David J. Duncan
For notes & such, please see Part 1
LaCroix alighted on the top of the Nugent Building and observed the scene in front of him. Although Cybelle's mist obscured most of the battle from even his senses, he knew that Dubois, Nicholas, and the priestess were engaged with the Kurgan witch and Dijon's minions. Then, on the side of the cloud, a section thinned and dissipated, revealing the two Xenas going steel to steel against each other.
"What have we here?" the general mused. "Where did the other come from? And who made her?" Obviously, while such techniques had long been the domain of dime store novels, he recognized the cloning process as the chief source of the conflict in front of him. Somehow, the reincarnated Warrior Princess faced her darker half in what seemed to be a death duel. The other warrior had the familiar sinister leer, arched eyebrow, and the attitude.
Turning, the clone spied him and spat, "Lucius! Come down here, and I'll finish the job! You, Coward!" Having said that, she returned to the battle at hand.
LaCroix snarled angrily, his pride obviously wounded by her outburst. But the statement also made his mind flash back as well.....
[Eastern Gaul 65 AD]
General Lucius stalked out of his tent at the first sound of the sentinel trumpets. The thunderclouds rumbled in the distance, lightning struck the distant hills on the horizon.
"What now?" he wondered. Turning to his second-in-command, he ordered, "Tell the men to hold steady!"
"Yes, Sir," the younger man agreed and hurried downslope toward the assembled legions nearby.
"So, Xena, we will finally meet!" the general acknowledged. "For the glory of Rome!"
"And you think your army can defeat her?" Ares' voice probed mockingly.
"Yes, I do!" the legions' head protested, putting on his helmet. "It's my duty! It's my glory!" Turning to face the immortal, he added, "Your faith in her is overvalued."
"We shall see," the god shrugged, vanishing from view.
Just then, Lucius heard the sounds of combat echoing from the outskirts of his encampment. Looking downslope, he saw that the Gauls had engaged his legions and were holding their own. At the head of the army, the raven-haired harpy known as the Warrior Princess mowed a bloody swath through his regiments with sword and her accursed chakram. Her blonde sidekick, Gabrielle, also moved with a catlike grace, taking down enemies left and right.
"Enough of this!" he yelled, mounting his horse, and galloping into the heart of the frenzy. Cutting his own path through the invaders, he soon came face to face with the Warrior Princess. "Now, you die," he hissed.
Xena chuckled to herself and inquired grimly, "So, you're Lucius?"
"Indeed," he nodded.
She growled in spite of herself as the dark wave of her Conqueror persona threatened to sweep away her self-control. "Let's get on with it then," she glowered and swung her blade.
He met her thrust with his own steel. For several seconds, they stared into each other's eyes. Then, they swung and parried, metal hitting metal, sound echoing off of sound as the deadly ballet of steel continued.
Finally, he took a wild lunge and missed, exposing his flank.
She, on the other hand, did not. Stabbing him in the side, the warrior watched her opponent crumble to the ground. "You're gonna hurt after what you did to the Gauls, Lucius!" she vowed angrily and raised her sword to finish him.
At that moment, Ares appeared behind Lucius and smiled enthusiastically. While he always enjoyed a good battle, the sight of Xena the Conqueror, or as Alti had put it--"the Destroyer of Nations", warmed his blood. This was what he loved about her. "Finish him! Finish him now!" he urged.
Gabrielle, however, seized her sword hand and disagreed, "No, Xena, he's beaten." Looking down at the defeated general lying semi-conscious on the ground badly wounded, weaponless, and defenseless, she continued, "To kill him now would be murder!"
Xena stared at both parties and, for a split second, seemed to hang in the balance. Her sword was still poised to strike despite her friend's interference. However, the recent years of travel had influenced her and so, she sheathed the blade. "You're right, Gabrielle. Thanks."
"No problem," the poetess asured her.
Then, the warrior regarded the war god and shrugged, "Too bad, Ares. It almost worked. Almost but not quite."
He sighed, shaking his head, "Ah, Xena. You were so glorious out there. Just like the old days. You should have finished him."
"No, I've beaten him. There will be another time, another place," she stated prophetically.
The Olympian nodded. Somehow, he sensed that these two would meet again and again over the ages. And just as with the shamaness, Xena would be ready for him. "There will always be another time for us as well."
"Never again, Ares," she hissed.
"Until next time," he promised, disappearing from view, leaving the carnage and the defeated leader behind.
The two warrioresses for their part, turned and walked silently off of the field. There were no words to describe the brutality they had witnessed both here and outside of Aballo...
Lucius watched helplessly, quivering in rage. "Someday...." he hissed impotently before finally giving into the pain and lapsing into unconsciousness.
[Back in the Present]
LaCroix shook his head angrily at the memory of that humiliation. No matter how long ago it had occurred, the pain remained vivid. Disgrace was not something that sat well with him in any form. Despite the urge to intervene, he still felt that discretion was the better part of valor. Accordingly, he waited for his opportunity.
Meantime, the two raven-haired warriors continued to clash on the grassy area below. As they had been doing this for a while, they were starting to tire. However, neither woman would give in.
Finally the Gabrielle-clone jumped in between them and declared, "Stop! Both of you!"
Her counterpart held her staff between the two combatants and added, "Alti's gone! There's no more need to fight!"
"Gone?" the two Xenas chorused.
"Yes," Dave informed them, dragging the shamaness's body behind him. "She's gone. You two need to cut this out and make peace between yourselves."
The real Xena nodded, "Absolutely! Let's stop this."
"How do I know this isn't some plot by Ares?" the other hissed.
"Xena, you know us," the real Gabrielle indicated. "All of us. Now please...."
The warrior clone lowered her sword and agreed, "Fine. But, we're going to need to get out of here. Those warlords will be here soon....."
"Right," the medievalist agreed. Then, his senses picked up on a familiar presence behind him. Spinning to his left, he discovered Dijon standing not twenty feet away from him.
"You continue to amaze me, Dubois," the Burgundian admitted. "You dispose of my best Enforcers and continue to hound me." Leaning down, he picked up a chunk of the cooling metal in his hand. "Too bad, it was a valuable treasure."
"I'll do a lot more than just 'hound' you, Bastard!" Dave bellowed, holding a stake-shaft in full view. "After what you did to Tony Samuelsohn and his wife!"
"And I'll do the same to you," the head Enforcer promised. "When the time comes."
"Not if I do it first!" the professor stated. "Too bad there are witnesses here. Back off while you can!"
For his part, Dijon noted that the other man was teetering on the brink of rage and had no wish to engage this terror especially not with the mortals' technology recording his every move.
"Dijon!" LaCroix challenged, stepping out of the crowd. "Stop this now!"
The Enforcer spotted the Elder walking toward him. "Lucius, have a care! I have been sent to kill you as well!" he tensed.
"You would listen to the words of a few children to me!" the general snarled. "This is over! Leave before you expose us all!"
The former medieval mercenary stared at the assembling throng of reporters quickly setting up their equipment. In addition, without his subordinates, he could not defeat the group opposing him at this point. "Very well!" he hissed. "But this isn't over! Another time, Lucius!" Turning to the medievalist, he added, "And the same goes for you, Dubois. Remember, when you want to face me, go to where both of our nightmares started...."
"What is that crap?" Dave challenged, readying a shaft. "As if I'm going to let you...."
"Just remember our nightmares. And know, in that place, I will await you...." the Burgundian repeated and took off into the night just before the cameras could record his presence.
Unfortunately, the others weren't so lucky. "I suggest a hasty retreat," Dave advised, running from the group of reporters down the lawn. Nick, LaCroix, Schanke, Natalie, Steve, Eve, and the four warriors matched his pace. Finally, as they rounded a corner, the familiar white haze lofted into sight.
"Going my way?" Cybelle's voice offered, floating out of the mist.
The others hurried into the portal, leaving the scene before the media horde could catch any more footage of their exploits for posterity.
When the mists had thinned, the group saw that they were back at the eastside apartment complex once again. For the moment at least, the cameras and tape recorders remained behind at the university. However, as Nick, Schanke, and Natalie knew, they would be waiting at the precinct. Worse, Steve would need to have some kind of report for Ramirez and his own superiors.
Cybelle studied her older brother closely. While the latter had started to cool down after the confrontation, she knew that the bigger hurdle remained to be crossed. Dijon's challenge could only mean one thing and in one place. "I wonder how his personas will react to that situation?" she dreaded to herself.
LaCroix surveyed the group and announced, "Now that I know Nicholas is all right, I will take my leave."
"LaCroix," Dave started. "I need to ask something of you."
This statement grabbed everyone's attention. Normally, the medievalist would barely acknowledge the immortal's existence. However, these were not normal times.
"That depends," the elder vampire shrugged.
The professor hissed angrily, "It isn't a favor if that's what you think. I just want these Renegades dealt with. I would think they're an embarrassment to you as well."
Steve stared at his friend and inquired, "You knew?"
"I suspected as much," Dave continued. "Besides, no elder would send the Enforcers after us, especially after the library scenario. LaCroix's comment about 'children' cinched it for me." Looking at the elder vampire, he repeated his request, "Well?"
"There will be a private meeting of the Elders soon on that issue. For once, Dubois, we are in agreement. The situation has become enough of an embarrassment to us all. However, now that Dijon has officially challenged you, we cannot interfere," the Roman noted.
"LaCroix, you can't be serious!" Nick interjected.
"According to the Code, once the challenge of vengeance has been issued and accepted, then it is between them," LaCroix replied dryly. "Nicholas, you cannot interfere."
"But, if he's one of my companions, he can be there. Correct?" Dave asked.
"If he insists on that point," the former general admitted, allowing a brief glance toward his former protÈgÈ. "I will let you know about the meeting's result. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a show to do." With that, he took off into the night.
"Man, he can sure make an exit," Schanke commented.
"C'mon, let's get in the house," Natalie urged, looking around to see if anyone was watching.
Dave unlocked the door and led his companions inside. Once there, he quickly secured the door.
"Okay, so now what?" Steve probed anxiously. "Now, that the clones are here, I'm going to have to arrest them."
The Xena clone tensed and drew her sword, "Nobody's taking me and Gabrielle without a fight!"
Her counterpart agreed, "I think that might be an unwise move on your part."
Eve glanced at her friends. Certainly, this was a situation that needed to be resolved. "Perhaps, there might be a solution. Cybelle, isn't there somewhere they could go?"
The priestess nodded, "Yes, I can take them back to Althanor. Once there, the high priestess and I can determine a new place for them." Turning to the clones, she added, "Would this be satisfactory to you both?"
The two clones looked at one another for a moment. Finally, Gabrielle nodded, "I think that would work."
"At least for now," the other Xena agreed. "We can go if everyone would like."
"Nonsense," Dave disagreed. "You're both friends. Enjoy some hospitality, at least for awhile."
Across the room, the reincarnated Xena changed herself back into Angie. "I agree," she indicated. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
"That would be great," the Gabrielle clone concurred.
"Thanks," the warrior accepted.
The oncologist started the water brewing and brought out a plate of oatmeal cookies. "While the water's going, here's something for everyone."
Schanke took one and bit into it, "Mmm, this is great! Thanks, Angie!"
Natalie nodded, "These look great."
Nick stood up and excused himself, "Sorry, but since your grandfather is still at my loft, I need to look in on him."
Cybelle glanced at Angie and asked, "Would you like me to bring him here? It wouldn't be any trouble."
"That would be great! Nick, is it all right?" Angie inquired.
"Absolutely!" the vampire detective agreed.
"Be back in just a minute," the priestess indicated, disappearing into a misty column. As promised, barely any time seemed to pass before she reentered the area, gently guiding Alex at her side.
"Grandpa Alex, how are you?" Angie wondered.
"I'm fine," he told her. "But, I want to ask you all the same question. With all of that fuss over at the university, are you all okay?"
"We're all fine," Dave indicated.
"I'm glad to hear it," the elderly man replied, relieved. "The cameras showed you baiting Alti, David. You were taking a real chance there."
"Tell us about it," Eve sighed. "David, why did you do that?"
"To provoke her," the medievalist shrugged. "Besides, she interrupted my event the last time. Hey, I got the results we needed. She exposed herself and we didn't. Too bad about the necklace, though."
"What about the necklace? What happened to it?" the archaeologist demanded.
"It...disintegrated," Cybelle noted. "After I used it on Alti, it just...melted. Rather than get burned, I let it fall to the ground."
"It was just a ordinary golden glob," Dave added. "The jewel was destroyed as well. Hopefully, this means that Alti's finished with us."
"At least for a while," Francesca agreed. "I've had enough of her to last for the rest of my life, thank you."
"As have I," Alex concurred, shuddering. "Even after sixty years, her touch still chills my soul."
"She has that effect," the Xena clone explained.
He looked at both Angie and Xena, albeit confusedly. "I thought that you two were in the same body. How?"
"She's a clone as is the other Gabrielle, Grandfather," Angie commented. "But, they're still a part of us."
"Right," Francesca agreed enthusiastically.
Alex nodded and sat back in his chair. Looking at the younger people around him, he smiled. How he treasured his moments around them and the remaining time to be spent in the future as well. Such times made life worthwhile.
(Additional note: Thanks to KC, Mindi, and Judy for their suggestions towards this section and the rest of the story!!!)
Sunset on the following day failed to bring relief to the sudden heat of the mid-afternoon. Even as the ordinary folks in the Old Pueblo scurried about in search of their air conditioners, several others meditated on the future and what it would hold for them.
Outside of the University precinct, Tracy stood in the parking lot, waiting for Vachon. She had received a note saying "Meet me in the same spot about 9 PM". Accordingly, she made sure she was on time for the rendezvous. "Well, at least it's below 100," she griped.
"How did Miles ever talk you into moving here?" Vachon's voice teased from above.
The blonde detective spun to see the Iberian vampire behind her. He grinned ear to ear as he enjoyed ribbing her. "I wish you wouldn't do that!" she declared.
"Well, I could just leave," he shrugged, half-seriously.
"No! Don't...do that," she told him.
He smiled and picked her chin up with his right hand. Staring into her eyes, he stated, "After all that time I spent looking for you? Get serious. Anyway, I noticed that 'Button' was looking for her 'conquistador' to room with her in today's Star. That wouldn't happen to be you, would it?"
"Uh, yeah. I figured you'd know...since you know my father's nickname for me," she smiled sheepishly. Her eyes twinkled and she continued, "You still need a place to live?"
"Yeah, but I don't want to intrude on your privacy either, Trace," he commented.
"It's okay...Really. I need a roomie to help with bills and stuff. Since we're already friends, I thought that we might split the rent among other things," she assured him. "Well?"
He nodded, "Okay, you got a deal. Can I start moving in tomorrow?"
"That's sounds great!" she cheered, albeit a bit more enthusiastically than she meant to. "Well, I have to get back inside. With Nick and Schanke working with Steve, my paperwork's tripled. I'll see you later?"
"Count on it," he agreed and took off into the evening sky.
Tracy stared up into the twinkling evening sky. Despite all of the recent confusion, it seemed that life was finally starting to work out for her after all. Whistling a light tune, she walked back toward the building, her night improving with each moment.
Natalie parked her car outside of the airport. For some reason, nobody had been able to give Steve a lift to catch his flight back to San Francisco except for her. The time together had been pleasant. In gratitude for her assistance, he had taken her to dinner in which she had the best conversation and food over a dining table in quite a while.
"Thank you, Steve," she smiled. "You didn't have to do dinner. I mean you're always helping us out."
The agent shrugged, "That's okay. Look, I'm sorry if I presumed too much by asking you out to dinner. I know you and Nick are kind of an item."
"We're friends. Beyond that, I really can't tell with him," she noted. "He's so protective of me that he doesn't want me too close. And then, there's Alyce."
He furrowed his eyebrow and inquired, "What about her?"
"Well, back in Toronto, there was a real magnetism between them. And now that she's here, I feel it starting up again," she explained. "How do I compete with that, Steve?"
"Have you talked with him about your feelings?" he inquired. "You need to tell him what you're telling me. For both of your sakes."
"I mean I've waited for six years for him to make up his mind, and he's still waffling," she sighed.
"I can't say that I've been in your shoes," he admitted. "But, talk to Dave. Believe me, he waited too long for his own situation to straighten out before he asked Karen Montoya on a date."
"And...?" she started and realized, "She had met Mike by then, right?"
"You got it," he agreed. "I'm just hoping that you and everyone else will be happy."
"And you? Is there anyone?" she inquired.
"No. I have some great friends that I go out with, but no, I haven't dated anyone in quite some time. You know how law enforcement is and what it does to relationships," he explained.
"Brother, do I know all about that!" she concurred. For a long minute, she stared into his eyes and saw the warmth she had only seen from Nick at various times.
He studied her face as well. For a split second, he wished that he could transfer to Tucson permanently. Then, he remembered that his life was in Frisco and told her. "Sorry, but I do have my plane to catch. I will be back to visit at some point though."
"Well, we're always happy to see you," she laughed nervously. "Maybe you might stop by when you aren't on a case?"
He grinned. These people were rapidly becoming good friends to him. He could see why Dave and Angie liked them so much. "Bet on it. Now, I have to go."
"Okay, well have a good trip," she concluded and, for some reason she couldn't fathom, kissed him on the cheek.
He chuckled and got out of the car. With a kind smile, he concluded, "Thank you, Natalie, for everything. I'll be back soon. Count on it." Having said that, he walked through the revolving doors. Before he vanished from view, he waved to her one last time.
For a long while, Natalie drove around town that night, wondering what was happening to her. For some reason, her feelings were gravitating toward Steve. Sure, he was a good-looking guy and all, but wasn't she supposed to be in love with Nick? And why didn't she feel guilty about these new feelings? "Maybe he's right," she sighed. "Perhaps, this is my wakeup call." With that thought in mind, she turned back onto I-10, heading north. Distance would be a great thing on that particular night.
Nick stood atop his building and surveyed the downtown area. So much had happened to them all over the past few days. Now, the Enforcer situation threatened to boil over. LaCroix would soon meet with the other Elders to discuss the Community's larger status. The Renegades were about to ignite a civil war. The clone crisis had upset matters as well. With the damage in New York, people didn't know what to think of her and Gabrielle. Dave was sliding back into an increasingly bestal state. Worse still, he and Dijon would soon face each other again. Like Cybelle, he knew exactly where the battle would take place and the uncertainties underlying that combat for both adversaries.
"Dave, I hope you know what you're doing...." he sighed to the empty air in front of him.
Then, he sensed another presence alight in back of him and quickly recognized it. "Janette."
"Oui, mon Cher, it is I," the vampiress indicated. "Are you all right, Nicolas? I sensed the tension as soon as I reentered the city."
"I'll live," he assured her. "I just have a lot on my mind is all."
The immortal lady of the night chuckled incredulously, "Poor Nicolas, you always have a lot on your mind. But now, you brood more than ever. Come now, tell me...."
He smiled in spite of himself. She always knew what was in his heart. Realizing that it would be futile to hide anything from her, he relented, "There's the Enforcer situation and the recent attack by Alti. Then, there's Dave Dubois' situation...."
"Ah yes. The fool is going to face Dijon again. The whole vampire community is buzzing about it. But, it is time for them to end this rivalry once and for all," she noted.
"It's pride versus vengeance. And I'm putting my money on Dave. Especially given the battleground," he asserted.
"Ah yes. And, of course, you will be there. So will LaCroix--as the Elders' representative. Xena and the Celtic priestess will be close by I'm sure. But, whatever happens, mon ami, remember you cannot interfere. The other Enforcers will be there to insure that, trust me," she continued. Then, she giggled slightly.
"I fail to see anything humorous in the situation," he groused.
She shook her head and added, "No, that wasn't what I was laughing at. I'm sorry. But, tell me, is there something else going on?"
"Something else?" he probed. "My mind's already occupied with enough matters. What else could there be?"
Janette allowed her eyes to shine at him and chuckled again, "Ah, Nicolas, you think I've forgotten what you're like when you're aroused by another?"
He shook his head and stated, "Of course, there are my feelings for Natalie."
"And perhaps for someone else as well?" she inquired, allowing her eyes to lock with his. "The curator, Alyce Harriss perhaps?"
"What?" he asked, looking shocked.
She chuckled knowingly, "You were always a bad liar and worse still at hiding your feelings from us. You don't think I haven't noticed how she pines for you in the museum night after night? Or how she embraced you at the loft that night? Of course, there's also the scene at the museum when the Enforcers attacked. Yes, Dijon has let the word leak out. Truly, he was amused by it or so my sources inform me."
"It's true. I don't understand it," he admitted. "Ever since she's returned from France, everything's been so confused. I still care about Natalie, but I have these feelings for Alyce."
"Can it be? Our Nicolas has fallen for another vampire at last! Well, no matter how the situation works itself out, I promised Natalie I would stay out of it. You two will do as you will. But, I will tell you one thing," she declared, turning to depart.
"And that is?" the former crusader inquired.
She looked endearingly over her shoulder at him, allowing her eyes to shine in the moonlight, and requested, "End the triangle. You, Natalie, and I did it for years in Toronto. Don't do it to her and Alyce now. Make a firm decision for their sakes. If you care about them, please do it. You don't know how badly I want you to be happy. Eternity is a long time to be miserable. Now, I must depart. Au revoir." With that, she took off into the black sky.
For a long while, he stood frozen in his tracks, staring at the horizon and searching for answers. Then, he decided to take the initiative. With that, he followed Janette into the sky.
Alyce paced the halls of the museum anxiously. While the conversation with her superiors had gone well, the loss of the exhibit's main treasures had left a sour taste in everyone's mouths. Amazingly enough, however, that issue was not the foremost thing on her mind at the moment. Rather, her feelings for a certain Flemish ex-knight occupied her thoughts at that particular moment.
"I wish I knew how he felt about me," she wondered aloud, staring to the night sky through the glass.
"I wish I knew as well," Nick's voice echoed from behind her.
She smiled and turned to stare into his icy blue eyes. Immediately, her breath caught in her throat as her own passion swept over her. "Kiss me. Please."
Something clicked inside of him. They embraced tightly, and he felt the fires rising inside of himself as well.
Once again, Janette's words echoed across his thoughts, "End the triangle...End the triangle...."
"I hope this is the right thing to do," he mused and sealed their mouths in a long, passionate kiss. Suddenly, he realized that this was right and somehow, he and Alyce were meant to be together. For five long minutes, they kept it up.
Finally, Nick edged himself away and turned towards the window. Now, that the rubicon had been crossed, his feelings had become clear. He had indeed done the right thing
She clasped his shoulder, not wanting him to reject her and begged, "Nick! Please don't say that it was wrong! No!"
He turned to face her once again. The moonlight cast a delicately pale glow accentuating her features and seeming to surround her in a brilliant halo of light. No, there was something about this woman. He sensed it more and more with each passing minute. "It wasn't wrong, Alyce, Suddenly, everything is clear...Very clear indeed...." he assured her.
She sensed a familiar presence watching them nearby and, allowing her eyes to sparkle at him, indicated, "Shall we go...talk in my office, Nick? It's much more...private."
Feeling that same touch across his senses, he concurred, "Good idea." And, flying in that direction, they left the upper concourse empty, save for the echoes from their voices.
From the top of the Art Building, LaCroix had observed the scene with satisfaction. After spending much of the evening setting up the Elders' meeting for the subsequent weekend, he had followed his former protege to the museum hoping to see what had indeed happened. "Well now," he snickered. "At least, something good will come out of all of this after all." With that, he flew away, content to let the two younger vampires have their privacy for whatever was about to happen.
Angie closed the bedroom door behind her. The twins and Deirdre had finally drifted off to sleep. In the guest room, Alex slept uneasily. How she wished she could do the same. The repercussions of the attack still worried her. What would happen to them? How much more would the university be able to stand? Granted, they were two of the most productive faculty members, but even loyalty had its limits.
She saw Dave staring out the door at the twinkling stars. "He's one of those moods again," she realized. Putting on a pot of water, she watched him carefully. He was already focusing on that bloody fight with Dijon. "Does he hate Dijon that much that he would be willing to throw everything away?" she wondered aloud as she poured two cups of tea and walked them over to the coffee table. "Honey?" she asked.
"Hmmm?" he asked.
"Are you okay? You have me worried. Is it the Child?" she probed.
"No, for once, he's behaving himself," he stated. "No, this is bigger than that." He sat down beside the table and sipped on a cup of blackberry tea. "Oh, this hits the spot! Thanks, Princess."
"You're welcome," she told him. "I was hoping that would calm you down a bit."
"I'm okay now," he convinced her. "But seeing him makes my blood boil."
She felt a tear cascade down her cheek. "I could see that. But how could you accept that challenge of his?"
"Like I have a choice," he rebuted.
"You could have just walked away," she stated firmly.
He snickered incredulously, "You really believe that, don't you? Angie, I'm sorry, but you and Xena both heard him as clearly as I did. If I don't face him now, then we'll be hunted for the rest of our lives. Sorry, I don't want that for you or the girls."
"I think that we can take care of ourselves with Xena's and Gabrielle's help of course," she countered.
"I'm not going to argue about this," he declared. "You heard LaCroix...What's done is done."
"And if he makes me a widow? Then what?" she cried. "Dave, think about this please! I don't want the girls growing up without a father. We've been through so much with them already! I couldn't bear to lose you." Slumping back in the chair, she sobbed fretfully.
He hugged her close to himself, feeling her presence against his own. As much as he hated to admit it, she had a point. But then again, so did he. In the coming days, he would need to make his stand for everyone around him...his friends, family, and most importantly, himself.
Looking over her shoulder to the sky, he saw the stars twinkle of their own volition. Sadly, they had no answers for him. Only the future events would reveal his fate and that was a while off yet. For now, all Dave and Angie could do was hug each other tightly and pray for help. And for the rest of that evening, they did so. Hoping for the miracle which would assist them in the ordeal to come....
THE END (for now....)
(**Well, that's the "Alti Returns" trilogy in the books! I hope you liked it! Please send comments to email@example.com. By the way, if you want to hear as soon as I release a new story from this or any other of my series, then sign up for "DuboisChroniclesUpdates" on Yahoogroups by using your Yahoo ID or by emailing me!**)
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(**In terms of what happens next, the sequel to this work is about third in line right now on the story "runway" for liftoff. After the prologue to my "Amazon Scrolls" series and a retrospective story earlier in the Dubois series is finished, then I will write this next work.**)
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