A Stone's Throw Away
“I know you want to talk this out, Eve, but I just don't have the time right now.” Varia reasoned within the walls of her quarters.
“Why is it that, all of a sudden, no one has any time for me to apologize?” The Messenger said to herself more than anyone.
“Look, I'm not trying to punish you here, but I've got a million different things to do before I tackle you and me. A treaty has to be drawn up for the vampires, the celebration has to be approved and I've decided to make Sarah head negotiator for the bloodsuckers, so you're just going to have to wait.”
Eve was crestfallen, but she accepted Varia's wishes. Then as she walked to the door she felt a stiff grip on her wrist right before she was spun around and pushed against the door. The shock of the whole situation startled her at first and she fought the queen's advances until a strong knee was drawn up between her legs and a husky voice started whispering in her ear.
“Don't get me wrong, Eve, I'm not happy about what happened out there in those woods but I'll be damned if Sarah is going to be the one to cause a problem between us. We have a lot to talk about and after we do talk…” She nipped at her ear and grabbed two handfuls of ass to grind harder against the Messenger. “I want to make sure we have plenty of time to make up. If that's ok with you.”
Eve's breathing was frantic as Varia kissed her again without waiting for an answer. She writhed against the powerful thigh and buried her hands in the warrior's dark locks. When they finally pulled away from each other the queen looked deeply into the messenger's eyes and stroked her cheek.
“I'm still madly in love with you. That's all you need to walk out of here knowing.” She explained, before opening the door.
Unbeknownst to both of them a blond haired bard had come to ask about towels for the bath when her task was thwarted by what she heard at the door. Gabrielle didn't mean to eavesdrop, but as soon as she'd heard there was an argument her maternal instincts kicked in and forced her to draw nearer to the door. It was what happened after that caused her to lean on it, being that both parties were whispering. However, falling through the entryway certainly hadn't been her plan seeing as how now she needed to do some smooth talking.
“Hi!” She beamed with a bright smile.
Both Eve and Varia looked completely mortified.
“I was just walking over here to ask about towels when… um…” She got back on her feet. “When I tripped and fell into your hut right as the door opened.”
“Imagine the odds.” Varia said with mock acceptance.
“Yeah, pretty small, right?” The bard answered.
“You need to find Meg.” The queen said.
“Meg?” Gabrielle asked.
“For the towels.” Eve explained in a leading tone.
“Right, the towels! I'll just go…” she stumbled while attempting to walk backward. “...see Meg… about the towels.”
As Gabrielle made a much uncoordinated exit the two discovered lovers watched her go.
“You know she's going directly to tell your mother what she heard.” Varia said.
“Should I be worried?”
“No, I'll catch mom before she has the chance to do any permanent damage to your person.”
“Good, because I'd wager even an injured Xena could still pack quite a punch.”
“So the fight went well, huh?” Sarah asked Khepri who had been waiting to speak with her outside the gates of the village.
“Much better than yours.” The vampire said as she raised a hand up to softly stroke Sarah's bruised face. “Are you in a lot of pain?”
“Only when I… well, move.” Sarah said with a small smile.
They both simply stood there for a few seconds, neither knowing what to say. Sarah never liked uncomfortable pauses; they made her feel like she was going to come out of her skin. So she said the first thing that came to her mind.
“This is kind of awkward, isn't it?”
“That's strange considering all we've been through in the past couple of days. You've plotted to kill me and all my friends; I've plotted to kill you and all your friends. You kidnapped me, I plunged a stake through your heart.”
“Yeah, you'd think holding a simple conversation wouldn't be all that difficult.”
Again they were silent.
“So why is it?” Sarah asked after a few seconds.
Khepri regarded her curiously.
“Maybe we should start over.” She offered up her hand. “Hi, my name is Khepri and I'm a vampire princess who means you no harm.”
Sarah smirked, but accepted the gesture. “And I'm Sarah; an immortal who travels the world looking for trouble.”
“It's a pleasure to meet you Sarah.”
“I know you must be busy right now with everything that's going on in camp, but do you think that we could possibly spend an evening together sometime this week?” Khepri asked hopefully.
“I think I'd like that.” Sarah's grin turned into a smile. “How does tomorrow night sound?”
“It sounds perfect. I'll be waiting for you at the gates an hour before sunset.”
With that, Khepri raised the hand she was holding to her lips before letting go and backing away. As Sarah looked down at her hand and stroked the place where Khepri's lips had been, she could only think one thing: I am so screwed.
The warrior's voice boomed across the general area surrounding the hut she shared with Gabrielle. Eve nearly fell back from her position just outside the door.
“Xena! Keep your voice down. You don't have to let the entire village know about your tendency to overreact.” The bard warned.
“Overreact?” She said in a voice much higher than her normal alto. “Our daughter is bedding the queen of the Greek Amazons: a woman who has tried to kill her on more than one occasion. I have a right to scream out in disapproval.”
“First of all, I don't think she's just bedding her, I think they're in an actual relationship, and second of all this isn't just some hot headed Amazonian queen we're talking about here; it's Varia. Varia, whom we've come to call friend.”
“Yeah, right after she threatened to kill our daughter and beat the crap out of you to get the chance.” Xena reminded her.
“Xena, everyone has moved past that now. You've even moved past it.”
“That was before I found out she was sticking it to my little girl.” The warrior paced the room as furiously as she could.
“Eve used to shack up with Ares, I'm pretty sure she can handle Varia.”
“Ugghhh. Don't remind me of that at a time like this, I want to be overprotective not nauseated.”
The bard simply rolled her eyes and stopped the warrior in her tracks. “You knew this was going to happen one day while you were a part of her life, Xena. Can't you just be happy that it's happening in location where you will be able to closely monitor and butt in?”
For the first time the warrior's eyes finally met the bard's in agreement.
“You're right. With us living in the village I'll never be more than a few feet away.”
“And you can be every bit the interfering mother that Cyrene was to you when you were pregnant.”
“Yeah.” Xena exhaled, a hopeful smile spreading across her face. “Just like mom.”
“Now pull your daughter in here and give her a hug. I'm sure she's been listening in for quite a while now.”
The door to the holding cell was opened and standing outside was a time traveler who was very pleased with herself. Rada and Arsen ambled out slowly and started to stretch in the beaming sunlight.
“So am I free to go, or are they about to act all female and take back their word?” Arsen asked.
“As long as you never kidnap another Amazon, you're free to go on with your life.” Sarah said.
“Oh believe me; I'll never make that mistake again. I've learned my lesson about trying to get ahead by involving Amazons in any way. It just doesn't work.”
“So I guess you're gonna head home now?”
“Yep, now I get to see if my farm was looted while I was hanging out in the jail with Rada.”
“Well they're throwing some kind of party tonight, I'm sure they'd let you attend if you asked nicely.”
“Right. Because I so enjoy hanging out with these crazy hookers.” He laughed before holding out his hand. “Thanks for getting me out of jail. Maybe I'll see you around sometime.”
Sarah nodded her head and took the offered appendage.
“Rada.” He called, turning to her. “You may be the coolest female I've ever met. Stay away from Sarah if you want to stay out of trouble.”
“Life's too boring without trouble.” Rada countered as she hugged him goodbye.
They watched him as he headed for the gates, but were surprised when he was stopped by Ava. Sarah was half worried that Varia had changed her mind about freeing him, but the conversation that followed quickly quelled her fears.
“So, you coming to the party tonight?” She asked as she wrapped an arm around his waist and allowed their lower bodies to brush up against each other.
“Are you gonna be there?” He asked.
“Considering I live here, probably so.” She joked.
“I might make an appearance.” He said calmly.
She simply looked at him as if she knew the game he was playing all too well. Then after a few seconds of stare down, she pulled away and sauntered off with a sexy swagger. Arsen, of course, watched her entire exodus before swearing under his breath and once again heading toward the village gates.
“So we'll see you tonight then, Arsen?” Sarah yelled.
“Yep.” He answered without even turning back.
The two women chuckled as Sarah put an arm around Rada.
“Let's go hit the bath house. I am in desperate need of a scrub down and you need to tell me everything about your trip back home to see your parents.”
Rada simply nodded.
As Khepri entered the cave she realized that the last thing she wanted to do was sleep, though it was broad daylight outside. So instead of heading to her quarters she turned right and headed toward Asteri's room. He was still stuck to the wall when she entered, and not happy about it by the look on his face.
“You are a cruel, unfeeling bitch. How dare you leave me hanging here!” He screamed.
“Do you want me to leave you there for a while longer, or are you going to stop your whining?” She asked.
He looked as if he was going to go off again, but he bit his tongue and she proceeded to pull the daggers out of his hands. After cleaning them off with a handkerchief she stowed them back in the sheaths on her boots.
“So how was it, fighting alongside your own food, Khepri? Did you enjoy it?” He asked with insolence.
“It was fine. My belly is completely full of fresh slaver blood right now. I would have brought one back for you but you've been so obsessed with destroying Amazon lately that I didn't think you'd appreciate the gesture. Guess you'll just have to settle for whatever's left in the decanter, huh?”
“You really are incredibly evil. Much more than you rightfully should be.” He complained, pouring a meager sample of blood into his glass. “So what now, we bow down to those harlots and go hungry?”
“No, we patrol their lands and eat their enemies. Amazons never made up a substantial portion of our diet and you know that. You just hate the fact that what we do may benefit them.”
“It's insulting for a superior creature to bow down to an inferior one.”
“Well as far as I've seen you haven't had to do any bowing, so why don't you quit complaining about it.”
He simply rolled his eyes at her comment.
“Now before I leave you to rot in your frustration I have one more thing to tell you. Tomorrow night I plan on spending some time with Sarah and I may bring her back here depending on how things go. If, for some reason, you see her you will be kind and respectful.”
He snorted. “Sarah… the little girl who started all of our problems. And you expect me to be nice to her?”
“I don't expect it, I demand it. You'll treat her with respect. That is, unless you'd like to get further acquainted with the wall.” She threatened before turning to go.
“How did this happen?” He asked himself as he observed the ruby contents of his goblet. “How did one young girl gain power over an entire vampire clan?”
With a sigh he finished the glass and decided to hunt for some fresh sustenance.
The hot springs that fed the Amazon bath house were heaven to Sarah. She moaned as she stepped in to the steamy tub and allowed it to sooth away all of the aches of the past few days. Rada plopped down beside her and immediately dunked her dark head before resurfacing and leaning back.
“You know, I'd probably go crazy from being around these Amazons, but I'd sure enjoy the perks of living in this place.” Sarah said, closing her eyes and resting her head back against the stone tub.
“No kidding.” Rada chuckled.
“So how'd the visit with the folks go? You sure didn't stay very long.”
After a few seconds of silence she opened her eyes and regarded her friend.
The Slav ran her hands through her wet hair and pretended to clean underneath her nails as she debated in her head whether or not to share her experience with Sarah. The time traveler must have picked up on her reluctance because she didn't push, opting instead to let Rada have as much time as she needed. It only took one look into supportive blue eyes and her internal struggle was quelled. Though they barely knew each other, Sarah was the closest thing she had to a real friend.
“They told me to leave and never come back.” She said, not able to hold her gaze.
Sarah couldn't control the sharp intake of breath that followed the sad, solitary sentence. She couldn't imagine the pain that must have caused her friend. Rada had been stolen from her family, abused by an evil prince, and then rejected by the only love she'd ever known. She searched her brain for the right words to say, but they never came. There really wasn't anything that could have been said about the situation that wasn't already evident. Instead she simply put her hand on Rada's shoulder and hoped that the small gesture conveyed the depths of her sympathy. She expected her friend to be crying, possibly breaking down, but she didn't. The girl simply stared down at the soapy water.
“They said that the prince was telling the truth about me. That they practically gave me to the Chinese because I was filthy and unnatural. Anyway, that's why I came to find you.” She explained. “I thought that maybe I could just follow you around for a while, until I find somewhere that I belong.”
Her eyes finally met Sarah's and she could tell that it was incredibly hard for her to ask this.
“I was hoping you'd say that. If I had to deal with Eve by myself for much longer I might have gone insane.” She gave her friend a soft punch to the shoulder. “Plus you know that I can't fight for shit. I'm going to need all the help I can get once we hit the road again. I probably wouldn't have been able to do it without you.”
“Tell me about it! I'm impressed that you've survived this long.” Rada joked back.
That was the end of all serious talk about the situation. Both women eased into comfortable conversation about the vampires, the Amazons, and the party that would commence that night. But the underlying message underneath all of the idle chatter was nothing more than the language of friendship. Sarah and Rada were incredibly alike in the fact that they both were starting fresh in the world, and they knew how lucky they were to do that with someone they could count on to catch them when they fell.
“Amazons! Tonight is truly a night of celebration.” Varia said as she raised her glass to kick off the ceremony. “We celebrate the return of Queen Gabrielle and Xena the Warrior Princess.”
Gabrielle nodded her head to Varia and Xena tried to muster up an accepting smile. Pomp and circumstance were not her strong suit.
“Gabrielle and Xena have planned to take up permanent residence within our tribe and we welcome them graciously.” Varia bowed, and soon the rest of the tribe followed.
Upon arising she continued the speech.
“We celebrate our victory against the slavers!”
This statement was met with a raucous bout of cheers from the crowd. The queen smiled as she waited for her subjects to calm down.
“And we celebrate an alliance with the vampires. Not only did they fight by our side in battle, they also have agreed to patrol our borders for the foreseeable future.” The crowd cheered again, and the queen waited to speak. “But we must remember that it would not have been possible, were it not for the intervention of an outsider.”
Rada clapped Sarah on the back, causing her to spill some of her wine.
“Hey, that's you!” She said.
“This outsider braved both the vampires and the Amazonian Queen in order to create this alliance, having no reason to help us at all. That is why I am honoring her with the official title of Head Negotiator to the Vampires.” Varia said before holding out a scroll.
“Huh?” Sarah grunted.
“I think you're supposed to go up there.” Rada giggled.
Everyone was looking at the time traveler and waiting for her to move toward the queen. With wide eyes and a confused grin she handed her wine to Rada and made her way up to the platform to address Varia.
“You know, I'm pretty sure we didn't discuss making this position a full time gig.” She whispered before bowing and accepting the proclamation.
“Well there's going to be rather large need for communication in the coming weeks and since you seem so fond of them, I decided that keeping you around a bit longer would be beneficial to the tribe.” She offered her hand and Sarah accepted.
“But I'm not an Amazon.” Sarah said through a half-assed smile as she and the queen faced the crowd.
“That's not what the scroll you just accepted says.” Varia shot back, regarding Sarah with a mischievous grin. “Now go back to your seat, you've hogged enough of the attention.
As Sarah walked back to her place between Rada and Eve, Varia made her closing statement and cheers broke out as the partying was officially allowed to commence. The wine flowed freely and half naked women danced enthusiastically around a fire. Xena and Gabrielle laughed as they watched Eve's futile attempt at teaching Sarah to dance, then the warrior's eyes scanned the common area and noticed Varia enjoying the scene as well.
“I'll be right back.” The warrior said, as she made her way over to the tall, dark Amazon.
Varia's giggles stopped abruptly as she caught a glimpse of Xena's approach. The warrior sidled up to her and crossed her arms as if she were simply joining in on the merriment. But both women knew what the purpose of this meeting was to be about.
“So how long have you been in love with her?” The warrior asked, not bothering yet to look the queen in the eye.
Varia's head bowed a bit and her eyes focused on the ground.
“Quite a while now. I think it started after her last visit to the camp.”
Xena nodded. “And you think that with everything that's happened, you two have a shot?”
Varia looked up at the warrior, her quick temper getting the better of her need to keep a cool head.
“Nobody truly knows whether they have a shot at making a relationship work, Xena. When people love each other it's nearly impossible not to cause pain. And if I've read Gabrielle's scrolls correctly, I'd wager you two knew a little something about that.”
As soon as the last sentence left her mouth she knew it should have never formed on her tongue. Xena's eyes bore into Varia's and the warrior's jaw tightened with anger. The stare was so formidable, Varia took a step back in an attempt to lessen the blow.
“That was quite possibly the dumbest thing I could have said at this moment.”
“You got that right.” Xena said as she moved closer, an evil smirk growing on her face.
“Xena, I'm sorry. I just… It's just that I love your daughter and all I want is a chance to show her how much.”
“And I just want to impart on you how important it is that loving her is all you ever do. Because the second, I get wind of anything to the contrary I will do everything in my power to make your life a living hell. And Varia… I have many skills.”
Across the way, Sarah noticed the posturing going on between Xena and Varia. She quickly stopped the abominable movements Eve was trying to help her improve on to warn the Messenger of the impending violence.
“Uh, Eve, I think your mom's totally about to deck your girlfriend.”
“What?” The messenger asked before turning around to see a very pissed off warrior princess looking at Varia as if she were her prey.
“Oh shit!” Eve said as she ran over to try and diffuse the situation while Sarah decided it might be best to involve the bard in the dispute.
“You may want to make sure your warrior princess doesn't take out the Amazon queen.” Sarah said as she approached Gabrielle.
The bard looked over to where Sarah was pointing and simply shook her head.
“Nah, Varia will be fine; Xena's just trying to scare her. And even if she's not, Eve's right there to do the whole ‘non-violence' thing.”
“Heh.” Sarah chuckled as she moved next to Gabrielle and leaned against the wall with her.
“You wanna fill me in on what's really been going on around here?” The bard asked.
“It's not all that interesting.” Sarah said as she took a sip of her drink.
“The cuts and bruises on your face say differently. Do you really think we believe you got those in a fight with a group of slavers when you had Amazons and mystical creatures backing your play?”
Sarah grinned and looked at the ground for a few seconds before bringing her eyes back up to meet Gabrielle's.
“Everything turned out ok in the end. Can't we just leave it at that?”
They both stared on silently for a few seconds at the scene unfolding with Xena, Varia and Eve. Mother and daughter were having it out while Varia's head followed the conversation as if it were a tennis match.
“If Xena knows what's good for her she'll avoid fighting Varia. I think you and I both know how much of a punch that Amazon can pack.” The bard suggested.
“You ain't kidding.” Sarah said, cringing after realizing she'd just taken the bait.
Gabrielle smirked victoriously, then continued to bleed her companion of information. “But I'll bet her blows didn't hurt half as much as the one Eve dealt when she betrayed you.”
Sarah studied the bard's knowing eyes and wondered which one of her feather headed friends spilled the beans. She was starting to empathize with Varia's predicament.
“Betrayal can hurt so bad that it will make you do some pretty unthinkable things.” The blonde continued. “Things like switching sides in a fight and threatening the well being of people you care about.”
The time traveler swallowed hard, but did not defend herself.
“It's ironic that Xena is over there right now trying to scare Varia out of ever hurting Eve, when her time might be better spent impressing her threats upon you.”
“I'm pretty sure you're about to take care of that for her.” Sarah said, taking a drink.
The bard's eyes softened as she continued.
“Eve has a connection with you. It's almost as if you make her forget all the pain of her past because you neither condemn nor condone it. When she's around you she acts as immature and carefree because you require those qualities in a friend. And it's hard to make this call so soon in the relationship, but I'd be willing to wager that she'd leave the camp and Varia behind if you decided to go.”
“Gabrielle, the only place I want to go is home and if I find a way to do that, I assure you, Eve won't be able to follow.”
“I know your goal is to find the stone Sarah, but I think we both know that hope is pretty farfetched. You may be stuck here, and if you are you're going to cling to the people that are already a part of your life. All I'm asking is that you tread more carefully with Eve. I know she gets on your nerves and that sometimes her morals make you want to rip out your hair, but she's more sensitive than you probably know.”
“Did it ever occur to you that treating her differently could sever the connection that we have? If I start handling her with kid gloves, then Eve doesn't get to be a part of the “immaturity” club. She's the same girl everyone else sees her as; the peacemaker trying to redeem a dark past.”
She saw the wheels turning in Gabrielle's head and decided to press further with her point.
“As far as the events of the past few days go, we both made a lot of choices that could have ended in disaster, but we were there for each other when it counted. I promise you that even after I switched sides, I was looking out for her.”
The bard searched her eyes.
“I believe you, Sarah. You just have to understand how much Eve means to Xena and me. We couldn't bare something happening to her.”
Jealousy started to overtake Sarah in her defensive state as she looked into the features of a woman who'd once loved her as a daughter. She finished her drink in a few swallows and tossed the cup down on the ground.
“You wanna know why it was so easy to fall on the side of the vampire? Because as fucked up as the situation was, she needed me .” The girl slapped her chest for emphasis. “Cared about what happened to me .”
“Sarah I…” The blonde tried to interrupt but was cut off.
“I know that my decisions are mine alone and that I'm the only one to blame for my predicament, but I'm pretty much carrying that burden alone. I know how you feel about Eve because I had that kind of love once and now it may be as good as gone. I lost everything to save you, Xena, and your precious Eve and instead of receiving the love and acceptance I so pathetically need, I get reminded of exactly how little I mean to both of you.”
“And I know that you two don't know me from Adam; I'm just trying to admit an embarrassing difficulty. One probably best understood by the subject of our conversation. So to end this tirade on a reassuring note, let me just say that I've got very few people on this earth that love me right now. I'm certainly not going to make a constant effort to hurt the one who probably loves me most. So when you go to bed tonight you can rest easy, because if there's one thing you can count on to protect its interests it's my own personal need, as a human being, to be loved.”
The bard decided that speaking at this point was probably not the best idea. Instead she tried to convey her sympathy for Sarah's situation with her downtrodden expression.
“Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get extremely intoxicated.”
Gabrielle stood dumbfounded for a moment as she tried to figure out exactly how the conversation had deteriorated so quickly. After shaking her head in confusion she looked over to see how Xena was fairing; at this point Varia should be in for a decent pummeling. But to her surprise Xena had her arms around both Eve and Varia's shoulders as she squeezed them tightly and showered them with a bright smile, causing the bard to shake her head in confusion before moving to join them.
“The gods must be playing tricks on us again because Xena does NOT do sensitive chats better than I do.” She grumbled to herself as she walked.
After a few hours the party was in full swing. Sarah drank greedily from her cup as she tried to focus on the many conversations that were going on around the circle she'd been invited to. It was only when Anthony started on with her that she succeeded in this task.
“I was going to mention this earlier, but you looked pretty hell bent on having a good time and I didn't want to ruin it with some mundane mission you're on: I think I may have found that stone you were looking for in the texts.”
Sarah coughed into her mug and then into her fist as he continued.
“I wasn't able to really dig into the scrolls, but I did find one that referenced Xena dropping off a gem for safe keeping then leaving the camp. It only went on to say that it would probably be secured in a cave before I had to leave the research and come to the party.”
“But it sounds like you're on the right track.” Sarah said, hope filling her heart.
“Yeah, basically at this point I just have to read through the entries following and I should be able to see exactly where they put it. The only problem is that could take a while because they probably went back and forth considering what to do with it. Either way I should have an answer to you within the week.”
“That's probably some of the best news I've heard in months.”
“Why? Are you that desperate to leave this enchanting place?” He asked with sarcasm dripping from his tone.
“No, it's just that once I find the stone I can go home whenever I want and I really miss my family.”
“I understand.” Anthony said. Taking a healthy swallow from his glass and looking into the fire with discontent.
Sarah regarded him for a bit and realized that they were very much alike. Anthony left his world to save someone he cared about and ended up with the Amazons. The only difference was that he did it knowing that he'd never be able to go home.
She put her arm around him and spoke. “I know you don't really like to talk about the subject, so I'll just say this and go refill my glass: You're a brave guy, Anthony.”
And after one last swallow and a quick pat to the back she left him to his thoughts raging in the fire.
Upon refilling her glass she ran into Arsen hoping to do the same thing.
“Go ahead, I've got two glasses.” He said.
“Things going well with the cutie pie sadist?” She asked as she filled her cup.
“Actually they are. And I know I like to complain about these Amazons, but one thing they do well is throwing parties. I don't remember the last time I was around so many half naked drunk girls.”
“It is a perk involved with having to put up with them.” Sarah said, her mood evident in her tone.
“Not that I'm one to care about the feelings of those who've made my life ten times more complicated than it had to be, but I get the impression that you're not so happy right now.”
“I'm just a little pathetic right now, nothing new.” She said, having trouble with some of her words.
“Well, being that you did come through in saving my life and all, I'd probably listen to what's bothering you till the cutie pie came looking for me and my attention faded away.”
She considered confiding in him for a moment, but was interrupted by Rada jumping on her back and attempting to ride her like a bull.
“Wooooo hoooo!” She wailed as Sarah tried to buck her off. “This is the best party ever!”
“Rada!” Sarah grunted. “I was in so much pain this morning I could barely move. Do you really think that jumping on me now is the best idea?”
“Oh fine. Ruin the moment.” She said as she dismounted. “So what's going on over here?”
“Sarah's being pathetic and I'm about to go grease the wheels on my chances at getting my back scratched again.” Arson explained. “See you hookers later.”
“I never should have taught him that word.” Sarah said as she rubbed her lower back.
“So what's up, you're acting depressed when you should be celebrating the fact that you saved all these people.”
“Believe me, I didn't save them all. They did that themselves.”
“Whatever, if it hadn't been for you they'd be fighting monsters they didn't know how to kill and slavers with bigger numbers. You saved them and you should be happy.”
“I am happy; I think I'm just kind of tired right now from everything that's happened.” She tried to reassure her friend.
“Sure.” Rada said, deciding to save the conversation for another time. “You want to go dance with the half naked drunk girls?”
Sarah smiled finally and gave Rada a soft punch to the shoulder.
“Maybe some other time. Right now I'm thoroughly drunk and felling sorry for myself, so I think it's about time to do something stupid. And since drunk dialing is out of the question, I think I'll work on making ‘sexual fantasy number four' a reality.”
“Huh?” Rada asked.
“I'm going to go try to sleep with the vampire.”
Rada snorted. “You've got a party full of impressionable women here that might sleep with you, but that's not good enough. Sarah ‘The Immortal Wonder' has to go try to bed the woman who wants to drain her dry of blood.”
“Man, there is something so sexy about that.” Sarah said whimsically to the sky.
Rada rolled her eyes. “Well good luck. I think I'm gonna be boring and stick to the hot girls who don't feed on my kind.”
“We've all got out preferences.” She gave her friend a gentle pat the back and started to head out of camp. “Have fun!”
“Yeah you too. I hope you come back with all your body parts.” The Slav yelled after her.
Instead of turning to reply Sarah simply rose up a middle finger and continued on her way.
As she made her way through the empty aisles of huts on her way to the gates she took the time to simply embrace her surroundings. The air was so clean and the stars were dim only when compared to the light of the moon so thick she wondered wistfully if she could bathe in it. Her reverie lasted for only a few seconds before she was startled from it by a familiar voice.
“Hey, where are you going?”
It was Eve and though she looked concerned for Sarah, she was practically glowing from the events of the party.
“Just for a walk, you know, to get some fresh air.” The time traveler said with as much of a genuine smile as she could rally.
“You know you're a bad liar, Sarah. I'm really not sure why you try anymore.” Her look was now concerned, but playful.
The statement was rewarded with a genuine smile.
“I'm going to see Khepri because I feel selfish, alone and misunderstood.” As she stumbled she made an addition to her statement. “Not to mention pretty inebriated.”
“Sarah, you may very well be selfish sometimes, and misunderstood for the most part, but you are certainly not alone.” Her look had dropped its playful edge and was now merely concerned as she stepped closer.
Gabrielle's words started to haunt her.
“I'm sorry for being such a jerk to you Eve. And I'm really sorry for putting you in danger just because I was angry.”
“Sarah it's ok.” She moved quickly to pull the girl into a hug. “I thought we'd been through this already. I know you never wanted me to get hurt.”
As they parted Sarah's eyes remained on the ground.
“Now that you and Varia are together are you planning to set up shop here with the Amazons?”
Eve regarded her quizzically.
“That kind of came out of nowhere. Why do you ask?”
“Well I do plan to stay put for a while so we can further explore the relationship, but things are so new right now that I don't think I could make any specific plans to stay forever. I do still have a duty to spread Eli's message and if you don't find the stone…”
“I wouldn't count on travelling with me, Eve.” Sarah interrupted and Eve's face fell fractionally. “It's just that I'm not the greatest person to be around if you're trying to spread a message of peace. I mean, trouble seems to find me everywhere I go and that trouble often leads to violence of some kind.”
“Where is all of this coming from, Sarah?”
“Nowhere particular, I just don't think you should look a gift horse as rare as love in the mouth. Your life doesn't solely belong to your cause and I think you should really think about reprioritizing things.”
“Did she say something to you?”
“No, I was just thinking about things is all. You know how alcohol makes the mind wander. I mean, either way it doesn't matter to me.”
“It certainly sounds like it does.” Eve asserted as she paused for a moment to think. “Are you afraid of what might happen if I betrayed you again? Because I swear, Sarah, the last thing I want to do right now is further damage your trust in me.”
“No, no…” She sighed. “I'm just drunk and rambling. Forget I said anything about it.”
“I don't think this is the alcohol talking. I think that it's fear.” She put her hand on Sarah's arm. “Please tell me what you're feeling.”
Sarah looked into concerned blue eyes and wanted so much just to tell Eve about everything Gabrielle had said. But she knew that unburdening herself of that knowledge would only solidify the Messenger's independence.
“I'm feeling horny, you big goof.” She lied with a smile as she brushed the hand aside. “And you're being a cock block again. Now, quit being so serious and go back to the party. I'll see you in the morning.”
The time traveler started to walk away, but Eve's words caught her yet again.
“You don't always have to deal with things alone Sarah.”
She sighed and walked back.
“And you don't always have to save everyone.” She said with a small smile and a quick clap to Eve's shoulder. “This conversation is over. Go back to your party and celebrate with the people you love.”
Eve's face had fallen completely as she watched Sarah's back move further and further away from her.
“All the people I love won't be there now.” She said softly to bright full moon.
Sarah stumbled through the woods as she sipped from a nearly empty wine skin. The moonlit path seemed almost magical.
“You just don't get these feelings from concrete and skyscrapers.” She announced to herself.
“What's a skyscraper?”
The voice came from behind a nearby tree and it was recognizable to her from the first word. A smile donned her face as she paused and waited for Khepri to appear.
“A very, very, tall building.” She winked. “Hasn't anyone ever told you it's rude to sneak up on people?”
“Hasn't anyone ever told you that talking to yourself about nonsensical buildings is a sign of lunacy?” She moved closer to the girl and smelled the alcohol on her breath. “Furthermore, someone should have told you that it's dangerous to stumble drunk through the woods at night. What are you doing out here?”
“Looking for you, actually.”
Khepri sauntered closer to the girl. “While I'm incredibly pleased about that, I am wondering why you felt the need to see me right now.”
Sarah thought of a quick witted phrase to reply with, but then dismissed it right before the words could pass through her lips. At that moment, her need to be honest overwhelmed her usual propensity to be a smart ass.
“I needed to feel something.”
Khepri was staggered by her answer and she drew closer to softly touch Sarah's cheek with concern.
“What is it you need to feel, Sarah?”
“Free.” The word came out so quickly and easily that even its author was surprised by its meaning. “You make me feel like I don't have to be anyone important at all when I'm around you. With you I don't feel like I have to be brave, or strong, or noble. Like I'm not beholden to some ideal that everyone knows I can't live up to. With you I just get to be Sarah.”
Khepri was touched by the extremely abrupt revelation. She smiled and brought her other hand to the girls face as she stroked it with her thumbs.
“You must become incredibly blind when you drink, because if you could possibly see yourself through my eyes you would know that ‘just being Sarah' includes being brave, strong and noble. You couldn't escape those qualities even if you tried. My hope is that I simply make you feel that they don't make up what draws me to you.”
Sarah's breathing increased along with Khepri's proximity.
“You um… You make me feel other things too.”
“What would those other feelings consist of?” The vampire asked, half knowing the answer and drew even closer.
“Like it's hard to breathe. Like no one else on the planet exists. Like I've never wanted anyone as much as I want you.”
Khepri's smile grew. “Well, luckily we don't have to worry about any problems with your breathing, being that you're immortal, and as far as I'm concerned the existence of anyone else right now doesn't matter at all. As far as the ‘wanting' part goes, let me assure you that the feelings are entirely mutual.”
She then leaned down to bring their lips together in a deliciously slow kiss. As their mouths met a soft moan elicited from Sarah's throat and Khepri saw no reason to keep things chaste. Her lithe tongue licked hesitantly at first, but once granted permission, dove passionately past the young girl's permissive lips. It was met with equal fervor from her partner and soon the need to bring the rest of their bodies closer became paramount.
Sarah's hands buried themselves in Khepri's dark locks as the vampire's digits abandoned their previous post and took hold of her waist. A low growl emanated from the taller woman's throat as their nearness grew tighter and one of her hands wandered to a leather clad ass cheek. Sarah pulled away briefly to moan into the night. She looked into Khepri's eyes and found a primal need like she'd never experienced staring back at her. Her visceral reaction forced Khepri back against a tree and the vampire gasped in surprise as a warm mouth descended upon her neck and an adept hand pulled her thigh up and around her assailant's hip.
A hearty chuckle emanated from the vampire's throat. “Whoa there, tiger fighter. Do you really think you're up for where you're leading us right now?”
“I'm fairly certain I can take whatever you can dish out.” Sarah smiled as she moved to lick at an inviting earlobe.
Before she knew it the tables were turned and it was Khepri's strong frame pinning her to the tree. Her arousal multiplied as her heart beat fast enough to rival the wings of a humming bird.
“I didn't think it was possible, but somehow you just became hotter.” The time traveler said with a grin.
“Believe me; I'm feeling nothing but heat right now, but as good as this may feel it's not the way I want it to happen.”
Sarah looked into the vampire's eyes and could see the sincerity that they held. The problem was it only served to enflame her passion.
“Do you know how much that statement makes me want you more?” She asked, diving in for another kiss.
Khepri indulged her for a few more moments, but broke away before reaching the point of no return. Though she still held the girl close she separated their lips by joining their foreheads. Both women were breathing hard as Sarah tried to figure out where she went wrong.
“Listen, you're not going to hurt me. I know I'm pretty banged up right now, but there is literally nothing you could do to me that I couldn't recover from… And boy would I like to test that theory.”
A whispered laugh escaped Khepri's lips as she gave the girl a quick peck on the lips before retreating.
“As appealing as that proposal sounds I'm not exactly worried about your physical state right now. I'd simply rather our first carnal experience together not happen when you're drunk and beaten to a pulp.” She softly stroked the girls face again before continuing. “You're special to me Sarah, and we've both got a lot of time to expand on our special relationship before we take it to the next level.”
The time traveler didn't know what to say to this. In a world where she had so few people that cared about her, hearing such a loving statement made her heart swell. In answer she kissed the vampire softly, with no urgency or intensity, and pulled away reluctantly.
“That may be the sweetest rebuke I've ever been privy to.” She said with a gentle laugh.
“It's certainly not a rebuke; more like an extension of the state we're in now.” Khepri promised. “However, there is something I'd like to ask of you.”
“Anything.” Sarah interrupted; amazed that she might have even meant it.
“Stay with me tonight. Let me hold you.”
The time traveler's head dropped for a moment in reverie of the request.
“This is how you make me feel free.”
She hugged the object of her affection close and held her so tightly that it hurt her beaten body.
They walked together, hand in hand, back to the vampire den and just before entering Khepri stopped.
“Go ahead to my room and I'll be inside in a moment. I want to gather some firewood so you won't be cold.”
The mere mention of cold suddenly caused a chill to creep up Sarah's drunken spine. With a nod she smiled at Khepri's consideration and entered the cave. As she faltered along the corridors she finally reached the door that she believed led to Khepri's quarters. With a slight nudge it opened and she staggered over to the bed. Falling on to the soft sheets with a thud she let out a sigh of exhaustion. What she didn't expect was the voice that answered her sigh.
“Don't get me wrong, you're quite interesting, but I go for girls with a little less sass.”
With a swiftness that hurt nearly every part of her body, Sarah leapt from the bed and tried to assess the situation.
“Well, I must say that's the quickest a woman has ever sprang from my bed; dead or alive.”
Sarah tried to get a grasp of her bearings and blushed when she realized that she'd taken the wrong corridor.
“Wow, um… I was looking for Khepri's room. Sorry if I distur…” Her words were cut off as her eyes grazed over a very familiar looking object.
Asteri expelled a perturbed breath of air before speaking. “If you only knew how much you'd disturbed my existence up to this point.”
Sarah didn't even hear his angry quip. All she could possibly do was stare at the one object she'd been searching for since it had been destroyed in Japa. That little green stone that had caused all of her problems was anchored securely into Asteri's head board.
The vampire noticed her lack of retort and followed her eyes to their source of attention.
“Can I help you with something or would you rather desist from ogling my bed frame and leave me in peace.”
“Where did you get that?” The words came though she had no control over them.
“The bed I got in Thessaly . It's handmade and the craftsman tasted very expensive.”
“No, no, the stone in the frame, where did you get it?”
Before Asteri could even expel his answer memories of an ancient Amazonian cave came flooding through Sarah's memories as quickly as the water that nearly drowned her in another life. This was the cave where she'd found the chronostone. This was the very place that changed her entire world.
“…and don't think you can take it just because you've got some strange spell over my sister. That jewel ties the entire room together.” Asteri's voice infiltrated her brainwaves.
And then another.
“What's going on in here?”
Sarah finally dragged her eyes away from the one object that could bring her back to the only thing she craved more than Khepri; her world.
“Well little miss ambassador to the Amazon nation just waltzed into my bed chambers like she owned the place, then went all catatonic once she saw my magnificent jewel.”
As Khepri tried to assess the situation, Sarah tried to find her voice.
“I umm… I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque .” She said with an innocent smile.
Khepri rolled her eyes. “I'm not even going to pretend to know what that meant because obviously it's time to get you to bed. Asteri, I'm sorry we disrupted your sleep.”
“Well, whether you're sorry or not, just be sure to keep your girlfriend's dirty mitts off my beautiful bed frame. She's obviously a fan of impeccable decorating.”
“I'm sure it won't be a problem.” She assured him as she escorted Sarah out of the room.
“What was that all about?” She asked, confused.
“I got lost.” Sarah said, devoid of any emotion.
“No, I meant about his bed.” Khepri clarified.
“Oh… Um…” She faltered and brought herself back to the reality of the situation. “…I just… like green.”
Khepri let out a soft snort. “You're drunk. Let's get you to bed.”
As Sarah lay in the arms of the woman who had enraptured her senses only moments before, she contemplated the fact that the one thing she wanted more than her was to go home. And her chances of going home lay only a few feet away in the den of another vampire. Once Khepri had drifted off to sleep she pulled herself from the safety of her arms and stepped outside the cave to smoke one of the cigarettes she'd procured from the Amazons. As the smoke filled her lungs and invaded the night air, she could only imagine the problems that would lie ahead. And only one statement came to mind as a means of validating her situation.
“God… If you exist… You are one sadistic motherfucker.”
When she went back inside to the bliss of Khepri's arms, she contemplated all the possibilities of the future and decided that, if nothing else, things were about to get very interesting.
To be continued in Book 3 of the “Living in the Past” series
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