Disclaimer One: The characters Xena and Gabrielle are the creation of MCA/Universal Studios and Rob T. I am borrowing one name and thatís it. These characters are mine! This story is a product of my imagination.

Disclaimer two: There is mild violence in this story, graphic consensual sex between women, and some mild use of language, if any of this is not your thing Ėthen go on sisterfriend, the cartoon network website is down the hall! :) I really, really enjoy feedback so keep it coming at Minerva.

This is a continuation of the story of Tara and Gabrielle who were first introduced in Rí Place. I love these characters and as long as they speak to me, I will keep writing about themótelling their story. It is necessary to read the first two stories R' Place and Silent Lucidity to understand this story. This story takes place barely two weeks after the fiasco at Gabís parentís house. In this story, Gabís parents intrude in an odd way. Things are not as happy as they seem with our couple. Lilian comes to visit with interesting results and things are forever changed by an almost tragedy.

Out on a Limb
(Part 3 of the Rí Place Series)

By

Minerva
© 1999 Minerva




Part I



Tara lay there somewhere between wakefulness and sleeping. She was engulfed in radiating warmth; in love; in nakedness; in healing light; in her Gabrielle. The shimmering beams of early morning streamed through the opening of the curtains, were decieving considering the considerable drop in temperature, yet no one stirred. Usually an early riser, she was content to remain spooned around Gabrielle, resting her chin on top of the fiery head. Their legs were a tangled mass, locked together by mutual consent. The smaller womanís shapely behind was nestled against wiry hair at the apex of her lover's thighs with the taller womanís breasts were pressed against her loverís back. One of Taraís arms acted as a pillow for red-gold locks, while the other made itís home under firm breast. The early riser sighed lightly. Heaven. Bliss. Utopia. There was no other way to describe it. Her heart didnít hurt anymore with each beat, and that hollow feeling she used to own seemed to have left long ago, when this woman smiled at her.

She listened to her loverís light breathing and the soothing sounds of the morning, waiting just waiting and listening for the other shoe to drop. Tara knew Gabrielle was the one, but her questions to herself wereócould she keep her and did she deserve her? Never in her life had she gotten what she wanted. Her life was never like the movies. She never got the girl, and she never got to ride off into the sunset. In her version, the bad element seemed to always win. Right now the bad element was Gabís parents. She had held Gabrielle many a night since Thanksgiving as she cried and awakened from nightmares. Could they win? Her heart clenched, and she whispered into the morning air, "Hell no, not this time. She means too much." Still, she knew something was on her loverís mind that she was itching to get off. She tightened her hold on the strawberry blonde, who whimpered in response.

Gabrielle lay there feigning sleep, trying to soak up the warmth from the body behind her. Outside she was warm, comfortable even, but inside she was cold, oh so cold. The only partly warm spot was her heart, and it was because of the woman who held her. She knew this, and she took the whispered words to heart. She wasnít the only one having a hard time with this. Still, matching the winter chill, was the arctic cold of her soul , which was the responsibility of her parents, and the fear that stemmed from the confrontation. She believed what she told Tara that despite it all her love for her would not change, but could she survive without her family? They had never been very close, but she still loved them. She loved them dearly, and it was that love that kept her hoping that they would call and say we understand. That didnít happen.

The only solace from the cold was Tara, and of course her friends, including her sister. There were things she had yet to deal with after figuring out who she was. She wasn't "out" in the public sense of the word. Gabrielle swallowed as unsure thoughts swirled around in her mind. Could she take public ostracism, concerning her friends, as well as that from her family? She remembered what she told Tara about everybody else be damned when it came to them, but being faced with this sort of reality was disheartening. She closed her eyes tightly, took a couple of subtle deep breaths, and then closed the door to her thoughts. Knowing deep inside that these fears needed to be addressed and addressed soon. The worried woman focused on the warmth, on Tara and the incredible heat they shared. Long minutes later, she drifted back into a deep, mentally exhausted sleep.

Tara drifted in and out of a restless sleep. Finally, she woke up with the ring of the doorbell. Careful not to wake her lover, she slowly disentangled herself. Grabbing a robe and in bare feet, she padded into the living room. Looking through the peep hole, she saw a serene looking man standing at the door, and as she opened it, the white collar and black suit become visible. A priest. Her brow furrowed in confusion as to why a priest would be on Gabís doorstep.

"Um, Can I help you?"

"Yes, Iím looking for Gabrielle Howard. Do I have the right house?"

"Yeah, but sheís sleeping."

The man was quiet for long minutes. He stared at Tara with gentle eyes. She stared back, with her jaw working as she ground her back teeth together in impatience.

"You know what you two are doing is wrong in the eyes of God?"

Tara smiled at him. "Youíd better come in Father. We seem to have some talking to do."

She led him to the couch, and she had a seat in the chair across from him. Tara leaned forward looking him in the eye curiously.

"Her parents sent you." It wasnít a question but a statement of fact, and he knew that.

"Gabby has always been a good Catholic girl," he replied. "But sometimes at vulnerable moments anyone can be lead astray into sin. What you two are doing can not being supported anywhere in the Bible."

She looked at him evenly for so long that he began to fidget in his seat.

"You can say it Father. H-o-m-o-sexual. Itís okay." She looked at him with a disarming smile, and tapped her chin.

"Letís see. So what youíre telling me is that itís wrong to love. He teaches love. Am I right? He teaches acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. Am I in the right ballpark here? How can you sit there and tell me its wrong to be a part of a love so strong and so pure that it changes you, makes you a better person."

"But the Lord saysó"

She held up her hand. "Iím not finished yet Father. I believe in God. I do. I am also acquainted with the Bible. So, I know that God also says that man should not judge one another. Am I right?"

He nodded his head.

"So, youíre here to tell her that she will go to Hell, Purgatory , or whatever because she loves me?" During this whole exchange, Taraís voice was soft and respectful. It began to rise a notch.

"Who are you to judge Father? If you take away the collar, youíre just a man, just human. Youíre that anyway that would make you more so. No man or woman has the right to judge us. Weíre no different Father. No different do you hear me? I canít help the way I am. Itís not a choiceówho on earth would chose such a hard life. Think about this Father before you talk to her, before you end up breaking her heart."

"Iím not saying its wrong to love young lady, just wrong to love another woman like that. We are all on this earth seeking happiness, but it is the devout that think about the afterlife not just pleasure here on earth."

Tara shook her head in exasperation. "Did you hear a word I just said? Or are you so far under that you donít know how to hear anything different?"

"I could say the exact same about you miss." They were at a stand off.

In the mean time, Gabrielle slowly awakened to the sounds of voices coming from the other room. One she knew was Tara. She scrunched her brow trying to recognize the other. Cocking her head to the side, her eyes widened. "God, tell me thatís not Father Steve," she whispered. Gabrielle jumped out of bed and searched haphazardly through her drawers finally pulling out old running shorts and a t-shirt. The small woman dashed out into the living room, and she looked from Father Steve to her lover. Taraís face was showing the beginning of a flush, and her smile was feral. Going into instant protect, nurture mode, she grasped her loverís shoulders and felt her relax almost instantly. Piercing green raked over the priest.

"Why are you here? They sent you didnít they?"

When he did not answer right away. Her voice raised an octave. "Didnít they?!

"They are only trying to look out for you Gabby." He nodded toward Tara. "I just had an interesting conversation with your friend here. She seems to really care about you, but I canít condone what you are doing."

Gabrielle answered, "I never asked for your blessing Father. I have my own life to live the way I see fit." She squeezed Taraís shoulders. "She makes me a better person---more caring, more open, more everything. That canít be wrong. You tell my parents that when you report back to them. Right now I think itís time for you to leave Father. I donít want this to turn ugly."

It was his turn to shake his head in exasperation. "If thatís what you really want Gabrielle, I see I canít convince you."

He got up to leave. Gabrielle escorted him to the door, silently. He was gone with a final click. She turned to look at her taller lover. As if weighted down, her shoulderís visibly slumped, and she ran her fingers through bed raggled hair.

"I-I canít believe they would do this to me."

Tara looked at the little woman with empathetic eyes. "We got some talking to do Red. Somethingís been on your mind, and Iíve tried to be patient and wait it out. I canít anymore." Tara patted her lap. "Have a seat."

Gabrielle took a deep breath and cuddled up in the soft lap. After a few tense moments, she began to speak. "Iím scared T. I know in my heart what I told you about not leaving you despite it all was true, but-but being faced with reality like this. It threw me for a loop. There is a possibility that my family may never accept me, never want to see me again. I donít know if I can deal with that even for you. I donít know if Iím strong enough."

Taraís body tensed all over again. ĎWas this it?í ĎWas this how it was gonna end?í "Um, so what youíre saying is that itís too much to deal with even to love me?"

Gabrielle closed her eyes. "No thatís notóugh I donít know what Iím saying. This is so hard. I love you. You know that. I just-just need you to help me. Lend me some of you heart and strength for a little while.

Tara closed her own eyes and took in a ragged breath, trying to fight back tears. "Red, dontcha know you got my heart already baby, and as for me being strong, you help make me that way. I wasnít kidding when I told the priest that loving you changed me."

Gabrielle snuggled in closer and rested her chin on top of Taraís head. "God, I havenít even told my other friends or colleagues about it yet."

Tara stiffened even more. She jumped up almost depositing the startled woman on the floor. Her eyes were wild with hurt, her voice heavy with emotion. "Why is it so important what other people think? I mean I can understand you being worried about your family, but those other people shouldnít mean shit Gab. Why canít it just be us living our lives and loving each other, huh?"

Gabrielle looked at her stunned. She didnít know what to say or to do, so she just lowered her head. Tara sighed and mumbled, "Iím going to the shop. Iíll call you later." She walked to the bedroom with a purpose and slammed the door. Gabrielle could hear her stomping around and the sounds of the shower. She sat down heavily in the abandoned chair. The seat was still warm with Taraís heat. The little woman sat there trying to understand what she had said to set Tara off like that. She dropped her head in her hands.

Tara quickly washed up, still seething. "Everything is more important than us to her!" She whispered hotly into the water. Tucking in the back of her mind, her own insecurities and questions that needed to be broached, she jerked the handle to turn the water off, quickly dried herself, and just as quickly got dressed with her wet hair plastered back to her head. Now, back out in the living room, she stopped and stared at the bent figure in the plush chair. Tara walked until she was directly behind the slumped woman, and shakily reached out a hand. Gabrielle started when she felt Taraís presence in the room. She thought that she was going to touch her, but felt her hand draw back at the last minute. She quickly turned only to see a tall figure retreating out the door, and she sat there in stunned silence not understanding the silent treatment or the reluctance to touch.

First, there were tears and then the anger came. She got up, angrily throwing things around the house, in an attempt to clean. Steadily mumbling to herself, "Why doesnít she understand? She went through the same damn thing with her mom and friends. Didnít she? I donít fucking understand her sometimes. She closes herself off to me!" Gabrielle stopped dead in the middle of the room. "But, she only does that when something is really bothering her. Thereís something sheís not telling me I know it." She blew her bangs away from her forehead. "God, our first real fight. Sheesh, it had to happen." She strengthened her resolve to find out what was going on, but she knew Tara well enough to know that it would be revealed in her own time.

Tara went into work with the disposition of a snake, hissing and snapping at anyone who crossed her path. Her two employees learned quickly to get out of her way. Her mind continuously wondered back to the woman she left sitting in the chair. She was losing her. She just knew it. Her thoughts were a jumbled mass of confusion and hurt. "Why did this have to get so hard? Iím not good enough or strong enough to keep her. Thatís why sheís questioning everything." A familiar pain shot through her body. Her heart was hurting. "I donít know if I can survive this one. Iíve given too muchóshown too much to her already." Taraís mind reeled with such thoughts throughout the morning, and correspondingly, she worked like a madwoman, trying to keep the impending pain at bay.

Gabrielle shut off the shower and dashed into the bedroom naked to answer the ringing phone. "Hello, Tara?"

"Um, that would be no."

"Oh, hi Lil."

"Well damn, donít sound too happy to hear from me."

"Iím sorry. Itís not that me and Tara had a fight, and I thought you were her calling."

"Uh, huh. Do you want me to call back another time?"

"No, no itís okay. Itís nice to hear from you. Whatís up?"

"Eh, same old same old. Nothing new, Mom is still barely talking to me, but dad has come around though."

"Lucky you, I havenít heard from either of them. Oh, and guess who paid me a visit this morning?" Gabrielle could almost see her sisterís dark brow raising in question.

"Who?"

"Father Steve." There was an intake of breath.

"Oh no, hold up! They did not do that!"

Gabrielle laughed bitterly. "Oh yeah they did." She proceeded to tell her what she heard and what she was present for.

Several minutes later, "Is that what lead to the fight between you two?"

"Sorta, Iím not sure. All I know is that something is really bothering her, and sheís lashing out because of it. Iím gonna go over to the shop later and try to make up with her."

"Do what you gotta do Gab. She really loves you from what I can tell. Oh, and hey listen, this is probably the worst time in the world to bring thid up, but um I was thinking of paying you a visit for a couple of days, baby in tow. If I'm gonna interrupt your writing or come in between you two I can reschedule."

"No, no itís okay. I'm almost finished with my book,and I got an extension from my publisher. As for the other matter, I think weíll be alright, and she doesnít spend the night here every night. I stay over there sometimes."

Lil laughed lecherously, "Oh yeah I just bet you do!"

Gabrielle joined in the laughter. "Gutterslut."

"Oh, listen whoís talking. If I remember correctly, you were going on and on about the varying speeds of Taraís tongueó"

"Ooook, touchť. Anyway, so when were you thinking of coming down? I canít wait to see Jamie.

"Day after tomorrow if thatís okay?"

Yeah, sure, and if we decide to go out I have this neighbor, a really nice old lady, the kids love her, and she babysits for a lot of parents in the neighborhood. She could keep Jamie. Oh, and one more thing, Thanks."

Huh, for what?"

"You always make me laugh and feel better."

"Tch, Iím just doing my job, Gab," she said softly. "Iíll see you soon big sis. Bye."

"Bye." She hung up the phone and proceeded to get dressed. There was something she had to take care of or rather someone.

Gabrielle sat looking at herself in the car mirror, gathering the nerve to go inside Taraís Bike Shop. She saw Viv, one of Taraís employees, leave, and knew it was only John and Tara left. It was an hour after closing, and she assumed they were cleaning up for the night. Getting out of the car, she adjusted her dress, which had unceremoniously began to ride up. Her low heels clicked against the concrete of the street and the sidewalk. She had her hand on the door, when it opened suddenly to reveal a surprised then an appreciative looking John as he stared down at her. "Hey Gabster. The boss lady is in the garage."

"Thanks John." She grinned and said in response. She locked the door and drew the shades after him. Once again she adjusted her dress. The pale yellow jersey material clung enticingly to every curve and kissed her bosom, leaving just enough exposed to be semi-scandalous. The color complimented her fiery hair left untamed tonight and glittery green eyes. The dress was held up by thin straps, and she had boldly left her jacket in the car. The ensemble ended just above her knees, and her legs were covered in sheer silk stockings that hooked to a garter belt of the same pale color, with little else underneath. The nervous woman took a deep breath and walked quickly into the garage to find her unsuspecting lover retrieving and putting up tools.

The hair on the back of Taraís neck tingled with awareness, and she turned to look over her shoulder. "Hey," Gabrielle said quietly. Taraís breath caught and held in her chest at the vision before her. As if her eyes had been starving for a look at her lover, she quickly stood up and faced the smaller woman, swallowing as she drank in the sight. Her eyes blinked once, twice, three times before she realized she had been spoken to. Her mouth suddenly dry, she cleared her throat. "Um, hi yourself." Gabrielle took a step forward, but on the other end, Tara was rooted to that spot.

"Um, I-I didnít want to leave things like they were, so I decided to come see you. I hope thatís okay?" Tara nodded and smiled shakily. Gabrielle took another step forward.

"Look, Iím not sure what all that was about this morning, but I obviously hurt you. I never mean or want to do that. Iím sorry." She looked at her lover shyly. "Um, can you talk to me and tell me whatís wrong? I want us to be okay."

Tara looked at her with pleading pale blue eyes. She wanted so much to voice her insecurities, her old pain and fears, but she wouldnít not yet Ėnot until she knew Gabrielle would be there despite how illogical it sounded.

Reading her love perfectly, "Soon then? When youíre ready?"

Tara looked down at her feet then back up into inquisitive green. "Yeah, Iím sorry too about all this. I didnít mean to go off like that." She looked down at her hands ashamed.

"Hey, its okay. Are we okay? I mean for right now?" Tara nodded her head and smiled genuinely.

"I love you Red. No matter what I say."

Gabrielle grinned back. "I know."

Just the phrase got a chuckle from Tara. "Hey listen. Iíll be right back. Gotta take this stuff to the back and wash my face and stuff. I must look a mess."

Gabrielle nodded. After she was alone, she kicked off her shoes and lifted the dress over her head to exposeóabsolutely nothing underneath except the silk garter. This was her way of making sure things were okay, showing that they were still alive, still thriving, and still wanting. This was her way of showing Tara how much she meant to her. She had to have her, to touch her, to take her. There were no if, ands, or buts about it. So, she followed her unsuspecting lover in the back storage room, her body shivering in anticipation, despite the heat.

Tara quickly threw the tools in the appropriate box, and was busily washing her face and hands in a nearby sink. Getting that prickly feeling again, she stood up and turned around. There walking toward her was the picture of perfection, a naked picture of perfection. The silk garter was like packaging holding sweet secrets behind red gold curls.

"Sweet Jesusó"

The wet towel she was using fell from nerveless fingers back into the sink with a wet thud. Her heart beat hard against her chest, so hard and so loud, surely it could be heard. Gabrielle took a step forward, and in response, Tara took a step back totally unnerved by the feral, predatory look of need in her loveís eyes. The game went on until Tara found herself with her back against a side wall, surrounded by tables. Gabrielleís eyes closed to slits as she took in the uncharacteristic display of fear.

She cocked her head to the side and smiled a smile that was no more than a baring of white teeth. The taller womanís breathing became erratic, and she licked suddenly dry lips. Gabrielle tracked each move. She watched the pink tongue intensely, and licked her own lips in empathy. Tara shook her head, trying to gain release from the haze. ĎThis is Gabrielle. Come on. She doesnít have it in her to take over like this. Anytime she had in the past was gentle, loving.í There was no gentleness in her gaze. Gabrielle stepped so close to her lover that they were breathing the same air, so close but not touching. The dark woman whimpered at their bodies being so close scorched by wave after wave of heat that was coming off the smaller womanís body. It threatened to consume her. The smaller womanís heart was beating double time and rising faster with the level of excitement. Never had she suspected this reaction from her lover. It was too near to total submission, pure and simple. She wanted it all. She could almost taste it.

Gabrielle placed her hands on either side of the lover's head. The pink tips of her breasts rubbed delectably against the soft, worn fabric of Taraís coveralls. They stood there staring at each other. One was begging the other to submit to lust, to love, to passion. The other was holding back. Gabrielle held Tara with a gaze so intense it seemed to look through her very soul. Finally, one soul spoke to another and with permission in her eyes, she gave in. A small growl of triumph escaped Gabrielleís throat. In a flurry of movement, the little woman leaned heavily into her bigger lover. One hand buried itself deep into black tresses and yanked the womanís neck back. Gabrielleís warm, moist mouth covered her loverís throat, her teeth biting into the rapid pulse at the base.

Tara cried out and helplessly her body flooded with syrupy heat. Hands that had been flattened against the wall a moment before sought out and grabbed hold of pliant, fleshy globes partly covered in silk. Gabrielle groaned as she nipped and sucked in the flavor of her loverís skin. She felt Taraís body tremble as she bit into the strong cords at the side of her neck. Just as quickly as she started, she jerked Taraís head away from her mouth. She whimpered in protest and was about to beg, but it turned into a low sensual moan as her lips were covered, suffused with the heat of the woman before her. Not waiting for an invitation, Gabrielle opened her mouth hotly over Taraís demanding her to do the same. Their lips meet powerfully, searingly. Tongues dueled for entry slipping, sliding, caressing each other. Tara whimpered harshly into her loverís mouth, when the tip of Gabrielleís tongue flicked rapidly over hers. The aggressive little woman wrenched her mouth free, fighting desperately to draw this out until the fire was scorching. Her tall lover mewed in protest, her eyes dark with desire and confusion. Whether it was meant to quiet her or touch soft swollen wet lips she wasnít sure, Gabrielle caressed Taraís lips with her fingertips before pushing two deep into the cavern of her mouth.

The dark woman sucked and swirled her tongue around them. Tasting her. Gabrielle pressed down with her fingers, opening her lover's mouth. She covered Tara's mouth once again, fingers and all, using them to open her mouth wider, to spear her tongue deeper. Taraís legs began to shake. The kiss was an exercise in pure eroticism. Each flick of Gabrielleís tongue stroked a fire and drew out an answering whimper. Tara crushed her loverís lower body against her, rubbing, gyrating her hips futilely. Her sex throbbed with a life of its own, and she hadnít even been touched yet. Gabrielleís fingers left their moist prison, and Tara loosened her hold also. The kiss ended briefly as the Gabrielle's hands became busy tearing at the zipper in the front of her Tara's coveralls. Finally, getting it free, she unzipped her quickly, pushing the grease stained fabric off her shoulders to reveal even more clothes. Gabrielle pushed the sweat pants and the wisp of underwear down around her love's calves, letting free the smell of her arousal into the air already heavy with a metallic tang. It only served to sweeten it.

"I can smell you. So wet," Gabrielle uttered. Tara only groaned as she quickly kicked free of her shoes and clothing; only to almost sink to the floor herself as their naked lower bodies met, crushing back together, and she instinctively parted her legs and maneuvered Gabrielleís thigh between them. Seemingly, the sounds echoed off the quiet walls as they moaned in unison. One because of soft yet hard flesh rubbing tantalizingly against her pulsing clit, and the other because of the warm, wet, stickiness of her lover coating her thigh. Their mouths and tongues touched yet again, drinking from each other as if dying from a ravenous thirst. Gabrielle squeezed her eyes shut tightly in an effort to maintain control. Her own pleasure was unimportant. She fought hard to ignore the smell and feel of her own wetness and the throbbing of her own clit. Her stomach was tied in knots of desire, but Taraís pleasure was paramount. She pushed her thigh upward and heard a groan of appreciation as Tara ground down harder on it. With a helpless response, she gripped the smaller womanís shapely bottom, pulling it into her to increase the friction. Tara whimpered heatedly into the lush mouth. Gabrielle opened her eyes and watched Tara's face. Her dark hair was damp with sweat, and her face was flushed. Her eyes were large and dark glittering with arousal.

Just when Tara was sure that the present pleasure was going to stay, it was removed. Gabrielle tore her lips away and lowered her leg to the ground. Tara looked as though she was going to lunge for her to further the contact, but instead, she almost slammed her head against the wall in exasperation. Gabrielle slid soft hands from her dark loverís waist to under her cut off t-shirt. She watched in satisfaction as Tara arched her back into the touch. She cupped full breasts in her hands squeezing and separating them lightly. Tara murmured what sounded like a plea, and silently her lover complied by removing the rest of her clothing. Tara felt wound tighter than a cork. She felt like screaming lest her head would explode. Ever relentless, the shorter woman leaned back to survey her handiwork. Her loveís breathing was shallow and raspy, and with each breath her luscious breasts seemed to beckon the watcher. Unable to resist, Gabrielle tweaked a nipple slowly between her fingertips. She pulled and watched it snap back into placeóharder, prouder than before.

"God T, I love your tits. They---oh God I gotta taste them," Gabrielle groaned harshly.

Feeling utterly compelled, Tara had to watch her lover make love to her breasts. What she saw, what she felt, almost made her stop breathing to wallow in the moment. Gabrielle snaked her pink tongue out slowly caressing, tasting each crinkle around her loverís nipple, making them more pronounced, more wrinkly. She circled her tongue slowly around the dark nipple never touching it. Tara whimpered in frustration and thrust her chest out trying to help her find her way. Never wavering from the task, Gabrielle eyes closed and she moaned in rapture. She had never tasted anything so luscious and meant to savor each flavor each texture as if it was the first time. Intuitively knowing the nipple was lonely, neglected, she flicked it lightly with the tip of her tongue. Tara sucked in her breath on a whimper. Unable to turn her eyes away, Tara watched enamored as her breasts were savored. In a word, it was delicious. Nerve endings crackled raw and exposed, leaving her body humming with electricity. Her sex dripped with readiness, but she distinctively got the feeling that Gabrielle had just begun. She longed to rub her aching clit and balled her hands into fists against the wall to keep from doing just that.

With a quick little hot move, Gabrielle sucked the nipple into her wet mouth, continuously sucking and slurping more and more in until her mouth was full. The shorter woman slowly pulled her head back, making sure her teeth lightly scraped against the flesh in her mouth all the way to the nipple, while pumping the other nipple in between her fingers.

"Unngh, oh God!"

Taraís hips bucked forward searching for any contact to relieve the pressure steadily building between her legs. She growled in frustration when nothing was forthcoming. The tall woman buried her hand in red-gold, begging her to repeat the caress, and repeat it she did, until the only thing from her loverís mouth was a constant whimper. Tara could no longer contain her whimpering, moaning responses. She had lost all control, and Gabrielle had her body singing any tune she wanted. Joining in on the erotic symphony, Gabrielle whimpered a tune of satisfaction, making her lover's blood boil hotter, higher. She removed her mouth from one breast with a slurp and went immediately on to the other, giving it identical treatment. With a free hand, she found and touched her loverís lips. On a moan, she slipped two fingers inside her mouth. The dark woman closed her lips over them, as her smaller lover began to pump them in and out. It was a hot promise of what was to come. Gabrielle groaned sexily into the nipple, as Taraís large tongue flicked over her digits. Being inside tall woman felt much like this, all hot, wet and silky with a suction that seems to pull her deeper.

The moist pink mouth trailed further down her loverís torso leaving a tingling burning trail in its wake. The fingers slid from their moist home. Unsuspectingly, they found another as they bypassed strumming clit to get to steaming opening.

"Shit! Oh yesss!" Tara all but screamed.

Gabrielle plunged inside deep feeling the warm wetness coating her fingers. She moaned at the feel of it. With each thrust, she pulled out to the tip only to enter again all the way up to the hilt. Adding one finger then another, Tara bent her knees in order to ride the obliging fingers with a grunt, trying to slam her body down on them. She worked her body hard, reflective of the fine sheen that covered it. She held Gabrielleís mouth to her body not wanting to severe the warm contact. It was fire pure and simple in its intensity. Gabrielle slid down to her knees, and her warm mouth ended up on the inside of a thigh as she watched her fingers work. She watched as they disappeared deep into her loverís opening; she watched her clit jump in reaction; she watched the copious fluids cover her hand each time she pulled out. Never had there love making been more profound, more erotic. Gabrielle began to shake in her attempt to maintain control. The sexy smacking sounds, the smell of her lover, the sticky warmth covering her hand grated against her control. She squeezed her thighs together to release some pressure, but it only served to heighten her awareness of coated thighs and humming clit.

The smaller womanís inner walls clinched in empathy to the pleasure she knew her lover was receiving. Remembering the salty, sweet flavor of Taraís juices, Gabrielle felt compelled to taste them once more. She tapped her lover on the leg and tried to lift her it up. Getting the hint, Tara threw her leg over a shoulder. Gabrielle listened to the not so quiet whimpering sobs coming from her love, but she wanted to hear them get louder. The little woman groaned as she kissed the damp hair of the outer lips. She dipped her tongue in deeper licking the stickiness of her loverís inner lips. Taraís moans went up an octave. She licked them thoroughly and slowly with first the tip then the flat of her tongue. Tara ground her sex into her loverís face. A strangled cry was torn from her throat when inner lips were sucked into the moistness of her lover's mouth. The pleasure was exquisite, near the edge of pain. Her tongue was slow and deep much like her fingers. Gabrielle hummed in pleasure as she devoured the creamy coating on Taraís sex. It was no use. She had to come, if only to intensify the moment, the pleasure, anything less would be sacrilegious.

As if it had been waiting ions, her clit jumped in extasy as it was finally stroked by Gabrielleís strong tongue. The smaller womanís nodule leaped in empathy as she was pushed closer to the edge. She lapped at Taraís clit with long, slow, languid strokes guaranteed to increase the fire burning, and the intensity of impending orgasm. Her fingers curved going deeper scraping against the spot inside that was soft and high, guranteed to make Tara scream., and scream she did.

"Pleasssse! Faster! Harder!"

Gabrielle complied. Her fingers slammed into hot flesh. *Smack, smack, smack.* With her mouth, Gabrielle created a suction around Taraís whimpering clit, pulling it into her mouth and grazing it with teeth and tongue. Nothingóabsolutely nothing prepared Tara for the orgasm that ripped through her with soul shattering force. One hand dug into a nearby table almost splintering the old wood. The other hand tugged bruisingly against Gabrielleís hair. Blue eyes rolled back into her head as her body was pummeled with convulsions that threatened to bring her to her knees and make her black out. She sobbed and cried out. "Ggabriellle!" The taller woman clawed tooth and nail to stay conscious, and she was conscious enough to hear precious sounds coming from below. Gabrielleís heart stopped in her chest, when she felt the force of her loverís orgasm pulling against her fingers. Her own thighs shook, as she milked the bud retrieving every ounce of pleasure. She tore her mouth away as seconds later, "Unnngh, ohhhh!" Her own climax caused her body to quake, and a multitude of colors to explode behind her eyes. She drank in the hot steaming flow of her loveís orgasm as the ripples subsided within her own body, careful to get every drop. Tara whimpered softly as her knees finally gave way, and she sank to the floor. Gabrielle detached her mouth and engulfed the spent woman in her arms, whispering words of love into her ear and only receiving gibberish back as coherent speech wasnít possible. While her body had reached its pinnacle in pleasure, she was left hungry for more, but that would have to wait because she gave Tara what she wanted to give her; showed her what she wanted to show her---devotion, love, and desire.

She held Tara tightly to her kissing her forehead as sanity returned slowly. The tall woman closed her eyes trying to hold onto the floating feeling, never wanting to let it go. Her body shivered still as she continued to sob quietly.

"God, Red youóincredible. L-love you so much."

"Shhhh, itís okay. I know baby." They lay there cuddling each other for long minutes, warm air flowing through the vents heating their cooling bodies. With one final kiss to her loverís forehead, Gabrielle whispered, "Letís go home." She helped Tara up and deposited her discarded clothes in her hands.

"You okay? Do you need some help putting these on?"

Tara smirked, "Yeah, Red fine just a tad bit shaky is all."

She bit her lip to keep from smiling. "Kay. Iím gonna go see if I can find my dress, left it in the garage somewhere." Tara nodded her head.

Gabrielle whimpered when she walked, her enlarged clit vibrating with each step. ĎLater,í she said to herself. She put on her dress slowly, and walked back to the store room to see if Tara needed help anyway. Tara pursed her lips and looked at her lover. She took in the flushed face, large, glowing eyes, and the little shimmy in her walk knowingly. She hid a smile, and just raised an eyebrow instead, which was missed.

Upon exiting, Tara pulled the front door, making sure it was secure. She turned to the shorter woman, "Okay, letís go." She pulled the keys from small fingers. "Iíll drive." She got a quiet, "Kay," in return. They talked quietly about nothing in particular on the way home, Christmas, Lilian coming over, Jake being out of town, and future dinner plans with Shannon and Wayne even came up. Gabrielle noticed that Tara seemed a bit more mellow, a bit more there and smiled in satisfaction. Even though, she knew deep down that some talking and revealing still needed to be done. She turned her head and looked out the window as her smile widened despite itself. The smile froze on her face, and her heart dropped into her stomach, when she felt Taraís hand resting between her legs, massaging her damp mound.

"Mmmm, just like I thought Red, still wet, still waiting," Tara growled in a low sultry voice.

As if galvanized into to action by the voice, Gabrielle whimpered heatedly and parted her legs wide, ready for what ever Tara was going to do. The taller womanís fingers dipped in, rubbing softly against inner lips, coating her fingers. She brought them up, and they glistened in the dimness of the car. Able to only briefly take her eyes off the road, Tara made sure the little woman watched her as she sucked the fingers dry. "Hmmmmm." Gabrielle watched and moaned harshly--her breathing turning ragged. Reaching back over between parted legs just like that Tara began to rub the engorged nub in small tight circles. Her lover cried out at the attention. One hand gripped Taraís forearm in a vice like grip urging her on, and the other held on to the fabric of the seat as an anchor.

"Oooooo!"

"Thatís it. God, itís so big, Red. All for me isnít it?" When no answer was forthcoming, Tara sped up her fingers, "Isnít it!?"

"Yesss, please inside!"

Tara didnít care who saw or who pulled over. She had to finish this. It was too hot not too. The dark woman pulled the car to the side of the lonely stretch of road. Everybody else be damned. Deep inside she felt the faint stirrings of renewed desire, but swallowed them down, unsure if her body could take anymore tonight. Once pulled over, she rubbed Gabrielleís throbbing clit for a few more intense seconds, loving to hear the woman cry out and watch her squirm. Gabrielle sobbed repeatedly into the sex filled air of the car. The windows had long since become foggy with the increase of heat inside. Her hips rose off the seat to meet the talented fingers, and her body sang with incredible waves of pleasure. This is what she had wanted to happen wasnít it? Somewhere way back in her mind, she knew that paybacks were indeed a bitch.

The next few seconds transformed from hot to white hot. "Come here," Tara whispered harshly into the sobbing womanís ear. "Sit in my lap." Gabrielle obeyed immediately, pulling her dress up around her waist, and she was quickly rewarded by being impaled on three long fingers.

"Oooh, God! Unnngh!"

Gabrielle set her own rhythm hot, heavy, fast, and deep. She rode the digits, taking it all in, hurting the webbing of her loverís fingers with each smack of her body into them. She was so wet, so turned on, so needy, and getting so much closer. Tara breathed hotly into her loverís ear, knowing that would intensify the passion Gabrielle was already feeling.

"Youíre ready arenít you?"

Gabrielle bobbed her head up and down enthusiastically.

"Ready to comeófor me?"

"Yessssss!"

"Then come on. All over my hand, Red."

One, two more thrusts and Gabrielle went almost completely still. Her mouth opened and a scream rang out, making even Taraís ears smart. The little womanís body jerked spastically. Orgasm tore through her like a dull knife, boring into her, extending the pleasure/pain. Oblivion tried its best to pull Gabrielle under. She fought it weakly, but staved it off nonetheless. She mumbled incoherently into Taraís neck with her body still reverberating with tiny, potent aftershocks. Tara rubbed her back and kissed her brow to sooth her spent lover. Several minutes later, Tara thought her asleep when she didnít stir. She pulled her head back softly to reveal her face. What she saw almost made her chuckle. With a dreamy look on her face, Gabrielle smirked and pursed her lips.

"Paybacks. Yah."

This did bring a chuckle that formed into an all out laugh. "Letís get you home, Red." She softly deposited the woman in her own seat. Gabrielle whimpered in protest, her body losing contact with Taraís. "Shhhh, okay." She bent over and kissed the small woman on the cheek as she started the car. She watched with a proud twinkle in her eyes as sleep finally claimed her lover. A few minutes later, she parked in Gabrielleís driveway, and Tara carried her from the car to their bed. She undressed her slowly not wanting to wake her. The tall woman stripped her own clothes and spooned around her lover. Deep sleep claimed them both.


Part II



A day later, Lil balanced her load precariously. Jamie was on one arm with a huge diaper bag to match over that shoulder, and Lilís own large bag was over the other shoulder. She eyed her sisterís doorbell trying to decide how to ring or if she should just yell for help. It was a little early in the morning so the yelling was out. Turning to the side, she pushed her shoulder into the bell softly, grinning as she heard the resounding *ding-dong*.

Lounging in the living room in her robe, drinking one of Gabrielleís strange blends of coffee was Tara. She sat in front of the TV. It was watching her instead of the other way around. She looked down into the cup and scrunched her brow trying to figure out what this one was. She smirked and shook her head not understanding why people didnít just drink coffee black, like nature intended. Her ears perked up, and she looked warily at the door when the door bell rang, wondering if it was the priest again. Tara got up and sauntered to the front door to look out the peep hole. She smiled as she saw little Jamie fingering her mommieís ear. Opening the door immediately, she wisked the baby out of Lilianís arms.

"Hey Lil, I didnít know you were coming so early, and hey there lil bit!"

"Pffffft, boo, agoo!"

"Eh, didnít have anything else to do today so we set out early this morning."

"Oh, okay, come on in." Tara threw Jamie up in the air. "Someone learned a new sound, didnít they?" Jamie squealed, making Tara laugh. "Well let me go put some clothes on, and wake Gab. Weíll be right back. Wonít we lil bit?" Lilian shook her head in wonder at the tall woman. She was certainly something. She sat her bags on the couch and sat down heavily. She almost jumped when she heard Gabrielleís distinctive squeal. She smiled wickedly wondering what Tara had done.

Upon entering the bed room, Tara sat Jamie on the bed, near Gabrielleís head. How was she to know the little girl was going to pull her auntís hair like a rag doll? Gabrielle squealed as she awakened suddenly, "Ouuuuch, dammit! Whoóawwww hey punkin!" She hugged the dark haired baby to her naked chest. Tara chuckled as she pulled on sweat pants and a t-shirt.

"I guess you figured out that your sister is in the living room. They just got here a few minutes ago. Oh, uh you might want to put some clothes on before more sensitive parts of your body get pulledówhoa!" Tara ducked out of the way as a pillow sailed for her head.

"Goo, boo-boo!"

"Yeah, what she said, " Tara laughed. "Okay sunshine, letís go back out to mom, your aunt will be out in a minute."

Gabrielle dressed quickly and went out to hug her sister. Lilian rubbed her back and whispered in her ear, "Hey girl, everything okay?"

"Yeah, for right now."

Lilian looked at her sister inquisitively, but didnít say anything.

"Come on, Iíll help you take your bags into your bedroom."

"Alrighty, I hope you got some curtains in there that damn winter sun shines directly into my eye."

"Yes, you big baby there are curtains in there now."

Lilian gave her a mock pout, and they walked down the hall laughing merrily, leaving Tara with the baby. Tara sat on the floor, Indian style, and sat Jamie in the gap between her legs. The tall woman bent over and seemingly whispered something in the little girlís ear that made her scream with laughter. Tara began to laugh herself as she repeated the playful gesture. Both Gabrielle and Lilian came from the back room quietly to observe what was going on. What they saw was baby Jamie all flush and giggly, with a bigger Tara in back of her just as goofy. Lil and Gabrielle glanced amused at each other then back at Tara. As if by some mutual agreement, they both cleared their throats at the same time. Taraís head jerked up, and she blushed furiously. "Uh, I didnít have dolls growing up?" Tara said feebly. Gabrielle inserted her tongue in her cheek to keep from laughing. She smiled prettily instead, and said in a baby voice, "Wittle Gabby needs wuvin too." Lilian screamed in laughter, holding on to the wall. Tara looked at Gabrielle sheepishly and stuck out her tongue. Jamie started to giggle because her mother was, and the rest of them joined in. Still, giggling somewhat, Gabrielle went into the kitchen to start breakfast.

The day went by quickly with all four of them together. Tara called her shop early telling John and Viv to hold down the fort because she was taking a sick day. The entire day was filled with laughter as Lilian told old stories about a young Gabrielle and the trouble she used to get in. Gabrielle had a few stories of her own, which caused her lover to lean on her and laugh. It was also a time where Lilian got to know Tara better, and what she heard and saw she liked. She watched the thoughtful sometimes heated looks and little touches pass between the couple. Her sister looked happy, despite what she had told her earlier. Lilian touched Tara on the leg.

"So, let me hear this famous story about how you two met. I hear its a something else from what Gab told me."

Gabrielle covered Taraís mouth with her hand. "No way that will have to wait till tomorrow at dinner. Weíre goin out. Shannon and Wayne are coming too, and Iím sure they will be more than happy to add their two cents."

Tara raised an eyebrow at Lil who grinned in return. "Okay, Iím game. Uh, you might want to take your hand off her mouth now. She doesnít look happy." Gabrielle snatched her hand away and grinned crookedly at Tara. She licked her lips and grinned back wickedly. The smaller womanís eyes widened because she knew something was coming. Paybacks being what they are. Tara lunged at her, tickling her till she hiccuped and begged to come up for air. Lilian looked on amused and Jamie clapped her hands enthusiastically. As the quickly as the day went by so did the night. Little Jamie was already in an exhausted sleep. The grown ups decided to stay up and watch movies until the wee hours of the morning. They laughed, cried and even booed at the bad ones.

Lil awakened early to the squirms of her daughter. After getting up, changing her, and feeding her, she made her way to the bathroom still groggy. The light was on in the bathroom and the door was slightly ajar. Before she opened it Lil peaked in, and what she saw completely brought her awake. Tara stood in front of the sink in the nude with a toothbrush waiting in her mouth while she brushed her long main of black hair. Lil blinked and looked again, surely she was seeing things. She opened her eyes. Yep, still there. "Oh, my." She said under her breath. The woman was quite beautiful with clothes on but without she was---

"Now, you know why I switched teams," Gabrielle said loudly from next to her.

Lil screamed and jumped at the same time. "Uh, I-I wasóand the uh," she gestured to her bedroom with her hands.

Tara walked to the door to open it wider, wanting to see what all the commotion was about. Never being one to be ashamed of her nakedness, she looked down at Lil and raised an eyebrow her eyes twinkling with merriment. Lil looked down, ĎOh bad idea,í she thought, Ďbut great breasts. Whoa, down girl. Bad, bad." Tara looked over at her lover who was smirking in delight. Lil looked from one to the other. "I-uh, Iím gonnaóbaby yah baby." She quickly walked away muttering to herself. Gabrielle giggled as she patted Tara on the fanny.

"Baby, you canít go around seducing the company like that."

Tara pursed her lips and smiled down at her. Gabrielle followed her back into the bathroom and firmly closed the door. She brushed her loverís hair as she brushed her teeth. She leaned in and kissed a shoulder when she was done. She looked down and followed the line of Taraís body. Gabrielle sucked in a breath as her eyes took in the hard, shapely buttocks, and long, long legs.

"You are so beautiful. Do you know that?"

"Only in your eyes, Red, and they are the most important." Tara turned and took her in her arms. They kissed softly, trying not to start any fires. Gabrielle pulled back.

"Other peopleís opinionís really donít matter to you?

"No, they donít.

B-but, how could they not get to you. The things people sayóthe way they act-"

"No, listen it only counts what you think about yourself. Itís up to you to listen or not to listen to them. Why canít you see that? Its just like with usóforget it I gotta get out of here and get to the shop. Iíll see you tonite." Tara pulled away and went back into the bedroom to get dressed.

Gabrielle frowned in confusion then bristled with anger. She hated when Tara walked away from her like that. She took two deep breaths while trying to decide if she should confront her lover and get it all out now or wait like she had been doing. Confronting would only escalate to another fight judging by the mood Tara was in, and if they fought, Gabrielle would get nothing out of her, when she knew something was going on under all that hair. Waiting it would be. Instead of going back to her own bedroom, Gabrielle decided to go talk to Lil, where she sat in the bed embarrassed until Gabrielle assured her everything was okay, getting a renewed laugh about Lil's little adventure. Quiet minutes later, Lil looked at Gabrielle searchingly. She was too quiet.

"Gab, whatís wrong?"

"Itís nothing. There is just some stuff me and Tara need to work out on our own." They heard the front door shut and assumed it was the woman they were discussing.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I am. Itís just gonna take time is all."

Lil stared at her for a few more minutes hoping she would open up. Nothing was forthcoming. "Okay, if thatís what you want. Alright, then letís get up, and Iíll fix you some banana pancakes, just like mom used to make."

"Kay, deal." Gabrielleís heart drooped a little more wondering if her mom was ever going to come around. The day was full of girl talk and old stories. Lil continuously tried to take her sisterís mind off Tara.

Meanwhile, at the bike shop, the snake was back again. John and Viv left her alone in the store room long hours ago. She constantly stared at the back wall, remembering what had just happened in there a couple of days before. Tara ran a greasy hand through her hair, cursing the world and their ignorance. That ignorance and how it made Gabrielle feel could be the death of their relationship, and she knew it. Exactly that had happened to her once or twice, and she had seen it happen to others. This time it would cost too much if it happened. Her hands shook as she looked around the room with eyes blurry with tears. That old pain came back again deeper and more intense than before. Her heart clenched and wept. She cried out in anger and kicked a table, almost breaking the sturdy leg. She kicked it again, ignoring the pain and hoping it would make her feel better, but deep inside she knew only one thing could do that, Gabrielle staying in her life. Her day went by slowly, painfully, but still she couldnít wait to see her loverís face again.

Gabrielle and Lil waited in the living room for Tara to come over. They had taken Jamie over to Mrs. Tibidaultís house. Lil was relieved when the old woman did seem nice and trustworthy. Jamie took to her almost immediately. Gabrielle looked at her watch.

"Tara should be by soon to pick us up. Shannon and Wayne are going to meet us there by the way. Lil, you are going to love this food!" Gabrielle squealed excitedly.

"I canít wait to see those two again, and donít get too excited there Gab. Youíre gonna creamó"

The door opened, and Tara rushed in. "Sorry Iím late gang. Traffic was a bitch." She looked down on at her loveróhey eyes soft and pleading. "Ready to go gorgeous?"

"Yeah." Gabrielle smiled crookedly. It was a reprieveófor now. They got to the Mexican restaurant in good time. Gabrielle saw Wayneís car outside. "Theyíre already inside." Lil led the way as Gabrielle and Tara tagged behind side by side. Taraís hand went to the small of her loverís back to guide her, but as soon as they got inside she felt Gabrielle stiffen. Thinking it was the sudden heat from coming out in the cold, Tara threw her arm over her loverís shoulders to give her a warming hug. She felt Gabrielle stiffen even more. Tara watched her looking around erratically at the other patrons, who looked back curiously. The tall woman bit down on her jaw as she felt anger rise.

Gabrielleís heart was beating out of her chest. She looked around at the people, who looked right back at her. Tara tried to hug her, and she stiffened in horror. It was their first time really in public together. She could see the disgust on some peopleís faces as her lover hugged her. Gabrielle visibly flinched away from Taraís touch, wondering what these people were thinking about them. She swallowed as fear permeated her heart, and her breath rasped out in panic. She wanted to run, to get away from the disapproving eyes. She looked over at Wayne and Shannon sitting there laughingóoblivious to the stares. She breathed in deeply and decided to try and fake it through the evening. She walked mechanically over to the table, when she saw Shannon waving.

"Hey all you gorgeous women! Oh, and hey Lil." Wayne said in greeting. Lil stuck out her tongue and smacked him on the shoulder.

"Hey yourself, smartass," Lil said in response.

"Hey guys," Gabrielle said quietly. Tara nodded at them in stony silence.

Wayne and Shannon looked at each other frowning. Shannon cleared his throat, "About time you guys got here. Iím starving!" Lil smiled and looked over at the stiff couple. She frowned into Shannonís eyes also. He gave her a look that said, Ď I donít know.í

Tara tried to swallow her anger and give it another go. She tried to cover Gabrielleís hand with her own on the table. Gabrielle jerked away with a look of disgust on her face. In one moment everything exploded. Tara jumped up. "This is really fucked up Gab. Look at youóhow you're acting. You donít even know these people. Youíre ashamed of me!"

Gabrielle looked up blindly, finally finding pale blue eyes. She saw the pain in them, and now she understood what had been going on all this time. She had just added to it.

Tara looked at the group her eyes wild. "I have to go." Just like that she was gone with not even a look back. The restaurant was so quiet the clinking of silverware could be heard. Eyes were riveted on Gabrielle, and she never felt more alone in her life. All this time, Tara had been afraid that she was going to leave because of the stigma their relationship entailed. All this time. She sobbed quietly and looked up to see three pairs of eyes on her. They too were stunned into silence. Gabrielle whispered, "Shan can you take us home. I canít ĖOh, god." She started to cry in earnest. Lil rubbed her back and looked at Shannon and Wayne pleadingly. They got up silently and helped Gabrielle out of the restaurant into the car. The car was filled with tense quiet as it ate up the miles, except for Gabrielle hiccuping from time to time. They pulled up to her house and Lil helped her out of the car. Shannon whispered, "Call us if she needs anything. Call anyway to let me know sheís okay." Lil nodded in response.

Once in the house, Gabrielle sat down heavily on the couch. Her eyes staring straight ahead not seeing. Lil whispered something too her about calling and checking on Jamie. Still, she looked straight ahead. "Gab, Jamie is gonna stay with Mrs. Tibidault tonight. I thought that would be best. Do you need me to get you anything, something to drink?" The crying woman shook her head no. They sat like that for hours with Lil having a one-sided conversation, getting only nods in return. Until Gabrielle whispered harshly, her throat raw from crying, "Where is she. I-I need to talk to her." She picked up the phone and dialed Taraís cell phone number. It rang and rang, finally saying something about the customer not being in range. She called the shop. There was no answer. Gabrielle slammed the phone down and worry took over. She looked at the clock. It had been almost four hours since she last saw Tara.

Tara drove around for what seemed like hours. She sped through the streets as if hoping to outrun her fear. Tears trickled down her face and pain radiated from her chest. She looked up to see a car running a red light, heading straight for her. In a moment of clarity that might have been too late, she met oblivion as metal jarred and crushed together.

She woke up under hot lights, and her head screaming in pain. She tried to shake her head to clear out the cotton wool, and whimpered as the pain made her dizzy and nauseous. Her arms were incredibly sore, and her right eye felt swollen. She looked up into the pen light shining into her eye and said one word. "Gabrielle."

"Just lie back Ms. White. We found some numbers in your bag, and this Gabrielle person is being called. Just try to relax now. We gave you something to help you sleep, but youíre going to be just fine."

Tara closed her eyes and let the blackness back in.

Gabrielle nearly pounced on the phone when it rung.

"Tara?"

"Uh, no. Is this Ms. Howard? This is County Hospital calling."

"Yes, yes this is Gabrielle Howard."

Ms. Howard this is Nurse Ford. A Tara White has been in a car accident, and your number was in a bag the police found. There were others but there was no answer there."

Gabrielleís hand flew to her mouth as she looked at Lil with horror in her eyes. "Is-is she alright?" Her voice raising in emotion.

"She is in stable condition, maíam, but you still might want to be here."

"Iím on my way."

"Okay Ms. Howard, come to the emergency room, and ask the front desk for information."

Gabrielle hung up the phone with a loud click. "Liló" she said tears steaming down her face.

"I heard. Letís go."

Gabrielle ran through the halls of the hospital to the Emergency room. Lil followed close behind . She reached the desk, and between the tears she asked about Tara. The clerk looked at her unable to understand, until Lil intervened. The clerk nodded his head and asked Gabrielle who she was. She gave her name, and he escorted her to a room through a secure door. "Sheís been asking for you," was all he said as he lead her into a dimly lit examining room. Gabrielle sat down in the chair beside the bed and looked at her lover. Her usually olive toned skin was pale and pasty. One of her beautiful blue eyes were swollen shut, and a bandage was hiding the damage to her forehead. Her arms were covered with nasty scratches. Gabrielle sobbed and began to rock back and forth. She did this. Her selfishness did this. "Itís my fault," she whispered into the air.

"No, itís not," came the hoarse reply. Itís both ours for being so stupid and not saying what was really bothering us. Tara reached out a hand. "Donít leave me Gab. Please." She said raggedly.

Gabrielle took the hand and kissed it. "Never. Oh, baby, donít you know youíre my heart? I was going through a tough time dealing with all this crap, but this puts it all in perspective. You are what matters to me. You are my family if need be. I-Iím so sorry I didnít explain how I was feeling."

"Shhhhh, itís okay." Tara swallowed. "I was so afraid of losing you that I thought if I said something it would become reality. Does that make sense? I mean you seemed so concerned about what other people thought that I was sure I was going to lose you to those Ďother people."

"So stupid. I almost lost you over something so stupid. Donít you do this again. Donít you leave me either. You hear?!"

Gabrielle could see the crooked smile even through the dimness.

"Deal. Come here, Red. I need a hug." Gabrielle crawled slowly into the bed beside her lover and softly took her in her arms. "Better?" Gabrielle asked. Tara nodded and kissed the top of her head. They talked for a few more hours about renewed hopes and hidden fears until Tara fell asleep. After a night of observation, Gabrielle took her lover home to tend to the concussion and array of cuts on her own. Lil left the day after, when she made sure things were okay between them. Once home, Gabrielle called Shannon, Wayne, and Jake, who was in Florida to ensure them that everything was fine.

The little woman kissed her lover on the forehead after giving her medicine, and she ducked back into the kitchen when she saw eyes drooping to fix herself a sandwich. She looked offended at the suddenly ringing phone.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Gabby dear."

Gabrielle almost choked on the sandwich. "Um, h-hi mom. Is everything okay?"

"Everything is fine sweetie. Your father and I have been talking. Your sister came to see us, and had quite a bit to say. Er, what Iím trying to say is we would like to meet your friend when she is feeling better. If thatís okay with you?"

Gabrielle put the food down, forgotten, and smiled despite it all. "Mom, of course itís okay, and Mom? Iíve missed youÖ"

The End for now.




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