Disclaimers: See Part 1 for disclaimers.
Constructive criticism is always welcome and can be sent to yours truly.
"Callisto! Come back and let me out! I order you!" The warrior princess raged and banged the cell door.
"Don't bother, she's gone," the immortal Xena said to her counterpart.
The raven-haired warlord banged the door one more time before she gave up. "I can't believe it! Five seasons she's been riding with me and all this time she has been scheming against me." She paced furiously around the cellblock. "Am I destined to be betrayed by the people that I trust?"
Xena followed this outburst quietly. When her counterpart finally quieted down she opened her mouth. "If you're done with your outpouring, would you mind letting me out of these shackles? My arms are getting kinda numb."
"Why should I?" The warlord asked cynically. "So that you could stab me in the back as soon as you get a chance?"
"Now you listen!" The immortal had had enough. "I'm the best friend you got right now! Probably the only friend," she said firmly. "I can help you to stop Callisto but you have to trust me. I know it is a lot to ask but if we can't stop her there will be no hope for the Amphipolitans. There will be no hope for Gabrielle."
"Gabrielle," the warlord said desperately. The sapphire blue eyes revealed her concern over the young woman.
"You love her, don't you?" Xena asked.
The warlord hesitated for a moment before answering. "Yes."
"Have you ever told her that?"
"I don't deserve her. Besides, she couldn't possibly love someone like me."
Maybe there's still hope left for her after all, the immortal thought. "If you'd take your head out of your ass for a moment, you'd see how much she cares about you," she said.
For a moment the warrior princess was like she couldn't believe her ears, then she laughed and begun to let the immortal loose from the shackles. "Well, who can I trust if not a person who has the guts to speak to me so frankly."
"Now we have to figure a way to get out of this cell," Xena said as she rubbed her wrists to get some feeling into them.
"That won't be an easy task. The door is made of oak and it's reinforced with iron plates," the dark warrior said.
Xena inspected the door closely and found what she was looking for. "We could file the lock plunger apart." She felt her pocket and sighed in frustration when she remembered that she had been strip-searched when she had been locked up. "You wouldn't happen to have my Supertool with you by any chance?" She asked her counterpart.
"Do you mean this?" The warrior princess picked the shiny Leatherman beneath her breastplate.
"That's the one." The immortal took the tool and drew out the file. "The metal in that plunger shouldn't be too hard. We should be out in no time." She began filing.
"Tell me," the warrior princess asked. "Was it hard to give up your old ways and pursue a totally different way of life?"
"Extremely," Xena said. "Wherever I went, my reputation followed me."
"That tool is quite handy," the warlord commented as the file slowly bit itself through the metal.
"It has many skills," Xena grinned. She kept filing for a while before she handed the tool to her counterpart. "Here, take over. My hand is getting a bit sore."
"Sure," the warrior princess said and continued the work.
"Together we don't stand any chance against Callisto and the army," the immortal said. "Where did you put Toris and the others?"
"They are in the neighboring cells."
"Good. Are there any men in your army that are absolutely loyal to you, no matter what?" Xena asked.
The warrior princess thought about it for a while before answering. "Skiros. He'd do anything for me - and his men would follow him to Tartarus if necessary."
"About twenty or so."
"That'll have to do," the immortal said. "Okay, once we get out, we'll free Toris and the others. Then, you'll try to get in touch with Skiros while I'll try to locate Gabrielle and Cyrene."
"Do you think that they are all right?" The warlord asked.
"Probably. With any luck Cyrene got to Gabrielle in time and they are in hiding." Inside, the immortal didn't feel so optimistic. "How's that plunger?"
"Almost... There!" The plunger snapped in two. "This thing is really amazing." The warrior princess handed the Leatherman to the immortal.
"You keep it," Xena said. "Now let's go free Toris." The raven-haired immortal stepped out of the cell and took a quick glance around. The corridor was empty. A set of keys was hanging from a hook on the wall. Xena grabbed the key ring and walked to the next door. "Toris, are you there?" She peeked through the peephole.
"Xena, is that you?" Toris came to the door. "We thought you were caught."
"I was but I got out," Xena said.
"I see that you have got my sister," Toris said as he saw the warrior princess. "Let us out so that we can throw her inside."
"No, she's on our side now," Xena objected. "She has promised to help us take over the village."
"She can't be trusted. She'd turn against us on the first possible moment," Toris said. "Better to lock her up so that she can't stab us in the back."
"Listen!" The immortal interrupted him. "Callisto has thrown her out of power. She's going to destroy Amphipolis and all of its citizens. You'll need Xena's help if you're going to stop her." The dark woman looked the man straight into the eyes. "It's up to you. She and I can't stop Callisto together."
"Very well, but on one condition. She has to give her word that she'll surrender to us when this is over."
"Don't be ridiculous," the warrior princess snorted.
"She'll promise, wont you?" Xena turned to look at her counterpart. "Look, you need them and they need you." She turned back to Toris. "If Xena gives her word that she will surrender to you, will you give your word that she will get a fair trial?"
"I promise," Toris said.
"Very well," the warlord yielded.
"All right then," Xena said and turned the key. "Toris, take your men and go find some weapons. Xena, help them to find the weapons and get in touch with Skiros. I'll try to find Gabrielle and Cyrene."
Xena stepped inside Cyrene's inn. She swept through the dining room and the kitchen only to find them empty. She strode up the stairs three steps at a time to the second floor. She checked every single room without finding a soul. Where are they? They had not been in her counterpart's quarters either when she had secured it with the others. Callisto was also nowhere to be found. That could only mean one thing. She has them. The pupils in the icy blue eyes narrowed. Callisto, if you've cut a single hair off of them, I swear that I'll kill you slowly and painfully.
Trying to find them was of no use. Callisto was a master in hiding. Xena could spend the whole day looking for them in vain. No, it was better to concentrate in taking control over the town. Callisto would show up when the time was right.
Xena stepped outside right in the middle of chaos. The streets were filled with people fighting against each other. Here and there you could find an Amphipolitan bravely fighting against a soldier but mostly, to the immortal's surprise it was a soldier against a soldier. Apparently, it seemed that Callisto had overestimated the army's loyalty to her. To Xena's eye the odds were almost even.
A soldier that tried to sneak up on her from behind distracted Xena's thoughts. The immortal swung her sword to block the attack. "Oh no you don't!" She moved to a better position.
"Callisto's gonna reward me generously if I bring your head to her," the soldier said boldly.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you," the raven-haired immortal said wickedly. "Too bad that I like my head where it is." With a couple of twists she swung her opponent's sword high in the air and caught it firmly in her other hand. She crossed the two blades and watched her opponent fiercely. "So you like to decapitate people?" For a fleeting moment the soldier watched her with petrified eyes, then he turned on his heels and ran away. Xena sneered and lowered the swords.
Xena cast a quick glance around her and found what she was looking for. The warrior princess was in midst of combat with her former lieutenants. The immortal took a few running paces towards them before a soldier cut her path. Before he could realize, the dark woman had jumped on his shoulders and from there, somersaulted at her counterpart's side.
"You look like that you could use a helping hand," Xena said to the warrior princess as she raised her sword against one of the lieutenants.
"I would have managed but thanks anyway," the dark woman replied and sent one man down with a firm kick. "Any sign of Gabrielle or my mother, or Callisto?"
"Not a trace. I'm afraid that Callisto has them." Xena could see her counterpart wrinkling her eyebrows.
"There's nothing we can do about it right now," the warrior princess said as she blocked another attack.
Xena didn't answer. Her opponent demanded her full attention. The soldier that she was up against was an excellent swordsman. He smiled arrogantly at her.
"You'll find me very hard to kill," he said and set off a series of hits against the dark immortal.
"Ditto," Xena replied as the two blades impacted. Her opponent used his mass to force the immortal down. Xena landed on her back while using her opponent's own momentum to swing him over her. She was quickly back on her feet and turned at her opponent who was now on lying on the ground. Xena placed her sword against his throat. "Drop it!" Xena ordered him. Just as the soldier let go of his weapon, the warrior princess pierced her sword through his back. The immortal looked at her in disbelief.
"I had him down!" She said angrily.
"Well, I made certain that he stays down, for good." There was no mercy in the dark warlord's eyes.
Xena bit her tongue. This was neither time nor the place for debating about this. She moved further from the warrior princess to assist some Amphipolitans in their fight. While fighting, the dark immortal had the chance to survey her counterpart. Her practiced eyes could easily see that the warrior princess wasn't quite the sword fighter that she herself had been back in those days. Not to say that she would have been less dangerous or efficient. It was their technique that was different. The warrior princess used brute force to compensate the lack of finesse that the immortal had. It was obvious that the warrior princess did not bother to polish up her skills too often. Xena knew that if they had fought against each other, she would have won eventually.
By twilight, the battle started to show the first signs of ceasing. The Amphipolitans had reclaimed their city back. They had paid a high price for it. A lot of Amphipolitans had died in the process among the soldiers who had fought at their side. Callisto's men began to lose their interest in battle as they found that their leader was nowhere at sight and when their numbers began to diminish in the process of time, the remaining soldiers gave up and surrendered their arms.
Xena ran through the town square where Callisto's men were gathered up and held in custody. She was tired but there was no time for a rest. Callisto was still missing, with Gabrielle and Cyrene. She found her counterpart at the other side of the square where she was supervising the gathering with Toris.
"Xena!" The warrior princess said. "I was just going to come to look for you. Still no sign of Callisto?"
"No," the immortal answered. "Any idea where she could be?"
"NoÖ Hey, wait a moment!" The dark warrior said suddenly. "There's a cave just outside the town. Only Callisto and I know of its existence. We've used it as storage for our booty. She could have Gabrielle and Cyrene in there."
"Lead the way!" Xena said to her counterpart.
"Will you need our help?" Toris asked.
"No, this is between Callisto and us," the immortal replied and ran after the warrior princess.
They ran out of the town and into the forest. After a short run they arrived to a small opening by a steep hill. Xena tried to look for a cave but couldn't find any sign of it.
"You can't see it from here," the warrior princess said to her. "We have to climb." She took the first steps on the slope.
Xena followed her. She could see that there was actually a path in the steep slope, which made the climbing relatively easy. When they had climbed higher, Xena could make out a small plateau and a cave opening in the slope. They closed the cave silently, watching every step.
"Be alerted," the warrior princess whispered to the immortal. "Callisto might be expecting us."
"Probably," Xena answered.
They arrived at the cave entrance and pulled out their swords. The entrance lead into a downward tunnel. A flickering light reflected from the floor. Xena followed her counterpart into the tunnel. After a short descent the tunnel leveled and widened to a relatively large cave. Numerous chests and sacks were piled at the end of the cave. There, right next to the chests were Gabrielle and Cyrene neatly bound and gagged and right behind them was Callisto, aiming the raven-haired women with Xena's Walther.
"Stay right where you are!" Callisto ordered. "You arrived just in time to witness how I let these two out of their misery." She cast an evil grin at them.
"Don't do it Callisto!" The warrior princess said. "It's me you want. They have nothing to do with this."
"On the contrary, my princess. They have everything to do with it. They are the key to my revenge," Callisto said with a lunatic voice. "I'm going to enjoy to watch you squirm as I end their lives. But I tell you what. I let you choose. One dies and one gets to live." The blond warrior snickered at the thought. "Which one will it be? Your mother or the tramp that you seem to care so much about?"
Both Gabrielle and Cyrene tried to mumble something but the gags made it impossible to understand what they were trying to say.
"Can't make up your mind?" Callisto asked. "Well I guess I have to kill them both." Callisto aimed the gun at Gabrielle's head and pulled the trigger.
The shot never came. Callisto pulled the trigger again without success. She didn't remove the safety, Xena thought as the blond warrior shrieked in frustration and threw the gun away. The warrior princess reacted immediately and moved towards them.
"Not so fast!" Callisto pulled a dagger and put it on Gabrielle's throat. "I'd like to remind you that I'm holding all the strings here."
Xena followed as her counterpart stopped a few yards away from the threesome. She on the other hand was more concentrated on the shiny Walther that was a couple of feet away from her.
"Callisto, let them go and I'll guarantee that you can leave freely," the warrior princess tried to persuade her.
"No, no, no!" Callisto shouted. "I don't want freedom, I want my revenge!" She moved the dagger behind Gabrielle's back and hit it through her back. Gabrielle's eyes widened in shock.
At that moment time stood still. Callisto was laughing madly over Gabrielle, who was slowly bleeding to death, the warrior princess was standing there, looking incredulous and Cyrene was screaming through her gag. Xena saw her chance. She leaped quickly to her gun, picked it up, removed the safety, aimed and fired. The shot echoed in the cave. Callisto was still standing and cast a mad glance at the immortal. A small trickle of blood ran down from the small hole in the blond warrior's forehead. She cast a quick glance upwards, snickered and fell dead on the ground. The warrior princess threw away her sword and knelt beside the young honey-haired woman.
"Gabrielle! Please don't die!" she pleaded as she did her best to unbind her.
"Cold..." Gabrielle whispered weakly.
"Don't die Gabrielle! I love you!" The warrior princess said desperately.
"Love you too... my warrior..." The young woman breathed.
"Quickly! We have to take her back to Amphipolis," Xena said. "There's still a chance we can save her if we get there in time." She released Cyrene. "Try to cut off her bleeding."
It was a race against time. After a time that felt like eternity they came to Amphipolis. The warrior princess was carrying Gabrielle who was shivering and hardly conscious. They took her to the infirmary, which was already filled with people injured from the battle.
"Quick, put her on that table and bring some hot water!" The immortal instructed. "Xena, lend me that Supertool for a moment, will you?" She asked from her counterpart. She took the handed tool, opened the folding knife and put the blade in hot coals.
She removed Gabrielle's clothing and the bandages and took a look at her wound. The dagger had gone through just below her right shoulder. "Gabrielle," she said with calm voice. "I'm going to take the feeling from your back so that I can operate with you." No answer.
"Gabrielle?" Xena took a closer look at the young woman. She had gone unconscious and the immortal could hardly feel her pulse. Damn!
"Okay, we have to work quickly," Xena said to the others and took the Supertool from the coals. She cooled the hot blade for a moment and began to make a cut. "I'm going to cut the wound a little wider so that I can see if any of her organs have been damaged," she said to the people that were following the operation. Xena was no surgeon but two thousand years of experience had thought her a thing or two.
Xena made the cut and opened the wound a bit. Luckily, the dagger had not damaged any vital organs. However, one of the larger blood vessels was torn and that was causing the bleeding. She did all she could to make it stop and then sewed the wound together. While she was turning Gabrielle on her back, Xena found that the honey-haired woman had stopped breathing.
"She didn't make it." Cyrene breathed.
"It's not over yet!" Xena said. "Xena, put your mouth firmly on hers, hold her nose shut and exhale hard when I tell you!" she instructed her counterpart. The immortal put her hands on Gabrielle's sternum and began pumping. "One, two, three, four, now!" Xena watched as the young woman's chest rose when the warrior princess blew air in her lungs. "One, two, three, four, now! One, two, three, four, now!" Come on, Gabrielle! Don't give up on me!
At first it seemed that Gabrielle wouldn't recover but then the warrior princess lifted her head. "She is breathing!"
Xena tried the young woman's artery and was relieved when she could feel the faint but steady pulse. Welcome back, Gabrielle.
Xena was dozing off on a bench beside Gabrielle's bed. On the opposite side, her counterpart was doing the same. They had been staying with the young woman for several hours and the fatigue was beginning to get to them. Gabrielle's state seemed to have been stabilized so they could let their guard down a bit.
A silent whisper snapped them both awake. "XenaÖ" They both turned to look at the honey-haired woman who was blinking her eyes slowly and lifting her arm.
"Easy now, Gabrielle," the immortal said. "You had a rough time but you made it."
"Glad to have you with us," the warrior princess took Gabrielle's hand into hers and was greeted with a gentle squeeze.
"Win? Yes, Gabrielle. We won." The immortal smiled to her.
"You don't have to worry about her any more," the warrior princess assured her.
"Try to get some rest now," Xena said. "You're still weak from the blood loss."
"You look like that you could use some rest, too," her counterpart said to her. "I can stay with Gabrielle."
"Okay, I'll come to release you later," the immortal said and walked towards the door when Toris and a couple of other cut her way.
"Xena!" Toris addressed the warrior princess. "You have to come with us to face trial."
"No! You can't!" Gabrielle rushed up and twitched from the pain that her wound was causing.
"Are you still going to commit her after all she's done for you?" The immortal huffed.
"All her doings are exactly the reason why we are going to commit her," Toris said to her. "Step aside, Xena."
"Are you threatening me?" Xena asked with a cold voice.
"If it comes to that," Toris answered.
"I don't like being threatened," the immortal began to raise her arm as the warrior princess' hand landed on her shoulder.
"There is no need for quarrel," the warrior princess said. "I'll come in peace." She grinned to her immortal counterpart. "I gave my word, didn't I?"
"All right, but I must be heard in this matter," Xena said to Toris.
"Why are you so concerned about her fate all of a sudden?" Toris asked.
"Because of Gabrielle," Xena said. "Firstly, she won't be able to speak for herself so she is going to need someone to represent her. And secondly, Gabrielle asked me to speak on Xena's behalf."
"Very well," Toris said. "You'll get two candlemarks to prepare your speech. In the meantime, Xena will be held in custody."
"Xena..." Gabrielle reached out for the warrior princess.
"Shh, don't worry about me. I'll be all right." The warrior princess took the young woman's hand in her own. "You try to rest and gain some strength." She kissed Gabrielle's forehead gently.
Xena sat on a bench in the newly reinstated town hall. The trial of the warrior princess would take place shortly. The immortal had spent the last couple of hours with Gabrielle, preparing her speech. The young woman had despite her weakness prepared her address on a piece of parchment. Xena could only admire the magnificent use of words. Gabrielle of this world was equally talented compared to her two counterparts in another reality.
The room began to fill with people one row after another. There was an open space in the other end of the room. Right in the middle of the space was a podium, where the accused would stand. At the end was the judge's table and seat.
Xena knew the procedure, of course. Three judges would be chosen amongst the citizens, usually elder, distinguished people. In principle, everyone was allowed to be heard. In practice, people chose a spokesman amongst them to speak on their behalf thus limiting the speakers from two to four persons. After everyone had spoken, all the judges would cast a vote. It was a simple majority decision.
The warrior princess was escorted into the hall and put in the dock. Her armor had been removed and she was in shackles. Her face was neutral. Also Toris and Cyrene arrived and seated in the front row.
The back door opened and the judges stepped inside. Everyone stood up while the judges seated. One of them knocked the gavel on the table. And the buzz of conversation silenced.
"We have gathered here to adjudge Xena of Amphipolis. She is facing trial for crimes against the people of Amphipolis," the judge with the gavel started. "These charges include murder, brutality, enslavement and abuse. How do you answer to these charges?" He addressed the warrior princess.
"Guilty." The raven-haired woman did not hesitate a bit while answering.
"Very well," the old man said. "We shall now pass the sentence. In consideration of the ferocity of all the crimesÖ" he was interrupted by the dark immortal that stood up so quickly that the bench crashed on the floor.
"Hey not so fast! What about my speech?" Xena asked angrily.
"This is a direct trial, no addresses will be made this time," the presiding judge said.
"What?" Xena couldn't believe her ears. "I was told that I would be allowed to be heard." She turned to look at Toris. "You tricked me," the immortal growled.
"Be seated or you will be removed from this court," the judge ordered the immortal.
Xena cast a cold glance at the judges. "I'm not just going to sit and watchÖ" this time she was interrupted by her counterpart.
"Xena don't," she said calmly. "I made a deal with Toris and the counsel. If they let Skiros and his men go they can do whatever they please with me."
"But what about Gabrielle?" Xena asked the warlord.
"She'll be better off without me," the warrior princess said.
Again, Xena couldn't believe her ears. "But..." she started.
"Besides, your speech wouldn't have made any difference," the warlord interrupted her again. "These people want me dead and no one can turn their head."
"Don't. It's better this way."
Xena sat down defeated. Only if Gabrielle had been here, she thought. How am I going to tell this to her?
"Without further interruption we shall now pass the sentence," the presiding judge said. "Xena of Amphipolis, you have pleaded guilty to the crimes that you have been accused of. Therefore you shall be executed by decapitation. The execution will take place tomorrow at dawn. Escort the accused to her cell."
Xena watched in disbelief as her counterpart was escorted out of the courtroom. She cast a glance at Cyrene. For a moment she could see hesitation in the old woman's eyes, like she wanted to stop those men taking away her daughter but at the next moment she lowered her glance and turned around. It was obvious that Cyrene had lived too long under the warrior princess' yoke. A last minute redemption couldn't wipe away years of terror and oppression.
Xena sat on a rock and watched the sun go down behind the mountains. Her feelings varied from confusion to anger. She couldn't believe the situation she was in. She had failed to save the warrior princess and with that, lost the chance to return to her life. What was she going to do? She could always try to help the warrior princess to escape but that wouldn't probably take them far. "DAMN!" She grabbed a small rock from the ground and threw it away in fury.
"I've always loved the sunsets in Greece. I should probably come here more often."
"You." Xena turned to face Caesar who had appeared behind her. She watched her 'guide' in fury. "Well, I've failed to save my counterpart so I guess that means I will be stuck in here with you," she said with a sarcastic tone.
"Who said anything about saving her," Caesar snorted. "That was your idea."
"What then?" Xena asked furiously.
"Like I said earlier the answer is in your..."
"...HEAD!" Xena ended the sentence. "I know!"
"Think about it." Caesar smirked. "You'll figure it out."
"No!" Xena shouted. "I want answers and I want them now!" She leaped towards the man only to see him disappear in front of her eyes and find herself landing painfully on the ground. "Come back!" She kept shouting in vain. She banged her fist on the cold ground in frustration. "What the fuck it is in my head that would take me home?" She shrieked in thin air. For couple of hours she raged around the lonely field. Then she figured it out.
Xena watched from the window as the sun cast its first rays over the newly built scaffold. The carpenters had spent most of the night building it. Soon, the warrior princess would meet her fate on it.
People had started to gather around the scaffold. In a few moments, the square would be filled with people. Executions had always been great amusement for the people. During her long life the immortal had seen quite a few of them.
Xena's thoughts were distracted as the door opened and a man stepped inside. "It is time."
"All right," the immortal answered and followed him.
Xena stepped outside and cast a glance at the scaffold. The executioner was already there with his hatchet. People were yelling and whistling. Xena could feel the animosity in the air. She walked closer towards the scaffold and tried to make out Gabrielle from the mass. There she was. Right in the front row. Leaning against a tall dark woman who was wearing leather jacket, biker boots and jeans. As Xena climbed the stairs on the top of the scaffold she went through in her mind the conversation that that had took place in a cell last night.
"What do you want?"
"I have a proposition for you."
"If you're planning to help me to escape, forget it. People would hunt me down eventually."
"No they won't if they think you're dead."
"Well, that won't change anything."
"Yes it will. I will take you place on that scaffold tomorrow. You, on the other hand will be wearing my clothes and follow the execution among the people. There is a catch, though. You have to give me your word that you give up your old ways and dedicate your life to defend the weak. What do you say?"
"You have my word."
"Very well. Quick, get out of your clothes and take mine."
"How can you be sure that I won't go back on my word?"
"Trust me, I'd know if you were trying to swindle."
"Well, rest assured. I won't let you down. You've made me see that I can be something better than I am."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"Does Gabrielle know?"
"Yes, I told her."
"She has the right to know. Besides, it's you who she loves."
"After all I've done to her?"
"She can see further than that. That's what makes her so special."
"I guess it does."
"Believe me, it does."
"Why are you doing this, then?"
"This is your world. I don't belong here."
"Well, I guess I have to go, then."
"I suppose you do. HeyÖ"
"Take care of her."
"I will. Thank you."
"Don't thank me. Thank Gabrielle. If she had not believed in you, I probably wouldn't be here."
"I won't let her down. You have my word."
Xena caught Gabrielle's eyes. She could see a certain helplessness in her. The immortal knew it wasn't easy to just stand and watch as an innocent person was being executed. Convincing the young woman had not been easy.
"No! There must be another way!"
"If there was, I would have used it."
"But it's so unfair! You should have been allowed to speak!"
"Well, obviously Toris and the rest were too keen to see Xena pay the highest price for her actions and Xena had her own plans. When Xena offered her life in exchange for her men, it didn't take too long from Toris to accept."
"But what about you? If you take her place on that scaffold, you will die."
"That is inevitable."
"I'm not sure if I'm able to sacrifice a human life in order to safe another. Even hers."
"Listen, I don't belong here. My life is insignificant. Xena, on the other hand, has the potential to do a lot of good."
"Do you really think that she will change her ways?"
"With your help, I can guarantee it."
"I just wish that there was a way to save her without you getting killed."
"People have to believe that the warrior princess is dead. It is easier for my counterpart to gain a reputation as a hero when they think she is me. With luck, I'll be able to get back home."
"- yes. To Rickie. How did you know her name?"
"I'm not sure. I just knew. You must love her very much."
"As much as I once loved a peasant girl from Poteidaia."
"Well, I guess you have to go to see her."
"I guess I have."
"Thank you for everything."
"You're very welcome."
Xena kept her eyes on the two women as she placed her head on the cut log. She could see both sadness and joy on their eyes. Time seemed to stand still as she waited for the axe to cut her neck. She had finally figured out what Caesar had meant. The answer was indeed in her head. She had to die in order to get back and the only way for her to die was decapitation. I wonder how it will feel this time. I just hope this works, she thought. At all events, there was no reason for her to stay. She belonged to another world.
Xena could see from the corner of her eye as the executioner raised his hatchet. I love you Rickie, the immortal thought as the cold sharp metal landed on her neck and everything went out in a bright flash.
"Xena, talk to me!" Rickie Gardner cried to the dark woman that was lying unconscious on the cold concrete. You really blew it this time, Rickster, the young woman reprimanded herself. Xena would probably be home free by now if you had resisted your craving to be the hero. When she had landed on the young gangster and the immortal, Deshane's gun had gone off and the bullet had scratched Xena's temple, leaving her lie unconscious on the ground. The police had swiftly chastised the young man who was now sitting in handcuffs on the back seat of a squad car.
"Come on Xena, wake up!" Rickie pleaded the unconscious woman. Xena had been unconscious only for a couple of minutes but that did not ease the redhead's desperation a bit.
Further back, Emil Holt waited calmly for the immortal to regain consciousness. Unlike Rickie, he had seen immortals to 'die' and revitalize numerous times and this was only a scratch. He had tried to calm the young woman but she refused to let anyone near her. Come on, Xe, don't scare the living daylights out of her. Come back.
"Xena, I know you can't die so please don't keep me waiting. I love you so much and every moment without you is torment," the young woman whispered into Xena's ear.
Suddenly, as an answer to her pleads, Rickie heard a distant sound of a thunder. She lifted her head and could see the immortal slowly open her eyes and smile to her.
"Love you too, Dreamer," Xena said quietly. At the same moment the young woman grabbed her in a tight embrace.
"Oh, Xena! I was so worried about you." Rickie sobbed against the immortal's shoulder.
"Welcome back, Xe," Holt said. "You got a pretty nasty scratch from that bullet. You might want to have a doctor to have a look at it."
Xena took a moment to recall what had happened. Deshane had had his gun on her head when Rickie had landed on them. The gun had gone off in the impact then - she had woken from the cold concrete with Rickie next to her. There was something else but, as hard as she tried, she couldn't get a memory.
"Where's Deshane?" Xena asked.
"He's there in the car," Holt replied. "I just got to know that another suspect had been caught and he had confessed the robbery and the shooting."
"Well, there's still the possession of an illegal weapon and resisting an arrest. We'll have to take him downtown."
"Take me to him."
"Are you sure you can stand?" Holt asked.
"Sure," Xena said and stood up.
"Okay, follow me."
Xena and Rickie followed the officer to the squad car. Holt opened the door and helped Deshane out. The young man didn't dare to face the immortal.
"Xena, I'm sorry," Deshane said quietly. "I really never meant to shoot you."
"I don't like people having their guns on my head," Xena said strictly. "Especially people that I trust."
"I hated to put you into that position but I was desperate."
"I know that and I forgive you, this time."
"Really?" Deshane lift his face surprised.
"Yes." Xena smiled to him. "Just put the safety on next time when you're bluffing." Everyone laughed.
"Well, I guess I'm going into jail anyway," Deshane smiled condescendingly.
"Emil?" Xena asked the detective.
"I can't promise anything but I see what I can do. I have to talk with the DA."
"I'll call my lawyer to come to see you tomorrow," Xena said to Deshane
"Thank you, Xena," Deshane said to the immortal.
"Try to stay out of trouble for now on."
"I will," Deshane said as he sat in the car.
"Well, I guess I owe you one," Holt said to the dark immortal. "Things could have gotten messy."
"I'll be in touch," Xena said to him. She and Rickie followed as Holt sat on the front seat and drove away.
Xena turned to face the redhead. "I don't know about you but I really could use a hot bath and some special care. Shall we go home, Dreamer?"
"You're on, Warrior-mine." Rickie grinned.
"Let's go, then." Xena put her arm around the young woman's shoulders and walked towards the car with her. The immortal looked at her lover. Rickie and I have been through a lot lately. We both could use some rest. Perhaps a cruise... Rickie's graduation is soon. That would be the perfect gift.
"A penny for your thoughts," Rickie said to her.
"Oh, nothing special," Xena said quickly. "Just thinking of that hot bath with you."
"Well, I like that thought," Rickie said and reached to kiss the immortal.
"Well, I guess I can't keep you waiting for too long," Xena said and put her hand in her pocket to get the car keys. Now, where is my Supertool? I could have sworn that it was in my pocket earlier today, she thought as she took the car keys out. "You didn't see my Leatherman lying around when we were back there, did you?" Xena asked.
"Nope, wouldn't miss THAT thing," Rickie answered.
"Funny..." Xena said as she opened the door. She stopped for a moment as she caught her reflection from the door window. For a passing moment it looked like she had been wearing her leathers and armor. Then it was gone. She raised her arm only to see the sleeve of her jacket.
"What is it, Xena?" Rickie asked.
"For a moment I thought that I saw myself in my armor." The immortal shook her head. "The moonlight must be playing tricks with me."
"You know, I've always thought what you would look like wearing a leather skirt and that armor of yours," Rickie said. "The first impression is sexy."
Xena grinned to her. "If you'll give me a couple of days, I might able to arrange something..."
"I think I'm going to like this," Rickie said to herself and grinned.
In the time of ancient gods, warlords and kings a land in turmoil cried out for a hero...
Author's Note: Well, getting this story finished took me long enough and sometimes it felt that it never would be. Gladly, I found my inspiration and I am able to present a conclusion to this story to you all. Indeed I have to say that this has been a challenging story to me. The thought of the immortal Xena meeting the warlord Xena has intrigued me since I first got involved with the Infinity Series. How to do it without breaking the rules of the Infinity was the real challenge. With the help of Redhawk and my beta reader Garnet I was able make this story to stay in bounds, maybe stretch them a bit. Some of you probably noticed that I wrote the whole story except beginning and finishing scenes from Xena's point of view. I figured that since it was all happening in Xena's head the reader would see only what our tall, dark and dangerous would.
I would like to thank Redhawk for creating such a great universe. I've had many, many pleasant moments with Xena, Rickie, Emil and the others. I'd also like to thank my beta reader Garnet who has helped to put my thoughts on the right track and who has always had faith in me. Thank you also for all the other Infinity Series writers for exciting moments and inspiration. Last but not least, I'd like to thank all my readers from whom I've got so many supporting comments and who have been patient enough to wait for my comments.