Disclaimer One: Sigh, I do miss our beloved bard and warrior. These two characters have a strange physical likeness to them. Don't sue me Universal, Ren pics, etc. I'm just borrowing them.

Disclaimer Two: Sex? Yeah, a little. Foul language? Uh huh, some of that too, but I know you'll read it anyway. I know it's been a long while. You might want to brush up by re-reading Deep.

It goes out to the Mindom. You guys are the shit!! LOL

(13th Installment of R Place Series)

Copyright © 2001

A breathy moan filled the silent room, making it come to life. The figure on the bed arched and twisted her body to follow the path of imaginary lips. They fluttered against her skin---warm and moist. Tara whimpered as the knowledgeable mouth grazed the underside of her breasts, while phantom hands mapped a teasing pattern across every inch of skin that they could reach. The brunette’s fingers dug into the sheets under her, ripping them from the mattress as pleasure coursed through her body. Each limb felt heavy and slicked with sweat, while a different kind of wetness pooled elsewhere, leaving her hungry, needy.

Tara groaned as the hands traveled down to torture her thighs. Soft fingertips and blunt nails left a fiery trail as they moved from the outside in, closer to her own source of burning heat. The mechanic’s legs parted at the invasion, and her back arched as her lover’s mouth opened wide over a nipple, creating a hot, moist suction. Small, agile fingers inched closer, and Tara held her breath in anticipation, only to cry out in relief when those same fingers spread the lips of her sex like a parting flower. The tiny appendages were relentless, rubbing in a rhythm that was hot and heavy. Finally, the digits filled her to the hilt, pumping deep and strong. Fingers raked against sensitive walls creating delicious friction that left the dark haired woman’s body jerking and crying out for more.

Tara jerked awake with a gasp as pleasurable tingles buzzed through her body like electric current. She cried out in utter frustration. Expert hands snaked down between her legs to finish the job. After three strokes, she yelled her release to the ceiling, and as her body pulsed with aftershocks, the tears started. The loneliness set in. It was the most wicked of tortures.

Still trembling slightly, Tara sat up in bed. The covers fell away, revealing her naked form. She covered her face with her hands, letting the tears fall and her mind wander. I swore I could feel you baby. I could almost smell you. It seems like ages since I touched you, but it’s only been a couple of weeks. I’m hanging in there. I don’t have a choice. The mechanic wiped at the tears with the back of her hands before fiddling with the blankets in her lap. Pale blue eyes scanned the room, seeing the strawberry blonde everywhere from the color scheme of the bedroom to the little bric-a-brac scattered about the bedroom. Still, somehow it managed to look empty, and the writer’s absence left the mechanic the same way. Tara let out a shaky breath. “I should be the one living with Jake, but I guess she had to get away from all this. I can’t blame her.” Tara filled the room with the sound of her voice, and while each word held truth in feeling, they were tinged with a hollowness that even she was aware of.

Large hands riffled through midnight tresses mussing them up further. She peered out the window. The sky was overcast, and large, fat drops of rain pelted the glass. It all went along with the slight chill still present in the air, despite the coming Spring. I used to love the rain. One side of her mouth lifted in a warbly smile, then fell abruptly as childhood memories gave way to her present predicament. “I can’t stay here like this either. Maybe it’s time to visit the shop. It could be just what I need to get my hands dirty.” Something had to stifle the pain to bring back the burst of hope she had before this all started.

Tara turned to the phone on the bedside table as if waiting for it to ring. It seemed like it had at least a hundred times the past couple weeks with calls from Shannon, Wayne, and Jake---all asking if she was okay and ending with her begging them not to come over. The most important calls were the ones from the writer. They were sometimes filled with awkward silence; sometimes hesitant laughter; sometimes concern; and often times the mundane, consisting of a blow by blow of day to day activities. Either way, it was a start. The calls and the appointments with Dr. White had become a lifeline, serving as her only links with Gabrielle. It was a start indeed.

Now sitting on the side of the bed, Tara rubbed her naked thighs nervously. I’ll leave a message on the machine so that she’ll know where I am. Maybe today will be the day Red comes to see me. Her heart thumped in triple time and her palms began to sweat with the knowledge that she would not know what to say anyway. The word sorry loses its effectiveness after a couple hundred times. After the separation, the first session with Dr. White was overrun with that word along with the occasional angry screaming.

Every time Tara opened her mouth, it spilled out piercing the quiet between them that had become so thick that the heaviest of swords could not pierce it, but the writer’s sobs could-- just as they did her heart. The other sessions progressed slowly one word at a time. Without a physical presence, the phone calls were easier but only marginally. It was like baking from scratch without having the slightest idea how to cook.

Tara let out a long sigh and reached for the answering machine, recording the new message in a monotonous voice. The anger that ruled the writer seemed to be gone, but the mechanic had to deal with her own fury at herself. “It’s got to get better, and maybe someday I'll be able to forgive myself,” she whispered to herself as she pushed up from the bed, shuffling toward the bathroom. Halfway there, the phone rung. Tara sneered at the offensive object before turning back toward her prior destination. She wouldn’t call this early. The brunette told herself. She entered the bathroom just as the beep sounded. The next sound took her breath away.

”Hey,” the writer said hesitantly. “I guess I’ll try you at the shop.”

Tara broke into a dead run. Getting to the nightstand, she lunged for the phone and knocked it off its perch. She growled at her clumsiness and shouted down at the receiver that had come off the base. “Hold on, Gab!” The mechanic plopped down on the floor, ignoring the itch of the carpet against her naked skin. With shaking fingers, she reached for the phone, dropping it several times. “Dammit!”

On the other end, Gabrielle cringed, but for some reason the sound of the brunette swearing relaxed her. She’s as nervous as I am about all of this.

Tara took a deep breath and brought the phone to her ear. “Um, hey you still there?”

”Yeah, I’m here.” Gabrielle paused grasping for straws and words. “I didn’t catch you at a bad time did I? I know it’s early. . .”

Before she could stop them, words of sentiment eased past her lips. “But it’s you. I don’t mind because it’s you.” Pale blue eyes closed in irritation at her inability to control her heart.

Silence engulfed them. The writer swallowed hard. She says these things, and they used to mean so much. They still do, but it’s hard to believe. I don’t know what to say to them.

Tara let out a pained sigh. “Look. I’m sorry. This is hard to get used to. You know?”

Gabrielle scooted back into the bed that smelled distinctly like the mechanic. With one hand she pulled the covers to her as she leaned against the headboard for support. She closed her eyes and brought the blanket up to her nose, sniffing it and surrounding herself in a familiar scent and warmth. I miss you. “Yeah, I know.”

The quiet lapsed between them again, extending until there was only the sound of breathing. Gabrielle pushed a hand through red gold tresses. This is getting us no where. There’s got to be a starting point, a beginning. I’m hurt, but I don’t want this over. “Make sure you bundle up and cover your head. It’s raining out.” That is so not what I wanted to say.

Tara looked back up at the uncovered window. “I noticed, and I will.” Needing something to do with all the nervous energy, she picked her nails then began chewing on them. The need to talk to someone besides the furniture opened her up if only momentarily. “I was just thinking this morning how I used to. . . “ she muffled over the fingers in her mouth.

”I can’t understand you. Get your fingers out of your mouth,” the writer commented softly.

Tara dropped her hand guiltily. “Uh, how did you know?”

A smile spread slowly over the blonde’s features. It felt good. “I could hear you chomping. Now, what were you saying?”

A little flustered by the mirth in the writer’s voice, the mechanic had to search her brain for a starting point. I think these are the most words we’ve said to each other. “Uhm, when I was a, ah, teenager, I loved the rain. Used to stay out in it until my clothes got all soggy and I made that sloshing sound when I walked. It used to drive my mom crazy. She used to say that I was too old to be acting like that. After she left, I didn’t do it anymore. I guess I figured that it was time to grow up.”

Gabrielle sucked in a breath. “I-I didn’t know that.” I bet there’s a lot that I don’t know.

Tara shrugged naked shoulders. “I was just thinking about it this morning and Doc White said to share the little things that we might not know about each other.”

”Yes, she did say that.” Gabrielle searched her conscious but came up blank and the words stuck in her throat. Why can’t I do this? I have to open up to her. Still, she remained silent.

The brunette swallowed audibly. God, Red you can’t even trust me with a little bit of you. Can you? I don’t blame you. “Um, it’s okay. You don’t have to. . .”

The writer balled an angry fist into the burgundy comforter. “I hate this,” she interrupted.

The breath rattled in the back of Tara’s throat. “Uh, m-maybe I should let you go now.” She pinched the bridge of her nose in hopes of keeping tears at bay.

Gabrielle sat up ramrod straight in the bed. “No! I didn’t mean. I mean, I hate not being able to talk to you like we used to.” That’s funny. A derisive laugh spilled from her lips. “But, I guess we didn’t talk about the things we should have, huh?”

The tone of the blonde’s voice made Tara cringe. “Yeah, I think you’re right about that one.” Her voice was soft but full of sadness. She began picking her nails again.

A blanket of stillness covered them, giving them time to think, to feel, and to reflect. Is she as miserable as I am? I think knowing that she’s having trouble sleeping and getting through the day like I am it will lift some of this weight off my shoulders. “How are you, T?” Gabrielle asked softly, reverently.

The mechanic sucked in a breath. “You haven’t asked me that since. . .well you know.”

The writer dropped her eyes to study the pattern on the stitching on the comforter. She plucked at a loose string. “Yeah, well I was hoping you were as miserable as me but was afraid to ask.”

”Well, to be honest then I’m somewhere between miserable and FUBAR,” Tara added.

Gabrielle snorted despite the seriousness of the situation. “Now that’s the T that I know—the one that doesn’t pull any punches.”

The dark haired woman pulled her knees up to her chest and smirked. “Yeah, I’m still in here.” She paused and threw caution to the wind. “You know, it seems like forever since we’ve talked this much.”

Fair brows drew together in contemplation. “I know. I didn't know what to say to you for a while there.”

Tara wrapped an arm around her bent knees. “Now you do?” Her tone was hopeful and her heart searched each word from the writer’s mouth for something solid to hold on to.

Gabrielle grasped for the right words. “Maybe everyday it’s getting easier. I think talking on the phone is helping a lot. It hurt so bad at first. . .” The writer’s words trailed off as pain lodged in her chest and throat. She felt tears prickle her eyes and glanced toward the ceiling in hopes of keeping them from falling. I didn’t think anything could hurt like that, and I never knew you’d be the one to do it. She whispered internally as the words refused to come. Gabrielle’s mouth opened and closed several times but nothing came out.

”Ah, Red. I’m. . .

”No! Don’t you dare say it!” The words came at last. Her voice shook with emotion. “I know you’re sorry, but we’ve got to. . .move past that somehow and figure out the why.”

Baby blue’s squeezed shut, and Tara’s hands clinched into fists. Her arms ached to be around the strawberry blonde, but at the same time, she felt the need for punishment for the pain that lingered between them. I screwed up that’s why. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Somebody has to start this or we’ll never get to where we need to go. Gabrielle cleared her throat. “Um, why did you tell me? It’s not as if I would have ever found out.”

The mechanic took in a deep, painful breath and rubbed a hand over her face. I should have expected this question sooner or later. Now, how do I answer it? She let the breath go, and the words spilled from her. “I knew, and it a lot of ways that should have been enough. But, I think it was a combination of my own guilt and the fact that I could not do to you what all the women in my life have done to me—lie. I was becoming something I couldn’t live with, so how could I ask you to?” She paused. “I hope that made sense.”

Gabrielle was quiet for what seemed like an eternity. Her hands fidgeted with the edges of the comforter before tugging on the oversized t-shirt she was wearing. Dull pain swirled around her along with sadness. It’s what was left after the anger. I never thought that this would be us. Finally, she spoke. “I-I’m not going to lie to you. Part of me wishes that you kept this to yourself, but the other parts of me never want to see you hurt for any reason. To be totally honest, I'm not ready to ask why you did it. I'm too scared of what I might hear."

A thick lump lodged in Tara's throat, making it hard to swallow or speak. The heavy weight of guilt lay on her shoulders like it belonged there. "Um, I guess that I can understand that." The weight became crushing and she longed to be cleansed of it. It was too much. "Uh, I'm gonna go so I can hop in the shower and get to the shop while it's still early." Her voice was flat, but the emotion deeply hidden was stifling. Tara stood up, bringing the phone with her.

"Oh, okay." Gabrielle could not keep the surprise out of her voice. "Uhm, maybe I'll call you at the shop later?" Even with the seriousness of the conversation, she did not want it to end. It had been a while since they had experienced such openness.

"Okay. Bye," the mechanic whispered. She held the phone to her ear a second longer before lowering it to its base. Tara turned back toward the bathroom, needing the hard pelt of hot water to wash and sting away emotions that threatened to decimate her.

Gabrielle listened to the soft click then the dial tone. "Bye," she husked.


The strawberry blonde buried herself under the covers and willed sleep to reclaim her. The sandman didn't listen. The smell of the brunette wafted to her nose, reminding her body, her heart, and mind of what she was missing. She let out a muted curse and sat up in the bed, fixing the covers around her waist.

For a couple of days after she learned of Tara's secret, Gabrielle slept little and woke up in anger, wanting to scream, rant and rave. Then, the pain came, threatening to tear her apart, and she felt it all rawly, deeply. 'It was just a kiss,' she tried to tell herself, but there is no such thing as a little betrayal. Now, she was knee deep in the loneliness and guilt. Gabrielle covered her face with her hands. If I ask myself one more time what I did or what I didn't do to cause this one more time, I'll scream. I love her with all that I am, but there's something wrong between us. I want to find out what that is and fix it because I can't be without her. Remembering the gaunt, haggard face of the mechanic during their last session, the writer whispered, "And I think she feels the same."

She dropped her hands back into her lap. "I know she was hurt by me pushing her away, but I thought she understood why I did. How can that make her go to someone else?" Gabrielle asked the air.

Jake pushed the door open all the way and pushed away from the wall. "Did you know that virtually every woman in T's life has hurt her?"

The writer let out a surprised squeak as the air talked back.

Jake held out a placating hand before adjusting his blue pajama bottoms and sitting down on the edge of the bed. "Sorry." He smiled at her and scratched the top of his head, musing his short dark hair further.

Gabrielle smiled back, "S'okay. Um, what you said? I knew about Caitlin, but—"

"You're the first real relationship she's had since the whole Caitlin thing. There were women, but they were few and far between. I'm not going to lie to you. I thought you were just one of them, but somehow you got through."

"Whoa, I didn't know that." Gabrielle worried her bottom lip in contemplation. "I'm not trying to be mean, but what does this have to do—"

Jake gave her an incredulous look. "C'mon Gab. Don't be obtuse. It probably has a lot to do with it. I'm no psych doc, but think about it. The way she's been hurt, and then she feels like you reject her. It may make sense in her mind to go where she's wanted even if it's for a hot minute. I'm not taking sides, but I can see it from both perspectives here." He peered at the strawberry blonde thoughtfully.

Gabrielle could feel the anger at being interrupted fall back to where it belonged. She turned surprised eyes to Jake. He made sense. It's something to think about. "Oh, I-I didn't think. . .oh." She paused and swallowed. "I sorta figured that this was my fault. I didn't mean to shut her out. I just didn't know what else to do." A frantic expression passed across her features.

Jake grabbed a fidgeting hand from the strawberry's blonde lap. "I'm not authority on relationships, but I know it takes two."

The writer nodded but her look was solemn. "That's easy to say, but I can't help but to think that if I was more comfortable in my skin none of this would have happened."

"Yeah, but that doesn't make it your fault, Red. Besides don't you think guilt is just about eating T alive right now too?"

"I figured that. I wanted to stay mad, Jake, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. I just want us back." Her voice cracked on the last word, and Gabrielle turned away, tired of people seeing her breakdown.

Jake squeezed the hand in his. "I know kiddo, but you need to get yourself together first. You haven't been out of this house in weeks other than to go to the doctor and pick up your clothes. Go out, and start getting comfortable in that skin of yours." Dark brows wriggled, and Gabrielle found herself chuckling as she wiped at her eyes.

"You know you really looked like her when you did that."

Jake sniggered. "I know family curse, magic eyebrows."

"Listen, you're right. I do need to get out—"

"Great!" He clapped his hands in enthusiasm. "I've got some stuff to do around the house, but how bout I take you out for a late breakfast or an early lunch, which ever you prefer. Don't think I haven't noticed that you're not eating." He reached forward and wiped at the dark smudge under her eyes. "Or sleeping well."

Ignoring his more than astute observations, Gabrielle reached out and tugged hard on his ear. "Will you let me get a full sentence out!" She said in mock anger.

"Ow!" Jake smacked at her hand. "Sorry! Go on."

Satisfied, Gabrielle dropped her hold. "Thank you and yes." She went silent and watched in amusement as pale blue eyes narrowed in irritation.

"That's all!" Jake threw his hands up in exasperation.

"Well yeah! Were you expecting a soliloquy?"

Jake growled as he got up from the bed. "Damned lesbians!! I'll see you later."

"Right back at ya queenie!" She yelled at his retreating back. "Thank you very much, Jake for the kick in the pants," Gabrielle murmured to the empty room.

Jake headed back toward his own bedroom. "I guess it is a good thing that I check up on her from time to time." Upon entering his bedroom, he headed for the bathroom. Shaking his head, he turned on the water for a shower and removed his pajamas. "You've been taking care of me all these years, sis, and I'm going back to school this summer thanks to you. Well, it's time I take care of you a little bit." Jake's words tapered off as he entered the shower, reaching for the body wash and sponge. The warm water plastered his hair to his head. He moved it away with a flick of a hand. His mind wandered back to his sister as the water beat against his skin. I'd kill for what you have. You two belong together, and I'm gonna make sure you stay that way.


The noon hour had only diminished the rain to a sprinkle, but it still hung in the air just as the clouds did. Tara threw the bike part, wrapped in the rag, on top of her desk. She unwrapped it and wiped dirty hands on still too clean coveralls then commenced looking for the serial number to add to the long list of inventory. The mechanic let out a breath strong enough to disturb her bangs. Why am I doing this when I know everything is on that computer? "Maybe I need to reopen the shop completely it. It could help me get through the days easier," Tara commented aloud. But who's going to make the nights easier? Some voice in her head whispered. The brunette snorted and wiped a hand over her face, smudging it with the grease that still clung to her skin. Tara banged the desk hard with her fist. "How could I be so fucking stupid?! Just because she pushed me away, I should have known that she still needed me. I should have known!"

A loud thump against the glass door made her jump. Tara looked up to see the goofiest sight ever. Shannon and Wayne, with their face and mouths mushed against the glass, peered at her. The glass became cloudy with their steady breaths and slimy as Shannon began licking it. Tara couldn't help herself. She threw back her head and laughed. The two young men gave her a warped smile in return before they let themselves in.

Tara gave them both a crooked smirk as they walked in wiping their mouths. "You know, I really should learn to lock that door. The weirdest people come in here. Why aren't you two at work?"

"Oh har har. It's Saturday." Shannon replied as he removed his jacket. He held up his hands as the mechanic opened her mouth to speak again. "Before you say anything else, don't get mad. You said we couldn't come to the house. You didn't say anything about the shop." His expression changed from genial to somber as he gave her the once over. "I can understand why to. You look like shit. . .oof."

Wayne elbowed his lover in the side. "Shannon!" He peered at the tall woman seeing the fire rise in her eyes. "Allow me to say it with a little more tact. You're not looking too good, T. Have you been eating? You've lost some weight." His usual jovial features were drawn in concern.

Crossing her arms over her chest, Tara answered in an angry grunt and a shrug of her shoulders. She could feel the anger filter through her. It was the only thing that held the guilt and loneliness at bay. I just want to be left alone. This is between me and Red, her inner voice screamed. She pounded her fist against the desk once more. "That's not any of your business now is it? I was trying to be nice when you guys called. You're Red's friends not mine." Her tone was tight and dripping with acid and she peered at them through narrowed eyes, hoping it would scare them away.

No such luck. The two men stepped closer. Even though Shannon was smaller, he was the first one to comment on the brunette's tirade. "You know that's where you're wrong. When you got with Gab, you got us too. We've known her for a long, long time, and damn it, if she's gonna love, you then we are too!" His chest heaved, and his face was taut with anger and worry.

Wayne wrapped an arm around his smaller lover and rubbed the top of his own head where blonde hair used to be. "He's right, so get used to it. You're a part of our little family."

Tara felt the anger deflate with impressive quickness. It left her stunned and her mouth open. She sat down heavily on the edge of the desk. "I-I don't know what to say." She looked down at her fidgeting hands then back up at the men.

"Nothing if you don't want to, just accept it," Shannon added.

Tara wanted to fight it. There had never been anybody but Jake until the saucy strawberry blonde appeared. Now, there were more people to hurt, but it was bigger than that, she had so much more. It felt good, and for once, she let it. Her eyes softened as she gazed at them, and she pushed a shaking hand through her hair. "Um, thanks guys." The mechanic's voice trembled. "Sorry about what I said earlier. I'm just really wound up right now."

The couple smiled in understanding and closed the distance between them. Shannon grabbed his lover's coat and threw it on the counter before they joined Tara by the desk. The shorter man reached out a hesitant hand to rub the brunette's back. Shannon expected her to jump away but sighed in relief when he felt tense muscles relax somewhat. "So, you're not doing so good, huh? I figure Gab is not doing any better. She won't let us see her either."

Tara crossed her arms over her chest again and snorted. "Yeah, I can sympathize, and I guess you could call wallowing in self pity and guilt not doing so good. I miss her something awful, guys, but I can't even get her to see me outside the doctor's office. I can't blame her though. I blame myself. I screwed up big time. I mean, how could I do that to her?" She split her gaze between both of them

Wayne wrapped a long arm around her shoulders. The sleeve of the green cashmere sweater he was wearing felt warm and soft against the back of her neck. "You're human that's how, and it was just a kiss, T. You came to your senses and ended up where you belonged."

Tara shrugged and sighed, "Yeah, but it's not that simple. It's not the kiss so much but what was behind it. I abandoned her when she needed me even though I didn't think she did. I don't know how to begin to fix this. All we do is talk on the phone, but I have to admit we talked more today than we had in the last few weeks. It felt good."

Shannon peered at his friend's profile, seeing the dark smudges and gaunt features. "Well, you need to keep talking, and you have to get past all this. It's the past, and you have to let it go to fix what's wrong in the present." A slow smirk stole over his features. "Hey, that sounded real good didn't it?"

Tara raised an eyebrow and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, it did, and it makes sense too. So, I need to deal with me before I can deal with us?"

Shannon leaned forward, catching his lover's eye. "Is that what I said?"

It was Wayne's turn to roll his eyes. "Yeah, pretty much."

Shannon nodded and smiled. "Then, yeah do that, and be patient with her and yourself."

Tara looked at the shorter man thoughtfully. "I'm hoping that opening the shop back up will help with that. I'll have something to keep me busy."

"Good idea." Wayne smiled, showing his dimples and making blue eyes twinkle. "In the meantime, how about letting us treat you to a cheap lunch at Denny's? You can drown some of those sorrows in some chili cheese fries." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Tara looked from one man to the other, taking in their jeans and sweaters. Then, she looked down at her own attire: a dirty t-shirt and coveralls. "Sounds good, but let me clean up a little first."

After the mechanic left the room, the two men turned to each other. "Phew, she had me going there for a minute," Shannon commented.

Wayne reached out to push a lock of dark hair behind his lover's ear. "Me too, but she shouldn't go through this alone. It'll only make it worse. I'm glad she let us in."


Tara looked at herself in the mirror. Pale blue eyes stared back at her, shining with loss and loneliness. She sighed and looked away before turning on the faucet. "Everyone seems to be pulling for us. I have to keep believing that this will all turn out all right. She's the one. I know she is."


They entered the moderately crowded Denny's. Shannon spotted a booth near the back, and both Wayne and Tara followed. The mechanic slid in on one side, and her two male friends scooched in to the left of her.

Shannon tapped the brunette on the shoulder. "Remember we said cheap lunch, so don't you go ordering the t-bone steak." He smiled rakishly.

Blue eyes narrowed. "Keep it up smart ass, and I'll order two of everything." She ended the sentence with a smirk and chuckle. Her head lowered, and long black tresses obscured her face as seriousness took over. "Um, thanks guys for making me laugh. I haven't done that in a while. It means a lot." With the slight toss of her head, sable strands teemed back over her shoulders. Tara looked from one man to the other. Gratefulness and nervousness shined in her eyes. "I'm not heavy on the words, but I usually mean what I say."

The couple beamed at her. Wayne glanced at this partner. "Well, maybe we should get her the t-bone?"

Shannon nodded in the affirmative. "Yeah, with all the kissing up she's doing."

Tara rolled her eyes for the hundredth time and elbowed the brunette in reply. With wide smiles firmly planted, they all looked up in greeting to the waitress. The young woman took a step back in suspicion, especially when she heard the low growl. Shannon bumped the mechanic with a shoulder. "Stop that. You're scaring her." He turned back to the waitress and smiled innocently as she stepped forward to give them menus.

"Uh, can I get you all something to drink?" The young waitress asked nervously.

Three pair of eyes peered at her again. The growl came from a different direction this time. Shannon popped his lover on the back of the head.


"I can't take you two out anywhere!" Shannon gave the other occupants of the booth a stare down before returning his gaze to the waitress. He leaned forward, trying to catch a glimpse of her nametag. "I'm sorry, Dottie. We'll all have cokes."

Scribbling on her notepad, Dottie turned to go but not before eyeing them warily.

They all glared at each other before dissolving into chuckles. I needed this. Tara whispered to herself. "We need to make sure and leave her a nice tip for putting up with us. You know, I almost forgot how much fun you two are."

Wayne eased out of his coat, and the other two followed suit. "Well, we're gonna remind you today."


Jake entered Denny's behind, Gabrielle. He spotted a small booth and immediately steered them toward it by placing a hand at the small of the strawberry blonde's back. He made sure that the writer was situated first before sliding in on the other side.

Gabrielle smiled at the man who's gentleness and temperament reminder her so much of her lover. "Jake, I think you were right big time. I needed this. It feels good to get out."

He grinned back. "Yeah, I figured that it would. Now, I need to get you to eat." He gave her a meaningful stare.

The writer's head hung. "I know. I just haven't felt like doing much of anything lately, except take long hot baths. But, I think I brought my appetite with me today."

"That's good." Jake removed his coat and adjusted the beige crew neck sweater. "You're looking better too. Out of your pj's and all."

Gabrielle looked down at the gray sweatshirt and faded jeans. "Well, I think you helped with that, and so did your sister. I called her this morning."

Jake ignored the waitress as she handed them menus. "And?"

The petite woman glanced up at the waitress. "OJ for me, and a coke for him, please." She nodded and walked away. "And, it was almost easy to talk to her. Pain got in the way a little bit, but we got past it for the most part. Things are still shaky, but I learned some important things." Gabrielle smiled and opened the menu. She glanced back up to see Jake staring at her curiously. "I didn't know she liked to play in the rain."

Recognition lit his dark features, and he chuckled. "Oh, yeah! I was young, but I remember she used to come in soaking wet even in a thunderstorm, while I would be somewhere cowering in a corner."

The strawberry blonde let out a loud bark of laughter. "I can almost picture it!" She laughed again.


Tara's head jerked upward at the familiar sound. "Guys! Shhh!" Oh, baby am I going crazy? I could have sworn that I heard you. The mechanic stood up to look around until she got to the front of the restaurant. Blue eyes so much like her own caught her. Jake waved.

Gabrielle glared at him quizzically. "Who are you waving at?"

Jake shrugged and smiled. "Turn around and look for yourself."

She did, and her breath stopped.

Tara presence towered over her, making her appear larger than life even from so far away. The writer's stomach knotted and her heartbeat tripled as if she were seeing the brunette for the first time. Even from across the room, Gabrielle could feel the intensity in pale blue. Oh God! Look at her. I miss her so much.

Shannon grabbed the mechanic's hand. "What's so interesting over there?" He stood up too, following the woman's gaze. A slow smile formed. "Oh, that's what."

Wayne looked at his lover for clarification. "Gab's here."

"Ohh," the blonde man replied.

Tara did not hear a word. Her mind and body were in tune to the petite woman a few feet away. She didn't move. She didn't blink. She just whispered, "Beautiful," and continued to stare. The sight of the writer was all she needed to restore hope. Even though, they had seen each other a few days before in the doctor's office, this was different. There was no pressure and no strings, just the whole gang together like old times. I'm here, baby. I'm right here, and I'm not going anywhere. I will get though this, and so will we.

Jake reached out to touch the writer's arm. "Gab?"

Gabrielle jumped in surprise and slowly dragged her gaze away. "Uhm, huh?" She brought her hands up to her flushed face, trapping the heat in her cheeks.

Jake smiled softly. "Do you want to go over there and maybe sit with them?"

Green eyes widened in part surprise and part fear. "I-I don't know. We haven't—"

Jake squeezed the flesh under his hand. "Listen, you don't have to say or do anything that you don't want to, even to her. But, you do have friends over there who are worried about you—"

Maybe it's time to try. Nothing can be solved if I just sit still. The petite woman's expression was solemn. "Yeah, let's go over there," she interrupted.

Grabbing their coats, Jake did not wait for her to have second thoughts. He rose and motioned to the waitress, telling her they were moving to another table. With the same hand at the strawberry blonde's back, he guided her toward the back of the restaurant.

Azure eyes widened to the size of saucers as she saw the two figures moving toward them. Frantic now, she looked down at Shannon. "She's coming over here! What do I do?!"

Shannon squeezed her hand. "Calm down. You wanted to see her. Just be patient with her, but don't expect the whole barrel right now."

Tara nodded even as the words went over her head. With wild eyes, she turned to Wayne, who nodded his head in confirmation. The mechanic slowly slid back down into her seat. "Okay, okay. I can do this." I can. I really can. She wiped sweaty palms against her jeans and willed her heart to slow.

Jake and Gabrielle inched closer to the table. The writer tried to clamp down on her nervousness, but it pushed forward hard, making her fidget.

Feeling the muscles in the blonde's back tense up, Jake leaned forward and whispered. "It's okay. Just calm down. You know everybody here."

Then, just like that the comfort he offered was gone as she watched him slide into the booth beside Wayne, leaving her the side by Tara. Jake greeted the other men warmly, and he stood up slightly to reach over and ruffle his sister's hair. She paid him no mind. Shannon and Wayne met the same front with Gabrielle. She peered at them blankly before returning her gaze to the tall brunette. Knowing the women needed a modicum of privacy, the three men conversed among themselves.

Wide eyed and more nervous than ever, they gazed at each other shyly. Gabrielle swallowed and opened her mouth to speak. A screech came out, and her mouth closed with an audible snap. C'mon, Red. We've got to start somewhere.

Tara lowered her eyes. C'mon. C'mon, T. Don't run from this. Gathering resolve, she stood up and broke the silence between them. "Uhm, hi. You, uh, don't have to sit here. I can make one of them move." She gave the three men a menacing stare, which they ignored.

It's now or never. "Uh, no, it's okay. I can sit here."

Tara stood until the writer was seated. She scooted over as much as she could, giving the strawberry blonde a wide berth. They glanced at each other from the corner of their eyes. Again, Tara was the first to speak, "I didn't plan this or anything."

Shocked green met blue. "I didn't think you did. I know you wouldn't do something like that."

As if on some weird cue, they turned toward the three men sitting near them. "What?" They said almost simultaneously.

Tara squinted in suspicion. "Did you three have something to do with this?" The mechanic pointed at the writer then herself.

"No!" Again, it was almost simultaneous.

Through emerald eyes, Gabrielle peered at her two long time friends. "Really?"

"Really," Shannon answered for the both of them. "Now that I have your attention, Gab, it's good to see you, but you look about as ragged as this one here." He pointed to Tara.

Wayne shouldered his lover. "Sorry, Gab. He doesn't seem to have any tact today."

Thank God for coincidences. "It's okay. Maybe I needed to see you guys. All of you." Her gaze landed on the mechanic.

Tara could feel the heat in her cheeks, she lowered her head and long tresses hid the evidence. Gabrielle itched to push sable strands away. She missed the softness of it.

Dottie's return interrupted them all. She eyed the larger group warily. "Um, are you ready to order?"

Tara raised her hand sheepishly. "Yeah, I am. I'll have the turkey club, and instead of the regular fries, I want an order of chili cheese fries."

Dottie nodded.

The writer was the next to speak up. "Um, I'll have the chicken sandwich and chili cheese fries on the side, please." She glanced up at the feel of eyes on her. Tara snatched her gaze away.

"Uh, we could share the fries?" She asked hopefully. "I could just get an extra helping on the plate." God, I don't ever remember feeling this awkward as a teenager. I guess because this means. . .everything. The brunette moved her sweaty hands under the table, wiping them on her jeans once more.

Dottie waited patiently.

Gabrielle fingered the silverware nervously. I used to do anything to be close to her, and I don't think that's changed. I just think my memory got refreshed. She glanced at the space between them and longed to close it. "I, uh, that's fine."

Tara glanced back up at the waitress. "We can do that, right?"

"Yeah, but it will cost extra," Dottie replied.

The mechanic jerked her thumb in Wayne's direction. "It's okay. He's paying."

Dottie took the rest of the orders and left them alone.

Tara scanned the table, seeing the three men in their own conversation, she glanced at the writer and searched for a neutral subject. "Just like old times, huh?"

Their gazes met and lingered. Gabrielle could feel herself getting lost until she remembered that she was just spoken to. "Oh yeah, it is, but we need Lil here too."

Tara nodded, "Yeah, you're right. How are they by the way?"

"They're doing good. Jamie misses you. They were having some trouble with mom, but she's coming around. You should call them."

Tara smiled. "Yeah, I should. I miss them too."

Quiet lapsed between them, but the shy looks continued. Gabrielle felt compelled to end it well. She gave me a little on the phone today, and I think it's time for me to do the same. Some of the hesitancy that existed during the phone call dissipated with the easiness of the surroundings. "Remember when we went home to my parents, and I told you that I was sort of a preppie nerd?"

Tara head reeled at the sudden change of subject. It was vintage Gabrielle. She looked at the writer quizzically as she tried to regain her bearings. "Uh, yeah. I remember. Why?"

Gabrielle bit her bottom lip and smiled sheepishly. "I was sort of a klutz too."

Still confused, the mechanic waited for more.

The writer read the expression on the brunette's face and started to finger the silverware again. "Uhm, I was just trying to share something about . . myself."

Understanding dawned. "Ohhh, go on. I'm listening." I'm such an idiot sometimes.

"Well, I, uhm, was awful in chemistry class, knocking over beakers and test tubes. I almost set the teacher's lab coat on fire once. I accidentally bumped into her and she got way to close to the Bunsen Burner."

Tara chuckled heartily.

Entranced by the sound, Gabrielle watched. "I haven't heard that in a long time."

Tara smiled, "I haven't felt like doing it in a long time." Her gaze was thoughtful. The urge to touch a cheek and tweak the writer's nose was strong. Old habits die hard. Tara threw her arm over the back of the booth and clenched her fist, ordering her hands to be still. "Tell me more." Blue eyes twinkled with merriment and interest. I want to know everything.

"My friends used to call me danger prone Daphne. You know, like from the Scooby-Doo cartoon? It used to sting, but I got used to it somehow. I grew out of it. I think it was just a geeky teenage thing, but I know everyone was holding their breath on Graduation day waiting for me to trip across the stage."

Tara threw back her had and laughed. Gabrielle found herself joining in. She glanced toward her friends to see three pairs of eyes staring back at her. The writer ducked her head in embarrassment. Seeing the petite woman's sudden change in demeanor, Tara looked toward the three men to see them peering back with amusement shining in their eyes. She gave them an icy glare that made them turn away quickly.

The brunette leaned toward the writer. "Ignore the peanut gallery over there."

Gabrielle released a chuckle and met the mechanic's gaze. "They are like nosey old women aren't they?" She murmured.

Tara snorted. "The nosiest."

They all looked up as Dottie returned. She sat the plates down with a quiet thump and refilled glasses.

Blue and green eyes converged on the steaming plate piled high with fries, chili and cheese. Gabrielle picked up the fork that she had been playing with for some time.

"I think we'd better tackle this first. You think?" Tara asked.

"Yeah." The writer eyed the distance between them, knowing by the brunette's side was where she wanted to be. She scooted over. Her body hummed in delight at the familiar heat engulfing her. We have to fix this, so I can get back to where I belong. Gabrielle glanced upward to see sky blue eyes studying her. The blush rose quickly, reddening her neck and cheeks. "I, um, didn't want to make a mess." To keep from saying more, she stuffed her mouth with food.

Tara smiled indulgently. It feels so good to have her close, even for a little while. "It's okay. Eat up."

Spurts of idle chit chat erupted as they ate followed by bouts of companionable silence. Tara could not tear her eyes away from the writer but tied valiantly to be discreet. A kick under the table made her turn to Shannon. He looked at her knowingly. The mechanic blushed and turned away only to have her gaze rest back where it belonged. Her mind flashed to the many times they had been here after a night at the club or just to meet the gang. It seemed like so long ago then it seemed like yesterday. So many things had changed yet there were some that stayed the same—the friendship and the feelings. It was something to hang onto. Coming out of her reverie, Tara chuckled at the sight before her. A large dollop of chili sauce lingered at the corner of the writer's mouth.

Gabrielle looked up. She felt the warm gaze on her. It felt familiar, loving, and she welcomed every minute of it. It was this woman who showed her what love could be; what love is; and it was with this woman that she wanted to see what love grew into. The writer met the mechanic's gaze, hiding none of the intensity of her feelings or of her pain. I want her to know. . .everything.

Tara smiled as if she understood every unspoken word. She picked up a napkin and wiped the sauce away. "I miss this," she uttered quietly.

Gabrielle reached for the hand that had settled on top of the table, covering it with her own. "I miss you."

Tara sucked in a shaky breath. "We have a ways to go don't we?" She grasped the appendage wrapped around hers, squeezing it. It felt good to be able to touch her again, and she vowed to cherish each caress from now on.

The writer nodded. "Could be, but I'm willing to go the length."

They were startled when the three men stood up. Two pairs of eyes stared back at them. Shannon fidgeted nervously. "Uhm, we're gonna go to the men's room and give you two a few minutes of privacy." They filed out of the booth one by one, aware of eyes following them the whole time.

Tara turned back to the strawberry blonde. "Um, did you mean it?" Her heart quivered hopefully. "'Cause I am too."

Gabrielle smiled sweetly, softly. "Then, I guess we're in this together."

Tara went with her earlier urge that came back stronger. She reached out to tweak the writer's nose.


Jake leaned against the sink and cackled deviously. "We work well together guys."

Wayne chuckled as he dried his hands. "That we do."

"Yeah, but we got a ways to go," Shannon added. "Still, we did good today." They nodded in agreement and padded out of the bathroom. With Wayne and Shannon I front, Jake ignored the sound of an opening door to catch up with his friends. Suddenly, he was jerked to the side by strong arms that engulfed him in a hug. He fought until he recognized his sister and returned the embrace. "God! You scared the shit out of me!" He was rewarded with a deep chuckle.

"Sorry, Jakie, and thanks. I love you so much. I hope you know that." Her voice cracked as she pulled away. Blue met blue.

Jake smiled. "Yeah, I know that, and you're welcome. You deserve a break after all the shi—"

"I know. Thanks anyway, " she interrupted. She gave him one last squeeze and released him.

Shannon and Wayne squirmed under the steady green gaze. Finally, Gabrielle decided to let them off the hook. "You guys are the best friends a girl could have. I just wanted you to know that."

They grinned and mumbled a thanks. Shannon scooted over and wrapped an arm around the writer. "We just want things to work out."

"I know. I do too," Gabrielle muttered.

They pulled on coats as Wayne took care of the bill. Tara hovered over the strawberry blonde, helping her slip an arm into her sleeve.. They turned to face each other. "Um, this was nice. Maybe we could do it again just to get away and talk?" The mechanic asked. Please say yes, but I don't want to push.

The writer flushed a beautiful red. This is what we missed at the beginning. "I'd like that. I think we need that. I’ll call you."

Tara flashed a white smile. "I know."

From a respectable distance, Jake cleared his throat. The two women turned toward him. "Uhm, T. I'm sure I'll hear from you." He gave his sister a dazzling smile. "Red, you ready to go?"

Gabrielle nodded then turned her attention back to the brunette. Their gazes lingered, transmitting hope and a myriad of other emotions. "I'll see you, T."

"Okay," the mechanic murmured softly. She watched them until they disappeared out the door.

Having missed the whole thing, Wayne walked up beside her looking from his lover to his friend. "You two ready? T, you going back to the shop?"

The mechanic nodded, and without warning, wrapped an arm around their necks. She squeezed as they walked, enjoying the choking sounds. "You know you guys are something else."

Shannon wheezed.

"I think I'll keep ya."


The sound of the rain, the murmur of the TV, and the happenings of the day eased Tara into sleep. She laid spread out on the couch oblivious to the late hour. The shrill ring of the phone made her jerk awake almost immediately. She jumped up and reached past the lamp on the nearby table for the cordless. "Hello?" Tara uttered groggily.

"I woke you up," Gabrielle stated quietly.

"No, it's okay. What's up?" The mechanics senses screamed awake at the sound of the writer's voice.

Gabrielle chuckled. "It's raining."

Tara smirked. "Noticed that did you?"

"Mmm hmm, go back to sleep." The strawberry blonde's words were filled with mirth.

Totally confused, Tara sputtered, "Huh? I don't—" The writer snickered again. The brunette pressed the phone to her ear and frowned, swearing silently that she heard a car in the background.

"It's okay, T. I'll catch up with you later."

"Uhm, okay," Tara added but she was greeted with dial tone. "Okayyyy, that was just weird. Maybe I should call her back." Tara punched in her brother's number. It rang six times before the answering machine picked up. "I don't get it."

The knock at the door almost sent the mechanic a mile into the air. "What the hell?" With purposeful strides, she headed toward the sound. Yanking the door open in irritation, she was totally unprepared for the sight in front of her. A smiling but very wet Gabrielle. The sweater and jeans were molded to her form.

The writer tried to hide the shiver. With the back of her hand, she wiped at her face, then used the same appendage to wave sheepishly. "Uh, hi. It's raining." She spread her arms wide, soaking up more of the elements.

Tara smirked at the look on the blonde's face. "Yeah, Daphne it is."

Gabrielle's smile seemed to get bigger. She reached out a hand. "Come out and play?"

Tara looked down at her sleep rumpled clothes that she had yet to change out of, but without any hint of hesitation, she took the hand offered to her. It was a life line, a tenuous connection reestablished. Heedless of the cold, the mechanic allowed herself to be pulled out into the pounding rain.
Hope you all enjoyed it. I know it was a long time in coming. Drop me a line at Minerva