By Taleweaver

Disclaimer: We all know that Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance
Pictures, Universal Studios, etc, etc. I've borrowed them only for
entertainment purposes and make no profit from this whatsoever, so please
don't send the copyright cops after me...We all learned from Lunar.

Sexual disclaimer: I'll warn you now, there is sex in this story. If the
thought of two women making love makes you uncomfortable, drop this story
or hit the back button now. But if I may borrow a line from Lucy Lawless
herself, "This is a story of two people, two souls, in love...". To me,
the gender of our soul's shell is unimportant; what matters is the search
for our soul's other half.

Author's notes and Dedication: Verne's Hardware Store really does exist,
but the one in this story is actually a compilation of two stores; the one
that still stands today and a hardware store forever etched in childhood
memory....ahh, memories. There is an account of violence that was almost
difficult to write at times, but it was necessary for character
development. I apologise if it makes anyone queasy. I dedicate this tale
to Ardent Tly; a woman who has inspired me both personally and
artistically. And gave me probably the best piece of advice on character
development ...." A character is credible when you know what they'd say
next...what they'd do in any situation...when they breathe..." Thanks will
never say it adequately T, but...Thanks.

I can be reached for feedback at taleweavercan@netscape.net

"Wonder and joy a passing faintness threw
over my brow. A hand supported me,
whose touch was magic strength: an eye of blue
looked into mine, like moonlight, soothingly
And a voice said-"Thou must a listener be
this day. Two mighty spirits now return,
like birds of calm,from the world's raging sea.
They pour fresh light from hope's immortal urn.
A tale of human power-despair not-listen and learn!"
Percy B.Shelley


"You sure you'll be alright by yourself?" She heard herself ask
The redhead smiled dazzingly and nodded.
"It's been ages since anything more threatening than a papercut has
happened, relax darling. Soon you'll be able to resign as my bodyguard and
then we'll be able to stop pretending we're only friends." The redhead
laid a warm and elegant hand over hers as they both opened the car door.
It was an excuse to touch, and they both knew it. After seeing that the
actress was buckled in, she smiled and shut the door. Reluctantly, her
feet carried her across the parking lot to her own vehicle. Opening the
driver's door, she turned back to see the woman she'd come to care deeply
about lift a hand. As the fingers fluttered in a wave, the lips cuved up
into a loving smile. The unseen hand started the sports car and their eyes
locked in a moment of promise and yearning. The promise was broken as the
little red car exploded in a vicious fireball. "Noooooooooooooo!" She
jerked upright from the twisted sheet, shouting out denial once more.

Sitting up, she ran her fingers through dark hair and blew out a
breath. When she trusted her legs to hold her, she threw back the
bedcovers and padded silently to the kitchen. A slap of the switch on the
wall flooded the small room with light and she groped in the near-empty
fridge. When she closed the door, she spotted her reflection in the
sliding glass doors. As she drank deeply from the long-necked bottle, she
watched her reflection. Haunted, pale blue eyes stared back at her, framed
by unruly ebony hair and supported by high cheekbones. Her body was lean
and trim in her cut-off t-shirt and flannel boxers, her favorite
sleepwear, and even her glass-rippled reflection showed evidence of
working out. Catching an errant dribble of ale on her chin, she shook her
head at her reflection. "Geez Merl, get a grip. Don't you think it's time
to have the screaming geebies about something else?" After draining the
bottle she lifted weights until the sun came up , attempting to keep her
mind off the nightmare. The strain and energy required went a long way
toward working the fear and guilt to the back of her mind, and by the time
the sun was fully lodged in the sky she was stepping from the shower.

As she dried off and dressed in black jeans and a long sleeved copper

coloured top, she imagined she could hear her mother even now.
'Merlin Alwyn, when are you going to do something with your life? You're
over thirty, living a dangerous lifestyle and alone....You mark my words
young lady, you'll die alone unless you stop living your life on the edge
and settle down...' "Yeah, yeah..." She muttered to herself. Merlin
glanced out the window and up at the sky. Grabbing both her sunglasses and
her leather jacket, she left the dismal little trailer and settled in the
driver's seat of her truck. Once on the highway, she turned on the stereo
and hit the play button on the stereo. As the opening strains of Rush's
'Xanadu' filled the cab of the Explorer, Merlin thought about the meeting
she was headed to and tried to banish the sound of her dead mother's

While Merlin was battling her conscience, another battle was being
waged miles away. A battle of wills. "Dad, I don't need any protection...I
can take care of myself. Haven't I proven that by now?" "Honey this isn't
a simple matter of lighting a fire in the fireplace, this is your life
we're talking about." The tall, silver-haired CEO sighed. "I know you can
take care of yourself, and it's a good thing too since no one's heard from
that bastard. How a man can just up and leave his wife alone on a farm
like that, a mile from the closest neighbor. I don't even know who it is
that's threatened to hurt you....but if this wacko makes good on his
threats..." The CEO let a frustrated sigh out and poured a cup of coffee
for his daughter. She accepted it silently and watched the play of
emotions on his face. "Look, I promised your mother I would keep you safe,
but never in a million years did I ever think we would be facing this! I
don't know who this guy is but he says that he's out for revenge. I don't
trust the police in that hiccup of a town to keep an eye on you, there's
only two of them and it's not like you live in town anyway." The phone
warbled, interrupting him. "Yes?..Oh, good. Send her in."

When Merlin stepped into the office, she could feel the tension in
air. But when someone was forced to hire a bodyguard, it was usually
because of a life threatening situation. And in Merlin's experience, that
kind of situation was usually a tense one. "Thank you for coming Miss
Alwyn." "Call me Merlin, please." She shook his outstretched hand. "Are
you named after the famous wizard?" A voice from behind her asked. Merlin
turned and answered the question. "No, not directly. My mother's family is
descended from him though and family history has it that every other
generation has carried it since his time." "That's quite the family
history...My name is Morrigan Artemis." She too put out a hand. When their
hands clasped, an electric tingle raced through Merlin's fingers and along
her arm. It was unexpected but not painfull. Morrigan felt it too, and
involuntarily let go of Merlin's hand. "Merlin, this is my daughter." Paul
Conway spoke, completeing the introductions. He waved Merlin toward a
chair and waited until she sat before reclaiming his own seat. Merlin
looked at Morrigan pointedly. "Are you married Morrigan?" "No, I'm not."
"That's why I want to hire you Merlin. She lives alone in a big house out
in the middle of nowhere. She's vulnerable and I don't like it." "I may be
vulnerable Dad, but that doesn't mean I'm fragile..."

Merlin studied Morrigan as she argued her case.. She wasn't tall by
means, standing at perhaps five feet tall. Her build was slight, making
her look even smaller. But she had intense green eyes that Merlin couldn't
resist looking at. They seemed to reflect a fire from within, the same
fire that was making it's way into her argument against the need for a
bodyguard. When she'd finished making her point, Merlin cleared her throat
and added her opinion quietly. "It's been my experience that those who
don't want to be guarded usually avoid it any way they can. Perhaps better
home security would be the better place to start. I suggest..." Morrigan
watched Merlin carefully; gauging, judging. This woman had a quiet,
confident presence that was calming and yet...familiar. The longer
Morrigan studied the other woman, the more she was convinced they'd never
met. But everything about her was so familiar. The long ebony hair, the
quiet voice, the long fingers, even her startling height of almost six
feet. But most of all, Morrigan was captivated by her pale blue eys. A
clear azure that for some unknown reason, Morrigan wanted to lose herself
in. She sighed as she let the low soothing voice wash over her, and as it
did, she made a surprising decision.

"Morrigan, I wish you'd humour an old man and take my advice. I
promised your mother I'd keep you safe..." Morrigan held up her hand,
effectively stopping her father. "Okay." "Okay?" "Okay. You're right Dad,
I am a long way off from a neighbor and the cops. I'll do it if it makes
you feel better. You two iron out whatever else needs ironing, I'll be
back in a minute. "But honey..." "Dad, I'm only going to the washroom
twelve feet down the hall, I think I can do this with some measure of
safety. I'll be right back."

When she re-entered the office the first person she saw was Merlin.
Again those eyes bored into her and Morrigan felt her very soul being laid
bare. Once the door was closed, Merlin leaned back in her chair and asked
how Morrigan wanted to handle things. "Well, Dad's made it pretty clear
that he wants someone staying out at the house with me..." "I'll have to
pack some things then. Did you drive here?" "I had my driver go out and
get her. Her truck is...less than reliable." Paul supplied. "If you don't
mind a brief stopover at my place, we can go back in my truck." Merlin was
playing it cool on the outside, but for some inexplicable reason she felt
like a teenager asking someone out on their first date. Morrigan faced her
with a dazzling smile. "Great!"

Settled in the truck, Merlin waited for Morrigan to buckle up.
"Ah...how do you adjust the seat?"
"Lever in front." After watching her grope blindly for a minute, Merlin
leaned over to help. "You reach between your legs like this..." Her arm
touched Morrigan's leg as she took hold of a hidden lever and she could
feel firm muscle under denim. "And then you push your hips forward and the
seat slides...like that." Morrigan reached down to find the lever and
covered Merlin's hand with her own, and at that moment Merlin looked up.
The two women locked gazes and everything ceased to be, there was only the
two of them and their proximity to one another. They could feel the heat
in each other's hand, Merlin could feel calloused skin and Morrigan
touched the back of a strong, corded hand. They could have been like that
a moment or a lifetime. For them, time had stood still. When Morrigan
found herself falling into blue, she cleared her throat. "Oh yeah, there
it is." She removed her hand and busied herself with the seatbelt.
Morrigan glanced out the window and concentrated on the day outside as she
fought a growing blush. The sky was a bright turquoise blue and clear of
clouds, the sun lit the world in sharp, clear sunlight and the air outside
the truck was growing warmer by the hour. Morrigan was glad she'd dressed
in a t-shirt as she slipped her jacket off. As she did so, she missed the
sidelong glances from the driver's seat. Merlin watched her blond
passenger slip her arms from the sleeves, studying the firm contours of
sculpted biceps appreciatively and smiling to herself.

`As the truck slowed to a stop outside the trailer, Merlin glanced
at her passenger.
"It's not much but..."
"Believe me, I don't judge by the home someone has."
"Oh it's not home. I just live here."
Morrigan looked quickly at the tall woman. It was an odd thing to say.
Merlin had no expression as she walked around the truck and opened
Morrigan's door. "Thanks, but you didn't have to..." One long expressive
eyebrow raised in an arch. "I didn't have to, no. But I did. Watch your
step, I didn't clean up before I left." Merlin put a hand under Morrigan's
elbow, enjoying the feel of the other woman's skin as they stepped into
the trailer. Once the light was on, Morrigan could see what Merlin had

The trailer wasn't by any means cluttered, but weights littered the
floor haphazardly. It would have resulted in a very bruised shin had
Merlin not warned her. "Can I get you something to drink while I pack?"
Morrigan turned in time to see the tall bodyguard hang her leather juacket
on a hook beside the door. Watching the muscles ripple under Merlin's
t-shirt left her mouth dry and Morrigan's eyes strayed to the rest of her
body. Merlin had a trim, sculpted body that begged study. A flat
mid-riff, defined arms, long fingers and a seemingly strong back all had a
peculiar effect on Morrigan, but Merlin's unassuming beauty compounded it.
Her face was long and angular with high cheekbones. Blue eyes as pale and
clear as a pristine mountain lake studied Morrigan patiently, while the
corners of an inviting mouth danced briefly with the ghost of a smile. The
smooth skin that she ached to touch was so soft looking, so... "Do I pass
inspection?" Morrigan blushed and studied a ten pound weight at her feet.
"Sorry, I...don't know what came over me. Uh, whatever you've got will be
fine." Merlin let a quick smile settle on her features before retrieving a
can of pop from the fridge. By the time she handed it to the blushing
blond, the smile was gone from her lips but not her eyes. "Make yourself
comfortable, this won't take long." Morrigan settled herself on the sofa
with a book from the coffee-table and nodded.

When Merlin had disappeared into the bedroom to pack, Morrigan laid
book in her lap and leaned her head back.
'What is with me today?' She sighed, frustrated with herself. 'Since when
do I stare at women? But damn...what a woman!' Morrigan grinned. 'Maybe it
won't be so bad having a bodyguard...' In the bedroom, Merlin was smiling
too as she packed her gun and ammunition. She'd been pleasantly surprised
to witness the effect she'd had on the younger woman, despite a gut
feeling that this was a woman whose interests were male oriented. 'Hmmmn,
this could prove to be an interesting job.' With the gun safely packed,
Merlin put some clothes into a seperate bag and then her workout sweats
and a couple of towels. "Just how far are you from civilization?" she
asked as she left the bedroom. Even before the words had left her lips,
she noticed Morrigan pretending to be immersed in Carlos Castanada novel.
"I've found his writing to be more easily undrstood when read the right
way up, you know." "Here, let me help." Morrigan dropped the book on the
couch and jumped up, already reaching for the duffle bag and small, locked
case.. Merlin let her take them and knelt to pick up two twenty pound
weights; one in each hand. "Well, the house is only twenty miles from town
as the crow flies. But the roads are anything but straight." She let the
comment about the book go by as they went back outside. When Merlin had
put the weights in the back of the truck, she took the duffle bag and
threw it behind the passenger seat. "This is pretty small; c.d's?"
Morrigan lifted the metal case. "No, my gun." Merlin smiled and slid the
case under her seat.

When they went back into the trailer, Merlin packed a gymbag with her

walkman and headphones, her favorite c.d's and a few books, last but not
least was a cellphone and thin, well-thumbed notebook. By the time the
zipper was pulled shut, Morrigan was finished her pop and reaching for the
bag. Merlin retrieved two more weights from the floor and allowed the
less-burdened blond to preceed her. With the weights held in place by a
wide piece of lumber, the tailgate was closed and Merlin needed only to
close the trailer up. "You might as well use the facilities...I'm about
done here." When Morrigan emerged from the bathroom, Merlin took her turn,
and then made sure everything was off. Checking to be sure she had her
keys, wallet and sunglsses, Merlin eased into her leather jacket once
more. Settled in the truck, she waited for Morrigan to buckle up.

On the road, Merlin loaded another c.d and tried to ignore the fact

that Morrigan was mere inches away. As the heavy bass strains of 'Smoke On
The Water' filled the cabin of the truck, Merlin shifted and addressed her
companion. "So what do you do so far from town?" "I have a pretty god
sized garden that needs constant attention, a few chickens, dogs and a
house that's trying to fall down around me. But what pays the bills is my
writing." "What do you write?" "My dreams." Merlin glanced over at her
passenger, but Morrigan was looking out the window. In a distant voice she
explained. "Ever since Mark left, I've had the most vivid
dreams...Castles, thatched huts, a tall angry woman with silver eyes,
hanging out over a river of lava and adventures that I don't completely
remember when I wake up." Morrigan intentionally left out the image of
loving blue eyes that she saw every night; eyes so similiar to Merlin's.

"That explains why your father wanted to hire me." Morrigan turned to

her, waiting. "You're alone." As soon as the words slipped out, Merlin
realized how they sounded. "Aw, geez...I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like
that..." Morrigan reached over and put a hand on her arm. "No it's okay.
It's true, I am alone. I've come to accept it, it doesn't bother me." She
took her hand off Merlin's arm, the gesture was starting to feel too
familiar. Merlin mentally slapped herself in the head. 'Way to go Merl,
that's being sensitive...Jerk.' Morrigan was gazing out the window, but
the dark haired bodyguard suspected that she noticed very little of the

Merlin loaded another c.d, Deep Purple was beginning to get on her
nerves. 'La Serenissima' seemed to suit the writer's mood better anyway.
"Want to talk about it?" At first Merlin was going to say no, but as she
glanced over their eyes met again and all of a sudden, she very much
wanted to tell this woman what was in her heart. She took a deep breath.
"When Mark and I got married I was blissfully happy. But after a few
years, the marriage started to feel like... someone else's. We had less in
common every season and it gradually became painfull to try and sustain
something that I knew had been a mistake. Eventually, we had seperate
rooms...One day at breakfast Mark told me he just couldn't live a lie
anymore and he would be packed and gone by lunch. I haven't seen or heard
from him in five years." "I'm sorry." Merlin spoke quietly, afraid to say
the wrong thing. "I know. I hope he's happier. I'm just sorry that I
couldn't see the truth earlier." Merlin didn't know what to say that would
be comforting so she followed her heart, she reached out and put a hand on
Morrigan's shoulder. She left it there long enough to convey the message,
but Morrigan surprised her by reaching up and giving it a little squeeze.

"What about you?" Morrigan asked when she could trust her voice.
"Me?" Merlin's features were devoid of emotion, betraying nothing. "Anyone
captured your heart?" Merlin shifted the stick again, silent for a moment.
"There was someone I loved once..." Morrigan waited. She could tell this
was difficult for the dark-haired beauty, but as she was about to reassure
Merlin that she didn't have to talk about it, Merlin continued. "I was
more in love than I thought at the time. The old saying about not knowing
what you have until it's gone? It's true I've found. Life has proven to be
too short to waste. Remember that Morrigan..." As Merlin's voice faded to
a whisper, Morrigan's heart wrenched for the tall woman's pain. She
reached out and tentatively touched the hand on the stick shift "You must
have loved this person very much." "She was my whole world...I just didn't
know it until she was gone." Morrigan left her hand where it was and
wished she could take away Merlin's pain. They stayed that way until
Merlin had to turn off the highway, and as soon as the contact had been
broken both hearts began to miss it although neither understood why.

"Turn left here." It had taken them three hours to get to this point,

two hours driving and then hald an hour shopping for enough groceries to
get them through until the following day. As the truck bounced over the
road that was little more than a wide deer track, Merlin could see why
Paul Conway had been worried. Morrigan was out of the way out here. A
sudden break in the trees gave way to a clearing, in the middle of which
stood a house. The building seemed sad and in need of a coat of paint at
first glance, but on closer inspection Merlin could see where the house
was lacking in repair. The grass was well trimmed for thirty or forty feet
in front with a bed of mixed flowers up against the house, but this was
the only cheer in the yard. Out at the back of the building, twenty feet
away, was a chicken coop with an attached run. This too seemed desperate
for attention. Morrigan jumped out and unlocked the front door while
Merlin retrieved her gun case from beneath her seat.

Once inside the front room Morrigan turned to her protector. "C'mon,
I'll give you the dime tour." Merlin soon discovered that first
impressions are not always accurate ones. She expected the inside of the
house to reflect the lack of attention that the outside had, but she was
surprised by the opposite. The front room was the kitchen, a large farm
house kitchen straight from the days of putting up food and men working
the fields. The walls were the colour of old bone and scrubbed clean, a
large window above the double sink flooded the room in bright mid-day
light, a large wooden table held center court in the very middle of the
room and a set of stairs led up and away from the roomy kitchen. The
appliances were the only thing that looked out of place. Brushed
stainless steel, they glimmered in the light and hummed quietly in the
still air. An archway beside the stairs led to an equally large living
room. Here too, the walls were the same shade of old bone that the kitchen
was, a dark wooden floor was scattered with rugs and a good sized
fireplace dominated one size of the room. The entire right wall, the
farthest from the hearth, was covered in books from ceiling to floor. And
in front of the wall of books sat a computer and chair. Obviously where
Morrigan worked. Recessed lighting was tucked into nooks and crannies
aimed at various spots in the room, but dark for now. Opposite the
archway was a wide bay window that looked out onto a thick patch of trees,
and under this sat a myriad of houseplants; but these and the books were
the only personal touches in the room. There were no photos, paintings or
anything that spoke of the owner's personality on the walls. The furniture
in the living room all seemed to match in one way or another. The sofa and
chairs were all the same coffee coloured leather, the tables were not as
dark but matched in their styling and seemed to fit well in the room, and
cushions the same hue as the walls set off the darkness of the sofa and
made it look more inviting. "There's a bathroom upstairs if you need to
clean up..." Morrigan pointed toward the archway and left the sentence
hanging. Merlin shook her head and looked around the room. "This is nice,
it has a comfortable feeling to it." "You must be hungry...ready for
lunch?" Merlin nodded and followed Morrigan back into the kitchen. Merlin
laid the metal case on the table and watched Morrigan survey the contents
of the refridgerator. "Hmmm...what do you feel like Merlin?" "I'll be fine
with just a sandwich." "Okay, sandwiches and chips it is then." They made
the sandwiches together and talked about sleeping arrangements. "There's a
room upstairs next to mine you can have, it's not much but I think it's
got a cozy feel to it. There's enough room for your weights I think." "I'm
glad it's next to yours..." Morrigan raised her gaze from her sandwich.
"Me too." Then she realised how she must sound. "I'd feel...safer."

Their lunch finished, they brought in the groceries and carried the first
load of Merlin's things upstairs. The room's focal point was a window that
looked out on the front yard and the driveway. the view was nice but
uninteresting to Merlin at the moment. She put down the weights, watched
Morrigan deposit the duffle bag on the bed and left to get the remaining
weights from the truck. When she came, she cast her gaze around the room. It
was simply furnished with an iron bed, a dark wooden dresser and a matching
nightstand. A reproduction Tiffany lamp stood waiting on the bedside table,
but this was the only bright spot of colour in the room. The walls were
ivory, the carpeting chocolate, and the drapery an interesting shade of
"Like I said, it's not much but..."
"It's nice. Where did you get the dresser?"
"A garage sale actually." Morrigan grinned sheepishly. "I bought both the
nightstand and the bureau together for ten dollars when they were both hot
pink." Merlin's eyebrows vaulted into her hairline. "I brought them home,
stripped them down to bare wood and refinished them. It took a long time and
a lot of sweat, but it was worth it."
Merlin ran a finger slowly and seductively along the top of the dresser, the
laquered surface was as smooth as glass. She looked up at Morrigan, unaware
of her husky tone.
"You're very good."
The tone was not lost on Morrigan; she blushed furiously.
"I....I"ll get you some bedding and leave you start unpacking."

Despite what she'd said, she was in no rush as she left Merlin's room.
Out in the hall Morrigan leaned against the wall and let out a breath she
hadn't realised she'd been holding. When Merlin had spoken to her with that
provacative tone, a tingle had started at the base of her spine and raced to
her center. The fire that had taken hold there was demanding and
disconcerting all at once. She'd never felt this way just from the sound of
a woman's voice, much less a woman's. Shaking her head in confusion, she
went down the hall to get Merlin's bedding.

When she was sure that Morrigan had moved down the hallway, Merlin
leaned on the dresser and passed a hand over her eyes. What had she been
thinking? Sighing in frustration, she began to unpack while she mentally
chastised herself.
'Get a grip Merlin. She needs you to keep her safe, not seduce her for
cryin' out loud.' A grin crossed the stern face. 'But it could be fun
seducing her.' She heard Morrigan come back, her steps sure and even.
Merlin cleared her throat and began to explain while she put there clothes
"Um, Morrigan, I'm sorry...I don't know why I said..."
"I do."
"You do?" Merlin straightened up but didn't turn around.
"Yes, and so do you. We both know there's something that happens when we
touch, we don't need to acknowledge it to make it real. I feel the same
thing you do." Morrigan stepped softly behind Merlin and placed one warm
hand on her lower back. "Did you hear me? I feel the same thing you do."
Suddenly the comforting weight on Merlin's back was gone. Morrigan had left.

With her clothes put away and the bed made, Merlin looked out her
window. From her vantage point she could see that the brush at the grass's
edge needed thinning. It would be easy for someone to hide out there and
stay hidden, so the first order of business would be to thin the trees.
Merlin changed her clothes and went to find Morrigan. She found her half in
and half out of a chest freezer, but no sooner had Merlin found her than
Morrigan's feet slipped out from under her. As Morrigan's body began to
slide into the deep freezer, Merlin caught her by the ankle and braced her
Merlin wrapped one long arm around the blond's waist and lifted her
effortlessly from the frosty chest.
"Thanks, good thing you were here..."
"Hmmm, yeah." Merlin realised that her hand was still on Morrigan's hip, and
that it felt good. "You okay?"
Morrigan was conscious of the hand on her hip too, and disappointed when
Merlin removed it.
"My pride's a little bruised, but I'm okay."
After closing the freezer, Merlin asked about an axe and was led to the

As she followed Morrigan outside, Merlin explained why she needed the
"Great..." the smaller woman struggled to open the barn door, "'cause I've
been meaning to get to...that job..."
"Here, let me get that." Merlin gave a jerk and the big door swung open
easily. She made a mental note to oil those hinges, and smiled at Morrigan's
bemused expression.
"Are you stronger than most people or just me?"
"The hinges just need a little oil, that's all."
The barn was big, drafty and cluttered and gave Merlin an idea. As she took
the axe from Morrigan, the bodyguard looked around until finally allowing
her gaze to settle on the writer.
"You know, there's a lot of odd jobs that need doing. You should give the
hired help a list so she has some idea of where to start."
"The hired help?" Morrigan was confused only momentarily. "You're right of
course. I had to hire someone...I couldn't do everything myself, and now
with that new book to finish..." Morrigan's grin was infectious and vibrant,
and sent tingles up Merlin's spine. Involuntarily she reached out to touch
Morrigan's cheek and then realised what she was doing. Pulling her gloves
from her belt, she left the barn and tried to concentrate on her task.

Once she got into the job, concentration came easily and the two trees
fell quickly. As she toppled the trees, she dragged them to a spot beside
the driveway but closer to the house. When a good sized pile had been
accumulated and the most recently felled tree dropped on top, Merlin stopped
to rest. As she waited for her blood pressure to even out, she cast a
watchfull eye over the rest of the property, looking for movement that
didn't belong, colour that wasn't natural, but a voice behind her pulled her
attention away again.
"Dinner is almost ready."
Merlin turned to watch Morrigan, who had brought her a tall glass of ice
water. Sitting beside her bodyguard on a log, Morrigan handed her the glass
and then took a drink from her own. They sat quietly until Morrigan drained
her glass and stood up.
"Well, I should go put the chickens in the coop before dinner."
"I'll clean the axe and finish the job tomorrow." Merlin stood and walked
toward the brush line.
"Merlin?" She stopped and half-turned toward Morrigan. "I'm glad you're
Merlin could only smile hesitantly, she didn't know what to say. Morrigan
didn't wait for an answer but left before she could say something else that
was probably inappropriate.
"I'm glad to." Merlin whispered to Morrigan's receeding back.

Dinner was simple but filling, and it wasn't long before Merlin pushed
away from the table. As she put her plate in the sink Morrigan spoke from
directly behind her.
"Maybe later you'll have room enough for dessert?"
Merlin turned to find intense green eyes boring into hers.
"Depends on what dessert is." She answered in a low voice.
Morrigan reached around her, inches away from Merlin,and put her own dishes
in the sink.
"Pie and ice cream."
"Sounds good." Merlin, conscious of the affect the other woman was having on
her, moved back to the table and began clearing it off. If her hearing had
not been as sharp as it was she might have missed Morrigan's whisper.
"Not my first choice, but I doubt that I can have who I want."
Even though she had heard quite clearly, Merlin feigned innocence.
"What was that Morrigan?"
"I said I think I'll go and grab a shower." The flushed woman headed for the
stairs, muttering as she walked. "A very cold shower."
Merlin laughed quietly and finished cleaning up.

After locking the doors and checking the windows, Merlin went upstairs
to read for awhile. But as good as the book was, she couldn't help but think
about Morrigan's last few comments. It was obvious that Morrigan feeling
attracted to her, but out of lonliness or something else? Merlin closed her
eyes and swallowed. It had been a long time since she'd allowed herself to
get close to anyone, and she didn't want to get into something with Morrigan
for the wrong reasons. Hearing the bathroom door open, Merlin picked up her
book and pretended she'd been reading all along.
Morrigan popped her head into the open doorway. "Give it five minutes and
the shower's all yours. Do you always read upside down books?"
"That's what looked odd, no wonder I couldn't understand the words." Merlin
grinned sheepishly.

The shower felt invigorating and refreshing, Merlin admitted. But the
list needed to be done too. Going downstairs in search of Morrigan, Merlin
thought about the jobs she had already planned on. The trees she had brought
down earlier would need to be cut into firewood, kindling piled, the barn
cleaned, the house painted, the chicken coop painted...Merlin wondered how
long she would be here. She found Morrigan at her computer typing furiously
with Celtic music in the background. The blond had an intense, determined
expression while her fingers fairly flew over the keyboard and Merlin
tiptoed out of the room. On the table she found a scrap of paper, in a
drawer a pen. By the time the paper was covered in her small, precise
handwriting she'd run out of obvious repairs and improvements. Again, she
wondered how long she'd be here; if all these jobs would be seen to.
Suddenly, she didn't want this contract to end. In he heart this didn't feel
like just another job. She closed her eyes and tried to reason with herself,
but her heart knew what her head denied. She wanted a much closer
relationship with the writer than the protective one she was being paid for.
But while an intense relationship was not only foolish at this point, it was
also dangerous. They had known each other only a matter of hours, she
couldn't afford to let herself fall in love and let her vigil relax again,
she didn't have room for anyone in her life. All of these reasons, and many
more, raced through her mind as she found excuses to deny her heart's
craving. While Merlin's logic ranted, raved and stomped it's feet, her heart
whispered quietly and persistantly;"She is my other half". Unable to
reconcile the two, heart and mind, Merlin went to bed.

Continued..Part 2

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