Disclaimers see part 1

Yes there is violence and some sex (not much) and there is a loving relationship between two consenting adults, and oh yeah their the same sex.

If this bothers you or is illegal where you are, or you are not 18 yet, please delete this now, and go else where for reading material. Oh and I was told to issue a tissue alert, that means you might want a box of kleenex handy for this one.


The Keeper of My Soul--Always 16

By: Alex P.


The two lovers would have wanted to take the time to reassure each other that their reconciliation was genuine but reality had other ideas.

A loud call from the north wall announced the beginning of the enemy's probing attacks.

It was just a small group of five mercenaries that actually charged the walls, but with their comrades sitting just outside of arrow range, the defenders could hardly ignore the obvious ruse.

After a few of these probes, the enemy commanders strategy became clear to Xena; he was using these constant, minor attacks to tire out the defenders while the bulk of his command rested.

The only way Xena could see to counteract the enemy's plan was to inflict as many casualties on each probe as possible. To this end, Xena placed her best archers on the walls with instructions to take out as many of the enemy as they could during each attack. She hoped to make his strategy too costly to continue.

On the next alarm, Xena rushed to find out if her idea would work. As the

small group of men approached the wall, the archers carefully took aim, choosing their targets with equal care. Once they were sure of their targets, the archers let loose; three men went down, Amazon arrows protruding from their chests or necks.

This happened several times. It was during this time that Xena learned that Rapa was not only great knife fighter but she was also an amazing archer as well. Several times she made the waiting warriors back up by dropping arrows in their midst. She wasn't as accurate at that distance, but she hit close enough to force them back.

After losing more men than he could really afford, the enemy commander called off the probes. Sensing this change in strategies, Xena put only a

skeleton crew on watch for the night, insisting the remainder got some rest for the upcoming siege.

The women and children in Gabrielle's "fourth" squad were doing their part to help the women that were manning the walls. The younger children carried water and food to those actually on duty, while others fed the rest of the defenders and made sure they had dry, clean places to sleep.

The women also lent their skills to tending to the wounded. One woman named Portia, had been a part time healer of one of the city guard commanders. She taught some of the others some of the special treatments that combat wounds required.

She also spent a lot of time

with one of the wounded Amazons called Larisa, and according to Amazon gossip, the two were actually quite taken with each other. Gabrielle had noticed the way Portia treated the younger Amazon on one of her frequent visits to the wounded, but never had a chance to learn her name, and because of other distractions, forgot the incident.

Larisa held a special place in her Queen's heart for taking a spear through the thigh while defending Xena's back in the slaver's camp. The spear had gone deep into the scout's thigh, it's barbed head piercing the

bone. Thanks to Portia's skills, they were able to save the young woman's

leg but it was common knowledge she would never walk properly again.

From day one the older healer had taken a special interest in the brave young woman's case and spent every spare minute she had caring and talking to the Amazon. At first, Larisa had been depressed and angry at her fate, but after a few candlemarks of Portia's intensive care, the young woman seemed to come around and by the time they'd reached the fortress, she was nearly her old self again.

Gabrielle was grateful to the older woman and asked her what reward she wished. Portia surprised everyone by asking to become an Amazon. When Xena heard all this, all she could do was shake her head in wonder and laugh quietly.

"This is fast becoming one of the strangest sieges I've ever been in on," Xena told her lover when they were alone and couldn't be heard. "I mean, here we are fighting for our very lives and you and your Amazons are still playing matchmaker. You all are some piece of work I have to say. Aphrodite must be proud."

"We are *not* matchmaking," Gabrielle pouted. "We are merely being observant!"

This comment forced another quiet laugh from the warrior as she continued sharpening her sword. The two spent their time discussing the plans for defending the old fortress. Time had not been kind to the ancient haven and if their enemy was able to mount any kind of major attack, they knew their people wouldn't stand much of a chance.

They also both realized that they were using that as an excuse not to discuss their personal problems. While their earlier apologies and confessions had patched up their lesser, yet, more visible difficulties, there were deeper, more pressing things that both needed to talk about before they could truly say their relationship was healed.

As she ran the stone over the already razor-sharp blade, Xena realized she had to tell her beloved bard why she was afraid of losing what they had together. With a determined growl, she slammed the sword back into it's sheath and went to sit beside Gabrielle on their sleeping furs.

"Brie, we have to talk," the warrior began, taking the small blonde in her arms. "I know we've said our apologies and accepted them, but there's more to it than that, and you feel it too. It's like there's a wall between us, keeping us from really being together, and if something should happen, tomorrow...well...I...I just...I wouldn't want anything between us like that.

I love you, but what I feel goes so much deeper than mere love. But this division between us is stopping me from feeling that, and it's hurting me to be without everything being there, do you know what I mean?"

Xena sat back nervously, waiting for her bard's answer, hoping for the best, but deep down fearing the possible negative answer. She chewed on her lower lip trying to keep from putting more pressure on her lover than was already there.

"Yeah, Xe, I think I do," Gabrielle answered as she snuggled back into her lover's arms, enjoying the warmth and security she felt. "It's not easy to explain, but I think I understand. I'm afraid I've done something so horrible, that you won't be able to forgive me for, and that I don't deserve your forgiveness, because I wasn't strong enough. That there was something I should have done to keep those men from doing to me what they did. And now when you touch me, I feel dirty, like I've let you down, and I'm unclean, and no amount of bathing is going to clean their touch off me." The bard started stammering and sobbing. "I...I...it's...just...that...I...don't...deserve...to...be...loved...by...som eone...as...wonderful...as...you...I'm...so...sorry...Xe...I...let...you..down ..."

Gabrielle was crying so hard by this point that Xena couldn't make out what she was saying, but she already had a pretty good idea where her lover was going with the conversation.

The warrior was determined to make the little blonde see just how much she loved and cherished her. How what happened during her capture not only didn't bother her, what the woman had done made Xena feel so proud and unworthy of such a brave and caring woman.

For several heartbeats Xena was unable to speak. All she could do was hold her little bard tight against her, gently rocking the small blonde woman that had become the center of her universe. Buying time until Xena could get her own emotions under control enough to get out what she needed to say.

"Hush now, sweetheart, there's no need for your precious tears," Xena began. "I love you, you know that, and nothing you have done has changed that.

You were so brave back there, I don't even think you realize how brave and selfless you are.

You gave up everything to save those people back there. Not just your Amazons, but people that you didn't even know."

Gabrielle tried to protest, but Xena placed a finger on her lips to forestall her.

"Please, honey, let me finish," she began, and after Gabrielle nodded her

consent, the warrior resumed. "I know you don't think you did anything special, that's what makes it all the greater to me. You have such grace and compassion, that you don't even recognise your own nobility. I don't know very many people that would make half the sacrifices for others that they know, let alone complete strangers, yet you do it without a thought. Just being seen with you makes me feel so proud and privileged I can't tell you. You are the strongest person I've ever known,

it's your strength and example that keep me from falling back into the darkness that lives in my soul. Don't you *ever* think that you don't deserve

me, when it's me that doesn't deserve you. I've done so many horrible things

in my life, and even though you know about them, you still chose to share

your life with me. I will never deserve you, nor will I ever understand why

you stay with me, but I can tell you that I wake up every day thanking whatever Gods are responsible that you are with me, and if I have to spend an

eternity in the worse depths of Tartarus to pay for the honor of having known

you, it would be a small price that I would gladly pay. But if I had to leave

tomorrow to make you happy, or to save you a moments sorrow, then I would

disappear from the face of the earth, and no one would see me again. On the

other hand, you already know I would fight my way back from death itself just

to be at your side."

By this time both women were crying freely, holding each other tightly. Eventually, they fell into an exhausted sleep, both relieved that some of

their troubles were behind them.

Xena still had yet to confess to her Queen her reasons for pulling back from her lover, and she fell asleep hoping that Gabrielle never found out how close she had come to letting the Destroyer loose once again, and that was something Xena had promised both the bard, and herself would never happen.

The next morning came loud and early with Karcax's men's first attack on the small group behind the fortress walls. Aentia had decided to let her Queen and the Queen's Champion sleep. She knew that neither woman had slept much for the last several days and when she found them sound asleep, wrapped tightly in each others arms, she

just couldn't bring herself to disturb them.

She and the other scouts had been able to catch up in their own rest over the last couple of days while the Queen and her warrior were working out their problems. Aentia used her commander's prerogative and arranged for others to take over the two women's guard shifts.

She was just about to go wake them up when the first attack hit the north and west wall simultaneously. To her surprise, Xena had beat her to

the west wall. It was the one that had suffered the most structural damage and therefore the first place the Warrior Princess went.

Being one of the few combat experienced commanders, Aentia turned and went instead to the north wall. It held the main gate and was therefore another main target of the attackers. As she mounted the wall, Aentia could hear Gabrielle rallying the rest of the defenders and spreading the troops thin on the still-strong south and east walls so she could send much needed reinforcements to Xena and Aentia.

The mercenaries were obviously veterans of siege warfare and came equipped for their attack. They brought crude ladders and, under the coverfire of archers, attempted to scale the walls. One of the night watch

had reported pounding coming from the enemy camp the night before and it wasn't long before Xena was aware that there was an engineer in the enemy camp.

In the middle of intense fighting to hold the attackers off the walls, a huge rock came flying through the air and slammed into the top of one of the corner towers. The force of the hit knocked large chunks of stone into the ranks of the defenders.

Before long another rock slammed into the lower portion of the west wall,

injuring several more of the less experienced women. Normally the few that were injured in a catapult attack made little difference, only the damage to the walls was important, but with as few women as they had to begin with, the five women down with broken bones and head injuries were a

devastating number.

For some reason, after the fourth rock struck the fortress, the men were pulled back. Xena ordered most of the defenders off the wall as the rocks kept coming at a near regular intervals.

Gabrielle came in search

of Xena, as did Aentia, to try to figure out what their next course of action would be.

Rocks kept hitting the walls at intervals throughout the day. There was one more attack on the walls just before sundown, but they beat their attackers back--barely.

Several of the mercenaries made it over the top of the wall but they were driven back by reinforcements led by Gabrielle but not before several more women were wounded and two were killed. After the sun had set and darkness filled the gaps in their ranks, Gabrielle joined her lover at her post on the west wall with a plate of food.

"Well thanks to your Amazon's quick thinking we won't starve." Xena said grimly. "To be honest, Brie, I don't know how many more attacks we can stand up to."

"Is it really that bad, Xe?" the bard asked, then growled determinedly, "everyone seems willing to stand up and fight and there is no way I'm going to be taken by those men again."

"Hey, I understand, sweetheart," Xena said putting an arm around her lover's shoulders and holding the Queen close to reassure her. "Neither of us will go down easy, my love, but once they refine their aim and hit this wall a few more times, there won't be enough here to stop them. When

that happens, and if Tessa isn't back with help, we are pretty much done for. I'm not trying to scare you, I just want you to know what to expect.

One other thing, if you see this wall go down and we are being over run, find me, K?"

"If that's what you want, my love, then I will be at your side," Gabrielle

swore. "Let's just hope it doesn't come to that."

"Yeah, let's hope." Xena yawned, the day's exertions catching up with her

"What do you say we just sleep here tonight?"

"Anything for you," Gabrielle whispered as Xena wrapped them up in a spare blanket. Gabrielle snuggled in as close as she could to her lover's

side and Xena wrapped her arms protectively around her wife and Queen.

Together they dozed off, both worried over what would become of them with

the coming day.


END 16



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