By Jessica M. Hudson

See Disclaimers in Part 1


Sounds of morning filled the air as the sun slowly rose. A light breeze carried the feeling of Autumn as it  passed. Gabrielle sat quietly by a well lit fire, cooking a small fish from the near by stream. More often these days she found herself rising at dawn. Each morning she cursed herself as her only thoughts were of Xena. A single tear fell as she pushed her lost love from her mind. She quickly ate her meal and began to pack camp.  It was only a half a days ride to Meg and Virgil=s Tavern. She would stop there to deliver the news and say hello. Thinking it had been almost a year since they had seen each other. Replaying the memories in her mind of so many times he had traveled with her and Xena. He was so much like his father in many ways. A small chuckle began as she remembered when he had learned of Xena and her being more then just friends. The look on his face caused her and the warrior to laugh for hours, after he had stumbled up on there camp. Finding them in the middle of love making. Xena had silently cursed herself for never hearing his approach. She had known that Virgil had feelings for Gabrielle, just as his father did. Trying her best not the hurt the young boy she and Gabrielle had decided not to tell him. Thinking they could save him the pain of knowing the truth.

Once she was ready she headed back to the main road and mounted her horse. She thought as well how nice it would be to see Argo. She and Xena had left her with Meg and Virgil  when the headed to Jappa. Knowing they would take good care of the mare until they returned. >Oh how I wish Xena was here with me.= 

As the sun pierced through her eyelids, Maddie began to awaken. Sharp pains coursed through her body as she tried to get up. Her head felt like a brick was attached to it, getting on her knees she tried desperately to lift it off the ground but couldn=t.

AWhat do we have here?@ A gruff voice came from the trees. Maddie stiffened as she realized she was not alone. Trying to speak she fumbled for her sidearm, opening her eyes to see it laying out of arms reach. The men emerged and walked straight fo her. Her throat was dry and she was unable to say anything. >This is not good,= she thought as the events of the previous night came flooding back. Why had Lisa not called for back up? Was she injured? How long had she been unconscious?

She felt herself being lifted from the ground by two men. She looked at the one if front of her. He wore clothing she had never seen. His smell turned her already sick stomach. When he smiled his mouth was full of rotting yellow teeth. Maddie cringed as it brought back bad memories from her past.

AWhat are you, some kinda freak?@ One of the men asked as the other took hold of her chin. Forcing her to look him in the eyes. She stared defiantly at the him thinking of a way to get out of the mess she found her self in. Suddenly her felt a fist strike her face. Her vision began to blur and her head screamed as the pain in it  tripled. Two more punches where given to her abdomen. She slumped forward, praying to loose consciousness quickly. Blackness once again began to consume her, she felt her body hit the ground and as the sounds of metal clashing filled her ears. She fought back the need to pass out and focused her vision. A young women was fighting the men. Maddie watched as they circled her. Her movements all but a blur as she fought them off.

Maddie watched as three of them quickly joined her on the ground. Seeing her handle the last of them she was sure that she would win. Feeling a pain in her gut as the biggest of them struck a blow to the blond, sending her to the ground. Maddie blinked hard as she saw him raise a sword over his head. Fear grabbed her as she realized he intended to kill her. She looked around for her gun, seeing it finally with in arms reach. She picked it up and fired a single shot to the mans chest. The bullet struck his heart and he fell to the ground in a heap. The young women looked stunned and frightened by the weapon in her hand as she got to her feet she approached Maddie slowly. Maddie could see she meant no harm and holstered the gun quickly to show she was no threat as well.

Gabrielle looked over the dark figure. Trying hard not to stare at the strangers clothing. She looked at the weapon she carried. It was nothing like anything she had ever seen. Her ears ached from the sound it made, but she was grateful because it had saved her life. So many questioned filled her mind as she looked the women over. Though she knew she would have to wait to ask them. She dropped to her knees and inspected the women=s wounds. She would need a stitches in her lip and her face was covered with bruises. No doubt the rest of her was as well. She touched her and spoke but the women did not reply. She got up and rigged a litter to carry her. >I=ll take her to the tavern and help her get well. Maybe then she can tell me where she is from. Gods, she is hurt badly and her clothing is soaked. I hope she does not fall ill as well.= Loading the women on it, she set off once again for the tavern stopping frequently to check on her patient.

Maddie lay on the litter as it moved slowly. Feeling each bump along the way, She wondered where she was being taken. Her throat hurt so badly she wanted to speak and talk to the women but she could not get her voice to cooperate. So she just lay there and kept her eyes closed. Her head continuously ached and she fought hard not to relieve her stomach of its contents. She forced herself back to sleep.

Several hours passed before she was awake. As she opened her eyes she could see she was in small room. Dimly lit with a window next to the bed she lay in. She looked out and noticed it was night time. She focused and the contents of the room noting a second bed a few feet to the left of  hers. And across the room was a door, next to that a wooden table and two chairs. A fire place sat to the right where a small fire blazed brightly giving the room most of its light. Several candles sat in various places helping to add to the light. She brought her hand up and felt her lip, it was stitched. She noticed as she tried to move that her chest was wrapped. Looking down under the fur coverings she noticed she was naked. >What in the hell! Where am I? This looks like something out of the stone age. I need to find Lisa and get the hell out of here.=

She tried to sit up but her head still felt as if weighed a ton. She winced and tried hard to fight back the nausea that consumed her. Laying her head back she pushed all ill feelings aside. Forcing herself to focus as she always did when the pain was too much. The door across the room slowly began to open and a blonde head peaked through. She smiled when she saw her charge was fully awake. Pushing the door completely open she walked in. Placing a tray full of food and cider on the small table. AHow do you feel?@ She walked slowly over to the women and sat on the edge of the bed. Carefully she raised a hand and felt of Maddie=s forehead. The heat it radiated caused a frown to form. >By the Gods, she is getting a fever. Better get her to eat and take some herbs while she is still in a level state of mind. This is going to get worse before it gets better.=

AI have some food and I want you to drink some tea.@ She got up and headed to the fire place and began to heat water for the remedy. Hoping it would prevent the fever from becoming to bad.

AWhere am I. Why haven=t you called the Police Dept.? They should know where I am and they will come and get me.@ She wiped a hand over her forehead feeling for herself the beginning of a high fever. Silently she cursed herself. Of all the times for her to fall ill it would have to be now. When she needed her strength most of all.

Gabrielle looked at the women, trying to hide the confusion in her eyes. >What is a Police Dept.?= AI am afraid I do not understand. I found you in the woods as you were being beaten to death by a group of thugs. Do you remember?@ She got up from the fire and headed for the women once more a mug of herbal tea in her hands. ADrink this, we need to stop the fever before it gets any worse. Something tells me you will be Hades when you are delirious.@ She tried to show a comforting smile.

Maddie stared at her defiantly. AI will not take anything you offer. I am a police officer! I demand you release me! Do you have any idea the trouble you are putting yourself in by holding me here?@ She threw the covers off of her self and forced her body to stand. Every part of her ached and as she pushed past the blonde captor. Stumbling she made her way to the door. Noticing her clothing on the chair. She began to get dressed. Gabrielle sat on the edge of the bed and watched as she managed something that her injuries should never have allowed. >Wow she is a strong one. Almost as stubborn as Xena.= She sighed. >No, she is worse.= She suppressed a smirk as the women dawned her pants and shirt. The blonde noted the muscular structure of her body. Realizing that at full health this women would easily be a match for her and anyone else. She wondered if she had the fighting skills to back it up. Surely she must, because of her actions in the woods. She realized killing was no stranger to the strong women before her.

Maddie picked up what she could and grabbed her gun belt. She headed for the stairs. The young women did not follow right away. She thought perhaps she had gotten through to her and made her realize her mistake at holding her here. She held on the railing as she made her way down each step. Her body screamed as it was made to move each step. Her chest ached so bad she had stars in her eyes and her head was pounding no doubt from the fever and concussion she knew she had. She managed her way to the door, pushing it open and falling out into the night. She took a deep breath and felt instantly the cold of the night air. >The weather is acting strange. It was not this cold yesterday. It is not even fall yet.=  Walking out into the darkness she was unaware of the figure who had dropped from the window of the second floor of the inn. She pushed herself further. Surely Lisa would have the entire dept looking for her by now. Why they had not found her was disturbing. She realized suddenly that she was not alone and once again cursed herself for not seeing it sooner. >Must be the fever.= She placed her defenses on hair trigger and continued to stagger forward. Waiting to see if the figure was going to make a move. Finally her patience wore thin and she readied herself. Spinning around she placed a kick to the lower abdomen of her shadow. Noticing the blonde hair reflecting in the moon light as the figure bent forward and nursed the blow. >Damn. Can=t this girl take a hint?= She took a step forward and assessed the young women. AWhy are you following me? I thought I made myself clear. I don=t need your help.@ She forced her features to become cold and distant. Something she realized as a teenager she was capable of doing. Knowing how it often made even people who knew her shudder.

Gabrielle looked up and for a moment a familiar face flashed before her. She stood stunned, trying to understand what had just happened. >I know that look, well Tiger, if you wanna play rough you have met your match.= She noticed how much like Xena this women really was. If not for the height difference and obvious looks she would have thought she was Xena. She stood up to her full height. Trying herself to master that feral grin Xena was so capable of. Feeling her stomach do flips as the women managed to best her once again. Not wanting to see this women do further damage to herself she gave up and stepped back. Knowing in her heart she would not get far in her condition. She began to turn and walk away. Deciding to take a different approach. She after all, had following some one against their will, down to an art.

Maddie watched her retreat and smiled openly. >Still got it.=  She turned and began to walk away. Quickly realizing how fast her fever was rising. She forced her body to with hold the strain. Thinking back to how many times she had to endure pain worse then this when she was a Ranger. She took a few more steps and stumbled to the ground. Trying hard not to make noise. A groan escaped her lips as she lay there. Feeling light headed she tried once again to stand and when she couldn=t she was unable to even control her stomach. She got on her knees and let go as she emptied the contents of it in front of her. Falling backwards she closed her eyes and prayed to whom ever might listen to take away her pain. She heard foot steps once again and this time did not struggle as the blonde slowly helped her to her feet and took her back to the inn. Once inside a young man helped to carry her now useless body back to the bed. The blonde forced the fowl concoction down her throat. Within several minutes she could feel the calming effects settle over her like a warm blanket. Giving in to sleep and the night mares she knew were to come.

Gabrielle thanked Virgil for his help and then she sat quietly watching the slow rise and fall of the dark figures chest. Once she knew she was asleep she removed the strangers clothing and resettled her under the covers. Getting back into her chair she began to eat some of the food that was on the tray.  Along with it she consumed two glasses of wine to calm her nerves and ease the pain in her stomach. The stranger had a kick to her that Gabrielle had only known in one other person. She allowed a stream of tears to silently flow as she watched the women sleep. Finally allowing herself to enter the realms of Morpheus as well.

Several hours passed as both women slept. Finally Maddie=s fever became to much for the herbs she had been given. She awoke slowly moaning as waves of pain and heat coursed through her body. Delirious and in pain she cried out. Thrashing about wildly throwing the blankets from her body. Gabrielle had woken up at the sound of screaming. She rushed to calm the women, holding her hands down and talking soothingly to her. Feeling her heart break as the women begged for her life and her safety. Gabrielle could not understand half of what she said but she was able to make out certain things. Things that made her heart ache with the need to comfort her. She thought about the herbs she had given her and had remembered that, that particular mixture she herself could not take because it gave her horrible night mares. Xena had always taken it so she thought it would not hurt her. She silently kicked herself.

APlease don=t! Let me go! Please don=t hurt me!@ Maddie yelled in a fit of rage. The strength she normally possessed was gone from her frail body. Luckily for the Bard this was so. Otherwise she would not have been able to calm her. Gabrielle shuttered at what the women said. She interpreted a thousand meanings of what it could be she was dreaming and none of them were good. Finally Maddie began to calm. Tears streamed down her cheeks staining them. Gabrielle continued to talk in soothing tones holding the women and rocking her back and forth. >I should not have given her that mixture. It did to her exactly what it does to me. Damn, now her fever if even higher.=

AShh, its okay. I=ve got you. You are safe. I wont hurt you, I promise.@ Gabrielle felt her pain so well it was as if she herself was the one hurting. She did not understand this and wondered what she could do to ease both their pain. Once she was calmed enough to begin to sleep the Bard laid her back down. As she pulled away and stood up she felt a gentle hand reach for her. She looked down at the women on the bed.

AWill you stay with me?@ She pleaded. Maddie would never have shown such a weakness but her fevered state prevented her from being in control of her own emotions. Gabrielle took her hand and sat back down on the bed. Crawling under the covers she held the women to her and thought of a way to get her back to sleep. She told her the story of two soul mates and how they traveled the known world for many years. How their love was as immortal as the Gods. Allowing the quiet tones to lull the woman back into Morpheus= arms.

The morning sun shown through the window. Maddie awoke without the fever she had endured the night before. Not fully aware of her situation and not quite remembering where she was or who she was with. Sometime in the night the two women had changed positions as Gabrielle was holding Maddie to calm her and sooth her to peaceful dreams. She noticed the blonde nestled in her shoulder. Her arms wrapped around the familiar form. She breathed in the scent that she knew so well as Lisa. She kissed the top of her head and spoke softly. AHey, I think it is time to get up.@

Gabrielle still in an exhausted state herself, heard a voice speaking to her. One she knew so well. She smiled a contented smile and hugged the form tighter. She felt so relaxed and wanted to stay that way much longer. AJust a little while longer, love.@

Maddie came to her senses when she moved her body and felt the pain from the previous day. She winced and moaned. Suddenly both women stiffened as the reality of their situation became apparent. Stiffly Gabrielle sat up and slowly untangled her limbs from the women that held her. Looking briefly into a pair of the darkest eyes she had ever seen. Maddie looked into her captor=s eyes and saw fear. She was not sure what to say, so she just allowed herself to become lost in the deep sea of green before her. Neither women moved for a moment as they mentally assessed their situation. Finally, Maddie burst into a nervous laugher wanting only to lighten the mood. She watched as the Bard blushed a deep crimson. Feeling her own face flush as well. Gabrielle thought of the only thing she could. She reached out and felt of the women=s face. She was cool and clammy. >Thank the Gods. Now if I can think of a good explanation to get myself out of the mess I have put myself in.= She continued to get up and headed for the door. Not wanting to look back at the women still on the bed. The blush had finally left her face when she headed down the stairs to get them some food. Thinking of what had happened and how she thought the voice she heard in her sleep was Xena=s. She froze suddenly at the kitchen door, >oh Gods! She was naked and I slept in the same bed with her, in her arms. How will I ever be able to look her in her dark eyes again. I must be going crazy!= She gathered the food and headed back up stairs. Trying her best to look as composed as possible when she entered into the room. When she opened the door she found the women dressed in a shirt and pants. Tending the fire in the room to help shut out some of the cold. Gabrielle noticed how she moved stiffly, clearly her pain was not gone and it would not be for several days at least. When she turned and noticed her enter the room she moved to help her with the tray and pitcher.

AI will fix you some more tea to help with your pain. You will probably not be up to your full strength for a few more days.@ >I just won=t use the same herbs.=

AThat would be good as long as it does not drug me. I would like it if you take me into town. I need to get to the Police Dept. I am sure they have a full out search going on for me. I appreciate all you have done but you should not have kept me here.@ Maddie tried to sound pleasant but realized her words were a little more harsh then she had intended.

Gabrielle moved to the fire to heat the water for her tea when she realized the women had no idea where she was. AYou are in the nearest town. The next town over is three days ride. Is that where you are from? How did you get so far out here?@ She could not hide the look of complete confusion in her eyes.

AWhat?! Where am I? Who are you?@ Maddie tried to remain calm. >WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS WOMEN!= AHaven=t you ever heard of a car? Three days ride, ha! What kind if game are you playing with me!@ She was yelling and her hands where down by her sides balled into tight fists.

Gabrielle stood very slowly holding her hands out in front of her, Amy name is Gabrielle. Some know me as the Battling Bard if Potadia. I mean you now harm. I found you in the woods you were being beaten by thugs and I helped to save you. You killed one of them to save me. Remember?@ The concern she had for the women was clear in her voice.

Maddie felt a calm come over her as she looked at the young women. AWhat is Potadia? I have never heard of any such place.@ Suddenly a flood of memories washed over her. She had remembered learning of such women in college. How Gabrielle the Battling Bard traveled with the famous Warrior Princess named Xena. She silently thanked herself for paying attention in Ancient History. She looked at the woman in awe as she realized what she was saying. Though her rational mind told her no such thing was possible she looked at the women. The descriptions given in every book she has read of the subject seemed pretty accurate. AWhere are we?@

AMy friend Vigil=s Tavern, in Greece.@ Gabrielle could see the look of sheer shock come over the women as if she had been hit in the face with a club. AAre you alright?@ She took a step toward the women. Realizing she was just as tall and could look her square in the eye.

Maddie opened her mouth several times but not words came out. Finally she took a deep breath and swallowed. Wanting so much to realize this was just a dream and she would wake up any minute. The thought of how she could have gotten here and the remembered the lightening striking her in the field. She shuttered at the thought of how that had felt. AI don=t know what is going on, but this is not the time I am from. I need to find out what is going on. I need to get home, Lisa will be worried.@

AWho is Lisa, and more importantly who are you?@ Gabrielle began to calm down, seeing the women finally come to her senses.

AMy name is Madeline Duncan. I am a Police Officer for the small town of Hartford, Vermont. Lisa is my best friend. We work together. I don=t understand how this could have happened.@

Gabrielle thought for a moment about who could help them figure this mess out and one name came to mind. Aphrodite, she would have some clue, hopefully. ALook I know you are shocked and I can understand. I have a friend who might be able to help us. But we have to go to her temple in the next town. It will take us three days, as I said before, but I know she can help you. I have horses and I know the way.@

AOkay, then we should eat and get ready the sooner we get there the sooner I can go home.@ Maddie smiled a half smile at the Bard.

AFirst I need to look you over. You took quite the beating yesterday. You are lucky to still be alive.@ Gabrielle looked at the bruises on Maddie=s face and noticed they looked like they had been healing for days. AWow, you heal fast, is everyone where you are from like that.@

ANo, only me. I have been like that all my life. Guess you could say I have always been different.@ Maddie chuckled as she felt the gentle hands probe her skin. Without thinking she looked down and noticed the very visible bruise on the bards stomach. ADamn! That looks painful. Did one of those thugs do that to you? She lightly grabbed the hand that was touching her face as she spoke. Realizing she must be in pain as well.

Gabrielle chuckled, ANo, but I don=t guess you remember, your fever was pretty high. I will be fine. I, myself, have had worse.@

AWho did it to you, then? It looks pretty recent. I can tell by the coloring. You must have been hit pretty hard to cause that to form like that.@

The Bard smiled, Awell you can kick pretty hard. In fact I have only met one other person that could kick with that amount of force and she is dead, I=m afraid.@ Gabrielle looked into Maddie=s black depths and saw the fear and sadness there.

Maddie took a step back as she realized what the bard was saying. AI am so very sorry, Gabrielle. I don=t know why I did that. I mean I know better then to strike someone. I know my strength can cause a good deal of damage if I unleash it.@

AYou have nothing to apologize for. You were delirious due to your fever. I do not think you would have hurt me otherwise.@

AHow can you be so sure. You don=t even know me. You said so yourself that you watched me kill that man yesterday.@ Maddie was amazed at how forgiving this young women could be. She knew the monster that lurched in the depths of her soul. She had become well acquainted with it in her youth and when she was a soldier. She was ruthless and cruel in battle and was sure she would always have to keep her dark side in check.

Gabrielle took a step toward her and looked directly into her eyes and saw something there that she knew was so familiar. Yet she could not even begin to understand what she saw. She knew she could trust this stranger. She could see the good there even if Maddie could not. AI have a good feeling about you, Madeline Duncan. I know I am safe. Besides I am pretty good at defending myself. Last night I was not expecting you to act the way you did. To be honest I was shocked to see you walking at all. I am shocked to see you up today. You have a bad concussion.@

ACall me Maddie, please. I know I have one but like I said I tend to heal rather quickly. I mean I still feel sick but the pain is not half as bad and I don=t feel like losing my breakfast. Speaking of which I am famished.@

The women both sat down and ate in relative silence. Once finished they gathered their things. Gabrielle knew she had to take Maddie to get more suitable clothing for their journey. So they would have to go shopping first. They walked through the market place buying various items they would need, Gabrielle made sure she stocked her medical kit with herbs, just in case. Helping Maddie find clothing was challenge as it became clear the women had no desire to shop. After much deliberation Maddie picked out a pair of knee high boots, leather pants, and a soft material that fit like a long sleeve shirt. Over which she wore a leather vest. Gabrielle was quite pleased, as she noticed how each piece of clothing conformed to the woman=s muscular shape. As they left the market they made one final stop. Gabrielle needed to pick up a new boot knife at the weaponry shop. Maddie browsed, finally feeling like she was in her own element. She spotted an intricately carved sword laying on a table. She picked up seeing how it felt. Remembering her fencing classes she twirled the weapon and parried briefly reviling in the feel of it. She sat the weapon down and looked at the Bard. Gabrielle=s face had went completely white. She stood there looking as if she had seen a ghost. Suddenly feeling self conscious, Maddie left the building. Cursing herself for picking the weapon up in the first place. She waited out side with the things they had already purchased.

Gabrielle pulled herself from her shocked state and told the merchant she would take the sword as well and haggled a deal that got her the scappert at no extra cost. She left the hut and met up with Maddie outside. AHere you will need a weapon.@ She handed it to the stranger and continued on without a bad ward glance. Maddie stood for a moment and then hurriedly dawned the weapon on her bad and ran to catch up with the Bard.

AWhy were you so shocked back there? You look like you saw a ghost.@ She asked as she caught up with her. Gabrielle stopped and turned to face her looking directly into her eyes for a brief moment before she spoke.

AThey way you handled that sword....You just reminded me of someone I used to know...@ she quickly looked away and continued walking. Maddie wanted to find out more but decided it was a conversation best left for a better time.

 The sun was high when they finally reached the bard. Gabrielle led Maddie inside and showed her the horse she had been riding, a string white gelding that she had bought on her way to the Norse Lands. She stroked his neck and began to bridal him. Gathering his saddle. Maddie helped by packing some of the saddle bags and securing them for the trip. Once finished she moved on to the next horse.

AThis is Argo. She belongs to Xena.@ The Bard could not bring herself to tell Maddie about her lost love. Maddie could see the sadness in her green eyes and did not push the issue. Instead she silently pushed away the tugging in her heart. She watched as Gabrielle spoke to the horse. Her manner with the mare was totally different from that of her own horse. Once everything was secure they led the horses outside. Gabrielle handed Maddie the reigns of her horse and prepared to mount Argo. Maddie watched after she swung herself into the saddle. Gabrielle stroked the horses neck once more and placed a foot in the stirrup. She mounted and tried to put the horse into trot. Argo began to make strange noises and reared. Gabrielle tried to calm the horse but it was no use. Argo fought with the Bard until she dismounted.

AWhat=s wrong girl? I know I am not your mistress but you have to cooperate. I am sorry.@ She sighed and stroked the mares nose. Maddie watched from atop her mount and said nothing. She felt as if she understood the golden mare. Finally Gabrielle tried to mounted again, this time she did not even make it in to the saddle. Ending up on  her back looking up at the mare. Cursing under her breath she stood up and dusted herself off. When she looked over at Maddie she noticed the woman could barely keep herself in her saddle. She was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

ASo what did you do to piss her off.@ Maddie grabbed her stomach. Gabrielle did not think it was funny at all. She wanted to know why the are would not let her mount. She knew they had their differences but she thought they had worked that out along time ago. Finally, Maddie began to feel sorry for the blonde. She dismounted and walked over to the mare. Grabbing her reigns she spoke firmly, Abe nice.@

She scratched her behind the ears and then walk over to the left side and swung into the saddle. She sat for a moment and stroked the horses neck and used her legs to put her into a trot. She circled the stunned Bard.

Turning the horse in a small circle to calm her, she asked, Aare you alright?@ She Bard shook her head and got onto the other mount. She sat atop for a moment and watched as Maddie guided the mare. Her movements were fluent and the mare quickly obeyed. She remembered how she used to watch Xena put the mare through her paces when she first got her. Training her as well as her mother had been. >How does she know how to direct her? No one knows but me and Xena.= She looked away thinking how strange it was that this women unconsciously knew so much. She was so much like Xena and did not even realize it. What disturbed her more was she felt a growing attraction to her. Not even being able to explain why she felt that same connection she and Xena had. That same warmth spread through her each time she looked at her. She had longed to feel that again. To feel like she was home. She knew she had to speak to Aphrodite herself. There was so much that was going on. Not only did she need to confide in her good friend but she also needed answers. Maddie caught up to her and saw she was deep in thought. She cleared her throat and waited for the Bard to come back from where she had been. Gabrielle looked at her unsure what to say.

AI think she likes me.@ Maddie thought of the first thing she could to break the awkward silence.

AYes, she does. I have never seen her respond so well to a stranger.@ The Bard decided to ask what was on her mind. They trotted along at a slow pace. AHow did you know she would let you mount her?@ She stared hard and the woman.

Maddie shrugged, A I didn=t. But I thought she might. So I figured it would not hurt to try. I feel like I know her. It is hard to explain but I feel like I have ridden her before. Even though I know that is not possible.@

AI know what you mean. She responds to you like she has known you for years. It is amazing. When you first mounted how did you know she responds to different leg and knee movements? More importantly which ones to use? If I did not know any better I would have thought you were...@ The Bard fell silent.

Maddie was quickly growing tired of all the cryptic talk. She had always been one to get to the point. Deciding she=d had enough she stop the horse and dismounted. Putting her hands on her hips she waited for the Bard stop and dismount as well. Once she did she used her best icy cold stare. The looked her directly in the eyes. >It works better when you have blue eyes, tiger.= She crossed her arms and waited for the stranger to speak. All the while a smirk played on her lips.

Maddie began to pace back and forth, thinking of what to say. Sensitive chats were never her thing, but clearly this woman something bothering her and she was not about to travel with some one emotionally unstable. Then it hit her. AWhere is Xena, you speak of her and I have read of her in my time but she is not here. If this is her horse then why is she not riding it?@ She saw instantly that she had struck a nerve and regretted her angry tone.

Gabrielle looked as if she had been slapped. AWhere she is, is none of your damn business, stranger.@

AOh yes it is. You keep making strange comments about me and how much she and I are alike. Well, I want to meet her. I want to see this woman you talk about.@ She knew she had pushed to far when the Bard stormed past her and reached into one of Argo=s saddle bags. The retrieved a black container. Maddie had not recalled seeing her pack.

AYou want to meet Xena! Then here! Say >hello=@ She shoved the container into Maddie=s chest. Standing a few inches from each other she looked down at it and the truth of the matter became apparent. Feeling like a fool she took a step back gently handing it to the young woman. She looked to her green eyes and noticed they had turned almost gray with anger and pain. Pain she knew she had caused. A I am sorry. Look am not good with stuff like this. I did not mean to hurt you. I am thankful for all that you are doing for me. I just don=t like being compared to some one I am not.@

Gabrielle looked into her eyes. She saw so much of Xena there it scared her. She wondered if this was so because she wanted so much to have her back. To be with her again. Tears formed in her eyes and she tried desperately to keep them at bay. She would not give this woman the satisfaction of knowing she had hurt her. Maddie saw this and did the only thing she knew she could she pulled the woman into her arms and hugged her fiercely. The Bard let go and cried as hard as she ever had. Burying her face in Maddie=s neck as she wrapped her arms around her shoulders. Feeling Maddie=s strong arms circle her waist. She fought to regain control. Feeling her tears begin to ebb she took a deep breath. Noticing instantly the familiar scent that filled her nostrils. She pulled back and looked into Maddie=s eyes once more. Her mind raced as she saw something there. For a moment she was looking into Xena=s eyes. Eyes she knew so well. Time passed as she said nothing. Her mouth opened but nothing came out. Swallowing hard she mentally shook herself and saw the stranger there once more. Maddie could tell the Bard was on the verge of passing out and she held her tight. As she looked at her, she noticed the pale look come over her once more. >What does she see that makes her do that? Damn, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.=  They stood a few more minutes and then finally broke away. Gabrielle walked over to Argo and patted the horse before she stored Xena=s ashes back in the saddle bag. Maddie watched but said nothing. When she walked back to her own her, Maddie held the reigns and gave her a leg up.

Touching her calf as she spoke. AI am sorry, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut sometimes. I loose my temper easily when some one is not being forward with me.@ She did not look at the woman as she spoke. Before she walked back to Argo she spared her a glance and saw a look of forgiveness and understanding in her green eyes. With a silent nod she walked back to the golden mare. Mounting swiftly and guiding her along side the Bard.

AWe don=t have much time if we want to get far before night fall.@ She put the animal into a trot and headed forward once more.

Maddie easily kept up on the war horse. AWhat is his name anyway?@ >Probably something very Bardic.= She looked down at the well muscled horse.


Maddie recalled instantly the bumbling idiot the Bard once called family. AThat idiot?@

AYep, he is just like him, in many ways.@ Gabrielle winked at her and put the horse into a cantor.

Maddie laughed as she kneed Argo to catch up. It was going to be a good trip. Even if the blonde was little unstable.

To be continued in Part 4...

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