by: Blue

Part 2


Sam had fallen asleep during the waning hours of the night. She felt that she hadn’t slept in ages and had just been in some altered state of consciousness, not requiring sleep as she remembered it. Being in this village with Xena and Gabrielle was different. She was exhausted. Gabrielle had placed warm blankets over her and left her to sleep under the stars. She and Xena retired to their chamber. As they prepared for bed, the conversation was on the next days meeting with Artemis.

"Let me help you, Xena." Gabrielle went about her nightly joy of helping the warrior out of her armor. It was a very personal event they shared. She carefully unhooked the catch on Xena’s shoulder, letting one side of the armor fall away from her leathers. The bard was curious about the reason Xena wanted to talk to Artemis.

"Xena...I know you have no great love for the gods...so I’m wondering about this talk with Artemis. I mean I know all about our involvement with Liz...but I don’t think she can do anything about Sam. Do you know something I don’t?"

The breastplate was finally released and Gabrielle placed it on the floor next to the pallet. Xena rolled her head to loosen the muscles in her neck, prompting the bard to massage her tenseness. She lowered her head toward her chest and felt the tightness releasing. Gabrielle’s touch was magical. The persistent bard broke the serenity of the moment.

"Well...do you?"

Xena’s eyes were closed and she was trying to concentrate on relaxing. "Do I what, Gabrielle?"

She could hear a heavy sigh behind her. "Do you know something?"

"I know many things. Could you move down my back a bit?"

Gabrielle swatted her shoulder. "You know what I’m talking about! Gods...you’re impossible!"

"Thank you...I try very hard. If you mean do I know of a way to help these two...well I have an idea. But it will take Artemis to actually put it in motion. I don’t know if she will do it. It involves letting them see into the future...and you know how she feels about that sort of thing."

Gabrielle had found a sore spot and was working hard to release the knot. "Oh...you’re right. Artemis will be very hard to convince on this matter."

Xena flinched under Gabrielle’s probing fingers. "Uh-huh...that’s why you’re going to ask her. Ow...you don’t have to detach my muscles from their natural given attachments, you know."

"Me!? Why me!? This is your idea...not mine." She probed deeper just for emphasis.

"It has to be you. You are the Chosen of Artemis. You know she doesn’t listen to me...and if you hit that spot again, you’re in big trouble." She looked over her shoulder lending an arched eyebrow to her warning.

Gabrielle leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "You know eyebrow posturing doesn’t work on me, warrior girl. You’ll probably have me scratch your nose next, right?" She dug into the knot once more. This time Xena turned around in a blur...caught the bard’s wrists and pushed her back on the pallet. She was inches from her face, staring into those incredibly green eyes.

As her lips neared Gabrielle’s, she pondered. "Well...eyebrows may not work...but what about this?" Her mouth caught her lover’s in a deep, consuming kiss. She could feel Gabrielle melting under her and herself wanting to melt on top of the woman. She slowly drew her lips from the bard’s. Gabrielle took a deep breath, her heart pounding in her ears. She looked into the face of the warrior.

"Uh...kissing is good...yep that works for me...no more digging...."

Xena didn’t let her finish. The key to Gabrielle was to keep her mouth occupied with something besides talking or eating food. She intended to do just that through the night.


Sam stirred under the blankets, her thoughts drifting. In her dreamstate she was nestled close to Liz, holding on tightly. She loved the pre-dawn hours with her...it was so intimate...so quiet. Just the two of them, breathing together, the warmth of their bodies being shared, hands and fingers clasped together. It was her favorite time of day...the times before words were uttered...a time of feeling and incredible communication. It was the place she longed to be...but something was pulling her from the security of that space.

She watched as her form left her lover’s side...being forcibly removed. She reached toward Liz’s sleeping body, hoping to grasp her. It was useless; she was wisked away to that spot on the sidewalk and the horror of her reality. Suddenly, she felt very cold...detached...disoriented. It was not at all comfortable, yet it was familiar. She had the distinct feeling of being shaken. It was Gabrielle’s soft voice that eased her from her dream.

"Sam...it’s Gabrielle. Wake up."

Sam’s return to consciousness was a welcome event as that other place was just too dark. She slowly opened her eyes to see Gabrielle’s face and smile before her. She remembered Liz talking about the bard, how beautiful she was. It was true...all true. In fact, her descriptions hardly told the whole story. It was more than physical beauty that Gabrielle possessed...it was an inner integrity that shone through her as well. How fortunate Xena was to wake to her every morning.

"Gabrielle...I was dreaming...seeing Liz again...then I was...." Her voiced trailed off, not wanting to even verbalize the event again.

The bard gently put a hand to Sam’s worried face. "I know...it’s ok, Sam. We’ll see Artemis this morning and ask for her help. Xena has a plan."

"Just like Liz said...Xena always has a plan, right?" The night’s scene was beginning to fade with the brightening morning and something else to focus on. "What does she have in mind?"

Gabrielle helped Sam to her feet. She watched as the woman stretched, loosening her limbs and back. "Well, I’m not exactly sure. She has this habit of not telling me everything up front. I’m certain I’ll have all the details before Artemis actually appears...." She paused, speaking to herself mostly. "...at least I think I’ll have the details. "

Sam turned toward Gabrielle, not quite getting the last part of her utterance, "What did you say...about the details?"

"Oh...I said I’ll have the details...yes...well before we meet Artemis." She looked to shift the direction of the conversation for the moment. "Say...how ‘bout some breakfast first?"

Sam was definitely up for more food. "Sounds good to me. Can’t be meeting a goddess on an empty stomach. It would be rude to have grumbling coming from the depths of my body, huh?"

Gabrielle smiled, took her arm and concurred, "Yep...not good form, although it has happened to me more than once. It’s very hard to beseech help from a goddess when your stomach is in revolt. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen today. C’mon."

The two women casually strolled toward the food hut, all the time Sam was taking in the visual sights. It still amazed her...the women...the smells...the feel of the morning sun on her face. She missed life terribly.

As they approached the hut, Xena was making her way out. Gabrielle stopped her in the doorway. She urged Sam to go ahead. "Sam...I’ll be right with you...need to talk to Xena for a minute." Sam nodded and made her way to the serving line. Gabrielle took Xena by the arm and stepped outside the hut.

"Well...??" She said with an anticipatory look in her eyes.


"Xena ...stop messing with me...you know...what! "

"Oh...you mean the Artemis thing." The warrior was cool and very much in control. It amused her that Gabrielle could be so easy to tease.

Exasperated, Gabrielle let out a deep sigh. ‘Yes...the Artemis thing! What’s the plan? I can’t just go in there with nary a clue...being the Chosen or not. So...spill it!" There was a glint of fire in those green orbs.

"Calm down Gabrielle...I thought you slept well last night...you sound tense..."


"Ok...ok...here’s what we have to get Artemis to agree to." She bent to Gabrielle’s ear, whispering the details of her plan. The bard listened, occasionally nodding, her face making various silent comments...a brow raised...lips scrunched to one side. When Xena had finished, Gabrielle could see the logic in her proposed request. Now if Artemis could see the same logic...but goddess logic sometimes was very different from mortal logic. At least Gabrielle wouldn’t be floundering when she summoned the goddess.

"All right, Xena. This might work...but I can’t promise Artemis will listen to me either. But I’ll give it my best try...for Sam and Liz. We’ll meet you at the temple in a candlemark." The warrior smiled, gave Gabrielle a quick kiss and headed out across the compound. The bard went inside to find Sam and something to soothe the emptiness in her stomach.

In a candlemark, the three were standing at the temple. Xena made sure Gabrielle had all the information correct.

"You remember what to ask for...right?"

"Xena...I think I can remember something you told me not a candlemark ago...all right?"

Xena let the remark roll off her, "Just making sure...this is their only hope of getting past the place they’re in."

Gabrielle’s comment would put a stop to her warrior’s concerns. "You know, if you think I can’t do this to your satisfaction, you’re more than welcome to address Artemis yourself." She paused to allow Xena time to jump in...which she didn’t. "I’ll take that silence to mean you’d prefer I did this then...correct?" She placed an open palm to her ear listening for the slightest sound. "Hmmm...seeing as how there’s no further discussion, shall we go in?"

Sam watched the display, amused at the interaction. Their behavior was very reminiscent of hers and Liz’s. She thought back to a similar exchange during their first Christmas together. It centered on decorating the tree.


The first obstacle had been deciding what kind of tree to buy. Although Liz celebrated Solstice as opposed to Christmas, she had always had a tree...a Fraser fir. Sam loved Christmas and had a Leyland cypress...her family’s traditional tree. This holiday season was their first together. It was a blending of customs and habits. Liz tried her best to get Sam to go for the fir...but she was very insistent on tradition. So...round one went to Sam. That was the easy part...the real negotiating started once the tree was in the house.

Sam was fumbling with the door key as the cypress seemingly moved under it’s own power out of the elevator.

A disembodied voice resounded behind the tree, "Hurry up and get that door open...this thing is fighting back!" There was an accompanying sound of bits of cypress being shooed from reluctant lips. "P’tooey...gad...you got that door open yet !?"

Sam threw the door open wide and made sure Brie and RG weren’t going to make a break for it. She called back into the hallway. "Ok...c’mon, it’s open. You need any help?"

The tree and handler squeezed through the entrance. Liz stuck her head around one of the assaulting limbs. "What I need is a fir tree...they’re much easier to drive." Sam just rolled her eyes.

"We’ll have one next year. Now where is the stand?" She was putting her keys on the counter and draped her leather jacket over a chair. Liz had her right hand firmly around the center of the tree and was attempting to stand clear of the branches. "It’s over by the window. This trunk had better fit in that thing...I’m not draggin’ this puppy back out to trim it."

Sam snagged the stand and turned to face the grumbling woman. She almost broke out in unrestrained laughter.

"What!?" Liz couldn’t imagine what was so funny.

Sam was amused at the sight before her. "Well...it’s just that you look so...so...oh I dunno...butch I think. Could be that flannel shirt and those hiking boots. But I think the topper is that branch you’re wearin’ in your hair. It’s lovely on you dear. "

Liz reached up and felt a sprig of cypress adorning the crown of her head. "Oh...for heaven’s sake! How long has that been there?" She removed the greenery from her locks and tossed it on the counter. Brie and RG thought it might be catnip and both attacked the poor thing, knocking it to the floor and then carrying it off as a prize. Liz called after the furry raiders.

"Hey...you two...no eating that! I don’t have time for a trip to the vet..."

Sam was definitely giggling now. "Relax, hon...I’ll get it later. Let’s get this baby in the stand, ok?"

Without too much ado, the cypress was finally secured in the stand and situated in front of the windows. Liz and Sam walked around the tree, making sure it wasn’t tilting to one side or another. Now the fun began...stringing the lights. Liz went to the closet and began bringing boxes filled with lights and decorations out. Sam was looking through the colored strings making a face. Liz couldn’t help but notice.

"What now? All the wrong color?"

Sam had her head practically buried in the box, searching. "No...but where are the little twinkle lights?"

Liz wrestled the last box off the shelf. "I don’t have any. It that a problem?"

Sam looked soulfully at her lover as she stepped off the step stool.

"No twinkles?"

Liz set the box on the floor. "No twinkles...deal with it!"

Sam truly looked disappointed. "But I always have twinkles...please...just this year."

Liz knew she might as well give in to this request. With mock annoyance, she sighed. "Ok...we’ll have twinkles. I’ll have to get some." She started for her coat and keys. Sam cleared her throat and stopped Liz from leaving the condo.

"Uh...I sorta went out the other day and bought some...you know in case you didn’t have any." She went to the coat closet and produced a bag containing the lights. In a childlike gesture, she held them a loft. "See...twinkles."

Liz eyed her suspiciously, "Uh-huh...how convenient." She shook her head and took the lights from her lover. "Now, I suppose you have a special way you want them strung?"

"Uh...no, not really… just as long as they are evenly distributed. You want some help?"

Liz had the first string out of the box and had plugged them in....making sure all the bulbs were good. There was nothing more frustrating than trying to locate the bad bulb once they were on the tree. " Help? You’re offering...or perhaps you’d like to supervise?" Sam opted for directing traffic around the evergreen.

The first string went on without incident. The second, however, didn’t go as well. Liz had the line run halfway around the tree when Sam decided it needed to be closer to the first string. Liz patiently removed the string from the branches and started again.

"Ok...if you could just have them not exactly aligned with first string...you know so it looks spontaneous...not choreographed..." Sam was trying to describe her vision for this tree...Liz was trying to just get it finished. She stood with the string draped over her arms and neck. She was about to mutiny.

"Uh...spontaneous and choreographed are two words that don’t really come to mind here. It’s a tree for crissakes!! It should be in the forest with birds and squirrels in it...not ‘choreographed’ lighting. I have a thought...c’mer a sec." Liz was motioning to Sam with a free finger. The younger woman carefully neared her companion.

"Hmm...what thought?" Before she could blink an eye, Liz had transferred the twinkles to Sam’s arms and was standing away from her.

"There...much better. Since I’m having a hard time with your creative concept, I think you should just do it yourself. Be as spontaneous as you like...I’m getting something to drink. Can I get you anything while I’m going?" Sam stared at her in disbelief...Liz didn’t let up. "I’ll take that silence as a ‘no’." She proceeded into the kitchen as Sam remained still. Liz withdrew a cold drink from the fridge, popped the top and leaned on the counter...taking a long sip.

"Ahhhh...that hits the spot. So...you going to show me some choreography or


Sam was trying to find the end of the string and wasn’t about to let Liz have the satisfaction of an apology. "I suppose you’re just going to watch...right?"

"Uh-huh...I am...unless you want some help."

Sam had begun to work her way around the tree. "Nope...don’t want any help, thank you." The tree branches were making a bid for her clothing...and winning.

Liz took another sip of her drink. "You sure you don’t want any help? Oh...I think those are too close, honey."

Sam peered from under the branch now gracing her head. "You’re evil, Liz."

Liz’s eyes danced with sheer delight. "Yep...and you are stubborn."

Sam warmly smiled at her love. "Yes...we both have our talents...."


"SAM!! Hey...you still with us!?" Gabrielle’s voice brought Sam out of her trance. "C’mon...Artemis awaits.

"Yeah...I’m coming." She climbed the steps and entered the temple with Xena and Gabrielle.


Liz was making a mental list of things to pack as she prepared to meet Roger. In the midst of her clothing requirements she thought about Randi. Her friend was going to be very upset with her. They had shared a most amazing experience a while back. In fact, it was Randi’s persistence that had brought Liz back from that dimension. She felt bad about keeping all this from her, but she also knew Randi would never allow her to leave knowing about the attempt yesterday. She would just deal with the rage and anger when she got back...if she got back. And what of poor Roger. She had placed him in a no win situation.... at the mercy of Randi. This would be something else to deal with. In some ways, Liz was being extremely selfish, but she didn’t really care. Doing what she and Sam had talked about was the only thing occupying her mind.

The cats were sitting side by side on the comforter, watching their companion move about the room, talking to herself. She was going through her nightstand.

"Jeez...where did I put my passport? Come to think of it...when was the last time I used it? Oh...that trip to Greece." Her hand felt deeply in the back of the drawer. "Ah...there you are." She withdrew the dark blue article and traced the embossed eagle on the front with her finger. All that seemed so long ago. She shrugged her shoulders and walked from the bedroom, placing the passport in the folder with the plane tickets. She still had some last minute things to do before she left, but today she would spend with Roger. Liz grabbed Sam’s leather coat, the keys and left the interior. It had been a while since she’d been outside. It felt strange...leaving the safety of her home...and yet it was a relief to be away from all the physical reminders of Sam. She was feeling guilt at leaving the pain of being inside...almost like she was leaving Sam. This whole process was completely awful.

The descent in the elevator separated her from the visual connection. She took a deep breath and prepared to enter the garage. The next goal was to actually get in the car and drive it out into the sunlight. She’d hardly been in the thing the last two months. In fact, she wondered if it would crank at all. The doors opened and she stepped into the quietness of the garage. Her footsteps echoed as she made her way across the concrete floor, her palms moist with nervousness, her mouth dry. The feeling was very much like the first time she had to make a speech in public. She had dreaded that, too. Most of the building’s residents were well into their workday and the Z-3 sat alone.

"This is ridiculous," Liz said aloud, "It’s just a car...it has nothing to do with Sam. I can do this."

She reached the driver’s side, put the key in the lock and turned the key. The door swung open and the interior light came on. Liz stood for a moment staring into the cockpit, waiting for an apparition to appear.

"Jeez, Liz!! Get in the damn car!" she admonished herself.

She held her breath and slid into the worn leather seat. Like an old friend, it welcomed her form and remembered the curves of her body. She felt a sense of relief and accomplishment that she wasn’t crying. Maybe she could do this after all. The engine roared to life and Liz gripped the custom wheel. She backed out of her space and headed for the exit gate. The bright sunlight emphasized the neglect the auto had endured...it was filthy. Normally, Liz would be having a fit, but now it hardly mattered...it was just transportation.

The Botanical Garden wasn’t very far from her home but the holiday traffic made the going slow. She had to go on Peachtree, past Symphony Hall and through the neighborhood where she and Sam had parked that night. The route was so automatic that she didn’t realize where she was until it was too late. The shortcut took her down the very street where her life so abruptly changed. Liz tightly gripped the wheel to keep from veering onto the sidewalk.

"Damn it all to hell, Liz!! You had to come this way! Are you out of your furkin mind!? Why don’t you just push stakes under your nails? Shit!" She berated herself all the way down the street, looking very much like an insane person...babbling. Fortunately, the Christmas atmosphere made everyone talk to herself in the car, so she fit right in.

She finally exited the neighborhood right in front of the entrance to the Garden. It was a little after eleven. The roadster wheeled into the parking lot and the first thing she saw was Roger, pacing like a mother hen. Liz sighed as she got out, knowing he was going to be on her for being late. She wasn’t disappointed...he was walking her way before she even locked the door.

"Where have you been!?" His voice had a very sharp edge.

Liz glanced at her watch. It was ten past eleven. " God, Roger...I’m only ten minutes late. Chill out! I’m sorry...ok?"

He embraced her and held on tight. "Liz...please don’t ever scare me again..." Pulling back, he looked into her face, " ...please."

"Ok...no more scaring of Roger. Now can we get on with the afternoon’s enjoyment? Oh...where are we having lunch?" She was trying to assuage his fears...which might be very hard to do today. She could only imagine what her leaving was going to him. "How about some really cheap Mexican and margaritas?"

He hooked his arm through hers and they walked toward the entrance to the Garden. "I can do Mexican...but I’m picking the place. The last time you selected a Mexican restaurant I distinctly heard barking from the kitchen. Oooh...it gave me the creeps."

Liz remembered that particular establishment. It was new and they had gone there to try out the menu and margaritas. The food was so-so...the margaritas...awful. In fact, awful was being kind. Seems the bar was woefully understocked...not a decent bottle of tequila in the place. The bartender thought if he substituted Saki for tequila, no one would notice. Just the thought of that drink had Liz making a face. Roger knew instantly what was going through her head.

"Uh-huh...and those Saki margaritas were the worst insult. My gawd...live animals in the kitchen and kamikaze ‘ritas. Yes, I’ll be selecting the lunch site today, dearie if there are no objections."

Liz squeezed his arm. "You won’t get any from me. The decision is all yours."

With the food question out of the way, they entered the Garden and it’s wonders.


Xena, Gabrielle and Sam stood in the entrance of the temple. The main room was open and an altar was the obvious focal point. It was not as ornate as Sam thought it might be. In fact, she didn’t know what to expect. She hadn’t been in too many temples...in her realm and certainly not this one. The idea of actually meeting a goddess from Olympus was staggering...but this whole scenario was quite unbelievable. Gabrielle stepped ahead to confer with the attending priestess. She exchanged a few words; the priestess graciously bowed and left the room. Only the three of them were in the space. Sam looked at Xena and posed her questions.

"Well, what do we do now? When will Artemis appear? Do I have to do anything?"

"Whoa...hold on to your centaurs," Xena interjected. "We don’t have to do anything. Gabrielle will summon Artemis. Chances are she will speak only to her Chosen anyway." She cast a glance toward the bard and continued, "Which is just fine with me. I don’t care much for conversing with the deities."

Gabrielle couldn’t help but clear the air for Sam. "The fact is, Sam, the gods don’t much care for talking to Xena. She has this habit of irritating the hooha out of them. Which, I might add, always ends up being trouble for both of us. So, I’d just as soon she didn’t open her mouth, thank you. This will be hard enough as it is."

Xena just had to add her two dinars worth. "Hey, it’s not my fault the gods are so sensitive. If they didn’t insist on being right all the time, things would go smoother...."

"Xena...you know perfectly well you do it on purpose. You just don’t know when to stop. Oh...and about that ‘always having to be right’ thing...trust me, the gods don’t have the corner market on that..." Gabrielle was about to launch into a rather lengthy discourse when Artemis materialized, shocking everyone. Gabrielle went to her knees and was motioning for Sam to do the same. Xena stood to her full six-foot height, only her head bent in recognition of the goddess.

Artemis circled the group, always amazed at the human interaction. She and Xena had formed some kind of truce, but her arrogance was still annoying. She realized this was as close to kneeling that Xena would ever subscribe to... she let it go. Her attention was on Gabrielle and the woman next to her. In fact, she was somewhat surprised to see this mortal kneeling beside her Chosen.

The goddess spoke in admonishing tones, "Gabrielle...why have you not assisted this mortal to the Elysian Fields, as I instructed?" She held her hand out to assist the bard from the floor. The touch of the goddess always had an effect on Gabrielle. It was hard to describe. It was like touching love and compassion, truly amazing. Gabrielle was trying to formulate her response and make it sound reasonable.

She dragged Sam off the floor with her. "Uh...Artemis, this is...." The sentence never completed.

"I know who this is, Gabrielle. That’s not what I asked of you. Why is she here?" Artemis peered at the bard and Sam. The warmth from her eyes washed over them conveying a sense of safety...sort of like tranquilizing an animal caught in a trap.

Gabrielle knew stalling wasn’t an option and she plunged in headfirst. "Well...it’s like this. I know you asked Xena and me to help her transition...and we were right there...just like you instructed...but ...uh...she kinda refused to go." She paused for a reaction from the goddess. Artemis remained silent, allowing Gabrielle to continue. "Fact is, both she and Liz are sorta stuck, if you get my meaning. We...um...I thought you might be able to help both of them...you know...to move on." Gabrielle finished and stood waiting the reaction from her goddess. Her eyes darted toward Xena for some nod of approval, but the warrior gave her a slight shake of the head...one of those ‘don’t blow it ‘ motions. Artemis caught every movement and slight gesture. She found it amusing when mortals tried to put one over on her.

"Oh...I see. Then just how do you propose that I help them, Gabrielle, assuming of course, that I would at all?"

Confidently, Gabrielle put forth Xena’s plan. Xena already knew Artemis had seen through the ruse, but it was too late. She sighed deeply and shook her head. Sam was still gawking at the sight and sounds before her. She was sorely tempted to reach out to touch the goddess, but stared instead.

"Well...you see...if Sam and Liz could know for sure they’d meet again...well...it would be easier for each to let go of the other."

Artemis arched her eyebrow, "Oh, really? And whose bright idea is this? Yours Gabrielle?"

The bard shifted uncomfortably. Lying wasn’t her strong suit...skirting the truth worked much well. "I think it’s a good idea." And to add fuel to the smoldering fire, she added. " And Xena does too...right Xena?"

The warrior stepped closer to her lover. "Yeah...right Gabrielle, I do."

Artemis looked at the trio and approached Sam. "And I suppose you think this is a good idea, dear? I mean they did consult you, didn’t they?"

It took Sam a few minutes to find her voice. She wasn’t exactly sure how to address a goddess from Olympus. She opted for conversational English. Clearing her throat, she responded. "Not exactly...which isn’t to say I don’t think it’s a good idea...I guess I don’t see how something like that could be possible anyway." She glanced at Gabrielle apologetically.

Artemis decided to put all of them out of their misery. "First of all, Gabrielle, I know this was Xena’s idea from the start...."

The bard made a move to protest and Xena stemmed the ensuing plunge into the pit of falsehood. "Gabrielle, don’t. She knows the truth...just let it go."

Artemis acknowledged the warrior’s move. "At last the first truthful thing that’s been spoken since you came in here. Don’t worry, I’m not angry...just a little disappointed that you’d even consider trying to deceive me." She threw a glare toward Xena as a warning against further such attempts.

"Now where was I?" She turned toward Sam, her features softening. "I already know about the plight of these two. And yes, Sam, it is possible to do what Gabrielle has asked...but it just isn’t done. The human condition is one of trust and faith. To show you the ultimate destiny of your lives would negate your growth in searching for that destiny. I’m sorry...there’s nothing I can do. You must release Liz and she must do the same for you. There is no other way."

Gabrielle persisted in arguing the point with Artemis...always a risky venture. "But Artemis...you have intervened more that once in our lives..." She gestured toward Xena, who was nodding in agreement. "I don’t see how this is any different."

"Well...It is different. I just can’t go around doing this sort of thing. There are limits even for me, Gabrielle. You’ll have to think of something else."

The bard’s ears picked up, "What!? You mean if I can find another way, you’ll help us?"

"No...that’s not what I meant...", the goddess said backpedaling.

Gabrielle pressed for advantage. "Yes it is...otherwise you wouldn’t have said it that way."

Xena couldn’t resist the urge to chime in. "Gabrielle’s right, Artemis. Your response did leave the door open. Now are you saying that you won’t help Sam and Liz? What about the danger Liz endured to save Gabrielle. Isn’t that worth something here?" Xena then went straight to the heart of the matter. "I thought Gabrielle was your favorite. It’s not like she asks for favors from you all the time."

Gabrielle couldn’t believe Xena was trying to make the goddess feel guilty. It was absurd to try. Artemis didn’t operate within human convention. She existed in a whole other realm...with different rules. The bard was certain this would not go well for them and let Xena know with an elbow to her ribs. She was going to have some serious damage control to do.

"What Xena meant...."

Artemis held her hand up to stop what was surely to be a pathetic attempt to explain. "Gabrielle...I know what Xena meant." She walked toward the stoic warrior and stood before her. They were eye to eye.

"You don’t care much for me...do you warrior?" The question hung in the air like an unexploded balloon.

Xena took it all in stride. "I wouldn’t put it exactly that way. It’s more like I don’t care for most of the gods. You have been instrumental in our lives...whether we asked or not. As I see it, this will be a continuation of the relationship. You are aware that the four of us are connected, right? How could you refuse to assist Sam and Liz? It would be like refusing Gabrielle."

Artemis pondered the logic. "Ok...I can see your point. But I just won’t solve this problem for you. You must try to get Sam and Liz to do this by themselves." She shifted her attention to the blonde. "Sam, you must really try to resolve these feelings without intervention. It is essential for your growth...and for Liz’s."

Breathing deeply, Sam spoke softly, "Yes, I know. I’m just not ready to turn loose. "

Artemis placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I know, dear. You will find a way...when it’s time." She added a warning. "But I suggest you try a little harder. Your essence cannot remain in this state much longer."

Gabrielle was relieved that the goddess had somewhat agreed to help them. She needed to know what they should do next. "What are we to do now, Aretmis? "

The goddess had returned to the center of the room, and was preparing to leave. As her form shimmered, her words filled the temple. "You must go back for your friend is about to do something very foolhardy."

Gabrielle needed more information, "What!? What is she going to do!? Artemis, come back! We need to know!" Her plea fell into empty space...the goddess was gone. Sam’s eyes were wide...now out of fear of what Liz might do next.

"Gabrielle...what did she mean? Is Liz in danger? " There was panic in her voice. Xena took control of the situation.

In very even tones, she laid out her thoughts. "I suggest we return to Liz’s place and just see what is going on. No sense reacting to the situation until we know what it is." Xena was already headed out of the temple.

Gabrielle and Sam knew the warrior was right and followed quickly. There was a real urgency in their steps now. The three hit the bottom of the stone steps and proceeded out of the village. Time was running out...for Sam and for Liz.


Liz and Roger stood in the parking lot of the Tex-Mex eatery. They had spent a leisurely afternoon walking the Gardens and having lunch. To Roger, Liz appeared more her old self...laughing at lunch...providing a running commentary through the Garden...generally just being, for lack of a better description, Liz. He was feeling somewhat better about the prospect of leaving her alone this evening. The subject of her trip never came up in the day’s conversation...of which he was thankful. Foolishly, Roger thought Liz had decided not to go. As they prepared to go their separate ways, they embraced.

"Thanks, Roger for getting me out today. I really needed it." Liz’s comment was sincere.

"No problem, sweetie." He drew back to look at his friend, "You going to be all right tonight?"

Liz placed her palms on either side of his face, "Yes...I’ll be fine so stop worrying, ok?"

Roger nodded, "I’ll try, but you know what a Jewish mother I can be."

"Oy...do I ever! Now...off with you...I’ve got things to do this afternoon. I’ll call you tomorrow." She gave him a quick peck and headed for the car. Roger waved as he pulled out of the parking lot, the car finally disappearing down Piedmont. Liz settled behind the wheel, her mind continuing her trip checklist. The Z-3 roared to life and she prepared to pull into the stream of traffic. The conversation with herself went unnoticed by the other vehicle inhabitants.

"Hmmm...lessee...I have the tickets...transfers...car rental lined up. What about clothes? Need something really warm...sweats...sweaters...down jacket...insulated boots...gloves...sunglasses...lip balm..." Her discourse was rudely interrupted by the annoying ring of the cell phone. No matter how many times she got a call in the car, it always startled her. She reached for hands free headset and wrestled the earpiece into place. Now she looked like a mission control specialist.


Randi’s voice purred on the other end. "Liz ...honey, I hope I’m not interrupting anything." She chuckled into Liz’s ear.

"Oh...no...just trying to navigate through this traffic...nothing important." The car next to her decided it was in the wrong lane and veered sharply in her direction. Liz voiced her opinion of the driver’s decision. "Hey!! Idiot!! This lane is already taken! Get your own!!" She laid down on the horn, scaring the guy back into his own space. Being quite the gentleman, he gave her the finger and sped ahead, cutting off a less aggressive driver. Randi’s voice filled her ear.

"Are you ok? What’s all that yelling about?"

"Randi...I’m trying to drive here, ok? You know I’ve never mastered the art of talking on the phone and driving at the same time. I can do one or the other...but not both...I suck at multi-tasking. Make this short before I have a wreck."

"Well, I’m glad to hear you’re back to your sarcastic self. So if this is a problem for you, why do you have the damn thing in the first place?"

"Oh...jeez...a discussion question. If you must know I have it for emergencies...not to while away the hours while stuck in traffic. So...was there something you wanted?"

Randi let a little of her irritation vent. "Oh...no...I thought I’d call you so I could actually hear you have a wreck."

"Ok...I get your point. I’m sorry about being so pissy. It’s been a while since I was out. I’d forgotten how ugly the holiday traffic could be. Now, what is it?"

"That’s better. I just wanted to touch base with you and I knew you’d be out all day. How about dinner tomorrow? We could go to that new little bistro in the CNN Center."

Liz knew she’d be well on her way to Calgary then, but wasn’t going to tell Randi. "That sounds fine with me. I’ll call you, ok?"

"Well...I thought we could have a drink at my house first and then take the train to the Center. Sorta make an evening of it, what do you think?"

Obviously, Randi wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. Liz let her have control. "Ok, that’s good. What time?"

"How about you be here around six. That good for you?"

Liz smiled, "Yeah...that’ll be perfect. See you then. Bye, Randi."

Randi’s tone was one of relief, "Ok, six it is. See you, hon. Bye, now."

The line went dead and Liz took the earpiece off, laying it in the passenger seat. Randi was going to be absolutely livid with her, but it couldn’t be helped. She inched the roadster forward imagining the yelling that would ensure on her return. Once again, she spoke to herself, "It doesn’t matter. This is for you, Sam...and for me."


The three otherworldly figures were heading into the forest with a quick pace. Xena was leading the way; Sam and Gabrielle following close. Their conversation was centered on the warning Artemis had uttered about Liz. Gabrielle tried to brainstorm the implications.

"Do you think Liz will try to...well...you know...again?" Her question was directed toward Xena.

"I don’t know, Gabrielle. I certainly hope not, but she’s in a lot of pain right now. Anything is possible and...."

Sam interjected her thoughts and convictions, " No! She won’t do that again! Liz just doesn’t operate that way, in spite of what almost happened. She’s a lot like you Xena...she will find a way to work through this. She’s not a quitter...I know this. She must have meant something else."

Xena continued the discussion, "Ok...so if we assume that...." She made little quotation marks with her fingers in the air "...she wouldn’t do that again...what would Artemis have meant by ‘foolhardy?' Sam, you know her...just how foolhardy could she be?"

Sam stopped and pondered that question. "Oh...you have no idea. Liz has done plenty of things I consider...well...not quite right. Hmmm...skydiving....scuba with sharks....hang gliding....base jumping. She even bungeed off the tallest bridge site in North America once."

Gabrielle’s interest and curiosity were not to be held in check a minute longer. "Uh...Sam...what’s all this skyscuba...hanging bases and bungee thingy? Are they games...like that golf thing Liz told me about?"

Xena threw her a look at the mere mention of ‘golf’, and it prompted a stern warning, "Gabrielle...don’t even go there, I’m warning you."

The bard grinned at her warrior remembering Xena’s introduction to the term

‘taking relief.’ "Ok..."

Sam tried to explain some of the terms to the inquisitive woman, smiling warmly, "Well, the term is skydiving...you jump out of a flying machine at about 13,000 feet and uh...dive into the air..."

Even Xena was intrigued by this explanation. "Let me get this right...you jump into empty air from 13,000 feet? And how does one survive the landing?"

Sam was thinking how to best describe a parachute. "Let’s see. You have this uh...pack strapped to your back containing a device that will slow your descent. At a certain elevation, you deploy this cloth sail and it catches the rushing air, filling and gently allowing you to land unhurt. Ingenious really."

Xena shook her head and snorted, "Sounds unbelievable if you want my opinion."

Gabrielle ignored the warrior’s skepticism and probed further. "Ok...that sounds pretty foolhardy if you ask me. What’s that bungee thing about?"

Sam remembered watching Liz dive off that bridge, into the river gorge below. It had scared the wits out of her. She didn’t speak to her for two days after that blatant disregard for sanity. "Umm...bungee...you stand atop a very high structure...a bridge span usually..."

Gabrielle attempted to finish the scenario. "Let me guess, you jump into thin air with a pack on your back, right?"

"Well...you have the jumping into thin air correct...but without the pack. An elastic cord is secured around your ankles and you just go off headfirst into the space below. At the bottom, the cord rebounds and you sorta bounce up and down."

Sam was getting a shiver up her spine seeing Liz suspended above the raging river again. The guys had slightly miscalculated her weight, so instead of just nearing the water, she actually went in headfirst. Of course, Liz thought this to be a special treat. The operator’s, however, were seeing lawsuit with every wet bounce. It actually could have been a disaster. The river was low and there were many exposed boulders..., any of which could have resulted in a serious head wound. Hence, the silent treatment for two days.

Gabrielle wanted to be sure she had heard her correctly. "You mean she jumped on purpose...head first...with nothing but a cord around her ankles to stop her?"

Sam nodded, "Uh-huh...that’s right."

Xena added her observation. "Hummmpf...at least she did it over water...not a river of lava. Remember, Gabrielle...Callisto and Valeska...you...me and that bridge...?"

"Oh, yeah...you sorta did a bungee thing yourself. But still...you and Liz were seriously not right. There, something else you two have in common. In fact, the more I think about it, the more similar you’re becoming." She winked at Sam, "This is very scary, Xena. Now I see why you and I were picked to oversee this little venture. Liz could be you...in the future."

The warrior raised her brow in that special way, "Don’t push it, Gabrielle. But it does sound like Liz has an affinity for dangerous excursions. Which leads me back to our original question. What could possibly be more foolhardy than what she has done already? Sam...any thoughts?"

Sam took a deep breath, "I haven’t a clue. All I know is I have this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. We have to get back as soon as possible. Once Liz gets an idea in her head, nothing can stop her. It’s not one of her more endearing qualities."

Gabrielle concurred, "Yep...just like you Xena...more and more."

"Gabrielle...." The tone was serious.

"Hey...just an observation..." The bard was pushing it.


She backed off, "Yeah...yeah...I know...don’t go there."

Sam quickened her step and urged the two bickering parties to do the same. "Girls...can you argue and walk at the same time...or are they mutually


Xena couldn’t resist, "Ah-ha! Seems you also have a counterpart, Gabrielle. Sam’s words could have come right out of your mouth."

"Uh-huh...and they would have been on the money, too." Gabrielle said, trying to have the last word.

Xena gave the bard a playful nudge in the behind with her foot. Gabrielle responded with a shove on Xena’s shoulder. Sam shook her head at the childish exchange and smiled. She so missed that same playful interaction with Liz. The three continued down the path toward their destination.


Liz pulled into the parking garage, relieved to be home yet dreading the return to her space. She wondered when these conflicting emotions would resolve themselves...if ever. She tried to focus on the trip...the packing...the act she and Sam had discussed. Her mind was actively running the sequence of possibilities...her body moving of it’s own volition… the two not really communicating...operating on different levels. It wasn’t until she stood before her door, that the two converged. Liz slid the key into the lock and entered her home. The silence was deafening...if that sort of thing were possible. Once again an invisible hand closed around her heart, applying unseen pressure. It was so familiar now; she barely acknowledged its presence. Her hand only momentarily went to her chest as she peeled the coat from her person.

Liz stood before the coat closet preparing to hang Sam’s worn leather jacket back in its place. She stopped, burying her face in the soft lining, breathing deep. The faint scent of Sam’s perfume still lingered in the fibers. She wrapped her arms around the aroma of her lover, not wanting to release it, tears welling in her eyes. Slowly, Liz turned and swayed, securely holding the memory of Sam in her arms. Softly, she whispered into the recesses of the leather, "I miss you so much...."

Hearing the sound of their mother, Brie and RG jumped off the bed and strolled into the living area. They could sense the emotional upheaval emitting from Liz’s very cells. They neared her, rubbing insistently around her ankles, drawing her out of her pain for the moment. Liz lifted her tear-streaked face from the coat, looked at the cats and sat on the floor, still grasping the coat. The two furry intruders climbed in her lap, nuzzling and purring. All of them sat for some time exchanging comfort. She was amazed at the connection they had with her and her moods. It was as if they really understood and knew what would ease her suffering.

"Ok...I get the point, girls. I just had a sinking spell...that’s all." She rubbed the fleece lining of the jacket next to her face. "I can’t help it right now." Liz gently shooed the cats from her lap and stood up. She put the jacket on a hanger, placing it in it’s spot and closed the closet door. Turning toward the kitchen and the hungry felines, she made an observation. "Perhaps I shouldn’t wear that coat right now." Brie and RG agreed with a chorus of loud meows.

Liz put the nightly repast out for her discerning children, started some Columbian decaf and went into the bedroom to start packing. She pulled the large duffel from the back of the closet.

"Hmm...I’ll be gone a week or so...probably no place to do laundry...need lots of undies...socks...tees for starters. Then a couple of heavy sweaters, sweats, flannel shirts, thermals." The duffel quickly began filling out with the bulky clothing. She’d have to be careful not to overpack. Lugging this thing in snow and ice wouldn’t be any fun. A few more extras, just in case, finished the apparel list. The only thing left were the few toiletry items she would need. Those she could pack in the morning. Liz heaved the duffel off the bed and pulled clothes out for the morning. For the trip she’d wear faded jeans, a tee, her Xena sweatshirt and her insulated hiking boots. She wouldn’t need the real cold weather gear until she arrived at the inn.

Satisfied this portion was complete, she went back into the kitchen for her coffee and then to the filing cabinet. She pulled all evidence to her where abouts from the folders along with her tickets and various reservations. These with her passport went into the carry-on bag. She knew the first thing Roger and Randi would do is try to find out where she went. She couldn’t have that. The fact that she had shown Roger the general overview really didn’t bother her. Her final destination hadn’t been listed and Canada was a very big place. So what if something happened. Her affairs had been in place since that trip to Greece, all the details had been taken care of. Her demise wouldn’t present a logistical problem, she had seen to that. She sipped her java, looking over the room. Had she forgotten anything? No...all was ready. Her flight was non-stop leaving Atlanta at 8:00 the next morning. All she had to do was get through the night.

Liz put the sounds of Sarah on the stereo, curled up on the sofa and peered out on the city. The cats, having taken a break from noshing, joined her. She felt very close to Sam at that moment...very calm...very focused. She felt Sam’s love wash over her, warming her skin as it had done many evenings. She closed her eyes and remembered.

It was a December night much like this one. The house was filled with the smells of the season...the cypress tree filling the space with an intoxicating aroma. Sarah’s voice and words mirroring the lovers. The only lights were the soft glow of candles, casting flickering shadows on the walls. From her position on the bed, Liz looked up into the face of her lover. Sam was sitting astride the dark haired woman. Both were wearing only tee shirts, the warmth of Sam’s thighs caressing Liz’s. For a long time they just looked at one another, eyes moving over features, hearts racing, a light sheen of moisture beginning to bathe their bodies. Sam supported herself by placing her hands on either side of Liz, leaning forward and gently placing a kiss on her lover’s forehead. Liz’s hands rested on Sam’s thigh, feeling the smooth skin react with thousands of tiny goosebumps. Her fingers applied gentle pressure to the muscles.

Sam’s lips moved across Liz’s face... her brow...the bridge of her nose...her eyelids. Liz lay in a state of sheer anticipation of her lips finally settling on her own. She took an excruciatingly long time to capture Liz’s mouth. The result was a wave of rising passion sure to consume both of them. Sam’s kiss was the most sensuous communication Liz had ever experienced. She was able to climax just by kissing her. It was an amazing exchange. The two savored one another for a long time...only lips touching lips...Sam’s weight resting across Liz...a fire building within them both.

......And I would be the one

To hold you down...Kiss you so hard....

In slow motion, Sam pulled her lips from her protesting lover, and sat back on the top of Liz’s thighs. Her fingers trailed across the front of the prone woman’s tee shirt, finding the exposed skin at her navel. She traced the outline of her taut abdomen and ran fingers, light as feathers along her side, back under her shirt. Liz’s hips instinctively arched toward Sam wanting to be close to her. It was sublime torture.

......I’ll take your breath away....

Strong, expressive hands caressed Sam’s thighs, moving lightly over the tops, thumbs trailing along the inner portion, and disappearing under the end of Sam’s shirt. Liz peered into her lover’s eyes as her fingers danced over the silken, damp curls coming to rest along that warm crease on either side of her folds. She could feel the heat radiating from Sam’s most secret place. Fingertips moved just barely over the very center, causing the desire within her to seductively rock against the touch. No words were spoken, only the language of touch and breathing.

......My body aches to breathe your breath

Your words keep me alive....

Sam was the most beautiful woman...her features strong yet delicate...her eyes intense and piercing. Liz had fallen into her and wished no escape. She was so certain they would grow old together...so certain...

......Would I spend forever here

And not be satisfied....


The bedside alarm was buzzing, waking Liz in the living area. She had fallen asleep in the chair, thinking about making love with Sam. It had been so real...she had felt their skin touching...Sam’s lips on her once again. In her near waking state, she put her arm out to touch her love, as she had done so many mornings. Brie nudged Liz’s hand and grasped her fingers with her claws, giving her a nip on the thumb. Liz opened her eyes and gazed sadly at the feline. She gave her a gentle rub on the head.

"Good morning, Sweetheart. I hope you slept well." The words hung in her throat as reality intruded. She glanced at her watch...the time was 5:30am...time to get up and get going. Slowly, she sat up on the edge of the sofa, rubbing her eyes and running both hands through her hair. She remained for a few minutes, head cradled in her palms, fighting the urge to start crying. Finally, she stood and made her way to the kitchen to feed the cats and put on coffee...then it was into the shower.

Liz didn’t linger under the water; she wanted to finish packing and needed to call a cab. She wouldn’t be taking her car to the airport...just in case. She quickly dried off and pulled on her tee and underwear. A detour by the kitchen was next for her cafe, the cats were still snarfing that nasty kibble. Remembering the other morning’s experiment made her wince. She looked at Brie and RG who were totally focused on the meal. She shook her head in amazement.

"Sorry, girls, but that is some nasty stuff you’re eating. Euwwww...really!" She grabbed the cordless and dialed the stored number for the cab company, moving back into the bedroom to finish dressing. She had one leg in her jeans when the dispatcher picked up.

"Yellow Cab Atlanta..." the young, bored voice said.

"Yes...I need a cab at Peachtree Lofts in about 30 minutes...going to Hartsfield. I’ll be out front." She had the phone cradled in the crook of her neck and was pulling her jeans over her hips.

"Ok...got’cha...Peachtree Lofts...out front...30 minutes...going to the airport." The line went dead.

Liz clicked the phone off, irritated at the sorry state of manners these days. She spoke into the idle handpiece. "Uh-huh, and thank you so very much!" She continued her conversation, "And people wonder what’s wrong with the world now a days. I’ll tell you what...no manners...no one says please or thank you anymore. It’s gimme that or gimme this...just once I wish.... Oh, hell...it doesn’t matter. Does it, RG?" The sleek black member of the family was sitting in the doorway, cleaning her whiskers...totally ignoring the babbling woman.

Liz shrugged and finished dressing. She packed the last of her stuff and zipped the duffel, carrying the bag into the living area. A quick check around the condo was made...the coffeemaker turned off and the computer shutdown. She knew the cats had plenty of food and replenished the water bowl.

"Ah...ok...right. I think I’m ready," she said double-checking by sight. She collected the down jacket from the closet and moved toward the door. Brie was sitting on the back of the sofa, staring at her.

"It’s ok, Roger will be around this afternoon...believe me. I’ll be back...I promise." She blew a little kiss toward the feline, opened the door and stepped into the hall. In a few minutes, she had made her way to the front entrance, past the lobby guard and to the curb. The cab pulled into the circular drive stopping at Liz’s bag. She stepped into the backseat while the driver heaved the duffel into the trunk. In the early morning light, the transport moved away, toward the airport.


Roger was sound asleep when the phone rang. It was Sunday and he was going to spend a lazy day doing nothing. The idea that someone would call him at this hour rankled him. Pulling the silk sleeping shades from his eyes, he snatched the receiver to his ear.

"Uh-huh...and this damn well better be important!"

Liz’s voice flowed into his ear, "Feeling a little testy this morning, dear?"

"Liz? Is that you? Is everything all right?" He had pulled himself up in the bed, back resting against the ornate headboard. He tried to focus on the clock, squinting to see the numbers. "What time is it?"

"Yes, Roger, it’s me...and it’s about 7:30. Look honey I need for you do something for me..." The sounds of the terminal were all around Liz...flights being called...passengers being paged.

Roger turned his head slightly, trying to figure out what all that noise in the background was. "Liz...where are you?"

"Listen...I want you to take care of Brie and RG for a week or so...ok?", she said completely ignoring his question.

"What!? Take care of them...Liz...where the hell are you!?" Roger’s faculties finally kicked in. "Christ! Tell me you’re not about to go to Canada. Liz...please...."

"Ok...I’m not about to go to Canada...now will you take care of them or not?" The gate attendant began the boarding call for her flight.

"Attention all passengers on Delta’s flight 377, non-stop to Calgary. We are now boarding all first class and Medallion Level passengers...please have your boarding passes available for the attendant..."

Roger didn’t hear the specifics of the flight, but he knew she was about to do the very thing he feared. "LIZ!! You said you weren’t going to do this!"

"Uh, Roger...I said I’d think about it.... did and I’m going. Now I left plenty of food for the cats...and the keys to the Z-3. Knock yourself out...oh...and would you mind telling Randi I won’t be able to make dinner tonight? I gotta go, hon. I’ll call you...bye, luv." She hung the phone up before Roger could utter further protest, slung her carry-on over her shoulder and got in line to board the L1011.

Roger was yelling into the phone before he realized Liz wasn’t there. "LIZ!! You can’t do this to me!! Shit! Randi’s going to have my hide.... Liz ?? Liz??...Damn you!!" He slammed the receiver back in the cradle and threw a fist into the pillow. He continued his rant, "Shit...shit...and double shit!! How could you do this to me!? Jeez...now I’ve got to tell Randi...oooh...I’d rather wear white after Labor Day." For a moment, he seriously contemplated hiding all this from the archeologist, but decided it would be worse on him to do so. He was, however, going to wait till he’d made some hot tea and had a shower. What difference would a few more hours make? His butt was still going to be in a sling...he might as well be clean for it.


The three forms entered through the glass front wall. Brie opened one green eye, yawned and repositioned her head between her paws, falling into blissful sleep again. Gabrielle was the first to state the obvious.

"I don’t think anyone’s here, Sam. It’s too quiet."

Sam was headed for the bedroom. "Maybe she’s still asleep...it is Sunday you know." She entered the room and found nothing. "This isn’t right. Where could she be?" She called out to the livingroom, "Xena...you find anything?"

The warrior yelled back, "If by ‘anything’ you mean Liz...the answer is no...not unless she’s hiding in the closet."

Sam joined the two, looking around the area. "I don’t believe Liz was ever in the closet, Xena." Gabrielle totally missed the true meaning of the exchange. "Well, maybe we should look just in case...."

Xena smiled, "Gabrielle...she’s not in the closet...figuratively or literally...I’ll explain it to you later. Right now, we’ve got a real problem on our hands. Sam, do you have any idea where she might have gone?"

"Not a clue, but she can’t be too far, the car keys are still here. So wherever she went, she walked..."

Gabrielle added, "That or got a ride with someone..."

Xena and Sam looked one another. That possibility hadn’t occurred to them. Sam’s heart began to race. "She’s right, Liz could be anywhere...we’ll never find her now." Xena tried to offer encouragement. "Oh...we’ll find her...even if I have to get Artemis to help. Their conjecture was interrupted by the sound of a key in the front door lock. Sam fully expected to see Liz stroll in.

The door flew open followed by Randi and Roger. She was in the throes of a bona fide snit. "I cannot believe she did this! And you knew this was on her mind? Why in blue blazes didn’t you tell me?" Randi had taken her coat off and was proceeding to go through the condo.

Roger closed the door, removed his coat and prepared to defend himself.

"Why!? Have you ever tried arguing with Liz once she’s made up her mind?"

Sam nodded, commenting to Xena, "See...I told you...the woman is very stubborn..."

Gabrielle opened her mouth, "See...just like yo...."

Xena glared at the bard, "Gabrielle!!"

Randi was in the bedroom now, looking for anything to tell them where exactly she’d gone. "Roger what the hell prompted this irrational decision?"

The boy took an even deeper breath, knowing he should tell Randi everything. "Uh...Randi...I need to tell you something else that happened."

The doctor stopped in mid-search, knowing this couldn’t be good. "Something else? You mean there’s more?"

"Uh...yes...you remember the other day when you were here?" He didn’t wait for a reply, " Well, I came over early and found Liz...um...in the tub with a razor on her wrist...." He let the last part trail off and waited for the explosion...he even held on to the footboard of the bed for support.

Randi’s face went pale and she sat on the edge of the bed. "Omigod...Roger why didn’t you call me?" Her eyes were filling with tears. He sat next to her, placing an arm around her shoulders.

"Oh...I wanted to, but Liz asked me not to...not at that moment. Randi, she was so distraught...I didn’t know what to do...so I didn’t call you. I’m sorry..."

Gabrielle watched the woman carefully. Sam was standing next to Xena, waiting. The bard was curious, "Sam, are Randi and Liz very close?"

"Oh...yes...they have know each other for a very long time...they were even lovers once long ago. I’d say Randi knows Liz even better than Roger."

"Hmmmm...she seems to be taking all this rather well." Gabrielle was closer to Randi, studying her features.

Sam cracked a smile; "Really...you think so? Trust me, she’s processing at the moment. I’d stand back if I were you."

Puzzled, the bard looked at Sam and Xena, "Huh?"

Roger patted Randi on the shoulder, trying to be comforting. What he should have done was get the hell out of her way. Randi took his hand off her shoulder and slammed it into his lap. "God.... Roger!! I didn’t think I could be more pissed at you but...you know what ...I am!!" She stomped out of the bedroom, Roger trying to catch up.

"Listen...Randi...I’m stuck in the middle here...so go ahead and yell all you want! It won’t change anything, ok? She did what she did...I did what I did...and now we have to find her. So can we hold off on my execution till all this is over? I’m tired of being the whipping boy! Hell...I don’t even have my whip thanks to Liz...and I’m still pissed over that."

Sam leaned toward Xena, "What did he mean by that?"

"Oh...it’s a long story...Gabrielle can tell it to you later."

Randi wasn’t through. "Yeah...whatever. Now what exactly did Liz show you that night?"

Roger went to the filing cabinet and was flipping through the folders. "It was in a folder labeled ‘Canadian Rockies’...I know it was in here...I saw her pull it out." He was going through every file carefully. "Ah...here it is..." He lifted the manila file out and handed it to Randi.

She opened the cover and held the file by either side, turning it upside down. "And I suppose when you saw it, there was information in it, right?"

Roger swallowed, "Uh...yeah...lots of stuff. There has to be another one..." He returned to the cabinet, feverishly thumbing the tabs. He saw the second folder, neatly labeled. "See...I told you..." He retrieved the folder and closed his eyes as he opened it. It was as empty as the first. "Damn!! She must have put the information somewhere else. She knew we’d be looking for it." He returned to the drawer. Randi went into the kitchen and pulled a beer from the fridge.

"Roger...give it up. It’s not here, trust me. " She took a long drink from the cold brew.

He wasn’t ready to toss the towel in just yet. "How do you know that?"

She rounded the island and plopped on the sofa, " Because...she knew we would come looking for it. It’s simple...Liz does not want us to know where she went."

"But we can’t give up...we could try the airlines...someone has to know..." He was beside himself.

"Roger, dear, listen to me. The airlines are not going to give out that information. We can’t even file a missing person’s report for 48 hours...and honey, Canada is verry big. Besides...Liz isn’t technically missing...she’s just hiding...not the same thing. Even if we knew what city she flew into, we’d never be able to locate her. I’m afraid we’ll have to sit on this one till she sees fit to call us." She turned up the bottle and added, "I’m not at all pleased with this, but Liz has the upper hand right now. It’s out of our control...so grab a beer and we’ll chat about other things."

The boy sighed, slammed the filling drawer closed and took Randi’s advice. As he sat on the sofa, he offered a subject for discussion. "So...just how shall we punish her?"

Sam had moved to the front window, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. There was a faint smile on her lips. Xena and Gabrielle stood on either side of her, Gabrielle’s arm around her waist.

"Try not to worry, Sam, we’ll find her." She squeezed her for emphasis.

Sam’s voice was very calm; "Oh...I’m not worried. I know exactly where she went and what she’s going to do."


Continued...Part 2

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