The personages of Xena and Gabrielle are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures MCA/Universal and have been simply borrowed. They were paid union scale for their appearance and fed lunch. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this bit of fictional whimsy. All other accounts, characters, dialogue and descriptions yadayadayada is the property of the author. Use of said stuff must have the authors approval. You may print this for private use, but not for distribution, and the copyright disclaimer must be included.
This story contains references to romantic love between two, consenting, adult women. If this concept offends you or you are under eigthteen years of age, DO NOT READ THIS!! The author takes no responsibility for blatantly disregarding this warning. Nuff said.
This story is a continuation of the Dimension series part three to be exact. If you have not read the previous two, Dimension of The Heart and New Dimensions, you may miss some of the subtle references that would make the story more enjoyable. There is also a continuation of characters. This again, might make following the relationships somewhat difficult. You can, however, read this without any previous knowledge of the preceding installments and try to put the pieces together.
This particular story wouldnt have come together without the help of some special people. First, thanks to my editors. Without them, this story might have been just one long run-on sentence. Second, my gratitude to Sarah McLachlan and Celine Dion for their music and words. Third, a special thanks to a certain Canuck for an in-depth lesson on the finer aspects of Canadian beer.
Hmmm anything else? Well if there is, this disclaimer should cover it. So, go ahead, and jump in. Comments may be sent to Vryblueyz@aol.com
Four lives two dimensions....forever linked. Separate personalities joined by common passion drive love. To say it is an unusual connection would be a gross misstatement of fact. To say it is a coincidence would be equally inaccurate....for there are no accidents in the universe only convenient crossings. A life that intersects another does so with purpose. This is not always apparent to the participants but a truth none the less. For if we could rise above the moment in which we exist, we would see the simple beauty of our journey. Twists and turns that made no sense to us before would become clear and all the worry depression over lost opportunity lost love would be a mere ripple in the fabric of time. Eventually, we will evolve to the same end our paths different but the same ever moving forward touching each other many times along the way. Ah if we could but remember......
The December Atlanta skyline was illuminated in the colors of the season. Most of the large buildings had quaint patterns of red and green glowing through the windows. Some were in the triangular shape of a tree some a star some nothing distinguishable. But it was all in the spirit of the Holiday season and the whole city was fully engaged in good cheer. Liz sat in her chair gazing out into the darkness....the view from her warehouse space was panoramic and stunning. Looking out on the city used to be one of her favorite pastimes. Of late, the vista had lost its magic. She was dressed in sweats and an old terry cloth robe....her feet curled up under her. Absently, she moved aged brandy around in a large snifter....the motion hypnotic. Peering into the snifter, she watched the liquid coat the sides of the glass mesmerized by the smoothness of the fluid....almost taking on a life of its own. She held the glass aloft and made a sarcastic toast.
"Heres to Peace on Earth." She paused, then added, " What a crock!"
Liz brought the glass to her lips and captured the brandy in her mouth. She wasnt accustomed to the headiness of the alcohol but let it warm her throat as she swallowed. She was hoping that somehow the brandy would unlock her walled emotions. But like many nights before they remained sequestered. An insistent paw on her arm intruded upon her internal quest. The young feline wanted attention and wasnt going to take no for an answer. The cat persisted until Liz scratched her exposed tummy eliciting a vibrating purr.
She looked at the beauty in her lap. A bundle of unconditional love disguised as a young adult female Brie. Liz remembered finding Brie as an orphaned kitten, just barely four months old. It didnt take much persuasion to take the baby in. In fact, Brie insisted on adopting Liz. And that was the end of it. She was nearly two years old now. Her cohort, RG, was sleeping soundly on the blanket wadded up on the large leather sofa. The three of them had gone through this same ritual for weeks. Liz sitting up at night waiting for the sun Brie and RG just wanting to be close to their momma. The rest of the house was deadly quiet only the sound of Sarah McLachlan, pouring into the space, interrupted the silence. Her lyrics were like a sharp stick in an open wound.
"....I would be the one to hold you down kiss you so hard......Ill take your breath away...."
Liz listened to her every night wanting to resurrect her feeling anything to bring back her life the memory of her love. It had all been so senseless and replayed in her dreamstate. Therefore, she avoided going to that place as long as possible only to be finally taken over by exhaustion. The dream would begin again in complete detail and agonizing clarity.
"Liz, hurry up, were gonna be late. And you know how I hate that " Sam was yelling through the condo for her partner to get a move on. "If I miss the opening piece, youre never going to hear the end of it!"
The dark hired woman was muttering under her breath, "Oh Im already not hearing the end of it." She was scurrying about the bedroom grabbing a sweater looking for her other shoe fending off the playful animal. "Brie....not now!" Liz pried the shoelace from the felines grasp.
A more insistent call came from the outer room. "If youre not out here in two minutes, Im leaving without you....I mean it! "
"Jeez Im coming already! " The words and the woman appeared in the doorway at the same time. The sweater being pulled over her head obscured her face. Finally a face popped through the opening and arms snaked their way into the sleeves. "Just relax, Sam were not going to be late. Ive never been late going to the symphony and Im not gonna start tonight. I just couldnt find my shoes thats all."
She finished situating the sweater over her upper body the fabric deceptively hiding her broad shoulders. Her feet were in her shoes, but the laces were conspicuously dangling and being stalked by Brie. Her hands ran gracefully through her hair pulling it free of the barely exposed shirt collar. Liz stood awaiting inspection.
"So do I look ok?" She peered into the eyes of her lover.
Raising an eyebrow, Sam poured over the form before her. Her green eyes traced every line every feature every nuance. She caught her breath when their eyes locked. It never ceased to amaze her the sheer power this woman exerted on her even when she wasnt trying. Some days it was down right annoying.
She slightly shook her head and blinked. " Uh fine you look fine. Oh Id tie those laces if I were you."
Liz cocked her head to one side and had that crooked little smile on her lips.
"Fine!? Thats it? Fine? I slave for hours to find the perfect outfit and all you can say is....FINE!?" There was mischievousness to her dialogue as she bent to secure the loose lace ends.
Sam knew this game and was having none of it or they indeed would be late very late. "Yes fine now lets go. Well be parking on the street as it is."
She was already moving toward the door. Standing still when Liz had that look in her eyes was not a good idea. She had learned the hard way a long time ago. Yes moving was the key. Sam grabbed the car keys and her coat. Parking on the street meant a healthy little walk to Symphony Hall. It was late October and the weather had finally turned cool. She refused to be uncomfortable strolling the sidewalk.
Liz followed her toward the hallway....grabbing her Burberry from the hall tree. She was three paces behind Sam. "Sweetheart, you think you could slow down? I promise well make it in time. "
Sam threw a look over her shoulder. "Yes we will cuz Im driving tonight."
Liz opened her mouth to protest and didnt get the first syllable out. Sam held up a hand to stem the whining. "Dont even think about it just deal with it, ok?"
The two entered the elevator Sam smiling and Liz adoring her. Gods she loved this woman. Her life had finally broken free and this was the most remarkable interaction. Silently, she thanked two other remarkable women....the tall warrior and her bard.
Roger paced nervously in the atrium of the Arts Center. He had polished off his champagne and was about to order another. Lately, Liz had been less than punctual. She had taken on a new perspective on life much of which didnt sit well with the boy. This laid back woman wasnt familiar. Oh she was easier to deal with, most certainly, but he missed that feistiness.
"Roger....stop pacing! They will be here chill out for gods sake!" Randi handed him a second glass of bubbly and tried to draw his attention from the tardiness of his friend.
Taking a huge gulp, he couldnt help going on. "Oh jeez Randi whats up with her lately? She never used to late for anything. Now if shes on time, its an event. I swear that last little trip did something to her."
Randi had to agree Liz had changed. There was a marked calmness within her that defied explanation. Something very important had shifted inside her something wonderful and focused. Randi believed that Sam was part of that reason. She placed a patronizing hand on Rogers sleeve.
"Roger, honey, shes finally happy. Cant you just go with that?"
"Oh I dont have a problem with her being happy but would it be too much to ask for happiness and punctuality!?"
Randi smiled and just shook her head. " Well you may have to just be ok with the happiness angle. Now just relax dont go spoiling this evening with some kind of queen snit. This performance is one of her favorites Im sure they will be here shortly."
Sam expertly wheeled the two-seater toward the Arts Center. They usually parked in a nearby hi-rise garage, but tonight it was filled.
Sams eyes narrowed as she saw the filled sign. "Damn!! I didnt want to park on the street tonight. But we dont have a choice. We would pick the most popular program to be late for. Now were gonna pay."
She cast a glance at Liz. "No make that youre gonna pay. This isnt going to go well for you, missy. Ill be thinking of something appropriate I can assure you."
"Fine you do that. Oh and see if you can think of something we havent done, ok?" Liz loved teasing her and did so at every opportunity. She leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
Raising an eyebrow, Sam tried to be stern. "Oh you think a kiss on the cheek will save you?"
"Uh...no...but maybe it will delay you a bit." Liz was scanning the curbside for a parking space. "Oh...there...theres a spot. I think we can just fit this baby between those two over there."
She was pointing to a spot toward the end of the residential side street. It was a pretty good hike up to Symphony Hall...but they had run out of time. It was now or miss the opening. Sam wasnt too thrilled with the location but parked anyway. The two women climbed out of the car...locked the doors and started up the sidewalk.
Liz scanned their path. Although this street was in a well-heeled neighborhood, some of the citys lower elements often panhandled here. She noticed two figures hunched near one of the parked cars. Instinctively, she placed herself between the men and Sam, taking hold of her arm as an extra precaution. You could never be too cautious these days. She was relatively sure they would pass without incident. They were not even a block from the busy intersection filled with rushing traffic. As they neared the duo, one of the men turned toward them. Liz thought he was going to ask for some change. The true gravity of the situation wasnt apparent until their path was blocked. The alarms went off but it was too late. The men were dirty and looking for quick cash for their varied habits. One brandished a handgun.
He was nervous...shaking...and Liz couldnt be sure if it was because he needed a fix or from the high of an impending heist. Either was to spell disaster for them. The man with the weapon spoke to Liz and Sam. Her pointed the 38 directly at them.
"Ok...I dont want no trouble. Jest gimme yer money and git!!" He was shaking so badly he had to hold the gun with both hands. Liz was afraid it might go off just from the jerking he was doing. She tried to calm the man.
Holding up both her hands, she spoke quietly. "Ok...relax...Im just going to reach in my pocket to get my cash...ok?" Sam was a wreck and white as a sheet. She was genuinely scared shitless. She grabbed Lizs coat sleeve. The second robber grabbed her by both arms, pulling her away from Liz. There was a panic rising in her throat...along with a scream.
He brought a fist across her face to silence her vocal objections.
"Shut up bitch!! Or Ill cut ya." He had the point of a blade at her throat. Sams eyes with dilated and an expression of terror was on her face. Liz went into reaction mode seeing her lover threatened. She shoved the man away from Sams side and the knife along with him.
"Leave her alone, you bastard! Take the goddamn money and leave us alone!!"
She had moved the guy off Sam and had her arms around her...trying to protect her. The party with the gun was freaking out. He knew this was a bust but he was wired just enough to be stupid. He moved toward the women intent on pistol whipping Liz...then taking her money. He brought the gun down over Lizs right eyebrow opening a gash. Blood began pouring over her face and down onto her coat. The guy was bonkers now. His partner was equally pissed off.
"Shit! Just off the both of em and lets get outta here before the cops come." He was nervously eyeing the intersection for a sign that someone had heard Sams scream. He urged his crackhead friend to do the deed. "Cmon...do it! Theyre just fuckin queers. Hurry...we aint got all night!" His friend stood with a crazy, drug induced look in his eyes...cocked the hammer...and pointed the barrel at Lizs head.
Acting strictly on adrenaline, Sam lunged at his hand placing her body between the gun and Liz. In the struggle, it went off. All the participants froze...time stood still. Then in slow motion, Sam fell to the pavement...a look of shock on her face.
The two men looked at one another...at Sam...and then Liz. They bolted down the sidewalk into the darkness, leaving Liz on her knees crawling to Sams side. She rolled her lover over, and cradled her head in her lap, gently rocking. Sams eyes were open but she was already gone. Liz was racked with a pain she had never experienced. Like a wounded animal, she threw her head back and wailed.
"Oh...God...Nooooo...Please nooo....!!!! "
Liz was bolted awake by the image of the dream. The night had given way to the first rays of morning. She had slept in the chair again all night. In fact, she had hardly slept in her bed since that night. It was too painful to crawl under the sheets alone...the memory of Sam being next to her was too vivid. Brie and RG wished their charge could get past all this...for sleeping on that comfy bed was a treat for them.
Slowly, Liz moved her tired, stiff limbs. She reminded herself that the sofa would do as a reasonable substitute in the future...or as long as this was happening. The cats were pacing in front of her as she made her way to the kitchen. She needed coffee...and lots of it. She also needed food but couldnt bring herself to actually fix anything that required more than one step. As a consequence, her body was not very happy and was beginning to rebel. She filled the cats dishes and watched them tear into breakfast...always amazed that they could possibly be that famished.
"I dont believe you guys. This stuff cant be that good. " She picked a bit of the dry kibble, sniffed it and popped it into her mouth. Carefully, she bit down on it crushing the morsel into fine particles. She was honestly trying to distinguish the flavor when the phone rang. Reaching for the cordless, she answered.
"Um...hello?" She was looking for something to wash the kibble down.
"Liz?? Are you all right?" Randis voice was laced with mild concern.
Gulping some water, Liz finally conceded that cats had no taste buds. "Yeah...I was just having breakfast with Brie and RG. Whats up?" She continued to try to rid herself of the nasty tuna morsel.
"Well, at least youre eating. Ive been worried about you. Look, Im on my way to the University and want to stop by for a moment. That ok with you?" Randi paused fully expecting resistance.
"Uh...sure...Ill be here. See you in a few, Randi." Liz clicked the phone off and poured herself some coffee. At least she still had a desire for her morning java. She stuck her head in the fridge. Before Sam moved in, it was merely a holding place for milk, eggs, champagne and assorted take out leftovers. She looked at the pitiful array before her. Seems the fridge was reverting back to its former state also. A container of real sour cream rattled in the door. It reminded Liz of one of the first disagreements she and Sam had gone through. It occurred in the market.
"Ok...Ill get the veggies and you do the dairy route." Sam handed Liz the list and pushed the cart toward the produce aisle. Liz stared at the list and meandered over to the refrigerated dairy case. In a few moments she found Sam and unloaded her selections in the cart.
"All right...dairy taken care of. Whats next?"
Sam was going through the deposited items. She held up a container. "Uh...Liz, honey...what is this?"
Quizzically, Liz looked at the tub...then at Sam. "Huh? This is a test, right?" She turned the tubs label toward Sams eyes. "Its all right here...see? Sour cream. That was on the list remember?"
Sams eyebrow arched. "Yes...sour cream was on the list...but not this sour cream." She pointed to the lettering. "What does this say?"
Liz sighed deeply. "It says SOUR CREAM...duh!"
Sam patience was quickly fading. "I know it says sour cream...Im talking about THIS!" Her delicate finger was once again pointing to the container.
"Oh...it says ...no fat. And your problem is...?"
"The problem is that I need sour cream...not this abomination. Now please get the real thing."
Liz was irked now. "As far as Im concerned...this is the real thing. Do you have any idea how much fat is in real sour cream?"
Sam just let her lovers irritation roll off her back. "Sweetheart, I dont care. I just know Im not cooking with this stuff." Dismissively, she tossed the container to Liz.
The two women stood and stared at one another. The great produce aisle standoff was about to commence. Liz caught the container and shot it back toward the cart...easily scoring two points.
"And Im not eating any artery clogging, stroke inducing item!"
Sam neatly plucked the tub from its resting place, again sailing it toward Liz. "Well...you know what!? I dont care if you eat it...I am just not going to cook with this. "
Liz deftly snagged the container with one hand and prepared to launch the next salvo. In one movement, the tub reversed course and landed not so gently against the side of the cart. This time the tamper proof seal was broken. The sour cream was about to hit the fan for sure. Sam lifted the unreturnable container and glared at Liz.
"Well...I hope youre satisfied. We will have to purchase this now as you have broken the seal." She lifted the top off the tub and turned it upside down. The contents stayed steadfastly in place. To further make her point, Sam shook the container vigorously actually trying to dislodge the inhabitant. It wasnt moving.
"See...This is not sour cream. This is something unholy. Look...no movement." Again she shook the tub. " This container should have been all over the floor by now. There is a difference. "
Liz had her arms folded and was watching the gravity-defying act. She wasnt ready to give in and in fact, was about to turn the burner up a notch.
"Im sorry...but it all tastes the same to me. Theres no difference...oh except in the number of fat globs floating around waiting to strangle my heart!"
Sam was on the verge of a stem winding fit. "No difference!? HA!! I bet you even like Cheese Whiz and Velveeta as opposed to aged cheddar, too."
Liz shook her head from side to side. "All that stuff is death waiting for a ride. Nope...dont eat it. Jeez...Cheese Whiz...puleeze... I prefer processed cheese food products...American slices to be precise." There was a twinkle in her blue eyes. The next sound was the snap of the line as the hook was set. Sam bit.
"What!? I dont believe you...you wont eat Cheese Whiz but nosh on fake, chemically enhanced cheese food!? That stuff has a half-life of a gazillion years. Gods... youre impossible...I...I...." Sam was drawing quite a little crowd with her food opinions. Liz couldnt hold it in check any longer...her somber expression cracked and she fell out in the aisle. Sam stopped her diatribe in mid sentence...her hand still holding the tub upside down. As if by magic, the contents decided to look for another home. In one molded, gelatinous wad, it dove into the basket...dividing into segments as it passed through the wire bottom.
This only made Liz laugh harder...tears were running down her cheek...and she was holding her sides. Oh...she knew Sam was going to get revenge...but this was just too funny.
Sam finally realized that her lover had set her up. She dropped the empty container and watch Liz trying to regain her composure. She pursed her lips, scooped up some of the sour cream from the basket. Liz was too busy having a seizure to notice Sam nearing her. She was bent over in the throes of hysterical laughter. Sam tapped her on the back.
"Oh...verrry funny, Liz. Youre in some big trouble, missy." Sam used the term missy in a playful manner...and it was a form of endearment.
Liz was finally regaining some control. Slowly she uprighted herself. "Oh...Sam...Im sorry...really I am... but youre just so easy to tease...."
She didnt get all the apology out before a handful of sour cream was smeared all over her face. Sam was laughing this time. "Gee...youre right, it is all the same."
There was a look of shock on Lizs face...reprisal would be quick and creamy. The two proceeded to scoop the sour cream off the floor and buggy...depositing it on and at one another. By the time the produce manager got there, they both looked like they had just spent a morning at Elizabeth Arden. They were laughing and totally unaware of the surroundings. It was a first for both of them...being thrown out of the market. Oh...they were eventually allowed to shop there again...but not together.
Liz felt a pang in her chest thinking about that incident. She took the container out of the fridge and tossed it in the trash. She couldnt even look at a tub of sour cream right now. Everything was too fresh...too open....too real. She walked around the kitchen island and headed for the sound system. Selecting a CD, she inserted the disc and hit the <play> button. Liz moved to her chair and waited for the opening movement of Mozarts Requiem to begin. As the Introitus:Requiem began, Randi let herself in. Liz was oblivious to her friends arrival...her attention was directed to the Requiem and to something deep inside her.
Randi could almost feel the anguish of her longtime friend. In fact, it pervaded the room like a breathing entity...keeping Liz separated from those who loved her right now. She so wanted to help her, but was powerless to do anything except stay available. This was so hard on all of them. So many times Liz had been there for her and Roger and now, when Liz needed help, they couldnt reach her. Randi knew it was a matter of time...time to accept...time to grieve...time to heal...everything in due time. She almost chuckled to herself. Her concept of time had been radically altered by the last adventure they had shared. It also reminded her that Sam had been very much a part of that interaction.
The thought of her brought forth feelings of loss. Randi had gotten to know Sam pretty well over the last year...and had grown to really like her. Her influence on Liz was amazing...so loving...so positive. Liz was truly happy probably for the first time in her life. The fact that Sam had been taken away so abruptly and violently still was incomprehensible. Randi could only imagine what Liz was going through. She placed the deli bag on the counter, poured herself some coffee and walked over to the sitting area facing the wall of glass. Liz hardly flinched at the arrival of Randis form.
"Liz...are you all right?" Randi had her hand on her friends shoulder, applying gentle pressure.
It took a moment for Liz to realize she wasnt alone and almost looked irritated that Randi was there.
"All right? What does that mean exactly?" Lizs sarcastic question left little to the imagination as to her mood. Randi knew this wasnt going to be easy.
"Ok.... poor choice of words. Its just that Im worried about you, hon. I know youre hurting, Liz...but you will get through this...we all will." The last phrase was more of a hope than statement of fact.
Liz looked at Randi with calm eyes. "And what if I dont want to get through this? Suppose it doesnt matter anymore? Then what?"
Randi tried to quell her rising concern. " Liz...you listen to me. Losing Sam was a horrible, senseless thing. I cant fully understand how you feel...but I know that Roger and I love you very much. We want to help you...you dont have to do this alone. Do you understand what Im telling you?"
Liz placed her hand over Randis, patting gently. "I know...I know. But some of this I have to do alone. I dont mean to be distant, but right now I cant help it. Theres so much pain...I cant even talk about it...."
Her eyes filled with tears and a very deep sorrow began to make its way out of her soul. It was painful for Randi to watch. She wrapped her arms around her dear friend and just let her cry.
In a corner of the room three figures watched the interaction. They were of a different reality...but very connected to Liz. Their concern was real...their existence requiring a suspension of belief.
"Xena...cant we help her ? Shes in so much pain." The bard drew closer to the warrior.
"I know Gabrielle. But there is little we can do here. Its not like when she came to our dimension...we have no real substance in this reality. We are random thoughts...feelings...nothing more. Liz will have to do this alone Im afraid." Xenas arms held her lover in a protective grasp...thankful she was able to do so.
The third entity stood slightly apart from the two...her eyes misting over watching the agony of her lover. She turned to Xena and Gabrielle, pleading.
"Please...there has to be something we can do. We...I...cant watch her suffer so...Xena you must have a plan, right? I mean Liz said you always had a plan. Tell me you have one...please." Sams anguish was so palpable it caused Liz to feel a small wave of emotion. She pulled away from Randi.
"Did you say something?"
Randi looked at Liz with puzzlement in her eyes. "No...I didnt, why?"
"I thought I heard someone...you... say something. Guess Im hearing things now, too." There was a faint smile on her face as she disengaged herself from Randis embrace.
"Sweetheart, I think youre exhausted...emotionally and physically. I know for a fact youre not eating in spite of your comment this morning. Liz, you have to take care of yourself...or let Roger and me do it for you. Those are your choices...pick one. " The woman was very adamant about this...and it was very evident in the tone of her voice.
Liz knew Randi meant what she said. "Ok...how about we try a combination of the two?"
"Thats more like it. Well start with breakfast. I stopped at Hueys this morning and got some fresh beignets and blueberry sauce. You can consume those until we get to the market. Roger will be coming by later to get you out of this condo." Randi paused to make sure Liz was hearing her. "You with me so far?"
"Yeah...breakfast...the market...get out of the condo...I hear you. "
"Oh...and Liz...take a long hot bath this morning...just soak...and get that damned Requiem off the stereo!" It was not a request.
Liz sighed and gave into Randis demands...for the moment. She didnt possess the energy to put up an argument. "Ok...anything to get you to stop bitchin at me. A hot bath...dis the Requiem...got it. Anything else?"
"No...I think that will do for the time being. You gonna be all right...oh...well you know what I mean? I can stay for a bit longer if you want me to. I dont have to be at the University until noon for the board meeting."
"Ill be ok, Randi. Thanks for coming by...Im sorry that I...."
"Liz, you have nothing to be sorry about. Just know that Im here for you and that I love you."
Liz embraced her friend. "I know you do...and I love you, too. Im gonna have one of those beignets and run a bath."
Randi finally felt a little better about leaving. "Ok...Ill go...but you call me if you need to."
"I will...I promise."
Liz walked Randi to the door, gave her a kiss on the cheek and watched her disappear down the hall. She shut and locked the door...walked over to the sound system and turned up the Requiem.
Gabrielle looked at Liz and then to Xena. "I thought she was going to turn that thing off."
Xena walked over to the sound system, peering at the dials and controls. It looked very complicated to her.
"Hmmm...well it appears our friend is very stubborn. Now if I could only turn this off...." She continued to study the controls. " Uh...this looks like a volume control...I think. Hey, Sam, you know about this...help me out. "
Sam moved to the unit. If anyone could have actually seen the duo, they would have been amazed. Sam was obviously of this time...but Xena was...well...she was Xena...leather...sword...chakram.
"Youre right, Xena, this is the volume control, but we have no way of manipulating it." Sam actually tried to grasp the dial, but her hand went through the unit.
Xena wasnt ready to give up. "Damn! There has to be a way. Is there another way to control this thing?"
Sam thought for a moment. "Well...theres the remote...but I dont see us having any more luck with that."
"Remote? Where?" Xena was looking about the area.
Sam tried to dissuade her futile search. "Xena...stop...its useless. We have no presence here."
Gabrielle had moved over to the kitchen island with Liz. She was drawn to the sight of the beignets....her mouth watering. She offered some advice to Sam.
"You may as well let her just try. Did I tell you that Xena is relentless once she sets her mind to something?" She returned her attention to the pastry. "Gods...Im hungry."
Xena found the thin remote in Lizs chair. "Gabrielle...youre always hungry. Now...I need something to push this button with." She scanned the room and found the answer. Brie had found a sunny spot and was grooming herself. She had seen the visitors and really didnt think anything was unusual. Animals had the ability to perceive more that one dimension...they did it all the time. Yep...those times when the owners thought their animals were chasing shadows... they were really interacting with entities from other dimensions. Humans were too limited in their beliefs to possibly understand or perceive this. But Xena knew...and was about to exploit the dimensional recognition.
"Here kitty...cmon..." She made little squeaking noises to draw the felines attention. It worked. Brie stopped grooming and looked right at the warrior. She stood and slowly walked toward Xena and the chair.
"Thats it...cmom...just a little closer." She made a rapid hand motion back and forth along the seat of the chair. Bries head and eyes followed the movement...she couldnt resist pouncing...and did so right on top of the remote. The result was instant silence...she had turned the thing off completely. Sam was amazed by the warriors ingenuity.
"Xena...if I didnt know any better, Id think you saw the movie "Ghost" and borrowed the cat trick."
Gabrielle was trying desperately to snag the last bite of the beignet. "I told you she was relentless. Now if I could get some help with this morsel."
Xena was pleased with the outcome. "Hey...I just used what was available."
Lizs attention was diverted from her breakfast by the sudden silence. "What the...." She moved quickly to the system. As she neared the chair, Brie shot over the back and into the bedroom. Liz saw the reason for the silence.
"Oh...ok, Brie...I get the point. Jeez...you and Randi must have some sort of conspiracy going. No more Requiem. How about Sarah then?"
Without waiting for a response, Liz placed "fumbling towards ecstasy" on the player and moved toward the bath. Sam grabbed her chest, a look of undeniable pain on her face...crouched in a ball...and cried.
Gabrielle had moved toward her...placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. She stooped beside her...holding her.
"Its going to be ok, Sam. You two just have to let go of each other...some how. Otherwise Liz will die from a broken heart and you will never be free to complete your journey. But right now just cry all you want...were not going anywhere."
She cast a glance at her warrior. "Right, Xena?"
"Right, Gabrielle. There has to be a way to help Liz and you, Sam. Well find a way."
Gabrielle whispered into Sams ear. "See...I told you...relentless."
While the tub was filling, Liz disrobed and went back into the kitchen to warm her coffee. She snagged the last beignet and poured the blueberry sauce over the pastry. She had her head tilted back while walking and eating. Powered sugar and droplets of sauce fell across her chest. She stopped at the vanity, placing her mug on the counter. The tub was full and she turned the water off. She stared in the mirror...looking at her body. The sound of Sarah was filling the space...and filling her eyes with tears. This had been one of Sams favorites CDs... and they had made love many times to her melodies and words.
"...Listen as the wind blows...from across the Great Divide..."
Liz caught the blueberry sauce with her finger as it found her navel. Almost in a daze, she traced its path up her abdomen...between her breasts...to her mouth. Her eyes closed...as if remembering...and placed the sauce-covered finger to her lips. Lightly she traced the outline of her mouth, painting her lips in a dark shade of blue...so dark...it was almost purple.
"...Voices trapped in yearning...memories trapped in time...."
The taste of the blueberry sent a shock of remembrance through her core. This was so hard. There wasnt a thing that didnt remind Liz of Sam and their time together. The lithe blonde woman stood behind her lover wanting to hold her again...remembering that night along with Liz. It had been so sweet...so pure...so passionate. The women were trapped by their sheer love for one another...neither willing to release the other.
Xena and Gabrielle watched the exchange. It was excruciatingly poignant. Their connection had linked them...one world to the other...keeping both from fully moving on.
"Xena...they were so much in love. Why did this have to happen?" Gabrielle was trying hard to hold her own tears in check.
"I dont know...sometimes we have to lose what is closest to us to find it again. This is something Sam and Liz will have to come to terms with...together and separately. Cmon...lets give them privacy."
Gabrielle looked at Xena somewhat confused. " Xena...Liz cant see Sam. She has no idea that she is here."
Xena took the bards arm and led her from the bath. "Gabrielle...Liz can feel Sam. They are sharing an emotional link. One doesnt have to see this to experience it...trust me. Now cmon. Well check on her later."
Liz stood with her eyes closed, feeling Sams hands across the back of her shoulders. The touch was light as a feather...fingers tracing the gentle slope of her neck and following the hard outline of her defined muscles. There was a dichotomy in the smoothness of her skin and hardness of her physique. Sam had loved touching her...running her hands over her body...then her lips. Sometimes their foreplay would consist of hours of touching...kissing...caressing. It was not unusual for their climaxes to almost be secondary to the sheer sensation of touching. Their lovemaking was unhurried...complete...giving. It was an experience that Liz had never had with a woman. It was as if she had waited her entire life to be with Sam...and now it had been taken from her.
She placed both her hands on the counter and felt sorrow clutching her heart. Sam felt it, too. She just wanted to touch her one more time. With eyes closed, she caressed her own face with her right hand, remembering. Liz took a deep breath and looked again in the mirror. Her face was etched in deep sadness...the sparkle in her eyes dulled...and there was a still fresh scar across her right eye...a constant reminder. She spoke to her image.
"Oh...god...I cant do this. It hurts too bad...I just want to die, too. Why did you have to leave, Sam? I dont understand...I cant get through this...I cant..."
Liz opened the vanity drawer and pulled the box of blades out. She retrieved one, leaving the drawer open. She stepped into the hot bath, her hands steadying herself as she sat in the steaming water. Liz held her arms under the water, the razor caught between her fingertips. Her pulse had surprisingly gone calm. The moment she made the decision, all the anxiety had ceased. All that was left was the act itself. She wondered if it would be peaceful...bleeding to death.
Sam was beside herself when she realized Lizs intent. She yelled at her lover.
"Oh...GOD...LIZ...DONT DO THIS!!! PLEASE!!! "
Liz couldnt hear her...or feel her. The pain in her heart was all consuming pushing their connection out of sync. She raised the blade in her right hand looking at the gleaming surface...turning it from side to side. Sam continued trying to reach her.
"LIZ!! LISTEN TO ME...PLEASE... HONEY...I LOVE YOU...PUT THAT
Liz lifted her left arm out of the water. She could see the veins standing out clearly. She understood enough about anatomy to know a vertical incision over the radial artery was the key. So many people slashed horizontally. It was messy and ineffective...severing veins and tendons but leaving the artery intact. Usually an act of one not really wanting to die...a cry for help it was called. Liz was very serious about this.
Frantically, Sam tried to take the razor out of her hand. She just passed through Lizs flesh with no effect. She had to try something for surely Liz knew killing herself would only assure that they would never be together again. As a last resort, she called for the cats. They had really bonded with Sam and in some ways were more responsive to her than Liz.
"Brie!! RG!!! Cmer...cmon...in here!!"
The two, hearing a familiar voice, responded by bounding into the bath. They peered at Sam sitting at the side of the tub and then at Liz in the water. Brie began meowing loudly and RG pawed at Lizs arm. It caused her to turn her attention away from the razor for a moment. She looked into the faces of her children.
"Im sorry girls...really I am. Roger and Randi will take good care of you." She returned to her task. Sam looked on in horror knowing there wasnt anything she could do. She imagined this is how Liz felt that night on the street. It was truly dire and paralyzing.
As Liz prepared to open her wrist, there was a loud pounding on her condo door.
"Liz!! Open up...its Roger. We have shopping to do." He waited for a response and tried again...this time pounding louder. "Hey!! Open the door, honey." No response.
Liz brought the blade down toward her warm flesh...holding it just barely above the skin. She heard Roger pounding on the door...but gave it hardly a blink of recognition. Her psyche was about to take that step into the abyss.
Roger was now in panic mode. He fumbled with his keys...dropping them on the floor. He had a key to Lizs place on this ring and he intended to use it. Something about this wasnt right.
With her eyes closed, Liz moved the razor to her wrist. Her last ounce of good sense was being shoved out of the way. Once opened she would quickly succumb in the warm water.
Roger found the key...turned the lock...and opened the door. Thankfully, Liz had neglected to put the safety chain in place. He quickly scanned the area...no Liz. He began yelling.
"LIZ!! WHERE ARE YOU? " He moved toward the bedroom and bath. Sam was wanting to drag him faster. "Hurry Roger...please...." she pleaded. He actually felt something propel him into the bath.
As he entered, his eyes went wide and his heart nearly jumped from his chest. Lizs eyes were closed and she seemed unaware that he was there. In terror he saw the blade in her hand resting on flesh. There was a thin red line appearing.
He yelled and moved toward his friend at the same time. "OH...SHIT! LIZ...NO YOU DONT...YOURE NOT DOING THIS TO ME ...DAMN YOU!! "
The sound of his voice snapped her out of the deadly trance. Roger reached the side of the tub and grabbed her wrist. He was scared and extremely pissed.
"What the fuck do you think youre doing!? Give me that!" He plucked the razor from her grasp. There were tears in his eyes at the thought of losing Liz like this.
"This is not an acceptable solution! Do you hear me!?" He was inches from her ear...yelling. Liz turned and looked at him...her eyes blinking. She looked disoriented and surprised to see Roger standing there. He continued his beratement.
"Liz...what are you thinking about? Why, honey, why would you do this? It wont bring Sam back...it wont solve anything. Please...talk to me. "
Liz looked at him. She was trembling and tears were welling in her eyes. She had no defense to offer.
"Roger...I...I...cant do this...." The tightness in her throat cut off her speech.
Roger collapsed next to the tub...his tears washing down his cheek. "Oh...sweetheart...I know...I know..." He reached over and cradled Lizs head. This was the nightmare scenario he had thought would never happen. He needed to get her out of the tub and check her wrist for any real damage.
"Cmon honey, lets get you out of this water and into some warm clothes...okay?"
Liz nodded and he helped her out of the tub. He was surprised to see how much weight she had lost. He supposed it was a natural reaction to the trauma she had suffered...but still it made him nervous. He wasnt used to seeing Liz so debilitated. She was always so strong...so in control. This was new for him...taking charge. He wanted things back to normal. Liz folded a large bath towel around her and allowed Roger to hold her. She continued to sob...some from fear and some from sorrow.
"Oh...god, Roger...I almost..."
He held her tighter...stroking her hair. "Shhh...its all right. You didnt and thats the important thing. We just need to have a good old fashioned cry session and talk." He pulled back from Liz, looking in her eyes. " Ok? Well spend the afternoon sorting this out." He pulled her close to him again and kissed the top of her head.
Liz let him gently rock her. Weakly, she said, " Ok...well talk...."
Sam had watched the interaction and was being torn from the inside out. The idea that Liz had even considered suicide was a testament to her pain and suffering. Xena and Gabrielle entered the bath. They were surprised at the scene before them.
"Sweet Athena, what happened here? We werent gone but a few minutes. " Xena looked to Sam for some answers.
"Oh...Xena...she was thinking about killing herself. I couldnt stop her. If Roger hadnt showed up...." Sams face was showing the strain of this latest development.
In keeping with her role as the optimist, Gabrielle tried to offer something positive. "Well...thank the gods he was here."
Sam wasnt so sure. "This time...but what about the next time?"
Xena looked at her with a raised eyebrow. " You have to stop thinking like that. Our thoughts have a way of becoming reality if given enough energy. If youre going to think anything, make it positive. Were not done yet. Im going to have a talk with Artemis about all this. In fact, I think we all should have a talk with her. Cmon, Sam, its time you met the goddess of the moon. You cant do anything else for Liz right now."
Sam looked at her love and knew Roger would take care of her. Reluctantly, she joined Xena and Gabrielle. The cats followed the three as they walked into the living area. The three women faded from view. Brie and RG sat, watching them return to another realm. The felines really enjoyed visitors...but the day had worn them out. They proceeded to the bed and made themselves at home. The comforter was sufficiently rumpled to provide snuggling space. Soon they were snoozing. They honestly didnt understand humans...too much stress.
Roger made sure Liz had gained some control before allowing her privacy to dress. He removed the box of razor blades from the vanity drawer. He just wasnt in the mood to think about this happening again.
"Hon, Ill put on some water for tea. Get dressed and well talk, ok? And I need to take a look at that cut on your wrist...just to be sure it doesnt need a stitch."
Liz searched for some clothes and replied to her friend. "Ok...Ill be just a few minutes." She watched him move toward the kitchen. Finding a worn pair of Levis and a flannel shirt, Liz sat on the side of the bed. Brie and RG were already fast asleep, snuggled next to one another. How she envied their having each other. It was silly, but even seeing the cats embracing was painful. She wondered when all this would ease. It had totally wrecked her life...and had almost taken her life. A shiver washed over her realizing how close shed come to that most cowardly and selfish act. She had no explanation that was sane for her actions. Liz looked at the angry reminder on her left wrist and almost felt sick. Thank the gods Roger had arrived when he did...otherwise.
Roger stuck his head around the corner to check on her progress. "You ok?"
A slight smile crossed Lizs face. "Yeah...I was going to uh...take care of this." She glanced with embarrassment at her arm. Roger knew this was difficult for her and tried to lighten the mood. He joined her at the sink and they began to inspect the wound. Liz pulled some sterile 4x4s and roll of gauze from the drawer. The fact that Roger had removed the razors didnt escape her.
"Honey, dont go there, ok. Well just get past this. Say, did I ever tell you that I thought about doing the same thing a number of years ago" He was gently washing the cut while talking. Lizs attention was drawn to her friend.
"Roger? You No....when? She flinched as Roger made a more vigorous swipe across her wrist.
"Well...it was long ago...before I met you. I was Y&D...young and dumb. I thought I was in love with this studdly leather type." He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "So...to make a long story short...I was...he wasnt...he dumped me...literally... in the middle of Peachtree Street at three in the morning. I was more mortified than anything else. But being the emotive queen that I was during those days...I decided to just end it all."
He was inspecting the slice...looking to see if it did indeed need a trip to the ER. "Well...youre lucky...its superficial...wont require stitches...or the mounds of endless paperwork to report a suicide attempt." He let that last part sink in before continuing his tale. Liz was wrapping the gauze around her wrist and Roger placed a strip of tape over the loose end. The two moved from the bath into the kitchen. The water was boiling and Roger removed the kettle...pouring the liquid over the tea bags. He handed a cup to Liz and they made their way to the sofa.
They sat facing one another, the cold day held at bay by the triple pane glass. Liz was idly moving the tea bag around in her cup.
"So...what did you do?"
"Thats where the story takes on a rather theatrical production. I went back to my small, but well appointed apartment, to look for a way to do the deed. I wanted something neat and not too painful. Yeah...I know...ridiculous. Anyway, my choices were pretty limited. I didnt own a gun...so that was out. I had razors...but the idea of cutting myself made me nauseous and I couldnt bear the thought of all that blood. The only thing left was an overdose. I ransacked my medicine cabinet. I had antacid tablets...aspirin...Nyquil...and vitamins. I had everything to soothe my aching head...stuffy nose...churning stomach...and tabs to keep me healthy. What I lacked was a decent pharmaceutical to do the job."
Liz was smiling. "I dont believe this... Well, obviously you didnt kill yourself...what happened next?"
Roger sipped his brew and continued, "When I realized I couldnt do anything messy...disgusting or painful, I opted for the next best thing...financial suicide. I marched right out and bought a custom made Italian leather sofa. Cost me four thousand dollars...nearly killed me."
Liz spewed the tea all over herself. "Oh...jeez...you mean that sofa you have
"Uh-huh...never could get rid of it. Anytime I start feeling really bad...I look at that thing and remember it aint about shit. So...honey...you need your own four thousand dollar sofa...not razor blades."
"I suppose youre right, Roger. Ive just been at such a loss...trying to understand why all this happened...why Sam? It should have been me...I was the one supposed to protect her...not the other way around. What good was this body of mine? I can bench 250 but couldnt stop an ounce of lead from taking her life...I couldnt save her...its not right!!"
"Liz, I know its doesnt make sense...but there was a reason. Youre not going to want to hear this...and its not just New Age prattle. Life just doesnt unravel aimlessly...we just cant see everything...we are all connected...each to the next. The events are unfolding as they should be. You have to allow the sequence to reveal itself in due time. You of all people should know that we just dont exist in one lifetime. Try to be kind to yourself right now...and dont you ever pull a stunt like this again." Rogers voice was very serious.
"Roger...I dont think I have a need for a four thousand dollar sofa. I do think I need to get away though. I need some room to process all this...." She looked around the space, "...away from here...the waking memory of her being here."
For the first time in weeks, Roger believed Liz might be turning the corner.
"Thats a very good idea...maybe some time in Key West...on the beach...in the sun. You could visit your friend uh... Melinda, isnt it?"
"Yeah...Melinda. But I cant go to Key West, Roger...not yet...I just cant."
He could slap himself for bringing up the very place she and Sam had met. "Oh...god, Liz, Im sorry...I forgot."
"Thats all right, Roger. Someday Ill go back. I actually had some other place in mind. Its something Sam and I talked about before...before she died. A trip we were going to take over the next Solstice and Christmas. I think I might take it now. " Liz diverted her eyes from Rogers and stared out at the city.
"Where...Liz?" He couldnt imagine what she had in mind.
"Wait a minute, Ill show you." She rose, placing her tea on the large, heavy table in front of the sofa. She made her way to the computer desk and file cabinets. After going through a few folders, she pulled one from the drawer. Liz handed it to Roger as she retook her seat. He went through the brochures and tentative itineraries.
After a quick scan of the information, he let the folder fall in his lap, his eyes looked questioningly at Liz. "The Canadian Rockies!? Are you out of your
mind? Its winter...lots of snow...below zero temperatures...avalanches...and need I remind you that you dont ski?"
"Roger...I know all that...but its something I feel might help. I dont know why...but after this morning...I have to do something."
"Oh...and going off into a snowy oblivion is the answer?" He was becoming nervous about the implications of Liz going off alone into the Canadian Wilderness...especially since this morning. "Liz...I dont think you should do this...not right now."
Liz set her jaw and felt like she had some control for the first time in weeks. "Roger...this wont be your decision...whether you approve or not."
There was an uncomfortable silence between the two...almost like a Western showdown... without the Colt 45s. In some ways, Roger was glad to see some of the old Liz surfacing...but God, she could be stubborn. He backed off...for now.
"Ok...Ill consider not getting in your way. But Im warning you... start exhibiting any signs like this morning and Im going to rat you out. Youll be under medical supervision quicker than you can say, Is There A Doctor On The Dig...I mean it."
"Huh?" She turned her head in that way to indicate a lost reference.
"Oh...its just something I read recently...but you get my drift. " Ball to Liz...
"Ok...agreed." Her reply was short and to the point. No need to tell him the real reason. It would all soon be a moot point. She paused and made a request of him.
"Uh...Roger...do you think we can hold off telling Randi about this right now? She will be all over me...and I just cant deal with it. "
Roger hated keeping secrets and keeping them from Randi was very dangerous. The woman had a way about her that could be unforgiving. He was going to be in trouble either way...he opted to keep Lizs confidence.
Sighing, he okd the pact, "All right...I wont tell her...but shell find out anyway you know. And when she does, we...thats you and me...are gonna be in deep doo doo."
Liz smiled, "I know...but its not like we havent gone wading before."
Roger shook his head. "Yep...Ill get the hip boots...were gonna need em."
The three women materialized just outside the Amazon encampment. Xena and Gabrielle looked very much in place...Sam, on the other hand, looked...well she was obviously not from around here. One thing that was amazing though...in this reality, she had substance...form...and an appetite. She marveled at the scenery...the colors...the smells. It was being alive again and it brought real tears to her eyes. She was walking forward and turning in a circle at the same time. Her face reflected a childlike quality of sheer amazement. Xena and Gabrielle had stopped and were watching Sam. They were slightly amused.
"Well...what do you think about our little world?" Gabrielle had taken her arm and was trying to get her to walk with them...as opposed to around them.
"Oh...this is wonderful...its so...alive. " She looked at Xena...a question forming on her lips. " Am I? Alive...that is?
"Well...thats an interesting question, Sam. How do you feel?" Xena frequently answered a question with another one. Gabrielle made that little face of hers and shook her head.
Sam took a very deep breath... her hands feeling her chest expand. Yes she actually could feel her features again. It was a miracle. "We take some much for granted ...the simple ability to touch...to sense. What a marvel." She closed her eyes, ran both her hands through her hair, luxuriating in the sensation. "Yes, Xena...I do feel alive."
The warrior cocked her head and nodded. "Then thats all that matters. Now, cmon...lets get to the village...Im starved."
The mention of food hastened all their steps...especially Gabrielle. Shed been craving sustenance since her close encounter with Lizs beignet that morning. The three of them neared the village perimeter and a call went out through the treetops. Without further warning, the Amazons dropped from the trees. Xena gave a somewhat bored look at the warriors, but said nothing to incite them. Gabrielle clasped her hands over her head in the traditional greeting. And Sam was stunned. Liz had told her stories about the Amazon guard...but she never really expected to see them. Until recently, the whole story had seemed far-fetched. It wasnt until that night on the street that her perceptions had been radically altered.
"Shit! Just off the both of em and lets get outta here before the cops come. Cmon...do it! Theyre just fuckin queers. Hurry...we aint got all night!"
Sam remembered seeing the man point the gun at Lizs head and knew he was going to pull the trigger. She just couldnt allow that to happen and lunged at the attacker. She was hoping he would just be scared enough to run off. Lord knows she was frightened out of her wits. The ensuing struggle was more than she bargained for...the man was out of his mind and the gun went off...right in her chest. The last thing she remembered seeing was the look on Lizs face as the life drained from her. Funny...there was hardly time to feel any pain...one moment she was breathing and the next she wasnt. It was a very odd sensation...and very disorienting. All her previous concepts about death were erased. There was no blinding light no angles waiting to ferry her to Heaven...and there was no Devil waiting to take her to Hell. There was nothing...save her absolute love for Liz. She held on to that as tightly as she could. It was the remaining link to her love...her life.
She remembered seeing Liz crawl to herself on the pavement. It was so strange looking at her lifeless form and watching Lizs sheer heart breaking anguish. There was nothing she could do about either. At that moment two figures walked out of the darkness. At first she thought it to be the two men...coming back to finish the job. But it was a tall woman dressed in leather and a smaller one carrying a staff...Xena and Gabrielle. They approached the spectacle on the sidewalk almost with casual indifference and acknowledged Sams presence. Sam wasnt thinking clearly, and thought they could help. She rushed up to them...talking hysterically.
"Please...you have to help my friend...shes hurt...please...I dont know what to do...." She remembered crying and pleading at the same time. Xena was the first to try to calm her. She spoke in low, even tones, looking directly in her eyes.
"Sam, listen to me..." Sam didnt let her get started well before interrupting.
"Sam...yes...thats me...how do you know me? Who are you? Where did you come from?" She glanced back at Liz, "Please...help her..."
Xena took her arm and started again, "Sam...be quiet...Gabrielle and I are here to help you. Now listen to me."
Sam blinked, her belief system being seriously challenged. "Xena and
Gabrielle? The Xena and Gabrielle? " She was shaking her head. "I really dont understand..."
Gabrielle had a go at explaining this, giving Xena one of those Im better at this sort of thing than you are looks. In that soft voice of hers, she said, "What Xena is trying to say, is weve been sent to assist you in crossing over. Artemis sent us. We have a long journey...you have a long journey. We really must go now."
Sam wasnt ready to leave...she couldnt leave...she wanted to stay near Liz for as long as possible. Their hearts were so bound. She felt leaving her now would be a second death for her. She made herself very clear to the warrior and the bard.
"No!! Im not going anywhere with you two...not yet. I have to be sure that Liz is going to be all right...I have to...please."
Gabrielle looked at Xena, raising her eyebrow. "See, I told you she wouldnt just leave. I dont know why you never listen to me. This is going to take a while...shes got to get used to...you know..."
Xena knew it was two against one. She sighed heavily and walked over to Liz...kneeling down in front of her. Liz was holding Sam in her arms...gently rocking her...the pain seeping out of her like water through a sieve. The bond between the two women reminded her of the one she and Gabrielle shared. She looked up at Sam and Gabrielle.
"Ok...well wait. But we cant stay here indefinitely." Xena stood and moved over to Gabrielle and Sam. About that time, a passing car noticed the fallen duo and help was summoned. Xena gently moved Sam away from the ensuing rescue scene...the people...the obligatory attempt at CPR...the police taking Lizs statement...the ambulance pulling off...siren wailing. It was surreal...and numbing...
After a while it was just the three of them on the street. Sam had been quiet...watching the macabre setting. Her mind hadnt caught up with her reality yet. She wanted to know one thing from the two women. She spoke to Xena.
"Why? Why are you two here? What do you have to do with Liz and me? Are you angels?"
Gabrielle snickered. "Sam...Xena is anything but an angel...." She cast a half-hearted apologetic glance at her lover. "Sorry Xena. Uh...as I was saying... Artemis sent us, Sam. The four of us share a bond...a very close bond. We were the logical choice to help you...and Liz."
Sam was still somewhat skeptical. "Then youre saying all that stuff Liz told me really happened?"
Xena spoke, "Of course it happened. You should know that...remember the last little adventure in Greece? Well...its all true...you were involved from the very first, Sam...even before then."
"You mean in Key West that summer?" Sam was remembering their meeting in that seedy bar.
Gabrielle took up the dialogue, "Yes...even there. It was the first time I met Liz...and well you know the rest...she wrote about it."
"Yes, she did..." Sams belief in the reality was coming around. "What am I to do now?"
Xena neared her side...placed an arm around her shoulder...and spoke softly, "Well...thats up to you. We cant force you to leave until youre ready...but I must tell you we really cannot stay here for a tremendously long time. You and Liz must resolve your conflicts or...well...it just wouldnt be good for either of you."
Sams remembrance of that night was interrupted by Gabrielles voice.
"Sam...are you all right?"
She shook her head to clear the haze. "Uh...yeah I was just thinking and remembering." She changed the subject. "Are we near the village?"
The Amazon guard had begun to lead the trio...and two of them had taken up a defensive position behind them. Sam was eyeing the warriors...front and back... wondering if there would be any real danger in this reality. Gabrielle was walking right next to her and answered her questions...spoken and unspoken.
"Yes...we are very near the village...and no...I dont think were in any danger...relax. Besides, who in their right mind would mess with this group?"
Xena raised an eyebrow and commented sarcastically, "Yeah...right."
Gabrielle shot her a look and continued her attempt to ease Sams apprehensions. She lowered her voice and whispered to Sam. "Just between you and me, I think Xena loves to fight. She gets off on all that punching and back flipping. And invariably, I get involved somehow...it usually ends up with lots of prone bodies."
Xenas comment was offered without turning around. "I heard that, Gabrielle."
The bard had to have the last word. "Did I mention she loves to eavesdrop?"
"Oh...and she has to have the last word?"
"See, what did I tell you..." She let the rest trail off.
Xena stopped and glared at her lover. No further words needed to be spoken. It was a familiar exchange and Gabrielle knew when to stop. Lately, shed been pushing the limits in their relationship. For the moment she let the warrior think shed won. The village was just ahead.
The three entered the gate to the compound. Sam was in total amazement at the scene before her...very much like Liz on her visit. Shed never seen so many interesting women in one place...except for Womens Fest in Key West. But even that paled in comparison to the caliber of femaleness here. The energy was so...so...hard to put her finger on. It felt very strong...overwhelming. At the same time it was warm...compassionate. She now understood why Liz had hesitated in wanting to come back. This was heaven. Ephiny walked across the courtyard and greeted Gabrielle in the traditional forearm embrace.
"Gabrielle...good to see you." The Regent glanced at Xena and Sam. "Xena...its been a while. How are you?"
"Good, Eph. This is Sam...shes a friend of Lizs. We are here to consult with Artemis."
Ephiny eyed the blonde, assessing her strengths and looking for weakness. It was an old habit...almost automatic. She held a hand of greeting out to her. "Welcome, Sam. A friend of these two and Liz is always gladly received."
Sam took the womans hand in a firm shake. She remembered Liz talking about her...the strength of her soul and her ability to command respect. She could see it in her eyes. "Thank you, Ephiny. I am honored to be here."
Eph peered directly into her eyes...making contact. It was just for a few seconds, but enough for Ephiny to know this visit was anything but casually social. She shifted the focus on purpose.
"Gabrielle...we heard you were on the way...so cook has been busy all morning. Please, take our guest to partake."
"Come on, Sam...well go to the food hut and grab some chow." Gabrielles stomach was making audible sounds. It was way past her feeding time. Sam followed the bard toward the aroma of baked bread and smells she couldnt identify. It hardly mattered...she was starving. Xena was already heading for the hut, knowing from experience that following Gabrielle meant depleted food reserves. She was sitting at a long table when the bard and Sam finally filled their plates and took a seat.
The first twenty minutes were spent in silence save for the sounds of rations being consumed. Sam took the opportunity between courses to ask the two some questions. "So...Gabrielle, how long have you and Xena been together?"
The bard washed down her bread with a gulp of spring water. "Hmmm...it seems like forever...but its only been three years. Of course, from all the accounts Ive read of our adventures, wed have to have been traveling for ten seasons. Really, I dont know where some bards get their information. Yep...just three years. How about you and Liz...I mean...well...you know. "
"Yeah...I know. We met one summer two and a half years ago. I was living in a different city from her then. After trying to live apart, I decided to look for work in her city...and I moved. We had been living together just about a year when I...." Sam stopped short of saying the word. "We were very happy and very much in love. I still am in love with her."
Gabrielle placed a hand on Sams. "I know you are...I know."
Xena was uncomfortable with all this emotion and sought to move her slightly past it. "Sam...thats why we must talk to Artemis...why we brought you here...to help both of you." Xena pushed her plate away...the warrior was finished. She stood and excused herself. " Im going to check on Argo...I havent seen her in a while. Well see Artemis in the morning. Tonight we all could use the rest." With that, she made her way out of the hut, leaving Gabrielle and Sam to complete their meal.
Sam made an astute observation about the tall woman. "Shes not very comfy with all this mushy stuff, is she?"
Gabrielle laughed out loud, "Oh...you have no idea." Spying a piece of untouched nutbread on Sams plate, she couldnt resist, "Say...you going to finish that?"
Ephiny strode into the hut, filled a plate and walked over to Sam and Gabrielle.
"Mind if I join you?" She sat, without waiting for a response, next to Sam. "So...Sam...ever been to an Amazon camp before?" There was a glint in her eye.
Sam took it in stride. "Well...I cant say that I have unless you count a certain bar uh...tavern in Key West." She smiled at Ephiny and went back to her meal.
Gabrielle was pleased that, for a brief time, Sams attention had been diverted. She posed a question to Ephiny. "Are you planning the nightly ritual?"
"Of course...just like every night. Will you be joining us Gabrielle...and naturally Xena and you, too, Sam?"
Sam looked quizzically at Ephiny and then Gabrielle. "Nightly ritual?" She was afraid to ask exactly what that entailed. Here it could be anything...and Liz had never mentioned anything about it.
Gabrielle saw the concerned look on her face. She reached over and placed a reassuring hand on her arm. "Dont worry...it doesnt involve anything sharp and pointed. Its a gathering of the camp after sundown. They light a huge bonfire...dance...and in general work off the tensions of the day. Its fun...I think youll like it."
Ephiny looked at Gabrielle slyly. " Yes...Sam... Itll be fun...come join us."
Sam figured she might as well enjoy her alive status for now. "Ok...It would be my pleasure."
Ephiny gave her a hearty slap on the back, stood and prepared to leave. "Good! Well...I must supervise the preparations. Gabrielle...you know when so all you have to do is show up. See you there." She turned and made her way to the door...stopping at several tables speaking to her sisters. Some of them were obviously looking at Sam...their curiosity getting the best of them. It wasnt lost on Sam who now felt a little self-conscious.
She leaned forward and spoke in low tones to Gabrielle. "Maybe this isnt such a good idea. I wouldnt want to offend any of the women here. I cant help but notice several of them staring at me. Gabrielle...I dont think I can...."
"Sam...dont worry. No one is going to bother you...Xena and I will see to that. Trust me...not a one will come near you with that warrior of mine posturing. She can come in quite handy sometimes."
Sam let a sigh of relief blow through her lips. "Thanks."
Roger spent the entire afternoon with Liz. They talked about life and love. They reminisced about their first meeting twenty years ago. She was working with a bunch of young, redneck, good old boys...the only woman. One evening the supervisor paraded a new employee through the breakroom...introducing him to his new workmates. Liz almost fell out of her chair. She recognized his orientation immediately and knew the comments were about to fly. Well...he made the rounds...greeting every single guy with an enthusiasm that was surely going to out him even to these dim witted Neanderthals. She actually felt protective toward him that first day.
Sure enough, as soon as he left the room, the remarks started. She knew that she was his only shield from these dickheads. The next day he started work and Liz was right there offering to take him under her wing. The boys were more than happy to let Liz train the fag. She almost came to physical blows with a couple of the guys. Even then she didnt take shit from anyone. Thus began a friendship that has endured the most trying times. They were truly soulmates.
The evening was quickly descending on the city. The business day was being replaced by night-lights. It really was beautiful. Roger was very reluctant to leave.
"Liz...I think I should stay here tonight...you know...in case..."
Liz was propped up against the kitchen counter. "In case of what, Roger? In case I have a relapse? Is that what youre trying to say, huh?"
He let it slide right over him. "Hey...you can get as pissy as you like. You know full well what Im talking about. Im not convinced youre ok, Liz. And Ill be damned if Im going to loose sleep tonight worrying about you. Its either me or I call Randi. Make up your mind." This round went to Roger. Liz walked to the coat closet. She reached up on the upper shelf...retrieved a pillow and blankets.
"Ok...fine...you can stay. In fact, you can have my room. Im sleeping out here...if I sleep at all. And if you start that house rattling snoring, youre going to be sorry."
Roger walked to Liz and wrapped his arms around her. "Ill do my best to keep the noise down."
The remainder of the evening was quiet. They had pizza delivered...watched an old Doris Day movie...Roger reciting all the dialogue. Finally the boy cashed his chips in and left Liz in the livingroom. She turned out all the lights...lit the stand of candles...their glow casting soft shadows around the space...their fragrance intoxicating. Liz selected some music...snagged the wireless headphones...and reclined on the sofa. Brie and RG were in the bedroom...happy that someone was sleeping in that bed tonight. Liz let the sound wash over her...and allowing the feeling to do the same...no resistance tonight. She wanted to feel it all. Once again Sarah invaded her senses...gripping her soul and testing the limits of her memory.
Her mind recalled the time she and Sam knew they were in love. They hadnt moved in together yet and it was a warm summers evening. Sam was visiting and the twilight of the evening was working across the sky. She selected a CD and the sound began filling the room...as it was filling Lizs ears at this moment....
......When we wore a heart of stone, we wandered to the sea....
......Hoping to find some comfort there yearning to be free....
...and we were drawn to the rhythm....
...drawn into the rhythm of the sea......
Sam stood looking out the front windows...the music working its way around her. Liz was in the kitchen, leaning on the bar, staring at this wonderful sight. Sams eyes were closed...her arms folded around her own shoulders. She was gently swaying to the sound. Liz walked slowly to her...the seductive rhythm of Sarah pushing them closer. No words were spoken...none were needed. She took the blonde haired woman in her arms and began to move. Sam followed willingly...moving with a lightness shed not had before. They fit perfectly together...gliding across the floor...in sync with each others rhythm each flowing into the other with balance. Their eyes were locked...their hearts about to be fused...their souls reunited.
Sam watched the Amazons around the bonfire...the sounds of rhythmic drumming pulsating. Many were in the arms of their lovers. She closed her eyes and thought of Liz...and that evening. She let her mind transcend time and space...seeking the arms of her lover...her body...her movement. She was locked in that embrace once more...looking into Lizs deep blue eyes.
The two moved around the room...the only reality staring back at her. Everything else had dropped away. They were the only two people in the universe...and it was rotating just for them. Sam pulled Liz even closer...their bodies pressed against one another...their breathing slow and deep. The very moment of recognition was electric. It was a realization without description...for how can you describe the beauty of a perfect rose to one who has never seen...or the sweet sound of a spring day to one who has never heard. It was not meant to be verbalized...only experienced.
Liz felt the rush through her body...no it was more than just her body...it was through her very core...her deepest, hidden passion. It was access to the most private, secret part of her. Sam was inside her...beside her...she was she. There was no denial...they had found one another again...after how many lifetimes? Tears filled their eyes and they held one another as long lost loves rejoined. They ran fingers over each others faces...seeing again the link between them. It was magical. They knew...at that moment...their lives would never be the same again...for how could it?
Sam felt that moment again...suspended in time. She placed a hand to her face, tracing her features as Liz had done that night. A shiver went through her remembering...reliving her lovers strong, expressive hands on her skin. A tear rolled down her cheek...her heart ached to be with Liz again. She loved her so...how could this possibly ever be right again? How could she ever want to turn loose of her...she didnt want to...couldnt.
Gabrielle and Xena watched and knew she was in agony. The bard started to move toward her but Xena stopped her.
"Gabrielle...let her remember...and feel. Its important for her to let it all wash over her." She placed an arm around the smaller woman, pulling her close. "Just let her be tonight."
Roger stood in the doorway watching his friends agony. She wasnt aware of his presence. The tears were cascading down her face. Her own hand retracing Sams movement. He so wanted to help her...but, just as his dimensional counterparts, knew this process was necessary. He turned and retreated into the bedroom. He would let her be tonight.
Liz and Sam spent the night dancing and embracing once more...separately...yet together.
The morning light crept across the floor, inching its way up the sofa and finally washing Lizs face in its newness. She had slept all night without the dream terrorizing her. The music had long since ended; yet she still had the earphones on her head. She had not moved at all during the night. Her body was so exhausted. It lacked energy to shift even during sleep. Brie was up and sitting on the arm of the sofa staring at her momma. She stepped down and lightly walked up Lizs prone body. At her chest, the furry munchkin sat and then stretched out, placing a delicate paw on either side of Lizs face. The phone rang, interrupting the serenity of the moment. Neither Brie nor Liz flinched. Liz because of the earphones blocking the sound...and Brie because she could care less. If it wasnt breakfast being served, then it hardly mattered. Roger was the only one available to answer the dang thing. The boy wasnt a morning person and he fumbled with the receiver, almost dropping it in the process. With much ado, he held the thing to his ear...eyes still closed.
"...Uh...hello....", he answered groggily.
A perky voice on the other end was surprised at the male voice. It was Randi.
"Liz?? Is that you? Do you have a sore throat?"
Rogers mind went into panic mode. How was he going to explain being here? He did the next best thing...he lied his ass off.
"No...Randi...its Roger. Good morning...how are you?"
There was a pause on the other end. Usually this meant Randi was processing. "Roger...what are you doing there so early? Is Liz all right?"
He sat up and tried to think. He opted for an omission of the truth instead of a bald faced lie. What the hell, Randi would fry him for either anyway.
"Just relax...Liz is fine. In fact shes sound asleep. We spent the day together yesterday and, well, the evening got away from us. She asked me to stay...so I did." He was thinking.... Parts of that are true.
Randi could detect deception a mile away. "Are you sure everything is ok?" She paused...and Roger was sweating. "You wouldnt be telling me a fib, now would you?"
Roger was about to plunge deeper into the mire when Liz appeared in the doorway. She silently mouthed, "Who is that?"
Roger replied in like, "Randi."
Liz motioned for him to give her the phone. He was more than glad to. "Hang on Randi, Liz is up. You wanna talk to her?" He didnt wait for a response. He handed the receiver to Liz, his hand tightly clamped over the mouthpiece. He gave Liz the short version of the quasi-lie.
"I told her it got late...you asked me to stay the night."
Liz nodded and patted him on the shoulder. Before talking she suggested he start some coffee and feed the cats. He didnt need prodding to scurry from the room. Liz sat on the edge of her bed and put the phone to her ear.
"Good morning, Randi? Guess Roger told you I asked him to stay over, huh?"
"Well...yes...are you ok?"
"Im as fine as I can be. We just hung out yesterday and last night...ate pizza...watched an old movie...listened to some music. I didnt want to be alone...so I asked him to stay...nothing to worry about." She was staring at the bandage on her wrist as that last phrase escaped from her lips.
Randi couldnt quite put her finger on the uneasiness she was feeling. She let it pass for now. "Ok...I was just checking on you. You and Roger doing anything today?"
"Um...I dunno. We never did get to the market...so maybe well go today. Looks like its going to be a nice day, maybe well go the Botanical Garden and look at the decorations.
"Thats a good idea. You could use some time out of the house. Well...I gotta run. You call me if you need anything. Well get dinner in the next few days."
"Ok, Randi...its a date. Take care today. Bye."
Liz placed the receiver in the cradle...her mind formulating her next move. Roger strolled into the room with a mug of very strong brew.
"Well...did she buy it?"
Liz sipped the liquid. "I think so...but with Randi...you never know. Shes one suspicious woman. Suppose that comes in handy in her work but its a pain in the tookus for me." She looked up at Roger and smiled. "Thanks...for being here yesterday...I mean it."
He sat on the edge of the bed next to her. "Are you going to be all right today? And dont even think about lying to me, ok?"
The two were eye to eye. Liz actually did feel better...but that because she had an agenda. "Ill be ok today, Roger. Last night was the first decent sleep Ive had since..."
"I know...maybe it will be the beginning of more just like it." He remembered their conversation about the Canadian trip. He was still very much against that right now. "Liz...about that trip...I wish youd think about it first. Maybe Randi or I could take it with you. I just dont want anything to happen to you."
She patted his arm in a motherly way. "I know you dont. Ill think about it, ok?"
"Ok." He felt relieved that this hurdle had been cleared. " So...what do you want to do today? The Museum...the Gardens...the Historical Society...the Biltmore House?"
Liz raised her eyebrow at the choices. "The Biltmore? Honey we dont have time to go to Asheville today. Besides its a zoo during the Holidays. Well go in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. I think maybe the Bot Garden."
"Great!! It will be beautiful...then we can do lunch. Ill just run home and get cleaned up. You want me to pick you up?"
"No...I think I need to crank the car. Ill meet you there...say around eleven."
He needed a little more assurance. "You sure? Its no trouble to come back over here."
"Roger...Im ok, really. Stop being a pain. Im not going to do any more of this..." She held her arm aloft to make her point. "Please...go home...take a shower and Ill meet you."
He stood and pulled on his clothes from the previous day. "Ok...eleven then...sharp."
Liz shook her head. "Yes...sharp. Not get out of here so I can take a shower and have something to eat." She was herding him to the door. Finally they hugged goodbye and he disappeared into the elevator. Liz closed the door and leaned against it. She refilled her mug and went to the filing cabinet. Pulling out another folder marked Canadian Rockies; she sat and began to go through the contents. She had lied to Roger about one thing. The trip she and Sam had talked about was for this holiday season...not the next one. She had made all the arrangements...reservations...transfers...plane tickets...the works. It was to be a combined Christmas and Solstice present for both of them. She looked at the date on the ticket from Atlanta to Calgary. She would leave tomorrow morning.
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