by: Katelin B.
Disclaimer: Characters from Xena: Warrior Princess don't belong to me. Characters from Star Trek: Voyager don't belong to me either. I'm just borrowing them for a while. I promise give them back when I'm finished with them. :) But the story is all mine.
Warning: This is a product of one to many late nights watching reruns, far too much caffeine, and one hell of an overactive imagination. Please be gentle. My strange dreams are not my fault. :) Unlike my other stories, this one is completely free of graphic scenes.... (so far. heh heh) *sigh* I know you're disappointed, but I just didn't have it in me this time... but be warned, there is some subtext here :)
"I want reports on our status every half-hour," Captain Janeway muttered over the comlink to Engineering, "Janeway out." The captain leaned back in her command chair, looking haggard. Since Voyager was effectively dead in space, she could let her barriers down. She could be a normal woman instead of the stoically unemotional Captain. This last battle had taken a lot out of her. She had thought they were safe. She had been wrong.
Maje Dermota of the Kazon-Nistrum had appeared out of nowhere with three Kazon warships to avenge the death of his sect brother, Maje Cullah. Over the viewscreen, he vowed to personally strike the blow that would destroy the ship. But before he did that, he would disable Voyager, and board her. The he focused his rage directly at her. He ranted about all the things he would do to her as she was tortured slowly to death, then the defilement of her body one she was dead. To the Kazon, it was the ultimate insult a woman could get.
Janeway listened calmly to it all, stalling for time. B'Elanna Torres was working on a weapon in Engineering that might give them the upper hand. But the former Maquis wasn't fast enough, and the Kazon had attacked.
It was an intense battle, destroying on Kazon ship and leaving the other two badly damaged. Maje Dermota had turned out just like his sect brother, Cullah. When things got serious, he tucked tail and ran away. Or in this case, limped away.
Though Voyager had won the day, she did not come out unscathed. The ship had come very close to a reactor breech, and it was only B'Elanna's quick thinking and nimble fingers that had saved them.
Janeway reminded herself to give the Engineer a commendation for her action as she watched the Kazon drift slowly away on her view screen. She guessed they were moving at about one quarter impulse, which was probably all they could do. Janeway would have muttered 'chickenshit' if she hadn't been on her own bridge.
Taking a deep breath, the captain looked around the ruins that used to be her bridge. The forward viewscreen was partially obstructed by a fallen girder from the ceiling, and the retreating Kazon ships could barely be seen. But that wasn't what worried Janeway. Seeing the back of a Kazon vessel was a whole lot better than seeing the front of one. So she was a little anxious to get out of the area. The Kazon would be back, and Janeway didn't want to be there when they did.
Mentally, the captain took stock of the damage on the bridge. Something to occupy herself with, so she wouldn't fidget. The helm control was off line, mainly because one of the warp coils had been hit by a torpedo. The very first one actually. The second attack, a spray of phaser fire from all three ships had been focused on one place, the navigational sensors, effectively blinding them. The Kazon had learned to attack in groups if they ever hoped to defeat Voyager.
The phaser fire had been a hard blow, rocking the ship so suddenly that the bridge staff had been tossed about like rag dolls. Many had been injured but so far there had been no reports of any deaths. That, at least, was a good sign.
Janeway squinted through the darkness of the emergency lighting, pivoting her head to look at the com station behind her chair. It was nothing but a charred cinder. The last volley of torpedoes had caused a power surge that shorted out half the remaining systems, and communications had exploded. Janeway closed her eyes as she remembered looking up from the floor where she had been thrown and hearing pitiful screams of pain coming from that station. She could still see the panel on fire, though it had long been extinguished, and could still see Harry Kim's horribly burned face. The screams had been coming from him. She knew that the Doctor could repair the damage, it had happened to her once, but the emotional scars were there for life. She made a mental note to help the young Ensign deal with it when the physical wounds had healed.
Turning her head back to the main viewer, Janeway was hit by a sudden wave of nausea, and had to close her eyes again. That last torpedo had jolted her right out of her chair, causing her to smack her head on one of the carpeted steps. At the time she had ignored it, because they were in the middle of a battle, but now it was getting hard to. Reaching up, Kathryn touched the large bump gingerly, and winced as a white hot knife of pain lanced through her head. She steadied herself and looked at the fingers that had just touched the wound. It wasn't bleeding. That was good. She was becoming worried, however, at the fact that her vision had been blurring for the last few minutes.
Janeway decided that the crew had everything under control for the time being, and resolved to go to Sickbay. After all, she was no good to them if she passed out in her chair. She tried to stand, and was alarmed when she found that her legs were too weak. She didn't have enough strength to push herself up either. Closing her eyes, she admitted reluctantly to herself that she needed help. But who to ask?
Kathryn opened her eyes and looked around. For a moment, she thought of Harry, but then scolded her mind for wandering when she remembered again the scene of Harry's accident. That was another reason to get down to Sickbay; she wanted to see how he was doing. Janeway tried to think of someone else, but her mind wasn't working the way she wanted it to.
She caught movement to her left and tried to turn her head, but regretted it immediately. And involuntary whimper escaped her lips unnoticed by her and most of the other officers. But one man was close enough to hear it, and was at her side in a heartbeat.
"Captain?" Chakotay's worried voice cut through the pain in her head, and Janeway could again open her eyes.
"Commander," she said weakly, trying not to pass out, "I need to get to Sickbay."
"Are you all right, Captain?" he asked, a frown crossing his face as he crouched down.
"I'm just a little dizzy, Chakotay," she responded, closing her eyes for a moment, "But I'm going to require some assistance." Janeway held out her hand and Chakotay help her to stand. She swayed and stumbled, but the Commander caught her before she could fall. Wrapping her arm over his shoulders and his own powerful arm around her waist, he carefully guided her to the turbolift.
"Mr. Tuvok," she said weakly, trying not to vomit, "You have the Bridge."
The security chief nodded briskly and watched his superior officers board the turbolift. When the door closed, he went back to his console, effecting repairs, and hoping that the captain would be all right.
Chakotay supported most of Captain Janeway's weight when they stepped out of the turbolift and slowly walked to Sickbay. He noticed that she was getting weaker by the moment, and made a snap decision. "Forgive me, Captain," he said quickly and hoisted her up, his arms cradling her shoulders and knees.
"Chakotay?" she questioned, ready to start a halfhearted admonishment, but the first officer interrupted her.
"I'm well aware that you could get to Sickbay under your own power, Captain," he said, setting off at a brisk pace, "But I'd like to get there before my shift ends."
He was dead serious, but she smiled slightly and rested her head against his broad chest. She felt safe with him, and decided to close her eyes for a moment to rest. Neither she, nor Chakotay noticed when she slipped into unconsciousness.
"Just rest, Harry," Kes soothed the man on the biobed, "You won't feel any pain, but the Doctor can't get to you until he finishes the surgery on Lt. Price."
Unable to speak because of the thick bandages covering his head, Harry just nodded and tried to relax. Kes picked up his hand and squeezed it gently to reassure him, and give him strength. Then the Ocampa laid his hand down on his chest and walked away to another patient.
A junior grade lieutenant in security yellow, watched all this from her bed across the room. Harry Kim had been a good friend to her over the last few years on Voyager, and she could see by his clenched fists and trembling legs that he was afraid.
Brushing a mass of sweaty raven hair out of her eyes, the lieutenant watched Kes move from patient to patient, checking vitals. For each crew member she had soothing words and a comforting touch. The Ocampa made her rounds quickly and efficiently, circling the room.
Several moments later, Kes was standing beside the bed of the security officer who had been watching her. She checked the readouts at the head of the biobed to learn the woman's name, Lt. Gabrielle Marcus, and find out what was wrong with her. She thought it was strange that in three years she hadn't once seen this face in Sickbay, but dismissed it quickly. "Lt. Marcus," she said, looking right into bright blue eyes, "How are you feeling?"
"Not bad," the injured woman answered somewhat nonchalantly. This earned a shocked look from Kes. Lt. Marcus grinned slightly, and continued. "It's not the first broken bone I've ever had, Kes," she said, "And I have a pretty high tolerance for pain."
The Ocampa nodded and smiled. "The Doctor won't be able to set that leg for a while. He's very busy right now," she said, explaining the long wait she had endured, and the longer one that was in store for her.
"I understand," she answered calmly, "I'm more worried about Harry. How's he doing?"
"He's scared, though he won't admit it," Kes informed her, now recognizing the woman as one of Harry's closest friends, "He needs someone to talk to, but I'm just too busy right now."
"I'm sure he knows that, Kes," Gabrielle said. She put a soothing hand on Kes' much smaller one, and was glad to see the little Ocampa smile.
Kes watched the lieutenant close her eyes and try to rest. For the briefest of moments, she thought she could sense pain in the woman. Not physical, but a pain from the soul. She dismissed it, knowing that her senses had been overloaded with stray thoughts and feelings ever since the attack. Kes let go of the lieutenant's hand and made her way to the next patient.
Gabrielle waited for Kes to move away before she opened her eyes again. The Ocampa was sweet, but she caused Gabrielle a little more pain than good. Struggling to prop herself up by her elbows, Gabrielle got a better look at Harry.
She was just about to get up and walk over to him, regardless of her broken leg, when the door of Sickbay shot open and the first officer bounded in carrying the captain. "Doctor!!" Chakotay said, frantically looking around.
Kes hurried over and activated her medical tricorder, explaining to the large Indian that the Doctor was in surgery. She punched a few buttons on the tricorder and looked at it in confusion.
"I don't know what's wrong," she said, looking up at the first officer, "Her head injury isn't serious enough to cause her unconsciousness, but these readings say her brain is shutting down." She punched a few more buttons. "There's just no cause that I can see."
Chakotay whipped his head around and looked into vibrant blue eyes. A security lieutenant was beckoning him over. "Commander," she said again, swinging her broken leg carefully over the side of the bed, "I have seen this before. I can help."
Gabrielle ignored Kes' protests and slid off the biobed, putting her weight on her good leg. Silently Kes admired this woman's strength. She was standing on a broken leg so that Chakotay could set the unconscious captain down on her bed.
"Kes," Gabrielle said quickly, "Monitor the Captain." She turned to Chakotay and, forgetting rank for a moment, snapped: "Roll her on her side, and hold her there."
Chakotay obeyed and cradled the captain's head as she lay on her right side. Her back was to the blue eyed lieutenant, who immediately went to work.
Gabrielle released the Captain's hair from its constraint, to ease the pressure, and brushed it aside. The hair clip went in her pocket as an afterthought, when she started feeling the back of the captain's neck.
Chakotay watched the lieutenant and Kes alternately, remaining silent, but wondering what was going on. "I've got it," Lt. Marcus said suddenly and straightened up. Chakotay saw her use two fingers of each hand to tap the captain's neck several times in rapid succession.
Kes immediately went from stern concentration to shocked disbelief. "Amazing," she exclaimed, pressing buttons on her tricorder. She was checking and rechecking the readouts, making sure they were right.
"Kes?" Chakotay questioned impatiently. He was worried about the captain, and to his eyes, nothing was being done for her.
"Commander," Kes said, turning to face him, "I don't know what Lt. Marcus did, but the Captain has stabilized."
"Commander," Gabrielle broke in, resting a hand on his shoulder as an attention getter, "You can release her now."
Chakotay eased Janeway onto her back with the lieutenant's help, and rearranged her limbs so she'd be comfortable when she woke. He took a moment to brush an errant lock of hair out of her face before straightening up. "Kes," he said, donning his professional exterior once again, "I have to get back to the bridge. Please notify me the moment her condition changes. Without waiting for a reply, Chakotay strode confidently out of Sickbay.
Gabrielle watched him go, a faint smirk on her face. She knew Chakotay had donned a mask before he left. She had worn one for so long that she was able to easily spot it in others. that thought wiped the smirk off her face, as it brought old memories that threatened to overwhelm her. She shoved them aside angrily. She had promised herself a long time ago that she wouldn't dwell on the past.
Kes was still busy checking the captain's condition and was paying no attention to the raven haired lieutenant, so Gabrielle decided to sit with Harry. With her leg bent at an odd angle from the broken bone, she couldn't really put any weight on it. Gabrielle had to hobble across Sickbay, using the numerous biobeds for support. It was slow and frustrating, but she eventually made it to Harry's bedside.
"Harry," she said softly, grasping his hand, "It's Gabrielle." A gentle squeeze was the only response. but she could feel his body relax slightly when she spoke. "Hey, can you shift over a bit so I can sit down?" she asked quietly, knowing Kes would lay into her for coming over to see Harry, "I've got a broken leg, and the Doctor can't get to me for a while." Harry moved stiffly to one side of the biobed, leaving Gabrielle enough room to climb up.
Gabrielle shifted on the biobed until she was comfortable, as comfortable as she could be with a broken leg, and lay back to rest. Harry's hand reached out blindly for hers, and she clasped it firmly. She knew he was scared, and she wanted to help him.
The security lieutenant thought for a moment, and decided there was only one thing she could do to help ease his fears. "Harry," she said softly to get his attention. A gentle squeeze of her hand was the only response he could give her. "A long time ago, when I was injured, a friend took care of me, and I was very scared. Like you are now." She paused to clear her throat. It was very hard for her to remember that time in her life. "I had gotten snake venom in my eyes, and it blinded me. I was terrified that I would never see again," she said hesitantly, paying attention for any sign that Harry didn't want her to continue, "There was no one around to help; It was only the two of us."
Gabrielle stopped to take a deep calming breath. She felt a light squeeze of her hand again, understanding that Harry was trying to give her the strength to continue. She smiled slightly at that, knowing he couldn't see her, and spoke again. "She didn't know much about medicine, so there was nothing she could do really. Except talk to me. I was scared, Harry. Scared that things would never be the same. She understood. And she calmed my nerves by telling me a story." Gabrielle paused to turn her head and look at his bandaged face. "Would you like me to tell you the story she told me?"
Harry, she knew, wanted to reply verbally, but the bandages prevented it. He nodded, squeezing her hand as tightly as he could in his weakened condition. Gabrielle squeezed back and looked up at the beige ceiling. Taking a deep breath, she remembered the way her best friend had told the story, and hoped she could do that memory justice.
Steeling herself, Gabrielle began. "Long, long ago, when the Earth was still young, human-kind was very different than it is now. All the people had two heads and four arms and legs. But the Gods decided that this wasn't practical for a race, so..."
Janeway came slowly out of the fog of unconsciousness, guided by a calm, soothing voice. She focused on that voice, trying to find out where it was coming from. It didn't sound like anyone she knew, but at the same time, it was familiar, as if she should know it. The captain gave up trying to figure it out, and just followed the voice, knowing only that it was leading her out of the darkness.
When Kathryn opened her eyes and became aware of her surroundings, the first thing she noticed was the pounding in her head. Her eyes snapped shut immediately, and a groan escaped her lips. She focused on the voice again, and realized that it was a woman telling a story. An ancient story about souls split in two, and how it came about.
Kathryn felt warmed by the voice and listened intently to the story. But before it could be finished, the voice was interrupted by another. It was curt and professional, and Kathryn knew immediately that it was the Doctor.
"Excuse me, Lieutenant," he said briskly, "Ensign Kim is due for surgery. You will have to finish your story another time. Please come with me Ensign." There was a shuffling sound of material scratching against each other, followed by footsteps as Harry and the Doctor walked to the surgical bay.
Kathryn opened her eyes, forgetting her headache, to look at them as they passed her. She was painfully reminded of her injury as the bright lights of Sickbay assaulted her eyes. The captain closed her eyes once again with a groan, and tried to shut out the pain as she had shut out the abusive light.
Gabrielle tried to rest when the Doctor had taken Harry away, leaving her to stretch out on the suddenly spacious biobed. She was mentally relaxing her body when a painful groan reached her ears. Gabrielle's eyes snapped open, and she lifted her head to scan for the course of the sound.
With her keen hearing, it only took a moment to deduce that it had come from the captain. Gabrielle looked around for Kes, to tell her that she was needed, but found that the little Ocampa was very busy with a new patient. Making a decision, the lieutenant swung her legs carefully off the bed, and put her weight on the undamaged one.
Gabrielle bit her lip at the sudden pain of moving her broken leg, but tried to ignore it. She limped slowly over to the biobed that she had previously occupied, and stopped by the captain's side. A glance at the display screen, told her that Captain Janeway had a concussion, and was indeed awake.
Not knowing how alert the captain was, Gabrielle laid a hand on her forehead, gently checking the lump at her temple. There was another groan, and Gabrielle stopped the motion of her hand. "Captain?" she asked softly, searching her face for a response, "Captain Janeway, can you hear me?"
"Yes," came the weak reply. Another flash of pain caused her to moan reflexively, and she squeezed her eyes shut tighter.
"Are you in a lot of pain?" Gabrielle asked, concern drawing a frown across her face.
Kathryn managed a slight nod before she spoke. "Who are you?" she asked, not daring to open her eyes again.
"Lt. Gabrielle Marcus, Captain," she said softly, "I'm stationed with security." Gabrielle paused for a moment to gauge the expression on the captain's face. "Roll on your side, Captain," she commanded gently, urging the prone woman with her hands.
Kathryn obeyed without thinking, but then asked: "What are you doing?"
"I'm going to try and ease that headache, Captain," Gabrielle responded as she gently probed Kathryn's neck with nimble fingers, "If you will let me." The captain fell silent and allowed the lieutenant to work.
A few brief moments later, Gabrielle spoke again. "This might hurt a little," she warned. Kathryn tensed at the sharp pain produced by the sudden pressure of fingers against the base of her skull, but didn't cry out.
To her surprise, the pain receded with the headache, and all that was left was a dull throbbing sensation that she found much easier to ignore. Kathryn breathed a sigh of relief as the security officer rolled her onto her back. She opened her eyes slowly, finding that it no longer caused her any pain, and finally gazed upon the face of the officer helping her.
Bright blue eyes shimmered down at her, framed by raven hair that hung around her face in unruly locks. "Thank you, lieutenant," the captain said, managing a little smile, "What happened?"
Gabrielle opened her mouth to respond, but before anything could come out, another voice interrupted her. "Lt. Marcus, what are you doing out of bed?"
Kathryn turned her head to see a very irate Kes walking toward them. The captain looked back to the lieutenant for the response that was sure to follow. To her surprise, there was none. Gabrielle simply closed her mouth and raised one eyebrow in a decidedly Vulcan maneuver.
But it didn't seem that Kes was interested in anything the lieutenant had to say. The tiny Ocampa stopped beside Gabrielle, looking even smaller next to the tall woman she had berated.
"If you keep walking around like this," she said, running her medical tricorder over the lieutenant, "The break is going to shift even more. It's already moved 1.5 millimeters." "Kes?" Kathryn asked, wanting to understand what the two women were talking about.
"I'm sorry, Captain," Kes answered, running her tricorder over the prone woman, "The lieutenant has a broken leg, and she refuses to stay on the biobed until the Doctor can set the bone."
"Kes, I told you it doesn't hurt," Gabrielle cut in, turning her head to scowl at the little blonde.
"Lt. Marcus," Kathryn said, looking back at the security officer, "Thank you for all you help. Now get back to bed. That's an order." She said that with a smile, and was glad to see it returned by the tall woman.
"Aye, Captain," Gabrielle said with a slight nod. She turned away from the biobed and limped slowly across the room.
"I'll be right back, Captain," the little Ocampa said, and followed the officer back to her own biobed. Kathryn watched them go, noticing how severe the limp was. She was a little concerned, but pushed the feeling away, thinking it couldn't be too bad if Lt. Marcus was walking around. She did, however, made a mental note to look over the woman's service record at the first available moment.
Chakotay glanced at the readouts on his terminal for the fifth time, checking the status of the repairs in progress. It had been two days since the attack and the impulse engines were back on line, but the warp engines were giving engineering some trouble. There was nothing he could do but sit and stargaze. At least they fixed the sensors, he thought. That meant the forward viewscreen was fully operational again.
The hiss of a turbolift door interrupted his musings, and he turned his head to see who it was. "Captain," he said, standing up respectfully, "Welcome back."
"It's good to be back, Chakotay," she said with a smile, walking over to the chair he had just vacated. She sat down after nodding a hello to Harry Kim at the communications console. "How are the repairs going?" she asked as Chakotay occupied his usual seat beside hers.
"Wonderful," he answered, "B'Elanna says we should have the warp engines back on line by tomorrow morning."
"Excellent," she said, leaning back.
"Captain, will you be coming to the story circle tonight? I've already talked to Lt. Marcus, and she'll be there."
"I wouldn't miss it, Commander," she responded, checking her console for the reports, "She's a wonderful storyteller."
"So Harry tells me," the first officer said, looking back over his shoulder at Ensign Kim.
Kathryn swiveled her chair around, so she too could look at the com officer. "That reminds me, Harry. Did you ever hear the rest of that story?" she asked, recalling that the Doctor had interrupted before Lt. Marcus could finish.
"Story? Oh!" Harry said, recalling the one Gabrielle had told him in Sickbay, "Yes, Captain."
Kathryn waited for a moment, looking expectantly at him. Harry understood the look, and finished the story the way Gabrielle had. "Well, Captain," he stated, "It seems that when Zeus threw his thunderbolts, it not only split the bodies, but also the souls. And to this day, when people are searching for that special someone, subconsciously, they are searching for the other half of their soul."
Captain Janeway smiled slightly and nodded her thanks to Ensign Kim. As she turned her chair back around, she heard Chakotay ask the question that had been in her mind.
"Do you know what story she's going to tell tonight, Harry?" he asked.
"Yes, Commander," Ensign Kim responded hesitantly, "I asked her to tell one that she told me about a year ago. But she made me promise to keep it a secret." He added the last part with a sheepish grin, and Chakotay chuckled slightly.
"I guess I'll just have to wait until tonight," Chakotay said, and turned back to the viewscreen.
"I'm sure it won't kill you, Commander," Janeway said with a smile, but inside, she was thinking that it was going to be a long day.
By 1900 hours, all the tables and chairs had been cleared from one side of the mess hall, and crew members were assembling. Chakotay was there to welcome everyone with a smile and a handshake. Harry and Gabrielle arrived together, and the first officer had to stifle a laugh at the sight. Their new member absolutely towered over the ensign.
Chakotay greeted them both warmly and signaled to everyone that the story circle was about to begin. "Everyone," he said, sitting cross-legged beside the captain, "We have a new addition to our circle tonight. Lt. Gabrielle Marcus." He paused while everyone looked over at the raven haired security officer. "She's going to start us off tonight." He nodded to the lieutenant, and sat back to listen.
Gabrielle looked around the circle at the familiar faces for a moment. Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres, Chakotay, Captain Janeway. They were all waiting eagerly for her story. Taking a deep breath, Gabrielle summoned up the courage she needed and began.
"This is the story of a time long ago. In this time of ancient Gods, warlords, and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena. A mighty princess, forged in the heat of battle. The power. The passion. The danger. Her courage would change the world." Everyone listened intently as Gabrielle spun the tale of Xena: Warrior Princess. She told of innocence lost, the many long years of darkness, and of finding the path back to the light. None of the listeners moved or made a sound, they were so enraptured by her story.
Nearly two hours had passed by the time Gabrielle was finishing the story. She spoke softly about Xena's death at the hands of the mad Goddess Callisto, and of Gabrielle the Bard returning with the body to the Amazons, just as she had done years earlier. The other members of the story circle learned of Queen Ephiny's abdication, stepping down from the throne, and giving the mask of the Queen to the Bard.
Lt. Marcus paused her story to look at the expressions of the other members in the circle. All wore a solemn look, that spoke volumes about how much the tale was affecting them. Gabrielle took a deep breath to steady herself before ending the story. She felt Harry's hand grasp hers and squeeze it reassuringly. That, more than anything, gave her the strength to finish the tale.
"A funeral pyre was constructed and the coffin placed upon it. The Queen gave her silent order and the flaming arrows were loosed. Queen Gabrielle watched with tears in her eyes and a weight in her heart as the fire climbed slowly towards the coffin. And not a sound was made. The scene was one most of them remembered from years gone by. But this time there would be no King of Thieves to jump out and knock away the burning logs. The adventure was over.
"Taking a deep breath, the Queen bid farewell to her best friend in true Amazon fashion. She tipped her head skyward and screamed Xena's warcry to the heavens. Taken up by a hundred Amazon voices, the pillars of Mount Olympus shook with the force of their cries. On that day, as flames engulfed the coffin, Xena, the mighty warrior princess, passed out of life, and into legend."
Gabrielle bowed her head to signal that her story was at an end. For a few moments, no one spoke. Even Chakotay, who always followed every story with words of praise, was silent. Lt. Marcus closed her eyes to ward off the tears that threatened to fall whenever she told that story. She felt Harry squeeze her hand again, and she raised her head to look over at him.
Opening her eyes, Gabrielle saw that he also had tears in his eyes. He mouthed silently: 'Thank you', and smiled. She smiled back and instantly felt better.
"Lt. Marcus, thank you for sharing that story with us," Chakotay spoke up, finally finding his voice, "It was amazing." Jolted by the first officer's voice, the other members of the story circle spoke, one by one, praising her tale. All but one. Tom Paris. He waited until the last person had spoken before he said anything.
"Gabrielle," he said, waiting for her gaze to fall on him, before continuing, "That was a great story. But..." He stopped, his eyes darting to Chakotay and the Captain nervously.
"But?" Gabrielle questioned, trying not to let anger swell within her. She was not yet accustomed to criticism. Not about this story.
"But," Tom continued when neither of his superiors stopped him, "I have a question. And I'm sure everyone's thinking the same thing." Tom looked around. Everyone was tensed and glaring at him. He looked back to Gabrielle and swallowed hard before asking: "What happened to Queen Gabrielle and that mad Goddess, Callisto?"
There was a collective sigh of relief as everyone relaxed. Tom grinned sheepishly, and Gabrielle chuckled. "That's another story, Tom," the raven haired woman said, "And I'll be happy to tell it to you. But not tonight. I'm tired."
"On that note," Chakotay broke in, looking at his wrist chronometer, "It's late. Gabrielle's story has taken all our time this week. Even I didn't realize how long we were sitting here." He paused to stand as everyone else did and then turned to Gabrielle. "Thank you again for the story, Gabrielle. I felt like I was right there watching it all unfold. I'm sure we all did."
Good-byes and goodnights were said, and everyone thanked Gabrielle for her story. She accepted their kind words humbly and stayed to help move the furniture back into place.
In moments, there was no sign the story circle had ever been there. Harry said goodnight to Gabrielle and left the mess hall. He had an early morning, like most of the others. Soon, there was only Gabrielle and Captain Janeway left. Chakotay had excused himself when the furniture was back to normal, pleading he could barely keep his eyes open.
"You work the afternoon shift tomorrow, don't you, Lieutenant?" Janeway asked.
"Yes, Captain," Gabrielle answered, suddenly worried. Something was telling her to be wary, but she wasn't sure what.
Kathryn walked over to the replicator and asked for two cups of coffee. When they had materialized, she picked them up and walked over to the table nearest Gabrielle. "I wanted to talk to you for a few minutes," the captain said, sitting down in one of the chairs. She gestured for Gabrielle to take the one across from her, where the second cup of coffee was sitting.
Gabrielle sat down slowly, ignoring her instincts. They were screaming at her to get out of the mess hall, and away from Captain Janeway. Most of the time, her instincts were right, but she didn't want to spend the next 65 years in the brig for disobeying an order. "May I ask what about, Captain?" Gabrielle said respectfully, reaching for her coffee, and noticing for the first time that there was a holo projector mounted on the table.
Kathryn reached calmly for the projector and hit the power button. It flashed to life instantly, displaying a transparent picture of the Starfleet symbol. "I had a little trouble bringing up your service record yesterday," she said, looking up at Gabrielle to study her expression. It was blank. "Computer," Kathryn said flatly, never breaking eye contact with Lt. Marcus, "Display personnel record for Lt. Marcus, Gabrielle. Assignment: USS Voyager." The screen flashed again and changed, displaying the requested file. "Look familiar, Lieutenant?" the captain asked before taking a sip of coffee.
"Yes, Captain," Gabrielle replied warily.
"Now take a look at this," Kathryn said, "Computer, display personnel record for Lt. Marcus, Gabrielle. Assignment: USS Enterprise." Again the screen flashed and a new image came up.
Gabrielle looked down at the picture of herself in a Starfleet uniform almost a hundred years old. The clothes were different, but the face was the same.
"I'd like an explanation, Lieutenant," the captain said firmly, trying to stare Gabrielle down.
"What would you have me say, Captain?" Gabrielle said neutrally, not backing down from her superior officer, "It's my ancestor? Or, there must be some computer malfunction? Here's a good one. It must have been caused by a time anomaly. I just haven't gone back yet." She paused for a moment to take a breath. "We both know I'd be lying, Captain. I know you're smarter than that, and I won't insult your intelligence."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Kathryn said, leaning forward to brace her elbows on the table, "However, there still remains one or two questions to be answered."
"Am I human?" Gabrielle said, knowing what the captain was going to ask, "Yes, Captain. I am just as human as you are."
"Which poses another question," Kathryn interjected, "How?"
"A curse," Gabrielle answered, her eyebrow once again, trying to merge with her hairline, "A magic spell. It happened so long ago, that it was just accepted as normal."
"How old are you, Gabrielle?" Kathryn asked, leaning forward, her voice little more than a whisper.
Gabrielle leaned forward before speaking, so they looked for all the world, like two school girls sharing a secret. The raven haired security officer met the captain's eyes and held her gaze. "Older than you can imagine, Kathryn," she answered seriously.
Gabrielle's use of the captain's first name was not lost on Kathryn. For the first time, she saw the pain in those bright blue eyes, and she knew they had seen too much time go by.
Suddenly the truth dawned on her, and the captain jerked back as if slapped in the face. "My God!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide with shock, "That's why you tell the story so well. You were there!"
"Yes, Captain," Gabrielle confirmed, sitting back with her coffee, "I was there."
"And you knew Xena," the captain continued, hoping she was right. She was going purely on instinct at this point.
"Close, Captain," Gabrielle said. She nearly smiled when she saw the disappointed expression on the captain's face. Leaning forward once again, Gabrielle finished her statement. "I *am* Xena."
Kathryn's eyes went wide at the statement made by Gabrielle. That revelation hit her hard enough that she was rendered speechless. She just sat there and stared at the woman before her.
After several moments, of utter silence, Kathryn found her voice, "But the ending to your story," she sputtered, still trying to comprehend the magnitude of Gabrielle's admission.
"It wouldn't make for a very good ending if I mentioned that the sarcophagus was empty, would it Captain?" Gabrielle said, her eyebrow raising again, "Besides, metaphorically, the story was true. All that was Xena, died that day. I moved on and became someone else."
"Did Queen Gabrielle ever know?" Kathryn asked, the shock finally wearing off, "I mean, that you were still alive?"
"Yes," Xena said so softly it was almost a whisper. She looked into the captain's eyes and saw that she wanted to know. So Xena told her. "Gabrielle was joined 3 years after my 'death', and had two children. She named them Xena and Lyceus. I was never far away from the amazons, and I was able to watch them grow. I needed to be close to Gabrielle just in case she was in danger. I watched over her and the children, and when they were grown, I watched over the grand children.
"I was in a neighboring village, watching Lyceus's children when a messenger gave him the news that Gabrielle was dying. I raced back as fast as I could, but I waited.
"I knew I couldn't be see by anyone, so I waited until dark, and most of the village was asleep. It was a dumb thing to do, sneaking into the hut right in the middle of the village, but I had to see her.
"She was so old. Gabrielle had outlived everyone she had been close to in the amazon community. I knew there was nothing I could do except ease her pain. I didn't want her to see me, but as I was leaving, she woke.
"I still looked the same as the day I 'died', and her memory of me hadn't faded. She knew who I was immediately. But she thought I was a spirit. I didn't correct her. We talked most of the night. It was so good to talk to her again."
Xena paused to clear her throat of the unshed tears that had collected there. Time had done little to dull the ache of that memory. "Toward dawn, she weakened, and I knew it was her time," Xena continued, her voice hoarse with emotion, "I couldn't continue the illusion. I told her that I wasn't a spirit, and that she wouldn't see me in the Elysian Fields. I told her I would see her again someday, but until then, I would protect her bloodline as a direct link to her. She went peacefully, with no pain, and I kept my word. Oh, I mourned for a long time, but I was always close by in case I was ever needed. That promise is why I joined Starfleet a hundred years ago... and it's why I joined again."
Kathryn remained silent for a long moment, digesting what the woman before her had said. When she finally looked up from her coffee mug, the question of her lips was: "Who?" She waited as patiently as possible for the answer, while it seemed that Xena was battling with herself over just how much to tell her captain.
The battle ended quickly, and Xena had decided to tell Kathryn everything. A part of the secret was out, the rest might as well follow. "It's Chakotay," she said softly, "One of his ancestors was orphaned as a little girl in the war of 1812. His tribe too her in and raised her."
"And Chakotay once told me that his great grandfather served aboard the Enterprise," Kathryn finished, piecing the puzzle together. Xena nodded and swallowed the rest of her coffee.
Xena stood slowly after pushing away from the table and looked down at the captain. "I told you this, Kathryn, because I trust you to keep my secret," she said softly, "Now if you will excuse me, I'm very tired and I'd like to get some sleep."
"Yes of course, Lt. Marcus," Kathryn responded, "Your secret is safe with me."
"Thank you, Captain," Xena said with a smile, then turned on her heel, and walked out of the mess hall.
Kathryn watched her go, still in shock from the Lt.'s admission. She looked back down at her coffee cup, and mulled over the details in her mind. It was almost overwhelming to think of how much that woman had seen and been through. A part of Kathryn felt sorry for her, and wondered if there was something that could be done.
Unaware of the passing time, Kathryn only noticed how long she had been sitting there when she took a sip of her coffee. It was cold. The captain checked her wrist chronometer and saw that she had been sitting there for more than an hour.
Cursing softly, Kathryn pushed away from the table and stood up. She deposited the coffee mugs back into the replicator and left the mess hall, heading for her quarters.
Kathryn ordered the lights off and pulled the covers up to her neck. She closed her eyes and tried to think of nothing, but her mind was overloaded with the revelations of the last two days and it was a struggle. Finally, her body relaxed, and she began to slip away.
She got no further than that unfortunately. A brief but intense flash of light startled her and hurt her eyes. Kathryn let out a startled squawk, leaping out of bed, and dropped into a defensive crouch, pivoting on her heel.
Blinking in the darkness, Kathryn tried to focus as she battled the fogginess in her brain. For the briefest of moments, she thought one of the crew had entered her quarters uninvited, and was more than a little angry. Just as quickly, it registered that the light was too bright to have come from the corridor, and the thought of the source came to her mind at the same time an annoying male voice filled her ears.
"My, my, Kathryn, your reflexes are getting better all the time."
Standing up straight, and assuming her command pose, which was not nearly as intimidating when she was wearing her nightgown, Kathryn turned around slowly, knowing who was there before even setting her eyes upon him. "Q," she growled, folding her arms across her chest, "Get the *hell* off my ship."
"Kathryn, I'm hurt," Q said pouting, "Don't you even want to know why I'm here?"
"No," Kathryn snapped, "Get out."
Q seemed not to have heard her and continued, "Oh, I think you do want to know," he said with that devilish grin that the captain always found so annoying, "And you're in luck, because I'm going to tell you."
"I thought we'd gone over this Q," Kathryn stated firmly, now resigned to the fact that the powerful being wasn't going to leave until he'd told her, "I'm not going to have your child. Now or ever."
Q laughed at that and Kathryn wanted to hit him. "Nonononono," he said, grinning even wider, "That was merely a phase I was going through. I've come because you fascinate me, me dear Kathryn. And that doesn't happen very often. In fact, I think the last time I was fascinated by a human was around the time in your history when that rather ambitious young man, Julius Caesar was his name I think, became leader of the Roman Empire."
Kathryn wasn't happy about Q's presence, but as his rambling went on, she grew more and more angry, until she was fuming. "Q!!" she shouted, cutting off the stream of endless chatter, "I don't care if I fascinate you! Get off my ship, RIGHT NOW!!!"
Q blinked at her, mildly shocked at the outburst, but recovered almost immediately. "All right Kathryn," he said calmly, a wide smile on his face, "I'll go. But I will be back. And soon. Very soon." Another flash of light and he was gone, leaving Kathryn staring angrily at the spot where he had stood.
"Great," she muttered, willing her tense muscles to relax, "Just what I need right now." She walked over to the control PADD beside her bed and tapped the com button. "Janeway to Tuvok," she said sternly, using her annoyed captain's voice.
"Tuvok here captain," came the Vulcan's reply.
"I just had a visit from Q. He's gone now, but he'll be back. Keep your eyes open."
"And I want a meeting first thing in the morning about a course of action."
"I agree," Tuvok said without emotion as usual, "Bridge out."
Kathryn tapped the com button to close the link and climbed back into bed. She wanted to get as much sleep as possible while she could, because there might not be much opportunity to do so while Q was around. He was up to no good, as always, and that had Kathryn worried. She closed her eyes and willed herself to think about something other than Q. Her mind finally settled on Lt. Marcus/Xena and she drifted off to sleep, visions of ancient Gods, warlords and Kings playing in her mind.
Morning found Kathryn sitting in her chair on the Bridge. The conference had been less than productive, but she wasn't surprised. What could they do about an all powerful being? Nothing. They had to sit and wait patiently for the inevitable to happen.
And so they did. Much to Kathryn's surprise, the morning passed without incident, and shift changes went smoothly. The most noticeable to her was Lt. Marcus relieving Tom Paris and taking the helm. Kathryn gave her a small smile and a nod, and was a little relieved to see them returned.
Kathryn tried to relax in her chair, but found it nearly impossible. She was getting tired of waiting. If something was going to happen, she wanted to get it over with. This waiting around, not knowing what to expect, was driving her crazy.
As if reading her thoughts, Q chose that moment to appear with his customary flash of near blinding light. Everyone jumped at the suddenness of his arrival and Kathryn and Chakotay were on their feet in a second.
"Q," Kathryn spat, making then name sound like a curse, "What do you want?"
"My dear Kathryn," he said merrily, "Is that any way to say hello to an old friend? Where are your manners?"
"You are not my friend, Q," Kathryn retorted, desperately wanting to punch him. But she held herself in check, glaring at him instead. She watched him so intently that she didn't notice when Lt. Marcus got up from her station and approached them. But Chakotay did.
He watched her carefully, seeing a dark expression on her face that he had never seen before. The large Indian had never even seen her frown, let alone fume like she was doing now. And it startled him. Even scared him a little. With every word Q spoke, her expression got darker and darker, until Chakotay thought she looked ready to kill.
Suddenly Lt. Marcus broke into the conversation with a throaty growl. "You black hearted, son of a Bacchae!!" she cursed and threw herself at Q, crashing into him. They both went down, landing heavily on the deck.
Everyone had been shocked by the woman's actions, but none more so than then captain. She watched in muted shock as Xena landed two hard blows to Q's face before he could even zap away. Kathryn knew he must have been as shocked as the rest of them if Xena had been able to land the blows.
Finally, though, Q did zap away with another flash of light, and rematerialized twenty feet away, standing upright. Kathryn looked over at him, and was surprised to see that he was smiling.
Lt. Marcus was on her feet again in an instant, ready to attack a second time when Chakotay snapped out of his shock and found his voice. "Lt. Marcus!!" he bellowed, "Outbursts like that could destroy the entire ship! Mr. Tuvok! Take Lt. Marcus to the brig so she can cool off!!"
"No," Kathryn said, holding up her hand to Tuvok, "Commander that won't be necessary." She looked back and forth between Xena and Q several times before everything fell into place. Kathryn turned to face Q and walked right up to him, glaring. "She had a very good reason for attacking you, didn't she Q?" Kathryn snapped, her face mere inches from his, "Or should I call you Ares?"
Everyone went dead silent, so shocked by the captain's words that they could think of nothing to say. Even Xena was rooted to the spot, stunned that Kathryn had figured it out. She, herself, had only realized that the Gods of Olympus and the Q Continuum were one and the same when she had seen him.
Q had been mildly surprised at Kathryn's question, but recovered quickly under her deadly glare and laughed. That shocked the bridge crew even more. Even the captain had not expected Q's reaction.
"Well done, Kathryn," Q beamed, acting like a proud father, "You know, for a human, you really are quite bright." Q smiled and Kathryn wanted to throw up. "I don't know why I was surprised though," he continued, walking over to stand in front of a seething Xena, "Genius always did seem to run in your family, Xena."
"What game are you playing, Ares?" Xena growled, having regained her composure. A part of her still wanted to tear his throat out.
Q merely laughed again and Xena had to choke back the urge to hit him again. "No game, Xena," he chuckled, grinning widely, "Don't you remember what I told you all those centuries ago? A God need never lie."
"But that's just it Ares," Xena countered, "You're not a God. You're just an immortal being with too much time on your hands."
"Back then you believed I was a God," Q said, a frown appearing on his face.
"Back then I didn't know any better," she snapped, meeting his stern glare with one of her own, "Those days are long gone, Ares. It will never be that way again."
Suddenly a huge smile appeared on Q's face as he thought of something. "Don't count on it, Xena," he said with a knowing grin, "Never say never." A bright flash of light, and Q was gone.
Xena closed her eyes, silently cursing her loss of control. Ares/Q was up to something, and her temper could very well have doomed her crewmates. A part of her was surprised at the ease in which she slipped back into the brooding she had done constantly those thousands of years ago, but even that thought was interrupted by Chakotay's voice.
"Would someone please tell me what the hell is going on?" he barked, finally over the shock of what had just transpired.
Seeing that Xena was still struggling with her own emotions, Kathryn spoke for her. "Commander, I think maybe we should call a conference of the bridge crew," she said calmly, in a tone that hid her inner turmoil. Kathryn's mind was still reeling from Q's remark that she and Xena were family. She pushed that thought aside for the present, but made sure it would be dealt with at a later time.
"I think that's a good idea, Captain," he said, slightly miffed that she seemed to know something, and hadn't told him. Chakotay tapped his combadge and barked: "Senior staff report to the conference room." Captain Janeway and Lt. Marcus/Xena headed there immediately with Harry in tow, and Chakotay followed after closing the link. I can't wait to hear this, he thought, with a scowl as he left the bridge.
Some time later, the senior staff were seated around the conference table listening intently as Xena finished the explanation of how she came to be immortal. Kathryn had heard the same explanation the night before, but still paid attention for any sign that Q had told the truth about them being related.
Finally Xena was done. "Which brings us to the here and now," she said, lacing her fingers calmly on her lap. But while the outside seemed cool and indifferent, inside she was a jumble of emotions. She was stuck with these people for 60 years. There was no place she could go to escape, where her past was a secret.
Unexpectedly, B'Elanna Torres was the first to ask the question Kathryn had posed the night before. "Who is it?" she asked, anxious to know which of the crew was related to Queen Gabrielle, "Who are you protecting?"
Deciding no further damage could be done by sharing that knowledge, Xena told them. "It's Chakotay," she said softly, looking right at him. Her face betrayed none of the powerful emotions she was feeling. It was the first time in the vow she had taken, that she had revealed her connection to one of Gabrielle's descendants. Unless of course she counted that time she had fought Ares again in the twentieth century while going by the name of Melinda Pappas. But she had successfully convinced Gabrielle's descendant, Janice Covington, that she was possessed by the spirit of Xena. The archeologist never knew that she had been the real Warrior Princess.
Chakotay looked down at the shinning black surface of the conference table, more than a little shocked by what he had heard. The knowledge that Lt. Marcus/Xena was more than 3000 years old was disturbing enough, but now he was faced with the admission that she had been watching him since the moment of his birth. The dark haired woman before him had joined Starfleet because he had, had destroyed her career to follow him to the Maquis, and had been trapped in the Delta Quadrant, all because of him. All this, and he had never known.
Finally he found his voice and spoke those thoughts out loud. "You did all that for me?" he asked incredulously, looking deep into those ocean blue eyes. A part of him was having a hard time believing that she could make major life decisions, solely based on another persons choices.
"No," she said, holding his gaze, but betraying no emotion on her beautiful face, "For Gabrielle." her eyes misted at that simple truth and she looked away, blinking rapidly to hold tears at bay. Chakotay did, however, catch a glimpse of the pain in her eyes and realized that she was still greatly affected by the loss, even after the passing of so much time.
Kathryn watched the interaction between her two officers with interest, and also noticed the barely avoided tears. She was just as surprised as the others when she spoke. "You loved her very much, didn't you?" she asked, not needing an answer. But she was not surprised when she got one.
"Yes, I did," Xena said after clearing her throat. She didn't expand on the statement, and no one pressed. Though Kathryn was sure they had been lovers, she reminded herself that it was none of her business.
The Captain sensed that Xena was growing very uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was taking, and changed it quickly to the more serious matters at hand. "The question we are faced with, ladies and gentlemen, is: What does Q have up his sleeve this time?" she said, tapping her index finger on the surface of the table. It was a nervous habit that she couldn't seem to drop.
"Nothing good," Tom Paris spoke up for the first time during the meeting. His words were answered by curt nods or grunts of agreement by everyone.
"Q has proven that he's capable of anything," Kathryn said, "It's not a matter of 'Is he devious?', rather 'How devious?'. And I'd like some idea's people." She looked around the table at all her officers, deep in thought, before settling her gaze on Xena. "What about your dealings with him?" she said, and all eyes landed on the raven haired woman, "Do you have any idea what to expect?"
Xena thought about the words spoken between herself and Ares, and tried to remember what she had said, that had made him smile so sinisterly. His expressions were harder to figure out with his new face. She wasn't familiar with it. Idly she wondered for a moment if this was what he truly looked like, and if his appearance as Ares all those centuries ago had merely been for the benefit of mortals.
Snapping her attention back forcefully to the matters at hand, she went through their conversation to the moment when she had told him she didn't believe him a God. That those days were long over. Her eyes widened for a brief moment, before she masked her expression again and spoke. "Captain," she began carefully, racking her brain to remember something she had read somewhere about the being they called Q, "I seem to recall one of the Enterprise-D's encounters with Q. About an alternate world he had created and thrust the senior staff into, forcing them to play certain characters in order to stage a rescue."
Kathryn nodded grimly. "Yes," she said, frowning slightly, "One of Captain Picard's logs mentioned it. The bridge crew had been placed in Sherwood Forest, in the roles of Robin Hood and his Merry Men." She paused for a moment, and Chakotay took the opportunity to speak.
"Do you think that's what Q has in mind here?" he asked Xena, not saying her name, unsure of what to call her. Not waiting for an answer, he pressed on. "But where. Surely he wouldn't send us to Sherwood Forest. He wouldn't be that unoriginal." Chakotay looked from Xena to the Captain, and back, his eyes almost pleading for an answer.
"No," Kathryn said quietly, her mind racing, "I don't think so. Q is nothing, if not original." She looked over at the Warrior Princess. "What do you think Xena?" Kathryn was shocked at how easily the name slipped out, but the raven haired woman didn't seem to notice.
Xena's brow furrowed in concentration, the only expression any of them had seen on her face for more than the briefest of moments since sitting down for the conference. "Ares was nothing if not predictable in the time that I knew him," she began slowly, her eyes glazing over with memories of a time long ago, "But now, I just don't know. My instincts are telling me he wants me to be that warrior again. For it to be that time in my life again."
"So you're saying he might take us back to Ancient Greece?" It was Harry Kim who spoke this time, and all eyes turned to him. Most were filled with worry and confusion, but one pair of blue eyes held only grim acceptance.
"Mr. Kim," Kathryn spoke calmly, betraying none of her nervousness in her stern Captain's tone, "I think you and Xena had better give us a crash course in Ancient Greek life and apparently the mythology of the time period as well."
Xena met Kathryn's eyes and nodded briefly, turning to scan the faces of her friends at the table, before taking a deep breath and focusing her thoughts. She decided to begin with the many dangers of the time, just to prepare them for all the fighting they might encounter if Ares/Q kept true to form. They would need to know who was friend, and who was foe.
Just as Xena opened her mouth, she was surrounded with a light, so bright it burned her eyes and she had to squeeze them shut to protect them from injury. None the less, the blinding flash seeped through her eyelids, stinging hotly. But just as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. And so was the pain.
After a moment, Xena forced her eyes open, expecting to see nothing but darkness after the assault. But her eyes were undamaged, and everything was clear. A little too clear. Her friends were standing in the same positions that they had been sitting at the table, but the table was gone. For that matter, so was the ship.
Xena's eyes widened as she looked around, scanning the trees surrounding the clearing they stood in. The other members of the senior staff were doing the same, but they didn't recognize the landscape like she did. The rocks, the type of trees, the cave entrance in the cliff wall, and Mount Nestos in the east. She knew she was between Thessaly and the Amazon Nation. And not just anywhere. This was the clearing where Xena had truly died.
Kathryn scanned the area with a keen eye, wondering where they were. Her vision drifted over Xena, almost missing the tortured expression on her face. The warrior princess was in pain from being in this place, but she hid it so well. Kathryn could see it though, because she had learned to mask her emotions the same way. It was a requirement of being Captain of a starship.
Kathryn made the decision to walk over and speak to her, to ask her what this place meant to her past. But before she could even finish the thought, the wind picked up and the sky darkened. Looking up, she could see the clouds rolling quickly in from the north. For a moment, she was reminded of New Earth, and the plasma storm that had come out of nowhere, nearly killing her and Chakotay.
The Captain was brought out of her thoughts suddenly by a voice sounding to her left. "Looks like there's a storm coming up." It was Tom Paris. "We'll have to find shelter." Kathryn nodded, and was about to reply with she heard Xena huff, a smirk on her face.
"Big surprise," she clipped, raising an eyebrow at Tom. At Kathryn's confused look, she explained. "Ares wants me in that cave," Xena said, gesturing with her head toward the rock wall, "He's trying to force us there with the storm." Everyone had stopped to look at Xena as she spoke, and cast their eyes up to the darkening sky as she did. "ARES!!!," she screamed over the rising wind, startling them all, "It won't work!! I know what you're planning and I refuse to play in your sick game!! Xena is dead!!! I'M NOT HER ANYMORE!!!!"
The thunder boomed loud over them, a response to her outburst, and lightening crashed down near the clearing, splitting a tree and setting it on fire. Paris and Torres had thrown themselves to the ground to avoid falling tree limbs, and the others rushed to help them. But Xena and Kathryn remained where they were.
Shocked at the raw power of the storm, Kathryn looked over at Xena with wide eyes, stunned that she seemed as calm as before. Like none of this was at all new to her. She opened her mouth to suggest they find shelter, but before any words could come out, a man clad entirely in black leather, materialized, a self satisfied smirk on his face, clearly visible through his goatee. Kathryn frowned, seeing a completely different man, but when she looked into his eyes, she could tell. The same arrogant playfulness was glinting there.
Turning her head to catch Xena's glare, Kathryn followed it back to Ares, and watched him chuckle, a sickly sweet smile on his face. She pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, sighing quietly, "This is going to be one of those days."
TO BE CONTINUED... Part 2
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