For the usual disclaimers, go to Part 1: Here...Puss...Puss?

For Maggie...whom I truly loved.

Raven was, to put it mildly, just a bit perturbed. Gabrielle had put her on the spot, she had called her on her word. Raven paced the length of the small hut, the squat cat trailing her heels. Every so often tripping over each other.

"MERRRR??…….MERR!!….." The animal growled, hooking a paw at Raven’s leather clad ankle. Too bad looks can’t kill Raven thought to herself, glaring at the cat, who for the life of himself, carried an air of, "What me?…..Like I really give a ….."

A knock on her door broke the internal murder plans. Epinon, the Queen’s guard Captain stood and announced it was time for Raven to make a presentation at the council hut…..

"Well, time to pay the piper," Raven thought grimly to herself. "I would not have picked this time or this place to tell Xena what happened to me, but I guess there’s no way around it now." Glancing slightly off too her left, Raven spotted the cat softy, silently making his way into the trees surrounding the village, never leaving her out of his line of sight, even if he had too take the long way …..

Conscious of the looks she was receiving, Raven, walking in between the Amazon guard, debated about what she would say. An unconscious frown appeared on her face, her jaw set itself into a tight line, her Amber eye started to glow in subtle fashion.

The council hut was dimly lit, Gabrielle was seated in the Queen’s throne, Ephiniy to her right, Xena standing to the left and rear. "Queen’s champion," Raven thought. Cocking her head slightly, Raven looked deeply into Xena’s eyes. Arching her eyebrow she turned her intense gaze on Gabrielle, watching with a great deal of satisfaction as the younger woman squirmed under the scrutiny.

Clearing her throat, Gabrielle, not quite looking Raven in the eye, Said, "Raven…….You have heard the conditions of penance for crimes committed against the Amazon Nation…..you have sworn your word to uphold the safety of this village…..I believe you will hold true to your word…." Raven’s jaw visibly clenched and her eye narrowed at Gabrielle’s words, fleetingly she saw Xena tense, as if waiting for a mistake. A small sign of aggression……towards her love, her Queen.

"Soon, Xena….." Raven thought, "I’ll kick your kiester all around the practice field, ‘cause kiddo, you owe me." The slight smirk didn’t go unnoticed by Xena, who frowned a bit, not knowing why she had earned such a look by her former mentor.

"Will you tell the council your story Raven? Will you let us better understand……." Gabrielle had gotten everyone’s attention now, even Xena perked an eyebrow at this last statement.

"May I sit?" Raven’s eye never leaving Gabrielle’s gaze; as the Queen nodded, a chair was brought to the dark warrior. A heavy sigh escaped Raven’s weary frame, her shoulders slumped, the amber eye had a far away look; "my time……my life…… I had always lived as a warrior, but some things?" She looked hard at Xena, "Some things can’t be controlled." Looking down at her hands, Raven’s face twisted in a grimace of pain. Her breathing was starting to become laboured. "These things…….battles…the fighting…I could not control."

"I was good at what I did. I…I had few regrets." Raven’s face was becoming tenser, her golden eye, clouding, as memories; dark and terrible , began to take hold. "That last fight..? Xena?" Raven was starting to look disorientated. I don’t remember…?"

"I had sworn my life…….my soul to the people who rescued me. My life……?" Her head was pounding, her mind was racing!

CAT……ARE YOU WITH ME?…….TIME TO GO…’ Her mind sent feverishly. She was starting to sway, her breathing was becoming more laboured….harsher….she was loosing control…. Raven’s mind was swirling….. "I Can’t stay here…I….can’t…..tell….." Raven’s voice was starting to drop …..

"MERRRRR…….." The cat was starting to panic….he knew Raven….

"MER…." It was almost with a sadness, his deep green eyes, watching, waiting, knowing what was to be…….he scampered out from his hiding place………knowing where Raven would be waiting for him.

"There was a time, a long time, the people………" Raven’s voice was starting to change…deepening…her eye looked to Xena. Her curse would never let her explain, but Amber eye smouldering……she could at least try!!!!!

"They…I…….can’t….." Raven’s head was starting to twitch…she was looking down…her head starting to snap a little to and fro….

Raven’s lip started to curl just a bit as she looked up at Xena. Knowing she could never tell….the pain was just too intense….the curse. "I must protect the ONES!! I will and Gods help me I will protect these who ask for my help, the ones who I put in jeopardy!! Starting to growl softly, raven looked into the soft green eyes of the amazon queen, her hand twitching slightly.

" I …..am an animal…… I was raised to be a fighter, and I was so good at it. Until I fell in love and lost my focus…." Raven’s eye was steadily starting to change….the soft amber color was starting to glow a feral gold.

"I was stupid, I was wounded. The people….they looked after me……..they gave some blood…… " Raven’s voice was becoming more guttural, her hands and head starting to twitch . "The next thing I knew I was….something I didn’t what to be" ….Raven was starting to get figgetity…….her eyebrow was starting to to arch; Xena was starting to worry.

"The cave…..They…….." Raven suddenly pitched herself off the chair.

"XENA!!!!!…." Laying there on the ground, mouth gasping for air; one hand reaching out…Raven screamed out for her friend!.

Raven’s Amber eye glowed, her hand started to transform…..

Raven looked at Xena, then towards Gabrielle, rolling to her knees, her voice betraying her inner turmoil. Head bowed, she spoke in a whisper, "HANDS?……..MY HANDS…?" Her growing confusion and the fact that for once, she had no control over her transformation was taking it’s toll on the dark warrior. The tremors were becoming shakes.

Her Glowing eye………. "I can’t stop this…..Gabrielle…..I’m sorry!!!!"

Her voice choked and filled with pain. Her sides heaving, Raven, laid to the side….her back hunched forward, legs lurching inwards….her lips curled in a feral grin….her teeth…..her limbs….

Gabrielle gasped!! Xena, tensing behind her, Ephiny, to her right, reaching for her sword. Xena, seeing the change starting, bolted out towards Raven.

Xena ran to her side….. "OH, GODS!!!……….RAVEN!!!!!….I’M SO SORRY" Raven’s face started to contort. Xena, grabbing her hand, waited for the worst…., then as Raven’s Amber eye glowed. A low growl started, as Raven’s body started to change, Xena started to loosen her clothes, muttering to herself….’No this can’t be…not like this…’

The face of the wolf was suddenly in front of her!!! Xena let go of the animal now in front of her! Raven, seeing the shock and revulsion in her former lover’s eyes, let loose; and the change was now becoming complete.

‘Oh, Gods ….NO!’ She would not let this happen….she did not want Raven to be subject to this. Xena, grabbing the animal, dragging it out of the council hut;

"I…..told you I can’t do this….." The animal’s face contorted to try and form the words.

"I……Can’t….." Raven’s voice started to slur; started to growl…

Xena, her face in a panic, grabbed Raven;

"You can do this!! Come on!!! I KNOW YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!" Fight this Raven!!! Fight!!!!!

Xena, had Raven’s, arms, her eyes locked with the dark warrior’s one golden eye……… ‘I know you…..you are strong….you can fight this!!!’

Xena’s deep blue eyes were imploring the half animal laying in her arms. The distorted face in front of her.

"I know you can do this!!" Xena’s eyes were locked onto Raven’s golden one…….avenging one……..

"I…..Must …..protect…….WHY MUST I AWAYS???" The animal’s lips twisted with the effort of trying to form the words. Then….

Raven’s guttural growl was starting to become more animal than human;

Xena couldn’t stop what was about to happen……..so she grabbed the nerested weapon…..a rock…..and smashed Raven along side of the head.

The wolf, talking a deep breath, looking at the other warrior, sighed once; sighed twiced….paw twitching in the air…..closed it’s golden eye……and ……..very softly stopped breathing.

"Oh, my Gods……..I think…." Feeling quickly for a pulse, Xena stared wide eyed up at Gabrielle, her face a study in grief. "I’VE KILLED HER" Looking down at the dark warrior she had clutched tightly in her fists Turning her eyes towards Gabrielle, Xena’s face was full of pain.

Standing, Gabrielle, turning to her guards, motioned to them, "Take her" she said softly, indicating the wolf that now laid in Xena’s arms. " Bring the healer. Give her what she needs. Make sure she wants for nothing!!!!" Gabrielle went to her lover and gently removed the warrior’s arms from the black wolf, and lead her back to their hut.

Xena was in shock. Not only by what had happened, but also by the depth of despair she had glimpsed in Raven’s eye; her soul…..

The darkness stretched…….evening out….soft rays of light….Raven ….was?

"I………..AM……I am Raven!!!" Her mind was screaming at her to wake up. She was having trouble breathing…she couldn’t move her right arm. The pain was clouding her mind, she knew she should do something, but the weight on her arm, the throbbing in her head…..she closed her eye and let the healing sleep wash over her.

The fat cat, purring softly beside and on her right shoulder, poked softly with his paw. His paw gently reached up and, claws part way out, pricked Raven’s face. "MERRRR…..MERRRR!!" He growled, claws extending a little deeper, until he felt the body start to move…

The cat watched; not doing a thing. He knew his master….he knew …Raven. The time would come….. she would get stronger…the sleep time would be back soon. Knowing this, the cat heaved a great sigh, closing his eyes, his paw once more softly caressing Raven’s face; his throat started to relax in a deep purr. They both slept, nightmares were not an option when he was there to help.

Raven started to come around feeling the fat animal on her shoulder, his paw, gently touching her face.

"Merrr….., MERRRR" The fat cat’s paw poked and prodded at Raven. He was scared…..There were humans circling around the hut….the animal was starting to get just a little antsy. "These ones……these ones!!" The animal was starting to get agitated.

Raven woke. She knew she had sworn an oath…..reaching for the cat, she felt the familiar; the warmth of the small animal beside her. Groaning, she started to rise…… "I’ve got to stop doing this, little one!!!!"

Raven staggered to semi-sitting position, her hands holding her head. A knock on her hut door brought her back to a semblance of awareness. "Come" she said. A guard from the Queens own stood and delivered a message from Gabrielle….

"Raven…." She stuttered,…."Queen Gabrielle…OH TARTAROUS!" She groaned, "I CAN’T DO THIS!!!!…." The young woman, Raven recognised her from the walk in. The guard who stumbled. Raven recognised the young blond warrior.

" You don’t have to afraid….I am not that scary!" Raven’s small smirk and her soft golden eye caressed the young warrior, "It’s O.K. I really don’t bite."

Her green eyes were on fire…the look she was giving Raven, was everything….Raven’s world tilted suddenly, as desire swept her lean frame. Shaking herself, she got a grip on the situation.

Raven’s Amber eye was soft and telling. ‘I AM NOT OF YOUR WORLD!!…I CAN’T BE ONE WITH YOUR TRIBE! I AM OF THE PEOPLE…..I AM ONE OF THE WOLVEN!!" Raven’s face was contorted with her grief.

‘CAT!!! NOW!!!’ Raven’s mind was screaming out. ‘The woods? Meet me….’

Raven felt a soft brush against her mind as the cat went to do her bidding.

’’Go from me …..I need to be alone right now…….I need to change……" Raven’s voice was harsh, yet she didn’t want to scare the young warrior. But the need in her was starting to run rampant….she had to get loose….she had to be free!

The blond stood there….her eyes gaping in fear.

Raven, falling to her knees, hands clenched at her sides; "Please, I…I….just need a place to be alone? Your name??" Raven’s amber eye caught the girl….

The amazon’s look was enough to let Raven know she was, at least for this time; O. K.

"I am called Aidien. You must give me your word warrior you will not run." Her young face was trusting; The cat, from his hiding place in the trees outside the window, glared at her. Raven knew in that one look, she could change, run, it was what the cat wanted…

"Take me to this place, Aidien, I need to run, I need to, at least have the illusion of being free." Raven looked up at the young woman, and it seemed as if all the weight of the world was reflected in that scarred face.

The woman, gasping at the look of utter despair on Raven’s face,

"I WON’T,HURT …..YOU ….I just need to find a place where I can just be alone. Do you know of place? I gave my word……I won’t run away!

The girl knew her fight was over. One look in Raven’s tortured eyes and the guard, knew, that was all it took.

"The practice fields….I mean….you can ….?" The blond warrior slowly reached out her hand, Raven gratefully accepted the arm extended to her. They walked out of the village.

The cat was, watching, his green eyes glowing. He knew Raven……he knew the things……the demons that haunted Raven’s soul, grieving, his green eyes shone in the twilight; sighing he shook himself slightly. Standing with a great stretch, his body heaved a great breath, and with a flourish he leaped from the tree and bounded into the forest beyond.

Raven, knowing the women beside her, she needed the space…she needed to be able to run!

The big animal, his deep green eyes, watching….knowing Raven would do what she had to, waited patiently for her arrival…..anticipation making him quiver just a little….. ‘soon…..we run!’

The practice field was deserted, Raven’s face was lost in the shadows. The breeze was fresh on her face and it tasted sweet.

She stirred, the call in blood….she wanted to run! Her legs pushing towards her chest, her hands….. ‘OH ….MY ….GODS???…….MY ….HANDS??’

The animal standing, beside the warrior; the trees were good cover. Eyes glowing softly, he knew, the purr beginning deep in his chest, the change was about to happen.

Raven, putting her hands before her, her head starting to twitch, Her hands started to change…..the fingers…lengthening…the arms…darkening….the hair….the teeth….the sounds of bones being reformed!

The howl that rent the air! Not again?? Please, I know…..I can’t…."

The animal, the wolf, screamed it’s cry against the night! Leaping into the night, the animal….The wolf…..cried it’s fury…it’s one golden eye gleaming in the darkness.

Scenting the air, the animal slowly stalked the area around her. The cat was, as always, nearby. The animal shook itself. Her mouth tasting the wind around her. A soft groan to her side alerted the wolf that she was not alone.

The blond warrior had fainted. Nosing the young woman, the wolf, putting her paws on the chest of the girl, leaned in to look….startling green gazed back at soft amber. Jumping back the wolf snarled. Showing teeth, the animal, crouching….fir bristling….the animal started to back away. Snapping her head back, the wolf let loose a howl. One look at the Amazon; Then the animal bolted. The cat in the surrounding trees felt the surge of adrenalin….the freedom of the wind!

Taking the leap, the cat followed the larger animal….in to the forest…in to the darkness…..

The sun was just starting to shine…..groping around, she found herself alone…. ‘Oh Tartarus! How am I gonna explain this one!’ Aidien raised a hand to her face, ‘how could I be so stupid!! I just let her go!! I trusted her!’ Her green eyes clouded in dispair, the blond, taking one more look around the field spotted movement at the far edge of the trees….. ‘There….the cat? Where is she?’ Aidien knew Raven was close, the cat and the warrior were never apart from each other for long, all she had to do was look…..

The wolf was not far….the changing was starting. Raven closed her eye, as her body began to shift….letting the pain wash over her….one last snarl tore through her lips….then silence once again…..

Aidien watched from the trees as the transformation took place. Her heart ached for the dark warrior, the pain she must be suffering!

Raven’s dreams were of running….she could feel the ground beneath her paws….the wind racing across her face! The sound of her voice as it ripped from her throat….the howl of the WOLVEN!!

The scream erupted from her chest as Aidien tried to shake her awake. Eye wide and staring Raven clutched the other woman to her as she slowly began her descent from the run. The look of fear in the other woman’s eyes brought Raven back to reality. "Sorry….sometimes I have no control. I….I….where are my clothes? I can’t….??" Raven’s amber eye shone softly in to the concerned green eyes of the blond warrior cradling her. Reaching up to cup the face, the scarred hand started to pull Aidien down. What happened next seemed natural, lips seeking out lips….the kiss when it happened shocked both of them. Leaving them both gasping for air at the depth of passion that was flowing between them. Reaching up, Raven slowly ran her hands along the arms of the blond warrior, her breath coming in short pants as her want….her need….out-stripped her caution.

Desire shining in her green eyes, Aidien knew this was probably a mistake, ‘OH….but Hades….what a mistake!!’ and with that she surrendered, body and soul to the dark warrior. Taking her hands she led the dark one up from the field and into the trees, the shadows that would hold them safe. The cat, from his perch in the trees, watched as the two women slowly started to explore each other, knew this was going to take awhile, snorting softly to himself and casually extending a paw to his face, he set about grooming himself.

Raven was slow to wake, Aidien lay cradled in her arms, her head on Raven’s left shoulder; Raven’s face in the softness of the girl’s blond hair. Tightening her grip slightly, Raven swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat, Aidien stirred, her hand in an almost child-like manner, brought her hand to her face and wiped the sleep from her eyes. "Raven?" Her voice was a bare whisper, her body naturally curving into Raven’s contours.

"Hmmmm…..I know…." She sighed, pulling the young warrior closer to her. "Come on, help me find my clothes," she said softly, placing one more kiss on the lips of the girl. "Time to get back." Raven’s voice was both sad and resigned as she stood and extending her arm to Aidien, and helping her rise, they set about gathering their things.

The village was just starting to bustle when Aidien walked Raven back to her hut. "I think I may sleep now. Go. Get some rest. I’m sure there’ll be new guards soon." Raven gently ran the back of her hand down the side of Aidien’s face, her Amber eye glowing softly in the still early morning light. "I’ll see you soon. Now go, eat and get some rest, O. K.?"

Nodding, Aidien’s green eyes shone softly back, her own hand touching Raven’s in a quick grip. Turning that hand in her own, she kissed the callused palm before turning away and striding towards the guards barracks.

Watching her leave, Raven’s jaw clenched in a tight grimace….this was going to be harder than she thought. Shaking off the depression that was threatening to overwhelm her, she stepped back, and slowly closed the door.

"You can come out now.’’ Raven walked to the water basin and filling it, she splashed the cold water on her face and neck, trying to shake off the weariness that threatened to drown her. The cat jumped in through the window and made straight for the bed, throwing himself smack dab in the middle, he stretched and made himself comfortable…. "MERRRR? MERRR." His soft green eyes looked at Raven, in their depths a question….

"Don’t say a word! I need some sleep and I don’t want any grief from you!" Stripping her clothes from her body, she snapped the quilt and a very disgruntled fur ball flew two feet up into the air as Raven quickly slipped into bed, she didn’t want to think, she just wanted to sleep. With a soft "OOOMFFTH" the cat landed back on the bed, slightly over to the left of his mistress, rolling back up on his feet, ears back, he swatted at Raven’s back…..three or four quick jabs…boom…boom….! ..

Feeling his ruffled honour to be placated, he set about grooming himself and prepared to sleep. One more quick jab to the unyielding form in front of him, and placing his back feet firmly in the small of the back, he started to to push…..

Gabrielle watched as Xena paced around the room, she knew her mate would spit it out when she was good and ready, but at the moment Xena’s restless pacing was really starting to piss her off!!

"DAMN! I should have known….DAMN IT ALL TO TARTARUS!!!" Xena’s fist shot and connected soundly with the wall nearest to her, "Gabrielle. I should have ……" Intense blue eyes locked with sea green,

"I knew….I…? OH, Gabrielle… what can I do? I…" Taking Gabrielle’s hands in her own, Xena looked at her love, neither one knowing what to say.

"Xena!!! My queen!!" The guard ran breathless towards the two, falling on her knees as she did so….

Gabrielle, breaking away from her love, knelt down and faced the girl, looking in to her wide eyes, she unspokenly asked…..

"My Queen! It’s gone! The Spear! It’s GONE!!" The girl was devastated. Gabrielle sprinted to the door, Xena by her side, the Royal guard sent to Ephiney , Eponion and Solarie….

Gabrielle knew, deep in her soul, this time there was trouble….bad trouble!

Xena stood back and watched as her lover and the Amazons sketched out their plans. She knew as a non-Amazon, she really had no say in anything that happened here tonight. Rolling her head around her shoulders, trying to take the kinks out, she caught the eye of one of the younger warriors, Aiedien.

Casting one more glance at the women making their plans, she walked out towards the young Amazon. "So can I help you?" The warrior’s voice was silky and full of menace. The younger woman near her, to her credit was not afraid.

"Xena….your friend….Raven. She would be a help now. I…I…know she is different, but …I think, maybe…..? Aidien left the sentence unfinished, she knew Xena’s thoughts would follow her own. Quietly, taking the arm of the young warrior, Xena walked towards the hut where Raven lay sleeping still.

Standing in the doorway, Xena looked at the battered figure. The lean features, still moving, twitching, in the dreams that haunted her….the patch that covered her eye, the scars that covered her body….Xena knew, somewhere deep down inside, she knew….and a part of wanted to cry out at the wrongness of it, the unfairness of it….and a part of her; just a small part….wanted to go to….reaching down to touch the chiselled face, she spoke in a tight voice; "Raven? Come on…Raven!"

The Amber snapped open, a snarl on the lips; Raven’s left hand snapped out and grabbed Xena’s wrist. Colbalt blue; Amber gold; Locked together, before the dark warrior realised there was no danger.

"Xena….I didn’t know it was you. You should be more careful, I might have taken your hand off." The dark warrior slowly sat up, her hands to her face, rubbing gingerly, then through her hair. "I take it we have a problem?" The smirk on Raven’s lean face was almost enough to make anyone laugh, the arched eyebrow over the dark patch did!

The two warriors, forearms clasped, grinned at each other, and waited to hear what the other had to say…..

Gabrielle, Ephiny, Eponin and Solarie had gathered a group of warriors around and were starting to plot a strategy when Xena and Raven walked in, And from the looks on their faces…..all Tartarus was just to break loose!!

"We…..need to know who has the spear. I think I’m one of the best to try and find out. Queen Gabrielle……If I may, and Xena agrees with me on this one, I want to scout around….with my senses……I just may…?

Raven’s hands, were wide spread, she looked at Gabrielle, her one Golden eye locking on the soft Green of the Bard……so much to say…so much left unsaid…..she wanted……..so much left to do…..

"I can do this. You have…input in this, Let me…." Raven’s eye shone, her arms, implored…..

Gabrielle looked at Xena; Her face was a mask, hard and cold. This was Gabrielle’s choice…her’s alone.

"If you think you can…..Raven!! Do what you can!" The dark warrior was almost bristling with anticipation. Shooting a look at Xena, Raven started to loosen her clothing, her lips curled up in a smile, her Amber eye starting to glow ….

"I’ll see you there!!" One more look at Gabrielle and Xena, and Raven, a smirk on her face; She bolted out the door of the hut. Running as if the wind would catch her, she ran to the training fields…..her arms stretched out and up to the sky….she howled…..her head thrown back…..the love for the wild, in her soul!

Raven was at the temple, she was teasing the air; the body she was in right now;….She was in her glory now……she was ….RAVEN….

Prowling around the village, Raven picked up a scent, she would prove Gabrielle was right…she would be….

Raven picked up the scent, the cat following close behind her. As a wolf she could travel, she could…do the things she wanted to do…..

The animal scented the air, it’s amber eye glowing softly, the growl in her throat,her lips lifting up in a snarl…..she was in her element; the scent was familiar…she was in her own now…she was Raven….she was the wolf.

The cat was following behind her; ‘now we’re gonna have fun!!’

The scent was in her face….the man…he was there……the stench….was there…

Flicking a look towards the cat, the wolf, lowering her head, looked at the man…..

Lips curled up in a feral grin…

EYE glowing…..This time…

"I AM !!!"

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