by Claire Withercross

Disclaimer : Characters in this story are copyright MCA/Universal/RenPic. The story is mine.

Warnings : If it upsets you or if it’s illegal where you live, (you know what I’m talking about), then read something else, though there’s nothing graphic in here.

Bard's Boring Bits : Thanks to everyone on the ex-guards list who gave their comments on the beta version of this little story. Thanks also to Ann and Pam, and possibly Michael, though I don’t think he did anything to this story; makes a change! Special mention to Kate, Angela, Marsha and Spike for the treacle. Another special ‘Hi’ to Stormybard. Oh yeah, Richard wants another mention, though he still doesn’t read this stuff. Um... anyone else? Oh, a very special ‘Hi’ to Murphy, thanks for the virgins and the nibbles. Thanks to Ruth, Marie, Lawls and Steph for doing their thing and allowing people to read my stuff, (And MaryD for my Voyager story). Thanks to Kam for letting me hate her <g>. "Hi"s to Ali and AJ. Many, many thanks to all those that have mailed me to say they’ve enjoyed one of my stories. Yep, those people really exist, it’s a blast! While I’m about it, thanks to the two And’s and BG for performing above and beyond. Parts of this story were written in the nude (steady, MK). Now I think it’s time to stop this before it becomes longer than the actual story.

Historian's Note : This story happens.

My first impression was that the warrior, Xena, was in charge and that the young woman, Gabrielle, was her slave. I think it was the way that Xena rode her horse and Gabrielle followed behind. When they stopped for provisions the warrior stayed with the horse while Gabrielle made the purchases. When they stopped for a meal the warrior tended her weapons while the young woman prepared the food and served her. All that seemed to fit the warrior/slave pattern.

My next impression was that Gabrielle was not very bright. During the meal she chattered constantly about nothing, the warrior merely nodded politely and made no attempt to shut her up or reply. Gabrielle would occasionaly reach out to pinch a morsel off the warrior's plate. Xena would smile indulgently at this, the same way one would at a child who had done the same. Perhaps Xena wasn't a heartless warrior and had taken pity on the simple woman and allowed her to follow.

My next impression was that they were equals travelling together because they enjoyed each other's company. After the meal the warrior helped Gabrielle into the saddle and the pair rode together, laughing and joking. There was gentle teasing from both sides and the atmosphere was relaxed. This impression was reinforced at night when they bedded down together.

In the morning my impression of their relationship changed. Xena was up early and eagerly, if with little skill, prepared a breakfast for Gabrielle when she woke. The warrior hummed a simple melody as she arranged the food on the plate, chastising herself when she put something in the wrong place. When the young woman woke and saw the breakfast, she cooed with delight and heaped praise on the other woman. Xena blushed and looked bashful at the fuss Gabrielle made of her effort. Bashful! A warrior? Perhaps Xena was the simple one, pretending to be a warrior and Gabrielle was there to keep an eye on her and see that she stayed out of trouble.

All these impressions were wrong. Later that day the true nature of their relationship was revealed to me.

Gabrielle entered the tavern alone while Xena stabled the horse. She soon attracted the unwanted attention of a group of men. She did her best to ignore them, but they were drunk and had only one thing on their mind. One of them suggested that Gabrielle was a woman of negotiable affection. He then found himself flying through the air and colliding with the wall. Xena stood where the man had been, eyes glinting, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips, challenging the remaining men. I won't go into specifics of the fight, suffice to say that weapons were drawn and the men came off worse. But it answered the question of their relationship. All through the fight Xena kept her eye on Gabrielle, noting exactly where she was and how close to danger she might be. Xena was the slave. The protector. Willing to put her life on the line for the young woman. What power must Gabrielle possess to make a feared warrior a slave? To tame a violent soul and turn it to.....



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