Disclaimer:  Most of the characters depicted in this story belong to the people at MCA/Universal,  however Micha and Karis are mine. It was written for enjoyment for myself and the readers and is not intended for profit.

Sex:    This story contains scenes of two women in love in intimate situations but there is nothing graphic. Kissing, hugging and such.  You know No Big Whoop.   Still, if this offends you, or if it is illegal at your age in the place you live, please don't read my story.  There are plenty of other stories to choose from.

Violence:  It is fairly tame through the whole story UNTIL the end then someone says something nasty about Gabrielle and The Conquerer well sort of freaks out on him (graphic guts and stuff) consider yourself warned.

BIG THANKS :  The story Gabrielle tells the children is based on 'The Babysitter' by Wordwarior.  "The Babysitter" is (c)copyright 1997 by WordWarior@aol.com. All Rights Reserved.

To the Goddess of Spelling I offer my humblest apologies if I have offended her in any way.
The Goddess of Grammar, however, can Bite Me!

Special thanks to Kym and Ken for Beta Reading so quickly.  Their encouragement, suggestions and ramblings really helped.

Feed Back: Yes please.    xenabard@hotmail.com 

Negotiations   pt 2
by Gin


Xena closed her eyes and prepared to let the pleasant voice wash over her.  She chuckled when
she heard Gabrielle as the name of the main character. 'Cute'   When she heard her own name
being invoked however she surpressed a groan. She tried to glare at the storyteller.  Her mistake
was opening her eyes.  One look at the woman holding Solan, surrounded by children hanging
on every word melted any annoyance that remained in the warrior's heart.  The story itself was
quite funny.  The little Gabrielle causing all kinds of trouble for the forced babysitter.   She found
herself chuckling at the description of the little girl attacking the vicious tree with her
stick/sword/staff.  Xena couldn't help smiling when the child fell asleep in the older girls arms.
She could almost feel the girl's heart beat as if she were the Xena in the story.  The Warrior
Princess found herself as breathless as the children waiting to hear the outcome of the
confrontation with the disgusting man. She was sorry that little Gabrielle had to witness the fight
between the man and her protector.  Children shouldn't see such things.

The warrior found herself almost disappointed when the story was over.  She watched Gabrielle
say goodnight to the girls until only Solan and Phantes were left.  She saw the little centaur
pull the Queen's hand and when she bent to his face, he whispered something to her.   The
amazon's eyes flew open and she glanced at Xena.  Pursing her lips the Queen nodded and
Phantes hesitantly walked toward Xena's corner.

Phantes closed the distance between them slowly.  Xena sat very still.  The child looked ready
to bolt at any moment.  "Thank you for not hurting, Mama."

"Queen Gabrielle said I would be sorry if I did." He glanced wide-eyed at the Queen.  Xena tilted
her head and smiled. "Your welcome anyway, Phantes"

"You know my name?"  The fact that he was a centaur aside, Phantes was a typical boy and
despite all the evil conquerer stuff her prowess as a fighter was legendary.  Any boy would be
crazy not to claim the casual association if he could.

"Your mother is a brave woman, Phantes." 'Your father was too.' she thought.  "She stood up to
me you know."  He looked at the muscles in her crossed arms and his eyes widened at the
thought of his mother facing off with such a scary lady.  It pained her heart to think of how close
The Conquerer came to making this boy an orphan.  "I think Solan is ready to leave."  She
indicated the young prince by the door.

"Ok....'night."  He hesitated.

She slowly offered her hand.  She didn't want to scare him.  "Goodnight, Phantes." He shook her
hand solemnly warrior style.

Gabrielle watched silently until the two princes were out the door.  "Wow, I didn't think he would
do that!"  Gabrielle was impressed at the tenderness Xena showed toward the young centaur.
She approached the corner and retrieved the desert makings.  This time however she didn't sit
near the fire.  She put her fare down on the foot of the bed and took a scroll from the top shelf of
the archive.  She stretched out face down with her head at the foot of the bed and gestured
Xena to bring the wine and join her.

The warrior wasn't sure she could walk as far as the bed.  Her knees had suddenly become
weak.  It was sheer determination that allowed her to accomplish the task.  Supported by the
soft bed she could concentrate on speaking, "Another work of art?"  She indicated the scroll.

"No, it is the story I was telling the children." The Queen unrolled the scroll for Xena to see. She
drizzled some honey on a piece of bread and offered it to Xena.  It was more than one bite so
she assumed the warrior would take it and she would make herself another.  The warrior
seemed to have other ideas and simply took a bite out of the chunk that was offered.
Gabrielle's narrow eyed look had nothing to do with intimidation and alot to do with amusement
as she finished the offering and prepared more. 'Never assume.' She chuckled.

Xena chewed the honey bread and read the scroll.  It was exactly the same story she told the
children. "Why are you showing me this?"  Xena took another bite of offered bread and waited
for the bard's response.

"I just wondered if I left anything out."  Her green eye's twinkled mischievously.


"You know, I thought maybe you remembered something I had forgotten.  After all I was only
five, and you were what....13...14?"  Gabrielle could tell Xena didn't remember that day.  'It was a
long time ago.' She reminded herself. 'A lot has happened to her.'

"You gotta be kidding me.  You're saying this really happened?"  Xena was able to recall the
name of every general in her army.  She knew strategic information of every strong hold she had
ever been to.  She could recite verbatum every agreement she had ever signed. She
remembered every battle, every conquest, every lover in detail but she had no recollection
whatsoever of the day in question. 'Why can't I remember?'.  She heard a very faint chuckle from
The Conquerer.

Gabrielle swallowed the last of the bread and set the honey container on the floor.  "It really did."
She took the scroll and placed it back in it's space on the shelf.  "A long time ago."  She
returned to the bed.  Propping herself up on her elbow she reached out to stroke Xena's hair.
"It's ok if you don't remember.  Sometimes I feel like it's someone else's life I'm remembering."
She lost herself in the silky texture flowing through her fingers.

Xena pulled her closer and shuddered at the light kisses Gabrielle dropped on her neck.  She
was having trouble breathing but had to say this before too much time passed. "Gabrielle, "
She looked into the stormy green eyes. "Thank you. " Pausing to draw a deep breath breath she
whispered. "For loving my son."

"Our son," She corrected. "and I had no choice."  Gabrielle found Xena's ear and whispered.
"He's a part of you."   She trailed kisses down her jaw until the warrior princess couldn't
stand anymore torture. "Gods ......Gabrielle."  Her thought was cut off by a determined amazon
capturing her lips.  She groaned at the sensation and suddenly found herself holding Gabrielle,
with the Queen's back on the bed.

The sudden change of position caused Gabrielle to cry out in surprise and then moan loudly with
desire. The feel of Xena above her was exquisite.  She reached up to caress the warrior's face
and found both her wrists were captured and held securely to the bed.   Gabrielle ached to kiss
the hovering lips. "Kiss me."  Xena complied with such passion, both women moaned...loudly.

Xena stretched out, covering the smaller woman.  She released the amazon's wrists and
immediately found them tangled in her hair, caressing her back, exploring her waist.  The gentle
approach was on the verge of being discarded.  Capturing the wandering hands again, Xena
moved to straddle the waist below her, knocking over the staffs at the head of the bed in the
process.  She tensed and snarled at the door. "Come back, later."

The Queen slowly turned her head toward the door, two motionless guards assessed the scene.
"It's OK.  Really."  She reassured them.  They didn't move.  Gabrielle looked up at Xena, pausing
only long enough to grin, she kissed the hovering woman's tension away.  When the kiss was
over she looked back at the guards.

They had lost their paralysis but were still unsure of the situation.  This was their Queen and she
said it was OK but the woman pinning her to the bed was The Conquerer!  Maybe Gabrielle
was forced to say that.  It wasn't common knowlege but the royal guard knew that the Queen
didn't act like this.....ever.

"Xena."  Gabrielle spoke softly. " I don't think they will believe me until you let me up."

Several colorful responses came to mind, Xena considered them all before releasing her hold,
"As you wish, "  she grinned. " my Queen."   Mischievous blue eyes twinkled at the amazon
below her.  She stretched seductively for the benefit of all eyes.

The royal guard were not prepared for that at all!  Gabrielle chuckled and playfully slapped the
woman next to her as she rose from the bed. "Come on you two." She linked arms with her
protectors and led them back towards the door.  "Let me

"That will take far too long."  Xena purred and smiled.

Gabrielle glanced over her shoulder and winked, "Right."  She turned back to the guard and
continued out the door. "Let me sum up...."

In less than three breaths Gabrielle was back.  "That was fast." The warrior commented wryly.

The grinning Queen shrugged, "It really doesn't take that long to say, 'I'm fine.  Stay out.'"   That
wasn't exactly what she had told them but Xena got the point.  Stories were her gift,
but in the space of three breaths she had aquired a great appreciation for the art of

"Do you think they will?"  Xena was unconvinced.

"Sure.  Why wouldn't they?" Gabrielle was used to her orders being followed, questioned
sometimes yes but always obeyed.  Xena's presence was proof of that.

"Well they seemed to be quite confused by the situation." The warrior smiled at the guards
reactions to her attentions on their queen.

"Actually, It is sort of a good thing they stopped us.  I really do need to talk to you before we go
much farther."  She could feel her cheeks and ears turning pink.

"I am finished talking!"  She pounced on the amazon and resumed the recently interruped
position.  She looked down on her captive once again, "Besides what could you possibly say to
me that can't wait 'til morning?"  Her kiss cut off any reply.

Breaking off to catch her breath, Gabrielle started, "Xena...there is something I need to tell you."
Xena attacked the amazon's ear, pulling gently on the lobe, tracing the outline with her tongue.
"Gods.....Xena....Please listen. "  Desperation tinged her voice and Xena stopped the assault.

"What is it Gabrielle?"

'Finally.   Oh God's.  Now I have to tell her.'  She closed her eyes and tried to control her
breathing. "It's just that......killing.....is not the only thing I've never done."  'Whew, that's a relief.'
She smiled up at the shocked face.

"Never?"  Xena released her hold, got up from the bed and paced around the room.

"Never."  Gabrielle caught up with the restless woman.  She wrapped her arms around Xena's
waist, holding her close, listening to her rapidly beating heart.

Folding the Queen into her embrace, Xena tried to reconcile her thoughts.  "Are you sure you
want ......me.... to be........first?"  She felt the woman shaking in her arms and released her.
"Gabrielle, are you OK?"

"Xena!"  She could barely control her laughter.  'All these years and she thinks I'm not sure?'
"Don't you get it?  That's why I haven't......"  She pulled the warrior down to look her in the
eye.  "None of them were you."

Those words and the look in Gabrielle's eyes were enough for Xena.  She carried her easily to
the bed. "You're sure they won't come back?"  She indicated the door.

Gabrielle traced Xena's collarbone with her fingers and kissed the hollow of her throat.  "Not
even when I start screaming your name."

At that, Xena didn't care if they came back  or not.


The royal guard took their orders seriously.  No one was to enter.  The guards on the previous
watch had told them but considering the sounds coming from the hut they would have figured it
out anyway.  Half the council was waiting outside the hut when Ephiny arrived.  She tried to work
her way in but the guards were serious.  "No one goes in, until the Queen says so."

Solan had heard they weren't letting anyone in to see his mother. 'We'll see about that.' He
thought.  He circled to the back of the hut and climbed through the high small window in the
washroom.  'She better not have hurt her.....'  He left the threat hanging in his mind as he slipped
into the main room.

Footsteps in the washroom alerted Xena to the intruder's presence.  She carefully considered
the woman sleeping contentedly in her arms and the location of her weapons, still in the far
corner.  She would have been concerned for Gabrielle's safety but the footfalls were so light she
knew who it had to be. The warrior quickly pulled a cover over their naked forms and pretended
to sleep.  She watched through barely open eyes as Solan crept into the main room.

He was totally unprepared for his discovery.  Standing at the foot of the bed, he looked at the
women.  Xena didn't look nearly as scary lying on her back with his mother in her arms.  He took
the opportunity to study her face.  'She's pretty.'  He thought.  'But not like Mom.'  He took a
moment to look at the only mother he had ever known.  'She looks so happy.'  Her reddish blond
hair was mussed up and she had a slight smile on her face. Her eyes were closed but he knew
they were the loveliest shade of green he had ever seen.  Then he looked over at the warrior.
Her dark hair fell around her shoulders, graceful even in sleep.  She didn't have any expression
on her face. He remembered her eyes from last night when he delivered the wine.  Blue eyes
looking right at me, just like now.  'Whoa, She's awake!'  He froze.

Xena signaled him to be quiet and not to wake his mother.  Slowly extricating herself from the
sleeping woman, she rose from the bed and slipped a robe around her.  She quietly led him to
the far corner, so they could talk without waking Gabrielle.

He let himself be guided away from the foot of the bed.  Stunned was the word for what he was
now.  Naturally he had seen naked women before, he was growing up in an Amazon village for
Zeus sake, but never had he seen anyone like Xena.  His mother was the closest. He guessed
being queen had something to do with it.  He was right.

It was power that made Xena different from everyone else.  Political and physical power flowed
from Xena like water from a glacier, naturally, easily, constantly.  She was without a doubt
the most powerful person  in the world and she knew it. He sat on the cushion Gabrielle had
used the night before and Xena placed herself between her weapons and the boy.  "I need
your help." She said, smiling at his reaction to that.  'He does look like me when his eyes
narrow.'  She quietly began stacking the empty dishes from dinner.  "I want to surprise
Gabrielle."  Now she had his attention.

"How?"  He wasn't sure about her yet but he couldn't forget how happy his mother's face was a
few moments ago.  If she had something planned to continue that happiness then he was going
to do everything he could to help.

"I would like you to take these," she indicated the dirty dishes. "and bring back breakfast."  She
gave him a sideways grin.  "I assume you can get out the same way you got in?"  He nodded
affirmative.  "Good."  She grinned in the direction of the bed. "Your mother is going to be hungry,
so you may need some help carrying enough food back."  An angry look flashed across his
face, then he grinned and nodded.  His mother's eating capacity was a favorite running joke all
through the Nation.  "Get Ephiny to help you."

"She won't help." He whispered. "She is to busy...."

"Trying to get in here. " Xena finished for him. "I'm sure she will jump at the chance." She rose
gracefully from the cushion and helped him up.  "Only her though."  Her narrow eye look had
more impact than his. "She will want to talk to Gabrielle."  She looked at him speculatively.
"What do they usually serve for breakfast around here?" The face he made was not good.
"Nevermind, If they start to give you the usual, tell them I really enjoyed dinner but I wasn't sure if
they could do breakfast justice.  Just be sure to tell them why you want so much.  They shouldn't
grumble if they know it's for all of us."

He nodded then did a double take.  He was included in that 'us'. Wow!  She picked up the
dishes and followed him back to the washroom.  He quickly and quietly went back through the

'That has taken some practice.'  She grinned 'I wonder if I could fit through there?'  She stood on
top of the shelf filled with towels and handed him the dishes.

"You're not so bad." He told her.

'Oh yes, I am.'  The Conquerer chimed from her cell.  Xena gave him a wry grin, "Contrary to
popular belief, I don't eat children."

Solan returned her grin, "Yeah, well I knew you wouldn't eat me, anyway."

Blue eyes narrowed at his comment. "How?"

"Mom."  He chuckled and called over his shoulder. "She promised she wouldn't let you."

"Scamp!" She knew he was to far away to hear her, already past a small flower bed, well on his
way to carry out his mission.  It would take a while though.  She stirred the fire, added a few
more logs and headed back to the bed. 'So that's what all that promise business was, when he
brought the wine.'  She chuckled and eased herself back into the arms of her sleeping love.
Closing her eyes she heard the internal voice of an innkeeper's daughter quietly asking if she
could speak to the warrior princess.  'Later' was the answer and the girl was silent again
as Xena lost herself in the warmth of the embrace.


For a brief irritated moment she thought the guards were admitting an unwanted guest then she
realized it was breakfast.  'Gods I must have fallen asleep.'  She looked at the sleeping
woman in her arms. "What have you done to me?" She whispered.

"Everything."  Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly, gazing deeply into the ocean of blue above her
and smiled.  She couldn't help but pull the warrior to her for a long slow good morning kiss.

"Mmmm Good Morning."  Xena nuzzled her ear and whispered, "We shouldn't keep our guests
waiting."  She slid her eyes past Gabrielle's shoulder and winked.

Gabrielle couldn't bring herself to look.  "Who is it?"  'guests?...Gods...how many?'  She was
used to the idea of being in love with Xena but the idea of people seeing her like this with Xena
took some getting used to.

"Just Ephiny and Solan.  They've brought us our breakfast."  She brushed a few errant strands of
hair from Gabrielle's eyes and gave her an amused look, "Hungry?"

Green eyes twinkled. "Now that you mention it......I think I am."  Her low voice let Xena know
exactly what she was hungry for.

Xena shook her head, chuckling as she rose to slip into her robe and hand Gabrielle a covering
as well.  She stood, stretching for Ephiny's benefit. When Gabrielle came out of the washroom
she linked arms and escorted her to breakfast.


Solan was pleased with himself as he carried their breakfast into the hut.  He looked around to
see the women in the bed and snorted, continuing on to the small table without a second look.
He chuckled to himself at Ephiny's reaction then cursed under his breath, quickly deposited his
burden on the table and jumped to relieve Ephiny of hers, before she dropped it.  He glanced at
the bed as he narrowly averted disaster, saw Xena's wink and returned it before depositing the
second tray of food on the table.  Walking back to Ephiny, he snapped his fingers a few times
and passed his hand in front of her face, nothing.  He shook his head and went out the door, and
before it had a chance to close, returned with two pitchers and a water skin.  They were getting
up now so he physically pushed Ephiny toward the corner table and sat her on the cushion
against the wall.  He sat on the floor next to her and waited for Xena and his mother to join them.
Ephiny was shocked, her body stayed motionless but her mind raced.'Ok think girl, the guards
told you what they walked in on last night. It's not like you've never seen two people in bed
before.  Come on now...breathe...OK  Sure I heard what the guards said but I never thought.....
Sweet Artemis, Gabrielle IS in bed with Xena!  This is insane.  Gabrielle didn't ....
everrrWow...Good Morning.' Ephiny's brain was starting to clear when Xena winked.  'Gods...did
she just wink at me?  No, that was for Solan and he winked back!?  OK OK  calm down,  Where
did my tray go? Breathe, Ephiny, Breathe.  Whoa, she is gorgeous.  Hey, what
the.....Solan!!....Oh yeah, breakfast... Here they come.'  Ephiny had never seen any couple look
more regal or in love. 'Love!?'
Xena sat on the corner cushion and pulled Gabrielle into her lap. "Looks like the cooks lived up
to my challenge."  She grinned at Solan.

"It was pretty funny really.  They usually only cook oatmeal for breakfast.   When I told them
what you said they started grumbling and banging pans around.  Muttering stuff like, She
wants a royal breakfast, I'll show her a royal breakfast.  I'll bet her best cooks can't beat our
meals.  Stuff like that."  He was laughing.  "Then I told them for four people.  I thought
their eyes were going to pop right out of their heads."

Gabrielle was smiling at her son's story.  It caused her some apprehension though, Xena and
Solan seemed to be getting along a little too well.  'Gods...I can't be jealous.  He's her son for
Zeus' sake.'  She took a sip of juice.  "You two seem to be getting along."  Gabrielle looked up at
Xena clearly wanting an explanation.

"Well it seems, since his mother," stressing the words and giving her a significant look,
"promised him I wouldn't EAT him.  We have become friends."   Xena could feel Gabrielle's
tension fade as  Xena made it clear,  she had no intention of publicly claiming relationship to
Solan. "After all the Queen of the Amazons always keeps her promises. Right Solan?"

He looked at them and smiled, "You haven't eaten me yet so....... Yeah I guess so."

Gabrielle nearly lost a mouthful of juice at that statement.  She coughed and looked from Xena
to Solan. 'Oh yeah I have missed something.'

The warrior princess looked at Ephiny and noticed her bandaged wrists.  She stood, bringing
Gabrielle up with her. "I'll be right back."   Xena could feel Gabrielle watching her back as she
headed for the washroom.

Ephiny snapped out of her stupor as soon as the door was shut.  She was instantly at
Gabrielle's side. "Are you OK?  Did she hurt you? Did she threaten you?"  The scout was
examining her Queen's face intently and physically manhandling her to make sure there
were no bruises or marks.

Gabrielle submitted to the examination for a short time then held the scout's hands firmly
together. "I am fine.  She would never hurt me or threaten me."  She held hazel in green for a
moment not expecting understanding but grateful for at least acceptance. " I promise."

"The Queen of the Amazons always keeps her promises."  Ephiny repeated.

Gabrielle confirmed. "Always."

They were still standing when Xena came out of the washroom.  'Good'  Xena thought.  She
held her hand behind her back as she approached them.  She saw Ephiny's cautious move to a
better defensive position, slightly in front of Gabrielle. 'Very good.'  She dropped to one knee in
front of them both and produced a single yellow rose from behind her back.  Blue eyes sparkled
at twinkling green, "This is for you, Ephiny." Handing the flower to the stunned amazon on her
right. "As an apology for scaring you back at camp, and as a pre-thank you for keeping Gabrielle
safe while I'm gone.....and these, " standing and producing a large bundle of lilacs for the now
smiling amazon at her left, " are for you.....just because."

"Lilacs are my favorite."  Gabrielle's face practically glowed. "How did you know?"

Xena chuckled, leaned to Gabrielle's ear, inhaled deeply and whispered, "How could I not?" She
kissed the Queen on the cheek and motioned toward the table, "We better eat before it gets


"Solan, the next time you see those cooks you tell them I said they put every cook I have ever
had to shame."  Xena chuckled at  the gleam in his eye.

"How many cooks have you had?" He liked hearing Xena's voice almost as much as Gabrielle's.

The Conquerer laughed.  'Are you gonna tell him?'  Xena took a deep breath, silenced the
Conquerer and said, "Too many.  The one I have now seems like she might do."  They were all
silent contemplating that statement.  Another laugh echoed in her head, 'I won't kill her, you
mean.'  The warrior ignored her laughing dark side.  She wasn't sure how to continue the
conversation, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to.

"Well, I'm stuffed." Gabrielle broke the tension and received a grateful squeeze for her trouble.

Ephiny caught the reason why cooks didn't hang around or more to the point DID 'hang' around
and chimed in, "Me too."  She tilted her head and gave Solan a sideways glance, "You up for
some sparring?"

"Now?" It came out as a squeak and he glanced at Xena.  His mom said he was pretty good and
she was the best staff fighter the amazons had but he didn't want mess up in front of the warrior.
Everyone knew she was the best fighter in the world.  Hey, maybe she would give him some
pointers.  Wow, that would be neat.  I hope we get to.

"I wouldn't mind loosening up myself." Xena looked down at Gabrielle. "Do you mind if we hold
off.....  negotiations for a while?"

Another mouthful of juice nearly found its way to the floor.  Tears formed in her eyes as she
coughed and tried to laugh and speak at the same time.  "No." she managed, "I don't mind."
She looked from Xena to Ephiny who had been grinning since the warrior's use of the word

Solan jumped up to retrieve his staff.  "Hey!  Where's my staff?"

His mother again went into coughing fits.  Xena rubbed her back and gestured, "Try the other
side......"  She saw him look. "......on the floor." She added helpfully.

"How'd they get way over here?"  Solan knew his mother always kept the staffs between the bed
and the door.

Xena saw Gabrielle about to take a drink and casually put her hand over the top of the cup. "I
moved them."  Smiling as Gabrielle burst out laughing and Ephiny chuckled.  Xena looked at
the scout, 'She talked to the guards.'  "They were in my way." She shrugged and let go of the

"Bring them all Solan, Xena and Ephiny can pick the one they want to use."  Gabrielle finished
drinking her juice and stood to stretch.

Solan brought the bundle of staffs to the corner and handed Gabrielle her favorite.  He kept his
own and gave the rest to Ephiny so she could choose one.  Of the three she chose the one
that was just her height and made of her most favorite hardwood, not to heavy, not to light.

Xena was left with Gabrielle's other two practice staffs, neither of which she liked.  She saw
Ephiny's grin at her situation.  The practice staffs were perfect for the Queen but they were much
to small for Xena.  She took one, decided to have a little fun and hoped it didn't get out of hand.
Jogging over to the door she opened it quickly and pulled a guard inside, took her staff,
replaced it with the practice staff and pushed her back out the door.  She examined the staff in
her hand and casually walked back to Gabrielle's side.  "I like this one."   Looking up from
her examination of the weapon, she saw the expressions on everyone's face, "What?"

Gabrielle got over her shock first. She sighed and went out to talk to the guard.  Karis was
mortified that she had allowed herself to be disarmed and immediately requested to be
transferred to border patrol.  Self-imposed exile was unacceptable to Gabrielle.  She assured the
girl that it wasn't her fault.  The Conquerer was just in a mood.  It took a while but she thought
she had convinced her when she heard a yell from inside.

Sensing Gabrielle's absence from the room, Ephiny shook off her paralysis long enough to place
herself between Xena and Solan.  Xena saw the placement and for a moment was amused at
the attempt, like she could stop me.  She laughed which in itself wouldn't have been bad, but
she unconsciously used the same tone The Conquerer did when Ephiny delivered the message.
Ephiny whirled at the sound.  This time she was not bound and she was armed.

Xena was instictively on the defense.  She could feel the dark part of her stir in the back of her
mind.  The Conquerer laughed 'You're going to kill your boy's guardian and he's going to hate
you.'  Xena could feel The Conquerer getting stronger.  The Warrior Princess knew that dividing
her efforts between the physical and mental fights meant she would win one, the physical,
and lose the other.  She wanted it to be the other way around.  Gabrielle wasn't here to help her
with the mental but maybe she could catch a break on the physical.  "Ephiny, don't do this.
Drop the staff."  The laughter in her head got louder, 'You can't stop me now.'    Xena took a step
toward Ephiny and she saw a glimpse of Solan's face.  'Awww,' The Conquerer taunted. 'The
little prince is afraid of the big bad warrior.'  Xena fought for control, 'Leave Solan out of it.'  The
Conquerer laughed loud and growled low, 'No No My sister.  Solan is next.'  She was within
striking distance of Ephiny now. Xena jumped at the Amazon, "NO!"  The warrior princess
twisted impossibly in midair changing the path of her jump.  She brought the staff down on the
table, splintering it and the staff and scattering the remains of their breakfast all over the corner
of the room.

The yell from Xena and the crashing sound was enough to bring Gabrielle and both guards
quickly into the room.  The warrior stood next to the splintered table with her back to the door.
Gabrielle could see the labored breaths she was trying to get under control.  "Xena?  Are you all
right?"  She walked over to the, now calmer, warrior before anyone had a chance to stop her.

Ephiny was stunned at the turn of events and the show of strength.  The wooden table looked
like it had been stomped by 100 centaurs.  She saw Gabrielle headed toward the warrior but
couldn't stop her before she reached the woman.  Never, Never startle a warrior, especially this
one.  This was the most dangerous thing she had ever seen Gabrielle do.  'Gods.....'

The Conquerer was silenced and back in her cell.  'All it takes is her voice.' The Warrior
Princess thought. 'She makes me strong.'  She felt Gabrielle put her arms around her waist.
Gently closing the small distance between them she buried her face in Gabrielle's hair. 'Lilacs'
Two deep breaths and she was ready to face the consequences.  "Gabrielle, I'm sorry."  She
turned to Ephiny and Solan, "I'm sorry.  I.....It's just...."  There were just no words to justify her
actions, so she stopped trying.  'Solan is going to hate me now.'  The Conquerer laughed.
Xena looked at the boy.

He looked at her holding his mother.  That's how they looked this morning.  'She's not so scary,
with mother in her arms.'  He walked toward them his eyes never leaving the warrior's face and
hugged them both.  "I think I should go now."  He looked up at them and grinned. "Maybe we
can spar later?"

"We'll see."  Xena wasn't about to make that promise with The Conquerer so close to power.
She squeezed him a little tighter and released the embrace.

He stepped back and looked at Gabrielle, "A story tonight?"

She released Xena and stepped forward to hug him.  "A story tonight." She grinned wickedly at
Xena. "I promise."

He turned to leave and saw the guards and a bunch of people watching them through the open
door.  He gave Xena, Gabrielle, and Ephiny a rolled eye look and plowed through the crowd.
"What's the matter with you people?  Sheesh, you'd think you never saw a guy hug his mom

Gabrielle chuckled. She stepped back and circled an arm around the warrior's waist.  She
released her hold to survey the damage. One look and she groaned.  She heard Xena's gasp
and quickly returned to her embrace.  "Hey, Ephiny, Got any ideas on how to get eggs out of
armor?"  She looked at the scout expectantly.

'She is dropping this.  I can't believe it Xena attacked Solan and Gabrielle's dropping it like
nothing happened.'  Ephiny looked at the warrior in her Queen's arms.  'She's crying!'

The tear had escaped when Gabrielle's arms circled her for a second time.  She had been so
afraid that the woman would hate her.  She thought it would be nice if the scout liked her too but
it was Gabrielle who mattered.

"I have heard tell of a quaint practice involving soap, water and hard work. " Ephiny considered
her words carefully. " Seems like a lot of work though, if you're not going to need the armor

The warrior looked at the pile of metal in the corner.  'I would be dead a hundred times if not for
that heap and now I think it would kill me to put it on.'  She knew her dark side did not feel
the same way.   "If it were up to me, I would let it rust where it sits."  Xena could feel Gabrielle's
eyes on her. She took a deep breath and continued. "But The Conquerer will need it when
she goes back."

"I guess we better get right to it then."  Gabrielle walked over to the corner and picked up the
armor pieces.  She was trying to keep her mind off of the fact this was the second reference
Xena had made to leaving.  She was about to hand Ephiny a piece when she saw her look at
Xena and swallow.  "What?"  Gabrielle followed the hazel gaze to Xena and back.

Xena understood and moved to take her armor from the Queen. "Usually warriors don't let
anyone else touch their armor." She explained. "Often proper maintenance is the only thing
standing between victory and death.  To let someone else clean or maintain their armor or
weapons a warrior would have to trust them completely. "  She divided the armor to three parts,
breastplate, backshield and shoulder pads. Keeping the breastplate for herself she handed the
backshield to Gabrielle and turned to offer the shoulder pads to Ephiny.  Seeing the surprised
expression she smiled, "Anyone who would stand up to The Conquerer for m...a child can be

Gabrielle heard the stumble, she also heard the second instance when Xena spoke about The
Conquerer like she was a different person.  'Of course,  just like Gabrielle the Bard is different
than Gabrielle The Queen.'  It wasn't exactly the same.  Gabrielle's personalities were merged
into a balanced individual. Xena's personalities did not merge.  When The Conquerer was in
control she reacted differently to things, much differently than when The Warrior Princess was
dominant.   Still the insight Gabrielle gained from her observation went a long way to explaining
the outburst.

"It was my fault."  Ephiny said quietly as she took the armor. "When I heard you laugh.....I'm
sorry I just reacted."

"It sounded just like she did in the camp didn't it."  Xena waited for her affirmative head bob and
sighed, "I have to learn to control her better."  She saw confusion in Ephiny's face but was
startled to see understanding in Gabrielle's.

"You'll learn."  Gabrielle held up her piece of armor. "Come on this will be easier in the other
room."  She led them to the washroom.  Gabrielle, absently reaching up as she entered, pulled
a small lever.  Water began pouring into the large tub.  Xena put her armor down and went back
to the main room for a minute, returning with her weapons.  She would do those herself and
both her fellow wash cronies knew it.

Xena put the breastplate under the running water and looked up in surprise. "This water is

Gabrielle and Ephiny both smiled.  "As long as there is a fire, I can have a warm bath." Gabrielle
was happy to see the raised eyebrow on the warrior.  Her smile got wider, "Later....I promise."

'Uh Oh' Ephiny thought.  'I better finish this fast.'  She washed and polished the shoulder shields
as quickly as she could.  None of them said much as they each worked on their individual tasks.
Suddenly she felt like a Hestian at a Bacchae Festival. Glancing up she saw the look in the blue
eyes that were totally focused on green. 'Whoa, I gotta get outta here. NOW! Thank the Gods
I'm finished.'  She cleared her throat softly, then a little louder, finally she shook Gabrielle by the
shoulder, grinning at the Queen's embarrassment, "I'm finished with these."  She looked at
Xena who had already recaptured the attention of the Queen.  "I'll leave them by the fire to dry?"
She took the offhanded wave to mean OK.  "I need to get going anyway." Both of them waved
absently. 'Uh huh.'  "I told Phantes I would help him grow wings so he could be Pegasus."
Another wave. "Try not to drown OK?"  She shook her head as she reentered the main room and
chuckled at the sound of armor hitting the floor.  Ephiny stirred the fire, added a few more logs
and arranged the shoulder armor to dry.   Distinct moaning was coming from the other side of
the fireplace so she got up to leave and noticed the corner had been cleaned. 'Xena must have
had the guards do it when she got her weapons.'  She heard a loud splash and shook her head.
Neither guard knew where Eponin was.


Xena woke slowly, absorbing the familiar feel of Gabrielle in her arms.  'Gods I don't want to go.'
She snuggled closer to the sleeping woman, smelling the lilac/leather/Gabrielle combination
that was now permanently imprinted on her senses.  'How long can I last without her?'
Reluctantly she broke off the embrace, nearly returning when Gabrielle wimpered slightly in her
sleep.   She pulled on her leathers and started buckling her armor in place.  'It feels strange after
six days.' The warrior thought.  'No'  The Conquerer corrected, 'It feels ..... good.'

'Gods, I've never even been out of this hut, except to get the flowers.'  She thought about the
time she had spent here.  Nice meals with Gabrielle and Solan. 'Solan, wasn't that a shocker.'
She was even on speaking terms with Ephiny now, sort of.  Stories in the evenings and the last
few days she had been able to spar a little with Gabrielle and Solan.  'It will be hard to go back.'
She sighed.

She was just settling her bracers when she felt eyes watching her.  She turned to see sad green
eyes looking back at her.  "Hey, what's up?"

"You have to leave today."  Gabrielle had told herself she wouldn't cry.

"Yeah, I am sure Darfus is getting nervous by now."  She looked a little guilty. "And there are a
few matters of State that should probably be handled by me."  It was a reality check for

"Yeah, me to." She smiled up at the warrior. "I have never neglected the Nation before."

"The Nation doesn't have anything to worry about." Xena sighed. "you're very self sufficient."
She bounced a few times to settle her armor and weapons and grinned as Gabrielle's head
followed the motion.   "The rest of the world however is another matter."  Gabrielle's puzzled look
forced her to elaborate. She walked back and forth at the foot of the bed, counting off items on
her fingers.  "Brittania and Gaul fight among themselves constantly.  Egyptian and Indian spice
traders have formed an alliance against the traders of Chin.  India refuses to let ships from Chin
use their ports so Chinese merchants have to use northern overland trade routes. That increases
the cost of goods from Chin tremendously. Not to mention the Persians, they control the
inland water route...."  She stopped her tirade when Gabrielle's smile derailed her train of
thought.  "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I just realized......."  Gabrielle's thought faded off with emotion.

"Realized what?  Gabrielle?"  Xena was concerned now. "What is it?"  She tried to comfort
Gabrielle without poking her too much with the armor.

"You're the ruler of the world.  Gods Xena.  I never really thought about it before.  To me you are
just Xena."  Gabrielle felt a little foolish at that admission.

"I had wondered about that.  Why is it you don't see me as anything other than Xena?"   It was
true.  From the very first day Gabrielle had acted like she was an old friend coming for a visit and
Xena didn't even think about it after the third day when The Conquerer stopped putting in her two
dinar's worth.  'Hey, even I need a vacation every once in a while.' The Conquerer chimed.

Gabrielle pursed her lips, and got up.  She retrieved a scroll from her desk and handed it to
Xena. "This is why."  She held her breath as Xena opened the scroll and began to read, blue
eyes flying wide at the first line.  It had obviously been written by a child.

Got back from 'phipolis t'day. Gosh I liked my 'sitter.  Xena.

Xena swallowed hard and continued reading.

Traders came in today, they said Amphipolis was attacked.  I was scared for Xena until they
said that the raid wasn't successful.  I knew she could do it.  I was sad for her brother though.
A traveling bard came through here last week.  He had a few Xena stories.  I remember she told
me I should be a bard so I asked him for lessons and I got to hear about her over and over again.
Someone should tell her it's not her fault her brother died.
I heard another Xena story today.  It was about Caesar.  Killing him is going to cause a lot of
problems but he shouldn't have used her like that.  You would think he would know better.
It's been a while but I finally heard a new Xena story today.  She went to Chin!  The story is she
kidnapped one of the rulers sons and took over the whole country.
I've been hearing too many stories to write down but she's coming back to Greece.  I knew she
would.  Toppling nations on the way back from Chin.  I wish I wasn't stuck here just listening to
old stories.
I went with the merchants caravan today.  They were stopping in Amphipolis so I HAD to go.  I
saw the innkeeper.  She was looking pretty good.  She was playing with her two grandchildren,
Lyceus and Atrius.  She said if Lyceus had freckles and longer, darker hair he would look like
the uncle he was named after.  Her oldest son Torris reminded me of Xena.  He has the same
eyes and hair.
It's been a while again, there was trouble with some slavers.  Long story but I'm an amazon
princess now.  Ephiny is teaching me all about the staff and I have to learn hunting and tracking.
Best of all I get to listen to the guards when they come back from scouting.  They said two of
Xena's guards had been imprisoned because they stopped in Amphipolis and roughed up the
innkeeper.  They were lucky they didn't hurt her too bad.
There's been an accident.  I'm Queen now.  I convinced the others to try and make peace
because when Xena comes for us we will need to be whole and strong.  I don't know why she
hasn't tried for the Nation yet, but I am sure she will eventually, soon it will be the only thing left.
She's fighting the centaurs now. All the centaurs have united against her, Ephiny's husband....
Gods everyone in his village  was killed.  She was lucky little Phantes was visiting a friend
at the time.  Of course he will stay with Ephiny now.  I signed  a declaration that centaur princes
are excluded from the ban  on men in the territory.
I surveyed the site of another defeated centaur village. We found a boy there.  The healers said
he had passed out from breathing too much smoke.  I made them take him back to the village
and help him. I am The Queen now so they had to do it. He looks just like the innkeepers
grandchild except he has freckles and longer, darker hair.  I think he might be Xena's son.
I had the scouts report in.  Just as I thought.  She doesn't get close to anyone ever.  Like she is
afraid to love, sure there are lovers, a few of them were the scouts themselves...........

Xena looked astonished at the Queen on her throne. "You sent spies?  How in this world did you
manage that?  There hasn't been an amazon sighting in years."

Gabrielle smiled, "Funny thing about amazons.  Put 'em in regular clothes and they look just like
everyone else."  She laughed. "Very useful."

"Apparently a few of them looked a little better than everyone else if I..... Gods Gabrielle...how
many scouts have I...."  Xena looked horrified.

"Enough."  She sounded irritated. "Oh I was super jealous at first but then I realized..."

"Realized what." The narrow eye look.

Gabrielle gave her the brightest smile yet. "Those are the ones I got the best information from
and if you were given a choice..."

"What kind of choice."  Xena was starting not to like this.

"A choice between two people you always, ALWAYS chose the one that looked the most like
me." Gabrielle grinned at her.

Xena looked back at the scroll.  The rest of it was filled with accounts of battles and snippets of
information gleaned from guards and housestaff.  "Amazon scouts are good at what they do."
 Some of the information had eluded even her own spies.  Not to mention the amazons
presence was never detected.  'Very good.'  She couldn't hear The Conquerer laughing, but she
could feel it.

"That is why I felt like I knew you.  All these years I have kept track of you and prayed for your
safety, because of this feeling I remembered from when I was five and I fell asleep in your
arms."  Gabrielle sat on the edge of the bed next to Xena. "I wasn't positively sure though

"Until when?"  Xena brushed the hair back from her face and tilted her chin up to meet her eyes.

Gabrielle was lost in the blue mist for a long moment.  She was barely able to speak, "Until you
walked through the door six days ago."

"You are making it very difficult for me to leave."  Xena heaved herself off the bed.  "But I have to
get back or Darfus will take matters into his own hands."

"I know."  Gabrielle sighed and rose to wrap her arms around Xena's waist  "I will miss you.  Do
you want an escort to the border?"

"Are you offering?" Xena looked speculative.'That could be rough. And then there is always......'
'...Me' The Conquerer sang from her cell, 'You wouldn't want her to be around me, now would
you.  I  might hurt her.'  'No you wouldn't.' The Warrior Princess was confident now.  'Why?
Because you love her.'  The Conquerer sneered.  'No.'  The warrior's quiet reply silenced The
Conquerer, 'Because you do.'  Xena heard a quiet chorus of voices, 'We all do.'

"No, It would be too hard and I don't think I would want to see.....that anyway."  Gabrielle hadn't
wanted to admit that.  "Just promise you will come back soon."

"Promise." Xena bent for a long goodbye kiss. She started for the door when Gabrielle stopped
her.  "Gabrielle I have to go.  Darfus..... "

"Will need this as proof."  She finished for her.  She walked to her desk and retrieved two

"What is that."

"It's the treaty."


"Sure.  You remember, I asked you here to discuss the option of you not invading our land and
burning everything in sight.  Is that scorched earth policy The Conquerer's or Darfus'?"

"But we haven't once discussed anything of the sort."  Xena was embarrassed to admit she had
forgotten.  She was simply going to tell Darfus to take his troops and go.  This may be easier
except now she had no choice but accept the terms of the treaty.  She was feeling very trapped
until she read the terms.


IN THE INTEREST OF PEACE The Amazon Nation hereby enters into this agreement with the
Realm of Xena: The Conquerer.  After due negotiations The Amazon Nation accepts Xena: The
Conquerer's proposition, the terms of which are listed in this scroll:

1.) In exchange for Xena:The Conquerer's immediate withdrawl of her troops from it's borders
The Amazon Nation agrees to allow Xena free access to Amazon Territory insofaras Xena
agrees to abide by all the laws applicable to her visit.

2.) In exchange for the continued absence of Xena: The Conquerer's troops along it's borders
The Amazon Nation agrees to provide Xena services unique to the Amazon Nation.  Any mass
of Xena: The Conquerer's troops on the border will result in the immediate termination of said
services.  The size of the troops allowed on the border and the nature of the services to be
provided will be negotiated at a later time.

3.) The Amazon Nation reserves the right to ask for a re-negotiation at any time and recognizes
Xena's right to the same.

Signed and Sealed
Queen Gabrielle of the Amazon Nation


Xena: The Conquerer

Xena signed and sealed it immediately.  'This is too good to pass up.' The Conquerer thought.


It had been almost a month since Xena left to withdraw her troops from the border and three
weeks since the last of them had gone.  Three sentries had followed her to the armies camp and
reported back that Darfus had been killed.  Karis was the one who gave her the most detailed
account though.  She remembered the piping voice replaying the event.

"It was really creepy." She had said. "We followed her all the way from the border but when she
got back to her camp she....changed.  It was like not even the same person.  She ordered the
troops to withdraw and Darfus challenged her.  She showed him the treaty and he became very
angry.  He had apparently been looking forward to the fight. She started to walk away and he
commented on the 'services' outlined in the treaty." At this point Karis' voice had become shaky,
"When he wondered out loud what an amazon queen's 'services' would be like, she changed
again.  She sorta shook all over and when she turned around I knew he was dead.  It was really
weird cause I don't remember actually seeing it happen but she locked eyes with him and ... I
don't know how to describe it... she ....glided ... toward him slow." Gabrielle knew Karis was too
young to know about that particular walk.  "He never moved.  I don't remember her drawing the
knife.  All I know is she walked up to him and looked really closely in his eye and said, "Don't
trip."  When she said that, he looked down and there were his guts still falling out of him twisting
around his feet.  I can still see him trying to grab them before he fell over.  Then she asked if
anyone else had anything to say and laughed when they didn't."  Gabrielle still shuddered when
she thought about it.  She was glad she hadn't gone with Xena.  It worried her because what
Karis described didn't sound like The Conquerer either.  She knew the flowing power Karis had
described combined with murderous intent was infinitely more dangerous than The Conquerer
ever was.

It took her a while to get over that recitation.  Gabrielle knew that everyday Xena stayed away,
The Warrior would have a harder time returning to her.  The Queen smiled to herself.  'The
Conquerer has to come back though, the 'services' clause in the treaty assures it.  She will want
my scouts to work for her.'  Gabrielle thought.


Gabrielle sat at the head of her bed cross-legged with Solan on her lap.  She was surrounded by
2 dozen pairs of adoring eyes. They sat on the bed and in front of the fire.  There was practically
no room for anyone else to fit.  "Does anyone have any requests?"

"I have one."  A soft voice purred.

Gabrielle felt her heart race.  She looked up at the washroom door to see Xena leaning casually
on the door facing.  She looked great.  No armor, just a long green tunic with matching leggings,
and boots. She knew the woman would have been completely invisible in the trees.   "What
story would you like to hear?"

"If you don't mind," She scanned the faces of the children as she made her way to the head of
the bed. "I'd like to tell one."  She smiled when no one objected and climbed over to Gabrielle.
Sitting cross-legged she pulled Gabrielle. with Solan on her lap, into her lap and settled mother
and son into the depression made by her crossed legs.  Making sure everyone was comfy she

"This is the story of a day in the life of a little village
girl.  Just for the sake of arguement let's say her name is
Gabrielle.  Once when Gabrielle was about five, her parents took
her with them on the merchant's caravan.  One day they stopped
in a small village that was preparing for a festival.  They
needed to set up their tables so a local tavern owner said that
her daughter would be happy to babysit.  Just for the sake of
arguement let's say her name was .... Xena."

Of course the girls had heard the story before.  It was one of Queen Gabrielle's favorites but
Xena told it different.  It had some other stuff to it and a different point of view.  They all saw
when their Queen's face lit up at the changes.  When it was finished, Micha asked, "I never
heard that part about little Gabrielle trying to catch a bug for Xena and getting flour all over her.
Did you make up that part yourself?"

Gabrielle felt Xena take a deep breath, "No, I didn't.  I just remember more about that day.  After
all Gabrielle was only five and I was what 13....14?"  She looked down at the smiling Queen
in her arms.

"You mean it really happened?"  Micha squealed in delight.

Xena never took her eyes off of Gabrielle. "It really did....."

Gabrielle finished softly. "A long time ago."


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