-- These characters are wholly mine. It is true that Sam and Annie look like our ancient gals, but any other resemblance to any other people, real or fictitional, is strictly coincidental.

Sex -- This is a lesbian romance thriller. There are graphic, but loving, scenes of sex between women. If you're under 18 you're just going to have to wait awhile to read, or if this is illegal where you are, I sincerely extend my condolences.

Violence -- This is a story of violent hatred attacking an innocent gay community. The violence is psychopathic and unsettling, but not overly gory.

Language -- Infrequently, some really scummy people show up in this book, and they use really disgusting language. Even our heroines are driven to cuss now and again. But the purpose is to display certain mind types, and in this, the language is only realistic.

General -- I should probably let you know beforehand that this story deals with bigots and hate crimes. If this is going to be hard for you, you may want to go elsewhere. -- There are hospital scenes dealing with diverse injuries. I am not a member of the medical profession. If the things I have my doctors and nurses do for certain injuries were done by real doctors to real people, it could very well kill them.

Feed the bard -- This is my first attempt at fanfic writing, so your comments would be a big help to me. Thanks.




Sue Hickerson


They woke early. Sam showered and Annie went downstairs to make her lover breakfast. They said little, but Sam found Annie's hand was on her every moment, on her arm, her leg, her hair, her cheek. She dressed in army camouflage. Vernon would bring the equipment, meeting them out of town to dole out the hardware everyone needed to do their jobs. The moment finally came, and Sam and Annie stood at the door, melting finally in each other's arms.

"I'll be home by eight."

"I'll be waiting."

They dragged themselves away from each other, and Sam slipped out the door. The sun was rising.

The drive through the still slumbering town was eerie. A light mist glowed softly in the dawning light that just caught the treetops. The air smelled sweet and every bird seemed to be singing from the trees. Purple shadows lay against the ground, a blanket of sleepy peace enveloped everything. But on every lamp pole on her route a poster had been hung during the night saying, 'Gays - Leave Or Die'.


The Protectors met outside of town, and picked up equipment from Vernon who then drove on independantly. Sam and Peter took the cameras they would operate and drove with the others to an old timbering road below the encampment site where they left their cars and continued on foot. They moved together through heavy underbrush to two sites right outside the camp. Sam, Eddie, Mark and El took the east side of the compound, Peter, Harry, Darnell and Mare the west. From their respective vantage points they watched as a stream of militia supporters traipsed up the rutted foot path from the parking field down below and entered the compound. The gathering was large, at least the thousand people who had been expected. Sam's group picked out six guards with rifles and walkie-talkies moving around searching new arrivals apparently at random. Sam's stomach churned thinking of Vernon loaded with equipment under his jacket. They couldn't contact him and wouldn't know until the end of the day whether he was safely inside audio taping or whether he had been discovered and was being held somewhere. She was sick thinking of Vernon, who had counted himself among them even though he was not gay and was in no danger, strictly out of honor, thinking of Vernon in the vicious hands of these bastards.

Their small group lay on the ground in the leaf dappled shadows, hidden by underbrush, and surveyed the buildings surrounding the inner grounds where the rally would take place. They were close enough they could hear the shouts of the guards who moved around outside the compound securing its perimeter. They turned their minds to the task at hand, easily identifying the low shed Harry and Darnell had recommended from their scouting trip to the site a few days prior. It was this shed where Sam would scramble onto the roof and tape the faces of the crowd inside and the parade of speakers taking the dais throughout the afternoon. Peter would be doing the same thing from the other side, the two of them hopefully covering the whole crowd. They waited, watching the behavior and routines of the guards. As the time approached for the rally to begin, Mare and El left their groups and made their way down the wooded slope to the parking fields below where they would crawl through the lines of cars, taking note of license plates and any anti-gay materials they might find in the cars.

The stream of incoming ralliers diminished to a trickle. The group could hear muffled voices coming over loud speakers inside the compound. The guard activity diminished as the guards pulled their forces into the compound to enjoy the activity. As far as they could determine, one guard was left outside circling the compound with his rifle slung over his shoulder, and another guard remained at the entry checking those who still straggled in. Mark made his way down the perimeter buildings to watch as the guard disappeared around to the other side of the compound and signaled back to Sam and Eddie.

The two crept forward into the exposed clearing before the buildings. They checked the guard at the entryway. He was absorbed in the few people still entering. They dashed across the open area and fell against the shed. Eddie made a stirrup with his hands, Sam stepped into it and Eddie lifted her up the side of the building. She leaned onto the roof and dragged herself up, the video cam swinging from its strap on her shoulder. She made her way up the slope of the roof, crouching as she neared the top, then lying down completely and slithering to the peak and looking over.

The inner ground was thick with people sitting on blankets or in lawn chairs or standing around in small clusters. The dais was at the north end, and she had a good view of it. She lay low to the roof and pulled the camera up, removing its cap and turning it on. She could tell her neck was going to hurt by the end of the rally from crooking it up to view the happenings through the camera's eye. She would also have to lie motionless because her head and one shoulder were visible over the top of the shed if anyone happened to look up. She didn't want to bring attention to herself. She looked across the compound using the zoom lens to try to see if Peter had manned his post on the other side. There he was, his head visible also. She realized how vulnerable they were. Slowly, she moved her camera over to the dais to document the present speaker. She didn't recognize him as a townie and figured most of the speakers would be from other parts of the state, maybe even of the nation. Whatever this pow wow was about, it was big and important. She and Peter would get shots of all the speakers and any people around the dais. The representatives from Gay National could then go over the tapes and identify known hate mongers. She resettled her shoulders a bit to settle in and do her work.

An hour had passed. She wondered how Mare and El were doing down in the parking field. Now and then she could catch snatches of what the speakers were discussing, and it was clear that homosexuality was a major topic on the agenda. She could hardly wait to hear what Vernon's tapes picked up. She had finally caught his face in a pan of the crowd up by the dais. He had found himself a good location. She heard the sound of a crow's caw, and her cramped muscles jumped so badly she almost lost the camera. The crow's call was their signal for danger. They had had a lot of fun sitting out in her back yard drinking beer, practicing their crow calls and making fun of each other. Now the sound sent her trembling. She looked back over her shoulder at Eddie crouched on the edge of the underbrush. He signaled wildly down the row of buildings, and she followed his gestures. Four guards were creeping down the inner edge of the clearing, rifles at the ready, keeping their backs close against the buildings as they moved. She didn't know if they had spotted her and were coming to get her or not, but this was different procedure than they had been using, and she decided in an instant she wasn't going to wait around to find out. She recapped her camera, slung it around to her back and slid down the roof, dropping over the edge and to the ground like a cat. A shout went up from the guards, and they came after her at a run as she dashed across the clearing and headed into the underbrush.

She could just make out Eddie's head tearing through the woods ahead of her. She knew that Mark would be tearing through the woods back to their rendezvous point at the cars. Shouts broke out behind her as people inside the compound became alerted to intruders. Fuck, they were going to have a thousand crazy people running after them!! She heard the crack of a rifle behind her and the tree she raced by exploded in a hail of splintering bark and wood. It cut her face and got in her eyes and she stumbled without losing her feet as she brought her hands to her face in shock for an instant. The guards were crashing through the brush close behind her, and she had to take off again. Her shoulder suddenly snapped back as one of them caught the strap on her camera pack nearly pulling her off her feet. She swung around, lifting a leg and driving a foot into his face. He let go. She plunged on into the woods, leaping over tangles of foliage and fallen logs. She didn't know if they were shooting to kill or shooting to scare, but she was scared as hell and damned if they were going to take her. She never looked back, just ran like crazy until she couldn't hear anyone coming behind her anymore. Then she ducked behind a tree and checked the path she'd made behind her. Nothing moved in the leaf dappled sunlight. Insects buzzed in her ears, but she could not hear the sound of hunters in the woods. They must have dropped back once they had run her off. She leaned against the tree panting heavily. She could finally feel the small cuts on her face stinging as the sweat ran into them. She thrust her shoulders away from the rough bark and moved on more slowly through the woods.

Drawing near to the cars, she slowed and surveyed the little back road where they'd parked them. Eddie was standing by his Bronco. She could see no one else. She broke into a run to join her friend.

"Sam!" he hailed as she broke out of the woods.

"That was close!" she cried.

"What happened to you?" Her face was red with trails of blood.

"Oh, they shot up a tree as I ran by. Stuff blew off and got my face. Nothing bad."

"You look like horrible!"

They heard tromping in the woods behind them and ducked quickly behind the Bronco, peering out to see Mark lope into the clearing. They came out as he bent over, his hands braced on his knees, badly winded. He glanced at them. "God, am I out of shape!" he panted.

Eddie slapped him on the back. "That's 'cause you're getting old, Marko. Old and decrepit."

"Well, now I believe it." He stood straight, still panting, and took a good look at Sam. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing. Tree got me."

"You look like shit."

Sam took out a handkerchief and wiped the blood and sweat off her face. Jeez, she must really look grisly.

"Think they're gonna come after us?" Eddie asked Sam.

"Yeah. I bet they're putting trackers in the woods to find us now."

"I wonder if Peter and Harry and Darnell are coming or if they're sitting tight."

"Don't know."

The three were silent for a minute thinking things over.

"If they're putting trackers in the woods, they might catch those guys when they try to come out," Eddie said squinting into the underbrush, wishing he would magically see them appear.

"Maybe somebody should go back and get 'em," Sam said.

"Wonder if they're using dogs?" Mark added.

"You know, we're not safe here. We oughta move the cars." Eddie looked at Sam soberly.

Sam bent over and picked up a handful of rocks and started slinging them distractedly into the trees. "This is where Mare and El are going to be coming. Somebody's gotta wait here for 'em. Marko, maybe you should drive the cars somewhere else. Eddie, you could wait here for Mare and El, and I could go back to the compound and get the guys."

"This is a disgusting mess, isn't it?" Eddie grinned.

"Nothin's ever easy." Sam agreed slinging the rest of her rocks into the underbrush.

"Well, that sounds good to me," Mark said. "Where do you want me to take the cars?"

"How about that little picnic area about a half mile back down on the road?"

Mark nodded in agreement. "Eddie, you come with, drive me back."


"Hey, on your first run, drive by that parking field, pick up Mare and El if they're still there." Sam suggested.

"Yeah, sounds good."

"Okay," Sam reviewed, "So... are we organized?"

"I think so," Eddie nodded.

"'Kay. See you all later." Sam said and headed back off into the woods.


Sam moved quietly through the undergrowth. Occassionally, she heard rustling around her and crouched to peer through the dense foliage. Usually she saw nothing, but once she saw a couple camouflage clad crazies moving through the trees with their rifles slung on their shoulders. At least they didn't have dogs. She waited for them to move on and continued her way on up the slope to the encampment.

As she drew near, she saw Darnell waiting at the edge of the clearing, and could just make out Peter sprawled on the roof of one of the buildings. God, she couldn't believe the guy was still up there shooting. He must have caught the whole excitement on tape. She crawled up behind Darnell and whispered his name loudly. He literally flew off his feet and turned around in the air.

"Good christ!" He hissed when he saw her. "You nearly scared the piss out of me!"

"They nearly caught us on the other side. We've had to change plans. They have people out tracking in the woods. We gotta get out of here."

"Okay. Give 'em the signal and let's group up."

"You can give 'em the signal, Darnell. This is your detail."

"No. You sound more like a crow."

"Okay. I'll give 'em the signal." This decided, Sam cupped her hands around her mouth and directed a crow's caw to Peter. The long form didn't move, and she tried it again. The results were the same. She and Darnell watched the figure on the roof, blinking.

"I bet he thinks it's just a crow," Darnell whispered.

"Well, jeez! Give him the signal, Darnell!"

Darnell let out a caw, and the figure on the roof rolled around and looked in their direction. Slowly he slipped his way down to the roof eaves and dropped himself over the edge. He checked right and left, then dashed across the cleared area and made his way to their position. A moment later Harry could be heard making her way to them as well.

"What's up?" Peter asked.

"They discovered us on the other side. We had to run for it."

"Yeah, I noticed," Peter whispered.

"They have trackers out in the woods looking for us. We've moved the cars. We have to get out of here."

"They're looking for us?" Harry hissed.

"Yeah. I don't know how many of 'em there are. Listen. We need to take off one by one, so we don't hear each other. So if you hear anything, it's them. Let's go down to the track where we were planning to meet and regroup there."

They all whispered their agreement. It was decided that Harry would go first, then Darnell, Peter and Sam.

Sam rubbed a strong reassuring hand on Harry's back. "Good luck," she said, and Harry took off into the undergrowth. When they could no longer hear her, Darnell headed out. Before she headed out, Sam looked behind her, checking the compound. All clear. She stepped into the trees moving quiet as a cat, hoping they would all make it back together.


The sun was lowering to the horizon and the shadows in the woods were deep as Sam crept toward the clearing where the four were to regroup. She waited, crouched and hidden and gave a caw. An answering caw came from across the clearing, and she rose to her feet as the rest of the group rose out of cover fifty feet beyond her. Peter, Harry and Darnell were all there, and Mark, Eddie and El as well. She trotted over to the group.

"Where's Mare?"

"We don't know," Eddie said. "We couldn't find her. We think they got her."

El broke in. "Sam, they came down to the field. About twenty of them. They were looking between the rows of cars. I barely got out. I had no idea where she was; we were each taking a different side of the field. I just got back into the trees and ran like hell. I got back here and nobody was here, no cars, no nothin'. I didn't know what in the hell was going on!"

Eddie whispered defensively, "We were just coming back from moving the last car. We pulled up here and El was ready to skin us."

"Well, I was scared as hell. I knew something was wrong."

"We've been waiting for about forty-five minutes. We don't know where she is."

"You guys went by the field to pick her up?" Sam checked.

"Yeah. We couldn't find anybody. None of them, none of us. We got out of the car and looked down all the rows. We cawed like holy hell. She wasn't in that field." Eddie's face held his feeling of helpless frustration.

"What are we going to do?" Mark blinked at Sam.

Sam rubbed her hands down over her face. Something was really wrong. If Mare wasn't in the parking field, where in the hell was she? Either the crazies had her or she was in the woods somewhere trying to make her way to the rendevous point. And if she hadn't made her way here yet, then maybe she was hurt.

Sam checked the sun. It lay right on the treetops, ready to sink behind the veil of the forest. They had only about a half hour of light left in the depth of the woods. "I don't think they could have taken her. I don't think she would have let them. I think she would have run."

"Then where is she?" El asked quietly.

Sam couldn't answer. Her stomach tightened, and she was racking her brain to try to figure out what to do.

"Do you think they shot her?" El murmured.

Sam raked her fingers through her dark hair. Finally she said quietly, "I'm afraid they might have hurt her."

El's face paled, and she dropped dizzily to her knees. Sam dropped at her side and held her up, speaking quickly. "I think she's okay, El. They don't want to kill us..."

"They don't give a damn if they kill us," El mumbled numbly.

"They're not going to do murder, El. She's gonna be okay."

El fell bonelessly against Sam, and Sam held her in strong arms. "I think she's in the woods somewhere. Trying to get to us."

"If she's hurt," Peter said, "Do you think those guys will get her?"

"We have to go into the woods and find her!" Mark cried.

"We don't have much light left," Darnell said.

"We need to call somebody," Sam said. "We need people out here. Lots of them."

"Sam, there are a thousand crazy fascist bigots up that hill and in this woods" Peter said. "If we bring our people in down here, all hell's gonna break loose."

El pulled herself unsteadily away from Sam and stood. "I'm going into the woods! If Mare is goddam laying in there, bleeding..." She ended in an angry sob and headed for the trees. Everyone looked after her, and beyond her and saw a quivering of underbrush. El stopped and they all watched as a figure emerged from the shadows. Mare appeared, stumbling slowly toward them. Together they shouted and raced toward their compatriot who lifted her head enough to see them, and then tumbled heavily to the ground.

They gathered around her. El took Mare's face in her hands. There were splits in the skin of her cheek and forehead and lips. She had clearly been beaten. "Mare! Talk to me, babe! Open your eyes."

The soft green eyes fluttered open and moved vacantly around. "Where does it hurt, babe? What did they do?"

The voice was hoarse with pain. "Got me good... Think they cracked my ribs..."

Sam leaned in close. "Mare, did they shoot you?"

"Naw... just beat..."

"Is anything broken?"

"Think I broke an arm or two."

El blinked. "Theirs?"

"Busted some balls."

Sam nodded her head. "She means theirs. Way to go, Maresie! You kick ass, don't ya, girl!"

Mare licked her lips and smiled slightly. Sam looked up at Peter. "We've got to move her. We've got to get outa here."

Peter and Darnell, the two biggest, crossed their arms and held wrists making a seat the others helped Mare crawl into. She moaned softly as they lifted her up and started back down the old timbering road. Sam glanced nervously behind her as the group moved along. She half expected the woods to erupt with gunshots. Not until they were clear down to the picnic area did she relax.

"Everybody. Let's meet back at my place. We need to go over what we got. El, you're takin' Mare to the hospital, right?"

Mare objected. "Naw, naw. I'm feeling okay. We'll come to your place and then go the hospital."

"Sure?" Sam checked.

"Sure," Mare answered.

"Okay. See you all back home."

They got into their cars and headed back to Boffler.


Annie threw her book to the floor and leaped from the couch when she heard a vehicle pull up alongside the house. She ran to the side door looking out. A second vehicle was pulling in. Mare's car. She opened the door and stepped out into headlights that quickly went dark. Sam came running back from her truck and opened the passenger door of Mare's vehicle and El came around from the driver's side. Together they gently helped Mare from the seat, draping her arms over her shoulders and guiding her unsteadily into the house. Annie held the door for them and saw the cuts from a beating stark and bloody on Mare's face. A third vehicle pulled up out front as she followed her lover up the little flight of indoor steps to the kitchen.

Sam and El lowered Mare into a chair at the breakfast nook then lifted her, chair and all, and carried her into the livingroom. Peter and Eddie came on into the kitchen from the side door and grinned hello to Annie. The little nurse's brow was furrowed fiercely. She hurried in to Mare's chair and began to carefully examine the woman.

"Mare, these cuts need stitches. What in the hell are you two bringing her here for." She turned on Sam and El.

"Oh, don't be mad, Annie," Mare said. "I'm doing fine. I'll go to the hospital afterwards."

"Where all are you hurt?"

"Just my face and ribs. Took a rifle butt in my ribs."

"A rifle butt?!!!"

"Guy's going to be singing soprano for a while."

What in god's name had happened to these people today?! Annie stood and caught a good look at Sam's face with its webwork of cuts and scratches.

"What happened to you?"

Sam was afraid to tell her. "Nothing. Nothing. Got a little scratched up."


"Oh, a... a guy shot a tree, and I happened to be standing by it."

Annie's face was twisted in terrified concern. "Someone shot at you, Sam?"

"No. At a tree. At a tree beside me. Annie...?!" Sam swooped in and caught the little nurse whose knees had begun to weave dangerously. "We're fine, baby. We're all just fine."

Annie swallowed down a bout of nausea and dizziness, and laid her forehead on Sam's shoulder breathing deeply. Mark and Darnell and Harry strolled in from the kitchen and dropped into chairs around the room. Slowly the little nurse pulled away from her tall lover and checked to see if she could manage to stand up on her own. The room was steady and she turned back to Mare. "I'm going to get something and clean your cuts. I'm also going to wrap your ribs. Don't make a fuss."

"Oh, I'm okay, Annie. Forget it."

"Honestly!!!" The little nurse stopped conversation around the room with her emphatic outburst. All eyes looked at her. "What is it with you warrior types?" Everybody blinked. Annie turned to Sam and shook a finger at her. "I'm going to take care of your cuts, too! Don't try to stop me. Now... is anybody else hurt?"

The entire assemblage just kept blinking in sheepish surprise. "Okay then. Go on with your meeting and let me go on with my medical care." She left the room and everyone looked at each other, then broke out in laughter.

The meeting began, and Annie returned to everyone watching a video tape in rapt attention. She started cleaning Mare's face first, trying to keep her hands out of Mare's line of vision.

Harry said, "That's Donnie Hines! Right there!"

Mark scribbled the name on the tablet Sam had pulled out for him.

One of Mare's eyes was swelling shut. Annie brought an ice bag for it.

El said, "My god, Sam. You're right out in the open! I bet they spotted you from inside."

"Well, what was I supposed to hide behind?"

"I don't know."

Annie finished with Mare's face and dropped her hands to her ribs probing gently. The whole room looked and Sam paused the tape when Mare groaned deeply. "Sorry, Mare. God, I wish you would go to the hospital."

"I will. Just another hour."

"You've cracked a rib, I think. Or bruised it real badly."

"Yeah. Thought so. Go on with the tape, Sam."

Annie wrapped the injured rib providing support for Mare's torso and easing the pull of muscles on the injury.

"That feels better. Thanks, Annie," Mare whispered.

Annie laid her hand affectionately on the blond's battered face, and moved on to Sam.

Gently she washed the scratched skin of Sam's face, standing behind her so as not to obstruct her view. She dropped kisses over Sam's hair and temples as she worked. She was applying a sweet smelling unguent when Sam moaned deeply and the room looked around again. Sam paused the tape and said, "Just a second." She took Annie's arm and walked her into the kitchen around the corner by the sink where they could not be seen and began kissing her passionately, tasting her lips and mouth deeply. "My god, I'm so turned on! I have never been this turned on," she whispered. She could feel Annie smile under her lips and she just kept kissing.

"Does medical care turn you on?"

"You turn me on. I'm so turned on it hurts."

Sam felt a small hand slip into her crotch and massage deeply. "Oh, god. I'm going to have to take you right now on the floor."

"With everybody in the livingroom? Ooo."

Sam reached down and stopped the little hand and knelt down panting. Her own hand moved to her crotch gripping tightly, trying to stop the throbbing that was all but undoing her.

Annie leaned over her lover laughing softly and blushing. "Honey, all I was doing was washing your face."

"You were kissing me, and I couldn't do anything about it."

"Oh, that's right."

Sam managed to stand back up. "And there is just something about you kissing me with people all around so I'm helpless that just makes me weak."

"Well, maybe I'd better stop," Annie grinned.

"I think you'd better. Just until everybody goes home."

Annie leaned in and kissed Sam again, and Sam moaned softly. "Alright. Just til everybody goes home."

They walked back into the livingroom. Annie was so red she was sweating and Sam's cheeks were ruddy as well, and both of them were grinning sheepishly. Everybody wondered what could possible have gone on.

"Sorry," Sam said to the group. She took the remote and started the militia tape back up, and everybody went back to scanning faces and identifying spectators. Annie went to the kitchen, making ham sandwiches and baked beans and salad and chips for the gathering. Loud moans of gratitude went up to her as she brought the food into the room. Everyone heaped plates and went back to watching.

An hour later Vernon arrived. He grinned broadly at Sam as she let him in the front door. He had a look in his eyes that she had never seen there before. The look of a hero who has faced Death and won. Wild and fierce. Today, Vernon Quigley had been a man.

The group of fighters welcomed him into their midst, standing and clapping him on the back and shaking his hand. Annie heaped a plate of food for Vernon who took it with unrestrained enthusiasm. Vernon's work was the highlight of the day. Everyone was dying to hear what the speakers had been saying. Questions poured out to him.

"Are they behind what's happening here?"

"Are they bringing in hit men?"

"Did they name names? Did they say who was doing this?"

Vernon held his hands up. "They talked about what's going on. They didn't say they were behind it, but they said a national campaign against gays may come out of this."

Loud curses ricocheted around the room as everyone erupted in astonished fury. These people were planning to take this violence national. Finally they all agreed to put on the tapes and listen for themselves.

The tapes were still playing when Annie stood and whispered to Sam that she had go to bed for work in the morning. Sam stopped the tapes so they all could take a stretch. Mare said she was beginning to hurt pretty bad and probably should go on to the hospital. Everyone milled around getting second helpings of sandwiches and chips. Sam walked Annie up the stairs and kissed her as they moved into the bedroom.

"You guys got some incredible stuff today." Annie said as Sam undressed her, kissing exposed flesh as it appeared.

"Yeah. Still nothing we can use to throw anybody in jail with. Pretty interesting though." She slipped Annie's bra off her shoulders and kissed the exposed nipples. Annie stepped out of her shorts and underwear, and Sam helped her into bed, leaning over her and kissing her lips.



"I think you're incredible."

Sam absorbed this. "We will never let anything happen to anyone in Boffler if we can help it. And we will never, ever let anything happen to you again." She leaned down and kissed Annie on the lips one more time. "Good night." She turned off the light and slipped from the room shutting the door softly behind her. Annie felt an upwelling of fierce, protective love for Sam. She also would take care of this extraordinary woman. However she could, whatever it took.

Sam came downstairs to a silent livingroom. She looked around at everyone looking at her.

"Sam," Eddie said, "We were just thinking. They saw you and Mare today."

Sam looked at him. This was the first she had considered this.

"They know you," Eddie went on. "They're going to be really mad."

"We think we should put some people on the house and over at Mare's." Peter said.

"Alright. I appreciate you guys thinking of that."

"We're not going to let anything happen to you or Mare, champ." Eddie said.

"I appreciate that, guys. I can't tell you how much."

They went back to the tapes, and their moods were grimmer than ever as they listened to the words of hatred and bigotry.


The small library auditorium was half full of people milling around visiting with each other. Linley Colridge stood behind a table up on the stage along with the national representatives of Gay National and Women Gathering. In the crowd down on the floor were the many volunteers from the gay and lesbian community as well as two city council members, the clergy from several area churches and local, state and national press. The meeting was to plan a huge rally for all supporters of human rights and tolerance which would come to fruition that Sunday. Local chapters across the country of Gay National and Women Gathering as well as other supportive groups were being notified to send people to Boffler to make the statement that the violence and anti-gay sentiments here were being heard and not being tolerated nationally.

Buttons and bumper stickers and ribbons were available. Many of the press sported buttons and/or ribbons as well as all the gay and lesbian volunteers. A cheer went up when the council members and area clergy accepted and donned ribbons. But the highlight of the evening was a report by the representative of Gay National on the recent rally at the militia encampment. Many of the speakers had been recognized as national leaders of various hate groups from around the country. License plates had revealed that people in attendence had come from all over the country as well. And many of these people had not gone home. The tent town which had been erected in the fields around the militia compound remained large. It was clear that the crazies were taking the local situation to a level of national involvement and activity. The assemblage was grim after these announcements. It seemed that both sides were mounting large, strong forces to oppose each other, and where that would end, no one knew. Boffler was becoming a ticking bomb.


There was nearly one week to go until the big supporters' rally. The forces at the militia encampment remained large. That Saturday, Sam came home for lunch since it was one of Annie's days off. She picked up the mail as she kicked open the front door and rifled through the bills and junk mail as she sauntered back to the kitchen until she came across one that froze her where she stood. "No." Her hands started trembling. It was addressed to Annie. "Damn it, no!" She tore the letter open and saw before her the familiar block letters, cut from magazines. 'You're Next'. Trembling invaded her whole body. She ran to the phone and called Linley. It was reassuring just to hear the calm voice answer on the other end. "Professor Colridge."

"Annie got another letter."

There was quiet for a moment as Linley's face grimaced thinking of the pain the two had just gone through.

"We're going to take care of this, Sammy. You don't have to worry about it. Nothing's going to happen this time. We're working on a plan."

"I haven't told her. I don't want to tell her, Linny."

"Sam, dear. You have to. We have to face what's happening."

"I want her to leave. Go somewhere."

"Do you think she'd do that if you ask, Sam?"


"That's what I think, too."

"I want you to talk to her! Help me, Linny! Make her understand that she has to go away until we get this under control."

Sam's voice was rising to panic. "Sam, listen to me. We're having a meeting at seven in the library auditorium. We've been talking with the national reps. We're lining up people to help. We're going to get through this."

"I'm so scared, Linny," Sam whispered.

"Darling, hang on. This isn't going on forever. For now, go tell Annie and be strong for her. I'm going to get Mare and Peter over there right away."

"Have there been other letters yet?"

"We've gotten four so far. I expect there'll be a few more when people get home tonight and check their mail. But I promise you, Sam, we're taking strong action now. We're going to proactively confront these bigots and end this over the next few weeks. We're not going to let anything else harm us."

"Thank you, Linny."

"Give Annie a hug for me, and tell her we're not going to let anything happen to her."

"I love you, Linny."

"I love you, too, dear."

Sam punched off the phone, and went to the back yard where Annie sprawled comfortably in the hammock, a book on her chest. The little nurse had fallen asleep. Sam moved to look down on her. A wave of fear hurt her, but she pushed it back. She picked a clover leaf and tickled her love's temple. Annie raised a hand in slumber and brushed at the area. Sam tickled Annie's nose, and the beautiful green eyes opened and found her. She reached down with the clover and tickled Annie's cheek.

Annie scowled. "You brat. I thought a bug was crawling on me."

"Big ol' bug in a baseball cap."

"I think you better kiss me quick, before I get really mad."

Sam knelt down over the hammock and kissed Annie. Annie put her arms around her tall lover's neck and deepened the kiss, tickling Sam's lips with her tongue. They explored this playful activity for a few moments before Sam pulled away, kissing Annie's nose lightly as she left.

"You hungry?"

Annie took the clover from Sam and tickled the tall mechanic's cheek. "For what?"

"Well, maybe for ice cream and strawberry topping."


"Maybe some whipped cream."

"Oh, I like it."

"Maybe with some 'Nilla Wafers crumbled around."

"Mmmm. For this, I might move."

"You just stand up, and I'll do the rest."

"Gonna toss me over your shoulder?"

"Gonna snuggle ya like a baby."

"Oh, Sam, I love it when you snuggle me."

Annie stood up and Sam lifted her into her arms. Her face was close to Sam's and she leaned in and kissed soft, beautiful lips. She could feel Sam's embrace tighten suddenly, and the kiss deepen intensely. It surprised her. She pulled away, and Sam said, "No, don't stop."


"God, I love you so much." Sam dipped her face kissing her again. "You're my life. You're the best thing that ever happened to me."

Sam's body had started trembling, and Annie reached up a hand to Sam's cheek and gently pushed her head back again. "Honey, is something wrong?"

"Don't ask, sweetheart. Please, just kiss me."

"Sam?" Green eyes darkened in concern.

"Please, just kiss me, Annie. Please." The chiselled features moved close to her again, hungry lips consuming hers. She responded, loving, comforting Sam.

Behind them they heard Mare's voice. "Oops. Sorry guys."

They looked up together at their friend. Mare said sheepishly, "I knocked and nobody answered so I came around back. Didn't mean to shatter a perfect moment or anything."

Annie grinned. "No. That's fine. Just kissin' in the back yard. Come in and have some ice cream with us."


The three headed into the kitchen, Annie in Sam's arms. The mechanic gently deposited her precious cargo onto a chair at the table while Mare took the chair opposite.

Mare grinned, "Kinda convenient not having to walk anywhere."

"Yeah. Protects my feet while I'm off work."

Mare's expression changed to a look of dark seriousness. "This is a hell of thing, Annie." Annie looked confused. What in the world is going on here? Mare reached across the table, took Annie's hand and wobbled it affectionately. "How are you doing?"

Annie took in Mare's concern. "Me?"


Annie gave Mare a long look. "Sam..." She rose uneasily and went to her lover who was gathering the makings for ice cream. "Honey, what's happening? You can tell me, okay. I'm here for you."

Sam bowed her head and dropped her hands to the counter.

Annie pulled her around and took her into her arms. "It's okay, Sam. I've got you. We'll make it be okay."

Again the strong arms came passionately around her for a long moment. "I don't want to tell you, baby."

"Sam, let me share this with you."

Mare spoke quietly. "You've got to tell her, Sam."

Annie looked back at Mare without releasing her embrace.

No one spoke, so finally Mare said, "You got another letter, Annie."

Sam felt the little body tense in her arms, and she held her fiercely. "I'm so sorry, Annie."

Annie clung numbly, silently to her strong partner, trying to take this in.

"I'll kill them this time," Sam vowed hoarsely.

"Shhh, sweetheart.'

"I kill them before I let them hurt you."

"I'm going to be okay. We'll figure this out."

Sam pulled away and took Annie tensely by the shoulders, her face wild with concern. "I want you to go away, baby. To your folks for a couple weeks."


"No! Don't say no!"


"Just till this blows over..."

"Sam, I can't leave the hospital. I don't have any time."

"They'll give you time for this!"

Annie pulled away and moved back to the table. Mare looked on in concern for both her friends. Sam moved close behind Annie without touching her. Her voice shook. "Annie. They've got all those people up there in the fields. They've got an army up there! We have to start being sensible."

"I'm not leaving Boffler. This is where I'm needed now. We can't run away. If we have to stand and fight, then that's what we've got to do. We've got to do it, Sam."

Sam raised her hands to her face and dropped to her knees with a sob. "Baby." She wrapped her arms around Annie's legs and pulled her close, crying. "Don't let me lose you. I couldn't take it."

Annie stroked the dark hair tenderly as the sobs continued. She knelt down, breaking the grip of the strong arms only long enough for them to reattach around her shoulders as she knelt. The dark head pressed into her shoulder. Sam's whole body shook with sobs. Annie whispered urgently, "I'm never going to leave you. Nobody's going to take me away from you. I'm going to be here forever. I'll never let anyone hurt us." She cooed nonsense words of comforting and love, stroking the strong, heaving back, kissing the bowed head, and slowly the sobbing abated. "We'll face this together, and get through it. You know, they don't want to kill us. They don't want to do murder. This is just harassment. Whatever happens, we'll get through it."

Finally Mare spoke. "The national reps are going to start bringing people in here. Vigil keepers. They're going to help protect the people who are getting letters. I think it's going to be okay, Sam."

Sam sniffed away tears and sighed deeply. She wiped her face with her hands and kissed Annie's cheek tenderly. "God, I wish you'd go away."

"You know I can't, Sam."


"We're gonna get through this."

"Oh, god."

"We're gonna be fine."

"I love you, baby."

"I know you do."

Annie helped Sam to her feet. "Sit down at the table here, sweetheart. We're going to settle down now."

"Okay." Sam wiped at her tears.

Annie's heart stirred tenderly. "I'm going to get our ice cream ready now. Mare, you're in charge of Sam."

A knock sounded on the front door. Mare said, "That's probably Peter. I'll go get it."

Sam sighed again and said, "I should call Buddy and tell him I won't be in this afternoon." She rose and left the kitchen to make her call. Annie pulled out another bowl for Peter, and things got back to somewhere around normal.


Linley stood at the table on the stage, her face white and drawn, looking very tired. Around her stood the reps from five different national organizations who felt the need to substantially oppose the madness growing in Boffler Creek. The front two thirds of the small auditorium was filling up with town officials, press and those persons who were working directly on supporting the gay community in town. It was a large crowd tonight.

Linley nodded to the Women Gathering rep, and the people on stage all sat down. She turned on her mike, and after a soft, "Testing, testing," shuffled her papers, looked out over the crowd and said. "We've a lot to do tonight. First off, we have received twenty 'You're Next' letters in town today. So far."

A burst of exclamation swept through the crowd. Twenty letters was staggering. How could the bigots hope to attack that many citizens and go uncaptured? Unless local officials were participating on their side. They must believe they were invincible.

Linley went on. "We folks up here on stage and some others have been on the phones all afternoon. You may notice that our crowd is larger than it has been in the past. We have, so far just this evening, welcomed..." she consulted a paper, "Twenty-five supporters from groups on the U of M campus, fifteen from MU, eight more from smaller campuses in state. More are on the way even as we speak. They'll be arriving all through the night and over the next two days from all over the country. As they come in, they are going to be stationed around the homes of every person who gets a letter all night long in candlelight vigils.. I'd like all of you wonderful out of towners to stand up." The people in the last few rows stood. "And I'd like all of us to express our deep gratitude with a round of applause, because these people are, and know they are, putting themselves at risk to protect us, and we owe them our safety."

A round of applause and cheering broke out until Linley quieted it again by speaking. "By tomorrow night, we have a commitment of three hundred people from cities throughout the west. We're just now calling the central states, and we'll be calling the eastern states tomorrow. We hope, by rally day, to have nearly a thousand people here guarding the homes and persons of anyone getting one of these... these fucking abysmal letters."

A cheer went up at Linley's unusual strong language. "That's fifty people per house so far. Let them try to walk through that!" Another cheer went up ringing in the rafters. "We've also spoken to everyone we've called about the rally this weekend. They've all heard, of course, and it appears the turnout is going to be tremendous. We've been warning them that we have not been able to procure National Guard coverage from the governor, and it may be dangerous. They're coming anyway! The Mayor, the chief of police and local congressman are still, even at this hour, petitioning the governor for Guard coverage, but he is not even taking our calls since he left his office. So it looks like we'll be on our own Sunday if they storm the rally. We have planned our strategies. We're organized to do everything we can. We're ready for them. Everyone across the nation knows this may lie in store for them. And they're coming anyway! I think we're going to be stunned by the participation. I've just been heartened so deeply by what I've heard on the phones today. So many people want to be at our side in this, literally. They want to be here helping us carry on through these days. Not just gays and lesbians, but, just like here in town, people across the board are sickened and hurt by this violence and willing to help however we need. Goddess, dare we hope that the ages of bigotry and hatred are coming to an end and a new day of sisterhood is coming upon us? We are on a testing ground. We know this today. A national testing ground between the forces of narrowminded hatred, and those of civil liberties and human decency. Everyone in this nation and beyond knows that a profound and crucial battle is being fought on the bloodying banks of Boffler Creek, Montana. We here were destined to be at the front. And we will take up this battle and, with the wrath of all our love, we will wage peace with all the fury of our beings. And I trust heaven and the hearts of my fellows that we shall overcome! By heaven we shall!"

She hit the table with her fist and whoops broke out, cheering and foot stomping. It went on for five minutes, rousing itself over and over again, with cries of, "Go Linley!" and slogans like, "People united shall never be defeated!" Slowly it quieted now, and Linley spoke again. "Alright now. Let's get to work."

The local crowd was divided up into task groups. The visiting protectors had to be fed through the coming days. They would be camping out in the park, and tents and blankets had to be gathered. The list of tasks went on and on. Nursing care needed to be available at the park. Annie went to the area designated to sign up to help. As she approached her mouth dropped open. Nettie was there with Tam behind her talking to the person in charge of taking volunteers. Tears filled her eyes and she put her hand quickly over her mouth. Nettie looked up and saw her. "Hey, you! Come sign up with us."

Annie came forward wordlessly and stepped into Nettie's arms, crying. Nettie reached up and embraced her. "Oh dear. Hey, I think the dyke sprang a leak." Only a fierce tightening of Annie's arms met her joke, and Nettie began stroking her back and patting her. "You're not alone," she said softly. "Nobody likes what's happening, Annie. We're going to take care of you. The call went out at the hospital for volunteers. Tam and I have the names and a schedule for twenty nurses and doctors who are going to help out." The tears came harder. "We're going to take care of you, sweetie. We're here for you. Stop crying now. You're shrinking my expensive T-shirt from Goodwill."

Agent Trader of the FBI spoke. "We know that there is a structured organization behind the criminal activity. One of the perpetrators brought in in the last round of harassment started cooperating, but knew very little of the larger operation. Based on his statements, we apprehended one suspect who is now charged with several felonies in the matter, but anything, anything you see or hear that might relate to all this needs to be reported to myself or Agent Howard. This is escalating quickly. The fire lifted the chargable offenses to murder. The FBI is fully involved here, and we will, in cooperation with local authorities, clear this up and end this sickening violence. I just want to do two things tonight; assure you that there is going to be a peaceful end to this, and encourage you to come forward with anything you hear. Thank you."

It was midnight before they got home. Six people with candles were in the front yard. They parked in the garage and saw six more vigil keepers in the backyard. Slowly they went around the house speaking in hushed tones with their protectors, thanking them. To a person when the out-of-towners realized they were at the home of the hero of the bar fire, a woman who had herself been beaten nearly to death, they were in awe. A couple asked for her autograph. Sam hardly knew what to do at this, but she signed the pieces of paper they brought forth feeling ridiculous. They were all aware that Annie had received the letter and that it was her second one. They all assured her nobody was going to get to her tonight. Three were from Washington state, two from South Dakota, the rest were Montana people. College kids mostly who had felt such adamant anger and sorrow for what was going on, particularly after the deaths when the Rattler burned, that they leaped at the challenge of going to Boffler and confronting the bigots in behalf of the strife torn population there. Young, young faces, sweet smiles, innocent laughter. Sam was glad to see Eddie there with El, and to recognize the faces of some of the fighters Eddie and Peter had brought in. El smiled at her in the glow of their little candles. "It's a party! Look, somebody brought cookies and everything!" At least someone was there to keep the young protectors safe. Finally they went in the house.

Annie showered quickly and wrapped a towel around herself. She found Sam at the bedroom window in the dark looking down on the scene in the backyard. Annie joined her. Half a dozen little candle lights twinkled up at them.

"Looks like we have fairies down there."

Sam laughed a little, "Well..."

Annie's laughter joined hers as what she'd said dawned on her.

"Now I'm probably going to lie awake all night worrying that these kids are going to get hurt," Sam said.

"I'm glad Eddie and El are down there, and some of the fighters from out of town."

"Yeah. We have a few people at all the houses. They're not all fighters, but they know the town and know the houses they're watching. That ought to help the kids."

"This is just amazing."

"Do you feel safer?"

Annie considered this and took her lover's hand. "You know, for the first time tonight, I feel everything's going to be okay. Like the tide is turning, and we have people at our backs."

"Yeah. I kinda feel that way, too."

Sam leaned down and kissed Annie's cheek, then broke away for a shower as Annie snuggled into bed. Not long after, she heard her tall, strong lover cross the room and felt the bed shift as Sam crawled in beside her pulling her over and up on top of her. She lay full length along Sam's naked body her face tucked in the crook of Sam's neck. She luxuriated in this comfort and kissed the soft skin within her reach. Sam drew her fingers slowly up and down Annie's back and heaved a sigh. Annie felt the rise and fall. In the midst of the long nightmare, this one moment was inexpressibly sweet.

"I'm sorry about this afternoon. I shouldn't have asked you to leave."

"You get a little crazy when it comes to me, Sam. I love you for it. You're my sweet, crazy woman."

Sam laughed and Annie joggled comfortably with the motion.

"It's just that my nightmares run away with me sometimes. They have all those fucking people camped out in the fields up there..."

"I know, sweetheart. But we're raising our own army. And it sounds like ours is going to be bigger than theirs."

"We ought to put that on a sign. 'Ours is bigger than yours'."

They laughed together setting up an interesting sensation of jostling for Annie.

"You know, when you talk you make my stomach vibrate," Annie smiled.

Sam wrapped her arms around the little blond. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too, darling."

Sam stroked her lover's back, thinking of how fulfilled her life had become with Annie. The breathing against her chest lengthened and evened. Annie's legs sprawled on either side of Sam's hips. Her arms sprawled away from Sam's shoulders. She lay like a sack of potatos on top of her, soft breath tickling her throat. A pang of tenderness almost tore through Sam's chest. Nothing in life or beyond was as sweet as this contentment.

Sam woke still in darkness. The clock said five a.m. She was on her side and Annie was spooned behind her. She wormed her way quietly out of bed and went to the window and looked down. The candles still burned, more of them than before. People had come into town during the night and gone right to their vigils. They must be exhausted. She pulled on some clothes and went down to the yard. Sleepy faces smiled at her and people brought over new friends to introduce them to the hero of the bar fire. Ed and El said the night had been uneventful. Sam got the truck and drove over to the shop, hauling back the big coffee pot she and Buddy used there. A few minutes later she had a pot of hot, fresh coffee on the picnic table in back with cardboard cups, and a line quickly assembled. She grabbed a cup for herself, then found a corner of blanket in the front yard and visited with people till she went to work at six.


Sunday finally came. Brilliant blue sky, soft morning breeze; a perfect day. Before dawn, the caravan of vehicles pulling into Boffler was bumper to bumper. There was no place left for the cars to park in the park, so demonstration officials with walkie talkies lined up the high school parking lot for parking. Then a field on the edge of town was recruited. Placards reading To The Park were hastily put together and put on cars to transport people into the city. It was turning into a sprawling, overwhelming success. The Cowboys were serving as parade marshalls along the route looking cool and tough in their outfits. As the hour of the rally drew near, the national representatives were estimating the crowd at fifteen thousand people.

Annie was sticking close to Sam. Sam was walking up at the front of the sprawling body of supporters; she was the Protector who was in charge of events at the head of the parade, and Annie was her runner. If trouble broke out, Sam would send Annie running back through the paraders, notifying the parade marshalls to take defensive action and calling the rest of the Protectors, scattered strategically along the route, up to the point of danger. Each Protector stationed along the route had a runner to sound the call if trouble broke out in their sector. The route of the parade ran from the north end of the park up Elm Street three blocks, over on East Wallace, then back into the south end of the park on Main ending at the band stand rally site. Placards and banners waved above the marchers' heads. The mass of people snaked through the streets singing songs of freedom and chanting slogans of hope and fellowship. Along the sidewalks nearly everyone in Boffler had come down to behold the once in a lifetime spectacle of such a huge gathering. There were many signs of support peppered through the spectators who waved and cheered and joined in with the chants as the marchers went by. On a couple street corners, there were also small bands of opposition who carried their own placards and chanted their own slogans as the crowd moved past.

The ralliers turned the corner onto Main and started down the last three blocks to the park. Their own singing filled their ears and baffled the sound of an opposing force that was approaching them inevitably, like a storm of demons. Five hundred crazies were making their way down Park Road along the park, destined to turn up Main in just a few minutes on a collision course with the ralliers. Every available police officer in Boffler had gathered at the head of the crazies and now walked ahead of this front of marchers trying vainly to stop the onslaught and turn them back. The chief used a bullhorn to urge them to turn back, but the sound was hopelessly drowned out by their chanting. He didn't need a crystal ball to be concerned. Again he put through a call to the governor to send out national guard immediately to help them with violence that loomed inevitably in the coming minutes. He had been pleading with the governor for a month to cover this event with national guard, knowing the powder keg that was developing in Boffler. Finally, the governor said he had units standing by and would activate them immediately. They would be there in half an hour.

The militia marchers rounded the corner onto Main and caught sight of the gay and lesbian supporters coming down the street and turned into a mob. Their chanting turned to angry shouts. The casually ordered ranks broke into a threatening surge of rage that stormed up the street to engage the peaceful ralliers. Annie and Sam saw the crazies round the corner onto Main and froze. The worst was coming to pass. The marchers behind them pressed against them, and Annie signaled back to the parade marshall behind her to stop the progression. They watched as the crazies caught sight of them and broke into a run. Sam felt an instant of terror as she thought of the hundreds of innocents immediately in the line of that stampede of violence. Then she turned to Annie and yelled, "Find Eddie and Mare! All the Protectors! Get them up here as fast as you can! There's gonna be a riot!"

Annie broke away and ran back through the mass of confused ralliers. She scanned the faces filling the street looking for Protectors. She stopped at the first parade marshall. "Turn these people around! Get them back down Elm Street! The crazies are coming up Main!" She left and struggled through the milling crowd to the next marshall, and on and on, struggling through the crowd until slowly the twisting snake of people began to turn themselves around and move away. On her way, she found one Protector after another and sent them up to the front, to Sam, to try to manage the carnage that had to be developing where the two storm fronts met.

Sam had only a few moments before the two fronts came together. She made her way back and forth across the face of her people. "Don't fight them! Listen up, people. Restrain them! Fall on them and hold them down! Let's use our numbers! Work together!" She went back along the parade route shouting these instructions, then returned to the front. Cameramen from the national media jogged along by her side. The forces came on, and Sam braced herself as the two opposing bodies of marchers began flowing together, and all hell broke loose. The opposition started using fists and feet, but were swarmed on and pushed down by tolerance marchers. A blanket of bodies soon built up from one side of the street to the other up onto the sidewalks, separating the two forces, and members of the bigots began wading across the barrier, stepping on and over people, beginning a wave that threatened to crush the fallen paraders under the fight. Bottles began flying from the bigots' side across the gap. Cops gathered fallen rioters up and dragged them out of the fray to a side street, holding them there under rifle cover. Sam went from fight to fight, pulling fighters away from placard swinging sympathizers and dragging them to the cops. She noticed Protectors gathering at the front doing the same. But the bloody faces of ralliers often forced Sam to resort to her martial skills to beat teams of crazies away from single victims who were being beaten severely. She went with the hits from fists and boots, and drove forward like a fury. She was an unstoppable force, slipping away from grasping hands, spinning and leaping to parry blows and land blows of her own. She became a focus of the rowdies' rage as she hovered lethally around their front, dragging one after another of them to the band of police who took them into custody. The line of fighting actually served to keep the two opposing bodies of people apart and the majority safe. The crazies in back, who could not reach the foe, let off their steam by throwing bottles through store windows and doors and going in and trashing the interiors. The heavy drum of helicopters loomed overhead as National Guard troops began coming in to stem the melee. The choppers set down in the park and fighting troops poured out and came running down Main Street, boxing in the crazies from behind. The tide was turning. Sam kicked a crazy away from her as he charged and looked around for her next target. A small phalanx of crazies had formed and were now battering their way through the front of gay supporters, using sticks to smite everyone within reach. A swath of fallen, bleeding bodies opened up around them as they drove forward. Sam hollered at Eddie and Mare who were working nearby to help her. They made their way over bodies to the phalanx of bigots. Sam grabbed a stick and tugged back on it sharply, pulling its owner back off his feet. As he fell, she drove a foot into the side of his head and left him unconscious. She grabbed the arm of a second crazy just as a bottle caught her on the head and dropped her to a knee stunned. In a blur she felt a blow to her cheek, then hands on her arms dragging her away. Her blurred vision cleared showing Mare's face looking over her grimly. They were down a side street. Sam looked around trying to blink the fog out of her eyes. There were ambulances and gurneys along the street. Mare was saying, "Come on. Let's get you to the hospital."

"I'm fine. I'm fine. Just a little dazed."

"The Guard is here. Everything's under control now. Go see Annie. Let them know things here are just about over."

"Gotta help 'em, Mare."

Mare helped her up and Sam took a step and the world swayed. Immediately strong arms were around her. "You're no good here, Sam. Go see Annie." It couldn't be argued. Sam let Mare lead her, stumbling, to a car that drove her to the hospital.


The ER was a swarm of disciplined chaos. Gurneys lined the walls of the waiting room and poured into every available space in the working interior. Every off duty nurse and doctor in town were in to help with the damage. Annie hurried through the tangle of gurneys and personel on her way to the next cubicle where she was to assist. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flood of dark hair on a white pillow. Her breath caught, and she turned to the still body. Oh, my god. It was Sam, eyes closed, motionless, blood matted in her hair and smeared down her face. Annie stepped back to the gurney and moved her hand to the pale face, lifting an eyelid delicately. The pupil inside responded as Sam jerked with surprise and blinked her eyes open and smiled. Annie crumpled over the gurney exhaling in relief. "Hiya," Sam grinned.

"Oh, god, Sam. You scared me to death."

"Sorry. I fell asleep. Can't seem to stay awake."

Annie was already looking over Sam's wound. "That's because of your head injury."

"The National Guard's here. It shouldn't be long till things are back under control."

"Thank god. Leahy finally sent them out, huh?"


"You're going to need a couple stitches up here. Listen, I have to go help. I'll have Dr. Bazen come look at you."

"No, Annie. I don't need a doctor."

Sam started to get up, and Annie reached to hold her down, but Sam wasn't deterred. She slipped down from the gurney. "I'm gonna head back out. I just let them bring me over here so I could see you."

Annie grabbed handfulls of Sam's shirt. "Don't go back down there! I'll let you go home, but don't... DON'T... exert yourself. Just lie down, and don't move."

"Okay. I'll go home."

"I'm serious."

"I'll do it, sweetheart."

Annie walked Sam to the ER doors mainly to assess her motor stability. "I think I can get out of here in a couple more hours. Then I'll come home and take care of you."

"Oh, I love it when you take care of me."

"And you better be resting on the couch when I come home."

"Roger. Willco."

Annie kissed her lightly and turned back in to the beehive of activity.


Annie opened the front door and immediately heard Sam's voice: "Oh, god. Gotta go. Annie's home." This was immediately followed by the sound of footsteps beating a path down the hall, across the livingroom floor to the couch. When Annie entered the room, Sam was stretched out on the couch looking up innocently. Annie met the wide eyes with a wry look and accusing brow. "How do you feel, sweetheart?"

Sam's eyes took on a slightly pathetic puppy dog look. "My head hurts, Annie. I think maybe I need to be coddled."

"Think you need a little coddling, huh?"


Annie dropped her backpack to the floor and took a seat at the end of the couch, gently lifting and cradling Sam's head in her arms against her chest. With her lips she brushed Sam's bangs back from her brow and kissed the skin tenderly. "You're all out of breath, Sam"

"Yeah, I'm having a little trouble breathing. Um... I've been too lonely to breathe."

Annie laughed softly. "Well, thank heavens I'm home."

"Yeah. I need to be coddled pretty badly."

"Oh, you poor little thing. Here, sweetheart, turn your head to me."

Sam turned her head to Annie's chest. As Annie started inspecting the large knot in the dark hair, Sam busied herself slowly unbuttoning the buttons to her lover's shirt.

"You have a real goose egg here."

"It hurts a little. Not too bad." She finished with the buttons and now unsnapped the front fastening bra and slipped one cup away from the full, firm breast it held, leaning forward and suckling gently.

"Mmmmm," Annie moaned with the sensual pleasure of the touch and clutched Sam closer. "You haven't had any trouble seeing?"


"No dizziness? Nausea?"

"No." Sam's voice was muffled against Annie's breasts, now both freed from their confines, as she kissed and licked lightly. "I feel so much better when you hold me."

Annie moaned again. "Oh, god. It feels good to me, too."

"I love your breasts."

"And they love you. Now, darling, who were you talking to on the phone?"

"The phone?"




"You're not going to be mad at me are you:"

"I was serious when I said you needed to rest."

Sam silently went on with her work at Annie's breasts.

"Who were you talking to?"

"Mare. They're going to have a meeting at the Women's Center tonight."

Annie leaned back, pulling her breasts away from her lover's hungry mouth. "My god, I can't believe what happened."

"Right here in Boffler Creek." Removed from her succulent treat, Sam contented herself watching Annie's breasts heave as her lover sighed, watching the moist nipples pucker in the cool air.

"I'm so proud that they're having the rally in spite of the riot. You can hear it outside."

"Open the window, sweetheart. Let's listen to it."

Annie got up and opened the window. The sheer curtain blew softly in the breeze, and the faint sound of cheering and chanting carried in to them. She returned and gathered Sam's head into her lap as she sat. "They sound pretty undaunted, don't they?"

"Hey, it takes more than a riot to daunt us dykes and fairies."

"I can't believe how many people came."

"I think most of the people who were hurt today aren't even from here."

"We noticed that at the hospital. Lots of people from around the state and country. We treated people from Washington, San Francisco, Illinois."

"From our side?"

"Our side mostly. Our side really got hit hard. We weren't fighting them, they were only fighting us. Linley got a black eye."

"How is she?"

"Oh, she's really proud of it."

"Well, you go, Linny. I don't know. It just seems backwards to me. Here we're the peaceful people asking for tolerance and love, and they're the assholes talking about mayhem and murder, and yet us peaceful guys get all the injuries. It makes me so mad."

"I'm so glad you didn't go back and fight."

"I thought about it, but my head really did hurt and I was a little nauseous. I didn't think I could help much."

Annie pulled Sam to her breasts again, holding her closely. "Do you want something for the pain?"

"I took some aspirin."

Annie could feel Sam's lips on her breasts again kissing softly. "Let me wash your cut and put something on it and then let's curl up on the couch and take a nap until we have to go to the meeting. I'll coddle you."

"Yes, I'm hurt and my beautiful nurse will coddle me and let me suck on her breasts."

Annie chuckled. "Sounds a bit more like a sex fantasy than medical care."

"You are my fantasy, you beautiful, sexy woman."


Continued in Part 9

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