Warm Wet Circles

by Claire Withercross


: Some of the characters in this story are copyright MCA/Universal/RenPic.

Warnings : This story contains same sex relationships, and a tiny bit of violence. To preserve an element of surprise I’m not saying in which order they occur.

Bard's Boring Bits : Blah, blah, blah, with a large artichoke. Blah, blah blah, blah, and a koala bear. Just checking if anyone is reading this. Five pounds sterling to the first person to mail me with the word 'treacle'. Blah, blah, blah.

Thanks to Ann and Michael for doing whatever it is they do. Beats me! What I mean is, I don't know what they do, not that they beat me. Though it feels like it sometimes. Especially [EDITOR : Get on with it] ...okay.

Historian's Note : This story takes place in an alternate Xenaverse.

Important Note : This story is a sequel to "Waiting To Happen" it would help a great deal towards your understanding of this story if you read that one first. What you read to understand "Waiting To Happen" is your business. <g>


-Xena frowned at the noise-


-she almost laughed-


-after all this time she could not believe it-


-it was absurd-


-this time she did laugh-


-it was not supposed to make that sound-


-she'd seen enough blood spilled in her life-


-but had never noticed that-


-it actually made a 'drip' sound-


-when it hit the ground-


-she looked down at the blood trail-


-she was leaving behind her-


-it was a trail of-


-warm wet circles-


Ephiny listened intently as the news was relayed to her. She stayed silent, absorbing what it meant.

Miranda watched her queen thinking, waiting for a reaction to the news.

"What are your orders?" Miranda asked, unable to bear the silence any longer.

Ephiny considered her options. Despite any bad feelings she had, there was only one option when she came right down to it.

"Escort them in. Make them welcome."

She watched the warrior hurry away before leaving the throne room and heading to her private quarters. Once inside she started prowling, anger building, the walls and furniture quickly becoming a target for her anger and frustration.


Somewhere, a woman stood and stared into a valley.

The valley stared back.


Gabrielle knew she was being watched. She couldn't see or hear the watchers, but they were there. If they weren't there then security in the Nation had slipped, and she couldn't believe that.

She made the bird call again.

"Why aren't they answering?" she mumbled.

"They probably sent word to Ephiny to see what to do," said a voice behind her.

Gabrielle turned and looked up at the woman on the horse she was leading. Xena smiled weakly and closed her eyes. She still looked awfully pale from the loss of blood, but she was conscious and in fairly good spirits.

"What do you think she'll do?" asked Gabrielle.

Xena opened her eyes and stared at her companion. "She loves you, what do you expect her to do?"

Gabrielle turned suddenly, one bird call from the forest had stood out, she answered it. Four masked figures descended from the trees, two in front, two behind. Gabrielle immediately raised her hands over her head. One of the masked warriors moved forward and raised her mask. Gabrielle smiled when she recognised Eponin.

"Queen Ephiny extends her invitation to you," Eponin said formally, not returning Gabrielle's smile. "We have been sent to escort you safely to the village."

"Thank you. How is everyone?"

Eponin paused. "The healer has been informed," she jerked her head in the direction of Xena. She pulled her mask back down and signalled Gabrielle to follow her.

Xena watched helplessly as Gabrielle was snubbed. She wanted to comfort her love but her condition prevented it. She felt proud when she saw Gabrielle raise her head, square her shoulders and follow the Amazon. 'That's it, be strong. Don't let them see they're getting to you,' she thought.

Gabrielle blinked back tears as she followed the Amazon warrior. She knew her departure from the Amazons was abrupt and painful, and there had been some factions that had never truly accepted her. Yet the formality of Eponin's greeting, along with her indifference at Gabrielle's question cut deep.


A stiff breeze blew along the valley causing the woman's blonde hair to fly into her face, obscuring her view. She did nothing to remove it. The sight she was seeing was in the past, ingrained in her memory. Mere hair could not block it.


Ephiny stood impassively as Gabrielle led the horse into the village, she forced herself not to look at the other woman on the horse.

The healer moved forward and helped Gabrielle get the Conqueror off the horse and onto a litter.

Gabrielle took Xena's hand. "I need to speak to Ephiny. I'll join you later."

Xena nodded and allowed Gabrielle's hand to slip from her grasp as she was carried away. They kept eye contact until Xena entered the healer's hut.

As soon as the woman she loved had disappeared from view Gabrielle turned to face the woman who loved her. Most of the village stopped and watched the two women watching each other. Ephiny swept her gaze over the onlookers and they hurriedly found other things to do.

Gabrielle slowly approached her former consort. "Thank you for letting us come here."

"What could I do?" asked Ephiny coldly. "You were coming here anyway."

"We would've gone if you'd said so."

"What happened?" Ephiny gestured towards the healer's hut, her face showing no emotion.

"A riding accident. She fell and got stuck in the leg by a fallen branch."

"Doesn't she have healers of her own?"

"We were travelling alone and this was the nearest place to get help."

"And if I had turned you away, wouldn't it have been quicker to just go elsewhere first?"

"I knew.....I..... It was a chance I was willing to take."

"You mean, you thought you'd use me again."

Ephiny turned on her heel and headed for the throne room.

Gabrielle followed, but where the guards let Ephiny enter they crossed their staffs over the door to block her way. She looked from one to the other, but they were looking directly ahead. For a moment, she almost ordered them to stand aside.

"Will you please pass on a request for an audience with Queen Ephiny."


The woman sensed, more than saw, her shadow lengthen into the valley before her as the sun moved lower in the sky.

"Is she all right?" she heard the voice whisper behind her. "She been like that all day. Just standing there, looking down into the valley."

She heard the sound of a fist on leather. "If Callisto wants to stare into that valley all day and all night, she will, and you'll shut up and wait. Now go and do something useful."

Callisto smiled at the way Theodorus dealt with the impatient soldier. The smile was cold and would do nothing to endear her to anyone who saw it. But when the smile faded and she returned to looking at the past, her expression would break even the hardest of hearts.

...The flames and the screams dominated everything. She saw the villagers running in all directions not knowing whether to run from the attackers or the flames. It didn't matter, if one didn't kill them the other would. "Mother! Father!" she screamed. She choked on smoke and fell to her knees. From her new position she saw their bodies and called out again. She knew they were dead but she called all the same. As she lay sobbing she heard laughter and turned to see the dark-haired woman on horseback. Callisto vowed then and there that she would see her dead, and have the last laugh....

Her eyes finally focused on the present and saw the remains of her home in the valley below. The ruins were almost lost among the vegetation that had sprung up in the aftermath of the destruction, just like the girl she once was had been lost amidst the hate that had grown around her.


Xena pulled a face as the healer removed the field dressing from her leg, and gave it a few experimental pokes.

"Who did the stitching?" asked the healer.

"I did."

"Not bad," there was only the merest hint of appreciation of the work in her voice. "You probably didn't need to come here."

"Gabrielle insisted."

The healer nodded. "I'll put on a poultice to reduce the chance of infection and redress it. I'll also give you some medicine to help with the blood loss. You should be up and about in a few days, but in the meantime you need to rest."

As the healer moved away to get the medicine, Xena noticed the Amazon by the door staring at her. Xena stared back.

"Do you recognise me?"

"I do," replied Xena. "I never forget a face."

"Or a scar," said Miranda, and approached the injured ruler. "You don't look so menacing now, all pale and weak." The Amazon pulled a knife. "I could even carve my initial on your chest and you couldn't stop me."

The Conqueror appeared unconcerned by the appearance of the weapon, she settled back and closed her eyes. "You could do that, but you won't."

"Who's to stop me?"

"You," replied Xena, and opened her eyes to lock onto the Amazon's glare. "You're a decent person, and decent people don't do that sort of thing." She paused to watch as Miranda considered her words. It appeared to be a close run thing, but Miranda put the knife away. "I'm sorry about the scar," she added.

"No you're not. You're embarrassed because I'm confronting you. If the circumstances were the same, you'd do it again."

"That's not true."

"You can lie to yourself, if that's what you want, but don't lie to me. I'm better than that and I don't deserve it."

An angry look flashed across the Conqueror's face. She recognised she was not in a position to control this meeting, and for this simple warrior to talk down to her like that was intolerable. She'd killed people for less. But the Amazon was right, Xena was more embarrassed by the confrontation than genuinely sorry for causing her injury.

"Why did you come that day?" asked Xena. "What made you think you'd get out of my camp alive?"

"Nothing," replied Miranda. "I went there because my Queen ordered me to take a message to you."

"And you did that even though you believed you'd be killed?"

A faint smile flickered over the Amazon's lips. "You seem surprised that a soldier would show loyalty to her commander. Don't you command the same loyalty from your soldiers?"

"Yes," answered Xena. "But I believe they do it more from fear than anything else. I don't suppose that there's any chance of you being afraid of Gabrielle?"

Miranda shook her head and smirked.

"Well, I'll let you into a little secret, Amazon, I'm terrified of her at times. She can be awful mean if I leave my armour lying around."


Ephiny ordered her guards to leave her and Gabrielle alone in the throne room.

"What do you want?"

"To talk." said Gabrielle, suddenly unable to think of anything else.

"I thought you said everything that needed to be said when you left me?" sneered Ephiny. She was finding it harder to hate Gabrielle now that she had seen her. Just.

"Please," whispered Gabrielle.

"Please, what? Don't be angry? Don't be bitter? Don't hate you?" Ephiny shot back. "You broke my heart and then stamped on the pieces. You deserted your duty and your people." She saw tears prick the corners of Gabrielle's eyes. "What did you expect?" she added softly.

"No," Gabrielle countered, sniffing away the tears. "I'm truly sorry for hurting you, and if there was only one thing I could change in this whole mess, it would be that. But if anyone stamped on the pieces of your broken heart, then it was you. You're always so quick to blame other people and never accept any blame yourself.

"And as for deserting my duty and people," Gabrielle uttered a hollow laugh. "I fulfilled my duty right to the last, and when I couldn't do it any longer I handed it to you. And when have the Amazons ever really been my people. I was barely tolerated by some."

Ephiny glared at Gabrielle, but the former queen could sense that the present queen's heart wasn't fully behind it.

"I didn't come here to argue," Gabrielle continued. "Or to apportion blame. I came because I needed help."

"Your conqueror needed help," Ephiny corrected her quietly.


As the sun finally set Callisto wandered through the camp. The soldiers gathered around the fires eyed her warily. They were in this for the money, not loyalty, but none of them would ever think of betraying her. They knew what she was capable of.

A moth chose the wrong moment to fly towards a fire and fluttered past Callisto's face. Within a heartbeat the woman had closed her fist around it and crushed the life out of it. She slowly opened her hand to look at the tiny remains of the insect. Several emotions flickered across her face; curiosity, wonder, sorrow, disgust. All of them were unwanted emotions for the warrior, she only wanted two: hate and pleasure. Hate for the Conqueror who had destroyed her life. Pleasure for when the Conqueror lay dead at her feet.

She flicked the body of the insect away, wiped her hand on her leather skirt and continued her wander through the camp.


Miranda looked over the rim of her goblet at her Queen. "You're not eating," she observed, putting the goblet back down.

Ephiny blinked and stared at the plate before her. "Not hungry," she mumbled, and pushed the plate away.

"Don't let them get to you."

"I'm not letting anyone get to me!" shouted Ephiny. "I don't need you lecturing me on my eating habits, If I'm not hungry, I'm not hungry. Do you have a problem with that?"

Miranda allowed the mini tirade to wash over her, showing no concern over her leader's anger. She spoke softly when Ephiny had settled down again.

"Okay, you're not hungry."

"Right. I'm not," confirmed the queen in a quiet voice.

The blonde warrior was not going to drop the subject. Her Queen was suffering and she wasn't going to let that happen if she could do anything about it. She raised the subject again.

"She's lying there, helpless. She's nothing to fear."

"I'm not scared of her," retorted Ephiny angrily.

"Sorry, bad choice of word," admitted Miranda. "What I mean is, you're stuck in here climbing the walls and going hungry. So go and confront her and you'll feel better. I did."

"If I confront her, I'll probably kill her."

Miranda shrugged. "Whatever makes you feel better."


Birds greeted the dawn with a joyous chorus, but the smile on Callisto's lips was from the news she had just received. The smile grew and her head began to tilt slowly as she played out the final moments of the Conqueror's life.

"Soon," she breathed. "Soon, my dear Xena."

Her chuckle sent the messenger running for his life.


Xena woke but kept her eyes closed. Someone was in the room, and it wasn't Gabrielle.

"Good morning, Ephiny," said the Conqueror.

"Queen Ephiny," the Amazon corrected.

Xena opened her eyes to see the Amazon Queen standing over her.

"Where's Gabrielle?" asked Xena conversationally.

"She's at the temple."

Xena nodded. "So what brings you here?"

"This is my Nation. I live here."

"Your Nation," whispered Xena with a smile. "A handful of trees and a bit of a river."

"It's still mine. You failed to capture it, remember."

"I chose not to. There's a difference," said the Conqueror. "I signed a treaty, remember. Speaking of which, you still haven't signed it."

"Does that mean you're going to invade our territory?"

"Is that what you want me to do? Conquer the Amazons just so you can say 'I told you so'?"

"I don't trust you. But if being with Gabrielle is stopping you from invading, I don't need to sign it."

"If that's what you want."

"I'm sure you'll come marching in as soon as you've finished with her, whether I've signed the treaty or not."

"Believe it or not, she is changing me, and I'm sorry you got hurt."

"What does she see in you?" asked Ephiny, ignoring Xena's attempt to apologise.

"I don't know," admitted Xena. "I wake up everyday and have to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming."

"I do the same thing."


Gabrielle looked lost and alone as she sat in silent prayer in the temple; Miranda guessed she was. She had not been made welcome, now and then, though Miranda had never had any ill feelings towards the former queen.

The noise behind her disturbed Gabrielle's meditation, she turned slowly to see who it was. When she saw Miranda she gave the blonde warrior a hesitant smile, and was relieved when it was returned.

"I didn't mean to disturb your prayers, sorry."

"That's okay. Are you here to pray or to see me?"

"To see you."

Gabrielle nodded slowly. "To give your turn of the knife?"

"Maybe a little," replied Miranda, feeling slightly uneasy at Gabrielle's expectation of a telling off.

"Only a little?" Gabrielle raised an eyebrow.

"Maybe a lot."

"You always did speak your mind."

"That's always been my failing."

"I always found it refreshing. The Amazons either treated me with antipathy or due respect. You were one of the few who treated me as a person right from the start."

"Like I said, it's always been my failing."

Gabrielle chuckled. "Please, sit."

Miranda accepted the offer and sat down next to her ex-ruler.

They sat in silence for a moment.



They spoke together.

"You first-"

"You first-"

"No. You-"

"No. You-"

They fell silent, smiling, waiting for the other to speak. Gabrielle gestured for Miranda to continue.

"I went to see Xena," Miranda confessed, the smile fading from her lips. "We talked," she continued, answering the question that Gabrielle was about to ask.

"About what?"

Miranda indicated the scar on her chest. Gabrielle blushed and looked away.

"She apologised."

Gabrielle turned back to the warrior and studied her face. "You didn't accept her apology," she concluded.

"No," the Amazon gave a little shake of her head. "It's not important."

"Will you accept my apology for it? I sent you on the-"

Miranda held her hand up to stop her. "You said sorry at the time. Besides, it was my duty."

"My leaving with Xena must have invalidated that duty?"

"I guess so. I did feel hurt, but not as much as Ephiny."

"It was never my intention to hurt anyone. Especially Ephiny," said Gabrielle. "I've tried to explain to her, but I was helpless in falling for Xena."

"We can't help who we love," Miranda concurred. "Or who we hurt."

"Doesn't make it any easier."

"If life was meant to be easy...." Miranda uttered a hollow laugh. "I was going to say something really profound there, but I've forgotten it."

"Words define our lives, but when we really need them, they can let us down. Just like people."

"No, that's not what I was going to say," Miranda joked.

"As well as speaking your mind, you could always find something to laugh about in the worst situations."

"Laughter hides many things. Fear mainly."

"Are you afraid?"

Miranda shook her head. "Uneasy, maybe. Are you afraid?"

Gabrielle shrugged.

"Ephiny's afraid," continued the warrior. "She's afraid you're going to hurt her again."


"Just by being here, and leaving again."

Gabrielle put her head in her hands. "I don't need this...this guilt forced on me," she groaned. "It's bad enough knowing what I've done to hurt Ephiny, without her, and you, reminding me."

"I know. That's why I told Ephiny to confront the source of her pain directly."


"She's gone to see Xena."

"What?" Gabrielle climbed to her feet. "She'll kill her!"

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

Gabrielle stared blankly at the Amazon.

"Joke," said Miranda, and smiled. "Ephiny won't hurt her."

"How can you be sure?"

"If she hurts Xena, she hurts you."

"Didn't it occur to you that she might want to do that?"

Gabrielle tried to leave but Miranda held her back.

"They need to clear the air now, otherwise Ephiny will carry on brooding, allowing her hatred to fester. She doesn't deserve that. And if she hurts Xena in the process, which I doubt she will, then it's a price worth paying."

"Not for me," said Gabrielle, she slipped out of Miranda's grip and ran to the healer's hut.


Callisto didn't need her army. The situation meant that she could do it herself.


Every bad scenario she could think of ran through Gabrielle's mind as she crossed the village to the healer's. She burst through the door to be confronted by the one thing she hadn't considered. She froze and stared.

Xena and Ephiny turned suddenly to look at Gabrielle as she burst in, laughter dying on their lips.

"Wha- what's going on?" demanded Gabrielle.

Ephiny looked down at the Conqueror. "I'll let you explain," she said, and slipped away. She gave a quick glance at Gabrielle as she passed her.

"Well?" Gabrielle demanded of her lover.

"I think Ephiny and I have reached an understanding."

"Huh!" Gabrielle let out a long breath in relief. "When Miranda said she'd come to see you I had awful visions of you killing each other. I never expected to see you laughing together."

"I don't think it will be a regular thing."

"I suppose I should be happy that you're friends."

"Woah! No-one said anything about being friends. We're just not going to kill each other."

Gabrielle crouched down and took Xena's hand. "Either way I'm glad," she said with a smile. "I know I shouldn't expect either of us to be welcomed with open arms. But as long as there's no hatred I'll be happy."


It was late afternoon when the lone woman was spotted crossing into Amazon territory. She was dressed in simple peasant clothes, carrying a small bag and appeared to be unarmed. A signal went out and guards moved to intercept her. Within a minute the woman was surrounded.

Solari stepped forward. "Identify yourself!"

The woman smiled pleasantly. "Have I interrupted something?"

"You've crossed into Amazon territory. Identify yourself!"

"My name is Callisto, if that means anything."

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm on my way to Athens."

"We'll escort you through our territory," said Solari, and gestured for Callisto to start moving again. The Amazon studied the profile of the traveller as they walked. "It's a long way to Athens," she added conversationally.

"I wasn't planning on completing the journey today," Callisto replied with a light chuckle. She looked up into the sky, judging the position of the sun. "It's getting late, is there an inn nearby that I could stay at?"

"Do we look like innkeepers?"

"You look like someone who wouldn't let a woman spend the night in the open, alone."

Solari flushed. "I'm sure you can stay in the village tonight. But we'd have to take any weapons off you first. It's not that we don't trust you, it's we don't trust anyone. We have to be careful, you understand?"

Callisto smiled sweetly. "I understand. But I have no weapons. You're quite welcome to search me," she offered with a wink.

"I'd insist," said Solari with a growing smile.


Xena opened her mouth and allowed Gabrielle to put a piece of meat in it.

"I can feed myself, you know," she said while chewing.

"I know," said Gabrielle. "But I like you being dependant on me."

"You'd make a great mother."

"That's what my father wanted me to be. And that was the reason I left home," the former queen said sadly.

Xena took her hand and kissed the palm. "I'm so glad you did."

Gabrielle's mouth twitched in a smile. "Me too."

"But?" the Conqueror sensed something unsaid.

"Becoming Queen of the Amazons and then consort to the ruler of the known world was more than I bargained for. I want a simple, quiet life. I miss my home. The only thing I wanted out of life was to find someone to love and settle down, tend a small plot of land. Nothing too exciting. I just didn't want to be kept as some baby making machine that my father thought I should be."

"Well. you've found the first one, I hope! And if you want a small plot of land, I've got loads."

Gabrielle smiled wistfully. "It's not quite the same. I can't imagine life with you ever being simple. I can't imagine life without you."

"I don't deserve you."

"No you don't, but I deserve you," she leaned forward and placed a kiss on Xena's forehead.


The sex had meant nothing to her, it was a means to an end. She must have faked it well enough, because Solari was sleeping with a satisfied grin on her face.

Callisto lay listening to the sound of Solari snoring, and waited.

When the time was right she slipped out of bed and walked over to where the Amazon had left her weapons. She selected a knife and slipped out into the darkness.


Xena looked up into Gabrielle's face. "The healer told me to rest."

"You're lying down, aren't you?"


"That's resting enough."....

....Callisto listened to the sounds of their lovemaking. It failed to move her in any way.

She just waited.

She was a patient woman.....

....A light sheen of sweat coated their bodies as they settled down under the covers.

"See," said Gabrielle. "That wasn't too strenuous."

"Just wait until I'm fully fit."

"I think I'll keep you just the way you are. As I said earlier, I like you being dependant on me."....

....Callisto waited.....

....Xena lay back while Gabrielle found a comfortable spot on her body to go to sleep on.

She heard the noise of someone moving.....

...."Time to die, Xena," Callisto breathed.....

....Xena leapt to her feet to confront the intruder. She saw the flash of moonlight on a blade.

Gabrielle jerked awake and looked up in time to see the knife strike its target.....

....Callisto's shriek as the knife struck home split the night. It drew the attention of the Amazons on guard duty and woke those who were asleep. By the time they got to the healer's hut Callisto was gone and her victim was dead.


Everything was confused for Gabrielle. Time moved slowly, time moved quickly. But whatever speed it chose, it all moved in a haze. She spent hours staring at nothing, trying to comprehend what had occurred.

Women spoke to her. Who they were or what they said, she had no idea. None of it made sense. She didn't want it to make sense. If it made sense, then that would make it true.

The day of the funeral was bright and sunny with barely a cloud. Only the smoke from the pyre marred the perfect sky.

Gabrielle remained silent and dry-eyed all through the funeral. Despite gentle coaxing she refused to move from the pyre. She stayed all day and all night, watching it slowly burn itself down to glowing embers. Only when the first rays of dawn broke did she move silently into the forest.

And only then, once out of view, did she let her tears fall.



-Gabrielle frowned at the noise-


-she almost laughed-


-after all this time she could not believe it-


-it was absurd-


-this time she did laugh-


-it was not supposed to make that sound-


-she'd seen enough tears spilled in her life-


-but had never noticed that-


-it actually made a 'drip' sound-


-when it hit the ground-


-she looked down at the trail-


-she was leaving behind her-


-it was a trail of-


-warm wet circles-



Continued in "A Legacy"