DISCLAIMER: Xena/Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and are used without consent. This story contains references to two women in a loving relationship and descriptions of violence I would give an M rating to, so consider yourself warned...
TIMELINE: Early season five. I hope you like it, its only a very short one! Many thanks to Bracer for fixing my speling and grammar also! <g> Feedback is always appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org
The warrior was alert, awake before even she knew it. Keen senses probed the air, listening intently for the noises that had roused her which were not of the thick woods. Two of them. One from each direction. Still half a league away, but they know were here.
She silently uncurled herself from her bedroll and cast a glance at her sleeping lover. Heavy breathing rose and fell slowly, deeply. The warrior felt a pang of sympathy. They had been travelling such long distances. She was sure to be worn out. No need to wake her.
The warrior crouched and made her way across the small clearing, in the direction of the man closest to them. The forest enveloped her. She moved like a wraith; light footsteps on leaf litter passing without trace or sound; her body a bowstring tuned to breaking point. She had become the predator now, letting her feet choose their path of their own accord, each sense working overtime.
When she judged she was far enough away from the campsite not to disturb the sleeper, the warrior stretched lithe arms over her head and swung herself lightly to a low branch. Dusky green leaves draped over her shoulders in a coat of living, moving camouflage. She settled down to wait. It would not be long.
She thought sweetly of her lover, deep in the darkness of slumber. White teeth flashed in the gloom. I will protect you always, my love, she promised silently. And I will protect my child.
It was a scarce few minutes later that the man appeared in the brush beneath her. He was heavily armed, bent double under the weight of his weapons, yet quiet as the grave. The warrior took a second to admire his skill. But only a second.
Growling softly, she plummeted from the branch like a snake, landing lightly behind the man. Quick, strong hands flashed out, grasped his head and twisted sharply, relentlessly. There was a sickening crack and the man fell limp in her arms. She lowered him silently, muscles corded with his weight. Im not sorry, she thought briefly, resigned. You should not have been stalking us. You left me no choice.
Leaving the body behind her, she swung herself upwards again and began a careful run through the branches, not missing a step from tree to tree. Shallow breaths, pale scratched skin, beating heart. Travelling in a wide half-circle, never touching the ground, the warrior quickly brought herself to a point only a little way behind the second intruder. They were still a fair distance from the campsite.
This man was not as skilled as his companion. His movements were heavy, unguarded. It was the work of only a few minutes to drop down from the trees and pace him from several steps behind, silently stalking him, waiting for the right moment.
An unseen twig snapped beneath the warriors feet. The man whirled, eyes wide. Too late. Abandoning stealth, the warrior leapt forward and clasped the hilt of the strangers sword. She drew it swiftly, snatching it away from his grasping fingers, and reversed the motion, fiercely plunging the cold steel into his stomach. The mans eyes rolled back and a strangled cry of agony escaped his throat. The warrior gathered her strength and ripped the sword unmercifully upwards, feeling the heavy blade tear an irregular, gaping path through flesh, organs, skin.
When she pulled the blade out, the man crumpled slowly. Bubbles of crimson frothed at his lips. He mewled a little as he lay, like an animal. The warrior stood over him, dispassionately, waiting for him to die. I will protect my lover. I will protect my child. You left me no choice. The blade dripped in her hands, blood on her arms, her chest. When the man breathed his last, the warrior let out a weary sigh and tossed the sword to the ground beside him.
Still moving quietly, as was her habit, she made her way back to the campsite. The dying embers of the fire were not bright, but the warrior's eyes were accustomed to the gloom beneath the trees. She could see her companion curled up on her side, a dark huddled shape beneath the skins. The blood-spattered woman smiled. I love you, she thought warmly.
She crossed the campsite quietly and lowered herself to sit beside the sleeping one. There was a stir, a mumble, a slight blinking of eyes. The warrior placed a soothing hand on her lovers shoulder.
"Whats the matter?" asked the sleepy-eyed woman trussed up in her blankets.
"Nothing," replied the warrior bleakly. "Ill tell you in the morning. Go back to sleep, Xena."
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