Disclaimer one: These characters resemble those of Xena Warrior Princess, which goes to say they do not belong to me. They are copyrited by Universal and belong to Rob T. No infringement is meant.

Disclaimer two: This story and others in the series contain alternative themes and graphic consensual sex between women. If this is not for you, please move on. There is some use of strong language, but nothing you all canít handle Iím sure.

For those loyal readers who have been keeping up with the series, this is the fifth installment, and by no means the last. This installment ties up some loose ends, and will probably make others, so be prepared. Lil and Cattís fate is decided in this one, we learn more about what goes on in Jakeís head, there are always surprises with our couple, and Christmas will no doubt be memorable.

There is a slight reference to a Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice in this story. The Bennet sisters are my favorites out of all her novels, especially Elizabeth who I affectionately call Eliza.

Now, on with the show! I want to say thanks to my beta reader.


Fumbling Toward Ecstasy

by

Minerva



All the fear has left me now
Iím not frightened anymoreÖ.
Fumbling Toward Ecstasy-----Sarah M.



Part I


The Midwest was cursed this time of year. The sun shone outside, but it was perpetuating a lie. The wind swirled around, and the smell of snow permeated the icy air. It was a good day to be inside, relaxing or cuddling.

"Hurry up Red. Your movie is about to come on."

"Okay, ok, just a second."

The strawberry blonde walked quickly into the den with a large bowl of popcorn balancing on her hip, and two bottles of Heineken clanging slightly in her hand.

"Hey! Thatís not A&E. The movie comes on A&E."

"Yeah, I know. I just wanted to see the ending of this."

"Well okay. What are you watching---oooh thatís that Xena show."

"Shh, donít tell Lil. Sheíll have a field day. Itís something about the leather, and that cute little friend she has definitely helps the cause."

The smaller woman resisted the urge to giggle and decided to play instead. "Whatcha gonna give me to keep quite?"

Tara leaned over toward her lover until their faces were mere inches apart. "Mmm, how about this."

With a slow flick of her tongue, she licked a pert nose then proceeded to kiss it, despite the fit of giggles bubbling from her lover. They jumped apart when a door clicked shut, announcing Lilís presence. Astute violet-blue eyes could see that she walked in on the last vestiges of a moment.

"Ugh, do you guys ever stop?"

Gabrielle looked down guiltily.

"Uh, sorry. Kind of insensitive of us. You know considering."

Lilís blunt fingernails dug into the upholstery of the chair she was sitting in.

"Dammit! Can a day go by without you bringing that up. I donít even know why I agreed to stay till after New Years with you guys reminding me of her and playing kissy face every damn minute of every damn day."

Taraís jaw worked reflexively in mounting anger.

"Now, wait a ---"

"T, let it go." Gabrielle looked up sadly and watched her sisterís retreating back. "Sheís hurting, and we are the closest people to her right now, so sheís going to lash out at us."

There was an audible sigh. "Yeah, I know, but sheís getting a whole lot nastier with it."

"Ahh, I know, just try to understand. Itís better that she be here with us than at home alone or with our parents."

"Yeah, she has quiet a bit to tell them. Anyways, Christmas is in a couple of days. I just hope everything goes okay, since youíre hosting this big shindig."

"Ugh, donít remind me of that until Christmas Eve, when Iím gonna be up all night cooking. If anything goes wrong, the good side is that we finally get to exchange gifts."

Tara smiled mysteriously. Gabrielle reached for the remote to turn the channel and up the volume. Laying her head against the armrest, she stretched the rest of her body out on the huge couch.

"Címere," she said, while crooking her finger. The smaller woman wrapped her legs around the taller woman leaning against her. Small hands found a home on a flat belly and began to rub.

"Now shhh. The movie already started."

Shaking her head, Tara mumbled to herself, ĎFirst flavored coffee and now Jane Austen movies.í "Well okay Iíll watch this movie, but next week you," she turned to see her loverís reaction, "have to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me."

Tara smiled toothily at raised russet eyebrows.

"What?! I just started watching it two weeks ago. Something about ass kicking women I guess."

Gabrielle wound a strand of black silk around her finger and pulled on it affectionately.

"Mmm hmm, tell me anything. Now shhh, itís on. Tara White meet Eliza Bennet.

*****


Lilian sat on the edge of the bed listening to her daughterís light breathing. She rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hands, trying to banish the impending tears. She was tired of crying, and it had only been two days. She was tired of hurting but knew there was more to come. Her dreams, when she did sleep, were full of images of long blonde hair, sexy secret smiles, sounds of soft laughter, and a velvet voice. It was torture pure and simple. If this was what loving and losing cost, she would gladly return it from where it came. Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all was a moron.

Taking a deep breath, she thought to herself, ĎIíve been less than attentive to my daughter, snapping at Gab, and I canít even bare the site of the two of them together and happy. Iíve got to shake this, but I donít know how. How do you just stop loving someone?í Lil closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, the anger came swiftly, bubbling through her blood and making her head pound. Her hands balled into fists, where blunt nails made crescents at the base. There was anger at herself for being unable to control the pain; for loving; for trusting; and anger at Catt for betraying both herself as well as her by not acknowledging her feelings. She wanted to scream aloud but settled for a scream inside. Just as quickly as the anger came, it dissipated leaving desolation in its place. Thick heart wrenching but silent sobs shook her frame until all she could do was tremble.

*****


Despite the turmoil in one part of the house, there were other parts that were content. Gabrielle clicked the mute button and continued to rub Taraís stomach.

"So what did you think?"

"I like her. She was very smart, wasnít shy about letting her opinion known, and passionate about her family. She seemed to be completely out of place for that period of time. Oh, and she was really cute." Tara smirked. "She reminded me of you a little."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah, youíre a very strong woman if you havenít figured it out yet. It runs in the family. I hope Lil realizes that too."

Gabrielle snaked her hands under Taraís t-shirt to caress hard abdominals and soft skin. The older woman purred in delight. Gabrielle smiled.

"I hope so, but we need to be here for her regardless. I can tell by looking at her that sheís having a hell of a time with this. I still canít believe Catt did this to her. She cares I just know it."

"Donít know baby. I never really got close or I should say she never let me get close enough to know her, but there's something definitely holding her backósomething that happened in the past maybe."

"Hmmm, maybe. Hey, let me up so I can clean up this mess."

"Nooo, I like it when you rub my tummy." Tara said in a child like voice.

"Oh, do you now? Well, I bet youíll like this even better."

With one hand, Gabrielle began to lightly scratch her loverís stomach in a circular pattern. Tara let out a load groan of contentment, and Gabrielle watched fascinated when Taraís leg went up and her body started to twitch in pleasure. Smiling, she whispered in her loverís ear, "Youíre nothing but a pleasure hound, and Iím only making the monster bigger." Tara only purred louder in response then gave a mock yelp at the playful slap on her stomach.

"Now, come on let me clean up before it starts smelling like stale popcorn in here."

"Aww, okay, but youíre a mean woman."

Gabrielle stuck out her tongue then said, "I love you too tall, dark and sexy."

Carrying the empty beer bottles, Tara followed the shorter woman into the kitchen.

"Hey, Red? Thereís something thatís been bugging me."

"Whatís wrong?"

"Why didnít you buy a tree and decorations?"

"Oh, that. In the past few years, I havenít had the time or I was spending the holidays with Lil. With all thatís happened lately, I forgot to ask you if you wanted to decorate."

"I do. Letís get a tree and some other stuff tomorrow."

Tara preceded to smile and widen her eyes like a happy child at Gabrielleís nod of consent. The smaller woman tapped her loverís nose.

"You are so cute sometimes."

Tara grinned sheepishly.

"Oh, yeah before I forget. Will you run out and pick up some tampons. Iím still on unfortunately. "

"Sure love, I needed to swing home anyway, so Iíll see you in a little bit."

"Kay."

With a quick kiss she was out the door.

*****


Gabrielle stood unsure outside her sisterís door then decided to knock. Hearing a faint Ďcome in,í she opened the door.

"Hey baby sis."

Lil leaned over to click on the desk lamp to ward off the late afternoon darkness that had penetrated the room. What Gabrielle saw made her want to weep. Violet blue eyes were swollen and red-rimmed from crying, and dark, curly hair was askew signifying that an exasperated hand had been through it numerous times. She walked over and sat at the foot of the bed, not wanting to wake her sleeping niece.

"Hey yourself." Lilís voice was groggy and scratchy from lack of use and too many tears. "Listen Gab, I donít mean to snap at you guys. It just seems like Iím angry all the time now, and it hurts so bad."

"I know sweetie. I can only imagine."

She reached over moving a curly lock from obscuring blue eyes. Lil went willingly into her sisterís arms.

"I love her Gab. I donít know when it happened or how it happened so fast. I just I know I never felt this way. I know she feels something. I could see it and feel it when she touched me. Why couldnít she admit it?"

Gabrielle rubbed the slim back. "I donít know. I wish I did."

*****


Tara ran up her driveway into her apartment. It was getting unbearably cold to the point where the air hurt her lungs with each breath. Taking her ungloved hands out of her pockets of the mid-length leather coat, she tried the door knob. Locked. Blowing on her hands, she fished in the deep coat pockets for her keys. Finally finding them, she inserted them into the door, only to have it jerked open by her smiling brother, releasing some much needed warmth outward.

"You knuckle head where is your car? I didnít think anyone was home." Tara walked into the welcoming warmth.

"Oh, sorry bout that. Old Bessy is in the shop, something about the carburetor."

"Mmm okay. So, will you need me to pick you up on Saturday?"

"Yeah, probably. Hey listen, while youíre here. Can I borrow your car? I need to run to the clinic while itís still open to get the results of my HIV test."

Tara choked out a "What?! You okay?" She looked at her brother frantically, worriedly.

"Yeah, I believe so. Itís just a precaution. Gotta be careful. You know I get tested every six months. Now, I switched it to every three months."

Tara continued to look at her brother, concern clearly etched in her now wrinkled brow. "Why so often? You havenít been involved with anyone in ages."

"How would you know? Youíre never here nowadays."

"Whoa!" Tara held up her hands.

"Damn, Iím sorry T. I donít know where that came from. Iím a little stressed right now. A couple of my shows have been cancelled, and itís made me strapped for cash." His head began to hang. "Ugh, maybe I just need to go to college and find a decent job."

"Hey, hey now. Youíre damn good at what you do, and I know you love it. It could just be a slump, but if you want I would be more than happy to help pay your way through school. Iím behind you either way."

"Thanks, I really needed someone to say that. Hey, what are you doing over here anyway?"

"Came to pick up Redís present. I hope she likes it."

"Trust me T. She'll love anything you give her. You donít have to worry, in fact, you might want to buy a box of Kleenex, crying and lots of it maybe involved."

She stuck out her tongue at him and threw him the keys. He returned the favor and gave her raspberries as he caught the keys.

"Okay, thanks. Like I said I shouldnít be long."

*****


Now alone, Tara headed into the neglected bedroom. She had been spending so many nights at Gabrielleís that everything had a fine sheen of dust over it. She headed over to her chest of drawers. Pulling out her underwear drawer, she pushed cotton and silk aside to get to two small ring boxes underneath. She picked them both up and placed them on the top of the dresser. Grabbing and opening the one marked Red, with delicate fingers, she traced the intricate carving on the band. The jeweler told her that the set was Irish. If the design was worn down, it meant your heart belonged to another and vice versa. They were hand carved with each line lovingly etched into the gold. Beautiful but simple. Tara closed her eyes hoping this wasnít too much too soon; hoping she liked it; hoping she knew that they represented a promise of a bonded future. Walking out of the room, she searched for wrapping paper and a bag to hide the gifts from curious eyes.

*****


Gabrielle left her sister dosing as she went to her own room. "I hope Iím doing the right thing. We havenít even broached the subject yet," she said to herself. She made a beeline for a jewelry box sitting on the dresser. Sifting through it, she found what she was looking for. Picking it up, the key glinted in the moonlight as did the solid gold keyring comprised of the word Tara. ĎI should be nervous, but Iíve never been so sure about anything in my life. I just hope sheís as sure as I am. Thatís what makes me nervous. But, I want her with me everyday, knowing that this is officially home,í Gabrielle thought to herself. "I hope she likes the other gift too. Ahh, she loves those bikes, so sheíll love this," the young woman smiled to herself and put the key back in its box, "and tomorrow we shop for out first Christmas tree together. God, I hope things are sedate for once. Itís been a roller coaster every since we met." Also, since their meeting, she had gained an affinity for talking to herself.

*****


Tara looked at Jake expectantly.

"What?!"

"Well?"

"Oh, it was negative."

"Woo, thank God."

"Yeah, Iím saying." Jake looked down, letting the subject drop. "Whatcha got in the bag? Oh my God is that a blush!" He cackled. "Must be something special."

"Wouldnít you like to know?!"

"Yeah, I would. So, lemme see!"

Tara gave her brother an impatient look.

He pursed his lips. "I know youíre in a hurry to get back to the little woman, so let me see already."

"Okay, okay here." She took a ring box out and shoved it in his hands, and he opened it.

"Oooh, thatís pretty. Sheís gonna love this!"

Tara smirked. "You think so?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Good, well I gotta go because Red needs me to get her some uh tampons. So, Iíll pick you up Saturday at noon?"

"Ewww, see thatís why I could never be with a woman. Yíall leak every month. So, Iím strictly dickly."

Tara laughed despite herself. "Youíre a nut. You know that? But, I love you anyway." She kissed him on the cheek. "Glad youíre okay. Be ready Saturday."

"Yeah, yeah talk to you later."

*****


In a hotel close to the city, sat a devastated woman working on her second bottle of vodka. She had changed hotels, taken time off from work, and stayed just the same. She expected to feel more numb after drinking for two days, but the pain was still there, radiating outward. Staring at the phone, she wanted so much to pick it up and dial those familiar numbers and listen to a equally familiar voice. Catt ran her shaking hands through oily unwashed hair. "I bet she hates me." The blonde picked up the half empty glass and downed its contents with only a slight grimace. Even though her thoughts were somewhat muddled, there was a prevailing theme shooting across her consciousness. "Why?" Caitlin laughed bitterly. She knew why, and she knew what started it all. Whoever said parents arenít responsible for the adults their children become, didnít know shit. Her parents were at least partly responsible. The tall woman leaned back into the couch for the trip down memory lane, even though it felt just like yesterday.

When she was at least ten years old, people used to tell her how lucky she was to live in such affluence and be a child of such a perfect match. That is what the public saw. By day, her parents were doting towards her and loving toward each other. She remembered constant touches and long looks, but it was all faked. At night, when they thought she was asleep, the fighting would begin with the yelling, the cursing, the sounds of things breaking and being thrown. She recalled many a night when she crawled under her bed in a fetal position with her hand over small ears. She recollected all the next mornings when both her parents sported bruises their pajamas and robes couldnít hide. They would smile and kiss each other and her with the same mouth that had yelled and cursed the night before. She didnít know what to say; who to tell; who to turn to. So, she too helped perpetrate the faÁade. Caitlin closed her eyes as the memories progressed.

She remembered the night she heard voices, strange noises that consisted of moans and whimpers, coming from her parentís bedroom. Thinking that someone was really hurt this time, she went to go investigate. As she crept down the hall, the noises got louder. When she got to her parentís door, it was partially open just enough for her to peek through. Her eyebrows came together in utter confusion. She saw two bodies, sweating, moving frantically on top of the sheets. She stared even more confused wondering why daddy had long, dark hair. Then she saw the whole picture, as the person on top flicked her hair back. It was a woman on top of her mother! Caitlin gasped and apparently it was loud enough to be heard. The dark headed woman turned slightly and smiled what she could only assume to be lecherously. Young Caitlinís feet were planted firmly until her mind started screaming to run back to her room. Finally getting there, she slid under the bed, made her body into a tight ball, and cried herself to a disturbed sleep.

The next day she found out that her father was gone on a business trip. When her returned, she had a difficult time looking him in the eye for fear that the truth would be seen. From then to several years later, Catt couldnít remember looking either one of her parents in the eye, knowing the truth of their relationship. They had taught her that love was a farce. Fidelity didnít exist and happiness was just an illusion for the outside world. She vowed never to be hurt, but to just take what she wanted, what she needed despite the consequences. However, with her innocence and genuine, giving nature, Lil had changed all that for her, and she felt her heart beat for the first time. She felt real fear for the first timeófear of losing that beat to an inevitable pain. Catt opened her eyes and wiped a hand down her jaw. She poured another drink, downed it, and began to laugh derisively. The laughter turned to hiccuping and heart racking sobs that shook her body just as the laughter did. Drawing strength from some well deep down in her psyche, she quieted the sobs and stared at the phone once more. Shakily, she reached for it and dialed an almost forgotten number.

It rung twice before an irritated voice answered.

"Hello?"

"Happy Holidays mother," Catt said with a deliberate edge in her voice.

"Well, you donít have to sound like that about it."

"Mmmm."

"Whatís going on?"

"I just called to tell you that you helped to shape who I am."

"Well, thatís all well and good. Nothing wrong with that."

"I heard you."

"What?!"

"I heard you and dad all those years ago. I heard every raised voice, every insult, every curse, and every time something broke. You and dad perpetuated a lie."

"Now honey you know we had to keep up appearances with our status in the community."

"You werenít happy. You just hurt each other even physically. Why didnít you just split up?"

There was a bark of laughter. "You just donít leave money like that honey until you are sure that you get half of it. When I was sure, I left."

"Youíre a piece of work. You know that mother? I want to thank you for destroying my faith in love, happiness and fidelity."

"Whatís fidelity have to do with anything?"

"I saw you in bed with that woman."

"My, my youíre just full of little secrets."

" Arenít I? I just wanted you to know that I found somebody who made me start to believe again, and because of what you and dear old dad instilled in me, I turned her away. I ran away because I was so afraid of ending up like you."

"Found you a little woman did you?"

"Shut up mother. Iím not finished. I wonít let you ruin this. I wonít let you influence ruin her. Know what mother? I love her. I LOVE HER. Do you hear me? And I am going after her and fight to get her back no matter how long it takes. So, Merry Christmas to you mom. Your present is that I wonít allow what you didówhat you and dad didóinfluence me anymore!"

With a triumphant slam, she hung up the phone, cutting her mother off mid-sentence. Caitlin was back, changed and better than ever. She walked into the bathroom and glanced at her reflection. Her hair lacked luster, her eyes were red rimmed with baggage to match, her cheeks looked hollow, giving her a more haunted look, and her skin was sallow from lack of sleep and too much drink. Still, she smiled to herself. "Look out Lil. Iím coming for you." she went back into the main living area to get the bottles of vodka, only to empty them down the drain. She had to get some sleep, and get herself together. She had a surprise to deliver on Christmas.

*****


Now back at her loverís home, both Tara and Gabrielle tiptoed and cracked open Lilís door to make sure she was alright. A curly mane of dark hair peeked over the comforter. The larger body of Lil was curled around a smaller dark curly head. After closing the door quietly, Gabrielle whispered, "I talked to her earlier. Sheís hurting so much T, and I donít know what to do about it."

Tara kissed the auburn head as they walked toward the bedroom. "I know baby. She just needs some time. Maybe a lot of it. You donít get over something like that in a couple of days."

"I know, I know. Itís just so hard to see her like this. Sheís just so not Lil." Gabrielle said sitting down heavily at the foot of the bed.

"I know but we have to let her handle it."

"Yeah, I know youíre right."

Gabrielle tried to cover a small yawn. Tara stood in front of her, causing the shorter woman to crane her neck to see blue eyes.

"Tired?"

"A little. We should get to bed since we have to get up early for last minute food and decoration shopping."

"Yeah, I know."

Tara bent down to help the tired woman off with her shirt, leaving only a t-shirt in itís wake.

"Socks," the taller woman said, and Gabrielle obeyed by lifting blue socked feet.

She giggled when long, elegant fingers tickled her arch and sighed when the same arch was kissed.

"Pants."

Gabrielle stood up groggily. The sound of her pants being unzipped sounded loud in the quiet room. Once they were past her calves, the she stepped out of them.

"Good girl."

Tara got a crooked grin in return. The dark-haired woman pulled the covers back.

"Get in, Red."

She got a mumbled Ďokayí as a reply.

"Ugh, itís cold. Hurry up and get in here!"

"Hold your horses. Iím coming." Tara dispensed with her clothing leaving her in the same attire as her lover. She crawled into bed behind the smaller woman, who immediately started to use her as a pillow. The auburn head was pillowed against a wide shoulder; small arms wrapped around her torso; and a smaller leg was thrown over her thigh.

"You, um, comfy Red?"

"Oh yeah. Love you."

"Love you too."

Tara listened as short minutes passed by and Gabrielleís breathing became slow and deep. Not lot long after, she joined her in slumber.

Down the hall, a now awake Lil stared at the ceiling. She vowed to herself to strengthen her resolve because she wanted her sisterís Christmas and her dinner to go off without a hitch.

*****


The occupants of the house woke to a surprise in the morning. A light coating of snow was covering the ground and fat, icy flakes continued to fall and stick.

"Oh wow, would you look at that. Knew it would happen sooner or later. Just hope it doesnít get bad," Gabrielle said as she peered out the kitchen window, sipping swiss mocha something.

"Well, Red the weather guy said up to ten inches, so thatís comparably light to the twenty four we had last year."

Gabrielle snorted in response. "We need to get a move on before the roads get bad."

She looked up as Lil walked into the room carrying a gurgling Jamie.

"Hey sis. You want to go with us? Last minute shopping?"

Lil sat Jamie in Taraís lap and watched as they cooed at each other.

"Youíve really got her trained, Red, and it only took a few months."

Things were silent as Tara cocked her head to the side.

"Uhm, was I just insulted?"

"No dear. I was paying my sister a compliment. I donít care how you take it." Lil said while she smirked.

Tara looked at Gabrielle, both silently sighing in relief, then they both looked back towards Lil and started to laugh.

"Uh, to answer your question, nah, not really. I could start cooking or peeling something if you need me to though."

Tara and Gabrielle stared at her silently.

"What? Oh, youíre wondering why Iím so chipper this morning. Iím still hurting guys, but itís the holidays and Iím surrounded by people I love and who love me. I canít ask for more than that right now, and I donít want to spoil you guys first Christmas together."

Gabrielle hugged her sister tightly. "Yeah sweetie I know. As for what you can do, look around and find my recipe box, and put ingredients together. I know what I have here, and I know what I need to get at the store."

"Okay sis will do."

Tara got up, but before she deposited Jamie back in her motherís arms, she kissed Lil on the cheek. Lil looked into light blue eyes to see them glowing with affection, and she smiled what felt like the first genuine smile in days.

After the couple left, looking like bundled up snowmen, Lil was left alone with her thoughts. They swam with images of blonde hair and grey eyes, of hot touches and gentle words. ĎGod, I miss her.í It was as though she had known her all her life. A hole was forming deep in her soul, and she knew only one person could heal it. Her heart was screaming Ďcome back to me,í while her head reminded her of the pain. It left her torn, confused, and a little misty eyed. ĎI can do this. I have to.í Her reverie was interrupted by a tug on her shirt sleeve. She looked down at her daughter, who gurgled back at her, and kissed the forehead of one that loved her unconditionally.

*****


The first stop was Kmart. Tara and Gabrielle headed straight for the back. Finally, they got to the isle where tinsel, decorative lights, fake snow, icicles and such were stored.

"What colors do you think?"

Um, red, green, and silver, er Red." Tara grinned goofily.

"Smartass."

"You know it."

Tara smacked her butt for good measure.

"Hey!"

"I know, I know. Behave."

"Uh, huh youíd better. Listen, let me ask you. Are you the faux tree type or the smelly, shedding real tree type?"

"Guess."

Gabrielle looked her lover up and down. "Real tree it is. Follow me." Tara laughed and followed the smaller woman. "Youíre like a kid in a candy store."

"I canít help it. I love this time of year, and now I get to share it with you."

Gabrielle could not help but smile at that one. "You know. Sometimes you say the sweetest things."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Címere."

Tara walked up and shyly stuffed her hands in her back pocket. "Huh?"

"Nothing just this." Gabrielle tiptoed to place the softest of kisses on her loverís lips. With just a caress, it was gone like the whisking wind, making her wonder if she was kissed at all. Then she felt the tingling heat where those perfect lips were placed; she saw the stock boy drop what looked like an entire gross of paper towels on his head; and she saw a mother whisking her child away. Oh yeah, it happened.

"I love you T." Jade green eyes were luminous with emotion.

"Love you too baby."

Gabrielle cleared her throat, "Now letís get out back to get that tree and get to the grocery store."

*****


Once at the local Kroger, Gabrielle split the list down the middle, giving half to Tara.

"Now here. If you have any questions for the next few minutes or so. Iíll be in fresh produce."

"Okie dokie."

Gabrielle pushed the cart through the stands of fresh vegetables. A few minutes later she stopped in front of the cucumbers to make sure she had everything. Mentally checking herself, she looked up only to be staring at a man smiling almost lecherously at her with what had to be capped teeth. ĎOh boy. Betcha heís been scoping me for a few minutes.í Gabrielle rolled her eyes and gave him a minute smile. Apparently, that was enough for him. "Hi," his voice boomed, and she suspected he was trying to make his voice deeper than it actually was. ĎOh god not that clichť. Please donít try to pick me upónot in front of the cucumbers,í she thought to herself. Then she moaned inwardly as he picked up a rather large, long one out of the pile. "I am so bad at this. Maybe you can help me?" He went on not waiting for an answer. "How can you tell if a cucumber is ripe?"

Gabrielle couldnít help it. She moaned out loud. "Look mister. Itís Christmas time what would you do with a cucumber anyway?" Then her mouth snapped shut, realizing she had said too much. His smile got bigger.

"Well---"

"Hey, Red, what does this say right here. Cream of what?"

Gabrielle looked at Tara and wanted to jump with glee. Tara glanced at her lover then to the slimy looking man holding the cucumber. She smiled at him. It was more of a snarl really. "Hey buddy boy if she wanted this," she looked down at the cucumber, "or that," she glanced down at his crotch, " all she has to do is say so, and Iíll buy one and use it better than you can."

Gabrielle covered her mouth to contain the giggles as she watched the manís face turn blotchy red and his mouth hang open. Tara continued to smile at him. The man threw the cucumber back in the display as if it was on fire and sauntered away in a jerky fashion. The strawberry blonde let a slow grin form as she grabbed her loverís list.

"It says cream of mushroom, love."

"Oh, is that right?"

"You were watching werenít you?"

"No! No, what ever do you mean?"

Tara laughed as they turned into the next isle. An hour later they were loading the groceries into the car and finally heading home.

*****


Lil heard the car drive up, but couldnít help, as a very awake Jamie demanded her attention. Tara opened the door and grinned at the display of Jamie bouncing on Lilís lap.

"Hey big blue. Did you two have fun?"

It was Gabrielle who answered as she walked in behind her lover. "Donít you know with her itís never a dull moment."

Lil could hear Tara laughing from the kitchen.

"Oookay, Iím not even gonna ask."

"That might be your best bet little sis."

Lil watched as the couple trekked back and forth from the car, letting the cold in and littering the carpet with caked but melting snow. The last item was the Christmas tree, which they both brought in. Lil eyed them both curiously.

"Ugh, Gab you bought one of those smelly things? Let me guess."

She raised an eyebrow at Tara, who licked her tongue out in response.

"Come on Lil. Help put the groceries away so we can all decorate the tree," the taller woman pleaded.

She took a cooing, jumping Jamie from her motherís lap and gave her a ride around her neck into the kitchen. Lil followed, listening and smiling at her daughter joyous squeals.

"I took the turkey out of the fridge and washed it. I didnít know what recipe you were going to use for it so I didnít do anything else to it."

"Thatís okay." Gabrielle said as she reached for the box of recipes. "I found this one that calls for maple syrup baste. It sounds good."

The three of them unpacked and put away the groceries in companionable silence as Jamie played on the floor. When the last pie crust and sweet potato was put away, they all three ended up in the dining room sitting around the table, Tara with Jamie.

"What next oh great leader?" Lil asked Tara and smiled at her sister who smirked back at her.

"We set up the tree of course."

Tara, carrying Jamie, was the first one in the living room. She sat the little girl on the plush carpeting, then surveyed the living room.

"It will go great over there. What do you think?"

She looked questionably at Lil and Gabrielle. They looked at the area by the TV.

"Yeah, itís large enough, and it can be seen from outside from there," Gabrielle replied.

"Then letís go for it," Lil chimed in. Tara got the base and the wrapped the quilt like material for the base of the tree. With a little grunt and a lot of effort she placed the tree in the metal base.

"Hey, Red. Come hold this up."

She then proceeded to adjust the base to the tree size.

"Okay, that should do it."

They all stepped back to admire their handiwork.

"Ahh, smell that just like Christmas that I wish I had growing up," Tara interjected.

Gabrielle grabbed her loverís hand and squeezed it. "Glad I could give it to you."

Tara smiled down at her. They both turned toward Lil.

"Well come on. Letís get started."

"Hold up T! We got to have music," Lil exclaimed.

"Oh, yeah okay."

Lil went to turn the stereo on and Nat King Cole smooth voice filled the living room.

Okay, first the lights I think. Then the, um, you know stuff that goes around the tree."

"Huh? T, what are you talking about? You mean the garland?" Lil asked as she held up the red and green garland. "Yeah, that stuff. Then a little of the icicles and some ornaments. We got plastic because of you know who." Tara pointed at Jamie.

"Oh, yeah good idea."

They worked in quiet contentment that was sometimes broken with singing, storytelling, and laughter. Finally finished, Gabrielle plugged in the lights while the others stood back.

"Oh, thatís beautiful," Lil remarked.

"Yeah, I think we out did ourselves. We should open a business." Gabrielle laughed at her loverís comments. "Yeah we could call it Gabrielle and Co." Two sets of blue eyes zeroed in on her. "Uh, guys. Just kidding." She began to back up toward the couch. "Oh come on you two can take a joke. Right?" Gabrielle fell backwards onto the couch and was then pounced on by the two brunettes, who promptly tickled her until she couldnít breath. Jamie squealed with laughter and clapped her hands merrily.

"Arrgh, okay okay I give. I GIVE!" Gabrielle screamed as the two laughing dark haired women slowly got off her. Lil looked at her accomplice and gave her a hi-five. Gabrielle smirked as she caught her breath. Now able to breathe, the strawberry blonde glared at her attackers. "Now that you two are finished. Can we put the presents under the tree?"

"Oh, yeah forgot about that. Thanks for reminding me love."

"Anytime." They smiled goofily at each other, and thankfully Lil ended up smiling too.

Once all the presents were under the tree, they decided to take a break. Gabrielle fixed hot chocolate for the three of them. Lil and Gabrielle watched from the couch at Tara and Jamieís antics. The taller woman was joyfully singing to the infant Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer along with the video tape. Jamie clapped, cooed and at some points seemed to listen quietly.

"They are quite the pair, Gab."

"Yeah, I know. She told me that she loved kids, and would like to have her own. But, she didnít want to raise them because the way things are these days."

"Mmm, I donít know. Sheís getting very attached to her. She may change her mind. You never know."

Gabrielle smiled. "Yeah, I would love to raise a child with her."

They watched for a few more minutes as a tired Jamie began to nod off. Tara took her to bed. Looking at her lover as she came back into the room, Gabrielle winked and smiled, and she got a grin in return. The shorter woman cleared her throat. "All right ladies, time to hit the kitchen." There were playful groans of protest, but they followed. "Okay Lil, Youíre in charge of the yams and sweet potato pies. T, you chop this, this and this into fine pieces." She sat celery, carrots and onion in front of her lover. "Then when youíre done with that love you can do the green bean casserole. Iíll do the rest you guys."

*****


Mid afternoon turned into late evening. Delectable smells wafted from the kitchen. Lil and Tara watched from the dining room as Gabrielle basted the turkey yet again then moved around the kitchen to yet another pot. Lil looked over at Tara.

"You know if she had a pink apron. I would swear she was our mom."

Tara laughed. "Shh, donít let her hear you say that."

"Yeah, I know." Lil giggled. "Hey big blue, you hungry?"

"Yeah kinda. What did you have in mind?"

"Letís order pizza."

"Okay. Heavy pepperoni and cheese on one please. Hey Red?"

An auburn head peaked from the kitchen. "Yeah?"

"What do you want on your pizza?"

"Oh, heavy pepperoni and cheese please."

Tara smirked and raised an eyebrow at Lil who smacked her playfully on the arm.

They sat around the table with soft jazz filtering in from the stereo speakers.

"Hey, what did you get Shan and Wayne?"

Tara and Gabrielle looked at each other.

"You mean real or gag?" Tara asked with a slight smile.

"Oh, my. Gag please."

"I think youíre gonna have to wait for that one. I guarantee itís gonna to be priceless."

Lil looked over at her sister.

"Oh, no. My lips are sealed."

"Well, real then?"

"We got Shan a couple of books that I know heíll like and Wayne a new DVD movie." Gabrielle answered.

"Oh, that sounds good. Youíll just have to wait to see what I got them."

"Well, judging from the size of it. Itís something big, sis."

"Mmm, hmm."

They talked for a while after they ate until Gabrielle announced she had to continue cooking. Lil and Tara once again peered into the kitchen. Lil looked down at her watch. "Oh my God, itís after ten. Where did the day go? No wonder Iím tired."

"Hey, youíre not going to stay up? "Itís a Wonderful Life" is coming on at eleven."

"Well, I guess I could. Let me go check on Jamie."

"Okay."

Tara walked into the kitchen. "Howís it goin Red?"

"Ahh, a little tired, but I should be finished in a couple of hours."

"You sure you donít need me to do anything?"

"No, itís okay."

"If youíre sure then, Lil and I are going are gonna watch tv for awhile. Why donít you come join us when you get through?"

"Sure will. Now, give me a kiss and get out of my kitchen."

Tara pretended to look shocked. "My goodness youíre a demanding wench arenít ya?" She looked down at her lover with silver-blue eyes shining in amusement.

Standing on tiptoe, Gabrielle grabbed the back of her loverís head. Thinking she was in for a crushing, forceful kiss, Tara tried to prepare herself. She watched the ripe, pink mouth through hooded eyes. What she got instead caused her to open her eyes and moan outloud. With the tip of her tongue, Gabrielle traced the curves of her loverís lips. Then commenced to tease her by slowly, softly thrusting her tongue in between parted lips. In a last sensual move, the smaller woman sucked Taraís bottom lip into the warm cavern of her mouth, causing the other woman to jump in reaction as her heart accelerated. She grazed the willing flesh with her teeth and soothed it with a hot tongue. Stepping back, Gabrielle ended the exchange, letting Taraís lip go with a slurp. The taller woman teetered forward and Gabrielle smiled at her flushed face.

"Um, Lil is probably waiting on you."

"Um, who?"

Her smile got bigger, loving the fact that a kiss made her lover dumb. "Lilian and movies remember?"

"Uh, oh yeah. I should get out there." She stared at the tempting lips, blinked, but didnít move.

Gabrielle took her gently by the arm and led her to the kitchen door.

"Through there."

"Oh yeah, okay."

Lil looked up at Tara as she sat down.

"Okay, what channel?"

"Huh?"

"What channel?" Whatís wrong with youó" Lil studied the flushed face and swollen lips. "Oh, never mind." She grinned wickedly. "Weíll channel surf."

Sometime later, Gabrielle found them sleep on the couch. Tara was leaning against the arm, and Lil was leaning on Taraís shoulder. "How cute," she whispered. She shook her sister.

"Hey you, go get in the bed."

"Huh, oh okay."

She left Tara and Gabrielle alone. "T?" She whispered then said it louder, but there was no response. Trying another tactic, the smaller woman leaned over her lover and kissed her on the ear. She got a slight twitch in return. In the same ear, she moaned sensuously. A bigger twitch.

"Mmm, T. I want you, and Iím off my period," she whispered.

Blue eyes popped open. "You are?"

Gabrielle laughed. "Yeah silly. Now, get up and come to bed."

Tara hopped up and smiled broadly at her loverís retreating back. She noticed the tired slump of the tense shoulders. When they got in the bedroom, Tara was the first undressed and in bed. Gabrielle headed for the shower. Remembering the slump of her loverís shoulders, Tara went into the bathroom and waited. When her lover came out, she dried her with a big, convienent fluffy towel. The tired woman sighed in gratitude. Back in the bedroom, Tara helped her slip into an oversized t-shirt and a pair of panties amd into bed. The groggy red head sunk into the covers with a moan. Tara got in behind her, spooning her body around the smaller one.

"Tara?"

"Shh, go to sleep Red. We got tomorrow night."

"Mmm, okay. Sleepy."

With that, she was out like a light.

Down the hall, Lil twitched in her sleep. Familiar dreams permeated her subconscious, and tears spilled out of closed eyes onto a cool pillow.

*****


Across town, Caitlin smiled in her sleep, remembering deep blue eyes, words of love, sounds of pleasure, and the taste of skin. Before she went to sleep, she had a long talk with herself about the reality of the situation. One, Lil said she loved her. Two, she hurt Lil, terribly. Three, there was a chance that the younger woman would slap her silly if she saw her. Four, she knew she didnít care if that happened because she would do what she had to no matter how long it took. Five, it was one more day, and with that statement, her resolved was strengthened to face the next day.

*****


Gabrielle was awakened by the feel of something soft and wet on the back of her shoulder. Opening green eyes and turning slightly, she found herself staring intensely into pools of silver-blue. The softness she felt was her loverís lips tracing from the back to the top of the delicate skin of her shoulder. The smaller woman turned some more to study the sensual lips planting gentle, wet kisses on her skin. After a few more kisses, Gabrielle watched as the tip of a pink tongue snaked out to begin tasting and licking in the same gentle fashion. Her breath caught and accelerated, as she continued to stare at the look of loving concentration on Taraís face.

"Mmm, God T. What you do to me."

Moist lips and tongue stopped their journey, as blue eyes located another prize just as sweet. Turning her smaller loverís face slightly more toward her, Tara spoke with her eyes, words of love and desire. With delicate fingertips, she traced the lips red and slightly swollen from sleep. Gabrielle was frozen in place simply enthralled by the moment. Leaning in, their lips finally touched, and the room was flooded with the twin murmurs of pleasure. The kiss was a gentle exploration. Lips brushed and lifted, brushed and lifted. With a whimper of need, Gabrielle changed the kiss as a small hand encased itself deep into fragrant bed raggled black hair, and lips opened slightly in invitation. Unable to resist, Tara tentatively speared her tongue inside, and it was immediately captured in a strong suction. Tara groaned into her loverís mouth as her breath left her. Hot, wet tongues battled for supremacy, and lips clung moistly. A larger hand cradled her loverís jaw, slightly caressing it as the kiss went inexplicably deeper. Gabrielleís heart slammed against her chest as arousal thick and honey sweet invaded her body. She could think of nothing for the feel of lips, tongue, and the need to have Tara naked on top of her, inside her.

Not knowing how this got out of hand and not caring now, Tara felt her hips begin to gyrate against the shapely bottom cradled against her mound. When breathing became imperative, the kiss broke, leaving ragged breaths and quiet moans, as Tara picked up the cadence of her hips to compensate. The large hand moved from cheek down to curve over a slim hip, pulling her loverís body back into her, increasing the friction. Blue stared into green with mounting arousal and lust. Two pairs of panties had become soaked, feeling like nothing separated their skin. The wet material served as a stimulant on aroused, throbbing flesh. The hand once on hip moved with purpose toward the hem of Gabrielleís panties. The strawberry blonde sucked in a breath and moaned harshly at the intent.

"Hey, you two getting up in there anytime soon. Itís after ten already."

Tara jumped at the sudden knock and voice. Gabrielle groaned, then cleared her throat.

"Yeah, weíll be out in a minute."

Tara grinned at her loverís exasperated look.

"You. Donít say a word!"

Tara leaned over once more kissing the smaller woman on the nose. "Merry Christmas, baby. I love you."

Gabrielleís heart thudded in quick succession then stopped all together.

"God, I love you."

"I know."

"Tonight, promise?"

"Oh yeah, one I intend to keep."

"Oh, and Merry Christmas to you." Gabrielle kissed Tara soflty on the lips. Tara smiled into the kiss. "Mmm, you taste good.. Damn, we have to get up. I need to start warming up the food in a few."

"Okay, okay Iím getting up."


Part II

I'll give you the sun, the moon
The rain, the sky, and the mountains
I'll give you the world
And all that you wish for
And even more...
Ready or not
I'll give you everything
And more...



Lil sat in the living room, while Jamie squealed at the animated characters that paraded across the screen. The brunette closed her eyes. She had awakened to a wet pillow, swollen eyes, and the sound of Caitlinís name on her lips this morning. A fire burned inside, making her ache, making her need. So much she wanted to pick up the phone and find the woman it scared her. ĎOh God help me. I canít do this alone. I miss her so much. Bring her back to me. Just let me see her this one last time.í The love, the need , the desire, usurped the pain. It was then that Lil knew she would take her back at any cost. The pain for the moment was forgotten. Her reverie was interrupted when Gabrielle and Tara came into the living room.

"Morning sis."

"Morning Lil."

"Good morning you two."

Tara sat on the floor near Jamie. Picking her up, she placed her in the gap between her crossed legs. "Morning lil bit."

"Agoo ma."

Lil head snapped around.

"What did she just say?"

"Sounded like she said ma to me," Tara remarked.

"Aww, she said her first word," Lil said beaming with pride. Her potentially dour mood forgotten.

"Ohh, you know what? Letís open lil bitís presents now."

"Yeah, donít want her to get lost in the rush with so many people coming over." Gabrielle told her sister.

"Okay, let me get the camera. Donít want to miss my baby doing this."

The next hour was filled with squeals of laughter as Jamie chewed and hugged her elmo and ooed and awed over various stuffed and moving toys. Lil watched lovingly and Tara watched amused. Gabrielle tip toed to kiss her lover on the cheek then walked over to her sister and niece, hugging them.

"Iím glad you guys are here. I donít think this could get any better."

"We love you too Red." Tara glanced at her lover affectionately.

"Um, I had better go start warming up the food. Weíve only got an hour or so before we eat."

Alone in the living room, Tara glanced at Lil.

"How are you doing kiddo?"

Lil smiled sadly. "Okay, I guess., I miss her, Tósomething awful."

"Ah, I know you do. Can I tell you something?"

Lil nodded her head.

"She really cares about you."

"I know. I think thatís what makes me so angry that sheís too scared to admit it."

"Give her time, Lil. I bet she has some heavy baggage she has to deal with. I donít think someone was born the type of person she was."

"You said was. So do you think sheís changed?"

"I donít know only you can answer that. I tell you what though if anybody can do it, I know itís you. Youíre quiet the woman."

Lil smiled crookedly. "Why thank you maíam."

"Anytime. Now, letís clean all this paper up."

The smaller brunette looked around at the piles of colorful paper. "Yeah, youíre right."

Gabrielle occupied herself in the kitchen. The turkey and stuffing were put into the over to warm. The green bean casserole, broccoli and cheese, and the candied yams could be heated in the microwave right before they sat down to eat. Running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room and with a little help, the table was set.

"Hey, Red? Iím gonna go pick up Jake. We should be back by a quarter after or so," Tara yelled from the dining room.

"Kay, see you then. Shan and Wayne should be here by then," she called from the kitchen.

*****


Jake fidgeted and shivered despite the extra padding of the wool sweater and leather coat. ĎOh shit, here we go,í he said to himself. He gathered together the presents he thought were meager for Tara and Gabrielle. ĎI canít believe Iím doing this. I donít know these people. Damn, relax. Itís not like Red would associate with a bad element. Come on, itíll work out. You just have butterflies is all.í He moaned when he heard Tara blowing. Cutting off the lights, he took one last look around the apartment and at everything familiar. He opened the door and ran on the shoveled sidewalk. Tara had the door open for him.

"Hey little bro."

"Hey yourself."

She looked down at the bag. "Whatcha got there?"

"Just a little something for you and Gab. I-Itís not much. I couldnít afford anything big."

"Hey," she put her hand on his knee as the other guided the wheel, "it really is the thought that counts no matter how clichť it sounds."

He hung his head.

"Something else is wrong. You wanna talk about it?"

"Um, itís nothing just some butterflies, and a little nerves. I donít really know these people except for the club. Theyíre your crowd."

"Listen, I wouldnít associate myself with a group I thought was bad. Trust me. Youíll love them. The humor is dry, but you can tell they care about each other. Theyíre not snobs about new people at all. When I first met Shan and Wayne, they were talking to me like weíve been friends forever."

He looked over at his sister. "I hope youíre right."

Tara smiled as she turned on the highway.

*****


Shannon closed his door and looked over at Wayne.

"What?"

"I was just thinking that maybe youíd better take it easy with Lil. You know because of what happened to her. Gab didnít tell me everything, but it sounds bad. You know how you two are when you get together."

"I didnít think about that, but youíre right. Still, on the other hand, wonít she know or think weíre pitying her if we treat her different? I mean I could tone it down a little but not much. Sheís not stupid," Wayne whispered as they walked up the sidewalk.

"Yeah, I guess youíre right. I just donít want us to be the cause of anything going wrong tonight. You know things are never dull with these people," Shannon replied.

Wayne threw the bag of presents over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. "Tell me about it."

Shannon hit the doorbell, and Lil answered it. She looked them up and down.

"Hey Gab? The magical munchkin and his bald boyfriend is here!" She smiled crookedly at them. Wayne and Shannon glanced at each other.

"Oh Lil, are you still here? Damn, I didnít get my Christmas wish. Any pains in your arms or legs?" Wayne looked at her hopefully.

She laughed. "Get in here you two. Put your presents under the tree and hang your coats in the closet."

Shannon whispered out the side of his mouth when Lil turned away, "Well someone is feeling better. Forget what I said earlier."

"Already did." Wayne hung up their coats and headed toward the tree while Shannon followed Lil.

"Hey where is the little red head, or blonde or whatever?" He asked laughing.

"Hey, I heard that, and itís blonde with auburn highlights," Gabrielle said coming out of the kitchen.

Oooh, touchy. Mmm, something smells good."

"Thanks, weíll eat soon as Tara and Jake, her brother, get here."

"Deal," he said as he rubbed her back.

"Whereís your other half?" She asked as they walked back into the living room. "Oh, hey Wayne."

"Hey gorgeous. Love the tree, and the food smells good."

"Thanks, love." She hugged him warmly. "Letís all have a seat in the living room. Might as well start on the wine. Hold on. Iíll be right back." She came back with four glasses in one hand and a bottle of white wine in the other. She had a seat in the chair by the couch and set the wine and glasses on the table. They turned and watched Jamie talking and cooing at the TV.

"She is so cute Lil. Too bad she doesnít look anything like you." Wayne said smiling.

"Careful now I know what Gab and Tara got you for a gag gift. I must say you might be the one who needs it."

Gabrielle covered her mouth and gave Lil a stare. The brunetteís shoulderís shrugged. "Sorry, I got a peek. Not going to tell though."

The strawberry blonde laughed. "I donít know which one would use it either, and I donít know if I want to know."

"Hey, hey now children. Play nice." Shannon replied with a smirk on his face. Suddenly, they all turned around to look as Tara and Jake walked in. She took her brotherís coat and scarf to hang in the closet. Walking into the living room, she guided Jake with a hand at his back.

"Hey Lil, Shan and Wayne? This is my younger brother, Jake."

Jake smiled tremulously. Lil looked Jake over. "My God Jake! You look like Tara but with less hair. It's different seeing you out of drag. Yíall wouldnít have to have a sister tucked away somewhere? Please?" She asked, looking hopeful.

Jake laughed feeling some of the butterflies go.

"Nah, but when Iím in drag maybe we can talk."

The whole group laughed. Shannon turned around slightly. "Hey, Iím Shannon. We've already met briefly. Youíre a great performer just to let you know."

"Yeah." Wayne added in his two cents. "Itíll be nice to know Jake though. Have a seat Gabís giving away free wine."

"Sure, thanks. Jake sat down on the love seat. Tara went over to her lover and kissed her on the cheek. "Crackle, crackle." She thought she heard Shannon whisper.

"Want to sit down?" Gabrielle asked.

"Yeah."

The smaller woman got up, giving her lover the chair and taking her lap. She gave Tara her glass to drink from.

"Hey, Jake have you ever seen these two together? Oh my God, they make you feel all alone let me tell you. Itís down right sickening, but the voyeur in me enjoys it," Shannon remarked.

Jake laughed for the second time that night. And raised his eyebrow at his sister. "Tsk, sis you should learn to share. The rest of us might want to talk to Gabrielle every once in a while."

Jakeís smile got bigger as he saw the beginning of a blush on his sisterís face. Her eyes closed to slits, and she stared at him. The look was diffused when Jamie teetered over toward her.

"Boo, boo!"

"Aww, T. Sheís welcoming you home," Lil added.

Tara was fully within the throes of a blush as she tried and failed to glare at the laughing guests. She did pinch her snickering lover though for good measure. She offered a hand to the child, who immediately squeezed it and sat down near the vicinity of her feet with her new elmo.

"Guys?" Gabrielle said from her perch. "What say we open presents now?"

"Uh, that would be good since traditionally weíre supposed to do it in the morning," Shannon slipped in.

"Ha, who said I was a traditionalist? Iím friends with you people." Shannon gave her a mock glare, and she smirked in return.

"Okay, letís open the gag gifts first." Gabrielle got up to retrieve their gift and Shannon sifted through the presents to find theirs he sat back down and shoved the package in Gabrielleís hands.

"You first," he said. He and Wayne grinned broadly at each other.

Tara helped her lover rip the paper off the box.

"Gab and Tara. It is from the bottom of our hearts that we give you Larry." Wayne added.

"Who the hell is Larry?" Tara asked.

Lil teetered on the edge of her seat trying to see what it was. Finally, all the wrapping was gone. Both women were quiet as they stared at the box.

"Um." Was all that came out of the brunetteís mouth as she opened the box.

"T, meet Larry. He has three mind blowing speeds guaranteed to bring you pleasure."

Taking the object out of the box the couple stared at the hot pink, eight inch vibrator. Lil screamed. Shannon and Wayne smiled smugly to themselves. Jake snorted. Gabrielle turned in her loverís lap to look at her silently and with a raised eyebrow. Tara pursed then smacked her lips.

"Well, I told that guy I cold probably use it betteró"

"Gabrielle screamed with laughter. Shannon and Wayne looked at them confused, then started to laugh themselves. Lil howled, and Jake was attacked with uncontrollable giggles. Little Jamie pulled herself up on Taraís leg and reached for it. Tara snatched it away, laughing harder. After a few long minutes, the laughter died to hiccups and giggles.

"Okay, okay now you guys." Tara said in an attempt to calm things down.

Wayne snatched the present from Gabrielleís lap. Shannon snatched from him and tore off the wrapper. Wayne gasped, "Oh no you didnít!"

"Uh, baby, this must be for you." Shannon said as he threw the item into his loverís lap.

"No, way I donít need a penis pump!"

Gabrielle giggled at the display. "Itís guaranteed to make you at least three times larger," she said innocently.

Tara squeezed her lover as an anchor as laughter invaded and shook her body again. Lil smiled wickedly and decided to add in her opinion. "I wonder if you can stick both of them in at the same time?"

Gabrielle almost fell off Taraís lap. Jake was rolling on the floor. Shannon and Wayne threw the penis pump back and forth like it was a hot potato. Finally, mustering as much dignity as he could, Shannon walked over to his back pack and shoved the apparatus in.

"Oh, come on. We donít get a demonstration?" Tara asked.

"Yeah, guys inquiring minds want to know." Jake added.

Wayne glared at him. "Then you use it."

"Uh, no my good man thereís no need. I promise you."

This only added to the laughter. When it finally died, it started again when Gabrielle, Lil, Tara, and Jake looked at Shannon and Wayneís faces.

"You guys are nuts. This is already the best Christmas Iíve had in years," Jake said as his laughter finally dissipated. He was happy he came. These people were indeed quiet the characters.

"Kay, now that is out of the way. Letís open the real presents," Gabrielle said loudly.

Gabrielle got off Taraís lap to pass out gifts. After giving Tara her gifts, she sat on the arm of the chair.

"Okay, Shannon and Wayne, you guys go first. That one is from us."

Shannon shook the package, smiled, and tore open the wrapping.

"Ohh, thanks." He opened the latest book by Anne Rice. "Oh my God, you got her to sign it?" He said excitedly.

"Yeah, she was in Chicago earlier in the year when I had a meeting at my publishers."

"Thanks, Gab." He beamed again at the new Stephen King novel. Wayne kissed him on the cheek and started to open his own.

"Great, I love this movie. I was going to buy it for myself after the new year." He showed Shannon his DVD of The Blair Witch Project.

"Yeah, I remember that movie. I couldnít get him to go to bed that night."

"After a few minutes of laughter, Wayne picked up another present.

"Thatís from me to both you guys. I hope you like it." Lil said hopefully.

Wayne ripped the paper off carefully and went silent as he stared at the charcoal sketch.

"Itís called Viola. There was an art sale at Caitlinís hotel one time when I visited her. I thought it would be perfect for you guys." She said in a small emotional voice.

Shannon studied the flowing lines of the sketch. They were bold and defined. The artist and his instrument were one. There was no way to tell where one stopped and the other began. "Itís beautiful Lil. Thanks, and I know the exact spot for it."

"Yeah, youíre thinking of that spot in the den?" Wayne asked.

"Yep, exactly."

They turned the sketch around to let the others see it.

"Thatís a nice piece," Jake exclaimed.

"Yeah, it is," Gabrielle and Tara said almost at the same time. They turned to each other and grinned.

Wayne leaned down and picked up a small gift from the floor and gave it to Shannon. "I had to save a while for this, but I know itís something you wanted. What you want I want too."

Shannon smiled as he ended up unwrapping two tickets to Madrid, Spain. The shorter man caressed the ticket cover lovingly then looked up with happiness shining in his eyes. "Thank you so much. I donít know what to say. I love you." He leaned over to kiss his lover. Those viewing felt humbled at the display. Wayne cleared his throat and looked up almost bashfully at the other people in the room, who smiled back at him affectionately. Shannon gave his lover his gift.

"Um, I got this a while back. I saw them in the store window, and it just reminded me so much of us. I had to get them. Itís a matching set."

Unwrapping it, Wayne discovered a manís ring with the symbols of the sun and moon in one. "You always said we were as different as night and day soó"

Wayne laughed and said, "But perfect for each other."

He slipped the ring on his finger and wiped at suddenly moist eyes. "Itís beautiful." He squeezed his loverís hand to try to relay what he was feeling.

As good friends would do, they let the couple bask in the moment before an impatient Jake announced that he was next. Without preamble, he tore into the nearest gift. Gabrielle looked on smiling.

"Thatís from me Jake. I know we havenít known each other long, but I consider you a part of my family now, like a brother."

Jake grinned. His olive skin doing nothing to hide the slight blush.

"Thanks, Red that means a lot." He looked down at the uncovered box in silence.

"Um, T told me you liked trains when you were little, but you never got a setó"

Gabrielle was silent as Jake seemed to refuse to look up. Then she noticed drops of moisture falling onto the unopened box of trains and tracks. He sucked in a shaky breath and thought to himself, ĎWell, I guess Iím one of the clique now seeing as though Iím crying in front of them and all. I canít believe she did this.í Growing up, he always wanted a train set, but never got anything except for some action figures from a mother that never listened and was never there. He looked up at Gabrielle. His dark, good looks punctuated by the tears. Then he glanced at his sister, whoís eyes were shining with unshed tears of remembrance. He sobbed out loud.

"Thanks, Red Ió"

"Shh, itís okay." She got up and engulfed him an a hug, which he readily returned. "I meant what I said." The smaller woman whispered.

After a moment, Gabrielle went back to her make shift seat, and Jake wiped at the drying tears. He looked over at Lil, Shannon, and Wayne. They smiled at him in true warmth and affection. Jake reached down to pick up a second gift.

"Thatís from me little brother."

He tore open the second gift with the same abandon. It was a huge box, and he could only guess at what it was. Finally, completely unwrapping it, he saw it was the latest laptop computer.

"Oh, wow sis. Thanks! Iíve been itching to check out the latest puters. I just havenít had the chance."

"Your welcome, and if you decide that you want to do something besides performing, that will give you a head start on something you already know."

"Thanks again." He looked up in acknowledgement then down again as he studied the computer like a small boy with a new toy.

"I guess Iím next then?" Lil spoke up. She carefully unwrapped the paper from the first gift and folded it neatly.

"Thatís from us." Shannon and Wayne announced. She removed what looked like a hand carved jewelry box. The wood was strong and supple, and the carvings of roses were deep and defined.

"Oh, this is lovely. Thanks fellas. I wonít insult you guys for at least two hours."

Shannon rolled his eyes and everyone laughed. "Yeah, right. Iíll give you thirty minutes tops," he said.

"Anyway." She picked up another gift. "Iíll assume this is from you Gab?"

"And you would be right."

"Hmm, letís see what it is." She went through the same unwrapping ritual to reveal the most beautiful silk blouse.

"You like it? I wanted to get it the same color as your eyes. Look deeper, thereís something else there too."

Lil took out a link gold chain with half heart of diamonds as the pendant.

"There is another in there just like it for Jamie when she gets older. I know sheís your heart."

Lil smiled hugely. "Yes she is. Iíll give it to her when sheís old enough to appreciate it. Thanks, Gab."

"Mmm, that one over there you are about to take your time unwrapping is from me," Tara said with a smirk.

"Uh, what is it that Gab calls you? Ah, smartass? Well, that fits here too." She took extra time removing the wrapping paper much to Taraís irritation.

It was a medium size box, but it contained only a small piece of paper. It was a gift certificate for a day at a chic spa in Indianapolis.

"You can go there and let them pamper you. Sort of a time to get away from yourself."

"Thanks Big Blue. I probably really need this."

After a few moments all eyes turned to Gabrielle and Tara. They happily opened the same gift certificates to the same spa from Shannon and Wayne; matching sweaters from Lil; and a crystal figurine of two lovers intertwined and beautifully carved from Jake. Finally, they got to the presents they bought for each other. Jake threw Tara a box of nearby Kleenex with a smile, and she glared at him in return. She gazed at Gabrielle not bothering to hide the love in her eyes as she handed her the small ring box. The smaller womanís breath caught. It was obviously a ring box. She glanced at Tara her eyes huge then she looked back down at the box. Everyone else scooted to the edge of their seats to get a look. Gabrielle swallowed then opened the small box with a snap.

"Oh, my!"

"Um, its Irish. If you wear it with the symbol down it signifies that your heart belongs to me."

The strawberry blonde vacated her perch on the arm of the chair to the lap of the person in the chair.

"You know it already does. Itís so beautiful."

"Just like you. Look at the engraving."

She peeked on the other side of the ring. It said Always and Forever. On an impulse, Gabrielle hugged her lover, wrapping her body almost completely around her. She sobbed into the black hair at her loverís neck. The rest of the people were forgotten. "I love you so much. I canít even begin to tell you," she said through happy tears. Tara buried her face in fragrant hair and squeezed tighter.

"I can relate Red. Trust me. Itís a matching set. That way if I ever forget how much you mean to me in anger it will be there on my finger to remind me."

Gabrielle sighed again as she moved from the safe place of skin to get lost in silver blue.

"Iím not ever letting you go," she said as she leaned in for one, sweet, gentle, perfect kiss that only served to seal the moment.

Those in the room were caught in the wave of emotion. Shannonís hand reached for Wayneís; Lil couldnít stop the tears of happiness and loss from falling; and Jake put an empathetic hand on her shoulder, rubbing it in understanding. Still forgetting the presence of others, Gabrielle handed Tara her gift.

"T, I got something for you too."

Tara opened it quickly to reveal a single key with a keyring made of her name. She stared at it then at her lover.

"Um, are you asking what I think youíre asking?" She said her voice hitched higher with emotion.

Gabrielle smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I am. Stay with me. Be here every night, every morning, and every hour that you can."

"Yes."

It was a simple answer that came out quickly. No thought was needed. It just felt right. Gabrielle laughed with happiness. "Thatís not all. Iím getting an addition built on to the house. A place for you to work on your bikes because I know how much they mean to you."

Tara pulled her lover in for another hug. This time the dark head pillowed itself on the ample chest. Gabrielle sifted through midnight then kissed the top of her loverís head. They stayed like that for several minutes. Until, as if coming slowly out of a spell, the strawberry blonde turned slightly to see the others staring. She smiled sheepishly.

"Um, excuse us."

They all began to giggle at her red face. She righted herself in Taraís lap. "Uh, letís eat?"

This earned a round of laughter all the way around.

"Congrats you two." Lil told them.

Jake looked from his sister to Gabrielle and smiled. "Something told me this was going to happen. Iím happy for you both." He looked at his sister. "Iím gonna miss you being around though."

She looked up at her brother. "Hey listen. I know I havenít been very attentive lately, but I promise that itís gonna change. You have an important place in my life, Jake. I forgot that for a while. I wonít forget again."

Jake gave her a watery smile. "Okay."

"Okay, you guys. Congratulations to you and letís eat." Shannon added.

"Okay, okay. Damn Shannon. Since youíre in such a hurry, you can help bring out the food," Gabrielle replied.

"Gladly."

They disappeared into the kitchen.

*****


Catching her reflection in the mirror, Caitlin examined her appearance. "Much better," she said to herself. Some of the luster had returned to her hair and her coloring was back. Still, her hollow cheeks reflected a quick loss of weight, and her eyes gave way to her haunted soul. She walked toward the door and stood there while her mind wondered. ĎWhat do I say to her? Try Iím sorry for starters. Try I love you, and I was wrong not to tell you. Try Iím an idiot, and I will do whatever it takes to have you back in my life. Try you gave me back my heart. It belongs to you now. Just be honest and tell her all those things and more.í She looked down at nervous shaking hands. She had to prepare herself for a slap, a drink in the face, or flat out rejection. She brushed blonde locks behind her ears and closed her eyes. "God help me. I love her so much. This wouldnít have happened if it wasnít meant to be. Iím ready for what she can give now. Iíve faced my demons and won," she prayed for the first time and hoped He was listening on His day. Opening grey eyes, she pulled open the door, walked down the corridor and into the elevator to her fate.

*****


"This is the best turkey I think I have ever had Gab."

"Thanks Shannon."

"Yeah baby, youíve outdone yourself. This spread is incredible."

"I second that," Lil said as she smiled at her sister.

"Oh, please. You two helped."

"Still, itís good. You all did great," Wayne added.

"What he said," Jake said through a mouth full of turkey.

Jamie bounced on her motherís lap as Lil mashed some stuffing to feed her.

"Man, let me go get another bottle of wine you guys. Weíre out." Gabrielle got up to wonder into the kitchen. Tara looked over at Lil.

"Hey, Iím almost finished. Let me take her so you can eat."

"Oh, okay."

Tara walked around the table to gather up the happy infant then they both headed into the kitchen. Gabrielle looked up, "Oh doesnít she look cute wearing her food all over her face!"

Tara laughed. "You Howard women would look good wearing a paper sack!"

"Flatterer."

"You know it. Do you need any help with anything?"

"Yeah, sure. Decided to bring out two bottles the way weíre going through them. If they all get too drunk, we need to make space for them here. There is no way anyone is going to drive tipsy in this weather."

Tara leaned down to kiss her lover on the nose. "I knew there was a reason I loved you. So thoughtful."

Gabrielle smiled back at her as they walked back to the dining room. The smaller woman sat down, and Tara went around to her seat. Putting the bottle down, she stopped when the doorbell rang.

"I wonder who that is. Iíll get it." Making sure she had a good hold on Jamie, Tara went to answer the door.

Caitlin stood outside fidgeting for the first time in her life. Her heart banged against her chest in fear of what was to come. She took a few deep breaths and almost ran as panic seized her. She had never apologized, loved, or really chased after anyone. Groaning out loud, she wished she had that drink before leaving. At that moment her mind was flooded with thoughts. She still had to deal with Gabrielle and Tara. ĎOh God. This was probably a bad idea. That little red head is going to kill me and Tara is going to help. Fuck, fuck, fuck! I should leave right now! Her mind screamed. The panic meter was going up another notch as the door opened.

Tara almost dropped Jamie when she saw who it was. ĎOh god no. Canít anything just be simple.í She said to herself.

"Caitlin! What the hall are you doing here?" Tara whispered, hoping no one else would hear.

"I-I need to see her Tara. Just for a minute, I have to talk to her." Caitlin replied her voice soft and pleading.

"For what. Sheís already hurt. What are you trying to do?!"

"Iím not trying to hurt her. I just need to talk to her. Is-is that Jamie?" Grey eyes studied the small girl with violet eyes looking very much like her mother. She drank the features in, so much like the woman she loved. Tara watched her former lover and noticed the hungry look in her eyes. Her voice softened.

"I donít know if this is the right time Catt."

Caitlin looked up surprised by the use of her nickname "Please, justó"

"Hey, who was at the door?" Gabrielle asked her lover as she walked up behind her. Tara stepped away from the door to let her see. Gabrielleís hand went to her mouth. "Oh my God, what is she doing here?!"

Caitlin swallowed, hoping she hadnít lost her chance. "Please I-I love her, and I need to tell her."

Gabrielle and Tara glanced at each other startled. Being the forgiving person she is, Gabrielle dropped her reserve. "Itís about damn time, but I donít know if this is the right time or place for this."

Caitlin put her hands in her pockets. "Um, do you think sheíll talk to me?"

"I seriously donít know. Sheís been pretty closed lipped about the whole thing."

"Hey, I know you two donít have my baby out in that cold? Who are you talking too?" Lil walked up to the door and peered over her sisterís shoulder.

Her breathing stopped along with her heart. She covered her mouth to hide the sob. Deep blue eyes moved rapidly over the form she had been dreaming about and crying over for the last two days. Finding her voice, she said, "Take Jamie inside and leave us alone." The two women did as they were told. Caitlin stared into the eyes that had branded her soul. She tried to read what was hiding behind those eyes, but she couldnít. She studied the form of her lover, and she had never looked more beautiful. They were the same eyes, same lips, same body, but nontheless still more beautiful. Her heart hurt to look and not touch, which was what she wanted so much to do. Lilian examined Caitlin just as thoroughly. She took not of the pronounced cheek bones, and the little spark that was missing from the usually luminous grey eyes. Her mind screamed, ĎSheís back to see you suffer. Sheís back to make the pain beyond excruciating.í With a will of its own, Lilís hand lashed out and made contact with the soft flesh of Caitlinís face. The older woman flinched but did not raise a hand to inspect burning skin. Sheís expected this.

"I deserve that and more."

"Why are you here?"

"To tell youó"

"To tell me what? To reiterate that you donít want me. To tell me youíre running again."

"I love you."

Lilís heart seized and fell into her stomach, and hope flared in her soul.

"Wh-what?"

"I came to tell you that I love you and Iím sorry. I was so scared Lil. I still am but being without you is worse."

Lilís heart whispered, "Sheís telling you what you wanted to hear. Hereís you chance. Take her, love her, heal her." However, her brain chimed in, "Remember the pain. Sheíll do it again. You wonít survive it." The pain won. Caitlinís heart and countenance was lit with hope, but it was dashed when she saw the storm brewing in Lilís face and in her eyes. Lil laughed harshly.

"After what you did to me, you expect me to take you back? To forget everything? I gave you everything in me, and you threw it in my fucking face! I would be a fool to go through that again! Get away from my sisterís house and get away from me!"

Caitlinís heart shattered into powdered pieces. Her grey eyes brimmed with tears and a full bottom lip shook in despair. She closed her eyes, and one solitary tear fell down her face and splattered on her coat. She opened her eyes again. All pride was gone. She looked at Lil pleadingly. "Please hear me out. I can explain. Iím staying at the Hampton Inn. Just call me or come by anytime."

Lilís eyes shot fire even as her heart called out. Without a word, she slammed the door in the blondeís face. Caitlin stared at the closed door stunned. Not knowing what else to do, she sat down on the snowy, damp step and cried. She cried until the tears threatened to freeze on her face. She knew she had done all she could for now, but it hurt nonetheless. The pain was welcomed because she knew it was only a fraction of what she had previously caused.

Lil stood behind the closed door with her back turned to it. She moved slowly to the window in order to peek out. She saw the bowed blonde head and the shaking body. Part of her wanted so much to dry those tears, and the other part wanted her to cry them for the rest of her life. Not paying attention to her surroundings, Lil didnít hear Tara walk up behind her. The older woman peered out the open curtain.

"Iíve never seen her like thatóso vulnerable. You did something to her Lil. You changed her. It took a hell of a lot for her to come here I bed, and it shows she really cares for you. Take that into account before you completely turn away. I know she hurt you, but donít doom yourself to live with just pain for good." Tara put her hand on a slumped shoulder as a gesture of comfort and then walked back into the dining room.

Lil closed her eyes. Her whole body shook with surprise, pain, love, and unbelievable tension. There was so much to do, so much to think about. Her mind was a jumble of voices and images. She had to sort them out. Walking slowly back into the dining room, she gazed back at the occupants staring at her silently.

"Look, I donít want to talk about it, and I donít want to ruin dinner. I have to deal with this my own way. So, letís just sit down eat and drink. Okay?" Lil announced.

Shannon and Wayne smiled at her. Shannon got up to pull out her chair. Lil smiled gratefully. Gabrielle looked up at her sister with eyes filled with love and understanding. Tara nodded her head in acknowledgement. Jake poured her a drink. "Thanks Jake." They drank and ate until late in the afternoon. Lil put a full, sleepy Jamie to bed as the food was put away then they drank some more. By nightfall, everyone was past pleasantly buzzed on toward pissy drunk Lil giggled as Jake tried to show her a dance step on wobbly legs. Shannon and Wayne were playing at a slurred philosophical discussion on the hypocrisy of religion. Tara sat and eyed Gabrielle quietly with forming lust as the little woman stumbled across the living room toward her after coming from the bathroom. The older woman was thinking about her promise, but the younger one didnít notice the look through her alcoholic haze. She sat in the lap nonetheless.

"Hey everybody listen up! You can all sleep here, uhm, seep here tonight. The wever has gotten worse and youíre all to pissy drunk anyways."

A round of laughter passed around the room at Gabrielleís slurred speech.

"Well, where are we all gonna seep, sweep, ah you know what I mean." Shannon asked.

Shan and Wayne you take the let out couch in the den. Jake you can take the couch in here."

"Well, alwite sounds like a plan," he slurred.

"Okay, you can all go back to what you were doing," she announced again.

Gabrielle scooted further into the soft, firm lap. Tara growled at the feel of soft cheeks pillowed on her thighs. The smaller woman raised an eyebrow a the familiar sound.

"You okay T?"

"Never better. Do something for me though?"

"Anything."

"Mmm, thatís what I like to hear. Turn around and straddle me."

Gabrielle looked over at her house guests. They were oblivious. She then looked back at her lover, who stared hungrily at the pulse beating at the base of her neck.

"Kay."

She did what was asked of her. She wasnít prepared for what happened next. Grabbing her lover by the upper thighs, Tara pulled her roughly into her body. She whimpered quietly in reaction, totally unprepared for the onslaught. Gabrielle could feel the heat radiating in waves rolling off Taraís skin. She wanted to bask in it.

"Wh-what are you doing?"

"Keeping a promise. I want to tell you something too."

"What?"

Taraís already sultry voice lowered an octave. "I want you."

Gabrielle shivered then gulped audibly.

"Now?"

"Yesss."

Turning slightly, Tara took the blanket off the back of the chair and covered them with it, keeping their bodies from view. Blue stared into green intensely, trying to relay the mounting arousal she was feeling. The younger womanís breathing accelerated slightly with anticipation. She jumped a little when she felt large, elegant fingers unbutton her jeans then she almost groaned at the sound of them being unzipped. The same hand dipped into the loosened jeans at the back. Bypassing silk panties, Tara engulfed silky skin instead. Strong hands lifted her lover a little as Gabrielleís bottom was covered by the warm flesh of Taraís hands. Tara moaned lightly.

"Mmm, you feel so good."

Hands flexed and kneaded the firm flesh. The smaller womanís breath hitched as wetness began to gush with each squeeze, making the throbbing of her clit start small, nothing more than a tiny ache.

"Címere."

Again, aggressively, Tara pulled the smaller woman into her body, rubbing her mound against a clothed stomach. Gabrielle bit her lip to keep from crying out. The throbbing increased exponentially, and she could feel nether lips start to engorge.

"Kiss me." Tara demanded as she pulled one hand from its warm fleshy home to wind tightly in red-gold locks.

They were as oblivious to the others in the room as the others were to them. A red blonde head leaned forward only to have her lips captured in the fierceness that was Taraís kiss. She tasted wine, sweetness, and woman. Unable to stop herself, she groaned out loud as a rough tongue slid past her lips over her gums to rub sensually against her own tongue. Gabrielle moaned harshly as their tongues flicked across each other in sexy battle. The large hand that remained on firm flesh began to roam. It traced over the pronounced split of her loverís cheeks, dipping into the crack with shallow sweeps. The smaller woman could feel the sweat forming on her forehead, and the wetness in her crotch now dribble down to slick her thighs. She could feel the protruding flesh of her clit rub against equally swollen lips, and longed to relieve the ache. Another synapse burned out in her brain when Taraís mouth became a suction on her tongue. Rhythmically, Tara sucked in correspondence to the throbbing of her loverís body.

With each suck, Tara delved deeper between her loverís buttocks. Until finally, she began to message the puckered flesh of her anal opening. The smaller woman whimpered helplessly as her hips began to move with a life of their own. Then the finger was goneójust like that. Tara tore her mouth away, and put her finger up to her loverís trembling lips as if to shush her. Gabrielle looked around the room wildly, hoping no one saw the exchange. She saw that Lil was gone; Jake asleep on the couch; and Shannon and Wayne on the floor dosing. She looked back at Tara with pleading eyes.

"Someone will see."

Tara shook her head and began to trace swollen lips with her fingers. Both lips and digits tingled in reaction. Tara groaned hoarsely when her fingers were sucked into the warm cavern of her loverís mouth. She shook her head as if to clear it, but it didnít help. With each suck, she felt the pull between her legs. The older woman couldnít believe they were doing this, but it was too hot too sensual to stop. What began as just play had turned into an erotic act. Silver blue orbs watched jade and studied her loverís face, seeing the sunken flushed cheeks, moist lips and shining eyes. Her head felt as though it was full of cotton wool, leaving her body in charge. She could smell their mingled arousal, and it only served to make her wetter. She squeezed her thighs, making them tremble at the pleasure it released from her spasming clit. Having this power, feeling this desire was a heady combination that fueled her blood. No other woman could do this for heróto her.

"Shit," she whispered harshly when even white teeth scraped over the sensitive pad of her finger.

In reflex, her hips arched upward, craving contact. In order to get it, she widened her legs, which caused the smaller woman to move lower between them. Their clothed mounds touched enticingly. Corresponding with her hip movement, Tara pumped her fingers inside Gabrielleís mouth. Already audible, erratic breathing hitched higher when she started bobbing her head back and forth to increase the friction.. Gabrielleís eyes narrowed and watched her lover. She took in each time she licked her lips, each whimper, and the high flush that extended to her ears. She was losing control and Gabrielle reveled in it. She slammed her hips to meet each mounting thrust with more force. The wetness between her legs made her want to moan at the feel of it. So, she did and enjoyed how the lanky frame of her lover shook at the sound. Tara closed her eyes and pushed her fingers inside the moist heaven once more, but she had to feel the real thing all tight and pulsating around her. Pulling her fingers out, she slipped same hand back down into the sagging back of the jeans.

"I wanna be inside you."

Gabrielle whimpered at the implications and the wet caress of long fingers on and inside her parted cheeks. Tongues met moistly and flicked outside of mouths before lips met in a searing kiss. That was all the consent Tara needed. Using one wet finger, she rubbed her loverís anal opening. Gabrielle cried out. The sound was swallowed in the kiss. With the tip of her finger, Tara entered the tight opening. They both moaned at the contact, breathing hotly into each otherís mouths, refusing to break the volcanic kiss. Tara twirled her finger and thrust deeper, making the younger womanís hip surge forward then backward, trying to increase the penetration. She twirled and twisted her finger again, thrusting even deeper and getting almost to the second knuckle. ĎOh God, sheís so tight, so hot.í

Clearing the second knuckle, Tara stayed still for a beat and started to pull out slowly then twisted and thrusted just as slowly . The strawberry blonde cried out abruptly as her hips continued to thrust forward of their own violation. The dark-haired woman met each thrust with her own hips and her finger, making their mounds touch and jarring pleasure from swollen flesh. With each movement, Tara drank in a whimper from her lover.

"Unghh, ohhh!" Gabrielle exclaimed, forgetting to be quiet.

With her other hand, Tara grabbed a cheek, parting it wider and used it to control undulating hips. The smaller womanís hips jerked uncontrollably, and the whimpers became high pitched keening sounds. Gabrielle fought to move her hips faster, to make the thrusting deeper, and Tara relented, giving her what she wanted. Russet eyebrows drew together in object concentration. She felt the orgasm from far away, building, getting ready to explode. The other woman felt it in her loverís trembling thighs, clenching muscles and high pitched moaning. She thrust harder with her own body, wanting so much to join her in bliss, but knowing her own orgasm was a ways off. She was wetter than she had ever been; hungrier than she had ever been; and more relentless than she had ever been. By proxy, she increased the intensity of the kiss, thrusting her tongue forcefully much like she did her body. The younger woman was so close it was almost painful. Her body lurched forward as the orgasm started with shaking thighs that seemed to pull the pleasure from swollen, engorged flesh. She imploded from the inside, everything shook and spasmed. The impending scream was muffled by her loverís lips as hot pleasure poured into her blood making her dizzy and blind. Her body convulsed, milking and multiplying the enjoyment from her clit and anal opening.

She didnít know if it was the raunchy sounds, the trembling body, or the convulsing inner muscles, but unable to take anymore, Tara got up, finding the strength in weak legs to carry her moaning lover quickly into their bedroom. Once inside, they crashed into the door as Tara demanded her mouth. Slowly, she withdrew her finger to a whimper and some searing aftershocks that shook her as much as it did her lover. Ending the kiss for the moment, she tore the clothing from the smaller, weakened body of her lover. Divulging with her own with her own clothes, Tara grabbed the slippery flesh of Gabrielleís buttocks and lifted her, making shaky legs wind around her waist. They headed for the bed and made it with a soft bounce. Lips met again, but Tara needed more. She needed to show her what loving her had done. Wrenching her mouth away once more, she straddled a firm thigh.

Sitting back on her haunches, she whispered into the sex laden air, "See what you do to me. Watch."

Gabrielle watched through a pleasure induced haze. Not fully coming down from before, she still moaned out loud as she studied Taraís fingers, traveling between her own legs. Parting the slick, thick, swollen folds, Tara began to rub her exposed clit furiously.

"Oh god. See. . . what you do. . . to me," she murmured brokenly once more.

Gabrielle whimpered and was torn between watching busy fingers play in the wetness; observe luminous eyes and face display unbelievable bliss; or study full hard tipped breast bounce freely. So, she went from one to the other. Tara was so wet that the younger woman could hear fingertips lap through the wetness even over their harsh breathing. Unable to stop herself, Gabrielle sat up. The hard, brown tips of her loverís breast seemed to beckon her. Surging forward, she sucked the nearest nub into her eager mouth, flicking it with a quick tongue before suckling it deeper into the back of her throat. Tara threw her head back and growled at the onslaught and rubbed impossibly faster, harder. Grabbing hips with small hands, Gabrielle initiated a deeper, harder grind. Wanting to feel the hot juices flow over her hand and the velvety flesh convulse around her fingers, one hand went from hips to in between thighs, and without warning, Tara was impaled by two eager digits. Her taunt body moved naturally upward before it began a just as natural riding motion. They groaned in unison. One at the decadent feel of heated flesh, and the other at the arcing tightness and pleasure it produced low in her belly.

Tearing her mouth away from itís delectable treat, Gabrielle spoke.

"Oh baby I needó"

Her own arousal had risen to fever pitch in a matter of minutes. She could feel it oozing out onto the mattress and up the crack of her bottom. In a word, she needed release. With her now free hand, Gabrielle reached in between them to her own folds, and unceremoniously began to tease and rub her own throbbing flesh in the same swift pace. Tara felt what she was doing.

"Thatís it baby. Rub it for me," she forced out.

Gabrielle moaned loud and long as her mouth found the other breast and tried to devour it whole.

"Unggh, oh shit Red. Gonna come. . . for you."

She increased the fierce thrust and sucking to bring the statement to light. With a few more thrusts, Taraís body pitched forward as blinding pleasure ripped through her like fire on dry land.

"Ooooh, yesss!" She screamed loudly as a powerful orgasm beat a path from the inside out.

Amazed and highly turned on, her loverís cry put Gabrielle over the edge, and the unbelievable haze of orgasm visited her once more. There bodies jerked and convulsed in reaction as they fell backward toward the bed. All speech, all thought, all cognition was rendered useless.

*****


In the living room, three heads popped up. "Did you hear that? What the hell was it?" Shannon, with bleary, sleepy eyes, looked at Wayne and asked.

Wayne grinned. "Uh, I think their using Larry."

Jake raised an eyebrow and squinted at the sudden mental picture. "Eww!"

The laughter rang loudly through out the house.

*****


A now sober Lil didnít flinch at the laughter or the moans of pleasure. She didnít hear them. "I love you," ran through her head like a mantra. "You changed her," became the other one. Tears squeezed out the corner of her eyes. She wanted so much to take the chance, so much to believe, so much to love her. But, the pain, the idea of more of it of new and greater pain almost wilted her heart. She envisioned Tara and her sisterís relationship. They had hurt each other countless times, but they both took the chance of more pain to be together. What they had must be the envy of the angels in heaven. "I want that. God help me I do. Please give me a sign." The phone on the night stand rang. Lil stared at it surprised and let it ring three times before answering.

"Uh, hello?"

There was no answer.

"Hello?"

Lil could hear hitched breathing on the other end then nothing but dial tone.

She studied the phone a minute before putting it back in itís cradle. Having got the sign she needed, she closed her eyes to sleep.

*****


Caitlin looked at the phone. "Maybe I should have said something. Fuck, I knew this was going to happen. Please God let her come to me. I need her so much." The blonde flicked through the channels on the TV. It was as active as her mind. She hated waiting but knew there was no choice in the matter. Saying another silent prayer, she then turned up the volume. There was to be no sleep tonight.

*****


Tara, dosing slightly, lay heavily on top of her lover. She moved and felt the fingers still deep inside. Looking up from her make shift pillow of breasts, she stared into sleepy green eyes.

"Hey."

"Mmm, hey you. Uh, youíre still attached to me." Tara said grinning crookedly."

"Oh, sorry."

Slowly, she removed her fingers from itís warm nest. Tara relaxed.

"Mm, thank you," she said then watched wide eyed as Gabrielle licked her fingers clean. Groaning, "Youíre incredible Red."

"Youíre delectable," she responded.

They then started to giggle, but after a while sleep came quickly.

*****


The morning at the Howard house was good but painful. There were headaches and sour mouths abound. All was made better when the two hosts appeared from their bedroom. ĎNothing like a little teasing to make you feel better,í Shannon thought. He smacked his lips as Wayne and Jake snickered in the background.

"Welll, Good morning you two. How was your night?"

The snickering got louder. Gabrielle had awakened with a sense of euphoria and wasnít going to let her prankster friends touch it. Looking at Tara and smiling, she replied.

"Oh, mine was great. What about yours? Headache?"

There were two groans in the background.

"Just a little, but you seem to have the cure all."

As if on cue, the snickering started again.

Gabrielle looked him straight in his blood shot eyes. "Yep, hot sex will do that for ya."

The snickering stopped. He stared at his partnerís in crime.

"Um, yeah okay." He had expected at least some discomfort on her part.

Tara smiled down at her lover. She was getting good at one upping him.

"So, anybody want coffee?" The strawberry blonde asked cheerfully.

There were three grumbles of Ďyes.í Tara and Gabrielle made it into the kitchen, looked at each other and tried to control the giggles.

"You are soo bad Red."

"Mmm, hmm, but you love me for it."

"Yeah, I do, but it wasnít nice to disrupt Shannonís flow like that. He probably still has his mouth open."

"But Taraaaa! I enjoyed it soo much."

They giggled again as Gabrielle started to make the coffee. The younger woman sobered suddenly.

"Oh God, I wonder how Lil is doing?"

"Ugh, I donít know, but I bet she wasnít expecting that last night."

"Yeah, she sort of closed us off. I respect that, but I know sheís hurting."

"She has to work this all out in her head Red. I know it had to be spinning last night. She saw a side of Caitlin she never saw before. Personally, I think sheís close to making a final decision either way."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, something about the look she had on her face last night when she saw Catt on the porch, crying."

"I hope so. I want this over for her."

Lil sat up in bed supported by fluffy pillows. She watched the rising and falling of Jamieís chest in slumber. She had made her decision, and it was the little bundle to the right of her that helped. Thinking about stability for her daughter, there had to be the possibility of a long, loving relationship as she grew up. She smiled a little at the sounds coming from Jamieís mouth, while she slept. Getting up softly, she padded into the bathroom to take a hot shower, whether it was good news or bad, she had someone to go see. Coming back into the bedroom, eyes some much like hers met her over the covers.

"Hi sweetie. You ready to get up?"

"Goo, ma?"

The woman smiled with pride. "Letís get you washed up and dressed and then go say hi to all the people in the living room. Youíll get to see boo boo."

Jamie squealed and started clapping her hands. Lil laughed as she removed the little girlís pajamas. With a towel wrapped around herself, she carried the naked baby back to the bathroom.

*****


Caitlin stared out the window at the wickedly deceptive sun. Her eyes felt dry and scratchy from a lack of sleep. She rubbed them with the heel of her hand, trudging toward the bathroom. Taking a quick shower, she returned to her haven to watch the mid-morning news. Her mind wondered as she listened, remembering a day not to along ago in another hotel roomóthe heated exchanges and the sounds of Lilís errant breathing and whimpers. Then her mind flashed to a few not so stolen moments in the bathroom a the bar, recalling the smells, the tastes and the sight of her new lover in the throes of orgasm. Caitlin sucked in a breath as the prickly fingers of arousal traveled down her spine, making her belly clench. "God Lil, come to me I need you so much."

*****


Lil walked into the rather loud living room. Jake sat on the floor near Shannon and Wayneís feet as they conversed on the couch. They all laughed heartily, and it didnít stop when Lil walked in carrying Jamie.

"Well this room is just buzzing." Lil said with a slight smirk.

"And wouldnít you like to know what weíre talking about?" Wayne piped in.

Tara glared at Wayne. "Hey, bring the little one over here. We were just discussing possibilities for the future use of our gag gifts."

Lil handed a bouncing Jamie over to her. "Um ,okay. Iím surprised those two didnít ask to borrow Larry." Lil added with a grin toward Shan and Wayne.

"Hey!" Wayne wrapped his arm around his loverís shoulder. "Heís all the man I need."

Lil rolled her eyes heavenward and looked down at Jake. "Good morning."

"Morning." He smiled genuinely up at her. "How ya doing?"

"A lot better thanks. I see youíve made fast friends with our dubious duo over here."

"Yeah, they sorta grew on me overnight."

Shannon smacked Jake on the shoulder.

"Ah, but grow what? That is the question."

Wayne narrowed his eyes and stuck out his tongue at her.

She looked over at her sister, seeing the question and concern in her eyes. "Iím okay. Really."

"Okay. You know whatís good for you." Gabrielle squeezed her sisterís shoulder in a show of support.

The shorter brunette glanced over at the other brunette holding her daughter. "Thanks T, for what you said yesterday."

"Anytime kiddo." They smiled affectionately at each other.

"Um, listen. I need to goówell you know. Will you guys watch Jamie for me?"

"Like you have to ask? Of course."

"Kay, thanks T." She kissed her sister and Tara on the cheek as she headed out the door.

*****


All the way up the elevator, Lil wrung her hands nervously, wondering how this would go. Anger and pain frizzled just below the surface along with a deep vein of love. She walked down the long corridor until she got to room 347. Standing outside the door, she licked her lips. ĎGood or bad. Iíve made my decision.í she thought to herself. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door and shivered a little as the familiar voice asked who it was. Deciding not to answer, she waited. The door swung open violently.

"I said, who the hell---"

The words died on her lips. Caitlinís mouth moved, opening and closing but nothing came out. Lil walked in anyway and stood as close to the door as possible. "You hurt me. So bad. You have no idea. Why? Why CATT?!"

Caitlin walked up to her, decreasing the physical distance. With the last vehement question, Lil lashed out pounding her fist against the taller womanís chest. Catt grabbed her hands pulling them away from her body.

"I hate you. I hate you so much," the brunette said quietly.

"I hate you too, even more," the blonde whispered back.

Caitlin leaned in with their foreheads touching. Lil sobbed as tears began to fall.

"Shhh, itís okay. Itís okay."

She kissed the tears away gently. "Look at me." Lil raised her eyes. "I was stupid and scared. The only running I want to do now is to you." Her voice hitched as her own tears threatened. "I love you. Never thought Iíd say those words, but I love you."

Lil hiccuped and started to laugh through the tears. "Love you too."

They laughed together and stared into shining eyes for long moments. Quietly, softly lips met. Lil whimpered softly so grateful to taste her again. Reluctantly, Catt broke the kiss.

"We have a lot to talk about. I want to meet Jamie. We just have a lot to talk about." Lil nodded as they headed for the couch.

*****


Tara and Gabrielle sat at the dining room table alone listening to the laughter coming from the living room as the boys played with the baby.

"Ugh, I should have called my parents last night. Iím surprised they didnít call."

"Mmm."

"You seem distracted. T?"

"Just thinking about Lil. I wonder how it went. I wonder what she decided?"

Gabrielle sighed. "Yeah. Iím anxious to know myself, but I guess weíll have to wait. Um, so when you moving in?"

Tara smiled. "Hmm, when do you want me?"

"Oooh, careful my dear. That is a loaded question."

The End. More to come soon. Whoa, whoa. I know you forgot to do something, so stop right there and email me your comments about the story. Taps foot and looks at you sternly. Drop me a line at Minerva


Copyright ” by Minerva 1999 All rights reserved.

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