COPYRIGHT: Xena Warrior Princess and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and are used here without permission, but for entertainment purposes only, and for no monetary gain. No copyright infringement implied or intended. The ladies in this story, although, of my own creation, resemble our two X:WP heroines. The story line however is completely mine. Reuse of this story is limited to my permission only. By all means, download it, print it out and pass it around if you'd like, but be sure to include these disclaimers.

SUBTEXT: Yes, this is alternate fan fiction which is based on the premise of two women who are very much in love with each other There are some mildly graphic scenes within, but nothing explicit. I believe that sometimes, your imagination can take you places that the printed word can not. If this type of love offends you, if you are less than 18 years old, or if love is illegal where you live, climb on board the anti-subtext train and get outta town.

VIOLENCE: This story mentions rape. For the record, I believe rape is the most vile, disgusting and cowardly crime one person can commit against another, and should be severely punished, however, mention of it is essential to this story line.

TIME LINE: This is an Uber-Xena story which occurs in modern day time. I am one of the believers that the descendants of our two favorite ladies are destined to find each other and fall in love. This little offering is the third in a sequence, starting with "The 'Commitment'" and followed by "A Family in Blood". 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. Send all feedback to warriorx@together.net.

Personal Preferences

By: kd bard

Started 12/3/98

Finished 12/6/98


"Okay, now, PUSH!" Billie said in her best coaching voice.

"Aaahhhhh!" was the only reply.

"Come on now, Cat." she said, pulling the woman against her chest a little tighter. "That's it... PUSH!"

"Damn it, Billie! If you want this so badly - YOU PUSH!" Cat screamed.

"Oh, no, no, no, no! Been there... done that, thank you very much." Billie joked, trying to ease tension. "Just a little longer, Love...., you can do it!" she encouraged.

"Oh, gods, it hurts!.... I can't do this any more!" cried Cat.

"Yes you can. Now, breath through it.... that's it - short breaths...." Billie coached.

"The head is crowning." the doctor said.

Billie strained to see over Cat's shoulder and beyond her protruding belly. This labor had been long and difficult for Cat, and Billie was becoming worried that they would have to take the child surgically. With the doctor's announcement, things suddenly seemed brighter.

Billie leaned down and whispered in Cat's ear. "I can see the head, Love... Red hair, like her Mom. It'll be all over soon, I promise." Planting a light kiss on her temple, she continued, "I love you Cat, and I'm so very proud of you."

Cat clung to Billie's arms so tightly that her nails dug into Billie's skin. Throwing her head back into Billie's chest, she released a blood curdling howl as the next contraction tore through her abdomen.

"Okay now, bear down hard, Cat, we need to get the shoulders out." the doctor instructed.

Bracing her feet against the stirrups, Cat pushed against Billie's chest and bore down as hard as she could. Suddenly, orgasmic relief filled her body as the child slid from the small opening. Cat slumped against Billie as a high pitched wail filled the room.

"Well, as you already know - its a girl. One redheaded, very upset little girl from the sounds of it!" The doctor said, smiling as she clamped the umbilical cord and then lifted the child up and placed her on Cat's chest.

Looking at Billie, the doctor said, "Well, we usually reserve this for the father, but I guess you're it in this case, huh?" she said as she handed Billie the shears.

Billie looked at her and smiled proudly as she cut the cord. "Yep, just call me Dad." she joked, handing the shears back to the doctor.

Turning her attention back to Cat and the tiny infant still wailing in her arms, she fought back the emotions that had filled her eyes with tears. The child was prefect. Red hair, delicate features, dimpled elbows and knees. The child bore a strong resemblance to Cat, however, Billie could already see traces of both Tara and Seth in her.

Looking down at a very exhausted Cat, she was mesmerized by the sight of mother and daughter. Even with the sweat covered face and stringy limp hair from the hard labor, Cat never looked more beautiful to Billie. All attempts to stop the tears from flowing down her face at the sight, were unsuccessful. Too choked up to speak, all she could do is tighten her hold around Cat and lay her cheek on top of Cat's head as they both sat there and gazed adoringly at their new daughter.

"Okay, ladies, brace yourselves... we need to take care of the afterbirth." the doctor said as she pushed down on Cat's stomach and delivered the placenta. In no time, it was over.

Billie squirmed her way out from behind Cat on the bed, where she had crawled in an attempt to help prop Cat up during the delivery. It took a few moments to regain the feeling in her legs as she shook them to get the blood flowing again. A nurse came to take the child from Cat to clean her up and take the necessary measurements as another nurse went to work cleaning Cat up and preparing her to be moved to her room. Billie took this chance to pull a chair up next to the bed and speak to Cat face to face.

Billie took Cat's hand in her own and lifted it to her mouth, kissing the back of each knuckle. Pulling Cat's hand to her heart and looking her straight in the eyes, she said, "We have a beautiful daughter, Cat. She looks like you, red hair and all!"

Cat looked at Billie and smiled. She faintly said, "I love you, Billie".

"I love you too, Cat." Billie replied smiling. "... and thank you for this gift, my love. I promise I will do everything I can to take care of her.... and the rest of our family too."

Cat was too exhausted to reply. Her eyelids drooped heavily as she was wheeled to her room and transferred to her bed. Within moments, the baby was brought to her. Billie sat in the chair next to the bed and waited for the nurses to leave her alone with her family. Soon, they were gone.

Cat was fighting hard to stay awake. Knowing she was losing the battle, she turned to Billie and said, " Hey, Dad, take care of our daughter for a while so I can take a nap, Okay?"

Billie smiled at the standing "Dad" joke they had carried all throughout her pregnancy, and reached down to take her daughter from the tired woman. Soon, Cat was sound asleep. Billie leaned over and kissed Cat's forehead, then walked over to the window with the child and looked out over the city. She looked down on the now sleeping infant and smiled, then hugged her close, thanking every god in existence for giving her such wonderful gifts as Cat and her new family.

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

Billie didn't know how long she had been standing by the window, holding her daughter close to her heart , before the sound of someone clearing their throat was heard. She had fallen into a light trance while humming an old lullaby and gently rocking back and forth. Turning suddenly toward the noise, she saw Doc standing in the doorway, watching her. A smile broke out across her face when she saw him.

Doc walked over to Billie and wrapped his arms around her and the child. "Another granddaughter." he observed, planting a kiss on the child's head. "Looks like Seth's monopoly still holds!"

Releasing her, he took the child from her hands and tucked her into the crook of his arm. He traced the side of her face with his free hand. "She looks like Caitlain." he commented.

"Yes, she does." agreed Billie. Billie suddenly felt uncomfortable. As much as Cat scolded her for it, she still felt guilty for Brian's rape of Cat. After all, if it wasn't for Cat's association with Billie, it never would have happened.

Sensing her unease, Doc spoke to her without lifting his eyes from the baby's face. "It's not your fault, Billie." he said.

Billie was shocked that he could seemingly read her mind.

"Look at this child." he said to Billie. "How can something so precious and beautiful come from such a vile act?" he asked.

"The beauty comes from Cat." replied Billie softly as she absently reached up and brushed the child's hair.

Nodding his head without replying, he handed the child back to Billie and approached the bed to check on Cat. Sensing their presence, Cat woke up as Doc approached her. Billie walked over and sat on the edge of the bed.

Bending over the new mother, Doc kissed her gently on the forehead. Meeting his eyes, Cat looked at him apologetically and said, "Another girl, Daddy."

He smiled at her and said, "Yes, Angel, another girl... But what a beautiful one she is." he finished.

Absently reaching out for Billie' hand, which entered her's without hesitation, she asked, "How are Seth and Tara, Daddy? Are they terrorizing Mom yet?"

Tweaking her nose, he replied, "You don't give your mother enough credit, imp. After all, she raised you and your sister's didn't she? None of your were exactly model children, and she survived. Don't you worry about her... she can handle herself with two small tikes." he said. "But to answer your question they're fine. Anxious to come see their new sister, but otherwise, fine." he finished.

Cat looked up at Billie. An unspoken message passed between them. Billie smiled and leaned down to place their now fussing daughter in Cat's arms. "Here, Love, I think this little one is hungry. After we feed her, I'll go to your Mom's and get the kids, Okay?" she asked.

Cat beamed. It always amazed her how Billie knew what she was thinking with just a look. "Okay." she replied.

Doc cleared his throat. "Well, I think I'll leave you two alone while I make my rounds. I'll come back to check on you later, Kitten." he said, kissing both Cat and the baby. He winked at Billie, then was on his way.

"That was a smooth escape." Cat observed. "I think the idea of watching me breast feed scared him away." she giggled.

"You may be right, love. You know what a softy he is." Billie added. "Here, lean forward so I can hold you both while she eats."

Scooting in behind Cat on the bed, Billie held the two girls in her arms as the baby breast fed. "This is the most amazing feeling in the world." she thought. "I could stay like this forever."

With her belly full, the baby fell asleep in Cat's arms. Laying her down on the bed in front of her, she leaned forward once more while Billie dislodged herself from behind Cat. Kneeling on the floor next to the bed , Billie watched in fascination as Cat changed the baby's diapers, and then started a physical inventory of fingers and toes. Cat couldn't get enough of her daughter.

"She truly is beautiful, isn't she, Billie?" Cat asked.

"I have never seen a more beautiful baby, Cat. She's perfect... just like her Mom." Billie said.

Cat looked at Billie, with mischief in her eyes. "Which Mom?" she asked.

Catching the bait, Billie's eyes twinkled in return. "I'll leave you to think about that one, while I go collect our other two Rugrats, okay?" Rising to her feet, she kissed Cat soundly and promised to return shortly.


Fifteen minutes later, Billie pulled into the driveway of Cat's childhood home. She had just gotten out of the car and started walking up the walk, when the front door opened and out raced Seth and Tara. She bent down, kneeling on one knee to embrace the children who were running toward her at full speed, when she suddenly found herself flat on her back in the grass, with two giggling kids sitting on top of her. Cat's mother, Ida was standing in the doorway with a smile from ear to ear.

"Why you little...." Billie growled, trying to sound angry as she lay there looking up at them.

Seth and Tara stopped and looked at each other. Suddenly, they yelled together, "Get her!", then proceeded to administer tickle torture.

Caught momentarily off guard, Billie struggled to get the upper hand, finally gaining it as she managed to flip both of them over onto their backs and trap them under her. Now it was time for revenge. Forming claws with both hands, she unmercifully went to work, managing to turn both children into piles of giggling mush.

"Had enough?" she asked. When they refused to answer, she stepped up her assault. Finally, after laughing so hard that their sides hurt, they surrendered.

Rising to her feet, Billie brushed the dirt and grass off her clothes and bent down to pick up the kids. With a child on each hip, she climbed the steps to the porch, and bent down to kiss Ida on the cheek. "Hi, Mom." she said.

Ida was never so glad to see anyone in her life. She had been waiting all morning for news of her newest grandchild. "Come inside, Billie." she said excitedly. "Tell me all about my new granddaughter." she added, leading Billie into the kitchen and reaching for the coffee pot and mugs.

Setting the kids down, they immediately ran into the other room to watch cartoons. Billie gratefully accepted the coffee. She and Cat had been in the hospital since 3 am, and she hadn't yet eaten.

"Mom, you are a lifesaver." she said, leaning up against the counter and taking a drink of the fragrant coffee. "This is wonderful!"

"You sit yourself down right now, young lady, while I fix you some lunch. You must be starved." Ida ordered, pushing her toward the kitchen table and making her sit. "Now, tell me about my granddaughter while I get you something to eat." she said.

Billie's face lit up just thinking about her new daughter. "Mom, she's beautiful!" Billie began. "She has red hair, and looks exactly like Cat. I suppose she's just what Tara must have looked like when she was born."

Ida brought a bowl of homemade soup and a thick ham sandwich to the table and set them in front of Billie. Billie's mouth watered at the sight. "Thanks, Mom." she said as she dug in. "Oh gods, this is good!" she commented around a mouthful of sandwich.

Ida smiled at Billie's obvious delight in her meal. Reaching over, she took Billie's coffee mug and went to the counter to refill it, along with her own. Returning to the table, she sat down and pushed Billie's mug toward her. Looking up at the woman her daughter had fallen in love with, she said, "Billie, tell me, does the child look at all like Seth?"

Billie knew this was Ida's way of gently asking if the baby looked like Brian. Billie's eyes fell to the table as she fought back the guilt that threatened to wash over her once again.

Realizing the error she had unintentionally made, Ida apologized. "I'm sorry, Billie. I shouldn't have asked that. It was very insensitive of me. Please forgive me."

Billie looked back up at Ida. "Mom, you don't have an insensitive bone in your body. I think Cat inherited that from you." she paused, then continued. "No... You have a right to ask. I would have to say that yes, the baby does resemble Seth a little. She mostly looks like Cat, but I can see traces of both Seth and Tara in her as well."

Ida patted Billie's hand. "Then I'm sure she's a beautiful child." she said. "I can't wait to hold her."

Glad to have that conversation behind her, Billie smiled and grasped Ida's hand. "You'll get your chance soon, Mom. It looks like Cat may be going home as soon as tomorrow."

"She must have had an easy labor then." Ida remarked.

"Actually, no... The labor was pretty long and intensive. I thought for a while that they would have to deliver her by C-Section. Finally, after about 8 hours, her head crested and soon after that, it was all over." Billie explained. "Cat was a real trooper through it. She only cursed me out about a dozen times!" she said jokingly.

"Only a dozen, huh? You're lucky... I cursed Doc out far more than that... with each of our four daughters to boot?" she admitted.

Billie looked unbelievingly at the gentle woman. "You, curse? I don't believe it, Mom." she teased.

Ida stood up, walked around Billie and wrapped her arms around the woman. Billie closed her eyes and leaned her head into Ida's arm. "Billie, my girl, believe it. You've gotten to know Cat's Dad... he's the most gentle soul I know. Sooooo, where do you think Cat got her stubborn streak, huh?" she asked.

"I never would have guessed, Mom... I never would have guessed." Billie admitted, feeling warm and safe in the older woman's arms. "Gods, how I miss my own Mom." she thought sadly.

Just then, Tara and Seth came charging into the room, sliding across the kitchen floor on their knees, just missing Ida.

"Hey, you two!" Billie started. "That's enough of that."

"Aw, come on Mom!" Seth complained. "It's fun!"

"Yeah, Mom, it's fun!" Tara echoed.

"Look, you almost took Grandma out at the knees. Now that's enough. Besides, you need to get ready to go see your new sister." Billie informed them.

"Cool!" said Seth, standing and brushing his knees off.

"All right you two." said Ida. "Off to the bathroom to wash your hands and comb your hair. You want to look nice for Mama, don't you?"

The two kids took off on a dead run to the bathroom to do as they were told. Moments later, they were headed to the car as Billie said good-bye to Ida.

Out on the porch, Billie bent down and hugged the older woman warmly. "We'll stop by on the way home from the hospital tomorrow, okay?" she said.

"I'm counting on it." replied Ida.

"I love you, Mom." Billie said, placing a kiss on the woman's cheek.

"I love you too, Sweetie." Ida replied, hugging her back. "I'll see you tomorrow, dear."

Billie got into the car and looked into the back seat. "Seat belts, Rugrats." she said. The children complied readily. Putting the car into gear, Billie and the children waved as they drove away.

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

Seth and Tara were full of questions about their little sister on the way to the hospital. Billie barely had time to answer them all before pulling into the parking lot. Once inside the hospital, Billie took their hands and led them toward Cat's room. They attracted the attention and smiles of nearly everyone they passed along the way.

Having spent a significant amount of time in the hospital over the past year, with Seth's operation and physical therapy, in addition to Cat actually working there as an anesthesiologist, most of the staff knew them by name, and accepted the obvious relationship between the two women. Those who objected to the nature of their love, generally kept it to themselves. It was rare that either woman faced open hostility about their relationship. It was for this reason, that Billie was caught off guard when a passing intern whispered the word "fag" under his breath as he walked by.

Billie turned around sharply to get a better look at the offending man, but only saw a glimpse of him retreat into one of the rooms.

Seth, noticing his mother's distress, pulled on her hand until she looked down at him. "What did that man say, Mom?" he asked.

Not wanting to upset her son, but yet, not wanting to lie to him, she pulled the children aside, knelt on one knee in front of Seth, and took him by the shoulders while Tara wiggled her way in to sit on her bent knee. "Scout, Do you remember when you were in the hospital, and I told you about how much I loved Cat?" she asked.

Seth shook his head yes.

"Well, there are some people that don't believe two women, or two men, should love each other like that. Do you understand what I'm saying, Honey?" Billie said.

"You mean they don't think two women should act like they're married? Seth asked.

"That's exactly what I mean." she replied, marveling at how perceptive her son was.

Billie could see Seth was getting angry. He looked at his mother with hurt in his eyes. "That's stupid." he said. Then a frightened expression suddenly crossed his face. "Does that mean we can't live with Tara and Mama and my new sister?" he asked, obviously afraid of what the answer might be.

Billie's heart broke at the fearful expression on his face. She gathered both him and Tara into her arms and held them close. "No, love. It doesn't mean that at all. It only means that there are some ignorant people out there who think only men and women can love each other. You, and Tara and Mama and little sister and I will always love each other like a family, and we will always be together. No one can stop us. Okay?" she asked, hoping to put his fears to rest.

Trusting his mother completely, Seth was satisfied with her answer as he shook his head, yes. Smiling, Billie rose to her feet and said in her best "Ace Ventura" impression, "All righty then..... Let's go see your new sister."

Both of the children giggled as they clasped her hands and headed back down the hallway.


Reaching Cat's room, they entered and found Cat sitting up in bed, nursing the baby. Billie looked at the children, carefully gauging their reaction to the child suckling at Cat's breast. Both seemed fascinated at what they saw. Approaching the bed, Tara climbed up and scooted over to one side of her mother, intently watching the baby eat. A little more timidly, Seth slowly made his way to the other side of the bed and looked up at Billie. She motioned for him to go ahead and climb up, which he did very carefully.

Cat noticed his hesitation and reached out her free hand to help him settle in next to her. She brushed the hair off his forehead before leaving a light kiss in it's wake, then repeated the gesture on Tara. Not one word had yet to be spoken since they entered the room. The children just sat there, mesmerized by the sight of their little sister taking her nourishment as Billie sat near the foot of the bed.

Cat looked up at Billie and smiled. Billie returned the smile, but Cat could see that something was troubling her. She raised her eyebrows questioningly at Billie, who just shrugged her shoulders and mouthed, "I'll tell you later." Cat nodded slightly in acknowledgment.

Finally the silence was broken.

"Mama, does that hurt?" Tara asked, thinking the baby was biting her.

"No, sweetie, it doesn't." Cat replied.

"That's 'cause babies don't have teeth, Tara." Seth said like a know-it-all big brother.

Cat smiled at her two older children and said, "Yeah, that's part of the reason. The other part is that she isn't biting me, she's sucking, like you do when you drink from a straw, understand?"

Both children nodded in response.

"Okay, Sweetling. I think you're all done." Cat said as she pulled the child away from her breast and placed her against her shoulder for burping. It didn't take much for a relatively loud burp to escape the baby's mouth.

Seth and Tara broke down into giggles.

"What a hog!" Tara exclaimed.

"Yeah!" added Seth. "We should name her Hogger!" That started peals of laughter from all of them.

When the laughter died down, Cat reached forward and handed the child to Billie as she tied the top of her johnny back up. Billie cradled the child in her arms like she was the most precious gift on the face of the earth.

"You know, love." Cat said to Billie. "The kids have a point... We do need to name her."

"You're right... we do, but somehow, I don't think she'll thank us for naming her Hogger." Billie said jokingly, evoking another round of laughter.

Wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes, Cat continued. "No.. Seriously, she needs a name."

"Cat, you're the one who didn't want to discuss names while you were carrying her." Billie reminded her.

"I know, I know. I explained that to you, Billie. I needed to see her before we could name her. What if the name we had picked out didn't fit her face?" Cat explained.

As if aware that she was the main topic of conversation, the baby stretched her arms straight up and yawned. Suddenly, she opened her eyes. Looking down into her daughter's face, Billie noticed the color of the child's eyes.

"Cat, her eyes are blue, like Seth's... sky blue in fact." Billie observed.

Leaning in, Cat confirmed that indeed the child's eyes were a very light blue.

"Wait!" Billie exclaimed. "That's it! That's what we can name her!"

"Blue eyes?" Cat questioned, convinced that her lover had lost her mind.

"No... No, Cat, don't you see... Her eyes are sky blue. We can name her Skylar." Billie explained.

"Skylar.... Skylar." Cat said, trying the name out for size. She looked up at Billie with a wide grin on her face. "I like it. I like it very much. She looks like a Skylar." Cat said. Then looking at the children, she said, "How about you two... what do you think?"

"Works for me." Seth said.

"Me too!" piped in Tara.

"Skylar, it is then!" Cat said happily, leaning over and kissing the child in Billie's arms.

Cat then looked up at Billie and accepted the lips that were descending toward her own. Moments later, the kiss was broken and Cat said, "Thank you love... Its a beautiful name."

"Mom?" Seth interrupted. "Can I hold her?" he asked.

Billie looked over at Cat and received a nod of approval. "Sure you can, Honey." she said. "Here, scoot in closer to Mama there and hold your arms out."

Seth quickly did as he was told, receiving his baby sister into his arms like it was his favorite teddy bear. He looked up at his two mothers and grinned from ear to ear. He lowered his face to her's until their noses were touching and said, "Hi Skylar. I'm your big brother, Seth" The baby smiled widely at her brother, her arms flailing uncontrollably.

"Hey, she likes me!" Seth said excitedly.

"Of course she does, love." said Cat. "How could she not love her big brother?" Cat didn't have the heart to tell him that the smile was probably just gas.

"My turn! My turn!" Tara demanded.

And so went the afternoon. Billie and Cat were fascinated with their new daughter. Billie was so taken with her that she insisted on holding her almost non stop, despite warnings from Cat that she was going to spoil the child. Seth and Tara spent their time alternately visiting with the baby, and playing with the toys they had brought with them. Soon, it was time to leave.

Reluctantly handing the baby over to Cat, Billie turned to the older two children and said, "Okay scamps, collect your toys and get ready to go. We'll stop for pizza on the way home. Sound good?" she asked.

"Yeah!... Pizza!" they exclaimed together.

Amused with their reaction, Cat turned to Billie and said, "You know I think they like not having be home. They know you'll take them out to eat!" she observed.

Bending down over Cat, Billie said, "No, They just know I can't cook worth a damn, and they'd rather eat out than be poisoned!" Billie joked.

"C'mere you." Cat said, reaching up with her free hand and pulling Billie in for a long sensual kiss.

Finally the kiss ended and Billie bent over to kiss her new daughter on the head. Looking back up into Cat's eyes, she said, "I'll drop the kids off at Mom's and be here bright and early tomorrow morning, okay?" then she added, "Oh, by the way, Mom expects us to stop by to show her the baby on our way home. Is that all right with you?"

"That's fine." Cat said. "We'll have to pick Seth and Tara up anyway." Then, reaching up once more to pull Billie down for a kiss, she whispered in her ear, "I can't wait to go home, love. I miss sleeping in your arms at night."

Returning the kiss, Billie said, "I miss you too, Cat... and I love you with all my heart."

Cat's eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill out over her cheeks. "You'd better get out of here before you turn me into a blubbering idiot." she teased Billie. Tuning to the children, who were waiting by the door, she said, "Hey , you two, don't I get a good-bye kiss?"

Both of the children bounded up to the bed and gave their mother and their little sister a big hug and kiss. Then running back to the door, Seth took Tara's hand and said to Billie, "Come on, Mom! We're hungry!"

Tara, being Seth's little echo, repeated, "Yeah Mom, we're hungry!"

Billie grinned and looked at Tara. "If Skylar turns out to eat as much as you and our other children, we're going to be in big trouble!" she teased.

Cat swatted Billie on the arm. "Get out of here before they wither away!" she said laughing.

One more kiss later, they were on their way to the pizza parlor.

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

After getting pizza on the way home from the hospital, Billie and the kids stopped at the department store and picked up several party items and gifts, and then at the bakery for a cake. When they got home, they strung pink balloons and crepe paper all through the condo. The children were so excited about the party they had planned for the next day, that they had trouble falling asleep.

Billie arrived at the hospital bright and early the next morning after dropping the kids off at Ida's to collect Cat and Skylar. Being out of practice by about six years, she struggled with the car seat, but she finally figured it out and soon, they were on their way to Grandma's house where they had a very pleasant visit and lunch. Finally, after several yawns from Cat, Billie suggested that they head home so Cat could get some rest.

All the way home, the children giggled back and forth to each other, across Skylar's car seat, which was situated between them. Cat frequently glanced into the back seat to see what was so funny, but they not-so-subtly forced themselves to stop laughing every time she turned around. Suspicious, Cat threw a sidelong glance at Billie, who was also grinning from ear to ear. "Something is up." she thought, but decided to let it go and to wait and see.

Billie insisted on carrying Skylar to their apartment while Seth and Tara each took one of Cat's hands and led the way. When they got to the door or their unit, Cat was instructed to close her eyes and to keep them shut tight. After closing her eyes, the kids led her slowly into the living room, and sat her in the easy chair, continuously warning her to keep her eyes closed.

Billie sent Seth into her bedroom to fetch the baby's seat so that she could put Skylar down safely. Sitting all three children on the couch, she headed toward the kitchen to get the cake. Stopping by Cat's side on the way, she planted a kiss on Cat's cheek and said in her ear, "Just another minute love." Cat just smiled.

Lighting the one candle on the cake, Billie carried it into the living room and placed it on the coffee table in front of Cat. The children were still sitting on the couch, bursting at the seams with anticipation. The presents they had bought for their mother and little sister were wrapped and stacked neatly on the coffee table next to the cake.

Billie nodded to Seth and Tara that they were ready. In unison, the kids told Cat to open her eyes.

Cat's eyes opened wide as she took in the decorations, cake, presents, and most of all, the loves of her life, all sitting there waiting for her reaction to their little surprise. Cat was overcome with happiness. She tried hard to fight them back, but the tears came anyway. She looked at her family as said, "How is it that I am so lucky to have such a wonderful family. I love you all so much."

Cat blew out the candle then opened her arms to the children. Seth and Tara quickly climbed into them, hugging her tightly. Billie moved close to sit on the hammock next to her chair and rubbed her hand up and down Cat's thigh. Looking beyond the children she was holding close to her, she looked at Billie with all the love in her heart showing in her eyes, and mouthed the words, "Thank you, Billie... I love you so much."

Billie smiled and returned the sentiment.

Suddenly a shriek from the couch informed them that the newest member of their family was feeling left out. Billie was on her feet immediately and seconds later, was cradling her daughter in her arms. No amount of comforting calmed the little tike. Billie chuckled and said, "Looks like piglet here is hungry again, Mama." drawing a chuckle from Cat.

"Okay Rugrats." Billie said to Seth and Tara. "How about helping me cut the cake and dishing out ice cream while Mama feeds Skylar?" she said as the older children climbed out of Cat's lap to make room for the hungry baby.

The kids eagerly agreed, and soon, they were following Billie into the kitchen to prepare their feast while their little sister ate her fill at her mother's breast.


It wasn't long before the family settled into a regular routine. Cat took a six month maternity leave from work, so while she was home, Seth caught the bus to school right outside the condo, while Tara stayed home and helped her mother take care of Skylar. Billie left around 8 am each morning for work, and was generally home by 6:30 pm, after teaching her aerobics class. Cat generally helped Seth with this homework when he arrived home from school. When Billie got home, they ate dinner and then spent family time together, doing puzzles, watching movies or playing board games. Finally, around 8:30 pm, the children were all tucked into their beds and Billie and Cat had the rest of the evening and night together.

It was a full two months after Skylar was born before Cat was finally able to convince Billie that she was healed enough to make love, but when she had finally gotten that message across, it rapidly became their favorite way to spend their private time together in the evenings.

Billie loved this time alone with Cat. It usually started after Cat put Skylar down for the night. After feeding her, changing her diaper and tucking her into the crib that was located in the corner of their bedroom, she would return to cuddle with Billie on the couch. Cuddling rapidly turned to caresses, which rapidly turned to passionate and frantic groping. At this point, Billie would carry Cat into their room and lie her on the bed, laying her long frame over the smaller woman and exploring every inch of Cat's body with her hands and mouth as she removed her clothing piece by piece. Muffled screams of ecstasy bounced off the walls of their bedroom after what always seemed like an eternity of lovemaking as they each in turn, frantically brought the other to the heights of sexual fulfillment. Afterwards, they would lie in each other's arms, promising to love each other through life, death and beyond, until sleep finally overcame them and they drifted off into the dreamscape. Life was good in the Charland/O'Grady home.

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

Deciding that they were outgrowing their condo, Cat and Billie went house hunting and found a cozy two-story home on a corner lot on the outskirts of town. The house had a large fenced-in yard, a two car garage, four bedrooms upstairs, a living room and combination kitchen/dining area on the first floor, and a large family room with a fireplace in the basement. It was exactly what they were looking for, and it was actually closer to both of their places of employment than the condo was. It was also on the same bus route for the children's school. To top it all off, it was within their budget.

The only negative experiences they had during the whole process, were the odd comments and knowing looks they received from the sellers during the purchase and closing sessions. They obviously thought it was odd that two women with small children would purchase a house together. After the closing, Billie and Cat shook hands with the previous owners who wished them luck. Ignorantly, while shaking her hand, the husband leaned into Billie and recommended that they didn't let their personal preferences become known in the neighborhood.

Billie refused to let go of his hand right away. Instead, she squeezed it tightly, obviously causing the man some pain and whispered back, "Whose reputation are you worried about, mine or yours?" Finally, with a look that could kill, she abruptly released his hand and walked away to meet Cat.

Approaching Cat, she came up behind her and intentionally wrapped her arms around the smaller woman's waist in an affectionate gesture while the ignorant man watched disgustedly. Billie's eyes met his and without words, effectively told him to go to hell. He turned and stomped away, dragging is wife behind him.

Billie took two weeks vacation in order to help Cat move their family and their belongings into their new home. The first week was spent painting and repairing. The house was in very good condition, but a fresh coat of paint was sorely needed on the ceilings and woodwork, as well as new wall paper, linoleum and rugs. Cat and Billie worked relentlessly for two week straight, taking breaks only to feed Skylar and to check on the two older children who had made them selves at home and spent most of their time in the tree-house in the back yard. Even at night, when the kids had crashed on sleeping bags in the living room of their new home, Cat and Billie worked well into the night preparing their nest for habitation. Soon, the house was ready for their furniture and personal belongings.

The women hired movers who transported their furniture and boxes of belongings into the house in a steady stream. Billie was right in the middle of them, carrying boxes back and forth between the truck and the house, and keeping up with them with no trouble. During her several trips, she was acutely aware of the stares from her curious neighbors.

Within four hours, it was all inside, and the furniture was least placed in the correct rooms. It took them the rest of the day to organize the mess enough to get a meal on the table by dinner time. Sitting around the table in their new kitchen, surrounded by dozens of boxes that needed unpacking, and a mess that would take weeks to straighten out, they had never been happier in their lives.

Deciding to take a break and forego unpacking for the night, they all headed down into the family room where they had had the living room furniture delivered. Billie started a large blazing fire in the fireplace while they all sat around eating popcorn and playing board games on the blanket they had laid out on the floor in front of the fire. Billie played with the older children as Skylar sat propped up between Cat's legs, eating a cookie and watching her big brother and sister play with her Mom. Every so often, Billie would glance up at Cat and smile, receiving a smile in return.

Before long, the children started nodding off. One by one, Billie carried them to bed, helped them into their pajamas and tucked them in. Finally, with all three of them sound to sleep in their own rooms, Billie returned to Cat who was still in the family room, sitting on the blanket in front of the fire, obviously deep in thought. Billie sat behind her and wrapped her long legs around the smaller woman, pulling her close to her chest and burying her face in Cat's hair. Cat moaned into the embrace.

"Watcha thinking?" Billie asked.

"I'm thinking that I am gloriously happy, and wondering what I did to deserve it." she replied

Kissing her neck, Billie said, "Cat, you deserve all this and so much more. You are the most wonderful person I have every met in my life and I count my blessings every day that you choose to love me."

Turning to look at Billie, Cat said, "That choice was made a very long time ago, my love. You've had the dreams, you've seen the visions. We belong together, Billie. We always have. We have since the warrior and bard started this 2,000 years ago. This is our destiny." Leaning in, she kissed Billie soundly, then continued. "I too count my blessings, Billie. I thank the gods daily for you and our family. I have never been so happy."

"Do you think we'll be happy here, Cat?" Billie asked looking around at their new surroundings.

"I will be happy wherever we are as long as we're together, Billie." Cat answered. "But to answer your real question, yes, I think we'll be very happy here."

Running her finger down the side of Cat's face, Billie said, "There are a few things you should be aware of, Cat." she said, pausing to gauge Cat's reaction. Continuing, she said, "After the closing, the ass hole who sold us this house warned me that we shouldn't divulge 'our personal preferences' to our neighbors. Also, while I was helping the movers unload the truck, there were lots of very curious stares pointed in my direction. I also heard someone wonder out loud why they didn't see 'the man of the house' among us."

"Billie." Cat said, taking the taller woman's face in her hands. "I am not ashamed of our love. I refuse to hide it to please the neighbors. If they can't accept us as we are, then they can go to hell.... pure and simple." Cat finished.

Billie smiled. "God's how she loved this woman!" she thought. To Cat, she said, "You're right of course. With that in mind, don't blame me if I put a few people in their place along the way, okay?"

"I trust you'll be nice about it?" Cat asked.

"As nice as the situation warrants, love.... but I will not tolerate any attacks against you or the children. I hope you understand that, Cat." she warned.

"I understand, my love... I understand" she said to Billie, pulling her down to the blanket with her where they made love until the wee hours of the morning.


Cat's maternity leave lasted throughout the summer, which was just as well, since it took most of the summer for them to settle into their new home and finally unpack everything. When the work was done on the inside, they started tackling the yard. Cat planted flowers around the front of the house and along the edges of the walk to the driveway, while Billie fixed gutters and repainted the window trim and shutters. Seth and Tara helped both of their Mom's repaint the picket fence around the front yard while Skylar played happily in her playpen.

Several of their neighbors greeted them cordially with a wave as they drove by, but none of them had yet approached them for a neighborly chat. The kids on the other hand were another story. Kids being kids, Seth and Tara made friends with the other children in the neighborhood almost immediately. Cat and Billie's backyard soon became the hangout for the younger neighborhood children. Billie had fixed up and painted the tree house for Tara and Seth, and even rigged a manual elevator using a pulley system, where the kids could lift themselves up by pulling down hand-over-hand on the rope.

Cat and Billie themselves were very popular with the children. Billie never turned down an invitation to wrestle with them, or enter into a water balloon or squirt gun fight. Cat was always ready to hand out treats and drinks and to patch up scraped knees.

One day, during a particularly wet water balloon fight, Cat decided to get in on the action as well, and soon, everyone was soaked, including Skylar. In one particularly good shot, Cat threw a balloon at Billie and got her squarely in the face. Billie charged Cat and tackled her to the ground, tickling her unmercifully. Finally, after Cat gave up, Billy instinctively leaned over and kissed her. All hell broke loose. Apparently, several of the neighbors had been watching the goings on and had seen the kiss. Suddenly, neighbors where charging into their yard, grabbing their children and stomping away. Cat scrambled to her feet an tried to intercept them.

"Wait... Wait, you don't understand!" she pleaded, her heart breaking for the children, both her's and the neighbors'.

One particularly vocal parent stopped directly in front of Cat and spat into her face, "Oh we understand just fine, you pervert!" he said.

Billie was instantly by Cat's side and reaching for the offending neighbor's shirt front. She pulled in him close. "Apologize to the lady, right now." she said in her most threatening voice. "Don't make me hurt you in front of these children." she added when he didn't respond immediately.

The man might have been ignorant, but he wasn't stupid. Looking at Cat, he said, "My apologies. However, I don't approve of your kind, and I'd prefer it if you didn't allow your children to associate with mine in the future."

Billie released his shirt, slightly pushing him backward. "Leave my property." she said without breaking eye contact.

The man turned and walked away rapidly, dragging his protesting son behind him.

Seth and Tara approached their respective parents and clung to them, sadly watching their friends being dragged away.

"What happened, Mama?" Tara asked.

"They're stupid!" exclaimed Seth angrily. "They don't think Mom and Mama should love each other. They're just stupid!" explained the little boy.

Not wanting her children to develop prejudices of their own, she knelt down in front of them and said, "They just don't understand how much we love each other, that's all. The don't understand that it is okay for Mom and I to love each other just as much as they love their own husbands and wives." She looked back and forth between the children. "Feels pretty awful, huh?" she asked.

They both nodded yes.

"Remember this feeling, my loves. Prejudice makes people feel this way. This feeling is exactly why prejudice is bad. Do you understand? she asked.

They both nodded and hugged Cat, while Billie looked on, the hurt still burning in her heart from those ignorant bastards.

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

In the fall, when it was time for school to start again, Cat decided to go back to work part time, working from 6 am to 10 am, so that she could pick Skylar up from the daycare, and still be home in time for Tara to be dropped off from kindergarten by 11:30 am. And of course, she would then be there when Seth arrived home at 3 pm from second grade. Billie would drop all three kids off at the daycare on her way to work, where Seth and Tara would catch the bus for school. Cat planned to continue working part time until Tara was in first grade and was going to school all day like Seth.

Cat and Billie continued to receive the cold shoulder from their neighbors, however, the children remained friends, if not at home, then definitely at school where there parents weren't around to stop them from playing together. Seth and Tara came home with wonderful tales to tell about games they played at recess, or how they worked with one of the neighbor's kids on a project at school.

Both women felt sad about the kids being affected by the prejudice directed at them, however, to give in to it would send the wrong message to the children, so they kept to themselves and made sure to give Seth, Tara and Skylar as much love and attention as possible. There were still instances where prejudice and confrontation couldn't be avoided, like while shopping as a family at the grocery store, or during teacher/parent conferences at the school, but both women understood the hardships they would have to endure to stay true to their love, and they were willing to make the sacrifice.

The holidays came and went at the Charland/O'Grady house, with not one visitor, except Cat's parents and the people they worked with. Even though they decorated their home gaily in holiday themes, the Trick-or-Treaters bypasses their house on Halloween, as well as the carolers at Christmas.

After the first big snowfall, Seth and Tara dragged Billie out of the house and enlisted her help to build a snow igloo in the front yard. It took them most of the day, but when they were finished, it was big enough for Billie's near-six foot frame to stand in. The neighborhood kids collected on the sidewalk outside their fence and marveled at the size of it. Billie invited them into the yard to play, but they all complained that their parents wouldn't let them.

Billie walked over to the fence and said to the children on the other side. "Do me a favor, will you?" They all nodded their heads collectively. "Go home and tell your parents that just because Cat and I are gay, it doesn't mean that Seth and Tara are, and that you guys won't become gay just by playing with them. Okay?... Oh, and also tell them that I'm willing to talk to them if they want to discuss it with me. All right? Can you remember all that? she asked.

Again, they all nodded and then ran off to deliver their messages.

Turning back to Seth and Tara, she rubbed her hands together and said, "What do you say we go talk Mama into making us some hot chocolate, huh?"

"Oh boy, yeah!" Tara said as she ran toward the house.

Seth walked up to his mother and took her hand. Looking down into her son's face, she could see the sadness there from missing his friends. She knelt down on one knee and took his face in her hands. "I'm sorry about all of this Sport. I know you miss your friends. I hope this blows over soon. Its not right for them to hurt you and your friends like that." she said to her son.

"Its okay, Mom. I was just worried about you and Mama. Sometimes I hear Mama crying at night about it. It makes me sad to hear her cry." he said.

Seth was right. There were a few time that Cat had cried while they were discussing the prejudice around them. She didn't realize that her sensitive son had picked up on it.

Pulling him in close, she said to him, "Seth, you are such a wonderful child. Both Mama and I love you very much. Don't you ever change, Okay?"

"Okay, Mom." he said.

Billie wrapped her arms around the boy, picked him up, and carried him into the house.


Later that evening, when the children had been put to bed, Billie and Cat went down into the family room and cuddled together on the couch, wrapped in a large blanket and sipping mugs of hot spiced cider. For a long time, they just sat there, very close, and stared the fire Billie had built. After a while, Billie broke the silence and told Cat about the confrontation in the front yard that afternoon, and about her conversation with Seth. As always, when they talked about how their children were being hurt by the situation, Cat started to cry. Billie just held her close and told her that their love would see this through, and that things were bound to get better.

"But Billie, we've lived here for six months now, and nothing much as changed." she cried.

"I know love," Billie said into her neck as she nuzzled close to Cat. "But, this can't go on forever. Something will change, I just know it."

Noticing that Billie's mug was near empty, Cat wiped the tears from her face and said, "Why don't you down that last drink and I'll go refill our mugs, okay?"

Billie eagerly complied, handing her mug over to Cat and opening their blanket cocoon to allow her to out. Billie sat there by herself, with her knees pulled into her chest and arms wrapped around them, staring into the fire as Cat climbed the stairs to fetch more cider. As her eyes were held captive by the dancing fire, she prayed to any god that would listen for a miracle that would make things better for her family. They all loved the house so much, it would be a pity if they had to give it up and move just because of the prejudice of ignorant people.

Suddenly, Billie heard Cat calling her urgently from the top of the stairs. "Billie... Billie come quickly!"

Taking the steps three at a time, she was almost instantly at Cat's side, terror written clearly on her face at the prospect of something wrong with one of the children. "Cat, what is it? Are the kids okay?" she asked urgently taking Cat by the shoulders.

"The kids are fine, Billie. They're all sleeping soundly!" she said, instantly calming the panicked woman. Then leading her to the window above the kitchen sink, she pointed and said, "Look... The Swenson's house is on fire." Sure enough, there were flames dancing along the roof line of the house down the street.

"Holy, Shit!" Billie exclaimed. "We've got to do something, Cat. Where are my boots?" she asked frantically. Finding them, she quickly shoved her feet into them and grabbed her coat.

"Where are you going?" Cat cried out.

"I'm going to help them, Cat. I have to... I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't." she replied, heading for the door.

"Then I'm going with you." Cat said, as she shoved her feet into her own boots.

Billie sputtered, "But Cat... The children..."

"Are fine!" Cat finished the sentence for her. "They're sleeping, Billie. They won't even know we're gone. And besides, I'll come back to check on them every few minutes, okay?"

"All right... get your coat." Billie said, giving in to the logic.

Soon, both women were off on a dead run down the snowy street. Reaching the front yard of the Swenson's house, they found Mrs. Swenson nervously pacing back and forth, waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. Scores of neighbors had crowded the street to watch. Mrs. Swenson was hysterically calling out over and over, "Stevie, Karissa!, Oh my god, help them!"

Billie was instantly by her side. Taking her by the shoulders, Cat turned the woman to face her and said, "Are Stevie and Karissa still in the house, Jennifer?" She looked at Billie with terror in her eyes and nodded her head yes, then dissolved into a crying heap on the ground.

"Cat!" screamed Billie. "Cat, I need you here."

Cat ran to Billie and the crying woman as fast as she could. "Cat, Stevie and Karissa are still inside. I need to go in after them. Jennifer needs your help. Please find her a blanket and look after her, Okay?" she said to the smaller woman.

Putting a hand on Billie's arm, Cat turned fear filled eyes to her lover. "Billie, you can't go in there! The fire...!"

Interrupting further conversation, Billie said, "Cat, I have to. They may be dead before the fire trucks get here.... Cat, they're children!"

Cat suddenly pictured their own children in the same position and nodded to Billie. All she could manage was a quick kiss and a whispered "I love you, please come back to me." before Billie was off running toward the house.

Kicking the front door in, Billie rushed into the smoke filled living room. Between the darkness, the smoke and her burning eyes, she couldn't see much of anything. After running into an end table and letting out a string of curses a mile long, she finally fell to her knees and crawled along the floor where the smoke wasn't as thick. She pulled the rolled up collar of the turtleneck she was wearing over her mouth and nose to filter out most of the smoke. The thanked the gods that the Swenson's lived in a ranch style home so she didn't have to deal with finding the stairs to the second level.

Finding the hallway that led to the bedroom, she crawled along as fast as she could. Suddenly, she encountered a body blocking her way. Too big to be one of the children, she realized that it was Mr. Swenson, who had probably collapsed from smoke inhalation while trying to save the kids. Checking to see that he was still breathing, she grabbed him under the arms and dragged him back in the direction she had come, to the front door. Reaching the door, she screamed to some of the onlookers to take care of him, then went back inside the house.

More familiar with the interior of the house now, she quickly located the hallway again, and crawled toward the other bedrooms. She heard muffled cries coming from the first door she approached. Pushing the door open, she cautiously crawled into the room and called out, "Stevie, Karissa? Honey, talk to me so I can find you."

"I'm over here." she heard a small voice say.

"Keep talking, Sweetie, I'm coming." Billie said, trying to comfort the small child.

"Please hurry." the voice said.

Within seconds, Billie had located what turned out to be to Karissa, who was only five years old, and one of Tara's friends. Putting the child on her back, piggy back style, she told her to hold on tight and to keep her head down and eyes closed while she crawled back toward the front door. She knew she had to hurry if she had any hope of finding Stevie in time, so as soon as she saw the door, she stood, moved Karissa around into her arms and ran the rest of the way into the front yard. Putting the crying child into Cat's arms, she turned and ran back into the house just as the fire trucks started to arrive.

Billie didn't even bother to crawl this time. Being even more familiar with the house, she ran directly down the hall to the room at the end. Kicking the door open, she was met with smoke billowing out at her at an alarming rate. Dropping to her knees once more to avoid most of the smoke, Billie prayed that she wasn't too late.

"Stevie!... Stevie!" she yelled over and over again with no response.

Billie crawled around, her hands frantically searching for anything solid. Finally, she found the bed. Rising to her feet, she felt around until she found Stevie. He was unconscious. Scooping him up into her arms, she stumbled around until she found the door and moved as quickly as she could down the hallway and into the living room. The smoke was starting to get to her as she stumbled and nearly dropped her precious burden. Steadying herself, she finally found the front door and was suddenly outside taking in huge gulps of fresh air. She was met by a paramedic who took the unconscious child from her arms. Instantly, Cat was by her side.

"Thank the gods, you made it!" she exclaimed as she wrapped a blanket around Billie and helped her toward the ambulance.


Billie refused to go to the hospital, preferring instead to go back home with Cat. After checking on the still sleeping children, Billie took a shower to rid her body of the smoke and soot she had accumulated during the rescue. Changing into clean clothes, she told Cat that she was going to the hospital to see how the Swenson family was faring. She was extremely worried about whether or not Stevie was going to make it.

"I understand, Love." Cat said, wrapping her arms around Billie's waist and pressing her head into the taller woman's chest as Billie grabbed her coat. Looking up at Billie, she added, "I want you to invite Jennifer and Karissa to come back with you. We'll put them up here until Fred and Stevie are out of the hospital, or until they find somewhere else to go, okay?"

Billie leaned down and kissed Cat tenderly. "You are a remarkable woman, Cat." Billie said. "These people have shown us nothing by contempt, yet you open your heart and your home to them when they need it."

"And just who risked her life to save them, huh?" Cat replied. "I think you need to include yourself in that description of remarkable, love." she finished, reaching up on tip toes to kiss her lover. Noticing that it was almost dawn, Cat added, "I'll have a big breakfast waiting for the lot of you when you come back, okay?"

Smiling, Billie said, "Okay." Kissing her again, she added, "We'll be back soon." Then she was gone.

As Billie strolled down the corridor of the hospital, she saw Jennifer sitting on a bench holding a sleeping Karissa in her arms. Coming up to them, she sat down next to the distraught woman and placed an arm around her shoulder. Jennifer instinctively lowered her head to Billie's shoulder and started to cry. Billie's heart was in her throat. She wasn't sure if the tears were of relief, or grief, so she just sat there and provided comfort for the woman. After a few moments, Jennifer lifted her head off Billie's shoulder and looked right at her.

"I don't know how to thank you." she said. "We have treated you and your family so poorly, how can you ever forgive us?"

Billie wiped the tears off Jennifer's cheeks as she realized that this woman was no older than Cat. "Shhh, let's not talk about that right now. How are Stevie and Fred?" she asked, preparing herself for the worse.

"They're both alive, thanks to you." she began. "Fred is resting comfortably, and should be able to come home tomorrow. Stevie is in intensive care... he swallowed a lot of smoke, but the doctors think he'll be well enough to go home in about a week." Jennifer paused and then added, "That is, if we had a home to go to."

"You have a home to go to." Billie said. "Mine."

Jennifer looked up at Billie, startled and confused at the same time.

Billie smiled. "I'm under orders from the boss to bring you home with me." she said. "Our home is open to you , Fred and the kids for as long as you need it."

Jennifer just broke down and cried, falling once more into Billie's arms.

An hour later, after checking on Fred and Stevie, Billie, Jennifer and Karissa were pulling into the driveway of Billie and Cat's home. Cat met Jennifer with a big hug as they walked into the kitchen. Once again, Jennifer broken down into tears. Cat just held her until she calmed down. Billie, in the meantime, was busy organizing the children around the breakfast table, pulling up a spare chair for Karissa next to Tara. The two girls held hands and talked excitedly, both elated to finally be allowed their friendship.

Cat had explained to the two older children about the fire, and that Stevie and his Dad were hurt, so Seth was full of questions about Stevie. Kneeling next her son at the table, Billie told Seth that Stevie was going to be in the hospital for a few days, but the doctors thought he would be all right. Seth let out a sign of relief and smiled.

Jennifer was finally composed enough to accept a cup of coffee from Cat without spilling it. After sitting her at the table, Billie helped Cat pile what appeared to be tons of food in front of their family and guests. Jennifer's eyes opened wide at the sight. Chuckling, Billie said, "Get used to it... We have a family of eating machines here!" she said jokingly.

After breakfast, Jennifer insisted on helping Cat clear away the dishes as Billie cleaned up the baby and took her to bathe and dress her for the day. The three older kids all retreated to Tara's room to play.

Alone with Cat in the kitchen, Jennifer once again began with her apologies about how Cat and her family had been treated by the neighborhood. Cat just sat there, nursing her cup of coffee and allowing Jennifer to get it off her chest. Finally, Cat rose and walked to the coffee pot. Grabbing the pot, she returned to the table and refilled both her's and Jennifer's cups, then returned the pot to the counter. All of this was done in silence.

Returning to the table, she looked directly at Jennifer who was very intently studying her coffee cup, and said, "Jennifer, Billie and I are used to be treated differently because of our relationship, but what we didn't anticipate was the effect it would have on our children." She took at deep breath and continued as Jennifer raised guilt filled eyes to meet her's. "We have tried very hard to teach our children tolerance and acceptance... and we think we have been successful at it, but to see adults counteracting those lessons is difficult for them to understand."

Jennifer was looking down at her cup again, tears rolling down her cheeks. Cat reached over and rubbed her back, silently letting the message sink in. Moments later, Jennifer raised her face to Cat's and said, "I'm sorry."

Cat smiled back at her and hugged her close. Pulling away, she said, "Now, I assume you've been up all night, so why don't you catch a shower and some sleep before going back to the hospital this afternoon. Okay?"

Jennifer nodded her head eagerly as she wiped the tears off her cheeks.

"Don't you worry about Karissa. Billie and I will take care of her for you. Anyway, it will give Seth a break from his pesky little sister!" Cat said jokingly, leading the tired woman to the upstairs bathroom.

Leaving her there to get the water ready for her shower, Cat went to her room and grabbed a clean nightgown and robe from her dresser. Jennifer appeared to be pretty much the same size as her, so the clean bedclothes should fit. Handing the bedclothes to Jennifer, Cat told her to leave her soiled clothes on the floor next to the tub and she'd see to washing and drying them while Jennifer slept. Jennifer thanked Cat for her kindness and quickly jumped into the warm soothing shower. A short time later, she was curled up in the middle of Cat and Billie's bed, sound asleep.

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

Cat lent Jennifer her car to return to the hospital that afternoon, with assurances that Karissa would be well taken care of. While the children were building snowmen in the yard, Billie went to investigate the damage to the Swenson's house. Walking down the street, she once again, drew curious stares from her neighbors, only this time, when she stared back, she was met by smiles instead of hostility. It appeared that her acts of heroism the night before had spread quickly through the neighborhood.

Reaching the Swenson's property, Billie saw that the firemen were just finishing roping off the property. Walking around the property, Billie could see that the damage was not as severe as the smoke would have predicted. She only hoped that the Swenson's had fire insurance.

As she was investigating the damage, she felt a presence next to her and looked over to see another neighbor standing beside her, his hands shoved deeply into his overcoat, nervously rocking back and forth on his heels. She spared him a glance as their eyes met. "'Morning." he said cautiously.

"Good Morning." she returned, falling silent again. She'd be damned if she'd be the one to start up a conversation.

"Pretty bad fire." the neighbor commented.

"Could have been worse." Billie countered, looking straight ahead.

"Yep, could have." he said. Then he added, "If it wasn't for you, it would have been."

She turned to look at him. Before she could reply, he extended his right hand and said, "Name's Carl. Carl Thompson."

Taking his hand in her own and flashing him a brilliant smile, Billie returned, "Billie Charland."

Over the course of a half hour, they were joined by several other neighbors and soon, they were all talking nonstop and making plans to organize the neighborhood into a work force to help the Swenson's recover from this tragedy. After planning a neighborhood meeting in the elementary school gym for that evening, Billie made her way back home with a huge grin on her face.

Walking into the house, she was met by Cat, whom she swept up into her arms and swung around in a circle. Allowing her feet to contact the floor once more, Billie grabbed Cat's face in both hands, kissed her soundly, then wrapped her in a bear hug.

Hearing Cat's squeals of delight, Seth, Karissa and Tara ran into the kitchen to see what the commotion was. Karissa's eyes widened at the affectionate site before her. Seth grinned and said to Karissa, "They do that all the time.... you get used to it."

Releasing Cat, Billie knelt on the floor and opened her arms to the kids. "How 'bout a hug?" she asked. All three children ran headlong into her arms, where the hug rapidly turned into a tickle fight on the kitchen floor. With an extra set of hands to help, Billie had no chance and soon, found herself surrendering to the children. They whooped and hollered at their victory as Cat sent them into the family room to play.

Helping Billie back to her feet, she took the taller woman's coat from her shoulders and hung it up. "Wanna tell me what that greeting was all about, love?" she asked.

Bending over and picking up Skylar, who was playing on the floor, Billie hugged her youngest child then sat down at the kitchen table, sitting her daughter on her lap. "Give me a cookie for this little monster, will you please?" Billie asked Cat.

With Skylar happily munching her cookie, Billie explained to Cat what had happened over at the Swenson's.

When Billie finished, a very elated Cat said, "It's too bad our miracle had to come at the Swenson's expense, but as they say, it sometimes takes a tragedy to pull people together." she observed.

"At this point, I'll take the miracle any way I can get it!" Billie exclaimed.


Jennifer returned around lunch time with a very apologetic Fred in tow. Immediately putting the man at ease, Billie and Cat welcomed him into their home, and soon, they were all sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying lunch as though they had been friends for life. Billie told Fred about the neighborhood meeting that evening to plan a cleanup and recovery work force. Fred was touched and emotionally too choked up to speak.

After lunch, the adults sat around the family room discussing plans for the immediate future while the older children played outside in the yard. Skylar played happily with her blocks on the blanket in front of the fire. Billie and Cat were cuddled close together on the couch, while Jennifer sat on the arm of the chair Fred was sitting in, her arm draped across his shoulder and her hand absently rubbing his back. Taking in the scene and the feel of his wife's caress on his back, Fred suddenly realized that Billie and Cat were no different than he and Jennifer. It was obvious that they loved each other deeply. In an act of cleansing, the veils of prejudice suddenly fell as Fred put is hands up to his face to hide the tears that were forming there.

Cat looked knowingly up at Billie and smiled, then she rose from the couch and knelt in front of Fred, taking the crying man into her arms. "Shhh, it's okay, Fred. It's okay." she cooed softly.

Jennifer just sat there, stunned at the uncharacteristic display being put on by her husband. Billie caught her eye and winked, causing Jennifer to smile in return.

Fred tried hard to compose himself. Looking up at the two women, he said, "I'm so sorry for my ignorance and blindness." he said. "Just now, looking at the two of you, I suddenly realized that your love is as deep and profound as mine is for Jennifer. How could I have been so shallow and blind?" he asked no one in particular.

Pulling out of Cat's embrace, he rose to his feet and walked to the mantel. Turning around to face the women, he said, "I don't know how to thank you for your kindness, except to say that I will work by ass off to see that this community accept the two of you as equals."

"Works for me!" replied Billie.

"Ditto!" said Cat, causing everyone in the room to burst into laughter.

The next hour was spent convincing the Swenson's that they were welcome to stay with them until their home was ready for occupation again. With a concerted neighborhood effort, Billie didn't see any reason that it wouldn't be ready within the next couple of weeks.

Soon, it was time for Jennifer and Fred to return to the hospital to visit with Stevie. Even in such a short amount of time, his condition had improved dramatically such that he was moved out of intensive care. It would only be a day or two more before he would be able to come home. They left, taking Karissa with them to visit her brother, with a promise that they'd be back in time for the neighborhood meeting at 7 pm.

The meeting was well attended. Nearly every neighbor was there, wives, husbands and children included. As promised, the Swenson's arrived home in time to catch a quick supper then head over to the school. Billie and Carl stood on the stage waiting for the clamor to die down, while Cat, Jennifer, Fred and their children sat in the front row. When the room finally quieted, Carl took the mike to get the meeting started. Before Carl could say anything, Fred rose and announced that he wanted to say a few words before the meeting started.

Climbing up the stairs to the stage, Fred stood in front of the mike and looked out over his friends and neighbors. Before starting, he called Cat, Jennifier and kids up to the stage. Cat, carrying Skylar, went immediately into Billie's arms as Seth and Tara clung to their parent's hands. Jennifer, toting Karissa by the hand, went to Fred's side and wrapped her arm around his waist. A hush fell over the audience at the display.

Fred leaned into the mike and began. "Friends, before we start the meeting, I'd like to introduce you to the newest members of our neighborhood." Looking at each of his neighbors straight in the eye, he continued. "As you all know, we have not been very neighborly to this new family, treating them with disdain and disrespect for the past six months."

Fred paused, seeing several of his neighbors look away guiltily. Cat and Billie looked at each other and squirmed uncomfortably. Fred continued. "Like I said, even though we haven't been very neighborly, our treatment didn't stop them from risking their own lives and opening their home for those of us in need. If it wasn't for this brave woman," he said, pointing to Billie, "Jennifer would be at the funeral parlor right now grieving over three deaths, rather than here celebrating life, family and neighbors."

Fred choked up, barely able to continue. "Sitting in their home this afternoon, I looked at them and it suddenly struck me that they are no different from Jennifer and I, nor from you and Kathy, Jim." he said, pointing to another neighbor and his wife. "... or from any of us who enjoy a loving marriage and family. It just so happens they are both women, but that doesn't diminish their love for each other, nor does it diminish their standing as good hearted, warm, caring people."

Fred looked around at the tears forming across the audience. "So, without further ado, I introduce you to Billie Charland, Caitlain O'Grady, and their children, Seth, Tara and Skylar.... and I might add, I think we owe them a huge apology, and total acceptance into our community." Fred finished.

Silence descended over the crowd as Fred stepped away from the microphone.

Billie and Cat looked at each other nervously.

Suddenly, a huge roar rose up from the audience, filled with cheers and clapping.

The man Fred had referred to earlier as "Jim", rose up and led Billie, Cat and the kids from the stage into the audience, where they were greeted with hugs and welcoming hand shakes for a full half hour. Finally, Carl took control of the microphone again and managed to quiet the crown down enough to get the meeting started. By the end of the meeting, two hours later, work crews had been assembled and plans were in place to get started the next morning.

True to their word, Cat, Billie and their family were accepted whole heartedly into the community. Billie pitched in with the repairs, proving herself to be more than adequate with a hammer and nail, while Cat helped several other neighborhood wives keep a steady stream of coffee, hot chocolate and food available for the workers in addition to helping with child care. After about a week, the outside work was done, and the crew moved inside to apply new sheet rock, ceiling tiles, paint and carpeting. As estimated, the house was ready to move back into within two weeks. Luckily, the Swenson's had good home insurance, and were able to replace all their furniture, as well as clothe the family.

Cat organized a housewarming party for the Swenson's to be held on the day they moved back in. The back yard was filled with kids, all in snow suits, playing happily, including Stevie, who had come home from the hospital a week earlier, none the worse for wear, while the adults crowded the interior of the ranch styled house. A feeling of true neighborhood revelry permeated the atmosphere.

Skylar spent most of the afternoon tucked into Billie's arms, since she was too young to be outdoors with the older kids, and too small to be left on the floor without be trampled on. Countless neighbors stopped both her and Cat to comment on how beautiful their children were, and to offer sincere apologies for their previous behavior.

As the party was starting to break up, Skylar feel asleep on Billie's shoulder. Billie worked her way over to where Cat was visiting with another neighbor and leaned down to whisper in her ear that it was time to leave and to take their daughter home for a nap. Cat readily agreed and went to the back door to call Seth and Tara in.

"Aw, Mama!" they said together. "We don't wanna go home!"

Jennifer came to their rescue. She walked up behind Cat, who was standing in the doorway with hands on her hips, ready to scold the two children. Wrapping her arms around Cat, she whispered in her ear, "Let them stay... they can spend the night. Heavens knows, you and Billie need some time alone after what we've put you through over the last few weeks!"

Cat turned to face Jennifer, a big smile on her face. "You mean it?" she asked.

"Absolutely." replied Jennifer. "You go home with that gorgeous hunk of woman you have, and enjoy yourselves for the evening. I'll bring the children over tomorrow afternoon sometime. Okay?"

Hugging Jennifer tightly, Cat said, "You're a real friend, Jen... Thank you."

Taking Cat by the shoulders, she looked at her in all seriousness and said, "No, Cat. Fred and I thank you, and Billie. Like Fred mentioned on that stage two weeks ago, my life would be very different today if it wasn't for the two of you. I will never be able to thank you enough." She leaned in to place a kiss on Cat's cheek, then hugged her once more.

Billie was standing in the kitchen doorway, taking in the scene with a smile on her face. Deciding to add a little mischief to the situation, she cleared her throat and said, "Okay, Jennifer, what are you trying to do, move in on my woman?"

Jennifer jumped back startled, then seeing the mischievous gleam in Billie's eyes, she walked over and slipped her arms around the taller woman's waist and gave her a big hug. Then she looked up at Billie and planted a kiss on her cheek as well. "I happen to know that your bark is worse than your bite, big guy. Now go home and enjoy the rest of the day with your lady, okay?"

"Yes, Ma'am!" she said, grinning down at Jennifer.

Cat called the kids into the house to let them know they'd be spending the night and to kiss them good-bye. All four of them were ecstatic as they ran back into the yard and jumped head first into the snow pile.

Billie dressed Skylar in her coat, hat and mittens as Cat said their final good-bye's. Hugging Jennifer before they left, Billie told her that she'd run a change of clothes and pajamas over to her as soon as they got home. That said, Billie and Cat strolled home hand and hand, with Skylar cuddled in Billie's free arm.


When Billie returned from delivering a change of clothes to the Swenson's for Seth and Tara, she found the house very quiet. Looking around the first floor, she didn't find Cat anywhere. A thorough search of the family room yielded the same results. With a knowing smile on her face, Billie climbed the stairs to the second story. Passing Skylar's room, she noticed that the baby had been tucked in and was sleeping soundly. Heart pounding in anticipation, she progressed down the hallway to her's and Cat's bedroom.

The door was closed, but Billie could see a faint glow coming from beneath it, and hear soft music from within. She had an intense feeling of deja vu as Billie remembered a similar encounter about a year earlier when she and Cat were celebrating their blending of families... only then, their roles had been reversed.

Billie slowly pushed the door open and was met by the mouth watering sight of Cat, dressed in a clingy green silk gown and spike heels, her hair tied up loosely, with tendrils hanging freely around her the fringes of her hairline. She was leaning with her backside up against the window sill on the opposite side of the room, wine glass raised to ruby lined lips. Making eye contact with Billie, she took a sip of the wine, then lowered the glass and traced her tongue seductively around the periphery of her mouth. Billie almost fainted at the pure seductiveness of the act.

Standing up and walking into the middle of the room, Cat crooked her finger at Billie and whispered, "Come here, lover."

Billie crossed the room to where Cat was standing in two strides. She took Cat into her arms and ran her hands up and down Cat's sides and across her back, moving lower to caress the round, firm cheeks, all the while, nuzzling her face into her neck and tasting the sweet nectar that was unique to Cat's skin. Cat leaned her head to one side to give Billie greater access, and moaned loudly, knowing that her verbal responses only served to increase Billie's ardor.

"Oh gods, Cat, I want you so badly right now." she moaned.

"Patience, my love, patience." she replied, pulling out of Billie's embrace. "Stay right here." she said, as she walked over and placed her wine glass on the night stand next to the bed. Returning to Billie in the center of the room, she slowly circled the woman, lightly running her hands over Billie's breasts and stomach and causing the taller woman to gasp.

Coming around behind her, Cat pressed herself against Billie's back and reached around to the front to unbuckle her lover's belt. Billie's knees were weak with desire. Reaching down to help Cat, Billie found her hands being slapped away as the smaller woman continued her torturously slow assault.

After a moment or two, Cat had managed to unzip Billie's jeans, and slip her hands into the front of the taller woman's panties and into the warm cavern she found there, soliciting a deep moan from her lover. "Oh gods, you are so wet," Cat exclaimed into Billie's back as she slid the offending garments down. Billie eagerly kicked them off into the corner of the room as Cat went to work on the blouse. Soon, this garment too, had joined the jeans in the corner as Cat nibbled on Billie's shoulders from behind.

Billie was nearly at her breaking point. All she wanted to do was to grab Cat, throw her on the bed and ravish her, but Cat would have none of that. She continued the slow torture, until she had every piece of clothing removed from Billie's body. Only then did she give Billie permission to turn around to face her. As she turned, Cat started a seductive dance to the music, swaying her hips to and fro, and throwing her head back to expose the length of her throat to Billie's eyes. Slowly, the dance continued while Billie stood totally exposed and vulnerable in the center of the room.

At one point in the dance, Cat erotically peeled her gown away, slowly exposing her own heated flesh to Billie. Billie reached out grab her, but she quickly darted away, only to circle her and run her naked breasts up against her back. Billie shuttered with desire.

"Cat, I can't take this any more... I need you." Billie said desperately.

At this declaration, Cat backed Billie slowly toward the bed until the back of her thighs hit the mattress. Placing a hand in the center of her chest, Cat pushed Billie backwards. Billie allowed herself to fall onto the mattress, but not before grabbing Cat and dragging her down on top of her. Once on the bed, Billie took over and flipped the smaller woman onto her back, kissing her savagely.

Pushing up on Billie's chest, Cat broke the kiss and said, "Oh no, you don't. Not yet, lover.", then she proceeded to flip both of them over again so that she was on top, straddling the taller woman's waist.

Billie looked up at Cat with anticipation as Cat reached over and grabbed her wine glass from the night stand. Taking a large sip and placing the glass back on the stand, she bent down and kissed Billie, transferring the red liquid into the taller woman's mouth. Their mouths locked and soon, their tongues entwined, sharing the taste of the sweet red wine.

The sensual kiss broke Billie's restraint. Grabbing Cat, she once again flipped them over and began to roughly ravage the smaller woman's body, exploring every inch of skin with her hands and mouth. Cat had succeeded in her plan to push Billie to the edge. She secretly loved it when Billie took her roughly, but try as she might, she was seldom able to get the larger woman to let go of her control and to give herself completely to Cat. Tonight, she had won that battle, and now all she had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.

And enjoy it, she did. Billie brought her to the heights of ecstasy no fewer that three times before she begged her to stop, fearing that she would be too tired to return the favor if Billie continued her assault. Determined to treat her lover to much of the same, Cat flipped the larger women back over and once again reached for the wine glass. Looking down into Billie's face, she whispered, "Let the games begin!", as she took a deep sip of the wine, then lowered her mouth to Billie's once more.

The exchange was heated and intense, with Cat struggling on more than one occasion to stay in control. Finally, after threatening to tie Billie to the bed posts, she relented and allowed Cat total dominance. Cat took advantage of the opportunity and for the next hour, proceeded to treat Billie to her own little corner of Heaven... several times in fact, and evening managing to join her there on their last trip.

Falling into a heap on top of the larger woman, Cat wiggled herself into position at Billie's side and buried her head in Billie's shoulder, with her arm draped casually across her waist. Thoroughly exhausted, both women soon fell into a deep sleep, from which they didn't emerge until they were awakened by a piercing scream from their very hungry daughter the next morning.

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

Several days later, after taking the kids out for a Chinese dinner, Billie, Cat and the kids returned home to find the light blinking on the answering machine. While Cat went to change Skylar's diapers, Billie walked over to the machine and pushed the playback button. It was Art McDonough, one of the law partners at her office.

"Billie, this is Art." the message began. "It appears that your Ex has managed to convince the parole board to let him out on good behavior. Being the prosecuting attorneys, we got the call right after you left the office this afternoon. I just thought you'd like to know before you came into work tomorrow and were surprised with it. Try not to worry too much, hopefully, he'll play it smart and stay away from you and Cat. Okay, that's it. I'll see you at work tomorrow. Bye."

"Shit!" Billie yelled, causing a very concerned Cat to come running down the stairs, with a partially diapered Skylar in her arms.

"Billie, what is it!" she asked.

Seeing poor Skylar dangling from her mother's hands only half diapered, she felt bad for startling Cat.

"Here." she said, pushing the playback button on the answering machine. Then taking the child from Cat's arms she said, "Listen to this."

While Cat listened to the message, Billie laid the child on the couch and finished the diapering job.

When the message was over, Cat walked to the couch in a trance and dropped heavily onto it. Looking over at Billie, who was putting the baby down on the floor, she said, "Billie, what are we going to do?"

Seeing the terrified expression on Cat's face, Billie opened her arms for Cat to climb into. Holding her tightly, she said, "Well, first, I need to contact Brian's lawyer and parole officer to see what the terms of his parole are. If they're doing their jobs correctly, he will have already been restricted from contacting you, Seth or Skylar. Of course, being ordered to stay away from you, and him actually obeying the order can be two entirely different things." she observed.

"I'm scared, Billie." Cat admitted.

"Yeah, I know... me too." Billie said. "... but I promise to do everything I can to protect you and the kids, love."

"I know you will, Billie.... I know you will." Cat replied.


"What do you mean, he has no restrictions!" Billie shouted at Brian's lawyer, unable to believe what she was hearing.

Art had gone with her, first to the parole office, then to Brian's lawyer to check the situation out. Turning to him, she said, "Art, you had better start preparing a murder defense, because if he comes near Cat or any one of my children, I will kill him. Is that clear?"

"Is that a threat I hear, Ms. Charland?" the lawyer asked sarcastically.

"You're damned right it is, ass hole, and I mean it... if he comes anywhere near them..." Billie was furious.

"Well, maybe he offered your girlfriend something you can't... did you stop to think that maybe she lured him on?" the man asked stupidly.

Billie lunged at the man, grasping him around the throat and attempting to throttle him to within an inch of his life.

Luckily for the man, Art was with her, otherwise, she may have succeeded.

Pulling her off the man, Art looked over at him and said, "You are a very stupid man. I don't know how you managed to pull this off, but if anything happens to Ms. O'Grady or the children, it will be on your shoulders and I'll see both you and your client go down. Do you understand?" Art left the office, pulling the still furious Billie behind him.

In the car on the way back to the office, Billie kept repeating, "Art, how can this happen... The man is a convicted rapists for Christ's sake!"

"Billie, you know Brian's family comes from money. A few well-placed donations can go a long way with the right politician. I'm not saying that's what happened, but I can't think of another explanation." Art said.

Chewing on her fingernails, and looking out the window, Billie mumbled, "What am I going to do? How can I protect them?"

Art sympathized with her. "I don't know, Billie. Without restrictions, we can't even slap a restraining order on him until he tries something."

"Until he tries something?" she repeated, near hysterics. "Art, by then it may be too late!"


Cat had kept Seth and Tara home from school, fearing for their safety until something was done about Brian. Not wanting to put them in any unnecessary danger, she kept them inside for the day, overriding their complaints and whining.

Around lunch time, Billie called home to check on Cat and the kids. They were all sitting around the kitchen table eating when the phone rang. Cat assured Billie that everything was fine and was just about to hang up when she heard a car door shut in their driveway. "Hold on a minute, Billie, there's someone here." Looking out the window, she saw a flower truck parked in the driveway, with the delivery man heading for the kitchen door carrying a large arrangement of flowers. Returning to the phone, Cat said, "Oh Billie, how nice... You didn't have to send me flowers! Hold on, the delivery man is at the door."

Cat was putting the phone down as Billie shouted into it that she hadn't sent any flowers. Not hearing the warning, Cat went to the door and opened it, not realizing until it was too late that the delivery man was Brian.

"Cat! Cat!" Billie shouted into the phone as sounds of a struggle were heard on the other end. Desperate for any contact from the other end, Billie yelled Cat's name again. Suddenly, the phone was picked up and a man's voice came across the line.

"Hey, Billie. Nice family you have here. From my count, at least two of them are mine, wouldn't you say?" Brian said.

"You bastard!" Billie yelled into the phone. "If you touch any of them, I'll kill you, Brian. So help me god, I'll kill you!" she warned. Suddenly, the other end of the line went dead.

Slamming the phone down, Billie quickly dialed Jennifer and Fred's number. After several rings, a breathless Jennifer answered the phone having just run up a flight of steps from the laundry room in the basement.

"Jen! Thank god you're home!" Billie said.

"Billie? Is everything all right?" Jennifer asked, a little concerned at Billie's tone of voice.

"No, Jen, everything isn't all right. Look, Cat and the kids are in trouble and I need some help." she said.

"Anything you want, Billie, what can I do?" Jennifer asked.

Moments later, Billie had grabbed her car keys and was on her way out the door.

By the time Billie arrived home, the entire neighborhood had assembled in her front yard, masking her arrival from the occupants of the house.

Slipping around the back of the house, Billie let herself into the basement window that she had been meaning to fix since they moved in. She thanked the gods now that she had never gotten around to it.

Inside the house, a very nervous Brian was pacing from window to window, nervous about the gathering of people in the front yard.

"What the hell is going on here, Bitch!" he said to Cat. When she feigned ignorance, he slapped her across the face, sending her to the floor. Seth immediately came to her defense.

"Don't you touch her!" Seth yelled, covering Cat's body with his own.

"Seth, Honey, please go sit on the couch with your sisters before he hurts you too, okay?" Cat said as calmly as possible, wiping the blood off her split lip.

"I won't let him hurt you again, Mama." Seth said again.

"Please, Seth, do as your told. Your sisters are afraid and they need you to be brave for them." Cat tried to appeal to him.

Seth looked over at Tara and Skylar on the couch. Skylar was crying in Tara's arms, but Tara just sat there shooting daggers from her eyes at Brian from across the room. Seth decided that Cat was right, so he went over to calm down the crying Skylar.

Brian watched the scene with amusement. "Brave little guy, isn't he?" Brian comments. "Just like his father!" he added proudly.

That was just too much for Cat to bear. "No, you're wrong." she said. "His father is a coward. His bravery comes from his mother."

That comment was rewarded with another backhand to the face, once more sending Cat to the floor. Seth flung himself at Brian, ineffectively pounding on him with his small fists.

Grabbing Seth's arm, he twisted it until an audible crack was heard. Seth howled out in pain as Brian threw him to the floor next to Cat who quickly gathered him in her arms.

"No! His stupidity comes from his mother. She never knew when to back off either!" Brian yelled.

"So." Cat thought, "He did this to Billie as well. No wonder she hates him so much!"

"Shut that kid up!" Brian screamed at Cat, the crying making him even more nervous that the crowd gathering outside.

Cat rocked Seth back and forth, trying to calm the hysterical child down. "You've broken his arm, Brian. He needs help!" she screamed back at him.

"He'll live." was the only reply from the man pacing back and forth between the living room windows.

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

From Billie's position at the top of the basement stairs, she could hear Skylar crying. Suddenly, she heard a painful howl and she had all she could do to restrain herself from crashing into the kitchen right there and then. Forcing herself to take a calming breath, she slowly pushed the basement door open and slipped into the kitchen unobserved. The crowd on the front lawn was providing the perfect diversion.

From her vantage point on the floor, Cat detected a slight movement from the kitchen and looked up in time to see Billie move quickly from the basement doorway to the wall behind the kitchen entrance. A sense of relief washed over her.

Peaking around the archway from the living room to the kitchen, Billie motioned for Cat to send Brian into the kitchen for something. She planned on clobbering him as he walked through the archway.

"Just what do you plan to accomplish here, Brian." Cat asked, trying to make Brian angry enough to be careless.

"I want what's mine, Bitch." he said.

"And just what would that be?" she provoked.

"Well, by the looks of it, that would be one wife and two kids." he replied.

"I won't let you take these children, Brian. They are no longer yours. They belong to Billie and I." Cat said calmly.

Brian crossed the room in two strides and had Cat by the throat in seconds, causing Seth to start crying again. "If I say they're mine, then they're mine. Understand?" he said, throwing her back to the floor. Brian had no idea how close he had come just then to being attacked by one pissed off, six foot woman.

In her anger, Billie had accidentally knocked a small plaque off the wall she was leaning against, watching helplessly as it fell to the floor.

Hearing the noise, Brian's head shot up toward the kitchen.

Cat quickly recovered and said, "The crowd is probably trying to get in the back door."

"That's what they think!" Brian answered. Looking back to Cat he said, "I'm going to go check it out. If you even think of escaping out the front door, I'll shoot you where you stand, Is that clear?" he asked, drawing a gun out of his jacket pocket.

Cat's eyes grew wide at the sight of the gun. "Oh gods!" she thought. "Billie, please be careful." To Brian, she just nodded her head.

Brian crept toward the kitchen, holding the gun in front of him. As he passed through the archway into the kitchen, he caught a slight movement to his right. He swung around and fired off a shot just as a heavy food processor came crashing down on his head, knocking him out cold.

Cat screamed Billie's name at the sound of the gunshot and ran into the kitchen. Brian was lying in a heap on the floor while Billie had propped herself up against the wall, blood covering the whole front of the cream colored sweater she was wearing. She took one look at Cat then fell over on top of Brian.


Two Months Later

"Cat, what can I do to help?" Jennifer asked.

"Well, you can bring the cake out from the kitchen, then get the kids organized around the picnic table, if you would." she asked her friend.

Jennifer was ready and willing to help out in any way she could. The last couple of months had been hard on her friend and she vowed to be there for her. After all, Cat had done so much for her and her family, it was the least she could do.

Organizing the children around the picnic table was relatively easy, since they were all anxious to eat birthday cake. Cat carried Skylar to the place of honor at the head of the table and placed her in her high chair. Seth and Tara had been seated on each side of the birthday girl to help her blow out the one candle on her cake and to help her open her presents.

Cat had ordered a cake large enough to feed all the kids, and another small cake specifically for Skylar. Placing the smaller cake in front of her, with the candle on it, the children all sang Happy Birthday to her, then Seth and Tara blew out the candle for her. Cat reached over and grabbed the candle from the cake, just before Sky dove in, smearing the chocolate frosting all over her face. Everyone at the table erupted in laughter.

Suddenly, a voice was heard from the far end of the table. "Come on you two... Seth, Tara, move in closer so I can get all three of you in the video."

"Aw , Mom!" Seth and Tara complained together.

"You too, Cat!" the voice said again.

"Aw, Mom!" Cat teased.

"Don't you start in on me too!" Billie said to Cat. "You assigned me the job of photographer, after all... and I do take my work seriously, you know!"

Cat walked over to Billie and wrapped her arms around the taller woman, pulling her head down and placing a kiss on her nose.

Billie still sported the sling which held her arm in position. The bullet had penetrated her shoulder, nicking a main artery. They had almost lost her on the way to the hospital, but she had managed to pull through. Now, with Cat's help, she was undergoing intensive physical therapy on her shoulder to regain full mobility.

"What other job could I assign to my 'one armed bandit' to keep her out of trouble, huh?" Cat asked.

Billie looked down on Cat. "One armed bandit, huh? You didn't seem to mind that I only had one useful arm last night, my dear!" Billie said loud enough for Jennifer to hear, who was standing next to them.

Jennifer looked at them and smiled.

Cat smacked Billie on her good arm. "Billie!" she said, blushing to her roots.

"Ow! Hey, no fair, I can't defend myself!" Billie complained.

Cat just snickered. "You... defenseless? I think not... "

"And just what do you mean by that?" Billie asked.

Cat stood on tiptoes to place an affectionate kiss on Billie's mouth. "What I mean, love, is that you have the ability to knock me out with a simple look... no hands necessary... and if I'm lucky, you'll be able to do that to me forever." Cat explained.

"Forever?" Billie asked.

"Forever." Cat replied.


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