EYES OF THE PAST
Disclaimer: We all know that Xena, Gabrielle, Janice and Melinda are property of Renaissance Pictures, Universal Studios and MCA (have I covered everyone?). If I've missed anyone it was unintentional. RJ Roberts is entirely my creation, Dave was once a real person, and Katy and Francis live in my imagination only.
The lots-of sex-disclaimer: If the idea of reading about two women being in love with each other makes your stomach turn, you're reading the wrong tale. You'll probably want to read something of a more general nature. If that kind of love doesn't bother you, then by all means....read on!
Author's Note: Although Im not sure why Im mentioning this, I had a hard time writing the epilogue. I listened to Clannads "Lore" through most of the writing of this tale. "Trathnona Beag Areir" is a real tune (and from the aforementioned disc) and while the words are in Gaelic, the haunting symphony seemed appropriate for a funeral. I must have read this story at least twenty times, and each time the epilogue moved me to tears. If this story moves you, please let me know, it certainly moved me.
Feedback is welcomed at
Finished August 7 1999
Dedicated to Arlis
My lesson in happiness
August 7 1990-January 11 1992
Eyes Of The Past
Francis opened her eyes when she heard another thump. It was the third one since midnight, and this one didnt sound like a raccoon. Frustrated, she threw the duvet back and swung her long legs to the floor. Picking up the baseball bat that always leaned against the bed, she turned on her bedside lamp with her other hand. She padded barefoot and cautious throughout the house, turning on lights as she went. In the den, she found her computer blinking patiently.
The screen held one message only.
You know who you are.
"What the hell " Francis tightened her grip on the metal Louisville Slugger and rechecked every room. Then she heard voices in the living room. With her heart threatening to leap from her chest, she went to investigate. Much to her relief she found the television set on, tuned to a program about a female warrior. In a heartbeat she remembered that shed set the satellite timer to tape it. Francis had happened to catch ten minutes of the program the week before, and because it had looked interesting she had programmed the satellite and vcr timers to record this weeks episode. Which is why her television was on. Francis yawned widely, turned the set off and padded back to the den.
The computer still blinked at her. Francis sighed heavily and sank into the large leather chair. With a critical eye she studied the message on the monitor and considered the fact that she was alone in the house. In truth, Francis was alone in life. She leaned the bat against the desk within arms reach and cleared the screen. Turning the computer off, Francis had to admit that her loneliness was a result of searching without finding. She knew that the other half of her soul was out there somewhere;shed been searching for it for years without success. The very fact that she was alone spoke volumes about her life. Financially well off, smart, and very, very choosy. Not to mention wide-awake.
Sighing again, Francis slipped into a pair of favorite blue jeans, a rust colored sleeveless t-shirt and white running shoes, no socks. She brushed her hair and plucked the car keys from the hook beside the door. In minutes she was driving down near-empty city streets toward her favorite bar, The Sword N Staff. With no traffic to speak of she was there in minutes. As she stepped through the door the bartender looked up and smiled brightly.
"Ah Francis! Just the woman I wanted to see! Youre up late."
Francis shrugged out of her chocolate colored leather jacket and smiled back as she took a seat.
"It happens. Howd your sisters court case go?"
"Great! The lawyer you recommended, he got her a full settlement and custody. Its the happiest Ive seen her in years. Usual?"
Francis nodded and passed the money across the bar. The bartender shook her head and smiled.
Its on the house, my way of saying thanks."
Francis inclined her head gratefully.
While paying for her second bottle of Harp, Francis motioned with her chin toward the opposite end of the bar.
Lee leaned on the bar and toward Francis.
"Shes been in a couple of times. The first time she was quite a sight, all bruised and bandaged up like she was. Now that its been a coupla weeks, it looks like someone tried to slit her throat. She looks pretty upset tonight though, wonder what she sees in the bottom of that glass?"
"Give her another of what shes drinking; on me."
"Goin trollin?" Lee waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
Francis raised one eyebrow.
"I do have some tenderness and compassion you know "
Lee just laughed while she walked away.
So she wouldnt be seen as purposely trying to hit on the blond stranger, Francis concentrated on the glass of dark Irish ale in front of her. Her mind wandered to the dreams shed been having lately and the mysterious message on her computer. She knew somehow that they were connected, but for all her trying, she couldn't see how.
"So did you find the meaning of life?"
Francis turned to see whod spoken and looked into sea green eyes.
"Anyone studying their glass that hard must looking for the meaning of life." The voice was friendly enough, the smile sincere. It belonged to the blond that had been seated at the far end of the bar. "Thank you for the drink."
"Youre welcome." Francis smiled back and introduced herself, then invited the blond to take a seat.
"I havent seen you here before."
Francis felt a slow smile creep across her face and let her companion see it before responding.
"Is that a re-worked version of do you come here often?"
"Maybe it is " The small blond laughed, then stuck her hand out. "My name is Katherine, but I prefer Katy."
Francis studied her from the corner of her eye. She was a little over five feet tall, blond hair that fell to her shoulders, green eyes and a pale complexion. A black, sleeveless turtleneck was tucked into black jeans, and black runners were laced onto her feet. Because Francis relied heavily on body language, she studied that too. Katy seemed a little nervous, she glanced repeatedly at the shadows of the bar, her hands shook ever so slightly and she fidgeted. Francis answered Katys earlier question honestly.
"Yes, I try to make myself known around here. You?"
Katy swallowed, but didnt look at Francis when she answered.
"Not really, I dont go out much. Especially not at this hour."
"So why tonight?"
"The walls started closing in. I havent been out after dark in weeks, and it was getting to me."
This last admission took Francis by surprise, despite what Lee had told her. She was about to try and tactfully ask what could keep a person indoors that long when Katy turned toward her.
"What do you do for a living?"
"Im a lawyer. I specialize in helping battered women and mothers who are petitioning for custody. Im choosy, I take each case according to its own merits, I follow my gut. What do you do?"
Katy took so long to answer that Francis was beginning to wonder if shed heard the question. Katy stared into her beer, thoughtful and silent. Finally she answered in a small, wounded voice..
"I used to work pretty hard, but one night changed that. Now I dont usually go outside after dark. Tonight was an exception."
Francis watched Katy carefully and waited for her to continue.
"I went out by myself a few weeks ago and ran into some trouble. They beat me, took my money and left me for dead; now I jump at shadows Pretty pathetic huh?"
Francis shook her head and motioned to Lee. She asked the bartender to bring Katy another beer and a Coke for herself. When Lee had left, Francis turned to her companion.
"Sounds pretty normal to me. Im sure that if I had been in your situation, Id be nervous too. Before the attack, what did you work so hard at?"
"You sure you wont laugh?"
"Ill try not to."
"I am, was, a psychic. I used to help people with poltergeists, educate people about the spiritual realm; that kind of stuff. But ever since the attack I cant seem to reach that part of myself anymore."
For the next two hours they discussed a great deal of things. Life after death, heaven and hell, whether mankinds collective soul was in jeopardy, the necessity of dreams and reincarnation. All the while, Francis watched Katy drink more than she expected the blond could hold. She didnt slur or weave, but when she stood up it looked as though shed been hit by a brick. Francis caught her easily.
"Whoa, have a seat. You arent going anywhere like that ."
When Francis had helped Katy into her jacket, she slipped her own on and steered her off-balance companion toward the door. She waved goodbye to Lee and helped Katy to the car. While she unlocked the passenger door Francis eyed her warily.
"Do you feel queasy or anything?"
Katy laughed lightly and reached out to touch Francis arm.
"Relax, I wont mess the car."
Francis put her hand over Katys, still on her arm.
"I know. I was worried about you, not the car."
Francis helped Katy into the car, made sure she was buckled in and closed the door.
By the time shed strapped herself in and started the car, Francis heard the sounds of sleep coming from the passenger seat. She glanced at her passenger and smiled, feeling her heart go out to the jumpy blond. There was something about her Something fragile, innocent and unsullied; and familiar. Francis sighed and drove home deep in thought. At the house, Francis went in, turned on a light and went back for Katy. The blond was fast asleep and didnt show any signs of waking any time soon. Francis shrugged and unbuckled her companion, then lifted her effortlessly from the car. She laid Katy on the couch, then went looking for a spare blanket. A few minutes later, Katy was comfortably tucked in and sleeping soundly. She hadnt woken once.
Francis stood at the end of the sofa studying Katy. She looked so vulnerable that it took all of Francis self control not to take her in her arms. Francis shook her head and turned out the light, then went to bed. Unseen blue eyes watched her go and a slow smile appeared below them. As Francis slipped between cool blue sheets, those unseen eyes studied her carefully. The tall, lithe body in bed had no idea who she was, or who the blond on the sofa was, and neither expected that they would soon share a relationship that would change their lives. But they would learn
Katy was back there, being followed and chased. When they caught her, she was just as terrified as she had been the first time. They demanded her money, and again she gave it willingly. And again they slit her throat and left her for dead. But this time instead of lying alone in the shadows bleeding, she felt herself being held and comforted. She looked up in surprise, straight into familiar eyes in a strangers body.
"Youll be alright now."
"Who are you?" Katy felt safe in this womans arms.
"My name is Xena, Im here to help you. You need to slow your heart down or "
"Xena? You mean like the show? Youre real?"
"Calm down, then well talk." Her tone was firm and left no room for argument. Katy did as shed been told. Eventually Xena smiled.
"Yes, I was real. They got a few things wrong on the show, but not much."
"Was Gabrielle real too?"
"Oh yes, and shes your ancestor."
Katy was stunned into silence until Xena chuckled.
"Didnt expect that, did you? Believe me, I wouldnt lie to you."
Katy got up and turned to face Xena, but she was gone. Katy suddenly felt very alone and afraid once more.
Just as the fear threatened to overtake her, Katy saw someone coming toward her. Getting up to run, she heard a womans voice call out.
"Wait, please!" The woman stepped out into the light where Katy could see her. "Dont be afraid, I only want to talk to you."
She had shorter hair than Katy, but it was the same golden hue. The eyes that looked back at her might well have been her own, they seemed so familiar. She smiled warmly at Katy. "You wouldnt pass up an opportunity to talk to an ancestor hundreds of years old, now would you?"
"Gabrielle?" Katy heard the disbelief creep into her voice.
"Katy " Gabrielle smiled again. "Youve got to beat this fear. You face a much greater challenge than this, but getting past this fear is the first step."
Katy studied her predecessor carefully and silently. Gabrielle nodded a bit.
"I know how you feel. You cant see past it, you cant feel anything else, it takes over completely. But you must work through it, trust me. Francis is willing to help, let her."
In her dream, Katy began to pace; agitated, confused and unsure that all this wasnt just an alcohol-induced vision.
"But I barely know her! I mean, she seems very nice and everything but "
"Oh but you know her better than you think, just open your heart. I know what you feel for her. Its the same thing I felt for Xena all those years ago; its the same thing she and I feel today. You see, a little of Xena and I lives inside both of you. You two are soul fragments of each of us, so you two share a connection that goes back hundreds of years. I know that feeling. An attraction for another woman is a little disconcerting but trust me; you two are meant to be. Let her help you, let her love heal you. She needs you as much as you need her "
Katy sat bolt upright while crying out,
"Wait! I need you!"
Strong arms encircled her while a voice murmured comforting reassurances in her ear. Despite her claustrophobia, she felt safe and was content to be held in Francis arms.
A long time passed before Katy trusted herself to speak. She hadnt wanted to ruin the feeling flowing between them, but finally the urge to say something, anything, won out.
"Francis? Thanks weird dream I guess."
"Sounded pretty real to me" Francis didn't want to let Katy go, but she wasn't entirely sure why. So she continued holding her and stroking her hair. "Tell me about it."
So Katy shared her dream, every feeling and every word. Even what Gabrielle had said about Francis.
Francis had remained silent, occasionally making sounds of encouragement, but listening and remembering. And in her own soul, agreeing wholeheartedly with Gabrielle. When Katy had finished, Francis realized that the blond was waiting for her to say something.
"Do you want some water or something?"
Pleased that Francis hadn't scorned the dream-vision, Katy blurted out the first thing that popped into her head.
"I want to stay like this forever." She waited for a rejection that was not forthcoming, instead, Francis shifted to a more comfortable position and pulled the blanket around them both.
"Then we will. Sleep now, we'll talk later."
Francis held Katy while she slept, wondering if the explanation Gabrielle had given in the dream was the reason she was so attracted to the smaller woman. She'd only known Katy for a few hours, but already she knew a great deal about her. She knew that while Katy was afraid of going out alone, she'd done it. There was a bravery lurking inside this woman, as well as a sense of humor. She was convinced there was more to life than just chasing a dollar, that the pursuit of spirit was more beneficial and rewarding. Before the attack, she'd been doing what she loved. That in itself was more than most people could say. Francis sighed. Yes, she thought quite highly of Katy. As she slipped into sleep herself, she thought that forever was a nice time frame to spend with Katy.
Francis hadnt been asleep very long when she began to dream of a campfire. At first, she thought she was alone but a rhythmic scraping sound alerted her to anothers presence. Walking to the other side of the fire, she saw a familiar face.
"You! Youre "
"Real, yes. I know its hard to believe, but I was, am, real. Katy told you that. You doubt her?"
"No, but " Francis watched Xena sharpen a sword that was probably long gone to dust. "Do you know how many people would be happy if they could prove conclusively that you lived once?"
Xena stood and sheathed the sword in a graceful move and then knelt at the fire.
"Did Katy also tell you that you and I are family?"
"Gabrielle hinted, but I didnt think " Xena handed her a steaming mug.
"Well, we are. Theres sixteen hundred years between us but were family. Of all my descendants you are the one most like me."
Francis unconsciously raised her left eyebrow. Xena laughed.
"Yup, youve got that too." Then she fell silent while she poked at the fire. "Gabrielle is so much better at this " she muttered.
"Francis, I know you have feelings for her. She feels the same way about you, but shes shy. A lot like Gabrielle was at first, but be careful. If Katys anything like my bard, youre in for quite a ride." Xena looked up at her progeny and studied her thoroughly. "Do what research you can on Janice and Melinda, and youll find proof of our existence. In the meantime, follow your heart. Shes your soulmate, as Bri is mine. I know its hard " Xena grinned wolfishly, " but believe me, its worth it. You have to keep her safe for our bloodline to continue; dont let us down. Its time for me to go." Xena stood again.
"Wait! If she and I How will she "
"The Fates have our lives planned out for us you know. You won't know what's around the bend until you get there. You have to have faith..."Xena grinned. "For a lawyer, youre kinda slow sometimes."
"Will you be back?"
"Now and then." Even as Xena had faded from sight, her final words hung in the air. "When you run into trouble, call me. Ill hear you."
Francis woke up with a smile on her face. Katy was still in her arms and smiling too. The situation was almost too unbelievable. Going over the conversation with Xena, Francis had to admit that she was intrigued by the possibility of Xena and Gabrielle being more than just myth. Xena had given her a starting point, now it was up to her to find where history would take her. Carefully, Francis eased off the sofa. Making sure she hadnt woken Katy, she headed to the den to start researching. Two hours later, a light tap at the door reminded her of the outside world. Katy poked her head in.
"Am I disturbing something?"
"No! Cmere, I found something interesting."
Katy crossed the room in bare feet and Francis shirt. "What is it?"
Katy gave her a sideways glance.
"Im psychic, but Im not a mindreader. Want to elucidate?"
"Gabrielle and Xena both claimed to be our ancestors, and Ive found proof that while we are related to Janice and Melinda, theres no traceable proof that they were related to Xena and Gabrielle. Theres a point that family history is difficult to trace; the further back in time you go, the harder it is to find recorded lineage. As far as Xena and Gabrielle being the archeologists ancestors, we have only their word on it. But I think I believe her "
Francis told Katy about her conversation with Xena, but she also mentioned the nagging doubts she had about her own motives.
Katy sighed and put a hand on Francis shoulder.
"Ive tried to live life following my heart. While Ive been true to my gut instinct, Ive never gone wrong. Follow your heart, listen to what it tells you and ignore your doubts for a minute."
Then Katy left the room. Francis stayed where she was and tried to absorb the advice. Confused and frustrated, a few minutes later she went to the kitchen. Katy was gone, coffee was made and the sofa returned to normal. Francis was beginning to wonder if Katy had left, until the toilet flushed.
"Breakfast sound okay to you?" Francis asked when Katy came in.
"Sounds great. I hope you dont mind that I made coffee."
"Mind? Its nice to be surprised like that."
"You know, last night I enjoyed myself. A lot."
Francis agreed and they made breakfast together in companionable silence. By the time they finished the meal, Katy was looking uneasy about something.
"Get a piece of shell with your eggs Katy? Whats on your mind?"
"I know how this is going to sound, and I dont want to make you uncomfortable or anything, but I know youve got work to do and "
Francis chuckled deep in her chest.
"Whoa Just say it Katy. Visiting a client in prison is uncomfortable for me, not talking to you."
"I just dont know where to go from here." Katy was suddenly shy, and Francis realized that she meant more than just breakfast. Francis reached out and touched Katys hand lightly.
"I guess it all depends on where we want it to." Francis pulled her hand back and picked up her mug. "I for one, have taken the day off work. I have no plans what so ever. You?"
"I havent done much since I was mugged. I guess I should check my e-mail and get some clean clothes."
"Feel like spending the day together?" Even as she said it, Francis felt exposed and open to rejection. She apparently had nothing to fear though, because Katys face lit up at the suggestion.
Half an hour later they were parking the car in the visitors lot of Katys apartment building.
"Wonder what theyre doing here?" Katy pointed to a couple of police cruisers parked by the door. When she got to her apartment, she found out. A uniformed officer stopped her as she reached for the doorknob.
"Sorry Miss, no ones allowed in. Police investigation."
"But this is my apartment, whats going on?"
"I think thats all we need for now Miss." The officer put away the notes hed been taking. "I wouldnt stay here tonight if I were you. Do have somewhere else you can stay?"
"She can stay at my house" Francis spoke up. The officer glanced up at her and nodded.
"Theres a few things Id like to get; clothes, toiletries "
"Of course. Were done dusting for fingerprints now."
While Katy went into the bedroom, Francis gave the officer her home and office telephone numbers and explained that Katy would stay with her until it was safe to come back.
"Our biggest problem right now is that we cant see a motive beyond burglary. Until we can decide on a motive, I dont know when itll be safe to come back here."
Francis nodded knowingly; this wasnt the first time shed seen something like this.
"With her personal identification stolen during the mugging, perhaps the thieves figured there was more to be gained by coming here. Tell her to call if she has any questions, okay?"
Francis nodded again and went to find Katy.
She found her in the bedroom packing a bag with clothes.
Francis sat on the bed looking at her blond friend.
Katy nodded slowly.
"I guess so. Im a little shell-shocked, but Im glad youre here. I feel safer with you. I cant help but wonder if Ill ever feel safe again "
Francis rose and quickly took Katy in her arms. As soon as they touched, Katy succumbed to the tears that had been threatening since they arrived. Francis held her while she wept, saying comforting things and feeling very protective. When Katys tears had abated, she sniffled.
"When they mugged me and slit my throat I was so scared, but last night I thought that maybe it was over. Now theyve broken into my apartment and I feel more violated than before. How can I ever feel safe again?"
"Ill keep you safe Katy, dont worry Youre safe with me." When she felt Katy nod, Francis looked down and wiped away frightened tears. "Lets get the rest of your things together, and well get out of here."
"Are you sure you have everything you think youll need?" Francis asked again. "Do you need anything to work with? You can use my computer if you need one, just grab whatever disks you'll need." Katy nodded. "Okay, if youre ready "
A uniformed officer escorted them out to Francis car, handed Katy the bag hed been carrying and went back inside. The drive was a quiet one, and Katy said nothing until the door was closed and locked behind them.
"Francis, I dont know how to thank you "
"Just be yourself and dont let this thing beat you. Im here for you... You know, its mid-afternoon and Im starting to get hungry. What do you like on your pizza?"
Three weeks had passed since Katys apartment had been broken into. She and Francis had settled into a comfortable routine with no adjustment problems, they had sorted out household tasks and found life together suited them both. Late one night, Francis was bent over legal books making notes for an upcoming court case. Shed been at it for hours without even realizing it until Katy began massaging her stiff shoulders. Without a word, Francis dropped her pen and lowered her head to the desk. Silently, slowly, Katy kneaded the tension from Francis stiff shoulders and neck.
"Youve worked hard," Katys lips were close to Francis ear, "Why dont you call it a night and have a soak. I drew you a bath that I promise youll enjoy."
"Hmmm, that sounds good."
A dozen candles lit the bathroom, the water was hot and scented and soft music played from a portable stereo. Francis soaked until the water grew cool and emerged much more relaxed. She found Katy meditating in the living room. Although shed tried to be quiet, Francis saw Katy smile.
"Enjoy your bath?"
"Oh yeah, theres only one problem."
"Hmm?" Katy was smiling wickedly now.
"I have this need and I think you know it." Francis kneeled behind the blond and put her lips very close to Katys ear while rubbing her shoulders. "What did you put in the bathwater?"
Katy, still smiling, leaned into Francis and murmured,
"If you like the bath, wait until you see the bedroom."
Francis chuckled softly as she followed Katy down the hall. Katy was shy, but creative. The bedroom had also been festooned with candles, and littered with roses. Francis turned to Katy and took her by the hand.
"If I didnt know any better, Id say youre trying to seduce me." Francis was husky with restrained passion.
Katy looked up, her eyes were clouded over with something shed never felt for another woman.
"If I knew what I was doing, I might agree. But "
Francis reached out to run a finger along Katys jawbone, a sensuous touch to put Katy at ease.
"Follow your heart, a wise person once said to me."
Slowly Francis relieved Katy of each piece of clothing, she accented movement with kisses to nervous flesh until Katy relaxed completely. But Katy surprised even herself as she reached for Francis neck to pull her in to share their first kiss. It was much more than she expected. Francis lips were soft and gentle and the very touch of her hand on a bare shoulder sent Katy to a kind of heaven shed never been to before.
"I need " Katy didnt finish, but kissed Francis elegant throat instead, then started sliding Francis clothes off.
"I know, I need you too." Katy felt herself lifted and then carried to the bed. They made love slowly and passionately at first, and then with great hunger and urgency as they fulfilled an unrealized need to know and please one another. They fell asleep with happy smiles, and some time around dawn Francis dreamed of Xena again.
"See? Told you its worth it." Xena smiled and walked off into the sunrise. The same sunrise that woke Francis up to see Katy watching her.
Katy smiled and a joy grew in her eyes that Francis hadnt seen there before.
"What?" Francis asked.
Im happier right now than I have been for a long time, all because of you." Katy reached out and stroked Francis eyebrows. Her voice was soft as she shared what was in her heart. "I feel as if Ive known you forever, its like youre part of my soul."
"Xena said were soulmates, maybe thats why were so good together." Francis replied. "Move in with me Katy. All your stuff; lock, stock and barrel. This place feels more like a home with you in it, my life feels more complete with you in it and I feel like Ive found my souls other half. Please say you will."
"Are you sure you want to share your home and life with a psychic?" Katy laughed, but the question was serious.
"More than Ive ever been sure of anything else Katy." Francis was watching Katy intently; afraid shed be rejected.
Katy raised herself up on one elbow and peered at her lover. Then she kissed her gently.
"Yes, Ill live with you. But only if you make love to me again."
"Hmm, already with the blackmail " Francis laughed and flipped them over so that she could watch the sea green eyes below her blaze with passion. She didnt think life could get any better.
One month after Katy had moved in, she had finally started to come out of her shell. The two women shared their lives and a home quite happily together, and Katy had started working again. Much to Francis surprise, Katy had started taking a martial arts class. As a result, her confidence had grown and, although she still wasnt entirely comfortable doing so, she was able to go out by herself at night. Which was good since Francis wasnt always able to go with her. One cool evening Francis was able to leave the office earlier than shed expected, despite having told Katy it would be a late night. As expected, she found Katy at the dojo working hard on her form and stance. While the students went through their excersises Francis watched Katys face. It was nice to see determination there instead of hesitation. As the roomful of students bowed to the Sensei, Katy spotted Francis and smiled.
Katys attention shifted to somewhere behind her lover and the smile curdled as quickly as milk in the sun. Francis turned in time to see a young man stroll past her, then bend to pick up a little girl. She glanced quickly back at Katy but her attention was focused on another student who was talking excitedly. Francis looked back at the young man. He was smiling and complimenting the little girl, unaware of Katy or the look she had given him when he had entered the dojo. They left, and shortly thereafter Katy came over to Francis side.
"Hi." A small smile and a quick kiss on the cheek accompanied Katys quiet greeting. Francis was taken by surprise; usually her girlfriend wasnt so demonstrative in public. She was surprised, but pleased.
"Glad to see me?"
Katy nodded, still smiling. As she put her running shoes on again, Francis kneeled at her feet and began tying the laces.
"You dont have to do that " Katy reached down to tie the laces herself.
"I want to." Francis covered the smaller hands with her own as she spoke, her voice low. "I know Ive been working late a lot lately and I want to make it up to you."
"By tying my shoes for me?" Katy asked with a grin.
"No, my warrior-in-training. By taking you out to dinner tonight, and taking the day off work tomorrow."
Just as Katy opened her mouth to say something, a woman came to stand beside Francis, who was just finishing the knot on Katys last shoe.
Katy stood up and introduced Francis to her fellow student.
"Francis, this is Danielle. Danielle, my girlfriend Francis."
This really surprised the raven-haired lawyer; she hadnt been expecting that.
But either Danielle hadnt heard or the intimate nature of their relationship didnt matter to her.
Danielle smiled at Francis and asked Katy when she could come and check out the noises in her house. Katy looked at the floor, chewing her lip, and Francis knew she was thinking.
"Ill have to get back to you tomorrow morning on that My daybook is at home "
Francis was confused, she was well aware that her partner knew her schedule by rote. What she didnt understand was why Katy was stalling. But she kept quiet until they reached the car. As she opened the door for Katy, Francis broached the topic.
"Usually you know your schedule by heart; whats with the delay?"
"I wanted to ask you to come with me when I do it. If you want to, I thought we could go according to your schedule."
Katy was full of surprises tonight, Francis mulled as she circled the car to the drivers door. Although none were unpleasant, they were curious in their number. There was something that felt different about Katy tonight, but nothing that could be easily explained. All during the drive home she was quiet and sat with crossed arms and a hand covering the long scar at her throat. At home, she dropped her coat on a chair and her workout clothes on the bedroom floor; again causing Francis to wonder what was going on in that blond head. Usually Katy was a neatfreak. After Katy had been in the shower a minute or two, Francis strolled in.
"Want me to wash your back?"
"Hmm? Oh, sure." It was the first thing Katy had said theyd left the dojo.
"If you arent feeling up to going out to dinner " Francis began.
"Im fine. Dinner with my favorite lawyer sounds good."
"Youre sure? We lawyers arent a very popular bunch "
"Anyone gives you a hard time, Ill defend your honor." Katy grinned as she turned to face Francis. "Would you pick something out for my to wear? I dont even know where were going."
"Youll like it, trust me."
"I wouldnt trust anyone else, dear heart." Katy smiled and leaned out to kiss her love tenderly, but there was something missing.
Francis smiled back, but said nothing about her observations. It was enough that Katy was still trying to smile. For now.
It was when Katy was on her third margarita that Francis noticed how quickly she was drinking. Even though they occasionally drank at home, Katy hadnt drunk this quickly since theyd met. Now Francis was sure that something was up. They were at an out of the way table at Katys favorite Mexican restaurant, and because it was well after the dinner hour, they were afforded some measure of privacy. Francis took both of Katys hands in her own and looked her in the eye.
"Katy Theres something going on in that head of yours. You havent been yourself since I picked you up. Whats on your mind?"
Katy smiled, trying to be reassuring.
"Nothing except the bluest eyes in the world. Thank you for picking me up. Are you sure you wont be disappointing anyone by taking the day off?"
Francis raised one seductive eyebrow and a slow grin eased across her face.
"Ive made plans for us that will take all day long to fulfill, my love. I promise youll enjoy yourself. But not if youre hung over." Francis kissed both of Katys palms and lowered her voice. "Right now I just want to get you home and make mad, passionate love to you. Feel up to it?"
Passion clouded emerald eyes and Katy began to breathe a little faster. It didnt take long to get home.
"Oh geez Francis you gotta Im gonna, gonnagonnagonna Francissss!"
Katys muscles spasmed and rippled with the force of this last orgasm, while Francis held her close and murmured terms of endearment in her ear. When she was finally able to get her breathing under control, Katy rolled toward Francis and looked deep into her eyes.
"I feel so safe with you. What did I do all those years without you?"
"I dont know, what did you do?"
Katy closed her eyes slowly, sighed and opened them again. When she did, they were full of pain and uncertainty.
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"K what is it? You know you can tell me anything."
Katy sat up and pulled her knees close, her mind a thousand miles away. Francis slid over behind her and wrapped her long arms around her lover, and waited. When Katy did start to speak, it was in a voice small and far away.
"Theres a lot about me that you dont know. Youve never once asked me about my past "
Francis ran her hands along her lovers arms and kissed the back of her neck.
"I figured that you would tell me when you were ready."
Katy hung her head until she could rest her head on her knees.
"I didnt want to tell you in case "
"In case I turned away from you?" Katy nodded, but still wouldnt look at Francis. "Katy, dont you know that I love you more than that? What ever it is, it wont drive me away I promise."
"A long time ago I was another person. I went by another name, my hair was a different color the works. I was married too. But the relationship went slowly sour. He started getting violent when I got pregnant. I tried time and again to leave him but something always got in the way. I was able to sneak out a week before I gave birth. I went through labor surrounded by strangers and left as soon as the baby could travel. He found us though. We were asleep in a shelter when he snuck in and kidnapped my son " Katys voice drifted off and Francis knew this must have been hell to go through. "He threatened to kill our son unless I let him have custody. I tried the police but they didn't believe me; most of them were his poker buddies. The lawyer I got didnt really seem to want to do much... maybe if Id had more money Eventually I had to give in. I had no cash, no powerful friends like he did, and no other choices. So he has my son "
"Oh Katy " Francis could feel the resignation in her girlfriend. There were no tears, no crying out against an unjust system; just absolute surrender.
"I havent seen my son in two years. I dont even know what he looks like Francis."
"So why change your name?"
"He started sending me threatening letters, then calling at all hours of the night. I eventually had to move and start over under a different name, but hes always found me."
"So whats with the look you gave the guy at the dojo?"
"Thats one of his friends."
Katy said no more on the topic. She was silent and still, and Francis was beginning to wonder if shed fallen asleep. As a lawyer, she couldnt imagine justice being this warped, but she believed every word. She made up her mind to do what she could for the woman she loved.
"What name did you go by when you were pregnant?" she whispered.
"Maevis Roberts." Katy answered in a strangled voice. "Do you hate me for not being honest with you?"
"Hate you?" Francis pulled Katy around so that she was facing her. "How could I hate you, why would I hate you? For wanting to keep a skeleton in the closet? In the grand scheme of things love, thats a minor thing to hate someone for. Everyone has skeletons in their closet. It doesnt matter to me what name you answered to then, or now, because I love the person and the soul behind the name. I love you more for trusting me enough to tell me this, do you understand? This wont drive me away. Im here for you; always." Then Francis gathered the smaller woman into her arms and held her tightly. Rocking her ever so slightly, Francis whispered to Katy.
"Sleep now love, Ill be here when you wake up, I wont leave you."
Some time later Francis eased Katys sleeping form under the sheets. It had taken her a long time to fall asleep, but exhaustion and her lovers promise to stay close had finally won her over. Francis wanted to crawl into bed and hold Katy all night, but she was too angry. She was angry that Katy had been treated so cruelly, angry that justice hadnt been served and that shed been allowed to fall between the cracks. It was unbelievable that even in this day and age such a miscarriage of justice went unchallenged. Francis went to the window and laid her forehead against the glass. The flood of rage had threatened to overwhelm her but it was beginning to wane.
"Xena what do I do? I would take revenge if I could but I dont know where to start. Help me please."
A sound from the kitchen was her only answer. Checking that Katy was still fast asleep, Francis went to the kitchen.
Francis flipped the light on and nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw Xena sitting at the table.
"Geez Xena, couldn't you have visited in the bedroom?"
"And what would Katy have said about that?" Xena let a smile slide across her face.
"She's asleep, thank heavens." Francis sank into a chair and ran a hand over her face. "I didn't think she was ever going to give in." Francis' face transformed into a mask of fury. "Do you have any idea what she's been through?"
It took Francis almost an hour to tell Xena everything that Katy had shared with her. She paced, ranted and raved and gnashed her teeth about being part of an incompetent legal system.
"I have all this anger and nothing to do with it!" She slapped the refrigerator in frustration.
Xena stood up and put a hand on Francis' shoulder.
"You're a lawyer, start there. You do what you can, and I'll do what I can. Whatever else you do, keep your plans for today the same. If you change your schedule she may take it personally. She's a lot like a certain bard that way." Xena grinned slightly and was gone.
Francis shook her head and smiled a little. Then she turned out the light and went to bed. She woke up a few hours later with the sun and an idea. Lightly kissing Katy, she tucked the duvet around her and slipped out of bed. Pulling on a robe as she walked, Francis mulled over her seed of an idea. As the computer went through the first steps of starting up, Francis scribbled on a piece of paper. Three hours later she saved her findings on a disk and headed for the shower. While the hot water coursed down her back she went over what she'd found. Katy's ex-husband had never filed for divorce or custody, but was listed as separated. Katy or Maevis as she'd been called then, had filled out the birth certificate for her son and named him R.J Roberts. There was a trail of various addresses and unlisted telephone numbers for Katy, these ended with the apartment she'd had when she met Francis. She had also found the police report from when Katy had been mugged. While there were parts that had been left incomplete, there was enough to give Francis a good idea of Katy's injuries at the time.
The hospital forms on file had to be "creatively found" and Francis was thankful she didn't have to seek outside help to get the answers she needed. She wasn't ready to share what she was doing just yet. Francis' mind had wandered and she hadn't even begun to wash her hair yet when the shower curtain opened. There stood Katy looking rumpled and sleepy.
"Is this a private party or can anyone join?"
"Oh no, this is a private affair. Reserved for the owner of my heart." Francis reached out and helped Katy into the shower. Although it wasn't the first time she'd seen her girlfriend's scars, Francis looked on them with fresh eyes now.
"So are you going to call Danielle this morning?" Francis turned Katy and washed her back.
"Are you sure you want to come along? You don't even know what you're getting into."
"So tell me."
"She says there's cold spots in the house and violent spirit activity. She wants me to come and try and make contact. If I can, she wants me to convince the spirit to leave." Francis stopped washing, her movements being frozen by surprise. "Change your mind?" Katy sounded disappointed.
"No...You can do that? Get it to leave, I mean."
"I don't know. It depends on what's happening, why the spirit is there, if it even recognises that it's time to move on...All kinds of things factor into it."
Francis started to wash Katy's hair. "You set it up and as long as I don't have a court date, I'll be there."
Katy was pleased.
Francis had planned on driving out to Iron Bridge and having lunch at a seafood restaurant but sometime during the shower had changed her mind. While Katy was on the telephone with Danielle, she made up a picnic for two and packed the trunk with a blanket and a cooler. Not long afterwards they were on the road. It was a light hearted drive with the wind in their hair, the sun shining down and good music on the stereo. Their picnic lunch was almost ant free and very filling. They were laying in the sun relaxing when Francis sat up. She sat facing Katy's back and began to rub the warm flesh.
"I could get used to this..." Katy mumbled.
"Don't ever leave me Katy. Stay with me while we grow old together."
"What?" Katy sat up now. "Are you serious?"
"Very. I was going to renovate the house anyway. Make the den larger, add on a big porch...Close your mouth love, you'll catch a fly."
"How can you ask something like that knowing what my past is?" Katy got up and walked to the side of a creek they'd chosen to picnic beside. "You know he eventually finds me no matter where I go. He makes sure I'll never have a normal life. I'll never be able to stop running from him and I'll never get my son back, you don't want to spend the rest of your life saddled with my baggage."
"Yes, I do."
"No you don't. Look, I know the sex is great but..."
"Is that what you think?" Francis was stunned. "This is about so much more than sex Katy." She went to stand behind her lover and wrapped her arms around her. "My whole adult life I searched for someone who would make me happy, and I never found them. With you, I'm beyond happy. I feel complete for the first time. My heart is yours Katy, can't you see that?" Then Francis realised something and she let go of Katy. "Unless you don't feel the same..."
Katy spun around and grabbed her lover's arms before she could step away.
"No! That's not it at all! I do love you, believe me. I just don't want to burden you with my past. If I had the choice, I'd gladly grow old with you."
"You DO have the choice, love. Take back your life; don't give him any more power over you than he's already had. We'll fight him together Katy; you and I. Trust me, we can do it. We can even petition for custody if you'd like."
"Custody?" Now it was Katy's turn to be stunned. "You want...?"
"If you do."
"Do you know what you're getting into?"
Francis did her best Xena impression with crossed arms and raised eyebrow.
"I have an idea, yes. I help people with things like this for a living remember? Think about it; you don't have to answer right now."
The drive home was more solemn than the drive out had been. Francis knew that Katy had some thinking to do and respected that by leaving the radio off. Katy was still shocked. She knew Francis loved her; she showed her in a myriad of ways. But Katy hadn't expected this. Especially not after what she'd revealed last night. It was one thing to grow old together, but Francis was willing to help her get R.J back. For two years he'd been all she ever wanted. Sometimes in her dreams at night she could still feel him breastfeeding and hear him crying; and her heart ached with emptiness. The passing months didn't ease the pain or lessen the guilt, it only made it sharper. She had no idea what her son looked like, and that was hard to swallow. But the most painful truth of all was that she had allowed this situation to continue by not fighting for her son. Now she had found love and support in someone she hadn't expected to find. Eight months ago she would have laughed if anyone had suggested that Katy would fall in love, especially with a woman. Due to a rigid, puritan upbringing, love with another woman hadn't been Katy's style. But she knew that it was love, pure and simple. Yes, she was definitely in love with Francis. She watched surreptitiously as the raven haired lawyer drove them home. Katy studied the chisled profile, took notice of the concentration as Francis watched the road and gazed at the slender hands as they held the wheel. With a wave of emotion, Katy knew without a doubt that she would willingly spend the rest of her life with this woman. Katy smiled broadly, which Francis noticed immeadiately.
"What?" She asked, glancing over.
"Yes? To all of it?" Francis wasn't sure if she understood.
"All of it. Spending the rest of my life with you, getting my son back, growing old together...everything."
Francis took Katy's hand and held it tightly. If she had won the lottery yesterday, she wouldn't have been happier. They smiled the whole way home.
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