JILLY

by Joseph Anderson
jander65@hotmail.com

Xena, Gabrielle and all other characters and situations from the television series Xena: Warrior Princess are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All other characters belong to the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must include all notices of copyright.

This story contains violence and some rough language.

This story follows Dropout in my stories about "Kimberly" and "Jilly."


1.

"What's the matter, Gabrielle?" Xena said seriously. She'd noticed how quiet her friend had become. She suspected she knew but asking was probably better. Maybe she would talk about it.

The bard wiped her eyes--must be dust in them--and stopped walking while Xena halted Argo. "I just keep thinking about Kimberly, Xena." The warrior princess nodded. In the town they had just left there was another bard telling stories in the tavern the previous night. He had described the Fall of the Sword of Ares, how through hubris she led her invincible army to destruction.

"Would it make it better if you told me her real story?" Xena said. The warrior princess tried to steel herself.

The bard shook her head. "It's not some hidden secret that has to come out. It's just so awful what happened to her!" She eyed the warrior princess. "You probably know something else about it that I don't. What did Jilly tell you privately when she brought us the news?"

Xena was sorry now she had brought it up. She couldn't lie to the bard since she had started it. "Jilly told me that Ares didn't allow Kimberly to die with her men. He took her from the battlefield. She's probably still alive somewhere; Jilly didn't know where."

"That's wonderful, isn't it!?" the bard cried in relief.

"No, Gabrielle. It's not. Ares did the worst thing he could think of to Kimberly to punish her for the destruction of his army. You just can't understand if you've never led men into battle. That's why Jilly didn't tell you or Joxer. You'd want to see her." Xena's eyes had a pained look. "She's not as good as dead; Kimberly is a thousand times worse than dead."

The bard felt the words like a blow. She didn't understand. What was there to understand? War was awful anyway, what was to be gained by dying in one? She looked at her friend. Xena seemed shaken just imagining what Ares had done to Kimberly. Gabrielle just didn't get it.

2.

The tall brunette smiled at the research librarian as she approached her. She was in almost every day. The librarian took her new list of requests and trudged back in the stacks. Kimberly was observing everything around her in 1949 Chicago in an anthropological way she never had in ancient Greece. Pretty funny, really. She was systematically learning everything she could about how history had remembered her and judged her. It didn't bother her anymore. It was just interesting. She considered her life over anyway so she could just float along pursuing interests. She had plenty of money besides knowing what kinds of industries to invest in. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered.

She was happy with Cal--not in pain might be a better description. He was off in Philadelphia working. He'd gotten more successful since he and Kimberly had met. She gave him the organizational skills he lacked; he was lethal enough as it was but had lacked focus. With Kimberly's help he had become a successful contract killer and enforcer for the mobs fighting for control of gambling all over the country. She had asked him not to whack civilians; he'd gotten some threats because of that but it never amounted to anything. Kimberly would be able to recognize it if anything was coming down. Cal had secretly taken out a midlevel capo because Kimberly could tell he wanted him dead. Neither of them wanted to be big gangsters or anything. It might be forced on them eventually simply to stay alive, though. Cal discussed everything with her. Occasionally they had sex but that wasn't really what it was about for either of them. For Cal it was the first trusting relationship he had had in his life. Kimberly enjoyed it in a removed way like she did everything since she quit drinking with Cal's help. Her real life had ended on that battlefield in Persia. Passing time by helping Cal plan his hits and doing research on the Sword of Ares was a pleasant, meaningless existence that Kimberly knew was better than she deserved. If Cal ever needed her help on a job she would, of course. It hadn't arisen yet.

Her dad should be born pretty soon. Maybe she'd go see him. She smiled at what Janice Covington must be going through. She knew she shouldn't feel that way, but the archaeologist was so intense and humorless that she asked for it. She needed to lighten up. Whatever her relationship with Mel, her grandmother wanted a regular respectable family and that was all there was to it. Probably threw Janice for a real loop when she realized Mel wouldn't just do what she said. Now that Kimberly thought about it, they reminded her of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. Funny as hell, unless you were Janice Covington or Humphrey Bogart.

The research librarian returned. There were several scholarly journals on the ancient world and a rare book on samurai swords. She had quite a weapons collection now. It was an expensive habit; she was glad money was the least of her worries. She opened it to page 572 once again and looked at the grainy black-and-white picture. It was so perfect Euphemies could've made it. It was from around 1670. She couldn't wait for the reply to the letter she had sent. The same family was still making swords. They had made a set of samurai swords for her already. She wished they would make her a Greek-style sword but she knew it would be an insult to request that and she'd never get anything from them again. She had sent the head of the family a humbly worded request for a special weapon to be made, though: a round killing thing.

3.

Cal waited in the alley watching the restaurant. He'd have to go there later with Kimberly. These guys really knew how to eat, he'd say that for them. He'd been raised on things like fatback and collard greens; the first time he had calamari he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. Kimberly said she'd get fat if she kept eating linguini and fettuccini all the time, but Cal loved it. He loved her too. It was fine with him if she gained a few pounds. He liked the way it felt.

The black limousine pulled up. Here we go. Couple of soldiers. He's got Fat Frank with him, shit! Cal kind of liked Fat Frank; he'd sent him some work. Cal took out his big automatic, released the safety, aimed and began firing, not stopping till he had emptied three clips. Cal quickly ran to the car to check his man by putting a shot in at close range. Then he ran down the alley to where the hot car was waiting. He'd abandon that and pick up his own car so he could go home to the ball and chain. Too bad about Fat Frank.

4.

Kimberly forced herself to stop drooling over the Japanese swords and turned her attention to the journals. The Sword of Ares was never a household name like Alexander the Great or even Xena but he received consistent attention in these kinds of publications. That kind of ticked her off; everybody assumed the Sword of Ares was a man. She'd seen arguments that Xena was a man, too. And, of course, everyone KNEW Callisto was a man or, more likely, several men. Kimberly could sometimes spot connections the scholars weren't even aware of such as a disappearing city being one of her conquests.

It really took something to upset her now though occasionally it could happen. Those Russian prayers for the Sword of Ares to spare their children for example, or when she read about people saying they must have done something terrible to deserve having the Sword of Ares visited upon them. Stuff like that made her start thinking about drinking. She resented the Nazi comparisons. She never killed any more people than she had to in order to win and she never set out to exterminate anybody. She never tortured anybody either--well except for traitors in her own army or if somebody seemed to deserve it--never just for information though.

For Kimberly it was the loot initially but eventually the fighting became an end in itself for her. She just pushed it as far as she could to see what she could accomplish. She'd accomplished a lot. The only evidence she had ever seen that there was any justice in the world was her own defeat. That Turk who out-generaled her should be famous but he wasn't. He should've hung out more with bards and minted a few coins, Kimberly thought cynically. Apparently he was content to beat her and save humanity. A real quality person.

Kimberly turned the page and froze. She was looking at row after row of ancient coins, but one really caught her eye. She looked to see where it was. She began calculating her finances quickly. She could swing it.

5.

"Honey, I'm home," Cal called out as he stepped in the door of their little tract house in the Chicago suburbs. He was carrying a bag of groceries. He'd had to move his gun into his waistband in back to prevent the steaks from grinding it into his ribs in his shoulder holster.

"In here, Cal," she called. She came walking out in a housedress and apron and wearing her glasses. She'd only recently gotten them. Kimberly called them her "catlady glasses." They embarrassed her but he liked them like he did everything else about her. She waited for him to set the bags down on the kitchen table then came up and hugged him. She felt like she was standing outside herself watching. Cal liked her to act this way so she did. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered really. She had been in the kitchen trying to make some brownies. She was a lousy cook. She felt now like Jilly had had the right idea; she should have gotten some cooking lessons from Joxer too instead of spending all her time on cutting edge strategy and tactics. You can only use that in a few situations but you always have to eat.

"I got you something, Cal, something really special." He looked at her with that crazy smile of his. "Come on," she led him to the living room table and turned the lamp on and handed him a magnifying glass. He bent to examine the coin in the case.

"You know this is all beyond me, Kimberly. I never finished the fourth grade."

"No, Cal. This is something special just for you. This is a Callisto gold piece. That's you, Cal! It was made to celebrate Callisto dying, but be that as it may, that's YOU, baby!" She squeezed his shoulder.

He smiled at her. "So we both have coins now. That's swell!"

6.

As they came into town both Xena and Gabrielle were surprised at the number of armed men. They hadn't heard about any trouble in this region. The two of them were just passing through. No one seemed threatened or scared though except the usual when Xena was recognized. A young man she didn't know approached her smiling; was he old enough to carry that sword? From his bearing, yes.

"Xena." It wasn't a question.

"Yes."

“The commander would like to see you if you don't mind. She wants you and the bard to be her guest.“

Gabrielle said, "Her?" but Xena seemed to relax and smilingly said, "Lead on."

"Xena?" the bard said, then "Jilly!" she began running to the girl but was blocked by a huge guard.

"It's all right, let her through." The guard stepped out of her way and suddenly Gabrielle was the one smashed into by the young woman, who hugged her and picked her up. How could she possibly be that strong?

"Hi, Bardy!' Jilly looked at Xena and something insincere crept into her voice as she said, "Hi Xena!" Looking back at Gabrielle her eyes lightened again as she took her hand and led her to a table covered with maps. Xena's eyes widened before Jilly rolled them up and put them away.

"COMMANDER Jilly now is it?" Gabrielle said.

"Well, you know how it is. I didn't mind Callisto or Kimberly telling me what to do, but somehow when anybody else tries I want to cut their heart out."

"Jilly, I don't really, but I'll take your word for it," Gabrielle said with a laugh. Xena wasn't laughing.

7.

Cal was in the kitchen listening to a ballgame, so after Kimberly finished doing the dishes (they had had meatloaf; Kimberly was embarrassed by how bland it was but Cal seemed to like it. She knew he had a blind spot for her and would like it if she fed him cardboard--which come to think of it would probably be better than her meatloaf) she went into her little den and sat sipping club soda and just stared at the wall with her weapons collection. She hoped it never got stolen--that was about the only thing that could push her over the edge now. She and Cal would be able to find whoever did it without doubt, and she didn't have Joxer to keep her from getting medieval.

She'd bought Cal a couple of guns but he wasn't really into it that way. Guns were just tools to Cal no matter how good they were. Kimberly had more of an aesthetic appreciation of them than Cal did. She was still focusing on swords and knives but she would probably get into guns eventually.

The samurai swords she had had made were the real prizes. She had only managed to locate a fragment of one of Euphemies' swords. The kinds of things she really wanted were all in museums. None of the ancient weapons she had purchased were anything she would've touched with a ten-foot pole when she was leading her army. She had a pretty good Baroque French sword, though. She had managed to find a long Celtic broadsword but she didn't have it on display. She couldn't look at it without thinking of Weldon, and Cal deserved better than that from her. That Ares, she thought bitterly. When he plucked her from the battle just before the final stroke would have descended on her he just dumped her in a village in far northern Macedonia. Without her veiled helmet or weapons no one recognized her. In fact she was naked though there was a chest of treasure at her feet. Ares wanted her to be able to degenerate in style without having anything like money concerns to distract her. She thought the naked part was kinda petty but Ares had a real feel for detail. She'd come up with some story about being attacked by bandits and escaping and everyone was solicitous of her. She concealed the treasure somehow. She didn't want to have to kill anybody protecting it. She felt like she had had enough of killing.

She thought back to the academic journals she had been reading. The only references to Jilly she had ever found were as her lieutenant, and some obscure stories about a child demon serving Callisto. She knew she escaped the battle because she put that monument up there later. What could've happened to her?

8.

Xena was eyeing Jilly. She and Gabrielle were cooking another one of Joxer's recipes Jilly had learned. The two of them kept bursting out in giggles and playfully slapping at each other. The warrior princess hadn't seen Gabrielle this happy in quite a while. She thought of the maps Jilly had been looking at; they were of the country surrounding Thebes. You couldn't fault Jilly for lack of ambition.

Joxer's recipe, which Jilly prepared, was for a complex dish involving goat and lamb meat, currants and leeks, in a sauce that might be milk or might not; everything tasted and looked like other than it was. The flickering candlelight inside the room only heightened the ambiguity of everything. As they were finishing the subtle meal, messengers began arriving. Xena was observing as soldiers reported to Jilly at regular intervals and she would leave briefly with them. She took the maps the first time and Xena did not see them again. The warrior princess stared into her cup morosely. Xena had known for a long time that she would have to fight Jilly sooner or later. It looked now like it was going to be sooner if she wanted to prevent Jilly attacking Thebes. Xena doubted Jilly could take the city-state anyway, but if she was as talented as Xena had heard she could cause a terrible toll in life. Her escape from Kimberly's last stand alone demonstrated how resourceful she must be. For Xena it would be Goliath all over again except Jilly was far more poignant. Her friend Goliath had chosen his path at least somewhat; Jilly had had even less choice than Callisto. It was painful for Xena to see how much Gabrielle and the young warrior liked each other. Something else fine she would have to destroy. She hadn't forgotten that Jilly had almost without doubt saved the bard's life previously. All of them were following their fates; Xena felt like she didn't have any choice either. She could fight and very possibly kill this dangerous, victimized young woman who she liked; or she could stay out of it and feel responsible for all the lives she knew Jilly would take. Xena had to act for the greater number of lives, trying to atone for the many times she had done just what Jilly was planning now. Her own hypocrisy sickened her.

Two days later, Argo walked forward then stopped and Xena listened carefully, watching. She hadn't seen the disguised men she expected to find approaching Thebes. She had come on the obvious road and then begun exploring the countryside. She was puzzled. The warrior princess was trying not to underestimate Jilly, so she tried to imagine what she would've done if she had designs on Thebes. Xena was already leading her own army at Jilly's age so that wasn't an issue necessarily.

"Hello Xena, Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations, Butcher of Cirra!"

Xena turned Argo and saw the huge black stallion with the slight figure atop it. The young man who had approached her in the town was nearby on his own horse, his face expressionless.

"Where's your army, Jilly?"

"Burning Amphipolis as we speak, warrior bitch! I always knew Kimberly overrated you. She would've never fallen for something as obvious as those maps. Maybe you were better before you got so old."

"Where's Gabrielle?" Xena tried to keep the fear out of her voice. She had underestimated Jilly.

Jilly made a gesture with her hand and the young warrior with her--he couldn't be more than 17--walked his horse forward and Xena saw he was leading the bard on a chain around her neck. She was stumbling. He handed the end of the chain to Jilly then rode back to where he had been waiting before. The blonde warlord smiled as she twirled the chain lightly, looking mockingly at Xena.

"Jilly, why are you doing this?" Gabrielle cried to the figure on the horse. She moaned as Jilly yanked the chain and she fell to her knees almost underneath the stallion. Xena seemed to be quivering but she didn't move.

"I'm sorry, Bardy; I really am. You should've expected this after Kimberly told you about the Bitch of Tartarus, though. You're not old like Xena so I don't know what your excuse is. Maybe Kimberly forgave you for what you put her through, but I don't."

Her smile disappeared and her eyes were lit with hate as she looked from Gabrielle to Xena. "The two of you, the great Xena and the noble bard, Gabrielle! Everything is always so easy for you. Everything always works out. Destroy a life? Don't worry, you'll be forgiven. Burn a dozen families alive? Ah, that was the OLD Xena, not you NOW. Drench the world in blood? The gods will take care of it. Kimberly's entire life was sacrificed to cleaning up after you and your pet, Xena! Does that mean anything to you, or is that just how it should be? And let's not forget Callisto, the hated, despised Callisto, whose family you killed and who rescued me from starving and being raped every other day by my father. Detrius was in your army for a while, did you know that? He captured my mother and aunt while he was one of your men!"

Jilly yanked Gabrielle back up so she was standing. The young warrior came forward again and she tossed him the chain but not before kicking Gabrielle savagely in the face. Xena was still watching, nothing but a slight vibration betraying her emotions.

"What do you want, Jilly?" Xena called out calmly.

"To make you into a saddle blanket!"

The young woman spurred her horse forward, simultaneously drawing her sword. Xena drew her own sword and rode to meet her. When they met Xena expected her greater strength to overpower the slight young woman, but at the last moment she shifted her position, and rather than sword meeting sword in a test of strength, it slipped in under Xena's arm and cut one of her shoulder straps off without even drawing blood. With a laugh the girl rode past her and whirled her horse around for another charge. Xena knew Jilly could have killed her there if she had chosen. Callisto's and Kimberly's protege was toying with her.

"My father used to strip me naked and make me stand on a table when he was betting me. Let's see how you like it, Xena."

The girl charged again, Xena could clearly see what she was going to do and prepared. Suddenly the girl was gone and Xena looked down to see her other shoulder strap had been cut. Once more the girl charged and as Xena raised her sword she felt the front of her leathers fall down. This time their swords did meet but rather than trying to meet Xena's force, Jilly's sword slid down Xena's blade then leaped off. Xena felt her forearm bracer fall off. Xena whirled Argo around, trying to get away from Jilly for a moment to think. She caught an unexpected movement out of the corner of her eye.

"Xena," the girl called and threw her chakram. The warrior princess raised her other arm and deflected it with her bracer, which fell off as the chakram returned to Jilly.

Jilly was calmly waiting now. Xena tried to pull the front of her leathers back up but then gave up. She was watching Jilly, trying to understand her fighting rhythms. Xena had never been so outclassed since she had first picked up a sword. Jilly was smiling sardonically at her and began walking her black stallion in her direction.

"Jilly!" Xena cried. The girl turned in the saddle and raised her free hand. She caught the first two arrows but the third tore into her throat. A fourth arrow hit the hand she raised. She weaved for a moment then fell from her huge horse. Xena looked at the archer. Jilly's young lieutenant stood holding the bow, another arrow ready. His face was still expressionless. Gabrielle stood near him, a look of grief and horror on her face. She was no longer in chains. She began running toward the girl on the ground as Xena did. The archer remained where he was.

"Oh gods! Jilly!" the bard cried, falling to her knees next to the slight blonde girl. The barbed arrow, which protruded from both sides of her neck, had ripped open her jugular and throat. Xena could see there was no way to staunch the flow of blood in time. She knelt down and tried to replace the skin over her throat, so she might be able to talk a little. Gabrielle was crying uncontrollably. Jilly couldn't move now. She looked from one to the other. She tried to talk but just croaked. Xena used her hand to cover her throat. She and Gabrielle listened closely to whatever the girl wanted to say.

"Fuck both of you!" she said in a barely audible whisper. She began shaking and making gurgling sounds that went on for minutes. They finally stopped. Gabrielle was transfixed, staring at the dead girl. Xena looked up as the teenage archer approached.

"You don't have to worry about Amphipolis, Xena."

"Why?"

"Because I countermanded Jilly's orders after she left. I just said there had been a change in plans."

Gabrielle looked up at him now, her face a confused mask. "Why did you do that? Why did you save me and Xena?"

Xena answered. "It's his army now. Jilly built it but he's got it."

"I didn't think I would need to do anything. I've heard of you my entire life, Xena. I thought you'd beat her easily. If she learned I had changed her orders to attack Amphipolis she'd have killed me." He turned and walked back to his own horse.

An hour later Xena and Gabrielle were still just sitting there looking at Jilly. Gabrielle had taken the saddle off her horse and brushed him. It was all she could do for the warlord. Xena finally stood up. "We need to prepare a funeral pyre, Gabrielle."

"No you don't." The two women turned to see Ares. Xena had never seen him look like this. The god of war walked over to where the dead girl lay. He knelt down and picked her up. Xena saw that his eyes were actually red. He simply held her for a moment then drew her close burying his face in her shoulder.

Xena had to ask though she was ashamed. "Were you helping her fight me, Ares?"

"No." The god's voice was choked.

"What about that kid, the one that killed her?"

The god looked up at Xena, though he was still holding Jilly tightly. "He really caught me by surprise. Sometimes talent just pops up like that. I guess I finally have a man to lead my army." He buried his face again in Jilly's shoulder and the god and the dead girl turned into fire, but instead of disappearing in a blaze like Ares usually did it shone brightly momentarily then reduced to a tiny flame no bigger than a candle. A breeze blew it out.

9.

The consigliere had paid Cal in person this time. It was a real honor. Cal actually appreciated this kind of stuff. It was all a big joke to Kimberly, though. They didn't expect him to kiss anybody's hand or anything since he was freelance and not even Italian. Cal thought the fact that he loved Italian food so much made them like him more. In Chicago's Little Italy his money was no good in all the best restaurants. The word was out. He was an honorary wiseguy. He knew the program though and by the end he had always tipped more than the meal would have been. Being a cheapskate was worse than a stool pigeon. A stooly might have some extenuating circumstances.

The consigliere put his hand over Cal's shoulder. "Cal, I've told you this before, but what the hell. Why the fuck couldn't you be Sicilian?"

"Sorry, Mr. Falconi."

"Jimmy, call me Jimmy! I've told you that before, too!"

"Okay, Jimmy."

"Why don't you marry that pretty lady of yours, huh?"

"I've asked her over and over, Mr...uh... Jimmy. Maybe one of these days she'll say yes."

"You're a good guy, Cal. If she ever says yes, lemme know. You won't believe the bash we'll throw for you!"

10.

Kimberly was thinking. Cal wanted to marry her, wanted to have kids. This was too weird. She wasn't even born yet. Her dad had just been born, and she got a letter from Janice Covington that made her suspect the archaeologist was losing her mind. Her take on all this time travel stuff was that she should just do whatever she wanted. It was the worry of the powers that put her here. No one had ever appeared to her and said "Do this" or "Do that." She didn't feel about Cal like she had about Weldon. But so what? She cared a lot for Cal, and a kid now would have a good chance of surviving. Cal only wanted kids if they were married. She guessed she could fake the proper documents. It was just like if she had been dropped in the middle of the Amazon or something. You had to follow the local bullshit customs or pay the consequences.

11.

The anesthesia was finally wearing off. Kimberly had thought about all her 1990s natural birth stuff and figured "screw it." In 1950 Chicago you had a baby under anesthesia in the hospital. The father was in the waiting room and passed out cigars. End of story. She did request lighter anesthesia than was usual. They looked at her like she was crazy. Cal would probably faint when he realized she was going to breastfeed.

She opened her eyes and a nurse said, "Mr. Snopes," and Cal was there.

"Hey, Kimberly."

"Hey yourself. What is it, Cal? I just woke up."

"A girl. A couple of people want to say hello, is that okay?"

"Sure, Cal."

A nurse handed her her baby and helped her get more upright in bed, then put pillows behind her. She saw her grandmother Melinda and some guy holding another baby that looked a few months old, Janice Covington looking like she hadn't slept for the last month, Jimmy Falconi and some old man in a rumpled suit she didn't know, and another younger guy she did know.

"Oh, Kimberly, dearest Kimberly," Mel descended on her. Kimberly felt her tasteful perfume envelop her for a moment while she kissed the wrinkled little baby, cooing like only a highborn southern belle could. Mel vigorously hugged Cal. Kimberly saw the man she was with was tall and aristocratic looking. She recognized her grandfather from pictures, and that must be her dad he was holding. Janice Covington briefly came up and smiled wanly at her, patted her arm then quickly left.

Cal came up with Jimmy Falconi. "Kimberly, Mrs. Snopes, you are the most beautiful mother I have ever seen!" Jimmy had tears in his eyes. He laid an envelope on her bed.

"Thanks, Jimmy. You're okay in my book, too." Kimberly said with a smile.

Jimmy now looked over at the older man in a rumpled suit. He approached and spoke in Italian. Jimmy said, "The don says that the Virgin Mary herself couldn't have been a more beautiful mother or had a more beautiful baby." The old man waved Cal over to him, and spoke again. Jimmy said, "The don says that a man who has a family, who believes in family, is a real man, one that he is proud to know." Kimberly watched the old man put his hand on Cal's shoulder. The men walked out of the room and she saw Cal actually kiss the old man's hand.

"Quite a scene, eh?"

Kimberly looked at the speaker, the only one left in the room. "What do you want?"

The god smoothed his double-breasted suit. "This is nice, really nice. Usually anything that looks good is a nightmare to wear. But THIS, this is really NICE. It's dangerous in context but light and easy to wear; it's suitable for lots of different occasions."

"Yeah, yeah, and you 'Guarantee It' right? What do you want, Ares?"

"I don't want anything. I just wanted to suggest to you that 'Jilly' might be a good name for your baby."

"Why?'

"Why do you think? I have a present for you and your daughter." Ares set a tastefully gift-wrapped box next to the envelope the consigliere had put on her bed. He hadn't had that a moment before. "Goodbye, Kimberly. I may come see her in a few years." Kimberly saw that though he was trying to maintain his usual smirking facade, there was something in Ares' face she had never imagined could be there--almost human grief. He tapped Jimmy Falconi's envelope with a finger and she saw it was suddenly bulging. The handsome man in the double-breasted suit left the room.

Kimberly caught Mel's eye and when she came in said, "Could you hold her for just a moment while I open this?" While her grandmother was cooing over the baby, Kimberly opened the box. Mel seemed distressed at the way she just ripped the quality paper and bow off. She began unwrapping tissue paper and her heart began beating faster as the gold inlay and chain mail caught her eye. She set her helmet on the bed and unwrapped the other article in the box. She recognized the little chakram Jilly had had when she first came to kill her, the one Callisto had Euphemies make for her. She carefully rewrapped the articles and replaced them in the box. Mel grudgingly handed her back her daughter.

Kimberly looked at the baby in her arms and kissed the top of her head.

The End