Easter Hauntings

16X- LoisK


Dedication: I could not have done this, without my two beta readers. I can't tell you their names (yet), since this is supposed to be anonymous, but you know who you are!!! Bows, kudo's, love and admiration from the heart of this bard! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Dark chocolate coming up....!

Disclaimers: this is a story that was inspired by the challenge of the Holiday Havoc Contest. Yup, yup, yup, there is love between two consenting women. No foul language, no violence (just some vocal sparring), a little tragedy (sorry!), love (in case you didn't get it the first time I mentioned that) and.....a rabbit. For all you animal lovers out there: I love 'em too. Really. This is fiction, remember? No rabbit was seriously injured, damaged or hurt while writing this. Honestly!

LeFlore County, Eastern Oklahoma, April 2003

It was only April, but it was already hot. The sun relentlessly beamed down its heat, not hindered by any cloud, since the sky was blue all the way to the horizon.

A bright red Volkswagen Beetle slowly followed the quiet street up the hill. The sun roof of the car was open and the light, spring breeze playfully ruffled the hair of the blond woman who was driving the vehicle. She squinted her eyes against the bright glare of the sun and softly mumbled to herself.

The houses on East Greek Street were big mansions. Separated by huge gardens, they were mostly bordered by rows of trees and bushes. It was obvious that the owners valued their privacy.

" 1215....1217....1219...," Beatrice Peterson, Billie to her friends, recited quietly. Her green eyes eagerly scanned the numbers of the houses that were not always visible from her vantage point inside the car. " Where the heck is number 1233? All the way up on top of the hill? Humm...that would really be cool."

After leaving behind number 1221, Billie passed a row of neatly trimmed bushes that were just too high for her to peek over.

" Big yard,' she murmured. " Lots of green, but no house."

Suddenly her eye caught a big, iron gate and she slowed down to read what was printed on the sign next to the entrance.

" East Greek Resurrection Cemetery," she read aloud.

A frown creased Billie's forehead when she looked around. There were no houses across the street and she fully understood. Who would want a view like that?

But around what seemed to be a corner, and behind a row of tall trees that fenced off one side of the cemetery, Billie noticed the roof of a building.

" Great! Don't tell me number 1233 is next to a graveyard!?" she nervously chuckled.

Billie continued her journey up the hill, until she stopped in front of yet another huge, iron gate. Her eyes impatiently scanned the entrance, looking for a any clue that might tell her if this was the looked for house.

It was a big two story house. The white shingle siding seemed to have been recently painted. The window frames were a deep green color and the many windows, although small, seemed to give the house a light, airy impression. Billie knew the house was at least a hundred years old, but it seemed to be well maintained.

Billie noticed that the huge gate was closed, but it didn't seem to be locked. Still she had not seen a number and she was just debating with herself whether she would get out of the car or not, when she finally spotted a tiny sign, that read: East Greek Street 1233"

With a sigh of relief Billie switched off the engine of the car and the sudden silence was almost deafening. The only sound she could hear was the rustling of leaves the breeze was playing with and the barking of a dog, somewhere off in the distance.

" Wow, Aunt Hester," Billie breathed. " We never knew each other very well, but I sure am glad you remembered your niece when you had your will drawn up. What a beautiful place. Thank you!"

Billie quickly hopped out of the car, immediately forgetting the long, tedious eight hours of driving down to the Poteau area. She reached inside her purse to pull out the set of keys her aunt's lawyer had given her after reading Aunt Hester's will.

Billie was born in Oklahoma, but when she was only four years old, her parents had moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where she grew up. She could only very vaguely remember her aunt, who had been her mother's eldest sister. According to the stories her mother had told Billie, Aunt Hester had always been the black sheep of the family and did not have much contact with her siblings. Except for Sara, Billie's mother, who had contact on a regular basis and made sure she traveled down to visit her at least once a year.

That was the reason Billie first objected to accepting the generous inheritance. If somebody had a right to the big mansion, it surely was her mother, who had been the only one in the family to keep in touch with her oldest sister.

But after listening to Billie's arguments, her mother had smiled and had reassured her only child that if Hester had left her the house, she must have had a perfectly good reason to do so.

Her green eyes sparkling with anticipation, Billie pushed open the gate, suddenly realizing how well maintained the garden was. Her aunt had passed away more than a month ago, but the it looked like the grass had been mowed and the trees and bushes had been trimmed. Even the mailbox looked clean, free of cobwebs and dirt.

Pleased with this discovery Billie followed the cobblestone paved path that would lead her to the front door.

She still could not get over the fact how beautiful the garden was. The grass had a fresh green color thanks to an abundance of rain the area had been plagued with for two weeks in a row. But it was dry for the third consecutive beautiful bright day.

A male cardinal landed on one of the nearby bushes and looked at Billie with curiosity. She smiled at the bird's boldness and wondered if her aunt had made it a habit to feed the birds all through the year. If so, Billie would make sure she would continue with that tradition.

Bille was deep in thought as she walked towards the steps that would lead up to the front door. Her mind was still occupied with the enormity of her inheritance and she was trying to figure out why her aunt would leave her the house when the last time they had met must have been more than twenty years ago.

Billie's eyes admired the way the dark gray cobblestones were laid out into a pathway and with a feeling of surprise she noticed that there was no trace of weeds between the individual stones. Not one.

" That's odd," she softly whispered to herself. " Well, maybe not if Aunt Hester had a gardener who still.....YIKES!!!"

With a start Billie jumped three feet back when she suddenly saw a figure standing in front of her, blocking her path.

While her heart was definitely trying to hammer a way out of her chest, she tried to catch her breath and shot the person in front of her a dirty look.

" Couldn't you have coughed or something?" she accusingly asked the little man who could easily have been a Marty Feldman clone, including the huge, round eyes. " Anything to let me know you were there?"

Billie glanced at the man who was looking at her silently and nervously chuckled

" Who are you?" he snarled and Billie could easily detect a thick, foreign accent.

" My name is Beatrice Peterson," she coolly answered. " This house used to belong to my Aunt Hester. She left it to me. And who might you be?"

Billie straightened her back, which made her look slightly taller than her usual 5'5" and she felt really tall and self confident when she towered over the small man in front of her.

" I am the gardener, " the man answered with a voice that resembled her of a rusty, iron lock. " My name is Igor."

Billie almost snorted, but managed to hide her amusement by covering her mouth and coughing loudly.

" Igor!" her mind was screaming. " Oh, if he doesn't stop looking at me like that I will be rolling with laughter soon. Maybe the character in Young Frankenstein was named after him!!"

" Ahum, well....Igor...," Billie swallowed, trying to compose herself. " You are doing a great job. The yard looks beautiful. I am sure my aunt would have been really pleased."

" Shows you didn't know her," Igor mumbled, before turning around and stalking away. Leaving an amused, but puzzled Billie behind.

" Strange fellow," she muttered, climbing the steps to the porch. " Igor!" she chuckled.

Sunlight streamed through the high windows in the hall, painting colorful patches on the shining wooden floor. Tiny dust particles danced on the sunbeams and diffused the bright light, turning it into a soft yellow.

Billie stood in the middle of the hall and looked around with big, round eyes. It was beautiful. The huge polished reddish wood stairway was almost glowing in the sunlight as it lead to the first floor. The steps were wide enough for at least three adults to walk side by side. The banister looked sturdy and firm and was adorned with beautifully carved leaves and flowers.

A huge mirror hung over the fireplace and reflected the light that came streaming through one of the windows. The beam it created fell on a painting on the opposite wall and when Billie stepped closer to take a better look, her breath caught.

In the painting was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. She was dressed in a tailor-made dark blue suit and cream colored blouse. She was leaning against a door frame and sunlight brought out mahogany highlights in her long, black hair. One hand was tucked away in the pocket of her slacks, while the other one held a white rose against a tanned cheek. A sensual, lopsided smile tugged on full red lips, but the thing that made Billie's heart skip a beat were the eyes, that seemed to stare straight through her. They were a kind of blue one rarely saw. Clear and bright. To Billie it was a mixture of summer skies and ice. Of Caribbean waters. A sky blue topaz.

With a sigh and great difficulty Billie tore her eyes away from the portrait and squinted her eyes to see the name of the artist, scribbled in the right-hand corner.

" H. K. Davis, nineteen seventy one." Billie read aloud. " By the Gods, Aunt Hester, you were a great artist. Where did you find a beautiful model like that?"

Hidden from view by human eyes, two figures stood on top of the stairs, watching the young woman admire the huge painting. She had her back towards them, so they couldn't see her face, but they knew for a certainty she was in awe. Heck, everybody always was.

" Another admirer we can jot down on the list," the slender curly haired appearance chuckled. " Everybody seems to fall for our friend."

" Like they have always done," her brown haired companion added with a smirk. " I wonder if this is Hester's heir. What do you think, Eph?"

" I don't know, Ep, she could be. We haven't seen anyone here for weeks. Except for that creepy gardener that looks like Marty Feldman."

Eponin chuckled and bumped her friend with her hip.

" Do you think he scared blondie?"

" She's inside, so she didn't run screaming," Ephiny answered. " I guess she wasn't too impressed then."

Two pairs of eyes curiously watched Billie slowly turn around. Her face was illuminated by a ray of light and both Ephiny and Eponin let out a gasp of surprise.

" Sweet Artemis! Gabrielle," Eponin exclaimed, with a mixture of surprise and happiness.

" Hardly," Ephiny answered with a whisper, her eyes fixed on the woman in the hall. " She and the big X are happily running around in the Elysian Fields, remember? Well, at least they were the last time we saw them."

Eponin buried her face in her hands and shook her head in defeat.

" Don't tell me they are reincarnated again?!!" she growled. " How come they always get to do all the fun stuff and we are stuck here, in this....this....house?"

" I don't know, Ep," Ephiny sighed, wrapping a comforting arm around her friend's shoulder. " Maybe one day we will find out."

" Yeah," Eponin snorted. " We do have eternity to figure it out. By Ares, Eph! All I want is to go back to the Elysian Fields, lay in the grass, drink some wine and watch beautiful, naked women. Is that too much to ask?"

Ephiny didn't immediately answer. Her intelligent eyes followed Billie and she was amazed at the resemblance to the Queen of the Amazons. Same color hair and eyes. The same cute face. The same length, or lack thereof. The only difference was their build. Gabrielle had been more muscular and had appeared stronger, but that was the only physical difference. The overall resemblance was stunning.

" You think she did recognize tall, dark and reincarnated?" Ephiny softly asked, when Billie, on her way to the living room, glanced over her shoulder to look at the painting again.

" Don't they always?" Eponin sighed, sinking down on the step and supporting her head with her hands while her elbows rested on her knees.

Ephiny nodded and was about to sit next to her friend when a sudden thought made her jump up and squeak.

" What? What?" Eponin cried out startled. " What happened? I didn't pinch you, I swear, not this time, I.."

" The bunny," Ephiny whispered.

Eponin jumped up and quickly her eyes searched the hall. She didn't see anything out of the ordinary and finally looked back at the curly haired Amazon with a raised eyebrow.

" Bunny? What bunny? There are no rabbits here, Eph! Odin's balls, you scared the living plasma out of me."

" Odin is not one of us," Ephiny absentmindedly corrected her friend.

" Who cares?" Eponin grumbled. " I saw him once, pretty cute, if you are into that kind of thing, you know, blond Gods and all... Now, what about this rabbit?"

" Remember what Gabby once told us? That she had been attacked by a rabbit?"

Eponin frowned and tried to remember which event Ephiny was referring to. Gabrielle always managed to get herself into sticky situations. Xena was usually the one who came to her rescue, but that had happened so many times, that it was hard for Eponin to recall the specific event. But slowly the fog inside her mind started to lift and with a smirk she nodded.

" You mean that time when Xena had lice and Gabby was covered in those scabs?"

" Exactly," Ephiny responded with a sigh of relief.

She was glad Eponin remembered, that would save her from having to tell the whole story again.

" You remember that rabbit story? Gabrielle said it suddenly grew fangs, turned around and attacked her. What does that tell you, Ep?"

" Never to mess with a bunny?" Eponin quipped with a smirk.

" How long have we been here, smart ass? In this house?"

" Way too long," Eponin answered. " But I'd say about a century or so."

" And what has happened every year for the last ninety years? Around Easter?"

Now it was Eponin's turn to jump and stare at her friend with big round eyes, her mouth wide open.

" The bunny," she whispered, finally realizing what Ephiny had been trying to tell her for those last few minutes. " Son-of-a-one-tooth-hairy-butt-cyclops.....it was him. All those years it was him. Now I know why he was always growling at that painting whenever it was up there. He had recognized Xena as well."

" And he stuck around to wait for Gabby," Ephiny concluded, worry evident in her eyes. " And now she's here, without Xena and he will finally have the chance to finish what he started all those centuries ago."

" What exactly do you think it is he wants, Eph?" Eponin asked a little insecure.

" Remember those vampires we once saw, with those fangs? He belongs to their realm and he wants to make Gabby one of them. He wants to do what those creepy Bacchae never could: possess Gabby's soul."

" Wow, Eph," Eponin sighed, rubbing her forehead. " We need to do something. It will be Easter in a few days and that means he will be back."

After a thorough inspection of the house, Billie had sunk down on the last step of the stairs, hardly able to realize that all of what she had seen was hers. All the beautiful furniture, the paintings, all the antiquities. The huge bathtub with lion's paw feet. The large kitchen, fully equipped with everything a cook would desire. The enormous library with rows and rows of books that covered almost every inch of the walls.

" I don't know what to say, Aunt Hester," Billie softly said. " Why me?"

Not aware of the two figures that were sitting right behind her, Billie pushed away her hair from her forehead. She smiled when she cast a look at the painting across the hall. Again it was like the unknown woman looked straight at her.

" Whatever happens," Billie mumbled. " I will never get rid of that piece of art."

" Of course not," Eponin snorted, inaudible for Billie's ears. " She is your soulmate, you will love each other forever and all that mushy stuff. Hell! And I am stuck here. I feel like beating the crap out of someone, like in the good old days."

" It could have been worse," Ephiny sighed, casting a look at the woman next to her.

" Really?" Eponin snarled.

" You could have been alone."

Eponin's eyes fell and if a ghost could blush, she would have. Feeling embarrassed she shuffled her feet, not daring to look at her friend, who never complained. Ephiny was right. At least they did have each other. Had Eponin been locked up in the house by herself for all those years, she would have surely killed herself....well, figuratively speaking, of course.

" You are right, I am sorry," she finally mumbled.

" Don't worry about it," Ephiny smiled, patting her friends hand. " Let's focus on a way to make sure our Queen leaves this place, at least until after Easter."

Oblivious of the conversation that was going on right behind her Billie was mentally ticking off a 'What to do?" list. There was a suitcase in the trunk of her car, that needed to be brought inside and unpacked. She promised she would call her parents after she had arrived. And of course there was the grocery shopping that needed to be done.

" Okay, " Billie talked out loud, suddenly jumping up and startling the two ghostly figures behind her. " I'll get my suitcase, call mom and dad and then go look for a grocery store. Yup, sounds like a plan."

" Oh, no! She is staying," Eponin cried out, jumping to her feet. " Do something, Eph."

" This is Gabby's reincarnation, Ep," Ephiny grumbled. " Remember our Queen? Stubborn, feisty, adventurous? We need a solid plan to scare her off, so get back on your airy butt and talk to me."

It had not taken Billie long to find a decently sized grocery store. Like a lot of people that grew up in big cities she was a bit wary of their selection of things, but to her utter surprise she found everything she needed and more.

Pleased with herself and the whole world Billie had checked out and a shy teenage boy had packed her groceries in two paper bags. She had thanked him with a brilliant smile, which made him blush and had walked outside through the automatic sliding doors.

Holding two bags full of groceries is one thing, but trying to find the car keys while doing that is really an art and juggling her load, Billie slowly walked around the corner, cautiously slipping her hand inside her pocket to pull out her keys.

The next thing she knew, she was sitting on ground, surrounded by her recently acquired purchases. With a dazed look she took inventory of the damage and her green eyes followed one of her apples that had rolled onto the street and was skillfully flattened by the tires of a SUV. Involuntarily she cringed and adverted her gaze. Slowly she started to realize what had happened and the foggy haze inside her head was penetrated by a pleasant voice, that kept apologizing.

" I am so, so sorry. Are you okay? Are you hurt?" the voice repeated again and for the first time Billie looked up.

Kneeling in front of her was the woman from the painting. The same tan skin and chiseled features. Long dark hair and the bluest eyes she had ever seen. Billie's head jerked up and her green eyes shot open wide.

" No, that's impossible," she mumbled to herself. " Gods, what an idiot."

A slightly hurt look in the eyes of the strange woman suddenly brought Billie back to reality.

" No, no, I didn't mean you," she hurried to explain, relieved to see the hurt disappear. " I was talking about me. I am the idiot. Sorry. Jeez, what a mess."

Billie raked her fingers through her unruly hair and started to chuckle. All of a sudden she was struck by the humor of it all and she had to bite her lip not to laugh out loud. But when she dared to cast a look at the woman in front of her and saw the twinkle in those impossibly blue eyes, her self control disappeared and she started laughing. The strange woman joined in and offered Billie a hand to help her back on her feet.

"Well, that was quite a collision," her velvety voice sounded. " I am really sorry. I must have been deep in thought, I really didn't see you."

Standing up, Billie noticed she had to glance up to the woman to be able to look into her eyes. Their gazes locked and the laughing slowly subsided. Unaware of the fact that their hands were still clasped together, they stood on the corner of the street, looking into each others eyes and for a fleeting moment they both felt a sense of deja vu. It was hard to grasp, since it was just a feeling. More like the shadow of a memory, that rose in the back of their minds, but immediately disappeared again.

The tall woman was the first one to collect herself. She slowly let go of Billie's hand, immediately feeling the loss and extended her right hand to the small blonde.

" My name is Kay McFee," she introduced herself.

" Billie Peterson," Billie replied, shaking the warm, strong hand, immediately mesmerized by those blue eyes again.

Kay reluctantly let go of Billies hand and tore away her eyes from those captivating green ones, that somehow, in the deep recesses of her soul, managed to strike a cord.

" I'd better help you pick all of this up," she said, looking at the groceries, that were scattered around the pavement. " I am sorry about that apple."

Billie shrugged her shoulders and bent down to start picking up a few items, putting them back in the paper bag that somehow had managed to survive the assault.

" Don't worry about it," she said with a smile. " His death was fast and painless."

Kay chuckled and picked up the other paper bag, that had a big tear on the side.

" Do you want me to get you another bag?" she asked.

" Nah, just put the bigger things in there. Is that pie shell still in one piece?" she asked, pointing at the mentioned item, that was dangerously close to Kay's hiking booted feet.

" Yup, it survived," Kay announced, carefully putting the pie shell in the bag.

She picked up a few more items, but halted in her movements when she read the label on one of the cans.

"Pumpkin?" she whispered. " Wait a minute! Pie shell, pumpkin....." her eyes searched the ground until they found what she was looking for. " Aha! Evaporated milk. You are going to make a pumpkin pie!"

With a frown Billie looked up and she was about to make a smug comment, when she saw Kay's face. The tall woman was trying to hide a childlike delight, but failed miserably. It made Billie smile and she nodded her head.

" That's right. It's a tradition in our family to have pumpkin pie at Easter. In fact," she grinned mischievously. " We have them at every Holiday, now that I come to think of it."

Kay smiled and put the last item back in the bag she was carrying.

" Great tradition," she said, not aware of how wistful she sounded. " I don't think I have ever made a pie in my life. Any pie."

" And you live in Oklahoma?" Billie asked with a wink.

To her surprise she saw the tall woman slightly blush and Billie's heart skipped a beat. By the gods, the woman was simply gorgeous! Billie decided she didn't want to go home yet, telling herself that she wanted to find out what the connection was between Kay McFee and the painting in her aunt's house....in her house.

" In fact, I am a real Okie," Kay answered. " Born and raised, but I...uh...I guess I was never really interested in cooking and baking." Until now, she silently added.

" Things can change," Billie spoke, aware of how hopeful that sounded.

" They sure can," Kay responded with a brilliant smile. " Care for a cup of coffee? There's a place around of the corner that has the best coffee in town. And they make a killer pecan pie."

" Sold!" Billie laughed. " But let me put these groceries away first, okay?"

" I guess you are new in town, since I have never seen you before," Kay started, when they were served with a hot, fragrant cup of coffee. Not here anyway, but still....I feel like I know you.

" I am Hester Davis' niece," Billie explained, seeing the warm interest in the blue eyes opposite the table.

" She...she left me her house and....everything."

Kay could hear the wonder in Billies voice and she slowly nodded, studying the smaller woman in front of her. Her blue eyes slowly glided over the blondes face and she was aware of the fact that Billie knew she was studying her. A pair of green eyes calmly stared back at her, waiting for Kay to speak again.

" You do look like your aunt," she finally said. " Not a spitting image, but I do see a resemblance. When I first met your aunt her hair was gray already, but I guess she used to be blond, like you. You were about the same height, I guess and your smile is a lot like hers."

" Family trademark," Billie joked, which made Kay smile. " So, you knew my aunt?"

" Yes, I did, " Kay answered, taking a sip from her coffee. " Like I know most people around here. I have a family practice. I am a physician."

" You are a healer?" Where the heck did that come from? " I mean, a doctor," Billie corrected herself.

" Yup, I am," Kay smiled. " So, you inherited the Haunted House, huh?"

Billie suddenly shot straight up and looked at Kay with wide eyes. The blue eyes stared back with an openness that startled her and for a moment Billie was thrown off guard. But to her credit she composed herself quickly.

" You are not serious, right?"

Her voice was slightly tense, but Kay could also hear the excitement in it.

" It's what a lot of people call it here. And you can't blame them. Your aunt was....different than most people here. She kept a lot to herself, didn't socialize much. I think I was the only one who she was really friendly with. Most of her days were spent painting. I take it you saw her studio?"

" No, I haven't yet," Billie answered, hanging onto Kay's every word. " Is that one of the rooms on the first floor? It was locked and I couldn't find the key yet."

" No, " Kay shook her head. " I don't know what was in there. I have never been there. No, Hester had a studio in the backyard, it's behind the shed and I suppose it's hidden from view. It's an excellent spot, actually. It's almost on top of the hill and it has windows all around. Beautiful. Hester was a great artist."

Billie nodded and stared into her coffee. It seemed that this stranger knew more about her aunt than she did and that made her feel guilty. Hester had left her all her worldly possessions and her aunt had not even known her. And Billie had never made much of an effort to accompany her mother when she went to visit her sister.

" Do you think she....was lonely?" she asked, so softly Kay had to strain her ears to hear it.

" I think she once was," Kay answered with painful honesty. " But somehow she overcame that and she tried to be happy, in her own way. Painting was her life."

" If Aunt Hester was such a hermit, how come you know all these things?" Billie asked curiously.

" Like I said, I was her doctor and. Especially those last few months I made regular house calls. She has always treated me very kindly. She was an extremely intelligent woman with a great sense of humor. I liked her company and we became friends," Kay softly confessed. " But when she couldn't paint anymore the only real joy she had in life was taken away from her and she seemed to give up."

" I knew she was in bad health. My mother said that even when they were children, Aunt Hester had always been sickly. Physically she wasn't very strong. I know she had arthritis, but that doesn't cause death, does it?"

" No," Kay answered and she seemed to hesitate. " I...that wasn't the cause of her death, but...I can't discuss that with you, Billie. I am sorry. It's..."

" That's okay," Billie smiled, impulsively covering the long, fidgeting fingers with her own, smaller hand. " I understand. Patient confidentiality, huh?"

" I promised her," Kay softly spoke.

" I will respect that," Billie answered. " So, tell me, why is the house haunted?"

A lopsided grin appeared on Kay's face and her eyes starting twinkling, which in turn made Billie smile.

" Well, like I said, your aunt was a bit of an...eccentric, at least, for most people here. I never thought she was. Anyway, she lived in this big house that overlooks the valley and the next door neighbors are...uh..."

" Very rigid people," Billie deadpanned, making Kay laugh out loud.

" Something like that," the tall woman agreed. " She lived alone, in a big house, next to a graveyard and she hardly socialized, hardly ever had any visitors, so....people made up some stories, which started to live a life of their own and before we knew it, the Haunted House on East Greek Street was born."

" Any talk about dead bodies that are buried in the yard?" Billie asked while feigning fear.

" Not that I know of," Kay shook her head, smiling.

" Good," Billie sighed with relief. " Although I wouldn't be surprised."

A dark eyebrow rose over a blue eye and Billie grinned.

" I met the gardener this morning," she explained.

" Oh, Igor," Kay chuckled. " Appropriate name, don't you think? He looks like Marty Feldman."

They both started laughing and without knowing it from each other, they were both frantically trying to come up with an excuse to spend some more time together.

Billie studied the beautiful face in front of her and again she was struck by the resemblance between Kay and the woman in the painting. If Kay had been a regular visitor at the house, surely she must have seen the painting. Could it be the woman was her mother?

" Kay, can I ask you something?" Billie started, seeing Kay nod. " You have visited my aunt's house more than once, can you remember that huge painting in the hall?"

" The one opposite the mirror?"

" That's the one," Billie said, her voice a bit tense and slightly leaning forward. " Do you know who the woman in that painting is?"

Kay's eyes went round and she looked at Billie as if she was speaking in tongues. Her new friend looked a little nervous and Kay could not help wondering why.

" Well, um....Billie...listen...um. That painting it's....I don't know what painting you are talking about now. The one that was hanging opposite the mirror has always been the same one, as far as I can remember anyway. It was a beautiful piece of art, but....there was no woman in it. It was a landscape your aunt once painted, it was a painting of Wister Lake."

Billie frowned and leaned back in her chair, obviously deep in thought. Her eyes searched Kay's face as if looking for a clue and only when the taller woman started to nervously fidget under the scrutinizing gaze, Billie cast down her eyes and let out a deep sigh.

" Don't take this the wrong way, please," she finally spoke. " But I think you should come with me and have a look at the painting that I saw. You might find it really interesting."

" Care to share?," Kay asked, her curiosity spiked by Billie's words.

" A picture paints a thousand words, Doctor McFee." Billie answered, pushing back her chair. " I think you should see it. You won't regret it, believe me."

In companionable silence they drove up to the house on East Greek Street. Now and then Kay pointed out some things of interest, so Billie would easily find her way across town.

" Nice car," Kay commented on Billie's bright red Beetle. " Interesting choice of color."

A sideways glanced showed a pair of teasing blue eyes and Billie softly snorted. Amazed by the fact that this woman, whom she had only met a couple of hours ago, made her feel so at ease. As if they had been friends for years.

" Mock me," she said, but she couldn't hide the laugh in her voice. " You and my dad both. But you know, whenever I have been to one of those superstores, with parking areas the size of a football field. I always manage to find my car in no time flat! How many people can say that, huh?"

" I think you have a point," Kay laughed. " Although you will notice that around here you won't have that problem. No super stores. Sorry!"

" I'll manage, for the time being, " Billie mumbled.

What is that supposed to mean? Kay thought. Will she stay at her aunt's house? Or is she just visiting? Maybe she will stay for a while and then sell it. She can do with it whatever she pleases.

Those last thoughts caused Kay's stomach to churn and she realized that, for some reason, she did not want Billie to leave again. Ever. She swallowed hard and tried to ignore the unexpected feeling of such a profound sadness, it took away her breath and brought tears to her eyes.

" You okay?" a worried voice next to her asked and when Kay turned to face her friend, she realized they were already parked in front of the house.

" Yeah, I..." Kay cleared her throat. " Allergies I think. Happens a lot in the spring."

She wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes and managed to smile.

" I am not used to convertibles," she admitted. " Mine's a Ford Explorer, since I need to be able to visit my patients at the ranches at any time, even after two solid weeks of rain."

Billie smiled in understanding, opened the door of the car and stepped out. Closely followed by Kay, who had a little more trouble unfolding her long legs.

" Well, lady of the manor, lead on," she joked, when they were both carrying a bag full of groceries. " I am curious about that mysterious painting."

" Just wait and see," Billie answered, fumbling with the keys. She juggled them in her free hand and almost dropped them, but Kay managed to catch them before she had let them slip.

Long, slender fingers folded around her own and a deep voice sounded distractingly close to her ear, sending pleasurable shivers down her spine.

" Careful there, Miss Peterson. It is Miss, isn't it?" Please, please, please.....

Billies mouth suddenly went dry and she swallowed hard. She quickly turned to the front door, so Kay couldn't see her blush.

" Yes, it is Miss,"she tried to answer as casually as possible, turning the key, opening the door and stepping inside. Followed by a confused Kay, who was feeling terribly embarrassed by the flirtatious way she had just talked to Billie.

My goodness. I never do things like that. What is wrong with me?

Silently she followed Billie into the kitchen and put the torn paper bag on one of the countertops. The kitchen had always been one of Hester's favorite rooms and Kay had spent many visits sitting at the corner table, near the window. Drinking coffee and talking to Hester.

Billie followed her gaze and looked back to the tall woman with sympathy and compassion in her eyes. Her mother had told her about the mornings she and her sister had sat around the table, talking and reminiscing. Drinking coffee and eating chocolate, one of their secret vices.

" Do you miss her?" she gently asked.

Kay tore away her blue eyes from the corner table and looked at the smaller woman, who reminded her of her aunt in so many little things. The way she smiled, the way she cocked her head when listening intently. The way the skin around her eyes wrinkled when she laughed.

A pair of blue eyes studied Billies face with such intensity, that the subject of the study unconsciously held her breath. Kay's eyes slid from Billie's eyes to her nose and eventually rested on her mouth. It almost felt like a lover's caress and Billie moistened her lips. Painfully aware of her pounding heart.

" Want to see the painting now?" she finally broke the spell with a sigh, her voice slightly husky.

" Yes, please," Kay answered, equally soft.

On an impulse Billie grabbed Kay's hand and their fingers entwined. She pulled the tall woman with her, back into the hall and walked towards the huge painting opposite the mirror. A gasp next to her, gave away Kay's surprise. But so did the tightening of Kay's fingers around her hand. A sideways glance showed the suddenly pale face of her new friend. Her blue eyes shone with a mixture of excitement, pain, curiosity and confusion.

Billie pried loose her fingers and used her freed hand to gently rub the back of the startled woman. Unconsciously Kay leaned into the touch like she had already done that thousands of times. It was a familiar feeling and brought both of them a sense of peace and belonging.

" Are you okay?" Billie asked after a long silence. " The resemblance is uncanny, don't you think?"

Kay silently nodded and took a step closer to the huge canvas, her eyes hungrily drinking in every little detail.

" When we bumped in to each other this morning and I saw your face, I thought I was dreaming," Billie confessed. " For a moment I thought I was looking at the beau...at the woman from the painting. But that was impossible, since it was painted in nineteen seventy-one."

" Yeah," was all Kay could answer, still lost in the sight before her eyes. It was amazing. More than thirty years ago, Hester Davis had captured a woman, who could have been her.

Billie stepped closer to Kay and again put her hand on the cotton clad back, enjoying the warmth the tall woman radiated. Somehow it was a very comforting feeling and the touch seemed to fill a need in her, she had never known existed.

" You think the two of you are related?" Billie asked, resting her cheek against Kay's shoulder. Without thinking what she was doing, the tall woman wrapped her arm around Billie's shoulder and pulled her closer.

" I have no idea," she whispered. " I grew up with a foster family. I am an orphan."

Two figures had come floating through the ceiling, from the attic that had been their home for a long time already. They had been brainstorming about ways to scare away their Amazon Queen, but every idea that had popped up in their transparent minds, had been a bad one. Eponin had become so frustrated she had floated off to the attic, frustrated with the fact that Ephiny had rejected all she had come up with. The girl was the reincarnation of Gabby, but so what? It was not like she would know she had been the Queen of the Amazons in a former life. Right? So there was nothing wrong with having a little fun with her in the meantime. Right? Nothing major, just to see how strong her nerves were. Eponin was sure the original Gabrielle would have been able to appreciate a joke like that. But no, Ephiny had to spoil it all, by talking about 'their Queen' and having 'respect' . Right, as if Xena would drop in to kick her butt!

" She has company, " Eponin mumbled, still annoyed with her companion.

" Tall, dark and....Xena!"

Kay had turned her head to talk to Billie and Ephiny let out a happy yell, immediately diving down to wrap her floating body around the tall woman, but coming up empty handed.

Billie saw a slight shiver go through Kay's body and shot her a worried look.

" Everything all right?"

" Oh, yes, " Kay managed to smile. " Just felt a little...cold, that's all."

" Come back up here, you idiot," Eponin shouted at Ephiny. " What do you think you are doing anyway? You can't touch a living human. You know the rules. Only between midnight and six in the morning. You don't want her to catch a cold now, do you? Gabby would have your hide....well, you know, figuratively speaking."

Ephiny floated back to where Eponin was standing and shot her friend an apologetic grin.

" Sorry about that," she said, shrugging her shoulders. " I guess I got carried away."

" Well, since the big X is here now, I suppose we can stop wrecking our brains about a plan to save Gabby, right? She will be protected now."

" Oh, come on Ep," Ephiny sighed impatiently. " You don't seriously expect Xena to stay overnight already, do you? They probably just met."

" Didn't stop them before," Eponin mumbled.

" What did you say?"

" Listen, Ephiny, you can see the air sizzling around them, just like in the old days. How long do you think it will take them to find out they really like each other, have a roll in the hay and pledge eternal love, huh?"

Ephiny threw her hands in the air and sat down on the top step of the stair, rolling her eyes at the woman next to her.

" I swear, Eponin, I have never met anyone as romantic as you."

" Hey, I am a practical person, you know," Eponin defended, setting herself next to her friend.

" Well, we do have a couple of days before Easter, so....maybe we should just....try and help romance a little. What do you think?"

Eponin sucked on her bottom lip and stared at the pair down in the hall. Their body language was clear enough to her. Kay and Billie still stood watching the painting, their arms wrapped around each other's waist, heads close together.

If Xena would be around when Easter came, Gabrielle would be safe. So, what she and Ephiny needed to do was to make sure that Xena stuck around and by the looks of it, that should not be too difficult. All they would have to do would be watching the couple's back.

" Playing Cupid, huh? Well, that's something different, but I suppose we could give it a try."

"I would really like to find out who this woman is," Kay softly spoke, after they had been silently watching the painting for a long time. " It's...we look alike so much, it's amazing."

" It could have been a painting of you," Billie stated. " Even the color of your eyes is exactly the same."

" I know," Kay sighed. " It is so weird to stand here and watch somebody who could have been my twin sister."

Without letting go of the tall woman, Billie half turned to be able to look in Kay's eyes, her arm still wrapped around a slender waist. Her green eyes had a pensive expression and a little frown had appeared in her forehead.

" What if...it is you? What if the year is wrong? Maybe it wasn't painted in nineteen seventy one, but recently? You knew my aunt, is it possible she would have painted you, without you knowing it? "

Kay stared at the signature in the corner of the canvas and shook her head.

" No, Hester wouldn't have done that, she would have asked my permission first. She always said that painting a portrait was an act of intimacy, more so than photography, because the model needed to be studied thoroughly, every little detail would have been painted to create a composition that would be a reflection of reality. I would have known about it," Kay finished quietly, not able to tear away her gaze from the face of the woman in the painting.

Billie studied the strong face of the woman who was standing next to her. The chiseled features, high cheekbones, tan skin and impossibly blue eyes. So much alike, she mused. A question that had been nagging her from the moment she had first laid eyes on Kay, needed to be answered.

" Kay, when were you born?"

The tall woman didn't immediately answer, but Billie saw the muscles in the strong jaw work and she saw her swallow hard.

" April nineteen seventy one," she finally answered, a slight tremble in her voice. " On Easter day."

Billie bit her lip and her keen eyes traveled between the painting and Kay's face. She was convinced her new friend had to be related to the woman in the painting, there was no other explanation for the resemblance. Billie also suspected her aunt knew the woman, other than her being a model. It was a nagging feeling in the back of her mind, a memory, that tried to fight it's way to the surface, but had not succeeded yet. It was something she had once heard her mother say. But what?

" I guess Aunt Hester left us a mystery, huh?" Billie gently joked. " I don't know about you, Kay, but I'd really like to solve this. There must be a reason this painting is here now, but wasn't here when you came around to visit my aunt. Don't you think?"

" I guess you are right," Kay sighed, finally tearing her gaze away from the canvas and turning to face Billie.

She still had her arm wrapped around the smaller woman and suddenly they both became acutely aware of that, when they realized the front of their bodies were almost touching. Billie slightly blushed and her eyes searched Kay's face for any sign of discomfort. But the tall woman just smiled and playfully scratched Billie's side.

" I can't explain it, but I am not uncomfortable," she said. " How about you?"

" No, " Billie truthfully answered. " This feels nice."

" Yes, it does, " Kay smiled, not able to explain the feeling of utter contentment that had settled in her body the moment she had bumped into Billie.

" You want some coffee and help me find a way to solve this puzzle?"

" I'd love to," Kay answered. " On both accounts."

A little later Billie and Kay were seated at the kitchen table, enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Both were deep in thought and the only sound in the room was the ticking of the antique clock, that was hanging over the door.

" Hester kept a log, " Kay unexpectedly spoke, her voice soft, but strong. " I don't know if it will be of any help to us, but I know she catalogued every painting she ever made or bought. She showed it to me once. It's a little book, about the size of a postcard. She had made it a habit to write down all she knew about the painting and the artist. Maybe she would have the name of....that woman in there."

" That's great information," Billie responded with enthusiasm. " Have you got any idea where she kept that book?"

" No, I am sorry. I have only seen it once and that is years ago, when I first arrived here. But Hester was very accurate and precise, so I am sure it must be somewhere around here."

" Maybe the library," Billie suggested.

" Or her studio," Kay thought.

Billie nodded and took another sip of her coffee. Over the rim of the cup, her eyes stared at the dark woman in front of her and when a pair of blue eyes unexpectedly were raised to meet her glance, she felt her heart skip beat. To give herself some time to compose herself, she took another sip from her coffee and sighed deeply to try and force down an upcoming blush.

" So," she started, hoping to sound casual. " Are you off today, or does a doctor in a small town like this work the same ungodly hours as the ones I know, namely my father," Billie grinned.

" I am off today. But I know about your father," Kay answered, to Billies surprise. " Hester told me. He's a surgeon, right?"

" Plastic surgeon, yes," Billie slowly answered. " Did....?"

" No, she never mentioned you and I have to admit I don't understand that. But she must have had her reasons."

" Did you ever meet my mom?"

" No," Kay shook her head. " Hester did ask me, about two years ago, to come by when your mom was visiting, but there was a nasty type of virus going around and I was so busy, I didn't make it. Is she anything like you?"

" Um....well, ...um....they say we are a lot alike," Billie stammered, thrown off guard by the unexpected question.

" Guess I would have liked her then," Kay smiled, her expression honest and warm.

" But you don't know me," Billie gently challenged, slightly leaning forward over the small table.

A pair of blue eyes, set in a serious face, carefully studied her. Their expression thoughtful, but open.

" I feel like I have known you forever," Kay honestly admitted, willingly showing a very vulnerable side of herself to a woman she had only met a few hours before.

But the truth of her words had touched Billie deep inside and a sudden wave of emotion washed over her soul, leaving her almost breathless. Tears welled up in her eyes and she blindly stretched out her hand and felt warm, strong fingers close around them.

" I feel the same," she whispered. " I can't explain it, but....I have missed you. I only realized that when I saw you this morning. I know now that I have been waiting for you."

In one fluid motion, Kay had stood up from her chair and was kneeling next to Billie, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman and pulling her close. The blonde's arms slid around her neck and a fair head tucked itself against Kay's shoulder.

" It feels like coming home," Billie whispered, her voice full of wonder.

The arms around here tightened and with a sigh of contentment Kay rested her cheek against a patch of soft, fragrant hair.

" I can't explain it, but yes, that's exactly what it feels like," Kay answered, standing up and pulling Billie with her, holding her body close. She pressed her lips against a shapely ear and heard Billie softly moan. " Let's just....accept what is happening, but take it slow. I want to get to know you better, all of you. I want to do this right."

" I understand," Billie's muffled voice sounded from Kay's chest. " I do too. But can I stay like this for a while, though? It feels so good."

Underneath her ear, Billie could hear Kay's heart rate pick up and she hid her smile against the light blue cotton of the taller woman's shirt. And when she closed her eyes, she sent a silent prayer to the woman who had changed the course of her life.

Thank you, Aunt Hester! Thank you, thank you! I promise to look after Kay, because deep down inside, I know that is what you wanted......

It was hours later. The sun had set, painting the sky a beautiful orange, making way for a clear, silvery moon. Although the day had been quite warm, the nights were still a little nippy and unlike Kay, who was still clad in her short sleeved shirt, Billie had pulled a fleece sweater from her suitcase and had sighed with pleasure when the warm fabric had gradually warmed up her chilled skin.

By the light of a few strategically placed lamps, they had started rummaging through the piles of books that were stacked on the huge table in the middle of the library.

" I knew Hester loved books," she smiled. " It seems she was always buying them and I used to tease her about it. But I guess with a library this size, she didn't need to be worried."

Billie smiled, wiping away the thin layer of dust that had covered the leather bound copy of Petrus Apianus' "Cosmographia" . It was not the original from about 1550, but it was a beautiful copy and Billie smiled when she remembered her mother's stories about Aunt Hesters' fascination with early astronomy.

" These books are worth a fortune," she mumbled to herself, but Kay had heard the words and cast a curious and slightly worried look at the smaller woman.

" Would you...do you consider selling them?"

" Oh, no!," Billie immediately responded, much to Kay's relief. " No, I love books! I guess that's a passion I share with my mother and aunt. I have been collecting books myself, ever since I was a little kid." Billie cast a look at Kay and smiled mischievously. " But auntie had more money to buy the rare ones."

Kay grinned and leaned her hip against the table, her blue eyes glued to the blonde who was just a few feet away.

" I'd really like to know what it is you do for a living, Billie," she spoke. " I hope you don't mind me asking. I mean, not that it would make a difference to me, it's just that I am curious."

" What do you think?' Billie asked, curious as to what Kay would come up with. " Based on your first impression on me, what would you think?."

Kay stared into a pair of amused green eyes and was captivated by the intensity of Billie's gaze. There was the shadow of a smile on her face, mixed with excitement and anticipation. It was clear to see that she was anxious to find out what Kay would answer. The impatience showed in the hand on her hip and the slightly cocked head. The soft glow of the lamp cast a golden glow over the blonde's hair and painted the skin of her face in softness. Her twinkling green eyes were dark and Kay could see the tiny little lines around her eyes, like a testimony to the smiles that often lit up her face.

She is a bard, an unknown voice whispered in the back of her mind and Kay frowned. Where did that come from?

" I can see you.....as a story teller," she finally answered. " The ever changing expression on your face, your beautiful and musical voice....your sense of humor."

Billie's eyes grew wide and Kay mentally gave herself a high five. Bull's eye. Best guess ever.

" How did you know?" Billie asked, her voice a pitch higher than usual. Her green eyes narrowed and she shook her finger at Kay. " Did Hester tell you?"

" No, no, not at all," Kay laughed, holding up both hands in defense. " I...It's just that....I don't know. It just felt right."

" Well, I am a writer," Billie smiled. " I write children's books, especially ones that are meant for kids who are admitted to the hospital, you know, to give them an idea what will happen."

" Beatrice Sarah Davis," Kay suddenly whispered. " That is you, isn't it? Wow! Why did I never make the connection?"

" Because Davis is a common name?" Billie smiled. " I borrowed mom's middle and maiden name."

" Why? Your work is excellent!"

" Well, thank you, ma'am," Billie laughed, touched by Kay's enthusiasm. " But when I just started out I felt really insecure and having my name out there was a little scary. So, I decided to keep my first name, but borrow the rest. When the books turned out to be a success, I just stuck to it."

" I love your books," Kay admitted, her blue eyes shining. " I use them a lot with the kids in my practice who need to go to the hospital, to help them understand what will happen, so they feel more at ease. I think I have them all," Kay finished rather shyly.

" I am glad you do," Billie responded warmly, trying hard not to run over to the gorgeous, tall woman and wrap her arms around her. She had no idea how cute she looked.

Kay must have read it in her eyes, because her clear eyes became slightly darker and Billie saw her nervously wiping the palms of her hands on the fabric of her jeans. Their eyes had locked again and they both felt some invisible force drawing them closer, until Billie was standing in front of Kay, tentatively stretching out her hand. Suddenly she felt a little insecure. But that feeling only lasted a few seconds and was wiped away by the hand that brushed the hair out of her face and gently cupped her cheek.

" Have you got any idea how beautiful you are?" Kay whispered, feeling like she could lose herself in Billies warm, green eyes.

Billie had closed her eyes and leaned into the touch. On an impulse she pressed her lips against the palm of Kay's hand and when she heard the sharp intake of breath, she looked up into a pair of almost violet colored eyes. Her mouth went dry when she saw the rapid beating of Kay's heart, given away by the clearly visible pulse point.

"I know we decided to take it slow...and I know we just met....and I know you probably have a lot of other things on your mind....and I know we should be looking for Aunt Hester's little book, but I swear Kay, if you don't kiss me right now I will spontaneously combust," Billie said with a husky voice, her eyes never leaving the tall woman's.

" Can't have a fire in a library," Kay smiled, her voice nothing more than a low whisper.

She reached out and pulled Billie closer. In one fluid motion her arms slipped around the smaller woman and when she lowered her head towards a waiting pair of lips, she felt like her heart would pound out of her chest.

The first time their lips met, it was a soft caress, brief, but with the intensity of a fire bolt. It did not quench their need, but fueled it. Pulling Billie closer and feeling the smaller woman's arms slide around her neck, Kay placed her lips back on an equally soft pair that quickly threatened to become her world. They moaned in unison and when Billie's tongue curiously traced Kay's bottom lip, the dark woman felt her world spinning out of control. The sound of breathing became heavy and the air around them was almost crackling with electricity, lack of oxygen finally forced them to break apart.

Billie's green eyes were dark with passion and her face was flushed, as she laid her cheek against Kay's chest and softly whimpered.

" What is happening with us, Kay? I don't know myself like this."

Kay swallowed hard and desperately fought for control over her rebelling body. The blood that was rushing through her veins felt steaming hot and there was an ache in her lower belly, that had not been there for a long time, if ever.

" I don't know, honey," she answered, using the endearment as if she had used it a million times before. It felt so natural and good and that was exactly how Billie took it. She did not even look up, just snuggled closer. " I can't explain this. It's like we have...kissed so many times before. I feel like my body knew you, the instant we ran into each other. I have never felt so...strange, yet so good."

" Maybe there was something in that coffee," Billie joked, to ease the tension.

Underneath her cheek she felt Kay chuckle and a small smile spread across her face. She knew that sound. She had heard it so many times before, had felt it when she was laying in her warrior's arms. Whoa! Warrior? Are you losing your mind, Peterson?

Billie suddenly stiffened and shook her head in disbelief, smiling reassuringly when she saw the look of alarm cross Kay's beautiful features.

" Just a floating memory," she explained. " You know those? It's like a waft of fog, a sudden chill and stillness and then suddenly, before you can reach out your hand to touch it, it disappears, leaving you wondering if you really saw what you did."

" Yesterday I would have laughed at you," Kay softly admitted. " But ever since I laid eyes on you, I know exactly what you mean."

" So much for taking it slow, huh?" Billie said, pulling a face, which made Kay laugh.

" Well, it shows we are only human," Kay shrugged. " Are you sorry?"

" Do buffalo's fly?" Billie drawled with a thick southwestern accent, her green eyes twinkling.

Kay threw her head back and holding Billie close she laughed out loud, loving the woman in her arms more and more.

" Come on, wannabee Okie let's find your aunt's book. Okay?"

Hours later, after digging through piles of books, neatly stacked papers and drinking a few cups of coffee, Billie blew out a breath and tiredly leaned against one of the huge bookcases. Because Kay was taller than Billie they had agreed that she would search the top shelves. Now and then Kay teasingly reminded Billie of their quest, when she found yet another interesting book, sat down on the floor and started looking through it.

" Letting me do most of the work, shorty?" Kay teased, gently nudging Billie with her foot.

With a dazed look in her green eyes, Billie looked up and an embarrassed grin spread across her face when she saw Kay's expression of feigned annoyance.

" Sorry," she apologized. " Another great book. Can you help me to my feet? I am getting old."

Billie extended her hand and felt Kay's strong fingers fold around them. With a playful tug she was pulled to her feet and immediately took the opportunity to fling herself at the tall woman. Surprised by that action, Kay half turned to catch the small blond. The impact of Billie's body forced her to take a step back and she stumbled into the solid bookcase. One of the books on the top shelf came tumbling down, missing Kay's head by a mere inch and she flinched when the book hit the floor with a thud.

"That could have hit my head, you know," she told Billie with a scowl.

But the blonde could see the amusement in those amazing blue eyes and patted Kay's side.

" I am so sorry. Poor baby, let me get the book for you, since I am closer to it anyway."

From the corner of her eye she saw Kay's grin and with a smile she bend down to pick up the heavy book, handing it back to the tall woman with a puppy dog look on her face.

" Could you please put it back up there, Doctor McFee? I am afraid I can't reach it."

" Imp," Kay mumbled, but she obediently lifted the book to put it back in place. She halted in her movements when her eye fell on something, she had not seen before. A little book, that must have been pushed against the back wall and had come sliding forwards when the big one had fell off the shelf.

Kay stuck out her hand and pulled it from it's hiding place, looking at the dark brown cover with something close to excitement. She turned it around to see if it had any markings on it, but did not discover any.

" You think this could be it?" she asked Billie, who had been looking at her with interest.

Billies face lit up and she craned her neck to get a better look at the little book Kay was holding. The tall doctor smiled and handed Billie the book.

Turning it over and over again in her hands, Billie's experienced eyes studied the cover. There were no markings, although the book seemed to be worn. It looked well kept for such frequent use.

With a sudden feeling of tension, that slowly spread out from the pit of her stomach to the tips of her fingers, Billie opened the book. The first thing she saw was her aunt's name, neatly printed on the inside cover, accompanied by the date: September 1970.

"I think it's a diary," she whispered, her green eyes looking up at Kay with an expression that was close to sadness. " Part of me feels like putting it away, because reading it would feel like prying, but maybe there is some information in here about the painting and who the woman was. What do you think? You knew Hester, would she have minded?"

Kay stared at the book in Billie's hand and bit her lip, thinking about the question. Would Hester have minded? She had been a private person and Kay had always thought there were things in her past she did not want to talk about. Not because she wanted to keep it a secret. But because talking about it would hurt too much. Kay had a feeling Hester would have liked them to find this diary, because it probably contained something she could not talk about. But the book was there and if Hester had not wanted it to be found, Kay knew she would have destroyed it.

" No, I don't think she would have minded," she finally answered.

Billie silently nodded and grabbed Kay's hand, pulling her towards the comfortable looking love seat under the window. Without speaking they sat down and stared at the small, brown covered book in Billie's hands. Slowly Billie opened it and turned the page.

" September 12th, nineteen seventy," she read, feeling Kay's arm slip around her shoulder and grateful for the comfort, she snuggled closer. " Today I saw her again."

I don't think I ever saw any person with so much beauty and grace. She doesn't walk, she seems to float, her steps are so fluent and gracious. I saw the looks of the people in the store. Their eyes secretly followed her and I could see the gossip. What is wrong with those people? What could this woman have done to deserve treatment like this?

When I saw her last week, it was only in a flash, I saw her walking down my street. I thought she might have called on my door, while I was out, but that is idle hope. What would a woman like her want from me?

But when I left the store she was sitting on a bench in the park and looking at her, I felt like a fist had hit me in the gut. She looked so lost and lonely. I don't know what came over me, I crossed the street and sat next to her. I saw all the people look, but I didn't care. Let them talk.

Up close she is even more beautiful. Her hair really is black and she has a natural tan that makes her look exotic. She could have been Indian, but of mixed blood, because her eyes....I have never seen eyes like that. They are so incredibly blue, chips of ice illuminated by the sun, cold and warm at the same time."

Billie paused and cast a look at Kay, who looked a little pale. She put her hand on the taller women's knee and looked worried.

" Are you okay?"

" Yeah," Kay answered, her voice slightly hoarse. " It's just...strange to hear all this. The description of the woman, I am sure it's the one from the painting and somehow, there must be a connection with me."

She smiled reassuringly and gently ruffled Billie's hair.

" Go on, I'd like to hear more."

Her name is Tahlinah. I think it's beautiful, soft and warm, yet strong and proud. Just like her incredible voice. When she talks I feel something happening inside, she touches me.

She is the widow of Ryan O'Connell. I read about his tragic accident a few weeks ago. He was the eldest son of the O'Connell family that own half of the state. Oil and old money had made them beyond wealthy. They were not happy when their son fell for this woman, whose ancestors were both Native Indian and European. Mixed blood still raises issues sometimes, on both sides. Ignorant people. Don't they know how much they hurt the ones they should love?

Tahlinah told me that after her husband died, she left the O'Connells, since she knew they hated her. She could not go back to her Indian family, because she had run away to be with Ryan and knew she would not be welcome to go back. She was on her own now.

I did something impulsive. I asked her if she liked books. The small smile on her face went straight to my heart. And I had my answer. So I asked her to help me out with my library. My sister Sarah has been telling me forever to catalogue and order all my books and paintings. I told her I would pay her and since I have a big house, she would be welcome to stay with me. Her gratitude was touching. I swear I could see tears in those beautiful eyes and I would have loved to.....never mind. I know those feelings are not alien to me. But still, writing them down makes it so real, so definite...

When I went home, I had company."

" Tahlinah," Kay repeated the name. " That's the first time I heard that name, but O'Connell sure rings a bell."

" It would, since they are so wealthy," Billie admitted with a yawn. She shifted and snuggled closer to the warm body next to her. " I think Aunt Hester fell hard for Tahlinah," she continued with a touch of surprise in her voice. " I bet that's why she had this book hidden, maybe she didn't want Tahlinah to know."

" Maybe," Kay answered absent mindedly. " Can you read a bit more?"

" It's getting late," Billie stated, casting a look at the clock. " Don't you have to work tomorrow?"

" I'll be fine," Kay said, touched by Billie's concern. " I really would like to find out more about Tahlinah."

" Okay," Billie happily agreed, resting her head against Kay's shoulder. " Hum...seems like Aunt Hester didn't write in this every day."

" September 28th.

My life has changed so much, I can't begin to describe the whirlwind of emotions and experiences that has been assaulting me ever since I took Tahlinah home. She is a great help in the library. Those last few weeks she has done more, than I have the last few years! She is a great cook and the best company I could have ever asked for. She is intelligent, funny,honest, caring, organized and so many things more. This morning, when she was cutting flowers in the yard, I was watching her from the balcony. She must have felt my presence, because she looked up and smiled at me. And for the first time I dared to admit it to myself: I am in love with this beautiful creature. I hope she will never find out, because I could not bear to lose her friendship."

" October 15th.

I can't believe it. I really can't. I don't know what to feel about all this, I am excited and scared at the same time. Exhilarated and frightened. Tahilnah already had an idea about it, but I did not. How could I have known? Like I have experience with things like that!

I told her our lives would change, but her home was here, if she wanted it to be. She hugged me and it was one of those stolen moments of pure happiness. Her tall, lean body is so strong, yet so soft. Her arms made me feel so safe. I hope to God she did not notice the pounding of my heart.

Although I never knew the man, I feel a bond with him I can't explain. Maybe it's the love we have in common for this extraordinary woman. And through all the amazement, wonder and happiness, I do feel some sadness for Ryan O' Connell, who will never know that Tahlinah is carrying his child."

Billie halted and lowered the book, until it rested on her thigh. Her hands slightly trembled when she stroked the yellowish page.

While reading those last few sentences, she had felt Kay's arm tighten around her shoulders and without looking, she knew there was a look of profound sadness in Kay's eyes.

When she finally looked up a pair of teary, blue eyes stared at her in confusion, making Billie's heart ache for the tall woman. She reached out a hand and gently cupped Kay's cheek, softly stroking the skin with her thumb.

" I have a very strong suspicion that Tahlinah is my biological mother, " she whispered. " And according to this diary, Ryan O'Connell was my father. Why didn't I know about this? Hester must have known. I mean, every family has at least one skeleton in the closet, that's no big deal. Why didn't she tell me?"

Billie put the diary next to her on the seat and adjusted her position, so she could face Kay when talking to her. Sitting on her knees, their legs touched and she used her hand to lift up Kay's chin, so the taller woman had no other choice than to look at her.

" I don't know what Aunt Hester's motives were," she said in a soft, yet strong voice. " But don't jump to conclusions yet, okay? We will get to the bottom of this and I will help you. You said yourself that you had the impression that there were things in my aunt's life, that were too painful for her to discuss. Maybe this is one of those things. Let's take this one step at the time and see where we will end up."

Kay slowly nodded and managed to smile at the blonde woman, who was practically sitting in her lap. The determined expression reminded her of Hester and again, Kay was struck by the tiny, almost insignificant resemblance's that reminded her of her deceased friend.

" Since you are so close, you might as well sit here," she spoke, pulling Billie in her lap. Long, strong arms were securely warped around the smaller body and Billie let out a content sigh.

" Ooooh, this feels so good," she almost purred, which had a definite physical impact at Kay, who could almost feel her hormones jump up and scream for attention.

" Do you mind continuing to read to me?" she asked, ignoring the rush of blood to certain, very sensitive parts of her anatomy. " I love listening to your voice."

"Well, thank you, ma'am," Billie answered, giving Kay a chaste kiss on her cheek. She picked up the diary from the seat and continued to read.

" December 25th

I can hardly think. My head is somewhere of in the clouds and the blood still rushes through my veins. I can't believe she did that. But I am not complaining.

Tahlinah and I spend most of the day in the living room, where, for the first time in a very long time, a Christmas tree is spreading some of the holiday joy. We had both promised each other not to buy too many presents, just to keep it simple. It's the thought that counts. But those last few days the pile of presents underneath the tree had been growing every day and I know we both acted like little children, but I don't care. It's a good exercise for all those years to come, when there will be a little child in this house. I want him or her to know that Christmas is something special, something magical. Especially after today. Because the most amazing thing happened.

We had been opening presents and I did buy Tahlinah a few books I knew she would like, But I also included some things for the baby. A cute little outfit that will look good on both a boy or a girl. A tiny yellow outfit, with little ducklings and frogs.

I know Tahlinah is keeping a diary about her pregnancy. She is very devoted to it and writes in it every day. Sometimes she shows me bits and pieces and it's so cute. She talks to the baby about everything that happens, how she feels about it. The first time the baby kicked. How she can feel it move in her body and how much she loves this little person. It so touches me to see her lounge in one of those big chairs, her hands on her belly and this beautiful smile on her face. I couldn't help it, I had to sketch her. She didn't know it and she didn't need to pose. I can sketch every inch of her body, every expression on her face by memory only. And I did. I made a series of sketches of Tahlinah herself, showing how her body slowly changes and grows. And I promised her to do this untill the baby is born.

She was so happy with her gifts. She talked about it the rest of the day and when we were ready to go to bed, I walked her upstairs, like I do every night. But now she thanked me again and before I knew it, she had taken my face in both her hands and kissed me. Just writing this down makes my heart race and I can feel the palms of my hands go sweaty. It was a real kiss and her lips are so soft and warm. I couldn't help it, my body responded and I kissed her back. And when she pulled me closer and I felt her tongue slip out to caress mine, I swear the world stopped spinning. I don't know how long our kiss lasted. It could have been a minute. It could have been hours. All I know is that when we finally broke apart, the look in her eyes told me everything I wanted to know. She loves me ."

" Wow," Billie breathed. " Your mom and Aunt Hester....wow!"

Kay swallowed hard and took a deep breath, trying to slow down her racing heart. Hester? And..?

" We don't know yet if she was my mother, honey," she weakly objected.

" Get real, Kay," Billie snorted. " When did you say you were born? April nineteen seventy one? Do the math! And I am not even mentioning the resemblance!"

Of course Kay knew that Billie was right, but it was a difficult concept to grasp. In the course of one day, she had met a woman who had literally rocked her world. She had discovered that her friend, Hester probably had an affair with another woman, who most likely happened to be her mother.

The antique schoolhouse clock in the corner announced the arrival of a new day and Billie yawned in response.

" Midnight,"she sighed. " Time certainly flew today."

" It did," Kay admitted, stretching her long legs, while holding on to Billie, afraid that she would otherwise end up on the floor. " It has been a strange, but most interesting day. I should go and I really think you should get some sleep."

" I need to drive you home," Billie objected, not happy with the fact that she would have to give up her comfortable spot soon. " Unless you want sleep here. I mean..."

Her head jerked up and with amusement Kay saw a faint blush creep up the blondes neck. She raised one, dark eyebrow and saw the color deepen.

" I didn't mean it the way it sounded," Billie quickly tried to explain. " I don't want you to sleep with...I mean...oh, God....you know what I mean."

" Mmm...," Kay hummed thoughtfully. " You don't want to sleep with me. Is that it? Well....."

" No, of course not, you big goof," Billie responded, too quick, because this time her face turned bright red. With a frustrated groan she buried her face against Kay's chest and felt the tall woman chuckle.

" You can use one of the many guest rooms," Billie sighed in resignation. " If you want to. And if I can find some bed linen..."

" Did you see me push that book, Eph?" Eponin asked with a huge grin on her face. " Great Artemis, that was fun. If Xena'd known, she'd kick my sorry butt from here to Greece. All those centuries of reincarnating didn't help her to stay sharp, ya know. She definitely lost her edge. I had to practically throw that book on top of her to make her see what was on that shelf. Tsk."

Ephiny rolled her eyes and shot her companion a look of resignation. She gave up hope that Eponin would ever change. But still, Ephiny grinned, she was fun company, even though the former Amazon weapon master could be very obnoxious from time to time.

" Whatever, Ep," she sighed. " They found the diary and hopefully they will figure out what happened between Hester and Tahlinah. Xena is sleeping over and we can concentrate on how to keep away that rabbit from hell. Maybe Xena's presence will be enough to scare the fur off of his butt, but I would like to set a few traps anyway, just to be sure."

" Why does he always comes around at Easter, Eph? Did you ever wonder about that?"

" Every year," was the dry reply. " Maybe it has something to do with the spring. You know, birth of new life and all that. Maybe that's when he hopes he'll have a new chance, or something."

Ephiny followed Kay and Billie who were slowly walking upstairs, reveling in the fact that the steps were so wide, they could climb them with their arms wrapped around each other. Which they did. She smiled when she saw the dark and blond head close together. It filled her with warmth, but also with a feeling of sadness. Billie and Kay reminded her of those good old days, when life was simple. It had been a matter of surviving. The good guys against the bad guys. Sometimes the bad guys won, Ephiny thought with a scowl, remembering her own death. But still, at least back then, she was free to go where she wanted.

Eponin, who was floating beside Ephiny saw the pensive expression in the soft brown eyes and decided for once to keep quiet and leave her friend to her own musings. But when she saw Billie kiss Kay's cheek and enter a different room than the tall woman, her mouth fell open and she nudged her companion in the ribs.

" Eph!! They are not going to sleep together!" her voice was a few pitches higher than it normally was and with horror she thought back on all those years Gabrielle and Xena had traveled together, without ever admitting their true feelings for each other.

" Not again!" Eponin stammered. " Please, Aphrodite. Don't do this to us. Please? Everybody knows they belong together. I know it's tacky, but it's been like that for ages. Besides, how can Xena protect our Queen if they are sleeping apart?! "

" That's where we come into the picture, Ep," Ephiny softly answered, starting to understand a little of what was going on. " Remember when we first came here?"

" Yeah, sure I do," Eponin muttered. " It was during that....Easter season. Gods! All we wanted was to have a little fun, I mean, I didn't mean it when I said Elysium was boring. For Zeus' sake, we were drunk! I was only kidding when I suggested to be sent back to earth to get reincarnated and kick Xena's butt. The Gods knew I could never beat her in anything anyway."

" You accused the Gods of favoritism," Ephiny coolly commented. " That's what got us here."

" Yeah and I bet they forgot about us. 's Not fair," Eponin said with something that came close to a pout.

Ephiny's brown eyes started twinkling and she bit her lip to keep herself from laughing. She knew if she would give in to that urge, Eponin would stomp off to the attic and it would take her hours of sweet talking her into coming down again. Instead, she put her hand on the weapon master's neck and gently squeezed.

" Wanna see if we can chase one of those two cuties out of their bed? See if we can get them together?"

Eponin's face lit up and immediately her eyes traveled to the door of Kay's room, which made Ephiny chuckle and mumble something about age old rivalry.

Even though she was really tired, it was impossible for Kay to fall asleep. She kept tossing and turning, playing the events of that day over and over again in her mind. She couldn't believe she had found out who her biological parents were. When she was around eighteen years old she had done some inquiries, but every time she had hit another wall. Her records were unavailable. Nobody knew where they were and nobody seemed to care. So, after a few years of fruitless searching, she had given up, resigned to the fact she would never knew who her real parents were and why they had given her away. Happy to know that Leslie and Lynn McFee had come into her life and raised her as if she was their own child. She had always known they had adopted her, but had never lacked love or support.

She wondered how they would react when she would tell them what Billie and she had find out that day. Kay smiled. She wondered how her parents would respond to Billie. She was absolutely sure that they would love the spunky blonde.

" I need to call them tomorrow," Kay told herself. " Mom probably wants to know when I will be coming over for my birthday diner."

Kay sighed and suddenly felt a little cold. She pulled the cover up a little higher, wondering where that draft was coming from. She hadn't opened any windows. Yawning she stretched her long body and she had just closed her eyes when she thought she heard Billie calling out her name.

Kay immediately sat up and cocked her head to listen. Her initial reaction would have been to jump out of bed and run to the adjoining bedroom, but she wanted to be sure she did hear what she thought she did. It was dead silent for a long time and Kay blew out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding. She slowly sank back into the pillows, realizing she would have made a fool of herself if she had come running into Billie's room, just because she thought that....

A piercing cry shattered the silence and this time Kay did jump out of bed, not worrying about the fact she was only dressed in a t-shirt and panties. She bolted towards the door, grabbing a broomstick that was sitting in the corner. She did not know what was going on, but at least she would not be unarmed.

Without thinking twice Kay threw open Billie's bedroom door and almost fell inside. The broomstick clenched into her strong hands and her slited blue eyes scanning the room.

The moment the door was thrown open, Billie yelped and almost fell out of bed. She grabbed the night stand and was hanging on for dear life, when it slowly started to sink in who the intruder was.

" For crying out loud, Kay! You just scared me half to death," she angrily shouted, her green eyes blazing fire.

" What the hell is going on? Why are you barging in here with.....a broomstick?"

Staring at each other they both slowly calmed down. Kay's grip on the broomstick relaxed and very self consciously she lowered her 'weapon', not knowing whether to feel embarrassed or to laugh.

Seeing the confused expression on her friend's face, Billie's anger disappeared and after she had pushed herself back into bed again, her eyes traveled from Kay's face to the long, smooth legs, that were very naked and a very good topic for a nice, arousing fantasy.

Kay saw the expression on Billie's face change from anger, to relief, to sexy indulgence.

" See anything you like?" Kay's voice purred, immediately seeing the blush covering Billie's face and...she twirled around and covered her eyes, when she realized the blonde was very naked.

" Oh, God," she groaned. " Can this get any better?"

" You can turn back around," Billie's amused voice sounded a few minutes later. " I am decent. I am wearing a t- shirt now."

Regretting almost every second of her attempt to rescue her friend, Kay turned around and stared at her bare feet. She looked like a little girl and Billie's heart melted at the sight.

" What happened?" she asked, trying to act a if it was normal that half clad, gorgeous women came running into her bedroom in the middle of the night, waving around a stick and looking like an ancient Greek warrior.

Billie frowned and slowly shook her head as if to chase away an annoying fly. Where did she get that from? A Greek warrior?

" I heard you screaming," Kay admitted. " I thought something was up, so...."

" You came to the rescue," Billie smiled, touched by Kay's courage. " Were you dreaming?"

" No!," Kay answered with a scowl. " I heard you screaming."

" But I didn't," Billie answered.

" Somebody did," Kay stated with so much determination, it was hard for Billie not to believe her. " I was still very much awake and I know what I heard."

" Close the door and come here," Billie almost ordered, suddenly feeling a little nervous. Her eyes followed her friend and she looked into a pair of concerned blue eyes. " Um....those stories about this house...being haunted....what do you know about that?"

" Nothing much, " Kay answered, trying not to shiver when she realized how cold she was.

Billie lifted up the covers and shot Kay an inviting look. The tall woman did not have to think twice, she slid into the warm bed and let out a sigh of relief.

" I was freezing my a....assets off, ' she admitted, not missing the twinkle in Billie's eyes.

" That would have been a waste of some nice a...assets," Billie winked, making Kay laugh.

She joined in and to her relief she felt the tension dissipate. Billie shifted and they felt their legs touch underneath the covers. Billie resisted the urge to rub her naked skin against Kay's and bit on her lip, thinking it should be against the law to have such long and sexy legs. A sudden look of panic on Kay's face shook her out of her revere.

" What?" she asked, feeling a bit of the nervousness return.

" You are....wearing more than just a t-shirt, right?" Kay swallowed hard.

" What if I am not?" Billie asked, suggestively wiggling her eyebrows. " Would you take yours off too?"

" That's not a fair question," Kay breathed, feeling very warm all of a sudden. " I came here to rescue you, remember? I really didn't have the intention to.....I would never.....it's not who I am."

" For a doctor you are pretty shy, aren't you?" Billie gently teased. " You seem pretty jumpy. Never had a slumber party? Never had any sleep overs with the girls?"

Billie was only teasing to try and make Kay relax, but she was not prepared for the unexpected sad expression that colored her eyes a few shades darker.

" No, I haven't," Kay softly admitted. " My parents....they are very sweet people, but when they adopted me they were already in their late forty's and they really liked things to be...well organized and calm."

" What about other girls' places? Never went there either?"

" I...I wasn't very popular," Kay admitted, avoiding Billie's eyes and drawing figures on the cream colored quilt that covered the bed.

Billie reached out and covered the fidgeting fingers, again wondering why it felt like she had known Kay her entire life, instead of not even a whole day.

" How come?" Billie gently probed.

" I grew up in this small community, north of here and....well...I guess they didn't like half breeds. Some people from my parent's church said they were asking for trouble when they adopted me. Couldn't believe they would take in a 'dirty Indian'."

Billie had to force her anger down, knowing it would not help Kay to start ranting about prejudice and bigotry. She lifted Kay's face up and looked in a pair of eyes that reminded her of a hurt, little girl and she swallowed away the tears that she could feel stinging in the back of her eyes.

" They were wrong, you know that, don't you?" she softly asked. " If I would have grown up around here, I would have been your best friend. You know it's true," Billie smiled. " I would have protected you and a party would not have been any fun if you wouldn't have been there."

A single tear escaped Kay's eye and Billie watched in fascination when it left a silvery track on a tanned cheek, before tumbling down on the quilt. Involuntarily her fingers wiped away the moisture.

" Thank you," Kay whispered. " You are very special, you know that?"

" Only for you," Billie answered, leaning forward to softly kiss Kay's tear stained cheek.

" We always seem to manage to change the subject," Kay suddenly joked.

" Oh, that's right, " Billie chuckled. " We were talking about...panties?"

" Not really, " was Kay's dry reply. " Where did that scream come from? You believe in...haunted houses? I know I never did. Well, not really, so...."

" I don't believe in all that stuff," Billie confessed. " Although I will have to admit I was a little shaken up when you came crashing through that door. Oh, boy. You should have seen yourself!"

Billie bit her lip and did not dare to look at Kay, afraid she would lose it. Of course she did it anyway and when she noticed the twinkle in those blue eyes, she let herself fall back in the pillows and laughed until the tears were running down her cheeks.

" Oh, God, that was so precious," she finally hiccuped. " I wish I could have filmed that. You almost made me fall out of bed. Jeez, you scared the living daylights out of me."

" I will try not to make a habit out of it," Kay answered, only realizing what she had said after the words had already left her mouth.

Billie turned her head and looked up from her supine position at the dark woman who was sitting next to her. She did not immediately respond, but let Kay's words sink in completely. Her words had held a promise and Billie had to admit to herself that she really liked what Kay was not saying. She extended her hand and rubbed the small of Kay's back.

" I will hold you to it,' she said, her green eyes very serious. " So, want to share my bed tonight? I promise I will be good and I don't snore. How about it, Doctor McFee?"

" Well, Miss Peterson," Kay drawled, lowering herself down to the mattress and facing the blond woman. " I do have a reputation to consider, you know. But I suppose we could both benefit from each other's company, since we are not sure if this house is haunted or not."

" Mmm...you do have an excellent point there, doctor. I have to admit your presence is kind of...comforting. I might just keep you," Billie whispered, her green eyes dark with emotion.

Their eyes locked and again Billie had the feeling there was an important memory she just couldn't put her finger on. Kay's eyes studied her face intently and in those blue eyes she found something she did not know she had been looking for.

" Do you feel it too?" she asked with something that bordered reverence.

Kay nodded and her face was a picture of pure concentration but after a long moment she let out a deep breath and slowly shook her head.

" There is something there, but...I can't grasp it. It's a memory and for some reason I can't seem to pull it up and...remember it. It has to do with you, I am sure. I just know it."

" Frustrating, huh?" Billie sighed. " I know it's way past midnight, but I am wide awake. Care for some more reading?"

" Sure," Kay agreed, snuggling into the pillows. She turned her head to look at Billie and stretched out one arm in invitation. With a happy grin Billie scooted closer and put her head on broad shoulder, immediately feeling a strong arm wrap itself around her body.

" Oooh, this is nice," she moaned. " Where have you been all those years, Kay?"

" Waiting for you," Kay quipped, kissing the top of the blondes head.

Billie opened Hester's diary and scanned the page to see where she left off. Just when she was about to start reading a thought struck her. She lowered the book and lifted her eyes to Kay's.

" If Aunt Hester could see us now, do you think she would approve?"

" Absolutely," Kay answered immediately. " I am beginning to think she set all this up. I believe she wanted us to meet. But it puzzles me that she waited until after she was gone."

" Maybe her diary will tell us more."

December 26th

If I had expected this morning to be awkward, I could not have been more wrong. I was nervous when I woke up. I could not help wondering how Tahlinah would greet me in the morning. Would she regret her action from the previous evening? Would she feel ashamed? Would she leave me? That last thought made my heart stop beating and a heaviness in my chest made it hard to breathe.

I got up early, but when I came into the kitchen, Tahlinah was already up and waiting for me with freshly brewed coffee. She must have noticed my nervousness, because she immediately got up and enveloped me in such a loving hug, the tears sprang to my eyes. She asked me if I had any regrets. I could only shake my head and when I looked up, I saw the most beautiful smile and it was for me. Only for me. Our emotions must have ran so deep we both cried, holding each other.

The morning was spent talking and kissing and I don't think I have ever been so happy in my entire life. Tahlinah told me she did love Ryan, but that the feelings she has for me are so much stronger and intense. And I believe her. She still mourns the fact that her child, our child, will never know it's father, but Tahlinah is determined to tell the child everything it wants to know about Ryan O'Connell. I believe her when she tells me he would have been a great father. Out of respect for his memory and this gift of life I can only promise to never let down his wife and child.

Oh, Tahlinah, how much I love you and this baby.

Billie pressed her face into the cotton clad shoulder underneath her head and sobbed, feeling a comforting hand gently stroking her hair. She gave up fighting and let the tears escape her eyes. Hester's written words spoke of so much love and devotion that she just knew something tragic must have happened in the life of those two women. Something that had pulled them apart and had turned Kay, into an orphan.

" I don't know what happened to change their course of life," Billie sniffed. " But those two women loved you deeply, Kay. Oh, God, Aunt Hester! What happened?"

" I know it might be hard, but can you continue reading, honey?" Kay's husky voice sounded, close to Billies ear. " I want to know...I need to know what happened."

January, 1971

I did not put a date in this time. It's almost the end of the month and I did not have time to write much. Tahlinah is doing great. She already was a beautiful woman, but her pregnancy gives her this glow that makes people smile, just by looking at her. She is happy. And so am I. She makes me happy. I never thought I would experience a love so profound and so deep, but I do and I am a better person because of it. And I never knew I could love somebody who I have not met yet. But I do. Every night when Tahlinah lays in my arms, I put my hand on her belly and I can feel the baby kick. It fills me with wonder. This child is a gift from God and I am so blessed to be a part of it's life. I can't wait to meet this kid!

Billie turned the page and cast a quick glance at Kay, who was staring at the ceiling. Her blue eyes filled with unshed tears, but a smile around her lips. Not able to resist the urge, Billie kissed a cotton clad shoulder and picked up the diary again.

March, 1971

Well, I am ready for this baby and I know Tahlinah is as well. She tries to hide it from me, but I know she is tired. And she has every right to be. Her belly is big and round and even laying in bed is getting harder. We usually end up with my love in my arms, resting against my chest, her head on my shoulder. But I don't know how long I can keep doing this ( I smile writing this), she's getting too heavy! But soon the baby will be here. We are ready. Everything a baby could ever want or need is here. My paintings are selling really well and I don't think there's anything I would not be able to give to my two very favorite people. I am giddy. In a few weeks time we will be mothers.

Easter, 1971

Believe it or not, but our baby decided that Easter would be a good time to be born. She came today! While writing this I can look at her tired mommy, who is exhausted. Tahlinah is asleep now, She deserves it. I am so proud of her! She had to work hard, but Doctor O'Shea said everything went really well. And our daughter is as healthy as can be. From the chair I am sitting in, I can see her beautiful little face. It is still a little red and wrinkled, but Tahlinah assured me (with that devious twinkle in her eye), that she will look like a perfect little baby in a few days. Huh! She's perfect already. She's so gorgeous, just like her mother. Her hair is thick and black and I don't need to be a scientist to see that she will be tall one day. Her little arms and legs give that away.

I cried when Tahlinah told me she wants to name the baby after me. My middle name. Kathryn, but we will call her Kay. Somehow I feel that will suit this little lady just fine. Kathryn O'Connell. A good name.

Kay is only half a day old, but I already have a dozen sketches. Tahlinah just smiled at me. I could see that she was going to tease me, but I silenced her with a kiss. I felt pretty smug after that.

What did I do to deserve all this happiness? Thank you, God!

" I guess we know for sure now," Kay sighed, wiping her eyes. " Tahlinah O'Connell was my mother. So was Hester, " she softly added. " But somehow I don't think they could advertise that to the world."

" That's still hard sometimes," Billie admitted. " But I guess it would have been impossible back then."

She brushed away a strand of dark air and kissed Kay's forehead.

" How do you feel?"

Kay took the time to search her feelings. So much had happened that day. She had given up on finding out her roots a long time ago. Within one day she had learned more than all those years ago, when she was much younger.

" I am sad, because it's obvious something happened to Hester and Tahlinah. But I am also happy to know that I was wanted, that I was loved. And that I finally know who my parents were. It's more than I could ever hope for."

Casting a look at Billie's face, Kay noticed the tired, green eyes that were red rimmed and the dark circles underneath them. She used her thumb to brush the soft skin and purposefully closed the little book the small woman was still holding.

" We need to get some sleep," Kay decided, placing the book on the night stand next to her. " You look really tired."

" I am," Billie mumbled, turning onto her side, so she could rest her head on Kay's shoulder and wrap her arm around the taller woman's waist. " Is this okay?"

" Very," Kay whispered,pulling Billie closer with one arm and using her other hand to switch off the light.

" I guess it pays off to be an Amazon, huh," Eponin grinned, dangling her legs. " If anything, we can let out the best yells."

She was sitting on top of the linen cabinet in Billie's bedroom and looked down at the sleeping couple. In spite of her usual gruff attitude, she too felt a twinge of tenderness at seeing the dark and the blonde head close together.

" If Xena knew I was watching her sleep, she'd kick my butt," Eponin stated fully convinced. " Especially if she'd knew I was ogling her bard."

" Well it's not like she can see us," Ephiny lazily answered from the sturdy writing desk in the corner. " That's one of the few advantages of being in this state. But it's nice to see Gabby in Xena's arms again. We need to help them remember, Ep, before Hades breaks lose here. I want the old Xena around when that Bacchae rabbit shows up. Can't risk Gabrielle getting hurt....or worse."

" Hmmm..no," Eponin agreed. " She did fight that beast before, and won, but like Xena, she has lost her edge. All that reincarnating made them soft around the edges. So, what's the plan, Eph? A bunny trap?" she giggled.

" We do know that last year he came in just after midnight, on Easter day. Same as those years before, so I bet that will be the case again this time. What we need to find out is how he gets in. Does he just walk in? Fly in? Does he crawl through the chimney?"

" No, that's Santa Claus," Eponin chuckled. " Our Easter bunny is....just there, on Easter day. No clues, no warning, he just hops in. That's probably his disguise," Eponin thought, very serious now. " You know, people think rabbits are cute and they don't think much about it. That's how he gets away with this. But we know he almost killed Gabby once, but even Xena didn't take her seriously. Ep!!! How are we gonna make Xena aware of the danger?!!!"

" Cool your breeches, Ep," Ephiny drawled. " What has always been the best way to get Xena's attention?"

" A good fight?" Eponin answered, not able to hide the hope in her voice.

" What is one of the few reasons for Xena not to get into a good fight?" Ephiny rephrased patiently.

" Gabrielle," Eponin smirked. " It's always been Gabby who got into a sticky situation and Xena had to come to the rescue."

" Not always," Ephiny disagreed, sticking up for her Queen. " But....sometimes," she added reluctantly. Seeing Eponin's gaze she shrugged her shoulders. " Okay, okay, she had a knack for getting into trouble. We will just have to help her a little and wham! Xena will come to the rescue. Gabby will be safe, the bunny will be dead and everyone will live happily ever after."

" Does that include us?" Eponin grunted.

" I hope so, Ep," was the soft reply. " Maybe Xena will find a way...."

Even though she went to sleep way after midnight, Kay was woken up by her internal clock. And a full bladder. Casting a look at the blond head that was tucked against her shoulder, she debated with herself to stay in bed a little longer. But when Billie shifted and rested her elbow on the tall woman's abdomen, the need to look for a bathroom became very urgent.

Carefully she loosened Billie's grip on her body and her eyes softened when the blonde mumbled something and a small hand blindly reached for the warmth of her body. Kay chuckled when the hand dug into the pillow she had been sleeping on and was pulled close to Billie's body. The blond let out a tiny sigh and drifted further back into sleep, the pillow clenched securely against her body.

While Kay quickly walked towards where she thought she would find the bathroom, it suddenly struck her that she had not felt awkward at all, waking up next to the blond woman. That was definitely something new. The rare occasions she had woken up next to somebody else, had always been filled with embarrassment, half hearted promises and a quick escape. Not this time.

With a smile on her face Kay entered the bathroom, whistling through her teeth when her eyes fell on the huge bathtub, that would easily fit the both of them.

Katy felt the color rush to her face when she realized where her thoughts were going. It was so unlike her, but with Billie it felt so...natural. As if things were meant to be.

Tiptoeing back into the bedroom, Kay noticed that Billie was still sound asleep, snuggled up against the pillow and she realized that, if she would want to go back to bed and doze for a little while, she would need to wrestle it away from the blonde. So, Kay decided against going back to bed, but decided to have a shower and scrounge up some breakfast. She was supposed to see her first patient in two hours time.

Barely half an hour later Kay waked back into the bedroom, showered, fully dressed and carrying two steaming cups of coffee. She placed them on the night stand and lowered herself next to the blonde, playfully tickling her ear. A mumbling Billie swatted at her hand and with a grin Kay realized her friend was a pretty sound sleeper and hard to awaken.

" Wake up, sleepyhead," she chuckled. " It's time to get up. I made you some coffee and if you are really nice, I might even come up with a few treats."

That spiked Billie's interest, because a sleepy green eye peeked up from underneath disheveled hair and looked at Kay with unveiled interest.

" What did you have in mind?" her sleep filled voice sounded amused. " Do I need to brush my teeth first?"

" Oh, my, aren't you hormonal in the morning," Kay grinned. " No, I am sorry. I was more thinking along the line of food....real food," she added, just to make sure Billie did not misunderstood her on purpose. " I need to go soon, because I will have patients waiting. Besides, you are supposed to make this really special pumpkin pie today, remember?" she teased.

Billie stared up at the dark woman who was sitting on the edge of the bed and the expression on her face was close to pouting.

" No kiss, huh?" she sighed, pushing herself upright and raking a hand through her unruly hair. " I was kinda hoping that..."

She could not finish her sentence, because unexpectedly she was flat on her back again, with the tall woman practically on top of her. Before she could even open her mouth to comment on their position, a pair of warm, soft lips were pressed against hers and all her thought processes came to a standstill. The only thing that mattered was to feel. And she did.

Kay had meant the kiss to be playful, but in a matter of seconds, it's intensity had changed completely. As soon as she had felt Billie's arms slip around her neck, pulling her closer, the kiss had lost it's innocent light heartedness. It had become breathtaking.

Kay softly moaned when Billie's tongue slipped inside her mouth and quickly drove her to point where just the contact with their lips was not enough anymore. She had to feel more of Billie.

Without conscious thought she peeled away the blanket that had been covering the smaller woman, until the only thing that stood between them were two thin layers of cotton. Strong, slender hands slipped underneath the blonde's t-shirt and Billie moaned when she felt insistent, but soft caresses wandering across her sides, until the fingers reached the swell of her breast. Her body arched into the touch and with a wild thundering heart, her hands slid down to Kay's hips and she cupped firm flesh, squeezing and pulling the dark woman closer. And as soon as their bodies started to grind into each other, they both knew they could not stop anymore.

Kay tore away her mouth from Billie's lips and looked into a pair of eyes that were darkened with desire. Her own eyes were almost violet and silently asked for permission. Billie answered by tugging on her own t-shirt and Kay immediately helped her to pull off the restrictive garment. A pair of blue eyes caressed her torso and Billie could feel her body's response and knew Kay would be able to see it as well.

" You are beautiful," Kay whispered, drinking in the sight of the woman beneath her. " So beautiful."

Without breaking the gaze with Billie's dark green eyes, she leaned forward and flicked her tongue against a taut nipple. Billie's head fell back into the pillow and she was very away of the pressure building inside her body. Her own hand slipped under the fabric of Kay's shirt and blunt nails dug into smooth skin when a hot, wet mouth enveloped a large part of her breast. Billie could feel the blood rushing through her veins and the flushing of her skin, that had become warm and moist. Her breathing was erratic and a soft buzzing started in her ears.

" Not now," she heard Kay whimper and suddenly she felt the weight lift from her body, when Kay jumped up to retrieve her buzzing cell phone.

" I am so sorry," Kay breathed. " Gods, you have no idea. I need to take this call, Billie. I am on duty now."

Billie merely nodded and just stared at the ceiling, trying to catch her breath, not aware of the seducing picture she produced for Kay's hungry eyes, that traveled up and down her body.

" What? Um..sorry, can you please repeat that?" Kay spoke, pushing her hair away from her forehead, her face still flushed and her blue eyes filled with longing. " Yeah, I..uh...I just woke up.......Okay.....yes.....tell them I will be on my way....thanks, Sharon."

Kay pressed the 'off' button on her cell phone and looked at Billie with an expression of such regret, that the blond woman had to smile, in spite of her own body, that screamed for attention and release.

" You are a doctor, right?"

" Yes and I love my job, but moments like this....." she didn't finish her sentence, but shrugged her shoulders with an apologetic smile. " It's one of my patients, she was due to deliver her baby four days ago and according to her husband she's started about five hours ago, but things are getting serious now. She really wanted to do this at home, so...."

" Their first one?" Billie asked, taking pity on the tall doctor and putting her t-shirt back on and jumping out of bed, searching for the rest of her clothes.

" Nah, they already have two kids, this will be number three," Kay answered absent mindedly, her eyes following Billie's movements with interest. " The first two were also born at home and there were never any complications, so I expect this to go well, although you can never tell. But I really have to go now, Billie. I am so sorry."

" At least drink your coffee, while I get dressed. I won't be long, I promise. Where do I need to drop you off?"

" I live around the corner from the grocery store," Kay explained, taking a gulp from her coffee. " My car is in the driveway, I will only need to hop in and get going, so...."

Kay could hear the water running in the bathroom and she sat down on the edge of the bed again, trying to ignore her body's demands and the pleasurable ache in her lower belly. With a heartfelt sigh she stared at the floor, trying to come up with reasons, any reason, to take it slow with Billie and not just jump into a relationship with a woman she had only met a day ago. But she could not come up with one. It all felt so...right, so natural.

Suddenly she felt Billie's hand on her back and when she looked up she saw the blond woman standing next to her. Green eyes stared down at her with a touch of insecurity.

" Are you okay? Do you...have any regrets?" Billie asked, mentally crossing her fingers.

Kay shook her head and grabbed one of Billie's hands, bringing it close to her face and kissing the back of it with such tenderness, it made the smaller woman softly gasp.

" The only regret I have is that cell phone ringing," she answered with a smile. " I know that yesterday we agreed to take it slow, but..."

"It felt right," Billie added, seeing Kay nod. " Do you want to come over tonight? I make the best Easter ham, with freshly baked biscuits, green beans and..."

" All right, all right," Kay laughed, holding up a hand. " I would love to. But you don't have to go through all that trouble for me, honey. I am perfectly happy just being with you. Whatever you want to feed me is fine, really."

Billie bend her head closer to Kay's and looked at her with twinkling eyes.

" Let me see, " she whispered. " Fried bats, spider legs and snake eggs?"

" Save that for Halloween," Kay chuckled, standing up and enveloping the smaller woman in a hug. " Sharing a peanut butter jelly sandwich with you, would taste like Christmas dinner to me. Okay?"

" Okay, " Billie smiled. " But I guess I will go for the ham anyway. Family tradition, you know."

Kay gave her a quick kiss and steered the blonde towards the door, enjoying the feel of Billie's warm body pressed against her side.

" On, by the way Kay, who is Sharon?"

" My nurse," Kay grinned, having heard the little touch of jealousy in Billie's voice. " She's fifty one, happily married, three children, two grandchildren and I think she has two cats and a dog. Does that make you feel better?"

" Much," Billie answered, closing the bedroom door behind her.

After Billie had dropped off the tall doctor, she drove back to the grocery store to buy the things she would need for dinner. While leisurely taking her time strolling through the aisles, she noticed her thoughts traveling back to Kay all the time. When she remembered their heated exchange of kisses and touches, her face flushed and her body started to tingle.

" Oh, my," she whispered to herself. " I am in big, big trouble here." But she smiled and could hardly suppress the giddy feeling that made her want to sing and dance.

" As if I can sing," Billie giggled, ignoring the curious stare of an elderly woman that walked passed her and looked at her with something that bordered on disgust.

Billie just shrugged her shoulders and knew that if word would spread about Kay and her, the stares and glances would be a lot more than just curious. But they would cross that bridge when they reached it.

Billie could not resist the temptation to buy a big bag of chocolate eggs, knowing it would be a lot of fun to hide them all over the house and let Kay hunt for them. She grinned when she realized that could be an introduction to a whole new sort of game.

" Mmm... let me see, " Billie thought. " Kay finds an egg and gets rewarded with a kiss? Well, better not hide them very well then, huh?"

A few hours later, Billie was sitting at the kitchen table, keeping an eye on the ham that was slowly cooking in the oven. She had set the alarm of her cell phone to make sure she would not forget to baste the meat with the sauce every thirty minutes, in order to give it a nice, tasty glaze. Billie knew herself. Once she was reading, she would forget everything around her.

Before dropping off Kay that morning they had discussed Hester's diary and the tall woman had understood Billie's need to read the book to see if she could find out more about the story of Hester and Tahlinah. In a way she was glad. She really wanted to know what had happened to her mother, but part of her was scared to find out. Deep in her heart Kay knew her mother had died a tragic death, otherwise she would not have been raised by foster parents. Kay was comfortable with the idea that Billie would read the diary while she was seeing to her patients, so it would be the blonde who would tell her what had happened all those years ago.

Billie glanced at the oven, to make sure everything was going according to plan and opened the little brown book that was laying on the table. Her fingers traced the neatly printed words on the pages and with a feeling of deep sadness she realized her aunt had probably suffered deep emotional trauma, without her family even knowing about it. Or did they? Billie knew her mother was the only one who visited Hester on a regular base and they frequently talked on the phone. Was it possible Hester was disowned by her other siblings, because she had a loving relationship with a woman?

Billie wrinkled her nose and sipped from her freshly brewed coffee. Her three uncles and two remaining aunts had never seemed to have a problem with her being gay. But then, Billie mused, how often did she see them anyway? They were scattered around the country and only see each other every once in a while. Usually at weddings and funerals.

With a deep sigh, Billie scanned the page to see where she had left off the night before. A smile spread across her face when she read page after page about how her aunt described the little girl that had come into their lives and the joy it had brought the both of them. To her surprise Billie found a double page full of quick sketches of baby Kay and it was easy to see the resemblance with the tall, dark doctor.

" Oh, wasn't she just incredibly cute?" Billie smiled, feeling herself melt at the sight of a tiny Kay, sleeping in her crib, with one little clenched fist pressed against her cheek.

Billie kept on reading, totally engrossed by the written words of her aunt and jumped when the alarm on her cell phone went off. She quickly went to the oven to baste the ham again, poured another cup of coffee and went back to the table to continue her reading.

After a while her face grew serious and unconsciously her fingers tightened around the cover of the book, while the color drained from her face. With trembling hands and a growing feeling of nausea she forced herself to keep reading, until the tears that were streaming from her eyes made it impossible to read anymore.

With an angry gesture Billie wiped them away, while her heart hurt for her Aunt Hester, Tahlinah and Kay.

" How in the name of everything that is sacred could they have ever done a thing like that?" she sniffed. " Oh, God, what a tragedy. How am I going to tell Kay all of this?"

By the time she parked her car in front of Billie's house, Kay was exhausted. The delivery of the third Keating baby had been without complications and the family had happily welcomed their new son and brother. But it was almost eleven o'clock when Kay had returned to her office and by that time a lot of patients, who had been waiting patiently for her return, had needed her attention. Hours later and after two more emergencies, Kay could finally close the door behind her. She had sent Sharon home around five, because she knew the nurse had a lot of preparations to do for the upcoming holiday and there was nothing the older woman could do anymore to help her out anyway.

Kay had seen a few more patients, had taken care of a few phone calls and wrapped up the needed paperwork. It was after seven when she finally got into her car.

Before she could knock, the door flew open and Kay was pulled inside by a very tired looking, but happy Billie. The blonde had practically jumped in her arms and Kay let out a sigh of contentment when her lips met Billie's in a heartfelt kiss. Just what the doctor ordered.

" Mmmm..you smell nice," Kay sighed with appreciation, nuzzling Billie's hair and softly kissing the skin of her neck.

" Thanks, I spent most of my day in the kitchen, so I wanted to get rid of all those different aroma's that seem to cling to my clothes and hair," Billie mumbled against Kay's shoulder, feeling very safe in the doctor's strong arms.

" Can I offer you something to drink?"

" That would be great," Kay answered, realizing she had not taken a lot of time to drink or eat during her busy day. " I am a little thirsty."

They walked into the kitchen together and when Kay saw the big jug on the kitchen counter she affectionately ruffled Billie's hair.

" Ice tea. You really know how to please a woman, don't you?" she joked.

" You have no idea," Billie suggestively answered, making Kay blush.

She grinned and filled two glasses with the cold beverage. The moment she had seen Kay's car pull up, the heaviness inside her chest had lifted and somehow, deep inside her heart, Billie had felt that things weren't as bad as they seemed, as long as Kay was around. That realization had took her breath away and when she had walked towards the door she briefly wondered if it were possible to fall in love in an instant. Seeing Kay's face though, feeling her arms around her and tasting her kiss had given her the answer. Yes, there was such a thing as love at first sight.

" Will you be on call this evening and tonight as well?" Billie asked.

Kay let the cold liquid soothe her dry mouth and throat and felt thoroughly spoiled by Billie. She bent down to give the blonde a quick kiss and let herself fall down into one of the kitchen chairs.

" Unfortunately, yes," She finally answered. " But, there is no baby due tonight, so that will make a difference. I had a busy day and in about an hour or so I will need to call Saint Francis' Hospital in Tulsa, to check up on one of my patients who took a bad fall and fractured her hip. She was still in surgery an hour ago. Other than that, I hope to have a peaceful evening."

Kay rubbed her eyes and felt her tired body relax. It was good to be with Billie again. The smaller woman made her feel so at ease.

" How was the reading?" she asked, pointing towards Hester's diary, that was still laying on the table. If the small book mark was any indication, Billie had almost finished reading the diary.

Billie sat down opposite Kay and folder her hands around the tall glass in front of her. She bit her lip and Kay could see the frown crease her forehead.

" That bad, huh?' she spoke, her voice soft and soothing. " You want to talk about it?"

Billie nodded and her finger traced a drop of water that had slid down the outside of the glass. When she looked up into a pair of gentle, blue eyes, she swallowed hard. The story had upset her and even though she had tried to shake the sadness, it still clung to her heart and telling Kay what had happened to her mother, would not be easy.

" It's not a pretty story," she warned. " But it does explain a lot."

" Go ahead," Kay encouraged her, leaning forward and patting Billie's hand. " I am all ears."

" When I continued where we left off last night, it was real nice," Billie started, her green eyes soft and warm. " Aunt Hester and Tahlinah were so happy with the baby, with you. She could hardly speak of anything else. She drew a few sketches in the diary as well and I have to admit you were criminally cute," Billie admitted, seeing her smile mirrored on Kay's face. " Hester spoke a lot about you and Tahlinah and the love just pours off the pages. She also mentioned something about a diary Tahlinah had. She started it when she was pregnant, until.....and I think it might be somewhere around here as well. Anyway," Billie sighed and took a sip of ice tea. " A few weeks before your first birthday, they had a visit from a man called John Parker. He was a lawyer who worked for the O'Connell family and he was sent by Ryan's father. Somehow they did find out that Tahlinah lived with Hester and that she had given birth to his child. He....," Billie halted and looked across to table to find a pair of interested blue eyes looking at her. " It's not real nice, Kay...it's...."

" Go on, Billie," Kay simply said, giving the blonde's hand a reassuring squeeze.

" Well, like I said, Ryan's family had found out about the baby and sent the lawyer with a message. If the baby was a boy, they would want Tahlinah to return home to raise her son with the O'Connells, but if it was a girl, they would want her to sign a contract to state that neither she, nor her daughter would ever try and claim Ryan O'Connells inheritance. Hester was fuming and spoke up for Tahlinah, who apparently was just dumbfounded. She told the lawyer to leave their house and leave them alone. That they did not need the O'Connells for anything, that they had a good life and that she, Hester, would make sure it would stay that way. John Parker left, but apparently Hester had told him a little too much, because a few days later he returned with another message from Marvin O'Connell. It said that since Tahlinah was having an unnatural, sinful relationship with Hester, he would make sure proper action would be taken against them, because no O'Connell would grow up in an evil environment like that."

Billie paused for a moment to drink a little and her eyes searched Kay's face. The dark woman seemed relaxed, but only the tense little lines around her eyes were proof of her anger.

" Continue, please," she softly spoke.

" Again John Parker was told to leave, this time by Tahlinah who, according to Hester, topped the man by almost a foot. So he did, probably afraid that Tahlinah would toss him out on his butt. Hester said that Tahlinah did seem to take Marvin O'Connells words seriously and both of them realized they might have to move, to get away from the huge influence of the O'Connells. Hester wrote they started to make inquiries about how fast they could sell the house and move away from the area, when Hester came home a couple of days later and found the house empty. Tahlinah and the baby were both gone."

Kay's face had lost all color and Billie left her chair to kneel next to the dark woman, who suddenly seemed very vulnerable. She wrapped her arm around Kay's waist and rested her head against her shoulder. Immediately Kay's arm slid around her body and pulled her in her lap. They were both quiet for a long time. Seeking comfort from their closeness.

" Where did Tahlinah go?" Kay finally asked, her voice soft and filled with sadness. She had known Hester and had grown to love the older woman as a dear friend. Hearing that she had come home one day to have found her lover and child missing, must have been a devastating blow.

" At first Hester didn't know," Billie continued, feeling the reassuring touch of Kay's arms around her. " She searched the whole area, thinking that maybe Tahlinah had taken you out for a walk. But she couldn't find her. She even went to the police, but they were not very cooperative and afterwards Hester found out why. Marvin O'Connell practically owned them. She called all doctors and hospitals, but nobody had seen or heard anything from Tahlinah or you. After a few days she even desperately called the O'Connells, but they told her they didn't want anything to do with Hester or Tahlinah. In Hester's eyes they had vanished."

Billie sighed and softly stroked Kay's cheek, who closed her eyes and leaned into the touch. Neither of them spoke for a long time. Billie wanted to give Kay the opportunity to let the story sink in. This was about her past, about her two parents who had loved each other and their child so incredibly much and who were torn apart by the hate and bigotry of others.

" What happened next?" Kay softly asked.

" Hester never gave up searching for them, but it wasn't until five months later that she finally heard something. She got a letter in the mail from a man who didn't want to identify himself, but who had a message from Tahlinah. She told Hester she could trust the messenger and that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, somewhere up north. She was being treated for her sickness. I....Gods, Kay, this is so hard to tell. Maybe I should read it to you."

When Kay silently nodded, Billie grabbed the little book and opened it where she had left the book mark. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath.

September, 1972

I finally know. After all those months of insecurity, of not knowing. Of slowly going crazy. Tahlinah was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, just north of Springfield, Missouri. My hands are trembling when writing this and I feel sick to my stomach. After I read the letter for the first time, I just threw up. It is making me sick, literally. What have they done to my beautiful partner? And where is our child? Tahlinah doesn't know, neither do I, but from her words I gathered that she is afraid she was put up for adoption.

When I was away, some people from the pschychiatric hospital stopped by. They called and Tahlinah opened the door. Before she knew what was happening she and Kay were hauled off in this car and Tahlinah was separated from the baby. She screamed, she pleaded, she threatened, but nothing happened. When they admitted my lover to this psychiatric ward, they took away Kay and no one was willing to tell her anything about our little girl.

I am crushed. I want to crawl away and hide, but I can't. Tahlinah and Kay need me. I need to think of a way to get her out of there. Then we can start to track down our daughter and have her back again. In spite of 'O'Connell's power, there must be at least one judge who would be brave enough to declare all of this unconstitutional. What do I do without Tahlinah? Those last six months have been sheer hell. I didn't know whether she lived or died. There was no night I did not cry for her. Not one hour I did not pray for her. I know there were moments I did not know whether she betrayed me or not. But I swear, I never stopped loving her. She has my heart. She is my life. I need to get her out of there. We need to find out where our little girl is. Oh, Tahlinah, how I love you. My heart bleeds.

Billie could not help it, tears were running down her face and the woman whom she felt needed her support most, ended up pulling her close and whispered sweet, soothing words in her ears.

" Sssshh, " Kay whispered. " Calm down, honey. Please.It's okay."

" How can you say that?" Billie sniffed. " They tore away Tahlinah from Hester and you were put up for adoption. That was criminal."

Angrily she wiped away the tears and looked at the tall woman with puffy, red eyes. Kay thought she couldn't look any cuter and tenderly kissed a moist cheek.

" It was criminal, yes. But do you know that it was only in nineteen seventy three, that homosexuality was taken off the list of mental diseases? I know it's really sad and believe me, it hurts me deeply to know Hester and Tahlinah were subjected that kind of cruelty, but I am also grateful that, finally, I know where I come from, who my parents were."

" But don't you just want to kick the living daylights out of that Marvin O'Connell and that creepy, little John Parker?"

" Yes, I'd love to," Kay chuckled, pulling Billie even closer and nuzzling her soft hair. " But I know Marvin O'Connell died a few years ago and as for John Parker....I don't care about him. I'd like to believe he got what was coming to him. But what I am really interested in, is to find out what happened next."

Billie sniffed again and opened the diary to where she had left off. She leaned back in Kay's arms and felt wonderfully comforted by the feel of her warm body and the strong arms that were securely wrapped around her.

October, 1972

I have been there and I have seen the hospital where they are keeping my Tahlinah against her will. It's like a scene from a bad movie, so classical in it's apparent confinement. High walls and barb wire. Security guards in a tower. If I didn't know any better, I'd think it was a prison, a real one, for criminals. But what is the difference anyway? Will Tahlinah be treated better than the average criminal? Do criminals have to undergo electric shock therapy to help them change their ways? Somehow I don't think they do. What is her crime? Love.

Thanks to that anonymous person, Tahlinah and I are able to communicate, through letters that are smuggled in and out the hospital. She is such a courageous woman. Her letters speak of her love for me and concern about my well-being and that of our daughter. Our little Kay. I have turned about every stone, but I have no information on her yet. According to the law I am not a relative, so I have no right to know anything. But I will keep searching for her. One day I will find her.

November, 1972

We did it. We have agreed to set a day and time for Tahlinah to try and escape. By pretending her treatment is starting to be effective, she is allowed to go outside and take a walk. She has decided that it's possible to climb the west wall and escape into the forest. It will be dangerous, but Tahlinah has convinced me that the risks are worth it. We will go back to Oklahoma. I bought a new house, in another area. I dare not even to mention the place in this diary, afraid someone will read it! But if things will go well, we will be far away from Marvin O'Connell's clutches and we will start trying to find our baby girl.

" Wow, they will make a run for it," Billie breathed, totally caught up in the story. " I wish I had known all of this. Maybe I could have helped aunt Hester. Somehow I feel I have let her down."

" Don't say that, honey," Kay answered. " Maybe it was Hester's choice to keep her distance. She wasn't a very outgoing, happy person, but I know she was content with the life she lead, because she told me so."

" It's still such a tragedy," Billie said, her fingers unconsciously stroking the pages of the diary. " Do you want me to read on?"

Kay nodded and brushed a strand of blond hair away from Billie's forehead. Hester and Tahlinah's story was very touching and she felt deeply for those two women who had such a struggle to live a normal life. But no matter how hard she tried, Kay could not think of Tahlinah as her mother. The only mother she had ever known was Lynn McFee. And even though Lynn had not been all that young when she and her husband adopted Kay, she had always been a warm, loving person. Kay loved her parents deeply and was grateful for the chance they had given her in life, not bothered by other people's narrow mindedness and bigotry.

" Yeah, read on," she softly spoke.

Billie turned the page and when she saw the date a frown creased her forehead.

" She skipped a few months,"she said. " Hester just jumped from November to April 1973. I wonder why.."

April, 1973

It's Easter. Again. Two years ago I had everything I wanted in life and more. But now, everything that has brought me the happiness and joy I so craved, is gone. I still have not found out where they took our little girl. This week is Kay's second birthday. I can almost picture her. A toddler, with dark hair and those beautiful blue eyes she inherited from her mother. A sunny smile. The cutest kid in the neighborhood. Imagining her makes me smile, in spite of the deep desperation that has taken hold of my heart.

The preparations had taken us a long time, because everything needed to be done in secret. But it went well. The person who helped smuggle our letters in and out of that prison, helped us with the preparations as well. I still don't know who that person is. I saw his face, but he never mentioned his name.

His face. I could tell even before he had spoken one single word. The grief, the pain in his eyes told me he was about to dose every little flame of hope in my heart. And he did.

After waiting for almost seven hours, seeing the darkness of the sky fade and the early signs of a new day, I saw him cross the field. When he reached the car that Tahlinah and I would use to drive off, he could not look me in the eye. And I knew. Still, I asked him what happened. But he did not know. All he could tell was that my beautiful, strong Tahlinah, had been laying near the wall she had climbed on her way to freedom. Her body broken and lifeless. Like my heart and spirit. She is gone. Forever. And I pray to all the Gods who are out there and listening, to please look after my soulmate and guard her daughter, our little girl, because maybe one day I will find her. And when I do, I will tell her all about the woman who gave birth to her. How loving and generous she was. How beautiful, inside and out. And I will tell her how much I loved her.

I wish my heart would stop beating and my breathing would cease. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. But the only reason that prevents me from leaving this life to meet my lover at the other side, is a little girl, whom I might find back one day. It's a torturous life. I can not bear to see Tahlinah's portrait that brought me so much joy to paint. I will have it put away. But maybe, someday, I can look at it again, without bursting into tears. Until that day comes, I will cherish the pictures that are in my heart.

" Sounds like Tahlinah died when she tried to escape the hospital," Kay spoke after a very long silence.

Billie was still positioned on her lap and Kay enjoyed the warmth of the smaller body that was slumped against her own.

" I wonder what happened. Maybe she slipped and fell, although according to Hester she was a very strong woman, and tall as well."

" Maybe someone tried to stop her and they got into a fight," Billie mused, feeling Kay's body tense behind her. She turned sideways to cast a look at the tall woman and saw the muscles in the tanned face twitch. " And maybe not," Billie hastened to say, not wanting to upset her friend.

" It is possible, Billie," Kay agreed. " It's just that..I had not considered the possibility, but now you mention it...maybe somebody tried to stop her indeed. But uh...that's a scary thought."

Billie nodded and rested her head against Kay's shoulder. She covered one of the taller woman's hands with her own and their fingers entangled. With a sigh she closed her eyes, feeling the fatigue take a hold of her body.

" We might never know," she mumbled. " Somehow I don't think that psychiatric hospital kept records about people who were trying to escape and got killed in the process. I am afraid those things were kept secret and it doesn't seem like Hester knew anything about it either."

" Mmmm.." Kay mumbled, rubbing her cheek against the soft hair that was tickling her nose. " I guess you are right." But it doesn't hurt to do a little asking around, huh?

Billie yawned and reluctantly untangled herself from the tall body she had practically draped herself around. Her eyes traveled to the glazed ham and freshly baked biscuits and pie.

" Are you hungry, Kay?" she asked and when the doctor followed her gaze towards the kitchen counter, she could hear her stomach grumble.

" I'll take that as a 'yes' ," the blonde chuckled, patting Kay's stomach. " I am too. I know the ham is for tomorrow, for Easter day, but since it's such a huge one, why don't we have some now, huh?"

" And what else have you been doing today?" Kay asked, standing up behind Billie and wrapping her arms around the smaller woman, not willing to give up the contact just yet.

" Oh, the usual," Billie shrugged with a grin. " Cooking, reading.....hiding eggs..."

" Oh, really?" Kay's voice rumbled close to her ear, sending pleasurable jolts up and down her spine. " Chocolate eggs? For me to find? Can I keep them?"

" If you don't eat them all at once," Billie smiled, loving the gentle banter.

" Don't worry, I am good at sharing," Kay's voice whispered, before kissing the soft neck that was so tantalizing close to her lips.

" I noticed," Billie breathed, knowing that if she would turn around and claim those sweet lips in a kiss, they would not have dinner any time soon. " Is that one of your many....tricks?"

" No," Kay immediately responded. " It's a skill. I have many skills."

They both stiffened for a moment and when Billie turned around to look at the woman who was holding her in such a familiar way, they both stared at each other with something close to awe. In the depth of each other's eyes they searched for a truth they both felt was hiding just below the surface. They were so close to.....something they couldn't name yet, but which they both suspected was a shared memory.

Kay smiled when she saw the confusion on Billie's face, make way for a pensive expression. Her thumb caressed a pair of soft lips and in spite of Billie's good intentions, she raised her face to meet Kay's lips halfway. It was a soft kiss, that slowly deepened and spread a familiar warmth through their bodies, that slowly swayed, on the rhythm of some music that seemed to come from within.

Kay let herself melt into their embrace and decided to let her body take over, which it did, when strong hands caressed a muscular back, leisurely sliding down. There was no resistance when they slid underneath the fabric of Billie's shirt and started to caress warm, soft skin. It was a recognition in the deepest part of her soul and a feeling that was so familiar and intense flooded her total being with such intensity it brought tears to her eyes.

I want to spend eternity with you........Our souls are destined to be together, suddenly echoed in the back of Kay's mind and unconsciously she pulled Billie closer, filled with a sense of immense relief to be able to hold the small blonde.

" Kay, I have always......"

A pair of emotion filled eyes peeked up from Kay's chest and when green and blue met, an invisible, inner force rocked them to their cores and slowly the veils that had shaded their memories lifted. Just for a moment, but for the two women it was more than enough. A smile lit up their faces and with a happy sigh Billie pressed her face against Kay's shoulder.

Don't let go of me, Billie heard the memory of her own voice say and the deeper one of Kay answer: Never

" It's true then," she simply stated. " It's meant to be like this, you and I."

" It's our destiny," Kay whispered close to her ear.

" Aren't they just the poster children of sweetness and romance?" Eponin mocked, hovering over the glazed ham and wishing she could just take a bite...only one!

She sighed and turned to cast a look at Ephiny who was staring at their queen with nothing but pure adoration in her eyes.

" You always had a soft spot for Gabs," Eponin stated with her familiar bluntness. " It's a pity that tall, dark and doctor always gets in the way huh? Whaddaya think, Ep? If you could reincarnate, would our queen go for you? I mean, it's not like all those reincarnations never had a life before our warrior princess showed up. They weren't all nuns, you know."

" Did anyone tell you how obnoxious you can be, Eponin?" Ephiny sighed, floating down from the dining table to inspect the biscuits that were still sitting on the cooling rack, on top of the counter.

" More often than I can remember," Eponin grinned, casting an appreciative glance at the curly haired figure who was hovering close to her. " But why pine about it, Eph? I mean, look at ya. Right now you might be nothing but see through plasma, but you are really cute yourself. Who knows, if we ever get back to the fields, we can have a date. You know, for old times sake."

" Are you asking me on a date?" Ephiny exclaimed, holding her hand in an exaggerated gesture over the place where her heart used to be. " I never thought I would live to see the.....um....guess I didn't."

" Yeah, well, don't get too excited about it," Eponin mumbled. " First we will have to get out of this place and if that doesn't happen, well, we will be stuck here forever."

" We will find a way out," Ephiny reassured, casting a look at Billie and Kay who were still locked in a tight embrace. " Xena is here. She can make it happen, especially now if she starts to remember who she really is. All we have to do, is make sure that she notices us. But right now, our priority should be to catch that rabbit and send him back to the Bacchae."

" Well, let's check our traps and make sure we'll catch his furry butt. If they work the way they are supposed to, those two can finish...um....," Eponin chuckled. " Making out."

The two ghostly figures exited the kitchen through the wall that separated the kitchen from the main hall and disappeared, leaving behind a blonde and dark woman, who were totally engrossed in each other and did not notice the small flickering of the curtain, caused by a sudden,chilly draft.

Their dinner had been quiet, but the silence was filled with meaning. The ham and biscuits were tasty and ladled with stolen glances and soft smiles. Once they had satisfied their bodies' demands, concerning food, and had sipped on a freshly brewed cup of coffee, they settled down in the living room. The evenings were still a bit cold and Kay had made quick work of lighting the fireplace.

Billie had been watching the strong hands securely build the little stack of twigs and a bright smile had spread across her face.

" Some things never change," she had whispered, which had illicited a chuckle from her dark friend, who had picked up the soft words with her excellent hearing.

Kay had lowered her tall frame next to Billie on the rug in front of the fire and when she leaned her back against the couch, Billie immediately snuggled close, wrapping one arm around the doctor's waist and resting her head against a broad shoulder.

" Can we stay like this forever?" she sighed.

" Sure," Kay lazily answered, her blue eyes staring in the dancing flames. " As long as we change position now and then. I don't want us to develop pressure ulcers."

Billie softly laughed and gently tickled Kay's side, who immediately tried to squirm away.

" Romantic," the blonde woman accused, but her voice was soft and gentle.

" Always," Kay answered, feeling complied to prove her friend wrong. She bent her head and unexpectedly, but accurately found Billie's lips. The smaller woman gasped in surprise, but made a remarkably quick recovery. Her lips were soft and willing and she moaned when Kay gently lowered her down on the rug and covered her body with her own. Impatiently Billie tugged on the cotton shirt Kay was wearing, craving to feel the firm, soft skin underneath her hands. To feel the strong muscles ripple every time the tall woman moved.

" Is your cell phone on?" she whispered hoarsely, bending back her head to give Kay a better access to her neck. " I don't think I could stand another interruption. I think I would explode."

" I am on call.....but...I don't expect....any phone....calls," Kay answered between nibbles and soft bites. " So....", she didn't end her sentence, because she had to endure a passionate assault on her lips. When she could finally breathe again, she lifted her head and gazed into a pair of desire filled green eyes.

" Are you sure you want this?" she asked, suddenly feeling a little insecure. " I mean, we only met yesterday and.."

A small hand covered her mouth and Kay's blue eyes shot wide open.

"I have known you my entire life," Billie breathed, before speaking became once more impossible.

Without hesitation Billie's hand slid to the front of Kay's shirt and while the tall woman lifted up her torso, the blonde undid the small buttons with secure fingers. A sigh of pleasure escaped her lips when the shirt fell open and she was awarded with a close view of a light blue bra that was holding a pair of firm breasts. Her fingers lightly brushed the shiny fabric and she could hear Kay whimper. Immediately her touch became more insistent and Kay's body arched when Billie's thumb started to rub a hardened nipple.

" This needs to come off," Billie breathed, tugging on Kay's shirt with one hand, while the other tried to unhook the bra that was rapidly becoming a barrier to the passion filled blonde.

Kay recognized the urgency in her lover's voice and in spite of her own, fast growing desire, she chuckled and quickly shrugged off her shirt, so Billie could concentrate on removing the bra. Which she did and with a groan she lifted her head and pressed her face against the finally freed breasts.

With unerring accuracy Billie seemed to know exactly what excited Kay the most and soon she had the tall woman on her back, straddling her thighs and unzipping the doctor's jeans with fast, secure fingers. And when she lifted her hips to allow the blonde to pull down her pants and the mixture of warm air from the fire and cooler air from the room touched her skin, Kay lost herself in the building storm of ecstasy. Until there was nothing left but loving touches and warm exciting kisses and finally their bodies and souls were united, with a familiarity that erased all time and distances. They had finally come home.

Ephiny, who had been looking for her Amazon friend, came floating through the ceiling of the hall, to discover a chuckling Eponin, who had stuck her head through the wall that bordered the living room and main hall.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" she hissed.

Immediately Eponin turned around and desperately tried to look innocent.

" Uh...well, um, I was..uh..checking up on those rabbit traps we set, you know. I...uh..."

" You were spying on Xena and Gabrielle, you pervert," Ephiny spat. " Gods, Ep, don't you have one decent bone in your body?"

When Eponin opened her mouth to answer she raised her hand in a silencing gesture.

" Forget I asked," she sighed, rolling her eyes.

" I'm sorry," Eponin mumbled, not entirely convincing. " But..you should have seen them, Eph. It's like they haven't been....never mind. Believe me, I was debating with myself to bring out the dry ice and create some fog. Whoa, those girls are steaming!!!"

" You are just a frustrated piece of .of.....Amazon," Ephiny finally managed to choke out. " You have no shame, have you?"

" Jeez, Eph. I was only just taking a little peek. It's not like I have been standing there for hours. Besides, it's hard to miss what is going on in there, huh? I mean...hello? Just listen! And yes, I am frustrated. I haven't gotten any for about ninety years now. I feel like one of those Mexican things, you know, the ones you hit with a stick and they burst."

" A piñata," Ephiny added, still miffed at her friend for violating their Queen's privacy. " I hardly think you would have any goodies inside, it's all plasma and air. Besides, if I could hit you with a stick right now, I would, believe me. Hard!"

" I said I am sorry," Eponin repeated, seeing Ephiny's anger was real, which did make her feel a little guilty.

" Forget it," Ephiny sighed. " Just....don't do it again. It's rude. I was looking for you, because it's getting close to midnight. That....rabbit thing might show up any time now. We need to keep watch."

" Especially since our Warrior Princess is otherwise engaged," Eponin added with a sly grin, which made Ephiny smile.

" We need to keep our eyes open and warn our girls as soon as we see that rabbit....bunny...vampire thing."

" And then what? Attract Xena's attention? How? It's not like she can see us. Although, maybe if we would try and put on one of those costumes that are on the attic, we might give them a little scare."

Ephiny snorted and cast her friend a dour look.

" This is the Warrior Princess we are talking about, airhead. Ares' chosen. The former Conqueror of the known world. You think we can scare her off. Come on Ep, I..."

Ephiny was interrupted by the big clock at the wall, that started to strike twelve. She stiffened, sort of, and motioned Eponin to look across the hall. Through the mirror, that was hanging opposite Tahlinah's painting a formless creature floated inside the house. As soon as the foglike substance came into contact with the floor, it materialized into a fuzzy, cute looking little rabbit. The second the bunny cast a look at the painting, he softly growled, showing two razor-sharp fangs, which altered his appearance completely. His soulful brown eyes glowed an eerie red. In an instant the cuddly rodent was transformed into an evil creature of the dark.

" Gabrielle fought this creature," Ephiny whispered. " It's hard to understand Xena did not believe her when Gabby told her about this.....Bacchae thing. Especially not since Gabby almost turned in one of those vampires herself. Remember she bit Xena on her neck, when they were in that...creepy cave?"

" Yeah, but it wasn't all that bad in there, Eph," Eponin objected. " There were some really cool women that would have made excellent Amazons."

" Ssshh," Ephiny motioned. " I think we need to keep an eye on this thing. It's...sniffing?"

The bunny had finally stopped growling at Tahlinah's portrait and had raised itself on his hind legs. It's nose was stuck in the air and they could see him sniffing the air around him. After a little while it softly grunted and turned around to hop towards the living room, where Kay and Billie were slumbering in each other's arms.

" We have to stop it," Ephiny hissed. " Think fast, Ep."

" I don't need to," Eponin stated. " I will just kick his hairy vampire butt and send him back to Hades! What can he do to me? Kill me?"

Chuckling Eponin moved towards the closed door of the living room and floating in front of it, she cast a look at the fast approaching rabbit. She raised an eyebrow when she realized the animal did look as innocent as most of his kind did. But when he saw her, he stopped dead in his tracks and looked at the ghostly figure with a slightly cocked head.

" What are you looking at, fuzzbutt?" Eponin challenged the rabbit, while Ephiny rolled her eyes. " Never saw a ghost before? I bet you see worse where you came from. What are you here for? To ruin a perfectly good Easter? Oh, wait! Are you the rabbit of Easter Past?"

Eponin chuckled at her own joke and cast the rabbit a mocking glare.

" Well? Cat got your tongue?"

Suddenly the gray haired creature raised itself on his hind legs and a low growl escaped from his throat. He pulled up his upper lip, showing the two vampire like fangs and his eyes started glowing.

" I want my mommy," Eponin joked. " I am soooo scared."

" If you don't step aside, you will be really sorry," a deep, unearthly voice suddenly sounded. " I did not come here for you. Get out of my way and....remain a spirit. If you oppose me....."

" Then what?" Ephiny asked, standing at Eponin's side and giving the rabbit an evil glare.

" You will experience Bacchae's wrath."

" You know what, Eph?" Eponin casting her friend a look, without losing sight of the small animal. " I wish I would have eaten more rabbit stew when I was alive."

Ephiny grinned and saw the creature's eyes burn with anger.

" What puzzles me, Ep, is why such a powerful creature like Bacchae has to hide behind a rabbit's ....hide!"

The two Amazons suddenly howled with laughter, thoroughly enjoying the fact that since the first time in almost a century, they were able to pick a fight with somebody else.

" If I have to go through you in order to enter that room, I will," the rabbit spoke, hopping forward.

" Ah! But you don't know who is joining Her Majesty at the moment," Eponin said, raising a finger. " Don't you want to know, before you barge in there and make a fool of yourself?"

" My task is to turn Gabrielle, the bard of Potidea into a vampire and I will," the rabbit answered with determination. " Even if it takes me eternity, by Hades, I will succeed."

" Remember Xena, Warrior Princess? You know, female, tall, dark, great hunter, specialized in skinning rabbits? Probably with her bare teeth. Remember her?" Eponin asked and Ephiny could have sworn she saw the rabbit pale.

" You cannot fool me,"the unearthly voice spoke. " Gabrielle escaped me twice. But today she will be mine and I will finally become a servant of Bacchae himself. I will rise in the ranks and become a vampire."

" So, by biting our Queen, you get promoted?" Eponin summarized. " But what happens with our friend, huh? Will she become...a rabbit?"

" Bacchae will make her his Queen," the rabbit shouted, enraged with the annoying and persistent Amazons who were still blocking the entrance.

" You'll become stew first," Ephiny shouted back, floating towards the little animal. " Don't pick a fight with me, fuzzball! I spent ninety years in this house and I read every book in that library! I know how to kill vampires, so, rest assured, I know how to take care of a wannabee one as well!!!!"

Eponin cast her fuming friend an adoring look and smiled when she saw the vampire-to-be taking a step back. Ephiny immediately floated closer.

" So, you can take your pick," she continued. " You want a stake through your heart? Or maybe you'd like to lose your head, huh? Since I don't have any holy water handy, what about knocking you over the head with a bible? I don't think it's ever been done yet, but it's worth the try! Don't you think so, Eponin?"

" Absolutely," the Amazon weapon master nodded, thinking what a waste their ghostly state was now Ephiny looked so incredibly sexy, the way she was telling the rabbit off. " You tell him, baby...uh..buddy!"

" We could tie him up and put him outside," Eponin suggested. " First light in the morning will take care of him. Just a few rays of sunlight and....poof! Roasted rabbit."

" Great idea! Open the door, Ep!"

" No! No! Wait! Please," the rabbit almost cried. " You know how frustrated I am? I have been hunting down that blonde for centuries now! Don't you know I never stand a chance? But I need to try, you know. It's part of the job! See, I have been a vampire sidekick for ages now, but I have grown tired of all the blood sucking and lying. It's not as glamorous as it seems, you know. Maybe it's time for a career change, huh?"

" Keep talking," Eponin growled, hovering over the rodent and shooting him a menacing glare.

" Well, I know a way back for you...girls....to the Elysian Fields."

" We might be interested," Ephiny coolly responded, before Eponin could.

" The mirror is the gateway," the rabbit explained. " If you step through it, you will see the paths of choice. One leads to Tartarus, the other one to the Fields. You'll only have to follow the path."

" How would I know which path to choose?" Ephiny asked, intrigued by the rabbit's story. " I could end up in Tartarus."

" No, you couldn't," the rabbit sadly explained. " You already have been chosen to roam the Fields. You couldn't take the wrong path."

Eponin shot Ephiny a questioning look and noticed the hope in her friend's eyes. She couldn't blame her! Imagine, going back to the Fields. Having a real body again. Being able to feel and touch. To be touched. If Eponin would have had a physical heart, it would have skipped a beat.

" How do we know you are telling the truth?"

" I won't go back into that mirror again," the rabbit explained. " When the sun rises, my fangs will disappear and I will turn into a regular rabbit. A real one."

" And then what?"

" That will be up to...your Queen," the rabbit swallowed. " if they find me in the morning and kick me out, I will lead a normal rabbit's life. That means digging holes and stuff and if I am lucky, I will meet somebody nice."

" A little rabbit lady," Eponin chuckled.

The rabbit averted her gaze and they saw the tips of his ears turn pink.

" Well, um...actually....I am not really into...ladies," he shyly admitted.

" Hey, a coming out," Ephiny grinned. " The bunny is out of the closet! Good for you! I hope you don't mind us keeping an eye on you until the morning. You know, regular safety precautions for our Queen."

" No, no, of course not," the rabbit quickly gave in. " Um..." He cast a look at the door and was visibly uncomfortable. " Was that true? You know, Xena being in there and all?"

" Oh, yes," Ephiny nodded. " She's definitely in there. In the room, I mean."

Eponin chuckled and motioned the rabbit to follow her down the hall.

" We'd better stay out of sight. I believe our lovebirds might want to go to bed soon. Better not run into our fuzzy friend here. By the way, you like chocolate eggs?"

The dying embers of the fire were softly glowing. Producing enough light to cast long shadows on the walls, illuminating the slumbering couple with a soft glow.

Kay was stretched out on the couch, the smaller form of Billie tucked under her chin. When the fire started dying and the night air had become more chilly, they had reluctantly put their shirts back on and had crawled away under a blanket they had found on one of the chairs.

" Do you hear that?" Billie mumbled, too tired and relaxed to even lift up her head.

" What?" Kay asked, equally lazy.

She had not felt better in years. Making love to Billie had been an emotional and physical roller coaster ride. The blonde had taken her to heights she had never dreamed off before, yet it had all felt so familiar. Like they had been making love thousands of times before. Maybe we have, Kay smiled.

She tenderly stroked Billie's cheek and admired the soft features of her lover's face. The long, blonde eyelashes, the cute nose, the sensual lips.....

" Did you hear that sound?"

" The one that sounded like a rabbit hopping around in the hall? Yeah, I heard," Kay yawned. " If you want, I will go and have a look."

Kay could feel Billie's body move with silent laughter.

" You sound like you really want to do that," she answered. " Don't worry about it. It was probably just the Easter bunny."

" OOPs, that reminds me. I need to go egg hunting in the morning," Kay smiled, immensely pleased by Billie's gesture of hiding chocolate eggs for her. " Will you help me?"

" Of course," Billie answered, patting Kay's stomach. " You didn't think I would let you eat all that by yourself?"

Billie shifted position and felt the bare skin of her thighs rub against Kay's in a most sensual way. She groaned in pleasure and briefly closed her eyes. Wondering if her body would be able to survive another wave of passion. When she felt the familiar tingle in her belly, she knew it would.

" I love your legs," she sighed, crawling on top of Kay and resting her elbows on either side of the tall woman's head.

Kay grinned and looked at the swaying breasts that were so close to her face.

" I love your breasts," she huskily answered, seeing a pink flush creep up Billie's cheeks. She let her hands roam over her lover's body, until they cupped the firm flesh of her behind and immediately she could feel the blonde grind into her stomach. Pushing up the fabric, so there was no barrier in between their skin.

" Happy Easter, baby," she whispered before claiming Billie's lips in a fiery kiss again.

Easter morning found a cheerful Kay making coffee in the huge kitchen and setting the table for a late breakfast. The activities of the evening and night before had left her hungry and as soon as her rumbling stomach had woken her up, she had untangled herself from a sleepy Billie and had padded to the kitchen in search for food.

Softly whistling a popular tune she put two slices of bread in the toaster, breathing in the enticing aroma of freshly brewed coffee. A little stack of pancakes was kept warm on the stove and Kay had silently thanked General Mill's for the production of Bisquick, which enabled her to make some decent pancakes. Eggs and bacon were sizzling in the skillet and Kay was about to walk back to the living room to wake her sleeping lover, when a soft gasp at the door made her turn around.

Billie was rubbing her eyes and in Kay's eyes she looked adorable with her sleep tousled hair and crumpled clothes.

" I was just on my way to wake you," Kay smiled, wrapping Billie in her arms and welcoming her with a long, tender kiss.

" Mmm...I smelled coffee and all sorts of other goodies," Billie explained, rubbing Kay's back. " If this is a promise for the future I'll have another set of keys made today."

" It looks like a lot, but it's the only breakfast I can cook," Kay admitted. " But it's done with love."

" If it tastes half as good as it smells I want you to give notice to your landlord," Billie joked. " Wow, I am hungry!"

Kay laughed and grabbed two plates. She piled them up with the bacon and eggs and put them on the table, together with the toast and pancakes.

" We had quite a bit of exercise last night," Kay grinned. " I am kind of starving myself."

She poured a cup of coffee for Billie and bent down to steal a quick kiss. Of course Billie was not satisfied with just one kiss and she pulled the doctor's head down for a prolonged one. It left them both breathless and with a smile they eventually let go of each other.

" I can't get enough of you," Billie confessed. " And I have been smiling so much those last two days, my jaws are starting to hurt." She took a bite of her bacon and hummed in delight. " Oooh, this is great."

" Thank you, ma'am," Kay grinned, loving the way Billie enjoyed her food. " Enjoy! And there's more where that came from, so..."

" I'll keep that in mind," Billie winked, blowing the tall woman a kiss.

They both laughed and for a few moments they were silent, quietly enjoying their first breakfast together.

" You think Tahlinah and Hester did stuff like this?" Billie suddenly asked. " I mean, making love till they couldn't walk anymore and having late breakfasts on Easter morning?"

" I hope they did," Kay softly answered. " They didn't have much time together. Tahlinah was seriously pregnant with me when they discovered their love for each other. After I was born they had a year."

Kay frowned and looked at Billie with a pensive expression on her face.

" Do you notice that all those big events took place around Easter? I just....why didn't I see that before? That's really....amazing," Kay remarked.

Billie slowly chewed on a piece of toast and her face mirrored Kay's pondering expression. Gradually the information sank in and with eyes, wide with wonder, they stared at each other.

" Wow," Billie mouthed. " That is really.....different. But yeah, you are right. And it even applies to us! I just...You think that has a meaning?"

" I really don't know, honey," Kay answered. " But I wouldn't be surprised. I wish I knew. Did we ever finish Hester's diary?"

Billie shook her head and reached for the little book that was still on the corner of the table.

" There's a little bit left. Do you want me to read it?"

" Please, do," Kay encouraged her lover, pouring her another cup of coffee.

" Thanks," Billie said, lovingly touching Kay's hand, while opening the book where she had left off the day before.

" Honey, when did you move into this town?"

" When?" Kay echoed from the kitchen counter, where she was returning the coffee pot to it's holder. " When Doctor Barber retired and I took over his practice."

" When was that?" Billie asked, her eyes glued to the page in front of her.

" Um....about eight months ago. Why?"

August, 2002

I am a believer. Miracles do happen. Not often, maybe, but they do. Today I saw her. She walks with the same flowing grace and has the same beautiful, noble face. Her eyes are as blue as Tahlinah's were. Our daughter has found her way home!

For the first time in my life I took advantage of this little town's gossips to pry loose some information about our Kay. Her last name is McFee and she is the new doctor in town. Tahlinah would be so proud! Kay, a doctor! Her parents are supposed to be loving and supporting and it does my heart good to hear that.

My heart almost stopped when I first laid eyes on her. For a moment I thought I saw Tahlinah. How is it possible two people look alike so much. After the initial shock I felt the pain. I still miss her. I have always missed her and I will welcome the day when we will be reunited again. Because I know we will. Our love was too strong to die.

My face must have lost it's color and she noticed. She was at my side at an instant and asked me if I was alright. Tears sprang to my eyes when I heard her voice. A little deeper than Tahlinah's, but I can clearly hear her mother. I made up a story about being bothered by the heat and she offered to bring me home. I could not refuse. I had never stopped looking for her, but fate brought her back on my path again. And I am so grateful. A few minutes in her presence showed me what a beautiful, caring person she is. Just like her mother was. And I feel so blessed to have finally met the woman her mother and I would have loved to raise. And in spite of the loss and the pain I still feel every day, I am grateful that Kay's foster parents brought her up to be the person she is today. Strong and proud. Yet loving and kind.

I want to get to know her. I need to find out how much I can tell her about the past. She has a right to know, but I am not sure I can live through all that pain again. It's just too much....But I need to come up with a plan. Maybe my sister Sarah can help me. She is the only one who never turned her back on me.

December, 2002

There are a few advantages of being ill. The first one is I get to see Kay regularly. I still think of her as my daughter, because that's who she was when she was born. Secondly, I know my life will be ending soon. That means I will finally see my beloved Tahlinah again. I know she is waiting for me on the other side. I have felt her comforting presence so often. But I had promised not to let go before I found our child. And now I did.

I talked to Sarah. I told her I am dying, but I don't want any treatment. I want to let go.

She told me about Beatrice, her only child. I regret I never took the trouble to get to know the girl. She sounds like a spunky little thing. But she was just a little younger than Kay and it would have hurt so much to see her grow up and not knowing where our daughter was. Am I a coward? Maybe. Probably. But I will try to make up for that, one way or the other. I have told Sarah that when I die, I will leave the house to Beatrice. Having heard the stories about my niece, I just know she will move in here. Even if it's temporarily. And if there's a meaning to all the suffering my Tahlinah and I had to go through, Beatrice and Kay will meet and become, at least, good friends.

I told Igor, my gardener, that after I die, I want him to put up Tahlinah's portrait in the hall. It was supposed to hang there from the start, but I took it down after she died. I could not look at it anymore. But I want Beatrice to see it. She has an inquisitive mind. She will want to know the story. And who knows, maybe one day she can write about it. Tell the world about our love. The strength of it and the purity. Prove wrong those who condemned our love, ridiculed it and arrogantly preached that our love was an abomination. A sin. How can something that is so pure and beautiful be anything else but good?

I love you Tahlinah. I will be joining you soon.

" That's the end of the diary," Billie whispered, taking a sip from her lukewarm coffee. " What a shock it must have been for Aunt Hester to run into you."

" Poor woman," Kay sighed. " I knew she had a sad past, I mean, only had to look at her to actually see that, but now I understand the pain I saw, lots of times when she looked at me. I was the symbol of all her sadness. I reminded her of Tahlinah and I was the daughter she lost."

" But you also brought her joy, honey," Billie gently reminded her tall lover. " When you crossed her path again, she could finally let go. I understand she was ill and I am not going to ask you about that." Billie smiled reassuringly. " Meeting you meant she could finally let go. I'd like to think she's in a better place now. Hester and your mom, together."

Kay pushed back her hair and shot Billie an insecure look.

" I um..after hearing all this, yesterday and today...I'd like to have a look at that painting again. I...will you...I mean, it might be silly, but..."

Billie already stood and extended a hand to her nervous lover, who thankfully grabbed it and let the smaller woman pull her to her feet.

"Let's have another look at it," Billie encouraged.

Together they walked to the hall and stopped in front of Tahlinah's painting, it was bathed in sunlight that came streaming in through one of the huge windows.

" Now I know why Aunt Hester thought this was a good place for it," Billie said, pointing towards the windows. " That one lets in the morning sun and that one," she pointed to another window. " That one let's in the late afternoon sun."

Kay, who was standing behind Billie, wrapped her arms around the blonde and pulled her close to her body. Somehow needing the solid warmth. Together they stared at the woman who had brought Aunt Hester so much love and joy and who devastated her life when she died. The woman Billie would always be grateful to for giving birth to Kay. A woman they had come to know those two days they had been together. It was only a little, but Billie was convinced that some research would bring up more information about Kay's mother. And she silently promised herself to find out as much as she could about Tahlinah O'Connell, for Kay's sake.

Eponin and Ephiny had helped the rabbit find a way out of the house and had wished the little animal well. He had proved true to his word and by the time morning came, his fangs disappeared and he lost the ability to talk. What was left was a cuddly little rabbit and the two Amazons had let him out in the garden. As soon as he hopped into the light they had held their breath, secretly worried he would disintegrate, but nothing happened. The vampire in him had disappeared forever.

Giddy with the prospect of returning to the Fields they floated through the hall, when they spotted Kay and Billie in front of the painting opposite the mirror. Ephiny had lingered, wanting to make sure her Queen was alright. But when Billie turned to Kay she could see her face mirror so much love and devotion, that Ephiny knew Gabrielle was being taken care of.

" Come on, Eph," Eponin impatiently whispered, while hovering in front of the mirror. " I can almost see this bottle of wine with my name on it. And a few beautiful, naked women, running around in the grass."

" I thought we had a date," Ephiny teased, coming closer.

" You mean that?" Eponin asked, her face lighting up. " Yeah, sure, if you want to. I could take you to this cool little bar I know, 'The Seventh Heaven', they have the best wine and cheese!"

Ephiny smiled and turned back to cast a last look at her Queen. Billie was still wrapped in Kay's secure embrace and a ray of sunlight spun golden highlights in her hair. She looked beautiful.

" You think she will be okay?" Eponin asked, one leg already in the mirror.

" I am sure she will," Ephiny smiled. " She has her warrior to look after her. And they both have two guardian angels. Look!."

Eponin followed Ephiny's outstretched finger and she gasped in surprise when she saw the outline of two ghostly shadows at the top of the stairs.

Two women, one tall, with long, black hair and a smaller one that was blonde. They had their arms wrapped around each other's waists and looked positively radiant. Both of them sported huge smiles, that lit up their faces. They appeared to be very happy.

Ephiny raised her hand in a silent greeting and Hester and Tahlinah waved back. Then the two Amazons disappeared into the mirror, finally on their way back to the Elysian Fields.

Billie suddenly shivered and Kay immediately pulled her closer.

" Are you okay?" she asked, the concern evident in her voice.

" Yes, I am, " Billie smiled, pulling the taller woman's head down for a kiss " Just a little draft, that's all."

The end (I guess)

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