Disclaimer One: While this story can be considered Uber, there is some resemblance between the characters and those in Xena Warrior Princess. They do not belong to me but to MCA/Universal.

Disclaimer Two: Sex? Oh, yeah baby right now! Lots of it! Uhm, you mean in the story dontcha? Yeah, thereís some in there too. Pssst! Címere. Itís between women. If that offends you, well, WHAT ARE YOU DOING READING THIS! There is also recollection of violence and some strong language. Oh, one more thing. There is a high angst warning for this one.

This story takes place about a month after the events in Under Her Spell. Lil and Catt are in Gary. Gabrielle is dealing with the ramifications of taking a life, and Tara has her own things sheís battling. Their relationship is severely tested by emotions neither one will reveal. Jean, Gabrielleís mother is also thrown into the mix, making an interesting combination.

One more thing. For those who have been to Indiana, particularly Terre Haute or anywhere near it, you will get a kick out of the conversation between Lil and Red. For those of you who havenít been that way, just chalk it up as one of my little quirks.(g)

On with the Show!

Full of Grace



Copyright© Minerva 2000


Tara jerked awake, knowing immediately that something was amiss. She sucked in a breath to calm her racing heart, and azure eyes scanned the darkness for the noise that woke her. Nothing. A finely boned hand reached out to the other side of the bed. There was nothing there either. She calmed her breathing in order to listen for aberrant noises and was rewarded with the sound of running water. Sighing, she closed her eyes and prayed to any god that would listen. Another sleepless night was ahead, she could feel it. After all they had confessed and been through, they had barely grazed the surface of this. Tara shook her head, not even knowing what to call it.

The incident.

There had been barely any touching, any discussion, but there had been nightmares, tears, and strained silences. Tonight was to be no exception. The raven-haired woman choked back the strong remnants of guilt that had plagued her for the past month. ĎI wasnít there then, but at least I can be there for her now. If only she would let me.í Tara shivered, remembering the closed look in her loverís eyes every time the subject was broached and how she turned away, distancing herself physically. She wanted so much to have been the one wielding the knife, watching Steve bleed. ĎI should have been here.í Another familiar emotion, anger, rose to her throat with bile. Closing her hands into fist, she squeezed almost feeling nails puncturing the skin. ĎPlease God, help me. I have to do something or we wonít survive this.í With the silent entreaty, she climbed out of the king-sized bed, stepping onto the cold floor to make her way into the bathroom to at least try.

Gabrielle huddled her half-dressed body on the floor between the sink and the toilet. The hot water gushed from the sink spigot, surrounding the room in warm mist, but despite that, her teeth chattered and her body shook. But, she wasnít cold on the outside. Inside, something had been torn, broken and it had died. She was soulless, feeling nothing now but pain and fear. Everything felt dulled, even her love for Tara. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she murmured to herself, "Heís gone, and I killed him." She had taken a life. Another human being had died in front of her because of her and her need to sustain her own existence. Somewhere inside, she knew that was enough justification, but that knowledge was buried deep.

The days were somewhat normal, but it was at night that the dreams came, reminding her of a day she wished to forget. They were no longer of how it all happened; somehow they had become more twisted, heart-wrenching and deadly. She closed her eyes and willed her teeth to stop chattering and was assaulted with broken images that sent her running not an hour ago.

The large, sharp knife pinched her neck, making her flinch in pain. "Youíre mine now. Mine." With a rough hand, he shoved her face into the wall, bringing the knife come dangerously close to itís target. She heard the sound of him unzipping his pants. "All mine." Then he was inside, pumping, grunting, growling. "She wonít want you anymore. No one will." He slammed her head into the wall over and over again. Until through her ringing ears, she heard his final grunt of pleasure. Thatís when the laughter began. Just as suddenly as it begun, it would stop only to turn into a soft sob. "How could you kill me? All I wanted to do was love you, be with you, and you killed me. You bitch!"

With one final hard knock into the wall, he spun her around. Gabrielle stared into blue eyes filled with madness. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in a horrible snarl as spittle flew from his mouth. He giggled gleefully as he watched the dim light glint off the blade. "Now, all I want to do is to kill you!" In agonizing slowness, she watched the oversized blade descend toward her chest, feeling it as it pierced skin, passed muscled, crunched into bone, and found itís mark. As if she was on the outside looking in, the woman even heard the gurgle of blood as it traveled up her throat out of her mouth.

"No, no nooo!" She screamed, trying to shake the images away. Small hands went toward frightened green eyes, covering them as tears wet the dry tracks of those that had come before.

Tara was galvanized into action by the sound. "Gabrielle!" She burst through the bathroom door to find the huddled form.

"Red! Baby?"

The younger woman sobbed, "T?"

The tall lanky form of her lover kneeled to the floor, moving slowly and cautiously toward the sobbing form. Reaching out a hand, Tara touched a raised knee and flinched herself when the other woman jumped.

"Shhh, baby. Itís just me."

The deep throaty voice was a balm to the strawberry blondeís wounded soul. It pulled her from the trance like state. Lunging her whole body toward the figure in front of her, Gabrielle found herself engulfed in strong arms and surrounded by a warm but quivering body.

"Oh, God T. He won't get out of my head."

"Shhh, it's okay. I got you."

With the bathroom continuing to fill with steam, two figures sat curled up on the floor, gently rocking. Tara sucked in a relieved breath. 'She's gonna let me help. She's opening to me.' She breathed in the fragrance of the strawberry tresses and kissed them, trying to comfort them both. After a few more minutes, the dark-haired woman felt the body in her arms stiffen. 'I have to be strong, so I can handle this. She doesn't need to carry my baggage.' Gabrielle almost shook her head in agreement with the silent thoughts.

"Uh, T it's okay. Just a bad dream, and I can handle it."

The smaller woman pulled away from the tight embrace, hearing the taller woman sigh in exasperation. 'I know I'm hurting her, but she wouldn't understand. She wasn't there to see.' Gabrielle wiped the remaining tears away along with sweat. Getting up, she turned off the water and looked up at the woman that towered over her. "I'm okay really." She tried to curl the corners of her mouth into a small smile. It was a pitiful effort at best, and it didn't get past Tara. 'Why does she keep shutting me out like this. I know she blames me. Jesus Christ! She barely let's me touch her.' Tara wanted to scream in frustration.

"Red, you had another one didn't you?"

"Another what?"

"You know what I'm talking about, another nightmare about Steve."

Holding her hands up in a placating motion, she answered, "Listen, I told you it wasn't bad."

"You're lying! You get up out of bed, you scream in your sleep when you are there, and now you're screaming when you're awake. Can't you see that you need to talk about this! Why are you shutting me out?!"

"Don't you fucking listen?! I said I could handle it! It's none of your damn business anyway!"

Tara threw her hands in the air. "Wha-what do you mean none of my business? I sleep with you. I live with you in case you haven't noticed, and dammit I love you! Why won't you talk to me!?"

Gabrielle let out an aggravated growl that sounding dangerously close to a small scream. Jade green clashed with angry, hurt baby blue. So immersed in their own feelings, neither could see inside the other. Green radiated with fear and pain, while blue was full of guilt and loneliness. Gabrielle shook her head and shrugged small shoulders in annoyance. Turning on her heels, she walked brusquely out of the bathroom. Tara stared wide eyed. 'She's not gonna tell me.' Her heart plunged into her stomach as if fear yanked it from it's usual spot. Bile thick and sour rose in her throat, almost causing her to gag. They weren't going to make it. She could feel it as the cold crept over her, into her. Not without help. Silently, she walked toward the bedroom.

Blue eyes glanced down at the bed only to see a blanket and pillows missing. She swallowed and fought the urge to cry. It would be the first night they hadn't slept together in a long, long time. A wildly beating heart pushed and prodded her to follow the woman into the living room, guest room or wherever she went., but her head whispered that it was to no avail. She couldn't break through the walls of steel that had been erected around her lover's body, heart, and obviously her soul.

Gabrielle punched the pillows with a fist, in an effort to make them more comfortable. 'I could have gone to the spare bedroom,' she mused, 'but I don't want to be anywhere near her right now.' Sighing, she laid back, staring up at the ceiling. Sleep wasn't going to come, and she knew it. Resigned to her thoughts, their relationship was foremost in her mind. 'There was no way she could understand. I killed a man to be with her, to stay with her, to be happy with her. Maybe it was my time to go and leave this place, and I just cheated death. Maybe that's why he exacts his revenge in my dreams. 'She won't want you.' His words reverberated through her head. She closed her eyes, telling herself he could be right. 'Even though, she held me and has been trying to talk to me. It's all out of pity. Why would she want me? I'm a murderer.'

Forgetting the peace she felt moments ago in her lover's arms, she assured herself it was pity and wallowed in her own. Moving her head to the side, red-gold strands caught in the moisture spilling from her eyes. Hoping the tears had dried up during the past weeks, her hopes were dashed as old ones already shed only made room for more.

Tara stared at similar pieces of ceiling, letting wave after wave of guilt assault her. 'She turns away from me. She won't let me touch her, make love to her, and she won't talk to me. She blames me, and I can feel it that's the only explanation. I should have been there the moment I felt it something was wrong, but it was too late. He could have raóraped her or even killed her. It hurt's just to think about it.'

Coffee had become a large part of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It kept her from the zombie like state, allowing her at least the appearance of getting some work done. She had to swallow her pride already and ask for another extension due to the circumstances of the past few weeks. Now, she sat in front of the computer, looking at a half empty page. The words that were on it were sketchy, broken, and choppy. Flipping the computer off in disgust, she moved sweat pants covered legs under her and reached for more coffee. Nothing was working, including her brain and her relationship. 'Punishment. That's what it was,' a dark part of her subconscious whispered. She kicked away from the desk, swinging her chair around to face the windows. The writer knew she was out there, hearing the muffled noise of the TV. They lived in the same house, meaning they had to see each other sometime during the day. 'Why not get it out of the way now?' She asked herself. Swinging the chair around again, she took a moment to gather herself before heading into the unknown.

Tara sat on the couch, alone, with the TV blaring gibberish. She nibbled absently on a peanut butter sandwich to fill a stomach that had stopped protesting long ago. Wiping at her eyes with a free hand, the woman could almost feel the droopy bags that had taken up permanent residence under them. Still, she knew that she looked minutely better than Gabrielle who had become gaunt and slim over the past month. Usually, somewhat chubby cheeks had become hollow, and the deep green of her eyes didn't sparkle with impending mischief.

She had tried and failed to get the strawberry blonde to eat a proper meal, but it seemed that she didn't want to listen just as much as she didn't want to talk. Last night had brought things to a head. She didn't know what to say or even know how to say it if she did. Sighing she switched the station to mindless videos. Looking up slightly, she spied the object of her thoughts heading for the couch. Trying her best to be obscure, Tara pretended not to notice. The slight form sat beside her with a flop, and she continued to nibble the sandwich. The dark-haired woman gazed out the corner of her eye toward the form next to her, waiting, watching, apprehending.

Gabrielle perched herself on the edge of the fluffy cushion, hoping at least to re-establish some form of cordiality after last night. Her mouth hardened when she realized that Tara was bent on ignoring her. Lacking the energy to sustain the anger, Gabrielle decided to go with her former plan, despite the tension surrounding them.


'Oh yeah, Red that was good. Show how much you're really care.'

Tara gobbled the last bit of the sandwich into her mouth and swallowed. "Hey," she muffled.

'Okay, we got that out of the way. Should we tear into each other now?'

Listening the inner voice, Tara turned slightly, expecting to see the walls around her lover physically erect themselves.

Feeling slightly bolder, Gabrielle pressed on. "Not going to work today?"

Tara did nothing to hide the tight, fake smile. "No, I took time off to be with you remember?" Muttering under her breath, she said, "Lot of good it's done since you won't let me."

Gabrielle was assaulted with a stab of anger and pain. Not knowing what else to do, she lashed out, almost sneering. "You know what? Why don't we just stop talking altogether, huh?" 'God, can I get a little understanding from her?'

Tara felt herself close up like a slamming door. "Fine by me. You haven't said anything worth listening to in a while anyway."

The writer bit into her cheek as the pain quotient increased, spilling into her chest. 'I don't understand why we're hurting each other. She won't freakin' listen to me, when I tell her I can handle things, and she's smothering me. I can't feel myself anymore. When I look into her eyes now, all I see is anger and. . . and something else, but I don't know what the hell it is. All I know is that it's turning her into someone I don't even know.' Small hands fisted in her lap as she shook strawberry blonde tresses from her eyes with a shake of her head. Glancing once more at her lover, she was met with the strong line of a chiseled jaw that worked back and forth in anger. At a total loss as to what to say or do, Gabrielle quietly got up to re-enter her new sanctuary, her office.

Tara closed her eyes. That was the drawback to knowing someone so well. You know what hurts, and as sure as she was sitting here, she saw the pain flash in emerald eyes when she answered the undoubtedly rhetorical question. Her head fell into her hands, and raven hair pooled around her face. Everything. Everything hurt like hell lately. They couldn't have a conversation, look at each other, or even barely touch. One was enough, but these things in combination were slowly becoming her undoing. Only because she could remember a time when talking, touches, glances were easy, almost second nature. Guilt reared its reoccurring head. 'All of this could've been prevented if I had just been there. She won't talk to me, open to me, or touch me because she knows I let her down.' Familiar anger burned her throat. 'I fucked up again, but I don't know how not to be mad. She's pushing me away, and I don't know what else to do.' She heaved a long exasperated sigh. 'Maybe I just need to get out of her way.' Raising her long frame, Tara headed to the bedroom to get dressed. She had to get out of the house for both their sakes.

Days passed, feeling like weeks. The silence between them reached and surpassed deafening. The couch had become Gabrielle's make shift bedroom at night, where she screamed out again and again, feeling the knife plunge into her womb. Knowing she would never become desensitized to the sound of her lover's pain, Tara sat up in a half empty bed listening, crying, and wanting to go comfort, but she knew a rebuff would be the only reaction. In the day, the strawberry blonde barricaded herself in the small office, drinking cup after cup of coffee, pretending to write. While during that time, Tara found a second home in her old apartment with Jake, where she cried and raged on his shoulder.

Gabrielle stared out the window, noticing the condensation there from the heat inside the house. Cocking her head to the side, she wondered if it was as cold as it looked. Her breathing stilled when she realized that she wouldn't know now just like she didn't know for the past month. She hadn't stepped a foot outside since giving her statement to the police. Using one of her favorite defense mechanisms these days, she rationalized, "It's safer in here." Despite what had transpired in the living room a few weeks before, she felt safest in her own home. Stepping outside was when the fear began. If she had never gone out that day, she would have never seen him. He would have never found her, and she would have never killed him.

She jumped, knocked from her reverie by the slamming of the door. Tara had left like she did most mornings now, and she knew that she wouldn't return until late evening. A familiar statement spilled into her thoughts, 'Why doesn't she understand?' She wanted so much to tell her what happened; how she felt; and how she didn't feel. Waves of unworthiness pushed against her. ' There is no way she could love me or want me. I'm a murderer, and I became one for her.' Gabrielle jumped again when the phone rang. Looking at the clock, she scrunched her brows together in an effort to figure out who would call so early. One name popped into her head. Lil. She cleared her throat and hoped she would sound cherry enough. She picked up on the third ring.


"Morning, sister sunshine!"

"Lil, get the stars out your eyes. It's dreary as hell here. It always is."

The younger woman chuckled. "You forgot to say it stinks too. You know that old corn smell?"

Gabrielle smiled despite herself. "Please, they refuse to admit that it exists. Personally, I think that people have just gotten used to it. Either that or they are the one's causing it."

The other woman laughed lightly. Then replied, "Mmm, now that we've finished with the small talk, how are you? I mean really?"

Gabrielle readied her pat answer, "I'm fine. Um, how are things going your way?"

The younger woman couldn't keep herself from smiling. "We're doing great. We had some issues to deal with and some talking to do, but I feel closer to her than I ever did."

Closer. They were closer, and they were further apart and falling into a deep, dark pit. Closing her eyes, the petite woman tried to fight down the emotion building within. It stuck like a golf ball sized lump in her throat. She swallowed trying to move it down but to no avail. Her breathing hitched.

"Gab?" Lil was only awarded with silence.

Then it quickened as pain, unhappiness, guilt and fear made it's way back up. Her spine tingled, and she felt the flush start at her neck, moving it's way up. Hot, unshed tears prickled in green eyes.

"Gab, you okay?" Still, there was nothing.

One by one, the tears spilled, made lines down her face, and dotted her shirt. She sniffed, trying to keep her nose from running.

It was then that Lil realized. "Oh God, Gab? Sweetie? Talk to me. Has it gotten that bad?"

She hiccuped and tried to stop the impending sobs, but like a damn breaking, they came. The silence was pierced by a loud sob, then another one and another, until the wailing began. She couldn't control it anymore. "God, Lil. It hurts so much, and I'm so scared." She paused trying to catch her breath. "I thought I could handle it on my own. Deal with what I did and what I've become. I-I pushed her away. Cuz-cuz I know she didn't really want to be here. How could she want to be with me? I ne-need her so much Lil, and now, I think she hates me!"

A few hundred miles away, the brunette plopped onto the couch, suddenly glad she was alone. It had gotten bad, and she had no idea how Gab was feeling. The jumbled speech made her more confused than ever. "Gab, shhhh. She couldn't hate you. Shhh, I want you to calm down. You're gonna make yourself sick." She heard the muffled sound of moving around. "You know you can't go on like this don't you?

"I-I know, but I don't know what to do." She wiped at her eyes with a Kleenex.

"Maybe you need to go talk to someone. . ."

"No! That's not an option Lil. I can't. I can't talk to T, so what makes you think I could talk to a stranger? I wouldn't know where to start."

"It was just an idea. Maybe mom will be able to help. You know offer a fresh perspective for you both, and she'll be there in a couple of days."

She blew her nose before she answered. "Maybe. It couldn't make things worse. I don't think."

They talked for a few more minutes. Gabrielle hung up feeling emotionally drained and raw.

Tara lay on her brotherís couch, staring at her own little piece of ceiling and counted 1,201 holes so far. Jake rolled his eyes and sighed. She was trying to hide it, but he hadnít seen her this distraught in. . .well a long, long time. He could see behind the dry humor and quick wit like no one else could, except maybe Gabrielle.

"You know Jakie, if you didnít look so good as a woman you might find a good gay man." She paused. "Next on Jerry Springer." Then she laughed at her own joke.

Jake decided to push through the subterfuge today. ĎSheís been coming over for the past few days and hasnít really said a thing.í

"T?" Blue eyes like his looked up in acknowledgement. "Shut the hell up," he deadpanned. "Youíve been coming over here for days now with that sick look in your eyes. Youíve talked, talked, and talked and managed not to say a damn thing. So, do you want to tell me whatís going on?"

She lowered her head until her chin rested against her chest and mumbled, "Nothiní."

Jake got up from the chair. Pushing her legs off the couch, he sat next to her. Unceremoniously, she deposited her feet in his lap.

"Bullshit. Who do you think youíre talking to? Youíve been spending most of your days with me, and I know I ainít that interesting. And you sure as hell donít miss me that much."

She scowled at her brother. Then said again, "Itís nothiní. Just need to get away is all."

"Unh-huh, what did you do?"

She jumped up outraged at his implications. "Wha-What did I do? Sheís the one that wonít talk to me!"

Crystal blue eyes shined back at him in triumph and mirth.


"Yup, but Iím a smart one. Now spill it."

Releasing a breath, she disturbed dark bangs. "I donít even know where to start."


"Yeah, yeah I know at the beginning." She sighed. "Well, after what happened with this Steve guy, I just expected. . .I donít know to feel relieved that she was okay. I thought we would talk about, and I would help her get through whatever she was feeling. It didnít turn out that way. She wonít even talk to me Jakie, and itís just turned into a big ass mess. All this shit would have never happened if Iíd stayed with her that day. I should have been there!" Large hands ran irritably through the black mane. "I could have stopped this, but I had to take my ass to the shop out of some sense of duty, even when I knew things were slow as fuck. I just should have stayed home," she finished disgustedly.

Jake pursed his lips, listening intently. "Okayy, first of all. She killed a man T. Stabbed him dead, so sheís dealing with her own shit, you know? We donít know what he said or what all he did to her. You, sis, will just have to be patient and more than a little understanding.

He paused and looked into the eyes the same color blue to make sure she was listening. He was met with an eager glance.

"As for you, T, you are only human, and itís kinda normal to feel guilty after something like this. Look at it this way. If you had been there, whoís to say he wouldnít have killed you both? Whoís to say he wouldnít have waited until you went to the store, over here, or anywhere? Whoís to say?"

She rolled her eyes and sighed in irritation. "I understand all of that, but I also need to think about the what ifs. Either way none of it is helping. She wonít talk to me, and for all I know, she blames me for not being there, when I said I always would."

He nodded his head in understanding. "Listen, all I got to say is listen to her. Donít talk over her. Just listen and talk to her."

"Iíve been trying!"

"Try harder," he simply said.

They talked, and she cried on his shoulder as he wiped the tears away. Finally, she left late in the afternoon.

Coming in from the semi-darkness outside, Tara opened the door to a dimly lit living room. Azure eyes spied a figure huddled up in blankets on the couch in front of a silent, flashing television. She sat down beside the small form of her lover. The strawberry blonde didnít even turn her way, but she had to expect that after the argument between them several days ago.

"Um, Jake sends his love."

Gabrielle turned slightly toward the other woman.

"Howís he doing?"

"The same smart ass as ever," Tara replied hoping to at least get a slip of a smile.


They slipped into the customary silence. The dark-haired woman lowered her head. ĎI just donít know what to say, and Iím tired of fighting with her.í

Gabrielle rubbed her hand against her clothed leg. ĎI donít have the energy to do this. I wish she could just understand.í

The younger woman turned to look at her lover and found troubled blue eyes staring back at her. She missed those eyes. It seemed so long since she had seen happiness in them, since she had seen herself. How had they come so far from the loving path that they were following? There was no laughter, playing or togetherness anymore. There was only a somber blanket of wariness. Gabrielle pulled her eyes away to again stare sightlessly at the TV. Tara bit the inside of her cheek. There was nothing left to do save for trying.

"Red, we need to talk,"

Emerald green slowly turned back toward her. "Yeah, we do."

Not knowing what else to do, Tara went in head first. "Youíre shutting me out."

The strawberry blonde shook her head sadly. "All I want is for you to understand and give me some time to deal with all of this myself."

"Yeah, but you donít have to go it alone because thatís what Iím hear for." She didnít try to hide the thickness in her voice.

"Do you know me at all? If you did, you would know that I have to come to terms with whatís inside me before I let it out. Why canít you understand that? All you seem to care about is what you want and what you want me to do," the younger woman said with rising anger. She tried to swallow it down, the anger, but it reared its head anyway, coursing through her veins.

Tara closed her eyes and saw red. She gritted her teeth and slowly counted to ten. It didnít work, so she seethed. "Look Red, I donít wanna fight with you. I donít have the fucking energy!"

"Then walk away like youíve been doing!"

Guilt struck hard, ringing in her ears. She had to get away from it, if only for a little while. Letting out a growl, she propelled herself from the couch. Midnight tresses swung around with the rest of her body. "Fine! Donít expect me to come back tonight and put up with this!"

She turned again and headed for the door.

"Where are you going!?" The other woman screamed desperately. Fear permeated her heart along with the anger.


She left with a slam of the door.

Gabrielle was left alone with her thoughts, with her battle just like she wanted. Small hands went to her flushed face, and she wondered if Tara coming back at all. ĎShe does hate me.í

For hours, Tara drove aimlessly through the darkened streets. Her thoughts were a jumble mass of Jakeís advice and her loverís screaming words. She cranked up the music to drown it all out. She turned onto the highway and decided that she needed something else to drown it all out. The bar at RíPlace sounded really good right now.

The pulsing beat of the music and raised voices were a welcome sound. Brushing off her jeans and adjusting her sweater, she sauntered over to the bar, weaving through the dancing couples. The leather coat found a home on the back of a bar stool. With a nod of her head, she beckoned the bartender over, oblivious to the stares of the female patrons.

"Hey beautiful. What can I get you?

Tara gave him her best effort at a smile. "Youíre new," she exclaimed over the music. "Whereís----"

"Heís on vacation, so youíre stuck with me, handsome. My nameís Chris. Whatíll it be?"

"A pitcher of whatever you have on tap along with a mug and keep them coming."

"Whatever you say. Be right back."

Tara guzzled beer after beer until her brain felt decidedly fuzzy. There were no thoughts of Gabrielle, no feelings of guilt, just a faux sense of bliss. Beer sloshed over the side of the mug as she chatted with the bartender.


The bartender looked at her inquisitively. "What about them?"

"Jus-women!" She slurred. With her elbows on the bar, she wiggled her hips to the beat of the music.

A table of women close to the gyrating woman watched appreciatively, daring each other to make an approach. A petite blonde took the dare. Licking her lips, she studied the raven-haired womanís tall, lanky form before approaching her. Then she made herself comfortable in a stool beside Tara.

"Hey Chris! The next round for the lady here is on me."

He looked from one woman to the other with a hint of a grin and nodded his head.

Tara could feel eyes boring into her. Turning to the left and looking down, she stumbled across moss green eyes with a predatory gleam shining in them. They were so much. . .no she refused to think about her. With hooded eyes, she gave the woman the once over. Opening baby blues fully, she smirked at the other womanís gasp. The smirk turned into a smile as she watched the womanís throat bob up and down in a swallowing motion.

"Iím Cleo, and you are?"

Taraís smile turned into a sexy, toothy grin "Whoever you need me to be."

Deep inside she balked at the words that spilled from her lips. A muffled voice screamed that this was wrong, but it had been dulled by alcohol and pain. She longed for contact, just a touch, to make her feel alive again. The eyes. They reminded her so much of the woman that she wanted to do the touching, so her hazy mind settled.

The blonde interrupted her reverie when she quipped, "I need you to be mine tonight."

The inaudible voice continued to ring throughout her head, and she continued to ignore itís plea. After all, it was just a dance. With a jerk of her chin, they moved to the make shift dancefloor. Grabbing the blondeís hips from behind, Tara pulled the woman into her body. She bent at the knee, pulling the her into a deep grind. Small hands caressed her arms then moved up to wrap around her neck and run through inky tresses. Large hands traced the span of the blondeís hips then raked over her flat stomach. Their bodies remained sensuously entwined throughout the song and a few more, stopping when their bodies were covered with a light sheen of sweat. The two women returned to sit at the bar. Their legs touched, and the blonde increased the connection by stroking Taraís thigh.

"I still didnít catch your name."

"Thatís because Iím not gonna throw it."

Instead of the aloof, cool attitude spurning the woman, she became more intrigued than ever. She decided to push the envelope. "I donít live far from here. You want to come over for a. . . drink?"

Tara took a healthy swig out of the mug. She had sobered up some, and the voice was louder. ĎWhat the hell am I doing? I practically fucked this woman on the dance floor because she looked like Red. But, God, it felt so good to touch and be touched like that. Itís been so long. Iím gonna explode if things stay like this. I need something. I need somebody.í

"Yeah, letís go."

Ten minutes later, Tara stood in a semi-lighted apartment.

"Have a seat right in there." The blonde pointed.

"No, if itís okay Iíll follow you," Tara replied.

They walked quietly into the kitchen, and the taller woman watched as the blonde extracted two beers from the fridge. Leaning back against the counter, Tara sipped her beer. She looked down curiously as the other woman walked over and began playing with a belt loop on her jeans.

"You know my friends dared me to come talk to you. I would say things turned out rather well."

Cleo took the beer from the dark-haired womanís grasp and sat it on the nearby counter. She pushed up against the tall frame and wrapped her arms around a graceful neck. Tara swallowed. ĎCan I do this? I love her. God knows I do, but I need this. She doesnít have to know.í Small, strong hands pulled the dark head down until their lips touched. Tara growled in satisfaction. Pushing the woman back into the sink on the opposite side, she deepened the kiss. The smaller woman hopped up and wrapped strong legs around the taller womanís waist. Dark eyebrows scrunched. Something wasnít right, and she knew that she couldn't do it. The lips and taste were different. The body in front of her didnít fit into her like it should, and the legs around her waist were lacking. It wasnít Red, and it was all wrong. Tara wrenched her lips away as shame flooded her face.

She moved away until her lower back bumped into the counter. With her chest heaving, wide blue eyes skittered about, looking everywhere but the other womanís face.

"L-Look, I canít do this. Iím sorry, but I canít," Tara pleaded as anger colored the other womanís features. Before the other woman could speak, Tara ran for the door.

Gabrielle looked up at the wall clock. It was almost 6am, and Tara hadnít called or shown up. Fear and anger nagged at her gut. Despite the fighting, they were still a couple, and they still lived together, which entailed certain responsibilities. For tonight, she had obviously shirked them. ĎMaybe, Iíve pushed her to far, or maybe, Iíve really neglected to see her side of things. Iíve really havenít been giving her what she needs. No, no, that doesnít give her an excuse to do this to me, staying out all night. She could be lying somewhere dead, so she should have called.í Gabrielle sighed. Her heart and head felt so heavy like the weight of the universe was upon them. Raising up her knees, she pulled the night shirt down her legs, wrapping her arms around them. Anger nested and seemed to make a permanent home in her belly. There was nothing left to do but to wait and wish that she had someone to talk to. At this moment, Gabrielle hoped the days were quick to her motherís arrival.

Tara pulled over into an empty parking lot. She wiped away tears that had been steadily falling since she left the blondeís house. Letting out a frustrated growl, her fisted hands met the steering wheel with a continuous thump. She took a few deep breaths to try and calm herself. It worked a little. She turned on the interior light and pulled a mirror toward her. Shame and guilt fought for supremacy as she took in lip stick smeared, swollen lips and red eyes. Tears fell anew. ĎIím such an idiot! How could I do this to her?! Oh, God please forgive me. I just needed. . . I need her.í

Her face fell hidden by black hair. ĎI love her. Sheís my life, and I almost threw my life away. Why? Why couldnít I see?í Things that were once cloudy now seemed crystal clear. With this hit and miss situation, Tara learned that she was only human, making her prone to selfishness. ĎAll of this was about my guilt and making me feel better. Browbeating Gabrielle and kissing that woman was all about me and assuaging my guilt at not being there.í She stared out the windshield in wonder. The question was now could their relationship be salvaged? Tara swiped angrily at the lipstick on her lips and answered her own question. "Iíve gotta try." She started the car and drove off toward home.

Part II

Hmmmm, just when things seem to go well huh? Well, that's life. Let me know whatcha think. I gave you something, and it's only fair to give in return. Plus, I'm hungry. Drop me a line at Minerva.

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