~ Mining the Future Past ~
by JS Stephens
Copyright 1997. All Rights Reserved

Usual tedious disclaimer:

MCA/Universal owns the rights to the characters of Xena and Gabrielle. Paramount/Viacom own the Star Trek universe characters. Any other characters are my creation and merely interact with MCA/Universal's characters. There may or may not be relationships between two consenting women. If you don't like it, leave my page and go elsewhere.

Story copyright © 1997 by JS Stephens. All Rights Reserved.

Lt. Pappas looked over Dr. Covington's shoulders. She could see why the archeologists had called Starfleet--this was definitely the type of artifacts that the Ferengi would like to grab and sell. Religious icons, loaded with gold and gemstones in abundant quantities, ready for the taking. The fact that there was no intelligent life on the planet was a plus, but since it was in Federation territory and the archeologists were from the Vulcan Science Academy-United Earth Archeologists Union joint dig, it had to be protected. That didn't mean that some profit hungry Ferengi wasn't going to waltz in and try to take what he could, since the planet was so near the Ferengi home world.

"Dr. Covington, I think we can do something for you. The Ferengi love to snatch and sell, but if we make it hard enough to reach the digs, they will write it off as unprofitable. Sites that are well protected and generally ignored by all but the most determined Ferengi, in my experience. I can probably rig a portable force field generator and some long-range scanners. That should protect the sites and your team as well as give you warning of approaching ships."

Dr. Covington stood up, stretching her aching back. "Sounds wonderful, Lt. Pappas. Oh, when you get the systems set up, I think that your Captain would like to come visit. I've heard that Captain Picard is a wonderful amateur archeologist in his own right. Do you think it could be arranged?"

Lt. Pappas held back a groan, thinking of what "Mother Hen" Riker would say about the idea. "Yes, he has been itching to come down and see the digs for himself. Of course, Commander Riker will have fits, but I'll promise to personally escort the captain and keep him out of harm's way. Now, is there anything else that you or your team need from the Enterprise?"

Dr. Covington's green eyes twinkled. "How about some nutbread? My dad used to fix it, and I haven't had any in years and my sweet tooth is protesting vigorously. We don't get very many sweets out here--we just pack the basic replicator rations and try to harvest native plants for the rest."

Lt. Pappas' blue eyes lit up. "Okay, I'll round up what I can. I will personally deliver it to your door with a thermos of real coffee. Sound like a deal?"

"Deal!" The two women shook hands. "Think you can bring it down tonight, around 20:00?"

"Sure." The lieutenant tapped her comm badge. "Enterprise, this is Lt. Pappas. One to beam up."

Picard and the rest of the senior staff listened as Lt. Pappas outlined her proposed security measures. She fielded all questions deftly, showing why she had been promoted to Chief of Security after Worf had left for DS9. "Lieutenant, I would say that you have all the apparent angles covered," commented Riker. "I recommend that we let your team put the measures in place."

The others assented as well. Lt. Pappas thanked them for coming to the meeting, then added, "Since you have approved of the security measures, I think that Captain Picard can take Dr. Covington's kind invitation up to come visit the digs. She is willing to give him a personal tour, and I will provide the security."

Picard's eyes lit up at the mention of going to the digs. Riker looked horrified, Data looked amused, Crusher looked slightly worried and Troi was suppressing a grin. Riker started saying, "Now wait just a minute, the captain can't-"

"Commander, didn't we just approve the security plans? Didn't we all just say, yes, this will protect the people on the planet? If so, then why can't we say that this same system cannot protect me, especially with my very own security guard?" Picard questioned. "After all, I did fight the Borg and win, so certainly I can take care of myself. Or would you like to come with us and make sure that Mr. Pappas is guarding me correctly?"

Commander Troi smiled at this exchange. "He's got you there, Wil. Come on, this is supposed to be a light duty tour to give us all time to recoup our emotional forces after battling the Borg. Would you deny the captain a bit of free time?"

Riker sighed, saying, "Okay, I give up. Captain Picard, I hereby grant you my permission to travel to the surface to tour the digs." He grinned suddenly. "AFTER Lt. Pappas has all the security installed and has tested it." He looked over at Troi. "Is that fair enough, Madam Counselor?"

"Fair enough" she said, smiling sweetly. Picard just broke into a broad grin, then said, "This meeting is adjourned. Mr. Pappas, let me know the second you have finished installing and testing your security system. Take as many people as you need to complete this task--it is your number one priority." He looked around the table, then announced, "Dismissed."

Lt. Pappas had to hurry to change into civilian clothes, replicate the nutbread and brew the coffee. She double-checked her carryall, making sure that the bread and thermos were secure and warm. She then tossed in an small, insulated tub of real butter and a small jar of apricot jam. She nearly ran to the transporter room, but made it on time to beam down to the archeologists' headquarters.

"Twenty hundred hours, on the dot!" Pappas announced to Dr. Covington when she finished materializing. "Reporting for duty. I have brought the requested items--where shall we go?"

Dr. Covington laughed, reaching for the bag. Lt. Pappas merely held it over her head--which was much higher than Dr. Covington could reach. The archeologist merely shrugged, then said, "I assume this means you want to share. Okay, follow me, we'll go to my private office." She took off, not looking to make sure that the officer was following her.

They arrived in a fairly large office that was obviously part workroom, part office. There was a large desk with two computers on it, a work table with various relics on it, and shelves with a combination of disks and real books. It also had a smaller conference table that would hold five comfortably. Covington lead the security officer to the conference table, then indicated where to sit. She went over to a small kitchen area and brought out plates, knives and mugs. "Bring on the goodies!" she cried.

Lt. Pappas opened up her carryall and carefully unwrapped the food and drink. She poured the coffee and watched the archeologist cut the loaf, savoring the sMerryl of fresh nutbread. Covington slathered on butter and jam, then took a large bite, moaning in pleasure. Pappas laughed, then took a sip of her coffee. She watched the other woman systematically destroy the small loaf, then drain her coffee. "That was wonderful. Thank you so much." she said.

Lt. Pappas leaned over to pour Dr. Covington another cup of coffee and the archeologist noticed a pendant swinging free from the officer's top. "Hey, what's that?" she asked.

"Oh, this? It has been handed down from generation to generation. It is a replica chakram, given to my ancestor Meredith Pappas by her lover, Louise Covington. It is said that they had a matched set, but my family lost track of the other pendant. Even though they did not have children of their own, Meredith and Louise adopted two girls later in life and willed them the pendants."

The doctor gave her a funny look, then pulled out an identical pendant. "You mean this one?" They stared at each other for a long moment. "Lieutenant, my family maintains an old legend that when the two people who have the chakram pendants meet, Xena and Gabrielle will visit them, and the two will fall deeply in love. Does your family have this same legend?"

She nodded slowly. "Yes, they do. Of course, it has been about one hundred and ten years since the other chakram was seen, so no one believes it anymore. By the way, what is your first name?"

"Meredith. Meredith Covington."

"That's strange, mine is Louise, Louise Pappas. We switched first names from our ancestors. Do you think there is any chance that we might channel this Xena and Gabrielle? And who are they? We lost track of the rest of the legend."

Meredith leaned back in her chair, going into her teaching mode. "Well, Lt.--Louise, Xena was a great warrior in the ancient times in Greece. It was said that she had great fighting skills given to her by Ares, the god of war. She was originally an evil warlord, but turned to good. She saved Gabrielle from slavers and Gabrielle decided to travel with Xena, to gather first hand material for the stories that she would churn out as a bard. It is said that they became great lovers, even defying Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, to stay together. Thousands of years later, their spirits briefly inhabited the bodies of Meredith Pappas, Xena, and Louise Covington, Gabrielle, who found the Xena scrolls on an archeological dig. Xena came back when Pappas put together the broken chakram and Gabrielle appeared long enough to help fill in the blanks in the scrolls.

"The spirits left after a short time, but affected the two archeologists. Pappas and Covington fell in love and lived on Meredith's family's estate for the rest of their lives. Meredith had the pendants made for them, and it is said that they wore them every day until the day they died. The pendants then went to their adopted daughters. I'm not sure how the legend about the lovers being reunited came about, but it probably came around sometime after the one I have disappeared." She leaned forward. "What do you think of the legend, Louise?"

Louise pondered the question, sipping at her coffee before answering. "I don't know. I've never really believed in fairly tales, that each person had a soul mate. I'm a security officer, I can't afford to get involved without losing my edge. Besides, my track record is love is pretty lousy. I dated a martial arts student for about six months while I was at the Academy, but he turned out to be a dud. I never dated any women though, I guess I never thought about it. I've been pretty busy moving up through the ranks, fighting for this current job as chief of security. I'm the next to youngest person ever to get the position. Only Lt. Yar was younger when she was promoted to my position."

Meredith looked wistfully at the crumbs, then said, "Well, I've seen some pretty strange things happen. I'd be willing to swear sometimes that there are sacred places that are haunted by spirits of the past. But, like you, I've always been too busy to really date much. I did date one man for a while and even became engaged to him. But Dick was just too bland for me. He wanted to be an accountant and kept telling me how dangerous my chosen profession was, that he really didn't want me going off to these wild planets, etc. So, I finally dumped him. No women, either."

They fell silent for a moment. Louise suddenly looked her watch, saying, "Gods, I have to lead a meeting at 07:00 hours tomorrow. I didn't realize that it was past 22:00 already, I'd better be going." She stood up, stretching her tall frame. "Um, I'll call you tomorrow to set up the time to start the installation of the force fields and scanners, probably around 11:00 hours. Will that be okay?"

"Sure, I'll be in my office then. I'll look forward to hearing from you." Meredith also stood up, looking up at the security officer. "Can Captain Picard come down when your crew is finished?"

"What? Yes, Riker finally agreed to let him go. It's so funny, watching those two. You'd nearly think that Riker was in command, the way he tries to tell Picard what he can and cannot do, but Riker has this firm sense of responsibility to the Captain's well being. But, I don't see why we can't bring him down in a day or two."

"Good." They suddenly couldn't think of anything else to say, but both wanted to stretch out the time. Finally, they shook hands and Dr. Covington escorted her guest back to the large public room. Meredith Covington watched as Louise Pappas dematerialized, wondering if there was any truth to the old legend. Probably not, she decided. But still, there was something so vibrant about the woman, so vital. She finally went back to her quarters to prepare for sleep.

"Gabrielle! You can't leave me!" Xena was frustrated, staring down at the body of her young friend, beating on her chest. "You can't do this to me!" she cried. As she alternated between trying to blow air into Gabrielle's lungs and hammering on her chest, Gabrielle suddenly coughed and weakly opened her eyes. "Xena?" she asked in a quivering voice. Xena, overwhelmed by emotion, pulled the young woman into her arms and kissed her forehead twice. Tears of fear and fatigue streamed down her face and she rocked her friend in her arms. "Don't you ever leave me again, Gabrielle."

"Never leave..." the voice echoed as the computer announced, "It is now 05:00 hours. This is your wake-up call." Louise Pappas groaned as she rolled out of bed, shouting, "I'm up, I'm up." She stretched and shuffled off for her morning shower, puzzling over her very vivid dream. As the water sluiced over her body, she decided that the dream must have come from reading the family history that Meredith let her borrow, triggered by seeing the chakram pendant on Meredith's neck. She turned off the water, then hit the blower and stood while buffeted by blasts of hot air.

She was still thinking about the dream as she went to the security office, looking over the manifest to make sure that all of the equipment was listed. She was still busy checking off items when she sensed another person in the room. She smoothly drew her ever present phaser while whirling to face the intruder. "Captain Picard, I didn't expect anyone here this early," she explained as she holstered her phaser.

"I decided to come see if I could help you with the equipment." Picard explained. "I should have let you know I was coming down."

Pappas smiled slightly. "Yes, perhaps you should have," she commented. "I could use some help with this manifest. I have most of the items checked off, but I wanted to start running the diagnostics on the major parts before my security team arrived. Would you mind checking off the rest of the items?"

"Not at all, lieutenant, I would be happy to," Picard said, reaching for the padd. He started moving about the room, checking equipment while glancing over from time to time to watch the woman running the diagnostic tests. He was still pleased with his choice for promotion, she seemed to be a very steady, level headed, confident officer. He had promoted her even though she had less seniority than some of the others in the running for the chief's position. There was something about her, a warrior spirit, Worf had said. The fact that Worf endorsed her both pleased and worried the captain, but he had never seen her take too aggressive of an action or stand.

Picard finished checking off the equipment and quietly laid the padd on Lt. Pappas' desk and sat in the visitor's chair. Presently, she finished her diagnostic tests and came over to sit in her chair. Without introduction, she said, "All equipment checks out as fine. I expect my team to be here in another ten minutes. We will go over the final plan, then beam down with the equipment and start setting it up. When we have performed all the diagnostic tests, I would like to have someone go out in one of the shuttlecraft, then approach the planet to see how fast our scanners will pick them up and throw up the shield. Then, and only then, will I allow you to beam down to take advantage of Dr. Covington's kind offer to show you around."

Picard gave her a rare smile. "Lt. Pappas, this plan meets with my approval. I can hardly rush you, but I wouldn't mind it if the tests were done rather quickly. It has been a long time since I have been at an actual dig site." He heard the door swoosh open and turned to find members of the security team entering the room. "I had better leave. Good luck and keep me informed."

"Yes sir" Pappas said, smiling in return. Then, her smile turned off as she motioned for her team to take their seats. "You know the preliminary plan," she started as she turned on the large screen. "Davis, you and V'lok take the long range scanners..."

"All hands, battle stations!" Pappas roared. Black and gold uniforms flashed as the security force scrambled into place. "I want immediate identification of the approaching vessel. Communications, send out wide beam message in all known languages. Friendly greetings with warning that this is Federation protected space, please identify yourselves and state your purpose. Is the shield up? Good, log the time. Scanners, ETA of the vessel."

"The vessel will be in orbital range in five minutes, sir. It appears to be a Ferengi scout ship, with Klingon weapons."

"Vessel not answering hails, sir. Should I re-send?"

"Yes, tell the bastards that they can't have these artifacts or I'll have their business licenses revoked."


"Just send the message and sign it 'a friend of the Department of Commerce.' That should make'em think."

The crew scurried around, making minor adjustments, taking measurements, logging information. Long moments crawled by before, "sir, they are leaving orbit."

"Well done, gentlemen." Pappas consulted her padd, pausing to replicated the data from the main computer. "Efficiency rating at 97%, which is 1% higher than the last exercise of this type that Mr. Worf oversaw."

"Sir?" asked a security officer.


"'A friend of the Department of Commerce'?"

Pappas relaxed slightly and laughed. "Ferengi businessmen fear the Department of Commerce like we fear the Admiral's Board of Review. That is why I always include that line in dealing with the Ferengi. Good show, all. If that had been a real Ferengi ship instead of one of our shuttlecraft, you would have detected them and had the shields up at least ten minutes before they could have done anything. I'm very proud of you. Back to your regular stations now." She watched as most of the men and women filed out of the makeshift security office. She dropped into her chair, idly swinging back and forth while reviewing the statistics in detail on her padd.

Then she jumped up, phaser ready. "I'm sorry, Dr. Covington, just reflex."

Meredith Covington walked in the room, taking in all of the equipment. "Well, I guess I'd prefer that you not shoot until you identify the potential body, but I do appreciate the security." She plopped down in a chair opposite of Lt. Pappas, smiling at the dark haired woman. "You know, I was up rereading part of the Xena scrolls last night and I dare say that you got some of her reflexes."

"Well, thank you, doctor."

"Please, call me Merry, all of my friends do."

"Then call me Lou. Funny, I was thinking about the legend you told me." She paused, uncertain if she should go on and tell Merry her dream. She looked at the doctor, thinking rapidly, then decided that she could trust the other woman. "I had this strange dream, though. I dreamed that I was Xena and that I was trying to bring Gabrielle back to life--and she looked like you, only with longer hair. Anyway, Xena resuscitated Gabrielle and that is where my dream was interrupted by the computer's wake up call." She watched Merry's face for a reaction.

Merry looked thoughtful, silently turning the story over in her mind. Finally, she said, "It's funny that you dreamed about them, I did too. Only I dreamed of Gabrielle's wedding day. I was Gabrielle and Xena looked just like you, only with longer hair. You, I mean Xena, hugged me and kissed me, saying that you would come to visit me often, that you were so happy for me. Yet, your eyes were so sad." She looked at the security officer. "Do you think there is any reason we are dreaming of our ancestors? I mean, they lived thousands of years ago."

Lou traced a pattern on the desk with her index finger, trying to figure it out. Finally, she gave up and said, "Maybe it just means that we both read sections of the Xena scrolls last night and these thoughts were triggered by a combination of the reading and finding the other chakram was still around. I don't know for sure, that's Commander Troi's area of expertise. She is the ship's counselor, should I ask her?"

"No, I don't think so, Lou. But, you are probably right. I'm sure that I just haven't had enough sleep lately either." Merry looked around the room, then took a deep breath. "Are you free tonight? I'd like to show you around the digs so you can see where I will take the captain on tour. That way you can personally approve of the itinerary." Merry waited, suddenly nervous that Lou would say no.

Lou smiled. "I appreciate the offer, I think it is a wise idea, Merry. I should be able to come back down by 18:00 hours. That should give me enough time to finish my report to Captain Picard and still have daylight left. I noticed last night that it did not get dark until 23:20." She stretched her arms above her head, twisting her back slightly. "I'll see you tonight, doctor."

Merry stood up. "Why don't you come directly to my office? I'll probably still be working until then. After we walk the proposed tour, we can get some supper at the cafeteria." "Sounds good." "Until tonight, then." Merry paused, then held out her hand. Lou took it, shaking her hand firmly to seal the date.

"So, in my opinion, the security team is ready to take over. All twenty of the men and women volunteered for the mission and most of them are overdue for planetside detail. Their reaction times are excellent. And, I will be personally going over the tour that Dr. Covington is going to take Captain Picard on. I will beam down tonight to make sure that it is secure, then I will beam down with the captain tomorrow morning for him to take the actual tour. Any questions?" Pappas looked around the room at the other officers. A few questions were raised, which she answered confidently and succinctly. Finally, the captain ended the meeting with, "thank you for coming. Lt. Pappas, an excellent briefing, as usual."

"Thank you, sir."

"I'll see you at 08:00 in the morning then."

"Yes sir."

Lou glanced at the wall chronometer, deciding that she had enough time to take a quick nap, shower and change before beaming down. She went to her quarters, stripped off her uniform and slid in bed. Before long, she was asleep.

"Xena, I didn't think I would actually hit your nose."

Xena mock growled at the bard. "It's only because I let you."

"What? Let me? I actually surprised you, Xena, admit it." Gabrielle punched Xena in the shoulder. "Admit it."

"No, Gabrielle, I let you. Now let's go to sleep." Xena rolled over.

Gabrielle leaned over, quickly kissing Xena on the cheek, then rolling back over. Well, she had gotten Xena - "hey, what do you think you are doing?" the bard squeaked under the sudden weight of the warrior.

Xena looked down at Gabrielle as she sat on the woman. "Just surprising you back," she said as she leaned down to kiss Gabrielle's lips. Gabrielle started to protest, then Merryted into a passionate kiss with Xena as Xena stretched her full frame over Gabrielle. They--

"It is now 17:00 hours. This is your wake up call." Lou groaned. "Okay, I'm up, I'm up." she growled at the computer. It was the strangest dream, she thought, nothing like that was in the scrolls. Oh, they did mention Xena and Gabrielle finally having a small ceremony and Xena bringing out necklaces, each with half of a Celtic knot, but she had never thought about what they might have *done* together...in fact, she didn't remember ever really having dreams this vivid before. Gods, she was excited by the dream. Funny, she never really noticed being excited by women before now, she mused as she stepped into the shower. Then again, she was so single minded in her determination to get into Starfleet Academy that she barely developed any friendships, let alone take the time for lovers. What would the good counselor make of this sudden influx of dreams? Lou got out of the shower, waited for the air jets, then started dressing. She doubted that Merry Covington had such thoughts--huh? why did she care whether or not Merry had such thoughts?

She finished dressing and beamed down, walking quickly to the doctor's office. She knocked lightly at the door as she entered. "Come in!" she heard. She walked in and was met by Merry, who stuck out her hand in greeting. "I swear, Starfleet officers are the most prompt people I've ever met," Merry said pleasantly as they shook hands. "I thought that my professors at the Vulcan Science Academy were prompt, but you time it to the second" she babbled, suddenly aware that she was still holding Lou's hand. She dropped it quickly, then said, "Would you like to start the tour?" Lou nodded, falling behind the doctor as they went out the door.

The women walked outside as Merry calmed down and started explaining where they were going and what path they would take. "We will see most of the major points of the dig and go down into the main pit--I'm sure that Captain Picard would love to actually walk down into the pit. Then, we will finish up by going to the labs where the others are carefully cleaning, measuring and recording the artifacts." As she talked, they wandered down the worn trail. Lou listened intently but still was alert for potential danger spots. She tried to tell herself that the defense systems were up and running, but she was starting to get that niggling at the back of her neck, the same one she felt before any dangerous situation. Still, it seemed very peaceful, just as the doctor predicted.

As Merry was pointing out the ruins of the temple, she took a misstep and stumbled slightly. Lou grabbed her arm and helped her back up. "Careful, wouldn't want to twist an ankle out here." she said.

"Too late, I think it is slightly twisted," Merry replied as she gingerly tried to apply weight to the foot. "It will probably be okay in a little bit, just a slight twist."

Lou offered her arm and Merry took it. "Thanks, Lou, I think I can continue to walk like this. Now, the ruins...what was I saying?" Lou raised her eyebrows, the doctor seemed flustered. She asked Merry if she would prefer to sit for a moment. "Um, yes, there are benches in the temple and we have worklights strung up in there. We can rest there for a moment."

Lou considered the situation for a moment, then put her arm firmly around the doctor. Merry wrapped her arm around Lou and they started off for the temple. Lou was suddenly aware of just how small Merry really was and how firmly muscled. She quickly pushed down the thoughts, concentrating on getting them safely to the temple.

Merry, on the other hand, was very aware of the taller woman's body. It was warm next to hers and very solid. As they slowly walked to the temple, she could feel the play of muscles in Lou's broad back. Funny, she had never really noticed a woman like this before. Maybe she should relax and enjoy the sensations of Lou's body so close to hers. As they entered the temple, Lou was trying to remember when the last time she had even hugged anyone. She guessed it was when her relatives all lined up to hug her at her parents' double funeral after the ground car crash. That was about two years ago--oops, time for the lights. "Lou, can you reach the switch? It is on the wall over there--yes, that one." The lights flooded the room as Lou and Merry made their way to the front bench. Lou eased Merry down, then deftly removed her boot and started feeling Merry's ankle for breaks. Lou had to control a shudder of pleasure--damn, it felt good! Lou's fingers were so gentle and warm against her skin.

"Nothing broken. Here, let me wrap it, then we can put some ice on it back at camp." Lou took her bandanna off (which she had put on at the last moment for no reason) and ripped it into strips, gently binding the ankle. "Are you okay?" she asked, noticing the doctor's glassy eyed look.

"Yes, I think so." Merry flushed, feeling like she had been exposed. Damn, this woman was getting to her! "I should be okay after resting a bit. I tend to push myself pretty hard then get too tired and sometimes just zone out."

"Okay, we'll sit here for a bit. Are you comfortable enough?"

"Sure, Lou, I'm fine." She endured Lou's blue eyes searching her face as the other woman leaned over her, scanning for the truth of the statement. Part of her mind noticed the chakram swinging free from the officer's shirt, how it would nearly bounce back and hit between her breasts--

"You look better now." Lou announced, breaking Merry's reverie. "We can start back now. It looks like it is starting to get dark, I'd like to ice that ankle before it gets much more swollen." She helped Merry up, ignoring the pleasant tingling that she felt all over as she put her arm around Merry again. They walked back to the headquarters slowly, finally making it back. Merry directed Lou to her quarters, saying that her replicator could make batches of ice. Lou merely nodded, helping Merry lay down on her bed, then going off to get the ice. Merry restrained a sigh. She had not felt like this with Dick, her former fiancée, so why should she suddenly be falling in love with this woman? Could the legend possibly be true? She took her pendant off, looking at the worn chakram, trying to divine its secrets. She heard Lou's steps and quickly put the pendant back on.

Lou wrapped the ankle in ice, then suddenly announced, "I'm hungry, how about you? I could replicate us a meal. What do you think?"

Merry swallowed. "Sure, that would be fine. I think pocket sandwiches would be less messy than a lot of things." She watched the officer walk back to the kitchen area to take care of the meal. She leaned back against the headboard of the bed, trying to force herself to think of other things, then gave up as Lou walked back with the food and drinks. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, Merry." Lou picked up her sandwich and bit into it as she watched Merry eating her sandwich. Was the danger feeling at the back of her neck from a physical danger or some other danger? she wondered. She mentally shook it off as they ate and started discussing their backgrounds. Lou talked about wanting to be a security officer because her favorite uncle, David, was the head of security for one of the deep space stations. He only got to come home every two or three years, but she always looked forward to his visits, she told Merry. "Come to think of it," she mused, "Uncle Dave always traveled with Bernard, who was one of the engineers at the station. They never said anything, but I think they were lovers. The fleet still is a little touchy on any sexual relationships outside of marriage and I guess they never married. I think it may have been that Bernard was from a pioneer planet, where anyone who did not naturally reproduce could be a liability."

"My dad was an archeologist and my mom was a classics professor," Merry said. "I was the youngest of three and was always the rebel. I followed Dad's footsteps, but paid for my own education and have always found the grants to finance my own digs, even though my folks were quite rich. They were on their way to the spaceport a couple of years ago to come see me at the previous dig when their ground car crashed..." Merry's voice trailed off as her eyes welled with tears, the first tears since she had received the news two years ago. She laid her plate and glass on table next to the bed and buried her face in her hands. "I'm sorry," she choked out, trying to will the tears from falling.

Lou laid her plate and glass down with Merry's and tried to decide what to do. She had never felt comfortable with deep emotions and rarely felt comfortable enough to touch anyone. She made a snap decision and awkwardly pulled the other woman into her arms, laying her head on top of Merry's. Merry started sobbing, slowly soaking Lou's shirt as she released her pent up emotions. Finally, the storm passed, but Lou didn't release Merry. Instead, she made herself comfortable against the headboard and turned Merry so she could see her face. "Feel better?" she inquired.

"Yes, thank you." Merry replied in a whisper. She cautiously laid her head against Lou's breast, feeling exhausted by her emotions. She felt curiously reassured by listening to Lou's steady heartbeat, feeling her strong arms around her...

Lou waited until Merry was nearly asleep before she slipped off the bed. Merry sleepily slid under the covers, whispering, "Thank you, Lou." Lou smiled at the woman and touched her cheek. "I'll be back in the morning with Captain Picard. Sleep well, friend." She walked out of the room, then hit her comm badge and announced, "One to beam up."

Even though it was getting late, Lou decided that she needed to stop by Ten Forward for a drink. She sat down and Guinan glided over, asking, "What will you have tonight, Lou? Isn't it a bit past your usual time here?"

"I'll have a ginger ale, thank you. Yes, it is a bit late for me, but I needed to relax before turning in." The bartender looked at her with questioning eyes, but did not say anything else. Lou gazed out at the stars, thinking about the night's events. She rarely had patience with emotional storms, yet she would have been willing to hold Merry for hours. For that matter, she rarely touched anyone or let anyone touch her, not since high school at least. Bobby was known to be the worst kid in school and she had tried to get away, but they were in the same gym class. If the coach hadn't have caught them, Bobby would have raped her under the bleachers. She could still remember the look on the coach's face as he yanked Bobby up by the collar of his shirt and yelled in his face, "What the hell do you think you are doing?" Since then, she did not like any physical contact except sports or fights. Maybe that was another reason she went into security--it gave her the feeling of being in control. Uncle David had always said that security officers usually had either a bit of a bully in them or a bit of the bullied in them.

She was still thinking about her uncle when she heard someone sit down. Reflexively, she reached for her phaser but caught herself in time when she smelled Commander Troi's perfume. She turned to face the counselor and asked, "Isn't it late for you to be here?"

Troi smiled gently at her. "I was about to ask the same thing of you, Lt. Pappas. The reason I am here is to see if you think it is safe for Captain Picard to beam down with you tomorrow."

"I think so. I have checked all of the equipment and went over most of the walk with Dr. Covington tonight." She sighed and took a long swallow of her drink.

"But, something is bothering you." stated the counselor. "In fact, several things are bothering you. Do you want to tell me about it?"

The security officer looked out at the stars again, marshaling her thoughts into logical order. The strange thing was that there was no logical order. "I keep having this strange feeling that something is going to go wrong. I usually don't tell anyone about this, but when there is trouble brewing, I get this strange prickly feeling in the back of my neck, like my hair is raising on end. I don't mind saying that it frustrates me. I've checked all of the equipment and can't find anything wrong, I hand-picked the security team and I have checked the premises. Nonetheless, something feels wrong. But, the captain is not in danger, or I would feel that."

Troi listened carefully to the other woman. She could sense that she was telling the truth, but knew that something else was bothering her, something emotional. She debated with herself whether or not to bring it up, but finally decided to take a safer tact. "So, did Dr. Covington say how the excavation project was going?" She noted that Lt. Pappas colored faintly--so Dr. Covington had something to do with what else was bothering her.

"Dr. Covington said that they are at the halfway point. Many of the major buildings have been entered and the objects are being cataloged. She showed me most of the tour that she will lead the captain on, but she twisted her ankle before she could show me the rest. I, um, had to help her back to her quarters, but I think it was just a slight twist. She should be able to walk on the ankle tomorrow morning."

Despite the officer's fairly objective report, the counselor could hear warm undertones. So, a friendship was developing. Perhaps more than friendship. This could be good for the security chief, she seemed to self-contained and faintly lonely all the time. Troi smiled and laid her hand on Pappas' arm. "I'm sure that you took good care of her. I feel confident that the captain will be in good hands tomorrow, yours and Dr. Covington's." Troi noted a slight quiver in the lieutenant's arm, sensing that she did not like to be touched very often, but that she didn't mind the counselor's touch. She could feel the confusion and tension in the other woman's emotions, yet there was also a measure of peace.

Lt. Pappas broke the spell. "I should go get some rest now. Tomorrow will be a busy day." She drained her ginger ale, then stood up to walk away. Pausing, she turned to the counselor. "I promise, Captain Picard will be fine, or I wouldn't let him go down." For a moment, she wanted to say more, to tell Troi about the strange dreams, but she shook it off. "Thanks for the company. Good night."

When Pappas had left the room, Guinan came over and sat in her seat. "So, Deanna, how is Lou really doing? She is usually so disciplined, yet I sensed some uncertainty tonight."

Troi sighed expressively. "I don't know. She has a feeling of danger, but at this point I would be just as willing to bet that the danger comes in the form of one Dr. Meredith Pappas as from the Ferengi."

Guinan smiled knowingly. "I've never seen her like this, not in the four years that she has served on this ship. Louise is the most focused woman I know, but somehow, someone has gotten under her skin. I just hope that she doesn't get hurt."

"I second that motion, Guinan. Well, I'd better turn in as well. I have put off those dreaded personnel evaluations long enough. I hate paperwork." Deanna rolled her eyes as she made the last statement. Guinan laughed, saying that she would have a hot fudge sundae ready tomorrow afternoon. Troi smiled at the other woman, then said good bye and left the room.

"Xena, don't you know who I am? I am Cecrops, the Lost Mariner! Now you have doomed yourself to staying on my ship for life!" The tall dark man boomed. Xena stood her ground, saying, "I know who you are, but I could not leave my friend. I must take care of Gabrielle." Gabrielle looked at Xena with a mixture of fear and love in her heart, fear that even Xena could not break the spell of the lost mariner and love for her friend and partner. Xena crossed the desk to pull Gabrielle into a warm embrace, wishing that she dared kiss her best friend now. But, first they had to rescue themselves.

Below decks, Gabrielle tried to cope with her queasy stomach as Xena followed her into a cabin. Xena looked at her tenderly, asking what was wrong, Gabrielle explained. Xena nodded, then said, "See this bump on your wrist? Hit it like this," she said, demonstrating, "and the nausea will go away."

"So why didn't you tell me about this when we were sailing with Ulysses?"

Xena touched the bard's cheek tenderly. "Because it has certain side effects." She started to say more, but was interrupted--

"It is now 06:00 hours--" the computer started. "Shut up!" Lou bellowed at the annoying computer. Another dream of Xena and Gabrielle, how strange. I never rated as psychic during my entrance exams to the Academy, she mused. Yet, I seem to be dreaming someone else's dreams and I have always felt danger before it was happening. She thought of Dr. Covington and brightened. It would be nice to escort the captain around, to let Merry explain what they were doing. She admired Picard immensely, for his courage and character, but she knew that he tended to drive himself too hard and needed this kind of break.

Pappas quickly showered, dressed and ate breakfast before leaving her quarters. She double-checked her phaser and tricorder as she entered the briefing room. Good, well charged and in perfect working order. She entered the Security Briefing Room to find that the captain had beaten her there. She greeted him, noting how his eyes sparkled with excitement. She relaxed slightly, she knew that today would go just fine. She punched up the map on the main screen, outlining the main dig that they would visit along with their anticipated schedule. "I'll have you back here by supper time. Time enough to do that pesky paperwork," she teased. Picard grinned broadly.

"As you can see, Captain, the previous civilization was a very religious race. Most of the settled area was on this continent, gathered around the four large cities and the smaller rural communities. Based on our sensor readings, all life was wiped out about six hundred years ago by an asteroid which buried itself on another continent, but struck with such force that the dust obscured the entire planet. Eventually, everyone died from the dust and lack of light. Any questions so far?"

Picard cleared his throat before speaking. "Dr. Covington, this has been a most marvelous tour and I truly appreciate the chance to see the excavations first hand. But I do have one question: why are you so sure that the Ferengi will try to attack?"

Dr. Covington sat down on the bench. They had concluded their tour at the same temple that she and Lt. Pappas had rested in the night before. She drew her walking stick along the ground for a moment, then answered, "I think this may have been a Ferengi outpost at one time. I don't have proof, even though we found plenty of skeletons. But, some of the carvings are similar to Ferengi writing and we did find a few skeletons that could be Ferengi or Ferengi offshoots. Plus, there is an old Ferengi legend about the traitors who left Ferenginar because they disagreed with the sheer greed of their fellow Ferengis. How much of the legend is true and how much is false I am not prepared to say. But, I found some very interesting relics that look similar to a Grand Nagus' staff of office, except the ears are much smaller. Plus, I have been contacted by several Ferengi before we started offering thousands of strips of gold latinum for all relics and artifacts found. Since I refused, I am sure that someone will try to get them by force."

"Hmm, it might be possible, especially considering how close we are to Ferenginar." The captain then smiled as he stretched and stood up. The two women also stood up. "I suppose we must be getting back to the ship, eh Mr. Pappas?"

Lt. Pappas paused before answering. "You can beam on ahead, I wanted to check something first. I'll see you in the morning."

The captain barely kept his eyebrows from raising in surprise. His chief security officer rarely displayed any signs of a personal life, yet he had been dismissed so she could talk to Dr. Covington in private, he surmised. "I'll make it so" he said dryly. He tapped his comm badge. "One to beam up."

As he shimmered out of sight, Merry leaned heavily on her stick, letting her breath out in an explosive whoosh. "Captain Picard is well versed in archeology, just as you said, Lou. A wonderful guest, but I am getting really tired. My ankle is starting to act up, I guess I should go ice it down."

Lou smiled, offering to help her back to her quarters. Merry slid one arm around Lou's waist while holding on to her stick with the other. Lou wrapped an arm around the doctor and helped her hobble back. When they reached Merry's quarters, Lou carefully took Merry's boots off and checked the ankle with her tricorder. "Just slight swelling. I'll get some ice while you elevate the ankle." Merry groaned slightly as she laid on her bed, propping up a pillow for her foot. Lou came back and laid an ice pack on Merry's ankle, asking, "Is that okay?"

"Sure." Merry paused for a moment, then finally asked quietly, "Lou, have you had any more dreams of Gabrielle and Xena?"

Lou got up and walked to the window, staring out at the setting sun for a long moment. Then, she finally turned to the doctor and said, "Yes, I have dreamed of them nightly. It is funny, since I never saw the translations of the scrolls before now and only heard scraps of the stories."

Merry looked at the tall woman thoughtfully as she unconsciously fingered her pendant. "I have too, although some of my dreams are of events not covered by the scrolls. I feel like I am there with them or that I am Gabrielle. Each dream has an element of danger in it, although they overcome it or are on their way to overcoming it. There is also an undercurrent of strong love between the women that I can feel in my dreams."

Lou looked uncomfortable. "I usually am awakened by the computer before the issues are resolved. But, mine are like that too, lots of undercurrents between Xena and Gabrielle. I usually don't believe legends, but I could almost swear that the two chakrams in such close proximity have awakened something." She walked over to the bed and carefully sat on the edge near Merry. "And I usually don't feel comfortable around people. I guess that didn't come out well. What I mean is that I usually don't feel comfortable being so physically close to others unless I'm in a fight, yet I feel pretty comfortable around you."

Merry looked at her carefully. "You mean that you have never held a friend during a crying jag before? Gods above and below, I was the wailing post of my college dorm!"

Lou let a brief smile flit across her face. "Something like that."

"Someone hurt you." It was a bald statement, and it hung between the women for a long moment before Lou answered it. "Yes. I was nearly raped in high school and haven't liked anyone to touch me since. I guess that is why I like to be in physical control of all situations, so I won't get hurt or let others get hurt." She looked down at her feet, trying to will away the sudden memories.

Merry sensed the sudden pain and took Lou's hands in hers. "Hey, you got through it and are a marvelous security officer. I understand that people rarely make chief of security so young--Captain Picard must have a lot of confidence in you." She gently rubbed Lou's hands with her thumbs. "Don't let the past handicap your future." She almost said "our future", but managed not to. She wondered briefly where the phrase came from.

Lou let Merry hold her hands for a moment longer, then finally announced, "I have to get back to the ship now. I have some paperwork to fill out, but I will be back tomorrow." She stood up, letting go of Merry's hands, but just stood there awkwardly for a long moment. She looked at her friend, then finally leaned over and hugged her. As she straightened up, she said, "If you need me, just holler." Merry smiled. "Thanks, I think I will. Now scat, get that paperwork done. I need to do some of my own."

As she watched her friend shimmer out of sight, Merry sighed, wondering why she was growing so attached to Lou. Was it the pendants? Did they really draw soulmates together? "Stop it" she told herself out loud. "You are getting romantic fantasies and you don't have time for romance." Still, she thought about Lou's deep blue eyes as she reached for her padd. She finally shook her head and started filling out forms.

Lt. Pappas woke up the next morning feeling uneasy. The tour had gone quite well and Picard was pleased--actually thrilled. But, even though all systems still looked normal, Lou still felt the prickling at the back of her neck. She had called Merry when got back to her quarters last night and arranged to meet her for supper the following night. Yet, as she read through the daily briefings log and status reports, she felt worried. Something still felt wrong.

She finally finished reading the last of the status reports and making any necessary replies, then shut down her work terminal. She looked around her office for a moment, wondering what she had missed. Finally, she went up to the bridge to report for her morning shift. Riker glanced up as she stepped out of the turbolift, then went back to discussing the relative merits of dogs vs. cats with Data. Pappas walked over to her console, scanning the communications logs for message id's. She wasn't sure what she was looking for, but her gut feeling said that something irregular would show up. Yet, she did not find any anomalies other than one report of a static burst on the security officer's channel. Ensign Davis reported the static but noted that he could not find a cause.

The security chief then turned her attention to the sensor logs. She scanned them briefly, looking for anything unusual. Still nothing. The prickling was getting worse now, something felt very wrong. She finally set the long-range scanners for any ships, ion trails or unusual dust trails. She looked up from her console to find Commander Troi eyeing her with a concerned expression. When she made eye contact, Troi walked up to her station and asked quietly, "Lieutenant, do you want to eat lunch now? We can use the briefing room and take a shorter lunch." Lt. Pappas agreed.

After they sat down to lunch, Lt. Pappas just picked at her food, too nervous to eat. The counselor watched her for a moment, then stated, "You feel puzzled, confused, apprehensive and scared. Does this have to do with the prickling sensation?"

Pappas signed heavily, dropping the pretense of eating. "I can't explain it, but something feels very wrong here, like an imminent attack. I could swear that someone is going to raid the planet, despite all of our precautions. Something will slip by the sensors and raiders will beam down to the planet. Yet, I've set our sensors for the usual tell tales for cloaking devices and I still don't feel good about it. I'm concerned about the people down there, about scientists facing whatever motley army a Ferengi would pull together. Dr. Covington said that they have put in eighteen months of work there, I'd hate to see it all blown away to satisfy some Ferengi's lust for gold latinum."

Troi watched the lieutenant as she spoke. Based on their previous dealings with Ferengis, it did seem to be a valid concern. Was Lt. Pappas being overly concerned, though? Were her feelings for Dr. Covington playing into her extreme nervousness? Commander Troi had never seen Lt. Pappas so uneasy about anything, even during their latest adventures with the Borg. Yet, Troi's instincts said that despite the security chief's visible nervousness, this was a real threat to her and to this mission. But, she had to ask. "Lou, I have to ask this. Could you be overreacting due to your feelings for Dr. Covington?"

Pappas looked thoughtful as she picked up her fork and pushed her food around her plate. She finally set the fork down and answered firmly, "No. Whatever my friendship with Dr. Covington is, my first responsibility is to this ship and to Starfleet. I will admit that I like the doctor, she is a fine person and quite fascinating. I do suppose that this time it feels more personal, but I would not let any friendships get in the way of my duty." She picked her fork back up and started eating determinedly.

"You are telling the truth, but you do understand that I had to ask as ship's counselor." Nod. "Good. Now, which do you prefer, cats or dogs as a pet?"

Lou stared at the counselor as if she had lost her mind, then remembered the conversation between Riker and Data. She swallowed and started smiling. "Cats. They are independent, sassy, intelligent and don't need as much attention. They can be litter trained and are very clean. Dogs, on the other hand, have to have lots of attention, are intelligent to a point, but have to be 'walked' and cannot be litter trained. They tend to get dirtier and are so emotionally dependent on their owners." She paused. "What is your preference?"

"I like them both. I like dogs better when I need a friend, but cats better when I just need another being around." Troi started to say something else, but noted the time. "We should be getting back, lunch is nearly over."

"I suppose you will have to tell the captain about our little conversation."

"Only if he asks, dear." Troi smiled full force at Pappas. "In my professional opinion, you are just following the instincts of a good security chief and must be slightly paranoid to do your job well. I'll see you back on the bridge."

Pappas watched the counselor depart the room. She had never noticed what a wonderful smile Troi had, so warm and friendly. For a moment, Lou felt a measure of peace, like everything would turn out okay. Or maybe it was more like when her mother would smile at her and tell her that she loved her. Hmm, she hadn't thought of her mom in years. She counted the years silently, her mother died in childbirth twenty years ago. Lou had been very small, only six, but remembered her mother very well. Her dad had raised her mostly by himself, but her dad's mother had moved in later when she retired. She could still remember her grandmother commenting that Lou must have been full of recessive genes, for no woman had been that tall in generations. She was also the one to present the chakram pendant to Lou when she turned twelve, telling her the legend. Lou pulled herself out of her reverie, getting up and shoving her dishes in the outlet, then going back to the bridge.

Later that afternoon, Lt. Pappas noticed that the sensor logs from the planet were delayed. They should have transmitted continuously with less than a one second delay. Yet, according to her records, there was a five second delay, just long enough for someone to tamper with the readings. She drummed her fingers on the console for a moment while deciding what to do. Finally she called Commander Riker over to her station and showed him the logs. "This four second delay should not be happening. I'd like to go down and investigate for myself. Either someone on the archeology team is tampering with our equipment, or one of our people is tampering with the equipment."

Riker ran his hand over his beard, thinking for a moment. "Will you be safe? Should we sent an Away Team?"

"No." she said decisively. "If I go by myself, it will look like any normal surprise visit. If an entire team went, it would give the saboteur a warning." Riker nodded in agreement, giving her permission to beam down.

Lt. Pappas left the bridge and went to her office. She swapped her phaser for a fully charged one, then added a tricorder and tool kit to her utility belt. She also strapped on her wrist knife, a present from her Uncle David. It was nearly undetectable and had saved her life once before. She made one last stop at the restroom, then went to a transporter room.

After beaming down, she went directly to the temporary security headquarters, finding Ensign Davis on duty. As he looked up, slightly alarmed, she grinned at him. "Just your ordinary unscheduled visit" she told him.

"Um, everything looks okay here, Lt. Pappas. Nothing on the sensors." he reported.

"Good. Then you won't mind if I check for myself, then will you?" she asked as she moved around to his side of the table. He slowly complied, too slowly for her liking. She quickly ran a diagnostics check, not really expecting to find anything, but more to see why the ensign was so rattled. "What's this? Why are the sensor logs being routed through this program first?" she asked. Before the ensign could even attempt an answer, she noted a tell tale sign--then saw the mysterious program activate and "correct" the reading. A Romulan ship, followed by a Ferengi ship--trouble for sure. She stared at the ensign, blue eyes smoldering. "Okay, you can tell me the whys later. Right now I have a crisis on my hands." She slapped his comm badge, stating "Beam Davis directly to the brig and report his transfer to Commander Riker. I'll answer questions later. Do it now!" She whipped out her phaser to cover him as the transporter beam caught hold. Then, she tapped her own comm badge and announced, "Security detail, red alert! This is not a drill, repeat not a drill. Expect Ferengi and Romulans to beam down at any time. Plan Alpha C. Pappas out." She then tapped the badge to change channels. "Commander Riker, I've issued a Red Alert. Please inform the captain that I am implementing plan Alpha C. I am also sending you the real logs--we have ships nearby about to beam down soldiers. Pappas out." She whirled around and sprinted out the door to meet her team.

"She what?" Picard asked Riker.

"Sir, she beamed down on a hunch, and it looks to be true. Data just picked up the ships a few minutes ago, confirming her hunch. Pappas has called for plan Alpha C and expects to have mercenaries beaming down any moment now. She has also transferred Ensign Davis to the brig--a direct beam up." Riker paused for breath, looking at the other senior officers in Picard's ready room. "I never knew about her hunches before this, but she has never been wrong. Should we try to contact the other ships?"

Picard looked around the room, then decided, "No. We wait for further information from Lt. Pappas. The ships are small enough that they can't be beaming down too many soldiers. At any rate, we will act as backup, but you might want to send them a message asking them to decloak." Picard looked around the room. "Now, we hope for the best."

Pappas deployed her team, then went racing to Covington's office. "Dr. Covington!" she shouted, "Red Alert! Soldiers beaming down now!" Merry just stared for a moment, uncomprehending. Pappas sensed movement behind her, then grabbed the outstretched arm and hurled the Romulan over her shoulder, quickly pulling her phaser out and stunning him. "Come on, Merry, your complex is under attack!" Covington stood up and limped over as Pappas grabbed her and hoisted her over her shoulder, racing back to the security office. She dropped the woman into a chair and said, "do you have any weapons?"

"No phasers, but I'm pretty handy with my cane" she replied. Merry pulled the cane apart, revealing an old fashioned sword. "We found this in the ruins yesterday. I was pretty good at fencing in college." Lou grinned at her, then turned back to the task at hand.

"You should be safe here. I'm sending all of your team in here--be sure to turn on the force field when I leave and do not open it for anyone but myself or Ensign V'lok. Davis was faking the sensor logs. I gotta go now." She paused, then briefly grasped the other woman's hands with hers. "I'll be back, I promise." She then sprinted out of the room.

As Pappas raced along the corridors, she encountered several Romulans. They all looked seedy, like they had been kicked out of the Romulan fleet and were doing mercenary work. She stunned them all heavily and ran past. Her team was reporting sporadically and noted that they had already stopped the beam up of several worksites full of antiquities. She debated briefly about changing her orders from stun to kill, but decided that she could not do that now. Instead, she called to the ship to beam the stunned soldiers to the brig, to deal with them later. She burst out of the building, running to the main dig, dodging disrupter beams along the way. Finally, she reached the pit and dove in.

"Status" she barked. V'lok calmly detailed the fighting so far, noting that this was the richest site, but that the most valuable of the finds, the Grand Nagus style staff, was in Dr. Covington's office right now. Pappas groaned to herself, this is what they would be really looking for. "Carry on, I'm going for the staff." she said. She snapped off several covering shots, then raced back to the building.

"The Nagus staff." Merry Covington suddenly remembered the staff being in her office--this is surely what they had come for. She looked around, then announced that she had to go back to her office. The lone security officer argued that the chief would not like it. Merry listened quietly, then said, "you have a spider on your shoulder." As he looked, she gave him the neck pinch. It worked. The training at the Vulcan Science Academy did have one advantage, she concluded as she hobbled out of the room.

"Yes, the original staff of the Grand Nagus." The Ferengi reverently stroked the staff. "Those others can take the other artifacts, I'll just slip up to the ship with this one. I can sell it back to Ferigenar for many strips of latinum--and get my license back, to boot."

"Drop it, "said the small blonde human.

He stared at her, why didn't humans keep their women in their proper place? "No, it's mine. All mine." As he was saying this, he pulled out a disrupter to shoot the woman.

But it didn't happen. Just as he was aiming, a tall dark haired woman burst in the room and flung herself on top of the blonde, spoiling his aim. Before he could do anything else, more Starfleet security officers burst in behind her, disarming him and beaming him up to the Enterprise.

"Uh, Lou, you're getting kinda heavy on me. Could you shift over a bit?" Merry asked.

"Oh, sorry." Lou rolled off Merry and stood up, all in one smooth movement. "Here, let me help you up." She extended her hand and helped the doctor up, then noticed that part of her team was still in the room. "Dismissed. Mop up and join me in the security briefing room in half an hour. Leave a fresh security team down here--although I don't think we'll have anymore trouble." The team nodded, then left the room.

Merry gratefully reached for Lou, hugging her enthusiastically. "My hero," she said Merryodramatically. More seriously, she said, "you saved my life. How did you know to come?"

Lou shrugged. "I just got this funny prickling feeling in the back of my neck. Also, V'lok mentioned that the staff was still in here, so I made a beeline, just knowing that you would do the same thing. For a moment, it felt like I had rescued you many times, not just this once."

"Like Xena rescued Gabrielle?"

"Yeah, something like that." Lou agreed. She laid her cheek on top of Merry's head, glad that her friend was safe. She felt a brief flash of warmth and peace, then gradually became aware that she was still hugging Merry. She was torn between wanting to hold Merry longer and pulling away and snapping her defenses back in place. She finally, reluctantly, pulled out of the embrace, saying, "This may take some time. I'll call you when I see whether or not we can keep our supper date."

Merry reluctantly let Lou go. "Okay. Keep me informed about your tortures--sorry, interviews with the prisoners," she said with an impish grin. Lou rolled her eyes, then said good-bye as she beamed up. Merry stood staring at the spot for a moment, then closed her eyes to try to recapture the feeling of being safe in Lou's arms. She finally opened them and limped back to the security office to talk to the rest of the archeologists.

All Lt. Pappas had to do was stand next to the Ferengi captain and he burst into a non-stop confession. He was thoroughly intimidated by such a tall female human and decided that since he could not go back to his home planet that he would take a chance with Federation justice. He blew the whistle on Ensign Davis ("yes, I recruited him but he was nearly bleeding me dry too") and explained how he hired the Romulan soldiers ("they had been drummed out for lack of honor--the best type of mercenaries, in my book.") Part of the time, it took all of the security chief's self-restraint not to laugh at the little man, and part of the time she wanted to wring his neck. Finally, she finished recording the confession and had the computer notarize it for authenticity. She then turned to Lt. Commander Data, who had been called to witness the interrogation and asked, "Do you have any questions of the prisoners?" "None." he answered.

"Good, let's report back to the captain and the rest of the senior staff." Pappas said, stretching as they left the room. She glanced at the wall clock before they left--nearly supper time and she had several hours more work to do. "I'll meet you in the briefing room, I need to go to my quarters for a few minutes." Data nodded acknowledgement, then moved on. Pappas walked to the nearest turbolift, gave the deck number and sagged against the wall. It had been an exhausting day, but it wasn't over yet.

She entered her quarters and took the time for a quick shower and change of uniform. She stopped before her terminal, debating whether or not to call Merry right quick. Finally, she entered the codes for Merry's private line and waited impatiently for her to answer. When Merry answered, she said, "Merry, I'm not going to be able to make it for several more hours. I have a briefing with the senior staff in another ten minutes, then I have to finish writing my reports. Is that okay?"

"Sure, Lou, I understand. Well, I'd really like to see you tonight, but if you are too tired, I'll understand. Before I forget, Captain Picard called about an hour ago, offering to take me on a tour of the ship tomorrow. He said that unless there is another attack, which he doubts, he will let you be my tour guide after he takes me through the bridge and his ready room."

Would wonders never cease, mused Lou. She smiled at the image of Merry, saying, "Sure, I'd love to return the tour guide favor. Did the captain say why he was making this generous offer?"

Merry laughed. "No, just that it was only polite to return the tour favor. I think he was trying to find a way to give us some time together alone, to decompress or something like that."

Lou swallowed, then glanced at the time. "Merry, I have to go now. Maybe we should just meet tomorrow here on the ship. I'll miss seeing you tonight, but I'm dog tired," she lied. More than ever, she really just wanted to hold Merry in her arms, feeling the warmth of her--stop it! she commanded herself. "Take care, friend. Sweet dreams and I'll see you in the morning."

"Okay. Have a grand meeting--I know how those can drag out. I really should gather my chicks together and have a debriefing tonight. Do you mind if I ask V'lok to sit in?"

"No, she is a fine officer and very stable. A Vulcan who can actually listen to emotional outpourings without freaking out."

"Until tomorrow then." Merry paused, wanting to stretch the moment, but ended up with, "Sweet dreams, my friend."

Even though the briefing was only an hour long, Lt. Pappas felt like she had been through the wringer. She was exhausted but wired as well. She finally decided to go to Ten Forward to finish her reports with a nice relaxing cup of decaf coffee. Guinan watched her carefully, then finally came over and said, "Lou, I don't really like people falling asleep in here--gives the place a bad name."

Lou smiled at the bartender. "Okay, I get the hint. I had just finished these reports anyway. Hey, do you mind if I bring someone over tomorrow? I'm giving Dr. Covington a tour of the ship and would like to bring her here for some fresh coffee. I don't think they have real coffee down at the site."

Guinan smiled warmly at the security officer. "By all means, do bring her here. I'll be glad to meet her. Now go to bed before I have to call some of your fine people to drag you off."

Lou smiled as she gathered up her things and left the room. She went back to her quarters, stripped, and fell into bed, asleep as soon as she was under the sheets.

Gabrielle was restless, so she finally got up and turned up the lamp a bit, taking out her pen and a fresh sheet of parchment. Before she could unstop the ink, she heard Xena whisper, "Gabrielle? Where are you?" "Over here, at the table" Gabrielle replied. Xena sat up and looked at her. "Please come back to bed, Gabrielle." Xena whispered plaintively. Gabrielle sat a moment longer, replying the sentence in her head. Yes, Xena had really asked her to come back to bed. She quickly put away her writing supplies, then crawled back in bed.

As Gabrielle crawled back under the covers, Xena pulled her into her arms, burying her nose in Gabrielle's hair, sniffing deeply of the scented water she had used on it. "Oh, Gabrielle, I'm so sorry I was insensitive on the ship," she whispered in Gabrielle's ear. "Ares said that Poseidon had put a spell on us all." Gabrielle pulled back, looking quizzically at Xena. Xena sighed, then sat up and rearranged the pillows so they could lean against the wall. "Ares spoke to me in a dream, telling me that Poseidon was trying to take revenge on Ulysses for not offering proper sacrifices at the end of the TroLou War." She quickly explained the rest of the events, relating what Ares had told her. "I thought it seemed strange a time or two, but I did not think, I just acted. Since then, I have been trying to figure out how to apologize to you."

"Well," said Gabrielle, "I did think it odd that you did not care how sick I was. Even though you usually are gruff with me, you at least give me the right herbs and tell me to hurry up and get well." She grinned up at Xena, trying to lighten the mood. Xena slowly smiled back at her, then leaned down to kiss Gabrielle's cheek. She missed and kissed Gabrielle's soft lips instead.

Gabrielle was surprised by the kiss, but it lit a fire in her belly. Before Xena could react, Gabrielle kissed back harder, taking Xena's head in her hands and pulling them back onto the bed. When they finally broke the kiss, Gabrielle rolled so she was on top of Xena. It was now or never, she decided, to show Xena how she felt. She had been aware that her love had deepened into something else, but never really thought about acting on it before now, just savoring the small moments. Now, however, she felt desire washing over her as she leaned over to kiss the warrior again, running her hands down Xena's body.

Xena was taken off guard, but felt an answering desire. This is what Ares meant, she realized. Even death could not break their love, even spells by the gods could not tear them apart. She responded to Gabrielle's kiss and caresses by rolling back over so she was on top of Gabrielle. She pulled up, looking at Gabrielle's dear face, saying, "Are you sure? Do you really want this?"

Gabrielle's face shone with love and desire as she answered, "More than anything, Xena, I want you. I love you. Now shut up and kiss me, you fool." Xena grinned as she bent down to comply with Gabrielle's wishes.

Lou sat up abruptly, the details of the dream fresh in her mind. She was only half surprised to find herself aching with desire, feeling like she had been Xena holding and kissing Gabrielle. She fingered the chakram, wondering if it really was the reason for these vivid dreams. Could it be that she was really meant to fall in love with Merry? She laced her fingers behind her head, staring at the ceiling, thinking about the past few days. It had been about a week since she first met Dr. Covington, yet she sometimes felt like she had known the woman all of her life. Or was it lives? She allowed herself to re-live the moments when she knocked the doctor down, protecting her with her own body, feeling a moment of something between them--desire, she now knew. How she had really wanted to kiss Merry yesterday, not just hug her. To be honest, she was falling in love, really falling in love for the first time. She knew she could not get back to sleep, so she opted to go to the gym for a hard workout. Maybe it would help her tone down her feelings--but did she want to tone them down?

Merry woke up from the same dream, savoring the feelings of desire. Even though she had been engaged once, she had never felt this strongly about anyone else before. Gabrielle and Xena had loved each other as more than friends, so had Merry Pappas and Louise Covington. Could it be that the chakrams were really channeling the feelings of their ancestors? Was it really love that she was feeling for Lou, or just lust? She got up and looked out the window, trying to pick out the Enterprise among the stars. She could not, of course, but staring at the stars made her feel closer to Lou. Gods, she had wanted to kiss Lou yesterday when they hugged. Was it possible that Lou felt the same way? Could she, who was devoted to preserving the past, really love someone who was committed to being a warrior, a destroyer? Or was Lou a guardian? She finally got up and finished filling out the reports that she had ignored over the past two days, waiting for time to get ready to beam aboard the Enterprise.

"Dr. Covington, I am very pleased to show you around my ship. As you know, I don't have all day, but I have arranged for Lt. Pappas to finish the tour this afternoon. Is this acceptable?"

"Yes, Captain, very. I am flattered that you would take off several hours from your morning, especially in light of the recent attack." Merry smiled at the captain, who smiled back as he motioned for her to proceed him out of the transporter room. "I must say, the ship's air feels cleaner that the dust ridden air on the planet. Did you say that we will visit the bridge first?"

As the morning raced by, Picard showed Dr. Covington around his favorite parts of the ship. She relaxed in his company, answering his questions about the digs she had been on, techniques for preserving artifacts, and whether or not the staff she had found was really a staff of a distant Grand Nagus. "It is very similar, but the ears are too small. However, I am still following the research that suggests that some Ferengis mated with another race and did have smaller ears, at least on this planet. I can't prove anything right now." He steered her into the officer's mess hall. "Ah, lunch. A subject after my own heart." He introduced her to the senior staff, then they all sat down to eat.

Lou could barely keep from staring at Merry as they ate. She was sure that Deanna Troi could feel every peek, but she didn't care, not today. The ship would be leaving next week, and she intended to spend as much time as possible with the lovely archeologist, even if Merry did not return her feelings completely. Friendship would be fine, she just wanted to be near the other woman.

Merry glanced at Lou during desert and was shocked at the intensity of feeling that threatened to overwhelm her. For a brief moment, she felt like they were the only two in the room and that Lou's eyes would bore right through her, seeing her very soul. She could hardly wait for lunch to be over with so she could talk to Lou and walk with her. Even if nothing came of it, she wanted to be close to her friend. She sensed that Lou rarely allowed anyone to see through the security chief's mask and she wanted to see more.

"This is one of the holodecks. Mind if I run my favorite program?" Lou asked shyly. Merry nodded, and Lou announced, "Pappas two dash three. Security level three, captain's override only. There, no one can come in unless I authorize it or the captain authorizes it. True privacy." She gently took Merry's arm to lead her to the grassy slope by the gurgling stream. "This is like the stream that ran through Grandmother's place. She had a couple of acres in Colorado and Dad let us go there during the summers. We would all pack a picnic lunch and eat by the stream, then stretch out for a lazy afternoon nap." As she spoke, a blanket materialized on the grass. "Would you like to sit and dangle your feet in the stream?"

"Sure, sounds good." Merry quickly took off her shoes and socks, then rolled up her trousers legs. She cautiously dangled her feet in the water, noticing that Lou was doing the same thing. She closed her eyes, listening to the stream, feeling the sun on her skin, feeling content. She finally opened them and looked at Lou. "Lou, have you been having more dreams about Xena and Gabrielle?"

Lou blushed, thinking of last night's dream. She looked all around, then finally back at Merry. "Well, yes. Last night I dreamed that they were in an inn and were, um, I guess working out some issues."

Merry smiled encouragingly. "Don't you mean that they finally expressed their love for each other?" She picked up Lou's hand and brought it up to her cheek. "Like the feelings we have for each other? Don't deny it, I've seen it in your eyes. Lou Pappas, I want you."

Lou shuddered as her fingers touched Merry's cheek. She looked deep into Merry's eyes, seeing answering passion and desire, matching her own. She took a deep breath, then slowly brought her other hand up, tracing Merry's face gently, then pulling Merry's head closer to her own. Her heart threatened to beat its way out of her chest as she slowly kissed Merry for the first time, gently, warmly. They pulled apart and looked at each other searchingly, gathering their courage.

Merry finally stood up and walked to the blanket. Lou followed, mesmerized as Merry laid down, beckoning her. She laid down on top of the other woman and continued their kiss. Tentatively, then firmly, she kissed the outline of Merry's face, then down her neck. Merry suddenly rolled them over, smothering Lou with kisses, slowly running her hands up Lou's sides, ending up by cupping the other woman's breasts. Clothes started coming off as they explored each other's bodies, doing what they had only dreamed of in the past. It felt so right, so good, so natural. As the pace accelerated, their pendants banged off of each other, making a ringing tone, driving them on to greater frenzy. They were soon trading places over and over as each tried to take over the experience. Suddenly, Lou slithered down Merry's body, kissing the insides of Merry's thighs to open them up further. She explored Merry's lower extremes, whipping her into a frenzy of climax with her tongue.

Hours later, the women were in Lou's quarters, in bed, talking about their future. Lou said, "I can't live without you, you are my soulmate. But I can't leave Starfleet either. I just don't know what to do."

Merry thought for a long moment, then finally said, "Didn't Starfleet originally consider posting a small team of security guards here for an extended period of time?"

"Yes, but--"

"So, you will be posted here for at least six months." Lou though this over. She loved her job as the chief of security on the ship, but it seemed lonely after meeting Merry. "Okay, I'll talk to the captain."

"In the morning. Meanwhile, come back here and take your loving like a woman."

"I love you, Lou Pappas."

"I love you too, Merry Covington. More than you will ever know."

Part 2

Lt. Louise Pappas was happier than she had ever been in her life. The Enterprise was currently in orbit, guarding the work of Dr. Meredith Covington and her crew of archeologists for the next six months. Lou and Merry were mutually fascinated with each other, falling in love like their ancestors, Xena and Gabrielle. They spent as much time as possible together, which was far too little, considering their respective duties as security chief and chief archeologist. Still, any time was enough for the two women.

"So, Merry, tell me more about Xena and Gabrielle. My family had only part of the translations of the scrolls--up until the point where they were on the ship with Cecrops, the lost mariner. What happened after that?"

Merry settled more comfortably in Lou's arms on the couch in Lou's quarters. They had just finished supper and were relaxing after a hard day of work. Merry smiled up at her beloved security chief, enjoying the feeling of her strong arms around her. "Well," she drawled, "they did encounter some turbulent times, no pun intended. From what I recall, they helped the Athenian army fight The Horde, which was apparently a fierce band of warriors terrorizing the area. Xena slipped back into her darker side, taking over the army and finding a way to defeat the Horde. Gabrielle discovered that they would respond to kindness, but Xena fought the leader anyway. This caused a strain on their relationship, but it wasn't as bad as the strain caused by Gabrielle's baby or Xena running off to China to kill the Green Dragon."

"What? Green dragon? Merry, don't tell me that Xena fought a dragon! I'll believe the Bacchae, the Harpies, etc. but a dragon? Are you pulling my leg?"

"Nope, the Green Dragon was a young tyrant whom was actually the son of Xena's first lover, Lao Ma. The scrolls recovered are very sketchy, as if Gabrielle was reluctant to put the tale into written words. All we really know is that Xena went charging off to kill this man and Gabrielle somehow got into his court and prevented his murder, but Xena was arrested and nearly executed. The tale ends abruptly when Xena causes the palace to start crashing down and they high tail it out of there. The next tale picks up with Joxer and his brother."

Lou thought about this for a long moment, then asked, "What about Gabrielle's baby? I didn't know she had a child. Weren't they married by then?"

"I think they were. Gabrielle was sucked into a cult and was tricked into killing a priestess, thus ending her blood innocence and releasing some god of destruction, Dahak, I think. Somehow, the god managed to impregnate Gabrielle, who delivered a child in just a few days. Once again, nothing more is said of the child or those scrolls were lost. I did read some scrolls about Xena and Gabrielle's tenth anniversary party. It seems that just before then, Cyrene, Xena's mother, gave the inn and tavern to Xena and Gabrielle and Xena rescued Joxer and Diana's daughter, Rebecka, from a warlord. I'm sure there's more, Gabrielle seemed to have recorded lots of tales, many of which she copied and deposited at the Academy of Bards in Athens. Why do you ask?"

Lou played with Merry's strawberry hair for a moment, then kissed the top of her head. "Just curious, especially since I've dreamed of them since we met. What about Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington? Know anything about them?"

"Some. It seems that Melinda Pappas, who was a descendent of Xena, was more of a scribe than Janice Covington, who was a descendent of Gabrielle's. Merry went back to school eventually and finished her doctorate, then they both taught for several years. They lived on the South Carolina estate of the Pappas family, then eventually adopted two girls and started the tradition of handing down the chakram pendants. Even though Lou was the archeologist, it seems that Merry did almost all of the initial translation of the scrolls, due to her ability to translate ancient Greek on the fly. Now, are you going to continue to question me or what?"

Merry grinned as she tightened her arms around Lou. "I guess I've never been much of a history buff, but these dreams have fascinated me, my love. I guess Xena and Gabrielle worked out their differences, then, if we know for sure that they were married for ten years."

Lou sat up and looked at Merry. "Well, I think they lived for at least twenty more years. Rebecka wound up with her mother's grocery business, her father's messenger service, and the inn and tavern. The last scroll tells of Xena delivering Rebecka and Saul's first born, a boy named Xeres. I think that Rebecka was at least twenty-four when he was born, and the scroll has a few paragraphs here and there about his first words, teeth, walking, that sort of stuff. Xena died shortly after his second birthday, and Gabrielle quit writing after that. No one knows how much longer she lived."

"Hmm, I would have thought that Xena would have died in battle." Merry started to say something else when she was interrupted by the whistle of the comm system. "Damn, who could that be?" Merry grumbled as she extracted herself from Lou and walked over to the comm system. "Pappas here."

Riker's face filled the screen, worry written across his face. "Lt. Pappas, I know that you haven't been off duty for long, but will you please come to the officer's briefing room?"

"Okay, what's the matter, Commander?"

"Just be here as quick as you can. Riker out." Lou shut off her link, then drummed her fingers on the desk for a moment. "Merry, I guess you heard that. Damn, I hate to give up your company, but duty calls."

Merry walked over to Lou and hugged her. "I understand, hon. I'll go back to the lab and look over some of the more puzzling fragments that we beamed up yesterday. Buzz me when you're done." She reached up and kissed the other woman soundly, then reluctantly let her go. She watched Lou change into a fresh uniform, then kissed her again before she left. Merry stood there for several minutes, then walked over to the neatly folded clothes that Lou had just stepped out of, running her fingertips over the cloth, feeling slightly foolish, but unable to leave immediately. "I'm a sentimental sap," she growled out loud. "I can't believe that I've fallen so hard for you, Louise Pappas, just like my ancestors Louise Covington fell for Meredith Pappas and Gabrielle fell for Xena. But, do you have the sweet nature of Meredith Pappas, or the dark soul of Xena?" She looked around one more time, then left the cabin and headed for the lab.

Lt. Pappas walked into the briefing room, which was already nearly full. Commander Troi came in behind her, evidently the last person to arrive, for the captain started speaking as soon as they were seated. "Sorry to disturb your evenings, but I've just be notified by Starfleet command that we are to evacuate the planet immediately. It seems that the Ferengi we apprehended recently managed to send some sort of message to his home world, and now the Department of Commerce on Ferenginar is suing the United Earth Archeologist Union, the Vulcan Science Academy and the Federation for disturbing a Ferengi outpost. Starfleet decided that rather than face additional charges, we would pull everyone out immediately and head for Vulcan. We do get to keep all records made of the dig, as well as any holograms that we have made of the artifacts. The UEAU and the VSA are counter-suing for damages but the Fleet just wants us out immediately." His eyes raked the room. "Questions?"

Pappas spoke up. "Captain, how long do we have to evacuate? What about the security net that we set up? Should I send a crew to dismantle it?"

Picard looked at his security chief for a moment, then answered, "We will dismantle the security net as soon as all the archeologists are on board. Lt. Pappas, I want you to coordinate with Dr. Covington on the evacuation plans so you will know when to send your crew to dismantle the security net. Commander Riker and Commander Troi, I'd like for you to get your staffs to figure out where to put these folks. Dr. Crusher, I don't think we'll be needing medical services immediately, but one never knows. Commander Data, as soon as Lt. Pappas has the security net down and stowed, we will need to warp out of here immediately. Plot a course to take us to Vulcan in the shortest time possible. Thank you for your assistance. I'll be in my ready room, talking to the Dean of Archeology at the Vulcan Science Academy. Dismissed."

Lou burst into the lab, shouting, "Merry, where are you?"

"Over here, Lou. What's going on?" Merry stood up, watching the officer stride towards her. Something was wrong, she could see it in the tight set of Lou's face.

"I need for you to start pulling your entire staff away and get them ready for emergency evacuation." She sat on the table next to where Merry had been working. She crisply summarized the meeting, adding, "I'm sorry, but we have to start now. Please make the appropriate arrangements. I'll lend you some of my staff, plus I'll get Ensign Turner to help you. He's in the geology lab, should be on duty about now. Any questions?"

Merry started to say, "Yeah, you didn't kiss me," but the look on Lou's face stopped her. "What about the Grand Nagus staff? It's pretty valuable, you know."

"Leave it. You can only take your records, belongings, holograms, anything that you came with. All relics and artifacts are to be left behind. Orders of Starfleet, acting for the Federation." Her face softened for a moment as she added, "I know this is tough, Merry, but I have my orders." She leaned over and kissed Merry, then left the room. Merry watched Lou leave, then heaved a sigh. At least it wasn't Nazis they were facing, she thought, remembering some of the writings of Meredith Pappas.

Pappas, Riker, Troi, Turner, Covington and Data worked far into the night as they prepared for the evacuation. The archeologists were aghast at the sudden orders, but calmed down after Dr. Covington explained that they could take all of their records. She also promised that she would see what she could do about publishing their findings, which worried the academic types more than any potential fallout from the lawsuits. By morning, most of their belongings were packed up and were being transported and shuttled to the cargo bays on the Enterprise. Lt. Pappas watched the flow of records, personal items, computers, equipment, furniture and food stuffs diminished to a trickle, then alerted her crew to start dismantling the security net. Parts had already been dismantled as the computers from the offices were beamed aboard, but there were plenty of sensor arrays and phaser canons to be transferred.

Finally, everything was transported or taken via shuttlecraft to the Enterprise. The captain personally helped his crew make one final sweep of the complex, making sure that everything was gone except the relics and artifacts. Dr. Covington walked beside him during the tour, exhausted by her night's work. They wound up at the temple ruins, watching the sun peeking over the horizon. Captain Picard turned to Dr. Covington and said quietly, "Thank you for evacuating your people so quickly. I know that this is rather hard for your group, I had looked forward to visiting the ruins again myself."

"Archeologists have always been at the mercy of governments, Captain. I just wish that we could at least bring something back, I mean a physical relic, but I understand the position of Starfleet." She leaned against a column, surveying the insides of the temple, briefly remembering Lou bringing her here after she had sprained her ankle only a month ago. "At least we collected most of the data we needed. Just a few more months and we could have been finished!" She turned her head and smiled at Picard. "I do appreciate your lending us your crew to make this go faster."

Picard nodded, saying, "I understand how you feel, Dr. Covington. It must be a terrible disappointment to nearly have completed your task, then to be yanked away so unexpectedly. Still, I have enjoyed your company and the tours that you arranged. I'm hoping that you have enough to start your reports."

Merry yawned, then answered, "Yes, Captain, we do. Gods, I'm exhausted, but no rest for the weary. As soon as Lt. Pappas gives the all clear, I suppose I'll be beaming up." As she spoke, she unconsciously fingered her chakram pendant. Picard looked at the pendant quizzically, wondering where he had seen it before. She noticed his gaze, then laughed. "Wondering if you've seen this before?" He smiled slightly, embarrassed at being caught. "Lou has one just like it--they've been in our respective families for about four hundred years or so. They were commissioned by Lou's ancestor, Dr. Meredith Pappas, to be worn by herself and her lover, my ancestor, Dr. Louise Covington. They have been handed down in the families to the eldest daughter or niece or cousin. Anyway, I'm sure that you don't need to be bored by tales of our families, we need to be getting back to my former office so that Lou can find us."

"Yes, we do. One question, though," Picard said as they started walking along, "what exactly does it represent?"

"The chakram was a weapon used by Xena, who was an infamous warlord turned hero in ancient Greece on Earth. Her lover, Gabrielle the Bard, also an Amazon queen, chronicled their travels and adventures in a long series of scrolls, which my ancestor found and Lou's ancestor helped translate. It was a deadly weapon, and could be used similar to a boomerang. I guess it also represented the circle of life and love for the original Drs. Covington and Pappas." She stopped as they entered her former office. "I suppose that I shouldn't bore you with these old tales, but they are fresh on my mind since I met Lou."

Picard smiled as he observed, "You two seem to be getting along quite well."

Merry grinned back at the captain, saying, "Yep, that's true. She's a terrific woman. Speaking of the devil, here she is."

Lt. Pappas spoke as she walked up to the pair. "All finished, Captain. We can start beaming everyone aboard now." He nodded, asking her to make it so. After Picard shimmered out of sight, Lou sighed and yawned mightily. "I'm bushed, how about yourself?"

"Pretty tired myself, love. My ankle's starting to throb again. I'm not sure if I twisted it again, or if it just hasn't finished healing. I'll go to sickbay later tomorrow, rather, today and have someone check it out." Sensing that Lou was still emotionally on duty, she refrained from slipping her hand cozily through Lou's arm. "Have cabin assignments been made yet?"

"Yes. Riker called me just before I came here. Since the Enterprise has extra cargo areas that can be transformed into temporary quarters, all is taken care of. He did say that they were one short and that you might have to share my quarters for the duration of the trip." She smiled. "Riker's an old softie at heart. Go ahead and beam aboard, I'll be there shortly." She laid a hand on Merry's shoulder, then tapped her communicator. "You can beam Dr. Covington up now," she informed the transporter operator. She watched Merry shimmer out of sight, then turned back to the task at hand.

Merry finally made it to sickbay several hours later, after making sure that all of her people and belongings were accounted for and stowed away. Dr. Crusher examined the ankle and said, "You sprained this again, Dr. Covington. I can run the regenerator and repair the damage, but you should pack it in ice for at least twenty minutes."

"Just what Lt. Pappas said, Dr. Crusher." Merry watched as the doctor worked on her ankle, barely suppressing another yawn. "I guess I should really try to get some sleep now. Thanks for the help."

"Just don't come back with the same injury." Crusher put away her instruments, then helped Merry off the diagnostic bed. "Sleep would be good for you now. Try to convince Lou that she could stand some sleep as well--she keeps trying to match the Vulcans for the stamina department."

"I'll do my best, doctor. Good-night or good morning or whatever." Merry cracked another tremendous yawn. "Thanks." She nearly stumbled out of the sickbay. Dr. Crusher watched her, then went to the next patient.

Merry made it to Lou's cabin and crashed on the bed without bothering to undress. She thought about trying to find Lou but nixed the thought immediately. Duty was duty and she would not stand in the way of duty. Besides, she would just sleep for a short time, then go back to see how her team was doing in their new quarters...

...and woke up to someone insistently shaking her shoulder. "Bug off," she growled. The shaking continued. "Just five more minutes," she pleaded. No deal. She finally cracked open one eye and saw Lou grinning at her. "Gods, how can you be so peppy?"

"Because I've had eight hours of sleep, right beside you, Merry. Come on, I'm hungry." Lou bounced off the bed, heading for the bathroom. Merry yawned and glanced at the wall chronometer. She had slept for nearly twelve hours herself, she realized. It was evening, ship time. She thought about crawling back under the covers, but her bladder was waking up as well, so she stumbled into the bathroom herself. A few minutes later, she was very awake, sharing a wonderful hot shower with Lou. The ship did have better shower facilities, she decided as she gave herself up to the luxury of having Lou wash her hair for her. All too soon, they got out of the shower and dressed. Lou suggested that they eat in Ten Forward and Merry agreed. Now that she was clean, reasonably awake and clothed, she realized she was starving.

It only took the Enterprise a week to reach Vulcan. Lou and Merry agreed that it was far too short of a time and were determined to make the best of the time they had together. The night before they reached Vulcan, Lou and Merry talked tentatively about the future. "So, how long will the ship be here? Have you heard, Lou?"

Lou stretched her long frame, then crawled in bed beside Merry. "A couple of days at most. Just long enough to transfer everything, then to debrief about the incident with the Ferengi and the Romulans. We'll both be pretty busy, I can't guarantee that we'll get to see each other every day. The captain said in our staff meeting this morning that we already have a new assignment and will be shipping out pretty soon. The next time I could see you after that would be in three months, when we are scheduled to go back to earth for a tune up. If you can meet me there, I should have about a week of shore leave that I can take. I was scheduled to take it sooner, but events have not been conducive to leaving. Besides, I'd rather take it with you."

Merry rolled on top of Lou, agreeing. "I should be able to get back to earth by then. I'll need to report in to the Union of Archeologists and present a paper on our findings so far. I'm sure I can sneak in a little R&R, maybe even take a trip to Greece."


"Sure, so we can walk the same paths that Xena and Gabrielle walked, silly. Are we going to talk all night or what?"

"Since you put it that way-" Lou was interrupted by Merry's kiss and roaming hands. Gods, where did the woman find all this energy? Needless to say, she soon ceased thinking and just started reacting to the incredible body of Merry Covington. She wrapped her long legs around the other woman as Merry slowly descended her body...

After supper, Xena leaned her blankets against the cave wall so she could watch Gabrielle writing by the lamplight. Gabrielle fiddled with her pen for a few moments, then put her writing stuff away and came over to sit by Xena. Xena raised an eyebrow, asking, "What? no stories tonight?" Gabrielle shook her head slowly, then laid her head against Xena's shoulder and pulled Xena's arm around her. Xena was puzzled, but decided that Gabrielle would explain shortly. She tightened her hold on Gabrielle, then hesitantly reached up with her free hand to stroke the redhead's hair.

Her patience was soon rewarded. Gabrielle pulled back to look up at Xena, but keeping Xena's arm around her. "Xena, why couldn't Callisto stop hating you? You gave her another chance at life, apologized in front of many people and did not hate her in return. Why?"

"I don't know, Gabrielle, but I can guess. Callisto is partially right in her claims--I created the circumstances that made her into a hateful, vengeful person. She did have a choice, as I did, but she was much younger. I was grown when Cortese attacked my village. I could have beaten him back and then kept fighting for good, but I made the choice to be a warlord. Callisto was so young that it probably seemed that the only way to live was to be as terrible as my army and I were then. She never had the security of growing into adulthood--she was thrust into it by my army."

"But you did choose to be good."

Xena looked into the serious green eyes, thinking about her reply. She pulled Gabrielle closer, hugging her gently, laying her cheek on top of Gabrielle's head before answering. "Hercules helped me see the error of my ways. Then, you burst into my life, believed in my goodness and have helped me balance myself ever since. I barely could believe that I could stay good, but you kept faith in me, even when I could not keep faith in myself." She stopped for a moment, letting Gabrielle sit back up, then looked directly into her eyes. "It was your love that saved me, your friendship, given willingly and without fail. I could not bear death without you, dear friend, so I had to come back for you."

Gabrielle took it all in. "So you really could hear what I was saying after you died? And you really came back for me?"

Xena's face relaxed into a rare smile as she touched Gabrielle's cheek. "Yes, I could hear you and I did come back for you. M'Lila pointed out how brave you were, trying to get my body back for a proper Amazon ceremony, even though you were injured seriously yourself. She insisted that I had to find a way back, that it was not really my time to die yet. And I was afraid that you could not handle Velasca. yourself, I could see that she wanted the power of the Amazon nation under her thumb, not under your rule." Xena stopped a moment, lost in thought. "When I heard you say how much you loved me, I was determined to get back, even if I had to steal Callisto's body to do it. No, that was a joke--I would not steal Callisto's body. But, I knew that my time on earth was not complete, and I would have fought Lord Hades himself for the chance."

Gabrielle listened, amazed. She knew that Xena had come back for her, but did not know the depth of Xena's feelings for her. She felt Xena suddenly pulling her into a tight embrace and could hear the other woman's heart pumping. She was slightly stunned at Xena's eloquence, but more than happy to enjoy the security of her arms around her. Before she married Perdicas, Xena would tolerate Gabrielle's fits of affection, hugging her spontaneously or kissing her goodnight. After that, Xena withdrew. It was only after she had died and come back that she tolerated Gabrielle touching her again, but she never initiated it. Gabrielle could only thank the gods and goddesses for this tender moment, a time to treasure. She even started feeling sleepy, but warm and safe. The last thing she remembered was Xena's quiet laughter and rumbling voice saying something about letting sleeping bards lie.

Merry awoke with a start. Since she had been on Vulcan, she had not dreamed about Gabrielle and Xena, but tonight was different. She wondered when the events in the dream occurred, since she didn't remember reading anything like this in the scrolls. It must have been before they were lovers, she decided, but not much before. She wondered what Lou was doing right now. It was early morning on Vulcan, which meant that it was late evening where Lou was, she decided. Why this dream? she wondered. She hoped that it wasn't some sort of bad omen or something. Merry yawned as she went to her kitchen, trying to decide what to make for breakfast. She was dying for bacon and eggs, but settled for cereal and fruit. It was hard to get anything really decadent on Vulcan. At least there were enough humans that coffee was readily available.

After she ate and cleaned her dishes, she poured the rest of the coffee in a mug and took her padd outside to the garden. The little house she was leasing was comfortable enough for a human and had the best garden, shaded most of the day, a little waterfall, beautiful native plants. She sat down in a chair, put her mug on the table beside it and booted up her padd. She was not fond of writing reports and accounting for money spent, she preferred the active part of archeology. Only one more month until she went to earth, hopefully to see Lou again. Lou had actually turned out to be a terrific correspondent, once she got used to writing. Her descriptions of everyday life on the ship were tinged with flashes of humor. Her last letter also had a sizzling fantasy sequence in it, claiming it was the first she had ever written. Merry wrote back that maybe Lou was the descendent of Gabrielle, not her. She found herself blushing as she recalled the letter. Oh, well, back to work, she told herself sternly.

Just as she started working in earnest, she sensed someone beside her. She looked up to see Lou standing there, grinning broadly. "Kinda snuck on you, there." Merry just stared for a long moment, then carefully stood up. "Yup, it's really me, Merry. I'm taking my shore leave early, so I can get ready for the trial. Are you going to stand there gaping, or are you going to kiss me hello?"

Merry needed no further encouragement. Several minutes later, light-headed but much happier, she broke the kiss off long enough to draw a deep breath. "Trial?" she finally croaked.

"Yup. The Ferengi have agreed to consolidate the lawsuits and the trial will be here on Vulcan. I think it is because the Vulcans are perceived as having more impartial judges, even though it limits the bribery chances for the Ferengi. But, enough of that, woman!" Lou grinned at her lover, scooping her up and taking her into the house. "The bedroom?" she queried. Merry pointed, and Lou carried her off to bed, managing to help her out of her clothes in record time. "I've missed you so much, Merry," she groaned against Lou's neck. "Me too" Merry agreed as Lou started sucking a breast, causing waves of delight to course through her body. She tried to slow Lou down, but Lou was letting go of her discipline, sucking and licking with pent-up desire. She groaned with pleasure and Lou suddenly slipped a finger in her wet well, using her thumb to rub her engorged clitoris.

Several hours later, they were meeting with the legal team from the Federation. Merry marveled at how cool and collected Lou was after their morning romp. She was still feeling slightly flushed and woozy, barely able to concentrate on the attorneys rather than Lou's wonderful body. She listened as they mapped out the defense, speaking what seemed to be an arcane language. From what she gathered, they were relying on some case in the 21st century regarding some archeologist who was in a similar situation and won. Merry was just glad when the meeting was over so she could talk to Lou alone, or at least over dinner. Breakfast was a dim memory and they had feasted on each other during lunch. "Lou, I'm starving. Can I take you out to dinner?"

Lou considered the offer long enough to make Merry nervous. She smiled at the redhead, saying, "Sure. I worked up an appetite this morning. What's good around here? I have to report back to the ship after dinner, but then I can come back tomorrow morning."

Merry grinned back, her green eyes meeting Lou's amazing blue eyes. She wrapped an arm around Lou's waist and steered her towards a little outdoor cafe. "I know it's hotter than Texas in summer here, but it has the best sherbet this side of the galaxy. Their salads are pretty amazing too."

"If you say so. I didn't know that you were that well traveled."

"Not as well as you, my dear, but I've been to a number of planets. Here we are, Solon's Famous Cafe. It was started by a human about eighty years ago, then when he died, he left the cafe to his Vulcan partner. Business partner, Lou. Get your mind out of the gutter."

"Moi?" Lou replied, batting her eyelashes. "I'm as pure as the Vestal Virgins!" They arrived at the cafe and were promptly seated. Lou automatically scanned the place for security, then relaxed when she detected no threats. After they gave their orders, she reached across the table and took Merry's hands in hers, feeling the calluses of years of hard work in the field. "I feel a bit strange, holding hands in a Vulcan cafe, you know."

Merry smiled. "Well, I agree, it does. But it's so good to hold your hands. Have I told you that I missed you?"

"Yup, several times." Lou allowed herself to gaze dreamily at Merry, noting how the setting sun heightened the red in Merry's hair. She never noticed details like this before she met Merry, she guessed it was because she had never really been this much in love before now. She broke off her gaze when the food arrived.

Later, Lou walked Merry back to her house, reluctant to leave. Duty called, and Riker was waiting for her report, she knew. She kissed Merry goodnight, then tapped her comm badge to request to be beamed up. When she arrived, the transporter operator told her that Riker was waiting for her in Ten Forward. "Thanks." she said as she headed off in that direction. Trust Riker to want a report in a more relaxed setting.

When Lou arrived at Ten Forward, she noticed that Riker and Troi were both at a table. They saw her as she walked in and motioned for her to join them. "I see you got my message, Mr. Pappas. How was the trip? Is Dr. Covington as lovely as ever?"

Louise Pappas flushed slightly as she sat down. "The trip was fine, the meeting was boring and Meredith Covington is doing well." She noticed that Wil Riker jerked slightly and decided that Deanna Troi must have kicked him under the table. "We went over the defense strategy, which made me very glad that I'm in law enforcement, not a lawyer, and then Merry and I went to Solon's Famous Cafe for dinner."

Commander Troi asked, "So, did you get a sense of what might be brought up in the trial?" Back on safer ground, Lou plunged into a report of the meeting and the defense strategy, relieved that Troi kept Riker's curiosity under control. They discussed the evidence that Pappas would be offering, then started a discussion on Vulcan art. Lou was well versed in Vulcan art, since she had studied it on the last mission, hoping that it would make her feel close to Merry. Silly sentimental thought, she knew, but it had helped. Finally, Riker excused himself, saying that he needed his rest before the next duty shift. He bid the women good night, then left.

"I take it that things are still going well between you and Dr. Covington," Troi commented. Pappas nodded briefly. "Good, I was a little concerned about your long-distance relationship."

"I think we're doing fine, Deanna. I'm trying to keep a level head, unlike others I've known. Lou's an amazing woman, so beautiful, so intelligent." Merry took a long sip of her juice, then continued. "I did surprise her this morning. Since we didn't know until yesterday that we would even be here, I decided to wait and greet her in person." She smiled broadly, remembering the morning, then suddenly remembered that Deanna was an empath and could sense her emotions.

Deanna smiled at her. "Don't worry, Lou, I don't probe for emotions," she said in answer to Lou's blush. "Wil is the one who would be wanting all the details. I'm just glad you're happy, both on a personal and professional level. Makes my job easier. Which reminds me, have you decided what to do when we go back on another mission? There will be a long separation, you know. Have you and Merry talked about this?"

"No, not really. I have two more years on my hitch and Merry will probably be on either Vulcan or Earth for the next several years, either finding funds for a new dig or teaching. I like my life here, Deanna, and I suspect that things will work out fine. I know that sounds strange, coming from the woman who is so well known for planning her day from morning to night by fifteen minute intervals, but somehow, I feel like this relationship was destined." Lou groped for a better explanation, reaching up for her chakram pendant.

"You do have a very highly developed sense of duty," Deanna observed. "But, enough about that--care to split a hot fudge sundae?"

"Thought you'd never ask. Oh, Guinan!"

Mining the Future Past, Part IV

Usual tedious disclaimer:

MCA/Universal owns the rights to the characters of Xena and Gabrielle. Paramount/Viacom own any Star Trek characters. Any other characters are my creation and merely interact with MCA/Universal's characters. There may or may not be relationships between two consenting women. If you don't like it, leave my page and go elsewhere.

Story copyright © 1997 by JS Stephens. All Rights Reserved.

Xena kept seeing Gabrielle in scenes from their past as she snuck down the long hallway. She nearly faltered several times in her mission, but kept persevering. After all, Lao Ma herself had sent the message to make the Green Dragon small again and Xena was sure that this meant only one thing: assassinate him. She found the royal bedroom and stood by the bed, ready to kill him. Raising her knife for the final strike, she prepared to kill the young man when the bed covers were thrown back.

It was Gabrielle in the bed.

Louise Pappas woke up from the dream, drenched in sweat. She rubbed her eyes, wondering, "Why can't I have those nice dreams about Xena and Gabrielle again? The ones where they were falling in love?" She looked at the chronometer only to find that it was still an hour before she had to get up. Nevertheless, she decided to get up and get ready for the day. Maybe she should go the the observation lounge and watch the planet below them.Yes, that would be the best course of action, she decided. She only had one meeting with the lawyers today, then she was free from duty for the next three days and Merry had said that she could arrange to take off the rest of today as well. Lou made up the bed, took her shower, dressed, then went to the lounge.

Lou walked to the lounge, detouring long enough to get a breakfast sandwich and mug of coffee from one of the mess halls. She ate her sandwich without tasting it, just staring at the red planet below the ship. As she sipped her coffee, she became aware that the back of her neck was prickling again, a sure sign of danger. What could be so dangerous? she wondered. She also became aware of another person in the lounge. She set her coffee down on the end table, then slowly turned around, tensed for potential action.

The ship's counselor held up her hands, saying, "It's only me, Lieutenant. I couldn't sleep this morning, so I thought I would come here. Am I disturbing you?"

"No, Commander, you are not. I couldn't sleep either, so I brought my coffee in here." Lou hesitated a moment, then added, "care to join me?"

"I believe I shall," the dark haired counselor answered. She gracefully sat on the couch, looking at the planet for a long moment before asking, "Lou, what's bothering you?"

Lou fingered her chakram pendant, trying to decide what to tell Deanna. Finally, she said, "You know that I have warning of danger, a prickling at the back of my neck. Well, since I met Meredith Covington, I've also had dreams, dreams of our ancestors who lived probably three thousand years ago or so. Xena and Gabrielle were heroes, fighting to right wrongs. Anyway, I've been having very vivid dreams about them, and sometimes the dreams are somewhat predictive of events that will happen to me in the near future. This morning, I dreamed that Xena was trying to assassinate someone and nearly killed Gabrielle instead. Somehow, Gabrielle was in the bed of the tyrant that Xena was going to kill, but I woke up just as Gabrielle threw back the covers. Since then, I've had the prickling in my neck, warning of some kind of danger, but I don't know what will happen. That's what's bothering me, Deanna. Suppose that something I do endangers Merry?"

Deanna looked at the red planet for a long moment, then back at the security chief. "Lou, I honestly don't know what to tell you right now. I can sense your anxiety, but I'm not sure what to advise you to do. I guess just be careful and vigilant today." She took a sip of her cocoa, then asked, "Is anything else bothering you?"

"I'm thinking about the future of my relationship with Merry. Should I be entertaining thoughts of permanent commitments already?"

Deanna put her mug down on the end table, trying to decide how to answer this question. Finally, she said, "Lou, you have know Dr. Covington for only a few months now. Considering the careers that you both have chosen, any relationship will be hard to maintain. I know how tempting it is to say, 'this is the person for me' based on that first wave of intense feeling. I won't tell you what to do, but I will tell you to give it some time. If it is right, time will tell. Maybe you should just enjoy the time you can spend with her right now and get to know each other better before making that kind of decision. I've had to do the same thing before, having loved two men dearly, yet having to give both of them up." She reached for her mug, drained it, then glanced at the chronometer. "I should be going, I promised to meet Wil for breakfast this morning. If you need me, please don't hesitate to ask for help."

"Okay. Sound advice, just hard to follow." Lou stood up as Deanna left the room. She then sat back down and stared at the planet while finishing her coffee, then got up and went to her office. Might as well check the duty roster before reporting to the meeting with the lawyers.

"I think that will conclude our meeting for today. You will make an excellent witness, Mr. Pappas. Thank you for coming, my secretary will see you out." The attorney shook Lou's hand firmly, then sat back down to make some additional notes while her secretary escorted Lou out of the room. Lou thanked the secretary, then left the building, heading for Merry's house. If she hurried, she could probably catch Merry before she made lunch plans.

The prickling sensation was still mildly buzzing at the back of her neck, so Lou watched carefully as she walked along the sidewalk. She automatically classified people as either threats or non-threats as a rule anyway, but she deliberately looked for anything unusual. She didn't see anything out of the ordinary, mostly a combination of Vulcans and a few other races walking slowly from shop to shop, the off-worlders looking for shade and souvenirs, while the Vulcans looked mostly for daily shopping. Lou knew that she still had an hour before meeting Merry for lunch, so she stopped in a shop that sold replica antique Vulcan weapons. The shop was cool and dim after the heat and bright sun outside and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the light. Lou usually didn't buy anything, but she loved looking at antique weapons and had even purchased a few in the past, usually small knives or short swords. Today, however, she was drawn towards an unusual knife, it had what looked to be a bone handle and a blue blade, approximately 20 cm. long. She stared at it so intently through the glass case that she nearly didn't hear the shop owner walk up.

"May I show you something?" he inquired softly.

"Yes, the blue bladed knife." She watched as he unlocked the case and carefully pulled out the knife, laying it down on a black drop cloth on the counter. Lou looked at it for a long moment, the finally picked it up and held it, noting how well it molded to her hand. "May I know the history of this knife?" she asked.

The Vulcan bowed his head slightly, answering, "It is an unlat, translated roughly to 'the knife of a hero'. The handle is made of bone and the blade from a special alloy. It is the strongest alloy available that can still be sharpened. It is said that our bravest warriors carried an unlat, but had to win it through some brave deed. Although most of the items here are replicas, this one is authentic. It is from the house of T'Shal, who was one of our warrior princesses in antiquity. Her line died out several years ago and I bought most of the weapons. It is said that the knife belonged to T'Shal herself, but we cannot prove it, therefore, you may have it for only fifteen hundred credits."

Lou shook her head negatively. "Unproven? Remarkable workmanship, but I'll only offer one thousand credits."

He raised his eyebrows slightly, then countered, "The secret of the alloy is lost. Fourteen hundred credits."

Lou smiled. "The famous Vulcan Science Academy can't reproduce the alloy? Eleven hundred credits, and I'd swear you were a Ferengi from your bargaining."

"Last offer, thirteen hundred credits. No one has, in truth, tried to duplicate the alloy."

Lou drummed her fingers on the counter, then said, "Last offer. Twelve fifty and throw in a carrying case. I'd almost swear that you were stretching the truth, sir"

He spread his hands wide in a mock human gesture. "I will accept your offer. For fifty more credits, I will give you this handsome belt to carry the knife on, purely for ceremonial purposes, I assume." He pulled out a sturdy woven belt with brightly embroidered stylized scenes of duels. It had an embroidered sheath made of some type of stiff leather and a shiny silver buckle. He slid the knife in the sheath, then handed it over to Lou to try on. The belt was a perfect fit. She took it back off and the Vulcan carefully wrapped it up, then ran her card through his scanner. "Thank you, Lt. Pappas. May the gods bring you luck."

"Thank you, kind sir." She bowed her head to him, then left the cool shop for the shimmering heat outside. A stray thought came to her--all that was needed was the whirring of locusts and it would be like Texas in the summer. As she walked toward Solon's Famous Cafe, she thought about her grandmother's farm in northern Texas. The farm had been in the family since the late 1890's and she used to visit during the summers when she was a child. She could still remember the still heat, sMerryling faintly of cut grass and freshly turned soil, the calluses from helping hoe the fields, the merciless sun beating down on her dark head and back, then running around with her cousins after dark, chasing fireflies. She had to smile at herself, allowing herself to detour to her childhood, before the near rape in the high school gym changed her life.

Lou came back to the present as she entered the cafe and was promptly seated. Before she could even look at the menu, Merry came waltzing in, sitting in the booth opposite of her. "Hi, lover" she said cheerfully, "what have you been doing this morning?"

"Hi yourself, Merry. I met with the legal team to go over my testimony and evidence, then I went shopping." Lou reached into the sack and brought out the knife and belt, quickly telling the story behind it. Their waiter came to take their orders as she finished the story, so she laid it on the table, intending to re-wrap it shortly. "So, what have you done this morning?"

"Funny you should ask. It's really strange, all I've done is write reports while sitting in the garden, but I've felt like I was being watched all morning. Several times I got up and walked around, but never saw anyone. Ever felt like someone was watching you, but you couldn't find any evidence?"

"Yes," Lou answered. The prickling was coming back, stronger than ever. She would swear that the short hairs at the nape of her neck were sticking straight out now, danger signals going off in her head. Unconsciously, she loosened the knife from its sheath, playing with the handle as she started scanning the room for danger.

"Lou, is that really necessar-" Even as Merry started to speak, Lou exploded from the booth, knocking over a hooded figure. Merry watched in amazement as Lou ruthlessly stripped his hood back and pointed the tip of the knife at his throat.

"Speak, scum, or I will give you a second mouth!" Lou said fiercely. The man squirmed for a moment, but realized that further movement would cause him to have a nice hole in his neck. He opted for biting down on a capsule and went slack immediately. "Damn it, how dare you die on me!" Lou growled, trying to pry his jaws open. A crowd was starting to gather, horrified at the violence occurring before them. "Someone get the authorities and a doctor," Lou snapped. She sat back down on the floor, laying the knife beside her. Merry still hadn't moved from the booth, unnerved by the swift actions of her lover.

Within moments, a doctor pronounced the man dead and a Vulcan security officer was taking statements from the crowd. Another officer arrived and Merry listened as Lou gave a precise statement, telling the officer that she saw the man draw a phaser and point it towards Merry, so reacted and tackled him, keeping him still by holding the knife to his throat. Merry knew that she never saw the man until Lou tackled him, but she supposed that it was true. When it came her time, she told the officer what she knew, which was very little.

After everything returned to normal, Lou and Merry left, opting to go back to Merry's place. "So," inquired Merry, "how did you see him?"

Lou replied, "I was feeling uneasy, so I started scanning the room. I noticed him immediately due to his hood still being up. Most Vulcans pull their hoods back as soon as they enter the door, similar to removing your hat in other cultures. I just reacted, Merry. Besides, he was threatening you with that phaser, and I could not allow that to happen." They stopped in front of the gate. "Merry, let me check the place out before you enter. Stand back." Merry complied as Lou pulled out her tricorder and scanned the place. Lou frowned as she scanned, then snapped the instrument shut. "I don't read any humanoid life, but I still feel uneasy," she admitted as she motioned for Merry to open the gates. They walked into the courtyard, then locked the gates behind them. While Merry went inside and started pouring cold drinks, Lou walked all around the gardens and the house, scanning for anything anomalous. She didn't find anything, so she went back to the den, where Merry was sitting in a chair, sipping her drink.

Lou sat down in one of the chairs, picking up a glass and draining the contents. She set the glass down, then stared miserably at the floor, lost in reviewing her actions of the afternoon. Merry watched her, wondering what was going through her lover's mind. Finally, she asked softly, "Lou, would you have killed the man?"

Lou snapped her head up, staring into Merry's green eyes, firmly answering, "yes. He was a threat. Had he harmed you or tried to harm someone else, I could have used deadly force to subdue him. I doubt I would have killed him unless he forced me to, however. Why do you ask?"

Merry played with her glass, then carefully set it down before answering. "I don't know, I guess I was surprised by the suddenness and savagery of the attack. I was ready when you called the red alert back at the dig, but I was not ready for such violence on such a civilized planet. When do you suppose we will hear what he was doing here?"

Lou caught the undercurrent of fear in Merry's voice. "Merry, what are you really saying? Are you afraid of me now? Afraid that I will not control my actions?"


"Then what? I protected you, for goddess' sake!" Lou got up and started pacing around the room. "Meredith, that man would have assassinated you, I could feel it! Would you rather that I had politely tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to leave?"

"That's not it at all-"

Lou grabbed her package and stormed out, on the verge of really losing her temper. Without looking back, she slammed out of the front door and out of the gate, pausing only to make sure it caught, then stalked off into the alley behind the garden walls. She paused only to strap the belt on, making sure that her long tunic covered it completely before striding off in search of something to eat.

Merry was shocked, both at the behavior of her lover and at her own doubts. It was true, she was momentarily afraid for some reason. Had Lou ever killed in the line of duty? she wondered. What would Gabrielle do? Tired, hungry, she mechanically made a snack, then went to take a nap after eating.

Lou continued to wander around aimlessly, finally winding up back at Merry's house after the sun had set. She toyed with the idea of apologizing for her outburst, to admit that she was pushing Merry away because of the fear that she nearly lost her. The prickling at the back of her neck was coming back, stronger than ever, so she Merryted into the shadows and waited.

Her wait was not long. She saw two men climbing over the fence, so she followed them, then hid in the shadows again. Gods, no, Merry was in the garden, sipping coffee! Lou slipped behind the men, ready to--no, she had no phaser with which to stun them, she remembered. She heard one say to the other, "There she is. You kill her and I'll search for the staff. We don't want any witnesses, like that other nitwit left." Merry must have heard something, for she stood up and called out, "Who's there?" The men looked at each other, then stepped out of the darkness.

"Okay, Dr. Covington, where's the staff?" asked one.


"The Grand Nagus staff, you fool! You wouldn't leave such a valuable artifact behind, now would you?" he sneered. His partner snuck behind her and grabbed her from behind, a phaser jammed in her side. "Answer the question, or you'll be dead!" he snapped.

"I don't have the staff, I was told to leave it and all of the other artifacts behind."

"Wrong answer. Kill her and then let's search the house."

Before the man could pull the trigger, he sprouted a knife in the side of his neck. "What the-" the other man started to say as he heard an unearthly "AIYIYIYIYIYIY!" and felt his feet hitting his chest. Lou stood over him, jabbing her fingers at the base of his neck, saying, "I've just cut off the flow of blood to your brain. You have thirty seconds to live, so talk!"

He croaked, "We are supposed to grab the Grand Nagus staff, kill the doctor, then take the staff back to Ferenginar." She jabbed him again and he felt the blood flowing back into his brain. He coughed violently as Lou ripped a vine off a column and started tying him up. "You damn fool, she told you the truth! The staff was left on the planet. Now, give me one good reason to turn you over to the Vulcan authorities rather than me treating you like your friend here."

He spluttered and stammered, then finally said, "You wouldn't kill me in cold blood would you?"

Fire danced in her blue eyes as Lou growled, "No, but he was going to kill my lover in cold blood." She hauled him to his feet and tapped her comm badge. "Enterprise, please patch me through to the local security net." She waited impatiently, then when she heard the security office answer, she snapped, "This is Lt. Louise Pappas of the Federation Starship Enterprise. Please send a squad to Dr. Meredith Covington's house. I just killed a man."

Lou was arrested and tried quickly. The Vulcan court dismissed the charges after Merry testified that Lou killed the man to keep her from being killed. The other man initially refused to say anything, but one glare from Lou while he sat on the witness stand started him to babbling, telling of the scheme to steal the staff and kill the doctor. After the charges were dropped, Merry sought out Commander Troi.

"Commander, I don't know how to deal with these feelings," Merry started. "I should be grateful that I'm still alive, but to have someone brutally murdered to save my life...I just don't know."

Deana Troi asked softly, "Did you consider what Lou is going through?"

"She's used to that kind of stuff, she's a security chief. I suppose she's killed before in the line of duty."

"No, she hasn't." Merry looked up at the counselor as she spoke the words. "Lt. Pappas has often stunned people and yes, she has fired phasers in battle at other ships, but she has never killed anyone before like this. Merry, Lou may have acted brave during the trial, but she's been very depressed, nearly catatonic in the evenings. She is afraid that she has lost you forever, even though she says she would do the same thing again if necessary. She feels the blood on her hands, so to speak." The counselor stood up. "Maybe you should go see her."

"I can't, not right now."

"We have to ship out in two days, Merry. Think about it." She stood up and started to the door. "She loves you very much, you know."

"Yes, I know," Merry whispered.

The next morning dawned, finding Xena and Gabrielle still clinging to each other, drawing comfort from the other. They laid quietly for a long time, neither wanting to be the first to move. Finally, Gabrielle whispered, "I have to go." Xena nodded, letting the bard leave the tent. After a moment, she left to find her own bush, coming back to find Gabrielle slowly dressing. Gabrielle looked years older, as if she had suffered from a long illness. Xena quickly dressed, asking if Gabrielle wanted anything to eat. Gabrielle shook her head no, then dropped listlessly on the bed while Xena left to find food for herself. She was still laying there when Xena came back from her breakfast and Xena dropped on the bed next to her. Gabrielle sighed heavily as she played with Xena's dark hair, then asked, "Xena, is this how you felt when you killed the first time? Did your world split open, swallowing you in a maelstrom of emotion, bringing you into a Tartarus on earth?"

Xena pulled the bard into her arms, trying to frame words into a coherent answer. Finally, she said, "I killed in anger, defending my village from warlords. You killed in defense, but not anger. My anger sustained me for a long time until my shame caught up in the form of Hercules. Looking back, I wish I had done things differently, but if I had, you would not have been in my life, my love." She traced the face with her fingers, wiping away the tears that had renewed. "Gabrielle, I don't know what to do for you. You have always taught me how to deal with my emotions, how can I teach you anything?"

Gabrielle dropped her head on Xena's breast, listening to Xena's breathing and heartbeat, unwilling to let her mind go any farther. Suddenly, ugly visions overwhelmed her, but she also saw something else--the Amazon village. "Xena, I want to go home to the Amazons," she declared. Xena merely nodded, pulling her lover's head back to her breast. "Whatever you want, I will do."

Merry woke up, disoriented from her nap and the dream. What was the dream trying to tell her? Before she could decide, she heard the buzzer ringing loudly. She got up, running her fingers through her hair, trying to smooth it down as she went to answer the door. She opened the door, finding Lou standing there, asking quietly, "May I come in?"

"Uh, sure," Merry answered as she opened the door wider. Lou walked in, then waited for Merry to do something, anything. Merry finally led Lou back to the den and asked, "Do you want anything to eat or drink?"


The silence yawned before them, separating them like a chasm. The women stared at each other for a long time, then Merry finally broke the silence, saying, "I had a dream, Lou. Xena and Gabrielle were in rubble, like they had a huge building crash around them. Gabrielle was asking Xena how she felt the first time she killed someone, and Xena said anger, that she had killed in anger. Gabrielle had just taken a life, but Xena pointed out that it was in defense, not anger. I'm not sure why I dreamed that, but I think they were trying to tell me something."

Lou looked at her with haunted eyes, saying, "Meredith, I have dreamed of killing the man every night since it happened. I have had numerous sessions with Commander Troi. I am torn. I defended you, saved your life, yet I took another life in your place. Commander Troi had to talk me out of resigning my commission. We pull out in a few days, so I had to attempt to clear the air, bring some closure, something. I can't live without knowing how you feel."

Merry looked at Lou for a long time before replying. She could see the guilt and sorrow in Lou's face and was suddenly ashamed for thinking that Lou was just a cold-blooded killer. She was different from Xena, Merry realized. She had been reacting to Lou as if she were Xena, the ex-warlord. "I don't know what to say, Louise." She got up and sank to her knees in front of Lou's chair, placing her hands lightly on Lou's knees. "I was so screwed up from the whole day that I never considered what you were going through." She hesitated, then laid her head in Lou's lap, saying, "Can you forgive me?"

Lou stroked Merry's hair for what seemed like hours before she replied. Finally, she whispered, "My love, I have to ask your forgiveness as well. I was doing my job, I had no phaser, I just reacted. You were threatened, I reacted. Starfleet and the Vulcan security force have cleared me of any wrongdoing, especially since the men were plotting to kill you. I will never be the same, yet I have to remember what my Uncle David always said, 'Lou, there are two types that go into security work: the bullies and the bullied.' I just have to make sure that I don't cross the line into being the bully."

Merry looked up, seeing love mingling with hurt in Lou's blue eyes. She realized how close she had come to throwing away her chance at happiness, her soulmate. "I love you, Lou, and I forgive you."

"Then I forgive you too." Suddenly Lou grinned slyly. "Just don't walk in front of any more hit men, okay?"

"So," asked Guinan as Lou sat down at a table in Ten Forward, "what happened? Are you and Merry still together?" Lou grinned at the bartender, then pointed at the door where Merry was walking in the bar."Good answer. I'll bring your drinks right out."

Lou hopped up and held Merry's chair for her, helping her sit. She then sat back down in her own chair, a silly grin threatening to take over her face. Guinan came back with a bottle of wine and two classes, saying, "This one's on me, ladies."

Merry poured them both a glass, then touched her glass to Lou's. "Here's to us," she said. They sipped their wine, appreciating the fine taste as it slid down their throats. "Well," Merry said as she took Lou's hands in hers, "is this public enough to let people know that there are no hard feelings between us now?"

Lou laughed delightedly, raising Merry's hands to kiss them. "Yup, sure is. Hey, have you heard about your application yet?"

Just then, the captain came in the room, scanning the tables. He saw the two women and strode over, grinning broadly. "Ladies, may I have a seat?" he queried. They assented, so he sat down, then continued. "Dr. Covington, I am pleased to tell you that Starfleet has accepted your application. And, in the rarest strokes of luck, you will be assigned to the Enterprise for the next year. I take it that this will be an acceptable berth?"

Merry squealed with delight, dropping Lou's hands so she could shake the captain's hands. "Yes, wonderful!"

"Of course," he continued, a gleam in his eyes, "we still have a slight shortage of quarters, since we are taking a delegation of diplomats to earth. Would you mind sharing a room with Lt. Pappas here?" He got his answer with the delighted smiles of both women. "Well, then, congratulations, Dr. Covington. I look forward to your being a member of my crew. Carry on," he said as he stood up.

Lou couldn't stop smiling. She leaned over and kissed Merry, then took a long drink of her wine. "Fate is being kind to us," she crooned.

Beverly Crusher stood before Jean-Luc Picard, saying, "Hold still, Jean-Luc! Why these women decided to go with such antique clothes I'll never know. There, your tie is tied." She stepped back, looking at the captain in an old-fashioned tuxedo with tails, then grinned. "Okay, I know why, those silly monkey suits look wonderful on some people."

The captain started to disagree, but caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He did look different, he decided. The suit suited him. He turned back to Beverly, seeing her as a woman rather than as the chief medical officer for a moment. The dark green gown she had on accentuated her fair skin, green eyes and auburn hair, making her absolutely beautiful. He quickly schooled his face, but not before Beverly saw a glimpse of his admiration. He held out his arm for her to take. "Shall we?" he asked.

The small crowd was buzzing expectantly until the procession began. The captain, Commander Riker and Guinan all advanced up the aisle paired off with Dr. Crusher, Commander Troi, and Jim Kerry, one of Lou's archeology friends. The six stopped in front of the altar, waiting for the couple to come down. The music swelled as Merry and Lou walked down the aisle. Merry was wearing a beautiful old-fashioned white wedding dress and Lou was wearing a black tuxedo with tails and white tie. They stopped before the altar, waiting for the ceremony to begin.

The minister, the same woman who had baptized Merry as an infant, started the ancient ceremony with, "Beloved, we are gather here today..."

"Wow, what a terrific party!"


"Yeah, whatever, Lou. I must say, you looked quite handsome up there in your tux, as did Captain Picard and Commander Riker. I never expected such a formal ceremony. When did you make the arrangements?"

"Shush, dear, I'm concentrating."

"On what?"

Lou grinned as she started unbuttoning Merry's dress. "On your lovely body, of course. What's a honeymoon without this?" she asked as she started nibbling Merry's neck. Merry shivered as the dress slid off of her, revealing--nothing. Lou's eyes widened as she realized that Merry had not worn underwear to her wedding. She started to laugh, but the laugh got caught in her throat as Merry started unbuttoning her shirt, slowly sliding the material away from her body. They stood like that for a moment, then embraced and kissed. Lou stepped back, but Merry stopped her. "Allow me," she said as she unzipped Lou's pants. They fell to the bed, stroking each other gently, their passion starting to rise. Hormones raging, they explored each other's bodies until they couldn't stand it anymore, stroking each other until they climaxed almost instantaneously.

"I love you Lou."

"I love you too, Merry."

JS Stephens' Scrolls
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