by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Gabrielle, Callisto and Joxer belong to 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 contain all notices of copyright.

This is a sequel to Reunion and is not part of my extended Kimberly/Jilly storyline. It contains violence and some rough language.

The old woman was breathing unevenly in the MICU bed. Next to her a tall dark figure 70 years younger sat, holding the tiny wrinkled hand. She looked around at all the wonderful medical technology that still wasn't enough. Outside the hospital the lights of Paris glittered. When the old woman became ill her young friend had brought her here. Gail Franks had often talked about what Paris was like in the 1920s, reminiscing about her friends like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and of course, Robin Gallagher. Graciela Marquez-Mendez had dismantled her cocaine empire after meeting the old woman and had been trying to atone for what she had done. But Gail Franks was in poor health and now Graciela sat watching her die.

"Don't go back to what you were. Gail wouldn't want you to." The sorrowing voice in her head had an Australian accent. Graciela didn't respond. As the life ebbed out of the tiny figure, Graciela felt her newfound guilt and compassion ebbing away too. How could she regain her position in the cartel? The Varga's network could be taken over. She could get to Francisco Varga through his children probably, she thought, as the monitor flat lined. Robin Gallagher began crying in her mind. Graciela smiled to herself as she thought about Callisto's reincarnation. She would like to pay her another visit when she had the time. But first the Vargas.


"Wake up, Susan! Wake up!"

"Huh, whu..?"

"Shybear, get up, NOW!"

Callisto? Susan thought as her eyes snapped open.

The warlord's voice in her head said, "Two dung eaters are trying to break in. They are at your kitchen window. Shall I deal with them?"

No! Susan thought back at her. I'll take care of it.

She got up and opened a drawer in her nightstand. Her hand hovered a second over the Glock 9 then took the little Colt .22. She was naked. Susan could hear it now--somebody was trying to force the window. Lucky for them Callisto had time to wake me up, she thought. Otherwise the warlord's spirit would have simply taken her body over, leaving it to Susan when she finally woke up to scrape the remains off the walls.

Susan was at the kitchen door now with the gun trained on the window. She grabbed an apron and slipped it over her head as the window gave. She waited until someone was halfway in before she flipped on the light.

Little Annie and Gustavo hoped they could get a TV set or fancy CD player. Gustavo said places like this were easy. Annie was scared but she went along. She was 10 and Gustavo was 14.

"What if somebody's there, Gustavo?" she asked.

"No one's there," he had said arrogantly, "and if there is I'll take care of 'em!"

"I don't wanna hurt nobody," Little Annie said, "and you better not neither."

"Yeah? What if I do?" he said menacingly.

"Just don't," she answered back, scared of him but trying to sound menacing herself.

Then he had smiled and said, "I'm not gona hurt nobody. We'll just book if anybody's there. Come on, Little Annie."

Gustavo finally got the window open with his screwdriver and had boosted her half inside when the light went on. Annie had a split second view of a blonde lady before she heard two shots, the first one right next to her. Panicked, she tried to scramble out the window and broke the glass cutting her arm. Frightened even more she struggled, hearing more glass break and feeling more pain. Suddenly a hand was on her.

"Stop moving. You're just making it worse." Annie let her arm be carefully removed from the window. She tried to scramble out again but was lifted inside and held tightly. Little Annie looked at the blonde lady holding onto her with blood on her apron. There was something in her face; calm like on doctor shows.

"Where's Gustavo?" she suddenly said.

"Let me take care of your arm first, all right?" the lady said.

"Okay." Something made her trust the lady, who she now saw was naked except for that apron that said BETTY CROCKER on it. Annie's arm hurt bad and was bleeding somethin' awful. The lady set the gun she held high up on a shelf that Annie couldn't reach, then led the girl to the bathroom where she washed her arm off and examined it closely. Then she poured something on it that stung bad, smeared some goop on it and bandaged it heavily. "You're going to need stitches but that'll be good for now."

"What about Gustavo?" Annie repeated.

"He got away," the lady said.

The girl began crying as sirens could be heard approaching. "I said I didn't wanna hurt nobody. Gustavo said he wouldn't."

"Was he your boyfriend?" Susan asked the weeping child.

"No, he was a homey of my brother, Ricardo."

"Let her go, Shybear," Callisto's voice said in her head.

What? she thought.

"Let her go. I might kill children but I don't throw them in dungeons."

What a sweetheart, Susan thought, but led the frightened child to her front door and said. "Go to the Emergency Room at 23rd and Dawes." She opened the door and watched the child run off.

The police cars arrived a few minutes later. Susan had pulled a sweatshirt, jeans and running shoes on and was waiting in her driveway. She'd checked on Gustavo outside the window and he looked exactly as she expected, with a .22 hole between the eyes. She began shaking but then it passed as she felt Callisto's irritation.


"Thanks for coming down, Bob," Susan said to the lawyer. The police said it looked like clear-cut self defense because of the bullet in the doorjamb of the kitchen and the Saturday Night Special next to the body. However, they were less than thrilled when she explained all the blood in her kitchen and bathroom as belonging to an accomplice she had treated and let go. She wasn't forthcoming with a usable description either.

"Come on," the attorney said. "I explained that you were probably just very distraught, and as a dedicated physician this was how you showed it. So try to act a little distraught." Susan gave an exaggerated sigh and seemed to faint in his arms. "Not that distraught."

"Well, make up your mind, Bob," she said.

"So why'd you let whoever it was go?" Bob Samuels said.

Susan answered, "She told me to. It was a little girl. We might kill kids but we don't throw 'em in dungeons as she put it. Bob, what is it?"

After a moment the now-pale man said, "I've seen Callisto kill children in my dreams. She's right: she doesn't lock 'em up. She doesn't lock anybody up."

The old photograph from Belsen flashed through Susan's mind. "Have you had a dream about Karla Graffen?" He nodded. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"It's not you, Susan. Why upset you?"

"Was it in the camp?"

Bob paused and said, "I'd rather not talk about it, Susan. Maybe sometime."

She looked at her friend. Bob Samuels was the reincarnation of Joxer just like she was Callisto, Gail Franks was Gabrielle, and Graciela Marquez-Mendez was Xena. The four of them had been coming back again and again for over two thousand years. Xena and Callisto were always enemies at some point at least, but aside from that the relationships went through a lot of permutations. Every single one of them had loved, hated, saved and killed every other in some manner or other over the centuries and lives. Admittedly most of the killing was by Callisto and Xena though.

"I wanna go someplace, Bob. Come with me, okay?"

He looked at her. Something was up. He shrugged and led her to his car. "Where to?" he asked.

"23rd and Dawes."

He had figured it out when he saw the first sign indicating an Emergency Room was in that direction. Inside the ER Susan walked over to the admitting desk where the nurse smiled at her. "Hi, Rose. Did a 10-year-old white or Hispanic girl come in last night with a lacerated right arm?"

"I'll check, Dr. Callendar. Nope. Nothing like that. Should she have?"

"Dammit! Yeah, she should've. Thanks, Rose."

"Sure, Dr. Callendar. My niece might not have a foot if not for you."

Susan and Bob walked back to his car. "What happened to her foot?"

The doctor glanced at him. "Fire, what else? That's what I do, Bob. She's exaggerating. The girl had a foot; just couldn't use it too good." Her friend tried to keep from shuddering but didn't quite succeed. Susan smiled at him. "Wanna go with me on my rounds? See how I spend my days?"

"I think I'll pass."

"I'm sorry, Bob. You've got the normal reaction. God, I'm really worried about this little girl! I didn't have anything to sew her up and I didn't want to put her in the system. I should've just taken her to the ER myself and called the cops from there."

"Now that would have been a bad idea. Leaving the scene after you shoot somebody. Police frown on that. She say anything about family."

"Um, yeah. A brother. The guy....the guy I shot was her brother Ricardo's homey."

"Okay, so maybe she's with her family, or her brother's gang or whatever it is, and they're taking care of her. Took her to an out-of-town doctor to avoid trouble."

"Yeah, and maybe not," Susan answered worriedly.

The car reached her home. He followed her still talking. "So what will happen if she doesn't get stitches?"

"God, it's not just stitches, Bob. If she's on her own she probably won't change the bandages either. She's just a little girl. Infection is my primary worry. There could be deeper damage from the cuts than I saw too. An ER doc should see her and then point her to the right specialists. I'm a burn specialist. I could've missed something. I ..." she stopped suddenly, listening.

They were at her front door and her keys were in the lock. She pushed Bob back and dropped to the ground as shots rang out from some bushes. Susan could hear Callisto chuckling in her mind. "Nicely done, Shybear."

They could hear someone running and Susan was instantly in pursuit. The training Callisto had put her through to face Graciela Marquez-Mendez had made this second nature now. She saw a figure clambering over a wall and she was instantly up and over the wall and on top of him, with his face in the dirt. He'd thrown the gun somewhere.

"Who are you?" she shouted in his ear. He was just a boy, around the same age as Gustavo had been. As she asked the question she knew who he probably was. When he didn't answer she said, "You're Ricardo. Gustavo tried to kill me and now it's your turn. Where's your sister? I said where's your sister? I want to know if she's all right. She needs to go to an Emergency Room."

"Fuck you, bitch!" he spat out.

"Would you like me to talk to him for you, Susan?" the voice in her head asked.

Shit no! I don't want two dead boys on my conscience.

"I promise not to hurt him. Just scare him a teensy weensy bit. I promise. I'll find out where the child is for you."

Callisto couldn't take her over anymore without her consent, but now even though she consciously thought no, the warlord knew she wanted to agree. So she took her.

Susan found herself standing over Ricardo holding a .38. The boy was crying but he wasn't physically hurt...that she could see anyway. She glanced around and saw Bob Samuels watching her.

"We have what we need, Susan." She heard in her head. "Now let him go or kill him. Like I said before, I don't throw children in dungeons."

Not this time, Callisto, Susan thought. Roberto actually tried to kill me.

"He tried to avenge the death of his friend. I've done that thousands of times. Besides when he talks about what I did just now the garrison will start wondering if you really are innocent. I know how watchmen think; I've stuck enough of 'em."

God, you're a honey, Susan thought. When she was satisfied Callisto hadn't tortured the boy in some way not readily apparent, she stood back up and just said, "Get lost, Ricardo. And don't try to kill me anymore. I might not be so nice next time." The terrified boy ran off. Susan walked over to her friend Bob who hadn't said anything.

"I guess seeing Callisto in action like that was pretty bad, Bob."

"I've seen her do a lot worse than that. To me more times than I care to remember." He gave her a sort of goofy grin and Bob's voice had a different cadence. Susan stared at him. "You're quite a change from the last two: that Indonesian gun runner and that crazy Jew hater, Karla. She was nasty even for Callisto."


"Joxer the Mighty," he said with a flourish, taking off an imaginary hat. He lost his balance and almost fell.

Susan heard in her mind, "If you feel like killing him, go right ahead. Don't mind me."


Callisto gave her the address Ricardo had said his sister was at, supposedly all right. Susan decided to just keep carrying Ricardo’s .38.  Joxer-Bob refused to leave her side and was happily sitting next to her and talking about his many lives. He asked if she wanted to hear his song. She started to demur but he just launched into it.

Joxer the Mighty, a noble soul who cannot die.
Kill him all you want to, he'll be back and tie his shoe.
When the ladies think they’re lost and Joxer's dead in a box,
Up he pops young again, ready to debauch and sin.
If you'd like to see a trick, just grab a hold of Joxer's...

"Okay, okay, I get the picture." Susan said holding her hand up to make him stop. She heard a groan in her head.

"Where's Bob?" she had asked as soon he said he was Joxer.

He smiled at her and said, "He's in here, Susie, don't worry. He's enjoying himself meeting my other incarnations. You ought to do that with Callisto sometime, though some of her incarnations are, how do I put it..."

"Sadistic homicidal maniacs," Susan filled in.

"I was gonna say rude, but, yeah, that's what I was getting at," he said with a smile. "I can get Bob for you if you want, but he really is fine."

"You can believe him, Susan." Callisto said in her head.

"So what are you doing here?' Susan asked.

"I just got tired of hanging around. I never showed myself at all in my last two lives. It gets pretty boring. Ask Callisto. That's probably why she's talking to you."

Well? Susan thought.

"I guess so," the voice in her head said. "Though I hate agreeing with Joxer about anything."

Why?  I thought you liked Bob?

"I do. I've liked many of his incarnations. That doesn't mean I have to like Joxer though. The one thing me and Xena always agreed on was how irritating Joxer was."

Joxer-Bob grinned and said, "Callisto ragging on me?" Susan nodded, surprised. She heard Callisto make an aggravated sound in her mind. "It bugs her that she needs me to be satisfied, if you get my meaning."

Susan's face turned bright red. But it wasn't her embarrassment; it was Callisto's. Joxer laughed.

They were in a rough part of town now, the streets dirty looking with derelicts sleeping on the pavement and groups of men and boys standing around on corners. Almost every building was tagged with spray painted gang symbols. "What a waste," she heard Callisto mutter in her mind.

Whoa, that's a pretty humanistic sentiment for you, Susan thought.

The voice in her head answered, "Of course, Shybear. These boys could be warriors. They could be sacking cities if they had the right leadership."

Oh, brother! Susan thought. I'll bet you wish I could be a leader for them.

"No, Susan, I'm quite happy with you being a healer. It's a new experience for me and one I'm finding fascinating. I have been a warrior many times and doubtless will again."

After I'm dead, Susan thought.

"Naturally, Shybear."

Susan didn't respond, spotting the address she was searching for. It looked like an abandoned apartment building, showing unmistakable signs of fire. She wasn't thrilled at the idea of parking around here but didn't see any way around it. She pulled her Mercedes up. "Tell Joxer to wait for you. He can watch your chariot. He'll just get in the way if we have to fight," Callisto's voice said in her head.

"Stay here and watch my car, Bob...I mean, Joxer," Susan said.

"Hey, no way. I'm gonna hel..." he fell getting out of the car and landed in a pile of trash. "I'll just wait here for you," he said with dignity, getting back up, then slipped and fell on his behind. Several young men and boys wearing knit hats or baseball caps on backwards laughed at him. "Heh, heh, heh," he said sarcastically just as Susan disappeared into the filthy building.

"Disgusting," she heard in her mind as she made her way up the dark, foul smelling stairs, stepping over syringes and used condoms. She was looking for apartment 6B. Susan passed an open door and saw a couple having sex on a filthy mattress. An obvious drug transaction was going down in another room. A tall young man loomed up in front of her leering, and he was suddenly on the floor gasping holding his stomach.

What'd you do that for? she said in her mind.

Callisto laughed in her mind, "That was you not me. Nice reflexes." Susan realized with shock that it had been her. She looked guiltily at the squirming figure. He had his penis out she noticed now. Susan continued on down the rank hallway until she found 6B.

"Susan...something else is going on here. I can feel it."

Something dangerous? 

"I don't know," Callisto answered. "Don't announce yourself. Just go in and keep moving."

Susan pulled the .38. The door didn't even have a doorknob. She pushed it open and leapt inside, moving like Callisto had said. Satisfied it was safe, she put her gun away and looked at the frightened figures looking up at her. Little Annie was on some dirty looking blankets. Her bandage was filthy looking and she looked feverish to Susan. Next to her was a baby that looked about a week old.

"Gabrielle," she heard Callisto mutter in her mind, her voice dripping with dislike.

Francisco Varga had finally given her everything she needed. Graciela was impressed at how long he held out. She tossed the cattle prod aside and just considered the naked wet moaning figure hanging from a meat hook. It had worked out just as she thought. Killing his family in their beds had broken his will and she'd been able to just walk in and grab him. She felt like being merciful now so she took a .45 automatic and put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Graciela picked up a knife and chuckled as she carved XENA on his left buttock. She'd definitely have to get this place redecorated, she thought, as she looked at the blood-spattered walls. The corpses of his bodyguards were all piled in one corner.

Graciela picked up a phone and dialed the first of the numbers Francisco had given her. This was almost too easy. She casually held the gun up and fired killing two men who had just come running in. Graciela yawned, listening to the dial tone.


It was awkward carrying both of the children. No one even asked her what she was doing. Unbelievable, she thought. She managed to get down the filthy stairs and stepped out in the street. "I knew it," she heard in her head. She saw several boys holding Joxer-Bob upside down, shaking him.

"Hold it!" she yelled. They looked at her with a laugh. "Set him down," she ordered. They dropped him with a thump and began picking up Bob's wallet, pager and keys. Susan couldn't let him be robbed. She set Little Annie down then opened her coat so they could see the gun and said, "Drop everything and take off." They looked fearfully at her then scattered. Susan looked around and hoped nobody reported her to the police. God knew what this gun had been involved in. She was going to get rid of it as soon as she could. Susan carefully kept an eye on Little Annie as she helped Joxer up.

"I was just toying with 'em, Susie. They were right where I wanted 'em when you showed up and spoiled my plan."

"Yeah, right," she said, looking at a dirty cut from when they dropped him.

He looked at the baby. "Callisto tell you who this is?" he asked Susan seriously. She nodded. He took the baby from her and kissed it tenderly. Susan opened the car door for him, She put Little Annie in the back seat and Joxer sat beside her holding baby Gabrielle. She began driving quickly back to the ER at 23rd and Dawes. She had a lot of friends there; maybe they wouldn't ask her too many questions.

Dr. Adam Steinberg had finished examining the kids and had admitted them and sent them to Pediatrics. He said, "Annie's arm is infected but she'll be all right. Lucky you brought her in when you did. The baby seems okay too. Slightly malnourished but okay." Susan was listening to him closely. Joxer-Bob was standing beside her, a bandage on his head a nurse had put on him.

"That's a relief, Adam. I was really worried about her arm. Then when I saw the baby...I couldn't believe it. I didn't examine her that closely, Adam. Is she mature enough for it to be hers?"

He shook his head. "No. That was my first thought but she hasn't even hit puberty. Annie doesn't have precocious sexual development. She says she found the baby in a trashcan and started taking care of it. Could be, I guess. A living doll."

Susan heard Callisto growling in her mind. "What kind of filthy world do you have here?" She didn't have an answer.

"How about drugs?" Susan asked.

The ER doctor answered, "It's not a crack baby, thankfully. Annie told me she's smoked pot a few times but never crack, even though her brother tried to get her to. Nice environment." He paused. "What's going on, Susan? What are they to you? I haven't called Social Services yet."

"That's probably the best bet, Adam. I don't really know 'em. I just ran across Annie and wanted to make sure her arm got treated. I'd like to keep track of 'em though."

"I want to adopt the baby," Bob suddenly said. Susan looked at him and could tell her friend was back. Callisto sighed resignedly in her mind. "The girl too. They belong together."

"Who are you?" Dr. Steinberg asked.

Susan spoke up. "He's a friend of mine, Adam. Bob Samuels. He helped me get the kids out of the hovel they were in.” Well, sorta, she thought.

"Mr. Samuels, I'll let Social Services know that."

The lawyer nodded and handed the doctor one of his expensive business cards.

Out in the hospital parking lot Susan said, "What was that all about?"

Bob looked over at her. "It's fate, Susan. We were brought together and we have to embrace it." It felt odd to suddenly have Bob's sharp mind back; she'd been getting used to Joxer. Something about his goofy kindness appealed to her. She could hear Callisto groan in her mind.

Two Years Later, Christmas Day
"I don't like this," sounded in her mind.

I know, Callisto. You've made that more than clear many times, Susan thought back at her wearily. She had finished wrapping the presents and was carrying them out to her car.

"I'm going to keep on making it clear until you listen to me. Gabrielle is my enemy, and you're fraternizing with her. Making Gabrielle love you...It's wrong!"

Yeah, well, you don't have to talk to me. Go play poker with your other incarnations or whatever you do when you aren't nagging me, Susan thought as she sped onto the on-ramp.

"I should. It would teach you. But you're going to need me again. You can't fight nature like this and expect to get off free. Gabrielle is my enemy! OUR ENEMY!"

Callisto, I refuse to view a two-year-old as my enemy. Maybe you should just stop talking to me.

There was silence. Sulking, Susan thought. Finally Callisto said in a different voice, "We haven't heard anything about Xena since before you found the baby."

So? Graciela reformed. What's the problem?

She heard the warlord's giggle. "She reformed when she met Gabrielle, that's true. But she didn't have her for very long. The old woman must've died or else she wouldn't have been reborn."

Susan thought suspiciously, You want Graciela to come after me again.

"Of course I do, Shybear. But that doesn't mean it won't happen. Actually, maybe having the child will be a good thing. Xena will come looking for the bard eventually, just like in the old days. And I'll be waiting for her."

Susan pulled the Mercedes up in front of a nice home with a mutt dog running around in the front yard excitedly. She reached up and turned the rearview mirror down and looked in it, seeing Callisto's grinning mad face. She's not bait! Get that straight, Callisto!

The face in the mirror yawned exaggeratedly and said with mock innocence, "Whatever you say." Susan turned the mirror back up and climbed out of her car as Annie came running out of the house followed by Bob carrying Gabrielle.

Inside the house Susan had the strawberry blonde toddler on her lap. Annie was hovering near her, not liking to relinquish her for even that long. Susan could feel the warlord's distaste for the cozy little scene.


After the kids were in bed Susan and Bob were in his living room. She watched his body language change and he got that goofy grin. "Hey Joxer, I've got your present" she said coquettishly. Callisto was making vomiting sounds until she just shut her out of her mind completely.

"Hi Susie," he said, and then kissed her passionately. Susan's heart was racing. She had had to have a real talk with Bob about this. He'd assured her how he wouldn't do anything with Callisto because that would be taking advantage of Susan. But now she was doing the same thing. She'd just told him she really liked Joxer and wanted to spend time with him. And fair's fair. Callisto and Bob lusted after each other. Susan told Bob to go for it. When she looked at her friend it was disorienting to know he had had sex with her body quite a number of times. He felt the same about her and Joxer. They weren't attracted to each other at all. It was a strange situation. Not incest but it sorta felt like it.

Susan was on her way to an inner city clinic she consulted at once a week when a spot on the news arrested her. "The DEA has named Colombian drug cartel leader, Graciela Marquez-Mendez, as the responsible party in the recent murders of four agents. A Department spokesman said that the killings were executed in such a gruesome manner to serve as a warning and that Marquez-Mendez certainly wanted it known that not only was she responsible but she had personally carried out the slayings. 'We know that from the bodies. I can't elaborate.' The State Department has again urged that the Colombian military act against the cartels and particularly Marquez-Mendez. The country's president responded that it was an internal matter and not open to discussion. In other news..."

Susan turned the radio off and was unsurprised at the gloating voice in her head. "My, my, my! Sounds like Graciela has been busy! Since she destroyed her earlier organization, rebuilding must be what she's been doing since Gail Franks died. That Xena! Never one to procrastinate!'

She'll come after me again, won't she? Susan asked in her mind.

"Oh, yes, Shybear. Depend on it."

What about Gabrielle? She'll change again when she sees her as a child.

Callisto chuckled in her mind, "Maybe she will, maybe she won't. Reforming but not having it stick is nothing new. That happened quite a bit in the second and third centuries...I could never figure out why then in particular....and like I've told you before, Susan, the bard is usually with Xena whether she reforms or not. The child isn't like her last incarnation, a grown woman with her own ideas. Graciela could change Gabrielle instead. It's happened before plenty of times. As soon as she comes after you Xena will spot her precious bard. I can't wait!"

Susan thought with horror, Graciela will try to take her away from Bob!

"Without a doubt, Shybear. She may very well kill Joxer too. His current incarnation is a formidable lawyer. She won't want an annoyance like that."

I can't let that happen, Susan thought.

"Well, there's one way to be sure it doesn't, isn't there?" Callisto said.

Susan nodded as something cold settled in her mind. Callisto, she won't be expecting me to come after her. Help me to kill her.

"I'm getting all misty eyed, Shybear!"


Bob was holding the toddler as he looked suspiciously at Susan. They were in her bedroom and she was packing. He'd come over because he wanted to ask Callisto something for a murder case he was working on; he didn't think his client could be guilty considering the weapons and time frame. The warlord was always happy to talk about the mechanics of mayhem. When he got here he saw suitcases. Bob also saw her guns and knives, gleaming and carefully set out. There was a new one too, something disassembled with a telescopic site and in its own small case. He wondered how she planned on getting it all past the airport metal detectors. Must be a way, he thought. Either Callisto already knows how or Susan came up with something.

"What's going on?" he'd asked. She opened the door and looked guiltily at him.

"Just going to a seminar, Bob. Doctor stuff," she said.

The lawyer shook his head. "Pathetic." He looked at the weapons and said, "You found out about Graciela."

She nodded. "How long have you known?"

"About a year. I was hoping she'd get herself killed and we wouldn't have to worry about it," the thin man said as the child started squirming and looking irritated.

"Well, she didn't. I'm gonna go talk to her," Susan said. Bob set the two-and-a-half-year-old girl down.

"Talk, huh? This is the 20th century and you're a doctor. You can't just fly off and murder somebody," he said forcefully.

Susan put the two pistols, three knives, and the disassembled sniper rifle into a small suitcase and closed it with a snap. "Watch me. When Graciela learns about Gabrielle she'll take her. Probably kill you so you don't make trouble about it. Only I'm gonna get to her first."

"You can't know that!" Bob said fiercely.

Susan said, "Bob, how many times has Joxer been killed by either Callisto or Xena? Just be ready to come bail me out if I need it, okay?"

He looked down at the child, then back up at her. "Okay, Susan. But maybe you can reason with her. At least try."

In her mind Callisto made a snorting sound.

"Sure, Bob. I will," Susan lied. Bob didn't get it anymore than Joxer ever had. She said, "Can I see Joxer a minute?"

Bob frowned at her, then his expression changed slightly though was still serious. "I'm coming with you!"

"No you're not, Joxer," Susan said and kissed him. "Take him back, Bob. Feed my fish, will ya?" she said over her shoulder as she carried her luggage out the door and his body language returned to the lawyer's.

He followed her out to her car and handed two keys to her. "Go by my office, Susan. There's a file on Graciela in a locked cabinet beside my desk. I have friends in the DEA."

"Thanks," Susan said.

In her mind she heard Callisto say, "I'd like to say a few words to Bob too, if you don't mind."

Susan threw her suitcases in the trunk and closed it, then slammed the car door as she got in. Uh uh, Callisto. I'm not gonna come out of it and find Bob's dick in my mouth or something.

"You're no fun, Shybear!"


Graciela was looking at her Book of Lives again. She'd suspected something about a semi-mythical North American Indian hero when she saw references to Black Heart That Found The Light as being inseparable from Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature. Photography was not yet invented but Graciela had discovered a small watercolor by an artist who had earlier accompanied Lewis and Clark. In his notes he said that not only was the warrior a woman, which was rare to say the least, but she seemed to have no fixed tribe but simply wandered around having adventures to atone for her earlier misdeeds. Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature was a white girl who had been adopted by a peaceful tribe after the death of her missionary parents. Gabrielle looked good that way, Graciela thought. The feathers and beads were reminiscent of the Amazons thousands of years before. Black Heart That Found The Light had a look of irritation that even came through in the cracked and yellowed watercolor, like she couldn't believe she had allowed Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature to talk her into posing for some ridiculous white eyes.

Graciela sat looking at the picture, feeling empty. She needed Gabrielle. She didn't have to be a weakling like she had turned into before with the old woman, Gail Franks. There were plenty of lives where Gabrielle had assisted a strong Xena in one way or another. Graciela discovered that she often excelled at security. The bard had a gift for sniffing out papists or heretics, traitors or Jews, aristocrats or rebels--whoever Xena was crushing this time around. She would gain their trust and they would reveal themselves to her. Often they wouldn't believe she had denounced them, even as they were led to the stakes and the flames began licking up around them...even if Gabrielle personally lit the fire.

Graciela knew the bard was probably reborn by now. If she could just find her... Graciela intended to move far beyond being a mere criminal. She considered how Xena changed so often. Probably in half of her lives Xena renounced her old ways. Graciela had herself and the memory sickened her. Weakness had infected her like gangrene. Luckily the old woman died before it had gone too far. But Graciela knew how much she also gained. She hoped somehow to reunite with the bard but on her terms this time.

She opened a packet which had recently arrived. A private investigator was looking into what Joxer and Callisto were up to now. Photographs fell out of the envelope and the dark woman looked curiously at the children. Her breathing stopped as she saw the baby's face clearly. She quickly began reading the report accompanying the surveillance pictures.


Susan had studied up on radiographic imaging used with gallbladder disorders. Sure enough, there was an investigational radiopaque dye that would mask her guns and knives from the metal detectors. Maybe she'd do a paper on it after she killed Graciela. It ought to be known so other people couldn't do what she did.

At Bogota International Airport after she arrived she was frustrated about not speaking Spanish but Callisto said, "Don't worry, Susan. Just open your mind and Maria will give it to you." She hesitated and the voice said, "It's all right, Shybear. Maria's not like Karla was. She won't try to take you. I wouldn't let her anyway." Okay, she thought and relaxed the mind lock she had learned to keep Callisto or any of her incarnations from taking her against her will. Susan had indistinct flashes of memory: Napoleonic uniforms, horrific violent images right out of Goya--big surprise there--and then she knew she could speak Spanish.

Wow, she thought. There ought to be a way to package that. Can I do that with anything?

"Yes, Shybear, but only if my incarnation is willing. They wouldn't be for each other for the most part. Many of them feel differently about you since you are a healer and so different from the rest. I've been hearing a lot of loose talk about final redemption that I'm trying to nip in the bud, to be truthful."

Speaking of the others, how is the SS-Sturmbannfuhrer? Susan thought acidly.

"Still sulking, Shybear. Karla will get over it. This wasn't the first time an incarnation tried to come back and I had to prevent it. Some of the others are talking to Karla. Probably have some misguided plan to stage a coup d'etat. Of course, they all intend on betraying each other. I'm so predictable."

They couldn't succeed could they? Susan thought anxiously.

She heard snorting sound. "Hardly, Shybear."


Graciela was dreaming. A small blonde figure in doeskins came nervously up to her. "Take me with you, great warrior. Do not leave me here. I can assist you. The spirits speak through me and the otter is my totem. Your bravery has saved the People. We have been brought together for a reason!"

Looking down, Graciela saw she was wearing the buckskins from the watercolor and reaching up felt a headdress of the same material. She took an ornamented hatchet from her belt and studied it, then looked back at Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature. "I haven't found the light!" Graciela said savagely and with a slashing blow caved in the girl's skull.

She woke with a start covered with sweat. Graciela held her hand out and looked at it, remembering the dream. Her hand started to shake but then she stopped it with her will. Graciela began to think of Gail Franks. She tried to call up her disgust with her own weakness. Cursing she pulled a drawer open in a nightstand and scanned an array of bottles. She opened one and shook two capsules into her hand. Then she got up and walked to a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of scotch and used that to wash the sleeping pills down. Graciela saw herself in a mirror and wanted to somehow hide.

Running Deer, Hawk Who Soars, Small Bear, even Laughing Wolf Cub whose kindness made old True Elk rudely question if he was a man, and many, many others lay unmoving; young braves who would never return to their lodges with their warm furs and warm wives. The warrior held a hand up to silence her young companion who she feared would begin to wail and give away their position. The cold morning dawn was silent with death. Black Heart That Found The Light carefully listened and drew her fine hatchet, which she was more skillful with than any other in all the lands between the Great Waters. "Stay close," she said to Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature, who gripped her staff tightly and tried not to show her fear. A mad scream rang out and a horse burst from a stand of trees. Black Heart That Found The Light pushed her companion so the thrown war lance only pinned her doeskin garment to the ground. The figure pulled her dark horse up, her face painted for battle, brown eyes wide, black hair made yellow with clay. She reached behind her and held up a pack of bloody scalps that she shook. The French had taught the People to take scalps.

"Smiling Wild Eyes," Black Heart That Found The Light said. "Why have you done this terrible thing? These young braves were not your enemies, never raided your winter stores or stole your horses. There will be weeping in their lodges and their wives will have no one to warm them during the cold nights. Who will hunt for them?"

"Why did you burn Cirra?" the mounted warrior answered with a smile. "They welcomed you. That was enough. But there will be no weeping in their lodges. Their wives will not be cold and alone in their sleeping furs, nor will there be hunger because there is no one to hunt. There is no one left to weep, Black Heart That Found The Light. Because of you." She whirled her horse and galloped away.

Black Heart That Found The Light stared after her then turned to her companion and pulled the war lance from the ground, freeing her. The warrior looked in the direction of the village. There should be smoke from cooking fires but there was none. Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature put a hand gently on her arm to try and comfort the great warrior who would never ask no matter her need.

Graciela opened her eyes and looked at her richly carved bedroom ceiling. It was dawn. She got up and looked at herself naked in the tall mirror, then slowly picked up a lipstick and drew a vertical line on her forehead, then two diagonal lines on her right cheek. The dark woman studied herself.

Graciela nodded perfunctorily to her men standing with Ouzis as she climbed into her Ferrari and roared down the winding driveway of her sprawling mansion. It had belonged to Francisco Varga but he didn't need it anymore. She got out in the countryside and increased the speed to 300 kilometers per hour. Graciela felt something and sharply veered the car just as a bullet hole appeared in the seat beside her. She continued driving evasively as bullets continued to strike around her. Then the hood began smoking and she knew whoever it was had begun shooting at the engine instead. She tried to keep the sports car under control as a tire was shot out. As the Ferrari spun out she jumped and kept her body loose so she wouldn't break every bone in her body as she landed. As soon as she stopped rolling she began sprinting for some trees as bullets landed around here.

"SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!" Susan cursed and stood up. She wanted to throw the sniper rifle down but didn't.

"Exactly, Shybear," Callisto said in her mind.

I should have gone with a bomb! Just mined the road!

"Oh, Susan, don't beat yourself up. No use crying over split milk. She'd feel that the same as she did this, probably."

The blonde, wearing fatigues that made her blend into her surroundings, quickly ran down a trail and climbed into a jeep. She put the rifle on the floor, took her Glock 9 from the holster she wore and kept it in her hand as she started the engine and began tearing down the small mountain path.

Graciela was motionless in her position in a tree. She'd smeared herself with dirt to gain a camouflage effect. The only weapon she had was the small dagger she always wore taped to her thigh. There was an AK-47 in her Ferrari, but her car had exploded seconds after she had leapt from it and the vehicle smashed into a tree at 260 kilometers an hour at least. She could tell that Xena wanted to speak to her but Graciela shut her out. What would she tell her? That this was Callisto. Graciela knew that. She smiled to herself. The good doctor had certainly exceeded expectations.

"She's waiting for us. You know that," Callisto said.

Yeah, I know. Susan thought in response. She felt sick with fear even though she was exhilarated too. She stopped the jeep and studied the trees, then got out and began working her way towards them.

She heard Callisto sigh in her mind and say, "Usually, we don't have to face her in something this final until we are more experienced."

Aren't I good enough? Susan thought.

"You're like we always are, Shybear. But that little dung eater in the kitchen is your only real experience and there's no getting around how important experience is. And Graciela here....Well, Susan, that's why I suggested trying to shoot her from hiding."

Is this really what I need to hear right now, Callisto?

"Oh, I should be trying to encourage you, shouldn't I? Tact was never my strong suit."

No kidding, Susan thought.


Susan grunted as she was hit in the back and a sharp blow to her hand forced her to release the pistol. Spinning around she was coming up with a knife when a foot knocked that away too and a backhanded blow sent her reeling. She got a kick in herself that would've broken Graciela's neck if it had fully connected and followed that with a blow that sent the bigger woman stumbling back, but then a foot in her belly doubled her over. She felt herself quickly searched for weapons and the throwing knife she wore down her back was taken. Susan heard Callisto sigh resignedly.

Susan coughed and looked up at her enemy. There she was: Graciela Marquez-Mendez. Xena. She looked pretty the worse for wear, Susan saw with satisfaction. Her expensive clothes were torn and she was bruised and bloody. The man's Rolex she wore looked smashed.

"Dr. Callendar, you surprise me...and impress me, I must say," the dark woman said. She was holding the Glock on her.

"Thanks," Susan said.

Graciela frowned and squatted down but kept the gun trained on her. "You are inexperienced. Lucky for me, possibly. Tell me, does Annie know that you killed the boy? What of her brother? And have you or Robert Samuels learned anything about little Gabrielle's parentage?"

Susan didn't answer and Graciella casually fired. The blonde woman grabbed her left shoulder and cried out.

"Doctor, I did not shoot you in the hand because a 9 mm would maim you. Even I can appreciate what a burn specialist for children must be. But I warn you, Dr. Callendar, do not anger me."

"Shybear, something is happening! She's soft!" Callisto's voice urgently spoke in her head.

Holding her shattered shoulder, Susan said through gritted teeth, "Annie doesn't know about Gustavo. Her brother Roberto is dead now too from an overdose. There's a couple of teenage girls that might be Gabrielle's mother. Just immature kids. I'm sure that's what the mother is even if it's somebody else."

Graciela nodded and said, "The infant is healthy?"

Callisto began giggling in her mind. "What a weakling! We can kill her, Shybear.  Don't worry about that. Play along with her. We might even capture this stupid slut. We can torture Xena if we do! These woods are perfect. We can toy with her for a week."

Susan said, "Yes, Gabrielle is healthy. Callisto says that you are weak for talking this way. That I can kill you, perhaps even capture you for torture."

"YOU CUNT!" exploded in her mind.

Graciela stared at the wounded woman before her. She felt an insistent voice in her head straining to be heard. She allowed it in.

"This one is not as Smiling Wild Eyes was. This one sought to protect our companion."

Graciela answered in her mind.  I won't harm the child. She belongs with me. I'd think you would be on my side, Black Heart That Found The Light. I know what Smiling Wild Eyes did to your companion. She put her hair on top of her lance.

"Why do you act the fool? What does it serve? The light I found I would have lost without Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature. And you seek to put out the light in the infant. You speak of my companion and Smiling Wild Eyes. The Shadow Warrior stole my soul when she took the scalp of Annoying Yellow Hair Of Small Stature. When I killed her, Smiling Wild Eyes jeered me because she knew she had defeated me. I intended to torture her but did not because she would have reveled in her victory and my impotent vengeance. Now you are the Shadow Warrior. If it was in my power I would slay you myself."

Susan saw Graciela was distracted so she rolled to the left. She stopped in agony with the big woman standing over her, a foot on her bloody shoulder. As Susan looked up at her Graciela stepped away. Susan sat up and unsteadily got to her feet. She couldn't move her left arm.

She is our enemy life after life, Graciela thought.

"That is like the beliefs of the village our companion left so long ago to join us, Poteidaia. Is that what you wish to be?"

She tried to kill me.

"Any of us who found the light would kill you if we could."

Susan was dizzy and knew she was in shock. Graciela continued looking at her with an inscrutable expression. Then she turned the gun and held it for Susan to take.

"KILL HER NOW! SHOOT HER!" shrieked in her mind.

Susan accepted the pistol and put it in her holster.

"Doctor, tell me how best to treat your shoulder," Graciela said.


The toddler's blue eyes got large as the big woman nervously came in the bedroom. Little Annie who was braiding Gabrielle's hair looked apprehensively at her but was reassured by a smile from Bob who was beside the dark stranger. Susan came over and took Gabrielle's hand, wincing a little as her other arm moved in its sling.

Graciela squatted down as the doctor led the little strawberry blonde over to her. The toddler smiled and threw her arms around her. Graciela began to cry. After a moment she wiped her eyes and said, “What’s that?" She was pointing to something made of paper Gabrielle wore around her head.

Little Annie said, "We were watching Peter Pan. I made a headdress for her. She's an Indian maid."

"Oh," Graciela said in a choked voice.

Susan smiled and she and Bob left the room to give Graciela some time alone with the children.

"Can I get you something, Bob?" she asked.

"Do you have any iced tea?" he answered as he took a seat on the sofa.

"Coming up," Susan answered and walked into the kitchen. After pouring the drink she decided to make another attempt. She hadn't heard from the warlord in weeks.

Are you still mad at me, Callisto? Susan thought.

"No. Just very, very disappointed, Shybear," the voice answered sadly. "You have no respect for tradition. First you make Gabrielle love you. Then you allow Xena to live when you intended to kill her. Now you are actually bringing them together. If it wasn't dangerous and weak it would make me cry."

She allowed me to live first, Callisto.

"Two wrongs don't make a right, Susan."

You sound like you'd rather she had killed me.

Callisto answered. "If she had I would soon have been reborn and things could get back to normal. The chance of another one like you anytime soon is unlikely.

God, Callisto! Thanks a lot!

"Oh, I guess that wasn't very tactful of me. Just forget I said that, Shybear."