Part 1

by Anita Louise

copyright 5/98

This takes place after Mystic Encounter.

Sea is tormented by her love for Gabrielle and decides to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Xena is consumed with the thought of getting even with Calico and Asterea. And Gabrielle is
plagued with visions of her and Sea on an island and this wasn't Spoon Island . . .

Hurt/Comfort Warning Disclaimer:

This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the characters of Xena
Warrior Princess. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish
to read something other than this story.

Love/Sex/ Disclaimer 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.

The television series: Xena Warrior Princess belongs to MCA/Universal . . . This is merely
one fan's story.

Sea and the other characters that are penned are the sole property of the author.

Chapter One

Kiera had been pacing the floor, from time to time she would stop to glance out the window. Her
daughter had been gone for several moons and there had been no word from the woman. She
was getting worried.

Sitting, she remembered the day Sea walked back into her life. She had been helping one of the
stable hands with a young foal. The loud cries of Alexia were enough to make anyone stop what
they were doing. She didn't know if something terrible had happened to the woman or to
someone else. She and the young man hurried from the barn, their eyes darting around. She
caught sight of Alexia, the woman was standing talking to another. Her back was to them and she
hurried toward the woman bellowing, "What is the matter with you?" As she neared, she could tell
it was a slight brunette and as the two women turned she didn't have a clue as to whom this
woman was. But the lovely words that drifted down to her from the kitchen doorway were
unmistakable. "Still as cantankerous as always, mother."

Her eyes shot to the doorway as the tall women stepped into the light of day. Her red hair caught
each of the sun's rays as it played along the woman's shoulders.

Kiera froze.

The look of warmth on Ann's face soon turned to concern as she hurried toward her, "Mother, it's

Kiera reached up and caressed Ann's face, each touch was as if she was testing to see if the
woman would vanish. Her face quivered as she whispered, "Ann, daughter, is it really you?"

Her emerald green eyes glistened down at the woman as a smile crept across her face she
answered, "In the flesh, I have missed you."

The woman threw her arms around her daughter as the two embraced. Tears were falling and
neither paid any attention as Sea said, "You are looking well."

Her right arm still around Ann's waist she answered, "I don't know how--you are even lovelier
than last I saw you."

Sea turned to gaze at Lila and said, "I have brought someone to visit, mother, this is Lila, she is
one who helped me to get my life back."

Kiera's eyes, though wet from tears of joy, were now taking in this stranger. She offered a hand
and said, "Come, let's go inside, and you two can tell me all about what has been happening. My
daughter has brought you here, and you are welcome Lila."

The three walked into the house, arm in arm as Alexia stood back and shook her head. "What is
the matter, Alexia? Aren't you happy to see Mistress Ann return?"

She turned to gaze at Darius, his smile, like the young man was full of wonder. Placing a hand on
his shoulder she answered, "It is wonderful to see her again. It warms my heart to see how close
she and her mother are but . . ."

His large black eyes were straining as he asked, "But?"

"Walk with me to the barn, I think that my dread has something to do with the young woman."

He turned to walk beside her. "She seems nice enough."

Stopping and gazing into his eyes she conjured, "I think it is her beauty that may have caught your
eye. I say be careful."

He stepped in front of her and asked, "Whoa, you can't just say something like that and expect to
walk away. What are you talking about?"

She motioned toward the barn. "Let's go in, I have to tell you that it may be possible
Mistress Ann is back to her old ways. You may have been away but I'm sure you have heard
stories about her and her many affairs."

He shrugged and replied, "So, what does that have to do with me?"

She was dead serious as she said, "If this is the case and this one is just another of her conquests,
you must be careful. She would soon slit your throat for looking at her property the wrong way."

He laughed, walked over to the stall and began to brush the sorrel foal. "I think you are
making too much of this. The woman saved her life. Probably brought her here for a vacation and
a way to thank her."

Kiera walked over and as she watched him painstakingly tend to the horse she said, "Just promise
me, you will be careful. I have to get back to the house, probably want me to take care of things
for them."

He nodded as she turned and left.

The three women were sitting in the drawing room. Lila found her way to a soft chair and Sea
posed by her mother on the arm of a high-backed chair. Kiera placed her right hand on her
daughter's left knee and said, "You will excuse my daughter's manners, I certainly didn't bring her
up like this."

Sea leaned down and placed a kiss on her mother's head, "I always sat like this when I was
growing up, never wanted mother to get very far from me. And I came so close too never seeing
her again. I just want to be that child once more."

Kiera beamed up at her daughter her voice cracking as she said, "No matter how big you get,
daughter, you will always be that child to me. I will protect you like a Hydra would its young."

Lila had leaned back and was enjoying the comfort of the chair. She smiled at Sea. "Seems, your mother has missed you."

Kiera grasped Sea's left hand and said, "When you become a mother you will know that the love
you have for your child never goes away. The bond will always be there. Ann is always getting
after me for worrying about her, but, a mother just can't turn it on and off." Her eyes focused on
the young woman as she said, "Now, tell me about you."

Lila squirmed uneasily. "Not too much to tell, I come from a small village and know
nothing about the outside life."

Kiera noticed Alexia skulking in the doorway and asked the woman to bring them something to
drink. Sea was now sitting on the floor, staring up at the young woman. Her smile was radiant as
she said, "Mother, this is Gabrielle's sister."

If she was expecting to see her mother joyful it didn't happen, instead, she looked at the two
women and asked, "Where is Gabrielle? Is she coming later?"

Sea noticed the look in Lila's eyes and got to her feet, she walked toward the woman and said,
"No, she is with Xena, it is a long story, I will tell you about it later. For now, we need a room,
bath, clean clothes and food."

Kiera was standing and walked toward Lila who was on her feet by now. She smiled and said,
"Gabrielle is like a daughter to me, I love her and the two of them are usually together that is why I
asked. If I have offended you please accept my apologies."

Lila managed a smile. "It is all right, I have grown used to being Gabrielle's sister. It is
nice to meet you."

Alexia brought in a tray of goblets and announced, "There is tea, and port, take your pick." She turned and started to leave as Kiera said, "Alexia, see that Ann's room is ready." Sea poked her in the right side and she could see Ann was trying to tell her something as she added, "Oh, and make up the spare room for her friend."

Ann reached out and grasped Lila's right hand. "Come, let me show you the garden. If
you will excuse us for a moment mother?"

She shooed them away then sat and picked up a goblet of port. "What have you gone and gotten
yourself into now daughter?" she mumbled.

The woman had fallen and was totally exhausted as she fought to get up. Each movement just
took her back to the warm sand of the beach. Finally rolling onto her back, she lay quiet, the only
sounds she heard were of her heartbeat and the ocean waves, lapping at the beach. She had
been running for miles, through the lush tangled brush and onto the sandy beach. If she was trying
to punish herself, she was doing a good job of it. For the first time she was now feeling what it
was like to have her body give in to the tortuous routine she had been putting herself through.
Gasping for air and feeling it burn in her chest, she closed her eyes trying to keep out the
impending deluge of tears.

There was a slight breeze and all it was doing was making her body smart more than before.
Managing to sit up, she began to remove her clothes and when the last item was deposited on the
sand she stood, her body glistening from the perspiration that traveled it. Leaning over she
grasped her knees, Her legs were trembling as she gasped, "You got yourself in this fix, and this is
the only way out."

Without hesitation she began to walk toward the water, her steps were jerky but each one took
her closer. Once she had stepped into the foaming come hither hands of the waves, she sighed
and began to swim further out.

The woman was standing behind a tree, its branches spread out like an umbrella, giving much
needed shade. It was a warm day and she could not understand why this beautiful woman had
pushed herself so hard. It seemed she was trying to punish her body and she wondered why. She
stood, her mouth agape, when Ann removed her clothes. Swallowing hard as her eyes took in the
shapely figure. She had never seen a woman such as this. To her, most looked pretty much alike,
and she wondered if perhaps this woman was a goddess.

Gina wanted to reach out to her, ask her what evil was paining her so. She was afraid, afraid the
woman might decide to take out her wrath on her. She had viewed the area of downed shrubbery
and trees. They were so beaten with the woman's sword, they seemed to cry out in pain. She had
seen whirlwinds that uprooted trees and did damage to the forest. But never had she seen a
mortal reek the havoc this awesome woman had.

When the woman went into the water, she wanted to yell at her, it was obvious she was not in any
condition to partake of the ocean on this day. The swells were too big and her body was not in
shape for this. She saw the woman go under and knew she was planning this all along, she wanted
to die, but why? She ran from behind the tree and without hesitation she sprinted into the water and swam toward the spot where she had last seen her. The water was choppy and it tossed her
about but she was determined if it was in her power, this woman would not die at least this day.
After several unsuccessful attempts she finally saw the limp body, it was as if it was suspended in
time, her long red hair was being pulled along by the current and she looked in every way like a
mortal drowned.

Quickly swimming toward her, she grasped the woman and began to swim upward. Once on top,
she placed a hand under the woman's chin and began to swim toward shore, stopping from time
to time to make sure, she was not taking in any more water. Reaching the shallower area, she was
able to stand and used both arms to drag the still body from the water. Placing her on the sand
she dropped to her knees and checked for life. There was a faint beat and that was all it took for
her to begin to do everything in her power to see this ravishing woman would breathe once more.

The woman had done a good job of covering herself with cuts and scrapes. Gina made a litter and
had the black horse, she found in the forest, drag it to the shack. She was happy to arrive there
before darkness settled in. It took all her might to drag this woman into the room. She heaved a
sigh as she laid her down on a pallet. Walking toward a bucket, she picked up the ladle and took
several long drinks. Leaning over and wringing the water from her lustrous golden hair, she picked
up a blanket and walked over to this stranger. Kneeling, she began to dry the woman. It was as
she came to the scar that marred her well muscled body, Gina delicately placed a finger on the
spot and said, "I don't know who you are, but to have lived through this, I wonder why would you
want to kill yourself." Her eyes glancing toward the woman's still face she added, "Someone
beautiful as you, and with your strength, surely must have someone who would be saddened if
anything happened to you."

She finished drying the woman and covered her with several blankets, then walked over to the far
corner, removed her clothes and dried off. She was wet and now found herself shivering.
Staring at the beautiful features she hoped the woman would appreciate what she had done.
Slowly laying down, she wrapped a blanket around herself. The trials of the day had taken their
toll on her and the jump into the water was the last straw. She closed her eyes as sleep overtook

Sea could feel the blackness that wanted to gobble her up. She welcomed it, because she felt she
could not live with the ache in her heart that grew stronger each day.

She and Lila had been at Spoon Island for a quarter of a moon and both were enjoying the many
vistas and pleasures of this wonderful place. Lila was like a child in awe at all the sights and
people. She had enjoyed showing this amazing woman, the island. Things were going smoothly or
so she thought.

The two of them had walked into the grassland and were now sitting near a stream. It was a
gorgeous day and all seemed to be right in the land. Lila was tossing pebbles into the water and
turned to stare at her. Sea was sitting, on a tree stump, her eyes glistening toward Lila. "You
remind me of a child at play."

Lila walked toward her and sat beside Sea, gazed around then said, "It has been wonderful . . ."

Noting the woman's hesitation, Sea replied, "I feel there is a but coming, what is wrong?"

Her eyes focused squarely on the woman's face, Lila answered, "You know it before I speak the
words, I think this place is the most wondrous of anything I could have imagined. It's just,
Gabrielle has been here and everywhere I go, I hear of the two of you. People volunteer their
stories of my sister." She heaved a deep sigh, "I cannot and will not be someone who is second

Getting to her feet, Sea looked down at the woman, a concerned look played on her face as she
said, "I never realized, you and Gabrielle always seem so close."

Lila approached her and said, "We are, I love my sister with all my heart, but, I have always taken
the back seat where she is concerned. The boys liked her more, our girlfriends even went to her
before me. I decided this was just a fact of life, I had a beautiful sister and I was proud of her.
You have been a breath of fresh air to me, Ann Bounty, and I never want to hurt you but I see it
in your eyes, in your movement and in the quiet moments when you don't know anyone is

Glancing away then bringing her eyes back to the woman, Sea replied, "I don't know what you
are talking about."

Lila frowned, "Of course you do, it is plain to see that my sister has you wrapped around her
finger. She may have stayed with Xena but you didn't leave her there, did you?"

Her face was twisted into a look of displeasure as she answered, "I'm sure you knew when you
tended to my wounds, I carried deep feelings for her. I never denied that. I also hold feelings for

Walking away Lila uttered, "Yes, I know. But you care for me as if I was a sister, a good friend.
When I stare into your eyes, I don't feel the look is of love's passion. Sometimes I think it is

Sea stared down at her body, the sun was warming the clothes she wore and her skin was feeling
prickly as she said, "You knew I was a pirate, there were no secrets and there aren't any now."

Walking toward the tree stump, Lila sat and said, "It is my fault, I let myself fall under your
charms. Unlike my sister, I don't think I could take the dangerous life you lead."

Sea followed and stood gazing down as she said, "You are a hard person to get to know, and
unlike your sister, you seem to enjoy the company of young men."

Distressed, she offered, "Oh, the young stable hand, we were just talking, he is so proud of the
new foal."

Grinning, Sea sat and as she tossed a pebble toward the water she said, "I heard the laughter, and
I saw the way he looked at you. It is a look only someone gives when they are taken by the other.
He is in awe of your charms and I am happy for you."

 Lila reached out and touched Ann's left arm, "I was afraid, you might do him harm. Then you
aren't angry?"

"No. You must think me an ogre. If he makes you happy . . ."  Her mind drifted for a second, then
she said wistfully, "I never knew about Gabrielle when I didn't have my memory, and you, you
were so kind. When I took you from your parents, I wanted to talk to you, after all you did run
out on us. I will admit I needed to take my mind off your sister and felt this would be the place."

Lila cut in, "And I would be the person to try and make you forget. You forgot one very important
thing, Gabrielle was here before me and everywhere we go, she is there if not in the flesh, in

Her eyes were downcast as she said, "I'm sorry, I can't take what has happened in the past and
change it. You and I are friends?"

Smiling at the woman, Lila answered, "We will always be that. I love you Ann Bounty, and I may
be a hard head but I will not feel any closer to you while Gabrielle burns so brightly in your

Sea muttered under her breath as the words grew louder, "What would you have me do, I cannot
change the way I feel and even if I did I doubt you would believe me. I understand your feelings
and would never want to hurt you. I owe my life to you and will always be indebted. We have a
special bond."

Nodding, the woman replied, "That we do, and I will love and cherish our friendship forever."

Reaching out and grasping Lila's left hand in hers, she said, "Is that what this is, friendship?"

The woman's eyes glistened as she said, "I would die for you Ann Bounty, but I will not try to fill
that void in your heart."

Sea heaved a large sigh as she said, "I will accept whatever you decide. I understand that Darius
wants to take you into Thebes. It is all right with me if you go. I want you to be happy."

Lila stood, then leaned over and hugged Ann, "We will be leaving today, I want to thank your
mother. Sea?"

She raised her eyes to meet the woman's and asked, "What?"

Lila placed her left hand on Ann's cheek as she said, "There will be someone, someone who will
enter your life and she will bring all that love you are keeping for my sister to life once more."

Sea stood and held the woman's hand as she said, "Let's get you back to the house. Don't want to
keep this young man waiting. And Lila, if you ever change your mind or just want a place to rest
and think, Spoon Island will always be a home to you."

Lila and Darius had left the island that day, she bid them a safe journey. It was after she entered
the house, her mother approached and said, "I am sorry daughter."

She managed to smile. "There is nothing to be sorry about. I am home, you are fine.
There is nothing more we could ask for."

Patting her daughter's right hand she said, "Yes, Gabrielle. We must both get over the thought that
the woman will come walking in here. I think I will accept it before you ever do."

Sea grimaced and said, "That hurt, why must you be so all knowing. I will get over this, and the
sooner the better."

Kiera stepped close, her eyes shooting fire as she said, "I hated the way you were before, your
carousing till all hours but maybe this is what you need. Find a woman that will be an equal to you.
Rid your mind of thoughts of Gabrielle and let a new love enter your life. Even for a night, if a
woman can be the reason a thousand ships are launched, at least one might be able to make you
forget the woman that holds your heart in such a vise."

Sea admired her mother's vim as she said, "Mother, there will never be another. I know that deep
inside, where things appear to hide, she is there. I think I will take The Black out for a run."

Kiera grabbed her right arm and said, "Don't, I know that look in your eyes. I just got you back,
and it would be the death of me to have something happen to you." She staggered as Ann
grabbed and steadied the woman. Kiera gazed at her daughter. "Promise me, you won't
go do something stupid."

Shaking her head she said, "Let me help you to a chair. You ask too much of me, I don't know
from day to day what is going to happen. I can't promise what I don't know."

Kiera seemed to shake as she said, "The woman, Lila, she has broken your heart also?"

Sitting beside her mother, she answered, "No, she is like a young bird, her flight is new and she
will not even look at me in the way you are thinking because she fears I will always love her

A clucking of her mouth sent an unusual sound as the woman said, "It is the truth. What woman
would want to get involved with one who pines away for another."

"Maybe one with the thought of changing my vision. Maybe one that would take the time to love
me for me and have me realize along the way, I have fallen in love with her."

Patting Sea's hand, she sighed, "You ask too much, first, you must shed yourself of Gabrielle."

Standing she turned to stare at her mother, "I can never do that, I will take the horse, don't worry
about me. I have a lot of thinking I need to do."

Kierea walked up to Sea and squeezed her right hand as she whispered, "I love you, and you
must first love yourself, if you ever want to see a woman look at you like Gabrielle has."

Tossing her head back, her hair bouncing in delight she smiled, "Like she does. Don't wait up and
don't come looking for me." She placed a soft kiss on her mother's forehead and was gone.

Chapter Two

Just bringing  in a bucket of fresh water and setting it on the wooden table she heard the first
sounds of stirring. Turning to glance toward the woman, she could see her head moving. Hurrying
to where she lay and dropping  to her knees she soothed, "You are going to be fine."

The woman was incoherent as she mumbled, "Di . . . Gabr . . . only wa . . ."

Reaching out, she brushed several damp strands of hair from the woman's forehead, then  placed
a cool hand on her. Gina felt her body trembling, she knew it was fear of the unknown. This
woman could very easily turn on her and she knew she would not stand a chance. The path she
left in the forest proved that.

She sat beside the woman the rest of the day and toward evening had placed cool cloths on her
forehead. She had set large sections of cloth in cool water and laid them on the woman's burning
body. Toward morning she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and fell back on the ground.
Her sleep wasn't long, because she was awakened by a large cloth striking her in the face. Sitting
up, her eyes descended toward the woman. She was in the throws of violent flailing and every
piece of cloth Gina had placed was now on the floor, except for the one that found its way to her.

She managed to salvage the material and cover the woman with a blanket. As she sat and stared
at this stranger her thoughts would wonder to the woman called Gabrielle. It had been one word
she was able to pick out of the jumbled mess that emitted from her mouth. For the woman to
want to kill herself she thought something must have happened to Gabrielle.

And in the day's following, she had decided to play a game with herself. She would sit and listen
to the woman, and then try to form some sort of picture in her mind. So, by the time Ann opened
her eyes, Gina was sure she knew a lot of the story, everything, except why this lovely woman
would want to end her own life.

Bringing her right hand to her forehead Sea moaned, "Gods have I passed?"

Gina smiled as she crawled toward the woman. "No, if you are talking about the Elysian Fields."

Blinking her eyes she fixed her gaze on this woman. In the dim light of the room, she thought she
saw Gabrielle and said, "You're here. How did you know?"

On impulse she reached out and grasped Sea's left hand.  "You have me mistaken for someone
else. It is good to see you are feeling better."

Trying to sit up and falling back on the pallet, Sea groaned, "I feel like I was hit by an army."

Gina caressed the woman's hand and said, "No, just the large hands of the ocean."

Her eyes shooting upward toward the ceiling Sea asked, "I didn't die?"

Sitting back, Gina stared at this remarkable woman. "If that was your intention, then I will take the
blame for stopping it."

Her emerald green eyes shot fire as she glared at the woman and snapped, "Why!? You don't
know me, it would be one less person confusing this land."

"I have fixed some stew, it would be good if you ate something."

Shaking her head, she answered, "Not hungry, and now that you have seen to it to interfere in my
life, go, leave me to my ends."

Try as hard as she could to become angry at this woman, all she was feeling at the moment was
jubilation at her recovery. "I have to tell you, if you try something so foolhardy again, I will try to
save you. That is, unless there is a good reason why you want to die."

Sea went to raise an eyebrow as a sharp pain shot through her head she asked, "Who are you
and what makes you think you are the guardian of my life?"

Releasing Sea's hand she replied, "My name is Gina, but I am nobody."

"Well nobody, I owe my life to you and I don't even know who you are. I thought I knew
everyone on the island."

Getting to her feet she said, "Sorry, is this your island? If it is then I have stumbled onto private
property. I thought it was deserted."

Managing a slight smile, Sea nodded.  "In a way, yes. If you thought it was deserted, how did you
come to be here?"

The woman's eyes were uneasy and she walked toward the hearth in slow steps as she said, "It is
not important, as soon as you are strong enough, I will get off the island."

Holding up her right hand, Sea said, "There is no need, unless you have a boat anchored near."

She had poured some stew into a mug and was on her way back to where Sea lay. "No, no

Trying to sit up and failing once more, she stared at the woman and said, "Seems my strength is
gone. If you haven't a boat, do you have friends nearby that will pick you up?"

Sitting beside Sea she shook her head. "Enough talk, here let me help you to sit up. Just try to
take some of this in, slowly." She had propped Sea up against her and as she sat behind the
woman, she reached around and raised the mug to her lips.

Sea tried several times and finally mumbled, "Enough, I don't feel like doing this. And this is an
island, surrounded by water, if you have no boat, or a friend with a ship, you can't just get off that

Letting the woman lie back down, she answered, "I will think of a way."

Sea lay her right arm on her forehead and gazed up at the woman. The silence was deafening as
Gina asked, "What is the matter with you? You stare at me like you have seen a ghost."

"Sorry, you just remind me of someone. The eyes are different but your . . ."

Gina cut in and asked, "Gabrielle?"

Seeming very confused, Sea mumbled, "How did you know?"

Reaching out to touch the woman's hand she answered, "You talked a lot in your delirium."

Quickly looking away from the woman's stare, Sea bit her lower lip, "I now fear there is nothing
you do not know about me."

Seeming to enjoy the rapport, Gina answered, "Well, I have seen your body--I know a lot about
you. The thing that bothers me most is, why would someone like you want to kill yourself.  Isn't
there enough people out there that would love to do the job?"

Pursing her lips, Sea muttered, "Have to learn to keep my mouth shut." Turning to gaze up at the
concerned face, she could not be upset at the woman. "Is that what you are planning, turn me in
for the reward?"

Gina's eyes widened. "Oh no! I would never do that. I just didn't want to see you die. Don't know
why, maybe it was something I sensed." Her eyes were warm as she smiled at Sea.

It was the first time in ages she felt a pleasurable feeling in the pit of her stomach and it had nothing
to do with Gabrielle or did it?  "Aren't you afraid, this pirate will do something terrible to you?"

She was leaning back on the palm of her hands as she answered, "The thought has crossed my
mind, but you are not very strong yet and I know I can out run you. Sides, if you wanted to hurt
me, you would have already done it."

Sea pushed herself up against the wooden wall and sat, she raised the blanket and held it over
her, saying, "In an instant. I have no reason to harm you, even if you jumped into something that
was not your concern."

Gina stood and walked to the table, she poured some water into a mug and said, "Least you can
do, is drink some water. Your body can go without food for a while but it needs water."

As the woman approached, she reached out and took the mug, making sure the blanket still
covered her. When she handed the mug to Sea, she beamed. "I do believe you are embarrassed,
an embarrassed pirate, this is one for the scrolls."

The mug in her hand dropped to the floor as she gazed transfixed at the woman. Gina stared at
her asking, "What is the matter, something wrong with the water?"

"No, it's just, you did say scroll didn't you?"

Nodding she answered, "Of course, I love to pen. At least when I do that, I can take myself out
of this dreary existence." Noticing the look on Sea's face, she added, "Don't tell me, this Gabrielle
scribes also?"

Holding out her right hand as if to stop the woman, Sea replied, "I am going to lie down, suddenly
I feel very tired and when I wake, you will be gone."

She watched the woman curl up and when she thought she was asleep, she walked over and
picked up the mug. Staring down at the peaceful face, she wondered, what had alarmed her so?

Sea's sleep was filled with visions, each causing the woman to moan. Gina sat, watching this
stranger, she was glad to see the woman had survived and wondered if she would tempt fate once
more. Deciding she was feeling the waves of self conflict herself, she moved as her body sent out
waves of pain. Grimacing, she walked toward the wooden box setting against the far wall.
Bending down she found a shift and went about changing into it.

Sea had been restless and was now on her stomach, arms outstretched as she moved
uncomfortably. Feeling a chill, she reached down and drew the blanket closer. At the same time,
her eyes opened and in her line of vision she could see hips with gentle curves followed by legs
that held a soft line to them. Raising her eyes, she took in the delicate form. She seemed slim but
there was a sensuality about her. The woman pulled a shift over her head and began to wiggle as it
cascaded down adhering to certain tantalizing spots. Her features were delicate, and her beauty
was refreshing.

Gina glanced her way and when the woman noticed Sea had been staring at her she said, "If I
woke you, I apologize. I really thought you had gone to sleep."

Laying on her right side, she answered, "It is I that must apologize for spying on you. I woke and
when I opened my eyes, you were busy."

Tossing her head the woman's hair traveled the air like a child at play as she walked toward Sea.
Nearing she dropped to her knees. "Had I known you were awake, I would have been more
discreet." Her sparkling light brown eyes, full of mischief, she had a broad disarming grin and Sea
thought way too innocent to be true. She shook her head and said, "I must have been asleep
before, for the woman I see before me now, is not the one I viewed through hazy eyes." Sitting,
Gina crossed her legs as her shift fell back, leaving beautifully toned legs enjoying their space.
When she moved, her skin seemed to dance and glide with each movement as if to say, "I'm quite
at home."

The woman's eyes reached out as if to invite this stranger into their world as Gina grinned and
said, "You will accept my apology?"

Sea was transfixed on the two perfectly shaped dimples that appeared on her tanned cheeks.
Gina reached out and touched her hand asking, "Have you lost your voice?"

Reaching out and finally finding the words, her voice cracked, "I've never seen anyone with those"
She had reached out and placed a finger on the tempting impressions. "How--were you

Laughing, Gina answered, "No, I was born with these, though some people think they are a sign
of evil, I tend to like them." She leaned forward as her hand touched Sea's cheek and said, "You
would be even more beautiful, if that is at all possible, if you had been born with them." Gina's
ample breasts flagrantly beckoned as they danced under the thin material.

Sea cleared her throat mumbling, "Water, do we have any water?"

Quickly getting to her feet she walked toward the bucket and poured some into a mug. Turning,
her body gliding toward Sea, she said, "Just don't drop this one on the ground. I could hold it for

Managing to sit up, Sea held the cover even tighter. "Tha . . . I can handle it." She didn't have the
nerve to tell the woman that having her that close would probably start a chain reaction she was
not likely to handle.

Gina sat and handed the mug to her.  "Drink it slow. It might help you get your voice back."

Taking several sips, then downing the liquid in one gulp, she handed the mug to the woman.  "I
think I can sleep now, you had better get some rest."

Standing, Gina's body showed through the thin material of the shift with a come hither movement
as she asked, "Then I don't have to be gone by morning?"

Managing a grin, Sea answered, "No, I think this might be interesting. Good night."  She laid
back, closed her eyes as a satisfied smile settled on her face.

The next morning when Sea awoke, she sat up and glanced around the room, there was no one in
sight. "Hello--" It was hard to believe this young woman had her thinking and feeling things she
thought had died. Was it a dream, did she imagine it?

The door to the shack swung open as the woman stepped into the room, she was carrying a fresh
bucket of water. Spying Sea, she smiled."I hope you were able to get some rest."

Her body ached but in a joyous way as she answered, "I did. How about you?"

Setting the bucket down, she walked over to a cloth and said, "I slept fine and it is now time for
your bath."

Scooting backwards, Sea leaned against the wall, "Bath? I don't think so."

Gina turned to stare at her as she grabbed the handle of the bucket and approached the woman. I
have been bathing you since the day I brought you in here. You hold the blanket to your body as
a protest to my eyes. But, I have seen it all. Now, come back over here and let me do this."

Shaking her head, she snapped, "No one is bathing me, I am not a child."

Gina's smile was warm and her dimples seemed to dance as she dropped to her knees and said,
"Of that much I am sure. If you are up to it, you have wounds that need attention. I will go outside
if you can show me you have the strength to do this."

Emerald green's sparked at her and Sea's face twisted into a knot as she scowled, "Damn it
woman, you felt the need to save my life, now you feel the need to bathe something, so go bathe
the horse."

The damp cloth still in her outstretched hand, she answered, "The horse does not need my
attention, but you do."

Sea would not move as she drew her knees to her chest. The two women were at a stand off and
each sat staring at the other.

Finally Gina took the bucket back to the table and set it down, turned and said, "Be stubborn as
an ox, I will just wait until you go to sleep."

Sea lowered her head as her eyes burrowed into the cover she gripped so tightly. "Then I will not

Gina shrugged her shoulders, turned and left the room. She did not return in what was left of the
dwindling light of day and though Sea had been stubborn she didn't want to see the woman leave.
Managing to stand, she wrapped the blanket around herself and stepped to the door, looking out,
she searched for Gina, but she was nowhere in sight. Stepping back into the room and closing the
door, she walked toward the table and sat. Her head ached, she had noticed the cuts and scrapes
that adorned her body. She knew if the woman had not tended to them, they would no doubt
have become infected. She owed her life to Gina, but she wondered just what kind of life it would
be now.

Missing Gabrielle had driven her to the point of wanting to leave this world. She had always
revered life but she found each day becoming harder than the day before. A love such as the one
she carried for Gabrielle had turned her body into a temple of anguish and pain. She would find
herself sitting, and grasping her stomach as the emptiness, gnawed away at her very being. When
Lila left, it was the final blow, she could not even convince the woman to stay. And yet, how
could she lie and tell her she would never think of her sister again. Gabrielle was a part of her, and
there was never any denying that. Since the hurt caused by Mary, she never loved anyone until
she met this woman.

She didn't hate Xena, she was happy for her and the fear she might try to do something she might
regret, helped her come to the decision she had made. Suddenly brought out of her thoughts as
the door slowly opened, she glanced up to see Gina enter the room. The woman's eyes found her
as she said, "Feeling better I see."

Glancing down at her long form, and the blanket wrapped loosely as it fell free at her thighs, she
nodded. Gina approached. "Your legs are well muscled, I certainly would not like to be in the
way of a strike. They look like they could be lethal."

Sea noticed flecks of gold sparkling in the woman's eyes answering, "They can be lethal. They
have also been known to be loving."

 It was Gina's turn to seem embarrassed as she said, "Tha . . . Is nice. Walking to the table, she
pulled out a wooden chair and sat. "Tell me why you wanted to die? I know about Gabrielle but
no one is worth taking your life."

Leaning back, Sea pondered the woman's question then replied, "I loved her with all that I am and
she made me want to be more. I carry a love that knows no bounds for this woman and the agony
of losing her hurts and I don't mean like you stub your toe. I felt as if my heart was ripped from
my body but I didn't die, so I decided to do it."

Gina glared at her as the words shot out, "Then you are a coward! The Ann Bounty I have always
heard of would not do this. She would muster up all her talents and go about getting what she
wanted. If your love for this one is so deep, go after her."

Shaking her head, Sea said, "Can't, I love her enough to accept she is with Xena. If she should
ever come to me or need me, I will be there but I will not walk into their life and cause havoc."

Sighing, Gina said, "I know it is not because you fear Xena, you are every bit her equal, so it has
to be the love you hold for Gabrielle. I admire you. Now to other subjects, have you given any
more thought to my request?"

Sea murmured, "No, that matter is settled. Now, you tell me where you come from. I want to
know all there is about my savior."

Gina was wearing a pair of cotton pants and a light-blue slipover shirt. It was cut deep in front.
The fullness of her breasts seemed to stretch the material as if tossing it aside because it left little to
the imagination. She was barefoot and it was at this time, Sea's emerald green eyes connected.

Realizing, the woman was staring at her ankles, Gina reached down to hide them but it was too
late as Sea uttered, "You have been hurt."

Gina stared up at her, hurt and pain showing in her eyes as she said, "It is all right and it is past."

Shaking her head Sea replied, "No, it is not all right, you have been caring for me and all the time
you have been injured. Who did this to you?"

Getting to her feet the woman began to pace. Finally turning she said, "I told you I would leave. I
am not important but you are, whether you know it or not Ann Bounty you will become a legend
and people will be happy you did not perish on the day you wished it to be so."

Leaning back in her chair, her eyes watching the woman, Sea pursed her lips. "I have seen those
marks before, someone was holding you prisoner. They are the tell-tale signs of shackles,
something I am all too familiar with. You have been kind to me, though I didn't deserve it, and I
would like to help you."

Tears were forming in the woman's eyes as she cried, "No one can help me, I have sought a
reprieve on this beautiful island only to find out it is inhabited. It won't take them long to hunt me

Chapter Three

Managing to get to her feet, Sea approached the woman, always knowing what to say and when
to say it, she seemed to be at a loss for words.

Gina stared up at the sympathetic look in Sea's eyes and said, "Don't go feeling sorry for me, I
hate that. I just had the misfortune of being in the wrong place."

Sea placed her right hand on the woman's shoulder and offered, "Come, sit, tell me all about it. By
the gods, no one had better dare step foot on this island, for if they do, there will be Hades to

She walked beside the woman then they sat on a pallet. Sea spoke first, "I will not judge you, if
that is what you are worrying about. I already know that it was not your doing. You have a kind
heart and gentle soul. Someone like you would never do anything that would cause their
imprisonment. Take your time, but, please tell me what happened. I want to help."

She shrugged her shoulders and it was as if she carried a heavy weight on them. "I am from the
village of Orlan," she bit her lip and asked, "are you sure you want to hear this?"

"Yes," she leaned back against the wall, her eyes reaching out to the woman, "there are just the
two of us here, what you tell me will go no further."

Gina tried to smile but her face would not oblige as she said, "Seems I have no choice."

"You do, you can go on as if nothing has happened and when something does, I will not be able
to help. Don't keep me in the dark. I will do anything you want."

The woman's eyes teased as she asked, "Changed your mind?"

Holding up a hand she declared, "Stop! That is not a topic of discussion."

Gina had moved close to her, she gazed at the length of Sea's legs, then raised her eyes to meet
the woman's. "I don't understand you, if I didn't know better I might think Ann Bounty is
displaying a little shyness. Don't be that way with me, I will do the job and that will be it."

Growling, Sea replied, "That's what I have come to now, a job. I am awake, better, and I can do
the rest myself."

In a blink of an eye, the woman's right arm shot toward Sea's abdomen. She moved quickly to
intercept and collapsed in a heap. Clutching at the floor, she cried, "Damn, go away, leave me

Though Gina pulled back and never actually hit Sea, she could see the woman was not as well as
she wanted her to believe. She reached down helping her up, and placing a finger under Sea's chin
she said, "You can't even stop me from hitting you. Tell me how are you going to treat your injuries?"

Sea looked away, a mist building in her eyes. Gina tried to get the woman to talk to her but she
had clammed up and it was evident this once strong woman was anguished. Gina managed a smile
as she said, "All right, I will go fix something to eat," gazing at Sea she continued, "sorry about

Shrugging one shoulder, Sea ignored her and Gina moved away.

She was working by the hearth, all the time her eyes keeping track of Sea. The woman was a
marvel and so unlike any of the stories she had heard. It was like it was the first time and she was
being very possessive of her body. Though Gina had seen it, and treated her, now that the woman
was awake she would not allow her to render care. Managing a grin, she whispered, "We'll just
see which one of us wins out."

Sea had laid down and drew herself up into a ball. She was mad at herself as she muttered, "Fool,
can't even finish the one job that would have ceased your misery."

Gina noticed the woman had dozed off and softly walked toward her, she silently sat and gazed at
Sea. The blanket had loosened and it was easy to remove. She took the ointment she had
prepared and began to administer it to the injuries. Many were looking good, though several still
appeared deep. Her fingers traced them like a fine thread, stopping here and there as they painted
the woman's body. Sea moaned several times but didn't open her eyes and Gina was glad when
she was finished. Though the woman was weak, if she was to get a good hold on her, she knew it
might be her last breath. Reaching down and pulling up the blanket, she placed it gently over

Bringing her attention to the welts around her own ankles, she sparingly placed ointment and
walked back to the table.

When Sea woke much later, she noticed Gina was sitting at the table. Her arms were folded
across it, and the woman's head resting on them as if they were a pillow. She seemed to be

Moving, she immediately felt the warmth on her skin. Tossing the cover back, her eyes surveyed
the path. The woman said she would and there was the proof. Ointment had been placed so
carefully she never even knew. Thinking she should be mad as she gazed at Gina all she could do,
was grin. She had met someone who would not take "no" for an answer and it seemed this
woman could become a worthy confidant.

The smell of herbal tea drifted into the woman's subconscious as she blinked her eyes. Lifting her
head, she found herself staring into Sea's wondrous green's as she stammered, "You're . . . You're
not mad?"

Leaning back in the chair she beamed at the woman answering, "Once I got over the initial shock
you had run rampant over my body, I'm fine. I had no right to tell you 'no,' after all, you are the
one who has cared for me."

She had changed into a shift and Gina seemed to be in awe. "You are no longer holding onto the
blanket as if it were a pacifier."

Sea gazed into the steaming cup of tea she held. "No, my body is yours to command. I think I
would prefer to see what you are doing, that is, if you promise me no more sneaky business."

"Promise, it is good to see a little color in your cheeks. You have been looking so pale."

Taking a sip of tea she mumbled, "You seem to have a way of putting color into one's . . . "  She
gazed at the woman, changing the subject, "If you would like some, the water is hot and I will go
get you a mug."

Standing, Gina said, "I will get it, you are still not too steady and I don't relish anything hot hitting
something it shouldn't."

Raising her mug toward the woman, Sea answered, "I think it already has."

A questioning frown formed on her forehead as she said, "I know there is a hidden meaning there
somewhere. Don't go anywhere, I will be right back."

Staring down, she answered, "Highly unlikely, you have seen what I do when I wear clothes,
imagine what I could do without them. There is too much out there that can cut and scratch."

It didn't take long for Gina to get the tea and return to the table. She sat and said, "And the way
you left some of the trees and shrubbery, they might have it in for you."

Nervously she sighed, "Isn't there anything I have done you don't know about?"

The woman's left eyebrow moved as she answered, "Plenty. I think this is a good start, I feel you
have accepted me."

Taping the table with her fingers, Sea stared at them and said, "I won't throw you off the island if
that is what you are talking about."

The time had passed and Sea was back in shape. She put herself through strenuous routines each
day. Gina watched, shaking her head as the woman outdid herself each time. She had been sitting
on a large rock, enjoying the silence as she waited for Sea's return. She had left at first light and
now, Gina was getting concerned. She stood and started to take the path she watched Sea take
earlier, all the time fighting the nagging feeling something might be wrong. She heard a whooshing
noise and as she looked up to see what it was, her mouth moved but there was no sound.

The statuesque woman was hugging a huge vine. Her feet wrapped around it as if they were born
to the thing. With red hair moving effortlessly in the breeze, the woman was flying through the air
in breakneck speed. Her leather pants, hugged her body; although they seemed loose they still
maintained the curves Gina had grown to know so well. The white silk Calcutta blouse stirring in
the breeze as it brushed back, imaging her full breasts. Gina grinned as she remembered Ann
taking a knife to one of her blouses, she felt it wasn't low enough. She certainly shouldn't complain
about this one as it showed the woman's form to perfection. Sea reached out and grasped another
vine as she slid down and landed at Gina's feet.

Tipping her head to the side, and eyes so bright they would have lit up the sky, she smiled warmly
toward her and asked, "Missed me didn't you?"

Gina felt a stirring in the pit of her stomach as she answered, "I was beginning to think you might
have gone and done it again."

Reaching out and touching Gina's shoulder she shook her head. "Nope, I have learned a hard
lesson. I will never do that again."

Placing her hands on her hips, she squared her chin asking, "Ann Bounty, what in blazes do you
think you are doing? You are barely well from almost drowning and the other horrors you vented
on yourself, now you want to break your neck?"

Gazing up at the still moving vine, she answered, "Just wanted to see what it would feel like. You
know, to have the freedom of birds in flight."

Reaching, out she poked Sea in the side. "They are born with wings, and we were born with
hands and feet. Hope this tells you something."

Pointing toward the shack, Sea mumbled, "Let's get back, I have need of some strong tea."

Laughing, Gina said, "I warmed us some before I left, shouldn't take long to get it warm again."
The two women walked side by side, they were quite a pair as they talked and laughed with one
another. Both beautiful and captivating. That is exactly what the man thought as he watched them
disappear into the shack.

Sea walked toward the hearth and said, "I have worked up an appetite," glancing back at Gina
she smiled, "what would you like for the meal?"

Gina moved slowly as she approached the woman. Her eyes darted to the smoldering coals and
said, "All right I put something in there to cook."

Sea glanced down and said, "I knew I could smell fish. This is great, we can probably eat."

Waving a hand toward the table, Gina answered, "Sit, I'll get the food."

Sea had tested the tea and beamed. "It's fine, I'll put some on the table."

Soon they were sitting down to a lovely meal of fish, vegetables and bread. When Sea had
finished eating, she reached down and pulled her shirt from the waist of her pants. "Filled me up."

Gina's look was deep as her left brow arched she said, "I'm sure the material of that blouse was
probably making it uncomfortable," Her dimples danced and Sea knew the woman was teasing.
But, then her look changed to one of concern as she said, "You have regained your strength, but,
you have lost a lot of weight. The pants do not fit you like I am sure they once did."

Grinning impishly, Sea replied, "I know, my other clothes were all torn. These were a pair my
mother left here sometime back. We are not the same size."

Gina had walked to the hearth and brought back the tea. She poured some into Sea's mug and
inquired, "Your mother? Is she around here?"

Fully settled into her chair, she stretched out her legs and said, "Yes, in the family home. You will
be a surprise to her."

The clanging of the pot as it hit the floor caused Sea to glance toward Gina. The woman had
dropped it and was now bending over trying to retrieve it. When she stood, her light brown eyes
had darkened as she said, "I cannot see anyone else."

Standing, Sea reached out and took the pot, she walked to the hearth and set it down. Turning
she approached the woman and said, "Sure you can, mother will never say anything and the help
certainly wouldn't."

Gina walked to her chair and sat, slowly raising her eyes to meet the woman's she said, "I just
can't. Go, leave me here and I will find a way off this island."

Shaking her head as she sat, Sea answered, "Not likely, you think you can just walk into my life,
and be gone without a say so. When the time is right, I will have my ship transport you wherever
you want. But for now, I need you to tell me what has happened to you. I have thought about
your words and must say, Gabrielle and I were recently involved in a disappearance of villagers
and they were from the same village. I don't think this is just a coincidence."

Fidgeting with her hands, she glanced around the room and said, "If it would be all right with you,
I would rather wait until tomorrow. It is difficult to speak of and I need the night to prepare

"Why would you need to do that, you know me as well as I know myself. I will not frown on
whatever it is. Just tell me."

Gina stood. "I think I will lay down for a while. I promise, I will tell you all at first light."

Sea watched the woman walk away, she seemed to be depressed. Staring down at her cup of
tea, she whispered, "When are you going to keep your mouth shut."

It was a glorious day, the sun was shining, birds were singing and all seemed right with the world.
Gina had made it to the square and purchased the supplies she would need to bake her sister's
favorite meal. Today was Lena's delivery day, she had been in the world longer than Gina and
there wasn't anything she felt her sister did not know. It was going to be a surprise, she couldn't
wait to see the glow on her sister's face when she realized that Gina had cooked the meal.

Lena always teased and taunted. She had told Gina, she would become a dried out old drab
because no man would want to have her. Food was the way to a man's stomach and the way her
sister cooked, they would starve and have no strength for anything else.

Skipping a step, she seemed oblivious to anything around her as she whispered, "Highly unlikely."
Anyway, she never had any feelings or desires to wed. Her thoughts seemed to always be on her
scribing. She wanted to be a great orator and relish in the tales she could relate. Lena loved to
tease and looked for every opportunity to give her a hard time. Gina knew her sister loved her,
because a day never past that the woman wasn't there for her in someway. She was patient and
took time to advise her on anything she asked and then some.

Lena had been watching Gina pace the floor and finally said, "You must be daft, it is only men that
go to Athens to study and carry the art to others. They will chase you away."

Gina walked toward her sister and stared into the woman's blue eyes. She reached out and
caressed her slender face and said, "If I didn't know better, I would think you were my mother
not my sister. You are always worrying about me and I know want the best for me," she sat
beside the woman and sighed, "I don't know what I really want of life, I want to experience it for
myself. You would have me wed and with children before my life starts. I cannot handle this."

Lena smiled affectionately. "I only want what is good for you, we have been almost inseparable
since birth, now our lives will go in different paths and if that is going to Athens, then my thoughts
will go with you. You have always held the promise of greatness within. Don't you know by now
how close to my heart you are?"

Nodding, Gina answered, "We are like one soul but in separate bodies. I understand and want
you to know since tomorrow is your day and you will be marrying Jason soon, I don't want you to
worry about me. I will be fine. I have planned a surprise for you though."

Lena placed an arm around her sister's shoulders and asked, "That is what I am afraid of, what
mischief lurks in your mind?"

Her light brown eyes sparkling, she teased, "Oh nothing, but it will surprise you."

The two women sat in silence and finally Lena reached out and cupped her sister's chin in her
hand as she said, "If you ever need anything, come to me. I will always be here for you."

Gina laid her head on her sister's shoulder and for some reason she felt a pang of loss.

She could see their home as she rounded the bend, the smoke that drifted toward the sky seemed
to glide back and forth as it made its way upward. She grinned as she thought of the meal she had
planned for Lena. Taking several large steps, she hurried toward the house. Opening the door,
she shot into the room, her eyes full of joy and a smile that stretched her face. This ended all too
soon, when she spotted the form of her sister lying on her side on the floor. Dropping the supplies,
she ran toward the woman and fell beside her. Reaching out she rolled her onto her back and as
the woman's limp arms fell to the side, she spied the red that had soaked through her beautiful
white dress.

Gina placed the woman's head in her lap as she cried, "Lena! Gods, what happened?"

Her sister stirred as her eyes glanced toward Gina, she tried to smile and said, "Must . . . Leave
before . . ."

Caressing the woman's face she reached down and tried to stop the bleeding uttering, "No, I will
not leave you, have to get you out of here!"

Lena brought her right hand up and placed it on Gina's. "I have always tried to tell you what is
best, haven't I?"

Nodding she fought back the tears that were clouding her vision.

"Evil, you have to go."

Shaking her head, she pulled her sister to her. "No, not without you."

Her bloodied hand softly caressed Gina's as she said, "I will always love you." Her body lurched,
then was still.

Gina stared in horror at the open eyes that stared up at her with a blankness she had never seen
before. Moaning, she cried, "No! No!"

She sat with the woman the rest of the day and it was toward evening the front door opened. A
large man stood in the opening, he carried a cutlass in his right hand as he stared toward her.
"Well, glad I decided to come back, look what I might have missed!"

Gina laid her sister on the floor and got to her feet as she glowered at the man, "Are you the one
that did this to my sister?"

He stepped into the room, throwing his head back he howled, "At your service!"

Gina ran to the hearth and grabbed a pan as she threw it at the man, "Get out!"

He dodged and kept coming closer, he seemed to be playing with her as he said, "I will enjoy this,
your sister was easy, I love it when they fight."

She threw everything she could find at him and had made contact several times but not enough to
stop the man.

He lunged toward her and she wiggled from his grasp. Cursing, he pretended to go one direction
then went the other, she found him standing in front of her. "He licked his lips. "This is like taking
candy from a baby, come to Egorh!" He was standing, his legs spread apart, Gina dove between
them as he uttered, "Wha . . . " Gina had scrambled to the door and was just getting ready to
stand up when she ran into the tall woman that blocked her escape.

The woman's eyes darted to the man who was walking toward her and the young woman standing
before her. She reached out and grabbed Gina by the front of her blouse and asked, "What do
we have here?" She glanced at the man and continued, "Want to tell me what is going on?"

He pursed his lips and said, "I came back to . . ."

The woman cut in, "You came back to steal something else, seems you've already stolen that
one's life."

He grinned sadistically. "She got in the way."

Gina pulled herself loose as she turned to glare at the man. Her right hand shot toward his face so
fast neither could stop it until she had cut a sizable gash in his skin. She found the woman's hands
pulling her backward and felt her arms being pinned behind her as the man's right fist lashed out
striking her in the stomach. She fell like a piece of limp rope. The woman glared at the man and
said, "We will settle this later, for now, we have ten prisoners, let's go. Calico will not be happy
about this. Pick this one up and bring her along."

He grinned as he lifted the light body and followed the woman from the building.

Waking up later, she found herself on a ship and had no idea where she was going or why. She
had cried so much over the loss of her sister, she had fallen into a deep depression. Always the
one to talk about wanting to go out and experience life, she now felt a change of heart. All she
wanted to do was go back to that morning and make sure Lena went with her to the market. She
was alone and the fear was eating her up inside. This man was vile and the woman looked to be
no better. When she tried to move she found her ankles were shacked and she had lost her boots.
The pain that shot from her stomach caused her to heave several times and each time she could
see the man's large fist striking her. Falling in a heap, she cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Four

Up until that time, Gina never even knew what hurt was, she had always been around her family.
Her mother and father were gentle people and her sister was the most kind loving individual she
had ever met. They were a close-knit family. She had no idea where her parents were now or if
they were even alive.

The tall woman had made it a point to visit her often, she seemed nice enough but Gina didn't trust
the woman. Her dark eyes showed little emotion, she  never could tell what the woman was really
thinking. Her sister had told her once, that a person's eyes were the doorway to their soul. Once
you gaze into them, all will be revealed. Now she wondered about this woman, if her eyes were
so cold, did that mean she could be dangerous. Without knowing it, she heard herself say, "Idiot,
look where you are, of course she is dangerous."

Leaning back against the wooden hull, she reached down and tried to loosen the restraints that
were on her ankles. All she achieved in doing was make them more unbearable than before. She
had been fed and given water but no one would tell her where they were going or why. Having
lost track of time, she didn't even know what day of the week it was and had been keeping her
mind busy thinking about this when the door opened and the woman stepped into the room. She
carried a tray of sweet-smelling morsels as she walked to a crate and set it down. Turning to stare
at the young woman pushed against the wall she said, "Come, eat. You need to keep up your

Shaking her head, Gina muttered, "Not hungry," her eyes staring a hole through the woman she
pleaded, "let me go, please, I need to see to my sister."

Gazing down at the woman, she answered, "Can't, your villagers will take care of that. You can't
help your sister anymore. Come sit, tell me about yourself."

Gina wouldn't move, she shook her head once more. "Whoever you are, tell me, where are you
taking me?"

"My name is Asterea and where you are going is not important. You need to start thinking about
what you will do to keep alive."

Gina raised her eyes in a quizzical look asking, "I have a choice?"

The woman had sat, her long legs crossed as she leaned back and took in this woman. Shrugging
her shoulders, she replied, "Seems Egorh thinks he has something to settle with you."

Gina was standing, her shoulders drooped. "Then why didn't you just let him kill me back there.
He will, I have no doubt of that."

Asterea held out her right hand. "Come, take my hand, sit and eat. I will stop him, all you have to
do is tell me that is what you want."

Gina stepped toward the woman, each step with hesitation, and as she neared she queried, "And
what kind of favor will I owe you?"

Standing, Asterea reached out and touched Gina's face as she whispered, "Your body."

Quickly stepping back, she stammered, "You are just like him, you want to kill me too!"

She stood, her height over shadowing the woman. Her hands on her hips as her lengthy ruffled
brown hair nagged at the woman's shoulders. Reaching out she placed several slender fingers on
Gina's right cheek and said, "No, I don't want to see you dead. I have need of a--a--servant of

Gina moved her face trying to get away from the woman's touch, her eyes glared at the woman as
she declared, "I will not be your servant of any sort! Now, let me go!"

Asterea laughed, "Oh you will be, whether you want to or not. For now, go eat and I will tell
Egorh to keep his pants on."  She turned and strode from the room.

Gina walked toward the tray and as she reached the area, she struck out sending the tray and its
contents flying onto the floor. Falling to her knees, she sat, holding her head in her hands, she
cried, "Help me, someone help me . . . "

Sea was sitting beside Gina, her eyes showing remorse over what had happened to this vibrant
woman. Though she had nothing to do with it, it still pained her to see one so fragile hurt like Gina
had been. She wanted to cradle the woman in her arms, but the fear of scaring her was too much.
When she first heard the woman beginning to thrash around, she went to see what was wrong. It
was plain to see she was having bad dreams and they obviously had something to do with what
happened to her.

Gina talked in her sleep, her words were full of fear and sorrow. And at that moment, Sea could
have kicked herself for pushing the woman. From all she had heard, this was not an easy thing for
her to remember, much less tell a total stranger.

She caressed the woman's forehead and began to hum, hoping this would take her into a more
restful sleep. It took longer than she thought but Gina's body did succumb to the soothing sounds
of Sea's melody and the body that had been tense, relaxed. Sea stayed beside Gina and when she
felt tired, she lay close, knowing if anything were to happen she would be able to comfort her.

She moved effortlessly, her body stretching as she emitted a low moan.

Sea was sitting at the table, her eyes never leaving Gina. She had chastised herself most of the
night for pushing the woman into the story she had heard throughout the night. Gina sat up, her
eyes immediately sought Sea and when she spotted her, she smiled, "Good day," noticing Sea's
look, she frowned, "did I do something to upset you?"

Sea gave her a nervous glance as one facial muscle twitched she answered, "No, but seems I

She'd approached the table and stared at the setting. Bending over, she placed a nostril to the
bouquet of wild flowers. Her eyes met Sea's as she asked, "Is this a special day? They are lovely,
and food, even coconuts."

Sea watched her as she sat, then reached over and said, "Coconut milk, it will be a refreshing
change for you."

Taking the mug, she stared at its contents. "I love it, but why? You have prepared the meal, I
don't understand."

"Thought it was about time, besides, I owe you."

Gina was totally confused by now as she leaned back in the chair and gazed at Sea. The woman
looked as charismatic as always, she couldn't see anything different. Tasting a piece of meat, she
praised, "It's good, you can cook."

Placing a finger to her lips, the woman said, "Shh, don't let it get out, I enjoy people cooking for
me. Now, enjoy the meal," With a twinkle in her eyes and a warm smile on her lips she started to
cut her meat, "if you would like, I thought maybe we could go to the springs."

Gina pushed her food away as she said, "All right, I know something is wrong. If it is because I
didn't tell you what happened to me last night, I am prepared to do it now."

Holding up her right hand as if to stop the woman, Sea concentrated on her food and said, "There
is no need, you talk in your sleep, I think I know most of what happened. It is plain to see you
escaped their hands."

Gina stood and walked toward the pallet, she stared down at it, then turned and said, "Why didn't
you wake me? Or did you enjoy listening to me rant?"

Sea was standing and had walked toward her. "What I heard was not ranting, it was pain. I'm
sorry for your loss."

Turning her back to the woman, Gina replied, "I need to go outside."

Sea started to follow and said, "Please stay."

In a deliberate voice, Gina replied, "I need sometime to think."

"Wait, there is nothing to think about, I want to help you."

She had already left the room. Sea walked toward the table and sat, her eyes taking in the
preparations she had placed so diligently, hoping to please this woman.

As she cleared the table, her thoughts would drift to Gina, the way the woman would smile, the
look in her eyes when she was full of wonder. What the woman had gone through was horrible
and she wondered why Gina even bothered to save her life. When she had finished, she left the
flowers and several coconuts setting on the table.

Gina had not come back and she had been gone for quite a long time. Sea was beginning to get
worried. She had done all she could possibly do in the room, not that she was domestic because
she wasn't. Picking up her sword, she placed it snugly into the sheath at her hip and left the
building. The evening was warm, there was no breeze and when she stepped outside Sea felt as if
she had been hit by a warm wet sponge. The heat combined with the ocean made it very humid.
Even though there was a casting of shadows here and there, it was warm enough to make a
person wish to leave their clothes behind. As the woman strode carefully toward the path that ran
to the springs, she hoped she would find Gina in the area. The woman was nowhere near the
house and she just hoped Gina had not gone and gotten into any trouble.

A soothing smile emitted from her face as she visioned this lively woman. She was so lovely and
from all she could gather, innocent. Someone like her should have lived her life in peace, having
her family and enjoying each other. She heard herself sighing as she rounded the bend and said, "It
is a sad land we live on."

Gina was sitting, her knees drawn to her chest. She was staring at the water, her face showed the
tell-tale paths of tears. When she heard footsteps, she spoke, "Go away, I told you I wanted to

Sea casually sat, her eyes forward she said, "Got worried. It's been awhile since I have felt
so . . . "

Gina turned her head and snapped, "Maternal!"

Biting her lower lip, she kept the laughter that was rumbling in her throat from coming to the
surface. The woman was so cute, she reminded her of a young rooster. She probably meant the
remark to cut, but it didn't. The woman's eyes showed no hate, her face, though wet from tears,
was effervescent. Finally she found her voice and said, "No, anyone who would look at you and
feel maternal would have to be your mother."

Noticing a look of panic in Gina's eyes she continued, "I only meant my feelings, which is a shock
to me, are not maternal."

"Oh really, now that you have your strength back, are you just like those barbarians I left on the

Slowly turning her gaze toward the woman, Sea replied, "If you think I want to kill you, that is
wrong. I only want to see you are all right. Don't get any ideas about my craving your body for my
own pleasures, it won't happen. I have been there done that and I have told myself never to get
caught in that web again." She reached out and touched Gina's face carefully brushing away tears.
"Tell me, what is wrong? I hope I can call myself your friend if nothing else."

Sniffling, the woman stared at Sea, she tried to smile. "You have been nice to me, letting me stay,
and treating me with kindness and sometimes stubbornness, still I know how things are."

Sea did not remove her hand, she cleared her throat and said, "We haven't many secrets from one
another. I overheard a young woman in her sleep last night and it is plain to see, you are troubled.
I had no right to demand a reason for your being here. When you look at me like that and say you
know how things are, I feel a pain in my heart because surely you have been met with an act
of . . . "

Gina reached up and grasped Sea's hand, pulling it down she spouted, "Why don't you just say it!
Say the words, it's plain to see you are thinking them."

Sea brought her hands to her lap, she clutched them and said, "If they have harmed you in any
other way."

Gina was standing as she gazed down at Sea, she could tell this fiery woman was trying to be
delicate but she was not succeeding and said, "If you are asking what I think, then maybe it is time
I told you what you didn't hear in my sleepless wondering."

Sea was twiddling her thumbs, obviously nervous as she answered, "It has been hard for you to
tell me what happened, I don't need to hear the words."

Sitting beside the woman, Gina reached out and touched Sea's hands, her eyes shot toward Sea's
greens. "Just promise me you won't condemn me and think I am easy."

"Never," patting the woman's hand she continued, "don't say the words, not if it will bring back
bad memories."

Gina sat up straight, her face set as she replied, "They are with me awake and asleep so this is
nothing new to me. First, you must have realized I was on some pirate's ship."

Sea nodded.

"The woman who captained it was called, Asterea."

Sea's face seemed to turn inside out as the woman scowled, "Asterea, would she happen to be
tall, brown hair, cold eyes . . . "

"Sounds like the woman, you know her? Of course you probably do, being a pirate and all."

Raising her right hand, Sea muttered, "Hold up there, not all pirates run together and believe me,
this woman and I have nothing in common. I know of her because she was involved in the
kidnaping of a friend not long ago. From all I heard, the woman is evil incarnate."

"While the others are being themselves, cruel and ugly, she appears to be a breath of freedom
from their grasp. All the time she is playing you along, then, when she feels the moment is right she
will strike. She made it clear from the start, she wanted my body. Lena had told me stories of
rape but I always thought they were fables, something conjured up in some person's mind."

With a look of discernment, Sea whispered, "You poor child."

The woman's light brown eyes shot fire as she said, "I'm not a child!"

Sea's emerald green eyes reached out and caressed the woman. "That is what might have saved
you from death."

Gina's eyes sparked as she said, "Then I would have rather chosen to go with my sister. The
agony of what was going to happen to me was almost too much."

Sea's voice was low and soft as she cursed.

Gina gazed at her, it seemed she was looking for something as she finally said, "It was not your
doing. I'm sure you have realized, I was terrified, this large man, Egorh, had killed and raped my
sister. He wanted to do the same to me and I seemed to be in the middle of a tug of war between
him and the woman. It was plain to see she was the captain but a man like him paid little heed to a
woman giving orders. I don't know how many days or nights we had been at sail, I only know I
was alone, tired and scared."

Sea reached out and took her right hand in hers and said, "It's fine, you don't . . . "

Managing a smile, Gina cut in, "Yes, I do. Maybe the dreams will be less frequent if I just let it
out. It happened one night, after Asterea had left the room. She hadn't been gone long when the
door came open and the man stepped in. When I saw him, my eyes froze as I glanced behind
hoping to see the woman. I knew she wouldn't let anything happen to me at least not until she had
her way. He was alone as he strode toward me. The moment I saw his smile and could see his
eyes, I knew." She was standing and had begun to pace.

Backing away from the man, she found she had no place to go and said, "What do you want?
Please go away."

He clenched his teeth and smirked, "I've come for you, we have some unfinished business."

Trembling, she tried to be brave. "The woman will be upset."

He threw back his head and laughed, "I can deal with her, she thinks she can taste all the fruits
before anyone else. Not with me around and especially not with you. Now, we have talked long
enough." He reached out and grabbed her small hands that became lost in his massive grasp. It
didn't take him long to chain them to the wall then dropped to his knees and removed the shackles
from her ankles. Placing an arm on either side of her body he started to stand, his arms sliding up
the wall as his body pressed against hers. He stopped as his eyes met hers, licking his lips, he
brought his mouth cruelly down on hers, his breath smelled of stale ale as he forced her mouth
open. His thick tongue began to press into her and it was at this time she brought her teeth down
on it. He yelled jumping back at the same time his hand struck her face, "You whore, I'll pay you
back for that!" He reached up and removed her wrists from their ties. Throwing the limp body
over his shoulder he muttered, "Have to get you out of here, she comes back and finds me having
my way with you, there could be trouble. I know just the place to take you." He left the room,
Gina was between light and darkness, she couldn't move.

He had taken her to one of the longboats up on deck. Dropping her limp body, he stared around
then brought his eyes back to the woman. She was coming around and he sat back and waited.
When Gina went to move, the man was bending over her, his snarl was worse than before as his
hands reached out and began to press against her skin. She cried as they grabbed at her breasts,
he seemed to enjoy every bit of pain he was causing. His eyes were wild and his breath hurried as
he said, "Your sister didn't give me the pleasure I am feeling now. You will make up for what she

Gina scratched at his face, tearing a deep fold of skin from his right cheek. He moaned as he
grabbed his face and struck her once more. His blows were not heavy enough to knock the
woman out just hard enough to cause her pain.

She knew she could not escape the fate that was being dealt her and began to cry. He reached
out and threw her onto her stomach as he grunted, "Haven't done this in sometime, you have
asked for this." His large fingers had grasped her breeches and were pulling at them as he
bellowed, "Damn it, I'll cut these off if I have to!"

The cold voice echoed behind the man, "I might have known!"

He looked up to see Asterea approaching, the woman was angry and she was flashing her sword.
Egorh placed a hand on Gina's back ordering, "Stay right there, I'll finish her off, then we can take
care of business!"

The woman lay, listening to the sound of metal on metal as the two exchanged blows. It was
during this time, she realized her only chance was to try and escape. It had been easy slipping into
the water.

Sea stared at Gina, the woman's eyes were glazed as she said, "I . . . I never noticed, you had
been injured. You must think me vain. "

Gina answred, "Never, how would you have known, you were out of it for sometime."

"If you will permit me," she was holding out her arms, "come sit with me."

Gina seemed apprehensive and Sea soothed, "All I want to do is comfort you. Give me that
much? After all you have been through, and then to save my life, I will never understand why you
just didn't let me perish."

Gina answered slowly, "Maybe I thought there was good in you and maybe because I could not
save my sister, I felt the need to save you."

Sea chewed at her lip. "Thank you, I know I am probably not worth it, but thank you." Gina sat
beside the woman, and Sea placed her left arm around her shoulders. Drawing her close, Gina fell
into the woman's embrace, her face was wet from the tears she had shed but she seemed to be
content where she was at that moment. Sea looked down and said, "We don't need to speak
anymore tonight, just rest." She looked up at the darkened sky as her eyes searched for a certain
star. Her eyes dropping to Gina, she could see the woman had dozed off. A thoughtful expression
on her face as she held the fragile woman closer and whispered, "It will be all right."

Chapter Five

The golden palomino was prancing around the pasture, her head held high as she sniffed and
snorted. Gabrielle was leaning against a tree, her face full of wonder as she watched the animal.
Argo was a remarkable horse, and she had found her way to the cave without any problems.
When she and Xena finally made it back, they both were surprised to see the horse.

The smile that had lit up her friend's face was warm and tender as she stared at the horse. Upon
seeing the two women, the palomino stopped munching on grass and galloped to where they
stood. Xena still was unsteady on her feet but she kept her arm around the woman's waist. The
horse nuzzled Xena and the woman wrapped her arms around Argo's neck. Gabrielle wasn't sure
which one was more happy to see the other. The horse and warrior were a pair and it was plain
to see at that time, they needed some quiet time. Gabrielle had given Xena the excuse she needed
to do something in the cave leaving the woman and Argo to renew their bonds.

It had been a long trip and she was happy to be home. So many things had occurred and she was
still feeling the emptiness of not having the vibrant red head accompany her. For some unknown
reason, she felt like the two of them had been on a long but fulfilling journey. Her mind would drift
to Xena and she was thankful Ann had helped. She never got the time to ask what happened with
Calico or any of the other pirates. All she knew was that the woman made it back to where they
were waiting, and she was thankful.

The last time she spoke to the woman, the two had been together on the deck of the ship. She felt
bad because she was so tired she drifted to sleep on Sea's shoulder. What must the woman have
thought? She was spending all her time with Xena and the one time she was with her, she went to
sleep. Shaking her head, she hoped that Sea didn't take it personally.

Now, as she watched the horse, her mind drifted to Xena. She had changed so much. She had
always been so warm and loving, a quality rarely seen in the warrior princess. The Xena she knew
these days, seemed to be in a deep depression and her thoughts were almost constantly on one
thing, Tunis. She knew what the woman had been put through was enough to want to seek
revenge. And now it seemed the woman had put her out of her mind, that is, as a lover. The two
had been close, there had been every opportunity to renew their bond, but Xena would always
walk away. Sighing, Gabrielle tapped the tree with her hand and said, "I am beginning to think I'm
useless. Maybe Xena found someone else and is waiting for the right time to tell me." Argo
whinnied as she looked at the horse and said, "You seem to have an opinion also, maybe I will
just ask her what is wrong."

The palomino stamped at the ground and Gabrielle reached out to pet her as she said, "I think I
will just do that."

She turned and started back to the huge rock formations looming in her path.

It was bright outside so when she entered the cavern, she had to open and shut her eyes several
times. Though it was light in there, it took a little time for her eyes to adjust. She spotted the
woman sitting on a pallet. She was honing her sword, and with each swipe, she seemed to put
more emphasis on what she was doing. Xena was so involved with this, she never even heard
Gabrielle until she was two feet away from her. She stopped what she was doing and gazed up at
the woman. "Have a nice visit?"

Nodding her head, she sat beside the woman and answered, "Very nice, Argo gets more beautiful
every day, if that is possible," noticing the menacing weapon in Xena's hand she said, "It looks
pretty sharp, are you planning on doing battle?"

Carefully setting the sword down, she turned her full attention on Gabrielle. Translucent blue's
traveled the woman's body as she said, "You never know when you will do battle. Something
seems to be troubling you, want to tell me what it is?"

Gabrielle's stare fell to the glistening weapon as she said, "We need to talk."

The woman's right eyebrow arched as she asked, "Talk, seems we have been doing a lot of that.
You know I have never been the one that likes to talk, I always leave that up to you."

The woman had picked up the sword once more and this time Gabrielle reached out and placed
her right hand on Xena's and said, "This is important Xena."

Sighing, the woman turned her full attention toward Gabrielle and muttered, "All right, what is it?"

Her voice was soft but commanding as she said, "We need to talk about us."

Xena was definitely becoming apprehensive as she shrugged her shoulders and acknowledged,
"Thank you."

The words caused Gabrielle to sit back, seeming bewildered she asked, "Thank me for what?
You act like you have to say the words and I don't even know why."

Xena scoffed, "For saving my worthless hide. If you and Ann Bounty hadn't shown up when you
did, I know I would have died an agonizing death."

Gabrielle frowned, "We have been through that Xena, you thanked me many times in your
delirium as well as after."

Xena seemed confused and replied, "Then what? Have I done something?"

Gabrielle was beginning to squirm. "It's what you haven't done."

The woman's voice was getting louder as she snapped, "Then Gods woman, tell me, don't keep

"All right, I want to know what is wrong with me? Since we have been back, you treat me like
you would a family member. Maybe even less than that. Have I grown ugly?"

Xena got up and walked to the fire, she reached down and got a mug of tea. Turning she walked
back to Gabrielle, reaching down she said, "Have some, made it this morning."

Gabrielle took the mug and stared at the steaming contents. She watched Xena sit and after the
woman crossed her legs and seemed to get comfortable she asked, "Why the tea? I really need to

Xena looked away as she answered, "You have been outdoors, thought you might be thirsty.
Besides I wanted you to have something in your hands."

Placing a hand on Xena's shoulder she said, "It was thoughtful. Now, if you can find it within you,
tell me. If you don't desire or want me around anymore, just say it."

Xena was staring at the flashing blue green eyes. Gabrielle had a determined look on her face and
one she had seen many times before. Xena smiled, "Have I ever told you, how beautiful you are
when you get angry?"

Lightly slapping Xena's arm, Gabrielle responded, "Don't change the subject. Since we have been
back, your mind seems to run day and night on Calico Jack. He is not worth all your thoughts,
and one day the man will get what is coming to him."

Gabrielle sipped her tea and they sat in silence. Xena's face seemed to change as she turned
completely around and faced Gabrielle. They were sitting as if they were around a campfire and
getting ready to discuss a peace treaty. Gabrielle set the mug on the ground. She reached out and
took Xena's left hand in hers. "Whatever it is, tell me. I need to hear you say the words."

Gazing at Gabrielle's hand on hers, she said, "Try to bear with me, one thing you should know, I
love you and will always. There is no one else for me."

Gabrielle seemed confused as she said, "Then why . . . "

Xena placed a finger on the bard's lips and said, "Sh., you want to hear this, so let me muddle
through it. I have cursed myself since I found out what a fool I was."

Gabrielle quickly spoke, "You're not a fool."

Nodding she said, "Yes, I was, I left you when I went to Diana's and I should have taken you with
me. Before you speak, you must already know, had I wanted I could have brought you. Gabrielle,
I always did as I pleased, I conquered who I pleased, and I loved only those that caught my eye.
Sometimes just too win a favor. I have always been independent and I guess I wanted to try to
hold on to some of it. I am not the person your wondrous eyes look at and think you know."

Her hands were tightly clenched as Gabrielle uttered, "Xena . . . "

"No," she held up a hand, "I, above everyone, know myself. You only think you know me. You
have a way of viewing even the worse in things and seeing good. You've done that with me. You
may hate me when I am finished but this has been gnawing at my insides since we returned, even
before," She drew in a deep breath, "I did an unpardonable thing."

Jumping to the woman's defense, "There is nothing you could do," Gabrielle volunteered. "we both
know how hard you get on yourself."

Shaking her head Xena's voice cracked as it became a whisper, "Yes, I left you and I could have
come back sooner--I hate myself."

Leaning forward, her eyes trying to reach out and grasp Xena, she said, "I don't understand, if you
could have come back sooner, why didn't you?"

A cold empty feeling seemed to well up in the pit of her stomach as her voice caught for a second
before she said, "They threw a festival and asked me to stay."

Gabrielle stood this time as she walked to the mouth of the cavern and said, "You stayed to
celebrate and eat?"

Xena was walking toward her, she still had a slight limp when she walked but the woman knew it
eventually would be gone like all her other injuries. Except the one she was causing Gabrielle at
that moment. "Gabrielle?" She stood behind the woman and placed both hands on Gabrielle's
shoulders. She didn't answer and Xena repeated the words, "Gabrielle--I never meant to hurt
you, that's not the worst of it."

Gabrielle had turned, the two women were very close as the bard spit out, "You leave me here,
then you stay there because of some festivity and there is more?"

Xena's face was full of remorse as the muscles in her jaw shot back and forth. She bit her lower
lip and said, "There was a man."

Gabrielle's eyes blazed as she pushed past the woman. In a cry of despair and desperation she
cried, "How could you?!"

Xena followed the woman and easily got in front of her. She reached out and placed her hands on
Gabrielle's shoulders, staring down into the set face of the woman she said, "He didn't mean

"Oh . . . oh that is supposed to make me feel better. You forgot about me and had Gods know
what with some man but he didn't mean anything. What has happened to us Xena?"

Standing back, the woman shrugged her shoulders and sighed, "Maybe you have put too much
into us, you are such a dreamer Gabrielle. It is possible you have conjured up something with us
that is not real."

Tears were running down Gabrielle's face as she reached up to brush them back. Her eyes taking
in the form of her friend. "I never dreamed anything up, we are real, what we had was real, how
could you just throw it away like that?"

Xena would not release her hold on the woman's shoulders and her slender fingers were now
buried into Gabrielle's skin. "You're hurting me, Xena, let me go!"

This time Xena walked away, she headed for the pallet and sat. "Why do you get so upset at my
finding the attentions of a handsome man bestowed on me captivating, when Ann Bounty pays
you that and probably more."

Shaking her head, Gabrielle started toward the woman, "Oh no, this is not about Ann Bounty, this
is about you and me. Don't change the subject maybe at one time I would have been gullible
enough to bite but not now. A handsome man at that." She slowly sat beside the woman, it took a
few minutes before she spoke, "If not for Ann Bounty, you would probably be dead and me also.
I was determined to go after you, she didn't have to volunteer but she did."

Managing to grin, Xena said, "I have sent a thank you to her. But we both know she did this for
you, not me."

Gabrielle leaned back on her hands, she seemed to be taking in the woman's words as she spoke,
"And at the falls, I suppose when she took the blade that was meant for you that was for me also?

 Pursing her lips, Xena replied, "Admit it, she would not have been there if she didn't know you."

Nodding her head, Gabrielle said, "I'll give you that but she still didn't have to risk her life to save
yours. After all if what you are insinuating is true, she would have been better off if you were

Xena threw back her head and laughed, "Won't work, I know Ann Bounty probably better than
you think and she is not the kind of person to accept victory like that."

Fuming at her friends inference, Gabrielle got to her feet and said, "I'm going to the river, I need to
cool off and I suggest you find some place and do the same. This is not over Xena. What you
have done has cut me deeply and I won't tell you it doesn't hurt."

Xena held out her right hand as the woman called, "Gabrielle, come back here, we can finish this."

Turning to gaze at her, Gabrielle answered, "I think it is. At least now I know why my body
doesn't please you anymore."

"Whoa . . . Wait a minute," jumping to her feet she exclaimed, "if that is what you are thinking, it is
wrong. I go to sleep at night thinking about you."

Gabrielle smirked. "That's just it, Xena, thinking about me. What are you doing comparing me to
him? Well, I won't be a pawn in a game. Whoever I choose to be with it will be my choice not
because of some victory!" She strode from the cave leaving Xena cursing herself.

The water was cool and Gabrielle welcomed its waiting arms. Her body was hot and her temper
was to the boiling point as she let herself ease into the moving water. Finding a cove, she lay back
and closed her eyes. The floating sensation along with the gentle movement of the water on her
body seemed to ease her tensions. Her mind drifted to the tall woman. Her lustrous dark hair, its
devil may care attitude as it cascaded down upon her shoulders. The beautiful translucent blue
eyes that seemed to look into her very soul, the warm smile the woman would give in quiet
moments. The rippling muscles as she moved and the unmistakable figure only few were blessed
to possess.

Sighing, Gabrielle visioned Xena walking from the springs, water dripping from her body. The
woman's complete lack of realizing how beautiful she was, much less someone like Gabrielle even
noticing, was an endearing quality about the woman she cherished. "Face it Gabrielle, even if
Xena did those things you are so smitten by the woman, you know you will forgive her." She
heard her own voice as she turned and swam toward the shore. Once out, she stood and said,
"Great, now you are all wet nothing to dry off with, though I must say it feels good." Glancing
around she found her clothes and put them on. Her eyes glancing toward the path that brought her
there she said, "Might as well go, get this over with. I should never have left, it's hard enough to
get Xena to talk." She walked slowly back toward the cave and though she had time to think, she
was still hurt and wondered if Xena had even given their discussion a passing thought."

Xena watched Gabrielle leave the room then she turned and kicked the toe of her boot into the
dirt. It pained her to see the bard so devastated and it was the one thing she had been dreading
since their return. She walked toward the far wall and stood staring at the cold rock. Leaning
forward and placing her hands against it, she screamed. The sound reverberated back to the
woman. It was plain to see she was in agony.

Xena tried to be staunch, show little emotion because she knew it was a fault that could cause her
downfall. But this day she let her resistance go and slowly crumbled to her knees, she sat and
stared at the huge chamber she and Gabrielle called home. She felt the first trickle as it fell from
her right eye, this followed by a deluge that cascaded down her face. Reaching up to brush them
off, she scoffed, "Some warrior, maybe they should have let me perish. Gods, my life is so messed

She had hurt Gabrielle, she was the one person in this world she never wanted to cause pain. Still
she wasn't sure when it happened but as she thought about it, probably that first day. The glowing
face, eyes so wide in awe of her. Her bubbly vivacious actions not to mention the woman's
beautiful body. Though Xena didn't want to admit it, Gabrielle had struck a chord with her the first
day. And now after all this time, she didn't think she could live without the woman.

"You are so stupid Xena, she gave up a chance to be with Ann Bounty and you have been
treating her like some object." She cursed herself.  Her mind drifted back to Calico's cell and her
encounter with Asterea. Shaking her head she cried, "How can I get Gabrielle to understand, if I
am having problems with it!"

Gabrielle had picked up her step as she hurried into the cave. Her eyes shot around the area
looking for Xena. Spying the woman sitting in a heap, she ran toward her, "Xena! Are you all

The woman looked up as Gabrielle neared, her voice was soft, "I . . . I'm sorry."

Dropping to her knees her blue green eyes taking in the woman's face she said, "You have been
crying, I am so sorry if I have hurt you."

Shaking her head, Xena replied, "You could never hurt me, it is I that have caused the problem
we seem to have." She noticed the water that had seeped through her clothes and said, "You
should change."

Gabrielle nodded. "I'll go do that. First I want to just sit with you. Could you hold me?"

Xena's eyes grew warm and the woman smiled as she wrapped her right arm around Gabrielle's
shoulders. Drawing the woman close she whispered, "I've missed you."

They sat like that in silence, both relishing the closeness of the other and it was then Gabrielle
raised her head and placed a tender kiss on Xena's cheek. She placed a finger under the woman's
chin and turned her face toward her as she uttered, "Xena." Raising her head, her lips sought the
warriors with a longing she had been denied. Though Xena did not reciprocate, she could feel the
woman's body tense even though she didn't stop the bard. It was then Gabrielle pulled away,
staring at Xena she asked, "What is wrong? What have I done now?"

Xena looked away as she answered, "It's not you, Gods know you are more woman than anyone
would ever wish for. It is something I have to deal with." She turned to stare at Gabrielle and
continued, "Please try to understand and give me some time to sort out a few problems."

Gabrielle gazed at this beautiful woman and said, "I love you Xena, if we can never share a
closeness like we once had, I will try to understand. This is a hard thing you ask of me but I will
be here for you, just don't try to shut me from your life. I can't live with that."

Reaching out, she placed a hand on Gabrielle's cheek. "I love you, don't ever forget that."

"I wish you would let me know what is bothering you, maybe I can help."

A distant look appeared in the woman's eyes and for that moment she looked like a lost child as
she whispered, "I'm not sure anyone can help me ever again." She stood and walked away as
Gabrielle watched with a foreboding look in her eyes.

Chapter Six

Xena had gone for a long walk, she hoped the open space and cool breeze would help to relieve
the nightmares she had been fighting. Her stride was long and it didn't take the woman long to
travel a good distance. Stopping to gaze around, she realized she had walked deep into the forest.
Spying a downed tree, she started toward it. The tree had not been laying there long, it still
maintained its greenery. Sitting, she reached down and picked up a twig. Bending over, she began
to trace a pattern into the ground. When finished, she sat back and admired the work. It was
different. She had never seen a design like that in her life but for some reason her hands traced it
into the dirt.

Tossing the twig, she swallowed as her mind moved to the bard. She had no idea how she had
been so fortunate to have been blessed with the woman's friendship and love. Gabrielle was one
in a lifetime and she now cursed herself because she feared she may have ruined the only good
thing she ever had.

Her nights were filled with constant nightmares, permeated with agony and sorrow. She would
wake to find Gabrielle sitting beside her trying to ease her throes. Her body would be soaked
from perspiration as she trembled in fear of the unknown. Xena was frightened and this was not
an easy admission for The Warrior Princess. If word ever got out she had become such a basket
case, she felt her many enemies just might get brave. Though not worried for herself, she feared
something might happen to Gabrielle. She cursed what had been happening and knew when she
let Gabrielle into her life it might draw the woman into her sordid past.

She didn't understand why she was feeling this way, after all, she had been injured before and the
consequences were not anything like the ones she was experiencing at the moment. Her body
seemed to be so filled with anger lately, it was only Gabrielle that seemed to draw her away from
the thoughts, even then, she would find herself back at that place. Would Gabrielle understand
what was happening to her? Or would this be the final thing that would send the woman
into Ann Bounty's arms? Shaking her head, she would not let that happen. Maybe she could
play along, make the bard think everything was all right. Xena knew this was an impossibly, as
Gabrielle was very astute and would figure it out immediately, she shrugged her shoulders and
said, "You need help Xena, maybe it's time you paid an old friend a visit." She got to her feet and
started back down the path, hoping she had not made Gabrielle too upset.

Gabrielle prepared their morning meal and as she went to check the meat that had been placed
near the coals, her eyes fell on Xena's sword. She reached down and picked up the glimmering
weapon. Feeling its power in her hands, she made several back and forth movements through the
air. It had an easy balance to it and the way that Xena had sharpened the metal, would cut
anything in two in seconds. Of course with Xena's strength, she had seen her do the same thing
with a dull one. Walking toward a wooden chest she laid the weapon down and returned to the
camp fire.

Her mind so full of sounds and actions it was all she could do to keep herself moving. For some
reason, Xena was fighting a demon within herself, one that seemed to have control over the
woman and her feelings. She had seen many sides of her friend and the one she hated the most
was her moodiness and anger. The first time she experienced this, it made her cringe. The woman
she had come to know had been gentle with her, loving and so caring. Still once in awhile, her
dark side would surface and she never knew whether it would be her this time the woman would
take her wrath out on. Shaking her head she remembered Xena's words.

They had just returned from an almost deadly encounter with a group called "The Hoard." Her
friend had been attentive and went out of her way to see to Gabrielle's every need. Xena handed
her a leather pouch and said, "Here, this is for you."

Accepting it, she gazed up at the woman. Her eyes were bright and she wore a smile that melted
any reserve she might have placed within her heart. As she recalled, Xena reminded her of a child,
with a look of wonder and excitement playing on her face as the woman stood waiting for the
bard to say something.

She remembered how she had grinned at her friend asking, "It's not a special day, what are you

Xena shifted from one foot to the other replying, "Every day with you is special. Now open it."

She smiled and pulled the ties as the pouch opened. Reaching inside she pulled out an amulet. It
was beautiful and she knew she had seen it before as she said, "It's lovely--" Turning it over in her
hand, she noticed the workmanship and uttered, "Is this the one I think it is? I thought it had been

Xena reached out and took the amulet.  "Here, let me put this on for you." She placed it around
Gabrielle's neck then stood back and gazed at the woman. "You are as beautiful as the first time I
put it there."

Placing her right hand on the amulet, Gabrielle's eyes were fixed on the woman. "When Callisto
took me and injured you, I thought it had been lost. I don't know how you did it, thank you." She
hugged Xena, the closeness of their bodies soon gave way to a most delightful loving exploration
of one another. Though Xena was never one for words, her soft caresses spoke volumes. She
took great care and knew exactly what the bard wanted, she was meticulous in her journey and
Gabrielle loved showing her the way. Shaking her head, she said, "So what has happened? If it's
not my body and she still says she loves me, what has turned her into the woman she seems to be

She looked up when Xena entered the chamber. Her blue-green eyes holding back the tears she
had been fighting. Waving toward the woman she said, "You came back just in time, the meal is
almost ready."

Xena walked toward her, her step was slow and as she approached she said, "Smells good."
Reaching out she placed a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, "You may hear me say this a lot, but I am

Patting Xena's hand she smiled and said, "It's beautiful out, did you see Argo?"

Shaking her head Xena answered, "No, I walked into the forest. I've decided something."

Gabrielle froze, her body rigid as she said, "If you say you are leaving me, it won't work. I've been
through too much and so have you to get to the point we are now. I will not see you throw it all
away. You tell me you love me, then Gods, woman whatever the problem is, we can work it out."

Sighing, Xena walked toward the fire and sat on a pallet. She stared at the bed covered in furs
and said, "I will try, but you must know by now I am fighting demons that seem to want to destroy

Approaching the woman, she sat beside her and said, "There are no demons that can even hold a
candle to the two of us, especially when we join forces." She reached up and caressed Xena's
face with a look of love showing in her eyes as she continued, "I will always love you and I know
you love me. Take your time and tell me."

Xena placed a hand on Gabrielle's. "I have decided to go see an old friend of mine."

Startled, Gabrielle sat back and stared at her. "I don't understand."

"I have always been my own person, and now I feel I have need of counsel." Noticing the look on
the bard's face she added, "I will not go without you."

The woman's body relaxed as she responded, "You're not leaving me?"

Managing a smile Xena whispered, "If I can help it, I will never leave you again." She stared
toward the fire and continued, "Now, how about that meal?"

Grinning, Gabrielle said, "I'll see if it is ready." Xena watched the bard move casually around the
fire. Gathering the food, placing it on plates and pouring the steaming tea into mugs. She moved
with such ease and each movement seemed to be a dance in itself. Gabrielle started to walk
toward Xena and noticed the woman's blues. Approaching and leaning down she handed the
plate of food and mug of tea to Xena. "You watch me with such love in your eyes Xena. I know
you love me and I want to find out what the problem is. I mean it, if we never are to be lovers
again, I can handle that. But to lose you as a friend, this I cannot take."

Reaching up Xena said, "Come sit with me, share the meal like old times."

The look Xena was giving her made Gabrielle feel as if she would melt right there on the spot. She
took Xena's hand in hers and sat by the woman. Xena set the mug on the ground and was
reaching down to remove the white meat from the fish. Gabrielle watched intently as Xena picked
up several morsels in her fingers and said, "Open."

Gabrielle watched as the woman's fingers started toward her and as they approached she opened
her mouth and Xena's fingers slid the food in. When the woman went to remove them, Gabrielle
lightly closed her lips and enjoyed the sensation her body felt as Xena gently pulled them back.

Chewing the food, Gabrielle reached down, removed a piece of the flaky meat. "Now, your turn."
Xena pulled back and the woman said, "No, no you don't get all the fun. Now Warrior Princess, I
am going to feed you and you will enjoy it."

Xena grinned as her mouth slowly opened, her eyes entranced at this lovely strawberry blond.
Gabrielle brought the food up slowly and placed it into her mouth as she whispered, "Who said
fingers were not the way to eat your food." Pulling her hand back, she asked, "What do you

With a twinkle in her eyes the woman tasted the fish and said, "Good, actually I think it is better
than good, must have something to do with you." She reached out and grasped Gabrielle's hand
and began to place light kisses on each of the woman's fingers.

Gabrielle didn't know why it happened but she was definitely enjoying this attention. They ate the
meal like that, each feeding the other and sharing the mug of tea. When they were finished, Xena
lay back on the pallet, her left hand laying on her stomach and a look of satisfaction on her face.
Gabrielle laid beside her and said, "Xena?"

Turning her head and gazing into the bards eyes she replied, "Yes?"

"Thank you."

Raising her right eyebrow the woman responded, "Thank me, for what?"

Her blue green eyes reaching toward the woman she smiled, "For that, it was nice."
Xena smiled, "You do tend to take a person's mind off food."

Gabrielle sighed as she said, "I guess you know that this also made me feel things you don't want
to address."

Pursing her lips, Xena said, "It's not that, but I am hoping the trip I am planning will shed some
light on our problems, or should I say mine. For now, can you live with what we have?"

Her eyes glimmering toward the woman. Gabrielle whispered, "I can live with anything, as long as
I have you in my life." She turned onto her side and placed an arm over Xena as she snuggled
close. Xena placed an arm around her as Gabrielle sighed, "I am content just to know you love

Gabrielle huddled even closer to the statuesque woman who was doing her best to comfort her.
Xena could feel the Bards body flinch each time Zeus's lightening bolts ripped across the sky,
each followed by the loud thundering voice of Hera. Xena felt the Gods must really be in an
argument. Either that, or they were just angry at the mortals that inhabited the land and had
decided to put a scare into them. If that was the case then it definitely was working. The storm
had affected them all.

She was thankful they had found shelter in a cave. When the storm hit they weren't far from her
friends. She had hoped they would make it to shelter there, but the storm was growing more
intense. She remembered a cave that she had found harbor in many moons ago and was elated to
see it was still there. Argo was even getting spooked and she had to admit when that one bolt
landed in the trees to the east of them she felt a wave of fear. Xena glanced over toward Argo
and could see that she was still agitated, although the horse still took time to chew on the grain
Xena had put out for her.

She gently pushed Gabrielle back, raised her right hand, and caressed the bard's face. Placing her
hands on Gabrielle's shoulders and staring down into her friends eyes she said, "It will be all right,
Zeus and Hera are just having a disagreement, it will be over soon. "

Gabrielle stared into Xena's crystal blue eyes, they showed no sign of fear only softness and
caring. The bard murmured, "It's all right for you to say that, and from the way it is popping out
there, it doesn't seem to affect you."

Xena smiled warmly. "If it will make you feel any better, one of Zeus's lightening bolts would do
the same to me as it would to you."

Gabrielle managed a smile as she said, "Comforting thought, has anyone ever told you that in the
comforting department you lack a little. I hate to tell you Xena, but to think of you being hit by
lightening does not really appease me. "

Xena smiled and said, "That's your department, you are the one with the knack for words. I hope
you are not sorry you came with me."

Managing a smile she answered, "No, I want to be with you." A loud clap of thunder reverberated
the area and she flinched as Xena offered, "Come sit with me, I may not look like it but I could
use some comfort at this moment."

Approaching her, she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Xena. "How much farther is
it, that is if we live through all this?"

Holding the woman close, Xena whispered, "After this clears and we have rested, it's not far."

Sighing she mumbled, "Good. Argo is tired and my legs ache."

Xena began to hum and the soft melody seemed to put the bard at ease as she nuzzled deeper
into the woman's shoulder. Xena gazed down at the woman and cursed herself all the more in her
mind. Someone had to help her, because she didn't know how long she could control the feelings
that had been building up inside of her. She knew her past had been built on treachery and evil
doings and all she had wanted to do since she laid eyes on this fascinating woman was to make
retribution for it. The bard had drifted into a restless sleep and her mind went back to a time of

Gabrielle was excited Xena was now doing good, she knew people would now love her for the
favorable things she was executing.

Xena looked serious but her tone turned warm as she said, "That's not what this is all about
Gabrielle, to see who loves me. I did some terrible things and I just want to try to make retribution
for it. If by helping people will do it, I will. It's really not bad work and the fringe benefits are very
rewarding." Gabrielle began to blush and Xena continued, "I would never have met such a caring
person. I can't even think what it would have been like not to have known you. You are the quiet
of my storm, for without you, I fear I would fall back on a past I am trying to forget. Each day I
am grateful you didn't listen to me when I tried to send you home."

Gabrielle was moving and it was obvious the woman was waking up. Xena held her tighter as she
said, "Storm will be over soon. Couldn't sleep?"

Sitting up, she answered, "Not hardly, are you all right?"

Gazing at the woman, Xena nodded answering, "Fine. I am worried about you though."

Gabrielle stood and walked over to the saddle bag and said, "This is not like you Xena, not lately
anyway. Although I would love to get used to it once more. I'm talking about your caring attitude."

Xena smiled and said, "I haven't forgotten about us, I haven't had amnesia, it's just . . . ?  Let's see
if we can find any dry kindling around here, we need to make a fire, it is getting cold." Staring at
the saddlebag, Gabrielle changed her mind and began to search for wood.

Before long they had a cozy fire and Gabrielle was sitting in front of it trying to get warm. Xena
walked over picked up a blanket and as she placed it on the bard's shoulders said, "Wrap this
around you, keep warm."

She had walked toward the saddle bag and was rummaging through it when she came upon a
scroll. "See anything interesting?" The bard's cheerful voice called out behind Xena.

She turned asking, "Gabrielle . . .  You are scribing again?" She walked  to a flat rock and sat.

Gabrielle followed and sat by the woman as she said, "You act as if you have been caught with
your hand in the--anything I have is yours, you've but to ask. It's a story I am working on. And
yes, I decided to try my hand at scribing again."

Looking away, Xena exhaled and said, "Guess you have to do something with your time. The time
I seem to be giving you plenty of."

Managing to smile, Gabrielle replied, "I've told you before and I will tell you again, to have you in
my life is enough. We will get through this, whatever it is."

Pointing toward the fire the woman said, "Let's go lay down and try to rest. Soon as this calms, I
want to travel on."

Nodding, she followed Xena and when the woman laid down, she placed her body next to her
and asked, "Xena?"

Moving as if getting comfortable the woman murmured, "Humm?"

"It will be all right, won't it?"

Reaching up to pat the bard's hand as it rested on her side she murmured, "Uh huh . . . "

The woman had drifted off to sleep, leaning on her left elbow she gazed at the peaceful face. A
twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her lips, she bent down and placed a soft kiss on Xena's cheek.
Then laid back down and closed her eyes.

The storm had waned and the two women now found themselves standing beside the palomino.
Glancing downward Xena said, "She lives there."

Gabrielle raised her right arm and placed it above her eyes. The sun was setting and its glare was
making it hard for the woman to see what Xena was pointing toward. It took her a few minutes to
see the building nestled among a group of trees. Turning she smiled at Xena and asked, "Does she
know you are coming?"

Shaking her head Xena answered, "If you are asking if I sent her word, the answer is no. But
knowing her, she probably has sensed it."

As the two started to walk down the path, they made a striking couple along with the golden
palomino that plodded easily behind them. She had been watching the two since their arrival on
the hill. She smiled to herself when she saw the tall woman. Her hair still as dark as she
remembered but now Xena was wearing leathers and looked all the world to be wearing armor of
some kind. The beautiful blond that stood near seemed to be more than just a friend and Canna
wondered just how close the two were. When she had awoke, Xena was on her mind and for
some reason, she felt the woman would be back in her life soon. Now she knew her feelings were
right, for the woman was fast approaching the dwelling and soon would make an appearance. She
began to pace back and forth, the thought of seeing her old friend was causing her body to feel
many emotions though she was anxious to see the woman once more. Her main concern was, just
how would Xena react at seeing her, it had been a long time.

As they approached the porch, Gabrielle reached out and grabbed Xena's right arm. "Just how
close are you and this woman?"

Stopping, as she stared down at her friend Xena answered, "It was a long time ago. You have
nothing to worry about as far as we are concerned."

Shrugging, Gabrielle watched Xena tie Argo's reins to the railing on the porch as she thought,
though Xena was trying to set her mind at ease, it seemed to only fuel the fire that had been
smoldering. She knew there was a connection to the woman and when Xena didn't want to talk
about her it only made Gabrielle more curious. Now, as they stood at the front door, she was
feeling uneasy as they waited for it to open.

The svelte brunette smiled hesitantly as she opened the door. They stared at one another for
several seconds and finally Xena said, "It's been awhile."

The woman's gray eyes darted between Xena and Gabrielle as she said, "It has been that, come
in." She gazed at Gabrielle and Xena said, "This is . . .  This is Gabrielle."

She held out her right hand. "Canna. I am an old friend of Xena's and you are?"

Xena walked past the woman and said, "I already told you, she is Gabrielle. Now, we need to

Canna smiled at Gabrielle and said, "She is still the cantankerous person I remember. If Xena
doesn't want to tell me, it means you are someone very special to her."

Gabrielle walked into the room and the woman closed the door. She pointed to the table asking,
"Why don't we all sit?"

After they had sat, Canna looked at Xena and asked, "What can I do for you and your friend?"

Xena made a growling noise deep in her throat as she said, "I missed you too." Noticing the look
the woman was giving her she added, "This is Gabrielle and she is the other half of my soul. I
know you have been wondering, well wonder no more."

Managing to smile at Gabrielle the woman turned her gaze to Xena and asked, "You are not here
to rekindle old acquaintances so tell me, what brings you?"

Xena looked at Gabrielle and asked, "Would you go and check on Argo? I need to talk to her
alone." Noticing the hurt in the bard's eyes, she added, "Please."

Nodding, She got up and left the room. Canna had watched the interaction between the two and
after Gabrielle left she asked, "Does she know?"

Seeming uneasy, Xena murmured, "About us, no. About why we are here, very little."

Canna reached over and grasped Xena's right hand and held it in hers as she said, "I've thought
about us and have always wondered if you even gave it a thought."

Biting her tongue, she gazed at the woman.  "What did you think? You are the one that decided
you wanted to become an oracle and I just didn't have any place in your life."

Gazing toward the door Canna said, "Seems you've done all right for yourself. Hopefully she is
not one of your . . . "

Scowling, Xena snarled, "She is not! I stopped that a long time ago and it was you that drove me
to it in the first place."

Leaning back in her chair Canna said, "You would have left me I have no doubt of it. What we
had was nice but I always felt something simmering under your skin. I believe it was a desire, a
wanderlust I didn't think anyone could control."

Xena stared but didn't say anything as the woman said, "I can see that your coming to see me has
nothing to do with our past, so tell me, what can I do?"

Xena lowered her eyes as Canna said, "That bad. It's been awhile since I have done anything
remotely resembling an oracle. I decided to set it aside and take a rest. After so many years the
thing I thought I wanted, was giving me nightmares."

With an apologetic look on her face Xena said, "Sorry."

"Had nothing to do with you. The job of an oracle sometimes gets scary, you delve into peoples
lives and minds long enough eventually you come up with unsettling things." Her gray eyes seemed
to warm as she said, "It's all right, for an old friend, I will try and help. Tell me what is bothering

Standing, Xena began to pace. "That is the problem, I am having a hard time facing it. I hoped
you could help."

Holding out her right hand the woman said, "Come, sit in the chair beside me. Hold my hand and
let me into your soul."

Hesitating Xena said, "I'm not sure there are things you should see."

Shrugging her shoulders the woman said, "It is the only way I can help. I need to find out what is
troubling you and I knew the minute you and Gabrielle entered the room it had something to do
with . . . "

Approaching the woman and reaching down to grasp her outstretched hand she said, "All right,
just get on with it."

Gabrielle had picked some lush grass and had placed it on the ground for the horse. She was now
sitting on the porch steps watching Argo enjoy her new treat. Her mind would drift to the two
women and she knew they were probably very close at one time. The way they had looked at
one another, all the hidden signals she had come to know and understand. Sighing she couldn't
help wonder just what they were doing in that room. She also wondered just what Xena would
think, if she knew her fear of the storm had all been a ruse. It worked and she had enjoyed every
minute Xena comforted and held her.

Chapter Seven

She stood watching the easy breathing of the woman. Turning she left the room and went outside.
Gabrielle looked up as the woman stepped from the building. Her eyes darted behind her but
when Canna closed the door she asked, "Where is Xena?"

The woman stepped toward her. "Sit with me. I think the two of us need to talk."

Gabrielle walked away from the horse and as she sat, asked, "And Xena? Will she be out soon?"

Canna gazed at her and said, "You look like an intelligent person so I feel there is no need to hide
the fact that Xena and I were once close."

Pursing her lips, Gabrielle said, "I had already assumed that. I guess I might ask how close?"

Leaning back against her hands the woman replied, "We were lovers."

Gabrielle sat back and stared, her eyes wide.

The woman smiled. "You are surprised at my being so candid. Don't be, I gave up hiding anything
a long time ago. My profession has been oracle and Xena came to me for . . . "

Jumping to her feet Gabrielle stood, staring down at the woman as she sputtered, "Sh . . . She told
you about us?"

Sitting up, the woman said, "To try to find out what her problems are, I had to find out everything.
Yes, I know about the two of you. I gave Xena some herbal tea, it contains a relaxant and she is
sleeping. Seems she hasn't had many nights of restful sleep. This will do that for her."

Gabrielle sat back down. "Why are you telling me this? Xena is a very private person and doesn't
like to talk or have anyone know very much about her thoughts or deeds."

"Xena is lucky to have one like you. She could so easily go back to her dark side. Seems you are
the light that keeps her on the path she has chosen."

Dropping her head, Gabrielle stared at the ground. "Were you able to help her?"

The woman reached out and grasped Gabrielle's left hand. "You are going to have to be strong,
for what Xena is going through is not easy. I will tell you this, it has to do with the mistreatment
she received when she was captured."

Gabrielle gazed at the woman as she said, "Xena has been captured before but she never has
been like this."

The woman gave Gabrielle's hand a squeeze. "No, I don't think so. Oh, I'm sure, she has been
treated badly but even then, she had you to keep her going."

"But I was always here."

Nodding the woman replied, "I know and Xena knows that now but at the time, she had been
told you were kidnaped and she had no idea where you were or even if you were alive. The
woman has chastised herself for leaving you at the cave."

Smirking, Gabrielle said, "Yeah, well I might help her on that one. I'm not comfortable knowing
she has told you about our love life, or lack of it."

A serious look crossed the woman's face as she asked, "Just how much has Xena told you about
her encounter with Talmadeus?"

"She told me what happened if that is what you mean."

Nodding the woman said, "Then you know the man beat her into unconsciousness and she stood
and let him. All because she thought he was holding you prisoner and would kill you if she didn't
surrender to him."

Looking away, Gabrielle softly said, "Something like that. I feel bad at what happened."

The woman's warm voice reached out, "It wasn't your fault and Xena blames herself, because, if
she had stayed with you or taken you this would not have happened."

Chewing on her lower lip, Gabrielle nodded.  "I see what you mean. I will do whatever I need to
help her, just tell me."

"It's not that easy, she is fighting demons within her and I have never seen her like this."

Gabrielle's full attention was on the woman as she asked, "Demons, should I take her to a

Shaking her head the woman answered, "They can do nothing for her, these she will have to sort
out herself."

Her face held a worried expression as she asked, "Tell me what I can do? You mention
Talmadeus wasn't the reason, what is?"

"It started with his beating of her followed by weeks held prisoner in a cargo hold of the pirate

Gabrielle stood and began to pace after the woman told her of Xena's turmoil on the vessel. And
when she informed Gabrielle about the woman Asterea, she curled her lip and said, "I must go to

The woman was able to keep her from running into the room and alarming Xena. She was
standing as she approached Gabrielle. "The physical torture as well as the mental has taken its toll
on the woman. You must understand, Xena is a proud woman, a warrior and she holds this in
great esteem. These people took this away from her, Gods woman, they brought this proud
woman to her knees. She was beaten until she quit telling them her name and then . . . "

Gabrielle reached out and grabbed the woman's arm. "And then? There is more?"

"I will only tell you it deals with the woman Asterea. Xena will have to tell you the rest if she feels
the need. I don't think she will."

Her voice shaky as she asked, "Tell me, what can I do?"

Patting the woman's hand she answered, "Be there for her, but I will tell you after all Xena has
been through, she has lost her dignity as well as . . .  Let me just say it is very hard for the woman
to feel any kind of personal contact now."

Cocking her head to the side, Gabrielle asked, "You are speaking of a sexual nature, aren't you? I
have felt her body tense when we touch. I never attributed it to anything except maybe she was
being Xena. This is horrible, tell me how can I let her know she is still the proud woman I love,
and whatever they did to her has not made any difference?"

"Xena will have to work this out herself, hopefully with your help. She needs to know and feel
there is someone who loves her."

Gabrielle stated, "She knows I do."

"Knowing and believing is something she needs to learn again. Tell me, has she been consumed
with rage? The rage having to do with Tunis?"

Nodding she answered, "All the time, I get after her for this. We need to get on with our lives but
to be so consumed in this hatred is not good."

"I believe it helps her deal with the pain. Xena might not be back to normal until she feels she has
paid them all back. And even then, she might never fully return to the woman you love. Can you
live with this?"

Gazing toward the door she answered, "Always, I love her and if all we have is friendship that is
fine because she is my heart."

Canna whispered, "Then try to be patient with her, give her space and don't try to force a
personal meeting of your bodies until she feels she can handle it. Right now, Xena feels useless
and that she has let you down as well as herself. I believe you can help lead her back into the light.
Why don't you go in, oh, by the way, seems you have been having a few problems in your sleep."

Her mouth agape, she mumbled, "Yes, I have, but how?"

"I have a talent and pick up on things and I also know Xena is one lucky woman."

She walked off and Gabrielle bounded up the steps, hurrying into the house to sit beside her

Later when Canna entered the building, she looked for Gabrielle, the woman had gone to sleep
sitting beside Xena. The position she was in looked uncomfortable and she walked over to her,
gently easing her to the floor. Taking a spare blanket from the bed, she placed it over the woman.
She had checked Xena's breathing before she went into the spare room to retire. It had been an
evening of enlightenment not only for her but for Gabrielle. Xena would probably be angry she
had told the woman but Canna felt this type of secret would've ended their relationship had the
young woman continued to think Xena found her unsightly. She walked toward a pallet and laid
down. Sighing as she closed her eyes, she hoped her old friend would be able to come to terms
with her problems.

Xena slept well into the next day and when she finally woke, the first thing she saw was the smiling
face of her friend. Gabrielle was beaming down at the woman and softly said, "Hi, how do you

Managing to sit up, she answered, "Fine, I guess I was more tired than I thought, nothing like
going to sleep and leaving you . . . "

Placing her right hand on the woman's, Gabrielle cut in, "I was fine, your friend Canna is nice. It
was good to see you sleeping and not having those nightmares."

Xena's legs were now off the bed as she stared around the room and asked, "Speaking of my
friend, where is she?"

Standing, Gabrielle answered, "She went for a walk, said we needed some time to sort out a few

The woman's light blue eyes seemed to scan Gabrielle's face for some hint as she said, "Sort out a
few things, what are you talking about?"

Sitting beside the woman, Gabrielle said, "I know Xena. Canna told me."

Xena jumped to her feet, a look of anger boiled across her features as she spouted, "She told
you? That was private, had I wanted you to know, I would not have asked you to leave the room.
Damn, how you must hate me!"

Approaching the woman, she placed her hand in Xena's and said, "Never, and no matter how
mad you get at me, I will be right here for you. I'm glad she told me, I was so confused. After all,
I was and you already know this, beginning to think you had waned of me. Now I know it is all
together something different."

Gazing down at the concerned face of her friend Xena's voice quivered, "She told you

"She told me most of it, but not much about the woman Asterea. I am so sorry, I wish I could
take your pain."

Walking away from Gabrielle, Xena said, "Don't be sorry for me, I have done such atrocities in
my life that this is probably pay back for some of them. I don't want you to feel sorry. I now
know what you must have endured at that snake's hands. You were so brave, and never let on
about what I know you must have gone through. It is me that is sorry." She walked back toward
the woman and as she neared she said, "I can't talk about it, try to understand?"

The woman's blue green eyes never left Xena. "I will be here whenever you decide. I just wish I
could make your hurt go away. Not because I want to make love to you, well I do, but I can live
without it. Because I hurt when you do and . . . "

"It's all right, Gabrielle, I understand and I love you more than you will ever know. If at all
possible, I want for us to be like we were. I just have to convince my body and mind."

Gabrielle tugged at the woman's hand."Come back and sit with me on the bed. And Xena, about
Tunis, when you decide to take out your revenge I want you to know I will be right beside you.
There are some things I would like to settle myself."

As the two women sat on the bed, Xena placed her right arm around Gabrielle's waist and said, "I
don't know what I ever did to deserve your coming into my life but I thank the Gods every day."
The two women sat in silence, each enjoying the comfort of the other. Canna had peeked in the
window and when she saw them sitting, with warm looks on their faces, she smiled and entered
the building.

As the woman stepped into the room, the two stood. The look Xena gave her could have killed.
It was obvious Gabrielle had already told the woman what she had said. "Xena, Gabrielle, so
good to see the two of you awake."

Walking toward her Xena approached and it was at this time Canna flinched and the warrior
said, "Thank you."

Not believing what she heard she asked, "Did you just say, thank you?"

Holding out her left arm, she replied, "For telling Gabrielle. I was upset at first but you were right
in doing it. We must leave soon, there are many things we need to discuss and there are some
things I need to plan."

Grasping Xena's arm in friendship the woman smiled. "I am happy it has worked out for the two
of you. Gabrielle is a remarkable woman and her love is true. I believe the two of you will find a
way out of your dilemma."

They visited for several hours and when ready to leave, Gabrielle gave Canna a hug. "Xena
missed out when things happened the way they did between the two of you." Her eyes lit up as
she continued, "I'm grateful they did, because it gave me the opportunity to love her."

Canna smiled as she bid them farewell, "Just remember the love you have for one another."

They walked to the top of the hill and as they arrived, Xena turned to Gabrielle and
asked, "Ready?"

Touching the woman's left arm, she beamed, "Ready." They mounted Argo, and as the horse
disappeared from Canna's sight, she thought she would always remember the vision of the two on
that magnificent palomino.

It seemed they traveled slower going back and Gabrielle was happy when they came to a small
village. Argo was tired and her legs ached from sitting the horse. Reining the horse in front of a
tavern, Xena reached back to help Gabrielle down. The strength of the woman's grasp was as the
bard always remembered. She beamed up at the woman as she threw her left leg over the saddle
horn and hopped down. Xena noticed the look in Gabrielle's eyes as she asked, "Something

Reaching up to pat the horse's neck, she gazed at the woman. "I think it's your long legs but you
dismount so easily. If I tried that I would probably get my leg hung up on the saddle horn and the
hop down would probably put me face down in the dirt."

Grinning as she took the saddle bag from the horse Xena replied, "Nah, you would do it with
ease. Come on lets go get something to eat and a place to sleep."

Reaching out she grabbed Xena's arm. "Are you sure?"

Starting toward the door she replied, "Come on slowpoke, I thought you told me you were

The bard hastily caught up with the woman as the two walked into the dimly lit room side by side.

Once inside they gazed around at the people in the room. There were several empty tables but
most were occupied by villagers. That is except for the one in the far corner of the room, it looked
like these men were mercenaries and Gabrielle grabbed Xena and said, "I think we should go."

"Thought you were tired and hungry?"

Biting her lower lip she answered, "Not that. I love sleeping under the stars. Let's go."

Xena stepped forward as she said, "Come on let's sit here." She pulled out a wooden chair as she
pointed to the table. Gabrielle walked hesitantly toward the woman and sat. Xena walked toward
the bar as she watched the woman take each step. Her eyes darted to the men. They had also
noticed the tall woman dressed in leather. When Xena walked back toward the table carrying two
goblets of port, she was smiling. Gabrielle reached up and took one and said, "Thanks, can we
drink these and leave?"

Plopping down in the chair the woman kicked an empty chair out from under the table as she
stretched her lengthy legs out onto it. Leaning back in the chair she took a long drink and said,
"It's good. I ordered something to eat and asked the man to see that Argo was fed and watered."
Smiling she added, "Also got a good room for the night and it even has a real bed in it."

Taking a drink, Gabrielle stopped and said, "Be . . . Bed?"

The woman's eyes were dancing as she answered, "Thought you liked them, guess you could
sleep on the floor if it would suit you better."

Setting the mug on the table, Gabrielle beamed, "Now I know you are teasing me. Will it be all
right for us . . . you know?"

Finishing off her port she said, "I think we can get a good night sleep." Standing she asked, "Are
you finished with that yet? I'll go get us another one."

Taking several long drinks, she handed the goblet to the woman and said, "You might but I don't
know about me."

Xena was oblivious to the onlookers as she walked over to Gabrielle, leaned over and placed a
tender kiss on the woman's cheek. As their eyes met, she said, "It will be fine. Be right back."

Gabrielle leaned back in her chair as she watched Xena amble to the bar. The woman was a
picture of the Xena she had remembered, but was she?

The man had brought the meal and the two women delved into the heavenly smelling food.
Gabrielle looked up at Xena and said, "You like it?"

The woman was just taking a bite of the chicken and grinned. Setting the leg back down on the
plate she answered, "It's all right but certainly not--it's not as excellent as yours."

Saluting the woman with her goblet, Gabrielle said, "You could cook even better if you would

Laughing, the woman said, "When pigs fly. I don't cook as you found out once. But you, you can
turn anything into the best meal anyone would ever want."

Snapping her fingers in front of the woman's face Gabrielle said, "Me to Xena, are you in there
somewhere? I have to say whatever Canna said or did for you has seemed to produce miracles.
Xena what is going on?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "I thought this is what you wanted? I can't be what you want and
when I try, you become suspicious."

Shaking her head Gabrielle said, "No, you are wrong. I love you and it is wonderful to see you as
you have been. And I will always care."

She had been gazing around the room at the other customers. Her eyes had taken in the table near
them. Several men and one woman had been carrying on a conversation and their words were
now becoming louder. She and Xena glanced toward them as one of the men stood and yelled,
"I'll not have you looking at him like that!" His right hand struck the woman across her face, the
blow knocked her from the chair onto the floor. In an instant, Xena was standing before the man.
She grabbed his right arm and twisted it behind him as she said, "Never hit a woman, you
bastard!" Her grip was so powerful it took the man to the floor.

Gabrielle was beside the woman as she said, "Xena, it's not your problem."

The eyes that shot at the woman were filled with hate as Xena's left fist struck the man knocking
him to the floor. She reached down, grabbed the front of his shirt and raised him as her fist lashed
out again. The woman he had struck was screaming at Xena but the woman was bent on
destruction. She was kneeling over the man as her fists plummeted onto his body. Gabrielle had
screamed at the woman but Xena ignored her. Finally she jumped on Xena's back. The weight on
the woman's back threw her off balance and the two of them landed on the floor. Gabrielle was
on her back as she looked up to see the steel look in her friend's eyes as she raised her fist and
sent it toward the bard's face. Gabrielle screamed as she reached up to stop the fist from hitting
her. "Xena! Gods it's me Gabrielle!"

Realizing what she was doing, the woman stared down at the look of horror on her friend's face.
She muttered, "Gabrielle?"

Helping Gabrielle get up she stared at the limp man on the floor and the woman that was crying
over his body. She looked at Gabrielle asking, "What happened?"

Placing an arm around the woman's waist she answered, "I'll tell you later, for now, let me get you
up to our room."

The people watched the two walk up the stairs as the man at the bar ran to help the injured man.

Chapter Eight

As they entered the first room at the top of the stairs, Gabrielle shut the door and said, "What got into you down there?"

Xena walked away from the woman. She sat on a chair setting near the small wooden table.
Raising her eyes to her friend she said, "I'm so sorry, I--are you all right?"

Nodding as she walked toward the table she answered, "Just shook." Reaching down she
touched Xena's face with her left hand. Xena's eyes showed remorse as the woman whispered,
"I remember the man hitting the woman, nothing else, until you screamed and I almost hit you."
Xena struck out at the bottle that was setting on the table sending it flying across the room.

Gabrielle walked over and picked up the pieces as she said, "It won't do you any good to take
out your anger on a bottle. Tell me Xena, what is happening to you?"

The woman shook her head as she moaned, "I don't know, I could never hurt you, you are my life
Gabrielle. I must leave you, before I injure you."

The bard's blue green eyes shot fire as she replied, "We've been there Xena and you are stuck
with me. If you hurt me, it would be because you are not yourself. It is my choice, I know what
the consequences might be." She had dumped the remnants of the bottle into a pot, then turned
and walked back toward Xena.

The woman was sitting, her face was still, except for the tears that streamed down it. Gabrielle
dropped to her knees as her left arm found its way around the woman's back, she placed her
head on Xena's lap. Gazing down at the strawberry blond, she felt words catching in her throat.
Reaching out to stroke the woman's hair, she managed to say, "How can you still love me after
what I have done?"

Raising her head, her eyes met the woman's. Gabrielle answered, "We are one, and when you are
in pain so am I. Xena, I thank you for every day you give me and every day to come. I do not like
your anger, but I know in there somewhere lies a woman with a gentle heart. I want to help you
find that woman once more."

Xena reached down and said, "Dear sweet Gabrielle I will never know why you have chosen to
stay with me but I will--whatever it takes, I know with you by my side, things will get better."

Xena was standing and had helped Gabrielle to her feet. Her right hand caressed the bard's face
as she said, "Thank you."

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the woman as Xena pulled her into a warm embrace.
Suddenly, there was a loud pounding on the door. Xena's body froze and at the same time,
Gabrielle touched her and said, "It's all right, I'll go see who it is, relax."

The woman's eyes were darting toward the door as she nodded and watched Gabrielle walk
toward it.

When Gabrielle left the room, Xena became apprehensive but her trepidation was relieved when
the woman reappeared. Gabrielle walked toward her as Xena asked, "Who was it?"

"The Tavern owner, he came to tell me that the man you pummeled is going to turn you in. I paid
the man for the room, and damages. We have to go."

A look of surprise shown on Xena's face as she said, "Go? Why?"

Grabbing the woman by her right hand she replied, "Because, I can't stand seeing them put you in
some cell and I might just be joining you. Xena, don't ask any questions, let's just go."

Grabbing the saddle bag the woman said, "All right, let's go out the window, Argo is at the corral,
we can pick her up on the way out."

They rode until they had left the village far behind. Gabrielle had been hugging Xena as the mighty
palomino ran like the wind was after them. She sighed when Xena reined the horse in and stopped
near running water. Sliding down she said, "I don't know how you do it, but there seems to be
water handy."

As the woman's feet touched the ground she smiled and said, "It's Argo, she is spoiled, loves
sweet grass and her own fountain near by. "

"Yeah." Gabrielle's remark, followed by her grin, seemed to prompt the horse to nuzzle
the woman. She laughed and said, "I swear, Argo you seem to be getting smarter every day."

Xena had removed the saddle, blanket and bridle. She carefully laid them down and said, "If you
see any twigs, we could start a fire."

Reaching out, she grasped the woman's left arm and said, "It's nice out, a fire might attract

Xena gazed around as she said, "It is late, most people are asleep, we will build a fire."

Shrugging her shoulders she started to look for pieces of kindling. Soon their camp held a warm
glow to it. Gabrielle had laid out the blankets and was sitting on one as she gazed at Xena. The
woman had been busy with the horse and was now walking toward her. As she neared, she gazed
at the woman and the two blankets, then easing herself to the ground she sat and said, "Have to
admit it, this is a lot better than that room."

Xena went to remove her boots as Gabrielle reached over and said, "Let me."

The woman's blue eyes met Gabrielle's as she said, "I can do it."

The bard had already pulled one off and was removing the other as she said, "So can I." Before
Xena could reach up to unbuckle her breastplate, the woman's fingers were already doing this.
"Let me feel useful. You have had a hard time of it."

As Gabrielle went to set the breastplate on the ground, Xena reached up and grabbed her hand as
she said, "Come here." Her grip was gentle as she eased Gabrielle toward her. Gabrielle stared at
the woman and asked, "What? Did I do something wrong?"

The glow from the fire played across the woman's face as she answered, "No, but it's time I did
something right." Slowly bringing her hands up, she grasped the blouse Gabrielle wore and pulled
it from the waist of her pants. Her fingers slowly began to loosen the leather that crisscrossed the
front of it.

Gabrielle's body trembled and a low moan emitted from her throat. "Xe . . .  Xena, do you . . . "

Her quivering hands found their way under the garment as they slowly raised the material.
Gabrielle's eyes grew wide as she watched the woman. Thinking it was a dream but loving every
second of it as Xena whispered, "Shh." She lowered her head and placed a soft kiss on the erect
nipple that was taunting the woman. Argo nickered and began to move restlessly bringing the
woman back to their surroundings. She stopped what she was doing and picked up her sword.
Standing, she stared down at the form of this beautiful woman and said, "Again, I have to say sorry."

She turned and crept from the camp. Gabrielle never even heard the woman, as she disappeared
from sight.

Much later, when Xena strode back into camp, the fire had died and she could see Gabrielle was
laying down. The woman seemed fast asleep. She set her sword near and laid down beside the
woman. Closing her eyes, she prayed for sleep.

Gabrielle was having those strange dreams once more as she moaned and muttered. Her words
never were clear enough for Xena to know who or what she was talking about. It seemed lately
they both were fighting some sort of dream seeker.

Opening one eye, Xena listened but the woman didn't say anything more. She pulled the blanket
up tighter as she closed her eyes hoping to get some sleep.

She had been laying on a blanket, her eyes closed as she listened to the waves crashing on the
rocks below. It was a warm day and the short pants and loose blouse she wore was well suited
for such a day. Sea had taken her knife to several pair of breeches. Cutting them just below the
knee. She had told Gabrielle, they would be great when the two were walking the surf. The
woman had talked Gabrielle into a picnic and it really didn't take much convincing. She was loving
the island and definitely loving this woman.

The soft words drifted down to her, "I have finally passed over, for I am in heaven."

Opening her eyes, she gazed up at the tall woman. She was standing near, her emerald green's
were twinkling down at her. Gabrielle smiled up at the woman and said, "You have passed over
all right. Sea what are you up to?"

Dropping to her knees the woman tossed her head as the flaming hair glided upon her shoulders.
Leaning over she brought her head down and placed a gentle kiss on the woman's lips.

A mischievous smile crept across her lips as she said, "You just look too comfortable there. Is this
the way it will be when we are older? You will get your stomach full, and go to sleep." She grinned and continued, "While you are satisfied with a good meal, you will leave me wanting the main course."

Reaching up Gabrielle placed her right hand behind Sea's neck and pulled the woman down.
She felt herself falling on the woman and said, "Oh I think I can grow to like this commanding
effort of yours."

Laughing, Gabrielle wrapped her legs around the woman and easily threw her onto her back.
Straddling the woman, she gazed down at her, a wide grin on her face she replied, "Commanding
effort huh?"

Sea reached up to touch Gabrielle's face at the same time Gabrielle grasped both of the woman's
hands and pinned them to the ground. Bringing her head down, her lips traveled the woman's face
with ease stopping to savor her moist lips. Sea lay still, enjoying the woman's attentions, moving
her body sensually under Gabrielle.

Beaming down at the woman she said, "I love you Ann Bounty."

Sea grasped that moment to turn the tables on the woman and soon Gabrielle found herself on the
bottom. The woman's fingers began to tickle Gabrielle's sides as she screamed with laughter. Sea
stared down at the woman, tears stained her cheeks as she asked, "Do you still?"

Smiling, "Even if you tickle me till I pass out. You will not get rid of me that easy."

Falling onto her side, Sea gazed at Gabrielle and said, "Never, I never want to see you leave me."

Gabrielle was on her side now, and the two were staring into one another's eyes. Sea moved
effortlessly and within moments she had placed a long succulent kiss on the woman's lips.
Gabrielle was still and Sea drew back slowly, "What is wrong?"

Gabrielle answered, "It's just too right." Her right hand pushed Sea back as her own body
followed the woman. It was a beautiful sight, the two breathtaking women high on that cliff,
their bodies entwined as if they were one.

Later as they lay side by side, Sea's arm around Gabrielle as the woman lay nestled on her
shoulder, she whispered, "Gabrielle?"

Gazing up at her, the woman's blue green eyes full of warmth and a hand caressing Sea's breasts,
she asked, "What?"

Placing a hand on Gabrielle's she said, "Is there a heaven on the other side? I ask that because I
know I am there when I look into your eyes."

Gabrielle sighed as she answered, "I think we are there. Nothing can ever equal the love we have
for one another."

Opening her eyes she stared around, her eyes searching for Xena. The woman was nowhere in
sight and she quickly got to her feet. "Xena!"

The tall woman walked into the clearing, she was leading the horse, saddled and ready to go.
Seeing Gabrielle she smiled and said, "You look refreshed today, I take it you had a nice dream."

Shrugging her shoulders Gabrielle answered, "I don't know, how about you, did you have a restful

Xena placed the reins over Argo's head as she said, "Nothing I have not had lately. When I
returned, you seemed to be having a moving dream."

Slipping into her boots, Gabrielle said, "Did you find anything? I tried to stay awake for you but
the weariness of my body seemed too win out."

Xena had been picking up a few things as she said, "Nothing. We should be back to the cave

Walking toward the woman Gabrielle said, "I will look forward to that. Did Canna give you
anything that would help you?"

Xena nodded and said, "She gave me some powder, said to mix it with water or tea and drink it."
Noticing the look Gabrielle was giving her she said, "All right, she said it would help ease the fear
I am having."

Tongue in cheek, Gabrielle said, "Like making love to me or me you?"

Nodding the woman said, "Didn't work. Let's go."

Gabrielle grabbed the woman's left arm and said, "Xena, don't. If we cannot be together like we
were, I don't want to even think it is because of some powder your friend gave you."

Xena grinned as she said, "Sometimes, I see more green in those eyes than usual." She threw
herself onto the saddle and held out her left hand as she said, "Come on, your legs may hurt but
we need to make good time. Besides, I want you up here with me."

Shaking her head, Gabrielle replied, "I want to walk for a bit. If you feel the need to go on ahead
of me go, I'll catch up to you, after all, I know where you are headed."

Shaking her head Xena muttered, "I don't know where you have found this stubborn streak." The
bard wasn't moving and she finally said, "I'll meet you at Twin Rocks." Gabrielle nodded as the
woman prodded the horse away. She watched until Xena was out of sight, then she gazed around
for the woman's footprints. It didn't take her long to find them as she followed Xena's tracks from
the night before into the forest. Stopping when she saw the bodies. Walking toward them, she felt
her breath catch in her throat as she neared. She had seen the same men in the tavern. Though
their swords were drawn, it looked like they never had a chance. The devastation Xena had
delivered the worse she had seen in a long time. Gabrielle didn't even have to check for signs of
life. It was obvious that had been taken away from the men by deadly force.

Turning away, she ran to catch up with her friend.

Nearing the place she and Xena called Twin Rocks, she looked for the woman. She didn't have
to search very far because the warrior was stretched out on one the large flat rocks. Her eyes
stared at the path and glimmered when she saw Gabrielle walk into view.

Gabrielle waved as she neared. "You look comfortable. I hope you didn't have to wait for long."

Shaking her head she answered, "Just got here. From the look of your face, I would say you have
been running. Come, sit up here with me." She was holding up the water skin as she continued,
"Water is good and you could use some."

Finding toe holds in the rocks, it didn't take the woman long to make it up to where Xena sat. She
grasped the water skin and said, "The forest is beautiful."

 Taking a long drink she heard Xena ask, "Did you find the bodies?"

Setting the water skin down, she stared at the woman and said, "You knew?"

Xena looked away, "I knew your curiosity wouldn't be settled until you looked for yourself."

Swallowing, she said, "It was . . .  Did you have to . . . "

The woman's words were cold, "Kill them, yes, they were going to wait and try to ambush us. I
just got the advantage. Seems that man I hit at the tavern has posted a reward for us."

Sighing, Gabrielle replied, "Wouldn't be the first time. I know you told me you found nothing, and
you are right in your thinking, I had to see for myself." Xena's look had warmed as she
asked, "And now that you have?"

Shrugging she said, "They are not my problem, but you are my life and I worry about what is
happening to you, to us."

"I wish I had an answer, but I don't. I have already told you to leave me."

Leaning back on her hands, she gazed at Xena and said, "And I have already told you, 'no.' They
were gazing at the beauty of the land. The rugged landscape had given in to tall trees and vegetation.
In the distance they could see "Lake Past" and the area they would now be going into was mostly
rock. Their home wasn't far, they could rest there and reconnoiter. Xena laid back on the rock as
Gabrielle said, "You seem to know I have been having unsettling dreams. Xena, what would you
say if I told you I had been in an alternate world."

Xena wrinkled her brow and said, "I would say you have had a little too much sun."

"All right then, how about I told you I had made love with someone other than you?"

The woman shot up, her light blue eyes turned stormy as she growled, "Tell me who, and I
will deal with it!"

Holding out her right arm, she touched Xena and said, "This is just a supposition, what if this
woman was an exact look alike of you?"

Laughing now, Xena said, "Had me going for a few minutes. You." She pointed to Gabrielle, "Me."

Gabrielle smiled as she nodded.

Xena smiled, "The two of us together in an alternate world. And it's not me?"

Shaking her head Gabrielle said, "No, it is, but it isn't."

Reaching out she ran her hand through Gabrielle's hair, and said, "Then I would say you
have been in the henbane again or something even stronger. It is a ridiculous thought. There
could never be anyone that resembled me."

The quiet was chilling as she finally asked, "This fictitious person, was she good?"

Enjoying this Gabrielle said, "Her kiss's were soft, yet driven." Noticing the look of anger on
Xena's face she said, "Xena nothing happened. I just wanted to take your mind off everything."

Xena rumbled, "Well that won't do it. Knowing the demons I am fighting, you come up with
another me to satisfy your desires."

Gabrielle realized she had gone too far as she said, "I'm sorry. It never happened and I haven't
conjured up another you, Gods, one of you is plenty."

Tapping her on the shoulder the woman said, "Let's go, we need to talk someplace else and the
sooner we get home the better."

They rode the rest of the way in silence. Gabrielle hugging up against Xena's back as the woman
stared ahead, her mind mulling over what the bard had said. Without knowing it she
snapped, "Ridiculous!"

Gabrielle asked, "What's ridiculous?"

Shaking her head Xena said, "The lengths you will go to sidetrack me. Another Xena." She
laughed as Gabrielle smiled and hugged the woman tighter.

Chapter Nine

The two had been back for several days. Xena's moods still went from hot too cold and Gabrielle
was beginning to wonder if there was anyway to bring the woman back to what she once was.
Canna had sent instructions with Xena. She had a set schedule she wanted the woman to follow.
And Gabrielle had been doing all she could to see the woman adhered to it. Trying to get Xena to
comply with anything, was a job all its own.

When Gabrielle had told her they needed to work on some of the exercises Canna suggested, the
woman said she had to go see to Argo. If it wasn't this, the woman would always come up with
some excuse for not doing them.

A cooing sound could be heard as Gabrielle looked up to see their pigeon, Free, fly into the
room. The bird circled several times before it landed on Gabrielle's waiting arm. She smiled as she
stroked it and said, "Back already, you look like you managed the flight well." Her eyes spotted
the piece of parchment secured to the birds left leg. Carefully removing it, she took Free to a cage
and placed her in it.

Unrolling the message her eyes fell on the beautiful scribing of a woman she was beginning to miss
more each day.

Hello you two,

Got your message and am happy you have made it home. Hope all is well with you.

You didn't have to thank me Xena, I was happy to oblige.

I wish for you both, warm winds and smooth sailing.


Her fingers caressed the letters. Gabrielle often wondered just how someone could turn two
letters into the beautiful inditing that she touched. Sea would connect them in such a way it seemed
they were flowing into one another and became one. Her trademark rose was attached by the
swirl that followed the B.

Setting the message on a wooden table, she walked toward the fire. Xena had been gone for
awhile and she decided to fix their evening meal. She had just set a pot near the coals, hoping the
tea would be ready before the woman returned. Sitting, she stared at the cavern. She was
beginning to think she couldn't control her own thoughts, because, lately she had been having
dreams of places she had never been and seeing people she never knew. The alternate Xena she
had teased her friend about had come to her in pieces of dreams. She and Sea being in love and
actually loving one another, more fragments from her restless dreams. Gabrielle had no idea what
these visions meant. She was trying to help Xena bring herself back to reality and while doing this,
she seemed to be slipping into a very unreal dreamscape.

She had just checked the stew. Approaching the bed, she sat and it was at this time, images of her
and a lizard moved before her. She hated reptiles and had no use for lizards. Although she had
never seen one, she had no desire to. This one seemed to like her and was laying on her lap.
Shaking her head she screamed, "Go away!"

The tepid voice rang out, "You have finally come to your senses."

Looking up, she saw Xena walking toward her. She jumped to her feet and said, "Oh no, not you
Xena, the dreams that won't leave me even when I am awake."

The woman's eyes gazed past her toward the fire. Reaching out she touched Gabrielle with her
right hand and said, "Something smells good."

Gabrielle answered, "It's just some stew I put together. Fixed a new pot of tea."

Xena walked toward the fire, and seeing a blanket laying on the ground, she sat. Gabrielle
followed and said, "How's Argo?"

Nodding her head, she said, "Fine, that horse gets smarter every time I see her."

With a twinkle in her eyes, Gabrielle said, "You might be just a little prejudice where Argo is
concerned. Though, she is a smart horse."

Xena watched as Gabrielle sat beside her. When the woman was settled, she asked, "You
mention visions, want to tell me what they contain?"

Shaking her head, Gabrielle said, "They are mixed up and contain places I know I have never
been. I don't want to confuse you with anything more than you already are. We need to talk about
your exercises."

Shrugging her shoulders, Xena barked, "No need. I will not become some pet, you lead around."

Her face set and determined, she moved in front of Xena, her hands reached out and grasped the
woman's shoulders as she said, "I feel that right now, my touch causes you to cringe. We need to
work on this. I would never hurt you, you must know that."

Nodding her head, she brought her eyes down to meet the woman's and said, "I know. It will take
awhile for me to accept a closeness."

Gabrielle's blue green eyes didn't move from Xena's stare as she said, "I think it is time we did
some of the exercises. Why even go see the woman, if you are not going to follow her

Xena laughed, "Because it would be the blind leading the blind. Canna is just guessing."

Not one to be deterred, Gabrielle said, "It's better than what you had. Xena, if I am not worth
your working toward . . . "

The warrior grumpily said, "Do it. But if this backfires, don't blame me."

Smiling, Gabrielle said, "I won't. First, I get you some tea."

Xena watched the woman walk toward the pot of tea and pour some into a mug. Turning she
walked back to her and said, "Here, drink this. Do you want any powder in it?"

Shaking her head the woman said, "No, I can't depend on powder all my life. Come sit by me."

Gabrielle watched the woman sip the tea, finally she asked the question that had been bothering
her all day. "Xena, tell me about the woman Asterea. Just how does she figure in this, I mean
beside being your captor? "

Xena shot back, "Besides being my captor, if you are ever unfortunate to be in her domain, wish
to die and soon."

Reaching out to touch Xena's right arm, she said, "She must have done more than . . . "

Jumping to her feet, Xena yelled, "Forget it, let's get on with this exercise!"

Holding up her hand she said, "Then take my hand and come back down here."

Gabrielle's face was so trusting, her eyes so warm and when the woman smiled, Xena felt all
reserve going. She sat beside her and said, "I've read the instructions, and don't think this will
work. I know who you are, I know you will not hurt me, there are times my body cries for what
we had. But, it won't let me."

Gabrielle softly whispered, "Then let me lead you. It will be slow. I promise, the first thing we
need to do is . . . "

Xena was facing her now and she interrupted, "Do you really think I will let you undress me?"

Her smile warm as she answered, "Yes, you know I won't beat you, I won't hurt you. If by
removing our clothes, it will enable you to get past the barrier you seem to have, it's worth the

Xena scoffed, "It will just make it worse. I will see what I can't seem to have and the way I have
been acting lately, liable to hurt you."

Gabrielle walked toward the saddlebag. She held up the pouch Canna gave the woman and said,
"Then I think it is definitely time for a dash of this."

Xena stood as she said, "I like to be aware."

Reaching out to touch the woman's face, Gabrielle whispered, "You will be, a small amount will
not erase anything, except it might make you more receptive. I don't relish dodging your blows

Grinning, Xena answered, "I don't know, you are getting pretty good at it. All right, put a bit in the
tea. I'll drink it and we will see what develops."

The muscular man stood tall as he gazed at the beautiful blonde. His fingers playing with the hair
on his chin, he smiled.

The woman's eyes glared at him as she said, "I still don't understand why you are doing this to

His voice rang out, "Xena chose to leave me, she has taunted and made a fool of me time after
time. I think it is now time she gets a taste of what she deals out."

Aphrodite tossed her golden mane and said, "I think it is mean."

He laughed, "You really didn't think the God of War was going to lie down and play dead, did

She moved with ease, letting the thin garment she wore loosely, find its way onto her body.
Glancing down at the two women, she could see they were each oblivious of anything else at that
moment except one another. "They love one another, can't you see what this is doing to their

He glanced down. Gabrielle was helping Xena out of her leathers. The muscles on his jaws tensed
as he scowled, "I used to do that! Now, she has that good for nothing blond doing her biding. I
will see they both pay."

Aphrodite touched his arm as she said, "Zeus has let you go this far, he won't let you go any

Turning to glare at the woman he said, "Won't have to, enough has been set in motion. They will
destroy the rest all by themselves."

Aphrodite threw up her hands as she said, "Guess you have never been in love, except with death
and destruction. Their love will hold. So go ahead with your little game, in the end, love will win

He clicked his fingers as Sea and Gina came into view. "There, there is the reason it will fail. Ann
Bounty, the woman lives and breathes for Gabrielle, now it is time to turn the tables. Maybe Xena
and the irritating blond are trying to get it on but I will see that a certain red head is also thrown
into the pot."

Aphrodite smiled, "We'll see about that, I think you under estimate these mortals. Tell me, if I win,
will you pay up?"

His eyes focused on the two women that were caressing one another, their bodies shone with
desire as he said, "I'll let them think they are succeeding." He turned to gaze at Aphrodite but the
woman had disappeared. Shrugging, he snapped his fingers and was gone in a puff of smoke.

Sea had been out to the corral checking on The Black. The horse was more beautiful now than
before. The woman, Gina, had done a good job caring for the animal. Time had past and the two
women were more at ease with one another now. Neither ever spoke again about Gina's
hardship. Although Sea had to admit, she thought about it quite a bit. This beautiful woman, so
fragile had been through a lot and, if not for the woman Asterea, she would have met her maker
that day. Not that Sea wanted to thank Asterea but the fates did allow the woman to intervene
that day. And fate that Gina was able to slip away. She had no doubt in her mind that the woman
would probably have done the same thing the man was going to do. For some reason she had
been unable to rid Gina of the fear of these pirates coming after her. Gina told Sea every day she
feared they would find her. And each day Sea would assure her there was no way. She was safe
on Spoon Island.

Now walking into the corral she stepped up to the hand pump and placing a bucket under the
spout she began to pump water into it. After it was full, she removed it, bent over and let the
water fall into her mouth, enjoying the coolness of the liquid. When she was finished, she picked
up the bucket and went back into the house. She was going to surprise Gina and make a pot of
tea. Gina had gone down to the springs. Sea thought that was a good idea. The woman had been
so tense she felt that the warmth of the springs would ease her body. She didn't know how the
woman would take it if she went at the same time and she had some things she needed to do
around the place.

She needed to talk to Gina about going with her to her family home. She figured by now her
mother was probably worried sick. Actually she was surprised the woman hadn't shown up
looking for her. Gazing at the table, she looked at the coconuts that were setting there. Gina loved
coconut and the woman had insisted upon getting these herself. Sea had worried as she watched
her climb the tree and was relieved when the woman returned to the ground. Putting some water
near the fire to heat, she was beginning to think she might go look for Gina, the woman had been
gone for sometime. She was probably finished by now and if not, maybe she might not mind if Sea
joined her. Sea was just starting to head for the door, and it was then the door opened, she could
see Gina standing there as she smiled, "You're back, I was just beginning to get worried."

As the woman stepped into the room, she was followed by three brawny men. One had placed an
arm around Gina's throat and was holding a knife to the woman's side.

Sea glared at them, "Who are you? And what are you doing with her?  Release the woman!"

The man holding Gina laughed, "Looks like we have all the cards, now be a nice little girly and
don't give us any trouble."

Sea was walking backwards and stopped as she touched the table. The men were fully into the
room and were standing staring at this brazen woman. Gina cried as the man put pressure on her
and snarled, "Tell your friend to give it up and I might not kill you."

Gina's face was filled with fear as the woman stammered, "He . . .  He means it!"

Sea threw up her hands and said, "Fine by me boys, I definitely don't want any trouble." A
toothless grin roamed his face as he said, "That's better," nodding to the other men, "don't just
stand there, take the woman!"

They started toward her and at the same time, reaching back she grabbed two coconuts. Both
hands shot out firing them at the men's heads, knocking them out instantly. The man that had a grip
on Gina started to curse and it was then he saw the woman's front feet heading for his face as she
yelled, "Gina, move your head!" The woman barely shifted as the woman's boots made contact
sending him falling backwards. Gina fell to the side and Sea landed nearby. The air had been
knocked from her and she staggered to get up. Gina could see the man Sea had struck was back
on his feet and was now heading for Sea. Rushing to the hearth she grabbed a frying pan and
quickly hit the man over the head. He crumbled to the floor.

Sea was on her feet by now, her eyes taking in the look of shock on the woman's face as Gina
stood staring down at the crumpled bodies. Walking over to her, she reached out and took the
frying pan from Gina's death grip and said, "Thanks, you swing a mean pan."

Releasing her hold on the pan she gazed up at Sea and muttered, "They, he . . . "

"You are right, they did not just come to pay their respects. Looks like pirates, probably from the
ship you were on."

Gina walked toward the table and finding a chair sat. Still staring at the men she said, "You keep
telling me they wouldn't find their way here. Well there are some of them and the others probably
aren't far behind. I have to leave."

Sea had been checking the men's pockets and was now standing, she frowned at Gina and said,
"Nonsense! If they are here or will be, we just won't. It is time we went home, to my home.
Mother will know what to do and it will give me the opportunity to have you meet her."

Gina's eyes were on the coconuts as she said, "Anyone ever tell you, that you are fast?"

Smiling at the woman she answered, "I've been told I am fast in a lot of things, but slaying men like
these, no."

"Well you are, I barely got out of the way. What are we going to do with them?"

Sea gazed down at the men and said, "I'll take care of that. Help me get them out to the corral. I
think with the help of Black and a litter I can easily get them away from here."

Once they were standing at the corral Gina watched Sea toss two of the men over the back of the
horse she said, "I think this one lives."

Sea walked toward Gina, reaching down she picked the limp body up and placed the man on the
litter. "I'll see they are taken care of."

Gina reached out and grasped her arm as she said, "You are going to, to dispose of them aren't

Placing a hand on the woman's, her emerald green eyes filled with warmth she said, "I am going to
do with them what they would have with us. Don't worry, just go in and close the door and don't
let anyone in unless it is me."

Gina nodded as she watched the woman walk away, leading the horse. Sea called back, "I will be
hungry when I return, soon."

When Sea was out of sight, she walked back into the house. Picked up the coconuts and
surveying them she was moved as she said, "Sea, you amaze me more each day. I never have
seen anyone throw anything with the speed you just did." Taking the coconuts, she placed them
back on the table. She went over and removed the steaming pot of water from the hearth. After
making a mug of tea, she sat back down. Her eyes gazing around the room, it was a modest
room, but the essence of Ann Bounty was everywhere. In her village she had heard many tales of
this fiery haired pirate and most had been bad, or, what some might call bad. It was the
adventures and the woman's love for life that first made Gina want to meet this woman. All the
time knowing it could never be. Her sister had told her at one time, 'Rid your mind of thoughts of
ever meeting this Ann Bounty, unless you want to end up at the end of her cutlass or worse.'

The Ann Bounty she had grown to hear about was not the woman so many had depicted to her.
This woman was warm, caring and held a great capacity to love, even if a woman named
Gabrielle couldn't seem to see it. Taking a sip of the tea she thought, though Sea was caring, she
knew this woman could turn just the opposite if given the right circumstances. Leaning back in her
chair, she felt a wave of uneasiness and knew it was because she had been hoping Ann would not
be gone long.

Gina had paced the room many times and each time she would stop at the door as if waiting and
listening. She was worried about the woman, although Sea could take care of herself, that was
pretty evident, Gina still worried about her. This tall woman who had the strength of ten men, if
not more, seemed to have a weak spot. Even though Sea didn't like to admit it, the woman cared.
Gina smiled as she whispered, "Ann Bounty you are unlike any pirate I have ever heard of. You
just might give pirates a good name."

Chapter Ten

Reining the Black in, Sea patted the woman's left hand with hers and said, "Won't be long now.
As soon as we clear this crop of trees, the home will come into view."

Gina's soft voice was clear as she said, "Could we rest?"

Nodding, she reached back and helped the woman dismount. Within seconds she was standing
by Gina. Tethering the horse to a tree branch, she pointed to a large tree stump and
suggested, "Let's sit."

Smiling, Gina began to stretch her legs answering, "If it is all the same to you, I would like to
stand. My legs think I am being cruel to them."

Sea walked toward the tree stump and sat. She grinned as she watched Gina walk around the
The woman was now doing stretching movements, it was then Sea called out, "You and Gabrielle
might have more in common than you think. She never did like to ride and seemed to have the
same problem you are experiencing."

Turning her attention toward the woman, Gina smiled, "Guess you have to ride them a lot to get
over the soreness."

Nodding, Sea answered, "It's like most things, the more you do them the easier it becomes. Black
is an unusual animal, he doesn't take to many people. Besides me, mother has been the only one
he really tolerates. Seems the horse is quite fond of you." Getting to her feet, she walked to the
horse and removed the water skin. Walking toward Gina she said, "Here, better drink some
water, it has been a long ride and from the looks of your face, you could use it."

Looking up at the sky Gina agreed, "It does seem to be an unusually hot day, I am a little thirsty."

Handing the water skin to her, Sea said, "I know you are getting nervous, don't be, mother is a
dear and she will take you into the home like an old friend. Trust me."

Gina's light brown eyes had been searching for some comfort and upon hearing Sea's words, she
beamed, "I can hardly wait to meet her, she sounds so wonderful." A far off look had appeared in
the woman's eyes and Sea placed her right hand on Gina's shoulder. "We will find them, your
parents. And before you say it, if something has happened, we will cross that road together."

The dimples in the woman's face radiated when she smiled. "You are so unlike anyone I have ever

The Black nickered and drew her attention away for a moment then Ann replied, "I hope that is

Handing the water skin back to Sea she nodded. "Oh definitely, I'm sorry you felt the need to try
to leave this life, but it did give me the opportunity to meet you."

Sea was seeming uneasy as she shifted from one foot to the other  finally saying, "There is still
some daylight left, what say you and I get home."

Sea had enjoyed the ride in and definitely enjoyed having Gina hugging so close to her back. Until
she met this enchanting woman, she felt empty inside. All she felt was hurt and loss, now, she had
been feeling like a young woman. One who suddenly became aware of her feelings toward
another. It was almost like the first time and she wasn't quite sure how to handle these new

Gina whispered in her left ear, "Is that it?"

Stopping the horse, Sea turned her head and said, "Home." Her eyes gazed into Gina's and the
woman knew their lips were close. She could feel the woman's breath on them and quickly turned
away. "Then let's not tarry any longer. There is a warm bath, and many wondrous things awaiting

Gina lay her head against the Sea's back as the horse trotted toward the sprawling domain.

Several people watched the beautiful black horse high step its way toward the corral. Their eyes
were glued on the regal woman that sat the animal like she was born to it. Their eyes would dart
from Ann to the woman that was riding behind her. Reining the horse in, Ann gazed around
at them and as she helped Gina down her eyes darted toward the house. She was waiting for her
mother to appear and when the woman didn't she felt a wave of sickness in the pit of her stomach.
Quickly jumping to the ground she handed the Black's reins to a man and said, "See he is cared

He nodded as she reached out and grasped Gina's right hand in her left and said, "Come on, let's
go meet mother."

Gina smiled up at her and sighed, "This is nice."

Sea appeared to act like a child showing her best friend her favorite toy. A look of pride shown
on the woman's face. "Mother likes it, and I am all for whatever mother likes. After all, she likes

Gina laughed as she squeezed Sea's hand. "One would have to be made of stone not to."

The two women bounded through the back door with Sea pulling Gina along all the time calling
out, "Mother! Mother, your daughter is back and she has brought a guest!"

Stopping to gaze around the rooms, she turned to Gina and said, "Something is wrong, mother
would have been out to the corral when we rode in unless she was sick, and Alexia is nowhere in

Releasing Gina's hand, she urged, "Stay right there, I'm going to find out where mother is."

Nodding, she watched Ann dash off. Turning to gaze at the lovely room, she walked toward a
high-backed chair and sat. She was enjoying the softness of the chair and soon found her aches
giving in to sleep. "Who are you?!" A shrill woman's voice rang out, sending Gina straight up in the
chair. Her eyes wide with fear as she stared at the thin woman that was now holding a sword in
her right hand. Gina sputtered, "Frie . . . I'm a friend."

The woman's eyes were cold and her face hard. "Friend! I don't know you. How did you get in

The words came from behind the woman, "She came with me."

The woman turned to face Sea as she cried, "Mistress Ann, you've come home!"

Walking toward the woman, Sea reached out and took the sword. "Since when do you go around
scaring people with a sword. I thought you did all this in the kitchen?"

Managing a smile the woman said, "I apologize to your friend, but with what has happened . . ."

Sea set the weapon on a table and turned to scowl at the woman. "What has happened? I have
looked all over for mother, I can't find her or Alexia. Did they go looking for me?"

The woman was trembling by now as she stammered, "N . . . No . . . They are gone."

Ann's red hair was also a catalyst for her temper and within moments she had grabbed the woman
and demanded, "What do you mean gone? Tell me where they are now!"

Gina was on her feet as she approached Ann. "You're hurting her, Sea."

Realizing what she was doing, she released the woman. "All right Pagen, tell me, where is she?"

The woman was wringing her hands as she said, "They came, there were too many of them. No
one had a chance. They took Mistress Kiera and Alexia."

Pacing the room, Sea turned, her red hair flying about with ease."Who took them? Tell me now!"

Shrugging her shoulders she answered, "I, I don't know, but they left a message for you."

Sea watched the woman walk toward a table. She picked up a rolled parchment and brought it
with her. Handing it to Sea she said, "The tall woman, said to give this to the fiery redhead."

Sea's eyes gazed at the parchment as she slowly unrolled it.

 If you are reading this, then you are alive. Calico wanted you to know he does not forget
nor forgive treachery. He said to tell you if you want to see your mother alive again you
will come to Tunis. He will exchange her for you. Also, it seems you might be hiding
something that is mine and I want it back. A young woman, named Gina. If you are and
you know where she is, bring her too. I can't wait to deal out my sentence to the both of
you. That is after Calico tires of you. Asterea.

Sea crumbled the parchment in her hand, her knuckles turned white from the pressure she was
exerting on the document. Gina reached out and grasped her hand, "What is it? Sea, is your
mother all right?"

Sea gazed at the woman's hand on hers as she said, "No, she is in the woman Asterea's hands
and on her way to Tunis. It is a pirate capital and one I was at recently."

Gina took the parchment and began to read the scribing, when she was finished she asked, "What
are you going to do?"

Sea walked toward a cupboard and found her mothers private stock of port. "Want a drink? I
need something stiff right now."

Pagen walked toward her crying, "We couldn't stop them, I'm sorry."

Bottle in hand, she turned to gaze at the woman. "Why did they take Alexia?"

"Because she would not let Mistress Kiera go alone. We lost three men that day, they tried to
defend the women. Please try to forgive us."

Reaching out Sea placed her right hand gently on the side of the  woman's face."Nothing to
forgive. Will mother forgive me for running off like that. If I had been here, it might not have

Pagen answered, "It would have, but maybe they would have killed your mother and taken you
prisoner or both of you. Don't blame yourself child for something that could not be foreseen. I will
go get the two of you something to eat."

Sea waved the woman off, then went back to the bottle of port. Glancing at Gina she asked
again, "Sure you don't want any?"

Shaking her head the woman answered, "No, and I think it will do you no good to go and get
fuzzy headed. It won't bring your mother back."

Sea raised the bottle to her lips as she took a long drink. Turning to walk toward a chair she said,
"Don't look at me like that, I need it. I've been known to drink all bloody night and still do battle
the next day."

Gina didn't know how to handle the situation, she watched Sea down several bottles of port. The
woman had pulled her blouse from the waist of her pants and tossed her boots aside. The more
she drank the more Gina was worried. The woman she was viewing at that moment, was not the
kind woman she had grown to know. Sea was becoming moody and would lash out at anyone or
anything that would get in her way. Gina had left the room to look for the woman Sea called
Pagen. Finding her hovered in a corner of the kitchen she said, "It's all right, I won't hurt you and
neither will Ann, she is just hurt and is dealing with a lot. Try to avoid her thrusts and curses."

The woman nodded and said, "I prepared something for the two of you to eat." She pointed to
the table and the tray of food. The aromas it was giving off made Gina realize just how hungry she
was. Thanking the woman she told her she would take the tray of food in. Pagen was happy for
the reprieve.

Gina smiled as she entered the room. Ann was sitting as if in a trance. The empty bottle of port
hung from the hand that was dangling over the side of the chair. Walking toward a table she set
the tray and posed, "Come have something to eat. It will make you feel better."

Gina saw the glimmer and ducked as the empty bottle found its way toward her. She brought her
eyes toward Ann and muttered, "That was pretty stupid. You save my life and now try to kill me
with a bottle."

Sea staggered to her feet and said, "Reflex, sorry. Take the food away, I am not hungry."

Shaking her head, Gina ignored her. "Well, if you are going to go after your mother, I suggest you
try to eat."

Sea had finally weaved her way to the woman and was standing in front of her. "I will go after
them. First I have to dull the pain in my heart."

Gina was gazing into Sea's emerald green eyes, they were filled with hurt and anger. She reached
out and touched the woman with her right hand."I'm sorry.  I will go with you."

Sea staggered back a step. "No! You will stay here. I will not lose you also."

Seeming confused, she said, "Lose me also, it will not be. Whether you are up for it or not Ann
Bounty, my saving you and then you saving me, put us into one another's lives. I feel you know me
by now, take a good look in my eyes and know I will go with you."

Sea reached up and grasped Gina's hand in hers, slowly bringing it to her lips she placed a soft
kiss and said, "I know you are stubborn, but then so am I. I will not see you in that woman's
hands again." She felt her knees going out from under her as she fell. Gina wrapped her arms
around Sea's waist and let her fall against her, Sea's body glided down until she touched the floor.
Gina was on her knees staring into Sea's face."There is nothing you can say, for it looks like I
have you on your knees."

Gina saw the first stirring in the woman's eyes and within moments, tears fell like rain down Ann
Bounty's face. She collapsed against Gina and the woman held her close. Pagen had ventured into
the area and when she saw the two woman on the floor, she turned and made a hasty exit. Gina
held Ann until it seemed she couldn't cry anymore. She gazed down at the beautiful woman and
felt remorse for bringing all this upon her.

Pagen had re-entered the room and said, "I have prepared her room, she looks like she has gone
to sleep. Shall I have someone take her up?"

Gina smiled at the woman. "Tell me where her room is, I will see she gets there."

Nodding, the woman pointed and said, "It will be easy to find, go to the top of the stairs, the door
is open."

Gina thanked the woman then turned her attentions to Ann. She was going in and out of a restless
sleep and knew all to well it had a lot to do with the port she had recently drank. Patting Sea's
face she whispered, "Wake up, I have to get you to your room."

Opening one eye then the other, Sea muttered, "Leave me here. I seem to have a nice soft pillow."

"Uh huh, the pillow being me. Come on, let's get you to your feet."

It was a struggle but she did manage to get Ann to stand and with one arm around  her  waist and
Sea's left arm around Gina's neck, they started up the stairs. At first they took two steps and fell
back two but finally, they reached the top. Gina's eyes darted around looking for the open door
and soon spotted it.

Ann had asked, "Are we there yet?"

She held the woman tighter answering, "Almost, just a few more steps and we will be in your

Laying her head on Gina's, Sea smiled and whispered, "My room, you wouldn't do anything
unbecoming now would you?"

Spying the bed she helped the woman to it and after Ann was sitting, she answered, "You just
might not know me as well as you think. You need to rest, lay back close your eyes and if you
need anything, I will be close."

Sea had a good hold on Gina's hand. "Close, don't leave."

Dropping to her knees she said, "I won't, I'm afraid, the fates have played a hand in this and you
are stuck with me."

Smacking her lips as if she was trying to get the last drops of port from them Sea stared at Gina,
her eyes filled with the look of a child lost as she whispered, "Not stuck." She closed her eyes and
passed out.

Gina heard the footsteps come into the room and turned as she saw Pagen enter. The woman
stared at the two of them and said, "I see you actually got her up here. A little one like you, it
surprises me. If you want to go eat, there is food warmed in the kitchen and something to drink.
She will likely be sleeping it off for sometime."

Gina was standing and said, "I promised her I wouldn't leave."

Pagen smiled and said, "She will be fine, give me time to undress her and make her more
comfortable. Now go, she will still be here when you return."

Thanking the woman, she took one last look at Sea before leaving the room.

As Sea opened her eyes and glanced around the room her head ached and she could still feel
where the tears had fallen down her face. Cursing herself she sat up, and as the cover fell, she
realized she didn't have any clothes on. Tossing the cover aside, she swung her feet to the floor.
Placing her elbows on her knees, she cradled her aching head in her hands. Finally she managed
to get to her feet and walk toward a basin. Pouring water into it, she began to splash it onto her

"Uh . . . Ummm."

The sound of someone clearing their throat caused her to swirl around. Standing in the doorway
was Gina. The woman had raised her left eyebrow and the dimpled smile that set her cheeks
made Sea realize she was standing in front of the woman, and had nothing on. Placing her arms
over her breasts, she backed toward the bed as she stammered, "I, I didn't know."

Gina grinned. "I've seen them before, besides your blouses leave little to the imagination. I will
never understand why you are so coy when it comes to my seeing your body.  How are you
feeling?" Sitting back down on the bed, she grabbed the cover and wrapped it around her body.
Her eyes still seemed foggy. "I have been checking back off and on. Last time I came in, you
were still sleeping."

Seeming displeased with herself, Sea growled, "Passed out more likely. Sorry about that."

She walked over and sat beside Sea even when the woman gave her a look she wasn't sure of.
Finally she said, "Sea, get used to it. I am here, I will be here and no amount of barking will get rid
of me. I'd rather have you angry at me than not to ever know you."

Managing a smile, the woman patted Gina's hand. "Me too, I mean know you. I apologize if I did
or say anything that might have offended you."

Her eyes never leaving the woman's, she replied, "You didn't, not with me but I think that you
might have scared Pagen out of a few years of life."

"That bad huh?"

Gina nodded. "Oh yes, those coconuts have nothing on an empty bottle of port."

Getting to her feet, Ann began to pace the room. Finally stopping in front of Gina she said, "Sorry,
I am not always the woman with warmth and caring showing in her eyes, guess I have fallen from
your favor."

Tossing her head, Gina's hair played back and forth across her shoulders. Turning serious
she said, "You will always be the woman I know. I was not able to vent my anger at what
happened to my family. Your mother is alive, that much we know. This man will not harm her as
long as he thinks you will turn yourself over to him. He must know how important she is to you. I
am sorry I brought this down upon your family."

Becoming angry, Sea snapped, "You brought nothing down upon this family. The wheels were set
in motion long before you arrived here. Let me tell you what happened, when I am finished then
you tell me it was your doing."

Gina held out her hand and said, "Then take my hand and tell me, I want to know all there is to
know about you Ann Bounty."

Scoffing she sat beside the woman. "When I am finished, it might be too much. I can take it, if you
choose to leave and never even remember you met me."

Leaning back on her hands, she replied, "Nothing would ever make me want to leave, that is,
except you. When you tell me to leave, I will go."

A warm gentle look traveled the woman's face as she smiled at Gina, "Not likely, I was blessed
the day you entered my life and feel if you left, it would leave a darkness. So, don't go talking
about leaving. Now, let me tell you what happened."

When Sea finished relaying the adventure she and Gabrielle had recently been on, Gina stared at
her. Finally Sea asked, "What?  Say something."

Sitting up, Gina said, "They are both fortunate to know you. It was wonderful what the two of you
did. Still, this woman stayed with the woman Xena?"

Nodding, Sea answered, "They met before Gabrielle even knew me. I can understand it, but still
my body aches."  Noticing the look in Gina's eyes she added, "Sorry, something like that is not
your problem. Now, tell me this was your doing."

Shrugging her shoulders she said, "I guess it wasn't, but I still know it was my escape that brought
them to the island"

"No, they were already in the area and probably had plans to do this. Your capture seems to be
at the same time Gabrielle was told about the missing villagers. I have no idea where they were
taking you, or even why, except to satisfy Calico's warped mind."

Gina was standing as she said, "Pagen was telling me about a warm bath they have here, would
you like to join me."

Standing as she clutched the cover to her body, Sea seemed surprised and mumbled, "You, you
want to . . . In the same . . ."

Beaming at the woman's search for words, Gina said, "Take a bath with you in the same water.
My sister and I did it a lot. Saved water and I had someone to wash my back."

Feeling color creeping up her face Sea muttered, "You are talking to Ann Bounty here. I am not
your sister." Realizing what she said she quickly said, "I am sorry."

Gina reached out and touched Sea's right cheek. "Don't apologize, you didn't do it. Lena would
have loved you." Her eyes bright, the dimples deep as she smiled, "One thing though?"

Sea raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

The woman's hand touched the hand Sea clutched the cover with and said, "Have to get rid of
that, kind of hard bathing wrapped in a cover." Noticing Sea's embarrassment she added, "We
can discuss our plans to get your mother back, after you are feeling better."

Sea was at a loss for words as Gina grabbed her right hand and began to lead her from the room.



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