An Awakening - Part 4

by Hunter Ash

Disclaimers: I don't own Xena, Gabrielle, etc etc etc. This story is for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended. Don't bother suing me, it definitely wouldn't be worth the trouble.

Violence: light to none actually.

Sex/Alt Subtext: Nope, no subtext - it's right out there. Two of the characters are in a loving and sexual relationship of the same gender. If this is illegal where you're at: move or change your laws. If you're under 18 or 21 (depending on legal stuff), leave now and come back later.

Storyline: Continuing in the Awakening series. Part 4
A hurt and comfort beginning. Gabrielle is recovering from being poisoned at her wedding to Xena then things get complicated after Xena drinks some special wine from a God.

Joxer alert: sort of.

"Xena, wake up and help me give Gabrielle some of this tea." a voice insisted, cutting through the warrior's sleep fuzzy awareness. She slowly opened her eyes and groaned. She was awake in an instant when she focused on the healer of the Amazons standing over her.

"What is it?" she asked, sitting up.

"I need to give Gabrielle some of this tea," the healer repeated.

Xena sat up slowly and pulled the little bard into her arms, holding her head up. She frowned at how heavily the woman was sleeping. The healer managed to get most of the liquid down a semi-awake Gabrielle and watched until the bard slipped back to sleep again in Xena's arms. The healer helped Xena position the bard back onto the bed. Xena carefully brushed a lock of hair out of the bard's eyes and gently stroked Gabrielle's cheek. She frowned as she felt the bard's body still twitching sporadically.

Xena got up and pulled the healer to one side.

"What's going on? What's in the tea?" the warrior asked.

"Xena, Gabrielle is going to be very sick for awhile and in considerable pain. The poison those Romans slipped her at your wedding always kills. Those convulsions she went through usually shuts down the breathing and stop the heart. Her muscles may be ripped apart inside. At the very least they're going to hurt like Hades hounds are tearing them apart. I want to keep her sedated as much as possible, the pain alone might still kill her." the healer explained bluntly, putting away some of the herbs into jars.

"What do you mean 'always kills.'?" the warrior questioned. "We got the antidote to her."

"There never was an antidote, Consort." the healer sat down at the table and motioned for the warrior to sit across from her. Xena's eyes narrowed but she sat. The warrior was suddenly cautious and she had the feeling she wasn't going to like what she heard.

"What do you mean? The Romans had it."

"No, they had charcoal in that flask you got from the bodies. It's meant to cause vomiting, probably in case they accidentally poisoned themselves with their own poison. The poison they used takes only a small amount and is deadly. The batch they had must have been old, not very potent or Gabrielle didn't eat or drink all of it. I had already induced vomiting with charcoal while you were searching for the assassins." the healer said in a very tired voice, rubbing a hand over her face. The warrior realized that the healer probably had gotten less sleep than Xena had in the last couple of days.
It had been a rough night, waiting to see if Gabrielle was going to live. Rough on everyone, Amazons, family, friends, lover and healer as they watched the bard trying to recover from the poison. All of them helpless as she thrashed in pain, occasionally screaming in the pain, mostly crying.

Xena had learned from her mother that the bard had been in agony while Xena was chasing down the bard's assassins. Her body bent over backwards, spine bending against nature and then her head and legs would bend backward while her body thrashed forward. Xena hadn't tried to stop her tears as she listened to her mother describe Gabrielle's torture. The only relief seemed to come when the small woman slipped into a coma.

At first Xena had been thrilled beyond words when Gabrielle had managed to open her eyes but then the warrior had been terrified when she and the healer realized that the slightest touch on the bard's skin would cause her to scream. The warrior wanted to scream herself, unable to touch her beloved bard was killing her.

"But she was scratched," Xena frowned.

"Yes, probably during staff practice the day before or something. The poison was given to her either in her drink or food, probably slipped into her wine when they shook your hands in the receiving."

"Then that might explain it, Gabrielle doesn't drink much, she didn't finish the wine."

"Yes," the healer agreed.

"What do we do for her?" Xena demanded.

"You'll not be able to touch her for probably another few hours unless she's asleep. I want to keep her sedated as much as possible for the next few days. After that, continual massage of the muscles, especially the legs and back. Keep the muscles stretched. Lots of liquid and sedated as much as possible. It may be awhile before we know if there is permanent damage to the muscles or internal organs. I'm still worried, Consort."

"When did you know what type of poison it was?" Xena suddenly asked and the healer turned her eyes away.

"Almost immediately. I've seen this type of poisoning when visiting the Northern Amazons. They call the plant Cowbane. The dilation of the pupils, excess saliva and muscle twitching comes first, usually within minutes. Rapid pulse and breathing, shaking and then violent convulsions. Coma and death follow shortly." the healer said softly.

"You knew there was no antidote?"

"Yes," the healer admitted.

"You let me chase after those damned Romans while Gabrielle could have died? What if she had died while I was gone?" Xena's eyes grew bright with anger.

"A judgment call, Consort. Once Gabrielle was unconscious there was nothing anyone could have done, she was either going to live or die. If she woke up, she'd live. If she didn't, she would have never opened her eyes again."

"I wouldn't have been there!" Xena protested.

"Yes, that possibility was very likely."

"Then why send me out on a wild chase?" Xena slammed her hand on the table.

"Was it a wild chase? It gave you something to do, a way to focus your energy, and it gave the Amazons and yourself justice."

"If she had died?"

"I would have told all of you that the amount of the poison was too high and the damage too great for the antidote to work." the healer admitted.

"You would lie."

"Yes, being a healer means caring for everyone, not just the patient. You all knew she could die, that she probably would die. The antidote gave you, the family and the Amazons hope, it also kept the Amazons from killing all the delegates in their rage." the healer smiled.

"I still don't like being lied to." Xena warned.

"I'll not make a habit of it." the healer smiled and promised. Xena growled and went back to her bard, taking the woman in her arms as she had so many nights before. Xena bit her lip until the healer left the hut before letting her tears fall. The bard's arms, legs and head continued to twitch.

"I can't lose you, little one, you are my light." she whispered.

The healer had been correct, whenever Gabrielle woke up it was agony for the little bard. Her screams had awakened the warrior sleeping next to her and half the village.

The warrior leaping out of bed, mortified that she couldn't hold Gabrielle and couldn't seem to offer any other comfort than soothing words and singing to the little bard. The healer would quickly pry Gabrielle's jaws open and force more of the sedative tea into the twitching body. Any noise, light or touch could send the bard whimpering and crying. Xena was beside herself and the healer looked beyond exhaustion.

A large number of the Amazon women kept a vigil outside the Healer's hut, Ephiny and Solari among them. Hercules and Iolaus took turns pacing.

After another twelve hours the warrior found that she could touch Gabrielle once again and whispered a prayer of thanks that she could hold the bard in her arms once more, even if Gabrielle was still in agony. Again, the Amazon Queen woke everyone with her screams.

Xena quickly hit several pressure points and began massaging the muscles in the bard's legs. Lila had run in and followed

Xena's directions in rubbing Gabrielle's other muscles until the healer had worked up another dose of sedative and got it down the bard.

Xena crawled behind her mate and held Gabrielle until the bard's cries settled down into small whimpers and then back into sleep.

The warrior looked up in Lila's tear filled eyes, tears that were matching her own.

"Healer, how long will this go on?" Xena asked quietly.

"Not long, Consort. As long as we keep the muscles stretched and massaged, the pain should ease up in a few days, getting less and less. I don't think any muscles are permanently damaged, thank the gods."

Xena held the bard close as the smaller woman's body twitched with pain, even with the pain meds.

Lila curled up beside her sister, gently massaging the blonde's arms and legs while Xena softly sang to her little bard. Hecuba came in later and relieved her younger daughter and began gently massaging Gabrielle's muscles, tears streaming down her cheeks as Gabrielle thrashed in pain.

Cyrene then took over and forced her daughter Xena to go and eat something while she and Hecuba watched over Gabrielle. After another night the Healer finally made the announcement that she thought the Amazon Queen would live but it would be days before they knew the extent of any damage to her muscles or internal organs.
With a tired cheer the Amazons keeping vigil received the news.


It was a long week for the patient and her family. Even after the pain had subsided after four days it was still agony for the bard to try and move. Even more frustrating for the Amazon Queen was the weakness that now encompassed her body. Gabrielle felt as weak as a newborn kitten and felt as if she had been trampled by a Cyclops. The Queen had been surprised at the amount of time she had spent in a drugged sleep and very surprised at how sick she had been. It took awhile to sink in how close she had come to dying a very painful death and faced an even more painful recovery.

After a week the bard was able to move stiffly for short periods of time and started the long process of rebuilding her muscles and strength.

Xena was very impressed with the strength and stubbornness of her mate. It hurt the warrior to watch the small woman struggling with just walking until sweat stood out all over Gabrielle and her body shook with exhaustion and still the bard wouldn't complain. She would just grit her teeth and struggle on until the warrior would sweep the Queen off her feet and make her rest.

Xena would share her mate's tears as Gabrielle cried from the pain and exhaustion every night until the sedative tea would send her into sleep. Between Xena, her mother Cyrene, Hecuba and Lila they were able to keep Gabrielle comfortable enough to finally get through a night of sleep without the bard waking up screaming.

Xena and the family felt like they had been under a very long siege with little sleep, constant worry and tension.
Finally after nine days the Queen was able to get through a day without the pain herbs and the families were ready to return to their homes after a good night's sleep for the first time in two weeks.

"Gabrielle, are you sure you won't come home with us?" Hecuba asked again and the small blond woman smiled and hugged her mother.

"No, Mom. I'm better off here with the healer and Xena. You travel safe." the Amazon Queen leaned heavily on the crutches that helped her get around while her leg muscles continued to improve.

"We'll send Xena back immediately." Hecuba promised and Gabrielle quickly hugged her sister and then watched Lila get into the wagon.

The Amazon Queen then turned to her mate, trying not to let the tears overwhelm her.

The sight of Xena always took the bard's breath away. The tall warrior standing beside her beloved horse, Argo, in her leathers and weapons always sent a rush of heat through Gabrielle's body. The bard reflected that she must be recovering if she was getting turned on again by her mate, she thought with a smile.

Looking in the clear blue eyes the bard became lost and rushed into her mate's arms, fighting back the tears.

"Come back to me soon," Gabrielle whispered as Xena stroked her hair.

"As soon as I can. You promise not to overdue it?"

Gabrielle looked up at her mate and attempted to smile. "Yes."

"Good," Xena bent down and lightly nibbled on the bard's earlobe, sending shudders through her body. "I have plans for that body of yours and I don't want you wearing yourself out." the warrior whispered. Gabrielle moaned and held her mate close.

"Gods, Xena, you'd better get back here quick!" Gabrielle whispered and kissed the warrior deeply.
The Amazon Queen stood next to her Regent, Ephiny and watched the wagon with Xena mother, Cyrene and Gabrielle's mother and sister leave the Amazon village.

"Gods, Ephiny, I miss them already." the bard complained.

"Come on, my Queen," Ephiny grinned. "Let's see if we can stretch those muscles of yours with some bending exercises."

Xena sat sharpening her sword while Hecuba finished cooking dinner for the small group. The warrior found herself missing Gabrielle very much. She had gotten used to their routine on the road and she found it a little weird having Gabrielle's mother and sister taking up the bard's space and chores. She also missed Gabrielle's body next to hers during the night.

Hades, the warrior thought, she just missed Gabrielle terribly. It had been a long two days and nights.

Hecuba glanced over at the warrior and found herself smiling.

The warrior woman could look intimidating enough to scare a hydra, she thought, but she had also seen the softer side of Xena. The warrior holding her daughter during endless nights and days, attentive to the bard's every need. The terror on Xena's face when they thought Gabrielle might die. The endless days of pain and feelings of helplessness.

Hecuba knew from Apollo that Gabrielle had been fated a difficult future, to be soulmate with a dark soul. A soul that was destined to destroy the known world if her daughter Gabrielle hadn't reached into that darkness and shined a light on the warrior's lost soul. Gabrielle's future had always terrified Hecuba and the mother had tried in small ways to fight against it.
She shook her head with her thoughts, she had thought her daughter had beaten the prediction when Gabrielle had married Perdicus only to have Callisto kill him the next day. Hecuba had accepted the Fates for her daughter when the bard rejoined Xena on the road.

Now that she had spent time with the warrior and had seen the depth of her love for Gabrielle, Hecuba was pleased with Gabrielle's life and soul choice of mate. The mother had never seen such a love before between anyone. She knew that they would die for each other if it came to that.

Xena caught Hecuba glancing at her and watched the woman's face. The warrior had been very much aware of how Gabrielle's family felt about her and was pleased when Hecuba had came to the wedding and accepted the couple. It had been a difficult few seasons for both families, accepting the warrior and bard and their futures and their past. After learning the strange events surrounding Gabrielle's conception and predicted future, Xena could understand why Hecuba had wanted something different for her daughter. Any mother would. Even Xena's own mother hadn't wanted Xena's future until Gabrielle had come along.

The only one that wanted Xena as warlord, it seemed was Ares. Xena's eyes narrowed and she frowned as she thought of the War God. Once again she found herself wishing that he would just give up on her already and leave them alone. Then the warrior sighed, she knew that wasn't likely.

Xena was on her feet, sword at ready before Hecuba and Lila was even aware she had moved. They both froze as the warrior focused on the woods, on alert. Then they both heard a rattling and someone breaking through the brush. Xena seemed to relax, which seemed strange to the two women. She smiled and resheathed her sword.

"It's a friend." she said simply as Joxer the Mighty broke into the small clearing with a goofy grin.

"Joxer," Xena said simply, suddenly feeling a little awkward. She knew Joxer's feelings for Gabrielle, how in Hades was she going to explain their wedding without destroying him?

"Xena!" the young man broke into a smile and rushed to hug the warrior. Xena ignored the raised eyebrows of Hecuba and Lila. Finally he pulled back. "I'm so glad to see you! I was headed to the Amazon Village to see you and smelled your campfire."

"Joxer, this is Gabrielle's mother, Hecuba and her sister, Lila. This is Joxer, a friend of ours." Xena turned the wanna-be warrior towards the family. They didn't notice the clinching of his jaw but Xena did.

"Very happy to meet both of you. Is Gabby with you?" he asked, looking around hopefully.

"No, she's staying in the Amazon Village while I take Hecuba and Lila home, we just dropped off my mother." Xena answered, sitting back down on the rock, pulling out her sword and beginning to sharpen it again, giving herself something to do.

"Dinner's ready, Joxer, if you'd like to join us." Hecuba offered.

"Go ahead, Joxer, she's a better cook than I am." Xena grinned.

"Okay, I'd like that." after getting a plate of food he sat down on the ground next to Xena's rock. "You're taking them home after your wedding to Gabrielle?"

Xena quickly glanced down but he refused to meet her eyes. "Yes, how did you hear?"

"I heard the Queen of the Amazons was getting married to a female. Knowing Gabrielle is Queen of the Amazons, I figured the rest out, I'm not totally blind."

"Joxer, we didn't want to hurt you."

"I know that's why you didn't invite me and you were right, it does hurt." Xena heard his voice threatening to break. "But I'm a big boy and as long as she's happy then I'm happy."

"Joxer, I love her." Xena said softly.

"Good, that makes two of us." the young man quickly got up and moved next to Gabrielle's mother, coaxing stories about the young bard from her mother. Xena let him go, letting him deal with the pain on his own. She knew there was nothing she could offer him right then that could comfort him. He loved Gabrielle almost as much as she did.

The next morning Xena found that she was grumpy. For some reason the warrior hadn't slept well the night before and her body ached, as if she had spent the night on guard duty. It was bad enough she hadn't gotten much sleep while Gabrielle had been suffering but this didn't help, she thought with a growl. She couldn't shake a feeling of unease and barely heard Joxer talking to Hecuba and Lila.

"There's an old abandoned shrine near here, near a cave behind a waterfall. I'm heading that way to make an offering in honor of Gabrielle and Xena's wedding. Xena, would you like to go with me?" Joxer waited a moment and getting no response, called again to the warrior by the fire. "Xena, want to go with me?"

"Huh, yeah, sure." the warrior rubbed the back of her neck, wondering why her hackles were going crazy. "After we drop Hecuba and Lila off at their place."

"Okay." Joxer agreed with a grin.

Within two candlemarks they had left the two women back in Potedaia and were retracing their steps back towards the river. Hecuba and Lila had wanted both of them to spend the night but after three nights on the road Xena was anxious to get back to her mate and didn't want to impose Joxer on the family any more than possible.

As they got closer to the shrine the young man became unusually quiet and Xena chalked it up to his thoughts about Gabrielle.
When the inept warrior pulled the bushes back from the carved stone niche in the cliff face Xena was impressed. The shrine had been abandoned long ago but it had once been a dedicated and active shrine. It had obviously once held a statue of some kind and a small ledge for offerings. A simple shrine but one the gods delighted in.

"How did you know this was here?" she asked.

"Well, last season I was being chased.... I was chasing some bandits and stumbled onto the cave behind the waterfall. I fell climbing along the rocks and found the shrine."

Xena resisted smiling at the description of Joxer being chased into the water. She peered close at the markings on the inside of the niche and frowned.

"I don't recognize the marks." she commented.

"I do, it was a small sect dedicated to Artemis. That's why I chose this shrine for my offering, since Gabrielle is chosen by Artemis."

"Good choice." Xena agreed, keeping her thoughts to herself. Between Ares giving her grief, Apollo being Gabrielle's father, Artemis choosing Gabrielle as a favorite and half the rest of them blessing the wedding, Xena had enough of the gods, thanks.
Joxer pulled out a flask of wine and muttered something and poured a small amount over the small ledge and then left two gold coins in the niche with more muttered prayers.

He was blushing when he stood up and faced the warrior as if embarrassed by the prayers. "I know warriors don't pray but I was asking that my dreams for both of you come true." he shrugged.

Xena smiled a friendly smile. "Thank you, Joxer."

"Would you like to make an offering?" he asked, holding the flask out. Xena frowned. "It's okay, it's a special wine I brought for the occasion. Can't hurt." he grinned and the warrior took the flask.

Almost blushing herself, the warrior poured a small amount of wine over the ledge and reached into a pouch and pulled out a small but wonderfully designed carved rabbit made out of jade and shoved it into the niche.

"Say something!" Joxer encouraged.

Xena growled but turned back to the shrine. "Okay, may the spirit of this shrine offer their blessing." she muttered.

"Good, shall we drink a small drink to your happiness?" Joxer asked and took the flask. With a grin he took a very long pull from the wineskin.

"Joxer," Xena began but he held up his hand, toasting with Joxer was feeling strange.

"I'm doing my best, Xena. I want you both to be happy."

"Okay." Xena took the flask and raised it salute and then drank deeply of the sweet wine.

The warrior suddenly dropped the flask with a cough and stumbled into the wall of the cliff. She looked over at Joxer but couldn't seem to focus. Xena went to her knees, unable to keep her balance.

On her hands and knees the warrior looked up at the figure standing over her.

"Hello, Xena." a strong voice said simply.

"Ares?" The warrior fell forward onto the ground.

"That's me, sweetheart. Welcome back." strong hands began to lift her as darkness claimed her mind.



Ephiny and Solari both broke from their hut at top speed, racing towards the Queen's hut. Inside they found an Amazon guard struggling with the Queen, trying to keep the young woman still.

Ephiny and Solari quickly went to the bard's bedside, helping hold her down as she struggled out of a dream.

"Gabrielle!" Ephiny cried out. "Gabrielle! Wake up!"

After a moment the bard stopped struggling and looked into the hazel eyes of her friend, blinking rapidly. With a whimper she sank back onto the bed. Ephiny nodded, dismissing the guard.

"Something's wrong with Xena." the Amazon Queen whispered, staring at the ceiling.

"It was just a dream," Solari stroked the blond woman's forehead.

"No, it was different, something is different." Gabrielle sat up in her bed, tears filling her eyes. "The connection, something's blocking us."

"What do you want us to do, my Queen?" Ephiny asked.

"Get the shaman." Gabrielle muttered as she reached for a robe.


Xena opened her eyes slowly, and turned over quickly as whatever she last ate decided it was going to come back up. It was a few moments before the warrior was able to focus her eyes and look around from her hands and knees.

A cave, water, dark. Fire on the other side of the cave with a figure with its back to her. She knew the shape instantly.
"Ares." she said softly.

"Sorry about the vomiting, it's an unfortunate side effect of the special wine you drank." he said as he turned around.

Xena sat back against the cave wall, a surprised look on her face. "You've changed?" What happened to his long hair? What was with the fancy cut of his beard? Earring?

The War God grinned at her. "So have you."

The warrior looked down and frowned at herself. "This isn't my usual armor." she commented.

"It is these days."

Xena's eyes narrowed. "What does that mean?"

"You've lost a couple of years there, kid. I just brought you back to what you were." Ares sat down on his haunches in front of the warrior.

"Years? I don't believe you."

"When have I ever lied to you?" Ares asked, somehow keeping a straight face.

"We'll ignore that one. What happened to me, why do I feel funny?" Xena demanded.

"Well, I took your mind back to a short time before your army attacked a small village named Cirra. That tiny little village was your downfall, my love." Ares sat down, getting more comfortable.

"My what? I'm one of the most powerful warlords in the world." Xena growled.

"Were," Ares corrected. "You've got a lot of time to make up for. What do you want for your future, Xena?"

"What kind of question is that? What I've always wanted, the power to control fate itself. The ability to rule nations, what else is there for me?" Xena asked with a frown.

"Exactly my thoughts and our plan from the start." Ares grinned. "Let me tell you a story of a fallen warlord. A couple of years ago you showed weakness, you spared the lives of some insignificant villagers and attempted to punish your men for trying to wipe out that rebellious village."

"I am not weak!" Xena hissed.

"I know but something happened and you showed weakness and they forced you out of your army with a gauntlet. You barely survived." Ares looked so concerned that Xena was surprised.

"Why can't I remember this?"

"The wine was a special mixture, I'm giving you a chance to think clearly and choose your path unbiased without any outside influence." Ares shrugged.

"Outside influence?"

"The other gods have been meddling in our plan, my love."

Xena growled. "Go on," she demanded.

"You were nearly beaten to death, the first one to ever survive the gauntlet. Injured, you went back to your village to try and heal. Are you sure you want to hear this?" Ares suddenly sounded concerned again.

"Go on," she demanded.

"Your mother turned her back on you and turned you over to the unhappy villagers. They were in the process of stoning you to death when Draco arrived. You two had a disagreement about who would be Warlord and you fought, you were still injured and barely fought to a stand still. Draco let you live and sent you on your way."

Xena couldn't believe her mother had turned her away, the Warlord also couldn't believe that she had turned to her mother for help. She must have been hurt badly, she thought.

Ares moved next to Xena and pulled her close to him, extending an arm around her shoulder.

"It was then that the gods sent someone into your life, a little irritating blond bard female. With Apollo's powers she turned your head and preyed on your weakness." he continued.

"Impossible! I trust no one!" Xena protested.

"Not even me?" Ares grinned.

Xena grinned back at him. "Especially you."

"Good, keep it that way and you'll live longer."

"The bard?" she questioned.

"With help from Hercules," he grinned at her frown at the name of the demi-god. "she turned your mind away from the conquest, away from the battle. You've been traveling around for the last couple of years, fighting against warlords and bandits. Doing 'good' deeds. She seduced you with the help of Apollo and Aphrodite."

Xena snorted and leaned up to nuzzle his neck, sending shivers down the War God's body. "And where were you during all this time of my madness?" she whispered.

"Busy with the gods and their meddling. With Apollo and Artemis protecting the bard, it wasn't easy to get to you. You made a sacrifice at one of my ancient shrine and called on me, finally. I was able to get you back." he muttered as he took the warrior into his arms and slid down the wall of the cave onto his back, pulling the dark warrior with him.

"How do I get my army back?" the warrior whispered, biting the war god's earlobe.

"First you kill the bard and then the army. How about we discuss that in the morning?" he suggested as she bit down on his neck. "It's been too long, Xena." he whispered.

Neither of the warriors heard a splash of water in the twilight.


The shaman moved around the Queen slowly, chanting and dancing, filling the small and dark hut with incense as she carried the burning bowl around the room. Gabrielle bit the inside of her mouth to keep from crying out. She had pulled a back muscle during her nightmare and wasn't too comfortable sitting on the ground. She closed her eyes to concentrate on her breathing.
Gabrielle opened her eyes when the priestess sat down in front of the Queen, placing the burning incense between them, filling the space with smoke. She took a rattle and began intoning again, shaking the rattle all around Gabrielle's head and body. The Queen waited.

After a few minutes the priestess put the rattle down and took up a dagger. She gently took Gabrielle's hand, the same one she had bonded to Xena with. With a quick stroke the bard found her hand bleeding once more. The priestess let the blood drip into a bowl and then wrapped the hand with a bandage as she peered into the bowl, chanting and singing.
After what seemed like forever to the bard the priestess sat back and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them Gabrielle saw the woman she was accustomed to seeing around the village and not the priestess she had just seen in a trance. The woman doused the incense and poured the blood onto the ground floor.

"Come, let's go into the sunlight." she suggested, helping the bard to her feet. She noticed the wince from Gabrielle. "You've injured yourself again."

"Yes, during the nightmare." Gabrielle explained as she hobbled out of the priestess hut. She blinked against the bright sunlight and was momentarily blinded. The priestess led them to the tree line and they sat under a very friendly looking oak.

"It's not good, my Queen," the priestess began.

"I know that, it never is when I get these types of dreams."

"The dark one has lost her light and her connection to you."

Gabrielle felt a chill settle over her body. "No," she whispered.

"Yes, something or someone has stolen that light." the priestess said slowly.

"How?" Gabrielle demanded.

"I don't know, just that it's not natural and not of this world."

"Ares!" Gabrielle was suddenly on her feet shouting. The priestess was surprised at the speed with which the Queen moved but not the intensity of the emotions. "I know you're involved with this, show yourself!" she yelled, ignoring Ephiny and Solari running towards them.

Gabrielle's jaw clinched when the War God appeared in front of her. The priestess was sure the Queen would have attacked the War God if she had a weapon to hand, the Queen was shaking with rage.

"What have you done!?" she demanded through clinched teeth.

"Undone your damage. She's mine." with a laugh he lifted his chin, revealing a beginning love bruise on his neck and was gone just as Gabrielle launched herself at his face with a scream.

The Amazons were stunned as their Queen lay on the ground, wincing in pain. "Damn you, Ares. I'll personally cut them off and hang them from my staff!" Gabrielle threatened.

"Gabrielle?" Ephiny questioned as she and her mate helped the Queen to her feet. The bard cried out in pain, grabbing at her back.

"Back to my hut, please." the bard hissed.


Xena was pacing back in forth in the cave when Ares suddenly appeared.

"Where have you been?" she demanded, grabbing him in a kiss.

"Had some business to take care of." he grinned.

"Now, what's the plan to get my career back on track?" Xena asked.

"First, we eliminate the power of that little irritant out of your life and then you take Draco's army from him."

"Why bother with the woman? I've got my mind right again." Xena questioned with a frown.

"Because she has been influenced by the gods, they could use her again to trick you. We get rid of her and no one can stand in your way again." he pulled out of her embrace and walked to the entrance of the cave, peering through the waterfall. "Besides, it'll help your reputation."

"What about my reputation?" Xena demanded. Ares could feel her moving up behind him, could feel her dangerous energy but remained with his back to her.

"You're the laughing stock of Greece, Rome and several other countries as well." he said simply.

"What!? I am the most feared warrior in this part of the world!" Xena yelled.

"Not anymore, babe. You fell for a bard, left your warrior ways and married her, becoming a simple consort to the Queen of the Amazons."

Ares turned in time to see Xena's face go pale and then red with rage.

"Married a bard? I was willing to be a consort and not the Conqueror?" she whispered in disbelief.

"Yup. You have no title, warrior, other than Consort to a small woman." Ares pushed verbally.

"I couldn't marry anyone!" the warrior protested.

"You did, even Caesar laughed at that one."

"Caesar?" the warrior whispered. Ares disappeared in a flash of light as the warrior lost her final control and went into a berserk fury.

It was a couple of hours before the War God approached the cave again. He was delighted with himself. He had Xena back, she would get rid of her last tie to the path she had been on and she would be his totally and forever. Maybe they would even challenge Athena to her title of War Goddess, he thought with a grin. Not only that, he grinned even wider, she was still a tiger in bed. Gods, even he couldn't' keep up with her. For a moment the War God wondered how the little frustrating bard could. Then he shook his head.

He found the warrior tired but still angry, just the way he liked her.

"Once I kill her we get back to business?" Xena demanded.

"You bet. You and me and the world for our taking." Ares promised.

"Where is she?"

"Let's go."


Gabrielle sat up wincing as a familiar figure burst into the hut and into her arms.

"Lila? What on earth?" she asked as her young sister burst into tears. Gabrielle wasn't surprised when Ephiny and Solari followed behind the teenager.

"She came riding in here at full speed on Argo." Ephiny explained all she knew.

"Argo? Lila, talk to me, what's wrong? Where's Xena?"

Everyone was wondering that one, for Argo to let anyone ride her except Xena or Gabrielle would be amazing.

The teen attempted to slow her tears down. She pulled back in the embrace and looked at her older sister and Gabrielle was shocked. The dark haired teenager looked like she had been through a whirlpool, twice. Her hair was disheveled, face covered with road grime and she looked exhausted.

"Solari, get some water and some food. Now, Lila, take a deep breath and tell me what happened." Gabrielle ordered.

"I, .... we were on the way back home after leaving Cyrene when we ran into someone named Joxer," Lila began.

"That would ruin my day," Ephiny muttered and Gabrielle glared at her with a grin.

"Xena knew him and introduced us. He suggested they stop at a shrine on their way back here to celebrate your wedding." Lila continued.

"He knew about the wedding?" Gabrielle frowned.

"Yes, I heard him tell Xena that he heard the Queen of the Amazons got married, knew it was you and that the only one you'd turn to would be Xena."

"Go on," the bard encouraged.

"Something wasn't right!" Lila wailed, pulling at the hem of her tunic in nervousness. "Xena was jumpy as a cat and didn't sleep well. She kept looking around like she was expecting an attack or something. I thought it was Joxer. He made my skin crawl."

"Joxer? He's about as dangerous as rabbit." Ephiny complained.

"I know, he seemed such an idiot but something wasn't right about him. After we got home I talked with Mom and she had the same feeling. She let me follow them." Lila whispered.

Gabrielle was stunned. Hecuba? Her mother let Lila follow Xena when it might be dangerous? Wow.

"What happened?" Gabrielle urged gently. Solari entered with a tray of food and an Amazon guard entered with fresh water and soap root. "Eat something and tell us between bites." Gabrielle ordered.

"I followed them. Xena should have heard me! I know that!" Lila looked like she was about to cry again and Gabrielle gathered the younger girl in her arms again.

"She's right, she should never have gotten near them." Ephiny agreed.

Gabrielle nodded. "See about some clean clothes for her while Ephiny gets her to eat." the queen ordered the guard who nodded and was gone.

After a few moments they managed to get Lila seated at the table and eating.

"I found them at a cave behind a waterfall. I saw Xena fall to the ground unconscious and Joxer changed." she whispered.

"Changed? How?" Ephiny questioned.

"He became someone else." she whispered, stopping eating with the impact of the memory. "Xena called him Ares."

Gabrielle surprised her Regent and little sister by swearing a string of curses that would have made a Corinth dockworker proud and then turned to her sister to continue.

"He took her into the cave and I went into the water to listen."

"What, it's freezing in the water." Ephiny was impressed with the teens courage and tenacity.

"When Xena woke up she was different too." Lila frowned.

"How was she different," Gabrielle questioned softly.

"I don't know, her eyes were hard and her face was tight."

Then Lila went on to describe the conversation Xena had with Ares and how he had twisted the truth of Gabrielle and Xena's relationship and the bard's love for Xena. She began to blush when she started to reach the end of her tale, remembering how the warrior woman had been in the arms of the War God.

Gabrielle caught Lila's blush and remembered the bruise on Ares' neck. She clinched her teeth.

"It's all right, Lila. Ares was here and made it clear that Xena was once again in his bed." she said softly, her eyes blazing green. "Did you ride all night and day to get here?"

"What do we do?" the teenager cried as she nodded.

"First we get you some rest, they'll be about a day behind you. I know Ares, he'll take is time getting her here to twist her mind and body some more before she meets me." Gabrielle said aloud.

"Gabrielle, we can't let her near you." Ephiny said softly.

"We'll figure it out," Gabrielle countered.

"She dies before she gets near you," Ephiny insisted.

"No! There has to be a way!" Gabrielle smacked the bed she lay in and winced with the pain the motion brought.
"You can't even sit up right now!" Ephiny protested.

"I'm not going to fight her, I'm going to talk to her."

"She'll kill you before you get the chance." Ephiny said angrily.

"That's a chance I'll have to take." Gabrielle's jaw took on that familiar stubborn set.

"You're Queen of the Amazons, it's not just your life we're talking about." Ephiny pressed harder.

"I know that and I have to succeed. If she kills me and gets away, which is possible for her, then all the Amazons throughout the known world will be after her. It won't take her long to gather an army, especially with the help of Ares - we're talking a major war."

"I know that, but I can't risk you! Let me take your place here." Ephiny insisted.

"No, Ares would warn her of that. If we don't stop her here then Greece would soon be at war with Rome and the entire civilized world might fall into darkness." Gabrielle stated simply.

"Rome?" Ephiny frowned.

"Now that Caesar has control of Rome Warlord Xena would stop at nothing to bring Caesar and Rome down, even it meant every man in Greece falling in the battle." Gabrielle predicted.

"Oh gods, this could be the end of anything good." Ephiny realized and Gabrielle nodded, remembering one of the fates Xena had been destined for before she met Gabrielle.

"Ephiny take Lila and get her cleaned up. I've got some thinking to do." the Queen ordered.

Once the two women had left Gabrielle pulled out the feather and bead necklace with the sun symbol in the center. "Apollo, can you come to me?" she whispered.

A brilliant light filled the hut and the most handsome man the bard had ever seen stood before her, surrounded by light. He smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed.

"I can't answer much, Gabrielle." he warned.

"Can you help?" she asked bluntly.

"No." he shook his head with a sadness. "We thought you had won the fight for Xena's soul and the world wasn't threatened by her darkness any longer but now there's a very real possibility that she will live out her dark destiny and destroy the world and us."

"We beat that once! I can do it again!" Gabrielle insisted.

"I hope so, but we can't help. This comes under that unknown fate thing. If you succeed then your destiny becomes clear again, if not then everything is headed for darkness."

"But we had won!" Gabrielle protested. "Ares twisted it somehow, he interfered!"

"Yes, and our hands are tied because we play a little more fair. It that right? I don't know. Most of us would love to zap your mate back to her right mind and kick Ares all the way across Tartarus but we can't help." Apollo said softly.

"Can any of you help in anyway?" Gabrielle asked.

"Not that we can think of. Artemis is beside herself with anger and taking it out on target practice. Aphrodite and Cupid are fuming, the world may not see any new love for a week. Athena is planning and plotting revenge." Apollo complained.

"What about keeping Ares out of the picture when I face Xena?" Gabrielle asked.

"You can't face her. He's twisted your relationship until she is battle frenzied just thinking about you. She'll see any talk as an attempt to trick and twist her mind. Xena will kill you before she lets you talk." Apollo protested.

"I have to try, isn't that my destiny?" a tear slowly fell down the bard's cheek and Apollo brushed it away with tenderness.

"We'll keep him busy." he promised and was gone.

Gabrielle allowed herself to break into tears.


Xena was more than pissed, everything was upside down in her world now. Even Argo was gone, someone having switched Argo for a simple farm horse before she and Ares had left the cave. Ares had shrugged and dismissed the incident, not quite understanding how much she loved that horse. Not even the gods would be able to help whoever had taken Argo when she caught up with them, she promised herself.

How had it gotten so confused? How had she gotten to this point? She was Xena, Destroyer of Nations, damnit! Last thing she remembered was having an army that was wiping out everything in it's way. Now Ares was telling her that she had no
money, no army, no power, and only a reputation as a good fighter.

It all seemed to center around the woman Ares said she had married, a private bonding and a public bonding. Xena, Conqueror of Nations, getting married to someone? Accepting the title of Consort instead of Conqueror? Xena shook her head, it didn't make sense! How had this woman twisted her up so badly? What power of the gods did she hold over the warlord?

Gabrielle, Ares had called her. A simple bard from Potedaia that had become Queen of the Amazons and conqueror of Xena.
The warrior growled, no one conquered her, not even Ares!

Ares, riding alongside Xena, noted the warrior's growl and fierce look of rage but held his tongue. He had been working hard on the warrior's mind and was content to let it all simmer and boil. Soon the irritating little bard would be dead and Xena would be lost to the light forever. The battles to come would be glorious!

"Ephiny, I want you to get Lila as far away as you can before Xena gets here, and take Argo with her. Send her to the caves and get a message to the Centaurs to get Solan to safety. We have no idea what will happen if she escapes here and is still Warlord." Gabrielle ordered.

"Yes, my Queen."

"Next, I want you to let Xena through," Gabrielle held up a hand, cutting off the protests from Ephiny, the Elders and the battle leaders. "This isn't open for debate. I have to try. If I fail then I'll attempt to kill her myself," Gabrielle's voice threatened to break and tears threatened to spill over but the Queen fought both down. "If I fail then I want you to kill her as quickly and painlessly as possible. This isn't her fault and she's been a good friend to the Amazon Nation for the past few years."
The Elders and Battle leaders nodded in agreement.

"Next, send word to Hercules and Iolaus that I'm in trouble and explain what's happened. If we can't stop her here then maybe they can."

"My Queen, she doesn't remember you and Ares won't be around, let me take your place, please!" Ephiny begged.
All of the battle leaders immediately volunteered as well.

"No, this is my destiny, or part of it. She'll know, the connection isn't broken totally, I'm counting on that." Gabrielle smiled at her Regent. "Thank you, thank all of you but I have to do this."

"My Queen," one of the battle leaders protested, "You can't even stand!"

"No, but that doesn't matter, I couldn't take her in a fight anyway. This will be a different kind of battle. Now, go, she'll be here after dark." Everyone started to leave the hut, none of them happy with the plans for the coming night.

"Ephiny, please send the healer to me."


A few minutes later the healer entered the hut and approached the Queen.

"I need to be able to move without too much pain. I'm not going to fight but I need to move without crying out in pain. Can you give me a light painkiller or something to block the pain?" the Queen asked.

"Yes, it will help a little. I'll try and keep the dose low enough to where you're not too fuzzy."

"That would be best."

Xena was amazed at the skill of the Amazon guards. It had taken all of her measurable skills not to be spotted by the guards and scouts. She had no hesitation about killing any of them but she didn't want an alarm raised and from observation she knew that she couldn't get into the village and out again before one of the guards or scouts was missed.

It had taken her longer than she had wanted to get to the village but she was confident she could get out again before dawn. At least Ares had been helpful enough to provide her with a layout of the village before he disappeared, cursing at Aphrodite about something. That suited the warrior, she needed to kill her former mate without the god's help to reclaim her reputation.
The warrior stopped for a moment. Mate? This woman must be incredible to have conquered the Conqueror, Xena thought. Ares had described her as "irritating" and "little." Xena was puzzled and curious.

The warrior shook it off and moved like a night demon through the village.

Ephiny, waiting in a nearby tree, shook her head. If she hadn't been watching the same spot for over the last two hours, she never would have seen the warrior enter the Queen's hut. The Regent reflected that it was a good thing they knew the warrior was coming or they wouldn't stand a chance at stopping her. The Regent opened the hood of the lantern she carried, once and quickly. They had decided against noise since the warrior was notorious for her uncanny hearing ability and Xena probably wouldn't see a single flash of light from the hut.

Ephiny knew that a large number of Amazon warriors were moving into position. If anyone moved out of the hut without a recognition signal they would be bathed in light and arrows in the same instant. The Regent also knew that if Gabrielle were forced to kill Xena and actually succeed that the Queen probably wouldn't live long after that. Soulmates rarely outlived their mates for very long.

Ephiny found herself beginning to pray for both women in the hut.

Gabrielle felt the change of energy in the hut and quickly drew in her breath, her heart skipping a beat. The next few moments could determine the future of her and Xena and possibly the world. She took a deep breath.

"Xena, I know you're there. I want to light a lamp if you'll let me. I want to see your face when you strike the blow." Gabrielle said softly and heard a creak of leather. It seemed like forever before a voice came out of the darkness.

"All right, one wrong move and you're dead."

Gabrielle, knowing the warrior's night vision and skills, moved very slowly, sitting up carefully and reaching slowly to strike flint and spark. The bard closed her eyes against the flash of light and then opened them to light the lamp next to her bed. She carefully turned, sitting on the edge of the bed.

The bard tried to fight down the wave of fear that struck at her when she caught sight of the warrior, of her mate. Xena was in her battle gear, sword drawn, crouched like a cat very near the bed.

"You're here to kill me anyway," Gabrielle stated simply.

"Yes," Xena agreed, eyes constantly darting around for hidden dangers.

"I give you my word as Amazon Queen that no one will enter this hut until I give them permission."

"You knew I was coming." Xena stated, straightening up, keeping the sword at ready.

"Yes," Gabrielle acknowledged.

"The Gods are helping you again." the warrior spat the words out like venom.

"No, my sister followed you and stole your horse. She heard you planning to come here." Gabrielle attempted a small smile.

"That explains Argo. What say we get this over with, Queen. I've a feeling I'm going to have to fight my way out of here." Xena said with a grin that sent chills down the bard's spine.

"All right, but first I'd like a warrior's promise from you."

"What could you want me to promise before you die?" Xena questioned, cocking her head to one side. The woman in front of her puzzled her and Xena wanted out of here quickly. The one called Gabrielle was small for an Amazon, Xena reflected. Golden reddish hair and a beautiful face, lovely green eyes. All right, the Warlord thought, she's beautiful, but my mate? The Warlord's experienced eyes could also tell the Queen had recently either been injured very badly or very ill, her face was slightly gaunt and tight with controlled pain, even though the Queen sought to hide it. Her movements were intentionally slow, as not to startle the Warlord but there was also stiffness and pain behind the movements.
Xena waited for the request before striking.

"That you'll never approach Solan or hurt him." Gabrielle said simply and noticed the warrior's rapid blinking in response to her son's name.

"How do you know about Solan?" Xena demanded, moving forward quickly, the point of the sword at Gabrielle's throat.

"We're bondmates, soulmates. I know about Solan. He was at our wedding and he also figured out that you're his mom and is very proud of you. I don't want you destroying that memory. It'll be difficult enough for him when he hears you've returned as the Warlord."

Xena frowned. "What should I care what he thinks? He wouldn't understand." she muttered.

"No, he wouldn't. Just like I never did and never will. I fell in love with a different Xena, so did he." Gabrielle said softly, slowly moving the blade away from her throat.

"Love? You were sent by the gods to destroy me." Xena sneered.

"No, I found my soulmate, whether you destroyed me or not with your darkness. No matter what, I love you and won't live without you."

"You're trying to trick me with fancy talk." Xena growled and raised the sword over the bard's neck.

"No, I'm letting you know that I love you, even if you kill me now. I also want you to know that if you do this then you'll find yourself in Tartarus very soon and that I'll be waiting."

"What, to torment me for eternity? Aren't you bound for the Fields?" Xena smirked.

"Yes, I believe so but I'll choose to be in Tartarus waiting for you. Not to torment you but to face whatever eternity is your destiny, together. I'm counting on you remembering our love on the otherside." Gabrielle said.

"What?" Xena whispered.

"I told my father when he confronted me about my feelings for you that I would face an eternity in Tartarus with you and I meant it." Gabrielle said simply.

Xena lowered the blade with a frown. After a moment she raised it again with a snarl.

"You brought me down from warlord to wandering warrior, not again!" Xena growled.

"And you brought me from simple farm girl to one who has known love. You saved me and my village women from slavers. That's how we met. Did Ares tell you that?"

"You're twisting things!" Xena hissed.

"No, I'm not. Do you trust anyone?" Gabrielle stood up and faced the warlord.

"No, not even Ares." Xena admitted.

"Look at your hand, your left hand." Xena looked down at the healing wound and was stunned to see a similar wound on the bard's left hand. "We were blood bound by the gods themselves. You trusted me with your love and I gave you my heart."
Xena frowned, sword lowering slowly. Blood bond? She would never trust anyone like that, not even Ares, she thought. Blood bond? Tying together of souls for eternity?

"When we met you had been driven out of your army because you tried to save a small infant and a little girl. Your army went against your orders and killed everyone and everything, men, women, children, even the animals. They put you through a gauntlet, almost killing you. Hercules and Iolaus found you and tried to convince you to change your ways, they saw a light in you."

The bard approached the warrior slowly, keeping her hands in sight.

"Then you decided to give up your weapons, YOU gave up your warlord past. We hadn't even met yet, Xena. You were burying your weapons when the slavers attacked us. You rescued us and I followed you."

"Why? How do I know this is the truth?" Xena demanded, her head spinning.

"Because if you search your heart and soul you'll find me there. I followed you because I had to." Gabrielle shrugged. "I don't know why, truly. I couldn't stay in the village any longer, I knew I was destined for something more than that and that you were part of it. When your mother refused to believe that you were changing and that you wanted to protect the village from Draco, I helped talk the villagers out of killing you."

"Wait a minute! I was trying to convince my mother that I wasn't the warlord anymore?"

"Yes, you even left your sword on the bar and walked out of her inn."

"Never!" Xena protested.

"Yes, you were determined to prove it to her, even if took years. When Draco attacked you made a single challenge to him and won, forcing his army to leave the village alone."

"Ares said I didn't win." Xena muttered.

"If you hadn't Amphipolis wouldn't be standing. You refused the treasure wagons and moved on, satisfied when your mother accepted you once again. Then I kept following you until you grew used to me."

"I didn't take the money?" Xena finally allowed her curiosity to win out over the battle warrior screaming inside for her to simply kill the small woman and get out of there. Her mind screaming that she was falling into a trap. The warrior sat down in a chair at the table, replacing the sword in her hand with her chakram. Both Gabrielle and Xena knew that the bard wouldn't be able to take a step before the chakram could cut her down.

Gabrielle grinned. "You refused."

"You must have been annoying in the beginning, you talk a lot." Xena grumbled.

Gabrielle moved slowly to the other chair, keeping her hands in sight. "Yup, no doubt about it but you came to like my stories and we came to be friends and then partners."

"Ares calls you 'irritating,'" Xena commented.

"Want to hear what I call him?" Gabrielle countered with a grin and was pleased when Xena grinned back.

"No, not right now. You're telling me that we travel around doing good things?" Xena looked extremely doubtful.

"Yes," Gabrielle answered simply.

"Why?" Xena demanded.

"Well, you found that kicking the Tartarus out of bad guys more satisfying than picking on defenseless villagers." Xena grinned at the thought of that. "You were quite pleased with yourself when you defeated Draco that time. You leap into battle with your famous warcry and a grin on your face, this time facing equal opponents. Men and women armed and attempting to kill you or someone else. Not terrified villagers defending their homes."

Xena growled.

"When did we become lovers? How did that happen? From what you describe I don't think that I just grabbed you on the first night and you stuck around."

"No, you were patient." Xena again gave her a doubtful look and Gabrielle laughed at the warrior. "We were both so terrified of losing each other's friendship that we kept our feelings to ourselves until we nearly went mad."

"You weren't sent to seduce me?" Xena whispered.

Gabrielle blushed a beet red. "Would the gods send an inexperienced virgin farmgirl to the Conqueror?" she managed to stammer out.

"Probably not. When did it happen?" Xena was now extremely curious.

"Recently, actually. We finally figured out that the other one was feeling the same emotions and desires and finally acted on them. You asked me to marry you before we even kissed." Gabrielle said carefully, watching Xena's reactions.

"No way!" the warrior protested.

"Yes, truth. In my parent's barn. You took your chakram off and laid it, your sword and your dagger at my feet and pledged your love for me. I pledged my love to you in return and stood down my father. We became lovers the next morning." Gabrielle felt her face flush with the memory of the first time with Xena.

Gabrielle felt her breathing speed up as she closed her eyes with the memory. She let the emotion and desire flow over her, knowing Xena was watching her. Sunning on a rock after a cold swim, the warrior had surprised the bard and quickly showed the bard how much Xena desired the blond woman.

Xena's eyes narrowed as Gabrielle opened her eyes. A warrior's pledge? Xena? The warrior glanced down at her hand and the wound. The bard reached out her left hand, showing her wound.

"Give me your dagger," she demanded from the warrior.

Xena raised her eyebrows and raised the chakram.

"You know I'm no match for you. Let me see your dagger." Gabrielle insisted and the warrior carefully pulled out the dagger from her side, keeping the chakram at ready.

Xena watched fascinated as the bard slit her palm, opening the wound again, letting the blood pool in her palm. Gabrielle laid the dagger on the table.

"Are you brave enough to test whether we're connected or not?"

"Some trick of the gods," Xena growled.

"No, my word as Queen. No trick from the gods, just our hearts."

Xena frowned, no one challenged her bravery!

"You have several seasons of missing memories, don't you want them back?" Gabrielle asked. "Ares is using you. Why would he wipe out your memories if he wasn't?"

Xena sliced her palm open with her chakram and grabbed the bard's hand in hers.

Xena felt a rush that was akin to the drug induced trances Alti had taught her in the North. The warrior's head snapped back and she tightened her grip on the bard's hand.

She cried out as wave after wave of memory hit her. Xena didn't resist when she felt the chakram being gently taken from her hand, nor did she open her eyes when she felt Gabrielle pull the warrior to her feet and guide her across the room. Xena gratefully slid into the bard's arms on the bed as her body shook and her mind screamed in agony.

After what seemed an eternity the warrior became aware of her surroundings and that she was in the arms of the bard she had come to kill. The woman she had taken as soulmate. "No!" she cried out. Xena felt the tears streaming down her face and her body began to shake as she sobbed. Gabrielle turned the warrior over until Xena was facing her and then held the taller woman close.

"I wanted you dead!" Xena whimpered, attempting to pull away from Gabrielle but the bard held fast.

"No, the Warlord wanted me dead, not you. That's no longer you." Gabrielle argued.

"I almost killed you! How do we know it won't happen again?" the warrior shouted, sitting up, turning away from Gabrielle. The bard grabbed her from behind and held tight.

"Because he won't win. He'll never win. As long as we have our love, no one can win against us!" Gabrielle argued.

"I love you so much but I'm going to end up hurting you, I know it!" Xena cried.

Gabrielle sighed heavily and crawled out of the bed. Taking the lamp to the door she opened it slowly, letting the Amazons see her clearly and called out a bird call. She slowly went back to the bedside table and sat the lamp down. She then knelt in front of her love.

"I love you and you probably will hurt me." Xena looked up into the bard's green eyes, terrified. "We will always have that power over each other. It's hard to hurt someone unless there's deep feelings there. I love you but I accept that I might hurt you in the future. I'll chance being hurt and pray I never hurt you." Gabrielle insisted.

"I almost became the Warlord again. I WAS the Warlord again," Xena countered.

"Only because Ares messed with your memories. Let it go, he's lost and we've won. Come back to me, my love." Gabrielle insisted.

"I can't, I was a moment away from killing you!" Xena growled, resisting the bard.

Gabrielle decided to stop arguing with words and grabbed the warrior's face and pulled herself up into the warrior's lips. Xena resisted and Gabrielle fought back, following the warrior until they were laying back on the bed, the small bard on top of Xena.

The warrior finally gave into the kiss and her strong arms wrapped around the moaning bard. They broke away from the kiss when Gabrielle yelped. She leaned up slightly and tapped the armor beneath her.

"This has got to go, warrior."

Xena grinned and nodded. The bard eagerly got up from her warrior and began helping the woman remove the leather and metal covering. As the bard helped remove the armor from behind she leaned into Xena's ear.

"How much do you remember?" she asked.

"Everything, the first time together, the wedding, you being poisoned, taking my mom and your family home, everything." Xena answered, leaning back into her bard.

"Good, then you'll remember that it's been awhile since I was up to touching you." Gabrielle reached out and bit the warrior's earlobe and found herself quickly enveloped in the warrior's arms as Xena turned and they fell back onto the bed. With a growl of impatience they both managed to get each other's clothes off somehow.

Xena quickly sought out Gabrielle's lips, almost painfully. The bard countered with her tongue and teeth, lightly nipping the warrior's lips. The bard's hands pulled Xena on top of her, grabbing the warrior tightly, working a leg between the other woman's legs. The warrior moaned and bit down on an aroused nipple, sending the bard arching her back and crying out.
Suddenly the bard felt Xena stiffen and then move away from her to sit on the edge of the bed. Catching her breath, Gabrielle sat up quickly.

"What is it, Xena?" the bard asked.

"I.... I can't." the warrior whispered.

Gabrielle sighed, insight sweeping over her. "Because you were with Ares?"

"You knew?" Xena refused to meet Gabrielle's eyes and the bard pulled the woman's face around to look at her in the eyes.

"Yes, he came around to brag." Gabrielle admitted, pain showing in her eyes.

"Son of a bacchae!" Xena hissed.

"I agree. That wasn't my mate, that wasn't my Xena. You didn't even remember me, Xena." Gabrielle argued.

"I slept with him! Arrrggghhh!"

"From what I hear you didn't do much sleeping," Gabrielle grinned around her pain and was rewarded with a warrior suddenly tickling her.

"I remember now that you're ticklish," Xena warned.

"Good, then you remember you love me, not him. Come here and show me how much." Gabrielle insisted, pulling Xena back on top of her. The warrior quickly responded to the encouragement.

"Xena!" a male voice demanded outside the hut, sending both women scrambling for weapons. In a moment Gabrielle had a spike in her hand that had been hidden in her wrist bracer and Xena had her chakram ready. Xena looked at the spike with raised eyebrows and Gabrielle merely shrugged.

The warrior wrapped her cloak around her and opened the door to the hut cautiously. She wasn't surprised to see Ares standing in the common area, hands on his hips and a furious look on his face. He was ignoring the fact that he was surrounded by armed Amazons, each with his heart or head lined in their arrow sights.
Xena walked out of the hut, holding the cloak closed around her, pulling the cloth up over one bare shoulder. She stopped in front of him.

"Oh you are in such trouble!" he hissed.

"I usually am with you," the warrior commented easily.

"How did she do it? Talk you to death again?" he demanded. "No, don't tell me, I can see you've been doing more than talking." he pointed to her bare shoulder and Xena pulled the cloak up again.

"Nope, well, sort of. She told me the truth and I recognized it." Xena grinned.

"I told you the truth, you grew weak and lost your edge and you lost the warlord." Ares countered.

"I gave up the warlord before Gabrielle, she merely helped me find the light." Xena said simply.

"You can't deny what we have together." his voice softened.

"We had sex between us, with Gabrielle it's love." She opened her left hand, showing the fresh wound.

"This isn't over, Xena!" he promised and was gone.

"You better hope it is." she muttered and grinned at Ephiny and Solari, both holding bows with notched arrows. "Uh, I've got my memories back."

Ephiny grinned at the warrior's discomfort. "Consort, I think your Queen needs your attention."

Xena blushed and started past the Amazons who were resisting laughing at the warrior. "Xena, be careful, she pulled her back out a couple of days ago," Ephiny suggested.

"I want to ask her about that spike," the warrior muttered. Xena closed the door blushing and turned in time to catch Gabrielle in her arms as the bard leaped for her warrior.

"Some backache," Xena muttered.

"You're my cure for everything," Gabrielle whispered, beginning to nibble on the warrior's neck, sending the warrior stumbling back into the door.

Ephiny rolled her eyes at the thump and the following moans coming from the hut. Solari laughed and wrapped an arm around her mate's shoulders.

"Terrific, another sleepless night for anyone near the Queen's hut." Ephiny complained.

"I'll take this over fighting the Warlord Xena," Solari grinned.

"Any day, my love, any day." Ephiny agreed, nuzzling her mate's neck.


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