Disclaimers

The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, etc. are owned by MCA/Universal. I merely borrowed their names and some characteristics in order to honor the show in my own unique way. No infringement was intended. The characters not owned by MCA/Universal are owned by me. The people named here are fictional and any resemblance to real people is entirely coincidental. The story is mine.

Sex: This story contains no scenes of two women making love. <sorry it wasn't needed...maybe next time.>

To Acalia McKai, for always being my friend and because you asked for this Story.

This story takes place around the 1940's and is an Uber, so if you don't do Ubers stop reading now.

War and Love Gangster Style

by StarWarrior (Rie)

Chapter One

The joint was hopping. Xena smiled hiding her bitterness, and sang words that no longer meant anything to her. "Just one look at you…" A small blonde woman caught her attention. My heart grows tipsy on me." She watched as the woman headed toward the front table. "You and you alone brings out the gypsy in me." Her boyfriend…Vince Sardo sat at the front table with his friends. "I want my arms about you." She let her eyes slide past him. "don’t be a naughty baby. Come to mama baby..." She barely managed to keep a sneer off her face. "come to mama do…" She went into the chorus. "Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you…" As her number ended her gaze returned to Sardo’s table. Her eyes hardened and now the sneer appeared. The woman she’d been watching was trying to attach herself to Vince. She might hate him - but he was hers and by god he was gonna stay hers. Evading hands that reached for her and smiling at the patrons she wound her way through the early evening crowd. No one was gonna take her hard earned spot away. Reaching the table she wrapped herself around Sardo. His arm snaked out and pulled her onto his arm rest. "Good job babe." He ignored the blonde and pulled the raven haired singer in for a sultry kiss.

Gabrielle watched on in shocked disbelief. Here she’d been arguing with this awful man on her father’s behalf and he ignores her for some lounge singer? She stomped her foot impatiently.

The swarthy Sicilian turned to face the irritating blonde. "Who are you?"

"Gabrielle." She replied. "Not that my name is important here. I already told you. It’s my father. I need to talk to you about your men and their treatment of him."

Vince turned a raised eyebrow upon his right hand man, "And her father is?"

"Nick the Grocer." Benny glared at the girl. He’d heard about her attack on his men. "This is the one that took a broomstick to Guido and Carlos."

A surprised smile crossed his face. "Really? And what happened?"

A slight chuckle from Benny. "She hit them in the balls…neither of them is going to be having any fun for a few days."

"Stop talking as though I wasn’t standing here."

The raven haired singer’s blue eyes flashed approvingly at the small golden haired beauty’s attitude. "I like her Vince." She wrinkled her nose. "Don’t kill her, please." She kissed him softly promising future pleasure with a single caress.

His dark brown eyes softened and a warmth filled his being. "For you my pet…she will live."

Gabrielle’s eyes flashed angrily, how dare they. "Excuse me," She stepped closer. "but I’m not that easy to kill."

Benny rose to his feet. "Want me to show her how easy she is to kill boss?"

"No." Vince waved the enthusiastic killer aside. "I just promised I wouldn’t." He looked thoughtfully at the feisty blonde. He snapped his fingers, "but you have family…don’t you?" Laughter filled his voice and an evil grin lit his face. "Tell me about her family." He turned to Benny.

The man smiled and Gabrielle swallowed in fear. "She has a sister…Auty’s her beau. You should see her dance." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Gabrielle swallowed reflexively. Her baby sister a dancer? What the heck had happened to her family while she was visiting her Aunt and Uncle? Anger swelled up and she clenched her fists. Someone would pay for this. "You’re lying."

"Auty? Sal’s friend?" Vince smile got wider at the quick nod. He turned to look at the blonde girl. "A sister." He stated simply and turned to the silent man on is left. "Has she been introduced to Sal yet?" At the small head shake he frowned. "Do it." He looked back to the singer at his side. "You want her alive?" He winked at the girl as she nodded. "You teach her what it means to mess with the boys and she’s yours." He glared at the girl as she opened her mouth.

Gabrielle closed it without speaking. Perhaps coming here wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done. Yet, someone had to stop these men. It wasn’t right them taking her father’s hard earned money and him with a sick wife. She looked at the singer. "I don’t belong to anyone."

Blue eyes flashed a warning. Xena trailed a hand across Vince’s shoulders as she rose and stepped toward the smaller woman. "You need to learn to keep your mouth closed." She spoke quietly and stepped past the woman.

Vince chuckled. "You want your family safe?" He grinned at the girl’s suddenly white face. "Go with her…I’ll consider you payment for keeping your family alive…for now."

Gabrielle’s face stayed white but she gritted her teeth determined to save her family. "Not for now." She swallowed around a tight throat. "I’ll do what she says if you’ll leave my parents and my sister alone forever."

"Forever is a long time." Vince smiled sardonically. "And I don’t make deals." He looked at Xena. "Get her outta here."

Xena smirked. "Come on kid." She kissed Vince as she stood. "Thanks." She flicked her head towards the blonde. "Let me show you my place."

Vince watched as the two women headed for the stairs. A nice contrast. He smiled in appreciation. With any luck Xena would have the girl corrupted before too long. She’d make a nice addition to his entourage. Still watching them he spoke. "Tell Auty I want him to introduce his girl to Sal." His eyes hardened. "No woman is going to tell me how to do business." He played with his mustache. "And tell the father he has five days to pay up or his place burns…tell him he has so long because I like his daughter."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gabrielle hesitated at the threshold. Something had made her follow the singer, but it wasn’t because Vince had said she was hers. She glanced back towards the stairs. One of Vince’s gooneys was loitering near them. He grinned and raised one eyebrow, blushing she swung around.

Xena was watching her from just inside. "What are you waiting for?" She frowned. "Get in here so I can change. I’m not gonna give him a free show."

Gabrielle looked into the woman’s blue eyes as she stepped across the threshold. Her heart pounded a little faster. Their eyes stayed locked. Something clicked inside and the two women swallowed hard. Gabrielle forced herself to look away. "So what’s your name?"

The singer grinned. "Xena." Her voice was filled with an unexpected laughter. "I like you kid. You got spunk, but…" She leaned against the door as it closed. "you have to be careful." Her lips twisted in a mock smile. "Or you won’t live to see your next birthday,

Gabrielle watched the woman warily. "What do you care?" She snapped angrily, as if this woman - Xena, she mentally corrected herself could ever understand. Tears filled her eyes and she turned away, not wanting the taller woman to see.

Xena winced but refused to back down. "Ya got spunk." She quirked her lips. "I like that, but Vince doesn’t."

A shudder ran through Gabrielle. The mere mention of the mobster scaring her. "How can you let him touch you?"

Xena’s eyes narrowed. "I’m alive, aren’t I." She twirled her feathered boa around. "…and rich."

She laughed, but to the young girl it sounded hollow. "And the price you paid for it?" She shook her head. "Your soul." She watched as the other woman’s eyes darkened with anger, before continuing. "It’s not worth it."

Xena’s eyes turned icy. "You don’t know nothing." She said angrily, tearing her theater clothes off and pulling her everyday ones on in a rush.

Gabrielle kept quiet, chewing on her lower lip. Great! Now I alienated the only one that might be able to help me. Gods but I can be stupid. What if she tells that man that she no longer wants me? I need to learn to think before I speak. Please give me a second chance. She wet her lips. "I, I’m sorry." She took a step closer to the Singer. "I had no right to say that." She shrugged. "Can we start again?" She reached for the hairbrush. Her hand wrapping around Xena’s, her eyes capturing the startled blue ones in the mirror.

The raven haired singer sat at her vanity, staring into the mirror wistfully. Was the kid right? Did she give up her soul? What choice really? None…her mother…brother. Angrily she grasped the brush and began a downward stroke. Anger rippling through her body as a hand covered hers and vivid green eyes captured hers. Her breath caught in her throat. She swallowed barely hearing the words Gabrielle spoke. Her hand opened and the blonde lifted the brush to her hair. Talking all the while. What was she saying? She blinked trying to focus on the words and not the feel of her hands.

"…and my aunt truly didn’t need me anymore, so I came home." Gabrielle shook her head sadly. "Only to discover how screwed up my family had gotten while I was gone."

Aunt? What did I miss? She blinked again and watched through the mirror as the girl talked and brushed at the same time. Does she ever shut-up?

Gabrielle wagged the hairbrush at the mirror. "So you see I had no choice - I had to put my foot down. Too many people turn a blind eye…people like your Vince have to be stopped." She paused and placed one hand on her hip. "And it’s people like me…us that have to put an end to it."

"As if we can do anything." She laughed mirthlessly. "People like Vince rule the world. And people like us we do anything to survive…" The words poured bitterly out of her mouth. "Even turning our backs on our family and friends…just for another day of life." She flashed to her brother’s lifeless body in the arms of her mother. Rebellion once flowed in her veins, only to die as her brother’s blood darkened the white rug. Her mother’s mindless screams filled her ears. Her older brother’s angry words of blame. They knew it was her fault. Lyceus dead. Those horrible men and their ultimatum. She closed her eyes. I vowed then to learn who was responsible and in my arrogance I thought I could destroy him. But instead I became one of their creatures. "You don’t understand. People like us…" she shook her head sadly. "We’re nothing to them…ants to be crushed." Cold, steel blue eyes locked with the vivid green ones. "Accept it."

"No." Gabrielle refused to lower her eyes. Deep in her heart she knew this woman somehow held the key to her future…if she could only figure it out. "I’ll never accept it." She pulled the hair back, braiding it as she spoke. "If I accepted it I’d be as guilty as them for doing it."

"If you don’t, you’ll be dead." Xena said sullenly.

Gabrielle finished her hair with a flourish and stepped back. "If I don’t, I might as well be."

Xena rose to her feet and whirled angrily. "It’s not like that."

"Prove it." Gabrielle tapped her feet and crossed her arms.

Xena looked away. Her heart was pounding furiously. "I don’t have to explain myself to you." She snarled. "As a matter of fact you should be thanking me. If it wasn’t for me you’d be dead or worse by now."

"What do you mean?" Green eyes flashed angrily.

Xena opened her mouth to answer, just as a knock came on the door. The two women turned towards the door as it opened.

"Vince says to come downstairs." Benny stared at the two women. "He’s entertaining and he wants your voice."

"Shit." Xena turned to Gabrielle. "Come on kid, time enough for our discussion later." She stepped past Benny and turned as he reached out to pinch the other girl. "Don’t even think about it." She growled. "Not if you want to live." He pulled his hand back and glared at Xena, but didn’t say anything. Gabrielle sidled past him, her face a little pale under her tan. Xena glanced at the younger woman. "Don’t worry. He won’t try anything…I’d kill him and he knows it."

"Ah…um...I," she swallowed, "…thanks." And that’s supposed to make me feel better? She closed her eyes briefly. What have I gotten myself into? She followed silently behind the taller woman. Sitting where she pointed to and praying that these men would ignore her.

"Hi ya Vince." Xena sauntered over to the mob boss fluttering her eyelashes and wrapping an arm around his chair.

"Hi doll." Vince grinned. "You know my associate."

"Hi Lucky. Dom." She nodded in the direction of the two seated men, ignoring the men that stood behind the chairs.

"Xena." Dom rose to his feet and took the singer’s hand in his lifting it to his lips. "I hope it’s not too much of an imposition, asking you to sing for us tonight."

"No," Xena smiled flatteringly at the older man. "Always my pleasure you know that."

"Good." He turned to Vince as he sat back down. And Xena headed for the stage, but not before she overheard him reminding Vince of his desire for her.. "She’s a good girl that one. You keep her happy…hey?" The man wet his lips. "Her mama might have married a Greek, but she shines like a true Sicilian." He kissed his finger tips. "And if you tire of her?"

Vince grinned mirthlessly. "Let’s get down to business." He raised one brow at the men, questioningly. They were the true thing and he needed them more than they needed him. He was an associate, but had yet to become a full fledged member and these men and their assignments were his ticket to the inside.

"The blonde." Lucky glared at him. "What is she doing here?"

"Ignore her. She’s a Babbo…Xena’s newest toy…I’ll let her keep her awhile, break her in for me and then off to Sal’s place."

Xena’s singing filled the air.

Then men nodded their acceptance of the explanation. Besides the woman was on the other side of the room. "Good." Lucky gestured and Dom began speaking. "We have a situation that needs some guidance. Billy has gotten a place ready in case it’s needed. He wants you to handle it."

"I would be honored to take care of any difficulty that He encounters." He leaned forward conspiringly.

"What’s the situation?"

Gabrielle listened in awe. Xena had a beautiful voice. Truly beautiful. The young woman forgot her surroundings, forgot the reason she was there, and lost herself in the songs.

"I’ll take care of it." Vince spoke confidently. "If he has indeed turned, I will clip his wings for you."

The two men stood and Xena walked off the stage. Her last song ending as she stepped up to the men.

"Ah, the beautiful Xena." Dom smiled and his teeth sparkled. "Thank-you for sharing your beauty with us this evening. He lifted her hand and kissed it again. "Until the next time."

Xena blushed gracefully. "Always a pleasure to sing for you." She watched as the men left and Vince stood with his arm around her.

As the door closed behind them Vince let out a whoop and spun her around. "We’re in!" He spun the singer in a circle and drew her in close. "With this job I will guarantee my place in the Cosa Nostra." He kissed her. Long and drawn out. "Let’s celebrate baby."

Xena bit her lip. "Aw Vince," She patted his check. "You know I’d love to, but it’s real late and my throat is a bit sore from all the singing..." she shrugged apologetically and kissed him. "And then there’s her…I can’t very well leave her alone yet, can I?"

Vince stood close to the tall woman letting his hands roam over hr body lovingly. He drew in a deep breath. "True. " He snapped his fingers. Benny came running. "Take the girls to Xena’s place."

"Yes sir." He snapped his fingers and Guido came running. Xena kissed him one last time and with a crook of her finger toward Gabrielle turned to follow Benny out.

Gabrielle burned with resentment, but rose to her feet and trailed behind the other two. She listened with one ear as Vince gave orders to Guido.

"We have one who refused to pay his dues…take care of the situation for me."

Gabrielle gasped. She drew in her breath. Another one…why did they need to beat and kill all the decent people. Couldn’t they…

"Hey step lively." Xena called from the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Chapter Two

"But Auty," Lila whined, "You promised if I danced all week we could go to the show." Her mouth was turned down in a pout, her hazel eyes drooping with sadness.

"Honey. Have I ever lied to you? No, don’t answer that. We’ll go to the show…it’s just I promised a friend I’d deliver a package to Sal’s place for him. It’s okay…don’t worry your pretty little head about it." He brushed back her dark hair and leaned in for a kiss, "…I’ll take care of you…here have a taste of it make you feel better…honest it will."

"But Gabrielle says - " Lila protested half heartedly.

"Tch...tch…tch." Auty tilted his head back and tapped his chest. "And where has she been through everything? Hmm? I have stayed right by your side…I know what will help you." He gave her his most rakish grin and pressed a bit up to her nostril. "Just a touch…you’ll feel great."

"Well…okay." The young girl gave in to her lover. She breathed in the lovely white powder he gave her and smiled. Her family and problems melting away.

"Good…now to see Sal." He opened the door and helped Lila to her feet. "You’ll love it here. Lots of men to pay you compliments, pretty dresses and lots of food." He opened the door and waved the girl in, in front of him.

Bright colors and noise assaulted her senses. Lila blinked and smiled shyly. So different from her parents gray home.

"Autolycus!" A short gray haired plump man with a huge smile came running over to greet them. "My friend it’s been too long. Where have you been? It’s great to see you. Come in come in. Look at the changes…so much and oh you wouldn’t be - "

"Sal? Sal?" Auty broke into his friend’s tirade, turning in exasperation to his girl and smiling with a slight bit of confusion.

Lila watched wide-eyed with more than a little bit of fear and confusion.

"Oh, pardon my manners…" Salvatore Montari threw his hands up in disgust. "Look at this luscious creature you’ve brought with you." He grasped her hand and brought it to his lips kissing her hand gently as though she were visiting royalty and Lila giggled. "My dear can you ever forgive me for my lack of hospitality." He slipped his hand s up and lifted her coat from her shoulders. "Let me take your coat." He turned towards the sitting room. "Girls come meet our new friend." Sal babbled on in such a friendly way that Lila forgot her fears, and allowed her coat to be taken away. She was seated on a comfortable couch and a glass of wine pressed into her hand. "So to what do we owe this honor?" Sal turned to his young friend and raised one brow questioningly, wringing his hands nervously. He knew of the man’s slight connection to the mob and constantly worried that one of these days paying his tribute wouldn’t be enough.

"Oh nothing much." He tried to brush it off, glancing with a small smile toward Lila. "It’s just I promised Benny that that I’d drop this little package off for him." He smiled nervously. "He said Vince wanted it this way."

"And you?" Sal looked worriedly at the young thief. "It’s what you wanted? I mean it’ll be great for my business and all, but …"

"No, it’s not." He admitted. "But," he shrugged. "what Vince wants he gets…even if it means someone gets whacked, and I don’t wanna get whacked…don’t want her to get whacked."

Sal paced nervously, his nose wrinkled in distaste. Sure he lived off other people’s flesh, but it was willing flesh…what Vince wanted was for him to force this pretty young thing into a life not of her choosing...he wasn’t sure he could…he wished there was some way out if this.

"Sal, there’s no choice." Auty said half pleading with him to tell him there was a choice a way out, but Sal only nodded his head slowly.

He smiled warmly at the young girl, before turning to his right hand woman. "Honey, why don’t you take young Lila here for a tour…I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of her soon."

"But?" Lila turned to Auty confused. "I thought we were going to the show. You promised me."

"Hey babe," He wrapped his arms around her drawing her close. "I’ll make it up to you." He kissed her gently. "Remember how you told me you hated it at your folks place?" He shrugged slightly. "Well I thought…maybe if you stayed here…did a little something for Sal now and again…maybe we could you know…get married sooner."

"Oh Auty." She breathed heavily. "Really?" She threw her arms around him. "I love you."

"I know baby." He gave a deep kiss before pulling back and pushing her in the direction of the woman named Honey. "Go ahead. I’ll see you later."

Sal watched silently as the young woman left the room. "She’s a looker. She’ll bring in lots of money…have you done her yet?"

"Hey!" Auty spun around angrily. "That’s none of your business."

"But it is." Sal grinned wryly. "If she’s to be one of my girls. Virgins are worth more."

Auty clenched and unclenched his fists. "Then I guess you’ll be getting top dollar for her." He swirled around and headed for the door.

"Aren’t you gonna even say good bye?"

Auty gave him an angry look and opened the door.

"Guess not." Sal spoke to thin air. "I have a bad feeling about this…real bad."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Honey turned to the girl as the door closed behind them. "So dear you’re the woman that captured the king’s heart." She winked. "How’d you do it?"

Lila blushed. "Lucky I guess."

"Oh yeah." The brunette said with a droll look. "Luck…no money though." She laughed bitterly. "Or you wouldn’t be here now." She shook her head. "He buy you pretty things? Give you stuff?"

Lila nodded enthusiastically. "He got me this." She fingered her necklace. "Oh wow!" Her eyes opened wide as they rounded the corner. There before her was an Olympic size pool. She knelt and played with the water. "You live here?"

Honey smiled. "I sure do…me and fifteen other women." She tilted her head speculatively. "Would you like to live here?"

"Sure." Her green eyes flashed with joy. "Do you think I could?"

"Yeah." She smiled. "Doll, you definitely have what it takes."

Lila bit her lower lip nervously. "What would I have to do?"

"Just make the men happy." Honey shrugged. "Sometimes it means listening to their stories…cuddling them like they were little boys, or just hanging on their arm dressed real pretty so they can show you off." She shrugged again… "Whatever they want. They pay Sal and he makes sure we’re okay . Sal’s great. He gets us everything."

"Everything?"

Oh, yeah." She grinned, wetting her lips with her tongue. "Anything we ask him for. And a whole lot of stuff we never even think to ask for. Sal’s House of Wonders is the best place I’ve ever…umm." She hesitated. "I’ve ever lived."

"Oh." Her voice sounded small and unsure. She sat quietly at the pool and wished she could ask Gabrielle for advise. Her big sister always seemed to know what she should do. She’d missed her when she went away, but now she was back…but now I am leaving it’s so confusing.

"Hey," Honey handed her another glass of wine. "Don’t worry. All you have to do is be nice to the men…the nicer you are the better off you are…cause some of the men give you nice treats." She sipped her wine.

"Hey, don’t look so glum." Honey held out her fist. "Here take your pick. They’re bound to put you in a good mood." Slowly she opened her fist revealing a scattering of small multicolored pills.

Lila hesitated, scared, but not wanting to appear totally na´ve, yet afraid of taking yet more stuff.

"Come on." Honey jiggled her hand a bit. Smiling as Lila reached out and snagged a pretty blue pill. "Take two." She said softly. Lila did swallowing them hurriedly and washing them down with another glass of wine.

"Come on let me show you our rooms." Honey pulled the girl to her feet.

Lila let herself be pulled to her feet. Her original fears melting away as a warm haze invaded her mind and the room grew slightly fuzzy. She followed the slightly older girl out of the pool room and down the hall. "What’s that?" She paused where the corridor split. A strange noise was coming from the other corridor. She stepped towards the noise.

"No." Honey grabbed her by the arm. "Come on." She pulled the girl forwards. "That’s the working corridor. There’s a separate entrance to the house and clients come and go from there."

"But that noise?" She halted puzzled. Something wasn’t right. It sounded like someone was in pain. Terrible pain. She shuddered, shook her head. Something flittered in the back of her mind. She tried to concentrate on it…it went away. The drugs clouded her mind and she let herself be pulled along by the older pretty woman.

"Ignore it." Honey shook her head. "It was Maria…it’s part of what she does. Just leave it alone."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gabrielle lowered the phone and turned around. She was chewing her lower lip worriedly.

Xena was sprawled on the couch watching her with one eye. Waiting to see what she would say. In the entire time they’d been together the only time the girl hadn’t been talking, had been when Xena was singing and when she was eating. She began counting; one, two , three, fo - "

"I can’t believe it." The red head stood with her hands on her hips. "I have to leave."

"You’re not going anywhere."

"You don’t understand. Lila never came home last night. I have to go find her."

"Maybe she got lucky." Xena grinned.

Gabrielle’s mouth opened in shock. "I...how dare…" She couldn’t speak. Her jaw worked but nothing would come out.

"Oh come on Red…she’s dating Auty for gods sake." She rolled her eyes. "What d’ya think they do all night? Talk? Grow up."

"I’ve told you not to call me Red." Gabrielle gritted her teeth "I don’t like it."

"Oh ya." Xena smirked. She didn’t know why, but she liked provoking the kid. "I forgot."

"Sure you did." Gabrielle retorted. "If you won’t trust me to come back, then you’ll just have to go with me because I am going."

Xena didn’t move, just watched the feisty little woman getting angrier. Gods but her eyes sparkle when she’s angry. Her lips curved upward of their own accord.

"Stop it." Gabrielle demanded.

"What?" Xena asked calmly, rising slowly to her feet, towering over the smaller woman by at least a foot.

"You don’t intimidate me." Gabrielle folded her arms.

"I should." She said in a low husky voice. "Make no mistake about it…I can be a very dangerous person."

"Right," Gabrielle smirked knowingly. "…that’s why you have him as a protector."

"I can take care of myself…and you if I choose." The singer stood over the smaller woman, her blue eyes like two burning orbs.

"Can you?"

"Oh yeah…I know all sorts of ways to kill…I learned from the best." Xena threw the words out.

"Really?" Gabrielle wet her lips. "Have you ever killed?" fear mingled with thrill in her voice.

"Yeah…I have." Xena looked away. "It wasn’t hard…and every kill got easier."

"So if you can protect yourself…" Gabrielle’s voice shook. "Why have you stayed with him? Why do you let him do the…" She shuddered. "things…touch you." Her nose wrinkled in distaste.

As the girl’s words penetrated Xena swore and stepped backwards. "You," she grimaced. "there’s no way you could ever understand."

"Try me." Her eyes flashed with the challenge.

Xena glared angrily at Gabrielle. "I thought we already had this discussion."

"It was interrupted." She flipped her hair back over her shoulder. "I want to finish it."

"Why?" The raven haired woman backed up and whirled around staring out into the street. "Why should you care when nobody else does?"

Gabrielle bit her bottom lip softly. Trying to think of the right words to comfort this strange woman who drew on her heart in ways she didn’t understand. "When I was little my grandmother used to tell me stories, to never give up hope. She said love was stronger than any other emotion and that the good would eventually triumph…I believed her." She smiled wryly. "I guess I still do. That’s why I had to go to the club last night…why I have to leave today…find my sister."

"You know if you go against him you’ll end up dead." Xena continued to stare out the window. Outside little children were playing Kick the can and childish laughter filtered through the noises to drift into the room where the two women stood.

"Maybe." Gabrielle swallowed her fear. "But if I don’t, my soul will die and that I can’t live with."

Xena nodded her understanding. Outside a little blonde haired boy pulled his darker haired sister away from another boy. She sighed heavily. Her hands curled into fists as she reached a decision. "Okay. We’ll go find your sister." Her mind went back to the conversation of the night before. She had a pretty good idea where the sister might be. Tears filled her eyes. Lyceus…I failed you. Failed everyone. I won’t fail her. She drew a ragged breath and turned to face the little red head. "Let me get dressed, then we go, together."

Gabrielle tilted her head puzzled. "You are dressed."

"Not for what we have to do." Her voice was harsh and startled the young woman. "I told you I know how to take care of us…if we go after your sister there is no coming back here."

"You know where she is?" Gabrielle’s eyes widened with the knowledge and she raised her hands, grasping the taller woman. "Where is she? Have they hurt her?" Her voice got louder with each word and she shook the singer. "Not come back? What do ya mean?"

Xena let the girl shake her for a minute before putting a hand over her mouth. "Lower it." Her voice gruff, but low. "He probably has at least one man hanging around outside my quarters. He usually does." Slowly she removed her hand. "Understand?"

Gabrielle nodded. "So what do we do?" She whispered, fear for her sister mingled with a strange tingle of excitement. "How do we get my sister?"

Xena smiled and her blue eyes sparkled with a fire that caused Gabrielle to take a deep breath. "You’ll see. Let me get ready."

Gabrielle nodded and backed away, sitting down on the couch while the older woman began rummaging around in her closet. It felt good knowing she wasn’t alone anymore. Someone else was going to help her; find a way to end the extortion, scare the thugs away, get rid of those awful drugs and set things right again. She took a deep breath. For the first time since she returned to the city she felt good about things. She thought of her new friend. Friend? She closed her eyes and pictured the tall singer in her mind. Friend? She smiled. Yeah friend. A small sigh of satisfaction escaped from her lips and her smile widened.

"What’s the smile for?"

Gabrielle opened her eyes and blinked. "Wha…what the?" She wet her lips and swallowed. Before her stood Xena, but no longer dressed in the gowns and dresses the young woman was used to seeing her in.

"What?" Xena twirled, laughter bubbling up from some unknown place deep within her. "You don’t like?"

"Oh, no." Gabrielle closed her mouth and worked her jaw. "I like…I really do." She was surprised at her reaction. Gone was the woman she’d spent the last day with. In her place stood a…her mind blanked. She didn’t know what to call the vision before her.

Xena smiled her blue eyes gleaming with amusement. "See, I told you I had a way out." She glanced in the mirror. She smiled at the reflection staring back at her. She was wearing a three piece, dark blue, pin striped suit., with a white silk shirt. It had been her brother’s before she claimed it for herself. Tor and her being more or less he same height and weight…it was the perfect disguise. At a quick glance anyone seeing her would think Tor had been over for a visit and was just leaving. She’d used it before, actually found it more comfortable then those dresses society dictated she wear.

Gabrielle rose to her feet. "But what about your hair?" A look of horror crossed her face. "You didn’t cut it did you?"

"No!" Xena exclaimed. She whipped the cap off. Her hair was twirled in a braid and sitting curled on the top of her head.

"Oh good." Gabrielle blushed. "I mean…hair like yours it’s…" her voice trailed away and she looked at her feet.

"Thanks." Xena touched her shoulder. "I’m glad you like it." She bit back a grin, knowing that it would only embarrass the young girl if she did it. "Now let’s see what we can do about you."

"Me?" Gabrielle squeaked. "What do you wanna do with me?"

"Make you into a hooker, it’s the only type of girl my brother hangs out with." She let the grin spread to her face, enjoying the girl’s sudden squirming. "And if we are gonna pull this off the men watching us are gonna have to think I’m Toris and you’re his woman of the evening."

Gabrielle stood rooted in fear. She swallowed hard. She couldn’t do this. She was a virgin…she had no skills at seduction. Her jaw worked wildly, but no sounds came out.

Xena laughed and began rummaging in her drawers. "This and this." She muttered under her breath as she found pieces to make up Gabrielle’s outfit. "Okay." She handed the garments to Gabrielle. "Put these on."

Gabrielle stared at the clothing being thrust at her, but made no move to take it.

"Hurry up." Xena ordered. "We don’t have much time."

Gabrielle blinked. "Ahm…I…I…" she took a deep breath. "I can’t wear this."

"Sure you can." Xena smiled. "It’ll look great on you."

"You think so?" Gabrielle asked uncertainly.

"Oh yeah." The singer purred. "I think so…it’ll show off those muscles you earned on that farm you were telling me about."

"Yeah?" Gabrielle brightened up. "In that case maybe…just maybe I can do this."

Xena smiled. "Go for it." She wiped her hands along her thighs. She wanted to see the petite girl in this outfit. She was gorgeous and this was designed to bring out all her best features. She watched as the woman walked behind her privacy screen, before going to the closet and pulling out her secret stash of weapons.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 3

 

Xena finished tucking her boot knife in as Gabrielle rounded the screen. "Ah, um…" Gabrielle stood twisting her hands. "I feel naked." Xena swallowed hard. "You look great." She let her eyes wander over the young woman’s supple body with an appreciative eye. She looked into the nervous green eyes and smiled rakishly. "Trust me." She said dryly. "I know the way these gals dress…you look…" She reached over and pulled the sleeve off her shoulders. "…perfect."

"But," Gabrielle protested. "Is it really necessary? I mean can’t we just leave?"

"No, not if you really want me to get your sister back." Xena’s smile disappeared.

"But - "

"No buts." She spoke quietly. "Look Vince obviously decided to go forward with his plan to introduce her to Sal." She watched the red head carefully. "And an introduction to Sal means a change of lifestyle." She hesitated, but Gabrielle was listening attentively. "Voluntarily or not." She looked at the girl. "Understand?"

Gabrielle’s color drained away as she listened to Xena. "What do we have to?"

"First step is to visit some friends of mine." Xena wet her lips. "Getting your sister will be the easy part keeping her is gonna require a lot of hard work." Her eyes gleamed with an unholy light. "I have an idea. If it works we’ll be rid of Vince forever."

"Care to share it?" Gabrielle’s fire returned, as the realization that Vince was trying to turn her sister into a whore. Come hell or high water she wouldn’t allow that to happen…she’d die first.

"That’s what I like about you Red…you’re so cute when your mad." Xena grinned.

Gabrielle’s mouth fell open in shock. Slowly she closed it. "My name’s not Red." She said quietly. "I’m not mad…I just want my sister."

Xena’s grin didn’t go away. "Right." She raised one eyebrow knowingly. "I’ll get you your sister." Her eyes glinted with a strange wildness. "And take care of past wrongs at the same time." She wanted to laugh. It felt so good to have finally made the decision. All she had to do was round up the old gang…that wouldn’t be easy. Unless the dweeb…ya, he’d be the one…I can hole up at his place, he can get them together for me.

Gabrielle shivered slightly. The look in the Singer’s eyes scared her. The strange feelings that she evoked whenever she looked at her was unsettling enough, without the madness in her eyes. But for some strange reason I believe her…know she will set everything right. She sighed. "So?"

"Not now kid." She smirked. "For now, the less you know the better." She headed for the door. "Come on." She held her arm out, and snagged Gabrielle, as she reached for the door with her other hand. "Time to act like half drunk lovers." She tucked the girl under one arm and swayed a little as she stepped through the door.

Gabrielle half closed her eyes. "I can’t do this." She whispered, her mouth muffled beneath the taller woman’s shoulder.

Xena ducked down. Her lips pressed against Gabrielle’s ear as though she were nuzzling. "You can." She purred. "If you don’t, we’ll be killed." She smiled into the girl’s hair as she felt her shudder with fear. "Now say my name with a heavy, breathless kind of sigh…I mean say Toris…that’s my name from now on." She lifted her eyes to survey their surroundings as she pretended to stumble on a few steps. Two of them watching from the left…Vince always was a Smuck…never trusted her. She grinned wryly. Of course he was about to learn he was right not to. Not that the knowing would do him much good. She leaned into Gabrielle, drawing the girl closer to her, might as well take advantage of the situation. She mused to herself, reveling in the feel of the petite woman.

Gabrielle couldn’t help herself. She shivered, whether in freight or pleasure she wasn’t sure. She did as the Singer requested. Murmuring in a low throaty voice and sighing incomprehensible nothings, making sure to say Toris…loud enough for the men loitering in the doorway to hear. She shook slightly as Xena’s breath warmed her cheek and her lips nuzzled in her hair. She closed her eyes and let the Singer lead her where she wanted.

Xena led the way around the corner and down a side street before doubling back and heading in the opposite direction of that which the men had watched them take. She kept the girl tucked against her side, enjoying the feeling too much to let her go. She slipped in an alley, glancing both ways. No sign of anyone. She let go of Gabrielle and stepped away. She pressed a finger against her lips, smiling as Gabrielle nodded understanding. She rapped quickly three times waited a heartbeat and rapped twice more.

A small door opened in the middle of the door and someone peered at them. "Toris?" The voice sounded puzzled. "I thought you left town?"

"Let me in Knife." Xena spoke in her normal voice.

The man blanched. "Xe…Xena? That’s probably not a good idea. I…what are you doing here?" He hissed at her.

"Let me in, or I’ll break the door down." She smirked. "Then anyone can get in."

"Ok…ok." He slammed the door shut and a second later the large door opened and the man looked out worriedly. "Hurry up and get in here."

Inside Gabrielle winced at the stench of alcohol and smoke in the air. She looked around nervously, hardly listening to Xena and the strange little man.

"I need your help." The tall dark haired woman jumped right in. "We’re going against Vince."

"What!" His color drained away. His voice squeaked unnaturally high. "You’ll be whacked…anyone that helps you will be whacked…anyone that ever talked to you will be whacked." He jumped back. "Your insane."

"Knife!" Xena broke in. "I have a plan."

"Great she has a plan." He threw his hands up. "That makes everything okay." He paced back and forth muttering under his breath. "a plan…a."

Gabrielle turned and looked at the funny man. He was dressed in a typical suit, dark gray, with pin stripes and a matching vest. His wire rim glasses sat slightly askew on his long and pointed nose. His brown eyes big and puppy like. She smiled in spite of herself.

The knife took in the woman by Xena’s side and his eyes opened wide. "H…h…h..hi." His voice wavered. He bit down on his tongue. "I…I’m Jox the Knife. Pleased to meet you." He stared.

Xena’s hand clamped down on his shoulder. "Take a cold shower." She swirled him around. "She’s off limits." Her eyes met his. "Got it?"

His head bobbed up and down nervously. And he squeaked. "So what do you want from me."

"For now a place to meet…and you to call the old gang together for me…I’m gonna need their help." She let go of his shoulder.

"What makes you think they’re gonna help you?" He stuttered his way through "You been hanging with Him for so long now…no one trusts you."

She swallowed hard. That hurt, but it was probably true. None of them had been there. They didn’t know the truth. "You get them here…don’t tell them why. I’ll take care of the rest…and Knife?"

"Yeah?" He tilted his head to look at her.

"Make it early…tonight…we need to move quick."

He nodded. "You know where to wait." She nodded. He watched as she turned the smaller girl away and headed for the old meeting room. Then shaking his head at the strange turn of events he turned back towards his small control booth and settled in to make some urgent calls.

"Come on." Xena walked with carefully controlled steps. Too much like the past. This is what she had run from when she accepted Vince’s job offer…then his protection…and finally lost her soul to him. She snagged two beers from a passing waitress, before pushing the back door open and sliding quickly into a small,, darkened room pulling Gabrielle in after her. "Have a seat." She plopped down in the back of the room on an over sized seat and propped her feet up. "Get comfortable. We’re gonna have a long wait."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gabrielle was getting tired of the silence. The tension was thick enough to cut and yet only the two of them were sitting here. "Xena?"

"What?" Xena asked sullenly. turning eyes filled with a liquid darkness towards the small woman. "Spit it out." She snapped her fingers at the girl.

The light cast an unholy gleam to Xena’s eyes, causing the strawberry blonde girl to hesitate. "Uhm." Gabrielle chewed nervously on her lips. "Ah, um…" She wrinkled her nose. "Why are we sitting here? Who are we waiting for? And Why did that man say they wouldn’t help?" She ran her questions together hoping the strange woman would answer them. "I thought you said we were going to your friends for help.

Xena watched the girl briefly before closing her eyes. "Friends." She repeated the word softly. She smiled wryly, and rubbed her eyes. "We’re sitting here because we are waiting some of the people I grew up with to arrive." She opened her eyes, and for a second a profound sadness shone forth. "He said they wouldn’t help because I betrayed them, but, they will help." Her eyes darkened. "They will."

"Betrayed them?" Gabrielle stood shocked by the admission. "Bu-"

The door opened and Gabrielle stopped in mid-word. She whirled around to see who it was. Heard Xena’s almost inaudible gasp. And stared wide eyed at the woman in the door.

Hands on hips, dressed in a sleek, black evening gown ,a trim woman with long, black hair, and flashing black eyes stared with disbelief. "I didn’t believe him." She took a single step into the room, to allow the men behind her to enter. "Didn’t think you were stupid enough to return to our turf."

Xena rose to her feet, "Flora." She acknowledged the woman by name. The woman took another step closer. "Did he send you?"

"No." Xena moved to stand next to Gabrielle. "He’d kill me if he knew what I was doing."

"Kill his putana?" The woman spat the words as though they were dirt in her mouth. "And why would I believe that?"

Inside Xena flinched at the label. "Because I’ve planned his destruction…quite possibly his death." Her face was an unreadable mask. Gabrielle gasped and Xena clamped a hand onto her shoulder, holding her in place and willing the girl to be silent. Lila was nothing to this group. Her eyes flickered over the men arraigned behind her childhood playmate. Matthias was missing…why?

"Where’s Matthias?" She needed to know.

"He’s not welcome in our group, I’m surprised you didn’t know that." She nodded towards the Knife. "He knew enough not to call him anyway."

"Why?" Xena asked, her brows furrowed in puzzlement.

"He’s a traitor." Flora spit at the floor. "He told Vince’s men everything about that last strike…it’s why they were prepared. But you didn’t wait to find that out…you just traded sides."

Xena felt her legs weaken. She hadn’t expected that. Matthias…but she…he…She fought for control. Her hand gripping the strawberry blonde’s shoulder tighter. Her face remaining an unreadable mask. Finally in control she let go of Gabrielle and stepped closer to Flora. Nose to nose, effectively blocking out the rest of the room.

Flora didn’t move. She stared questioningly into the deep blue eyes. Begging the older woman to convince her that she was wrong.

Xena took a deep breath and smiled crookedly. "I’m not a traitor." Her eyes sparkled with amusement. "If I were you all would be dead." Her eyes narrowed. "I never spoke to Vince, or any of his goons about any of you." She tilted her head. "Or anything the Black-wolves ever did." She kept her hands hanging loosely by her sides. "But I have listened to as many of his plans as I could, learned how his organization works, and I know how to break him."

"Don’t trust her." A man spoke. "Let’s just kill her now. Put her outta our misery."

Xena’s eyes flashed to the voice and in a beat she was toe to toe with the man. "You want a piece of me? Come on Lefty…right now." She shoved her face into his. "What’ll it be? Knifes, guns, whips, come on you name it."

"Xena!" Gabrielle broke through her angry haze. A small hand rested on her shoulder. "Please we don’t have time for him." She pleaded softly.

Xena focused on the voice and felt her anger fade away. She turned to face the youngster. Gabrielle looked at her with worry in her pretty green eyes. She smirked in an attempt to make the kid smile. "Okay, Red. But only cause you asked so nice."

Gabrielle smiled. "They won’t listen to you." She whispered the words. "Let’s just leave, we’ll get Lila...my family and run away from the city."

"I don’t think so little girl." Flora said quietly. "It’s much too late for you to be going anywhere.

Gabrielle whirled around. The people had shifted. Xena and herself were now the center of a small circle. Flora deliberately stepped into the circle. "Are you going to introduce your friend to us?" She looked at Xena.

Xena hesitated, swirling her tongue around her mouth and looking into Flora’s eyes. Finally she nodded. "Gabrielle." She looked at the girl she was standing next to. "Meet Flora, defuncto Leader of the Black-wolves…the gang I grew up with." She moved the girl so she could look at the men around them. "This creep as you heard me say is Lefty…to his right is the Knife - you already met him, and Sonny, Albert, Fats, Blackie, and Sal." She cocked an eyebrow at the small group. "Wolves, this is Gabrielle."

"Which means exactly what?" Sal wrung his hands nervously. "Why are we here? You know I don’t do well under pressure. I need to get back to my girls."

"Quiet." Xena and Flora spoke at the same time, turned and smirked at each other.

Flora smiled. "Do you really have a plan?"

"Yeah, but it’ll take everyone’s cooperation to pull it off."

Flora grinned. "If it’ll end his reign everyone will cooperate." A murmer began. She raised a hand and silence descended. "We do it my way - unless one of you chumps wants to challenge my position?"

Silence…deafening in the wake of her words.

"Okay then." She sat down. "Knife, get us some drinks."

Xena followed her lead and pulled out a chair for Gabrielle before sitting herself at the round gaming table.

"So talk." Flora sipped her wine.

"Before we start I want a favor." Xena stated clearly.

"I knew it!" Lefty swore. "See she’s already after something."

"Another outburst from you and you’ll be outta here." Flora said without taking her eyes from Xena. "You’re in no condition to be asking for favors." She told the Singer.

"Oh, but I am." Xena spoke softly. "I’m about to hand you your wildest dreams…the least you can do is grant me one small favor." She smirked. "Especially when it won’t cost you a penny."

Xena shifted her eyes to Sal. "Auty brought you a girl last night. I want her - and I want her now."

Gabrielle jumped to her feet. Xena restrained her. She sat down unwillingly. Xena glared at her. Her struggles subsided.

Sal paled. He’d known the girl had meant bad news. "Ah…um, but…" He stuttered.

"From the reaction of our esteemed colleague I will assume you are right." Flora said drolly. "But what do you want the girl for?"

"She’s an innocent." Xena sipped her drink. "She doesn’t deserve to get caught up in this ridiculous lifestyle. She belongs with her family."

"Since when do you care about who belongs where?"

"I always cared." Xena said in careful precise tone. "Always." She ignored the snorts of disbelief that came from around the table.

"And her family?" Flora’s eyes took in the girl at Xena’s side. "Who are they?"

Xena’s eyes acknowledged hers. "Just another neighborhood family being terrorized for their hard earned money. No one of any great significance."

"And her?" She nodded at Gabrielle.

"She’s out of it." Xena spoke curtly. "Get me the girl from Sal’s place. When her and her family, including Gabrielle are settled…out of the city. Then we can take care of Vince and his goons."

"Xena?!" Gabrielle protested. "I want to help."

Xena turned to the girl and her eyes softened. "No, you don’t understand what we are up against." She tilted her head down capturing Gabrielle’s eyes with her own. "I want you to go with Sal and get Lila, get your parents and take the three of them out to the country. You’ll be safe there. You can forget you ever heard of any of us and be happy."

"No." Gabrielle whispered. "I can’t do that."

Blue eyes flashed. "We’ll discuss it later…in private."

Gabrielle nodded. She turned away. Her stomach churning with fear. She wasn’t going to run out not now. She started this whole thing, she’d see it to the end. Good or bad.

Xena swallowed her anger at Gabrielle’s insistence. She turned back to Flora. "Get the girl now." She let her eyes roam around the table at the men she’d grown up with. Her stomach threatened to rebel. Men she once knew as well as herself, but not any more. Men that were more than willing to kill her. Could she trust them? What choice did she have? "We can talk while they get her, and take her to her family."

"Okay." Flora made up her mind. She’d trust Xena. She always had. That’s why it had hurt so much when Lyceus had been killed and she’d gone with Vince. "But if you betray us…I’ll cut your heart out myself."

Xena stared unblinkingly at her old friend. Her heart filled with a deep sorrow. "If I ever betray you…I’ll deserve that…and let you do it."

"Sal," Flora snapped her fingers. "Get the girl. Take her to her family."

"Gabrielle." Xena softened her tone. "Go with him."

"But.."

"No, no buts." Xena put a finger to the girls lips. "Take care of Lila…okay?"

Gabrielle nodded, not trusting herself to speak, especially in front of this crowd. She rose to her feet and started to walk away. She paused by Flora’s chair, and whispered. "If anything happens to her, I’ll rip your heart out." She continued on her way.

"Sal?" Xena called out.

Sal turned back.

"Anything happens to her and your business will burn and you with it. Got it?"

Sal nodded hurriedly and rushed for the door.

"Now can we get down to business?" Flora asked.

"Oh yeah." Xena replied with a strange lilt in her voice. "Now we can get down to business." She leaned forward and began to tell the small crowd of her experiences of the past few years.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 4

"So how long have you known Xena?" Gabrielle asked brightly.

"All her life." Sal muttered. "All her life."

"Really?" Gabrielle’s eyes widened. Here was her chance to learn what made the Singer tick.

"So what was she like when she was younger?"

Sal wrung his hands nervously. "Can’t you go any faster?" He pleaded with Blackie.

"No." Blackie laughed. "You worry too much Sal. Now Xena’s back we’ll have fun just like before. You’ll see. Everything will be fine."

Gabrielle noted with interest that at least one of Xena’s old gang was glad she had returned. Maybe if she changed tactics. "So who’s this Matthias guy they mentioned?"

"Oh that’s Xena’s old beau." Blackie answered eagerly. "We all thought they’d get married one day. But then Lys was killed and Xena went away to live with Vince…everything changed."

"Blackie be quiet." Sal hissed nervously.

"Hey leave him alone." Gabrielle slapped Sal’s arm. "It’s okay Blackie you can tell me all about it. Xena’s my friend, she won’t mind." And silently to herself she added, much.

Blackie smiled at the girl. He liked her. She was pretty and had a nice way of talking. "Xena’s good."

He nodded to himself. "Real good." He parked the car.

Sal laughed nervously. "He’s not too bright." He whispered to Gabrielle. "Got hit real hard on the head when he was tiny. Xena stopped him from getting killed. He used to follow her like a puppy." He opened the door. "Come on we have to hurry, before it gets too late." He continued talking as he helped her out of the car. "If you see any men just pretend your one of my new girls…you already look the part." He turned to the tall man that had gotten out of the car with them. "Blackie stay with the car. We’ll be right back. And don’t talk to anyone." Blackie nodded and Sal turned hurrying the small woman towards his private entrance.

"Honey." Sal rushed up to the woman he had turned Lila over to. "Where’s the new girl?" He glanced nervously around the room. "What have you done with her?’

"Sal?" Honey laughed. "Calm down. She’s in my wing. I wanted to make sure she was comfortable before she went out. Why?" Her eyes narrowed as she caught sight of Gabrielle. "Who’s she? What did ya bring her for?" The hackles rose on the back of her neck and she prepared to fight for her position.

"No, no." Sal waved his hands in front of her, tittering nervously. "It’s nothing like that. She’s not, it’s not…"

"Oh for heavens sake." Gabrielle pushed Sal aside. "Where’s my sister?" She glared angrily at the woman in front of her. "I’ve come to take her back. And if you’ve touched one hair on her head..."

"You’ll what?!" Honey prepared to fight it out.

"Now girls," Sal pushed himself between the two women. "No need for violence. Come on we can all have what we want."

"Shut up." Both woman said together. Then looked at each other in surprise and laughed.

Sal took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. "That’s better. Much better. Now, Honey, dear, Gabrielle came for her sister. We are going to give her to her…and keep it real quiet okay?"

"You look like one of us." Honey stared at Gabrielle.

"Yeah, well looks can be deceiving." Gabrielle spoke calmly despite the fear that churned at her insides. "I just want Lila..and we’ll be gone and you can get back to whatever it is you do."

"She’s a sweet kid."

Gabrielle was surprised at the comment but kept her surprise to herself. "Yes she is."

"She’s head over heels in love with Auty…she’ll come back." Honey felt obliged to tell the girl. "She’ll do anything he wants her to."

"Thanks." Gabrielle smiled. "I’ll make sure she won’t come back."

"Good." Honey turned around. "Follow me, but keep quiet." She rolled her eyes at Sal. "It’s busy tonight…real busy. Good for the purse, but not good for sneaking someone out."

"We’ll manage." Gabrielle hastened after the woman.

Easy for her to say…it’s not her business that’s gonna be destroyed if we fail. Sal moaned to himself and hurried after the two women.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Lila." Gabrielle brushed the dark hair back from the girl’s face. She felt her forehead. She was flushed. "What have you given her? She looked up at Honey.

Honey shrugged. "Nothing." She glanced at Sal. "She had stuff Auty gave her. Said it made her sleep better."

Gabrielle took the cold clothe and rinsed of her sister’s face. "Lila, wake up. Come on Sweetie you can do it."

Lila’s eyes fluttered open and she peered wearily at her sister. "Gab? Is that you?" She smiled and her head lolled back. "I’m so confused…I really need to talk to you."

"I’m here." She pressed a cold glass of water against her sister’s lips. "Drink up." She tilted the glass carefully. "Good girl." She praised as the water went into the lips.

Lila’s eyes opened again. "Gabrielle?" She sat up. "Oh." She held a hand to her temple. "That hurts."

Gabrielle grinned. "It’s okay…you’ll be okay." She smiled at her sister. "Come on."

"Where?" Lila looked puzzled.

"Back home."

Lila crossed her arms. "No, this is my home now."

"Lila," Gabrielle knelt at her sister’s feet and placed her hands on her legs. "You can’t stay here. Mom and dad need you."

"No they don’t."

"Yes they do." Gabrielle smiled. "And the three of you are leaving the city."

She smiled at the startled reaction that got. "Yes. I’m putting you all on a train and sending you to stay at Aunt Terries. You’ll love it…trust me."

"Really?" Lila’s eyes opened. "I can ride the horse."

Gabrielle smiled. "Yes…and all sorts of other things too. Come on." She rose to her feet and pulled her sister up with her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I don’t take another step without my daughter." Nick stopped at the end of the bus and turned arms folded across his chest.

"Dad, I can’t come." Gabrielle said exasperated. She’d explained everything to her father three times over. Why did he keep insisting?

Her father threw his hand in her face. "Two…you give me two good reasons why you gotta make you’re mamma worry. He glared angrily at Sal. "And don’t you be telling me it’s them…they no good. Pah." He spat at the rotund man’s feet. "We go because you say go." He rolled his eyes. "When did I die that my own daughter gives the orders in the family."

Gabrielle’s eyes misted over. "Dad." she sniffed back the tears. "It’s not like that. You can’t fight them. You have to think of ma and Lila…they need you."

"And we don’t need you?"

"I need to stay here…help make it safe for you to go…" She bit the bottom of her lip.

Nick hesitated. His once jet black hair streaked with grey and heavy lines etched into his face. His big brown eyes were watching his eldest daughter with a deep sorrow. "You’re a good girl Gabrielle." His voice shook slightly. For the first time in his life he was running away and it scared him. "I don’t want you mixed up with that scum."

"Poppa, I’ll be all right." She stroked his cheek. "I gotta do this." She smiled sadly. "You ain’t running poppa…you just gotta make sure momma’s okay. I’m staying…and one day you’ll come back…if you want."

"The bus is leaving." Blackie called from his spot. "You ain’t going no where until I say you is." He said to the driver.

"I’m coming." Nick called back. "Daughter take care of yourself." He hugged her close. She squeezed back, tears running silently down her face. She stepped back and he climbed wearily onto the bus.

The two men didn’t know what to do with her. She wasn’t one of their girls so they couldn’t threaten to smack her. Sal cleared his throat nervously. "Xena isn’t going to like this." His eyebrows furrowed together and his mouth turned down, his lips quivered as he rang his hands worriedly. "No, no…she’s gonna blame me." his head was bobbing with his fright. "She said for you to get on the bus. She doesn’t like it when people don’t obey her. She’ll kill me…she will."

Gabrielle smiled sweetly. "She won’t kill you." She patted his cheek and stepped past him. "Come along boys. We have a job to do."

Sal turned and stared unbelievingly at her as she sauntered down the street. Blackie stepped up to the smaller man. "She’s good." He grinned. "Real good." He clapped a hand to Sal’s shoulder. "Come on. I think I am going to enjoy this." He pushed his partner along the road.

"I’m surrounded by crazies." Sal muttered as he stumbled towards the fast moving girl.

"Ah, you wouldn’t want it any other way." Blackie grinned, reaching past the older man and opening the door to the cady that Gabrielle was now leaning on. "In you go little lady."

Gabrielle swept past him and slid gracefully into the seat. "Thank you." She sat quietly with her hands folded tightly in her lap. She paid no attention to Sal as he climbed into the back with her.

Blackie climbed into the front and automatically headed for the club. Xena would want to know everything as quickly as possible. He glanced at the rearview mirror. The girl looked pretty tense. He spared a look at Sal, surprised at how much the man had aged in the past few hours. Yup, life was gonna get exciting again. Just like the old days when they were young and just took whatever they wanted. He whistled softly to himself as he drove.

Gabrielle’s insides twisted in a knot. Much as she pretended that Xena wouldn’t kill the men she knew she’d have to talk quick to prevent her taking this out on them. She just had to figure out what to say. I gotta get her to talk to me in private. If she insists on talking in front of the gang we’ve already lost. I just gotta get her to see that I belong here…I can help win this battle. She stared out the window, crying inside as the last remains of her childhood swept out of her view, the resolve to stop these men from Sicily stronger than ever.

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Continued..Part 2


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