COPYRIGHT: Xena Warrior Princess and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and are used here without permission, but for entertainment purposes only, and for no monetary gain. No copyright infringement implied or intended. The ladies in this story, although, of my own creation, resemble our two X:WP heroines. The story line however is completely mine. Reuse of this story is limited to my permission only. By all means, print it out and pass it around if you'd like, but be sure to include these disclaimers.
SUBTEXT: Yes, this is alternate fan fiction which is based on the premise of two women who are very much in love with each other There are some mildly graphic scenes within, but nothing explicit. I believe that sometimes, your imagination can take you places that the printed word can not. If this type of love offends you, if you are less than 18 years old, or if love is illegal where you live, climb on board the anti-subtext train and get outta town.
VIOLENCE: This story contains a description of rape. For the record, I believe rape is the most vile, disgusting and cowardly crime one person can commit against another, and should be severely punished, however, portrayal of it is essential to this story line.
TIME LINE: This is an Uber-Xena story which occurs in modern day time. I am one of the believers that the descendants of our favorite two ladies are destined to find each other and fall in love. I have been asked by several of you to write a sequel to "The 'Commitment'", so, here it is. This one may not make a lot of sense to you it you haven't that one first. I hope you enjoy it, and please keep the feedback coming!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I strongly believe that love is love, regardless of how it is packaged, so please don't flame me for believing in something so wonderful. All flames will be flushed down the toilet. Send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A FAMILY IN BLOOD
By: kd bard
Billie sat on the edge of the bed and leaned completely over Seth to kiss him on the cheek and whisper in his ear, "Come on baby, open your eyes for Mom."
Suddenly, blue met blue.
"Mom?" a weak little voice said.
Billie just lost it. She lowered her head to Seth's chest and cried her heart out. Soon, Cat was beside her, tears coursing down her face as well.
Seth just looked at them, confused about why they were crying.
Tara thought that grownups sure acted funny some times. She went around to the other side of Seth's bed and climbed up beside him. "Hi Seth!", she said, picking up his hand to hold it in her own.
"Hi Tara." Seth stated simply. "I remember your voice."
Billie's, head flew up. Looking at Cat, she said "I KNEW he was in there, Cat!... I just KNEW it!"
"Mom?" Seth said.
"Yes, my love?" Billie answered, wiping the tears from her face.
"I'm kinda hungry... Can we get McDonald's?" he asked.
"Count me in!" said Tara excitedly.
Both women looked at each other and dissolved into a mixture of laughter and tears.
Doc O'Grady watched the scene from the doorway, tears threatening to overflow his eyes. "I'm such a softy!" he thought. Composing himself, he cleared this throat, drawing the attention of everyone in the room to him. Billie immediately approached him and wrapped her arms around the man.
She was too choked up for words. All she could do was look at him, pouring "thank you's" from her eyes. She felt Cat's arms circle both her and the Doc. Looking up into the big man's eyes, she said, "Thank you, Daddy. I knew you could do it!"
Doc reached up and brushed the errant tear off Cat's cheek. "I only did part of the work, Little one... that young man over there did the rest." Casting a look toward Seth and then at Billie, he continued, "Speaking of which, don't you think it's time you properly introduced me to my grandson, young woman?"
Billie smiled through her tears, and took a step back out of Doc's embrace. Wiping her face with the back of her hand, she took Doc's hand in her's and led him over to the bed. Cat circled the bed and picked up Tara, settling her on her hip.
Billie sat on the bed and brushed Seth's cheek with her hand. "Hey, Big Guy," she said. "There's someone here I want you to meet."
Surprising them both, Seth looked directly at Doc, who was standing beside the bed, and said "Hi Grandpa!"
Billie sat up straight and looked at her son with a confused expression on her face, then realization dawned on her as she looked over to Tara. She relaxed and smiled, shaking her head from side to side. "So, I see you two have already planned everything, huh?" she asked, looking back and forth between Seth and Tara.
Tara piped in, "Bilwie, you said Seth could be my big brother, so Grampa has to be his Grampa too, right?" she finished, extending her arms out to both sides to emphasize her point.
Doc took Billie's hand and directed her up off the bed. Taking her place, he bent over Seth and gave him a conspiring wink. He said under his breath so only Seth could hear, "Just like a woman... always trying to control things!" Seth started to giggle, holding a hand up to his mouth, trying to hide his smirk.
Doc held his right hand out to Seth's, taking the small one in his own and shaking it in a gentlemanly fashion. "Seth," he said. "My name is Doc, and I'm Cat's dad. And... since Tara has already decided that I'm to be your new Grampa, I'd be proud to do so. Whaddaya say, partner?" he finished.
Billie had made her way over to stand by Cat, placing her arm around the smaller woman's shoulder. Tara immediately put her arms out for Billie to take her, leaving Cat's arms free to circle Billie's waist. Billie placed a kiss on top of Cat's head as the trio watched the scene before them.
"Can I call you Grampa, or do I have to call you Doc?" Seth asked.
"What would you like to call me, son?" he returned.
Seth contemplated the question for a minute then looked over to Tara. She had her hands cupped around her mouth like a megaphone, and was mouthing the word "Grampa". Seth smiled, nodded his head to her, then looked back at Doc. "I think I like Grampa best." he said.
"Grampa, it is then!" Doc glanced over his shoulder at his daughter and her family, giving them a proud grin. Looking back to Seth, he said to the boy, "Tell you what, Seth, I'm going to let you spend some time with your new family here for while, but I'll be back to examine you, all right? We have a lot of work to do before you can go home, and I will need you to be strong and brave through it, okay?"
"Okay, Grampa." he said, reaching his arms up to give the older man a hug.
Looking at the small boy and tweaking his nose, Doc added, "After all, partner, when you're better, we have a lot of catching up to do, you and me, fishing, football games... you know - guy stuff!"
Seth grinned from ear to ear. "Yeah! I can't wait!" he replied excitedly.
"Okay, then." he said, rising from the bed. "I'll be back shortly... I have to go play doctor for a while and look at a few other sick people." He leaned in and placed a kiss on the boy's forehead. "See ya in a while, Scout!" Walking over to Billie, he took Tara from her arms and gave the girl a big hug. "Your brother over there will need a lot of help from his little sister. Do you think you're up to it, Princess?" he asked.
"Oh boy, Grampa! Can I really help?" she asked excitedly.
"Not only can you help, Pip-squeak, but you will need to help. Your Mom and Billie are going to need someone to keep Seth company and to play with him and stuff like that." he said.
"I can do all those things, Grampa!" she said proudly.
"Good... I'm sure Seth is going to love his little sister!" He kissed her and gave her back to Billie, then left to do his rounds.
Billie took Cat's hand and approached her son's bedside. Placing Tara at the foot of the bed, she motioned for Cat to join her at the head. It didn't take long for Tara to scamper up to the head of the bed and plop herself down next to Seth, sharing his pillow.
Cat reached out for her, saying "Tara, be careful for Seth's head. He has a very big cut there that will hurt if you bump it. Why don't you come sit over here with me." she suggested, motioning to a chair by the bedside.
Billie stopped her from picking the girl up, by gently placing a restraining hand on her arm. "No, Cat, leave her there... It's okay." she said, but then directed at Tara, "... but Mama's right, Tara, you need to be careful for his cut, okay?"
"Okay, Bilwie, I'll be careful." she said, happily cuddling down next to Seth. Seth looked at her with a big grin on his face. He was going to like having a little sister.
That settled, Billie sat on the edge of Seth's bed and pulled Cat down in front of her, resting the smaller woman's back against her chest. She could feel Cat tense, obviously nervous about the first official meeting with her new son. Billie bent forward and whispered in her ear, "Relax, Cat, he's going to love you... just like I do."
Cat smiled at this and relaxed into Billie's chest.
Leaning into Cat, Billie reached forward and took Seth's hand. Bringing it up to her lips, she kissed his knuckles as he gave her an "ahh, come on Ma... cut that out!" look.
Cat chuckled at the look on Seth's face. She turned her head slightly and whispered to Billie, "I think you're embarrassing our son, love."
Billie grinned and lowered his hand. "I think you're right." she whispered back, seeing the blush on the young boy's face.
Cat elbowed Billie in the ribs to remind her she had some introductions to make. Making an "Ooomph." noise, she said, "All right, all right... I get the point." Cleaning her throat, she said, "Seth, this is Cat... I told you all about her when I came to visit, remember?"
Looking directly at Cat, Seth blurted out, "Mom said you fell flat on your face in her aerobics class... that must have been funny!" he said, casting a glance at Tara that caused both of them to dissolve into giggles.
Cat felt Billie stiffen behind her. Turning to look at her partner, she said in a stern voice, "Billllllie...."
Billie tried to recover as gracefully as possible... "Ahhhh,...ahhhhh... Oh hell, Cat, I've never kept anything from him in the past.... I just wanted him to know and love everything about you... just like I do."
"How can I argue with that?" Cat thought as she smiled her forgiveness.
"Great save, Billie, great save." the dark haired woman thought when she saw the smile.
Cat leaned over and placed a kiss on Seth' cheek. But before she could raise her head, Seth had circled his arms around her neck in a tight hug. Cat circled her arms around his slim back and returned the hug, kissing him again on top of the head.
Billie stood and walked around to the other side of the bed so that she could talk directly to each of them without Cat having to twist around. Cat looked up into Billie's eyes as she held the boy. Billie's eyes were as tear-filled as her own. She knew then that the boy had accepted her. "I love you, and our son." she mouthed to Billie.
She laid Seth back down into his pillows and then asked the boy, "Seth, Tara and I would love for you and your Mom to come live with us when you leave the hospital... like a real family. Would you like that?"
"Cool!" Seth said. "Do I get my own room?" he asked.
"Absolutely!" she said, much to his delight.
"Can we, Mom?, he asked Billie, hopefully.
Three sets of eyes looked up at her expectedly.
"How could I possibly say no to that?" she observed to herself joyously.
"Welllllll," she paced back and forth, purposely giving them a hard time. "I have just one question for you, Seth." she said with mock severity.
"What?" he asked disheartened, knowing that 'look' usually meant 'no'.
Billie's face broke out into a grin. "What color do you want your new room to be painted?" she asked.
Suddenly realizing that she was actually saying 'yes', Seth and Tara both let out a whoop of joy. Tara came up onto her knees and started bouncing up and down on the bed.
Cat rose and circled the room to Billie. Wrapping her arms around Billie's waist, she looked into her face and said, "You are soooo bad, Billie Charland!".
Leaning down, Billie placed a quick kiss on Cat's lips. "That's not what you said last night, my love."
Cat had the good graces to blush as the suggestive comment was made in front of the kids. It didn't matter that they were completely oblivious to its meaning. She swatted Billie on the arm, then turned around in her embrace so that they were both facing the bed. They looked over to see two light haired heads together, obviously plotting something.
Cat looked up at Billie. "I think we're in trouble!" she said, referring to the covert meeting going on over on the bed.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER III
Just as he promised, Doc came back a short time later to examine Seth. His goal was to determine just how much damaged remained from both the accident and the surgery, and then to formulate a plan for physical therapy.
Knowing Seth would be embarrassed at being seen naked by his sister and step mother, Cat bent down and kissed Seth on the cheek and excused herself and Tara from the room, promising to return soon with a surprise for Seth. Billie met them out in the hallway.
"Billie, I don't think Seth would appreciate having us in there during the exam, so I think I'll take Tara to the bookstore to pick out something for him to read... maybe some activity books too." she explained. "Maybe I'll get Tara some lunch while we're out also. Can I bring something back for you?" she asked.
"No, I'm fine... I'll get something out of the cafeteria later." Billie said as she leaned down and kissed Tara and then Cat, handing her the car keys. Reaching up, Cat returned Billie's kiss and assured her that they'd be back in an couple of hours.
Returning to the room, she found Doc shining a light back and forth across Seth's eyes.
"Okay, what can I do to help?" she asked.
Doc looked up at her. "Not much right now." he said. "This is actually just a preliminary exam. We'll need to wait a day or two before we take him to the physical therapy lab, to give the swelling in his brain a chance to go down."
"Swelling in his brain?" Billie asked. "What do you mean?"
"As with any surgery, there is a little swelling. That is to be expected." he explained. "But with brain surgery, the swelling can actually affect the quality of the test results, so we need to give the patient extra time to recover before we can determine the degree of physical therapy that will be required." Shutting the light off and slipping it into his coat pocket, he said, "Everything looks fine there." Continuing with his explanation, he said, "There are some tests that can be done to monitor progress, but most of them will have to be repeated when the swelling is gone to determine the true nature of the disability."
Billie cringed at the word "disability" to describe her son's condition.
After writing some notes on Seth's chart, Doc put the clipboard aside and helped Seth to sit on the edge of the bed to test his reflexes. Noting that the boy was having trouble remaining upright on his own, he instructed Billie to sit next to him and hold him in that position.
Billie shot a worried look in Doc's direction. Catching her eye and understanding her concern, he addressed Seth directly, "Hey pal, you're a little unsteady because you've been lying on your back for so long. You need to learn how to keep your balance again, do you understand?" he asked the boy.
Nodding, Seth suddenly looked at Doc and asked, "Will I be able to stand up by my self, Grampa?"
"Maybe not right away, Sport, but we'll do everything we can to make you better fast. After all, there are some fish out there waiting for us to catch them, remember?" he said, seeing the relief cross the boy's face (not to mention his mother's).
Doc checked all of Seth's reflexes with the rubber hammer and noted the results on his chart. Then, he helped the boy back into bed to check his pain thresholds. Before starting the procedure, he took Seth's chin in his hand and raised his eyes to meet his own. In a soothing voice, he warned Seth about what was to come. "Seth." he said. "This next test might hurt a little bit. It's okay to cry if you want, but you need to let me finish all the tests so we'll be able to tell how much help you'll need to get better. Do you understand?"
With unmasked fear in his eyes, Seth nodded.
"Billie, why don't you climb into bed behind him and set him up against your chest." he said to her. Then to Seth, "Son, hold on to your Mom's hands and squeeze them tight when it hurts, okay. Oh... and try to stay as still as possible."
Billie positioned herself as directed and wrapped her long arms around her son, allowing him to hold onto her hands. She took a deep breath and whispered in Seth's ear to be brave.
The procedure for testing pain thresholds involved sticking a pin into Seth's skin at various intervals along his arms and legs, and recording the boy's reaction on his chart. Seth squeezed Billie's hands tightly throughout the entire procedure, however, he forced himself to stay as still as possible. When it was over, he had only shed a few tears. While Doc was writing the final entries for this test onto Seth's chart, Billie held her son close to her and spoke soothingly into his ear, telling him how proud she was of him, and that she loved him.
The final set of tests proved to be less traumatic. They involved testing his muscle strength, flexibility and coordination.
Finally, the testing was done. After writing the final notes on Seth's charts, Doc approached the boy and took him into his arms for a warm hug. "I'm very proud of you Seth." he said. "You were very brave. Now how about some lunch, and then maybe a nap?" he added after seeing the boy yawn from all the unaccustomed activity.
"Can I have McDonald's for lunch?" Seth asked hopefully, looking up into Doc's face.
Doc gently lowered Seth to the bed and spared a desperate glance at Billie. Looking back at the child, he said, "Seth, you haven't had any solid food to eat since you were hurt, so we'll have to start you out slowly with some soft foods. Maybe in a couple of days, we'll see about McDonald's, Okay?"
Seth looked down, disappointed.
Billie sat on the edge of Seth's bed and took her son in for a hug. "It's all right, love. The time will go by quickly. Look," she said, turning to look directly at him, "When Grampa says its all right, we'll all get McDonald's and bring it here to have a little picnic with you, okay?"
"Really?" Seth said, his interest perking.
"Really." Billie answered.
"Cool!" Then, turning to Doc, he added, "Grampa too?"
"You bet!" Doc said. "Just try to keep me away.... it's a date!" Then to Billie, he said, "Daughter, tuck your son in and meet me in the hallway. I'll take you to the nurse's station to order up some lunch for Scout, okay?"
Billie nodded her agreement as Doc left the room. Minutes later, she joined him in the hall and they arranged a lunch of pureed bananas, chocolate pudding creamed corn and a carton of milk for the boy. While they were waiting for the food to arrive Billie asked Doc about the overall test results.
"While Seth is eating, I'll go over the results and try to summarize them for you. During his nap, we'll talk." he said. Then, seeing the distress in her eyes, he quickly added, "Billie, I have seen much worse results in the preliminary tests, with full recoveries. Please don't worry, we'll do every thing we can for him. He's young, and more often than not, children respond to therapy much quicker and more effectively than adults. He has an excellent chance of full recovery." He reached up and brushed a tear off her face.
Billie looked into his face and realized that Cat had his eyes. How she wished Cat was there right now to calm her fears and provide her assurances. Billie suddenly realized how much she had come to rely on Cat for emotional support lately. God, how she loved that woman.
Just then, the cafeteria delivered Seth's lunch to the nurse's station. Billie picked it up and headed to Seth's room with it, along with assurances that Doc would be ready to discuss the results in about an hour.
Lunch was a little bit of an ordeal. First, Seth adamantly objected to eating "baby food" as he called it, but made an exception for the chocolate pudding and milk. Using the pudding as a bribe, Billie got him to agree to eat half of the bananas and corn first.
Seth also insisted on feeding himself, although Billie had an overwhelming urge to spoon feed him herself. After seven months of inactivity, his coordination was not very good, and he ended up getting more food on him than in him. Luckily for him, by the time he was ready to eat his pudding, his coordination had improved dramatically. After lunch was over, Billie cleaned him up and returned his tray to the nurse's station. By the time she returned, he was fast asleep, still partially sitting up. She lowered his bed to the flat position then maneuvered him down under the covers. Brushing the corn silk colored hair off his forehead, she planted a kiss there, then sat back in the chair to wait for Doc and the test results.
Moments later, Cat and Tara returned. Tara immediately climbed up into Billie's lap and laid her head on her shoulder. Within minutes, she too was fast asleep. Billie just sat there holding her, rubbing her hand up and down Tara's back.
Cat stowed the package they had brought back with them, on the floor next to the bed, then leaned in to give Billie a kiss. Several kisses, in fact. Standing back up, Cat took Tara out of Billie's arms and laid her on the bed next to Seth, putting the covers up to her chin. She then crawled into Billie's lap, right into the spot Tara had just vacated, while Billie's hand continued its journey up and down Cat's back.
Cat noticed that Billie just sat there, staring blankly ahead of her. "Billie?" she questioned. "Are you all right?", then remembering the tests, she suddenly tensed and added "Billie... the test results?"
Snapping out of her trance, Billie looked at Cat and said, "Doc said he'll have the results summarized for us soon. I expect him at any moment in fact." then seeing a worried expression on Cat's face, she added, "Doc says that he's seen worst preliminary results, with full recoveries. He's hopeful."
Cat reached her hand up to cup the side of Billie's facing, turning it so that their eyes met. "Just remember, my love." she said. "No matter what... we're in this together.... right?"
Billie smiled at her and said., "Right."
Cat leaned in and kissed her passionately, her tongue demanding and receiving access to Billie's mouth. Several moments later, they were interrupted by a loud retort, "You two need to get a room!"
Breaking apart and looking up, Cat blushed furiously as she saw her father standing there. She scurried off Billie's lap in record time, smoothing her jeans and shirt as she rose.
Noticing her discomfort, Doc said, "Oh for Heaven's sake, Caitlain, stop your fussing. Christ, you were only kissing!" He looked at Billie, both of them finding humor in Cat's embarrassment.
"Daddy... I know what we were doing! Oh, gods... this is so embarrassing!" she said, walking over to the window to compose herself.
"Well, little girl, get over it. I've got some news for the two of you, so get your butt over here before you miss out on what I have to say." he scolded.
Pushing her embarrassment aside for the moment, she pulled up a chair next to the Billie and took her hand. Doc noticed the contact, and smiled.
"Okay," he began. "Before we put any stock in these test results, we need to keep in mind that Seth has been lying in that bed inactive for the past 7 months. Obviously, there is a lot of work that will need to be done to improve his overall muscle strength, tone and coordination. What we don't know yet, is how much of his disability is related to the injury, versus the inactivity." He paused to let them take in what he had already said. Continuing, he said, "Billie, you were there during the testing. You saw that he definitely has a low pain tolerance, which is good. This means that the pain centers in his brain are not blocked. If they were blocked, we would have had little, or no reaction to the pin pricks."
"Pin pricks?" Cat asked. "You actually stuck a pin in that child? Daddy, how could you?" she cried, very upset that her son had to endure such torture.
Billie calmed her down, "Cat, it wasn't as bad as it sounds.... I was holding Seth in my arms the whole time. He was very brave... he never flinched once, although it was obvious that his body felt the pain. You would have been very proud of him... I know I was." she finished.
Doc was glad Billie was the one to calm his daughter down. If it had been him, he probably would have been less gentle. "Anyway," he continued, "His pain tolerance is low, his pupils react well to light stimulation, and his involuntary reflexes are good. I also understand the lack of muscle strength and tone, considering he's been inactive for so long. That will improve with time and strength training. What I am concerned about though, is his lack of coordination, but before I worry myself too much about it, I need to know just how coordinated he was prior to the accident, Billie." he said.
Billie grimaced. "Doc, Seth was extremely coordinated. In fact, his father, Brian, used to tease him about how he liked to draw and dance. He used to call him a sissy boy and threatened to sign him up for ballet lessons." Billie's eyes teared up at the hurtful memories.
Cat rose to her feet and started pacing. "That bastard!" she seethed under her breath.
Billie went to her and wrapped her in long arms. "That, my love, is an understatement."
"Billie... his own son? How could he treat him like that?" Cat asked, unbelievingly.
"Cat, Brian was an abusive drunk. When he discovered that I preferred women, he blamed me for what he saw as Seth's 'flaw'. He was convinced that my 'fag' genes were the reason Seth was so talented in dancing."
"Why that ignorant, son of a bitch!" Cat continued to fume, breaking out of the circle of Billie's arms and pacing back and forth across the room. Billie turned to address Doc once more.
"So Doc, I guess to answer your question, Seth was very coordinated.... So I guess his current lack of that skill is a problem?" she asked, hoping the answer was no.
Doc was careful not to be too negative in his reply. "Like I said, Billie, the tests we did today were preliminary... We'll redo some of them, and more, in a few days when we're sure the swelling is gone. But... You are right. If he continues to lack coordination, that may be a problem."
"Doc?" Billie asked. "Is coordination something that is inherent in a person, or is it something that can be learned and improved on?"
"Generally, it is inherent. Either a person is coordinated, or they're not. A person can learn to become less clumsy, but it requires constant effort and attention. You can't teach your body to become naturally graceful if you aren't already." He explained. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, when Seth was eating his lunch, he had a hell of a time guiding the spoon to his mouth, but he wouldn't let me help him. He had it all over his face before he was done. However, by the time he got to his pudding, he had improved remarkably." she said.
Rising to his feet, he approached Billie and took her face in his hands. "That, my dear child, is good news." He said. Then, placing a kiss on her cheek, he turned to accept the same from Cat before he left the room, promising them on his way out that he wouldn't let the nursing staff disturb them for the next couple of hours.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER IV
As soon as Doc left, Cat threw herself back into Billie's arms. Billie bent over and picked her up, returning to the chair they had been cuddling in before Doc so rudely interrupted them.
Cat sat across Billie's lap, her face nuzzled deep into Billie's neck, nibbling on the tender flesh she found there. Billie moaned in response to the tender caresses, dropping her head to the side to give Cat better access.
"God, you smell so good." Cat exclaimed. "I love you, Billie."
"Mmmmmm." was the only response Billie could manage.
"Its a good thing that the kids are here, or we could really give the nurses something to wonder about." Cat joked.
"As loud as you are, my love, somehow I don't think there'd be much of a mystery." Billie pointed out.
"I thought you liked how verbal I am?" Cat shot back.
"Oh Yeah... I like it a lot, but you're gonna have to work on toning it down when we're all living under the same roof!" Billie said.
"I see what you mean." Cat answered.
The ladies sat there, contentedly holding each other for several moments. Finally, Cat broke the silence.
"Billie, did Daddy say how much longer Seth would have to be in the hospital?" Cat asked.
"No he didn't. He did say something about giving the swelling a couple of days to go down so they could do more extensive testing, so I'm guessing another 3-4 days. Why do you ask?" Billie responded.
"Well, the day after tomorrow is Monday, and if I'm not mistaken, both of us need to get back to work." Cat observed.
"Damn... You're right, Cat." Billie paused. "Shit... it's going to be rough working my schedule around Seth's therapy sessions."
Cat lifted her head off Billie's shoulder and looked her in the face. "Woman, you've got the shortest memory on the face of this earth!" she admonished.
"What??" Billie asked innocently.
"Do the words 'We're in this together' strike a familiar chord?" she asked. "Billie, I can easily arrange my working hours so that I can cover the days with Seth, and you can cover the nights. My job schedule is a lot easier to manipulate than yours so I will take him to his therapy sessions. What better way for us to bond, huh? I'll arrange it so that I can work from 4 pm to midnight. It'll be a little rough on Tara, being shuffled around between us like that, but it will only be for a while. When Seth is fully recovered and doesn't need therapy anymore, I'll change my hours back to normal... then we'll need to address the problem of full-time daycare. I certainly don't want to end up with another 'Terry' situation."
"Cat, I love you. You are remarkable. Obviously, you have been giving this a lot of thought." Billie leaned down to kiss Cat tenderly. Pulling away, she continued to address the problem. "As far as Tara is concerned, she has really taken a liking to the teachers and kids at the gym's daycare. You can drop her off there on your way to work, and I'll pick her up after my aerobics class before going to the hospital. She'll only be there for a few hours. When Seth comes home, you can drop them both off there for me to pick up before going home. As far as a full time provider is concerned, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but you might want to consider the gym... Tara really likes it there, and they have all kinds of activities to keep the kids occupied during the day."
Cat nodded, considering Billie's words. She took a deep breath and said, "It's settled then. I think, the only part I don't like about this plan, is that you and I will have limited time together until Seth is well... I won't be home until after midnight and you'll need to be up early for work, so there won't be much going on in our bedroom at night except sleeping." Cat pouted. "But, we will have the weekends, and it is for the benefit of our son, so that makes the sacrifice all worth it." she concluded.
Billie wrapped her arms tightly around Cat, burying her face in Cat's neck, and allowing her tears to flow. Feeling Billie's shoulders shake as sobs racked her body, Cat pulled out of her embrace and took Billie's face between her hands. "I thought you liked the plan?" she asked Billie, suddenly confused at her lover's reaction.
"I love the plan, Sprite. And I love you for thinking of it." She cried.
"Then why the tears, love?" Cat asked.
"Cat, Seth's father would never make the sacrifices you are about to make on his behalf, yet here you are, practically a stranger to him, and you are willing to turn your life upside down for him. I think Seth and I are the luckiest two people in the world to have found you." Billie said, reaching up to tuck a strand of red-gold hair behind Cat's ear. Looking back into her eyes, she continued. "I love you Cat. More than I have every loved another human being, beside my son. I hope I never disappoint you or give you cause to stop loving me." she finished.
Now Cat was crying. No response was necessary. She just burrowed down into Cat's arms and drifted off to sleep.
Seth's physical therapy testing was scheduled for two days later, early Tuesday afternoon. Even though Cat had arranged her schedule so that she could take Seth to his therapy sessions, this particular meeting was to complete the testing to gauge the extent of his disabilities, so Billie insisted on being there. Taking a half-day vacation, Billie met Cat at the hospital after Cat dropped Tara off at the daycare. Together, they helped Doc and the therapists put Seth through a series of tests.
The testing was very difficult for the small child. During the seven months that he had been in the coma, his muscle tone had deteriorated to the point where he had practically no balance, and very little strength. Billie fought hard to hold the tears back as she helped Seth move across the room, pushing a wheeled walker in front of him.
"It hurts, Mom!" the boy cried, looking to his mother for relief.
Squatting down in front of the distraught boy, Billie brushed the bangs out of his eyes and said, "I know, my love, I know. But if we don't do this, you won't get better, understand?" She brushed the tears off his cheeks and continued, "Please be strong, little one, I know you can do it."
Balancing on the walker, he pulled himself up to his full height and put on a brave front for this mother. "Okay, Mom, I'll try." he said with determination, then pulled himself to the other side of the room where Cat was waiting for him. Reaching for him, she pulled him up into her arms and enveloped him in a warm hug, telling him that she was very proud of his efforts. His face shone under the praise. Watching the scene, Billie's heart overflowed with joy at the obvious relationship developing between her son and her lover.
For the next couple of hours, Seth was poked, prodded, contorted, and manipulated every which way but loose in an attempt to measure his ability level. By the end of the testing, he was exhausted, and fell asleep in Billie's arms as she carried him back to his room.
By this time, it was after 3 pm and Cat needed to get ready for work. Seeing as she worked at the hospital, she was able to shower in the locker room and change into the clean set of clothes left there. Promising to stop by around dinner time, she leaned over to place a gentle kiss on Seth's forehead, mindful not to wake him, then turning to Billie, she wrapped her arms around the taller woman's waist and accepted a deep, probing kiss from her lover. Breaking away breathlessly, Cat moaned, "Gods, keep this up and I'll never get to work!"
Chuckling, Billie released her after pacing a quick peck on the end of her nose. "All right.... I'll see you back here around 6:30 pm, Okay? Doc says it's okay to have our McDonald's picnic today, so I'll pick up enough for everyone on the way over. Doc will see to it that Seth gets a snack when he wakes up, but no supper until Tara and I get here."
Cat grinned. "You are such a soft touch, Billie Charland! I've never seen someone as big as you being wrapped so tightly around the little fingers of two small tikes! I can see who the 'tough' parent is going to have to be in this family!" she finished jokingly.
"Guilty as charged!" Billie admitted. "Now off with you, before you're late for work!" she said, stealing one more kiss and slapping Cat on the butt as she left the room.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER V
After her aerobics class, Billie stopped at the daycare for Tara, then headed to McDonald's to pick up their dinner.
"We're having McDonald's tonight?!" she exclaimed excitedly.
"You bet, Rugrat." Billie replied, "and Grampa says that Seth can have some too, so we're gonna have a picnic in his room. How does that sound?"
"Yeah!!" cried Tara.
Several minutes later, Billie and Tara entered Seth's room, arms loaded with burgers, fries, nuggets, cokes and apple pies. Seth was awake and running through the TV channels with the remote control. Seeing them enter with their treasure, he quickly shut the TV off and whooped for joy.
Placing the food on the dresser, Billie gathered her son up into her arms and held him close. "I missed you Scout." she said.
Seth had no patience for this... he was hungry and McDonald's was his favorite. "Mom!" he said exasperated, "The food?"
Cat had been standing in the doorway, taking in the scene. "Looks like our grocery bill is about to skyrocket with two eating machines in the house." she observed, referring to the children's appetites.
Billie turned and raised her eyebrows into her hairline. "Two?" she questioned, remembering the size of the breakfast Cat ate on their first 'date'.
Cat had the good graces to blush. "Okay, three!" she conceded. "Let's eat - I'm starved."
"Me too!" both the children chimed together.
Billie gabbed the spare blanket at the end of Seth's bed and spread it out on the floor. By the time she had Seth positioned between her legs so that he could use her chest as back support, Doc arrived and helped Cat move the food from the dresser to the blanket on the floor. With all three adults and both children sitting on the floor, they enjoyed their picnic.
While they ate, Doc went over the test results. Considering the results concerned Seth, he saw no reason not to discuss them with the child in the room.
As it turned out, the road to recovery in front of Seth was not as long as Billie and Cat feared. Because he had been relying on a catheter for the past seven months to empty his bladder, Doc wanted to remove it right away and keep him in the hospital long enough for him to relearn how to control himself. He didn't expect it to take more than two or three days. During that time, Cat would be learning how to massage and manipulate Seth's limbs so that most of the therapy could be done at home. It would also give the therapy staff time to put together a training schedule for Seth to follow at home. He would still need to come to the hospital three days a week for specialized therapy, but depending on his progress, Doc thought that he would be recovered enough to go to school in the fall, which was only four months away.
All throughout the explanation, Doc stopped and explained the key points to Seth at a level he could understand. He nodded and promised that he would cooperate and work hard. By the time their picnic was over, they had a plan, and several willing players.
Doc rose and excused himself to make his rounds, promising that he'd check back with Seth at bedtime. After he left, Cat looked over at Billie and noticed that her dinner was only half eaten. Realizing that it was difficult to eat with a squirming Seth on her lap, Cat offered to take him off her hands so she could finish eating. Seth went willingly into Cat's embrace, drawing a huge grin from Billie.
A short time later, Cat announced that she had to return to work. Rising from the floor, she carried Seth back to his bed and tucked him in, kissing him on the cheek and telling him to be a good boy. She promised to stop in and check on him throughout the night, until it was time for her to go home. Leaning in for a hug, she whispered into his ear, "I love you, big guy!" Before releasing her from the hug, he whispered back, "I love you too, Mama." using the term of endearment he had heard Tara use while addressing her mother.
Kissing Tara good bye after extracting a promise out of her to be good, she told her daughter she loved her and left her sitting on the bed, coloring with Seth. Taking Billie's hand she led her out into the hall. Leaning up against the wall, she placed her hands over her heart to steady herself, and looked up into Billie's eyes. Billie saw tears overflow the bright green orbs and roll down her face. Alarmed, Billie took Cat's face between her hands and said, "Cat, what's wrong... tell me, Love."
Covering her mouth with one hand, Cat looked directly into Billie's eyes and explained, "Nothing is wrong, Billie... everything is oh so right."
"Then why the tears?" Billie asked.
"Billie, I whispered to him that I loved him, and he answered with 'I love you too, Mama'. Billie, he called me Mama... he said he loved me too! Gods, this is such an incredible feeling!" she explained.
Now it was Billie's eyes that overflowed with tears. Pulling Cat into a tight embrace, the two women just held each other for long moments, falling into each other's love. Finally, they pulled apart as Billie wiped the tears from Cat's face.
"Go back to work, my love. Wake me when you get home. I want to celebrate this victory together, okay?" Billie instructed.
"Okay." Cat whispered as she rose up onto her toes to place a kiss on Billie's mouth. Then she was off, walking down the hall, drying the tears on her face as she went.
Billie and Tara stayed with Seth until 9 pm, when visiting hours were over, promising him before they left, that Cat would return early for this therapy session tomorrow. Exhausted by the day's activities, and the unaccustomed solid food in his stomach, Seth was sound to sleep moments after they left.
Tara talked nonstop most of the way home about Seth and how much fun they would have when he came home to live with them. When they were within two blocks of home, she suddenly fell silent. Looking over, Billie noticed that Tara had drifted off to sleep. Acknowledging to herself that Tara would probably be taking a back seat to Seth for the next several months, she resolved to include Tara in all aspects of his recovery, and to make special time for the child... time that would belong to only her.
Carrying the child into the apartment, she went directly to Tara's room, and removing her shoes, jeans and socks, she tucked the blanket around her chin and kissed her gently on the forehead, being careful not to wake her. She closed the door lightly as she left the room.
There were three hours remaining before Cat would be home. Billie was too excited from the day's activities and from the anticipation of what was to come when Cat got home, to consider sleeping, so she spent the next hour or so cleaning up the house and making plans for tonight's 'celebration'.
At precisely 12:30 am, Cat let herself into the apartment as quietly as possible. She had been thinking all night about the 'celebration' Billie had mentioned to her at the hospital. She dropped her keys on the coffee table and her coat on the couch and quietly entered Tara's room. She tiptoed over to the bed and sat on the edge. Leaning in, she lightly kissed the child's cheek at whispered "Sleep well, little one. I love you." Pulling the blankets up higher, she tucked her in and just as quietly, left the room, closing the door behind her.
Standing out in the hall, Cat looked toward her own room and saw a soft glow coming from under the door. As she approached, she could also hear the faint strains of music. Reaching for the handle, she turned it and slowly pushed the door open. The scene before her made her breath catch in her throat. Positioned all around the room, were scented candles, casting a seductive glow across everything. Classical music was playing softly from the stereo on the dresser while two partially filled wine glasses sat waiting for their owners on the night stand. All of these extremities added atmosphere to the room, however the one central figure that caught Cat's eye was the beautiful six-foot vision in a see-through black negligee standing by the window.
Billie turned around when she heard the door open and saw Cat mesmerized by the sight before her. Giving her time to take in the room. Billie saw the naked desire on Cat's face when her eyes finally fell upon her. Cat appeared to be glued to the spot. With a seductive smile on her face, Billie walked over to the night stand and picked up the wine glasses.
The movement finally snapped Cat out of her trance as she closed the door and leaned against it, watching the tall seductive creature walk toward her. Billie stopped in front of her and handed her a glass, which she accepted without taking her eyes off her lover's face. Taking a drink from her own glass, Billie leaned down and gently kissed the smaller woman. Demanding entrance into her mouth, which was readily granted, Cat could taste the wine on Billie's tongue. The kiss quickly became a battle for space within each other's mouths. Several breathless moments later, Billie withdrew her mouth, leaving a very weak-kneed Cat leaning against the door.
Stepping away, Billie took Cat's wine from her and then turned her back on the smaller woman to walk to the dresser. Putting their glasses down, she selected a romantic waltz from the collection of music, then returned to the center of the room. Cat was still leaning against the door, trying to regain her composure. Billie reached out her hand to Cat. "Come to me, lover." she whispered.
Cat found herself moving towards the goddess in the center of the room. Reaching her own hand out to meet Billie's, she found herself wrapped in a strong embrace. Billie's arms circled the smaller woman's body, her left hand coming to rest on Cat's lower back, while the other caressed the firm cheek below it. Billie buried her face into Cat's neck, nibbling on the soft flesh she found there. Cat clung desperately to the taller woman, her arms wrapped around Billie's waist, and her head thrown off to the side to allow her lover better access to her neck. They remained in this desperate clutch for some time, swaying gently to the music.
After a time, Cat drew her head away and looked up into Billie's eyes, silently commanding her toward the bed. Billie leaned in and kissed Cat passionately, reaching up to cup both sides of Cat's face with her hands while Cat's arms remained wrapped around Billie's waist.
Releasing her face, Billie's hands roamed down Cat's neck to her shoulders. "You are so beautiful, my love." she whispered as her hands moved around to unbutton Cat's shirt. Pushing the shirt off her shoulders and capturing Cat's arms in the material, Billie descended onto her exposed neck and chest, placing butterfly kisses from shoulder to shoulder. All Cat could do was surrender and moan. Stripping the shirt from Cat's body and letting it drift to the floor, Billie went to work on her belt. Seconds later, Cat's belt and zipper were undone and Billie's hands found their way into the back of Cat's jeans, and under her panties, her large hands gripping the soft globes they found there. Billie pulled her lover closer to her, moaning, "Oh gods, Cat, I want you so much!"
"Take me, Billie, Please!" Cat pleaded.
Pushing the jeans and panties off her lover's body, Billie then reached around and unhooked Cat's bra, releasing the beautiful mounds captured there. Soon, Cat stood before her, totally naked, desire written on every line of her body. Taking a step back, Billie peeled the negligee off her own body and threw it onto the increasing pile of clothes on the floor. Coming back together, flesh met flesh, while four hands roamed endlessly over naked skin. Suddenly, Billie felt herself being pulled towards the bed by the smaller woman.
"Billie, I need you, now!" Cat demanded.
Smiling, Billie reached down to grasp Cat by her waist, raising her up so that Cat could wrap her legs around the taller woman. Billie's hands found their way to Cat's round bottom, grasping the firm cheeks, one in each hand to support the smaller woman. Their mouths locked in violent passion as Billie slowly made their way to the bed. Reaching the bed, Billie slowly lowered them to the mattress, never once breaking the embrace. Soon, they were lying there, the length of Billie's body pressing Cat into the bed.
Cat moaned as Billie's mouth broke contact and started roaming lower, teasing, biting and caressing. Soon, Cat's was writhing in sensual agony, as every inch of her body was explored by Billie's mouth. Finally, pushed almost over the edge by Billie's caresses, Cat demanded fulfillment. "Now, Billie.... I need you now!" she screamed.
Billie, sensing that she had pushed the smaller woman as far as she could without release, satisfied her lover's request and filled her core with all she had, plunging deep within the desperate woman. Suddenly, the room was filled with loud cries of release as Cat plunged over the cliff of ecstasy. Billie reached up to her lover's mouth with her free hand and stifled the cries that were loud enough to raise the dead.
As the trembling subsided, Billie made her way back up Cat's body to hold her close. Placing several kisses on the side of Cat's head, Billie chuckled into her ear, "Like I said, you'll need to learn how to tone it down, my love."
Cat turned to look at Billie. "Its your fault, you know." she said. Then, with an evil look in her eyes, Cat shifted her weight so that she was lying completely on top of Billie, looking down into the taller woman's face. "Now, let's see if I can make you scream!" she said, and proceeded to do just that. Several moments later, muffled screams were once again issued from the room, this time, with the smaller woman's hand covering the offending mouth.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VI
Over the next two days, Cat spent her days learning Seth's physical therapy routine, and her nights working. Billie on the other hand, worked during the day, and spent her evenings taking care of Tara and visiting with Seth. Finally, on the third day, a Friday, Seth was allowed to go home. Billie took the day off from work to celebrate the momentous occasion with her new family. Leaving home early, Billie, Cat and Tara headed to the hospital to collect Seth.
Seth, still limited in his abilities, was confined to a wheelchair, except at home, where he would be allowed to move around on his own. Seth looked so small and fragile in the large wheelchair. Tara, a bit envious of Seth's wheels, insisted on riding with him. He quickly scooted over to make room for her, happily sharing his ride. With Doc's help, checkout was done quickly and smoothly, and soon, the happy family was on their way to the park where there had planned to have a picnic lunch.
Cat and Tara ran ahead to set up the blanket and food under a big oak tree, while Billie set up Seth's wheelchair and transferred him to it from his the back seat of the car. Pushing the wheelchair across the grass was not an easy chore, but Billie thought the alternative of carrying her son across the park would be embarrassing for him, so she put her back into the chore and pushed her way to the blanket.
Seth insisted on getting out of the chair once they got there. He awkwardly climbed out of the chair, and clumsily landed on the blanket. Billie was about to dart forward to help her son, when Cat placed a restraining hand on her arm. Looking into her face, Cat mouthed the words, "No.. Let him do it." Looking back to Seth and seeing that he was unharmed, she sat back and let out the breath she didn't know she was holding. Soon, Tara had unpacked the color book and crayons, and the two children were happily coloring.
Cat leaned into Billie and whispered in her ear, "Love, you're going to have to relax. He needs to feel independent. Let him do as much as possible for himself, okay?"
"How did you get so smart?" Billie replied, taking Cat into her embrace and kissing the top of her head. No reply was necessary as the two women sat back against the tree and watched their children play.
Several yards way, a man stood and watched the scene, a sour, malevolent look in his eyes.
After their picnic lunch, the two ladies brought the children shopping to purchase some new clothes for Seth. Billie had moved all of their clothing from her apartment to Cat's but after going through it, it became obvious that Seth had done enough growing over the past 7 months, that most of his clothing would not longer fit him. There were several pieces that would fit Tara, but the rest of it would have to be given away to the Salvation Army.
While they were shopping, Cat noticed a man staring at them. Realizing he had been caught staring, the man moved away before Cat could draw Billie's attention to him. "Billie," Cat said. "That man over there is giving me the creeps."
Billie looked in the direction Cat was pointing. "What man?" she asked, not seeing anyone suspicious.
Cat looked again, and realized that the man was gone. "Oh well, must have been my imagination." she remarked, still feeling a little uneasy.
By the time they had finished shopping, they had managed to spend several hundred dollars on both of the children. Billie, remembering her concern about Tara feeling left out, made a point of buying her as much as Seth, a point that wasn't missed by Cat. Cat just smiled at her lover's consideration of her child's feelings.
They had purchased so many items, that it would require two trips from the car to the apartment to bring them all in. The first trip, of course, included introducing Seth to his new home. Pushing his wheelchair into the apartment, Billie locked the wheels and allowed Seth to climb out of it. She stood behind him and held him up as he slowly walked around, looking at everything. Tara was excitedly jumping up and down next to him as Billie showed him where the bathroom was, her and Cat's bedroom, and Tara's room. Saving his room for last, she pushed open his door and led him inside. Tara scampered inside ahead of them and climbed up onto Seth's bed, while Cat stood in the doorway and leaned against the door casing.
Seth looked around his room. The walls had been recently wall papered in mint green and decorated with a race car motif. There was a race track built into the wall paper that completely circled the room. Matching curtains hung in the windows, as well as a matching bedspread on the bed.
"Oh Wow!" Seth exclaimed. "I love race cars, Mom... This is great!"
Billie sat Seth down on the bed, facing the doorway. "You have Cat to thank for this, Sport. She spent lots of hours getting this room ready for you."
Looking up at Cat in the doorway, Seth extended his arms to her, which she promptly ran into. "Thanks, Mama." said.
"You're welcome, Sweetie." she said. "We start on Tara's room next weekend if you'd like to help."
"Yeah, Seth!" Tara piped in excitedly. "We're gonna put Cinderella on my walls. Cool, huh?"
"Yeah, Cool!" Seth replied, trying to sound excited for her. Secretly, he thought Cinderella was dumb.
Cat and Billie both, caught the patronizing look on Seth's face and looked at each, other chuckling softly.
The rest of the afternoon was spent pleasantly with the children alternating between playing in each other's rooms, and watching cartoons on TV, while Billie and Cat put their new purchases away. Seth moved from room to room mostly by crawling around the floor, with Tara on all fours right behind him, however, he did try to walk upright when he had something to hold on to, like furniture.
Soon, it was time for Cat to get ready for work. Billie followed Cat into their room, shouting out to the children that she was going to shower while Cat got ready. Nearly a half hour later, Billie and Cat emerged from their room, both with wet hair after an impromptu love making session in the shower. Billie followed Cat to the door and kissed her soundly as she prepared to leave.
Exchanging 'I love you's' and 'See you tonight's', Cat left for work. Closing the door behind her, Billie looked at the two children sitting on the floor in front of the TV and grinned. "Okay." she said. "What do you two Rugrats want to do?"
"Watch Barney!" they shouted together.
Billie's head dropped to her chest. "Oh great! Purple monster time!" she groaned. Looking back up at the kids, she added, "All right... How about some milk and cookies while you watch?"
"Yeah!" they shouted, again in unison.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VII
Billie dropped both Tara and Seth off at the gym's daycare before her aerobics class. She spent several moments talking about Seth's condition with the daycare provider, making sure that they understood to allow Seth to be as independent as possible. Feeling comfortable that she would be contacted if anything important happened, she went to teach her class, leaving Tara and Seth happily coloring together.
After class, Billie went to collect the children, and found Tara sitting in a chair, holding a cloth with ice in it to her lip. Seth as sitting on the floor playing with some race cars. Immediately concerned, she went to the child to inspect the damage and found a slightly split lip. Raising her eyebrows questioningly at the daycare provider, she asked what happened.
Before the provider could answer, Tara piped in. "It was his fault, Mom!" she said, pointing to another boy who was sitting in the opposite corner, his hands crossed in front of his chest, a sour look on his face and a bruise rapidly darkening around his left eye. "He was mean to Seth. He called him a cripple, so I punched him, and he punched me back!" Tara admitted.
Billie looked back at Tara with pride in her eyes. "Did she just call me Mom?" she thought to herself. To the child, she said, "Tara, I'm very proud of you for defending your brother, but hitting isn't always the answer. The next time something like this happens, you tell the teacher, okay?"
"All right, I promise." she said, dropping her chin to her chest. Billie lifted her chin and kissed her on the cheek.
"I love you, Scamp." she said. "Why don't you get ready while I see to Seth, okay?"
Tara nodded and rose to get her coat, casting a mean look at the boy in the corner on the way.
Billie bent down and picked Seth up. He wrapped his legs around her waist and held onto her neck.
"Hey, big guy." she said. "Are you all right?" she asked the child.
"Yeah, I'm okay, Mom." he said sadly. "I just wish I coulda punched the guy out instead of Tara. It's kinda embarrassing to have your little sister fight for you."
Turning his face to meet her's, she said to him, "You know it's because she loves you, right?"
"I know, but it's still embarrassing." he replied.
"Seth." Billie said, "Very soon, you'll be as good as new and then you'll be able to take care of yourself. In the meantime, be proud that you have people who are willing to stand up for you, okay?"
"Okay, Mom." he said, kissing her on the cheek and hugging her hard.
Sitting him down in a chair, she gave him his coat to put on, while she got his wheel chair ready. Climbing into his chair and making room for Tara to scoot in beside him, he too cast a mean look at the boy in the corner before being wheeled out to the parking lot.
"Okay, gang." Billie said as she loaded the children into the car. "How does spaghetti sound for dinner?"
She heard a chorus of cheers as she headed to the nearest Italian restaurant.
Off in the distant, cold eyes watched the trio leave the gym.
Cat was never so happy to end her shift as she was that night. They had had an especially traumatic evening with several emergencies that required immediate surgery, including a small child that had been critically injured in a car accident. All of her medical training never prepared her for dealing with the heartbreak of seeing a small child in such desperate need. All she could do as an anesthesiologist, was to see that the child was in no pain during the operation.
She hung around a little longer than necessary to check on the child's progress, and as a result, left the hospital about an hour later than usual. Making her way through the dark parking lot to her car, she could feel someone watching her. The hair stood on edge along the back of her neck as she quickly climbed into her car and reached around to lock all the doors. Scanning the area to make sure that she wasn't being followed, she left the parking lot and drove home as fast as she dared.
Parking her car in the lot behind the condo, Cat ran to the building and up the three flights of stairs to her unit. She didn't feel totally safe until she had slipped inside and locked the door. Throwing her keys and coat on the kitchen table, she went to the bathroom and leaned over the sink, splashing water on her face to calm down. Taking a deep breath, she shut of the bathroom light and went to check on the kids. Placing a light kiss on each of their foreheads, and satisfied that they were safe, she went to her own room, peeled off her clothes and slipped into bed behind Billie. Wrapping her arms around the taller woman's waist, she couldn't keep herself from shivering.
Billie felt Cat climb into bed and cuddle up to her, immediately noticing the shivering. Turning around, she gathered Cat into her arms and kissed her lightly on the head. Sleepily, she murmured, "What's wrong, my love?"
"Nothing, Billie, everything's fine. I'm just cold." she lied.
Billie pulled the smaller woman closer to warm her up. "Better?" she asked.
"Oh, Yeah, much better." Cat replied. Then she asked, "How was your evening?"
"Everything was fine until our daughter decided to punch out a bully at the daycare." she said with a bit of humor in her voice.
"What?" Cat asked.
Billie looked at her with a grin on her face. "Yeah, there was this boy at the day care who made fun of Seth's disability, so Tara punched him out!"
"That isn't funny, Billie!" Cat chided, unable to keep a grin off her own face.
"Well, he punched her back, splitting her lip a little bit, so I think she's learned her lesson about fighting, but, I still think it's cool that she was so protective of Seth." Billie explained.
"Ugh! What am I going to do with the lot of you?" she said exasperated
"Don't worry about it, Cat." Billie said. "Things like this have a way of working themselves out. In no time, the three of them will be playing like they were best friends." Pausing slightly, she asked Cat, "How was your evening?"
"Long and traumatic." she answered. "We had emergency surgery tonight on a small child who was injured in a car accident. The parents should be put in jail for not having her in a car seat. I hung around to check on her progress after surgery, that's why I'm late." Cat explained.
"C'mere, you." Billie said, pulling Cat closer. "You have such a soft heart. That's one of the things I love about you most."
Cat lay in Billie's arms, feeling safe and warm, wide awake long after Billie had fallen back to sleep. She couldn't get the feeling of being followed out of her mind. She knew she should tell Billie about it, but she didn't want to worry her love until she was sure. It was deep into the night before she finally found relief in the arms of Morpheus.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VIII
"Thank god for the weekend." Billie thought as she woke up and noticed Cat still curled up beside her. Deciding to let her sleep in, she climbed out of bed and made her way to the bathroom which adjoined their room. Coming out of the bathroom, she heard noises coming from the kitchen. Closing the bedroom door on her way out to give Cat some peace and quiet, she walked down the hall and into the kitchen, to find the two kids sitting at the table, enjoying a breakfast of cookies and potato chips.
Standing there in her football jersey, arms crossed in front of her chest, she made an imposing figure. Unfortunately for her, the kids knew she was a soft touch, and they were totally uninhibited with her presence.
"Hi, Mom!" they said together. "Come have some breakfast with us!" Seth added happily shoving some chips into his mouth.
She sat down and grabbed a cookie. Looking at the kids, she said, "You know, Mama will kill me for letting you guys eat this junk for breakfast, don't you?"
"We just won't tell her!" reasoned Tara.
"Won't tell me what?" asked a voice from behind them.
"Busted!" said Billie, causing the kids to giggle.
Billie looked guilty as the smaller woman reached over her for the bag of chips. "We'll talk about this later." she whispered in Billie's ear. Billie gulped. She knew she was in trouble.
"Aw, Mama!" the kids moaned in unison.
"Don' t you two 'Aw Mama' me!" she said, looking at the children sternly. "You are both old enough to know better." she chided. "Now, how about some pancakes?" she asked, lightening the mood considerably.
"With blueberries?" asked Seth hopefully.
"Blueberries, it is." she said, drawing squeals of delight out of the children.
"Now whose the softy?" Billie asked, coming up behind her at the counter and wrapping her arms round the smaller woman.
"Don't you think for one moment that sweet talking me is going to get you off the hook, Billie!", she scolded.
"Can't blame a girl for trying!" Billie said, planting a wet kiss on Cat's cheek and scooting away just in time to avoid a wet face cloth across the face.
After breakfast was eaten and the dishes cleared away, Cat announced that it was time for Seth's therapy. Seth groaned and sat dejectedly on the couch.
Seeing his disappointment, Billie took Cat aside and suggested that they cut the kid some slack and skip the therapy for today.
Cat's dropped her chin to her chest and messaged her forehead with her hand. "I knew this was going to happen." she told herself. Looking up at Billie, she said, "Billie, he hates his therapy, and I don't blame him, but if we don't do it, he won't get better! Now I'm sorry if this sounds heartless, but if we give in to his pouting now, it will only get worse." she explained.
"But it hurts him, Cat..." Billie began to say.
"Do you think I don't know that?" Cat interrupted in a loud voice. The kids looked towards the kitchen where the adults were arguing, concern etched on their brows. Noticing their unease, Cat lowered her voice and turned toward the sink so that her back was facing the living room. Billie stood close beside her. "Look," she continued. "I know it hurts him. Do you think I enjoy doing it? I have spent the past three days trying to harden my heart to his protests. I hate it, Billie. My heart breaks every time he cries." she finished, reaching up to wipe tears from her own eyes.
Billie's arms were immediately around her. "I'm sorry, Cat." she said. "I didn't realize how much it takes out of you. You're right, we can't give in." Billie pulled her in close and kissed the top of her head. After a few moments, Billie continued. "Cat, I want you to show me how to do the therapy. There is no reason that you have to do this on your own. It's bad enough that you have to deal with it all week, the least I can do is to replace you on the weekends. Okay?"
"Are you sure you want to do this, Billie? It won't be pleasant." Cat warned.
"I'm sure, love, I'm sure." Billie replied.
The next two hours were spent working with Seth. His therapy was segmented so that the first hour was spent on upper body exercises, focusing mainly on his arms, chest and back, and the last hour on lower body, primarily his legs. All through the therapy, Seth put on a brave front, even though it was obvious just how painful the workout was. An even braver front was put on by Billie, who cringed each time her son cried out in pain or a tear rolled down his face.
Near the end of the session, while Billie massaged the kinks out of Seth's legs, Cat went to fill the Jacuzzi with warm water. She then went to both his and Tara's bedrooms and found their bathing suits. Walking back to where Seth was lying on the floor, she purposely dropped Seth's trunks directly onto this chest and said, "Hey big guy, how 'bout a swim?" Seth's eyes got big and round as he looked back and forth between his two mothers.
"Swim?" he asked. "Where?"
"You just get that suit on, and let me worry about where, okay?" Cat replied. Then to Tara, she said, "Hey scamp, wanna join your brother for a swim?"
As soon as the words left her mouth, Tara was naked and grabbing for her suit.
Billie looked at the total lack of modesty displayed by the little girl and grinned. "I see her appetite isn't the only thing she inherited from her mother!" she commented in jest.
Cat faced Billie with her hands on her hips. "Is that a complaint, Ms. Charland?" she asked.
"Oh, no... don't get me wrong. I'm kind of partial to exhibitionists... honest I am!" Billie replied as she scooped her son up and brought him into the bathroom to help him change.
Moments later, Seth and Tara were sitting in the Jacuzzi, up to their chests in warm water.
Cat placed a few drops of bubble bath in front of each jet. "Ready?" she asked the kids. Seth didn't know what he was in for, so his eyes were wide with anticipation. "Okay, count it down with me... Four... Three... Two... One!" they all counted together as Cat hit the jet stream button. Suddenly the water came to life, churning madly around the two small bodies. As the mountain of bubbles began to grow wild shrieks of joy were heard coming from the two children. Billie and Cat stood in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear.
After a few moments, Cat reached up and whispered in Billie's ear, "How about a nice hot cup of coffee?"
Wrapping her arms around Cat's waist, she pulled the smaller women in to her chest. Dropping a kiss on her forehead, she said, "Sounds great!"
Before breaking out of Billie's embrace, Cat reached up to cup Billie's face in her hands and said, "You did really good, Billie." referring to Seth's therapy. "I know it was hard for you, but really, you did good."
"Thanks." Billie said, kissing her again. "A little milk... no sugar." she said as she scooted Cat away.
Both children were so tired from their swim, that they nearly fell asleep at the lunch table. Tucking them both into Seth's bed, on Tara's insistence, they quickly fell asleep, giving the two women some much needed time alone.
And so went the weekend. Mornings filled with therapy, naps in the afternoon, and evenings filled with family time. Despite her son's handicap, Billie couldn't remember having a more blissful existence and she looked forward to life just getting better and better.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER IX
As always, the inevitable happened - Monday came, and with it the need to return to work. "So much for blissful existence's" Billie muttered to herself as she dragged herself out of bed to get ready for work. Making the rounds, she kissed each one of them and quietly slipped out the door, locking it securely behind her. Walking across the parking lot to her car, she had the feeling that she was being watched. Looking around without being obvious about it, she didn't spot anyone suspicious, so she chalked it up to paranoia and set off to work.
Billie called home at lunch time to check in with Cat. The kids had just finished their "swim" and were sitting at the table eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Cat planned on putting both herself and the kids down for a nap after lunch, making Billie very envious that she was stuck at work. She made it very clear to Cat about what she'd rather being doing with her at "nap" time then being stuck there in the office. After securing a promise from Cat that she'd wake Billie when she got home that night, Billie told her she loved her and that she'd see her later. Hanging up the phone, Billie had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. She shook off the feeling and went back to work.
Cat had just put the kids down for their nap and had retied to her own bed, when she heard a noise in the living room. Assuming it was Billie, returning home for that afternoon "nap" session, she smiled and faked sleep, planning on surprising her lover when she came in to wake her up. Lying there with her eyes closed, Cat felt someone approach the bed. Anticipating a light kiss on her temple, she was totally surprised, and then terrified when a rough hand came down over her mouth.
"Make one sound, bitch, and I'll slit your throat, then I'll kill the kids... you got that?" a man's voice said.
She nodded her head yes, tears falling from her eyes. "Not again!" her mind raced as memories of four years ago returned, "Oh gods, not again!"
Billie sat at her desk, dictating a letter into her tape recorder. Suddenly, a blinding pain stabbed through her head. Closing her eyes tightly, a vision came to her. She was in a temple, dressed in warrior leathers and armor, a sword in her hand, her left arm sliced open just below the shoulder by and evil monster who called himself The Deliverer. There on the altar was a petite woman with red-blonde hair. Her body was being invaded by some invisible force. Slowly, she rose off the altar, flames swirling around her. The woman writhed in agony. Suddenly, she realized that the woman was Cat!
"Xena, help me!" Cat begged.
"Gabrielle!" she heard herself yell. "You bastard, let her go!" This command directed at the unseen force.
Once more, The Deliverer attacked her, preventing her from helping Cat. The invasion of Cat's body continued. Grabbing the monster by the shoulders, she was able to roll onto her back and force the monster into the fire pit.
Suddenly, the force receded and Cat started to fall toward the pit. She quickly bounded forward and caught her lover, cradling her in her arms like a small child. She had been violated, but was safe for the moment.
Snapping back to reality, Billie was on her feet in an instant. "Cat is in trouble!" she said to herself as she grabbed her car keys and headed for the door.
"Don't move or I'll kill you" the main said into her ear, his breath heavily laced with alcohol.
"What do you want?" Cat asked, trying to stall for time.
"I want what is mine, bitch. You took something from me and now you're gonna pay for it!" he growled as he ripped the shirt from her back.
"Oh gods no!" She thought. Then she said, "I don't have anything of yours... I don't even know you. Please don't do this!" she begged.
"You most certainly do have something of mine. I have been watching you for some time now. You have my son and my wife, and now you're going to pay like the whore you are!" he spat, reaching out and tearing the rest of her clothes off.
Flipping her over onto her back, he backhanded her across the face, splitting her lip and spraying blood all over the pillows.
Cat was afraid that if she cried out, the children would wake up and he would end up hurting them too, so she endured the abuse in silence. Daring a glance into his face, she saw Seth as an adult. "This has to be Brian. Oh gods, Billie, did he do this to you too?" she thought.
Cat felt him paw her over with one hand as he unfastened his belt and trousers with the other. She tried her best to pull a mask over her consciousness, knowing that what was to come was not going to be pleasant. Suddenly, she felt him enter her, roughly taking her against her will, biting and clawing the flesh on her chest and face as he took his revenge out on her. Then it was over. He rolled off her, sweaty and covered in her blood. She was sickened by what she saw and by how she felt.
Suddenly, another sound emitted from the living room. "No, not the children!" she thought.
Billie raced through traffic to get home as fast as possible, running red lights and stop signs along the way. Screeching to a halt in the parking lot, she threw the car into park and ran into the building, taking the stairs three at a time. When she reached their apartment, she noticed that the door was ajar. Her first thoughts were for the children. Running to each of their rooms, she found them still asleep in their beds.
"Cat!" she cried out. "Cat, where are you?" she said again, as she ran toward their bedroom. Pushing the door open violently, the scene before her sickened her beyond all feeling. A totally consuming rage overcame her as she pounced on Brian, who was trying to rise to his feet and zip his trousers at the same time.
"You bastard!" she yelled at him, landing a roundhouse kick to the chin. "You son of a bitch!" Another kick. "I'm going to kill you!" she warned, planting an elbow into his solar plexus, causing him to loose his breath and the contents of his stomach. Her next kick landed squarely on his nose, sending him flying across the room into the bathroom door where he sunk to the floor unconscious. She was about to put him out of his misery permanently, when a small voice stopped her.
"Billie! No!" Cat cried.
Turning around quickly, she ran to Cat and pulled her into her arms. Tears ran down both of their faces.
"The kids!" Cat said through her tears.
"They're okay, Cat... they're okay. Shhhh, I've got you. You're safe now. I've got you." she assured the small blonde.
A short time later, the police ambulance was carting Brian away. Billie called Cat's parents to come stay with the kids while Billie brought Cat to the hospital. After a very humiliating examination and several probing questions, they allowed Cat to go home with Billie. When then arrived, they found a note that indicated her parents had taken the kids home with them to give them some privacy.
Unable to bear going into their bedroom, Cat insisted on sleeping in Seth's room, wrapped in Billie's arms. Billie spent several hours crying and apologizing to Cat for not being there to prevent it. Cat in turned, cried in Billie's arms, explaining that she had feelings of being watched and followed for over a week without telling Billie about it. She chided herself for putting herself and the children in danger with her silence. Apologies behind them, they fell exhausted into the arms of Morpheus.
************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER X
Eight months later, Seth and Tara ran side by side through the park, seeing who could make it to the swings first. Seth won, of course, seeing as he was two years older, and a lot bigger. No one would have guessed that he had been bound to a wheel chair just a few months earlier.
Billie spread the blanket out under their favorite oak tree, then helped Cat to sit, her extended belly making her movements awkward. Cat groaned as she sought to find a comfortable position.
"Not much longer, love." Billie said commenting on the stage of her pregnancy. Reaching over, she kissed the younger woman on the mouth, and then leaned down and kissed her stomach. "It will be all over soon." she said.
Pulling Billie's face up to meet her own, Cat said, "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"
"You may have said it once or twice already today, but I'll never tire of hearing it." Billie replied.
"Well, I do, you know... love you, I mean." Cat said. "Billie, you have taken on so much responsibility lately, me, Tara, my child..."
"Our child.... and don't you forget that!" Billie corrected.
"Our child." Cat said with a smile. "I can't tell you enough how much I love you, Billie."
"Cat." Billie said. "When we first found out you were pregnant, I have to admit that I was upset, angry, and jealous, but..."
"Jealous?" Cat asked.
"Yeah, Jealous that I couldn't be the one to give you this child." She paused. "Anyway, I had mixed feelings at first, but now,...., now, I am so looking forward to this baby. Our baby. Cat, this child binds us together. It is the one true link between Seth and Tara. Don't you see? We've always been a family in spirit, but with this child, we are a family in blood. I don't care if the child isn't technically mine. It is mine in my heart, and I will do everything in my power to be a good parent. Thank you for giving me this chance, Cat." she finished, kissing her passionately.
Breaking away from the kiss, Cat looked into Billie's eyes and saw tears brimming there, matching the ones that threatened to fall from her own eyes.
"Billie?" Cat asked.
"Yes, my love?" Billie answered.
"We're in this together, right?" she questioned.
"Together, my love, together." came the reply.