tables around them were empty. " All I want for Christmas is you wrapped in just a bow." Smiling as a blush raced up her lover's neck and face. But also a shy smile showed as their eyes met and held. It was going to be such a wonderful Christmas this year...they both thought to themselves.

Clearing her throat, Sam picked up her empty container and reached for the other one. "Done?"


Ignoring the now melting glob on the bottom, threw them away and came back. "OK...let's go home then, stash this in the spare room and relax. We can wrap tomorrow." She grabbed a few of the bags after putting her coat back on, and they made their way out to the SUV to go home. It had been a bittersweet day. It was their first Christmas shopping together, but tinged with the sadness at not being able to enjoy it without watching themselves.

They spent the evening on the couch with just the tree lights on, enjoying themselves.

"Ah...I like this...there's something peaceful with the room having only these lights. Kinda like having a room only lit with candles." Snuggled spooned together and unconsciously stroking the tanned hand holding her around the waist, Sam just closed her eyes.

"Yep. Are you glad we got the tree as early as we did now?" Unable to tease the other's question of getting one so far way from the actual holiday.

"OK OK...you were right. I give you points for this idea. It will be sad to have to take it down."

"We still have a good supply of candles...and I'll be more than happy to buy lot's more." Answered the long form in back and ending the offer with a kiss to the back of her partner's neck...and then turning her so they were facing each other...gazing into the face she loved so much she could find no words to express.

"Think so, huh?" Teased the blonde, reaching to caress the woman above her.

"Uh-ha. For you I will shop for candles. For you I give up my delivery food places." Grin. " For you I'd do anything and everything possible and maybe some impossible to make you happy, and safe." Ending on a serious note and in an almost whisper.

"Oh my love...we've both gone through some changes and I know you've worked hard at adjusting. I appreciate it. But having you right here...right now is all I need to be happy---you." Reaching up a little further and pulling those soft lips down to hers, in a soft kiss full of love and tenderness. "I love you." Finishing with a simple phrase, but nothing else explained it any better than those three words.

"I love you too." Repeating the words and the kiss with one of her own, and smiling down as she leaned back. "Should we go to bed and snuggle more comfortably?" Sneaking another quick kiss before Sam even had a chance to answer.

"Sounds like a plan to me. Now if we could only move the tree into our room." Laughing as Kate rolled her eyes.

"Gee...remind me next year to buy two trees."

And so they rose from the comfort of the couch to the even more comfort of their room where the earlier spell came upon them and they made love and loved each other into the night.

It was Christmas Eve...and their tree was full to overflowing underneath with gifts. They had gone a little overboard on things for each other...but that's what first Christmases were for. For the funny, serious, frivolous and sentimental gifts that they could share. Tomorrow would be a zoo with paper and bows flying fast and furious at the folks', but tonight they all gathered at the church for the Christmas Eve service of hymns. Taking up two pews, they all sat together. Jack had brought his girlfriend...which meant it was serious. The pipe organ introduced many of the traditional seasonal hymns and the choir added their 4-part harmony. Sam thought it was the best way to begin Christmas. For why else would there be the holiday in the first place? After the service, everyone went their own separate way...for their own 'family' time before packing things up tomorrow.

They had decided as long as it was too late for supper, and the next day would usually start early, that they would just have some snacks and open their gifts tonight before sharing the other gifts tomorrow. Changing into comfy night wear, they made up a tray of finger foods: sausage and cheese slices, shrimp, chips, dip and a bottle of wine.

"Well." Commented Kate, rubbing her hands together as she looked at the mound of gifts. "Where do we start?"

"Uhmm..." Started the accountant looking up with her head lowered like a cute puppy.

"You didn't!" Exclaimed the less organized half.

"Yeah I did." Turning red at the confession.

"You organized the presents by who and where, right?"

"Uh-ha. I figured instead of rummaging through them, this would be easier. If we were going to open them all, I wouldn't have." Defending her actions.

"You sure?" Teased her best friend.

"Maybe." Admitting then lightly slapping the arm next to hers. "Meanie!" Complaining good naturedly.

"HEY! I saved all the sales slips on your gifts, so be nice." Poking an elbow back and laughing. "OK...which side of the tree is ours?" Now seeing a pattern to how the gift piles were arranged when she really looked.

"The ones in front. Here I'll pull them over to us." Crawling forward and pushing the pile over to the couch where they were sitting on the carpet.

"Wow...Santa must have had an over abundance of supplies this year." Looking at the many gifts in front of them.

"Well...you did say you bribed him last year," Teased the blonde.

"Not bribed. I distinctly remember never using that word! I just left him a hefty tip." Explaining her 'actions', but now starting to look at the boxes and bags, trying to see which ones had her name on them. The big kid kicking in, which made her friend smile.

"Oh I'm sorry. Thank you for explaining the difference between a bribe and a tip." Laughing. "Well...grab a box and open it." Reaching for one herself that had caught her eye.

"WAIT!! RULES!" Kate stopped her movement to shout.

"Rules? You?" Exclaimed the reply.

"Rules for you, sweetheart. I know you! Number one: no polite taking turns. Number 2: No being careful of wrapping paper...we just dig in. And number 3: No ducking the camera."

"Oh." Said Sam...having her usual routine smashed to bits. Still for just a moment, as she thought about it, she smiled and grabbed that box she had been eyeing up...ripping the pretty wrapping paper and not saving the bow! Well---that wasn't SO hard! Then she was blinded by a flash as she grinned her accomplishment. "HEY!." Blinking against the bright light...and the blue dot now in front of her eyes no matter where she looked. "Now I have rules! The camera is kept in neutral territory where we can both use it."

"OK." That was fine with Kate. She wanted lots of impromptu pictures of them both tonight. Then she grabbed one of the boxes with her name on it.

It was not long before they were covered in wrapping paper and laughing in between ooo's and ahhh's in the treasures each found hidden; clothes, jewelry, computer accessories, CDs, videos and a few gag gifts: a pizza pan for Kate and a Disco CD for Sam's hidden collection. The CD made Sam double over and hoot at the inside joke of her 'vice'. And then they wrestled a little as Kate tried to stick bows on her partner's hair. The blue eyes pretended blindness from the camera flash and had a good time ''feeling'' her way around-...causing more giggles from her friend. At one point they lost track of their food platter amongst the mess overflowing onto the couch and end tables. Finally everything was opened and they relaxed, still on the floor leaning against each other.

"Oh Kate...that was wonderful. I've never just ripped like that before. And I love everything...thank you so much." Leaning over to give her a kiss as an extra thank you, then scooting over so they were shoulder to shoulder.

The dark turned to kiss the other's forehead. "Yeah...that was fun. I don't know when I've enjoyed myself so much at Christmas. Thank you...I love all my gifts too." Then smirking. "Especially the metal Frisbee." And getting jabbed for her retort.

"Pizza pan."

"Oh yeah...I forgot." Laughing and then sliding an arm around her partner pulling her closer. Now that the paper ripping and laughter had died down, they could hear the music playing, and relaxed a while in the quiet.

Looking over at the almost empty food platter, Kate picked it up. "Oh sweetheart...there's one shrimp left, and it looks kinda lonely." Picking it up and waving it in front of green eyes. "Better let it join all it's brothers and sisters."

"I didn't eat them ALL...well...maybe just a majority of them." The opening her mouth to receive the food. "Hmm." The last one was just as good as the first one!

"Oh look it here." Pointed out Kate. "There's one more box left unwrapped...how did we miss it?" Pulling the flat box out of all the other boxes and bags.

"Gee...I wonder...look around us...it's a disaster in here. Who's it for? I don't recognize the paper." Peeking at the label.

"It's for both of us---from Santa. He must have started his deliveries early tonight." Looking innocent.

"Kate..." Was the reply...low and with warning.

"Hmmm?" Ignoring the tone of voice. "Let's open it up." Putting it on both their laps.

"OK." Playing along for the moment. Sam ripped the paper one last time and then larger hands opened the box and pulled apart the tissue paper.

"OH..." Was all Sam could say looking inside.

"Wow." Added Kate while looking at the expression on her friend's face.

There lying in red and green tissue paper was an 8X10 photo from when they had put up the tree and then sat together in front of it. They were nestled together on the floor in each other's arms with such a look of happiness and love, there was no mistaking their feelings for each other. A special moment frozen in time for them to remember their first Christmas.

"How did you…? When…? What made you…?" Asking but not able to finish any of the questions. Her voice was thick and eyes full at this, the most precious gift she had opened tonight. "Santa's pretty smart...I'll have to give him a big---tip tonight in thanks." With a shaky smile and not taking her eyes off the picture.

"Santa, I'm sure, would appreciate anything from you sweetheart." Setting the framed photo on the end table where they could still see it, and then pulling her onto her lap...not being able to bear to be further away than that. This woman sitting here was the same one that could hardly talk to her on the telephone less than a year ago. They had come so far together...worked so hard to reach this point in their relationship. Lost in the past, she was startled when soft hands caressed her face.

"Where did you go love?" Asked Sam softly, seeing different expressions cross the beautiful face.

The tanned face looked back and she smiled. "Just remembering when we first met and talked for the first time. And here we are now. I am truly blessed."

"As am I. I'm so glad you didn't give up on me."

"As I am glad you stuck to your guns and came to see me even when I wasn't sure you should."

"I had to prove to you that it didn't matter...and it didn't." Remembering their first face-to-face trip. "The first time I held you, I didn't want to let go...and that hasn't changed at all. I love the feel of you next to me...to hold you or feel you holding me. It's just so right...it's where I belong." Resting her head on a conveniently close shoulder after trying to find a good way to turn the feelings into words.

"Yes it is...you belong here with me...just like I belong with you." Turning her head to nibble the soft skin of her partner's throat. Loving the feel of her and the taste of her.

Sam turned her head to give Kate more material to work with. Losing herself to the feelings starting to warm her, she reached into the thick dark hair that was loose tonight. Loving the texture of heavy silk in her fingers, she tugged the head back so their lips could meet again only deeper and longer, sharing and increasing this feeling. The lips responded and added fire to the heat building in her so that she needed more...more contact. Just as she was about to say something, hands slipped under her nightgown and made her first gasp and then groan in pleasure. "Oh God Kate."

That's all it took as acceptance for the nightgown to join the wrapping paper around them. The blonde tugged at the oversized T-shirt to get it off the slim body holding her, unwrapping her favorite gift.

So in front of their Christmas tree with the lights shining down on them...they added this gift of love to each other. It was as it always was and more. The bond of love holding them and bringing them closer than before. Each touch...each caress...each word whispered made the magic between them even stronger. With unhurried movements they gave and received from the other slowly building up the pleasure until it burst into even more colored lights than what was glowing from the tree.

Much later, as the clock struck midnight, the two were still in the midst of the wrapping paper and discarded boxes. Kate took the time from her favorite hobby of kissing the soft lips of her lover...her other half---to look at her with blue eyes only half-open and smile. "It's official sweetheart. Merry Christmas." Lowering her head again to taste those lips that she continuously found irresistible.

When they came up for air, Sam answered. "Merry Christmas my love." Reaching out to run a hand along soft skin.

A smirk appeared on Kate's face, and just before smaller hands found a particularly sensitive spot, started to say. "Ho….Ho……OH!"


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