Lily didn't like the look on K's face. She looked something close to panic stricken. When they had moved into the front room, K suddenly blurted out,

"I received word that Daniel and his expedition are in serious trouble!"

Lily tried to decipher what K was saying. Daniel? Her Daniel? In trouble? How did that happen? What kind of trouble? Who called? Her mind whirled, she had thought he was safe on a dry, scientific expedition. To K's mind, Lily just stood there, slack jawed, not responding.

"Did you hear me?" K questioned. Lily shook her head to clear the meanderings.

"Who called?" Lily demanded sharply.

"Hayu. He was picking up some exports from a nearby town and heard that a professor of archeology had been picked up by the local authorities on suspicion of exporting national treasures!" K supplied. Hayu. Of course, he was a well know international art dealer. He was usually above board, no black market things for him, but once in a while. He occasionally supplied Lily with a lark, usually from Jewel collectors. The only way to get precious jewels, after negotiations fell through, was to steal them. Private collectors were a huge market for stolen goods. Lily was very, very good at this. She was quiet, clean and effective. Hayu was going to help her with this one. Lily didn't know what to do next. She needed to clear her brain. To make a plan. To go for a long drive to nowhere so her mind could wander as it did when she drove. Lily turned suddenly away from K who was forced to look at her back as Lily gave a few big sighs, wishing she had somewhere to go, alone, so she could think. She suddenly asked.

"Did you rent something besides that damned mini van?"

K knew Lily hated mini vans, no matter how practical they were. Of course she had rented a sporty, powerful car for Lily. She always had a hot car ready for her. K controlled her own emotions for a moment and told Lily that there was a Delorean in the garage for her. It was a lucky find. A special treat. Usually K rented a BMW or such for Lily's driving moods. If only she had thought, she would have had Lily's car sent here. Since they had left Rivertown , K had made arrangements for Lil's car to be put back into storage. She knew though, that Lily missed the feel of all eight horses under her. K supplied Lily with the knowledge of the car in the garage and told her where to find the keys and Lily disappeared upstairs for fifteen minutes. She came down garbed in leather, boots and all, and took the keys. She instructed K to call Hayu back, and ask for an appointment with him. She would be "out" for a few hours. No one questioned her in her apparent mood. Lily headed for the car with a vengeance. She turned it over and heard the engine rev in agreement with her mood. She peeled out of the driveway in a spit of gravel. Most of the household had seen her stalk past and were now assembled on the back porch. They all had different perspectives on this event. K thought Lily was pissed, Rupert was confused, Aurora thought that this was overdue, and Rock, he just thought her magnificent in her rage. They all watched as the dust settled behind her leaving, then muttered to one another in a detached way as they filed back into the house, leaving Rock and K on the porch together. K looked at him askance, to try to see what Lily saw. It was lost on her, but to each their own. Rock looked over to see K staring, and he bowed to her shallowly, and K sniffed and left the porch. Rock was left staring after Lily's dust trail, wishing she had taken him with her, but knowing he needed to bide his time. Eventually, reality sunk in, and he heard Aurora call the troupes to lunch, and moved from his place on the rail. He had been there for three hours, but to him it seemed like minutes, so lost in thought was he.

Lily felt the car as if it were an extension of her flesh. She sat low in the leather seat, and it made her feel safe. Cradled. She pushed her foot to the pedal, and fairly flew down the country roads. She didn't know where she was going. She was just going there fast. Unconsciously she took in the landmarks to lead her home. It was second nature to her now. She was really too good at what she did. She sighed. Again the idea of quitting it all came to her. Sounded good now. Now that Daniel was in trouble.

Dammit. Where was he? She was going to have to go and get him. She was going to have to cancel her next gig, she should hear from her contact tomorrow. She had til sunup to figure out what to do next. She peered at the gas gauge, either she had come a long way, or it didn't have much to start with. She pulled into the next lit up place. A truck stop named Mutha's. The building was low and squat, with dark curtains in the windows, soft light shining within. Looked like a good place for a flat diet coke and some bad spaghetti maybe. Maybe a drink. Something to relax.

She parked and locked the car. She started across the parking lot, it seemed very windy and her hair bannered out behind her like an advertisement. Several trucks were parked to one side, so the drivers could sleep, supposedly. The elected officials kept promising transporter technology to send non biological items, but it never seemed to happen. In the next four years! Yeah, that's what they all said.

She was going to throw her voters chip away if this kept up. Several truckers stuck their heads out the windows to watch her cross and yell crassly to her. Some things never changed. This she ignored. She went inside and was amazed to discover it didn't have that truck stop feel. It was almost dark, and had quiet, nice clean booths. She slid into one and a wait person came up immediately.

"Hello, and Welcome. I'm Drew, your wait person. Can I offer you a drink?"

Wow. Truck stops had come a long way since her last visit . But then, cars were such a luxury, it was no surprise. Most gasoline, or diesel, was appropriated for the government and the trucking industry at this time.Travel by car was extravagant, most people traveled by tram, or Monorail technology. Business went on as usual, but hiked their prices to cover the expense accounts of their execs. As the gas prices rose, the consumers began demanding more, and it became a vicious cycle. Lily suddenly decided,

"Yes, bring me a bottle of tequila, a shaker of salt and a lime, whole, with a knife please," She requested. The wait person didn't seem surprised and left to carry out his mission. The requested items were soon placed before her. She was five or so shots into her bottle when a male voice came,

"Mind if I join you? Lily's head snapped up in surprise. There was a man, thin and willowy, dark hair, long for a man. He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow in a feminine fashion. Lily looked at him for a long time it seemed. Finally she decided.

"Sit down stranger." She invited. She motioned to Drew, who seemed almost too happy to bring a second shot glass to the table. The stranger slid into his seat and fussed about the fit of his pants for a moment before looking up at her. He looked right in her eyes and asked her,

"Man trouble honey?"

Lily stared at him. He seemed both male and female all at once. Lily poured them both a shot and offered salt and lime, both accepted without a word between them. They licked, they drank and they sucked. The stranger puckered up in a most amusing way and Lily, already ahead, laughed so hard she had to throw her head back to let it all out. The stranger looked embarrassed, pleased and unsure all at the same time. Lily saw this as weakness and took to it like a wolf to blood.

"So, what brings you here, pretty, pretty? And what's your name?" Lily asked in a predatory way. She was heterosexual usually, but once in a while, a woman turned her head. This one was both. Too tempting. The softness of a woman, and yet, the promise of masculinity. The stranger seemed somehow tickled by it all and squirmed in his seat before answering. Making eye contact from behind coyly lowered lids, he replied in a trembly way.

"Nicki." Then his eyes darted away to the floor in a gesture of shyness, but came back to stare directly at Lily. An amused half smile of evaluation crossed her face. Both passive and aggressive, Lily thought. . Hmmmm. Lily was feeling devil may care tonight. She was up for almost anything diverting. She really didn't give a thought to her life... or her death at the moment. Her reality was just as frightening, and as such she gave herself over to fantasy for a moment in time. Lily looked at the stranger a little longer. "I'm Lily". She said simply. She poured them both a drink again and watched as Nicki went through the routine. She noticed the greenish-blue eyes, ringed with thick dark lashes, very visible as they rested on his cheeks that were highly pink with liquor or excitement. Thin, but expressive lips. She became suddenly aware that he wore eye shadow, and lip gloss, or color. Hard to tell in this light. Lily tossed her shot down, and passed on the salt and the lime. She decided she needed a cigarette now, and ambled across the truck stop/ restaurant to the cigarette machine. Lily was clad entirely in tight black leather. The pants accentuated her muscled thighs and round butt. The top was cut in a sweetheart neckline, corsetted with cord, like a pirate would wear, to the waist of the leather jerkin. It was sleeveless, and the rounded curves of her shoulders were like pearls against black velvet by comparison, especially where her reddish hair fell across it softly. It invited a touch. Many an eye followed her across the room, as she unconsciously swayed to the music on the Jukebox, shaking her hips in rhythm. She got her smokes and strutted back to the table. She overheard a trucker say to another as she passed, "I wish I had a swing on my back porch like that!" She smirked to herself a moment before laughing wantonly. She felt like a crazy woman, and liked it. She scared herself. She was in a vicious mood. She slid back into the booth and smiled at Nicki, who looked very glad to have Lily sitting quietly rather than making a spectacle of herself. Lily lit a cigarette for both herself and Nicki, and passed it on to him. He accepted it gratefully, and smiled slyly at her. Lily noticed him look to see if she had gotten the filter wet when she lit it, obviously satisfied, he took a deep drag.

"So, I've never seen you before." He started. Lily just stared at him for a moment. He looked around the restaurant to wait for her answer, when she was quiet, he looked back at her pointedly,

"Where did you come from?" He asked.

Lily smiled a v shaped smile before replying, "Hell and back.... No, seriously, I'm trying to relax. My life is getting me down, I need to clear my head, by completely blocking, hic, blocking out my brain." The tequila was beginning to get to her. Drew came up

and asked if they would be eating. Lily decided it would be a good idea for her to eat. She ordered a cheeseburger, with only tomato on it, and some scrambled eggs. She needed a protein fix to solve this problem. She told Nicki to order what ever his heart desired, and he looked at her strangely, with undisclosed intent for a moment, then ordered a salad, with ice water. Oh Christ, Lily thought. I'm dining with an anorexic.

Lily felt awkward for a moment, then suddenly she felt very masculine. She almost felt as though her partner was waiting for this. She found her voice and said,

"Order a steak, some fish, eat something. You're too thin." Nicki looked half pleased, half insulted, but accepted the instruction and allowed himself a small filet mignon, watching Lily closely, but she never batted an eye. Nicki cocked his head to one side, weighing Lily mentally, she was sure. He looked back down at his hands that were

fiddling with the cellophane off her cigarette pack before stating, "You must be rich." Lily laughed aloud again. If he only knew. She could buy and sell him, and just about everyone else. She tipped over into hysterical laughter until her eyes teared up and she had to stop herself it hurt so bad. Nicki was sort of huffy, feeling as though he

had missed something. Lily regained most of her composure she had left and asked him through giggles, "What makes you think, hee hee hee, I'm, gmphhh, ha huh, rich?" She really was trying to settle down. Nicki looked a little mad, and Lily reached across the table to take his hand and tell him she was sorry. She was just a little drunk. He finally relented and told her, "Gee, I don't know. You have a DeLorean, you wear all leather, you can buy a bottle of tequila and don't mind sharing it, and you didn't even blink when I ordered a Filet Mignon. Most of my friends have never seen a DeLorean, couldn't afford leather or even know what filet mignon tastes like. " he smiled ironically and suddenly became interested in the pattern his fingernail was skating on the table top. Lily sobered a bit, and felt bad for a moment. She reached across the table again and took his hand again.

"I'm sorry, " she apologized. "lets be friends, okay? For tonight anyway?" Lily looked both sincere and needful. He relented. "Okay." and smiled into her eyes. Lily pitied him for a second. What she could do to his heart. The food came to break the mood, and they diligently put their energy to eating. Lily rolled her eyes with pleasure, her every sense reveling in the cheeseburger. So charred on a filthy grill, black with the burned on burgers of yesterday. MMM. It seemed so delicious. While they ate, Lily was oblivious to the gathering she had accrued. Nicki was aware of the four truckers at the bar who had come together and were looking their way now as Lily smacked and moaned as though she were in ecstasy with every bite of her burger, and was Nicki was very tense now.

"Hey, chill out. Those guys are looking at us" He warned.

She wasn't thinking straight at all, "Let them look." she said. Nicki saw what was going on, the tequila had caught up with Lily, and she wasn't thinking straight. The food hadn't come quickly enough. Dammit, Nicki thought. He had been beaten up enough, he really wasn't in the mood to have that happen or to do... what ever, but he needed to get her out of here, now, before the trouble started. He looked to see her done with the burger and said urgently, "We need to leave now! Can you drive? Oh Jesus, " Lily looked at him, then to the men at the bar, heard his question as if in a barrel, can you drive, drive, drive.... she shook her head, sure, she could drive. Lily was expertly trained to drive. It was something she did by reflex, not by sense.

"Let's go." She heard herself say.

Lily threw more than enough cash on the table to cover her bill and most of the bar's that night. Lily strode out first, with Nicki trailing, looking timidly over his shoulder. They were almost to the car when the hand came down on her shoulder. She had been half expecting it. It didn't matter the state of her mind at the time. She was a seasoned veteran at this stuff, and she grabbed his hand, twisted his arm, raised it over her head and threw him over on his back, knocking the wind from him, leaving him moaning about his strained shoulder. The second man came up and Lily rewarded him with a swift kick to the knee, breaking it backward quickly and surely. He fell to the ground screaming while the next man came up with a bear hug grip. Lily had maintained a hand between them and shoved her fingers as far as they would go up his nostrils and pulled upward hard, causing him to bellow in pain,and ultimately release her. Number four had gone after Nicki, and was close to his goal of rape when Lily came up and firmly planted her pointed toed boot up the crack of his naked ass, causing him to howl and roll away, where upon Lily jumped up to his belly and walked up his fat chest to his throat and threatened to stop his breathing with another step. She leaped gracefully off of him to stand on the ground firmly over him, leaned into his face and said, "Boo!" The first two had run away as soon as they recovered, and the last two could hardly wait to follow their cohorts. Nicki looked up at Lily with new vision. Lily was pumped up. She looked at Nicki with a sparkle in her eyes, and a smile on her face as she said, "Jump in."

Soon the DeLorean was tearing up the roads again. Lily was high as she could be, on tequila and adrenalin. Nicki gave directions to his apartment and Lily obliged. He invited her in and she didn't want to say no. It was a simple apartment in a complex. Nicki did have a nice unit.

It was on the dark corner of the building, had a balcony, and was very cozy and comfortable. It had a small living room with a love seat as a couch, and Lily sat here as Nicki said he would be right back, he just wanted to get more comfortable, and bade her to make herself at home. She took her boots off. That was a homey as she could get. Her mind was swirling with alcohol and the effects of food in her system. Part loaded, part lucid. Jesus, Mary, and goddess, where was she? Why was she here? Why wasn't she at home, and just where was that, exactly? With who? She was so confused. Nicki came out of the bedroom wearing a nighty. Black lace on top, silky below. He sat in the chair that matched the love seat, white cotton fabric, would show age quickly, but very nice while it lasted. He pulled his feet up and Lily caught a glimpse of his painted toenails. He produced a bottle of gin, and Lily asked if he had the makings for lemonade, and they made lemonade and gin drinks and giggled the early morning hours away. The invitation to do what she would was clear, however, she really couldn't bring herself to hurt anyone else, being so confused herself.

As much as she would invite and enjoy some physical play with this boy/girl, her conscious just couldn't allow her to do anything about it. She almost enjoyed the denial. That was almost as good. Eventually, Lily totally passed out on the stranger's couch, and woke to the early morning sunlight, totally hung over and unsure of what happened.

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