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Lives Before Avalon

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Disclaimer: Don’t own Xena or Highlander

Remembering Troy

Methos unpacked the files he’d been given once the boy beside him was asleep and smiled at the memories the first brought up when he opened it as he settled in for the flight. Troy….

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Helen gasped awake in bed and her husband stirred beside her, sitting up to hold her. “Nightmare again?”

“It’s so real, Paris.” She leant into him and his fingers carded through her golden hair.

“Shhh. I told you, there’s nothing to worry about. Menelaus and his army are exhausted. Victory for Troy is at hand.”

“I wish I could believe that.” She whispered.

“Get some rest. These nightmares rob you of your beauty, and after all-- isn’t that what I’ve been fighting for?” he teased and she slapped his arm but they lay back down together, Helen curled safely in his arms. “Sleep well my Queen.” He murmured.

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Helen stood on the balcony, looking down at the killing field the fields before the city had become. The desolation spread to the distant beaches where the main Greek camp was amongst the ships that had brought them. She barely remembered the beauty of the land before the war, they’d barely had six months of peace before Menelaus had followed her. She should never have left Sparta; how many had died in her name now? All she could was try and stop more from dying needlessly. “Methos.”

“Is everything all right, your Highness?” he stepped forward from the shadows where he had been guarding her, hand on his sword. His uniform, once well-kept with shining armour was threadbare, the metal dulled and dented. Then again, his Queen’s wardrobe wasn’t in much better shape, the creamy silk himation had obviously been reworked at least once but it was clean.

“I need you to deliver a message for me. Have you heard of Xena?” He was her most trusted guard, despite how unassuming he may appear there was none better with a blade.

“Yes.” She was a warrior in a world that did not look well on female warriors. It was said she could have ruled Greece if she hadn’t suddenly disbanded her army and vanished for months.

Helen reached up and removed her tiara from her golden curls. “Take this to her.” she held it out to him and he approached.

“Yes, Highness.” Methos bowed and took it, mentally working out how he was going to get past the enemy and then all the way to Greece and back as he headed back to the barracks. Unless the warrior princess was closer? He changed out of his Trojan armour, donning something more nondescript and then took the old tunnels to escape the city, wary of cave ins and traps. Few dared to venture into them since several were known to the enemy but there was no other option.

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“Half an apple-- that’s it?” Xena looked at the supplies in disbelief. Then again, this whole trip had been one mess after another. Why had she agreed to go to Thrace? It wasn’t like there wasn’t plenty of work in Greece. And now they had travelled even further east and south, far too close to Troy for her liking.

“I should have picked up some more supplies when we came down Mount Ida. But don’t worry. We’re not far from Troy. We can just stop there, and--” She tried. It was the first time she had ever travelled away from Greece and seeing the famous city would be amazing.

“No, we’re not stopping in Troy, Gabrielle. It’s too dangerous. And besides, after fighting the Greeks for ten years, I doubt that Trojans have any food to spare.” Xena was not taking Gabrielle near the city, she wasn’t ready for that sort of warfare.

“It was just a thought. I mean, the only chance I get to see Helen-- the face that launched a thousand ships.” Gabrielle smiled and Xena shook her head.

“A thousand war ships. Forget it.”

“OK. I don’t need food if you don’t. Hmm!” She shrugged and Xena sighed but they began walking for the nearest village to resupply. They made it to the market and began shopping.

“Let me pass!” Methos called, one hand on his side, feeling the blood slicking his fingers. He hadn’t even made it to a port or far enough North that he could make the journey on foot through Thrace and Macedon. The Greeks were relentless in their pursuit but there had been rumours of the Warrior Princess nearby.

“What is that?” Gabrielle turned to look at the disturbance.

“Get him!”

“We’ve got him now!”

“Come on. Come on. Hurry!”

They watched the thugs, no soldiers, rush towards the man and Xena stepped in, not liking the poor man’s odds. “Is he all right?” Gabrielle asked once the fight was over and Xena went to the man, obviously a soldier and looked at his wounds but there was nothing anyone mortal could do for him.

“Are you Xena?” Methos asked weakly, he hated dying. But she was a female and a warrior which meant maybe he hadn’t failed his Queen. No Amazon wore black leather like that so he could hope.

“Yes-- do I know you?” Xena applied pressure to the wound and looked him over, it was possible he’d been one of her men though he didn’t look familiar, perhaps from an opposing army? Or even one of the many villages she’d passed through since abandoning Ares.

“I’m Methos. Queen Helen sent me to deliver a message to you.”

“Is she all right?”

“Yes-- but she wants you to come to Troy.” He panted, he weakly reached for his bag and Xena lifted it for him, allowing him to remove the tiara Helen had given him and he pressed it into her hands.

“You know Helen?” Gabrielle demanded with wide eyes, why hadn’t Xena said anything?

“We met a long time ago in Sparta-- before the war.” She had been sent by Ares for training and Helen had been just a girl, training with the other women and guarded closely to avoid another kidnapping.

“Please-- promise you’ll go. The lives of thousands of soldiers depend on you.” He whispered. Once he wouldn’t have cared, they were only mortal. But he had fought, eaten and slept beside them for almost ten years, they were comrades. Something he hadn’t had since he left his Brothers, he missed them, even after how bad things had gotten.

“I will.” Xena promised, if Helen had sent for her it must be very important, they hadn’t parted on the best of terms.

“Good. Be sure no one knows why you’re there.” He grasped her hand and she held his tightly, giving him comfort in his last moments.

“All right.” She agreed and then felt his hand relax even as his head slumped to the side.

“I-- Is--?” Gabrielle stared as Xena gently released the limp hand and stood.

“Yes. We’ll give him a proper burial, and then we’ll go.” She managed to lift him, he was stall but not overly large so she could handle the weight. She lay him over Argo’s saddle and then grabbed his bag as well, he may have possessions in there to be returned to family.

“To Troy?” Gabrielle asked, just to be sure and suddenly not so eager to go after watching him die.

“To Troy.” Xena agreed as she quickly bought the needed supplies and then they left the village to deal with the body, digging a shallow grave, Xena slipped a coin for the ferryman into his mouth, before pushing the soil back in and leaving a marker so all would know a brave soldier lay beneath. Once that was done she stabled Argo, paying for several weeks to be safe. They would have to make the journey on foot and she didn’t want to risk him.

He’d woken hours later under several feet of soil and had struggled to dig himself out, spitting out the coin and feeling grateful she’d tried to ensure safe passage for his soul. It had been kind of them to give him a proper burial. He had returned to Troy but had hidden in the shadows since Xena had announced his death. So, the information on his possible presence at the battle ended there, but he had seen it through to the end.

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“That’s Troy.” Xena commented as they stood at the edge of the massive cleared area before the walls of Troy. The ground was a mess form almost a decade of battle, it would not be easy to cross but at least they weren’t coming at it from the direction of the sea, they’d never make it across that way.

“Oh. OK-- let me get this straight. To get inside Troy, not only do we have to get past that huge stone wall but—we have to do it in front of the Greek army?” Gabrielle demanded. The walls of Troy were massive, solid stone, reaching high into the sky. They were pitted with damage from attack and looking worn, but still solid.

“Shh! Keep your voice down, Gabrielle.” Xena warned, blue eyes scanning the ground they had to cover, taking in the various traps and hiding places with an experienced eye.

“Right. But you do have a plan?” This was Xena, she always had a plan, right?

“Count on it. Are your boots laced? Come on!” Xena pulled her out of cover at a run.

“Ahh!” Gabrielle screamed, she may technically be an Amazon now but that didn’t mean she was used to battlefields. Thugs, mercenaries sure, but this?

“Follow my lead! Come on! Stay close, Gabrielle!” Xena urged as she ran through the killing field.

Greek soldiers began popping up as they ran and Xena pulled her sword even as Gabrielle occasionally slammed her staff into one.

Trojan soldiers moved onto the walls at the noise, staring at the two distant figures running closer. “Gabrielle?” Perdicus whispered in shock as he recognised the long strawberry blond hair and the wind brought her voice to him.

“Perdicus? Are you all right?” Another soldier asked.

“Open the gates! Open the gates!” he yelled down.

“Open the gates? Are you crazy?” one of the men on the gates yelled back and Perdicus swore before rushing down the stairs.

“Run, Gabrielle! Run! I’ll cover you.” Xena called and she hurled her chakram at the enemy to protect her.

“I’m right behind you!”

“Come on!” she yelled as the gates opened.

“Charge the gates!” A Greek soldier called even as the two women dashed inside.

“Help me get the gates. Open the gates! Come on, hurry! Hurry! Get inside! Go in there!” Perdicus called to Xena.

“You first!” she answered.

“Archers! Close the gates!” he yelled once both were inside.

“Thanks for your help.” Xena nodded to the solider.

“We should introduce ourselves. My name is Gabrie--.”

“I know who you are.” He pulled his helmet off and Gabrielle froze in shock, eyes wide.

“Perdicus?” she whispered and he smiled slightly.

“Gabrielle.”

“You two know one another.” Xena looked at her friend, worried by her reaction.

“This is Perdicus, from my home town. We were to be married.”

“I thought you were a farmer.” Xena didn’t know what else to say at that moment. They were standing in a muddy courtyard in Troy and all three were a mess.

“I was, but-- not anymore. Shore up those gates.” He shrugged and called up to another soldier.

“Yes, sir.”

“Follow me. Welcome to Troy.” He grinned slightly and led them into the city. Once beautiful white stone buildings were faded and damaged from the decade of fighting, all greenery long dead. A very depressing welcome to the famous city.

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“Well, this plan of yours had better work. The morale of my troops dwindles with each passing day. If Troy doesn’t fall soon, I may never see Helen again.” Menelaus snapped at the cloaked figure beside him in his command tent.

“King Menelaus. Forgive me, your Highness. I didn’t mean to intrude.” A soldier snapped a salute as he entered.

“What is it?”

“A report from the front-- The Warrior Princess, Xena-- has fought through our lines and into Troy.”

“Xena? Leave us. Well, I trust you can take care of this little unforeseen problem. We don’t need a wolf among our sheep now, do we?” he asked his spy.

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“So, what brings you to Troy?” Perdicus asked as they moved further into the city.

“The war.” Xena stated.

“You’re here to fight?” he asked in relief, they desperately needed reinforcements.

“If I’m needed.” She agreed, remembering the soldiers’ words to not say why she had come.

“With your fighting skills, I’m sure you’ll be welcome by Commander Deiphobus.” He smiled at her.

“Who’s he?”

He’s-- the head of Troy’s security forces and Paris’ brother.” He started moving towards the Commander’s headquarters near the Palace.

“Well, first, I have to see Helen and Paris.”

“Why?” he stopped in surprise and turned to look at her.

“I’ve got to meet who I’m fighting for.” She shrugged, keeping an eye on the soldiers moving about. Very few civilians were on the streets, the few that were kept their heads down and moved quickly.

“I’m sorry-- No one sees them without permission. It’s against regulations.” After three attempted assassinations, it was a necessary precaution. Paris and Deiphobus were the only ones left of Priam’s many children and every day the people hoped for news that Helen was pregnant, to secure the Royal line.

“Well, that’s never bothered me before. Don’t worry, if anyone asks, I’ll say you tried to stop me. Wait here. I’m sure you two have plenty to talk about.” With that she vanished and Gabrielle sighed.

“Good to see you.” They said at the same time and laughed awkwardly.

“Perdicus, the Greeks are on the move!”

“Call out the second detail! I want them on the south battlement!” men rushed to do as he commanded.

“Yes, sir!”

“Find someplace safe-- I have to go.” He turned to Gabrielle and took her hands briefly before running back to the gates.

“Quickly!” Soldiers were yelling

“I understand, you opened the gates for the Greek Warrior Woman!” Deiphobus demanded as Perdicus arrived.

“Yes, Commander, but she, she battled an entire platoon of her own countrymen. I— I thought we could possibly utilize her fighting skills.”

“Perhaps, but where do I find her, now?”

“I advised that she report to you, sir.” He answered since it was the truth.

“Then, why haven’t I seen her?!” he demanded angrily.

“I tried to stop her, but she insisted on seeing Paris and Helen first.”

“If anything happens to them, I will hold _you_ responsible.” He growled.

Methos took his place, identity hidden behind his helmet, coming back had been crazy but this was worth fighting for. Besides, he’d never liked the Spartans.

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“You sent for me?” Xena asked as she slipped from the shadows and Helen smiled after she calmed from the fright, approaching her friend.

“Xena-- I was worried you wouldn’t come.”

“Well, we’ve had our differences in the past, but, you’re still a friend.” She handed the tiara back and Helen placed it in her hair.

“Thank you. Where’s Methos?” she glanced around for her loyal bodyguard. Amazingly he was one of the incredibly few men on earth to not desire her.

“Dead-- I fought off his attackers, but not in time to save his life. I’m sorry. I know you wouldn’t have sent him into danger without a good reason.”

“You’re right. I see terrible things in my dreams, Xena. I want you to take me to Menelaus.” Helen explained as she moved to the window, looking down into the city. Troy had been a marvel when she had arrived on Paris’ arm, now it was a wreck, the people living in squalor and starvation. It made her feel bad for wearing silk and fine linen, even if it was getting old. All she had done was trade one gilded cage for another at the expense of so many innocents.

“Why would you want to go back to the man you were forced to marry?” Xena moved to stand beside her, looking down as well. She’d heard the stories of Troy in its glory, to see it like this…she was one woman without an army, there wasn’t a lot she could do.

“It’s the only way the Greeks will withdraw and the fighting will stop.” She whispered sadly.

“You’re wrong. Paris and his army will carve a bloody path to the sea chasing after you. You’re better off staying in Troy. At least Paris loves you.” Xena turned to go.

“Wait! Xena, please. After ten years of war Troy has become a city of misery and death. Paris may love me but, now he is consumed with victory. I just want the war to end. I don’t want him to die because of me.” She choked and then the doors to her chambers slammed open.

“There she is!”

“What is the meaning of this, Deiphobus? How dare you enter my chamber!” Helen snapped at the man, standing tall and Xena was happy to see her spirit had not been crushed by the war. She was still a daughter of Sparta at heart.

“My apologies, but your safety’s my first concern.” he bowed slightly to her.

“Then you’d better tighten security. I’ve got to tell you, for a city under attack, it was pretty easy to get in here.” Xena commented casually, wanting to see what he was like when challenged.

“What do you _want_?” He demanded of her.

“To meet with Helen. I don’t fight for people I don’t know.” Xena shrugged and leant against the wall, letting him now she didn’t think he or his men were a threat.

“A Greek warrior wants to fight for Troy. Do you take me for a fool?”

“She’s telling the truth. If you don’t believe her, let Paris decide.” Helen commanded.

“By all means-- my guards will escort you to the temple.”

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“Ahhh.” Perdicus looked away as Gabrielle tended his arm where an arrow had grazed him.

“It’s been a long time.” She offered, for once not sure what to say.

“Yeah-- last time I saw you, you were-- sprintin’ out of town.” He pointed out and she grimaced.

“Right-- I’m sorry-- I-- that I left without saying goodbye. It was wrong.”

“That’s all right. I’m not angry anymore.” He assured her.

“What are you doing in Troy?” She tied off the bandage and put her herbs away. She wasn’t the Healer Xena was but she was learning. Life on the road was not easy and she had to pull her own weight. She was no longer a liability in a fight, she was an Amazon Princess after all. But she was still learning skills Xena took for granted.

“I had heard stories about Helen and Paris. I-- I wanted to be in a place where people were fighting for love.”

“I’m the one who told you those stores. That’s all they were stories. You’re not a soldier, Perdicus. You don’t belong here.” She argued.

“No, no. For the first time in my life, I feel I really do belong.”

“Go home, before something happens to you.” She pleaded and he put his hand over hers.

“I’m sorry, Gabrielle, but you can’t tell me what to do anymore.” He stood and moved back to his post and she watched him sadly, this was all her fault.

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Xena followed Deiphobus into the Temple where Paris knelt in prayer. The Prince, basically King these days, stood and faced them. He was an attractive man but obviously worn by the long war and the many deaths, including his beloved brother Hector.

“She claims she wants to fight for Troy.” Deiphobus announced.

“If you want me.”

“I don’t trust her. She’s Greek-- an outsider.” The Commander argued.

“I never lifted a sword for Greece.” She denied, she had fought with and against her countrymen as Ares’ warrior but never for the whole country.

“It makes no difference.”

“Look, she fought bravely to get into Troy. I don’t see any reason to doubt her.” Paris interjected.

“Deiphobus.” A call came and a man approached.

“Anteus?”

“Come quickly.”

They found Helen on the wall with several soldiers and Xena drew her sword. “Xena. What are you doing?”

“I saw this coward kill a loyal Trojan outside the city. That cut on his face was made by my sword.” She pointed out and he attacked, knowing he had been discovered. The fight was short and brutal but the killing blow did not come from her. She knelt beside him to check. “He’s dead.”

“Good-- This man was obviously a traitor.” Deiphobus looked at her with new respect for her skills.

“He was a member of your personal guard, Deiphobus.” Paris pointed out, moving to Helen’s side to ensure she was alright.

“I know-- and I assure you, there’ll be a thorough investigation of all my men.”

“Good idea-- traitors rarely act alone. It’s a shame this one won’t be talking.”

“He was but a few paces from you and Helen. I-- I had no choice but to kill him.” Deiphobus defended his actions to Paris who nodded.

“What’s done is done. Xena, you’ve proven yourself an ally of Troy. You’re welcome to stay as our guest. Treat her accordingly.” Pairs commanded as he led Helen away.

“As you wish.” Deiphobus answered.

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“It’s me, isn’t it? That’s why you’re doing this.” Gabrielle leant on her staff as she watched him clean his sword.

“You have nothing to feel guilty about. I’m here because I wanna be.”

“You forget who you’re talking to. Remember the time that you almost drowned trying to save my hat when it fell in the river? Or the time that you almost got trampled trying to give me a carriage ride?” she pointed out.

“Well, those days are over. I’m not a love-sick kid anymore.” He answered, sheathing the now clean blade and going to work on patching his armour.

“What if something happens to you? What am I supposed to do then?”

“Write a story about me.” He flashed her a boyish grin.

“Archers! Archers!” the warning sounded from atop the gates and then one of the soldiers fell, an arrow in his neck.

“Get down!”

“Take cover.” Perdicus yelled as he shoved Gabrielle down and into a doorway.

“Head for your stations!”

“Perdicus!” She yelled as he ran up the stairs to the top of the wall.

“Give me a bow! This is for my friend!” he shot one of the enemy archers.

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“You’ve taken good care of Gabrielle. I wanted to thank you for that.” Perdicus told Xena as they sat around a small fire, eating their rations.

“There’s no need she’s like family.” She assured him and then spotted the Commander slipping into a building. “Tell me about Deiphobus.”

“Well… he may not be the nicest guy in town, but he’s a good warrior. No one has killed more enemies.”

“What about friends?”

“What do you mean?” he frowned in confusion.

“Xena?” Gabrielle focused on their conversation.

“Nothing. It’s just a hunch.”

“I better be getting back.” He stood and returned his bowl before disappearing into the darkness.

“If you’re worried about Perdicus, don’t. He’s a good soldier-- he’ll be all right.”

“I hope so. So, did you find out Helen’s plan to end the war?”

“She wants me to take her back to Menelaus.” She scrapped the last few morsels from the bowl.

“You’re kidding! Are you gonna do it?”

“No-- it won’t solve anything. But I do think she’s in danger here.”

“How come?”

“There’s something going on in Troy. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. I’d feel a lot better if you stayed here with Perdicus. I know he’ll take care of you. I’ve got something to do. Keep your eyes open.” She warned and stood to go. Gabrielle sighed but finished her food and headed back to the wall.

Methos put his bowl in the dirty pile and slipped away to take a watch on the gates. Helen’s plan was brave but he agreed with Xena, it wouldn’t work. The war was about more than her now.

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“What do you think you’re doing?” Xena asked and Helen spun to face her, hood falling back as Xena stopped her in an alleyway,

“The only thing I can. I’m going to Menelaus, with or without your help.”

“That’s not the answer.” Xena got in her way.

“Then, what is? Every day another soldier dies for my happiness. I can’t live with it anymore!” Helen half shouted in grief even as Xena grasped her arm and led her back to the Palace.

“Then don’t. The war stopped being about your happiness a long time ago, Helen. Paris may love you but he and Menelaus barely know you. The war will go on without you, Helen. Let it.” Xena offered.

“But, where would I go? What would I do?” She shook her head. No matter where she went people would recognise her surely?

“What do you want to do?” Xena asked as she settled Helen on a couch, taking the cloak from her to put away.

Helen stared down at her hands, seeing the golden rings and bracelets Paris had gifted her over the years gleaming against her pale skin. “I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me that before.”

“Deiphobus.” A soldier called below the balcony and Helen went out to look down, frowning.

“Where’s Deiphobus going?”

“Wait here.” Xena took off after him.

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“They don’t suspect a thing.” Deiphobus reported and Menelaus grinned.

“Excellent work, Deiphobus.”

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“I followed Deiphobus to the Greek camp, where I saw him plotting with King Menelaus.” Xena reported to Paris and Helen in the war room.

“She’s right. I did meet with Menelaus. But I was there to convince him that he’ll never win this war. I was there to make peace.” He announced as he entered the room.

You mean--” Helen trailed off, hope growing.

“Yes. At long last, King Menelaus has decided to give up.”

“Thank the gods!” Helen breathed, clasping Paris’ hand.

“What I saw was no council of peace. Your brother is a traitor.” Xena tried to warn them.

“I have reports from every platoon. The Greek army has pulled out, and they’ve left a gift of peace at the gates.” A soldier reported as he ran in and Paris laughed in joy, lifting and spinning Helen before kissing her.

“Beware Greeks bearing gifts, Paris.”

“Too little, too late, Xena. Your people have surrendered.” Deiphobus sneered.

“Can’t you see what’s going on?” Xena demanded, were they really this blind?

“Don’t listen to her! She can’t be trusted. Ask yourself this: What was Xena doing near the Greek camp? You’ve won the war, my brother.” The brothers laughed together.

“You’re right about Xena. I can’t take any chances.” Paris turned to the guard and Helen grabbed his arm.

“No-- you can’t do this.”

“Things are a little more complicated than they seem, my dear. Why don’t you find yourself something _pretty_ to wear to the celebration?” He smiled at Helen and then ordered the guard. “Get her!”

“Move!” Xena surrendered her sword as Helen watched on is dismay.

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Methos moved between drunk soldiers to stare at the massive wooden horse. He did not believe in the Greek withdrawal, this was the sort of ploy he would have pulled. But no one wanted to listen. Where was Xena? Surely, she could talk sense into them? He went to the water barrels and began mixing herbs in to try and help with the results of tonight’s revelry, if they got the chance to drink the water without an attack first. Caspian had laughed at him learning about herbs, claiming there was no need when they were immortal, but it had come in handy over the years.

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“Good morning! Too bad you’re missing all the fun, Xena. There’s been quite a celebration.” He tapped at the bars of her cell.

“Don’t even bother, Deiphobus. You might fool the others.”

He laughed, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“We both know that horse is a trick. But what I can’t figure out, is what a scum-sucking opportunist like you would want Helen back with Menelaus for?” he just laughed again. “What do you get out of it?”

“Have you met the new prisoner? This is Xena, the Greek warrior who betrayed you by helping the people of Troy.” He called out to the other prisoners and Xena sighed but moved to defend herself.

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“Why a sad face?” Paris wrapped an arm around her waist, she looked so beautiful in Trojan blue.

“I don’t feel much like celebrating.” She tried to move away.

“Don’t be silly. We _finally_ defeated Menelaus and his army. You should be-- overjoyed. Still angry about Xena? I’ve told you, she’s in the dungeon because that’s where she belongs.” He was frustrated with her reaction. After so long they finally had victory! Now they could live their lives together and rebuild the Royal family.

“But, she’s done nothing wrong. If you really love me, you’ll trust my judgment.” Helen argued.

“I’m tired of this-- I didn’t fight ten long years to listen to your judgment. We have a celebration to attend.” He left and she slumped in grief, biting back a sob. What had happened to her Paris?

,,,,,,,,,,,
By the time Methos managed to nick a key and make his way to the dungeon he found a lot of unconscious Greek prisoner and no sign of the Warrior Princess. He grinned and left, impressed. If only she was Immortal, imagine how much she could achieve. She would have even been a challenge to the Horsemen if she’d lived in their time. At least most of the men had drunk the water and were obviously feeling better but he doubted it would make much of a difference.

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“That was some party. I wonder what happened to Xena. It’s not like her to be gone so long.” Gabrielle asked as they walked the streets, it was mostly quiet now, most sleeping off the party.

“She’s probably up at the palace. I’m sure that Helen and Paris are throwing the biggest party of all.” He grinned.

Gabrielle laughed. “I don’t know-- She’s not much for parties.”

“Well, I wouldn’t worry, I’m sure that she can _more_ than take care of herself.”

“Troy’s not like back home, is it?” She sighed, looking around and trying to imagine Troy in all its glory.

“Do you remember the time that we got caught stealing corn from Hylus’ farm, and he threatened to tell your father?”

“But then you took the blame so I wouldn’t be punished. Did I ever thank you for that?”

“No.”

“Thank you.” She kissed his cheek and leant against him as they walked. “Did you ever think, when we were kids, that we’d find each other again, here, in the middle of Troy?”

“No, but I’m sure glad that we did.” He wrapped an arm around her.

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As the city fell silent the wooden horse began to break apart, letting the soldiers within out. “Open the gates!”

“Hurry!” the few sentries fell silently, taken from behind by surprise.

“Open the gates!” they slowly opened to reveal the Greeks waiting.

“Find Helen, and bring her to me!” Menelaus ordered as they spilled into the city.

“It’s begun. Menelaus is looking for Helen. It’s your job to find her first.” Deiphobus ordered his men.

“What about Paris?”

“Leave my brother to me.”

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Perdicus and Gabrielle went back to back as Greek soldiers rushed through the streets, sword and staff moving quickly. “Wake up! We’re under attack!” he yelled but few answered his call.

“Round up as many people as you can. Meet me at the temple of Aphrodite.” Xena called as she moved into view, fighting three soldiers at once. One came up behind her but was felled by one of the few alert soldiers and she nodded to him. Methos grinned behind his helmet and moved on to try and save as many as he could.

“Where are you going?” Perdicus demanded.

“To get Helen.” She ran off and Gabrielle pulled his arm.

“Let’s go.” They moved towards the temple. “Hurry! In here!” Gabrielle directed the terrified civilians to the temple. Methos began ducking into homes and rousing the occupants, pushing them towards the temple and temporary safety.

“I don’t know. Just find the rest of your men; retreat to the south battlement; and form a new line of defence.” Paris ordered his soldiers as they spilled into the courtyard outside the temple.

“Yes, Paris.”

“Go! Perdicus. How did this happen?”

“The surrender was a trick. The Greeks have broken through the main gates. Come with us to the temple. Come on! Close the gates.” Perdicus shouted back as they fought to clear the way for the terrified people.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Helen stood at the window, watching in horror as Troy was overrun. Why hadn’t they listened?

The door broke and she spun but relaxed at seeing Trojan soldiers. “It’s Helen! Take her!”

“What are you doing? Take me to Paris.” She demanded as one grabbed her arm.

“Sorry-- We’ve got other orders.” He sneered and then fell.

Xena easily handled them and held her hand out to Helen. “Come on, let’s go!” Helen grabbed her cloak and swung it over her shoulders as she ran after her friend.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“Down here! Down here!” A soldier called, pushing people deeper into the temple.

“That’s everyone. Secure the doors.” Perdicus called, far too few had made it inside but they couldn’t wait any longer and the courtyard was empty.

“Xena, I misjudged you.” Paris told her as she led Helen in.

Methos blended into the crowd, carrying a young child on his hip. He’d pulled her from her dead mother’s arms and she was clinging to him, not carrying about his bloody armour. He’d helped as many as he could but looking around he didn’t know how they would make it out. The Greeks could wait them out or attack the doors, they were solid but they wouldn’t hold forever. It all depended if they were willing to risk Aphrodite’s anger.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“Everything’s proceeding according to schedule.” They stood in a courtyard filled with the bodies of the fallen.

“Good. Have you found Helen yet?” Menelaus growled.

“Helen and the others are in the temple. They’ve barricaded the doors.”

“Well, what are you waiting for?! Break it down!”

“We’re trying. Sire, Aphrodite…”

“Will understand this is for love spurned! Bring Helen to me! Torch the city and everything in it! And remove the horse! I want it as a memento of my conquest! Burn the city! Burn Troy to the ground!” he cried out, almost mad with victory.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“Let me out. Menelaus will stop this madness once I surrender.” Helen pleaded.

“I can’t let you do that.”

“It’s _me_ they want.” Helen snapped at her friend.

“Maybe there’s another way. Show me where the supply room is.” Xena offered.

“I don’t see how--”

“Show me.”

“This way.” Helen lead her off to the side.

“Looks like the entire Greek army’s out there. It doesn’t look good.” Perdicus told her sadly.

“Perdicus?” She called and he looked up only for her to kiss him.

“Gab-- Y-- You--”

“This may be the last chance I get to tell you this. I am--I’m really sorry. I know that I treated you badly--”

“And I let you. It was just as much my fault, Gabrielle. If only we could’ve been honest with each other.”

“I can’t be more honest than this?” She offered, kissing him again and his arms wrapped around her, holding her close.

“This room was built to store foods and supplies in case the Greeks ever invaded. I never thought we’d use it.” Helen admitted as she showed Xena.

“No, this’ll do just fine.” Xena answered and then tensed when she saw Paris and Helen hesitated.

“It’s all right. I’d like to speak to him for a moment.” Helen told her.

“Don’t be too long.” Xena warned and went to leave.

“I’m sorry.” Paris said as he entered the room.

“You don’t owe _me_ an apology.” Xena pointed out and he turned to Helen as Xena left.

“I don’t know how all this happened. I just wanted to love you.” He admitted sadly.

“Maybe at first you did, maybe there was never love, just love, I don’t know anymore. If we survive, I’m not going stay with you. I want my own life.” She admitted and he nodded sadly, pulling her in for one last tender kiss and she wrapped her arms around him, clinging for a moment to the only security she had known for a decade.

“I wish you only the best.” He released her and smiled softly, then he saw his brother. “Deiphobus. The Greeks deceived you.”

“It wasn’t me who was deceived. There’s only one man worthy of Helen,” he stabbed Paris in the stomach, who gasped in shock and pain, “---me.”

“No! Why?!” Helen screamed, catching Paris and going down to the floor with him, gently brushing his hair back even as he struggled to breathe. He touched her cheek and then blue eyes became vacant as his hand dropped. “No!” She cried, she still loved him, after everything, she had loved Paris and now he was dead.

“Now, you’re mine.” Deiphobus grabbed her arm and pulled her away from his brothers’ body, her white and gold gown covered in his cooling blood.

“Xena!” She screamed for her friend, tears falling as she Paris was lost to sight.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“Everything all right?” Xena asked as she joined them, sensing something had changed.

“Do you think we have enough of this stuff?” Perdicus asked and Xena grinned.

“Trust me-- We’ll have the biggest smokescreen you have ever seen.”

“Where’s… where’s Paris and Helen?” Gabrielle asked when she didn’t see them.

“In the supply room.”

“’I’ll get ‘em.” She headed for the supply room and then froze in the doorway before rushing back.

“Gabrielle, hurry!” Xena yelled at her.

“Xena?! Paris is dead.” Gabrielle looked a little shaken, it had not been a small wound.

“What? Where’s Helen?” Xena asked, moving away from the doors where they’d been piling flammable supplies.

“She’s gone.”

“Menelaus has taken her.” Perdicus growled but Xena shook her head.

“No, no. He would’ve called off his army.”

“Then who?” He demanded and she scowled.

“Deiphobus.” Xena answered.

“Deiphobus? But why?” Perdicus asked as they looked around near the supply room and uncovered the escape tunnel Deiphobus had used.

“No time to find out now. We’ll leave the same way Deiphobus came in! Go! Go! Go! Go! Run! Run!” She began urging people towards the tunnel as the doors buckled. It lead out into another section of the city, thankfully one currently lacking Greek soldiers.

“Xena!” Gabrielle shouted and tossed Xena a torch to set the place alight.

As Xena turned into the tunnel the doors gave way and the Greeks rushed in only to cough in the smoke. “Where’d they go?!”

“I can’t see!”

“Find Helen!”

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“So, where is she? Where’s Helen?” Menelaus demanded as his men left the Temple.

“I’m sorry. We’ve checked every corner of the temple. There’s no one.”

“You fool! You’ve let them get away! Shut the gates! No one leaves the city!”

“As Menelaus ordered, remove the horse!”

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“I thought this thing would be a lot lighter with nobody in it.” A Greek soldier complained as they pulled the horse. He stared in surprise as a leather clad figure dropped form the horse, sword in hand.

“Thanks for the lift.” Xena ran them through. “Get everyone away from the horse. I’ll meet you on the next road.”

“Where are you going?” Gabrielle asked as Perdicus helped her down.

“To get Helen. Run for your miserable lives.” She shouted before going after Deiphobus. It wouldn’t take long for the Greeks to realise how they’d gotten out. Methos leapt down and then began working to help the children out, urging them towards the tree line in the distance.

“What do you _want_ from me?!” Helen demanded as she was dragged further and further from Troy and her dead husband.

“What does every man want from Helen of Troy?” he leered at her.

“Don’t you realize what you’ve done?! You’ve killed your own brother! And ruined Troy! And for what? A woman who will only despise you!” She snapped angrily, head held high as she regained her feet.

“No matter. With you at my side, we’ll build a new city; give birth to a new race of Trojans. With my strength and your beauty, our children will rule the world.” He announced and that was it.

She may be Helen of Troy but she had been born of Sparta and they did not allow weakness, even in their women. It had been years since she trained with the other girls but she lunged for his sword.

Xena blinked and stopped as she saw Helen standing over Deiphobus, sword in hand. Helen looked up at her sadly, lost. “What now?”

“We leave him here. When Menelaus comes out of Troy empty-handed, I want Deiphobus to be the first thing he sees.” Xena smirked and Helen smiled, helping to tie up the wounded man. “Very nice. Come on.” They headed for where Xena had left the others.

“Listen, Gabrielle. I know… things got pretty crazy in there. And, maybe you said some things that, that you didn’t really mean. I just want you to know that-- I don’t expect anything from you. As far as I’m concerned, we can go our separate ways.” Perdicus explained and Gabrielle felt a flash of pain, that wasn’t what she wanted but she forced a smile as they helped the people move away from the horse and into the trees where it was safer.

“Right-- Ha-hah! That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

“Great.”

“Good, good.” She wouldn’t cry.

“I know that we’ll see each other again, some day. You take care of yourself.”

“You too.” The hug goodbye felt awkward now.

“Thank you for everything. I just wish we could have saved Troy.” Helen smiled sadly at the smoking city in the distance as they neared the other survivors.

“When two kings are bent on destruction, there’s nothing much anyone can do.”

“You’ve done a lot for me, Xena. You showed me the only person that can make me happy is me. I appreciate that.” She whispered and Xena smiled sadly.

“You’re welcome. What’s next for you?”

“I don’t know. But for the first time it’s my decision.”

“I know you’ll make it the right one.”

Perdicus walked over to them and offered his hand to Xena. “Goodbye, Xena.”

“Perdicus, where you headed?”

“A new city a few days’ journey from here. But who knows?” he shrugged.

“It sounds wonderful. Do you mind if I travel with you for a while?” Helen asked, if this soldier was known to Xena then he was trustworthy.

“Not at all. I’ll send a messenger ahead to announce your arrival… so the leaders can…” Perdicus babbled.

“If it’s all the same to you, I think I’d rather be treated like a normal person for a change.” She smiled at Xena who nodded.

“You take care.”

“You know I will.” Helen smiled as Perdicus secured some supplies and then offered her his arm.

“Shall we?” He offered.

“OK.” They headed off as Xena and Gabrielle watched. the survivors sorted out supplies and then headed off in different directions. Troy had fallen but her people would live on, if in hiding.

Methos watched the two women leave while Helen left with a single soldier. He ditched his armour and secured his sword before moving to trail them, wanting to ensure the one time Queen got away safely.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
“I thought Perdicus would be joining us for a while.” Xena admitted after a few hours of walking and Gabrielle smiled sadly.

“No I think he’s made other plans.”

“Oh.”

Gabrielle grinned. “Do you want to go back for the horse? It’s bound to be a collectors’ item?”

“Only if you’re gonna pull it.” Xena smirked at her friend.

“Nah.”

,,,,,,,,,,
Methos closed the file and looked at the young boy sleeping in the seat beside him. Who knew, maybe he had Trojan blood in him somewhere down the family tree. It was amusing to read the translated Xena scroll where the mention of his name had been recorded. Getting the job as junior researcher of himself had been for fun, it was amazing the memories it had already brought up. He’d never been to Seacouver before and was almost looking forward to it. He put the files away and settled down to sleep for the rest of the night.

The end