Greeks with Gifts

by Hunter Ash

Disclaimer: the usual: I don’t own Xena, Gabrielle or Argo. No copyright infringement is intended, this story is for enjoyment only and not for profit.

Sex: this story contains a sexual and loving relationship between characters of the same sex. If this is illegal in your state or country, leave now and change your laws. If you are under 18, bookmark the page and come back after your birthday.

Violence: no more than a usual Xena tale.

Timeline: doesn’t have one really except that it takes place sometime before Gabrielle’s hair gets cut. Probably more like season 1 or 2.

Feedback is always welcome. Homophobic comments will be laughed at and deleted, so please don’t bother, all others welcome and encouraged.

Xena silently cursed the fates as she watched Gabrielle brush a strand of hair from her face and lean on her staff. The bard looked so tired and haggard it tore at Xena’s heart.

The day was hot again and everyone was suffering. It had been two weeks since the small army of Thombisius had sieged the town and water was more than dangerously low. Xena knew they couldn’t hold out much longer. They had plenty of food, the walled town being a trading center for the local farmers and herdsmen, but water was another matter. It wouldn’t be long before the siege was broken, by one side or the other.

Xena and Gabrielle’s role had started out simple enough, stopping in the town to pick up supplies for the road. They hadn’t even intended on staying the night. Then the raiders hit, killing several of the town guards and managing to set one grain silo on fire before being repelled. The gates of the town had swung shut with everyone inside trapped, including Xena and Gabrielle.

The demands of the raiders were simple, all the grain, cattle, pigs and wine. Any gold in the city and any women they wished to carry off. The alternative was death for everyone in town.

The town had fought back.

Xena had helped the Captain of the Guard, Darius, to organize the defenses and helped train the townspeople. Gabrielle had been instrumental in forming a hospice for the wounded and dying. The hours had turned into days and days into a week.

The army had constantly harassed the defenders with feints and attacks. A daily barrage of rocks from catapults and arrows had kept everyone edgy and under cover. They had almost broken through the gates twice now and Xena wasn’t sure the gate could hold another onslaught.

Xena watched as tears began to fall down Gabrielle’s cheeks as two men carried another litter out of the hospice, the figure on it covered. Xena swore, wanting to hit something, to impale her sword through Thombisius, anything other than see the pain on Gabrielle’s face and those of the villagers.

Xena was no longer sure of how to break the siege. She had met with Thombisius, had challenged him to one-on-one combat with her and he had laughed at her. Xena pulled her sword and struck at a pillar nearby in her frustration over the memory.

"I’m not a fool, Xena. I got to be leader by being smart. No matter how good I think I am I know I’m not a match for you. I doubt that anyone is. No, I think I’ll stick to my strategy and wait. Either you’ll come rushing out of that gate and my army will finish you or that gate will give way and we’ll enter and slaughter everyone then. Either way my army has a town and supplies for the winter."

Thombisius had been smart, Xena reflected. Sieges were successful if the surrounding army had enough supplies to outlast those on the inside and from what Xena had seen of Thombisius’ camp, he had enough food and a river right behind him. Food and water. And patience.

Xena knew that Thombisius was fighting for his army’s life. They had enough supplies to wear down the town but not enough to get through winter and the season had been dry and hard. Thombisius needed this town to keep his army together or they would scatter to the wind when the cold weather hit. His army wasn’t strong enough to move on and challenge another city or army. This was a make or break situation for the bandit lord and Xena knew it. That made things very dangerous, neither side could afford to lose, even if the town surrendered, the villagers would starve in the coming winter.

Xena saw Gabrielle go back into the hospice and, putting away her sword, followed. Inside the hot and stifling atmosphere she found the bard talking gently to several wounded villagers, beginning a tale, something to distract them.

Xena’s ears picked up and her eyes narrowed in thought as Gabrielle began the tale of the siege of Troy and the Greek Trojan war.

Darius, the Captain of the Guard entered and sought out Xena.

Xena turned and looked at her second in command. He was a handsome young man of around twenty seasons, very young for a captain’s position, she had thought before. He had proven his worth with wisdom and fighting skills during the skirmishes with the bandits and Xena had found herself impressed with the young man. He had been on the walls again, she noted by his frazzled appearance and blood trickling down a wound on his cheek. She walked up and lifted his chin, wanting to get a better look at the wound. He attempted to shrug her off.

"It’s nothing, an arrow."

"Have Gabrielle or the healer look at that. Infection can be deadly." she ordered.

"In a minute. The bandits seem to be massing again for a frontal assault." he reported.

"I expected that. Put extra men on the back wall and the small gate. Take every third man to reinforce the gate. How are the barricades inside the gate coming?" Xena glanced over and saw Gabrielle watching her, still telling her tale. Gabrielle nodded and turned back to her patients. Xena sighed a heavy sigh, it seemed like she and Gabrielle had barely gotten a chance to say hello to each other over the last few days, let alone any time alone. Xena followed Darius outside and looked over the barricades.

"Eight feet high with arrow steps on the inside. If they break through the gate they’ll be surprised to find themselves in a corridor of death. Very clever, Princess." Darius commented.

"We’ve been through this, call me Xena, please."

Darius attempted to smile and brought fresh blood from the wound. He cursed under his breath and held his hand to the wounded cheek.

"Go get that checked on. Take Lyka with you after that and give me a count of wagons that can still roll." Darius frowned.

"Wagons?" he questioned.

"Yes, I think I might have an idea." Xena moved away before he could question her further.

Xena looked over the villagers not on duty as they tried to find shade to escape the heat. It was unusually hot for fall and everyone was feeling it. Many had long ago gave up trying to stay comfortable and clean, merely falling where they were to try and grab sleep when not on the walls or building barricades. Other villagers were coating arrowheads with cloth, these meant for fire arrows. It was one tactic that was proving effective at keeping the bandits at bay and away from the gates.

Darius and his wife-soldier Lyka approached her. Xena shielded her eyes and gauged the passage of the sun.

"There’s 15 wagons, most of those are here because of the farmers just bringing in their last wheat crops for sale. What are you thinking, Xena?" Darius asked.

Xena watched the couple, considering how to answer. They had both impressed her. Lyka was a member of the Guard and had met Darius through their duties. The young woman was small and lean, barely able of holding up a full size sword for any length of training. What she lacked in natural strength she made up for in determination and speed. Before the siege she had been a runner for the town. Now she was like a racehorse cooped up in a stall. Her golden hair cut short on top, long in the back and held out of her eyes with a headband. Xena’s heart had skipped a beat when she had first seen the young guard, she looked so much like her son, Solan.

"A way to break the siege, I think." Xena answered with answering and Darius grimaced at her.

"What is your plan?" Darius pushed. Without realizing it he had placed his arm around his smaller wife and drew her closer to him. Xena smiled at the sight, it wasn’t often you found two people still so intent on each other after two winters of marriage. Xena’s healer-trained eyes didn’t miss the slight bulge of Lyka’s womb either. She had to find a way to end this quickly before many more died.

"Something Paris learned the hard way." Xena commented and then drew the two of them along as she began telling them her idea, walking at the same time.

"Are you out of your mind?" Gabrielle demanded for the fifth time since Xena had explained the plan to her.

"Probably, but we can’t continue on, we need to break this siege or the villagers will be too weak to defend themselves when that gate gives way." Xena rationalized.

Gabrielle curled into the warriors arm and laid her head on her lover’s shoulder. Xena sighed with pleasure. They had finally taken time away from the wall and the hospice to be together, even if it was for a short time. Gabrielle’s hand rested comfortably on Xena’s ribs and began playing with the laces of her leather shift. Xena’s breath caught in her throat at the sensations suddenly roaming through her body as Gabrielle’s fingers left the laces and began playing with Xena’s nipples through the leather. Xena took in the satisfied smile on the bard’s face.

"Gods, what you do to me, woman." Xena said gruffly and pulled the bard up to her lips. Gabrielle settled on top of Xena and both women moaned with the contact. "It’s been too long, little one." Xena complained, moving down from the bard’s mouth to her neck. Gabrielle whimpered as Xena’s teeth found a particularly tender and erotic nerve in her neck. Her fingers began to dig into Xena’s shoulders when one of Xena’s legs came up between hers and pressed against her.

"Much too long, my warrior." Gabrielle agreed and sank her own teeth into Xena’s neck. Xena’s head arched back with the passion. Her hands began to become more instant, pulling at Gabrielle’s clothing as the bard did the same.

Gabrielle rolled off of Xena and allowed the warrior to sit up so she could pull the leather shift off to reveal the most magnificent body the young woman had ever seen. Gabrielle then felt her shift also disappearing over her head. She was awestruck looking at her lover and she heard Xena laugh softly.

"You are beautiful too. Come here." Xena smiled and pulled the bard back on top of her. Gabrielle moaned at the contact of bare skin to skin. She instant sank her head to one of Xena’s nipples and began teasing it with her lips and teeth. Xena hissed and arched her back again. Gabrielle knew they both had gone too long without touching each other and this wasn’t a time for soft, gentle and slow loving. They both wanted each other totally and quickly.

One of the bards hands went to the other nipple and began teasing it and the other sank to her lover’s sex, finding her way already lubricated from Xena’s need. Xena growled as the bard entered her with several fingers and then withdrew, teasing. Gabrielle looked up from her teasing of Xena’s nipples with a smile and then lowered her head again and entered her lover the same time she grabbed the nipple with her teeth.

Xena’s moans became louder and louder and her hips began to buck of their own accord. Gabrielle pushed one leg up against her hand as she entered Xena again, roughly and deeply. Her thumb then began to work on Xena’s clit and the warrior’s head began to thrash around as the sensations built one on top of the other quickly.

"Gabrielle, please..." she managed to choke out.

Gabrielle, holding fast against her lover looked up with a smile. "What, my love?"

"I love you." Xena bared her teeth as her body began to shake with even more violence and a hand tangled itself in Gabrielle’s hair, bringing an answering growl from the bard who refused to stop her slow and wondrous torture of Xena’s body.

Xena’s body reached the point she always fought, the point of no return and no control. It was something that only the bard seemed to be able to conquer, no one else could take Xena that high or that far. A lifetime of staying in control, even in the middle of battle lust, had taken a toll on Xena’s love life - never had she given over total control to someone. Never had she given her heart to anyone else like this.

Gabrielle, knowing her warrior well, looked up into Xena’s heavy eyes. "To me, warrior, come to me." she whispered. Xena moaned and then screamed Gabrielle’s name as it felt like her body exploded, like she was dying.

Xena’s ragged breath told her that she was still alive and every nerve in her body was still dancing. She felt the bard curl into her arms, kissing her everywhere and Xena began to kiss the bard back as well as her strength rapidly returned. Xena was always amazed at the endurance and passion of the small woman in her arms. Most lovers Xena had ever had would curl up and sleep after the lovemaking with Xena. Gabrielle and Xena found it different with them, both of them amazed and pleased, they never could seem to get enough of each other.

Xena rolled on top of the bard with a wicked grin. "My turn." she promised as her kisses began to trail down Gabrielle’s neck and lower.

Gabrielle’s last conscious thought of the evening was that they probably wouldn’t get much sleep that night. Then she was moaning and whimpering.

Thombisius was surprised to see a pretty blond riding Xena’s horse out of the gate to meet with him. He pushed his own horse past his front line and rode out to meet her, carrying the white flag of truce. He pulled up and studied her.

She looked young and naive but Thombisius’ trained eyes also took in her strong and well fit body and the way she carried herself on the horse. Thombisius wasn’t sure he wanted to be on the wrong end of that staff she was carrying. He noted with detachment that she didn’t wear a sword and he couldn’t even see a dagger on her. He was curious.

"I’m Thombisius, what do you want?" he demanded, his eyes running up and down her body. Plans for what he wanted to do with that body after they took the city beginning to form in his mind.

Gabrielle almost bared her teeth at him, she didn’t even have to be psychic to see what was going through his mind. "I have a message from the townspeople. They are ready to surrender the city to you if you promise them safe passage out and promise to harm no one else. They will leave everything but a few personal possessions behind."

"Who are you?"

"My name is Gabrielle, I am allowed to speak for the town."

"Xena’s little bard whore."

Thombisius blinked and held very very still. The end of the staff just a half inch from his nose. Gabrielle drew the staff back as Argo pranced, picking up on Gabrielle’s raw emotions.

"Your answer?" Gabrielle demanded.

"My men want company through the winter." Thombisius grinned, letting her know that it wasn’t only his men who had that same thought.

"Tell them to use their hands or each other." Gabrielle snapped back at him.

Thombisius’ face flushed bright red and his eyes narrowed in anger.

"If you don’t agree to safe passage then the villagers will poison every ounce of food in the town and poison the well. No one will win this battle." Gabrielle promised.

"Where’s Xena?"

A look of pain flashed across the bard’s face and Thombisius noted it although Gabrielle tried to hide it quickly.

"She was injured this morning on the wall. The healer doesn’t know if...," Gabrielle looked away and then back to the bandit leader, her emotions under control again.

"How can I trust that the villagers won’t leave with all the gold?"

"We’ll deliver all the gold and coin the village has, along with fresh meat in wagons to you at sunset." Gabrielle said simply.

Thombisius obviously sat thinking about it. "If they poison everything, they’ll die. If they surrender with no conditions some of them will live." he argued.

"Would you? These people may be farmers and merchants but they are human and they won’t see their women and children slaughtered or worse for your perverted pleasure." Gabrielle hissed.

Thombisius’ face flushed again. Then nodded. "My men grow tired of this nonsense. I agree. You bring out the treasure wagons at sunset for our inspection and the villagers can leave at dawn. I promise them safe passage for one day, after that my men can pick up whatever they find along the road."

"I have your word the villagers won’t be harmed?" Gabrielle demanded.

"You have my word, on the head of Ares, that the villagers won’t be harmed for the space of one day."

"And Xena and myself?"

Thombisius grinned. "You are clever, you know of course that I don’t consider either of you villagers. All right, with Xena wounded, you won’t get far. I agree, everyone in the town is safe for a day."

Gabrielle merely nodded and turned Argo back towards the gate. She knew that Thombisius was watching her ride away, taking in every inch of bare skin that showed in her outfit. There were days that she cursed her preference for small clothing, no matter how hot it was.

Thombisius watched the wagons moving out of the gate slowly, their horses and mules struggling with the heavy cargo inside. He noted the way the wheels sunk into the dust and how the drivers were urging their pack animals forward. He nodded, the wagons weren’t empty.

His ranks opened up to let the wagons in and the drivers began circling the wagons, making room for the next one until they had formed a large circle in the center of Thombisius’ camp and also had a group of wagons lined up between his ranks. He was very pleased with the number of wagons, this would get the morale of his men back up, even if they couldn’t have the women right away.

Gabrielle rode up on Argo straight to Thombisius. He noted that this time she had a bow in her hands with an arrow notched.

"Not taking chances?" he questioned with a nod towards the bow.

Gabrielle smiled a grim smile. "Would you?" she countered.

"Nope, not for a moment." Thombisius’ attention was caught by one of the wagons as the driver began to toss fresh meat to several of the men who yelled with joy, a week of cold rations was getting to all of the bandits and fresh meat was going to be very welcome. Another driver was tossing gold coins to bandits. "Hey, some order here, back to your posts!" Thombisius yelled, watching the ranks break and head for the wagons.

Gabrielle smiled and raised her empty hand high in the air. Thombisius caught the action and then followed her gaze as one of the drivers stood up on his wagon and raised a hunting horn to his lips. A blast sounded out and Thombisius felt a chill run up his spine.

"Stand your posts!" he screamed, attempting to pull out his sword. Before he could complete the action he found himself staring at an arrow protruding from his chest. He looked at Gabrielle who was pulling another arrow from her quiver. Her lips trembled but her eyes were firm.

Thombisius merely sat his horse as the wagons seemed to come alive with villagers, all rising from behind, under and from in boxes. Tarps were thrown aside and the bandits found themselves cut down to less than half their number in a matter of moments from the deadly arrows of the villagers. The other half ran back for the weapons that the site of gold had caused them to abandon.

Thombisius heard the famous battle cry he had never wanted to hear and saw the impossible. Xena flipping out of a wagon in a triple flip and landing on her feet, sword drawn, battle lust glinting in her eyes. Two of his men went down before they knew what hit them.

Thombisius hit the ground hard as Argo rammed his horse and the bandit lost his hold on the reins. He looked up to see Gabrielle looking at him and then dismissing him, urging Argo into the fray.

Thombisius sat up to watch the battle, attempting to hold the blood back in his chest. Even though his men were at less than half they were putting up quite a fight now they had recovered some of their senses, he noted. He nodded with encouragement as he saw Gabrielle knocked from the horse by the flat of a sword. She recovered quickly, dropping her bow and pulling a dagger from one of her boots. Thombisius smiled, he figured she had to be armed with something other than a staff and bow. He wiped blood away from his mouth and tried not to cough any more up.

The villagers were making headway against his army, he noticed with detachment. The battle was over for him and he knew it but he was curious how it would turn out. He wanted to cheer his men on but merely croaked a sound when he noticed a small band of them rallying, back to back with each other. They broke through a small group of guardsmen and actually had several of the villagers surrounded, one including Gabrielle.

Thombisius was curious about his reactions. He figured he should be focusing on Xena, the warrior but his eyes kept going back to Gabrielle. Remainder of lust, he figured. He really wished he could be the one facing her right then as the bandits began to overwhelm the small group of villagers that were cut off.

Xena, also looking for Gabrielle, spotted the reddish hair and swing staff and quickly took in the scene. It was getting darker and she thanked the gods for the insight to have every villager wear a white headband for easier identification as the sun went down. She could see the small group was going down quickly. Xena was about to break into action in that direction when three of Thombisius’ better warriors got in her way.

A series of feints, thrusts, hits and flips finally managed to put the three out of the way but not before one of them actually got close enough to glance her ribs with his sword. Xena had winced and then buried her chakram in his chest. She bent over him to wrench the weapon from the man’s bones when she spotted Gabrielle again and screamed the young bard’s name.

Several of the guards went down under the swords and war hammers of the bandits, leaving Gabrielle exposed. Xena watched as Gabrielle drove her staff into the throat of one bandit and knock the feet out from under another. Xena knew instantly with a horrible feeling that Gabrielle couldn’t turn fast enough to meet the two coming up behind her and the two in front of her that took the place of the last two. Xena desperately grabbed at her chakram, knowing she was going to be too late.

A figure leaped out of the darkness, throwing the bard to the ground and covering the young woman as the two from behind struck. Xena screamed in anger as she saw the swords connect into flesh. The chakram bounced off several objects and the two attackers grabbed their throats and wondered why blood was pouring over their hands. It had happened so quickly they didn’t even realize they were dead for the space of seconds and then they crumbled to the ground. Xena, war cry filling the air with the other sounds of battle, flipped over several bandits and landed in front of her friend and protector, sword flashing at the two bandits who had been closing in. They wisely took one look in her eyes and turned to run. Xena caught the chakram and in a flash the two retreating bandits were still moving a couple of feet without their heads before falling.

Xena turned and caught the chakram again and found Gabrielle attempting to crawl out from under her protector. Xena put her sword away after scanning the battle scene, satisfied that the worst was over and the remaining bandits were on the run or captured. She bent down to help her mate.

"Damn," Thombisius muttered, realizing that both the warrior and bard lived. He felt the darkness grabbing his heart and soul and fell back to the ground.

"Get a torch over here!" Xena called out and a villager ran up with a torch and bloody shovel. "Interesting weapon." she muttered.

Gabrielle gasped as they both recognized Lyka’s still body. Xena motioned the villager, Antiocus, closer with the torch. She quickly felt for a pulse and nodded reassuringly to Gabrielle when she found one.

"Get one of the wagons over here, start gathering our wounded. Gabrielle, help with the wounded, get them back into the town. Antiocus, get a couple of the others and start loading those empty barrels with water and into the wagons. I want everyone back into the town as fast as possible. Grab whatever weapons you find, leave the wounded bandits where they lay."

"Xena, you can’t!" Gabrielle protested, keeping pressure on Lyka’s wounds with her own headband.

Xena looked at her grimly. "A wounded man takes out two healthy men to care for him. If the bandits regroup they’ll have their hands full with their own wounded. If they don’t regroup we’ll gather the wounded ones up at dawn."

"Most of them will die in the night!"

"I know." Xena attempted to turn away, she wasn’t surprised when Gabrielle had leaped up and put a restraining hand on the warrior’s arm. "I’m sorry, Gabrielle, I have to protect the villagers first."

"I can’t do that." Gabrielle insisted, the stubborn look in her eyes told Xena that this wasn’t an argument that she would win. Gabrielle could be just as stubborn as a mule, Xena knew from experience. She also knew that Gabrielle’s goodness was just too much to let men die unattended. The young bard had even risked her life to take water to the murdering Hoard. Xena shook her head and gave her lover a smile.

"All right, our wounded go first though, then the wagons can come back for the bandits if they haven’t regrouped."

Gabrielle smiled and touched Xena’s face. "Thank you." then the young woman was off to oversee the handling of the wounded and Xena was off to see to the gathering of weapons and supplies.

Xena, once the villagers were settled in again, went to help in the hospice, lending her healing skills to the very tired healer and an overwhelmed Gabrielle. Xena helped the healer clean and then stitch up the wounds on Lyka’s back but shook her head at Gabrielle and Xena watched the bard’s face fall. She understood, they both liked the young couple a lot and Xena knew these wounds were very serious.

Darius sat next to the cot, looking very lost. Xena motioned for the healer to finish dressing the wounds and pulled the young man to his feet, pulling him towards the door. Gabrielle joined them. Xena tried to pull his attention from the figure on the bed.

"Darius," he still wouldn’t look at her. "Darius," she said more forcefully and the young man blinked at her. "She’s hurt very badly. She’ll live but she might not walk again."

Darius whimpered in the back of his throat. He looked like a trapped rabbit, Gabrielle thought and placed a comforting hand on his arm.

Xena looked at him, catching his eyes again. "Do you know about the baby?" she asked gently.

"Baby?" he questioned.

"She was probably waiting until past the third month to tell you," Gabrielle said.

"What?" he questioned.

"Many women wait until they know they can carry the baby." Xena explained.

"Is she.... is it.... what?"

"The baby is all right, as far as I and the healer can tell. It will be a few days before we know for sure that the blow didn’t damage the baby. You need to be strong for her and the village right now. With the headman dead you need to lead the villagers in rebuilding their defenses and resupplying the city."

Darius’s eyes became more focused as he thought about everything that needed to be done.

"Can you stay for a few days?" he asked the couple.

"Yeah, we’ll make sure the bandits don’t regroup." Xena agreed.

Darius began to cry suddenly and Gabrielle took him in her arms. Xena moved back to the cot holding Lyka. The healer merely nodded and went to the next wounded person.

"Come on, Lyka. You can fight this." Xena whispered.

Later Gabrielle found Xena by the river with Argo, watching the water flow by. The bard approached cautiously, not wanting to awaken the warrior’s heightened senses, she made sure to make noise. Xena looked up and turned her head. Gabrielle was surprised to see where tears had been falling from Xena’s eyes.

She sat down next to the warrior and gently laid her head on Xena’s arm. Xena moved and wrapped the arm around the bard and drew her next to her. Together they watched the water in the moonlight.

"What’s wrong, Xena?" Gabrielle finally asked, softly.

"That could have been you," Xena said simply.

"I know. It should have been me. She saved me." Gabrielle agreed.

"I.... I couldn’t lose you," the warrior began to cry again and Gabrielle wiped the tears from the taller woman’s eyes.

"I’m not leaving. We’ve both come back from the other side for each other. I’m not about to leave you now. We are going to have eternity together." the bard promised.

"I know," Xena agreed with a hug and a kiss.

"Will she walk again?" Gabrielle asked after they broke the kiss.

"I don’t know. The wounds aren’t as bad as we feared. She’ll be in pain for the rest of her life though." Xena picked up a rock and swung it viciously into the water.

"Can’t we do anything?" Gabrielle asked.

"No, not at this point. You know, I didn’t think you would take Thombisius out. I know violence isn’t your way." Xena commented, not looking at the bard, not wanting to startle the young woman with the line of questioning.

Gabrielle frowned and lowered her head. "I know, I just... he...." she stammered.

Xena hugged her closer. "I know." the warrior reassured her.

"Xena, I don’t know if I could ever be a warrior but I am realizing that there weren’t any other options. He wanted....."

Xena’s eyes narrowed, she had a pretty good idea what the bandit had wanted more than gold. She fought to control her temper as she held the gentle bard in her arm. "He forced us and you into a corner, this was on his head." Xena tried to reassure Gabrielle and the bard nodded, but still had a miserable look on her face.

Xena was at a loss, she didn’t know how to comfort Gabrielle sometimes. She had never had this conflict about killing. Xena’s conflict was always with the fact that she could kill easily. Once again she reflected how the bard was like the light and she was like the darkness. Gabrielle might find herself fighting with edged weapons someday, traveling with a reformed warlord was dangerous work, Xena knew. She also knew the bard probably wouldn’t ever get over her reluctance to kill. At least she prayed the bard didn’t. One of Xena’s biggest fears being that the battle lust would seize Gabrielle and she would lose that light of her soul.

Xena shook her head to clear her thoughts and wrapped both arms around Gabrielle and they watched the water flow by.

Xena watched as the small figure pulled herself up on crutches, biting her lip with obvious pain. Lyka whimpered and fell forward into Darius’ arms. He quickly laid her back down on the cot and wiped the tears streaming down her face. She cried out in agony.

Xena turned and began pacing the town square. Gabrielle, eating a bowl of stew in front of the hospice, watched her lover pace, wishing she could help all of them more. Then her attention was caught up by the warrior. Xena had stopped pacing and had an intense look on her face.

"Got it!" the warrior cried, snapping her fingers and then she was off at a trot towards the inn. Gabrielle frowned, puzzled.

Gabrielle and Darius watched closely as Xena pulled item after item out of her packs until she reached the bottom and pulled a small pouch out. Lyka was trying to focus but the pain was clouding her eyes. Xena carefully opened the pouch and dropped a green stone into her palm. She held it up for everyone to see. Gabrielle could see the light green stone that was filled with darker green lines.

"This is a stone that I got in Chin from a... a teacher of mine. It has magical powers of healing. I was injured very badly and this stone has helped me every day. Without this the pain would return every day. It’s become such a part of me I had forgotten about it." Xena placed the stone in Lyka’s hands and whispered a chant.

"In a day’s time you’ll be better. You’ll still feel pain but it won’t cripple you. Having the baby will be hard, the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life but you’ll be fine and so will the baby." Xena smiled and closed Lyka’s hand around the stone. "As long as you have this stone your injury won’t hurt and you’ll live a normal life. Don’t loose it." Xena said with a smile, the pain clear to everyone in the room as she placed the stone in Lyka’s hand.

Lyka started to protest but Xena raised her hand and cut her off.

"You saved Gabrielle’s life and took those blows yourself. We owe you this."

Lyka rose off the bed carefully, her face revealing that she expected the overwhelming pain at any moment. Then confusion, then hope, then joy. She rose to her feet and bounced on both feet for a moment, testing her body’s new mobility. Then the young soldier leaped into her husband’s arms, laughing.

Xena turned and took Darius’ arm in a warrior’s handshake. "Lyka," the soldier turned her face to look at the warrior, "No more battles, no more fighting. The stone helps but it can’t cure. You must take care of that back and not injure it again." Xena smiled at Darius, "Take care of her and yourself."

"Xena," the warrior and bard turned to look at a grinning Darius and smiling Lyka. "What was the lesson Paris learned?"

"Not to trust Greeks bearing gifts. Thombisius should have followed history a little more closely." Xena grinned back at them.

Xena turned and limped out of the room with Gabrielle following.

Gabrielle suddenly worried about the limp and the pinched look of pain on Xena’s face.

"Ready to leave, little one?" Xena asked, dismissing the unasked questions threatening to flow from the bard’s lips.

"Yes, I’ve been packed for two days." Gabrielle agreed.

Within the hour they had made their good-byes to the villagers, refusing rewards for helping save the village other than supplies and a handful of dinars. Xena absolutely refused a treasure wagon and it almost came to blows with several villagers insisting the warrior and bard take their gold. Gabrielle had stepped in and asked the villagers to hold the gold for them, as it wouldn’t be safe to travel with that much gold. The villagers agreed and stipulated that the gold would be waiting for the two heroes whenever they wanted.

Xena had reluctantly agreed, seeing no other way around it without actually fighting the villagers not to take a reward. That would have been just too weird, she decided.

As they rounded a bend in the road Xena stopped limping and began walking with her old stride. Gabrielle place a hand on her lover’s arm and stopped her. Xena couldn’t help but smiling at the bard’s obvious confusion.

"You’re not limping." Gabrielle said and Xena wasn’t sure if it was a question or statement.

"Uh huh." Xena began walking again and Gabrielle shook her head and rushed to catch up.

"What happened to the limp, you don’t have the healing stone anymore." Gabrielle protested.

"It’s just a stone, Gabrielle." Xena stopped and took Gabrielle into a hug, still grinning.

"Xena," Gabrielle’s voice had dropped a notch and the warrior laughed, knowing that voice meant the bard wanted an explanation, quickly.

"It’s malachite, a stone I picked up from a trader from Chin. The power is in Lyka’s mind alone. It just gives her focus."

Gabrielle pulled back to look in her lover’s eyes. "What? No healing power? That injury she has is crippling!" Gabrielle protested.

Argo tugged at her reins, anxious to begin moving again. Reluctantly the two women began walking again.

"Yes, it is and she would spend the rest of her long life mostly on the bed in pain. There are herbs that could ease the pain but they would make her muddled and she’d depend on them for her the rest of her life. This way her mind can do the blocking of the pain and she can move on with her life. If she doesn’t injure that back again she can lead a normal life."

"But how?" Gabrielle demanded, her green eyes flashing intently.

"The power of the mind is more powerful than anything on earth." the warrior then paused. "Well, other than love, of course."

"Wow, Xena the warrior said more than four sentences." Gabrielle quickly ducked as Xena playfully smacked at her. Gabrielle’s face then grew serious again. "There’s no power in the stone, it’s all in Lyka’s mind?"

"That’s right, as long as she thinks the stone is healing her the mind will do it for her."

"What if the stone is lost?"

"Pray she doesn’t, Gabrielle."

Xena was startled when the young bard grabbed her in a tight embrace. "What’s that for?"

"Because you’re so wonderful." Xena was glad the bard’s head was buried in the leather of the warrior’s armor at her chest, Gabrielle couldn’t see her blush. She hugged the bard back and then kissed her tenderly. "How did you remember the Trojan horse?" Gabrielle asked, nuzzling her lover’s neck.

"You did, your inspiration." Xena laughed at the bard’s confusion. "You were telling the story of the Greek-Trojan war to the wounded and it gave me the idea."

Gabrielle playfully bit the neck she was nuzzling and felt Xena shudder. "Wow! I helped the mightly Xena with battle strategy." she teased. Xena growled and leaned down to claim Gabrielle’s lips.

Argo chose that moment to impatiently nudge them to get moving again, almost knocking them off their feet.

Xena frowned at her beloved mare. "We need to talk, Argo." she threatened. Argo merely tugged on the reins again.

Gabrielle’s delighted laughter filled the air around them.

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