A THOUSAND SHADES OF FEELING
Disclaimers and Author's note: I will warn you, if the thought of two women
in love bothers you, 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.
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 enough T but...thank you.
Feedback is welcomed at email@example.com
She was awake and on her feet before the scream ended. Her feet flew down
the stairs, barely touching, she jumped the last four steps, smacked her
hand gripping the gun she couldn't remember grabbing and clutched Morrigan
protectively while looking out the door for physical harm. What she saw
instead was the carnage of a bloody slaughter. On the wooden door hung a
chicken, suspended by a large hunting knife through it's neck and bloodied
beyond belief. In the yard, a dog with ropy gray intestines trailing after
it and a disemboweled kitten beside it. Merlin turned Morrigan's head to her
chest, away from the blood-soaked yard, and slammed the door. The chicken's
body bounced on the door, causing the bile to rise rapidly in Merlin's
"I went to feed the chickens...and found...found..."
"It's okay now, it's okay..." Merlin locked the door and guided a sobbing,
nerve-wracked Morigan to the living room.
"Let it go, let it go..." Merlin encouraged her.
Morrigan wept unashamedly in shock and relief that someone else was there.
As the tears soaked the front of her t-shirt, Merlin felt the red heat of
rage build within her and she experienced a much more protective feeling
than she ever had before. Without understanding why, she scooped the smaller
woman into her arms and onto her lap as she settled on the sofa. Merlin
rocked them both until Morrigan's sobs abated, then stopped completely.
Merlin rubbed the blond's back and listened to her breathing change from a
catchy, jerky rythym to one of less-tortured sleep. When she was sure
Morrigan was well and truly asleep, Merlin laid her on the sofa and covered
her with a soft blanket. Then she changed into clothes more suited for the
grisly task that awaited her.
Digging the hole for the communal grave was the easy part. Taking the
knife from the door, Merlin wrapped it in a bag and put it aside. The
chicken, although covered in more blood than it's own, was not a problem for
Merlin. The dog and the kitten, however, were. Of all the death she had
seen, all the blood she'd spilled, she had never had to gather a dog's
intestines before she could bury it. She tried not to see the warm brown
eyes of Morrigan's dog as she laid him gently in the grave, she tried not to
think of the small disemboweled kitten as it too was laid to rest. She
tried. The violence of the slaughter filled her with fury that left a
bitter taste in her mouth. All the people she'd protected before had been
different from one another, but similar in the predictability of the
threats. She had only ever lost one. But never had she ever had to deal with
this kind of bloodthirsty slaughter.
This carnage was not simple and impersonal. It was shocking, bloody and
more alarming in it's choice of victims. As she refilled the hole Merlin
mused on the psychology of the slaughter. A kitten, innocent and small, a
dog obviously loved and cared for, and a chicken dripping blood and
suspended from a large weapon. The murders were meant to send a message; but
what was it? Whoever had done this was counting on the shock value to damage
Morrigan's psyche. But Merlin doubted that they knew who she was, and what
she was capable of. She would have to rely on that.
With the hole filled, Merlin put the shovel back in the barn and
checked the doors. They seemed secure. She let the chickens out in the
yard, scattered some feed for them, filled their feeder trough and refilled
their waterer with fresh, clean water. Double checking to be sure the
excersise pen was secure, she turned her attention to gathering eggs. That
done, she left the coop and latched the door behind her. In the house she
gently washed the tawny eggs and stored them in the refridgerator. Morrigan
was fast asleep so Merlin decided on a shower after checking the property
once more. She slowly and silently walked the perimeter of the property with
her gun drawn, then checked the coop and barn thoroughly. She found nothing
and went back to the house. Twenty minutes later she padded back downstairs
damp but cleaner. As Merlin puttered around the clean kitchen making coffee,
Morrigan opened her eyes and lay there, listening. As shocking as the
grisly scene in the yard had been, she was glad that Merlin had been there.
The tall, dark haired woman brought something to the house, to Morrigan,
that had been absent a long time. Purpose. Morrigan had been held captive in
the iron grip of writer's block for almost as long as Mark had been gone,
and although Merlin had only been here a matter of hours Morrigan was sure
her muse accompanied the warrior-like bodyguard. A mug of steaming coffee
was handed ovr the back of the sofa, startling Morrigan out of her thoughts.
While she sat up she asked,
"How did you know I was awake?"
"I heard the change in your breathing." Merlin sat in an overstuffed chair
opposite Morrigan, her hair still wet from the shower. As Merlin pulled one
long leg up to her chest, Morrigan was content to study this mysterious
Clad in faded bluejeans and a black sleeveless t-shirt, Merlin looked
aloof but relaxed. Morrigan suspected it was for her benefit. When she
spotted the tattoo, she was at first hesitant to say anything. But her
curiosity got the better of her.
"Did that hurt?"
Merlin looked up in surprise and then realized where Morrigan's gaze was
"Not really, no."
"What is it? The pattern, I mean.'
Merlin took a deep breath before answering. "It's a linear tribal design I
saw in a dream once. In the dream the pattern was copper on a leather
armband, but it seemed so...right, so familiar, that I got it tattooed on my
To Merlin's surprise, Morrigan had crossed the room and was reaching out a
tentative finger to touch the black and red design. Suddenly realizing what
she was going to do, Morrigan pulled her hand back. Merlin chuckled.
"You can touch it, I won't bite."
Morrigan reached out once more and this time made contact with the inked
skin. As she traced the swirls and whorls faded now with time, the writer
was fascinated by the mystical design, and secretly thrilled by the mere
fact that she was touching Merlin. But physical feelings aside, there was an
ancient familiarity to the lines; as if she'd seen them there before.
Morrigan jumped and Merlin laughed quietly again.
"Relax, I told you I won't bite. Unless you want me to..."
Morrigan blushed and released the muscular arm.
"What about you? No piercings, tattoos or other distinguishing marks?"
Merlin's voice was gentle and soothing.
"Nothing as beautiful as that. Only a few well placed moles. Your tattoo is
much more decorative."
"Oh, that's not all I have. See the top of this foot?" Merlin put her bare
right foot on the coffee table. "See this circle?"
Morrigan could plainly see a circle of freckles on the top of the foot.
"That's cool." She breathed in awe.
"Yeah, I always thought so too."
They sat quietly drinking coffee, sitting in companionable silence until
Morrigan remembered why she was on the couch. Feeling guilty for chatting
while there were bodies to be buried, Morrigan stood quickly and started
searching for her socks.
"I already fed the chickens and put them in their yard."
Morrigan turned away so that Merlin couldn't see her tremble. "I still have
"No you don't." Merlin crossed the room and stood in front of Morrigan. "I
did it already."
"I could have..."
"I know you COULD have, but you have enough to worry about so I did it."
"How do I thank you for something like that? I'm sure it's not in your job
"Breakfast seems like a good idea. Besides, you haven't eaten anything
either and you're probably hungry.
Merlin grinned as Morrigan's stomach rumbled in agreement.
By two that afternoon they'd almost finished their list of things to do
in town and were just pulling into the hardware store parking lot. With the
truck shut off Merlin grabbed Morrigan's arm before she could get out.
"Listen, do you trust me?"
"Of course. Why?"
"I think we should play our cards close to our vest, so to speak. As far as
they're concerned I'm hired help. I fix what needs it, paint what needs
"So I can get the book done, right." Morrigan smiled.
Walking into the hardware store was always an excersise in nostalgia
management. Verne's Hardware was the last of a breed; the old time store
with wooden floors, nails in barrels and a feel of days gone by. Merlin
liked it instantly. As she and Morrigan looked at paint chips, she leaned
close and whispered.
"With a bright and shiny Ace hardware store in town, why this one?"
Morrigan leaned toward Merlin and whispered back. "He's more personal and
friendly. Besides, I've known him my whole life."
An hour later they were ready to go. Verne himself stood behind the
register tallying up their purchases.
"Two cans of white paint, six of red, four brushes, ten pounds of nails, a
quart of lubricating oil, a toolbelt and an ink cartridge. Plannin' on doin'
"Verne, meet the brave soul who's taking on Mystic Meadow. This is Merlin."
Verne reached out to take Merlin's hand. "You sure you know what you're
taking on? I know how badly that place needs special attention..."
Merlin smiled winningly at him.
"I know what I'm up against. There's a nice feeling to the place so I don't
mind if I hit a couple of snags."
Verne turned back to Morrigan with a wink.
"She likes Mystic Meadow so she's alright by me. That's two hundred and
twenty five Morr, but it's on your father's account."
"Have you been out to say Hi to your Momma yet today?" Verne went on,
ignoring Morrigan's confusion. "I was out there just this morning cleaning
up." The big man lifted a rose from beneath the counter and handed it to the
petite writer. "Go and say hi." Then he took two paint cans in each hand and
headed to the door.
Merlin leaned close to Morrigan's ear. "Wait in here, I'll be right back."
Two trips later everything was loaded in the back of the truck and they were
on their way.
"So, which way to go see your mother?"
Morrigan gave brief directions and settled back in her seat. Merlin was
surprised when the directions brought them to the gate of a graveyard, but
said nothing as she opened the passenger door for Morrigan. When Morrigan
had her back to her, Merlin checked her pocket to be sure the gun was secure
and then followed the thoughtful, silent writer. They hadn't walked very far
when Morrigan stopped in front of a marble stone.
"This is my mother Merlin."
Merlin noticed the final date on the headstone, only a year past, and
spotted a bench not far off. She put a hand on Morrigan's shoulder and
"I'll leave you two alone, I'll be on that bench over there." Giving
Morigan's shoulder a gentle squeeze, she walked away and settled on the
bench to keep watch.
Morrigan brushed a few leaves off her mother's stone and sat down
facing the grave. She placed the rose beside another; Verne's she guessed,
and cleared her throat.
"Mom, you know I miss you, but I really wish you were still here. The past
few days have really been something. Dad called me into the city to tell me
that someone has threatened me, he hired a bodyguard to live out at the
house, and he apparently has an account at Verne's. Merlin already seems
like more than just a bodyguard...there's something about her...I think I'm
falling for her Mom. I know how that sounds, but it's true. She looks at me
and it's like she knows every secret my soul has. She brings the writer in
me out like no one else ever has, I just look at her sitting over there and
a thousand shades of feeling race through my heart. I've got it pretty bad
huh? This morning I opened the door to go and feed the chickens and someone
had killed one of them and hung it from the door with a knife.
They...murdered Oboe too and one of the barncat's kittens. It was
horrible..." Morrigan rubbed at her eyes with a shaky hand, seeing the
grisly scene again in her mind's eye. "She held me while I bawled like a
damn fool Mom, and then buried them for me too. When she's close, I'm not
afraid..." Morrigan sat there on the ground silently, remembering how her
mother had looked before the disease took over and regretting that the woman
who had meant so much couldn't be with her. After awhile Morrigan got up
and brushed the grass from behind. "Well I guess we should get those
groceries home. I miss you."
From: "carolyn mcbride" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: ATSOF chapter 3
Date sent: Mon, 06 Dec 1999 08:42:05 EST
Disclaimers and Autor's note: 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 them whatsoever,
so please don't send the copyright cops after me...We all learned from
Lunar... 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 about 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. There is a graphic
account of violence that was almost hard to write at times. If it makes
anyone queasy, I'll apologize now but it was necessary for dramatic
reasons. 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...Thank you. I can be
reached for feedback at email@example.com
Merlin woke up very early with a very strange feeling in her chest.
be more accurate, on her chest. Opening her eyes cautiously she peered
down to find a hand other than her own resting over her heart. As soon as
she saw the hand, she remembered. She remembered telling Morrigan how her
mother died, she recalled the writer telling her how Merlin made her feel,
and she remembered falling asleep with her arm around Morrigan. Which was
why she felt so stiff now. She was tempted to get up now and start the day
but it felt so good laying beside Morrigan that she let the temptation
pass. When the smaller woman began to shiver Merlin wiggled a blanket up
from the bottom of the bed with her foot and managed to cover them both
without moving too much. When Morrigan rested her head in the hollow of
the Merlin's shoulder Merlin sighed. She was complete for the first time
in a long time. It was as if her heart had come home. Without meaning to,
she drifted off again.
When she woke up again she found herself achingly alone. Her heart
a double beat then seemed to stop as she stepped quickly down the stairs.
She found Morrigan in the kitchen making coffee with her back to Merlin.
The bodyguard let her heart lead her as she crossed the room silently and
wrapped her arms around the body in the emerald robe. "Uh...Merlin?
What's up?" "I woke up, you were gone...I thought..." Morrigan put down
the filters and wrapped her arms over Merlin's. "As comfortable as I was
nature called." Merlin didn't move. She stayed where she was, arms wrapped
around Morrigan's waist, her head bent so that he lips rested in the silky
blond hair. Morrigan was enjoying the cuddling, she hadn't expected Merlin
to surrender this quickly. The way she was behaving this morning led
Morrigan to wonder what was running through that dark haired head. "Merl?
You okay?" The tall woman sighed happily and Morrigan could feel her nod
before releasing her. "I fel so different Morrigan. I feel clean again,
less haunted. I feel..." Her stomach rumbled and gurgled. "Hungry?"
Morrigan finished for her. "Yeah." Merlin grinned sheepishly.
They didn't say much to one another over their bacon and eggs.
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture was playing in the living room and they were
both reviewing their plans for the day. Morrigan looked up over the rim of
her coffee cup and watched Merlin eat. She had gone to bed the night
before in a pair of boxers and a black, sleeveless, cut off t-shirt.
Morrigan grinned to herself and thought that this was a sight worth waking
up to. Merlin was focused on some inner point and Morrigan watched a
transformation play over the sculpted face. It was as if she assumed a
mask that allowed her to slip from one persona to the other; from her
inner, unguarded self to
the sceptical, suspicious bodyguard. When Merlin took their plates to
sink Morrigan's eyes followed her: watching, remembering, memorizing,
wanting. Merlin went back upstairs and Morrigan felt the sharp pang of
disappointment. 'What did yo expect dolt?' Morrigan cleaned the kitchen
with sharp, abrupt motions that reflected her frustration while she
mentally berated herself. Without even realizing it she began to mutter
while she started the dishes. "Did you really think she'd be all warm and
fuzzy all morning? She does have a job to do you know. Quit being so
selfish...She says you make her feel better, but how do you know it wasn't
just emotion of the moment talking? For all you know, you may be nothing
more than a pleasant distraction that she'll forget when this job is
over." "And for all you know she may have been telling you the truth." A
quiet voice said.
Morrigan turned to see Merlin standing at the foot of the stairs. She
had dressed in a red sleeveless t-shirt and faded jeans, and was leaning
against the wall watching Morrigan. Merlin pushed off the wall ad crossed
the room with a concerned look in her eyes. Taking both of Morrigan's
hands in her own, Merlin studied her intently for a minute. "Why would you
think I would let the moment carry me away? I don't say things that Idon't
mean Morrigan. I do want to be closer to you believe me, but I also can't
forget what I'm here to do. I have to listen to my head while I follow my
heart. otherwise..." "I know..." "But you don't believe." Merlin's voice
was gentle and yet passionate. "You must believe me Morrigan, I don't want
to lose you. I want to be able to sit down and have dinner with you, to
snuggle on the sofa, I want to watch you write. I want...you. If I'm
distant or distracted, don't take it personally. I need to focus on
keeping you safe and it's going to take all my concentration because
frankly, you're very distracting." Merlin grinned wolfishly, then bent he
head and kissed Morrigan soundly before going out to the barn. Morrigan
stood stunned, unable to think about anything but the feel of those lips
on hers. When she finally spoke it was to an empty room. "Wow..."
Merlin smiled all the way to the barn. She had enjoyed that. Maybe a
little too much. When she opened the barn door, the smile disappeared. All
the chickens had been locked into the barn, where they were being harassed
by the barn cat. Merlin scooped up the cat and took it out into the yard.
She could see the chicken run had been left open, but those birds hadn't
locked themselves in the barn. Someone had done it, knowing the chickens
would be found, seemingly wanting their presence known. But who? And why?
Paul had said that he didn't know who had threatened Morrigan, but the
things that had happened so far were too personal, too subtle to just
make Paul nervous. No, the slaughter in the front yard and this obvious
sign that someone else was here were intended to scare just one person.
It took Merlin the better part of fifeteen minutes to get the
back into their pen, but finally they were all there. Merlin went back
into the house to answer the call of nature, and when she came back
downstairs she found Morrigan at the table hunched over her notes.
Morrigan looked up and smiled, then got up and went to stand in front of
the taller woman. She put her hands on Merlin's hips then stood on her
tiptoes to kiss her. It was not a long kiss, but a soft and tender one
full of compassion and feeling. "What was that for?" Merlin asked with a
raised eyebrow and a growing smile. "Because I wanted to and I ...care for
you." Morrigan was shy and her voice husky. Merlin was silent and
thoughtfull while she studied the green eyes peering so intently into her
own. She could see the emotions there so clearly; every fleck of sea green
radiated growing affection and fondness, warmth and tenderness. Such
feeling Merlin had only ever seen once before...She would not throw this
opportunity away by making the same assumptions she had before. She would
not wait until this contract was over before following her heart. Not this
time. Knowing words often failed her where action did not, Merlin let her
heart lead her body and reached out for Morrigan. One arm snaked around
her waist to draw her closer while the other slid up the length of
Morrigan's back where long fingers buried themselves in sumptuously thick
blond hair. She bent her head down and sought out the soft, pale lips;
claiming them in a purposefull kiss that became warm and loving. When
their lips parted, a small sigh of disappointment escaped them both and a
lustfull quiver rippled through Merlin.
"You don't know how much I want you..." Morrigan gave voice to
desires as she ran her hands down a long, straight spine.
"Oh I think I do." Merlin captured an earlobe and nibbled gently, then ran
a feather-light touch along Morrigan's neck and throat. "But what would
your mother say?" "Follow your heart, which is exactly what I'm doing."
Merlin lightly caressed the smooth skin of Morrigan's throat, dipped in
the well at the base of her throat and met with resistance when her
fingers grazed the neckline of Morrigan's sleepshirt. "I could...do
something about that." Morrigan hesitated for less than a heartbeat. "Not
here. Upstairs, where I can ravage you properly." Merlin had cocked one
eyebrow and had a sly grin on her face. "True, my first lesson should be
given in comfort." Merlin had the grace to look surprised. "You've
never...?" "Not with a woman, no." Morrigan got a mischievious grin. "But
I enjoyed school, so I'm sure I'll enjoy a private tutor." Merlin grinned
leacherously as she picked Morrigan up and carried her upstairs. "I'll
make sure you do."
Tucking the chicken under his arm, the stocky stranger glanced over
shoulder at the house. No movement yet. He made soothing noises to keep
the bird quiet, relatched the coop and tiptoed quietly back into the
shadows. With the chicken stowed safely in a box on the floor of his car,
he went back and hid in the dark shadows of the house. He settled in the
corner where the shadows were deepest and waited. He brushed his stringy
brown hair out of watery eyes and plotted his next move. It hadn't been
hard to leave the animals for her to find; he'd never liked the dog
anyway. The tall woman seemed to be some kind of hired help, so he would
have to be carefull that he wasn't spotted. His eyes darted around the
yard, searching out the next target while his warped mind schemed along
with his broken heart. "I'll show her who not to mess with..." An odd
noise interuppted his musings, he cocked his head and listened. It sounded
like...panting, or moaning, as if someone were in great pain or...
"Too much all at once?" Merlin laid on her side and propped her head up
with one hand while her free hand traced intricate patterns on Morrigan's
skin. Her skin was smooth and firm, and warm with the quickening of her
blood. A flush had begun to creep up from the base of Morrigan's throat as
she fought to get her breath back. "I had no idea that a body could feel
so many things all at once. My skin has never been so sensitive, so
alive, so..." "On fire?" Merlin helpfully supplied. "Definitely on fire."
Morrigan watched Merlin's hand continue to sketch until logic began to
seep through her haze. "Do you find it strange that we're in bed after
only three days?" Merlin glanced up and studied Morrigan for some sign of
regret. "Do you find it strange that we both feel the same way about each
other? Or that we feel so good together? Or that we were both seducing
each other almost from the beginning?" She asked. Morrigan found herself
carried away on another wave of sensation. She grit her teeth and shook
her head, closing her eyes against the onslaught. "Morrigan, open your
eyes. It'll heighten it; I promise." Outside, the man in the shadows
listened to the sounds coming through the open window. As Morrigan
released a primal scream, he ran out into the yard toward the truck. As
Morrigan let out a strangled cry, his knife ripped open the tires on her
truck. When she cried out again, he ran back to the shadows to wait.
A little while later Merlin sat up and stretched. Morrigan had been
asleep for a few minutes, worn out by an overload of sensations.Her
earlier question played through Merlin's mind. 'Do you find it strange
that we're in bed after only three days?' Merlin shook her head and
whispered to her lover. "I find it wonderful that you were willing to
share your body with me, it's beautiful that you let me glimpse into your
soul and I ...care for you very much." Merlin heard a noise outside and
closing the door behind her, left to do her job. Before she had stepped
out onto the porch Merlin had completely slipped into her bodyguard
persona, all thoughts of the woman upstairs being her lover were left
behind. The yard was quiet except for the sounds she expected to hear; the
chickens, the cat and the remaining dogs. There seemed to be nothing out
of the ordinary, but still she stayed in the dark shade of the porch and
listened. Each time she thought there was no need for concern, a gnawing
feeling churned at her gut and kept her hidden in the shadows. When she
noticed the tires on Morrigan's truck, she knew her gut feeling had been
right. Taking her gun from the waistband of her jeans, Merlin stepped off
the porch. Cautiously she circled the truck, then dropped to the ground to
peer up at the under-carriage. Satisfied it hadn't been tampered with,
Merlin straightened up and cast her gaze around the property. Then she
noticed her own truck was missing.
The tracks were easy enough to follow, they led into the barn. But
Merlin knew that in all likelihood this was a trap.There were two doors
built into the barn, Merlin headed for the back door instead of the front
where the tracks led. With her body pressed against the rough wooden wall,
she took the forty-five from her waistband and listened for any suspicious
sounds from within the barn. Hearing nothing out of the ordinary, she
eased the door open. Gratefull that she'd already oiled the hinges, she
waited once more. When nothing but the sweet smell of hay came out to her
Merlin eased her body through the door soundlessly. Holding the gun at
shoulder level, senses on the alert, Merlin swung her gaze around the
cavernous interior. Her truck had been parked just inside the large front
doors and left there, the barn cat cleaned itself contentedly in a
corner....nothing but the truck seemed out of place. But the hair on the
back of her neck told a different story; it was standing straight up,
every nerve ending sharp.
Deathly silent, Merlin eased up to the cab of her truck and peered
quickly inside. There was no one there. But as she began to turn to the
back of the truck, she felt a heavy blow at the base of her neck and the
world went black.
When she opened her eyes again, Merlin had an incredible headache.
opening her eyes made the pain lance through her skull twice as fast.
Merlin gritted her teeth against the pain and looked around for some sign
of who had hit her. There was no one. She was crumpled by the passenger
side of her truck, completely alone. Merlin slowly staggered to a standing
position and leaned against the truck for a minute while she waited for
the barn to stop spinning. When she felt a bit better, she went to the
door but then remembered her gun. Turning back, she found it was gone.
Taken by whomever had hit her, she assumed. Now things were more serious,
and deadly. She had to assume that whoever was on the farm with them was
now armed and dangerous, and all she had left to protect Morrigan with was
her wits. Trying to ignore her heaving stomach, Merlin stumbled through
the door and out into the yard. She discovered two things there. First,
judging by the way her stomach felt, she had a concussion. Second, the sun
was lower than it had been when she'd gone into the barn.
She'd only made it halfway to the house when her stomach lurched
driving her to her knees in the dirt. As Merlin struggled to stand up
again, Morrigan appeared and put an arm around her waist. "I've got you,
c'mon." "I guess this means you're okay." Merlin tried to grin but her
head throbbed too much. "Of course I'm okay. You're the one who's been
gone for hours. Let's get you into the house." Morrigan helped Merlin into
the kitchen and into a chair. "What happened to you anyway?" Morrigan
asked. "I heard a noise outside and went to check it out. Your truck tires
have been slashed and my truck was pushed into the barn. I went to look
around and someone hit me. Whoever it was took my gun too..." Morrigan
stood behind Merlin and lifted the long dark hair out of the way. "That's
quite a cut. Here, hold your hair out of the way while I try to clean it
up. I thought you'd gone to town for something when I saw the truck gone.
I didn't even go looking for you, I'm sorry..." "Don't worry about it, you
were probably safer inside anyway. I think I've got a pretty good
concussion. My stomach is really queasy." Morrigan swabbed peroxide on the
cut until she was sure it was as clean. "There. Take some aspirin and I'll
sit with you for awhile." "I'm tired Morr..." "I know, but with a blow
hard enough to draw blood, you shouldn't sleep for awhile. Why don't you
come into the living room and I'll read you my latest story?" "Someone is
out there with my gun Morrigan and it's my responsibility to protect
you..." "Which you won't be able to do if you're passed out in the weeds."
Morrigan took Merlin's hand in her own. "Let me help keep you awake until
you're feeling better." Merlin tried to stand up, weaved a bit and
clutched the table for support. "Merlin, don't be so stubborn. Let me
help!" Merlin sighed and held out her hand. "Okay, okay..."
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