Redemption Song

by BlondeBard

Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA and Universal Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story contains fairly graphic violence. It also contains a consensual relationship between two women. If this is not legal where you are, or you are not of age, then read another story.

The characters contained in this story are mine, and mine alone. Do not copy or distribute this story without my consent. Characters within this story bearing resemblance to persons dead or alive are unintended.

Thank you to my beta author Buxxer.

Also thanks to my beta readers Mercury and Pawkat.

All comments can be sent to

Part 7

Upon arriving in Houston they found a quiet hotel and went in search of dinner. They found a wonderful Barbecue joint and had a pleasant dinner. They discussed the things they had to do the following day and how they were going to get around if they couldn't rent a car.

The next morning they went in search of a bank to cash the checks. As they headed toward the airport to turn in the car Toni startled Megan. "Pull over, quick." Megan pulled into a gas station and Toni jumped out of the car, Megan following quickly behind. Toni waited for traffic to pass across the small highway and dashed across the street. When Megan caught up to her Toni was pacing around a black, 1985 Monte Carlo SS with a for sale sign in its window.

Megan quickly understood Toni's idea. They examined the car as best as they could without being able to open it up. The tires were in good condition and there were no signs of rust. Through the window they could see that the odometer read approximately 85,000 miles. The vehicle was parked in the lot of a convenience store. "Let's go in and see if anyone knows about this car," Megan suggested.

Upon entering, one of the clerks came out from behind the counter. "You interested in the car?" he asked them.

"Yeah," Toni told him. "What are the chances of us getting to take it for a test drive?"

"Hey Carl, can you spare me for a few?"

"Go on," the other clerk answered.

"I'm Alan, by the way," the young man told them. They introduced themselves as Linda and Sophia. "SoÖwhich one of you gals wants to try her first?"

Megan smiled at Toni; "Well you spotted it, so I guess you get the honors."

Alan climbed in the back so that Megan could ride up front with Toni. He explained that he liked to restore older cars and that he was selling the Monte Carlo because he had his eye on a 1966 Mustang that he wanted to work on and he needed the money to get it. Toni noted that the engine turned right over and the car idled nicely.

She peeled out. She had the car up to 60 mph in less time than it took for Megan to find something to hold onto. Megan, however was excited by the powerful way Toni handled the car. Toni drove for several miles making sure that most of the equipment worked before she turned the car back the way they came. When she stopped, she popped the hood so that she could look inside. Toni was impressed; the engine looked as though the kid had spit shined it. Now came the part she was dreading.

"How much are you asking?" she inquired of Alan.

"$2500," he told her.

"Give us a minute, will you?" she asked indicating that she needed to discuss the situation with Megan.

"I'll just be inside," he nodded his head back towards the store.

"What do you think?" Toni asked Megan, "It'll solve our transportation problem."

"We'll only have a little over $6,000 left if we do. Do you think we can last 3 months on that?" she asked, wanting nothing more than to get this car just so she could watch Toni drive.

"If we watch ourselves and budget the money."

"Let's do it then," Megan smiled in anticipation.

Alan eagerly signed over the registration to one Sophia Martin and grinned happily stating that he was going to go purchase the old Mustang as soon as his shift ended. He also wrote them out a bill of sale so that there would be no mistaking who the car belonged to.

Toni followed Megan to the airport where they returned the rental. Knowing that they wouldn't make it back to New Orleans before Gwen closed the front door, they found another little motel and got a room. They sat down and carefully budgeted the remaining money, which came to $6, 520. They set aside the money they would need for lodging, food and gas, taking into consideration that they wanted to stay at the Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans, at least a couple more days. They realized that they were going to have to watch themselves very carefully in order to make the money last.

As they prepared for bed, Megan noted that Toni looked as though her back was bothering her. "Are you sore?"

"Yeah, must have slept wrong or something."

"Want me to massage it?"

"If you don't mind, that would be great," Toni smiled at her.

Toni took off her shirt and rolled onto her stomach. Megan started off gently then gradually increased the pressure. "Let me know if I'm hurting you, okay?"

"Mmmmmm. You have great hands. You're not hurting me at all."

Megan was enjoying the massage almost as much as Toni was. She loved the feel of Toni's smooth skin under fingertips. After massaging her back, neck and shoulders, Megan felt the overwhelming desire to have her lips do the same. She began trailing tiny kisses along Toni's back. She noted that following their misunderstanding in New Orleans, their lovemaking had lost its urgency, but none of its passion. Now it was more of an exploration of one another. Finding each other's likes and dislikes. After several minutes of her determined nibbling, Toni rolled over, stopping her.

"You're wasting your kisses again," Toni told her referring to Megan's endearing habit of continuing to kiss her even when she was nearly asleep. Wherever Megan's head rested as they settled for the night, her lips would move presumably of their own volition and Toni would find herself being nibbled on the neck, chest and once even a nipple that remained between Megan's softly moving lips.

"No I'm not," Megan countered, "I was enjoying myself. Weren't you?"

"Yeah, but this way, I can kiss you back," Toni explained pulling Megan gently towards her.

"Oh, so what you're saying is that you don't want to miss out on any of the action?" Megan teased.

"Not with you I don't," Toni smiled at her young lover. She kept trying to understand what was so different about the feelings that Megan was able to elicit from her that no other lover had been able to do. She knew that part of it was that she was head over heels in love with Megan. She suspected that it had something to do with the fact that the more she excited her lover, the more excited she became. She often found herself on the verge of an orgasm by the simple act of bringing Megan to a climax. Not that their lovemaking was simple, far from it. There was always some new discovery that they would make with each other every time they made love. Toni often worried that Megan would become bored at some point as she had always done with her previous lovers and that was a feeling that scared her. She was terrified at the thought of losing Megan due to her own inattentiveness.

Megan saw something going on behind Toni's eyes. Suddenly she was nervous. She noticed that whenever she spent a lot of time exploring her dark-haired lover's body, Toni would stop her. She wondered if perhaps she wasn't a good lover and that Toni stopped her because she needed more direct stimulation. Her arms, which had been supporting her as she leaned over Toni's body, became instantly weak and she lowered herself down, her head tucked under Toni's chin.

"What's wrong?" Toni asked as she felt Megan give up and lay still against her.

Unable to squash the need to know, Megan finally asked, "Am I a good lover?"

Toni experienced a feeling akin to dÈjý vu. She recognized the tiny voice. It was the same one she kept hearing in her own head. Toni rolled over slightly so that they were facing each other and she could look into Megan's bright green eyes. "Where did that come from?" she asked gently brushing Megan's cheek with her fingertips.

Megan closed her eyes, causing tears to spill out onto her cheeks. Toni captured one with her thumb and the other with her lips. When Megan opened her eyes she could see a look of confusion mixed with concern on Toni's face. "It's justÖwhenever I try toÖspend a little extra time trying to please youÖyou stop me."

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was doing that," she told Megan cupping her chin and placing a soft kiss on her lips. "Megan," she began, her tone serious but gentle, "not only are you the only person I've ever been in love with, but you are the most beautiful, the kindest, and the sweetest lover I've ever known. How I survived all those years without you in my life, I'll never know."

"Thank you," Megan said pressing her face back against Toni's shoulder.

"For what?"

"For your words."

"They're not just words Megan."

"I know," Megan assured her as tears continued to slide down her cheeks. "I'm sorry. I seem to be doing this a lot lately."

"It's okay. I've got you," Toni stated simply, holding Megan close to her.


The drive back to New Orleans was uneventful. Well, as uneventful as it could be considering Megan had to keep asking Toni to slow down and at least pretend to observe the speed limit. Megan knew that Toni was reluctant to let her drive after they stopped for lunch. Not because she didn't trust Megan, but because she was having so much fun driving their new muscle car. And truth be told, Megan found it exciting to watch Toni drive the powerful car. But, thus far, they had shared the driving chores and both were a little more than tired, as they had kept each other blissfully awake until they dropped off from exhaustion at nearly 3am.

They decided that the fewer people who knew about the car, the better, so they parked it several houses down and walked back to the Bed and Breakfast. It was Saturday, October 30th and when they arrived, they found the house full of people. Gwen assured them that their room was available as promised. Most of the new guests were college-aged they guessed. They were taking up the two larger portions of the house that resided on the second floor. As Gwen had given them a tour of the house on their previous visit, they knew that the top floor was divided in half, with a small kitchen and bathroom in each half, and room enough for eight to ten people to reside in each depending on how many of them thought they could share one bathroom.

Although they didn't need to go through the living room, several of them were milling about, waiting for others to ready themselves for their evening's adventure. A rather strange looking girl, whose name was Diana, and sported close-cropped vibrant red hair, took an instant shine to Megan. Toni tried to ignore the girl's blatant interest in her lover and concentrated on the college game Ben had on the TV. She knew that nothing would come of it, but she felt a bit of jealousy nonetheless. She didn't hear the conversation but she did hear Diana's opening line. "Do I know you?" Toni rolled her eyes at this and knew that Megan was simply a charming and beautiful young woman, who didn't share her distaste for idle conversation with a complete stranger.

Megan was sitting in the kitchen having a cup of the chicory-flavored coffee she had come to love when the girl with the flaming red hair introduced herself.

"You look familiar. Do I know you?" she asked Megan.

"I don't think so. I'm Linda," Megan told her.

"I really don't mean to stare, but you look like someone I know," Diana told her.

"I get that a lot," Megan laughed easily. She really didn't mind when people flirted with her, as long as they knew when to back off.

"Where do you go to school?" Diana inquired, mistaking Megan's youthful appearance for that of a younger woman.

"UmÖI don't. I finished a few years ago."

"Oh. You just look so young, I thought maybe you were a student."

"Nope, just a working gal nowadays."

"I go to U.F." Diana told her, not registering the look on Megan's face at the mention of the University that two of her brothers currently attended.

"Do you like it there?" Megan plucked the question out of thin air, trying to continue the conversation in a normal way, hoping that Diana didn't know Sean or Duncan and at the same time, hoping she did.

"I love it. Have you ever been there? Gainesville is a great little town," Diana continued enthusiastically.

"UhÖno," Megan lied. "Are all the people you're with from Gainesville?" she asked knowing that there was a possibility of meeting up with people who knew her brothers. That would not be a good thing, as they currently thought she was dead.

"No, only a couple of us. The rest are other friends we hooked up with so that we could share the rent for the next few days." Diana was reluctant to end the conversation because she thought "Linda" was really cute, even though she was pretty sure that she was with the tall, gorgeous one in the other room. "Hey, are you doing anything tonight?" she asked.

"UmÖno, not really. We didn't make any plans for tonight."

"Well, my two roommates cancelled at the last minute, and we had already bought our tickets for the Vampire Ball, and so now we have two extra. Would you guys be interested in coming with us?"

"The what?" Megan asked, not sure what they had just been invited to.

"It's just a party, hosted by Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Fan Club. The proceeds go to charity, I'm pretty sure. It's a lot of fun. And usually Anne Rice shows up at some point. Just dress in black and you'll be fine."

"I don't know. I'll have to askÖSophia," she responded almost forgetting their fake names. "When is it?"


"Let us talk it over and I'll let you know."

"Great," Diana said, happy that she might have a chance to get to know the strawberry-blonde woman a little better.

Megan approached the living room where several of the boys, Toni and Ben were watching football. She knew that Toni had looked her way several times, but now she seemed to be just as involved in the game as the rest.

"Sophia?" Toni didn't respond, not used to being called that name. Megan tried again. "Sophia," she said a little louder this time. Toni recognized Megan's voice and looked up, then realized she had been trying to get her attention. She excused herself and followed Megan through the kitchen to their room.

When they got in the room, Toni wrapped her arms around Megan and kissed her soundly, needing some little assurance of Megan's attention.

"WowÖwowÖumÖI wanted to ask you something and now I've forgotten," she smiled up at Toni.

"Must not have been very important then," Toni teased kissing her again.

"Oh, now I remember," Megan told her breathlessly as they broke the kiss. "Diana was telling me about this party tonightÖ"

"Got a date already, huh?" Toni asked still smiling. She knew that Megan wasn't going to accept a date with anyone, but she couldn't help herself.

"Yep, with the prettiest woman here."

Toni lifted an eyebrow in question.

"YouÖdummy," Megan smiled tickling Toni in the ribs.

Toni laughed at her foolish thoughts and Megan's questing fingers.

"It's called the Vampire Ball, and Anne Rice might actually show up. Diana's roommates cancelled and she has two extra tickets. Interested?" She hoped Toni might be, as Anne Rice was one of her favorite authors.

"Sounds intriguing. Are we supposed to dress up as vampires?"

"Yeah, I think so, but Diana said that if we wore black, we would fit right in."

"That coming from a girl with clown red hair?"

"AwwwÖbe nice. She is, after all, offering us her extra tickets."

"Sure, so she can get to know a certain red-head a little better."


"Yeah. And what do you plan to do about it?"

"Make sure that you're the one I leave and return with. How's that?"

"Deal," she said, sealing the pact with a kiss.


It took two cabs to get all the partygoers to the bar where the ball was being held, as it was inaccessible by the streetcar. The bar looked as though it had been a warehouse at one time. It was large, cavernous and dark. The atmosphere and the music were gothic, but who would expect different? They poked about and had a few drinks. Megan was even able to get one of the "vampires" to tell her how he had gotten such realistic looking teeth. It turned out that his dentist had fashioned them for him. It was obvious that he wasn't the only one sporting the rather expensive dental wear.

She was even able to get Toni to dance a couple of times, much to Diana's chagrin. Although the young co-ed expressed an interest, it was quickly obvious to her that "Linda" had eyes only for "Sophia". Megan was glad that she didn't press her interest. She hated to alienate potential friends. Also, she hoped that they could talk about U.F. She hoped that she would learn that Diana knew either Sean or Duncan and could tell her how they were doing, but they weren't really able to talk in the noisy bar. Finally, Anne Rice did appear. She thanked everyone for attending and signed autographs for those with something for her to sign.

The party went on until 2am but the B&B residents decided to head to the French Quarter at about 1am. Toni and Megan shrugged and followed. The group they were with consisted of some really nice people and they were having a good time. After allÖit was their "anniversary" as far as everyone knew. They led everyone to Oz, mostly because everyone wanted to dance and they knew that several of them would feel more comfortable in a gay friendly atmosphere. And it wasn't as if the bar didn't have almost as many straight patrons, so the others of the group could find dance partners. It was simply a fun place to be that didn't frown on the gay community. Megan, Toni and a couple of the others grabbed the streetcar back to the B&B around 4am, the others opted to stay and play.

The lack of sleep the previous evening, a long drive, and a night of partying saw both of them exhausted as they crawled under the covers. But neither could resist their desire for the other. They spent well over an hour making tender love. As they lay together, barely able to resist sleep, Toni wondered if Megan felt the same way that she did. So she broached the subject.



"Am I a good lover?" she asked, not meaning for it to sound like she was fishing for a compliment, because she wasn't. She simply wanted to know if Megan was satisfied.

"Is that a rhetorical question?" Megan asked.

"NoÖI want to know. Do I please you?"

"In every way. Especially here," she indicated her heart, hoping that Toni would understand that what they had was not limited by sex. "I love you. And if we never made love again, you would still please meÖhere," she pointed to her heart again. "You please me just by looking at me the way you do, by the things you say and now even, by the fact that you're nervous about my feelings for you. But I want you to know something. I've never felt this way about anyone else, and I don't plan on starting to any time in the nextÖsay 50 or so years."

"I've only got 50 years to spend huh?"

"Yeah, so you'd better make good use of them," Megan smiled at her sleepily. They held each other and eventually drifted off.


The next day was Halloween and "the gang" as they had come to refer to the other residents of the B&B had a full evening of partying planned. Most of them had stayed out until the wee hours of the morning and they weren't planning to head towards the Quarter until after sundown. Megan and Toni had decided to join them, as they had had a great time the evening previous. As they gathered in the living room, preparing for their trek to the streetcar stop, Gwen asked "Linda and Sophia" if she could speak to them for a moment. They exchanged looks and shook their heads; satisfied that nothing was out of place. Probably she just wanted them to keep an eye out on the younger crowd. They headed into the kitchen unaware that everyone was following them.

To their surprise, Gwen was standing over a cake with one candle and Happy Anniversary written across the face. Megan stood clutching Toni; her head buried against her chest in embarrassment as the gang attempted to sing a rendition of Happy Anniversary. She felt not a little guilty that, although, New Orleans had become a significant place for them, it wasn't really their first Anniversary. She was even more shocked and was soon in tears when they handed them an Anniversary card with everyone's signature inside.

Most of the gang had dressed in some version of a Halloween costume and Toni and Megan felt a little underdressed. They all headed to the French Quarter to play and have fun. As it was still pretty early, the Quarter hadn't quite picked up, so they were able to get seats on one of the upstairs balconies so that they could watch the parade of revelers below. A couple of hours later, Diana and some of the others spotted them and joined them on the balcony.

"Look what we got," she told them excitedly presenting them with two tickets. It was hard to see in the limited light that they had.

"What are they for?" Megan asked her.

"A snake danceÖin the St. Louis Cemetery."

"Good God, you've got to be kidding me," Megan responded.

"Nope, and those are yours. Happy Anniversary. We're all going to meet at the Blacksmith Shop around 11:30...see you then," she sang as she and the others danced back into the crowd and down the stairs to meet the rest of the gang on Bourbon Street.

Megan was glad to see that Diana turned out to be pretty damn cool. "Well," Megan asked consulting her watch, "what do you want to do for the next 2 and a half hours?"

"Well, we could go to Oz, or to Charlene's," Toni suggested.

"I don't know if it would be a good idea for me to go back to Charlene's even though I would like to."


"Well, I'm pretty sure I pissed what's-her-name off. I'd hate to think she might make a scene if she were there."

"You didn't do anything wrong. She was an ass. She was obviously not used to taking "no" for an answer. And besides, this time, we'll be there together."

"Really? You're willing to go back there with me? After what I did?"

"Megan. You were hurting, because of me. If that hadn't happened, we would have gone there together. Wasn't that one of our plans?"

"Yeah, it was," Megan smiled at her happily, taking her hand and kissing it.

"Let's go then, we have a couple of hours to kill before we get to see an actual snake dance," Toni told her, pulling her up out of her seat gently by her captured hand.


Charlene's was rather subdued at 9:30 on this Halloween evening. They assumed it was because everyone was on Bourbon Street taking in all the craziness. They noted happily that Susan and her retinue were nowhere to be found. Toni got them a couple of drinks while Megan chose some songs on the jukebox. They sipped their drinks for a couple of minutes and then Toni reluctantly allowed Megan to drag her onto the nearly empty dance floor. Toni wrapped her arms around her lover and swayed easily to the sounds of Melissa Etheridge coming from the speakers.

"If I tell you that there is nowhere that I'd rather be than in your arms, would you think I was sappy?"

"Hopefully I would think that you were reading my mind again, and that you were helplessly in love," Toni responded kissing the top of Megan's head.

"Hey, Toni, when are you going to let me read some more of your stories?" Megan inquired.

"You really want to?" Toni asked, a little surprised.

"Yeah, I do. I really liked the one you let me read, but it seemed unfinished."

"That's because it is."

"OhÖwellÖhave you finished it yet?"

"No, I think something really special has happened to Jessie, and I'm not sure how to write it."


"Yeah, I don't think she's so lonely anymore. I think she found a friend," Toni smiled at Megan.

Megan rested her head against Toni's chest. "I hope her friend knows how special Jessie is."

"I think she'll figure it out."

"But you have other things I can read, don't you?"

"Yeah, you can read them any time. IÖI want to know what you think."

"Really?" Megan realized that the only opinion Toni had expressed an interest in was her mother's. And now she was asking her thoughts on what she had written. She was beyond flattered by the obvious compliment Toni was paying her.

"Yeah, but if I let you read, you have to give an honest critique."

"I have to critique it? I just wanted to read and enjoy," she teased tickling Toni lightly in the ribs.

"NoÖI was just kidding. But I do care about what you think," she told Megan, continuing to hold her closely and sway to the music.

"Wow. Can we go home now so I can read?" Megan asked, somewhat seriously.

"Are you saying that you are willing to pass up the chance to see a snake dance?" she asked waggling her eyebrows at her young lover.

"Hmmm. Since you put it that way. I'll wait," she grinned back mischievously.

The bar slowly filled up. Most of the patrons had on some sort of costume. They spotted Susan and her friends as soon as they entered. Megan groaned at the thought of a scene.

"It'll be okay. I've seen her type before. If she tries anything, she'll only embarrass herself."

"That doesn't make the thought of a confrontation any easier."

"I know, but you still didn't do anything wrong. She was playing a game I've seen too many times to count. Her and her little girlfriends try to see which one of them will score with the newbie. I guarantee you that they keep score and none of them would know a real relationship if it bit them in the ass."

"Do you know about this game from experience?" Megan asked. It sounded harsh, but she hadn't meant it that way, and hoped Toni wouldn't take it as such. She was simply curious.

"No, not from my own experience, but I've known people like her. I used to lay odds with some of the regulars at the bar I frequented. You know; guessing to see which one would score. I usually won."

"So you're a good judge of human behavior?"

"Anyone's but my own," Toni replied honestly. "It's a lot easier to stand back and see things from a distance than it is to see it when it is right in front of your face."

The rest of their time at Charlene's passed uneventfully. One of Susan's friends, Kim, had the decency to approach Megan and say hello, but Susan kept her distance. Around 11pm they decided they should head for the Blacksmith Shop to meet the others.


They left in a fairly large group and headed for St. Louis Cemetery #1, which they had been warned not to approach even in the daylight unless they were on a tour. As they walked, several other people walked with them, heading for the same event. They realized that the snake dance was a fairly big event and that they were safe heading there at nearly midnight.

Everyone found a place to sit on the ground, as there were no chairs. They sat in a rough circle around the obvious ring that the dance would take place in. The only light provided for them came from numerous candles. They sat quietly waiting as the drummers began their rhythm. Soon, several women emerged from the edges of the circle and danced their way inside bearing smallish snakes. The dance was highly erotic and hypnotizing. Finally there came one dancer who was decorated slightly more lavishly than the others. She carried with her a rather large boa constrictor. Her dance was even more seductive than the others were. The snake seemed to have it's own agenda. It wound around her body as if it knew where to be to make the dance provocative.

Toni watched the crowd and even fell somewhat under the spell herself. She found her body swaying to the beat provided by the drummers; her eyes fixed on the dancers. She noted that Megan was having a similar reaction and she protectively put her arm around her lover's shoulder. When the festivities were over, one of the dancers approached Megan. She had an apprehensive look on her face.

"Danger follows you," she told Megan cryptically and pressed a small bag into her hand. "This will help to protect you. Don't trust what you see," she concluded, fading into the crowd before Megan could stop her. Megan opened her hand to find a small glass vial with a black lid and what appeared to be some sort of crushed bits of metal, on a cord, which had become a familiar sight since they had explored many of the little voodoo shops in the Quarter.

"Did you see that?" Megan asked Toni.

"What?" Toni asked. She had been looking around her, taking in the sights, and trying to commit some of it to memory for use later when she wrote.

"That womanÖone of the dancersÖshe gave me this," she showed Toni the small necklace charm she now held in her hand.

"Where did she go?" Toni asked, curious as to who would hand Megan such a thing.

"I don't know. When I looked up, she was gone. She told me that danger followed me and that this would help protect me. She also told me not to trust what I see."

Toni laughed lightly. "C'mon Megan, I'm sure it's part of the show. She probably went up to a bunch of people with similar spooky portents and did the same thing."

"Do you think?" Megan asked. She was really scared, but didn't want to let Toni know this if she didn't feel the same way.

"Probably," Toni laughed lightly. She had been standing next to Megan for the last hour, and she did not see any approach or even talk to her lover. The thought had her totally creeped out, but she didn't want to worry Megan. "But maybe you should keep it for luck," she added lightly as chills chased up and down her spine. "I think it would look good on you," Toni told her, taking the necklace from her hand and placing it over her neck where it rested nicely between her breasts. One thing Toni had learned since they had come to New Orleans, was that the natives took their superstitions seriously, and she wasn't about to snub her nose at anything that would keep her beautiful young lover safe, no matter how silly it seemed. She then leaned down and placed a slow, sweet kiss on Megan's lips.

"What was that for?" Megan asked breathlessly when the kiss finally broke.

"More luck," Toni smiled at her charmingly.

"MmmmÖI'll take all the luck I can get from you then," Megan sighed, wishing they were back at the B&B.

They put their arms around each other and joined their new friends as they headed back towards the French Quarter. Amazingly enough they found seats on the balcony of the dance club that everyone wanted to go to, so that they could sit comfortably and watch the people go by in their costumes. Diana had made sure that everyone was armed with Mardi Gras beads, which were just as prevalent at Halloween. Toni and Megan watched in amusement as others cheered on the revelers below to show their breasts or other parts of their anatomy while they tossed beads.

Suddenly Toni grabbed Megan's arm startling her, but the look on Toni's face scared her even more. "Look," she pointed down Bourbon Street a ways.

"What?" Megan asked, instantly uneasy, as she tried to figure out what Toni was upset about.

"ThereÖand there," she pointed again, "those guysÖin the dark suits."

Megan finally saw what Toni was pointing at. There were at least six guys, wearing dark suits, with obvious bulges underneath their jackets, wandering through the crowded streets. They were spread somewhat apart, and it appeared as though they were looking for somethingÖor someone. They both instinctively stepped back on the balcony, allowing others to take their places at the railing, but not so far that they couldn't still see the figures approaching. They were all scanning the entrances to the many clubs and bars and even the balconies, when one pointed to the club they were in. He made a motion and the others started to converge on the bar.

Toni started to feel the panic rise within her again. She had never been scared of anything in her entire life, but this scared her, because it wasn't just her own skin at risk, it was Megan's. It worried her that she was no longer the enforcer with nerves of steel that she had been only months before. But until recently, she had only to worry about whether she lived to tell the tale, now it was different. She wished she had a gun as Megan did, because she wouldn't hesitate to use it if someone threatened the young Deputy.

Megan felt Toni's tension as her hands gripped her shoulders. She squirmed out from under the tight hold and turned to face her wavy-haired lover. "ToniÖlook at me," she paused until she got the response she wanted. "We're fineÖwe're going to be fine. Let's go inside and find some of the others and we will be surrounded by people. They won't try anything in such a public place. Then we'll figure out what to do." Toni pulled Megan tightly against her.

"I just don't want anything to happen to you," she told her, kissing the top of her head. Megan looked up into Toni's cobalt eyes.

"Hey, I'm supposed to be the one protecting you."

"Let's protect each otherÖdeal?"

"Deal," Megan agreed, and they sealed it with a kiss.


They went inside the tightly packed club and immediately spotted Diana. She was quite hard to miss because of her bright red hair. She was dancing with Joey, Ellen and Jeff.

"Mind if we join you?" Megan asked over the din of the music.

"The more the merrier," Diana responded enthusiastically. As they danced with the others, they looked around and saw several more of the B&B residents. Dave and Frank were at the bar with Bonnie and Judy. The other two residents, Chris and Rebecca were nowhere to be seen, but they knew at least eight others in the bar they could trust. They watched closely and soon the six men; several of them with their hair slicked back and a couple others with hats, came up the stairs and scanned the room.

"Do you recognize any of them?" Megan asked Toni quietly enough so that the others couldn't hear.

"No, but it's not like I know everyone in the mob, you know," Toni responded somewhat defensively. "I'm sorry," she quickly apologized, "I'm nervous."

"I know, me too," Megan admitted.

The man who had pointed the others into the club looked straight at them and pointed. "There she is," he said, loudly enough for the others to hear.

"Oh shit, this could get ugly," Megan whispered as she slowly unzipped the special belt pouch designed to carry her semi-automatic hand gun, and reaching in, feeling its comforting, cold, hardness in her hand. They barreled through the crowd right for them. Megan stepped in front of Toni, her heart pounding furiously in her chest.

When they were only a few feet away, the one leading them suddenly shouted, "Diana!" And grinned from ear to ear. Diana who hadn't noticed their approach looked up and squealed in delight.

"EvanÖyou guys made it! Fan-fucking-tastic!" She yelled as she launched herself into his arms. The others were grinning as well by this point. Megan and Toni both breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and both felt the sudden need to sit. They backed away from Diana and the six guys while they hugged each other in turn. They moved as quickly as they could to the bar, Megan zipping her pouch as they went.

"Bourbon!" Megan shouted at the bartender as they sidled up next to Dave and Judy. She looked at Toni's ashen face. "Two," she amended holding up the appropriate amount of fingers. When he returned, they quickly downed their drinks and looked at one another. After a moment they began to laugh. It started as light giggling and quickly turned to outright guffaws. Tears were streaming down Megan's face, she was laughing so hard, and Toni had to practically hold her up. They realized that they had both overreacted to a very innocent, but potentially scary situation. It hadn't helped that it occurred in the very town where they had heard numerous ghost stories and had even had a brief encounter with a mysterious voodoo spiritualist.

Dave and Judy had tried to get them to tell them what was so funny, but they could barely stop laughing and it wasn't something that they could tell the others. It was close to 2am, but they convinced everyone to join them at Oz so that they could dance too. Their relatively small group turned into nearly sixteen people as they had been introduced to the mob. They were friends of Diana's from the University of Florida. Again Megan worried briefly that someone might recognize her, as she had been to visit her brothers on quite a few occasions, but none did, and she couldn't place them either. They danced and they drank, as Diana and the others insisted on buying them drinks and Jell-O shots, as it was their "Anniversary".

At one point, Megan excused herself to use the restroom. She had to wait in a bit of a line, as the bar was quite busy, despite the hour.

When Megan headed for the restroom, Toni sipped gingerly on her bourbon and coke. They had had quite a bit to drink and she was pleasantly buzzed and having a good time, despite the earlier tension. A man in vampire attire began to look at her. It made her a little uneasy, because she was sure he would approach, seeing her alone, and try to pick her up. It had happened entirely too often, and she had seen the look before. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes with Toni averting her eyes, to let him know she wasn't interested, he nonetheless began to approach her. His pickup line was nothing new.

"Hi, are you here alone?" he asked looking around her and seeing no one.

"No, as a matter of fact, I'm with someone, excuse me," she offered politely and began to move away.

"I know who you are," he stated, in a matter-of-fact manner, walking with her.

"Yeah, yeahÖI'm GI Jane before the hair cut," she deadpanned, admitting her lack of costume.

"Oh, that's funny Ferenci," he said. She stopped dead in her tracks, her heart suddenly slamming in her chest. She tried to feign ignorance at his comment, but she feared her reaction gave her away. Apparently it did, because he placed a hand on her arm to stop her movement. "So, they have you stashed in New Orleans, who would have thought," he commented.

"I'm sorry," she tried, but was unable to keep the quiver entirely out of her voice, "I think you have me mistaken for someone else." Again she tried to move away. Again he stopped her. Just then, she spotted Megan returning from the restroom, and caught her eye. She shook her head just a little, hoping that Megan would not come near. She was relieved when Megan stopped.

As Megan returned from the restroom, heading towards where she left Toni, she spotted a man, dressed in very typical vampire attire, speaking to her animatedly. Toni caught her eye across the room and shook her head slightly, warning Megan not to approach. Her face was serious. The man reached into his pocket and took out his wallet, to show it to Toni. Megan saw the unmistakable glint of a US Marshall's badge. She stopped in her tracks and watched, waiting, her heart suddenly in her throat.

'Oh shit,' she thought. 'What the hell am I going to do now?' she asked herself. She looked around and was comforted to know that most of the gang they had brought to the club was still there. Although she couldn't hear what they were saying, she knew that Toni was trying to diffuse the situation. She looked around again, and started to formulate a plan. Quickly she moved over to Diana. She spoke quietly for several minutes with her and then stepped back, hoping her plan would work.

The man began to reach towards his back, and Toni tensed, sure he was reaching for a weapon, instead he pulled out his wallet and flashed a very familiar looking badge.

"My name is Zach Billings, I'm a US Deputy Marshall with the New Orleans field office," he told her, showing her the gold star he carried. "I recognized you from the photo we got several weeks ago." He looked around again. "Where is the Marshall who is in charge of you?"

"Look, JackÖdid you say?" she was trying her best to wrangle herself out of this predicament, "I don't know what you are talking about. And this is the worst come-on line I've ever heard, now if you'll excuse me, I have friends waiting." Again she tried to move around him, but he was adamant and stepped in front of her before she could escape.

"The name is Zach and I've got the right person. I've been studying your picture. Seems you're quite hard on Marshalls assigned to protect you. Trust me, I've been on the lookout for you, afraid that you might be the death of me too. So, I'll ask you again, where is the Marshall assigned to you now?"

"You're delusional," she told him, panic rising within her again. She was trying to quell it, trying to keep a cap on her fear, and hoping that he wasn't as sharp as he appeared to be. Obviously he knew her from her photo. Knew her well enough to pick her out of thousands of people, when he was partying on Halloween.

"Look," he said, his voice low and serious, "either you point out the Marshall assigned to you, or I will arrest you now, and let my bosses decide if I'm right, or I'm wrong," he told her, and moved his hand purposefully under his cape, allowing her to see his sidearm.

Toni was beginning to sweat in earnest. This was no longer a game, and he was for real. She had seen Megan's badge enough times to know that his was real, plus, he knew her name, and knew that several Marshall's had died trying to protect her already. She wasn't sure what Megan was up to, but she decided to try and continue her charade. Since Megan was nowhere near her, and therefore, not in immediate danger, she felt comfortable reverting back to her old self. She grabbed him suddenly by the cape and drew him up towards her, as he was much shorter than she was.

"Listen, you fucking little creep! I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but it stops now, or so help me, you will have to crawl out of here!" she accentuated her threat by pushing him forcibly away from her. He stumbled back, but wouldn't give up. He began to approach her again, when a short, red-haired woman stepped between them.

"What the fuck is going on?" she demanded, pushing him away from Toni. "Get the hell away from her, or I'll have you arrested!" she growled at him. Toni was only slightly relieved to see Diana standing in between her and Marshall Billings.

"Listen, honey, this is official business, so take a hike," he told her sternly.

"Yeah, it's official alright," she shot back, whipping out a Marshall's badge at him. "I'm in charge of this woman, so fuck off!" Toni was stunned. She glanced around as quickly as she could and saw Megan standing across the bar, her thumb up in the air. Her heart began to slow to a normal beat when she realized what Megan was up to. It was obvious that Marshall Billings was stunned. Mostly by the appearance of the so-called Marshall who was in charge of her. Toni had to give Diana credit. She was playing the part with an enormous amount of zeal.

"Okay, DeputyÖ" he acquiesced.

"Cummings," she told him menacingly.

"I justÖI saw your charge aloneÖand I just wondered why she was unprotected."

"Did you now? Thought you could just move right in huh?"

"NoÖIÖ" the young Deputy Billings seemed to be stunned into speechlessness. "I just thought that someone wasn't doing their jobÖthat's allÖ"

"I see, it's not okay to take a piss break? Is that it?"

"LookÖno offense. I mean, I recognized her from her photoÖI was just looking out for the department."

"Is that what they call it now? You move right in, and you expect me to just believe you're doing this for the betterment of mankind?"

"Alright, look, I get the pictureÖI'm goingÖno harmÖno foul? Right?"

"Right," Diana replied giving him a rather steely gaze. He backed off and retreated down the stairs.

Toni had watched the exchange with awe. She had no idea what Megan had told Diana, but apparently it had worked. After a brief moment, when she saw the Deputy retreat, Megan slowly approached.

"That was fun," Diana told a stunned Toni, not understanding the part she had really just played. Megan put on her best game face as she wandered up.

"HeyÖyou did great!" she told Diana enthusiastically. She held out her hand and Diana returned the badge.

"So, are you going to tell me what's really going on?" she smiled at the two women.

"What do you mean?" Megan asked as innocently as she could.

"I may be a little tipsy, but that guy thought I was some sort of cop, he called me a deputy and called her," Diana pointed to Toni, "my charge. Said something about protecting the department," she finished waiting. Megan and Toni exchanged looks, and finally Megan took Diana's arm and led them both towards the restroom.

"Diana, we're really sorry, but you're right. There is something more here than meets the eye," she said in a low voice, meant only for Diana, as she formulated a convincing lie in her head. She realized then that she couldn't come up with one. She looked once more at Toni who understood her predicament and nodded her assent.

"You see, Sophia here is a witness to a major crime, and quite a few people are trying to stop her from testifying. The badge I gave you was real, I'm a US Deputy Marshall, and I'm in charge of keeping her safe."

"Okay," Diana said taking in the explanation, "so why didn't you tell that guy to fuck off?"

"Because, he would have been able to give a description of me, and he had already recognized Sophia."

"But, if he were out to kill her, why didn't he just grab herÖI mean, there wouldn't have been anything I could have done about it."

"The reason he recognized the badge is because he is also a US Deputy Marshall."

"But wouldn't that put you guys on the same side?" she asked, realizing that there was more to this situation than she was getting.

"Yes and no. Some of the good guys have been bought out by the bad guys, and it's impossible to tell which ones are with us and which ones will tip our hat."

"Ah, I see, trust no oneÖlike the X-Files, huh?" she asked getting the drift and smiling at her enigmatic new friends.

"Something like that," Megan said with a smile of her own.

"Can I still help?" Diana asked, her tone genuine.

"Yeah, you probably can, thanks Diana," Megan told her and impulsively hugging the odd-looking young woman.

"We need to go," Toni told her, sobering up quickly.

"Yes we do. But we need to be careful. Something about him, makes me think he won't give up easily."

"I mean, we need to leave New Orleans."

"I know that. But we can't go running out of here. He might be waiting. He might try to follow us." Megan reasoned. "Besides, we have the best, coverÖfriends," Megan smiled at her.

Toni smiled back, quickly reading Megan's intentions.

"Hey Diana? Wanna have some more fun?" Megan asked quirking her eyebrows.

"Yeah, sure, that was a blast. What do you have in mind?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure he hasn't given up on Sophia here, and we need time to get away. Besides, he thinks you are the Deputy in charge of her, so I need to follow behind you guys to make sure he isn't following you."

"I say, let's go for it! What do you have in mind?" Diana agreed with eagerness.

"You take Sophia and head across the street to the Bourbon Pub, the Parade Disco is upstairs, and I'm sure the rest of the gang will want to go too, so everyone can keep dancing. I'll grab Judy, Dave and the others and be right behind you."

"Total plan, let me get Evan and the guys."

"That's perfect," Megan assured her. She headed over to the bar and told Dave, Bonnie and Judy of their plans to move across the street as she watched Toni, Diana and the mob head down the stairs. Megan told them she would wait downstairs as they paid their tabs. She discreetly followed the gang surrounding Toni and watched as they made their way across the packed street. Sure enough, she spotted the US Deputy Marshall watching them from a distance. He followed behind them, thinking he himself was unobserved as he made his way to the Bourbon Pub. The others joined Megan.

"Where to?" Dave asked.

"Follow me," Megan told them as she bullied her way across the crowded street. They entered and Megan didn't spot Toni or Diana, but saw the Deputy making his way cautiously up the stairs to the club on the second floor. She motioned the others to follow her. Once up the stairs, she spotted Diana, Toni, Evan and his five counterparts on the jammed dance floor. Toni looked ill at ease, but was putting on her best game face. She and the others made their way to the bar. They ordered drinks and Megan spotted the Deputy right away, on the far side of the bar, trying to blend in. His eyes were riveted on Toni.

Dave looked over at Megan and saw where her eyes were leading. She was looking at a rather handsome guy in a vampire outfit. "I thought Sophia was more your type," he teased her.

Realizing that she had been caught staring, she regarded Dave. She knew he was gay, actually, all but a couple of the people that were rooming with Diana were. "Actually, I was scoping him out for you," she improvised.

"Please, honey, he's staring right at Evan. If Evan is his type, I'm certainly not," he told her. She decided to play along with his take on the matter. She knew that the Deputy wasn't staring at Evan, but at Toni.

"Maybe you should let Evan know that he has an admirer," she said, hoping that it might provide a distraction for them.

"You're right Linda, I don't think Evan has even noticed, and I know he was hoping to meet someone. I'm going to dance right over there and tell him," he informed her as he took his drink and made his way across the floor dancing the whole way.

Toni had watched as Deputy Billings had come up the stairs to the crowded disco. Evan and the other "mobsters" had decided they wanted to dance, and had dragged Toni and Diana with them. Joey, Ellen and Jeff soon joined them. She saw Megan come in a few minutes later with Dave, Frank, Bonnie and Judy in tow. They went to the bar and ordered drinks. Frank apparently spotted someone across the room and headed away. Bonnie and Judy secured their drinks and headed out onto the dance floor. She watched as Megan and Dave talked. She had no idea how to get away from Deputy Billings, and it seemed that he was determined to follow her. After a few minutes she watched as Dave came dancing their way.

"Evan," he said, getting the cute mobster's attention, "honey, do you have your gaydar turned off?"

"What?" Evan asked him, taking a quick glance around.

"No, dear, he's across the bar, in the vampire costume," Dave indicated with a shake of his head.

Evan took another quick scan. "Davey, almost everyone here is wearing vampire attire," he told him.

"Yeah, but not all of them are staring bullets at you," he tried again, nodding his head towards the unwitting Deputy.

Toni suddenly realized what was going on and had to force herself from laughing out loud. She leaned down toward Diana and whispered in her ear, "I think Linda is setting up a diversion, but we will have to move fast," she told her as they both took in Dave's comments to Evan. He was soon moving across the bar towards the vampire also known as Deputy Billings. Diana stifled her own laugh.

"Hey Trey," she addressed one of the other "mobsters", "it looks like Evan has found himself a live one. You guys should go over there and make sure he doesn't get away," she watched as they spoke amongst themselves and then headed off the dance floor and across the bar after Evan.

Toni glanced over at Megan who was sitting beside a smug Dave. Megan gave her a thumbs up gesture and after she and Diana decided that the Deputy had been sufficiently distracted, they carefully made their way towards the bar. Although they couldn't hear what Evan was saying to the Deputy, they could tell that he was flustered and uncomfortable. Soon, the others had formed a barrier around them.

Megan grabbed Dave's arm, "C'mon," she told him pulling him off his barstool, giving him just enough time to grab his drink as she led him down the stairs at high speed. Toni and Diana were not far behind. Ellen, Jeff and Joey shrugged their shoulders and dutifully followed them all. Toni, Megan and Diana were laughing hysterically by the time they hit the street.

"Where to now?" Diana asked in between her fits of laughter.

"How about the CafÈ Lafitte in Exile?" Toni suggested, "that should slow him down for a while," she added, knowing that it was a mostly gay bar.

"Let's do it," Megan said, fitting herself between Toni and Diana and taking them both by the arm, still having trouble quelling her own outburst.

"What's going on?" Dave asked flustered at their sudden exit.

"Do me a favor Dave," Diana told him, "let Evan and the others know where we went, but make sure his conquest doesn't hear you. I have a feeling that he is as straight as they come," she said, bursting out into another fit of guffaws. Dave was confused, but he shook his head good-naturedly and headed back into the bar.

They headed down Bourbon Street towards their destination with Joey, Ellen and Jeff in tow. True to the bar's description, it was filled with mostly men, but the arrival of the women did not seem to affect anyone and they headed towards the upstairs balcony, hoping to get a look at the people on the street below.

Toni and Megan spent some time speaking with Diana.

"Diana, you do understand, that no matter what happens, you can't tell anyone what you know?"

"Are you kidding? I'm having too much fun to share. Besides, I believe you guys. And I like you too. I wouldn't do anything to endanger you. But you have to promise me something."

"What?" Megan asked, needing to hear the request before she could agree.

"Promise me that you will let me know that everything turned out alright in the end?" She retrieved a napkin and a pen from the bartender and quickly wrote out her address.

"Deal," Megan agreed with a smile and a hug.

Nearly a half-hour later, they spotted Dave coming towards the bar, with the rest of the gang following behind. He had even managed to find Frank, who it appeared had a new companion, Judy and Bonnie. Shortly behind him were Evan and his group. But, to their dismay, Deputy Billings had apparently decided to follow Evan, maybe because he had seen him dancing with Toni and Diana. To make matters worse, he had two others with him, who looked as though they had been roused from sleep to join him. It appeared as though they were making a search along Bourbon Street. Megan directed Toni into the restroom and waited near the bar. Diana, Ellen, Joey and Jeff were dancing. She watched as the three made their way up the stairs. Deputy Billings had immediately spotted the redheaded Diana and they made their way directly towards her.

At first Megan couldn't hear the conversation. Everyone in the immediate area had stopped dancing to watch the proceedings and voices became louder.

"Where is she?" Deputy Billings demanded.

"I have no idea what you're talking about, you weirdo," Diana stated defiantly. The crowd was getting into it, shouting at the three men harassing the young woman, including the other residents of the B&B.

"That's it!" Deputy Billings shouted in frustration, "I'm placing you under arrest."

"On what charges?" she glared at him.

"Obstruction of justice for one," he stated firmly, and removed a pair of handcuffs. By this time, the club's bouncers and a couple of managers had made their way over to the scene.

"Who the hell are you?" one of them demanded.

"I'm US Deputy Marshall Billings," he stated, retrieving his badge and ID. His counterparts looked unsure as to whether this was the correct course of action. But they let him lead, and produced their badges for the others to see as well.

"I'll ask you one more time where she is, or I will arrest you."

"I still don't know what you are talking aboutÖand you will hear from my lawyer," Diana told them. He turned her around and proceeded to place the handcuffs on her. She stood absolutely still and allowed him to do as he pleased.

"Look, Zach, are you sure about this?" one of the other Deputies asked. Megan was able to hear him clearly now, because the club had become silent.

"I know what I saw," he stated emphatically, as he began to read her Miranda rights. He led her from the club, followed by quite a large retinue of people, including most of those from the B&B. Unbeknownst to the Deputies leading her away; Diana winked at Megan as she passed. Megan breathed a sigh of relief and watched as they led her down the stairs. She followed and made sure that they were gone, before heading back to the restroom and retrieving her worried lover.

They returned to the Bed and Breakfast as quickly as they could and packed. They left a note for Gwen explaining that they were called home for a family emergency and left the money to cover their stay. They got into the black Monte Carlo SS and drove away, not quite sure where they would head.

Continued in Part 8.

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