Disclaimers: These are my characters, all mine, even if they bear a striking resemblance to a certain warrior and bard. Sorry MCA/Universal you should know by now that I can't resist. But, so ya know, in no way do I make money from this. It's just my own sick, twisted fun.
Sex/Violence: Lots. More then the usual eps of Xena, and more then my usual stories. This is a tough city, a tough neighborhood where just about anything does and will happen. This story depicts love between two members of the same sex, so if this is illegal or offensive, read elsewhere. This story also depicts an act of rape, but no graphic sex scenes. Sorry folks, just not my style.
Anything else? Don't know about that yet. Guess this story has an R rating because of the violence and potty mouth language. Um, that'd be all now. Go ahead and read. Delve into my twisted mind, if you dare! :)
Feedback most welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm going to kill her, Tony thought.
"Come on, please?" Casey begged with puppy dog eyes. She hadn't stopped begging since Cadence had told them all about the warrior story.
Tony shot daggers at Cadence then turned to face Casey, 'no' on the edge of her lips. But, seeing Casey's pleading eyes she just sighed and gave in. "Fine, what kind of story do you want to hear?"
"Yes!" Casey pumped her fist in the air and smiled triumphantly.
Tony rolled her eyes. "Well?"
"Something scary," Casey said thoughtfully as she twisted her eyebrow stud. "With tons of blood and guts."
"Romantic," Cadence suggested and Casey rolled her eyes.
"Action packed. Definitely action," Ripper grinned at Tony.
"Fine. But I'm not standing on the couch like some kind of stage." Tony shifted so her feet were crossed Indian style. Her mind blanked out for a minute as they all clamored to sit around her like anxious kindergartners at storybook time.
Ripper casually slouched into the spot beside Tony, and Casey jumped to the other side, nearly plowing Cadence over in her haste to squeeze in on the small couch.
Great... I have to entertain six panthers. What if they don't like it? Do I get stalked and killed? Geesh... concentrate. Tony cleared her throat, stalling for time, and glanced at the assembled girls.
She didn't know Tish, Molly, or Dorsey well at all. Shane wasn't even there.
Forget it, what kind of story would I want to hear?
"The year was 1742," she began hesitantly, grasping for the wisp of a story that had floated and bounced around in her head for weeks now.
Go with it, her instincts said.
"She was born that year, a child with eyes of gray, and hair the color of golden sunshine. The baby's parents, poor, simple Irishmen, had become indentured servants to earn passage to the Americas - "
"Hey," Casey interrupted. "We don't want to hear a story about babies and families!"
"Good." Tony smiled, but her next words held irritation. "Cause it's far from babies. Now be quiet and listen."
Ahh, the power, she thought, as they all subtly straightened and leaned forward, even Casey.
"Where was I?" She closed her eyes and returned to her vantage point, the ship.
"As dawn broke and the wind billowed in the massive sails, nothing could be heard but the creaking of the worn planks and the screams of a solitary gull. A truly bad omen.
"The baby and her parents were on a ship, headed to a land that people said was paved with gold. Michael, the baby's father, had worked hard for this. Had spent his whole life farming another mans land to finally break away and seek passage on The Conqueror. Sarah, his wife, prayed one day for a house of her own, a little garden to plow... but they would never make it to the freedom land." Tony paused, letting the anticipation build.
"Sarah was only to hold her baby one time before the pirates came." Tony took a breath, eyes wide, as she swept her eyes across the room, surprised to find a pack of panthers eating up her every word.
"Ruthlessly the pirates sent cannon ball after cannon ball into the sides of the ship, the sound like hundreds of thunderbolts, the smell like a burning forest after the lightning. The air was so thick with smoke and flying debris that no one could see as the pirates boarded and viciously cut down everyone in their path.
"As the tyrants slaughtered everything in sight Michael fought, with all his strength, but he knew they couldn't win. Desperately he ran to find a hiding place for his wife and child. As he ran a knife was flung into his back and he could only watched helplessly as his wife ran on without him. His dying breath was a prayer that they would survive." Tony's voice rose, her excitement and horror at her own tale unfolding lending tension to the air. The others sat forward eagerly.
"Somehow Sarah hid the child and distracted the pirates. I will not tell you the rage that followed as the pirates took Sarah-"
"Hey!" Casey cried. "Wha-"
"Shut up!" Ripper whapped the spike-haired girl upside the head then turned back to give Tony an encouraging smile. "Go on."
Tony just smiled and re-arranged her legs so they wouldn't cramp up. "So... the women were taken as slaves, chained, and dragged away like animals. The men had been slaughtered and the bounty was now aboard the pirate ship, leaving only a tiny baby in a broken crate. Abandoned and alone.
"The Conqueror was slowly sinking. And, if not for the calm seas it would only be a matter of hours before the sea conquered it.
"But, on this day in history the gods were watching over a child with golden hair, and no more then half-a-day later a simple fishing boat came upon the wreckage. The captain of The Princess was a wrinkled and wizened old sailor, that had seen more then he'd ever cared to on the high seas.
"He was ready to pass the Conqueror by when he heard a shrill wailing. First he thought it a bird, but the wind in his sails suddenly ceased and the boat slowed. With nothing but the creak of the bulkhead he listened again."
Tony's head tilted to the side, as if she too were listening. She cupped a hand to her ear. "A baby? Surely not. But he gathered two of his men and went in search. He found the child in her crate as it floated in the rapidly rising waters of the hold. Any later and there would be nothing to rescue.
"Without a second thought he scooped the screaming baby in his arms and returned with her to his boat, The Princess." Tony took a moment to clear her throat and gather her thoughts.
"Hardened and old though he was he raised the girl child as his own. With a soft heart and gentle touch his hatred for the people who had pirated the Conqueror was the only dark thing in the child's life.
"Twenty years passed. Granted they weren't all wonderful. A storm here, and sickness... but the girl had a will to live. And live she did, growing strong with the salty wind in her hair, and the sun shining down upon her sweet face.
"Though the old man had never given her a name, she loved him like a grandfather. Like the only parent she had never known. But, deep within her restless soul she yearned for her real family, for a name. A place where she belonged."
Silence reigned as Tony drew in a long breath.
"No one knew." She let that mournful sentence hang a moment, drawing the panthers into the mystery, into the solitude that was her heroine. "So, one day, in a port in Africa, she stepped onto the shore, strode into the village, and did not return."
As the Harley roared down the highway it's engine reverberated through Shane's thighs like the powerful stride of a wild stallion. A ferocious grin lit her dark face under the helmet and she reveled in the feel of the wind surging around and against her body.
She wanted to feel the wind, like exotic fingers through her hair, but out of state it was illegal, so she just kept winding through the mountain road, clinging desperately to it's tenuous beauty.
The dark night called to her, and whispered promises it could never keep.
Ride forever, the wind in the trees howled. Gather me in your arms, and race toward freedom.
But, for good or bad, she was tied forever to the Panthers, and to the city.
One day, she thought. One day I'll take this bike and I'll go... Charley wanted to see the west coast, but I think I could just lose myself in the desert. Live off cactus juice and snake meat...
Ewww, she grimaced under the helmet and slowed around the curving mountain road.
Brilliant, gem green eyes sparkled in her memory and for a fleeting moment she could feel Tony's arms around her waist. Would you come with me? she wondered.
Shane quickly banished those thoughts to the dark recesses of her mind, and as the moon broke free of the clouds and glimmered down on the dark asphalt she realized there were only a few more miles to go.
"A few miles inland the girl-with-no-name came upon a small village of natives." Tony shifted her legs again, grimacing slightly as her left foot tingled with pins and needles. "As different as night and day they were. A young woman with fair skin, hair of gold and eyes of steel, and dark, painted natives in well worn leathers and skins.
"At first the natives were suspicious. A white woman! Was she a slaver? A missionary? Had she come to preach about the silly white man's one God?
"No one could understand the other. But as time passed and she learned their language that barrier was broken. She stayed with them for many seasons, learning how to survive in the wilds of Africa and earning the respect of the people with her intelligence, strength and courage.
"On a still day, when even the wind across the desert plains was silent a trader came. She carried mostly dried meat and spices, but, Oni Nabel, was also a storyteller.
"One night as Oni sat by the main fire she told the story of the Ancient City of Golia. The golden haired girl listened, enraptured, as the story of a once proud city unfolded before her. The citizens of Golia were pale skinned and light haired. Could it be? Were they her ancestors?
"As the story finished and the natives returned to their own fires and huts the girl approached Oni with many questions. Oni answered them as best she could, but still the girl found the answers lacking.
"'What is it you seek, young one?' Oni asked the girl. And she replied honestly that she did not know. A deal was made. Oni would help the girl find the ancient city if she would protect Oni from bandits on the road. The girl agreed.
"'Wait,' Oni said. 'What do they call you?' The girl seemed puzzled. 'Your name?' the trader asked.
"The girl shook her head. 'I have no name, but here they call me Shi'amila.'
"'Shi'amila.' The strange word tumbled thickly off the traders tongue. 'What does it mean?'
"The girl smiled. 'It means white mystery.'
"'It suits you,' Oni said and bid the girl goodnight. The next morning, before the sun had risen, they set off on their journey into the deep wilds of Africa, on what the natives called a 'wild pig hunt.'" Tony stretched and cleared her throat.
"So, what happened?" Casey asked as the silence stretched a little bit longer.
Tony sighed, and passed her hand over dried lips. "I need a drink first, then I'll tell the rest of the story."
Casey leapt up and went to the cooler. She returned with a beer. "Here ya go."
No way, Jose! I've had enough beer to last me a lifetime. Grimacing and wrinkling her nose, Tony pushed the beer aside. "I need some water. Anyone want to head over to the BP with me?"
"I'll go," Cadence offered.
They all ended up walking out of the abandoned apartments and down a block to the BP. And they all ended up with pop or water, sitting on the curb and waiting till Tony had gotten through to her Gram and explained that she was staying at Casey's house that night.
After the call Tony plopped down on the edge of the sidewalk between Ripper and Cadence. She chugged down half the water before she was ready to begin telling the story again.
Almost there. Shane sighed.
The gates loomed up ahead like demon's fingers in the night. Sharp and pointy they stretched out to the star-filled sky, dark and foreboding.
Shane slowed as she came to the familiar dip in the road. She knew this road well, had traveled it enough times to ride it in her sleep, yet still her heart raced into her throat.
Each time a little voice begged her to turn back and go home.
It's not like she even knows I'm here... Why do I bother?
But you know...
"The journey through the desert to the jungle was dry and dusty, long and treacherous. Yet the real danger didn't begin until they set foot into the humid jungle. Any path that might have existed was long overgrown by hundreds of years of plant growth. Poisonous snakes of every kind slithered in the tall ferns and hung from the trees.
"Machete in hand Shi struck down vines and branches, ferocious jungle cats and man eating boars that fought their every step. Beaten, bruised and bloody Oni and Shi reached the middle of the jungle where the Ancient City of Golia was."
"Evening, Miss Delante." The security guard nodded briefly at the young woman, as he stood just outside the doorway of the tiny guard station, with clipboard in hand.
Charon's keeping order tonight, the wicked thought crossed the teen's mind as he scribbled something down.
"Hey, Chambers." Shane smiled warily.
He smiled back and waved her through. The gate squealed slowly open, sounding as if the hounds of hell were fighting over a tasty piece of meat. She gunned the Harley's engine and tore down the main road.
Shane roared into the deserted front parking area and cut the engine. After kicking down the stand she hopped off and took the stairs two at a time up to the gun metal gray, double doors.
'Paskill Peak Institution,' stood out in small black letters on a gleaming brass plaque.
Like you can't tell by the bars on the windows, the sterile whiteness or the security guards that this is a mental institution...
'Mental'... the word still sent shivers up her spine.
Reluctantly she pulled open the front door and stepped inside the sterile white confines of the front lobby. Bright lights showed off the cracked and peeling tile floor, faded, plastic chairs lined the walls and a large desk/reception area held court against the back wall. A nurse and the secretary sat behind it, going over papers and talking on the phone. As Shane approached the secretary looked up. She smiled briefly, gave the teen a 'thumbs-up' sign and nodded her through.
Great security... but then they were expecting me. Shane nodded politely, and gave what would, at best, be considered a snarl, to the guard as he unlocked the door to the hallway.
Then she stepped through and didn't look back.
"Beneath the ravages of time; vines, trees and a crumbling archway Oni and Shi entered the ruins. All around them little rocks tumbled from the sagging walls, monkeys skittered through the brush and snakes slithered through tall grasses.
"They chopped their way through with machetes till they were at the entrance of a temple. The pillars were crumbling around them as they parted the vines and stepped inside." Tony's arms spread wide as she parted the vines in her mind. Briefly she closed her eyes, seeing flashes of shattered clay, an alter, covered either in ancient dark dirt, or blood. She shivered and, once again continued her tale in a soft voice.
"Time had scoured paint and artwork from crumbling, vine covered walls. Urns, vases all lay smashed and shattered, brown as the earth they were half buried in.
"Oni wanted to turn back, but Shi felt the ancient city calling to her. Golia, the only city in the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa that held the mystery of white men. Supposedly the only white city in all of Africa, in it's time. Sure she'd find her name and her family here, and that all her questions would be answered Shi began to search the ruins for any tell-tale signs of life."
Shane pushed open the door and stepped into sterile silence. She cast her eyes over two beige, plastic chairs, a single, dying plant in the windowsill, nightstand, the closet door, and finally the bed.
Slowly she made her way across the room, and stood, staring at the lone figure that took up less then a third of the bed- face pale and gaunt, long, dark hair cascading over the white pillow case and sheet.
With a bone weary sigh Shane pulled one of the beige chairs up to the bedside and sat down. She took the woman's pale hand in hers and rested her elbows on the sheet.
So many questions, so few answers... but all Shane could do was hold the woman's cold hand in hers and rest it's palm against her cheek. Trembling, she let the hand drop away and lowered her head to the side of the mattress.
You know why, a little voice chided. You've always known why.
"Not my fault," Shane whispered raggedly, tears falling against the white sheet with seemingly unnatural loudness.
Yes, your fault....
"Shi and Oni made their way further into the city, looking for... anything. Something to mark this as Golia, something to show where they were. But, everywhere they turned the stone walls were blank. Not a single inscription, not even graffiti.
"After days of searching through brambled vines and tangles brush the golden haired girl let out a scream of outrage and shook her fists at the gods. 'How dare you torment me like this?' she asked them. 'How dare you lead me here... to find... nothing?' Her voice rose and echoed off the naked walls and empty chambers.
"Oni's fear grew so great that she laid a hand on Shi's shoulder and begged her to stop. She said it was time to leave and return home.
"'But, I have no home, Oni,' Shi cried plaintively. 'I came here to find one.'
"Wide eyed Oni looked at her friend. 'You came here to find your home?' Oni asked, and Shi simply nodded as the rage faltered and her heart grew heavy.
"'My parents where killed when I was a babe. They left me no home and no name,' Shi explained. 'I- I thought that since the people of Golia were fair skinned and light haired , like me, that I would find... something.' And Shi turned away from the one person that could possibly understand.
"Oni stubbornly crossed her arms. 'Look at me,' Oni demanded."
Look at me. This is bullshit, Shane thought.
"Why do I come here?" Fighting further tears, Shane reached up a shaking hand and brushed the woman's dark bangs back from her forehead. "To lay blame on myself? To lay blame on someone who can't even defend herself?"
The woman on the bed was as still and as silent as ever. No answers poured forth from her pale lips.
"Just once, open your eyes." Shane begged, lowering her head and squeezing her eyes shut, forbidding further tears to fall. "I have so many questions... so many things you should have told me..."
Tony rolled her shoulders and thought hard for a second. The story was coming to an end, but just what would that end be? "Oni was angry now. 'What of the sailor that rescued you?' she asked. 'What of the natives that feed you, taught you and loved you?'
"Shi looked away, because deep in her heart she knew these things. 'Tis not the same,' she tried to explain. 'I have no family.'
"'What of me then?' Oni asked bewildered. 'What of me?'"
Shane stood abruptly and pushed the beige chair back to it's little corner, turning to leave. At the door she paused, laying a shaking hand against the doorframe, steadying herself and the decision she was about to make. She turned back to look at the woman.
"'Am I not your family?' Oni asked. Shi looked back from whence they came, the journey, the bloodshed, the bond that had been formed. Her eyebrows rose as the revelation struck her.
"Shi smiled and looked deep into the eyes of her friend. 'Throughout this journey I searched for my family, for a name...'" Here Tony paused and eyed the panthers sitting all around her. Somehow some thing was missing. Tony hesitated, then took a deep breath.
"The women looked at one another for a long moment. Together they finished the thought... 'when all along my family walked right beside me.'"
"I can't do this anymore." Shane's voice trembled and rose. "I can't keep coming back here." Angrily she wiped the tears from her eyes and reached for the cold, metal knob.
She was halfway out the door when she risked one last look. Hoping. Wishing... for something that would never happen...
Tears clouding her eyes she called 'good-bye' over her shoulder.
I love you... mom.
"Is that the end of the story?" Casey asked as Tony stood wearily and stretched.
"Yup," Tony replied. She looked at the wrinkles forming between Casey's eyebrows and quickly held up her hand. "It wasn't about the story, Case, it was about the journey."
"Huh? I don't get it."
Tony looked helplessly at Cadence, begging for a little help. It came from an unexpected source. Ripper.
"The story was about finding what you already have." Ripper said it casually as she stood and brushed scraps of road dirt off her pants. "Shi was searching for something that was right in front of her the whole time."
"Ok..." Casey finally said. "I get it." Not!
Tony grinned. She suspected that Casey had wanted a lot more blood and guts. Ah well, she didn't care. "Um, Case, mind if I stay at your place tonight?"
"No prob. Mom luvs ya."
They said their good byes, and each headed in their own separate directions, the story lingering in each of their minds, for different reasons.
Shane prowled the mountain roads like an anxious cat, guarding her territory. Several thoughts sped through her mind, most centering around her mother. A stray thought of Tony popped into her mind's eye and she turned it over for a few seconds before discarding it.
Tony was fine, she assured herself. But, the niggling premonition that all was not well caused her fingers to clutch the throttle in a white knuckled grip.
Dark trees and even darker shadows passed by in a blur. Tears coursed freely down her cheeks.
Everything and nothing ran rampant through sudden memories, like a slide show of her life.
Charley, pink and ugly, nestled in her mother's arms that first day he came home. Mum, dad, Charley, her... on a picnic in the park. Picnics every Sunday. Growing up, everything changing.
Mum dying, yet still alive, trapped in a nearly lifeless shell... Dad... daddy dying too like mum, yet different... and her... all alone.
And suddenly, there was Tony, scrambling in the darkness of the tunnels to find her. And what had she found, but a broken good for nothing child letting loose her demons on a hapless wall, on an innocent soul.
Tony. Where are you tonight?
City lights loomed, sparkling, around the next curve.
I need you...
Her soul cried out. Her heart begged, but, as she entered the city limits and shifted the bike down a gear she found she was drawn, inexplicably to the tunnels.
And so she spent a night amidst darkness, cobwebs and spiders, tears leaving pale streaks down road dusty cheeks; refusing to seek out the light.
I can't see, Tony realized. Why can't I see? Because it's dark. So, where am I? Casey's house, right? Right. Am I dreaming?
She turned her head left and right, but still there was only darkness. The neon green and blue of the downstairs bar would be coming in the window, she remembered.
Tony didn't dare move. What if there was a hole? What if there was something to trip over? What if it was a dead body... oh god. Her heart leapt into her throat and left her gasping for breath.
Wake up! Wake up!
She could feel it now, that tiny breath that blows across your neck when someone's sneaking up on you. But she couldn't see it, couldn't turn, because she was terrified.
Something thin and cold raked across Tony's neck. She screamed and leapt up in the air, turning to fend off whatever it was. Still, she could not see it. She felt it now, more then ever. A long, thin tendril of cold, stale air. It caressed her cheeks, gently lifting wisps of hair from her sweating brow.
It was there, somewhere. Waiting.
Wake up! Wake up!
Someone help me! Mom? Shane? Casey? Anyone? The cold, stale breath of air became colder and harsher. Goosebumps rose on her arms. Terrified she backed away, and bumped into something. Immediately she turned, and came face to face with glowing demon eyes.
"I've come for you..." it moaned. It's voice was so low and whispery that it grated across Tony's nerves and sent a shiver down her spine.
She couldn't back up this time, because the other thing was behind her. Or were they one in the same? Everywhere? Oh god...
Wake up! Wake up!
The eyes seemed to get closer and closer. Almost on top of her. She let out another scream as she backpedaled. She tripped and crashed to the cold, hard ground. She'd fallen over something. Her fingertips hit flesh, warm and sticky. This time she couldn't scream. An arm, a shoulder...
Wake the fuck up!
A low, rasping hiss issued from the demon's mouth, breath cold and misty. It burned her cheeks and neck. She lashed out with clumsy hands as it sank to envelop her on the floor. No! Nooooo....
It pointed a long gray finger at Tony, the tip pointy and covered with blood. It slashed down at her arm and she felt a stab of hot, searing pain.
She woke with a choking start, sitting up in the darkness of Casey's room. Casey's room. Oh god, safety. Unexpected tears coursed down Tony's cheeks and she hid a strangled sob behind her clenched fist.
The dreams wouldn't stop. They'd come fast and furious since her mom had died. Would they ever end? Tony glanced up from the floor, toward the bed, and saw Casey's hand dangling over the side. She'd offered to let Tony sleep on the bed, but she'd declined.
Tony remembered the night she'd fallen asleep in Shane's arms. How safe she'd felt, how the dreams hadn't come. She wished Shane was here now.
She needed Shane, and she could admit that, in the darkness and the terror of the night. I need you, Shane. Where are you?
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