Disclaimer- Nope, no disclaimer, I don't need any for this story. All the characters are mine (laughs) Well, true, the characters are mine, but keep in mind that this is an Uber story which means the two main characters are incarnations of Xena and Gabrielle. Xena and Gab on the other hand, aren't mine and no copyright infringement is intended. Though I should probably disclaimer the use of my high school.
Oh, well.
The places, streets and locations are real. I didn't see any need to make them up. I figured since this is my first Uber try, I might as well not bother myself with research of a place I don't know, right? Right.
This story is purely fiction. There is mild violence (well what can ya say? Jo is an incarnation of Xena and our lovable warrior does tend to be a violent person at times) There is mild language, and subtext-turned-maintext. If the idea of two female persons in love get your shorts in a wad, go read a nice piece of general fiction. People fall in love with people, not with genders. If love offends you, you have my sincerest condolences. I feel bad. If love is illegal in your state, move. Now.
Nothing goes into graphic detail, I try to stick to PG-13. You might consider it R, let's not get into a debate on ratings. I'm tired of all the alt stories that are just filled with no-holds-barred, rip roaring orgy scenes, five minutes into the story. (for example, PWP stories). If that's what makes you tick, drop me a line, I can recommend some very talented bards for you.
Good god. Please people, let's not use Xena fan fics as an excuse for porno. Well all is said that needs to be said, on to the story...
Remembering the Past
by A. Lawless

Many pairs of eyes peered catiously from behind the shadows in the mostly deserted hallway, watching the scene unfold before them. A well built young man with wavy brown hair and chocolate eyes stood rooted in place, fidgeting and glacing nervously up and down the hallway for someone to help him. To save his ass. His left hand was fingering the bottom of his cardinal red and gold football jersey out of habit. The students hiding in classroms, watching through the windows were merely content to watch, nobody was crazy enough to help him out. Because rescuing him meant dealing with Jo.
The cause of his immobilization was standing right in front of him. The one closest to him was Joann Lawless, who's mere glare caused him to freeze, too terrified to even breathe. At least he was breathing, but he was afraid what would happen if Jo knew that. Christ, he was hopeless. Standing just behind her to his left was Justin, and behind her to his right was Jon, both with their arms crossed and doing nothing but looking menacing.
Finally words were spoken in the tense silence.
"Hand it over." She growled in demand. Her tone indicated that she meant business and wasn't kidding around.
Stephen didn't move at first. He suddenly had a vision that standing in front of him was a vicious panther, steel coiled muscles rippling beneath the surface of a shiny, smooth black coat of fur, a low and threatening growl seeping between it's clenched, razor sharp teeth, slowly slinking closer, preparing to make a strike at it's prey. He gulped and Jo watched, amused, as she noticed his Adam's Apple bob up and down. She smiled ferally in the pleasure that she knew he was scared shitless of her.
"Well?!" She barked suddenly, echoing in the otherwise silent and still hallway, and causing Stephen to jump six inches into the air and into a flurry of motion. He dropped his back pack on the ground uncerimoniously and began fumbling for the wallet in his back pocket. He knew better than to resist. Jo alone could pound the crap out of him and send him to 6 long agonizing months in the hospital, but she wasn't alone. Oh no, he wasn't just facing Jo, he was facing Cerebus.
Jo Lawless, Jon Siglain, and Justin Moore were notoriously known throughout the whole school. Everyone called them Cerebus behind their backs, speaking of the three-headed dog who guarded the gateway to the Underworld. Trying to stand up to Cerebus was like trying to learn how to surf. After a second you think you've got everything under control and you grin to yourself like a fool, and then you eat it. Badly. And you wondered what the hell drug you were on that made you crazy enough to even think about trying it in the first place.You stepped aside when the trio walked down the hallway. It was a rule. They always got their way. Always.
Jo alone could seriously pound the crap out of anyone in the school. Not that she usually did, because most people were smart enough not to mess with her or get in her way, but when somebody stupid enough challenged her, Jo never backed down. She taught the mental idiot their lesson. But with the three of them combined, they were invincible. Rulers of the school.
She smirked as he finally pulled it out, and wordlessly handed it over with trembling hands. She opened the wallet and pulled out the crisp bills. Thumbing through the money, one dark eyebrow arched upward as she proceeded to count the amount. "Born with a silver spoon in our mouths, eh?" She chuckled evilly as she pocketed the money. "You know the rule."
It wasn't a question. Of course he knew the rule. Everyone did. Tell a soul about anything they did to you, and you were tossed around like a chew toy between a three headed dog. Ripped into shreds. Half of his brain was telling him to be disgusted with himself. Here he was a senior, and captain of the Wilson High School football team, and he was surrendering to three juniors: two dipshit little boys and a girl. But the other half of his brain was praising him for his quick aquiescence to Jo's demands, because therefore he would live to see the next day. Intellegience won out over pride and he nodded and gulped again.
"Have a nice day." She grinned, snapping her fingers, and turned to her right to walk down the hallway, in that cocky swagger she's had since she was old enough to stand on two feet. Jon and Justin gave him one last glare and followed her like two servants, wordlessly. Sighing, relievedly, Stephen crouched down to pick up his forgotten backpack. He stood and looked around the deserted hallway once again, praying to the powers that be that nobody saw that horribly embarassing incident. He was unaware of the eyes watching him through glass windows and behind shadows of lockers. Waiting until he was sure Jo was gone, he shifted his backpack on his shoulder and left, glad that school was over for the day.
Once the hallway was empty, the students who had been watching all along snickered among themselves, preparing to add the story of this event to the ever expanding gossip mill. His reputation was toast.
As soon as they exited the building, Jo stopped and pulled out the money again. "Add him to the list." The money was split into three equal groups, and she handed them their portions.
"Captain of the football team, Stephen Fraser. Well that's a nice little addition to your 'resumé'." Justin joked. He grinned at her while he tried to pull out a notebook from his backpack and shove the handful of money in his back pocket simultaneously. Finally his brain tapped him on the shoulder and he handed Jon the backpack. He thumbed through the bills Jo gave him before putting it in his own wallet, while Jon got the notebook.
"Who woulda thought you could make that muscle-brain turn white as Caesar's ghost and practically piss in his pants?" Jon laughed as he pulled out the blue, dog-earred notebook with a cover filled with mindless doodling, done during idle class time.. "I was trying so hard not to just crack up." He opened it and peered at the writing inside.
"I gotta say that was damn funny." Justin admitted, while grabbing the ragged notebook and quickly writing in a messy script. Satisfied that he would at least be able to decipher it later, he shoved it back in his backpack.
She lifted an eyebrow at them. "Well, I'm glad I could keep you amused." A pause. The hairs on the back of her neck suddenly stood up and along with that came the sudden awareness that she was being watched. A few seconds more and she pinned his location, anger beginning to brew in the pit of her stomach. Instead of storming off half-cocked, she took a deep breath. Forming a plan, she decided not to clue her stalker into the fact that she knew where he was, and she started forward. "Come on. Let's go blow this cash somewhere." With that, they walked through gated archways towards the student parking lot.
He watched her stride down the hallway, with her two hounds, trailing at her heels, his presence unknown to them. Or at least he thought. It was kinda sick the way Brian was so preoccupied with beautiful girls these days. She was pretty tall, around 5'9", so she had long legs. She was wearing a snug, white spaghetti strap tank top and blue denim shorts. He enjoyed the display of skin. He frowned as he realized he was staring. Aw, hell. Who wouldn't stare at her? That hair, dark as a moonless night, those incredible, piercing, ice blue eyes, those legs...damn, she had a body that made him drool. Any straight guy with a thimble full of testosterone would drool at the sight of her. You either felt one of two things about her. Either you hated her guts, or you were smitten with her. The irony of it was ridiculous. The most hated girl in any high school in Long Beach, California was also the most desired. He decided it was a cruel joke from Somebody Up There. Silently, he slipped out of his hiding spot and followed her.
She was getting annoyed.
Just plain, damn, annoyed.
She knew Brian Hunt had followed them to the Lakewood mall, but they had been spending money left and right for 3 hours now and he was still stalking her. He was being incredibly careless about being inconspicuous. Did he think she wouldn't notice when he got on the same city bus as them? He also followed too closely behind. She never rubber-necked and actually turned around or turned her head to look at him, but instead used mirrors, glass, and other reflective surfaces that naturally appeared in the mall to keep an eye on him. Being the paranoid gal she was, she learned how to figure out when someone was tailing her and appear completely oblivious at the same time.
Seriously resisting the urge to turn right around and give Brian a good, swift kick in the groin and making a big scene, she decided against it and chose to trap him instead.
They entered a music store to check out some new cds. She lead Jon and Justin straight into the corner, making sure her back was turned Brian, and pretended to be 100% interested in the cds on the rack in front of her. Picking up a random cd and turning it over to glance at the songs on it, she whispered, "Hey."
Jon and Justin, who were to her right side picked up on her soft whisper and leaned a bit closer to her.
"You guys know that guy Brian Hunt?" They glanced at each other for a second, then at her, and nodded.
She put the cd back and grabbed another random one. "He's been following us for the last 3 hours." She stated in a even voice. "You're shittin' me!" Jon fiercely whispered back. He started to spin around, then stopped as Justin backhanded him on the shoulder.
"Well don't turn around numb nuts!" He winced at Jon hit him back. "So what are we gonna do to him? Catch him?" He grinned. Which turned into a smirk at Jon when she nodded. For that, Jon hit him again, and he reciprocated. Then they started arguing and shoving each other.
"Hey! Knock it off!" She hissed. They didn't seem to even notice she was there. Jo let out a long sigh. "Boys." She muttered under her breath.
Both of them stopped pushing each other. "Huh?" They blurted in concert.
She shook her head. "Nevermind. Just follow me." Putting the cd back in it's place, they left the music store and continued through the mall. They passed through the center of the mall, past the carousel, weaving through the crowd of children waiting their turn and parents trying to contain their hyper active children, then turned abruptly to right into a small wing which led to glass exit doors. She glanced at the reflection in the doors to see if he was right behind them, which he wasn't. She motioned to Jon and Justin to stand against the wall with her, where Brian wouldn't be able to see them from where he was approaching. A few seconds later, he turned into the wing, not seeing them until Jon and Justin jumped him, hooking their arms through his, holding them behind his back. He grunted and began to struggle. "Hey! Let me go!"
Jo looked around, glad that they were the only occupants in the wing. She narrowed her eyes as she watched him try to squirm his was away from them, but Jon and Justin were strong and he was unsuccessful. "Don't you think I know you've been following me like a demented stalker for the past 3 and a half hours?" She rasped. The anger began to brew again, and this time she let it grow, feeling the immense power of it running just under the surface of her skin, and waiting for the proper time to unleash it upon her victim. Her eyes bore into his, so much so that he looked anywhere but those chips of ice slightly lower than his own hazel eyes. He made no reply, and instead tried again to loosen the iron-like grips on his arms.
Brian began to develop a feeling of trepidation. Watching Jo's body language, he was guessing she was gonna kick him in the crotch. Now it was common knowledge that Jo was captain of the varsity soccer team ever since she was a freshman. She played forward and had the meanest kick ever possesed by any soccer player this side of Mount Olympus. So he was guessing that she was getting ready it kick him in the balls so hard they would come out of his eardrums.
She wouldn't dissapoint him. At least not completely.
Finally, when she grew tired of his silence and petty attempts at escape, she gave into her temptation, and delivered a solid knee strike to his groin, grinning in primal satisfaction as his eyes bulged out and he let out a high pitched squeaking sound. "I don't belive I've ever heard I guy make that kind of sound before." His face began to turn crimson, the vein in his forehead stood out starkly, and he doubled over as far as Jon and Justin's grip on him would allow. "If I ever catch you following me again, I will rip your arms off and beat you to death with them. Understand?" With each word she took a small step closer. After he partially recovered from the pain, he stood up straighter and nodded slightly. Then she unexpectedly tilted her head up and kissed him, running her tongue over his lips before she pulled back slightly. "I mean it." She warned, before she turned on her heel and motioned for Jon and Justin to follow her.
After a moment of shocked silence, they roughly let go of his arms and gave him a shove before they followed her out of the wing.
Brian licked his lips and decided he liked the taste.
"Um...what the hell just happened back there?" Jon asked, jerking his thumb over his shoulder towards the wing, confused as they followed her through the mall. They definetly did *not* see that one coming.
"Relax. I'm just playing with his mind. Trying to do as much damage as possible." She explained. Well, it was true. Brian was cute and all, but...face it, he was an asshole. What kind of a twisted psycho follows people around for 3 hours? Besides, that evil side she had in her told her it would be soooo much fun to toy with Brian's heart for a while, then rip it to pieces. She knew that that was incredibly harsh and cruel, but the dark side won out, and she found herself grinning as she began to make a list of the things she would do to him. Jon and Justin remained quiet, still not buying it. She sensed an air of uneasiness around them and sighed. Stopping, she turned around to face them. "Look, I just told him that if he follows me again he's gonna get pounded." They nodded. "Ok, so after that kiss I just gave him, that'll guarantee he'll be following me again for a while. So it gives me an excuse to beat his brains out. Get it?" She explained patiently, as if to a child. Most men are.
A flicker of understanding came over their faces and they nodded again. "Come on, let's get out of here."
"Thanks for the ride Mrs. Moore" Jo grinned at Justin's mom as she climbed out of the car. She had to get a ride home since her car was still in the garage, being repaired.
"You're very welcome dear." She smiled back at her.
"Later." Justin mumbled. He was too busy messing around with the car radio to look up. Jo rolled her eyes. Boys. She shut the door and watched as they drove away, Justin finally tearing his attention away from the radio to look out the window, smile and wave. She waved back.
She liked Justin's mom. She was always very nice and treated her like she was her own daughter. Which meant a lot to Jo because her mother passed away when she was just a baby. She didn't have any memories of her. She wished she did. But Justin's mom always wished that Jo and Justin were just a little closer. She had once told Jo that she thought they made a cute couple.
She shuddered, weirded out by the thought.
She just didn't feel any real attraction to him. Which is surprising to Jo because Justin was fairly good-looking. He was a few inches taller than her and well-built. He had curly locks of golden hair and deep blue eyes, a combination that Jo was partial to. She knew she probably should be attracted, and she found herself questioning if she was... Ah, that's not it, Jo hastily assured herself. We've just been best friends almost all our lives and I can't think of him as anything more. That's why. That's all. Perfectly good reason. I am not gay. Sheesh Jo, talk about completely farfetched conclusions, she chastised herself for letting her imagination go off in a tangent.
She sighed as she walked up the steps of her house.
Ok, so a lot of people thought didn't classify it as a house. It was a mansion. An incredibly large house on Bennett Street in the upper-class neighborhood of Belmont Heights, white massive white pillars at the entrance. It was kind of ridiculously large considering she and her father were it's only occupants.
She keyed in the code on the small keypad on the right side of the intricately designed French doors, under the doorbell. Her father insisted that they use the security system instead of a normal key and lock. It irritated her because her father was paranoid and he changed the code whenever he got the chance. Guess that's where I get my paranoia from. She had trouble trying to memorize the new codes so she ended up getting locked out sometimes. At times like those she stayed at Jon's or Justin's.
Fortunately, the last time she saw her dad was a month ago so she remembered the code. Her father was a majorly successful corporate lawyer and he was constantly gone on trips and stuff. That made her extremely mad at him because not only did she not have a mother, but it was also like she had no father either. Sometimes it was like she had no family at all and she was all on her own.
She pushed open the heavy door, and switched on the light by the doorway. She illuminated the house as she moved through it. Before long, she had a small shadow in the form of her cat following her. He was a dark auburn color with green eyes and a tail as long as his body. He wrapped that appendage around her as she headed for the kitchen to feed him. After pouring out his food, along with some water, she crouched down beside him to stroke his silky fur for minute. Her mind began to wander towards the "Non-attraction towards Justin" problem again. Giving her cat one last stroke, she murmured, "Good boy," and stood. Grabbing a soda from the refridgerator, she headed out of the kitchen, into the family room, up the grand staircase two steps at a time and into her room at the end of the hall.
She needed to lay down and think.
Light trickled from the window from in between the blinds, a single stripe creeping across the light blue and white comforter on the queen size bed, where ice blue eyes pinned it there. Damn blinds. The bed's occupant was seemingly wide awake, unusual for her at this digustingly early hour.
For the next few minutes, she rolled over and tried to slip back into the comfortable haze that was sleep. Frustrated at not being able to slip back into a peaceful oblivion, she threw the covers off of her and trudged out of bed and into the bathroom. Flicking on the light, she walked over to the mirror and turned the cold sink water on. After she splashed a handful on her face, she looked up and studied her reflection.
Alert pale blue eyes gazed back at her. Her long, black hair was slightly disheveled but not that bad. Since her mom had black hair and her dad was half Irish, half something-or-other that she constantly forgot, she inherited this strange combination of dark hair and baby blue eyes.
"Morning." She spoke to the reflection. Water dripped down her chin as she splashed another handful on her face. Since there was nothing else to do at this hour, she decided to get ready for school early.
The tardy bell rang and echoed through the halls as students scrambled to get to their 1st period classes. Jo was already in hers, sitting in the back of the room where she usually did, sketching doodles on her notebook while the other students seated themselves. Nobody had ever expected her to be on time to class, given her reputation for being the bad-ass queen of the school. But she was always on time. What shocked them even more was her straight A's. Nobody would have ever imagined that the school bully had a perfect 4.0.
The fact that she got good grades helped her out sometimes. She'd had one principal who wanted her out in the worst way, with only one thing blocking his case.
She was a straight A student.
Must drive them all nuts. Honors everything, advanced placement, the whole nine yards. It frustrates her friends, what few there were, by her ability to breeze through classes with little studying, and less preparation.
Like once she was caught vandalizing the gym, but she never got expelled like the rest of the kids did. Expelling a student who's on the honor roll and was bucking for class valedictorian just didn't do.
She looked up as Jon and Justin scrambled into their seats on either side of her. She glanced at the clock. "Wow. You're actually early. I don't believe it. This is not happening." She exclaimed sarcastically. They both beamed at her.
The teacher, a rotund man with wavy black hair and light hazel eyes, walked into the classroom, suspiciously glancing at the motionless students. Satisfied that every one was properly behaving, he took his jacket off, placed it on the back of his chair, and launched into a series of questions towards the class that reviewed the material they had covered last week
Sometime had passed before he stopped his questions and turned on the overhead, writing down math equations. "Alright, class. This is basic stuff you learned last year, which you need to reacquaint yourselves with in order for us to proceed and begin learning new stuff. I want these finished by the end of class." He announced.
A few minutes later, the door creaked open and in stepped the 11th grade counselor, Mrs. Nye, along with a stranger. Jo went right back to her work. Oh great...a new kid. She thought to herself in irritation. Then her dark side offered it's own comment. A new victim. She grinned as she continued the simple equations.
"Students." The counselor's voice spoke out. The sound of it made Jo's guts turn over. It reminded her of nails scratching a chalk board. She didn't look up from her work. "This is a new student to our school." Duh, you moron. God, this woman had the uncanny knack for stating the painfully obvious. "Students, I want you to meet Tori Callaghan." Jo, seemingly ignoring the new girl's arrival, listened with half an ear, while she continued to work.
She soon became aware of footsteps heading her way and she realized that the seat behind her was empty and the new girl was probably assigned to sit in it. Hell in a hand basket... Finally, she tore her attention away from her paper and looked up.
Straight into incredible sea green eyes.
Something inside her heart lurched. Whoa..what in the hell was that?
Standing in front of her was a petit blonde girl with shoulder length hair, wearing a baby blue spaghetti strapped tank top with dark blue flares.
Jo took another moment to study her. The sunlight pouring into the classroom from the open windows brought out the faint strawberry red highlights in her hair, giving her somewhat of an angelic glow. Her eyes uncannily matched the ocean Jo saw outside of her bedroom window every sunny morning.
Tori looked at her from under long, golden eyelashes, and gave her a friendly smile. "Hi. Mind if I take that seat back there?" Her tone was friendly and Jo was having trouble finding her tongue.
"Um..uh, hi...I..um.." Jo stuttered. Just great Jo. You sound real intelligent there. Justin snickered next to her and she kicked him viciously in the shin.
"Ow!" He snarled.
Finally, she regained her ability to speak like human being. "Sure." God I sound like an idiot.
Tori seated herself at the desk behind her and started opening her backpack.
Tori wasn't sure what to make of this girl. A golden skinned girl with midnight dark hair looked back at her, the lean body slouched back in the seat, with her legs stretched out as much as possible, arms crossed against her chest. Tori blinked, and was captured by the bluest, clearest eyes she'd ever seen, that drilled right through her with a blast of cool intensity, and a strange, almost haunting glimpse of something familiar. She was wearing dark blue denim jeans, and matching denim jacket with a light blue Roxy Surf Team shirt underneath. As she sat down, her mind pondered over her reaction. Nobody had ever gotten tongue-tied when they first met her. Hmm...
Great, just what we need. A prep sittin back here, able to hear every word we say. She turned her attention back to her equations. Or at least she tried. She could no longer concentrate and she kept getting the wrong answer over and over again. Damn. She tried to make sense of the reaction she had to first looking into Tori's eyes. She had never felt that before. So, since it was something new to her, she ignored it.
She turned as she felt a tap on her shoulder. A sudden jolt of electricity sparked from Tori's touch. Trying to ignore it, Jo pasted what she hoped to be an irritated look on her face before she turned around.
"Hi, um..I don't think I quite caught your name. I'm Tori." She offered her hand.
Jo thought about not answering her, so she was surprised when she heard her voice answering, "I'm Jo." She briefly shook her hand, then turned back around.
Jo knew she was supposed to dislike the girl, as with all other preps, because of who she was. She was a rebel and a bully, who ruled the school with her fists. She hated that naive, innocent, goody-two-shoes personality that they had. But there was something inside of her that didn't want to hate Tori at all. But she would pretend she did, for her reputation's sake.
The bell rang and the other students stood up and turned their papers in at the teacher's desk. Jo mentally kicked herself for not finishing. Sighing, she slammed her binder shut and shoved it in her backpack. Hastily standing up, she grabbed the sheet of paper remaining on her desk, walked up to the teacher's desk and added her half-filled paper to the pile. Jon and Justin did the same and followed her out of the classroom, and after a few seconds, so did Tori. She caught up to Jo, as she was hustling down the hallway, and put a hand on Jo's shoulder, causing her to turn around.
"What?" She growled, annoyed. She narrowed her eyes at the blonde girl and gave her a glare that would knock a lesser person clear into next week. Jon and Justin gave the two of them a look, then headed down a different hallway to the left towards their classes.
"Oh, I was..um...wondering if you could help me and show me where these classes are." She held out her schedule and jumped slightly when Jo snatched it out of her hands. She watched Jo as her ice-blue eyes flicked over the paper quickly, then blinked and did a double take.
Shit. Tori had the exact same schedule as her, with the exception of 8th period, the sports period, where Jo had soccer but Tori had softball. But that wasn't much of a difference either since the soccer and softball teams shared the same locker room, and their practice fields were adjacent to each other. She glanced up at Tori, who was patiently waiting. She flicked the paper back to her and sighed. "Fine."
"You will? Do we have any classes together or something?" Tori glanced at the paper and put it back in her pocket.
"Most of 'em" Jo responded gruffly.
"Really? Oh, that's so cool!" She beamed at Jo.
Well aren't we just a ray of sunshine. Jo kept that thought to herself.
"Can I kinda sit by you in the next class? You know, since I don't know anyone else?" She asked.
Jo hesitated, then mumbled, "Whatever."
Well she's talkative. Tori kept that thought to herself, and followed Jo down the hall.
Tori ended up following Jo all day. She didn't know anyone else and for some reason, she wanted to be friends with this enigmatic girl. Well.. that and the fact that she thought Jo was one hot gal. After going over Jo's reaction to meeting her again through her mind, Tori began to wonder if she might be interested in her. She couldn't figure out the answer to that question though today, because Jo hardly spoke to her, and when she did, it was only an answer to a direct question from Tori that she couldn't avoid. But Tori made it her goal to find out if she had a chance with Jo or not.
The two guys that she always hung out with, Jon and Justin, were frankly rude, answering her questions and comments with crude remarks, and kept on looking at her funny, until Jo had pulled them aside and muttered something to them. After that they were tolerable. She wished she knew what Jo had said to them.
Dozens of times, she had asked Jo some deeper questions, basically to start a conversation with her, and to find out more about this girl and her past. Jo had just answered briefly and didn't really seem to be interested in conversation.
Lunch was a little different though. As they walked past the different social groups in the cafeteria, Jo had provided a commentary on each of the cliques. Tori thought she just did that so she would be encouraged to find a different group to hang out with.
And she would.
For the rest of the day, Jo found herself being subjected to an annoyingly talkative prep, who tagged along everywhere she went. She even followed her at lunch, making dozens of attempts to get Jo, Jon, or Justin talking as much as she did. They had each responded to her incessant questions with very brief answers that didn't reveal much information to her.
Jo told herself that it would only last a little while, just until she found some other preps to gossip and hang out with. She told Jon and Justin that and gave them instructions not to be too mean to her, for her own reasons. They reluctantly agreed.
Later that night as she lay in bed, unable to fall asleep, she suddenly began thinking about her. She thought about how much she babbled about stupid things. She thought about how annoying it was that she picked Jo to tag-along after. Finally, her last thoughts were about those beautiful green eyes and...Whoa. Slow down, hotshot. Where did that come from?
She shook her head to rid herself of those thoughts. Knock it off Jo, you're not like that.
An hour later, the thoughts boiling in her mind calmed and she finally felt sleep tugging temptingly at the boundaries of her consciousness, and allowed herself to drift off to peaceful slumber.
It was the weirdest dream she ever had. She was sitting in some secluded place in a forest in a strange looking camp. The fire was crackling brightly and warmed her skin. Off to the side, she saw a beautiful horse grazing in the grass. She looked down at herself and found that she was wearing leather, and some strange, heavy armor of some sort. To her left was a sword in it's scabbard resting on the ground and a metal frisbee-looking thing.
All of these thing were strange to Jo. But the weirdest thing was who she was with.
Sitting to her right side was Tori.
She had slightly longer hair, but that was Tori all right, sitting there right next to her, wearing strange clothes.
Suddenly she found herself speaking. It was scary because it was her voice she heard coming out of her mouth, but she hadn't intended to say anything at all. It was as if somebody else were controlling her body.
She listened to herself as she heard a story emerge from her mouth. She told Tori a strange tale of how she once burned an entire village, and was merciless against the villagers.
"No, look you promise me. If something happens to me, you will not become a monster. There's only one way to end this cycle of hatred and it's through love...and forgiveness." She watched as Tori reached over and wiped away tears off her face she didn't even know were there.
"Don't you go changing Gabrielle, I like you just the way you are." Then she found herself hugging Tori and comforting her. "Go get some sleep." She nodded her head towards the other side of the fire.
"No. No, you promise me." Tori's voice broke as she let her own tears fall.
"I promise." Jo whispered. Then Tori put her chin on Jo's shoulder, and they both gazed pensively into the fire.
Jo sat bolt upright, looking around to get a bearing on her surroundings. She found herself relaxing as she recognized the comforts of her room. Her heartbeat slowed as she found herself lying on her bed, in her bedroom, not in some camp in the damn forest.
What in the goddamned hell was that? What was she doing in my dream?
"That's it. No more chocolate covered strawberries for me before bed." Jo mused aloud.
Glancing at the clock, which displayed a gloomy 5:15 at her, she stomped out of bed and into the bathroom, intent on getting ready for the day.
Over the next few days, Tori had began making friends with the popular group of the school. She stopped tagging after Jo when Jo started being rude to her and showing her very little patience.
She started treating Tori badly after Stephen Fraser made some crack about Jo going soft. After that blow to her reputation, Jo decided that was enough and hoped the way she treated Tori would send her away. It worked.
So today in math, Jo suddenly had the capricious desire to apologize to Tori. After the teacher stopped giving a lecture and gave the students time to work on another set of equations, Jo turned around and tapped on Tori's desk to get her attention. Tori looked up from her paper, where she was concentrating intensely on her work. There was a furrow in her brow and she was biting her lower lip. "Yeah?" Tori asked.
"Um...look. I know that lately I've been treating you like shit." She stated bluntly. "And to tell you the truth, I kinda feel bad about it now. So do ya wanna go get some coffee afterschool? I know it's not much of a peace offering but it's all I can come up with at the moment." She told Tori sincerely.
She barely had time to finish what she was saying before Tori replied. "Yeah, sure." She flashed Jo a grin before she went back to her paper.
Jo had no idea what she was getting herself into.
The last bell rang, freeing the students to their afterschool activities. There were places to go, people to see, lattes to drink, and boyfriends to kiss. But for Jo there was an irritating blonde to make peace with.
Jo looked up from packing up her stuff to see Tori approaching from her seat across the room.
"Ok, so where are we gonna go?" Tori asked.
Jo looked up and met Tori's emerald green eyes, and Jo felt a little bit of her heart melt. A blond, raised eyebrow clued her into the fact that she was staring, and she blushed faintly. "Oh, I know this great coffee place over by the Lakewood mall, called Mother Mudd's." Jo finished putting her stuff away and opened the door for Tori, motioning for her to precede her. She noticed that Tori was struggling with her large softball bag and took it from her hands, easily lifting it onto her shoulder as if it were featherlight.
Momentarily stunned at Jo's actions, Tori recovered and fished for something intellegent to say while trying to tear her eyes away from the smooth, rippling muscles underneath the soft, tanned skin of Jo's powerful arms. "Um, that's in North Long Beach. How are we gonna get there?"
"I'll drive." Jo got her car back last night and was relieved that she wouldn't have to walk to school anymore. She hated being left without a car. They walked out of the northeast entrance and headed for the student parking lot in front of Blair field. Tori followed until they got to her car. Okay, so it wasn't really a car. It was more like a brute of an SUV. Jo drove a black 1998 Montero.
"How in the hell do you manage to drive something so huge?" Tori blurted. She herself drove a dark blue Mustang. After placing their backpacks and Tori's softball bag into the trunk, Jo replied, "I learned on it so I'm used to it." Jo shrugged, and opened the passenger side door for Tori. She closed the door behind her and got in on the driver's side.
Tori internally chuckled as she noted Jo's chivalry, because it seemed like Jo was not conscious of her actions, which made a grin appear on Tori's lips. "I learned on my dad's BMW so I'm terrified of driving something like this." Tori looked around the interior of the car. In addition to the regular 5 seats, there were two removable seats in the very back.
"Is that what you drive now?" Jo asked as she turned the key in the ignition and pulled out.
"No, I drive a Mustang now."
"Rich girl huh?" Jo stopped Tori's protest with a held up hand. "It's ok. Me too, kinda."
"Really? What do your parents do for a living?" Tori asked as she buckled her seat belt.
"My dad's a lawyer. And my mom was a teacher." She replied as she maneuvered in the after-school traffic.
"Was?" Tori inquired.
"She died when I was a baby." Jo replied softly.
"I'm sorry." Tori reached out and covered Jo's hand that was resting on the stick shift with her own.
The rest of the drive was silent. Jo froze when Tori touched her hand and couldn't seem to move away. As they pulled up in the parking lot, Jo climbed out and glared at her disobedient hand, before opening Tori's door and helping her out of the high car. They went inside and were immediatly assualted by the smell of rich coffee.
Tori sucked in a breath. "Ooo." Tori looked around the small shop. It was colorful and it was filled with students from the nearby college who were sucking up caffeine like it was a life source and studying.
There was an extensive selection of coffee and Tori decided on a tall cafe au lait, while Jo herself ordered the same thing. "It's what I always order." Jo shrugged when Tori glanced at her.
"Me too." Tori waited patiently for the drinks while Jo went off in search of a table to snag. "Thanks" she mumbled to the counter guy, picking up the drinks and heading towards the table in the corner that Jo managed to snatch before anyone else. Jo looked up from her seat at the approaching Tori. Quickly, she stood up and took the large cups to prevent Tori from spilling it on herself.
"Thanks." They both sat down in an awkward silence. Well actually, Tori was sitting in an awkward silence, Jo was sipping her drink.
Finally, Tori spoke. "Why'd you do it?"
Jo looked up from her drink. "Do what?" She asked, puzzled.
"Treat me so badly." Tori deadpanned.
Jo stared into the depths of her cup in order to avoid Tori's eyes. Better come up with a damn good answer. "Uh...I, um." She cleared her throat and started over. "I guess I was kinda pressured into it because of my reputation. No body would expect me to be nice to a goody-two shoes prep." She took another sip of her coffee.
"A what? I am no such thing! I can be bad if I want to!" Tori burst into prostest.
Jo raised an eyebrow. "Yeah right."
"I can, but I bet you can't be nice to anyone else either." She teased.
"Is that a challenge?" Jo put her drink down and leaned forward across the table towards Tori.
"You bet it is." Tori also put her drink and leaned forward so they were both looking each other straight in the eye.
Green and blue eyes warred with each other from across the table, the strong wills behind them clashing.
"Prove it. You do something bad and I'll do something nice." Jo finally spoke.
"What do I have to do? You not gonna make me hurt anybody are you?" Tori asked.
"No, I'll go easy on you. You only have to ditch school for one full day." Jo smirked as Tori's mouth fell open. "Well do you want to do this deal or not?" Tori closed her mouth and nodded. "Ok, so what do I have to do?"
Tori thought for a few seconds then smiled. "You have to be nice to everyone you see for a whole day. You can't hurt anybody, or say mean things to anyone."
"Deal." They shook hands.
"You do your part first." Tori insisted.
"No, you."
"You." We're in the second grade again.
Jo scoffed. "Fine, wuss. I'll do it tomorrow."
Satisifed that she had won their second grade arguing, Tori decided to test the waters a bit, and see if she could find out if Jo was gay or not. "Hey, you know that guy, Stephen Fraser?"
A dark eyebrow raised. "Well... I guess you could say that." She gave a little smirk, leaving Tori wondering what it could mean.
Shaking her head a bit, Tori continued, "Well he asked me out today during lunch. He's a great guy, he's nice and sweet." She grinned, hoping Jo would fall for it. Stephen actually did ask her out this afternoon, but she flat out refused him. Of course Jo was unaware of that.
Jo fought down a completely inappropriate surge of... what? Jealousy? God, what's happening to me? "If that's the type you like, then go for it." She replied in the most even tone she could manage.
A faint flicker of dissapointment showed on Tori's face. "Hmm, I still have to think about it." She bit her lip. Jo was silent, and wouldn't look into Tori's eyes. She decided to try a more direct approach. "Well what's the type that you go for?"
Growing more nervous by the second, Jo fingered the handle on her mug. "Um, well... I guess.." She was saved by the bell so to speak, by her cell phone ringing. Thank god! "Hello?"
Tori listened with half an ear to the one sided conversation while letting her thoughts wander. Damn, that answer could have been helpful. Still, Tori couldn't forget that expression Jo had when she told her Stephen asked her out. She totally looked jealous! After debating with herself for a minute, she made a desicion. She looked up when Jo closed her cell phone.
Jo fished around for an excuse to leave. "We got to go. I have a lot of homework to do and stuff." She stood up and downed the last of her coffee, which caused a shiver to crawl down her spine. Tori did the same, and they exited the small café, heading over to Jo's SUV.
This time she was heading towards a cave in her dream. When she walked inside, she froze once she saw a figure lying on the cold floor. She ran over and knelt at Tori's side. “Gabrielle, Gabrielle, can you hear me? Wake up.” She shook Tori.
“Here. You all right?” She lifted Tori to a sitting position by her shoulders.
“I’m great." Tori warbled. "I.. I can’t see, but, I’m good.”
“Try using both eyes.” She suggested.
Slowly, sea green eyes opened, gazing at her. “Oh, ah, yeah, that’s better, uh-huh.” A warm smile appeared on her face.
“Think you can stand?”
Tori's eyes blinked at her, confused. “You mean, I’m not?”
“Come on!" She sighed and lifted Tori up so she was standing. "There you go.”
Tori glanced up, then her eyes widened, staring at Jo. “By the gods!” She breathed.
“What is it?" Jo snapped.
Tori lost her balance and sat back down with a loud thump, gazing at Jo. “You are beautiful!” The words tumbled out of Tori's mouth.
Jo stood there stunned for a moment. Then her lips quirked into a grin. “Uh-huh. And you... are drugged." She helped Tori up again. "With henbane, if I’m not mistaken, so the effects should be temporary. But we’ve got to get you.." And off Tori was, strutting away, waving her arms as though conducting an orchestra. "...walking. Come back here." She followed Tori, catching up to her and spinning her around. "Gabrielle, I need you to concentrate.”
Tori gave her a sunny grin. “OK, uh, yep. But I think this is a big waste of time..." She meandered away, balancing on an invisible beam. "...because I've been walking since I was one.”
Jo felt half frustrated and half amused. “This is not about walking, Gabrielle. It’s about Iacus. You do remember Iacus, don’t you?”
“Of course, I remember Iacus.”
Jo placed her hands on both sides of Tori's face, forcing her to look in her eyes. “Good. Do you know where he is?”
Tori gripped both of her shoulders. “I don't know. Where?”
Jo got a little more frustrated and shook Tori a little. “No, I’m asking you. Where’s Iacus?”
Tori broke free and wandered further into the cave. “I don’t know. Iacus! Iacus!" She whistled, then turned around and stared at Jo with wide eyes. "I lost Iacus! I lost him." She sat down on a rock, distraught. "I lost Iacus!" She started sobbing. "I lost Iacus!”
Jo crossed over to her and knelt. “Gabrielle, calm down." Tori threw her arms around Jo's neck, hugging her. After Jo got out of her state of shock, she found herself hugging Tori back. "Look, I’m sure you didn’t lose him. He probably just saw you pass out and went for help. By the way, how much nutbread did Iacus eat?”
“None! He, oh, you know, I really wanted to share...But it was just too good! And he said he wasn’t hungry. And, then, the next thing I knew, it was just..gone! Like Iacus!” She exclaimed. Then she tumbled over and lay on the ground.
Jo stood and turned around, surveying the cave. “It’s OK. There’s no sign of a struggle. My guess is he went to get his mother. Aside from us, she’s his only ally.” She started to move, prepared to leave. She was startled when Tori popped up in front of her a second later.
“What are we waiting for? Let’s go! The rest of you, follow me!” She motioned for the rocks in the cavern to follow her.
Oh boy. “Hold it!” Jo commanded.
“At ease! Yeah!”
Jo placed her hands on Tori's shoulders. “I’ve got a better idea. I’ll go and get Iacus, while you..." Her eyes drifted across the cavern. "..and the... others try to, um..” She trailed off.
“Work on our song?" Tori supplied helpfully. "Mmm, yeah." She slung an arm over Jo's shoulder's and led her away from the rocks. "Just between you and me, the altos are slightly flat.” She whispered conspiratorally.
Jo focused her eyes on Tori's. “Perfect. Gabrielle, don’t let anyone leave the cave. Understand? Stay here, and wait for me to get back. Have I made myself clear?” Jo inquired.
Tori studied her seriously for a moment, then spoke up. “Mmm.. no. You’re...a little fuzzy around the edges." She slurred. "So you keep trying...You’ll get there." She patted Jo's hands before she turned her back on Jo. "Now I want everyone this side of the cave. We’re gonna keep working till we get it right! And I’ve got all day. So, let’s start with the top! Are you ready? You! You’re a tenor. Get away from the sopranos! Hey, hey! You’re standing like a stone. Relax.”
Jo watched as Tori strutted over to the rocks, arranging them into a choral pattern, waving her hands and directing them with an amazing amount of energy.
Jo groggily sat up, still halfway in her dream. Finally she rubbed her eyes and glanced around, seeing her bedroom instead of a cave.
Then she started laughing.
"That was by far, the most amusing dream I ever had." Jo sighed. At least it was better than the last dream she had with Tori in it.
Then she crawled out of bed and headed towards her bathroom, still chuckling.
Jo pulled into the parking spot and turned the ignition off. Then she sat there with her head resting on the steering wheel for 5 minutes.
"I can do this. I can do this." She chanted as she got out of the car and entered the 500 building, looking for Tori.
Finally she spotted her talking to Stephen Fraser, leaning against the lockers. Shit. Here we go. Slowly, she walked over, remembering Tori's mention of Stephen asking her out and not wanting to interrupt anything. She smiled as Tori looked up waved her over.
"Hey." Jo nodded to Stephen as she approached.
"Well isn't it the alpha bitch from hell? Sacrifice any little children lately?" Stephen asked smugly. Seems that since Tori was there watching, he decided to be bold and show off, forgetting about the money taking incident from before and his fear of her. Three... Two... One...
And there it was. For a frozen moment, Jo struggled with the urge to strike him. It showed in her pale eyes, she knew, because Stephen's complacent grin faded away and he backed off a step, and she concentrated on her breathing, holding down the fury which threatened to overwhelm her.
Tori studied Jo, waiting for Jo to crack and lose their bet. She could swear that she heard the taller girl's teeth grinding. Her eyes were glittering, and her whole body seemed alert with energy. The fiery rage was almost palpable. It was almost scary to her.
Jo glanced at Tori who was looking at her expectantly. Shit. If she set this up, she's toast. But no, she took in a deep breath and forced her anger down below, shoving that evil black panther inside of her into a cage and slamming the damn door shut. "Hello Stephen. How are you?" She pasted a warm smile on her face.
Stephen was caught off-guard. "Ok, um...I'm doing good. I gotta go." He scurried away. Tori snickered.
"What are you laughing at? If you set that up I swear..." Jo warned.
"Relax. I didn't tell him anything. Nobody knows you have to be nice today." Tori explained. "That was good. I thought for a minute there you were gonna pound the crap out of him."
"I almost did." Jo deadpanned.
"Well I'm glad you didn't."
"Yeah, yeah, let's go."
Jo barely survived during first period being nice to everybody. Jon and Justin would hardly talk to her though, she was miffed about that.
How am I gonna last all day doing this? She tuned out on the teacher's voice.
Tori studied her for a moment, then spoke up. “Mmm.. no. You’re...a little fuzzy around the edges." She slurred. "So you keep trying...You’ll get there." She patted Jo's hands before she turned her back on Jo. "Now I want everyone this side of the cave. We’re gonna keep working till we get it right! And I’ve got all day. So, let’s start with the top! Are you ready? You! You’re a tenor. Get away from the sopranos! Hey, hey! You’re standing like a stone. Relax.”
Jo watched as Tori strutted over to the rocks, arranging them into a choral pattern, waving her hands and directing them with an amazing amount of energy.

The sudden flashback of Jo's dream made her burst out laughing.
"Is the something you find amusing about tangents Miss Lawless?" Her teacher asked her, annoyed.
Jo sobered to reasonable amount. "Mmm, not at all Mr. Haggerty." She assured him, nodding.
"Then maybe you'd like to solve the equation on the overhead." He stated smugly. But what he didn't know was that Jo already figured it out in her head.
"Sure." She strode up to the front of the class and made it look like she was studying the equation.
"You don't know how to solve it do you?" His tone was probably the most patronizing thing Jo ever heard. "See? That's what happens when you daydream in my class. You don't know how to do anything." He watched as Jo suddenly wrote the answer without doing any work. His mouth hung open. "Did you cheat?" He asked, incredulous.
"No I figured it out in my head when you asked me if I found something amusing about tangents." She stated, smirking. Then she wrote out how she got her answer so quickly, something that he hadn't taught them. A method that they don't teach you it until college. She then placed the pen in his hand and sat back down. She smiled at him charmingly.
He took a moment to compose himself then spoke. "Well Jo is a special case. Apparantly she's a genius so she can daydream in my class anytime she wants."
"Can you show me how you did that?" Tori tapped her shoulder and asked her.
"Sure." Jo grinned at her.
Jo and Tori decided to go to the mall afterschool. As they, made a right turn onto Lakewood off of Spring Street towards the mall, Jo stopped Brian's dark blue Mercedes SL make the same turn a few cars behind them. Shit.
"Son of a goddamn bitch." Jo muttered testily.
"What?" Tori asked, then turned around, trying to see what caught Jo's attention. "Hey... that car looks familiar. Isn't that Brian Hunt?"
"It sure is." Jo replied, disgustedly.
"Why is he following us?" Tori asked as they made a right turn into a parking spot in front of Robinson's May and watched as Brian parked a few spaces away.
"Cuz he's a demented stalker with nothing else better to do with his time. Damn, I had to do this nice thing today." Jo mumbled.
"What?" Confused, Tori undid her seat belt.
"I told him last time he followed me that I would kick his ass next time I catch him, so I did something that would make him follow me, and I've been waiting for my chance. Now I get it and I have to be nice." Jo explained, pissed. She opened her door roughly, walked around the car and opened Tori's door also. She waited for Tori to hop out and join her before heading towards the mall entrance.
"I see." Tori glanced behind them and spotted Brian, trying to be discrete.
Jo debated with herself whether or not to call the deal off so she could give Brian a piece of her mind, but she decided against it.
After dropping Tori off, and driving home, she couldn't help but think about Tori non-stop. When Jo got home, she found a short letter in the mail from her dad. She pulled it out of the mail box, and entered the house. Once inside, and shutting the door firmly behind her, she tossed the 2 bags of stuff she bought at the mall onto the couch and ripped open the envelope.
I'm sorry but my business trip has been extended another 2 weeks. I know I promised to be back for your birthday, but I can't get out of this. I promise I'll make it up to you afterwards.

"Shit. That goddamn asshole. Stupid piece of..." She trailed off as her anger rose to the breaking point, pacing around the room. Then she let it loose, balling her hand up into a fist, and punching a hole in the wall closest to her. "I can't believe the asshole canceled again!!!" She shouted to no one in particular. The yell of frustration echoed throughout the house, followed by dead silence, once again reminding Jo that the house was empty and she was alone.
He had promised her that he would be back for her birthday which was coming up in a week, on April 21st.
She hadn't spent one single birthday with him since... well.. ever.
Extremely pissed off, Jo grabbed the bags off of the couch and stormed to her room, dropping the bags on the desk chair, and flopping down on her bed to do something she only allowed herself to do once a year. Cry.
She was in a temple of some sort. Tori was standing with a man who looked slightly like Stephen Fraser. Except older. They were holding hands and perfoming what looked like a weird wedding. There was a preist presiding over them. Standing behind the man Tori was with there was another man with a funny looking pointy hat, and a dented garbage can lid on his chest.
“May the winds bring forth also good fortune. May the same force that molded the beauty of these rose petals bless your union for eternity.” The priest stated.
Then they kissed and hugged. Jo felt her heart break.
“I love you, Gabrielle. I’m so happy.”
Jo pasted a smile on her face as Tori turned around and hugged her.
“Oh, Xena.” Tori smiled warmly.
“Congratulations.” The man with the pointy hat smiled at them.
“Xena.” Tori's husband (she guessed) turned around a clasped her arm.
“Perdicus, congratulations.” She returned his grip with a strong one of her own.
“Thank you.”
“Xena.” The man with the pointy hat tried to shake her hand also, but all he received was a raised eyebrow.
“Before we go, I need to speak with Xena.” Tori whispered to the man named Perdicus.
“Take your time.” He whispered back, heading towards the entrance, while the man with the funny hat stayed behind with Jo and Tori.
“Joxer.” Jo told him.
“Take a walk.” She motioned towards the door with her head.
“Oh, right. Hey..Perdicus...” He left and began talking with Perdicus.
Jo and Tori began walking, arm in arm. “I’m so happy for you.” But the feeling she had in her gut was telling her she was not, and her heart was screaming the direct opposite of what she said.
“I’m gonna miss you.. so much.” Tori hugged Jo.
“Hey, it’s not like we’ll never see one another again. I’ll visit you all the time.” She stopped and turned to face Tori.
“You promise?”
“I’ll be knocking on your door so often, you’ll be sick of me.” She smiled at Tori.
“Hmm...never.” They watched Joxer and Perdicus for a moment.
“You know, I think I fell in love with him at Troy.”
“No kidding.”
Tori gave Jo a surprised smile. “Huh.” She waited a moment, then took a breath to speak.
Jo stopped her speech by holding up her hands, as if to shield herself from the words she knew Tori was about to say.
“Gabrielle...I am not going to let you say goodbye. That’s not what this is. We’ll see one another again soon.” She assured Tori. Then she felt herself leaning forward and her lips brushed Tori's.
Her eyes popped open and she shot up, covering her mouth with both hands, until she reassured herself that she had never kissed Tori.
A gamut of emotions flew through Jo, running from shock, to embarrassment, to attraction towards Tori... Stop it Jo! She couldn't make sense of the flooding of her emotions, so she put her head back down on the pillow and tried to calm her ragged breathing. What is going on? That's 3 weird dreams since the first time she met Tori. I'm never gonna get any sleep at this rate. She thought as she got out of bed.
Today Tori had to ditch. So avoiding her because of the dream was kinda impossible.
Jo had been rattled ever since she woke up that morning. Ever since she realized she wanted to experience that kiss for real. What is it about her that just makes me wanna wrap her up in my arms and never let go?
OK, so I admit that I’m attracted to her as more than a friend,
Jo thought. So how do I know for sure that she really feels the same way about me? Do I just ask her? What if I’m wrong - how embarrassing would that be? But how could I be wrong? I can feel something when she touches me - I can see something in her eyes when she looks at me. So what’s stopping me? Am I afraid of rejection, or am I afraid of learning something about myself that I don’t really want to know?
Troubled by her uncertainties, she pulled up in the Montero and scanned the area for Tori.
She glanced down at her neatly dressed self. Normally she wouldn't have cared what she looked like, but after she realized and accepted her newfound attraction to Tori, her mind had subconsciously registered that fact, and she found herself making an effort to look nice when she was going to be around Tori. Weird.
Sighing when she didn't find her, Jo opened the door and hopped out. She didn't want to get caught because Tori didn't know what she was doing. Finally she spotted Tori on at the other end other the grass by the other end of the parking lot.
Tori scanned the parking lot, looking for Jo's car. She glanced at her watch, worried that Jo would be late. When she looked up she saw Jo hop out of her car and walk in her direction.
Her silky, dark hair was down, but combed back, which Tori loved, because it made her look wild, free. The sparkling blue gems that her eyes roamed around before a moment before meeting her own. Their gazes locked and Tori felt breath escape her. God, she's beautiful. She was wearing neatly pressed khaki Dockers and a white silk blouse with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and she presently carried herself with an air of casual sophistication. Which was unusual, since that never happened before. Normally Jo just wore a t-shirt and jeans, or a tank top and shorts or some other combination of the sorts. She didn't normally wear clothes like this. She didn't normally walk like that. Tori wondered what was up with this change.
Jo looked a little nervous about something. Tori knew it wasn't about ditching because she had certainly done that before. Tori was slightly rattled herself. She had a very weird dream last night which made her consider calling this whole deal off. Just so that Jo wouldn't find out about it.
Tori followed Jo back to her car wordlessly while Jo kept an eye out for any teachers or school staff. It was still early so they were lucky and they pulled away from the campus without being noticed.
They drove on a while in silence before Tori cleared her throat. "Umm, do you think we could stop for some coffee? I'm feeling kind of wiped." She watched as Jo smothered a yawn.
Jo nodded her head. "Yeah, me too. I didn't get much sleep last night." She turned right, started heading off in the direction of Mother Mudd's.
"Me neither. I had a.. um... strange.. dream last night." Tori wanted to get off this subject. She definetly did *not* want Jo finding out about her crush on her. Not at least until she was sure if Jo was a lesbian.
"Uh, yeah... me too." Jo looked at Tori nervously when she stopped for a red light. Blue and green eyes met and twin shivers crawled down their spines.
"Right. Well...I..you know...uhh.." Tori trailed off, suddenly moved to ask Jo what her dream was about. She wanted to find out what was making Jo as nervous as she was. After a long silence, "What was it about?" Tori suddenly asked.
The question came from around the corner and tackled Jo, and made her unable to think or move. She wanted to drop the subject as quickly as possible. "Uhh, let's skip that huh?" She replied.
"No, really. I wanna know." Tori persisted.
"I don't wanna talk about it." Jo balanced a line between nervousness and irritation.
Tori hesitated, then spoke up. "I'll tell you what mine was if you tell me what yours was." She looked up as they pulled into a parking spot in front of the coffee shop. Jo started losing her balance on that line.
Jo studied her for a moment. "No." She replied firmly.
Tori sighed, and threw her hands up in the air, exasperated. "Can't we act like normal friends? You know friends who hang out together and talk about all kinds of things? Friends who share secrets and crushes and all that sort of stuff?" The word 'crush' sent Jo tumbling off the line completely. Her infamous anger began to flare.
"Who said we were friends?" Jo shot back, testily. Tori stared at her. "Why do you even insist on becoming my friend anyway?" She rasped.
"I'm begining to wonder." She replied coldly.
"Ugh, you know what? Let's just forget this whole deal." Jo muttered.
"Fine." Tori suddenly opened the door and hopped out. "Go do whatever you want. I don't give a shit." She slammed the door.
Damn it all to hell... "What are you doing?" Jo rolled down her window and poked her head out. "Get back in the car."
"Screw you." Tori practically shouted. She started walking off. Jo pulled out of her space and started following Tori.
"What are you gonna do? Walk home? Come on, get back in the car." Jo sighed. Tori didn't even turn around. "Look, I'm sorry. Just get back in the car, and let me give you a ride home at least." She kept on walking. "Fine." Jo snapped, then sped up and drove away. But not without a glance at her rearview mirror which showed the lone figure of Tori, walking silently home.
Jo went straight home. As she walked inside, she waited in the entrance for a moment, and then smiled faintly as her cat came to her just as she wanted. She scooped the large cat up into her arms and gave him a kiss on the head. "Hey boy," she murmured, resting her cheek on the soft fur. Then she headed towards her room, still carrying the heavy feline with her. Once she was in her room, she crawled up on her bed, laying her head down on the soft pillow and letting the cat lay on her stomach. She put one hand behind her head while her other hand stroked the huge pile of fur in front of her. She heard the water ripple under the covers as she shifted slightly. She lay there thinking for a moment, then spoke to her cat.
"Why am I such an asshole, Gruzzy? I mean, I was semi-sure that Tori possibly felt the same way about me, then I let my anger get in the way and I blew it." The cat stretched out his front legs. "What should I do? This is the first time I've ever felt this way about anybody." Gruzzy yawned, seemingly bored with Jo's situation. "Oh, thanks. You're a wonderful listener, Gruzzy." He gave out a long purr.
Suddenly she felt anger again. But this time it was at herself. Anger for not controlling her temper and going off on Tori when she really didn't deserve it. Anger for not having the guts to tell Tori the way she felt. Anger for shutting Tori out when she really wanted to let her in. It rose to a breaking point. She wanted to seriously pound something.
Forgetting Gruzzy was on her stomach, she sat up and surveyed her room, sending the cat scrambling for safety.. Her room was where she added her own personal flair. The rest of the house was suited more to her father's tastes, with burgundy and deep emerald the main coloring scheme. Walk into Jo's room and you were emmersed in a sea of baby blue and white, and you felt like you had opened the door to some alternate universe. The walls were painted a pale blue, with white doors and trim. She had a light blue carpet that, at an angle, looked like pure silver. All of her furniture, a five drawer dresser against one wall, a small corner desk her much loved computer was on, a short, three drawer nightstand on the left side of her bed, and a long, three drawer dresser with a half height mirror facing her bed, were all white.
She always thought her room was a bit too large, considering that she was the only one who occupied it. She felt like that kid on Richie Rich, where his bedroom was so big that it had a basketball court in it. Okay, so that was probably a hyperbole, but the spaciousness of the room bothered her a little. The whole house was like that. Too many rooms and too few occupants. Basically, she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, so to speak. Okay, maybe it was more like a solid gold spoon. She was more privileged than most of the people she knew and she felt that, somehow, she didn't deserve it. She thought that one day, Luck would turn around and bite her in the ass, and she would deserve it.
She rolled off the bed, and pulled out her workout clothes from her dresser. She changed and then walked out, shutting off the light in her room as she passed by the switch. Then she headed across the hallway to a large room her father allowed her to use as a gym. She attacked the small but efficient circuit of machines, settling into her normal routine without really paying attention to what she was doing.
Finally, she gave in to her intense desire to hit something and grabbed a pair of boxing gloves from the room's closet, strapping them on and heading to the punching bag in the corner of the room.
She spent the next 30 minutes taking out her raging frustrations on the poor, defenseless bag.
A noise made her pause. She waited a second, then she heard the phone ring again. She started to ignore it, but then she had the sudden idea that it might be Tori.
She tore off her gloves and headed back to her room, snatching the portable phone off of her nightstand before the answering machine picked up.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Lawless. When would you like to serve your detention?" Her principal replied cheerfully.
Shit. "I'm at home sick." She lied in a defensive tone, feigning a cough.
"That's not what Tori says." He answered.
"WHAT?!" She almost hollered into the phone. She dead. I'm gonna get that snobby little...
"I caught her ditching and she fessed up that you were involved. She was pretty upset about something too."
"Upset?" Jo asked, cautiously.
"Yes, she was crying when I found her. About what, she wouldn't tell me, but it looked like it was something really bad." He answered. "Well, I must be going. I have a school to manage, but I look forward to seeing you bore yourself to death in detention tomorrow." He hung up before she could reply.
She was crying? Jo flopped down on her bed. God, I caused that. She mentally smacked herself in the head. Engage the brain stupid! She sighed, aggrievedly. Rack up another asshole point for Jo. She covered her face with both her hands, mentally berating herself some more.
Then she got up and headed off to take a shower.
These weird dreams were almost becoming a routine. She was standing in a strange.. realm of some sort. Surrounding her was a light haze and beyond that was... well, to her it looked like the sky just before dawn. Am I floating on a fucking cloud? It certainly did look that way.
"Gabrielle." She found herself saying. Her words seemed to echo around her.
Tori stood in front of her, eyes closed. She was wearing.. a... leather bikini. A light brown leather top with tan colored designs, along with a matching skirt.
"Gabrielle." She repeated. Tori slowly peeled her eyes open. "It's me, I'm not dead."
"Xe.. Xena." Tori choked out. She began to move towards Jo. Jo held up a hand to stop her advance.
"At least not completely."
Tori stared at her. Finally she asked, "Why? Why did you leave? There are so many things I want to say to you." Her voice had softened.
She raised her hand again to still Tori's speech. "Gabrielle...you don't have to say a word." She'd moved closer, and seen the ache in her eyes. "We don't have much time.. I need to get to the ambrosia, otherwise I will be gone."
Stark fear took over Tori's face. "Xena.. I can't lose you again." The emotion behind the words was so raw, that Jo felt her heart shred to pieces.
"Gabrielle.." She smiled at Tori. "I'll always be with you." And with that, she'd bent her head, kissing Tori lightly on the lips. Jo's eyes fluttered open, glancing around at the interior of her room. Then she closed them again, and the image of Tori in her leather bikini came to mind and she felt her heartbeat speed up. Leather bikini? She chuckled to herself. Whoa... I'm quite the wild thing in my dreams, huh?
"Ah, Miss Lawless, you never learn." Her principal chided her, when she showed up in the OCS classroom afterschool for detention. She had been in a bad mood all day, snapping at everybody, and showing very little patience. She even cussed out Jon and Justin when they found out that she had ditched with Tori instead of them. That little scene almost led to a fist fight between them, but Jon and Justin backed down, sensing that Jo was on the edge. She was about to make someone bleed.
"You know, as much as I enjoy these little chats of ours..." Jo replied with mock cheerfulness. "Can you drop the bs?"
"You know what to do." He went serious.
"Yeah, yeah.." She lowered her voice and muttered a string of curse words under her breath. In multiple languages.
She took a seat at an empty desk and slumped in the seat, staring at the scratched suface thoughtfully until Tori walked in. She looked up in to pale green eyes that were clouded with pain. Tori sat down in the other desk, facing her.
"Now it is to my understanding that you two had a little argument yesterday. Now I'm going to leave you two alone in here, and no one is leaving until you two make peace. Understood?" Her principal said in a no nonsense tone.
Jo and Tori stared at each other, not saying anything. He turned around and left the room, closing the door behind him firmly.
"What in the hell did you think you were doing? Selling me out like that?" Jo burst out once the door was closed, somehow forgetting her resolve to put a lid on her temper when it came to Tori.
"You deserved it." Tori replied, matter-of-factly.
"NO, no.. it's your fault that we're stuck in here, since you're the one who had to go off senselessly and get CAUGHT." Each word got louder and louder.
"If you hadn't made me leave, I wouldn't have gotten caught!" Tori started getting pissed, Jo could tell. Her arms were folded tightly across her chest, her legs were crossed and everything about her was screaming 'don't fuck with me.' If she were a porcupine, Jo would be picking quills out of her ass right now.
"If you had just listened to me..." Jo's voice was turning from speaking loudly towards shouting.
"If YOU hadn't made me ditch in the first place, we wouldn't even be here screaming at each other!!" Tori interrupted. She was fuming now. She shot up out of her chair and stood. Green eyes once clouded with pain, now sparked with raging anger.
"YOU were the one who insisted that we do this incredibly stupid bet!!" Jo shot back. She also stood and started yelling even louder.
"But you were the one that hurt my feelings and made me want to prove myself to you." Tori replied softly, sitting back down in her chair quietly.
Jo stood there for a shocked moment. Then she sat down and studied Tori. She couldn't think of anything else to say other than... "I'm sorry." She answered just as softly. It was then that it hit her, she was causing Tori this pain. In return she felt pain also. A lone tear tracked it's was down Tori's face. Before Jo could stop herself, she reached out and wiped it away. "I never at one moment meant to hurt you." She whispered sincerely.
Tori wiped at the rest of her tears irritably. "I know." She sniffled. "I know."
Jo saw that same raw pain in Tori's eyes, just as she had in that dream.
"Xena.. I can't lose you again." The emotion behind the words was so raw, that Jo felt her heart shred to pieces. "Gabrielle.." She smiled at Tori. "I'll always be with you." And with that, she'd bent her head, kissing Tori lightly on the lips.
"C'mere." She stood, tugging on Tori's hand, pulling her up also, and into an unexpected hug. It felt like she was moving in a dream. She couldn't stop herself. "I'm sorry." She whispered again.
Tori let herself indulge in the pleasure of having Jo's arms wrapped around her, and circled Jo's neck with her own, never wanting to let go.
Jo pulled back slightly and studied her, arms still loosely curled around Tori's waist. It was then that Tori realized how close to each other they were. Close enough that they were almost breathing each other's air. The two girls looked deeply into each other's eyes for a long moment, and just when Tori thought for sure that Jo was going to kiss her, she hastily pulled back, releasing Tori, disengaging herself from Tori's arms still wrapped around her neck, and tearing her gaze away from confused green eyes. Quickly, she picked up her backpack, putting it on and trying to calm her racing heart. I can’t do this yet. I’m not ready for it. "I think it would be okay to leave now." She stated in an even tone and began to move towards the door. Please don’t push it, Tori. I won’t know what to say.
What?! Why is she pulling away? Tori stood rooted in place, perplexed beyond speech at the sudden turn of events. "Um, okay.." She answered cautiously. Jo didn't reply and instead left the classroom, leaving Tori in the room by herself.
Tori sat down at her desk for a moment to slow her heightened breathing, and organize the flow of emotions coursing through her. Okay... It’s sort of clear that she’s never been with another girl before, and I don’t want to scare her away by pushing things too fast. But what about that near kiss?! Maybe she’s just too scared to take the next step and she’s waiting for me. Oh God, why is this so hard? Frustrated, she grabbed her things and left the classroom too, finding the pricipal standing right outside the doorway.
"I'm guessing that you two have resolved your problems?" He asked, cautiously.
"Uh, well... yeah." She managed.
"Ok, you can go then. Where's Joann?"
"Um she just left a few seconds ago." She explained.
"Alright." He watched as she started down the hallway. "But I don't wanna catch you girls ditching again. I mean it Callaghan!" He called out to her.
"Okay!" She replied over her shoulder before exiting the building and heading towards her car.
Jo walked inside and shut the door behind her. Again, waiting there for a few moments, she found Gruzzy trotting over to her from the kitchen. "Come on boy." She started up the steps, taking them two at a time with the cat hot on her heels. Entering her room, she dumped her backpack on the floor and sat on the edge of her bed. Gruzzy immediately hopped onto the bed and squirmed his way onto her lap. Pensively, she stroked his glossy coat. "You know what Gruzzy?" The cat halted it's purring and lok up at her, waiting for her to continue. "I screwed up the what could have been the greatest thing in my life. We were so close and I pulled back. I couldn't handle it." Gruzzy made a face and stuck out the tip of his tongue at her. "I know. I'm disgusted with myself." She slid farther back onto the bed and lay down.
At the same time, across town, Tori was confiding in her own animal friend. She sat on her couch with her golden retriever, Molly. "I don't understand her Molly. It's seem like she's attracted to me, but every time we get close, she pulls away. Like she's afraid of something." Molly lifted her head off of Tori's lap to look up at her. "Maybe she's afraid of being hurt. Is that it girl?" Molly licked her chops. "Then I should make it clear to her that I'm not gonna hurt her. Right, Moll?" The golden-furred dog barked. "You're such a good listener girl." She hugged the canine and got up from under her to go to her room, where Molly followed her.
The next few days passed by slowly, with Jo and Tori not really speaking to each other, despite the fact that they had all of their classes together. A full week had passed by and finally Jo decided that she had enough, and it was driving her crazy the way that they were dancing around each other.
Once the bell rang after history, freeing everyone to lunch, Jo stood up and turned around to face Tori, causing the blonde girl's movements to slow. "Hi." She murmured. Okay, so it wasn't her best opening line, but she was solely running on auto-pilot now.
Tori glanced at the blue eyes watching her every move. "Hi." She replied just as softly.
"Can we talk?"
She exhaled. "Yeah, sure."
Jo quickly grabbed her stuff and motioned for Tori to follow her. She lead her out of the building and through the quad, towards the end of it by the 400 building which was scarcely occupied and was a place Jo knew they could talk uninterrupted. They sat down on a small wooden bench.
Trying to organize her thoughts, Jo waited a moment, then spoke up.
"Look, what's been going this past week have been bothering me." A pause. "I miss being friends." She stated sincerely.
Friends? Just friends? But since they were just starting to talk to each other again, Tori didn't want to push things and end up not speaking to each other for another week, or even worse, for longer than that. "I miss being friends too." Spoken quietly.
"Do you think we can just put everything else behind us and start over?"
A small smile. "I'd like that."
Jo grinned. "Ok then since we're starting from the top..." She held out her hand. "I'm Joann Lawless. But everybody calls me Jo."
Tori took Jo's hand and returned the firm grip with one of her own. "I'm Victoria Callaghan. But I prefer Tori."
"Well, Tori, how about we walk over the the snack bar and get some terrible-for-your-health junk food that we'll call lunch?"
She chuckled. "Sounds like a plan." They rose from the bench they were sitting on.
Jo motioned Tori with her arm. "After you, m'lady." Jo said in an over-exaggerated British accent, causing Tori to laugh. She gave Tori a wide smile, glad to have caused that reaction in the blonde girl. As they walked across the quad towards the snack bar, they continued on with their "just met" game and started discussing likes and dislikes, which they had not done before, and Tori decided that being just friends wasn't a total loss.
The weeks progressed, with Jo and Tori remaining very good friends, but neither of them pushing for anything more than that, even though it was what they both desired.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and Tori frowned out her window, at the children across the street, prancing through the sprinklers on their front lawn, and she had the childish desire to join them, because the AC in her house needed to be repaired, and summer hit early, with the late April warm and sunny days turning into May scorchers.
The phone on her nightstand rang and she turned away from the window, walking across the room and picking it up. Plopping down on her bed, she answered, "Hello?"
"Do ya wanna come over for a swim?" She reconized Jo's voice and immediately her bad mood vanished.
"Did you know that I've been sitting here for the last 5 minutes whining that I don't have a pool?"
"Of course I know. I am the mighty see-er of all that happens, everywhere!" Jo cried gallantly.
Tori chuckled. "Really? I didn't know you watched my life often."
To that Jo found no reply, and instead continued on about her power. "I see all and know nothing!" She exclaimed. "Uh, wait... I mean..."
Tori snickered.
"Dost thou challenge my power?" Jo cried, incredulous.
"Watch it, you're talking to the all mighty goddess of the universe. I exceed your power!" Tori fell into the playful banter easily.
"You dare to make such a proclamation?"
"I dare to make such a proclamation." She replied, matter-of-factly.
"I will kill you until you die!" Jo announced.
"Bring it on." Tori coaxed.
"I'll bring it on and I'll have the best cheer!" They both laughed.
"Have you seen that movie?" Tori inquired.
"Hmm, do you want the official, press conference answer? Or do you want the dark, hidden only-the-few-know answer?"
"Yes, the dark one."
"Yes, I did. I didn't care what it was about, I just saw it cause Kirsten Dunst was in it. She's my favorite actress."
"Mmm, I see." Tori murmured.
"So are you coming or what?"
"Yeah, in about five minutes I'll head on over there." She heard a honk in the background on the phone. "Where are you?" She asked curiously.
Jo exhaled. "In the car."
"Heading where?"
A moment's hesitation, then a sheepish chuckle. "I'm parked in front of your house."
"Are you serious? You nutcase, get in here!" She laughed. The she hung up the phone, and stood, leaving her room and flying down the stairs. She reached the door and jerked it back to see the taller girl leaning casually against the doorframe.
Jo smiled at her. "Hey there."
Tori flung her arms around Jo's neck, hugging her. After a moment of shock, Jo hugged her back, silently wishing the world would freeze so they could hold each other like this forever. She was dissapointed.
Tori released her and grinned, "Hey there yourself."
"You ready?" Jo raised an eyebrow.
Tori grabbed her by the arm and lead her to couch, pushing her down until she sat on it. "Stay here, lemme get my suit. I'll be right back." After that, she turned around and raced back up the stairs. Jo watched her leave in amusement, as she sat back on the couch and sighed. Barely a moment later, Tori flew back down the stairs, a small gym bag slung over her shoulder. "Let's see I've got my suit, a towel, change of clothes.. Let's go!" She ran towards the still open door, passing by Jo who was still trying to register the fact she was done getting her stuff. Once she reached it, she looked back at Jo, who processed the information and was starting to stand up. "You coming or what?" Tori asked.
Jo laughed, "Slow down there, hotshot." Jesus, she's like Hermes. She got up from the couch and ambled slowly towards Tori, who was standing with one hand on her hip and an impatient look on her face. "Let's go!" She suddenly took off, bolting past Tori and outside, reaching her car before Tori could blink.
"Brat!" Tori yelled after her. She closed the door, making sure it was locked and headed for Jo's truck.

*As of now this story is not yet finished. God, I know I'm slow as hell during the school year, but it's summer now, and I'm giving the muse within my full attention.*