NEW DIMENSIONS

by Blue
Vryblueyz@aol.com

Copyright June 1997

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DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, et al are MCA / Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in writing this fiction. Superman and Lois Lane are property of DC Comics. (C’mon we’ve done this before). DS9 is property of Paramount Pictures. (Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?). Any copy made for private use must contain this disclaimer. All other descriptions, characters, dialogue, scenery, whips and assorted props are the property of...ME. So watch it! If you want to use any of it, ask, ok?

CONTENT WARNING: The following fiction contains just about something for everyone. It has thrills, spills, spins, whips, Amazons, A Queen and the queen., lions and tigers and bears…oh my. It has violence…a pretty bad beating and gushing blood…ewww. It has some rough language, other than damn and hell. It does fall short of the ‘F’ word, however. In retrospect, it’s not as bad as NYPD Blue. (Ooops, do I need a disclaimer to say that?). This story also has SEX depicted between two or more adult, consenting women. (And, no, I’m not telling you what chapter that shows up in). So, if any or all of the above makes you nervous, queasy, sweaty (except in a good way) , stop right here and go elsewhere. Hmmm..still here? Ok, next topic.

SPECIAL NOTE: This story is a continuation of Dimension of The Heart. Although it isn’t absolutely necessary to read Part One, you might want to consider doing so. There are a lot of references and clever nuances you will miss. Sorry, but that is the bane of a series. Treat yourself.

ACKNOWLEGMENTS: This effort would not have been successful without the support of a few bards I know...BL Miller and WordWarior in particular. They have given me the courage to persevere at moments when I thought my Muse had ‘left the building’. They have also allowed me the use of characters and references from their own wonderful stories. I consider them my friends. Thank you.

THAT’S IT: Let’s see, I think I covered everything. So fasten your seatbelts and return your traybacks to their upright and locked positions. This baby is about to take off. Hope you enjoy the flight and let me hear from you.

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CHAPTER ONE

Gabrielle had no idea where she was. It was dark as pitch on a moonless night. She felt she was in some sort of room, but couldn’t be sure--there were no walls to be touched. It was just a hunch she had. A real terror was building inside her. Trying to calm the rising wave, she did what she does best. She began talking.

"Just stay calm, there’s a reasonable answer to all this. Ok, I’m alone...I am alone, right?" She tested her theory, "Hey!! Anyone in here with me? I’m warning you, I’m armed and in a very bad mood." The sound of her voice echoed off the surrounding surfaces and finally died. She was left with a fierce pounding in her ears of her own heart. Its pace had begun to quicken and a fear induced sweat broke out on the bard’s forehead.

"This isn’t good, Gabrielle, not good at all." Using her staff, she made a slow sweep of the immediate area around her. Nothing but air. She was becoming a wee bit panicky. Gabrielle could deal with about any adversity, but this darkness and silence had a real evil associated with it. If there was an entity, evil or otherwise, at least she could bargain with it. But this...this was beginning to crawl up her spine like a Draconian lizard, silent and deadly.

"Oh, Gods, I wish Xena was here...wherever here is." She tried to introduce logic to her predicament. "Ok, now if I walk a straight line and use my staff as a guide, maybe I’ll find a surface to work with. That’s it, a surface, all I need is one wall and then I can get out of here. This is a good plan, Gabrielle. "

She tentatively started forward. It wouldn’t do to accidentally step off into an abyss. This would be slow, but it could work. The silence was becoming deafening, if that sort of thing were possible. It actually hurt her ears. She began reciting anything that came into her head. "I rise to a spring’s morn, filled with life and promise." The floor began to slightly descend. "Air, clean and crisp, my heart filled with joy." The air in the room became decidedly cooler and had taken on a distinct fetid odor. Her mouth was dry and breathing labored. "I see the eyes of my beloved caressing my very soul." Something brushed past her back and neck...a finger of malevolence. The fine blonde hairs on her arms were at attention and gooseflesh addressed the rest of her quaking body. In a voice that trembled, she completed the verse, "Protecting me from all that would steal my rapture."

The floor now had a very sharp pitch to it. So much that she lost her balance and her staff went plummeting into the darkness. She decided to back up a bit and regroup. A few steps backward found her back against a wall. It had not been there moments ago. Gabrielle reached out to her left and right. Solid surfaces met her touch. She had nowhere to go but forward. She was a rat trapped in a maze being forced to one conclusion. The foulness of the air was getting stronger indicating something very nasty nearby. Abject fear rose in her throat like bile. So much for logic; Gabrielle lost it. "XENA!! HELP ME, PLEASE!!"

She was starting to slide down the slope toward the foulness and sure death. Gabrielle desperately clawed at the floor to maintain her position. It was a losing proposition and slowly gravity took hold. "Oh, Gods, I don’t want to die!" She peered up from her prone position and saw the feet of her warrior. Craning her neck further, she saw Xena looking down at her. Her heart said a silent prayer of thanks. Gabrielle stretched her hand toward her lover. "Xena, help me, please. Don’t let me fall." She gazed into Xena’s blue eyes seeking rescue.

Xena stared passively at her and said quite matter of factly, "I can’t help you, Gabrielle. This is your doing."

None of this made any sense to the bard. She was quickly losing her purchase on the floor. She looked again for a savior and this time it was the face of Liz that she saw. She had outstretched arms, but made no attempt to grab Gabrielle. In her hand was the crystal Gabrielle had given her.

The bard was near hysteria and pleaded, "Liz, please, take my hand. Don’t let me die like this!" There was no help forthcoming. Gabrielle’s bloodied fingers were torn from the floor as she fell toward the dark...screaming. "OH, GODS, NOOOO...."

"GABRIELLE!!! WAKE UP!!" Xena was forcefully shaking her beloved into the waking realm. In a tone that housed great concern and love, Xena pleaded, "Oh, honey, c’mon. Please Gabrielle, wake up. It’s just a bad dream." Xena had the bard in her arms when her eyes opened. Gabrielle was totally drenched in sweat and was shaking like a tare in a storm. She was honestly disoriented and began sobbing uncontrollably at the sight of the warrior’s face. Xena held her tight against her breast...gently rocking.

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Liz sat bolt upright in bed, heart racing, sweat drenching her tee-shirt. It took her a moment to get her bearings. Slowly, her surroundings came into focus and the terror subsided. She looked at the clock. "Christ, it’s three in the morning! Great! Now I’m awake." She threw off the covers and made her way to the bath. She flipped the light on and groaned, " This is way too early to be starting my day." She turned the faucet on and splashed her face with cold water. Standing before the mirror, she dried her face and peered at the image looking back at her. "I’ve got to remember to take my Premarin. Hot flashes are one thing, but these nightmares have got to go. " A quick assessment of her person indicated a change of shirt was in order. She proceeded to the armoire to fetch a clean, dry tee.

Her two housemates, of the feline variety, barely raised their heads from sleep. They had seen this ritual almost every night for the last two months. They were bored with the game, and ignored their troubled companion. The younger of the two, Brie, rolled on her back, did one of those combo stretch/yawn kitty things, and fell into slumber again. Liz knew sleep was lost for the moment and made her way into the kitchen area.

"Let’s see what’s in the fridge, shall we?" She stood before the open door staring into the lighted cavern. She began ferreting through the containers.

"Ewwww... gray Jello…I don’t think so." It hit the garbage with a resounding ‘twaaap’. " What else? Oooh..cheesecake, yum." She stopped short of retrieving the morsel. She reprimanded herself, "Are you out of your

mind? Eat this and it’s an extra 45 minutes on the stairmaster today. You feel up to that in your current state?" Liz answered her own question. "Ok, don’t get all bent. " She poured a glass of cold milk, snagged a couple of Oreos and headed for her favorite chair.

Liz’s condo was actually renovated warehouse space. Or as the brochure

said, "Elegant in-town living in an open, spacious environment." In other words, one huge room with a bath. She had gotten a deal on the place and worked for nearly a year finishing off the inside. It had a spectacular view of the Atlanta downtown skyline. The loft itself was cleverly subdivided with movable screens. This bit of decorating was Roger’s idea. The boy had flair. The flooring, dark pine tongue and groove, accented the old brick supporting walls. But by far, the best feature was the floor to ceiling windows. These ran the entire outer wall and gave the space that advertised "open" feel. Her unit occupied a north orientation. From her vantagepoint, it was possible to see sunrise and sunset. Such a deal.

Liz stared out at the sleeping city in envy. She dipped the cookie in the milk and consumed it in one bite. Not pretty, but accepted Oreo technique. Her thoughts were on the events of late. She had been "back" for three months now. The first month was relatively uneventful…or as uneventful as a returning time traveler can have. She had related the entire story to Roger and he had almost become her sole sounding board on this issue. She wasn’t sure if he really believed her, but he did listen, and that was a comfort. She had maintained contact with Sam, but long distance is, well, long distance. The last two months had seen a marked decrease in communication from Liz’s end. Her attention was scattered, thinking about Gabrielle more and more. She wasn’t pleased with herself but knew she couldn’t perpetrate a lie. Sam seemed to actually understand this and had told her if and when she wanted to talk to call her. The nightmares had started about the same time.

Liz’s contemplation was interrupted by the plaintive sound of Brie. "Yeowww..."

"In here, Brie, c’mon baby." She made little kissy noises to get the kitten’s attention. The baby leapt over her bedmate, RiotGrrl (RG for short), and raced into the living area. Effortlessly, she jumped into Liz’s lap, where some serious purring and nuzzling commenced. She was quite a little beauty, about 4 months old. She had been abandoned in the parking garage of the building. Liz had come home late one evening and was unloading the car. This little dust bunny with legs and a set of lungs not to be believed practically jumped into her grocery bags. Liz guessed she had seen the big flashing neon sign that said, "Good Home For Life---Right Here ---->" So, she took her in. Brie was barely weaned when some asshole dumped her. God, sometimes people irked the hell out of her. The kitten was a strawberry blonde with delicate features and a feisty temperament. The really amazing things were her eyes. After that blue stage that they all go though, her eyes turned a brilliant green. The idea of naming her anything but Gabrielle was out of the question. She just shortened it to Brie. RG wasn’t too happy about losing her status of ‘only’ kitty, but they seemed to have come to a truce of sorts. The felines were alot Xena and Gabrielle. RG really loved her companion but had a hard time showing it.

Together they sat Liz pondering what the hell was happening, and Brie contentedly making biscuits on Liz’s leg. The sun would be rising soon and she had a busy day ahead. But right now, life was quiet and ordered. Too bad it wasn’t going to stay that way. Liz absently stroked Brie with one hand and fingered the crystal with the other. She closed her eyes and murmured. "Oh, Gabrielle, what’s happening to me...to us?"

 

CHAPTER TWO

Xena held Gabrielle for a long time. The bard’s shaking was beginning to abate and Xena tested the waters. Still holding her securely, she spoke. "This is the same dream, isn’t it? The one you’ve had over and over for the last two months?" Gabrielle remained silent, not wishing to validate Xena’s probing. How could she tell Xena about the brutality of this dream? It was almost too much for her to deal with. Absently, she held the coral piece that Liz had given her, hoping for the right words.

Gabrielle tightened her grip on the warrior. "Xena, just hold me right now, please. I don’t want to talk about this."

Xena was filled with conflicting emotions. She was concerned about Gabrielle’s emotional condition. Over the last two months, with the onset of these nightmares, she had become less than communicative. For the bard to cease expressing verbally signaled a serious situation. It just wasn’t like her and that alone scared Xena. She was just barely able to suppress that fear. It wouldn’t do for Gabrielle to see the source of her comfort all freaked out. Her other building emotion was one of frustration and anger. She had tried to get Gabrielle to talk about all this, but nothing had worked. Her patience was wearing thin and resolve even thinner. She couldn’t take one more night of her demon tossed slumber. She used to look forward to the setting sun and sleeping next to her beloved. Now, she dreaded the dipping orb. Enough was enough. She gathered her thoughts.

In the most tender, loving tone she could muster, Xena began. "Gabrielle, listen to me, ok? " The bard sensing the inevitable pulled away from Xena’s warm breast. She gazed into her lover’s eyes and awaited what she had long dreaded. In an attempt to thwart the probing, Gabrielle tried to speak. "Xena, please, just let me…uh.." She didn’t get the rest out. Xena’s anger was about to surface.

"Let you what, Gabrielle? Continue to shut me out night after night? Do you have any idea what this is doing to me…to us? I want to help you, but I can’t if you won’t talk to me. For the love of Zeus, it’s what you do best! " Xena’s voice was rising." You’ve got to talk about this. Now! " It was not a request.

Gabrielle’s eyes flashed in anger at the warrior. She completely separated herself from Xena and took a defensive position. "Not everything revolves around you, Xena. We process things differently. At least I do talk about my feelings once in a while." This was a direct reference to Xena’s hesitancy in that area. Xena wasn’t going to be sidetracked by this bit of reasoning.

"Well, we’re not talking about my feelings right now, are we? We’re talking about yours." Xena could see this was going nowhere. She tried a different tack . "This has to do with that Aphrodite mess, doesn’t it?" In a irritated voice she added, " And that woman, Liz." She spit out the last part like a bitter herb.

Gabrielle held the coral tightly and tried to control her fury. "This isn’t Liz’s fault, Xena and I resent the implication. I told you everything about all that. I didn’t hide anything from you. And it was you who put me in that position in the first place." Tears were forming in her eyes and a lump in her throat.

It was true that Gabrielle had told her everything. In fact, it was more than Xena really wanted to hear. Even given the circumstances, the very thought of another woman touching Gabrielle made her crazy. And where did that ‘understanding’ thing come from? Xena was alot of things, but ‘understanding’ wasn’t one of them… not where Gabrielle was concerned. She was certain that Aphrodite had a hand in that aspect of the interaction. Gods, she despised being manipulated. All of this had been sitting for months like a festering wound. The onset of Gabrielle’s dreams had only made it worse. The bard had become withdrawn. The only physical contact she wanted was to be held after the throes of the nightmare. Xena knew their relationship was at a crossroad. She had to get Gabrielle to open up to her. She decided to do something she rarely did...apologize.

Gabrielle had gotten up and moved near the smoldering fire. She sat with her back to Xena, poking the embers with a stick, encouraging the fire to life again.

Xena came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She felt Gabrielle stiffen, but didn’t withdraw her touch. She began to knead the bard’s tight shoulders and neck. When she felt a slight release of tension, she spoke.

"Gabrielle, I’m sorry I yelled. I know you’re upset, but, honey so am I. I love you so much and feel so helpless. You know that I would go to Tartarus and back for you. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. You should know that. "

Gabrielle was softly sobbing again but nodded in agreement. Xena sat down behind her and wrapped her strong arms around her beloved. Gabrielle reached up and placed her hands on Xena’s. She knew this was hard for her lover and a feeling of guilt was collecting in her gut. She decided she had to talk to Xena...she just wasn’t sure how to begin.

"Xena, the dreams are..." She couldn’t find the words. Xena gave her a reassuring squeeze. "That’s ok, take your time. I’m not going anywhere. "

She buried her face in Gabrielle’s hair, taking in the aroma of her, and lightly kissed her neck.

Gabrielle pressed on. "It’s really dark in my dream and I’m alone. I think I’m in a room but there is no light. I can’t find a way out. There is something evil there with me, but it won’t show itself. I call out for you, but there is no answer." Gabrielle is beginning to shake at the mere telling of this scenario.

Xena holds her even tighter. "It’s ok, I’m here."

Though her stomach is knotting, Gabrielle continues. "The floor starts to fall away...it’s hard for me to stand. I lose my staff and now I’m totally helpless. I’m afraid I’m going to die." A light sweat has broken out on her body and she is feeling nauseous. "I am just barely able to hang on to the floor. It is becoming harder. I look up and see you standing there. I plead with you to save me but you tell me that you can’t. That this is my doing. I don’t understand."

Xena’s stomach is now in a knot. The thought that she wouldn’t save Gabrielle is hard to hear...dream or not.

Gabrielle’s tremors are more pronounced as she nears the conclusion. "I know that I am going to fall into the blackness and I’m going to die. I look up one last time and this time Liz is there. She is holding her arms out but doesn’t try to help me either. That’s when I can’t hold on any longer and fall...screaming."

Xena’s eyes are filling. She feels such a longing to take this pain from Gabrielle. If she could, she most certainly would. Gabrielle shouldn’t have to go through this kind of agony. She doesn’t deserve pain and certainly not a horrible death. Silently Xena curses Morpheus for repeatedly bringing this horror on her lover.

Gabrielle seems almost relieved to have this abomination out in the open.

"Xena, I know that you would never let me die...not if there was any way. I mean I know this, yet this dream is becoming stronger and more real every night. I sense more everytime I have it. It’s becoming my reality and this..." She makes a gesture to the surrounding air, "…is becoming the dream. I’m afraid that eventually I won’t wake up."

If Xena could have gotten any closer to Gabrielle, she would be inside her skin.

"I won’t let that happen. I promise." She didn’t know how to keep that promise.

"We will find a way out of this. You and me…together." She had to ask about the presence of Liz in her dream. "Why do you think Liz is there?"

Gabrielle gave the question careful thought. She knew Xena wasn’t going to like the answer. "I’m not sure, but I still feel a connection with her. I just don’t know how it fits."

Xena tried to hold her reaction in check. "It’s ok, we’ll work this out. I think we should go see Hippocrates. He might have an insight we’ve missed. We should have gone two months ago."

The sun was trying to sneak over the horizon. The long night was over once again. Gabrielle’s demons only seemed to visit in the darkness. "Gabrielle, why don’t you try to get some rest while I take care of Argo. We’ll start out later this morning." Gabrielle barely heard the last words before she fell into a exhausted sleep. Xena placed a blanket over her and gently kissed her lips. She turned her attention to Argo and her growing dislike of Liz. Though she hadn’t had the displeasure of meeting her, the idea of putting the ‘neck thing’ on Liz had taken on an appeal. This fantasy woman was becoming a ‘real’ thorn in her side. As she fed Argo, a fleeting thought zipped through her brain. "Be careful what you wish for."

CHAPTER THREE

Liz was rousted unceremoniously from her fitful sleep by the phone. Her eyes snapped open and her body jerked as the annoying ring persisted. Brie’s hair stood on end. She leapt off Liz’s lap, made a beeline for the bedroom and her protector, RG. On the third ring, Liz answered. " Yeah…what is it?"

On the other end a woman’s voice crooned. " And a good morning to you, sweetheart. Did I interrupt something?"

"Oh, hi, Randi. No…I was...in the shower. What’s up?" Lying wasn’t Liz’s strong suit. Especially not to a longtime friend and confidant.

Randi didn’t believe Liz’s explanation, but didn’t wish to pursue it. She had something of more importance to discuss. "What are you doing later today? There is something we need to go over." She hesitated for a moment. "It’s important. Concerning that ‘thing’ you asked me to do for you."

Liz couldn’t imagine why Randi was talking almost in code. "Oh, yeah, is this about the crys..." She didn’t even get the word out before Randi cut her off.

"Yes, it is and we need to talk in person about it...not on the phone. Ok?"

Liz was in no mood to play 007 today. "Randi, no theatrics this morning, ok. I’m not up to it. Look, I’ve got some errands to run and Roger is coming over for lunch. How about tomorrow?"

"No, tomorrow isn’t good for me, I have a board meeting. How ‘bout the next day?" Scheduling was always a problem with Randi. The woman was just too busy. Liz decided to accommodate her friend’s cramped calendar. "Sure, that’s fine. Where? When?" She could hear Randi flipping through her day timer. "How about 5 at the University…my office?"

She was cradling the phone while attempting to start some coffee. "Ok, that’s fine, 5 pm…your office. See you then. Bye" Liz put the cordless on the counter and shook her head. "What’s up with her? Doesn’t want to talk on the phone, but has me meet her in the lion’s den." She mused, "Woman needs to get out among the living a little more." Satisfied that her java was brewing, Liz turned toward the bedroom and bath. She spied her ‘kids’ grooming one another on the bed. ‘What a nice life,’ she thought. "You guys have it made. I’m mightily jealous." She gave each a scratch behind the ear and proceeded to the bath.

She had stripped and was running the shower. As she started to step in, the phone rang…again. She toyed with ignoring it, but didn’t. Wrapping a towel around herself, she retrieved the phone from the kitchen. In a less than cheerful voice, she answered. "Morning, freakin’ Grand Central. How may I assist you?"

Simply unfazed by the shrew on the other end, Roger started, "What’s the matter, princess, someone put a pea under your mattress last night?"

Liz felt somewhat embarrassed. Lack of sleep always had an effect on her demeanor. "Oh, Roger, I’m sorry. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Guess I’m a bit testy this morning." Roger never cut her very much slack. And this morning wasn’t going to be an exception. " A bit testy? That’s like saying the Queen’s hat selection is a bit of a fashion disaster." He decided to back off…for now. "Still having those dreams, hon?"

"Yes, and they aren’t getting any better. In fact, the one last night scared the hell out of me. They are becoming more real…in every sense." A chill crept up Liz’s spine and the short hairs on her neck bristled. She rationalized this was due to her half-naked state.

"So, you seeing the shrink this morning?"

"Therapist, Roger, not a shrink. "

"Honey, a therapist is just a low paid shrink who can’t dispense good drugs. If you’re going to do this sort of thing, at least see someone with pharmaceutical connections."

A chuckle escaped her lips, "Well, perhaps you’re right. But you know how I feel about real drugs."

Trying to sound hurt, Roger announced, "My dear, did I say anything about you taking the drugs?"

"No, I guess not, How insensitive of me. What was I thinking? So, you still coming over later?"

"Well, of course. I just called to see if you wanted me to bring anything…like lunch perhaps."

Although she was a decent cook, Roger’s idea of a proper lunch was different from hers. Liz was an iceberg lettuce kind of girl and he leaned towards endive. Menu decision was really low on her list today. "Sure, whatever you want. But nothing raw and still moving, ok?"

There was a short pause on the other end. " Well, that does narrow the choices somewhat, but I’ll survive. I’ll see you around two-ish then? "

"Fine, two-ish. I gotta run. I’m late already. Later then." She poured herself a cup of coffee and bypassed the cream. She was running late and hadn’t had her shower yet..."Oh, shit, my shower!"

She had left the water running while talking to Roger. Liz put her hand around the curtain into cold water. "Damn! What a miserable start to my day." Dropping the towel, she stepped into the cold water. God…how did people exist without hot water? She took the world’s fastest shower and turned the water off. Stepping out of the tub, her thoughts went back to Gabrielle and the inn. A wave of warmness washed over her that was comforting and disturbing at the same time.

She threw on her jeans, a decent shirt and loafers. Hunger was an issue, but she was also late for this appointment. Liz stopped long enough to feed her furry charges, pour coffee in a to-go cup and grab a bagel on the way out.

_____________________

It was going to be another hot, sultry Atlanta day. She put the top down on the car and wheeled into the blazing sun. It actually felt good, considering the temperature in the shower. The drive to Dr. Randell’s office would take about 20 minutes and it gave her time to think.

She had told herself that she’d never seek therapy again. The woman had financed Bimmers and Mercedes for just about every therapist in Atlanta. It wasn’t until the dreams that she had reconsidered. That was the easy part. Finding one in this city that didn’t know you, as a client hadn’t slept with you or your ex or your friends was the hard part. She really needed someone who knew nothing of her or her social circle. The last thing she needed was to become the topic of conversation at the local happy hours. It was quite a search. Liz ended up contacting the American Association of Clinical Psychotherapists for a recommendation. She told them she was looking for someone relatively new in the area. What she got was someone not only new to the area but new in the practice. She traded experience for anonymity. The later seemed more important to her. The only person who knew all the details, besides Dr. Randell, was Roger. At least, she thought Roger had kept it to himself.

She rounded the corner and found the nearest available space. At least it wasn’t two blocks away. The day wasn’t totally screwed...yet. She entered the building and made her way to the office. It was decorated in early I-just-went-into-practice-and-I-have-no-money decor. Liz peered at the various diplomas and awards on the wall. Blah blah blah awarded to Maddison D. Randell, PhD. What the hell kind of name was ‘Maddison’ anyway? Guess with a moniker like that, you’d almost have to go into a therapy field. She chuckled to herself, "Mad Maddison, Ph.D."

A voice behind her caught the self-amusement. "Well, it’s good to hear you laugh. C’mon in, Liz"

Liz was ushered into the dimly lit inner sanctum. She was so tired, she thought about curling up on the couch for an hour. That, however, would be a very expensive nap. She sat instead and started right in. "I had another dream last night. Really disturbing. I haven’t slept more than three or four hours. " She quizzed the ‘mad’ doctor. "So, you think I’m still having ‘separation anxiety?’ " Maddison ignored her snippy remark and began. " Liz, I know that you are having a very real reaction to some... uh…event. And that is what we need to focus on. Whatever it was has taken on a real presence in your life."

Liz didn’t think she liked what Maddison was alluding to. She asked for clarification. "I want to ask you something. And I don’t want some therapeutically correct response. I want the truth. Even if it is off-the-record. Ok?"

She thought for a moment, and nodded in agreement.

"This is important, so no kibitzing. I need a straight answer. Do you believe the story I’ve told you?"

She could see her mind looking for reference material to base an answer on. "I think the important thing, is that you believe it happened. I’m not here to judge the validity of your convictions."

God, she hated therapists! "No…that’s not what I asked. Watch my lips. Do-you-believe-my-story?"

She shifted slightly in her chair. In a well-rehearsed tone she answered. " Liz, I don’t see what I feel to be of consequence here."

That put her over the top. Her voice raised an octave. "Listen, cut the crap and answer the damn question!!"

An experienced therapist wouldn’t have been rankled, but she wasn’t one…yet. There was a flash of anger in her eyes. It was the first hint Liz had that the doctor was human. And she was about to lose some serious therapist / client relationship points.

"Ok, you really want my opinion? Here it is. I’ll address each aspect of your claim. One... do I believe you time traveled to a fantasy reality? No. Two... do I believe that you met and was seduced by ‘Gabrielle?’ No. Three… do I believe that the Greek goddess, Aphrodite caused all of it and you met her? Hell...no! And finally...four... do I believe that you are ‘linked’ to this other reality and you are sharing dreams with ‘Gabrielle’. Not if Sigmund was sitting here!"

She let this sink in before continuing. "What I do believe, however, is that you are in serious danger of dissociating reality." That was the last glimpse of her humanness she would see. She had found her ‘therapist’ facade again and coldly said. " I want you to consider seeing an MD and begin a course of anti-depression medication." She handed her a card with the name of a psychiatry group on it. "I really don’t think I can help you further."

Dr. Randell stood to indicate the session was over. Liz rose and thought of echoing Autolycus, "Hey, I paid for an hour." She was sure the reference would be lost on her and she hated wasting perfectly good sarcasm. Instead, she gathered her self-esteem and walked out of the office. In the waiting area were two women, obviously together. Egad, couples therapy. She wanted to tell them to run away. But, the good doctor probably needed her first Mercedes. She sure as hell wasn’t going to get it from Liz. She exited the building, got in the car and drove home.

She was angry with herself. Not from pushing the therapist into a corner, but for not trusting her own feelings. She knew what had happened. And was just as worried about what was happening now. She knew it was happening to Gabrielle also and that concerned her the most. How could she possibly help her now? Could Xena even help her? She needed answers and had no way to get them. It was beginning to tear at the very fabric of her existence.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

The sun was nearly overhead when Xena decided to wake Gabrielle. She hated to do it, but the day was quickly getting away from them. The journey to Hippocrates would take a day or so at this pace. The idea of Gabrielle going through anymore nights like last night was unacceptable. Xena stretched out beside her love and let her eyes caress her features.

"Gods, you’re so beautiful." Xena gently placed her hand along Gabrielle’s face. The bard stirred slightly and shifted from her side to her back. Xena took in every detail of her person. Her breathing was deep and regular, her face calm and serene. Xena traced the outline of Gabrielle’s lips with her finger. She felt a stirring at her core. She wanted to feel their bodies next to each other again. She thought back to that night in the inn at Daedalius. There had been such a passion and fire to their lovemaking. Xena had allowed…no that’s not right…had begged for Gabrielle to take her. She had completely given control to her for the first time. There were no battles of will…only a desire to give. It was truly amazing and freeing. To look at her now brought those feelings to life again. As much as she wanted to, Xena knew she could not. Instead, she made love to her in her mind and with her eyes. She gazed upon that delicate neck and could see the rhythmic pulsing of her heart. It was a most sensuous vision. A tear formed in the warrior’s eye and her heart ached. She bent over Gabrielle and kissed her forehead.

"Gabrielle, wake up, sleepy." Xena spoke softly to her, gently waking Gabrielle.

The bard opened her eyes and squinted in the bright sunlight. She was looking into those electric blue eyes. For an instant, a primal memory tugged at her center, and was gone. "Xena, why did you let me sleep the morning away? We should have been moving long ago."

Xena just smiled and said, "I thought the rest would do you more good right now. But you’re right, we should get moving. Do you feel up to it?"

"Xena, I’m having nightmares, not the inability to move." There was sharpness in her voice. "Of course I ‘feel up to it.’ " Gabrielle sat up and gathered the blankets. She went about the business of breaking camp. Xena could almost feel the wall go up between them. As irrational as it sounded, she wished she could get her hands on Liz. She was certain that would fix everything that was wrong between Gabrielle and herself. She thought to herself, ‘Hades help you should we ever meet, bitch.’

Her thought process was interrupted by Gabrielle’s voice. "C’mon, Xena, let’s go."

Xena responded, "Yeah, let’s go. You want to ride with me today? We have some serious ground to cover before dark. As it is, I don’t think we can make it to Hipprocrates’ before the sun sets." She was hoping this logic would allow Gabrielle to mount Argo. She just would feel better holding her safely today.

Gabrielle considered the options. There weren’t that many. She wasn’t fond of riding, but Xena made a convincing argument. Her fear of what was happening outweighed her displeasure of riding. "Ok, that makes sense."

Xena held out her hand and helped Gabrielle mount Argo. When the light of her life was securely settled in front of her, Xena clucked the war-horse into movement. The three of them became one fluid organic machine gliding over the ground. They rode in silence for hours, almost in a meditative state. The rhythmic gait of Argo was transferred to her partners. Xena and Gabrielle became totally in sync with her stride. It was a seductive exchange. As Argo’s front legs hit the ground, the riders were cast slightly forward. Xena could feel herself being pulled into Gabrielle’s back, her breasts rubbing against the inside of her leathers. Her desire was mounting with every hoofbeat. She didn’t ignore the absolute sensuality of the experience, but let it wash over her.

Gabrielle’s thoughts were also focused on the mounting energy in her core. She was so conflicted right now. The interaction with Liz had been overwhelming. The sheer sexual power that passed between them had the bard confused. A layer of guilt had formed. Gabrielle was hard pressed to sort out her feelings. When Liz had disappeared, literally in front of her, she felt as if part of her was torn away. That evening, at the inn, Xena had begged Gabrielle to make love to her. No…it was more than ‘making love’. Xena had surrendered a previously guarded part of herself. Their relationship had crossed into new territory. Gabrielle had felt rawness in her not realized before. It was intoxicating and she wanted more. She couldn’t be sure if it was the memory of Liz or her desire for Xena at work. So, until she could find the answer, she had withdrawn physically from her warrior. The conflict was worsened by the dream. The harder she tried to resolve the feelings, the more elusive the answer. She felt her sanity was in jeopardy and a fear of losing Xena had taken hold. She had also begun to entertain thoughts new to her and somewhat disturbing. Gabrielle closed her eyes, felt the throbbing between her legs and held on to Xena’s arms.

The pace of Argo had quickened. She sensed the urgency mounting in her charges and responded appropriately. She was the only one whose eyes were open. Xena and Gabrielle had slipped into another place. Xena gripped the reins tightly in her left hand. It was resting just behind the saddle horn up against the top of Gabrielle’s mound. The bard did not protest. With every stride, she rubbed against Xena’s fist. The warrior held her firmly with her right arm. Her palm resting just below Gabrielle’s left breast. She wanted so badly to claim the bard’s hard nipple, but did not. Her imagination and memory would have to serve. Xena’s own nipples were rock hard from the constant brushing of Gabrielle’s back.

She felt the presence of Xena’s hand near her aching center. The bard’s thoughts were focused on Xena, Liz and her ‘new’ desires. In her mind, she was in Daedalius…with Liz and Xena. Their bodies were entwined in a torturous embrace. It was hard to distinguish who belonged to what. Gabrielle imagined Xena’s mouth on her nipple…teasing…biting. Her ‘new’ passion began to take over. While Xena claimed her sensitive breasts with her mouth, another set of hands were slowly working their way up her legs. A soft tongue ran on her inner thigh approaching the soft mass of damp hair. She was in sensory overload. Liz’s lips teased the sensitive area around her center. Xena’s mouth claimed Gabrielle’s in a deep, urgent kiss. Her nipples were caught in a pinching embrace by Xena’s fingers. Gabrielle’s right hand was caressing Liz’s head and her left reaching up for Xena. She felt the warrior’s muscular thigh and moved up to her incredible wetness.

Argo jumped a fallen tree limb, sending her riders hard into the saddle. Xena felt a jolt of electricity run through her...she held Gabrielle tighter. Her breathing coming in short breaths...heart racing.

Liz parted Gabrielle legs and then her swollen lips. Slowly, she placed her mouth on her, taking delight in the moisture, drinking as a woman dying of thirst. Gabrielle pulled Xena over her, pleading with her eyes. Her soul begged for that quenching quaff. Xena lowered her wet desire to Gabrielle’s waiting mouth. The touch of her lover’s exploring tongue was so sweet. It was an extenuation of what Liz was doing to Gabrielle. They were three women having the same experience. Every stroke perpetrated a response and every response another request. It was a dance of passion and desire.

The pounding of Argo’s hooves mirrored Xena’s agony. She could almost feel Gabrielle’s hands and tongue on her. She was silently connected to her lover, nearing explosion.

Gabrielle pulled Xena closer, her face and neck covered with her lover’s urgency. She found the hard focus of Xena’s desire and suckled it as a babe. It was straining and crying for release. Gabrielle was also in torture. Liz slipped two fingers inside her and continued tonguing the center of her fire. She was ready for completion of the dance. She waited for Xena’s wave...and Liz awaited Gabrielle’s signal.

Xena was barely aware of the passing scenery. She felt the building pulse…starting from the very core of her being and rushing outward. Her head was on Gabrielle’s shoulder. She felt reality start to slip away. Her only connection was the form directly in front of her. A spiraling light surrounded her as she crested that wave. She wanted to cry out, but buried her head in the softness of Gabrielle’s hair instead.

Gabrielle felt the tightness in Xena’s body and the flood gushing between her own legs. Her warrior was coming, and she wanted Liz to push her over that edge too. She grabbed Liz’s hair and pulled her forcibly into her demanding release. Liz worked her fingers in and out of the bard and her tongue flicked across the sensitive, red bud. She hit the crest with Xena and together they fell. She wanted to cry out, but clenched Xena’s arm instead leaving impressions on her skin.

When they finally opened their eyes, Argo had slowed to a walk. Her coat glistened with sweat, as did her riders. There was an uncomfortable silence between them. Gabrielle’s was due to her perceived twisted thoughts. Xena’s from the pain of being so close and yet so far from her lover. The sun was on the verge of setting. They would not make it to Hippocrates home until tomorrow. For tonight, they would have to make camp. Trying to attain some control, Gabrielle spoke first. "Xena, do you think we could make camp soon?"

Xena had no problem with that request. "I think we could use the rest. How about near those trees?" She pointed to a group nearby. Gabrielle nodded and Xena directed Argo toward the site.

Setting up camp was a painless affair. They had done it so many times before. Gabrielle set out the blankets and started a fire. Xena settled Argo, brushing her and feeding her some sweet oats. It was too late to attempt catching a rabbit for dinner. Bread and some cheese would have to do for tonight. They sat silently eating the meager rations. Gabrielle looked at her warrior. "Xena?"

Softly, Xena replied, "Yes, Gabrielle, what is it?"

Their gaze met in an electric exchange. " Would you please hold me tonight? I need to feel you close to me."

Xena moved to her companion. "Of course, I will. Nothing will harm you."

They settled near the fire, Xena curled behind Gabrielle, holding her as if her life depended on it. In some way, it did. As Gabrielle drifted into sleep, she murmured, "Always remember that I love you."

She was asleep before Xena’s reply reached her ears. "And I love you, my soul, my life. "

They fell into a dreamless sleep, breathing in concert. Two hearts, one soul.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

Liz wheeled into the parking garage, tires squealing on the floor. She was upset and mad, slamming the car door with a resounding thud. "Damn…damn…damn !!" She was mumbling to herself as she entered the garage elevator. Fortunately, it was empty. She was in the full throes of a fit when she threw open her door.

Liz stormed in, threw the keys on the counter and headed for the fridge. She was getting a headache from no sleep…no breakfast…and now…no therapist. She momentarily thought about having a beer with her cereal, but stopped short of popping the top. The kids always knew when she was upset, and today was no exception. Her raven beauty, RG, jumped on the counter and demanded attention, knowing Liz wouldn’t refuse. It was her calming ploy and slowly Liz’s rage started to abate. Filling a bowl with corn flakes, she headed for the bed. She stopped by the stereo to put on some music. Liz always used music to soothe her demons and to think. Maybe Roger would have a suggestion about a course of action.

She sat up in the bed and quietly munched the cereal. Brie was trying to put her nose in the bowl as she ate. She thought everything was just for her. RG soon joined in the attack. They came at her from different sides. "Very clever, but I’ve seen it before. You’ll have to do better than that." Brie knew very little about subtlety. She was a straight ahead kind of kitty. She marched right over RG and put her paw in her bowl. Liz had met her match. There was no fear in this little bundle. She had learned that the worst in her life had already happened. She reminded Liz of Gabrielle…so open and innocent in many ways. Like Gabrielle, her character had been formed early in life through adversity. Yet, she still had the ability to trust and love. That was something Liz had learned from Gabrielle, and was thankful. She knew that she could be alone but didn’t have to be lonely. She was content with just being with herself right now. It was just as well that Sam and she had ended their...whatever it was. Or at least she believed it was over.

Roger said that she had the Lois Lane Syndrome. She was almost afraid to ask what he meant. He said. "Imagine being Lois Lane, honey. You finally get to go to bed with…oooh…the Man of Steel. Now, do you really think, for one moment, anyone else will have a chance?"

He was right. Liz was suffering the LLS. Only it was Gabrielle she was trying to get over. You know, she didn’t even know what her last name is. I suppose it was Gabrielle of Potidaea. Hmmm…it hardly mattered. She would never see her again and that just felt so unfinished. The dreams were a double-edge sword. Liz dreaded the ‘feel’ of the experience. It was dark, cold and sinister. But in her need to be with Gabrielle, she also looked forward to it. It was just so twisted. That was the reason she had sought help. Thinking about all this, Liz verbalized her process. "Maybe I am delusional. I am looking for rationality where there probably is none. All I know for sure is the dream is getting stronger, more detailed and real. Everytime I have it, I feel I may not wake up." Brie and RG were sitting patiently waiting for the next revelation. "You know, girls, what concerns me the most is I may not want to wake up."

A loud rap at the door interrupted her self-therapy. "God, is it two already?" Liz scooted off the bed and headed for the door. It was Roger.

"You’re early." She said as he glided by. Spying the cereal bowl, he raised a disapproving eyebrow and said, "And I see you’ve been snacking. Tsk, tsk. What’s the matter afraid I wouldn’t bring anything you’d eat?" He was busy placing covered trays in the fridge. "Sweetheart, when is the last time you went to the market? There’s absolutely nothing edible in here."

He was right. The inside of the fridge looked like a bachelor’s. Milk, beer and some lab experiments. "I know, I just haven’t felt like it lately. No lectures today, ok?"

He continued to clean out the items of dubious origin. "So, I assume the therapy session went badly today?"

"Yes, very bad. How did you know?" She was expecting some insightful deduction.

"Because you are playing that damn Brahms Requiem. You always play Brahms when life kicks you in the gut. Can’t you find another composer to commiserate with?"

"Hey, it gives me comfort, ok? And what’s wrong with Brahms anyway? At least it’s not your favorite…the all-time-just-go-ahead-and-slit-my-wrists happy boy, Mahler. Need I remind you that when you’re miserable you put on the 6th. Or as I affectionately refer to it …The Symphony O’ Death and Despair."

"Ok, let’s not trash each other’s musical tastes." Roger waved a paper napkin as a symbol of truce. Liz accepted. He reached into the cabinet for some glasses. "I’ll pour us some champagne and you can tell me everything." As Roger retrieved the Mumm, the third movement, her favorite, of the Requiem poured forth into the room. It was passionate and always moved her to tears. Today was no exception. She thought of the pain and terror that Gabrielle was going through. A tear rolled down her cheek, stopping briefly on her chin, before committing suicide by diving to the floor. She had to find an answer.

Roger came up behind her and put the glass in her hand. "Now, let’s talk. What happened?"

They sat facing each other and she related the visit to Dr. Randell’s. Liz produced the card that Dr. Randell had given her. "Did she actually say she thought you were crazy? I mean isn’t that unprofessional or something?"

"No, she didn’t say it, but it was implied. Guess I shouldn’t have backed her in a corner...I blew it. I need answers, Roger. This thing is serious. I don’t know what else to do. "

She could see him weighing a decision in his head. He took a card from his wallet and held it guardedly in his hand. "Before I give this to you, I want you to promise to think before you speak. Deal?"

She had very few options. "Deal."

Like a child parting with his favorite toy, he passed the card to Liz. It read, Ruth M. Varner, Psychic Healer. She held it in her hand and just stared. She knew Roger was interested in alternative therapies, but this never occurred to her. Liz opened her mouth to speak. "Roger..um..I don’t…" He expected resistance and made his pitch.

"Ok, just hear me out, will ‘ya? Now drink your bubbly and let me tell you why you should consider this." He waited for some sort of protest, but I had none. This was as logical as anything that had happened. Liz was about to take the wind out of his sails. "Ok, give me the phone, I’ll call her right now."

Roger stared in disbelief. "That’s it? No wailing and gnashing of teeth, no rolling of eyes, no snide remarks? Liz, this isn’t like you. Do you feel well? "

She retrieved the phone and began dialing. "Well, actually I don’t feel all right and I’ve run out of options. Seeing a psychic is probably as good as anything." The phone on the other end began ringing. A woman’s voice answered on the third ring. "Hello, this is Ruth." Her voice was calm and strong. "Yes…uh…hello. My name is Liz. I’m a friend of Roger..." She completed the sentence, " Oh, yes, Roger Bennington. Dear, sweet man. He’s mentioned you to me, I believe. Nothing confidential of course, just that you are good friends. How can I help you, Liz?"

Any anxiety she might have had, melted away listening to her voice. "I need to make an appointment with you for a reading. It’s kinda urgent, so as soon as possible."

She didn’t hesitate. "Is this evening too soon? I could see you around seven."

"That would be great. I’ll get directions from Roger…oh…do I need to bring anything with me? I’ve never done this sort of thing before."

She could almost see her smile. "No, dear, just bring yourself. I’ll see you this evening. Good-bye, Liz."

"G’bye, Ruth." She put the cordless on the table and looked at Roger. "Well, guess I’m seeing a psychic. Go figure." Eyeing her friend, she inquired, "Why didn’t you tell me about seeing Ruth?"

Roger gave me his best imitation of Scarlett O’Hara. "Why, whatever, do you mean, Rhett? A lady needs to have her secrets. Ya’ll simply can’t know everything. There would be no mystery."

"Yeah, right. Ok, I’m starved, let’s eat. " They stood and regrouped in the kitchen. Roger began emptying the fridge and Liz poured more champagne. She had a feeling her evening was going to be very interesting.

CHAPTER SIX

Roger insisted on driving her to Ruth’s. He said it wasn’t uncommon for first timers to have some unusual experiences. He didn’t want her driving afterward. They pulled up in front of a very elegant two story. The neighborhood was one of those old but very expensive areas. She thought, ‘ The psychic business must be very, very good.’

"Ok, sweetheart, this is it. Now remember, when you’re finished, just call me."

There was concern in his eyes. Liz was a little surprised. I mean what could happen?

She placed a hand on his arm. "Roger, I’ll be ok. It’s not like this is brain surgery or anything."

He smiled knowingly. "Very interesting choice of words, Liz." He gave her a quick peck.

She stepped out of the car and made her way to the front door. She didn’t even get a hand on the ringer when the door opened. She jumped slightly. A slight woman in her sixties reached out and took her hand. Her grip was steady and strong. She had worn her years well. Her salt and pepper hair was stylishly coifed and her eyes were an iridescent blue with brown flecks… very unusual.

"Hi, you must be Liz. I saw Roger’s car pull up. Hope I didn’t startle you. Come on in and make yourself comfortable." She led the way to a small library. "I’ll be just a minute." With that, she left the room. Liz took this opportunity to walk around the library. You could tell a lot about someone by the books they read. As she scanned the titles, she was totally confused. There was hardly any psychic related material and nary a book on Tarot or palm reading. In fact, most of it was scientific in nature. She had a problem just reading some of the titles. She began giving herself the tour.

"And over here we have ‘Physics of Immortality’…catchy title. Soon to be a movie of the week. Next…" She turned my head sideways to read the spine. "Umm... Relativity, Thermodynamics, and Cosmology. Oooh…great bathroom reading." She continued along the shelf. "A Brief History of Time. Hey, I’ve actually read this one. Ah, here’s one that’s somewhat normal…H.G.Wells…Time Machine Hmm…somehow that doesn’t look that out of place. And this last one here is...ah...Particle Physics and Inflationary Cosmology."

She just shook her head and turned her attention to the framed documents on the wall. They were diplomas... diplomaaass…plural. The woman had three Ph.Ds…one in Natural Philosophy, Quantum Mechanics and Theoretical Physics. She stood back from the sheepskins and made an audible deduction. "Oh, my, God. I’m seeing Dr.Ruth!"

There was a hearty laugh behind me. "Believe me, you’re not the first to use that joke. It is kinda funny though, don’t you think? So, find anything interesting on the shelves?"

Liz smiled. "Well, to be quite honest, my wagon left the track with Particle Physics and Inflammatory Cosmetologists." She waited to see if Ruth’s sense of humor was as bent as her own. She wasn’t disappointed.

"Well, I’ve seen more than one flaming hairdresser in my life." She was grinning broadly. "And I bet you thought I would be some weird, Carmen Miranda head-dress wearing gypsy."

"To be honest, I’m a bit confused about your credentials." She made eye contact with one of the framed diplomas. "You seem to be a rather academic type. How did you…"

She completed her thought. "Get into the psychic business? Let’s just say it’s a ‘family’ thing. We have many mantles to wear in our lives. This is just one of them."

She was feeling much better about her prospects for help. Ruth took her hand and directed Liz to a comfortable chair. She poured some water from a pitcher, handed her a glass and the conversation began in earnest.

She sat opposite Liz with a legal pad on her lap and a recorder on the table. "I want you to just tell me what happened. Take your time and try to remember as many details as possible. And don’t worry about any of it sounding weird…believe me I’ve heard more than you could imagine. Ok?"

Liz felt completely at ease and began to pour out her story. She was surprised how easy the words flowed. It was akin to reciting a beloved fairy tale, only this was real and she had lived it. She talked nonstop for two hours. It was a cleansing of sorts. The whole time, Ruth sat quietly and occasionally scribbled on her pad. She was completely focused on her...not in a judgmental way…but rather one of kinship. She ‘felt’ very familiar. Something was sitting just out of Liz’s reach. Finally, Liz ended relating the events. Ruth sat for a few moments, collecting her thoughts and formulating her questions.

She began to condense the two hours. "The one thing we need to find is the core energy of this event. I assume that you and Gabrielle had a very intense interaction? It was something that was more than just sex? "

She felt a redness wash over her face. "Oh, it was definitely something other than just sex. I actually became her for an instant. I felt what she felt…I knew what she knew. It was life altering. And I…uh… God, this is really hard to express. She reached for the glass and drained it. "I still feel connected to her in a very real concrete way. This is going to sound silly...but I’m having a hard time getting over her. " I looked Ruth in the eye. "Am I crazy?"

She reached over and took her hand. "No, you’re not crazy. You are, however, caught in a very interesting bend of time." She rose, went to the bookshelf, and searched the volumes. Without turning around, she continued. "Tell me about the dream."

Liz swallowed hard. This would be unpleasant. "They started about two months ago. At first, I couldn’t remember much of them...just shadows in the morning. I didn’t even have them every night. At least, not at first. They gradually became more frequent and I was able to retain the memory well after waking. I didn’t think too much of it until I started being an active participant."

She had returned to her chair with several thick books. "What do you mean by ‘active’?"

"Well, at first, I was just able to see. You know like looking in a window. It was surreal and I felt very detached. I could see Gabrielle but I couldn’t hear her or touch her. Over the last month, I am in that place with her. I feel the coldness, smell the foulness of the air, hear her cries for help. I want to go to her but can’t move. I am helpless and have an anxiety sitting in my gut. I have a feeling of impending doom. I have a sense that if I could just get to her, everything would be all right."

Ruth begins scanning some of the material in her lap. "Has anything different started happening…or is it basically the same night after night?"

"Yes, something is different. Last night I saw Xena there. Gabrielle was pleading for her to save her. She said that she couldn’t. And then I took her place before Gabrielle. I tried to reach down for her but couldn’t. I watched her fall away from me into the blackness…screaming. I woke up shaking and drenched in sweat. I had this incredible sense of loss and despair. " She was shaking just recalling this series of events. Liz looked to Ruth for an answer. "Do you know what’s happening to me and Gabrielle?"

"I may have an idea. You said that the two of you exchanged necklaces before you came back. Do you have it with you?"

She reached for the crystal and held it guardedly in her hand. It hadn’t been off her person, save once, since she’d been home. "Yes, I have it with me."

"Do you mind if I hold it? It’s important. Please." She was asking permission to touch something very personal to her. Liz lifted the crystal over her head and handed it to the seer. Ruth reverently held the piece and closed her eyes. Liz would swear a faint glow surrounded her. She sat quietly for perhaps twenty minutes. Liz was curious, but remained quiet. Slowly she opened her eyes, drew a deep breath and returned the stone to her protective grasp.

Ruth looked her in the eyes. "Liz, I want you to listen to me. This has very serious consequences for Gabrielle and you. The reason you still feel connected is because you are…through time. The energy exchange the two of you had is definitely concentrated in these necklaces. But there are other things at work here. First, it was absolutely irresponsible for Aphrodite to drag you back and forth through time. That act alone has serious cosmic implications."

Liz was surprised. "You sound like you know Aphrodite."

"Suffice it to say my family has dealt with her on occasion." She continued with the bad news. "Second, you and Gabrielle unknowingly committed a huge cosmic no-no. Each of you possesses something that doesn’t belong in each other’s existence." She paused to allow her to put the puzzle together.

Liz held the crystal before her eyes. " Oh, God, this doesn’t belong in this dimension. I never thought about it before."

"What has happened is a small tear in the fabric of time. Think of it like this. You remember as kids playing telephone with a string and two paper cups? Well, the stones are the cups and the tear is the string. The two of you are literally tied together. And communicating in your dreams. It is the path of least resistance."

"If we are tied by our passion, why are the dreams so sinister and dark. I don’t understand." She was genuinely confused.

"When I held your crystal, I had a brief connection with Gabrielle. Her growing inability to resolve this conflict is fueling the dream. She is suffering tremendous guilt. She will not be able to proceed with her life until this is resolved. And it cannot be resolved as long as the connection is there. It presents quite a little conundrum. Liz, she is in deep trouble. I can feel the emotional and physical drain she is under. It is beginning to literally tear her apart. This will eventually destroy her and those around her. Pardon the pun, but you are running out of time. The longer the tear stays open, more unstable it becomes. It has to be closed properly for both your sakes, but mostly for Gabrielle. She is very close to losing everything. You have to do this."

"What do you mean by ‘properly’? Is there a right and wrong way to do this?" She was assuming of course that this was a real solution.

Ruth was very serious in her tone. "Oh, yes, definitely. You see the universe is always seeking balance. It is a very basic law of physics. This rend in time is inconsistent with that balance. I can assure you it will close one way or another."

"Well, if this is true, why can’t I just wait for it to happen naturally?" Somehow using the word ‘natural’ in this situation seemed ludicrous. She had a look of amusement on her face.

"That would be simple, wouldn’t it? I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. To allow the tear to close improperly won’t help Gabrielle. In fact, it will spell certain disaster for her. No, it has to be done the right way. You have to go back and release her."

Surely this woman had lost a grip on reality. Liz didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but had little recourse. "Ok, let’s assume that I could go back. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there are no ‘time travel’ agencies listed in the yellow pages. Believe me, I’ve looked. I’ve even tried to conjure up Aphrodite again. It ain’t working! " Her voice was beginning to elevate.

Ruth smiled and her eyes danced at her confusion. "Well, fortunately we won’t have to depend on any god or goddess. We can do this the old fashioned way.."

Liz interrupted her solution. " Oh, you mean you actually have a time machine then?"

Ruth could hardly suppress a chuckle. " No, we have something more reliable than that. The theory of relativity."

She wished she had paid more attention to her college physics class. The hours of studying the back of her eyelids were about to come full circle to bite her. "You’re talking about Einstein’s theory, right?" The minute she said it, she thought, ‘Yeah, like there are so many theories of relativity floating out there’.

"Exactly…well…almost exactly. More specifically, a paper he wrote with Nathan Rosen." She was thumbing through one of the books in her lap. "Ah, here it is." She continued the class. "They showed that general relativity allowed for ‘bridges’…or what we call wormholes."

Liz raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "Uh-huh, sure, wormholes. Like DS9 wormholes perhaps?" Liz suspected Ruth wouldn’t catch this analogy.

"No, I believe that particular wormhole is stable. The ones Einstein theorized aren’t." She had called her bluff. "The problem with the ‘event’ in this reality is they are very unstable. Existing for fractions of seconds before splitting into two singularities. But while they are connected, it is possible to transcend time and distance." As an afterthought, she said, "Theoretically, speaking."

"So, where does one find a wormhole...theoretically speaking? I don’t think I have the resources to travel the galaxy in search of one…if you get my drift. This is impossible."

Ruth had probably heard the word ‘impossible’ from every client she had. One more hardly mattered. "You forget that you have one half of the key around your neck. The other, it’s mate, is with Gabrielle. It’s just a matter of getting them close enough."

Liz was pathetically inept in following this. "How is this possible? We aren’t even in the same part of the world...never mind a serious discrepancy in time."

"Liz, you have to stop thinking one dimensionally. There is no difference in the past, present and future. They all exist in the same space. Believe me, this is possible. You just have to decide if you want to do it."

She had put the ball in her court. Liz had one last question. "What happens to me and Gabrielle if I don’t do this?"

"Well, you’ll probably will be ok. You see we live in a time where neurosis is a fact of life. We don’t know any better. We can fill our waking lives with so much clutter that the truth lies buried. What surfaces in our dreams, we dismiss. Sadly, we are disconnected from all we could be. Gabrielle will not be so lucky. She will eventually fall into that blackness that you have been seeing. There will be no escape for her."

She sat quietly thinking. No snappy repartee flowing from her lips. Liz remembered the beauty of her soul and the healing that had occurred in her life. Looking Ruth in the eyes, her answer was short and direct. "I have to go. Tell me how to do this."

"Good, I knew you were an honorable woman, Liz." The phrase had a vaguely familiar ring. She proceeded to explain the mechanics involved. "This won’t be as hard as you imagine. All you have to do is go to a place where you and Gabrielle shared your most intense experience. You will be on one side of the wormhole and she will be on the other. Once your energies are close enough, the ‘event’ will open."

"Let me get this straight. I have to travel to a place, in this time that correlates to a place in Gabrielle’s time. It can’t be just any ole place, but the site of our greatest connection. Oh, and somehow I have to make sure she knows I’m coming so she will be on the otherside. All of this has to occur in the span of a nanosecond. Whew!! For a minute I thought this was going to be hard! HELLOOO...anybody home? Even if I can find a location, how will I tell her to be there?"

Ruth was a very patient woman. "Liz, you’ve been seeing her for the last two months. Use the dream to talk to her. "

Liz nodded her head. "Right, I can use the dream."

It was Ruth’s time to quiz her. "I’m assuming you will seek out Daedalius?"

For the first time, Liz actually had an idea of what to do. "Yes, that is the place. And I know who can help me find it." An excitement was building in the pit of her stomach.

The elation was short-lived as Ruth gave her a somber warning. "Liz, you must know that there is a possibility that you will be trapped in her dimension. I wish I could promise otherwise, but I can’t."

"Well, it’s not like I thought it would be foolproof. But if I’m unable to come back won’t that cause an even larger paradox?"

"Hmmm…it has the chance of doing that. Life is interesting, isn’t it? There is a possibility that once you resolve the rend you will simply be returned. I don’t really know. A word of caution though. Be very careful in what you do…try not to leave anything behind that doesn’t belong there. Oh, and no shopping this time." Her smile was a welcome relief from the seriousness of this conversation.

She was totally drained and was glad Roger insisted on driving her. Liz gave him a call and waited in silence for him to honk outside. As she made her way to the door, Ruth gave her a huge hug. Quietly, she whispered in her ear. "I will see you later, traveler." If she hadn’t been so tired, she might have caught her meaning.

___________________

Liz settled into the seat next to Roger. He couldn’t stand the suspense. "Well...what happened?"

She was lost in her thoughts, turning Ruth’s card, over and over in her hand. Fingers being snapped in front of her face interrupted her musings.

"Earth to Liz, come in Liz, over." Roger was attempting to draw her into the conversation.

"Oh, hon, I’m sorry. It was pretty amazing. I have a lot to do over the next few days." Mentally, she began making a list.

"Do? Do for what? C’mon, tell me what’s going on." He hated being uninformed.

"Well, the condensed version is this. I have to go back to Gabrielle and seal a tear in time. Gee…I wonder what I should wear?" She let the words float in the cockpit of the car.

Roger was amazingly calm. " GET OUT!!! Really? Oh, this is

FAB-BU-LOUS!! And honey, I’d take something drip/dry. When do we leave?"

"We? Roger, there is no WE…it’s me. But there is something you have to do for me. It’s important." The tone of her voice took on a serious note.

"Anything you need, you know that. " He reached over and squeezed her hand.

They were near her building. She had much to attend to and couldn’t wait to get started. Roger pulled into the garage and let her out. Liz was curious about something and posed the question. Looking at the card, she spoke. "Roger, what does the M in Ruth’s name stand for?"

"Oh, it’s an old family name. I asked her about that once. Apparently passed down for generations. I believe it’s...Moria...you know the Greek personification of FATE." For further clarification, he added, "Not one of the fates…but F-A-T-E itself, a mysterious tremendous power. Stronger even than the gods...or so she told me." He was in the process of pulling out of the garage. "Liz, get some rest and call me tomorrow. We’ll talk. I love ya’, hon."

With that, he eased the car out and into the street. She stood trying to absorb the information and let out an imitation of the Twilight Zone theme. "Doo-do-do-doo... No wonder she ‘felt’ familiar." As she entered the elevator, Liz was crooning. "You say Amoria…I say just Moria…you say tomato…I say tomah-toe... let’s call the whole thing off." You could hear the echoing of her terrible rendition as the elevator ascended.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Gabrielle opened her eyes to a dark sky. Was she dreaming again? She took a physical inventory of her person. Then she looked for Xena. Her lover was sleeping soundly not a foot away. Relieved she wasn’t in the dreamscape, she gently removed the blanket and slipped away from the warrior. Gabrielle settled near the dying fire. So much was going through her mind right now. The dreams…her feelings about Liz…and her desire to have Xena and Liz make love to her. She thought, ‘This is just so not right. What’s happening to me? Oh, Liz, are you going through this with me?’

She looked over at Xena, and sadness washed over her. In hushed tones, Gabrielle spoke. "Xena, I want to tell you everything, but I’m afraid of what you will think of me. Hummp…’m afraid of what I think about myself."

Gabrielle’s self-recriminations were halted by the presence of a light. At first she thought the campfire had sprung to life. It became brighter and an entity emerged.

"Why do you worry so about what the warrior thinks?" Artemis spoke directly to her favored one.

"Artemis…I.." Gabrielle was at a loss for words to express her fear. She cast a wary gaze toward Xena, knowing how she hated surprise visits from the deities.

"Don’t worry, my child, Xena will sleep through this visit. It is you and I who must confer."

The very idea that Artemis wanted a conference made Gabrielle nervous. Gathering as much courage as possible, she responded to the goddess. "What is it?"

"Come here, child, and sit with me." The goddess took Gabrielle by the hand and led her to a flat rock near the camp. "Why haven’t you asked for my help in this matter? It would be of no consequence to have Morpheus cease the dreams and your torment." There was a genuine look of concern in her eyes for her chosen.

Gabrielle held the hand of the goddess almost in a motherly way. "I didn’t seek your help because this is of my doing. I can’t expect you, or Xena for that matter, to fix things for me. I am Queen of your Amazons. I have to take responsibility for my actions. This is something I have to work through." She wasn’t exactly arguing with Artemis, but it was close enough to make her sweat.

The goddess was in a forgiving mood. "This wasn’t entirely your doing. That meddling Aphrodite was at the bottom of it. I am very displeased with her part in all this. She has caused you pain and conflict over what? That mortal?" Outside of her chosen Queen and temple priestesses, Artemis held no great love for mortals. She only tolerated Xena because of Gabrielle’s love for her. That and the fact Aphrodite had blessed their union.

Gabrielle jumped to Liz’s defense. "Artemis, Liz needed my help regardless of how it started. I couldn’t just let her suffer. It was within my power to help and I did. Nothing can change that now. "

"And what of your suffering, my child? It is within my power to ease that. You have but to ask."

"I know, but I’d rather save it for something really important." Gabrielle hesitated before asking the goddess her next question. "Do you think Aphrodite has anything to do with these dreams? Or is it all coming from me?"

Artemis placed her arm around the bard’s shoulder. "When it was brought to my attention about your night horrors, I confronted her. This is not her doing... or any of the gods. This is something tied to that other mortal of yours. I don’t know how else to help you, Gabrielle. But know this, I will not tolerate you being harmed. This mortal better stay clear of me." Artemis stood and embraced Gabrielle.

In an instant she was gone, leaving the bard to ponder the conversation. She already knew Xena’s dislike of Liz. The warrior wasn’t very good at hiding some things from her. Now Artemis had made a vague threat against Liz. Gabrielle chuckled nervously, "Well, Xena, seems you don’t have the market cornered on impatience. And wouldn’t you be surprised just how much in common you have with the gods after all?" Gabrielle let loose a verbal request, based on a gut feeling. "Liz, if you can hear me, please stay where you are. Coming here wouldn’t be a good idea."

A voice behind her caught her off guard.

"Who are you talking to? Are you all right? Did you have another dream?" Xena questions came without pause and were filled with concern.

"It’s ok, Xena, I just couldn’t sleep that’s all. I’m sorry I disturbed you. Lie down." She knew it would be hard for her to drop off again and felt guilty.

Xena propped herself up on one elbow. "You know that will be impossible to do. I’m awake now."

Gabrielle decided to keep the visit of Artemis to herself. No sense in starting a fight over the gods on top of everything else. She was chilled being out in the early morning air. Her thin shift wasn’t offering very much warmth. She needed the closeness of her warrior and went to the bedroll. As she settled in behind a surprised Xena, she whispered in her ear. " How ‘bout letting me hold you for a while…just until light. Maybe you’ll drift off again. We can’t go anywhere till sunrise anyway."

Xena’s need to have Gabrielle close overrode her suspicions. These actions weren’t in sync with the events of the last few months. She was sure Gabrielle was hiding something, but let it go. And allowed the bard to hold her tight from behind. Her mind replayed the sensation of making love to her and drifted into a light sleep. Gabrielle felt her slowed breathing and gently kissed the nape of her neck. Almost inaudibly she whispered. "I’m so sorry, Xena." She too drifted into a sleep.

______________________

The neighing of Argo rousted Xena from her sleep. She was so tired from worry and from the tension between her and Gabrielle. It was beginning to take a real toll on her constitution. The sooner they got to Hippocrates, the better.

"Ok, girl, I’m coming." Reluctantly, she extricated herself from Gabrielle’s arms. It felt so good to be close to her without the fighting. The bard half opened her eyes. "Xena?"

"It’s all right, Gabrielle, Argo is just ready to get moving. And we should too."

The warrior went about the task of readying the war-horse for the completion of the journey. Gabrielle began breaking camp. Her thoughts were on Artemis and her warning. She couldn’t imagine the consequences of Liz meeting Xena, let alone Artemis. She thought, ‘Thank the gods that will never happen.’

With their belongings packed and Argo saddled, they proceeded on the last leg of the trip. At noon, they were at the front gate of Hippocrates’ compound. He met them personally.

"Xena…Gabrielle…I heard you were coming. Would it be good news traveled as fast as bad. Come inside." He motioned for one of his numerous attendants to see to Argo. He went directly to Gabrielle and led her inside. Xena fell in behind. The servants were scurrying around the interior portico. Xena had never seen them standing still on any of their visits. She wondered if they did that for everyone or if her presence just scared the Hades out of them.

Hippocrates was motioning for food and drink to be delivered to the center table. He gestured for Gabrielle and Xena to sit. Before speaking, he made sure his guests had a cool drink before them. He began a silent examination of the bard.

He could see the physical evidence of her conflict. The sparkle in her eyes had vanished…dark circles had formed under her eyes. It almost seemed her life essence was slowly being siphoned away. He’d not seen anything quite like this in all his practice. This had an otherworldly feel to it.

Xena had placed her hand on Gabrielle’s. The bard sat quietly in a non-responsive state. It was eerie to watch. Gabrielle was just so tired.

Xena broke the silence. "Hippocrates, I guess you know why we’ve come?"

He nodded, "Yes, I’ve heard the rumors. Why don’t you tell me exactly what’s been going on. We’ll start from there and check every possibility."

Something about this exchange between Xena and Hippocrates jarred Gabrielle. She couldn’t believe they were talking about her condition like she wasn’t there. This was the last straw. Before Xena could start ‘filling in’ the physician, she stood and slammed the fist on the table.

Glaring at Xena, she erupted, "Excuse me, but has anyone bothered to ask me what’s happening? I resent being treated like a child. In case you haven’t noticed, Xena, I’m all grown up. I can speak for myself!!" In a fit of frustration, she threw her goblet against the wall. As it shattered, the servants took cover. She was in full fury now. Hippocrates and Xena were stunned and just looked at each other. Gabrielle began to pace about the room, ranting. "Just what gives you the right to speak for me, Xena?" In a very sarcastic tone she added, "Don’t you think I have the brains to express my dilemma? I am the one going through this, you know."

A nearby chair went tumbling across the floor courtesy of the bard’s boot. Hippocrates barely sidestepped the projectile. Xena had begun to make her way over to this out of control woman, her rising anger about to make her a combatant in this fray. Gabrielle was in such a state, Xena’s movement went unnoticed. She was continuing the diatribe. "You know if it’s not you telling me what to do, it’s the gods or the nearest passerby. I’m just so sick of it!" She prepared to fling a plate but was stopped mid toss by a strong hand on her wrist. The plate fell from her grasp and broke on the floor anyway. Xena wheeled her around and saw anger in her eyes she’d never witnessed before.

Gabrielle yelled at the warrior. "Xena! Stop it! Turn me loose!"

Xena had no intention of releasing this spitfire as long as there were movable objects still in the room. She tightened her grip and got in Gabrielle’s face. "No! You stop it! Gabrielle, get a hold of yourself. We’re on the same side here!" Xena was looking into the eyes of a wild animal. She loosened her grasp just a bit. It was enough for Gabrielle to break free with one hand. In a movement totally unexpected, her clinched fist came across Xena’s face with all the power she could muster.

The warrior’s reflexes were too quick to stop. She decked Gabrielle and the bard crumbled to the floor, unconscious. Hippocrates was at her side almost before she hit the floor. A horrified Xena just stood watching her lover being attended. A few of the larger men servants positioned themselves between her and the form on the floor. There were tears of frustration in her eyes and pain in her heart.

"Oh, gods, what have I done? Gabrielle…"

Before she could finish, Gabrielle’s body went rigid and began spasming on the floor. Hippocrates took control of the situation. Her grabbed a wooden utensil from the table and placed it between her teeth. There wasn’t anything to do but watch the seizure and keep her head from impacting on the floor.

Xena was beside herself. She moved forward to be at Gabrielle’s side, but was blocked by a wall of flesh. Though she could have easily moved them, she asked permission to be at Gabrielle’s side. "Hippocrates, please."

He looked at the distraught warrior and saw the pain and fear in her eyes. He motioned for the attendants to let Xena through. She knelt next to the bard as her seizure was abating. Xena looked at her lover and realized how defenseless she was. She couldn’t believe she’d struck Gabrielle. The evidence, however, was turning an ugly purple on the bard’s lip and chin. Gingerly, she cradled Gabrielle’s head, stroking her brow and hair. "Gabrielle, I’m so sorry. I…didn’t mean.."

Hippocrates had motioned for a litter to be brought into the room. He placed a fatherly hand on Xena’s shoulder. "Xena, you didn’t cause the seizure. I suspect it’s been in the works for quite some time. Now, help me get her on the litter. I need to tend to her."

Xena lifted the unconscious bard to the litter. She looked like she was sleeping. Oh, gods, how she wished that were true. This whole thing was completely out of control. She had to do something to help Gabrielle, but she didn’t know how. She watched as Gabrielle was carried from the room. She started after her but was stopped by the healer.

"Xena, give me some time to examine her. I know you’re concerned, but there’s nothing you can do right now. I’ll come get you when I’m through."

She could see protesting wouldn’t help and nodded. The physician turned and left the room. Xena surveyed the destruction around her. Gabrielle had made quite a mess. The servants had begun to clean up the shattered pottery, eyeing the warrior nervously.

She felt the stinging along her jaw. She certainly had been punched harder in her life, but nothing had hurt as much as this. In a soft tone, Xena muttered, " You have some serious explaining to do, my love." A young woman was motioning Xena to follow her to her quarters. Silently, the warrior fell in behind her.

 

____________________

Hippocrates had Gabrielle safely positioned on the bed. As much as it pained him, he ordered restraints on her wrists and ankles. He examined her head and neck for obvious cuts and lumps. Aside from the split lip Xena had given her, she seemed intact. He was speaking to his apprentice as the exam continued.

"She is very lucky Xena didn’t break her jaw. She’s going to be very sore just the same and have a Hades of a bruise." He sent his assistant to collect the proper herbs for a compress to reduce the swelling. Other than this, he would just have to wait for Gabrielle to regain consciousness. It could be a candlemark or days. These things were very unpredictable. Satisfied she was comfortable, he left her in the hands of his well trained aides. He now had to deal with Xena, something that was always difficult.

He found her sitting on the pallet in her room, staring out the window. So concentrated in thought was the warrior, his entrance wasn’t noticed. Hippocrates knew better than to surprise Xena. He made a throat clearing noise to get her attention.

"Um…Xena? How are you holding up?" He was concerned for her welfare as well as Gabrielle’s.

Xena turned to face him. "I’m fine, how is Gabrielle? Is she going to be all right? Can I see her now?"

Hippocrates held his hand up to stem the barrage. "Whoa, one question at a time. First things, first. She has had a minor seizure and is resting comfortably right now. She still hasn’t regained consciousness, but this isn’t that unusual. She just needs rest and time. More importantly, I need to know everything that has happened to this point."

Xena arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, I guess it’s safe to talk now."

Sensing some relief, Hippocrates concurred. "Just don’t start throwing things at me. Now, tell me about this mess."

Xena gave him the full meal deal. She related the events surrounding Aphrodite, Liz and the beginning of the dreams…then nightmares. She told him how Gabrielle had been withdrawing over the last two months and about the change in her physically. She also told him about her growing anxiety and impatience with all this...her frustration and anger with the gods and even herself. Today’s events were just more in an ever-widening arc of improbability.

Hippocrates listened intently to the details. "Well, Xena, it seems this is a continuation of what happened months ago. Obviously, Gabrielle and this woman..."

Xena interrupted him. "Liz…her name is Liz. Gods know I’ve heard it enough."

He continued, "...this Liz still are connected. Where did you say this took place?"

"In the village of Daedalius. It’s a few days from here. Why?"

"Hmmm…just wondering. I know the healer there, a woman named Amoria. She is very gifted in matters not of this world. I really think you should talk to her. She may have useful information."

The idea of going back to Daedalius wasn’t high on Xena’s list. She wanted to stay far away from that village and it’s healer as possible. So much of what was happening was linked to this place, but she knew, for Gabrielle’s sake, she may have to put personal distaste aside.

"I’ll give it some thought, but right now my concern is for Gabrielle. I want to see her, Hippocrates, now. "

He knew by the tone of her voice, she would not be denied. "Ok, but don’t stay too long. She needs her rest, Xena."

She rose from the pallet and left the room. She didn’t need an escort to find Gabrielle. They had been ‘guests’ of the physician before. Xena wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted her. The form before her barely resembled the Gabrielle she knew and loved. She was very pale and frail looking. The bruise on her chin made the warrior wince. She felt sick in her gut and a mist clouded her eyes. Gabrielle’s wrists and ankles were secured to the bedside. Xena pulled a chair next to the bed. She loosened one of the bindings holding the bard’s wrists and held her hand. She was stroking the skin of her arm and began talking quietly.

"Gabrielle, I know you can hear me, honey. Just listen and let me do the talking. Guess you’re not used to that, are you? Hippocrates says you just need some rest. Don’t be frightened, I’m here with you. I’ll always be with you. I love you, Gabrielle, and nothing is going to change that. We, that’s you and I, are going to figure this out. If I have to summon Zeus, I will."

Xena placed her head on the edge of the bed. A tear washed from her eye and cascaded down her cheek, finally coming to rest on Gabrielle’s arm. It was the beginning of many that would fall through the night. The warrior’s vigil had begun.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Liz entered her home in a much better mood than when she left. Brie and RG greeted her at the door loudly protesting the lateness of their personal kitchen slave.

"Oh, girls, I’m sorry I’m late. You must be starved."

A tandem of ‘yeows’ echoed in the kitchen. And some fancy feline footwork threatened to trip Liz before she could retrieve their evening repast.

"Hey, you guys, cut it out! It wouldn’t be a good idea to injure the only one who can open the fridge."

This statement just served to heighten the frenzy between her feet. It was well-rehearsed choreography. All participants knew their parts. Liz gingerly stepping over Brie and RG, inching toward the fridge and the furry Baryshnikovs trying to become one with her ankles. To the casual observer, it was obvious who ruled the house. It wasn’t the human. Liz was allowed the fantasy of believing she was in charge. The felines always topped from the bottom.

She retrieved the minced chicken, divided the portions and took the chill off with a few seconds in the microwave. She tested the temp with a finger. The girls were very picky about their food. They preferred something akin to a fresh kill temperature wise. The thought was revolting to Liz.

"I know you’d really like something that still has a pulse, but it ain’t happening. This will have to do."

She sat the dishes on the floor and got out of the way. Once again the dinner ballet was complete with no sustaining injuries. She turned out the kitchen lights and headed for the bedroom. It was late but she had so much to do in the next few days. She was tempted to stay up and start a list but sleep was important. No…sleep was imperative. It was the only link to Gabrielle. She must try to communicate with the bard. It was a very scary thing to contemplate, but at least it was a plan. Liz was beginning to feel somewhat in control of this mess. Well, ignorance can be a blessing of sorts. She really had no idea what was in store for her. If she had, the choice of options might have been different.

Sleep came quickly…she was exhausted. There were some innocuous dreamscapes involving dancing flamingoes with sunglasses, her favorite bird. As she pirouetted with one of the graceful birds, she found herself in a room with many doors. All, save one, were alike. It had an emerald green knob. She was drawn to it , opened the door and walked through. She was in total darkness…familiar darkness. Her mind was trying to make a conscious connection. A figure appeared near her. It took a second for Liz to realize she was watching herself.

"Oh, my, this is so totally weird."

Her dream twin turned and spoke, "You’re telling me. So, here we are, now what?"

"Gee, I’m not sure. I haven’t thought that far in advance."

Her twin was an exact mirror, including personality. "Oh, perfect! Wadda ya’ mean? Are you saying you don’t have a plan, girl? Well, you’d better think of something quick. She’s gonna be here soon."

Liz didn’t think it possible to dream and observe at the same time. She was the same yet different. Just thinking about it was confusing. She was reminded of something Roger always said in moments of total confusion. ‘My brain and I are taking separate vacations.’ This definitely qualified. She decided not to analyze, but to just go with it. She spoke to her comrade.

"Ok, here’s what we’ll do when Gabrielle appears. You let me talk to her. Is that possible?"

"How the hell should I know. I’m trapped in here like everyone else. I’ve been doing the same thing night after night. In fact, I’d love a break. So after Xena appears and I…er…you take her place, be my guest. I’ll just wait over there till you’re finished. You got that?"

"Yeah, I think I’ve ‘got that.‘ God, you’re sarcastic. Anyone ever tell you that?"

"Oh, honey, you definitely do not want to go there. And if you do, don’t be packing a bag, cuz you ain’t staying."

The banter between the Lizzes was interrupted by the sound of someone in distress. It was Gabrielle.

"Hey, that’s our cue, c’mon let’s go." The dream twin began walking away. Liz followed. The corridor was dark and cold. Suddenly, all of this had taken on a very serious feel. The terror in Gabrielle’s voice was even more pronounced than before. The twins stopped just outside the unfolding scene before them.

Gabrielle was in a panic state, clinging to the sloping floor, pleading for help.

"Please, someone help me! XENA!! HELP ME!!"

Liz looked across the space and saw, for the first time in a conscious state, Xena. She had seen her in the dream before, but this was different. The perspective was different…more real. She felt sick to her stomach.

Gabrielle reached for Xena but the warrior ignored her plea for help. "I can’t help you, Gabrielle. This is your doing."

Liz watched as Gabrielle began to lose her grip on the floor. She so wanted to reach out to her, but could not. She raised her eyes and met Xena’s. This had not happened before. There was an unspoken threat from the woman. It sent a chill down Liz’s spine. Before she could respond, Xena was gone and she had taken her place.

Gabrielle looked up again for help and found Liz standing where Xena had been.

"Liz, please take my hand. Don’t let me die like this! "

Liz looked into those green eyes and once more felt an incredible stirring in her soul. It would have been so easy to just get lost in them again. She had to push these thoughts aside for there was a more important agenda to address.

She spoke calmly to the terrified bard. "Gabrielle, listen to me."

For a moment, the bard’s struggle ceased and the repetitive flow of the dream halted. Liz knew she only had a few seconds.

"Gabrielle, this dream is happening to both of us. We are still linked in time. I have to come to you to seal this tear. You must go to Daedalius, to Amoria. Do you understand?"

Liz gazed into her face for some sort of acknowledgment. She was still looking when Gabrielle started screaming and fell into the void. She wasn’t sure the message got through. Liz turned around to face her other self. Her gut was twisting. She was going to be sick. She thought, ‘ I wonder if dream vomit is like the real stuff.’

The mirror spoke, "Oh, don’t be doing that in here. You get to leave…I have to stay. And I can assure you I have no cleaning supplies…so watch it sister !"

"So, just how do I get out of here?"

"Honey, If I knew that, I’d drive us both. But, hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t you try...like…duh…waking up!! "

"Yeah, that could work." Liz looked around and spied the door she had entered through. " That…could work even better." She approached the entry. Before opening the door, she turned to her partner. "Hey…try working on your social skills while I’m gone."

As a parting shot, her twin replied, "Honey, I’ll have them when you do."

She walked through the portal. Her eyes snapped open and she found herself in her own bed, drenched in sweat, again.

"Jeez, this is getting to be a pain in the butt. I’m running out of clean clothes to wear."

She stripped off the tee and made a two-pointer in the laundry basket. She was too tired and nauseous to do a wardrobe change. Brie snuggled a little closer to her mom and both fell into a quiet place. She was still prioritizing the coming day’s events when sleep overtook her.

Continued...Part 2

 


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