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. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks to my new friends whose encouragement brings this here.

Comments may be sent to djhw57@hotmail.com



"Kate! Come here---NOW!" This was called from the office down the hall in their home.

The 'callee' raised her head from her own computer monitor and without thinking of questioning the request, took off to the source. Jogging to a stop at the doorway, blue eyes were wide with concern as she looked around the room for any obvious problems. "What's up, sweetheart?"

"Look at this!" The blonde sitting at the desk pointed to her computer screen, her voice tight.

Walking into the room, the tall woman stood behind the chair and placed her hands on the other's shoulders. "This email? OK." Scanning the words, the hands tightened on the shoulders, and then a delighted laugh burst out. "HEY! Look at that! They want to publish Maggie and Darby! WOW. Ya did it...you're gonna be in print!" Engulfing both partner and chair in a big hug. "I'm so proud of you!" Kissing her on the cheek.

Placing her smaller hands on the ones holding her, the writer leaned back against the chair to get closer. "Not me...we did it. We both know those two would never be where they are without all the work you put in it too. I may have started it, but from page one, you have helped, and it's been a joint effort. So we are getting published!"

Suddenly shy and humble, Kate just mumbled. "Nah...I didn't do much...it's your magic that put it all together. I just helped out...a word here...an idea for a funny scene there…"

"A tender conversation here and there. Face it honey, we're a writing team. So...think we should go for it? At least ask about what it all entails, if we're interested?" And the voice sounded interested all right!

"Why of course." Sounding it was an obvious answer. "But first we have to check out the company to make sure they're legit. Don't need to hand over your...I mean our story to someplace that will take advantage of us."

"Good point." Nodding her blonde head. "I've seen this name mentioned in other stories that have been published. But it won't hurt to ask a couple of the other writers about the whole thing. The voices of experience...and I have written to a few of them on how much I have enjoyed their stories. So we have 'talked' back and forth a few times."

Kneeling down so they were eye-to-eye, Kate agreed as she turned to face her friend. "Good idea. If there's been a problem...people will talk. It's more common to hear complaints than compliments, and sometimes silence is a compliment in itself. You go ahead with that." Then her excitement took over again. "I think a celebration is in order. How about we go out to eat tonight?" Taking the smaller hand in hers and kissing the back of it.

Tightening her hold on the hand holding hers Sam smiled. "Somewhere with tablecloths, you mean?" Joking at their informal life style...rarely going out at all, and then usually to places where jeans and sweatshirts are seen in abundance.

"Yes, brat. We can dress up a bit and enjoy ourselves. We haven't done that much. I feel pretty good about my face now, so we can do this more often, if you want to." Wrapping her arms loosely around Sam's waist. "I know you're not real comfortable out in public with me...and I'll understand if it's easier to get something." Trying to ease the hurt in her own voice and not cause pain to her lover, she wiggled her eyebrows. "You know, I still have some delivery places phone numbers memorized. We could visit memory lane… Umph!" Getting jabbed in the stomach.

"No--we don't need to go there tonight. And I like going out with you. I like being with you. I'm just kinda new at having a relationship…"

"With another woman in public." Finished Kate...trying to sound casual.

"Yeah...sort of. I'm sorry if I hurt you when I keep a distance between us in front of others." The apology very sincerely said--and meant.

"That's OK. You have to do what feels right to you. And I won't pressure you at all. Everyone has to deal with things in their own way...in their own time. I'll be waiting for you." Smiling sadly at her friend. It was hard not to act naturally when out, and that was one reason Kate rarely asked Sam to go anyplace where they might be noticed. Not that she'd do anything to embarrass them in public, but a hug or to take her hand for a moment didn't seem overboard to her. But that was her...not her partner. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the blonde's voice.

"You know honey." Giving a try at explaining how she felt...what went on her head...her thoughts, to help her partner understand. But it was hard, as it was action without thinking. "I've spent many years working hard at being invisible...trying not to be noticed. To just live my life in peace and blend into the background and go about my own way. So it's a big change in being with your family and having someone to share my life and love with in you. I think I would have gone through many of the same things with a man...so used to being alone. And our love is another dimension of adjustment. I had no problems in my own mind about falling in love with you. I just have to not care what goes on in the minds of others." She looked into a very serious face, and so tried to end the little speech on a lighter note. "But when I do make that last leap...and work it out up here." Pointing to her head. "So that it catches up with here." Pointing to her heart. "I'll probably embarrass you every day!" Tightening her hold on the other's waist.

Realizing more of that Sam was going through helped...some. Telling herself she had years of experience behind her, and a different personality, she was comfortable with herself no matter where she was...comfortable in her own skin. "I doubt you'll ever do that, sweetheart, but thank you for telling me all this. I know we've talked about this earlier, but now I understand a little better." Thinking a change of subject would be good, she did just that. "So do you still want to go out?" Giving her friend another chance to say no if she wanted to.

"Sure do...how about that place that has music on Friday and Saturday nights with a dance floor? Think I can get you out there with me?" Swaying from side to side against the taller woman, and enjoying the glazed look that began on her face.

"Yeah...well...maybe. I suppose you're hoping for some disco." In a teasing tone about Sam's love of the pounding beat.

That comment caused a slight blush to run up the smaller woman's neck and into her face. But it didn't leave her speechless. "If you're lucky I'll share that with you...but only if you're a good girl." Stretching up onto her tiptoes and lightly kissing those full lips.

An eyebrow rose with that. And her voice got softer and deeper with her response. "Oh, I'm always a good girl...you know that. Sometimes I'm just good-er than others!" Kissing her lover back...then laughing as green eyes rolled below her.

"Good-er...GOOD-ER!? Good God Kate! It's a 'good' thing you don't have Maggie and Darby talk like that." Laughing with her partner. The atmosphere was back to normal with their easy rapport in place.

"Well, as much as I am enjoying myself here." Kate said as she stole another kiss. "I really need to be there and finish up some stuff."

"OK...I'll stay here and you go there, and we'll meet up over there in about an hour. Give you enough time?" Biting her lower lip as now blue eyes looked at the ceiling with all the 'heres' and 'theres' flying around.

"Yep...an hour should be plenty. It's a date." Leaning down one last time and making the kiss she gave last a lot longer than the others had been.

"Oh yeah...an hour...date." Murmured Sam, as usual getting lost in her lover's touch.

A couple hours later found the two women leaving their house, dressed for a night out. Sam was in a pretty green dress that showed off her figure, but not too much. And Kate had sharply pressed chinos, a brilliant white shirt that showed off her tan and a blue vest accenting her eyes. They made a lovely couple, and the happy expressions on their faces made them even more so.

Dinner was wonderful with the quiet music playing behind them, but not loud enough so they couldn't talk to each other in soft tones. Enjoying a glass of wine after their meal, they sat back looking at each other. No matter how much Sam wanted to keep their relationship private, one look at their faces gave them away, so it was probably best she didn't realize it. Kate wanted nothing more than to reach out that small distance across the table and take the smaller hand in hers, as she normally would do. It was such a special night, she wanted to express it, but just winked at her friend instead. There would be time for them later.

In the next room, the music started to play and a blonde head first tilted to her partner and then to the other room with a question on her face.

Kate smiled at the green eyes shining at her. "Sure...why not? Wear off some of this meal." Getting up, she waited for Sam to join her, unconsciously putting her hand on the small of the other's back as they went to pay for their meal and then move into the next room. The dark haired woman didn't realize she did it, and the writer was so used to the feel of the hand there, she didn't pull away. No one looked up from their meal to watch them, and if they had, Sam would have just

assumed it was from the beauty of the woman walking behind her. Never for an instant thinking that her own would turn heads.

Finding a booth, they ordered another glass of wine, and watched the others already on the dance floor. Leaning forward to hear each other above the music, they talked and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Kate excused herself for a moment, to which the blonde assumed was for a 'restroom run', and continued to listen to the music, her toes tapping in time to the beat. So engrossed with that, she was startled when a man came up to her and asked her to dance. He was about as tall as Kate, with dark hair also, but dark eyes. It was the first time she'd had been approached with this request, and though flattered, she just shook her head. The man apparently didn't want to go back to his friends a failure, and so tried to persuade her again, placing his hand over hers on the table. Now the smile disappeared from the woman.

"I said no...and I again say no thank you. Now please leave. I'm sure there are many other women who are just waiting for you to make their night with your attentions. I am not one of them." Removing her hand.

"You heard the lady...keep moving." Came a low voice...almost a growl.

The man turned and looked into ice cold blue eyes staring at him. He had a smart remark ready to go, but when the woman raised a single eyebrow in question and dare, he decided against it, and just walked away.

Sitting back down, Kate looked at her friend to see if she had done anything wrong in defending her. It was just instinct...not that she needed any help. But it did draw a little attention to them.

The smaller woman just shook her head. "Why can't they understand such a small word as 'no'?" It's not multi-syllabled. It's the same in many different languages. A head shaking is universal in its meaning. But there are those who cannot comprehend it." Looking at her friend, she smiled. "Thanks for hurrying him on his way. Again...my knight in shining armor." Blinking her eyes in exaggerated adoration.

Even though Kate knew she was teasing, she blushed slightly at the compliment. "Glad I could help. I was hoping you wouldn't mind."

"Mind? Why should I mind? It was nice of you to speed up his departure." Looking confused at her partner's comment.

"Well I didn't want heads to turn at the discussion so we were the object of anyone's attention, that's all." Relief was in her expression and tone. Before Sam could respond to that, the DJ made an announcement. "Well...it looks like we have a request to go back in time."

Kate turned slightly to watch her lover's face at the voice in the mike. Sam noticed the movement and made eye contact...seeing the overboard look of innosence, and so closed her eyes for a second. "Tell me you didn't do something I'll regret."

"Hmm. Me?" Pointing to herself.

Again they were interrupted...or saved...depending on which side you were on. "Everyone on the dance floor...we're gonna be spelling out YMCA. A special request for a disco lover." And with that the opening strains of the song began.

"Kathryn Elizabeth! You asked them for that didn't you!"

"Well it's the only one I could think of off the top of my head, and it's a fun one for everyone. Let's go dancing queen."

"That's ABBA."

"Maybe they have that one too."

"Kate." Now it was her turn to growl.

Grabbing the smaller hand, they got up from the booth and started walking, then Kate realized she was still holding the hand and let go quickly.

Sam turned at the loss of contact before remembering what they had done.

"Sorry." The taller woman mouthed before stepping onto the dance floor.

The blonde shook her head...gotta be more careful...think more. Then she joined her friend and let the music take her away.

The dance floor quickly filled and the whole crowd joined in singing the chorus and forming the letters with their arms above their heads. Both women laughed as they looked around and then joined in. Sam had never seen Kate dance to upbeat music, but was not surprised at the grace in which she moved. Totally at ease, she was fluid and smooth as she twisted and turned.

Smiling at her friend, Kate was happy to see her enjoying herself.

And enjoy herself she did. Having never been able to sit still when disco music played, she twirled and laughed and circled her lover.

Now the DJ was no dummy. If this music filled the dance floor, then that's what he would play! So he scrambled through his collection and stacked the cd player with more of the same.

As YMCA faded, Sam turned to walk away, but then heard the beginning of "Hot Love" by Donna Summer. The blonde head snapped back and looked beseechingly at her partner.

Kate laughed at the puppy dog look she was given. Not saying anything, she just turned back and they danced as long as the music kept them busy...which was a long time. Then the lights dimmed and a slow song started. By impulse, they moved towards each other for an instant before reality hit them. Then both of them walked back to their table, a flush to their faces at what they almost had done.

As they settled in, Kate tried to smooth things over. "Boy...I requested one song, and it turned into a whole set!" Wiping her face. "Did you have fun?" Asking an obvious question.

Sam laughed at the question...not have fun with that music pounding? "Yeah I did...that was a blast!" Not being able to help grinning from ear to ear. It was so much more fun than dancing alone in her living room with the shades drawn! "Thanks Kate."

"My pleasure. But now I'm beat...are you ready to go?" Smiling back at the shine of happiness on her lover's face.

"Oh yeah! My feet are talking to me. These are not disco dancing shoes."

They got up and walked out of the building, chatting about the music and people they noticed dancing: the John Travolta wanna bes and the couples that could still remember the moves they had used years ago. After getting in their SUV, they pulled out into traffic to head on home. Sam reached over and took the larger hand into hers, and Kate squeezed it in response as they drove in the quiet, enjoying the contact.

As soon as Sam stepped into the kitchen from the garage, a pair of shoes went flying into a corner. "Hmm...that feels better." Scrunching her toes a couple of times. Looking around, she saw Kate had gone into the living room and was turning on the stereo. Looking through the CDs, she picked one out and put it in. Turning to her friend, she held out her hand.

"Ms Samantha...may I have the pleasure of this dance?" Taking a step towards her.

"Why Ms Kathryn, I would be DE-lighted to join you." Copying the thick drawl.

Walking to her lover, Kate took her into her arms...hitting the remote to start the music. It was a slow song...from one of Sam's disco CD collection...in fact the same one they almost danced to this evening. Sighing at finally getting to hold the petite woman close to her, they moved slowly around the living room.

"Hmm...this is wonderful honey." Whispered the blonde, resting her head against the firm but soft shoulder...the same shoulder she used as a pillow each night.

"Yes...it is. I love holding you...under whatever conditions I can arrange." Tightening her arms.

"Arrange them however and whenever...I'll be right here waiting for you. You feel so good in my arms." Caressing the back of Kate's neck with her hand.

The tall beauty almost purred at the other's touch. It had been a wonderful evening...with only a few exceptions. Sam looked beautiful and she was so proud to be with her. "Did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight?" Whispering into her friend's ear. "Almost didn't want you to leave the house looking like that. But then again, you make a pair of worn jeans look special." Leaning down to give her a little kiss.

"I think you may have mentioned it a few times. But hey...who's counting? What turned people's heads was who I was with. You look gorgeous in that blue vest and white shirt...and those slacks make your legs look like they go on forever." Standing on tiptoe to return the favor of kiss...only making it last a little longer.

"Aww...nothing special about me. But you make me feel special." Tightening her hold and kissing her lover again...holding it longer yet. By this time the song was over, but neither woman noticed. There was music in their heads now...their own love song that only they could hear.

When they came up for air, Sam stroked the tanned face so close to hers with the back of her hand, and spoke softly. "Oh honey...you are so special. And I am so lucky and thankful to have found you and to be a part of your life." Pulling her partner down again and melt against her, moaning softly at the feelings beginning to build in her.

Hearing the sound from Sam made Kate deepen the kiss even more, letting her hands begin to roam across the other's back and up her ribs and then to the sides of her breasts, making Sam moan again.

"Uhm...K-Kate?" Mumbling as she pulled away only to attach herself to the tanned neck and throat, nipping and tasting the soft skin.

"Yes sweetheart?" Trying valiantly to keep her ability to think clearly, though beginning to lose that particular battle. But her talented hands had found the zipper to the green dress and was slowly pulling it down...exposing to her touch all kinds of silky skin...like satin.

"My knees are getting a little shaky with all this 'dancing'. How about we move to the dance floor in the other room, and continue?"

"Only if I don't have to move." Letting her hands slip into the dress and stroke the toned body...slowly working her way up to the shoulders and sliding the dress from them...causing the garment to glide to the carpet. "Oops...looks like you lost something there darlin'." Smiling sensuously.

"Yep...looks like it. And now you are way overdressed. Let me help you rectify that particular situation." Proceeding to relieve her partner of the vest and shirt...letting them join her dress. "Hmm" Sighing as she was now able to run her hands across warm skin, causing Kate to gasp slightly at the sensation. "I like this outfit on you even better than the previous one." Smiling at the sight before her.

Now a pair of larger hands reached behind the smaller woman to unclasp the bra and add it too to the growing pile of discard clothes...looking like the poker chip pile of a card game, only there would be no losers in this game. Leaning back slightly, a pair of heavy lidded blue eyes drank in the picture in front of her. In this instance...less is more. "God but you're beautiful. Every time I see you like this you just take my breath away. I love you Samantha May." And then again capturing waiting lips. Lips that caused her heart to beat faster and overflow with love.

Now dark green eyes looked into dark stormy blue eyes...yet eyes also filled with tenderness and love. Just like the woman was: tough but soft...strong yet weak...protective yet not possessive. "I love you too Kathryn Elizabeth...so much." Caressing the tanned face gently. "How about we turn things off in here and retire for the evening? You're still overdressed...and I gladly volunteer to help you out of them." Raising her eyebrows as she finished.

"Sounds like a plan. And you my dear, have some things that need removal too. I'll take care of that little problem." Turning off the stereo by remote and then the one lamp, they walked into the bedroom with their arms around each other's waists...leaving the pile of clothes where they had been dropped...forgotten. Other things were on their minds. Tomorrow they would be found, and then there would be smiles of the memories of the night before, and how it had started here.



The next day Sam got on the computer and sent off a couple letters of inquiry to writers that had gotten published by the company that had contacted her. Then it was just waiting for replies. Sitting back, she stared at the monitor, lost in thought. Maggie and Darby into a book...unreal. She knew it was a good story as she and Kate worked well together. The dark haired woman knew how to lighten up a situation or add a twist to the tale.

"What ya thinking?" Came a soft voice in her ear, then a lingering kiss placed on her cheek.

"Oh hi honey." Reaching up to stroke the other's cheek. "Just daydreaming...about if we publish the story."

"Hmm...have you heard anything yet from anyone?" Leaning her face into the small hand.

"No...I just sent out the letters now. It will take a while."

"OK. Have you thought about what happens if we agree to publish?"

"What do you mean? Do you not want to do this?" Confused as yesterday her partner was gung ho about going forward with it.

"Sure sweetheart." Reaching out to hold the hand to her and kissing the back of it. "That would be fine with me. But we have some things that we need to figure out."

"OK...Like what? Do you see problems?" Her voice expressing the questions in the words and the tone.

Pulling the blonde onto her feet and continuing to hold her hand, Kate led her out of the office, down the hall and into the living room...to their couch...their haven. Sitting down, she brought the smaller woman next to her and into her arms. "That's better. Now...problems? Maybe not...but I've thought of a few things we need to discuss before we take any steps forward on this."

Wrinkling her nose, the writer joked. "You mean like whose name comes first or how we combine them?" Trying to keep things light...still not seeing what her friend must have.

Tapping the nose her partner chuckled. "Nah...we'll have fun with that. I'm uhm...thinking of what could happen if you publish Maggie and Darby. If they put our picture on the cover...who all will see it? You've created two wonderful women characters...full of life and love...in love with each other. It's a small and maybe a minute chance, but what if someone recognizes you and tells your parents? I mean normally it's exciting to publish a book...but how will you handle it if this were to happen?"

Reality hit Sam in the face. So far she had kept her identity anonymous with her writing by using a pen name that sounded nothing like her real one. It was how she balanced the two side of her life: the conservative accountant and the romantic writer. No one knew about the writer except Kate and her family. Her parents had no idea that she even liked to write...they would have had to show an interest in her life to even ask. "Oh...I never thought of that." Her voice small and quiet.

Tightening her hold at the tone of her lover's voice she continued. "I didn't either at first sweetheart. But we have to look at all angles at this...the good and the not so good. Think about this. Can you deal with the consequences of this going public? As for me...I'll be fine with whatever you want to do. I'm just happy at getting to work with you on this whether it goes beyond posting or not. You know it's a good story from all the responses you've gotten, and the chance to have more people read and enjoy it would be great. But it's NOT worth any pain or heartache that it could cause, unless you decide that whatever happens is OK, or tell people beforehand." Her alto voice remained soft and gentle as she spoke...slowly rubbing her hand along her lover's upper arm and shoulder as she held her in comfort.

Sam heard what Kate was saying and her stomach turned over. How could something that should have been good...become something else entirely so quickly? Why did there have to be problems like this? Why couldn't it just be a good thing without all the entanglements? Some issues that she had been avoiding now pushed their way to the front...making her face them and deal with them and make some decisions about them. She let out a big sigh. "You're right

of course. I have to make some decisions. I guess I have some thinking and soul searching to do. Thanks for telling me about it. I'll work on it in my head as I wait to hear from the other writers I wrote to...to see what they say." Then pushing the thoughts of that away, she also pushed away from her friend and stood up totally changing the subject. "Any plans for today honey?" Pulling the taller woman to her feet also.

By the tone of the accountant's voice, Kate knew the subject was closed for now. Sam had to work on this on the inside before she'd discuss it further. But they would talk it over later as they had gotten better about talking things out and it had gotten easier the more they did it. At first, both were so used to being alone and in charge, it was an adjustment to talk about things and not just make decisions. But so far it had worked out fine because they were both willing to compromise and find solutions together. So as the dark haired woman held the blonde, she knew it was just a matter of time. "Hmm...can't think of anything pressing. Got any ideas?"

"There's a movie playing now that we had talked about seeing...we could do that. Or how about renting one and ordering a pizza and have a nice night here?" Throwing out a couple of suggestions.

"Either sounds good. But staying in after going out last night sounds the best...it got to be a later night than just going out to eat and dance." Wiggling her eyebrows and causing the blonde to blush...Kate thought that was so cute when she did that! "Oh boy...order out a pizza to be delivered. Let's see if I can remember that phone number." Thumb under her chin and rubbing her upper lip with her index finger in exaggerated look of concentration.

Sam grinned at that look. What a clown! Her good mood returned, which was Kate's intention, and they then spent the afternoon catching up on bills and laundry and all the things you put off till you have to. And of course there was another chapter of Maggie and Darby to proof read and send out to be posted...and another chapter in the writing stages. Plus Sam had an idea of something new to write about...another series. Different personalities and different kinds of problems to solve. She hadn't talked to her friend about it yet as she wanted

to have a little more definite idea where she wanted to go with it. Then they would sit down and let their imaginations take off into what could be written for these new women. The possibilities were infinite, and to bounce things back and forth with her writing partner was always an adventure in itself!

Evening found the two relaxed on the couch with an open box of pizza sitting on the coffee table. "Hmm...this is good. We haven't done this in a long time." Sighing the taller woman reached for another slice.

"Yeah...it tastes even better than the last time we ordered it. " Grabbing the cheese that her friend had left behind in the box, and pulling it off the cardboard.

"HEY! That's mine! Gimme!" Making a dive for the glob of topping that Sam held in her fingers.

"Nope...you left it and so it's fair game." Bobbing her head shoulders away from a large hand that was trying to capture the cheesy prize.

"You didn't give me any time to go back for it!" A definite whine in her voice. "Now hand it over before I have to get tough." Furrowing her eyebrows together trying to look fierce.

That only made the blonde almost choke on her food in laughter. "Oh honey...please...that look is priceless!"

"Works on others...like that guy last night." Giving up the look but still eyeing up the topping still in her partner's hand.

Sam saw where Kate was staring at and sighed. "FINE! You want it back Miss Pouty? Here." Taking the glob and putting it in the larger hand...then squishing it around a little.

"Eww! Yuk! Samantha...that's dirty pool!" Staring at her hand with this horrified look on her face...thinking it wasn't so appetizing now!

"You wanted it...you got it." Looking and sounding very pleased with herself.

Kate calmly set her as yet uneaten piece of pizza down, and unfolded herself

from the couch. With that movement Sam looked over and also started moving...away from the woman who had been sitting next to her. "Now Kate, honey...where's your sense of humor? You know it's one of the things I love best about you...your ability to take a joke...honey? It's just some cheese." Standing up and backing away, as the taller woman also rose to her feet.

"Yep...just a little cheese. So let me take this opportunity to feed it to you. You know that's always fun...feeding each other."

"Well yeah...grapes and popcorn and chips, but pizza?" Sound suspicious, but decided to bite the bullet. "Oh OK...I'm sorry...how's that? Can we call a truce now?" Trying to sound sincere, but still smiling at the trick she had successfully pulled on the other...a rare occurrence indeed!

"Oh sure...NOW you apologize! Fine. Hand me a paper towel so I can wipe this off." Eyeing up her hand.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Sam reached down for the paper towels...taking her eyes off her friend. WRONG MOVE! Should have been suspicious of her giving in so easily...never done! "Here you---YEW...KATE!" Feeling the greasy cheesy topping slide down her cheek after a large hand had rubbed it onto her face. "Yuk! Oh...how could you?!" Grabbing the paper towel to use on herself, but before she could, Kate took it from her.

"Here...let me get that." First wiping her own hand, and then the side of the face of her lover, chuckling the whole time. "You should have seen your eyes. They got huge for a second, and then got kinda beady.!" Still chuckling as she finished the job.

"Sure...laugh now buster...you know about revenge." Shaking her finger at her friend.

Looking down at the sparkling green yes, Kate wondered in which direction the 'revenge' would come from. Some interesting ideas came to mind. Tipping the other's chin to inspect her job, she leaned forward and gave a little kiss to her lips. Then she moved to the freshly cleaned cheek, placing multiple kisses on it, and touching it every so often with the tip of her tongue...causing those green eyes to close in pleasure.

"Hmm...that's nice...really nice." Opening her eyes after receiving another soft lingering kiss to her lips.

"Forgiven?" Asked a husky voice in a whisper.

"I'll think about it." Looking at the ceiling in fake concentration.

Kate tugged the smaller woman onto her lap and proceeded to feed her pizza...nicely this time.

After a while Sam moaned. "Oh Kate...no more. I can't eat another bite. I'm stuffed."

"OK...we pretty much polished it off anyway." Leaning back against the couch and taking her friend with her, who rested her blonde head against a convenient shoulder.

"This is real cozy...but aren't I getting heavy for you?" Thinking she must weight a ton after the meal consumed.

"Nope. Besides, I'm not going anywhere, so if my legs go numb, who cares? If the phone rings though, you're in charge of answering it."

"OK...sounds fine with me." Snuggling down and getting even more comfortable.

They both sighed in contentment and let the rest of the evening pass them by...not interested with the world around them. They talked quietly about the little things...nothing important...just enjoying the time together. When it got late, they rose from their spot and put things away, turned off the lights, and resumed the same position...more or less...in bed; content, comfortable and relaxed, slowly drifting to sleep.

The next day Sam heard back from her inquires on the publishing company. They were a good firm, and fair and honest to its authors. Well, so much for having the decision taken out of her hands by it being a bad move. Too many things crowded the blonde's head...jumbling her thoughts...the pros and cons shifting in number and importance. It was time to clear it out.

Getting up from her office chair, she left the room and wandered down the hall, checking out where her partner was. She was found lying on her stomach on the couch...reading the Sunday paper...which was laid out on the floor below her. Now we're not talking about the latest breaking world news...it was the comics section that the paper was turned to...Kate's favorite part. Only after cheering herself up with the antics of her favorite strips, did she reluctantly put it aside and read through the real world sections. After watching her a few seconds and smiling, Sam cleared her throat.

"Yes?" Asked the dark haired woman from the couch...fully aware that she had been observed.

"Anything earth shattering going on today?" Walking the rest of the way to the couch and leaning against the arm.

"Not too much. Lucy conned Charlie Brown into trying to kick the football again...and of course he landed flat on his back. Don't know about that boy." Shaking her head and sounding serious like she was discussing the latest peace talks in the Middle East.

"He's forever the optimist with that kick off. One day he'll get it right." Was the reply-spoken softly...not necessarily talking only about Charlie Brown. "Uhm...it's a nice sunny afternoon out. I'm going to go out for a while...clear my head...OK?"

Looking up from her reading, Kate stared at her friend's face. She could see the questions and confusion and concerns in those green eyes. "OK...I'll come too if you want company, or I'll be here waiting if not." Smiling with her answer.

"Thanks, but I have some thinking to do. You know me. Gotta get my 'ducks in a row' in my head before I can share them. When I get back we'll talk it over...I promise."

"I know you will sweetheart. Just bundle up...that sun is deceiving. It's a bit nippy." Accepting Sam's answer with confidence.

"I will. See you in a bit." Leaning down to give her partner a kiss. The she got her coat and hiking boots on and grabbed a plastic bag from the fridge and went for a walk.

It was brisk out, but not uncomfortably so. And after a few minutes at a good rate, she warmed up. The park was her destination...about half a mile away. It would be quiet and pretty...besides getting to feed the ducks...a favorite past time of the pair. Of course they had picked one out as their favorite and named her Dolly the Duck. She had been brought to the writer's attention by Kate, who was always on the lookout for the underdogs and loners. Dolly usually stood in the back of the group, having been pushed out of the way by the other more aggressive ones. Patiently she waited...ignoring the shoves...not making any fuss...as seemed to be her nature. Standing in line to be fed. So they traded in feeding the ones in the front and tossing Dolly her own portion.

And as Sam turned the bend in the road at the park, saw they were waiting for her...how did they always do that? Sitting on the bench, she pulled out the bread from the bag and started tearing it into pieces and throwing them. As usual, Dolly was in the back...silent as always...having been pushed by the crowd. This time the blonde threw the pieces off to the side so the group moved away and Dolly made her way up toward the bench...eating what was thrown to her.

The woman sighed and looked at her little friend. "What do you think Dolly my girl? What would you do? I'd really like to publish the book, but is it worth all the possible problems? What would people think if it got out, and they found out what I write and who I really am?" Dolly just stood there...watching and listening. So the blonde continued. "I wish I were more like you. You go about your way...oblivious to those around you...doing what you want to despite the hassle the others give you. A lot of them don't even notice you...only seeing what they want to...the food in front of them. You're a duck with character..." Rolling her eyes at what she going to say next, but unable to stop herself. "You're the fairest of fowls." Laughing at the words. "Oh Lord, that sounds just like something Kate would say."

Sobering at the sound of her lover's name. Kate...kind and patient. Waiting for whatever she decided she wanted to do. "So who's more important? The nameless crowd and my parents who barely acknowledge me? Or the one I love and who loves me unconditionally?" Pausing in her verbal thinking, and tossing more bread to both sides, and then continued. "You know, writing about this would be so much easier to figure out. " Frowning at her own words. "But why? How would I handle this if I was writing for someone else?" The picture slowly started to clear in her own mind. "Hmm...thanks Dolly...you're a real---doll." Laughing at herself again. "Oh boy...it's time for me to leave...I'm really getting bad." Tossing the last of the bread, she put her hands into her pockets and stood up. "See ya Dolly...thanks again. I owe you one." And with that, the duck turned and joined the rest...immediately almost becoming invisible amongst the others. That little observation wasn't lost on the accountant either. Making one more lap walking around the small park, Sam headed home.

While Sam was out, Kate was doing her own thinking. It was really tough to sit back and just watch, helpless to do anything to help her friend until they could talk. She was trying to think of different options; compromises that would work for all involved. The only thing so far was to continue with the pen name, and refuse to give any information or a picture. But that might just cancel the deal.

This whole thing reminded her of when they brainstormed separately after spending the first week together, trying to think of a way to keep their relationship going after parting. But Kate knew that this was a bigger issue than just this book. Her partner had to decide how she wanted to live her life...if she wanted to live for others, or for herself. And that was something no one could help her with. The final decision had to come from inside herself. The dark beauty would be lying if she said that Sam's actions in public didn't hurt her...no matter why it was done. But their love was strong enough to work this out, and together they would get through this. They had come too far to let the situation come between them and their life together.

But that didn't hurry the time that her friend was away. And the longer she was gone, the more Kate wondered what was going around in the pretty blonde head. The logical accountant was a total opposite of the soft hearted woman and writer whose heart ruled her head. So Kate was relieved when the door opened and her rosy-cheeked friend came in.

"Hi honey...I'm back, and I've some cold hands...got any place I can warm them up?" Taking off her coat and boots and blowing into cupped hands. Then she walked into the living room and plopped down beside the taller woman, kissing her lightly.

Reaching over, Kate took both smaller hands into her own and began rubbing them. "Yeow! They're like ice! Didn't feel like wearing your gloves?" Continuing

to try to warm them up, but raising an eyebrow.

Letting the large hands continue to do their work, Sam smiled at the maternal comment. "Yes Mom. I had my gloves on most of the time, but I had them off for a while and didn't get them warmed up again before I got home. Oh...and I ran into a friend of ours."

"Really? Who?" Finally feeling some warmth creep into the other's hands.

"Dolly." Throwing out the name to tease her.

"Dolly? Hmm Dolly? Can't place her. What did she have to say?" Finishing the TLC treatment, and then drawing the petite body against hers...which followed quite willingly.

"Didn't say much. But she was a great listener." Trying to sound nonchalant.

Kate stiffened up at that remark. She really wouldn't talk this over with anyone else, would she? They always talked to each other...that was one of the things she loved best of them together...how they could figure anything out...as a team...partners. A sudden sick feeling hit her stomach.

Sam felt the change and realized that her joke wouldn't be funny unless her partner remembered who Dolly was. And by the stiff body next to her, it wasn't coming to mind! "Come on honey...you remember Dolly. You introduced me to her---at the……..park."

"The park?" Trying to focus on what Sam was still saying and not keep hearing the other words repeat themselves in her head. "Dolly?" Then the light bulb came one...a hundred watt-er, that brightened the shadows that had been threatening her mood. "OH! Dolly the duck!" Looking at the ceiling and letting go of the breath she didn't realize she had been holding. "Geez sweetheart, you had me completely confused for a while. I thought you'd...well that you'd. . ."

"I know you did and I'm sorry. " Her apology sincere in content and sound. "But I wouldn't talk to anyone else but you...you know that." And then amended it with a smirk. "Well at least no one that would understand English. But I did talk to Dolly...and she was a good listener...didn't interrupt me once." Trying to make her friend smile a little to go along with the relaxing of her stance.

It worked...Kate smiled at the visual of woman and duck in deep one sided conversation! "She still getting shoved around?" Remembering their buddy.

"Yep...but she doesn't care much. You know she just waits in back...patiently for her turn. She doesn't seem to even acknowledge the others or what they do...just does what works for her. Kinda taught me a lesson by example." Putting an arm around the firm waist and shifting slightly to get more comfortable against her human pillow. Kate was always such a little furnace!

"She did?" The 'furnace' asked...listening to each word spoken and understanding where she was headed, but also wanting to let her work it out verbally in her own way.

"Yeah she did. When I got up to leave, she joined the others, and she blended in with them so much that I had to really look to pick her out. I didn't realize she looked much like the others...always concentrating on what made her different, and forgetting the similarities."

"On the outside they're all the same...it's what's on the inside that makes her---the fairer fowl." Sounding oh so pleased with her description!

"Ugh...that's what I called her at the park...Kathryn...you are a bad influence on me!" Slapping the firm body lightly, but laughing with her. "But you're absolutely right. You know, if I was writing this as a story line for Maggie and Darby, the answer is there for them, and I would know what to write to solve the problem. So why should it be any different for me?" Now the voice sounded stronger and determined though not shifting away from her lover's body. "I like to write and I would love to publish the book. Why can't it be that simple? The chances of it reaching my parents' hands are remote, but if it does, then there was a reason for it to do so. I can't change who I am, but I can change how I look at myself...and feel about myself. It's time I grew up and do what's right for me and us...not 'them'...the nameless faceless horde. The 'they' everyone talks about. I have family in you and your relatives. We've made friends here and made a home here together. I can't lose with the others, what I never had." Stopping to take a well deserved breath. "Does that make any sense to you?" Now leaning back and looking into serious blue eyes.

"Makes perfect sense to me. You just had to get to this point on your own. As much as I wanted to help you reach these answers, I couldn't. You are no different a person than you were yesterday: the same kind, considerate, compassionate, intelligent, funny and caring woman that you've always been. That's what makes you, you. Your real friends will stand with you if there is trouble, and those who do not, were not your friends in the first place. Strangers? They don't know you or care about you...so why should you, about them? Just like Dolly, we should live our lives and do what we want to. We don't have to make a show of our relationship or pretend that there isn't one.

"How'd you get so smart?" The picture so clear now in the writer's head.

"Born that way." Sounding very droll.

"Yeah...sure. That's not what Mom and Dad say." The teasing tone back in her voice.

Kate raised her voice defensively. "Oh come on! They're old...they get us kids mixed up all the time. You know what a rebel Joanie is." Joining in on the endless game of her childhood stories.

"Sure...and you Ms Conservative Conformist with the classic Mustang, the Home Ec drop out and leader of the wildest group in high school!"

"Well. . . " Trying to think of something to redeem herself...but there was nothing to say.

"Very deep subject...about as deep as the hole you just dug yourself into." The writer quipped quickly and then giggling.

"Oh and you think you're so smart now, I suppose." Rolling her eyes, and enjoying herself immensely.

"Thank you, I am." Knowing she's won this round.

"OK OK I give up." Holding up her hands in surrender for a moment, and then leaning back into the corner of the couch, wrapping her arms around her friend again. "So we go forward with the book idea, right?" Getting back to the subject they had digressed from.

"Yeah...I think it's just unreal that this is happening." The amazement showing in both her voice and green eyes.

"And you'll answer their request and see what happens next, right?" Questioned Kate again, making sure that was the plan, and caressing the shoulder slowly and gently.

"Right...one step at a time." Setting back into strong arms that held her, and wrapping her arm around her friend to hold her back.

"Baby steps." Said softly. "That seems to define our lives in a lot of ways doesn't it." Laying her dark head against the blonde.

"I guess it does. I took baby steps to you...baby steps in finding myself...baby steps in learning how to be a part of a real family, and so I guess it's only right to take this in baby steps as well. All the other ones have turned out wonderfully...so maybe this is a good omen." Feeling like a heavy weight had been lifted from her, and so sighed.

Sensing her mood, Kate wanted to hear what all was still spinning around inside that pretty head. "Feel good to have made the decision on the book?" Knowing there was more, and wanting to hear the words from her lover about how she felt about them...it was important for Kate's heart to actually hear the words.

"Yes...good about that. But it was also a catalyst to make me face myself...a deeper look inside." Tilting her head back to look into her companion's face, continued with an apology. "I'm so sorry honey for any hurt and pain that I caused you about us. I finally understand what you've known all along. I always seem to be playing catch up with you. Our private lives are just that...private. I'm not the type to go out of my way to make a show, but I won't pretend we are only just friends anymore. You are my best friend...but you are also my life partner, and it's time I start treating you with the respect the title deserves...what you deserve. If I want to hug you over something, or take your hand for a moment, I will...if that's OK with you." Hoping she hadn't waited to long to figure things out.

Hugging Sam close to her Kate cleared her throat from the lump that had formed there with Sam's words...words she had longed for and waited to hear. "Oh that's OK...that's more than OK. I'm really proud of you, you know? Life is short, so why make it any more difficult than it already is? Why not take after Dolly, and just live our lives and be who we are."

Laying her head against her favorite shoulder Sam sighed in happiness. "Sounds good to me. I never thought that I could have so much happiness and love in my life. If someone had told me 2 years ago I would be in this place at this time, I would have laughed at them and thought them insane. So it would be very wrong to not enjoy this gift to it's fullest."

Stroking the blonde hair the larger hand almost shook with all the emotion inside her. "Oh sweetheart, you give my life so much every day...make my life so much more. I'm never happier than times like now...having you in my arms. That, for me, is what life's all about...the things that money can't buy." Kissing the top of her head when she finished.

"That's so true...so true. The most important things have no price tag on them. And with you in my life, I am rich beyond measure." Speaking around her own lumpy throat. Thinking that a change of subject was in order before they had to split a box of tissue, she continued. "Hey...let's get a little more comfortable and take a nap...I want to cuddle."

"Sounds good to me...you know I'm a sucker for a good snuggle." Giving her lover a hug before letting go.

After they got comfortable with their blanket, that they kept on the back of the couch for just such situations, covering them, they snuggled down for snooze. It had been a roller coaster couple days and neither had slept as well as they normally would. Sam closed her eyes and let the sounds and sensations surround her: the steady heartbeat under her ear, the arms around her holding her close, the warmth radiating from the body against hers from head to toe, and the scent of shampoo and soap combinations mixed up with Kate herself that she loved. It all made for a shelter of safety. Just as she was ready to drift off, her lover spoke softly...almost whispering to her.

"You know sweetheart, we can't live our lives according to how someone else thinks we should. Three different people will tell you three different 'right' ways. There are those that only recognize right and wrong, with their way being right, and any other way wrong. They cannot comprehend that there may be many different answers to a question, with none of them being wrong...just different. So the only way to live with some sense of peace is to be true to yourself: follow your heart is how you feel is right for you, follow your mind in how you think is right for you, and follow your soul in what you truly believe is right for you. Then you will be true to yourself...and your own calm port for the storms of life."

And with that said, they both fell asleep, in their favorite place with their favorite person in their arms.

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