A Fork in the Road, Part 2 (The Cosmic Dance)

Baird Bard

June 9, 1998

Disclaimers: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle, et all, belong to Universal, et all. I don't own them, I only wish I did! The characters of Brie and Zim are Uber-Xena characters and are therefore somewhat based on the fore mentioned characters. Some characters as they pop up in the story may closely resemble characters in the Xenaverse, but the rest of the characters come out of this fertile, wacky brain and I do have to claim them!

Subtext: No actually, it's maintext!!

Warnings: Still PG, "guys", but if the idea of two women romantically involved or more gets your shorts in a wad, then click your mouse button and go elsewhere! There's plenty of other fiction out there to check out!

There are some psychologically disturbing scenes in here, so if you get upset about dreams and memories and the anguish they cause, then maybe you should read elsewhere.

Violence: Very little.

Note: No little creatures were harmed during the "production"of this story section, although the feelings of one of the characters might have been bruised a little!

She woke suddenly, sitting straight up in her bed. Sweat was beaded on her forehead and running down the sides of her face. Her breathing was quick and labored, making her feel as if she had run for miles. Maybe she had.

Brie clutched her knees and rocked back and forth, trying to collect her thoughts and the bits of the dream that left her feeling this frightened and vulnerable. It was familiar: the same slow stroll through the woods, the sudden darkening of the path, the feeling of the trees moving in on her. She ran. Not running from anything, just running from a fear that knew no boundaries and no beginning.

The sky was beginning to lighten. Soon, the dawn would come and mask the fear that ran like a river just below her surface. Brie felt so alone at these times. "Who could I tell?" she mused to herself as she leaned her head on her clasped knees and looked out her window at the sky ever lightening with hues of gray that faded into gradients of pinks. Her breathing had slowed some, watching the palette that was the sky showing its range of colors.




Zim looked up with a sudden urgency. Some sudden fear gnawed in the pit of her stomach, but she looked around and there was no one and nothing around her. She shook her head as if to clear it and then noticed that it was becoming more light out. The colors of the dawning sky were shifting into shades of red and gold as the sun began to make its appearance. She leaned on the handle of the tool that she was using and stared at the colors as they sharpened and then melded together. "Looks like the color of Brie's hair," she said out loud to no one but the building that she was standing next to. Zim lowered her head and shook it back and forth. "Damn it! Don't go there!" she chastised herself. 'You don't need that kind of...trouble ... not now.' She sighed and looked at the dawn again, 'Not ever...' She took her anger at herself and channeled it into the job that she was doing, knowing that it would take her mind off of that... woman who made her head spin and her stomach churn with excitement. "Oh, god... gods, Universal power ... whoever is out there... why now? Why that face and those eyes...? After all these years, why...?" the tears that filled her eyes spilled over and rolled down her cheeks. She choked them back with a fierceness that threatened to tear her apart.

Zim clutched her chest at the tightening pain of held back tears. She slowly sank to her knees in the soft grass and brought her other hand to her face. She rocked back and forth as the images flooded her mind, letting them wash over her as she let go of the anguish that she felt. The tears flowed and the sobs racked her body, releasing some of the pain in her chest, but not all the years of heartache. She cried until there were no tears left to cry. "Damn you!" she said to the brightening sky and whoever else was listening. "Damn you, for making me feel this again..." She slowly regained her composure, climbed back onto her feet and started working her tool again into the ground. No one had seen, and the wall was back where it belonged...




Brie yawned and felt her body relax a little, knowing that she needed to go back to sleep or she would never make it through the day. Her mouth was dry from the dreamscape that was now fading from her conscious thoughts, so she reached over to her nightstand and took a sip from the ever-present glass of water. She succumbed to the drowsy feeling in her body and laid herself back down on the bed, cradling her pillow around her head and neck. Her breathing slowed and steadied so that soon she was back to sleep, and dreaming again.

'Isn't this pathway lovely,' Brie thought to herself as she walked steadily along. The leaves on the trees were a brilliant green, not quite filling in the branches yet so the sun was filtering through, spreading an intricate pattern on the ground. She walked a little further, taking in the smells of a spring day while also listening to chirping sounds of the birds and small forest animals. Brie walked on, enveloped in the sensory experience. She picked a purple flower from the side of the path and continued to walk while taking in the fragrance and the beauty of it. Her head was down, examining the flower when a noise lifted it up to see a dark form in front of her. A hand reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her into the now darkened pathway. She screamed, but the form raised the other hand and struck her across her face, silencing her. Brie cried and whispered over and over, "No ... no... please, no more..." But the form, which now had taken the shape of a man, looked back from dragging her along, "Shut up! Just shut up!" and struck her again on the other side of her face. She retreated into silence and stopped struggling, awaiting whatever was to become of her.

Her submission caused her to slow her pace, so the man stopped and turned to her with fist raised to strike her again. A steady pounding sound from behind him caused him to turn around. Just then, a rider on a white horse ... no, a golden horse ... came upon the man and pushed him aside with a swift kick of a booted foot. A second later the arm of her savior gathered Brie up from the path and pulled her effortlessly up onto the horse. She looked up into the face, but all that her eyes could see was brilliant blue eyes peering into hers...

A cold nose on her cheek along with a gentle tongue lapping the same spot woke Brie from this second dream. "Artemis! Stop kissing mommy, I'm awake now!" "Brrrupt!" came the reply along with a headbutt and a furry body trailing underneath the raised hand. Artemis turned around after her tail cleared the hand that was trying to cover a sleepy face. Bump! "Brrrupt!" came her morning greeting, as she took her 'job' of waking mommy quite seriously. "Art-e-mis! It's Saturday! I don't have to get up so early!" Brie tried to bury her head further into her pillow. A paw gently batted at her fingers and the purring in her ear got louder. "OK, ok, Arty. I'm getting up!"

Brie rolled over to the edge of the bed and grabbing her robe threw it on over her sleep shirt. She yawned and walked into the bathroom to take care of morning business. Artemis followed behind, as was her usual duty. Brie wandered back out of the bathroom and headed toward the kitchen, listening to the occasional "Brrrupt" from Artemis. "Yes, Arty, I'll get you your breakfast. Just as soon as I get mine!" Artemis flipped her tail back and forth while heading toward the corner of the kitchen that held her food and water bowls. She sat down with determination and proceeded to wash her short, gray and black fur.

Brie smiled at Artemis and proceeded with her routine; putting water on for tea, putting bread in the toaster, and getting orange juice out of the fridge....

She pushed the milk carton aside to get to the orange juice and her hand brushed against a cold, wet surface. She blinked her eyes and stared more closely at the contents of the fridge. Her hand was resting against a bottle of beer that she hadn't seen before.

Brie hesitated, pulled back her hand a bit and then, in a reflex action, put her hand around the beer and pulled it off the shelf. She stood up, looking at the brown bottle, tasting the contents in her mind. The bottle shook in her hand ... she watched, thinking that her mind was playing tricks on her. Then, she realized that it was her hand that was shaking. She reached over with her other hand to stop the shaking. It grabbed the top of the bottle and quickly screwed off the top. The bottle was almost to her mouth when she felt the touch of a hand on her wrist and the whisper of a voice in her ear, 'Don't do it. It's not worth it.' "Zim?" Brie called out, opening her eyes and turning to look for the dark haired woman. But no one was there.

She looked at the bottle in her hand and turned to the sink. Her hand, still shaking, turned the bottle upside down and she watched the liquid flow down the drain. The bottle slipped from her hand and clattered into the sink as she leaned over it for support. Her whole body was shaking now from the effort of willpower against the overwhelming craving from her body. 'My god!' Brie thought to herself as her body leaned against the edge and her hands covered her face, 'What is happening to me?' She lifted her head up and leaned her elbows on the edge of the sink, cradling her face in her steepled hands. Her breathing was ragged and the sounds that surrounded her seemed magnified a hundred fold. She felt the blood pulsing through her head as her eyes narrowed with the knowledge that a huge headache was coming on.

Brie pushed herself off from the counter and walked unsteadily to the fridge again, this time reaching in and getting the orange juice that was her original goal. She shakily poured herself a glass, found the aspirin bottle in the side cabinet and settled down in a chair. She carefully shook out two pills and took them with a gulp of juice. 'I don't know if I can do this,' she thought to herself, looking around at her surroundings with blurry eyes. 'I don't want to be stuck where I've been, but...' she put her head on her arm that was laying on the table, 'I don't know where I'm going...'

"Brrupt..." Brie lifted her head up and then looked down at her companion waiting patiently. "Oh, Artemis! I'm sorry! Come here, sweetie..." Brie pattted her leg and Artemis jumped up into her lap. Brie cuddled her, kissed the top of her head and listened to the sound of Arty's steady purr. It calmed her and brought her back into a reality of sorts, as she matched her breathing rhythm to the cat's gentle purr. "Oh, Arty ... I don't know what's happening to me. I want to stop feeling like I do when I drink too much, but I don't know if I can get through the day without it." Tears welled up in her eyes as she poured out her emotions to her 'fur-person'. Brie always knew that Artemis was more than just another cat from the start, as they had bonded immediately.

"Artemis, let me get you your breakfast before it becomes time for lunch!" Brie smiled down at her 'fur-person' and gave her a quick pet before she picked her up and gently placed her on the floor. She picked up the bowl, carefully mixed Artemis' canned food and dry food together then placed it back on the floor. Artemis was quickly at her bowl, looking up to her 'mommy' and brrupting before digging in to her breakfast. "You're very welcome, Arty. Mommy's sorry that she kept you waiting..." Brie turned back to the kitchen table and picked up her glass of orange juice, drinking the remains of it in one gulp. She looked around the place and noticed just how messy it had become. 'I just haven't taken the time to really clean ... guess I've been too busy.' Aloud she says, "Well, Artemis, it's time to get the house cleaned up, eh?!"

Brie changed into sweats and a T-shirt and began to tackle the huge task of cleaning every room in her house. Nothing was overlooked. Artemis, as was her usual way, did her duty by keeping out of Brie's way. Brie, for the most part, kept so busy that her thoughts and feelings were kept at bay.

Finally satisfied with the way the house looked Brie collapsed on the couch and rested. She closed her eyes and immediately started to drift toward sleep. The darkness took her quickly and she started along her dream path again, but was pulled out of the dream by a wet nose insisting that her hand pet the body attached to the nose. "Umm, what? Oh, Arty, I guess I fell asleep." Panic hit her suddenly. She glanced quickly at the VCR clock to find the time. "4:30! Damn! I've got to get going!" She jumped up and ran into the bathroom to take a shower.




Zim pushed the hay-bale over the edge of the loft and watched it fall successfully to the right spot on the floor. She glanced around from the opening and, seeing no one in sight, proceeded to leap out from the edge, flip gracefully in the air and land in a kata fighting stance. She flowed easily from the stance into a smooth series of Tai Chi moves, feeling stronger with each twist, each turn. At times, assuming the delicate balance of the crane, then quickly, fluidly, going into the tiger crouch.

Zim pivoted around in a flash, grasping an imaginary foe, pulling and twisting to the right. The 'foe' was spun around, put to the ground and she landed an imaginary punch to the chest. She straightened up, slowly assuming the snake posture and then pulled herself to the final position, pulling in the energy that was created around her down into the base of her spine, her lowest chakra. It was a dance of power. It was a dance of focused energy. It was moving meditation, as her body, mind and soul transcended into one harmonious entity. Zim stood quietly for many moments, eyes closed, feeling every bone, every muscle of her body relax into this centered position. Her breathing was slow and even, taking in even more 'chi' with each in-drawn breath. Satisfied with her impromptu exercise, she slowly opened her eyes and focused on where she was.

"Uh oh," she said out loud to only the barn's occupants, "I think it's time to finish and get myself cleaned up!" Zim closed her eyes again briefly and said, "It's 4:37..." then looked down at her watch which clearly stated the time as 4:35. "Damned! So close..." It was a game that she played with herself to constantly test and hone her burgeoning skills.

A horse whinnied from the far end of the barn. Zim laughed and answered the call, "Ok, ok, I'm getting your supper! Hold your ... hooves for a minute!" Smiling broadly at her joke she grabbed the fork and dug into the hay, quickly filling in the two stalls that she had left. She gathered the feed buckets from each of the stalls and brought them to the grain room to be filled. Carefully checking off each of the horses on the feed chart, Zim measured in the precise amount along with any supplement that was assigned. She brought supper to all of her charges and stood there in the walkway listening to the contented sounds of chewing.




Brie quickly turned on the water for the shower and stripped off her grimy work clothes. She pulled the curtain aside after testing the temperature with her hand, and stepped into the stream of water. She sighed audibly as the warm torrent of water washed over her, easing her sudden stiffness at the unusual flurry of activity that she had done that day. She stood under the showerhead and took the warmth deep into her muscles before she grabbed the soap and washcloth. Scrubbing vigorously to get all of the sweaty grime off her body, she hurried her shower along so that she wouldn't be late for her 'non-date'. She smiled to herself at the thought of Zim's reaction to her confirmation of their dinner. 'Wonder why she got all huffy about that? She must have known what I meant....', thinking to herself as she moved the soapy washcloth down her torso and over her right leg, 'I mean, I was just using a common phrase... she took it out of context and turned it around. I'm not interested in a date... besides, she's not my type... wrong gender and all that.' Smiling to herself at her remark, Brie finished washing, moving back under the warm stream to rinse off her shoulder length hair.




Knowing that she had to hurry now, in order not to be late, Zim jogged down the length of the walkway and around the corner to her doorway. Having your apartment attached to the place you worked, made it mighty convenient! She shut the door behind her and quickly shucked off her workboots, stripping off her T-shirt in the process. Tossing it over her head to the laundry basket in the corner of her bedroom, she continued to walk across her place to the bathroom, undoing her jeans as she went. She slipped out of them in the doorway and tossed them toward the basket as well. Zim peeled off her underwear and bra as she turned on the shower, glad to be getting the grime of the day off of her. The shower was quick and uneventful, but she decided to 'waste' an extra minute or two just luxuriating in the hot stream, stretching and bending her muscles so that they wouldn't cramp up on her. She knew they would complain to her later, but that didn't matter.

Zim toweled off and then wrapped the towel around her dripping hair. As she was brushing her teeth, she looked in the mirror, noting the flaws but not yet ready to see the beautiful woman that she had become over the past couple of years. The physical labor on the farm and the daily exercises that she performed had honed her body into a lithe, muscular shape. All she saw was the person that she had been two years ago when she had gotten sober. Her daily meditations had brought her a semblance of peace, but the darkness that had enveloped her for so long was difficult to let go.




Brie stepped out of the tub and grabbed her towel, wrapping it around herself while she grabbed a smaller towel to dry off her hair. 'Damn!' she chastised herself, 'I should have started getting ready earlier!' "Merouww!" she heard through the bathroom door. "Arty!" she called to her 'baby' as she opened the door to let the indignant cat in. "I'm sorry that I didn't let you in to take a shower with me, I was in a hurry." "Merouwww" came back to her as Artemis rubbed her body around Brie's lower legs. "Ok, I know, but I really need to get going, Artemis. I don't want to be late!" Brie glanced at her hair in the mirror, deciding that it needed more drying with the towel. She brushed it vigorously to stimulate the hair and her scalp, a beauty tip that she had read God knows where, but found it useful.

Removing the towel from her torso, Brie quickly dried the parts of her that were still wet, carefully hanging the towel on the rack to dry. Grabbing the hair dryer from its hook, she went to work drying her hair thoroughly while looking at the person in the mirror. She suddenly had the notion that the person staring back at her was a stranger. She stopped the dryer for a moment and just stared. "Who are you?" said aloud and then even softer, "Who am I?" She put down the dryer with a shaky hand and then leaned on the sink for support. Her stomach was tied in knots and she had no explanation. She willed herself to stop the shaking in her arms and her legs, knowing that she needed to hurry up if she was to make it to the restaurant on time. "Come on Brie! Get a grip! What's the matter with you?" Eyebrows knitted in concentration she looked intently at herself in the mirror again. Her stomach gave out an enormous growl, so she patted it with relief saying to the mirror, "See, you're just hungry! You were a bad girl and didn't eat all day! No wonder you're shaking!"

She smiled at herself with a little more assurance and got back to work on her hair. When she was satisfied with her hair's general look, she rushed into her bedroom and quickly started to get dressed, noticing her bedroom clock said 5:15. Luckily, she had laid out clothes for the evening earlier in the day when she was doing the laundry, so all she had to do was put everything on and fuss with the details.




Toweling her hair dry, Zim quickly brushed it out and applied a little bit of gel to the side and top, letting it fall naturally where the hair wanted to go. She hated to fuss with herself, preferring to go with the comfortable look. She had been told that she'd look good in short hair and that it was much easier to take care of, but Zim liked it long.

She walked back into her bedroom, grabbing underwear from her top drawer and sliding into it, pulling socks from the same drawer and putting them on, then flipped through the shirts hanging in her closet, choosing a royal blue, long sleeved silk shirt. The fabric seemed to flow onto her body as she slid each arm into the sleeves and settled it onto her shoulders. She buttoned it up while looking into the mirror on her closet door, 'Fits ok. I kinda like getting dressed up once in a while.' She pivoted on one foot and walked to her dresser again, getting out a pair of fairly new black jeans and pulling them on. She tucked the silk shirt carefully into her jeans and zipped them up, fitting her thumbs into the waist and moving them around the edge. 'Hmm, guess I lost a little more weight.'




Brie pulled on her underwear in a rush, grabbing her soft, cotton blouse from its hanger and sliding it over her arms. One of her favorite shirts, the deep maroon color went well with the dark tan dress pants that she picked out and ironed earlier in the afternoon. She slipped her feet into her comfortable sandals and the finishing touch of her outfit was a thin black belt, pulled one notch tighter than the last time she had worn it.

She went back into the bathroom to finish her hair, noting in the mirror that her face looked a little pale. "Damned! Looks like you haven't slept in days... guess I tired myself out a little too much today!" Brie noted to the face in the mirror as she pulled a little at her eyes. 'Guess I need to put a little makeup on...' She hardly ever wore makeup, finding it more of a nuisance than anything, but conceded that her face really needed it tonight. Covering up her tiredness as much as she could, Brie looked at the face in the mirror and gave it a satisfied nod. 'Now, to finish my hair...'




Zim finished off her outfit with a black leather and suede vest that was cut a little shorter than her everyday leather vest. Looking again into her closet mirror, she adjusted the vest and pulled her hair out from underneath its edge. Fixing the collar to sit just right on top of the vest, she glanced back into the mirror and considered herself dressed. "Just need to find my loafers and I'll be all set," she mumbled to herself as she looked around her room trying to find the errant shoes. Zim found them tucked behind the closet door and slid her feet into them, all the while searching inside for her time check. "Ummm, 5:36," she said to the closet door while closing it and then pivoting around to look at her clock on the nightstand. "Damned! 5:34! I'm still two minutes off, gotta do some fine tuning on that skill!"

Glancing around the apartment to make sure that everything was in place, she reached for her zippered sweatshirt in case it cooled down considerably, as it tended to do on transitory spring evenings. Zim swung around to head for the door, when a little grab of apprehension tugged at her stomach. Or was it excitement? "Whoa, where did that come from?" She took a deep breath and centered herself, knowing that she needed to be there for this evening. "It's just a meeting over dinner with a new friend, that's all." She looked around the room, "Oh, great! Now I'm talking to myself... maybe I am going a little crazy..." Zim grabbed her keys from the table by the door and stalked out, slamming the locked door behind her.




Brie put her watch on and glanced at the time, 'Almost 5:35, dammit I don't want to be late!' Taking another glance into the mirror to make sure everything was in place, she thought to herself 'If this isn't a date, then why do I feel like I'm back in high school? That was the last time I was on a date ... but this is a woman! I'm not supposed to feel this way ... all nervous and flustered.' Staring more intently at the face in the mirror, she spoke directly to it, "What is going on? I know she's a lesbian, but I'm not... I'm ... I've been with men and ... married." She looked down and back up again, feeling like she was looking into the face of a stranger, again. "She's just a friend, someone who can be there for me to help me through this ... change." After convincing herself, Brie turned on her heel and strode out of the bathroom. Grabbing a sweater from the closet, she walked purposely to the door, picking up her car keys off the hook by the back door as she passed. Going to her car she fumbled a bit with the keys, ignoring her trembling hand, and then opened the car door and slide inside. 'Now, where am I going? Oh yea, Amphipolis Gardens is on Elm. I can get there quickly,' she thought to herself as she pulled out of her driveway, 'if I go over the Parkway.' She drove away into the rays of the setting sun.




Zim drove into the parking lot of the restaurant at exactly 5:55. Parking her truck at the far end of the lot to avoid any careless drivers, she bounced out of the seat and closed the door. She searched the lot quickly and found no sign of Brie's sedan, so she ambled toward the front door of the Gardens to wait. Leaning against the rough exterior of the building her mind wandered back to another time, another meeting place, so long ago...


     "Zim?" the red haired woman called out as she walked slowly down the darkened alley. "Zim, don't do this to me!" She turned slowly to her left and peered into the ever-darkening void. Quietly, so quietly that she wasn't even aware, a body crept up behind her and encircled her waist with an arm. "Aaagggh! Ooof," she grunted as her body was suddenly turned and pressed into the offending body behind her. Lips pressed softly onto hers and she melted into the familiar arms and mouth of her lover. "Zim," she breathed into the woman's neck as they parted, "don't scare me like that again!" A low chuckle from the taller woman's throat was captured in her left ear. Still caught up in their embrace, Zim brushed her lips against the smaller woman's hair, drinking in the wonderful scent that was this woman. A combination of her favorite shampoo and cologne, it never failed to intoxicate Zim.

     "Mmmmm, what took you so long?" she asked into the cascade of hair tucked into her neck. "My parents, what else?" came the reply. "They always have to grill me on where I'm going and who I'm going with!"

     "But, you're almost 18! Tell 'em to loosen up!" Zim said emphatically as they pulled away to look into each other's eyes in the dim light.

     Blue-gray eyes looked into ice blue eyes and pointedly raised one eyebrow. "And you're not quite 20, but that still puts you in a bad position if they ever found out about us! Zim, I can't lose you, not now. We just have to be patient and let time take it's course..."

     "Damnit, I don't care what happens... I just want to be with you..."


Zim's memory was interrupted by the sound of an approaching car. She looked up and saw the newly familiar sedan and waved to the driver in recognition. Brie pulled her car in and parked as close as she could to the door. Zim watched her quickly settle herself and then pop out of the car and stride purposefully toward her. Watching the small, compact body coming toward her brought a sudden lurch in her stomach of recognition. 'But it's not her... not her.' She resolutely pulled her mind away from the thought and concentrated on the here and now, utilizing techniques from her martial arts skills.

"Hey, you made it!" Zim called out to the figure striding quickly toward her. She pushed herself off from the wall and stood waiting beside the door, her hand thrust deep in her pocket, fiddling with the coins residing there. She took in the sight of this beautiful young woman walking towards her: well tailored tan pants, creased just so; loose fitting, long sleeved, v-shaped maroon blouse that came just above her cleavage; red-gold hair arranged so that it fell naturally at her shoulders and framed her slightly rounded face; and lastly, those emerald eyes that were sparkling in the setting sun. It almost took Zim's breath away, but she held back her feelings, knowing that this was neither the time nor place.

Looking up into the neatly chiseled face, Brie's eyes met with the bright blue of Zim's and noticed the crooked smile that formed beneath them. They also noticed the way the blue silk shirt draped her body and showed it off magnificently. Brie looked quickly over the rest of her outfit and noticed how striking she appeared dressed less than casual. Mentally shaking her head, Brie pushed aside the rush that she felt when her senses assessed the whole physical package that made up this woman known as Zim. Brie thought very briefly about telling her how nice she looked, but after the 'date' misunderstanding she didn't want to take any chances! "Am I terribly late?" Brie asked as she stopped less than a foot from the side of this incredibly tall woman.

"Naw, at the most it's probably 6:02. A few minutes either way doesn't matter." Zim shot back nonchalantly. She turned and headed to the door, opening it and sweeping her arm toward it as an invitation to pass through.

Brie walked around the figure of this enigmatic woman and started to pass through the doorway when she glanced at her watch. "Well, you nailed that time right on the nose." She turned her wrist into Zim's view behind her.

Zim saw the digital numbers glaring at her from the face of the watch. 6:02. 'Yes!!!' she thought triumphantly to herself, mentally clenching a fist and pulling her arm in toward her body in triumph, as she herself passed the doorway into the restaurant.

Brie turned around to face her. "That's amazing! You didn't look at your watch..."

"Well," Zim drawled out, "I have many..."

"...skills." Brie finished the sentence.

"skills." Zim finished simultaneously, and looked at her, astonishment on her face. The usually stoic woman could not contain her wonder at this happening. "What ... how... did you know what I was going to say?"

"I don't know. Well, actually, I'm an Editor. An Editing Assistant over at ValCon books. So I work with words all the time. I ... guess ... it was just a logical conclusion." Brie explained to the dark haired woman, who just stood there for a moment knitting her eyebrows back and forth.

"Yes, but you could have used a number of words, why that one?" Zim finally relayed to her. She started walking over to the reservation desk and noticed that Brie fell into step quickly behind her.

"I'm not sure, I think it just popped into my head." Brie started to go on the defensive without even being aware that she was doing it. She looked down at the floor in concentration, looking up just in time to bump her nose and the rest of her body into the back of the now still Zim. "Ooofff! Oooops! Sorry!" she blurted out in quick succession as she hastily backed away from the too familiar space.

Zim turn around and acknowledged the faux pas with an upraised eyebrow and a dry comment, "Should I add brake lights?"

"No! ...I ... well, I was concentrating, and ... I didn't know you had stopped, ... and..." Brie looked up into sparkling blue eyes that smiled at her as much as the slightly twisted grin that accompanied them. "I suppose I should relax a little, huh?"

Zim nodded, trying to suppress a wider grin. "We're just having dinner together."

Brie countered, "Yes, I know ... ", but is interrupted by a squeal of delight from a paunchy man, who seemed slightly older than Zim.

"Zimmer!" he called out, rolling out of the hallway from the kitchen, his arms held out in front of him.

"Sal!" Zim called out as she turned to her left toward the voice. She was greeted with a bear hug from this man who was slightly taller and certainly heavier than she was.

Understanding her as he did, he released her from the hug quickly and stood back to gaze up and down. "Well, where have you been hiding? I don't think I've seen you in, what ... 6 months?" He finished his chastising with a light slap on her shoulder, possibly the only person on the planet at that moment that could get away with it.

"Oh, Sal, it's only been about 2 months. Don't go over dramatizing again!" she rallied back to him, followed by a light poke to his over generous stomach. "Hey, want you to meet a new friend of mine. Sal, meet Brie," she said with enthusiasm as she swung her hand around to present the red haired woman. "Brie, this is Salvatore, master chef and purveyor of this establishment!" She finished with a touch of her right hand to her forehead, which she then swept forward as she bent her upper torso in an exaggerated bow.

"Oh, knock it off, you stoic old witch, you!" he blustered at her while sweeping past her presence to offer his hand to Brie. "It's a pleasure, anyway. Even if you are a friend of hers." He jerked his head Zim's way as he took her small hand in his larger one, shook it soundly and then held it as he brought it quickly up to his bowing head and kissed the back of her hand as if she were royalty. "Welcome to my humble business, dear lady. I assure you that you will get the best of treatment, even if you are sitting with a pompous bi..." Sal stopped abruptly when a hand smacked the back of his head. "Owwwwww!" he moaned, putting a hand close to the spot that was tapped and playing it up to the hilt. "Ok, ok, I won't talk about you any more ... at least not while you're here!"

Brie glanced back and forth between the two friends, not knowing exactly how to take this exchange. She assumed that they had known each other a long time from the easy banter that flowed between them, but decided that it would be an entertaining part of the conversation over dinner. "Umm, excuse me, Zim. But before we sit down, I ... umm... really need ..."

"Ladies room is down the hall and to the left, sweetie." Sal answered her before she had a chance to finish. "Go ahead, dear, we'll wait here for you so you won't get lost!" Sal did a shooing motion with his hands and he and Zim watched Brie walk quickly down the hall.

As soon as she was out of earshot, he turned to Zim and verbally pounced on her. "She's fabulous, Zimmer! Where ever did you find her?? It's about time, you know. You've been by yourself far too long now..."

Zim held her hand up to stop the barrage, "Hold it! I just met her... at a Meeting. We're just friends, and she's straight. Got it?" She glared at him with an exasperated look.

He looked at her with somewhat of an annoyed look, and then leaned over to her "Yea, right, and I'm the Queen of Sheba!"

"Queen, maybe. Sheba ... naw, I don't think so." Zim gave him a mischievous grin that quickly changed to a serious look, "But Sal, don't push. She's just starting recovery and she needs a friend. That's all I'm doing."

"Right now, anyways." He shot back. "Look, it's really great that you start off as friends, heaven knows, I've gone the other route far too many times! But there sure is a big attraction there!"

"Sal, I can't let my hormones overrule my head on this, I'm not getting involved." She whispered to him as a party of four passed by them to get to the reservation desk.

"Who said I was talking about you?" he said softly while giving her a little shove on her shoulder, then a little louder, "I just wish you'd stop by more often, my dear. And by the way, my phone still works!"

"Ok, ok! I get the hint!" Zim countered back, knowing that Brie was now standing next to her. "Hey, ready to tackle dinner now?" As she turned to face her.

"Oh, sure! Sorry about the delay..." she started to apologize.

"No need to apologize for nature." Zim turned back to Sal. "So, lead on, O Great Chef of Amphipolis!"

"Humph! No respect! Simply, no respect!" Sal drawled out as he flipped his head in the air and started walking into the dining room. Zim and Brie followed behind, Zim grinning impishly at her friend while Brie was still trying to take all of this in.

Zim leaned toward him as they were walking, "Hey, where did you get the name for this place anyway?"

Sal turned slightly back to her as he was walking, "Frankly, I found it in some obscure book on Greek history. The name seemed to jump out at me, and so I always remembered it and decided it was the perfect name for my place." They had arrived in the middle of the large, domed building.

He seated them at one of the best tables in the restaurant, one that was situated next to the well-maintained indoor garden that evoked the style of an ancient Greek courtyard. There were many replicas of Greek statues, an intricately designed fountain in the middle that gurgled softly with the water flow, and much greenery placed 'just so' to compliment the structures. "Will this do, my dear ladies?" Sal asked, bowing as he pulled out a seat for Brie.

"Oh, yes!" she breathed out, sitting in the proffered chair and allowing herself to be pushed in and settled at the table. She looked up at Sal with a huge smile on her face. "This is absolutely wonderful! It's a fabulous looking place that you've got here. I've always wanted to come here for dinner, but never got a chance, until now that is..." the last said as she shyly looked over at Zim who had promptly seated herself opposite of Brie.

"Well, I'm glad you like the décor. Let's hope the food is to your liking as well!" Sal countered to her as he straightened up and motioned to one of the waiters. A tall, well-built blonde man came quickly to the table and stood, almost at attention. "Ladies," Sal said to both of them, "this is Alan, he will be your waiter for the evening. Just crook your finger and he will come right over, isn't that so, Alan?"

"Absolutely, Sal. Anything that I can get for you, just let me know," the last said to Brie and Zim as he handed them their menus.

"Thanks, Alan." Zim said taking her menu and looking up into the gray eyes of this young man in acknowledgment and recognition, maintaining anonymity.

Alan smiled back in acknowledgment and said lightly, "Would you care to start with an appetizer? Crab stuffed mushroom caps are excellent tonight. In addition, we have Fresh Mediterranean Mixers to start the summer, well, actually, push the summer season; both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The list is in your supplement section of the menu."

Zim looked over her menu at Brie and asked, "Do you like mushrooms?"

"Oh, I adore stuffed mushrooms!" she said, as she glanced over her menu at Zim.

"Ok, Alan, we'll have the mushrooms and I'll have the Strawberry-Melon Mixer, no alcohol. Brie, did you decide on a drink to start with?"

"Yes, the Strawberry-Kiwi looks great!"

"Is that also without alcohol?" Alan asked, taking mental notes of the order.

"Ummm, oh, yea..." Brie said with some hesitation, looking shyly at Zim then back up to Alan, "of course no alcohol!" she finished a little too emphatically.

"I'll bring those right out." Alan said and turned his heel to go.

Zim pretended not to notice the struggle that just went on, chalking it up to jitters. But she did suddenly become aware of the slight shake of the menu in Brie's hands. Her senses felt a wave of uneasiness, but again she brushed it off. 'I don't know her well enough,' she thought to herself, 'maybe she shakes like that when she's nervous...' She turned back to her menu and looked at the selection, trying to decide what she was in the mood for tonight. 'Hmm, pasta? No. Chicken? Hmm, maybe. Ah, fish! Let's see, no..., nope..., ooo, Salmon with Dill Sauce... yum!' She looked over her menu and saw that Brie was still intently looking at hers. "Find anything to your liking?"

"What? Oh, I'm not sure what looks good to me right now. Any recommendations?" Brie smiled brightly at Zim, her head cocked to one side just slightly.

Zim took in a sudden intake of air, her breath catching at the sight of red gold hair framing the sparkling green eyes, invoking a feeling of sudden familiarity - almost a déjà vu experience. Her meditations at night that mellowed her into sound sleep always focused on her place of peace - a meadow on a small ridge that overlooked a stream leading into a gentle pool of water. The sky was blue and flocked with puffy clouds allowing the warm sun to wash over the meadow. Usually she imagined herself laying quietly on the grassy slope, letting the sun warm her body and breathe energy into her, but lately, when she drifted off to sleep, her vision continued into her dreams. She was still lying on her grassy slope, but whenever she raised her head to take in the stream and pool there stood a figure of a young woman. She was holding a staff and dressed in a costume of ancient design, and when she turned to face Zim, she smiled broadly and looked... just like Brie.

The sudden realization hit Zim like a ton of bricks. The dreams had been coming back to her, similar to ones she had had as a child and into her teens. She thought that she had found the woman in her dreams before...

"Zim? Is something wrong?"

Brie's voice broke Zim out of her reverie. "Huh? Oh, no... just... something came to mind from earlier today. It's nothing... sorry to get distracted. What were you saying?"

"I asked if you had any recommendations."

"Oh, well, I decided on the Salmon with Dill Sauce. And I'm sure that Sal will cook it to perfection."

"But, he's the owner! Doesn't he have someone else to do the cooking?"

"Oh, I'm sure," Zim said, leaning over the table towards her, "but I'm also sure that he will grab our order and cook it himself!" She finished with a wink and a crooked smile. She leaned back as Alan brought their drinks over and set them down in front of them with a flourish.

"Your mushroom caps will be ready in a few moments. Have you decided on your entrée?"

"I have, have you, Brie?"

Brie looked over as a chill went down her spine at just the sound of her name from this woman's lips. She wasn't quite sure what to make of this feeling and pushed it aside. It was actually warring with the rest of her body that seemed to be rebelling on her. Her stomach was churning, her muscles were aching and she had the beginning of another wicked headache behind her eyes. 'God, I hope I'm not coming down with anything...' She was determined to go through with this evening, despite feeling a bit under the weather. "I... can't really decide on the Chicken Marsala or the Salmon that Zim mentioned. Any suggestions?" she looked up questioningly at Alan.

"Well, both of them are excellent choices. The salmon is fresh and the chicken is marvelous tonight - I already had a sample of it!" he winked at Brie and she giggled slightly at his friendly gesture.

"Ok, I'll have the chicken. And could I have a diet coke with my meal?"

"Certainly, anything else for you? And what kind of dressing on your salad?" he turned to Zim and nodded.

"Iced tea with my meal, would be fine. And of course, Sal's Pepper Parmesan is the only thing to have on the salad!"

"And for your dressing?" he turned back towards Brie.

"The same, I guess. I suppose I can trust your taste in dressing," she said to Zim, "the dessert last night was wonderful!"

"Oh, you mean you stayed and finished it?"

"Of course, I couldn't just let it go to waste!" she jibed back at Zim.

Alan interrupted, "I'll be right back with your appetizer."

"Thanks, Alan," Brie said absently as her concentration was still on Zim. "So, you were going to tell about how you got two black belts, weren't you?" This said while reaching for her drink and then taking a sip when she finished speaking.

"Yea, I think we left it at something like that last night. Ok, I'll tell you that while you tell me why you got a divorce." Zim reached for her drink and brought it to her lips while waiting for a response. It didn't take long.

"What? ...Who? ... How did you know..." Brie sputtered at the blue eyes that seemed to drill into her with knowing depth.

"Take it easy, I'm just very perceptive and very observant. There's still an indentation and tan line on your left ring finger that indicates that you wore a band there for a while. With the anxious state that you were in yesterday and the great attention that you paid to the second speaker, I could see how much you related and deduced the answer from the pieces. That simple." Zim sat there calmly surveying the features of the young woman across from her. She knew that she struck a cord somewhere in that being and she didn't want it to rebound on her too quickly.

"Ok... I didn't think that it was that obvious..." Brie sat back in her chair as she realized that she was leaning forward over the table. "I'm just... still... unsettled about the whole thing, that's all. I didn't mean to jump on you about it. Sorry."

"It's ok. I'm sometimes a little too... blunt for my own good."

Just then Alan came over to the table with the mushroom caps and placed them between them along with two appetizer plates. "Be careful, ladies, the plate is very hot. Enjoy, and I'll bring your salads out when you're through with this." He promptly turned and left them to their privacy.

Brie picked up the thread of the conversation, "I've been... on edge a lot lately. So I guess any comment from anyone would seem too blunt for me. I'll... share with you what I can about my self, but..."

"Brie," Zim said quietly leaning over the table and starting to cut apart the cheese covered mushrooms, "I understand. I know what you're going through right now. That's why I'm here talking with you." She portioned out the appetizer onto both plates, and pushed the baking dish to the side. "I know the ways of the Universe. I've learned to give back what I've received." She sat back in her chair and started to cut apart a mushroom on her plate. She looked over at Brie. It was like looking at a trapped rabbit. "Are you ok?"

Brie looked down at her plate, her teeth biting into her upper lip in concentration. She felt like she was caught in a whirlpool and couldn't get out. She wanted so much to relate what she was feeling to Zim, but something was holding her back. And the pressure in her head seemed to get stronger while the churning in her stomach didn't want to let up on her. Her senses seemed to be betraying her. Her mouth suddenly went dry and she heard ringing in her ears. She looked up and saw that the room was rushing in on her. Fear welled up from the pit of her stomach and she felt... lost.

"Brie..." No answer. "Brie!" said a little louder. Brie finally looked up at Zim but her eyes weren't focused. "Talk to me!" That got through to her...

"I can't! Don't you see? I ..." Brie said loudly as she pushed off from the table to stand wavering at it's edge. All feeling seemed to leave her and her world went black...

Zim saw the blank fear in Brie's eyes as she rose from her chair. Saw Brie's whole body shaking and knew instinctively what was happening. She bounded out of her chair and around the table, catching Brie and pulling her towards her just as her head was about to contact the corner of the table.

She collapsed with her to the floor as the diners around them gasped in surprise and stared excessively at the scene. Zim clutched her to her body for a moment longer than she should have, and then felt Brie's forehead for the fever she knew was there. The older woman at the table next to them was watching the happenings with a look of distaste. Zim looked her in the eye, "I think she's got the flu that's going around, ma'am. Hope you don't catch it..."

Alan had seen what happened and went quickly to get Sal. Both of them rushed to the table to see what they could do. Zim was already moving to get up off of the floor. Sal crouched down next to her. "Is she alright? Want me to call an ambulance or something?"

"No, Sal, don't." She put her free hand on his arm and leaned toward him. "I'm afraid she's detoxing and I need to get her someplace where she can get through it safely. It's too late to check her in somewhere." Sal nodded in agreement, seeing the woman's body already racked with the sweats and shakes. "Sal, I'm going to take her to my place until she gets through this."

"Ok, don't worry about this," he swept his hand to the table, "I'll cover it. But sweetie, your food is almost ready..." He grinned at her as he helped her get up while she kept Brie tightly in her arms. "Tell you what, you go do what you've got to do about getting her out of here and I'll 'doggy bag' everything for you. No charge. But you owe me one... big time!"

"Thanks Sal," Zim called over her shoulder to him as she carried the limp body of her new friend out to the door. He followed her and mumbled to himself as he walked. Sal moved ahead of Zim to the door to open it for her. "Look, I'm going to take her in my truck. She has a blue sedan parked over there near the front. Keep an eye out for it until I can get back here to retrieve it."

"Ok, no problem! Just go - take care of her. Geesh, what you won't do to get a woman in your bed nowadays!" he threw at her as she was walking toward her truck. She had shifted the woman's body so that it lay more against her shoulder. The smell of her hair and the perfume that she wore was getting quickly inscribed on her brain. Zim reached the passenger side of her truck and deftly opened the door barely shifting the body in her arms. She gently placed Brie on the seat and belted her in, then rushed around to the driver's side to get in.

Zim looked over to see that Brie would be ok while she drove. Brie moaned slightly and shifted her body a bit, but didn't seem in danger of hurting herself. Zim started the truck and put it into gear, driving slowly to the exit of the parking lot. Sal stopped her at the corner of the building. She leaned her head out of the window a bit. "What is it, Sal?"

"Zim, don't forget your meal! And give me a call later to let me know how she's doing." He looked over at Brie's prone form and then glanced back up at Zim. "Sorry she's got to go through this. It's not easy..." He shook his head.

"No, it's not... and she can't go through it alone. I don't even think that she knows what she's going through. I think that she had the impression that she didn't really drink that much. But looking at her and what she's got to go through, I know that she indulged herself...tons more than she'll admit to." She looked at her again, wondering just why she was putting herself through this. Holding up the bag that Sal had just given her, she said, "Thanks for the meal. Much appreciated. Talk to you soon."

"Great, look forward to your voice on the phone... please let me know. Call the restaurant... I like the kid..."

"I will, Sal, I will. Let me get her someplace... safe." Saying this as she shifted into gear and pulled out of the parking lot and into traffic. She headed the truck south, away from the city and towards home.

As she drove on, her thoughts came tumbling to the surface and she started to talk out loud, to herself and to Brie, knowing that the younger woman was out of it. "Well, Zim, this certainly isn't the way you thought the evening would go! Quiet dinner. Get to know each other a little more. Find out why the hell you invade my dreams..." She looked over at Brie, briefly checking her condition, which hadn't seemed to change much. She was still shivering and the sweat was starting to bead up on her face more. "Damn! Got to get you home so you can be more comfortable. I can't stop what's going to happen to you, I can only ease the symptoms a little bit. The rest you have to do... on your own. But not alone."

Zim turned off the highway and onto the southeastern route that would take her to the farm. "Just a few more miles, Brie." Looking at her again, even in the tough shape that she was in, Zim could only smile and feel a little lurch in her stomach. She thought that she had seen the face of her dream before, but now that the dreams were back and clearer, she could see that this face matched the one in her dreams. And somehow, she had to keep her in her life. She knew that yesterday, when Brie walked into the hall, chatting with that other woman. 'I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Her face, her hair, her walk, everything about her was so familiar.'

The truck reached the turn off for the farm. Zim slowed the truck just enough to take the turn and pulled it to the right. "Just one more mile, kiddo. You can make it!" Going down the road as fast as she dared, she brought the truck to a skidding stop in front of the gate to the farm. She jumped out and pushed the gate open enough to drive through, got back in the truck and pulled it up enough to close the gate. She vaulted for the driver's side again as she sensed that Brie was getting worse. Sure enough, the shakes had started in earnest...


Zim swung the truck around the main house and headed for the large barn, driving around to the side where her attached apartment was. She pulled the truck around so that the passenger side door was even with her apartment door. Jumping out of her side, she ran to the apartment door and opened it wide. She then rushed back to the truck and opened the passenger side carefully, making sure that Brie didn't lean out too far.

Quickly unbuckling the seat belt, she leaned in and scooped up the younger woman with a tender caring that she hadn't felt in a long time. Pulling her out of the seat and straightening up, Zim shifted the weight of the woman so that her head rested in the crook of Zim's neck. She once again smelled the scent of her and felt the press of her body close to hers. She felt it was the closest she had ever come to exquisite agony.

Zim swung around and picked a foot up to kick the truck door closed, then carefully maneuvered herself and Brie through the door. Walking purposely through the living room she pushed the door to her bedroom open and walked over to the bed. She gently placed Brie down on top of the covers, pulling her arms out from underneath. Zim straightened up and looked down at the red haired woman, struggling with herself not to lay down next to her and hold her in her arms to protect her from the pain that she knew she was going through. She shook her head from side to side and took in a few deep breaths. "Why do I have the feeling that I'm going to regret this?" Looking back down at Brie, "This is not how dinner was supposed to go!"

End of part 2


Part 3 coming up soon!