STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Callisto, Argo, Ephiny, Dayhok, Kraftstar, and Hope are the property of Universal/MCA, and Renaissance Pictures. All the others belong to me, and contain a little bit of my essence, as well as that of some pet units close to me. The use of the prior mentioned characters is strictly for fun, not for profit. No plagiaristic activity or theft of character is intended in any way.

SPOILERS: This story contains some references to season 3's "The Rift" series, as well as a lead up to the final episodes. If you don't want to have your viewing pleasure spoiled, then read no further.

SUBTEXT: Ah yes, subtext. This story does contain major references to the loving relationship between two women. If this is not your cup of tea, then DON'T DRINK! Or read for that matter. If you are under 18, please move on. If this type of subject matter is illegal in your state, then move out, or move on with the 18-year-olds. After all, this world has many resources, however some things are just not meant for some people. Please do us all a favor, and surf on down the line.

VIOLENCE: There are references to violence in this story, and the possibility of violence, however there are no graphic details.

This is my second endeavor at writing fan fiction. I have discovered that I enjoy it immensely. I appreciate any and all comments, so feel free to contact me via E-mail.

And now, on with the story.

Woman, so gentle in my arms
Loving, you have opened to me
Fierce, my own dark heart
And found therein and to me reflected
My source of light.

***Elsa Gidlow***


by Kat



It has been a long road back. From the pain, the lies, the betrayal. I find myself unable to talk much these days. At least not out loud. I am writing, but only in my journal. Xena is her usual stoic self. We are very careful around each other now. I am afraid to say anything to her that might upset her. And I find myself wondering . . .if she feels the same. I keep thinking that maybe I should have gone on my own. She doesn't really need me anymore. Who could need a best friend who nearly gets you killed, facilitates the murder of your child, and then because of an unwillingness to consider the truth, is forced to poison her own child. I am selfish. Why did I do this? Why did we do this together? I blamed her, for leaving me alone in Britannia. For leaving me in the hands of first Kraftstar, and ultimately Dayhok.

I still have nightmares. Terrible nightmares. I dream that Dayhok is still seeking me, controlling me. In my dreams I see myself carrying a sword. I see myself killing first Meridian, and then I see the worst of all. I see myself killing Xena. I would rather kill myself than live through that. I love Xena. More than my own life, or the lives of my family. She is everything to me. I had hoped that one day I could share that love with her. She can still say she loves me, but I believe that she may be saying that out of a sense of familiarity. I wish we could talk to each other. I would explain to her that I did the things I did out of love. That I never intended to hurt her.

I just couldn't give in to her protectiveness anymore. And because of my pride, I damaged us both. Maybe forever. I thought I was capable of taking care of myself. I felt she gave me no credit, that I was still a burden. Of course, it would help if she could share her feelings. But not my Xena. Still hides under that "Warrior" disguise. I realize it helps, I just wish she would talk. I pictured us someday settling somewhere. Maybe near Amphipolis, and sharing the rest of our lives together. I know such a thing is possible between two women. I asked Ephiny. Of course Ephiny would rather it not be Xena. But that's not Ephiny's choice. And probably not mine either.

I guess we will make camp soon. I am resting while Xena scouts ahead. She has tended to stay clear of villages lately. Too much activity, and too much trouble. I can't remember this road we're on. I don't know if we have ever traveled this way before. Maybe I can ask her later. I hear Argo coming now. I better put my stuff away. I don't want to keep her waiting for me.

Gabrielle packed her journal back into her bag, and then picked up her staff and stood waiting expectantly for Xena to arrive. Instead of Xena and Argo, it was just Argo. One stirrup was partially torn off the saddle, and Xena was missing! "Oh my gods. Argo, where is she. What happened girl?" Gabrielle grabbed her reins as Argo came into range, and then searched her from end to end for any signs of what may have taken place. Argo snuffled her hair, and then nudged her a few times as if to say, "get up here and lets go girlie. Times a-wasting!"

Gabrielle led the war horse nearer to a small boulder, so she could reach the saddle easier. Argo moved in as close as she could, as though to help the smaller woman gain a hold on her unsteady perch. Gabrielle pulled herself into the seat, and Argo took off running like a shot. "It's okay girl," Gabrielle whispered in her ear. "You just take me to her. It will be okay . . .I hope."

They rode like the wind for what seemed like hours, but which was only a candlemark at best. Gabrielle did not recognize the area they were racing through. She was more concerned with not falling off. "I wonder where Xena is. This can't be happening! She has to be okay." All of these thoughts went traveling through her mind at once.

The horse and rider rounded a bend in the road, and then Argo made a sudden turn into the bordering woods, and ran full out towards the center of the forest. Gabrielle closed her eyes, and trusted in the horses training and ability to get her there in one piece. Suddenly Argo stopped with a lurch, almost sending her rider head first through her ears. "Hey there. Watch it!" Gabrielle growled. "I can't help Xena, if you kill me too!"

"Very good observation young lady. You must be Gabrielle." Gabrielle started at the voice, coming from just on the other side of the trees. Or so she thought. As she watched however, the bark on a rather large tree began to move, wiggle, shimmer. Well, at least it wasn't exactly normal tree behavior. Gabrielle tried to get Argo to move backwards, but the horse stayed stock still, as though she were rooted to the spot. The front of the tree began to move again, and quite suddenly, Gabrielle was looking right into the eyes of a very gentle looking, if not slightly nutty woman.

She had graying hair, a brilliant smile, and a wondrous cloak. Made with the colors of the forest the cloak covered the woman from the top of her head, down to her feet. It closed with a clasp at her neck. As Gabrielle was absorbing this information, the woman threw the cloak back over her shoulder to reveal beautiful silver armor, covering a pair of breeches and a blowsy shirt of the most brilliant purple color she had ever seen. She had gauntlets of the softest deerskin, and shin guards of the same silver as the rest of the armor.

"Don't be afraid, Gabrielle." The woman spoke softly. "I am a friend. I wear the armor for my own protection. If I have to wear it, then it better look good." She chuckled. "And I have your beloved here in my home. She was injured when she tried to lead some raiders away from where you were waiting. She smacked her head pretty hard when the stirrup from her Argo's saddle broke. I had her brought to me, to care for her, and then sent Argo for you. I am glad you came with her. She tells me that you don't particularly care for her. But enough idle chit chat. I would imagine you would like to see your beloved now."

Gabrielle took the hand that was being offered to her, and slid carefully off the horses back. She was surprised at the strength the woman possessed, but at the same time the gentleness with which she helped her down off of her perch. "Um . . .I know you know who I am, but who are you?" she asked carefully. "My name is very hard to pronounce. It translates as Traveler in the language of my people. Most people just call me Blayne. It sounds something like my real name, but easier to pronounce." The woman answered. "Ok Blayne, perhaps you should tell me where Xena is, and why you keep calling her my beloved. If she heard you say that, she would probably run you through with her sword." Gabrielle smiled at her. Blayne smiled back and replied, "Because it is so. Is it not?" Then she quickly turned, and started walking towards the tree where Gabrielle first saw her.

Gabrielle stared at her retreating back for a moment, and then shook her head, gathered her belongings, and followed Blayne to the spot where she first appeared. She began to ask more questions, but Blayne stopped her, and told her that in due time all would be revealed. Blayne reached out for Gabrielle with one hand, and pulled her in close to her chest. They were both of similar height. "Wait, what are you doing? Where are we going?" Gabrielle gasped. Blayne whispered in her ear, "To your beloved."

Blayne pulled Gabrielle closer to her, and then wrapped her cloak around both of them. Gabrielle felt disoriented, and very dizzy. Seconds later the cloak was removed, and she found herself standing in the garden of a beautiful cottage. It seemed to be part of the base of a giant tree. Blayne took her hand, and then whistled through her teeth. Gabrielle followed her gaze, and was startled, as Argo seemed to appear from within the tree that they had just stepped away from. "Did we just do that?" she asked. Blayne just laughed, and tugged on her hand to follow her into the house.

They stepped across the threshold, and Gabrielle was awestruck by the sheer size, and beauty of her hostess' home. They traveled for some time down a long brightly-lit hallway. Gabrielle could hear voices whispering as they passed. "Is there someone else here?" she inquired. "Oh, those are my friends. I will introduce you to them after we see to your friend." Blayne replied. Before they reached the end of the hall, Blayne stopped in front of an ornately decorated door. "This is my room. It is more for suitable for two, than for just one. I hope you will be most comfortable here." She pushed the door open, and led Gabrielle inside.

The room was magnificent. All of the furnishings were strange but absolutely beautiful. There were hand carved chairs, with overstuffed cushions on them, and a tall ornate wardrobe, with unusual looking handles on the all crafted in metal. Gabrielle had never seen anything like it before. Even when she stayed at the palace in Chin. That thought brought her back to the reason she was there in the first place. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I need to see Xena, maybe she can help me." She thought to herself.

To one side of the room was an extremely large and comfortable looking bed. Lying in the bed was Xena's still form. Blayne had apparently removed Xena's armor and leather, and then clothed her in what looked like a very comfortable and soft night shirt. It was a beautiful blue color, that if Gabrielle could see Xena's eyes, would have enhanced them measurably. Blayne relieved Gabrielle of her belongings, and placed them in the wardrobe alongside Xena's armor, and leathers. "Come. She is unconscious, but she can feel your presence. It will help her to feel you near." Blayne said.

Gabrielle quickly crossed to the bedside, and reached for Xena's hand. Totally unplanned for, she began to cry. "Oh, Xena, please," she cried, "don't leave me. Not now, not when I need you the most." She carefully smoothed Xena's hair from her forehead, and then kissed the tips of her fingers. "Gabrielle, you may sit next to her. I have visited with her. She needs you to be with her." Blayne said. Confused by her mysterious hostess, Gabrielle carefully shifted and sat on the bed next to Xena. "Blayne?" she asked. "What's wrong with her? Why can't she hear me?" Blayne sighed and pursed her lips. "Xena hit her head very hard when she fell from Argo. So great was her need to protect you, she momentarily became careless. If you touch the back of her skull very carefully, you can feel the lump. I have treated her for the injury, and then given her something for the pain. When she awakens, she will not be feeling very well, I'm afraid." "Then you are a healer?" Gabrielle inquired. "I am many things Gabrielle. More than you can imagine. When you are rested, come to me in my study. The cat at the end of the bed will be glad to show you the way. Now rest, and draw strength for Xena with your closeness. She needs to feel your energy in her heart." With that Blayne swiftly left the room, before the millions of questions forming behind Gabrielle's lips came spilling forth.

Blayne had to laugh to herself. "Poor little thing. She has no idea how much that big old Warrior Princess loves her, and vice versa. Ah me, looks like I will have to do some mind work on those two. Yes, love is blind even in this century. Well, time for that later. I must get out of this armor, and clean up the study before my inquisitive guest comes around, and wonders what's really going on." She retired to her study, to further mull over all of this excitement. It wasn't often that she got visitors, and especially as emotionally injured, and in need of mothering as these two. It was apparent to Blayne, that the two women must have been drawn to her by their need. Blayne, as it comes to pass, was definitely a traveler, but not from place to place. Rather she traveled from time to time.

Several candlemarks later, Gabrielle awoke with a start, and took a few seconds to remember where she was, and why she was here. She sat up, and realized that she had been resting her head on Xena's shoulder, snuggled up close, and listening to the warrior's heartbeat. Across from her sitting very still was a beautiful black cat with very intelligent yellow green eyes. Gabrielle reached for her, and scratched her ears. "My you are a beauty aren't you?" she murmured to the animal. "And so too are you, little bard." The cat replied. Gabrielle pulled her hand back quickly, and stared at the animal in shock. "You spoke!" she exclaimed. "Of course. One usually answers when one is spoken to. It's only polite you know." Said the cat. Gabrielle blinked a few times and replied, "Well, I have met Centaurs, and dragons, and giants, and more. But I have never met a talking cat before." "Oh, my apologies then. I assume everyone speaks with animals. Blayne has to remind me regularly about my assumptions." The cat answered. "What's your name?" Gabrielle asked. "My name is Tayo, but Blayne calls me baby girl. And my sister calls me brat. If you ask me, she's the brat." Smiled Tayo. Gabrielle was unnerved by the smile, but continued on with her inquiry. "So tell me Tayo, who is Blayne? How do you know her?"" Ah Gabrielle, tsk tsk, Blayne is our mother. And she is a traveler. More than that she will have to tell you herself. I cannot share her secrets. I can tell you however that my sister and I were babies when she found us. We were sick and dying, and she made us well. She then gave us the gift of speech. I alone speak several languages. My sister the dolt, speaks a few as well, but I know more than she. I am mother's favorite too, not sister."

Gabrielle was amused at the obvious jealousy that the little cat displayed for her sister. She was interested in meeting the sister to see what her take on Tayo might be. "Tayo, Blayne said that when I was ready, to ask you to take me to her. Can we go now?" she asked. "Oh yes. Blayne says that it will be a few more candlemarks before your beloved wakes up. I will take you to Blayne, and then return to watch her." Tayo answered. "Ummm . . .Tayo? I wouldn't refer to her as my beloved when she is awake. She might strangle you with her bare hands." Gabrielle commented. "Oh Gabrielle, do not under estimate yourself, or your beloved. Mother says she will help you. We better go now. You will want to be here when Xena's eyes open." Tayo replied.

The cat jumped to the floor, and stood by the door while Gabrielle combed back her hair, and tidied up a bit. She opened the door, and the two of them wandered further down the hall to the larger door at the end. This door was very ornate and beautiful, with strange carvings. Some things Gabrielle recognized, and others she had never seen before. She recognized a few as timepieces, but the rest were unusual. She suspected that some of these images carried clues as to who their hostess really is. She knocked on the door, and heard a muffled response. She quietly opened the door, and walked in to another world all together.

She began to wonder if she wasn't in Illusia again. She had been through so many strange incidents lately, that it wouldn't surprise her if she hadn't slipped through the cracks. The room was full of . . . stuff. There were things hanging from the ceiling; chairs of all shapes and sizes; plants, some obviously needing attention, most of which she had never seen before. There were bottles and bottles, and more bottles. All different colors of liquids, potions and powders. Herbs were drying in bunches hanging from the ceiling. Somewhere in the mess she could smell food cooking, and it smelled wonderful. She realized that she hadn't eaten in what seemed like moons. As if in response to her thoughts her stomach growled loudly.

"Hmmmm . . . It seems I have been negligent in my duties. I should have brought you some food while you were resting. I do apologize most profoundly." Blayne said. Gabrielle looked around the room, and over near the wall in front of a window was a worktable of sorts. The voice was coming from somewhere behind the stacks of stuff piled on the table. "Blayne, are you in there somewhere?" Gabrielle called. Blayne stood, and gestured for Gabrielle to follow her to a small seating area near a rather cozy fireplace in the corner. "Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I will get you something to eat right away." Gabrielle smiled at her, and then sat in a large fluffy chair in the corner by the fire. She watched with astonishment, as her hostess put on large leather gloves, and reached right into the fire. She removed a vessel made out of metal, with a top on it. It was square, and maybe three finger widths deep. And what ever was inside smelled absolutely wonderful.

Blayne carried the vessel to a table in the seating area, and then grabbed what looked like a clay plate from a shelf near the fireplace. She uncovered the vessel, and using a large spoon, dished out some of the contents onto the plate for Gabrielle. "What do you call this?" Gabrielle asked. "Oh, this is chicken and rice. My mother's recipe actually." Blayne replied. "Eat Gabrielle, and then I will answer questions." As she settled into the other comfortable chair, Gabrielle noticed something fluttering just behind Blayne's head. When she caught site of it again, she almost choked on the food she was eating. Sitting on the back of the chair, rubbing its head against Blayne's, was a small black cat, obviously the sister that Tayo referred to. The difference in this animal was startling. She was about half the size as her sister, and she had two soft, feathery wings growing from her shoulder blades. The fluttering that first attracted Gabrielle, was the little cat landing and settling her wings.

"Oh," Blayne smiled, "I see you noticed my other little girl. This is Keisha. She is Tayo's sister. And yes, she can fly. Tayo is quite jealous of the fact." "Tayo is a pig mother. She is a pig's dung." Spat Keisha. "Now Keisha. Gabrielle is a guest in our home, and so is her beloved. She does not need to hear such things from your mouth. I must ask both of you to be on your best behavior, or I will ask you to stay in the room from now on. And Keisha . . . Gabrielle has asked us not to refer to Xena as her beloved in Xena's presence. We will respect her wishes until it is no longer necessary." "But mother," whined Keisha, "I only speak the truth and you know it. It's not fair to keep the truth a secret from her. Besides, I like Xena. I might hire her to stomp Tayo. When she's feeling better of course." Said Keisha.

Gabrielle tried to convince herself that it was going to be okay, that she has experienced many diverse situations in her travels, and this was nothing she couldn't handle. She was definitely preparing to ask some very serious questions of her hostess. But right now she was starving, and she knew she needed to get back to Xena. Blayne could sense Gabrielle's distress, and reassured her. "Do not worry about Xena, Gabrielle. She is going to recover nicely, and she is in good hands . . . or paws I should say with Tayo. And Tayo will come for you when Xena begins her journey back to us. Cats can share the thoughts of humans. Most people don't know that because most cats choose not to speak. These two probably wouldn't either, but I had to bribe them to get them to cooperate. " Keisha stood and stretched, and took off from her perch calling over her shoulder, "Gabrielle, I will go and make sure that Tayo is doing her job, and not just being a fat lazy pig." Gabrielle chuckled, and relaxed. She finished her meal, and then settled back for a moment to gain her composure, and to formulate her thoughts into some questions for her hostess.

A brief candlemark later, Gabrielle awoke to see Blayne smiling gently at her. She realized that she just simply drifted off for a moment. "Blayne, I am so sorry. I guess I just drifted." She mumbled. Blayne smiled broader, and then reached for Gabrielle's hand. "Gabrielle, the cats have been visiting your dreams. They have told me some of what you have been going through. I know you are in pain. Pain makes the mind and the soul very weary. I can help you regain yourself. And I can help Xena as well. She has spent quite some time torturing herself with your pain, her pain, and her past. She completely blames herself for everything that has befallen you. She believes that she should have been stronger, and should have sent you home in the beginning. She doesn't realize that this would not have been possible. No matter how hard she tried, once your soul touched hers, there would be no separation. This is why you had to follow her to Chin. This is why she was drawn to your pain in Britannia. This is why you love each other so much. You both just need a little help to over come those barriers."

Gabrielle swallowed, and then looked down at her hands, tears slipping slowly down her cheeks. "I . . . I don't know how you know these things about our lives. I am so confused, and I wish that Xena were here now to guide me." She sighed. "Gabrielle, you have no need to fear me. I will answer any questions for you that I can. There are some things, which may be too fantastic for you to grasp. Only one small but powerful law holds my life and my abilities. It is called Paradox. If I breach certain rules regarding this law, I run the risk of destroying life as it was, as it is, and as it could be. " Blayne explained. "Let me tell you some things, and then you may ask questions as we go along.

"I am, as I said before, a traveler. I travel to all lands, but more importantly I travel to all times. I am older than the Gods are, and younger than the end of all that is. I come from the future Gabrielle. I travel through time helping to heal the minds of those that have a great destiny to fulfill. That is my destiny. These individuals hold the key to subsequent futures. The Gods of this time, and others in other times meddle with the chosen ones. They set them up with obstacles, and try to make them fail. They wish to hurt them, and in some ways protect themselves. I was born to protect and save the chosen from these individuals." Blayne took a deep breath before continuing. She also needed to make sure that Gabrielle was still following along. "Gabrielle, some of the things I will tell you, must stay with you and Xena, and not be shared with others. I know you are a bard, and I know you make stories out of your adventures. To do that with what I tell you, will most assuredly get me killed." She took another moment to let that information soak into Gabrielle's thoughts. "I understand Blayne. I am a lot older than I ever used to be. In my heart anyway. I wouldn't repay your kindness by endangering you." Whispered Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, there is something else I have to tell you. You and Xena are not finished with Hope and Dayhok yet." Said Blayne. Gabrielle started at that statement. "What do you mean we're not done yet? I killed her. She should be gone, and the threat of Dayhok should have been eliminated." Blayne sighed deeply, and stood up, pacing across the room. "Dayhok is an extremely dangerous, and powerful entity Gabrielle. There are only three more steps before he can be released, and the reign of terror begins. Someone you know from your childhood is going to try to use the kindness and purity in your heart to betray Xena again, and to allow Dayhok to be released to his full potential. It will be necessary for you to stay with me, and let me help you both. Unless you realize your love for each other, then the future as I know it will never come to pass. And humanity will perish."

Gabrielle looked away, and then turned back to Blayne. "Blayne, I know in my heart how I feel about Xena. I love her, and I want to be her lover. The idea of a future without her is unacceptable to me. But I wouldn't know how to approach her, or share that with her. I was beginning to make plans to separate from her forever, before she was injured, and you found us. I cannot face myself some days, and I would be foolish to believe that Xena could ever love me again, or want to be with me in any way. I could be content to continue on the way we have been, as companions and friends. I believe though, that I may have destroyed that possibility forever." She began crying. "Would you want to trust someone so completely, that you give up your entire physical, and emotional being to them, after they almost get you killed, and cause the death of your only child? I used to dream about the day that she would finally realize how much I really need her, how much I love her."

Blayne closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She reached for Gabrielle, and pulled her up out of the chair, and into her arms. She held her tightly, and stroked her hair and then whispered into her ear, "I remember when I felt like that once. I thought I would never get over my inability to express my feelings for my lover. Sweetheart, there is no easy way to live your life, and there is nothing more painful than to have your body, mind and soul scream for attention, and release, and to go unnoticed. Trust me, Xena notices you. She fights her own fears. She feels guilty enough for causing you to lose your blood innocence, and for making you the key to humanity's future. Remember what I said, about blaming herself for everything that has happened. But from the beginning, if you could see it all over again, after having lived through it, you would see her feelings for you. From your first kiss, and then your attraction to Talus before he let death take him. All of these instances made her yearn for your love. She has always felt that she could love you, but keeps it to herself. But the pain grows stronger everyday. And she grows more careless with her own safety. In her need to protect you, but not hurt your feelings, she is endangering herself. If she continues, she will surely be killed."

Gabrielle looked up into Blayne's eyes, "Blayne, I can't let that happen. I will accept any help you can give me." She then kissed Blayne lightly on the lips, and then put her head back on her shoulder. Blayne blushed deeply, and her thoughts wandered to her own love, so far away in the future. Blayne knew that if she could not help these two women, that she might never see her own beloved again.

They stood there for a few moments more, both deep in their own thoughts. Suddenly there was a great ruckus at the door, as the two cat sisters, came tumbling into the room. Tayo was barreling through as fast as her larger body could carry her and Keisha was flying as fast as her little wings could go. "Mom . . . Mom . . . Xena is waking up! And she's calling for Gabrielle!" They said in unison.

Gabrielle quickly broke away, and went racing down the hallway. She skidded to a stop, and went crashing through the doorway. Following closely behind her was Blayne, Tayo, and Keisha. Gabrielle stopped by Xena's side, and grasped her hand in both of her own. Tayo jumped up and stood near Xena's shoulder, while Keisha very boldly landed right on Gabrielle's shoulder. Blayne stood in the background, and observed the goings on. Xena slowly opened her eyes at the commotion, and squinting through the dull, roaring pain in her skull, smiled at Gabrielle. Without so much as a thought Gabrielle fell into Xena's arms, and kissed her deeply, relief washing over her in a torrent of emotion. Keisha hung onto Gabrielle's shoulder as best she could. Tayo turned her back and muttered something under her breath about "gross", and Blayne just smiled.

"Hey," Xena whispered, "What did I do to deserve that? And who are your friends?" Gabrielle held back a sob, and even though she was blushing deeply, she kissed Xena again. This time Xena blushed as well, and so did Blayne. Blayne thought to herself, "Wow, that kid learns fast. I mean I thought I was going to have to work with her a little more, but I guess she got the message."

Gabrielle's response came tumbling out with the force of a waterfall. She told Xena about waiting for her return, and Argo showing up without her. She introduced Blayne, and then she tilted her head to snuggle up to Keisha, and scratched Tayo's ears as she introduced them to the warrior as well. "Gods Gabrielle, I fall off the stupid horse, and the next thing I know, you are kissing me in front of a stranger, a land bound cat, and a flying cat. Next thing you know there will be singing elephants in the garden." Gabrielle laughed through her tears, and then laid her head on Xena's shoulder. Xena absently stroked her hair, while she tried to sort out the muddled confusion going on in her mind.

"Um," Blayne cleared her throat, "I hate to interrupt, but singing elephant season is not for a few more moons. And, I need to see to your head injury. Plus I will feed you if you are hungry as well." "Oh, Xena, she cooks the best food. Its positively incredible." Giggled Gabrielle. "Um, maybe in a few minutes, I'm still a little queasy, and my head is killing me." sighed Xena. "Oh, I'm sorry, let me give you something for that, right away." Blayne hustled out of the room, and down to her study to prepare something for Xena's aching head. She took the liberty of setting up a tray of food for her as well. And a sizeable pitcher of cool water. Need lots of water when your reserves are down.

"So, Gabrielle, care to tell me what's been happening?" Xena smiled into Gabrielle's hair. "Hmmm, she thought, so many things change when your candle gets snuffed for a time. I wonder if she even knows what kind of effect she has on me. Just feeling her near me, and seeing her smile, could cure a thousand injuries or illnesses. And those kisses, I wonder what brought those on. Hades, I could have expired then, and would have gone with a smile in my heart. Oh, Xena, you are a dog. But be realistic, you know you love her, more than life itself, even after all you've been through together. She's been so quiet lately, I was almost afraid I was going to lose her forever. I hurt her, there is no questioning that. I know I've told myself that a thousand times. But I had to do what I had to do. I only wish that she never had to go through any of it. It isn't right, she should have been spared all of this pain. I never should have let her stay with me. Stay, go, I can't lose her, but she needs to stop hurting, needs to be away from me and everything I represent. Even after three years, I still pose a great threat to her. I can't stand myself, I must be sick. In the head. I torture her, and love her, and can't even tell her. Some warrior you turned out to be. Conqueror of Nations, bah! My hearts the one that's been conquered, and I guess it feels good, even though it carries such a price, for my beloved Gabrielle."

"A dinar for your thoughts." Whispered Gabrielle. "I missed you. Blayne has been very nice though, and so interesting. You have no idea Xena. She . . .She's well, she's a traveler, and she doesn't necessarily come from another place, so much as she comes from a different time, and well she's here to help us, and I didn't know what to do, so I just listened, and asked questions, and waited for you, because I needed you, you know, and I missed you, and I was so worried about you, because you can't go leaving me like that anymore. Too much has happened, and I know we haven't been the same lately, and I missed talking to you, and well, I just need you so much, and well that's all." She would have continued spilling out all of this information, but Xena placed a finger across her lips, and pulled her to her chest for another tight hug. She smiled, and then looked right into Gabrielle's eyes, "Are you sure that's all? Sounds like a lot of stuff went on while I was out. Time traveler? That is interesting, I'll have to talk to Blayne myself. And I missed you too. It's been so quiet, and I have been so worried about you. I was afraid you might leave me, and I don't think I can live without you." Gabrielle gasped a little at that admission. She wanted to shower Xena with kisses, and tell her over and over how much she loved her, and that she couldn't live without her either. And then without hesitation, she did just that.

Xena was momentarily shocked, but she couldn't help being overwhelmed by the flurry of emotions coming her way from her beloved Bard. "Gabrielle," she managed to get out between kisses, "I . . . love . . . .you . . . too!" Gabrielle sat back then and looked her right back into her eyes. "You do? You really do?" Xena carefully caressed her soft cheek with the tips of her fingers, and then pulled her back down, for a tentative kiss, which rapidly turned into a very deep passionate contact. She was startled herself at the passion with which Gabrielle returned her attentions. They lips parted as if they were involved in an intricate dance, and their tongues began a soft sensuous exploration of each other.

"Ahem, I, well, excuse me." Blayne mumbled from the doorway, "I wanted to bring you something for your headache, but, well, I see you're being well taken care of. I, well, here's some food, and well if you need me, well, you know where I'll be." The two women reluctantly ended their intimate contact, and then Xena waved Blayne into the room. "It's okay, come on in, we can "talk" later. Gabrielle tells me you are a time traveler. Care to elaborate for me?" Gabrielle slipped over onto Xena's other side, while Blayne pulled up a chair. The cats had disappeared for a while, but they worked their way back into the group. Keisha settled onto the back of Blayne's chair, while Tayo wiggled in under Xena's other arm, the one not busy rubbing Gabrielle's back.

"First, take this, it will help your headache." Blayne handed Xena two round white chalky things that looked like beans. She also handed her a large mug of cool water. Xena's eyebrow arched slowly up, but she decided that Blayne was harmless, and it would probably help. Too much excitement, in too short of a time, and now, now more than she could have ever hoped for. Gabrielle . . . Gabrielle actually loves her back. "Gods, I feel so out of control." She thought. Her hand continued its slow caress of her love's back. Gabrielle murmured quiet words in her direction, and closed her eyes. After all, she knew the story, so she didn't really have to pay attention.

"Now, what is this all about? How did you find us? And why did you find us?" queried Xena. "I found you, because that's why I was sent to this timeline, specifically to locate you, and to help you. It was imperative that you two discover your love for each other, and re-instill your trust. If you had separated I may never have been born. And it would most assuredly mean the end of humanity, as we know it. You getting injured, was an unfortunate diversion from my originally intended approach to you. Fortunate though, that I was there, for you at least, but not for your attackers." Explained Blayne. "I did not explain that part to Gabrielle. She did not need to be a party to those details." Gabrielle was softly snoring in the crook of Xena's arm.

Xena's impression of their hostess just went up a notch or two. She realized that she was in the presence of someone greater than she could imagine. Not just your everyday sorceress, but a powerful warrior, as well as someone with skills and abilities beyond any she has ever seen before. The white beans she swallowed, had done as promised, and held back her pounding headache. Blayne continued with the rest of the tale that she had already told to Gabrielle. Xena began to see why Blayne had found them. She also saw where Gabrielle's newly expressed love came from as well. "Fear not Warrior Princess, your beloved could not express her love to you, because she feared you would not accept it from her. Especially after all the major stuff you've been through. I assured her that you do love her, and that you carry a lot of pain, and blame for the direction Gabrielle's life has taken."

Xena looked down at her sleeping companion, and then back at Blayne. "You read minds as well I take it? And what's with the way you talk, fear not, and major stuff?" Blayne cleared her throat, and then gave Xena an extremely familiar glance. It was then that Xena noticed that Blayne had eyes the color of emeralds sparkling in the sun, and a pair of very expressive eyebrows, and hair as dark as the feathers of a Raven, underneath a sprinkling of gray. Mixed in with the black and gray, were light highlights of red gold. Blayne saw the dawn of recognition on Xena's face.

"Yes, Xena, you are my ancestors. I hadn't told Gabrielle that yet either, but I knew in my heart that I would not be able to keep this from you. She is the mystery and romance part of us, and you are the logic and warrior." Blayne said carefully. "Us?" Xena arched her eyebrows again. "And how is it possible that you are descended from both of us. We are obviously both women." "Well, you have strong allies in high places. It seems that a couple of Goddesses will be very pleased that you have finally revealed your love for each other. In the not too distant future, and only when you are both ready, you will be given another very important gift. And that would be the gift of a child. Gabrielle is to bear this child, but you must be present as the co-parent. After all, this child will be equals parts of both of you. As for the reference to "us", I am the end of your line. I will officially be born in the year of the second millenium. My entire being is made up of a compendium of a bit of each and every soul, from each and every one of your descendants, including the both of you. " Blayne paused, and let Xena absorb this information.

Blayne stood up and began to pace. She knew she was taking an incredible chance revealing so much to this, her great, great, great, and then some grandmother. She had confidence in the fact that Xena would be able to grasp the basic concepts, without having to go into the complete history of the world. "I need, only for myself you understand, to remind you that sharing any of this outside of here, would be detrimental to my life. And most probably speed up the end of it. I am, as a time traveler, bound to the laws of Paradox. I have to be careful what changes I make in the timelines, or I may undo something in history that could be disastrous." Blayne turned and raised her own expressive eyebrow at Xena. Xena nodded her understanding. "I have had my own brushes with time, and I understand the laws of Paradox."

Gabrielle began to stir, and then sat up rubbing her eyes and blinking. "Whew, I guess I was tired or something. Did I miss anything important?" Xena and Blayne just smiled at each confident in the knowledge that Gabrielle would learn enough all in good time. "Blayne, did you tell Xena about Hope?" Gabrielle inquired. "Not yet Gabrielle, I was just updating her on all the other stuff." Blayne replied. Xena's head turned rapidly, and she narrowed her eyes. "What about Hope?" she sneered. Gabrielle visibly cringed, and Xena realized a moment too late what affect her reaction had on Gabrielle.

"Hope is not gone yet Xena, and the threat of complete destruction by Dayhok is still very real. That is one of the reasons I am here. It was my given responsibility to help you both recover from the terrible things that have befallen you, and to help you both reveal your love for each other. You must be able to trust each other, and you both must want to live for each other, or all is lost. I will never be born, and humanity will never survive." Blayne returned Xena's serious glance. "Now, you need to eat something, and you need some time with your beloved. And I have some work I have to do."

Blayne very carefully laid the tray of food across Xena's lap, and then collected her furry companions, and exited the room. When she reached her study, she collapsed wearily into her chair. Slowly a small trickle of blood seeped from her right nostril. Absently she grabbed a cloth, and held it to her nose to stem the now stronger stream. "Mother, it's getting worse isn't it?" asked Keisha. "Yes Keisha, it is. I hope I can keep them on track, or I won't last much longer." Blayne answered with a sigh. "Why don't you tell Xena mother. I don't think she would let anything bad happen to you. Not since you saved her life, and took care of Gabrielle. And let us not forget that you are her kin!" Tayo blurted out. "I know Tayo, but they have to do this themselves, I can only help them see what's already in their hearts." Replied Blayne. "But mother," Keisha whined, "You know what will happen if they don't trust each other. If they don't want to love each other." "Keisha, did you see them? Did you see love in their eyes? Didn't you feel it? The warmth and the glow emanating from them? That, as they say in my era, is vibes. That is the unquestionably satisfied connection of two hearts in love. That, is the bomb." Blayne smiled at her two little friends. "I miss that, and I will fight to return to that. To my own love, my light." With that she closed her eyes, and slowly her hand fell to her heart as she drifted off to sleep.

"Tayo, " Keisha hovered over her sister, "Do you think we should tell Xena. I mean, mother won't, and then she might die, so if we tell Xena, then maybe we can convince her and Gabrielle how important it is. For them to love each other I mean." "Don't be stupid. You heard mom she said you can't make them. It has to happen on its own. And it will. Mom is always right. But maybe we should sneak down there, and see what they are up to. Listen anyway. I'll hide under the bed, and you fly behind the curtain, and stay out of sight. Then we can tell mom if anything important comes up." Tayo jerked her head in her sister's direction, and then the two crept slowly down the hallway to the room where Xena and Gabrielle were talking quietly.

"Xena, what do you think about all of this? What else did she tell you?" Gabrielle asked. Xena set her tray aside on the table next to the bed, and then looked into Gabrielle's eyes. Her own thoughts were tumbling over each other. Wondering how much she should share, or how much she should hold back. With a mental sigh, she realized that the time for holding back information from Gabrielle had long passed by. That was part of what caused their troubles in the first place, and deepened the betrayal and the pain. She took a deep sigh, "Gabrielle, did you look very closely at Blayne? Did you see anything special about her?" Gabrielle pinched her lower lip between two fingers, and wrinkled her forehead in thought. She mentally recalled the picture of Blayne stored in her mind. Dark hair, sprinkled with gray, red-gold highlights. Expressive eyebrows, with a familiar habit of arching when she has a point to make, or a question, and eyes the color of emeralds glinting in the sun. Short of stature, but strong, solid, kind of a mixture of . . . "Oh . . . My . . . Gods, Xena she looks like us. Both of us!" She gasped.

Xena smiled warmly at her companion. She was proud of Gabrielle. She was learning to use the skills that Xena was teaching her about observing her surroundings, and remembering key things about the places and things they encountered. "Gabrielle, this is going to sound strange, but it is extremely important. Blayne is our descendant. It seems that we are going to go through some more changes in the future. And not all will necessarily be bad. Those pesky Gods are still hanging around I guess. As long as we help end the "Reign of Terror" that's headed our way."

Gabrielle absorbed this information, and then turned her attention back to Xena. "Xena how can this be true? Do you think she really is our descendant? And how does that happen?" "It's complicated Gabrielle. Blayne says it has to do with our trusting each other, and being able to share our love with each other . . . completely. Not just speaking the words, but everything, trust, honesty, compromise. The entire package." Gabrielle blushed, and looked away, mumbling something. Xena heard her, but she wanted Gabrielle to say it directly to her. She gently touched Gabrielle's chin, and turned her head towards her. "What's that you're saying there? I can't quite hear you."

Gabrielle turned her head with the gentle touch of Xena's strong fingers, and Xena could see a small tear slip from the corner of her eye. "What's this?" she said as she carefully caught the tear. "It can't be that bad Gabrielle." Gabrielle turned her gaze into Xena's beautiful blue eyes, and sighed, "I was apologizing. For throwing myself at you like I did. I shouldn't have just assumed that it would be okay with you. It would be okay, if we were just friends, I could handle that." More tears followed the first one. Xena took the corner of the blanket that was covering her, and gently dried them from Gabrielle's face. "Gabrielle, I meant what I said, I do love you! It has been Hades on earth for me, worrying about you. Whether you might want to leave me, whether or not you could ever trust me again. I'm not sure I trust myself anymore. I just know that if anything should happen to you, or if you should leave me, then I will certainly die. Otherwise, I might not be able to hold onto the light, and I will never go back to where I came from. Not back to the darkness."

Gabrielle smiled tentatively at Xena, so many things replaying themselves in her mind. Britannia, Chin, Ares, the Amazons, Ephiny's arm, Xena coming to the village and dragging her away, intent on killing them both if necessary. And Hope, and Solon. The cause of Xena's slip back to the darkness, the part she played in bringing it all back. She remembered wishing that she would die, she wanted nothing more than to embrace Celestia, and be taken away. For her sins, and for the loss of her only real love. The only person who smothered her soul with her very presence. And a powerful presence that was. One that she would gladly give her own life to protect.

Gabrielle's lower lip trembled, as she gazed thoughtfully into Xena's deep blue pools. "I . . .I . . .I only know, that I too would kill myself, if I was forced to live without you. I have missed you so much, and I would have gladly let you take my life, if it would give you some solace for the pain." Xena hugged Gabrielle tightly to her chest. Kissing the top of her head, she breathed in the sweet scent she had come to know only as Gabrielle. Without another word, she pulled Gabrielle up for another deep passionate kiss, much like the one earlier. Her ministrations left both of them breathless, and flushed. "Make me a promise Gabrielle, promise me you won't leave me again." Gabrielle looked back into Xena's eyes again, "Only if you make that same promise to me." Xena sealed that promise with another hungry kiss. She reluctantly broke away, and whispered into Gabrielle's ear, "We aren't alone. There are two small visitors hiding in the room. You catch the one behind the curtain, while I grab the one under the bed. Something tells me they are spying on us." She nibbled the edge of Gabrielle's earlobe, and then sat back, preparing herself to make a grab for her quarry.

Gabrielle slowly stood up, and mumbled something about needing some air. She smoothed her skirt into place, and casually strolled over to the window. She leaned over onto the windowsill, and as quickly as she could, she reached up and grabbed Keisha, who was hanging onto the curtain with her claws, barely breathing. At the same time, Xena leaned over the side of the bed, and grabbed Tayo by the scruff of her neck, and swung her up onto the bed, holding her in place until Gabrielle carried her sister over.

"All right you two, spill it!" Xena growled at them. Keisha hid her head under Gabrielle's arm, and Tayo struggled half-heartedly, then started to cry. "don't kill us Xena. We weren't gonna do anything wrong, we were just listening." Xena set Tayo down on her lap, and then addressed the cat directly, "What's going on, and I want the truth."

"Well," Tayo cleared her throat, "Blayne was serious about how important you both are. You see she's not well." Keisha lifted her head from the security of Gabrielle's armpit, and took a swipe at the back of her sister's head. "Shut-up, piglet!" she hissed, "You aren't supposed to tell them, big mouth!" "But Keisha," Tayo cried, "I don't want mom to die. And she will, if we don't help her."

"Keisha," said Gabrielle, "If we are going to help Blayne, we need to know everything, no more secrets. It's alright that Tayo told us." "Now," interrupted Xena, "Explain yourselves."

Keisha began the story, periodically being interrupted by her sister. "It seems that because you are the beginning of the line, and Blayne is the end, you are held to each other by a band of energy. That's what drew her to you, and that's what allows her to stay. That and a whole bunch of stuff we don't understand. Dayhok's power is growing stronger each day. This power he wields is able to influence the bond between you all, and the connection is starting to erode. If the connection is broken, then Blayne will cease to exist. It is Blayne's belief that Dayhok, or an emissary of his, who may as yet not even know his own identity, may have contributed to the events leading to your suffering."

She continued. "Mother must sleep more and more as the time of Dayhok approaches, to rebuild her reserves. She is in pain most of the time, and she bleeds. From her nose, her ears, or sometimes from inside. She gets very sick, and the blood comes from her mouth. She has medicines that help her, but it is happening more often. Another moon or two, and she will expire. She is sleeping now, because she just had a nosebleed, and she is drained. Rescuing you, and maintaining a facade until she could rest has been very hard on her, but she doesn't complain. She excepts her responsibilities like the true warrior she is."

The cat subsided from her story, and hid her head again. This time to cry softly in the comfort of Gabrielle's arms. "Xena," Gabrielle looked up with tears in her eyes, "What are we going to do?" "First I need to get out of this bed, and quit laying around." She made a move to stand up, and was overcome by a wave of dizziness. "Not yet love," said Gabrielle. "Tomorrow maybe, you're not ready to get up yet." Xena scowled, but realized there was no use in arguing.

Gabrielle handed the distraught animal to Xena, and told her to be nice to both of them. Xena grimaced, but unconsciously cuddled the little cat in her arms, and allowed Tayo to scoot up closer so she could pet her fur. "That's very good. Now, I am going to find Blayne. I want to check on her, and see if there is anything I can do for her, besides the obvious." Xena smiled at Gabrielle's strength and initiative. Not her "little bard" anymore. Gabrielle had surely grown into a much stronger, more confident woman.

Gabrielle kissed Xena on the forehead, and then rose to go to Blayne's study. "And Xena, I think you should sleep again. Don't worry, if anything bad is happening, I'll come back for you. Now, lay down, and close those baby blues, and before you know it I'll be back." With that, Gabrielle walked to the door, and turned, "Oh, and Xena, dream good dreams, like how much I truly love you." Xena grinned at that, and then settled down for a small nap. Her last thoughts were of Gabrielle, and her soft sweet lips. Then Morpheus came and took her away.

Gabrielle hurried down the hall, anxious to check on Blayne's well being. When she reached the doorway to Blayne's study, she could see her slumped in one of the over stuffed chairs. Her face was very pale, and she still had a small trickle of blood seeping from nose. Gabrielle found a piece of clean linen, and scrounged around in the rubble of the study and found a small bowl for some clean water. She dipped the rag in the water, and carefully wiped the blood off Blayne's face. Blayne woke with a start, and for a moment didn't know if she had died, or what. "Shh," whispered Gabrielle, "Don't worry, its just me." Blayne sighed, and then asked, "Which one spilled the beans? I love those two, but they sure have big mouths. I sometimes wish I never encouraged them to speak." "Well, they both did, under threat of certain squish by a cranky Warrior Princess." Gabrielle chuckled.

"I suppose they told you about my illness?" Blayne asked. "Somewhat, I gather that the illness progresses with the increase of Dayhok's power." Gabrielle replied. Blayne silently nodded her head in agreement. She stood up and straightened her clothes, and then beckoned to Gabrielle to join her. Near the table, but tucked back in a corner, was a huge book on a stand. Some of the pages were yellowed with age, and cracked at the edges. She turned to the last part of the book. Some of the pages contained strange illustrations of people, dressed in unusual clothing. There was a picture of Blayne, much younger, smiling, her arms wrapped around a laughing woman. Where Blayne was dark, this woman was fair. Her hair was a golden color, and her eyes were the blues of the sky.

"Blayne, is that your beloved?" Gabrielle gasped in wonder. "Yes, that's Haley. She is the whole world to me. That's why I am doing this, Gabrielle. That's what pushes me to fulfill my destiny." Blayne answered. She turned the pages to the end of the book, and Gabrielle could see that where the writing, and the pictures should be bright, they were fading, and in some places had disappeared altogether. Gabrielle looked at Blayne inquisitively. Blayne sighed again, and then closed the book. "That started happening, when Dayhok first appeared to you. If he isn't stopped, then all of the history in this book will disappear, until there is nothing left. The book begins with your history, all the tales and stories that were recovered from your scrolls. And all of Xena's history as well. I would let you continue to look at them, but it is not in your language, and it would also invoke the demon "Paradox"."

"Isn't there something we can do to slow down the effects on you?" Gabrielle asked. "I wish there was. When you look into Xena's eyes, and her love reflects back to you, it somehow makes me feel much better. The suffering you both sustained over the last several moons injured me greatly. But now that I have you here, and you have been able to share your love, I am quite improved." Blayne replied. "What about the bleeding, is there some way to stop it?" Gabrielle persisted. "There is a powerful medicine I can take, but it takes me a whole day to recover from it. I didn't want to be incapacitated while you were with me, and while Xena was recovering. When you leave me in a day or so, and you will, then I will be able to take the medicine, and slow down some of the damage being done."

Gabrielle paced around the room several times, and then strode back to face Blayne. "I think you should take the medicine now. And keep taking it until this is over. Xena and I can take care of ourselves. She should feel better by morning, and if you give me some of those white beans you gave her for pain, then I can make sure she keeps taking them." Blayne smiled inwardly at this feisty woman. No wonder Xena's heart was so easily captured, she thought. Blayne went to a box she kept in a drawer, and filled a small leather pouch with the pills that Gabrielle requested. For unbeknownst to Xena and Gabrielle, she was giving them aspirin. An extremely common painkiller from her own time. Blayne chuckled at the irony of it all. She then took one of her own pills. Gabrielle was surprised to see the remarkable change in Blayne's features. The pain in her eyes subsided, and the color returned. She visibly became more alert, and obviously felt better.

The two women spent the next few hours talking, and working on some food for them all to eat. Blayne was especially fond of sweet things, so she showed Gabrielle some tricks to making some absolutely delectable goodies, even when they were on the road. Gabrielle let it slip that Xena had a sweet tooth, and Blayne figured that particular trait definitely got handed down through the centuries. Gabrielle prepared a quite delicious stew, using some of the leftover chicken, and fresh vegetables, and herbs from the garden.

"Blayne?" Gabrielle started, "If you travel from time to time, how can you have such a beautiful garden, and all of this stuff?" "Actually, I've been here for quite a while. But through some of the different "magic" available from my time, I am able to bring everything I need, or want with me. With the exception of other humans. The cats can travel with me, but I am the only human with this ability." She answered. Gabrielle thought about that for a moment, and then said, "It doesn't seem fair that you can't bring another person with you. I guess that's why you taught the cats to speak, for company, huh?" Blayne nodded agreement, and then turned her sights on a luscious watermelon just waiting to be cut up for their evening meal.

Gabrielle put the stew pot onto the fire, and then wiped her hands clean, and told Blayne she was going to check on Xena. "You can give her two more of those pills I gave you, Gabrielle. And while I think of it, whatever you do, don't give those to anyone else. They won't really exist for several hundred years from now." Gabrielle agreed, and then went down to see how Xena was doing. When she got to the doorway, she stopped short at the sight that greeted her. It was everything she could do not to laugh out loud. Spread out in the middle of the bed was her Warrior Princess, dark hair pulled back and twisted behind her head. Cuddled up on her shoulder, with their faces touching was Keisha. Under the covers, with her head resting under Xena's chin was Tayo. All three were snoring peacefully.

Gabrielle snuck into the room, and sat down on the edge of the bed. Slowly one blue eye peeked out at her from under the edge of the blanket, and sleepily regarded her with a question mark behind it. Gabrielle covered her mouth, again trying to stifle the giggles forming behind it. When Xena became more aware of her surroundings, she realized exactly what she must look like. She scowled deeply, and then began to extract herself from her furry bed companions. "Don't even think about it Gabrielle, it isn't funny." She growled. That did it, Gabrielle doubled over, peals of laughter exploding from her mouth. Xena made as if to throw the cats at the nearest wall, when Gabrielle leaped out of her chair, and landed right on top of her beloved.

She showered Xena with kisses, and calmed down her building anger at being caught showing a much softer side of herself. "Don't be mad Xena, and don't you hurt them, or you'll have me to answer to. " Xena raised her eyebrow, and then pulled Gabrielle down closer to her, to return the shower of kisses. "Hmmmm, somebody's feeling better I see." Gabrielle murmured through all of the attention. Xena went to nibble Gabrielle's ears, and then stopped. "I guess I should slow down, huh? I mean we should really be thinking about our hostess. Shouldn't we?" Gabrielle groaned, and then sat up to look into Xena's eyes again, "Yeah, I guess you're right. I'm genuinely worried about her Xena. She wasn't doing very well when I got to her. She does have a medicine that slows the progress of the illness, but she said that the recovery is almost worse than the illness itself."

Xena pursed her lips, and thought about what Gabrielle had said. "Gabrielle, I need to get out of this bed, and we need to get back on the road, as soon as possible." "I thought that too, but we need to make sure your head is okay as well." Gabrielle replied. "I feel much better, and as long as I can keep the pain at bay, I should be all right. I've just been a little off lately, and I've . . . been tired." Xena had realized lately, that trying to evade the issues wasn't going to help the situation any and she desperately wanted Gabrielle to trust her. She went to stand up again, and this time the pain and the dizziness had lessened considerably. Gabrielle tossed her the pouch of pills, and Xena took one out and swallowed it down with some water.

Gabrielle stood back, and gave her an appraising look. The blue shift she was wearing definitely complimented her eyes, and her beautiful dark hair. "A dinar for your thoughts, again." Xena interrupted her thoughts. Gabrielle blushed a deep red, and then smiled, and said, "It will cost you a lot more than a dinar for these thoughts." It was Xena's turn to blush. "I . . . uh, I . . . well, we will have to discuss payment later." She turned to grab her boots, and her stomach let out a loud grumbling. "Whoa, sounds like you're really hungry. That's great, because Blayne and I have been cooking together all afternoon. Oooh, and baking too, you're gonna love the sweets we've been whipping up." Gabrielle giggled. That too familiar eyebrow shot up, and Xena chuckled too. "Sweets huh? Whipping up sweets. Sounds like you two had some fun, I guess."

Gabrielle worked her way across the room, and slipped into Xena's strong, muscular embrace. Xena bent down to capture Gabrielle's lips with her own. Her stomach took the unfortunate opportunity to growl again. Gabrielle reluctantly ended their embrace, and then took Xena's hand, and the two walked down the hall together to Blayne's study.

Xena hadn't seen any of the houses, with the exception of the bedroom she had been in since she had arrived there. She stopped at the door, and was fascinated by the intricate work carved there. Gabrielle wandered in ahead of her, and was startled to see that Blayne was nowhere in site, but there seemed to be a door to the garden that wasn't there before. She peeked outside the door, and to her great delight she discovered a small table, with chairs arranged around it, and their food laid out in bowls, and plates. Xena joined her in the doorway, and smiled at her companion's happiness. "I guess your friend has many skills too."

They walked out to the garden, and were soon joined by Blayne, and the two cat sisters. The three humans each took a seat at the table, and the two cats shared a chair of their own. It was beautiful in the garden, the sun was slowly setting, the breeze was light and warm. The friends ate heartily, and kept the conversation to idle chit chat, about pleasant subjects.

After the meal, the companions sat quietly sipping glasses of a strong heady port that Blayne had produced from somewhere in her study. They were all lost in their own thoughts, and even the usually boisterous cats were noticeably quiet. They all knew that this was a small calm moment, before the next round of life storms were released. Blayne excused herself again, and came back with a tray overflowing with all sorts of delectable sweets. Gabrielle's eyes opened wide at the assortment. She could tell that only a small portion of the items on the tray were actually the ones they had baked. The others were very strange, and obviously came from Blayne's original time.

Gabrielle picked one up, and could not imagine what it was. Blayne smiled at her, and with a tip of her head, encouraged her to try it. She took a small bite, and the group was treated to a squeal of utter delight. Xena raised her eyebrow, and Gabrielle gave her a small bite as well. "Mmmm, what do you call these?" She asked. "Oh, well, I decided that since you already know a lot of secrets about me, I would share one more special one with you. It is one of my major weaknesses. They are called peanut butter cups. The filling is ground peanuts, with sugar mixed in, and the outside is chocolate. It is a bean in its original form, and refined to make the chocolate. I could eat a ton, but I would weigh as much as an elephant if I did." Everyone chuckled at the mental picture that presented.

Gabrielle consumed several more of the desserts, and then Xena reminded her that if she ate too many more, it would make her sick. Gabrielle grudgingly stopped, and used a bit of linen to wipe the chocolate from her lips. She slumped into her chair, and held her stomach like she was about to explode. "I guess you're right, I already feel overstuffed.

Xena reached over and pulled her closer. Whispering in her ear, she said, "Well, I can help you work some of that off later." Gabrielle blushed deeply, and wrapped her small fingers around Xena's much larger ones, and gave them a squeeze. They hadn't had any time to talk about furthering their relationship, and Gabrielle was actually a little shy about approaching the subject. She wanted Xena with every ounce of her being, but being the less experienced of the two, she was embarrassed, and didn't know exactly how to go about getting there. Her heart skipped a beat at the prospect.

Blayne waited until the two were done whispering, and then cleared her throat to approach the more unhappy future they all potentially shared. "I know that you are anxious to continue on your way, and for my purposes, it is probably for the best. Time is running extremely short. I can't prepare you for what you may possibly face. I do know that you will be challenged by individuals that have offered you many challenges in the past. There will be pain, and loss, and an uncertainty between you. Rely on your love for each other. Never doubt that love has an immeasurably strong influence on the both of you as well as on humanity. Humans need to love, and be loved. It helps us protect our families, find solace in dark times, and secures us in the knowledge that there is something worth living, and fighting for. Be assured that I will try to help you where I can, but my involvement must be limited. One mistake, and the whole future is lost."

The three women reached across the table to each other, and clasped hands in a gesture of agreement, that no matter what, the greater good was the important factor here. Blayne then rose, and cleared away the table, and told Xena and Gabrielle that they should go and spend what little time they had left together, without any cares. The road ahead was treacherous, and there were no guarantees that everything would go the way they wanted it to. They both hugged her, and then retired to the comfort of the bedroom that Blayne had so graciously given up for them. Blayne smiled wistfully, and thanked whoever was listening, that this had been as easy as it was. She coughed deeply, and a small trickle of blood found it's way to her lips. She took Gabrielle's advice, and took another pill. After all, after tomorrow, it wouldn't much matter anymore.

Xena and Gabrielle walked into the room, and stopped and just stared into each other's eyes for a while. Xena finally broke the silence by hugging Gabrielle to her, and stroking her lightly scented hair. It had picked up the smell of cinnamon, from the day's baking. She whispered lightly into Gabrielle's delicate ear, sending shivers up ad down the smaller woman's spine. "Are you sure you're ready for this?" She inquired. Gabrielle could only look back into those sparkling blue eyes, and nod. She finally found her voice, and whispered back, "More so than even you can imagined." It was the warrior's turn to shiver with anticipation.

Xena scooped Gabrielle into her arms, and kicked the door shut with her foot. She carried Gabrielle to the bed, and sat her down on the edge. She slowly and very gently helped Gabrielle remove her clothing, and then Gabrielle returned the favor for her. They had both seen each other many times unclothed, but now the situation had changed. Drastically. They were both skittish with nervousness. Xena's hands trembled as she took her newfound love into her strong embrace. Both pulses were beginning to quicken, and their skin began to flush in anticipation. Before long the urgency of their contact, and the excitement of finally being able to share with each other completely, took over all of their senses. They explored every inch, every mark every scar. They succumbed to their drive completely.

Sometime deep into the night, Xena stirred, a distant cry disturbing her sleep. She looked down to see her beloved Gabrielle sleeping peacefully in her arms. Out in the dark woods their hostess and now their friend, Blayne, was writhing on the forest floor in extreme pain. The beginning of the end had begun. There was a terrible rift in the continuum, as something, or someone emerged through a portal, from a parallel universe.

What this newcomer, or should she be described as returning scourge represented, was the start of the rebirth of Hope, Dayhok, and the potential destruction of humanity.

Callisto had returned from her exile . . .again. Called forth by empty promises, she rallied once again to the beck and call of a being far more powerful, and seductive, than any she had known. It made her delirious to think of the possibilities. Xena, beaten down like a dog, her little sidekick wench, destroyed at the hands of her own daughter, and the greatest gift of all . . . oblivion. Because that's what she intended to ask for in payment for helping Hope, an end to her suffering. Life, or what you could call life was boring. And Xena. If Xena were just a little more immortal, than mortal, if she could be around for Callisto to play with, maybe torture, in her own loving way, well then she might reconsider her request. But that wouldn't happen. So, oblivion it is.

As the sun rose the new dawn, Blayne had staggered back to her home. She quickly took more medication, and bathed and changed into clean colorful attire. She prepared a large sumptuous breakfast for her guests, and then waited patiently for their arrival at the garden table. Invisible to the guests was the deterioration of the fringes of the garden. For as surely as their hostess was dying, so to was the environment that contained all that belonged to her as well. It was Blayne's intention, that as soon as she was able to escort her guests back to their time, then she would return her habitat to her own time. Waiting to see if she would in fact survive. This way she could assure herself that Tayo and Keisha would survive, whether or not she were to be included in the future of humanity.

She sat in the sunshine, watching the breeze blow the leaves surrounding the garden slowly in a dance of coming death. A small commotion from the interior of the house drew her attention away from the inevitabilities that occupied her thoughts. Her two companions came skidding out the door, out of breath and still in the throes of their sisterly competition. "Mom, mom, Xena and Gabrielle, they are waking. We heard the water being drawn for a bath." They cried in unison. "Since it is their last morning with us, I will not admonish you for spying on them. But, I will ask you to stay here with me, until they join us for breakfast. I do not want you to embarrass them any further." She replied.

She ran her fingers wearily through her short graying hair. The two cats, feeling their mother's sorrow, came closer and snuggled into her lap, only half vying for position. She closed her eyes, and absently stroked both animals, wishing she could comfort them with the knowledge that they would grow old together. But the future was now uncertain. A toss of the dice, or a crap shoot. About as much chance as winning the lottery. "Oh well, I never won in my time, so maybe I have a chance now." She thought to herself.

In the bedroom of the house, Xena was just extracting herself from the iron hold her lover had on her. Determined not to disturb Gabrielle, Xena carefully began to loosen the arms from around her waist, and was about to carefully shift out from under her, when she heard a soft dreamy voice murmuring at her. "Don't even think about it, warrior! I'll let you go when I'm darn good and ready to." Xena crooked her eyebrow, and then began a slow tickle assault on her companion. A fiery green eye suddenly appeared from under the edge of the covers, and then the smaller much more wiry bard jumped on Xena, and began a tickle attack of her own. After several minutes of mock battle, the two lovers locked in a warm embrace, and kissed each other deeply with the new day.

"Xena," Gabrielle began, after regaining her composure, "was it my imagination, or did I hear something crying out in my sleep last night?" "I don't think you were dreaming, Gabrielle. Whatever that was, it made my skin crawl. Something has happened, and I think it is going to involve us. Let's get bathed, and dressed, and see if we can find Blayne. Maybe she can give us some more information." She kissed Gabrielle again, and rose from the bed to make the preparations for their bath. She was humming a tune, but deep inside she had a grave foreboding, that what they were about to face was going to be worse than anything they had ever encountered before. She almost wished she could leave Gabrielle here, where she could be safe. But too much time had passed, and too much pain had been shared. And much to her chagrin, she had to admit, that Gabrielle was no longer a na´ve young child. Well, she would just have to do whatever it took, to protect Gabrielle from harm. There may be more pain, but at least Gabrielle will have her future ahead of her.

Xena filled the large tub with hot water from the fireplace, and discovered a collection of fragrant oils, and a basket of rose petals sitting on a side table. She added some of the oils, and then sprinkled the water with the rose petals. Satisfied with her work, she went back to where Gabrielle was still lounging, and threw back the covers, and carefully lifted her into her arms. She was met by a squeal of delight and a shower of kisses across her neck, shoulders, and anywhere else Gabrielle could reach. She carefully set her charge into the steaming water, and then stepped over the side to join her. She had put a rag into the water, so she dug around until she located it. "Now, where is the soap," she chuckled out loud, "you wouldn't be sitting on that now would you?" Gabrielle shot her a look at the fond memory, and then handed her the lightly herb scented bar. Xena rubbed a little on the rag, and then proceeded to thoroughly scrub every inch of Gabrielle's body. Paying careful attention to the more sensitive areas, she was rewarded with a soft sensuous caress starting at her knees and slowly working its way along her thigh. She shuddered with the anticipation, and then turned her lover towards her, and pulled her into her waiting embrace.

When the water had begun to cool off, the two women reluctantly agreed that enough was enough, that they should probably get ready to face whatever was coming their way. They kissed one more time, and then left the tub to dry each other off, and dress in their traveling clothes. Leather and armor for the warrior, and the bilious green bra, and skirt for the bard. Xena strapped her weapons to her armor, and Gabrielle recovered her staff and bag from the wardrobe, where all of their belongings were stored. They helped each other adjust straps, and laces on the various components of their outfits, and then one last kiss, and then they headed down the hallway to find their hostess.

Blayne heard them approaching, and tried to look not so bedraggled. She felt as though she had been squeezed between a couple of boulders. Her head was aching, and she had the coppery taste of blood in the back of her throat. She could only hope that she could stay in one piece until after they departed. Gabrielle came through the doorway first, looking radiant, rested, and extremely happy. She winked at Blayne, as she sat down at the table. Xena followed after her, and smiled at the other woman, and then set her sword aside, so she could sit comfortably at the table. Blayne had set out a large assortment of sweet pastries, accompanied by trays of sliced exotic fruits, and various meats. Some of them familiar, but a large number of them equally as strange to their usual fare.

"I am going to miss you both." Blayne addressed them carefully. "I hope to be able to check in on you from time to time, but of course it all depends on how things go." Xena, even in the growing uneasiness she was feeling, met Blayne's wishes with a gentle smile. She could tell that Blayne was suffering tremendously. She could also tell that there was nothing she could do to stop her suffering, except fulfill the destiny that lay ahead for them all. The three women ate in companionable silence, Blayne barely picking at her food. The two cats were each given a small plate of meats, and allowed to share this final meal with the human guests.

When the meal had been completed, Blayne gave Xena several bags of supplies, with food, herbs and other things she thought they could use. She took another look at the lump on the back of Xena's head, and satisfied with the quick healing abilities of the warrior, pronounced her almost healed. Gabrielle was wandering through the garden one last time, when she noticed that some of the vegetation was starting to look wilted and dead. She made a mental note to mention it to Blayne and Xena, before they left on their journey.

Blayne went off to recover Argo from the far corners of the environment, and then brought her over to the large tree, that served as both arrival and departure points for her self contained world. The cats joined the gathering group, and they all hugged each other, and wished each other well. "I can only wish you both the best of luck, and the hope that the Gods will watch over you in your endeavors." Blayne said with a heavy heart. "Blayne, I noticed, when I was walking around the garden, that things are beginning to die, and wither away. Does that have something to do with where we are going?" Gabrielle asked. Blayne was startled at the bard's keen observance of her surroundings. "I had hoped that the changes would go unnoticed." She replied. Xena quickly interjected, "You don't have to explain if you don't want to Blayne, we'll understand." She said, hoping to let her new friend off the hook. She shot a glance at Gabrielle as if to say, "don't push it!"

Blayne cleared her throat, which proved to be a rather painful process. "I appreciate that Xena, but it is as Gabrielle has guessed. The subtle changes she observed in the garden are keeping in line with my own changes. It seems that I am dying. A very powerful entity re-entered our current time during the night. It caused a massive upset in the continuum. It seems that your nemesis has acquired some assistance in the process of her rebirth. I cannot identify this entity, but it is extremely dangerous, and considerably out of control. But there is no time to guess, you must continue on your travels, because the time grows shorter. I will lead you back through my portal to the road you must travel, and then I will have to bid you farewell. For before the sun sets this evening, I will be gone." Gabrielle choked back a sob as she hugged their friend, and then stepped back to allow Xena to hug her as well.

Blayne then told them to close their eyes, and join hands. They collectively took one step forward, and after a moment of dizziness, they opened their eyes, and found themselves back on the road they were originally traveling, just a few days before. Argo was standing to the side patiently waiting for them, with all their gear loaded into her saddlebags. Blayne bid them a final farewell, and then slowly slipped back through the portal. Xena mounted her horse, and then reached down to pull Gabrielle into the saddle behind her. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's waist tightly, and squeezed her just enough to let her know she was there. Xena clicked her tongue at Argo, and the group began to work their way down the road, to what could be a clear future, or the flames and death of destruction.

As they rounded the last bend from view, three sets of eyes silently wished them all the luck in the world. Blayne gathered her two furry companions into her arms, and as tears of blood trickled down her face, the group quietly slipped back through to their own home, to await Blayne's ultimate death.



Continued in Part 2

Copyright kat 1998

P.S. This story has grabbed me tightly. I started writing it before the last two episodes of season three, so I had no idea where it would take me. Now I know. More to come, in parts, since I only take the time to write on my lunch breaks.


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