Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the series Xena: Warrior Princess, are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are my property. Please do not use my characters without my consent. NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author.


This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.


This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

A what if story. How would things be different had Xena already achieved fame as the conqueror when she saved Gabrielle from those slavers.  A Conqueror story.

For more stories from Ellixer, visit her page on The Bard's Corner

Xena and Gabrielle:
A Journey Into The Conquerors Realm Vol 1

by Ellixerff



My first encounter with Xena the Conqueror of Nations and she saved Lila and I from slavers. Father grudgingly let her into our home so I could tend to her wounds but she wanted no thanks from us. Within minutes she was stalking out our door, with me hot on her heels. But the conversation didn't go as planned. Well I'm not really sure what I was expecting, but the outright rejection stung a little.


Blue eyes stare at me icely. It doesn't seem to matter that she's just saved my life, she pushes away any and all gratitude.

"Take me with you."

"Do you know who I am? What I am?" She laughs ruefully.

"I don't belong here."

"What makes you think you belong anywhere near me?"

"It's my destiny." I refuse to back down, even in the presence of the Conqueror of Nations.

"You have a lot of growing up to do, and a boy to marry. Stick to the simple life, it's more suited to you." She turns, walking away from the farm, not even bothering to look back.


The thing is, this is what I've been dreaming of since I was little. A warrior to follow, to emulate, to dedicate my life too because I know I can be so much more than this. Being a farmer's wife is just not part of my dreams. My mind already made up, I rush back to the house and pack the few things I own into a travel bag.

"What are you doing?" Lila interrupts my thoughts.

"Lila, I'm going to join up with Xena."

"Are you serious?"

"Absolutely. I'm going to be a warrior, like her."

"A warrior? Gabrielle, I can beat you up."

"Yeah, well... you're very strong for your age. Lila, you know I'm different from everybody else in this town."

"I know you're crazy."

"Well, call it whatever you like. The point is, I don't fit in here. And the idea of marrying Perdicus…."

"He loves you, you know."

"But I don't love him. I've got to do this, Lila."

"I'm gonna miss you so much." She grasps me in a hug on the verge of tears.

"Cheer up, you'll finally have a room of your own. Take care of Mother, Don't let her carry the water from the well by herself."

"All right." I leave her behind, trying not to look back.



Xena laughs at me as I explain how I end up sitting on a log in the dark, though her face still holds a fierceness in it. The fact that she hasn't killed me, that she has told me to lay next to her, speaks volumes she won't say. She throws a blanket at me and beckons me to her side.

"You're not going to get rid of me." I mumble against the fur covering half my face as I snuggle deeper into it.

"I've noticed."

"Where are we going?"

"I'm going to Amphipolis." I stare at her back in the moonlight.

"Where are all your men?" I can see her body tense.

"Not here." She states gruffly. I feel like I'm missing something very important. Xena is known to travel with legions, yet here she is alone.

"Xena?" I feel like there is so much I want to ask.

"Most people in your position would be dead by now, particularly if they continue to call me by name." It's barely a threat.

"I want to learn from you." She turns, really looking at me for the first time.

"There's nothing good you can learn from me." Her eyes hold a deep despair that never crosses her face. For some reason I want to reach out and touch her cheek. I want to help her with whatever tortures her soul.

"What were you doing out there?" I finally ask, watching as her face goes hard.

"Trying to bury my past." But there's more than she's telling me. "You are a talkative one aren't you." Xena shakes her head as if disappointed at being stuck with me.

"You love it." I give her the biggest grin and she just raises an eyebrow at me.

"You wouldn't think you were talking to the Lord Conqueror." She just seems to be amused.

"It's too long to say." I can't help the yawn that follows. "I like Xena better." My eyes close as sleep nears.

"I haven't been just Xena in a very long time." She whispers to the dark sky.


I wake up to Xena nudging me repeatedly with her boot. The sun is barely starting its trek into the sky.

"I thought warriors got to sleep in?" I grumble at her.

"You're no warrior." She actually laughs, and I find the sound intoxicating. "A real warrior is up before the sun." She nudges me again. "Come on farm girl." Xena walks away chuckling to herself. I'm not about to let her good spirits go to waste. Jumping up, probably a little too quickly as I stumble slightly; I begin pulling the bedroll and furs up, carrying them to her horse. Xena expertly rolls them up, tying them to the saddle bags.

"Are you really going to insist on following me?" She asks, some mirth manages to break into her voice.

"Yes." I nod, possibly too enthusiastically.

"And why should I let you?"

"I can help you. I know things.” But Xena laughs a little too hard at my statement.

"How are you, going to help me?!"

"I don't know yet." I falter, unsure of my whole plan for the first time. She looks me over, analyzing me with cold eyes. I do my best not to wither under her gaze. After what seems like an eternity in Hades realm, Xena climbs up onto her horse with graceful ease. Making a clicking noise, she goads the beast forward at a leisurely pace. I'm unsure of what to do, so like an idiot I just stand here, watching her retreating back.

"Are you coming?" She finally calls behind her. In seconds, my brain moves and I stumble forward after the majestic raven haired warrior.



I think I've lost my mind. This girl, who by all rights is probably 18, is very unaware of what she's getting herself into. The only reason I let her come along is because I know she'll get tired of this very quickly. Her family probably thinks I've kidnapped her to be my personal slave. If they only knew she's the one forcing herself on me.

I came out here to give up, to bury everything, to walk away from what I've created. I've grown tired of the power and the fear. To think, this is all I used to thrive on and now I wish for nothing more than to forget the pain I have caused to thousands, perhaps millions. And this simple farm girl is so enamoured by the fact I'm a warrior, she doesn't see the demon others see. And she won't stop talking.

"Does your mouth ever stop moving?" I don't mean to growl at her but I do. She pauses for the briefest of moments, actually thinking about the question.

"Well my mother has always told me that no man likes a talker, but there are so many questions to be answered and stories to be told." The thought of doing anything just to please a man makes me roll my eyes.

"You're marrying that boy, he must not be bothered." Why am I even continuing with this conversation?

"Oh Perdicus?" She waves her hand as if literally swatting him away. "I don't want to marry him. He always tells me I talk too much." She seems lost in thought for a moment. This brief interlude of silence is all too short. "So do you live in a castle?" Her assault of words continues. The excitement has yet to wane from her dancing green eyes. It's somewhat infectious, and against my better judgment I answer her questions with a smile. As we near Amphipolis however, I can feel my mood darken considerably.

Soft fingertips on my thigh intercedes the darkness threatening to overcome me. She looks up, a question on her face but not her lips. For once she keeps the question to herself, probably sensing the change in me. Pulling the horse to a stop, I climb down next to the waif of a girl. I need to walk. The sudden silence I find myself in is almost deafening. Gabrielle walks next to me, half running to keep up with my demanding pace. I feel this need to explain myself, but who is she for me to divulge my secrets too.

Purposefully I take us around the outskirts of Amphipolis, taking care not to let anyone see me. Gabrielle, for her part, follows without question. I take us deep into the woods, following a game path I took often as a child. It leads to the one place I have avoided for more years than I care to count. The trees open up to a lush garden, bigger than I remember. We stop, standing in the darkness the forest edge provides.

"Where are we?" She asks so quietly I nearly didn't catch it. A sigh of years of anger releases from my lungs.

"Home." Though this hasn't been my home in quite some time. Her fingers find mine and she squeezes them. Looking down at her, it's hard to hide the shock. She is so unafraid of me as to offer comfort….to me….the destroyer of nations. I feel something loosen deep inside me. My eyes turn to find the inn again.

"She's not going to be happy." I say, almost to myself, but really for her.


"My mother." Do I even still have one?


"She blames me for my brother's death." Still her fingers squeeze reassuringly. "She's right too." For some reason I spill my secrets to her. I recall the events that took place. Gabrielle"s silence is profound. I look at her again and see no judgment on her face, she's simply waiting for me to say whatever is I need. I don't  know why, but it would be so easy to spill my soul to this simple girl that I've  only just met. We stand there a while longer as I gather my courage.

"You don't have to come." Finally, I feel like prepared.

"Of course I'm coming." She says as if that was a stupid statement. So together we walk towards the inn. "You probably shouldn't go in there as the Conqueror." She suggests before we reach the door. The hardness and ruthlessness of the Conqueror is how I've managed to survive this long.

"I am the Conqueror."

"You're her daughter." Maybe this naive farm girl has more depth to her than I thought.

"I used to be."

"Maybe it's time for you to be that again."

"You say that as if it's so simple."

"It can be." She sounds so hopeful I almost regret yelling at her next.

"You don't know a thing about me! The things I've done can't  be forgiven." She doesn't even shrink at my rage, doesn't tremble in the slightest.

"Then why are you here?" She asks simply, walking into the tavern without a second thought. Most men would be dead by now, so why do I even continue to entertain her insubordination? She doesn't fear me. I'm confused by this girl. With a deep breath I steel my nerves for the task ahead.

The tavern is much as I remember it, though a bit more worn. Cracks adorn the walls like decorations. No mother of mine should live like this. But then again it's been a very long time since she was my mother.

Thankfully we arrived in between meals so the place is practically empty. Gabrielle is sitting at the bar, chatting animatedly with one of the barmaids. I continue to scan the room until I spot her, hunched over a table scrubbing the surface. She looks so much older, tired and burdened. I swallow hard.

"Mother." I watch her back stiffen as she slowly straightens.

"What do you want?" Her voice is a low growl.

"I've come too…" I falter, fighting to control all the emotions that are welling up inside.

"What? Kill, enslave, destroy!" She turns, spitting venom with her words.

"I've come to give you a better life, to save you from all this." I can't believe I sound as weak as I do.

"The only thing I need saving from is you." She scoffs. After all these years, the hatred in her eyes still pierce me to my very core. "And this," She sweeps her hand out angrily, "is what kept you clothed and fed."


"Mother?!" She injects. "The Lord Conqueror has a mother? You're cold, heartless and cruel. No daughter of mine." I feel as if so many swords and daggers pierce my skin.

"She's more than that. She saved my life!" Suddenly the farm girl is on her feet, stalking towards my mother.

"And what are you? Her slave?" She laughs ruefully.

"I'm her friend." What is wrong with this girl?

"Friend? Even more ludicrous."

"Above all else she's your daughter." My mother looks from me to the farm girl with utter shock. "Xena has good in her. I can see it." This girl….

"Xena?" My mother questions, surprised to hear my name come out of anyone let alone a simple farm girl. I'm lost for words, something I'm not quite comfortable with. Then, even more astonishingly, the blonde stalks over and grabs my hand before unceremoniously pulling me back out the door.

"What do you think you're doing?" I finally ask after gathering my wits.

"That woman doesn't deserve you." She looks personally offended.

"That woman is my mother. You have no idea what she does and does not deserve." She's barely paying attention to me, mumbling to herself about mothers. I'm ready to backhand her, as I've done to so many in her place, then her eyes shift to mine and there's nothing but unfettered concern….for me. God's above.

"Anyway I don't know how she can continue to blame you."

"How can she not?"

"You were young, trying to save everyone and everything you cared for. How can you be held responsible for your brother who was only doing the same?" Sighing, I rake my fingers through my hair.

"If only I could see everything as simply as you do." It's an admission I do not mean to utter.


Chapter 2


I listen to the steady rhythm of stone against steel as I stare up into the night sky. The sound of her sharpening her instruments of war is unusually calming. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm enjoying the darkness that surrounds me. The night is alive with so many sounds, so much life that I'm not always aware of. The sky sparkles like so many grains of sand, scattered and shining with the brilliance of jewels.

"You would think you've never seen the night sky." Xena muses without stopping her task.

"Not as I see it now."

"And how's that?"

"With a sense of freedom I've never felt before." I finally look over to see eyes that are searching mine. What is she looking for?

"Haven't you always been free?" She finally stops her task, fully immersed in the conversation.

"Free in a way. I've had my father to answer too, and I've always been expected to do what I was told. My father didn't believe in dreams, he believed in me getting married and settling down." I can’t help but feel a little sad.

"And your dream was to follow me around?" She smirks at me. I laugh a little at our exchange.

"No Xena, my dream is to become someone important, to make a difference."

"You definitely chose the wrong person to follow." She laughs at her own self deprecation.

"No." I become serious. "As soon as I saw you I knew there was something….." I'm not sure how to explain the feeling. "I knew I had to be wherever you were. It's fate." Xena snorts at me.

"I don't believe in fate. We are in charge of our own destiny." Her hand moves to continue sharpening her sword.

"Maybe…" I let it drop, turning back towards the darkness above. "Maybe there are things even The Conqueror cannot control."



For some reason, when she calls me the Conqueror, I feel something stab me deep inside. I'm beginning to enjoy the way she speaks my name, a name I haven't heard uttered in an innocent way since youth. But she is innocent, and I will do nothing but destroy that about her. She is right about one thing, there is something undeniable, something unexplainable between us.

I watch as she begins to fall asleep. Her wonder is refreshing, but this new path I'm on doesn’t allow for selfishness. If I let her stay that is exactly what I'm being. I'm resigned to leave before she wakes when her voice breaks the silence.

"I'm glad I found you." She mumbles in a half asleep state.

"Didn't I find you?" I half smile to myself.

"I told you, fate." She rolls over, snoring within seconds. I feel stuck suddenly. I'm tired of the nightmares and the death, and the bodies that trail behind me. But this girl is awakening something inside of me that I thought had died long ago. So do I leave her or take her on this journey I hadn't intended to start? The reality is hard for me to face and I know it. She is awakening things and I'm afraid. So before the moon is halfway through the night sky, I'm gone.

As I travel, my thoughts move constantly to her. Why she has had such an effect in so little time is confusing. I have refused to let anyone get too close to me in recent years, as those who have in the past only betrayed me. This is why I run from her. I travel for over a day, skirting villages and towns along the main road. This girl is no tracker and I fully expect her to head back home with her tail between her legs. So to say I'm surprised when she comes crashing into my camp in the dead of night, would be an understatement.

"Did you know cyclops aren’t very smart?" She asks, sitting down and rubbing her feet. "I mean I just had to promise to kill you." She starts laughing to herself.

"How did you find me?" I ask, somewhat dumbfounded.

"I just followed the light of the fire." I drop my head in frustration.

"Before that."

"Oh I don't  know. I just kept walking." She looks around. "Do you have anything to eat?" I have this intense urge to slap my forehead.

"Why is it I don't  scare you?"

"Why would you?" I look around as if someone will show up just to explain to her who I am.

"I've  killed, set people’s heads on pikes, crucified men, destroyed entire villages."

"Oh but you haven 't done that in a long time." She laughs a little like I'm crazy.

"How do you know?" I'm on my feet, feeling myself lose control. She just looks at me in wonder.

"There was this wonderful bard who would travel through our village a couple times a year. He told the best stories. When he was finished he would always sit and answer my questions." She completely sidestepped my question.

"I have no personal bard." I drop back down to the ground.

"Oh, but he traveled everywhere. He knew so much about the world."

"I'm a monster, stop worshipping me."

"Aren't you a little full of yourself?" She's laughing at me! "I don't  worship you Xena, but I think we can learn from each other." I know I'm already learning immense patience, so I try a new tactic.

"Well I have assasination attempts nearly every season, Rome wants my head on a pike, I command the most brutal army in the nation." Gabrielle looks at me in rapt fascination. There's no getting through to her.

"So you don't  have a bard?" Was she even listening?

"No."I grumble.

"I can be your bard." She claps her hands together in excitement.

"You know how to read and write?"

"Oh yes." Her head bobs up and down. "I love telling stories." She stands suddenly, spreading her arms out in a grand gesture. "Oh I sing a song of.."

"I thought you wanted to be a warrior?"I cut her off before she can get any further.

"I do."

"You can't  be both." It's my turn to laugh.

"Who says?"

"Who ever heard of a warrior bard?!"

"You are only limited by what you dream."

"So if I wanted tooo… live a thousand years, I can achieve it?" I narrow my eyes at her, daring her to answer.

"Of course." She simply smiles and nods. I throw a piece of jerky at her and it hits her square in the face.

"Maybe you should just stick with being a bard." I mumble, trying really hard not to laugh. It hits me right then. I've  laughed more in the few hours I've  known her than I have since I left Amphipolis as a kid.

"Ow." She says quietly to herself before shoving the dried meat in her mouth. I don't  think I'll ever fully understand what I've  gotten myself into.



"Is it true that you"ve been with hundreds of lovers?" She looks at me with shock, exasperation, and confusion rolled into one. We stop dead in our tracks.

"What kind of question is that?" Her voice practically squeaks.

"Well I've just heard you’ve had a lot of lovers."

"First of all, that makes me sound like a prostitute." She stops in the middle of the road. "Second of all, I'm not sure when I would have had the time." I'm about to start walking again when she grabs my arm. "Third of all the term lover is not something I would use for most. I admit to using sex for power and control and because I needed a release, but the same can be said of those I've been with."

"So close to hundreds." I can't  help but laugh as I tease her.

"I've  just bared my soul to you, and you laugh." She feigns disappointment. It seems odd that we should get along in such an easy manner, but she really exposes very little. I, of course, spill every secret ever told to me. "And what about you?" She asks with narrowed eyes.

"What about me?" I've  learned in our short time together that deflecting doesn’t work with her. I don't care.

"How many?" She asks.

"None." Her jaw drops.

"And here I thought farm girls were easy."

"Well most are." We both laugh.

"Well now I know I have to protect your innocence as well." She's grinning at me as I slap her arm playfully.

"What if I don't  want it protected?" Her eyebrow arches up.

"Don't go giving it away now." She's laughing at me but I don't  care. I'm enjoying the ease with which we talk. But as quickly as it comes, her countenance changes. "Stop."She puts her arm out, stopping my forward movement

"What's wrong?" Her head moves back and forth, listening to our surroundings.

"We're being watched." She whispers between clenched teeth.

"By who?" I'm in awe of her skills.

"I have an idea." This is all she says as she continues to walk, acting as if nothing is wrong.

"Well, well, well." A voice calls from the trees above us.

"Come down and face me." Xena growls, pulling her sword from its sheath. Four women seemingly drop from the sky, wearing elaborate masks.

"Why has the Lord Conqueror deemed us worthy of her presence?" One woman walks up to Xena, lifting her mask.

"We're just passing through." Xena puts one hand up as she resheathes her weapon. They both narrow their eyes at each other.

"Oh but Lord, I think Queen Melosa would be most pleased to see you." The woman's voice is dripping in sarcasm. Her eyes shift to me momentarily. "You and your slave here." She shifts back to Xena. "If you have no problem with that of course."

"Of course not." Xena says through gritted teeth.

"Who are these people?"I ask, none too quietly.

"Amazons." The woman responds for Xena. "And I am Terreis."

"Amazons?" I've  only heard stories, and not good ones. Terreis motions with her head, spurring her troops into action. As we walk, Terreis and I talk about the Amazons, and I find a kindred spirit in her. She is surprisingly open and honest with me, answering my questions without hesitation. We walk like this for ages before Xena stops suddenly again.

"Get to cover!" She yells as arrows start pouring from the sky. The Amazons make for the trees and I make for Xena. I'm amazed by how easily she deflects arrows with just her sword. Terreis does not make it into the trees before an arrow hits her. Without even thinking, I throw my body over hers. I can feel the arrows impact the ground all around. The wait for the assault to stop is agonizingly long, and I don't  even realize it's stopped till Xena pulls me up.

"Are you crazy?"Her eyes are wild.

"But I couldn"t let her…"We both look down at the same time. Terreis is gasping, blood spurting from her mouth as well as her wound. Dropping back to my knees beside her, I pull her head into my lap.

"Don't  move her." Xena crouches down on her other side. I'm vaguely aware of the Amazons running up to us.

"Only another Amazon would risk their life like that."Terreis coughs, looking up at me. "I give you my right of caste. Take it." Other Amazons behind me protest.

"Ok. But you're going to be fine." I have no idea what I've  accepted. Looking around, I only wonder why no one's made a move to do anything. She coughs and sputters before all breath stops.



This day just goes from bad to worse. I can't  help but think I wouldn' be in this situation if it weren't for Gabrielle. After we make a litter to carry the fallen Amazon Princess, we all walk in silence.

What strange dream is this that I'm in that a simple farm girl can befriend Amazons in minutes, and be given the right of caste? I feel Melosa is going to be none too happy that I just happen to be present at her heirs death.

As we enter the main village, I'm stripped of all my weapons. They aren't about to let the most dangerous woman in Greece walk about freely. One of the scouts leads us to a small bare hut, leaving guards outside as she leaves.

"Xena, what's  it mean?"

"It means you're next in line to be Queen of the Amazons." She gasps, throwing her hands to her mouth.

"Well you wanted an adventure." I stand still, listening to the movement and voices outside. An escape is doable, should I need to escape, but with Gabrielle it might be a bit tough. After awhile, I hear approaching feet so I back up against the far wall. The scout has reappeared, a scowl on her face.

"Queen Melosa will see you both." She turns, walking out and expecting us to follow. I nod to Gabrielle, her feet finally moving. We are flanked by no less than 10 warriors on our way to the main throne that sits outside. Queen Melosa sits with her mask covering her face. Gabrielle is making gasping noises every time she sees something different, apparently more awed than scared.

"Well Lord Conqueror. Why do we have the honor of your visit?"She stands, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I was just passing through."

"And yet Princess Terreis is killed. A bit of a coincidence, don't  you think?"

"I have no soldiers in the area my Queen."I knew she would blame me. "And they shot at me and my friend as well."

"Ah yes, your...friend. Step forward." She lifts her mask finally, to better scrutinize Gabrielle. "Am I to believe the right of caste was passed to you?"

"Yes your majesty."Gabrielle looks at me nervously, unsure of how to act.

"You tried to save her life?"

"I didn’t  do a very good job." Gabrielle looks down at her feet.

"Not many would have done what you did for a stranger, an Amazon no less. Be proud of that." Melosa motions for the scout escorting us to move closer. "My best scout will teach you in the ways of the Amazons." The woman gives a small bow. "As for you, Lord Conqueror, you will be our guest until we can figure out who killed our princess." With a wave of her hand we are dismissed, this time we are led to a bigger hut, furnished and with my saddle bags waiting.

"Tomorrow your training will start, and food will be brought to you soon" The scout scowls at Gabrielle, looking her up and down.

"Did you look at Terreis that way?" Gabrielle asks, staring the scout down.

"Of course not." She's indignant, insulted to even be asked that question.

"Then I assume she would be disappointed in you." Gabrielle has no anger, no ulterior motive. She is letting the scout know that she is taking her role seriously, and the scout should as well. Sometimes I don't  know if this girl is stupid, or hiding brilliance behind a simple farm girl facade. The scout does a small nod and leaves without another word. Gabrielle however, jumps up and down in excitement. "Isn't this amazing." She declares.

"Sure." I lay myself out in one of the hammocks. "As soon as I can, I'm getting far away from here." Crossing my arms over my chest, I close my eyes.

"Oh, but you wont leave me?"She comes over, pulling down on my hammock, nearly upsetting it.

"Isn't this what you want?" I regard her seriously. She probably doesn"t know what she wants. Gabrielle looks down at her feet.

"Well I mean, yes and no."

"What does that mean?" Women, I sigh to myself. Wait….

"I would love to learn all about the Amazons, but I don't  want to stay here. I want to go with you." She looks at me bright eyed and smiling. I'm never going to get rid of her. Thankfully the food shows up and we don't  have to continue the conversation.

As the days go by, I'm relegated to the hut while Gabrielle is treated like royalty. Every chance she gets, she tells me everything she has learned for the day and how strange she finds the customs. Frankly these Amazons are lucky I'm in a good mood because I'm beginning to go stir crazy.

"Queen Melosa would like to see you." Ephiny, the head scout appears in the doorway. I'm happy to just be getting out of this hut, I could care less if I'm about to be sentenced to death or not.

"Well Lord Conqueror, it seems our treaty has held. We found those responsible for the death of Terreis and have taken care of them. I am satisfied you had nothing to do with the death. You are free to go as you please." She pauses as if to think, but I know no thought is necessary. "Think twice about entering our territory again." The queen knows I'm not afraid of her, but she puts on a good show for her people.

"Yes my Queen." I give her a little bow, but in reality I bow to no one. I take this opportunity to see Argo. I hope they have taken care of my horse or heads will roll, regardless of any treaty. Argo knickers and stamps her hooves as soon as she sees me. "I know girl, I'm sorry." I coo in her ear as I rub her mane.

"Oh Xena, I heard the good news!" A squeal as arms wrap around me from behind. "So when do we leave?" I turn around to look at her. Gabrielle has already changed so much. She holds a staff in one hand, leaning against it as she smiles up at me. No longer in a long skirt and blouse, she"s opted for the Amazon garb, showing off a very toned body. And while her confidence seems to have surged, she hasn't lost that naive, farm girl attitude.

"Are you sure you don't  want to stay? You can learn a lot more from them, than you could ever with me?"

"Oh, I think you're wrong about that." She dismissed me easily. "Besides, I'm going to be your personal bard."

"Now I haven't agreed to that." I scowl.

"Too late." She shrugs at me.

"What do you mean too late?" She is so exasperating.

"I mean," She leans forward, poking me in the chest with her finger. "I've  made up my mind, so it's too late." I can't  help the smile that spreads on my face.

"Well we should probably leave first thing in the morning. I think you better have a talk with your Queen." She grins before practically skipping out of the stable. Again I have to question myself. Once I would have threatened her, I would have left in the night, I would have backhanded her for even touching me. Is this really the person I want to be now? Argo nudges me. "Yeah, I know girl." She likes this me better too.


Chapter 3


Once again we are on the road, headed slowly to the place I have been living, but cannot call home. I feel like she knows I'm avoiding it, the question sits in her eyes, but she never asks. She does, however, talk about anything that comes into her mind. A neverending barrage of questions, comments, statements and nonsensical words. For some reason, I'm enjoying every minute of it.

"I think Argo would appreciate it if you stopped talking. " Argo is shaking her head around in annoyance.

"I don't  think Argo likes me." She screws up her face at me.

"Well she has high standards." I pat Argo on the neck..

"Are you saying, I'm not good enough for your horse?" She seems completely flabbergasted by this.

"I didn’t , she did." I nod my head at Argo. Gabrielle just glares at me.

"Will you teach me how to use the staff?" She asks, twirling it, then dropping it. It has made for slow going.

"I don't  know." I tease her.

"Come on please?" The staff goes flying behind her.

"Well only so you won"t kill people with that thing." I duck as it goes flying over my head.

"Oops." Her hands fly over her mouth.

"Like I was saying." I watch her run to pick the staff up on the other side of Argo. "You're going to kill someone, and most likely it will be me."

"Oh come on. I'm not that bad." She frowns, looking at the weapon in her hands. "But Queen Melosa said I have potential." I try not to laugh and end up snorting.

"Yes, potential." I avoid all eye contact with her. She slaps my leg and continues twirling her staff of death.



"So Xena, what is it like?" I poke the fire embers with a stick.

"What?" She sharpens her sword without fail every night. I watch the muscles in her arms move with each stroke of the stone against steel.

"Your….castle." She hasn't really told me where she lives, I can only guess it's a castle.

"It's bigger than I'd like, but not as big as you'd think."

"That's not very descriptive." I give her a grin when she looks up, but she has a sad sort of smile on her face.

"It sits on land ripe with fruit trees, grape vines, and olive trees. It's no castle, but it is three stories tall with a courtyard, a bath house, stables, and housing for the servants. When I'm not at war, there are barracks for the single men in my army down in the far corner of my land."

"It sounds beautiful." She looks so sad that I move to sit next to her.

"It does, doesn't it."

"So why are you avoiding it?" Xena doesn't look surprised by this question.

"It represents who I was."

"And what are you now?" I watch her face become stoic.

"I honestly don't  know." She sighs, putting her blade down beside her. "The darkness, the death…...every night I'm haunted by the things I've  done." I touch her arm with my fingertips. She flinches slightly, but doesn't remove them.

"But Xena, you have the power to make things better."

"I have the power to make war!" Her anger seethes before she reigns it back.

"Xena." I take her reluctant hand in mine. "You are so much more than the past. You can be the leader Greece needs."

"I don't  want the power anymore! It comes with too much. I've  lost myself within it."

"And what will happen when you leave?"

"Someone else will come along. There is always someone else."

"Like Rome?"

"Well what would you have me do, oh all knowing one?" She scowls at me.

"You change."

"It's not that simple!"

"Of course not. But you are already different. Abandoning your people would be selfish." Xena grunts in annoyance.

"So are you a sage as well as a warrior bard?"

"Maybe." I shrug at her. "Mostly I'm Greek, and I don't  want Rome destroying what we have."

"So take the lesser of two evils?" She quirks her eyebrow at me.

"The person in front of me is not evil." I reach up, moving hair strands from her face. "An evil person would never have saved me from those slavers."

"Maybe, maybe not."

"You aren't the person you used to be."

"How do you know?"

"Because that person would have killed me or enslaved me by now." She knows the truth, I think she just has a hard time accepting it.

She becomes more sullen as we draw closer to her home. Her whole demeanor changes, as her posture becomes stiff and straight. As we enter her land, we are surrounded on both sides by grape vines, standing in endless rows. There are men and women walking up and down the rows, removing bugs and weeds, checking the grapes, and various other tasks.

The villa itself is a beautiful site made of clay and stone. We enter through an opening in the wall onto a magnificent courtyard. A man appears, immediately grabbing the reins of Argo.

"This is beautiful." I twirl, trying to take it all in. She walks up to the well, pulling up cold water from its depths.

"Alexius!" She shouts before drinking deep. A man comes running down the stairs, stopping with a bow before Xena.

"Lord Conqueror?"

"Send a messenger out to the generals. We'll meet in two days time. Let the aristocrats know I want updates from them all." She commands with no emotion. "Make sure the cooks are aware of our extra guest." He waits a moment, making sure she is done, before scurrying off.

"Is he a slave?" I'm hesitant to ask, but can't  help myself. Her head whips my direction, eyes full of darkness.

"I only have freedmen here. I don't  control what the Aristocrats do in their polis, but I don't  condone the use of sex slaves, not anymore. " I actually feel myself cowering under her words. She is the Lord Conqueror, no question.

"You've never had a sex slave?" Why can't  I stop myself.

"Yes, I have." She growls, looking away. "I've  had many slaves in my time. But…" She pauses, anger receding once more. "I'm not that person anymore."

"Part of you still is."

"Part of me will always be Gabrielle!" Taking a deep breath, she looks at me again. "I can't  change the darkness in my heart."

"One of these days I'm going to prove you wrong." She actually smiles at this.

"I would love to see that happen."



I see her to the bathhouse, and recede into my room on the top floor. As soon as we got close to my land, I could feel myself getting lost in my darkness. I fall too easily into this role of supreme commander, of Lord Conqueror. The feeling of terror is all too new to me, and I'm terrified Gabrielle is going to see me as I truly am. Damon enters the room, bearing clean clothes and towels. He helps to remove the clasps on my clothing.

"Lord Conqueror. What are your wishes with the Lady?" I wonder what she thinks of that title.

"Give her a new tunic and cloak, make sure the weavers see that it fits. We'll have our meal on my private terrace." He leaves me to attend to the tasks. Tonight I'll dress in my best tunic, white with gold clasps and trimming. Why not show her the other sides of me.

The sound of the distant waves lull me into a small sense of comfort. Leaning against the low wall, I let my eyes close and open up my senses. The smell of salt water, fruit trees and dirt permeates the night air. There's no movement, except for the occasional night creature, scurrying about. Then the sound of sandals echoing against the tile floor alerts me to my visitor.

I turn to the vision of a beautiful woman, not the simple farm girl I rode in with. Her cheeks begin to turn crimson, obviously not completely comfortable in her new clothes. A red tunic graces her body in all the right places, her hair braided above her head like a crown. She looks like the princess she has just become.

"Do you like it?" Gabrielle asks, doing a little twirl. I feel my eyebrow raise of its own accord, and I smile despite myself.

"It looks good on you." Her eyes look me up and down.

"Wow, you look different."

"I don't  wear armor all the time." I smirk at her.

"It's a good thing." She moves closer, her fingertips on my arm. There alway seems to be a cause for touch. "It's so beautiful here." Looking around for the first time she notices the terrace is lit by strategically placed torches, giving just the right amount of light. The lattice work above us is crawling with vines that add to the shade during the day. I direct her to the small table, generally only used by me, that sits in the center of it all.

"I have a main dining area, but I thought you might like this." Sitting opposite her, I recline back in my chair as we wait for the food.

"Thank you." She looks at me in wide eyed wonder.

"If you are serious about being a bard, I can make sure you get new scrolls and ink."

"Why would you do this for me?" Finally, the question I've  been waiting for. Leaning forward I try to form the words for what I'm experiencing.

"You challenge me, believe in the good in me, you don't  bow before me." Her eyes narrow a bit as she takes in these words. "You make me feel like a person." Again, I continue to confess and expose myself too easily to her.

"No Xena." She emphasizes my name with a smile. "You'll see that you have more heart than anyone knows."

"Except you know?"

"Except me." She shrugs, grinning back at me now. "Now where's the food?"

The time passes easily, with talk about her childhood and mine, and a continuous flow of food and port. I give in to the good memories, avoiding the bad ones. Tonight is not the night for that. She is a simple farm girl in some respects, but so very different in many others.

"You dream big." I remark after we move to the bench, the food long gone.

"Is there any other way?" She"s looking at the dark sky, lit up by stars.

"You know, those are the heroes favored by the God's. "

"So many." She whispers.

"Greece produces many heroes, some of them are bound to be favored."

"Do you think you'll end up there?" She asks seriously.

"I doubt it, I've  angered too many of them." I chuckle at the thought.

"Are you really Ares chosen one?" I consider whether or not answering.

"Yes. You don't  get where I am without his favor. War and death, that's what he lives for." His name does nothing but bring bad memories.

"I'm sorry." She whispers quietly, putting her hand over mine. It catches me off guard.

"For what?" For the first time I really look into her eyes. They sparkle with the light of an unburdened soul.

"I shouldn't of brought him up." How did she read me so easily? I know my face showed nothing, it's something I'm very good at.

"So you're an Amazon Princess." I choose to deflect, moving my hands from hers. Hurt flickers across her face for the briefest moment. "Do you want to sit in with me when I speak to my generals?"

"Are you sure?" Her face lights up again. I shrug as if it's no big deal.

"Might as well start learning how to lead. We'll have dinner, and after, the boring talk." I wink at her. Hades, I'm so different with her. "You might want to get some sleep, we start your staff training tomorrow." Suddenly she lunges forward, wrapping her arms around me.

"Thank you so much." Her voice is muffled by my tunic. With some hesitation at first, I eventually return the hug.


Chapter 4


I wake up in a dream that doesn"t seem to want to stop. Should I pinch myself, so I wake up back in my bed on the farm? Floating here in these smooth, cool sheets, the temptation to believe this is all a figment of my imagination is all too real. Finally I let my eyes open, hoping the fantastic is actual.

The sun is filtering through a small window by the ceiling, dust floating in its rays. My tunic from last night is still draped over the chair in the corner. Possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever worn in my life. My travel bag sits atop a chest of drawers, already filled with my meager possessions. I want to linger here longer, but Xena’s words from last night slowly come back to me.

So far I have seen three sides to her. I wonder when she'll stop giving me specific versions of herself, and let the real person emerge. Maybe I really am as naive as people claim I am, maybe she just wants to use me. The thing is, there's nothing in it for her. Well maybe now with my title as Amazon Princess, but I don't  see myself as a ruler and that time is far off. I hold no influence over Queen Melosa, or anyone. What can a poor farm girl from Potidea really do for her?

Rolling, my feet hit the cool floor as I stretch and yawn. Searching through the drawers, I find my Amazon garb. The amount of skin it shows is still slightly unnerving to me. My clothes have always hidden me, have always been sensible and good for the farm work. Now, as I pull on the animal skin top and bottom, I can't  disappear anymore.

I lace my boots up and grab my staff. As I stand at the door I take a deep breath, steadying myself for what's to come.. Pulling open the heavy wood, I step out on the second story veranda. The smell of herbs and flowers float all about me. Looking over the railing, I see an herb garden with insects buzzing all around, darting to and fro.

"Lady Gabrielfrom. The voice nearly causes me to fall over. Turning, I find Alexius standing there, stiff as a board.

"Oh! You scared me. And please, call me Gabrielle." He simply nods.

"The Lord Conqueror is waiting for you on her private terrace." Without waiting for a response, he turns to lead me away. For a second, I'm stuck as my brain catches up, then I have to take off in a jog after him.

As we reach the top of the stairs that lead directly to the terrace, I see another version of Xena. Alexius leaves me to announce myself, and I suddenly find my mouth dry. She's leaning against a far wall, dark hair billowing in the wind. Today she's wearing a black leather bodice, covered in shining intricate armor that swirls about, black leather flaps hang down like a skirt, and silver metal greaves and arm braces. She looks every bit the warrior, the Lord Conqueror in soldier gear. I can't  take my eyes off the imposing figure before me. She lifts a piece of fruit to her lips, biting into it, the juices going down her chin. I think my mouth is hanging open.

"Are you going stand there all day?" Xena asks without taking her eyes off the horizon.

"Sorry." I stumble towards the table, making myself look like an idiot. Xena finally turns, looking at me. Something flickers across her features, but I can't  pin down what it means, it's s gone as soon as it appeared.

"Think you're ready for some real training?" She grins almost evilly.

"Do you plan on killing me today?" I try to laugh off the nerves.

"Close enough." Her eyebrow raises and her eyes narrow.

"Well I asked for it." I concede though I really don't  think I'm prepared for this at all.

"You might want to get some food in your stomach." She nods to the table, then moves close to me in smooth, sure steps. Reaching out, she feels my top between her fingertips. "I"ll have someone make you something a little lighter, and if you get good enough, maybe something battle ready." Her eyes gleam at me as she waits for a response.

"Oh yes, I would love that." I grab a bunch of deep red grapes, tossing one into my mouth. As I bite down, sweetness fills my mouth, and I can't  help the slight moan I make.

"Good?" Xena asks me with a grin. I can feel my entire body turning red.

"Umm, we don't  get fruit often at home." I try not to make eye contact. Her fingers find my chin, gently guiding my face back to look into her eyes.

"We'll just have to make sure you get more then." For a moment I can't move, I think the entirety of my body has stopped working. Her eyes glow with an energy I've  never seen in anyone else, and it holds me trapped. A callused thumb slowly glides across my lips. I've  stopped breathing.

"Come on, let's get to work." She nearly whispers, but seems to have no intention of moving. "You might want to breathe Gabrielle." Forcing my lungs to work again is a monumental task. She winks at me and walks away. Hades, what's  wrong with me?

Xena is a masterful, if not extremely patient teacher. I've  hit the hard ground, no less than five times. Now, as I lean against my staff, I fight to control my breathing.

"Not bad." She comments. "I expected a lot worse."

"Well thanks for the confidence." I grumble at her.

"No problem." She grins. "Why don't  you go take a bath, it's not heated yet, the cool water will feel good."

"Are you going to come?" Don't  ask me why these words came out of my mouth, I honestly don't  know. She regards me for a moment, then shrugs.

"I could use the wash." There seems to be something else on her mind, but she is so good at concealing her emotions, I can't  decipher what it is. As we reach the bathhouse, she instructs a servant to bring us both clean clothes.

Throwing my clothes off, I walk into the water. The cool against my hot skin is a Godsend. As I turn I see Xena slink her way into the bath. She dunks her head under the surface, and when she rises again I swear I'm looking at a Goddess. Her confidence rolls off in waves, making my own body tingle. Her hand runs at her shoulder in obvious discomfort.

"Here, let me help you." Xena’s eyebrow hitches up as I move behind her. As soon as I touch her skin I almost forget what I'm doing.

"Right here." She points to the sore spot, so I begin to press my palm into her stiff muscle. "Yeah, that's it." Her voice is almost nearly a groan. Hades, what am I doing?

"So what do you discuss with your generals?" I think I'm making a valiant effort to focus on something else.

"Tactics, the soldiers, the gossip."


"They"ve been garrisoned strategically. They keep their ears to the ground for anything that might be a threat."

"Why are tactics important." I'm pretty sure I know, again I just need distraction. She turns towards me, and suddenly a wall of water comes crashing at me. I can't  help the Yelp that escapes.

"I made the first move, now what do you do?" Her face is completely blank. The only logical response I have is to splash as much water as I can at her. I grin, somewhat satisfied. She licks her lips, wiping water from her eyes.

"Now you've used most of your men and I'm still standing." She slaps some water at me, not nearly the same amount as before but I close my eyes at the assault. When I open my eyes again, Xena is gone. I'm about to yell out for her when I'm yanked beneath the water. I'm so surprised I probably swallow a gallon. Frantically I shoot back for the surface. Xena’s in front of me again with a smug look on her face.

"What the f…." Her laugh cuts me off.

"Diversionary tactics." She grins. "A few were sacrificed to allow a bigger force from behind." Yeah, I'll give you a bigger force. She turns to walk out of the bath and I pounce. Landing fully on her back, I use all my weight to push her under. Also, being the smart girl I am, I make a hasty retreat to the steps. Xena launches from the water like a mad woman, grabbing my wrist and pulling me backwards. She then unceriousmonally dunks my head under the water. I come back to the surface choking and sputtering, and to the sound of her laughter.

"I had you." I yell back at her. At this point we devolve into a splashing fight, neither of us win this one.



Once again, I'm treated to a meal on Xena’s private terrace. Sitting on the bench, my eyes closed as I wait for her arrival. The cool breeze washes over me, charging my body with fresh energy.

"Maybe we should eat all our meals out here." Her voice startles me, nearly causing me to fall over.

"It's just so….." I don't  know the words to describe it.

"If you want to be a bard you might want to work on your descriptions." She reaches a hand out to me that I gladly accept.

"I promise to work on it." I'm pulled to my feet, my body almost touching hers. "It's like a dream here." I look into her eyes. The clarity of the blue I see there is astonishing.

"Do you always get beat with a staff in your dreams?" The chuckle that emanates from her is a beautiful sound.

"Maybe not that part." I admit, returning her smile. Our hands are still clasped together. "But the rest...Xena…..I never truly thought I'd meet someone like you."

"Someone like me?" She questions suspiciously.

"The person of my dreams." The words almost don't  come out, my throat having suddenly gone dry. "I'm sorry." I look down at my feet. "Thoughts come to my head and go straight out my mouth."

"It makes you endearing and annoying all at the same time."

"Is that a compliment?" With a huge amount of will, I look back up at her. The softest of smiles plays on her lips.

"Yes, it is." We go silent, though it's not awkward in the least. There seems to be a rock in my throat, and I'm having a hard time swallowing around it. She brings her fingertips to my cheek, tracing against my skin. Of course, this is when the food arrives, effectively killing the moment.


Chapter 5


Wild thoughts have overtaken my senses. I've  allowed myself to become so involved, as to lose myself completely. Sitting here, actually listening to her life, actually caring what comes out of her mouth next. I think back and try to place if I've  ever felt this way before.

"What is it?" Her words push their way through the cloud of my thoughts.

"Just enjoying this. I don't  have moments like this often." I toss an olive in my mouth. My eyes shift to Alexius who stands against the wall, waiting in case we should need something. I give him the most imperceptible of nods, dismissing him.

"That's sad." She frowns.

"I'm not sure a warlord deserves anything like peace, no matter how small the moment." She doesn't seem to have a response for this.

"Did you enjoy it?" She asks after a moment. I breathe in deep, filling my lungs.

"It was intoxicating." I can't  seem to look her in the eyes, I fear what she may think of me. "Power over life and death can consume you so easily."

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely." The statement brings my attention back towards her. Her face shows nothing but understanding.

"Who said that?"

"I did." She grins, and the infectious nature of it spreads to me. "You're different now though. I may have not known you before, but you are miles away from a warlord." I shrug at her.

"Maybe not as far as you think." We drown in the silence. After awhile she stands, walking to the low wall and looking out into the moonlit night.

"Look how big it is." The moon stands like a giant over us. For a moment I look at her, standing there in such awe of simple things, things I have taken for granted. Finally getting up, I move to stand beside her, my hand on the small of her back. "It's almost as bright as the sun." She whispers as if the Goddess Selene might hear. Her body leans more into mine, and I'm not sure if it's a conscious act or not.

"In Chin they have a moon festival where they recite poems. I think you would really enjoy it."

"You've been to Chin?" Her eyes are wide as she turns to look at me.

"And Japa, and a few other places." I look up at the glowing orb in the night sky. "But nothing compares to this, right now." It comes out of my mouth before I realize it's reached my lips. She turns, hands resting on my biceps.

"Do you mean that?" I swallow hard, looking down into green eyes that I find I'm falling into.

"Yes." My throat is tight, my heart beginning to race.

"Xena….." She can't  seem to find the words she wants to say, and looks away.

"A bard should never be lost for words." I smile, trying to put distance between myself and the feelings welling up.

"I'm not a bard yet." She finds the courage to look at me as I find the courage to touch her cheek with the back of my fingers. I can't  think of a time I've  touched skin so soft. "What's  happening?" Her eyes search mine.

"I don't  know." I honestly don't. "I'm not sure I want it to stop." My voice is barely above a whisper. I find myself in awe of her, in awe of what she makes me feel. Taking her face between my hands, I lean down, bringing my lips to hers in the briefest, softest of kisses. My breath is lost in this moment. "We shouldn't.." The rest of my words are captured by her lips upon mine. Her tongue delves into my mouth, flicking across my teeth. "You should probably think…" I try to speak when we break for air, but again she doesn't let me finish. My body is betraying me, melting into her touch. My brain is trying to stay coherent, to talk sense into her. She can't  possibly know what she's doing. "Gabrielle…"

"Shut up Xena." Her hands slide to my back, pulling me further into her. I let my fingers tangle in her hair, pulling it from its carefully braided confines. We kiss as if we are hungry for each other. My senses are devouring every touch, every breath, every second that passes.

I grab her hair in my fist, yanking her head back and exposing her neck to me. The skin there is delicate and salty as my tongue begins to explore. The sounds coming from her slightly parted lips only fuels my desire. I know I need to stop, this can't  possibly happen. With as much determination as I can gather, I pull away from her.

"What is it?" There's confusion and hurt, and maybe betrayal lacing her gaze at me.

"You don't  know what you're getting into." I'm panting, my heart is pushing its way out of my chest. Her hands fall back to her sides as she begins to back away.

"I'm just a simple farm girl from Potidea, right?" Her voice is like a slap.

"Yes." I whisper, unable to make eye contact.

"Why don't  you be honest with yourself." She balls her hands into fists. it's taking too long for my mask to fall back into place. I should tell her she means nothing to me, that I just like toying with people like her, push her away and get her out.

"I can't ." I choke out, turning away from her. I'm not sure if it is for my own thoughts, or in answer to her question.

"Why not?" Her voice is softer now. I can feel her presence behind me, so close.

"This wasn't supposed to happen. I don't  deserve this to happen." I turn towards her, feeling the wildness inside grow. "This." I begin to gesture around me. "I don't  even deserve this. But you…" I can barely seem to catch my breath. "You are too good for me." My words sound pleading and desperate. "This is not what I set out to do. I'm supposed to fix the wrongs I've  committed. Not fall in love." The words come out in a messy tumble that I just can't  seem to stop. "Those closest to me always get hurt by me." The mad rush of feelings begins to slow. "I don't  want to hurt you." I feel defeated. This one person defeated me with almost no effort. I find myself sinking to my knees, my soul wrought with pain.

"Xena." Gabrielle falls to her knees in front of me, her hands grasping my face. "I started out wanting to be like you, but I soon realized that was wrong. I don't  want to be like you, I just want you. That first moment I saw you, saving us, to think there was a woman out there that personifies strength and beauty. I know what you were, and I will do anything to help you become what you want. I've  been telling you, the fates brought us together."

"I don't  believe in fate."

"Believe that the worst thing you can do, is to push me away. I'm here for a reason, whether you believe in fate or destiny. I may be inexperienced in a lot of things, especially compared to you." She grins a little. "But I think we can learn from each other." Standing up, she offers her hand to me. My eyes shift back and forth from her face to her hand several times, but eventually I accept her offer and stand as well. Our fingers intertwine as she leans up and kisses my cheek. "I'll leave you to think about it." Her eyes sparkle as she turns and walks away.

"Gabrielle." She stops, but doesn’t turn. I know I don't  want her to leave, but I can't  find it within myself to tell her.

"I'll see you in the morning on the practice field." Then, she's gone.


Chapter 6


I walk with as much dignity as I can muster. I have to wonder if I'm being naive about this. Xena’s right though, I am just a farm girl from Potidea.

The thing is, I'm surprised by this too. There was never any intention on my part to be more than just her friend. The first time I saw her, I could see the pain and loneliness. I'm afraid now that I've  lost her. I've  run headlong into this thing without even looking.

Once In my room, I change into the shift the servant left for me. Its texture is smooth and slippery, and I never knew material could feel this good. Laying back I stare at the ceiling. Morpheus takes his time in coming to me.



I find myself wandering through the vineyard. We trained without a word between us, then I bathed by myself. Her face was one of indifference the whole time we were together. The Generals have been showing up all afternoon in preparation for their meeting with Xena. I wonder if I'm still invited? 

So here I am walking to the furthest point I can, mumbling to myself the whole way. There's an ocean around here somewhere, and as I've  never seen it before, that is my current destination.

It takes the better part of the morning to arrive at cliffs. The ocean below is the bluest I've  ever seen. Well no, Xena’s eyes hold that color, and with greater depth. The air smells of a salty brine, and the wind blowing off the water is cool. I edge closer, listening to the sound of the waves breaking upon the shore below. The gulls cry out as they swoop back and forth. The beauty here is breathtaking until the earth literally drops beneath me.

The first thing I notice is pain, the second is the cold. My eyes open to darkness, and for a moment I think I've  lost my sight. Then I notice the moonlight glinting off the water. I make an excruciating attempt to sit up, it takes what feels like hours. My head aches, my sides hurt, and my ankle may be broken. Trying to figure out if I'm bleeding is almost impossible. The ocean water covers half my body, and I'm soaked through. I shake from the cold, but also the pain I'm in. How am I going to get back up there?

Looking up, I can see moonlight shining off the edge of the cliff. it's so far up, and with my injuries I'm not entirely sure I can make it. But I have no choice, I'm not ready to die here in the cold. Why hasn't Xena come to look for me? Have I fallen so far from her grace that she no longer cares?

I can't  wait here for someone to rescue me. Thanks to a bit of luck, my staff sits behind me so I grab it, intending on using it to support my ankle. Hand over hand, I use the wood to pull myself to my feet. it's obvious I'm not getting up the cliff this way, I"ll have to find a better route. With agonizing slowness, I hobble to my left. I could possibly walk the whole coast and not find a way up,but I better keep moving.

I'm not sure how long it takes before I find a somewhat gentle slope up the cliff. Staring at it I wonder if I can make it up at all, but I just know the pain has become so great, that if I stop now I will never get back up. So I half crawl, half drag my body up, little by little. Each movement a reminder of the injuries I incurred, as sand and dirt imbed into my wounds.

My surroundings begin to lighten with the coming of the sun, and I'm very nearly to my goal. As I make it over the precipice, tears fall freely from my tired eyes. Finally I let them close, too overcome with exhaustion to care about anything else.

"Gabrielle!" A scream of horror is the only thing that causes me to stir. With great effort, I open my eyes to see Xena running full tilt towards me. I guess she did care.

"Gabrielle, what happened?" I haven't heard her say my name so much at once. Her hands fly across my body, taking stock of my injuries. "What happened?"

"I fell." I can't  help the laugh that comes out. Xena looks at me with such confusion, I laugh even more.

"You have a head injury." Her fingers are delicate at my scalp.

"The cliff gave way. I spent all night making my way back up here."

"How did you even…" She looks down at me, and so many emotions flutter across her face, I don't  catch them all.

"Is it that bad?" Tears threaten to spill from her eyes.

"Gabrielle, why were you even out this far?"

"I like it when you say my name." My head is so fuzzy I'm just saying everything aloud. 

"So this is the girl we've been looking for." A man's voice, somewhere out of my vision, sounds annoyed. I want to close my eyes.

"Stay awake."

"I don't want to."

"Fetch me a litter!" Xena yells, her fingers are on my cheek. "Stay awake." She looks intently into my eyes, but I'm having a hard time focusing.

"I fall a lot. Once I nearly fell into a well." I giggle.

"What hurts?"


"What am I going to do with you?" She whispers.

"Don't make me leave." I can't keep the blackness away, again darkness consumes me.



Once again I find myself in a position that I'm not used to. When she didn’t  come to dinner, I tried to write it off, to assume it was for the best. But there was this nagging feeling that something was wrong. I sent Alexius for her, and when he came back with no sign of her, well …..

The darkness built in me that evening as we searched the land. Why? Not out of anger, or the need to kill. I felt fear for the first time in as long as I can remember. The fear gripped me with powerful talons because I thought Gabrielle was lost to me, and she very nearly was. I look down at her, hair still matted with blood, gashes everywhere. Everywhere.

I sigh. In my bed she looks so small, so fragile. But she's far from that. Gabrielle is so much more than I imagined. Alexius is at the door.

"What is it?"

"The Generals Lord, they are eager to meet or get on their way." They no doubt see me as weak.

"Assemble them in the courtyard. Has Damon returned with the healer yet?"

"No lord."

"Have fresh water and some clean cloth brought up." He bows slightly and leaves. I give it a few moments before I leave for the courtyard, finding it hard to leave her side.

The generals are milling about, talking when I come before them. They don't  even bother to stand at attention.

"Is this how you greet your commander!?" I let the beast within have free reign, these men need a lesson I think. Some, the smarter ones, immediately fall in line. Others, however, choose to continue their open display of disrespect.

"Is the Lord done with her little plaything?" A young general laughs, looking around trying to get other men to laugh with him. When he turns back I am upon him. The fear in him is palpable. My dagger is at his neck, a thin prick of blood already trailing down his skin.

"Do you want to see what I do with my playthings!" I spit the word at him. Swallowing hard, the General shakes his head. Looking around I find that every man is now at attention, eyes carefully diverted. "If I ever find you talking that way about her again." I grab him by his groin. "You will lose something precious to you. Do you understand?"

"Yes Lord Conqueror." He squeaks. I let it sink in before letting him go and stepping back.

"You need to step up your recruitment. I want your ranks to swell twofold in a fortnight." There is some uncomfortable shifting. "I also want your men training twice as hard."

"Is there a war on?" A man questions from the back.

"We have Cesar on one front, and Xerxes on the other. I'm increasing our ships on the coast, and I fear an invasion is imminent." I look each man in the eye. "I will not let anyone take Greece from us! This is our land, our people. I will go down fighting to keep this soil Greek!" The men raise their swords in a cheer. I dismiss them before returning to my room. The healer has shown up and is bent over Gabrielle.

"Will she be ok?" I'm almost afraid to ask. But the look he gives me causes my heart to drop. For a second I don't  move.

"I'm sorry Lord." It can't be? Pushing him out of the way I pull her into my arms.

"Gabrielle!" My voice is choked with sobs. Her body is limp and I can't feel her heart beating. Laying her back down I start pounding on her chest.

"Lord, she's gone." The healer's words mean nothing to me.

"Come on Gabrielle!"

"Lord." But he doesn"t finish his protest. Gabrielle sucks in a lung full of air. I put my ear to her chest and can hear the steady pound of her heart. I collapse, wrapping my arms around her, unable to stop the tears.


Chapter 7


I don't  think I've  moved in hours, I'm too afraid to. Her eyes have opened once but fell closed again. I'm just sitting here, watching the movement of her chest up and down. They all looked at me like I was crazy when I wouldn't let anyone touch her. I cleaned her myself, dressed wounds and reset bones. Raking my fingers through my hair I sigh heavily.

"Lord." Alexius calls from behind me. I ignore him. "You need to eat."

"Is it my fault?" I ask, not expecting a truthful answer.

"What do you think Lord?" I turn in my chair to look at him.


"You can't  control how the earth behaves." He moves forward, handing me a tray.

"I can control the actions that led her there." Alexius shrugs.

"But that time has passed, that can't  be changed. You can change what's  to come." He gives me a little nod and backs out. I eat the pitas and hummus for lack of anything else to do, and I continue to wait.

"So it's true." My mother's voice startles me, I was actually half asleep for once. I choose, however, not to turn and look at her.

"Who should I have killed?" Who had the guts to send for her?

"Well, I'm told she already died once."

"She wrote to you?!" I whip my head around. My mother simply nods.

"She has a way with words, she made me feel guilty. And here I thought that was my job." She sighs and gives me a tired smile. "But maybe she's right." Walking forward she puts her hand on my shoulder. At this simple gesture I break down. For the first time since I was a child, my mother pulls me into her arms, and I hug her with all the strength I have.

"Go, clean yourself up. I can watch her." My mother suggests after I collect myself.

"But….." I can't. I don't  admit it out loud but she knows.

"I"ll send for you if there's any change, good or bad. Go." The only reason I give in, I think, is because my mother is speaking to me like she cares. There are so many things happening to me at once, I can't  decide if it's good. I walk to the bathhouse, forgoing my private bath for today as it's in my room. The hushed whispers of the servants follow my every step, but I hardly care at this point. As I recline in the water, I fall asleep almost at once.

"Lord." Damon's voice causes me to go into fight mode. It takes a moment for me to realize that I'm actually still in the bathhouse. Hades.

"What's wrong?" I go into panic mode, dressing quickly. He bows, handing me a sealed letter. I could kill the man for the way my heart is racing, but I don't . Sending him away with a dismissive wave, I rip the seal open. Cities along the coast are reporting Persian spies, trying to poison supplies and destroy crops. Looks like I'll be dealing with Xerxes sooner rather than later. I make my way back up to my room, only to hear my mother talking very quietly as I reach the door.

"She's very stubborn, but who am I to talk?" She chuckles. I can't hear the other voice.

"Oh no need to apologize sweetheart. You were right, I just needed someone to say it out loud I suppose." My heart is racing. I'm afraid to open the door now, but I push it open anyway. My mother is holding Gabrielle's hand as she sits on the side of the bed. She turns, noticing me.

"I'm going to see what food I can find." My mother gives my shoulder a squeeze before closing the doors behind her. I move to Gabrielle's bedside in one swift motion, grasping both her hands in mine. Her face still has hues of green, purple and yellow. The rest of her body is much worse.

"What were you thinking?" I can't help scolding her. I was scared, I still am.

"I'm sorry, I was being stupid." Her eyelashes are fluttering as she attempts to move. Pain is causing sweat to break out on her brow.

"Don’t move, you'll make it worse."

"I feel like death." She croaks. Those words cause a sob to escape me unbidden. "I'm sorry." She says again, reaching out for me. I grab her hands in mine, kissing them over and over as tears begin to fall. There's no point in trying to hide it, I can't .

"You died Gabrielle." It doesn,'t even sound like my own voice. There's too much pain, too much emotion and fragility.

"What?" Her lungs rasp.

"I almost lost you. I did lose you." I crouch down next to the bed, her hands still grasped in mine. "I'm never going to let anything happen to you again."

"It was my fault." Her voice is weak and tremulous. "I'm just a stupid farm girl." She's struggling for air but still manages to give me this weak smile.

"You are so much more than that." Raising up slightly I kiss her forehead. "You need some rest." Gabrielle smiles the smallest of smiles then succumbs to the pain. I stay crouched, committing to memory this moment. I know for a fact, she will be the undoing of me. Walking to the door, I pull it open to see who's waiting outside.

"Damon, get the healer." He nods and takes off in a run. Her chest rattles with each breath in. I stand here by the door, watching the rise and fall. As long as it continues to move I will be ok.

"Lord?" The healer arrives, asking for entrance. Moving to the side, I practically shove him past me. He bends over Gabrielle, putting his ear to her chest listening to the noises within. His hands touch her neck, her arms, her chest and stomach. "We are going to need to sit her up otherwise she might drown in her own fluids. Her heart beats strong though my Lord, I don't  think there is much need to worry. I do carry leeches with me if you feel…"

"What I feel," I cut him off with a growl. "Is that you don't  deserve the title of healer. Get out of here." I wave him away in irritation. The man has the wherewithal not to argue or even hesitate as he leaves my room. Cracking my knuckles, I take a deep breath.

"What do you need?" My mother's voice pulls me back from the precipice inside.

"We will need to wrap her chest tight, and I'll need a poultice to help her cough. I'm afraid if she doesn't cough she'll get worse." Without speaking my mother walks to the bed and pulls the sheet down covering Gabrielle. She sucks in a lungful of air, attempting not to gasp at the sight of the battered body. Resolute, I grab some cloth I had torn already, and we get to work. Then, once again I'm left to wait, to sit by and watch as she struggles to breathe. My mother puts a poultice on her chest, helping Gabrielle to cough up what's in her lungs.

"What is she to you?" My mother asks after a prolonged period of silence. I shrug, unwilling to admit even to myself what she truly is in my heart. But of course, to think she has any place in my heart at all is a big admission in itself. "Is this who you really are?" She asks, intent on probing my inner demons.

"How?" I ask, avoiding the question.

"You care?" The question hurts more than it should.

"Despite everything, I still have a heart." I have to push these words out. "I don't  want to be a monster anymore." If it was anyone other than my mother, I probably wouldn't be confessing this.

"I feel like I'm partially to blame. I pushed you away, I made you a villain." There are tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry." She comes to me, wrapping arms around me as we both start to cry.


Chapter 8


Days pass with Gabrielle on the edge of a cliff that decides if she lives or dies. I give her herbs to help her sleep, but mother is the one who watches over her. The Persian invasion is imminent, I can feel it down in my bones. I push my men harder and harder every day. Messengers ferry news and orders throughout the countryside daily.

"If anyone can stop them it's you." My mother assures me one night before she retires to bed. "I believe in you." She squeezes my arm before walking away. Staring out at the dark landscape before me, I can't  help but wonder if her faith is misplaced. The air around me tingles.

"What do you want?" I'm too tired to even care as Ares appears at my side.

"Aren't you excited?!" His lips curl in some sort of smile. "This is what we live for." He leans his body against mine. "Come on." He licks his lips as his face comes perilously close. "Let's have some pre-battle fun." I crack my neck, holding back my overwhelming need to punch him.

"Those days are long gone, Ares." My hands grip hard at the edge of the wall, turning my knuckles white. His eyes shift towards the open doorway of my room.

"It's not...her is it?" He snarls.

"Oh, it's all you." I move away from the obnoxious God. He laughs mirthlessly.

"Come on Xena, you're better than this." Ares points in her direction. "I mean, she's not even a warrior." He looks at me disgusted.

"I'm not that person anymore." He shakes his head.

"Oh, you are, you're just trying to pretend things have changed." Ares moves in close, looking me up and down. "Deep down you know you can't  change. That's why I chose you. You love the battle more than I do." He moves toward the open doorway. "I can take care of this little problem right now." Without hesitation, I grab him by his arm, yanking him backward before planting my elbow into his face.

"Are you serious?" He glares at me.

"Leave her alone Ares." I pull my sword from its sheath on my back. Rubbing his jaw, Ares just shakes his head.

"You'll get tired of her soon enough." With a flash, he disappears. If I'm honest with myself, I know he's right. Once the battle starts I get lost in lust and power. The beast inside takes control and I let it. A cough from my chambers brings me back from the ghosts that haunt me.

"Gabrielle?" I quickly move to her bedside.

"I think you look worse than I feel." She coughs again, attempting to smile through the pain. This brings a genuine smile to my lips.

"Well, I'm not the one who gets to lay in bed all day." She laughs, then winces.

"What's wrong?" She squints her eyes a little.

"I've  been worried about you."

"Xena." She says my name with a hint of scolding.

"How do you do that?" My eyebrow arches at her.

"Do what?" She smiles but seems genuinely confused.

"You are the only person who can see through me. It’s as if we've known each other for years." It's unnerving if I'm honest.

"I just know." Her eyes fall closed for a minute, obviously exhausted.

"You should sleep." I move to leave her.

"Isn't that what I've  been doing?" Gabrielle grabs my hand in hers, looking at me pleadingly. " Don't leave me."

I only hesitate a moment before I get into the bed next to her, letting her lay her head on my chest. Wrapping my arms around her I'm realizing how comfortable this is. I don't  care what she looks like right now, I just care that she's alive, that I can feel her heartbeat, her warmth. This renews my conviction to win at all costs.



My eyes open slowly as the sun beckons me to wake. The sound of a heart beats against my ear, and I remember falling asleep in her arms. My body feels mangled, and breathing takes more thought than it should. I'm so stupid, so nieve. Here I am, supposed to be an Amazon princess, If they only knew I was brought down by a cliffside.

"You sound better than yesterday." Her voice is gritty with sleep and it lulls me into a sense of security I've  rarely felt.

"I barely remember yesterday." I don't  remember much since I fell, if I'm honest.

"What hurts?" Xena's voice is so soft I don't  want to move, I want to stay here. Xena has other ideas as she tries to sit me up.

"Everything." I wince and groan as my body moves. "God's what did I do?"

"Do you really want to know?" She moves off the bed, crouching down next to it. The smile on her face can brighten the darkest night.

"I don't think so." I already know that things are broken and bruised and basically I look like I've  been run over by Hades himself. "Thank you." I'm not sure I could ever thank her enough. The back of her hand graces my cheek in the softest touch. Then she lets out a big sigh and stands.

"I wish I could stay." Her face turns dark and troubled.

"What is it?"

"War." Her eyes shine with darkness I've  never seen in anyone.

"Xena…." What do I even say?

"I shouldn't want to stay." Suddenly I realize her turmoil is not with any battle ahead but with me.

"I'm….I'm sorry." She looks as if she is about to say something but a knock on the door stops her.

"What!" She growls. Alexius steps in with a slight bow.

"Lord Conqueror, you're needed urgently." Xena issues curses under her breath as she follows him out the door. I'm left in the wake of her foul mood. After a while, Xena's mother Cyrene enters the room. She's a different person from the woman we left at the tavern that day.

"You look better." Cyrene says sweetly, handing me a mug of broth. I sip the amber liquid slowly, enjoying the feel of its heat slipping down my parched throat.

"Thank you." Worry creases the corners of her eyes, and I wonder if it's because her daughter is headed off to war. "Are you worried about her?"

"Right now I'm more worried about you dear." She gently moves a few strands of hair from my face. "As long as we get you healthy, Xena can focus on what she needs to do." It feels odd that the conqueror should worry about me.

"I don't  think I'm that important." I say as I drink more of the broth. Cyrene laughs dismissively at me.

"She has barely left your side." I can't bring myself to look her in the eyes so I stare at the mug in my hands.

"Why?" I can't  seem to believe that I would be that important to anyone, least of all her. But she is that important to me already, she was that important the minute I saw her.

"Don't  be so naive." Cyrene scoffs at me. Just then the door nearly slams open, admitting Xena in her finest armor. She looks intimidating and gorgeous with danger seeping from her pores.

"I'll have to leave right away." She's focusing on her mother, but her eyes keep darting in my direction. "Promise to stay here. I have a unit here to guard you, if anything should happen they will take you somewhere safe." She leans in, putting her hands on her mother's forearms.

"Of course." Cyrene sighs. "Please be safe." She pulls Xena into a hug before leaving the room, wiping tears from her cheeks as she goes. Our eyes meet and the world turns still.

"Gabrielle." Her fingers rake through her hair as her face becomes clouded with thought. Finally, she comes and sits on the edge of the bed, taking the mug from my hands and sitting it on a table. Her hand slides up my cheek and I lean into its warmth, falling into the feeling of comfort it brings. Lips softly touch mine, not seeming to care about the dryness found there. Her tongue licks before my lips part, welcoming it into my mouth. A soft caress of exploration of tongue against tongue begins and my breath is lost to the process. And then she stops, her forehead falling against mine as our breath mingles and we come down from our temporary high.

"I had to do that." She whispers, and it makes me feel like it's goodbye.

"You'll be back." It's a statement not a question. I refuse to doubt. For a few minutes there is nothing but the sound of our breathing.

"I have something to come back for." This must be so hard for her to admit because she immediately gets up and turns for the door. "Stay away from cliffs." She says and is out the door.


Chapter 9


My men and I ride hard for the coast. I've  already sent out orders for my fleets of ships off the coast to attack first. On either front we are outnumbered, the losses we'll suffer is too great to even think about. I didn’t  want to tell this to my mother or Gabrielle; to tell them I probably won't be coming back. There's no time to think about any of that now, though, I can't .

We make for the mountain pass at Thermopylae, our best chance to hold off their advancing army. If the reports I've  been getting are correct, they number in the hundreds of thousands, while my men number in just thousands.

The thundering hooves echo within the narrowing mountain pass as I come charging into the camp. My general and his men aren't surprised to see me, in fact I think I see relief on their faces. My feet hit the hard packed earth as I jump from my mount. Tension is thick in the air as if Thanatos walks among us. My heart begins to beat faster as my body starts to tingle with the anticipation of battle. Death is not an option without a pile of bodies before me first. I look out at my men whose faces are drawn in fear.

"This is not the first time we have faced odds that seem insurmountable. This will not be the first time we will fall before those odds and let our fear defeat us. We are people of Greece. Some of you may not make it home to see your families but you will stop the armies pushing onto our lands who want to kill the people you love. Know that you fight for your land, for your family. For any man that falls here today your family will be taken care of. So fight! Greece depends on you. Today you will be heroes, you will be remembered long after we are all gone. Fight!"

The men yell uproariously, raising their swords into the air. The sound echoes off the rock, filling my body with a passion that unleashes my inner beast. I feel the growl rising up from my throat before I realize I've  issued it from my depths.

Night is beginning to fall on us. I organize men at the cut off point Xerxes will push his army through. This narrow path will work to our advantage, forcing his army into a choke point allowing my men to fight in fewer numbers. Silence descends upon us as we wait in the inky darkness. A storm flashes out in the distance as Zeus makes his displeasure known. With any luck Xerxes navy will be diminished to nothing.

I close my eyes and open myself to every sense, letting sounds, feel, tastes flood into me. The wind has shifted towards us, with the heavy scent of animal sweat and leather. I can taste the dirt in the air that has been lifted by the marching of the army. The earth beneath my feet begins to tremble as a low grumble starts to build.

"Ready!" I yell as a flash of lightning unveils enormous beasts and an army that doesn't end. "Steady yourselves." This is going to be fun.



The only thing I know at this point is that days have passed and the attack has been relentless. The clash of sword against sword and wails of dying men begins to die down around me. We have to hold and wait for relief that should have been here by now. I'm down to a handful of soldiers who gleam red in the moonlight, blood dripping from greaves and armor. The night has fallen eerily quiet causing my hackles to stand. Something is wrong. There's an echoing of rocks falling somewhere within the small canyon. I jerk my head to the side, trying to let my ear hone in on the source.

"Fall back." I hiss at my men, physically pushing some of them back towards the entrance of the canyon in retreat. Footsteps and the clanking of metal whispers around us. I push my men to get out as I hold my sword ready, waiting for the last man to stumble away before my war cry echoes and I charge the Persians attempting to sneak in behind us. For many, this will be the last sound they hear.


Screams. Screams wrench me from my sleep. My mind is racing, my body drenched in sweat. The dream was filled with blood. There were bodies everywhere. Greek soldiers climbing over Persian bodies, Greek bodies, so many bodies that they seemed to create a mountain. And Xena. She was there leading her men, pushing them to fight, her body slick with blood. She looked possessed, filled with a wrath that seemed unnatural.

I'm scared. The odds looked overwhelming. She fought as if she had nothing to lose, as if she knew she was going to die. It's just a dream Gabrielle. But I can't  convince myself of this. The darkness is pushing in on me, choking my senses.

Breathe. God's what will happen if she…..

I can't  even finish the thought. Turning my head, I can just barely make out the stars through the open doorway. If only I can get out of this bed, I'd crawl myself to that battlefield and wield a sword just for her. My jaw clenches as I swallow the tears that want so badly to fall.

The days have gone by like the dripping of tree sap. I stopped counting after a while. My staff leans against the wall next to the bed. I can't  lay here so useless anymore. I reach out, turning my body in ways I haven't in days. It hurts, a burning pain searing through my veins in multiple places. But I keep reaching, breathing hard as sweat breaks out on my forehead. I swing my feet out to the side of the bed, holding the staff with both hands as my body slumps against it for a moment. The first step will be the most difficult.

"God's help me." I whisper to anyone who will listen.

Putting my weight on my one good ankle, I push up into a standing position. The room swims before me. Hades this is a lot of work, but I keep going. I hobble forward, nearly falling with the first step. I just want to make it to the terrace. It feels like hours pass as I hobble my way forward, my body slowly passing into the cool night air. As I lean against the railing of the terrace I look up at the bright stars. There are so many more than there were the last time I was able to see them. I wonder how many heroes have found new homes up there because of this war. I wonder if Xena is able to see these same stars or if she is among them.

This thought feels like an arrow piercing my chest. I can't  breath suddenly, can barely keep standing as I struggle to find my way back to some semblance of control. There's something wrong and I know it. Torches begin to dot the horizon, slowly appearing one by one till it becomes a road of fire. A dragon twisting on the landscape.


I remember the way Gabrielle looked at the stars, how I wished I could look at them with such innocent eyes. They slowly blink away above me, replaced by the falling tears of the Gods. There's no point in crying but I seem to be anyway. Who would have thought the Conqueror could be defeated. It feels like a rock sits in my stomach. The tears come harder. I wanted so badly to give all of this up and now I wish I had more time. I could make things right, I could…. I want to scream in pain and anger.

The dirt turns to mud beneath me. What am I doing lying here? I'm not dead yet. My fingers scramble across the wet earth till they find my sword, then again till they hook around my chakram.

I break off the shafts of the arrows embedded in my right shoulder and left thigh in quick succession. My sword sinks into the mud as I use it to push the bulk of my weight into a standing position.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhh." I let out a bellowing yell of frustration and anger. I'm surrounded by the bodies of my soldiers, Greek soldiers that gave their lives to protect this land. I can't  even give them a proper burial. My only solace in all this is we held off Xerxes and allowed my forces to regroup behind us. The rest of his forces won't get very far.

The horses are gone. I"ll have to move slowly through the countryside and hope I can find a regiment or a horse I can conscript. Step by slow agonizing step I push myself through the thick mud, through the pouring rain. My body is covered in deep gashes that are beginning to burn now. Swallowing back the bile that is threatening to rise, I fight the swimming world and keep moving in the general direction home. It's home now because she is there. I have to make it home for her.

Push Xena, push. I think of the first time I saw her. God's I thought she was beautiful then. I stumble, nearly fall over, but I keep moving forward, past the pain that feels like it's about to consume me.

I never thought she was just a farm girl, I never looked at her so simply. Those words only came out because I wanted to protect her, to protect myself from what I was already beginning to feel.

Hades, the pain. I feel so tired.

She brought my mother back to me. She did something I don't  even think the Gods could have done. A beacon of good sent to dispel the darkness in my soul. The night turns black, the ground a slippery obstacle course that I can no longer see.

Move Xena, move.

My mother can't  lose another child. Before she wouldn't have cared, God's she would have celebrated it. Now… might break her again. I can't  be the one to do that to her.

My foot hits something hard, jarring my body. Pain, nothing but pain. For a few fleeting moments the pain goes away but very quickly my senses come back as I find myself on my back once more. Pain is exploding under every inch of my skin. I'm breathing shallow and fast as my heart pounds against my chest plate. I'm not scared, I'm determined. With a lot of effort I turn to my side and release the contents of my stomach, which is not much. I don't  even think I've  eaten since the battle started.

Forget the pain Xena.

I claw my way up to my feet using a tree trunk, growling with each movement I make. Again, I use my sword as a cane and pick my way forward through the thick night. I manage to make it farther this time before falling. Possibly walking a few hours. The only soldiers I've  come across are dead ones, and no one seems left to bury them. Why do I love this so much? This much death is pointless. I can feel them haunting me, pointing bloody fingers at me in accusation.

It's getting harder and harder not to pass out. I'm using every ounce of my will to move forward at a grueling pace. It will still take days at this rate and I may not even have that much time. My body is giving way. I don't  want to stop but it is beginning to overrule me.

Don't stop. God's don't  stop.

I feel like crying, as my body slumps to the ground. I can't  even crawl. I roll to my back and look up to see dawn beginning to break. With every bit of my soul I wish Gabrielle was here with me right now to see how beautiful it is. My eyes begin to fall closed. It's still not as beautiful as she is.


Chapter 10


They came as if a flood washing down the road. Men injured, half dead and barely hanging on. The others were ghosts just floating about, not speaking, not looking anyone in the eye. All those young men and boys who had gone off to war came back as ashen men, the horrors they experienced draining something within them and leaving nothing but shells.

Tents had been set up as soon as they had been spotted. Now they are full with the sounds of death. A healer known as Hippocrates had wandered in amongst the soldiers, apparently drawn to help. His methods are new but I have found I'm a willing student and follow his every word.

I sit here now, cleaning a wound that smells foul and leaks even fouler liquid. The soldier passed out long ago from the pain. I stay in these tents, ignoring my own body's cries of pain, because it's the only thing that quells my worries.

Xena has yet to be seen. I keep waiting for her to stride in, exuding all her power and grace. But there is no word, no one has seen her. I'm not the only worried one, Cyrene paces everywhere, she's slept even less than me. The generals and those of rank tremble in fear. If the conqueror is dead, what does that mean for Greece? Rome will swoop in, taking the land from a weary and depleted army.

Alexius somehow seems to be keeping everything in control. Food and beds for any soldier still standing. Herbs, clean rags and a prayer to the Gods for those that are still between realms. He looks at me with such pity I almost can't  stand to meet his eyes anymore. Damon shadows me, watching my every move, almost as if he's my bodyguard.

I finish cleaning the wound of the soldier, wrapping fresh rags around it. My body is stiff and sore, but I'm moving better than I was a few days ago. Hippocrates wrapped my ankle and I use the staff to help me walk. As I step out of the tent, cool air rushes to great me, it's night once more. The passing of day and night have eluded me these past few days. The moon is big and bright, I feel if I just stand on my tip toes my fingers might brush against its surface.

"Gabrielle." Cyrene's voice is rough and hushed. I turn, wrapping my arms around her in a hug. Suddenly this woman who was big and brash, feels so frail in my arms.

"Cyrene, you should get some sleep." She pulls away, giving me a sad smile.

"Are you going to get any rest?"

"I may not have a choice. I feel Hypnos beckoning me to a bed." I rub the back of my neck. "How about we both get some sleep." Tears begin to form at the corners of Cyrene's eyes. I know what she's thinking. Pushing down my own fears, I take her calloused hand in mine. "Don't  give up yet." Cyrene merely nods before walking away, the tears falling in streaks down her face.


The tittering of the trees playing in the wind slowly fills my ears. The breeze floats across my body, pulling me from the darkness. As my senses come back, the pain in my body makes itself known. I didn’t  die. My eyes drift open to a sky that is darkness and light at the same time. The sun is rising, pushing the clouds away, drying the earth beneath me. For this brief moment I forget that I am a warrior and a ruler. The humanness, the softness of caring, appears and relaxes my body. But it's quickly washed away by my inner demons.

I begin to force myself into a standing position, a movement my body rejects almost immediately. My jaw sets as my teeth lock together. Pushing away the pain, I move. Looking down at the sword still in my hand, I flex my fingers around its hilt. I feel as if I've  run across Greece, breathing as if I only just stopped. My senses begin to stir, taking in my surroundings. My ears do not catch the sound of any movement, except that of a rabbit. My nose smells no fire, no smoke from a doused campfire or fireplace. I turn, scanning everything for any signs of life.

Behind me, not far off in the distance is a ramshackle building, probably a home. From this distance it looks abandoned, the roof partially caved in. To think, if I had walked just a bit further, I could have had a dry place to pass out. Slowly I walk towards it, more out of caution than the weakness in my body. The closer I get, the more it looks abandoned. The wood of the porch is half rotted, but the door is still in place. I push it open with the tip of my sword, wary of what may lie in the darkness. Still nothing.

Inside are the remnants of what it used to be. A table and some chairs scattered about. A cook pot on its side in front of the fireplace. Some blankets on crumbling beds. Without hesitation I grab every piece of cloth I can find and begin to tear them into strips, setting them on the table. I grab the rotting wood that lay scattered around, and hay from what used to be the mattresses and throw it all into the fireplace. Using the blade of my sword, I make sparks against the stone until the hay catches fire. Then with some considerable effort, I place the cooking pot back onto the hook that hangs within.

Water. There must be a stream or a well somewhere near. Taking the rags back in hand, I make my way out into the sun. There's no well out front, so I walk around the house till I am behind it. A well with crumbling stone walls sits in the middle of what looks like it could have been a herb and vegetable garden. I'm already able to spot several herbs that I need, growing wildly about. Looking in the well, a piece of rope still hangs onto a bucket that sits on a hook on the inside wall. My fingers test the rope but it's not completely rotted yet, it will hold.

The bucket drops down into the darkness with a splash. It's not dry and the relief I suddenly feel surprises me. The first bucket I pull up I use to wash the rags as best I can. The next, to wash the dirt and mud out of all the wounds that litter my body. Finally, the third bucket I carry, with all the strength I can muster, inside and pour it in the pot. I throw a few specific herbs into the water to boil. The rags drape across two chairs right in front of the heat to dry.

Finally I sit on the only remaining chair, my sword and chakram now sitting on the table. I put the remaining herbs in my mouth and chew until it becomes a thick wad. I keep doing this until all the dry herbs are gone. Mentally I try to prepare myself as I grab the dried rags. There are two arrow shafts still buried in my body. I sit in the chair and steel my nerves. My hands wrap around the shaft, sticking out of the side of my thigh muscle. I can't  waste time. With a quick jerking movement, the remains of the arrow are thrown to the floor. Both sides of the wound get packed with the chewed herbs, then my thigh is wrapped in strips of cloth.

The hard part is next. Reaching back over my shoulder, my fingers find the arrow. I don't  have very good leverage and can do more damage by not pulling it out straight. So my only choice is to pull it slowly. My mind focuses completely on the task, it's the only way to ignore the pain. It too clatters to the ground, my body slumping as soon as it leaves my hand. I don't  have time to rest though and pack my wounds before binding them as tight as I can. I continue to pack gashes and cuts with the medicine, until my body is mostly wrapped in rags.

The pot is now boiling. I need to drink the tea I've  made to help ward off the infection and to get some strength to keep going. There's a discarded cup in the corner. It"ll have to do for now. I use a leftover rag and wipe out the dirt and dust, then I dip it into the hot liquid. As I sit and drink I can't  help but wonder what's  happened to my men. Did Xerxes push past my forces and take control?

After a few more cups it's time to move on. It may take me days or weeks to walk home, but now I"ll have a better chance of making it. I don't  even think about anything but getting back. I have to make sure Greece doesn"t fall into the wrong hands. Gabrielle showed me that. The clarity of what my decisions can really impact. For now I am the only hope.

I walk for days, living off the fish and animals I can kill. Luckily I'm adept to living out here, but it’s not easy with as many wounds as I have. They are healing though. I've  even unwrapped some wounds. I just keep pushing, avoiding towns and farms. People can't  see me like this, they’ll lose faith in my abilities, see me as weak.

The second I hit the edge of my land, my steps quicken and the weight of worry that has been sitting on my shoulders is lifted. There's no one tending to the vines, in fact I don't  see anyone at all. The smell of death drifts on the wind. I move quicker. As I get closer I hear the sounds of people and animals. I stop just behind the Villa, looking up at the terrace that sits outside my private quarters. I look up into a face full of sadness and grief. She looks beautiful nonetheless. I want to call out to her, to show her I'm ok, but I also want to stand here and hold her in my memory forever.

Something catches her attention and she turns, looking down at me. Gabrielle straightens, body rigid in disbelief. It takes seconds before she takes off into a run, disappearing from view. Hell, I run too. The world fades around me as I turn into the courtyard. Her body slams into mine, arms wrapping around my neck as I pick her up. She doesn’t even hesitate as her lips crush against mine. Tears stream down her face and she buries her head into my neck. I let go of her and pull away.

"Xena." She whispers, looking up into my eyes. My forehead falls against hers. This, whatever this is, it's overwhelming and powerful. The moment I saw her up on that terrace I knew. I can't  leave her again, I don't  know what that will do to my heart.


Chapter 11


My fingers drift over her body, taking in the wounds that mark so much of her skin. Elation quickly turns to worry. She looks as if she crawled up from Tartarus itself.

"Xena." Her name floats off my lips in a whisper. For a moment longer her face is soft. She opens her mouth as if to say something, but no words are produced. Turning, Xena looks out at the tents that scatter the land outside the courtyard. There's an instant change in her demeanor, and suddenly she becomes the Conqueror. The muscles in her jaw flex as her face sets itself to stone. She becomes rigid, and despite obvious injuries, strides away without so much as a limp. Xena is all poise and power, a strength that exudes off her in waves that wash over me. I can't  even find the nerve to call out and stop her. To tell her she needs rest, her wounds tended to. There's no point.

I watch her stride off, trying to figure out what I should do. I must find Cyrene, to relieve her of her constant worry. But as I move the pain comes back, shooting up my leg. I nearly collapse at the sudden overwhelming sensation. My ankle is still broken. When I had seen Xena, all thought had left, except for the need to see her face close, to touch her skin and verify she was truly standing there. I had managed to run without noticing the pain. But now it has come back, worse than before. Any healing that had happened has probably been undone.

I find my discarded staff, thrown in my reckless abandon to reach her. As best I can, I shuffle forward in slow deliberate steps. Cyrene is in the kitchens, doing the one thing she knows well. She stands amongst the servants, ordering them here and there. Her eyes find mine and she gasps out.

"Are you ok dear?" She rushes over, ushering me to sit in the nearest chair.

"Xena. She made it." Cyrene looks as if her heart has stopped, she's still as stone.

"What?" Her voice shakes and her eyes fill with tears.

"She's alive." I clasp her hands in mine. "She’s here, out there in the tents." Xena's probably found her commanders already, getting updates and talking strategy. Cyrene collapses to her knees, falling into my arms.

"I thought…. I couldn’t lose another child." There's grief in her words. Her body shakes in mine, and I just hold her until the tremors stop. After a while she stands back up, wiping the tears from her face. Cyrene"s smile returns, her body straightens as if a weight has been released.

"We can both rest easy. Now, you get up to your room. You shouldn’t be walking on that foot." She calls for Damon, whom I hadn’t even realized was there. "Help her to her room." She commands.


I find myself in my room, the shutters to the small window closed. My head falls back, my body is finally succumbing to the exhaustion and the fear that had been draining me since she left. It's not long before my eyes drift close, and sleep finally claims me.

I wake to a small candle flickering on the table under the window. A tray of cheese, grapes, olives and bread sits there. My eyes shift across the room and settle on Xena. I almost miss her, half cloaked in darkness, slumped in a chair at the end of my bed. My mouth opens to wake her, but I stop myself. There's a genuine beauty in the way she cares. She may have been a monster once, but that creature is at least chained up. I know she fears it's escape, of the pain she can unleash again. The wounds on her body are testament to the changes she’s made.

"Xena." Her name catches in my throat as feelings seem to bottleneck in my chest. She stirs almost immediately, as if she is always on the verge of waking. Clear, piercing eyes meet mine, and for a moment neither of us speak.

"Did Cyrene find you?" A tiny curve at the corners at her mouth, the hint of a smile.

"She barged into a meeting with my generals. They looked at me like she was crazy." She smiles a little bigger as she stretches her back. "Mother hugged me, yelled at me, and cried. Then of course she told me about you." Xena motions to my ankle. It's newly wrapped with two pieces of wood to keep it straight.

"Did you see the healer?" I move to sit up, carefully swinging my legs over the edge of the bed.

"You don't  have to worry about me." She scoffs, her face impassive.

"Xena." She cracks her neck, looking away.

"I took care of it."

"Why the sudden bravado?"

"I can't  appear weak in front of my men."

"Xena, I'm not them. I don't  need you to be strong. With me, it's ok to be weak."

"I'm not weak."Her voice is low. I wonder what argument she's had with herself since this morning. What caused this shift, this fear of being vulnerable once more. Reaching over, I take her hand in mine, feeling her arm tense then slowly relax. Her fingers curl into mine. I study those long fingers, with their calluses and cracked skin. I run the tips of my fingers down the sides of hers until they slide down her palm to her wrist. My middle finger traces circles across the sensitive skin there. In a quick blur of motion, Xena's fingers are now wrapped around my wrist.

I look up at her, the vision before me is decidedly different from just a few short moments ago. Her chest rises and falls in quick succession as her eyes seem to glow with something I'm not sure I've  seen before. Her jaw muscles flex against her skin as she seems to be deciding something within herself.

"There is something you should know." Her voice is a restrained growl.

"What?" The words barely pass my lips. I can feel a heat coming off of her. She looks at me a moment longer, eyes squinting as her mouth becomes set in a grim line.

"I'm not…" She looks away, finally dropping my wrist. Her hand insteads rakes through her dark hair. "Sometimes I just take." She forces herself to look at me again. "Even when it was more than just lust it was…." She trails off as if afraid to finish, as if the words would be too much for her, for me to take.

"Why are you saying this?" I try to move closer, but she stands, moving further away from me.

"I'm not strong around you." It's almost a sob, but she swallows it, taking a deep breath. "You have to be stronger. I'm not good for you." Pushing up off the bed, I move towards her, ignoring the pain in my foot. Xena presses herself against the wall, as if my touch is poisonous.


"Stop." It's a strangled command, without much force behind it. I press forward, my hand on her cheek. She can't  seem to help but lean into my touch. "Don't  you understand." Her eyes glisten with tears as she looks pleadingly down at me. "You make me weak. You are my weakness and if anyone knew...." Her throat bobs as she swallows deeply. "They will do everything to take you away."

My fingers curl around the back of her neck and urge her head down towards mine. I feel her pain as deeply as if it were my own. it's in my chest burning, trying to claw its way out. it's in my throat, trying to stop me from breathing. Our lips now barely touch, her breath mingling with mine.

"Xena." Her lips are all I can seem to see right now. My other hand slides up her chest. "Now that I know you, I have to know all of you. You already fill me up so much. If I walked away I would be lost and wander the land, only a fraction of the person I could be. Because I wouldn’t have you." She makes a strangled sound, as if I’d just punched her.

"Please." She cries, and I can't  tell if she wants me to kiss her or to leave. Her hands grasp either side of my face and suddenly I want to find a way to be a part of her. Our lips meet softly at first, at direct odds with the intense moment raging about us. I melt into this brief moment of calm, enjoying the softness of our lips dancing together. But the burning in my chest it's changing from pain to something much more powerful, and it's still choking me.

Desire outpaces all worries and coherent thought. My lips part as her tongue seeks entrance, tracing across my lips, my teeth, my tongue. I'm overcome with emotions I've  never felt before. I've  kissed before but….not like this, never once like this. Then as soon as it has begun it stops. Xena pulls away, her eyes dark as she looks down at me.

"Not here." She says as she lifts me up in her arms and carries me out of the room. I can't  help the giggle that escapes me. Xena has a smirk on her face as she strides towards her quarters. Luckily we don't  encounter any servants, or at least that I can see. I'm not sure I could live with the embarrassment. Her room is lit only by the moon shining bright in the night sky. Xena gently sits me on her bed, kissing me gently on the lips before moving away to sit on a stool just a few feet away.

I watch as she begins to methodically remove her gear, starting with any armor that remains. She doesn’t seem to have much left, just a few pieces. Then she unlaces and removes her boots, then her bodice. She stands in a shift, dirty with sweat and blood. The extent of her injuries are even more apparent now. I can't  help the gasp that comes out of me. Xena walks back toward me, giving me a kiss again, as if to tell me she’s ok. I want it to continue but she walks away, disappearing into the alcove where she has her private bath. The sound of water splashing on the floor is the only hint that she is cleaning the dirt and grime from her body. I would have gladly wrapped myself around her even if she was covered in mud.

I begin to squirm, unsure what to do with myself. I've  never really gone beyond kissing a boy behind a barn or in a back field. Most of those had been at the insistence of the boy. What do I even do? Ok, now it's time to panic. xena's been with...oh my God’s. xena's been with so many people, There's no way I can even compete with that. What am I thinking? Should I run now? I can't  run, I have a broken ankle. By the God’s, what did I get myself into.

"You ok?" I look up and notice Xena standing in front of me, her eyebrow arched high.

"What am I doing?"

"I don't know." She looks at me confused.

"Xena. I've barely kissed anyone before. I don't  know what I'm doing." She starts to laugh.

"We don't have to do anything." She says honestly, but smirks anyway.

"Oh no I do." I say a little too quickly. It's then I realize she is standing before me naked, body glistening from the quick bath she took. The water must have been cold. I can see the goosebumps that dot her skin, the little hairs on her arms stand up. She has fresh wraps on her wounds. What was I saying? I reach out, my fingers splay across her stomach as my hand slides down to the curve of her hip.

"I think you know exactly what you're doing." The silky smoothness of her voice causes me to turn my head up to respond, but her lips meet mine, smothering any sound before it comes out. Our tongues tangle and twine together. She smells faintly of mint. I breathe in deeply, trying to remember this smell forever. Her hands wander down to the hem of my shift, lifting it just above my hips. The exposure feeds a fire in the base of my stomach, setting my desire alight. I pull her body against mine, but the cloth between us is too much, I need to feel her skin on all of me. As quickly as I can, I pull the shift off, throwing it to the floor.

A groan issues from my depths as I push my body back against her. The heat of her soft skin is melting me as I already feel myself going weak. We lay down on the bed, side by side. I'm mesmerized by every inch, every scar, every imperfection of the woman before me. My fingers curl into her hair as a hand begins to explore my breast. I tremble at this simple touch. Her lips meet mine, teeth biting gently at my bottom lip, pulling and teasing. Molten hot fire begins to flow beneath my already sweating skin. A feeling akin to anxiety blooms in my chest.

God’s. I start to feel like I want to cry, but it's out of sheer need. I don't  want this gentleness anymore. Something gives within me, like a taught cord snapping free. My hands make fists in her hair, causing her lips to come crashing against mine. My tongue pushes past hers, making for an escape to her mouth. She rolls, positioning herself above me, but I do not relent in my pursuit to suck the breath from her lungs.

A snarl emanates from Xena as she begins to take control, but I won’t give in so easy. I yank her head back, exposing her neck to my lips. I'm feeding off her energy and the carnal desire we both exude. My only thought is to taste every inch of skin as my tongue sweeps a path up from the hollow of her neck.

She groans, hips pressing down into mine. In my haze I nearly forget the wounds that mark her skin, but Xena seems not to care. Roughly she moves to straddle my hips, her hands pinning my wrists above my head. Dark eyes sweep across my face, landing on my lips. Her chest is heaving, hair wild about her head from the torment my fingers caused. Straining against her hold, I burn to touch the roundness of her breasts, the curve of her hip. She is of course too strong.

"Xena." I plead, not caring how desperate I sound. She leans her body forward, her breasts coming down within reach of my mouth. As soon as her dark shaded nipple is close, I suck it into my mouth as if I've  hungered for it my whole life. My tongue flicks across the rounded pebble of flesh. Xena moans above me, her hips rolling against my stomach, rough hair spreading her desire across my skin. Again I strain against her, my body pushing up into hers. She only groans deeper, my actions causing an increased friction against her core.

A whispered string of curses drips from her lips as one of her hands finally drifts from my wrists. Her fingers dig into the back of my skull as she pulls me closer to her breast. I'm nearly drowning in the plump flesh as it fills my mouth even more. My teeth bite at the tender nipple, sucking and licking in quick succession. Her hand guides me to her other breast, and I begin to lavish it with the same attention.

Xena frees my wrists, firmly placing my hands on her hips. Adjusting herself slightly, she now straddles my hips. I can feel her wet desire seep down onto my own. She begins a slow gyration of her hips, grinding directly against me. By the God’s, I'm going to die.

My fingernails dig into her waist as I watch her exotic dance atop me. My own hips begin to mimic her movements, creating a delicious sensation that washes over me. Xena's hands begin to roam her own body, hands squeezing at her breasts, head thrown back. I'm beginning to feel like I can't  breathe, the desire is so overwhelming. My hand slides up her taut stomach. The muscles beneath my fingers jump and strain with her every movement. Her skin feels like the finest silk to me, each scar just adding to the beauty. My hand finds its way to the valley between her breasts. Her groans are becoming louder and louder, my heart beating faster and faster.

Without so much as a thought, I push myself into a sitting position with Xena still straddling me. Our lips finally meet again after so long apart. Haggered breaths exchanging in-between groans and throaty growls. I have no idea who"s who at this point, we are nearly melted into one.

Xena takes my hand and shoves it between us, guiding it down into her wet heat.

"God’s Xena." Her head falls to my shoulder as she emits the sexiest noises I've  ever heard. My fingers make a slow trek into the hot soft flesh between her legs, and I can feel her walls pulsing around me. I don't  get the chance to linger as xena's fingers soon invade me. There's no way to stop the yell as an intense bolt of pleasure surges through me. In seconds the both of us are working to pleasure the other. In no time I can feel how close I am, and I don't  want to be. I want this to last forever. But my body has other ideas. It's like the God’s pull me out of my body, the intensity of the pleasure is so overwhelming I think I might cry. Xena's yell as she comes, brings me back to my body. We both sit, curled into each other, holding onto the other for dear life. My heart begins to slow as the burning in my lungs begins to ease.

"Xena." I whisper into her neck, not really knowing what to say. She lifts her head, looking directly into my eyes. Her fingertips play softly against my cheek.

"Will you regret this?" She asks with such seriousness that it actually hurts.

"How could I ever.." I can't even bring myself to finish my thought. Xena pulls us down, our arms and legs tangling together as we seek to be as close as possible. I wonder if in the morning, once again, she’ll be a different person.


Chapter 12


With the morning comes an empty bed. Not surprising as I doubt she's ever been one for sleeping in. Still, There's a feeling of disappointment I can't  help. Closing my eyes I take a deep calming breath. My skin still tingles from her touch, my heart beating faster at just the thought.

Crawling my way out of the bed, I pull on my discarded shift and begin to hobble towards my room. The villa is alive with movement as workers and guards move about. Several people ask to assist me to my room, but I politely decline. I've  gotten to know many of these soldiers well, treating them or their friends. They seem to accept me now, whereas before they often looked at me with hostility.

After getting some clean clothes on, I flop back onto my bed. Last night expressed so many things, but it's still left so many unanswered questions. There's this undeniable pull we have towards each other, something so deep inside me I can't  even put words to it. I step back out into the cool air. Slowly, winter is falling upon us. The halls have stilled and the air hangs quiet. It seems peaceful, but it belies the true nature of this place.

The kitchen is a hive of activity. It's hot and smells of something truly delicious. Workers rush about as Cyrene yells out instructions.

"Oh honey." Cyrene spots me, wrapping me in a hug. "How are you feeling today?" Her eyes shift to my foot.

"A lot better." It's actually excruciatingly painful.

"Sit, sit." She starts ushering me to a table. Soon plates of food fill the space before me, as Cyrene urges me to eat.

"Have you seen Xena?" I pop a fig into my mouth.

"Oh she's out hunting. I think she needed a little break." A break? She has multiple injuries that haven"t healed and just got back from a war. The break should be to heal, not out finding something else to kill. Maybe the break is from me, maybe she regrets last night. I excuse myself after eating enough to feed two people.

Eventually I find myself in xena's library of scrolls, losing myself in prosaic words. I want to write xena's story and have it be as beautiful as these are, but I don't  think I have half of this talent.

"I thought I'd find you here." Her voice holds an air of authority. Xena leans against the archway, clad in black leather.

"Well, not much else I can do." I point at my ankle. I'm trying my best not to feel nervous.

"I suppose not." Xena pushes off the frame, striding her way to the chair across from me. She slouches down into it, one arm hanging over the back. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say something here.

Alexius walks in with a bowl of grapes that he sits carefully on the small table between us before quickly walking back out. Xena grabs a few and begins to pop them into her mouth nonchalantly.

"Your mom said you went out hunting." I attempt conversation.

"Did she?" Xena's eye contact is slightly unnerving.

"Did you get anything?"

"I always get something." Her eyes narrow as she continues to toss grapes in her mouth.

"The last of the wounded will be leaving in the next day or two." I try to change the subject.

"So they will." Xena's apparently finished with the grapes now. Is she purposefully being this frustrating?

"Winter is coming on. Sooner rather than later."

"Hmmm." Is all she says.

"What's going on here Xena?" It's my turn to scrutinize her. She looks at me a moment before standing, holding her hand out to me.


"I'm not here to be at your beck and call." Her jaw clenches.

"Please." I regard her a moment longer before taking her hand. I feel like I walk this fine line with her. Like at any moment that caged monster she so often talks about, will come raging out at me.

"Where's your staff?" Xena asks, eyes darting about the room.

"I uhh, left it in my room.'' She makes a tsking noise at me.

"You did that on purpose, didn’t you?" Her eyebrow cocks up.

"What? No." I don't  remotely sound convincing. "And what about you?" I try to reach for a bandage on her arm but she swats my hand away.

"I'm used to it. You however.." Xena looks me up and down.

"What are you trying to say?" My brow furrows.

"Let's just say, you're no warrior." She smirks. I'm not sure yet if I should be offended. I'll withhold it for the time being.

"What does being a warrior have to do with healing?" I narrow my eyes at her.

"I can handle the pain and the scars." She shrugs. OK, so now I'm starting to get offended.

"Look Xena, I think I'm going to go take a bath."

"Good thing that's where we're headed."

"OK well then I'm going to go the other way." I start to hobble towards the kitchen. The staff really would be helpful right about now. Xena growls behind me.

"By Hades, you are stubborn." She mumbles.

"Well if you hadn’t noticed, I'm not one of your conquests." I continue my rather undignified hobble down the hall.

"No, you definitely are not." Xena grabs my bicep, stopping me. Still I refuse to turn. "You wouldn't be getting away with talking to me the way you do."

"And what exactly would you do, Xena?" She pulls me roughly back against her body.

"With you?" She whispers hotly in my ear. "I can think of quite a few things." Now I may be naive about a lot of things, but I have a very vivid imagination. I clear my throat.

"I believe you said something about a bath?" My voice is slightly higher than usual. Xena chuckles and saunters past me like a panther. I might be drooling. I also think she forgot about my ankle.



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