Disclaimers: See Part I for disclaimers to this story.
Part II: Saturday
sharp rap to ribs, eyes open. green eyes before her, seeing herself.... no.... seeing her progeny. voice muttering. face melting like candlewax, oozing and dripping. screaming as the creature's mouth opened, laughing. it's mouth approaching hers, screaming into it.
a shift, a change, a warmth growing from within and without. cradled in strong arms, pale eyes above. Xena. safety. love. sensations of being rocked, cinnamon and skin. sliding, touching. musky scent of excitement, low moans.
whispers of sounds, of sighs. low contralto, "gods, you feel so good."
Rickie became slowly aware of her surroundings, a quiet moan escaping her lips as a warm hand trailed up the outside of her right thigh. She opened her eyes to find herself on her left side, pressed firmly against her love, her head pillowed on a beautiful breast. The hand trailed over her hip and up her side. "Mmmm. I love waking up like this," she murmured, looking up into pale sapphires.
"I know," Xena rumbled, a thumb caressing the sensitive side of the fair woman's right breast. "And I love waking you like this." The fingers of her right hand teased her lover's back, raising goosebumps in their wake.
Squirming deliciously at the sensations the warrior's hands created in her, the redhead brought her own hand into play, dancing across olive skin, feeling the ripple of stomach muscles as it tickled its way up to cup a breast. She brushed her thumb against a nipple, enjoying the view as it rose to the occasion and demanded more attention. Not wanting to deny it, Rickie rose onto her elbow and bent her lips and tongue to the task.
Xena's breath caught at the feel of warmth and wetness. She let out a sigh, pulling the younger woman closer in an embrace, turning slightly towards her. Their legs entangled, thigh slipping between thigh. A guttural moan escaped her as she felt her Baccae's teeth gently nipping before kissing and licking her way up to a long, sinuous neck.
As her lover's hand circled the areola of her scarred right nipple, Rickie arched into the contact, pressing her thigh firmly against the dark thatch of hair and the treasures hidden there. She was rewarded with another moan as hips rose to meet hers and she smiled, nibbling on a tender earlobe.
For long minutes the women moved against each other, finding a familiar and comforting rhythm. Hands moved across velvet skin, at first gently, then becoming more insistent, demanding. Lips caressed each other, tongues joining in the erotic dance that had begun so many millennia ago and had never lost its fire.
Xena broke away first, rolling over until she pressed the redhead into the soft feather padding. Her teeth and tongue and lips traced a fiery path along her lover's throat, down to her breasts. The right nipple, scarred and still tender from its abuse three months prior, was given lavish, gentle attention by a tongue before the dark woman moved on to the left. And then the taut stomach was treated the same.
By now, Rickie was beyond thought, only able to feel as her lover painted her legs from the knees on up with feather light kisses and nips. Her smaller hands were buried in long ebony hair that tickled her thighs and lower stomach. And then the tongue found its way to her silky depths, tasting, probing, caressing, as strong hands stretched up to firmly hold her in place. Her heart beat wildly as she sweated and strained against her lover's mouth, panting and moaning.
Xena loved this - the taste of her Baccae, the texture of silk, the aural delights that emitted from that beautiful throat as she brought Rickie closer to the edge. Her own body responded in kind, unable to help itself with the visual, audio, and tactile input it perceived. As she heard the redhead's breathing begin to come in short, loud pants, she knew it was time and plunged two fingers into her lover's wet depths, matching the rhythm of her tongue. The body she held jerked in response before wildly bucking as Rickie fell over the edge of desire and control. The dark woman felt muscles tighten and convulse around her fingers, heard her name called to the heavens in a hoarse cry. And then she slowed, bringing her lover back down, thoroughly cleaning her with a hum of pleasure.
Knowing that Rickie was beyond response for the moment, the warrior rolled to one side and scooted up just a bit, using the redhead's belly as a pillow. She draped her left arm across the slender hips and her thigh across the shins. Rickie's left hand absently caressed her dark hair, brushing out the tangles as she partially dozed.
Their lovemaking was wonderful and tender despite the vicious attack that Rickie had been subjected to three months prior. But it had been a long road for both of them. For the first month after, when the nightmares were at their most intense and every little thing caused flashbacks, the only intimacy was the cuddling, the hugging, the kisses. Xena refused to push, wanting her lover to heal - not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well. The dark woman was reminded of a time with her bard when touching and caring were all she could do, before they had become lovers.
And, despite Rickie's "monster come-back," as the redhead called it, things were different. The passions was there, oh, yes. And the inability for the two women to keep their hands off each other for too long. But, Rickie kept a reign on herself, not allowing that savage sexuality to have its freedom as she had the first time they had been intimate.
Xena had to admit to herself that she missed it, that bit of spice. She'd only had a taste and it had been addicting. She was unable to figure out what to do about it, and so opted to do nothing. If it's meant to be, it'll happen, she thought. And it's still sweet and sexy and.... mmmm.... tasty and hot...
"Hey, you," a voice murmured.
The warrior peered up into emerald eyes. "Hey, you."
"C'mere," Rickie said, bringing her hand down to guide her lover further up the bed.
She offered her lips for a kiss, latching onto Xena and rolling over on top of her. The redhead could taste herself on her lover, moaning at the feel of the dark woman's flushed skin against hers.
Rickie broke off the kiss and licked her lips. "We're not done, yet," she purred.
Paul Anderson sat glumly in his auto a block away from the Hotel an der Nockherstrasse. It wouldn't have been so bad except he still wasn't sure that Xena of Amphipolous was even there. The hotel was far too small for him to be inconspicuous in his questioning. And, so he sat in his auto, back sore from sleeping in it. I'm getting too old for this shit.
He doubted he'd have found a hotel room anyway, what with Oktoberfest's official kickoff this morning. The city and surrounding areas were packed. No room at the inn, he grumbled, scrubbing at his face. She musta had that room lined up for two years! Providing she's in it.
Usually, the Watchers kept looser tabs on the Immortals they spied on. At least on their home front. But, once travel was begun, everybody scrambled to keep up. More than one Immortal had been lost for decades, their history unknown, after an innocent trip. And Europe was crawling with Immortals - far more opportunities for a battle to be fought, a head to roll, and no one to document it.
He rubbed idly at the light blue tattoo on his right wrist, thoughts of espresso running through his head. He was startled by a sudden rapping of a knuckle on his window. Glancing sharply over, he saw a dark haired man gesturing for him to roll down his window. The man was dressed in a grey double breasted suit, grey shirt and a black overcoat, a computer case in his hand.
Anderson rolled the window down. "Ja?"
"Entschuldigen Sie, bitte. Sprechen Sie English?" the man asked with an odd accent.
"Ja, I speak English. What can I do for you?"
The man rolled expressive blue-grey eyes in relief. "Good!" he exclaimed, still with an accent that Anderson couldn't place. "Do you happen to know which way to the Theresienwiese? I don't want to miss the opening parade."
"Uh, sure." The Watcher gave the stranger directions to the Oktoberfest field.
"Thank you very much," the man smiled. "Or should I say, vielen dank? You've been a great help." And, with that, he turned and walked off in the direction indicated.
"No problem," Anderson called to the retreating figure. Shaking his head, he rolled up his window and looked back to the hotel.
The auto pulled up to the small knot of sightseers, honking the horn to urge them aside. An officer dressed in a green uniform moved aside a hastily erected barricade to allow the vehicle entry, moving it back into place before anyone could get ideas of following.
Parking next to two Polizei vehicles, the motor shut off and a blond man in a brown suit emerged. His blue eyes idly roamed over the crowd, noting the telltale flashes of cameras. Presse, he snorted. Of course. Like we don't have enough problems. He turned towards another uniformed officer that was approaching. "Well, what do we have?"
"Looks like number four, sir," the officer said. He gestured for his superior to follow as he lead the way. "Much the same as the others. Brand on the forehead, gutted with a sharp instrument, cut in the shape of a cross. Bruises, welts, abrasions on ankles, wrists, and face. Female, this time." They traveled through a small lot dotted with old, moss covered stones. "Right off the top, I'd say it's that Steinberg woman we have missing right now."
They reached a cluster of officers photographing, cataloging, scouring the ground for evidence. Amid the flurry of activity was a rumpled sheet. The man in the suit stepped carefully forward and lifted one corner, looking into lifeless green eyes, the sign of a cross burnt into the woman's forehead.
Who did this to you? And why? he silently asked the corpse, noting the fiery red hair now contrasting brutally with pale, bloodless skin. With a sigh, he let the sheet fall back over the woman and rose to his feet. He walked away from the eye of the active circle, moving far enough to be out of the way. "Anybody get anything solid, yet?"
"No, sir. We're still looking."
"Who found the corpse?" He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket, offering one to the officer. He lit one for himself after the other man declined.
The officer indicated a smaller knot of people. "Couple of kids out playing." Two young boys answered questions with wide eyes, their respective parents hovering nearby.
Inhaling deeply of the smoke, the man asked, "Has anybody notified her boyfriend, yet? He could help give us proper identification."
"No, sir," the officer replied, ducking his head.
"Alright, then. We'll call him when we get her to the Leichenschauhaus." He walked away, going back to his auto, getting away from the carnage in his mind's eye.
Kommissar Karl Johannes slipped into the driver's seat, closing the door to finish his cigarette in peace. The turmoil in his mind belied the peaceful atmosphere he was attempting to create. Number four. Alyssa Steinberg. If it is you, you'll be forever known as the fourth victim of the Prediger. He shook his blond head. Ah, how many more?
While Munich had its share of violence, being a large international metropolis, stranger murders were rare. Most violence that resulted in death were from domestic disputes, barroom brawls and the occasional robbery gone awry. But someone in Munich was hunting people and torturing them to death, always leaving a cross branded into his victims' foreheads as well as another sign of a cross - the final gutting of the corpse. Johannes was surprised that they hadn't been crucified, too, or at least placed in the popular pose. And the location of the body dumps were always ruins of old churchyards.
He finished the cigarette and stubbed it out in the ashtray. Starting the auto, he pulled away, past the barricade and the mob. Time to go to the Polizeiwache. Time to see the Hauptkommissar. Time to explain why we know nothing.
After a filling continental breakfast in the lobby downstairs, the women were ready to head off for the opening ceremonies. Helmut and his wife fussed over the pair, making sure they were dressed warm enough and had their jackets with them. Both women wore jeans and sneakers. Rickie wore a black t-shirt with a heavy metal band's picture on it. Xena had opted for a royal blue shirt that deepened the color of her eyes. They both wore leather jackets against the chill autumn air, Xena's black and Rickie's brown.
As they stepped into the late morning sunlight, Xena put on her sunglasses and scanned the street. A few people were out and about on this quiet sidestreet. And it appeared all of them were heading for Kolumbusplatz, the underground train station. But something wasn't quite right.
"Oh, it's beautiful out here!" Rickie exclaimed, inhaling deeply. She looked up and down the street expectantly. "Well? Where to?" When there was no answer, she glanced up at her lover who was frowning. "What's up?" the redhead asked softly.
Xena shook her head. "Dunno. I'm pretty sure we're being watched." Her eyes again scanned the street, paying closer attention to the few pedestrians and vehicles. It didn't appear that any were focusing on her. Imagination? The dark woman shrugged and shook her head again. "C'mon, let's go. Probably just a fluke." She guided the teenager towards the train station.
"Are you sure? I mean, maybe we should....."
"Naw," Xena interrupted her with a smile. "If I'm not imagining things, they'll be easier to spot if we're moving." She combed her hand through red gold hair, settling it at the base of the neck. "Probably just a pickpocket looking for decent marks."
Anderson peered over the dashboard of his auto and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The two women were walking away from him, moving towards Kolumbusplatz. At least they didn't spot me! Emil had told him that Xena of Amphipolous was uncanny. Best to be a bit more careful!
The Watcher got out of his car, fishing in the backseat where his suitcase was. Within a matter of minutes, he had changed his shirt and was blending in with the tourists, camera around his neck. He made tracks for the train station, hoping to catch up before he lost them in the Oktoberfest crowd.
Rather than go to the beginning of the parade, Xena steered them towards the Schottenhammel tent in the field that the Oktoberfest was being held in. It was nearly eleven thirty and the horse drawn carts would soon be appearing as they made their way to the opening ceremonies with the keg of new beer. It was already a little crowded but, with a bit of jostling and a few glares, she was able to secure a place for her shorter companion to get a good view.
The dark woman was rewarded for her efforts as the ornately decorated wagons appeared and Rickie fairly jumped up and down in her excitement. She wrapped long arms about the redhead's waist, pressing up against her from behind and resting her cheek on the younger woman's head. Rickie leaned into the embrace, hugging the arms around her.
"Oh, this is so great!" she exclaimed, delighting in the horses, the colorful wagons, the people dressed in embroidered Lederhosen and long dresses. "I wish I had a camera!"
"Your wish is my command, milady," Xena responded, pulling a disposable camera from her jacket pocket and handing it to her lover. She smiled as Rickie almost squealed in appreciation.
Rickie turned in the embrace and looked up into pale blue fire. "Do you know that I love you, beautiful?"
A dark brow raised. "Just for a disposable camera? Wow! Wonder what I'd get for a cheapo 35mm...?"
"Guess you'll just have to find out," the redhead responded with an impish grin. She turned around in her lover's grasp and began snapping pictures.
Xena nuzzled the red hair. "Hmmm.... Sounds like a plan...." She grinned at the elbow lightly pushed into her ribs.
"Hey, it's not my fault that I'm not over two thousand."
Nearby, Anderson snapped his own pictures, telephoto lens trained on the Immortal and her partner.
"Now, here's where things have the potential to get a bit sticky," Xena informed her heart.
The parade complete, there were several people standing on a stage making speeches around a keg of beer.
"Well, tradition has it that the mayor of Munich has to tap the first keg of Oktoberfest. And he's gotta do it right or it'll be a bad omen. He'll lose respect."
Rickie frowned. "But, unless he's a brewer, how's he gonna do it right?"
"Well, if he's smart, he'll have some practice," the dark woman said. "I've seen tappings that were pretty lame - spraying all over the place...." She chuckled. "Usually, the mayor isn't mayor for long after." Her grip around her lover's waist tightened. "Here we go."
Of the people on the stage, one of them - presumably the mayor - said a few more short words before picking up a wooden hammer and a crooked bronze tap. The crowd quieted a bit and watched as he approached the ceremonial keg. With an obviously bold movement, he settled the tap and hammered it in, not spilling a drop.
"Yep. He's had practice."
The mayor poured a large glass stein, making a big production of tasting it, before shouting, "O'zapft is!" There was a roar from the crowd in response and the party atmosphere commenced.
As the people around them began to dissipate, moving towards beer tents and carnival rides, Rickie asked, "What did he say?"
"Basically, 'It's been tapped.' It's the official opening to Oktoberfest, done every year just this way." She released the redhead. "Wanna get something to eat?"
Xena smirked at the enthusiastic response and led the way towards the food booths.
Behind them, a man in a grey double breasted suit and a black overcoat sauntered along.
The only light in the room came from the candles that covered every conceivable space on table and floor. They fluttered and flickered, light and shadow dancing across the shrine and against the walls. A heavy smell of incense was in the air.
On the alter were several religious items. A cast iron brazier held the coals that burnt the incense, thick smoke curling upwards. A statue of the madonna and child, stained and pitted with age. A gold chalice of wine. A small golden plate of white wafers. On the wall above was a wooden crucifix, the Christ figure staring up at the ceiling in abject agony as blood ran from His wounds.
The figure kneeling naked before the alter carefully laid a blood stained knife and Bible in their places. A lock of fiery red hair, also stained with blood, was put in the brazier. The hair crackled as it caught fire, shriveling into ash and leaving a foul smell in the room. A scourge appeared from the cupboard beneath the shrine. The figure's head bowed and the penance began, a sharp sound of leather meeting flesh echoing in the small confines. The only other sounds were the muttered prayers.
The Fourth was complete. The Schueler Peter was content. The Fifth would be delivered unto the person known only as the Prediger. Soon. Very soon.
The lovers had a wonderful afternoon and early evening at the Oktoberfest. Rickie had already gone through four disposable cameras and they had had to leave the 'fest to find more and get the pictures developed. There had been food booths, beer tents, and carnival rides. The younger woman was even amazed to discover that a flea circus was in residence, and delighted in watching the insects pull wagons, play on teeter totters, and dance around in tutus.
"It's like a giant midway!" the redhead exclaimed, watching people board the ferris wheel. "How long does it go on?" She was munching on a bratwurst, smearing the hot mustard on her face.
"Nearly two weeks." A long finger reached out and captured the dollop of mustard at the corner of Rickie's mouth. "C'mon, messy. Let's go get you cleaned up."
As they walked towards the public bathrooms, the younger woman studied Xena out of the corner of her eye. "You're kinda distant. You okay?"
Her answer was a smile. The warrior reached for her hand and held it as they walked. "Yeah. I'm fine. Don't be glancing around, but I've found who's been following us."
Emerald green eyes widened and red gold brows arose. "Really? But... That was hours ago!" She lowered her brows and frowned. "Who would be following us for that long? And why?"
Xena shrugged idly, a lazy jungle cat out for a stroll. "Dunno. Gonna find out, though." The dark woman kept scanning the Oktoberfest, searching for a decent place. Unfortunately, she'd had to let the game go on for far too long. But, now that it was dark, the shadows that claimed areas of the 'fest that could be put to easy use.
Beer in hand, Anderson tagged along, staring at booths when the women would glance his way. He was feeling pretty damned proud of himself, having kept to his target without any problems. She ain't all that, Emil, he thought smugly. Gonna have to give you a call and let ya know, too. Oh, well, it was to be expected. Watchers tended to get very protective and proud of the Immortals they were assigned to. Kind of like indulgent parents. So, of course, Emil Holt would consider Xena one of the best, wiliest, most dangerous of the Immortals that were in the world today.
The two women before him were holding hands as they walked and talked. Anderson wondered idly if the girl knew exactly what she was involved with. He shook his head to himself, again playing the high points of his constant fantasy in his head - he, an Immortal, taking heads in the great Game, searching for the Prize. With a snort, he shook himself. Schyeah, right, Anderson! You and Bozo the Clown!
His mind came back to the present in a rush as the couple he was trailing slipped in between two food stalls and into a dark alley. Shit! He stopped in his tracks, looking around the area. Where to go? Can't follow. It'd be too obvious. He tossed his plastic beerglass into a trash can and moved past the point that they had disappeared. Two stalls further down, he slid into the shadows, preparing to backtrack. Hey, maybe I'll get lucky and see a little action, he smirked, visions of the two women in a hot embrace filtering through his mind.
He eagerly moved forward, eyes adjusting to the darkness. As Anderson neared the place where the Immortal had disappeared, he was disappointed to find no one there. What? Where the hell did she go?
In answer to his unspoken question, a low contralto said, "Right here."
Anderson whirled around, seeing pale blue eyes reflected in the midway lights and a large dark object approaching his head. And then he was on the ground, head ringing from the impact.
Picking him up by the collar of his jacket and forcing him to lean against the stall, Xena studied him carefully. "I don't know you. Why are you following us?" Sensing no fight, she released him and took a step back.
The Watcher brought his hand up to rub at his jaw. "Not following you. Dunno what you mean."
The dark woman smirked, hands on her hips. "Maybe I should put the pinch on him, Rickie. Whaddya think?"
Even as the redhead behind her protested in his favor, Anderson's eyes widened in fear. He'd heard about 'the pinch' from Emil.
Seeing the response she'd expected, the abject terror in the man's eyes, she knew that he was aware of exactly who she was. And that meant he knew who she had been, as well. With a lightning quick movement, Xena's hand shot out and grabbed his right wrist. Yanking it into the dim light, she saw a tattoo.
Rickie stepped forward and glanced at it, too. "Just like Emil's," she breathed.
"Yep," the older woman nodded. "Just like Emil's." She released the man before her, watching with amusement as he snatched his arm back to himself and hugged it to his chest. She stepped forward until she was mere inches from the man who cowered against the wall. "I don't know who you people are, but I'm on vacation here. I don't want to hurt you, but I will. You will leave us alone or you'll be in the hospital." Satisfied that her message had sunk in, she stepped back once again. "Now, go tell whoever the hell sent you that you need to find another job." When the man didn't move, she growled, "Beat it!"
Xena watched him go, arms crossed in front of her chest and lips pursed in thought. She felt a hand slide up her arm to her shoulder. Turning, she allowed a slight smile for her lover.
"You think that maybe it's coincidence? The tattoo?" Rickie asked with faint hope.
The dark head shook. "Nope. No such thing as coincidence." She sighed. "I've let Emil go for long enough. We're going to have to have a long talk when we get home." She was lost in thought for a few moments longer until she felt warm arms wrap around her waist. Xena released her arms and gathered the redhead up instead.
"Well, it's just gonna have to wait, Xena," Rickie said softly, hands moving on her lover's back under the black jacket. "C'mon, let's go have fun."
The Immortal smiled softly and bent to taste of those lips, the slight taste of mustard still on them. "Mmmm.... Sounds good. Let's go."
The two women sidled back out onto the walkway, humor restored. Neither saw another person come from the shadows, a long black overcoat over a grey suit.
Crackle of long distance phone lines.
"Are you in position?"
"Yes. And I've an invite. Should be easy to obtain." Pause. "What about you?"
"Very good. Everything's working out wonderfully. I'll contact you tomorrow?"