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COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The personages of Xena and Gabrielle are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures...MCA/Universal and have been simply borrowed. They were paid union scale for their appearance and fed lunch. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this bit of fictional whimsy. All other accounts, characters, dialogue and descriptions...yadayadayada...is the property of the author. Use of said stuff must have the authorís approval. You may print this for private use, but not for distribution, and the copyright disclaimer must be included.

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains references to romantic love between two, consenting, adult women. If this concept offends you or you are under eigthteen years of age, DO NOT READ THIS!! The author takes no responsibility for blatantly disregarding this warning. ĎNuff said.

CONTINUITY WARNING: This story is a continuation of the Dimension series... part three to be exact. If you have not read the previous two, Dimension of The Heart and New Dimensions, you may miss some of the subtle references that would make the story more enjoyable. There is also a continuation of characters. This again, might make following the relationships somewhat difficult. You can, however, read this without any previous knowledge of the preceding installments and try to put the pieces together.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: This particular story wouldnít have come together without the help of some special people. First, thanks to my editors. Without them, this story might have been just one long run-on sentence. Second, my gratitude to Sarah McLachlan and Celine Dion for their music and words. Third, a special thanks to a certain Canuck for an in-depth lesson on the finer aspects of Canadian beer.

DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER: Hmmm...anything else? Well...if there is, this disclaimer should cover it. So, go ahead, and jump in. Comments may be sent to Vryblueyz@aol.com


DIMENSIONíS HOPE
by: Blue
Vryblueyz@aol.com
Copyright 1997


PROLOGUE

Four lives...two dimensions....forever linked. Separate personalities joined by common passion...drive...love. To say it is an unusual connection would be a gross misstatement of fact. To say it is a coincidence would be equally inaccurate....for there are no accidents in the universe...only convenient crossings. A life that intersects another does so with purpose. This is not always apparent to the participants...but a truth none the less. For if we could rise above the moment in which we exist, we would see the simple beauty of our journey. Twists and turns that made no sense to us before would become clear and all the worry...depression over lost opportunity...lost love would be a mere ripple in the fabric of time. Eventually, we will evolve to the same end...our paths different but the same...ever moving forward...touching each other many times along the way. Ah...if we could but remember......


The December Atlanta skyline was illuminated in the colors of the season. Most of the large buildings had quaint patterns of red and green glowing through the windows. Some were in the triangular shape of a tree...some a star...some nothing distinguishable. But it was all in the spirit of the Holiday season and the whole city was fully engaged in good cheer. Liz sat in her chair gazing out into the darkness....the view from her warehouse space was panoramic and stunning. Looking out on the city used to be one of her favorite pastimes. Of late, the vista had lost itís magic. She was dressed in sweats and an old terry cloth robe....her feet curled up under her. Absently, she moved aged brandy around in a large snifter....the motion hypnotic. Peering into the snifter, she watched the liquid coat the sides of the glass...mesmerized by the smoothness of the fluid....almost taking on a life of its own. She held the glass aloft and made a sarcastic toast.

"Hereís to Peace on Earth." She paused, then added, " What a crock!"

Liz brought the glass to her lips and captured the brandy in her mouth. She wasnít accustomed to the headiness of the alcohol but let it warm her throat as she swallowed. She was hoping that somehow the brandy would unlock her walled emotions. But like many nights before...they remained sequestered. An insistent paw on her arm intruded upon her internal quest. The young feline wanted attention and wasnít going to take no for an answer. The cat persisted until Liz scratched her exposed tummy...eliciting a vibrating purr.

She looked at the beauty in her lap. A bundle of unconditional love disguised as a young adult female...Brie. Liz remembered finding Brie as an orphaned kitten, just barely four months old. It didnít take much persuasion to take the baby in. In fact, Brie insisted on adopting Liz. And that was the end of it. She was nearly two years old now. Her cohort, RG, was sleeping soundly on the blanket wadded up on the large leather sofa. The three of them had gone through this same ritual for weeks. Liz sitting up at night...waiting for the sun...Brie and RG just wanting to be close to their momma. The rest of the house was deadly quiet...only the sound of Sarah McLachlan, pouring into the space, interrupted the silence. Her lyrics were like a sharp stick in an open wound.

"....I would be the one to hold you down...kiss you so hard......Iíll take your breath away...."

Liz listened to her every night...wanting to resurrect her feeling...anything to bring back her life...the memory of her love. It had all been so senseless and replayed in her dreamstate. Therefore, she avoided going to that place as long as possible...only to be finally taken over by exhaustion. The dream would begin...again...in complete detail and agonizing clarity.


"Liz, hurry up, weíre gonna be late. And you know how I hate that " Sam was yelling through the condo for her partner to get a move on. "If I miss the opening piece, youíre never going to hear the end of it!"

The dark hired woman was muttering under her breath, "Oh...Iím already not hearing the end of it." She was scurrying about the bedroom...grabbing a sweater...looking for her other shoe...fending off the playful animal. "Brie....not now!" Liz pried the shoelace from the felineís grasp.

A more insistent call came from the outer room. "If youíre not out here in two minutes, Iím leaving without you....I mean it."

"Jeez...Iím coming already! " The words and the woman appeared in the doorway at the same time. The sweater being pulled over her head obscured her face. Finally a face popped through the opening and arms snaked their way into the sleeves. "Just relax, Sam...weíre not going to be late. Iíve never been late going to the symphony...and Iím not gonna start tonight. I just couldnít find my shoes...thatís all."

She finished situating the sweater over her upper body...the fabric deceptively hiding her broad shoulders. Her feet were in her shoes, but the laces were conspicuously dangling and being stalked by Brie. Her hands ran gracefully through her hair...pulling it free of the barely exposed shirt collar. Liz stood awaiting inspection.

"So...do I look ok?" She peered into the eyes of her lover.

Raising an eyebrow, Sam poured over the form before her. Her green eyes traced every line...every feature...every nuance. She caught her breath when their eyes locked. It never ceased to amaze her the sheer power this woman exerted on her...even when she wasnít trying. Some days it was down right annoying.

She slightly shook her head and blinked. " Uh...fine...you look fine. Oh...Iíd tie those laces if I were you."

Liz cocked her head to one side and had that crooked little smile on her lips. "Fine!? Thatís it? Fine? I slave for hours to find the perfect outfit and all you can say is....FINE!?" There was mischievousness to her dialogue as she bent to secure the loose lace ends.

Sam knew this game and was having none of it...or they indeed would be late...very late. "Yes...fine...now letís go. Weíll be parking on the street as it is."

She was already moving toward the door. Standing still when Liz had that look in her eyes was not a good idea. She had learned the hard way a long time ago. Yes...moving was the key. Sam grabbed the car keys and her coat. Parking on the street meant a healthy little walk to Symphony Hall. It was late October and the weather had finally turned cool. She refused to be uncomfortable strolling the sidewalk.

Liz followed her toward the hallway....grabbing her Burberry from the hall tree. She was three paces behind Sam. "Sweetheart, you think you could slow down? I promise weíll make it in time."

Sam threw a look over her shoulder. "Yes...we will...cuz Iím driving tonight."

Liz opened her mouth to protest and didnít get the first syllable out. Sam held up a hand to stem the whining. "Donít even think about it...just deal with it, ok?"

The two entered the elevator...Sam smiling and Liz adoring her. Gods...she loved this woman. Her life had finally broken free and this was the most remarkable interaction. Silently, she thanked two other remarkable women....the tall warrior and her bard.


Roger paced nervously in the atrium of the Arts Center. He had polished off his champagne and was about to order another. Lately, Liz had been less than punctual. She had taken on a new perspective on life...much of which didnít sit well with the boy. This laid back woman wasnít familiar. Oh...she was easier to deal with, most certainly, but he missed that feistiness.

"Roger....stop pacing! They will be here...chill out for godís sake!" Randi handed him a second glass of bubbly and tried to draw his attention from the tardiness of his friend.

Taking a huge gulp, he couldnít help going on. "Oh...jeez Randi...whatís up with her lately? She never used to late for anything. Now if sheís on time, itís an event. I swear that last little trip did something to her."

Randi had to agree Liz had changed. There was a marked calmness within her that defied explanation. Something very important had shifted inside her...something wonderful and focused. Randi believed that Sam was part of that reason. She placed a patronizing hand on Rogerís sleeve.

"Roger, honey, sheís finally happy. Canít you just go with that?"

"Oh...I donít have a problem with her being happy...but would it be too much to ask for happiness and punctuality!?"

Randi smiled and just shook her head. " Well...you may have to just be ok with the happiness angle. Now just relax...donít go spoiling this evening with some kind of queen snit. This performance is one of her favorites...Iím sure they will be here shortly."


Sam expertly wheeled the two-seater toward the Arts Center. They usually parked in a nearby hi-rise garage, but tonight it was filled.

Samís eyes narrowed as she saw the Ďfilledí sign. "Damn!! I didnít want to park on the street tonight. But we donít have a choice. We would pick the most popular program to be late for. Now weíre gonna pay."

She cast a glance at Liz. "No...make that Ďyouíreí gonna pay. This isnít going to go well for you, missy. Iíll be thinking of something appropriate I can assure you."

"Fine...you do that. Oh and see if you can think of something we havenít done, ok?" Liz loved teasing her and did so at every opportunity. She leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

Raising an eyebrow, Sam tried to be stern. "Oh...you think a kiss on the cheek will save you?"

"Uh...no...but maybe it will delay you a bit." Liz was scanning the curbside for a parking space. "Oh...there...thereís a spot. I think we can just fit this baby between those two over there."

She was pointing to a spot toward the end of the residential side street. It was a pretty good hike up to Symphony Hall...but they had run out of time. It was now or miss the opening. Sam wasnít too thrilled with the location but parked anyway. The two women climbed out of the car...locked the doors and started up the sidewalk.

Liz scanned their path. Although this street was in a well-heeled neighborhood, some of the cityís lower elements often panhandled here. She noticed two figures hunched near one of the parked cars. Instinctively, she placed herself between the men and Sam, taking hold of her arm as an extra precaution. You could never be too cautious these days. She was relatively sure they would pass without incident. They were not even a block from the busy intersection filled with rushing traffic. As they neared the duo, one of the men turned toward them. Liz thought he was going to ask for some change. The true gravity of the situation wasnít apparent until their path was blocked. The alarms went off but it was too late. The men were dirty and looking for quick cash for their varied habits. One brandished a handgun.

He was nervous...shaking...and Liz couldnít be sure if it was because he needed a fix or from the high of an impending heist. Either was to spell disaster for them. The man with the weapon spoke to Liz and Sam. Her pointed the 38 directly at them.

"Ok...I donít want no trouble. Jest gimme yer money and git!!" He was shaking so badly he had to hold the gun with both hands. Liz was afraid it might go off just from the jerking he was doing. She tried to calm the man.

Holding up both her hands, she spoke quietly. "Ok...relax...Iím just going to reach in my pocket to get my cash...ok?" Sam was a wreck and white as a sheet. She was genuinely scared shitless. She grabbed Lizís coat sleeve. The second robber grabbed her by both arms, pulling her away from Liz. There was a panic rising in her throat...along with a scream.

He brought a fist across her face to silence her vocal objections.

"Shut up bitch!! Or Iíll cut ya." He had the point of a blade at her throat. Samís eyes with dilated and an expression of terror was on her face. Liz went into reaction mode seeing her lover threatened. She shoved the man away from Samís side and the knife along with him.

"Leave her alone, you bastard! Take the goddamn money and leave us alone!!"

She had moved the guy off Sam and had her arms around her...trying to protect her. The party with the gun was freaking out. He knew this was a bust but he was wired just enough to be stupid. He moved toward the women intent on pistol whipping Liz...then taking her money. He brought the gun down over Lizís right eyebrow opening a gash. Blood began pouring over her face and down onto her coat. The guy was bonkers now. His partner was equally pissed off.

"Shit! Just off the both of emí and letís get outta here before the cops come." He was nervously eyeing the intersection for a sign that someone had heard Samís scream. He urged his crackhead friend to do the deed. "Címon...do it! Theyíre just fuckiní queers. Hurry...we ainít got all night!" His friend stood with a crazy, drug induced look in his eyes...cocked the hammer...and pointed the barrel at Lizís head.

Acting strictly on adrenaline, Sam lunged at his hand placing her body between the gun and Liz. In the struggle, it went off. All the participants froze...time stood still. Then in slow motion, Sam fell to the pavement...a look of shock on her face.

The two men looked at one another...at Sam...and then Liz. They bolted down the sidewalk into the darkness, leaving Liz on her knees crawling to Samís side. She rolled her lover over, and cradled her head in her lap, gently rocking. Samís eyes were open but she was already gone. Liz was racked with a pain she had never experienced. Like a wounded animal, she threw her head back and wailed.

"Oh...God...Nooooo...Please nooo....!!!."

 

CHAPTER ONE

Liz was bolted awake by the image of the dream. The night had given way to the first rays of morning. She had slept in the chair again all night. In fact, she had hardly slept in her bed since that night. It was too painful to crawl under the sheets alone...the memory of Sam being next to her was too vivid. Brie and RG wished their charge could get past all this...for sleeping on that comfy bed was a treat for them.

Slowly, Liz moved her tired, stiff limbs. She reminded herself that the sofa would do as a reasonable substitute in the future...or as long as this was happening. The cats were pacing in front of her as she made her way to the kitchen. She needed coffee...and lots of it. She also needed food but couldnít bring herself to actually fix anything that required more than one step. As a consequence, her body was not very happy and was beginning to rebel. She filled the catsí dishes and watched them tear into breakfast...always amazed that they could possibly be that famished.

"I donít believe you guys. This stuff canít be that good. " She picked a bit of the dry kibble, sniffed it and popped it into her mouth. Carefully, she bit down on it crushing the morsel into fine particles. She was honestly trying to distinguish the flavor when the phone rang. Reaching for the cordless, she answered.

"Um...hello?" She was looking for something to wash the kibble down.

"Liz?? Are you all right?" Randiís voice was laced with mild concern.

Gulping some water, Liz finally conceded that cats had no taste buds. "Yeah...I was just having breakfast with Brie and RG. Whatís up?" She continued to try to rid herself of the nasty tuna morsel.

"Well, at least youíre eating. Iíve been worried about you. Look, Iím on my way to the University and want to stop by for a moment. That ok with you?" Randi paused fully expecting resistance.

"Uh...sure...Iíll be here. See you in a few, Randi." Liz clicked the phone off and poured herself some coffee. At least she still had a desire for her morning java. She stuck her head in the fridge. Before Sam moved in, it was merely a holding place for milk, eggs, champagne and assorted take out leftovers. She looked at the pitiful array before her. Seems the fridge was reverting back to its former state also. A container of real sour cream rattled in the door. It reminded Liz of one of the first disagreements she and Sam had gone through. It occurred in the market.


"Ok...Iíll get the veggies and you do the dairy route." Sam handed Liz the list and pushed the cart toward the produce aisle. Liz stared at the list and meandered over to the refrigerated dairy case. In a few moments she found Sam and unloaded her selections in the cart.

"All right...dairy taken care of. Whatís next?"

Sam was going through the deposited items. She held up a container. "Uh...Liz, honey...what is this?"

Quizzically, Liz looked at the tub...then at Sam. "Huh? This is a test, right?" She turned the tubís label toward Samís eyes. "Itís all right here...see? Sour cream. That was on the list remember?"

Samís eyebrow arched. "Yes...sour cream was on the list...but not this sour cream." She pointed to the lettering. "What does this say?"

Liz sighed deeply. "It says SOUR CREAM...duh!"

Sam patience was quickly fading. "I know it says sour cream...Iím talking about THIS!" Her delicate finger was once again pointing to the container.

"Oh...it says ...no fat. And your problem is...?"

"The problem is that I need sour cream...not this abomination. Now please get the real thing."

Liz was irked now. "As far as Iím concerned...this is the real thing. Do you have any idea how much fat is in real sour cream?"

Sam just let her loverís irritation roll off her back. "Sweetheart, I donít care. I just know Iím not cooking with this stuff." Dismissively, she tossed the container to Liz.

The two women stood and stared at one another. The great produce aisle standoff was about to commence. Liz caught the container and shot it back toward the cart...easily scoring two points.

"And Iím not eating any artery clogging, stroke inducing item!"

Sam neatly plucked the tub from its resting place, again sailing it toward Liz. "Well...you know what!? I donít care if you eat it...I am just not going to cook with this."

Liz deftly snagged the container with one hand and prepared to launch the next salvo. In one movement, the tub reversed course and landed not so gently against the side of the cart. This time the tamper proof seal was broken. The sour cream was about to hit the fan for sure. Sam lifted the unreturnable container and glared at Liz.

"Well...I hope youíre satisfied. We will have to purchase this now as you have broken the seal." She lifted the top off the tub and turned it upside down. The contents stayed steadfastly in place. To further make her point, Sam shook the container vigorously actually trying to dislodge the inhabitant. It wasnít moving.

"See...This is not sour cream. This is something unholy. Look...no movement." Again she shook the tub. " This container should have been all over the floor by now. There is a difference."

Liz had her arms folded and was watching the gravity-defying act. She wasnít ready to give in and in fact, was about to turn the burner up a notch.

"Iím sorry...but it all tastes the same to me. Thereís no difference...oh except in the number of fat globs floating around waiting to strangle my heart!"

Sam was on the verge of a stem winding fit. "No difference!? HA!! I bet you even like Cheese Whiz and Velveeta as opposed to aged cheddar, too."

Liz shook her head from side to side. "All that stuff is death waiting for a ride. Nope...donít eat it. Jeez...Cheese Whiz...puleeze... I prefer processed cheese food products...American slices to be precise." There was a twinkle in her blue eyes. The next sound was the snap of the line as the hook was set. Sam bit.

"What!? I donít believe you...you wonít eat Cheese Whiz but nosh on fake, chemically enhanced Ďcheese foodí!? That stuff has a half-life of a gazillion years. Gods... youíre impossible...I...I...." Sam was drawing quite a little crowd with her food opinions. Liz couldnít hold it in check any longer...her somber expression cracked and she fell out in the aisle. Sam stopped her diatribe in mid sentence...her hand still holding the tub upside down. As if by magic, the contents decided to look for another home. In one molded, gelatinous wad, it dove into the basket...dividing into segments as it passed through the wire bottom.

This only made Liz laugh harder...tears were running down her cheek...and she was holding her sides. Oh...she knew Sam was going to get revenge...but this was just too funny.

Sam finally realized that her lover had set her up. She dropped the empty container and watch Liz trying to regain her composure. She pursed her lips, scooped up some of the sour cream from the basket. Liz was too busy having a seizure to notice Sam nearing her. She was bent over in the throes of hysterical laughter. Sam tapped her on the back.

"Oh...verrry funny, Liz. Youíre in some big trouble, missy." Sam used the term Ďmissyí in a playful manner...and it was a form of endearment.

Liz was finally regaining some control. Slowly she uprighted herself. "Oh...Sam...Iím sorry...really I am... but youíre just so easy to tease...."

She didnít get all the apology out before a handful of sour cream was smeared all over her face. Sam was laughing this time. "Gee...youíre right, it is all the same."

There was a look of shock on Lizís face...reprisal would be quick and creamy. The two proceeded to scoop the sour cream off the floor and buggy...depositing it on and at one another. By the time the produce manager got there, they both looked like they had just spent a morning at Elizabeth Arden. They were laughing and totally unaware of the surroundings. It was a first for both of them...being thrown out of the market. Oh...they were eventually allowed to shop there again...but not together.


Liz felt a pang in her chest thinking about that incident. She took the container out of the fridge and tossed it in the trash. She couldnít even look at a tub of sour cream right now. Everything was too fresh...too open....too real. She walked around the kitchen island and headed for the sound system. Selecting a CD, she inserted the disc and hit the <play> button. Liz moved to her chair and waited for the opening movement of Mozartís Requiem to begin. As the Introitus:Requiem began, Randi let herself in. Liz was oblivious to her friendís arrival...her attention was directed to the Requiem and to something deep inside her.

Randi could almost feel the anguish of her longtime friend. In fact, it pervaded the room like a breathing entity...keeping Liz separated from those who loved her right now. She so wanted to help her, but was powerless to do anything except stay available. This was so hard on all of them. So many times Liz had been there for her and Roger and now, when Liz needed help, they couldnít reach her. Randi knew it was a matter of time...time to accept...time to grieve...time to heal...everything in due time. She almost chuckled to herself. Her concept of time had been radically altered by the last adventure they had shared. It also reminded her that Sam had been very much a part of that interaction.

The thought of her brought forth feelings of loss. Randi had gotten to know Sam pretty well over the last year...and had grown to really like her. Her influence on Liz was amazing...so loving...so positive. Liz was truly happy probably for the first time in her life. The fact that Sam had been taken away so abruptly and violently still was incomprehensible. Randi could only imagine what Liz was going through. She placed the deli bag on the counter, poured herself some coffee and walked over to the sitting area facing the wall of glass. Liz hardly flinched at the arrival of Randiís form.

"Liz...are you all right?" Randi had her hand on her friendís shoulder, applying gentle pressure.

It took a moment for Liz to realize she wasnít alone and almost looked irritated that Randi was there.

"All right? What does that mean exactly?" Lizís sarcastic question left little to the imagination as to her mood. Randi knew this wasnít going to be easy.

"Ok.... poor choice of words. Itís just that Iím worried about you, hon. I know youíre hurting, Liz...but you will get through this...we all will." The last phrase was more of a hope than statement of fact.

Liz looked at Randi with calm eyes. "And what if I donít want to get through this? Suppose it doesnít matter anymore? Then what?"

Randi tried to quell her rising concern. " Liz...you listen to me. Losing Sam was a horrible, senseless thing. I canít fully understand how you feel...but I know that Roger and I love you very much. We want to help you...you donít have to do this alone. Do you understand what Iím telling you?"

Liz placed her hand over Randiís, patting gently. "I know...I know. But some of this I have to do alone. I donít mean to be distant, but right now I canít help it. Thereís so much pain...I canít even talk about it...."

Her eyes filled with tears and a very deep sorrow began to make itís way out of her soul. It was painful for Randi to watch. She wrapped her arms around her dear friend and just let her cry.

In a corner of the room three figures watched the interaction. They were of a different reality...but very connected to Liz. Their concern was real...their existence requiring a suspension of belief.

"Xena...canít we help her ? Sheís in so much pain." The bard drew closer to the warrior.

"I know Gabrielle. But there is little we can do here. Itís not like when she came to our dimension...we have no real substance in this reality. We are random thoughts...feelings...nothing more. Liz will have to do this alone Iím afraid." Xenaís arms held her lover in a protective grasp...thankful she was able to do so.

The third entity stood slightly apart from the two...her eyes misting over watching the agony of her lover. She turned to Xena and Gabrielle, pleading.

"Please...there has to be something we can do. We...I...canít watch her suffer so...Xena you must have a plan, right? I mean Liz said you always had a plan. Tell me you have one...please." Samís anguish was so palpable it caused Liz to feel a small wave of emotion. She pulled away from Randi.

"Did you say something?"

Randi looked at Liz with puzzlement in her eyes. "No...I didnít, why?"

"I thought I heard someone...you... say something. Guess Iím hearing things now, too." There was a faint smile on her face as she disengaged herself from Randiís embrace.

"Sweetheart, I think youíre exhausted...emotionally and physically. I know for a fact youíre not eating in spite of your comment this morning. Liz, you have to take care of yourself...or let Roger and me do it for you. Those are your choices...pick one. " The woman was very adamant about this...and it was very evident in the tone of her voice.

Liz knew Randi meant what she said. "Ok...how about we try a combination of the two?"

"Thatís more like it. Weíll start with breakfast. I stopped at Hueyís this morning and got some fresh beignets and blueberry sauce. You can consume those until we get to the market. Roger will be coming by later to get you out of this condo." Randi paused to make sure Liz was hearing her. "You with me so far?"

"Yeah...breakfast...the market...get out of the condo...I hear you."

"Oh...and Liz...take a long hot bath this morning...just soak...and get that damned Requiem off the stereo!" It was not a request.

Liz sighed and gave into Randiís demands...for the moment. She didnít possess the energy to put up an argument. "Ok...anything to get you to stop bitchiní at me. A hot bath...dis the Requiem...got it. Anything else?"

"No...I think that will do for the time being. You gonna be all right...oh...well you know what I mean? I can stay for a bit longer if you want me to. I donít have to be at the University until noon for the board meeting."

"Iíll be ok, Randi. Thanks for coming by...Iím sorry that I...."

"Liz, you have nothing to be sorry about. Just know that Iím here for you and that I love you."

Liz embraced her friend. "I know you do...and I love you, too. Iím gonna have one of those beignets and run a bath."

Randi finally felt a little better about leaving. "Ok...Iíll go...but you call me if you need to."

"I will...I promise."

Liz walked Randi to the door, gave her a kiss on the cheek and watched her disappear down the hall. She shut and locked the door...walked over to the sound system and turned up the Requiem.

Gabrielle looked at Liz and then to Xena. "I thought she was going to turn that thing off."

Xena walked over to the sound system, peering at the dials and controls. It looked very complicated to her.

"Hmmm...well it appears our friend is very stubborn. Now if I could only turn this off...." She continued to study the controls. " Uh...this looks like a volume control...I think. Hey, Sam, you know about this...help me out."

Sam moved to the unit. If anyone could have actually seen the duo, they would have been amazed. Sam was obviously of this time...but Xena was...well...she was Xena...leather...sword...chakram.

"Youíre right, Xena, this is the volume control, but we have no way of manipulating it." Sam actually tried to grasp the dial, but her hand went through the unit.

Xena wasnít ready to give up. "Damn! There has to be a way. Is there another way to control this thing?"

Sam thought for a moment. "Well...thereís the remote...but I donít see us having any more luck with that."

"Remote? Where?" Xena was looking about the area.

Sam tried to dissuade her futile search. "Xena...stop...itís useless. We have no presence here."

Gabrielle had moved over to the kitchen island with Liz. She was drawn to the sight of the beignets....her mouth watering. She offered some advice to Sam.

"You may as well let her just try. Did I tell you that Xena is relentless once she sets her mind to something?" She returned her attention to the pastry. "Gods...Iím hungry."

Xena found the thin remote in Lizís chair. "Gabrielle...youíre always hungry. Now...I need something to push this button with." She scanned the room and found the answer. Brie had found a sunny spot and was grooming herself. She had seen the visitors and really didnít think anything was unusual. Animals had the ability to perceive more that one dimension...they did it all the time. Yep...those times when the owners thought their animals were chasing shadows... they were really interacting with entities from other dimensions. Humans were too limited in their beliefs to possibly understand or perceive this. But Xena knew...and was about to exploit the dimensional recognition.

"Here kitty...címon..." She made little squeaking noises to draw the felineís attention. It worked. Brie stopped grooming and looked right at the warrior. She stood and slowly walked toward Xena and the chair.

"Thatís it...címom...just a little closer." She made a rapid hand motion back and forth along the seat of the chair. Brieís head and eyes followed the movement...she couldnít resist pouncing...and did so right on top of the remote. The result was instant silence...she had turned the thing off completely. Sam was amazed by the warriorís ingenuity.

"Xena...if I didnít know any better, Iíd think you saw the movie "Ghost" and borrowed the cat trick."

Gabrielle was trying desperately to snag the last bite of the beignet. "I told you she was relentless. Now if I could get some help with this morsel."

Xena was pleased with the outcome. "Hey...I just used what was available."

Lizís attention was diverted from her breakfast by the sudden silence. "What the...." She moved quickly to the system. As she neared the chair, Brie shot over the back and into the bedroom. Liz saw the reason for the silence.

"Oh...ok, Brie...I get the point. Jeez...you and Randi must have some sort of conspiracy going. No more Requiem. How about Sarah then?"

Without waiting for a response, Liz placed "fumbling towards ecstasy" on the player and moved toward the bath. Sam grabbed her chest, a look of undeniable pain on her face...crouched in a ball...and cried.

Gabrielle had moved toward her...placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. She stooped beside her...holding her.

"Itís going to be ok, Sam. You two just have to let go of each other...some how. Otherwise Liz will die from a broken heart and you will never be free to complete your journey. But right now just cry all you want...weíre not going anywhere."

She cast a glance at her warrior. "Right, Xena?"

"Right, Gabrielle. There has to be a way to help Liz and you, Sam. Weíll find a way."

Gabrielle whispered into Samís ear. "See...I told you...relentless."

 

CHAPTER TWO

While the tub was filling, Liz disrobed and went back into the kitchen to warm her coffee. She snagged the last beignet and poured the blueberry sauce over the pastry. She had her head tilted back while walking and eating. Powered sugar and droplets of sauce fell across her chest. She stopped at the vanity, placing her mug on the counter. The tub was full and she turned the water off. She stared in the mirror...looking at her body. The sound of Sarah was filling the space...and filling her eyes with tears. This had been one of Samís favorites CDs... and they had made love many times to her melodies and words.

"...Listen as the wind blows...from across the Great Divide..."

Liz caught the blueberry sauce with her finger as it found her navel. Almost in a daze, she traced its path up her abdomen...between her breasts...to her mouth. Her eyes closed...as if remembering...and placed the sauce-covered finger to her lips. Lightly she traced the outline of her mouth, painting her lips in a dark shade of blue...so dark...it was almost purple.

"...Voices trapped in yearning...memories trapped in time...."

The taste of the blueberry sent a shock of remembrance through her core. This was so hard. There wasnít a thing that didnít remind Liz of Sam and their time together. The lithe blonde woman stood behind her lover wanting to hold her again...remembering that night along with Liz. It had been so sweet...so pure...so passionate. The women were trapped by their sheer love for one another...neither willing to release the other.

Xena and Gabrielle watched the exchange. It was excruciatingly poignant. Their connection had linked them...one world to the other...keeping both from fully moving on.

"Xena...they were so much in love. Why did this have to happen?" Gabrielle was trying hard to hold her own tears in check.

"I donít know...sometimes we have to lose what is closest to us to find it again. This is something Sam and Liz will have to come to terms with...together and separately. Címon...letís give them privacy."

Gabrielle looked at Xena somewhat confused. " Xena...Liz canít see Sam. She has no idea that she is here."

Xena took the bardís arm and led her from the bath. "Gabrielle...Liz can feel Sam. They are sharing an emotional link. One doesnít have to see this to experience it...trust me. Now...címon. Weíll check on her later."

Liz stood with her eyes closed, feeling Samís hands across the back of her shoulders. The touch was light as a feather...fingers tracing the gentle slope of her neck and following the hard outline of her defined muscles. There was a dichotomy in the smoothness of her skin and hardness of her physique. Sam had loved touching her...running her hands over her body...then her lips. Sometimes their foreplay would consist of hours of touching...kissing...caressing. It was not unusual for their climaxes to almost be secondary to the sheer sensation of touching. Their lovemaking was unhurried...complete...giving. It was an experience that Liz had never had with a woman. It was as if she had waited her entire life to be with Sam...and now it had been taken from her.

She placed both her hands on the counter and felt sorrow clutching her heart. Sam felt it, too. She just wanted to touch her one more time. With eyes closed, she caressed her own face with her right hand, remembering. Liz took a deep breath and looked again in the mirror. Her face was etched in deep sadness...the sparkle in her eyes dulled...and there was a still fresh scar across her right eye...a constant reminder. She spoke to her image.

"Oh...god...I canít do this. It hurts too bad...I just want to die, too. Why did you have to leave, Sam? I donít understand...I canít get through this...I canít..."

Liz opened the vanity drawer and pulled the box of blades out. She retrieved one, leaving the drawer open. She stepped into the hot bath, her hands steadying herself as she sat in the steaming water. Liz held her arms under the water, the razor caught between her fingertips. Her pulse had surprisingly gone calm. The moment she made the decision, all the anxiety had ceased. All that was left was the act itself. She wondered if it would be peaceful...bleeding to death.

Sam was beside herself when she realized Lizís intent. She yelled at her lover.

"Oh...GOD...LIZ...DONíT DO THIS!!! PLEASE!!."

Liz couldnít hear her...or feel her. The pain in her heart was all consuming pushing their connection out of sync. She raised the blade in her right hand looking at the gleaming surface...turning it from side to side. Sam continued trying to reach her.

"LIZ!! LISTEN TO ME...PLEASE... HONEY...I LOVE YOU...PUT THAT DOWN!!!"

Liz lifted her left arm out of the water. She could see the veins standing out clearly. She understood enough about anatomy to know a vertical incision over the radial artery was the key. So many people slashed horizontally. It was messy and ineffective...severing veins and tendons but leaving the artery intact. Usually an act of one not really wanting to die...a cry for help it was called. Liz was very serious about this.

Frantically, Sam tried to take the razor out of her hand. She just passed through Lizís flesh with no effect. She had to try something for surely Liz knew killing herself would only assure that they would never be together again. As a last resort, she called for the cats. They had really bonded with Sam and in some ways were more responsive to her than Liz.

"Brie!! RG!!! Címer...címon...in here!!"

The two, hearing a familiar voice, responded by bounding into the bath. They peered at Sam sitting at the side of the tub and then at Liz in the water. Brie began meowing loudly and RG pawed at Lizís arm. It caused her to turn her attention away from the razor for a moment. She looked into the faces of her children.

"Iím sorry girls...really I am. Roger and Randi will take good care of you." She returned to her task. Sam looked on in horror knowing there wasnít anything she could do. She imagined this is how Liz felt that night on the street. It was truly dire and paralyzing.

As Liz prepared to open her wrist, there was a loud pounding on her condo door.

"Liz!! Open up...its Roger. We have shopping to do." He waited for a response and tried again...this time pounding louder. "Hey!! Open the door, honey." No response.

Liz brought the blade down toward her warm flesh...holding it just barely above the skin. She heard Roger pounding on the door...but gave it hardly a blink of recognition. Her psyche was about to take that step into the abyss.

Roger was now in panic mode. He fumbled with his keys...dropping them on the floor. He had a key to Lizís place on this ring and he intended to use it. Something about this wasnít right.

With her eyes closed, Liz moved the razor to her wrist. Her last ounce of good sense was being shoved out of the way. Once opened she would quickly succumb in the warm water.

Roger found the key...turned the lock...and opened the door. Thankfully, Liz had neglected to put the safety chain in place. He quickly scanned the area...no Liz. He began yelling.

"LIZ!! WHERE ARE YOU? " He moved toward the bedroom and bath. Sam was wanting to drag him faster. "Hurry Roger...please...." she pleaded. He actually felt something propel him into the bath.

As he entered, his eyes went wide and his heart nearly jumped from his chest. Lizís eyes were closed and she seemed unaware that he was there. In terror he saw the blade in her hand resting on flesh. There was a thin red line appearing.

He yelled and moved toward his friend at the same time. "OH...SHIT! LIZ...NO YOU DONíT...YOUíRE NOT DOING THIS TO ME ...DAMN YOU!! "

The sound of his voice snapped her out of the deadly trance. Roger reached the side of the tub and grabbed her wrist. He was scared and extremely pissed.

"What the fuck do you think youíre doing!? Give me that!" He plucked the razor from her grasp. There were tears in his eyes at the thought of losing Liz like this.

"This is not an acceptable solution! Do you hear me!?" He was inches from her ear...yelling. Liz turned and looked at him...her eyes blinking. She looked disoriented and surprised to see Roger standing there. He continued his beratement.

"Liz...what are you thinking about? Why, honey, why would you do this? It wonít bring Sam back...it wonít solve anything. Please...talk to me."

Liz looked at him. She was trembling and tears were welling in her eyes. She had no defense to offer.

"Roger...I...I...canít do this...." The tightness in her throat cut off her speech.

Roger collapsed next to the tub...his tears washing down his cheek. "Oh...sweetheart...I know...I know..." He reached over and cradled Lizís head. This was the nightmare scenario he had thought would never happen. He needed to get her out of the tub and check her wrist for any real damage.

"Címon honey, letís get you out of this water and into some warm clothes...okay?"

Liz nodded and he helped her out of the tub. He was surprised to see how much weight she had lost. He supposed it was a natural reaction to the trauma she had suffered...but still it made him nervous. He wasnít used to seeing Liz so debilitated. She was always so strong...so in control. This was new for him...taking charge. He wanted things back to normal. Liz folded a large bath towel around her and allowed Roger to hold her. She continued to sob...some from fear and some from sorrow.

"Oh...god, Roger...I almost..."

He held her tighter...stroking her hair. "Shhh...itís all right. You didnít and thatís the important thing. We just need to have a good old fashioned cry session and talk." He pulled back from Liz, looking in her eyes. " Ok? Weíll spend the afternoon sorting this out." He pulled her close to him again and kissed the top of her head.

Liz let him gently rock her. Weakly, she said, " Ok...weíll talk...."

Sam had watched the interaction and was being torn from the inside out. The idea that Liz had even considered suicide was a testament to her pain and suffering. Xena and Gabrielle entered the bath. They were surprised at the scene before them.

"Sweet Athena, what happened here? We werenít gone but a few minutes. " Xena looked to Sam for some answers.

"Oh...Xena...she was thinking about killing herself. I couldnít stop her. If Roger hadnít showed up...." Samís face was showing the strain of this latest development.

In keeping with her role as the optimist, Gabrielle tried to offer something positive. "Well...thank the gods he was here."

Sam wasnít so sure. "This time...but what about the next time?"

Xena looked at her with a raised eyebrow. " You have to stop thinking like that. Our thoughts have a way of becoming reality if given enough energy. If youíre going to think anything, make it positive. Weíre not done yet. Iím going to have a talk with Artemis about all this. In fact, I think we all should have a talk with her. Címon, Sam, itís time you met the goddess of the moon. You canít do anything else for Liz right now."

Sam looked at her love and knew Roger would take care of her. Reluctantly, she joined Xena and Gabrielle. The cats followed the three as they walked into the living area. The three women faded from view. Brie and RG sat, watching them return to another realm. The felines really enjoyed visitors...but the day had worn them out. They proceeded to the bed and made themselves at home. The comforter was sufficiently rumpled to provide snuggling space. Soon they were snoozing. They honestly didnít understand humans...too much stress.


Roger made sure Liz had gained some control before allowing her privacy to dress. He removed the box of razor blades from the vanity drawer. He just wasnít in the mood to think about this happening again.

"Hon, Iíll put on some water for tea. Get dressed and weíll talk, ok? And I need to take a look at that cut on your wrist...just to be sure it doesnít need a stitch."

Liz searched for some clothes and replied to her friend. "Ok...Iíll be just a few minutes." She watched him move toward the kitchen. Finding a worn pair of Levis and a flannel shirt, Liz sat on the side of the bed. Brie and RG were already fast asleep, snuggled next to one another. How she envied their having each other. It was silly, but even seeing the cats embracing was painful. She wondered when all this would ease. It had totally wrecked her life...and had almost taken her life. A shiver washed over her realizing how close sheíd come to that most cowardly and selfish act. She had no explanation that was sane for her actions. Liz looked at the angry reminder on her left wrist and almost felt sick. Thank the gods Roger had arrived when he did...otherwise.

Roger stuck his head around the corner to check on her progress. "You ok?"

A slight smile crossed Lizís face. "Yeah...I was going to uh...take care of this." She glanced with embarrassment at her arm. Roger knew this was difficult for her and tried to lighten the mood. He joined her at the sink and they began to inspect the wound. Liz pulled some sterile 4x4ís and roll of gauze from the drawer. The fact that Roger had removed the razors didnít escape her.

"Roger...I...Iím sorry...."

"Honey, donít go there, ok. Weíll just get past this. Say, did I ever tell you that I thought about doing the same thing a number of years ago" He was gently washing the cut while talking. Lizís attention was drawn to her friend.

"Roger? You No....when?í She flinched as Roger made a more vigorous swipe across her wrist.

"Well...it was long ago...before I met you. I was Y&D...young and dumb. I thought I was in love with this studdly leather type." He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "So...to make a long story short...I was...he wasnít...he dumped me...literally... in the middle of Peachtree Street at three in the morning. I was more mortified than anything else. But being the emotive queen that I was during those days...I decided to just end it all."

He was inspecting the slice...looking to see if it did indeed need a trip to the ER. "Well...youíre lucky...itís superficial...wonít require stitches...or the mounds of endless paperwork to report a suicide attempt." He let that last part sink in before continuing his tale. Liz was wrapping the gauze around her wrist and Roger placed a strip of tape over the loose end. The two moved from the bath into the kitchen. The water was boiling and Roger removed the kettle...pouring the liquid over the tea bags. He handed a cup to Liz and they made their way to the sofa.

They sat facing one another, the cold day held at bay by the triple pane glass. Liz was idly moving the tea bag around in her cup.

"So...what did you do?"

"Thatís where the story takes on a rather theatrical production. I went back to my small, but well appointed apartment, to look for a way to do the deed. I wanted something neat and not too painful. Yeah...I know...ridiculous. Anyway, my choices were pretty limited. I didnít own a gun...so that was out. I had razors...but the idea of cutting myself made me nauseous and I couldnít bear the thought of all that blood. The only thing left was an overdose. I ransacked my medicine cabinet. I had antacid tablets...aspirin...Nyquil...and vitamins. I had everything to soothe my aching head...stuffy nose...churning stomach...and tabs to keep me healthy. What I lacked was a decent pharmaceutical to do the job."

Liz was smiling. "I donít believe this... Well, obviously you didnít kill yourself...what happened next?"

Roger sipped his brew and continued, "When I realized I couldnít do anything messy...disgusting or painful, I opted for the next best thing...financial suicide. I marched right out and bought a custom made Italian leather sofa. Cost me four thousand dollars...nearly killed me."

Liz spewed the tea all over herself. "Oh...jeez...you mean that sofa you have now?"

"Uh-huh...never could get rid of it. Anytime I start feeling really bad...I look at that thing and remember it ainít about shit. So...honey...you need your own four thousand dollar sofa...not razor blades."

"I suppose youíre right, Roger. Iíve just been at such a loss...trying to understand why all this happened...why Sam? It should have been me...I was the one supposed to protect her...not the other way around. What good was this body of mine? I can bench 250 but couldnít stop an ounce of lead from taking her life...I couldnít save her...itís not right!!"

"Liz, I know itís doesnít make sense...but there was a reason. Youíre not going to want to hear this...and itís not just New Age prattle. Life just doesnít unravel aimlessly...we just canít see everything...we are all connected...each to the next. The events are unfolding as they should be. You have to allow the sequence to reveal itself in due time. You of all people should know that we just donít exist in one lifetime. Try to be kind to yourself right now...and donít you ever pull a stunt like this again." Rogerís voice was very serious.

"Roger...I donít think I have a need for a four thousand dollar sofa. I do think I need to get away though. I need some room to process all this...." She looked around the space, "...away from here...the waking memory of her being here."

For the first time in weeks, Roger believed Liz might be turning the corner. "Thatís a very good idea...maybe some time in Key West...on the beach...in the sun. You could visit your friend uh... Melinda, isnít it?"

"Yeah...Melinda. But I canít go to Key West, Roger...not yet...I just canít."

He could slap himself for bringing up the very place she and Sam had met. "Oh...god, Liz, Iím sorry...I forgot."

"Thatís all right, Roger. Someday Iíll go back. I actually had some other place in mind. Itís something Sam and I talked about before...before she died. A trip we were going to take over the next Solstice and Christmas. I think I might take it now. " Liz diverted her eyes from Rogerís and stared out at the city.

"Where...Liz?" He couldnít imagine what she had in mind.

"Wait a minute, Iíll show you." She rose, placing her tea on the large, heavy table in front of the sofa. She made her way to the computer desk and file cabinets. After going through a few folders, she pulled one from the drawer. Liz handed it to Roger as she retook her seat. He went through the brochures and tentative itineraries.

After a quick scan of the information, he let the folder fall in his lap, his eyes looked questioningly at Liz. "The Canadian Rockies!? Are you out of your mind? Itís winter...lots of snow...below zero temperatures...avalanches...and need I remind you that you donít ski?"

"Roger...I know all that...but itís something I feel might help. I donít know why...but after this morning...I have to do something."

"Oh...and going off into a snowy oblivion is the answer?" He was becoming nervous about the implications of Liz going off alone into the Canadian Wilderness...especially since this morning. "Liz...I donít think you should do this...not right now."

Liz set her jaw and felt like she had some control for the first time in weeks. "Roger...this wonít be your decision...whether you approve or not."

There was an uncomfortable silence between the two...almost like a Western showdown... without the Colt 45ís. In some ways, Roger was glad to see some of the old Liz surfacing...but God, she could be stubborn. He backed off...for now.

"Ok...Iíll consider not getting in your way. But Iím warning you... start exhibiting any signs like this morning and Iím going to rat you out. Youíll be under medical supervision quicker than you can say, ĎIs There A Doctor On The Digí...I mean it."

"Huh?" She turned her head in that way to indicate a lost reference.

"Oh...itís just something I read recently...but you get my drift. " Ball to Liz...

"Ok...agreed." Her reply was short and to the point. No need to tell him the real reason. It would all soon be a moot point. She paused and made a request of him.

"Uh...Roger...do you think we can hold off telling Randi about this right now? She will be all over me...and I just canít deal with it."

Roger hated keeping secrets and keeping them from Randi was very dangerous. The woman had a way about her that could be unforgiving. He was going to be in trouble either way...he opted to keep Lizís confidence.

Sighing, he okíd the pact, "All right...I wonít tell her...but sheíll find out anyway you know. And when she does, we...thatís you and me...are gonna be in deep doo doo."

Liz smiled, "I know...but its not like we havenít gone wading before."

Roger shook his head. "Yep...Iíll get the hip boots...weíre gonna need Ďem."


Chapters 3 - 5