Disclaimer: don’t own Xena, Gab or Abby. They belong to other people. I’m just playing with them and promise to put them back when I’m done. (well, maybe not Abby) Just did this for fun to see if I could keep them all in character despite the absurd improbability of the circumstance. The elemental is an amalgam of lots of different mythos. I just kinda made her up. None of this would have happened at all if I slept on occasion. I’m using the same excuse for the silly storyline. My therapist says I’m supposed to find things to laugh at. She didn’t say anything about those things making any sense.
Sex: lesbian in nature. I’d like some now please.
Violence: it’s Xena!
Aint got no Beta, so every single mistake you see, I made and missed. It’s a tough world, filled with dangling participles, but for the most part, it’s readable. Enjoy.
The heat was invasive, soaking into her darkened skin through the layers of clothing, stealing her sweat even as she made it, leaving salt and a light layer of oils behind to stain her t-shirt and the open button down over it. Jeans as soft as butter and so bleached by the sun and years they appeared nearly white, were salted at the waistband and along the yoke in back. Abby wrapped the last of the barbwire around the post she’d just repaired and tapped the staple onto the loop before testing the tension along its length.
It felt good to be out here, doing a day’s honest work, as far from the machinations and power plays of the U.S. attorney’s office as Mars. If she could have found a way to get further, she would have taken it, but uncle Jonus had offered, and she’d taken him up on the offer limping home with her tail between her legs and her heart hurting.
Yup, the small town girl had done good, made it in the big city of New York, then again in the bigger cesspool of D.C. and all it had cost her was her heart and soul. The family rumor mill, and the locals were all abuzz with her return. She’d taken it as long as she could, then started her three week ride to survey the fence lines.
She’d only been out here 5 days, but already she was beginning to feel the ease the heated emptiness of the land always imparted. There was nothing relaxing or soft to this land. It was harsh and hungry and glaringly indifferent, but it was also home, and a land she belonged to. For Abby, it was wonderfully uncomplicated. There was no one here to make demands of her, no one expecting perfection or satisfaction, no one to disappoint and come up wanting where she had thought she might finally have found solace.
The job be damned. Here, there was no Constance, and though her body lay frustrated in her bedroll at night, the stars didn’t judge or belittle her, and that alone was a blessing.
She pulled off the leather gloves and tucked them into her back pocket, the dry air wicking away the sweat of her hands even as she watched. There were calluses building on the palms and pads of her fingers. For the first time in years, she was looking at her large square hands and liking the way they looked. She flexed her fingers, watched the dance in her long forearms beneath dark copper skin. Her native heritage was showing and she realized that if she stayed in the sun for a full year she’d likely attain the dark copper tones of her maternal grandmother, at least, as far up as her elbows. She smiled at that thought. There was a water hole in her future, and no one to laugh with her at the uneven tan or comment on how pale her ass was.
Strangely, the smile slid slowly away, a sadness resident in her deep brown gaze.
Stretching her back, she tapped her hat back to slide down and rest between her shoulder blades so she could roll her neck and run hands through the sweat flattened black of her hair. The sun caught an occasional strand of silver in the black curtain as she shook air into it. She was getting older. Twisting the length of her hair into a loose knot, she pulled her sweat stained Stetson back into place, enjoying the feel of air on her neck.
A look around, and she began gathering her tools, the chaps taking the brunt of the re-tied coil of new wire she’d hauled with her and not needed here. Her horse and the two pack horses looked up, expectantly from where they grazed in the shade of a grove of trees.
She thought about staying here for the night, but a look at the sky warned her on. High wisps had greeted her in a reddened sky on waking. Now the clouds were gathering and the heavy feel of charged potential was obvious. A good sized storm was on its way, and she had just enough time to make the east-ridge camp before it hit. The cabin there was tiny, but it was well kept, and the shelter for the horses was protected from lightning and flood. As hot as it was during the day, it would be chilly tonight, a roof and a fire that could be reasonably left burning while she slept… now that was tempting.
Dark eyes swept the area she’d already worked, found the fence line in good shape. She’d have to come back down to continue her survey, but the cabin was there and for a reason. Finished stowing and securing her gear to the pack horses, spending a few minutes with each to scratch at ears and cheeks and hear her own voice for perhaps only the third time that day, she finally stepped into a stirrup and settled into the saddle.
“C’mon girls, let’s go find us the Waldorf and take tonight and tomorrow off.” A soft cluck of her tongue and heels light to the flanks of the dark roan her uncle had named Hebrides and they were moving at a good but sustainable clip, no more than a fast walk for the horse, but a jog for herself. They came up out of the valley she’d been working, rounded one of the more eroded headlands, and she began searching out the trail she knew would lead them up onto the ridge.
Explosions of sage and brush bottle, lupine and yellow cactus flowers painted the desert with a muted pallete she always found enticing. There were greens, but if you really looked, the colors were more turned to the reds and purples and dusty blues. Against the tans and reds of the desert soil, the colors leapt out at her and reached to the sky and its answering hues of blue and white and the coming angry malevolence of bruised purple clouds that marked the border of the storm front.
Now that, Abby considered, is one hell of an impressive wall cloud. As the thought occurred, a thin lance of lightening traveling between ground and cloud. She started counting even as she turned her eyes to the task of finding the trailhead. At 20, the roll of thunder passed through the air she breathed and they were already on the trail, picking their way upward.
Rocks popped and snapped beneath hooves, soil sifted over the edges of the switchback as the horses moved higher. Scrub grew fairly thick over this particular slope, and she needed to do some ducking to avoid low branches. She tilted her Stetson back on her head to make it easier to see above.
Hebrides knew the way even better than Abby, his head lowering into a kind of lunge as he rushed the last few strides over the lip of the ridge wall and onto the plateau. The pack horses followed just as willingly, stepping onto the grasses here with tiny whispers of grumblings and snorts. “Almost there girls. Cold water, fresh hay, good bedding…”
The three sided stable was empty and the three horses moved toward that goal with eager steps. She chuckled as she slid from the height of her horse and led the three to the shelter. A look back showed the storm moving in fast.
The stall was clean, but she lay down some fresh bedding anyway, and broke apart a pair of bales for the feed trough adding a few scoops of oats and molasses. Fresh water from the tower flushed out the trough, and then she started unburdening the horses of their loads. She stored everything on the hooks and spindles meant for them, pet a handful of cats that stayed here year round to keep the place free of rats and mice, and started brushing out the three hot damp coats that needed attention.
One of the pack horse, named simply ‘stay’, was a walker. She liked to wander and look around at the world while she ate. After checking her hooves and picking a few small pebbles from one, she had hobbled the old girl and offered up a part of an apple. All three got some, but it was Stay who got brushed out first because she was always impatient to go wander. She never went far, just wanted to look around, and Abby suspected there might be a bit of a poet behind those big golden eyes. Stay was known to throw some of the best colts, always hard workers, even tempered, and curious. When she left here, Abby decided it would be Stay’s turn as saddle horse. She planned to rotate and this beast was one of her favorites.
The nearby crack of thunder jarred her out of her reverie, and she realized she’d finished with all three horses while the light had dimmed to near nighttime depth. With a final pat to each, she shouldered her saddlebags and bedroll, the Winchester in its saddle sheath and the small pouch of provisions she wanted to use for the next day or so then headed out into the early night and the beginning patters of fat rain drops. The cabin was only 10 yards or so from the stable, her hat had been bombarded by only a handful of drops by the time she reached the tiny porch and unlatched the door.
Six narrow bunks, stacked three to a wall took up two sides of the place, a Franklin stove owned the near center, and a bench with sink and chairs finished the lot off. ‘Hi honey, I’m home.’ Dragging herself inside, she unlatched the shutters and let in what light there was, then primed and lit a few gas lamps. She draped her gear over backs of chairs and a few pegs near the bunks. The shower was outside, but she was wondering if she might just take advantage of the pelting rain if it thickened. Stripping off her hat, shirt and boots, she dumped her socks and jeans with relish.
The air was cooling now that the front had arrived, and the winds had picked up. she grabbed a bucket and a bar of soap from her gear, and her small tube of shampoo. Stepping back outside barefoot and dressed in no more than a tank and underwear, she checked the water barrel on the right of the porch. It was full, and she scooped out a half bucketful to wash her clothes, then stripped the rest of the way and dropped her underwear and tank into the cold water to soak.
As the rain lost its scattered approach and turned into a more purposeful downpour, Abby strode out from the cabin and turned her face up to the heavens and smiled. It was cold, and it lashed its way over her body like a lover, stinging at nipples gone hard at the chill, caressing the planes and hollows of her face, working through her hair… still smiling, eyes closed, Abby washed quickly, but thoroughly, paying special attention to her sex and breasts before turning to her hair.
Not once did she open her eyes nor pay attention to the light show and rumbling fury of thunder. If she had, she might have seen the approach of her visitor sooner, and most certainly would not have been as intent on losing herself in the hedonistic joy of the storms touch mixed with her own. It had been a long time, she was lonely, and for the first time she was able to attach some kind of pleasure and fantasy to the act, wishing, calling for a lover to touch her and stir the fire she felt into something greater.
When that call was answered, at the first faint, feather like touches, Abby let herself go with it, her imagination become suddenly graphic as rock hard nipples brushed against her own, and a hot, wet mouth settled on the saddle of her left shoulder, sucking lightly.
With a squeak of disbelief, Abby launched herself backward, one hand pushing out to meet resistance on cool, wet skin. Dark eyes snapping open, she stared at the figure looking back at her in puzzlement. Then she screamed, even as her mind took in the details of who and what had only seconds before moved against her body as a lover.
Tall, taller than Abby, and darker, with a broad beautiful face, high cheek bones and level amber eyes, the woman stood proud and waiting, rain streaming down her naked form in ropes of quicksilver and crystal, slicking down the dark brown of her hair and pooling at the straight haired dark triangle that guarded her sex.
She was… glorious…
And didn’t belong here at all…
Or maybe it was Abby who didn’t belong because of the two, the woman who’d appeared with the storm was at ease being here in nothing but her skin and an ankle bracelet. Her head had canted to one side, and she was looking at Abby, curiosity and questions in her eyes.
“What the hell?” Abby managed, taking one more step back, trying to cover herself with her hands, blinking into the heavy downpour. “Who are you?”
Silently, the woman stepped back into the circle of Abby’s space, her hands taking each of Abby’s and drawing them away from her body, letting the caress of her gaze travel the length of Abby’s body before rising once again to capture her eyes.
Her hands were warm, gentle in their strength. Her body was ready and willing, sensual. But it was her gaze that trapped Abby, that held her more surely than the warm grasp of her hands. “You called me.” she said softly, her accent unusual.
And with a certainty no lover had ever displayed before, this stranger leaned forward and claimed Abby’s lips in a kiss that promised everything…
What had her uncle once told her about these highlands, and her grandmother before? Demons born on the winds? No, not demons, spirits…
And if this was what a spirit tasted like, she wanted more…
Abby Carmichael, counselor, cowgirl, disillusioned idealist, wasn’t going to fight whatever this was. This might just be the heat, or mental exhaustion. Maybe her little choo choo had gone around the bend, jumped the tracks and was steaming across a field of daisies. She didn’t care.
Abby Carmichael had been hurting for a very long time, and as those lips played over her own, as this unknown body slid into place against her own, as the rain poured down on them to seal them together she opened her mouth to the tacit request of the woman she now wrapped in her arms…
Something woke her. Alone on the narrow bunk, the nights cool breeze washing over her naked body, Abby levered herself onto her elbow and tried to see around the tiny cabin. She was alone, and the truth of that rocked her back onto the cot to stare up at the night and remember.
The air in the cabin was heavy with the scent of women’s sex. She could taste, still fresh on her tongue and lips, the light peppery rainwater musk of the woman she had loved. Her nostrils flared, pulling that scent into her lungs, feeling it activate her pores and her bodies desires. Images keyed by scents reeled through her mind, her body remembering the textures and tastes and wantonness of the encounter wanted more.
She stretched on the cot and felt her body sing in languid wonder. God, she felt… incredible.
And she wanted more! Sitting up, she glanced out one of the opened windows. The sky had lightened, though it was deep night. The stars were out, the storm past. Somehow, she knew her mystery lover was gone.
Snatching up her shirt and jeans, she slipped into them and tugged on her boots. It had been one hell of a storm, winds lashing wickedly at the buildings and trees, lightning and thunder giving voice to the sky in a way that seemed to mirror the sex. Now that was a crazy thought… she needed to check on the horses, and perhaps see if her lover remained long enough for her to thank properly.
As she stomped her boots and settled into them, she realized just how whole she felt. Something that had been missing – no, taken away – was back. something essential. And for just a moment, she allowed the feeling to take up residence. Amazing.
Hand touching her lips, as though to make sure they were really hers, she felt the smile she couldn’t seem to suppress spread across her face and decided not to fight it. She took that scent with her as she crossed the cabin floor in less than 3 strides, unlatched the door, and stepped out into the night.
Everything was clear and fresh, the sky looked like it had been painted anew with living hues so deep she might fall into them. a deep breath of sage and juniper filled her lungs and keyed again a memory of her unknown lover, widening her smile…
She managed exactly 3 strides outside the cabin before a tall shadow popped out of nowhere and slammed a fist into her jaw that drove her down onto her hands and knees in a stunned instant of breathlessness. Wet gravel dug into her hands, and darkness seemed to spread between them before the breath she had left exploded from her and the dark fluid arched out in a fan from her mouth with that breath as she took a kick in the midsection that lifted her from the ground and spun her onto her back.
A weight suddenly appeared on her chest, and something cold and sharp settled beneath her chin. Oooo, shiny! And then she coughed and her head smacked back onto the gravel to ring for awhile because it was empty.
“Move and die!” the voice was a low growl, and after a blink to try to focus, Abby looked up and saw a tall sleek blue eyed bitch standing over her with a… was that a fucking sword? When the point nicked her chin again, Abby’s eyes widened. “Understand?”
Thinking back, Abby blinked. Move. Die. Got it. She was going to nod, but decided against it. Instead she managed to croak out a tiny sound. “Yes.”
“Xe, you’re scaring her!” A second voice entered the picture, calm, amused, and strangely comforting. Abby didn’t even try to see who this was.
“That’s what a sword does Gab, it scares people.” The blue eyed bitch was watching Abby, then took on a gleam of madness and widened as the woman bent down to grin manically. “I like scaring people.”
“You’re good at it.” Abby managed.
That seemed to confuse the bitch with the sword. “You talk!”
Somewhere along the way, her life had gotten away from her. It was entirely possible she was residing in a soft little room somewhere, highly medicated, off her nut. If that were the case, she really didn’t have anything to lose. “Since I was 10 months old.” Abby was beginning to get a bit pissed.
“Uh, Xe? She’s not supposed to be able to talk.” Suddenly a blond head appeared over Abby, green eyes looking down at her, worried. “Her lips moved.”
“Gab, your head’s in the way.”
As quickly as it appeared, the blond head disappeared. “I don’t think its her.” her voice continued.
The bitch with the sword appeared pissed off. “OF course it’s her. Look at her!”
“I don’t think a storm spirit would have a farmers tan, or bleed from her lip like that.”
Now that really pissed off old blue eyes. “Well Fuck!” the sword disappeared and the tall figure turned away, stomping.
“Hi.” The blonde reappeared and offered her hand.
Abby rolled onto all fours and stood, a bit unsteady, but she was on her feet and a few steps away from both of them.
“She was here! I can smell her!” the dark one insisted.
“Hey!” Abby protested!
“Look, I don’t want to get into just how it is you know what she smells like hon, but I gotta tell ya,” the little blonde turned on her ‘friend’, for all the world looking like she was on her last nerve. “if you don’t quit talking about her snatch, I’m gonna clock ya!”
“Hey!” Abby barked again, stepping forward. That was her… lover? …they were sniffing after.
Both of them ignored her. The tall one pretending to shiver in fear sneered and danced mockingly in front of the short blonde. “Ooo, I’m so scared. Can I help it I’ve got a good nose?”
On a deep, controlling breath, the blonde pretended not to hear, she wheeled on Abby and smiled rather insincerely. “Ignore her. She’s never going to have sex again, so she’s kind of grumpy.”
Something dripped onto Abby’s chest and she touched her hand to her lips as she had earlier, only now the touch stung, and her hand came away bloody. Instantly pissed off, Abby glared at the tall blue eyed freak who’d hit her – who’d thought she was her lover and hit her! – might be a Texas thing, or maybe just a Carmichael thing, but a girl don’t take kindly to someone pounding on her woman! Ignoring the little blonde, Abby took a few steps in the direction of the big one, lowered her shoulders and pumped up her bicep, fist locked in position, with every intention of a throw down.
At least, until something slammed into the side of her head and she wound up starring at the pretty stars overhead.
This time, two heads disrupted her view.
“Not particularly smart, is she?” the blue eyed bitch smirked.
The blonde canted her head to the side and seemed almost sorry when she agreed. “Guess not.”
Abby brought herself up onto her elbows, and gaped up at them. Her head felt like it was full of wet wool and all she really wanted was the chance to go back to sleep and pretend none of this had happened. That or to pound something. Distracted by that thought, she wasn’t sure which of the two pushed her gently back down onto her back, but she decided it was maybe a good idea. She wasn’t positive, but it seemed likely some time had passed before she paid attention to what the two women were saying.
“…not many signs she was here. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Go into the cabin. Or take a whiff of stretch over there.”
“You asked! At least she knows how to take care of her horses.”
“You…” Abby coughed, and had to pull herself up onto one elbow, turned toward the two voices, and finding a small campfire between them, the other two looking at her expectantly, the tall one, the one with the weird blue eyes, was cleaning something – a sword. But Abby’s mouth outraced her brain and finished the sentence she’d begun. “Stay away from my horses!”
“Or what? You’ll litigate me?” the blue eyed bitch huffed at that and went back to smoothing a chamois over the long blade.
“Be nice. She can’t help being a lawyer.” The blonde stood and was stepping around the fire toward Abby, but there didn’t seem to be any aggression in the move.
“She smells tweedy.” the words were grumbled and none too happy.
Abby managed to gain her seat before the shorter one knelt next to her. She stifled a chuckle as she heard a small mumble about bloodhounds and noses being in places they didn’t belong. It wasn’t hard to stifle, actually, since a warning glance from the blonde made it clear she needed to be more sober right now.
“How are you feeling?”
Abby took a moment to size her up. Medium height, short blond hair, bright green eyes and a youthful look that struck Abby as a falsehood, there was strength in her compact frame and she wore her jeans and light t-shirt with an ease of familiarity. She was at ease in the desert and in her own skin. The other one, however… Abby tossed a look toward the tall nut with the sword and watched as she stood and paced, going through a few feints with the blade before sliding it into a scabbard that rode along her spine from a harness. That one was more caged inside her own long frame, restless, agitated. “Who are you people?”
“That’s Xena.” The little blonde answered, tilting her chin toward the nut case and acting for all the world like no other explanation was needed. “And I’m Gabriel.”
Licking her lower lip, and feeling the sting where it had split and begun to heal Abby nodded slowly, wondering what she was missing in this exchange. “Yes.” She intoned softly, letting the low burr of her voice elongate the word. “But who ARE you?”
A frustrated chuff of air lifted xena’s bangs and she placed her palms on her hips just below the waist of her desert BDU pants and the duty belt Abby now realized held a number of pouches, one being a holster for a sidearm. A deep breath expanded the tight weave of her dark tank, stretching suggestively over a pair of breasts and what had to be a rock hard six pack beneath. Abby swallowed as the muscles in the woman’s arms rippled. Christ, she was cut! “We should never have left Greece!” Xena groused.
Greece? What the Hell?
“We’re following a woman that we think was here earlier tonight.” Gabriel interrupted. “Xena seems to think you and she…”
Apparently still operating under the chivalry thing, Abby stood and shook herself, noting the knot along side her head and the creak of her ribs and using them to fuel her outrage. “Who, the fuck, do you think you are?” She demanded. “You believe I’m some one else, jump me and hold a sword over me? Are you insane?” she took a step away from the shrimp and ignored her in favor of keeping her gaze on Xena. If anyone needed a padded room around here, she was pretty sure it was this one. “1 – This is private land, FAMILY land, posted and not on the grand tour list for loonies! Therefore, I BELONG HERE! YOU DO NOT!”
Abby caught movement out of the corner of her eye, and noted Gabriel had stood and had crossed her arms across her chest, looking somewhat embarrassed. It didn’t stop her from continuing. If nothing else, it felt good to unload on the tall idiot glaring at her. “2 – Who I happen to invite into my bed and body are none of your business! I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, and I don’t want you here!” she allowed her voice to deepen just a touch. Abby was good at intimidation and right now it was the only tool she had in her reach, at least until she could start running. “This would be where you follow your much vaunted nose, and leave!” She pointed to the east and the ranches nearest border.
From where Gabriel had moved, Abby was sure she heard a snicker. She ignored it. “3 – assault with intent, is a felony, add in the weapon and the severity of the charge goes up! If you have questions as to why, the Marshalls will be happy to educate you as soon as I issue my complaint. That, or you put down your little play toy and I stuff you in a gopher hole myself!” Now the snicker was a full fledged laugh, and xena looked like she swallowed a bug. “And 4 – what sane adult walks around with a sword? It’s 2007 for Christ’s sake!”
Xena’s eyes very nearly bugged out of her head at that last, and Gabriel moved quickly to intervene. “What’s wrong with my sword?” She wanted to know, her gaze rapidly dropping to Gabriel’s, seeking reassurance. “What’s she talking about?”
Gabriel was making calming gestures, “Nothing is wrong with your sword hon, it’s a very nice sword.”
Blue eyes darkened. “It’s a classic!”
“I know baby, and you keep it in beautiful condition. No one has a blade as perfectly kept…”
Abby, seeing the break she was hoping for, stepped along smartly into the cabin and reached for the saddle scabbard and her Winchester -- which was promptly plucked from her hands and confiscated while Abby squeaked in surprise and nearly jumped out of her skin. She had just enough time to round and see bright blue eyes shining happily at her before everything went black.
“She’s coming around.”
Abby winced as her brows knotted. Christ, what the hell happened?
Ebony eyes shot open, and promptly squeezed shut as Abby tried not to vomit. A few seconds later, she growled and dared a quick peek, hoping she could find the owner of that smooth alto voice and throw something sharp at her. “You hit me?” She rasped.
“ahyup!” Xena smiled at her, pleased to be noticed. “And I didn’t even need to pull my sword.” Sarcasm dripped from her tone.
“Would you please quit hitting me!” Abby winced at her own voice. She sounded like a teenage male hit hard by hormones. “It hurts.”
“Imagine that. Of course, I wouldn’t have hit you if you hadn’t gone for the rifle. Bullets sting. I don’t like bullets.” Xena answered.
‘Oh God, she is crazy!’ Abby tried not to think about what that might mean.
“If it’s not too much to ask, could you two please put ‘em away and get along before I knock you both in the teeth?” Gabriel groused. “You,” she turned on Xena, “Quit hitting her and try talking. And you,” she looked at Abby, “quit baiting her or learn to duck.”
Both Abby and Xena growled.
“Look, no matter how it seems, we aren’t here to just pound you into a pulp. We’re actually following someone, and it’s important we find her.” Gabriel said as gently as she could through grinding teeth.
“Why?” Abby asked. She had swung her legs over the side of the cot, not wanting to be on her back for this conversation. She had much preferred her previous encounter here.
Gabriel looked at Xena expectantly. “You tell her, I’m going to go outside and see if Osiceca falls out of the sky into my lap.” With that, She stood and left.
Abby eyed the door as it closed, then looked across the room at Xena. “Ball’s in your court.”
“Mmm.” Xena looked less than pleased. “You’re girlfriend is hard to find. She’s a loner. The last time she was seen was over 100 years ago.”
Despite how much it hurt, Abby’s brows rose toward her hairline. “Excuse me?” her disbelief was palpable. “They don’t let you drive, do they?”
Xena’s eyes went flat. And then she smiled. “That’s right skinny, you just swapped juices with a body that’s been roaming the earth since time began. She’s had those lips and legs wrapped around more…”
“Xena!” Gabriel barked from the window where she had clearly been listening.
Abby didn’t miss the way the muscled bitch cringed at being caught either.
“If you’re planning on EVER wrapping your legs or lips around anything again, try a little tact or I swear, the free lunch is over!” Gabriel must have moved away after that, a thump against the corner of the cabin, and the sound of mumbling curses dimmed with distance.
“You’re both nuts.” Abby stated.
“You fucked an elemental and we’re nuts? Christ! I’m surprised your head didn’t explode.” Xena taunted, “not to mention just how lame your love life must be if you were hurting bad enough to get her attention. She only shows if her interest is piqued. She’s attracted to lost causes”
Just where, exactly was the nearest nuthatch anyway? Abby didn’t have a clue, but the heat had gotten to this one…
“Neat thing is, she’s gonna be back. Next time it storms, she’ll ride it to you. Then she’ll ride you.” Xena seemed inordinately pleased with her turn of phrase. “Until you die she’ll be drawn to you like a moth to flame and this time, we’ll be waiting.”
The look on Xena’s face was chilling and Abby found herself trapped by the ferocity of her eyes. Not that she believed a word of this elemental crap, the woman who’d shown up on the breath of the storm yesterday had been very real, and if Abby was tempted to doubt, all she had to do was lick her own lips, smell her hands, listen to her body. And that very real woman was nearby somewhere, and vulnerable to this sociopath and her pointy object.
“I don’t know what the hell you think it is your chasing, but I’ve never been with an elemental anything, and the woman I love is nowhere near here.” ‘the woman I love…’ that had slipped off her tongue awfully easy, funny thing, she’d meant her visitor from the night, her body craving her as surely as she knew it would crave air were it denied. The realization was stunningly irrational. One evening in a woman’s arms, one evening without a name or discussion or even foreplay…
“Yeah, you’ve got it bad. And you’re going to spend the rest of your life in little moments like that; a night of ecstasy followed by waiting. You’ll even move north so you can be trapped in longer storms, in blizzards that last days… you’ll do anything to see her, and as long as you breathe, she’ll always come.” Xena leaned forward, her hands in her lap like a penitent, but her eyes wild with glee. “I’ve been waiting millennia for this chance.”
Abby shuddered. To say ‘you’re crazy’ would mean nothing now. The precedent was obvious, why waste her breath. “And you’re going to do what with that chance?” she dared ask.
“you don’t need to know that.” Xena smiled.
“but I’m supposed to stand by and let this happen?” Abby asked, her tone making it clear that wasn’t going to happen.
That grin was back again, “You think you can stop me, toothpick?” Xena asked.
“My god? Self deluded much?” Abby taunted. She’d stared down mob bosses, murderers and corporate cretins who destroyed lives for breakfast; one nut with a big knife wasn’t going to set her back on her heels. “That jail yard body of yours may impress pipsqueak out there, and you obviously have a thing for pointy objects, but when you get done getting down with your own bad self, get a reality check. God’s gift, you’re not!”
Strangely, the grin on Xena’s face broadened before she stood and leaned into Abby’s personal space, the heat from her olive skin like a fire that caressed Abby’s face and chest, and not in a good way. “Actually, I am: a couple of ‘em, to tell the truth!”
“She is, actually… a gift of the gods… me too, technically I suppose. Not quite as big a deal, I’m more the sidekick type at heart, at least, until Japa… anyway, Xena’s dad is Ares – god of war?” Gabriel stressed that last, watching Abby’s face for recognition.
“I know Greek mythology, thank you.” Abby rolled her eyes and tried to tell herself she wasn’t really having this conversation and she hadn’t really fallen into an encounter with aggressive psychotics who had access to weapons. She was a long way from any kind of help.
“That’s really an annoying habit. You might want to work on it or you won’t have many friends in life.” Gabriel stated.
Abby just stared at her before dropping her jaw and placing a hand to her forehead to make sure the top of her head hadn’t come off.
“Right, anyway, Xena, daughter of Ares…”
“God of war.” Abby interjected.
Gabriel gave her a pointed look. “Known in her first life as destroyer of nations, then as warrior princess.”
Abby was nodding, brows high in mock acceptance, quietly counting the number of steps to the stable. “Of course.” …If she could get to the horses…
Suddenly, Gabriels eyes took on a red cast, and her smile showed canines longer than normal. “Pay attention.” Her voice had become guttural, a hiss associated with the minor sibilant. It got Abby’s complete focus immediately. “Sorry.” The blonde patted Abby’s arm and smiled gently. “It’s almost my time to cycle and I get a little testy. You might want to keep that in mind. I know Xena does.”
Abby nodded, dumbly. …okay, that was more than just the play of light or her imagination…
“There are a large number of God’s that owe Xena their favor; including your own. It’s not a figure of speech that we’ve been to heaven and hell for one another, not to mention Elysium and Tarturus, but you get the idea. We’ve been together for Millenia and as much as we can annoy one another, we’re still together, so try to remember that when you’re pissing her off. You’re getting under my skin too.”
“Everyone thinks she’s the sweet one. Ha!” Xena added. She was chasing ants with a burning stick, the sunrise didn’t hold much for her in comparison. Abby might have thought worse of her for the cruelty, but they were fire ants, and it wasn’t really possible for Abby to think worse of the crazy bitch.
“So the upshot is, we’re really old.” Gabriel continued.
“U?h huh.” Abby agreed, not.
“You don’t believe me.”
“Well, I suppose the demigod thing explains how Xena could live for so long, but you…”
“Bachae.” Xena belched the word, giggling.
Gabriel smiled indulgently. “I’m a Bachae.”
“A vampire?” ‘okay, why not…’ Abby thought. “Of course! And I’m the daughter of the Easter bunny. My Uncles name is Harvey and I know Jimmie Stewart personally.”
“Don’t be snide. It’s unattractive.”
Xena had stretched out on her belly, was following a flaming ant back toward its lair. She snorted. “Too late.”
“A bachae isn’t exactly a vampire… We’re more…”
“Nympho,” Suggested Xena.
A rather lame smile was Xena’s reward. “Thanks.”
The warrior wiggled her feet and rolled over onto her back, the ants staying far away now. “Always happy to help.”
God, these two were worse than an old married couple: of course, after over two thousand years… Abby shook herself. No way, no how, nuh uh! “She’s not quite right, is she?” Abby watched Xena, but her question was for Gabriel.
“She’s been worse, believe me. She’s just under some pressure right now.”
“Hunting my lover, you mean?”
“Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.” Gabriel actually blushed. Clearing her throat and squaring her shoulders, she watched Abby for a moment. “You aren’t dealing with any of this, are you?”
“You’ve decided we’re a couple of loons, and managed somehow to ignore the oddities of your encounter last night. You haven’t even dealt with the fact that you know almost nothing about her, but she worked her way into your heart even further than whoever you were trying to forget; maybe further than anyone.” Gabriel laid her chin on her knee, hugging her leg as she watched Abby digest what she was saying. “It’s scary, how willingly a normally logical person will accept something they truly need.”
Ruffling at that, Abby straitened a bit from where she sat on the gravel. “You don’t know me.”
“Sure I do. You’re not really all that different from Xena.”
“Let me take a guess or two, you just sit and listen.” Gabriel wore a smile that Abby wasn’t so sure she liked. “You don’t really fit in: too intelligent, and too female to be accepted without having to force the issue. And you were rejected, hurt maybe vilified, so you decided to become hard. You used your talents to get higher than anyone else, then found out it was hollow, lonely, and wrong. Maybe you were even betrayed, and it hurt worse than anything from before. Now here you are, broken inside, unloved, and wishing for the emptiness to go away… and then She appears, and She fills all those places with an unconditional reality of love, and everything in you holds on tight.”
Every hair on Abby’s body was on end. She tried to ignore it, and those green eyes, but it wasn’t really working. Fortune tellers had always spooked her, even though she knew they were nothing more than smoke and mirrors. “You made that out of whole cloth. Why? Am I supposed to take these little clues and look at your crazy friend differently?”
“Scary, being seen, isn’t it?” Xena suddenly interrupted. She wasn’t even looking at anyone, just watching the stars disappear from a lightening sky. “It took a long time for me to realize she sees better than I do. She doesn’t judge. It can get her into trouble sometimes, because she still believes in the good in people, but for the most part, she’s right. I’ve learned a lot from her over the years.”
Gabriel smiled at that, pleased.
Abby didn’t miss the look that passed between them, or its warmth. “You two insist on pretending you’re normal.”
“Oh no, no.” Xena lifted herself off the ground and crossed the space to offer a hand to Gabriel. “We’re far from normal.” She grinned as the smaller woman slid slowly up the front of her body and wrapped her arms around her. Gabriel lifted her face and Xena bent to place a soft kiss on her lips.
Despite herself, Abby was unable to look away. They were two crazy women, dangerous, insane, antisocial… and hot. Her brows had taken a nearly permanent place nearer her widow’s peak, despite the pain of the bruises that were now in full color. She’d lived her adult life a lesbian, though circumspect, and still, she had never seen such an overt display of quiet sensuality. Was it the fact they WERE crazy? Was it the animal grace with which they moved together? Maybe it was over 2000 yrs of practice? Abby shook herself, the trembling begun along her spine and spreading out toward her limbs.
She couldn’t accept this: none of this. Who were these people? Who had come to her last night on the storm and remade her? And for that matter, who the hell was she anymore? Abby had always been a pragmatist. She liked answers, liked logic, and yet she doubted she ever really understood anything or had the whole story. Life was too complex for that…
But was this kind of confusion really necessary?
Dragging her eyes from the two women still locked in the kiss, she spared a glance at the sunrise then pinched the bridge of her nose in an effort to stave off the headache that had been growing behind her eyes. Lord, after tonight, she was getting a good idea of what a volleyball felt like from the inside. If the blue eyed bitch hit her one more time, she was gonna… bleed all over her! Maybe even vomit! As much as it pained Abby to admit, she hadn’t even seen what was coming when Xena had unloaded on her.
And then a new thought occurred to her. “oh god! I’m gonna be one of those freaks who sit at the back counter in Annies talking about aliens and anal probes!”
That got both Xena’s and Gabriels attention. The look of disgust on Xena’s face spoke volumes. Gabby took a more assertive approach. “Um, we don’t do anal probes.”
Abby just waved them both off, busy with her meltdown. She supposed the big crack in her psyche must have been over the last few days, alone. Connie’s betrayal had finally managed what the rest of the world had failed to do, snap her like a dry twig. The fault was her own, she never should have fallen for anyone. She was no good at relationships. She didn’t even know how to love another person. There was always that part of her she held in reserve, that place she hid herself when she should be opening up. She couldn’t help it. She was cold, and unfeeling half the time, the other half, she was pissed off – a true bitch. No wonder Connie left her. She’d wanted a lover, not a keeper.
Yup, cracked wide open… She’d be trading her story of angels and blue eyed demons for cups of coffee and a day job cleaning urinals. How the mighty have fallen.
When a set of slightly mad blue eyes suddenly appeared less than a few inches from her nose, Abby just waited to see what was next on the agenda. “She’s still in there.” Xena observed, her breath hot against Abby’s face. Then Xena grinned, her eyes narrowing to turn toward Gabriel. “Probably getting ready to leave on the mother-ship…”
The solid click of Xena’s teeth as Abby’s fist connected with her jaw had a satisfying sound to it. The thud of Abby’s boot against her sternum, kicking the tall freak away from her felt like a reclaiming of her self. She would have whooped with joy, done a handstand, cheered or maybe simply taken the opportunity and run like hell, except the nascent smile had already evaporated from her lips when she realized Xena had barely been knocked back by the combination, and her blue eyes were looking back at her now from less than a foot, showing unrestrained, unhinged glee.
“Time for your anal probe!” Xena sang and drew her sword.
“Xena, no!” Gabriel had interposed her self, was talking fast and light, trying almost desperately to keep her partners attention away from a still seated Abby.
…While Abby was looking at the knuckles of her fist wondering what the hell just happened. It had been a good hit, the shock of it traveling into her back, her knuckles and wrist virtually screaming with the trauma. She’d thrown a haymaker or two in her day and she had always managed to lay her opponent out, or at least bust a lip and a few teeth. She’d grown up with brothers, she knew how to fight.
So why was it that the three times in life she really needed to defend herself, nothing worked?
Confused, and a bit numb, Abby took the opportunity to stand, but instead of running, she readied herself for the rush she was sure would come soon. Xena wasn’t going to let her partner talk her out of anything, that much was obvious. Well, Abby wasn’t running either. In her mind, it was time to take a stand and reclaim herself from the loony bin. Her Comanche grandma would be proud.
“Hey!” Abby yelled, trying to get the attention of the blue eyed bitch. When the argument continued, Abby rolled her eyes and bitched softly to herself. Hadn’t Xena wanted to kill her just a few seconds ago? And now she had to work to get her attention? What kind of stupid heat dream was this anyway? “Hey you!”
Silence. Two sets of eyes, one blue, the other green, arced toward her, and then Xena had stepped away from her partner and begun to stalk toward her, sword swinging a circular arc over her wrist as she worked a kink out of her neck. “Nothing says you have to be whole for Osiceica to sniff you out!”
“What do you want her for, anyway?” Abby decided she might as well play along.
“I’m going to kill her.”
Abby felt the blood leave her head and rush to her feet. She was no longer sure she could, or ever would, move.
But Xena just grinned. “And you’re the bait. How’s it feel cowgirl, to know you’re the key to whether your new lover lives of dies? All I have to do is stick around until the next storm and she gets what she asked for.” Again the arc of that shiny sword around Xena’s wrist, its travel reflected in the ice of her eyes.
For Abby, it seemed time stood still. This wasn’t happening.
And then that shiny sword flicked out and opened a vein in her wrist.
“Ow! …so that’s what you say when someone hits you with a sword. Seemed kinda anti-climactic…
“Xena! Stop it! She’s not even armed!” Gabriel called, but she stayed back by the fire, apparently not really believing Abby was in much trouble. “She doesn’t even think we’re real for Gaia’s sake!”
Trying to stop the blood flowing far too liberally from her left wrist, Abby looked from one woman to the other. When Xena’s sword tip settled just under her sternum, Abby followed the shiny blade from where it rested on her shirt to the woman who held it. “Why?” She asked.
“Because I promised.” Xena smiled.
Abby watched those icy eyes and read certainty in them. Crazy or not, she was going to kill the woman Abby had loved only a few hours before. Over Xena’s shoulder, Abby could see a sudden gathering of storm clouds, lightning lancing from the towering castles as they topped out and flattened both above and below.
Storms don’t form like that, out of nothing…
“She’s coming.” Gabriel stated quietly.
Xena’s grin widened, her brow raising with pleasure. She was plainly enjoying this, toying with the mouse while awaiting the big show. “Maybe I’ll let you watch.” She offered.
Bleeding, at the point of Xena’s sword, Abby wondered when it had all gone wrong, then remembered she’d already decided, and the question became moot. She’d always been self contained, aloof. Her life was hers, and she’d failed in all her years to really share it with another – until last night, when a dream had entered her life. What a sad fact, that only a dream had ever touched her deeply enough to both risk and be healed.
A dream with chocolate eyes in a broad proud face, naked in the lashing rain…
And Xena was going to use her to end that one sweet dream, using her as bait.
She looked at the racing storm as it bloomed and raged. ‘as long as you breathe, she’ll always come’ And just as the night before, Abby chose.
“Run.” Abby whispered, and stepped forward with all her weight against the steel to feel it slide beneath her sternum and into the hemi-diaphragms that separated her chest from her guts, into her aorta, and through to rest grating against her spine. “Run.” She repeated, her head bowing of its own weight as she felt her knees give way.
“No!” Gabriel was at Abby’s side without seeming to have moved at all. Xena, no longer grinning, had pulled her sword, horrified.
“You fool!” Xena threw her blade off to one side, her hands settling heavy onto the stab wound as Abby fell back onto the dirt. “What were you thinking?”
“Xena, help her. Stop her from…” but as Xena looked up, the truth of the wound became clear to Gabriel and the blonde grew silent.
Abby’s head fell back, and she looked up at the sky, obliterated now by lightning and deep angry green and purple clouds. ‘Run.’ She bid her lover.
Her heart stopped the same instant lightning hit the rock where she lay, and as the dazzle of white light faded, and the rains began, her lover stepped out of nowhere to kneel at her side.
“What have you done?” the elemental was exactly as Abby had last seen her, exactly as Xena had seen her 2000 yrs ago. Only Gabriel seemed taken aback at her appearance: Abby, past reacting, may or may not have carried the sight as her last.
Pale, Xena shook her head, the blood no longer gushing between her fingers, the ground soaked with it, Abby nearly obliterated beneath a thick puddle of red that pooled over her torso, between her breasts flowing slowly now in runnels from her ribs, her belly and between her legs. “I taunted her.” Xena mumbled, “I lost my temper and I taunted her. I didn’t know…”
“She stepped into Xena’s sword. I think she thought you’d have no reason to return here if she was gone.” Gabriel supplied, her hand very gentle on Xena’s shoulder. Worry was clear in her expression. Her lover would never learn. Millennia passed, and still that edge that was so much Xena, led to death and dying.
“Why would she do this?” Osiceica asked. “We are bound.” There was curiosity and even hurt in her tone. Imagine, Gabriel thought, an elemental that felt anything at all. But then, that was why they were here at all, because of a damned promise exacted in pain and self pity.
“I told her I was here to kill you.” Xena answered. “That I’d just wait until you showed up, because she was the key to finding you.”
Reproach was clear in Osiceica’s expression. “She is my chosen Xena. Why would you do this?”
“You’re the one that asked me to kill you, remember? It was you’re idea.” Xena rounded.
“And you understood the parameters.” Osiceica stated.
Xena colored. The truth was, she’d just wanted to touch bases with Osiceica to ensure she was happy, that the parameters were still what she wanted, and that she was to wait another millennia: to see if the weight of so many centuries of mourning had become unbearable. “I needed to know if you would release me.”
“No. When it is time, I will call in your debt to me Xena.” The elemental answered, a hard edge to her tone. “That day is not today. You will wait until I call.”
Head bowed, Xena accepted the rebuke, though she spared little grace in the act. “This is a debt, I never wish to pay.” She murmured. “Now I bear this as well.”
Osiceica tilted her head in question. “Explain.”
“She thought dying might keep you safe. She wanted to save you.” Xena answered.
…Which brought bright laughter into the small copse, with its cabin and lean-to stable. “I think, this one, I will not let go easily.” Osiceica announced.
Lifting Abby from the ground, into her arms, to cradle like a child, the elemental lifted her face to the rain, and lightning danced around them in a bright barrage before a single large stroke struck directly on the sword wound in Abby’s body and filled the copse with light.
The big Ford was black, but you’d never know with all the dust coating it. The low slung pop up camper in the bed had altered the F-250’s lines, though not in a bad way. In truth, the GPS and satellite link were more conspicuous. Pulling a deep swallow of rapidly cooling coffee, Abby rubbed the ache along her lower sternum and drew in a deep breath to taste the pine resin in the air.
The storm would be here soon. She could check the satellite feed, but her body was a better barometer, and the knowledge quickened her blood, rocketing to her center with internal fire. It was a big one, towering clouds over wide open prairie land about to clash against the low hills where she now sat waiting.
Her cameras were set, both still and video motion. She’d get some good shots of the lightning as it came in. the geographic had bought her last set for a goodly sum, and there had been real interest from Nature.
Ever since the strike in the hills of her uncle’s ranch, she’d been drawn to the biggest, most violent storms, finding them when professional storm chasers were stumped. There was never any company when she set up her spotting sites, and rare competition for the shots she managed to get. She wasn’t particular about the type of storm she chose. She chased thunderstorms in spring and summer, hurricanes in the fall and blizzards in winter. She went wherever the ford could get her, and she smiled more than anyone she knew. She made more than enough to feed and clothe herself, the truck and bank a substantial savings.
Pulling open the cab of the rig, she met a pair of golden eyes over an angular, thickly furred face. “Staying in tonight girl?” Abby asked. Xena just blinked, and curled back up to groom herself, the big cat having been sullied by simple human contact.
Laughing, Abby grabbed her Stetson from the gear shift and plopped it on her head. she wasn’t sure where she’d come up with such a stupid name for the old maine-coon, but it fit her, even though it seemed she should maybe be a bit more striking than a regular old tabby stripe with yellow gaze, she was beautiful to her, if a bit stuck up.
They had told her she was brought in by a pair of recreational riders, two women. They’d left no names, but had patched her up and gotten her heart started, even brought in her horses… After recuperating a week at her uncle’s farm house, the big grey cat had ambled into the yard, flea bitten, full of worms, and dropped half starved into her lap. She wasn’t sure why, but it became comforting to have the big beast with her. Her family had worried while she was there, wandering off in the rain, returning hours later with a satisfied, relaxed air. When she’d left, they were torn between worry and relief. Xena had been her only traveling companion, and didn’t care who she invited into her bed.
The door swung shut with a solid thunk, and Abby moved back to the cameras. The sun was setting behind the oncoming cloud of deep bruised purples, setting the crowns of the clouds golden, almost molten against the fiery sky. it reminded her of something, something she couldn’t quite recall, the golds and the darkness together in a dance that went on without end.
She smiled, wondering when she had gotten so poetic. No one from her old life would recognize her anymore. Since the lightning strike that nearly killed her, that marked her skin in the odd fern pattern along her spine and breasts that never quite faded, she had changed into someone not even she recognized.
Once she had been the voice of the people, a dispenser of justice: broker of laws. Now, she chased storms with a camera, and opened her heart without fear to the woman that resided within them. Yes, Abby had taken a lover and been taken in turn at last. What matter if only she would ever know or see her?
A roll of thunder greeted her, and she grinned. The front was huge, slow moving, and it held promise of a wild night…
Still grinning knowingly, Abby waited for the rain. She could already taste it on her tongue…
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