After the Fire

(Or The Edge II)

Part XII

By thenorm

Disclaimers: Hey, these characters, the story, etc. are mine...they just might look a little familiar to you if you watched a certain show with the initials, "Xena: Warrior Princess."

Violence & Language: A little violence, a little profanity; this one may have to get an R rating.

Subtext/Hurt & Comfort: Well, the lead girls in this story have this saying: Men are fine, as long as they aren't where they don't belong - the bedroom. Hurt & Comfort - gosh, since it's a sequel and the first one had that stuff, I suppose this one must have it as well.

Thank You So Much: To Kam, who has been reading tiny bits and pieces of this at a time (aren't you tired of that yet?); to Jo, the Webmistress that puts up with this irritating bard; and thanks to Jen, 'cause you know why.

Hey, this bard's hungry…

Sheesh, enough of this already…on with the story! J

Chapter 1

The rays of the morning sun poured across the tiles of the kitchen floor like a spilled drink. The strawberry blonde tumbled slowly out of her bed, unwilling to acknowledge the unwelcome light that had the audacity to greet her. Her green eyes barely open, she made her coffee on autopilot. There was no such thing as morning without coffee.

Especially now.

She stepped outside, lit a cigarette and coughed. Even as blessed relief eased her headache, her body rebelled from her new addiction.

So did her mind.

Okay, so she wanted something new. Something different, something to take her mind off the fire and all the explosive secrets.

But not this.

She exhaled and tried to push these thoughts from her mind. It was just too early to be this depressed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Hey, you got that two egg ready, Sam?" Christina Stavros looked at the clock. Six a.m. This day seemed too long already.

"Damn, you just called it out," she replied she as put the plate in the pass-through window. "What's your major malfunction this morning?"

"Just do your job." Her voice was steely cold. She didn't mean to be so bitchy; it just came naturally.


Christina wasn't intentionally bitchy with Samantha. It just seemed to be more and more how she was. Maybe being nice was just an illusion.

She flipped a few pancakes on plate as she tried to swallow the memories that threatened to engulf her.

"I thought I could do this." Abigail's serious tone wiped the smile from Christina's face. "I thought I could handle it."

"What are you saying?"

"When all that came out about you and your past, that you'd killed Lita Callison's brother, and then me being abducted by her and having to watch you try to kill her," she paused as she struggled not to retch at the memory. "I thought somehow, we'd get through it. Or I'd get through it."

Christina stood still, her shoulders dropping slightly.

"But I can't. Everything in this town, this apartment, my life, reminds me of her." Her green eyes welled with tears as she cleared her throat. "And of you. Who you were and who seems to be simmering under your skin."

"I'm sorry, Abigail. If I could undo that, I would." The tall brunette swallowed her pride like a lump in her throat.

"But you can't. You can't take it back, you can't change it." She fumbled to open her pack of cigarettes. "And I can't either."

"When did you start smoking?" It was the first time Christina had ever seen Abigail smoke.

"Don't change the subject," she replied curtly as she lit her cigarette with shaking hands. She inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled.

"I'm sorry," Christina lied. The lump in her throat felt like a cancer spreading through her soul.

"Well, the fact of the matter is, I thought I could just brush it aside, but I can't. I live and breathe it every day." She took another drag and summoned her courage. "I need a change. Without you."

The tall brunette seemed to shrink before her eyes.

"Christina," Abigail responded softly as she touched her girlfriend's slumped shoulder. "I'm not saying it's over. I don't want it to be over. I just need some time to think. And I can't do it here. We work together, live together - we even know the same people. I need somewhere else to get my head together, to find me before I can even think about going on with us."

The pain that Christina felt quickly turned to rage as her shoulders tightened from the unwanted contact.

"The lease is up on this apartment. I'll re-sign it if you want to stay here."

"No," she answered as her heart iced over. "That really isn't necessary." The wrath in her voice reverberated in deliberate softness. "I've got somewhere to be."

"Are you sure?" Abigail moved towards Christina, then stopped as the coolness between them descended upon her.

"Oh no, you've helped me enough. I know how to stand on my own two feet. Been doing it a long time."

"Christina," she sighed as she tried to keep it together, "Please don't…"

"Don't what?" Her blue eyes flared as she turned away. "You do what you need to do and I'll do what I need to do." She paused and took a deep breath. "I'll be out of here by tomorrow evening."

"Oh, God," Abigail whispered as her green eyes clouded with tears. "This isn't what I meant."

"Hey, you need space." The tall woman stepped away from the strawberry blonde and turned towards the door. "You got it. In spades."

"You know I love you."

"Yeah? Well, keep in touch." Christina longed Abigail to tell her she loved her, but the pain in her chest seemed to choke the words in her throat. "I gotta go to work."

"You wanna talk about it?" Her co-worker asked, bringing her back from her memories of last week.

"What's to talk about?" Christina demanded as she attacked the flat grill in a cleaning frenzy. "Competition in this nowhere town is getting tough."

"The hell you say," Samantha exclaimed. "She left you for someone else?"

"I'm talking about business." She turned towards the black woman, holding the charcoal grill brick like a knife. "Not her. Got it?"

"Yeah," Samantha replied as she rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

They worked together in stony silence.

"Hey, Christina," Jack called out as he rounded the corner. "Heard from Abby this week?"

"What the hell is this?" She rolled her eyes in exasperation. "No, I haven't heard from her. No, I don't want to know about her. No, she didn't leave me for someone else. You guys have any more questions?"

"She said she's been trying to call you." His words died in his throat as he met her icy stare. "Jeez, don't kill me, I'm just the messenger."

"Don't mind her, Jack," Samantha cut in. "She's just got something on her shoulders heavier than the weight of the world."

"Oh, yeah? What's that?"

"Her ass."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Abigail looked at the sea of trees surrounding her and wondered if this was such a good idea. She did love Christina, but….well, with all that happened, all she could think about was Lita.

Lita Callison, the psycho from Hell. She sucked down a cigarette as she tried to push the memories away.

"Here you go, hon." The older woman with curly auburn hair handed her a cup of coffee. "Listen, I'm not gonna tell you I told you so, but…"

"Thank you," Abigail interjected, cutting Trish off. "Besides, it was me, not her."

"What?" Trish exclaimed as she choked on the inhaled smoke.

"It was my decision."

The strawberry-blonde sighed as she pulled another one from the half empty pack.

"So? What's the story here?"

"It was more than I could handle." She lit the new one and took a deep drag. "I thought I could handle it - the secrets, Lita Callison - but I couldn't."

"What are you talking about?"

"That secret past of Christina's." Her voice was flat as she struggled to continue. "I thought I could roll with it, you know? It happened before we met, after all."

"You're being overly dramatic. Secret past?"

"Did I tell you what she did?"

"Go on about these secrets any more and I'm gonna think you've been watching too many soaps. It's not like she killed someone." Trish watched in horror as Abigail's face changed.

"Trish, you can't breathe a word of this." She shut her verdant eyes and took another drag from her shrinking cigarette. "Christina isn't who we think she is."

"You gotta be kidding."

"That's not even her real name." The younger woman shook her head as she forced herself to go on. "She used to fight, like in those stupid karate movies. One of her fights went too far, and the guy she fought died."

"No way. This can't be for real."

"The fight was with Lita Callison's brother."

"This has got to be a sick joke." Trish shook her head. This sounded too much like a scene out of a bad movie; there was no way this could be true. "You girls watch way too much TV."

"Christina's fight name was Special K."

The older woman brushed her frosted highlights out of her face as the implications hit her like a ton of bricks. "So when did you find out about all this?"

"The same time when everyone's friendly neighborhood psycho decided she couldn't live without me. Remember when my mother came to town?"

"Oh yeah," she said without thinking. "That was right before you made the six o'clock news."

Abigail shot Trish a dirty look as she lit yet another one, crumpled the empty pack, and placed it carefully on the table.

"Alright, alright, I'm sorry," She responded as she rolled her eyes and fluffed her loose curls.

"I thought you wanted to hear this." The strawberry blonde demanded as her eyes hardened.

"I do, Hon. But Abby, it's a lot to take in all at once."

"Try being me, Trish." She took a deep drag and exhaled slowly, as if to release her anguish in a single breath. "Just try being me."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Okay, Ms. Personality, you wanna tell me about it?" Sam asked as they walked to Samantha's car. "'Cause frankly, I'm tired of getting my head bit off."

"What's to tell? She wants out."

"Yeah," the line cook responded as she started the engine. "Last time she wanted out, you called me at one o'clock in the morning and you were a mess. Now you act like you don't care."

"It's over." The brooding brunette kept her voice flat as she continued. "What more is there to say?"

"The difference is you finally started acting like you were a human being, with feelings and all that good stuff. Now you're back to biting everybody's heads off, working for the Bitch of the Year award."

"Enough already," Christina interrupted. "I need out."


"I need to think." The tall seething woman threw the car door open at the stoplight. "Don't wait up."

She stalked off, leaving her best friend behind. This was hard enough without everyone playing twenty questions. Now, not only did she not have her girlfriend, she didn't have her boat. Her fishing gear was gone too. And her privacy was shot. Staying with Sam and her husband made her feel like she was a walking advertisement for the newest reality show: "How to Really Screw Up Relationships". The commercials could say "feel bad now, ask me how."

Talk, talk, talk. It's your own damned fault. You know better than to play where you get your pay. She laughed bitterly in the dark.

Now, because she was stupid enough to get involved with someone at work, everyone knew her business. Or wanted to know.

It turned out her fear was founded. The pain now was definitely worse than what she went through with Gwen. With Gwen, it was different. It was painful but in a way like a paper cut is painful. With Abigail the hurt resounded so loud that she could hear it in her ears. Just like the shot that killed her little brother.

Feelings. They were the problem.

Christina punched a tree. The pain in her hand was preferable to the voices in her mind.

She knew what she had to do.

It was her heart that got her in this mess. That Kevlar lock was going around her heart and she was going to throw away the key. No way was she going there again.

Just not worth it.

A feral smile creased her face as she turned down the dirt road to Sam's house.

Continued in Part II

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