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. Any character or name resemblance to people currently living or dead is completely coincidental. Reuse of this story is limited to my permission only. By all means, download it, print it out and pass it around if you'd like, but be sure to include these disclaimers.

SUBTEXT: Yes, this is a story about two women who are very committed to a caring and loving relationship. Although sex is part of that relationship, it is not the focus. There are some mildly graphic sex scenes within, but nothing explicit. 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: Yeah, and for stupid reasons! There is also a mention of rape... Just for the record, I think people who rape are the scum of the earth and should be punished accordingly. NO means NO.... pure and simple. Enough said....

TIME LINE: This is the fourth installment in an Uber-Xena sequence, starting with "The 'Commitment'" and followed by "A Family in Blood" and "Personal Preferences". Since these stories are continuations of each other, there are events mentioned within that will not make much sense if you haven't read them all in order. I hope you enjoy it, and please keep the feedback coming! Feedback is fodder for my soul!

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, however, I do encourage constructive crticism. Send all feedback to warriorx@together.net.

SPECIAL NOTE: This installment in the Billie/Cat series required significant research. Throughout this story, there are several references to real people and events. I use them here, not as an infringement of their privacy, nor for personal or monetary gain. I use them to further their cause, the nature of which, I will not mention in this disclaimer as it would give the story line away.

Fighting City Hall

By: kd bard

Started 12/10/98

Finished 12/20/98


"Mama, help, Seth is going to pound me!" six year old Tara yelled as she ran into the room and climbed up onto Cat's lap on the couch. Right behind her was her eight year old brother, Seth. Seth lunged at Tara, flinging himself across Cat.

"Whoa... wait a minute. Stop it right now!" demanded Cat, pulling the children down onto the couch, one on each side of her. "Time out here... What in Hades name is this all about?" she demanded.

Both children started talking at the same time, each pointing a finger at the other. "She broke....", "Seth wants to..."

"STOP!" Cat said firmly. "One at a time. Tara, you go first." she directed.

Seth started to object. "You'll get your turn, Seth, now sit still. Tara....?" Cat said.

Tara took a deep breath and began. "I was just walking in the hallway and Seth ran right into me! It's not my fault that his toys fell!" she said rapidly.

"Okay... Seth, what have you got to say?" Cat asked turning to her son.

"Mama, I spent all day making my leggo castle. I was bringing it to show you and Mom and Tara ran right into me. It fell on the floor and broken into a gazillion pieces!" he explained.

Cat took a deep breath and stood up, leaving the two children sitting on the couch glaring at each other. Walking a few feet away, she turned toward them and placed her hands on her hips. "Let me get this straight." she said, starting to pace back and forth while rearranging the bangs on her forehead. "Seth, you were carrying your castle out of your room, and you and Tara collided in the hall. Is that right?" she asked.

"Yeah, and I think she did it on purpose!" Seth complained, again sending visual darts at his sister.

Looking at Tara, she asked, "Tara, were you running in the house again?"

Tara looked down guiltily and replied, "I wasn't really running Mama, I was walking fast."

"You were running!" Seth accused forcefully, giving her a dirty look.

"I was not!" she yelled back.

"That's enough! If you can't talk civil to each other, then you'll both go to your rooms. Do you understand?" Cat scolded.

"Yes, Mama." the said together.

"Okay. Now, Seth, do you think your sister really ran into you on purpose?" Cat asked.

"Well....maybe not." he said haltingly.

"All right then, the question is, what do we do about this?" she asked walking back over to sit down between the children.

Both children shrugged their shoulders.

"Your castle was destroyed, right Seth?" Cat said. Seth nodded yes. "Well, what did the neighborhood do when the Swenson's house was destroyed by fire a year ago?" she asked.

Seth looked up at her, comprehension starting to dawn. "They rebuilt it." he replied.

Cat just nodded her head and smiled at them.

"Hey!" Tara exclaimed. "You and me can rebuild your castle, Seth!"

"You and I." Cat corrected.

"You wanna help too, Mama?" asked Tara.

"No Honey, I was correcting your speech.... Oh never mind.... The two of you go rebuild the castle okay? Then you can bring it down together to show Mom and I." she encouraged. "Oh, and Tara, since you caused this by running in the house again, I want you to pick up all the blocks that were scattered, understand?"

The two children were off the couch like a shot and heading for the stairs.

"And make sure to pick up all the pieces so your little sister doesn't get a hold of any!" she yelled.

"Okay, Mama." they both yelled back down the stairs.

"Hi, Mom!" she heard the children say one at a time, as they climbed the stairs.

Turning toward the stairs to watch them, she noticed Billie sitting on the steps with a big grin on her face.. She had apparently been there through the entire exchange. Standing up and walking over to the couch, Billie leaned down and placed a light kiss on Cat's mouth.

"You are quite an arbitrator, my love." she said.

Cat smiled. "Well, those children of ours have given me enough practice over the past year... I swear!"

Billie smiled again and lowered her long frame down onto the couch beside Cat. Cat never got tired of looking at her soul mate. Nearly six feet tall, with long slim legs, a tiny waist and full breasts, she was the envy of nearly every woman who saw her. Her long black hair flowed easily to the middle of her back, with bangs that framed a face so beautiful, it took your breath away. Piercing azure eyes that seem to look right through you rounded out the package. Cat was mesmerized with her beauty each time she looked at her.

Billie waved her hand back and forth in front of Cat's face. "Hello? Anybody home?" Billie asked.

Snapping out of her trance, Cat just smiled at her lover.

"Are you all right?" Billie asked.

"Oh Yeah... Just thinking about how beautiful you are, and how lucky I am that you're mine." Cat replied.

Billie smiled and reached out to pull Cat across her lap and into her arms. Placing her hands on both sides of Cat's face, she leaned in and kissed her passionately. Drawing a line of kisses from Cat's mouth to her left ear, Billie whispered, "I'm the lucky one Cat. You are the most beautiful and wonderful creature the gods ever put on this earth. Thank you for loving me." she said.

The lovers were interrupted by a tiny pair of arms reaching up to them. "Mama up." said the child. Skylar had been playing contentedly on the floor, until she saw her two mothers cuddling on the couch.

"You want in on the action, huh?" Billie said, lifting the child into her arms and sitting her between Cat and herself. Suddenly, Billie looked up and crinkled her nose. "Oh, Oh,... Do you smell what I smell?" she asked.

"Pew!" exclaimed Cat. "Sky, how can such a tiny girl make such a smelly mess. What are we going to do with you, huh?" Cat looked over at Billie hopefully.

Never able to refuse Cat's puppy-dog eyes, she gave in. "Okay, okay, hand her over, I'll do it." Picking up the child, she turned toward the stairs. "Come on stinker!" she said, kissing the child on the cheek.

Before she walked away, Cat raised herself on tip toes and kissed Billie soundly. "Thank you , love.... I'll get dinner started while you take care of your daughter." she said, emphasizing the word "your".

"My daughter?" Billie exclaimed. Why is she always mine when she's made a mess?"

"Because my daughter would never do such a disgusting thing!" Cat teased.

Billie smirked. "Just remember, dear... paybacks are a bitch!" she warned.

"Oh, I'm counting on it, Billie... I'm counting on it!" she flirted before disappearing into the kitchen.

Billie chuckled and started up the stairs to Skylar's room.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER II

Just before dinner, Seth and Tara unveiled their leggo castle creation to their mothers. After making an appropriate amount of fuss over the work of art, it was proudly displayed on the mantle above the fireplace in the family room.

After dinner, and a family video, which they all watched cuddled together on the couch in the family room, the children were bathed and put to bed. As was the tradition, both parents tucked them all in and kissed them goodnight. Walking out into the hallway and closing the last bedroom door behind them, Billie took Cat into her arms and gave her a warm affectionate hug. They just stood there for a time, holding each other in a loving embrace. Finally, Cat broke out of Billie's arms.

"As much as I hate to leave this warm cocoon, you have some studying to do, love." Cat said to the taller woman.

Billie groaned. "Yeah, I know. I'll be glad when this exam is over. I miss spending my evenings with you." she replied.

"Soon, love. Your exam is just a few days away. Then it'll be over." Cat said. "Now give me a kiss and get to work." she commanded

"Yes, sir, Sarge!" Billie joked, clicking her heels and saluting to the smaller woman.

Cat swatted Billie's behind as she walked into the bedroom where they had set up a makeshift office environment in the corner of their room for Billie to do her studying.

Cat went downstairs intending to brew a pot of tea and cuddle up on the couch to read while Billie studied. When the tea was done, Cat poured a mug for herself and one for Billie, sweetening it with mint and honey, just the way she liked it. She carried it up the stairs to their room where Billie was intently studying. Coming up behind the taller woman, she reached over and placed the tea on the desk within Billie's reach, then leaned down and kissed her neck intimately.

Billie reached up with her arm and captured Cat around the neck, holding her there. "Oh gods, Cat, keep that up and I'll flunk this exam for sure." Billie said.

Cat chuckled and pulled away. "Sorry love... back to work with you." she said, planing a kiss on Billie's head. "Enjoy your tea." Cat quietly left the room and returned to the couch and her book.

After a half hour of failing to concentrate on the printed word, Cat let her mind wander over her life with Billie. She couldn't believe it had already been two years since she and Billie met. She remembered vividly, walking into Billie's aerobics class and being unable to concentrate on her footing because she was spending so much energy going gaga over the instructor. Luckily, Billie took pity on her and agreed to private lessons, meeting each morning before work. It wasn't long before they both began to depend on those sessions as an excuse for seeing each other, and soon realized that their relationship was rapidly developing into something beyond student/teacher. It wasn't until Cat almost died of appendicitis, that they finally declared their love to each other. It was at that point that Billie discovered Cat had a daughter.

Although they were madly in love, and a close relationship was developing between Billie and Cat's daughter, Tara, there was still a huge secret between them... Billie's son, Seth. Seth had been in a coma in the hospital for seven months after being hit by a drunk driver who was illegally passing his school bus. During their courtship, Billie would disappear every evening for a standing "commitment", which turned out to be visits with her son. Of course, Cat had no way of knowing this, and suspected that Billie was seeing someone else. Finally, after over hearing a conversation between Billie and Seth's doctors, Cat forced the issue and demanded to be told about Seth. Angry at the unvoiced accusation, Billie dragged Cat to the hospital to introduce her to her unresponsive son. Cat's heart was broken at the pain Billie had been holding inside with this secret. Unknown to Billie, Cat's father was a brain surgeon, and after careful examination of Seth, he performed an operation and was able to reverse the damage and the coma. Several months later, after extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation, Seth was cured. During this time, they had decided to blend their families and live together.

Cat paused in her thoughts and went to refill her tea mug. Returning to the couch, she once again drifted back into her memories.

Not long after Seth's physical therapy began, Cat had sensed that she was being followed..., at work, at the park with the children, and while shopping. Not wanting to alarm Billie, she kept it to herself. One day, while Billie was at work and she was home with the children, a man in a drunken stupor, broke into their condo and raped her. The man turned out to be Brian, Billie's ex-husband, and Seth's father... and the man that had been following her. His motive for the rape was revenge for Cat taking his wife and son from him. It didn't matter that Billie and Brian had already been divorced prior to Cat meeting Billie.... Brian was emotionally unstable and dangerous. Cat and Billie's daughter, Skylar was the product of that rape. Skylar turned out to be the tie that bound them all together as a family. She was truly a blessing in disguise.

After Skylar was born, Cat and Billie purchased a house on the outskirts of the city. They settled in happily, but soon realized that they had moved into a neighborhood of homophobics. For several months after their neighbors learned the true nature of their relationship, they were treated as outcasts. It wasn't until Billie rescued three neighbors from their burning house, that they were finally accepted into the community. Their peace was destined to be short lived though. Somehow convincing the parole board to release him, Brian was once again free and took Cat and the children hostage in their own home while Billie was at work. Billie managed to break into the house and rescue Cat and the kids, but not before Brian shot her in the shoulder. The bullet nicked a major artery, and they almost lost her from loss of blood on the way to the hospital. Luckily, she pulled through and after months of therapy, had recovered the full use of her arm.

Soon after, Cat encouraged Billie to return to school, where she had only one year to complete in order to earn her law degree. Billie was reluctant at first, not wanting to put the burden of raising their children on Cat, however, arrangements were made through the law firm she worked for, to attend classes during working hours so that she could be home with her family at night. They had also assured her a promotion within the firm upon graduation. It was an offer she couldn't refuse, so in the fall, she enrolled in school.

Cat thought about how fast the past year had gone. Seth was just finishing up the third grade, and Tara, the first. Skylar was nearly two and just about ready for potty training. Billie was two days away from her final law exam and soon afterward, her graduation ceremony. Cat was so damned proud of her, and so proud of her family. She had faced so much ridicule in her teens and early twenties about her personal preferences. She had been told by countless skeptics that she would never have a normal life or family. Well, she had proven them all wrong. Billie and their children meant the world to her... they were her life and her reason for living. She could not remember ever being as happy as she was at this moment. Life was good, and she could only see it getting better and better.


After a full three hours of studying, Billie sat back in her chair and flexed her neck up and down to get the kinks out. Finally, throwing her head back, she closed her eyes and let her thoughts wander to the red haired beauty down in the living room. Billie didn't know what she had done to deserve Cat's love, but she thanked the gods for it every day. She counted herself incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful woman in love with her. Billie never tired of just looking at Cat. Much shorter than herself, Cat only came to Billie's chin. Although compactly built, her frame was muscular from many years of running and weight lifting. Red blonde hair cascaded down to the middle of her back, bangs framing her china doll features and striking emerald eyes. Perfect rosebud lips, that Billie found so hard to resist, complimented the package. Billie could feel a familiar warming in her groin at the thought.

Cat had been through so much with her over the last two years, from family illness, to the fateful rape that had given them their beloved daughter Skylar. Then there was the prejudice they faced from their neighbors for the first six months in this house. Billie knew how much that hurt Cat emotionally. Cat was more concerned with how the children were being shunned than with herself. In the end, everything had worked out. Everyone was healthy, they had been given the most precious gift in their daughter, and the neighbors had finally come around after the house burning incident. All in all, life was pretty good right now. In a few days, with this final exam behind them, it would even get better.

Physically and emotionally tired from working all day and studying for the past few hours, Billie closed her eyes and rested her head down on top of her books. "I'll rest for just a few minutes, then get back to work." she thought. Within minutes she was fast asleep.


Cat glanced at the clock on the living room wall and noticed that it was 11 pm. "Oh gods." she thought. "I didn't realize it was getting so late. I wonder if Billie is finished studying?"

Closing her book, she placed it on the coffee table and went to put her tea mug in the dishwasher. After checking to see that the tea pot was shut off, she turned off the kitchen light and headed to the stairs. Cat stopped at each of the children's rooms on the way to bed to give them all a final kiss goodnight, and to see that they were covered up and tucked in properly.

Finally, she pushed the door to her bedroom open. Inside, a soft glow came from the desk lamp in the corner. Looking over, she saw Billie slumped forward, with her head on the desk, sleeping. "Poor baby." she thought. "All tuckered out."

Cat went to the bed and pulled down the covers, then she approached Billie and gently rubbed the older woman's back until she woke up. "Wake up love, you fell asleep on the desk." she said softly. "Here, let me help you to bed."

Billie came awake slowly, sitting back in the chair and throwing her head back once more. Opening her eyes a tiny bit, she saw Cat and said, "Please, Mom. Just 10 more minutes."

Cat chuckled. Tugging on Billie, she said, "Come on now, love, you know I can't carry you. You're gonna have to help me here, okay?"

"You can try." Billie said, grinning sleepily.

"Nah... I don't think so, Sweetie." Cat replied. "Now be a good girl and give me a hand."

Reluctantly, Billie rose to her feet and allowed Cat to lead her to the bed. Sitting her down on the edge, Billie teetered left to right then lifted her hand to stifle a yawn. Cat had already removed Billie's shoes, and was now working on pulling her sweater over her head. That done, she unhooked her bra, allowing the full breasts to bounce forward on their own accord. Cat had all she could do to concentrate on finishing the job. All she really wanted to do was take those voluptuous orbs into her hands and mouth and caress them for all she was worth. Instead, she pushed Billie onto her back and slid her jeans down her hips.

Once the jeans were discarded, Cat reached down to lift Billie's legs up onto the bed. Billie easily complied, but when Cat tried to walk away to get Billie a night shirt, Billie grabbed Cat's arm and pulled her down on top of her, spreading her legs so that Cat could settle between them.

"Somebody's been playing opossum!" Cat accused. "I thought you were tired?"

"I am... I just want to cuddle with my favorite lady. Got a problem with that?" Billie asked.

A little disappointed that cuddling was the only thing on the agenda, Cat signed and replied, "Oh no.. cuddling's good!"

With that, she snuggled her head down into Billie's shoulder. "Two more days." she thought. "Just two more days and I'll have you all to myself again!" Cat thought. "Then we'll see about just wanting to cuddle!"

Billie reached for the covers and pulled them over both of them. "Sorry, my love." she said to Cat, kissing her on the temple. "But if I don't get some sleep, I'll be worthless tomorrow. I promise to make it up to you. When my exams are over, I'll make such intense passionate love to you, you'll walk funny for a week!"

Cat lifted her head and looked into Billie's blue eyes. With a huge smile on her face, she warned, "I will hold you to that, warrior!" she said, using the nickname reserved for her ancient Greek ancestor, Xena.

"I'd expect no less from you, my bard." Billie countered.

Billie lowered her lips to Cat's and deposited several delicate kisses there.

"Good night, my love." Cat said.

"Sweet dreams, lover." Billie replied.

In moments, both women were in the arms of Morpheus.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER III

"Tara, sit still." Cat scolded her wiggly daughter.

"But Mama, I can't see her! Can I stand on the chair?" Tara asked.

"Sweetie, until they call her name, you need to sit, okay? When it's her turn, you can stand on the chair to see. Deal?" Cat compromised. Turning to look at Seth, who was seated on the other side of her, she added, "You too, Love. Okay?"

Both children grinned and settled down.

"Thank the gods that Billie's last name starts with a "C"." she thought. "I feel bad for the Zimmermans." she pondered as she looked down at the printed agenda she was handed when they entered the auditorium.

"Leslie Marie Chamberlain." the PA system announced.

Looking to the children, Cat nodded, giving them permission to stand on their chairs. She had all she could do to juggle Skylar and the camera.

"Billie Jean Charland." the PA system sounded again.

"Mama, there she is!" Seth said, pointing excitedly.

Tara jumped up and down on her chair, clapping her hands as they all watched Billie walk across the stage and accept her diploma, shaking hands with the Dean of the Law School at the same time. Despite the squirming Skylar, Cat was able to snap a couple of good pictures of the event.

Looking over the audience, blue eyes found and captured green. Such an intense look of love passed between them that it was almost palatable. Billie transferred the tassel from one side of her hat to the other as she descended from the stage and headed back to her seat. Cat's heart was so full of pride for this woman that it found its way out through the tears forming in her eyes.

Cat motioned for the children to sit now that Billie had accepted her diploma. Joining them, she dug a Kleenex out of her bag and dabbed at her eyes.

"Mama, is Mom a judge now?" Tara asked.

"A judge? No, Honey. What made you ask that?" Cat questioned.

"Cause she's got a black dress on like judges wear." Tara replied.

"No Sweetie. That black dress is a graduation robe. See, all the people who are graduating are wearing them." Cat pointed out.

"Mom's a real lawyer now, Tara." Seth said. "Now she can put bad guys in jail." he added.

"Cool!" said Tara.

Skylar was starting to wiggle relentlessly on Cat's lap, trying to get down. "Sky, Honey, please sit still for Mama." Cat whispered in the tot's ear. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out three granola bars and handed one to each of the children, effectively calming them down throughout the remainder of the roll call.

Finally, Justin Zimmerman's name was called and the issuing of diplomas was complete. After a few parting words from the Dean, and graduates all rose and filed out of the auditorium.

Cat instructed Seth to take Tara's hand, while she carried Skylar. Having found seats near the stage, Cat and the kids were some of the last ones to exit. Finally, after several minutes of being stuck in a crowd that didn't seem to be moving, they suddenly broke free of the auditorium and were outside in the fresh air. Cat scanned the top of the crowd for her tall lover. Spotting her, she waved frantically, calling out her name at the same time.

Billie heard her name being called out before she actually found the source. Finally spotting her family, she dropped to one knee to hold her arms out to the two older children who were running towards her. Enveloping them both in a bear hug, she lifted them up and swung them around before settling them, one on each hip. Both children planted kisses on opposite cheeks at the same time... just as Cat snapped the photograph.

Looking in the direction of the flash, Billie spotted Cat, holding Skylar on her left hip, while trying to operate the camera with her right hand. Putting Seth and Tara down, she took the children by the hands and walked over to where Cat was standing. Billie took Skylar from Cat's arms, kissed her on the cheek and then gave her to Seth to hold for a moment, then took Cat into her embrace and held her close.

"Billie, I am so proud of you." Cat said. "And I love you so much!" she added.

Not wanting to get too intimate in public, Billie just continued to hold her close, whispering in her ear, "Cat, I wouldn't have done this without you." Pulling back, she looked directly into Cat's face and continued. "If it wasn't for you, I'd still be sitting by Seth's sickbed feeling sorry for myself. I have so much to be thankful for Cat, and it all starts with you. I love you with everything that I am." she finished.

Thinking, "To hell with public appearances!", Cat stood on tiptoes and kissed Billie full on the mouth, hard and long, before pulling back and grinning ear to ear. She noted the curious and questionable looks they were receiving from the crowd around them.

"Wow!" exclaimed Billie.

"There's a lot more where that came from, partner!" Cat said loud enough for the eavesdroppers to hear, causing them to turn away in embarrassment at being caught.

"Is that a promise?" Billie asked, lowering her forehead to touch Cat's.

"You bet it is, lover." Cat replied.

Feeling a tug at her robe, Billie turned to see Tara standing there crossing and uncrossing her legs. "Mom, I gotta go!" she said urgently.

Scooping the child up into her arms, and handing her diploma to Cat, Billie and Tara made their way quickly to the bathroom inside the auditorium while Cat stayed with Seth and Skylar. Moments later, they were back and headed to the car for the ride home.


When they arrived home, Billie carried Skylar into the house while Cat grabbed the diaper bag and unlocked the door in front of her. As the older children scooted by them into the house, Billie called out, "Hey you two... Go change out of your dress clothes before you do anything else, okay. And I don't want to see your good clothes thrown all over your rooms either... fold them neatly and put them away."

"Okay, Mom." they said, running up the stairs.

"Billie." Cat said. "Does Sky need changing?"

Checking the little girl's pants, she said, "Yep... be right back!" then headed for the stairs herself to take care of her daughter.

Cat grinned and headed down into the family room. Moments later, Seth and Tara joined her there.

Billie changed Skylar's pants and dressed her in a pair of shorts and T-shirt then went to her own room and deposited the child on her bed while she changed into a pair of cutoff jeans and a T-shirt herself.. Hefting Skylar up onto her shoulders, she gave the giggling child a bumpy ride down the stairs and into the living room. Looking around at the apparently empty house, she wondered where everyone was. "Cat?" she called.

"In the family room, love!" came the reply from the basement.

Going to the top of the stairs, she replied, "What are you doing down there?"

Cat walked to the bottom of the stairs and looked up at Billie, who was making a move to descend the stairs, Skylar still perched on her shoulders. "The kids and I rented a movie... come watch it with us.... but grab the chips and dip first, will ya?" Cat asked sweetly.

"Sure thing." Billie replied, stepping back into the kitchen to retrieve the requested munchies.

With Skylar on her shoulders, hanging onto her chin for dear life, chips in one hand and dip in the other, Billie descended the stairs into the dark family room.

"Hey, who put out the lights?" she asked.

"SURPRISE!!!" she heard as the lights switched on and a room full of friends and family cheered.

Billie almost lost her passenger and the dip, she was so startled. Grabbing the child off the taller woman's shoulders, Cat circled around the front of Billie and planted a warm, wet kiss on her mouth. "Congratulations, love." she said with a smile. Before Billie could say anything back, she was surrounded by well wishers, congratulating her on her graduation and promotion.

Billie searched the crowd for Cat and meeting her eyes, gave her a "I'll get you for this!" look. Cat just smiled and winked at her lover.

After about an hour, Cat moved the party into the back yard where she could set up the cookout she had planned. As always, Jennifer was on hand to help. While Jennifer was lighting the grill, Billie came up behind her, tackled her to the ground and sat on top of her. Pinning her arms to the ground, she leaned in real close to Jennifer's face and said, "Jen, you and that sneaky redhead are in on this together, aren't you? I know you had a hand in this! You know I don't like people fussing over me!"

Jennifer reacted by placing a quick kiss on Billie's mouth, startling the taller woman into letting go of her arms, which she then proceeded to use to tickle Billie. Rolling off her, Billie fell over to the side, helpless with laughter while Jennifer climbed up to straddle her, pinning her arms to the ground.

"Ah, exactly what is going on here?" a voice asked.

The two women on the ground looked up. Cat and Jennifer's husband Fred, were both standing there, hands on their hips, trying very hard to look angry, but not quite succeeding in hiding the smiles on their faces.

Jennifer was the first to speak, "Uhmmmm... Trying out for the World Wrestling Federation?" she said in jest.

"Well... don't give up your day job!" Fred said, laughing as he helped his wife to her feet.

Cat bent over Billie who was still on her back on the ground. She held her hand out to help her up, and suddenly found herself pinned to the ground with six feet of gorgeous female sitting on top of her. Bending down, Billie kissed her long and hard.

Out of breath, Cat panted, "What was that for?"

"Scenes of coming attractions, Red." Billie replied, getting to her feet and helping Cat up.

Cat reached up and grabbed Billie around the back of the neck and pulled her head down to whisper in her hear, "Will the show be a PG-13 rating, or X?" she said, quickly darting her tongue into Billie's ear, then capturing her earlobe between her teeth.

Billie shuddered in reaction, her arms coming around the smaller woman, drawing her in close to nuzzle her neck. "Oh gods, Cat... X... definitely X! And it'll be right here in front of our friends if you don't stop doing that." she warned.

Figuring the older woman had had enough, she pulled her head back and kissed her on the nose. "Now go mingle while I get this cookout off the ground, okay?" Cat told her, slapping her bottom as she pushed her toward the crowd.

The party was a huge success. After everyone had filled their plates and were sitting down enjoying their meal, Jennifer rose to address the group. Raising her wine glass, she toasted Billie and wished her good luck and continued success in her job. Then, having appointed herself the spokesman for the crowd, she said, "Billie, I know your entry into our little community was a bit rocky and first, and it took a near tragedy for us all to open our minds and our hearts, but I speak for all of us when I say that we are very happy that you and Cat, and your children are part of us. We have grown to respect you, and your love has taught us a valuable lesson about tolerance and acceptance. You and Cat have given of yourself countless times, whether that be opening your home to someone in need, playing Mr., or in your case, Ms. Fixup, providing baby-sitting on short notice,.... the list is too long to recount everything." Pausing to catch her breath and regain her composure, which she was rapidly losing with her emotions restricting her windpipe, Jennifer continued. "What I'm trying to say, is that we have grown to love both of you, and your children. And as a token of our love, and as a reward for your hard work at completing your degree, Billie, everyone in the community has pitched in to send you and Cat on a one week cruise to Aruba."

Cat and Billie sat there, stunned while the crowd of neighbors cheered. Cat looked over at Billie and saw the tears forming in her lovers eyes. Wrapping an arm around Billie's waist, she lowered her head to the taller woman's shoulder and squeezed her tight. Looking up at Billie, she met a tear-filled sea of blue and kissed her on the cheek. "You deserve this love." she whispered to her.

Suddenly, the call of "Speech! Speech!, Speech!" came from the crowd.

Pulling her eyes from Cat, Billie slowly rose to her feet to address her friends. "I, ah... I don't know what to say." she started, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "You have all come to mean so much to both of us." she reached down and took Cat's hands, pulling her up to stand beside her and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. Cat circled an arm around Billie's waist. "You have made our family feel very welcomed here. With you, we have found a place where we can live our lives without ridicule and fear. You have truly accepted us as we are, and for that we are grateful. We are finally home." Billie looked down at Cat who was now crying, and then out at the audience, several members of which, also had streaks of tears lining their cheeks.

Billie broke out of Cat's embrace and took her by the hand, leading her to the middle of their circle of friends. Still holding Cat's hand, she turned around to look at each and every one of them. Then, in a clear, but shaky voice, she said, "I had something planned for today, and it only seems fitting that it should occur in front of those we have come to love so dearly... you, our friends and family." Looking around again, she continued. "I want to thank each and every one of you for this cruise. I can't tell you how much this means to me... to us." She said, again, looking at Cat. "But I would like to use it, not as a gift for completing my degree, but..." Billie paused again, reaching into her jeans pocket for something. "But for my honeymoon." Several gasps were heard from the audience as Billie dropped to one knee in front of Cat, holding a diamond engagement ring up in front of her. Looking up into Cat's tearstained face, she said, "Cat, I love you with all my heart. You are the mother of my children, and the other half of my soul. You complete me, and I can't live without you. Will you marry me?"

Cat totally lost it. She broke down into sobs, throwing herself into Billie's arms. "Yes... yes... yes, my love. I will marry you." she cried.

The entire back yard erupted into cheers and clapping, surrounding the two very happy women and greeting them with warm hugs of congratulations.

Cat and Billie only had eyes for each other. Still wrapped in Billie's arms, Cat looked up and said, "Billie, my love for you is so intense that sometimes it hurts right here." she said, pointing to her chest. "I don't know how to express it. I love you so much!"

Billie lowered her forehead to meet Cat's. "Well, I thought it was about time I made an honest woman out of you." she said, then took Cat's left hand and gently slipped the engagement ring on it. Cat looked at the ring sparkle in the sun light and started crying even harder.

Wrapping her arms around Billie's waist, she pulled herself tightly into the taller woman's chest and said, "I will do everything in my power to make you happy, Billie... I promise."

"You already do, love.... you already do." she said, kissing her tenderly.


The rest of the cookout and celebration was hard on Cat - not because she didn't enjoy the company of her family and friends, but because Billie made a point of touching her, kissing her and caressing her at an unbearable frequency. By the time the last guest left, she was ready to throw the tall woman down and ravish her. To top it all off, the evening was young, and the kids wouldn't be going to bed for hours yet! Later that evening, while Cat was sitting on the couch reading a Dr. Seuss book to Tara and Skylar, Billie laid on the rug in front of the fireplace with Seth, building a ship out of leggo blocks, and running her foot seductively up and down Cat's leg. Cat had all she could do to concentrate on her reading. She was convinced that she would die of frustration before she finally had Billie alone to herself.

Finally, it was time to bathe the children and put them to bed. Seth, at the ripe old age of 8, guarded his modesty fiercely, so he quickly jumped into the shower after locking the womenfolk out of the bathroom. Soon, it was Tara and Skylar's turn. Billie loved bath time with the kids, and usually volunteered for the duty. Filling the tub with warm soapy bubbles, She climbed in with them and proceeded to start a splashing fight, being careful not to get water in Skylar's face. Unfortunately, the floor and walls were not as lucky.

After settling Seth at the kitchen table with a cup of hot chocolate before bed, Cat went to investigate the ruckus. She was not very pleased with the mess she was met with in the bathroom. Standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips, she cleared her throat loudly. Three pairs of eyes, two blue and one green, looked at Cat from soap-bubble covered faces. Cat tried to look angry, but Billie, Skylar and Tara looked so funny with soap bubbles all over them, that she broke down laughing. Cat approached the side of the tub to lift Skylar out, but before she could do anything, Billie grabbed her arm and dragged her into the tub with them, clothes and all.

"Billie!" Cat shrieked, struggling to keep her head above the water. The two girls thought Billie's trick was wonderful, and set about covering their mother with soap bubbles, laughing uncontrollably in the process. After a few more moments of playing, Cat announced that it was time to get out, dry off and get the kids ready for bed. She asked Billie to take care of the girls while Cat cleaned up the flood in the bathroom. Soon, Billie had all three children dressed in their pajamas and tucked warmly into their beds.

Some time later, Cat finally managed to wipe all the water off the walls and floor. Having planned to spend the rest of the evening occupying Billie in their bedroom, she made the rounds of the downstairs, locking the doors and shutting off the lights. She expected that Billie would be just putting the kids to bed by now. Climbing the stairs, she noticed that it was very quiet upstairs. Stopping at the bedrooms to kiss the kids goodnight, she found each of the children tucked in and already asleep.

Looking at her watch, she was shocked to realize that it had taken her nearly an hour to clean up the bathroom. Shrugging, she headed to her bedroom to get out of her wet clothes. Stepping through the door into her room, she found herself suddenly grabbed by the arms and roughly thrown up against the now-closed door. She opened her mouth to scream until she recognized her attacker.

Billie grabbed both of Cat's hands and held them above her head, pinning them to the door with one hand. The other hand moved to Cat's throat while she pressed her body the full length of Cat's effectively pinning the rest of her to the door as well. Billie looked deeply into Cat's face, passion written clearly on her face as she lowered her mouth to meet her love's.

The kiss was deep, rough and probing. Billie brutalized Cat's mouth until she encountered the metallic taste of blood. Billie wasn't sure if it was her's or Cat's, but it didn't matter... all that did matter was this magnificent, beautiful woman before her. She had been waiting for this all day, and she didn't want to hold back. She was intent on making mad passionate love to Cat for all she was worth... all night long if possible.

Cat couldn't believe the intensity of desire coursing through her veins. It threatened to consume her, body and soul. As Billie's tongue fought for space in her mouth, she hungrily devoured the probing organ, drawing deep groans from the taller woman's throat. Pinned against the door like that, made her feel oddly excited. She was quickly learning that she liked this rough approach to love making and started to struggle slightly against Billie, trying to inflame her lover's passions even more. Her struggles invoked more than she could have imagined.

Billie was on fire with desire for this woman. Feeling Cat struggle, only served to intensify her craving a thousand-fold. Pulling her lips away from Cat's bruised mouth, she released the smaller woman's arms and reached down to literally tear off the skirt and panties Cat had been wearing. Cat gasped at the bold act as she pressed her hips into Billie. Circling Cat's waist with her hands, Billie lifted her up so that their faces were level. Cat instinctively wrapped her legs around Billie's slim waist. Billie again, pressed her weight into Cat, pinning her against the door.

Releasing Cat's waist and holding her against the door with the force of her own body weight, Billie reached up and took Cat's face in her hands. Within moments, she had kissed every piece of exposed skin, leaving several marks on the red head's neck that would surely bruise the next day. Cat threw her head back against the door and moaned loudly in response, "Oh gods, Billie! I need you... Please, take me."

Billie leaned into Cat, grabbed her roughly by the chin and spoke in a raspy voice, "Oh no, my love. Not yet. I will take you when I'm good and ready...., you got that?"

Cat nodded and looked into Billie's eyes and saw such intense passion that it almost scared her. But, she also saw love there. She knew in her heart that this rough love was just that... love, expressed openly, freely and without restraints. She made a mental note to learn what had provoked such behavior in her lover so that she could invoke it again on demand in the future.

Releasing Cat's chin, Billie reached down with both hands and grabbed the front of Cat's blouse. While holding eye contact with her, Billie tore the shirt right off Cat's back. Cat's breath caught in her throat at the pure seductiveness of the act. Throwing the offending shirt off to the side, Billie let her gaze drop to Cat's breasts, hunger and desire dripping from her eyes. Raising her hands to cup the fullness, Billie started a slow sensual message of the orbs, intentionally avoiding the hard, sensitive nipples. Cat arched her breasts toward Billie in a silent plea for contact.

Lifting the full mounds resting in her hands, Billie's mouth met them half way, sucking one swollen bud in, and circling it with her tongue. Cat shrieked with desire. Billie bit down lightly on the sensitive nub, causing Cat to wriggle helplessly against the taller woman. "Billie! By the gods! Billie! Please!" Cat begged.

Billie responded by moving to the other breast. Cat almost passed out at the sensations running through her. Cat ran her hands through Billie hair and grabbed two large handfuls, pulling her closer to her breasts.

Billie suddenly jerked her head away and once again pinned Cat's head to the door with a hand around her throat. "I control the pace, little one... understand?" she growled, leaning in so that their noses touched.

"Yes." Cat gasped between pants, her desire making it difficult to breathe.

Billie tilted her head back a bit and smiled. "How much do you want me, Cat?" she whispered, moving her hand seductively down the length of Cat's neck, shoulder and breast.

Cat could hardly speak, her lips and throat were so dry. "I want you with everything that I am." she answered.

"With everything that you are? What are you, Cat?" Billie asked.

"I am the one who loves you unconditionally. I am the one who wants to make love to you every moment of my life. I am the mother of your children and the keeper of your heart. I am the one who is looking forward to calling you wife." she replied.

Billie's mouth descended upon Cat's with wild abandon. Large hands snaked up and under firm buttocks, kneading them until they were red and warm.

Kissing her way across Cat's jaw to her ear, Billie rasped in her ear, "I want you Cat. I want to make love to you over and over. I want to plunge into your depths and taste your sweet nectar. I want to drive you to the edge of madness, then catch you when you fall back to earth. Let me love you, Cat. I love you and I need you."

Each one of Billie's declarations sent her closer to the edge of ecstasy. She knew she wouldn't be able to hold out much longer. "Do it! Billie, please do it!" she screamed.

Billie reached around one firm cheek and plunged deeply into Cat's depths as the smaller woman cried out. With very little effort, Billie had pushed Cat over the cliff, but instead of falling, she soared to the heights of her desire, alternately pressing herself into Billie and the door she was still being held against. Moments later, Billie carried the quivering woman to the bed and laid down behind her, wrapping her long frame around the smaller woman and enveloping her in her arms while aftershocks racked her body for quite some time.

Soon, Cat rolled over and looked at Billie. She could still see the desire smoldering beneath the sea of blue. Cat may have had her release, but her tall lover had not.

Pushing Billie onto her back, Cat straddled her. Sitting up, she scooted back a bit and unbuckled Billie's belt. Pulling it out of the loops, she set it aside, and proceeded to remove the rest of Billie's clothes throwing them to the floor. Soon, she had a very naked, and very aroused Billie beneath her.

Billie reached up to circle Cat's waist with her hands. Cat slapped her hands away. "No, Billie. My turn...I'm in control now. No touching.... understand?" Cat asked.

Billie looked annoyed, but agreed with a nod.

Cat bent down and started her exploration. Starting with Billie's eyelids, Cat tasted and kissed every bit of exposed skin on Billie's body. She worked her way down her face, over her mouth, biting earlobes, and flicking her tongue inside Billie's ears.

Billie was trying very hard to hold still, but soon, was loosing the battle. Her hands came up to circle Cat's shoulders. Again, Cat slapped her hands away. "I said No!" Cat said firmly. "Two can play this game!" Cat thought, impressing herself with her rough treatment of Billie.

Billie obediently lowered her hands.

Cat continued her exploration of Billie's body, stopping to savor her breasts, kneading, tasting, sucking and nipping, sending her lover into a wild frenzy of desire. Once again, Billie's hands violated Cat's space.

Cat looked at Billie sternly. Reaching over to where she had discarded Billie's belt, she grabbed it, tied it around both the Billie's wrists and the tied it to the headboard, trapping both of Billie's arms above her head. She then leaned into Billie's face and said, "I didn't want to do that, Billie, but you forced me into it. Don't fight me. I want you, and I will have you... on my terms. Do you understand?"

Billie was melting with molten desire. She couldn't believe how turned on she was with Cat's forcefulness. All she could do was nod yes.

Smiling at Billie's submission, Cat went back to work savoring her lover, tasting her way down Billie's abdomen and dipping her tongue into her navel, causing Billie to moan with pleasure.

Cat climbed back up to Billie's face and whispered in her ear, "Close your eyes, my love." Billie quickly complied.

For long moments, nothing happened. Billie was on edge with anticipation, but kept her eyes closed. Then suddenly, Billie felt Cat dive into her very core, almost immediately causing an orgasmic eruption so strong that the belt buckle holding her hands together bent and broke under the strain. Billie screamed out Cat's name over and over. When she finally came back to earth, she found herself wrapped in small arms, her head resting on the smaller woman's shoulder.

"By the gods, Cat. I love you." Billie said, barely able to lift her head off Cat's shoulder.

"I love you too, Billie... with all that I am." Cat answered, kissing her on top of the head.

Reaching over, Cat pulled the blankets over both of them, and soon, they were walking hand in hand through the dreamscape.

"So much for making love all night long" Billie thought as she drifted off.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER IV

"Monday mornings always come too soon!" Billie complained to herself as she reached over to turn off the alarm. Rolling back over, she reached out and pulled the still-sleeping Cat into her arms. It always amazed her how Cat could sleep through the alarm. Not for the first time, she wondered how she managed to get out of bed by herself before they had met.

Billie leaned in and kissed the sleeping woman on the cheek. No response. She moved the kiss to Cat's mouth. Still no response. "Time to pull out the big guns." thought Billie, as she reached under the blankets and ran feather-light caresses up and down Cat's arm.

As Cat began to stir, she grew bolder and moved the stroking to Cat's side. Cat moaned.

Sweet caresses then moved up and down from Cat's hip to breast. Cat finally opened her eyes, smiling up at Billie. Suddenly, she noticed the look of mischief in her lovers eyes. "Billlllliee!" she warned. "Don't you dare!"

Billie pounced, tickling the smaller woman unmercifully, reducing Cat into a pile of helpless laughter. Finally, Cat surrendered, saying, "Stop! Billie, please stop! I'll pee my pants if you don't let me up. Please!"

Billie ceased her attack and rolled off Cat to allow her to get up. Cat quickly scooted out of bed and ran to the bathroom while Billie reclined on the bed with hands tucked behind her head. A few moments later, Billie heard the shower running. Looking toward the bathroom, she saw an arm snake out from behind the door, the index finger crooking toward her, beckoning for her to come hither.

"You don't need to tell me twice!" Billie thought as she quickly climbed out of bed and joined her lover in the shower.

After their shower, the length of which could make the Guinness Book of World Records, they both dressed and headed out to wake the kids. As was their normal routine, Billie saw to getting the kids ready for school and daycare while Cat started breakfast. Soon, the entire family was sitting around the table, enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast.

Cat, having to be at work earlier than Billie, made a trip around the kitchen table, kissing each child, wishing them all a good day. "I'll see you guys this afternoon when I pick you up at the daycare, Okay loves?" she asked.

All three children nodded, their mouths too full to speak.

Approaching Billie, she bent down to kiss her, and found herself sitting in Billie's lap. The children giggled.

Billie nuzzled her neck before kissing her soundly on the mouth. "I'll see you tonight, my love." she said.

Cat threw her arms around Billie's neck and kissed her back. Pulling her head away, she said, "I'll stop by City Hall today for the marriage license, okay?"

"Do you want me to go with you?" Billie asked.

"No, I don't think that's necessary... I can handle it, but thanks for asking." Cat replied, hugging Billie.

"Okay." Looking at the clock, Billie added, "You'd better get going, or you'll be late." slapping Cat on the butt as she got off her lap.

Bending back in towards Billie, Cat whispered in her ear, "You were wonderful last night, lover... I liked it rough. Slap me like that again, and I'll never leave for work!"

Billie had the good graces to blush, as she was in no position to react to Cat's remark the way she wanted to, with the children sitting there.

"Get out of here before I don't let you leave!" she growled in response.

Cat grinned and headed for the door. "See you all tonight!" she said. "Love you!"

Turning to the children, Billie said, "Okay, Rugrats! How about giving me a hand cleaning up the dishes, then we'll head out?"

Seth and Tara brought their dishes to the sink and then went to collect their school bags while Billie loaded the dishwasher and cleaned Skylar up. Bending over, she kissed the child tenderly on the head and hefted her out of her highchair. "Up you go, Sweetling!" she said to the little girl, settling her on her hip. "Are you two ready?" she yelled to the older two children.

"Race ya!" Seth said to his sister as he ran past Billie and out the door to the car.

"Hey, no fair... you got a head start!" Tara complained, right on her brother's heels.

Billie grabbed Skylar's diaper bag and headed to the car behind the two children. Soon, they were on their way.


On her lunch break, Cat went to City Hall to pick up her and Billie's marriage license. She approached the clerk and gave her a bright smile.

"Good afternoon." the clerk said. "How may I help you?"

"I'm here to file for a marriage license." Cat said.

"Congratulations!" the clerk replied sincerely. "Here are a few forms to fill out... You can use that table over there as a desk. Bring them back to me when you're done and we'll issue you the license."

"Thank you!" Cat said brightly, taking the forms and heading for the table. Sitting down, she starting filling out the appropriate information. "Let's see." she said, scanning the form and talking to herself under her breath. She started by filling in the date, city, county and state, but when she reached the part of the form that asked for personal information, she stopped. "Wait a minute, how do I fill this out?" she mused. Picking up the form, she walked over to the clerk's window and got the woman's attention.

"That was fast!" the clerk remarked.

"No, I'm not finished yet.... I have a question about how to fill out this form." Cat said, pushing the form toward the woman.

"What seems to be the problem?" the clerk asked.

"Well, right here, where it says "Husband's Name, I'm not sure what to write there." said Cat.

The clerk looked at her, thoughts of 'dumb blonde' running through her head. Taking a deep breath, she looked at Cat and said, "It wants you to fill in your future husband's name, dear."

"I know that!" Cat replied exasperated. "The problem is..., there is no husband!"

Now the clerk was really confused. "What do you mean, there is no husband? You are here for a marriage license, aren't you?" came the sarcastic reply.

"Yes, I am, but I'm marrying a woman, not a man." Cat explained.

The look on the clerk's face reminded Cat of a cartoon character whose jaw literally hits the ground in surprise. After a moment, she composed herself and said to Cat, "Ahhhh, Could you wait right here for a moment please?" Before giving Cat a chance to reply, she had turned around and practically ran into the manager's office at the back of the building. Almost immediately, a stern looking man came out of the office, with the nervous clerk in tow.

Approaching Cat, who was waiting patiently at the window, he said, "Ah, excuse me, Miss...."

"O'Grady, Caitlain O'Grady." Cat said, extending her hand to the man.

Avoiding physical contact with Cat, he nervously adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. "Yes... Well, Miss O'Grady. I understand that you are here for a marriage license, is that correct?"

Cat was really becoming annoyed. "Yeeeesssss, That is correct. You do issue marriage licenses, don't you?" she asked.

"Yes, Yes, we do, Miss O'Grady, but my clerk informed me that you intend to marry another woman." he said nervously.

"And your point is, Mr. Landon?" Cat said, leaning in to read his name from the badge on his lapel.

"Miss O'Grady, same-sex marriages are illegal in this state. We can not issue you a license." he replied.

Cat was so angry she could have spit nails. "What do you mean, illegal?" she said angrily. "Are you saying I would be breaking the law?...That it would be criminal to be married to the person I love?" Cat said, her voice raising an octave with each question.

"Well, I wouldn't say it was criminal, Miss O'Grady, but the fact remains, I can't issue you a marriage license." the nervous man replied.

Cat grabbed her purse and slammed it under her arm angrily. Turning to face the nervous pair, she said, "We'll see about that Mr. Landon." Then she turned on her heel and stomped out of the office.

Cat just barely made it to her car before she broke down crying. Sitting in her car in the parking lot, it was several moments before she was composed enough to use her car phone. Taking deep breaths to steady her nerves, she waited while the call went through to Billie's office.

"Billie Charland." The voice on the other end answered brightly.

Hearing Billie's voice pushed her over the edge again, as new tears started to fall. She couldn't even talk to identify herself.

"Hello? Who is this?" Billie demanded.

Just as she was about to hang up, she heard sobbing on the other end of the line... familiar sobbing.

"Cat?" Billie said nervously. "Cat? is that you?"

"Billie, I need you!" came the reply in a weak, broken voice.

"Gods Cat, are you all right? Where are you?.... Cat, talk to me! Are you all right?" Billie said frantically.

"I'm not hurt, Billie, but I'm anything but all right. Billie, I need you, please." she pleaded.

"Cat, tell me where you are and I'll be right there, love." she said.

Upon finding out that Cat was at City Hall, Billie's heart sank. "I knew I should have gone with her... I knew it!" she thought, berating herself as she ran to her car.

Moments later, she was pulling into the parking space beside Cat's car. Getting out of her own car, she quickly climbed into the passenger seat of Cat's and took the crying woman into her arms. "Shhhh, It's okay, love, I've got you, I've got you. Tell me what happened." she said.

Cat took a few more moments to compose herself before answering. Turning her tear swollen eyes toward Billie, she said, "Billie, they said we can't be married! They said it was illegal! By the gods, Billie, how can love be illegal?" she cried, burying herself in Billie's shoulder, and once more breaking down into heart wrenching sobs.

She sat there, holding Cat while her lover stopped sobbing and regained control over herself. In the meantime, her own anger was rapidly growing out of control. Finally, Cat pulled out of Billie's embrace and leaned back in her seat.

Billie took Cat's chin in her hand and turned her face toward her. "Cat, I'm going inside to see what this is all about. I'll be back in a few minutes, then we'll go home for the rest of the day. All right?"

Cat nodded solemnly.

Billie climbed out of Cat's car and went into the building. Finding the clerk's office, she immediately asked to see the manager. Not wanting to argue with the obviously angry amazon, the clerk quickly summoned Mr. Landon.

Mr. Landon approached Billie with a smile on his face and his hand extended. Instead of reaching for his hand, Billie grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled his face in close to her's.

"Listen, Asshole... You just upset someone I love very much.... and seeing her upset, makes me upset.... Trust me - you don't want to get me upset, understand? Now I don't know which ignorant morons wrote this state's laws, but I will do everything in my power to change them. I promise you, I will be back to get that marriage license for my future wife and I, and you will give it to be legally and willingly. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Landon?" she said harshly.

"Ye...Yes!" Landon replied.

Billie released his shirt and pushed him back slightly. He quickly re-tucked his shirt and smoothed out the wrinkles in his shirt front as soon as she let go of him. Giving him the dirtiest look she could muster, she turned her back on him and left.


Billie and Cat spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, alternately crying, holding each other and making love. Soon, it was time to pick the kids up at the daycare. Both women got dressed and ready to go.

Billie reached over and took Cat by the shoulders. "Cat." she said. "While you pick up the kids, I'm going back to the office to start researching our options here, okay? Don't wait supper for me, I'm not sure how long I'll be. I'll grab a bite when I get home. Call me if you need me, okay? Promise?" Billie asked.

"I promise." Cat replied, walking into Billie's embrace, wrapping her arms around the tall woman's waist and resting her head on her chest. Billie held her like that for several moments, before breaking the embrace, kissing her, and heading out the door to the office.

It was very late when Billie returned home. Cat had already gone to bed, but had left a light on in the living room for Billie. Billie locked the door, turned out the light and headed for the stairs. Reaching their room, she quietly crept across the floor to her side of the bed and sat down, trying hard not to disturb the sleeping woman. Stripping off her clothes and laying them across the chair next to the bed, she climbed in and carefully moved toward Cat, snuggling up against her back, wrapping her arm around her waist and snuggling her nose into Cat's neck.

Billie laid there, wide awake, her mind and heart achingly going over the information she had uncovered on same-sex marriages. Several minutes later, she heard a small voice say, "It must be really bad."

Billie lifted herself up onto one elbow and looked at Cat. She wasn't really sure if Cat had actually spoken, or if she was hearing things. Cat turned in her arms, looking her straight in the face. "It must be really bad." she said again, holding Billie's gaze. "You're as tense as an iron rod."

Billie just closed her eyes and rolled onto her back. Cat rolled over with her, her upper body laying on top of Billie, Their noses just a few inches away from each other. Reaching up, she brushed a long strand of dark hair out of Billie's face.

"Talk to me, love. Please don't shut me out." Cat pleaded.

Billie opened her eyes and met a sea of green. She literally felt like she was drowning in their depths. "God, I love you, Cat." she said.

"I love you too, Billie... with all my heart. Now please, tell me what you found." Cat said.

Billie reached up and ran the back of her hand up and down across Cat's cheek. "Cat, it doesn't look good. We happen to live in one of several states that actually have an anti-gay marriage law." Billie said.

"What exactly does that mean?" Cat asked.

"Anti-gay marriage laws specifically state that same-sex marriages are invalid. Some states have laws that that define marriage as between a 'man' and a 'woman', and some states have gender neutral laws, but we are lucky enough to live in a place that out and out invalidates our kind of love." Billie explained angrily.

Cat was silent for several moments, looking deeply into Billie's face and seeing the mental anguish and anger that lurked beneath the sea of blue in her eyes. Finally, she said, "Billie, laws can be challenged."

Billie studied Cat's face carefully. "Are you saying you want to fight this, Cat?" she asked.

"I am saying that I love you, and I am proud of you. I am not ashamed of our love and I want the world to know it. I want the same rights enjoyed by men and women who are married. What makes their love any more real than ours? I don't like being told that I can't legally be with the one I love. You're damned right I want to fight it!" she finished, anger now tingeing her voice.

Billie just smiled. "It won't be easy, Love." she said.

"Billie-girl, since when has our life ever been easy, huh?" she answered in jest.

"C'mere, you." Billie said, pulling her lover in close. "I love you, Cat."

"Ditto, my love... Ditto. Now, go to sleep. We have a lot to do tomorrow." Cat said.

Soon, the entwined lovers were fast asleep.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER V

The next day, Billie met with Art McDonough, one of the law partners in the firm where she worked. Her employers had long since known about her relationship with Cat, and were very open minded and accepting, even offering life and medical insurance policies that would cover Cat and the children.

"Billie, do you realize what you're getting yourself into here?" Art asked.

"Art, You're married, right?" Billie asked.

"You know that I am, Billie." he replied.

"Do you love your wife?" she asked again.

"With all my heart, Billie... Heaven knows we've talked enough about our respective partners, you should know by now how I feel about Marge!" he answered.

"Then tell me, Art." Billie stated, "How would you feel if you were told that your love was 'invalid'... that you couldn't be legally married to Marge?"

"I'd be pissed big time!" he replied.

"Bingo!" Billie exclaimed.

"Okay, Okay, I'm convinced." Art said. "I'm on your side, Billie. I'll do anything and everything I can to help you and Cat with this."

Leaning in, Billie kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, Art. I knew I could count on you."

"Any time, big guy." he replied, lightly punching Billie in the shoulder.

Billie and Art worked all morning drafting a petition to the court to challenge the anti-gay marriage laws. Finally, late in the afternoon, they were finished. Art insisted on going with Billie to deliver it, promising her again, that he'd support her every step of the way.

Coming out of the clerk's office and walking toward the parking lot, Billie turned to Art. "How long to you think it'll be before they react to the petition?" she asked.

"It' hard to tell, Billie. With a petition as unusual as this one, they might deal with it immediately, or, they may decide to push it off until the response window closes at the end of 30 days. In any case, the actual hearing won't happen for at least 2-3 months. The state will need time to prepare their case." he replied.

Billie looked at him thoughtfully. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, Art. After all, we can also use the time to prepare our case." she observed.

"True." he said, holding her car door open for her. "We'll get a start on it first thing tomorrow morning. Okay?"

Billie reached out through the window and placed her hand on Art's. "Art, you are a true friend. I can't thank you enough for your help."

Art bent down so that he was squatting on his heels, his face level with Billie's window. "Let me tell you a story, Billie." he said. "I had a brother, Mike, who died of AIDS a few years back. He was in a very committed relationship toward the end, and it was the first time I can actually say that he was happy. I loved my brother very much, and the treatment he received at the hands of others, including the state, made me sick. For him... and for you Billie, I will help you all I can." he finished, reaching up and wiping the corner of his eye.

Billie was too choked up to say much of anything except, "I'm sorry."

"Go on now, woman. Your family is waiting for you." he said, standing up and taking a step back. "I'll see you in the office bright and early tomorrow morning."

Billie drove away, leaving Art waving after her.


Looking at her watch, Billie suddenly realized that if she didn't hurry, she'd miss Seth's Little League game. Stepping on the gas, she sped along to her destination, just in time to see her son take his position at short stop. Spotting Cat and the girls in the bleachers, she quickly joined them, taking the squirming Skylar out of Cat's lap and pulling each of them in for a kiss and a hug, ignoring the looks from the other fans around them. Tara sat happily between her two mothers, a hand on each of their thighs.

Not taking her eyes off the field, Cat leaned toward Billie, squishing Tara between them. "How'd it go today, love?" she asked.

Just as Billie started to reply, the batter hit the ball right at Seth, who blocked it with his body, picked it up, and threw him out at first base. "Yeah, Seth... Way to go, Bud!... Yeah!" Billie yelled, standing up and blocking a number of spectator's view of the action with her tall frame. Skylar wiggled helplessly in her mother's arms, giggling and clapping the whole time.

"Billie, sit down!" Cat said, taking her arm and pulling her back down to the bench.

"Did you see that!" she said excitedly. "It was perfect! Perfect! Gods, Cat, he's good!"

"You wouldn't happen to be a proud mother, would you?" Cat asked.

Billie looked at her sheepishly. "Is it that obvious?" she remarked.

"Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?" quirked Cat?

Both women burst out laughing at the image.

After they had calmed down, Cat asked Billie again, "How'd it go today?"

"Good." Billie replied. Art and I drafted the petition and delivered it to the court. It could be 2-3 months before we hear anything, which will give us plenty of time to work on our case. We start tomorrow morning." Billie added.

"What are our chances, Billie?" Cat asked seriously.

"To tell you the truth, Art thinks we're nuts!" she replied. "You know the saying... 'You can't fight City Hall'? Well we're doing just that. It won't be easy, but I'm in it for the long haul if you are, love." she said.

"I go where you go... you know that, Billie. Count me in." Cat answered.

Just then, both women rose to their feet, whooping and hollering at the spectacular double play Seth initiated.


The family stopped at the local creamie stand to treat a victorious Seth to ice cream after the game. Soon, all three children were sitting at a picnic table behind the creamery, enjoying their cones while Billie and Cat split a hot fudge sundae. Skylar got more ice cream on her face and clothes than in her mouth. Cleaning her up as much as possible, they all loaded into the car and headed home.

Driving down their street, they passed Jennifer taking her power walk through the neighborhood. Billie pulled up along side of her as Cat rolled down the window. "Hi, Jen!" she said cheerfully.

Looking into the back seat at the smiling children, Jennifer addressed Seth. "Did you win, Slugger?" she asked.

"We killed 'em, Mrs. Swenson.!" he said, grinning ear to ear.

"Fantastic!" replied Jennifer.

"How 'bout a cup of coffee after your walk, Jen?" Cat asked.

"Sure, I'll be right over. Gotta let Fred know where I am, you know, or he'll be calling out the Marines!" she replied.

"Okay, see you in a while then." Cat said, rolling up the window.

A short time later, the kids were cleaned up, in their pajamas, and enjoying a Disney movie in the living room.

A knock on the door followed by a "Hey there, neighbors!" announced Jennifer's arrival. Letting herself in, she went to the kitchen cubbard, grabbed three coffee mugs off the shelf and poured coffee for all of them. Bringing them to the table, she then grabbed the milk out of the refrigerator and the sugar off the counter.

Billie came up behind her and said, "Make yourself at home, Jen."

"Don't worry, 'Oh Tall One'.... I will." she replied, giving her a hip-check and causing Billie to chuckle.

Sitting down at the table with her friends, Jennifer asked, "So, what's up?"

Billie and Cat looked at each other, their eyes silently asking if they should tell her. With an almost imperceptible nod from Billie, Cat told Jennifer about the ill-fated trip to the clerk's office for a marriage license, and about their petition to the courts against the anti-gay marriage laws.

"Wow!" was all Jennifer could manage at first. Then moments later, she added, "You know we're behind you, don't you. The whole neighborhood, I mean."

"Yeah, we know." Billie said.

"You know." Jennifer mused, "You might have more of a case if you already had a 'joining' ceremony behind you."

"Jen, I just told you that they won't issue us a marriage license." Cat said.

"Yeah, but there are organizations and churches in the area that will perform the ceremony without a license." Jen pointed out.

"You just might have something there, Jen!" Billie added. "If we are already officially joined, then we have a firmer basis for wanting it legally recognized. I like it!"

"So, how do we find this church? I'm Catholic, but we all know how the Pope feels about 'our kind', so I guess that's out." Cat asked.

"You leave that up to me." Jennifer answered, taking a sip of coffee. "By the way, you two have been living 'married' for the past two years, quite comfortably from what I can see. Why the sudden urge to go legal?... Don't get me wrong, I support you 100%, and I'll do everything I can to help, but why now?"

"When Cat was denied the license yesterday, I went back to the office and started researching the whole same-sex marriage issue. It seems that without the legal recognition from the state, the 'spouses' are not entitled to the same rights that heterosexual married couples are. This includes such things as child custody in the event of divorce or death, tax breaks, control of community property, the right to make medical decisions about each other and the children, rights to inheritance and things of that nature." Pausing for a second to take a sip of coffee, Billie continued. "Heck Jen, if Cat or I died, there would be no guarantee that the surviving partner would be able to keep the kids together, or even retain ownership of our home, even though we bought it together. Jen, I want more than that for Cat... we both want more than that for each other and our family. That's why we're doing this." Billie finished.

"That, and the fact that I want the world to know how much I love this woman." Cat added, grabbing Billie's hand and bringing it to her lips for a kiss.

"Works for me!" Jennifer said with a laugh. "Again, you know I'm behind you, and I'm sure the neighborhood will lend its support as well. I wish you all the luck in the world."

"Thanks, Jen." Billie and Cat replied together.

Downing the last gulp of coffee, Jennifer stood, rinsed out her cup and put it in the dishwasher. Turning to face Billie and Cat, she said, "Well you two... I gotta run. I'm sure Fred is pulling his hair out trying to get Stevie and Karissa ready for bed." Walking around the table where Billie and Cat were seated side by side, Jennifer leaned over and hugged both of her friends at once. Planting a kiss on each of their cheeks, she added, "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you, baby-sitting, organizing demonstrations... you know, the fun stuff. Okay?"

Cat reached up and hugged Jennifer. "Jen we love you. You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah, I guess I do. The feeling is mutual you know.... Okay, enough mushy stuff." she said, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. "I hear Fred's follicles screaming... gotta go. I'll find that church and let you know tomorrow. Bye!"

When Jennifer left, Cat and Billie looked at each other and grinned. "Demonstrations?" they said together.

This was going to be an interesting venture.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VI

True to her word, Jennifer located a church, not far from their community, that would perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. Figuring they would need a few weeks to organize the whole ordeal, she scheduled the wedding to be one month from that coming Saturday.

Billie and Cat were ecstatic. Cat and Jennifer immediately volunteered to organize the whole thing, knowing that Billie would be busy researching and preparing their case for the court hearing. Soon, they had a hall rented for the reception and a caterer lined up to serve the meal. Within a week, invitations were in the mail, flowers were ordered, and a band lined up to play at the reception.

Jennifer and Fred were asked to stand up for them as Maid of Honor and Best Man. Both were touched by the requests and accepted immediately. Seth would walk Billie down the aisle, while Doc escorted Cat. Tara and Skylar would be flower girls. All that was left, were the rings and clothing.

Shopping for dresses turned out to be more difficult than they thought. The ladies decided to dress alike, and it was difficult to find a clothier that could supply wedding dresses in the same style that varied so widely in size. Billie had a good eight inches in height over Cat, and was long limbed. Finally, with only two weeks to go before the wedding, they found a shop that would rush order identical dresses that had been specially tailored to fit their frames. The same clothier was also able to help them with dresses for Jennifer, Tara and Skylar. Tuxedos for Seth, Fred and Doc were rented at the a local outlet.

During this time, while Cat and Jennifer were busy scurrying around making wedding arrangements, Billie and Art were hard at work researching and building their case for court. They had finally received a court date for the hearing, which was almost exactly a month after the wedding.

Billie and Art unearthed a lot of information about the country's position on same sex marriage. Most of it was not encouraging. After a week in the archives room at the law firm surrounded by dusty research texts as well as a couple of computers tuned in to Internet sources, they were starting to lose hope.

"Art, we've got to find a precedence case that we can build on. There's got to be one in all of this mess!" Billie exclaimed, exasperated at the amount of time they were losing with all of this research. "Listen to this." she added. "1971 - Baker v. Nelson, Minnesota, case is ruled against same sex plaintiffs Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell.... 1972 - Burkett v Zablocki, Wisconsin, case is ruled against two female plaintiffs... 1973 - Jones v. Hallahan, Kentucky, case is ruled against two female plaintiffs...1991 - Dean vs D.C., District of Columbia, case is ruled against plaintiffs Craig Dean and Patrick Gill... It's hopeless." Billie feared out loud.

"I know... I afraid I'm not finding anything much more encouraging." Art replied.

Shuffling through a few more papers, Billie suddenly jumped up and shouted, "Hold everything, the party starts here! I've found it!"

"Watcha got? Let me see!" Art said excitedly.

"Listen..." Billie said taking a deep breath. Her heart was pounding a mile a minute. "1993 - Baehr v. Lewin, Hawaii, case ruled initially in favor of plaintiffs Joseph Melilio, Pat Lagon, Genora Dancel, Ninia Baehr, Tammy Rodrigues and Antoinette Pregil. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses presumptively violates the state's Equal Rights Ammendment barring discrimination on the basis of sex." Billie finished, looking up at Art with hope in her eyes.

"Bingo!" Art said. "Now all we have to do is verify that our state's Equal Rights Ammendment is specific enough to disallow discrimination based on sex, and we've got grounds to build a case. Put it there, partner!" Art exclaimed, raising his palm to Billie for a 'high-five'.


When Billie arrived home that evening, she swept Cat into her arms and twirled her around the kitchen. The kids came running to see what the commotion was and decided to get into the fun. Ganging up together, Tara and Seth tacked their mothers and managed to tumble them to the floor, climbing on top of them when they were finally lying on their backs. Letting her big brother and sister do all the work, Skylar joined in only after Seth and Tara had staked their claim.

Looking up, Billie and Cat saw all three children sitting on top of them, grinning from ear to ear. "I know three Rugrats who have two seconds to let me up, or else!" Billie said threateningly.

"Or else what, Mom?" Seth asked boldly.

"Or else what? I'll tell you what... THE CLAW! Arrrghhhh!" she growled, forming her hands into claws and tickling the three children into submission. "Had enough?" she asked when they finally scattered, running into the living room.

"You are so bad, Billie Jean Charland!" Cat laughed, still laying on the floor next to her.

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?" Billie said looking over at her lover and doing her best movie imitation.

"Yeah, I'm talkin' to you!" Cat said, rolling over to kiss the prone woman. "Now tell me what the good mood is all about." she demanded.

Billie rolled onto her side and propped herself up on her elbow, facing Cat who was still flat on her back. "Cat." she said seriously. "We found it... we found the precedence. Now we have hope!" Billie said, her eyes sparkling.

"She really does love her job." Cat thought. "I really like the way her eyes twinkle when she's excited about it like that!" Out loud, she said, "Really? Tell me about it!"

"Hawaii." Billie stated.

"Hawaii?" Cat questioned.

"Hawaii." Billie said again. "The only state in the union that legally recognizes same-sex marriages. In 1993, a case was won by three gay couples who challenged that their denial of marriage licenses violated the state's equal rights ammendment, which disallows discrimination based on sex. The state Supreme Court agreed."

Cat looked a little confused. "How does that help us?" she asked.

"Don't you see... it sets a precedence. It gives us a basis on which to argue our case. All we need to do now is determine if our ERA also disallows sexual discrimination, then we put a case together to show how the anti-gay marriage law violate that ammendment." Billie explained.

"Wow, it sounds so easy." Cat observed.

"Far from it, love, but it does give us direction.... and hope." Reaching over, she ran her hand along Cat's jaw. "What do you say we go out and celebrate with a creamie?" She suggested.

"Did someone say creamie?" Seth said, sliding into the kitchen on his knees, stopping within inches of his mother's head.

"Yeah, Sport... go get your sisters, will ya?" Billie asked.

Seth was gone before she finished her sentence. Soon, all three children were running into the kitchen, diving on top of their mothers, yelling, "Creamies... Yeah!".

"Okay, okay, last one in the car is a rotten egg!" Cat said.

Seth picked up Skylar and ran out to the car, with Tara right on his heels.

Billie and Cat were still on the floor, laughing heartily. Billie turned to Cat and said, "Well, do you want to be the rotten egg, or do I get that privilege?"

"That would be you, love!" Cat said, rising to her feet and running after the kids.


As their wedding day neared, things became more and more hectic for Billie and Cat. Cat was busy dealing with a thousand last minute details, while Billie was working late every night on their court petition. Three days before the wedding, they realized that they had not yet bought their rings.

Cat was in a panic and as short-tempered as hell. She and Billie had planned to shop for rings that afternoon while the kids were still at daycare. Unfortunately, Billie and Art were in the middle of compiling some important information for the hearing, and Billie called to cancel. Cat was furious. "Damn it, Billie. Just when do you think we're going to get these rings... AFTER the wedding?" she said, a little more angrily than she intended.

"Cat, I'm sorry, but we're at a point where it would be inconvenient to stop. I'll make it up to you, I promise." Billie said.

"Fine!" Cat said abruptly. "I'll see you when you get home." With that, she hung up the phone.

Billie dropped her head into her hands. "Shit!" she said out loud.

Art, who had only heard Billie's side of the conversation, looked up from the paper he was reading and said, "Trouble in paradise, partner?"

Billie looked at him. "Yeah... She's kind of losing patience with me working so late every evening. I feel like a real shit-head Art. Cat and Jennifer have worked their asses off for this wedding and I can't even take a few hours to go ring shopping. Damn!" she said.

"Look, Billie... If we manage to get through this one argument tonight, I think we can afford to take the rest of the week off. Beside, the wedding is only three days away, and you need time to get reacquainted with Cat... You haven't seen her in so long, I'll bet she's forgotten what you look like!"

"You think so? Billie asked hopefully.

"Yep! So get to work!" Art said with mock sternness.

"Slave driver!" Billie replied, diving into the stack of papers on her desk.

It was near midnight when Cat finally made it home. Letting herself into the house, she was surprised to see a light on in the living room.

"Damn! I'm in big trouble, here. I can feel it." Billie thought to herself as she made her way through the kitchen into the living room. Cat was sitting on the couch doing a crossword puzzle, obviously waiting up for her. She looked up when Billie entered the room. Knowing when to keep her mouth shut, Billie just crossed the room, knelt on the floor in front of Cat, and laid her head in the smaller woman's lap. "I'm sorry." she whispered.

Cat leaned over and laid her head on top of Billie's. Rubbing her hand up and down Billie's back, she said softly, "No, I'm the one whose sorry, love. I didn't mean to sound so harsh. I know you're trying your hardest to win this case for us. I should be supportive, not a nagging fishwife."

Billie shifted, causing Cat to raise her head. Billie lifted her head up off Cat's lap and reached up to take the smaller woman's face in her hands. Pulling Cat down, their lips met, tender at first, but increasing with intensity and passion within seconds. Finally coming up for air, Billie placed several butterfly kisses along Cat's mouth before touching their foreheads together. "Well then, we're both sorry." Billie paused, then added, pulling back to look into Cat's face, "Look, I've arranged to take the rest of the week off. We'll shop for rings in the morning, then I'm all yours. I'll help you in any way you need... just point me in the right direction, okay?"

"Okay... And thank you, Billie. You don't know what this means to me. I love you." Cat said.

"I love you too, Cat. Don't ever forget that, okay?"

"Never." Cat replied.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VI

Jennifer insisted that Cat and Billie spend the night apart before the wedding. Although neither one of them found the idea very appealing, they humored their friend, who had put so much time and effort in this event, so Billie spent the night at Jennifer's house, while Cat's mother stayed with her and the children.

Cat's three sisters and their families had come in from out of town for the wedding, and arrived at their house the morning of the ceremony to help prepare Cat. Feeling that Billie was being neglected, Doc opted for lending a hand with Billie over at Jennifer's, not that there was much for him to do, but his moral support was appreciated.

Cat felt very special, surrounded by her attentive family. They had long ago accepted her preference for women, and they were anxious to meet and get to know the one Cat had finally decided to spend the rest of her life with. It seems incredulous that in the two years Cat and Billie had been together, the opportunity hadn't arisen for Billie to meet her sisters, but all of them lived out of state, so distance made things difficult. Finally, after much pampering, Cat and the children were ready for the drive to the church.

Over at Jennifer's things were not going quite as well. Billie was so nervous, she wouldn't stand still while Jennifer painstakingly did up the two dozen buttons that adorned the back of her gown. Coming around the front of the tall woman, Jennifer asked, "Billie, do I have to tie you down to do this? Hold still, girlfriend! Geesh!... You're so nervous, you'd think you're getting married or something!"

Billie laughed and drew Jennifer in for a hug. "Sorry, Jen, I'll behave." she said apologetically.

Standing there, Billie suddenly had melancholy thoughts about her family. She was basically alone. Her parents had been killed in a car accident when Seth was only two, and she had no siblings. How she wished they could be here today to see how happy she was with Cat. They were apprehensive about Brian right from the start, but being pigheaded and stubborn, she married him anyway. "Well," she thought, "At least I have Seth. He's the only good thing that came out of that marriage."

Jennifer saw the lone tear that streaked down Billie's face. Standing in front of her friend, she lifted Billie chin up and said in a gentle voice, "Hey... you all right?"

Billie flashed her the crooked smile that Cat loved so much. "Yeah... just thinking about my parents. They would have loved Cat. I guess I'm just feeling a little lonely right now." she concluded.

"Billie, you know that we are your family now, right?" Jennifer asked. "We will be there for you today." she added.

That just made Billie tear up some more. "Thanks, Jen." she said, once again pulling her friend in for a hug. "Cat and I have come to love you and your family very much. Thanks for being there for us."

Pulling back and wiping a tear out of her own eye, Jennifer said, "Well, big guy, if it wasn't for you, there'd be no family here to support you! For that we will forever be grateful.... and oh by the way, we love you too. Now, enough mushy stuff... We're going to be late if we don't get moving here!" Jennifer finished.

Finally, Billie's was ready to go. She had opted to leave her hair down, but had endured Jennifer's fussing with the curling iron so that her long locks flowed in gentle waves around her shoulders. The overall result was striking.

"You look very beautiful, daughter." Billie heard from the doorway.

Turning, she saw Doc standing there, a very proud smile on his face. She walked over to him and allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace.

Looking into her face he said, "I know you're parents would be very proud of you, Billie.... Yes, I heard part of your conversation with Jen." He said. Continuing, he added, "Billie, I know I can't replace your own Dad, but I'd be damned proud to try, if you'd let me."

The flood gates opened once more as Billie buried her head in Doc's shoulder. "I'd like that a lot." she managed to say.

Jennifer came into the room to see if Billie was ready to go and saw Billie crying again. "Damn it girl! You're ruining your makeup again!" she cried.

Billie looked up at Doc and smiled. "Busted!" she said.

After sincere apologies from Doc for causing the damage, Jennifer spent a few more minutes repairing it, then they were finally ready to go.

They had decided to arrive at the church in separate vehicles. Cat, her mother and sisters and the three children were already there, standing at the top of the stairs outside the church when Billie pulled up with her entourage. Billie climbed out of the car and allowed Jennifer to fuss with her, straightening her gown. Looking at the crowd at the top of the stairs, Billie's eyes locked with Cat's. Neither woman breathed for several moments.

"Oh my god, Cat, she's a goddess!" Cat's sister Amy said into her ear. "No wonder you fell for her!"

"Oooohhhh Yeah!" was all Cat could reply, smiling ear to ear.

Unable to break eye contact, the two women looked at each other for long moments, each one totally captivated with the beauty of the other. Even though they had decided to wear identical dresses, they looked remarkably different in them. Cat's shorter stature had somehow made the dress appear fuller around her legs. The neckline plunged into a "V", showing an ample swelling of cleavage, while the peasant-girl sleeves fell slightly off her shoulders, exposing a expanse of skin from delicate shoulders to chin. Her red-gold hair was pulled up loosely into a bun on top of her head, tendrils of hair hanging in tiny ringlets around her hairline. The only adornment she wore was a thin velvet collar with a cameo around her neck. A slight tinge of blush adorned her cheeks while red lipstick graced her lips. The whole effect was that of a delicate Southern Belle.

Billie on the other hand, with her taller frame, looked regal. Where Cat's dress appeared to flow around her ankles, Billie's hung straight down, appearing to hug her shapely legs. The empire waist of her dress highlighted her already ample bosom and drew attention to her generous cleavage. Broad, muscular shoulders were left bare by the peasant-girl cut of the sleeves, long arms extending gracefully beneath them. A thin chain adorned her right wrist and a single teardrop pearl hung from a delicate chain around her neck. Long dark tresses flowed in waves around her shoulders. Like Cat, a slight shade of blush accented her cheekbones while red lipstick adorned her lips.

Coming to the top of the stairs, Billie stopped in front of Cat and reached up to run her hands up and down Cat's arms. "By the gods, you're beautiful!" she said, leaning down to place a delicate kiss on Cat's mouth. Cat was speechless, totally taken with this tall vision of perfection before her.

"Okay, you two, time enough for that later!" Jennifer said, interrupting them. Then turning to a mesmerized Cat, she said, "Hey, little one... snap out of it. How about some introductions here." she said, indicating Cat's three sisters who were all staring agog at Billie.

Shaking herself out of her trance, Cat smiled and said, "Oh, sorry. Ah... Jennifer, these are my sisters, Amy, Bridget and Drew. Girls, this is Jennifer Swenson, our best friend." After a round of 'nice to meet you's', Amy nudged Cat in the ribs, nodding her head to Billie. Billie saw the nudge and smiled.

"Hold your britches, Sis, I'm getting to it." Cat said in mock impatience.

Coming around to Billie's side, she linked their arms and addressed her sisters. " Everyone, this is Billie Jean Charland, my love, my life, my everything."

"Cute! Cat... A little corny, but cute!" Billie joked. Reaching her hand out to the girls, she said her hellos to each of them. Billie could see the strong family resemblance between Cat and her sisters.

Drew said, "Billie, we've heard a lot about you, not only from Cat, but from Mom and Dad as well. Seems like my sister is quite taken with you."

"The feeling is mutual, Drew. She's really pretty special." Billie replied, looking down into Cat's smiling face lovingly.

"My god, you're gorgeous!" Amy blurted out.

"Amy!" Cat exclaimed to her traditionally outspoken sister.

"Well she is!" Amy said in her own defense.

"I agree wholeheartedly, but you don't have to embarrass her like that!" Cat reprimanded.

Bridget walked forward and linked Billie's other arm in hers. "What I'd like to know, is what it's worth to you to hear about Cat's mischievous childhood, huh?"

Billie smiled at Cat's sister. "Anything... I'll pay anything!" she said jokingly.

"Okay, that's enough!" Cat exclaimed. "It's pretty bad when you can event trust your own sisters! Bridget, get away from her before you fill her with all kinds of lies!"

Bridget laughed and walked back over to join her other sisters. Cat's mother and father chose that moment to interrupt the group. Doc noticed the look on Cat's face and said, "Looks like you girls are up to no good again, huh?" He looked around at the group and saw three identical 'Who me?' expressions on his daughters faces. "All right you little imps." he said to them. "Off with you... go seat yourself, the ceremony is about to begin."

Cat and Billie chuckled as the three sisters obediently followed their father's instructions. Billie leaned into Cat's ear and said, "I like them. I hope we'll have some time to spend with them before they leave." Cat just smiled back up at her tall lover.

While Cat was introducing Billie to her new sisters-in-law, Jennifer was busy preparing the children for the ceremony. She taxied them to where Billie and Cat were at the back of the church to get them into position. Seeing their children approached all dressed up in formal wear, both women got all teary-eyed. Seeing this, Jennifer marched up to them and said, "Oh no you don't! We don't have time to repair flood damage again, understand? Now pack those tears back in and keep them there!" she said sternly, causing Billie and Cat to laugh out load, effectively stopping the emotional scene.

Both women crouched down to greet their children, telling them how nice they looked and how much they loved them. After last minute instructions for Tara to hold Skylar's hand on the walk down the aisle, a very grown-up looking Seth offered his arm to Ida to escort the mother of the bride to her seat, signaling the start of the ceremony. Once again, tears threatened to flow from the brides' eyes, causing a frown and a warning look to come from Jennifer.

When Seth returned to the women at the back of the church, the ceremony began. Tara and Skylar, walked hand in hand down the aisle, smiling at their friends, neighbors and family along the way. Countless comments about how cute they were, were accompanied by several camera flashes as they made their way to the front of the church. Jennifer, dressed in a beautiful pink gown of a similar design to the brides, followed the girls, ushering them into the pew with their grandmother when she reached the front of the church, before going to stand at the altar opposite to where Fred was already waiting.

Cat and Billie had decided that since this was a totally equal partnership, that they would descend down the aisle at the same time. Walking side by side, Billie's arm was linked in Seth's, while Cat's entwined with her father's. The women were in the center, flanked on either side by Seth and Doc. Each carried a large bouquet of spring flowers in their free hand. The small church was filled nearly to capacity, with friends and family as the quartet made they way to the altar. Such a feeling of love radiated from these two women, that it affected everyone in the church, pushing them all to the brink of tears.

After depositing their charges at the altar, Seth and Doc took their seats with Ida and the girls. Fred and Jennifer moved in to stand next to their friends as the ceremony began. Jennifer took their bouquets from them and placed them on the altar.

The presiding minister was a woman. Raising her hands out to the sides, she began in a loud, clear voice, "Welcome friends and family of Billie and Caitlain. We are all here to witness this wonderful event... the joining to two people in love. Never in the history of man has there been a more personally binding ceremony than that of marriage. These two women are here today to share their commitment to each other with you. With this act, they are expressing their love for each other, and celebrate that love openly and with pride. Let us all join our hearts in support of these women as they express their vows of commitment to each other."

The minister looked down at a very nervous Billie and Cat from her position a few steps above them. She smiled and whispered, "Relax, ladies. Are you ready?" Billie and Cat nodded their heads at the same time. They looked shyly at each other and smiled.

Speaking loud enough for the whole church to hear again, the minister continued. "Ladies, please face each other." Doing as they were told, the simultaneously reached out to take each others' hands. The minister continued, addressing the audience once more. "Billie and Caitlain have written their own vows, which they'd like to share with you now. Caitlain, you may begin." she instructed Cat.

Cat looked up into Billie's eyes. "I hope I can get through this without crying." she thought. At the same time, Billie was thinking, "If she cries, I'm going to lose it - I just know I will!" Clearing her throat, Cat began, "Billie, I have loved you for all eternity. I believe we were destined to be together through all time, through many lives, past and present. You are my reason for living, the keeper of my heart, and the other half of my soul. You are my lover and my protector. You are in my thoughts from the moment I rise till I lay my head down to sleep at night. You fill my dreams with sweet music. You lift my soul to the very heights of Elisia. I will love you until my dying day and beyond. I pledge my love, and my life you to until the end of time. I love you, my warrior."

Billie reached up and wiped the tears that were flowing freeing down Cat's cheeks. Her own throat was nearly closed tight with emotion. Loud sniffling could be heard from the wedding guests.

Billie composed herself and prepared to deliver her vows. Taking a deep breath, she began. "Cat, You came into my life at a time when I was emotionally destitute. One look at you healed my soul and lifted my heart to new heights. You have given so much of yourself to me, asking little in return. You are everything I could ask for. You are bright, intelligent and beautiful. You are the mother of my children and my true soul mate. You complete me, Cat. Like you, I believe the warrior and bard charted our destiny many years ago. For that, I will forever be grateful to them. I offer to you, everything that I am. I promise to love you and protect you until the end of time and beyond. Thank you for loving me my bard."

At this point, the sniffling from the audience had turned into sobbing. Even the minister had tears streaking her face. For their part, Billie and Cat could not take their eyes off each other, each of them standing their, their gazes locked, tears flowing freely.

"Well," the minister said, clearing her throat and trying to bring her own emotions under control. "I believe there is no doubt as to how these two women feel about each other, so without further ado, Caitlain, please present your offering to Billie."

Cat reached over to Jennifer and accepted the ring she had purchased for Billie. Jennifer kissed her on the cheek as she placed the ring in her hand, whispering in her ear, "I am almost jealous of your love for her, you know... Congratulations!"

Cat smiled at her friend then turned back to Billie. Holding the ring in front of her, she said, "Billie, this ring signifies the bond that is our love. It is a never ending circle of love and commitment. Please accept this as your consent to be my wife."

Billie offered her hand willingly as Cat slipped the ring onto her finger.

Billie then turned to Fred to retrieve Cat's ring. Fred dipped his face to Billie's and kissed her directly on the lips. "Go get'em Slugger!" he said, causing Billie to smile.

Turning back to Cat, she held the ring tightly in her fist until her knuckles were white, then said, "Cat, I hold our love close to my heart, as tightly as I now hold this ring. I will fiercely protect your love and ask you to accept this ring as a symbol of that love and protection and as your consent to be my wife."

Now it was Cat's turn to willingly extend her hand to accept the ring as Billie slipped it on her finger. That done, both women clasped hands and looked into each other eyes.

The minister once again, held her arms out wide and said, "In the eyes of this church and our god, and in the presence of their friends and family, I declare Billie and Caitlain to be joined as one for all time." Then, turning to both women, she said, "You may now kiss the bride."

Billie lowered her mouth to Cat's as a loud cheer arose from the church. Several moments later, they broke the kiss and fell into each others arms, holding each other for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, after a bit of nudging from the minister, they broken their embrace and turned to greet their guests who were eagerly waiting to offer their congratulations. Jennifer and Fred came together and held each other, both with tears in their eyes as they watched their close friends be devoured by the crowed of well wishers.


The wedding reception was a huge success. Cat took the opportunity to introduce Billie to every member of her family. Between good food, music and company, the party went on well into the afternoon. Billie couldn't remember the last time she had danced so much and by the time the party was winding down, she was dead on her feet.

The children were having a very good time of their own. Seth was in heaven, surrounded by all his female cousins. Being the only grandson, among eight grandchildren, he knew he held a special place of honor. "Tara the Terrible" as Cat and Billie had affectionately begun referring to their rambunctious daughter, was the center of attention, out on the dance floor the whole time, while Skylar lacked no attention from several aunts and uncles, not to mention her doting grandparents.

Late in the afternoon, Skylar had fallen asleep on Billie's shoulder, signaling the end to a very long, but exciting day. By this time, the gifts had been opened, the cake had been devoured and most of the guests had already left. Billie visually cued Cat that they had to get their daughter home to bed, prompting Cat to go around collecting the other two children. Realizing what they were doing, Jennifer gathered her own army in the personage of Doc and Ida, and confronted the new brides.

"Just where do you think you two are going?" Jennifer asked.

Referring to the sleeping child who had burrowed her face into the taller woman's neck, Billie replied, "We've got a casualty here... got to get her home to bed."

"No, I don't think so." Ida said.

Billie raised her eyebrows to her mother-in-law.

"Don't you give me that look, young lady!" Ida scolded. "This is your wedding day, and the two of you deserve at least one night alone together. Doc and I will take the children home with us. You can come collect them sometime tomorrow. Understand?"

Doc leaned in to Billie, whispering in her ear, "I've leaned not to cross her when she's in this mood. Best to do as she says."

Billie looked at Doc and saw the mirth in his eyes, causing her to grin as well. By this time, Cat had joined her, the two older children protestingly in tow. Having heard the conversation, Cat said, "Mom, You have a house full already with the girls and their families."

"You let me worry about my house full, Caitlain Maureen. You father has planned a camping expedition in the back yard with the grandchildren. It seems only fair that your three be allowed to join in the fun." Ida said.

"Camping?" Seth and Tara exclaimed together. "Can we roast marshmallows?" Seth added.

"It wouldn't be camping without it, Scout!" Doc said.

Cat knew she was fighting a losing battle when her mother used her full name. Looking at Billie, she sent the silent message that they were outnumbered, and it would be in their best interest to give in.

Billie just smiled and handed the sleeping Skylar over to Doc. Seth and Tara jumped up and down cheering.

Jennifer, who was watching the scene from the sidelines piped in. "Good, now that it's settled, Fred and I have a nice dinner planned for you, after which, you and Cat will be spending a night in the Windjammer hotel, complete with a private hot tub."

"Jen, you and Fred have done enough already!" Cat protested.

"Look, girlfriend, I already have a sitter lined up for Stevie and Karissa... Do you think I'd willingly give up a nice dinner with friends with no kids around? Do I look stupid?" she asked.

"Do you really want me to answer that, Jen?" Billie asked.

"Watch it Tall One, or I might have to hurt you." Jennifer threatened.

That remark caused the adults to laugh heartily. Impatiently wanting to get the camping trip started, Seth and Tara pulled their grandparents to the door. "Dad!" Billie exclaimed, stopping Doc in his tracks. "Skylar's car seat is in the back seat of our car. Help yourself to it."

Doc walked back up to Billie and kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you." he said.

A bit confused, Billie said, "For what?"

"For calling me Dad... That felt really good." he replied.

Billie wrapped her arms around Doc. "Yeah, it felt good here too. I love you, you know. You and Mom both"

"I know, daughter. Have a good dinner, and don't be in too big a hurry to pick the kids up tomorrow, they'll be fine. Okay?" he said.

"Okay. See you tomorrow." Billie answered.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VII

Within days, things pretty much returned to routine at the Charland/O'Grady household. Billie tried hard to minimize the amount of overtime she put in on the same-sex court hearing, but as the day of reckoning drew nearer, she found herself spending longer and longer hours at the office, putting the final touches on her case. Luckily for her, Cat was very understanding and supportive of her efforts.

The night before the hearing, Cat and Billie were cuddled on the couch in the family room, Cat wrapped securely in Billie's arms, just enjoying each other's company, when the conversation turned toward the hearing the next day.

"Billie, what do you think will happen tomorrow?" Cat asked.

"It's hard to tell, love. Either the court will dismiss it right away, in which case, we'll file an appeal, or they'll be open to argument and proceed. If they agree to proceed, it is a matter of pleading our case to the judge. This is not a trial, just a hearing, so it shouldn't take more than a few hours to complete our argument. Then we wait and see. Art and I have no intention of allowing them to dismiss us easily." Billie explained.

"Win or lose, we'll have to take Art and Marge out to dinner after this is over. Art has worked so hard for our case, we owe him that much." Cat observed.

"Absolutely." Billie replied, resting her chin on top of Cat's head.

Cat lazily caressed Billie's forearms which were crossed over her chest. Noticing how tense her wife was, Cat suggested that they retire to their bedroom, where she could administer a soothing massage to the dark haired woman. Billie loved Cat's massages, and eagerly agreed. Sending Billie to their room ahead of her, Cat warmed a cup of water in the microwave and dropped a vial of message oil into it to warm it up.

Soon, Cat was sitting astride the backside of a naked Billie, rubbing the warm liquid into her shoulders. Billie moaned with pleasure. "Gods, that feels good, Cat." Billie exclaimed, visibly relaxing as Cat worked the oil into her shoulders, and back. Cat had definite plans for her lover and started kneading the oil lower into Billie's back, heading for her buttocks. Before Cat could reach her destination, however, a slight snore revealed that Billie had fallen asleep under her careful ministrations.

A little frustrated, but sympathetic, Cat leaned in and placed a kiss on Billie's cheek. "Poor baby." she said. "You've been wearing yourself out with this case. Sleep well, my love. You've got a hard day ahead of you tomorrow." With that, Cat undressed herself, set the alarm and slipped into bed beside Billie. Snuggling up close to the sleeping woman, she pulled the covers over them and spent several long moments just looking at the sleeping beauty beside her, pondering her good fortune at finding someone so special to love and to love her back.


The courthouse the next day was filled to capacity, mostly with friends and family of Cat and Billie. Cat, Fred, Jennifer and Cat's parents were seated in the front row. When the judge entered the courtroom from chambers and noticed how full the spectator benches were, he was amazed. As far as he knew, this was supposed to be a simple civil hearing. Somehow, based on the turnout, he suddenly suspected that it would be much more.

The bailiff started the proceedings by reading a description on the docket. "This court is in session. First case is docket number D3290-4, Charland v. State, challenging the state's anti-gay marriage law." he announced.

The judge sat attentively, listening to the bailiff. When he was finished announcing the case, the judge looked at Billie and Art, who were sitting at the attorney's table and said, "Welcome to my court. I am Judge Robert Thompson. I have read your complaint. Council," he said, addressing himself to Billie, "I understand your client's position, but I must warn you that it will be difficult challenging the law. To be successful, you must prove that the law is unconstitutional. Are you prepared to do that?" he asked.

Billie rose to her full height. "Your Honor, if it pleases the court, I would like to point out that I am my own client. My name is Billie Jean Charland, a practicing attorney, and I am challenging the laws that prohibit legal recognition of my marriage to one Caitlain Maureen O'Grady, whom I have been committed to for over two years, and recently wed in a religious ceremony just one month ago."

The judge raised his eyebrows. "What a pity." he thought. "Such a beautiful woman... I only hope her 'wife' appreciates her beauty." "I understand, Council. You may continue." he said.

"Thank you, your Honor." Billie said, coming from behind her table. From the spectator seats, Cat was captivated by the picture Billie made. She had chosen to wear her black pinstriped business suit, but opted to wear the matching skirt instead of the trousers. The skirt came to just above her knees, and hugged her shapely thighs sexily. Billie chose that outfit to consciously communicate the message that not all gay women looked and acted like men. Walking across the floor in heels, which only accented her nearly six-foot frame, she started to present her case.

"Your Honor, it is my goal to prove that this state's anti-gay marriage law , which invalidates gay marriages, violates the terms of the Equal Rights Ammendment, disallowing discrimination of any kind based on gender. But before I plead the facts of this case, I would like to address two misconceptions that some factions of the public think is 'typical' behavior for homosexual couples. First, it is a common assumption that gays have a choice in whom they are attracted to. Many people believe that gays can just choose to be heterosexual if they wished. The truth of the matter, is that gays have no more choice in whom they are attracted to than do straight people. Being gay or straight is an inherent part of a person's core identity. Secondly, many people believe that gay relationships are primarily about sex, and in fact, many see them as sexually perverse. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of homosexual relationships are based on love, affection and mutual attraction. Gay couples are primarily interested in loving relationships. They are loyal to their partners, are monogamous, and are committed to family and community values, as are the majority of heterosexual couples."

Billie paused , taking a drink from the glass of water on her table. She looked up at Cat and winked, causing Cat to break into a huge smile. Walking back to the front of the court, she continued with her statements.

"The primary point I want to make, Your Honor, is that this case is really based on a civil rights issue. There are many rights that are violated by this state's refusal to legally recognize gay marriages. These are rights that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples, and denied to gay couples, solely based on the fact that they are of the same sex." Billie walked over to her table and picked up a piece of paper. Continuing, she said, "A subset of those rights include the following:

Billie once again paused to return the paper to the table. This time, it was Art who winked at her. Picking up a second stack of papers, she turned back to the judge, and continued once more.

"No where in the origins of these laws that I have just mentioned, does it require that the recipients of these rights have to be man/woman couples. These civil rights issues have long been denied to same-sex couples, while concurrently being enjoyed by heterosexual couples. It is not unreasonable for gay couples to ask for the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy by law, especially when denial of these rights is based solely on their gender."

Billie walked up to the bench and handed the judge one of the two stacks of papers she was holding. While he thumbed through them, she walked back to her table and removed her jacket. Draping it over the back of her chair, she once again, started her pacing, continuing her argument.

"Your Honor, what I have just handed to you is a copy of several arguments against gay marriage. It is my intent to briefly dispute each point.

Once more, Billie walked over to her table for a drink of water. Looking at Cat, she saw the pride and love reflected in her eyes, giving her renewed strength and determination. Billie turned back to look at the judge. He was intently thumbing through the document she had given him, furiously writing notes in the margins. After giving him a few more moments to complete his note-taking, Billie continued.

"Your Honor, as you can see, the most popular arguments against gay marriages have no place in state law. It is my belief that anti-gay prejudice finds its origins, in fear and ignorance. People are just not comfortable with the idea of two men or two women being in love. I mentioned earlier that gays are a minority.... in fact, they represent roughly 10% of the population. I submit to you, Your Honor, that constitutional government exists to protect all people, including, and especially, the powerless and the unpopular minorities. The anti-gay marriage law counteracts this very reason for the existence of constitutional government. I further submit that anti-gay prejudice also finds its origins in religion. As I have argued earlier, no state laws exists defining the morality of homosexuality.... that definition exists solely with the religious community. It is long over due for religious organizations to stop using the power of government to enforce their beliefs."

Billie walked back to the table and leaned her backside against it, crossing her legs at the ankles and leaving her hands free to express her points.

"One final argument that I would like to make, Your Honor, is that the anti-gay marriage law directly violates this state's equal rights ammendment, thereby deeming it unconstitutional. This state's ERA affords equal rights to all citizens, and disallows discrimination based on religion, nationality, social class, race or gender. Under this ammendment, all people have equal rights. What is in error here, is how this state applies this ammendment. This state's government will boast that gays enjoy the same rights as non-gays.... all rights that is, except for those afforded to heterosexual married couples. Examples of such rights violations have already been outlined earlier in my arguments. I submit to the court, that the ERA does not specify married status when it talks about equal rights. Denial of marriage licenses and legal recognition of marriage to same-sex couples constitutes sexual discrimination based on the provisions of this state's ERA."

Billie once again stood to her full height and paced back and forth to make her final point. Her voice raised in intensity and volume as she made her impassioned plea.

"Your Honor, when a provision like the anti-gay marriage law allows certain rights to a portion of the population, but denies those same rights to another portion of the population, based solely on the gender of that population, it is clearly a case of sexual discrimination, it is in direct conflict with the rules and statutes of the Equal Rights Ammendment, and it is proven to be unconstitutional."

Billie walked back to her seat and stood behind the desk. "That, in substance, is my case, Your Honor. I request that this court take the matter into consideration with the State Supreme Court for final determination. Thank you."

Billie sat down. The entire courtroom was silent for several long moments. Finally, one lone spectator stood and started a slow cadence of clapping. One at a time, another spectator joined in, until the entire room had erupted into clapping and cheering. Billie just sat there, eyes locked with the judge in a plea for sympathy.

Several minutes later, the judge managed to regain control of his courtroom. Looking directly at Billie, he asked her to stand as he addressed her. She did so willingly.

"Ms. Charland." he began. "I have to admit that I am very impressed with your knowledge and ability plead this case. You have made several valid points, and have managed to shed enough doubt in my mind about the constitutionality of the anti-gay marriage law, that I indeed, will bring it to the State Supreme Court. However, in no way, can I guarantee that the Supreme Court will rule in your favor. You may be called to testify at that hearing, so I would recommend that you prepare yourself for that eventuality. You and your associates will be informed of the state's decision after due processes. Good day."

"All rise." the bailiff instructed as Judge Thompson left the courtroom.

Billie dropped back into her chair stunned. She didn't expect to convince him so easily. Art threw an arm around her shoulder and pulled her in close. "We did it, Billie. We're half way home." he said.

Letting out a sigh of relief, she dropped her chin to her chest and released the emotions that had been building in her heart since the beginnings of her arguments. Tears coursed down her cheeks, as she felt soft arms circle her from behind. "I have never been so proud of anyone in my entire life." the voice said.

Turning into the embrace, Billie pulled Cat down into her lap and held her close. Her heart was pounding out of her chest as her mind acknowledged the significance of what she had just accomplished.

"I did it for you, love... for us.... for our children." Billie replied.

"I love you, Billie." Cat said as she kissed her tenderly.

Art broke up the little love fest... "Hey you two, you've got all night to do that. Right now, I think we need to go out and celebrate!" he said.

Billie looked at him, wiping the tears from her face. "Only if we stop to pick up Marge, and only if you agree to be our guests." Billie said.

"Deal, partner!" he replied.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER VIII

Somehow, the press caught wind of the hearing and widely published Billie's arguments and the judge's reaction to them. Letters to the editor appeared daily for several weeks, both for and against the gay marriage issue. What had become a personal battle quickly escalated to the very public arena and Billie became a near instant celebrity. Where Billie welcomed public support, she did not anticipate the strength of the opposition, including the protesters that continuously picketed her workplace. When they found out where she lived and threw a beer bottle through one of the living room windows, she started to fear for her family's safety, and had to call in law enforcement to disperse the protesters and guard her property.

The night after the broken window incident, Billie invited Jennifer, Fred and Art over for a discussion. She briefed them ahead of time, knowing that she would need a united force to confront Cat.

"No, Billie... I'm not leaving!" Cat protested, pacing angrily back and forth across the living room. "This is as much about me as it is about you... I'm not leaving you here alone!"

"She won't be here alone, Cat." Fred said. "Art and I will be staying with her until the notoriety wears off. They will eventually get tired of the game and leave you alone." he said.

"Billie!?" Cat pleaded again.

"Cat, please. I can't fight this and protect you and the kids at the same time. Please go to your parents'.... I promise it won't be for long.... Please!" Billie begged.

Jennifer, who had been holding a trembling Cat, agreed. "Cat, Honey, we don't know what these people are capable of. Billie is right. We need to keep you and the kids safe."

Cat was defeated. She knew she'd never change Billie's mind when she had the support of the others. She tried very hard not to be angry with the lot of them, after all, they were only looking out for her and the kids.

Throwing her hands up, she said, "All right! All right... I'll go."

Billie released the breath she didn't even realize she was holding and pulled Cat in close. "Thank you, Cat. I love you so much... I wouldn't be able to bear it if something happened to you or the kids."


Billie relaxed a little after knowing that Cat and the children were safe. In the full week following Cat's move to her parent's house, there was only one anti-gay incident. Someone had written some very distasteful graffiti across the front yard fence. Billie, Fred, Art and Jennifer simply painted over it, not wanting Cat to see it when she came home.

After a few more days, with no repeat incidences, Billie felt safe enough to insist that Art go home to his wife. He left with the assurance that Fred would continue to stay in the house with her at night.

Billie didn't dare visit Cat and the kids at her in-laws home, fearing that she would be followed there and unknowingly disclose Cat's whereabouts to the zealots. She did, however, contact her by phone several times a day, keeping in touch with both her and the children. Each phone call ended in tears both her and Cat. Gods, how she missed her family.

It was exactly those thoughts that were on her mind one night after leaving work late. Distracted by her thoughts, she wasn't aware of being followed until it was too late. In the darkened parking lot, she was jumped from behind by three assailants. Being caught off guard, she wasn't prepared for the fight, and quickly lost any advantage her martial arts training may have given her.

The three men beat her senseless, breaking her arm and several ribs, all the while, shouting anti-gay sentiments at her. Satisfied that she had received adequate punishment, they finally left her in a state of semi-consciousness on the ground next to her car. After a time, Billie had recovered enough to drag herself up into her car. Grabbing her car phone, she called Art.

Marge answered the phone. "Marge." Billie said in a weak, broken voice. "This is Billie. I need Art, please, hurry!"

"Billie? Are you all right? Art!... Art, come quickly!" she screamed into the other room. Turning her attention back to the phone, she said, "Billie, Billie talk to me, Honey. Where are you?"

"Work... Parking lot... Tell Art... hurry." she said, passing out.

Art ran into the living room. "What is it!" he said excitedly.

"Art, grab the car keys, quickly. We need to go to your office. Billie is hurt!" she said.

"Those bastards!" he cursed, running out to the car, with Marge tight on his heels.

Moments later, they found Billie passed out across the front seat of her car, her legs still on the outside, and the phone still in her hand.

Marge cradled Billie's head in her lap in the back seat as Art quickly negotiated traffic. Within minutes, they were at the emergency room and Billie was being wheeled into Triage. As Marge provided the receptionist with what little bit of information she knew about Billie, Art called Cat.

"Hello?" Cat said apprehensively into the phone.

"Cat... This is Art. Cat,..."

Before he could say another word, Cat broken in. "Where is she, Art? She's hurt isn't she. By the gods, tell me where she is, please!"

"Mercy General." replied Art.

Cat didn't even reply. She just hung up the phone and shouted to her mother that she'd be back later, not wanting the alarm the kids who were coloring quietly on the living room floor.

Cat ran every red light and stop sign between her parents' and the hospital. It was only by the grace of god that she arrived there unscathed. Rushing into the emergency room with a wild look in her eyes, she ran right into Art, who grabbed her by the arms.

"Whoa... slow down Cat. You'll be no use to her if you don't calm down." he said.

"Where is she, Art? I need to see her." was all she could manage.

"Cat, she's only been in there for 20 minutes. They'll let us know as soon as they can. Right now, you need to see the receptionist, okay?" he asked, leading her over to the check-in window.

Marge was still there, trying to help the receptionist out, when she spotted Cat. "Thank god, her wife is here!" she told the receptionist as she motioned for Cat. The receptionist looked at her funny. "Wife?" she thought.

Cat saw Marge and immediately went into her arms. Marge held the trembling woman, rubbing her back and telling her that things would be okay. Finally, she had calmed down enough to answer the receptionists questions. When she got to the part about married status, Cat answered 'married' and gave her own name as spouse. The receptionist again gave her a funny look and refused to write down the offered information.

Just as the receptionist was finished with Cat, the emergency room doctor came out and asked to see the family of Billie Charland. Cat immediately came forward and introduced herself as Billie's wife.

"Yeah, right!' said the doctor, who turned and walked away from her. Cat was not about to put up with that. She chased after him, grabbed his arm and swung him around to face her.

"I am her wife. We've been married for two months. Now tell me how bad she's hurt, right now!" Cat demanded.

"Listen, Miss. I don't know who you think you're kidding, but I don't have time to play games." Turning to the nurse, he said, "Have Ms. Charland moved into a semiprivate room until a family member can be located."

Cat was out of her mind with anger and worry. The reality of what was motivating Billie in her legal quest suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks. "By the gods, if I have ever doubted her in this venture, I have learned my lesson today." she thought.

Not knowing what else to do, she called her father. She hated to rely on Daddy every time she had a problem, but Billie's health was at stake here, so there was no question about swallowing her pride.

Ten minutes later, Doc arrived and set to work cleaning house. It didn't take long for Cat to be allowed access to Billie. Walking into the room she had been moved to, Cat broke down and cried when she saw what those men had done to her wife. She was black and blue from head to toe. Her left arm had been set in a fiberglass cast and her right eye was swollen shut. Approaching the bed, she sat down gently on the side of it and reached out to caress Billie's face. "By the gods, love. Look at what they've done to you." she said through her tears.

"It hurts worse than it looks!" Billie said, just barely able to open her eyes into slits.

"You're awake!" Cat said in surprise.

"Unfortunately, yes." she said in jest, trying to make light of the situation. "Did they get the license number of the truck that ran over me?" she asked.

"Art is talking to the police right now, but they'll want to see you as soon as you're up to it." Cat replied. "Billie, it was the anti-gay activists, wasn't it?"

Billie nodded her head yes.

"Damn it, Billie, when will it end? When I got here tonight, they wouldn't let me in! The doctor practically laughed in my face and then brushed me off when I told them I was your wife! I was out of my mind with worry." She was crying steadily now. "Billie, I'm sorry if I every doubted your motives. I understand completely now what is driving you with this case. Please forgive me if I've ever wavered in my faith of you." Cat lowered her head to Billie's shoulder and cried.

Billie winced slightly at the contact, but forced herself to remain still. Reaching forward with her uninjured arm, she stroked Cat's hair, whispering soothingly to her that it was okay, that she had never doubted her love and faith in her.

It was in this position that Doc found them moments later. Hearing him enter the room, Cat lifted her head and looked at her father. "Daddy, did you find out anything?" she asked.

"Yes, Kitten, I did." he said sitting down and opening the folder he carried with him. "Billie-girl, it's a good thing you've got a hard head, other wise, they may have killed you." he said jokingly.

Billie chuckled, wincing at the movement. "Please... don't make me laugh... hurts too much!" she said.

"Sorry about that." he said. "Okay, the extent of the damage is as follows... broken left arm, three broken ribs, one on the right and two on the left, slight concussion, several cuts, abrasions and bruises, including two very swollen eyes." he said, adding that last item through his own observation.

"When can I go home?" Billie asked.

"Tomorrow should be soon enough." he said. "And you'll be coming home with me... no arguments - understand? If you argue, I'll send Ida after you!"

"Please no! Not that!" Billie said, chuckling and wincing again.

Just then, a knock at the door interrupted their wordplay. It was a uniformed officer. "Ah, excuse me, Ms. Charland, may I have a word with you?" he asked politely.

"Sure, come in, have a seat." Billie said. Cat moved to the other side of the bed to give the officer room to conduct his interview. Doc stood in the background listening.

A half hour later, Billie had given the police officer a full account of the attack, including a pretty detailed description of her assailants, and included the fact that she may have gotten a lucky kick in to one of their knees, probably breaking it.

The officer rose to leave. "Thank you, Ms. Charland. We have a pretty good idea who did this to you. Do you think you could pick them out of a police line up?" he asked.

"Absolutely!" she said with confidence.

"Good. I'll be in touch within the next couple of days. Until, then, I hope you recover soon." The officer stopped at the door and turned around. Looking at Billie, his face suddenly took on a gentle smile as he said, "On a personal note Ma'am, I want you to know that I've been following your case, and I think you have a lot of courage and conviction for doing this. I hope you win."

Billie smiled the best she could and said, "Thank you officer, I appreciate your support." When he left, Billie turned to Cat and said, "That is one of the many reasons that this is all worth the effort, Cat. That, and knowing that life for 'our kind' will improve dramatically with our efforts."

Cat leaned in and kissed her gently, being careful not to apply too much pressure on her bruised lips. Doc just smiled as he quietly left the room unnoticed.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER IX

Several days later, Billie was called to pick her assailants out of a line up. Sure enough, they were there, all three of them. Billie's keen senses had registered a tremendous amount of detail about her attackers, even though it had been dark, and she had been under constant attack. Also true to her word, one of the men sported crutches and a brace on his knee. With a little pressure by the police, one of the men cracked and ratted them all out.

For the next two weeks, Billie, Cat and the kids rested at her in-law's house while Fred kept an eye on things at home. It had been three weeks since Billie's attack and since the three assailants had been arrested, all anti-gay activity seemed to cease. They quickly concluded that they were probably the ring leaders, and once they were out of action, their little army fell apart. Finally, after much discussion, Cat convinced Billie that is was safe to move back home.

Billie returned to work as soon as they moved back home, still sporting ugly looking bruises, wrapped ribs and the cast on her arm. She insisted on carrying her full workload even though she was urged to work part time for a while. She was feeling a bit guilty about taking so much time off to recover from her injuries, so she didn't want to miss any additional time. Beside, there was a junior partnership she was working toward. It would take a lot of effort and hard work to reach that goal and taking time off was not going to help her accomplish it.

On her fifth day back, she received a call from Judge Thompson, wanting to meet with her for lunch to discuss the anti-gay marriage case. She readily agreed and arranged to meet him at a popular Italian restaurant down town.

Judge Thompson was already there when she arrived. He almost didn't recognize her when she walked in.

"What in god's name happened to you?" he asked.

"Anti-gay activists." was all she said.

"Good Lord. I hope they caught the bastards." he said.

"Yes they did. I don't think they'll be bothering anyone for a while. They basically confessed and are facing a lot of years behind bars. As you know, hate crimes are taken quite seriously in this state." she explained.

"That's good to hear. Now, I called this meeting to discuss your discrimination case against the anti-gay marriage law." he said.

"I'm listening." Billie replied.

"It seems that you've done your homework, Ms. Charland. I had your entire testimony transcribed by the stenographer and submitted to the Supreme Court. You did a fine job of convincing me that you had a case, and since I consider myself a man of high integrity, I could not sit by and idly see it pushed to the bottom of the Supreme Court's case load." He paused to take a sip of coffee. "So, I made myself an advocate for your case and pestered them until they finally moved it to the top of the docket. They have spent the past two weeks considering your case, and are now ready to render a decision. They want you there personally to hear the verdict. It is scheduled for next Tuesday at 9 am. I trust you will be able to make it?" he said.

"You can count on it Judge Thompson... I'll be there." Billie replied. A nervous knot was starting to grow in the pit of her stomach, fearing the worst possible outcome. Trying hard to push it aside, she mentally counted the days until the decision. "This is only Friday... We have three whole days to wait! It will be agony!" she mused to herself.


Later that evening, after the children were in bed, Billie reclined in a tub of hot water, hanging her broken arm outside the tub. Cat was sitting in front of her, leaning against her chest.

"Are you sure I'm not hurting your ribs?" Cat asked.

"No, love, I'm fine. More wine?" she asked Cat.

"Sure, fill'er up." Cat said, offering her glass up to Billie. Billie reached over to the shelf next to the tub and grabbed the wine bottle, filling both Cat's and her glasses before returning it to the shelf.

"So the decision is Tuesday, huh?" Cat asked.

"Yes. My stomach is doing flip flops, I'm so nervous." Billie confessed.

"Wellllll, Is there anything I can do to take your mind off of things? Cat asked suggestively.

"You could wash my hair for me?" Billie replied hopefully. One benefit of having the broken arm was her inability to bathe without help and Billie took advantage of the excuse to get her beautiful wife to run her hands all over her body... not that she need an excuse mind you.

Catching the naughty gleam in Billie's eye, Cat said, "You are sooooo bad, Billie Charland!" Reaching for the shampoo, she ordered Billie to dip down into the water to wet her hair.

Within moments, the long dark tresses were encased in lather. Cat messaged Billie's scalp, sending the older woman into a nirvana-like trance. "I give you two hours to stop that." Billie said.

"No, I don't think so... I have other plans for you to fill that two hours." Cat replied.

Billie's eyes shot open with such expectation that Cat laughed out loud. "Just let me wash your back, then we'll set the timer for two hours and see what happens, okay?" Cat asked.

"Only two hours?" Billie asked disappointedly.

"Oh all right... three." Cat remarked.

"Oh goody!" Billie exclaimed.

Moments later, the timer was started and the two women took a three hour trip to Elisia and back several times.

************************************************************************************************ CHAPTER X

Cat kissed Billie for good luck just before she entered the Supreme Court judicial hearing at 9 am on Tuesday morning.

"I'll wait for you right here, love. I want to be the first one you see when you come out of there, whether the news is good or bad, okay?" Cat said.

Billie was so nervous, she was visibly shaking. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she kissed Cat again and thanked her for being there for her.

"I wouldn't be anywhere else, my love. Like I said, this is as much about me as it is about you." Cat replied.

Billie looked at Cat long and hard, then made a decision. "Wait right here, she said, don't move."

Billie ran down the hallway, straight to Judge Thompson's office. Five minutes later, she returned to Cat's side and grabbed her hand. "You're coming in with me." she said.

"Wait, Billie... wait. Do you have permission for this?" Cat asked.

"I do now. I basically told Judge Thompson that you were my whole reason for doing this, and if you couldn't share in the final result, then it wasn't worth me being there either. He agreed." she said, grinning from ear to ear.

"Cool... Well, let's go then." the small read head replied.

Leading Cat by the hand, they walked into the judiciary hearing and found a couple of seats near the back. Within minutes, their case was called to the docket. Judge Thompson rose and beckoned Billie and Cat to come forward.

The session chair, Judge Carl Reinhardt addressed Cat and Billie directly. "Which of you is Ms. Billie Jean Charland?" he asked.

Billie took a step forward. "I am, Your Honor."

"And who is this with you, Ms. Charland." he questioned.

Billie turned to take Cat by the hand. Pulling her forward, she placed a protective arm around the smaller woman's shoulder and replied, "This is Caitlain O'Grady, and I am proud to call her my wife, Your Honor."

"I see. Well, Ms. Charland, you have caused quite a stir in this court. You see, there are several of us on this panel that don't believe in same-sex marriages..." Cat stepped forward, ready to defend the hard work, effort and hardship that Billie had to endure to get them where they were today. Billie grabbed her and held her back, giving her a warning look not to say anything. Judge Reinhardt saw the gesture and chuckled.

"Like I said, Ms. Charland, not all members of this panel agree with the concept of same-sex marriage, however, we do all agree that every citizen in this great country deserves equal rights and equal consideration under law. Thanks to you, we now know that there exists laws in our state that could be deemed as discriminatory on the basis of gender. Also thanks to you, those laws have been ruled unconstitutional, and will be stricken from our books. Congratulations, Ms. Charland... You have won your case, and our fair state will be much better for it."

This time, there was no holding Cat back. "Does this mean that we can now apply for a marriage license without denial?" she asked.

"Yes, Ma,am, that's exactly what it means. Your union will be legally recognized by the state with equal rights to heterosexual couples."

Cat turned to look at Billie, tears streaking down her face. Billie pulled her in, burying her head in her shoulder. "By the gods, you did it, love... you did it." she said.

"No Cat, we did it... we did it together." Billie replied. Then addressing the court, she added, "If it pleases the court, I wish to express our sincere thanks with respect to you open mindedness, and for doing what you know is right."

"No, Billie... It is Billie, right?" Judge Reinhardt asked. Seeing Billie nod, he continued. "We thank you. We pride ourselves in running a fair and just state. You showed us where we were lacking and gave us the opportunity to correct the situation."

As Billie and Cat prepared to leave, Judge Reinhardt once again addressed them. "By the way, Billie... your injuries..."

"...Were administered by those not as open minded as yourself, Judge." she finished his sentence for him.

"Well, I apologize if our laws contributed to your pain." he said.

"No apology necessary, Your Honor. Sometimes even laws don't stop the 'phobes, but thank you for your concern." Billie replied. The two women then turned and left the room.

The judges all looked at each other and chuckled as they heard the whooping and cheering in the hallway outside the chamber.


Two weeks later, Billie and Cat exited the chambers of Judge Robert Thompson with wedding certificate in hand. He insisted on being allowed to perform this historic ceremony, and the two women readily replied, in thanks for his perseverance in pushing their case through the Supreme Court. After posing for several press photographers and giving statements for the paper, Billie and Cat along with their children, Jennifer, Fred, Marge, Art and Cat's parents, rode in the rented limousine to the airport, where Billie and Cat were catching a plane to Florida to meet up with the cruise ship to Aruba. It was long past due for them to go on their honeymoon.

After several hugs and kisses, and special promises from the kids to be good for Grandma and Grandpa, Billie and Cat were on the plane heading into their future. After they were in the air and the seat belt sign was shut off, Billie got up to use the bathroom. While she was gone, an attractive male passenger stopped to chat with Cat. Billie returned, approaching him from behind in time to hear Cat introduce her self as 'Cat Charland'. The pleasure of hearing Cat use her name was overwhelming.

"So are you traveling with someone?" the man asked. Just then, Cat spotted Billie.

"As a matter of fact I am." she said as Billie reached them. "And here she is. Billie, this is James Shepard. James, this is Billie Charland, my wife."

"Errr... Ahh... Uhhmmm... Nice to meet you Billie. Ah... Maybe I'll see you later. Bye!" James said as he scurried away as fast as he could.

"We'll Mrs. Charland," Billie said to Cat, "Do you always scare nice young men away?"

Cat tried her best to look offended, but she was melting inside at the title Billie had used for her. Instead, she opted for a threat. "You'll pay for that, Billie. Be afraid.... Be very afraid...!"

"Oh, I am counting on it, Mrs. Charland... I'm counting on it!" Billie replied.



Special Note to Readers: The contents of the arguments against gay marriage that Billie used during the hearing was paraphrased from a document entitled "Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives", written by Scott Bistrup. It can be found on the internet at http://www.pe.net/~bidstrup/marrige.htm. Use of this document is not intended for personal or monetary gain.

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