This is a crossover story between "XWP" and "Angel" (the "Buffy" spin-off).
It's helpful if you know the "Angel" characters, but is not absolutely necessary,
as they are described within the story. The story occurs after the "Send in
the Clones" episode on Xena and before the birth of Conner and Cordelia's choice
to become part demon on "Angel". The story picks up a few months after Xena
and Gabrielle have been cloned into the 21st Century. Because Gabrielle expressed
concern over how her scrolls had been interpreted on the show "XWP" in the "SITC"
episode, I feel no compunction to be true to the series in a factual, chronological
way. But, with just a few exceptions, I do stay true to the series and have
stayed within the spirit of the show.
Disclaimers: This story is for fun, not profit. All characters from "XWP" are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures, etc. All characters from "Angel" are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Inc. and associates. Many thanks to all the bards in the Xenaverse from whom I have derived inspiration (or may have inadvertently borrowed).
Sex Warning: There is lesbian sex depicted in this story. It is graphic in nature and you don't have to wait long for it. If this, in any way, offends you, please do not read this story. It is, in some instances, NC17.
Clones Alone (Part 1)
"Tonight, it begins."
"Oh, Xena, I love these shoes! They go so good with this outfit! What do you think?"
The warrior leaned back in her chair and put one hand behind her head, her long legs crossed and stretched out into infinity before her. She draped the other arm across her midsection, opened one eye and feigned indifference.
"Yeah, they're o.k., I guess. I mean for shoes."
Gabrielle twirled around and examined her reflection with delight in the three mirrors facing her. It had been six months since Alti had cloned her and Xena and left them in this century. But Gabrielle was still not used to all the wonders it had to offer: three mirrors, with three different views -- front, back and sideways, all at once -- amazing!
Xena opened both eyes halfway and yawned. But underneath the indifferent lids, she was taking in the whole scene. Gabrielle looked fabulous in her new clothes. Unlike the other skirts she had accumulated over the past couple of months, this one was leather... and black leather at that! It clung to her shapely form in a most appealing manner. Xena DID like black leather. And the sweater top she had picked out to go with it could destroy many a nation, Xena thought. The blue color brought out the blue in her eyes (which could appear, by turns, either blue or green), and the material alternately clung and draped itself in all the right places. The shoes were a nice touch. They had heels, which was still a strange concept to the ever-practical warrior, but Gabrielle seemed to like them and they did seem to accentuate the shape of her legs. Watching her partner turn and preen with such childlike abandon, gave Xena much joy. The corner of her lip began to betray her outward display of apathy as it curled up into a smile. Gabrielle really did look, well... hot, in that outfit. "I guess there are some things that are not so bad about this century," Xena had to concede.
"So, are you gonna buy 'em, or what?," she smirked at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle glanced down at her partner, sprawled out on the department store chair like she owned the place. She noticed the small beginnings of a smile that played across her lips. "Oh yeah, she likes these shoes," she thought.
"Do you think we can afford them, Xena? Should we buy them?"
"Well, hey, that's what we came here for, right?"
Gabrielle shook her head in agreement and beamed a heartfelt smile at her partner. Xena smiled back broadly. Inside, she felt her heart melt. It was amazing how, after all the times and changes they had been through together, that smile could still rock her world.
They tossed the shopping bags into the back of the car. Xena snatched the keys from Gabrielle.
"I'll drive," she said, as she moved towards the driver's seat.
Gabrielle quickly headed Xena off and blocked the car door with her body. "Oh no. No, Xena... uh uhh, not again. I'm not riding with you until you agree to take a driver's test and get a license."
"I've got a license."
"You've got Alti's license!"
"I've got a license that says Alexis Los Alamos on it and that's me in this reality!," Xena said smugly.
"You almost killed me last time," Gabrielle continued to protest.
"I did not!"
"And besides, you know what will happen if the police catch you again!," Gabrielle ignored her interruption. "No, you need to learn the rules of the road and take the test."
"Aww c'mon Gabrielle. I've never heard of anything so stupid! Did I have to take a test to ride Argo or drive a chariot? These cars are much easier to steer than either one of those. Besides, if I drive like the police want, well, well what fun is THAT? I mean really!," she threw her arms up in the air in exasperation. "Don't drive fast! Stay in one lane! Don't go off the road! What good is that? Besides," she lowered her arms so that her hands were touching the door on either side of Gabrielle's hips, "it's so much more exciting when I drive. And you know," she moved in close and ran her lips, butterfly kisses, up the length of Gabrielle's neck until she could whisper in her ear, "you know you like excitement." She very gently brushed her friend's lips with her own, allowing them to linger, "don't you." It wasn't a question. It was a statement. Gabrielle felt her head swoon back a little. Her eyes fluttered and closed as Xena gently caressed the line of her jaw, her neck.
"No, Xena!" She snapped out of her daze with a jerk of her head as she pushed her partner back. "No, I'm driving and that's final! Now give me the keys!" Gabrielle stamped her foot on the ground and thrust her hand forward, palm up. Xena had to smile at her posture. She folded her arms across her chest and leaned back a little. She smirked at her companion and arched one eyebrow.
"Or what? You're gonna' beat me up?"
"Hey, I've been getting better, you know," Gabrielle bristled at Xena. "I've been taking those martial arts classes and Master Jinn says I'm a natural! So you don't know, maybe I could beat you up! I'm not totally lame, you know, Xena!"
"Ah, yeah, Master Jinn again. Tell me, Gabrielle, doesn't it bug you that her name is Master Jinn and she looks just like Najara? 'Cause it really bugs me! And she's a woman, how come she calls herself 'Master', huh? She's just another L.A. weirdo if you ask me and this place seems to specialize in them."
"Xena, I KNOW you are not putting down my interests, right? Not trying to undermine my self esteem by belittling what I do? I thought we over that centuries ago!"
"Uh oh," Xena thought, "now I've gone and gotten her mad. Better start damage control" Xena smiled down at Gabrielle. She placed her hands on both shoulders and gently kissed the bard on her forehead. She slipped the keys into her hand and began walking around to the passenger side of the car. "Yeah, I know," she said softly.
"And what's that supposed to mean?," Gabrielle demanded.
"Nothing. I'm just agreeing with you... again."
Gabrielle looked puzzled for a moment, then nodded her head emphatically and climbed into the driver's seat.
As they drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to their place in Topanga, the afternoon sun was reflecting off the ocean and their hair flowed freely in the warm breeze. Yet, there was an awkward silence between them. "Well, this will never do," thought Xena. "Better make with some small talk."
"You know, Gabrielle, there is one thing I've really got to hand to old Alti?"
"What in Tartarus could that possibly be?"
"Well, she did have pretty good taste in cars!"
Gabrielle laughed. "Yeah, you're right there. You know, I even like this one better than the one you burned up!"
"Yeah," Xena replied. "This one suits you."
That made Gabrielle smile. She didn't know everything about the time period she was living in, but she did know that the car she was driving was considered to be "cool" by many people. She took it as a compliment. She looked over to her partner and smiled. "Thanks, Xena."
It was then that Gabrielle caught sight of a strange visage in her rear view mirror. A black car with totally blacked-out windows was in the lane behind them. It seemed to Gabrielle rather eerie. She felt a chill run down her spine. "Xena!," she exclaimed. "Look behind us... there's the weirdest car ever! That must be illegal! How can the driver even see out the windows? It's totally black!"
"Yeah," Xena rested calmly behind her sunglasses. "It's been following us ever since we left the mall."
"It has? Well, what do you think it is? Who could it be? Who could even drive a car like that? And, and," she stammered nervously, "what makes you think they're following us?"
"Oh... I dunno', just a feeling."
"C'mon, really, how do you know they're following us?"
"I don't know. What do you want me to say: that my spidey-sense is tingling?"
"Oh, very funny. No really."
"Look, Gabrielle, I have...,"
"Many skills, yes I know, Xena."
"Oh, hey look, Gabrielle! There's Gladstone's! Let's get some fish before we head up the canyon!"
"Xena! There's this 'I just came fresh from hell' car and it's following US and you want to stop for fish?"
"Yeah, sure, why not?"
"Oh, I don't know... because I don't want to DIE?"
"First order of business then, for people who don't want to DIE, is to eat. I mean, right?"
"You are so irritating sometimes! Besides, how do we know if we even are real people for sure," Gabrielle said sarcastically. "We are clones, you know."
"Aww, not the clone business again. Next thing I know, you're going to start in on that 'Greater Good' stuff... talk about irritating."
"You never want to talk about it. You never want to think about it, that's irritating! I mean, I feel alive! I feel as if I have a soul! But, do I? I'm not the original me. I'm a clone! If I die, does it matter? Can I die? Am I really 'alive'?"
"Welp, there goes Gladstone's. No fish tonight, I guess," Xena said casually.
"Aaarghh!!!," was her frustrated partner's reply.
Gabrielle turned up onto Topanga Canyon Boulevard and then onto the rough dirt road that snaked its way up to their house. As they rounded the last corner, the view became breathtaking. An afternoon breeze had blown the smog away from the coast. Down the canyon walls, Santa Monica Bay was clearly visible. Several sail boats could be seen upon the distant waters.
"Sometimes, it's so beautiful here, Xena." Gabrielle looked to her partner for a response. But Xena's eyes were elsewhere. She was looking back down the road with that "heightened awareness" intensity about her. "They're gone, Xena, whoever it was. I lost them on the turns up here."
"Oh no. They're still there. I can feel it."
"You want to go get them?"
Xena relaxed and smiled a bit. She turned to her partner and said, "No. I'm going to wait this one out. I'll let them make the first move, see what they want. I have a strange feeling about this, Gabrielle, as if we've encountered this danger before. I dunno', but they won't do anything before nightfall. Anyway, clone or not, I'm hungry, let's eat something."
Gabrielle grabbed her shopping bags out of the back of the Jeep and headed towards the house. She looked over her shoulder at Xena and smiled. "I could fix you a quick snack before dinner. I think there's some brie left and I know there are some crackers and tomatoes, unless you want that horrible left-over pizza from last night!"
"Oh, I want something to eat from last night," Xena smiled at the bard seductively. "But it's not the pizza!"
"Xena! You are so bad. It's the middle of the afternoon and, and...," Gabrielle's voice trailed off as she gazed upon her friend. Her clear, blue eyes pierced her soul. Long raven tresses were gently lifted by the breeze away from an exquisitely sculpted face. She wore a simple white T-shirt tucked into blue jeans. The black and silver belt around her waist dangled carelessly from a belt loop and matched the boots on her feet. There were two bracelets wrapped around her wrist. One was silver and the other black leather, inlaid with silver. Both were gifts from Gabrielle. As was the silver heart that hung from a leather chain between her breasts. By the gods, she was beautiful! It was as if someone had reached into her deepest dreams and pulled out the image of her perfect woman. Gabrielle could not help but love her.
"You think we'll be safe until nightfall, huh?," she sighed.
"That all depends on what you mean be safe," Xena replied.
With that, they exchanged
wistful smiles and proceeded into the house.
The sun was just beginning it's descent as the lovers reclined in each other's embrace. Gabrielle rested her head on Xena's chest, slowly circling one nipple with her index finger. Her stomach rested against Xena's and her legs were lost in the impossible expanse of her partner's lower appendages. She could still feel the wetness from Xena's center as her thigh pressed up against her. A gentle caress was placed on top of her head.
"Yes, Xena," Gabrielle purred.
"You know how you always want to talk about us being clones and all?"
"Well, I think it's time we talked about it."
Gabrielle felt a sudden sense of panic. "Why? Is something going to happen tonight?! Something you're not telling me about?!"
"Hey, hey now, nothing like that." Xena extended her arms around her best friend, held her tight and kissed her forehead. She placed her hand underneath Gabrielle's chin and lifted her face slightly to meet her gaze. "It's just that I've been thinking, and I think you're right. It's time we talk about it, that's all."
Gabrielle eyed her partner suspiciously. "Yeah, but why now, Xena?"
"O.k. then, forget it!," Xena said in disgust.
"No, I want to talk about it. I have so much to say!," Gabrielle protested.
"Then tell me."
Gabrielle rolled over onto her side and cuddled up next to Xena with her head tucked securely against her lover's neck and her arm around her torso. "Well, first of all, I feel that I am me... that I am Gabrielle. But I know, that I am only a copy of me. It's so confusing, Xena! Am I even human? And what about my soul? I feel as if I have one. I know I have one! But is it the same soul I had before? Or is it totally different? Is my soul my own, or does it belong to someone else... the person I was cloned from? Do we share a soul? Is that possible? I don't know. I feel so confused!"
Xena sighed deeply and drew her partner closer to her. "Do you feel that, Gabrielle? Do you feel my flesh upon your flesh?" She bent down and pressed her lips against Gabrielle's. Her kiss was warm and tender. "Do you feel our breath intertwined?" Xena's hands began a slow descent down her body. She kneaded the bard's full breasts as she continued to caress her mouth.
Gabrielle remembered the first time she saw Xena: those incredible blue eyes, that thousand yard stare, the impossible hurt that could not, it seemed, be assuaged by a mere mortal alone. How she dreamed that one day she would be just like the warrior: fierce and independent! She would never, ever forget that first time she saw her! It took her breath away! "People say, there is no such thing as 'Love at First Sight'," she mused. "But, I know there is. I loved her from the moment I first saw her!" As Xena continued her sensual assault upon her, Gabrielle could not help but smile. "I have the woman of my dreams!," she thought. "My completion is in her and hers is in me! I am the luckiest woman alive!" She tilted her head back, as if to surrender herself to passion. But it was too late. Xena had caught the look in her eye and the smile that crossed her lips.
"Tell me," she smiled as she removed her mouth from an erect nipple.
"No, I can't. It's stupid and...,"
Xena reclaimed the breast in her mouth. The bard responded with a very audible moan and Xena reflected on how much she loved this. As she rounded Gabrielle's nipple with her tongue, Xena was filled with wonder. This beautiful woman, who had followed her all the way from Poteidaia to Amphipolis, who had defended her against her whole town and believed in her, who had become the one true soul she could count on, the one she knew loved her... "She's still with me?," she questioned. How, so pure a soul as Gabrielle's, could stay with her, she didn't know. She had hated herself. She had so much to atone for: the slaughter of innocents, the reckless violence! And yet, her redemption was here. Her redemption was now! She had learned to love again!
Ever so slowly, Xena kissed her way down to the wonderful promise that was always, would always be, Gabrielle. She parted her legs gently and saw her prize. She kissed between Gabrielle's legs and licked up her juices. She could hear the moaning of her partner as she inserted her tongue into the bard's opening: her scent so stimulating! After several minutes, she ran her tongue slowly up in-between Gabrielle's wet inner lips and began licking the pulsating source of her pleasure. As Gabrielle's excitement rose, so did Xena's. This was where she belonged. This was where she always wanted to be: ravishing the one thing in her life that she knew was truly hers -- her lover, her soul mate, her friend. As Gabrielle's climax cascaded over Xena, she felt her own center explode with pleasure. Then there was a moment of silence, labored breathing replacing heartfelt moans. Xena gently snuggled in beside Gabrielle's body. She softly kissed her lips and whispered, "Do you feel our souls intertwined?" A single tear rolled slowly down Gabrielle's cheek. Xena paled when she saw it and her heart, which a minute ago, had been so very light, grew heavy. "Gabrielle, what is it?"
"Don't you see, Xena? Soul mates! We were soul mates! What are we now? Our souls went on without us a long time ago. We are freaks in this world! Just copies of what you and I used to be! Somewhere out there are incarnations of us, with our true souls. What are we?!"
Once again, Xena pulled the smaller woman close to her and wrapped her in a protective hug. "We are Xena and Gabrielle. We are the original Xena and Gabrielle. The incarnations our souls experienced after our life together as Xena and Gabrielle do not concern us. We have not had that experience. They are different souls now, shaped by history. We are young souls. Our journey begins here. And, yes, we are human and, yes, we do need to eat," suddenly Xena paused. "By the way, I seem to remember you saying something about left-over pizza. I'm hungry...," She was interrupted by Gabrielle hitting her on the shoulder. "Oww!!"
"Xena, you've been thinking about this clone thing just as much as I have. Why wouldn't you ever talk to me about it?"
"I just didn't want to upset you, Gabrielle. I was trying to work it out for myself. I didn't have any answers. It just took a lot of thinking through, you know?"
"So, we DO have our own souls, right Xena?"
"Yeah, sure we do! At least, I know I do. But, if I don't get something to eat soon, I'm not so sure about you!"
"Soul mates, right? Beginning our journey anew."
Xena laid a soft kiss upon Gabrielle's brow. "Soul mates... forever and always." She paused for a second and glanced out the window. She could see the sun setting on the bay. She held Gabrielle tight and sighed deeply. "Tonight... it begins," she thought to herself.
"What if we were to run into ourselves, um, I mean our other souls, in this century? What do you think would happen then?"
"C'mon. This is a big world and it's gotten bigger. What are the odds that our 'other' souls would be in Los Angeles, too? Don't worry about it, o.k.?"
"Listen, as much as I'd like to stay here with you all night, we've got to get up. I've got that little matter of the black car to take of, remember?"
"Ugh, how could I forget. That gave me the creeps, Xena."
"Yeah, well just go nuke the pizza. I'll take care of the rest."
Gabrielle placed the
left-over pizza on a microwave-safe plate and stuck it in the oven. She set
the timer for two minutes. She busied herself about the kitchen while Xena looked
over her shoulder and out the window. And, as the sun completely set, saw two
red eyes, glowing in the darkness, just beyond their kitchen window.
"You know what really is just NOT cool, NOT happening at all about these visions?" Cordelia thought. "It's these lame-o headaches afterwards. I can take the rest: helping people, saving lives, knowing what's going to happen before it happens, yadda, yadda, yadda... I mean, I am smart (oops, don't want to think that too loud 'cause sometimes people can hear your thoughts). But these headaches: too much! They're affecting my looks, I just know it!" She stopped, for a moment, her internal dialogue, and mused a space. "I shouldn't think about that," she reflected. "I've seen the ugliest demons be the most beautiful people."
As much as Angel had grown to love Cordelia: her "never say die" attitude, her resolve and a toughness he never could've guessed was there, her smile, the smile that came so easily, so freely to her and just went on forever; there were still times when he wished that Willow had followed him from Sunnydale to Los Angeles, instead. First of all, the headaches, which were an entirely unjust burden for any mortal, would've been much more easily borne by Willow, he guessed. He found, increasingly, that he could not stand to watch Cordelia in such pain. And, the fact that Willow was a witch, meant that she was much more inclined towards demonology and at deciphering of the ways of darkness. Second of all, there were moments which just broke his heart with Cordelia, such as this one: her headache was so severe and yet, she could not recall enough about the vision to be really as helpful as he needed: a blonde woman, with short hair and a much taller woman with long, dark hair were in danger! All Cordelia could tell him was that "they kinda' looked like the women from that show, you know, um, um... that show, the one about the woman warrior from Ancient Greece, where they're kinda' gay but, then again, maybe not! And in some sorta' ancient time, but it's hard to say what time because it jumps around a lot from time period to time period, and I never got it, anyway, because...,"
"Cordelia!" Angel finally interrupted. He owed this woman so much! Because of him, her life had been inextricably changed. But, if Willow had followed him to L.A. instead, right now he could be receiving computer print-outs on the type of demon he was about to face instead of accounts of a T.V. show! "So, you're saying that I should look for two women who look like... what?"
"Well, like Xena and Gabrielle, I should say," Wesley interjected.
"Yeah, that's the show!," Cordelia stated emphatically.
Angel, having lost his patience, blurted out, "O.k., o.k.! I give up! So who, exactly, are Xena and Gabrielle?"
Wesley pushed his glasses back up onto his nose and began to speak. "Well, apparently, an American 'Action/Adventure' television series. I really didn't like how it ended, though: too needlessly bloody and violent for my taste in entertainment!" Realizing his mistake immediately, he recovered quickly! "Not that I watch American television, or anything! Least of all such frivolous fare as Xena: Warrior Princess, I should say!"
Angel intoned slowly: "So, now, a T.V. show is our source?!! After everything we've been through together and all the research we've done, we're now looking to a T.V. show as our source for information?"
"Well, one must go where one must go," Wesley offered weakly, in his clipped British accent.
Both men looked at Cordelia. She rolled her eyes. "Look, I didn't say Xena, o.k.? I said they looked like Xena and what's-her-name."
"Cordy, can you remember anything else? Anything more specific?," Angel queried.
"O.k., let me think." Cordelia rubbed her brow with her hand. "I remember voices. Deep, evil voices. I haven't heard them before. Almost like," her voice trailed off. "Almost like," she stopped and shivered.
"Cordelia, what is it?" Wesley drew close.
"Well, this is going to sound weird, but almost like the devil, himself?!"
Both men stopped and looked at each other. A look of disbelief passed between them.
"The devil?" Angel asked.
Suddenly, Cordelia jumped up. She shook her hands violently in front of her body, as if she had touched something disgusting. "Eeeww, eeeww, eeeww!!!," she cried. "It was him! It was him! It was him!!!"
Angel placed his hands on both her shoulders in an effort to calm her down. "O.k., o.k., so you mean 'The' devil?"
Cordelia was still shaking. "Yes! Yes! Yes! I mean Mephistopheles! I mean Lucifer! I mean 'Prince of Darkness' and all his creepy minions in their weird black robes, o.k.?" She rolled her eyes and looked at Angel incredulously. "I would think that YOU would know who I was talking about!"
"Yeah, I do, Cordelia. That's the hard part."
Angel's hands dropped to his sides. His head lowered and his eyes became distant. Wesley looked at his friends, from one to the other. Cordelia had her arms wrapped around herself as if holding on for dear life. Angel looked visibly shaken in a way that he had never seen him before. "Angel," he asked, "She cannot mean Satan?"
Angel had always known, since the time he had become a vampire, that it was possible that this day would come. There was evil in the world. He had served evil for so long, before the gypsy curse had been placed upon him which returned his soul. He had run with 'devils'; although, not the actual devil, himself. "It was no different," he thought. "I might as well have been with Lucifer. I did his bidding. I harmed the innocent. I watched nations go down and fall in his name. I watched millions destroyed for nothing but hate! I hate myself!," he thought. He reflected upon the evil that was afoot in the world at this very moment. He thought of the thousands of people being killed in the name of a 'cause' or a perversion of ideologies or, worse yet, financial gain. The children... there were those who advocated killing children! This was from the devil. This was evil incarnate. He cursed the day he became a vampire, a soulless hunter loosed upon the world! He cursed the day he regained his soul and became cognizant of the evil that he had perpetrated upon others! "How could I? How could I?" His introspection was interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Angel, she cannot mean Satan?"
"Yeah, Wes, she means Satan."
"Oh, but I don't have many books for this. Well, we could go to the Catholic Church for research, I suppose. They've been known to perform the rites of exorcism and such."
"Cordelia!" Angel grabbed her by both shoulders again. The girl looked frightened. He immediately took her in his arms and held her tight. He wanted to kiss her forehead, but thought the better of it. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, but you have to tell me. Do you remember anything else? And, I mean... ANYTHING that can help me find these people?" Cordelia slumped in his arms.
"I'm so tired. My head hurts worse than ever."
Angel placed her upon the couch in their office. "Just something, Cordy, c'mon. It's important."
Cordelia closed her eyes. She HATED these visions sometimes! She tried to concentrate.
"Well, yeah, yeah, there is one other thing."
"Anything, please," Angel implored.
"A Jeep Wrangler in
a... well a, I don't know, as if! Like walls were around it; like it was driving
Xena looked past Gabrielle's busy form in the kitchen to the more unpleasant form that awaited her outside.
"Hey, Xena," Gabrielle offered. There was no response from her intense partner. "Yo, hey, Xena!," she tried again. "Listen, you know I can go out there with you and kick some 'black car' butt if you want. You DO know that I'm capable, right?!"
Xena still wasn't listening. It was that warlord look in her eyes, that "Destroyer of Nations" look in her eyes. Actually, it was the look that Gabrielle had fallen in love with so long ago. The one that made her leave home and never return. The look that promised excitement, danger, breathing, life! It was that stare, which meant nothing at all... and everything possible!
She remembered a time, well, centuries past now, she chuckled internally, when she had questioned if Xena felt her capable of anything but dishwashing and cooking. Xena had used her shirt as a gag for a villainous sort, she couldn't even remember his name now, but it was the only time that she had left Xena over something trivial, minor. Yeah, they had had seperations before, but it was always over something big. But the time Xena used her shirt as a gag, and then asked her, no!: told her, to look after the menial chores while she pursued the more important tasks; that was the first time she had asserted herself over a "normal" fight that couples might endure... and had walked away.
When she returned, she remembered, Xena was contrite and solicitous. That night, Xena sent Joxer on an errand. And, as she was reclining on her bedroll near the fire, working on a scroll, Xena came to her. She lay down beside her, took the scroll and quill from her hands and placed them carefully along side the furs. She began by gently nibbling her ear lobe, Gabrielle remembered. Xena then took both hands and tore the makeshift blouse totally off her body exposing her breasts to the night air, and began licking her nipples. Xena then bit both nipples in a playful manner and immediately claimed her lips and mouth as her own. The sudden nature of this amorous attack, had taken the bard quite by surprise!
"Xena! What are you
doing?," Gabrielle remembered asking. But, by then, Xena's hand had run up underneath
her skirt and was stroking between her legs. A sigh emanated from deep within
her as Xena continued her attentions. "Ah... oh," was all Gabrielle could remember
getting out. It had been weeks since they had been alone together and she
was definitely feeling the need for some intimate attention. "Are you sure Joxer
won't be back tonight?"
"Oh, yeah," Xena smirked. "I've sent him far", she took one nipple fully into her mouth, "far" she took the other nipple between her lips, "...away!"
In the morning, she had found all her clothes, not just her green shirt, but her skirt as well, washed and hung out on a tree to dry. How Xena had been able to get up in the middle of the night, without waking her, when she had most definitely fallen asleep wrapped up in her arms, and then crept back to bed so she found herself in her lover's embrace come morning, was just one of the eternal wonders and amazement's that was Xena! But, since then, they had been through so many (literal) life and death situations, that it seemed an almost trivial memory. Yet, she valued it.
"That one little day, that one little thing," she smiled to herself, "was when Xena really did accept me as her partner! That's when she began her journey with me, our journey together, instead of just my journey with her!"
But, as she glanced at the dark, beautiful, intense image before her, she paused. Gabrielle had often wondered over these past few months of being a clone, if Alti hadn't actually told her the truth when she said, "I think we cloned the 'Evil Xena' instead." She did seem slightly different. Almost as if there were a few more elements of the "warlord" incorporated into this Xena than the woman she had grown and changed with in Ancient Greece. But, perhaps, Xena was right and they were young souls, starting their journey anew. Maybe she felt less connected to the sins of her past, less guilty, less inclined to have to make up for old misdeeds. After all, there wasn't much chance of them running into anyone Xena had wronged in this century. Perhaps, this Xena felt less compelled towards the "Greater Good" because of that.
And, yet, it was "her" Xena in every way that mattered. The changes that made her different were minor and would be imperceptible to all but her. And, she guessed, what mattered most of all, was that she was still the one who loved her, and who was loved by her.
"Oh, I'm sorry. No, Gabrielle, you just stay in here and get dinner ready, o.k.? THIS I can take care of by myself!"
With that, she laughed and burst out the door. Gabrielle, remembing that time from so long ago, did not take offense. Yeah, Xena probably could handle this all by herself. And she'd rather get dinner anyway. Gabrielle could hear Xena's once famous war cry and hear the crickets stop singing and didn't even worry about what was happening outside.
Xena glared into the darkness. A feral look came across her face as she shouted, "Show yourself, Bacchae! I know you're here! ...and don't even THINK about touching my motorcycle!" With that, two vampires jumped out of the darkness, their faces contorted into a hideous sneer! "I know you're here for me and my friend and you'd better be ready to tell me why!"
"You're unnatural. We know of you!," one of them hissed.
"We're here for you," the other offered. "Our master has sent us to bring you back to him!" His lip turned in a wicked smile and he beckoned with an elongated finger. "Come with us now, unnatural one!"
"I can't believe I have to put up with this crap BEFORE dinner," Xena smirked. With that she kicked one through the storage shed where the Harley she'd been working to restore was housed. "Damn!," she said as she picked up a shard of wood. She staked one vampire and, as he vanished into dust, grabbed the other and held the shard over his "heart". To her amazement, he began to speak.
"If you're really who my master thinks you are, you should be able to put a 'pinch' on me and make me tell you the truth."
"Yeah, well, that works with living people, not 'already dead people', got it, loser?!," she growled at him.
The vampire smiled. "And so you think YOU'RE a 'living' person?"
Xena hesitated for a moment. She remembered Gabrielle's questions about being a clone. It was just such a moment for which the vampire had been waiting. He seized upon her neck and dug in furiously with his fangs. Blood trickled down to stain her snow white shirt.
"You bastard!," she cried as she staked him through the heart. As the vampire's thin dust settled upon her, she looked over to where the motorcycle, which she had so meticulously researched how to restore on the internet, stood. She had put a significant hole in the wall of its shed. Boards lay around and on top of it. She had just recently convinced Gabrielle that it would be o.k. to use some of those things called "credit cards" with name of "Alexis Los Alamos" on them, which now had become her name, to buy the parts she needed to fix it. She didn't even feel the blood running down her neck.
"Aaaah," she sighed . She slowly approached the bike and gently removed the boards which had fallen on it. She brushed off the vampire dust. "You were going to my new Argo," she lamented. She could hear the crickets chirp, it was so calm now. A single drop of her own blood fell upon it, staining the paint she had so carefully applied not two days earlier. Another drop fell and then another. She did not notice the subtle movement behind her.
Lea, Polly and Mac sat in Mac's downtown L.A. warehouse apartment. It had been months since Gabrielle and Xena had contacted them. They had set up credit card accounts for them, introduced them to the world of computers and helped Xena assume the identity of 'Alexis Los Alamos', a scientist of dubious reputation who seemed, nevertheless, to possess unlimited resources. Xena and Gabrielle had moved into Alexis's old house, were driving her cars and they, the three of them, had created an identity for Gabrielle. They had gotten her an identity as, (and this was Lea's idea, as she thought Gabrielle was "magic" as she put it to the others), Samantha Stevens! They set up falsified records for her as a college professor. Gabrielle had gotten a driver's license under this name and started a career as an author. Even better than that, she had landed an agent to try to get her a deal with a publisher for her book, Ancient Greeks: A True Tale of Love and Death in Attica! It was so amazing that, when they were cloned, they knew English as well as Greek! But, now, all that was beside the point. Xena and Gabrielle hadn't contacted them for months.
"We need heroes," Polly griped, "and they're nowhere!"
"I'm sure that Gabrielle, at least, still cares about the 'Greater Good'," Lea interjected. "But, seeing as they were such great heroes, it is disappointing that...,"
"That they're just hanging out!," Polly finished her sentence for her.
"Well, I thought they might be different from what we saw on T.V.," Lea complained.
"Yeah, well apparently, they are!," Polly agreed.
"It's worse than that!," Mac said. "They're Scully and Mulder and we're the 'Lone Gunmen'!"
"Oh, now, now, it's not as bad as all that," Lea soothed. "Although, I did really like them better on the show. Maybe we made a mistake helping Alexis, er, I mean, Alti, to clone them, but...,"
"But what?," Polly interrupted. "They've got their identities here. We totally set them up. They're never going to call us! It's over, o.k.?! No martial arts action, no kicking ass, no Bruce Lee 'Green Hornet' type of stuff -- nothing! We'll never see them again!"
"Oh please, Polly," Lea cooed. "I'm sure we can find them in any lesbian bar in L.A., if we want to," she winked at Polly.
"Yeah," said Polly in a feisty manner, "Especially if I want to go with you and get my ass kicked for being stupid!"
"O.k., o.k., enough with the lesbian stuff already!," Mac complained. "There's only so much I can take in one night. The show teased me enough already! I don't need you two on top of it all (no pun intended). But if you wanted to, you know, I wouldn't be opposed...,"
"Oh, Mac," Lea said in disgust, "You are so wrong. Of course, all I meant was that we should try to touch base again with Xena and Gabrielle in an appropriate venue!"
"O.K.! Then a lesbian bar it is!," ventured Mac enthusiastically.
Angel tried to decipher Cordelia's vision. Walls, she said walls, a car moving through walls. He had come to the conclusion that the walls must represent a canyon. After all, this was L.A., and if a car was driving between walls, it meant only one of two things: the car was driving in the L.A. River, which was nothing more than a cement river bottom for a long ago, sadly departed river with concrete walls surrounding it, or a canyon. He drove through the hills of Hollywood first. Laurel Canyon would be an obvious place, but nothing was there. He headed down towards the Pacific Coast Highway, hoping some inspiration would come. Suddenly, the convertible was attacked by several flying vampires! He managed to pull the car over to the side of the road.
His fellow vampires surrounded him. They began to touch him, almost seductively. "Angel! We are one!," they said in chorus.
"Yeah, well not with me, GET OFF!!!" He jumped up and began battling them. He managed to stake one, then another. Yeah, they could fly, but their fighting skills were no match for his own. Angel always had the advantage over these younger vamps. Finally, it came down to one. One who hovered above him. Angel was amazed! All these years he'd been a vampire and never learned to fly? This was like out of an Ann Rice book, or something! "What do you want?"
"Oh, I have what I want... what the Master wants!"
"The destruction of your dreams, Angel. The destruction of so many dreams. We possess the life force of a hero. The soul of a true hero!" The vampire laughed. "And just when the world needs heroes! We have her! My Master has struck her down. She fell so easily to him. It was child's play, really. You thought you were SO immune!," he paused. "Huh? Did I hear you say something?"
"Who? Who do you have and where?," Angel demanded.
The vampire hovered, as if to gloat! "It's too late now. We have one who is stronger than you! I'll tell you nothing more, unless...,"
"Unless you care to join us again," the vampire hissed. "My Master greatly desires your homecoming. He misses you."
"You disgust me." With that, Angel thrust a stake through his heart. "No one will miss YOU now that you're gone," he said.
As the vampire dust
disappeared, Angel's acute hearing caught the sound of ocean waves crashing
upon the beach from Santa Monica Bay. The moon was waxing, almost full. He crossed
the highway and walked down to the water. He thought it beautiful that he could
see the moon light reflected in the waves. He let the water lap at his feet.
He missed the beauty of the ocean in the sunlight. More than once he had had
a chance to change his present reality as a vampire. Always the price was too
high. How he longed for a way to be human again, to be able to express love
in a human fashion! He thought of Buffy. He quickly banished the image from
his mind... too painful. "I've got to move on." He thought of Cordelia's smile.
There it was again! When did he start thinking of Cordy that way? He didn't!
He couldn't! "She is my friend," he thought. "I am here to fight evil!" And
yet... he bent down and touched the water and then raised his fingers to his
lips. He tasted the salt of the ocean. He tasted the murky beginnings of humankind.
He tasted the awful reality of modern society in the oil and refuse. He reflected
upon how we are all one: have come from the same place, will return to the same
place. Only evil stands in the way! Only evil...
Cordelia held her hand to her head and rubbed it hard. Thank God she could go to a gay bar and be left alone! After she turned the first few women down, no one would come around her again. It was so different from "straight" bars where the men would just hit on her all night... ad nauseam! And as far as Caritas, the demon karaoke bar was concerned, well, too much like work for her taste. She could go home, but Dennis, the friendly ghost, was always there. She needed a break: just to drink, just to be left alone! She had the sense that her vision, this time, meant so much more. It was about the world, somehow, and she hated that: WAY too much responsibility! She stared vacantly at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar and slowly sipped her drink. She didn't even notice that someone had sidled up beside her. When a voice began speaking in her ear, she almost jumped out of her skin!
"Hey, baby, you look hot! Hows' about some lesbian action with me and my girlfriends over there?!"
She focused in on the face in the mirror that was whispering in her ear. His head was cocked sideways and covered by a large hat with flaps. With trepidation, she turned to face him. Nope! He was no better face to face. First of all, the hat was from Antarctica or Outer Mongolia or somewhere. He bore a weak beard upon his chin and seemed to be wearing thick rimmed glasses with ("Oh, my God," she thought) no lenses! And the leer upon his face, as if he was God's gift, ugh. She put up one hand, as if to say, "Close enough, boyfriend, now back off!" And so she did.
"Close enough, boyfriend, now back off!," she stated emphatically. "Oh, and by the way, what's with the flap cap, anyway? You're in L.A., you know. It's not that cold. Were you planning for a ride on your sleigh later? Or maybe you're just a lumberjack, which is o.k., just so long as you're mother knows you're probably wearing her underwear."
"Hey, what are you implying?," he protested vehemently. "I'm not gay!"
Cordelia looked at him incredulously.
"And that would explain your presence in a gay bar? Whatever...,"
"No, I'm here 'cause I'm into chicks! And look at all these great looking chicks!"
"What a moron," Cordelia thought.
"I've had my fill of demons for this week, thank you very much. You can go now." She flipped her hand with a dismissive twist of her wrist.
"Oooh demons, I'm really into demons! Plus, I know a lot more. About cloning and things like that!," he winked
This guy just could not take a hint! It was then that Cordelia noticed the "Xena" pin hanging from his flap cap. She knew this was a mistake, but because of her vision tonight, she just had to ask anyway.
"So, you're into Xena?"
"Yeah! Who do you think we cloned?"
With that, a firm hand was clapped across his mouth while another knocked him up side the head.
"Shut up!," the blonde woman with her hand clasped over his mouth said as she smiled at Cordelia.
"Yeah!," the other woman, who had whacked him, said menacingly as she glared at him.
"You'll have to excuse our friend," the blonde woman smiled. "He doesn't get out much." With that, she made the crazy signal behind the guy's back and gave Cordelia a sympathetic nod.
"And plus, he's a moron!," the other woman blurted out.
"Yeah, well THAT I already knew," Cordelia replied. She studied the trio before her. The blonde woman was now nudging the guy in the back, all the while keeping her hand across his mouth and that fake smile plastered on her face. The other woman, a tall, pretty brunette with an attitude, stood by impatiently and glared at the other two with her hands on her hips. It slowly dawned on Cordelia that the brunette bore a passing resemblance to Xena. And, she WAS with a blonde. Could these two be the same who were in her vision? No, there was nothing about a lamoid horndog in her vision. All the same, she considered, it was an odd coincidence that he wore a "Xena" pin on his hat. She thought it might be a good idea to inquire, just a little.
"So, he cloned Xena, huh?," she asked coolly as she sipped her drink. She watched their reaction out of the corner of her eye. The blonde and the brunette suddenly glanced at each other nervously. The brunette slugged cap boy again. With that, he threw off the hand clasping his mouth shut and jumped off his bar stool.
"Now that's enough! Quit hitting me!," he exclaimed.
Cordy turned towards them and stated in a very cool voice, "No, really, I only want to know because I had a vision about two women in danger tonight. Two women who looked exactly like Xena and Gabrielle."
The trio became visibly shaken and stood with their mouths agape before her. Finally, blondie got it together and smiled an excited smile.
"So you... you have 'visions?'," she stuttered in a too infatuated manner.
Cordelia suddenly felt embarrassed and exposed. "Uh... well, yeah, but let's not go there. I'll I'm saying is, that if you happen to know people who look like, well, um... Xena and Gabrielle, they could be in danger. That's all, got it?" Cordelia paused and reflected for a moment. Should she give these wacko's her business card? Jeezus, the idea of actually having to deal with these people again, at some point in the future, nauseated her. But then, almost everyone she had to deal with in this business nauseated her. She made the decision. "Look. Here's my card." She reached into her purse and pulled out one of the business cards that she, Wesley and Gunn had made up. She handed it to the blonde woman. "If you happen to know of anyone who's having a, well a...," how could she explain this? She looked at the odd trio standing before her, "a problem," she finally continued, "of a special nature, call the number on that card. Got it?" She got up to leave. Cap boy stepped in front of her, as if to block her way.
"Could there be any other reason you want me to have that number?," he smirked.
"Eew," Cordelia grimaced. "Not only not in this lifetime, but not in the next, or the next, or in an alternative universe or an alternate reality, or," and now she stood very close to his face, "not even if you CLONED me!" With that, she turned on one heel and left. "Gay bars just aren't what they used to be," she thought.
"I think I'm in love," Mac swooned out loud.
Lea and Polly said nothing at all. They had their heads together and were staring at the card Cordelia had handed them. "Angel Investigations," they said in unison.
Polly suddenly looked
at Lea. "Cool!," she smiled and nodded.
As soon as Xena had left the kitchen, Gabrielle had thrown out the left over pizza and began chopping up zucchini for some vegetable lasagna. Xena would just have to wait a little longer for her dinner. But, it would be worth it, much healthier and, ultimately, she knew Xena would appreciate it.
California was much like Greece, she thought. It was warm, beautiful, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. If they couldn't be in Greece, they were lucky to be here. She had found tomatoes, onions, and zucchini growing in the garden when they had taken over Alexis Los Alamos's house. (How odd, did Alti garden? she pondered.) She had recently started an herb garden. As much as she loved to travel with Xena, there was still a part of her that longed to settle down. She liked this new life. She liked this new century. It was filled with wonders: airplanes, aspirin, instant worldwide communication, solid stick anti-perspirant! She liked being able to write on a computer, instead of scribbling on scrolls. Her writing process had accelerated considerably, now that she could just simply cut, copy, delete! She liked to drive. She liked to shop! In her wildest dreams, she could never imagine such an amazing variety of stores! One could buy simply anything! She liked being able to cook in an oven or on a stove with a wide assortment of pots and pans, instead of being limited to one pan over an open fire. She had always been a creative cook. But now, she was free to explore the full gamut of her culinary talents. She had made homemade tomato sauce from their garden the day before. The pasta had been purchased from the natural food store in Malibu. Although, she thought, that someday she would like to make her own pasta, as well. She took pride in her kitchen creations. She layered pasta with sauce and vegetables as she listened to the limited sounds of struggle outside the window. The crickets had stopped chirping when the commotion took place. But Gabrielle had heard that all too familiar warlord cackle, knew Xena was winning, and didn't even consider that she might need some help. Then she heard Xena's voice.
"Aaaah," and then a moment or two later, "You were going to be my new Argo."
Gabrielle knew that she was talking to her motorcycle. Nothing in this world had seemed to really catch Xena's fancy until she discovered that bike. She knew she had named it "Argo". And Gabrielle was thankful, because it had served to pull Xena into this century. She learned how to use the computer, which Gabrielle had been immediately fascinated with, so that she could research motorcycle things. Xena had actually proved quite adept at the internet, once she found an interest. This didn't surprise Gabrielle. Nothing about Xena's 'many skills' really surprised her anymore. And, yet... somehow, they still amazed her!
She also knew, that once she had "Argo" fully operational, that Xena would want to hit the road again. This didn't bother Gabrielle too much, she supposed, so long as Xena understood that she would have to get a license! Actually, it would be kind of exciting to see more of this brave, new world! Just so long as they could always keep their home base here and have a place, with a garden, to return. She had almost convinced Xena to settle down once before, after Eve was born, in the Amazon Village. But this was different. They were so alone in this world. They really needed to have a home this time. It was important to her. She cheerfully continued to make their meal.
As Gabrielle was about to put the lasagna into the oven to bake, she realized she hadn't heard any movement from outside for quite sometime. The crickets, which had started their chirping again after the fight had ended, had once again fallen silent. "Xena?", she said softly. Then, "XENA!," in an alarmed voice.
She ran outside to the shed where the motorcycle was housed. It was a shambles. Wood lay helter skelter and there, draped across the bike, was her partner. Gabrielle tossed boards out of her way until she reached Xena. She pulled her off the bike and fell backwards with her, landing roughly on the ground. Two marks, Bacchae bites, by Gabrielle's estimation, were bleeding from her neck. There was also blood around her mouth. "Xena! Xena!," Gabrielle cried. She kissed her head and rocked back and forth with her friend in her arms. "Xena! Wake up!" She was about to administer mouth to mouth, when she heard Xena moan.
"Gabrielle?," she slurred drowsily. "Gabrielle?" She opened her eyes and looked at the bard.
"I've got to get you to a healer, Xena! Can you walk?"
"No. No doctors! I'm fine. Just a little banged up is all. Tough fight. Just get me inside, o.k.?," she wheezed. She slowly threw one arm around Gabrielle's neck and shoulders. They rose together, Xena wincing in pain as they stood.
"Xena, you need help."
"Just get me to our bedroom. That's all the help I need."
How she could be so stubborn, in even the worst of times, still astonished Gabrielle as they limped into the house and up the stairs. Gabrielle laid her across the bed and then got sterile bandages and disinfectant and began to clean her wounds. She cleaned out the Bacchae bites and then looked to the blood on Xena's mouth. "Xena? Are you bleeding inside?"
"No, why?," Xena managed in a barely audible voice.
"There's blood on your mouth."
"Odd...," her voice trailing off.
Gabrielle cleaned the blood from Xena's mouth. There was no wound. There was no other blood from inside her mouth. It was almost as if... as if it were someone else's blood! This was very strange. Fear gripped Gabrielle's heart. "Xena! You're not a Bacchae now are you?"
"No, Gabrielle," was all Xena could manage, "not a Bacchae."
Gabrielle looked at her love with great concern. She then gently removed her boots and jeans. She pulled the bed covers up over her partner and laid down beside her. She knew she would not sleep much this night.
Gabrielle continued to watch Xena for almost an hour, not leaving her side for even a moment. What a beautiful woman she was! Her lips, now slightly separated and barely emitting breath, were so incredibly beautiful. Gabrielle could remember how, in the old days, they used to wrap around her impossibly white teeth into a fierce sneer to scare away some stupid warlord. She remembered how she would purse them in an ironic half grin when she was amused at something Gabrielle had done, but didn't want to (or maybe couldn't) show her true mirth. She remembered how, not at first, but as their relationship grew, she had often seen those lips couch the most loving, brilliant smile, the one that was meant for her alone and yet, there for all the world to see! Or, how when she was really excited about something, such as creating a flying parchment, which Gabrielle now knew was just simply called a "kite", her lips would curl up into a most determined and excited expression that would move her cheek bones even higher upon her face and create an unparalleled vision of beauty! Xena was so beautiful! It still took her breath away to think that this incredible woman had made the choice to spend her life with her! Even in this repose, she was beautiful!
It was then that Gabrielle remembered... the telephone, duh! She had a cell phone that was set up for her by Lea, Polly and Mac. But she didn't want to call Lea, Polly or Mac. They were sweet, yeah, and they had helped her and Xena so very much. But they were, somehow, too clingy, too desperate. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but it was as if they expected her and Xena to act a certain way, to "be" a certain way. It must have been from all those Xena: Warrior Princess shows they had watched. (They'd taken such liberties with her scrolls! Although, at times, they had quoted her word for word, it was often out of context! And "Princess"... where'd they ever get that notion? Xena was anything BUT a princess!). Gabrielle also found it disconcerting that they had actually participated in the cloning process which had landed her and Xena in this century. Did anyone really have the right to do that? Did truly moral people do such things, no matter how good their intentions? It made her uncomfortable. She wanted to call Master Jinn, the woman who had really helped her to transition into this reality, whether Xena liked it or not. She reached into her purse for the phone. She knew Master Jinn's number and so...
"Jinn, this is Sam, I need your help!"
"Look, I need you over here. I know it's a lot to ask, but my partner's in serious trouble, and I need you here! Can you come?"
"Slow down. What happened?"
"She got attacked! I'm scared, Jinn!"
"All right then, hold tight, and I'll be there soon!"
Jinn didn't quite know why she acquiesced so quickly to Samantha's request. It was not just that she was an excellent student, although she was one of the quickest studies and most determined disciples she had ever taught. She only knew that from the moment she had first met her, she had felt a strong connection. And if she had learned anything from her past life therapy, it was that souls tended to meet again and again, trying to work out some karmic puzzle. She had begun to believe that she and this young woman were somehow cosmically linked. "And who am I to question the cosmos?" She picked up a few of her martial arts weapons on the way out the door. She turned around and looked back on her cottage. The beads were still swaying and the incense burning. And through those swaying beads, she saw a poster hanging on her wall: "Xena: Warrior Princess".
"Gabrielle?," she called, inexplicably.
It was a half an hour later that Gabrielle heard a knock on the door. She was lying on the bed next to Xena, making sure she was still breathing. The knock jarred her momentarily, until she realized it must be Jinn. Nevertheless, she took no chances. She grabbed her sais out of the night stand drawer and proceeded cautiously down to the door.
"Who is it?," she demanded in her fiercest voice.
"It's me, Jinn," came the reply.
Gabrielle quickly opened the door and fell immediately into her teacher's arms. There were tears in her eyes. "Thank the gods you're here," she blurted out. "She's in the bedroom." With that she grabbed Jinn's hand and led her to where Xena lay. Jinn sat down cautiously on the bed beside the warrior. She gently lifted her eyelids. She placed her hand on the side of her neck. Jinn touched Xena's wrist with one hand and looked at her watch.
"What are you doing?," Gabrielle queried.
"I'm taking her pulse." She slowly peeled back the bandage Gabrielle had placed on Xena's neck and saw the two distinctive bite marks there. The blood drained from her face and Gabrielle could see she was shaken. Jinn gazed up at her student with a look of confusion and shock. "What is this?"
"Bacchae bites, I think."
"Bacchae?" With that, Jinn replaced the bandage and motioned for Gabrielle to follow her into the hallway. She quietly shut the door behind them and led Gabrielle downstairs. "Samantha, what happened to her?"
Tears were again forming in Gabrielle's eyes. "I don't know. You see, I was making dinner and let Xe... er, um, Alex go outside by herself to check out a noise. I mean, she's a great fighter, the best ever! I didn't think she'd need my help. How could I know she'd get so, so...," her voice began to trail off as tears streamed down her face.
Jinn put her arm around her shoulders and led her to the couch. They sat down together. "It's not your fault, Sam. Whatever happened, it's not your fault. Do you understand me?" She rubbed Gabrielle's arm solicitously. "But those bite marks, Samantha. What did you say they were?"
"Bacchae bites. You see, a long time ago, well more than a long time, several lifetimes ago it seems, Xe, um, I mean Alex and I ran into some nasty characters called Bacchae and that's what they did. They bit you on the neck and sucked your blood."
"Like a vampire then?"
"Vampire? I don't get that. What's a vampire?"
"You don't know what a vampire is? Well, in legend, they're pretty much what you just described, you know: the undead, bloodsuckers. You say you and your partner encountered them before in another lifetime?" Jinn's eyes narrowed and she studied Gabrielle hard. Gabrielle could feel the intensity of her stare and, realizing her mistake, began to blush.
"No, I only meant it seems so long ago, that's all."
"No, it's o.k. I believe in past lives and past life memories!," Jinn quickly countered. "So you and, is it 'Alex'? Because you keep calling her 'Xe'."
"Xe is my nickname for her. It's kinda' off of Alexis, you know?," Gabrielle dissembled as she wiped tears away.
"So you and Xe have met vampires before, shared past lives?"
"Well, it's kind of a long story. But, yes, we've met vampires before, only they were called Bacchae."
"No, get out!" Jinn was incredulous. "This is so fascinating! And the past life thing?"
"Well that's, um, more complicated."
Gabrielle sighed and dropped her head into her hands. "What am I going to do about Xe? She so sick and I don't know any doctors, or how to get her there or how it works or anything. We've never needed a doctor before. And, besides, Xe doesn't trust modern doctors. She's seen them on T.V. and thinks they're all full of crap."
"You've NEVER needed a doctor, before? Sam, what's going on here? There's something you're not telling me!"
"Boy, was that an understatement," Gabrielle thought. This was getting awfully complicated. Perhaps she had made a mistake calling Jinn. Maybe she should've called Lea, Polly and Mac instead. At least they all already knew the whole story. "Look," she finally ventured. "this was a mistake. I shouldn't have called you over here."
"No! No!," Jinn protested. "I want to help. I just find this all so fascinating! I mean, I couldn't help but be curious, you know? It IS all rather bizarre. But, if it's really vampire bites, a regular doctor couldn't help her anyway. Oh, and I share her low opinion of modern medicine, by the way. I'm a bit of a healer myself. I've studied herbology and the ways of eastern mystics. But this," she paused, "this, I think, calls for something more in the nature of the occult, if you know what I mean, or a priest, or something. Either that, or someone who knows a hell of a lot about vampires. You don't happen to know anyone like that, do you?"
"No, how would I? I didn't even know what a vampire was until tonight," Gabrielle murmured.
"Well, under the circumstances, I didn't think it would hurt to ask," the martial arts master shrugged her reply.
Jinn looked at "Sam". She could see that she was distraught. The poor woman was practically trembling. Her heart went out to her. How was it that this young woman touched her so? She knew that she would do anything she could to help her. She also realized that she needed to say something to calm her. She took Gabrielle's hand into her own. "Her pulse was slow, yet strong. I don't think her life is in any immediate danger. However, she does need treatment. It's what KIND of treatment that's puzzling me." She thought for a moment and then squeezed Gabrielle's hand slightly. "You love her very much, don't you?"
"More than anything. She's my whole life."
"Then she's a very lucky woman." Jinn got up and walked over to the bag in which she had thrown her weapons. She fished out her cell phone. "Let me make some calls. I have some friends who have been known to dabble in the occult a bit. Maybe they can shed some light on this." Before she dialed, she smiled at Gabrielle and said, "You know, it's an interesting nickname you have for your friend. I have a poster in my house. Someone gave it to me. It's from that show 'Xena'. I never watched the show, myself, but I liked the poster, so I hung it up. Your partner, your Xe, is a very beautiful woman. And she resembles the woman on my poster very much!"
"Yeah," Gabrielle sighed.
"She gets that a lot."
Lea, Polly and Mac had stayed at the bar long after Cordelia had left. Lea had attempted, in what she considered a comely fashion, several demure smiles at women she found attractive. It was confounding to her as to why she couldn't engage any of them in meaningful discourse! Polly, meanwhile, had been brusquely fending off several advances.
"You know, Polly," Lea said. "Maybe the reason I can't make a connection with any of these women here is because you're standing too close to me. I mean, maybe they think we're a couple or something. Have you considered that?"
"Oh yeah? Well I don't seem to be having any problem 'making a connection'," Polly replied bluntly. "Maybe it's just you. Have you considered THAT?"
"Oh Polly, ever the hard-edged cynic, aren't we?"
Mac had disappeared into the bathroom about thirty minutes earlier and hadn't been heard from since.
"Ya know," Polly said, feeling her resolve much fortified by several pints of lager, "maybe we should go ahead and call Xena and let her know about this woman and her visions."
Lea, who was also feeling bolder after several glasses of white wine agreed. "I think this is definitely something that a person as sensitive as Gabrielle would want to know about! I mean, even if they haven't called us for a long time, I think this IS a legitimate reason to call them, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do. And I think they should know about this 'Angel Investigations' thing. Do you still have the card?"
"Why yes," she stated. Then she suddenly reversed herself, "Oh, oh no. I gave it to Mac for safe keeping. As you know, I never carry a purse... such a feminine contrivance!"
"Uh, he still hasn't come out of the bathroom." The two women looked at each other and immediately headed for the bathroom. Mac was in a stall with his head hanging over a toilet.
"Mac! What are you doing?," Lea exclaimed.
Polly rolled her eyes, "Getting a drink, what do you think he's doing?"
"Oh, you don't mean he," Lea paused, "that it so disgusting. Some people just can't hold their liquor!"
"Yep," Mac slurred, "and I'm one of those people."
"Listen we need that business card from the woman we met earlier."
"Oh yeah?," he nodded drunkenly. "She was hot for me. What a babe. Is she still here? Is she here now? Hey baby, I'm all yours!"
"This is ridiculous," Polly said as she began to search his pockets.
"Ooh, so now you want me, too? I can handle two babes!," Mac raved.
"In your dreams maybe," Polly replied as she fished the business card out of his pants pocket. "Got it!," she laughed as she held the card up for Lea to see.
"Good. Now let's go
call Xena and Gabrielle!"
As Jinn discussed the situation on her phone with a friend, Gabrielle's house phone rang. "Who could that be at this hour?," she thought.
The machine picked up: "Hello," came Gabrielle's cheerful voice, "you've reached Alex and Sam. We're either not home or call screening. Please leave a message and we'll return your call as soon as possible. Thanks and have a great day!" As she listened, she remember the argument she and Xena had had about the message:
"Why tell people we're call screening when we're call screening? It defeats the whole purpose of call screening if you ask me, Gabrielle!"
"Because it's honest, Xena," Gabrielle had replied. "And besides, I won't be the one call screening. That'll be you."
"Only reason to have an answering thingie in my opinion," came the response.
Gabrielle's memories were interrupted by Lea's anxious voice on the machine: "Uh Gabrielle, Xena? Hi, it's Lea...,"
"And Polly," another voice interjected.
"Um," it was Lea again, "we don't mean to bother you, but we picked up some information tonight that we thought maybe you should be aware of. We met this woman who has visions and she said that she thought that you and Xena were in some sort of danger."
"Yeah," Polly interrupted again. "And she gave us a card with a number to call in case you guys need help. As if Xena would need any help!"
Gabrielle quickly grabbed the receiver.
"Hello! Polly, Lea?"
"Oh, hi, Gabrielle," Lea said excitedly.
"Did she say what kind of danger?," Gabrielle asked anxiously.
"No. Just that she had a vision and she gave us a business card to call for help."
"A 'vision' what kind of 'vision'?!"
"Well we didn't get a lot of details because...,"
"Because Mac was hitting on her and she left!," came Polly's voice.
"Great," thought Gabrielle.
"Listen, can you guys come over? I might need you." She heard silence, then a high pitched squeal and a dial tone.
Jinn was just getting off the phone with her friend. "Who was that?," she asked.
"Some acquaintances of mine. They hung up. But maybe a way to find someone who 'knows a hell of a lot about vampires'. It's a shot in the dark. But I'll try anything to help Xe."
"I hope you don't mind, but I asked my friend to come over to help evaluate the situation. She's a scholar and has a certain amount of expertise on the occult," Jinn said.
"No. I don't mind. What
the heck, she can join the party."
Polly held the phone away from her mouth and whispered to Lea, "She wants us to come over!" They both shrieked with excitement and then Polly hung up the phone.
"Hey, you hung up on her," Lea complained.
"Who cares? She invited us over, let's go!"
As they pulled up in front of Xena and Gabrielle's house, Mac snoozed in the back seat. They nervously rang the bell.
"That'll be my friends," Gabrielle said.
As she opened the door, Lea blurted out her name, "Gabrielle, hi!"
Gabrielle quickly shushed her and gave her an irritated look. "I'm not alone," she whispered. "you have to call me Sam!"
"Oh... right," Lea whispered back.
"Sam!," she exclaimed and quickly grabbed Gabrielle and held her in a tight embrace.
"OKAY," Gabrielle smiled uncomfortably. "Nice to see you, too." She led them into the living room. "Jinn, these are some old acquaintances of mine, Lea and Dr. Polly. Polly and Lea, this is my martial arts instructor," she looked at Jinn and added, "and my friend, Master Jinn."
"Ooh," purred Lea, "a martial arts instructor, how fascinating! I'm a behavioral scientist myself and...,"
"Lea," Gabrielle cut her off. "There's a problem with Alex. You need to tell me more about the woman you met tonight."
"There's a problem with Xena, I mean Alex?," Polly asked in a concerned manner.
"Well, yeah. It kind of looks like she got attacked by some Bacchae, you know, vampires?"
"What?!," they chimed in unison.
"Uh oh," Polly added.
"Yeah, uh oh. So tell me about the woman with the vision," Gabrielle continued.
"Well, she really didn't give a lot of details," Lea began. "She said she saw two women in a vision who 'looked like' Xena and Gabrielle," she winked at Gabrielle, "and that they were in danger. And that if they needed help that they should call this number." She turned to Polly. "Do you have the card, Polly?"
"Yeah, right here!" She held up the card.
Gabrielle took it from her slowly and stared at it. "What kind of a woman did she seem to be?," Gabrielle asked. "Was she strange or creepy or was there anything out of the ordinary about her?"
"No. She was quite attractive: shoulder length brown hair, a wonderful figure and well dressed! Except for the fact that she has 'visions' she seemed to be your typical bimbo, L.A. airhead," Lea opined.
"She wasn't a bimbo," Polly interjected.
Gabrielle turned to Jinn. "I know this sounds weird, but I have to give this a shot. What do you think?"
"I say 'go for it', Sam. What have you got to lose?"
With that, Gabrielle
picked up the phone and started to dial.
Wesley was in the middle of his studies when the phone rang. "Isn't there anyone here to answer that but me?," he thought. "It's so irritating being interrupted while I'm researching!"
"Angel Investigations," he answered.
A female voice responded, "Um, I'm not sure if you can help me or not. Are you like a Detective Agency or something like that?"
"Well, yes, something like that. We do have our specialties."
"Uh, this is going to sound weird, but I think my friend has been bitten by a vampire."
"And as strange as this sounds, vampires happen to be one of our specialties."
"Great. I need your help! Can you come to me or do I have to come to you?"
"Well, we are in the midst of another investigation and I'm the only one here, at present. But if you'd like to drop by, I would certainly do everything I could to help you."
"Give me the address, I'll be right there!" Gabrielle took down the address and hung up the phone. "I'm going to go talk to this guy, Jinn. Can you stay with Xe?" She looked at Polly and Lea. "I'm sorry, but I need someone who can fight to stay here to defend Alex."
"Hey, I can kick butt!," Polly objected.
"Good, than you can stay with her. Jinn, can you do it?"
"Of course I'll stay. You just go and take care of business. Don't worry, I'll take care of her," Jinn replied.
"Don't let anything happen to her."
"I won't," the martial arts instructor reassured.
As Gabrielle opened the door to leave, a woman was coming up the steps. She had long, blonde hair and blue eyes and was tall and beautiful. Gabrielle's breath was quite taken away by her appearance.
"Oh, Sunny," Jinn said. "I'm glad you could make it. Samantha, this is my friend, Dr. Sunflower Swenson. She's the one I told you about."
"Sunflower?," Lea and Polly smiled at each other.
"Hey, my parents were hippies, wadda' you want?," the woman responded.
"Oh, we weren't making fun," offered Lea.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Sunny said with a menacing stare. "Jinn, I was able to put a few herbs and roots together. I think they may help."
"Um," Gabrielle said hesitantly, "just don't hurt her, o.k.?"
"Samantha, you just go," Jinn hugged Gabrielle. "I won't let anything happen to your partner. You can count on me."
Gabrielle smiled sadly. "Thanks, Jinn."
Angel had driven up and down every canyon he knew in Los Angeles. "Man," he thought "I'm not going to have to drive in the L.A. 'River' again am I? I hate that."
He was disturbed by Cordy's vision of the devil. He thought of a passage from the Bible that he had been taught as a child, so many years ago in Ireland: "Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray until the thousand years are completed. After this, it is to be released for a short time."
"Wow," he thought, "what's a thousand years to God? 'The Powers That Be' live outside time. Could this be the time that the devil is made manifest on earth?" He remembered the words of the great Irish poet. Could this be the moment that some "rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
"Nah! The devil has been here for as long as I can remember. And besides, that's 'Revelations', questionable stuff at best. I need to call Cordy, see if she can clue me in a little better."
Cordy was on the ground when Angel called. Her head was splitting from another vision. "Dennis, could you get that?" The phone floated through the air to her position on the floor. "Hello?"
"Cordy, it's Angel," he could hear the discomfort in her voice, "what's wrong?"
"Oh, I had another vision is all. Listen, where are you?"
"I'm still out looking for the women you told me about tonight."
"Well stop. Go home. I had a new vision. They're coming to you now. Just go back to the hotel, they'll come," she paused and moaned in pain.
"Are you alright, Cordelia?"
"Yeah, just the headache thingie, you know?"
"They seem to be getting worse. I'm coming over there."
"No! No, Angel. What good am I to you if you always have to be concerned about me? Just go home. You know I want to help you, but what value am I to you if you don't follow my visions from 'The Powers That Be'?"
"Cordy, you are a value to me with or without the visions. You're my friend. That doesn't come around very often."
"O.k., good," Cordelia drifted off. "I just want you to need me. I mean," she quickly clarified herself, "in the 'helpful, solve demon mysteries' sort of way."
"I do need you," Angel thought as he hung up.
"You know, Dennis," Cordelia said, "if it weren't for that 'If He Ever Finds Love He Will Turn Evil' gypsy curse thing, I could really go for Angel. He's so sweet. I can see why Buffy loved him. Oh, and by the way, could you hang up the phone?"
The phone floated back up to the receiver as Cordelia fell into a deep sleep and Dennis gently placed a pillow beneath her head and covered her with a blanket.
Xena started to come around. She opened one eye, then the other. The images around the room were a bit blurry. She could make out two figures hovering over her. They appeared to be women. "Gabrielle," she said drowsily.
"She's coming around," an unfamiliar voice said excitedly.
"Gabrielle?" As her vision cleared, she saw two blonde woman, neither of whom was Gabrielle. She tried to get up, but it felt like weights had been placed on her arms and legs. "What's going on? Who are you people? What have you done with Gabrielle?," she said in as forceful a voice as she could muster.
"We're friends," said one of the women. "Try to relax. You've been very ill."
"Friends? I only have one friend. Where's Gabrielle?"
"I'm sorry, but we don't know any 'Gabrielle'," one of them offered weakly.
Xena tried to concentrate. She focused on the faces before her. "Najara!," she spit the name out. She looked at the other woman closely. "And you're, you're... Brunnhilda?" She laid her head back down on the pillow and closed her eyes. She heard their hushed voices talking over her.
"Who's Najara," said one. "Who's Gabrielle?"
"She must be delirious," said the other.
Xena felt exhaustion
creeping in again. "I'm going to kill Gabrielle," she thought. "She disappears
and leaves me here with her two ex-girlfriends? I'm gonna' kill her! That is,
if they don't kill me first." With that, Morpheus once again claimed her.
Wesley was back at his studies when Gunn came in.
"Hey, Bro', what's shakin' tonight?"
"Well, Cordelia had a very bad vision, I'm afraid. It was about the devil, himself. I'm trying to research the subject now."
"Uh, you mean 'the' devil?"
"Well, yes, unfortunately."
"Oh, so we're talking about lawyers again, 'Wolfram and Hart' and those turkeys."
"No, this time it's even more serious: Prince of Darkness, all his minions and those turkeys."
"Get out of here. Not Satan, I mean 'the' Satan?"
"Whoa, that's something I hadn't bargained for!"
They were interrupted by a woman's voice. "Hello? Is anybody here?"
Wesley and Gunn turned around to see a young woman with short, blonde hair standing in the lobby. She wore a short sleeved, v-neck black sweater and denim pants over black boots. A silver heart hung from her neck off of a leather cord. Her face was innocent, angelic, beautiful. Her rosy cheeks and cherubic lips were offset by her misty, blue-green eyes. Both men almost fell over each other trying to get to her first.
"How can we help you?," Wesley finally managed to say.
"Oh, I was the one who called tonight about the vampire attack," Gabrielle said. "Am I in the right place?," she continued as she looked around the hotel. She saw before her two young men who could not have looked more different! One was white with glasses upon his face. He might have been very handsome, but it was hard to tell! His tousled brown hair and gentle smile seemed almost over powered by his serious demeanor. The other was a black man with a shaved head and cute smile which seemed to just shine goodness through him!
"Yes. You talked to me," Wes affirmed.
Gunn stared at her intently for a moment and then pronounced, "Damn! You look just like her!"
"Just like who?," Gabrielle asked.
"Just like that woman on 'Xena', just like Gabrielle!"
"Come to mention it," Wes agreed, "you DO look like her!"
"You watch that show, too, Wes?," Gunn queried. "How come you never said nothin'?"
"Well, I caught an episode here and there. But with the night schedule we keep, it's kind of hard to keep up regular viewing habits, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. That's how come I have a VCR. I just loved that show! It was so kick-ass! All the martial arts and beautiful babes!"
"Oh, and don't forget about the demons and alternate realities!," Wesley added.
"Yeah, and the subtext! Dig that subtext, man!," Gunn smiled as they high fived each other.
"Excuse me," Gabrielle finally got in, "but my friend needs help. I think she was bitten by a vampire."
"Oh, then you definitely came to the right place! We specialize in vamps," Gunn informed her.
"Now wait a minute, Gunn," Wes interjected. "In Cordelia's vision tonight, she said that two women were in danger and that they looked like Xena and Gabrielle."
"Well, we definitely got one here who looks like Gabrielle," Gunn said. "Does your friend happen to look like Xena?"
Gabrielle couldn't take it anymore. She didn't care what the price was down the road. She needed to be honest with these people so that they could help her armed with as much information as possible. Besides, they fought vampires for a living, how shocked could they be by the revelation that she and Xena had been cloned? "I AM Gabrielle," she stated flatly. "And my friend IS Xena. Some mad scientist type cloned us into this century."
"Whoa!!!," Gunn exclaimed. "You're telling me you're a clone?" He gave Wesley a look of disbelief! "Look, o.k., demons, fine; vampires, fine; alternate realities, I can deal with that; green guys called 'The Host', I'm cool; but clones? Uh uhh, listen, my mother didn't raise no fools that bad!"
"Believe me or not, I really don't care," Gabrielle sighed. "Just so you help my friend."
Gunn eyed her suspiciously. "So you want me to believe that everything on that show was true?"
"No. Not by a long shot. They took huge liberties with my scrolls!"
"Um, Gunn," Wesley began, "it would explain Cordelia's vision in a way that makes it comprehensible."
Gunn just shook his head. "Damn," he uttered.
Just then, Angel appeared. He looked at Gabrielle and said, "Oh good, you're here."
"Angel," Gunn interrupted, "She's saying she's a clone from a T.V. show and... what's this stuff about Satan?"
"Later, Gunn." Angel turned to Gabrielle.
"What kind of trouble are you in?"
"My friend has, well, I think, vampire bites. I mean, I know it's not Dahak, the ancient dark one; or Ares, God of War; or Alti, the evil priestess; or Titaka, the depraved spirit; so what else could it be?"
Wesley, who had never heard a regular mortal, one who was not "in the business", so to speak, rattle off such an impressive array of vitiated beings, fell momentarily into a trance. "Will you marry me?," he mumbled.
"Hey," Gunn nudged him. "Clone or not, I saw her first."
"Guys," Angel gave them a 'shut up' and get serious stare, "I'm trying to help this young woman AND figure out Cordelia's vision. You could help, you know?" Angel looked at Gabrielle. She seemed so desperate, so vulnerable, so scared. "Can you take me to your friend? I need to see her," he asked.
Gabrielle gazed up at Angel. She had 'feelings' about people. She sensed in this man what she had sensed in Xena all those centuries ago: a forlorn soul trying to right the wrongs they had once done. In a way, he reminded her of her partner: tall, dark, brooding good looks masking a sensitive soul and massive power. She intuitively understood him. She couldn't explain it, but she trusted him. "Do you think you can help her?," she asked.
"I don't know, but I'm going to try."
"What can we do, Angel?," Wesley inquired. "I mean, what can I direct you, as your boss, to do?"
"Wes, I want you with me. Gunn, we're looking for Satanists here. What do you think you can find out on the street?"
"Well, let's just clarify here, o.k.? By Satanists, we are STILL not talking about lawyers, right?"
"Not this time, no."
"O.k., no problem. I'm just going to be looking for a bunch of Marilyn Manson wannabe's in black cloaks. Shoot, they don't even hide anymore. This won't even be a challenge."
"Be careful all the same," Angel warned.
"When you say 'Satanists', what do you mean?," Gabrielle asked.
"He's talkin' 'bout the devil, girlfriend," Gunn answered.
"You mean Lucifer?"
"Yeah, same guy," said Gunn. "Least ways, that's what I learned in Sunday School!"
"Hmmm," Gabrielle paused, "what would he want with me and Xena again?"
"You've met Lucifer before?," Angel asked.
"Well, only the one time, but it was memorable." All eyes in the room fixated on her. Gabrielle began to feel uncomfortable. "Look, he was disguised as human, or an angel, or, well, I don't know. It was one of those temptation things, o.k.?"
"This could actually be helpful," Angel hypothesized.
"So you actually think he's involved in this?," Gabrielle worried.
"Let's just go find
out," Angel said as they headed towards the door. "We'll follow you in our car."
Gabrielle studied Angel's face as he got out of the convertible with Wesley at her house. There was something about him: something so familiar, and yet so odd. But then, who was she to think someone else was odd? Her situation was hardly normal! She liked his face: smooth, gentle, soulful, yet... troubled. "Guess I just like trouble," she thought.
"I hope you can help my friend," she said.
Angel could sense in Gabrielle a spirit of truth and peace. It was rare that one so young possessed such qualities. And, yet, he sensed an older spirit within her; a spirit that was perhaps even older than he was. "This is starting off to be a strange experience," he thought.
"It's rare that I can't, at least, help someone," he tried to comfort as best he could.
"Then please come into my house and help my friend!," Gabrielle invited.
"Wow," Angel mused, "she doesn't even know I'm a vampire and can't enter a dwelling without being invited. Yet, she invited me in without me having to ask! What an amazingly intuitive woman!"
As they walked towards the door, Lea came bursting out. "Gabrielle, she's awake and she is NOT happy!"
"She woke up?," Gabrielle smiled. She ran into the house, past Mac (who was asleep on the couch) and up the stairs. Polly was outside the bedroom door. "Polly," Gabrielle enthused, "she came to?"
Polly grimaced slightly, "Well, she WAS awake. They gave her some drugs or roots or something and she kinda' came to for awhile, but then she passed out again. They kicked me out, so now I don't know what's going on!"
Gabrielle burst through the bedroom door. "She's awake?," she beamed expectantly at Jinn and Sunny, who were hovering over Xena.
"We did have some success in stabilizing her pulses through Eastern Touch Therapy," Jinn reported.
"And then I was able to use some root combinations poured down her gullet to bring her around," Sunny intoned.
"But she was incoherent, delirious, raving on with words that were incomprehensible: Najaarha, or something like that." Jinn shook her head.
"And she thought I was a character from one of Wagner's Ring Opera's or something. She called me Brunhilde!," Sunny added.
Gabrielle smiled. "I know it doesn't make sense to you, but it makes sense to me. Could you give me just a moment alone with her? I think I may be able to get through to her."
Jinn and Sunny proceeded down stairs.
Gabrielle sat next to Xena and held her hand in her own. She lightly brushed her cheek and then placed a gentle kiss upon her lips. Xena's eyelids began to flutter slightly. "Xena?," Gabrielle called. "Xena, wake up. It's o.k., you can wake up now." Xena's eyes slowly blinked open and she saw the most beautiful sight she knew she would ever see: the face of her soul mate.
"Gabrielle," she smiled weakly, "it's so good to see you again. How long have I been out?"
"Oh, about six, seven hours is all," Gabrielle smiled sweetly.
"I had the strangest dream. I dreamed Najara and Brunnhilda were here. Isn't that funny?"
"Yeah, that is, because no one's been here but my friend, Master Jinn, and her friend, Sunny. They've been helping me take care of you."
"Jinn! Then I wasn't dreaming! That other one must've been Brunnhilda. She looked just like her! Gabrielle, how could you leave me with your former girlfriends like that? When I was so vulnerable!"
"First of all, Najara and Brunnhilda are NOT my former girlfriends. They may have liked me, but I was always faithful to you. You're the one with the laundry list of former lovers! And besides, Jinn and Sunny don't look a thing like those other two, anyway. I don't see it. Jinn, for one, is much less harsh looking than Najara. She doesn't have that 'psycho' look in her eyes. She's a good and caring person."
"Oh get off it, Gabrielle! They look just like them, are you blind? The next thing I know, you'll be bringing Callisto around!"
"Xena, Xena calm down. You need to save your strength and get healthy again. Besides, what would be wrong with Callisto being around? Her soul was totally redeemed and reincarnated into your daughter, remember? That wouldn't be so bad, huh?"
"Let's drop it. Sometimes this being a clone in the future business really sucks."
"O.k., I'm all for dropping it. Jealousy doesn't become you, anyway." Xena gave a half smile to Gabrielle. Gabrielle smiled back and then laid her head on her partner's chest. "I'm so glad you're back, Xena. I was so scared. What happened out there? It was the Bacchae, huh? They did this to you."
"No Gabrielle, I dispensed with them easy." She lifted Gabrielle's head so she could look into her eyes. "Something grabbed me from behind. I don't know how I let it sneak up on me like that. I didn't hear it. I must've been distracted or something. But still, it's odd. I can't believe my skills have eroded so!" Xena tried to rise. Gabrielle put her hands on both of her forearms.
"NO! You are not getting up. You need rest! Stay down and that's an order!"
"You don't understand, Gabrielle. I feel fine. As a matter of fact, I feel better than I have since we woke up in this century! I can't explain it, but I feel suddenly light and free and full of energy! And besides that, I feel a presence in the house, a compelling presence... I have to go downstairs!"
"Angel," Gabrielle thought.
"Look, Xena...," but it was too late. Xena had, in her inimitable way, vaulted
past her and was bounding down the stairs.
Jinn and Sunny had walked down the stairs despondently. Both of them wished they could have helped Samantha's partner in a more significant fashion. They had given it a good shot and...
"SUNNY!," a bright English voice cried out.
"Wes?," Sunny turned and recognized her colleague. They hugged.
"What are you doing here?," Sunny inquired.
"Well, since my days at University, I've kind of drifted into a different field."
"How odd," Sunny said, "me, too!"
"Demonology?," Wesley inquired anxiously.
"Well, yeah, sort of," came Sunny's stunned response. "How did you know?"
"Look," Angel said, "I hate to break up 'old home week', but I really do need to see the woman upstairs. That's why I came."
"No need to go upstairs," came Xena's voice from the steps leading down from the bedroom, "I'm here."
All eyes turned towards her in stunned amazement. Xena and Angel eyed each other suspiciously. Xena was still clad in her blood stained white T-shirt. She had put on a pair of faded blue jeans to walk down the steps, but her feet were bare. Angel, as always, was clad in his long, black leather coat. The room held it's collective breath as these two faced each other. Finally, the spell was broken.
"What do you want?," Xena yawned as she flopped down on the couch. "To see my bites?," she said as she ripped off her bandage. "Oh, by the way, Gabrielle, so I get beat up, get sick for a few hours and you throw a party? What ARE all these people doing here? And this one," she kicked Mac with her bare foot, rousing him slightly, "is drunk. Sorry I missed all the fun!"
Gabrielle, who was still standing on the last step and leaning against the wall, rolled her eyes. "Yeah right, Xena. Look, all these people are here to help you, all right?"
"Called in the cavalry, did ya?"
"Something like that."
"What do you remember?," Angel interrupted.
"Like I owe you an answer?," Xena hissed. "Who the hell, or should I say, 'what' the hell are you?"
"Xena!," Gabrielle chastised her partner. "He's here because I brought him here. He can help you, help us," she looked at Angel. "I believe in him."
Xena looked over her shoulder at Gabrielle, still perched upon the last step. Now it was her turn to roll her eyes. But she knew better than to cross her soul mate in matters such as this. Gabrielle had a certain wisdom about her, a feeling for people. If Gabrielle thought he was o.k., he was "probably" o.k. Yet, Xena suspected there was more to this man than met the eye. And she didn't trust it.
"What's it to you anyway. I don't even know you."
"I deal with this kind of thing on a regular basis," Angel offered. "Your friend here," he looked over at Gabrielle, "thought that I might be able to help. I agree with her."
"You deal with Bacchae on a regular basis?," Xena asked incredulously.
Gabrielle had made her way over to the couch. She sat down and tenderly took Xena's hand into her own. She whispered in her ear, "They're called 'vampires' now, Xena."
"O.k., fine!," Xena spit out. "So you deal with vampires on a regular basis?"
"Yes, I do," Angel answered matter of factly. "Do you remember what happened?"
Sunny grabbed Wesley's arm. "Oooh, Wes, you have to fill me in on this later!"
"All in good time," Wes replied, "all in good time."
"Look," Xena started in an annoyed tone of voice, "I remember a couple of Bacchae... oh, I'm sorry, I meant vampires," she drawled sarcastically and rolled her eyes at Gabrielle. "They were nothing. I fought them off easy. Then something kind of got me from behind. I don't know. I never saw it coming. That's all I remember until I woke up and a couple of Gabrielle's ex-girlfriend look-a-likes were trying to shove something down my throat!"
Gabrielle patted Xena's hand. "Those were the herbs and roots which helped you to wake up," she smiled sweetly.
"So you remember nothing after the vampire attack?," Angel continued.
"Well, yeah, I remember my bike was damaged!," Xena replied in a surly manner. Then her face changed. Her expression went from one of irritation to apprehension. "No wait. There WAS something else...," she paused. "It was," she stopped and turned to Gabrielle with a sudden look of realization. "Not him again?!"
"Could be," Gabrielle affirmed.
"Damn, what else in heaven, or in hell, or on earth could he want from us?" She stood up as she spoke.
"What are you talking about?," Angel queried as he put his hands on Xena's forearms. Xena quickly withdrew from his touch. She backed up and looked into his eyes. There was 'something' about him, to be sure. She unexpectedly felt a certain sense of kinship with him. And yet, she was left cold. This fellow was just wrong! He was not being honest about who he was, what he was. She struck out with her fingers and tried to put 'the pinch' on him. There was no affect.
"Just as I thought," Xena smirked, "you're unnatural. So just who, or what, are you?!"
"Perhaps, I could be of some help here," Wesley interjected.
Xena, her senses already on high alert, turned on Wes. She put the pinch on him and began, "I've just cut off the flow of blood to your brain...,"
"Yes, yes," he continued, choking, "and I will be dead in 30 seconds unless I tell you what you want to know. I've seen the show! But, but," he started gagging, "I was going to tell you anyway!"
"What's this all about?," Angel asked.
"Take the pinch off him, Xena, he's all right!," Gabrielle screamed as she grabbed Xena's arm. Blood was already beginning to run from Wesley's nose.
"Not until he tells me what I have to know, Gabrielle!"
"The pinch," Polly grinned. "That's so cool, just like the show."
Angel threw his arms up in the air. "The T.V. show again! What is all this stuff about a stupid show?!"
"Take the pinch off now, Xena, or I will!," Gabrielle demanded.
"Aww, all right!," Xena said as she twisted the pinch off of Wes.
He caught his breath momentarily and then began: "Angel IS a vampire," he gasped out, still choking somewhat.
Xena nudged Gabrielle, "See, I knew it, Gabrielle!"
"Why does Sam's partner keep calling her 'Gabrielle'," Jinn thought to herself. "Why did I call out that name earlier tonight? Curiouser and curiouser."
"But, he has a soul now! He has become different from other vampires!," Wesley continued. "He helps us. He has joined in the battle against evil and has become one of it's greatest adversaries!"
"Thank you, Wes," Angel nodded.
"Why should I trust you? Why should I trust ANY of you? I don't even know you!," Xena protested.
"Because, I do!" Gabrielle gave Xena a "sit down and shut up" look. Xena rolled her eyes again and then obliged her soul mate by sitting back down on the couch next to her.
"Angel's here to help us!," Gabrielle continued.
"As I was saying," Wesley began again as he pushed his glasses back up on his face, "Angel fights for good. We receive visions, missions if you well, from a higher power. We live in strange times...,"
"I'll say," Xena interrupted with a smirk.
"There is much evil afoot in our world these days and not always human in nature. I am speaking of demons and monsters, pernicious beings who follow a malevolent master. That Angel used to serve along side these beings... oh, I'm sorry, Angel, no offense... but that he knows them so well, only helps us in our fight against them. As far as him being unnatural is concerned, well I hardly think he's the only one in this room who qualifies. You and your friend are clones, after all."
"They're what?!," Jinn exclaimed.
"Exnay on the ownesclay!," Gabrielle now gave Wes a "sit down and shut up" look. But it was too late. Jinn had siezed upon it.
"You're clones?!" She stared from Xena to Gabrielle and back again as if she were seeing ghosts. "You were cloned? From whom? How?"
"Thank you ever so," Gabrielle smiled sardonically at Wes.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought your friends would know."
"Well, we do now," Sunny said. "This is all so fascinating!"
"Sam, you're a clone?" Jinn was still trying to wrap her mind around this information. "How?"
"It's a long story," Gabrielle sighed. "But as long as you know, you might as well call me Gabrielle. That's my real name."
"THAT'S where I know you from!," Sunny said in an excited voice. "So you must be Xena!" She looked at the other woman on the couch. Xena gave her a "yeah, so what" kind of look. "They were cloned from that T.V. show! Wow, you look just like them. How is that possible?"
"Hey," Xena clarified, "we were not cloned from a T.V. show! We were cloned from ourselves. And we're much better looking than the people on that show!"
"I thought you said you liked the one who played you. You thought she was 'kinda' sexy'," Gabrielle elbowed Xena.
"Yeah, well...," Xena's voice trailed off.
Angel was becoming exasperated. "Look, this is getting us nowhere!," he said. "You two were in the vision we received tonight. You are in grave danger from evil, from the devil, himself, and we need to get to the bottom of this!"
"I've battled the devil before, 'himself', as you put it. He's a punk," Xena snarled.
"Oh, Xena knows how to defeat the devil!," Lea advanced. "She was the one who cast him into hell, remember?" She nodded her head vigorously and looked around the room for affirmation. Polly and Sunny both shook their heads "yes".
"No she didn't," Gabrielle said vehemently. "Where'd you get an idea like that?"
"It was on the show!"
Gabrielle held up her hand in a "stop right there" motion. "Didn't happen, all right? Lucifer was cast into hell after a battle with the other angels. Xena may have been used as a pawn to expose his corrupt nature, but it was his own pride which determined his fate!" She shook her head in disbelief. "The things they did to my scrolls!," she lamented internally.
"I would have to say that, biblically, Gabrielle is correct here," Wes agreed. "Besides, I must've missed that episode."
"Yeah, but I've come up against him a couple of times and he hasn't got the best of me yet!," Xena boasted. "He's just scary and icky because he can steal your very soul if you're not vigilant. But, he's still a punk."
"A couple of vampires told me tonight, that he was already in possession of your soul, Xena," Angel said.
"Friends of yours, huh?"
"No. I killed them."
"Well, I guess they should know."
"Xena," Gabrielle said softly, "this is not helping matters any. Be cooperative," she laid her head on Xena's shoulder, "for me, o.k.?"
"Look, as far as I know, I am still in possession of my own soul. And, as Gabrielle is well aware from an earlier conversation, I DO have a soul! It's mine and no one's taking it away from me!"
Angel eyed her skeptically. "But you felt a 'presence', you said. You felt something else. What was it?"
Xena was quite for a moment. Then she began, slowly, as if trying to recall details. "I think something touched me. It felt like it passed almost through me. I remember it was cold. I felt a shock, like lightening touched me. Then, then... nothing." She looked down at the bard. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle, that's all I can remember."
"It's o.k., Xena. I know you're trying."
"This is very important," Angel said. "Did you drink any blood?"
"Not that I remember," Xena shrugged.
"Xena, you did have blood on your mouth when I found you," Gabrielle informed her.
"How could I drink blood if I was unconscious?," she asked. "Listen, that surge of energy I felt is gone. I'm getting tired again. Believe it or not, this has been a long evening for me. Can we just finish up here so I can go to bed?" She looked at Angel.
"I think it would be better if you came to stay with us, for your own safety."
"No. I want to stay here, with Gabrielle. She'll protect me." She began to cough and then winced in pain as she grabbed the bites on her neck.
"I need to get her back to bed," Gabrielle voiced her concern.
"It's all right. I'll stay with them." Jinn volunteered. "I'm a martial arts master. Not much can get past me."
"What we're dealing with goes way beyond the physical realm," Angel admonished.
"So, I guess that's where I come in," Sunny said. "Unexplained phenomenon is one of my fields of study. I'll stay here, too."
"Is this o.k. with you, Sam, um, I mean, Gabrielle?," Jinn asked.
"It would make me feel much better, yes. Thank you very much."
"We can stay, too!," Lea announced bravely.
Gabrielle got up from her place at Xena's side.
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to kicking some demon butt!," Polly agreed.
"Oh, thank you so much for the thought," Gabrielle responded kindly. "But," and she lowered her voice as she whispered to them, "I'm afraid that Xena may become uncomfortable with so many people around. I'm sorry, but I have to think of her needs first. Please don't take this the wrong way."
Polly and Lea looked down dejectedly until Gabrielle hugged them both affectionately. This seemed to brighten their spirits. She took one of their hands in each of her own. "I so much appreciate everything you've done to help us. Not only tonight, but ever since our, um, arrival. And now I have you to thank for sending me Angel. I really can't express my gratitude enough."
"Well, o.k.," Polly blushed. "But if you need anything...,"
"Anything at all," Lea added.
"I promise," Gabrielle smiled brightly.
"At least let us give you some protection," Angel advised. "Wes?"
"Oh, yes, quite!" He reached into his bag and pulled out a cross and a plastic container of holy water. "This should help keep the demons at bay," he said as he handed them to Gabrielle.
She looked at the items quizzically. "Thanks," she shrugged. Then she looked at Angel. "Thank you for helping me. I can't let anything happen to Xena." She placed the cross and holy water on the couch and threw her arms around him. "She's my life," she whispered in his ear. "Thank you!"
"It's o.k.," Angel said, embarrassed. "It's what I do."
"Hey," Xena called out, "I hate to break up such a cozy scene, but nothing's going to happen to me unless I don't get upstairs to get some rest." She arched one eyebrow at Gabrielle.
"O.k., Xena, I'm coming." She paused to hug Jinn, Sunny and Wesley and then helped her warrior to her feet. Xena placed one arm around her shoulder and Gabrielle held onto the hand that was draped there while she wrapped her other arm around her waist. As they began to climb the stairs, Gabrielle turned around and smiled at the oddly assembled group. "Thank you all so very much," she said. She then proceeded up the steps with her partner leaning on her.
As Angel heard the bedroom door close, he shook his head.
"What is it, Angel?," Wesley inquired.
"Xena's holding something back. She knows more than she's saying. I have this strange feeling that, that...,"
"Whoa, shades of Alien," Mac mumbled.
"Mac, you're awake?," Lea stared, unbelieving.
"Have been, ever since Xena kicked me."
"Well what are you ranting on about?," she inquired.
"Like the movie Alien, you know. The John Hurt character gets attacked and then everyone thinks he's fine and he's acting all normal and everything, but there's something growing inside, something no one can see," he said dramatically. "And then -- kablam! -- out pops the alien ripping his stomach apart and strewing blood and guts everywhere!"
"Oh, very nice image. Thank you very much for sharing," Lea dismissed him.
"I have concerns that your friend may be nearer to the truth than we may think," Angel intoned.
There was a collective, "Huh?"
"No! No, not an 'Alien' alien, but something alien inside of her. Something that must come out." He turned to Jinn and Sunny. "I'm concerned for both of them. One of you needs to stay right outside that door."
"I will, no problem," Jinn stated without hesitation. "I don't want anything to happen to Sam, er, Gabrielle."
"You can start by taking this up to her," Wes said as he handed her the cross and holy water.
"Holy water," Jinn turned it over in her hand. "Does this stuff really work?"
"Yes," Angel and Wes said together.
"Then I'll make sure she gets it."
"We should depart, Angel. I need to continue my research," Wes instructed. "Sunny," he hugged his old friend, "I'll see you tomorrow, then?"
"Oh, you can count on that," Sunny responded. "I have GOT to hear all about everything!"
"Very well then. Angel?" He nodded towards the door. With that, they took their leave.
"I guess we should go, too," Polly said. "C'mon," she grunted as she helped Mac to his feet. As the trio climbed into the car, she remarked to Lea, "You know, they just did it to us again, don't you?"
"Yeah, I know," Lea sighed. "But, what can we do? At least we got to come over!," she smiled.
Inside, Sunny and Jinn just looked at each other for some time, too dumbfounded to speak. "Are you scared?," Sunny finally said.
"You know me better than that. Scared of what: demons, monsters, the devil? Scared to stay in a house occupied by a couple of clones, one of whom may be possessed? Scared of vampires with souls and things that go bump in the night? Nah, I'm not scared. I'm just a little petrified, is all." She smiled.
"I find this all so
fascinating!," Sunny smiled back. "I mean, as creepy as it is, I'm excited by
it. This is my chance to prove some of my theories! Oooh, speaking of which,"
she pointed to the holy water and cross still in Jinn's hands, "you'd better
get that upstairs!"
Xena crashed upon the bed and almost immediately began to doze off to sleep. "Oh no you don't, Xena," Gabrielle roused her. "I need to get that blood stained shirt off of you first." Gabrielle lifted the shirt over Xena's head and the exhausted warrior collapsed into the pillows. Gabrielle managed to slowly drag her partner's blue jeans off her long limbs and toss them into the pile of her already dirty clothes "I swear, she's starting a collection!," Gabrielle thought. She then gently lifted her legs and placed them under the sheets.
"I love you, Gabrielle," Xena murmured.
"I love you, too, Xena," she whispered as she kissed her brow.
She stared down at her lover's face. "How often have we done this?," she pondered. "Too often."
Gabrielle thought of so many times she had had to help Xena to bed and dress her wounds because she had been in some horrible battle and was injured. It had taken Xena years to allow herself to be vulnerable in front of Gabrielle and admit that she could use some assistance. Even after they had become physically intimate, Xena would still try to pretend that she didn't need any help. She didn't want to appear weak in her lover's eyes. For years she had had no one to rely on but herself. It was a tough armor to crack through. She was so proud! But Gabrielle was a warrior of the heart and she had broken down Xena's defenses, slowly but surely, with patience and with love. And how often had Xena carried her in her arms when she was hurt? How often had she healed her damaged body and nursed her back to health? How often had she held her in her arms and sat vigil over her until she was well? Too often.
Gabrielle had hoped that, somehow, this time, this place would be different. This era was so wonderful! Peace seemed to be a goal desired by the majority of this world's inhabitants. The pursuit of peace seemed to be perceived as a virtue. Although, when they went to the movies (and Gabrielle loved the movies! So much drama and sound and scenery, they were a bard's dream!), there did seem to be excessive violence portrayed in many films. This sort of violence didn't seem to be reflected in the average person's daily life. She had certainly never seen a car explode after being chased by a helicopter! Neither did it appear to be glorified in normal life. The news reports on television portrayed violence as a bad thing. It seemed that reality differed greatly from entertainment in this world. And it did appear that humankind really had made some progress since she and Xena had roamed Ancient Greece. She had hoped that they could escape the awful violence of their old world in this new reality and settle into productive, creative lives! "But, I guess it's just not to be for you and me, huh Xena?." She whispered so as not to wake her. "We're destined to take the hard road, for some reason," she sighed.
She heard a soft knock on the door. Jinn had brought up the "protection" Angel had insisted Wesley give them.
"What is this stuff anyway?," she asked Jinn.
"It's a cross and holy water. Evil things can't abide them. They'll keep you safe."
"O.k.," Gabrielle yawned. "But it seems strange, a cross, a horrid device of torture and execution, being a holy thing. When did that happen?"
"Well, as you said earlier, long story," Jinn smiled. "Get some rest. I'll be right here if you need me. We can talk in the morning."
Gabrielle was too tired to argue. "Goodnight, and thank you so much. I don't know how I'll ever repay you."
"Let's not worry about that. I only do what I want to do, o.k.?"
"O.k., goodnight." She hugged Jinn again.
"Goodnight, Gabrielle," Jinn smiled.
Gabrielle placed the cross on the night stand and opened the holy water. She smelled it. "Huh, it doesn't smell holy," she thought. "No matter, I should probably put some on Xena, just to be on the safe side." She poured some into her hand and let it drop into the bites on Xena's neck. Xena screamed and jerked straight up in bed!
"Gabrielle, what are you doing?!," she cried out as she grabbed her neck.
"I just put some of this water on your wounds, Xena, that's all!" Her heart was pounding.
"Well it burns like hell! Don't do that again!"
"O.k., o.k., I won't. I was just trying to help! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!"
"It's all right, Gabrielle. I know you wouldn't hurt me on purpose."
"Wow, this stuff doesn't work at all!," she thought to herself as she placed the holy water on the night stand next to the cross.
"Here, lie back down. I'll rub your shoulders."
Xena relaxed back into Gabrielle's arms. Gabrielle worked on the tired muscles in Xena's shoulders. And soon, Xena had fallen back to sleep. Gabrielle maneuvered carefully around until she was lying on her stomach. She gazed at Xena's striking profile and lightly brushed a strand of hair off her face. She then gently wrapped a protective arm around her and fell fast asleep.
END OF PART 1
(Continued in CLONES ALONE Part 2)