Disclaimers: See Part I for disclaimers to this story.

Comments to Redhawk. Constructive criticism gladly appreciated.

Part III: Sunday

A shaft of reddish sunlight played weakly across the ceiling of the small shrine. Candles had sputtered to darkness long ago, only a few remaining to dimly light the room.

The figure before the altar hadn't moved since the Penance was complete, kneeling in an overnight vigil and praying to God and the Schueller Phillip for guidance in the coming battle. The next leg of the Journey towards Enlightenment was coming up fast and a Sign would soon be forthcoming.

The Prediger licked dry lips in anticipation.

Slowly the shaft of light meandered from the ceiling, moving closer and closer to the crucifix on the wall. Adoring eyes gazed in wonder as the light crawled across the Christ figure. The crucifix seemed to come alive, glowing from within as the first light of the sun on this holy Sabbath struck it.

The Sign! It is time!

The Prediger rose, unsteady on knees tortured by their lengthy stay on the hard floor. The puddles of blood from the Penance went unnoticed as the naked figure left the room to prepare.

Rickie curled up sideways in the auto seat, watching her warrior drive. She leaned a redgold head against the seat and studied the beautiful profile. No thoughts filled her mind, just feelings that could only be called trite if given voice.

A small smile played across Xena's face when she realized she was being observed. She afforded her lover a quick glance. "What?"

The redhead smiled in return. "Nothing. Just thinking how much I love you."

"Hmmm..." A hand reached out and caressed a soft cheek, the smile widening as she felt Rickie nuzzle closer to her palm. "I love you, too." Xena brushed her fingers along the golden locks, tucking them firmly behind the younger woman's left ear. "You're awfully mushy this morning. You feeling okay?"

"Yeah," Rickie said with a smile. She sighed at the loss when the dark woman pulled her hand away to resume its place at the steering wheel. "So, what's the name of this place we're going to again?"


"That sounds like my stomach when it's hungry," Rickie quipped, enjoying the chuckle from the driver. "And we're seeing a play?"

The dark head nodded. "Yes. The Passion Play. It's about the last few days of Christ."

"Ya know, you don't strike me as being the particularly religious type," the younger woman said, tilting her head. "In fact," she continued, "if I recall, you don't hold much with any of the gods, whether they're Greek, Egyptian or anything else."

Xena chuckled. "Yep, that's true. But this play is special." She flicked on the turn signal, exiting the Autobahn. "During the Black Death, the villagers of Oberammergau had done their best to not allow people in who could be carriers. Of course, someone made it in and the plague swept through."

Transfixed, Rickie asked, "How many died?"

"Dunno exactly. Quite a large number, though. The village was almost decimated." Now off the Autobahn, she guided the car down a two lane road, green trees and fields on either side of them in the dim early morning light. "Anyway, the villagers decided to reenact the suffering of Christ, hoping that God would have mercy on them. They vowed to keep it under God's sky and to perform it every few years for eternity."

"Did it work?" The younger woman had leaned forward in her seat, ignoring the passing scenery. At Xena's grin, she sat back a bit in self-consciousness. "I mean, it must have worked. The village's still here, right?" When no answer came, her brow furrowed. "Right?"

Xena chuckled again. "Right. Whether it was divine interference or not is debatable, but no more deaths occurred after the play was done. That was in the mid sixteen hundreds. They've performed the play regularly ever since. They only perform it every ten years, now, and the entire village is involved."

"Interference? Don't you mean 'intervention'?"

The dark woman shrugged. "Whatever."

Gazing out the window, unseeing, Rickie pondered the history lesson. "Were you here during the Black Plague?"

"At Oberammergau? No. I was further west. In Pirmasens around that time." The dark woman's thoughts traveled back.

The wailing of the mourners, the stench of death and burning flesh, the piles of bodies being dispose of, the relief that her bard was not present to witness the death and decay.
Xena shuddered. "It wasn't a pleasant time period."

"Doesn't sound like it," Rickie agreed, rolling expressive green eyes. A thought crossed her mind and she pursed her lips. "Were there any pleasant time periods for you?" she asked.

Brought back to the present, Xena smiled. "Oh, yeah. There were. It wasn't all doom and gloom." Her smile broadened and she glanced slyly at her lover. "Take this time period. It's gettin' better every day."

The redhead smiled. "Well, I know I'm liking it....." she agreed.

Detektiv Johannes opened the auto door for his wife, helping her onto the sidewalk. From the back seat, a small bundle of energy bounced out.

"Daddy? After church, can we go to get ice cream?" his daughter, Violett, asked. "I'll behave this time. I promise!" Large, innocent blue eyes looked up from under dark brown bangs.

Johannes chuckled, scooping the four year old up into his arms. He gently adjusted the folds of her white dress and tucked her stuffed chicken firmly between them. "No teasing the priest?" At the emphatic shake of a head, he continued, "No asking silly questions? No picking on little Gunther?"

"I don't pick on Gunther. He's my friend."

The police officer considered her request with seriousness, a sparkle in his eye. "Oh, alright. If you behave, we'll get ice cream after church." The child in his arms wriggled in excitement and he set her down, taking her hand. Johannes looked at his wife, an eyebrow crooked in question.

The pregnant woman smiled indulgently and nodded. "Let's go, you two. Don't want to be late." She took her husband's other hand and the three strolled towards the brick church nearby.

At the top of the steps, Johannes waved his wife and child into the building. Promising to be in soon, he turned and looked out over the city of Munich. Somewhere out there is a madman. He wondered what a sick religious fanatic would be doing on a Sunday morning. I've got to find him.

With a shudder, the Kommissar turned back and entered the church.

Anderson pulled his auto into the lot several lanes over from the Immortal who was digging in the trunk of her own vehicle. Her girlfriend was with her, helping unload some blankets and other things. He kept his head down and continued talking on the cellular phone in accented German.

"No, no, honey. I understand completely," the Watcher insisted. "But I've been calling your daddy all night long and you're the first person to answer the phone besides the machine."

He paused as he heard the child's response.

"Yes, honey, I know. Your daddy is a very busy man. Uh huh. But... Well, yes, I...."

Another pause. Anderson inhaled deeply and counted to ten.

"Well, this is a matter of some importance and I really need you to wake up your daddy now."

Pause. The Watcher saw the women close the trunk and begin walking towards the theater. He sighed deeply at the reprieve. He had to get somebody else out here before the bitch caught him again. How Emil Holt kept up watch for so long without being seen was beyond Anderson's understanding.

"Look, kid," the man snapped, patience waning away to nothing. "Go get your daddy now! This is a very important.... Hello?"

The brat hung up on him!! Anderson tossed the 'phone into the back seat in disgust. Just stay out here and watch the car, he told himself. You don't have to get anywhere near her!

When they arrived at the theater, Rickie was surprised to find the stage outside. The seating area was covered, nearly three quarters of a building with one wall missing where the stage was located.

As the women were ushered to the first available seating, which was on the aisle halfway towards the stage, she turned to the warrior. "What's up with this?" She waved at the stage which was set with an apparently permanent building, the blue sky and a bit of a hill showing behind it.

"The Passion Play is always done outside. 'Under the sight of God,' as it were," Xena responded.

They reached their seats - space along a curved bench - and the dark woman set their items down. She spread out a folded blanket to pad their seating and gestured for the redhead to sit. The other blankets, two of them, were draped across the back of the bench in case it got chilly.

"So, they play it rain or shine?"

"And snow or hail, yep."

"Wow," Rickie said softly. "That's a lotta faith."

Xena smiled. "Yeah, it is. She picked up one of the canvas bags they had carried in. "Now, if I know Helmut...." She rummaged around and pulled out an apple with a grin. "Yep! Looks like there's a thermos in here, too. Want something to drink?"

Rickie shook her head. "Not yet. But, that apple looks pretty good." She took the proffered fruit and munched, idly watching the area fill up with tourists and the faithful. "How long is this play again?" When there was no answer, she turned just as Xena rose to her feet, back to the stage, a dark scowl on her face as she scanned the theater. "Xena?"

As Xena pulled the thermos out of the bag, a familiar, sickening feeling hit her. Her nerves went on edge, her stomach clenched and adrenaline pumped into her system. Her blood sang as she rose to scan the crowd, pale blue eyes flashing across the mortals in the room. The Quickening!

And landed on another woman who had just entered the theater with three other people. Their eyes locked, sapphire to deep brown. The other woman nodded at the warrior in recognition. She spoke with her people and broke away, gracefully heading towards the Immortal.

Rickie watched her lover carefully. She'd never seen Xena like this - ready to attack at the slightest provocation. No, wait a minute. That's not true, she amended, a vague memory of ancient Greece imposing itself on her mind. Okay, I personally haven't seen this before. As the dark woman's focus narrowed, she turned to have a look at what was drawing her lover's attention.

A young woman was approaching them. She looked not much older than Rickie, with long light brown hair that fell to her shoulders in waves and expressive brown eyes. She wore a beige flowered dress that ended modestly at her knees, a golden crucifix around her neck. For some reason, however, the redhead was sure that this woman was a lot older than she looked - the grace, the self confident movements that belied a mature woman secure in her familiarity with her body.

She glanced back at her lover and saw a myriad of emotions play across the beautiful face. Dread, distrust, wariness and a wistfulness that surprised Rickie. And then the woman was standing next to her seat, smiling at the dark woman whose face had finally settled into Warrior Mode.

"Xena! It's good to see you again!" the woman exclaimed, reaching to take the other woman's hand.

The warrior responded warmly, as well. "Jeanne. It's been a long time." She indicated the redhead, who rose. "Allow me to introduce Rickie Gardner."

The teenager shook the stranger's hand and grinned. "It's a pleasure to meet you." She puzzled over a flash of... something in the brown eyes. What was that?

"Jeanne is a very old friend of mine," Xena explained with an obvious inflection. She grinned wolfishly at the other woman's slight startlement. "Rickie is quite aware of my origins," she offered, draping a possessive arm over her lover's shoulders.

To her credit, the other Immortal's smile didn't falter. Much. "I see." She glanced at the people she had entered with, noting where they were sitting. "The play should begin any time now." She looked back at Xena, an eyebrow raised in question.

"This is holy ground," the darker woman said with a smile. "And I'm on a vacation. Not a hunt."

Jeanne nodded her light brown head. "Good. I don't want to mar this Sunday's performance." Glancing at Rickie, she put on a winning smile. "It was good to meet you. Perhaps we could get together for dinner?" And, with another quick smile to Xena, the strange woman left them.

The redhead watched her go. "Who was that?" she asked as she resumed her seat.

Xena was quiet for so long that Rickie almost asked again. The dark woman sat beside her. "A very old mistake," was the cryptic response.

"You're gonna explain that.... Right?" A small hand reached out and grasped the warrior's, bringing the dark woman back to the present.

Flashing a smile, Xena said, "Yes. I'll explain. But it's a long story." She looked at the stage where muted activity was beginning. "When the play's over? Tonight?"

Rickie studied her lover's face not only with eyes of a nineteen year old, but those of a woman old beyond her ken. Then she smiled. "You bet! On the way home then." Finding the apple still in her other hand, she took a bite. "Now, how long did you say this play was?"

The Prediger watched the women talk in the aisle. Eyes scanned them carefully, searching for the clue, the sign from God and the Schueller Phillip. The sign that said, This is the ONE.

The figure settled down, even as the women sat in their respective seats. The activity on-stage indicated a beginning and the theater hushed. As the first of the villagers made their way onto the stage, the Prediger saw it.

A flash of a smile, a spark in the eye. Was this the One then? Unsure, the figure studied the woman, feeling miserable at the failure to see. Further Penance was required. Fasting and prayer was needed to clear the mind so that God and His beloved Schueller could communicate more clearly with this unworthy vessel.

Further watching of the woman was required, as well.

Muttering quiet prayers, the Prediger ignored the few strange looks from neighboring seats. They know nothing of the glory of God, the pathetic heathens.

"Well, whaddya think, so far?" Xena asked her companion as they strolled back towards the auto during intermission.

"Pretty cool, actually. I've never been to a play before." Rickie scrunched her face up. "Of course, I'd probably like to see one in English."

The dark woman chuckled. "You saying I need to brush up on my many skills?"

Laughing as well, the redhead shook her head. "Nope, you're doing a great job of translating." They continued walking and, as they neared the auto, she asked tentatively, "You think we could go to a play in Portland sometime?"

"Sure. We can go see the Nutcracker at Christmas, if you want. And I think Phantom of the Opera is touring right now...."

"Oh, that'd be awesome, Xena!" The redhead bounced along excitedly.

Reaching their vehicle, Xena unlocked the trunk. As usual, German weather was a bit unpredictable and it had warmed up considerably. The blankets were no longer needed and were set inside, followed by the now nearly empty canvas bags that Helmut had sent with them.

Shutting the trunk, the dark woman turned to lean against it, gathering the teenager up into her arms. "Well, now what?"

Rickie snuggled closer, enjoying the attention. "Mmmm... Know of any secluded areas around here?"

Her lover chuckled and considered. Despite the fact she didn't feel the Quickening, thus indicating that Jeanne wasn't close, Xena didn't want to get into a compromising situation with the Immortal so near. Talk about getting caught with your pants down! "Unfortunately, no. I know of a decent restaurant, though."

Disappointed, the redhead sighed. "Well.... I could eat," she allowed with a small grin. She nuzzled the very nuzzle-able neck, nibbling the pulsepoint for good measure before stepping out of the comfortable embrace. "Lead on, oh, warrior-mine."

Xena rubbed a hand across the still tingling skin of her neck. "And you call me a cruel woman!" She reached out to take the offered hand, standing away from the auto.

"Hey, I've had lessons from the best," Rickie confided, slipping an arm around the dark woman's waist.

Together, the two women wandered through the lot, unaware of eyes on their movements. They threaded through the vehicles, Xena leading the way until she suddenly stopped.

"Xena....? Wha....?" the redhead asked before being motioned to silence. She watched in concern as her lover released her and stepped closer to an auto, peering into the driver window. Following her gaze, she saw a man appearing to be asleep in the seat. He looked vaguely familiar.

With an almost soundless growl, more felt by Rickie than heard, Xena wrenched open the auto door and grabbed the startled man by the collar. She unceremoniously hauled him out of the vehicle and held him up, his toes barely touching the concrete as he sputtered uselessly.

"I thought I told you to stop following us," she hissed, pale eyes narrowed in anger.

Anderson swallowed convulsively, trying to shake the cobwebs from his mind. His thoughts were incoherent, screaming that he was going to die now. "Wel... I... uh... I mean... uh... uh..." he stuttered, eyes looking wildly about for an escape.

"Tell me why I shouldn't kill you now, little man," the warrior growled, her grip around his collar tightening.

The result was less oxygen as the cloth cut into the Watcher's throat. He started to gasp and choke, his struggles growing. He heard the whisking sound of metal on metal. Suddenly, a butterfly knife appeared and he stilled his fighting as it was dangerously close to his left eye. Oh, shit! I'm dead! I'm fucking dead! he babbled to himself. The tip of the blade traced a fine line down his cheek and along the jawline, stopping at his chin.

Xena tapped the flat side of the blade on his chin. "You haven't answered my question, little man." Her voice was a low contralto, rumbling from her throat in dangerous waves.

The teenager watched all this for long moments, her emotions a whirlwind. The sudden violent tendencies her lover exhibited frightened her. A memory of her brutal rape filled her mind.

the creature was naked now, covered with her blood, its erection being forced into her mouth as it had done once before. it was smooth and slick and far, far too much for her. as it pounded into her, savage fingers digging into her head, she found she couldn't breath. it slammed at the back of her throat, abrading, bruising, choking. she felt her consciousness fade, the darkness around her closing in.

Rickie shook her head, banishing the image. Taking quick stock of herself, she found she was breathing erratically and sweating. She chewed her lower lip, indecisive. And then she heard Xena's voice in her head. Something the woman had said during many of their training sessions, both the present ones and the those from ancient times.

"Act! Don't react!"

Taking a deep breath, she followed her gut and stepped forward. In a voice that held more surety than her heart, she said firmly, "Xena, stop it! You're scaring him!"

Xena's response was to loosen her hold enough for the Watcher to breathe. As he took in huge lungfuls of air, she stared at him coldly. "Yeah?" she asked her lover. "So? Maybe I want him scared." She knicked his chin with the razor sharp blade, a manic little smile on her face and an eerie light in her eyes. "Are you scared, little man?" she whispered.

Anderson nodded emphatically. Scared didn't even begin to describe what he was feeling at the moment.

"Xena, put him down!" Rickie's voice brooked no argument.

The Watcher, with an uncomfortably clear view of the Immortal's face, saw a flash of irritation cross it. This was followed by the knife moving away from his face and the woman lowering him to stand on his own two feet. He bit back a sigh of relief, not wanting to attract the woman's attention as she turned to glare over her shoulder at her companion.

"Are you telling me to play nice?"

As the pale blue fire of Xena's eyes hit her, the redhead controlled her first response, which was to flinch. Her heart was in her throat until she saw the barest of a wink and a sparkle. With her courage bolstered, she said, "Yes! Behave yourself!"

Xena blew out a breath in apparent consternation. Turning back to her captive, she flipped the knife in her right hand and put it away in her jacket pocket. She then searched the man before her, coming up with a passport, a wallet, and auto keys. "Paul Robert Anderson," she intoned. "Pretty far from Rhode Island, ain't ya, Paulie?"

When he didn't immediately respond, she glanced at him sharply and tightened her grip on his collar. "Yes!" he squeaked.

"Why are you following us, Paulie?"

The watcher stuttered, torn between his vow to the group and the desire to continue breathing. "I... uh... I can't say..." He squeaked again as the grip on his collar squeezed more and she pressed up against him.

"That's not what I want to hear, Paulie," she growled.

The man swallowed audibly, his vision filled with the pale blue eyes of a demon.

"Xena, someone's coming," Rickie warned, seeing movement at the far end of the lot.

The dark woman's eyes narrowed, never leaving Anderson's face. "Guess you lucked out again, eh?" Pulling the man to the rear of his car, she used the keys to pop the trunk open. "Get in."

Feeling lightheaded with relief, the Watcher hastily clambered in. It was an uncomfortable fit with the spare and the jack, but at least he might live through this. He cowered in the small space as the Immortal towered over him, her lover behind and to one side.

A strong hand reached down and gently patted the flinching Watcher on the cheek. "Paulie, if I see you again, my lady's not going to stop me. We clear on that?" At his nod, she smiled evilly. "Good. Three times and you're out, little man."

He never knew what hit him as she drove a fist into his jaw and knocked him out.

Xena closed the trunk and glanced at the people walking into the lot. Moving around to the still open driver's door, she tossed Anderson's personal belongings and auto keys onto the floorboard and locked it up.

"C'mon, let's go," she told Rickie, taking her by the arm and casually strolling away. Her heightened sense picked up the ringing of a cellular phone and she grinned. Nothing like a little excitement to spice up the day.

Over a filling lunch of j”egerschnitzel and bier, Rickie asked, "So, why do you think he's following us?"

Xena shook her dark head as she cut her food. "Dunno. But, if he's smart, he'll go report to whoever that it's time to move on." She took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. "And Emil's gonna be in a world of hurt when we get home. He's gonna spill the beans, whether he wants to or not."

The redhead nodded. She took a swallow of bier. "Can I ask a question?"

Dark brows raised as the woman looked at her partner. "Of course."

"I know you said you'd tell me about Jeanne on the way home," Rickie shrugged. "But, how did you know that she was there? You seemed to know she was coming before she walked into the theater."

Xena nodded. "That's the extra little joy of being an Immortal. It's called the Quickening." She frowned as she searched her mind for some sort of description. "It's like going into battle for the very first time - everything is clear, your blood is on fire, reaction time is split second. It always happens when two Immortals get close to each other." She picked up her glass. "Kind of like an early warning device."

Rickie's own brow was furrowed in concentration. "I don't remember it," she finally said. "I know my memories of Greece are sketchy, at best, but I don't remember this... intensity, I guess, when we'd be attacked."

"Gabrielle didn't know about it," Xena explained. "It didn't manifest until after her death. I hadn't met another Immortal until afterwards, while I wandered around."

"Oh, okay."

There was a longer pause as Rickie ate, though Xena could see the gears working overtime in that gorgeous red head. Emerald eyes glanced quickly at her and away. "More questions?" she prodded with a slight grin.

Rickie looked sheepish. After three months with this dark, enigmatic Immortal, there were still subjects that hadn't been touched on. Not that she didn't wonder or thought there'd be a problem with asking. The subject had just never come up in conversation before. "Yeah." The teenager took another bite of her food. "Do you remember... you know... the first time?"

"The first time what?" her lover asked with a frown. "The first time I felt the Quickening or the first time I killed an Immortal?"

The redhead nodded with a grin. "Yeah."

Xena grinned in return. "Well, let's see." She searched her memory. "It was a long time ago. Not long after yo... I mean, Gabrielle died." She took another drink of her bier. "I was in Rome. Tiberius Claudius had just been made emperor - he was the grandson of Julius Caesar," she added.

Visions of a stern man with a round face and a smug smile came to Rickie's mind. "I knew him, didn't I?"

"Caesar? Yes, he was a thorn in my side for many years." Xena set her bier down. "Anyway, I was in Rome, at a little tavern when suddenly I got this absolutely weird feeling. I was so on edge, I'm surprised I didn't take the barkeep's head off by mistake!" The dark woman chuckled. "Gods know, it was close!"

Knuckles white as they gripped the table, stomach clenching, blood pumping. Barkeep approaching. "Want another?" Sword cutting through the air, stopping at the tender throat. "I don't think that's who you're looking for." Turning, eyes narrowed, scanning. Whipcord strength, sinew, gold and red armor. Centurion.

Rickie was leaning forward over the table in anticipation. "Well?" she demanded. "What happened?! Did you have to fight him?"

The Immortal chuckled. "No, actually. We sat and had a drink together. He explained the Game, the way things were. Gave me a name for what I was feeling when he came into the tavern."

The man, her self-appointed tutor, had been quite helpful. She had stayed in his home with his wife and adopted children for a week, learning all she could about this Immortality that had been thrust upon her. She discovered that there was no fighting on holy ground, that the only way to permanently kill another Immortal was to sever the head from the shoulders. The Centurion had been amazed to discover that she had had parents, had had a child. It set her apart from the other Immortals - all that he knew had been foundlings as children, and no joinings had ever produced offspring.

"That's when I became certain that it was the ambrosia that had caused this," Xena explained. "After staying for awhile, learning what I could, I moved on."

"What happened to him?"

The warrior shrugged. "He apparently got taken out by another Immortal a few decades later. At least, that's the scuttlebutt I heard." She lifted her glass. "Now, finish eating. We've got the second half of a play to catch."

Rickie took a bite of food. "You never told me the first time you beheaded an Immortal."

There was a nod. "It was a couple of years later. He was a Praetorian guardsman in Germania."

Getting the distinct feeling that there was going to be no more forthcoming on this story, Rickie sighed and dug into her food. That's okay. I'll get it out of her later, she thought to herself smugly, secure in her powers of persuasion.

At a table nearby, a dapper looking gentleman in a double breasted grey Italian suit, finished his lunch. His blue-grey eyes concentrated on the redhead.

As the pair entered the theater again for the second half of the play, Xena stopped and glanced around. Seeing the other Immortal approach, she murmured, "Hold on a minute," to the redhead.

Catching sight of the dark warrior and her companion, Jeanne changed course to meet them. "Xena. Rickie. Hello again."

"Hello," the teenager responded with a pleasant smile.

Xena merely nodded.

"You know, Xena, I realize we've had our... um... differences in the past," the woman began, brown eyes sparkling. "I was wondering if we could put them behind us?"

The dark woman studied the other Immortal. "I don't have a problem with that, Jeanne." Xena searched for words. "You had some pretty terrible things happen to you in a very short time span. It would have confused anyone."

"Well... Yes..." the brown haired woman said, a bit of discomfort apparent at the topic. "But, let's let bygones be bygones, shall we?" She smiled brightly.


"Good." Jeanne paused in thought. "Perhaps we could meet for dinner tomorrow night?" Catching Xena's eyes flickering towards the teenager with her, she raised her hands, her smile widening. "Both of you! Of course!" She settled a hand on each of the women's arms. "We have so much catching up to do. And you are on vacation, no?"

Rickie watched Xena's face, picking up the nonverbal clues. She wants to, but she's not sure. Must be a lotta water under this bridge. The redhead smiled up at her lover and spoke for both of them. "We'd love to Jeanne. What did you have in mind?"

And so arrangements were made for the three to meet at an up and coming nightclub for dinner and drinks in Munich. As the two vacationers had planned to stay over Monday night and leave Tuesday morning for the London auction, it worked into their plans quite well.

Jeanne turned as her friends called her name and she waved at them. "Well, I must go. Enjoy the play and I'll see you tomorrow evening!" And she left them.

Xena and Rickie moved to their seats, preparing for the last half of the play. As they settled down, the redhead turned towards her lover.

"Was that okay?"

"What?" She turned to Rickie, bringing a smile to her face in reassurance. "Yeah, it's okay. It's gotta happen sooner or later." I'd rather it were later....

It had taken the better part of an hour after he regained consciousness for Anderson to get out of the trunk of his auto. Thank God for the jack handle, he groused to himself as he shoved the back of the rear seat forward. It gave him just enough room to squeeze into the car.

Unlocking the door, he clambered out of the vehicle. The man pushed the back of the seat into place and plopped tiredly down in the car for a breather. I will not be caught again! he swore to himself. Because I ain't gonna be here!

He reached for the cellular phone he had tossed in back hours ago. Make the call and bail!

Eyes watched the woman carefully. She was a sinner. Of that there was no doubt. A mouth sneered in disgust at the obvious way she and the other woman touched each other. God will smite thee down, harlot!

And the Abomination of it! The audacity of attending the Passionsspiele with so much evil on her soul! The Blasphemy!

The Prediger prayed fervently to God that this was the One, the Schueller Phillip's Chosen. Every nerve in the figure's body was wound up, wanting to release the fury on this... this harlot for her Sacrilege.

But, there was still no clear sign from Him. No way to know for sure. And God would bring down His wrath if the Prediger misinterpreted and brought the wrong person to justice. Enlightenment would be gone and it would take buckets of blood in Penance to rectify it.

And so, the Prediger watched. Seethed. And waited for the Sign. Muttering prayers.

"Wow! That was cool!" Rickie exclaimed as they made their way through the busy lot towards their rental car. "What a finish!" Despite the language barrier, the redhead was unable to keep her eyes dry towards the end of the play. And she hadn't been alone, as most of the theater had been in tears.

Xena agreed. "Wasn't it? I go every year they do it."

"Really?" At the dark woman's nod, she asked, "So, we'll go... when? When's it play again?"

"Ten years. Every decade."

Rickie nodded. "Good. You can teach me German, then!"

Wrapping a long arm around her lover's waist, Xena chuckled, "You bet. You'll be talking like a native when I get done with ya."

The redhead jutted her chin at a blank parking spot. "Looks like your friend took you at your word," she giggled.

"Good thing for him," the warrior mock growled. "He'll be spitting out teeth next time."

The teenager chortled as they approached their own vehicle. "I'm surprised he didn't pee his pants! I know I almost did!"

Xena unlocked the door and opened it for her lover. "Really?" she asked, a look of concern crossing her face. "I didn't realize you were scared." She moved around to the driver's side and climbed in. "You know, Rickie, I'd never do anything to hurt you," she said seriously.

an ancient image. Xena? wild laughter, disheveled hair, death and destruction. run! get away! tangled ankles, falling. being dragged, gaining speed, impact! fire pits, rocks. the cliff.

Rickie shook the thoughts off, focusing on the here and now. She looked upon the solemn face of the woman she loved, the woman she had fought so hard to rejoin. "I know, Xena." She took a callused hand into hers, bringing it to her lips and kissing the palm. "I love you." She nuzzled the palm, enjoying the warmth as it slid past her cheek and into her hair. Soft lips brushed hers and she felt the familiar tension building in her belly as the kiss deepened. An then it was broken off, a forehead leaning against hers, pale blue fire staring into emeralds.

"And I love you." Xena inhaled deeply, trying to catch the essence of this young woman, her heart. With a final squeeze and a peck on the nose she pulled away. "C'mon, let's get back to the hotel." She started the car with a grin. "Before I take you right here in broad daylight."

Rickie's heart did a flip-flop at the carnal images that brought up. "Mmmm.... Sounds like fun," she murmured, licking her lips.

Xena rolled her eyes and forced herself to put the auto in gear. Down girl! She briefly entertained herself with thoughts of her Baccae moaning and writhing beneath her in the back seat. Oh, uh uh! You gotta stop that right now!

"So," Rickie interrupted the dark woman's thoughts. "You have a story to tell me? About you and your 'very old friend'?" She turned in her seat, curled up on her side as she had been that morning.

The warrior latched onto the change of subject like a drowning woman. "Oh, yeah. I do." Unsure where to start, she clammed up.

Sensing her lover's reticence, Rickie smiled. "Okay.... how about we start with when and where you first met....?"

Part IV

Return to the Academy

Author's Page