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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back-story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.
Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the characters Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.

This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

Being my first fan-fiction, and actually the first story at all that I have ever written, I got my idea from a movie I saw called The Chase. Of course, since there was a basic usage, and the story lines differ dramatically, it means that no copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

The Chase Away
Alisa Goodwind

It was a beautiful day in San Diego, and on that late Saturday afternoon in a small gas station, Elle sighed and against her better judgement picked up just one more bag of king-sized M&M's. She couldn't help herself. Food was her only weakness, and if it was in a king sized bag there was no way she could possibly resist.

"Oh well, I'll just do some extra sit-ups to easy my guilt." And with a grin Elle stepped over to the counter and there she deposited the huge array of junk food to check out. The clerk's eyes widened at the amount of snickers and reece's and soda she had chosen, and hastily began adding it all up.

While the clerk was working on her food, Elle picked up the week's recent tabloid, her crystal green eyes scanning the headlines. As she ran her fingers through her thick golden hair, she didn't notice the tall masked man walk in through the door.

"Werewolf-vampire baby escapes, What were they thinking?" She grinned and added, "Oh, by the way, I have about twelve dollars in gas."After a moment Elle looked up when she noticed the clerk didn't respond and had stopped ringing up her order. She realized that he was staring at something behind her.

"Stop where you are," came a deep gravelly voice, just as Elle had begun to return around. She let out small squeak of surprise as she felt the barrel of a gun being pressed against her back.

"Now I want you to put all the cash from the register into the bag for me, or I take her out." And if just to prove his point, her punctuated each word with a small jab into Elle's back with the gun.

"Dammit, hurry up!" the man yelled, causing the clerk to hastily begin putting the cash into Elle's half-filled bag of food. Just as he finished, the sounds of police sirens could be heard in the far distance.

"You little prick!" The man yelled accusingly, "I should just shoot your punk ass right now and get it over with!" The man growled and took the gun from behind Elle's back, aiming straight at the clerk's head.

"Wait please," Elle pleaded as she spun to face her captor, "If you leave now I'm sure you could get away. Just don't shoot him. Please." The man looked straight into Elle's eyes, and Elle almost stopped breathing. For one moment she had forgotten all fear and worry, and had completely lost herself into the baby blue gaze of his eyes. The robber's breath caught in his throat, and suddenly he realized that he had just been standing there, unable to break his gaze. He shook his head as if to clear it and then placed the gun back against Elle's back.

"Fine, grab the bag and let's go."

Elle hesitated and tried her hardest to keep back the tears that threatened to come spilling from her eyes.

"Now!" The man yelled again, this time more urgently, giving Elle a start. She reached over to grab the bag and saw that her hand was shaking uncontrollably. "Dammit, hurry!" And with that Elle quickly grabbed the bag and clutched it to her chest.

"And now its time to go for a little joyride." The man grabbed Elle with his free arm and began herding her towards the door. The clerk just stared with his mouth hanging open and his hands in the air.

"Some hero," Elle mumbled to herself. Once they were outside, she was jolted quickly from her thoughts when the robber said, "Now get your keys out and get in your car." Elle tried to comply as quickly as possible, half walking, half running to a fairly new Ford Contour parked over by the pumps, and almost dropping her key-ring three times in the process.

"H-here's my car, you can take it. The tank is full." Elle tried to stay calm, but the gun pointed into her back continuously reminded her of the perilous danger she was in. Anything could set of this desperate man, who so precariously held her life in his hands.

"I don't think so, you're coming with me."

Elle couldn't understand how the rough voice that spoke to her now could sound so calm with his seemingly eminent capture so close at hand.

"W-what do you mean?" Elle asked in a shaky voice.

"I mean your coming with me blondie, so hurry up and get your ass in the car."

"But I c-can't." Unfortunately for Elle, however, her argument was cut off as he hit her in the head with the butt of the gun.

"I said get the fuck in the car and I mean now!" Elle grabbed the back of her head and quickly ducked into the drivers side door, afraid of the consequences that would occur if she were to voice any more protests. The man pushed her down into the passenger seat and quickly climbed in after her. He shoved the keys into the ignition and the car roared to life. Tires squealed as they sped from the gas station and out heedlessly onto the open road.

Elle was frantically trying to find a way out of this horrible predicament when the man said in his eerily calm voice, "Don't even think about trying to get away. Now put on your seatbelt and get comfortable, it's going to be a long ride."

Elle obeyed and began to strap herself in, dropping the bag that held the cash and food onto the floor. When she was finished she sat back into the seat and began to breathe deeply, trying to collect herself. It also gave her a chance to observe the man who was now so intently concentrating on driving. He was dressed in long sleeves and pants, both black, an unusual choice for the hot San Diego climate, and a far cry from Elle's own clothes. She wore a small green spaghetti strap tee and short khaki shorts, which would help keep her cool in the hot California weather.

She also noticed that her captor was quite tall, his head almost reaching the roof of the car. He was slender in build, but also very fit, the long-sleeve shirt tight over taught muscles. She took the time to study his face, and couldn't help but look again at his eyes, the color of the sky during the brightest time of the day. Through the mouth hole of the mask she saw he sported a black beard and moustache

"Where are you taking me?" Elle asked nervously as she say that the man was heading straight for the interstate heading south.

He glanced over at Elle a little nervously, but didn't answer her question, instead responding with, "My name's Alex, what's yours?"

"I didn't think kidnappers usually gave out their names to their victims," Elle said in a sarcastic voice, forgetting for a moment that Alex had a gun.

"Dammit I'm not a kidnapper! It was all a mistake."

"Tell that to the police."

"I don't have to worry about that, they'll never catch me."

"You think I won't help them capture you after you let me go?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Elle knew she had made a mistake.

Alex smirked, and then after a small pause, finally said, "What makes you think I'm going to just let you go?"

Elle stiffened and tried to calm herself again, but her relaxation techniques just didn't seeming to be doing the job anymore.

Alex placed the gun under his right leg and gripped the wheel with both hands. "Hand me a drink will you?"

"Elle, my name is Elle," She said as reached into the bag and pulled out a coke, spilling a few tens and twenties onto the floor. She waited for Alex to accept the soda, who was now pulling the mask from over his head. She now saw that he had short shaggy black hair that matched his beard and moustache. But his face was so different than she expected. Despite his strong rounded jaw there was something almost feminine about the contours of his face. Something almost familiar...

She realized she had been staring for quite some time when Alex took a swig of his coke and glanced over at her.

"Something about me you find interesting?" He asked in that hard, rough voice of his.

Elle shook her head and looked down to her lap. "No, I was just... just trying to figure out what you were going to do with me."

"Well at this point I could do just about anything... I could let you go... I could ransom you... I could have my way with you," And with that Alex looked over at Elle and leered. "Why, I could even kill you and dump your body beside the road."

With those words Elle burst into tears and began sobbing uncontrollably.

Alex furrowed his brow and immediately regretted his words. "Hey, I'm not got to kill you. I'm sorry, I was just kidding."

Elle glared over at him, hurt and anger etched all over her face. "How was I supposed to know?!" Elle exclaimed between tears. "You robbed a store, you kidnaped me, you carry a gun, and God knows what else you'll ! I mean you could do anything right about now! Anything!" Now Elle was sobbing hysterically.

"Hey, I may do a lot of bad things, but I am no killer!"Alex glanced over at Elle and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Look, I'm really sorry. I'm not going to hurt you, I swear it."

Elle angrily shrugged her shoulder away from Alex's touch and began to reach for the glove compartment. But her hand froze in mid-air when she felt the gun against her temple. Alex had moved so fast she hadn't even realized what had happened.

"I'm just getting something to wipe my nose." And with that Elle opened it and pulled out a small pack of travel tissues.

Alex slowly brought the gun down and placed it back under his leg, his face turning red from embarrassment. As if trying to change the subject he said, "damn it's hot in here."

Elle threw the used tissues into the back of the car and replied, "My air conditioning broke a few weeks ago. I just haven't gone to have it fixed yet."

Alex didn't respond, and instead started to roll down the window.

"Mind if I smoke?"

"Like what I think really matters."

"It does to me."

Elle crossed her arms and glared at the dashboard. "Do whatever."

So Alex reached into his back pocket and produced a crumpled pack of Marlboro's. He pulled out a cigarette and placed it in his mouth, throwing the rest of the pack onto the dash.

"Cowboy killers."Alex said quietly to himself, "these things are going to kill me."

"Only if your lifestyle doesn't kill you first." Elle mumbled.

But Alex ignored her and pressed in the lighter, then preceded to play with the radio stations, trying to find one that was actually in English.

Elle wasn't paying attention though, because all she could focus on was the lighter, a possible way out. Suddenly it popped out, announcing that it was hot enough. Instinctively Elle grabbed it and slammed the burning piece of metal against Alex's neck, causing him to scream out in pain.

Elle knew her plan had taken a turn for the worst when the car began swerving dangerously all over the highway. Elle screamed as smoke began appearing from under the lighter, but she was so scared she couldn't release her grip. After he got over the shock of pain and surprise, Alex grunted and grabbed Elle's arm, and with surprising strength pulled it away from his neck. Prying the lighter out of Elle's fingers while trying futilely to keep the car from swerving off of the highway, Alex snatched it and threw it out of the window.

His glare turned Elle's stomach to ice, and she believed right then and there that Alex would kill her. Quickly Alex tried to rid his face of expression, but the uncontrollable tears of pain that streamed down his face made him look even more angry. Both were breathing heavily, louder than the unknown dance-mix that was playing over the radio.

Suddenly Alex grabbed his neck and starting coughing uncontrollably.

Elle looked at Alex nervously. "I am so sorry, are you okay? I swear I'll never do it again."

"Damn strait *cough* you won't *cough* you little..." but Alex's words were cut short as he broke into another fit of coughing. "Hold the *cough cough* wheel."

Elle grabbed the wheel and worked on keeping the car in one lane.

Suddenly Alex jabbed two fingers down his throat and after a few more seconds of gagging and coughing, produced a small, black, oddly-shaped piece of plastic from his mouth. He threw the plastic thing into the backseat and accepted the soda that Elle was holding out for him. After taking a long gulp, Alex held the semi-cold bottle against his neck where the burn was, and let out a deep sigh of contentment.

With a star, Elle realized his voice had changed. It wasn't the rough, gravelly voice of a man, but the deep melodic voice of a female!

"Jesus Christ, you're a woman!"

Alex threw back her head and let out a deep throaty laugh. "At least I know I can fool someone." She reclaimed the wheel from Elle with one hand, and with the other began to slowly peel of the moustache and beard. "Mmm, much better, and now for the grand finale....!" Alex grabbed her shaggy brown hair and lifted it off, revealing a mass of deep brown hair that fell just past her shoulders and gleamed in the setting sun. Throwing the wig into the back seat, she exclaimed, "Tadah!"

Elle just sat there and stared. She couldn't believe it! Alex had to be one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen.

"Do me a favor would you?" Alex asked in a mocking tone. "Quit gawking and hold the wheel one more time. I got one more surprise for you."

Elle gulped but reached over to hold the wheel again. Alex pulled of the long-sleeved shirt, and then the small black undershirt that was underneath it, revealing a pair of breasts held down with ace-bandages. Quickly Alex unwrapped them and threw everything into the back seat except the undershirt, which she pulled back on over her head.

"Damn that feels a lot better." Alex grinned and took reign of the steering wheel again. Looking over at Elle she asked, "surprised?"

"Just a bit." Suddenly Elle furrowed her brow. "You seem to be pretty damned experienced at all this. I take it that wasn't the first store you robbed."

"Well, you're right there. But I only rob ‘em when I am really desperate for money."

"Why don't you get a job?" As Elle was talking, she reached again into the glove compartment and pulled out a small tube of hydrocortisone cream.

"Because they don't usually like to hire people with a record that's taller than you are." Alex looked suspicious as Elle opened the tube and spread some out onto her fingers. "What exactly are you doing?"

"I'm just putting some on your burn, it will help sooth it." Meticulously she gently spread the cream on and around the area of the burn, careful not to press too hard."So, you've been arrested before?"

"A couple times, usually I just get fines, or community service. But I get lucky more often then I get caught." Alex smiled. "Actually it does feel better."

Elle gave a tender look at Alex and replaced the tube to the glove compartment."what exactly have you done?"

"You know, a little bit of drug trafficking, embezzlement, assault and battery.... Most of it's stupid really. I was just gonna rob this last store and get out of California. I had my friend Emily set up for me to go to Greece, but I needed just a bit more cash. Just one more store and I coulda' been out of here. And now look where I am..." Alex sighed, "I guess today was just real off."

"You're telling me." Elle folded her arms grumpily and turned to stare out the window.

"Look, as soon as I get to the border I'll let you go, but I can't stop now. Not with the police on my tail. I may not look the same but I still have your car.. And you."

"Then take my car and just let me go."

"No!"Alex yelled, and in a calmer voice continued, "I need you for protection in case they catch up to me."

Elle sighed heavily. She felt so frustrated. But there was nothing she could do. How could such a lovely day turn into such a horrible nightmare? She was staring at the window at one of the hundreds of fields they had passed, when a loud ringing filled the car. After a few seconds, Elle realized it was her cell phone. She reached to grab it and just as she was about to open it, she felt the cool metal of the gun pressed once again against her temple.

"Go ahead and answer it, just watch what you say."

Nodding quickly Elle flipped open the phone and held it to her ear. "Elle Skyros here."

From the other end of the phone came the staticky voice of a woman that sounded about twenty years Elle's elder. "Elle where in God's name are you?! I've called your house twenty times! You were supposed to meet with Ms. Johnson the district attorney over three hours ago. If you don't get back here now your ass is toast."

"I had an emergency," Elle said in a calm voice, but Alex put just a pit more pressure on the gun. "My mom got sick and I had to take her to the hospital."

"Well you should have called, you can get fired over something like this. Tell you what, you can make it up by meeting Mike and I for dinner tonight. The Moonlight Lounge at eight-thirty."

"Diane, I'm sorry, but I can't." Elle furrowed her brow in frustration.

"Why in the hell not?? Listen, you have to get back over here and get back in Mike's favor, otherwise I don't think I can keep you on his good side."

Elle laughed into the phone, "What you mean to say is if I don't get back you won't be on Mike's good side and then you won't have a bed partner for the next month. Why don't you just kiss my ass." And with that Elle hung up the phone, a huge grin spreading across her face. "You know, I've always wanted to say that, I've just never had the guts.

Alex looked over at her with a sly grin, "And just who was that?"

"Diane Zimmerman," Elle sighed, "My boss. It's okay though, I was planning to quit anyway."

"How are you going to support yourself when you get back?" Alex was obviously trying to sound nonchalant, but Elle could tell she was genuinely concerned.

Elle turned to Alex, raised an eyebrow, and said in a mocking tone, "Why I'll just write a book and tell all about my perilous adventures I had while I was kidnaped. That is of course if I actually make it back."

Alex frowned as she stared at the open road ahead of her. Quietly, almost too quiet for Elle to hear she mumbled, "you'll make it back." Though more for herself, than for Elle.

Elle leaned back and slowly tried to stretch her cramped muscles, which had grown quite stiff from all the tension she was feeling.

Paula Cole was playing on the only station they had found in English. She was singing a song about cowboys. Elle closed her eyes, content to just sit quietly and listen, not ready to reveal to Alex that she was tone deaf, and sounded like a dog being beaten whenever she tried to sing. After a bit, Elle realized that Alex had started singing along with the music.

Alex must think I'm sleeping, Elle thought with a start. But she continued to feign slumber, so she could go on listening to Alex's beautiful voice.

"Where is my John Wayne?
Where is my prairie sun?
Where is my happy ending?
Where have all the cowboys gone?"

Elle almost began to weep at Alex's melodic voice, joining in harmony with the one pulsing from the radio. The warmth of the car, the calming sounds of singing, and the stress that had finally taken toll on Elle's body slowly lulled her body into a deep sleep.

She continued to rest peacefully, until of course she began to dream. Elle knew it was a dream, it had to be, but it seemed more of a memory. They were visions at first, flashbacks of another time. She dreamed she was a young peasant girl, with a yearning to go out and see the world, and amazon queen, ruling over tribes of women, a bard who traveled to Athens to tell stories.

They were innocent enough, yet seemed so real. She began to notice that though she had never seen any of these things before, they felt familiar. But they also felt as if something was missing. She closed her eyes in the dream and concentrated on the missing piece.

Suddenly she gasped and her eyes shot open. Elle was lying on her back, unable to speak, being held in the arms of a beautiful woman who could have been Alex's twin, or was it Alex herself? Elle studied the worries face above her, who gazed back at her with a look of relief and pure love. Suddenly the "Alex" look ed at someone standing behind her and said "get up Galen, I'm no deity, you should know that by now, It's Gabrielle who performed the miracle."

Gabrielle? That name, it's so familiar...

Suddenly Elle was whisked from that vision to another. She was kneeling over the body of the Alex look alike, slowly she leaned over and tenderly kissed her on her cold, lifeless cheek *whisk* fighting alongside the "Alex" who now appeared a great warrior, battling with the strength and courage of ten men *whisk* Standing, the two faced each other, the surroundings seemed a dream. "Alex" said, "I'll never leave you." and leaned towards her. Just as they were about to kiss... *whisk* She was standing alone, two funeral pyres, the flames shooting sparks into the dark night sky. Elle realized that the "Alex" was standing beside her, also staring into the fires. Elle began to ask what was going on, when something took over her body.

"If I had just done what you said... when you told me to. They would still be alive, Kaleipus and Solon"

Alex's sad face turned to anger as she turned to Elle, "No! Don't you even speak his name."

Suddenly the name passed her lips, giving Elle a mental jolt, "Xena."

But this Xena woman wouldn't listen, "No you lied to me. I trusted you and you lied to me." Elle was overcome with a deep sadness she had never felt before with these words. "Now Solon is dead," With that, Xena looked away, her eyes locked on the pyre that was once her son."My son is dead because of you." The pain was clear on her face as her tears slowly fell to the ground."

Elle tried to think of anyway to draw any warm feeling from Xena to her, and the one phrase that had always worked came to her mind. "I love you Xena." But she knew there was nothing to do but walk away when Xena did not respond. Although she seemed calm, she was dying inside. As soon as she got back to her hut, she fell to the ground sobbing and wailing.

Elle awoke with a jerk, her subconscience trying to convince her the visions were just dreams. Suddenly she looked up groggily at the person who was holding her in their arms. Questioningly she mumbled, "Xena?"

"Jesus Christ you scared the hell outta me! It's me Alex, are you okay?"

Elle's eyes widened as she began to realize where she was. Wiping her face she felt dampness, realizing she had been crying. She looked around and saw they were at a rest stop. Elle realized Alex must have pulled the car over when she couldn't wake her up.

Elle blushed with embarrassment and said, "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a bad dream is all."

"Yeah, no shit. I'm surprised no one called the police with the way you were wailing." Suddenly Alex looked embarrassed and she pulled away.

"Shouldn't we be leaving now?"

"Nah, it's getting to be dark and I think we both need some sleep, and a little food."

Just as she was about to protest, Elle's stomach let out a large growling sound, and Alex said, "well I guess that's settled, let's go."

Alex stepped out of the car, placing the gun into the back of her pants, the handle sticking out. Elle watching appreciatively as Alex stretched her long, limber body, and Elle couldn't help but admire her beautiful strong form. Out of nowhere the visions of minutes earlier brushed the back of her mind, and for just a moment, she felt this distant, but eminent presence of affection for the beautiful woman standing on the other side of the car. But she pushed the thoughts away to the back of her head as she remembered that the both of them were women, and how the two had met.

Elle was started out of her thoughts when she heard Alex ask if she had any towels or blankets in the car.

"I think so, but you might want to check. I can never remember what's in there." Elle leaned back against the car and tried desperately to separate her true feelings from those in the dreams, without much success. Alex walked to the rear of the car and opened the trunk, searching through the mounds of junk that was piled in there. From the back she produced three large blankets, and a couple of towels. Alex smiled at Elle and raised and eyebrow in question.

"It never hurts to be prepared?"

"You're telling me, I'm surprised I didn't find a tent back there."

"There might be, did you check under the floor where the tire is?"

Now it was Alex's turn to looked surprised.

"I like to go camping on the weekends, when I can find the time. I go out there to do some writing in peace and quiet."

She smiled at Elle, "I know what you mean. I hate to be locked up indoors all the time." Alex then remembered the consequences of getting to friendly and getting caught. That she would probably be sent to jail for the rest of her life. She reached for the gun and pointed it at Elle, "Grab the tent, the bag of food, lock up the car, and start walking."

Elle realized in disappointment what had happened, and moved quickly to obey. It worried her that Alex could change her emotions so quickly.

Since it was getting dark, their walk into the woods went virtually unnoticed. After about twenty minutes of hiking around trees, and avoiding bushes and puddles, Elle stopped and shifted the weight of the tent to her other arm. "I think we've walked far enough."

"I guess you're right," Alex said as she dropped the blankets and other stuff to the ground. "Go ahead and start setting up the tent."

Elle dropped the tent and put her hands on her hips, "And just what are you going to do?"

Alex smiled and in an annoyingly mockish tone said, "Well, I'm going to start the fire, that is, if it's okay with your highness."

Elle placidly glanced down at the gun, causing Alex to wince. "Whatever you say."

About thirty minutes had passed as Elle drove the last stake into the ground, securing the domed tent. Alex had watched her every move from the corner of her eye. While Elle had been setting up the tent, Alex had been digging a fire-pit and collecting firewood, the whole time not letting Elle out of her sight. She didn't just feel worry over getting caught, she felt concern, and overbearing sense of protectiveness. But there was also something else.

At first Alex had tried to pass it off as nothing, but the feeling had grown stronger the more time she spent with Elle. She shook her head and sighed, she couldn't possible be in love with Elle. How could she love someone so perfect? Come to think of it, how could she love a woman?

Alex frowned and tenderly scratched at her neck, wishing had some more of that lotion that Elle had given her earlier. The burn was itching like crazy. She needed to concentrate on the task at hand, lighting the fire. She was going to try to use the survival skills her mother had taught her when she was a kid.

She placed the dry, easy-to-burn leaves on and throughout the wood in the fire-pit. She then took a thin stick and rolled it between her palms, one end rubbing another stick laying horizontal under her feet. She tried for several minutes, and though it smoked a bit, nothing caught fire. When she looked up at Elle, she saw amusement glittering in those beautiful green eyes.

Alex held out the stick to her, "You wanna give it a try?"

"Sure," but instead of reaching out for the stick, she reached into her pocket, pulled out a lighter, and started up the fire. "Like I said, it doesn't hurt to be prepared."

Alex nodded thoughtfully as she spread one of the blankets over the ground and sat down. Taking the lighter from Elle's hand, she pulled out her pack of cigarettes she had grabbed from the dashboard and proceeded to light one.

Elle spread out a blanket on the other side of the fire, and took a seat herself. She furrowed her nose and asked, "How can you stand those things?"

Alex leaned back in thought, exhaling a long stream of smoke before answering. "Well, they don't taste the best, but they can really help calm my nerves. And I'd say right about now I definitely deserve one."

"Ok, then let me have one too."

"No." Alex shook her head.

Elle looked as though she might start pouting any minute. "Why not?"

"Because you are the last person who needs to start smoking."

"Well, you only live once, and I think that after the day I've had I deserve one too."

Alex couldn't argue with that. Reluctantly she pulled out a cigarette and tossed it to Elle. Alex went through the motions again to show her how to light it, before tossing her the lighter. Inexpertly Elle tried to light her cigarette, and Elle couldn't help but smile.

Surprisingly enough to Alex though, Elle didn't cough once, although for a minute it looked like she might be sick.

"I see what you mean, I feel better already." Elle tried to smile at Alex, when she suddenly burst into a fit of coughing. "Well, a little anyway."

Alex chortled as she watched Elle, and began to wonder what would have happened if the two had met under different circumstances. She wouldn't have given me a second look. Look at her... She's beautiful, smart, confident, and I'm just a pathetic criminal... Alex shifted uncomfortably when she came even close to thinking about Elle as more than a friend. Hah! Friend, good one. She probably wishes I was never born.

Alex finished her cigarette and tossed it into the fire, Elle following her example.

After a moment Elle stood up and stretched, trying to relieve a large cramp which had formed in a tight knot in her back. Alex noticed the grimace on her face and offered to help.

"No, it's okay. I'm fine, really."

"Aw come on," Alex said with a grin. "I studied massage therapy a few years back." Now it was Elle's turn to raise an eyebrow in question. Alex smiled as she explained. "When I got out of high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, so I went to the local community school and took classes in health and massage therapy."

Elle nodded and stood. Gingerly she stepped around the fire over to Alex's blanket. Inwardly she sighed, lying down on her stomach beside Alex, atop the huge blanket. Alex began to run her fingers gently over Elle's back, searching for the tight muscle that was causing her pain.

After a few minutes of searching, Alex said, "I'm having a little trouble finding it. It might help if you took your shirt off so I could feel for it a little better."

Elle gave her a doubtful look, "I don't have on anything under my shirt." Alex sighed, trying to keep her impatience hidden. "I promise I know what I'm doing. Look. I'll turn around, and when you're done just lie back down and I won't see a thing."

Finally Elle agreed and Alex turned her back as promised. When she was done, Alex turned back and told Elle rest her head on her arms. Elle shifted, careful to make sure she was covered, and then Alex continued to look for the knot. She smiled when she found the tight muscle, the search successful.

Now Alex began to push her fingers into the flesh of Elle's back, carefully manipulating the muscles to sooth them. A huge smile spread across Alex's face when Elle moaned in appreciation. After a few minutes of just massaging one spot, Alex swung her leg over, straddling Elle just above her legs. Now she ran her fingers up and down every muscle in Elle's back, losing herself in the joy of being able to have such intimate contact with the woman beneath her.

After Elle's back had been completely massaged and relaxed, Alex began to move to her way to Elle's arms, then her shoulders, and finally her neck. All the while strange thoughts danced through her head, causing her to blush, or maybe it was because she was so close to the fire she wasn't sure. But either way, a warm feeling started to spread through her body, almost to the point of becoming unbearable. When she couldn't take it any longer, she leaned over and began to trail kisses down Elle's back, relishing each caress of her lips against Elle's warm skin.

Suddenly the body beneath her began to stir, and Alex felt herself being lifted a bit up as Elle turned onto her back. Her arms shot out and grabbed Alex around the waist pulling her forward. Alex braced herself by placing her hands on either side of Elle's head, just barely grazing the skin of her neck. Slowly the faces of the two women grew closer together. Just as they were only inches apart, eyes locked in a seductive gaze, each sharing one another's breath, Alex froze and her eyes widened.

It was if she had awoken from a spell. With vivid clarity Alex saw what had almost happened, and it scared the hell out of her. She jumped up and bolted into the woods hand over fist. Running blindly, she crashed through branches and stumbled over loose rocks until she fell to the ground breathless and sobbing.

Back at the camp Elle just lied there, confused now more than ever. Hastily she grabbed her top pulling it over head, and scrambled to her feet. She began to jog towards the direction Alex had parted in, and started following her trail, which wasn't too with all the broken branches and footprints Alex had so heedlessly left in her wake.

She slowed her pace when she heard noise up ahead. Elle began to quietly move towards the sound, careful to avoid any branches or dry leaves. There kneeling in a small clearing was Alex. She had her face in her hands, and her body was wracked with sobs. Elle looked away and blushed, embarrassed to see her in such a vulnerable state. Slowly she made her way back to camp, careful not to alert Alex to her presence.

Elle sat down on the blanket and reached over to grab the bag of food. She pulled out a warm bottle of sprite and her bag of M&M's and began to eat. She tried asking herself what had happened, but stopped almost as soon as she started, knowing very well the answer. She had wanted it to happen. As soon as she had felt Alex straddle her, she knew exactly what she wanted. She blushed quickly at the fleeting thoughts that had moments ago filled her entire vision.

Emptying the last bit of chocolate into her mouth she threw the wrapper into the fire and began to polish off the soda. Setting the bottle down beside the blanket she rested her head on her knees and stared into the fire. She felt so lost and confused. What was I thinking? She could never want someone like me. She's so strong, and independent. I could only get in her way. Sighing wearily Elle continued to look fixedly into the fire, wishing that she could only understand what was going on.

She was so lost in thought she didn't see the figure watching her from the woods. Alex stood there, silent as a ghost, face expressionless. Crying had helped calm her down, but she still hurt inside. All she wanted to do was sit down in front of the fire beside Elle and hold her. But she knew that if she did she wouldn't be able to let go. She wiped her face once more to be sure all the tears were gone and determinedly walked over towards the camp sight.

Elle didn't turn around to look, but her face reddened when she heard the footsteps approaching. It seemed for once in her life she was at a loss for words, so she remained silent as Alex sat down across from her in front of the fire.

But it was Alex who broke the awkward silence. "We'll be leaving at first light tomorrow, so we better get some rest soon." Elle nodded and tried not to look Alex in the face. "It's going to get cold tonight, so help me gather the blankets and stuff and bring it into the tent, while I put out the fire." Alex had just finished stirring the water into the ashes as Elle had thrown the last towel into the tent. Alex followed Elle inside, making sure duck and not hit her head. Both women worked together to arrange the quilts just so, so there was enough to pad the ground, and enough to keep them warm.

Now both sat on top of the quilts, the uncomfortable silence returning. Alex nervously told Elle to turn around and put her hands behind her back. Elle was just about to voice a protest when Alex began to reach for her gun. Sullenly Elle turned around and did as she was told. Hesitantly Alex removed the belt from her waist and began to wrap it around Elle's wrists.

"What are you do..." Elle began to protest, but Alex cut her off.

"This is just to make sure you won't try to run while I'm sleeping."

"But I won't, I swear." The pleading sound in Elle's voice made her heart break, but she couldn't risk it, not with her whole future at stake.

When she finished the ominous task, Elle lied down on her side, her back facing Alex. Tenderly she pulled the covers up around Elle's shoulder, and just barely stopped herself from giving the woman a kiss good-night. Wearily Alex lied down, as far away from Elle as she could get, and pulled the covers up around her own shoulders.

As she lied there, Alex began to wish that she was already in Greece, sunbathing on some distant beach in nothing but a pair of sunglasses. All she had to do was make the call to Emily and she would be waiting on the other side of the border with the helicopter. The things you can get when you have "connections." Alex thought to herself. Being a big time drug dealer had you rubbing elbows with the high and mighty. But it doesn't last long when you're trying to reform. At least Emily stuck by my side, at least I have a way out now. Slowly Alex drifted off to sleep, random thoughts of the day ran through her head, making her dreams just as uncomfortable.

A few hours had gone by when Alex awoke with a start. It took her a minute to realize that it was Elle who had awakened her. The young woman was still lying on her side, and crying softly. Now it was too much for Alex to bear. She felt a great burden of guilt inside and she couldn't take it any longer. Quickly she sat up and reached over, pulling the bindings free from Elle's arms, fumbling with nervousness and anticipation. Dropping the belt to the ground, she pulled her into her lap, letting Elle's head rest against her shoulder as she began to gently rock the young woman as if she were a small child. Alex ran her fingers through Elle's hair, whispering soothing words of comfort and apology.

Tenderly Elle wrapped her arms around her, burying her face in Alex's neck, and breathing in deeply the scent of the woman who held her so close. But now Alex felt no worry or guilt, just the ecstacy of holding something so dear to her.

Elle pulled away just a bit so she could look straight at Alex. When their eyes met, Elle could feel the tenderness and affection pouring out from those soft baby blue eyes, and now she knew exactly what to say.

"I love you, Alex." Just as Alex was about to protest, Elle placed a finger over her love's lips. "No, just listen. A love you and I have always had. It doesn't matter where we were raised, or what kind of lives we've led. All that matters is that I love you, and you love me. That's all we need, and that's all we've ever needed." Alex began to look confused, unaware of the visions Elle had seen. "Just trust me on this one."

And with those words Alex nodded and pulled Elle closer to her, their faces inches apart. Just before their lips met, Alex whispered quietly into Elle's ear, "I love you too, Elle." That was all the prompting she needed. Elle leaned up and gave Alex small gentle kisses on her cheeks and eyelids. Then she closed her eyes, her lips searching for Alex's. When they finally met, each were sent into a pure state of rapture. Both were lost in each other's embrace, delightedly sensing that they were finally complete, and they would need nothing else for the rest of their lives but each other. They celebrated their union with a night of passionate lovemaking, totally oblivious to anything but one another...

To be continued...

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