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Rome's Faux Fox

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AN: this story is an AU setting of Xena's life into darkness. It starts off slow as she is in her teenage years so bear with me here. Enjoy for now ;)
Disclaimer: I don't own Xena or it's characters.

Chapter 1

Amphipolis was an interesting city in Greece, it was filled with many blacksmiths, farmers, carpenters, fallen soldiers and commoners, much like Cyrene's family. After she gave birth to her only daughter, Xena, she decided to move to the outskirts of Amphipolis to look for a bigger home. Five years after Xena was born, a son was born, Lyceus, Xena's younger brother. Xena and her elder brother, Toris, by four years, looked after their baby brother any chance they got.

By the time Xena turned six years old her father had left her mother and brothers by themselves. Cyrene had relied on her husband to support the entire family, but once he left she had decided to open a tavern located in the inner city of their village. She would bring the children with her very early in the morning before sunrise to prep the kitchen and tavern before guests would arrive.

Xena often looked after Lyceus when her mother was too busy with the guests. Toris would help his mother serving and mostly cleaning tables afterwards at the end of the night.

It took a couple of years before Cyrene was able to provide a good enough income for her children to live off of. She also had to thank her daughter and eldest son for helping her the most.

But now, the years were slowly escaping Cyrene as she watched all three of her children grow up before her eyes. Xena was now eighteen, Lyceus thirteen and Toris twenty three. Each child had developed their own outlook on life and each child was definitely different from one another. Lyceus was constantly sparring with the neighborhood boys, Toris was off by himself trying to learn the art of blacksmithing, but Xena was different than her brothers. Being the only girl in the family she had learned to act tough around her brothers and didn't really fit in with the other girls her age in the village either.

Her friends had all the same opportunities as Xena and were expected to live nice and quiet lives. Get married, have children and raise them in Amphipolis just as their mothers and their grandmothers had done for decades. There were about six girls the same age as Xena and were now expected by their families to become engaged to a man very soon. None of those thoughts had entered Xena's mind at her age, she truly wished to become something more than a simple housewife.

Xena sat with a couple of her friends at a table inside her mother's tavern, listening to them chatting away about the boys they had met a couple of weeks ago. She rolled her eyes constantly, trying to block out the entirety of the conversation.

"What do you think Xena?" Elissa asked, batting her blonde eyelashes.

Xena blinked and realized that she had not been listening to anything Elissa had been talking about for the last half hour. ""

Elissa sighed and rolled her eyes. "You didn't listen to anything I said did you?"

Xena shrugged her shoulder and sighed, leaning back in the chair folding her arms. "I just don't see the point talking about men all the time. Don't you ever talk about anything else?"

Mala, the redhead smiled at Xena, placing her hand on Xena's shoulder. "Come on Xena, don't you want to get married? You're getting old," she teased. Elissa and Mala shared a laugh and Xena groaned, getting up from her chair abruptly.

Both of the girls frowned and Mala stood up, "Xena, come back! It's just a joke..." she sighed and sat back down with Elissa.

The blonde girl smirked, "just let her go. She obviously doesn't care much about us or our conversations."

Mala sighed and nursed the cup of wine in her hands, contemplating her life choices at the moment. She and Xena had been friends for a long time now, since they were six years old and she thought that she had a connection with Xena, unlike Elissa. She was kind of stuck up and a bit boy crazy ever since she was fifteen and developed breasts. She had made sure that she showed them off to all the available men, often making Xena feel inferior to the boys. Mala had noticed even though Elissa was a beautiful girl and a little too showy, they seemed to always gawk at Xena, even if she didn't notice it, Elissa did. Elissa was a jealous girl, jealous of Xena, at the constant attention she got from the village boys and outsiders as well.

Xena stepped outside behind her mother's tavern and saw Lyceus swinging his sword he made in blacksmithing school. He was a very good student and the youngest one in the class. She smiled as she watched her little brother become enthralled with the sword in his hands.

"Can you teach me to do that?" Xena called out distracting Lyceus causing him to drop the sword on his foot.

He groaned and rubbed his foot. Frowning he picked up the sword and sheathed it. "You shouldn't sneak up on people like that Xena!"

She came forward and grabbed Lyceus in a friendly headlock so he wouldn't be able to fight back. "Xena! Stop it!" he yelled as her grip became stronger around his neck.

Xena let go and pushed him backward, landing on his back he frowned at his elder sister.

"Come on Lyceus, teach me how to use the sword," she prompted tapping her foot on the grassy soil. Lyceus smiled and then stood up brushing some dirt off his pants.

He came up to her and started mocking her, "you want me to teach you how to use a sword?" he said in a high pitched voice, trying his best to mimic his sister. "To do what? You want to impress the boys..oooo," he laughed

Xena punched her brother in the shoulder and he winced. "Knock it off!" she said firmly.

Toris interrupted his siblings' little playdate and whistled at his sister. "Hey Xena! Mother needs you."

Xena frowned and stared at Lyceus, "this isn't over. Teach me before sunset, alright?" she smiled as she walked backwards towards Toris. Lyceus smiled, nodding his head and pulled out his sword getting ready to battle some invisible enemies.

Later that evening the sun started setting and Xena was washing clothes when she looked out the window and saw the sun retreating. Smiling she set the damp clothes aside, taking off her apron she set it aside on a chair.

Cyrene entered the room and saw Xena hastily making her way out of the room. "Where are you going? These clothes aren't going to wash themselves," she folded her arms.

Xena rolled her eyes and then turned to face her mother. "I'll get to it when I can, mother. I have to do this..thing," she thumbed to the grassy area behind their house.

Cyrene sighed, "Xena, don't stay out late. I have someone for you to meet tomorrow."

"Not another suitor. Listen mother, I appreciate it but I really don't want to get married right now. I have bigger plans to accomplish," she smiled and ran to the door to visit her brother outside.

Her mother called out, "Xena! Xena..." she groaned. Toris entered the room and saw a basket full of dirty clothes and smiled.

"Xena didn't do her chores yet again huh? Typical Xena," he shook his head and grabbed an apple, waltzing out of the room to go sit outside with a few friends of his.

Xena ran out to the fields and she didn't see Lyceus. She frowned looking around the area to see if he was trying to trick her. She smirked, "alright Lyceus, stop kidding around. You know I can get in you in the tightest headlock you've ever seen!" she called out but received no sneak attack and no response from her little brother.

Starting to become worried she tread into the woods looking for her brother. She stepped over a few broken tree branches, watching her every step. "Lyceus?" she called again after the second time.

She stood in the middle of the forest now, surrounded by tall ominous trees. "This isn't funny anymore, Lyceus."

Xena heard some rustling in the trees and then suddenly Lyceus jumped on top of Xena's shoulders scaring her half to death. She flipped his body over onto the ground and then she saw it was her brother lying on the ground.

"Zeus, Lyceus! What did you think you were doing?" she frowned, furrowing her eyebrows.

Lyceus rubbed the back of his head and stood up facing Xena, nearly as tall as she was now even at thirteen. "I finally got you though," he slyly smiled.

Xena huffed and gestured to his sword, "fine, you got me. Now can you teach me some of those moves you do?"

Both of them practiced until the skies were dark. Must have been a couple of hours but Xena felt that the sword was the one that completed her. She was so quick, so nimble and graceful with the sword. She scoffed at the idea of marriage –it just wasn't for her.

The following day Xena was out buying fruit from a vendor in the inner part of the village. She examined the peaches and frowned at how much the man was asking for them. "You sure you want these peaches for five dinars?"

The man sighed, "yes, Xena, you ask me this every time. Come on you're like Alibaba. Always trying to steal my money," he grinned at the young woman.

Xena smirked, "three dinars for twelve peaches then?" she bargained. She juggled the single peach in her hand with a challenging look on her face, arching her left brow. The vendor finally relented and handed her a bag of the dozen peaches. She grinned giving the man his money and set the fruit in her basket.

As she turned around she bumped into someone, knocking all of her fruit on the ground. Gasping she immediately went to pick up the possibly bruised fruits.

"I'm sorry, I should have looked where I was going," a masculine voice spoke to Xena. Her eyes traveled upward as she finished putting the fruit in her basket. She stood slowly smiling at the young man.

"It's alright, I bumped into you." The two looked at each other and her cheeks reddened. "Excuse me," she brushed passed the young man and hurried out of the market back to her mother's tavern. The young man watched Xena as she continued onward. A smile came to his lips and he casually followed her pathway a good distance apart.

Xena returned with the fruit and found Mala and Elissa cleaning off some tables inside the dining room of the tavern. She plopped the basket down on the bar and wiped her brow. Elissa grinned at her brunette friend.

"basket of bricks, Xena?" the blonde teased.

Xena frowned, "just clean the tables. I'll be right back. I have to get some things from the kitchen," she wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt and made her way to the kitchen.

Mala peeked into the fruit basket and saw a plethora of peaches and strawberries. "What's got her so worked up?" Elissa shrugged in response and continued cleaning the tables. Cyrene allowed the two girls to work two days out of the week in her tavern for pay and to spend time with Xena. Cyrene always thought Xena didn't have enough friends and was far too occupied with her brothers and being by herself began to worry her.

A knock alerted the two young girls and they looked up to see a young man with long brown hair standing at the entrance of the tavern. It was very early in the morning and they weren't exactly ready for guests at the moment. Mala put her hand on her hip, "we'll be open in an hour."

The young man smiled, "no worries, I'm not here for food and drink. Is there a girl that works here...a girl with a basket of peaches perhaps?" he eyed the basket on the bar and grinned.

Mala nodded, "oh you mean Xe –"

Elissa stepped forward, "no there's not," she straightened her posture making sure she looked taller and more alluring. Mala rolled her eyes in the background, trying not to disgust herself watching Elissa work her magic on every man she saw.

Xena came out of the kitchen with a tray of wine glasses. She looked to the entrance and saw the same man she bumped into in the market earlier. Her eyes widened and suddenly felt a bit embarrassed and yet uneasy that he had followed her to her mother's tavern.

The tall brunette young lad stepped aside from Elissa and came forward closer to Xena. She watched his every move and he pulled something out of his coat pocket.

"Is this yours? Seems you've dropped it on your way over here..." he grinned slyly and Xena looked at the necklace.

Xena looked at the necklace and shook her head, "you must be mistaken. I don't wear jewelry," she smiled softly trying to hide her apprehension.

The man clutched the necklace in his hand and stared at the brunette in her glacial eyes for a long while. He tucked the jewelry inside his pocket again. "My mistake then," he bowed his head slowly and made his way out of the tavern, looking back at her with mischievous eyes. Xena arched her eyebrow as he exited. Elissa and Mala both had puzzled faces and then stared at Xena as she seemed to be cast into stone.

Elissa came to Xena and grinned widely. "Who is that handsome man, Xena?" she egged on her friend.

Xena set down the wine glasses. "Nobody of concern to me," she shrugged and walked over to the window, brushing the dust off the curtains. She peered out the window and saw the man sharpening a dagger casually leaning on a hay barrel. He caught a glimpse of her and she shied away, continuing the clean the curtains. Hoping that he stopped staring her eyes reverted back to the man but he was no longer standing there. Frowning she poked her head out and tried to look for him but he had seemed to disappear.

Later in the day Xena retreated back to their home and she finished washing the clothes that she neglected yesterday. Lyceus entered the room with his hands behind his back.

"Hey Xena, I got a surprise for you," he grinned and Xena rolled her eyes. "No really, I do!"

Xena threw the clean clothes in a basket and dried her hands off on a cloth. "Is it a sucker punch to the face? Because I fell for that when we were kids," she teased.

Lyceus sighed, "come on Xena," he pleaded like a small boy. Xena sighed relenting to her brother's surprise. He grinned widely. "Okay close your eyes!"

"What?" she questioned.

"Just do it Xena. It's not a snake this time," he promised and she hesitantly closed her eyes tightly holding out her hands. Lyceus pulled out a long sword and placed it in her hands. Xena felt something cold in her hands and frowned, furrowing her eyebrows.

Finally she opened her eyes and saw a sword in her lap. She stood up and glanced at the mighty blade in her hand. She began swinging it around furiously. Lyceus took a step backward quite proud that he was able to give his sister such a grand present.

"Lyceus, this is...thank you!" she embraced her brother and he choked from the tight hug from his sister.

He patted her back, "you're...welcome," he choked out and Xena let go continuing to admire the sword.

"How did you come by this? It must have been very expensive!" she admired the craftsmanship of the weapon.

Lyceus nodded, "yeah it was but I didn't pay for it."

Xena frowned and assumed that he stole it. Before she could get a word in Lyceus held his hand up. "A man gave it to me to give to you." He grinned.

She blinked a few times and then immediately went outside the house and saw the same man with the long brunette hair staring at her. He casually walked away twirling the dagger in his hand. Xena looked down at the blade and then became irritated.

Making a quick move she ran after the man. "Hey!" she called out. "Stop!" she ran towards him and he finally stopped. She made her way towards him with baited breath. The young man turned around with a smug smile and looked at Xena in the moonlight.

"Did you buy this sword for me?" she asked a bit skeptical.

He shrugged, "what does it matter if I bought it...stole it..made it. it's a gift. For you." He winked.

She looked at the blade and shoved it into his chest. "Then I don't want it." she frowned at the man and he seemed surprised that she rejected his gift to her.

"You seem like a girl who likes weapons not jewelry," he teased, referring to earlier when he tried to sway her with a necklace.

Xena folded her arms. "Are you one of the suitors my mother found? If so..then you should know I'm not looking for a husband right now."

The young man chuckled and stuck the sword in the ground. "I'm not a suitor. If you won't accept my gift then I will just keep trying," he picked the sword up and whistled as he left Xena standing by herself in the dark. She stared at him as he left her side and he descended into the darkness.

Xena returned home and went to her room immediately shutting the door behind her. She lit the candles in her room and went for her oils. As she looked to her bed she saw a flower on her bed. Confused she picked it up and looked outside her window to see if anybody was around but nobody was there. She closed her curtains feeling a bit suspicious of everything at the moment.

She also saw a note on her bed next to her pillow. Cautiously she picked it up and read it silently to herself.

If you're not a jewelry girl then perhaps,

A flower girl instead.

Xena held the note to her chest feeling her heart beating faster. She held the note over the candle's flame and watched the parchment burn slowly.

Chapter Text

AN: this is a start to developing Xena into what she will become. Gabrielle will eventually come in but not just yet. Need some more background to cover this ;)

Chapter 2

A week later Xena had occupied herself with all the house chores and even helped out more around her mother's tavern. She had been avoiding that young man that had been following her around constantly. She thought if she didn't go outside her house or the tavern that he wouldn't bother which was sort of working so she kept at it. Occasionally she would see him sitting in a corner by himself drinking some wine in her mother's tavern. Her mother did not like to refuse guests but Xena certainly refused to serve him and asked her brother Toris to serve him or Mala.

It was towards the end of the night and Xena had been cleaning dishes for the last hour by herself. She scrubbed the dishes so hard they could possibly break in her hands. Secretly she was frustrated that this guy had been lurking around because of her.

Cyrene entered the kitchen and saw Xena scrubbing the dishes with a wet rag. Xena kept scrubbing until her hands were pruned. Her mother frowned at her daughter and placed a hand on her shoulder, scaring Xena. She dropped the bowl and it shattered all over her shoes and floor.

Xena groaned and bent down picking up broken pottery pieces from the bowl. Cyrene sighed and offered to help Xena pick up the broken pieces. She held up her hand, "it's alright, I got it mother."

"Xena you've been doing chores non-stop and as much as I appreciate should go out with your friends and do something fun," she pleaded and saw Xena throw the broken bowl into the trash.

She shook her head and continued washing the remainder pile of dishes. "I'd rather finish my work here."

Cyrene snatched the plate out of Xena's hand. "I'll ask Lyceus to finish up here. Mala and Elissa are going into the city for a festival. You should go with them."

Xena frowned and dried off her hands on her apron. "They're just going to gawk at self entitled men. That's not something I want to be a part of!" she spat.

"Xena...just go with them and have some fun, please? You're very young and should live your life." Cyrene started pushing Xena out of the kitchen. Xena tried to resist but then became frustrated and took off her apron throwing it on a chair.

"Fine I'll go. I'll try to have some fun," she sarcastically said. Cyrene smiled nodding her head. She smacked Xena's behind with the wet rag and Xena gasped, turning around frowning she hastily made her way back to the house to change her clothes.

Later, the sun had set and Xena walked with Mala and Elissa to the inner city. She had decided to wear a red skirt, black blouse with her black corset over it. She wasn't much for dressing up especially if it meant that she'd draw too much attention from men and visitors. Elissa always wore something a bit too revealing. Xena was sure that she wore a corset a size too small for her on purpose to draw attention to herself.

Mala was more reserved out of the three girls, but she was pretty nonetheless. As they walked further into the city many of the vendors were there and presented sweets and candies instead of their regular veggies and fruits.

Mala nudged Xena in her side and grinned. "Try to at least look like you're having fun Xena."

Xena rubbed her ribcage and put on a huge fake smile. "Do I look like I'm having fun?" she teased getting a laugh out of her redheaded friend.

Elissa grabbed Xena and Mala's hands and forced them to get some wine and chat with a group of young men by the campfires. Xena protested but she was obviously dragged unwillingly.

Eliss gave both her friends glasses of wine and tried to introduce them to a few of the lads. Mala smiled at one of the men and Xena looked the young man up and down. He was about the same height as her, most men were and had blonde hair. He was handsome enough but Xena didn't want anything to do with him or anyone that was around her.

"Would you hold this?" Xena shoved the glass of wine in the blonde man's chest and exited the campfire area. She looked at her surroundings and tried to find somewhere to sit away from all the prying eyes. She truly wanted to be alone but it would be hard especially if Elissa was going to try and introduce her to all the boys. When she got wasted on wine it was quite obvious and embarrassing so Xena wanted to avoid her drunken friend for the rest of the evening.

Xena finally found a place to sit down and then noticed a shadowy figure standing behind the fire staring at her. She squinted her eyes and tried to focus but the figure moved. Frowning she shifted her body to look elsewhere. As soon as she shifted elsewhere she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning around she saw it was that same man that had been stalking her for a week now.

"Why do you keep following me?" Xena asked feeling a bit uneasy she shrugged his hand off her shoulder. She scratched her head to try and keep herself focused but it really wasn't working.

The man smiled sitting down next to Xena on the bench. "You have good ears and eyes. You are able to spot me wherever I am. It's..." he scooted closer to her touching her neck. "incredible," he whispered in her ear.

Xena felt her body reacting to this man's simple touch to her neck. She shook her head and stood up leaving the bench feeling uncomfortable. As she kept walking further from the campfire she was halted in her step as the man appeared in front of her. She gasped and fell backwards but he caught her with ease. She stared into his dark brown eyes and frowned. He brought her upright and stared into her blue eyes.

"Can I take you somewhere?" he asked, still holding her hand gently.

She smirked, "I don't even know you. I –" he hushed her quickly with a finger to her lips. She widened her eyes and suddenly felt compelled to go with him. She did not even know of his name or his whereabouts but she wanted to go with him, at least to get away from her friends for awhile. Her head turned to look at Elissa and Mala enjoying themselves.

She smiled nervously, "so where are we going?" she prompted. He gladly guided her to his black stallion. She hesitantly glanced at him and he hopped on his horse and lend his hand to her.

"Come on don't be afraid. You trust me ?" he smiled. Xena thought for a moment and then made a quick decision and grabbed his hand. He thrust her on top of the horse behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and they rode off in the darkness.

Half an hour later he halted his horse and they were now on top of a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea. He helped Xena off the horse and she walked towards the edge of the cliff.

"You brought me to the sea?" she laughed and then she heard the sound of a sword and turned back to see the man holding two swords. Immediately she became worried and took a step backwards, regretting that she ever came here with this strange guy.

He smiled, "you want to learn how to use a sword right?" he tossed her a blade and she caught it with her left hand.

Xena twirled the blade in her hand and grinned curiously. "How did you know that?"

He shrugged, "I make sure to pay attention to details, Xena." He danced around her and she held the sword in both hands now facing him with a large grin. He made the first move and knocked the sword out of her hands so fast she couldn't blink.

The man chuckled, "come on try again." Xena picked up the sword and waited for his next attack. He came at her slowly and she was able to block it easily. He charged at her again but she saw the sword flying feet away from her and she held her shocked wrist from the blow.

He ran to get the sword and gave it back to her. "I'm no good at this..." she admitted with a soft voice. The man smiled and sheathed his sword, coming behind her, placing the sword in her hand. She felt his chest on her back coming closer and closer to her body. She breathed out slowly and he placed his hand over hers.

"Relax," he whispered. He guided the blade carefully and allowed him to guide her hand wherever he wanted. She grinned slowly relaxing her entire body and her mind as well. His other hand wrapped around her waist and immediately she tensed.

He put the sword at a 90 degree angle and he smiled, "now swing downwards." Xena's eyes looked to his nose, so close to her cheek. She took in a deep breath and swung the sword downward cutting the long grass in half. "Your first kill!" he teased.

Xena turned around and he brought her closer as his hand rested on the small of her back. His fingers brushed a few strands of hair away from her mouth and cheek. He could feel the heat radiating off her cheeks and he grinned. Her dark thick lashes covered her glacial eyes and he thought of nothing else around them.

A few awkward moments of silence came between them and Xena whispered, "could you..teach me some more?" she hoped. He was knocked out of his daze and nodded.

"Of course. I can teach you many things," he grabbed the sword from Xena and she stopped him, lowering the sword.

She smiled, "not with the sword," she wrapped his hand around her waist and nervously shied from his gaze. "Teach me hand to hand combat," she asked in a sensual voice. He looked into her eyes a bit surprised at her sudden mood change.

The two had danced around one another using no weapons. Xena had opted to take off her boots and he taught her how to approach an enemy with the best combat skills. They had continued this for quite some time.

Xena plopped down on the grass and stared at the stars above her, a bit out of breath. He also laid down next to Xena, breathing heavily.

He waved his hand in front of the stars and grinned, "I can show you the world Xena."

She scoffed, "flirting is not really your thing is it?" she said and the young man laughed. She then stared at the stars for a moment and thought of something. She turned over on her side, leaning on her elbow, supporting her weight.

"So what exactly is...your thing? Why do you keep following me?" she asked.

He shrugged, "I like what I see when I see it. So I suppose...I like you," he turned his head as he still laid down. She shied away from a smile and he winked at her.

Xena looked up and over the hill and saw the sun beginning to rise. She jumped to her feet and slipped on her boots. "I should really get home."

He got up off the grass and went to his horse, gently lifting her up onto the steed.

Half an hour later they returned to her house and she jumped off the black horse as did he. She turned to leave but then stopped. "I didn't ask for your name," she acknowledged.

He took her hand and kissed it softly. "Deimos is my name."

Xena smirked not entirely believing his name could be his birth name. "Like the Greek god?" she was tempted to laugh.

He smiled, "yes, exactly." He mounted his horse and saluted Xena riding off passed the village. She watched as he left.

Deimos rode his horse far enough out of Xena's village so she wouldn't be able to see him. He smirked then in a flash disappeared. He pulled his dark hair back into a ponytail and waltzed through the dark marble halls of God of War's temple. He whistled and then came into the large throne room where he saw the true God of War lounging on his throne comfortably.

Ares twirled his sword in his hand and looked over in Deimos' direction. "Did you find her?

Deimos smiled clasping his hands together, "of course I did. She's everything you said she'd be and more," he had a smug look on his face and Ares rolled his eyes and sat up in his throne.

He pointed his sword at his son, "don't get too close to her! I want her untouched of your hands," he chided, rubbing his chin pensively.

His son shrugged and grabbed a sword casually swinging it back and forth. "Her mother wants her to get married you know."

Ares came behind his son resting a hard hand on his shoulder. "Don't get any ideas. I will make Xena my little warrior queen."

Deimos continued swinging his sword around fighting as if there were enemies before him. "So what do you need me to do, father?"

Ares smiled, "allure her, secure her feelings for you...then leave the rest to me."

Xena was asleep in her bed and felt eyes on her, she opened her eyes and saw Elissa and Mala staring right at her. She sat up abruptly and rubbed her eyes. "What is with you two?"

Elissa smiled, "where did you run off to last night?"

Mala jumped on Xena's bed and grinned widely, "was it that man? Did you go with him?"

"Did you two have sex?" Elissa blurted out and Xena blinked, registering those words in her mind.

Xena pushed Elissa out of the way and got out of bed still dressed in her attire she wore last night and well into the morning. "No we did not have sex, Elissa," she washed her face and immediately picked out some new clothes to wear for the day. She had only a few hours of sleep but she felt somehow energized and not the least bit tired.

Elissa jumped on Xena's bed and huffed. "you mean to tell me you went out with that guy all night and didn't have sex? I find that hard to believe." She smugly grinned.

Xena opened her door and had her clothes in her arms ready to take a bath before her day started again. "Let it go, Elissa." She rolled her eyes and left the room in a hurry to get away from her friends.

"They definitely had sex."

Three days after Xena's and Deimos' escapade she had yet to see him come in her mother's tavern. Truthfully she had been looking forward to it no longer finding him creepy now that she had spent a little bit of time with him. She desired to learn more about the ways of the sword. It was far more fascinating than getting married and birthing children for the rest of her life. She was sure that Mala was heading down that path, but had her doubts about Elissa.

Each day she had spent most of her time in the bar filling drinks and cleaning glasses in hopes that Deimos would appear but he did not. Another day passed and still he had not come by the tavern or her home. Surely he knew where I lived, Xena thought to herself.

Taking it upon herself she stole Lyceus' sword and started practicing the various moves that he had taught her. She was getting better at wielding a sword, at least that's what she thought. Xena would turn nineteen in a few months time and she knew that her mother would be pestering her to get married soon as she was seen as old in her eyes. She knew that marriage just wasn't for her, but had a hard time convincing her mother of this. It wasn't that she didn't want to have a husband or a lover, it was the fact that her husband would not be someone of her choice and it would be imminently forced upon her. That was not how she wanted to live her life that's for sure.

"Practicing those moves?" Deimos appeared standing beside a large tree behind Xena and she turned, smiling at him.

"I thought you had deserted me," she quietly said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

Deimos came closer to her and smiled widely, "I had to take care of." He saw the look of concern on Xena's face and then waved it off like it was nothing. "But let's not talk about that. Show me some of your skills." He challenged her and unsheathed his sword.

Xena grinned and circled him carefully and thrust her sword forward barely leaving him enough time to block it. he dodged it at the last second and he started laughing.

"I'm impressed!" Xena got a bit too excited and swung the sword around knocking Deimos off of his feet, landing on his back with a loud thud. She then stood over him with the sword pointed at his neck. He looked up at her wild blue eyes and nervously grinned. "Very...impressed."

She lend her hand to him and easily picked him up off the ground and he brushed the dirt off his black clothing. He stared into her eyes and felt a bit lost in them. He touched her shoulder, fixing her blouse falling off and then brushed his knuckles across her cheek softly.

"Why don't you come with me...tonight, to my camp?" he whispered and Xena was in a bit of a daze.

She wasn't sure but she heard the word camp and that alerted her. "Camp?" she arched her brow suspicious of his so called camp.

Deimos grinned bringing her closer to his chest. "Did I forget to mention I have a small army? I'd like to show you, if you want?" he said with promise.

Xena wasn't so sure now about this young man now. He had suddenly appeared out of nowhere and stalked her for a week and then she went with him during the festival to train with him for a few hours. Now he wanted to show her his army and had his own private camp.

Deimos saw the apprehension in Xena's eyes and felt her body tense as the distance was void between them. He ran his fingers through her long raven hair and grinned. "It'll really quick I promise. I'll have a special surprise for you if you come with me," he winked.

Xena wasn't sure but it was definitely better than being cooped up in her room for the remainder of the evening. She nodded her head smiling unsurely.

He grinned and squeezed her hand tightly, "after sunset then?" he asked then kissed her lips unexpectedly. Xena's eyes widened and then he released from the kiss and smiled, walking backwards then ran back to his horse a bit ways away from Xena's house.

She stood there with her mouth agape and furrowed her eyebrows trying to comprehend what just happened here.

Later that evening Xena had finished her chores early and wrapped her cloak around her going outside and saw Deimos sitting on his horse waiting for her. She crept out of her home, closing the door behind her slowly. She smiled as she saw him waiting for her.

"Ready to go?" he asked lending his hand for her to climb aboard.

"As ready as I'll ever be I guess," she climbed onto the horse and wrapped her arms around his waist and they took off.

Toris watched from the kitchen window and saw Xena riding off with a strange dark haired man on a horse. He frowned and blew out a candle, grabbing his sword he decided to follow them.

What seemed like an eternity later Deimos and Xena arrived at his camp. She looked and saw hundreds of tents lined up and many soldiers roaming around with drinks in their hands. Some singing songs, while others playing a game of chess on the ground close to the campfire. Deimos dismounted and grabbed Xena's waist hoisting her off the stallion.

Many soldiers looked their way and bowed their heads towards Deimos and then noticed the nice cargo he had with him. They grinned at Xena and she remained level headed, trying to ignore them as best as she could.

They stopped at a large tent and Deimos opened the flap to the entrance and gestured for her to go inside. Xena carefully stepped inside and saw many exotic weapons, furs, jewelry and clothes scattered around. He stepped inside after her, nodding to his guards to block the entrance from any prying eyes.

He clasped his hands around her shoulders, "want to see your surprise now?" he egged her on.

Xena nodded, a bit eager to see what the surprise was after all the way they traveled to get here. Deimos went to a large box and opened it pulling out a silk emerald green gown with gold trim. He held it up to her body and she smiled.

"For you." She took the dress and hugged it against her frame, feeling the silkiness of the fabric against her skin. "Do you like it?"

"It's gorgeous. Where did you get it from?" she asked taking a look in the mirror staring at herself, imagining her body in the fine dress.

He shrugged, "in Egypt from a queen. Won't you put it on?" he asked.

She shook her head, "no I couldn't."

He winked, "come on, just put it on. I'll wait outside," he took a few steps backwards and then exited the tent with a sly smile.

Xena looked at the dress in the mirror and sighed audibly. It is a beautiful dress, she thought. Thinking no more of it she stripped off her cloak and started undressing as quickly as possible. She slipped the dress over her head and adjusted the fabric. It clung to every part of her body almost like a second skin. She smiled, rubbing her hands over the dress to smooth out any wrinkles.

"Beautiful," Ares appeared behind Xena clapping his hands. Xena gasped and turned around with frightened eyes. "Don't be scared, Xena."

"How do you know my name?" Xena frowned.

Ares smiled and came closer to her. "I know everything about you. Ares, God of War," he held out his hand for her to shake but she refused. He sighed and nodded his head. "Alright that's fine. No need to rush this precious moment." He touched her shoulders and spun her around to look at her reflection.

"You look good in that dress. Imagine that dress in every color?" he smiled devilishly. "I can make that happen."

Xena stared at the dress but then her thoughts told her to reject this facade. "You're not Ares. You can't be." She brushed his hands off her shoulders.

Ares grabbed one of the weapons in the tent and gave it to Xena. "Go ahead, strike me," he grinned, folding his arms. Xena frowned and carefully took the sword from his grasp. "Go ahead..." he pleaded.

Xena gritted her teeth and thrust the sword into his abdomen but to her surprise the blade just went right through his body. No blood, no wounds, not anything! She widened her eyes and her mouth gaped. Ares took a few steps back to release the sword from his torso.

"See I didn't lie to you," he grinned taking a step closer to her as she still held the sword in her hands. "You like swords right?" Xena nodded in response still in a bit of shocked status.

"I can teach you everything, Xena," he hissed.

Xena looked to her reflection as she held the sword in the gorgeous gown. "Everything?" she whispered, not taking her eyes off of herself.

Ares came closer to her and wrapped an arm around her waist. "Everything..." he smiled.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

One Year Later

The guards stood in front of Caesar's bedroom constantly and heard moans and cries of satisfaction from behind closed doors. The two guards looked to one another, one asserting his disgust written on his face, while the other had a look of concern. Knowing who was giving the potential emperor pleasure was obvious to every guard and Roman senator in the grand empire.

The sun started to rise and inside Caesar's bed chambers, the sheets were tossed aside exposing his body to his lover. He gazed into her icy blue eyes and smiled as she continued to kiss his collar bone, slowly making her way down to his navel. The Roman closed his eyes, biting his bottom lip feeling his body immediately reacting more to her sensual touch. She was much younger than he was but she was definitely experienced in many areas, he gathered.

He set his hands on her raven haired head and her eyes glanced upward at his satisfied face. She grinned and slithered up to his face, resting her body on top of his. Her hands cupped his cheeks and she kissed his lips fiercely, biting the lower lip carefully. He gently pushed her off his body and touched his now blood kissed lip.

"You bit me," Caesar said astounded.

Xena bit her own bottom lip and shrugged a shoulder casually, grazing her fingertips on the Roman's chest. "I thought you liked that?" she then kissed his neck with a sly smile. "Don't you?"

Caesar groaned as his body was beginning to form a habit of liking her irresistible lips. He pushed her off his body and swung his legs over the side of the bed grabbing cloth to wrap around his lower half. Xena lolled her head as she lay in his bed, sheets void of hiding her body. He dared not turn around otherwise she might never let him leave.

"I need you to be at the camp in a few hours, Xena," he said matter of fact and drank the last bit of last night's dull wine. He swallowed the bitter alcohol and let out a loud sigh.

Xena rolled her eyes, "is Rome all you care about?" she sighed throwing her arms in the air in frustration.

Caesar nodded, staring out of the balcony seeing his men guard the territory very nicely. Nobody had dared come near his fortress. Sure there had been some idiots who have tried but they always failed especially since Xena was here.

He poured himself a glass of water and drank quickly, reaching for his robes to cover himself completely. Mistakenly he turned around to see Xena's olive toned flesh laying on the bed still, her ankles donned the finest Egyptian jewelry and her hair wild, half braided loosely.

Xena grinned mischievously and Caesar came up to her, cupping her chin in between his thumb and index finger. "You will be there to represent Rome, represent me, do we have an understanding?" his grip became stronger and Xena frowned snatching her face away from the Roman.

He nodded with a smug look. "Glad we understand each other. I made you commander of my army for a reason Xena!" he called out as he was walking towards the doors. "Don't let me down," he winked and disappeared, closing the doors behind him. She watched him exit and growled slightly. Slinking out of the bed she poured some wine for herself.

She downed the glass quickly and poured another glass for herself and then felt hands wrap around her midsection. Her head turned and she smiled, turning her entire body to face his.

"I did what you asked me to," she whispered, kissing his cheek gently.

Ares nodded his head and smelled Xena's hair then pushed her away suddenly. Xena frowned and her long hair covered her torso, reaching to her navel. She put a hand to her hip and snickered. "Are you jealous?" she teased.

The War God shook his head, grabbing Xena by the neck and looked at her eyes directly. "You smell like a Roman..." he smelled her flesh and arched a brow, "and old wine." He pushed her aside and she stumbled into the wall, rubbing her neck.

She chuckled and Ares turned around to see her laughing hysterically. He frowned and folded his arms looking at her doubled over laughing at gods knows what. He started to tag along as her laugh was rather infectious. "What's so funny?" his laugh died down as hers continued. After a few long moments Xena halted her laugh, letting it die down slowly.

Xena sauntered her to Ares waltzing around his body carefully touching his torso with her fingers, teasing the War God. "men are so weak..." she hissed. "You ask me to get Caesar into bed with me despise me because of it." she shrugged and wrapped her arms around his waist from behind, matching his height easily. "I've been doing this for months and suddenly you appear...have you been spying on me?" she came 'round to the front, grabbing his hands in hers. Her eyes twinkled with mirth and she spun around coming closer to his chest. "Do you enjoy the show, Ares? How does it make you feel...that you can't join in all that fun, huh?" she kissed his hand.

Ares looked down at her and began to lose a bit of his focus. He gently tossed her onto the bed walking away with his hands on his hips. Daring himself not to stare at her in this state he closed his eyes and tried to focus on something other than Xena right now.

He held up his finger, "you are not the little girl I once knew a year ago. That's all I gotta say!" he cleared his throat and heard Xena laugh at his retort to her little mind games.

"Ohhoho, no..." Xena rolled over, her head hanging upside down from the edge of the bed. Ares turned to glance at her but realizing he shouldn't have. His eyes widened and she casually rocked her leg up and down as it sat on her knee for awhile. "I'm far from that," she rolled over up right, laying on her stomach with a tease of a smile.

Ares groaned and pointed at her, "just remember the plan, alright?!" he was gone in a flash and Xena smirked and got up from the bed grabbing her armor to change into.

Her boot heels clicked loudly on the marble floor as she hastily strode through the hall making her way to the camps outside of Rome. A servant handed her a helm with a large black plume and she slipped it over her head, hiding her face, leaving a slit open for her eyes. She braided her hair into a single braid and another man gave her a long Roman sword and laced the gauntlets around her wrists for her. After all the unnecessary fussing Xena mounted her horse and looked to the servants who helped her then nodded her head at her men that were to follow her.

"Boys," she winked at the two and rode off beyond the open gates, ducking her head careful not to hit the archway with her helm.

Xena and her two guards came riding up to one of Caesar's camps. She dismounted the horse, opening one of the tent's flaps and saw the other commander with a guest in his tent. Xena frowned beneath the helmet and pointed the sword at the whore.

"No whores allowed when on duty!" she cocked her head to the side and stared at the young girl. She picked up the girl's dress on the floor and threw it at her. "Get out of here!" she yelled and the girl quickly dressed and head out of the tent. Xena heard a lot of whistling from the men and she rolled her eyes as a response.

The commander lifted his armor up and buckled his leathers, frowning at Xena, his elite commander –his boss. "You really know how to ruin a good time, Xena. I was almost there!" he grunted and slipped on his boots.

Xena smirked, "sure you were..." she took off her helmet and fixed her bangs with her fingernails. She tossed her helm to a chair and began looking through the rolled maps on the desk and frowned. Grabbing him by the neck she brought him close to her face. "Where are the plans?!" she yelled.

He choked and put his hand over hers to try and loosen the grip but she only tightened. Growling she threw him back on his bed and he coughed furiously.

"Dagnine...where are the plans? I asked someone to deliver them to your tent or were you too busy having a 'good time'," she air quoted, "with your lady friend?" she snarled and her nostrils flared.

Dagnine smiled nervously, "they never came here...I –I never saw someone come in here, I swear." He held his hands up in defense.

Xena threw her hands in the air and started pacing around in the tent. "I don't ask for much..." she grinned wagging her finger and stopped to stare at the cowering commander. "You find that messenger and bring the plans to my tent, got it?" she stared into Dagnine's frightened eyes and he nodded his head.

She started to head out of the tent and he called out, "what if I can't find him?"

Xena stopped and called over her shoulder, "then I'm coming for you." She then grinned, "I demand loyalty." She then stepped out of the tent. Dagnine gulped and felt his heart racing faster as soon as Xena left the tent. I really need to find that delivery boy.

One of the soldiers came up to Xena and handed her a large scroll in a case and she halted, grabbing the case and opened it, throwing it on the ground. Unrolling the scroll she saw it was the plans that were supposed to be delivered to Dagnine's tent. Grinning she strolled to her tent.

The soldier said, "should I tell Dagnine that the plans arrived, ma'am?"

Xena's grin became wider, "no I want him to live in fear for awhile. And don't call me ma'am," she continued to her tent.

Later Xena was inside Caesar's fortress. She had spent most of the day at the camps ordering the men to scope the area and get ready for any potential attacks from other Roman territories. She admired Caesar because he never gave up and desired to rule the world, something that had recently entered her mind. The plans that she had delivered to the camp were from a separate army in Gaul. As much as she wanted to see Caesar rise, she couldn't let that happen. She depended upon Ares and his promise to make her great, an ultimate ruler and so far he had done his part and more.

Licking her lips she thought of the first time she and Ares had spent a night together in bed a year ago. Her brother had completely ruined everything that night. He thought she was being deceived by a bunch of warlords but she soon came to realize that this wasn't the case. She belonged with those people. Though she had not killed anyone through her reign as elite commander, she felt that she lacked in gaining control of the army. Many of the men doubted her abilities and sometimes she shared those doubts.

Xena thought she made the best decision to ride with Deimos and his men and continue with Ares' biddings. A year later and she still was here, alive and well. Not to mention that she had Caesar within her grasp. She had no desire to kill the man, he had done nothing to her except show his gratitude in bed. Smiling at this morning when she was in Caesar's bed she couldn't help but giggle at his submissive state.

Caesar had not gained his emperor status but Xena was sure that he was heading in that direction with all the territories that he controlled so far. He was rising very quickly and she needed these plans from Gaul to work out. She wanted to crush the man's dreams, per Ares' request. She would comply with whatever he said as long as she rose to the top. Xena often wondered if Ares had faith in her, he certainly enjoyed her body and her cunning mind, she knew that, but was it enough?

Staring at the sword leaning on the wall she frowned at it. She was an elite commander only because she slept with Caesar and was able to show her combat skills to him through a series of tests against his own men. He was obviously impressed with her so decided to keep her. That was six months ago and now she was an elite commander, six months into the job. Xena's eyes stayed focused on the blade, alone, on the wall. She questioned her ability to kill and wondered what it felt like to actually kill somebody. She had yet to draw blood through combat. She thought herself a good fighter, but that's all she was. Brains and beauty as Ares said to her countless times. Brains and beauty were not enough to rule as a leader. Ruling resulted in blood, war and famine.

At twenty years old she thought she'd have more under her belt, but Ares said it takes time to rise to the top. She wanted more as the days went by. Growing bored of exploiting her body to the Roman and to Ares, though she wasn't going to say she didn't enjoy it all. She enjoyed it a lot, but desired more.

A knock came to the door and Xena cleared her throat and straightened up the desk as it was a mess. Quickly she tucked the scroll underneath her legs and smiled as a guard entered the room. He held a box and bowed to her, setting it on the desk in front of her. She scanned the elaborate box and eyed the man to explain himself.

He nodded, "Caesar wishes you to join him tonight in some festivities."

Xena opened the box and pulled out a dark royal blue gown with silver trim. "What kind of festivities? Orgies perhaps?" she smiled curiously.

"I don't know the details, mistress. He asked me to give this to you."

She held the gown close to her body as she sat down and marveled at the high quality of the fabric. Egyptian cotton perhaps. "Will his wife be present?" she asked in a small voice.

The soldier said nothing and then Xena frowned at the lack of voice the man had, which meant that Caesar's wife was indeed going to be there for sure. This also meant that Caesar gave this to her to keep her quiet and not be in contact with him for the rest of the evening while his wife was there.

"Very well. Thank you I will attend this so called festivity tonight, per Caesar's request of course..." she grinned forcibly and the soldier nodded, turning on his heels to leave.

Xena walked up to the grand villa and looked at all of the guards around the building. She wore the blue gown given by the Roman and wrapped her hair in a tight bun. She smiled at the guards allowing her to pass. She was immediately handed a glass of wine. Her eyes scanned the room and she saw many Roman elites walking around, talking to one another quietly. Some of them have already had their share of wine she saw.

Strolling around she saw Caesar and his wife talking to a nobleman. He glanced in her direction and she raised her glass, sipping the wine graciously smiling with narrow eyes. Distracting him she circled around the columns still gazing at him, keeping him focused on her the entire time. She winked at him then disappeared in the sea of people to see what else the villa held.

Xena heard someone telling a tale from a distance. She heard the fluctuation of the woman's voice and pushed herself through the crowd to get to the front to see the performance. She saw a young blonde reciting the tale of Medusa and her fellow maidens and how she was betrayed by the goddess Athena. Xena's eyes were enthralled as she saw the emotion in the girl's voice, her eyes and hand gestures.

Without noticing everyone started clapping and Xena clapped realizing that the performance had ended. She was definitely entranced by the tale. She had heard it before when she was younger told by a fellow storyteller in her village but never enjoyed the story because it sounded boring. This young girl didn't make the story boring at all. In fact she made it quite...enjoyable. the crowd dispersed and thanked the girl for her performance. Xena stepped forward grabbing a glass of wine from a tray passing by.

She handed it to the young girl, "that was really amazing. You can tell stories so well!" Xena said with more excitement than she wanted to lead on.

The blonde girl took the glass and did not want to refuse a noblewoman as she didn't drink wine, but she graciously smiled at the woman. "Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it."

Xena noticed the shyness in the girl. "You are not from here, are you?" she inquired.

She shook her head. "No I come here to entertain in Rome every once in awhile when there are parties," she smiled and grabbed her props to take with her. Xena saw she was about to leave and in a hurry as well. She grabbed the girl's shoulder gently.

"You're leaving so soon? The party has just started," her eyes said come stay, but her mind knew that she was acting a bit impulsive.

The girl smiled nervously, "I only perform once at each party. I have another to go to and then I will make my way back to my home."

Xena shook her head and refused to let the girl leave. "You will not even stay for a little bit?" she gestured her hand to all the people around them. "Everyone is having a good time," she grinned. Grabbing the girl's hand she felt her body tense up. "Come and tell stories to others. I am sure they would love to hear them."

Without her able to answer Xena she was being pulled along into a separate room full of Roman elites, nobles and senators. Her eyes widened as all attention was on her now especially on the brunette woman she was with.

"Attention please!" Xena yelled out and all eyes turned to the two women and stopped chatting. "This young lady would like to share a story with you all. So this is..." she frowned and whispered to the young blonde. "What is your name?" she asked quietly.

The blonde said in a soft voice, "Gabrielle..." she felt nervous as everyone was staring intently at her.

Xena smiled, "Gabrielle!" she exclaimed and sat down on a lounger to observe the young girl's talents.

"Alright um..." Gabrielle fumbled and pulled out a scroll as the crowd waited in silence. She quickly read the scroll and rolled it up, smiling at everyone she thought she'd tell the tale of the Sirens.

After a grand performance from Gabrielle and her story everyone was definitely pleased, clapping and smiling at her as well as thanking her. Xena stood with a smile at the once nervous blonde girl.

"You did great. Caesar should invite you to come to more parties," Xena said.

Gabrielle's cheeks reddened. "I only come when I am needed or if I find work. I left my home to travel," she said without realizing she just revealed herself to a complete stranger, someone she didn't even know.

Xena looked at the girl and thought she couldn't be any older than sixteen summers, yet she left home. Though she knew it wasn't uncommon, after all she left home at eighteen just shy of nineteen and turned out fine. So far she had a great life living in Rome, but wanted more. She wondered what this girl's plans were in the long run.

"How old are you?" Xena asked curiously.

Gabrielle shyly answered, "fifteen." An awkward silence passed between the two and she sighed. "Well I must go. I am afraid I missed my next performance elsewhere."

Xena felt herself responsible and watched Gabrielle gather her belongings. "I'm sorry if I kept you," she admitted apologetically.

Gabrielle smiled brushing it off. "It's alright. It happens. I must find somewhere to stay now, goodnight," she slightly bowed her head and turned to leave with her scrolls in her bag.

Xena looked to Caesar who was eyeing her every move. She frowned and left following Gabrielle, running up to her stopping her in her tracks. "Wait," she breathed out slowly. "Allow me to pay for your stay in Rome. A young girl like you shouldn't be staying in an unsafe place."

Gabrielle shook her head, "oh no, no I couldn't let you –"

Xena rested her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder reassuring her. "It's not a problem. Please?" she asked with a warm smile. Gabrielle finally relented and Xena walked with her to a few villas down to a comfortable inn. Something Gabrielle could never afford. Xena walked in first and drew a lot of attention because of her attire. Gabrielle noticed the glances and smirks towards Xena. She shied away from the prying eyes and followed Xena.

"I need a room for this girl," Xena pointed to Gabrielle whom stood behind her coyly.

The innkeeper took a good look at the young girl and laughed at Xena. "Yeah right. How is she going to pay for that? She can't stay here." Gabrielle's eyes reverted to the ground feeling a bit embarrassed.

Xena looked at the embarrassed Gabrielle and frowned at the innkeeper. She pulled him close to her face, alarming other guests around them. "You give her a room. Caesar's orders. Alright?" she smiled and the innkeeper nodded his head a bit taken aback by Xena's forcefulness. She let go of the man and grinned with satisfaction. "Good." She turned to a very surprised Gabrielle. "Come on," she left to go upstairs to help her find her room.

They entered the room at the top floor of the villa. Gabrielle glanced at the room and it was pretty nice and roomy as well. She hadn't slept in a room like this since she had been traveling around Rome before. Xena smiled and brushed some dust off the curtains, frowning at the upkeep of this place.

"T-thank you," the blonde stammered.

Xena smiled, "it's not a problem. I'll make sure you stay for as long as you need." Silence passed and Gabrielle began unpacking her things and Xena felt the need to take leave. "Well I should get back to the party." She turned to leave and received no response. She tapped on the wall before leaving. "Since I made you miss your other performance," Gabrielle turned at this. "I will come by tomorrow and pay you personally." She smiled.

Gabrielle grinned, "you don't have to do that."

She held up her hand in defense. "No arguments. I will be back tomorrow morning after I finish a few things..." she saw the blonde's confused face. "Business," she grinned and left the room, treading down the stairs heading back to the party.

Hours later Xena returned to the fortress and sighed as she began unpinning her hair in her bedroom. She heard Ares enter her room unannounced and he didn't look happy as she could see in the reflection of the mirror.

"You were supposed to entice Caesar to go over the plans to attack Turkey. What's got into you? Going soft?" he grabbed her arm harshly and Xena winced, turning towards him.

"I don't work on your schedule, Ares!" she spat and Ares' nostrils flared throwing her aside and she fell onto the floor.

Ares shook his head, "you don't seem to understand our little agreement. You do whatever I say, when I say! Going off to enjoy yourself at a party was not a wise decision. You were there for business not pleasure!" he groaned.

Xena used the chair to come to a standing position and she smiled seductively at him. "don't you mix business with pleasure, Ares?" she hissed. Ares turned around and saw the look on her face, finding it hard to resist her.

He grabbed her arm and flung her on her bed, surprising her and she widened her eyes. He was now on top of her, straddled legs over her body. She looked into his eyes and saw a fire within them. Her lips crashed with hers and she responded with an equal amount of force. He let up and saw her eyes flutter open with a smirk of a smile on her red lips.

"I told you I will make you my warrior queen..." he touched her tendrils resting on her cheeks.

Xena grinned, "am I not already?"

Chapter Text

AN: this story is obviously very AU and a completely different perspective of the making of Evil Xena. I feel as though in the show we never saw what truly made her 'evil'. Her relationship with Ares is very present as well as hers with Gabrielle's (since I drastically changed their age difference). Development will evolve as the story goes on. The meaning of this story's title is "Rome's Fake Spy", just a hint there!
Feedback appreciated! Enjoy ;)

Chapter 4

Xena's eyes burned from the sunlight peering through the curtains of her bedroom. She groaned as she sat up in bed, rubbing her face gently with the palm of her hand. Sighing she looked at her legs, they were bruised in areas that she couldn't know that could be bruised. Her muscles ached she swung her legs over to the side of the bed. Last night with Ares was something that she almost regretted only because of the morning after. Her body hurt tremendously, it was no help since he was a god and she merely a mortal woman. Smirking she stood up stretching her arms over her head letting out a loud groan of satisfaction.

Wrapping the blankets around her body she went to her desk and saw a letter from Caesar. Smiling, she opened it carefully and then frowned as she kept reading through the middle of the note. Crumbling the parchment she threw it on the floor and grabbed her robe getting ready to take a much needed bath.

As she sat in the bath by herself she doused her body in oils and rinsed her skin with the warm water. Caesar had wanted her to go to the camp again and bring the best men back to the fortress for a meeting. She had other plans for today though, she did not always want to do Caesar's biddings, but if it meant that she'd get to the top one day, then so be it. soaking her long raven locks in the lukewarm water she suddenly remembered Gabrielle in that inn. Cursing to herself she quickly got out of the water barely drying her body off, grabbing her pants, corset, and boots she was ready to flee from her room.

Running outside the fortress as her wet hair swayed in the gentle breeze she came back to the inn midmorning. Xena liked to keep her promises and she told Gabrielle that she'd pay for her missed performance. Racing through the inn the owner yelled at her as she ran up the stairs in a hurry.

Finally reaching the suite Gabrielle was in she knocked on the door and slowed her breathing from the marathon she just ran to get here. The door swung open and Gabrielle saw Xena with red cheeks and soaking wet hair. She blinked rapidly and Xena held up a bag of dinars with a big smile on her face.

Xena said through baited breath, "I told you I would be back." She stepped inside the room without Gabrielle's permission. The door closed quietly and Gabrielle looked to Xena and realized she didn't even know the woman's name. The commander tossed the velvet bag to the blonde and she grabbed it, almost dropping it instantly.

"I hope that is enough," Xena rested her hands on her hips as she continued to slow her rapid breathing. Gabrielle held the bag feeling the weight of the coins inside.

She smiled, "more than enough," she placed the money bag inside of her traveling tote and reorganized her scrolls. Peering over at the brunette woman she didn't really have much to say to her other than a thank you. Xena waved her hand at her signaling that it was not an inconvenience to her in the slightest.

Gabrielle threw her bag over her shoulder and Xena stared at her with warm eyes. "I didn't ask of your name..." she shyly admitted.

"My name is Xena," she held out her hand and Gabrielle shook it graciously. The blonde nodded and then turned to leave on her next adventure alone. Xena saw her leaving and followed her, leading outside of the inn. She tipped her head at the owner, saluting him and he groaned at her. Xena smirked and continued onward following the young girl.

Gabrielle noticed Xena following her and faced her with puzzled eyes. "Are you a Roman?" she remembered that she spoke of Caesar and she definitely knew who that was and if Xena knew him then she must be important and a Roman for sure.

Xena smiled shaking her head. "No, I'm no Roman. I –" she looked for the correct word, tapping her foot on the soil ground. "I am a contractor for the Romans, I guess you could say." She shrugged a shoulder lightly. Gabrielle simply nodded and tread onward, fixing the strap on her shoulder and Xena was headed in the same direction.

"So are you a mercenary?" Gabrielle asked curiously.

The brunette woman swayed her head back and forth as she held her hands behind her. "No, not really," she grinned.

"A noblewoman?" she questioned again.

"No," Xena was enjoying this light back and forth guessing game of the young teenager.

Gabrielle looked to the side of her watching all of the people in the marketplace walking around buying items. "A general?" she asked once more.

Xena chuckled at that. "No, but good guess!" she expected Gabrielle to continue to guess her status within the growing Roman empire but it was put to rest. She walked alongside the blonde and didn't really want her traveling alone, at least not by herself, but she also had business of her own to attend to. She stopped and grabbed Gabrielle's arm abruptly halting the young girl.

"Where are you heading to? You can't just travel by yourself," she genuinely was concerned for this young girl but she was sounding a bit hypocritical as she left home at a young age, but not that young.

Gabrielle's eyes looked to the ground and said quietly, "I travel wherever the wind takes me," she smiled brightly. Xena nodded with uncertainty. She sensed some naivety in this girl and couldn't help but feel the same way sometimes. She was an elite commander for Caesar, for Mother Rome, yet she had not killed anyone, only bossed soldiers around for Caesar's enjoyment she presumed. Selling her body for sex and power was beginning to become tiresome especially when she tried to balance her will to Caesar and to Ares.

"Why don't you stay in Rome for a little while longer? I can let you stay in my guest room in my quarters," Xena politely offered. Gabrielle's face swooned yet she did not want to impose on Xena or Caesar for that matter since she assumed that's where the woman stayed. She was no noble or a soldier, just a traveler seeking work and felt she was very free spirited. Xena raised her eyebrows as her offer stood strongly. "I don't think it's a wise choice for you to travel alone, Gabrielle. You're too young."

Gabrielle frowned and sighed, walking onward. Xena skipped ahead and stood in front of her with hands on the blonde's shoulders. "Sorry. I didn't mean to offend you or anything. I just..." she looked for the right words, careful not to stir up any unwanted feelings towards this young girl. "it's dangerous for pretty girls like you..." she uncharacteristically touched Gabrielle's hair and snatched her hand away feeling a bit embarrassed. "Bad things will happen to you and you'll get take advantage of." Like me.

"I...I don't want to be a burden to you," Gabrielle stated. Xena smiled and took that as a yes. She pushed her forward, alarming her and head back to Caesar's fortress. Business can wait.

Not long after they left the inn they were back at the fortress. The guards looked to Xena with arched brows. They knew that she was to be elsewhere and instead brought back a young girl with her. She saluted to the men casually. "Boys," she winked.

Gabrielle's eyes scanned the tall ceilings and marble columns and flooring. She had never seen a place so extravagant and beautiful in her life. Xena placed a hand on her shoulder and gently guided her down the hall. "My room is this way," she pointed down a small hall towards the right.

Xena opened the wooden doors and stepped inside, kicking a few empty wine glasses out of the way and pushed some sheets aside with her boot. "Excuse the mess," she smirked, thinking of last night's pleasures. Gabrielle stepped over many soiled sheets and clothes on the floor. She spotted the dress Xena wore at the party last night and widened her eyes, not wishing to let her mind go in that direction.

They came to a small room in a separate part of Xena's suite and they stepped inside. This room looked like it had never been lived in as the sheets were brand new and curtains freshly ironed. Gabrielle set her bag on the bed, glancing at all the trinkets inside the room.

"The maids constantly replace the sheets every few weeks. Don't ask me why," she rolled her eyes leaning against the doorframe. Gabrielle didn't answer and circled in place looking at the architecture of the room. It was much bigger than her room back in Potidea for sure, but definitely smaller than Xena's room.

The raven haired woman sighed loudly, clamping her hands together, "well, I have some business to attend to. Afraid you're the one whose made me late this time," she slyly said. "I advise you not to leave this room until I get back."

Gabrielle caught notice of her last words and turned to face her. "What will I do while you're gone?"

Xena shrugged, "there's some scrolls in my room you could read." She stated then a smile came to her crimson lips. " write on?" she tempted the girl noticing that she really enjoyed writing by the looks of all the scrolls in her traveling bag. She started leaving the room and backed away slowly watching Gabrielle become accustomed to her new environment. "The maid comes and brings fresh fruit to my room half past noon. I'll be back tonight," she saluted her and then left the room in a hurry grabbing her helmet off the floor.

Gabrielle heard the door close and she stepped out of the room into Xena's abode. She couldn't help herself but judge the woman. Her room was an absolute pigsty. Clothes were scattered everywhere and empty wine glasses as well as half filled ones on the desk. She spotted about ten glasses of half and empty cups of wine as well as some important documents on her desk. The bed looked as if ten people attacked it and she had a few swords hung on the wall above her bed.

She sighed and picked up some clothes throwing them on a chair trying to find the empty parchment Xena spoke about. Brushing her hand over the scattered documents she was able to find a few blank parchments. Her eyes looked for a quill but found nothing on the desk. She got on her knees looking for it. crawling underneath the desk she found a pair of heels and a lot of boxes.

Curious she picked up the boxes and crawled out from under the desk, sitting down on the cold marble floor. Opening the box she found some kind of herbs or something. Sniffing it carefully her nose crinkled at the smell, immediately closing the box. The stench of that did not remind her of the herbs she knew of. Opening the next box she found a smoking pipe and arched her eyebrow, smelling the inside of it carefully. It had the same smell as those awful herbs. Closing the boxes she pushed them back under the desk and stood up with hands on her hips, huffing.

Coming around behind the desk she spotted a feather and immediately picked it up. Finally, she thought, a quill. Now where is the ink...she sighed deeply and desperately wanted to just clean this room for Xena, but she wouldn't do that. She went on a hunt for some ink for a little while longer.

Xena had gathered up some men like Caesar told her to do, but now she was going over some plans for her alliance with the Gaul territory. She wanted that territory before Caesar got a hold of it, which she knew he would eventually get his hands on it. sighing she threw the papers to the side as they gently fell to the floor. She propped up her boots on the desk and picked up a dagger lying on top of a stack of parchment. She examined the small blade in her hand and then cut her palm. Wincing she held her bleeding hand in her lap, trying to find something to dab the blood.

Dagnine entered her tent and bowed to her. Xena ignored the stinging pain from the cut and remained calm and collected. "Yes Dagnine?" she asked calmly.

Her nervously took a step forward and then let her boots hit the floor, leaning forward at her desk, asserting her power over him. He then stepped back, distancing himself from her. She smiled and leaned back in her chair casually. "Saeed said that you have already chosen the men to meet with Caesar."

She picked at her fingernail and nodded, "mmhm."

He fumbled with his words unsure if he even had the right to say this to her, his boss, but he did anyway. "Well, I think I should have been chosen to go instead of Saeed."

Xena looked to him and stood up coming closer to Dagnine. He made sure not to move a muscle as she was inches away from his face. She smirked and then looked to her bleeding palm. She then wiped her blood on both sides of his cheeks. Watching his reaction had to be the best thing she'd seen all day. She hummed and then folded her arms staring at his blood stained face.

"Are you questioning me?" she hissed and brought the dagger to his face, twirling it in her hand. Dagnine shook his head vigorously. She then grabbed his shoulders and turned him to face the mirror in her tent. She pointed the dagger at their reflections. "You see that face?" he looked to his face and saw bloody finger marks all over his cheeks. "you serve me and only me!" she spat. She smiled staring at her mirrored figure standing beside Dagnine. She brought the dagger up to his neck once more, so tempted to slice his throat. She didn't know what had suddenly came over her but she liked it..a lot.

"you got that?" she said with wild eyes. He nodded and then she pushed him towards the exit of the tent. "Now go clean your face. You look disgusting," she prompted and he left in a hurry. "Hmmph," she grinned, examining the blade in her hands. She tapped the blade against her palm and went back to her desk to look over the plans once more.

She and her men returned to Caesar's fortress later in the evening before the sun set. They had spent over two hours in that meeting. Xena was desperately wishing that it went by faster. All he talked about was expanding his territories to Gaul and to Turkey, but she desired both of those territories. Ignoring most of the things he said she blocked out everything.

After the meeting Xena returned to her room anxious to see Gabrielle to see how she was fairing in her new surroundings. She tossed the helm onto her bed and began unbraiding her hair after a long day. Gabrielle caught glimpse of Xena as she left her door open. She placed the half eaten apple back into the bowl and got up to greet her.

Xena saw Gabrielle emerge from her room and smiled. "Keeping yourself busy I see." She sighed and Gabrielle grinned as a response, not sure what to say.

"How was your day?" she blurted out and Xena halted in undressing herself. She looked to the young girl. She never had anyone ask her how her day was, figuring nobody really cared.

She smirked, "fine." She continued undressing and Gabrielle nodded, swaying back and forth, looking at Xena's room some more. Xena saw that the girl was just standing there. "You're like a fly on the wall. Listen you won't stay here forever. You can leave whenever you'd like to. I just wanted to keep you safe."

Gabrielle didn't say a word and smiled with closed lips, feeling a tad uncomfortable. Xena sensed that the girl was rather shy, but her storytelling said otherwise. "why did you leave home anyway?" Xena asked feeling a bit curious.

She knew that she'd have to answer her now. "I...didn't like what my village offered. I was going to be married to this young guy after I turned seventeen. I wasn't really...I didn't like the idea of being stuck in one place for the rest of my life."

Xena nodded, feeling this girl's same feelings. She too was going to be married off around the same age, but refused many suitors that were sent her way. At least she got something out of the young teen. She felt like her and Gabrielle had much in common despite their age difference. "I like traveling too," she grinned and then started brushing her hair with her brush as she sat on her bed. "Listen," she stopped brushing her hair. "I'm going to have a guest in my room for the evening so if you would..."

Gabrielle understood that she was being too intrusive and smiled, quietly going back to the guest room. Xena watched as she retreated back into the room quietly. She sighed and then saw Ares standing in front of her with a look of dissatisfaction.

"You're taking in strays now?" he teased.

Xena frowned, "I didn't want something to happen to her. Lay off, Ares. She doesn't hinder my –our plans," she brought him closer and kissed his lips tenderly.

Ares pulled back and grinned, staring into her blue eyes. He set his hands on her hips as she wrapped her arms around his neck comfortably. "I saw what you did to Dagnine earlier today."

"Oh yeah?" she closed in the distance between them. She ran her fingers through his dark hair, "did you like that?"

He nodded his head and then pushed her onto the bed. "You should just get rid of that idiot," he kissed her nose and Xena shook her head in response.

"I like to use him as a play thing sometimes." She closed her eyes as he slowly kissed her shoulder and moved to her collar bone. She gently pushed him off her, staring into his wild dark eyes. "When will I able to prove myself to you fully?" she firmly said.

Ares chuckled at her sudden ambition. "Patience," he brushed his fingers against her cheek.

"I have been patient Ares. I have been here for a year!" she felt her blood pressure rising and Ares flipped her over she was on top of him. She widened her eyes and he brought her down close to his face.

"Rulers aren't forged in a year, but a few more years of practice and you'll be ruling for a lifetime," he touched her hair, brushing it behind her ear. "You trust me?" he smirked.

"Yes..." she slithered closer to his flesh, taking off her blouse tossing it onto the floor along with all her other clothes.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Gabrielle gently opened the door from her room and saw Xena sleeping in her bed with the blankets barely covering her backside. She stepped closer to Xena's bed and then stepped onto a wine glass, shattering it. Xena stirred awake and grabbed her sword ready for an attack, until she saw Gabrielle standing there looking sheepish. She lowered her weapon and covered her body with the sheets, sighing she set the sword on the pillow next to hers.

"What did you think you were doing?" Xena asked a bit annoyed that her sleep was disturbed. She groaned as she stretched out her aching legs. She then felt something wet in between in her legs and frowned, reaching down carefully to examine herself. She brought her fingers up to see blood on her fingertips and groaned.

The young blonde saw blood on Xena's hand and her eyes grew with shock, taking a step backwards. She was just going to grab some parchment from Xena's desk to write some more about her adventures in Rome, but disappointingly she awoke the raven haired woman. Xena looked up to see a very shocked blonde staring in her direction. She smirked, wrapping the soiled sheet around her body.

She stood up drinking the wine from last night and poured another glass for herself. "Kills to be a woman, doesn't it?" she grinned. Gabrielle said nothing and fidgeted her thumbs behind her back. She wasn't sure if she should just leave the room to allow Xena to clean up or to ask for more parchment.

Xena wiped her mouth with the backside of hand and turned to see Gabrielle still standing there like a lost puppy. She smiled, "is there something you want?"

She nodded, "just some parchment to write on," she said quietly.

"Well why didn't you say so?" Xena rummaged through the documents on her desk and pulled out a few more blank parchments for the girl. She out stretched her arm and Gabrielle quickly grabbed them out of Xena's hands. "Hey," she said before Gabrielle retreated back to her room. She turned around slowly to face Xena. "How come you like writing so much? I mean...does it allow you to escape from reality?" she was genuinely curious as she wasn't much of a writer.

Gabrielle shyly smiled at the woman. "I record my life and adventures daily in my scrolls."

Xena smirked, "so I suppose you're recording your little escapade here then?" she drank some more wine, feeling the warm liquid drip down her throat. Gabrielle nodded her head and then went back to her room without another word.

An hour later Xena stepped out of the bathroom fully dressed in her battle gear and her hair washed and brushed ready to go. She tightened her bracers and grabbed her sword, sheathing it at her hip. She has discussed with Ares last night to take Caesar's men to the Gaul territories without Caesar's permission. Although she would simply tell the soldiers that Caesar insisted that they go to Gaul to claim new land, she felt knots in her gut at this moment. This was going to be her first tests of many to prove to Ares that she could indeed be his warrior queen –the best of the best.

The time would be perfect since Caesar was in another Roman state at the moment speaking with Brutus about taking Turkey as another extension for the Roman Empire. She breathed out slowly and grabbed her helm, ready to go meet her men. She hoped that they would take her seriously as they saw her merely as a puppet of some sorts.

She then thought of Gabrielle and realized she couldn't just leave her here by herself for that long. Plus everyone might think it was weird to keep a teenage girl in her room while she was away. Xena strolled over to the guest room, knocking on the door. Without an answer she opened the door and saw Gabrielle writing still.

"Still writing huh?" Xena grinned.

Gabrielle looked up and set her quill aside. "There is never a wrong time to write," she smiled. Xena nodded her head and then sighed at the young girl.

"Would you like to come with me on a trip?" Xena asked, hoping she'd say yes. Without allowing the girl to answer she continued, "I can't let you stay here by yourself. I'm going to be gone for a long time and I'd really like you to accompany me," she finished.

Gabrielle contemplated the woman's offer and then felt like she needed to keep traveling to find new work. She wasn't so sure what Xena was going to be doing on this adventure but she smiled and started packing her belongings together. Xena nodded her head and placed her helm on her head, covering her face.

Xena allowed Gabrielle to ride on her horse with her as they entered the camp. She slowed the horse to a trot and Gabrielle looked around at the camp. It was filled with soldiers and she shied her eyes away from the men staring at her. Xena saw her men staring at the blonde and she dismounted her horse, pulling her helm off staring at all the hungry eyes.

"Back off she's with me," she grabbed Gabrielle's arm and lead her to her tent. After she stepped inside after Gabrielle she sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "Don't mind them. They probably haven't seen a woman in months, if you know what I mean?" she smirked.

She then started organizing all of her maps and plans inside of a large bag to throw over her horse's saddle. Gabrielle looked around lost as ever. "Don't look so miffed or you'll never survive out there by yourself. Come with me, we're about to leave."

Gabrielle shifted her weight and saw Xena about to leave. "Where are we going?" she called out.

"To Gaul," Xena announced then left the tent and whistled to all the surrounding men. Everyone slowly came to surround Xena in a circle, folding their arms.

"Alright listen up! Caesar wants us to go to Gaul to claim the territories there. We leave immediately!" she yelled out making sure all of the men heard her.

A few snickers were apparent in the crowd and some chuckled at her. Xena folded her arms, narrowing her eyes. "Anyone got a problem?"

One of the men stepped forward, "yeah I got a problem, Xena! Caesar never sent word about going to Gaul." Others began nodding their heads in agreement and whispered amongst themselves. Xena rolled her eyes and then more of the soldiers began defying her, insisting they wouldn't go with her.

Becoming frustrated as some of them began walking away from her. She growled and unsheathed her sword, grabbing the nearest man and held the sword to his throat. "Anyone who defies me, dies!" she yelled out. The men stopped and looked at their commander with shocked eyes. The sword was close to the soldier's skin and she felt him trembling in her grasp. Some of the men shook their heads in disbelief.

Xena felt her blood boiling beneath her skin and she dug the blade into the soldier's neck deeper, drawing a bit of blood. He tried to get free but her grip tightened. All eyes were on her and she knew that wouldn't take her seriously if she was bluffing. Her heart raced faster and faster, staring down at the man he looked up at her with pleading eyes.

With a loud cry she slit the soldier's throat and kicked him down as he held his throat, trying to stop the blood gushing from his wound. She smiled with wild eyes and had blood on half of her face. Pointing to the sword to the crowd she took a step forward. The other men graciously stepped back and her smile grew. "Anyone else got a problem?"

Gabrielle was behind Xena close to her tent's entrance when she saw Xena slit that soldier's throat with ease. His body lay there flinching, still alive barely. She was speechless and her mouth agape. What have I gotten myself into, she wondered?

Xena mounted her horse and put her helm back on. She thrust her bloody sword in the air, "let's go!" she demanded and started riding off, coming to Gabrielle she lend her hand to her. Gabrielle looked to her hand and was very reluctant to take it. She wanted to run off now that she saw that Xena was the elite commander of Caesar's army. She didn't sign up for this but now she felt herself responsible for even agreeing to coming with Xena in the first place. She wasn't sure if she could trust her.

"Are you scared of me now?" Xena prompted and Gabrielle didn't say a word. She pulled her hand back and frowned beneath her helm. "Fine you can stay here if that's what you want," she grabbed the horse's reigns and trotted off to gather up the men.

Gabrielle didn't know how to respond to what she just witnessed. She should have never come with Xena to the inn or to the fortress at all. She should have just refused and kept on with her journey. Afraid that she was going to kill her she wanted to run. Run far away from this place and not go with Xena, but then the thought entered her mind that since she saw this then word would get out and she'd become an accomplice. She didn't want that at all.

Xena finished gathering the army and they began marching without her, leaving some of their tents behind. She trotted back to the middle of the camp and watched Gabrielle. "Last chance Gabrielle!" she called out. She waited for awhile and then trotted over to the blonde, grabbing her arm, hoisting her onto her horse without the girl's permission. Gabrielle was tempted to get off the horse but Xena held onto her arm tightly.

"You're coming with me! I can't have you running your storytelling mouth to all of Rome," she whispered in the girl's ear. Gabrielle gulped and then they rode off to the front of the line, where Xena lead the army to Gaul.

Xena overlooked the Gaul territory on a hill top. She asked for Gabrielle to be tied up and carried on a separate horse beside hers. She didn't want her to get away now that she knew what she was doing. The girl had seen too much and if any of this got back to Rome before she was able to conquer the area then she'd surely be dead.

Dagnine returned from scouting the area with a couple of men that came with him. He halted the horse in front of Xena and lifted his helm. "No Romans are guarding the area Xena."

She smirked, "perfect," she turned to Gabrielle sitting on the horse, pulling the reigns closer to her. "Get ready to write some history in those scrolls, Gabrielle," she winked and pulled down her helm. She left her side and trotted down the hill with Dagnine and a group of men following them.

Dagnine pulled up beside Xena as they both stared at the large territory before them. "What are you planning to do to them?" he asked, a bit fearful of her plans. She insisted that Caesar commanded her to take these territories, but he wasn't so sure that Xena knew what to do. The army stood by, still a bit skeptical of Xena's spontaneous tactics and behavior.

Xena looked to the land and all the foreigners in it. She wanted this land, she wanted control, but she wanted more than that. She wanted to rule everything that Caesar had and she wasn't going to obey Ares this time. He said to conquer the lands but she wanted to, "burn it!" she grabbed the torch from one of her men's hands and charged forward.

The people below saw Xena riding in with her giant stallion and a giant torch in her hand, then saw an entire army of hundreds of men behind her, charging equally as fast. Xena rode her horse into the villages and immediately set the homes on fire with her torch. Swinging the flamed torch in front of the people, they scattered and she smiled, charging through the rest of the area with the Roman army following her.

Horns were sounded throughout the villages and Xena heard loud gongs throughout the area. She grunted and swung her horse around with the torch still in hand. Smiling she pulled out her sword and swung it around as her horse reared upwards and stomped on a man in her way. She rode on and set a few more houses on fire with the torch before throwing it on a temple ahead. Halting her stead she watched as the temple burst into flames.

The Roman army charged through the villages scattered everywhere. Gabrielle saw explosions from the hilltop and her eyes grew with concern. Her mouth was gagged with rope and she tried to squirm and set herself free. No longer wishing to be a part of this and watch innocent people die right before her. She caught eye of Xena who had her sword out and swung it at surrounding people relentlessly.

She kicked her legs and wriggled her arms trying to free herself from the hold. A scout was on top of the hill set to watch over her. Gabrielle turned to the man and he watched the battle ahead with a telescope carefully taking notes as he glanced through the glass hole. He turned when he heard Gabrielle grunting and frowned at her.

Marching over to her he tightened the ropes. "Stay put, girl! Xena wants you to see everything to record her victory in the name of Caesar!" he commanded and went back to watching the battle as closely as he could.

Xena felt something come over her body and smiled as she saw fear in the innocent's eyes running around. Smiling she let out a war cry, flipping off her horse and landed in the midst of all the chaos. A young lad saw her and started running from her. She quickly grabbed the whip that was on her horse and unraveled it, smacking it against the boy and wrapped the whip around his legs, dragging him across the soil. She flipped the boy over and put her boot on his chest. The fear grew more obvious in his eyes and she took off her helmet. He was more surprised to see it was a woman who manhandled him.

She grinned, "tell your people that Xena rules this land! Not in the name of Rome, but in the name of...destiny," she smirked and lifted her boot off the young lad. "I'm the scourge that the gods' sent to destroy your people!" she unleashed the whip from the boy and he took off running.

Dagnine trotted over to Xena after she managed to burn down all of the remaining villages in the territory. "What do you want us to do with the rest of the people?" he gestured in baited breath, covered in blood.

Xena tapped her helm that covered her face. She eyed her general and arched a brow. "tie them up. They're my slaves now," she chuckled and trotted through the decimated villages and came to see her men, bloodied and tired from the battle. They looked to her as they stood in a circle around her. She slowly reigned her horse and circled around her men, looking at all of them.

One of the men threw his sword down on the soil and knelt down in front of her. She seemed perplexed at this and then noticed a few more men copied him. Her head snapped around as she saw all the men drop their weapons and kneel down before her. Xena smiled and finally felt like she had achieved something great. She had her first conquering and not in the name of Caesar, but in the name of herself –Xena: The Conqueror.

Later in the evening Xena laid on the floor in her tent, casually drinking some wine, looking at many other territories on the map. Dagnine and her men gathered up the rest of the Gauls and tied them up together so they wouldn't escape. She wanted to keep them as a trophy for her hard work.

Ares appeared in her tent and folded his arms. "you just sacked an entire territory!" he yelled.

Xena set down her glass on the floor, leaning on her elbows with a subtle smirk on her face. "Yes? So what?" she challenged the War God.

His frown turned upside down and he met her on the floor bed, kissing her harshly. She returned the kiss, placing her hands on his cheeks fiercely. She began taking off her blouse and he stopped, breathing heavily staring into her eyes.

"Why did you stop?" she hissed with a mischievous smile and tugged at his pants, slowly slipping her hand beneath his black vest.

Ares smiled at her and tried to resist her touch. He felt her hand grab his inner thigh and he groaned. "You are...incredible, I gotta admit. What you did..." he closed his eyes tightly trying not to look into her eyes. "...what you did back there was exactly...what I wanted from you," he grinned, kissing her lips once more.

Xena felt his lips linger on her neck and her mouth gaped. "did I pass your test as your warrior queen?" she teased.

He shook his head, "you more than passed..." he came up to her face once more and their eyes met. "But there's one problem," he held up his finger. Xena frowned, creasing her eyebrows as she ran her fingers through his lush hair. "Caesar is going to despise you for what you did."

Xena laughed, "I don't care about Caesar. Rome will be mine –no," she grinned marvelously. "The world!" she kissed his neck and pulled him closer to her body.

Dagnine came into Xena's tent and saw someone on top of her while she was topless. He averted his eyes and Xena grunted, pushing Ares off gently. Retrieving her blouse she covered herself. "What do you want Dagnine?"

He didn't dare look at her and had a letter in his hands. "Um...word from Caesar, Xena," he stretched out his hand and Xena stood up, slipping her blouse over head and snatched the letter from his hands. Ares fixed his vest and tied his pants back up again, a bit annoyed their session was interrupted.

"He really knows how to break up a party, doesn't he?" she scoffed and winked at Ares. He simply smiled at her and folded his arms waiting for her response to the letter. She shoved the scroll into Dagnine's chest. "Tell the men that we move East from here."

"But Caesar..." he insisted.

Xena growled, "forget Caesar!" she yelled. "you obey me! Unless you want to end up like those people back there?" she batted her thick dark lashes. Dagnine shook his head and started backing up slowly.

Before he left he cleared his throat, "what about that blonde girl?"

Xena had almost forgotten about Gabrielle and she nodded, snapping her fingers. "Ah yes, bring her in. i wish to have a chat with her," she grinned.

Ares had a disappointed look on his face and frowned. Xena came to him, wrapping her arm around his neck and kissed his lips gingerly. "Another time?" she smiled hopeful. He nodded, rolling his eyes and disappeared from her tent.

Gabrielle was brought into Xena's tent still gagged and with her hands tied behind her back. Xena smiled, circling the young blonde. She grabbed her dagger from her boot and cut the ropes from her mouth. "Don't make a sound..." she whispered. "And don't even think about running," she hissed and cut the ropes around Gabrielle's wrists.

The blonde gasped and rubbed her wrists and relaxed her mouth muscles, feeling her cheeks becoming sorer by the minute. Xena came to face Gabrielle and tapped the dagger against her own cheek. "Did you see that battle, Gabrielle?" she laughed. "It was so..invigorating!" she exclaimed. Gabrielle remained silent and Xena sighed, grabbing some fresh parchment and a quill, handing it to Gabrielle.

"Here, I want you to write down everything you saw. I assume you remember all the details?" she winked.

Gabrielle took the parchment and stared at Xena with narrowed eyes. "Why?"

Xena turned and twirled the dagger in her hands. "Why?" she chuckled. "Why Gabrielle? Why ever not?" she stepped closer to her. "The fear in their eyes...fear of me...fear of death," she sighed heavily. "Power comes in all shapes and sizes. I am that power," she was inches from Gabrielle's face and the blonde stared up at her with fearful eyes. "I like that fear, their eyes spoke to me...I desire...more," she sat down and placed her boots on a few pillows on the floor.

"What are you waiting for, write. I want the world to know who I am."

Gabrielle sat down and dipped the quill in the ink carefully and then halted herself from writing. "You want to be known throughout history?"

Xena grinned nodding her head. "as the conqueror...of all nations!" she nodded thinking that was a great description so far. She had Ares in her grasp and he was quite proud of her first task and she desired more. She didn't know what came over her but she felt so...alive.

The blonde looked up and now wanted to leave more than ever. She was beginning to think traveling away from home was not a good idea. She probably would have been better off getting married off and living a peaceful life. Now she was in this woman's camp as her captive and if she left she feared she might die.

"as a destroyer of nations?" Gabrielle insisted on a better title.

Xena drank from her wine glass and smiled. "Yes...I very much like the sound of that," she looked off into the distance with a grand smile thinking of all the things she could accomplish but first she had to get rid of Caesar and his precious Mother Rome.

She eyed Gabrielle who seemed to be in a bit of a comatose state. "Go on, start writing my history, Gabrielle. I am depending on you to make me great.." she eyed her evilly and the blonde began writing Xena's name on the scroll, sighing thinking her life was being wasted at the moment.

I want to go home.

Chapter Text

AN: Xena is slowly changing into what she will become in her near future. Meanwhile, Gabrielle wishes she would have never come across Xena and her army. Enjoy and feedback is appreciated for this odd conqueror story ;)

Chapter 6

Xena sat in her tent eating some bread as her army couldn't carry a lot of food with them otherwise they'd have to hunt for food, but usually she'd like to do that herself for dinner. It had been a few days since she sacked the small Gaul village and though she felt proud of herself, she wanted more. Xena kept Gabrielle in close proximity to her and even allowed her to stay in the tent with her.

Gabrielle remained in a corner of the tent sitting at a fair distance from Xena. She refused to eat any food that was offered to her. Even though a few days passed since Xena decimated that village, the thought of killing innocent people made her stomach turn. As she watched Xena eat the loaf of bread and drinking wine she couldn't comprehend why she gained so much happiness from killing innocents. Children were killed as well. She began to wonder if Xena would have killed her if she got that far that is. Gabrielle was no stranger when it came to Caesar. She knew exactly who that man was and if Xena was working for him and she betrayed him she figured that Xena would end up crucified or worse –dead.

"Why won't you eat anything? You'll starve," Xena stretched her arm out trying to hand her the half eaten bread. Gabrielle scooted away closer to the wall of the tent. The warrior woman shrugged. "Okay fine, be that way." She took a swig of her wine and Gabrielle shook her head. Xena narrowed her eyes staring at the young blonde.

"You were going to be married you said, is that right?" Xena asked curiously with a sly smile. The young blonde teen nodded her head slowly. "Me too," she chuckled. "Obviously that didn't work out well now did it?" she felt like she was talking to herself more than anything as Gabrielle remained silent.

Xena pushed the plate of bread aside and poured herself some more wine. She toasted, "men are pigs," she smiled, drinking the liquid. Gabrielle eyed her carefully. She thought that Xena was once normal, though when she met her at the bacchanalia she seemed really nice and genuine. Gabrielle couldn't have been more wrong. This woman was a killer and she was fond of it too. Xena wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "They just use you for sex and toss you aside. Imagine if women were capable of doing that? We'd rule the world! But no," she wagged her finger. "It's a man's world after all."

Gabrielle continued to sit in silence as this young woman was drinking the bottle of wine by herself. She curled her legs closer to her, wrapping her arms around her. Tears began swelling in her eyes as she began to miss her parents and her sister more than ever. She should have never left home, that thought lingered in her mind the longer she stayed in this tent. Then she thought she should have never come in Xena's territory at all then perhaps she could have gone her own way, but no she was stuck here as a hostage. Her eyes went to Xena and the brunette stared back at her with a mischievous grin.

"Why don't you tell me a story since you're here? I don't want to be bored for the rest of the night," Xena said, lounging on a few giant pillows. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow but did not move. Xena frowned at the girl's lack of response. "What did I just say? Come here, girl!" she demanded.

Gabrielle sighed and wiped her eyes crawling over towards the warrior. She sat a few feet away from her and then a loud clap of thunder erupted in the skies. She jumped and Xena chuckled a bit. Her hands a bit shaky she asked in a low voice, "what would you like to hear?"

Xena looked up at the tent's ceiling thinking of what this girl could tell her. She grinned, "do you know the story of Alexander the Great?" Gabrielle nodded in response. "So tell me about him and all of his conquers across the Mediterranean." She nodded eagerly waiting. The blonde exhaled deeply and began telling the tale of the great king as a child.

Morning had arrived and Dagnine entered Xena's tent to see his commander dead asleep holding an empty wine glass in her hand. He looked to the side and saw that blonde girl sleeping not far from Xena, curled up in a ball.

"Xena!" he yelled out and Xena woke up abruptly, feeling an immediate headache from the copious amounts of wine from last night.

"What?" she yelled back and Gabrielle stirred awake next to Xena. She gasped and scooted away as soon as she saw Dagnine. She covered herself as she was only wearing her undergarments. Xena smirked and stood up taking off her blouse, exposing herself in front of her general. He averted his eyes elsewhere but it was definitely hard not to look.

"The men are ready to leave. You said we were going East, but where exactly?" he chose his words wisely. Xena buckled her belt after clasping her plated breast plate in place with her shoulder guards.

She huffed, "to Corinth first, then we move to the Northern Lands of the East."

Dagnine's mouth gaped. "Northern Lands? Xena those lands are filled with Arabian barbarians. This army won't survive there..." he advised carefully.

Xena grabbed her dagger and threw it at Dagnine. It brushed his shoulder and landed on a tree outside. "I said we're going there and that's that!" she yelled and he nodded, slowly bowing his head, still shaking from his imminent death that almost happened.

"What about her?" he pointed to Gabrielle, who was still trying to cover her body with an animal skin. Xena looked over and ticked her tongue. "She's coming with us. Don't worry she's not going to get in the way, she's recording my history as the destroyer of nations. Aren't you Gabrielle?" her eyes grew with excitement. Gabrielle's eyes possessed fear and she bobbed her head as she felt that was her only appropriate response to the warrior woman.

Dagnine turned to leave and Xena stopped him, "tell the men that I expect full respect for the good of..." she tapped her chin, "of me. They no longer serve Rome, only me."

He couldn't believe the words she was saying. One village conquered and she was on a rampage to destroy many others. "Right, of course Xena."

Xena saw him leave her tent and she smirked. She peered down at the timid girl and frowned, grabbing her arm. "Get dressed. If you're that modest you're going to have a difficult time traveling with me." She smiled and grabbed her sword exiting the tent.

Gabrielle threw aside the animal skin and she began whimpering quietly to herself.

By the time Xena and her new army arrived in Corinth she was able to destroy a good amount of villages along the way. At each destroyed village she left a red flag with her initials in the dirt and continued onward to the next village. Xena was sure that this news would reach Caesar and his idiotic councilmen very soon especially since the army was absent from Rome at the moment. She only had half of the Roman army, although they weren't Roman anymore, they followed Xena and only Xena. Along the way Xena lost about one hundred men during the pillaging process.

Each soldier was allowed to take any woman they wished from the wreckage and meanwhile Xena was very sought after by many of her men and even the village men couldn't keep their eyes off her, she belonged to one person –Ares. She was still his bitch and did everything that was commanded of her. Every time she conquered a village he managed to appear in her tent in the evening to treat her to her victories. She was to be undisturbed and sent Gabrielle to sit outside with the other men while she was with Ares. Moans and yells were very audible coming from Xena's tent each night.

Gabrielle put her hands over her ears trying to block out that sound but it was inevitable. Soon she began realizing this was going to be a normal routine and learned to expect it. to be honest Gabrielle had no idea who slept with Xena during the night but she didn't really want to know as hearing it was quite enough for her innocent ears.

Xena smiled, flipping Ares over on his back as she sat on top of him. Her breasts covered in several jeweled necklaces. She smiled drinking some of the wine that she took from the local village in the outskirts of Corinth. She dipped her fingers in the wine and traced his lips with her soiled fingers. Grinning he pulled her close to him, kissing her lips generously.

"Together we can birth a new race of gods and you Xena, as my warrior queen," he grabbed a handful of her hair and kissed her once more.

Xena frowned and let up from his embrace, finishing the wine she stood up, entirely naked and poured some wine for him and herself again. "I don't want to have children," she scoffed at the idea.

Ares leaned on his elbows and she came to sit beside him handing him a glass of wine. He looked at her wild hair and the sweat glistening off her olive skin. He cleared his throat and touched her thigh gently. "why not? A new race of gods Xena! Just think about it," he grinned smugly.

Xena shook her head and kissed his hand softly. "I don't like children. Too much responsibility. Not to mention they'd get in my way of my future. I am not destined to birth babies like every other woman on this planet!" she frowned. Ares smiled at her determination and gladly took the wine, sipping some of it, knowing the effects would do nothing to him. "Ask me in ten years if I still want children, after I've conquered the world," Xena chuckled downing the wine.

Ares stood up and began putting on his pants, tying them quickly. "I'll remember that," he winked. Xena laid down leaning her head on the pillows.

"Leaving so soon?" she teased. Ares sighed, turning away from her alluring eyes.

"I have business to attend to in Athens. Sister issues," he rolled his eyes.

Gabrielle sat outside near the fire and finally heard silence come from Xena's tent. She peered behind her and saw Xena's shadow putting on some clothes. She sighed, wishing that she never came with her in the first place. She was technically no threat, she wouldn't tell anybody about her to the Romans, but Xena obviously thought differently.

A few moments later Gabrielle heard Xena call her name. she stood up slowly and exhaled deeply, not sure what she would want from her. Upon entering the tent she saw the warrior woman sitting down on some animal skins in black pants and a loose blouse, her hair wild and face sweaty. Xena smiled at the young blonde as she came in timidly.

"Come sit with me, Gabrielle!" she patted the empty spot next to her. Gabrielle shyly smiled and sat down next to her like she instructed. "You have been writing about my conquers, right?" she asked. Gabrielle nodded. "Well speak up girl, I know you can talk. Have you gone mute?" she laughed.

Gabrielle coughed nervously, "yes, I have," she answered quietly. A few silent moments passed and Gabrielle wanted to ask a question but feared that Xena would lash out. "Can I ask you something?"

Xena smiled, "she speaks! Yes of course," she sipped her wine.

The blonde breathed in graciously. "You said you were to be married...what happened?"

"Ah," Xena wagged her finger. "Simple answer, Gabrielle. Married life just wasn't for me. I am destined for great things. I knew this when I was sixteen," she smiled.

"So..." Gabrielle eyed the brunette and her blue eyes were quite enticing, she looked away quickly. "You left your family and your home to be...a conqueror?" she asked.

Xena nodded, "what's with all the personal questions? Are you trying to get in my head?" she pointed at the blonde and she shyly shook her head, afraid of her. The warrior chuckled at the frightened girl. "One day I'll return to my family and show them all I have accomplished!" she triumphantly stated. "then they will see what a great woman I've become." She winked and poured a glass of wine for her blonde hostage.

Gabrielle took the wine, unlikely she would drink it, she thought it'd be rude to refuse the woman. "Do you think they'll see you the same...I mean, as a conqueror...will they accept you?"

Xena frowned, "for a shy girl you sure have quite a mouth!" she firmly said and Gabrielle shrunk in size at Xena's words. "They don't miss me, they never thought I could be great at anything other than being a housewife," she scoffed. She sighed and leaned back on the pillows. "Enough about me and my personal life."

Gabrielle smiled weakly and watched Xena as she relaxed against the pillows. "You don't miss your family at all?" she felt the need to ask. The warrior woman glared at Gabrielle and threw the empty wine glass at the mirror shattering it.

"Stop mentioning my family! If you mention them one more time I'll..." she growled, "just do your job and write," she waved her hand dismissively ignoring her impending thoughts. Gabrielle set the glass down and grabbed a parchment from her bag and a quill. Xena then reached over and grabbed Gabrielle's wrist firmly, startling the poor girl. "I want you to read what you have so far," she grinned. The teenager nodded and grabbed some of the older scrolls and unrolled the first one.

"you want me to read all of them?" she asked in a quiet voice. Xena nodded, "yes all of them, Gabrielle so I can bask in my victories."

Gabrielle spent over two hours reading the events she wrote down to Xena. She hoped that she would be satisfied with what she had so far. After finishing the final scroll she sat in silence, waiting for Xena's response.

Xena quirked her mouth to the side, "interesting. You write me as if I am some sort of princess, not a conqueror," she smirked.

"A princess of war," Gabrielle corrected her.

Xena sneered, "I'd love to be a princess. What a dream, Gabrielle! Imagine, I could have everyone do everything for me. Do whatever I say..." her thoughts lingered on and she looked over to see a very miffed Gabrielle staring back at her. She smiled, "carry on."

Gabrielle bit her bottom lip and rolled up the last scroll tucking it in her bag. "That's all I have written so far..." she stated.

Xena frowned, a bit sad that there wasn't more and she sighed loudly. "Oh alright, it's good enough then. Thank you Gabrielle for reading those to me." She sat in silence and noticed Gabrielle still sitting there silently. "Gabrielle," she called out and the blonde turned to face her. "I know you left home to become a writer, or whatever, but are you happy about doing that? Leaving your family?" she spat the same questions that were directed at her earlier.

She chose her words carefully. Truthfully she wasn't happy at all and it showed. She wanted to go back home more than ever instead of being with this monster of a woman named Xena. "I do miss them, but I'm glad I left...I got to explore a lot," she nodded.

Xena clicked her tongue on her cheek. "Yeah, it's nice isn't it? not having to worry about your siblings or parents?" she smirked. "Not to mention no responsibilities of marriage or children!" she giggled.

Gabrielle smiled at Xena's words. She sounded so sure of herself, but in her eyes she saw that she was lying to herself. She missed her family indeed, she just didn't know how to express herself properly. "Someday in the future I will have children."

Xena shook her head, "not me. Children are monsters and I have no time for them for what I want to accomplish."

"No all?" Gabrielle suddenly asked. The warrior's eyes grew in annoyance. "I saw what you did in those villages, Xena," she admitted. "You killed children..."

The warrior shrugged, "they should have got out of my way then!" she growled. "What is this? Twenty questions? Get out of my tent!" she shooed Gabrielle away. The blonde immediately got up carrying her bag on her shoulder. She looked back at the angry and distraught woman before. She only shook her head and left to go sit back outside by the fire again. She thought this would be a great time to write, but not about Xena's conquers, but Xena herself. It would be a personal scroll, just for her.

Xena rubbed her head with her hands and groaned loudly. She then stood up and picked up her sword, smashing everything in the tent. The men outside heard loud crashes and peered over at Xena's tent and saw the shadow of their commander smashing everything with her blade.

She breathed heavily and threw her sword to the side and sat down, letting her head hang in between her legs. Those questions that Gabrielle asked her brought up so many memories she had with her mother and brothers. Inside, she felt guilty for leaving them by themselves, but she wanted to achieve great things. All because of Ares, she chose this path and only recently had she proved herself to the War God. She had conquered villages in Corinth and Gaul. She wanted more but feared that she wouldn't be able to fully commit to the task if her family kept popping up in her head from time to time.

Shedding tears wasn't for Xena. She felt that if she cried for her family she would be seen as weak. A small tear fell from her cheek and onto her bare foot. She brought her knees close to her chest and stared at the wall of the tent, gently rocking herself to calm her down. In her past she would have dealt with these conflicted feelings with her mother. She would have talked to her and her mother was a great listener and always gave her great advice. But here she was, her mother was not here and she had to find a new way to cope with her emotions and feelings.

Quickly she grabbed her blade and stormed outside of the tent. She felt the need to hurt something to relieve herself from her frustration. Her eyes scanned the area and saw a group of slaves tied up by a tree. Smiling deviously she marched over to them and looked at all of them. They cowered away from her and shied their eyes.

She grabbed a young man no older than herself. She drug him to the middle of the campsite and all of her men gathered around to see what she was about to do. She grinned at the young man. His eyes filled with fear as he saw her blade coming close to his neck. She gripped onto his head and brought the blade close to his neck, her smile grew as the anticipation was killing her. Swiftly she sliced the man's throat, closing her eyes she no longer felt any pain reminiscing her family. His body felt limp to the ground and the soldiers blinked at her. Blood splattered on her face and wiped the blood off with her fingers.

"Tomorrow we leave for the Northern Lands!" she yelled out and went to seek a river nearby to clean herself up. The men stared at her as she left the camp alone.

Gabrielle saw from afar that she had killed a man in cold blood. Her eyes instantly swelled with tears. She glanced over at the other slaves and saw some crying quietly while others were simply shocked. Gabrielle shared the same feelings as they did. Distinctively she grabbed her belongings and decided to leave this camp. She couldn't travel with Xena, she was too dangerous.

Quietly stepping into the shadows she began running from the camp unnoticed by Xena's men. She ran hastily through the forest, looking back constantly and saw nobody was following her, she continued to run, almost tripping over a few tree branches along the way.

As she kept running she saw that the road had disappeared. She halted her running and saw she was on a cliff. Gabrielle breathed heavily as she almost just died if she took another step. Her eyes scanned the area and she went left, running into the forest trying her best to get away from Xena.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Gabrielle's breath was baited as she continued to charge through the forest. The trees seemed to be talking to her, she looked up and saw the light breeze wisp through the branches and leaves. Loud whispers from the leaves surrounded her. She huffed and then tripped over a large tree branch. Her bag of scrolls scattered all over the ground, some began sinking in the mud behind her. She hated to leave such valuable scrolls behind but they were Xena's conquering stories and to be honest she didn't want to have anything to do with those!

Slumping the bag over her shoulder she got up and started running again to get as far as she could away from Xena's camp. Looking back she couldn't see the camp any longer, nor heard anyone following her. I need to get away from here, she thought to herself. Gabrielle never thought she was able to run for this long, but she didn't want to be with Xena anymore. She was a horrible person, a murderer and a tyrant in the making.

She finally stopped running and coughed, bringing herself to a large river, she stuck her face in the water, washing her face and hastily drinking the water from her cupped hands. The sun would be rising in just a few short hours since it was summer here in Corinth. She figured Xena and her army would be leaving at first light to go East. She didn't want anything to do with that, not at all. This wasn't what she signed up for and thought she made the right decision to leave Xena and her men.

Surveying the area she heard no voices, but figured that there were still a few more villages down the road. Getting up from the grassy ground she walked the rest of the way in hopes to find a village. She wanted to warn them about Xena and tell them to leave before she arrived and that would be soon. Xena and her men made great time when on foot and horseback.

When Gabrielle thought she'd be leaving home, she thought that she would find new people, new places and explore in her youth, but she didn't expect to be tied into a situation such as this. Inside, she wanted to help Xena. She was just a regular girl like herself, except something made her turn evil, though she couldn't quite pinpoint it. Xena was to be married and have children she remembered that. She and Xena were not very different in Gabrielle's eyes, though they were five years apart in age. Their lives changed because they both left their homes, but Xena was weak. Yes that's what she is, Gabrielle told herself. Xena succumbed to evil to cope with leaving her family and to gain power. But why?

As she continued to wander around for the next few hours she finally spotted a village. Few people were already up and tending to their homes in the early hours. She approached an elderly man tending to his goats and realized she was quite a mess. Her clothes were dirty, ripped and in shambles. Her hair was wild and she probably looked like some lost little child in this man's old eyes.

Smiling weakly she rubbed her arm anxiously. "do you have a lot of travelers in this village?" she asked shyly.

The elderly man looked Gabrielle up and down. Her tattered appearance did not go unnoticed, but he was kind. Grinning at the young blonde he shook his head. "Not really, young lady. Say, what are you doing out here by yourself? You don't look old enough to be wandering around in these parts." He chuckled.

Gabrielle remained silent, still a bit embarrassed at her state at the moment. "I ran away from...someone."

"Ran away you say? From who? Hopefully not your parents," he wagged his finger and gave her a wet cloth to wipe her face with. She kindly took it, wiping her dirty face off quickly.

"No! Someone..." she scratched the back of her neck. Suddenly she felt like if she said Xena's name she was going to be crucified, though Xena wasn't here. She remembered what Xena said if she got away, she would have to kill her, because she had seen too much. At this point she didn't really care.

"You need to leave this village. Something terrible is going to happen to you and your family!" Gabrielle pleaded.

The elderly man creased his brows, puzzled at this odd suggestion by such a young lass. "Something terrible eh? I have seen a lot of gruesome things in my time, young lady," he shook his head chuckling quietly to himself.

Gabrielle groaned, becoming frustrated. "You don't understand! A woman...a woman with dark hair and her army are going to come here and destroy your village!" her eyes swelled with tears. She saw two small children come out of the man's home and she covered her eyes, feeling that this was useless. "You need to leave!"

The man eyed his grandchildren and he huffed, scoffing at Gabrielle. "There are no woman warriors in this area, lass! They're all wives of sheep herders. What a preposterous idea," he ruffled his beard and continued tending to his small garden.

"Well you're wrong! She's going to come here and kill you all," Gabrielle said in a stoic voice. "I've seen it with my own two eyes," she pointed to her eye and the man dismissed her, walking back into his house ushering the children back inside. Gabrielle grunted and yelled back, "she's going to come here! I swear! Her name is Xena! Look for the crimson flag!" she sighed as she saw the man closed the door. Other villagers looked her way with confused dazed faces.

Gabrielle threw her hands in the air passionately. "you're all going to die! Why don't you listen to me and just leave while you still can?!" she yelled out and the villagers backed away, thinking she might be some insane young teen. She shook her head and decided that warning these people had been proven to be useless. Deciding not to stay here she took off, looking for another place to hide away.

Xena screamed at the top of her lungs at her men for allowing Gabrielle to get away. She wasn't angry that Gabrielle had left, but more angry at herself for allowing that to happen. Sure she was just a small teenage girl, but she felt the need to protect the girl like a lost puppy. She didn't know whether she should feel angry that she could possibly care for this blonde, or that she got away and could possibly go back to Rome to spread her lies. Xena knew that Gabrielle wouldn't have time to back track all the way back to Rome especially on foot. She would probably get lost or something.

Growing frustrated she galloped on her horse with her men behind her. On her last rampage through the Corinthian villages nearby she picked up some new clothing. Today she decided to take advantage of these new clothes. Donning a silver coin headpiece. The silver chains covered her long raven locks and she also wore silver gauntlets to match.

Halting her horse she came to a hilltop and saw a small village below. Grinning she whistled to her general, Dagnine, to hand her the famous flag that had now seen many villages in a short amount of time. She placed the flag in the ground and stared at the villagers. Many eyes squinted in her direction.

The small children in the elderly man's home looked out the open window and saw a red flag with a giant 'X' on it waving in the gentle breeze. The boy pointed at the flag, "look!" he yelled out. Their grandfather grumbled and slowly made his way to the window to see what his grandchildren were looking at. He too saw the crimson flag that the blonde girl spoke about. His eyes widened and quickly he closed the curtains blocking the view.

"We need to leave children," he said and began gathering a few things in a small bag. Just enough for the three of them.

One of the boys helped his grandfather while the youngest peeked through the curtains and saw that the woman with dark hair just as described by Gabrielle was heading towards them. His mouth gaped and he shut the curtains swiftly, going to attend the others to gather some things.

Just as the three were finishing gathering some small things to leave the door busted open. The smallest boy's mouth gaped as he saw the dark haired warrior woman on her giant horse staring down at him with a menacing grin. His eyes grew in fear and his grandfather grabbed hold of his hand hustling to get out the back door. Xena lit a torch and smiled. The three turned to look at her and she lit the curtains on fire and the flames began to spread like a disease. Her horse stepped back as she commanded and she lit the remainder of the house on fire. Riding off she threw the lit torch on a large tavern and it burst into flames.

"By the gods of Olympus that young lass was right..." the elderly man hurried to usher the children out of the house before the flames completely engulfed them. All three ran out and the boys coughed from the black smoke that was now all over their small village.

Xena came around with her sword and sliced through a villager trying to attack her with a rake. She grinned and then spotted the small family trying to escape. The old man pushed the two kids and told them to run ahead as he knew he was going to out run this woman. She kicked her horse and started galloping towards the old man. His eyes grew at the sight of her and he knelt down, praying to the gods, knowing his death was near.

She halted her stead and frowned. "The gods cannot save you now, you fool!" she grabbed the man by the throat lifting him up from his kneeling position. She tightened her grip and grit her teeth. Her eyes looked to the two boys running away and smiled at the old man.

He looked into her piercing blue eyes. She was quite beautiful for such a frightening woman, he gathered. "Please...spare the children and kill me instead!" he begged.

"I was going to kill you anyway," she whispered in his ear and plunged her blade into his torso. She yelled out and kicked the old man to the ground.

"She...she was right," he mumbled and Xena frowned, looking down at the dying old man.

"Who are you talking about?" she wondered, becoming curious. The screams in the background heightened the situation and wails of agony only fueled her hate even more. "Who?!" she screamed.

He coughed, "the girl..." he lolled his head and exhaled slowly, taking his last breath.

Xena crinkled her nose as she gritted her teeth. "Gabrielle..." she groaned in a hushed tone. Dagnine approached Xena and he sheathed his sword. He eyed the two children escaping the village and he nudged Xena in the arm. Getting out of her daze she snarled at him.

"What about those two brats?" he asked. Xena swiftly turned her head and her lip curled.

"Forget them! Gabrielle was here," she sniffed the air for her scent and her eyes scanned the area. "She is not far," she grinned.

Dagnine rolled his eyes. "Xena why do you care about that girl so much? She's worthless!" he yelled, frustrated at his commander.

Xena yelled, "I want her found! I want her dead!" she growled and turned around to go back to the chaos in the village with Dagnine soon following her.

Gabrielle felt her legs giving out from the immense marathon she had completed trying to get away from the village. She turned around and breathed heavily. Flames and black smoke filled the beautiful blue sky. She sighed, knowing that Xena had made her mark and quickly. She tried to warn those people, she really did. But now her heart quickened as she realized Xena was not far behind now. She had to keep going, to hide from Xena, that's all that mattered.

"Hey!" a small voice was heard from far away and Gabrielle frowned, turning around she saw the two young boys she met in the village running in her direction. "Hey wait!" the eldest called out.

Gabrielle stopped and waited for them to catch up. They halted in their step and their breathing was labored. "That lady! She came... like you said!" he said in between harsh breaths. Truthfully she was glad that the young boys had escaped but that only slowed her down. She needed to keep going so she walked away from them. The smallest boy ran towards her and tugged on her filthy dress.

"Miss, you got to help us! She's really scary!" the young boy said and Gabrielle sighed keeping her step in check.

"Look, I can't help you. I need to keep going." She shook her head and continued onward.

The eldest boy frowned and ran in front of Gabrielle, alarming her. "You can't leave us here! She's going to kill us!" he pleaded.

Gabrielle sighed heavily. "You both need to find a place to hide. I can't help you! I'm trying to get away from her too!" she let out an exasperated sigh and walked on. The boys slumped their shoulders and the eldest grabbed his brother's hand and ran in an opposite direction. Gabrielle turned her head and saw the boys left her side. She hoped that they'd be spared from Xena's wrath. But she cared about her life too, she was too young to die.

A few minutes later Gabrielle heard loud horse hooves from afar. Her heart sunk and she wouldn't dare look behind her, but she did. She saw Xena leading her army riding over the hill. And here she was in the middle of an open field, nowhere to hide. She cursed to herself and began running on her tired legs once more.

Xena grinned as she had spotted Gabrielle finally. Riding closer and closer she leaped off her horse with a loud war cry and tackled Gabrielle to the ground. She sat on top of her and drew her dagger. Gabrielle heard the screeching sound of the blade and her face was in the dirt, digging deeper. Her body stiffened.

"You shouldn't have run away from me, Gabrielle!" Xena yelled.

Gabrielle felt the need to speak up for herself. Something that she hadn't done around Xena at all since they met. "You're going to kill me?! Do it then!" she yelled and Xena growled angrily. "What will you gain from this, Xena? Another kill to add to your list, is that it? you're a murderer!" she spat some dirt out from her mouth.

Xena smiled and lifted the dagger high in the air getting ready to strike her. Just as she was about to stab Gabrielle a rock was thrown at Xena's head and she grunted, holding onto her head. Turning around swiftly she saw a young boy with a slingshot. Growling she got off Gabrielle and mounted her horse.

Gabrielle lifted her head and saw Xena riding after those two boys. She got up and then found herself surrounded by blades of Xena's men. She sighed and watched as Xena caught up to the boys and heard the loud war cry from the warrior woman and a couple of slices. Gabrielle closed her eyes, cringing at the wails of agony from the small children.

Xena frowned at Gabrielle sitting on top of her horse. "And that is why I will never have children," she muttered. She nudged her head towards Dagnine. "Tie her up and we'll make camp ahead." He nodded and grabbed the blonde, though she struggled the men were able to detain her quite easily. Xena touched the side of her head and snarled as she saw blood on her fingers.

Hours later they made camp and Gabrielle was put inside Xena's tent, gagged and tied up quietly sitting in a corner by herself. Xena tended to her wound with herbs and a wet cloth. She grumbled to herself as she managed to stitch her wound up with a needle as she stared into a small mirror.

"That was a very stupid thing you did," Xena said as she dug the needle into her skin, wincing at the stinging pain. "Now," she cringed at the needle digging into her wound once more. "You're probably wondering when I'm going to kill you." She bit the thick thread and finished sewing herself up. She took a large swig of wine to ease her pain. Gabrielle eyed her cautiously but said nothing, as she couldn't since her mouth was gagged. Xena crawled over to her with a dagger and Gabrielle's eyes widened in fear.

Xena cut the cloth around Gabrielle's mouth and she was able to breathe once again. She was about to speak until Xena put her finger over Gabrielle's lips. "No talking," she grinned.

"You didn't have to kill those children, Xena," Gabrielle said and Xena turned around with malice in her eyes. She came to her and covered her mouth then Gabrielle bit Xena's hand. The raven haired warrior snatched her hand back and wagged her hand.

Snarling she pushed Gabrielle on the floor and Xena sat on top of her. "Feisty little girl!" she hissed. She saw fear in the blonde's eyes and she raised an eyebrow with a malicious smile on her lips. Suddenly she kissed Gabrielle's lips fiercely catching Gabrielle off guard.

Her eyes widened and she didn't respond to the woman's odd kiss then she yelped as Xena bit her lip, drawing blood. Xena sat up and touched her lips now with Gabrielle's blood on her own. "Blood so your heart," Xena licked the blood off her lips and stood up abruptly leaving a very confused and shocked Gabrielle lying on the floor, helpless.

As Gabrielle watched Xena saunter around the tent cleaning her dagger she couldn't quite understand what this woman was up to. Did she just kiss me? And she bit me!

"I can't have you running away from me..." Xena sweetly said. "We've shared so much together in such a short time," she eyed the dazed blonde and smirked. "Have you not kissed anyone before?" Gabrielle stared at her in utter silence. "I suppose are kind of young," she shrugged.

Ares appeared in the tent and saw the blonde lying on the floor. He raised an eyebrow then saw Xena with a large gash on the side of her head. He touched her head and Xena shied away from him. He pulled her closer and kissed her lips, then a short moment after he wiped his mouth and saw blood on his hand. "What is this?"

Xena grinned. "Nothing, just a power play game," she touched his arm sensually and his eyes grew as she came closer to his body. Gabrielle turned away, not wishing to look. By his sudden appearance she only imagined that this was a god and he had been the one who Xena had been sleeping with all this time. She kissed his lips softly and Ares pushed her away slightly.

"What's wrong?" she asked innocently.

He gestured to Gabrielle lying on the floor being a meek mouse. "I can't...what is she doing here?"

Xena looked to the blonde captive and she smiled at the War God. "It's alright, she won't bother us. Right, Gabrielle?" she frowned. Gabrielle said nothing in return and kept her eyes focused elsewhere, anywhere but in their direction.

He slipped a hand beneath Xena's blouse and she smiled shyly. Ares groaned and then waved his hand over Gabrielle. Xena stopped her sudden urges and looked to the blonde who seemed even more confused as her eyes danced around the tent. "What did you do to her?"

He grinned, "you care for this girl?" he laughed abruptly. "She can't see us now," he took off her blouse, now fully exposed to him his eyes roamed Xena's perfect toned body. " know what happens next, right?" his eyelids lowered as his mischievous mood infected the warrior queen. She pushed the War God down on the animal skins and laid on top of him, kissing his neck softly. He baited his breath as her lips traced his collar bone and chest. "You're...getting too good at this."

Xena grinned and took off his vest tossing it to the side. "so you want me to stop then?" she teased. He looked at her knowingly and she chuckled.

An hour later Xena rolled over off Ares and breathed heavily. She wrapped the sheets around her naked flesh and placed her hand over her abdomen, allowing her body to relax fully. Ares peered over at her and smiled, quite satisfied with her tired state.

He leaned on his elbow on his side and Xena smiled at him through labored breaths. He placed his hand on top of hers and she eyed him carefully. "Are you sure you don't want to take me up on my offer, Xena?" he sensually asked and Xena frowned sitting up.

"I don't want a baby, Ares. Stop asking me that," she stood up wrapping the sheet around her body, going to stare at herself in the mirror and began brushing her hair.

He groaned, "one day you're going to get tired of me asking and just relent!" he smiled. He looked over at Gabrielle who obviously had realized what he had done. "What are you going to do with the girl?"

Xena looked over at Gabrielle and grinned. "Leave her to me. Now go away," she commanded. Ares waved his hand and Gabrielle now could see Xena standing up with a blanket around her body but Ares had disappeared.

The warrior woman knelt down close to Gabrielle with a devious smile. "I'm going to give you one last chance to prove to me that you deserve to live, alright Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle nodded.

Chapter Text

AN: now this is quite a twist on Xena's past life. Once again, I love to change things. Enjoy and feedback much appreciated! ;)

Chapter 8

Caesar returned to Rome after a lengthy mission. He waltzed over to the army camp and found nobody stationed there nor did he find Xena anywhere near the camp. He had been gone for over a month and he expected to find Xena commanding his men, but he definitely did not find her doing just that. Scowling, he went to one of the guards stationed at the front of the fortress. He grabbed the man by the shoulder harshly.

"Where is Xena?" he demanded. The guard fumbled in his words and he had no answer. He hadn't seen Xena either. Caesar growled and went inside of the fortress to retreat to his room. He passed by Xena's room, bursting through the doors he saw that the room had been abandoned for quite some time. He began to throw everything in the room onto the marble floor including smashing some Greek vases.

Storming out of her room he went to his room and took off his white cloths and changed into his battle gear. "She thinks she can just take my army...and whatever she pleases," he scoffed. "Well she's wrong!" as soon as he changed into his armor he left his room to go back to the guards standing at their post.

"Get the rest of the men ready. We need to find Xena and her whereabouts! Now!" he yelled and grabbed the reins of his horse, mounting it swiftly he trotted off to get a head start on everyone else. "I will find you Xena," he hissed.

Xena and her men had reached the edge of Greece in the city of Athens. They made camp on the outskirts of the magnificent city. Xena stood on a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea, absorbing the beautiful sight ahead of her. The wind wisped through her long raven hair. She was quite proud of herself for her accomplishments so far. Corinth was an easy target and she made sure that her name was well known there, though she had left very few survivors there, she left her flag there as a remembrance of her victories.

Gabrielle had done well continuing as her scribe and recorded everything that she saw on their journey. Xena was going to make sure that Gabrielle wouldn't escape this time. She was going to be in her grasp for a very long time, she hoped. The young teenager would have an experience like no other. She was a scribe in her military –the one that she stole from Caesar. She figured by now that Caesar had caught onto her taking his army and would surely come and find her soon enough. Rome was quite a long ways from Athens though, so she had time, a lot of time.

So many things to accomplish and with her age and young mind, she would use that to her advantage. The long she went on this expedition the more she realized that Ares was suffocating her. She was growing tired of using her body for sex for the War God's pleasure. She didn't mind Ares, he was a great lover, but sometimes she wanted to explore more. Her devotion to the God of War was obvious and imminent, even to her men, but she wanted to continue alone and very soon.

After a few more moments of basking in the bright sun of Athens she returned to the camp. Many of the men smiled at her. They seemed happier when not under Caesar's control and seemed to even admire her. Grinning she nodded at those she passed by and waltzed back to her tent to find Gabrielle sitting by herself, writing, of course.

"I should teach you how to use a real weapon," Xena smirked. Gabrielle looked up at her as she entered the tent. She had been stuck with Xena for about two months now and though she regretted most of it, she was thankful that she chose to give her another chance. If she didn't spare her then she'd be dead.

Gabrielle smiled softly, "my quill is my weapon," she continued writing. Xena walked around her and bent down to see what she was writing. Her reading skills were alright, but sometimes she couldn't recognize a few words. It was obvious that Gabrielle had immense reading and writing skills, something Xena didn't have because of where she lived. She had attended school for a short time and hated it so left without her mother's consent. She stopped going to school when she was thirteen and decided to help her mother in the tavern instead. Secretly, Xena wished that she would have obeyed her mother and stayed in school like her youngest brother, Lyceus.

"You said we're going East right?" Gabrielle asked halting her writing. Xena sighed and grabbed her dagger, beginning to sharpen it casually.

"Yes. My men and I are going to raid a ship in a few hours. I need to wait until the scouts return first," smirking she sat down and continued to sharpen the short blade.

Gabrielle set her scroll aside and watched Xena sharpen the blade. She scooted closer to her becoming curious. "Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life? Rape and pillage villages?" her voice became soft as Xena stopped sharpening the dull dagger.

Xena pointed the dagger at Gabrielle. "I have a feeling that this will turn into another one of those conversations about my family, so I'm not going to answer your question." She smiled and went back to business.

"I mean...wouldn't you rather people know you as a peace giver instead of a conqueror?" Gabrielle asked curiously.

Xena sighed growing frustrated at this young girl. "Gabrielle, I am destined to do great things. You can't win people over with love! A sword is the answer," she lifted the dagger in the air and admired the shiny metal before her eyes.

"You can win people over with love Xena, you just need to try..." Gabrielle spoke quietly and Xena eyed her then set the dagger down, lacing her fingers together as she leaned on her knees.

"Is that so? Name one ruler that conquered in the name of love," she grinned waiting for Gabrielle's response.

Gabrielle tapped her cheek, "Alexander the Great conquered a lot of land." That was all she could think of at the moment.

Xena began chuckling, "he conquered with a sword too, Gabrielle. Even great conquerors must use their sword to win people over."

Gabrielle was silent as she couldn't really combat that. Although, Xena was spreading her name through hate and fear. Everyone in Greece surely knew who she was and even before they set foot in Athens they recognized her flag. It appeared that the few who survived were able to spread the word about Xena. Gabrielle couldn't comprehend this woman and her lust for hate and bloodshed. She also couldn't get over the time that she kissed her. That was about a month ago and she never brought it up, thinking it irrelevant, but there was a reason for it just like there was a reason for everything.

"Xena?" she inched closer and Xena stared at her in silence. She was now brushing her hair casually. She breathed out slowly, calming herself to ask this much needed question. "why did you kiss me? I mean...when Ares was here..."

Xena turned to look at the blonde teen and smirked, continuing to brush her hair. "Did you like it?" she teased. Gabrielle's mouth gaped and was almost afraid to answer. Her cheeks in response and Xena looked in the mirror at Gabrielle's shocked expression so she began laughing aloud. "No need to be shy, Gabrielle." She set the brush down and knelt down close to the teenager.

Gabrielle backed away slowly not sure exactly what Xena was doing. Her eyes enlarged as Xena came closer and closer to her, invading her personal bubble. "Come on, you do to me as I did to you," the warrior woman grinned mischievously.

"No...I –I couldn't do that," she shied away from Xena and shifted her eyes elsewhere feeling her cheeks redden. Xena smirked and grabbed Gabrielle's chin bringing her close to her face. She saw her eyes widen with fear.

"Are you afraid of a small kiss, Gabrielle?" she teased. "I won't bite you this time," she promised. Her lips came closer to Gabrielle and her mouth parted slowly. Gabrielle wasn't refusing the woman nor was she completely sure of what she was doing at the moment.

Just as they were about to embrace Dagnine burst into Xena's tent interrupting the intimate moment. He eyed Xena and the blonde with confusion. Xena halted herself and let go of Gabrielle's cheek. Standing up she ran her fingers through her long hair. Gabrielle huddled to herself and rubbed her face, trying to snap herself out of the awkward moment between the three of them.

"Xena...the men are ready for you to raid the ship at the port," he said, staring over at Gabrielle. Xena grinned nodding her head and grabbed her sword and dagger, stuffing it in her knee high boot.

"Excellent I'll be there in a moment," she said and Dagnine curtly nodded then left her tent in silence. She turned to see a very embarrassed Gabrielle on the floor. "So close" she winked, storming out of her tent. Gabrielle sat on the floor of the tent and heard Xena commanding her men to head towards the ship. This meant that camping time was over and she'd have to follow Xena on another adventure. Sighing she shook her head trying to get that image out of her mind for now. Focusing on gathering her things she grabbed her bag of scrolls and followed Xena and her men to the ship.

The following day Xena stood on the deck of the ship they stole. It wasn't that hard to raid the ship especially since the ship was full of merchants and had no experience in swordsmanship. As they sailed through the calm waters she was anxious to get the Eastern lands. Her victories there would prove that she could travel anywhere she wanted and rule accordingly. She wanted to be better than Caesar, better than Alexander the Great and that's exactly what she was going to do.

Caesar was half way to Athens and along the way he saw crimson flags with Xena's initials on it. he had figured out that Xena took his army to create a name for herself. He speculated that she was jealous of his success and wanted to make sure to wipe his name off the map and have only hers known throughout the Greek and Roman world. Every village they passed had little to no survivors.

Shaking his head he continued onward to Athens, knowing that's where she'd be. Athens was a great Greek city of industrialization and liberation for men and women of all kind. Xena would want to destroy that place as well. He couldn't figure out what her ultimate goal was but he wasn't going to let her get away with it. This world wasn't big enough for Xena and Caesar.

Upon arriving to the Persian lands Xena stepped off the small boat from the ship and onto the land. The port was quite large and she saw many Roman soldiers guarding it very well. She saw a few of the Roman opposing party whispering, most likely talking about her. She grinned and some of her men were still getting off the ship.

She wore her coin headpiece and a large cloak wrapped around her silver armor. Sauntering over to the Roman soldiers they saluted at her. She saluted back, playing along with them. Staring back she saw Gabrielle getting off the boat with her men. Her army eyed her carefully but knew what she was doing otherwise she would have told them to attack by now.

"Xena, what brings you here?" one of the soldiers asked.

Xena shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly. "Business according to Caesar," she lied with a snake like tongue that she possessed. "the grain and weapon supply on the docks," she nodded to their loaded ships. "Where you taking them?"

The Roman cleared his throat. "Back to Rome, Xena. What does Caesar want us to do?" he asked honestly.

She smiled and walked over to the loaded ships. "Oh he told me to be in control of the supply ships," she bit her fingernail with a wide grin.

He looked at her with a puzzled face. "He wants us to give the ships to you?" she nodded as a short response. "Yes of course. I'm the commander of his army, am I not?" she folded her arms. He nodded and did not question her further and told the soldier next to him to allow Xena's men to take the supply ships. Inside she wanted to laugh at these fools but she would know by now that Caesar was hunting her and she wanted to be prepared for him.

She went back to the other side of the port and Gabrielle stood feeling a bit out of place. Xena rest a hand on her shoulder. "We should get you changed into something more suitable..." she glanced around at the gawking eyes. "People will begin to think you're some kind of concubine." She smugly smiled and pushed her forward into the market place, playing it cool. She didn't want to attack here as there were Roman soldiers everywhere and as far as they knew, she was one of them.

Together Xena and Gabrielle walked through the busy market streets and many civilians stepped out of their way once they saw Xena marching through. Gabrielle remained in front of Xena, eyeing all of the gorgeous jewelry and clothing. Xena stopped and examined some fabric talking with the merchant. Gabrielle walked off to go look at the jewelry.

Xena turned around and saw Gabrielle pretty occupied by herself. She smirked, "you like jewelry? I am not much of a jewelry girl," she gathered.

Gabrielle nodded, "I noticed. Although I saw a few trinkets in your tent," she smiled. Xena raised an eyebrow and grabbed her arm ushering her to a separate shop. They came to an armor shop and Gabrielle eyed Xena cautiously.

"What do you think about wearing armor, huh Gabrielle?" her eyes rose beneath her lush bangs and Gabrielle slowly shook her head 'no'. Xena frowned and then grabbed a black skirt and knee high gladiator sandals. "You can't wear...that when you're being seen with me." She gestured to her floor length skirt and loose blouse. "Try it on," she shoved the skirt and armor plated top into Gabrielle. She let out a winced 'ouff' and went behind a screen shyly and stared at the clothes in front of her.

What did she do to get herself into this? Oh yeah, she thought Xena was being nice, but no, she wanted her to tag along in this horrible adventure.

After a few minutes she came out feeling very exposed and a bit unfit to wear something like this. Xena stood up from a chair she sat in and walked around Gabrielle, observing her new attire. "Nobody would mistake you for a concubine dressed like this." She nodded quite proud of herself that she chose an outfit like this. She folded her arms and then snapped to the merchant, signaling that she wanted to purchase the items.

They exited the shop and Gabrielle felt like she needed to cover herself constantly. "I don't know about this, I is rather revealing."

Xena chuckled and pushed Gabrielle forward. "No one will take you seriously if you keep hunkering down like a meek mouse that you are, Gabrielle!" she walked ahead of her to scout out the area for more Romans and also, a good place to put her men up for the evening. She awaited Caesar and would be ready for him. "Come, let's go this way." Gabrielle sighed and followed Xena reluctantly.

Caesar found out exactly where Xena was headed and he was only a day behind her now as he easily was granted a ship in Athens. Once he reached Athens he saw that Xena had not made her mark there as all the other cities along the way. He gathered that Athens was the place for Xena, though it represented everything that she was not –peace, harmony, loyalty and liberalism. It appeared to the Roman soon to be emperor that Xena wanted to overthrow him and take his place. He only wished that she would try.

"How much longer until we reach the coast?" he called out to one of his men. The sky was dark and the waters were very calm, though his heart was racing as fast it possibly could.

"Tomorrow night for sure," the soldier answered and Caesar nodded his head and went below the deck to his room. He then sat in a chair, rubbing his chin thinking of Xena. He had grown fond of Xena and her body wasn't that bad either, when he got to enjoy it. She was quite rough in bed, which he liked. For her age she was very experienced and he wouldn't have expected someone like her to be like this. Caesar was ten years Xena's elder and yet she was so hungry –hungry for power. He cursed to himself as he wasn't able to see this in her blue eyes earlier throughout their time together.

They had known one another for a little over a year now and he couldn't fathom that Xena wanted to betray him. He thought that they had a good relationship together. For Zeus' sake, he let her command half his army which obviously had proven to be a grand mistake. He could see it now when they arrived to the Eastern port –Xena would have his army at her whim and she would try to topple him. No, he wasn't going to let that happen. Not this time Xena. Not ever. He crushed a quill in his grasp as he breathed heavily.

Xena and some of her men found a large tavern and all we welcomed of course since they were technically Roman soldiers. She and Gabrielle sat at a table together while she surveyed the area. She casually drank some wine while Gabrielle nursed hers feeling a bit awkward at what she was wearing.

Xena looked to her blonde tagalong and smirked. "Something on your mind?" she took a sip of the wine.

The blonde teen shook her head. "It's just that...these people think you're with Caesar and you're not!" she whispered and Xena leaned in closer to Gabrielle.

"Caesar thinks he's the Trojan horse, but it is I who is the Trojan horse. You understand what I'm saying, Gabrielle?" she winked with a devious smile. Gabrielle sighed and buried her face in her hands, wishing this night would just end. Not to mention the other half of the men were outside scouting the area expecting the Roman successor to arrive at any moment. Xena was so sure of herself but Gabrielle had her doubts.

Xena nudged Gabrielle and she was taken out of her solemn daze. "Drink your wine, you are ruining my mood." She said and the blonde pretended to drink some of her wine just to please the warrior woman. Smiling nervously Xena smiled as a response and kept drinking from her cup quietly. As they continued to sit in silence Xena leaned back in the chair comfortably. If her appearance wasn't so striking and obviously had a woman's body one might mistake her for a man with the way she was sitting and presented herself.

Hours went by and Xena asked for a room upstairs at the tavern since they did not make camp knowing they wouldn't be staying for long. She just wanted to see the look on Caesar's face. As she began walking up the stairs she turned to see Gabrielle still sitting by herself. "Are you going to sleep on a table or come with me?"

Gabrielle looked around as if Xena was talking to someone else. "Well I'd rather have a room to yourself."

Xena smirked, "alright fine. I'm sure one of my men would love to take you in," she head up the stairs. Gabrielle sat down thinking of the consequences. Many eyes were set on her and she quickly abandoned her cup of wine running up the stairs. While running she ran into Xena half way up the staircase. She peered up at the woman and saw a smug smile on her face. "I thought so." They both continued onward to the vacant room upstairs.

After they entered the room, which was quite nice for a tavern room. Xena began taking off her boots and her armor, leaving her in a black tight blouse and pants to match. She set her headpiece on a table nearby the bed. Gabrielle stood and watched silently. Xena eyed her and smiled at the girl's meek mouse appearance.

"Traveling with me isn't so bad, is it Gabrielle? You must lighten up," she said and threw her boots to the side and laid down on the bed staring at the ceiling. Gabrielle began quietly taking off her sandals on a chair. Xena's eyes traveled over to the teen and she watched her intently.

After finishing taking off her boots she felt even more exposed, just wearing a short skirt and a black sleeveless top. Xena smiled and scooted over on the bed. "There is only one bed you know." The warrior woman said and Gabrielle sighed. She gradually sat down on the bed in very close proximity to Xena.

"Maybe I should...sleep on the floor," Gabrielle gathered and Xena grabbed her arm preventing her from moving. Realizing that Xena wasn't going to allow her to move she stayed put and that put a smile on Xena's lips.

Xena leaned on her elbow staring up at the timid girl. "Do you hate me or something?" she asked shyly.

Gabrielle shook her head. "I don't have the capability to hate," she answered quietly.

The warrior scoffed. "I wish I could be like you," she admitted. As soon as she realized what she said she instantly regretted it as Gabrielle now stared at her with wide green eyes. Before she could correct her poor choice of words Gabrielle spoke up.

"What made you turn Xena? You said you were going to be married and you have a family. Why run away from it?"

Xena frowned, "why did you run from yours?" she spat back. This left Gabrielle very quiet and she crossed her legs leaning on the headboard of the small bed. "There was nothing for me in my village. I found the ways of the sword and never looked back. I am happy where I am right now. I have accomplished so much in a short amount of time." She sighed.

Gabrielle folded her arms displeased with this answer. "You plan to lead your life in a constant war with yourself and others? For what?"

The warrior woman grunted and sat up, inches away from Gabrielle's face. "What is it with you and questions? I can achieve greatness! Women don't do that in this world! I want to be that woman, do you understand?"

"I think I understand," she sighed heavily. "I never thought...I'd end up with someone like you."

Xena frowned at this. "What is that supposed to mean?" Gabrielle shook her head dismissing the thought. She regretted even speaking the words. "Go on, say it." she egged her on.

Gabrielle looked into Xena's blue pleading eyes. "You and I aren't that different, but somehow ended up on different paths. I just hope you are happy with the path that you chose," she laid down finally, turning over so she wouldn't have to see the horrible glare from Xena.

A few silent moments passed and Xena stared at the ceiling. "I am happy," she answered quietly. Gabrielle smiled as she began to close her eyes and let herself fall asleep as fast as possible. "I am..." Xena whispered to herself with a slight solemn frown.

The following evening as the sun began setting Xena waited at the port all day for Caesar. She finally saw a large Athenian ship approaching the port. She grinned recognizing the ship immediately as she had just stolen one. She waved her hands at Caesar and he spotted her immediately. Humming to herself she folded her arms waiting for the ship to anchor.

"the mighty Caesar has finally made a grand entrance!" Xena yelled out from the port. Caesar frowned as he stared at her from the dock.

"Do you have a death wish, Xena?!" he called out and she began laughing.

Xena looked to her men who were in attack mode. The other Roman soldiers on the opposing team stared at each person very confusedly. Caesar saw that Xena had taken all of the supply ships and they were far out at sea, except the one that she stole.

"I have gathered all the supply ships like you asked!" she smirked.

Caesar felt his blood boiling and he yelled at the Roman soldiers on the coast. "You fools! She is against me! Get her!" he commanded. The soldiers snapped to and quickly ran towards Xena and her men. She unsheathed her sword and sliced through many men coming her way.

Gabrielle stayed behind one of the market shops and watched as Xena killed twenty men by herself with ease. She didn't want to get caught in the crossfire but at the same time she secretly wanted Xena to win. She didn't know why, but she cared for her in a strange way. The woman was evil, obviously, but she had a good heart she just didn't know how to use it very well. She cringed as she saw a couple of Xena's turned men die right in front of her eyes. She saw Caesar step off his ship and watch Xena being attacked by ten men all by herself.

As she watched she saw Xena's leg get sliced by a Roman and she gasped. Another man took advantage of Xena's state and Gabrielle looked around for a weapon of some kind. She quickly kicked a stand of fruit and grabbed a wooden pole that was holding up the stand and made a stupid decision in a split second. She ran towards the fight and wacked two men away from Xena with the wooden post.

Xena's eyes widened as she saw Gabrielle was defending her. She hadn't expected her to do that. Another group of men came towards them and she pushed Gabrielle out of the way and flipped into the air onto one of men's shoulders, cracking his neck with her legs. She flipped backward and kicked the other man's back and he fell onto the ground. She plunged the blade into his backside and she breathed heavily. A small smile came to her lips as she shared a glance with Gabrielle.

Caesar clapped his hands as he sauntered over to Xena. "You like stabbing people in the back Xena? It seems like it is your forte," he chuckled. He looked to the short blonde behind Xena. "Is this your partner in crime? Should I have to execute you both?" he grinned.

Xena frowned and turned to Gabrielle. She nudged her head to leave and Gabrielle didn't move. Xena rolled her eyes and faced Caesar once more. "I'm going to control all of these lands that you occupy Caesar!"

"We could've made a great team. We did make a great team." He smirked.

She snarled. "In your bed you mean?" she deviously grinned.

Caesar frowned at that and gestured to his men. "Get her." More than ten men came at Xena and one came behind her knocking her in the head with the handle of a sword. She fell to the ground and Gabrielle came to help but was immediately kicked down to the ground. Caesar came to Gabrielle and lifted her off the dirt. "Are you Xena's pet? Fine you shall go too." He smirked and stepped over Xena's limp body.

The Roman men dragged Xena's body to the shore and threw her on the sandy beach. Gabrielle had chains around her neck, wrists and ankles. She walked with the Romans on the shoreline. There she saw the majority of the rebel soldiers that chose to follow Xena on crucifixes. Her eyes widened and then saw the Romans strip Xena of her armor, leaving her in her undergarments, just wearing a black short dress that was barely above her knees.

As the soldiers began tying Xena to the crucifix she came to her senses and opened her eyes, feeling an immense headache from her now apparent head wound. She saw her wrists tied to wooden planks and began struggling to get free. A roman hit her and she groaned.

After a few more moments of struggling a group of four men hoisted the crucifix up in the sand and Xena saw the sky before her eyes disappear and the cross dug into the sand. She groaned in agony as her head hit the back of the crucifix painfully. Caesar walked up to her with a grand smile and she was breathing heavily still struggling to get free.

"Break her legs," Caesar demanded with a menacing glare. Xena's eyes widened and she saw a large mallet coming towards her legs. She cried out in excruciating pain as the Roman soldier broke her shins, shattering her bones. Tears escaped her eyes and she exhaled deeply, letting her head hang as she cried in pain.

Gabrielle covered her mouth. Though she believed that Xena had turn to the dark side of the world, she felt that she didn't deserve to be crucified. She looked away as Xena's wails of agony was too much to bear at the moment.

"Have a few men watch them until they die. They should be dead by morning," Caesar said as he began leaving the sandy beach.

One of his men looked to Gabrielle and he frowned. "And what about her? Should we crucify her as well?" he asked.

Caesar looked back and smiled. "No, she should be shipped off on the next slave ship that comes through. Carry on," he waved and went back to the port to relax on his ship. Gabrielle was then pushed into the sand and she sat by herself, wrapping her arms around her body for warmth. She looked up at Xena's body and it seemed she had passed out from the pain. It was too much for her. She sighed and watched the soldiers gather around a campfire.

An hour went by and Gabrielle was trying to devise a plan. As the night went on the air became colder. Xena's hair swayed in the gentle breeze as her head hung low and her arms became limp. She began to fiddle with the chains around her legs with a rock nearby. The soldiers seemed pretty preoccupied so she quietly sawed the chains with the stone as quietly as she could.

She had been doing this for an hour and the metal was beginning to wear out but so were her hands. She sighed and looked up at Xena, who was still unconscious. After a while longer she finally broke the chains around her ankles. Grinning she stood up and crept towards the soldiers who were oblivious.

Gabrielle hit one of the Roman's in the head with a rock and the other frowned unsheathing his sword. Oh shit. She hadn't really thought how this was going to go but she was sure the other Roman was dead as she hit his head pretty hard. She didn't even think about the second Roman. Thinking quickly on her feet she grabbed a stick and lit it on fire waving at the Roman. He backed away from the torch but then came around to her. She threw the torch on the man's arm and slowly the flames engulfed his arm. Screaming he began patting his arm. Gabrielle then kicked him in the back and his body was thrown into the campfire. There the flames completely scorched his flesh. She huffed quite proud of herself.

Her eyes looked to Xena and she really wanted to leave her there on the cross and run away as far as she could but there was something inside of her that wanted to save the woman. Grunting she grabbed the sword off the dead Roman soldier and sliced through the rest of the chains off her neck and wrists. She walked up to the crucifix and sighed heavily. She cut through the ropes around Xena's ankles, setting her limp legs free.

Gabrielle then used the ladder that was left behind and hoisted up against the back of the crucifix and untied Xena's wrists, she grabbed her limp body and almost fell to the ground with Xena's weight on her. She flipped over her body and slapped her cheeks.

"Xena!" she yelled but there was no response.

Gabrielle slapped her forehead and thought quickly how to get out of here. She began dragging Xena by her arms off the sandy beach and into a forest nearby. She grunted as she struggled to drag her body. As they reached the forest Gabrielle let go of Xena's arms and wiped her sweaty brow.

Xena's eyes fluttered open and the immense agonizing pain from her broken legs came back and she began panicking, screaming in agony. Gabrielle bent down and covered Xena's mouth with her hand. "Shh! They'll hear us!" she whispered forcefully. Xena eyed her and lifted her brows at this girl. As her breathing slowed she soon forgot about her broken legs.

"You saved me?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle half smiled and shrugged her shoulder.

"why?" Xena's tone was very apparent that she was angry because Gabrielle saved her.

The blonde frowned, "it wasn't your time to die."

"You should've let me die!" Xena yelled and Gabrielle got up and left the forest, leaving Xena by herself. Xena no longer heard Gabrielle and she growled to herself. Slowly she felt the pain come back in her legs again and she wailed.

Chapter Text

AN: I am taking everything from the show and twisting it, molding it, into my own liking. Different but not so different in a way ;) I am also using this time to patch up certain areas that are not shown in the show or simply looked over as well. Thanks for reading!

Chapter 9

Gabrielle walked far enough from Xena a bit irritated at the woman. She had risked her life to save herself and Xena yet she was angry that she saved her. Shaking her head in aggravation she gathered some herbs and large leaves. It was so tempting to leave Xena where she was, but she was young and obviously stupid. Gabrielle was beginning to think that she was the adult and not Xena, though she wasn't evil and didn't enjoy killing innocent people –that was Xena's job –she wanted to help her. If the Romans came back in the morning like Caesar said then they would be done for if they didn't move and get out of this forest. It was only about a few yards from the beach so it wasn't like she drug Xena's body very far. She wasn't strong enough, simply.

She returned with the herbs and saw Xena dragging herself on the cold dirt on her stomach. She saw the amount of pain she was in and her legs were covered in bruises, her head still bleeding and basically immobilized. Immediately Gabrielle thought of karma and how it was so sweet. She secretly enjoyed seeing Xena struggle much like those she injured in those village raids back in Corinth.

Deciding she no longer liked seeing Xena struggle she sighed and walked over, kneeling down in front of the injured warrior. "You aren't going to get very far like that," she admitted and Xena gazed up, growling. Gabrielle smirked and pulled out some herbs and crushed them in her palms. Hacking a large amount of saliva she spit into her palms and Xena made a face of disgust.

She parted Xena's hair on the back of her scalp and rubbed the herbs on her open wound. Xena groaned, annoyed that she was being treated like a child. "Why are you helping me?"

"Because you're hurt," Gabrielle stated as a matter of fact. Xena attempted to roll over on her back once her wound was finished being dressed by her captive. She winced as she tried to move her broken legs. Gabrielle sadly frowned, then began to think of some way to get out of this mess. They wouldn't get far like this and with no help. She suddenly had an idea. "Do you think the Romans have horses back on docks?"

Xena eyed her and breathed out slowly. "Probably, why?" she saw a certain look in the blonde's eyes and she shook her head. "Gabrielle no! just leave me here to die like my fate decided." She winced feeling the pain surge through her entire body.

Gabrielle shook her head, "if you were destined to die, you'd be dead already!" she got up and exited the forest leaving Xena alone by herself on the cold ground.

She ran on the beach back to the port and crept behind a large wall, she saw Caesar talking with a few of his leading men, most likely discussing Xena and her own fate tomorrow morning.

She squinted her eyes, hunkering down she saw a group of horses tied to a post not far from the market place. She crawled on her knees close to the wall making sure she was not seen. Her breathing quickened as she was trying not to panic. If she made a wrong move or was caught she was sure she'd die and then they'd find Xena and she'd die too.

Caesar left his men and Gabrielle gasped and went behind a fruit stand hiding underneath it. She saw the Roman's sandals dig into the sand as he passed by the stand. She sighed relieved that she went unnoticed. That was too close, she reprimanded herself. She wanted to get a horse but it would be a lot harder to get a horse to go unnoticed by the guards. At least six horses stood eating some food and she made a quick decision to run in the middle of the road to the other side of the street and knelt down behind the horses.

Smiling she united each horse from their post except for one. Swiftly she kicked the horse next to her, spooking the other steeds. She then picked up a rock and threw it at another horse's behind and the beast raised on his hind legs and began taking off. All five horses began scattering and ran in different directions alerting the Roman soldiers. She nodded, feeling quite proud of herself at the moment. As the Romans were distracted she quietly untied this calmer horse from the post and ran back to the beach with the horse's reins in her hands.

Catching her breath she laughed deviously as she had stolen a Roman horse devising a small but successful plan. She brought the horse into the forest and saw Xena was trying to crawl on the ground again though she didn't get far. She cleared her throat and Xena turned her head and saw her standing there with a horse in her possession.

"Did you steal that horse?" Xena asked a bit surprised. Gabrielle nodded. Xena smirked widely, "very clever, girl. Clever enough to get us both killed!" she frowned and the pride in Gabrielle's heart weakened as soon as she said that.

"I got this horse so we could leave this place and all you do is throw insults at me!" Gabrielle yelled and Xena blinked then a mischievous smile formed on her dry lips.

The warrior woman hoisted herself up to lean on a large tree. "You really want to save me huh?" she smirked.

"I'm beginning to think I should have left you on the crucifix," she mumbled as she detangled the horse's reins. Xena rubbed her shins gently and cringed at the slightest touch.

"Well maybe you should have. I kidnapped you and yet you are still here! Amazing!" she threw her hands in the air.

Gabrielle ignored that last comment and went to Xena, picking her up from under her arms and tried her best to get her to a standing position. Xena wailed in pain and Gabrielle nearly fell on the ground with Xena's weight pressing onto her small frame. She groaned and pushed Xena to the horse. Xena threw her arms over the saddle and Gabrielle pushed Xena up from her thighs and grabbed her right leg, swinging it to the other side of the horse so she was now straddled. Xena cried in agony and then Gabrielle mounted the horse sitting in front of Xena.

"you never answered my question," Xena whispered and Gabrielle turned her head back at the woman, fearing the question she posed. "You still want to save me, why? After everything I did, everything you saw, why?"

Gabrielle kicked the stallion and they rode off into the forest going to an unknown place, leading to a different place than these lands. "I felt bad for you!" Gabrielle finally said as the wind blew through her long blonde hair. Xena pursed her lips but did not reply.

Caesar arrived on the beach the following morning and saw that Xena's body was removed and the blonde girl had disappeared as well. He saw that both his Roman soldiers were dead and he snarled.

"Look for them! Find them! I want Xena dead," he marched back to his ship and told his men to send out a search party for Xena and her little blonde pet. "They couldn't have gone far," he supposed, clicking his tongue against his cheek.

Xena and Gabrielle traveled through the foreign lands and were galloping through a large stretch of desert. It was very hot and there was no water nearby at all. Gabrielle planned to ride this horse until he gave out, so they continued onward through the desert well into mid morning. They both figured that Caesar had found out that they were missing and Xena knew that he'd send out a search party for them both, especially her since she was the traitor and not Gabrielle, though she had become an accomplice.

No longer in a desert they finally arrived on a border of a separate nation. The horse finally gave out and Xena hoped they were far enough. Gabrielle saw a village not far from them and a lot of buildings as well. Xena wasn't able to walk so this posed a problem for them both especially if the horse was almost on the verge of dying since he raced the entire way from the coast to this foreign land.

Gabrielle hopped off the horse. "I'm going down there to that village to get help," she told Xena and the raven haired woman rolled her eyes as she had to stay with the horse by herself.

She made a long trek to the village and saw that this was a very different place indeed. There were a lot of men walking in the streets and women with veils on their heads, some covering their faces. Gabrielle suddenly felt very naked as she was still dressed in the outfit Xena chose for her. She wrapped her arms around her slim frame and tried to ask someone for help but they simply snubbed her.

Becoming hopeless she thought that they were never going to be able to leave this place especially on their own and Xena's legs still broken. She wandered through the dusty narrow road and saw an old man running an apothecary shop. She thought that he looked pretty nice and approachable. She huffed and made her way over to the man. He had a peppered beard and a black turban wrapped around his head. His eyes lined with kohl and his eyebrows made him look quite regal and distinguished.

Gabrielle noticed his eyes did not wander like the rest of the men in this area. "Do you know how to fix broken limbs?" she jumped out with the question head on. The man simply raised an eyebrow at this young girl and he nodded.

"You don't appear to have any broken bones, young lady," he answered in a very thick accent. Gabrielle smiled feeling a bit embarrassed. She shook her head. "No I don't, my..." she almost said friend. "Someone I am traveling with has two broken legs and she's...she's in a lot of pain right now! We traveled so far to get to a nearby city," she put on her begging act and the elderly man nodded his head. He saw her attire and began putting some vials on some shelves.

"I see you are not from here."

She nervously chuckled, "that obvious huh?" she sarcastically said. "So, can you help her or not?"

The man smiled, "I can. I take it you don't have anything to transport your...traveling partner in?" he gathered. Gabrielle agreed, she had nothing, literally nothing except her clothes and her sandals as well as a warlord in the making back in the wilderness by herself. She hoped that Xena stayed there like she asked her to, but knowing her she probably tried to wander off somewhere. "I have a wagon to transport your 'friend'." He smiled and Gabrielle felt a little bit grateful that someone was willing to help but unfortunately she had nothing to give him for his assistance.

All three of them returned to the man's shop and he put Xena in the back of his shop where he kept bags of powders, jars of mysterious liquids and many kinds of soaps, herbs and other miscellaneous things. Gabrielle stayed off to the side and the man pulled Xena's leg swiftly and she screamed violently. Gabrielle cringed as she heard the crackling sounds of Xena's bones being realigned.

The man shook his head and then grabbed Xena's other leg and twisted it adjusting her leg. Tears escaped Xena's eyes and she moaned in agony. Gabrielle came closer and she saw the fear in Xena's eyes, that was new, she noticed.

"She'll have to stay in splints for awhile until her legs fully heal," the man washed his hands and then grabbed a few small vials, mixing the liquids together into a tall vial. Xena lifted her head and frowned, the pain of readjusting her limbs was far worse than when they were broken. He came to Xena and lifted her head up and put the vial close to her lips.

She pushed the liquid away, "what do you think you're doing?" she spat and he raised an eyebrow.

"To help you ease the pain," after the two shared a mild glare she finally drank the foul liquid and laid her head back on the pillow, closing her eyes, trying not to think about the pain in her legs.

The man attended to his shop once he saw Xena had fallen into a deep sleep. He came back later as the sun was setting. Gabrielle stayed in the back of the shop watching over Xena, waiting to see if she would awake soon. She was beginning to think that with Xena hurt like this that she wouldn't go on any more rampages any time soon, which was good. But with this woman's pride and ego, she'd probably try anyway. Gabrielle wanted to tell Xena that she could be so much better than this. She didn't have to kill innocent people to become powerful, in fact she didn't have to become powerful at all. She had a life back home and a family, yet she chose to follow the path of evil and destruction. Gabrielle couldn't understand why Xena would just throw that all away for the sake of becoming a known figure to rival a powerful Roman or impress the God of War –that she certainly didn't understand.

The elderly man came back to check on the woman he was caring for. He saw that she was still asleep and also saw the small blonde anxiously sitting next to the cot. He pulled out four metal rods and put them on the table at the end of the cot and then grabbed a box. Gabrielle peered at the man and saw he was pulling out nails.

"What are you doing?" she asked curiously.

The man turned with a small grin. "Fixing her legs like you asked me to, young lady." He came to Xena's legs and placed each metal rod on either side of her shin and began gradually hammering the nails into her legs. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she was absolutely horrified at this sort of practice. He caught a glimpse of the scared girl. "She feels nothing, do not worry," he reassured her. He began doing the same thing to Xena's other leg and then frowned. "Her legs...this was not an accident," he wiped his hands off on his apron and set his box on a shelf again.

"Somebody broke her legs," he gathered. Gabrielle stayed silent. She didn't want to reveal who Xena was, in fact she was unheard of in these lands but still, they were sort of on the run from Caesar and his men, so staying quiet seemed like the best option. He became curious and poured himself a glass of hot tea and offered Gabrielle a cup. She thought it'd be rude to refuse and she was rather thirsty, though in this area it was really hot so the scolding tea probably wasn't going to help.

"Her body, her face, her hair, she is not a farmer's girl." He walked over to Xena and lifted her wrist, examining her hands and arm. "Her wrists are strong. She wields a sword." He stared over at the shy blonde and smiled. "Though you are not a warrior, you wear the clothes of one." He sauntered over to a seat to await for Xena to wake up soon. "Why are you with this woman? Her soul speaks danger to me, though innocent."

This man's words were really cutting deep and Gabrielle realized that this man had probably seen a lot in his day and was used to seeing fallen warriors and injuries such as this since he knew exactly what to do. He was right, she wasn't a warrior, she was a lost girl who happened to be Xena's captive, but she didn't want to come out and say such things to this stranger. He sensed that Gabrielle wasn't going to explain herself to him and he smiled, sipping his tea while she remained silent.

Xena's eyes opened an hour later and she lifted herself up and saw her legs were bound in metal rods and nails. Her eyes widened and Gabrielle set down her third cup of tea and walked over to the cot. "Are you feeling better?" the man asked, examining her vitals and legs.

She sighed heavily. "Not really," her eyes traveled to the nails and she wiggled her toes, feeling the pain was subsiding a bit more now that she rested for awhile, not long, but enough. "Those nails are fascinating."

The man smiled nodding his head and Gabrielle continued staring at her intensely. Xena looked up and scoffed. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I was worried..." her words trailed off. She didn't want to appear as if she cared for this woman, but she did care about her well being, not her actions. "Just wanted to make sure you were okay," she sat back down in silence and Xena scooted backward and leaned her back against the wall, careful not to move her healing legs.

The man was cleaning up his workspace and stared back at this raven haired woman. "What is your name?" he asked.

Xena pursed her lips. "Xena," she answered bluntly. The man nodded and smiled. Xena saw the man's lips turn upward and she eyed him carefully.

"In my language, your name means 'to be adored', though I sense you are not adored by many, am I right?" he turned to her and Xena refused to answer. Instead she glared at the elderly man. By her silence he gathered that this woman was in trouble and so was the blonde girl. "No matter, your time will come when the light reveals itself about you, Xena. Your friend has been persistent and has not left your side."

Xena eyed Gabrielle and saw the teen's cheeks blush. She scoffed, chuckling lowly. "She's not my friend."

Suddenly loud crashes were heard in the man's shop out front and Gabrielle stood up, fearing the worst. Did they find us? She felt her heart sink at this notion and then two Roman soldiers burst through the curtain in the backroom and they lay their eyes upon the injured Xena and the blonde.

The man backed away with his hands in the air and grabbed a hot poker from the fire nearby. He burned one of the Roman's faces and another one came at him with a sword. "Xena!" a Roman yelled and Gabrielle stepped in front of the cot fearing that they'd kill her and she didn't want that. He immediately pushed Gabrielle away into the wall and Xena groaned sitting up moving to the edge of the cot she laid upon.

The Roman came at her and she grabbed the sword and head butted the man's helm and she growled, tossing him aside. The Arab man fought off a lot of the Romans pouring into his shop until one finally plunged a sword into his chest. Gabrielle shook her head and came to and saw Xena fighting off a soldier. She frowned and kicked the Roman to the ground. Xena smiled at her and then saw another Roman coming towards her and the man kicked Gabrielle back to the ground. Two other soldiers came in and grabbed Gabrielle forcefully. Xena's eyes widened and she grabbed the Roman in a headlock and twisted his neck, allowing his body to fall to the ground.

Gabrielle kicked and squirmed in the arms of the Romans desperately trying to get free. "Let go of me!" she yelled.

Xena panicked frantically and tried to stand up on her legs but fell back onto the bed in excruciating pain. She watched Gabrielle being taken away by the Roman soldiers and she couldn't help her. She saw the blonde's green eyes stare back at her pleading for help and she wasn't able to. Now that Xena was alone she sighed heavily. She was starting to question if she truly liked Gabrielle or not. She did kidnap her but she felt sorry that because of her, she was probably going to be sold or even killed. This was the first time she felt true guilt. A person was taken while she lived.

Is this what it's like to be a conqueror? She questioned her life in this moment. She heard the horses' hooves galloping far away and left her there, which she thought was strange, but she was sure they'd be back with more men as they thought she wouldn't get far in her condition.

Struggling she grabbed the sword off the floor and hoisted herself up off the bed. She winced as she tried to move her legs, feeling weak she tried to walk putting as much minimal pressure off her legs. She made it out of the shop and it was very dark with many torches lighting the sandy streets. She looked both ways and then collapsed onto her knees, sobbing in pain.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

The Roman soldiers threw Gabrielle on the dirt and she breathed heavily. Caesar took a few steps further and took the bag off of Gabrielle's head and she was grimacing at him and he simply smiled. He knelt down and grabbed her cheeks in between his fingers. "Are you Xena's little concubine?" Gabrielle refused to answer and stared into the Roman's brown piercing eyes. He sighed and stood up. "Very well. I don't need chattering slaves. One of my men told me that you were trying to repair Xena's legs. Now why would you do such a thing?" he laughed and Gabrielle's head lowered.

"My men have gone back for Xena. I know she won't get far with those broken legs of hers," he smirked as he waltzed around Gabrielle. She eyed his every move as her scraped knees dug deeper into the soil. He wagged his finger and then pulled Gabrielle's long hair back and she groaned. Staring into her bright green eyes he grinned deviously. "Xena is a menace and a threat to my empire. I know she won't care what happens to you. She was just using you, just like she used all of my men for her personal gain." He snarled and let go of Gabrielle's hair. She exhaled softly and her eyes grew wider, thinking of Xena and her condition.

She couldn't deny that everything Caesar said wasn't true, but she still felt bad for Xena. She just wanted to be recognized as a powerful woman –something unheard of it in these lands. A woman was never in charge and she was surprised that the Roman soldiers went along with it. Xena was pretty good at ordering people around, she found out that pretty quickly since she'd been traveling her with a couple of months. Now here she was in Caesar's hands and she probably was going to die since she betrayed the Roman and helped one of his captives escape. Deep down she hoped that Xena would survive and get away somehow.

Gabrielle looked up at Caesar and he was whispering with one of his generals, probably about Xena, she gathered. "What are you going to do to her?" she asked. Caesar smiled and walked forward with his hands behind his back.

"You care for this woman?" he chuckled. "How sweet." He tapped his sandal on the ground and hummed. "I plan to finish her. It would have been over with until you came into the picture. You're very annoying," he frowned and Gabrielle's lip turned up into a smug smile.

"She needs to be gotten rid of before she destroys everything I have worked so hard for!" he huffed and turned to his general. "I want her brought back here once you find her." The general nodded and mounted his horse following the other men, who were miles ahead of him already.

Caesar turned back to the annoying blonde teen and he smirked. "As for you..." he bent down and twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. "How do you think you'll fair with Carthaginian pirates?" Gabrielle's eyes widened and his smile grew as he saw fear smoldering in her eyes.

Xena crawled on the ground through the empty streets of this strange village. Everything was so foreign to her and she looked to see a young girl come out of her house carrying a vase of water. She gazed at her for awhile then hid her face behind a sheer veil before retreating back in her home. Xena growled and used her elbows to keep crawling on the sand, scratching her knees and elbows in the process.

She looked up and saw a horse not too far from her. She completely forgot about her legs and crawled even faster. She was sure that Caesar sent more men for her since they took Gabrielle. She thought of that poor girl and what position she put her in. initially she wanted to help Gabrielle but now she was more worried about herself and her desire to live. She thought about what she said to Gabrielle earlier that day when they escaped the beach. She told her that it was fate that she'd die right then and there and Gabrielle disagreed. Xena didn't have much time to think things over but pondering over that, she thought Gabrielle was right –she wasn't destined to die –she was destined to do great things.

If fate decided her death, then it wasn't there, it wasn't the time for her to die and Gabrielle risked her life to save her. Xena growled and continued crawling until she finally reached the horse. She grabbed onto a wooden post and hoisted herself up, wincing in pain. Her legs felt like jelly right now and she was sure that they wouldn't heal correctly if she kept this up. So many people died because of her and her selfishness, yet she had this thought in the back of her mind, that she didn't care. She didn't care if anyone died because of her. She wanted to be a great conqueror. That's all that mattered.

She didn't care about anything or anyone just like she didn't care who's horse she was about to steal. She slowly climbed on top of the horse and set the sword she took from a Roman soldier and placed it in her lap. She clinched onto the horse's mane and tapped his neck signaling him to ride –ride far away.

As she rode off into the desert she halted the horse and looked back. Her ears perked up and she knew the Romans had come for her and were probably in a fit of rage since they couldn't find her. She still felt a bit of guilt linger in her heart for Gabrielle. She figured that she'd be dead by now especially in the hands of that bastard, Caesar. She shook off the thought and continued riding into the dark cold desert, with nothing but the black under dress, her broken limbs and the stolen sword.

Morning approached and Caesar awaited for his men's arrival. He knew they were gone far too long. He saw the men on horseback approaching and he smiled, hoping to see Xena's dead body in their arms, but alas, he saw no body, no Xena, not a thing. He growled and marched forward seeing his tired men.

"Where is she? I told you to find her!" he yelled.

One of the men shook his head in defeat. "We looked for her everywhere. We knocked on every door in the village, sir. She's gone..." he sighed. Gabrielle overheard the conversation and a small smile came to her lips. She knew that Xena would escape but then she frowned sadly thinking of what was about to happen to her. She risked her life to save Xena and she was almost sure that Xena probably wasn't going to come back for her and return the favor.

Caesar nodded curtly. "Fine." He waved his hand and said to his general. "Kill them." He walked on and Gabrielle's mouth gaped. She heard the screeching sound of the blade come out of the general's sheath and the pleas from the Roman soldiers. She heard their cries, begging for forgiveness until there was complete utter silence. They were dead. The death count seemed to rise whenever Xena's name was mentioned, she noticed.

The Roman stepped closer to Gabrielle. "Oh look the ship is here," he smiled. The men picked up Gabrielle by her arms and she groaned, feeling every possible bone in her body aching. She hadn't slept in over a day and was very hungry, but mostly tired. She had gone through an adventure with Xena and she was about to go on another one.

The men escorted her onto the ship and she saw all the men's eyes on her. Not a single woman was on this ship. Each of the pirates wore large colorful turbans and dark kohl lined their almond eyes. Their attire was quite dark though, all dressed in black vests, black harem pants and pointed black shoes. She was a blonde and looked like a treasure to them all. Their skin dark from the exposure of the sun and hands worn from hard labor and progressive aging. Gabrielle steered away from their gazes and Caesar entered the ship raising his hand. All the men folded their arms staring at the Roman.

"A gift I bestow unto you all," he grinned gesturing to the young blonde, who was barely clothed. "She was a captive of Xena's. I know you all don't know this woman. Beware the dark haired beauty with blue eyes. If you find her, kill her and bring her to me for a reward," he grinned and all the men smiled in return, always looking for money to fill their pockets.

The men pushed Gabrielle onto the deck and grunted, then saw all the men staring at her. A couple of them began circling her and she stiffened her body trying to ignore their subtle growls and cat calling. Caesar left the ship and Gabrielle's mouth gaped. This was really happening, she thought.

The leader of the crew jumped off one of the ship's railings and his eyes were a dark green, lined with black kohl. His white turban made him look regal. The remaining cloth from the turban was wrapped around his mouth and he unveiled his face. He was rather young, younger than most men on the ship.

He smiled at Gabrielle. "Welcome. My name is Naseem. I am in charge of this ship," he snickered. He peered around at all his astonished men. He whispered in her ear, "you'll have to excuse my men. They don't normally see a woman with your beauty with them being at sea for so long." Gabrielle gulped just hearing that. She only feared the worst. He touched her hair sensually and his smile lingered. "Your hair is golden like the sun and your skin," his finger slowly grazed her arm and he felt her stiffen. "like milk..." he hissed.

Naseem then grabbed Gabrielle's arm and they went below the deck to a dark room filled with supplies. They went to a separate room and he opened the door gently pushing her in. "I'm sure this will be just fine, right?" Gabrielle saw there were two other girls in this room and they looked around the same age as her. Naseem closed the bared door and smiled. "We will be leaving the coast soon to return to Carthage for supplies. You should make new friends," he nodded. Gabriele stared at him in horror. "What's your name, girl?"

"G-Gabrielle..." she whispered. Naseem nodded his head, not sure if he liked that name. "your new name shall be Jameela. It fits you better," he winked and went back to the deck with his men so they could set sail.

Gabrielle sighed heavily and the two girls stared at her, amazed at her warrior clothing. One of the brunette's stood up, only wearing a short tattered dress. "Are you a warrior woman?" she asked. Gabrielle shook her head, almost afraid to answer. "Why do you wear the clothes of a warrior if you're not one yourself?" she inquired.

"I'm no warrior, just a captive of one," Gabrielle went to the door and wrapped her fingers around the metal bars.

The other brunette, with dark eyes scoffed. "We're all captives. I'm sure your male kidnapper did horrible things to you too, huh?" she asked and Gabrielle frowned, turning around, leaning against the bared door.

"My kidnapper was not a man. It was a warrior woman," she said as a matter of fact.

Both girls began laughing at her and Gabrielle frowned. "I'm serious!"

"There are no warrior women! Only men...silly girl, you'll learn soon enough." The dark eyed girl shook her head at this naive girl.

Gabrielle shook her head and sat down on a barrel of wine. "No, no you don't understand!" she smiled vibrantly. "She's real. Her name is Xena, she is a true warrior and fights better than any man I've seen!"

"You obviously haven't met a lot of men!" one of the girls chuckled. Gabrielle hung her head lowly. She barely had time to cope with what happened in the last twenty four hours and now she was here, kidnapped yet again. She was starting to believe that being Xena's captive was better than being here with these Carthaginian pirates. At least Xena was nice to her and allowed her to write freely and even tell stories to her when she was bored. She even had shown a bit of affection towards her. She was sure these men would do the same, but definitely not nicely, not like Xena.

"Hey Gabrielle, why don't you tell your warrior woman friend to break us out of here then if she's so great?!" both girls chuckled and Gabrielle frowned sadly and got up to move elsewhere away from the negativity. She sat in a dark corner by herself and a single tear escaped her eye, trickling down her cheek. I wonder what Xena is doing?

Xena finally came to a river and she halted the horse and slowly dismounted, wincing as her legs were becoming a nuisance to her. She dipped her face in the water and drank, exhaling a sigh of relief to finally have water to moisten her chapped lips and dry throat. She groaned and then looked at the nails embedded in her legs. She ripped out the metal bars out of her legs and she wailed in agony. She then proceeded to rip out every single nail in her legs and threw them in the sand. Tears escaped her eyes and she somehow felt better all of a sudden. The nails were starting to become annoying and slowed her down.

She took off her black dress and dipped into the shallow water, wetting her hair and face. The horse too joined her and got in the water to cool off from the blazing sun beaming down on her skin. Her shoulders were burned from the rays of the sun. She then thought of Gabrielle again. Deep in her heart she hoped that naive girl wasn't dead or worse, sold into slavery. Caesar could be ruthless and she knew that since she was the target, Gabrielle was the sacrificial lamb. She didn't intend for any of this to happen. She began cursing herself to even get caught up in the idea that she could take down Caesar with turned soldiers. She groaned at her own demise. Here she was alone, without food, without clothes, proper weapons, no men and wallowing in her own guilt.

As much as she cared for Gabrielle's well being she wouldn't dare go back to the coast. She figured Gabrielle wouldn't be there now and there would be no point in going to look for her. Something inside her told her to find Gabrielle, knowing she could have a possibly of being alive. Shaking her head of the thought she continued to bathe in the cooling water. You got what you wanted, Gabrielle –to travel the world.

That young girl had seen so much in her short life and Xena almost felt proud of herself for that. She too was young, only five years older than she was and yet managed to gather an army. A sad smile formed on her lips as she thought of that. I need a new army. And I will get one. A devious smile came to her lips and she finished bathing, putting her black dress back on slowly as she drifted out of the river. She cringed as the pain slowly crept up in her legs again.

This desert was very wide and long but she did eventually get what she wanted. She wanted to travel East and it may not have been how she wanted it. She wanted to make her mark everywhere she went but that would have to wait until she obtained a new gang of men to follow her on her dark path of the sword.

She mounted the horse painfully and lifted the blade into the air. The sun glistened off the shiny blade and she smiled remembering her little brother, Lyceus. He was always so good with swords and while she tried, she was so horrible at it at first. She thought of the time when she begged him to teach her "the ways of the sword". Those were happy and simpler times, she thought and her smiled died as her brothers and mother lingered in her mind for a few moments longer.

Xena clicked her tongue and the horse trotted off and she let the memory of her family die that very moment. She was never to think of them again, Gabrielle included. She needed to focus on herself and that was the most important thing right now.


Cyrene entered the back of the tavern with a tray full of dirty dishes. Lyceus was cleaning some glasses and she sighed setting the tray down. She smiled softly at her young son and Xena had been gone for over a year now, no word at all from her only daughter. She missed her dearly and what was even worse was that she never even said goodbye.

Toris told his mother that he found Xena with a gang of men and they tried to lure her into their army. Xena saw him that night when she was that man, Deimos. He didn't like the looks of him. He was handsome, alluring and obviously very convincing –convincing enough to get his little sister to join his gang of thugs. Toris remembered that night perfectly. Xena told him never to come around her again and that was finished living with the family and playing it safe.

He did put up a fight but cowardly ran from the mob of men attacking him. He didn't want to leave Xena there with those men but it seemed that she made up her mind. When he broke the news to Cyrene she was simply heartbroken. She wanted to go out there and get Xena to bring her home but Toris prevented her from doing so as it was too dangerous. He said that she was lost and was never coming back.

Cyrene mourned the loss of her only daughter. Ever since she left it had been quiet in the tavern and house. Her friends Elissa and Mala had stopped coming to the tavern, refusing to talk to Cyrene and her sons once news spread that Xena had joined an army of men. It was unheard of for a woman to do such things in their village. Women don't fight, they nurture and Xena chose the sword, the only woman that chose that path in Amphipolis. Xena was always different from the other girls but Cyrene obviously didn't know how different. She felt guilty that she didn't pay attention to Xena enough. She thought that she should have just married her off like a good girl, but Xena didn't want that.

Lyceus saw the forlorn look on his mother's face and he smiled sadly. "Still thinking about Xena?" he asked shyly. Cyrene nodded.

Toris entered the kitchen a bit out of breath and both turned to look at him. He looked like he had run a marathon. Cyrene frowned, creasing her brows. "Toris, what's the matter?"

He coughed, "it's Xena!" he managed to say. Cyrene's heart skipped a beat. She hoped that Xena had come back but that sadly was not the case. "She's become a tyrant!" he growled.

Lyceus frowned. "Hey now! That's our sister you're talking about!"

Toris came to his younger brother and firmly grasped his shoulders. "She's not our sister anymore! She's a killer! She murders women and children!" he turned to his mother. "News has spread around Amphipolis already! Xena has been raping and pillaging any village in her path!"

Cyrene shook her head in denial. She couldn't and didn't want to believe what her ears were hearing. "Xena wouldn't kill children. That's not my Xena..." she put a hand to her chest, feeling a pain surge through her body. Her heart ached for her daughter, her lost daughter. It probably would have been better to hear that Xena was dead instead of hearing that she was murderer.

Toris frowned. "Mother I'm sorry but it's true..." he pulled out a cloth from his pocket and handed it to her. Cyrene carefully took the red cloth from her son and unfolded it. The cloth was torn and it looked like it was a piece of a larger fabric. She saw half of Xena's initial on it and there were blood stains on it. "She has flags posted from Gaul reaching to Athens," he admitted softly.

Lyceus grabbed the tattered flag from his mother's hands and sniffed it. All he smelt was death. Growling he went to the fireplace in the tavern with Cyrene and Toris following behind. He threw the ripped flag into the fire. "She's dead to me," his eyes swelled with tears. He always loved Xena. She was the best big sister that he ever had –the only sister he had –and now she turned into a monster.

"I should have never taught her how to use a sword!" Lyceus said, wiping his eyes with the backside of his hand. "It's all my fault!" he yelled, upset at himself he left the tavern to retreat back to their home a few miles away.

Cyrene wanted to reach out to him but it was too late, he had gone already. Toris placed a hand on his mother's shoulder. "Just let him go. He's just upset right now."

"I...I can't believe Xena would do such awful things," she said softly.

He sighed solemnly. "If she would have just married someone then maybe none of this would have happened."

Xena felt her vision blur as she rode deeper into the desert. The sun was beginning to set and she was mentally and physically exhausted. She trotted through a large forest with tall trees, barren of leaves. It looked like something out of a fairytale. Her head began to hang and exhaustion was beginning to take over. The horse halted, feeling tired as well. Xena's eyes rolled in the back of her head and the fell off the horse onto the cold sandy ground.

A hand came to Xena's face and the traveler slapped her cheeks but she did not awaken. He checked her vitals and she was still alive, probably just tired and dehydrated. He scanned her body and noticed she wasn't really in the proper attire for this area. Sighing to himself he then took a good look at her face. She was indeed beautiful, her raven long hair sprawled across the sand. Her high cheekbones, perfectly straight nose, dark long eyelashes and thick lips were only the few qualities he saw.

Smiling he slapped her face again and Xena's eyes fluttered open. He was instantly lost in her ice blue eyes. Xena's eyes wandered around and then her vision became a bit clearer but still was foggy. She noticed a strange man staring down at her. Exhaustion overcoming her body she quickly passed out again.

The man stood up and snapped his fingers at his men following him. "Take her and prepare some food for her when she wakes," he smiled. His men complied and they carefully lifted her up placing her on one of the horses gingerly. He mounted his horse and his smile only grew, wishing to see those blue eyes once more he knew that he couldn't let her escape his grasp.

Chapter Text

AN: evil Xena twist once again ;) and some Gabrielle twists as well! Some awesome historical figures in this chapter. Enjoy and feedback much appreciated!

Chapter 11

A few days later Xena awoke in a tent lying down on a large sum of blankets and pillows. The flap of the tent's entrance opened and she shielded her eyes from the sunlight. An outline of a man was obvious and he stepped inside watching her carefully. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the tent again and she sat up. Completely forgetting that her legs were still broken she winced in pain as she tried to sit up. He sauntered over to her and poured a glass of wine for her.

"Don't trouble yourself," he smiled slyly and handed her the cup of wine. Xena took the wine and sniffed it. "It's not poisoned," he knelt down and sipped from the cup himself to reassure her. "See?" he winked and Xena downed the wine, quenching her thirst.

He sat down next to her and laid down comfortably on the large pillows staring into her sultry blue eyes. He was lost in them just as he had seen them days ago. "You have gorgeous eyes," he said in a low voice. Xena raised a brow and scooted away from him cautiously.

"Who are you?" Xena said and handed him the empty cup. He gladly filled it up again and she slowly sipped on the wine.

This strange man was obviously from the Eastern lands, just where she was headed before Caesar got in the way. The man's green eyes were a bit intoxicating as was his dark thick eyebrows. His long nose and chiseled chin was every woman's dream. She felt a bit embarrassed that she stared for such a long time. She shied away but he did answer her question.

"The better question is..who are you and what gods sent you down from the heavens?" his smooth talking made Xena want to cringe, though she hadn't been talked to like that, not even from Ares. Afraid to admit, she wanted him to continue. She chided herself and cleared her throat.

"I asked you first," she smirked.

He couldn't agree with her more so he reached for the wine bottle. "First some wine," he eyed her curiously, "do you mind if I...drink with you?" his eyes twinkled. Xena felt a bit surprised that he'd ask such a thing.

"It's your wine...your tent," she shrugged. The man smiled pouring himself a glass and drank generously, releasing a sigh of contentment. She grinned slightly at this man.

"Good wine courtesy of the Turks," he winked and drank from his cup. "Forgive me, my name is Sinbad. You're lucky that I am on land right now."

Xena eyed him confusedly. She then took a sip from her cup and tapped the cup with her fingernails. "And why is that? So you could rescue me?" she scoffed.

Sinbad chuckled and touched Xena's arm gingerly. "I belong to the seas. I'm a sailor."

She nodded, now understanding everything. "So you're a pirate," she smirked downing the last bit of her wine.

He shrugged his shoulder, "sailors, pirates, one in the same my lady. You still haven't told me your name," he inquired.

"The name is Xena." He stared at her, lost in her eyes once more. She felt the awkwardness creep up on her. "I...really need to be leaving soon. I have an army to recruit." She attempted to move but that was unlikely. She somehow kept forgetting about her broken limbs.

Sinbad kneeled close to her and stopped her from getting up. "An army? When I found you, you were alone, what is a woman as beautiful as you doing by yourself in these lands?" he winked.

"I don't need to explain myself to you. I can't stay here, I need to go!" she tried to get up and Sinbad waited for her to get up but it was a struggle to just watch her try. He chuckled and she frowned at him narrowing her eyes. "You think something is funny?"

He shook his head and simply did not reply. He stood up and lifted her up immediately and Xena fumbled and fell right into his arms. Their bodies were touching and both stared at one another for a few silent intense moments. Xena shied away from his stare as did he.

"Xena, why don't you come with me? I will be leaving these lands soon to return to the sea. We together?"

Xena shook her head and wanted to march right out of the tent but her limp legs prevented her from doing so only leaving her one option: to stay close to him, holding onto him. "the last time I trusted a man to work with me it didn't end well. I work alone!"

Sinbad shrugged and let go of her and she nearly fell backwards until he grabbed hold of her arms again, swinging her body close to his. "I'm not like those other men, Xena. Come, travel with me. You won't regret it," he leaned in closer and Xena's eyes fluttered as she stared into his bright green eyes, those green eyes. They reminded her of Gabrielle. She wondered where Gabrielle was at this moment or if she was alive. She thought she could forget about the teenager but she couldn't! it was better if she thought her dead than alive, then she wouldn't care anymore.

She breathed heavily. "And...why should I trust you? I don't even know you."

Sinbad brought her body closer to his, his hand on the small of her back pushing her chest into his. "Why don't you get to know me and we'll go from there?" he smiled slyly and she smiled in response.

Gabrielle and the two girls she was on board with on the ship were pushed off the ship. They walked behind Naseem onto land. The land was quite beautiful. Orange sand and buildings to match as well as a blue sea to contrast against the brightly colored city. Her eyes roamed the area as they walked through the streets. She seemed to have forgotten she was still in the attire Xena put her in days ago. She couldn't believe that was just days ago. Regretting meeting Xena came to her mind. She wished she could have just gone on her marry way, but no, she had to follow Xena and now she was here. A frown came to her lips as she thought of Xena. She didn't hate the woman but it was her fault she was here.

Even though she didn't hate her, she couldn't shake her feelings towards her. Her thoughts of Xena were interrupted when she was pushed forward into a building. It was rather large and she followed behind Naseem. The pirate didn't seem so bad after all. He didn't try to touch her or harm her.

They came into a large ornate room filled with exotic rugs and beautiful portraits. Naseem spoke in his native language and the men pushed Gabrielle and the two girls forward. She grunted and nudged her arm away from the men.

"Your majesty. I have a special gift for you. A girl gifted to me by Caesar himself," Naseem bowed his head and presented Gabrielle to the man sitting in his throne. Gabrielle was pushed forward and her eyes grew. Oh no, she thought, is this a harem?

The king nodded looking over Gabrielle. His right hand guard came up to her and opened her mouth to examine her teeth. Gabrielle's eyebrows rose and then he checked her hands and legs. He even sniffed her hair. The guard nodded, "she has not worked a day in her life," he said and stepped back.

The king waved his hand dismissing the other girls. Naseem's men took the other girls out and the guard of the king gave a large pouch of money to Naseem. He bowed his head and looked to Gabrielle before leaving. "You are a treasure indeed, Jameela," he winked. Gabrielle gulped and the king sighed heavily. The king's royal guards took off Gabrielle's shackles and she rubbed her wrists.

"Take her to the baths to get cleaned up." He snapped his fingers and a group of women came to Gabrielle, escorting her down the hall. She could kill Xena for this.

Awhile later Gabrielle was bathed by several women and they even brushed her hair and put her in an orange sheer gown. The same women then lead her down a long hallway. She expected to find herself in the king's bed chambers but instead she saw a silhouette of a naked woman. She was basking in the sunlight and then wrapped herself in a robe and turned to see a very shocked blonde staring at her.

The woman snapped her fingers and the servants bowed their heads dispersing from the room now with Gabrielle and her alone finally. She took the pin out of her bun and her long raven curly locks tumbled down her back. In some ways she reminded Gabrielle of Xena. She was somewhat tall, thin and had an olive complexion as well as beautiful dark blue eyes.

The woman laid down on a sofa exposing her soft breasts and Gabrielle turned away. She snickered, "don't be shy, girl." She traced her fingers alongside her hip and Gabrielle remained still. "My father bought you to be my hand maiden."

Gabrielle's mouth gaped. "hand maiden? I don't know anything about...well, I don't do that...oh my gods," she buried her face in her hands. Now she wanted to see Xena so she could stab her right then and there.

She giggled and stood up, placing her hands on Gabrielle. "You don't know who I am do you?" Gabrielle looked up at the woman and shook her head. She sighed, "slaves, I swear." She waved her hand dismissively. Gabrielle frowned and immediately became enraged.

"I'm not a slave! This is a giant disaster! This is all Xena's fault!" she growled.

The royal woman's eyes widened. "Not a slave? What are you then and who is Xena?" she inquired.

Gabrielle folded her arms, "a stupid girl with stupid dreams," she grumbled. The woman then grabbed her comb and began combing through her curly locks. "Xena is a warrior woman. If you ask me, she is a murderer and a bit of a slut," she laughed thinking of herself using such language. The woman's eyes widened and she set the comb down.

"A slut?" the woman nodded her head. "I never heard of any warrior women let alone warrior women sluts," she chuckled. She stood up and held out her hand to greet her new hand maiden properly. "My name is Dido, Princess Dido to be exact."

Gabrielle felt suddenly embarrassed. She was conversing with a princess and then it donned on her. She was in Carthage. She heard of stories about Princess Dido but never thought she'd get to meet her. She bowed her head and Dido lifted Gabrielle's chin. "You're a sweet girl, I can see that. You weren't a slave, so what do you do?"

"I...tell stories," she admitted shyly.

Dido sat down simply excited and her robe slipped a bit. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she cleared her throat trying to look away. Royalty and warrior women were obviously not shy about their bodies that's for sure. First Xena, now this. "I love stories!" she grabbed the comb and handed it to Gabrielle to brush her hair. Gabrielle sighed and took the comb. At least this was better than being with Xena or being on that ship, she told herself and who knows she might like here.

"Tell me a" Dido peered up at the blonde girl. "What did you say your name was?"

Gabrielle smiled, "I didn't, name is Gabrielle."

Dido tapped her chin, "Gabrielle, what a beautiful name. It means 'strength'," she grinned. Gabrielle had never thought her name meant anything special until now. She rather liked the meaning of her name now more than ever. This princess wasn't so bad, at least she was nice. "What stories do you know?"

"I know lots of stories," Gabrielle combed the princess's hair and Dido smiled eagerly.

"I'd like to hear about this Xena woman. Tell me some of your stories about her."

Gabrielle frowned but since the woman asked, she wasn't going to deny the request. So she began telling the princess about Xena and the first time they met back at the bacchanalia.

Xena lifted herself off of Sinbad beneath her. She breathed heavily with a large smile on her lips. Her wild dark hair shielded much of her face and she rolled off his body letting out an exasperated sigh of content. He put his hand behind his head and wrapped the other around Xena's shoulders as they laid together in bed. She had been at sea with him for the last few months and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and so did he, apparently.

She was skeptical at first but he proved to be a good man, at least so far. They worked well together: with her fighting skills and his navigation skills they were unstoppable. They stopped at every port along the Mediterranean, looting every city they could and escaping just in time before they were caught. The thought of being caught or almost being caught was so invigorating to them both. Xena enjoyed the passion between them both as did he.

They were on the coast of Rome now and Sinbad wanted to stop here and loot Rome. Xena frowned as he spoke of his plans. She immediately got out of bed and limped over to grab some wine. She stood completely unclothed and his eyes roamed her body, still enticed by her beauty even months after they met.

"We can't go to Rome. Pick any other place but that one!" Xena downed her wine and poured another glass and one for him as well. She crawled back onto the bed and laid down close to him, kissing his neck softly.

As much as he enjoyed Xena's lips on his flesh he had to stop her. She looked up at him a bit disappointed. "why can't we go to Rome? Do you know how many riches there are?"

Xena groaned and scooted away from him. "Yes I do! I used to live there." His interest perked up and he brought her body closer but she resisted. He kissed her neck sensually and she kept sipping her wine, trying to ignore him. Closing her eyes she licked her lips then pushed him off. "Stop doing that! We have enough money and jewels to last us for years! And you want Rome?" she laughed.

Sinbad raised his thick brow. " dear. You never told me you lived in Rome. What exactly did you do there? Raise an army?" he scoffed sipping his wine.

"Yes," she answered curtly. He coughed and she smirked at him. "I can't go back there. Caesar wants my head."

He sat up as he stared at her bare back. He traced his fingertips on her shoulders and felt her shiver at his touch. "Then why don't we go in and kill the Roman?" he teased and kissed her shoulder. Xena turned around and pushed him back on the bed, spilling wine all over his body.

"You're asking the impossible, Sinbad," she laid on top of him and dipped her finger in her wine and traced his lips with her wine stained finger. "Impossible..." she hissed. He then grabbed her and flipped her over now she was underneath him. Her eyes widened and she dropped her wine glass on the ship's floor below the bed. She grinned and kissed his lips softly. "that's not going to work this time!"

Sinbad wagged his finger. "you're a tough woman, Xena. I've shown you the world and you're afraid to go back to Rome because of a silly Roman?"

Xena frowned and pushed him off of her body wrapping herself in the sheets. "I'm not afraid of anything."

Sinbad inched closer to her as she stood in front of him. He brought her body close to his and straddled his legs. She rolled her eyes and he kissed her flat stomach through the sheets. "You said you wanted an army. Kill Caesar and Rome is yours. Isn't that what you always wanted?" he kissed her again and Xena sighed heavily. "Just go in like a fox in a hen house and take what you desire," he eyed her and she smiled mischievously.

"And I suppose you want something in return?" she ruffled his thick dark hair and he smiled up at her, bringing her close to him. He stood up and picked her up by the waist and she grinned, almost feeling like a teenager again.

"I just want to see you succeed!" he kissed her forehead and Xena's cheeks blushed. She nodded her head, finally agreeing to what he said. She was going to kill Caesar and take everything in Rome for herself.

Gabrielle had been with Princess Dido for the last four months and while she missed home, she liked living here as well. She folded all of the princess's clothes and then organized all of her makeup brushes for her. In the middle of her chores she heard the doors swing wide open and a very angry Dido enter the room. She threw down a vase and Gabrielle backed away.

"What's going on?" Gabrielle innocently asked.

Dido growled, "I just received word that a band of thieves is going to attack Rome!" she ripped the crown off her head and threw it on her vanity set. Gabrielle frowned and folded her arms. She didn't like hearing that word 'Rome'. It only reminded her of Xena and Caesar –the two people she hated most right now.

"Caesar is Carthage's best ally! And now this happens!" she huffed and plopped down on her bed. "Gabrielle this is simply awful!"

Gabrielle sat down next to Dido and pat her hand gently. "Do you know who the thieves are?"

Dido threw her hands in the air in frustration and began pacing around her bedroom. "It's that bastard, Sinbad, but this time," she wagged her finger, " he has a woman with him. My father's scouts told me so!"

Gabrielle's ears perked up. Women don't travel with sailors, especially sailors like Sinbad. She had heard of him before. He may be smooth with words but he was conniving and seductive. Only few people were susceptible to those kinds of men.

"It's Xena," she stated and Dido paused in her pacing staring at the blonde.

"Xena? That woman you hate so much? How do you know?"

Gabrielle grinned tightly, "trust me it's her. I know her well enough," a finger came to her lips reminiscing that kiss that Xena gave her. Shaking her head of those thoughts she came back to the situation at hand. She then began chuckling humbly. "She really wants Rome. She'll do anything to kill Caesar especially since he broke her legs."

Dido gasped. "That was her? By the gods, I thought she died."

"No I saved her..." Gabrielle mumbled and Dido frowned at this, folding her arms.

"you saved her? Why did you save her if you hate her so much?"

Gabrielle shrugged, "I thought I could change her...or something. I don't know! I was stupid," she pouted in her own self destruction.

Dido nodded now deciding on what should be done next. "then it's settled. We go and find Xena and kill her."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and her mouth gaped. Did she really want Xena dead? Perhaps she wanted her to live in a world of misery instead. Death was too easy for that woman.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Xena stood on the deck of the ship surveying the open waters. The land of Caesar was so close yet so far at the same time. She wanted to kill Caesar especially everything he did to her. Even after four months of escaping from his grasp, thanks to Gabrielle, her legs were still not healed and she relied far too much on her walking cane. She couldn't keep living like this, but she wanted him dead, even if she had to die herself. She desired an army, desired to rule the world, the entire Mediterranean, but it would be impossible if Caesar was still in the way.

So young, so naive, yet the will of the sword spoke to her more than ever. Ares had not come to see her in months, though she no longer cared for him and his sexual antics. Sinbad was a great partner, he was smart, cunning and not to mention very handsome. And a plus, he was no god, he was a mortal like she was. The longer Xena stared at the sea the more she thought of everything she had accomplished since she left home. Leaving home was the best thing she had ever done. If she had stayed she would be married and possibly a mother by now. She didn't desire that life and thought her wits and skills would be wasted if she stayed. She began to question if her family missed her, she tried not to think of them often.

Her eyes trailed behind her and she saw Sinbad speaking to one of his men in his native language. Xena didn't understand much of what he said half the time when he spoke to his men, but she could only guess they were discussing battle plans. Her eyebrows furrowed and she sighed, thinking of her brothers and mother. She was sure her mother was worried for her and a smile came to her lips as she thought of Toris and Lyceus. She missed them more than anything, especially Lyceus. He was the best little brother a sister could ask for.

A hand came to her shoulder and she felt Sinbad's arm wrap around her waist and she grinned. She traced her fingers along his cheek. "What were you two talking about?" she inquired.

He shrugged nonchalantly and kissed her cheek. "Nothing important. Just checking inventory of our weapons." Xena nodded and he stared out at the sea alongside her. "what did Caesar do to you anyway and how did you get there?" he chuckled, "I can't imagine you with a Roman."

Xena frowned and grabbed his hand, clenching it tightly. "But I was," she scowled. "I was very close to Caesar, very close," she smirked and peered up at Sinbad's jealous green eyes. "oh," she cupped his cheek and kissed his hand gingerly. "But with you, it's different. We're better than Romans." She grinned and his eyebrows lifted as he stared into her blue eyes. Her eyes twinkled the longer he stared and her smile was definitely infectious.

"after you kill the Roman, will you be staying with me and my crew?" he asked curiously.

Xena sighed heavily and looked out over the railing once more. "We will see what happens eh?" she winked. "I don't make any promises that I cannot keep...and I always...keep my promises," she smiled deviously and turned her back from Sinbad.

Princess Dido sat on her bed outlining a map for her father's army. Truthfully, her father was just too weak to carry out a battle against some punk thieves. He was dying and with Dido there, she was destined to be queen soon, and with that responsibility, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Gabrielle carried a tray of oils for Dido's hair and placed it on her bed. She bit her bottom lip as she stared at the princess hastily marking the map with her inked quill. She saw a giant circle in the middle of the ocean and she only guessed that was Sinbad's ship. She knew Xena was with him, it would only be logical and Caesar had no idea. She didn't care for the Roman, but she could only guess that Xena wanted him dead. That was the only logical reason why Xena would return to Rome. She was a wanted woman there. Caesar wanted her dead, which Gabrielle couldn't blame him. He was kind enough not to kill her, that was the only reason she had a bit of mercy for the Roman.

She sat down close to Dido and sighed loudly. "Are you sure you want to have your father's army go up against a couple of thieves?" she smiled graciously.

Dido smiled and touched Gabrielle's cheek warmly. "Gabrielle, Rome is an ally to Carthage as I told you. Sinbad is a very good thief and a murderer. I can't have him pillaging Rome for the sake of some gold trinkets, can I?" Gabrielle couldn't disagree with that. Dido sighed and put the map aside, grabbing a bottle of oil. "Besides, you said Xena is with him. Don't you want her dead for what she did to you?"

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "well, she didn't hurt me. She was kind of nice to me when I was with her."

Dido laughed sarcastically, "Gabrielle...she kidnapped you! And made you her personal scribe for her raping and pillaging of villages. How can you defend her?" she frowned as she doused her long locks with the scented oil.

"you're right, but I don't think she deserves to die." Gabrielle continued defending this woman to Dido and the princess became enraged.

"You saved her and she didn't even come back for you! She doesn't care about you, Gabrielle. She was just using you," she groaned. "I care for you Gabrielle. You're not just a regular hand maiden to me, you're my friend. Xena is not your friend," she shook her head and Gabrielle's eyes lowered.

Gabrielle stood up and carried the tray of oils to the princess's vanity. She stared at herself in the mirror and thought of what she could have been. She left home to see the world but instead ended up in the hands of Xena. At first she liked Xena, she liked her a lot, but now she was here, technically a slave to a princess. Even though the princess was kind to her, she was seen as someone of lower class. Xena was off with a sailor, she was sure of it. she traveled with Xena for a short time but it didn't feel like a short time. She felt like she had been with her for years in those few months. She cursed to herself for allowing such a mess of a life to be created. She regretted leaving home and regretted following Xena, even if she didn't have much of a choice in the matter.

Xena was just a lost and confused girl. She wasn't a woman, she was a girl, only a few years older than her. She wanted so much but was not willing to sacrifice everything for it. Gabrielle shook her head, trying to get Xena out of her mind. Dido wanted Xena to be gone, but Gabrielle didn't, she just wanted her to suffer a little bit. Deep down she could see that Xena was a good person albeit misguided. Gabrielle was misguided as well, but in a different way. Being with the princess was eye opening even if she had been here the same amount of time she was with Xena. Everything was so nice here, so peaceful and she didn't have to worry about being killed here, not like when she was with Xena.

Gabrielle turned around to see Dido finishing oiling her hair. "Princess," she announced and Dido smiled at her. She grinned as well, "do you think it's stupid of me to care about Xena?"

Dido sighed and stood up coming to Gabrielle's side. She placed her hand on her shoulder warmly. "Gabrielle, you are young. I understand why you care for Xena. You said she was nice to you, but it was all a facade. People like her are not nice and they will never change."

"But what if they can change? What if Xena can change?" she stared up at the tall princess. Dido sighed and cupped Gabrielle's cheek.

"Gabrielle I like you, more than I'd like to admit," she smirked and Gabrielle lowered her gaze. "But you can't keep playing these 'what if' games. Xena isn't here is she? She's off with a sailor and she forgot about you. Just forget her, she's worthless," she leaned down and kissed Gabrielle's cheek. Gabrielle touched her cheek and she blushed at the princess's warm affection towards her.

She then thought of when Xena kissed her and that was definitely different. She wasn't sure if Xena did that because she liked her or because she was trying to manipulate her.

"Gabrielle!" Dido called out and the blonde shook her head snapping her out of her daze. "Come sit with me. I want you tell me a story before we leave tonight," she smiled. Gabrielle grinned and sat on the princess's bed as instructed.

The next day Xena awoke to a pounding headache. She looked to the empty bottle of wine next to the bed and groaned. She swung her arm over hoping to find her lover next to her but the bed was empty. She scowled and grabbed her black silk robe, wrapping it around her body she limped over to get her cane. Making her way up the stairs she saw Sinbad scouting the land ahead. They were hiding behind a large mass of rocks away from prying eyes.

He looked down and saw Xena. Smiling he immediately jumped down and came to her side. "You're awake!" he kissed her forcefully catching her off guard. Her eyes widened and he rubbed her arms, warming her. "I didn't want to wake you. We're going to go in by nightfall."

Xena nodded as she pursed her lips. "Like assassins, very clever of you," she kissed his lips and he raised a brow at her. "There is something you must know about Caesar and his pathetic army." She limped over to the railing embracing the sea breeze wisp through her hair. "He has guards posted at every checkpoint around the city. You will have to get through at least three of them before reaching his fortress." She pointed to the far left, "there", then to the northern pass, "there," she snapped her head to the right corner of the land, "and there."

The sailor wrapped his arms around her hugging her tightly from behind. His eyes sparkled, thinking of everything that lied in the Roman's fortress for his –their taking. "You're remarkable, Xena. What would I do without you?" he kissed her head and she smiled knowingly.

"Oh," she grabbed hold of his hand, "I don't left me in bed all by myself. How could you do that?" she pouted. He grinned at her and picked her up taking her back to his bedroom.

Gabrielle accompanied Princess Dido on the journey to Rome. It would only take them almost an entire to arrive and the princess insisted that she would not be without her maiden. Dido was in her private chambers putting on her armor she acquired back in Carthage. Gabrielle tied the woman's gauntlets and stared up at the woman. She definitely was not like Xena, she was kind and a warrior woman as well, but only for good, not like Xena. Dido already had power, something Xena didn't have, at least not yet.

"Remember to fasten my corset as tight as possible, Gabrielle," Dido instructed. The blonde nodded and pulled the corset tightly and Dido winced.

"Sorry," Gabrielle smiled and laced the bottom of the corset accordingly. "How will you attack Sinbad's ship?"

Dido grinned, "he is a very clever man. I can only guess that he will strike during the night. I want to make sure we get there before he does that."

"Are you going to try and talk to him?" Gabrielle innocently asked.

Dido giggled, "you can't negotiate with people like Sinbad. Whenever he wants something he goes full force. I plan to send a little warning, a bit of fire," she grinned mischievously.

"And Xena?" Gabrielle asked quietly barely above a whisper. Dido turned to her and cupped her cheeks gently. The princess had a pleading look in her eyes.

"Gabrielle, I want you to forget about her. She'll be gone by tonight don't worry. I won't have her ruining any more people's lives." She kissed her hand and left her room to alert her general up top. Gabrielle slumped down in a chair and sighed heavily.

Somehow she wanted to see Xena for one last time just to show her that was indeed alive and well, but the other part of her wanted to stab her or at least break her legs again. It was all her fault that she was in Carthage, but Dido had a point. She wanted Xena to stop killing others and stop trying to rise to the top through violence. That wasn't likely to happen unless she was dead.

She glanced out the window of the ship and saw the sun setting. It wouldn't be long now. Sighing she stood up to go to Dido's side until she was ready to attack Sinbad's ship.

Xena rolled off of Sinbad in the bed and breathed heavily. He grinned naughtily at her and she kissed his hand gently. She looked to the window and saw it was dark now. They had been in bed far too long, but now was her chance to claim what was hers. Just a little distraction was necessary and it was too easy to seduce the sailor.

Her hand reached under the bed and she pulled out a full wine bottle. He stared up at the ceiling as her hand continued to roam is body distracting him. Suddenly letting out a cry she smashed the wine bottle over Sinbad's head and wine spilled all over him, her and the silk sheets. His head lolled to the side and she wiped some wine off his lips and licked her finger.

"sorry but I need to do this alone," she stood up and grabbed her armor quickly dressing herself.

She limped up the stairs and saw Sinbad's entire crew getting ready to leave. All the men turned to the woman all dressed in black and silver armor. She smiled all the men and bowed her head generously. "Sinbad instructed that I lead you all to Caesar's palace."

Sinbad's right hand man rubbed his chin pensively as he watched the snake of a woman command Sinbad's men. He eyed her carefully and Xena caught him staring at her and she grinned at him.

"It will be easier since I know the area," Xena announced loudly and all the men didn't question that. They had grown rather fond of Xena for the last few months. She was a very smart woman and Sinbad's women he usually had were worthless and not worth a second glance, but Xena was different. Beautiful and smart, they liked her instantly.

Once they left the ship they snuck in the darkness to their first checkpoint. Xena knelt down wincing as her knee popped. "There will be at least five guards beyond those trees there," she nudged her head and pushed two men ahead. "Go!" she whispered. Following behind them she slinked behind a guard and snapped his neck. His body fell to the ground and she smiled continuing forward.

Reaching the second checkpoint Xena held her arm out so the other men couldn't pass her. She crept behind a large tree and whispered, "these guards are always on the lookout. I had trouble with them when I worked for Caesar," her lip quivered as she said this. The men nodded their heads and drew their scimitars and began crawling on the ground going unnoticed by the guards, sneaking behind them. Once Sinbad's men took care of the guards Xena smiled and limped ahead pointing to the next checkpoint on the far left of the outskirts of Rome. Her eyes narrowed as she was so close to Caesar. She felt her heart beating faster the closer she became. She wanted him dead and didn't need another man tagging along with her.

Princess Dido approached the stand alone ship and drew her bow. She released a flaming arrow on the sailor's ship. Sinbad's right hand man gasped and two men left on board grabbed water throwing it at the flaming sail. Gabrielle glanced over at the ship just a few feet away from them. She saw the two men struggling to put out the fire. She was almost tempted to smile, though that didn't stop the princess.

Hashim, Sinbad's right hand man, growled and went below to Sinbad's room to see what exactly was going on. He entered the room and found Sinbad knocked out and a broken wine bottle all over the bed. He groaned and stepped to the side of the bed to begin shaking his friend, slapping his friend.

"Wake up you bastard!" he slapped Sinbad again and the sailor awoke and began coughing. His eyes wandered the room and saw Xena was gone and it was nightfall already.

Sinbad sat up, unclothed he wrapped the sheet around his body. "What is going on?!" he angrily stood up and looked for his scimitar, though it was gone and so was his other weapons. "Xena..." his fists balled up.

Hashim rubbed his forehead and sighed heavily. He pushed Sinbad throwing his hands in the air in frustration. "I told you that you can't trust that snake, Xena!" he shook his head. "I knew something was up with her when you brought her aboard! Sinbad, she needs to go," he pulled out his dagger and Sinbad growled snatching the dagger. He put on his pants and ran to the deck. What he saw was a deserted ship and two men putting out a fire.

His head snapped over to the left and saw a large Carthaginian ship facing his. His eyes widened when he saw Princess Dido. He had many encounters with the princess. He was quite fond of her, she knew this of course.

Sinbad approached the railing and smiled enticingly. "Dido! What gives you the honor of trying to set my ship to flames?"

Princess Dido grinned tapping her fingers on the railing of her ship. "I know you're trying to rob Rome, Sinbad."

Sinbad tisked and began chuckling softly. "If I were trying to rob Rome then why am I on my ship, princess?" he winked.

Dido frowned and looked around. There were no other men on his ship other than the three men standing behind him. Very peculiar, she noted. "I heard you had a lady friend aboard."

The sailor's smile turned upside down. "Oh you mean Xena? Yes well, you see princess, it seems she has gone on the raid without me. As you can see, she's not here, nobody is!" he snarled.

Gabrielle tapped Dido's shoulder and she turned to face her. "Xena has gone to raid Rome alone. She knows everything about Rome and Caesar's fortress. She knows all the secret passage ways. That's gotta be why Sinbad is alone. She betrayed him."

Dido hummed and tapped her chin. "It seems betrayal is Xena's middle name," she turned to face the sailor again. "Sinbad!" he looked over at her interrupting his conversation with Hashim. "I will allow you to leave Rome's port if you promise never to come back here."

Sinbad folded his arms. "How can I trust that you'll keep your word? Sailors aren't known to keep theirs," he smiled deviously.

The princess sighed, "Xena is the one I want. Leave now and I won't prosecute you."

The sailor scoffed, "you can have her! I'll leave princess, promise," he held up his hand and the princess nodded her head, sure that he would leave, hopefully following her advice.

Dido turned to her men, "I want as many men on land. Find Xena and bring her to me!" the men nodded and steered the ship closer to the coast as much as possible before stepping on land. She went to her room and Gabrielle followed her.

Gabrielle looked at the princess as she began grabbing her weapons, stocking up before she went to land to find Xena. " won't find Xena. She's probably already in the fortress," she shook her head.

Dido frowned and came inches away from Gabrielle. "Don't worry I will find her. She will be prosecuted for her crimes, I'll make sure of it," she smiled and kissed Gabrielle's forehead before leaving her room.

Xena sneaked around the fortress walls with Sinbad's men in tow. She peered behind the wall and saw a slew of guards around the entrance. She smiled and waved her hand at the men. "Go and create a diversion. I will sneak into Caesar's room." The men nodded and immediately ran into the darkness.

The Roman guards heard rustling in the dark and steadied themselves. They began walking towards the upper end of the entrance. "Did you hear that?" one asked the other.

A loud cry was heard and more than twenty of Sinbad's crew came charging at the gates. Xena smiled and limped alongside the wall easily passing the guards as they were rather busy fighting the men. She snuck into the dark Roman abode and clung to the walls making sure her shadow was not seen. This would be a lot easier if her legs were healed, she grumbled as she limped further down the hall.

At the end of the corridor she saw Caesar's bedroom doors. Smiling she walked over and opened the door quietly. Caesar was sound asleep in his bed, the perfect moment to take the kill. She drew the scimitar and crept up to his bed. As she neared him she was so close to killing him, to get rid of the bastard that did this to her. She wanted him crucified just to see him suffer too.

She stood at the side of the bed and stared down at the Roman. Her eyes growing with fury the more she stared. She lifted her sword in the air and –

"Xena!" Princess Dido entered the room and Caesar awoke to see a very angry Xena staring down at him with a large sword in her hand. He gasped and Dido's men scurried in the room. Xena panicked and dropped her cane desperately running to the other side of the room.

Approaching the window she looked down and her eyes grew. It was a long way down and there was no way she could survive that fall without breaking her legs once again. Turning around she saw the woman's men running after her. Looking around she saw a half filled wine glass. Smirking she drank the wine and grabbed the torch on the wall. She spewed fire at the men approaching her and they wailed in agony as their bodies were set aflame.

Dido's eyes widened as she saw her men rolling on the ground crying out for help as the flames engulfed their flesh. Xena grabbed hold of the curtains and stared back at the princess. She saluted at her and exited the window clinging to the curtain. Dido ran to the window and saw Xena trying to run away. She grunted and slammed her fist on the window sill.

Caesar wrapped the sheet around his body. "What is going on here? Who are you and why are you in my room?!" he demanded.

Dido turned around revealing herself and Caesar smiled. "Oh Princess Dido...what brings you to Rome?"

"Xena was plotting to kill you. I don't at least get a thank you?" she curtly smiled at him.

The Roman shrugged, "well I thank you for saving my life. Xena is quite a witch, isn't she?"

"Indeed she is..." Dido furrowed her eyebrows and head to the exit of the Roman's room. "I suggest you post better guards, she won't get far."

Xena breathed heavily and leaned on a tree as she escaped the fortress. She ran to the coast and saw Sinbad's ship had already sailed without her. She cursed to herself and saw that woman's ship docked at the port. She heard people coming from behind and so she kept going as fast as she could manage, using the scimitar as support.

A figure was seen in the dark standing by the ship and they locked eyes. Xena's mouth gaped as she saw Gabrielle standing there in the dark wearing a very nice red silk gown and her hair fixed very nicely. Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw Xena staring back at her. She didn't know how to feel as she saw the woman trying to desperately escape from Dido and her men. She almost wanted to shout out to say Xena was here, but she couldn't. She was mute.

Much to Xena's disappointment, Gabrielle was alive and well it appeared. She was with this woman and certainly not dead. The thought of her being dead was more believable and she was able to cope with that, but knowing she was alive, was kind of reassuring and yet it angered her. She wanted Gabrielle dead so she wouldn't have to think about her anymore. She left her in the hands of Caesar and she lived while she was destined to die, though because of Gabrielle, she lived. She owed her but she wanted to live and stay away from the woman chasing her.

Dido and her men rounded the corner and were marching in the dark with torches. Xena gasped and took off in the darkness as fast as she could. Gabrielle ran forward and saw Xena escape death once again. She frowned sadly as she saw her limp away. She was gone once again. She left her again.

Dido approached the ship and saw Gabrielle with a forlorn look on her face. "Gabrielle, did you see Xena come through here?"

The blonde opened her mouth but nothing came out. "Gabrielle?" she pressed onward.

", I didn't see her," she openly lied. Dido examined her friend and frowned looking to the darkness.

"Are you sure? I saw her come through this area." The princess was definitely skeptical.

Gabrielle smiled, "if I saw her, I'd tell you, princess." Dido raised an eyebrow, but did not question her further, believing her for now. Dido went to her ship to round up her men and prepare to scout the rest of the area until Xena was found. Gabrielle stayed in that spot longer than needed. She couldn't help herself, but she saw Xena and even after these past few months, she was running from someone, running from herself. She began questioning herself. She had lied to the princess, to a friend and allowed Xena to escape. She didn't want Xena dead even if she was kidnapped by her and saw horrible things that woman was capable of. Gabrielle had hope that Xena would change, she had to, otherwise she'd feel terrible for lying to Dido.

She went back to the ship to attend to the princess. Her head turned back at the darkness and wondered how far Xena would get now. Sinbad was gone and she had nobody, she was alone. Always alone, she thought. Even when she was in a sea of people, Xena was truly alone.

Hours later Xena came to the other side of the sea and fell to the ground, out of breath from running, or rather a lame attempt to run. Her mind raced when she saw Gabrielle. She couldn't believe that she was alive or that she was with that woman, that woman who tried to kill her. She was so close to killing Caesar and yet she failed again.

There was something odd though, Xena thought as she laid in the grass staring up at the starry sky. She saved me once again, why? Gabrielle had the perfect opportunity to announce her presence, but instead she remained quiet as a mouse. A smile came to Xena's lips as she thought of Gabrielle. "Little mouse," she mused. That's what she was to Xena, a little mouse, meek and small, young and naive.

She saw the sun beginning to rise and decided she needed to get on the move again. It was a bad idea to come back to Rome and a bad idea to follow Sinbad and his antics at sea. Sure it was fun for awhile, but she still did not have an army, an army she desired. She wanted more and she was going to find here and that certainly was not going to be in Rome for that matter.

To go East, that's what she planned all along. She should have stuck to the plan. Walking along the beach she sighed as her legs were going numb from all the walking. She was growing tired, tired of running from people.

AN: and where is Xena heading to now? Gabrielle's decision not to give Xena's position away shows her compassion for Xena in an odd way ;)

Chapter Text

AN: sorry for the absence. I had a lot of stuff to do this week but I am finally updating this. It took me at least three days to write this in between everything I had going on. Thanks for reading guys! Less focus on Gabrielle and Dido in this for specific reasons you'll see...enjoy ;)

Chapter 13

After searching along Greece's coast Xena was able to barter for a horse and was able to get around much faster and more efficiently. As she trotted along the port of Athens she was definitely recognized in the area, but this time she was alone, still alone, always alone. She smiled at everyone as she rode through Athens. As she trotted along the port she spotted a very familiar ship, it was Sinbad's ship at the port. Smirking, she wanted to see the sailor once more.

Sinbad was discussing quietly with Hashim next to his ship until he saw Xena approaching them on a giant black stallion. He shook his head smiling at her. He couldn't believe how resilient this woman was. She couldn't be gotten rid of. It had been a week or so since their failed Rome escapade and as far as he knew, Caesar was still alive and he was surprised that Dido hadn't got a hold of her in the process. After he left Rome he figured that he'd never see the snake again, but no, she was there, staring at him with those dangerous blue eyes of hers.

Hashim folded his arms displeased at the sight of Xena. He never liked her and couldn't believe that his dear friend had that goofy smile on his face even after what she did to him. Xena trotted closer to the port and held her hand out towards the sailor. Sinbad stepped forward and grabbed her hand, kissing it gingerly. Xena winked and Hashim did a noticeable eye roll in the background. Xena caught sight of the dependable right hand man and cleared her throat. Hashim curtly nodded her way.

"Hashim, nice to see you still trailing behind Sinbad," she hissed. Hashim frowned and Sinbad began laughing, irritating his friend. Hashim was not keen on the sailor laughing at Xena's snide remark and glared at him.

Sinbad's laughter died down and he folded his arms. "Xena what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in prison or something?" he teased.

Xena shrugged, "I didn't commit a crime, did I?" Sinbad couldn't disagree with that. He stepped closer to her and lifted her off the horse gently. He touched her cheek with the backside of his hand. Hashim placed a hand on his shoulder, distracting him from Xena's eyes. Xena glared at the man and he smirked.

"Sinbad, we need to leave soon to go to the Steppes, remember? We're just here for supplies." Sinbad nodded in agreement with his friend.

Xena's eyes immediately lit up. They were going East just as she had planned. She wondered if she could tag along with Sinbad and his crew just until she reached East that is. "You're going to East huh?" she smiled deviously and Sinbad's eyebrow lifted as he saw that look in her eyes.

"Yes I am. Business to discuss of course. Treasure to be had in those lands." Xena smiled and inched her way closer to his lips. He leaned down and then touched her lips with his fingers. "How can I trust you? I mean, you stole my men and raided Rome, Xena."

She laughed humbly, "well I thought it would be best if I scouted the area. I knew Rome better than you, right?" she bit her bottom lip and he wagged his finger in her face.

"But we were supposed to do things together and you betrayed my trust."

Xena wrapped her arms around his neck and stared into his green eyes. "How 'bout I make it up to you? You let me come with you to the Steppes and I promise I'll guide your men as a leader. We can both be the leader?" she raised her eyebrows. Sinbad liked the sound of that and ran his fingers through her hair.

Hashim tapped Sinbad's shoulder and Xena glared in his direction. "Can I speak with you? In private," he pressed further. Sinbad nodded and brushed Xena's cheek. She smirked folding her arms at the two men walking off out of earshot. She hummed and brushed the horse's mane pretending not to care about Hashim's little words.

"You can't trust her. She betrayed you last time! I say we give her to Princess Dido and let her deal with the gorgon," he eyed Xena and she winked at him. He shuddered and Sinbad sighed heavily.

"But those eyes..." Sinbad looked back and Xena smiled at him. "She's irresistible, look at her!" Hashim rolled his eyes and slapped his forehead in distress. Sinbad was brought back from his dreamworld by his friend punching his arm. "What?!"

Hashim growled, "she's a snake, Sinbad! You have all the women in the world and you choose her?! We lost half of our men because of her and we had to pick them up in Sparta! She's bad news, Sinbad."

Sinbad looked over his shoulder and Xena was patiently waiting next to the horse. She waved at him sensually and he smirked at her. "I sense greatness in her, Hashim. If Princess Dido has a bounty on her head, I'll make sure to give Xena what she deserves," he left his friend and waltzed over to Xena.

"so have you two reached a decision?" Xena smiled and Sinbad kissed her hand.

"Oh yes. We leave as soon as we have all the supplies," Xena's grin widened and she kissed him generously. Hashim shook his head and went to board the ship waiting to leave.

Princess Dido threw a vase against the wall as she paced around anxiously. Gabrielle walked in with some tea as she threw the vase inches away from her face. Dido looked to her friend and sighed heavily. "Gabrielle forgive me, I'm just a bit frustrated."

Gabrielle slowly tread in the room and set the tray of tea on the desk and stood with her hands behind her back. They had been at sea for quite some time now. They stopped in Greece to stay at a home that Dido had in Crete to make things easier on everyone. The palace was smaller than the one in Carthage but it was better than being on a ship twenty four seven. "Princess, maybe you should sit down and relax?"

Dido nodded and sat down grabbing a glass of tea. She stared out in the distance as she nursed the cup in her hands. Gabrielle stood swaying back and forth awkwardly in silence. "Caesar has set a bounty on Xena's head for her attempt to assassinate him. He asked me to join forces with him to find her."

Gabrielle chuckled and Dido glared at her, then she cleared her throat. "Xena is very smart. She is probably nowhere near Greece now. Is it really worth spending so much time finding Xena? I mean, I'm sure there are better things to worry about, right?"

Dido smiled and set her tea glass down. "Gabrielle, you are continuing to defend her again. She tried to kill a Roman, a very important one at that! Technically you helped Xena escape and Caesar should have you executed for that. He was very nice to send you to Naseem. He is a very trustworthy merchant of my father's. You got lucky!" she grinned and drank more of her tea. Gabrielle sighed and sat down across from the princess a bit distressed. Dido said she was lucky, but she sure didn't feel lucky. She wanted to be home with her family right about now and yet she was a princess's slave girl, though she felt like royalty, it just wasn't what she initially wanted. Finding Xena wasn't what she wanted, but she found her and spent time with her and for awhile, she thought she could change her, thought she could figure her out, but she couldn't. Xena was too lost and too far gone to be changed, Gabrielle was beginning to understand that now.

"I think Caesar wanted me to have a horrible life with pirates," Gabrielle smirked. "But I got to work for you, so I should be lucky I wasn't sent somewhere else."

Dido smiled and pat Gabrielle's knee gently. "I know Caesar can be tough but he means well. He is a great leader and I have a feeling he will become something of greatness in the future!" Gabrielle nodded, she wasn't going to disagree with the princess. Dido became curious and had a certain look in her eyes and Gabrielle eyed her cautiously. "So Gabrielle, I need your help."

"With what?" Gabrielle frowned, not liking where this was going.

"With Xena. I need to know everything about her, her strategies, her skills," she groaned, "you know, her fire! What makes her tick..." she tapped her chin pensively.

Gabrielle shrugged, "well to be honest, I don't think Xena knows what she's doing. She's young, only a few years older than me! Her desire is to have an army that follows her every whim and I have a feeling she won't stop until she achieves that goal."

Dido got up and went to the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. "She obviously ruined that goal when she took Sinbad's men for her own sneaky agenda and tried to kill Caesar." She folded her arms furrowing her eyebrows in deep thought.

Gabrielle sat by herself as she thought hard and long about Xena. She was trying to remember anything important that Xena mentioned to her while she was with her for those few months. Suddenly she remembered a small detail. "There is one thing." Dido turned, catching her attention immediately. "She said she wanted to go East and find an army there."

"East huh? Isn't that where she was crucified?" Dido smiled and tapped her fingers on the balcony railing. "She is probably making her way over there as we speak. I am losing time spending it here in Crete. We need to go to the Eastern lands of the Persians to seek out Xena."

The blonde scoffed, "she is very cunning. It won't be easy to find her. She'll be hiding. She knows that she is wanted." Dido came up to Gabrielle and kissed her on the lips gingerly and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She released from the embrace and stared up into Dido's blue eyes a bit shocked at their sudden exchange.

"you're the best Gabrielle! You've been a great help and you're a great...friend," Dido smiled and touched her golden locks in between her fingers. She ran to the exit of her room and smiled back at Gabrielle. "I'm going to send a message to Caesar about this information you told me," she winked and ran out to find her scribe. Gabrielle plopped down on a sofa and stared at the ceiling still in awe.

Xena stood in front of the new campsite that Sinbad and Hashim had set up in the Steppes. She smiled as she saw the men standing around the large huts. She always wanted to come to this area as there were many great warriors in these lands and Sinbad's men, or what's left of them, were great pirates but they belonged to the sea, not on the soil. We have a lot of work to do, she thought.

She saw Sinbad talking with a few of his men and she had a mischievous grin on her face. She limped over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, startling him. He turned around and instantly a grin appeared on his lips. "Xena.." he kissed her forehead and she smirked. He saw the pale complexion on her face and he frowned, rubbing his thumb along her cheekbone. "are you feeling alright? You know I worry for you."

A simple shrug of her shoulder was not enough to convince him. "why don't you worry about me in the tent then?" she wriggled her eyebrows and grabbed his hand leading him to their secluded tent. He followed willingly, of course.

Xena laid down on a couple of animal skins completely naked and Sinbad leaned over to see her staring up at the tent's ceiling. He wrapped his arm around her and she smiled, inching closer to him. Her warm sweat glistened in the sun beaming inside the tent and he kissed the top of her head. "So when do we start going through the neighboring villages? I want to lead the raids," she kissed his knuckles and Sinbad raised his brow at her ambition.

"you are really anxious aren't you?" he chuckled. "We can start tomorrow. I trust you."

She nudged her head close to his neck and kissed his collar bone generously. "Hashim doesn't seem to agree with you in that department," she hissed.

He sighed and sat up wrapping his arm around her shoulder. "He thinks you're trouble, which you are. But I like that about you. You're strong, ambitious and of course, beautiful," he smirked. "Don't look at me with those eyes of yours. You know what it does to me," he teased. Xena stood up and wrapped a sheet around her body teasing him as she walked away.

"I think you've had enough for tonight, don't you think so?" she grinned and walked outside the tent as soon as her smile disappeared. She cringed and rubbed her stomach, feeling a bit more queasy than usual after being at sea for a few days. She normally felt fine after a day off the boat but this time, it lingered. She limped over to an open part of the field and leaned over throwing up what was left in her stomach from earlier that day. She breathed heavily and wiped her mouth the backside of her hand.

Hashim frowned as he saw Sinbad's woman in the field by herself and heard her gagging as well as dry heaving. He waltzed over to her and folded his arms. "Feeling a bit under the weather, Xena?" he inquired.

Xena's body tensed and she pursed her lips, facing the Arab man. "Hashim, are you showing some empathy for me?" she smiled and touched his vest sensually. He growled and pushed her hand aside.

"Probably all of those rats you ate. You know the stuff snakes eat?" he chuckled. Xena rolled her eyes and brushed past him until he firmly grabbed her arm pulling her back inches away from his face, staring into her ice blue eyes. "I am watching you Xena. I don't know what you did to bewitch Sinbad, but you got him wrapped around your little finger!" he snarled.

She shook her arm away from his grasp and grinned deviously. "Sinbad seems to trust me yet you don't? are you...jealous?" she hissed.

He bobbed his head disbelieving this woman's arrogance and her little mind games. "I won't fall so easily for your gorgon spell, Xena. Sinbad doesn't love you Xena, he never loves his whores and that's exactly what you are to him, a whore!" Xena growled and marched away from this ridiculous conversation. He chuckled to himself and went back to his tent to drink with some of the men and play a few games, feigning sleep.

Hours later Xena's eyes opened and lifted Sinbad's arm off of her torso. She was careful not to wake him as she slipped away from the tent. She grabbed a dagger from her boot by the entrance and looked for Hashim's tent. Once he found his tent she saw his shadow from the candle light and suddenly it became dark. He was going to sleep soon and this was the time to strike. Smiling she wore only her black pants and a black bandeau bra around her breasts. She slinked in the grass and placed the dagger in between her teeth as she inched closer to Hashim's tent.

She scoped out the area making sure nobody was looking and she slipped into Hashim's tent as quiet as a mouse. Hashim was already passed out as he had too much to drink. Xena's eyes widened and she hopped on top of him startling him awake. She placed her hand over his mouth and held the dagger close to his throat.

"shh...don't make a sound or else I'll end your life right here, right now, got it?" she inched the dagger closer to his skin and he complied, bobbing his head complying with her. She whispered as she inched closer to his face, "you think I'm just one of Sinbad's whores, but I'm not anything like those harlots that Sinbad sleeps with." She laughed menacingly. "Oh no, no. I need him, don't you get it? I will take his men, I will find more men and I WILL create an army, an army that will bend to my every command and I can't have you stepping in the way now can I?" her eyes widened as her pupils dilated. "I think you know where I'm going with this, right?" she nodded and Hashim had fear in his eyes. She released her hand from his mouth and he frowned deeply.

"You really think you can lead an army with a child growing inside of you?" He snapped and Xena's eyes grew in shock. He chuckled and enjoyed seeing the surprised look on her face. "You think that you can keep a secret like that forever? I told you I was watching you, Xena! You might as well get rid of that abomination before it becomes an even bigger problem!" he laughed loudly and Xena cried out and then stabbed Hashim right in his chest. He gasped for air and grabbed a hold of Xena's neck, trying to choke her.

Xena withdrew the dagger and then dug her fingers inside his open wound. He cried out in agony and she continued to twist her fingers in the bloody stab wound grinning as his face contorted. "Can Sinbad's whores do this, huh?!" she growled and took her bloodied fingers out and licked the blood off, smiling deviously. He stared up at her in horror and disgust. He had truly underestimated this woman and now he was dying and there was nobody there to save him. She then stood up and spat in his face as she turned to leave.

"You will tell no more lies about me, Hashim." He stared at her as his vision began to blur. "you were just an inconvenience..." she grinned, "but you will no longer be a problem for me. As you said, I have other problems to deal with," she left the tent and saw a few men passed out next to a large fire. She slipped the dagger in between one of the men's fingers and walked back to Sinbad's tent to await till morning.

She slipped next to Sinbad and he stirred in his sleep, half awake he tried to wrap his arm around her. She smiled and kissed his hand, laying down next to his warm body. Peering down at her stomach she frowned and rolled over onto her back staring up at the ceiling. Her hand carefully roamed her abdomen and she definitely felt something there. Something foreign and something that didn't belong there. She was in denial about this for quite some time now, for over a month, but she refused to believe, until that is, Hashim noticed her odd behavior.

Suddenly Xena made the decision to not tell Sinbad, at least not yet. She wanted to be absolutely sure and she wanted to see the look on his face when he found his dear friend dead in his tent only to find out that he was murdered by one of his own men.

Ali woke up in front of the campfire and rubbed his tired eyes. He looked over and saw Tariq still passed out but he had a dagger in his hands. Frowning he thought nothing of it and stood up to wake up Hashim. He waltzed over to his commander's tent and called out his name but there was no response. After waiting a few moments he went ahead and entered. His eyes bugged out and saw Hashim's lifeless body covered in blood as he lay in his bed. Covering his mouth he ran out of the tent and threw up in the bushes nearby.

He then saw Tariq with the dagger in his hand and frowned. He kicked Tariq and the hungover man woke up a bit confused. The dagger slid out from his grasp and he had blood all over his hands."What is this?!" Tariq asked and wiped the blood in the dirt. Ali grabbed Tariq by his tunic and dragged him over to Hashim's tent and pushed him inside. Tariq saw his commander's dead body and then the blood on his hands. He stared back at Ali, speechless.

"Ali, no! I didn't do this, I swear!" he cried out and Ali growled, running to Sinbad's tent on the other side of the camp. "Ali, wait!" Tariq yelled.

Ali ran into Sinbad's tent unannounced screaming and yelling. Xena woke up wrapped in Sinbad's arms, topless she grabbed an animal's fur and wrapped it around her body. Sinbad groaned and grabbed a long scarf and wrapped it around his lower half.

"What is the meaning of this? You can't just come in here without my permission!" he eyed Xena and she simply smiled at him, forgiving the young man's intrusion.

The frantic man knelt down and lowered his gaze. "Sorry, Sinbad but it's Hashim...he's dead," he said lowly and Sinbad's eyes widened. Xena feigned surprise and sipped a glass of day old wine hiding her satisfaction. Sinbad grabbed his scimitar and left the tent. Ali watched Xena sip on the wine casually and he raised an eyebrow at her. She smiled at him and stood up gradually.

"So, who killed him?" Xena asked the young soldier and Ali stood up backing away from her. She sauntered closer to him and wrapped the fur tighter around her body. He didn't answer and ran out of the tent. She hummed to herself and finished off the wine then tossed the glass behind her.

Sinbad entered his friend's tent and saw blood everywhere. It was as if ten men were massacred in here. He closed his eyes and then saw Tariq sobbing quietly off in a corner of a tent with blood stained hands. He growled and grabbed Tariq's arm.

"Show me your hands, Tariq!" he demanded and the man shook his head. "I said show me!" Tariq revealed his hands and the sailor kicked him and left the tent. Xena was waiting on the far side of the campsite observing quietly.

Ali approached his master and folded his arms. "So what do we do with Tariq? He is obviously guilty." Sinbad's breathing quickened and Xena waltzed over to Hashim's tent and peered inside. She shook her head and covered her mouth, shying away from the horrid sight. Tariq remained in the tent still blubbering quietly to himself. She hinted at a smile at the man and Tariq saw the look in her eyes. His mouth gaped but speech was absent.

Sinbad shook his head and rubbed his face vigorously. He then slashed a few wheat stalks with his scimitar, trying to release his anger. "We should exile him and brand him."

Xena didn't like that idea. It was too easy of a punishment. "Why don't we put him on a stake?" Ali and Sinbad looked to her like she was a barbarian. "Sinbad...he killed your best friend and all you want is an exile?" she pouted and the sailor folded his arms, still not liking the stake idea that much. She frowned and marched in the tent to grab Tariq. She threw him on the ground and pointed at the guilty man. "He deserves to die!" she yelled out.

She circled Sinbad and touched his bare shoulder with her fingernails, "he murdered your friend. Are you just going to let that slide? If you want...I can put the pathetic worm to death. I would want Hashim's death avenged," she whispered and Sinbad waved his hand at her then went back to his tent to get dressed.

"do what you want Xena," he called out and her eyes lit up. Ali stared at her and wasn't sure if he was scared of her or scared of her lack of empathy for a dead man. He frowned and went to gather up the rest of the men to tie down Tariq.

Awhile later Xena and a few of Sinbad's men traveled to a secluded part of the fields, far from the campsite. She rode on a black stallion and was dressed in her regular black and burgundy garb. Tariq was taken off of a wagon and dragged to a large sharpened wooden stake. His eyes widened in fear as he knew what was going to happen next. Xena smiled and trotted closer to the fear stricken man. She grabbed him by the throat and stared into his eyes.

"you are going to die a slow and painful death, I hope you know that," she grinned and Tariq spat in her face. She frowned and wiped the saliva off her face. "I'm going to let that slide because you have bigger things to worry about, dontcha?" she chided.

Tariq whispered to her, "you will never get away with this. You're a snake, just like Hashim said!" Xena threw him back on the ground and nodded her head to the men. Two men picked him up high in the air and she smiled. "Gorgon! You're a gorgon, Xena! You are a Medusa with two heads!" he cried out as the men lifted him higher in the air. He shook his head, "don't listen to her! Don't trust anything she says!"

"Do it," Xena demanded and the men plunged Tariq's torso onto the stake and he coughed, screaming loudly as blood began pouring out of his chest. "Push his torso deeper into the stake," she bit her fingernail enjoying the man cry out in agony. The men climbed up on one another and forced Tariq's body further down the stake. Bones cracked and blood began to drip onto the ground and surrounding men.

She came closer to the stake and smiled warmly at him. "He won't be killing anyone else," she turned her horse and trotted back to the campsite. Ali looked at his dear friend as his limbs slowly twitched and his life began to slip away.

As she returned to the campsite she carefully hopped off the horse and limped over to a large basket of water and ladled some, forcefully drinking it. Water dripped down her chin and she breathed heavily. She threw the ladle down and wiped her mouth with her hand then took off her hat and washed her face. As she stared into her reflection she saw a much paler version of herself and she had circles under her eyes. She traced her cheeks gently and got up to go attend to her grief stricken sailor.

She came into the tent and saw Sinbad sitting on the ground drinking some wine with his head hung lowly. "Sinbad, I have taken care of the traitor," she sat down next to him and kissed his neck. He nodded, ignoring her affection. She slipped off his vest and he stood up abruptly.

"Not now Xena. I know you mean well, but my friend just died!" he folded his arms and Xena pursed her lips.

"I understand. I took care of the problem for you," she smiled and stood up slowly. She felt a cramp in her side and winced. Sinbad turned to see a distressed expression on her face and he became concerned.

"Is something wrong with you?" he grabbed her shoulders and she shook her head, dismissing it. just as she was about to speak loud horns were heard from outside their tent. Sinbad frowned and exited the tent. Xena growled and followed behind him.

"Riders approaching!" a soldier announced and Sinbad squinted his eyes from the blazing sun. He saw a group of horsemen riding towards their camp and their leader was wearing a white mask, disguising his face. He also wore a black veil on his head and was clad in green pants and loose blouse.

Xena came next to him and saw the riders. "Who are they?" she inquired.

The riders approached and the leader stepped off the horse and took off the white mask. Faces of astonishment and whispers filled the campsite. The rider was no man but a woman with tanned skin. Sinbad smiled at her and walked over to her, eager to meet this mysterious woman. Xena eyed her carefully and noticed she had a large sum of men following her. She would say she were jealous, but instead she saw an opportunity as did Sinbad, obviously.

The sailor stretched out his hand for the strange woman. "You come in peace?" he teased.

The woman scoffed, "if you want peace I'll give it to you. You must be Sinbad. I am surprised to see you in this area and not at sea," she chose her words carefully. A group of three men surrounded her to protect her. Sinbad chuckled and stepped away not wanting any trouble. She reached out to shake his hand. "Teuta of Illyria," she introduced herself. Xena came up a few feet behind the sailor and Teuta eyed her carefully. She saw the woman's strange smile and thought it strange that she was the only woman in a camp full of males.

"Teuta...I have heard of you. You are a pirate!" Teuta smiled nodding her head. "You fight against the Roman empire..." he concluded now remembering who she truly was. She nodded once again, this time more curtly and folding her arms.

Xena cleared her throat and Sinbad brought her forward. "Oh this is Xena. Teuta, Xena," he introduced the two women and they both stared at one another for quite some time. Teuta bowed her head slightly and Xena remained stoic.

Teuta smiled, "you don't look like a pirate. What are you doing with someone like Sinbad?" she eyed Xena carefully and challenged her a bit.

Xena shrugged, "to catch a few fish," she smirked.

As hours went by Xena sat in the tent with Sinbad and their new guest, Teuta. They shared food together and Xena sat opposite of the two as they continued to chat about their sea voyages constantly. She remained quiet throughout most of the conversation, just absorbing new information from this woman. She was quite interesting and very ambitious. She appeared to be a few years older than Xena, but not by much and she had achieved so much in a short amount of time since her husband's imminent death.

Xena picked at her bread, barely touching her food as she continued to listen intently. She saw Teuta reach for a glass next to Sinbad and Xena ripped the hunk of bread in half and she tipped over the glass with her foot accidentally. Teuta eyed Xena cautiously and Sinbad grabbed a cloth to wipe some of the wine spilled onto the woman's boot. Xena smirked and casually ate a small bite of bread.

"My mistake," Xena raised an eyebrow at the woman and Teuta nodded her head, completely aware of Xena's little game.

Teuta cleaned her boot by herself refusing Sinbad's assistance. "So Xena, you're rather quiet. Where are you from? Surely you're not from the same lands as Sinbad," she scoffed.

Sinbad leaned back comfortably on a pair of pillows and started laughing. "you won't get her to talk. She's very secretive," he winked. Xena smiled and remained quiet. "She used to work in Rome for Caesar," he blurted out and this caught Teuta's attention.

She hated Caesar and the entire ever expanding Roman Empire. It hindered her own kingdom's growth in Illyria, resorting to piracy to keep her kingdom afloat. "Can't be that secretive if you worked for the Roman Empire," Teuta grinned. Xena snarled and ignored the woman. "I heard there was assassination attempt on Caesar..." she raised an eyebrow.

Xena grinned finally speaking up, "and I would have done it if that princess didn't ruin everything," she grumbled.

"you must mean Princess Dido," Teuta nodded and sipped on some wine, "she is annoying. She is far too young to become Queen of Carthage."

Xena's eyes lit up, "the king of Carthage is dying?" she smiled, eager to hear more. Teuta confirmed her question and she tapped her fingers on the rug, a plan immediately formulating in her mind.

She just had one question, though she remained silent for all these hours, she just had to ask. "Why are you here in the Steppes?" Xena asked.

Teuta shrugged nonchalantly, "I'm looking for Roman outposts. Caesar is trying to expand the Roman Empire further into the Eastern lands. I plan to stop him."

Xena swished the glass of wine in her hand raising a brow. "Fascinating," she reclined on a few pillows eyeing the woman carefully.

The three remained in the tent for awhile longer until Sinbad offered Teuta to stay in the campsite a few yards away until she was ready to leave. He allowed her to take Hashim's old tent on the opposite end of the camp. She declined and preferred to sleep with her army outside the camp grounds.

Sinbad returned to his tent and Xena was wrapped in a silk sheet with her back turned to him. She cautiously poured an herb into a cup of hot water and he closed the flap of the tent, smirking at her as she remained silent even after Teuta left. "You were very quiet...very unlike you," he remarked and took off his vest and boots to come sit next to her. She quickly downed the liquid before he was able to come near her. The hot herb mixture burned her throat and she smiled as he kissed her neck.

"Sinbad..." she whispered and he continued roaming his mouth over her bare shoulder, she smiled enticingly. "Remember when I told you I wanted an army?" he simply mumbled and the sheet slipped off her shoulders, dropping to the floor. He wrapped his hand around her waist and her eyes widened. She grabbed his hand and he eyed her. She pushed him on the ground and straddled his legs, she laid on top of him. This time she was taking him for surprise though he didn't resist.

"I want to take her army," Xena's eyes grew and her body was fueled with fire. Sinbad's mouth gaped and she kissed his navel gingerly.

"You want her army? Xena she seems like she is an ally," he said a bit shocked she'd want to take Teuta's army.

Xena shrugged her shoulders and pinned him to the ground, "nobody is my ally, not even you!" she kissed his lips fiercely.

Chapter Text

AN: trouble ahead :D

Chapter 14

Caesar waltzed into Dido's palace a week after he received her letter about Xena's whereabouts. He smiled as he saw Dido sitting on her throne with her servant next to her. He smiled and bowed his head at the princess and she waved her hand dismissively.

"Ah it's Xena's little toy," Caesar stared at Gabrielle and she grimaced at the Roman. "So Princess, you said you know where Xena is."

Dido smirked, "well I don't know her exact location but I have a reliable source that says she is in the Persian lands somewhere."

Caesar scoffed, rolling his eyes at her response. "That is a large amount of land to cover for not knowing her exact location!"

The princess stood up from her throne and folded her arms. "I don't have any more information on it, Caesar. I just know she's in that area."

"Of course she is. She is alone without an army. She can't get that far when she is alone," he tapped his foot on the floor. Dido observed the Roman's silent mannerism and Gabrielle stepped forward wanting to chime into the conversation.

"Can I say something?" Gabrielle raised her hand and Caesar folded his arms staring at the servant girl. He scoffed and laughed under his breath. Dido smiled at her friend and pushed her forward egging her on to speak her mind. She smiled gently and tried to ignore Caesar's snide comments. "Xena may not have an army but as I told Princess Dido...she wants an army and if she went East then she is forming one probably as we speak. She will stop at nothing."

Dido nodded and shared a glance with the Roman. "We need to combine our forces to find her."

Caesar agreed with the Carthaginian princess, "yes I think that is a good idea. I have some men heading that direction anyway. I have a little problem with the Illyrian queen," he grumbled. Dido was confused as she was not exactly sure what he meant by that. "She's been trying to fight the empire for years now. She's a nuisance and needs to be gotten rid of. Maybe her and Xena are related," he joked.

Gabrielle excused herself from the room and went to hide in the princess's room until they were done discussing. She didn't want to hear them talking about finding Xena and killing people any longer. She closed the door and leaned against the wall, hugging herself trying to block their voices out. She really wished that they were back in Carthage in the larger palace where you couldn't hear anything for miles and miles throughout the large fortress.

She began to wonder if what she did was the right thing to do. True Xena did try to kill Caesar, but to be fair, she didn't really like the man, he sold her to pirates. Dido was right, she was lucky to end up here and not somewhere more dangerous, though she was beginning to think life with Xena wasn't so bad. She traveled a lot, a lot more than when she traveled on her own away from her family. And whoever Teuta was, was not liked by Caesar and to even say that she reminded him of Xena was enough to understand how this woman operated on a daily basis.

Suddenly her eyes lit up and she thought of something, something that may be very important. Quickly Gabrielle ran out to the throne room and found Caesar still talking with Dido, alone in the room drinking some wine. They saw her enter the room and immediately stopped talking.

"Caesar..." Gabrielle announced nervously. He smiled at her and gestured for her to continue. She took in a deep breath then continued, "do you happen to know where Xena comes from?"

The Roman rubbed his chin thinking long and hard. She had told him where she was from over a year ago, but he was only pretending to listen. He grinned and snapped his fingers as the village name finally came to his mind. "Xena is from Thrace I believe. She is no Greek woman, instead she is a vile snake!" he growled. Gabrielle smiled weakly, not entirely sure how to react to that, but he gave her a great opportunity.

Dido crinkled her nose and shifted in her seat staring at the blonde. "Why so curious, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle hid her hands behind her back and smiled warmly at the two. "I was just asking. I never knew where she was from. Princess Dido," she asked and the princess nodded her head allowing her to go ahead. "I wanted to ask permission to travel across Greece..." Caesar eyed her cautiously and she ignored his glare. "To find out more information about Xena and to see if she's gone through the area on her way to the Eastern lands."

The princess clapped her hands together startling the other company in the room. "That is a great idea, Gabrielle! I will send some of my best men with you on your journey," she smiled. Caesar stood up and set his glass of wine back on the table.

He cleared his throat, "yes...Gabrielle," he frowned. "I will also send some of my men with you, just for precautions of course," he grinned slyly. Gabrielle did not like that look on the Roman's face but it wasn't like she was able to combat him. She was lucky enough that Dido gave her permission to roam around Greece, although she wasn't going to do that. She was planning to go to Thrace to find Xena's family. She wanted to know more about Xena and who she was...or still is, deep inside. Somehow she believed that Xena was not as hard as she portrayed herself to be.

Gabrielle smiled at the Roman's response even though she preferred that Dido's men follow her and not Caesar's. "Excellent," she showcased as much enthusiasm as needed to convince the Roman. With that she left the room to find more some more wine to keep the two occupied.

Caesar watched the young blonde leave and he stood up adjusting his attire. Dido remained seated enjoying her wine. He smiled, "well princess, I must be leaving and I will tell my men to accompany Gabrielle tomorrow morning. My men might have some information on Xena so I will return to my ship," he bowed his head and showed himself out. Gabrielle came in with a new bottle of wine and the Roman brushed past her.

She came to Dido and the princess smiled eagerly at her and pat the empty spot next to her on the sofa. "Gabrielle I think you have so many great ideas! It is very brave of you to travel to Thrace. I hear that they are barbarians," she rolled her eyes and grabbed the new bottle and poured herself a glass offering Gabrielle some, though she politely declined.

"Well, if Xena is from there it's hard not to argue that logic," Gabrielle nervously grinned. Dido winked at her and sipped on her wine. "Although...Xena was once a normal girl. I wonder what happened to her..." she folded her arms furrowing her eyebrows.

Dido sighed audibly, "nobody knows why people turn to the dark side, Gabrielle. She obviously wants to become powerful but with Caesar's help and mine, we will make sure that doesn't happen!"

Gabrielle nodded not entirely convinced they were able to find or even stop Xena becoming what she is. "She used to work for Caesar. I can't believe that she actually worked in the Roman Empire and now she despises Caesar and the empire. Although, he did crucify her," she chuckled lightly. Dido frowned at this, not liking Gabrielle speaking ill of the Roman Empire like this.

The princess rested her hand on Gabrielle's knee subtly, "and she deserved it. She took Caesar's men for her own gain. He was forced to crucify them all and you saved the one person who was supposed to die," her eyes narrowed and Gabrielle's eyes widened.

A few silent moments passed by and Gabrielle stood up rubbing the back of her neck coyly. "I should go pack for tomorrow morning if I am to leave on time..." she hastily exited the room and Dido smirked, humming to herself.

Xena spun around clashing her sword with Sinbad's as many times as possible. He was having a hard time keeping up with her and breathed heavily. She sent down another blow and he barely blocked it. she hit him in the leg and he fell to the ground. Xena landed on top of him and held the sword close to his neck. Sinbad laughed nervously and bobbed his head admitting defeat.

"You are quite the fighter," Sinbad grinned and stood up without her help. Xena admired the blade looking at her reflection in the shiny blade. Her hair was in a high ponytail and her bangs slicked back. He came around behind her and set her long ponytail aside to begin showing affection towards her.

She rolled her eyes and shrugged his hand off her shoulder. "You aren't going to improve in your fighting technique if you keep doing that," she walked off and drank some water quenching her thirst. Sinbad sighed and folded his arms.

"Xena we've been practicing for hours! I need a break and so do you," he suggested but she simply ignored him. Her eyes traveled to the Illyrian woman speaking with a few of her men on the outskirts of the campsite. She smirked and made her way over there leaving the sailor alone and definitely confused. He threw his hands in the air and went back to his tent to eat something in peace.

"Make sure you send as many scouts to the west to see if Caesar sent any of his men," Teuta commanded and her men nodded then took their leave to go on their mission. She turned her head and saw Xena approaching her with that everlasting limp of hers. She folded her arms and smiled curtly at the woman. "I saw your skills over there," she nudged her head towards the camp and Xena grinned.

She shrugged at that, "Sinbad's skills belong to the sea. I am helping him brush up on his fighting technique," Xena smirked.

Teuta nodded her head, "I don't know why you even bother with him. He is out of his element and seems to be following you..." her smile was sly and Xena raised her brows. "He is smitten with you."

Xena couldn't deny that. Sinbad was all over her and she didn't particularly like that, but it was nice every now and then to be in charge instead of the other way around like it was with Ares. She had not seen him in quite some time and wondered if what she was doing was the right thing to do at the moment. Ares wanted her to be his warrior queen and suddenly when she is becoming something great, he vanishes.

"Perhaps he is." Xena answered rather curtly and winced as she tried to move forward. The Illyrian queen took notice and wrapped the veil around her head like a turban.

"You know...I can help you with your legs," she offered and Xena became curious at this nice offer.

She walked closer and then folded her arms. "You're willing to help me? You don't even know me," she scoffed.

Teuta smiled bobbing her head in agreement. "That is true but I know Sinbad and I trust him, even if he is a pirate like I am. He seems to trust you so I am offering my help and I suggest you take it because I don't give second chances," she left for her tent and Xena blinked, a bit shocked. She soon then followed behind her.

Awhile later Teuta had Xena lay down on the floor and she brought out some rods. Xena lifted her head and saw those rods, she had them bound to her legs before when she was with Gabrielle. Now she was about to repeat the process. She grumbled to herself as she thought of Gabrielle. She had to admire her bravery for taking her to a strange healer to help her. She did so much for her and yet in return Xena did nothing to help Gabrielle. She rested her hands on her stomach as she laid there patiently.

Teuta came to her side and knelt down. "I'm going to need your boots," she smiled and Xena frowned. The Illyrian woman took off Xena's boots slowly and set them aside with the rods. Xena looked over at the woman and she had handed her boots to another woman. Xena was not aware that there were any other woman that accompanied the Illyrian pirate but apparently there was. She eyed her carefully and saw her attaching the rods to the outside of new boots, sturdier black boots.

The short woman used a hammer to seal the rods with the boots on the inside and outside of the leather. She was a woman from East Asia. Xena raised an eyebrow at her and saw Teuta cleaning a bottle of some kind of hot oil.

"What is she doing to those boots?" Xena asked curiously as she leaned up on her elbows.

Teuta grinned, "making you permanent splints until your legs fully heal. You can't use a cane for the rest of your life, right?" she gathered. Xena nodded in response. The short Asian woman came back with the splinted boots and handed them to Teuta, bowing her head before returning back to her corner. Teuta knelt down close to Xena and touched her legs. She then rubbed some of the hot oil on her shins and Xena's eyes widened as her legs burned with intensity. "this will numb your legs. It is good to use if you are injured," she then slipped on the new boots on Xena's legs and extended her hand to help her up.

Xena stood up quickly and stumbled a bit before regaining her balance. She walked a few steps forward and smiled as she was able to walk without the help of a cane or her sword.

"You will still need to stay off your legs as much as possible, at least for another two weeks and you will be fine," Teuta then put the bottle of oil in a pouch and handed it to her Xena. "Use this oil to help you."

In the back of Xena's mind she wanted to not trust this woman. Here she was a stranger in this woman's tent and she helped her with her legs. Yet, the thought of taking over the Illyrian Queen's army was still present in her mind, she would have to wait on that until she was fully healed and able to take her on. She probably was a very good fighter as well and she would definitely lose in the state she was in.

"Thank for this," Xena smiled and grabbed her sword on the way out. Teuta followed her and watched her leave.

She called out, "oh and Xena..." the Thracian woman turned around slowly. "If it's alright with you, I'd like to speak with you and Sinbad later this evening." Xena's eyes widened and Teuta saw the look in her eyes. "Business, of course."

Xena smiled tightly, "of course, business." She turned to leave and Teuta smirked retreating back inside her tent to await for the sunset and her scouts to return.

Ali sat with Sinbad in his tent smoking out of the water pipe and enjoying some wine as well. Ali downed his wine as Sinbad sat completely relaxed. "Sinbad I'm telling you the truth. Tariq said not to trust Xena, she said she is a snake –a Medusa with two heads!" he pleaded and the sailor blew out a large cloud of smoke, exhaling deeply.

"Ali, my friend," Sinbad's eyes glazed over he set his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Xena is not a snake and she's much prettier than Medusa," he laughed and continued smoking.

The young man sighed shaking his head. "But why would Tariq say that?" the sailor didn't respond and leaned back on a large pillow in a different state of mind. "You know...Medusa used to be gorgeous too once," he lamely said and then heard some rustling and saw Xena enter the tent. Ali avoided her gaze and sipped on his wine quietly.

Xena took off her animal furs and tossed them aside. She put her hands on her hips, feeling mightier than ever now that she was able to walk on her own for once in such a long time. "Are you two talking about me?" she smiled slyly.

Sinbad smiled at the sight of her. "Yes we were. Ali says that you're like...what did you say?" he eyed his friend and then snapped his fingers. "Oh yes! You're like Medusa with three heads or something..." he chuckled.

Ali's eyes bugged out and he dare not turn around to see the look on Xena's face right now. He downed his wine and stood up ready to leave. Xena glared at him. "Ali..." she said with a soft tone. "I'm better than Medusa –she's ugly," she teased. Ali ran out of the tent and she chuckled beneath her breath. With the runt out of the way she folded her arms and stared at Sinbad as he was getting higher than ever on his water pipe. She sauntered over and sat down next to him. "So..." she traced her fingertips along his bare chest and he smiled at her with a goofy grin. "You really think that I'm like Medusa?"

Sinbad grinned happily at her, "the prettiest Medusa," he joked. She hummed and pat his knee then made herself comfortable by taking off her outer blouse, wearing a much thinner top underneath. His eyes roamed her body and he took her hand kissing it softly.

"Sinbad...I'm not coming near you while you smoke that stuff. You're like another person," she teasingly said and took her hair down, ruffling her bangs and fluffing her long wild hair.

He set down his hose and leaned back, totally relaxed. He saw Xena roll over on her side and his eyebrow raised, sensing an opportunity at hand. He wrapped his arm around her slim body. His hand roamed beneath her blouse up to her breast and Xena frowned, not in the mood for this. His hand traveled down to her navel and she grabbed firmly onto his hand.

"Not now," she hissed. Sinbad rolled his eyes and plopped down beside her staring at the ceiling.

"What is with you today? It's like you don't want me near you. You know I have been with many women but you are the most confusing of them all!"

Xena rolled over onto her other side with a sly smile. "I am just not in the mood right now besides we have a guest coming here in a few hours." He eyed her curiously. "Teuta wants to come discuss some "business" with the two of us."

"What kind of business?" he frowned.

She shrugged, "who knows but it must be important. Do not breathe a word to her about what I said last night," she chided, meaning that she wanted her army. Truthfully he didn't really care about Teuta and her army of Illyrians. But this would mean that Xena would have to be the best she could be and he trusted her thus far, so he had faith that Xena could take anything she wanted.

"Wouldn't dream of it. What's yours is yours," he winked and she kissed his shoulder then laid back down trying to rest her body as much possible. She felt her stomach churning as she lay on her side, trying to close her eyes and sleep for just awhile. Sinbad saw Xena drifting off to sleep and he grinned grabbing his sword. "I'm going to spar with a few of my men, I'll be back later." Xena hummed as a response and he left the tent.

She opened her eyes exhaling deeply as he was finally gone. She lifted her blouse and stared down at her slightly swollen stomach. Groaning she rolled over and contemplated what she was going to say, she could just not say anything. Once she has Teuta's army she could just leave and not do anything, but that was rather unlikely at the speed of things right now. She bit her bottom lip thinking of Sinbad wanting to get near her and she was already avoiding him. She couldn't allow him to set her hands near her or allow him to see her undress either. He would immediately notice and that would be something difficult to explain. Once more she closed her eyes trying to ignore her queasiness and sleep it off.

Gabrielle was accompanied with Dido's and Caesar's men throughout the vast areas of northern Greece. They stopped at every village and city along the way. They certainly knew who Xena was but claimed they hadn't seen her. Gabrielle was growing frustrated as they traveled through the territories. They were now on the outskirts of Thrace and Gabrielle knew that they were getting close. She wondered which city Xena came from, she was essentially searching for a needle in a haystack. These men had no idea what her intentions were and she'd like to keep it that way.

The following day they reached the inlands of Thrace and stopped along the way to ask of Xena's whereabouts. Most had fearful eyes and thought that she was a part of Xena's raiders but this wasn't the case. She recognized this area and just another day's ride they'd be in her home village of Potidaea. She couldn't think of that right now though, she was on a mission.

They found a large city over a hill and Gabrielle hopped off the horse approaching an elderly woman tending to her goats. "Excuse me..." she said shyly. The woman stood up and folded her arms.

"I ain't got no dinars for your gods," she said firmly.

Gabrielle smiled, "we're not here to build temples." She thought that it may look this way with all the soldiers following behind her. "Do you know the woman Xena?"

The woman's eyes widened, "who wants to know?"

Gabrielle looked back at the men and they stared at the woman cautiously. "Never mind them. I just need to find where Xena is from..." she whispered so others could not hear. "Do you know which village she comes from?"

The woman leaned in closely, "well you didn't hear it from me but...she's from Amphipolis. Right up that northern pass there, ya see?" she pointed and Gabrielle nodded. "You'll find her village there, but if I were you...I wouldn't mention her name there ya know? Her own people hate her!" she growled.

The blonde understood that but she gave the woman some money for her troubles. "Thank you! You were a great help!" she grinned and hopped back on the horse. The woman saw the group of soldiers leave the area and stare at them dumbfounded. She then looked inside the pouch and saw a lot of dinars inside. She pocketed the pouch and shook her head continuing to tend to her animals.

Gabrielle and the group of Carthaginians and Romans followed suit. She overlooked the large village and it seemed very normal, much like her own village. Farmers, blacksmiths and cooks. Nothing out of the ordinary. She trotted down the hill and came through the outer part of Amphipolis. She thought she'd go on foot the rest of the way to seem less menacing. She nodded to the men and two Romans and one Carthaginian followed her on foot while the rest waited behind on horseback.

As she walked through the village streets she received many stares and then realized that armed men were following her. A young boy ran into Gabrielle and he spilled his basket of bread. She knelt down to help the young boy and he apologized profusely.

"Sorry miss, I should look where I'm going," he shyly admitted.

Gabrielle grinned, "that's alright. Hey do you think you could help me?" she said in a hushed tone. He nodded his head eager to help the young woman. "Do you know where Xena's family is?"

The boy's eyes widened. "She...she doesn' here anymore! I don't know anything!" he grabbed the bread and threw it in the basket ready to bolt. Gabrielle grabbed onto his arm and his breath quickened.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I just need to know where her family is," she asked calmly. He sighed and pointed to a tavern down the road.

"Her mom works there in that tavern. Now please, can I go?" he was released from her hold and bolted down the street as quickly as possible. Gabrielle stood up and saw the tavern and it looked busy. She frowned and marched forward.

Gabrielle went to the tavern and stepped inside. The soldiers waited at the entrance blocking anyone who wanted to come in. she rolled her eyes and then saw a woman working at the bar. She looked very young and had red hair. "Excuse me?" Gabrielle said and the woman looked up.

"Can I help you?" she smiled eagerly.

The blonde nodded, "yes...maybe. Is this tavern owned by Xena's mother?" she asked quietly.

Mala's eyes grew in fear. She saw the young woman awaiting an answer so she left the bar. "I'll be right back," she disappeared and Gabrielle sighed heavily. She was starting to think this might be a bad idea coming here.

Cyrene came out of the kitchen and Mala pointed to the young blonde sitting at the bar with an anxious look in her eyes. She marched forward and Gabrielle stood on her feet. Lyceus peered from the kitchen and saw a group of Roman soldiers at the entrance of the tavern, scaring the guests away though they couldn't leave.

Gabrielle smiled nervously, "hello I'm looking for Xena's mother –"

"I am her mother. Who are you and why are you in my tavern?" Cyrene put a hand on her hip, feeling her blood pressure rising just at the sight of the soldiers blocking the entrance.

Her speech fumbled, "well...I...I'm Gabrielle and I'm not with Xena. Actually I wanted to talk to you about her."

Cyrene frowned, "she's dead to me. She is no daughter of mine," she eyed the soldiers. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave." She started ushering Gabrielle out and Lyceus ran forward.

"Hey wait! You have information about Xena?" his eyes lit up. He hadn't spoken with his sister in over a year now and he missed her. He had heard awful things about her and even if they were awful he still wanted to know what she was up to.

Gabrielle could only guess but this must have been Xena's younger brother, just a couple years younger than she was. She smiled at the blonde boy and nodded. "Well I do have something..."

Cyrene threw her hands in the air. "I don't want to hear it! get out, all of you!" she pointed at the soldiers. Gabrielle was barely able to get a word in before Cyrene pushed them out of the door. The Romans and Carthaginian backed away and Gabrielle huffed. They turned to leave to go back to the others.

Lyceus ran out of the tavern and waved down Gabrielle. "Hey!" he called out and Gabrielle turned around. He caught up to her and his breath slowed down. He pulled out a note from his pocket and presented it to the blonde. "If you see Xena...can you give this to her? She'll know it's from me," he beamed. Gabrielle sadly smiled and took the note tucking it into her bag.

She nodded, "sure. I'll give it to her." She then turned to leave and go back to Crete where Dido was waiting for her. She will be disappointed to hear that they had not found any information on Xena's whereabouts but Gabrielle was really pleased to find Xena's family. They seemed very nice and giving, she understood her mother's reaction and couldn't blame her for it.

Lyceus watched Gabrielle leave and sadly frown. "Can you answer something for me?" he called out once more. She turned and smiled at him warmly. " is Xena? I she doing okay?" he asked hopeful.

Gabrielle didn't want to lie to the boy but to be honest, Xena was in a bad way and she was a wanted woman of two great empires. But just to please the boy she nodded, "she's alive," she chuckled. "I'll make sure this gets to her don't worry."

"Thanks it would mean a lot to me," Lyceus beamed and waved running back to his mother's tavern. Gabrielle sighed solemnly thinking this poor boy, Xena's brother, had no idea that his sister was such a horrible person. What happened to you, Xena? She curiously pulled out the note that he gave her as she retreated back to the others on the outskirts of Amphipolis.

She unfolded the torn parchment and ruffled out the crinkles. She squinted her eyes trying to read the awful handwriting.


I finally caught that fish that you wanted. You know that big one with the lazy eye? I didn't even have Toris help me!

I hope to see you someday, again. I miss you a lot.

Gabrielle sighed and tucked the note back in her bag. Her brother definitely loved her a lot and here she is, trying to help a princess and Roman find her to prosecute her for her crimes. She reached the others and looked back at the quiet village feeling as if she was betraying Xena.

The head Roman soldier announced, "we should camp out here until morning to leave for Crete."

The Carthaginian frowned and came to the Roman general, "this is Xena's home. Her family lives here. This would be a great opportunity for us," he smiled deviously.

The Roman nodded, "indeed it would be. We'll have a meeting later when the girl is asleep," he said in a hushed tone. Gabrielle was gathering some things from her horse to set up camp for the evening.

In the middle of the night Gabrielle was woken up to loud screams coming from Amphipolis. She rubbed her eyes and then saw the entire village in flames. Her mouth gaped and instantly ran to the village. Their campsite was deserted and she was left alone except for her horse. All the Romans and Carthaginian soldiers were in Amphipolis.

She ran as fast as she could and saw the soldiers lighting the homes on fire and killing many innocent lives. Gabrielle's eyes grew and she saw Xena's brother, Lyceus, running from a Carthaginian soldier on horseback.

The soldier rode in closer and then thrust his blade into Lyceus' back. Gabrielle gasped and ran towards him. The young teen fell to the ground, his chest bleeding onto the soil. She knelt down close to him and touched his bloody wound. She looked at her hands and they were stained with his blood. He looked up at her and smiled weakly. "I'm going to die, aren't I?" he said. Gabrielle felt tears swelling in her eyes and she touched his cheek, smearing blood on his face.

"I'll...I will make sure Xena gets your message," she reassured him with a sad smile. "I promise!" Lyceus' eyes closed and he took his last breath. She sighed and looked around her. Everything was destroyed and people were running like maniacs trying to flee the area.

She stood up frowning as soon as she saw the Roman general standing aside overlooking the burning village. "What are you doing?!" she yelled.

"Eradicating the problem, Gabrielle," he stated and continued overseeing the massacre.

"Slaughtering innocent people was not part of the plan! They aren't the problem!" Gabrielle raised her voice.

The Roman growled, "these are Xena's people! They are part of the problem!" he kicked his horse and left Gabrielle in the middle of the burning village.

This as far worse than when Gabrielle was with Xena. She felt her throat constrict and she couldn't breathe. She was now just as bad as Xena. She was part of the killing of innocent people and especially Xena's brother. She was no better than Xena. Gabrielle hugged her body and watched everyone run past her screaming and crying out for help: help that she wasn't able to give.

Two Days Earlier

Teuta joined Sinbad and Xena in his tent that evening. An array of bread, fruit and meat assortments were presented to the guest. Xena picked at her food as her appetite had severely diminished especially since this woman was in their tent. Sinbad offered her some wine and Teuta gladly took it. He poured a glass for Xena and she refused. He eyed her carefully noticing her odd behavior.

"Why aren't you eating? Too good for my food now, too?" Sinbad teased. Teuta smirked and Xena smiled tightly.

"you should eat Xena, it'll make you feel better," she smiled deviously and popped a grape in her mouth. Xena's eyes widened as she saw the look in the woman's eyes. She knows. Fear was instilled in Xena's eyes and Teuta's eyes remained locked on her the entire time. The Illyrian liked to play games too and she knew that Xena was here for games just like she showed her gratitude before when she was invited into the tent. She definitely remembered that night and saw jealousy in Xena's eyes. "Oh I suppose you didn't tell him yet?" she played coy and Xena's lip quivered.

Sinbad chuckled as he sipped his wine. Silence filled the room and he looked to both women having a staring contest. "Tell me what?" he asked now becoming concerned.

"Nothing," Xena mumbled and scratched her neck nervously.

Sinbad set down his glass and frowned. "Will someone please tell me what is going on here?"

Teuta grinned eagerly waiting to burst Xena's bubble. She had a feeling when she saw Xena alone by the river the day before, but what really tipped her off was when she was inside her tent laying down on the ground. Her cheeks were pale and she was very thin, she knew, she just needed some clarification. Now that she had Xena in her grasp she wanted to give her a taste of her own medicine. She was not called Teuta The Untamable for nothing.

"Congratulations to you, Sinbad," Teuta pat the sailor's knee and he was still confused. Xena glared at the woman though her face was unreadable. "Your lady friend is pregnant," she enjoyed seeing the look in Xena's eyes change from malice to shock all in one second.

Sinbad began laughing at that. The two women remained quiet and he refused to believe that. Xena smirked at the Illyrian woman.

"I would have gotten around to it," Xena admitted quietly.

His laughter died down, "wait, what?"

Xena stood up not wanting to be in the same room with these two she stormed out of the tent. Sinbad's eyes widened and he was speechless. Teuta grinned as she sipped her wine casually.

"We don't need her to discuss business with the Romans, do we?" Teuta continued. Sinbad snapped his head to her and snarled. He got up to leave to catch up to Xena. The pirate woman leaned back against a few pillows, thoroughly enjoying this evening. Much better than she expected.

Sinbad looked around and found Xena walking off into the darkness. He ran to her and grabbed a hold of her hand. She snatched it away and glared at him. "you're pregnant?" he asked just for reassurance. She put her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow. He sighed and began pacing back and forth. Suddenly he felt his anger overtake him. "why didn't you tell me?!" he yelled.

"I didn't think it was important!" she spat back and folded her arms.

He looked at her disbelievingly. "Not important? You don't think a baby is important?" he hit her in the arm and she gasped. "What in god's name is wrong with you?!" she clenched her teeth and hit him back. He stepped closer to her inches away from her face. His nostrils flared and she stared into his green eyes with a knowing teasing smile. "when were you going to tell me?" he folded his arms.

Xena took a step away from him a bit irritated with his tone. He was usually so kind and so sweet but he was angry, very angry and he even hit her. "Perhaps I was never going to tell you at all," she grinned. He grabbed her arm and pulled her close to him forcefully. She gritted her teeth staring up at him.

"I don't play your games, Xena. This is not a game!" he yelled and she growled snatching her arm away from his grasp. She marched away from him and he groaned. "That's our baby and..."

Xena halted and began laughing, "our baby?" she pointed to her chest. "No! This is not our baby, there is no we, you understand?"

"Fine, it's not ours, it's mine." She shook her head and continued to walk away. "Where are you going? Don't walk away from me, this isn't over!"

Xena turned around as she continued walking, "oh, but it is," she smiled tightly and retreated to a separate tent. "Go tend to your Illyrian woman. She's waiting for you," she called out over her shoulder.

Sinbad couldn't believe this woman. He groaned and rubbed his face trying to relieve some stress.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Sinbad paced inside of his tent for the last two days. He didn't really know what to do and Xena decided to leave the camp for a couple of days. She didn't even say anything except that she was going to explore the villages nearby. He knew that Xena did not want to stay in this area and wanted to move elsewhere but he also thought of Teuta. That evening when the woman poked her nose in their business he was not able to discuss anything about the Romans with the Illyrian Queen. He wanted to speak with Xena, but to be truthfully honest, he didn't know what to say or how to approach her anymore. It was easy to have sex with her and talk sweetly to her but now she was just a mother of his child. It was different now and he was beginning to question if he loved her or not. Her feelings were not very loving these last two days but whether she felt love for him or not, he needed to speak with her.

Ali entered the tent and brought two pomegranates with him. He smiled weakly, "I brought some food for you. I know you haven't eaten anything for two days."

Sinbad scoffed and kept pacing back and forth. Ali sat down and set the fruits down on the rug cracking them open with a knife. "Look Sinbad you can't keep walking around like that, you'll dig a hole," he chuckled. The sailor then sat down with his friend and stared off into the distance. Ali handed him half of a pomegranate and Sinbad took it then stared at the seed filled fruit.

"Do you think Xena left for good?" Sinbad asked. Ali shrugged his shoulders and bit into the fruit.

"Don't know but there's been some talk with the Illyrians." This sparked Sinbad's attention so Ali continued. "Teuta found some Romans heading this direction. If Xena returns we should give her to the Romans."

Sinbad shook his head, "god! Why do you hate her so much?"

Ali frowned folding his arms. "Because she's a liar! The Romans are after her not us and since she's with us we'll get into a lot of trouble!"

"why do you call her a liar? She can be...a bit unpredictable," Sinbad sighed heavily and rubbed his forehead frustrated at that woman.

Ali remained silent and looked into his friend's eyes. "I think...she's the one who killed Hashim." Sinbad looked at him like he just shot him in the leg. "Come on, Sinbad! Tariq would never do that even if he had too much wine to drink. It just seems really weird –and...and that punishment of hers! That's just barbaric!" Sinbad groaned and threw the fruit at his friend's chest. Ali grunted and stood up, "and if you ask me she enjoyed watching Tariq die! She had a smile on her face! I could almost see her gorgon tongue licking her lips."

"If you think Xena killed Hashim then I'll just ask her. She wouldn't lie to me," he mumbled. Ali shook his head and left the tent with his friend in distress.

Xena rode in with Sinbad's men behind her and she took off the turban from her head. Her face was dirty and she hopped off the horse smiling at all the other men in the camp. They stared at her cautiously and did not smile but nodded their heads at her. She raised her eyebrow and then saw Sinbad exit this tent. They locked eyes with one another and she frowned leaving the area immediately avoiding any conversation he wanted to have with her.

Sinbad's men gathered around and had bags of money with them. They gathered around together in the middle of the camp and poured out all of the coins on the ground. The men's eyes lit up and they all smiled at each other. They were beginning to really like Xena now that she brought them treasures from this land. All they've been doing is waiting around but this was the most exciting thing they had seen in quite some time.

Xena entered a tent in a secluded area of the camp. She had two men move out of this tent so she could occupy it by herself so she would be far away from the sailor. Sinbad entered the tent and saw her taking off her animal pelts and armed vest. He watched her as her back was turned towards him. She stripped of her blouse and saw her bare back and saw a large gash on her back. His eyes widened and he approached her but did not touch her. Xena felt his eyes burning into her back more than her wound was burning on her flesh.

"Are you just going to stand there?" Xena said in a soft voice. Sinbad sighed and watched her as she sat down on the pelts grabbing some herbs and oil to tend to her wound. He came to her and grabbed the oil and herbs from her hands with a gentle smile. She grimaced at him and turned away shielding her bare torso from him.

"Let me help you?" he asked nicely and she remained quiet tucking the blouse close to her chest. He sat down behind her and pulled back her hair and brushed it over her shoulder. He mixed the oil and herbs and grazed her wound with his fingertips. She winced and tensed up her body at his touch. Her eyes remained fixated on the floor in silence. "I've never done this before."

Xena half smiled, "you're doing fine but I can do this by myself," she grabbed his wrist and he snatched it from her grasp. He continued dressing her wound as the two sat in silence for quite some time.

Once he finished tending to her gash he bandaged her back up and she clutched the blouse closer to her body. He fidgeted his thumbs in his lap as she sat next to him still half dressed and averting her eyes from him. He occasionally glanced over at her waiting to see if she said anything but when she didn't, he began to feel his heart beat faster and sweat formed on his brow.

"Xena...we need to talk about know," he smiled nervously. Xena frowned and stood up slowly trying not to make any sudden movements with her spine.

"I'll be leaving soon so you won't be bothered by me any longer," she took off her pants and boots throwing them aside. She wanted to desperately take a bath and clean her body from the journey she had for the last two days.

Sinbad stood up and she wrapped a cloak around her body going to the river. He pulled on her arm and she stared back at him. "Leave? No I want to be with you and our baby."

She scoffed, "so let me get this straight. You want to be with me just because we have a child together?" he stared at her and nodded his head. "Don't kid yourself, Sinbad. You're not cut out for this life, you belong to the sea and I don't! we are heading in two different directions and a baby shouldn't make a difference." She snarled and left the tent to head to the river.

He frowned and followed her. She slipped into the water after throwing the cloak aside. She knew he was watching and she smiled slyly with her back turned. She dipped her long hair in the water and splashed some water on her face. Sinbad stood off with his arms folded just watching her. She decided that if she could get Sinbad to follow her into conquering and conquest, she'd have to convince him that she loved him.

Xena slowly rose from the water and turned to face him. His eyes widened as he looked at her perfectly sculpted body. His eyes roamed her body and looked at her stomach immediately. He definitely noticed that she was pregnant and somehow couldn't keep his eyes off of it. She walked out of the water coming close to him and he stared down at his boots averting her teasing body. Xena smiled graciously and placed his hands on her hips as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Do you love me?" she ran her fingers through his dark hair and he became speechless.

"Is that a trick question?" he joked.

Xena laughed, "no. Do me?" she lifted his chin and he stared into her blue eyes.

"Will you stab me in the chest if I said yes?" he asked with serious eyes. Xena's eyes twinkled and she traced her fingers on his bare chest.

"Of course not, why would you say that?" she hissed and kissed his lips sensually. He brought her body closer to his, squeezing her tightly. She pulled back from the embrace as his hands touched her wound. He apologized to her and she smiled warmly at him.

After some coaxing Sinbad finally got Xena to come back to his tent. He sat down smoking from his water pipe as Xena laid there sleeping soundly. Her chest rising and falling more heavily than usual. He smiled at her peaceful face as he blew out a large cloud of smoke in the air. Xena stirred in her sleep and rolled over on her back, lolling her head to the side. Sinbad covered her body up with his cloak. Curiously he stared at her as she slept close to him and eyed the child growing within her. His hand cautiously reached over and he rested his palm on her stomach. He smiled and Xena furrowed her brows rolling over on her side, shifting uncomfortably. He pulled his hand away and grazed his finger along her cheek.

Ali ran into the tent a bit out of breath. "The Romans! They've come here!" he alerted Sinbad and he stood up grabbing his blouse slipping it over his head. Xena was still asleep and he stared at her, not wishing to wake her. Ali rolled his eyes, "Sinbad!" he urged his friend and the sailor left the tent leaving Xena behind.

The sailor and soldier ran to the front of the campsite and saw Teuta and her men guarding the frontline of the campsite. There were too many Romans, he saw and his men wouldn't be able to fight them all. The Illyrians seemed to be having no problems whatsoever so far. A group of ten Romans came running towards them and Sinbad panicked. Ali and a few soldiers came running towards them with scimitars while Sinbad trailed off going back to the tent to get Xena.

As soon as he entered the tent he saw two Romans detaining Xena. She was wrapped in the silk sheet and they gagged her. He grabbed his sword and took a step closer. One of the Romans pulled out his dagger and put it at Xena's throat and her eyes widened.

"Unhand her!" he thrust his sword towards the Romans and they tightened their grip. "Be careful with her..." he looked to Xena's pleading eyes.

Xena shook her head knowing what he was about to say. He growled and remained silent as he saw the fear in her eyes. She wasn't fighting back which was rather odd for her. He figured by her lack of balance and lethargic state that they may have drugged her to detain her so she wouldn't escape.

Xena's eyes widened and she tried to warn Sinbad but it was too late. A roman came up from behind him and hit him in the back of his head. The sailor fell to the ground and the large roman lifted him up hoisting him over his shoulder. She creased her brows and the two Romans holding onto her pushed her forward to walk. She stared at her boots and wished she really had those right about now. She walked as best as she could. Her vision became blurrier as they tread throughout the campsite. She heard many people yelling, screaming and swords clashing with one another.

Ali saw Xena being dragged away as her eyes were glazed over. He felt an arrow go through his leg and had blood all over his face. She glanced over at the soldier and frowned at him. "You! This is all your fault, Xena!" he yelled out as he hit the ground. "May all the gods punish you!" he felt a sword stab him right through his chest and Xena's head lolled over as she blacked out. The two Romans grunted as Xena's body became limp. One of the Roman soldiers picked her up and flung her over his shoulder and continued the rest of the way to the ship so they could go back to Crete to bring Xena and Sinbad to Princess Dido and Caesar.

Teuta stabbed a Roman with her sword and watched Xena and Sinbad being carried off back to the Roman ship not far from here. She growled and rounded up her men as she saw the Romans retreating. She had no desire going after the sailor and that woman of his since she didn't really care for them or know them. Now here Sinbad's men were confused and left alone. She took an opportunity to seize them all for herself and offer them to join her in her army. She smiled and head to the middle of the camp to speak with the remaining men.

Meanwhile the Romans returned to the ship and carried the two traitors on board. "Put them down below!" the commander of the ship yelled out. They nodded and went down the stairs to the belly of the ship and the Romans threw Sinbad aside and the sailor groaned finally coming to. They tied his hands to a post and tied his ankles together with thick rope. The other Roman carrying Xena set her down and leaned her up against a post opposite of Sinbad. He grabbed her arms and hoisted them above her head tying them to the post. The silk sheet she was wrapped in slid off her body and the Roman's eyes grew.

The other soldier groaned and found a chest and rummaged through it trying to find some kind of clothing she could wear for the meantime. This was Dido's ship after all and he found a long sleeved black gown. He threw at the gawking Roman. "Put that on her," he demanded. The man nodded and took off the silk sheet throwing it aside and slipped Xena's arms through the dress as her head hung lowly, her hair covering her face. He adjusted the gown accordingly then proceeded to tie her hands to the post.

After that the Romans left and Sinbad opened his eyes. He saw Xena sitting down leaning against a post. Her mouth still gagged except now she was wearing...clothes? he looked around and realized they were on a ship. He groaned thinking that he and Xena were in big trouble and this wasn't his ship it was a foreign ship which belonged to either Dido or Caesar –either way, they were screwed.

"Xena!" he hissed but she did not awaken. He wiggled his boots and hands but was not able to get free from the ropes. "Xena!" he called out once more but she remained still and silent. He felt the ship move and he was lucky that he was tied to a post or he was sure that he'd be rolling on the ground right about now. He stared over at the unconscious woman and sighed realizing that trying to wake her was not going to help.

Gabrielle paced back and forth inside of Dido's small chambers in the Crete palace. She couldn't believe that the Romans had burned down Amphipolis, Xena's home and that Dido sent her ship and Caesar's men to find Xena. She was hopeful that they wouldn't be able to find her. She took the note that Lyceus gave her and she clenched it in her palm. A solemn sigh escaped her lips and suddenly the doors opened and Princess Dido entered the room.

"Great news, Gabrielle!" she beamed and sat on her bed. "Caesar's men have found Xena and Sinbad! They're coming up to the port as we speak!"

Gabrielle blinked not sure how to respond to that. She hadn't seen Xena in quite some time and she was sure that she had no idea about the tragedy that occurred in Amphipolis but Caesar was positive that he was going to tell her. She knew that the Roman couldn't wait to get a rise out of Xena. She only hoped that Dido would spare Xena at least some mercy and not torture her too much while she was imprisoned.

Dido left her bed and looked over her balcony as she saw the ship docking. She gleamed a wide smile and grabbed Gabrielle's hand running out of the room. The short blonde was barely able to keep up with the princess and they went outside the palace. Gabrielle saw the Romans exiting the ship but she did not see Xena or Sinbad, at least not yet.

Water was splashed onto Xena's face and she woke up abruptly and shook her head. She looked around and saw Sinbad being hoisted up with his hands behind his back. The Roman grabbed Xena's arm and lifted her up forcefully. She winced as her wound on her back was still fresh and she felt her legs giving out on her and she fell to the ground on her knees. The Roman kicked her forward and she fell face first. Sinbad groaned and pulled towards her but the Roman soldier pushed him forward ushering him to the deck. Xena narrowed her eyes and the soldier lifted her up and she slowly limped towards the stairs. She looked up at the sunlight shining brightly in her eyes. The soldier pushed her forward and she nearly fell on the steps. She looked behind her and proceeded to walk up the steps gradually.

Gabrielle looked around on the ship from afar and finally saw Xena exiting the ship behind Sinbad. She was wearing a black dress and looked awful. Her mouth was gagged and she was still limping. She saw the Roman push her forward and she bumped into another soldier as they continued walking to land.

"You're going to let them push her around like that?" Gabrielle asked Dido.

The princess grimaced. "She's a criminal, Gabrielle!"

The blonde shook her head angrily. "But can't you see that she's hurt?" Xena walked towards them and she hid behind the princess not ready to make eye contact with her. "Just look at her," she whispered. Dido scoffed folding her arms.

Now Sinbad and Xena were pushed to their knees and Xena groaned audibly as her back stung from every move she made. She felt saliva dripping down her chin as she breathed heavily. Sinbad's eyes trailed towards her as she coughed through the cloth in her mouth.

Dido knelt down in front of Xena and lifted her chin staring into her painful blue eyes. She smiled at the woman, "I have finally have you after so long trying to find you." She took the gag out of Xena's mouth and she breathed heavily staring into the princess's light eyes.

"I don't even know you," Xena spat in her face and Dido kicked some sand in Xena's eyes. She coughed and shook her head blinking rapidly. Gabrielle covered her mouth and then the Romans lifted Xena up by her arms and pushed her forward. Xena walked by Dido and saw Gabrielle standing at a fair distance. Her eyes widened as she saw the young blonde. Gabrielle stood speechless as she stared into Xena's eyes. She was very angry and hurt inside and outside. The Roman pushed her forward again and she didn't take her eyes off of her. Xena smiled deviously at Gabrielle and limped over to her and whispered, "little mouse..."

Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear and then the Roman snatched Xena away ushering her inside the palace. Sinbad followed behind her and Dido smiled as she watched the two walk into the palace.

Dido came up to Gabrielle with a slight frown. "What did she say to you?"

Gabrielle shook her head refusing to tell the princess Xena's odd nickname for her. "Nothing..." she walked off and decided to go back into the palace. Dido raised a brow then trailed behind her hand maiden.

The Romans took Xena and Sinbad down below to a deserted dungeon. Water was splashed on the both of them and Sinbad coughed. Xena pulled her arms from the walls, yanking the chains are hard as she could. The romans laughed at the two and Xena snarled at them both.

"Too bad that you are going to be executed," one of the soldiers knelt down and touched Xena's face. She snatched her head away and spat in the corner, soaking wet, drenched in the heavy black gown she was wearing. "You're too pretty to be such a bad girl, aren't you?"

"Is that how you sweet talk all the ladies?" Xena smirked. The Roman slapped Xena's cheek and her mouth gaped, stretching her jaw. Sinbad sighed as he watched the pervert Roman torture Xena right in front of him and he couldn't do anything to help her or help himself.

"Has anyone ever told you it's not nice to hit ladies?" Sinbad smiled slyly.

The Roman laughed, "as far as I can tell, I only see two women in this room." The other soldier laughed along with him and Xena rolled her eyes. "Come on, we have a meeting with the princess and Caesar," he nudged his head and the other soldier dropped the empty bucket of water on the ground leaving the two in the dungeon together.

Xena yanked her arms from the chains and grunted as she was definitely sure she wasn't going to be escaping this place anytime soon. Sinbad's eyes watched her and she grimaced at him. "What are you looking at?!" she spat.

"Well since we're both in here alone finally, you want to talk?" he teased and Xena groaned hitting her head against the stone wall.

"This is not a time for jokes, Sinbad." She leaned her back against the wall and winced completely forgetting about her wound.

He saw her in pain and sighed. "Your back still hurts doesn't it?" she eyed him but did not respond and shifted uncomfortably. "How did you get that gash anyway?"

Xena scooted closer to the wall careful not to lean her back against it. "I attacked a village near the camp and one of the villagers sliced my back with a scythe," she admitted shyly. He blinked and then she saw his eyes narrow. "It's nothing compared what Caesar and Dido are going to do to us," she sighed heavily.

After a few silent moments Sinbad looked up at Xena and immediately saw distress written all over her face. "So how are you feeling?"

She snapped her head towards him and smiled tightly, "oh I'm fine, just great. Thanks for asking," she rolled her eyes.

"That's not what I meant," he said in a firmer tone. Xena pulled from the wall and snarled at him.

"I know what you meant!" she slowed her temper and relaxed her arms, feeling the numbness already setting in. "I don't want to talk about it," she mumbled.

A Carthaginian soldier came in and unlocked Sinbad's arms from the chains and hoisted him up. "The Princess wishes to speak to you." He pushed Sinbad forward and tied his hands behind his back.

Sinbad looked to Xena and she seemed equally as confused. "What about her?" he nudged his head towards Xena.

The soldier chuckled, "don't worry she'll have her time. Let's go!" he ushered him out of the dungeon and slammed the door. Xena's head hung lowly and she felt tired, very tired. She closed her eyes trying to sleep off whatever the Romans did to her back at the camp. She figured that they gave her a strong sedative and it obviously was still in effect. Either that or she was just extremely tired as she had not been sleeping well for the past few weeks.

An hour later Gabrielle asked permission from the guards to see Xena. She told them that the princess requested her to come and check on the prisoner, though Dido gave her no such task. The guards opened the door and allowed her in. As Gabrielle trailed in she saw Xena's head lolled and figured that she was sleeping. As the door closed Xena's eyes opened and she blinked as the sun beamed on her face. Her eyes adjusted and she saw Gabrielle standing a few feet away from her.

Xena frowned but did not speak and Gabrielle simply smiled weakly at her. She brought out a wine skin from beneath her gown and knelt down in front of her. "I brought you some water," she whispered and titled Xena's head back and poured a generous amount of water in her mouth.

Xena coughed and she smiled at the blonde teen. "Why are you always trying to help me?" she said in a hoarse voice.

Gabrielle didn't know what to say and she corked the wine skin and set it aside. "I can see that you're hurt..." she lamely defended herself. Xena nodded and coughed some more because of her dry throat. Gabrielle offered her some more water and she downed it immediately.

"Does your lady friend know you're here?" Xena said in a hushed voice. Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. This meant no in Xena's eyes from her response. "You've done quite well for a traveling lost girl," she smirked.

Gabrielle smiled in response and remained quiet. She felt the note tucked in her breast and she wanted to tell Xena about her home, but she feared that might distress her more. She would save the note for another time, though she was realizing that there wasn't a lot of time left for Xena in the hands of Caesar. She may have escaped Caesar's grasp once but she feared she wouldn't be able to get out of this one.

Xena shifted her body trying to get as comfortable as possible but the cold hard ground was not the least bit comfortable. She'd rather sleep on a bunch of dead corpses. The longer Gabrielle stared at her she noticed that she winced a lot. Gabrielle touched Xena's back trying to help her adjust her body. Xena eyed her cautiously but did not abject.

Once Gabrielle pulled her hand away she noticed some blood stained on her hand. "You're bleeding!" she exclaimed and stood up. Xena saw the fear in the girl's eyes.

"Gabrielle, just leave it alone, it's not important." Gabrielle did not like the sound of her dismissive attitude. She ripped open the gown and Xena gasped. Gabrielle leaned her forward and saw the blood soaked bandages.

Gabrielle ran to the door and yelled out to the guard. Xena rolled her eyes thinking this was such a bad idea. "The prisoner is hurt!"

The guard smiled, "who cares if she's hurt?"

She grinned, "Princess Dido would care if her men have hurt a precious prisoner of hers." She used her words to convince the guard that he'd be in a lot of trouble if he did not follow Dido's orders. "I want her unchained, now!" she demanded. "By orders of the princess," she smirked.

The guard grumbled and walked over to the door and trailed in unlocking Xena's arms from the chains. She rubbed her wrists and he pulled her up. He saw the large gash on her back and he handed her over to Gabrielle. "Be quick, girl." He left and went back to his post until Sinbad would come back with his meeting with Dido.

Gabrielle was able to sneak Xena into the private baths as she knew nobody would be in this area during this time of the day. Xena sat down on a bed and Gabrielle grabbed some towels and fresh linens for Xena to change into after her wound was addressed. Xena smirked, "you lied to that guard."

Gabrielle remained silent and sat behind her taking off the gown slowly she took the soiled bandages off her back. Xena's body tensed up and she clenched the gown close to her body. "I can't help you if you don't take this dress off, you know?" she frowned.

Xena reluctantly let the dress fall off her torso and she covered her abdomen with her arms. Gabrielle smiled and dressed Xena's wound as gently as she could.

"Why are you helping me?" Xena asked barely above a whisper.

"You asked me this before on the beach remember?" Gabrielle smiled. "Do you remember my response?"

Xena nodded, "you felt bad for me," she turned her head to look into Gabrielle's green eyes. Xena shook her head at this naive girl. "You shouldn't feel bad for someone like me, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle finished dressing her wound and pat her shoulder lightly. "I feel a lot of things for you Xena and bad isn't one of them, not anymore."

The raven haired woman frowned at that and covered her torso back up with a towel. "so what do you feel for me?" Xena asked curiously. Gabrielle smiled shrugging her shoulders.

"I feel pity for you." She knelt down close to the water testing the temperature. "Come and take a bath. We don't have much time before Dido notices you're gone."

Xena shook her head, "you shouldn't get yourself in trouble because of me. I'm a nobody to you." She clutched the towel close to her body now completely undressed. The soiled gown was on the floor and Gabrielle sighed placing her hands on her hips.

"Don't worry about me. Dido likes me and trusts me," she grabbed Xena's hand ushering her to the baths. Xena tightly gripped onto the towel and Gabrielle tried to snatch the towel from her but Xena pulled away. "What's wrong with you?!"

Gabrielle finally was able to get a good grip on the towel and snatched it from Xena's hold. She huffed and Xena wrapped her arms around herself feeling a bit self conscious for once being naked. Gabrielle's eyes roamed her body and then she noticed something different about her. She was not the thin woman she had seen before. Her hips were larger, her entire body filled out a bit more and then it finally hit her. Her eyes grew in shock and her mouth gaped. She saw Xena's swollen abdomen and shook her head.

"'re..." Gabrielle stuttered. Xena snatched the towel from her and wrapped it around her body.

"you saw nothing!" Xena pointed her finger in the blonde's astonished face.

Chapter Text

AN: some trouble coming here and even more surprises later. Sinbad is in for more chaos than he originally thought. Enjoy ;)

Chapter 16

Xena grabbed the clean dress and turned to see Gabrielle's shocked face. She snarled then turned around to slip the dress over her head. She smoothed out the light brown dress and stared down at herself as her hand grazed over her stomach. She sighed inwardly and then looked around the room. She couldn't believe that Gabrielle traveled along with this Dido woman. She had a pretty good life as a servant, no responsibilities except to tend to the princess whenever possible.

As her hands glanced around she saw a long hallway ahead and a few guards. She sat down on the bed waiting for Gabrielle to clean up around the area. Gabrielle smiled weakly at her then put the soiled dress in a hamper close to the baths. She then waltzed over to Xena as she fidgeted her fingers. Xena crossed her legs and smiled tightly at the blonde teenager.

"Is there a reason you're staring at me?" Xena asked with a terse voice.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "I said I felt pity for you, but now I really do feel bad for you."

Xena folded her arms, "I told you not to feel bad for me Gabrielle. There's nothing about me to make you feel bad. You should take me back to the dungeon before the guards suspect something."

The blonde shook her head, "Xena you can't stay here. You're going to executed tomorrow! Are you telling me that you haven't even tried to escape this place?"

Xena smiled, chuckling to herself. She then started getting frustrated the longer Gabrielle stared at her. "Where am I going to go?!" she griped. Gabrielle jumped at her sudden irate voice.

"Back to...Amphipolis...?" Gabrielle lowered her gaze and Xena felt her heart stop for just a moment. She furrowed her eyebrows and hopped off the bed, grabbing Gabrielle's cheeks with her fingers.

"And just how exactly do you know that place?" she was inches from her face and Gabrielle's eyes widened. Gabrielle reached in her dress and Xena eyed her every move. She pulled out the note from Lyceus and put it in front of Xena's eyes.

Xena frowned and snatched the folded parchment from Gabrielle and opened it furiously. Her angry expression changed to a warm one in a split second. Gabrielle rubbed her cheeks and backed away as Xena kept reading the small note. She saw a small smile form on her lips and she grinned. Seeing Xena happy was something new, something she hadn't seen ever since she was with her.

The raven haired warrior stared back at the timid Gabrielle. "How did you get this?"

Gabrielle put her hands behind her back and smiled shyly. "I...went to Amphipolis and...and he gave it to me to give to you."

Xena took a few steps closer to Gabrielle and looked back at the note in her hands. "what happened to my brother, Gabrielle?" Gabrielle then backed up into a wall and Xena put her hand on the wall blocking Gabrielle from leaving or even thinking of leaving. "tell me! Something happened to him!"

Gabrielle felt Xena's eyes boring into her soul and she looked away, afraid to tell her. She grabbed Xena's arm trying to step away from the wall but she resisted and stared at her intensely. "I was on a find information about you," she began softly and Xena's eyes narrowed. "I came to Amphipolis with some Romans and Dido's men. Later that night we made camp and they..."

Xena growled, "they what?!" she yelled and Gabrielle winced.

"They burned down your village and your brother...he..." she glanced up at Xena and saw the fear in her eyes. She couldn't finish her sentence. Xena clenched her fist and Gabrielle's eyes grew, afraid she might get hit. Xena punched the wall and backed away, leaning her hands on a table. She stared down at the note and her eyes swelled with tears. She hugged the note close to her chest and closed her eyes, tensing her entire body.

Gabrielle stepped away from the wall and tapped Xena's shoulder. Xena turned around with tears streaming down her cheeks. "This is all your fault."

The blonde lowered her head, accepting what Xena said. "I didn't know that they were going to do that, Xena. I promised Lyceus I would give this note to you and I did," she said in a meek voice.

Xena smiled nodding her head, "well good for you. Because of you, my brother is dead." She left the room and ran down the hall to get out of this place. Gabrielle gasped and ran after her, yelling her name was quietly as possible.

Xena looked left and right and saw some guards have spotted her. She continued running down the hall while Gabrielle followed. One of the guards stopped her and she groaned as Xena rounded the corner. "Xena!" she yelled out. The guard grabbed onto her waist preventing her from running any further.

The guard alerted the other guards and they saw Xena running down the hall as fast as possible. She looked behind her and her breath quickened then she saw Caesar standing at the end of the hall with his arms folded. She came to a rough stop and stared at him breathing heavily.

"Going somewhere?" the Roman grinned. Xena frowned and grabbed a weapon hanging on one of the walls and pointed it at Caesar. The guards surrounded her from behind and she growled at them. "You're a bit outnumbered aren't you, Xena?" he snickered. He snapped his fingers at his men and one of them kicked her in her wounded back. She cringed and fell to her knees dropping the sword. Caesar bent down and picked up the blade. She stared up at him as two guards grabbed her arms hoisting her up. She spat in his face and Caesar frowned, wiping her saliva off his face.

"Beautiful woman, but no manners," he smirked. "Take her back to the dungeon with that sailor fellow." The guards drug Xena off and she squirmed trying to get free. Gabrielle appeared a few feet away from Xena being manhandled by a Carthaginian guard. Xena glared at her and Gabrielle looked away, not wishing to stare her in the face. She felt awful, but she had to tell Xena what happened and most importantly she had to fulfill Lyceus' last wish and she did just that.

Caesar came to Dido's guards holding Gabrielle. "Oh the blonde pest. You allowed Xena to escape didn't you?"

Gabrielle shook her head and he laughed. "She was hurt," she admitted quietly. He stepped closer to her and touched her cheek with his finger. She snapped her head away and frowned.

"I don't really care if she was hurt or not. She's a criminal and she's mine...until you allowed her to escape for the second time, or maybe...the third? Who knows!" he grinned and nudged his head. "Take her to the dungeon as well. I will go inform Princess Dido about this." Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she was pushed down the hall down below the palace.

As Xena was walking towards the stairs down below she eyed the dagger on the Roman. She smiled and snatched the dagger from his belt and stabbed him in the side. The other guard loosened his grip on her and she kneed him in the groin then head butted him. He fell to the floor knocked out. She ran down the stairs and saw another guard and slinked against the wall.

The guard looked to Sinbad as he was chained up. He heard some noises coming from upstairs and went to check it out. Sinbad raised an eyebrow and saw the guard disappear leaving him alone. He then saw the same guard a few moments later tumbling down the stairs and heard footsteps.

"Xena! What are you doing?!" he yelled. She smiled and grabbed the keys from the guard's belt. She ran towards the cell and unlocked the door then went to unlock his chained wrists. He touched her cheek and she grabbed his hand.

"I need you," she pulled him along and they exited the cell. They saw two more guards approaching and this time with Gabrielle in tow. Xena's mouth gaped and Sinbad smiled stepping in front of her. "Sinbad, what are you doing?" she placed her hand on his shoulder.

"Relax I got this. You showed this to me a hundred times," he took a step forward and the Carthaginian soldiers drew their swords. Xena rolled her eyes at this man. He snatched one of the swords from a soldier and twirled it in his hand. Xena's eyes widened and Gabrielle stood helpless and defenseless. She grimaced at her and Gabrielle frowned. She elbowed the swordless soldier and he groaned. Sinbad kicked the other soldier with his boot and sent him flying into the wall. He stabbed the sword into his armor pinning him to the wall. He grabbed Xena's hand and she snickered. "I don't kill," he winked. Gabrielle looked to Xena and she looked behind her as they ran up the stairs.

Xena halted and Sinbad looked behind him. "What's the hold up?" he tugged on Xena's arm. Gabrielle stared at her with wide doe eyes and Xena groaned, finally she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and rolled her eyes.

"Come on, little mouse," she grumbled and Gabrielle was shocked that she was taking her with them. Sinbad didn't understand either but the three left the dungeon below.

They reached the main hall and saw the guards busy chatting lazily. Xena still had the dagger from the Roman soldier in her hand. She tapped Sinbad's shoulder gently, "I want to steal a ship from Dido," she whispered.

Sinbad raised his eyebrows with a sly smile, "now you're talking my language," he rubbed his hands together and Xena pushed him forward.

"Go, we'll cover you," she urged and he ran down the hall. Xena grabbed a sword off the wall and gave the dagger to Gabrielle. "you know how to use this?" she eyed her carefully.

Gabrielle took the bloody dagger and Xena saw fear in her eyes. "You"

Xena placed her hand on the young blonde's shoulder, "You saved me two out of three times. Call it, returning a favor, but," she held up her finger, "I'm not finished with you yet," she frowned deeply and Gabrielle's eyes blinked rapidly. She put her hand on Gabrielle's as she held the dagger. "Thrust forward and stay behind me." She slinked close to the wall and the teen followed behind her holding the dagger forward just like Xena said in case someone came by.

A couple of guards walked by and Xena clung to the wall and put her arm over Gabrielle to stop her. She peeked her head around the corner and ran to the other side of the hall. She waved her hand for Gabrielle to run and the blonde felt sweat forming on her brow. Xena's eyes widened and she urged her to come. With a deep breath Gabrielle ran as fast as she could to join Xena.

They quietly ran from hall to hall until Gabrielle ran into a vase and it shattered to the ground. Xena halted in her step and snapped her head around glaring at Gabrielle. Suddenly a slew of guards came rounding the corner. Xena grabbed Gabrielle's hand and they ran into a room nearby and Xena shut the door. Gabrielle looked around and this was not a good plan, there was nowhere to run or hide. Xena looked out the balcony and down at a caravan filled with fresh linens.

"Are you afraid of heights?" Xena asked with a smirk. Gabrielle shook her head and then caught onto what she was suggesting.

" way! I am not jumping out the window!" she protested. The guards burst through the door and Xena grabbed her hand thrusting her forward out the window first. Gabrielle screamed all the way down and Xena smiled at the soldiers. Xena jumped next and landed next to the blonde in the caravan. She cringed as her legs were throbbing in pain.

She hopped out of the caravan and saw Sinbad had secured them one of Dido's ships. "Come on let's go," she extended her hand and Gabrielle grabbed her hand and hopped out of the caravan. The guards looked out the window and saw the two women running to the port to get on a ship. They grimaced and went to go outside from the entrance and a few went to alert Caesar and Dido.

Gabrielle fell to the ground a few yards away from the ship. "My ankle is twisted," she winced and Xena sighed. She grabbed her arm hoisting her up and wrapped her around herself. They limped together on their way to the ship.

Sinbad squinted his eyes and saw Xena and the blonde girl in no hurry to get on the ship. He ran towards them and looked to the young girl. "You two are taking forever!" he picked up Gabrielle in his arms and wrapped Xena's arm around his shoulder and they made it onto the ship. The guards were running after them and he groaned.

Finally on the ship he set Gabrielle down on the deck and Xena followed him to the back of the ship. He set the ship up for sale and quickly set their course. The guards had bows and arrows. His eyes widened and he pushed Xena down on the deck and he ducked. "Wow they don't stop. They really want you dead!" he steered the ship and they left the port.

Xena smirked, "they should start a club," she joked. She winced and held her side. Once the ship was on its course he knelt down close to her and placed his hand on her rib-cage. "I'm fine," she waved him away and he frowned.

"Sure you are," he smirked and helped her up to bring her down below. He stared over at the hurt blonde. He whispered, "who's that girl?"

Xena's eyes glanced over at Gabrielle as she was examining her ankle. "A little piece of treasure I found awhile back," she teased and Sinbad didn't question her. He helped her walk down the stairs.

They finally came to a room and he kicked open the door. Since this was one of Dido's ships it was obviously very nice and fit for royalty. His mouth gaped, thinking of all the jewels and treasures that were inside this very room. Xena groaned and he was brought back to reality. He helped her get to the bed and laid her down. For once in his life he cared more about a person than a few gold trinkets.

"I'll go get the blonde. Don't move," he smiled and Xena nodded. She winced as she sat up straight, adjusting herself. She reached behind her and touched her wound, it had opened again. She sighed and rubbed the blood on the brown dress that Gabrielle gave her in the palace.

He returned with Gabrielle in his arms and set her down in a chair nearby Xena as she sat on the bed. He smiled at Xena and she averted her gaze elsewhere. "I need to get on the deck to guide the ship...I'll be back later," he quickly exited the quiet room.

Xena glared at Gabrielle and the blonde said nothing, but stared back at her. "Thank you for saving me."

"Thanks for burning down my village," Xena retorted with a bit of bite in her words. Gabrielle sighed heavily and shrugged her shoulders.

"I told I didn't have anything to do with that...I wish you'd believe me." She mumbled quietly. Xena swung her legs over the bed and stood up slowly. Gabrielle's eyes trailed up and saw Xena standing in front of her glaring down at her. "What do I have to do to convince you?" she pleaded.

Xena smiled deviously and looked around the room for a weapon. She saw a short sword hanging up on the wall and went to retrieve it. She waltzed back over to Gabrielle and extended her hand. "Go on, take it." she urged her and Gabrielle eyed her curiously. She finally took it and Xena went to sit back down on the bed.

Gabrielle stared at the short sword then at Xena. "What am I supposed to do with this?" she raised an eyebrow.

Xena rubbed her side and crossed her legs. She smiled at Gabrielle and folded her arms. "Learn how to use it, little mouse," she smirked.

The blonde eyed her cautiously. "You're not going to kill me?"

The raven haired warrior shook her head, "if I wanted you dead I would've left you with Dido," she stared out the window and saw the calm blue sea. "You're a smart girl, why would ever be a slave to that princess?" she asked.

Gabrielle frowned, "I'm not a slave. If I was ever a slave it was when I was with you!" she spat back. Xena snarled at her and she lowered her gaze.

"I never treated you badly and you ran from me! It is I who should feel bad for you," Xena scoffed. "I don't understand you." She laughed humbly. "You save me not once, but twice and yet you were involved with the people who were trying to kill me. Yet there's just one strange thing," she wagged her finger and Gabrielle adjusted in her seat. "You help me again! Now out of the goodness of my heart," she added with deep sarcasm, "I saved you just this once. Perhaps it was because...I felt pity for you," she used Gabrielle's words on her in a conniving way. She winked at the blonde and Gabrielle cringed.

"You really are a snake of a woman, Xena." Gabrielle shook her head in disgust.

Xena grinned, "thank you for your kind words. Now get out," she demanded and Gabrielle sat in shock. She raised her eyebrows. "Are you deaf now or something? I said get out!" she yelled. Gabrielle stood up and limped towards the exit. Xena turned her head to see the young girl struggling with her hurt ankle. "You should wrap your ankle and stay off of it," she said quietly. Gabrielle sighed and left the room leaving Xena alone in silence.

An hour or so later Sinbad raced down the stairs and found the young blonde sitting on a large chest in the middle of the lower deck. He looked to the room and saw the door slightly ajar. He knelt down next to her and smiled. "What are you doing out here?"

Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "She told me to get out," she grumbled. She did wrap her ankle with a scarf she found in the chest she sat on and rested her leg on top of another chest. Sinbad stood up and folded his arms, shaking his head.

"She's ridiculous." He said then looked back at Gabrielle. "How do you know each other?" he asked curiously.

She sighed heavily, "It's a really long story."

Sinbad sat down ignoring Xena for awhile longer. He figured that she could wait for his presence a bit longer especially in the mood she was in. She changed from sensual to insane in just a few moments. He smiled at Gabrielle. "Tell me, I like stories. I have a few of my own," he winked and Gabrielle half smiled. She adjusted herself and began from the start of it all.

After finishing her story about she met Xena, Sinbad remained quiet as he sat down leaning against a post. He bobbed his head digesting Gabrielle's story and he furrowed his brows. "Wow, she's really..."

"Something else?" Gabrielle finished his thought. Sinbad agreed and he stood up getting ready to go see Xena, not exactly sure what to say to her anymore. Gabrielle leaned forward and frowned. "Sinbad?" he turned to face the young blonde. "Xena is tough on the outside but on the inside I don't think she is. At least...from my experience with her."

He smiled at Gabrielle. "somehow, I think I already knew that." He left and went inside the extravagant room. He found Xena sitting on the bed replacing her bandages from her back. He smirked at her and she noticed his presence and went back to dipping a cloth into a basin of water. He waltzed over to the edge of the bed and sat down. He put his hand over hers as she dipped the cloth in the water. "Will you allow me to help you this time?" he slyly asked.

At first she wasn't going to allow him to help but she relented as her way of doing things was taking far too long. He smiled and went to sit behind her dabbing her spine with the damp cloth. He squeezed the excess blood off and Xena remained silent staring at her hands in her lap. "So, Gabrielle is a nice girl." He made small talk with her. Xena's eyes lit up as he spoke of Gabrielle. "I can't believe you kidnapped her," he chuckled.

Xena turned around slightly, "I was trying to help her!" she defended herself. Sinbad nodded so she'd stop arguing with him. He turned her around and dabbed her wound gently.

"She told me that she saved you from Caesar and then she was shipped off to Carthage." He repeated Gabrielle's story. Xena rubbed her arm unconsciously looking for something to distract herself from her impending guilt in her mind. "She saved you again in Rome when you invaded..without me..." he added.

She groaned, "what is this? Story time?" she slapped his hand away from her wound and turned around to face him. He frowned at her and her eyes widened, waiting for more of his story that Gabrielle obviously told him about.

He ignored her intense stare and dipped the cloth in the water. "I wasn't finished," he gestured to her wound. She folded her arms and refused to allow him to help her any longer. He rolled his eyes at her stubbornness. "You're starting to become impossible, Xena." He stood up and she slipped her arms through the sleeves of the dress and let her hair down from atop her head. "So where do we go from here? Can't go back where we came from and all my men are left with Teuta. God knows what she did with them!" he grumbled and began pacing back and forth.

Xena reclined on the bed and watched him pace nervously. "Stop doing that you're making me sick just looking at you," she snapped at him. Sinbad folded his arms then sat on the edge of the bed staring at her intensely as he usually did when he was entranced. Xena raised an eyebrow and frowned at him.

His hand rested on her hip and her eyes traveled downwards, confused at his actions. She waved his hand away and he smiled. He reached for her hand and squeezed it tightly. Xena sat up and furrowed her brows. "What is going on with you?" she protested and he kissed her hand lightly.

"You're so tense, Xena!" he smiled then pat her hand and stood up. "I'm going up top to check on our location. Whenever you decide where to go, just tell me." Xena nodded confusedly at him. "I'm not getting into any more trouble with you!"

Xena sighed and then she had an idea. She smiled cunningly. "I want to find Teuta."

Sinbad saw that look in her eyes and he shook his head. "No way," he protested and she stood up walking towards him now inches from his face. He stared down at her not reneging on his decision. "You're carrying our child and you –"

"Yes I know! You do not need to remind me!" she shoved him against the wall and he frowned.

He opened the door backing away on his way out. "Then start acting like you know instead of ignoring it," he left and Gabrielle saw the sailor rush up the stairs. The door was left open and she saw Xena with her face buried in her hand pacing around in a circle.

Gabrielle got up slowly and tread towards the door. The floorboards creaked and Xena lifted her head and saw Gabrielle standing there. The blonde smiled and Xena ignored her walking to the other side of the room. "Xena, I know you hate me for what happened in Amphipolis and I can't blame you but...he's right."

Xena turned around with a confused face. "What?"

The blonde stepped in and she leaned against the door frame. "You don't need to get into any more trouble especially since you..." Xena glared at her and Gabrielle cleared her throat changing the subject. "I heard Caesar talking about Teuta, she's the Queen from Illyria. He's after her too and if you find her, you'll only be looking death in the eye!"

Xena scoffed, "such poetic words from a young mouth." She eyed the young girl. "I do not need advice on how to take over an entire army to claim it as my own." She bit her fingernail and Gabrielle's mouth gaped slightly. "But if I need advice on how to burn down villages, I'll make sure to come to you." Her mouth was still sour after she found out that her brother died. She left him with their mother and eldest brother, she's the one that left and since she left, he died because of her, in her name, he died. Inside, she knew Gabrielle was not at fault, it was Caesar and his Roman dogs.

Becoming curious she turned around to face Gabrielle. "Why did you go to Amphipolis? Why there?"

Gabrielle wasn't expecting a question like that coming from Xena. She already hit her with such demeaning words, she thought she'd hit her again, but her voice was mostly curious...not conniving. "I...I wanted to find out who you were before you ended up like...the way you are now," she spoke softly.

Xena turned her back on Gabrielle and looked outside at the calm waters. "You still have that short sword I gave you?" she randomly asked changing the subject, no longer wanting to talk about herself or her past self.

Gabrielle took awhile to answer and saw Xena turn to face her. "Yes, yes I do."

"Good, you're going to need it."

Gabrielle didn't understand what Xena meant by that but she wasn't about to ask and find out. She hobbled out of the room to leave Xena alone. The warrior woman turned and bit her lip as she watched the blonde leave the room. "Gabrielle..." she called out. Gabrielle turned around and raised her eyebrows slowly. "My brother..." Xena unconsciously rubbed her arms, "was he...did he look alright?"

The blonde smiled warmly, "he asked me to ask you if you were okay." She paused for a moment and saw Xena slip a small smile. "He missed you a lot," she added. She enjoyed seeing a softer side of Xena, something that she didn't normally see. "If you hate me you can say so, Xena. It's my fault that your brother died and I know you must hate me for it.." she mumbled.

Xena glanced at Gabrielle and frowned solemnly. "Somehow little mouse, I don't hate you and I don't think I ever could." She sighed and then felt her temper rising thinking of Caesar. "The death of my brother was because of Caesar and Dido's men!" she snarled. Gabrielle remained silent and then Xena sat down on the bed and stared at the wall aimlessly. A single tear streamed down her cheek and Gabrielle leaned on the doorframe watching Xena's stoic state, utterly and eerily quiet.

"Xena?" she whispered and still Xena remained quiet. She inched closer to the bed and peered over the dark veil of Xena's hair. She saw her glossy eyes and tear stained cheek.

Xena half smiled and fidgeted her fingers in her lap. "He was such a sweet boy," she reminisced her brother and Gabrielle smiled, sitting down on the bed next to her. "I will see to it that his death will be avenged," her eyes narrowed and she wiped her cheeks with her hands and Gabrielle's eyes widened, sensing Xena's anger radiating off her. She got up off the bed and wanted to go up on the deck to talk with Sinbad.

Gabrielle hobbled over to the door and called out, "Xena, are you sure that's the best thing to do? I don't think that's what your brother would have wanted –killing others in his name."

Xena turned her head over her shoulder, "I'm not going to kill just anyone, I'm going to kill that bastard and that whore that killed him!" she ran up the stairs to the deck and Gabrielle's mouth gaped. She was so close but Xena switched to the other side once more. She thinks that justice is met by the end of a sword and not with words or even thoughts alone.

A few days went by and Sinbad was up early in the morning and saw land approaching. It was obviously the coast of Anatolia by the looks of their ships. Xena was in the room and ate some of the food that was found in the ship. She shared the pickled vegetables and bread with Gabrielle over a course of three days.

Sinbad came into the room and saw Xena nibbling on some bread and Gabrielle sat in a corner of the room away from Xena, eating some vegetables in silence. "We're close to Anatolia. We'll need to stop here and buy clothes and um," he saw the pickled foods and bread, "and some normal foods."

Gabrielle finished eating the vegetables and left for the deck to leave eager to get off the ship. She was tired of being in the same room with Xena. She didn't talk to her and barely looked at her and when she did it was a strange glare. Sinbad looked over at the blonde as she hobbled out of the room.

"Are you feeling alright?" he sat down on the bed next to her and Xena groaned tossing the bread aside. She scooted away from as she felt him nearing her.

"Why do you care? We are not together, Sinbad!" she folded her arms and leaned against the pillows staring at the wall.

Sinbad was getting tired of Xena's abstinence and he came up close to her. "Xena, could you put aside your conquering dreams just for awhile?" he touched her arm and she slapped his hand away.

"No! I told you I want Teuta's army and I am going to get it no matter what happens!" she huffed and Sinbad shook his head.

"Xena I love you and if I didn't then I wouldn't be here!"

Xena smiled mockingly. "You should stop loving me, Sinbad. You only stayed because of the baby." She scoffed.

Sinbad frowned at her, "if I'm not allowed to love you then I can at least love our child. I don't really care if you don't agree with me or not." He rested his hand on her stomach and she eyed him carefully, though didn't push him away. He smiled lightly and she smirked at his very loving attitude. "We should go and get some food." He stood up and she glared at him. "For the baby of course, because remember, I don't love you," he teased.

Xena followed him up to the deck and they saw Gabrielle overlooking Anatolia alone. She peered around and saw Xena staring at her. Sinbad hung close to Xena and smiled at the blonde girl. "What are we going to do with the mouse girl?" he picked up on Xena's nickname for Gabrielle quickly.

Xena smiled sneakily, "I'm going to train her." Sinbad shook his head and went to steer the ship close to the port. For once in his life he was anxious to get off a ship and away from the sea for awhile. It was too dangerous to be at sea especially since he was with Xena.

Awhile later they arrived at the port and the sailor managed to sell some of Dido's jewels for money. He gave some of the money to Xena and Gabrielle to find clothing. He sent them off for an hour or so and said he would meet up with them in the market.

He bought some fruit and wine with some freshly baked flatbread. He saw Xena had picked out black armor and new boots. She wore a black turban around her head and her hair hung behind her shoulders. Sinbad saw Gabrielle wearing armor as well and she seemed very uncomfortable wearing such clothing.

He saw Xena unsheathe a scimitar and his eyes widened taking a bite out of a large peach. "How did you get that sword?" he asked warily.

"I traded some of Dido's necklaces for it. Nice isn't it?" she snickered, raising her eyebrows. She looked to Gabrielle and she sat down scraping the sand with a sword. "Oh yeah, I got her one too," she winked at Gabrielle.

Xena looked at herself in a mirror admiring her new armor and look she had. "There's a centaur territory not too far from here, I heard from a couple of travelers." She looked to the sailor with fiery eyes. "why don't we go there first?" his entire face lit up and Gabrielle sighed, her head hung lowly.

Chapter Text

AN: thanks for reading this strange AU, everyone lol! It's about to get intense...also more interaction with Gabrielle and Xena in this chapter. Enjoy ;)

Chapter 17

A few days after the three arrived in Anatolia Xena was able to bargain a merchant for a couple of horses. She wanted to go on an adventure to find these centaurs. Gabrielle had heard of the centaurs when she was younger but never saw one in real life, she figured they weren't real. As much as she wanted to see the strange half horse half man society, she wondered what Xena was really planning. She was being quite calm about it all and was quite anxious to get on the road.

Throughout the entire time they arrived they were in the desert lands of Anatolia on the outskirts of a city in the north of the country, far away from the coast. Xena had persisted on moving quickly and efficiently. Sinbad decided to loot Dido's entire ship to provide for the three of them while they were traveling.

In secret Xena would through all the villages they passed by and asked if there were any armies that came through the area. Xena was able to find out that there was indeed an army moving through the area and everyone hated them. They were Mesopotamian and hated throughout Anatolia. Xena desperately wanted to engage with the Mesopotamian military and especially wanted to see if they saw Teuta come through with her newfound army combined with Sinbad's men. Xena didn't know much about the Illyrian but she and her had something in common and that was that they both hated the Roman Empire. From Gabrielle's eavesdropping she said that Caesar was out to find Teuta as much as she was out to find her, though he failed once again. Xena had Gabrielle to thank for that for sure.

Xena and Sinbad's names would reach Anatolia eventually and to avoid being caught or killed they did not receive help from the locals except for food and quick stops on the way to the northern hills of the country. They managed to get two large tents from bartering with a very stubborn Turk local.

Gabrielle stayed at the campsite with Sinbad. He counted the dinars that he accumulated throughout the last few days from the trading of Dido's jewels and clothes. She sat in front of a fire and poked at the wood with a stick with a sad frown. Xena had gone off scouting the area alone. She insisted that she'd go alone and not be bothered. Sinbad finished counting the coins and glanced over at the solemn quiet blonde teen.

"How you doing?" he smiled. Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder and remained quiet. He nodded his head in agreement. "I know that this is not what you wanted but I'm glad you're with us. I mean...for Xena," he grinned. Gabrielle looked at him with a confused face. "She needs someone like you." He sighed heavily. "She has large dreams of becoming a –"

"Conqueror, I know." Gabrielle interrupted the sailor. "I recorded her first steps following the sword, remember?" she spoke of the few months she spent with her. Sinbad remembered the story that Gabrielle told him and he shook his head at Xena. Sometimes she could be so complicated and yet make so much sense at the same time. "I never thought I'd end up here with someone like her...or you," she half smiled.

Sinbad scooted closer to her and set his hand on her shoulder. "Look Gabrielle, I never thought I'd be on land this long but I am!" he tried to make light of the situation but it wasn't really helping.

Gabrielle smiled, "I know you're only here because she's pregnant otherwise you'd be gone."

He bobbed his head in agreement. "Yeah that's true actually." He watched Gabrielle as she fed the fire with her stick. "I really do care about Xena and the baby too," he shrugged nonchalantly. "I know that she doesn't feel the same way but it makes me feel better to believe she feels the same."

Gabrielle pat his knee gently. "She's just scared." Sinbad looked at her with furrowed eyebrows and she smiled, explaining herself. "I get up every morning at least an hour before Xena does. I pretend that I'm still asleep in the tent next to yours." She eyed him carefully and he seemed more perplexed than ever. "I hear Xena get up just after the sun rises and she starts the fire. I watch her without her noticing and she makes herself hot tea that she bargains for in local villages." She sighed heavily, "after she finishes her tea she eats something small before you wake up so she won't feel sick later in the morning. Once you come out from the tent she seems normal and tough, like she appears on the outside." She smirked.

Sinbad didn't know Xena did all that and what surprised him the most was that Gabrielle was really observant and he was completely oblivious. "I didn't know she felt like that. Every morning you said?" Gabrielle nodded affirming his question. He rubbed his chin pensively and then felt bad for not being able to help Xena at least in some way. "I should help her or something," he tapped his fingers on his knees and Gabrielle smiled at his affection towards Xena.

"She doesn't want your help," just as Sinbad was about to reply he saw Xena riding in on her new horse coming back from scouting the area. He stood up with a sad frown on his face. Xena hopped off the horse with a strange look on her face as soon as he saw the look on his face.

Xena smirked and grabbed some bags off the horse and threw them on the ground. "You two have fun playing together?" she joked. Sinbad looked to Gabrielle and he saw her shake her head slightly signaling for him not to mention anything they talked about.

He smiled at Xena as if nothing was on his mind. "Of course. Did you find anything?" he played coy. Xena nodded and pulled out a giant war bow off the back of the horse. His eyes lit up and Gabrielle rubbed her temples. "Wow, that's...what are you going to do with that?"

Xena shrugged, "I traded my dagger for this bow. I got it for you," she hid a sly smile and Sinbad took the bow from her cautiously, not sure of her motives. "Oh I forgot, you don't love me," she pouted and brushed passed him. He groaned and Gabrielle stood up and set a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He decided to leave their camp for awhile and find out more about the Mesopotamian army. He figured that either Xena found nothing or she did and wasn't going to reveal what she found. Even though he was at sea most of the time, he knew many people especially in this area. He was from a country similar to this one and knew many people here and the Mesopotamians were his people. If anything, he'd be able to find them better and quicker than Xena ever could. He mounted Xena's horse and took off with his gifted bow.

Gabrielle entered the tent and found Xena eating some fruit and drinking a generous amount of water. She smiled at her and Xena felt a presence staring at the back of her head. "What do you want, mouse?" she called out.

The blonde stepped inside and stood beside Xena as she cleared the bowl of peaches quickly. "Why do you call me a little mouse?" Gabrielle asked curiously.

Xena looked up at Gabrielle as if she was crazy. "Because you are small and...remind me of a field mouse," she smirked and finished off the vase of water quenching her thirst.

Gabrielle nodded her head pretending to understand but the truth was, she didn't. She chose to ignore it anyway. Xena set her hand over her chest and Gabrielle could tell she was uncomfortable and was too proud to admit so. "How's your stomach?" she asked in a quiet voice.

Xena shifted awkwardly and grabbed the rest of the bread and put it in a large bag then stood up, ignoring Gabrielle. Though once she realized that the blonde mouse wasn't going to go away she sighed. "Fine," she answered rather curtly and that was enough to convince Gabrielle that she was definitely lying.

She left the tent and saw her horse was gone and so was Sinbad. She growled and sat down in front of the fire and took off the turban wrapped around her head. Gabrielle followed shortly after and she stood to the side of her. Xena looked up at the coy girl and rolled her eyes. She scooted over and Gabrielle sat down rather close to her.

After some silent moments Gabrielle decided to tell a little story to Xena to get her mind off of Sinbad and think about something else more important –something that she'd been ignoring. "My neighbor in my village was a few years older than me, about eighteen I think. She got married as soon as her father died because her family needed money," she began. Xena looked at her with a bit of a snarl. Gabrielle grinned and continued. "A few months after she got married she got pregnant and I never seen so much fear in my friend's eyes!" she shook her head and Xena turned away putting her attention towards the roaring fire. "Her husband worked out of our village for long periods of time and she was left alone a lot. I would go and visit her in the mornings to keep her company..."

Xena scoffed and turned to face Gabrielle, "is there a point to this story?" she grimaced.

Gabrielle nodded, "the point is, if I didn't come to see her every morning she would feel so lonely even if she was a married woman. She never felt alone when I was there and what I'm trying to say is that you don't have to be alone either, Xena."

"I like being alone," Xena said stubbornly.

Gabrielle smiled at Xena's ego but she knew that was lying to herself. "But that's just it Xena, you're not alone anymore." She fidgeted with her hands in her lap and Xena avoided her gaze and continued staring at the open flames focusing all her energy on that and nothing else. "You can't ignore what's inside you," she stated rather boldly.

As Xena listened to Gabrielle's words and her small story about her village friend she wasn't sure if she should be angry or at ease. She had felt alone for a very long time and even with the child growing within her she still felt alone even if she wasn't alone any longer. In truth, she wanted to lash out at her mouse but she didn't and somehow her words sunk into her.

"I don't ignore it," Xena mumbled and got up feeling awkward talking about this with this young girl. She hadn't really talked to anyone about this, not even Sinbad. She had hid it long enough from him but she couldn't hide it anymore and she had ignored it or at least pretended to. Gabrielle managed to always follow her in a strange way even when she was far away, but now that she was close she wasn't sure if she was annoyed by her presence or pleased to have her here to think more clearly about herself.

Gabrielle's ears perked up as she heard Xena actually say something to her. She actually listened to her and that was something she definitely did not expect at all coming from Xena. She wanted to smile but she kept her pride to herself and watched Xena walk around the camp obviously thinking to herself. She saw the gears turning in that head of hers and stayed quiet waiting for her to say more.

Xena glanced at the teen and crinkled her nose, "don't look at me like that. You're going to make me sick. You and Sinbad with your affectionate ways," she scoffed and turned her back towards her. She took in a deep breath allowing her nausea to subside. She set her hands on her hips and felt Gabrielle's eyes burning the back of her head. She sighed and closed her eyes as her stomach churned. "Don't you have something else to stare at?" she snapped.

Gabrielle looked away as if Xena knew that she wasn't gawking her any longer. After Xena composed herself she turned around then grabbed a few bags of items she found while scouting in a village not too far from here. Gabrielle saw Xena avoiding her gaze and trying to keep herself busy until she finally went back into her tent to be alone. She wasn't going to let her get off that easily and entered the tent. Xena turned around and rolled her eyes.

"You're starting to make me mad," Xena pestered her and emptied the bags and pulled out some vials of oils and some earrings the villagers gave her.

"Sinbad cares about you and the baby a lot you know," Gabrielle randomly said and Xena stopped admiring the gifts and creased her eyebrows, now seriously irritated by this blonde mouse of hers. "He wants to help you but doesn't know how..." she said quietly.

Xena smiled tightly, "oh does he?" she mocked. "Well I don't need his help and I don't need yours either, little mouse," she pulled out a small breast dagger and admired its subtle craftsmanship.

Gabrielle folded her arms becoming irritated with Xena's dismissive attitude. "You said you don't ignore the baby but anytime he tries to bring it up you ignore him and you're so mean to him!" her voice raised and Xena threw down the dagger and bag of gifts standing up abruptly glaring into Gabrielle's green eyes.

"How can I ignore something that makes me feel so horrible every hour of the day?!" she yelled in Gabrielle's face. "you don't seem to understand, Gabrielle. I want to achieve my goal of having my own army and a child isn't going to get in my way of doing that. You and Sinbad don't understand that!"

Gabrielle frowned and blinked at Xena. She now understood why everyone called Xena a snake. She may have called her that back on the ship but she didn't really mean it like everyone else did. She was willing to sacrifice her child to become a great ruler and Gabrielle saw in her eyes that she didn't care or if she did, she was very good at hiding it. "Well, your baby doesn't understand either!" she retorted back with furrowed brows. Xena's eyes widened at her comeback and Gabrielle saw the warrior's lip quiver slightly then she stormed out of the tent brushing past her bumping into her shoulder.

As soon as Xena left Gabrielle was able to breathe again. She never thought she'd be able to say something so bold as that especially to a person like Xena, but she did and it felt really good to say that. Somehow she thought that those words had struck Xena in a very harsh way and she knew that Xena hated that. She hated feeling vulnerable and that's exactly what she was right now –vulnerable.

Xena unsheathed her newfound sword and stared back at the tent. Gabrielle was probably hiding away from her, recuperating as she remained outside. She twirled the sword and a smile came to her lips, though not completely forgetting what she said to her. The young blonde mouse was quite a bold girl and obviously was not afraid to speak her mind even if it got her into trouble. Xena would make sure that she'd be put in place and very soon.

"Gabrielle, come out here with me. I want to show you something," she grinned deviously then saw the blonde emerge from the tent with timid eyes. She pointed the blade at the girl with a subtle smirk. "You still got that short sword I gave you?" the girl nodded and Xena pointed to the girl's tent across from hers and Sinbad's. "Go get it, please?" her smile grew and her eyes narrowed. Gabrielle frowned but did as instructed. She rummaged through what little belongings she had and finally retrieved the short sword.

Once she stepped out of the tent she found Xena's blade up to her neck and Xena behind her. Gabrielle gasped then Xena wrapped her hand around her mouth, preventing her from speaking. Xena was indeed a lot bigger than her, taller than her and more skilled than her despite her age.

Xena grinned and felt Gabrielle's heart race as her arm grazed over her chest. She tightened her grip on the sword and the metal touched the blonde's neck. "There's something you should learn from this, Gabrielle." She whispered. Gabrielle's eyes wandered around and Xena was very close to her, though she couldn't see her face, she felt her smile. "I call you a mouse because you are small and meek but I'm going to teach you a few things, little mouse!"

She let go of Gabrielle and pushed her away. Xena smiled twirling the sword with her wrist. Gabrielle rubbed her neck a little unsure how this was going to go. Her ankle had healed itself over the last week and she wasn't sure if she wanted to be injured again especially by Xena.

"Lesson one!" Xena began and circled around the nervous blonde. "Use your height and weight to your advantage," she circled her like a hawk and Gabrielle eyed her cautiously, turning around amongst herself. Xena smiled at her little blonde mouse and saw fear in her eyes.

"Lesson two! Never show your enemy that you're scared," she hissed and lunged forward and Gabrielle fell backwards stumbling over a log. Gabrielle's breathing quickened and her heart beat faster. She picked up the short sword and stood up slowly facing Xena with her sword thrust forward.

"Lesson three! Always expect the unexpected!" Xena ran towards her and Gabrielle put up her short sword blocking Xena's blow.

Gabrielle's arms began shaking as Xena used her upper-arm strength forcing her blade down on her. Gabrielle lowered to her knee and cringed. "What are you doing?!" she yelled out in a shaky voice.

Xena let up off the girl and extended her hand out to help Gabrielle up off the ground. The blonde hesitantly grabbed her hand and stood up gradually. "I am impressed with your reflexes, mouse," she tapped the tip of the sword with her fingertip. Gabrielle brushed some dirt off her black skirt and Xena eyed her with a raised brow. She had a conniving smile and then walked forward and pushed Gabrielle on her rear. The blonde gasped and stared up at Xena.

"Why did you push me?!" she said in surprise and Xena watched the girl get up. She then pushed Gabrielle down again. Xena grinned with a sly smile and Gabrielle stood up quicker.

"Stop it!" the blonde yelled and Xena came at her again and pushed her down once more. Gabrielle growled at the raven haired warrior and got up quickly and ran towards Xena and pushed her back with a large push. "I said, stop it!" she shouted.

Xena stumbled backwards and caught herself before she fell down. She grinned deviously at Gabrielle nodding her head. "Good...good," she hissed and Gabrielle slowed her heavy breathing. The blonde's eyes widened as she realized what she just did –she pushed Xena because she was angry, angry about being pushed around by her. "You're angry..." Xena grinned and sheathed her sword.

Gabrielle shook her head, "I'm sorry Xena! I'm so sorry..." she mumbled.

"Lesson four..." Xena walked around the campfire examining Gabrielle's solemn face. "Never let anger cloud your mind." She tapped her head with her finger. Gabrielle looked to her with a confused expression.

Sinbad strolled through two small villages and it looked like Xena came through here as he was dressed very similarly to her. He wore a black blouse with a silver vest and a black turban on his head. After he grabbed some water from a well he continued to find the Mesopotamian army that Xena wanted to find. He had no need to ask the locals about the army as he was able to track them as the day went by. He looked to the sky and saw the sun setting.

He looked over a giant hill and saw many huts, a few fires and many dark horses. He smiled and rode down the hill cautiously. He was lucky that he spoke their language and that he belonged to those people.

Jamal, the leader of the army saw a rider approaching. He grimaced and ran up to the rider holding his hand up for the rider to stop. Sinbad halted the horse and hopped off willingly with a large smile. "What brings you here, stranger?" Jamal stated in a firm voice.

Sinbad walked forward and recognized that voice and face. "Jamal?" he grinned. The commander noticed that similar posture and voice.

"Sinbad!" he came forward and gave his friend a large hug. They grinned and Sinbad patted his back harshly. "What are you doing in Anatolia?!" he wrapped his arm around his friend and brought him into the military campsite. All men stared at him and some recognized Sinbad. They waved at him and the sailor waved back acknowledging his old friends.

Jamal lead Sinbad into the largest tent, the commander's tent. Jamal offered Sinbad to sit down on the rug and he snapped to his servant. The young boy brought them some fresh hot tea and began to prepare a water pipe. "This is a nice tent you have here," Sinbad's eyes wandered around.

The commander grinned nodding his head, "could've been yours if you took the job offer!" he winked. Sinbad laughed nervously and sipped the hot tea. "You never answered my question."

The sailor coughed from the strong tea. It had been quite awhile since he had tea this strong. "My company and I are just passing through." He said making sure not to reveal Xena's name at all. "what about you? I never thought I'd see your army in this countryside," he grinned drinking more of the tea.

Jamal's eyes perked up as he heard the word 'company'. "So you got any lady friends following you? You were always very good with the ladies."

Sinbad grinned nervously. "Something like that," he mumbled and his friend slapped his shoulder and his eyes widened, feeling anxious about this entire situation.

"Can't say I'm surprised." Jamal sighed. "anyway, I'm scouting the area. The King wants to expand trade. This is not a violent mission," he reassured his sailor friend.

The servant boy brought forth the water pipe and handed the hose to his master. Jamal grinned at him and Sinbad watched his friend smoke from the pipe blowing out large clouds of smoke.

As the two carried on with their conversation until someone entered Jamal's tent unannounced. Sinbad looked up and saw a woman dressed in black thick robes, wearing a veil covering her dark thick wavy hair. Her eyes were green and lined with kohl. Jamal stood up immediately and kissed the woman's hand. She was an older woman, maybe in her early fifties.

Sinbad stood up copying his friend and kissed the beautiful woman's hand as well. The woman grinned and stepped around the men and sat down across from them in a semi-circle.

Jamal cleared his throat, "Sinbad this is Maeve, the King's mother," he bowed his head curtly and Sinbad smiled nodding his head at the royal woman.

"Very nice to meet you," the sailor drank more of his tea and Maeve grinned at him as her emerald green eyes twinkled.

"Sinbad the Sailor," she recognized that name. she touched his hand and Sinbad felt a bit awkward being touched by royalty. He never met the King of Mesopotamia especially not the King's own mother! He felt the need to kiss her forehead and got up on his knees. Maeve stopped him and pushed him down back on the rug gently. The longer she held onto his hand the more she knew about the sailor. "Congratulations to you," she smiled warmly.

Sinbad looked to Jamal and furrowed his brows. "Forgive me...I don't understand," he was truly confused now.

Maeve chuckled lowly to herself. "You're expecting a baby, are you not?" she said with a sly voice. Jamal grinned and pat his friend's knee. Sinbad's eyes widened and he didn't know how but this woman could somehow see his life and they had never met before.

"Sinbad, I'm surprised!" Jamal laughed at the idea of his old friend having a child of his own. "Hopefully the lady is as pretty as that one girl you had a few years ago. You know the one with red hair."

Sinbad stared blankly at his friend and then stared at the older woman. " did you know that?"

Maeve folded her hands in her lap and smiled slyly at the sailor. "I don't reveal my secrets, sailor." She saw the shocked looked in his eyes and he sat stoic and speechless. "She's very beautiful, isn't she?" she asked speaking of Xena, obviously.

The sailor cleared his throat nodding his head. "Well, yes she is but...she doesn't love me and doesn't want me anywhere near her!" he grew frustrated thinking of Xena's raging anger.

Jamal tisked and smoked some more leaning back on a large pillow watching Sinbad's eyes widened and his nostrils flare just mentioning this mystery woman of his. "She sounds like trouble," he snickered.

Sinbad raised his eyebrow, "you have no idea." He grumbled. He then thought of Xena's plan and thought he ought to mention Teuta's name to get information. Truthfully he wanted his men back and Xena wanted Teuta. He would do anything for Xena even if she didn't appreciate it to the full extent. "Jamal, have you heard of a queen named Teuta?"

Jamal frowned and he coughed some after he puffed from his water pipe. "You mean Teuta the Untamable?" he shook his head sighing heavily. "Everyone has heard of her! She is on the outskirts of Anatolia. I said that this is a peaceful mission but if she comes here, we need to take her out. She wants to expand that Illyrian kingdom of hers."

Sinbad nodded his head taking in all this information. He stood up abruptly as he had been gone long enough and it would take him a long time to get back to Xena and Gabrielle. "I'd love to stay some more but I need to get back to my camp."

Jamal stood up and hugged his friend. "To get back to your lady friend, right?" he winked. Sinbad sighed nodding his head shyly. "Why don't you bring your woman here to stay with us. I'd love to meet her." Sinbad did not like the idea of that but he simply smiled, hiding his true feelings. He pat his back and said, "I'll get some food for your travels on the way back." He left the tent and now Sinbad was left alone in the tent with Maeve, the mysterious woman.

Maeve reached in a pocket inside her thick black robe. She pulled out something shaped like a rectangle and it was wrapped nicely in red cloth. She set it in Sinbad's hand and put her hand over hers. "Tell her to eat this in the morning and she will feel better," she winked.

Sinbad tucked the gift in his pocket and folded his arms. He smiled apprehensively. "I don't know how you know all of this about me."

"I am very experienced," Maeve pat Sinbad's shoulder and he was left confused. "You will have a healthy boy," she added and Sinbad's eyes widened. Maeve left the tent and his mouth gaped. She was rather tall and slim, he reminded him of his own mother the way she carried herself. He didn't know what was in the cloth so he reached in his pocket, unwrapping the gift Maeve gave him. It was a block of something edible obviously and it was a dark brown. He smelled it and the aroma was subtly sweet. He never smelled something like this before but he simply put it back in his pocket and left the tent to grab his horse and say goodbye to his friend.

Jamal grinned and tied a few bags of food on Sinbad's horse. Sinbad watched Maeve walk towards a group of men and they definitely weren't soldiers. "I packed some helwa for you. I know how much you like it." Helwa was one of Sinbad's favorite sweets ever since he was living in Mesopotamia. It was congealed sugar filled with an assortment of nuts and had a taffy-like consistency. Sinbad thanked his friend and kept looking at Maeve. Jamal turned his head and saw him staring at the King's mother.

"She's interesting isn't she?" Jamal said. Sinbad frowned.

"What is she?" Sinbad folded his arms as he continued to glare at the strange woman. Maeve felt eyes on her and turned around to see the sailor's eyes glaring at her. She smiled at him and disappeared with her group of men into a large tent on the other side of a secluded part of the camp.

Jamal leaned close to his friend and whispered in his ear, "rumors say that she is a sorceress but you know us Zoroastrians don't believe in such things. If we did we'd have to answer to you know who," he pointed up at the sky. Sinbad smiled at his joking friend. He knew Jamal was never religious and neither was he, but he spent a lot of time in a religious school throughout most of his childhood. He was more suspicious of the woman than Jamal as obviously.

Sinbad hopped on his horse and saw the tent that Maeve entered. He made sure to remember that tent. He grinned at Jamal, "yeah sorceresses, no such thing as those," he scoffed. Jamal grinned and pat his friend's thigh.

"I hope to see you up here with us soon, Sinbad. Tell your lady friend that I said hi," he winked and Sinbad nodded then left the campsite to return to his own small camp.

As Sinbad rode through the darkness Maeve stood on the hilltop watching him ride off. She frowned and her eyes glowed, changing from green to white as she watched him ride off until he was no longer visible. She adjusted her veil then returned to the tent as her group of men were waiting for her.

It was the middle of the night when Sinbad returned to the camp and he found Gabrielle sitting in front of the fire by her lonesome self. He smiled and grabbed the bag of helwa and threw it down next to the blonde. Gabrielle was startled by his presence and she smiled, thankful to see the sailor.

"You're back late," Gabrielle poked the fire and stared down at the heavy bags. Sinbad sat down next to her and warmed up his body from the fire. "What's in the bags?"

He rubbed his hands together as the nights were awfully cold and dry up here. "Some sweets. I found the Mesopotamian army and spoke with the leader for awhile."

Gabrielle's eyes lit up but then realized that this is exactly what Xena wanted. "That's good I guess," she scratched her arm and Sinbad noticed a large scratch on her forearm.

"What happened to your arm?"

She received this wound from trying to lamely spar with Xena earlier today. "I don't want to talk about it..." she mumbled. Sinbad smiled and looked to the tent probably where Xena was. She noticed where his eyes were fixated on. "She fell asleep awhile ago. I couldn't sleep," she shrugged.

He got up and stepped into the tent quietly and found Xena sleeping on the ground covered in an animal skin, trying to keep warm it seemed. She had her boots off and her armor, only wearing a long dress she picked up from a village a few days ago. He figured that she didn't trade for it, she probably stole it. he took off his armor and sat down next to her watching her sleep soundly.

Xena stirred in her sleep as she heard rustling and Sinbad cursed to himself as he didn't want to wake her. "About time," she groaned and rolled over grumpily and stared up at him.

"You actually cared about me?" he teased. Xena slowly sat up and rubbed her eyes. He felt the gift in his vest and pulled it out. Xena peered over at the weird item in his hand.

"What is that?" she inquired and yawned.

He shrugged, not entirely knowing what it was. He broke off a piece and put it in his mouth, testing it. something about that Maeve woman he did not trust. He didn't want to give Xena something that was potentially dangerous. The substance melted in his mouth and he never tasted anything like it before. It was sweet but a bit sour as well. He didn't want to admit it, but it could taste better than helwa. He wrapped up the brown sweet bar and gave it to Xena.

"For you," he smiled and Xena took it cautiously. "It's supposed to help with...your nausea," he said shyly. Xena raised an eyebrow at him, not expecting that to come out of his mouth. "Gabrielle told me how you've been feeling. I wish you would have told me."

Xena set the gift from him aside and laid back down. "It will pass," she kept telling herself this, but for the last five months, she had her doubts. The longer he stared at her he remembered what Maeve said. She said that he would have a son and she was correct about Xena carrying his child, so he was beginning to believe that Jamal's joking words about her being a sorceress had some truth to them. That woman was strange, very strange.

Sinbad watched Xena as she adjusted herself beneath the animal skin. He would tell her about the army in the morning, which would be in just a few hours. Though he wasn't tired, he laid down next to her and lolled his head to the side. Xena opened her eyes and saw his green eyes staring back at her. She rolled her eyes and he grinned at her.

"Gods Sinbad, can you not stare at me like that?" she rolled over now her back facing him.

"Xena.." he leaned on his elbow and she shifted her body uncomfortably.

"Hm?" she closed her eyes and curled her legs close to her stomach.

He remained quiet and he saw her breathing slow down as her body relaxed some. "Do you think that we will have a son?" he asked in a hushed voice.

Xena's eyes opened and she was not in the mood to talk about this. She turned over and stared at his eyes. They were not warm, but a bit fearful. "I don't know," she admitted truthfully. She stared back into his eyes and remembered what Gabrielle said to her earlier. She said she was ignoring the situation and Xena said that she wasn't, but she lied. She definitely was ignoring it and when she saw the fear in Sinbad's eyes she realized that he really did care for her, but she didn't want a love interest distracting her.

"Why are you asking something like that, anyway?" Xena rolled back over on her side to get ready to go to sleep again.

Sinbad half smiled, "no reason," he leaned down to kiss her cheek then hesitated. He pulled away and got up to leave the tent.

Xena's eyes remained open and she heard Sinbad leave. She creased her brows, thinking his behavior very odd. What are you up to, Sinbad? She pursed her lips and figured that sleep would not come to her anytime soon after that little encounter.

Gabrielle saw Sinbad come out of the tent appearing a bit flustered. She wasn't the least bit tired, at least not yet. She was still shaken up from the spar during the day and she really hated fighting Xena. Though, she sucked, she admitted, she didn't understand why Xena was treating her like this. Before, she just used her as a story teller but now, she was treating her like she was one of her soldiers in her stolen army.

"Is she asleep?" Gabrielle asked curiously.

Sinbad nodded, "I woke her up," he paced around and Gabrielle frowned at his strange attitude. He then sat down across from her and fidgeted with this thumbs in his lap. "Gabrielle do you believe in sorceresses?"

She didn't really think about that too often but if there were centaurs then she supposed there were sorceresses. "Sure, I guess."

"I think I met one earlier. Something about her was so strange!" he rubbed his face with his hands vigorously. "She knew that Xena is pregnant and even told me that..."

Gabrielle was listening more intently now and she scooted closer to the sailor. "told you what?"

He sighed heavily, "she told me that I would have a son. How does she know that? How?" he groaned and stood up pacing around in a circle. "I don't trust her," he shook his head."Where I come from people like her are burned and tortured. Although, they're mostly frauds so we never believed sorceresses and sorcerers were real." He rubbed his chin.

Gabrielle didn't really understand anything he was saying as he kept babbling on. "Well, if she really is what she appears to be, then I wouldn't trust her either. She sounds...strange, like you said," she watched the sailor pace back and forth.

"When I'm at sea there are two rules," he held up his finger, "stay away from the Siren caves and don't trust beautiful women!" he looked to Gabrielle and saw a very prominent frown on her face. He smiled nervously, "no offense." He sighed and then sat back down as Gabrielle stared at him intensely. "My friend...he runs the army and said he is expecting us to come there."

Gabrielle could feel the man's angst from across the fire and she rested her chin on her palm, not exactly sure what to say. Xena's life was never dull. "Are we going to go?"

Sinbad frowned, "I know Xena will want to but what if that woman...I don't know." He grew frustrated just thinking about the entirety of everything. He stood up, "in the morning I will tell Xena about the army and we'll go from there." He turned to leave and Gabrielle stopped him.

"Sinbad," she called out and he turned around facing her with solemn eyes. "I know you'll keep Xena and the baby safe," she smiled. He nodded and went back into the tent. She sat there alone now and feared sleep. She could understand why he was worried but what she worried about more was Xena. She was so unpredictable! Today showcased it very well indeed. She rubbed her wounded arm and groaned. She will figure Xena out, she told herself. One day, she'll understand her.

AN: Is Maeve really what Sinbad believes she is?

Chapter Text

AN: so this is quite long and took me two days to write. It kind of is slow in some areas, but will pick up in the following chapter. A lot of things going on here! Thanks for reading and enjoy ;)

Chapter 18

Cyrene walked towards her son's grave in the back of their home in the large field. She knelt down and set flowers on the freshly dug grave and sighed. A single tear streamed down her cheek as she stared at her youngest child's grave. She never thought that one of her children would die before her. She also never thought that her only daughter would run off to become the monster that she is. Xena had become something that she'd never thought she'd be and if that girl had never shown up then maybe Lyceus would be alive. Cyrene blamed Xena for this, all of it. Her son's death was because of Xena and she told herself that she'd never forgive her for that.

She buried her face in her hands and sobbed quietly to herself. Toris watched his mother from afar. He heard her sobs from their home. He sighed and came to his mother, kneeling beside her. He put his hand on her shoulder and Cyrene wiped her tear stained cheeks.

"He was a great brother," Toris half smiled. Cyrene nodded her head in agreement.

She frowned thinking of Xena. Her hatred for her own daughter was becoming too unbearable and she clenched her teeth. "Too bad he had a rotten sister," she stood up and left the grave. Toris' eyes widened then trailed after her.

He pulled on his mother's arm as they entered their home. "Xena didn't kill Lyceus, mother..." he defended his little sister and Cyrene's mouth gaped then snatched her arm away from her son.

"She might as well have stabbed him through the heart, Toris!" she yelled back. "Whatever she is doing now is what caused Lyceus' death and because of that he's all her fault, why are you defending her?" she shook her head in disbelief.

Toris groaned, "I'm not defending her!" he kicked the door frame in frustration. "I miss Xena and so did Lyceus. We all do, even you!" he stared at her and she grew angrier the more he spoke of Xena. "I should've taken her that night when I had the chance..." he cursed to himself.

Cyrene smiled mockingly, "oh and what good would that have done? She already had her mind set on going with those thugs! Now she's one of them. For all we know, she could be dead," she mumbled.

Toris frowned hearing those words come out of his mother's mouth. Though he didn't particularly like Xena at the moment, she was still his sister. "Even if she were dead, it wouldn't bring Lyceus back. It wouldn't change any of this and you know it..."

Cyrene was about to abject until a loud knock was heard at the door. Toris looked to the door and Cyrene stood still, unable to move. Another loud knock came to the door and Toris took initiative to answer the door.

He swung open the door and saw two large Roman soldiers standing in front of him. His eyes widened and the soldier gave him a parchment. Toris took it cautiously while his mother stayed a good distance away. He opened the parchment and read it over hastily. After he finished reading he pointed to the parchment. "What is this?" cyrene heard urgency in her son's voice and came up behind him.

The Roman soldier folded his arms, "Caesar is taking Amphipolis under one of his Republic States. He asks that you all cooperate and there won't be any trouble," he curtly added.

Cyrene scowled at the Romans. "What else could he do? He already burned down half our village!" she spat at him. Toris held up his hand to stop his mother from continuing any further as she might get them in trouble.

Toris exhaled deeply, "does this have anything to do with Xena?" he asked staring into the soldier's eyes.

The Roman smirked, "I am not allowed to discuss that with you."

Cyrene stepped in front of her son and folded her arms. "And exactly what are you allowed to discuss? Where is Xena?" she asked curiously.

The soldier cleared his throat, "Xena has a bounty over her head. Caesar and Princess Dido are doing everything possible to find her so I suggest you cooperate," he added with emphasis staring into the woman's eyes.

Toris put his arm around his mother bringing her close to him. "How much is the reward to find Xena?" Cyrene looked up at him not believing her son's words. She didn't want to hear how much her daughter was worth no matter how horrible she had become.

The soldier looked into the man's eyes and put his hands behind his back. The other Roman looked away, scouting the area, keeping quiet. "As of now...600,000 dinars. She tried to assassinate Caesar," he nodded and left their home to go to the next house to deliver the message. Toris closed the door and Cyrene's mouth gaped.

"600,000 dinars?!" she was outraged. Toris crumbled the parchment and threw it at a wall, pacing around in a circle. Cyrene sat down digesting everything that happened in a matter of minutes. "I am no advocate for Caesar but...assassination?" she couldn't believe it.

Toris rubbed his chin and stopped, staring out the window watching the Roman soldiers scout the village and go door to door to deliver Caesar's message. "Xena has definitely taken a dark path." He suddenly an idea. "I could work for Caesar to find Xena."

Cyrene's eyes widened. "And do what? Kill her?"

He snapped his head towards his mother. "Isn't that what you want, mother?" he frowned, eyes narrowing.


Dido paced around Caesar's fortress in Rome and threw down a scroll. "How could someone like her travel so far and so quickly?" she raged and Caesar shrugged his shoulders.

"Patience, princess," he grinned and poured some wine for her handing her the glass. She snatched the glass and sipped on the wine, taking a seat across from him. "You forget that I trained her. She was the best commander I ever had for my army," he sighed and took a swig of his wine. "Too bad she betrayed me. We could've been such great partners!" he shook his head.

Dido tapped her wine glass and stared at the red wine. "Well you obviously trained her too well since we can't find her!" she groaned.

Caesar set his glass down and leaned forward in his seat. "It's only been a week, princess. We'll find her, she's just hiding somewhere." He smirked. "something she's very good at obviously."

"Obviously," she added. Dido pursed her lips and remembered something that one of her guards told her back in Crete. "I found a soiled black gown in the baths. There was blood all over it," she frowned. "The guard told me that Gabrielle allowed permission to take Xena because she was hurt." She sipped her wine. "Idiot."

The Roman chuckled, "sorry about losing your precious blonde friend, princess, but she apparently liked Xena more," he shrugged lightly.

Dido frowned and set the wine glass down, folding her arms. "Why did she do that? I was so nice to Gabrielle. How could she choose Xena over me?" she touched her chest, hurt by her hand maiden's actions. Caesar shook his head, not having an answer for that. She huffed and rolled her eyes. "She always defended Xena! It was so disgusting," she cringed. "The woman kidnapped her and she defends her actions. I couldn't believe it!" she leaned forward staring into Caesar's eyes. "Do you know what she said to me?" The Roman tightened his lips, almost afraid to ask. "She thought that she could change Xena, that she had hope for her. Can you imagine that?" she smiled mockingly.

"We all have hope, princess," he winked and sipped more of his wine. "That sailor of hers is quite fond of her," he raised an eyebrow.

Dido shook her head at that sailor. "I can't believe that Sinbad is following her like a lost puppy. I've known him for several years and he is never with the same woman, ever!"

Caesar grinned and stood up adjusting his armor. "Xena is no ordinary woman," he said and left the room to speak with one of his men about the hunt for Xena.

As Dido was left alone she began to think and she sipped on her wine gradually. "Yes...I'm beginning to see that," her eyes narrowed as she spoke to herself.

Sinbad woke up after the little sleep that he had. He sat up and rubbed his face then looked over to see Xena still sleeping next to him. She hadn't gotten up like Gabrielle said she did or perhaps he woke up too early. He stood up and splashed some water on his face and changed into a different pair of black pants he had laying around.

He grabbed his black tunic and slipped it over his head. He combed his fingers through his dark wavy hair and heard Xena awake. He grinned at her and she sat up slowly, running her fingers through her waist length wild hair.

She turned around and saw Sinbad staring at her. She grumbled and threw off the animal skin feeling the cool breeze traveling through the tent. Sinbad buckled his pants and nudged his head to the sweet that Maeve gave him. "You should eat some of that."

Xena looked at the food and turned her head away from it shaking her head. "I'm not very hungry right now," she stood up slowly and washed her face thoroughly. She exhaled deeply as it felt so good to have water drench her face since she began to sweat in her sleep. After she dried her face she grabbed her armor and boots, ready to change. Sinbad looked at her as he tied his tunic. She eyed him and raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"I found the Mesopotamian army you were looking for," he said casually. Xena's eyes lit up and she dropped her boots on the ground. He finished tying his tunic and sat down to begin lacing his boots. "My friend is the commander of the army," he added.

Xena smiled and sat down next to him with a sly smile. "Really?"

Sinbad grunted and stopped lacing his boots. "Xena, I don't want any trouble with them. He's my friend. He told me to bring you to their camp so he could meet you." He ignored her smug smile and then she began ruffling his hair with her fingernails. He halted again and it was hard to resist her affection towards him. He pulled away from her and she frowned. "I thought you didn't love me?" he asked in a hurt voice.

Xena pouted and came close to him once more, kissing his lips gingerly. "Love you?" she whispered. "Be honest with me, Sinbad. Do you truly love me?" she asked in a conniving voice.

Sinbad looked at her disapprovingly. "I do love you. You're just too stubborn to admit it yourself." He began lacing his boots again and she placed her hand over his.

She lowered her eyes and felt his body tense at her touch. "You're right Sinbad. I am very stubborn and I promise I'll work on that," she smiled mischievously and groped the inside of his thigh. Sinbad's eyes widened, surprised at her sudden behavior. Suddenly she pushed him down onto the ground and pinned him to the floor, laying her body on top of his. He stared into her blue eyes and she leaned in closer to him. "Sometimes..." she whispered. "Actions speak louder than words," she hissed then kissed him generously. She took off his tunic throwing it aside and slipped off her dress.

Sinbad stared up at her and saw her devious smile staring back at him. She saw a fire roaring in her eyes and she bent down to kiss his neck sensually. He grabbed her by the waist and flipped her over on her back. Her eyes grew as she stared up at him in surprise. He grinned slyly down at her and she raised an eyebrow. "your actions are dangerous Xena, I've seen it for myself."

Xena's smile grew and he kissed her collar bone, tracing his hands along her torso and arms.

Awhile later Gabrielle came out of her tent with the short sword in hand. She looked and didn't find Xena or Sinbad. She didn't hear a sound coming from their tent but it was probably best that she didn't know what was going on. She had enough of that when she was with Xena and desired to block that out of her mind.

She stepped in the middle of their small camp and began sparing with her short sword, thrusting it forward like Xena taught her yesterday. She winced as she moved her sore arm. She continued to swing the sword around and circled around the dead fire.

Xena exited the tent wearing her armor and saw Gabrielle sparing by herself. She smirked and tightened her gauntlets. "I almost forgot you were here, mouse," she startled the blonde and Gabrielle dropped the short sword on her foot. Xena raised a brow and frowned. "Pack your things, we're going on a journey."

Gabrielle rubbed her foot and picked up the sword, sheathing it. "Where are we going?" she feigned surprise. She saw Sinbad step out of the tent with a large smile on his face. She rolled her eyes and Xena put an animal skin on her horse.

"To meet some of Sinbad's friends, isn't that right?" Xena winked at the sailor. He nodded a bit embarrassed as he saw the disappointed look on Gabrielle's face. Sinbad went to break down the tents and prepare his horse to leave. Xena nudged her head towards the blonde. "You can ride with me, little mouse," she grinned.

Gabrielle folded her arms frowning at the warrior woman. "I'd rather walk," she protested.

Xena shook her head, "either you come with us hunted by Caesar's men. Your choice..." she said passively. Gabrielle groaned and went inside her tent to grab what little things she had. Xena laughed under her breath and continued preparing her horse to leave.

Hours later the three traveled to the northern countryside of Anatolia. They had slowed to a trot and Gabrielle tapped her knees as she sat behind Xena on her black horse. She looked at Sinbad as he rode a few yards ahead of them. "Why are we really going to see this army?" she whispered to Xena.

Xena smugly smiled, "we're going to meet Sinbad's friends like I said, mouse."

Gabrielle frowned, folding her arms as she sat in silence. "You should stop stringing him along," she scolded.

Xena frowned. "then he should stop being foolish and give me what I want." She shook her head and glanced around at their surroundings looking for potential ambushes.

"You care more about having an army than that child of yours," Gabrielle whispered and Xena's eyes widened at this girl's boldness. Gabrielle felt a stab in her ribs from Xena and she coughed.

Xena grinned and trotted a bit faster to catch up with Sinbad as he was too far ahead of them. "You don't get to tell me what I care and don't care about, mouse." Gabrielle grimaced at the back of Xena's turban and desperately wanted to hit her in the head, but resisted. She slowed her breathing and tried to calm herself down. She rubbed her ribs carefully as Xena sped up she wrapped her arm around Xena's waist so she wouldn't fall off.

After they finally caught up to the sailor Sinbad stopped the horse on a hilltop. Xena smiled looking ahead with him. "Are we close?"

"Gods I hope not," Gabrielle murmured. Xena snapped her head around at her and Gabrielle averted her gaze elsewhere.

Sinbad nodded, they weren't far now. Another hour or so and they would arrive at Jamal's camp. "We're getting very close." Xena trotted ahead of him and he grabbed Xena's arm. "Xena, there's something you should know." She eyed him carefully and he sighed. "There's a woman in the camp...she could be trouble. I don't want you to go near her." He said with deep concern.

Xena nodded her head and smiled deviously. "Your friends, your rules, Sinbad." She rode ahead and Gabrielle turned her head staring back at Sinbad, regretting this entire decision.

Jamal was talking among a group of his soldiers until he saw his friend, Sinbad, approaching and with not one but two women in tow. He saw a woman with dark long hair wearing a turban, concealing her face except her eyes. He also saw a young woman with blonde hair. He smiled waving at his friend. Sinbad waved back and they trotted down the hill towards the campsite.

Maeve exited her tent and saw Sinbad dismount his horse. She also saw his woman that he was with along with a small blonde next to the tall woman. She smiled and saw Xena unveil her face and saw a wide convincing smile on the woman's lips. She thought that woman was more than just a regular woman, she wasn't a concubine at all by the looks of her. Maeve looked to the woman's hip and saw a large scimitar hanging off her belt. A warrior woman, she gathered. She thought it best to wait and approach the group later so she slipped back into her tent.

Jamal kissed Xena's hand and then Gabrielle's as well. Gabrielle grimaced and wiped the back of her hand on her skirt. Sinbad looked around for that Maeve woman but found no sign of her. He only brought Xena here because that's what she wanted and his friend was very kind to him when he intruded inside his camp. In his culture it was considered rude to not return a request from a friend and Jamal was definitely a friend he didn't want to disappoint.

"So, what is your name?" Jamal curiously asked Xena as she took off the black turban showcasing her hair entirely. He blinked and all the other men looked at Xena. He cleared his throat and Xena glanced around feeling eyes all on her, she only smiled.

"Xena," she curtly bowed her head and then stared over at Gabrielle. "And this is Gabrielle, she's..." she paused for a moment and saw her mouse stare at her anxiously. "My apprentice." She smiled and Jamal nodded his head, glad to meet them both.

Jamal wrapped his arm around Sinbad and he gestured for them all to come join him in his tent to get better acquainted. Xena trailed behind the men and Gabrielle skipped up to her. "Apprentice?" she hissed and Xena smiled at all the men gawking at them both.

"Play along, mouse," Xena walked forward smiling at the men. Gabrielle pulled on her arm holding her back.

"Xena, I don't know what you're going to do but I'm not going to be a part of it!" she whispered. Xena snarled then grabbed Gabrielle's arm dragging her to a nearby bush and pushed her backwards.

She pointed her finger at Gabrielle, "listen here, Gabrielle, the only reason you're alive is because of me so you should be thanking me not the gods you pray to every night!"

Gabrielle rubbed her arm and stared back in Xena's blue eyes. "Right. Just like you thanked me for those times when I saved you," she retorted smartly and Xena's eyes narrowed.

Xena put her hands on her hips and glared at the blonde mouse. "If you want to leave I won't stop you and I'm not going to find you." She turned and walked away leaving Gabrielle alone.

She sat behind the large bush and sighed heavily. To be honest, she wanted to leave, but the guilt would probably eat at her too much if she did. Not to mention that she was also being hunted by Caesar and Dido just as much as Xena was. If she left it would be a death sentence and Xena knew that. She knew that so she said it, just to make her feel badly about herself. Gabrielle drew out her short sword and stared at her reflection in the blade. She didn't see a girl, she saw a lost human in an intertwined chaotic mess, that's what she saw.

Deciding that she wanted to be useful she got up and approached one of the soldiers, sheathing her sword so she was more approachable. She smiled warmly at the men and they smiled back at her, not sure how to react to a girl so young.

"Do any of you know of a centaur territory around here?" Gabrielle folded her arms with a smug grin.

Xena sat down next to Sinbad and across from Jamal. The commander took off his helmet and ruffled his dark hair. She smiled at him and his servant gave her and Sinbad some glasses of water. Sinbad nervously looked over at Xena and she casually sipped the water. He saw a sneaky smile grace her lips and her eyes sparkled. He knew that she was up to something, though he didn't know what, at least not yet.

"so, you're Sinbad's friend," Xena spoke first and Jamal smiled at his friend and nodded at her.

"Since we were kids in Baghdad!" he grinned and Sinbad smiled apprehensively. Xena glanced over at Sinbad with that sly smile of hers. "Sinbad was supposed to have this job as a commander of the King's army but he chose the sea instead," he shook his head drinking his wine.

Xena's eyebrows rose and Sinbad laughed shyly then she squeezed his knee with her hand. "That's very interesting," she clenched her teeth and he glared at her. "We all have our dreams, don't we?" she smiled at Jamal and he nodded agreeing with her. "And...we must follow them," she sipped her water and peered over at the coy sailor. "Isn't that right, Sinbad?" her eyes narrowed. He looked into her eyes and after a few silent moments he smiled at her and his friend.

"Xena is right. We must follow our dreams even if there are obstacles in the way," he frowned at Xena and she grimaced at him.

Jamal looked at the two and began laughing startling the two of them. "I like her," he sipped his wine and the two guests grinned at him. "So Xena, why are you traveling with this guy? He's not much for land adventures," he grinned.

Xena hummed quietly and tapped her glass with her fingernails."We sort of made a deal," she nodded. "A compromise." Sinbad looked to her and was tempted to roll his eyes. Earlier this morning she was all over him but now she was using her cryptic language to get what she wanted and it was a slow process but he was very aware of what Xena was capable of, even more so now than ever before. Before, she was kind to him, smart and mysterious but now that he actually had a chance to see her for what she really was. She was a snake, just like Ali said. Though, even if she was manipulative with her words and passiveness, he still had love for her, which she knew.

"Isn't that right?" Xena asked and Sinbad snapped out of his daze. He nodded his head and felt Xena's fingers trace the back of vest and eyes widened, straightening his back. Jamal stood up to go retrieve some more wine from the other side of the tent. "Be careful what you say," she hissed.

"I'm not the one who should be careful," Sinbad whispered back at her and then the two smiled as Jamal sat back down with them. "Where's Gabrielle?" he asked suddenly realizing she wasn't in the tent with them.

Xena shrugged, "I told her to take a walk," she smiled warmly. Sinbad stared at her curiously but then turned to his friend, sitting quietly to himself. Jamal smiled at him smugly and Xena casually drank some of her water. She got up abruptly and Sinbad stood up along with her, careful not to let her wander off. She set her hand on his shoulder reassuring him. "I'm going to get some things off the horse. I'll be right back," she grinned and left the tent. Sinbad sighed and sat back down.

Jamal saw the tension in his friend's face and shook his head, handing him the wine bottle. "You need to relax, Sinbad," he chuckled. "Xena seems like a very interesting woman."

Sinbad downed his wine and nodded. "Something like that." He became very antsy and looked around anxiously. "She's taking a very long time."

Jamal frowned at his friend's anxiousness. "She's a grown woman, she can take care of herself. Besides, my men will protect any woman of Sinbad's," he grinned. A few silent minutes passed by and Jamal became curious. "So...a baby huh? How about that?" he teased his friend.

The sailor rolled his eyes and ruffled his dark hair anxiously. "Yeah how 'bout that." He drank some more wine as he patiently waited for Xena to return. She had been gone for only a few minutes and what she said about Gabrielle really had him on edge. He cared about Gabrielle, probably more than Xena did.

"I can't really imagine you as a father," he laughed aloud and Sinbad stood up ignoring his friend. "Where are you going?"

"To see what Xena is up to," Sinbad frowned and exited the tent. Once he was outside he scanned the area. Xena was not by the horses like she said she would be. It wouldn't be hard to spot her as she was the only woman in this camp except for that Maeve woman. He looked for Xena and found her talking with a group of soldiers. His nerves were immediately calmed until he saw touching one of the soldier's swords, examining it carefully. He ran over there and folded his arms, smiling at the men. "What are you guys up to?" he asked nervously.

Xena pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. "It seems that our little blonde mouse has gone on an adventure of her own," she smiled deviously.

Sinbad frowned and brought Xena aside to talk with her. "What do you mean she's gone on an adventure?" he asked a bit concerned.

She shrugged, "don't know. These men told me that she went to find the centaur territories. I'll make her the best apprentice yet," she winked. Sinbad sighed heavily. She walked off smiling at the soldiers and went to their horses afar to grab the things she said she would. Sinbad followed her and she felt his presence behind her. "You don't have to babysit me," she groaned.

"I'm not," Sinbad looked around and saw Maeve exit her tent with a bearded man wearing a blue turban. He eyed her and she smiled at him. His heart raced faster and he grabbed Xena forcefully. She grunted and snatched her arm from him. "Xena, we should talk with Jamal about setting up our tents on the outskirts of his camp."

Xena grinned tightly, "now why would we want to do that?" she grabbed a bag and slung it over her shoulder. "I want to find out more about his army and purpose. Also you mentioned Teuta is in this area, right?"

He nodded, "well yes, but –"

She put her finger to his lips and shook her head. "But nothing. We should go to your friend's tent. He's waiting for us," she smiled and Sinbad trailed behind her.

The two entered the tent and Jamal was smoking out of his water pipe. Xena eyed him and really hated that thing. Sinbad used to have one of his own and she never liked it when he smoked out of it. It always seemed like he was on another planet when he sat there for hours. The two sat down and Sinbad gladly joined his friend. Xena scooted away from him and set her bag next to her hip.

"so," she began and the two men looked to her. "Sinbad was supposed to be commander of this army." She smiled. "I'd like to hear more about this," her eyes narrowed and Sinbad groaned. Jamal was quite eager to talk about it as he hadn't spoken about it for years.

"Do we really have to talk about that?" Sinbad interrupted. Jamal slapped his friend's knee and Sinbad winced. He noticed Xena's sly smile and her sparkling eyes, thoroughly enjoying this little conversation she sparked up.

Jamal smiled and leaned back on a few pillows. "He was the best fighter you had ever seen!" he began and Xena's eyes lit up while Sinbad shied away and remained silent.

Gabrielle took a group of Jamal's soldiers with her to find this centaur territory for herself. She wanted to see the creatures for her own eyes. She couldn't understand why Xena wanted to go meet with them anyway. Finally, they reached the territory after a few hours of hunting and exploring. The sun would be setting in a few short hours and Gabrielle wanted to make sure she got back to the camp to tell Sinbad. She feared that if she told Xena that she might do something unpredictable.

She and the soldiers hid behind a large cluster of trees and bushes. Gabrielle couldn't believe her eyes but there were actually centaurs not far from where she was. She saw them with her own eyes and they were indeed real! The soldiers behind her were a bit confused at her shocked expression.

"Miss Gabrielle," one of the young soldiers tapped her shoulder. "Why is it important that we see the centaurs?"

Gabrielle squinted her eyes and watched the many centaurs discussing among themselves and some men were there as well. Centaurs and men...very interesting, she thought. She smiled at the young man, "just for some insurance."

The man furrowed his eyebrows, "insurance against who?" he asked curious to find out.

She stared at the young man and scooted away from the trees. "I'm sure you'll come to find out," she smiled and left the area anxious to get back to the camp to tell Sinbad what she saw.

The sun had already set and Jamal offered them to stay in a vacant tent close to the outskirts of the camp so they wouldn't have to go through the trouble of putting up their own tents. Xena was inside the large tent, much larger than their own and she organized all their belongings on a far side of the tent walls. Sinbad entered the tent with a wary face. She turned to him and put on her coat as the air became more crisp.

"The best fighter in Mesopotamia huh?" she frowned and shoved a blanket in his chest. He sighed heavily and watched her getting ready to leave the tent.

"Xena, Jamal was just exaggerating. I wasn't and never will be the best in my country," he shyly admitted.

She set her hands on her hips, "well he certainly had a lot of stories to tell about you and your conquests in Mesopotamia." She scoffed and he shied away from her. "You left all that to go sail the seas?! What a stupid idea," she rubbed her forehead and Sinbad threw down the blanket glaring at her with his hands on his hips, copying her.

"I left that life behind for a reason, Xena. I didn't want to become a general of the King's army. I was in the army for ten years."

Xena now folded her arms, "so you decided to loot everyone else's land instead?" she smirked. "I underestimated you, Sinbad," she clicked her tongue and he said nothing in response except he kept staring. "You're not the sick love puppy I thought you were," she smiled.

Sinbad's mouth gaped. " puppy?" he scoffed. "What in God's name?!" he came towards her and pushed her backwards lightly. Xena's eyes widened and she rubbed her shoulder then slapped him in the face. He felt his entire body tense up and his heart racing as he felt the sting from her hand on his cheek. Xena glared at him and breathed heavily. He stared at her then put his hands up, calming the situation down. "I'm going to speak with Jamal." He went for the exit and then stopped. "Don't let anyone come in here," he firmly said and walked out the tent.

Xena pushed back the tent's flap and watched him sprint to the front lines of the campsite to go see his friend. She frowned and rotated her shoulder. She groaned and sat down in the tent by herself and pulled out some bread from one of the bags they took with them.

As she took a bite of the bread she heard someone approaching the tent. She quickly grabbed her scimitar and pointed it at the intruder. Though to her surprise, it wasn't a male but a tall slender woman with dark hair and light eyes. She didn't let her guard down though and kept the blade pointed at her.

Maeve smiled and unveiled the lower half of her face. "Xena, right?" she stepped further into the tent. She took another step and waved her hand over the blade. Suddenly Xena's eyes widened as she couldn't move from where she was. Her entire body was frozen and she looked to the woman who was now circling the tent and her as well. Maeve sat down across from Xena and waved her hand again allowing Xena to move again. Xena let down her scimitar and rubbed her neck, feeling the tension rising inside her.

She backed away slowly from the strange woman and saw a smile on her face. "Who are you?"

"My name is Queen Rumina, but you may call me Maeve," she smiled and pat the empty spot in front of her. "Sit down, you must be tired." Xena sat down gradually and stared at her with the utmost caution. Maeve brought out a bag of herbs and looked around for a cup to pour it into. Xena grabbed a glass and handed it to her. Maeve smiled and thanked her then poured the herbs into the cup as Xena eyed her every move.

"Queen?" Xena said after a few minutes.

Maeve nodded and poured some water into the cup and blew into the water, instantly igniting it. Xena's eyes widened, not exactly sure if what she saw was real at the moment. Maeve handed Xena the cup of herbal tea. "Go on, take it," her smile grew. Xena took the glass and sniffed it carefully. After Xena finally examined the tea she sipped it slowly. "Yes, I'm the King's mother. I'm sure Jamal did not mention me," she grinned and Xena shook her head. "I'm only here for political purposes of course."

"Of course," Xena smiled warily and set the hot cup down on the ground in front of her. "How did you know my name?" she asked. She then thought of what Sinbad said earlier when they made the trip up here. He warned her about a woman and to stay away from her. She figured this was the woman he was talking about since it appeared she was the only woman here. Though, she obviously was not a regular woman by what she just did. She was very curious about her and wanted to find out why Sinbad didn't want her near her in the first place.

Maeve smiled and took the veil off her head exposing her thick dark wavy locks. "I know a lot about you Xena. I even know about your child," she raised an eyebrow. Xena placed a protective hand over her abdomen unconsciously then pulled her hand away, rubbing the back of her neck anxiously. Maeve touched Xena's knee gently, "no need to be embarrassed," she whispered.

Xena half smiled, "I am not embarrassed of anything," she firmly responded. Maeve nodded, pretending to agree with Xena, though she sensed much anxiety within her the longer she sat with her. "Why are you here?"

"Jamal said that Sinbad was going to bring his woman here so I wanted to see you." She shifted and Xena eyed her, not sure what to make of her just yet. "You're a great warrior, I can sense that in you." She grinned and Xena smiled at her the more she spoke good things of her. "Sinbad is a very respectable man from Mesopotamia," she added. She saw Xena frown at the sailor's name and sensed that she did not feel the same way. "He is a pirate now but only a few years ago, he was the best general you had ever seen." She smiled and Xena listened carefully. "You feel as if he is holding you back, right?"

Xena wasn't sure how to answer that so she remained quiet. Maeve shrugged her shoulders lightly. "Well, sometimes silence is the perfect answer." She urged Xena to keep drinking the tea and she did as instructed, remaining quiet like a fly on the wall just observing this strange woman. "I can help you get what you want," she bluntly said. Xena coughed and set her glass down. Maeve grinned at her and touched her hand warmly.

"And what about Sinbad?" Xena wasn't going to admit that she cared just a little about him.

"He won't get in the way, I promise," Maeve reassured her. Xena smiled eagerly at her and then someone entered the tent. The Queen turned around and saw a young blonde at the entrance. Xena rolled her eyes.

Gabrielle smiled anxiously. "Am I interrupting something?" she asked with some uneasiness.

Maeve stood up and Xena copied her, standing behind her. "And who is this lovely helwa?" she touched Gabrielle's hair and she stepped away.

"A what?" Gabrielle said and folded her arms, she stared at the glaring warrior woman behind her. "Xena...can I speak with you? In private," she smiled at the mysterious woman. Maeve looked to Xena and eyed Gabrielle once more and touched her chin softly then exited the tent. Gabrielle rubbed her chin and frowned at Xena. She thumbed the exit and crinkled her nose, "who in Hades was that?" though she knew it was possibly the woman that Sinbad told her about yesterday.

Xena waved her hand dismissing Gabrielle. "Nobody of your concern, mouse." She folded her arms. "So I heard you went scouting for the centaurs?" she smirked.

Gabrielle nodded, "that's right. I was looking for Sinbad so I was told he'd be with you in this tent. But I can see...he's not here." She looked around and Xena set a hand on her hip staring at her. "Why do you care about the centaurs?"

She shrugged, "I don't. I want to make my name known throughout the world." She grinned.

Gabrielle shook her head at this woman. "I see your ambition has not left your heart," she said with a bit of malice. Xena frowned then sat down. "Xena, I don't think you should be talking to that woman. She seems like she is trouble."

"You worry too much and besides I like trouble or have you not figured that out yet?" she grinned as she sipped the warm tea.

" careful," Gabrielle said in a hushed tone and Xena ignored her. She sighed and exited the tent leaving Xena alone with her own thoughts.

A couple of hours later Xena fell asleep once she realized that Gabrielle had possibly scared away Maeve. Sinbad returned to the tent and found Xena sleeping. He took off his tunic and laid down next to her. He felt an odd feeling as he laid in the tent, as if something was watching him. Xena shifted in her sleep and he scooted closer to her. He felt his mind spinning as he drank too much with Jamal. He was upset at Xena so he decided it best to walk away from her in case he did something he might regret later.

He stared at her serene face and his eyes traveled down to the child growing within her. Their child, his child. He grinned and rested his hand on her stomach and she did not stir in her sleep like many times before. A sudden frown came to his lips as he thought of Maeve. She said that they would have a son and he hoped that her strange interference would not hinder Xena and cloud her mind.

Even though they were together all the time he was realizing that they had both been ignoring something important. He wasn't sure exactly what Xena wanted in the near future but he cared about their child, probably more than she did, or if she did, she didn't show it.

Xena stirred awake and peered down to see Sinbad's hand on her stomach and she frowned. "What are you doing?"

He shook his head getting his mind out of the clouds. "Nothing. Sorry I woke you."

She shifted her body and rolled over on her side continuing to stare at his blank face. "You care about this baby don't you?" she smirked.

Sinbad glanced over at her and he furrowed his eyebrows. "You already know my answer to that question." She said nothing and then his frown disappeared and he stared in her icy blue eyes. "Sorry I pushed you," he mumbled.

Xena sat up no longer feeling sleepy. "I enjoyed seeing a different side to you," she grinned mischievously. "It will come in handy when I take Teuta's army." She felt excitement course through her veins.

He sighed heavily and put his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling of the tent. "If you're going to take Teuta's army I might be the one who has to teach you a few moves."

Xena really liked the sound of that and was eager to see him subside his feelings towards her and put them into better use –for war. She kissed his neck softly and Sinbad sighed, trying to ignore her. "You smell like wine," she whispered and he smiled at her.

As her hands began to roam his body he found it extremely hard to resist her. He grabbed her hand and she stared up at him. "Did...anyone come in here while I was gone?" he eyed her carefully.

Xena grinned, "no, just Gabrielle. She spoke of her little centaur adventure." She kissed his hand and he smirked at her. She lied to him obviously, but he seemed to believe her, for now at least. "In the morning...I want you to do something for me..." she pleaded.

"And what exactly is that something?"

"I want the army's map of the area so we can find Teuta easier. I know she still has your want them back don't you?" she chose her manipulative words very carefully. He nodded, sort of agreeing with her. All this talk about fighting was starting to sink into his skin. It reminded him of his days when he was in the army back in his country. It was ingrained in him since he was very young and he was at least ten years Xena's senior so he knew war, he saw it a lot and he knew how to fight. He tried so hard to get away from it all, but with her around, it was quite difficult. She kissed his lips forcefully catching him off guard. "I need to go get something from the horse, I will be back."

He sat up as she wrapped a cloak around her body. "Do you want me to come with you?"

"No you just wait for me," she beamed and left the tent. She wandered in the darkness and bumped into Maeve. She took a step back and saw the woman's green eyes lit up in the darkness. "Sorry about my blonde...apprentice, she can be quite annoying sometimes," she smirked.

Maeve understood that. "She's sweet like wine, you're not like her," she said rather bluntly. "Yet you feel something for her, don't you?" she grinned sensually. Xena wasn't sure how to answer that so she half smiled back at her as a response. "Why don't you come sit with me for awhile?"

As much as Xena had an urge to sit with this woman, she had to go back to the tent before Sinbad suspected something. Maeve felt the angst within Xena and simply smiled placing a hand on her shoulder. "Tomorrow, perhaps." She put the veil over her head and walked off in the distance. Xena turned and watched her leave, still unsure of her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Sinbad was able to retrieve the map from Jamal easily. He said that he needed it to scope out the area in case any unwanted intruders came into the campsite. Sinbad was able to convince Jamal that he and Xena were on his side and wanted Teuta out of the way, which was true, but he knew that Xena had another plan in mind, something that she wouldn't tell him. He decided to go out with some of Jamal's men to scout the area looking for Teuta's army. Jamal was expecting her to arrive any day now since he had been tracking her. Teuta was a wanted a woman by the Roman Empire, probably as much as Xena was. Nobody got the name Teuta the Untamable for nothing. She had been a target for many years now and Xena's bounty had just begun. Sinbad figured that Xena had no plans to be caught any time soon and he didn't want her to be caught either or Gabrielle. He liked Gabrielle, she was sweet and somehow made Xena calmer the more she hung around her.

Xena stayed behind in the campsite and sat by an open fire looking over the map by herself for the last half hour. She nibbled on a large piece of bread as she overlooked the map. She marked the map with a quill and frowned at the areas that Teuta might possibly be in. She was in unfamiliar territory but she would make sure that she would understand these areas and soon. She wanted to know everything about Anatolia as it was likely she'd be staying here for quite some time.

As she took a drink of her water she felt some small flutters within her lower abdomen. She frowned then placed her hand over her stomach and felt a subtle kick against her palm. Her eyes widened and she pulled her hand away, almost afraid to let her hand stay there any longer as if her stomach were on fire. She sat in silence and stared at the small campfire.

Gabrielle approached Xena and saw her eyes fixated on the flames from the fire. "Everything okay?" she interrupted and Xena shook her head staring up at her blonde mouse. Xena didn't respond and turned her head away staring at the fire once more. Gabrielle took another step closer, careful of her distance. "You seem distracted," she sat down next to her and looked at the map on the ground.

Xena rubbed her forehead feeling sweat form above her brow. "No I'm fine." She got up and grabbed her scimitar smiling at Gabrielle. "Spar with me, mouse," she smirked.

Gabrielle sighed and stood up. "Xena I'm not very good at fighting you and to be honest, I don't want to!" she pointed to her still sore arm. "My arm still hurts from last time!"

Xena thrust the sword forward and Gabrielle took a large step back. "Come on, mouse, you can do better than that. It was just a little scratch. I want you to be my apprentice if you're going to tag along with me," she winked.

"Why do you want me to be your apprentice? I don't know anything about fighting or war...I'm a story teller, nothing more..." she sighed and Xena swung the sword at her again and she dodged it once more.

"You met my family in Amphipolis. You saw that I am no different than you, like you said, right?" she clenched her teeth and swung her sword towards the blonde again. This time Gabrielle grabbed her short sword and blocked the blow. Xena grinned widely as their blades clashed together. "How was it Gabrielle? How was it when you watched my village burn?" she frowned and stared into Gabrielle's bright green eyes.

Gabrielle frowned as she saw the fire burning in Xena's eyes. She snatched her short sword back and Xena twirled the scimitar with her wrist. "Xena...I'm really sorry about what happened to your village and your..." she couldn't even say it and the imminent frown on her face was enough for her to stay quiet. "I didn't mean for any of that to happen! I don't know what I can do to make it up to you..." she frowned sadly.

Xena growled and plunged the sword into the ground. Gabrielle flinched afraid she was about to be struck down but she wasn't. "Let me train you to be my apprentice. That is the only way to repay me for what you did," she scowled as her heart beat faster the more she felt Gabrielle's eyes on her. The more her temper rose she felt the child within her respond to her active behavior. She groaned and turned away from Gabrielle, shielding her expression. She was beginning to think that Gabrielle was right about ignoring her child. She thought it wouldn't hinder her plans but now it was too real. She couldn't ignore it anymore no matter what she told herself.

Gabrielle held the blade in her palms staring at her reflection. She saw Xena had her back turned to her and she frowned. "Alright," she said quietly. Xena turned to face her with a shocked expression. "I'll do whatever makes you happy."

Xena scoffed, "it's not about me being happy, mouse. It's a debt that you have towards me," she smiled and tapped the tip of the blade with her finger. She then pointed the sword at Gabrielle and nudged her head. "Come, attack me," she urged her.

"I donno Xena, the last time I did that you scratched my arm...and pretty badly if I might add!" she touched her sore arm and Xena's smile widened. Gabrielle knew that Xena wasn't going to give up on her and it would seem cowardly of her to walk away and refuse to fight. She came at Xena and found herself on the ground staring up at the bright sky. She groaned and then saw Xena staring down over her.

Xena smiled, "I gotta give you credit for trying. Keep working on it, Gabrielle," she stepped over her and Gabrielle got up furiously then unexpectedly ran forward and pushed Xena forward and she fell to her knees. Xena gasped and Gabrielle smiled with her arms folded. Xena felt anger stirring inside her then she slowly stood up, turning around to face the feisty blonde. "You pushed me," she scowled.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and her smile soon disappeared as she saw Xena's angry face. She put her hands up then started backing away slowly. " told me to attack you...I was just doing what you said!" she pleaded with a sad smile. Xena walked forward as Gabrielle inched her way backwards even further.

As Xena inched closer Gabrielle was about to step in the fire and she smiled, grabbing her wrist forcefully and flung her to the side. "Lesson five, mouse. Be aware of your surroundings," she sheathed her sword and walked off leaving Gabrielle very confused.

"You're not mad at me?" Gabrielle called out. Though she was thankful that she was not burned to a crisp, Xena's sudden mood change was something to be noted. "You know...for pushing you," she added.

Xena grinned, "if I were mad at you, you'd have another sore arm." She walked off away from her tent then stopped. "Oh Gabrielle..." she paused. "Don't ever attack your enemy from behind. It's cowardly," she frowned and continued onward. Gabrielle blinked and picked up her short sword as she watched Xena casually walk away as if nothing happened.

Gabrielle twirled the short with a sly smile. "So attack from the front. Next time..." she grinned and ran off to catch up with Xena to see what she was up to today.

Sinbad rode into the camp with Jamal's soldiers trailing behind him. He unwrapped the cloth around his face and immediately saw Xena with Gabrielle in the middle of the camp. He smiled and dismounted the horse to greet them both. Xena saw him and smiled warmly at him as did Gabrielle. He came to Xena and embraced her tightly lifting her up off the ground. Her eyes widened and hit his shoulder. "Put me down damn you!" she demanded and he set her down then kissed her lips unexpectedly. Gabrielle blinked as she had never seen him act that way, at least not in front a lot of people.

He pulled away and Xena's eyes were wide and confused, of course. He squeezed her shoulders with a large grin. "Xena! You are amazing!" he said and Xena raised an eyebrow. "I haven't felt like this in years and I owe it all to you." He stared at Gabrielle then kissed her as well. Xena couldn't believe her eyes. She witnessed some strange things in her life, but Sinbad was being very strange.

Gabrielle's eyes widened as Sinbad kissed her lips forcefully then he pulled away. Sinbad smiled and grabbed Xena's hand leading her to Jamal's tent. Xena glared at Gabrielle and the blonde wiped her lips with the backside of her hand with a face of disgust. She crinkled her nose but followed them to the commander's tent, though she wasn't sure if she wanted to especially after that warm intimate welcome.

As they entered the tent Xena snatched her hand away from Sinbad's grasp. "What was that?" she frowned and the sailor had that goofy smile on his face. Gabrielle came in after them and she shied away from Xena, her cheeks blushing as the raven haired woman glared at her.

Sinbad poured himself a glass of wine since his friend wasn't in the tent just yet. He poured a glass for Gabrielle and some water for Xena. Gabrielle reluctantly took the glass and immediately sat down sipping on it, avoiding both of their gazes. The silence was very awkward and Gabrielle suddenly thought it would be better to be elsewhere.

"I found some of Teuta's scouts in the outskirts!" Sinbad said and raised his glass. Xena eyed him carefully but said nothing. "And then they came at us with spears and swords, my men's swords! But the best part is...those weren't my men." He wagged his finger and set his glass down placing his hands on Xena's shoulders. She raised her eyebrows as she saw a strange fire in his eyes. He painted the story as he spoke, "Jamal's men were eager to retreat but I lead them forward and then...we killed them all. We killed every single scout, Xena." His wide grin was making Gabrielle feel uncomfortable though Xena did not feel the same.

Xena's surprised and shocked look turned into eagerness and desire. She smiled deviously and she touched his cheek gently. "I thought you didn't kill?" she bit her bottom lip. "It was like some code of yours or something..." she hissed.

Sinbad shook his head and sat down across from Gabrielle, who had her mouth agape as she listened. "I stopped killing a long time ago, but's different. I thought your ways were barbaric, but I realize that it's necessary." He grinned and Xena sat down next to him then pat his knee gently.

Gabrielle couldn't sip on the wine anymore and set it aside. She cleared her throat rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. "Are you saying that you enjoyed killing those men?" she asked curiously.

Before Sinbad could speak Xena interjected. "What does it matter, Gabrielle? They were attacking him!" she scowled. "Besides..." she grinned, "it's Teuta's army and Jamal doesn't like her and neither do I."

The sailor stood up after he downed his wine, "I'm going to find Jamal and tell him that I found Teuta's army," he bent down and kissed Xena's forehead then left in a hurry. Xena took a drink of the water and felt Gabrielle's eyes stabbing her.

"What's on your mind, mouse?" she grinned slyly.

Gabrielle exhaled deeply and shrugged her shoulders. "Oh I don't know. Kill them all? Xena, he's changed and in such a short amount of time. Doesn't that bother you just a little bit?"

Xena nonchalantly shrugged her shoulder. "He's just reverting back to his old ways and he says that he owes it all to me," she beamed.

The blonde shook her head at the entirety of this situation. "Why don't you like Teuta anyway? She didn't do anything to you."

"I want her army. She doesn't deserve those men, Gabrielle! She is irrational. Her mind is clouded. Nobody gets the name Untamable for nothing," she smirked and downed the rest of her water.

Gabrielle sighed heavily and rubbed her forehead, feeling a headache coming on. "Whatever," she mumbled. "If you're going to take her army out you need another army so.." she saw the look in Xena's eyes and that was it. Xena wanted Jamal's army it was so obvious. Why couldn't she see it before? ""

"What? Am I incapable?" Xena frowned. Gabrielle shook her head, disagreeing with that entirely but she just didn't like taking someone else's army to get rid of another's. "You will learn so much from me, Gabrielle. Just be patient." Gabrielle wasn't sure if she had the patience to wait or to see what Xena's plans were.

Sinbad returned with Jamal and they both smiled at the young women. Gabrielle put on a fake smile and Xena pat her knee gently. The blonde fidgeted with her thumbs in her lap as the men came inside the tent, talking and Xena eagerly joining in. it was obvious that she was one of the boys while Gabrielle felt left out, alone and confused at best.

After a couple of hours the three left Jamal's tent. Gabrielle was walking away when Xena called out to her. She halted in her step and rolled her eyes. "What is it now?" she put her hands on her hip.

"Why don't you join us tonight, Gabrielle? Sinbad's group of men are going to have a party later." She smiled.

Gabrielle declined. "No thanks, I'm going to take a walk. I want to be alone for awhile, if you don't mind, unless I'm indebted to you when it comes to parties too?" she teased. Xena ignored her then went off back to the tent alone. Gabrielle sighed and walked by herself to a secluded part of the fields. She went far enough to where she couldn't hear any noise coming from the camp. She sat down on a log in a forest and picked up a lonely flower, admiring its subtle beauty.

"It's pretty out, isn't it?" Maeve interrupted Gabrielle's thoughts and the blonde gasped. The woman came closer with a warm smile. "I didn't mean to scare you. What does Xena call you? Mouse?"

Gabrielle stood up and dropped the flower on the ground. She nodded her head slowly, fearing this mysterious woman. "Sinbad has come quite fond of the sword today. It was like when I saw him in my son's army years ago," she grinned and took a few steps closer to the blonde.

"did you follow me out here?" Gabrielle asked watching the woman's every move.

Maeve lightly chuckled at the young girl. "I saw you wandered off alone. Nobody should be alone especially a girl as young as you." She grinned and sat down on the log. "I sense some fear in you Gabrielle." She heard the blonde's heart beating faster and she closed her eyes, listening closely. "Your heart beats as fast as a tablah drum. You don't need to be afraid of me."

Gabrielle took a step backwards. " I saw you talking with Xena."

Maeve nodded, "yes I did talk to her. She cares about you a lot. I know you care for her too..." she smiled slyly. "You can't hide your feelings from me, Gabrielle." She stood up and touched the girl's long blonde locks. "The best apprentice you will be...just be patient...right?" her eyes narrowed and Gabrielle slapped the woman's hand away from her.

"Just...stay away from me..." Gabrielle ran off trailing out of the forest. Maeve walked towards the edge of the forestry and watched the teen run back into the camp. She smiled and her eyes glowed brightly as she scanned the area and saw the blonde no longer visible she closed her eyes.

Back in Maeve's tent she opened her eyes as she sat down in the middle of her tent. Her right hand man sitting across from her. He handed her a glass of water and a towel. "Did you find the girl?" he asked barely above a whisper. She nodded and downed the water quickly. She had made it appear as if she were standing in front of Gabrielle the entire time, but in reality, she was in her tent –only a mirror image of herself was presented to the girl.

"She has a soft heart," the woman said with a smug smile."Foolish girl," she sighed. "I want to speak with Xena, but it seems she is occupied..." she frowned and tapped her fingernails on the glass.

Mozen, her right hand man shifted as he sat across from her. "You want to speak with her in person, my queen?" he asked.

Maeve nodded her head and handed the empty glass back to him. She pulled out a pouch from a large chest she had in her tent. She opened it and smelled the inside of the small pouch. Crinkling her nose she handed it to Mozen. "Make her come to me," she smiled and he nodded leaving the tent. "Oh one thing Mozen," she snapped her fingers. "Be discrete. Sinbad does not like you, he knows you're with me," she winked. He understood and wrapped his face with a veil and went into the darkness to the small party at Sinbad's side of the camp.

Gabrielle finally came to Sinbad's and Xena's secluded part of the camp. She breathed heavily almost to hyperventilation from all the running she just did. She saw many of Jamal's men had obviously got the word of the little festivity in the area. There were several fires going and she saw Xena sitting with Sinbad and a group of men, playing a game.

Xena lifted her head and saw her blonde mouse looking a bit miffed. She grinned and excused herself from the men, though she was sure that they wouldn't notice her absence. She waltzed over to Gabrielle and smiled at her. "So you finally decided to come." Gabrielle nodded as her breathing slowly returned to normal. "How was your walk?"

"Xena..." she exhaled, "I really need to talk to you..." Xena grabbed one of the glasses of wine lying around and shoved it into Gabrielle's hands. She blinked and Xena linked arms with her.

"We can talk later, mouse." They walked together around the campfire and Gabrielle scanned the area, listening to all the men chatting loudly with one another. "Doesn't this remind you of something?" she grinned.

Gabrielle shrugged, "regular behavior of drunk men?" she supposed.

Xena laughed aloud and Gabrielle half smiled, a little bit taken back from Xena's outburst. "You're so cute. Remember the bacchanalia in Rome? It was just like this...of course those men were nobles..." she joked.

Gabrielle definitely remembered that night and it seemed like a lifetime ago. That was the first time she met Xena and she was a lot different back then, or maybe she was the same and put on a facade for her Roman counterparts. She wore a gorgeous blue gown and had her hair nicely done, fine jewelry and shoes. Here, Xena looked like one of the guys. Her hair was longer, messier, wilder, her clothes were much like the men's –dark. Black boots, black pants, black vest with silver lining and an animal pelt wrapped around her shoulders, not to mention the turban she wore most of the time. No, she was almost unrecognizable from her Roman attire.

She nodded her head, "how could I forget?" Gabrielle said in a meek voice. Xena sat down and Gabrielle sat next to her in silence, completely forgetting the sea of people which surrounded her. She was a bit confused why that woman came to see her, but it certainly shook her up. She wasn't normal, she wasn't a good person. She came and went so quickly, she thought. Xena looked over at Sinbad and he grinned at her, waving his hand for the two to join them in their games. " are you feeling? I mean, you haven't mentioned anything about earlier today."

Xena frowned at her confusedly. "What are you talking about?"

Gabrielle shrugged with a half lame smile. "When I came to see you while you were looking at the map today you seemed...I donno, out of place. I saw it in your eyes."

The warrior woman nodded, completely understanding what Gabrielle was talking about but she didn't want that to bother her. "I was just tired. Come and join us. You owe me, mouse," she grabbed her hand forcefully bringing her along.

Awhile later Mozen stood behind a tent and saw Xena laughing as she sat next to the sailor. Sinbad was drunk, that much was obvious, though Xena, completely sober and aware of her surroundings. He saw the blonde girl and she seemed distant from the men. She sat with them, playing their little gambling game, but thought nothing of it, playing with the boys.

He crouched down waiting for the opportune moment. After a few minutes of waiting he saw Xena get up by herself and leave her glass of water next to one of the men. He smiled and watched Xena go inside of her tent. He slinked in the darkness and unveiled his face, pretending to blend in. He saw Sinbad was completely oblivious as were the other drunk men around him. He casually walked by Xena's glass of water and poured the blue powder into her drink and kept walking passed the others. The water fizzed for a short time and the blue powder solution dissolved into the water.

Xena returned and grabbed her water. Mozen turned around and peered at Xena from afar. He saw her lips meet with the water and he nodded, affirming his mission complete. He would return to his queen with this news immediately. As Xena sipped on the water she cringed and tasted a bitterness in the water, something that was different. She sniffed the water but smelled nothing unusual about it.

Hours went by without them realizing time had escaped them. Xena wrapped her arm around Sinbad with the help of one of the soldiers. They dropped Sinbad onto the floor and Xena smirked at the drunken sailor. The soldier left the tent and Sinbad smiled sweetly at her. "You're the definition of a drunk sailor," she said and he laughed at her.

"But...I won though," he smiled with eyes glazed over. Xena shook her head and took off her boots, vest and blouse, slipping on her dress to sleep in. Xena laid down next to him and stared at him. He grinned and rolled over on his stomach, exhaling deeply. "You smell nice," he grinned.

Xena smirked and shoved him lightly. "Sleep it off," she felt his arm drape over her torso and she winced at the weight of his arm crashed onto her ribcage.

Sinbad lifted his head and saw the discomfort on her face. "Oh sorry..did I hurt you?" he whispered and Xena picked his arm off her ribcage and flung it to the side.

"I'll live," she pat his cheek. "I need you in the morning. We're going to find Teuta's army together. I'll bring Gabrielle with us. It'll be a great learning experience for her." She smiled and stared at his drunken state.

He nodded, "Gabrielle...she's a nice girl..." he yawned. Xena nodded, agreeing with him indefinitely.

"You would know, right? You kissed her," Xena frowned. Sinbad leaned on his elbows staring at the disapproving look on her face. He ran his fingers through his hair and smiled, kissing Xena's hand.

"In my culture..." he began slowly, "it's how happiness," he grinned smugly and Xena rolled her eyes. He scooted closer to her warm body and rested his palm on her abdomen, almost becoming a routine. "She may be the mouse're the lion," he said softly. Xena raised an eyebrow at his sudden poetic words. "Wow..." he furrowed his eyebrows. "I'm really drunk." He laughed lightly and Xena smiled at him, enjoying this moment, as she knew it would be a rude awakening for him in a few short hours.

He cleared his throat as he rested his head on the animal skin, still lying on his stomach. His hand slid across her belly and he sighed heavily. He expected her to push his hand away but instead she laid still, her hands on her chest as she stared up at the ceiling. "That woman...she's very odd, you know," he spoke softly. Xena lolled her head to the side and frowned at him. "I met her last time...she told me that she knew about the baby," he scoffed. "She said...she saaaid!" he chuckled, "that we would have a son. Silly, right? How could she know that?" he sighed.

Xena's eyes widened and she rolled over on her side staring at Sinbad. "Which woman?" she asked curiously, pretending to go along not knowing who he spoke of.

Sinbad groaned and rolled over onto his back. "This woman!" he rubbed his face with his hands, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. "Forget it, Xena. I don't...I don't want you to go near her." His hand came to her stomach again and she peered down at his hand. "I don't want anything to happen to you," he grabbed her hand and kissed it gingerly. Xena half smiled, feeling a bit uneasy all of a sudden. He yawned and closed his eyes. "You should sleep," he mumbled. "I should sleep!" he grinned and Xena continued staring at him until he said nothing more.

Gabrielle woke up in her tent in the middle of the night. She decided to turn in much earlier than Xena and her new found friends. She rubbed her eyes and groaned feeling a pounding headache emerging. The fire was still roaring and she heard some voices, probably the few men still left talking among themselves. She saw a shadow of someone walking by her tent and the silhouette was definitely recognizable –the large mane, shapely figure and stature.

She crawled across her tent and opened the flap to see Xena walking by herself in her black ankle length gown. Gabrielle frowned and watched her walking further away from the area into the main campsite. She grabbed her boots and slipped them in a hurry then followed Xena at a fair distance. A few men were still awake, but obviously too drunk and unaware to notice Xena walking passed them.

There was one thing that Gabrielle picked up on and she may not be the best fighter, but she was quiet. She learned to be quiet especially around Xena. She had such good hearing, better than human being she had ever seen so she decided to keep that skill and use it to her advantage. She carefully tread behind Xena and stood behind a large tent and saw Xena enter the only lit tent in the area. Frowning, she crept down low to the ground and crawled across the dirt and sand. She kept her distance and squinted her eyes trying to make out the people inside. She saw Xena was with two other people, that silhouette, she recognized immediately. It was Maeve. Gabrielle gasped and then closed her eyes, trying to calm herself down. She didn't like Maeve from the little talk she had with her in the forest. She didn't have to say much for her to decide that she was bad news. Why couldn't Xena see that, she wondered? She told herself that she'd stay here and wait until Xena came out. She could be here for hours or minutes, she didn't know, so she waited.

Maeve smiled at Xena within her large tent. Xena sat across from her with a blank face. "I knew you'd come to me, eventually," she smoothly said. Xena said nothing and couldn't really recall why she came here in the first place. She remembered Sinbad babbling on and on about how strange Maeve was and she fell asleep for only a short time. Mozen stood up with his arms folded watching the two women sitting together. Xena turned around staring up at the intimidating Arab man and half smiled. Maeve grinned at her right hand man, "could you leave us alone for awhile?" she asked politely. He hesitated but then left the tent, standing guard scoping out the area.

Gabrielle peered around the corner of another tent and saw a man standing guard. She snapped her head around and breathed heavily, trying to calm herself down. She hugged her legs close to her chest and continued to wait. She wasn't stupid, she knew that much.

Xena eyed Maeve cautiously and saw her pouring some tea into a glass for her. "You did something to me," she said suddenly.

The queen smiled at Xena, feigning surprise. "I don't think I understand what you mean, Xena..." she handed her a glass of tea but Xena declined feeling suspicious of her.

Xena narrowed her eyes. "You told Sinbad something the first time you met him...didn't you?" she questioned the woman.

Maeve sighed and sipped some of the tea from her own glass. "Perhaps I did, I can't seem to remember. That was a few days ago," she grinned smugly. She set the glass down and set her hands in her lap. "Maybe I'm being too cryptic with you, Xena. Remember what I told you two nights ago? I said I could help you." Xena nodded her head, remembering that strange encounter. "It is not a coincidence that you came here," she hummed. "You want to take Teuta's army, don't you?" Xena nodded slowly. "Good, you should. She is a very violent woman, much like you can be sometimes, right?"

"You're telling me things that I already have plans set in motion for," Xena smirked, folding her arms.

Maeve smiled nodding her head seeing that Xena wanted to get to the point. "That I am. You want your name to be known around the Mediterranean, I know that much. I can help you with that," she smiled wider and Xena's eyes blinked. "Oh yes, Xena, but you must help me first..."

Gabrielle had enough waiting, though she didn't want to get caught. She crawled behind the tent to get closer to Maeve's tent to hear what they were saying. She looked to the man standing guard and crawled behind him making little noise as possible. She hurried and crawled to the backside of Maeve's tent and exhaled deeply. She was able to hear Xena and Maeve's conversation now more clearly.

She heard Xena say "and why should I help you?" Gabrielle frowned and leaned in closer to the tent.

Maeve smiled at Xena. "Because Xena you and I are a lot alike believe it not." She sighed. "I told you my son is the King of Mesopotamia after my husband died. I said I was here on political purposes, of course," she grinned and continued, "my son senses a traitor in his army and that traitor is Jamal." Xena's eyes widened. She hadn't known the man long but he was a friend of Sinbad's and he seemed noble and trustworthy. "Jamal doesn't like the King and he certainly doesn't like me." She pouted. She cut straight to the point. "You need an army and you have one, but you need to take understand?" she grinned mischievously. She waved her hand over Xena's and a black dagger appeared in her hands.

Xena looked down and saw a black colored plated dagger in her hands and she examined it. It was nothing like she had seen before and it was very light, not heavy at all. She looked to the woman with wary eyes. "And what will you do for me if I kill him? He is Sinbad's friend..." she mumbled and frowned.

Maeve touched Xena's hand with her slender fingers. "You do what needs to be done and I'll make it look like an accident. You know what that is right? Much like what happened to Hashim?" she chuckled. Xena's eyes widened and she suddenly felt very uncomfortable around this woman. She knew so much about her and she hadn't even been with her that long. "You do this for me...and I promise you will become the conqueror position that you desire so much, pretty girl." She winked.

"When should I do it?" Xena asked in a quiet voice.

The woman shrugged her shoulders. "You'll know when." She sipped her tea casually and Xena stood up to leave. "Oh and that thought you have about your child..." Xena turned around raising an eyebrow. "Sinbad is right. It is a boy," she smiled and Xena left the tent without uttering another word.

Xena nearly bumped into Mozen and she smiled at him nervously. He curtly bowed his head and went back into the tent of his master. She held the dagger in her hands and frowned, walking back to her tent.

Gabrielle saw Xena exit the tent and ran after her immediately. She wasn't being quiet this time and when she finally caught up to her she called out to her. Xena swiftly turned around a bit angry to see her. "Xena!" she whispered. "You can't kill Jamal! You can't do it!" she groaned and Xena frowned, her lip quivering then continued back to her tent. Gabrielle grabbed the raven haired warrior's wrist pulling her back. "What makes you think you can trust that woman?" she angrily said in a hushed voice. She sighed, rubbing her temples. "Don't you think it's a little weird that she knows so much about you and Sinbad?"

Xena snatched her hand away from the small blonde. "Stay out of this, Gabrielle! This doesn't concern you." She marched forward and Gabrielle skipped after her.

"Xena, she's a sorceress!" she blurted out and Xena stopped in her step. "Sinbad told me everything before we left to come here..." she mumbled.

Xena smiled mockingly. "Oh did he? You two sleeping together now?"

Gabrielle cringed and shook her head vigorously. "No! I would never do that! Xena just listen to me...don't do this. You can't trust anything that comes out of that witch's mouth." Xena stared at her blankly and Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "If you follow her path, you're going to find a lot more than blood on your sword."

Xena took a step closer to the young teen. "Don't you understand? The sword is all I know, Gabrielle. It was there for me when nobody was!" she spat at her and Gabrielle's eyes widened, feeling her hatred seeping through her words. She stormed back to her tent and disappeared leaving Gabrielle alone and confused.

"But it doesn't have to be that way..." Gabrielle quietly told herself as she stood in the darkness.

Chapter Text

AN: this chapter is really long but that's alright. A lot more interaction between Xena and Gabrielle here and you may see that Xena's odd behavior and dark heart is melting as time progresses. Anyway! Thanks for reading and reviewing, everyone! Enjoy :)

Chapter 20

Xena woke up earlier than Sinbad, as usual. She slipped on her armor and grabbed her scimitar on her way out after she finished tying her boots. She peered over at the black dagger laying next to her side of the makeshift bed. The longer she stared at it the more she felt Maeve's eyes on her and the pressure put on her. The bad thing is though, is that Gabrielle knew –she knew everything, she heard everything and that could be dangerous for them both. Xena wasn't too sure about Maeve before, but she said that she'd help her achieve her goals of conquering the area. Gabrielle said that she was a sorceress, though Maeve had not disclosed that herself so Xena kept her options open.

Sighing she snatched the dagger and slid it into her boot. She decided to visit Jamal this morning before anybody else had the chance. She left the tent after she fixed her hair as best she could and marched onward to Jamal's tent.

Gabrielle abruptly woke up and wiped her mouth. She had stayed up all night watching Xena's tent most of the night and she cursed to herself since she managed to fall asleep. Still dressed in her black skirt and top, she grabbed her bag, wrapping it around her shoulder she ran to Xena's tent.

She opened the tent's flaps and saw Xena was gone and Sinbad was still sleeping, with his mouth wide open and breathing heavily. Gabrielle felt instant panic set in and she quickly ran to Sinbad and shook his body vigorously. The sailor groaned and rolled over on his back opening his eyes. He was surprised to see Gabrielle in his tent. His eyes went to the empty spot next to him and he frowned, rubbing his face, feeling a headache bursting through his head.

"Gabrielle...what are you doing in here?" he groaned finally sitting up wincing at his headache.

"You drunk fool! You didn't see Xena leave did you?" she yelled at him and Sinbad raised a curious eyebrow at her. "Did you?!" she shook his shoulders and he grunted and pushed her off him.

He stood up and closed his eyes, steadying his balance. "Not so loud, for God's sake..." he sighed and washed his face three or four times, running water over his dark wavy short hair. He dried his face and stared at Gabrielle as she began looking through Xena's belongings. "Hey whoa, whoa, what are you doing?"

"I'm looking for something," she frantically kept emptying out Xena's bags and pouches although she found nothing. "No dagger..." she groaned.

"What?" Sinbad came closer and hoisted Gabrielle up gently. "Relax, I'm sure she's making tea or something," he smirked and Gabrielle brushed passed him exiting the tent in a hurry. "Women..." he shook his head and drank some water then grabbed his clothes through the cluttered mess that Gabrielle made. He sighed and dug in the mess and finally found his shirt and vest.

Gabrielle ran towards the middle of the camp looking for any sign of Xena. She saw her exit Jamal's tent and felt her heart drop. Though she saw Xena had a smile on her face, which could mean many things. She ran towards Xena and the warrior woman saw her rushing to her. "Xena...did you do what I think you did?" she said barely above a whisper, afraid others might hear.

"Why don't you go see for yourself?" Xena grinned and Gabrielle pushed Xena aside gently and rushed into Jamal's tent. Xena folded her arms waiting for the blonde to see what exactly she had done.

As Gabrielle came into Jamal's tent he saw that he was with another man and they were void of clothing. Her eyes widened and she definitely saw that he was well and alive. Jamal smiled at her and the young man grinned at her as well. She smiled nervously, nodding her head, apologizing many times then left the tent. As soon as she turned around she saw Xena snickering and Gabrielle frowned deeply.

Xena's laughter died down and Gabrielle marched towards her with her arms folded and her eyes narrowed. "You wanted to see..." she shrugged. Gabrielle punched Xena in the shoulder and her smile disappeared. Xena raised her hand then saw Gabrielle flinch slightly. She groaned and lowered her hand sparing Gabrielle. "You need to learn to trust me, mouse," Xena walked off back to their camp area.

Gabrielle sighed thankful that Xena did not react, though she expected her to and was surprised she didn't do anything. She ran after her and finally saw Sinbad clad in his black and silver clothing with a black turban around his head. He smiled as the two young women approached him.

"So I see you found Xena," Sinbad said to Gabrielle as he was adjusting his gauntlets. Xena snapped her head around towards her blonde mouse and Gabrielle's eyes widened. "Where were you anyway?"

Xena smiled tightly turning her attention back to the sailor. "I was just telling Jamal that I would like control of his army for awhile. Just so we can find Teuta," she smiled deviously at him and he kissed her hand. She disappeared into the tent and Gabrielle frowned at him.

"What's with you?" he asked with a smug smile. The blonde approached him and punched him in the chest. He stumbled back and frowned at her. "Hey now! I know you have many gods and all, but you should really start praying to one to help your insanity this morning!" he yelled in a hushed tone.

Gabrielle rubbed her temples and shook her head. She then grabbed his arm pulling him aside away from the tent. He snatched his arm away from her and fixed his gauntlet once again. She whispered, "Maeve spoke to me last night...during the party," she looked over to see if Xena would exit at any moment.

Sinbad's eyes widened and he took Gabrielle further away from the tents. "What did she say to you? Did she say anything about Xena?" he asked concerned.

She shrugged her shoulder, "Not really, I mean...she was speaking very cryptically." She saw Sinbad's eyes narrow and his anger seep through his face was so obvious. She gently placed her arm on his, "I, I know, she is telling Xena to do horrible things and I..."

Xena exited the tent and saw Gabrielle with Sinbad alone in a corner with her arm on his. They were standing very close together and she marched over there with her arms folded. "What's going on here?" she smiled. Gabrielle's cheeks flushed and she stepped away from Sinbad and he looked away, not sure what to say. "Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle looked up and smiled anxiously. "Nothing Xena. Sinbad and I were discussing the party. The one last night," she nervously added.

Xena smiled turning her attention to him and he half smiled weakly. "Oh yes...too much wine for me," he smirked.

" doesn't really sit well with you, does it?" Xena hissed and Gabrielle folded her arms, wishing to just leave. "Mouse, come with me to prepare the horses." She held out her hand and the blonde stared at her open palm, afraid to take it. Sinbad stared at the timid blonde and nudged his head. She sighed and grabbed her hand. Xena smiled and began walking off with her blonde mouse. "Sinbad, would you tell the men we will leave soon?" she asked and he nodded.

Not long after that awkward situation Gabrielle and Xena were sitting on the same horse and Sinbad lead the men in front while she and Gabrielle stayed a few paces behind. The blonde felt her palms begin to sweat and she rubbed her hands on her skirt. Xena remained alert and slowly trotted alongside the other men, scoping out the area.

"Xena..." Gabrielle began and Xena said nothing. She sighed, "you're not really going to listen to Maeve are you? She's not a good person."

Xena pursed her lips and trotted ahead to scan the area, ignoring Gabrielle entirely. "You're a smart person, Xena, I know you are, I've seen it. She's asking you to do something so horrible and I don't know if I can let you do that!" she whispered in her ear. Xena growled and halted the horse and turned her body slightly to face Gabrielle.

"You don't know me, Gabrielle! You think you do. think you have me figured out, don't you? Well, you don't!" she spat in her face and Gabrielle leaned back then frowned at her.

"Despite your unhealthy obsession with power I can tell that you care about others." She said in a low voice and Xena's eyes grew as her anger heightened. "You're so angry and for no reason! Your brother, I saw him, I talked to him. He loved you a lot!" Xena continued to glare at her but Gabrielle didn't stop there. "He didn't care about what you did to those villages, to those innocent people, all he cared about was you, Xena!" she sighed, expecting some kind of backlash but received an empty stare. "How can you come from a family that cares about others so much and end up...the way you did, is beyond me." She shook her head disappointed.

Xena clenched her teeth and Gabrielle folded her arms staring back into her blue eyes, challenging her. "If you think that I'm so horrible then why are you still here?" she responded finally.

Gabrielle scoffed, "are you serious?" she threw her hands in the air and hopped off the horse. "You kidnapped me! I saved you not once but twice and I don't even get a thank you. Now, I'm here with you again! I'm trapped here with you. Where would I go if I left? Tell me, Xena." She put her hands on her hips glaring up at her.

Xena smirked, "are you trying to make me feel sorry for you?"

The blonde closed her eyes and smiled at her, shaking her head. "No, I think you're missing the point," she explained. "Every time I got away from you I somehow end up with you. Either this is fate or I'm crazy," she grinned mockingly. All she got was a blank emotionless glare from Xena and Gabrielle rubbed her cheek pensively. "I'm telling you...don't do something just because someone tells you to. Don't do something you will regret later."

Sinbad trotted over to Xena and Gabrielle as they were far behind the trail now. "Everything alright over here?" he furrowed his brows. "You guys are really far behind," he thumbed the soldiers in front. Xena continued to stare at Gabrielle in silence and Gabrielle grinned towards him.

"Everything is fine. Let's go get that army," Gabrielle marched onward refusing to get on Xena's horse with her again, preferring to walk instead.

Xena watched Gabrielle walk ahead alone and she blinked, not sure what to think of the mouse's words. She couldn't deny that she was right, because she was. She cared about her family and thought about them a lot, but she just couldn't risk going back there, not after what happened and what was currently happening. It wasn't safe for her or for anyone for that matter. She wasn't sure if she should be angry at Gabrielle for what she said, or simply take her words to be the truth and nothing but the truth. She left her family and friends by following the way of the sword and for awhile it was nice. Ares was there, he guided her but now he seemed to have abandoned her the further she dug herself in the ground with these chaotic messes she got herself into.

She was being chased by Romans and Carthaginians, traveling with a story teller and a sailor trying to gain an army that was never hers to begin with. Then Maeve shows up and tells her that she can help her, much like how Ares lured her in. He said he could help her, but where was he now? He didn't come to her aid when she was captured by Princess Dido and Caesar. He didn't help her when her legs were broken and was being hunted by Romans. He didn't help her when she was being crucified on a beach. No –everything, every little thing she received a bit of mercy from, was from Gabrielle. She had told Gabrielle that the sword was there when nobody else was, but Gabrielle was always there, helping her in some way shape or form.

Her eyes lowered and she felt a hand come to her shoulder, jolting her out of her own demonizing thoughts. Sinbad stared into her eyes concerned for her. "Are you alright? Should we take a break?" he asked, unsure if his words were registering in her mind.

She shook her head, "no I'm alright. We should continue and not stop. We are getting close I believe," she pulled the reins of the horse and rode forward. Sinbad followed behind her a bit skeptical. He had yet to finish his conversation with Gabrielle, though it seemed they had one of their own. And that conversation had struck Xena, it was obvious. He saw it in her eyes. He wondered what Gabrielle said to her to make her so incoherent and dazed.

Gabrielle saw Xena pass her on her horse as she walked alongside the soldiers. Xena turned to stare at her, not with malice but with confusion. Xena rode onward to the front of the line and Gabrielle smirked.

A few hours later Xena had spotted Teuta's camp and she had many men. They didn't look like Sinbad's sailors, no, they were from a different land. Their clothes spoke for themselves and it was obvious that they were very skilled with the bow and this might be a problem for Jamal's men, since they were better with swords instead of bows. Though, Xena remembered that Persians were not skilled with bows yet they had thousands of them and would keep firing in the air to obliterate the enemy. Jamal's men were not Persian, though similar, they were different. Sinbad was one of them and he had broken away from the violent ways of war and the sword. Now, he was more eager to take back his men and get rid of Teuta, much like Xena was.

Gabrielle sat behind a tree overlooking Teuta's camp with other scouts. She had her legs crossed as she sat with the men. They were all bored but Sinbad told them to stay here in case something happened then they were to alert one of the combat soldiers.

She sighed and leaned against the tree not taking her eyes off the army below them. Teuta had no idea they were here, but she thought that this woman couldn't be this naive. They had been attacked by Sinbad and Jamal's soldiers before. She expected Teuta to at least the area, but she didn't. perhaps Xena was right, this woman didn't deserve these men. By the looks of it, she kept herself wide open –an easy target. If Gabrielle had a bow she could shoot her right here, right now.

Gabrielle pulled back her elbow pretending she had a bow and she squinted one eye, focusing on her target. Her finger let go of the arrow and she giggled as she created such a scenario in her mind.

Sinbad knelt close to Gabrielle and she turned her head, a bit embarrassed to see him. "This woman is very irresponsible. We could kill her right now and she has no guards posted on the outskirts!" he shook his head.

"So why don't we?" Gabrielle asked, turning towards the sailor. He half rolled his eyes and nudged his head over his shoulder. She glanced behind him and saw Xena talking with some of the soldiers as she held a large map in her hands. "She's the boss, right?" she smirked.

Sinbad grinned and sat down close to Gabrielle. "I'll let her have her fun, for now. I want you to stay with her on the hill when we decide to attack," he pressed. "I don't want anything to happen to her." She nodded, completely understanding his stance on that.

"You really think she's going to listen to me?" Gabrielle scoffed at the idea.

Sinbad frowned and turned back looking at Xena. She was quite serious and the men seemed to listen to her. They liked her and she wasn't irrational with them. "I think she listens to you, Gabrielle. She just doesn't want to admit it," he shrugged. Gabrielle quirked her mouth to the side and began picking at the weeds surrounding her. "She's got a big ego," he smirked. A few silent moments passed between them and he cleared his throat. "She seemed to listen to you back there on the trail," this grabbed her attention and he smiled at her. "What did you say to her?"

Gabrielle sighed, "I was just reminding her that power isn't everything and that despite her rage for it, deep down she cares for others." She shrugged.

He nodded and turned his head around staring at Xena. She was in a deep conversation with the men and saw her rubbing her head in frustration. "Yeah, she does, but she doesn't show it. She thinks she's tough," he winked and Gabrielle chuckled at his sudden humor.

"Don't let her hear you say that," she chided.

He bobbed his head in agreement and stood up to leave Gabrielle back to her duties. "No, she is a tough woman, I know that, but sometimes...she is careless and doesn't care much for other's emotions." He smiled sadly. "God willing, that will change!" he smiled and left to go see what Xena was up to. Gabrielle watched him walk towards Xena and the men then she sighed heavily as she continued to watch Teuta's camp, boredom overcoming her.

"Just go wait for my command then," Xena waved away the men and she saw Sinbad approaching her. She sighed and rubbed the back of shoulder. He put his hands on his hips and she raised an eyebrow at him. "What are you staring at?"

"You're so testy. So, what is the plan? When do we go attack Teuta's army?" Xena walked away from him and overlooked the camp from behind a tree and watched Teuta descend into her tent.

She smiled, "we shall wait for the hottest part of the day," she rubbed her fingers together feeling a few grains of sand fly in her direction. "Galen said we are expecting a storm soon."

Sinbad looked up at the skies and it was clear as day, no rain forecast whatsoever. "A storm? Has he been drinking again?" he questioned skeptically.

Xena turned to him with a large grin, "not a rainstorm...a sandstorm." Sinbad's eyes widened and he shook his head.

"Xena, those are dangerous. Nobody fights battles in those. That is too risky." He saw her eyes sparkle and she touched his chest with her hand warmly.

"I know," she hissed and walked away from him. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He ran after her and she held up her hand. "I am no fool. We are not going in that storm. We will stay right where we are and make use of my –Jamal's archers," she corrected herself. He smiled at her then went to meet with the rest of the men to discuss tactics. She sighed and set her hand on her hip, feeling fatigue overcome her.

Gabrielle saw Xena's uncomfortable state from afar. She told the others to cover for her and she ran towards Xena, seeing the subtle wince on Xena's face. The warrior woman saw Gabrielle approach her and turned away from her.

"I're not feeling well," Gabrielle spoke softly and attempted to put a hand on the warrior's shoulder but refrained. "You can act tough around the men and around Sinbad, but you don't have to around me," she smiled softly as Xena had her back still turned on her. She grew impatient and huffed. "Can you at least look at me?"

Xena turned around slowly and stared into Gabrielle's bright green eyes. Gabrielle touched Xena's hand softly and Xena surprisingly didn't turn away or refuse her hand. The blonde smiled at her and Xena half smiled.

Awhile later Gabrielle and Xena sat together by the horses and Gabrielle pulled out some herbs from her bag she carried with her at all times. Gabrielle crushed the herbs with her hands and stuffed it inside of a piece of day old bread. She gave it to Xena and she looked at it with a disgusted face. "I don't have hot water," she admitted lamely. Xena took the bread and ate it gingerly, cringing at the taste of the bitter herb. Gabrielle grinned and wiped her hands on her skirt.

"Why –" Xena spoke and Gabrielle hushed her instantly.

"Stop asking me why and just eat it," Gabrielle demanded of her. Xena didn't question her and ate the bread, staring at her cautiously. "I've been practicing my moves, want to see?" Gabrielle tried to lighten the warrior's mood and stood up unsheathing her sword. She swung from side to side and circled around herself as Xena sat on the grassy ground, staring up at her. Gabrielle swung her short sword and sliced a few wheat stalks in half with a swift swing.

Xena smiled and Gabrielle enjoyed seeing a smile on the woman's face. She sat down a bit of adrenaline running through her body was exciting. "So what do you think? I'm getting pretty good, right?"

Xena finished eating the bread and wiped her hands on her pants, staring at the anxious warrior in the making. "You don't have to make small talk with me, Gabrielle." She said quietly.

Gabrielle sighed, feeling that this was useless talking with Xena. "I said that I was trapped with you, but I think you're teaching me a lesson." Xena eyed her doubtingly. She grinned, "I told myself that I was going to travel Greece, the world, and tell stories of epic heroes and their adventures." She began to reminiscence the good short times she had when she traveled alone. "Then you came along." Xena furrowed her brows as she spoke. "You taught me that not everybody is nice, not everybody is going to do what they say they're going to do." She paused staring into Xena's blue eyes. "I was really naive to think I could trust a stranger like you. I barely knew you and I trusted you, which was stupid of me," she cursed to herself. "I thought you were going to be nice to me and you were for awhile, but then I realized..." she sighed and Xena listened to the young girl intently. "Nobody is going to care about you unless they make the effort to care."

Xena raised an eyebrow, a bit shocked to hear more poetic words spew out of this young girl's mouth. She was nothing like Gabrielle was at her age. She lived with her mother and brothers at her age and had a desire to leave, but her words, she never thought that way ever before in her life. She was light-years ahead of her in many different ways.

"You have a very active imagination," Xena stated and Gabrielle blushed bright red. Xena caught notice and a small smile crept on her lips.

"When I saw you I was so amazed by you. You lived in Rome! Nobody lives there unless they are important!" Gabrielle couldn't believe the amount of word vomit that came out of her mouth. "Then I saw what you were doing and that's when I started to feel sorry for you." Xena frowned at that, not wishing to talk about this any longer. "I wanted to get to know you better, to understand you. I'm still trying to understand you, Xena, are difficult," she smirked. Xena hinted at a smile but said nothing in response, allowing Gabrielle to keep chattering.

A few awkward minutes passed by and Gabrielle sighed heavily. "When we attack Teuta's army, will you kill her?" she asked a bit worried for the answer. She decided to change the subject since Xena's lack of response was not likely to change.

Xena's eyes lit up, "well I had another idea in mind," she smiled mischievously. Gabrielle knew that look and it wasn't good. She eyed the dagger inside Xena's boot and took note of that. She smiled nervously at Xena and folded her hands in her lap.

It had reached the hottest part of the day and Sinbad looked to the darkening skies. He shielded his face with a veil from his turban. Xena sat on her horse and then shielded her face, leaving her eyes exposed. Gabrielle stood beside Xena's horse and she too shielded her entire face but her eyes. The sailor glanced around the veiled soldiers and each had their bows and arrows ready.

The wind had already begun to pick up and Sinbad felt grains of sand graze his hands. He put on his black fingerless gloves and walked to the front of the line on the highest part of the hill to oversee Teuta's campsite. He raised his hand slowly and everyone remained still and silent, waiting for his command to attack.

Xena pulled on the reins of her horse and backed up a few feet. Gabrielle held onto Xena's horse so she wouldn't get lost in the impending storm. She didn't like the idea that Xena had, it was really dangerous but it was obvious nobody could tell this woman what to do. Xena squinted her eyes looking at Sinbad, waiting seemed like forever. She looked to the skies and saw the sand wisp above them, heading towards Teuta's camp. She smiled beneath her veil and Gabrielle clenched the horse's reins tightly.

Sinbad saw all of Teuta's men retreat into their tents as the sand storm began to head in their direction. He waved his hand then ran down the hill to squat next to the front line of Jamal's men.

The arches pulled their bows back and released flaming arrows into the skies raining down on Teuta's camp. Sinbad lined his eyes with kohl to block any sand getting into his eyes. He saw that many of the arrows struck the tents below as well as the grassy dry land, immediately causing a wild fire to erupt. He smiled standing up to see. He could barely make out anything beyond the storm, but definitely saw flames and they were spreading very quickly.

Xena frowned no longer being able to see. She trotted to the hill and forgot Gabrielle was holding on for dear life. She groaned and grabbed Gabrielle hoisting her up on the horse. She felt Gabrielle wrap her arms around her tightly and she half smiled warmly. "Are you afraid, mouse?" She whispered over her shoulder.

Gabrielle looked to Xena's kohl lined blue eyes. She shook her head hesitantly, "no, I'm not afraid."

Xena smirked and rode up to the top of the hill. She now saw Teuta exiting her tent with a few guards surrounding her. It was obvious now that she had figured out that she was being ambushed but the storm prevented her men from attacking, which was what Xena had planned all along. Gabrielle saw the dagger once again inside of Xena's boot.

Out of the corner of Gabrielle's eye she saw one of Teuta's men coming for Xena. She realized that the men must have spotted her or found out their enemy was hidden on the hill top. Gabrielle looked to the dagger in Xena's boot again and made a quick decision. She grabbed the hilt of the dagger and jumped off the horse. Xena's eyes widened and she snapped her head around to see Gabrielle running away from her in the dusty storm. She could no longer see any trace of her.

"Gabrielle!" Xena yelled out and the horse reared on its hind legs and she growled, trying to control the animal. "Gabrielle!" she frantically looked around then turned her head to see Sinbad commanding the archers to keep firing.

Gabrielle blinked and shielded her eyes as the sand completely engulfed her. She circled around herself to expect any attacks. She felt a hand grab her boot and she gasped, then sliced the soldier's wrist with the blade. The man screamed in agony and Gabrielle saw she had completely severed his hand. She backed away and stared at the black blade. She couldn't see her reflection in it at all, it was matte. Gabrielle squinted her eyes continuing to glare at the dagger then she felt the handle of it start getting warmer and warmer. The black blade turned bright red and she yelled, dropping the blade dagger into the sand.

She dropped to her knees and held her palm close to her chest, feeling the burn saturate her entire hand. She peered down and saw blisters form on her palm. She cringed and felt a hand grab her arm forcefully. Gasping she turned around and saw Xena staring down at her on top of the black stallion.

For once in her life she was glad to see Xena. She jumped onto the horse and winced as she held her burnt hand. As they rode further away from the storm Gabrielle realized she left the dagger in the sand. Her eyes widened, thinking she should have gone back for it, but she didn't want to touch that devil blade again.

Sinbad saw Xena coming out of the storm on the opposite end of the hill. He ran towards her and saw Gabrielle hunched over behind Xena on the horse. "All of the tents are destroyed. What do you want us to do with Teuta? Jamal's men have her trapped."

Xena squinted her eyes as the storm began to dissipate. "Bring her to me. Alive," she added and he nodded running to the men to tell them the plan. Xena now focused her attention on Gabrielle. She jumped off the horse and lifted Gabrielle off slowly. "Just what do you think you were doing?!" she shook her.

Gabrielle felt tears in her eyes and Xena saw the girl's watery eyes. She also noticed Gabrielle clutching her hand close to her chest. She grabbed her hand and flipped it over seeing blisters and burn marks all over her palm. "What is this?" she asked and unveiled her face. "How did this happen?" she asked in a more calm voice.

The blonde steadied her breathing and unveiled her face. "That...that soldier was coming for you. I took your...dagger," she peered up at Xena's disappointed face. "I attacked him but...the burned me!" she cried.

"Xena, we have her!" Sinbad called out and Xena groaned, feeling pressured to deal with two things at once. She ripped off some of the cloth from the turban and wrapped Gabrielle's hand tightly.

"Go behind the tree in the pass and wait for me." Xena demanded and Gabrielle remained still, afraid to move. "Go!" she yelled then Gabrielle ran to the tree and Xena sighed heavily.

Teuta was kicked down to her knees by Jamal's soldiers. Her best guards were present with her and tied up as well, lined up in a row. Xena marched over to the Illyrian Queen with a devious smile. The tattered queen glared up at Xena and spat at her boots. "I finally have you," Xena knelt down and stared into the woman's light eyes.

"I didn't do anything to you, Xena!" Teuta spat blood on the sandy ground. Xena smiled, tapping her knee and stood up slowly.

"Not yet, anyway. It's not what you didn't do, it's what you're about to do," Xena pulled out her scimitar with a devious smile. She pointed the blade's tip at Teuta's neck. "I'm going to take all of your riches, your men, your supplies and horses," she nudged her head to Jamal's soldiers and they ran down to the campsite to retrieve such items Xena mentioned. Teuta glared up at Xena with a large frown.

The Queen breathed heavily as Xena stared down at her with that malicious smile. "Go ahead and kill me. You're going to take whatever you desire anyway."

Xena laughed, "I'm not going to kill you! Silly woman," she shook her head and sheathed her sword. "You see Teuta, you're a wanted woman, much like I am. Caesar wants me but he also wants you. I'm going to send on a ship to Rome to meet the Roman bastard," she grimaced. "Caesar will be so happy to see you," she winked.

Teuta growled and struggled to get free. One of the soldiers kicked her in the spine and she coughed violently, blood spilling out of her mouth. "Take her back to the camp," Xena waved her hand. The soldiers grabbed the Queen's guards and Xena smiled. "Oh not them." The men looked to Teuta and she frowned at Xena. "Kill them," Xena sauntered off and Sinbad's eyes widened. He unveiled his face and looked down at the prisoners.

"They are nothing, just kill them like she said," the sailor reiterated. The soldiers pulled out their swords and Teuta closed her eyes, not baring to watch this heinous act. A few seconds later she heard her men scream in agony and she felt sick.

Awhile later Xena found Gabrielle sitting by the tree like she told her to. She was less frazzled but still uneasy. Xena tied the horse to a tree branch and walked underneath large branches to sit with Gabrielle. The blonde looked over and saw Xena facing her.

"That was very stupid of you, going after an armed soldier like that," Xena pulled out a pouch in her bag she grabbed off the horse. She took Gabrielle's hand and unwrapped the cloth. She rubbed some moist herbs on Gabrielle's hand and she winced in agony. "It could have been worse," she smiled.

Gabrielle closed her eyes tightly as Xena kept pressing her fingers into her palm. "He...he was coming after you, what was I supposed to do?!" she cringed and Xena wrapped her hand with the cloth once more.

"I could have handled it on my own. Lesson number six, don't allow yourself to be put in a situation that you can't handle," Xena smiled and pat Gabrielle's knee gently.

"So what's number seven? Heal your wounded apprentice?" Gabrielle grumbled and Xena stood up, helping her blonde mouse off the ground.

Xena frowned, "no, we'll save that for later. You stole my dagger."

"You mean Maeve's dagger. That thing burned me! Look at my hand!" Gabrielle yelled passionately at her and Xena frowned. "I'm not touching that thing again. You can go get it yourself."

Xena left Gabrielle and mounted the horse riding back to the hilltop. Gabrielle sighed and saw Sinbad and the men hoisting Teuta away on a horse, tied up like a sad prisoner. She ran towards Sinbad and he looked at her hand. "What happened to you, mouse?"

Gabrielle shook her head with a nervous smile. "Nothing. Listen Sinbad, I need to talk to you about Xena and Maeve."

Sinbad took Gabrielle off to the side and saw Xena riding up to the hill. "Did she go near Xena? What did she say to her?"

"She told her to do something horrible and gave her some kind of burned my hand!" she presented her wounded palm and Sinbad frowned, feeling the blood boiling beneath his skin.

"What exactly is this horrible thing?" he questioned.

Gabrielle sighed, avoiding his gaze. "I can't tell you..." Sinbad groaned and rubbed his face frantically. Xena found the dagger hidden in the sand and began riding towards them. Sinbad saw the black blade in Xena's hand and he frowned.

"Where did you get that?" he asked with his hands folded, straightening his back, feeling very defensive.

Xena glared at Gabrielle but she said nothing. "From a friend so to speak," she said quite definitively. Sinbad knew that she was lying and he believed Gabrielle. He huffed and walked off to join the rest of the men as they tread back to the camp. Xena snapped her head at Gabrielle then slid the dagger back into her boot. "Didn't burn my hand," she wiggled her fingers and the blonde rolled her eyes. She chose to walk the rest of the way and not be near Xena especially after that giant fiasco.

Maeve exited her tent and saw Xena return with Jamal's soldiers and also with...a guest. She smiled as she saw the Illyrian Queen that Jamal had been looking for, for quite some time. Xena was able to capture the woman as well as bring back supplies, chests with possible treasures inside and extra foreign soldiers in tow.

The woman glanced over at Sinbad and saw the angry expression on his face. He knows, she told herself. Mozen appeared from inside the tent and saw Gabrielle trailing behind Xena's horse. He pointed at the young girl, "the blonde touched the blade." He sensed it immediately even standing from afar.

"she is foolish," Maeve grimaced. "And Xena is a fool for allowing her to tag along. I must...make my appearance known to Xena. Tonight," she smiled and disappeared into her tent once more. Mozen watched Gabrielle intently with a large frown then sealed the tent, sitting with Maeve.

The sun had set and Jamal's soldiers had decided to throw another party, for their victories of course. Xena had presented Teuta to Jamal and he kept her locked in a cage tied up and even gave her a strong opiate to keep her quiet for the night, or many nights Xena hoped. She gave him very clear instructions on how to transport Teuta to Rome. She was to be escorted to the large port in southern Anatolia and shipped with slaves heading towards Rome. She wanted Caesar to know that she was indeed well and alive and willing to fight against him. She wanted to deliver Teuta as a token for her life and also to insult him. He was unable to catch her, but she did.

Sinbad entered the tent and Xena looked up as she began taking her boots off. He had his hands on his hips and she smiled at him. "You did well today. I am very impressed," she casually said.

He marched over to her and grabbed her cheeks with his hand and she snarled. "What are you doing accepting gifts from that witch?!" he yelled in her face. She snatched her face away from his grasp and rubbed her cheeks.

Xena huffed, "she gave me a dagger. So what?" she spat back.

He threw his hands in the air in frustration. "That dagger burned Gabrielle's hand! Imagine what it could do to you!" he paced back and forth in front of her and she threw her boots aside. "I want you to stay away from her! She's a witch. Nothing good can come from that, Xena."

"I'm not a child, you don't get to tell me what and what not to do, Sinbad!" she folded her arms staring up at him and he groaned loudly, wishing to scream out of anger.

"You're not a child, but you're carrying one!" he retorted and Xena remained silent. "I'm going to talk to that she-devil," he grabbed his sword and Xena frantically stood up holding him back.

"Don't!" she pulled on his arm and he snatched it away from her making a face of disgust.

Gabrielle sat outside her tent writing something down and saw Sinbad exit his tent in a hurry and with his sword as well. She then saw Xena exit the tent and watch him leave. She stood up and went to Xena. "What's going on?" she asked a bit concerned.

"stay out of the way, Gabrielle. You've caused enough trouble," Xena grabbed her cloak and wrapped it around herself and followed Sinbad to Maeve's tent. Gabrielle scoffed and folded her arms.

"It's you who's causing the trouble!" Gabrielle called out to Xena as she stormed off. She looked at her burned hand and unwrapped it carefully. The herbs had helped some and the stinging went away but the blisters were still there. She grimaced and wrapped her palm back up again.

Sinbad burst into Maeve's tent and a strong aroma of incense filled up the tent. He coughed and waved his hand in front of his face. He pointed the blade at Maeve and Mozen was about to draw his own weapon but Maeve stopped him. She stood up smiling at the sailor.

"Sinbad, so good to see you again. What brings you to my tent?" she slyly said.

He inched closer, "I want you to stay away from Xena! And Gabrielle too," he added.

She chuckled softly. "You see, I just can't do that, sailor." She walked closer and he pointed the sword directly in her face. She was not fazed and stopped at the point. "Your weapons mean nothing to me," she frowned. She touched the tip of the blade and heat began radiating off of it. he dropped the sword and hissed at the pain in his hand. "You see, Sinbad. I need Xena. She desires greatness and I can give that to her. What can you give her?" Sinbad glared at her and she smiled smugly. "Love?"

He swung his fist around and Maeve caught his wrist inches away from her cheek. She strengthened her grip and he heard a few bones crack as she held on tighter and tighter. His eyes widened and she smiled then let go of his wrist.

"Every time you come near me or even think of me...Xena will experience intense pain. Agony." She pressed further. "I know you don't want that, right?" she chided.

Sinbad felt his heart drop just thinking of that. He thought of what he would do to this woman, he wanted to strangle her but also, did not want to hurt Xena in the process.

Maeve sensed his thoughts and she smiled. "Bad thoughts, Sinbad," she tisked and she waved her hand slowly in front of her face. "Think of Xena..." she raised an eyebrow and he held his broken wrist, completely forgetting the pain.

"I will kill you, witch," he eyed Mozen and he snarled at him then left the woman's tent in a hurry. On his way out he saw Xena coming towards him and saw she was unharmed a small smile came to his lips. Then he received a punch in the shoulder by Xena.

"What did you do?" she yelled in his face and he furrowed his eyebrows.

"Nothing..." he tried so hard to suppress his thoughts about that witch, but it was definitely more difficult than he thought it would be. "Excuse me I need to...tend to something," meaning his wrist and he brushed past Xena leaving her confused and alone.

Xena peered over at Maeve's tent and saw her silhouette as she stood talking to Mozen. She pursed her lips then decided to ignore Sinbad and go into her tent.

Maeve smiled at her expected guest. "Xena," she gestured for her to sit down. "You let the dagger out of your sight today," she said and instantly saw fear in Xena's eyes. "Oh yes, I know. I know everything. Gabrielle, that's her name right?" she smiled smugly and Xena remained silent. "She's quite bold, but not like you. You're the lion and she's...the mouse.." she repeated Sinbad's words he told Xena last night in their tent. Xena raised a brow, remembering those exact words come out of his mouth.

She poured some tea for herself and Xena then sat down across from the warrior. "In my culture...lions are afraid of mice, you know," she explained. "Amazing how something so small can scare something so large and ferocious." She marveled and Xena didn't really like this woman's cryptic metaphors.

"You don't need to worry about Gabrielle. She's innocent," Xena said softly and sipped the tea.

Maeve grinned, "is she? She wounded a soldier for you. She was willing to kill for you. That's not very innocent, in my opinion." She saw Xena remained still but intently focused. "She touched the dagger. That was meant for you. I am counting on you to keep it safe and do what I said, remember?" she touched Xena's knee.

"I remember, but Sinbad –"

She frowned, "don't worry about your sailor, Xena! He and I have come to an understanding about our..." her eyes danced around looking for the right word. "Friendship."

"You told me you could help me, but I haven't seen anything worth my time," Xena thought she'd get straight to the point with this woman.

Maeve nodded, understanding Xena completely. "Oh don't you worry about that. Your time will come. Your next task is to go to the centaurs. They have something that I want and I want you to retrieve it for me. Think you can do that?" she asked in a motherly voice. Xena nodded her head with a subtle smile. The witch smiled and her eyes traveled down to Xena's abdomen. "Your son, he will come in the winter. Much better weather than this hot summer we're in right now," she smiled and Xena shifted, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Maeve continued to sip her tea and watch Xena cautiously, observing her every move.

An hour or so later Xena walked back to the tents and found Gabrielle sitting by the fire alone. She halted before entering her tent and Gabrielle didn't even look at her. "How's your hand?" Gabrielle shrugged in response and Xena nodded her head slowly, not sure what to say to the girl. She continued onward to the tent.

"How are you?" Gabrielle abruptly said. "You looked pale earlier today when I gave you the bread..." her voice softened and Xena wrapped the cloak around herself tightly.

"I...get like that early in the afternoons, sometimes," she admitted and Gabrielle smiled weakly. "I'm going to the centaur territories next week. I want you to stay here."

Gabrielle stood up and folded her arms, "did Maeve tell you to do this? If you're going then I'm going too!" she stood her ground and Xena sighed.

"I don't want you in getting in the way, Gabrielle," Xena said softly and Gabrielle scoffed at that. She pulled the tent's flap aside and Gabrielle called out to her.

"How can I be a good apprentice if I'm away from my mentor?" Gabrielle smiled smugly. Xena rolled her eyes and finally relented, allowing her to go with her. She disappeared in the tent and Gabrielle felt as if she needed to pat herself on the back for that. She wasn't about to let Xena do something stupid especially if Maeve sent her to do whatever it is she wanted her to do. Nope, that wasn't going to happen.

Chapter Text

AN: just getting this moving right along! Enjoy :)

Chapter 21


Caesar sat in his office signing some documents for the senate he hated so much. He hated going there listening to men twice his age discuss the growth and wealth of the Roman Empire. He wanted to be emperor, make the empire his so he wouldn't have to listen to the damned old men in the senate any longer.

Two guards burst through the door and he frowned. He saw the men dragging in a woman tied up and wearing armor, her hair long, shielding her face. He hoped it was Xena and smiled standing up coming around to the front of his desk. The men threw the prisoner on the marble floor and he grinned. He waltzed over to the woman and lifted her head and to his surprise it wasn't Xena that was kneeling in front of him.

"Teuta?" Caesar seemed confused. The Illyrian woman blinked up at him, in and out of consciousness. He let go of her hair and stared at the guards. "What is she doing here? Who sent her?"

The Queen coughed and dry heaved from the lack of water. "X...Xe...Xena..." she said in a very hoarse voice. Caesar's eyes enlarged as soon as he heard that name.

"Xena sent you here? Well," he smirked, "it seems that woman has no boundaries and obviously is still alive and well," he tapped his fingers on the desk then suddenly it hit him. "You know Xena's location, don't you?" he said in a sly voice. Teuta nodded her head slowly and his smile widened. "Tell me where she is and I shall make sure your death is quick and easy," he reassured her.

Teuta frowned, not liking the idea of dying but if it was to get rid of Xena she'd gladly give him information. "She...she's in Ardahan...a northern province of Anatolia," she coughed some more and the Roman sat down at his desk, pulling out a large map. He pinpointed the area that Teuta spoke of.

"Near the Black fitting," he chuckled and rolled up the map. "Take her down to the dungeons below and hold her there until I tell you otherwise." He knelt down close to the Queen and stared in her bright green eyes. "Your information is most valuable to me," he touched her cheek and she was hoisted up off the ground and carried away.

He dipped his quill in the ink and began writing immediately. His messenger boy was nearby and he cleared his throat. "Take this to Princess Dido at once. We now have Xena's location at last," he grinned and the boy ran out of the room. Caesar leaned back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap basking in the revenge that he would soon get on Xena.

Xena swung her sword at Gabrielle and the blonde blocked her blows several times in a row. Xena sighed and stopped sparing with Gabrielle. They had both relocated to a different province in Anatolia to seek out the centaurs. It had been two weeks since they left Jamal's campsite. Xena took Teuta's men for her own gain and there were plenty of them, some of them were Sinbad's men that he traveled with at sea, so they knew her.

Now, she had an army of over two hundred men, it was small, but these men were good fighters, obviously, they belonged to Teuta the Untamable, which was quite notable. Sinbad decided to stay back at Jamal's camp, he was rather distant towards Xena and didn't even say goodbye to her when she left, which she thought was odd.

Xena looked up at the trees around her and a few leaves fell from the large trees. Autumn was here and summer was gone which meant that winter was about three months away, which also meant that she was running out of time –to think, to plan and to organize herself and...the child she carried.

Maeve gave her special instructions, something about a stone that she wanted and the centaurs had it. xena didn't know where to look or how to go about searching for it. She and Gabrielle along with the new army set camp outside of centaur territory. Gabrielle was the one who found the area so she did most of the leading, which Xena was grateful for. Xena had yet to meet with any of the centaurs in the area, almost afraid to, though she wanted to fulfill Maeve's wishes and her own.

Gabrielle saw that Xena had become distracted and her eyes wandered around her, especially at the trees. "You want to stop for now?" she asked politely. Xena nodded and sheathed her sword then made her way back to camp to sit down for awhile. Gabrielle followed her unsure of her thoughts.

As Xena continued to train Gabrielle her own thoughts of her handling a sword came to her. Almost two years ago she was being trained by a young man named Deimos, which she soon figured out was just another one of Ares' pawns and tricks. He was so sweet to her, much like many men in her path, but he taught her how to wield a sword in a matter of hours. Her first kill, she remembered, a large stalk of grass. She smiled remembering that day perfectly. She could barely hold a sword much less kill with it and Gabrielle reminded her of herself. She was shy but ambitious, Gabrielle was...not shy, nor super ambitious, but she was eager to learn much like she was.

Gabrielle came around to sit across from Xena and stared at her empty stare. "So how am I doing? Am I improving?" she anxiously asked. Xena lifted her eyes and stared into her green eyes.

She smiled weakly, "yes you are. I think tomorrow we can go meet with the centaurs, what do you think?" she asked for the girl's input. Gabrielle seemed surprised at that and was actually speechless.

"Sure, I guess but haven't really told me why we're here. What do the centaurs have that we don't?" she curiously inquired.

Xena touched the hilt of the black dagger hidden in her boot, remembering what Maeve said to her. Somehow, she was a bit torn listening to this woman and to Gabrielle as well as Sinbad. Sinbad hated Maeve and Gabrielle was suspicious of her though Xena didn't know what to make of Maeve. She was kind to her albeit very manipulative, she hadn't done anything malicious to her. She kept asking her to do things for her and Xena hadn't done what she said she was going to do –kill Jamal. She was having conflicting thoughts about that which she was sure Maeve could sense that, so she pressured her to go to the centaurs. Her eyes narrowed as she thought of the stone the witch spoke of.

Two Weeks Earlier

Xena sat with Maeve inside her tent alone in the middle of the night. A quill appeared in the witch's hand and she began drawing on a piece of blank parchment. Xena eyed her carefully and saw a jewel or stone drawing on the parchment.

"I want this stone, Xena. It is the most powerful stone there is. The centaurs have been guarding it for decades. It will make you powerful too," she smugly smiled. Xena examined the drawing and creased her brows. "I sense doubt in you," she said subtly.

Xena shook her head and handed the parchment back to the witch. "Why do you say that?"

Maeve grinned and touched Xena's cheek with her long slender fingers. "You remind me of apprentice I once had. She was like you, ambitious, power-driven.."

Xena became curious and dare she ask, "what happened to her?"

The witch sighed heavily and poured some wine for herself. "She didn't listen to me. She wanted to be better than me," her eyes narrowed and a large frown appeared on her face. It was the first time Xena had actually seen a malicious expression on the witch's face. The wine in her glass began to sizzle and bubble. Xena's eyes widened, though she remained calm. "She had a little...accident," she smiled and the wine stopped fizzing, then she took a large swig of the alcohol.

Xena smiled deviously, "like what I did to Hashim?"

"Something of the sort, but I know you won't do that to me. I know what's best for you," Maeve winked. "Think of me as a mother to you, Xena. I am here only to help you as long as you help me," her smile widened and her eyes sparkled. "you see, I'm not like your friend, Gabrielle or like your lover, Sinbad. You and I are a lot alike. We desire power, the need to rise to the top. You have a new army by eliminating your enemy, just think of the centaurs as your next enemy."

Xena nodded, liking the sound of that, though remained skeptical until she finally got her end of the deal. She would do as Maeve said only because she desired more.

Maeve grinned sensing the hate rising inside of Xena. She closed her eyes, basking in the hatred surrounding her, rejuvenating her body. "You can have your little blonde friend, but she is just a distraction, remember that!" she pressed onto the warrior and Xena remained silent, not sure how to respond. "She is like a little sister to you, or perhaps...more?" she smiled mischievously.

Xena smiled thinking of Gabrielle. She really had grown to like the young teenager even though their meeting was quite strange. They always ended up together no matter what happened. "I won't let her become a distraction to me." She smiled and drank some wine with the sorceress. Maeve nodded her head, liking that mindset.

Gabrielle continued to stare at Xena waiting for an answer. She was once again distracted by something. She waved her hand in front of Xena's eyes and finally she snapped out of it.

"We're to make friends with the centaurs, that is all," Xena lied with a large smile. Gabrielle bobbed her head but remained suspicious of Xena. She hadn't been clear minded in quite some time ever since they decided to leave the camp.

Deciding to ignore that Gabrielle pulled out some fruit and handed an apple to Xena. "you know," she giggled and Xena raised an eyebrow, staring at her cautiously. "Sometimes I forget that you're pregnant." Gabrielle pealed the apple with a short knife and Xena remained quiet. "You don't act like you are or even look like you are," she paused staring up at Xena's strange stare. "I mean you do without all those clothes on," she lamely covered herself.

"I have a method behind my madness, Gabrielle," Xena bit into the apple and Gabrielle smiled at her.

"You want to remain strong for the men, I understand." Gabrielle then bit into the apple and threw the skin onto the grassy ground. "I respect that..." she added and Xena continued eating the apple, unsure where this was going. "You put up this front like you don't care about anyone, but I know you care about some people."

Xena was tempted to roll her eyes, feeling sick just listening to Gabrielle's poetic words once again. Though, she did listen to her from time to time, it just was annoying sometimes, especially when her words were about her.

"I can hear you in your tent late at night sometimes," Gabrielle just made the entire conversation more awkward than it needed to be. Xena's eyes widened and she shied away from the blonde mouse. "You talk to your baby, I think that's very sweet of you," Gabrielle smiled and Xena felt her cheeks drain of color then got up to walk off elsewhere, not wishing to listen to Gabrielle anymore.

Gabrielle sighed and bit into her apple again. She realized that she probably should have kept that to herself but a tiny smile crept onto her lips. So you do care, don't you Xena?

Xena walked beyond their campsite until she reached the edge of the forest. She overlooked the sea and the wind gently blew through her dark hair. She kept thinking of all the mothers in her village and how young they were, around her age. They were married while she rebelled against the social norms, making herself quite an outcast in the village. The women always talked about how happy they were to have a child, but Xena sadly admitted, she didn't feel the same way. She didn't feel happy nor did she feel sad either. She always said that she didn't like children and never wanted to have one either, but she was here, going against her own mindset, though it wasn't something she could control.

Her eyes traveled down to her stomach and realized that she definitely couldn't ignore that anymore, she couldn't ignore her son any longer. Though truthfully, she never ignored him even in the beginning. She gave off the impression that she did to others especially to Sinbad, but she cared –she had always cared.

She felt on a hand come to her shoulder and she gasped, then turned to see it was Gabrielle staring at her with apologetic eyes. She faced the sea once more, pretending to ignore her. "I'm sorry if I said something that made you feel...uncomfortable. I wasn't trying to it's's nice to see a softer side to you," she half smiled. Xena inwardly groaned and folded her arms looking at the blue sea in front of her.

Moments later Xena felt a stabbing pain and clutched her side, wincing at the sudden pain. Gabrielle frowned and came around to see Xena's face in agony. She grabbed Xena's arms, squeezing them tightly then Xena's eyes widened and her mouth gaped as the pain worsened. "What's wrong with you?" Gabrielle asked and Xena grabbed onto her shoulder, gripping tightly. Gabrielle's eyes frantically scanned Xena's body but saw nothing physically wrong with her. She then wrapped an arm around Xena, trying to support her weight on her. She cried out for help, hoping someone would hear her given how far they were from camp.

Sinbad paced in Jamal's tent and the commander reclined on a large set of pillows. "I want you to tell me everything you know about Maeve..." he whispered.

Jamal sighed, "what would you like to know? She's only here because of her son, you know that."

Sinbad groaned dismissing that statement. "Not that. Tell me about her powers. What can she do, what is she capable of..." he rubbed his chin.

Jamal began laughing and Sinbad frowned at his friend, folding his arms. The commander's laugh died down and he looked at Sinbad seriously. "She doesn't have any powers. She's just a queen mother, nothing more. People made up some shit about her that she is a sorceress. We both know that she's not."

Sinbad rolled his eyes and began pacing again. "But she is!" he fought back. "I've seen what she can do! She broke my wrist, she burned Gabrielle's hand." He shook his head not understanding this one bit. "she's evil incarnate and God willing, she doesn't hurt Xena."

Jamal sat up and creased his brows. "you're serious about this, aren't you?" Sinbad frowned nodding his head slowly, mocking his friend's disbelief in him. "Well you can't kill her," he grinned. "The king will have your head."

Sinbad sighed and tapped his foot on the ground. "She's listening right now, I know she is. I'm not supposed to talk about her or..." he trailed off and Jamal stood up becoming concerned.

"Or what?" he whispered.

"She said she will hurt Xena that..that she will experience extreme agony," he stuttered and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "I shouldn't be talking to you. I need to leave!" he exited the tent and Jamal watched him leave, tempted to run after him.

"Sinbad!" he called after his friend and the sailor kept running far from the area. He scratched his head and then looked to Maeve's tent. He saw the woman's silhouette in the tent and she was sitting very still.

Maeve's eyes remained open and the entirety of her eyes were white as she listened to Sinbad close by. She waved her hand over a box she kept and saw an image of Xena in her tent with Gabrielle, wailing in agony. "I warned you, sailor," she frowned and clenched her fist tightly and echoes of Xena's scream came to her ears.

She felt a presence come near her tent and she blinked, her eyes returning back to normal. Jamal entered her tent and she slid the box underneath a blanket she had. She smiled tightly at the commander. "You and Sinbad square some things away?" she attempted to make small talk.

Jamal glanced around the tent and found nothing strange about it. Maeve noticed his wandering eyes and she stood up, throwing her cape's hood over her head. She touched his hand and he immediately bowed his head at her. "Your highness..." he stared up at her and her eyebrows raised expecting a quick conversation. "The King has sent word to me that he wishes us to relocate somewhere else."

Maeve's smile died and she exited her tent, staring around the entire camp. All of the men were packing their belongings and getting ready to leave and in a hurry too. "Did he?" she folded her arms and Jamal came by her side, not uttering a single word to her. "Where did he exactly say to relocate?" she walked a few feet observing all the men packing up their things. He didn't respond to her and she frowned, glaring at him, sensing his nervousness, she grinned at this. "Jamal..." she hissed. "My son didn't tell you to relocate, did he?"

Jamal felt a bit insulted. "Yes...yes he did, my queen," he felt a bitter taste in his mouth as he said that. Maeve nodded, remaining quiet.

"Then why was I not notified about this sudden...change," she questioned him and he hid his anxiety as he stood very close to her. She turned to him and stared into his dark brown eyes.

"Jamal!" Sinbad called out and then saw Maeve standing next to him. His eyes widened in fear then shied away from her, turning his back towards her. Maeve grinned humming to herself and Jamal bowed his head curtly and left the queen's side. "Why are you talking to her?" he mumbled, hiding his face from Maeve.

Jamal shook his head not understanding this at all. "The King sent word to relocate the army. I was just informing her and –what is wrong with you?" he peered around and Sinbad turned away further.

The sailor cleared his throat nervously, "I haven't heard from Xena in two weeks now. I can't talk to Maeve or...bad things will happen to Xena."

Jamal snickered, "really Sinbad? You think Maeve can hurt Xena all the way over here? She's in an entirely different province!"

"Jamal! She's evil...she has powers," his eyes scanned the ground, trying his best not to look at Maeve.

"sure she does, if you're so sure of that why don't you just ask her," he laughed then turned around to see Maeve gone, disappeared from the campsite. He frowned, looking around for her but found nothing. "She was just there," he crinkled his nose in confusion.

"See what I mean?" Sinbad folded his arms now affirming his skepticism. He pat his friend's shoulder and sighed heavily. "Where are we supposed to relocate now?"

Jamal rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. " the Steppes beyond Ardahan," he explained quietly feeling a bit uneasy.

Sinbad nodded his head. "Right okay! I'm going to pack my things and go alert Xena about this. If I leave now then I can get there before first light," he smiled and ran off to his tent leaving Jamal alone. He stared at the middle of the camp once Sinbad left him alone. He wasn't sure how Maeve disappeared like that, so quickly and everything. He shook his head and went to tell the rest of his men to get ready to leave and soon.

Maeve sat in her tent and brought out the box she hid earlier. She closed her eyes and focused her energy on Xena. She saw that Xena was asleep thanks to her precious blonde mouse. She frowned and opened her eyes and they turned white as she began crushing some powder in her hands, remaining fixated on Xena at the moment. She saw Sinbad leaving his tent in her mind and she smiled. When she finished crushing the powder she blew gently at her palm and the powder dissipated in the air.

"May God be ever in your favor, young warrior," Maeve smiled and blinked, her eyes returning to her normal green hue she exhaled exhaustively.

Xena gasped and abruptly sat up from the ground in her tent. She breathed rapidly and glanced around, seeing she was inside her tent and it was dark outside now. How long had she been asleep for, she wondered?

Gabrielle saw Xena awaken finally and she stood up rushing over to her. "You're awake at last," she smiled and touched Xena's hand. Xena's eyes frantically wandered the tent and then stared into Gabrielle's green eyes.

"What happened?" Xena asked. Gabrielle raised her eyebrows a bit puzzled at her question. Her eyes appeared to suggest that she literally had no idea what just happened.

Gabrielle smiled weakly, " had a horrible pain in your side," Xena's eyes grew in fear and stared down at her child. Gabrielle reassured her, "the baby is fine, I think," that didn't seem to make Xena feel any better. "You were screaming for over an hour. I gave you something to knock you out. I didn't know you'd be out this long though," she mumbled and Xena's breathing slowed as she calmed herself down. Gabrielle stared at Xena's eyes and she still seemed lost and misplaced. "you really don't remember do you?"

Xena shook her head slowly and crossed her legs shifting her body slightly and winced. Her side was very sore and she didn't seem to know why. She rubbed her side gently and Gabrielle stared at her intensely. Gabrielle crawled over to the opposite side of the tent and grabbed a cup to pour some tea. Xena looked to Gabrielle then felt her mind go blank for a few moments. She saw stars in her eyes and she shook her head trying to fix her vision.

She grabbed her head and closed her eyes tightly trying to regain her sanity. She frowned and straightened her body, narrowing her eyes. Gabrielle came back with a cup of hot tea and handed it to her. "Are you feeling alright?"

Xena stared blankly and nodded slowly, "yes, just fine," she grabbed the cup and sipped gingerly.

Gabrielle noticed a strange change in Xena's eyes, her pupils had enlarged and she seemed quiet and distant. "Maybe I should meet with the centaurs tomorrow and you should rest here." She got up to leave and Xena grabbed her arm tightly. She frowned at Xena a bit worried for her.

"No, I'm fine." She pat Gabrielle's knee casually, "I want to be alone now. Come and get me if something happens," she said in a flat tone. Gabrielle eyed Xena cautiously, noting her odd behavior.

"Okay...are you sure you're alright?" she asked one more time and Xena smiled strangely nodding her head at her.

"Yes, mouse," Xena then chuckled quietly. "Mouse. Such a silly name," she marveled and Gabrielle got up to leave, almost afraid to. She watched her as she exited and Xena waved her hand at her.

Gabrielle turned around eyeing Xena's tent and felt bad for leaving her there by herself but she wasn't about to argue with her. Her tone of voice changed, her eyes as well and she was so calm. She thought that was rather strange especially after what just happened earlier today. She had been out for at least half the day and she didn't remember anything, which was also strange. Gabrielle sat down next to the fire, not feeling tired at all, she decided to stay awake to see if Xena was up to something or if she needed something. She poked the fire with a stick with a slight frown. She sighed and set her chin on her palm, staring at the roaring flames. As her mind began to roam she thought of Maeve. That's it! it was Maeve, it had to be.

Sinbad rode in on his horse to Xena's camp in the centaur territories. He saw many of the tents were well lit and everyone seemed to be awake. He hopped off the horse and saw Gabrielle sitting by a fire and she was still awake at this time of night. It would be about five hours until sunrise. He smiled and approached her slowly.

Gabrielle looked up and was glad to see him show up. "What are you doing here?" she smiled.

He grinned, "I have some news. Jamal is relocating the army. I came to tell Xena, where is she?" he looked around and Gabrielle sighed. "What?" he saw the strange look in the blonde's eyes.

"She's in her tent. Something happened to her today and she can't seem to remember," Gabrielle lamely explained.

He felt his heart sunk as soon as he heard that. He cursed to himself as he thought of his exchange with Jamal. He spoke of Maeve and she probably did something to Xena and that instantly infuriated him. "Is she alright?" Gabrielle nodded and shrugged her shoulder. He left her side and stood at the entrance of the tent, almost afraid to go inside.

He stepped inside and saw Xena still awake as well. She was looking over a map in silence and marked a few points with a quill. She didn't notice his presence and continued glancing at the map. Sinbad accidentally kicked a cup and it startled her. She jumped and saw Sinbad staring at her.

"Sinbad, don't tell me you traveled all this way to see me?" she smirked and he smiled seeing that she was fine and well. He sat down next to her and touched her cheek with the backside of his hand.

"No actually I came to tell you that Jamal is moving the army up north to the Steppes. He'll be leaving soon and I wanted to let you know. Have you spoken to the centaurs?" he inquired. Xena shook her head and he frowned. "why not?"

She sighed, "I was occupied with other things. I plan to meet with them tomorrow. Come with me?" she teased and kissed his lips unexpectedly. He almost wanted to pull away but didn't and responded to her kiss and his hand slipped under her blouse. She smiled and grabbed his hand, resting it on her hip instead.

She pulled away from the kiss and he opened his eyes, staring into her blue marbles. "Well...I wasn't really expecting a greeting like that," he smugly smiled. She slipped off her cloak and was now in her pants and black blouse then cupped his face with her palms. "Gabrielle mentioned something happened to you. How are you feeling now?"

Xena grinned and kissed him once more leaving him breathless. She pulled away and scooted away from him, rolling up her map setting it aside. "Yes, I'm feeling much better now." She stood up and stretched her arms over her head then grabbed a blanket to sleep with.

He took a good look at her and he blinked rapidly. He stood up and came close her and she grinned mischievously. She turned to face him and traced her finger on his cheek. He half smiled and then set his hands on her belly. She looked down and then saw a goofy smile on his face. "Our son will arrive soon," he stared into her eyes.

She smirked, "must we talk about that, right now?" she hissed and he eyed her carefully noticing a change in her eyes, something strange within her. He frowned then felt a small kick against his hand. He ignored her odd eyes and smiled. She wrapped her arms around his neck and inched closer to him, eliminating any distance between them. "I have an army now..." she whispered inching closer to his lips. "I have a plan for the centaurs, my blonde mouse, and I," she kissed him warmly and he pulled away from her, a bit suspicious of her calmness.

In the morning Xena traveled with Gabrielle with a mission in her eyes. Sinbad also tagged along with the two women. Some centaurs were up and about our their village and Xena smiled, folding her arms glaring at the creatures. "Look at them, they are so efficient," she marveled then walked forward to talk to one of the centaurs.

Jason, one of the younger centaurs saw Xena approaching and with two others following her. He took a step back, a bit skeptical of the unexpected guests. He held up his javelin towards Xena and she smiled. "Who are you?"

Xena placed her hand on her chest, "I'm Xena, this is Gabrielle, and Sinbad," she grinned and Jason curtly nodded at the two others behind the strange woman.

"What do you want with us?" he frowned then she took a step forward, careful not to touch the javelin.

"I want to work out a trade deal with your people," she calmly explained. "I'm not from this area and I'm trying to make new...relationships," her eyes narrowed.

Jason nodded his head lowering the weapon. "Follow me," he trotted off and Xena smiled, waving to Gabrielle and Sinbad to follow the centaur.

Later Xena, Gabrielle and Sinbad were brought to a large hut, awaiting for someone to talk to them all. Xena wandered around the hut and looked at the altar, herbs and flowers. "Someone died," she rubbed her fingers together and turned to face her companions. "They are taking a long time," she folded her arms impatiently waiting.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her and stared at Xena. She saw a strange look in her eyes. She wasn't acting herself and she was sure that Sinbad could sense that, though he seemed to be neutral at the moment. "You didn't say anything about trading with the centaurs," she noted. "Is that why we're here?" she asked Xena.

"Of course, Gabrielle. We should make alliances with everyone in our path." She turned her attention to the sailor. "Sinbad, why is Jamal going to the Steppes?"

He shrugged, "the king wants us to relocate. He didn't say why, but I think word about Teuta and Caesar spread to Mesopotamia. The king doesn't like Caesar."

Xena smiled deviously. "Your king and I have something in common." A centaur came walking into the hut and everyone quieted down. She walked to him and held out her hand welcomingly. "My name is –"

"I know who you are." He walked over to the altar and Xena retracted her hand. "You're from Greece I can tell by your accent." Xena smiled and he gestured her to sit but she preferred to stand. "My name is Kaleipus. Jason told me that you want to trade with us."

She nodded, "yes, an alliance with you and your people. I would offer you horses but," she chuckled and the centaur smiled, bobbing his head. "My army and I are scouting the area. I have riches I can give you in exchange for something," she grinned, raising a brow mischievously.

Sinbad folded his arm, not sure exactly what Xena was up to. He noticed a change in her voice, a more cryptic voice and mysterious. Gabrielle looked to him then back to Xena, equally sharing his skepticism about Xena's deception.

Kaleipus frowned, "and what do you want from us, Xena?"

She paced around slowly and tapped her fingers together, raising both her eyebrows now, pleading innocence. "To use your land to expand my army. I am a woman of my word, Kaleipus," she grinned. "Sinbad can vouch for me, can't you?" she stared back at the sailor.

Sinbad stepped forward, clearing his throat. "You can trust Xena. She is with me," he smiled, curtly bowing his head. Gabrielle sighed as she listened to this charade.

The centaur eyed Sinbad curiously and he rubbed his chin. "Aren't you a pirate?" he inquired. Sinbad nervously chuckled and shook his head.

"I was, but for now I'm on land," he made sure to keep his answers short and sweet.

Xena grinned and stared at the centaur. "So do we have a deal?" she stretched her hand out and Kaleipus looked at her inviting hand. He finally shook it and her smile widened.

He cleared his throat and excused himself. "I have to deal with a few rogue amazons at the moment."

Gabrielle's eyes lit up. "There are amazons near here?" she was very curious. She always wanted to meet an amazon. Xena noticed her curiosity and frowned at her.

Kaleipus nodded, "yes young lady. One of the amazons attacked one of my men. She is to be punished." He smiled curtly then left the hut with the three standing there in silence.

Sinbad put his hands on hips and sighed. "Xena, why do you want to trade with the centaurs? They can't possibly give us anything that you want."

Xena smiled staring at the flowered altar. "They have land. That is all I need," she began to think of what Maeve said to her about a stone the centaurs possessed and that's what was on her mind. She had an urge to find it, she needed it.

Another two weeks passed by and Xena managed to move her army to the centaurs' territory. She told her new men that she was looking for a stone, a special stone, though she didn't tell them why she wanted it or needed it. When the centaurs were busy Xena allowed men to scout the area looking for any information about a stone, though they hadn't found anything important or worthwhile to report.

Sinbad had left after a week being in the camp. He needed to catch up to Jamal and his army in the Steppes. He said he would be back in a week or so. Gabrielle watched Xena carefully and was growing more concerned by Xena's ambition to find whatever she felt she needed to find in the centaur area.

Xena came back to her tent and Gabrielle followed her in with her hands on her hips. "What is the matter with you lately?"

"Must you always question everything I do, mouse?" Xena rubbed her temples and took off her turban, feeling her forehead begin to sweat.

Gabrielle scoffed, "well you've been acting really weird for weeks now! You're so agitated at every little thing." She paused and Xena groaned, setting her hand on her lower back. She sat down and sighed heavily, feeling suddenly like the life was draining out of her. "You've changed Xena and I think that witch has something to do with it," she knelt in front of her and touched Xena's forehead. "Did she do something to you? Did she poison you?"

Xena cringed and slapped her hand away. "Stop that! I'm fine! Why don't you just leave Gabrielle?!" she yelled and Gabrielle stood up, shocked at her anger.

"I'm not going to leave, Xena. If I leave I'm afraid you might do something you may regret later. Besides, your baby is coming in less than two months," she mumbled and Xena groaned, taking off her cloak, feeling her entire body radiating heat.

"Why do you and Sinbad care about that so much? I have better things to worry about," she stood up slowly and Gabrielle folded her arms at the warrior.

"I'm going to talk to Jason about giving the amazons for a lighter sentence," she sighed as Xena remained silent. "I'm going to leave you alone for awhile because you're obviously not thinking straight right now," she put her hands up then exited the tent.

Chapter Text

AN: thank you for reading everyone! This is the beginning of Xena's plan with the centaurs so enjoy ;)

Chapter 22 –The Judas Part I

On the outskirts of the centaur territory Xena had her men scouting for the stone that Maeve told her to retrieve. She had been searching for it for two weeks now and so far found nothing. She was able to make friends with Kalepius, slowly gaining his trust.

One of Xena's men ran up to her as she stood still and silent, observing the digging process. "It's not here," he said with labored breathing. Xena huffed and waved her hand dismissively at him.

"Fine, stop for now and we'll continue in a different location." She wrapped her cloak around her tightly and looked off into the distance to see Gabrielle talking with a young centaur. She frowned finding that rather suspicious. She didn't want Gabrielle talking to these creatures and befriending them. She felt the need to protect Gabrielle ever since she met her. Gabrielle was her little blonde mouse and as Maeve said she was the lion –though...she did not fear Gabrielle like Maeve predicted in her folktale about the lion and mouse. She was perhaps a bit jealous of Gabrielle, not afraid. She was jealous of her naivety and her free spirit, something she couldn't relate to or possess.

Kacey, the young blonde male centaur smiled at Gabrielle as they continued chatting. He turned and saw Xena approaching them and he immediately quieted down as did Gabrielle. She straightened herself and saw the odd look in Xena's eyes.

"Making friends, mouse?" Xena smirked folding her arms. Kacey rubbed the back of his neck a bit shy to be standing next to Xena. To be truthfully honest he kind of feared her. He didn't really trust her but Kalepius did, so he respected his decision, but something seemed off about the woman.

Gabrielle casually shrugged. "I'll talk with you later," she smiled at the young centaur and he kindly nodded then left the two women alone. She approached Xena and saw a strange smile form on her lips. "Am I not allowed to have friends?"

Xena scoffed, "I didn't say you couldn't, Gabrielle." She stared at her green pleading eyes and suddenly her own mood softened. "Are we..friends?" she asked genuinely curious of the blonde's answer.

Gabrielle was very careful of the answer she chose. She wasn't sure if Xena and her were friends, but if they were then it was a strange friendship. "Sure, Xena." She smiled weakly and Xena remained silent in her response which made Gabrielle question her choice of words. "Can an apprentice be friends with her mentor?" she slyly fixed her choice of words.

Xena grinned and set her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder. "Of course, mouse." She brushed her thumb across Gabrielle's plump cheek then felt an immense pain in the left side of her head. She groaned and held her head and the pain heightened. Gabrielle frowned and grabbed Xena's arms not understanding what was going on.

"Xena? Are you alright?" she asked worried for her all of a sudden. The pain in Xena's head worsened and she pushed Gabrielle away from her. The blonde stumbled backwards and she frowned at Xena's behavior, a bit shocked to be honest.

"Stay away from me!" Xena hissed and left Gabrielle to go to her tent. Once she was a few paces away from Gabrielle the agonizing pain in her head subsided immediately. Grimacing she continued back to her tent not daring to look back at her.

Gabrielle chose to stay away from Xena at a time like this. Her mood had changed in just a split second and there was no explanation for it. She sadly frowned and then saw a group of Xena's men heading back to their campsite not far from the centaurs' village. She raised her eyebrow then decided to find Kacey again to speak with him about Xena's odd behavior.

Maeve sat in her tent and smiled as she saw Xena step away from Gabrielle. Her plan to further separate those two was working slowly. She waved her hand over the box she had and placed it under a cloth then decided to exit the tent. They were now relocated to the Steppes outside of Anatolia and she didn't really understand the reason for the move, even if her son had said to do it.

Sinbad came out of Jamal's tent and caught a glimpse of her and he frowned, walking back to his tent not daring to stare at her. Maeve smiled and then appeared in front of Sinbad mid-step. He gasped and took a large step backwards from her. "How's the life of a warrior again, Sinbad?" she made small talk.

"I don't want to talk with you," he brushed past her and she frowned, waving her hand suddenly stopping him from moving. He huffed and tried to move his boots but was stuck to the ground as if chained. He also could not move his arms from his sides. His breath quickened and Maeve came towards him, facing him.

"Don't worry you can talk to me. It won't hurt Xena...this time," she grinned deviously and he grimaced at her. "Is that any way to speak to your mother in law?"

Sinbad's eyes widened, "excuse me?"

Maeve grinned and inched closer to his face and the worst part was that he couldn't turn away from her or run for that matter. "I told Xena she is like a daughter to me. Of course that means that you are like...a son to me, right?" she chuckled and Sinbad spat in her face. She grimaced and threw him across the field.

He groaned and rubbed his wounded shoulder. First his wrist and now this. She came closer to him and lifted him up, levitating him into the air about a foot off the ground. She clenched her fist tightly and he felt her cutting off his air. He grabbed his throat, coughing. "I don't need you! You're just another distraction for Xena and my plans," she smiled and then dropped him on the ground. He gasped for air on the ground and rubbed his throat.

"Just don't hurt her, you can hurt me all you want..." he coughed violently and Maeve smiled folding her arms staring down at him. "You did something to her...she is not the same when I saw her last.'

Maeve shrugged, "suppose that I did. There's not anything you can do about it, can you?" she gestured to her son's army before them. "My son created this army! Nobody will dare lay a finger on me, including you!" she frowned and left his side going to Jamal's tent to have a little talk with him.

Sinbad exhaled heavily. She walked off throwing the hood over her head and he frowned. He quickly got up and ran to her vacant tent. Mozen, her stupid henchman was not near the area. He crept inside her tent and looked around for anything that caught his entire. He picked up a few bottles full of powders and liquids. He shook his head and threw the pillows around and blankets and then saw a box with a flower carved into the wood. He looked outside the tent to see if she was near. Grabbing the box he ran out of the tent and went to his tent far from hers.

As soon as he got into his tent he sat down and stared at the box. Frowning he opened it and saw some strange things in there. He picked up a lock of long black hair and a lock of blonde hair. What in the name of God, he thought? Suddenly it hit him, Gabrielle and Xena. "She's so sick," he cringed then saw a small piece of cloth hidden underneath the first layer of fabric in the box. Slowly he pulled it out and it had writing all over it. it was in his native language and he frowned, trying to read it the best he could. He never truly learned how to read difficult texts.

Taking awhile to decipher the text he could make out Xena's name. he didn't understand this cryptic language which was probably why he didn't know what it meant. This language seemed a bit more ancient than their current language they spoke in Mesopotamia. He memorized some of it then put it back in the box then ran to Maeve's tent and set the box back where it was, fixing the place. He saw Maeve exit Jamal's tent with a satisfied grin on her lips.

He stayed behind a tent until he saw her enter her tent. He sprinted over to Jamal's tent and barged in he saw Jamal laying down in his bed and he frowned. "Jamal?" he stepped closer and he received no response, but silence. Sinbad took a few steps closer and knelt down to his friend, patting his shoulder gently. "Hey!" he yelled and then rolled his body over and saw his were white and he was pale as ever. He cringed then stood up abruptly, immediately feeling sick. He was dead, his friend was dead and it looked like a painful one at that.

Sinbad ran out of the tent and saw Maeve staring at him with that odd wicked grin on her face. He growled and grabbed Jamal's horse, mounting it to go ride to Xena, afraid of what she might do to her next.

Gabrielle finally found Kacey and she waved at him. He looked around to see if Xena was around but once the coast was clear he warmly waved at her. "Whatcha doing?" she grinned.

"Just organizing some weapons, you want to help?" he offered and she nodded, grabbing a few swords and began stacking them on a tall rack. "You know," he said softly, "your friend Xena kind of scares me," he chuckled.

Gabrielle could understand that but she didn't see Xena that way. "She just does that for show. She's not scary actually. I wouldn't exactly call her nice though...I don't really know how to describe her," she chuckled and Kacey nodded, completely understanding.

As she kept stacking the weapons in silence a sudden question she had been dying to ask came to her and this was the perfect opportunity for it. "Do you have any treasures here?" she asked and he raised an eyebrow confused at her question. "I mean like...that someone would like to steal?" she whispered.

Kacey sighed heavily, "we have this stone. I don't know much about it. you gotta ask the elders for more information about that. Anyway, it's hidden away so nobody can find it." Gabrielle nodded, finding this information quite useful. This answered her questions about Xena going off to secluded areas and possibly could be the true reason why she was here and that was Maeve's plan all along.

"Do you know someone named Maeve?" she asked and he shook his head. "well actually, her name is Queen Rumina."

Kacey's eyes lit up. "Oh yeah! I know her. I saw her once when she came to see Kaleipus awhile ago. I don't know what she wanted but it didn't end nicely. He banished her," he sighed. "Why do you ask?"

This was very good information indeed, she told herself. She grinned nervously. "No reason..." she finished stacking the weapons and put her hands on her hips. "Do you know how long ago that was? I mean, when she came here?"

Kacey thought long and hard and rubbed his chin. "Probably a year ago or so. Can't really remember to be honest. What's with the curiosity?" he chuckled. "you know her?"

Gabrielle frowned, "somewhat yes." She grinned and decided to lighten the mood. "What are you going to do now?"

He shrugged, "probably go read a little bit."

Her eyes lit up, "you read? Can I come with you?" she didn't really want to be with Xena right now as she feared her initial reaction towards her. He nodded and they both left to go to his hut. She was rather curious to see what he was reading anyhow.

Sinbad arrived to the centaur province in three days without stopping. His horse collapsed and he gasped as he tread off his horse. He laid his eyes on Xena's tent and he found no sign of Gabrielle anywhere. She was usually close by but this time she wasn't. he entered Xena's tent and saw her sitting very still with her eyes wide open. He knelt down in front of her waving his hand in front of her eyes but she didn't even blink. "Xena!" he yelled and still no response. He then cupped her cheeks and shook her but she didn't even budge. She was in some kind of trance and he yelled at her again. "Xena! Can you hear me?" he kissed her lips and still nothing. He groaned as he stared at her unresponsive state.

In Another Dimension

Maeve wrapped her arm around Xena and showed her a grand palace. "All of this can be yours," she poked at her chest and Xena's smile widened. "But I already got rid of Jamal. He was becoming a problem..." she grinned. Xena frowned at that, Jamal was Sinbad's friend and Maeve sensed her sadness. She touched Xena's cheek softly. "He was just a body..nothing more but he's mine now." Her eyes narrowed and Xena stared at her confusedly.

"Have you found the stone yet?" Maeve asked changing the subject, then waved her hand and the image of the grand palace disappeared and now they were in a desert, alone and it was very hot.

Xena shook her head, "Not yet, I don't know where to look so I'm looking everywhere. What exactly does this stone do?"

Maeve grinned and pulled Xena closer to her body. "It gives one ultimate power! I asked Kaleipus to give it to me but he refused...I was foolish then. I knew I had to find someone else to do it, and then you showed up."

Xena smiled, somehow feeling important that Maeve put so much trust in her. "What will I get if I give you the stone?" she inquired.

"We can...share the power," she hissed in Xena's ear. "We can become powerful together, but one thing..." Xena turned to her and stared into her green eyes. "Sinbad and Gabrielle have to go!" she frowned.

Xena felt her face being slapped and she rubbed her cheek, staring around to see if someone else was around but it was just her and Maeve standing there by themselves in this desert.

"Xena! Wake up!" Sinbad slapped her face again and finally she blinked and stared into his concerned eyes. She rubbed her sore cheek and then pushed him away from her. "What the hell were you doing?!"

She felt a headache coming on and him slapping her was the just the icing on the cake. "None of your business," she rubbed her jaw and glared at him. "You shouldn't have done that Sinbad. I was..." she trailed off.

He frowned, "you were what?" he glared at her and then it suddenly hit him. He grabbed onto her arms and shook her. "It was that witch wasn't it?!" he yelled. "Xena stop talking to her! She's evil!"

She drank some much needed water ignoring his berating. "You don't know what you're talking about!" she hissed. He groaned and stood up beginning to pace around the tent.

"What makes her so special? What is she saying to you?!" he knelt down in front of her and she finished off the water, wiping her mouth. "Tell me!" he yelled in her face and she raised her eyebrows at his sudden anger.

"The centaurs have a stone. She wants me to find it...she says it holds ultimate power and if I find it she can give me that power as well." She grinned sneakily.

Sinbad groaned and pushed Xena lightly, angry at her decision to keep talking with the witch. "You really think you can trust her? She killed Jamal! My friend!" he rubbed his face in frustration. "If you follow her then you're going down a path of death, Xena and I just can't let you do that!" he exited the tent and Xena groaned, getting up slowly and followed him.

He marched forward to the centaur village and she frowned. "And just where do you think you're going?" she called out to him.

"I'm going to tell Kaleipus what you're up to!" he yelled and continued onward. Xena folded her arms watching him leave in the darkness.

Kaleipus paced around his hut as Sinbad sat down telling him Xena's entire plan. "She wants the ixion stone?" he shook his head and Sinbad remained quiet, lowering his head. "And you came here to tell me this? Aren't you with her?" he asked curiously.

Sinbad frowned, "I can't let her do this to your people. She's listening to a witch. I can't understand why!" he slammed his fist on the table and Kaleipus had heard this before, not too long ago actually.

"Are you talking about Maeve?" the centaur asked and Sinbad's eyes widened. This reaction confirmed Kaleipus' question. "She tried to persuade me to give her the stone with her sorcery! I banished her. I should have know she would try again." He grinned sadly. "Snakes come in many colors."

Sinbad nodded his head, "do not let Xena come here again. She doesn't care about you or your people. I can't go back to the Steppes with the army...she's there with them."

Kaleipus' eyes lit up. "She's...there? she's so close. She must be killed."

"I agree. Let me help you. I'll make sure Xena doesn't come near this area again."

The centaur smirked, "and I should trust a pirate?" he chuckled. Sinbad smiled, giving him that, but he wasn't a pirate anymore. He hadn't been one for quite some time now. He stretched out his hand to the sailor and Sinbad looked at his hand then shook it. both smiled at one another. "You are not like most pirates I have met. How did you meet a woman like Xena?"

Sinbad sighed, "it's a really long story."

Gabrielle had stayed in Kacey's hut for the last few days far away from Xena. She was avoiding her and Xena probably knew that but her attitude towards her was unnecessary. She stepped out of the hut early in the morning and saw Sinbad clad in his black clothing and turban talking with a few centaurs. Many of the men in the village were running around with weapons, wood and other equipment. She didn't even know he was coming back here and so soon. He left a week ago and now he was back.

She frowned and approached Sinbad. "Hey, what's going on?" she smiled.

Sinbad turned to the young blonde and smiled widely. "Gabrielle! I came in last night but I didn't see you with Xena."

She sighed, "we're taking a break," she grumbled. Sinbad nodded. "What's all this?" she gestured to the weapons and such.

He grimaced. "Xena is working with Maeve more than I thought. She's after the ixion stone here in the centaur territory. I can't let her find it and allow Maeve to win."

Gabrielle's questions she asked Kacey had proved useful after all. So this was what Xena was after all along and of course Maeve was in the picture. Though Sinbad was working against Xena and suddenly she felt conflicted. She wanted to go back to Xena to see what kind of rage she was in and what her plan was, but at the same time she wanted to side with Sinbad and the centaurs. She had grown to really like the centaurs since they came here.

"so what can I do?" she asked wanting to help in any way she could.

Sinbad rubbed his chin and pointed to the pile of weapons directing traffic. Suddenly he had an idea. "Go back to Xena. Make her think that you're on her side and report back to me of her plans," he grinned. Gabrielle wasn't sure she was going to be able to pull that off, but she could try. "You're the mouse and she's the lion, Gabrielle. The mouse always defeats the lion," he winked.

Gabrielle smiled weakly and made her way back to Xena's camp not far from the centaur territory. She felt her heart beat quicken as she approached Xena's tent. Once she was outside her tent she peered inside but Xena wasn't there. Frowning she looked around then spotted her talking with her soldiers. Everyone was crowded around her and she was giving special instructions.

Slinking around she listened intently and then everyone dispersed. She smiled at Xena and the warrior grinned back at her. She placed her hands on her shoulders warmly and Gabrielle felt strange, acting like a spy for Sinbad. "Gabrielle! Where have you been? I was afraid something happened to you," she smiled. Gabrielle sensed a change in her previous mood she was in. she was friendly right now, not mean or standoffish like before.

"I was just talking with Kacey some more. He likes to read like me." She weakly said hoping that sounded convincing enough. "So what's going on?" she played coy.

Xena unsheathed her scimitar and pointed it at Gabrielle. She took a step backward with wide eyes and Xena grinned. "Sinbad has decided to betray me."

She nodded, feigning surprise. "Betray you? What do you mean?" she set her hands behind her back to conceal her agitated state.

"It seems that my plan to find the stone has struck a chord in his heart," she smirked. "I'm positive that he was allies with the centaurs now. He barely knows them!" she mocked. Gabrielle pretended to act as if she knew nothing, which was difficult but she kept a blank face, staring at the malice growing inside Xena.

"You were looking for a stone? What does it do?" Gabrielle drew out her short knife and smiled at Xena, urging her to spar with her. The warrior smiled at her and circled her slowly while Gabrielle kept in the back of her mind to be cautious with her though she believed Xena had no such thoughts.

"It holds ultimate power and I need that power, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle thrust forward and Xena blocked her blow easily though it was obvious that Gabrielle was being gentle. She thought she could take her out or at least knock her to the ground by now with all the training she had. But no, she wanted to save that for Maeve. She needed to go, she told herself and suddenly her frustration let loose and she hit Xena's blade, clashing into her. The warrior's eyes widened and she swiped her foot underneath Gabrielle and she fell onto her back.

Xena stared down at her blonde mouse with a subtle grin. "I'm impressed! You caught me off guard!" she held out her hand and helped Gabrielle up off the ground. The blonde grimaced, cracking her spine and stared at Xena. "You will help me find the stone won't you, mouse?"

Gabrielle smiled tightly, "sure I will...after Maeve is six feet under," she smirked and she saw Xena's smile turn into a dark frown. She sheathed her short sword and inched closer to Xena, glaring into her blue eyes. "I will kill her. She's poisoning your mind," she grumbled then left the area. Xena's mouth gaped at the sudden malevolent words come out of her mouse's mouth. Gabrielle then turned around, "oh but yeah I'll help you find the stone," she smiled tightly then went inside Xena's tent.

Xena entered the tent and saw Gabrielle drinking wine, which seemed odd for her to do especially at a time like this. "Gabrielle...don't go near her, she's powerful."

She chuckled, "you actually care about me? Come on Xena."

Xena sat down across from her and stared at the ground not sure what to say. Truthfully, she was a bit shy and embarrassed to admit she cared for this girl. "I do care about you Gabrielle which is why I want you to help me!" she sighed. "It's why I want you close to me all the time..." she averted her eyes elsewhere, suddenly finding the decor of her tent more fascinating.

This is the Xena that Gabrielle wanted to see all along. She was kind in her heart though Maeve was poisoning it every day gradually slipping into her mind. Her change in behavior had shown that but right now, Xena was being...nice. That definitely wasn't in Xena's vocabulary but Gabrielle took her words to be sincere. "If you care about me, you sure have an odd way of showing it."

Xena huffed and crossed her legs in front of her, straightening her back and stared into those green eyes. "Well, I do care and I'm sorry that I can't..." she groaned, "express my feelings as well as you can!" she folded her arms a pouting a bit, upset at her own self.

Gabrielle smiled at the warrior. She actually spoke to her and she recognized that she truly did listen to her from time to time even though she put off the vibe that she ignored her. "It's a process. You can learn, just like I learned how to use a sword. You taught me now I can teach you," she smiled and saw a hint of a smile on Xena's lips.

Xena heard ringing in her ears and her head began hurting again. She gasped, closing her eyes tightly, holding her head between her palms. She hissed from the agonizing pain in her head and Gabrielle grabbed Xena's wrists holding tightly.

"Xena no!" she recognized this before a few days ago and she figured that Maeve was trying her best to get into Xena's head and turn her against everything she cared about. "Don't listen to her! She's just trying to trick you!" she yelled and Xena clenched her teeth, barely able to hear Gabrielle through the ringing in her ears. "think about the people that you care about!" she yelled and Xena opened her eyes and put her hands over her ears, trying to block out the sound. She heard Gabrielle's subtle voice and saw the concern in her eyes.

"Yes Xena, push her away. She is just lying to you."

Xena heard Maeve's voice echo in her head and her eyes widened. Gabrielle kept speaking to her but heard nothing. Gabrielle squeezed Xena's arms tightly and stared into her conflicted eyes. "I care about you, you care about me! Don't listen to her, please!" she pleaded and Xena closed her eyes, trying to block both of the women's voices speaking to her at once.

"If you resist me, I will only make this more difficult!" Maeve yelled and Xena groaned in pain as her head began pounding.

"think of your son, Xena." Gabrielle kept talking to her, trying her best to bring Xena back to listen to her. "I know you care about him," she smiled weakly and she saw Xena's eyes stare into hers. That seemed to get her to listen.

"She's trying to sway you off your path, Xena! You know I care about your child too..." she whispered. "Wouldn't want anything to happen to him, now would you?"

Xena clenched her teeth and shook her head, refusing to listen to either one. "Alright!" she yelled out and Gabrielle blinked. Suddenly the pain in her head slowly dissipated. "Alright..." she whispered and Maeve's echoing voice was gone as was her pain. Gabrielle let go of her arms and stared nervously at Xena, afraid of what she might do.

"Get out," Xena said lowly and Gabrielle frowned.

"What?" she leaned in closer and Xena snarled at her.

"I said get out!" she demanded and Gabrielle got up exiting the tent. She stood outside the tent and sighed heavily. I almost had you, Xena. She quickly ran to the centaur village away from Xena to alert Sinbad what was happening.

Sinbad was in Kaleipus' hut and saw Gabrielle run in a bit out of breath. "Gabrielle, are you okay?"

She shook her head and tried to calm herself. "No...Maeve is getting inside her head! She's telling her things! I could see it in her eyes! She's too intertwined with her."

He frowned and tapped his fingers on the desk he sat at. "She needs to be killed. What is Xena planning?"

Gabrielle shrugged, "I didn't really have time to find that out, but she wants me to help her find the ixion stone. I told her I would, but I don't think Maeve wants me close to her..."

"Disgusting witch," he rubbed his chin and folded his arms, leaning back in his chair. "You have to go back there Gabrielle, before Xena suspects something." She sighed heavily and he saw the resentment in her eyes. "Don't be nice to Xena, that's what Maeve expects of you...understand?" she nodded her head and left the hut heading back to Xena's camp.

A week later Xena had her men posted around the camp day and night. Gabrielle was in charge of the fire brigade and she had no experience but offered to help Xena and that was exactly what she was going to do, it what was she had to do.

Xena approached Gabrielle and overlooked the centaurs from afar. She saw a fence that they built, which was probably Sinbad's idea, she supposed. "Thank you for helping me, Gabrielle," she smiled, feeling generous today.

Gabrielle remained focus and thought of Sinbad's words. She couldn't be nice to Xena or give her false hope so she remained stoic. "I said I would, didn't I?"

"you are the best of friends," Xena grinned and placed her hands on the blonde's shoulders. Gabrielle closed her eyes, trying to resist Xena's subtle kindness towards her.

"I'm not your friend, just your apprentice," she felt Xena's hands slip off her shoulders and walk away from her. Gabrielle turned and saw Xena walking away to go talk to one of her men. She sighed. I'm sorry, Xena, but it's for your own good.

In the evening Gabrielle found Xena sitting by herself in front of the fire overlooking a map of the centaurs' land. She sat down across from her and Xena didn't bother to acknowledge her presence. "So when are you planning to attack them?"

Xena continued looking at the map. "Once I have everything I need, it will be soon. Maybe a couple of weeks or so, when they least expect it," she grinned and Gabrielle nodded.

" will you do it?" Gabrielle asked curiously, trying to get as much information as possible so she could relay it back to Kaleipus and Sinbad when she had the chance to escape Xena's side.

"I will take a few as my hostages first...that ought to set Sinbad off," she raised her eyebrows quite proud of her plan. "I'm sure he'll try to negotiate then when he does...I will kill them all."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and she rubbed her hands together, trying not to think of that. She didn't want it to come to that but she would make sure that Sinbad knew before it came to that. "Sounds like a solid plan," she said painfully and Xena eyed her with a devious smile. Gabrielle smiled weakly back at her then stood up. "I'm going to turn in...I'm kind of tired," she falsely yawned and Xena didn't pay any attention to her.

She crept behind the trees watching Xena and she seemed pretty preoccupied with the map and her plan. She slipped away and ran to Sinbad's hut in the village, trying to be discreet.

Sinbad saw Gabrielle enter as quietly as possible and he stood up. He too was also looking at a map, but of Xena's camp. She took note of that. "She's going to take some centaurs as hostages and she believes you will try and negotiate with her."

He sighed. "She's quite devious, isn't she?" he shook his head ashamed of Xena, but he knew that Maeve was behind this all. "I won't let that happen. Gabrielle, I must thank you for what you're doing."

She sighed, "I don't think I can keep lying to her like this!" she felt conflicted.

He understood that and he expected a normal reaction like this from her. "I know Gabrielle, but it's for her own good. I don't want anything to happen to her or my son," he mumbled and Gabrielle didn't even think of that.

"Don't worry, I'll do whatever needs to be done..." she smiled and left the tent to head back to Xena again.

Chapter Text

AN: so much going on this chapter. Good luck :)

Chapter 23 –The Judas Part II

Gabrielle crept through the centaur province observing all the tactics they put up. She made sure to tell Sinbad and Kaleipus Xena's plans and everything she would do. Xena's military tactics were far beyond the centaurs' only because she worked for Caesar. She knows how to obliterate her enemies and do it well, with one sweep. Gabrielle was able to slip away from Xena for awhile as she told her that she was going for a walk and wished to be alone. She noticed that Xena had become more hostile and she didn't want to be near her, even though it killed her to go behind her back. She didn't want to hurt Xena so she teamed with Sinbad and the centaurs to save everyone, including Xena.

She knew that Xena was making a horrible mistake and Maeve was the cause of it all. She couldn't understand why Xena followed her and so willingly too! Sighing she continued walking through the village, smiling at some of the younger centaurs. They all recognized her, which she wasn't sure that was a good thing or not. She came to the edge of the village and saw a young Amazonian woman tied up to a post. This time it was a different amazon. The centaurs set free the other amazon woman for trespassing and hurting a group of centaur hunters.

Gabrielle noticed that the centaurs had an ongoing war with the amazons and she was sure they didn't need Xena's little proxy war in their way. She had never seen an amazon in person, only in folktales and stories she told when she was on the road away from her family. She thought they were some kind of anomaly, as if they had powers over regular humans. Though, she knew that amazons were people too just like her, except they could fight and fight really well. They were also known to attack from the trees –guerrilla warfare.

She approached the imprisoned amazon and the woman kicked the dirt with her boot then saw Gabrielle's boots standing a few feet away from her. She peered up and saw a young blonde smiling at her. "What are you looking at?" she grimaced.

Gabrielle wasn't surprised by the young woman's hostility. She was sure that she didn't like to be tied up and captured by a bunch of half horse half men. It would seem degrading. "I've never seen an amazon before," she scanned her entire body, noticing the belt she had on and all her holsters were empty as was her arrow holder on her back. "Why are you here?"

The young brunette scoffed, "they're just angry because I hit one of their centaur men. I was out hunting, but I hit him accidentally," she growled at a nearby centaur man and Gabrielle smirked.

"aren't the amazon territories far from this area? Are you sure you were hunting?" she folded her arms.

The amazon's eyes blinked at the audacity of this young girl. "Who do you think you are? Are you with these monsters?" she spat at one of the centaur guards and he put a javelin close to her neck.

Gabrielle stepped in front of the weapon and smiled sweetly. "She didn't mean that." She pleaded and the centaur backed off, going back to his post. She sighed then turned back to the amazon. "My name's Gabrielle, what's yours?"

The amazon raised a brow staring at the girl, "Alexa." She paused, "Why are you talking to me? I'm a prisoner." She groaned.

Gabrielle shrugged, "I always wanted to meet an amazon. Your people are so fascinating!" she beamed.

Alexa smirked, "this isn't a zoo!" she saw Gabrielle's face fade from excitement. "I'm sorry, I just want to go back to my sisters. I wasn't trying to hurt anybody," she sighed letting her head hang low.

She frowned, "did you tell them this?" she inquired, whispering lowly.

Alexa nodded, "they don't believe anything that comes from an amazon. My people have been warring with them for hundreds of years. I see it as pointless, but they are so barbaric." She scoffed. "I bet you don't know anything about that."

Gabrielle smiled, "you'd be surprised." Then suddenly she had an idea. "What if I told you that I could set you free?"

Alexa's eyes lit up at that. All she wanted was to go home but these centaurs would keep her for questioning and possibly execute her. "You would do that for me?" she asked curiously. "You don't even know me, why would you help me?" she was skeptical of Gabrielle.

She placed a hand on Alexa's shoulder, "being here as taught me that to help others is better than to not help at all. I'll see what I can do!" she smiled then ran off. Alexa grinned, hopeful now that she would be able to see her sisters again and perhaps the centaurs would listen and leave her and her people alone.

Gabrielle barged into Kaleipus' hut and she saw he and Sinbad were talking together. She apologized, "sorry for interrupting but I want to talk to Kaleipus about the amazon..." she said and that sparked the centaur. Sinbad stood up grabbing his scimitar, smiling at Gabrielle he pat her cheek then left the hut so they could be alone.

He gestured for her to sit and she preferred to stand. "So what is it you want with the amazon girl?" he inquired.

She sighed, twiddling her thumbs anxiously. "Her name is Alexa," she began and he nodded his head, folding his arms defensively. "She told me that shooting one of your men was just an accident. All she wants to do is go back to her sisters. She didn't mean to hurt him."

Kaleipus shook his head at the young girl. "Amazon women are not to be trusted." Gabrielle figured he would say something like that, just like Alexa had said. "They lie all the time! They hate centaurs and wish us to be wiped out!"

Gabrielle put her hands on her hips, "you wish to stay at war with the amazons instead of making peace with them? You are at war with Xena and there is no peace there. Why would you want the amazons as your enemy? You could work together!" she saw the gears turning in his head and she smiled grandly. "think of all the opportunities and doors it would open if you allied with them!"

Kaleipus shook his head unsure of Gabrielle's words. "Even if we wanted peace with them, they would not agree. They are stubborn, Gabrielle, very stubborn."

"Making peace with the amazons would make your people and their people an unstoppable force. Warring with the amazons is not a wise choice," she sighed, folding her arms. "If you let Alexa go, it would prove that you are able to trust the amazons. She will go tell her people that the centaurs are merciful after all!"

He groaned and thought about it for awhile before answering. Gabrielle tapped her foot on the floor nervously. He waved his hand. "Fine, release her. Tell the guard that I said she can go back to her people." Gabrielle beamed and thanked him then ran out of the hut back to see Alexa.

Alexa saw Gabrielle running back with a big smile on her face which only meant good news, she hoped. Gabrielle went up to the centaur guard tapping his shoulder. He peered down at her with an imminent frown. "Kaleipus said to let her go back to her sisters," she smiled. Alexa's face lit up and the centaur looked at her questionably then untied the amazon.

"You're free now!" Gabrielle grinned then received a warm embrace from Alexa. "Maybe your sisters will see that the centaurs are not so barbaric now."

Alexa pulled away from the embrace. "I will tell them about you Gabrielle," she smiled. "Thank you are welcome to come to my people if you need any help." She took off running. "I won't forget you Gabrielle!" she kept running until Gabrielle could no longer see her.

So far she felt pretty good about herself. She had set an amazon free and with no bloodshed. She frowned thinking about Xena and she wished she could set her free, though that was unlikely.

Gabrielle returned to Xena's camp in the evening as she was hiding out with Sinbad to tell him more about Xena's plans. She already told him about the hostage situation and she hoped that he and the centaurs were well equip to handle a situation like that.

She entered Xena's tent and saw she was a bit more relaxed from the last time she saw her. Xena looked up to her and smiled. "How was your walk?"

"It was fine." She remained stoic, trying her best not to show any emotion. She made sure to keep Sinbad's words in her mind about Maeve. He was right that witch was using her to push Xena away from her, but she wanted to make sure it seemed like she didn't care about Xena no matter what. "So, what did you do today?"

Xena sighed, "I spoke with my men. They are building catapults," she grinned and Gabrielle didn't like the sound of that. "They're not finished yet. Next week, mouse, we shall attack the centaurs and Sinbad, full force," a frown appeared on her lips and Gabrielle was tempted to sigh but she remained quiet.

"Well, I trust you know what you're doing," she nodded, more affirming her words to herself than to Xena. The warrior woman smiled at her then scooted onto her makeshift bed.

"Mouse, will you stay with me tonight?" she hoped and her eyes were innocent. Gabrielle looked into her eyes and saw that she was being sincere which meant that Maeve was not meddling with her head at the moment, but she knew better. Maeve would appear as soon as she would even show the slightest affection towards Xena, so she hated to, but she declined.

She didn't take Xena's offer. "I'm going to sleep in my own tent. I wouldn't want to disturb you."

"No you wouldn't I just –" she tried to explain but Gabrielle interjected.

"I'm sorry Xena, but I think it's best that we don't spend a lot of time together right now." She saw the sadness in Xena's eyes and she wanted to relent but she wouldn't and couldn't. "It will cloud your plans," she smiled trying to fix the situation. "Another time?" she asked and Xena said nothing so she disappeared before she could.

In the middle of the night Xena was wide awake and she had already spoken to her men about attacking the centaurs. She had them lined up close to the centaur barricades and the first three rows were archers. She stood behind them then nodded to the head archer. They dipped their arrowheads into oil and a young soldier ran along the first row lighting the arrowheads on fire then he ran to the two rows behind them.

Xena signaled them to fire and at least a hundred arrows were shot high into the sky and hit many of the huts in the centaur village. She bit her lip, smiling seeing the entire village go up into flames the more arrows that her men shot. She heard yells and screams from the creatures afar.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see it was the sorceress standing beside her. Maeve smiled at Xena and watched the village go up in flames. "You are doing well so far, Xena. I am impressed."

"Are you?" Xena grinned sneakily and Maeve remained quiet observing the centaurs scramble to defend their village.

"You got my message about your little mouse, right?" she whispered in her ear and Xena's smile died. She remembered her words in her head just a week ago, but she liked Gabrielle and didn't want her in harm's way. "Why do you care for that rat so much?" she snarled.

Xena smiled, "she reminds me something that I could have been."

"Weak and naive?" Maeve chided and Xena shook her head.

"Hopeful and a good heart." Maeve felt that she was losing Xena slowly the more Gabrielle was around her. She didn't want that to happen, she wanted Xena all to herself and if she couldn't have her then nobody could.

She squeezed Xena's shoulders tightly, "she is clouding your judgment! She is no good for you, Xena. I am all you need! Look at what you've done," she waved her hand over the destroyed centaur village. "This is only the beginning of our journey together," she hissed in her ear and Xena's eyes widened, slowly coming back into the sorceress' darkness. "We can accomplish so much together!" she grinned feeling Xena's hatred burning inside of her. Yes, she thought, feed into the hatred. "Besdies...Gabrielle is not as innocent as she seems to be.."

Xena turned around creasing her eyebrows. Maeve chuckled and brushed her backside of her hand on Xena's cheek. "She's been betraying you all this time. She is working with the centaurs and your beloved Sinbad behind your back." Xena blinked, she couldn't believe that, but now it all started to make sense. Gabrielle constantly went for her so called walks and she thought nothing of it. Maeve saw the burning hatred in Xena's eyes and her smiled widened. "Yes's all true..." she pulled out the black dagger and placed it in Xena's hand, wrapping her hand around Xena's tightly. "You should get rid of her, once and for all," she whispered in her ear wickedly.

Gabrielle heard screaming from her tent and she ran out to the outskirts of the camp. She saw Maeve standing close to Xena and she frowned. "You! What are you doing here?!" she grimaced, not able to hold herself together any longer. She noticed the black dagger in Xena's hand and she had a blank stare, her eyes wide and then stared right at her with malicious intent. She pulled out her short sword and pointed it at Maeve and Xena. "Stay away from her!" she frowned then looked at the burning centaur village not far from where they were. She had not realized that Xena was more cunning than she realized and there was no way to warn Kaleipus. She thought they were in the clear but obviously not.

Maeve smiled, "do it, Xena," she whispered and Xena stared at her blonde mouse. She held the black dagger in her hands and Gabrielle took another step closer, wary of Xena's intentions. "Kill her!" she snarled and clenched her teeth.

Gabrielle shook her head at Xena. "Don't listen to her Xena." She saw the confusion and hurt in Xena's eyes. "She's a witch! Don't trust her!" she pleaded and then looked over the centaurs, coming up the hill towards them. "Come on Xena!" she took another step forward. "Put the dagger down..." she said calmly.

Xena gripped the dagger tightly and grimaced at Gabrielle. "You betrayed me."

The blonde gasped, "she's the real betrayer! She's been betraying you all this time! She is only using you for her own gain!"

Maeve growled and waved her hand pushing Gabrielle back about a yard away from them. Xena's eyes widened as she saw her mouse being thrown across the field like a ragdoll. Maeve snarled then looked to the centaurs and grabbed Xena's hand and they both disappeared.

Gabrielle groaned and sat up only to find that Maeve and Xena were both gone. She rubbed her head and grabbed her sword she saw Sinbad running up to the camp with quite a lot of blood on him. "Where is Xena?!" he demanded. She shook her head, not knowing where she was.

"Maeve," she rotated her wounded shoulder and Sinbad's mouth gaped. He immediately began looking around for the witch. "I don't know where they are!"

He huffed then wiped some blood off his face. "You were supposed to tell us about Xena's plans!"

Gabrielle was already frustrated, she didn't need a lecture. "I didn't know she was going to do that!" she folded her arms. Before Sinbad was able to respond they both heard a loud audible moan. "What is that..." Gabrielle looked around cautiously, holding her sword ready for an attack.

Sinbad's ears perked up and he focused on the subtle noise and it was not far. "Stay here Gabrielle, don't let Xena's men through this camp. I'm going to find her," he ran off and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, not really thinking it was a good idea to leave her alone with a bunch of men and centaurs attacking not far from where she was.

Maeve sat with Xena in a tent far from the others attacking. She smiled warmly at her and grabbed a cloth, dabbing her forehead. Xena moaned in pain and sat up, leaning against a mass of pillows. She looked around frantically and saw Maeve trying to tend to her.

"Don't worry Xena, I am here to help you," the witch grinned and her irises darkened seeing the immense pain in Xena's eyes. She placed her hand on Xena's abdomen and a sly smile came to her lips. Xena bit her lip from the agonizing pain growing inside her. Maeve hushed her and dabbed her forehead. "Your son will be here soon," she frowned and then felt a presence near them both.

She stood up and scanned the area. That stupid sailor has come to find where they were. Xena moaned loudly and Maeve grimaced at her, for making so much noise. Sinbad entered the tent and he saw Xena on the ground of the tent, obviously in tremendous pain.

"Get away from her!" he pointed his blade at the witch and Maeve took a step closer.

"Or what? I'm trying to help her. Can't you see her? She's in a lot of pain, Sinbad," she smiled deviously and Sinbad swung swiftly and cut Maeve's arm. Blood poured down her arm and she snarled at the sailor.

"So you can bleed," he smirked then she waved her hand throwing him out the tent a few feet away. She marched out of the tent holding her wounded arm. He groaned then stood up facing her, now that he knew that she was not invincible that was good news to him. He heard Xena in the background and that was distracting him. He let his guard down and Maeve prevented him from moving and she grabbed the sword out of his hand.

"you are such a pest!" she smiled and looked to the scimitar in her hands. "I'm not much for weapons but...they are useful and more fun than using magic given the right circumstance." She touched the blade and saw fear in the sailor's eyes.

Gabrielle ran and saw Sinbad standing immobilized in front of the witch. She gasped and hid behind a tree then she heard Xena moaning loudly from the tent behind them. She looked to her short sword and thought that this was her chance, to get rid of Maeve, or at least die trying.

She went behind a few tents and crept up behind the witch. She seemed so distracted and focused on Sinbad, which was good for her. She was normally so aware of her surroundings, but not today. Gabrielle clenched her teeth and plunged her sword into Maeve's back, pushing it through her torso.

Maeve gasped and blood trickled down her abdomen and suddenly Sinbad was able to move again. Gabrielle pulled the blade out of Maeve's torso and the witch turned to look at her. Blood trickled down her mouth and Gabrielle's eyes widened, she took a step back and saw a bloody smile appear on the witch's lips. Sinbad took the scimitar from Maeve's hand stabbed her again, through her heart this time. She gasped audibly then he pushed her onto the ground.

On the ground Maeve bled out profusely then her entire body turned into dust. Gabrielle held onto Sinbad as they watched her body disintegrate right before their eyes. He turned to her a bit shocked at her. "Gabrielle, I can't believe you did that."

Gabrielle stared in horror at what she had done. She had just killed someone, that was something she never did before. "Me either..." she mumbled then Xena's moans were heard once more.

Suddenly flaming arrows were shot towards them coming from uphill. Gabrielle and Sinbad ducked then a few flaming arrows hit the tent Xena was in. Sinbad crawled on the ground and saw a large army, not his and not the centaurs on the hilltop, shooting at them. "My god, the Romans have found us," he groaned and got up, ducking at the arrows. Gabrielle didn't need this, not right now.

He entered the tent and saw Xena's cheeks reddened and her forehead was sweaty. The backside of the tent was up in flames. He groaned and lifted her up, carrying her in his arms. As soon as he exited the tent he ducked at the flaming arrows. Xena looked around at the campsite on fire and she panicked. He saw the worried look in her eyes and he smiled. "Nothing to worry about," he calmly said, lying to her in order to make her feel better.

Gabrielle saw Sinbad carrying Xena and she ran behind them, ducking from the flaming arrows. This can't be happening right now, she told herself. She saw some of the Romans riding down towards the camp and she had fear building inside of her. She didn't want this to happen. She instantly regretted everything in her short life at this moment.

Sinbad set Xena down inside of her tent, far from the warring centaurs in the outskirts. He kissed her forehead and she moaned loudly. "I'm going to hold them off as long as I can." Xena's eyes widened at him, unsure of what he meant by that, but he stood up and then Gabrielle rushed inside of the tent, falling to her knees, out of breath. "Gabrielle stay with Xena. I'm going to hold off the Romans."

Xena heard Romans and her eyes grew in fear. She tried to sit up and groaned. "What?!" she yelled and the sailor smiled charmingly at her.

"Don't have him without me," he winked to her then left the tent. Gabrielle knelt down close to Xena, holding her hand. She didn't really know what to do or how to handle this type of situation. Romans, centaurs, babies. She felt instant panic and then stared into Xena's pained face.

"Hey, you're going to be fine, Xena," Gabrielle smiled weakly and Xena yelled out. Gabrielle winced then lifted Xena up and sat behind her. She held onto her hand and felt Xena grip tightly as she yelled. Gabrielle's mouth gaped as Xena gripped for dear life. She heard a lot happening outside the tent but thought it best to stay put and hopefully nothing would happen, though she thought of the Romans approaching and that might be a problem for them both. "Can you stand up?"

Xena cried out and Gabrielle groaned, cursing to herself, thinking that moving to another location was stupid especially the state that she was in right now. Spontaneously a Roman soldier burst through inside the tent and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She sat with Xena completely defenseless. The soldier frowned at the warrior, expecting her to attack and Xena let out a loud moan and Gabrielle panicked looking for Xena's sword but it was on the other side of the tent.

Before Gabrielle could think any further she saw a blade slice through the soldier's torso and he dropped to the floor. He saw Sinbad with a wounded leg and he smiled at her. She was thankful to see him again and then he looked to Xena and her condition worsened. "I don't know what to do!" Gabrielle cried. Sinbad limped into the tent and sheathed his sword. He knelt down towards Xena and touched her face, smiling at her.

Xena briefly smiled at him and cringed as the pain heightened. Thinking quickly Sinbad clenched his teeth and lifted her up off the floor, hissing at his wounded leg. Xena moaned and he endured the agonizing pain growing in his leg as her weight in his arms was not helping. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's sword and they left the tent. The Romans were attacking Xena's men and as were the centaurs.

Sinbad looked around took a route behind the trees cringing at his leg. "Musical tents is such a fun game," he groaned and Xena wrapped her arm around his neck and his eyes widened as she put more pressure on his shoulders.

Gabrielle looked around at the multiple wars around them and felt her heart beating faster by the second. "Where are we going?!" she hissed.

Sinbad clenched his teeth and lifted Xena higher up into his arms, trying to be as gentle as possible and ignore the gash in his thigh. "To Kaleipus' hut. You two will be safer there," he walked further behind the trees until they reached centaur territory.

Finally he laid Xena down on the pile of animal furs and hissed, grabbing his thigh, limping to find something to wrap his leg. Gabrielle knelt down close to Xena, still unsure of herself. "Are you going back out there?" she asked Sinbad.

"Yes. Stay here with her. I'll be back," he finished wrapping his leg and hissed as he limped out of the hut to go find the Romans and aid the centaurs. It seems that the war was pointless at this point.

Gabrielle wrapped her arm around Xena and let the weight of her body lean against her. Xena's eyes widened and she held onto Gabrielle's shoulder, tears streaming down her cheeks she cried out and Gabrielle winced. "I'm sorry for lying to you!" she yelled and Xena screamed. "I killed Maeve! She won't be a problem anymore!" she smiled and Xena breathed heavily. This wasn't really the right time to do this, she thought. Becoming more serious she put a few pillows behind Xena and then sat down in front of her.

Peering beneath Xena's skirt Gabrielle's eyes widened and she looked away. "Oh gods," she felt so inept to deal with this right now but she had to think of Xena and her son more than herself right now. "Okay," she exhaled slowly. "I'm going to need you to relax," she said and Xena glared at her. "Okay, never mind." She rubbed her forehead then grabbed the nearest blanket and set it on the floor in front of Xena. "I know you'll be happy to see your son when this is all over," she smiled and Xena yelled, then Gabrielle winced.

Sinbad saw Princess Dido with a sword in hand clad in gold Carthaginian armor. He smiled at her then sliced through a Roman soldier kicking him aside. The princess grinned at him then twirled her sword taking a few steps closer to the sailor. "Princess Dido, so nice to see you again."

"Likewise, I'm sure. Where's Xena? I'm here for her, I could care less about you." She snickered and he held onto his sword ready to strike her.

"Don't know where she is," he shrugged and the princess frowned then came at him and blocked her blow struggling to keep himself up against her.

Dido grinned and forced her body weight onto his, pushing the blade down on him. "You're so cute. You're trying to save her. Where. Is. She?!" she yelled and he grinned slyly, pushing her away. She shook her head mockingly at the sailor. "It seems you got yourself in a bit trouble with the centaurs. Or was that Xena's doing?" she chuckled.

"What does it matter to you?" he circled around her and she smiled, flipping her hair over her shoulder casually.

"I'm going to take Xena and have her tried for trying to assassinate Caesar. She's a criminal and needs to be tried for her crimes!" she growled and sliced his arm. He cried out then thrust his sword into her and she blocked his blow. "Stop this charade and tell me where she is!" she yelled and he groaned, refusing to give her any information.

"No!" the sailor sliced her leg and Dido cringed in pain. She held her thigh and grimaced at him while he had a sly smile on his lips. "One for you and one for me," he winked.

Princess Dido breathed heavily then ignored the gash on her leg. "Tell me where she is and I'll pardon you for your crimes, Sinbad. You can't love her that much."

Sinbad's eyes softened and Dido saw that he did truly love her. She began laughing and he frowned. "something funny?" he asked, hissing at the gash in his arm.

"You really do love her, oh my god!" she smiled then plunged the blade into his torso catching him off guard. His mouth gaped and he fell to his knees, staring up at her. "I told you to tell me where she is. Will you now?"

Sinbad smiled at her, "no..." he felt her force the blade through his torso and he coughed, blood trickling down his chin. Dido took out the blade and kicked him to the ground. His head lolled to the side and he saw the centaurs still fighting against Xena's men and Romans surrounding them as well.

Princess Dido wiped off the blade with her cape and snapped her fingers at the Roman soldiers. "Search the area. I want Xena found at once." They nodded and started searching the entire camp. She sheathed her sword staring down at the dying sailor. "You could've just told me and I would have pardoned you." She sighed and then stepped over him following the Romans in search of her criminal.

Gabrielle smiled albeit a bit disgusted she looked at Xena's pained face. "You're doing a great job! Almost there!" she frowned and Xena yelled loudly. Gabrielle's smile widened and she held the newborn infant in her arms. Xena exhaled deeply and leaned back onto the pillows. Gabrielle wrapped the blanket around her son and crawled over next to Xena. "Look, Xena!" she pushed the infant closer and Xena's eyes widened, seeing the crying baby being handed to her.

She looked down at him, not really believing that he was truly in her arms. She felt like he was as fragile as a piece of glass and instantly felt panic swarm her. Gabrielle smiled then saw torches outside of the hut. She ran to the window and saw Romans coming towards them with Princess Dido in tow. "We need to leave!" she grabbed her son and helped Xena stand. "Come on!"

Slowly they left the hut and head towards the forest behind the huts. Xena knelt to the floor, exhausted and Gabrielle groaned. "Xena!" she grabbed her arm trying to hoist her up but she wasn't moving. "I know it's hard for you but we need to go!"

"Go where?" Princess Dido smiled at Gabrielle and saw Xena on the ground, utterly exhausted. Gabrielle stared at the princess and then down at Xena. She couldn't stay here, though she didn't want to leave Xena either. Deciding quickly, Gabrielle took off running with Xena's son in her arms. Dido frowned. "Get her!" the Romans ran after Gabrielle deep into the woods.

Dido smiled and knelt down next to Xena. "Looks like she's not going to save you for the third time, Xena." She whistled to the soldiers and they picked Xena up putting her on a horse and Xena winced in pain. Dido stared up at the defeated warrior. "what's the matter, not going to put up a fight? I know Sinbad sure did," she grinned. Xena's eyes widened hearing that. "Yes, he's dead." She looked to the Romans. "Take her to the ship." She demanded and frowned looking back at the forest, hoping the soldiers would find Gabrielle and bring her too.

Gabrielle ran through the forest as fast as possible in the dark and she turned to look to see the Romans were far away from her, but she could hear their footsteps. She changed directions and kept running, breathing faster and faster.

She halted and saw four different paths in the forest. Frantically she looked to each path and chose the best one, she ran to the far left. She felt like her legs were going to give out but she kept running.

The Romans stopped and looked to the different paths. "Where do we go now?" one asked.

The head of the group growled, feeling frustrated that they might have lost the girl now.

Gabrielle ran until she finally stopped, trying to catch her breath. The baby in her arms kept crying and she sighed heavily. She didn't hear the Romans coming after her anymore and she felt some relief. "I'm sorry I couldn't save you this time, Xena." She pulled back the blanket around the infant's face and smiled. "But at least I saved you."

She remembered what Alexa said that she could go to the Amazons if she needed anything and she thought this was a perfect opportunity to take her up on that offer. She sighed and walked the rest of the way, knowing that the amazon territory was close by, she would run into eventually.

Alexa was sharpening one of her weapons early in the morning and saw someone approaching their camp. She frowned and saw her sisters surrounding the intruder. Standing up she recognized that face before. "Gabrielle!" she smiled waving at her then ran towards her.

She stood in front of her sisters, pushing their javelins out of the way. "She's with me," she reassured the skeptical amazons and stared at Gabrielle. She looked exhausted and then realized she had a baby in her arms. From the last time they met, she didn't recall Gabrielle having a baby. Where did that come from, she wondered?

Gabrielle looked into Alexa's eyes helpless. "I need help.." she said in a hoarse voice. Alexa nodded, unsure how to deal with this situation she wrapped her arm around Gabrielle taking her to her hut inside of the amazon stronghold.

Alexa gave Gabrielle water and food while the baby laid on Alexa's bed, sleeping soundly finally after about an hour of crying. She eyed Gabrielle a bit confused. "Gabrielle um..."

"It's not mine," she said after she downed the water. Alexa nodded, not wanting to pry any further, obvious that Gabrielle had quite a long journey. "My...friend," she finally said it and she sighed. "This is her son and...he couldn't stay with her. It was too dangerous." She stared down at the slumbering newborn and Alexa was a bit timid of the baby. "you said I could come here if I needed help..."

Alexa smiled, "I will keep my word Gabrielle, but I'll have you know, there hasn't been a baby in the amazon stronghold for a really long time. Not to mention he's a male."

Gabrielle eyed her cautiously, "please?" she begged and the amazon sighed, relenting. Gabrielle felt relief come over her. Alexa knelt down staring at the baby, in awe of him.

"Do you think he will see his mother again?" she asked and touched his small hand, watching him stir in his sleep, she smiled observing the tiny human.

Gabrielle set down her food suddenly losing her appetite. "I don't know." She didn't want to think about Xena. She was probably captured and on a ship back to Rome or Carthage. Didn't really matter. She hoped that she was alright, that was the only thing that she wanted to think about right now.

Alexa smiled at the baby and Gabrielle sat on the bed sitting next to him. "He's so small!" she marveled and Gabrielle nodded, wrapping the blanket tightly around him.

Chapter Text

AN: I'm sorry for not updating this but I had a lot of school work and this piece requires me to focus a lot. Enjoy this chapter and feedback is great, everyone! Thanks for reading and following along! Solely appreciate it ;)

Chapter 24

Gabrielle and Alexa remained in a small hut in the Amazon camp away from prying eyes. Word had gotten around the camp about a baby and there hadn't been an infant in the camp for a long time, maybe at least a decade or so. Amazonian children waltzed by the hut casually trying to peek through the open windows to see the baby, but were always shooed away by the elder amazons.

Alexa poked her head out of the door to see the amazon girls trailing by trying to see inside of the hut. She smirked then turned to see Gabrielle bent over just staring at the child as if he were some kind of anomaly to behold. She waltzed over to her new found friend and placed a hand on her wary friend's shoulder.

Gabrielle smiled at Alexa weakly then turned her attention to Xena's son laying on a pile of blankets, sleeping, after so long staying awake. They both stared at him almost waiting for him to make a sudden move or wake up at any moment, fearing a child. "What am I going to do with him?" Gabrielle frowned and Alexa sighed audibly.

"Are you going to find your friend...his mother?" she asked in a quiet tone. She had not really spoken to Gabrielle about her friend but she must have been in a bad way if she couldn't even take her baby with her.

Gabrielle stood up folding her arms continuing to stare at the slumbering infant. "I don't think I'll be able to save her again. I tried so many times to save her and every time I did, I always got the end of the stick. She is not an easy person to befriend," she shook her head thinking of Xena and could only imagine what Dido was doing to her or if she was even alive. She then sat down on the bed, a few feet away from the baby. Alexa folded her arms and stared at the child once more.

Alexa smiled, shrugging her shoulder. "He's kind of cute for a crying monster," she snickered then saw a few small eyes peering into the window over the bushes outside the window. "He is the main attraction around here," she nudged her head to the window. Gabrielle smiled weakly and stared at the young amazon girls looking in. The girls gasped then ducked below the bushes as they had been spotted by the new found guest and Alexa, an elder amazon.

The door opened and Alexa immediately bowed her head. Gabrielle stood up unsure what to do so she copied Alexa, bowing her head slightly and nervously. Queen Melosa looked at Gabrielle then to Alexa then her eyes went to the child on the bed sleeping soundly. She tapped Alexa's shoulder relieving her and Gabrielle stood straight up once more, anxiously fidgeting with her fingers behind her back.

"Gabrielle is it?" Queen Melosa smiled and the blonde nodded her head. She put her hands on her hips staring down at the baby again. "You are Alexa's guest and any guest of hers is welcome by the amazons, but I must ask..." she raised a curious brow, "the said it is not yours. His mother abandoned him, did she?"

Gabrielle frowned, not really liking the term abandonment linked with Xena. It wasn't like that at all. "No she didn't abandon him. I took him because it was..unsafe." she saw the confusion in the Queen's eyes but she feared if she spoke of Xena's name that it would cause a hoard of chaos and she didn't want that. She needed help and couldn't really go anywhere else without her being found out by the Romans or Dido's petty men. "His mother..." she exhaled slowly, "she could be dead and I didn't want her son to face the same fate as her..."

"so you saved him?" Melosa folded her arms, now understanding the situation a bit better without too much detail. All Gabrielle could do was nod her head in agreement, not wanting to go into further detail about this disaster. She feared that Xena was either being tortured or dead by now. She had been here for a days now and she was positive that Xena was in Rome by now, facing her ultimate demise. "Many of the young girls here were taken from dangerous situations much like your friend's child..." she said and that eased Gabrielle's anxiety. "But he is a male and we haven't had any males here in the amazon territory for quite some time."

Gabrielle shook her head, "but he's just a baby. I can't leave him! If I couldn't save my friend the least I could do was save her son." Melosa's eyes widened at the blonde's retort, a bit shocked that she spoke back to her with such passion in her voice. "Your majesty..." she cleared her throat, "please, can't you make an exception just this once?" she begged.

The Amazon Queen pursed her lips then turned to see a rather fearful Alexa standing off to the side of her. She sighed, folding her arms, "you saved Alexa from the Centaurs and I thank you for that. You're not afraid to speak your mind..." she smirked and Gabrielle rubbed her cheek nervously. "You seem to get what you want, I can tell you're a brave girl, Gabrielle." She smiled and Alexa liked hearing those words. She heard mercy in Melosa's sentiment. "Gabrielle, I want you to train as an amazon with my sisters. As for your friend's son...he may stay, under supervision of course."

Gabrielle wasn't really expecting a response like that so therefore, she was shocked. "Well...I...I'm not an amazon, I don't really know –"

"Most of the amazons here were never amazons to begin with. You are no different than them, right, Gabrielle?" Melosa challenged her and Gabrielle straightened up willing to take her up on her offer. "tonight we have a feast for the goddess Artemis. I want you there and bring the child too," she nodded towards Alexa then left the hut in a hurry.

Alexa felt like she was holding in her breath. She shook Gabrielle's shoulders with a grand smile. "Wow Gabrielle! She must like you a lot! She offered you to become one of us and you can keep your friend's son too!" she couldn't believe it herself.

Gabrielle stood stagnant, not really sure how she felt about all of this. She did know how to fight a little bit from training with Xena for awhile until that night where she ruined everything. She was Xena's apprentice, her little mouse, as she called her and now she was to become an amazon or at least try.

"I hope one day you can see your friend again, Gabrielle. She should be thankful for what you did," Alexa smiled peering over at the baby. Gabrielle nodded her head slowly, trying her best to put a good show on and to not think about Xena and her whereabouts. "I'm going to help my sisters with the festival tonight. I'll come back later?" she smiled then left the hut rushing out to tell her sisters Queen Melosa's good news about her new friend's stay.

Gabrielle knelt down next to the small infant and his eyes opened, staring up at her. She smiled and wrapped the blanket around him tightly. "Thankful..." she scoffed, "I'll make sure that you know everything about Xena," she whispered and the child's eyes wandered, surveying his new surroundings.

Xena woke up in a stone walled cell which she presumed was in Caesar's palace. She recognized this place as she threw many prisoners in here once when she was commander, but now, she was the prisoner. She shifted her body slowly and winced, still aching and exhausted. The trip on the ship was not an easy one and considering that she was being watched by Romans the entire time was not welcomed. She didn't receive water or food for the last few days and her throat was as dry as the Sahara.

Her thoughts began to wander as her mind became cloudy from thirst and hunger. She hadn't had time to really process anything these last few days. Everything she hoped and dreamed for was gone. Sinbad was dead and that was because of her. Gabrielle left without another word and then she thought of her son. He was with Gabrielle, that's all she remembered. She hoped that Gabrielle was able to get away and save her son. She thought that Gabrielle had again saved her in some way. Though, she was stuck here as a prisoner and Gabrielle wasn't by her side trying to rescue her in some brave attempt. She saved her son, she hoped and in that way she believed that Gabrielle had saved her for the final time.

A smile came to her lips as thoughts of her little mouse came to her. She really envied Gabrielle's spirit and will to continue onward even though she had been put in difficult situations. Even though she had despised children and never wanted them in the first place, she was never able to hold her own son for longer than a few seconds and that was something that she thought she'd never feel regret for. A motherless child was something that was frowned upon and suddenly she felt a whirlwind of emotions engulf her. Her eyes swelled with tears and her head hung lowly as rattled her wrists in the chains.

Here she was in another situation that she knew she couldn't get out of and nobody to save her except herself. She was separated from Gabrielle once more, though she didn't have anyone to blame but herself. Everything that lead up to this point was entirely her fault and she knew this. She truly was the fox in the hen house of the Roman Empire. She could have been so great in the Roman Empire, but she didn't want to be part of the Roman Empire. She wanted more and because of her greed, she was stuck here as a prisoner without her friend...yes her friend, she smiled thinking of Gabrielle.

Memories of her childhood came rushing back to her and she thought of her so called friends, Elissa and Mala. They weren't real friends, they were just young girls that happened to be in the same age group as her but Gabrielle, she went out of her way for her. In her eyes, Gabrielle was more of a friend than anyone she encountered in her entire life in Amphipolis. How many friends save you from death not once, but multiple times, then take your child for safety and protection –a friend, a true one at that.

Her ears perked up as she heard the metal door creak open. She lifted her head and saw none other than the Roman Emperor standing in front of her with a smug grin on his face. She rolled her eyes at his presence and he simply smirked.

"How was your trip from Anatolia, Xena?" he chided. Xena spat at his feet with the little saliva she had left in her dry mouth. He frowned and knelt down, grabbing her cheeks in between his fingers. "You've been a naughty girl, haven't you?"

Xena stared into his dark eyes and he smiled at her deviously. "I finally have you in my grasp after so long. How long has it been?" he tapped his chin pensively.

She furrowed her brows, feeling her cheeks begin to ache from his harsh hold. "More than nine months," she admitted sadly as the thought of her son entered her mind.

He nodded then stood up pacing in front of his fox. "That's right, but you don't seem to care about time do you? You are going to be tried for your crimes against the Roman Empire, Xena," he said a low voice. She lowered her head, not willing to make a smart remark. She was far too drained emotionally, mentally and physically to do that. She knew her fate and must accept it.

Dido entered the cell, "Caesar, I want a word alone with the prisoner," she eyed Xena and saw the warrior woman lift her head, glaring at her. Caesar smirked and casually left the cell leaving the two women alone. The princess knelt down close to Xena and brought some water for her. "You should drink this." She urged her and Xena remained skeptical. Dido smiled and helped Xena drink from the bowl slowly.

Xena coughed as the water grazed her throat. Dido set the bowl aside and stared into Xena's eyes. She was defeated, obviously and it didn't look like she was able to put up a fight. "I'm sure you'll be happy to hear that Caesar's men weren't able to find Gabrielle." Xena's eyes lit up at that. So there is still hope, she thought. Then the princess added, "or your baby," she said quietly then saw the woman's eyes widen in fear. Dido smiled at that knowing that Xena had a conscious despite her tough bravado. "I am not a barbarian Xena, not like you," she chuckled. "I won't go after Gabrielle, after all...she was my friend too at one point."

Xena didn't like to hear that. Gabrielle was never your friend, she thought to herself. Gabrielle would never befriend someone like her. She was just as bad as Caesar was and considering that they were working together, they were basically one in the same.

"the baby..." Dido's tone softened, "it was his wasn't it?" she saw the recognition in Xena's eyes and no further questions needed to be asked. She knew all too well and her silence was obvious that her question had been answered. "That must explain why he didn't want me to find you," she grinned mischievously as she saw Xena's eyes blink in subtle panic. "You don't really strike me as mother material, Xena," she chuckled. "You were selfish in your actions and now your child will be motherless –an orphan –because of you." She frowned then stood up folding her arms. Xena stared up at her and sniffled quietly, containing her overwhelming emotions. "you always leave Gabrielle to clean up your messes. What kind of friend does that?" she played on Xena's emotions and saw her shift her body uncomfortably, but remained silent as her response. "your lack of response is rather disturbing, Xena. You are not the warrior you made yourself out to be," with that she turned on her heel and exited the cell.

Xena let out a loud exhale, relieved that she had finally left. She couldn't disagree with her about her selfish actions. She was not selfless, not like Gabrielle. She had done nothing for Gabrielle except give her grief, pain and dis-entitlement.

When the sun had set Xena fell asleep, no longer able to hold it any longer. Her arms had gone numb by now and exhaustion had taken over her. As she slept quietly in her cell she felt a finger touch her cheek and she woke up abruptly seeing someone she had not seen in quite some time.

Ares grinned at her and she grimaced. "Aw, you're not happy to see me are you?" he sat down in front of her and she remained quiet. "Silent treatment," he nodded, "that's fair. I've been kind of absent in your life. You've done so much since I've last seen you. A baby, a dead lover, a wannabe apprentice and now look at you..." he chuckled at her situation and she rolled her eyes.

"I don't need you to gloat, Ares," her voice hoarse and the War God clapped his hands. She saw the guards staring at her as she appeared to be talking to a ghost. They probably thought that she had gone insane, she mused.

Ares tisked, "Xena, Xena, Xena. I want to help you."

She snapped her head around clenching her teeth. "Where were you when I needed help the most?!" she yelled.

One of the guards banged on the metal bars. "Hey! Be quiet!" he shouted at her and Xena groaned and saw the God of War smirking, thoroughly enjoying this. Xena smiled tightly at the guard and he seemed satisfied by her response and turned around ignoring her once more.

"Just ask for my help and it's yours, Xena." He touched her cheek and she pulled away from him.

"the God of War does not like it when someone asks for his help," she whispered, eyeing the soldier, making sure not to make a loud commotion again.

He nodded, quite proud of her. "I see all my teaching has not gone to waste, but can't do much in here can you?" he pouted. Xena raised an eyebrow at him and he set her free from the shackles. She gasped and rubbed her aching sore wrists, surprised that with his absence that he aided her, which only meant one thing –he wanted something in return, as always. "I help you escape this pit and save you from your execution can rot in here until they cut off your head, your choice," he winked.

Xena began thinking of everything at once –Gabrielle, her son, all the people that died because of her –and then thought of his proposition. He wasn't so generous to do this deed for free, she knew better than that. She had grown up in a short amount of time and realized that power and glory only ends up in sorrow and dread. But then she began to think about other people besides herself and this stirred a bit of panic swirling inside her entire body.

"What do you want in return?" she asked quietly. The Roman guard turned to face her and she smiled warmly at him. He grunted then turned around, very annoyed at her obviously.

Ares sighed heavily. "Nothing, at least not right now. I want you to be great, Xena and I can't have you executed because of a simple mistake you made. We all make mistakes..."

Xena didn't like what she was hearing. He was actually being nice to her and giving her free range, though he said he didn't want anything now, but what about in the future? He always wanted something eventually, which she knew, so she was hesitant to take him up on his offer.

"you're skeptical, I can tell," he said in a hushed tone. "If you go free then you can do what you want...with a few exceptions of course," he added, which made Xena feel very uncomfortable. He leaned in closer to her and she backed up against the cold stone wall. "I can knock out that guard and you can escape..." he enticed her with his sly words. "Let me help you Xena..." he hissed. "You are not the fox in the hen house that Caesar believes you to're more than that."

Xena felt her insides begin to turn and she didn't know if it was her nerves or because of her aching body from giving birth just a few days ago. She couldn't think clearly and that was not good in her eyes.

"Let me help you..." his words dripped off his tongue like the snake he was. "you're not the Medusa that everyone believes you to be. You're a queen, Xena."

She stared at him and half smiled, not sure if that was enough to get her to comply, but she didn't want to be executed for her crimes she fully knew well that she committed. She thought she could use Ares as a tool for her own gain. She wanted to see Gabrielle and her son again and so she accepted his kind enticing offer, for a different gain, not one for power or greed. Though, she began to think that greed and power would never escape her as long as she wields a sword in her hand.

Was it greedy of her to use someone to get what she wanted? Was it deceitful? Yes it is, but at this point she didn't care. This wasn't her time to die, just like it wasn't her time to die by crucifixion or when she was Dido's captive when she was with Sinbad. She had been deceived before and she wasn't going to let anyone else deceive her again.

Gabrielle you had been right all along. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you, but I will come to you again. Maybe not tomorrow or in the next year, but I will get there. She grabbed hold of Ares' hand and he helped her up slowly. He grinned, satisfied that she had complied with his offer. He did as he promised and opened the cell door offering her the freedom that she wanted.

Xena breathed out slowly and left the cell, but not before kicking the unconscious soldier and taking his sword for insurance.

Chapter Text

AN: oh Gabrielle ;) lol

Chapter 25

Gabrielle began training with Alexa in her spare time as her initiation as an amazon was nearing. She had been in the amazon camp for a month now and she tried her very best to keep Xena off her mind and that proved very difficult especially since her son was a constant reminder of her.

Alexa attacked Gabrielle with a wooden staff and she fell to the ground, staring up at the bright sky. Alexa smiled leaning over her apprentice, lending a hand to her. Gabrielle got up off the ground and threw her wooden staff aside becoming frustrated with herself. She thought she was a pretty good fighter but she was so distracted, or perhaps because it was that the Amazons trained differently than Xena.

"Don't worry Gabrielle, you'll get the hang of it soon enough," the young amazon winked and threw the staff aside, wrapping her arm around her blonde friend. Gabrielle folded her arms and together they walked through the camp, curtly nodding their heads at the elder amazon women.

Gabrielle huffed and threw her hands in the air. "I don't know why I'm so bad at training with you," she frowned deeply as they continued to walk back to the hut where Xena's son was being watched by three young amazon girls no older than ten.

Alexa shrugged her shoulder and just as they were about to enter the hut they now both shared she stepped in front of Gabrielle, blocking the entrance. "Maybe you were training for the wrong reasons with Xena." The blonde nodded slightly agreeing with the amazon. "You don't really talk about her much...were you two close?" her eyes widened and her eyebrows lifted, hoping that Gabrielle would open up.

"I guess, I don't know," she bit her bottom lip not wishing to discuss this matter any further. She side stepped Alexa and entered the hut. The three girls gasped as the two entered the hut. Gabrielle smiled at the three babysitters. "Hey there, I hope he wasn't a lot of trouble?" she came over to see the infant and he had a bright smile on his face.

Gaila, one of the girls, smiled brightly at Gabrielle. "He was great! I hope you let us watch him again, Gabrielle." The other girls nodded their heads eagerly and Gabrielle took that into consideration. It was obvious that these girls had not been around children or babies for that matter and she definitely needed people to watch him while she trained.

Alexa sighed and ushered the girls out of the hut and they all had disappointed faces. She closed the door and watched as Gabrielle attended to the baby. She came around to her and put a hand on her shoulder gently. "You haven't even named him you know..." she kindly approached the sensitive subject as best as she could.

Gabrielle folded her arms staring at the smiling oblivious baby on the bed surrounded by many blankets and pillows. He had no idea what was going on and that was definitely a good thing. She turned her attention to Alexa with a solemn face. "I don't want to do that, she might show up at any time," she remained hopeful.

Alexa shook her head and sat down on the bed, sitting next to the infant. She now understood why Gabrielle didn't want to talk about Xena. There was obviously a lot of baggage between the two and she had barely spoke about her since she came here a month ago. "Gabrielle...she's not going to come back and I think deep down you know that."

She didn't like to hear those words and denial began sinking into her brain. She had to believe that Xena was alive somewhere and not in the hands of Caesar and Dido, but her hope was fading away as each day passed. "I have to believe that she is alive, Alexa otherwise I'll be stuck in the same cycle that I have been for awhile now."

"Tell me about her, Gabrielle. It might help you to talk about her," Alexa smiled patting the empty spot on the bed. The young blonde was skeptical but relented and sat next to her. She then picked up the infant to be closer to him and laid him down in front of them. Alexa smiled at her seeing the happiness in her eyes. "He reminds you of her doesn't he?" she mused.

Gabrielle nodded, "yes he does. They both have the same blue eyes." The amazon thought this was a good thing that her new friend was beginning to open up to her about Xena. She had no idea what this woman looked like or what kind of trouble she was in but it was obvious that Gabrielle cared for her a lot. The blonde sighed audibly as she thought more about Xena. "She's so strange. She kidnapped me you know," she mumbled.

Alexa's eyes widened at that. She never mentioned that but now that she was comfortable around her she was glad she opened up more. "she kidnapped you and you think of her as a friend?"

"Silly isn't it?" Gabrielle chuckled at that. It did sound ridiculous but it wasn't like she made it out to be. "She was nice to me. She wasn't like any other person I ever met." She paused. "She taught me things that nobody else would have if I had continued to travel alone."

"And what were these things?" Alexa leaned in closer.

Gabrielle casually shrugged, "I saw that she was having some inner struggles of her own. We were so similar in that way we just chose different paths. She taught me that you can't trust anyone, including herself." She stared into Alexa's confused eyes. "She also taught me that not everyone is going to be nice to you even if you're nice to them. She didn't realize that she was teaching me these things but I picked up on them as we spent more time together."

She continued, "she was so misguided and I don't know if my words ever got through to her. I hope that she will change her ways before it's too late," she stare down at the squirming baby laying near her legs. "Power is a deadly thing, you know. That's all she was after and I thought that if I spoke to her that I could...change her," she admitted sadly.

Alexa frowned and wrapped a warm around her friend. "Sometimes Gabrielle, people need to figure things out for themselves. I'm sure she will learn eventually."

She shook her head, "no. Xena will learn the hard way because she allows it to be that way." The more she thought about Xena the more angry she became at the path she had chosen. She thought that she would have seen the light in the end, but she didn't. she thought of herself more than anyone else and that was one of Xena's major flaws. She turned her attention back to her amazon friend. "I don't think I'm going to tell her son about her anymore. It's best that he doesn't know who she is. At least until he's old enough..." she frowned. "To keep him safe," she concluded that this was the best decision for now.

After Ares helped Xena escape from Rome she was left alone once again, always alone, she thought. She couldn't go back home because she was sure everyone hated her for what she had done in Greece. She also couldn't go to Anatolia either as she was not liked by the Centaurs and certainly wasn't going to back to find the Mesopotamian army either. She didn't have any quarrels with them but she would definitely be found out if she traveled with them as well. She also couldn't be anywhere close to Rome or Caesar because she'd probably be captured again. She was tired of being captured because she made poor decisions.

Xena began thinking about everything that Gabrielle said about her life decisions and that the path she chose was wrong. She was beginning to think that she was right about that. Everything that she did ended in despair and disappointment. She had no way of reaching out to Gabrielle to find out where she was but deep inside she didn't want to know because every time she went to seek her out bad things happened not to just her but to Gabrielle as well. She cared for her deeply and thought it best that she'd stay away from her until their paths crossed again as they did before. They always seemed to cross paths at such unexpected times and Xena wasn't sure if it was because they were meant to cross paths or not, but it was quite adventure.

Seeking out a new life would be hard and she hadn't traveled very far. Anatolia was the furthest that she had traveled but she decided that if she stayed anywhere near the Romans or Carthaginians that she'd be caught again and she didn't want that. She needed to go somewhere far away so she wouldn't be found out again. Her name had been circulated around the Mediterranean in very well known places so she wanted to set sail to go somewhere else.

She felt like she was back at square one with no army, no friends or family just as she left her home, though this time she had done such horrible things and had a child. She wouldn't forget about her son, he would always stay in her mind no matter what she did, he would always be a reminder of what could have been and what awful decisions she had made. She only hoped that he was safe and hopefully still with Gabrielle. She also hoped that she would keep him out of harm's way, although it wasn't Gabrielle's job to take care of her son and she didn't expect her to, but he would be safe with her. Gabrielle was a smart girl, she recalled, and her son shouldn't be around her because she always chose the wrong path as Gabrielle said. He didn't deserve a life like that. He deserved to be in a safe environment and grow up with other children. Xena wished the best for him and it would be hard to block that out of her mind, but for now, she couldn't be anywhere near Rome or she'd risk being captured again.

Xena had managed to stay away and traveled to the coast of Iberia figuring that Caesar wouldn't dare come that far to find her. She was unknown there and there weren't any Greek people in this country which was good news for her, but she had to learn their language while she stayed there. This country was not filled with war and famine like certain parts of Greece was, which she thought that the Greeks could learn something from these Iberian people.

Her skills as a warrior were rather useless in this land so she did very little there, but it was a good escape for her. She knew that this place would somehow end up in Caesar's hands because he wanted to expand Rome to surrounding countries and territories. She pitied these people and would love to hear that they had been conquered by Caesar himself in the future. A peaceful place like this was a great breeding ground for Romans to invade. She knew she couldn't stay here long especially since she had no money or people that were familiar to her. She had always felt like an outcast but in her own country, it was different in an unfamiliar culture.

As she wandered through the narrow streets she came to the coast and saw the Mediterranean Sea. She thought she'd never escape that sea. It followed her everywhere and that's where life began and ended as well. As she stood by the docks she saw large ships docked at the port. Some were cargo ships, others were merchants trading seafood and then she saw a ship full of people, slaves she presumed.

Folding her arms she took a good look at the man with the slave ship. He was talking with a dark skinned Iberian man, exchanging harsh words she could tell from afar. The more she looked at the man, he reminded her of Sinbad, the same eyes, dark hair and charisma too. Even his clothes were all too familiar and then she realized that he was not from Iberia. He was probably from a land like Sinbad's by the features he had.

The sailor had finished exchanging money with the Iberian man and Xena decided to approach him, curious of her own thoughts. She smiled and appeared in front of him. The sailor's eyes glanced up at her and he raised an eyebrow then grinned at her.

"May I help you, miss?" he asked kindly.

Xena's eyebrows raised and a sneaky smile came to her lips. "Do you know the sailor Sinbad?"

His eyes lit up, "do I? who doesn't? is he a friend of yours?" he inquired and tucked the pouch of money in his pocket.

A sad thought entered her mind once she realized that Sinbad was gone because of her. He was a good person and he even liked Gabrielle as well. He was willing to do anything for her and she used him for her own gain. She shook her head, "He was. Once," she added softly.

The man nodded his head with an eager smile. "You're not from around here, are you, miss?" he winked and Xena played coy but bobbed her head. He walked over to his ship and handed one of his men the pouch of money and leaned on one of the dock's posts. He placed his other hand on his hip smiling endearingly at this woman. "You don't look like a pirate or a slave either...and your accent is most familiar..." he rubbed his chin and saw her eyes change from curious to enticing.

She took a step closer, "you're a slave trader," she gestured to the many women on his ship. He laughed and then cleared his throat. She simply smiled, feigning innocence.

"I prefer to call it an opportunity," he winked at her.

Xena placed her hands on her hips, "would you mind if I travel with you? Where are you heading?" she grinned.

The man blinked, "you want to travel with me? Some might see that as an insult," he chuckled. He then saw that she wasn't joking and really wanted to come along with him. "Well, if you're Sinbad's friend, I wouldn't mind but keep your hands off my merchandise," he teased, joking about his female slaves aboard. He bowed his head politely allowing her to board his ship. "After you..."

Xena grinned and stepped onto the ship. Many of the men stared at her and noticed that she definitely wasn't a slave, but a guest. They all averted their eyes once their leader came aboard. He put his hand on Xena's shoulder, "don't mind them," he whispered in her ear. "They're only used to seeing slave girls." She simply smiled and he left her side then grabbed her hand pulling her along, which shocked her. She didn't mind, though she wouldn't want another relationship with a sailor. That didn't end well for her or for her sailor lover. She wasn't about to do that all over again. "My name is Naseem," he curtly bowed and she raised an eyebrow. Yes, he was definitely one of Sinbad's people recognizing a name like that.

"Xena," she said proudly and he smiled at her.

"That's a pretty name. Greek, right?" he winked. She shrugged her shoulder casually, not responding and he chuckled lowly then brought her below deck. Xena followed him a bit wary of her new surroundings though she was used to getting what she wanted, she had to think of Ares too. He helped her but it was not without a price. He would want something eventually, but for now he laid low just like he had for quite some time when she actually needed him.

He entered his room and Xena stepped inside. It wasn't anything special and it wasn't decorated with jewels and trinkets like Sinbad's ship was. This man was not a pirate for jewels, but a pirate of people, which could be considered worse in some eyes. She understood why it would be considered to be an insult to be traveling with a man like him.

Naseem poured some wine for her and offered her to sit down. She took the wine which she felt like she definitely needed and sat down graciously. He smiled and leaned on his deck sipping his wine. "So, where are you headed?" he asked politely.

She snickered, "I asked you first."

He tisked, "Xena, you're on my ship now. I ask the questions," he winked taking another sip of his wine. "But if you must know, I'm heading to Japa to drop off some of these women. They were requested a month or so ago."

Xena frowned, she didn't recognize this name at all. "Where is Japa?"

Naseem thought she might be joking, but then realized she wasn't. A lot of people didn't know where that was unless they were pirates or sailors and not many people were either of those things. "It's a land far from here. It's quite different there. I'm sure you'll love it," he grinned. He then sat next to her, making sure to keep his distance. He figured by her body language that she didn't want to be touched or have any intimate contact with him which he respected.

"So, I don't normally take travelers with me on my expeditions," he mused and Xena raised her eyebrows, keeping to herself and sipping the thick red wine. "Being with a pirate is not a noble thing, you know Xena. Although, if you knew Sinbad, I'm sure you're used to being around people like us, right?" he chuckled. Xena smiled slightly and he sighed heavily. "Since you're traveling with me...I might as well make you useful to me," he stood up and grabbed a dagger off his deck. "You know how to fight?" he raised an inquiring brow.

Xena nodded, "the sword is my life," she admitted, though not proudly, she put on a show for the pirate. He liked the sound of that, she could tell by his change in expression.

Naseem then thought that this woman could be of use to him after all. "How 'bout this," he put the dagger back on his desk and smiled mischievously at her. "I have to make a few more stops along the way and some of these places are shall we say...dangerous." he shrugged and sat down next to her, flipping the chair over. "You can put these people in their place while I get the slave girls, deal?"

"You want me to hoard off people for you?" she repeated making sure she was hearing that correctly. Essentially, she was becoming the same thing she was when she worked for Caesar. "I don't work for free..." she smiled, raising a brow, staring into his green eyes.

The pirate chuckled and waltzed over to his desk pulling out a small pouch from the drawer. He threw it in her lap and she frowned, staring at the bag and it was obviously filled with money. "I will pay you. I mean, if you're not interested.." he hissed. She shook her head then stood up holding out her hand. He grinned and shook her hand warmly.

This was a great way to get out of the way from the Romans, Xena thought. She knew that she could be of use to this man and for now she trusted him and his actions. She should really get a new line of work, she told herself. A second time she had come in contact with a pirate but this time she was a contractor for him, which was a different relationship from hers with Sinbad. He was different than Sinbad. He worked for a living, Sinbad was a thief and Xena definitely wasn't a thief.

The experience she had with Maeve was not a good one in the end and frankly she couldn't really remember what happened that night except she was kept moving from tent to tent with Sinbad and Gabrielle. Everything was so foggy, but she needed to get away from that life even if it meant being far away from her familiar home and Gabrielle. One day, she hoped, she would see her again and if she did, she hoped that Gabrielle's heart would soften and come to forgive her for what she had done to her over the last year.

Three Months Later

Gabrielle had been training with the amazons for four months now and Queen Melosa had decided to officially make her one of them. She had been waiting patiently but she had trained for quite some time now and thought that she had gotten a lot better since the first day of training. She realized that Xena had trained her to kill and that was a different skill that the amazons didn't have. Xena's way was so abrupt and though it got the job done, the amazons were more on the side of defensive training. These women were not the barbarians that the Centaurs believed them to be.

She began to think that Xena might do well here and would fit in with them if she left her violence behind but Gabrielle knew that wasn't likely to happen. She never forgot about Xena even after four months had passed by. She only hoped that she was still alive and that she would follow a path for good and not for evil again. Xena was easy to manipulate because she was so power hungry and she wanted so much more for Xena and her son was a constant reminder that something good came from her. He was innocent and that was something that Xena was not. She was young, but she was selfish and her son was a sad reminder of Xena's selfishness. Gabrielle knew that her decision not to tell Xena's son about her was the best thing for him. She named him Solan since she knew that Xena would not get that opportunity to see him again, if she was alive.

Gabrielle knew that Xena was alive, she felt her presence somewhere in the world even if she was not standing right next to her.

Queen Melosa wanted to have a coronation for Gabrielle this afternoon and she had a few hours to get ready. Gabrielle put on her short skirt that one of the sisters made for her and a cropped brown top to match. She glanced in the mirror then heard small murmurs coming from the other side of the room. She smiled, turning to Solan, he was making all kinds of noises which meant he was awake.

Gabrielle allowed the young girls to keep watching him during the day when she couldn't, which she thought was great therapy for the young amazons. She believed that they needed to be around small children especially a male since they were all females.

Waltzing over to him she picked him up in her arms then walked over to the mirror. His eyes wandered around and he pulled at her blouse. She grinned at him holding his finger close to her chest, which he seemed to like. Then she heard the door in the hut open and she turned to see her friend, Alexa, standing at the entrance in her ceremonial attire.

The brunette amazon came next to her peeking over her shoulder to see Solan's eyes widen as well as his smile. "You know it's a good thing we have him here," she concluded and the small infant grabbed hold of Alexa's hair. "He has really changed the way our sisters think about males," she smiled at Solan's bright blue eyes gazing back at her with a goofy smile on his face.

Gabrielle nodded, "he's probably the only good thing that has come from Xena," she admitted not with sadness but with pity. She told Xena that she pitied her once and then she took it back but now since she had possession of her son, her feeling of pity came back into her heart.

Alexa took Solan from Gabrielle's arms while she took the time to get ready for her coronation. She stared at her blonde friend and saw not sadness in her eyes, but something else. "Do you really think she's alive?"

Gabrielle smirked and brushed her long blonde hair making sure she looked more presentable. "She's Xena. She gets out of anything. I know she's alive, Alexa." She turned to her brunette friend. "I can feel it," she pointed to her chest and Alexa nodded, remaining quiet and occupied with the squirming child in her arms.

"Come on, we should get going. It's going to be a big day for you," Alexa smiled urging Gabrielle to get out of her dark mood for now. It was supposed to be a happy day today.

During the ceremony Gabrielle stood watching all the amazon sisters celebrating by a special dance they did and she smiled the entire time, a bit confused but also entertained by their way of showing affection and gratitude. Alexa stood beside her with a large grin on her face and wrapped an arm around Gabrielle. Gaila, one of the young amazons held Solan in her arms standing off on the side with the other young girls, enjoying the ceremony.

After the dance was complete, Queen Melosa smiled and gestured Gabrielle to come forward. The nervous blonde walked ahead to the queen's throne with an anxious smile. She felt all eyes on her and she became more nervous as the queen stared down at her.

The Amazon Queen drew out her sword and placed it over Gabrielle's head initiating her through a whispered prayer as Gabrielle concluded. She couldn't believe what a life she had in this last year. She had traveled to so many places just like she wanted, though some places were not her choice. She had been all across Italia, Greece, Anatolia and even Carthage. Now she was here being initiated as an amazon in front of everyone. She would never return home now, she knew that. She belonged to these people now and somehow she really liked belonging to something meaningful.

Throughout this year she felt she had learned a lot about herself and about other people. She now understood why Xena thought she was a naive little teenager, because she was, but now, she felt that she wasn't the same naive girl she once was. Gabrielle knew that her family missed her dearly but she finally felt that her life was worth living and it wasn't chaotic for once, not when she was with Xena. Though, she cared for Xena, she realized that Xena was a wild card and definitely a lost soul.

Queen Melosa gave her sword to a fellow amazon sister then placed a decorative headdress on Gabrielle's head. She smiled and everyone cheered, shocking Gabrielle, causing her cheeks to redden with all the attention focused on her. For once, she received all the attention and before she was just a shadow, now she belonged somewhere, to something and to people who cared for her. She felt arms embrace her from behind and she stumbled forward. Alexa hugged her tightly and Gabrielle smiled, holding onto her hand warmly.

Later in the evening the entire amazonian community celebrated with wine and everyone surrounded multiple campfires after Gabrielle's coronation. Gaila and the other girls who babysat Solan had to go to sleep and miss out on all the festivities as they were too young. Solan was watched by a teenage amazon named Hella, and she was always good with the young children in the amazon camp so she was definitely a trusted person to watch over him for the evening.

Alexa walked over to Gabrielle as she sat alone next to the large bonfire and she gave her a chalice of wine. Gabrielle took the wine and smiled as the brunette amazon sat very close to her. "You're one of us now, Gabrielle!" she hugged her again for the zillionth time. "You must be excited."

Gabrielle smirked, "I am overwhelmed to be honest," she sipped on the wine and it was unlike the wine that she had with Xena. It was sweeter and even...herby?

"I can tell," Alexa nodded and drank the wine graciously, enjoying every sip of the sweet drink. "Gabrielle, we are friends, right?"

The blonde furrowed her eyebrows thinking that was such an odd question. "Of course we're friends."

Alexa looked into her green eyes and smiled nervously, "you can tell me if anything is bothering you, I hope you know that," she placed her hand on Gabrielle's thigh and the blonde looked down, a bit cautious of her friendly nature but smiled in response.

"Thank you Alexa. It's nice to have someone like you around," she stared into Alexa's dark brown eyes and saw her face still and Gabrielle's smile faded, unsure why she felt the way she did around Alexa all of a sudden. She thought it was just the wine, but she barely had a sip of it.

Alexa leaned in slowly and Gabrielle sat frozen then the amazon smiled, feeling Gabrielle's nerves radiating off of her, she kissed her cheek softly. She then stared into Gabrielle's green bemused eyes and grinned. "If you need anything, I'll be here for you," she pat her knee breaking the ice. Gabrielle nodded her head as a late response and felt her cheeks radiating heat as Alexa's lips grazed her cheek lightly a few moments ago.

The brunette amazon stood up abruptly, "I'm going to get some food, do you want something?" she grinned. Gabrielle looked up at her with the same shocked expression and shook her head, politely declining. Once Alexa left Gabrielle wondered if Alexa wanted more than to be friends by that look in her eyes or perhaps she was just imagining things?

She touched her cheek then thought of Xena. She had kissed her once too, but that was not the same. Their lips touched and that was definitely an odd sensation that she hadn't forgotten but she had it in the back of her mind until Alexa leaned in close then decided to kiss her cheek instead. Gabrielle couldn't decide if she liked that feeling or maybe she just wasn't used to it and didn't know how to respond to it? she didn't understand it and this was the third time. Even Princess Dido had become very friendly towards her and she couldn't deny her, but her memory of Xena always came her mind. She knew she was alive and Alexa's sudden intimacy had shocked her, but it wasn't the same, not with Xena. She would always be Xena's little blonde mouse and truth be told, she missed being called that sometimes.

Chapter Text

AN: it's been awhile...

Chapter 26

One Year Later

Gabrielle and Alexa decided to leave the Amazon grounds to go exploring in Greece. It was a much needed escape that both of them needed. Gabrielle liked the Amazons and had grown well accustomed to living with them and being one of the same. She felt as if these women were not strangers to her at all and that she had known them all her life. As time passed by Gabrielle had slowly forgotten about Xena. She began to think that she was dead as she hadn't heard anything from her for over a year now. She also thought of how Xena would contact her, she didn't know where she was nor did Gabrielle think that Xena cared. The only constant reminder of Xena was Solan, who now was a little over a year old now. He had sandy blonde hair and reminded her of Xena's younger brother, Lyceus. Gabrielle made a promise to herself that she would go to Amphipolis to see Xena's family again and this time bring Solan, but she needed to find the right time to do so. This was not the right time, she knew that.

Outside a small village near Athens Gabrielle and Alexa walked through a street filled with vendors. Some had fruits, vegetables, wheat stalk and many had clothes. It was hard to resist clothing. Gabrielle had grown to like the Amazon clothing but she still enjoyed other clothing. She always liked shopping and Alexa didn't seem to like it much as she was bored for two hours as Gabrielle stopped at every clothing vendor.

"Gabrielle...must you look at every little piece of fabric..." the redhead groaned as she slumped down on a stool next to the vendor's cart. The blonde smirked as she wrapped a scarf around her neck, admiring the fine craftsmanship.

"I'm sorry that you're so bored. I promise I'm almost finished," Gabrielle teased. She looked down to see Solan playing with some rocks in the dirt and Alexa snickered.

"See, even he is bored. He has resorted to playing with rocks," she stood up and hoisted Solan on her hip. "I think we are going to go somewhere else...less boring," smiling she left Gabrielle's side off to find somewhere more interesting.

Alex and Solan wandered around the street and she found a small tavern. She entered and saw everyone turn and look at her as she entered. She smiled at all of the men and made her way through. Solan reached out to many of the guests passing by. Alexa sat down at a table and set Solan on her lap. "This is a lot better right?" she grinned at Solan and he simply smiled at her with a toothless grin.

A nice waitress came up to them and offered if she wanted anything to drink and Alexa kindly refused. She said she'd come back in a little while if they were still there to ask again. The redhead looked around the tavern and thought it had been so long since she had been in one of these. Living with the Amazons they didn't have anything like this especially in the remote area they lived in.

She knew she couldn't stay here too long without Gabrielle because she'd come looking for her and Solan. Sighing she relaxed in the chair allowing Solan to play with her fringe top as she waited for Gabrielle to finish her little shopping spree.

As she sat there she heard a couple of young men chatting among themselves. She didn't mean to be rude and listen in but it was so hard not to since they were talking so loudly and they were a few tables away as well.

"Are you sure you haven't heard of that lady pirate?" one of the men asked loudly. Alexa groaned and opened her eyes glaring at the two but they ignored her.

The other man shook his head, "nah, I haven't heard of any female pirates, guy. There's no such thing as female pirates," he scoffed and finished off his ale.

The young blonde man groaned, "I'm telling you she's real. Long dark hair. Lots of braids too. She's tall too! Real tall! Taller than Erephtes, my cousin, I swear to you," he grinned. His friend seemed less convinced. Alexa raised a brow listening to the young lad go on and on about this female pirate with dark hair. She was more intrigued now.

Alexa grabbed Solan and walked over to their table. The two men stopped talking and looked up at her with a nervous smile. "Did you say there is a female pirate with long dark hair?"

The blonde nodded his vigorously, "yes! My friend here, Palis, doesn't believe me. He thinks that this woman is some kind of folktale," he chuckled.

Palis rolled his eyes and cleared his throat. The lanky man rubbed his cheek growing frustrated with his friend here. "That's because it is a folktale, guy." He looked up at Alexa with a small grin. "There's been a story going around about some female pirate. She deals with slave traders and takes women from brothels around all the seas." He shook his head and tapped his fingers on the rim of cup. "It's a load of horseshit if you ask me."

Alexa nodded her head, finding this information very useful to her. She wondered how long this story had been circling around. "And nobody's seen her before?"

The blonde grinned, "my cousin has seen her before when he was in the desert a few moons ago. They call her The Wanderer because nobody knows her real name."

She had a feeling that this 'wanderer' was Xena, but it didn't make much sense. A pirate and not just any pirate but a slave trading pirate? Gods knows what kind of mayhem this woman gets herself into. First she was trying to take over and destroy the centaurs, tried to assassinate the Roman emperor and now she is...a pirate? Alexa didn't want to jump to conclusions but it all seemed to add up especially with the description that these two men revealed.

"Thanks for telling me all of this," she smiled and hurried out of the tavern. The two men looked at one another a bit baffled at the young redhead.

"Do you know her?" Palis asked. The friend shook his head and shrugged his shoulders equally as confused.

Alexa came out of the tavern and quickly skipped over to the vendors only to find Gabrielle in the same spot she was when she left earlier. she began calling her name out and finally got her attention. Gabrielle frowned as she saw her running towards her with a strange look on her face. Alexa slowed her breathing and Solan reached out to Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle..." she said in baited breath. Gabrielle frowned, unsure what was going on in this girl's mind. She took Solan off her hands and gave her a chance to catch her breath.

"Breathe, Alexa," the blonde teased.

Alexa exhaled sharply and began again, "Gabrielle, I think I found out where Xena is...well, sort of...I found something that might be related to her or it is her...I'm not entirely sure but it sounded a lot like her from your stories..."

Gabrielle really wasn't following her now. She was all over the place and wasn't make a lick of sense. "What are you talking about?"

The redhead gathered her thoughts and tapped her boot on the ground, trying her best to make this sound less ridiculous than that guy did back at the tavern. "I...was listening to two men talking in the tavern down the road. One of them mentioned a female pirate with dark long hair. Nobody knows her real name so she's called The Wanderer and they also said she works in the slave trade –taking girls from around the world. Whatever that means." She stared into Gabrielle's green eyes and they seemed unconvinced.

Gabrielle shook her head, "Xena isn't a pirate and why would she...take girls?" she didn't like the sound of that. That woman that those men spoke about couldn't be Xena. It was just too strange. "It's not Xena, I know it's not. She wouldn't do that."

Alexa's jaw dropped. "If it's not her then who would it be? It's a perfect description of her Gabrielle..." she smiled. "I thought you would be happy to hear something like this," together the two walked alongside one another as they left the village area.

"Alexa, I was trying to forget about Xena," she faced her with a firm look in her eyes. Alexa seemed taken aback but remained silent. "If she is alive and is somewhere out there I want to make sure I hear it from a reliable source. Not these...stories about a pirate who steals girls." She shook her head in disgust.

Alexa pulled on Gabrielle's shoulder and stepped in front of her. "Hey I'm sorry. I just wanted to tell you...thought it would give you some hope," she lamely said.

"I don't need hope, Alexa," she took off without her and adjusted Solan on her hip walking up a large hill. "We should get back home." Alexa sighed and ran up the hill following her blonde friend.

The two made camp out in a forest nearby so they could rest before walking the rest of the way home in the morning. Gabrielle made a nice bed for Solan and he was sound asleep laying on his stomach upon a blanket that Alexa packed in Gabrielle's bag. Alexa tended to the fire silently and she looked over to see Gabrielle writing on one of her scrolls.

"What are you writing?" Alexa asked and Gabrielle looked up, now distracted she stopped writing and stared at Alexa as she was in the middle of a thought.

"Just something I needed to get off my chest. I like to write whenever I can. I wrote a lot when I was with Xena. I stopped for awhile since I lived with the Amazons." She continued jotting down more of her thoughts and a small smile crossed her lips. Alexa liked seeing Gabrielle smile, it was always a nice sight to see and ever since she mentioned the story about The Wanderer being Xena possibly, she was in a sour mood. She was just glad that Gabrielle wasn't stuck on that and was able to channel her feelings on parchment instead of verbally.

Six Months Earlier

Naseem had traveled with Xena throughout the coasts of West Africa, the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf in search for his slave women. Xena did as promised and hoarded off any intruders or trespassers in the way. Along the way she picked up a few noblemen to work with her and Naseem allowed her to invite them to be a part of the ship's crew. She felt more important now that she had a group of twenty men following her orders instead of being a one man band.

Every time they entered a new territory on the coast of whatever country they were in Naseem made deals with brothel owners, mainly men in charge and he would pay for slave girls. Xena had little contact with the girls he picked up but whenever she was done with the raid there would always be new faces below the ship's deck. Each place she went to she would buy new clothing there to blend in. she couldn't remember the last time she owned this many pieces of clothing.

Xena enjoyed the raids with her crew but she began to question why she was always following someone else. That wasn't her end goal. She wanted to be solo and do things her way. How could she do that when she was always in someone else's shadow? She didn't begin to feel this way until one night Naseem docked his ship in the Persian Gulf. Sometimes they did the exchange during the dead of the night but usually it was during the daytime. It was that night when she snapped and she changed the course of her entire mindset.

Naseem was in his office counting silver coins piece by piece. He heard a knock and saw Xena standing there wiping her sword down. He smiled and gestured her to sit down across from him. When she didn't take the offer he stopped counting and frowned. "Something the matter, Xena?" he asked pretending to care.

She shrugged, "I just want to know why we're staying here for an extra night," she questioned curiously.

He smiled, "I just got word I have extra business to conduct. I have a special mission for you, are you up for it?"

Xena frowned and sheathed her sword folding her arms. "I already did a raid earlier today, you want me to do another one?" she raised an eyebrow.

"You're just full of questions tonight, aren't you? You wanted this job and I gave it to you. You do as I say, remember? Xena, I am a very easy going man, but don't cross me," he chuckled. Xena nodded her head remaining calm. She didn't really like being told what to do but this evening Naseem was acting rather strange. He seemed to almost be greedy or something of the sort. He continued counting the silver coins and she watched him bag each one individually.

Once he finished counting every silver piece he tied the large bag and smiled at the brunette warrior. He pulled out a map from a drawer and pointed to her to come closer. She waltzed over to his desk and peered down at the map. "I want you to go through these secret passageways. There will be someone there to meet you. This isn't a regular raid. I want you to be stealthy."

Stealthy? What in gods name? "I'm not a thief, Naseem. Stealth is not in my name," she blurted out immediately.

He hushed her. "I know this, but this time you will be. I'm not asking you to steal anything, just to be quiet. Understand?" he eyed her and she pursed her lips remaining still. "The guard will meet you half way and he will escort you to a room. When you get to that room act casual. Don't show any sign of violence or you will ruin the entire plan."

What is the plan exactly? He went to explain further in detail but Xena felt so lost. She felt like she was stealing a giant jewel or some sort instead of raiding the area. The ship was docked near a large palace and that was a sign to her. There was something important that Naseem wanted in that palace and it was definitely bigger than a jewel.

After the sun had set Xena took two men with her and they went through the secret passages that Naseem showed her. She had memorized the entire map earlier and now knew where everything was. She crept down the dark hall with a torch in her hand and saw a shadow pass by. The shadow waved his hand and that must have been the signal to come forward. Halfway already? She thought. She and the two warriors tread carefully and the man was indeed a royal guard. Xena felt so strange doing this. She had no idea what she was supposed to retrieve for Naseem. He said it was something very special but that's all he would say about it.

What seemed like a lifetime later they finally reached a door. The guard opened it with a key and a bright light beamed into Xena's eyes. She blocked the light and stepped inside the room that Naseem spoke of. The guard blocked the way preventing Xena's two right hand men from coming forward. "They are coming with me," she demanded.

The guard shook his head, "no men are allowed in this area, I'm sorry." He shut the door and now she was all alone. She blinked and looked around to see pillows, couches, water pipes, candles and women sitting together. They were young women too, many of them younger than she was and she wasn't that old. She watched all of the women turn and look at her. She wasn't dressed like them which seemed odd in their eyes. She wore knee high boots, black pants, a black coat and her hair was naturally dreaded from the salty sea water, reaching her hips. She adjusted her fingerless gloves and made sure to hide her sword under her coat flaps.

She walked around the lowly lit room a bit hesitant to find out why she was really here. Naseem never told her what exactly she was supposed to bring back with her. There was a pool in the middle of the room and a few young girls no older than she was, relaxing in the water, though their faces were far from relaxed. Xena stepped around the pool and many of the women stared at her with fearful eyes. They looked like they hadn't seen a woman dressed like that before or maybe they have and they knew exactly why she was here? She had no idea what thoughts were running through these girls' minds.

Suddenly she saw a door open from the other side of the room and a man dressed in all black appeared. All of the girls covered themselves and those in the water sunk below the surface. Xena raised a curious brow and the man pointed to her. She had her hand on the hilt of her sword just in case. Slowly she came closer to him and he scanned her body then nodded to a man whom stood behind him. Next thing she knew she was ushered inside and the door closed behind her.

Xena didn't like the feeling of this place. It was like Naseem sent her on a ghost mission with no real end goal that she knew of. She walked down a long narrow hallway and saw an elderly man sitting on a couch with two young girls sitting next to him. Xena did her best to hide the disgust written all over her face. Whenever she did raids she never actually saw what kind of business Naseem did, but he sent her to do his deeds this time. It only made sense because she was a female and he couldn't enter this area of the palace. Once again she began to feel used by a man and she promised herself that she wouldn't allow that to happen. Not to mention these girls were far too young to be in a place like this. This was a harem and she knew that girls were taken from their homes to come here and train to be brides. She assumed that the elderly man was the groom. She prayed that wasn't the case.

One of the men went into a separate room and Xena heard some rustling and a low yelp from a young girl. He brought out a teenage girl, probably no older than sixteen, to the center of the floor. Xena looked at the thin girl and her skin was pale with a lot of bruises on her legs and arms. The girl wrapped her arms around herself and looked up at Xena with pleading green eyes. Her hair was blonde and long. Xena's eyes widened and the longer she stared at the girl the more she reminded her of Gabrielle. All of these girls here were Gabrielle's age and they were here against their will. Naseem had sent her to retrieve this girl to be traded elsewhere.

The man went up to the older man, most likely the sultan of this palace and whispered in his ear. He gave him the bag of silver that Naseem had counted earlier. Xena frowned as she watched the two exchange and seal the deal.

"How much is she worth to you?" Xena folded her arms.

The elderly man was taken aback at her question. He was never asked questions. His right hand man started to come for Xena but the man raised his hand and smiled at his guest. "What's it to you?"

Xena took another step forward cautiously watching the other guards in each corner of the room. "You just sold this girl and I asked you how much she is worth to you."

The man laughed under his breath. "She is property to be sold and I sold her for someone better," he scanned her body up and down making Xena's lip twitch. "If we cleaned you up nicely I'm sure you'd be worth more than all of these females in my harem," he smiled enticingly and Xena cringed.

She grabbed the girl by the arm, hoisting her up, hugging her close to her body. The girl was weak obviously and she clung onto Xena unsure what was going on. Xena pulled out her sword and pointed it directly at the sultan. "This practice is disgusting and barbaric. No human should be bought or sold for the sake of a pig's entertainment," she spat.

The sultan frowned and snapped his fingers. "Grab her," he demanded and all of the guards came closer to her. Xena looked around, circling to see she was outnumbered. She pushed the girl aside and reached for her whip on her hip. Two guards from behind came at her first and she elbowed one of them and he crashed to the floor. Cracking her whip she wrapped the other man's legs together and pulled the whip tautly and he joined his buddy on the floor.

Four other men came at her with swords and javelins. She took out a dagger hidden in her boot and slipped it into her mouth for now. She twirled the sword in her hand with a toothy grin and made a muffled screech, driving the sword through one of the men's shoulders and kicked him down to the ground. The blonde slave girl's eyes widened and she scooted away from the violence. She watched Xena slice and dice through the guards with ease almost as if she were watching a very violent dance. She was so graceful and agile yet fierce and precise with her movements. Each strike she sent her blade into each man's flesh sending them to the ground pleading for their life or flying a few feet away from her.

Xena looked around and saw the girl was no longer close to her. The sultan was still sitting down not enjoying seeing his men being defeated by a woman no less. She looked up and saw a candlelit chandelier hanging above the sultan's seating area. Taking the dagger out of her mouth she threw it above and cut the chandelier's rope and it fell onto the pillows and low couches as well as the sultan, setting everything up into flames.

He screamed in agony as his flesh began to burn slowly and he was trapped by the heavy chandelier. Xena smirked then saw the girl hunkered down in a corner, hiding her face. She ran to her and grabbed her arm. "We need to leave."

They ran out of the room and smoke traveled into the harem. All of the girls gasped and saw Xena hobbling over with a blonde teenager. They were all very confused and then saw the hallway lit in flames. "Get out, all of you!" Xena yelled at them and they refused to move, almost as if they were in shock. "What is wrong with these girls..." she whispered, "I said get out!" she yelled again and finally they listened. The harem girls gathered their clothes, or what little they had and hurried out the main exit, something they thought they'd never see again.

Xena helped the teenager slowly but surely get out of the room. They were the last ones out and she was sure there would be more guards turning up very soon so they needed to hurry as fast as they could. The girl coughed and looked up at Xena as they walked down a long hallway. "Why...why did you save me?" she asked a hoarse voice.

Xena looked down at the thin pale girl. "You reminded me of someone," she smirked.

All of the girls were lead outside of the palace and Xena set down the teenager in the sand and saw the ship waiting for her. She told everyone to wait there and she marched onto the ship, hurrying through the sea of men on deck.

Xena made her way to Naseem's bed quarters and kicked open the door. He was in bed drinking some wine, relaxing and obviously waiting for her return to deliver his prize. He raised his eyebrows at her entrance. " look angry," he teased. She drew her sword and pointed it directly at him. He sat up a bit more sober now. "What is this..."

"You sent me to buy a girl only to be traded off to some other pig to use her," she began and came closer to his bed.

Naseem shook his head, "it's just business Xena," he grinned nervously. "Why don't you put that sword away..."

Xena smiled deviously, "oh I'll put it somewhere...I want your ship and all of your 'merchandise'" she felt so disgusting even mentioning the girls like that.

"You're insane! I'm not giving you my ship!" he yelled and went to reach for a dagger laying on a table next to his bed.

She jabbed his wrist with her blade, digging it deeper into his flesh. Naseem screamed in agony as blood poured down his arm. "One last chance Naseem..." she smiled and he refused still trying to grab the dagger. She sighed and pulled the blade out of his wrist. She grabbed the dagger before he did and twirled it slowly. "You want this?" she looked at the curved blade and then back down at the dark haired pirate. "You can have it," she slit his throat with the dagger and he held his throat, gurgling as blood poured from his mouth.

Xena sighed and wiped the blood off her hands onto Naseem's white silk sheets. She sheathed her sword then grabbed Naseem by his arms and dropped him onto the floor. She knelt down and grabbed him by his legs and drug him across the floor and up the stairs to the deck. Leaving a trail of blood behind her she reached the deck.

All of the men heard footsteps and saw Xena emerge from below. She grunted and brought Naseem's body to the middle of the deck and dropped his legs. Everyone took a step back and she put her hands on her hips. "If you don't want to end up like this I suggest you follow my orders from now on," she looked around at the fearful eyes. The deck was silent, no whispers, just the sound of the wind hitting the sails. "Good. I want all of those girls brought aboard too," she pointed to the lost harem girls standing in front of the ship on the sand.

Slowly but surely all of the girls were brought onto the ship and some of the men refused to help and left the ship never to return. Others stayed, mostly the ones that Xena recruited during the raids in various territories in East Africa.

For the first time Xena felt good about herself. She had done something good and saved a lot of innocent lives and it felt...right. It wasn't what she had in mind when she wanted to be in control of something but perhaps Gabrielle was right all along about doing good for others. One could still be in control while helping others.

Later once the ship had set sail the blonde teenager saw Xena overlooking the dark sea by herself. Her face lit by fire and moonlight, she looked so different from the rest of the women she knew in her life and she didn't know many. Most of the females she knew were the girls in the harem and they were all girls just like her –taken and used.

She approached Xena slowly wrapping the blanket around her body tightly from the sea breeze. Xena saw her coming towards her and she smiled softly. The girl stood next to Xena, admiring the ocean and moonlit water. "It was really brave...what you did for me and the girls," she said awkwardly. Xena frowned sadly at that. Brave was not a good adjective to describe her.

"I'm glad that you think so," Xena answered lowly and did not make eye contact, continuing to gaze at the starry night.

"Where did you learn to fight like that? I've never seen any woman fight like that, you were incredible!" the girl beamed.

Xena smirked, "a lot of pain," it was the truth. "But nothing like what you girls went through," she stared at the girl's solemn face and tapped the railing with her fingernails. "What is your name?"

The girl half smiled up at her, "Penelope," she answered. It had been a long time since she said her real name. Xena said nothing and kept staring at her then a small smile appeared on her lips. "What is yours?"

Xena's smile disappeared and she straightened her posture. Setting a hand on the girl's shoulder she said, "I think it is best that I stop telling people my name," she smiled and left Penelope's side. The blonde turned around and watched Xena walk away into the darkness and descend below the deck. She looked out to the open waters in hope for a better life. A smile appeared, a thankful one.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

As the year went on Xena began to feel more like a nomad than a conqueror. This vision of saving young women and girls from harm's way wasn't her initial plan in life. She wanted to rule, to be the ultimate one in power but instead she belonged to the sea. She never thought she'd end up here and so far away from her original plans. She then began to wonder if she had any real plans anyway. She had just been roaming around looking for trouble and she got into plenty of that along the way, but she was never set in one place. This ship, the ocean, was her place for now. Xena knew exactly what needed to be done and she set a goal for herself. As much as she enjoyed helping these girls out she couldn't do this forever. She needed more stability, more control of her life. Right now, the ocean was in control of her heart.

The more she was away from land the more she realized how much she loved the soil. Being on a ship had its advantages but also disadvantages. She was more subject to attacks by other pirates and thievery was very common. At least on land you could just drive the blade into their chest and be done with it. On the sea everything goes and there usually is no victor unless your ship sinks or gets blown up...luckily she wasn't stupid enough to go in any dangerous areas known for the most notorious pirates in the world.

She was on the deck of the ship and she wandered around quite bored. They were in the middle of the ocean and she had a ship full of young women and girls with her. She checked the map she had with her and realized they were off the coast of Athens, the most populated city in the area. A smile came to her lips as she thought of Athens. For the first time in a year, she felt like she was at home again, but people would definitely remember her here.

The more she thought of home, she thought of Gabrielle and her son that she left behind. Her smile faded as those sorrowful thoughts entered her mind. She wanted to go back and see if Gabrielle was where they left off. She needed to find her again. They left at such odd ends and felt she needed to apologize to the poor girl. She was too young as was she, but Gabrielle was a smart girl. She was very resourceful and kind. Xena smiled thinking of Gabrielle. Yes, indeed she was very kind and naive at times, but that was what made her so special. She learned a lot from Gabrielle from the time they were together. It felt like a lifetime ago since she met Gabrielle. She decided to do something very hasty and spontaneous, although spontaneous should be her middle name.

"I want to dock the ship in Anatolia," Xena told one of the men who was steering the ship. He looked at her curiously. "After we dock there, I will no longer be traveling with you all," she looked to the map and circled the very spot where she left in Anatolia and grinned.

"Is there a reason why, Xena?" he asked, a bit confused at this sudden decision.

She rolled the map up and stuck it in her coat pocket. "There's something I need to do." She left the deck to down below to her room. They would be in Anatolia by morning and she needed to grab a few things before they docked. She didn't need much, she never did, but she would definitely need always needed that when they traveled. She didn't bother to take any clothing with her, what she had on was just fine. She didn't even know if Gabrielle was still in the same area and if she was...she hoped she was, it would be quite a surprise.

The following morning Xena gave the ship to the men and the girls were free to go wherever they wished. She told them that they were free, no longer slaves. They could start a new life here in Anatolia or travel elsewhere nearby, but Xena needed to go on an adventure of her own.

She had a shoulder bag draped over her filled coin, some trading valuables if needed and a quill. She never thought she would need that in her life, but someone in her life taught her that writing was very important no matter where they were from or where they were heading. She decided to go on foot, enjoy the scenery and even though horses were faster, she didn't want to risk being caught by anyone. She hoped that Caesar forgot about her and that little incident. That was over a year ago, almost two years ago. Caesar always had a soft spot for her though, she knew that.

It felt like she had been walking for hours and she hadn't come across any small villages yet. She figured she was too far out in the wilderness, but she was also very unfamiliar with this area. Being in this country again reminded her of all the things she didn't want to remember at all. Sinbad, Maeve, everyone in between. Everyone was gone though, nothing was here for her to remember anything. Truthfully she was glad that nobody was here, except Sinbad. She thought of him from time to time and how she used him for her little games for quite some time and yet he still went along with her. She began to think of how she treated people and how she was so good at manipulating others. She knew she was good at it...but somehow she couldn't stop either.

Late in the afternoon Xena found a village finally, she didn't want to go in the village so she stayed away in the forest not too far from it. She sat down leaning against a tree, resting her legs. She didn't know how long she had been walking but it had been quite some time. They docked early in the morning barely after the sun had risen, so definitely over twelve hours of walking.

She pulled out a dagger from her boot and took off her thick hot coat and used it as a mat to sit on. Taking her boots off she leaned them against the tree trunk. Digging in her bag she did manage to take something she got in Arabia last year –a hair comb. She touched her locks and they were definitely not her pretty silky locks as they once were. Her hair was dreaded from the salty seawater and rather dry. Sighing she started from the ends of her hair and began combing through slowly. This was going to take all night, she thought, but it'd give her something to do to make the time go by faster. Even after a long trip, she didn't really feel all that hungry.

The sun began to set and she was still combing through her hair, although it had gotten easier the higher she went up the shaft. Suddenly she stopped and smelled something in the air. Frowning she looked around narrowing her eyes.

"Ares..." she hissed. At that moment the God of War appeared in front of her with a devious smile.

"You're amazing. Hair problems?" he looked at her wild matted hair and she grimaced. Chuckling he knelt down to her eye level. "I see you are coming back to where all your problems started."

Xena rolled her eyes. "What do you want Ares?"

He tisked and wagged his finger, "you didn't forget that you still owe me a favor for helping you last year, did you?"

Her body tensed up. Truthfully she did forget about that. She had been so busy the past year that her mind had been elsewhere not to mention Ares was very absent from her life thus far. Now he suddenly appears when she was trying to right her wrongs. Of course, she thought, he would show up at a time like this.

"Marry me Xena," he blurted out and she turned to face him with malice in her eyes.

"No! I will never marry you, Ares. Not back then and not now," she shook her head and started furiously combing her hair again. The War God knew that she would be rather obstinate about this. He brought her hand to her cheek and traced his thumb over her lips. She closed her eyes and stopped breathing for a few short moments. A rush of old emotions overcame her and she snapped to and grabbed his hand staring into his cold dark eyes. "The answer is still no."

He rolled his eyes and sat down finally sitting in front of her. He grinned, rubbing his chin. "I could deliver you back to Caesar."

"I'm old news to Caesar. If he really wanted me he'd have me already," she kept combing her wild hair and Ares nodded, conceding that may be true.

"So you've come here to find your sweet Gabrielle. Do you really think she will be happy to see you again?" he toyed with her mind. He saw the gears turning in her brain. Her eyes wandered around as her thoughts overwhelmed her. "After what you did to her...I'm surprised if she even cares about you.."

Xena could understand that. Nothing that Ares said was a lie. She felt bad for leaving Gabrielle the way she did and she didn't treat her very well while they were together. She treated her like a dog sometimes, but other times, she really enjoyed her company. "I cannot disagree with you." She admitted sadly.

"At least we agree on something. So my offer..." he pressed further, hoping to win Xena over.

She shot him a glare, "that was an offer?" she mocked. "Sounded me more like a command."

He folded his hands in his lap, "look Xena, we can make this easy or..difficult. it's your choice," his manipulative words sunk into her, he knew this. "You owe me and we both know that you can't make it alone for long. You're all alone again. I can make you great, a great warrior. You know this is true. You should have taken my path a long time ago, but instead you went alone and now look at you. Alone again, so pitiful," he grinned mischievously.

The thought of becoming powerful was still in the back of her mind, but she was now having conflicting thoughts about that. She began to think of her family again, Gabrielle and her son. Everything was swimming in her mind and she didn't know how to handle it all on her own. She always did things on her own even when she was a child. Her mother always reprimanded her over the silliest things all the way until her early adulthood. Now here she was, having a debate with the God of War about marriage to save herself or to be forever lost and alone.

"I want to see Gabrielle again. I...I didn't treat her right and I want to fix that," she looked into his eyes and he seemed to understand that albeit he didn't like the blonde, it was obvious.

Ares was going to propose a very special offer to Xena and he knew she'd take it. it was too good of a deal. "I'll tell you what, princess, you can see Gabrielle. I'll even take you to see her!" he chuckled.

Xena raised a suspicious brow. "Why would you do something like that?" she questioned.

"Simple. I let you see the blonde and your son too," he added in and saw her eyes light up instantly. "Oh yes, she has him still."

Suddenly she felt so hopeful and excited that Gabrielle still had her son. He was over a year old now and she wondered what he looked like. Though, her excitement died when she came back to reality. Ares wanted something more. He didn't do these kinds of things for free and she might have to make a deal with the devil in order to get what she wanted. She was always sacrificing herself she felt like.

"But...after you have your little family," he grabbed her hand gingerly, "belong to me," he kissed her hand.

Her mind stopped ticking once he said that. He was willing to give her time to see Gabrielle and her son but at the cost of her soul belonging to him. She didn't know whether to refuse or take him up on his offer or not. She sat in silence for a few moments then looked into his eyes. He seemed so genuine right now, so sincere, but she knew his dastardly ways. He always had something else up his sleeves.

"And if I don't take you up on this exchange?" she proposed.

He shrugged, "I give you to your fan club of bounty hunters," he smiled. Xena looked at her comb and her tattered hair. She felt like her life was slowly crumbling before her eyes. She didn't know what to do. She had been at the mercy of men for so long and yet she always managed to get out of their way and do her own thing. She wanted to be in control, but yet not alone at the same time.

"You will take me to see Gabrielle then and my son?" she asked quietly. She felt like she had been stabbed in the heart and her chest felt heavy. Ares' eyes lit up the moment she asked that. He knew now that he finally had Xena, he had his warrior queen at last. Only took a few years to get her to come to his side of things, but he had her that was the most important.

"Why yes, princess," he winked. Xena smiled weakly at him.

What in the world did I just do? She chastised herself. She felt like she had just sold a body part to Hades himself, but even Hades was kinder than Ares at least. He was the god of the underworld, not the god of war or lies.

The following day Ares did as promised and delivered Xena to the rightful location where Gabrielle was. She felt his hands on her shoulders and she cringed inwardly. She didn't dare look in his eyes, though he wished she would. He knew that she'd come around eventually. As soon as he disappeared Xena was able to breathe again.

Walking into the forest she saw an amazon camp up ahead. Xena hid behind a tree and saw many amazons, young and old, walking around performing their every day duties. They had a routine. Gabrielle is living with the amazons? She could hardly believe it. she never had any run ins with the amazons, only their neighbors, the centaurs, but that was a few miles away from here. She definitely recognized this area. Gabrielle did not go far from where they separated. A smile came to her lips as she thought of that. She didn't need to go far, she told herself.

She took a few steps closer and realized what she was wearing. The pirate coat, pants, knee high leather boots and a black ruffled tunic. Her hair still looked a bit wild, but at least it was combed and she had washed her face earlier. As she continued to take a few steps closer she hid behind a tree that was within the perimeters of the camp. She heard a familiar voice and it was Gabrielle. Her eyes scanned the area and Gabrielle's voice became louder and louder. She was trying not to make herself known and then she saw her. She was walking with a girl probably the same age as her, a redhead. Xena smiled, finally able to see her after so long. She looked different, wore amazonian clothing and even braided her long blonde locks. It was a good change, she noted.

"Don't make any sudden moves!" a voice behind Xena demanded. Xena froze and she put her hands up as she slowly turned around. She saw three senior amazons surrounding her. She should have seen that coming but she was so distracted.

One of the amazons looked at Xena's attire and she found something interesting about this woman. "You are that pirate woman that Alexa spoke of." The other two amazons scanned Xena and nodded, agreeing with her.

Xena remained silent and did not dare draw any weapons as that would only create more problems. Two of the amazons grabbed Xena by her arms and forced her way out from behind the trees. Xena sighed but did not want to put up a fight like she normally would. She didn't want to ruin this opportunity to see Gabrielle and her son, if she could. Even if she had to be a prisoner of the amazons.

The amazons brought Xena to the center of the camp and all chatter halted. Everyone looked at her and were confused by her clothing. One of the amazons smiled, "look what we found lurking in our camp, ladies," she kicked Xena to the ground. Xena snarled at the amazon woman. Alright, that's enough.

Xena lowered her head, not feeling the need to be the center of attention anymore. Her heart was racing quickly. She also didn't like to be pushed around, but she wanted to remain calm. She heard the amazons whispering among themselves. Her eyes looked around to see a sea of legs coming towards her in curiosity. She didn't understand these women and their curious eyes. Had they not seen a woman who is not an amazon before?

Gabrielle pushed through the crowd and saw a veil of black hair covering the intruder's face. She looked at her clothing and saw a pirate-like coat and a pair of very nice black boots she was wearing. Her eyes widened and she pushed her way through to the front of the crowd. She felt as if she were dreaming right about now. Gingerly, she took small steps closer and closer.

Xena saw a pair of sandals moving towards her and she lifted her head slowly. The bright sunlight was blocked by none other than Gabrielle. She looked into her green confused eyes.

"Xena?" Gabrielle almost whispered. The raven haired lost friend of hers smiled weakly at her, unsure how to respond. She was at a loss for words for once.

One of the senior amazons frowned at Gabrielle and this woman, Xena. "You know this intruder, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle rubbed her forehead and nodded, "yes...yes I do. Let her go," she knelt down and the amazons hesitantly let Xena's arms go and Gabrielle touched Xena's long hair. She was thinner and just different all over. She looked like she had been through hell and back, not sure if that would be taken figuratively or not. " did did you find me?" she could barely speak.

Xena didn't want to discuss that, not right now. "I had a little help, like always," she smirked. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hands and helped her stand. She looked up at her, forgetting how tall she really was. She even towered over most of the amazons and some of these women were quite tall, at least compared to Gabrielle.

"I'm...sorry I didn't come and find you sooner," Xena admitted a little embarrassed of herself.

Gabrielle half smiled, "how could you?" she couldn't believe she was standing here right in front of her. The other amazons began to disperse no longer finding this interesting any longer. "I didn't know what happened to you. I knew you were alive, I knew it," she smiled widely.

Alexa appeared beside Gabrielle and looked at Xena, a bit in awe of her. She was so tall and intimidating, but yet her beauty was quite mesmerizing. Gabrielle looked to her amazon sister and smiled, bringing her closer into their little circle. "Xena this is my friend, Alexa. She has helped me become acquainted with the amazons."

Xena curtly nodded her head with a small smile at Alexa then turned to Gabrielle. "So, you're an amazon now?" she creased her eyebrows, finding that a bit surprising. She didn't really picture Gabrielle being an amazon.

"Yeah, kind of," Gabrielle teased. "But we can talk about that later," suddenly she became serious. She grabbed hold of Xena's hand, feeling her warmth again after so long. "Come with me." Xena came willingly and watched all the amazons' eyes follow her every move, a bit skeptical of her presence.

Gabrielle let Xena wash her body and hair. She made sure that she would look and feel presentable. It was the least she could do. Gabrielle took Xena's clothes and gave her a knee length brown dress to wear for the time being. She knew that Xena would feel a bit awkward in it, but it was all she had at the moment.

After Xena changed, she felt like this dress was a bit tight and definitely didn't reach her knees. It met at mid-thigh. This obviously belonged to someone much shorter and smaller than her, but she felt relieved to be in clean clothes. Her hair was still damp but it was clean and smooth for once. She hadn't felt her hair be this smooth in so long she had forgotten what it felt like. Gabrielle was waiting outside and she saw Xena come out looking uncomfortable. Gabrielle smiled at the tightness of the dress. It clung to all of her subtle curves, especially around her hips.

"I put your clothes in my hut," she saw Xena pulling down the dress. "Sorry about was the only thing I had..."

Xena smiled anxiously, "it's fine really, Gabrielle." She still felt awkward being around her after so long. Gabrielle was acting as if nothing happened, but she was sure the questions were about to come.

Gabrielle nudged her head towards her hut a few paces away. "I have someone that you might want to see," she smiled and saw Xena's eyes light up, though her face paled and felt like her feet were stuck to the ground. Gabrielle walked off and Xena followed her slowly.

Entering Gabrielle's hut she ducked down and heard Alexa talking in a soft hushed tone. She also heard small sounds, sounds that could only come from an infant. Instantly Xena wanted to leave, she didn't feel ready for this. Alexa turned around and saw Gabrielle with Xena.

"Oh finally!" Alexa teased. She stood up from the floor and looked to Gabrielle's beaming face then looked to Xena's nervous face. "I'll be leaving..." she carefully brushed past Xena and slipped out of the hut.

Gabrielle knelt down and picked up Solan in her arms. Xena took another step further into the room and saw her holding her son. She felt knots gather in the pit of her stomach. Gabrielle turned around and saw fear in Xena's eyes. She was such a strange woman. She could kill in a second but she was afraid of a child, her own child at that. She stepped closer to her and Xena saw her son's blue eyes, staring right at her.

"This is Solan," she said and Xena smiled nervously. Solan was suddenly quiet when he looked at Xena. It was as if he was in awe at the sight of her. Gabrielle came a bit closer. "Here, you hold him," she handed Solan to Xena and she shook her head. "Xena," she raised an eyebrow.

Xena relented and took Solan off her hands. She scanned him all over and noticed his dark blonde hair, resembling her younger brother impeccably. Though his eyes were definitely mirror images of her own. He looked up at her and reached for her hair, curiously looking over it as if he was waiting for it to interact with him.

Gabrielle folded her arms watching the two exchange with one another. He was extremely calm in her arms. He normally was begging to get out of people's arms but he remained still, playing with Xena's long raven locks. Solan looked up at Xena and he smiled at her. Xena smiled at him, no longer feeling nervous or anxious.

"See, he likes you," Gabrielle said then realized what she said. "Well, why wouldn't he..." she lamely added.

"Gabrielle..." Xena looked at her friend and felt her son tugging on her dress as she held onto him still. "I..."

The blonde shook her head, "don't even say it." she sat down on her bed and saw Xena's face change from concern to happiness. Something that she thought she'd never see. She didn't think she had ever seen that emotion from Xena, but she looked content for once. "Do you want me to leave so you can be –"

"No!" she immediately said. She nervously grinned, "I mean no...I want to be with you. You have done so much for me I cannot find enough apologies in the world, Gabrielle." She sat down in a chair and set Solan on her lap, not taking her eyes off him, like he was a treasure to her. She also couldn't get the smile off her face.

Gabrielle smirked. "Wow," she said aloud, not realizing. "I see...a lot of change in you Xena."

Xena's smile disappeared and Solan kept playing with her long hair. "Don't say that Gabrielle," she remembered what Ares had said. This little arrangement was only temporary and she didn't want to tell Gabrielle that. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she hated herself for it. Her smile came back as Solan smiled up at her with his bright blue eyes. She ran her fingers through his fine blonde hair and sighed. "I have missed so much already," Solan grabbed onto her hand and she couldn't take her eyes off of him.

Gabrielle was enjoying watching this moment between Xena and her son but just she had to know. "How did you find me, Xena?"

Xena sighed and looked up at her. "I don't want to talk about it right now," focusing her attention back to Solan.

Gabrielle understood that. She wanted to be with her son and rightfully so, but she had so many questions. She had plenty of time to ask them she supposed. "Tomorrow then?"

Xena still smiling at her child, she nodded her head. "Tomorrow."

Chapter Text

AN: yeah, I realize it's been a really long time since I've worked on this, but I want to let you all know I haven't forgotten about this story. I had a bit of writer's block with this story and didn't know what to do with it. I kept staring at it for the last few weeks, wondering what to do with it lol. Anyway, I have found an idea that might work! Hopefully you all are still reading and welcome back! Enjoy this small reintroduction here ;)

Chapter 28

Gabrielle was gathering a few sticks for the fire inside the hut to heat up some water to cook with. Alexa spotted her and it was late in the morning, she didn't expect her to be outside especially since Xena suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Gabrielle kept picking up a few more thin long sticks for the fire in the forest outside the Amazon campgrounds.

Alexa walked up to her and Gabrielle dropped a few sticks, which Alexa graciously handed them back to her. "Morning," she smiled and Gabrielle simply smiled in response. "So, how is Xena?" she asked, quite curious.

The blonde sighed heavily, "she's sleeping still. I didn't want to wake her up," she piled up all the sticks into her bag and Alexa put a few more in the bag as well. The two began walking together back to the grounds.

"Funny that she turned up so suddenly, isn't it, Gabrielle?" Alexa said with her hands behind her back, trying her best to be cautious without sounding too nosy.

Gabrielle smirked, "I asked her about that yesterday, but she didn't want to talk about it." she shrugged a shoulder and the redhead kept walking beside her. "Could you cover my post for me?" she halted and Alexa blinked, quite surprised to hear that. She smiled, "I want to talk with Xena for awhile longer."

Alexa nodded, "sure Gabrielle," she pat her shoulder and smiled warmly, "will you still spar with me tonight?" she hoped.

"Of course. Maybe Xena would like to join us?" Gabrielle's eyes lit up and Alexa frowned, not really liking that idea at all. Xena had been here less than a day and Gabrielle wanted her to be included in every little thing, and spent most of her time with her. Alexa understood that Xena was Gabrielle's friend, but she never understood how someone could be friends with their kidnapper, and also raise their child for them as well. It was a strange relationship to say the least.

The redhead amazon smiled falsely, "yeah, sure Gabrielle," she walked off back to the grounds to cover for Gabrielle. They often had to guard the outside of the campgrounds in shifts and this morning was Gabrielle's shift and since Alexa was covering for her that meant she had to do double shifts today and she wasn't exactly thrilled about that either.

Gabrielle returned to the hut and knelt down by the fireplace and threw in the sticks to the dimly lit fire that she had going since she woke up early this morning, roughly four hours ago. She peered and saw Xena asleep on the bed with Solan next to her, curled up on a pillow. She stood back up and dropped a bowl on the ground, instantly waking up Xena. She cringed and picked up the broken bowl off the ground.

Xena sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, rubbing her forehead, feeling a slight headache. Gabrielle lifted her eyes and smiled at the raven haired warrior. "Did you sleep alright?" she asked. Xena nodded and knelt down helping her grab the broken clay pieces of the bowl. "It's okay, I got it," Xena gave her the extra pieces and she walked over to a table and set the broken bowl on it.

"Where did you sleep?" Xena raised an eyebrow, looking around at the small hut. There couldn't be another room in here she thought. It was obviously only made for one person.

Gabrielle smiled, "on the floor. I didn't want to disturb you and," she stared at Solan, who was stirring in his sleep, "him," she smirked. Xena turned and saw her son roll over onto his side and yawned slightly, continuing to sleep soundly. She smiled at him and brushed her fingers through his thin blonde hair. Gabrielle watched her carefully and saw a lot of change in her since she had last seen her, which was more than a year ago, hard to believe.

That memory of Xena being dragged off by the Romans began to haunt her once she saw Xena for the first time in a year, yesterday. She was exhausted and disoriented at the time, she didn't even know if she would have made it alive, which obviously she did. Caesar made sure that he had Xena in his hands and somehow Xena made it out alive. Gabrielle wondered how Xena always got out of these awful situations, almost like she had someone with her constantly watching over her. She has escaped death numerous times. If she were a god, she'd definitely be the goddess of diversion, because she seemed to outlive everyone in the worst times possible.

Solan opened his eyes and Xena smiled down at him. He rubbed his face with his small hand, still not yet awake. Xena curled her legs close to her and leaned on the pillow, grabbing onto his hand and he gave her a toothless grin. The more she stared at him the more sad she became. He was a year old and missed a lot in a year, but how could she have come back to this place? She had no idea where Gabrielle was or even if she were alive especially with her son with her. She hadn't a clue of their whereabouts and as he continued smiling up at her with his big blue eyes, she frowned sadly as he grabbed onto her finger tightly.

Gabrielle washed her hands in the water basin and looked over to see Xena's solemn face, meanwhile Solan was happy as can be. "So, how did you escape Caesar?" she asked randomly.

Xena shook her head out her daze and stared at Gabrielle as she was washing some bowls. "I had some help," she admitted quietly. Solan laughed and she smiled down at him, becoming distracted.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow and poured some water into a pot over the fire and threw in some herbs too. "Xena, you don't have to be cryptic with me. I'm not going to arrest you or anything. I think we know each other well enough, right?" she hoped.

"Ares helped me escape from Rome," Xena said and Gabrielle snapped her head around and stood up, obviously upset. "If I were to stay there, I would have died. He offered to help me so I took it," she swung her legs over the bed and stared into the blonde's green eyes.

"Ares?!" Gabrielle frowned and ripped up some more herbs and threw it in the boiling water. "Why do you always take help that is offered from slime balls like him?" she shook her head, still not understanding Xena's ways. She thought she had changed, but apparently not.

Xena sighed and Solan crawled across the bed and wrapped himself around Xena's arm. She was becoming distracted again and tried to ignore him. "Gabrielle, I didn't have any other choice at the time. I didn't want to die..." she mumbled. Gabrielle sighed heavily and knelt down by the pot, stirring in the herbs slowly with a wooden spoon. Solan tugged on Xena's hair and she gasped and grabbed him from behind, "stop!" she said firmly and he blinked at her with his big eyes. She sighed and set him on her lap.

Gabrielle hated to ask this, fearing that it would be true, "did Ares help you find me?" she whispered, almost afraid to hear the knowing answer. Xena did not answer and that was plenty enough. "I thought so. I had a feeling," she frowned.

"Gabrielle," Xena tried to defend herself but it was pretty obvious that she was alone in this, just as Ares had predicted. She was not happy to hear about this and Xena knew that she would be unhappy about it.

"What does he want in return?" Gabrielle asked instantly and Xena stared at her with wide eyes, matching her son's bemused facial expression. She placed the spoon on the table and folded her arms. "Why are you looking at me like that? He always wants something in return. Ares doesn't do these acts of kindness for free, I'm sure you know about that..." she chided, furrowing her eyebrows.

Xena lowered her gaze and Solan grabbed her long locks and began chewing on them with a big grin. She sighed, "he asked me to be with him –to marry him," she hated to say those words and felt disgusted even mentioning it.

Gabrielle gasped and put her hand over her chest, not the least bit embarrassed to express herself. "Xena! Are you crazy?" she began pacing back and forth. Xena's eyes went back and forth as she watched her pace quickly around the room. She then set Solan on the floor so he would stop chewing on her hair. "You actually took his offer?!" she threw her hands in the air.

Xena scratched her head anxiously, "I wanted to see you Gabrielle!" she stood up and grabbed Gabrielle's shoulders firmly. "When he told me that you and my son were alive, I completely put aside the consequences because..." she felt shy all of a sudden.

"Because what?" Gabrielle folded her arms, waiting for a response, but she didn't get one and instead Xena began pacing herself. She rolled her eyes and Solan smiled up at Xena as she was pacing back and forth.

"Because...I felt bad for leaving you," Xena said softly and Gabrielle placed her hands on her hips, becoming more irritated by the minute. "I thought about you all the time! You never left my mind and when he gave me the chance to see you, I took it," she sighed and wrapped her arms around herself, feeling ashamed of her actions once again.

Gabrielle slapped her forehead and then grabbed Xena's upper arms with a firm grip. "So, let me get this straight –you took his offer and basically sacrificed yourself to Ares because you felt bad...?" she frowned and Xena said nothing. "But you didn't feel bad for me, right?" she continued and now saw Xena frowning slightly confused. "You felt bad about yourself," she took a step back and Xena unfolded her arms, clenching her fist out of frustration. "This isn't about me, this is about you," she smiled, shaking her head.

"No, Gabrielle I –" Xena tried to defend herself but she wouldn't let her have it.

The blonde put her hand up, "Xena don't try to defend yourself please," she exhaled sharply, "you always thought about yourself ever since I met you. You are very selfish and you came here to see me because you felt bad about yourself, not because you felt bad for me...or your son," she pointed to Solan and he blinked his big eyes at them.

Xena frowned and Gabrielle turned her back towards her. She turned Gabrielle back around, "Gabrielle you're wrong. I came back here because I knew I treated you badly and yes I felt –feel bad about how I treated you, but that doesn't mean that I didn't care about you. I thought you were dead! I didn't know what happened to you! How could I know?" she frowned sadly and Gabrielle huffed, blowing her bangs away from her eyes. "Gabrielle, please, you must understand..."

Gabrielle slapped Xena's hand away from her gently, "I understand Xena, but you're always looking for shortcuts in life and they don't usually end very well for you," she nodded her head and Xena sighed heavily, agreeing with her in silence. She reached for Xena's cheek and grazed her fingers across her face softly, "you need to stop and now you've trapped yourself. How will you get out of this one?" she asked.

Xena shook her head, "I don't know. I was not thinking straight at the time," she was now becoming angrier at herself by the minute.

"You do that a lot," Gabrielle said and Xena glared at her. She shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly, "what? It's true," she went back to folding in some vegetables into the pot and Xena stood there having conflicting thoughts in her head.

Solan tugged on Xena's skirt and she peered down at him, grabbing hold of her leg now. She couldn't help but smile at his innocence, "he looks like my brother," she remembered her golden haired little brother when he was a baby and Solan definitely looked like him.

Gabrielle remembered Lyceus all too well and she still felt horrible about what happened to him. She had herself to blame for that and hoped one day she could forgive herself, but she put that aside. "Yes he does," she said quietly. "Are you really going to go through with Ares' plan, Xena?" she couldn't help but bring this subject back up again. She was still upset about it and since Xena came back, she thought she'd have her forever but it looks like that was unlikely to happen. "What if you do decide to marry him or whatever...what about Solan? What will he do? You're his mother not me!"

"I know Gabrielle," Xena buried her face in her hands thinking about the stupid decision she had made. "I seem to always think of myself before anyone else..." she was realizing a lot about herself since she saw Gabrielle again. Though, she was always in her thoughts and spirit when they were far apart, but now that she was here, she began to think more clearly now. Ares hadn't really given her a specific timeline or anything, but she was sure it would end soon knowing him, he didn't care much for time, but as a mortal, she cared about time more than anything and time was not on her side a lot recently.

Gabrielle sighed, "at least you recognize your faults..." she muttered and tasted the soup she was making and burned her tongue slightly, she winced. She scraped her tongue with her finger and crinkled her nose, "do you still want to be a conqueror?" she asked, "Alexa told me that you were a slave trading pirate..."

Xena shook her head, "no I wasn't. I saved girls from the slave trade and set them free from Naseem and his many men."

Gabrielle recognized that name, "you were with Naseem?" she blinked and Xena nodded. "He's the one that sold me to Princess Dido.." an instant frown came to her lips, "low life scum, if I ever see him again I will –"

"I killed him," Xena interrupted and Gabrielle paused, eyes widening at that news. "I couldn't allow him to keep doing what he was doing. I told him I was going to take his men and ship and if he refused, I said to him I would kill him." She looked into Gabrielle's shocked green eyes. "He refused," she stated flatly. "He won't be trading any more girls," she smirked and Gabrielle was relieved to hear that.

Gabrielle sat down on the bed and Xena sat next to her as Solan was playing with a straw figurine that Gaila gave him a few months ago. He was obviously enthralled with it. "Looks like you are all alone again," she said quietly and Xena nodded. "How do you get yourself into these situations?" she smiled weakly.

"I'm unlucky, I guess," Xena smirked, jesting a bit. "Ares said that if I don't be with him he will turn me over to Caesar again..."

The blonde sighed and grabbed Xena's hand firmly, "do you really believe him? He bluffs a lot, you know." Xena remained quiet. "What are you going to do?" she stared at her but Xena kept staring off at the wall, unknowing the answer to that question.

Alexa stood at the entrance of the campgrounds and looked up at the sky and sighed. She had finished covering Gabrielle's two hour shift and now she was going to have stay another two hours for her own shift. Morgan came walking up for her shift, relieving her sister from her post. She frowned seeing Alexa standing there, as she noticed she had been on guard for two hours now.

"Isn't this Gabrielle's shift?" Morgan said, adjusting her gauntlets and was handed a staff. Alexa sat down on the ground, leaning against the post.

"Yup," she sighed heavily and drew a circle in the dirt with her finger.

Morgan lifted her eyebrow and frowned, "where is Gabrielle anyway?"

Alexa huffed and folded her arms, a bit irritated. "She's with Xena. She's been with her all morning and asked me to cover her shift.

Morgan nodded, "the pirate woman?" she asked and Alexa nodded her head, affirming her question. "I think she would make a great amazon," she smiled.

Alexa stood up and grabbed her staff, jamming it into the ground, "Xena could never be an amazon!" she snapped and Morgan's eyes widened at her hostility. "She kidnapped Gabrielle and then abandoned her own child. Amazons don't do that to one another!"

Morgan chuckled nervously, "I'm sure she's a good person, otherwise why would Gabrielle like her so much? Gabrielle is a sweet girl and I don't think she would befriend a bad person –"

"Xena is not a good person, Morgan," Alexa frowned, folding her arms leaning on the post, staring at the sun rising higher into the sky. "She doesn't deserve Gabrielle," she muttered.

Morgan sighed, "Alexa, I think you're overreacting a bit. Queen Melosa didn't seem to mind that Xena is staying here so why are you being like this?" she asked and Alexa remained quiet, pursing her lips. "Are you jealous?" she smugly smiled. Alexa frowned and averted her eyes. "Oh my gods, you are!" she laughed aloud.

"No, I'm not!" Alexa chided. "I just think Gabrielle doesn't need a person like Xena in her life. She's caused her many problems over the last year. All she ever thinks about is Xena. She couldn't stop thinking about her and believed that she was alive and I doubted her," she groaned, "turns out Gabrielle's intuition was correct all along –Xena is alive, alive and well." She pouted.

Morgan smirked and looked out into the forest, "well, Xena's baby is cute. I'm glad that he is able to stay here with us. Do you think now that Xena is back, she will take him?" she hoped not, since she adored Solan as did many of the sisters.

Alexa scoffed, "I doubt it. She obviously didn't care about him enough to stick around to look for him."

"You don't know that, Alexa. You're just assuming stuff now," she sighed and kicked some dirt with her boot out of boredom. She then heard some rustling in the bushes and grabbed her javelin, "did you hear that?" she whispered.

Alexa grabbed her javelin and frowned, looking out in the green forestry, "you should go get Ashleigh and Lana," she whispered back.

Morgan frowned, "what about you?"

"Just go! I can handle it!" she said and Morgan ran off to find the queen's royal amazon guards. She walked forward and saw the bushes moving off in the corner. Frowning she crept down low and the bushes stopped moving.

She lunged forward and jabbed her spear through the bushes and saw a young man cowering in fear of her. She rested her hand on her hip, "what are you doing trespassing on Amazon territory?" she frowned.

The man, no older than eighteen, hid his face with his arms, in fear of being killed, "please! I was just trying to hide! I didn't know this was the Amazon land!" he pleaded, "please don't kill me!" he began whimpering.

She rolled her eyes, "so pathetic," she saw Morgan running with Lana and Ashleigh behind her.

"What was it?" Morgan asked and Alexa pointed at the young cowardly man. "A male?"

Lana cringed in disgust, "what is a male doing here?"

"He said he was trying to find a place to hide," Alexa smirked, "boy did you pick the wrong place!" she chuckled under her breath.

Ashleigh raised her eyebrow, "hide?" she picked up the male by his tunic and he shied away from her in fear. "Who are you hiding from, man?" she spat in his face and he winced, afraid he might get hurt. "Hello?!"

"The Romans!" he said and Ashleigh dropped the man on the ground and he began crawling away. Lana jabbed the man's pantleg with her javelin so he couldn't move any further. Ashleigh turned to Alexa, "the Romans traveled all the way to Anatolia?" she asked, a bit confused.

Alexa frowned, "I swear by all the gods if they come here, we're in big trouble!" she marched off to go find Queen Melosa to tell her of this news.

Xena had Solan in her lap and had been contemplating what to do about Ares. Gabrielle poured some soup in two bowls for them both. "What if I decide to marry him and go along with his plan just for a little while?"

Gabrielle handed her a bowl with a spoon and Xena took it from her carefully. Solan peered in the bowl, very curious. She smiled and let him taste some of it. His face contorted and crinkled his nose at the bizarre taste to his new palate. Gabrielle chuckled, "I don't think he likes it too much..." she noticed and Solan stuck out his tongue and squinted his eyes.

Xena smiled and sipped some of the soup, "what do you think about the idea Gabrielle?"

She sighed, "I don't know Xena. That seems very risky. How could you get away from a god? They are impossible to reason with."

Xena nodded, "I know how to handle Ares. He is often blinded when he is with me. He loses all of his sensibility to make rational decisions."

Gabrielle did know that was true, she had seen it for herself. Ares was indeed obsessed with Xena. "What about Solan?" she stared down at the blonde boy still sitting on Xena's lap, trying to stick his hand in her soup bowl.

"I don't know if I could take him with me," Xena admitted sadly and as much as she hated to let go of her son again, their union might have to wait a bit longer and it was already too long.

There were loud drums and Gabrielle frowned setting down the bowl and running to the window. She saw many amazons running to the center of the campgrounds. Xena knew that wasn't a good sign and she picked up Solan in her arms and set the bowl on the table. "What is that?" she asked.

"I'm going to find out," Gabrielle grabbed her staff that was leaning on the wall and Xena wanted to come with her. She turned to her, "stay here!" she demanded and Xena sighed and Solan covered his ears from the loud drums.

Xena looked at him and his eyes were wide and he was obviously afraid and confused. She smiled at him and touched his cheek softly, "don't worry, I'm sure it's nothing," she said and he leaned on her chest, gripping her top tightly with his hand.

Gabrielle ran out to the middle of the campgrounds and Alexa, Ashleigh, Morgan and Lana were standing in a circle huddled together. Melosa showed up and snapped her fingers. Gabrielle frowned coming a bit closer. When the amazons moved she saw a man tied up with rope on the ground and she gasped.

"Who is that?" Gabrielle came and grabbed Alexa's arm.

Alexa turned to her and smiled, happy to see Gabrielle. "an intruder. He says he was hiding from the Romans."

Gabrielle didn't like the sound of that, "Romans? Here? Why would they come all the way over here?"

Alexa shrugged, "we're about to find out." She smirked and Queen Melosa sat on her throne and the man was lifted up and pushed towards the queen.

The Amazon Queen frowned at the man, "why are you hiding from the Romans?" she asked.

He looked around and saw a lot of half naked women glaring at him, holding spears, bows and swords in their hands. "I...I was...sent as a messenger," he began and Melosa lifted her eyebrow, suspicious of his words. "I took a wrong turn and ran into a Roman camp."

"you fool!" Queen Melosa stood up from her throne and balled her fists up, "you have lead a trail to our territory!" she groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose.

Morgan stepped forward, "should we kill him?" she asked her queen and the man's eyes widened at that. He didn't want to die.

Gabrielle frowned and took a step forward, pushing her way through the crowd, "now wait a minute! We can't just kill him!" she gasped just thinking of that. "He has done nothing wrong!"

Lana folded her arms, "he could be a spy, Gabrielle."

The man groveled for his life, "I'm no spy!" he pleaded to the queen, "please don't kill me! I was only trying to deliver a message!"

Melosa held up her hand and he stopped talking instantly, "do you know why the Romans are in this area?"

The man did hear some gossip in the camp before he was caught and began running the opposite way, far from his destination, "they were looking for someone –a woman, I think."

Alexa frowned and immediately thought of Xena. "You think?!" she pointed the javelin at his neck and he cowered in fear.

Gabrielle put her hand in front of the man, "would you stop?" she received a glare from her redheaded friend.

Xena handed off Solan to Gaila and walked towards the middle of the campgrounds, deciding to see what was going on for herself. She didn't want to miss anything and by the looks of it, it seemed rather important. As she tread closer she saw a man tied up and on his knees, facing the queen and surrounded by many amazons with weapons.

She came to the middle of the crowd and folded her arms, pursing her lips at the way the amazons handle their intruders. Gabrielle stepped forward in front of everyone and stared at the man in front of her. "Did you hear anything else in the Roman camp?" she questioned and he shook his head.

Xena's eyes widened when she heard Romans and stepped forward, "the Romans are in this area?" she asked and all eyes went to her, shocked to see her here.

Alexa frowned, "they're probably looking for her!" she accused Xena and all the amazons began whispering to each other. "Why else would they be in this area! He said they're looking for a woman..." she frowned deeply and all the women began agreeing with her. Xena took a few steps back, now afraid of what might happen to her but she was not being defensive for the moment, only waiting to see what they were going to do.

Gabrielle scoffed, "are you serious?" she stepped in between Alexa and Xena. "You don't know if that is true, Alexa. You can't just assume that's why the Romans are here."

Alexa smiled disbelieving Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, she was taken by the Romans! They know who she is and they're probably looking for her! Why are you defending her?"

"all I'm saying is, we don't if that's true. They could be here for someone else," Gabrielle said calmly and Xena folded her arms, watching the two go at it.

The redhead rolled her eyes, "oh please. He said they're looking for a woman and how many women do you know that are connected with the Roman Empire, Gabrielle?" she smiled, waiting for a response and Gabrielle had no good answer for that. "I thought so," she turned to the queen now, "I say we should give Xena to the Romans."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and all the amazons seemed to agree with her instantly. "What! No!" she ran to Melosa and pleaded, "my Queen, you can't possibly go along with this plan? We don't even know if this man is telling the truth!"

"I don't know Gabrielle, he seems frightened enough. I don't know many people that would lie about the Romans," Melosa said and Gabrielle couldn't believe this. All the amazons began surrounding Xena with their javelins.

Xena tensed her body and tried to back away but she was then surrounded by more women. "I can go spy on the Roman camp and find out what they want," she said and the amazons frowned, confused at her gesture. "I can bring the man with me to make sure he is not lying."

Alexa smirked, "are you going to turn yourself in?" she teased and Gabrielle frowned over at her.

Xena sighed, "if they do want me, I will make sure they don't come near your grounds..." she stared at Melosa and the queen's mind began ticking, thinking of all the possibilities. "You have my word," she said and the amazons seemed skeptical of her.

Queen Melosa stared at all her sisters then down at the man, who was still more afraid of the women surrounding him than anything. "I can send some of my sisters with you," she said and Alexa snarled.

"You are actually going to send our sisters with her?" she said, completely aghast.

Gabrielle had seen a side of Alexa that she thought she'd never see and she didn't like it at all. "Alexa, Xena is willing to go spy on the Romans and save our sisters from harm. Why are you being like this?" she shook her head, ashamed of her sister's behavior.

"I don't trust her!" Alexa walked up to Gabrielle, "why do you? She left you and her son too!"

"She didn't leave!" Gabrielle defended her friend and Xena blinked, surprised to hear that Gabrielle was coming to her defense. "She was taken away to be imprisoned. She never left me or her son, so you can just stop with your lies and accusations against her," she huffed and turned to the queen, "I will go with Xena."

Queen Melosa tapped her fingers on the armrest, "is that what you want to do Gabrielle?" she asked.

"Yes," she answered, "and I would like Alexa to come too," she turned to her with a devious grin.

Alexa gasped, "I will not!" she protested, "my queen, please don't make me go with them!" she begged.

Melosa frowned at her, "Alexa, you have not shown the compassion of an amazon lately and we help our sisters in need, even outsiders and friends of our people," she looked to Gabrielle and Xena. "You will go with them, it will be good for you," she smiled and Alexa groaned, glaring at Gabrielle then stormed off, pushing through the sea of amazons.

Gabrielle sighed, feeling quite drained and all the amazons began to disperse from the area. The man was taken to a holding cell until they would leave to the Roman camp. Xena walked up to her, "you defended me," she said softly.

"you sound surprised," Gabrielle smiled.

Xena smiled softly, "I am. Isn't Alexa your friend?"

Gabrielle frowned as she saw Alexa walking back to her hut alone, "friends don't act like that towards one another." She grabbed Xena's hand and both smiled at one another. "We are friends, right? I mean...despite all the stuff that has happened."

"I hope so," Xena winked and Gabrielle blushed a little bit.

Chapter Text

AN: happy new year! A new chapter to start off the new year ;) good luck and enjoy, everyone

Chapter 29

Gabrielle found an outfit that would fit Xena from one of the taller amazon women. A brown leather outfit with a revealing skirt to say the least and sandals that laced up her calves. Xena adjusted the gauntlets around her arms and Gabrielle had a sword for Xena and a staff for herself. Xena peered over at her and smirked. "Do I look like an amazon now?" she teased.

"Definitely!" Gabrielle smiled, and handed her the sword which she gladly took. Sighing she leaned half her weight on her staff, "what if the Romans are looking for you? Will you give yourself up to them?" she hoped not.

Xena scoffed, "as if I'd go back to that hell hole again. You have nothing to worry about, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle exhaled heavily, "I have plenty to worry about."

"Come on, let's go," Xena smiled and sheathed her sword on her back and exited the hut with Gabrielle following her.

Reaching the entrance of the campgrounds Alexa stood waiting for them both and had two horses and held the tied up man to accompany them on the journey. The redhead turned and saw Xena wearing one of her sister's armor, she was almost tempted to roll her eyes but she kept her cool, for now. Xena halted and scanned the horses with a frown.

"We will go on foot, it will be quieter," Xena said and Alexa's jaw dropped.

"But it will take us a long time to reach the Romans if we walk!" she protested. Gabrielle sighed, knowing that this trip was going to be awfully long if Alexa was going to complain the entire time.

Xena smiled, "this is my expedition and what I say goes," she said her final word and Alexa groaned and left the horses with the guards posted before they took off together. Xena smirked then turned to the man, "do you remember the way back to the Roman camp?" she asked.

The man frowned trying to think about the way he came about the amazon territory but it was very fuzzy since he was running for his life. "I will try to remember. I know they are by a river," he said and Xena nodded, trying to remember the landscape of Anatolia but she hadn't been here in so long and didn't exactly stay in one place very long when she was here.

Gabrielle spoke for everyone, "it's probably the Euphrates river. A lot of people pass through there."

Xena nodded, "so we go east then," she began walking off and Gabrielle looked to Alexa and saw a scowl on her face. Alexa pulled on the man's ropes around his neck and marched behind Xena. Gabrielle sighed and trailed behind them both.

All four of them traveled for hours and the sun would be setting soon. The warm sun began fading and it was starting to get cold. Gabrielle used her staff to aid her during the journey and she couldn't understand how Xena was able to walk such a long way without being so tired and exhausted. She turned behind her and saw Alexa was far behind them. She tapped Xena's shoulder, "I think we should stop soon," she advised and Xena halted. "She's pretty far behind us," she tried to sound sympathetic.

Xena sighed, "alright," she looked around and found a forest not too far from where they were, "we will camp out there," she pointed to the trees and Gabrielle saw an opening in it that would be perfect. She smiled up at her and decided to wait for Alexa to catch up with them.

Alexa breathed heavily and finally caught up to Gabrielle and saw Xena was walking on without them. "Does she ever stop to take breaks?"

Gabrielle smirked, "not really. When she has her mind set on something, she goes for it," she nudged her head for her to follow, "come on, we're camping out in the forest." Alexa groaned and followed behind her.

Xena gathered up some firewood and Gabrielle helped of course. Alexa tied up the man to a tree and sat down by the fire waiting for them to return. She folded her arms, shivering from the crisp air surrounding her. The trees weren't helping, creating a wind vortex and she should have brought more blankets with her but she only brought one and it wasn't very thick either.

Gabrielle picked up some more sticks and followed behind Xena, "do you think that man is telling the truth about the Roman camp?" she asked.

Xena picked up some wood and piled it onto Gabrielle's arms. "I don't know yet, but if there's one thing I know about the Romans is that they are sneaky bastards," she smirked. "I would know, I was technically a Roman once."

Gabrielle still couldn't believe that she actually worked for Julius Caesar at one time. It was so strange considering that Xena was difficult to get along with sometimes. Caesar also must have had a thing for Xena for keeping her there so long as his military commander. She assumed that Xena rebelled against him because she wanted more, but ultimately failed. She began to wonder if Xena would ever stray away from that dark path, though now that she has reunited with her after a year, she saw Xena had changed a little bit. She wasn't so hostile and obnoxious like she once was. She actually listened to her this time around and didn't argue with her. Perhaps a year away at sea was good for Xena after all, she thought.

They returned to their small campsite and Gabrielle set the sticks into the fire and poked at it, watching the flames rise high into the skies above them. Alexa scooted closer to the fire and smiled at Gabrielle. Xena appeared and then the amazon's smile disappeared and she turned away from the fire, refusing to look at her.

Xena noticed Alexa's apprehension and sat down on the ground close to the fire while Gabrielle kept feeding the flames. "You don't like me, I know," Xena spoke and Alexa frowned, trying not to look at her directly. "We still have to work together even though you aren't fond of me," she said and the amazon finally faced towards her.

"I'm only here because my queen commanded me to come with you." She chided and Xena sighed, rubbing the back of her neck anxiously. Gabrielle frowned and sat next to Xena, very close in fact, to keep warm of course.

"Alexa, give it a rest already?" the blonde sighed and reached into her bag and pulled out some bread and stretched her arm out, "here, eat something," she smiled softly and the redhead was hesitant at first but took her kind offer. Gabrielle looked over at their prisoner and felt bad for him. "Give him some too," she tore off a hunk of the bread and Alexa frowned.

"He's a prisoner, why should we share food with him?" she frowned.

Xena lifted an eyebrow, "we still need him. We can't use him if he dies from starvation," she said bluntly and Alexa groaned inwardly then snatched the bread from Gabrielle and walked over to the man to give it to him.

Gabrielle smirked, "you have empathy," she nodded, "something I've never seen before from you."

"Don't get soft Gabrielle, we're on a mission," Xena smiled teasingly and Gabrielle nudged her arm, offering her some of her bread.

Gabrielle chewed on some of the bread and looked out at the dark wilderness in front of their campsite. "You know," she swallowed, "this is weird being here with you again."

"oh?" Xena drank some water from the wineskin and Gabrielle nodded her head slowly.

"I feel as if no time has passed. We traveled together all across Greece and Anatolia. Now, here we are again, traveling together," she smiled shyly and Xena hinted at a subtle grin.

Xena ate some bread and looked at the fire in silence. Gabrielle cleared her throat and drank some water, now feeling kind of awkward for saying what she said. It was obvious that Xena was focused on something else and was probably thinking of the Romans. Gabrielle knew that Caesar would want to find Xena and kill her, he tried to kill her three times already and Xena always managed to escape whether it be by herself, Gabrielle or Ares. She was always saved from the Roman torture.

Alexa curled up close to the fire on the ground and covered herself with the thin blanket, trying to get some sleep, and hoped that Xena and Gabrielle wouldn't talk the entire night, she knew how Gabrielle was. She talked so much and when that happened, she could talk for hours on end, though she hoped that Xena was not as talkative. She gathered that Xena was really nothing like Gabrielle at all and wondered how the two could be friends or even get along for that matter.

Roman Camps

Julius Caesar sat in his tent with many candles surrounding his desk. He was looking over at a map of Anatolia and knew that the amazons were close to this area, though he was not here to cause trouble for the amazon nation. He didn't care about them nor did he care for the centaurs either, which were south of the river and closer to the Aegean Sea. No, he was going to find Xena. He received word that she stopped in Athens then traveled to Anatolia leaving her ship behind for her men to have.

He was becoming more annoyed that Xena seemed to find these men to follow her wherever she went. They did everything for her and he wondered how she was able to do it. she was once a Roman commander, and he gave her the will to do anything with his army until she became too large –her ego too big for Rome. She wanted more than Rome and secretly Caesar knew that would happen. Xena was really headstrong and desired so much more in life than to be a military commander and he saw that in her from the beginning. She was a very admirable woman and rivaled many people in the Roman territories. She was able to get rid of the Illyrian queen's men and send her to Rome as a present of her victory getting ahead of him.

Caesar was jealous that Xena was able to make anybody bend to her will whenever she wanted and people actually listened to her! This is why she needed to die so she wouldn't create an empire for herself. He knew she was more than capable of creating an empire, but he figured she was alone now since she abandoned her pirate lifestyle and went to Anatolia, as told by his spies in Greece and Aegean Sea ports. The problem with Xena is that she was incredibly recognizable and would not be able to hide from any Roman elites wherever she went, though she seemed to be very good at hiding, too good, he thought.

He crumbled a parchment in his hands out of frustration and threw it on the floor. Sighing, he leaned back in his chair and someone entered his tent. Folding his arms he frowned, "what is it?" he asked, not really wanting to speak to anyone right now.

The man took off his mask from his face and bowed curtly to the emperor, "we spotted a messenger from Athens earlier today."

Caesar tapped his fingers on his arm and then stood up, "why wasn't I informed of this?" he growled, "is he working for Xena?" he asked with malice in his voice.

He shook his head, "we do not know sir, but it's unlikely he works for Xena. She's been at sea for over a year and never stepped foot in Athens until recently." He looked at the emperor and saw his eyes widen, not quite happy to hear this news. "The messenger fled our camps and went west to the amazon territory."

Caesar smirked, "he will have a rude awakening with those amazons," he chuckled thinking of the poor man's demise and death from Queen Melosa and her people. They hated men and Caesar could understand why, men were pigs, and the amazons had no relations with men unless it was to procreate. He had no quarrels with the amazons and wished not to go there to meet with them. "Perhaps this messenger is from a Roman fort in Athens?" he hoped so.

"We don't know, sir," the man said. "Do you know why Xena would come back to Anatolia?" he asked, raising a curious brow.

"I'm sure she has people here she knows. She hid here for quite some time," he rubbed his chin, "I want you to scout the area and look for any tracks. We don't know where she is hiding." He waved his hand to dismiss the man and he left his tent. Caesar paced around his tent and looked to a box filled with fine jewelry. He picked up a necklace with a red ruby carved into the pendant. "You could have had the world, Xena," he frowned and threw the necklace back into the box. "But you chose to betray me instead."

The man went to the leader of the elite Roman army and tapped on his shoulder, "the emperor wants us to scout the area," he said and the general nodded.

"Good. It is too quiet in this area," the general said. "Toris, you believe that Xena is in this land, right?" he raised an eyebrow.

Toris nodded, "I have no doubt that she is here, sir. Trust me, I know her very well," he frowned, thinking of his little sister. He never thought that Xena would go down such a dark path as this and she really needed to be stopped. He decided to work for the Roman army to find Xena, convincing that Caesar that Xena was never going to stop what she was doing. She would always find someone else to use and abuse for her personal goals and gains.

He also vowed that Xena would be imprisoned for her treasonous acts against the Roman Empire. She obviously lead an interesting life since she left and he had no idea that she would become a military officer, let alone for the Romans. She always talked so badly about the Romans and said they were tyrannical and tricky. She never trusted them and Toris wondered why she would become one of them, a Greek woman no less, working for the Roman emperor? It was odd to say the least, but secretly, he was quite proud of his sister for making it up to the top of food chain. As a roman officer he figured that she was treated like royalty and could basically do whatever she wanted, that is, until she betrayed the Romans and set her own campaign against them. He was astonished that Xena attacked Greece –her own people –to gain power and recognition. Toris always knew that Xena was different than the other girls in Amphipolis. A simple life of wife and mother was definitely not for her. Though, he never expected her to turn out like this – a rebel and fugitive of the Roman empire. She obviously got herself into a heap of mayhem and disaster.

Mounting his horse he lead the men into the outer lands of the camp, to scout and find his sister. Tiberius rode beside him and put on his helmet. Toris pulled on the reins of his horse, "we should be very quiet," he said and his eyes scanned the darkness before them. "Xena is sneaky."

Tiberius smirked, "but she is no thief, Toris! How sneaky can she be?" he chuckled and rode down the hill to lead the Roman soldiers to search for possible tracks.

Toris frowned, "you obviously don't know her," he muttered and kicked the horse and rode down to meet the rest of the men.

The following morning Xena woke up and saw Gabrielle was curled up against her, resting her head on her thigh. She smiled down at her and almost hated to wake her up, but they really needed to get going. The fire looked to have died out a few hours ago, though there were some embers still sparking, slowly. Alexa was asleep as well with her knees close to her chest to keep her warm.

Xena moved and Gabrielle stirred in her slumber and slowly she moved her leg and the blonde woke up. She sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Why are you awake so early?" she griped.

"We need to get moving soon," Xena stood up and brushed her hair with her fingernails and adjusted the amazon warrior clothing she wore, which definitely wasn't her style, but it was better than nothing. "Wake her up and him too," she pointed to the snoring prisoner still tied to the tree. "I'm going to get some water from the pond over there," she grabbed the wineskins and smiled at the still sleepy Gabrielle.

Gabrielle yawned then crawled over to Alexa, shaking her shoulder gently, "hey, wake up," she said and the redhead groaned, pulling the blanket tighter around her body. "Xena says we need to leave soon!" she said and shook her shoulder harder this time around.

Alexa growled and threw the blanket off and sat up, glaring at Gabrielle. "Do you always listen to everything she says?" she scratched her head and Gabrielle frowned, not appreciating the tone of voice of hers.

"If Xena says we need to leave, then we do. This is her mission, remember?" Gabrielle stood up and began packing her bags to travel with. She knew Xena wouldn't take long, she worked very fast.

The young redhead amazon stood up and brushed off the dirt from her blanket and folded it back up to put in her bag. "Why are you friends with her, Gabrielle? You two are polar opposites!"

Gabrielle smirked and slung the bag over her shoulder, "sometimes opposites attract, Alexa" she saw that her friend was not convinced. "She's not so bad once you get to know her."

Alexa scoffed, "yeah, you would know, since you were kidnapped by her," she stuffed the blanket in her bag and Gabrielle glared at her, folding her arms. "Why didn't you escape from her?"

"I tried," the blonde sighed, "but she found me and took me. She didn't kidnap me first actually. She took me into Caesar's palace because I was performing at a Bacchanalia. She didn't want me to travel alone."

Alexa couldn't believe that story, "so out of the goodness of her heart, she took you in? that's it?" she shook her head. "I don't believe it."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "don't believe me all you want. It was when I tried to escape, she kidnapped me. It wasn't as bad as you think it is. It did get worse though when she met..." she trailed off, thinking of Sinbad and that stupid woman, Maeve, who seemed to have Xena under some kind of a spell at the time. Xena wouldn't listen to anyone but her and Sinbad was a nice guy, a thief, but nice. He really loved Xena and she just used him. Gabrielle figured that Xena probably regrets ever treating Sinbad so horribly, but she didn't know because she hadn't even spoke of him since Xena arrived at the amazon grounds.

"Until she met who?" Alexa said, blocking Gabrielle's memories.

The blonde shook her head, "never mind. Just get your stuff and wake him up. Xena will be back soon," she turned and made sure the fire was completely out before they left. She needed to get rid of this campsite just in case the Romans came this way and they would surely know they were here.

Xena finished filling up the fourth wineskin and corked it. she sighed and stood up to leave to get back to the campsite hopefully everyone was awake by the time she returned. Turning around she bumped into Ares, of course, she thought.

"What do you want?" Xena frowned and he smiled at her.

"Don't you remember our deal, Xena? You're mine. I let you see your blonde girlfriend and son, didn't I?" he folded his arms and saw her eyes narrow at him.

"Yes, I didn't forget," she admitted softly, almost wanting to forget about this entire thing altogether. She brushed passed him and he grabbed her arm, pulling her back. "Ares!"

He raised an eyebrow, "you're going to spy on the Romans, aren't you?" he said and she didn't protest. He chuckled, "they're looking for you. Caesar is obsessed with you!"

"And you aren't?" Xena replied with a small smirk on her lips.

Ares didn't like the sound of that, though he couldn't deny that he always had a soft spot for her ever since they met. He let go of her arm and she threw two of the wineskins over her left shoulder. "You made a deal with a god, Xena. You can't break that deal or –"

Xena pursed her lips, "or what? You'll turn me into Caesar and his cronies?" she smiled. "What if I turn myself in?" she inched closer to his face.

The war god laughed, "now would you do a stupid thing like that? After I worked so hard to get you out of his hands," he smirked, folding his arms, refusing to let her pass. "Besides, I can't let you do that..." he touched her cheek softly, "because you belong to me now."

Xena closed her eyes, feeling his soft touch and almost instantly felt disgusted. All of this was so wrong and Gabrielle was right, she was trapped in her own mess, once again, but this time it was different, Ares was more involved than ever before. She knew that if she took this deal that she would be intertwined with him, and technically be a queen, a wife –she didn't want to be a queen or a wife, especially not a wife. She worked hard to get away from that life.

She looked up into his dark mysterious eyes, "and what about my son?"

Ares cocked his head, "what about him?" he saw the look in her eyes, "oh, I see, you want to keep him don't you?" he smiled, nodding his head as she remained silent, staring at him intensely. "Well, mortals can't live in Olympus, you know that Xena." He chuckled under his breath. "But you can see him whenever you want of course," he winked and she still was silent, though her eyes lowered.

Xena was now regretting everything she had ever done in her life, including this decision to take Ares' offer. She should have never taken the offer in the first place. She didn't need his help, it always ended so badly for her in the end. It appeared as if she would never learn her lesson, like Gabrielle told her once before, a year ago. She was selfish and never thought about her consequences of her ill actions. Now that she had a child, it became even more complicated. She thought she'd never have children, though she loved her son before he was born, she didn't want to admit that, but it was true. He was a constant reminder of something good in her life and if she couldn't have him with her, then what was the point?

"Are you really going to help those two nitwits find the Roman camp? What are you going to do when you get there, huh?" Ares frowned.

She lifted her chin and folded her arms, "I'm going to give Caesar what he wants," she smirked and walked off. His eyes widened.

"Don't do anything stupid, Xena!" he yelled out and she ignored him, walking away back to the campsite. He groaned and disappeared, making sure to follow her the rest of the journey.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

Gabrielle walked alongside Xena as they were coming closer to the Euphrates River, she felt a sense of fear and distress come over her. She didn't want Xena to turn herself in if they came into contact with the Romans. She didn't want Xena to keep fighting either and she was technically a fugitive in the Roman Empire, though she didn't understand why Caesar wanted her so bad anyway. Obviously, she thought, their relationship was much more complicated than it seemed to be. Xena usually got her way when things went awry, but she didn't always win, in fact, she lost a lot. She lost everything in one night due to Caesar and Dido searching for her to execute her.

Caesar failed to kill Xena the first time when he tried to crucify her, and then failed again when he arrested her a year later, when Ares helped her escape. Gabrielle understood that Xena did not want to die, and she was right, it wasn't her time to die, but she kept playing with life like it was some kind of game. Though, she had been separated from her for over a year now and she saw that Xena had changed quite a bit. She was not so uptight anymore and wasn't entirely too selfish –she even cared about her son, which she always knew that Xena cared about him even before he was born.

Gabrielle looked behind her and saw Alexa trailing far behind with their prisoner and she frowned. She grew to like Alexa over this last year and thought she was her friend, but all she had done so far was complain about how much she disliked Xena. Perhaps, she shouldn't have told her all those stories about Xena while she was away because it only made the situation worse. She was kind of surprised to see that Alexa was jealous over hers and Xena's relationship.

She ran up to catch up to Xena and smiled. The raven haired woman smirked and squinted her eyes, trying to see which direction to go in. "You know Gabrielle, you don't have to keep following me around."

The blonde shrugged, "I like to follow you around, Xena and it would be pretty difficult to get rid of me now!" she teased and Xena sighed heavily.

"You should have your own life, Gabrielle. Go be that poet you strived to be, or get married and have children of your own, or remain an Amazon," she said and Gabrielle didn't really want to be any of those things anymore. Xena halted and placed her hand on her friend's shoulder, "you deserve so much more than me, Gabrielle. I have caused enough chaos in your life," she half smiled then continued walking on.

Gabrielle gasped and ran up to her, grabbing her arm, "but Xena! You can't just get rid of me after all we've been away from each other for a year and –"

"And you took care of my child for me and I never asked you to do that. That's not your job, it's mine and I already failed," she frowned and kept walking onward.

Gabrielle was now getting a bit irritated seeing Xena disagree with her so much. "Xena, I'm your friend and I would help you in any situation. I could have left you to die back on that beach when Caesar broke your legs, but I didn't. And I could have left you when you found Sinbad, but I didn't. I wouldn't have done any of this for anyone. You are special to me," she smiled and Xena rolled her eyes.

"Gabrielle, everything you have done was because of me! It was always about me, never about you. Why do you still want to be around me? I am no good to you."

"That's not true! I think you are a good person Xena, but you make bad decisions..." she muttered. She sighed seeing that Xena was not interested in this conversation at all. "From now on, I think I should help you make your decisions."

Xena snarled and turned towards Gabrielle, grabbing her shoulders firmly, "Gabrielle! I don't want your help anymore! You have helped me enough and I have caused you too much pain already!" the blonde widened her eyes and Xena sighed and looked out to the hill in front of them. "We should keep moving. I smell Romans."

Gabrielle frowned, "you are still thinking of becoming a warlord aren't you?" she asked and Xena ignored her. "Aren't you?!" she yelled and Xena kept walking faster, ignoring her. She laughed mockingly, "oh that's just great Xena! You are going to marry Ares and forget about me and your son, again!"

Xena rolled her eyes, clenching her teeth, "you really don't know what I am thinking right now, Gabrielle." She marched up the hill and squinted her eyes, finally able to see the Euphrates River and indeed there was a Roman camp just like the prisoner said there'd be. Gabrielle ran up the hill and was about to keep chastising Xena some more until she covered her mouth and Gabrielle grunted, slapping Xena's hand away. "Look..." she whispered and pointed from behind a tree.

Gabrielle blinked, "so there is Caesar's camp just like that guy said..." she whispered and ducked down behind the tree. "What do we do now? We know they're here, just like he said."

Xena frowned and immediately spotted Caesar talking to Tiberius and she always hated that man. Tiberius did anything for Caesar. He was worse than a lost puppy, though he was a good general, but not good enough. She thought she was a much better military commander than Tiberius could ever be.

Alexa breathed heavily and walked up the hill to see Xena and Gabrielle crouched down behind a tree. "You two walk so fast!" she sighed heavily and Xena grabbed the redhead's arm, pulling her to the ground. "Ow! Hey!" she grunted then she saw the Roman camp. " he was telling us the truth."

The man sat down and saw the Romans, "that's them! That's the ones who kept trying to chase me away!" he yelled and Xena covered his mouth with wide wild eyes.

"You are free to go tell us where you came from," she smiled creepily and he glared at her, afraid what she might think of his explanation. She let go of his mouth, "and talk quietly..." she hissed.

He gulped and looked to Gabrielle and Alexa, but then stared back at Xena. "I came from...Carthage..." he whispered and Xena groaned and pushed the man down. "Hey!" he covered his face with his hands afraid of being hit. "I was delivering a message to someone," he said and began breathing heavily.

Xena stood up and folded her arms, shaking her head. Gabrielle frowned, "Dido is still working with Caesar!" he grabbed the man by his tunic and shook him, "what do you know about Dido?!"

The man winced at the short blonde, "I don't know anything! I'm just a messenger! Please!" he began crying and Gabrielle let go him and looked to Xena.

"Messengers always die first," Xena chuckled and Gabrielle gave her a glare. "Look Gabrielle, Dido isn't going to spend her time looking for you. If she wanted you that badly she would have found you a long time ago. She's probably working with Caesar to find me..." she sighed and rubbed her forehead thinking what a mess this all was and to be truthfully honest, she didn't know how to fix it.

Alexa scoffed, "well why don't you turn yourself in and be done with it! Then maybe you can let Gabrielle live in some peace."

Gabrielle turned her head around and pushed Alexa into the tree, pinning her arms around the large tree trunk. "I'm tired of you Alexa! All you've done is talk badly about Xena and I don't want to hear any more of it. Everything I did was my decision and I could have left many times, but I chose not to, but I am choosing to leave you."

Alexa gasped, "but Gabrielle! She's not a good person! She has caused you so much pain and anxiety since you met her! Even you said so yourself!" she shot a glare at the pirate woman. Xena lowered her eyes, no longer wanting to hear what the Amazon had to say. She focused on Caesar and saw a group of men riding off into the grassy plains and frowned, wondering where they were off to.

"Xena..." Gabrielle walked over to her and touched her shoulder. Xena shrugged her arm off, "I'm sorry for what I said. I was upset at the time. It was right after you were taken to Rome and –"

"Gabrielle..." Xena looked at her with a sad frown, "you have every right to say those things about me. You don't need to apologize to me," she said and Gabrielle sighed, feeling horrible about this entire situation. Xena smirked and snatched Alexa's bow from behind her and Alexa gasped. Xena ran to the other side of the hill and hid behind another tree.

Alexa growled, "what does she think she's doing?!" she yelled and Gabrielle frowned, staring at Xena.

Xena squinted one eye and pulled back two arrows, aiming it at Caesar's elaborate tent. "You always had such nice tents, Caesar..." she hissed and released the two arrows. Gabrielle gasped, covering her face with her hands, fearing the worst. Xena brought two more arrows and saw Caesar come out his tent holding two arrows in his hands. She smiled and shot the arrows directly in between the emperor's legs.

Caesar frowned looking at the two arrows in between his legs and his body tensed looking at them. His eyes traveled around and fixated on the hill barely a mile away. He broke the arrows with his knee and threw them down in front of him. "Xena!" he yelled, "come out now! I know it's you!" he snarled and pulled out his sword, ready for her.

Toris came out of his tent and saw broken arrows all over the ground in front of the emperor. He frowned and walked over to him. "What happened here?"

Caesar growled, "Xena's what happened..." he smiled, waiting for her to come out but when she didn't, he knew either that she was probably alone or had a slew of men with her but either way he would be ready for her.

Toris looked at the hill and saw nobody there and if it was Xena, surely she already had a plan in mind. He whistled at his men. "Ride to that hill!" he demanded and jumped on his horse, pulling the helm over his head. He turned to Caesar, "if it is her, then I promise to bring her to you, sir."

Xena hid behind a tree and smiled over at Gabrielle but she didn't feel so enthralled as her. "Are they coming?" she asked and Gabrielle peeked from behind the other tree, seeing a slew of Roman soldiers riding up to them. She breathed heavily and hit her head against the tree trunk.

"Oh gods, a whole group of them is coming up here!" Gabrielle said and Xena nodded, really liking this idea now. "Are you crazy? We're going to get killed!"

Xena chuckled, "no we're not. You should know me well enough, Gabrielle." She loaded three arrows this time and poked her head out from behind the tree and aimed at the horsemen riding towards them. She shot the three arrows and three men fell off their horses, rolling down the hill. She grinned and realized she was now out of arrows. She glared at Alexa, "you only carried seven arrows?!"

Alexa gasped, "well I didn't think we were going to go on a murder spree!" she rolled her eyes. The prisoner began ripping the ropes around his wrists with his teeth and finally after a few attempts he freed himself and untied the ropes around his ankles and ran off. Alexa's eyes grew in fear, "he's getting away!"

Xena sighed, "just let him go, he's going to die anyway," she said and threw the bow down and pulled out her sword.

Just as Xena said, the man was shot down by Roman archers back in their camps. Alexa closed her eyes tightly seeing the man fall to the ground instantly with four arrows in his back. She felt bad for him even though he came into the Amazon territory, he didn't deserve to die like that, she thought. And she blamed it all on Xena. "Was this your plan all along? To die?!" she yelled at Xena.

Gabrielle punched Alexa in her jaw and the Amazon fell on the ground unconscious. Xena blinked and Gabrielle wagged her hand, feeling her knuckles already becoming bruised. "She talks too much," she smirked.

Xena was crouched down and she saw the soldiers riding up to them closer and closer by the second. "You stay here and I will handle them," she said and ran out from behind the tree and attacked the first Roman rider that approached her. She drove her blade through his chest and kicked him off his horse. Another man came riding towards her with a javelin and she grabbed the javelin and flipped him over onto the ground, then stabbed him in the back with her sword.

She pulled her sword out of the man and jumped on his horse. She saw the last rider and smiled at him, twirling the sword with her wrist. He pulled on the reins and came to a skidding stop. Her smile disappeared as she recognized that face before her. All dressed in Roman clothes, armor and even wore that stupid red plumed helmet too. "Toris?" she said, not believing it for himself.

Toris frowned, "Xena, if you come quietly, you won't be hurt." He said and didn't even bother pulling out his own sword to fight her.

She yanked on the reins and began circling around him, "you work for Caesar?" she snarled, "how could you?!"

He watched her carefully as she held the blade dangerously close to him. "You are out of control, Xena! You need to be arrested for your crimes against Rome." He watched her and she came 'round to face him with a shocked, yet sad expression on her face. He sighed and took off his helmet, sitting it on his lap. He hated to see his sister like this and didn't really want to arrest her, but he had no choice otherwise he would be killed by the emperor himself. "You must understand, Xena, it was the only thing I could do."

She scoffed, "excuse me? You decide to work for the Romans in a plot to capture me like some dog?" she shook her head with an eerie smile and twirled the sword in her hand. "You are no brother of mine."

Toris frowned and put his hand up, "Xena! You tried to kill the emperor and escaped twice! What happened to my little sister?"

Xena furrowed her eyebrows, "she's dead and you will be too if you don't get out of my way!" she swung the blade towards him and he gasped.

Toris unsheathed his sword and thankfully blocked her blow and pushed her backward. Both kept circling around one another, holding their swords firmly. "Don't make me do this Xena. I don't want to kill you."

She smiled, "I know so that's why I will kill you first," she cried out and took another swing and he blocked it again. She put all her weight down on the sword and he cringed, trying to hold her off. He never thought she could be that strong. He always let her win when they wrestled as children, but this time, he wasn't letting her win, she was winning all on her own. "You idea...what you're doing!" she growled and kicked the sword right out of her brother's hand and she grabbed it, pointing both blades, crossed in between his throat. "," she smiled, "you let me ride free and never look for me again."

He breathed heavily as he felt the blades graze his skin, fearing that she would chop his head off. "And what about your army?!" he spat and her eyes widened.

"I have no army!" she yelled back. "Does it look like I have an army, Toris?!" she scoffed, "what has that idiot been telling you?" she laughed. "If I had an army then I would wipe Caesar and all his men out!"

He felt a bit stupid and embarrassed now. It was obvious that she was alone and had nobody with her, but she had escaped Caesar's death traps twice now and she hadn't made an advance on him in over a year. He wondered if it was the right thing to try and capture her like Caesar wanted him to. He glanced up at her blue eyes, "just go..." he muttered and she released the swords from around his neck. "Go!" he yelled and she frowned, sheathing her sword and then threw his sword on the ground.

"Never work for scum like that, Toris," she pulled on the reins and rode off on the hill. She smiled down at Gabrielle and extended her hand, "are you coming or what?" she said and Gabrielle climbed aboard. The blonde looked at the defeated Roman and noticed that nobody else was coming to attack them. The man on the horse picked up his sword and rode off back to Caesar. Xena sighed and grabbed Alexa by her arm and slung over the horse behind Gabrielle.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena, "why didn't he kill you?" she asked and Xena kicked the horse, riding off.

"He's my brother," Xena hated to admit and Gabrielle sighed, leaning her head against Xena's back. She looked behind her and saw Alexa was still knocked out and hoped she would stay that way until they reached the Amazon territories, which would take awhile and they would have to go back a different way.

Toris returned to Caesar and the emperor did not look happy. He folded his arms, "you let her escape!" he yelled and Toris took off his helmet, glaring at Caesar.

"She doesn't have an army, sir," he said and the emperor raised an eyebrow at him. "She told me."

Caesar laughed, "she told you? And you actually believed her?!" he shook his head, thinking this was going to be a never ending battle. "Fine, it's fine. We leave Anatolia at once since it's obvious that my men can't do anything right and let the woman escape...for the second time!" he marched back into his tent, furious at the entire situation.

Tiberius watched Toris dismount his horse and walked over to him, grabbing his arm. "What do you think you're doing?" he hissed.

Toris frowned, "going to my tent?" he said nonchalantly.

The general pulled him aside and wagged his finger in Toris' face, "you let Xena escape. You didn't even put up a fight! I saw you..." he smiled and Toris averted his eyes, "do you know Xena?" he said nothing and Tiberius pat Toris' cheek. "you do! What is she to you? Is she a lover of yours?"

Toris cringed in disgust, "no!" he snatched his arm away from him and walked into his tent, though the general followed him. "Look, I don't want to talk about this right now," he muttered and began packing his belongings.

Tiberius folded his arms, leaning on the tent's post, "so that's it? you're going to leave? You can't do that, you will be deserting the emperor and you know what that means?" he chuckled.

Toris turned around, "I know what it means!" he yelled back and the general put his hands up for surrender.

"You are really upset about this..." he said seriously and Toris kept packing his bags. "How do you know her?" he whispered, feeling as if there were ears all around them.

Toris threw his bag down and let out a big sigh. "Xena is my sister," he mumbled and Tibierus' eyes grew, quite shocked to hear that. "Do not tell anyone about this!" he reprimanded and the general nodded his head slowly. He sighed and left his tent, "I'm going to get the stuff off my horse..."

Tiberius rubbed his chin and thought this would be a great opportunity for Toris, considering what he just did. He let Xena go because he obviously felt bad about arresting his sister. Sister, he kept saying to himself over and over again. He couldn't believe that woman had any siblings and actually had people that cared about her even after everything she had done. He smiled, thinking it would be a good idea to tell Caesar, though of course, keeping the secret safe between him and the emperor. Toris would never know about this little exchange ever.

Xena found a spot to camp out in and she made sure it was in a very secluded area and was careful not to create tracks in case the Romans decided to come after her. Gabrielle poked the fire with the stick and bundled up Alexa with two blankets. Xena sat down and sighed. "Was that really your brother?" Gabrielle asked.

"Yes," Xena threw some twigs into the fire and drank some water. She was tired of running and tired of riding away from people and was especially tired of hiding. It was much easier living on a ship because nobody could find her because she was always on the move. She thought that life would be better, but only if she could do it herself with no strings attached and that meant Ares and even Gabrielle. She didn't want to keep Gabrielle around because something bad always happened to her.

"That was nice of him to let you go..." she managed to say and Xena said nothing. "Where do we go now?"

Xena sighed, "I'm taking you and Alexa back to the Amazons. Then I'm going to leave and take my son with me," she said and Gabrielle threw the stick down, gawking at her.

"Xena!" Gabrielle, "I'm not going to leave you and you're not going to take Solan if I can't come with you!" she felt so not included in this and Xena obviously already made up her mind. "What about Ares and his plan? Are you going to marry him after all? What will you do then? Become a great warrior queen that you always wanted to be? What if something happens and you get hurt or die?!"

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's arm firmly, "Gabrielle, I'm not going to take you with me. It's too dangerous and you've done your part already. You don't deserve someone like me. I'm always running from someone and you might get hurt too if you follow me."

The blonde scoffed, feeling so frustrated she stood up and placed her hands on her hips. "You can't make me stay, Xena! I want to come with you! I waited for you and thought you were dead! I never want to be away from you again, even if you do another stupid thing, I'll be there with you!" she yelled and Xena looked up at her with a blank face. She sat back down and grabbed Xena's hands in her own. "Xena please. I care about you and I care about Solan. We can raise him together and forget about everything that happened," she smiled hopeful that Xena would change her mind.

Xena shook her head, "no, something will always happen, Gabrielle. I can't run away from my problems."

Gabrielle sighed and scooted closer to the raven haired woman and stared into her eyes, "am I a problem to you?" she said and Xena lowered her head, "please let me help you. I want to come with you," her eyes filled with tears and Xena sighed, touching her cheek softly.

"Gabrielle," she grinned, "I care about you and I don't want you to keep following me into danger like you have been. Your life this past year has revolved around my consequences and I don't want to hurt you anymore."

The blonde wiped her eyes and sat close to Xena. "Solan likes to fall asleep listening to stories..." she began and Xena brought her blanket around her body. "And he wakes up early in the morning because he likes to play with his toys and he likes to play hide and seek sometimes." She saw Xena smile subtly. "See? You need me," she grinned shyly and Xena chuckled under her breath.

"You're making this very hard for me Gabrielle..." she sighed and scratched her cheek anxiously.

"Please, Xena. Let me come with you!" she pleaded and Xena shook her head, not knowing what to do now. "Forget about Ares and just let me come with you. I'll go anywhere with you!"

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's hand, "Gabrielle, if you come with me, you can never return here to see your Amazon sisters, you know that right?" Gabrielle nodded, already understanding all the sacrifices she was willing to make and already made. "And we'll always be running away..."

"I know, I know, Xena. I'm prepared for anything and everything," she smiled, now feeling excited. "You're my friend and I want to help you," she leaned forward and kissed Xena's cheek.

Xena blushed and smiled weakly, afraid to show her emotions. "I guess I'm a pretty bad friend then..." she said, scratching her head, "I kidnapped you and treated you horribly and you took care of my son for me. I don't think I'm a very good friend."

Gabrielle wrapped her arm around Xena, "we can work on it."

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

Returning to the Amazon territories Xena remained quiet the entire way back, while Gabrielle of course spoke to Alexa during the journey. Alexa was still upset that their prisoner died instantly by Romans open firing towards them. She was also glad that she was returning home and wouldn't have to be around Xena anymore. She didn't care what Gabrielle said to try and convince her otherwise –Xena was not a good influence on her and she made bad choices, which Gabrielle acknowledged. Alexa didn't understand why Gabrielle would ever want to stay friends with the woman, what was so special about her, she wondered?

Xena certainly wasn't stupid, in fact she was pretty smart since traveling with her. She was skilled in combat and war tactics, though Alexa knew that was no surprise since the woman used to work for the Romans until she betrayed them altogether. A woman working for the Romans was unheard of and she wondered how in the world, Xena was able to snag that job. She probably knew people; yes, that was definitely it, Alexa kept telling herself that.

Gabrielle escorted Alexa safely to Queen Melosa and went on her way back to her home. She walked in and found Xena dressing in the clothes she came in, since they were cleaned, of course. It was odd seeing in her those clothes and it reminded her of her old self, which Gabrielle knew was not abandoned. That Xena was still inside her, though she had softened somehow, but not enough. She wanted to trust Xena, but she couldn't fully trust her, not yet anyway.

Xena smiled, turning around catching a glimpse of her friend. "I want to leave as soon as possible," she sheathed her sword and Gabrielle blinked.

"Now? You want to leave now?" she asked.

Xena nodded, "better to leave now than wait, Gabrielle," she turned and saw Solan on the bed, playing with some wooden toys that the Amazon sisters gave him. She smiled and picked up the one year old. "Do you want to go on a trip with me?" she asked and he grinned at her, toying with her long hair. "Gabrielle is coming too, I know you like her very much..." she poked his nose and he giggled loudly close to her ear. "And maybe you will like me too," she sighed and fixed his wispy blonde hair.

Gabrielle stared at all of her belongings she had sitting around in the small hut and thought of how she came here. It was a big adjustment for her, but she grew to actually like it here and liked all of the Amazon sisters too. She wanted to go with Xena and of course help her take of Solan too, but she was now feeling conflicted. Xena was a very in the moment kind of person and when she wanted to do something, she wanted to do it now –immediately. She just wasn't sure if she wanted to move that fast again with her.

"Gabrielle..." Xena walked over and touched her shoulder. The blonde jumped, coming out of her little daze. "Are you alright?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm fine," she sighed and picked up a dagger that Morgan gave her last year. Hugging it to her chest she turned to Xena. "I'm going to miss it here," she admitted.

Xena smiled softly, "I know you like these people and that's why I wanted to go alone." She adjusted her son on her hip and quirked her mouth, "you don't have to come with me, Gabrielle. I have drug you around enough places already."

Gabrielle shook her head, "no, I want to come with you so I can keep you out of trouble," she chuckled and Xena grinned at that subtle joke, though truthfully, it was no joke at all. Xena always got in some sort of trouble and somehow, Gabrielle was there to help her in the strangest times. "Will I have enough time to say goodbye to everyone?" she hoped.

Xena frowned, "of course Gabrielle, but I just want you to be sure you know what you're doing..."

"Xena," she placed her hand on Xena's shoulder firmly, "I know what I'm doing, but the question you?" she teased and left the hut to tell everyone she was leaving with Xena. She was sure that some of her sisters were going to be really upset to see her leave, especially Alexa. That redhead was so stubborn and had a strange hate for Xena and she barely said anything to her during the entire journey to the Euphrates and back.

Xena sat on the bed and placed Solan in her lap, staring into his big eyes. She couldn't take her eyes off of him and an immediate feeling of guilt overcame her. She had missed so much of his life in the last year and he didn't even know who she was. Gabrielle was his mother –she raised him, not her and for that, she probably could never forgive herself for.

He reached up and touched her mouth and she smiled, grabbing his tiny hand. "I promise I won't let anything happen to you," she kissed his hand and his eyes grew, staring at her in awe.

Princess Dido met with Caesar once he returned to Rome and she was infuriated since she received a letter from his general, Tiberius. She marched through the halls and came into the main atrium. "What is the meaning of this?" she held the parchment in her hand.

Caesar sighed and dismissed his men to leave him alone with the Carthaginian princess. "Dido," he smiled, sauntering over to her as he stared into her raging eyes. "I can see you are upset..." he touched her arm and she pulled away.

"You allowed Xena to go free?! Why on earth would you allow such a thing to happen?" she folded her arms.

The Roman rubbed his forehead and hooked arms with her, walking around the outside of the atrium near the fountains. "I was told that...Xena does not have an army. She is all alone," he smiled, enjoying that. Xena used to be the best military commander in Rome and now she was alone due to her ill actions.

Dido frowned as she walked with the emperor, "so? She was alone when she tried to kill you."

He chuckled, bobbing his head, "indeed she was, but this time," he held up his finger, making a point, "she did not try and kill me. She shot a few arrows at me but purposely missed," he halted and stared into the princess's angry eyes. "She got my attention and I left myself wide open for her to kill me and what did she do?" his eyes narrowed, "nothing," he whispered.

Dido didn't like the sound of this. She did not trust Xena and as far as she knew, Caesar wanted her dead, but he let her go. Why would he do a stupid thing like that? "Your men outnumber her, how did she get away?" she was very curious.

Caesar sighed and circled around the fountain, "it seems that our little warrior woman has someone who actually cares for her."

Dido raised an eyebrow, "Gabrielle?"

He frowned, "who?" he asked and she waved her hand dismissing the thought entirely. "No, you see, it seems that Xena has a brother," he folded his arms, staring up at the skies above them. Dido's eyes widened hearing that news. She wasn't expecting something like that, but it still didn't answer her question as to why Caesar let her roam freely. "He could have captured her," he sighed, "but he released her," he scoffed, "she is very good at manipulating people to get what she wants, I am not surprised."

Dido came up to him very closely, "and you did not kill him? What he did is treasonous."

"Indeed and if he were just a regular soldier, I would have executed him already," he rubbed his chin, "but I still want him around. Besides..." he smiled deviously, "he doesn't have the slightest clue that I know about his little secret," he winked. He walked back into the entrance of the atrium and she followed suit.

"Well, what are you going to do about her brother? Surely he won't be of any use to you now. He already let her go and who cares if she doesn't have an army? What's to stop her from recruiting a new one?" she was becoming concerned at the carelessness of the emperor.

Caesar grinned and tapped his fingers on a table, "oh, she won't be doing any of that. She abandoned her ship crew to come to Anatolia. I'd like to know why and I need her brother to spy on her for me." He nodded, thinking that was a brilliant plan, even though the princess did not seem to agree.

Dido sighed heavily and folded her arms. She had a feeling that Xena came back to Anatolia to see her child. She knew of the baby, though she did not tell anyone, not even Caesar. And she certainly wasn't going to reveal the father either which might enrage the emperor even more to find that out. Sinbad was a horrible sailor, well actually, he was a very good sailor, but for all the wrong reasons. He was a thief and it didn't surprise her that Xena would be attracted to someone like that.

"And where is her brother now?" she asked.

He turned to her with a big grin, "he is still in Anatolia. I am sure Xena did not get far and since she has no army, she is unguarded and unarmed. It will be easy to catch her."

Dido frowned, "but you did not tell her brother to look for her, right?" he nodded. "So what is he staying there for?"

"I am building a military base on the coast of Anatolia. If Xena tries to leave the territory, she will be caught indefinitely." He smiled.

The princess scoffed and Caesar glared at her. "Pardon me but...Xena is very good at covering her tracks and she won't be caught, I can assure you that." She saw the emperor grimacing and couldn't help but smile but cleared her throat. "She was trained by you and she trained your men. Don't you think she would know all of your tricks and schemes?" She implied.

Gabrielle and Xena traveled west and arrived in the outskirts of Thrace. There was no way Xena was willing to go to the coast of Anatolia at the risk of being caught. She was sure Caesar was still looking for her and she wanted to get as far away from him and his men as possible.

Having Solan along was a bit more troublesome than Xena had imagined. They had to stop a lot and take breaks and it took them twice as long to reach Thrace than she would have thought. She was used to traveling long distances but never thought that her travels would consist of a friend and a baby to say the least.

They stopped in a forest outside of a village in Thrace and Xena did not want to spend a night in the woods again. Solan was constantly kept awake by all the noises of the night crawlers and other creatures. Gabrielle suggested that they find a tavern to stay in and was sure that nobody would recognize her in this area, even though Xena was from this area.

Gabrielle walked into a tavern and was exhausted from riding all day. It was late at night and there were hardly any people in this place, which she thought was good. She approached the counter and an elderly man turned around, smiling at her. "What can I do for you?" he asked politely, leaning on the counter.

She sighed, "I need a room," she asked and he lowered his eyes.

"I don't have any more rooms here," he said apologetically.

Gabrielle groaned and hit the counter and turned around ready to walk out. Then she frowned and marched back up to the counter. "Look, I really need a room. My friend and I have been traveling for days and we're exhausted!" she saw the man's eyes widen at her obstinate attitude. "We also...have a baby with us," she smiled tightly, and definitely wasn't going to take no for an answer. The man rubbed the back of his neck nervously, continuing to stare at her and he really didn't have any more rooms to spare.

A man sitting at a table alone overheard Gabrielle talking to the owner of the tavern and he finished off his drink and cleared his throat. "You may have my room," he offered. Gabrielle turned to the man, skeptical of his kindness. He stood up and paid for his drink and smiled at her. "I wouldn't want to have a baby sleeping outside," he winked and grabbed his cloak, leaving the tavern.

The owner blinked and stuttered, "well –looks...looks like you have a room now, miss," he smiled weakly and Gabrielle watched the man leave and nodded her head.

Gabrielle brought Xena inside as she wore her cloak, covering her face, making sure no prying eyes drifted over to her. They arrived to the room and Xena sighed, setting Solan down on the bed and whipped off her cloak, throwing it on a chair. She smiled, kneeling down next to the bed. "This is much better than sleeping outside, isn't it?" she fixed his clothes and he started to whimper a little bit from being so tired. Her eyes widened and suddenly she began to panic. He had cried a lot and never realized how much babies cry until now.

Gabrielle smirked seeing Xena just staring at the child, inside panicking for sure. She took off her boots and her bag that hung on her shoulder. "He is probably hungry," she said and Xena stood up, folding her arms, not knowing what to do. "I'm sure they have soup here, do you want me to get some?" she offered, already walking towards the door.

Xena's eyes widened and she grabbed Gabrielle's hand, "no...I will get it," she smiled anxiously and Gabrielle saw that she was incredibly tired and worn out. She smiled and went to sit on the bed with Solan, trying to calm him down while Xena left to get the soup.

As Xena walked down the stairs she scratched her head, feeling overwhelmed already and it had only been a couple of weeks. She felt like she was about to lose her mind taking care of her son, though Gabrielle was a big help. She still didn't feel like she was doing a good job so far.

She was met with a man wearing a cloak and he was blocking her way downwards. "Excuse me..." she side stepped him and he mirrored her moves. She frowned and tried to get around him and he wouldn't allow her to pass. She growled and grabbed the man by his arms and pushed him into the wall roughly.

Her eyes looked under the cloak and she was immediately infuriated. "What are you doing here?!" she hissed.

Ares smirked, "just watching over you," he lamented and she kept him pinned to the wall. "It's really pointless to do this you know..." he sighed and she let go of him. He took off the hood and stared into her eyes. He touched her cheek and pouted, "oh, look at you," he smirked, "how is motherhood treating you?" he teased.

Xena frowned and looked up to the room. "Gabrielle is expecting me back any moment," she turned to leave and he gripped her wrist, pulling her towards him. She grunted and tried to snatch her arm away.

Ares narrowed his thick dark eyebrows and pinched her cheeks tightly in between his fingers, "you made a deal with me, Xena. Do you not keep your promises?" he inched closer to her and she spat in his face. He growled, wiping his face. "Now, Xena..."

"I am not going to marry you Ares. I don't care what your stupid consequences are anymore. All you do is torture me anyway," she said and he snarled.

"If you renege on this, I will make sure to make your life a living hell, Xena."

"Oh, isn't that what you do already?" she smiled and he wrapped his arm around her, bringing her closer. She cringed and leaned back away from his face.

"You are making a big mistake," he hissed and she sighed.

"I've already made many mistakes Ares, and marrying you isn't going to be one of them," she pushed him into the wall and he groaned. "I've put up with you this long, I'm sure I can handle your many surprises," she smiled and walked down the stairs to retrieve the soup she promised to get.

Ares growled watching her leave and disappeared from the tavern back to his Hall of War to sulk alone. He did not have her yet and he once did. She was a great protégé and he saw greatness in her. This life as a mother and a lone wolf wasn't the life for her, he knew that. And he would make sure to remind her of that, but now was not the time. Not yet.

Xena returned with the soup and exhaled heavily, feeling even more drained that she did before. Solan was sitting on Gabrielle's lap and he grinned up at her. She smiled and knelt down with the warm bowl in her hands. She spooned some of the soup in his mouth and he frowned, licking his lips, unsure what he was eating. Gabrielle stifled a laugh seeing his face. Xena gave fed him again with the wooden spoon and he finally smiled.

"He seems happy," Gabrielle said and rested him against the pillows and Xena sat on the bed, continuing to feed her infant son.

"Ares came to see me," Xena said and Gabrielle frowned, folding her arms. "I told him I didn't want to marry him." Solan attempted to the grab the entire bowl and she lifted it in the air away from his grasp. She grinned, "you can't have it all at once, Solan," she said and he reached for the spoon next.

Gabrielle pinched the bridge of her nose, "so what exactly does this mean? What is he going to do?"

Xena fed Solan again and some of the soup dripped down his chin. She wiped his chin with a cloth and sighed, "what he does best –torture me," she smirked.

The blonde scoffed audibly and Xena turned to her, "so he's just going to keep following you until you give in? Which you're not...I hope."

Xena wagged her head, "no I won't, but he has more important things to worry about than me. He's just upset that I am no longer in his tight grasp of power anymore." She smiled down at her son, her eyes widening as he gave her a big toothless grin.

Gabrielle sighed deeply and plopped down on the bed next to Solan, staring at the ceiling. "Where are we going to go?" she asked, feeling like they had no real destination at all.

Xena quirked her mouth and spooned another helping of soup into Solan's mouth. "I think...I should go back to Amphipolis."

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "but everyone hates you there, Xena. Do you really think that's a good idea to go back there?" she felt worried and smiled seeing Solan's happy face.

"I want my mother to meet Solan and I haven't been back home in a very long time. If anything happens to me, I know my mother will take care of him," she said softly.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Gabrielle didn't like the sound of that.

Xena frowned, "Gabrielle, I am wanted everywhere by Rome. You can't escape Romans no matter what," she sighed and finished feeding her son and set the bowl down on a table and wiped his mouth. She then grabbed him and set her on her lap. "I just want him to be safe in case something does happen to me," she ran her palm over his head and he leaned into her chest, yawning, feeling tired. Finally, she thought.

Gabrielle shook her head, "nothing is going to happen to you! Don't even think like that." She stared up at the ceiling again, trying to forget what she just heard.

Solan closed his eyes and nestled against his mother and she smiled down at him. "I should stop thinking of myself Gabrielle. Isn't that what you said? That I think too much about myself?" she eyed her and Gabrielle sat up, lowering her eyes.

She now felt bad for even saying it, but it was true, even Xena just admitted it, which surprised her. "I just...don't want you to do something dangerous again, Xena. What if you decide to –"

"Gabrielle," she eyed her, "I'm not going to do anything. I have nothing left, except you," she stared down at her son, "and him."

Gabrielle smiled and leaned closer, seeing Solan was passed out. "I think he likes you," she teased. Xena shared a smile with her friend and laid down on the bed beside her, gently placing Solan in between them. He nestled against the pillows then rolled over, cuddling closer to Xena.

Chapter Text

AN: I have returned! School has begun again and I won't be able to update as often as I'd like, but I did have time to write this, as I sit here at 2am lol. Enjoy this piece here everyone. A bit fluffy...

Chapter 32

Together, Xena and Gabrielle traveled further west in Thrace, towards Amphipolis. The journey for them both seemed excruciatingly long and a bit overwhelming at times. Xena had never wanted children as she left her home to escape from that lifestyle of marriage and housewife. She was to be married and she told herself that was not going to happen, not in a million years. She soon found her job in Rome, employed by none other than Caesar himself and that was nice for awhile, until she grew tired of being manipulated by Caesar and Ares at the same time. Constantly using her body to get what she wanted for two entirely different men for two entirely different reasons was tiresome and taxing on her mind.

The moment when she rebelled against Rome, she knew that she would never return there and be cast out of Rome just like she would be cast of Amphipolis. When she found Gabrielle she had no idea that she would become more of a friend than a captured Thracian traveler. She also never thought that she would end up having a child during her excursions either or meet someone along the way. Xena began thinking of her life in the last couple of years and how busy and...terrible it was. Nothing good came out of anything that she did, except for her son and Gabrielle.

All of her goals were gone, her army destroyed, Sinbad's death and Maeve, were all just terrible distractions. Gabrielle at first was unsure of her and Xena knew this and Gabrielle even tried to escape from her. Xena had often wondered during this journey to Amphipolis if Gabrielle did in fact escape like she planned, if her life would had turned out the way that it did. Maybe she would have continued onward with her army and continued to ransack villages and large cities, and maybe she would not have met Sinbad either. She would probably still be hunted by Caesar and his Roman soldiers no doubt, but she wouldn't have any distractions. Was Gabrielle a distraction or a blessing in disguise?

Everything that Xena did was a reaction to others corrupting her mind and way of life, but Gabrielle always managed to be there and save her when she needed her the most. When Caesar mounted Xena on the crucifix, leaving her to die, Xena was sure that she would have died on the beach alone, but Gabrielle was there. And when Maeve continued to corrupt Xena's mind with her sorcery tricks and alluring her to the dark side of her mind, Gabrielle was there to stop Maeve and convince Xena that she was going down an awful path that would only end in pain and destruction –which it did. Or perhaps when Sinbad tried to stop Maeve and was quite close with Gabrielle, he enjoyed her company and appreciated her advice. Gabrielle too, was there with Sinbad advising him to tell Xena to come to her senses. Whether Xena liked it or not, Gabrielle was there, almost like she was sent by the gods themselves to save her whenever she needed to be saved.

Xena had apologized many times to Gabrielle and that was something she hardly ever did –apologize. She hated to admit when she was wrong, but the time she spent away from Gabrielle, she knew that she was in fact wrong on many accounts, and instead of Gabrielle allowing her heart to blacken and harden –she forgave her. Xena began to think that no matter how many times she apologized it wouldn't make herself feel better for all the hardships that she put Gabrielle through and perhaps, she could never forgive herself either.

Mid-morning they stopped on the outskirts of Amphipolis to rest from the night before. Solan had not really grown accustomed to long journeys, both soon found out weeks ago when they traveled across Anatolia and into Thrace.

Gabrielle held Solan in her lap as he played with a flower, she tried her best to distract the child and Xena sat a few feet away, admiring Gabrielle tending to her son so calmly and so easily too. Everything that she tried to escape from in Amphipolis, came to bite her in the rear. She did have someone that she cared for, though she did not show it very well, Sinbad was a nice guy and he obviously cared for her more than anyone could, despite her sorry attitude about everything –he was always there, just as Gabrielle was. And now she had a child of her own, something that she thought would never happen to her, though she wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. He was something new in her life, something positive that came out of all the negativity surrounding her at that time.

She felt so lost and alone even when she was with Gabrielle currently. She had missed out on so much of her own son's life because she was held prisoner in Rome then decided to turn to the seas for guidance, which was nice for awhile, but it wouldn't last forever. Xena had found that the sea was her best friend and maybe one day, she would return to it, sailing to other lands, continuing to explore other cultures, not for money or for personal gain,  but for personal ambition and self reflection.

Solan tried to eat the flower and Gabrielle ripped it away from him. "You can't eat that, you know," the blonde said and he began to whimper softly. Xena smiled in awe of Gabrielle at how she was handling him so well. Gabrielle sighed and let Solan have the flower again, "alright, but I don't think you're going to like it," she warned. The boy's eyes lit up and he began chewing on the large petals and his face contorted in disgust at the taste. Gabrielle chuckled as Solan stuck out his tongue and spit out the flower petals. "I told you!" she took the flower away from him and he touched his mouth, still bemused at the odd taste in his mouth.

Xena laid down in the grass on her side, resting her cheek on her palm comfortably. "You are very good with him, Gabrielle," she mused.

The blonde lifted her head and smiled at the warrior woman with a bit of mirth in her green marbles. "You're not so bad yourself. You should give yourself a break, Xena," she sighed and Solan ran his small fingers through Gabrielle's blonde locks. "Don't think of it as conquering him, but loving him unconditionally. I'm sure Sinbad would like that, right?" she winked.

Xena sighed sadly and stared at her blonde son, "he shouldn't have died that night," she mumbled, lowering her eyes thinking of that awful moment.

Gabrielle set Solan down on the grass and he crawled over towards Xena and she saw the brunette's eyes widen as he came closer to her. He grinned and plopped down on the ground, leaning against Xena's legs. "He was protecting you and his son. He didn't die in vain, Xena, just remember that."

"I know," Xena sighed heavily, "I just wish he could have seen him just once," a small sad smile appeared on her lips.

"I'm sure he's watching," Gabrielle smiled with flushed cheeks. Xena grinned happily and ran her fingernails through Solan's wispy hair. "The more time you spend with him, the less scary it seems," she teased.

Xena lifted her eyebrow at her blonde counterpart, "are you saying that I am afraid of my own son?" she implied.

Gabrielle shook her head playfully, "well, kind of," she joked.

"Look Gabrielle...." Xena began and Gabrielle knew what was coming and almost interrupted her, "you took my place as being a mother when I couldn't and I just..."

"You're welcome and you don't need to apologize to me," Gabrielle interjected.

Xena smiled, "thank you, but really Gabrielle, you didn't have to do that. It was not your responsibility."

"So, what was I supposed to do? Leave him all alone or give him away to some orphanage never to be seen or heard of again?" Gabrielle suggested and Xena remained silent. "I knew that you would come back one day and I wanted to keep him safe with me until you returned. In my heart, I knew that you were alive somewhere, though I didn't know you were acting like a sailor...traveling the seas..." she eyed her brunette friend and saw a subtle grin on her face. "Solan is very special to me, like you are and I couldn't give him to a stranger knowing that one day you would return. I would have kept raising him for years on end because I knew that you'd come back."

Xena lifted her eyes, firmly staring into Gabrielle's eyes, "you are more than a friend Gabrielle. I don't deserve someone like you in my life."

Gabrielle leaned on the grass, facing opposite of Xena. She smirked, "so what kind of friend do you want then? You want someone who treats you like crap?" she teased.

Xena shook her head, "no, I'm the one who treated you like crap," she frowned. "How could you still be here, believing in me, trusting me, following me, especially since I treated you so badly?"

"You didn't treat me badly, Xena. You taught me many things during our travels together. I grew up with the idea that everyone was good and all do good things and bad people do bad things. But you taught me that even sometimes good people do bad things..." she hinted at Xena's past actions. "You aren't a bad person Xena, you are a good person who does not think before they act and sometimes does bad things, but just because you do bad things doesn't make you a bad person. I learned that from you and I also learned not to trust certain people, including you at one point."

Xena blinked and she stared at Solan as he laid down beside her, staring at the sky, playing with a long piece of grass, completely oblivious to the world around him. "And what do you think now..." she asked and Gabrielle stared at her confusedly, "do you trust me now?" she hoped yes.

The blonde sighed and pursed her lips, taking awhile to answer. "No, I don't." she said and saw Xena lower her eyes in shame. "You are unpredictable, but that can be a good quality and a flaw too. In your case, it's a flaw, but I do trust your true intentions....just not your decisions."

Xena scoffed, "and how would you know what my true intentions are?" she begged to know the answer to that herself, though Gabrielle thought she knew it all.

"I know that you want to be a good person, but you are influenced by power. Look where that got you," Gabrielle said and the brunette nodded her head, agreeing. "Your brother works for Caesar and he could have killed you, but he didn't so therefore, he is a good person. You too, could have killed him and even Caesar if you wanted to, but you didn't. That was the first time I saw that you did give in to your will and power. You were thinking of someone else besides yourself and that, my friend, is a step in the right direction," she grinned. "You impress me and I immediately saw a change in you when you first stepped into the Amazon grounds."

The warrior woman wagged her head and exhaled heavily, "you put far too much faith in me Gabrielle. You give me too much credit. I have done nothing but lie and deceive people in the last two years yet you say I have changed..." she scoffed and Solan stared up at her upside down and she smiled down at him, touching his cheek softly.

"You may not see it now, but I think you will very soon," Gabrielle grinned softly as she watched mother and son interact with one another. Xena looked very happy whenever she saw Solan smile at her and Gabrielle noticed it, though Xena hadn't yet, she will, she thought, she will.

Changing the subject she asked, "so, how about we get to Amphipolis?" she jumped off the ground and packed up their belongings back onto the horse. Xena frowned sighing sadly as her son kept trying to play with her long hair. "You're going to have to go back eventually and this was your idea, remember?"

Xena nodded, "I know, I know. You don't have to remind me." She stood up and scooped Solan up into her arms and he squealed with delight. She grinned down at him and then mounted her horse, wrapping her cloak around her body. She then placed Solan in the makeshift sling that Gabrielle made during their travels. Solan clutched onto his mother's clothes and she grabbed Gabrielle's hand, hoisting her onto the horse.

"Ready?" Gabrielle asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.

Xena breathed out slowly, "if you say so," she yanked on the reins of the horse and trotted off further inland of her home village that she had abandoned long ago. She pulled the hood over her head so she was unrecognizable, which was all part of the plan. She expected people to revolt as soon as they saw her, but she would never know, she supposed, until she got there to see for herself.


Mala, Xena's childhood friend, still occasionally worked in Cyrene's tavern from time to time and today she had worked all day without Elissa's help of course. The redhead sighed and finished cleaning all of the dishes and took off her apron, throwing it on the table. Cyrene entered with more dishes and Mala gasped.

"Cyrene, I'm not washing any more dishes! I'm done!" she threw her hands in the air and walked out the kitchen.

Cyrene sighed, "so should I get Elissa to do it?" she smiled.

Mala shook her head, "if you can pry her off those men, go ahead, be my guest," she left the kitchen and saw Elissa flirting with a few of the regular young men that came in from out of town once a month. Little did they know that Elissa was engaged to someone already and he was from a respectable family. Mala marched over to the flirtatious blonde and grabbed her arm.

Elissa gasped as she was being dragged along. "What gives, Mala?" she snatched her arm away and fixed her dress. Mala rolled her eyes as she saw Elissa was not shy of showing any cleavage at all.

"Don't you have a fiancé?" Mala teased and the blonde rolled her eyes, folding her arms. "Cyrene wants some dishes washed, and I'm done for the day, so it's your turn," she smiled smugly at her and threw a cloth in her face then walked out of the tavern.

As she stepped out of the tavern she had the rest of the day off and that was a nice feeling. She sighed and walked along then saw a hooded woman on a horse close to the tavern and a blonde woman with her that she recognized. She had seen her before. Becoming curious she walked over to the two women.

"Hey, don't I know you?" Mala smiled, folding her arms and Gabrielle looked around to make sure nobody was watching or listening. "Gabrielle, right?" she asked and the blonde nodded her head. "Cyrene told me all about you, I'm sorry about what happened to Lyceus..." she sighed.

Gabrielle closed her eyes, trying her best to forget about Xena's little brother's death, but thanks to Mala she was reminded of it. Her eyes traveled up to see a glare underneath Xena's hood and she quickly turned around. "You know, I'm kind of busy right now. I'm sure we can talk later, alright?" she dismissed Mala almost immediately.

The redhead's mouth gaped, "well, what are you doing here in Amphipolis?" she peered over, staring at the hooded woman and grinned. "And who's your masked friend?" she asked curiously.

Xena pulled the hood closer to her face and wrapped it around herself, hiding Solan and luckily, he was sleeping. Gabrielle laughed nervously, "just a friend of mine. She's not feeling well right now, so if you would excuse us?" she said and Mala nodded, getting the hint. Xena dismounted the horse and shied away from Mala's face.

"Alright, I guess I'll see you later then?" Mala smiled anxiously and walked away, turning her head over her shoulder as Gabrielle spoke to her hooded friend. She raised her eyebrow and then went on about her business to return home after a long day working in the tavern.

"We should go around the back..." Xena said as her eyes danced around, seeing many eyes around them, she was beginning to feel paranoid and now regretted coming here, but she couldn't run away now, especially because Gabrielle wouldn't allow her to now.

Gabrielle nodded and Xena lead the way, of course, since this was her mother's tavern. They walked into the kitchen through the back entrance and luckily nobody was back here. Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relief and looked from behind a door and saw Cyrene talking to a few customers kindly.

Xena sat down in a chair, holding Solan in her lap as he slept peacefully. He stirred in his sleep as she adjusted him carefully. Gabrielle kept a lookout for anyone that would come back here and looked back to see Xena's head lowered, checking on Solan. "What are you going to say to your mother? Did you think she'll be upset? I know she probably won't be happy to see me, but this isn't about me, it's about you. And I really think that you should remain calm because you know, it could be that your mother decides to lash out –"

Gabrielle kept talking and Xena lifted her head, glaring at her. "Gabrielle," she said and the blonde stopped speaking. "You're making me nervous."

Gabrielle grinned anxiously, "I'm sorry," she looked out behind the door and her eyes widened, "she's coming!" she stepped away from the door and stood beside Xena, waiting patiently, though she felt like she was more nervous than Xena was, but Xena liked to keep her feelings locked away inside her most times.


Cyrene waltzed into the kitchen with an empty mead bottle and immediately saw Gabrielle standing in her kitchen. She frowned, lifting her eyebrow. "What are you my kitchen?" she asked and then noticed someone else sitting in the chair wearing a black cloak. "How did you get in here? And what on earth –"

Xena pulled her hood back and Cyrene gasped then dropped the bottle on the floor, shattering into a million pieces. Xena lifted her eyes, staring at her mother's aghast face. She was obviously in shock. "Mother..." she began slowly and Cyrene then frowned at her daughter.

Cyrene couldn't believe the audacity of her daughter coming here, especially in her tavern. "You dare show your face here after what you have done?!" her voice raised as her anger heightened. "Our family is put to shame because of you! You ran off and joined the Romans!" she yelled and Xena sighed, listening to her mother lambaste her. "You killed innocent people, Xena! How could you do that?" she shook her head and walked over to her daughter. "What's the matter, got nothing to say for yourself?" she raised her hand to slap her daughter and Xena caught her wrist, gripping firmly. Cyrene's eyes widened.

Xena uncovered her son as he slept in her lap comfortably in the sling. Cyrene peered down seeing the small infant in her daughter's arm, sleeping soundly. Slowly, she lowered her hand and Xena let go of her mother's wrist.

"Who's this?" Cyrene asked in a more calm tone this time.

Xena looked up to her blonde friend and Gabrielle smiled down at her, placing a warm hand on her shoulder, slightly squeezing it for comfort. Xena sighed, refusing to look at her mother and instead glanced down at Solan. He stretched his arms over his head and yawned, stretching his legs, adjusting himself in his slumber. "This is Solan," she smiled, tracing her finger along the boy's cheek softly. "My son..." she finally said.

Cyrene's eyes widened and she leaned forward, looking at her grandson and a smile appeared on her face. "You have a son?" she asked and Xena said nothing. "May I hold him?" she asked and Xena lifted her eyes, staring at her mother's awestruck face. Xena slowly lifted Solan out of the sling and handed him over to her mother. Cyrene's smile grew and she took Solan into her arms. Xena stretched out her arms, watching her mother take hold of her son. She felt a different sense of power in that moment when something close to her was taken away from her, even for a brief moment.

Cyrene smiled and held the blonde infant in her arms as he slept comfortably. "Where is the father?" she asked.

Xena's eyes grew, not quite expecting that question to be the first thing her mother asked. " no longer with me," she said softly.

Her mother frowned, turning to her daughter, "he left you?" she asked.

"No he..." Xena folded her arms, "he died," she said bluntly and Cyrene's eyes widened, hearing that news.

Cyrene sat down, completely forgetting about her customers, and enthralled with her new grandson that she had no idea about, especially since Xena deserted her family for years now. "Why did you come back here? Couldn't have been to see me, could it?" she scoffed with a smug smile.

"Actually, I did come to see you, mother," Xena said and that caught Cyrene by surprise. "I..." she looked up to Gabrielle for guidance and the blonde nodded her head, giving her the go-ahead. "I want to stay here...with you," she smiled.

Cyrene looked at her daughter, "you do?" she questioned, already suspicious. "Why? Aren't you on Caesar's warrant list?" she knew all of the Roman politics, especially since her eldest son, her only son now, was enlisted in the Roman army.

"Because I want to," Xena frowned, now getting frustrated, though she probably shouldn't blame her mother for her absence after all these years. "Caesar doesn't know where I am and I plan to keep it that way, but if you don't want me to stay here then Gabrielle and I will go elsewhere –" she stood up and scooped her son into her arms once more. Her mother's mouth gaped at Xena's flippant mood.

"Xena," Cyrene stood up and Xena clutched onto her son for dear life. "I want you to stay here I've been away for so long and now you come here unexpectedly and with a baby too..." she sighed heavily and saw Xena's frightened eyes. "You can't blame me for being, well...shocked!" she chuckled lightly and her daughter lowered her eyes in shame.

She walked over to Xena and grasped her shoulders firmly, "you can go back to the house...I still have some things to do before I close the tavern..." she peered down at Solan sleeping through all of this and she smiled. "You remember where the house is right?" Xena nodded. "Go wait for me there, I won't be long and...don't disappear," she said and disappeared.

Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief, "well, that didn't go as badly as I thought!" she said with a big smile on her face. She noticed Xena was being extremely quiet and she kept checking on Solan to make sure he was alright. "Are you okay?" she asked concerned for her.

Xena nodded, "my mother is not the only one who is in shock," she muttered and clutched Solan close to her chest, suddenly feeling overprotective, something she hadn't felt in her life. When her son was in her mother's arms, she felt scared, not because of what her mother would do, because she wouldn't harm her grandson, but because Solan was hers and nobody else's. "We should go to my mother's house..." she suggested.

Gabrielle agreed, "are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine," Xena smiled down at her son and he yawned again. "Gabrielle..." she turned towards her, "do you think it was the right thing to come here?"

The blonde smiled, "I think so, Xena. I know how strange it must feel for you, but you are making good decisions already!"

Xena smirked, "you're so sure of yourself," she walked out of the tavern and pulled the hood over her head, heading back to the horse in the front of the tavern.

"Of course I'm sure of myself! I know you better than anyone in this town," Gabrielle teased.



Chapter Text

AN: sorry for the filler chapter last week. A change in direction here and next chapter will most interesting ;) good luck and thanks for still reading along, everyone.

Chapter 33

Princess Dido returned back to her home in Carthage after she stayed her time in Rome with Caesar, discussing plans to rid Xena from his lands that he so-called claimed. She made him an offer in order to forget about Xena for the time being, an offer than he wouldn't be able to resist. She took it upon herself to be Caesar's emissary and travel to Egypt to meet with Cleopatra to make a deal with the queen of the desert.

Cleopatra was the only queen left in Egypt and with her youngest brother as the heir to the throne when she dies, Dido wanted to make sure that Rome would be on her side before her death. Caesar agreed to Dido's proposition and sent her to Egypt as soon as possible while he kept Rome safe.

Caesar still wanted the shores of Anatolia guarded and had some of his army by the coast. Though, as weeks went by he realized that Xena was the least of his problems. Considering, she had no army of her own now and she was all by herself, she was no imminent threat towards him like she was before.

Toris stood by the Roman ship along the coast of Anatolia, looking out towards the sun setting over the blue Aegean Sea. He sighed and leaned against one of the columns along the shore, watching the sun slowly set. He didn't understand why Xena didn't just kill him. He was right there and yet she did nothing. All of the horrible things he had heard about her didn't seem to match up when he saw her for the first time in four years.

Though, he also had the chance to kill her or at least restrain her and bring her to Caesar, but he didn't. He didn't know why he stood there like a lost puppy, not knowing what to do. He allowed her to escape and even more odd, she didn't try to harm him at all. Obviously, there was something else on her mind, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

A fellow soldier came to his side, startling him. "Hey Toris, how's it going?" he smiled, biting into an apple.

Toris shook his head, growing more frustrated as he continued to be stationed in this place. "I don't understand why Caesar wants us here," he frowned, crossing his arms, staring at the red sky.

"To look out for Xena, of course," the soldier chuckled and Toris turned around with an agape mouth. The man swallowed the fruit and raised an eyebrow. "You didn't know?"

"What do you mean 'look out' for Xena?" he frowned then grabbed the man by his tunic, "tell me!"

The soldier coughed and put his hands up, "whoa, what's your problem?" he slapped Toris' hand away and adjusted his tunic underneath his armor. "Caesar stationed us here to keep an eye out for the harlot," he grinned and added, "and if she tries to escape Anatolia, we'll capture her and bring her back to Rome where she belongs."

Toris ran his fingers through his hair, "he's insane," he muttered and his friend raised an eyebrow. "Xena is long gone!" he growled, "she will never come back to this area if she's smart, which she is. I would know."

The man frowned, folding his arms. "You would know? What is that supposed to mean?" he asked curiously.

"Nothing, never mind," Toris walked off away from the shore trying to gather his thoughts. How stupid does Caesar think Xena is? She wouldn't dare try to leave Anatolia especially by ship without any men by her side. She's not dumb and surely Caesar knew that, or perhaps...he thought he knew her well enough, but obviously not. He sighed heavily and stared at the civilians walking around the city along the coast, completely oblivious to the Roman fleet surrounding them.

He turned around and grabbed his sword that leaned against one of the columns. Then he gathered up his bags and supplies. The soldier frowned, "hey where are you going?" he asked as Toris began walking towards his horse.

"I'm going to Rome. This is ridiculous. I'm not going to sit here and wait for Xena to show up, which she never will," he mounted his horse and put on his helmet, readying to leave Anatolia for good.

"If you leave, this will be treason," the soldier said, concerned for his fellow soldier.

Toris nodded, "I understand, but Caesar doesn't understand Xena," he pulled on the reins, "I'm going to talk to him myself," he kicked the horse and rode off. The Roman shook his head, sighing deeply, watching Toris ride away.

Xena stayed with her mother for the last week now and she was getting agitated just sitting in her home all day, every day. Cyrene thought it would be best if Xena stayed inside and didn't go outside for her own safety. Gabrielle agreed, though she knew that Xena wasn't very thrilled with the idea.

Solan was on the floor playing with a few of Lyceus' old toys and Xena sat in a chair, watching him, while her mother was back at her tavern. She sighed as she watched Solan play with his toys. He was very content with this little set up, though she was incredibly bored.

Gabrielle came in from outside and saw Xena sulking in a chair. She smiled and set down a basket of fruit on the table, startling Xena. "How are you doing?" she asked.

Xena sighed and shrugged a shoulder, "I'm dying of boredom, Gabrielle," she turned and saw an apologetic look on the blonde's face. "My mother can't keep me here as her prisoner. I am tired of being someone else's prisoner," she grumbled and brought her attention back to Solan.

Gabrielle sat down on the floor beside Xena and touched her knee gently. Xena looked down at her with a weak smile. "I think it is best for you to stay inside, you know, just for a little while..."

"How long is awhile?" Xena groaned and stood up pacing around in a circle. "I told you Gabrielle, I'm not cut out for this lifestyle!" she shook her head, tapping her fingers on her arms. "I ran away from my home so I could get away from this life. Now I am stuck here in my mom's home and with..." she peered down at her son, "...a baby," she let out a big sigh.

"Look Xena, I understand that you are used to doing things your way and you like traveling, but it's just not safe!" Gabrielle stood and Xena lowered her head, not sure what to say. She came around to her and placed her hands on Xena's shoulders gingerly. "I'm always going to be here with you no matter what happens and I know we won't stay here forever, since you're you..." she joked and saw Xena smile.

Xena nodded her head, appreciating her friend's kind words. "Thank you Gabrielle," she touched her cheek softly and the blonde blushed. "But I have nowhere else to go right now. I'm alone..."

"You're not alone!" Gabrielle said and firmly grasped the warrior's shoulders. "You have me. Always," she winked.

A knock came to the door and both women turned towards the door. Xena turned and picked up Solan and left the room. He began crying in her arms and she groaned, bending down she picked up a toy and gave it to him then rounded the corner to go into her old room, though he kept crying.

Gabrielle rubbed her forehead and ran to the door. Once she opened it her eyes widened and she saw Mala and Elissa at the foot of Cyrene's doorstep. "Oh...hi," she nervously grinned.

Elissa smiled, "hello Gabrielle," she waltzed into the home and Mala followed her. Gabrielle bit her bottom lip and closed the door. Elissa wandered around the living room and saw some toys on the ground. "Playing with toys?" she chuckled.

Gabrielle sighed, "what are you two doing here? Don't you have work with Cyrene or something?" she asked.

Mala shook her head, "Cyrene gave us the rest of the afternoon off," the redhead walked around and sat down in a chair. "So, why did you come back to Amphipolis? I hope you didn't bring any Romans with you this time."

Elissa smirked and folded her arms, "oh yeah, I remember that. Anyway, didn't you come here with somebody? Mala told me she saw you with someone," she sat down in a chair opposite Mala.

Gabrielle grinned anxiously and shook her head, "well, I was just helping a traveler. I didn't even know the person," she lied and both women looked at her curiously.

Suddenly a muffled cry was heard from the back of the house and Elissa frowned, standing up from the chair. She walked further back into the house and heard more crying and it sounded like an infant crying. "Is there a baby in this house?" she asked and Gabrielle's heart dropped.

Mala smiled, "a baby?" she stood up and heard the muffling whimpers. "Gabrielle, do you have baby?" she asked with a cheeky grin.

Gabrielle shook her head, "nope," she ran and blocked the entrance to the back hallway, "no baby here," she grinned nervously.

Elissa scoffed, "oh come on, that is definitely a baby!" she brushed past Gabrielle and followed the noise. Mala trailed behind her and Gabrielle groaned, not really wanting her day to go like this. Everything was just fine, until now.

Xena sat on her bed and Solan was laying on the pillows, red in the face and tears streaming down his cheeks. She sighed and didn't know what to do. She really wished Gabrielle was here right about now. She grabbed the toy and tried to give it to him, but he pushed it away.

"What do you want from me?" she sighed and set the toy aside. "Look, I don't understand why you are so upset," she grabbed him, setting him on her lap. He kept crying and leaned against her chest. She didn't really have anything else on her mind to make him stop wailing. She wiped the tears off his cheeks and he rubbed his eye. "Would you like to hear a song? I think you might like it," she smiled down at him and he kept sobbing against her chest.

Quietly she started to sing a song that her mother used to sing to her when she was a little girl. She remembered it well and it always calmed her down when she was upset about something. As she continued to sing in a soft melodious voice, Solan gradually stopped crying and he looked up at her with his big blue eyes. She grinned and wiped his cheeks with her sleeve and his mouth gaped as he became entranced by her voice.

Elissa opened the door and her eyes grew as she saw Xena sitting on the bed with a baby in her arms and she was singing as well. Mala opened the door further so she could see and her eyebrows rose, seeing her childhood friend here in this room –in Amphipolis and with a baby too.

Xena lifted her head and she stopped singing once she saw her two childhood friends gawking at her with gaped mouths. Gabrielle saw Xena and apologized to her as she stood behind the two nosey women.

"Xena?" Mala stepped forward and Xena said nothing in response. " are you doing here?" her eyes peered down at the blonde infant in her arms. "Is that...yours?" she asked.

Elissa folded her arms with a smug smile and waltzed over to stand beside Mala. "Wow. I never thought I'd see your face again," she hummed to herself and saw the child staring at her with wide eyes. "So...the baby is yours?" and Xena lowered her eyes, refusing to answer. The blonde woman laughed, "and you always called me the slut, Mala," she teased.

Mala rolled her eyes and Xena glared up at Elissa. "What are you doing here? Did you get married somewhere else?" she had so many questions.

Gabrielle stepped in and Xena stood up and passed off Solan to her. She frowned at the two women and left the room with Solan in her arms. She turned towards the two women, "it's not really any of your business as to why I am here and no I didn't get married," she folded her arms defiantly glaring them both.

Elissa scoffed, "so you just had sex with some guy? I thought you weren't like that Xena," she bit her bottom lip with a smug grin on her face.

Xena felt her blood pressure rising and she didn't want to deal with Elissa, especially right now. "He was not just 'some guy' alright?" she sighed, "what are you two doing here anyway?"

Mala shrugged her shoulders, "I saw Gabrielle come here with someone, but I didn't know it was you..." she frowned, "aren't you wanted by the emperor or something?"

Elissa gasped, "that was you?!" she chuckled, "figures."

Xena snarled and walked up to the cocky blonde, standing inches from her face. "Leave," she hissed and Elissa's eyes widened and Xena saw fear in her eyes. "Do I have to make you?" a devious grin appeared on her lips.

Mala took Elissa's hands, pulling her away. "We should go, Elissa..." she gestured and the blonde nodded, following her instantly.

Gabrielle waited in the living room, holding Solan in her arms. She saw Elissa and Mala enter the room in a hurry. She stood up and saw a frightened look in Elissa's eyes. "Leaving so soon?" she smirked.

Mala looked at Gabrielle then saw Xena appear in the doorway, leaning against the frame with an angry expression planted on her face. "Nice seeing you Gabrielle..." she grabbed Elissa's hand and both of them hurried out of the house.

Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief and turned towards Xena. "Well that was interesting," she chuckled and ran her fingers through Solan's wispy hair.

"We need to get out of Amphipolis," Xena said and immediately went back to her room. Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she trailed behind her.

"Xena!" she quickly walked to the room and saw Xena packing her belongings in a bag. "What are you doing? Why should we leave?"

"Those two can't keep their mouths shut. Everyone is going to know that I am here now," Xena slung the bag over her shoulder and brushed past Gabrielle.

The blonde scoffed, "so what? Xena we can't just leave, where are we going to go?"

Xena groaned, "Gabrielle! Everyone hates me! I should have never came back here," she muttered to herself and pinched the bridge of her nose. "If we leave now we should be able to get out of Amphipolis by nightfall."

Gabrielle shook her head, "you're overreacting! Maybe they've changed," she nervously said and got quite a glare from her brunette friend. "Oh come on Xena!"

"Gabrielle," she grabbed her hand and looked down at her son with a smile, "come with me. I don't want anything to happen. People don't just change overnight. We can travel to another city, a safer one," her eyes filled with tears. "Please?" she begged.

The blonde sighed heavily, "is it going to be like this forever, Xena? Are we going to keep running and hiding from everyone until you're finally thrown in prison or what?" she frowned and saw Xena's eyes lower, refusing to even give her a glance.

The raven haired warrior shook her head, "forever is a long time. Nothing lasts forever," her cheeks flushed, feeling slightly embarrassed for pouring herself out like this, but she was right and Gabrielle knew she was. "We can go far away from here, Gabrielle. We can go to Siberia or something and leave Rome, Greece, Anatolia and Thrace behind," her grip on her hand tightened.

Gabrielle smiled softly, "you are crazy, you know that?" she giggled and Xena's face broke out into a big cheeky grin. "What about your mother?"

Xena pursed her lips, "I will see her again, but not the right time."

She nodded in response, "I will get the horse," she handed off Solan to her and quickly went out back behind the house. When Xena wanted to leave, she was always in a hurry. She moved so fast, she didn't know how she did it honestly.

Solan smiled up at his mother and she shared a grin with him then sat down in the chair, placing him in her lap. "You want to go on a trip with me and Gabrielle? Right?" she asked and he giggled softly. "I promise nothing will happen to you. You and I will be great friends," she winked and he grabbed onto her finger with his small grip.

Cleopatra sat on her throne staring at the Carthaginian princess in front of her. She figured that Caesar would want to ally with her eventually, but she didn't think that he would send someone else in his place, let alone a princess from Carthage.

The Egyptian queen twirled the braided hair on her wig around her finger and smirked at Dido. "So, Caesar sends you to negotiate with me, is that right?"

Dido nodded, "yes your highness. He thinks that it would benefit your kingdom and his empire to join together."

Cleopatra nodded, contemplating the idea. It wasn't a bad idea, but she had a few questions in mind. "If I do ally with Caesar...what will I get in return? A piece of his empire? Will I be in control of my own land or shall I just give it all to the Romans?"

The princess smiled nervously at the young queen, "your majesty, Egypt is yours and always will be yours. Caesar does not want to take the throne away from you. He just wants to...expand his empire so to speak," she fidgeted with her fingers as she stared into the dark eyes of the Egyptian queen. She was very young and the most powerful person in the world aside from Caesar.

The queen let out an exasperated sigh and leaned back in her throne as her eyes danced around her grand palace. "So I get to keep my land and my status as queen while the great Caesar continues to expand his empire. How...quaint," she chuckled lowly and tapped her fingers on the armrest. "Listen princess," she cleared her throat, "your father and I have been allies for a long time and I'm sorry about his passing," she weakly grinned and Dido lowered her head in sorrow. "I hope that we can continue to be allies and not let Caesar get in the way of our countries' friendship?"

Dido grinned, nodding her head, "of course your majesty, we will be the best of allies. So does that mean you will take Caesar up on his offer after all?"

Cleopatra stood and waltzed over to the princess, tying the laces around her sheer gown, barely covering her almost nude body. She had a smug smile on her lips and Dido's eyes scanned her body up and down as she came closer and closer to her.

"Yes, I accept the Roman's offer. I'd like to see what he can do to improve my kingdom," she smiled and then kissed Dido on her lips gingerly.

The Carthaginian's eyes widened and saw the Egyptian queen walk away from her with her female servants following behind her. She touched her lips and turned to see the petite queen go into a separate room with male escorts. She didn't know what to think of Cleopatra and she certainly didn't know what to expect when she gave the news back to Caesar.

A guard outside of the emperor's office stepped inside and saluted at his ruler. Caesar sat at his desk and was interrupted signing documents. He sighed and waved his hand to further the soldier's sudden entrance. "What is it now?"

"Sir, Toris has returned from Anatolia. He says he needs to talk to you," the Roman soldier said and Caesar frowned.

"Send him in," he instructed and the guards outside the door allowed Toris to enter his office. He grinned at the brother of Xena and tapped his quill against the tabletop. "What can I do for you Toris? Aren't you supposed to be in Anatolia?"

Toris nodded, "yes sir, I understand that I disobeyed a direct order from you," he took off his helmet and averted his eyes elsewhere. "I came to find out that I was stationed in Anatolia to wait for Xena to escape."

Caesar chuckled and stood from his chair, staring at the soldier. "I see, well you know Xena the best don't you?" he asked with a sly grin. He saw Toris begin to default and see a bit of anxiety settle in his eyes. "I know that Xena is your little sister, Toris." Toris lifted his head and his eyes widened in fear. He now felt death coming close to him, though the emperor kept staring at him with an eerie grin upon his lips. "I'm not going to execute you. I need you and you're a good soldier."

Toris sighed, "what do you want me to do, sir?"

"Tell me everything you know about your sister," Caesar leaned against the desk casually.

"With all due respect sir, I don't think Xena is going to come back to Anatolia. I believe she is long gone and doesn't have any chance of returning to attack you."

Caesar bobbed his head slowly and folded his arms, "yet you had an opportunity to nab her back by the Euphrates river, yet you let her go. Why did you do that?" he was more curious to hear his side even though he saw the exchange in person yards away.

Toris was beginning to feel more nervous the more Caesar asked his questions. He said he wasn't going to execute him yet he didn't truly believe him, knowing his reputation. "I saw...change in her eyes," he admitted lamely, "she is not the person she used to be sir. Even if she were not my sister, I would have let her go."

The emperor chuckled, "is that so?" he sighed and circled his desk, tracing his finger on the smooth wood of the table. "Why did you decide to join my army, Toris? Wasn't it to capture Xena? That's what I was scouting men for and you turn up willing for the job! Then when you see her, you let her go. How fascinating."

Toris wasn't seeing any chance of life after that statement. It was true that he joined Caesar's army to find Xena and capture her because of all the horrible things she had done, but when the time came, he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

"Listen Toris, you didn't do your duty to capture Xena. You didn't even bat an eye when you saw her. I don't care if she's your sister, she is Rome's enemy," Caesar frowned deeply, glaring at the poor soldier. "But I don't care about Xena anymore. She's on the back burner for now. I have bigger plans in mind," he grinned and leaned his palms on the desk. He snapped his fingers at the guards, "arrest this man!"

Toris gasped and two Roman soldiers grabbed hold of his arms. Caesar sat back down at his desk and saw the shocked look on Xena's brother's face. "You're arrested for treason. Too bad your sister won't be here to bail you out," he winked. "Have fun now," he waved as the guards took him away out of his office.

Now all he had to worry about was Cleopatra and the expansion of his empire. He hoped that Dido was able to convince the queen to his proposition. If she agreed...then..he would have a foot in the door into another world.

Chapter Text

AN: long time no see, everyone. I'm going to use my break from school to catch up on this story. So, enjoy ;) not much left to tell at this point.

Chapter 34

Three Years Later

Gabrielle and Xena left Amphipolis and traveled to Sparta in Greece, far from everyone, far from everything. Xena definitely didn't want to go anywhere near Rome, Athens or Anatolia. Those places were major targets for her to get caught and be sent to Caesar for her crimes she committed in the past. Although, she figured that Caesar had forgotten about her since she hadn't exactly been laying low and she was out in the open. She hadn't seen any Romans lurking around so that might be a good thing, she supposed.

Solan, now four years old, ran around with a group of boys in one of the larger fields inside the city. Gabrielle sat down on a bench underneath a pavilion, watching over him while Xena was getting her horse's hooves repaired after months of riding and traveling.

One of the older boys tackled Solan onto the ground and Gabrielle lifted her head, seeing the two boys wrestling in the grass. Solan grunted, "get off me!" he cried out and punched the boy in the nose.

Jason gasped and wiped his nose, seeing blood smeared all over his hand. "You're dead Solan!" he growled and Solan rolled over and started running back to Gabrielle.

"What's going on?" Gabrielle stood and Solan crashed into her, hiding behind her knee length skirt. "Solan, knock it off..."

Jason circled around Gabrielle and Solan squealed, running away, screaming for dear life. Gabrielle folded her arms watching Jason, only two years older than him, chasing after Solan as fast as he could. Looking off beyond the trees she finally saw Xena walking with her horse by her side. Thank the gods.

"Mom!" Solan screamed and ran into her, wrapping his small arms around her legs. Xena frowned and Jason had a certain look in his eyes and blood dripped down his chin. "Save me, please!" he begged, tugging on her pants.

Xena pushed Solan further behind her and she grabbed Jason by his shirt, lifting him high in the air as he kicked his legs, squirming to get free. "What are you doing?" she glared into his dark brown eyes.

"Solan punched me in the face!" Jason spat at her and Xena frowned, peering down at her blonde son, sheepishly grinning.

She set down the boy and he growled at Solan, hiding behind his mother. She knelt down and brushed his long bangs away from his blue eyes. "Why did you hit Jason?"

Solan smirked, "because he pushed me," he muttered, hanging his head.

Xena lifted an eyebrow and grabbed her son's hand, "doesn't mean you can hit people," she sighed and looked at the angry Jason glaring at Solan. "Jason, go home," she said and the brunette boy huffed then ran off back to his friends. Xena smiled once she saw Gabrielle waiting for her.

"Did you get your horse fixed?" Gabrielle asked and saw Solan swinging his arm back and forth as he held his mother's hand. "Solan, I saw what you did back there."

The blonde boy giggled, "I didn't do anything Gabrielle..."


Xena rolled her eyes, "I was thinking that we could go to Thebes soon."

Gabrielle raised her eyebrow, "why would we go to Thebes? That's so close to Athens and I thought that you wanted to stay clear of Athens?"

"Not in Greece, Gabrielle. Thebes, Egypt," she smiled and Solan's eyes widened.

"We're going to Egypt?!" he exclaimed and his mother knelt down, pinching his cheek and he cringed. "Stop!" he slapped her hand away and she winked.

"What do you think Solan? Would you like to go to Egypt?" she asked and he nodded his head vigorously.

"Can I go play with my friends now?" Solan asked and Xena sighed then allowed him to go. He grinned then ran off to meet up with his friends.

Gabrielle folded her arms, watching the little boy run off and then she set her hand on her shoulder. "Xena, why do you want to go to Egypt?"

Xena sighed, "Greece is becoming boring. We should travel somewhere else, somewhere new," she wrapped her arm over her and sat down on the bench. "Please Gabrielle?" she pleaded and the blonde sighed, rolling her eyes, always bending over to succumb to all of her wishes, even after years of being together then apart then together again. "Unless you have a better place in mind?"

She shook her head, "I don't think so, but why Egypt? It's so hot there. Couldn't you have chosen a more tropical place?" she teased.

"I'm tired of staying in Greece, Gabrielle. There is nothing for me here anymore and I don't need –we don't need to stay here," Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's knee.

Gabrielle sighed, "alright if that's what you really want then I'll go with you, as always," she smiled and Xena was happy to hear that, so happy that she embraced her warmly. "Wow okay," she laughed and pat her back softly. As Xena pulled away she stared into her eyes. "You've changed a lot, Xena."

"Gabrielle..." Xena brushed a tendril behind her ear sheepishly.

The blonde's cheeks blushed, "I'm serious. I would not recognize you now if I didn't know you before. And you have done a really nice job with Solan too," she nudged her arm and Xena smirked lightly. "He adores you."

The raven haired warrior sighed heavily, "I couldn't have done it without you Gabrielle."

Solan came running to them both and Xena saw blood trailing down his arm and her eyes widened in fear. "Mom look!" he had a huge grin on his face and that only confused his mother more.

"What did you do?!" she grabbed his arm, looking at the small gash, worrying indefinitely.

His smile widened even more, "Kasor cut my arm with his wooden sword!" he looked into his mother's eyes and rolled his own. "Isn't it cool?!"

Xena frowned, shaking her head and she wiped the blood off his arm with her cloak's sleeve. "No, Solan, it is not cool! No more playing with swords," she sighed and turned to Gabrielle. "Could you get a bandage from the bag on the horse?" she asked and Gabrielle quickly ran over to the horse to retrieve the bandage.

"Mom, come on," the four year old groaned. "You have a sword!" he huffed.

"That's different. Swords are dangerous and they can hurt people," Gabrielle came back with the proper bandages and Xena began wrapping her son's arm tightly.

Solan heaved, "and kill people too?"

Xena lowered her eyes, "yes..." she admitted softly. "That's why you have to be really careful or you can hurt yourself too, like what just happened." She finished wrapping his arm and kissed his hand.

"But that was a wooden sword!" he folded his arms, frowning and Gabrielle stifled a laugh looking at his serious face.

"Anything can be a weapon, Solan." She smiled, "promise me that you will be more careful, okay?" she ruffled his hair and he nodded. "So about Egypt..." she slyly looked to Gabrielle and she rolled her eyes.

A couple of months later Xena, Gabrielle and Solan were able to catch a ship over to Egypt. Gabrielle was still unsure if going to an entirely different country across the ocean was the brightest idea. Although, they were in Anatolia for awhile and that was pretty far from Greece, but not as far as Egypt.

Gabrielle began to notice that she hated ships and hated the ocean too. She decided to sit in a corner by herself on the deck the entire journey. Meanwhile Xena was busy sharpening her sword, obviously not concerned for her well being at all. Gabrielle clutched her knees close to her chest and glared over at Xena who was well and fine, not affected at all by the constant swaying of the ship.

"How are you not sick?" Gabrielle griped.

Xena smirked, "because I am used to the ocean, Gabrielle," she tapped the tip of the blade after sharpening it for about an hour. "Have you seen Solan?"

Gabrielle groaned, hanging her head in between her knees. Xena chuckled and stood trying to find Solan. This ship was filled with Egyptians and Carthaginians so a blonde little boy would definitely be easy to spot surrounded by dark men with dark hair and eyes. Scanning the area she walked around the deck, squeezing in between people and was beginning to worry something might have happened to him.

"Mom!" Solan shouted from above and Xena looked up to see him on the main mast.

She gasped, "Solan! What are you doing up there?!" she ran towards the shrouds and then turned around. "Gabrielle!" she called out, "Gabrielle!"

Gabrielle moaned and lifted her head and then squinted her eyes from the bright sunlight seeing Solan in the main mast. "By the gods..." she mumbled. Slowly she stood and took in a deep breath, trying to recollect herself. "Coming..." she grabbed onto the railing and slowly made her way over to Xena.

"I can see everything!" Solan grinned and overlooked the ocean, feeling so free and adventurous.

Xena sighed, "Solan, it's not safe up there. Come down, please?" she asked nicely and her son groaned.

"Okay, fine..." he grumbled and grabbed onto the ropes sliding down to the shrouds and climbed down. Xena grabbed his waist and set him down on the deck. "I love ships!" he beamed.

Gabrielle clung to the ship's railing, "at least someone does..."

Xena shook her head and knelt down, cupping her son's cheeks. "Don't do that again. What if you got hurt?"

He shrugged his shoulders, "but I'm okay," he frowned sadly. "Alright, I won't do it again," she smiled and pat his cheek gently. "When are we getting to Egypt?"

"Soon, very soon," she grabbed his hand so he wouldn't run off to get into trouble somewhere else again. She knew she should probably keep an eye on him especially on ships obviously. She turned to Gabrielle and saw she was incredibly green. Chuckling, "are you alright, Gabrielle?"

The blonde shook her head, "no...when are we getting off of this gods' awful ship..." she leaned over the ship rail and vomited. Solan cringed and she wiped her mouth, breathing heavily. She hoped they wouldn't stay on this ship too much longer, she couldn't take it anymore.


Cleopatra met with Caesar in her throne chamber and had discussed trading deals between the two empires. She wrapped his arm around his and walked through the hallways of her palace, "so why did you want to ally with me?"

The Roman emperor smirked, "because I believe Egypt and its Queen...has a lot to offer. Do you think I am wrong about that?"

The queen shook her head, "on the contrary, Caesar, I think we will make such a great team. Have you heard anything from Princess Dido?" she wondered. Over the last few years her alliance with the Roman Empire had been going very well and each ally worked well together. She loved working with Caesar, though she believed that Princess Dido had something up her sleeve. She had been absent from the meetings held in Rome and Cairo because she had prior engagements, so she says.

Caesar sighed heavily, "Princess Dido is busy in Carthage, governing her people. You know how it is?" he smiled and touched Cleopatra's cheek softly.

She nodded, humming to herself and then halted. "Have you heard any news about Xena?"

He rolled his eyes, "I am finished looking for her. Hopefully, with my luck, she is lying dead somewhere in Greece," he chuckled and Cleopatra lifted her eyebrow, quite surprised to hear him say that. Caesar had obsessed over Xena for years and now suddenly he doesn't care about her at all. She had the feeling that Xena was not dead, but laying low somewhere.

"And if she is not dead?" she proposed. "What will you do then?" she asked.

"She is no threat to me anymore, your highness," he kissed her hand and she smiled, continuing to walk through the halls with him.

The queen nodded, "but she betrayed you. I thought, according to Roman law, that traitors were executed?" she wasn't going to let this subject go at all.

Caesar was starting to get irritated with all of these sudden questions she had. "That is true, but she has escaped all of my attempts to kill her. She has had a lot of help and now, she has nobody."

Cleopatra frowned, "but she will always find more people to follow her, if she really is the monster that you say she is."

"She is full of hopes and dreams, but nothing more. If she wanted to find an army, she would have done so already," he exhaled heavily, "enough about Xena. The thought of her gives me headaches. Let us discuss the unification of our empires, yes?" he smugly grinned and she pursed her lips, listening to what he had to say.

Finally the ship docked in the port of Alexandria and Gabrielle had never been so thankful to see land, even if it was a land foreign to her. She almost wanted to kiss the ground for gratitude for saving her from the dreaded long journey by boat to get here.

Solan slung his bag over his shoulder and his eyes widened, looking at all the tall buildings and hundreds of people walking around in most unfamiliar clothing at best. "So much sand..." he observed.

Xena smiled and grabbed his hand as well as Gabrielle's pulling her along. "Just think of it as Greece with more sand," they walked together through the crowded streets and Solan kept trying to pull away, eager to look at everything. Everything was so new to him and he wanted to explore but Xena had learned her lesson a long time ago to never let Solan out of her sight because he got into a lot of mischief without her by his side.

Gabrielle frowned and saw Roman soldiers sauntering through the street ahead of them, pinning a man to a wall, searching his pockets and belongings. She tapped Xena's shoulder, "there are Romans here..." she whispered. Xena scanned the area and now she was able to spot the Romans. "What are they doing here?"

"I don't know..." she whispered and then Solan let go of her hand and ran off through the sea of people. "Solan!" she groaned and began following him, pushing people out of her way, but he was too fast. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and she went around the crowd and searched for the boy.

She got down on her knees and saw Solan running through peoples legs slyly and unnoticed by the Egyptians. "Great..." Gabrielle grumbled and stood up looking for Xena and circled around herself. Now she had lost Xena too. "Great!" she sighed.

Solan turned around and didn't see his mother or Gabrielle following him. He grinned and then took off, running into the Roman soldiers, knocking one of them into a fruit stand. Running faster the Roman growled. "Boy!" he yelled and Solan's eyes widened and he picked up his pace, rounding the corner and the other Romans began running after him.

Breathing heavily he kept turning his head and saw the Roman soldiers chasing him. He then bumped into a large horse and fell down in the sand. Groaning he sat up, coughing some sand out of his mouth.

Cleopatra peered out from her carriage and saw a little blonde boy on the ground in front of her horse. She smiled and stepped out, adjusting her dress and knelt down. "Hello..." she greeted and Solan gasped and got up to run away until she grabbed his arm. "Why are you in such a hurry, little one?"

Solan pointed to the Romans who were still running to catch up. "They...they are running after me!" the queen turned around and saw Caesar's men running and nearly knocking over everyone in their path. Frowning she stood and wrapped an arm around his small frame, bringing him closer to her legs.

"Your highness," one of the Romans bowed his head, completely out of breath. He glared at the little boy, "this rat knocked over one of my men in the alley."

Cleopatra raised an eyebrow, "him?" she chuckled, "he's just a boy. You should really find something better to do than to chase a child," she reprimanded and the Romans hung their heads, feeling very stupid right about now. She dismissed them and then turned, looking down at the blue eyed boy. "What are you doing here by yourself? Alexandria is a big place, you know," she winked.

Solan shied away from her and she knelt down eye level to him. "Do you have any parents?" she asked and he nodded. "And where are they?"

" is here, but..." his eyes searched the area and realized he had gone too far and he didn't know his way back. He was sure his mother was probably looking for him too. "I can't find her..." he sighed.

Cleopatra frowned sadly, "well that's just too bad," she then had a bright idea and smiled deviously, "would you like to come back to my home with me?" she asked and Solan raised an eyebrow, staring into her dark eyes. "Just until your mother comes to find you." He nodded slowly and she lead him to her caravan.

He stepped inside the shielded caravan and gasped, sitting on the soft pillows. She drew the curtains and smiled at the boy's gleeful face. "You are not from Egypt, are you, little one?"

"no..." he looked around and then her horseman began trotting through the streets. He looked through the curtains seeing all the people passing them by. "Where did you live?"

The queen smirked, "in Cairo. Have you been there before?" he shook his head, unknowing of the world he stepped into. "I think you will love it," she grabbed her opium pipe and began packing the bowl. It would be a few hours before they reached Cairo after she had just bid Caesar farewell earlier today so he could return to Rome. "Do you know your mother's name?" she asked curiously.

Solan smiled, "Xena!"

She lit the pipe and smiled sneakily, "what a lovely name your mother has..." she blew out a large cloud of smoke and kept staring at the blonde boy in complete awe of his surroundings.

Gabrielle and Xena met up in the giant square where the people were more scarce. Xena groaned, "did you find him?"

"No, I haven't seen him anywhere!" Gabrielle folded her arms, feeling like this was hopeless. "Where could he have gone?"

Xena walked through the square then saw a group of Romans and gasped, hiding behind a wall. "There are Romans everywhere!" she hissed.

Gabrielle peered behind the wall and saw about ten Romans talking among themselves, being lazy as usual. "Why are they in Egypt? It doesn't make any sense."

"Who cares," Xena walked through a narrow alleyway and saw more Romans and a few of Cleopatra's Egyptian thugs following them. "God damnit," she whispered and Gabrielle bumped into her. "Gabrielle!" she pushed her back and they hid away from the Roman and Egyptian soldiers passing them by.

"Do you really think they would recognize you?" the blonde asked.

Xena sighed, "I don't want to wait around and find out..." she folded her arms, "what if someone took Solan?" panic began to set in and Gabrielle touched her arm.

"Don't overreact. He's probably just hiding. You know how he likes to play that game," she suggested, hoping that'd make her feel better, but Xena was too distracted and too annoyed to even bother.

"This is a big city, Gabrielle! He doesn't know anyone here and you're telling me not to overreact?" she yelled and Gabrielle blinked.

"Okay...we'll just ask around, how 'bout that?"

Cleopatra arrived at her palace and walked with Solan through the large colonnades outside the large fortress. His eyes widened as he couldn't believe the size of this place. He had never seen anything so big in his short life. She smiled and they walked through a large fountains surrounding them before entering inside.

"Welcome to Cairo," she announced and Solan stood at the entrance unsure what to think. "What do you think?" she asked.

"It's so big!" his mouth gaped and she chuckled, grabbing his hand, both walking inside. She snapped her fingers to her maids.

"Bathe him and give him new clothes," she ordered and her servants nodded, taking the boy along with them to a separate wing. She walked off going to see her advisor whom was patiently waiting for her. "Too bad Caesar is on his way back to Rome," she let out an exaggerated sigh and took off her wig, throwing it on a chaise lounge. "Xena is in Egypt! Right under his nose and he just missed her!" she laughed and plopped down on her throne, waving her hand for her servant to hand her the opium pipe.

A servant lit the pipe and Cleopatra inhaled slowly, blowing smoke out of her nose. "And her little very...precious," she raised an eyebrow as her eyes began to glaze over as she continued smoking.

A couple of hours later the maids finished bathing Solan and even cut his hair short and dressed him in a short white pleated kilt with a roped belt and leather sandals. He touched the kilt and frowned, "I'm wearing a skirt..." he cringed. The maids giggled at him and his sincerity.

Cleopatra sauntered in and ran her fingers through Solan's short blonde locks. "You look like an Egyptian prince," she smiled and he glanced up at her towering figure.

"Can I see my mom now?" he asked and the queen chuckled.

"You will soon, I promise," she grabbed his hand leading him out of the baths. "Do you like desserts?" she asked and he nodded his head with a big smile. "Have you had honey cake? I think you will like it."

"Really?" he beamed and she nodded, continuing to walk with him to her bedroom to indulge in sweets.

Gabrielle wandered through the streets and approached an elderly man selling apples, "excuse me," she smiled and he lifted his head as he was pealing an apple, "have you seen a little boy?" she measured Solan's height against her hip, "about this tall? Blue eyes, blonde hair?" he shook his head and Gabrielle sighed. "Thanks anyway," she groaned and walked off.

Xena regrouped with Gabrielle in the street near the docks, "anything?"

"Sorry, nothing," the blonde sighed heavily, feeling hopeless. "Where could he have gone? Nobody just disappears!"

Xena frowned and saw a woman sewing a large sheet under some shade from her cart's canopy. Walking over to her the woman smiled. "Have you seen a blonde haired boy around here?"

The woman set down the fabric in her lap, "I did see a boy a few hours ago run by here."

Xena's eyes lit up and her heart skipped a beat, "do you know where he went?"

The woman pointed to the area where Solan was earlier, "he ran into the Queen's caravan."

"The Queen?" Xena frowned, not liking the sound of this already.

Gabrielle finally caught up to her and breathed heavily, "did you find anything?"

"Do you know if she took him?" Xena asked the woman.

The seamstress shrugged, "I don't know but she must have because I didn't see him after that."

Xena nodded, "do you know where she went?"

The woman chuckled, "back to her palace I'm sure. She spoke to Caesar this morning before he sailed off."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and Xena thanked the woman then walked off. She grabbed her arm, "Caesar? Did she just say Caesar? And who was she talking about? She knows where Solan went?"

"Cleopatra has him," the warrior groaned, folding her arms.

"Cleopatra? As in the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra?!" Gabrielle gasped, not believing this at all. "What are we going to do now?"

Xena's eyes narrowed, "we're going to Cairo." She hurried off heading down the street, bumping into people while Gabrielle remained dumbfounded.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and she ran after her, "Cairo?! Xena!"

Chapter Text

AN: well, it's been a long time since I've worked on this and I told myself I would finish it! I always keep my promises. I really only needed one more chapter and tried to wrap up as much as possible, though with a few strings left behind for the reader's own guesses of course. I really enjoyed writing this story and had forgotten how much I really loved working on it.

Thank you so much for continuing to read, everyone! It's been awesome. On to the next project ;)

Chapter 35

The following day Gabrielle and Xena arrived in Cairo, in search of Solan. Xena knew that Cleopatra had her son especially since he mysteriously disappeared in the square in Alexandria. The woman in the square was very helpful and she had no doubt that the Egyptian Queen would take Solan for her own benefit.

It seemed that Cleopatra was working with Caesar since the place was swarming with Romans. Every corner they turned, there were Roman soldiers walking the streets like they owned the place. Xena couldn't understand why the Egyptian Queen would dare ally with Caesar but she probably didn't ally with him, he probably willingly convinced her to become friends. Little did Cleopatra know that Caesar was a snake and although they appeared to be allies, Caesar wanted nothing to do with friendships with others. He wanted the entire world. The world would be under Rome's rule, including Egypt.

Egypt was a dying empire with only Cleopatra as the queen and her half brother as her king. Soon when she died, and when her half brother would come of age, he would be the new king. How convenient, Xena thought. The idea of Cleopatra and Caesar working together made her absolutely sick to her stomach. She couldn't believe that once she worked for Caesar.

Xena spotted the palace, surrounded by many homes and there were guards everywhere. She hid behind a large tree, peeking through the leaves to see the Romans pacing back and forth in front of the entrance. Gabrielle crouched down on her knees and peeked behind the wall to see many Romans, barely any Egyptian soldiers guarding the queen's palace.

"There are guards everywhere!" the blonde whispered.

"I know, it just makes things more interesting," the warrior smiled deviously and began climbing the tall wall and Gabrielle turned around to see Xena was no longer by her side.

She panicked and looked around then felt a leaf fall on her head. Glancing upward she saw Xena climbing the towering wall that surrounded the huge palace. She gasped and checked to see if the Romans were paying attention, which they weren't. lousy guards, she snorted.

"Xena!" she hissed and grabbed her boot. Xena growled and continued climbing up the wall. "What do you think you're doing?!"

"Going to save my son, what does it look like I'm doing?" Xena frowned and finally jumped over the wall and hid behind a large statue of Horus in the gardens.

Gabrielle huffed and then began climbing over the wall, following Xena. She really didn't think this was a good plan and if Xena did have a plan, she wasn't informed about it. the entire time she climbed the stone wall she cursed to herself. "Why do I get myself into these things?" she muttered. "Oh that's right, because Xena is insane, yet I am still here?" she sighed and finally made it to the top of the wall, then lost her footing and fell straight on top of Xena.

Xena growled and pushed the blonde off of her. Gabrielle smiled apologetically at her. "Sorry..." she whispered.

Then Roman guards appeared behind the two women and surrounded them with swords pointing at their necks. Xena gave her companion a glare and Gabrielle's cheeks paled in color. "Way to go."

Cleopatra lounged in her throne chambers, sitting on the floor playing a game with two of her servant women and Solan. She smiled down at the golden haired child and watched him energetically play with the marbles on the board.

"You like the game, Solan?" the queen asked nicely, running her fingers through his blonde locks.

The boy nodded and pushed the marbles along the board with a long stick. "Can I have more cake?" he eyed the queen with a sneaky grin and Cleopatra shook her head at the boy's persistence. He was obviously obsessed with cake. She wondered how such a vicious woman could give birth to such a sweet child. He was nothing like his mother, but perhaps he was more like his father, whoever that might be, she wondered.

"I think you've had enough sweets for now," she said and he sighed heavily. "Maybe later tonight, okay?" she winked and his entire face lit up.

The guards burst through the doors and threw Xena and Gabrielle onto the marble floor. Cleopatra turned her head and saw just the woman she wanted to see. Solan snapped his head and around saw his two mothers lying on the floor.

He threw the stick down and quickly got up, excited to finally see them both. "Mom!" he smiled and Xena lifted her head, smiling softly at her blonde son, excitingly running towards her.

Cleopatra frowned and grabbed Solan's arms, pulling him back towards her and wrapped her arms around the small boy. Solan grunted and tried to get free from her. "Let me go!" he yelled and Cleopatra growled, tightening her grip around the boy. "I want to see my mother!" he bit Cleopatra's hand and the queen yelped, letting him free.

Solan ran over to his mother and wrapped his arms around her neck. Xena smiled and then one of the Romans ripped Solan off of her and drug him on the ground.

"You brat!" Cleopatra snarled and looked at her hand with the small bite marks and saw droplets of blood. She squeezed her hand and glared at the boy. "Take him away!"

The guard immediately picked up the boy as he was screaming and kicking his little legs. Xena's eyes widened as she watched in horror as her son was being taken away somewhere in this large palace. The fire inside her surfaced and snapped her head around, glaring at the Egyptian queen. "Release him," she said.

The queen smirked and walked over to the trapped warrior. "Oh no, I can't do that. You are a fugitive Xena. You belong to Rome and Egypt is Rome now." She knelt down and touched Xena's cheek. "Did you honestly think you could just come in here and rescue your little boy so easily?" she laughed and pat Xena's cheek.

Xena snatched her face away from her in disgust and turned to see Gabrielle's mouth gagged and her arms tied behind her. She sighed and realized that this was one of her stupid ideas. She didn't think this through and it wasn't like she had entire army to back her up anymore. "Let Solan go, he has nothing to do with this. He is innocent."

Cleopatra nodded and shook her injured hand. "Yes..." she frowned and saw the bite Solan gave her on her hand was swelling slowly. "He is a charming boy. Hard to believe that he is your spawn." She smiled deviously and looked into Xena's fiery eyes. "Your genes must have skipped him," she winked.

"I see that you an ally of Caesar's..." Xena eyed the Romans holding her down behind her. "He is just using you."

"Just like you used him?" the queen spat.

Xena lowered her eyes and breathed in deeply, trying her best to remain calm. She figured that fighting back would only create more problems for her and since Solan was in the queen's hands, she didn't want anything to happen to him either.

"He doesn't want any allies, Cleopatra. He wants to take over the world. I was his commanding officer for years. He doesn't care about you or Egypt!" Xena glared into the queen's dark eyes.

Cleopatra cocked her head and folded her arms. "You do not seem to be the same monstrous woman that Caesar has described. But on the other hand..." she tapped her cheek with a serpent like smile, oh very so deceiving to her allies, even Caesar. "You could just be lying and you would say anything to discount Caesar. After all, you two hate each other."

Xena clenched her teeth, tightening her jaw. "If anyone knows Caesar the best, it would be me. I know everything about him and he is a liar! He doesn't care about Egypt. He just wants your empire for himself, Cleopatra. You don't have to believe me, but it's true. Now please, let Solan go."

"No!" the queen laughed and waved her hand. "Take them away." She sauntered back to her throne and watched Xena and her little blonde be taken away, and was surprised to see that Xena did not put up a huge fight.

As she sat on her throne, she lazily swung her leg over the armrest, lounging with a scowl on her face. "She is interesting..." she spoke aloud and snapped her fingers to her servant to bring over food and wine. "I almost expected her to be more..what is this word..."

"Vicious?" a servant said and the queen shook her head.

"Defiant. She did not even try to defend herself!" Cleopatra scoffed and snatched the wine from the servant boy. "Either she is a changed woman or she is lying through her teeth." She sipped the thick dark wine and tapped her fingers on her knee.

Xena and Gabrielle were brought to a prison down below the palace. Both were tied up together around a pole in the center of the dark dungeon. There were Roman guards outside the doors, listening and watching them every second.

Gabrielle sighed and managed to get the cloth out of her mouth, spitting out some sand in her mouth. She cringed in disgust and turned her head over her shoulder. "What a fine mess you got us into Xena!" she hissed.

Xena frowned and spoke over her shoulder, "maybe if you didn't make so much noise climbing over the wall, we wouldn't be in this mess!"

Gabrielle gasped. "You're going to blame me?!"

One of the Roman guards banged on the door outside the prison. "Quiet!" he shouted and both women shut their mouths.

Xena sighed heavily and Gabrielle tried wriggling her way out of these ropes, though she was tied with Xena's hands, which was just great, she thought. "This is all your fault." She whispered.

"It is not!" Xena hissed.

"Then whose fault is it, then, huh?" Gabrielle rolled her eyes and Xena finagled her fingers inside the ropes, tightening the ropes around Gabrielle's wrists. "Ouch! I don't think that is going to work, Xena!"

Xena groaned and took a good look around the room they were in. the Romans were outside, but they had the keys. They just needed something sharp to cut them free from these ropes and those bastards took every weapon on her body when they were captured.

"We need to find a way out of here..." she looked up at the ceiling and saw nothing of interest to her.

Gabrielle mocked, "why don't we ask your pal, Ares?" she snickered.

Xena frowned, furrowing her eyebrows. "Got something on your mind?"

"Yes! This is all your fault! We should have never came to Egypt in the first place! Now Solan is captured by Cleopatra and we're being held prisoners!" the blonde spat angrily.

"Are you finished?" Xena said and there was a tense silence in the room. "I don't need to hear a lecture from you, Gabrielle. We need to work together to get out of here and find Solan."

"Oh yeah? Then what?" Gabrielle hissed. "Where will we go to next? Obviously Caesar is still obsessed with you!" she banged her head against the pole and felt like screaming, but that definitely wasn't a good idea at the moment. "We're going to be hunted forever thanks to your meddling! First you revolt against Rome, then you try and murder Caesar oh and then, you get together with Sinbad, which you totally used him by the way. And now we're here, years later, still running –"

"Gabrielle!" Xena yelled. "I get it. I'm not perfect, but I don't see you leaving my side anytime soon. If you're so annoyed with me then why don't you just leave?"

The blonde sighed softly and tried to find Xena's fingers wrapped in the multiple intertwined ropes. She grabbed Xena's long fingers, squeezing as tightly as she could. "I'm sorry, I guess I'm just angry that we keep getting into these situations. I don't want this to go on forever. I would never leave you. I've been with you too long to do that..." she muttered the last bit.

Xena smiled and tried to turn around, to see if she could get one look at Gabrielle, or at least be closer to her. "I told you we are too different. You don't belong with me."

"Too late to turn back now," Gabrielle scoffed.

"Then let's figure a way to get out of here," Xena said and Gabrielle nodded, giving her fingers one last squeeze. She spotted a table filled with all sorts of tools and small weapons. "We need to get to that table."

Gabrielle looked over her opposite shoulder and saw the table. It was definitely out of her reach. "How?"

"I'm working on it," Xena bit her bottom lip and tried to formulate a plan in her head. At this rate, they were going to be stuck in here for days.

In Carthage, Princess Dido was the leader of her kingdom since her father died and so far, everything was going well. Although, since she allied with Caesar and was somewhat allies with Egypt, she had a fear in the back of her mind that Cleopatra would try and overthrow her empire. Carthage wasn't nearly as big as Egypt and she had little control over the sea imports and exports from other areas around the world.

The only footing she had was her trade with Anatolia. That territory had a lot to offer considering they had an abundance of minerals and silks that came through Asia every year. Anatolia was definitely a place that every sane person wanted to trade with. If they were good rulers, they'd want Anatolia and their commerce, except Caesar.

The Roman elite did not want anything from Anatolia even though Cleopatra and her entire dynasty wanted control of Anatolia. Caesar wanted nothing to do with the territory and Dido began to think it was due to Xena's infectious treason that tainted the territory years ago. Xena invaded Anatolia and claimed the barren fields as her own, she made an entire life there, she even had a child there. Caesar still had Xena on his hit list, though Dido believed that Xena wasn't the same anymore. If she was, she would have appeared sooner or later from the darkness.

Princess Dido kept pondering over her alliance with the Roman emperor and then she was interrupted by one of her guards that knocked on her door. She sighed and told her maid to open the door. The dark skinned man curtly bowed his head then marched over to the bed, handing his princess the letter in his hand.

She frowned and unraveled the scroll, reading over it carefully. Her eyes widened and she growled, throwing the letter on the ground. The guard had no idea what was going on obviously. The princess quickly got out of bed and reached for her robe.

"I should have never trusted that lying snake," she stormed out of the room, almost pushing her maid into the wall.

Her advisor waited in the throne chambers talking with a few councilmen, Roman councilmen of course. All eyes were on her as soon as she entered the room. Though, the Romans shied away as soon as they saw she wasn't properly dressed at all. Her wild curly brown hair was unkempt and she wasn't wearing anything suitable underneath her robe either.

"What is the meaning of this letter? Did you know about this?" she asked her advisor.

He nervously smiled and dismissed the Roman soldiers. They eagerly left the chamber and now the princess and him were alone. "Your highness, I did not know what was in the letter, but I had a feeling that something like this would happen eventually."

Dido groaned and folded her arms. "Cleopatra has grown too arrogant for her own good. She thinks that since Caesar is her ally, she can run over me like a bug in water." She huffed, blowing her hair away from her face. Her advisor was about to interrupt, but she kept going. "Who does she think she is? Queen of the world?" she let out an annoyed yell and her advisor cringed.

"Princess, the queen obviously wants your land because she believes that she had something against you. She is trying to one up you."

"Her alliance with Caesar means nothing!" Dido growled. "She is nothing without him! Her empire is dying and she needs his help! I would not be surprised if she sleeps with him," she huffed. "My father has traded with her for years! Why has she suddenly decided to betray me?"

The advisor smiled kindly and placed his hand on Dido's shoulder. "Your majesty, these things happen. The best thing to do is to send her a response as soon as possible so we can prevent a war."

"How can two allies of Rome war with each other? Unless..." her eyes darkened. "She has been given permission by Caesar himself..."

Meanwhile in Rome, Caesar visited his prisoner and smiled down at the brother of Xena. "Toris, my trusted soldier gone wrong," the emperor chuckled.

Toris lifted his tired eyes at the emperor. He had hoped one day that Xena would come for him, though she had no idea he was trapped here and he had himself to blame. He worked for Caesar originally to kill Xena but after he saw her, she was alone and not the woman whom he claimed her to be. She wasn't a monster, but it was her fault he was stuck in here. He had been here for three years and to be honest, he didn't think he was going to be here for that long. He thought that he would have died already, but the Romans were known for their infamous torture methods.

"I have decided to free you," Caesar said and waved his hand at the soldiers. They began unlocking the shackles around Toris' wrists and ankles. The beaten ex-soldier stood and rubbed his sore wrists. He didn't think he was going to be let go.

"But...why?" Toris asked.

Caesar sighed heavily. "You are of no use to me now. Xena is nowhere to be found. She is very good at hiding and I simply don't have time to find her like I used to," he smiled and Toris looked at him with the most shocked face he had ever seen. "She obviously does not want to be found. You are free to go."

The emperor turned and began walking out of the prison cell. Toris winced and didn't realize how weak his ankles were, he held onto the wall for balance. "And..." he croaked and Caesar turned around slowly. "And what do find her? What will you do?"

The Roman smiled widely. "I will kill her of course and that child of hers. I know she has the child."

Toris' eyes widened. "Child? No, the child has nothing to do with this feud you two have!"

"The child is her seed. She brought this upon herself, Toris. Now, you are free to go, don't make me change my mind." Caesar frowned then left the prison to go back to his office.

Hours later, he was bombarded with numerous amounts of documents to sign and look over. He hated doing this and it took weeks to get through every stack he received. He wish someone else would do this for him, but someone has to make laws, right?

He sighed and then found a letter on his desk, from Egypt. He smiled and knew that it was from his lover in Egypt. "Cleopatra," he whispered and opened the letter. It must have just arrived and he overlooked it. being back in Rome was strange without her by his side. He spent the last year in Egypt, going back and forth between Rome and Cairo. He had developed a fond relationship with the queen. He hoped one day they could live together and not so far apart.

He stood with wide eyes. "She has Xena!" he smiled and then kept reading onward. He saw the date it was sent and that was only a week ago. He wondered how long Xena had been there, but he didn't care. He wanted her head and he would have it at last. Cleopatra also had Xena's son, which made this so easy, too easy, he thought.

He kept reading and then a frown appeared on his lips. Cleopatra also added that she was pregnant. It definitely wasn't from her half brother, whom was also her temporary husband. He was far too young, only twelve years old. Of course she's pregnant, he thought. Another thing to add to my list.

He ran out of his office and the guards immediately saluted to him. "Prepare my ship. We are leaving to Egypt at once."

Xena's plan of getting the weapons off the table turned out be fruitless and the guards caught her trying to push over the table with her long legs. Much to Gabrielle's demise, Cleopatra moved them both into a different cell and far apart from each other. Each had their own cell and were tied to the bars.

Gabrielle sighed, staring at the wall then looked to Xena, sitting so far away from her. "Now what?" she growled.

Xena frowned. "I will find a way out of here. Knowing Cleopatra, she has Solan hidden somewhere. She has probably alerted Caesar that I am here."

"Oh great!" Gabrielle laughed sadly. "That's just what we need!"

"Your attitude isn't helping, Gabrielle," Xena mused and had been working on rubbing the ropes against the bars, sliding her wrists up and down. She had been working on this for two days now and every so often she heard the rope snap into smaller pieces. Just a little longer, she told herself, and we are free.

"You know, I'm surprised she hasn't killed us yet," Gabrielle sighed. "Egypt felt so promising. I wish we could escape to some place where I don't're not wanted!"

Xena rolled her eyes and then finally she had her wrists free and chuckled. Jumping to her feet Gabrielle turned and saw she was free. She whistled over at the guards in the far corner and they turned their heads, growling at her. She smiled and waved her free hands at them.

The Romans came rushing towards her and she kicked one in the shin through the metal cell bars. She then wrapped her arm around his neck, and with a swift twist, she killed him instantly. The other guard came running towards the cell and she grabbed the dead Roman's sword and plunged it into his gut.

Gabrielle closed her eyes and sighed heavily. "Well, that's one way to go about it I guess."

Xena smiled and then the Roman fell backwards, shoving the blade further into his midsection. She quickly grabbed the set of keys off the dead Roman's belt and tried four keys until she unlocked the doors.

Hastily, she ran to Gabrielle's cell and unlocked it and cut the ropes with the sword. "You can thank me later." She grinned and the blonde smiled up at her then ran behind her towards the exit. Gabrielle quickly ran back and grabbed the sword out of the Roman's gut and followed Xena.

Cleopatra sat with her servants in the large throne chamber and heard a lot of swords clashing with each other in the hallway. She frowned and wiped her hands on her white gown. She stood and then saw her guards being stabbed to death. Her eyes grew in fear and saw Xena with her blonde pet, standing in the doorway.

"Cleopatra," Xena smiled, pointing the blade at the frightened queen. "Where is my son?"

"You just don't give up do you?" Cleopatra smirked.

"Were you expecting less?" Xena raised her eyebrow. "I'm not going to ask again."

"Does it matter if I tell you? I already told Caesar that you are here. I'm sure he is already on his way to claim his bounty!" Cleopatra smiled, giggling softly.

Xena stepped forward and had no fear killing the queen since all her guards were dead, except the Romans outside the palace. "Cleopatra...for the last time, tell me where Solan is or I'll kill you right here."

The queen stood from her throne and approached Xena fearlessly. "Oh but you can't do that. Would you kill a woman carrying an emperor's child?" she grinned.

Xena's eyes widened and she cringed in disgust. Gabrielle's crinkled her nose and shook her head. "Don't make me puke," she thrust the sword at the Egyptian woman. "All the more reason to kill you. Destroy the entire Caesarian line." She winked and Cleopatra's smile faded. "Unless you want to fight me? What do you say, Cleopatra? Feeling daring?" her eyes wild and instilling fear in the queen.

She slowly backed away from the warrior and folded her arms with a disgusted scowl on her face. "He is upstairs in the bathing quarters." Xena nodded to Gabrielle and they left the room in a hurry. "Do not think Caesar won't find you!" she called out and huffed, returning to sit on her throne. One of the maids tried to give her some fruit and she smacked the tray out of the maid's hand, fruit spilling all over the ground. Cleopatra bit her fingernails out of nervousness.

Xena ran upstairs and looked at all the large doors down the hallway. Gabrielle's jaw dropped and she began opening every single door to find Solan. "He could be in anyone of these rooms!" Gabrielle said and Xena kicked open every door and found nothing so far.

She then saw a door at the end of the hall and ran to it with Gabrielle quickly following behind. She tried to turn the knob and it was locked. Grunting she pressed her ear against the door. "Solan?"

"Mom!" he yelled and banged on the door with his small fists from the other side.

Gabrielle and Xena shared a smile. "Stay away from the door, Solan," Xena said and took a step back. She grit her teeth and swung her sword, cutting off the knob, then kicked the door open. She smiled immediately seeing her blonde son and knelt down, hugging him warmly.

"Can we leave now?" Solan said and Xena kissed his forehead then took a good look at his face and frowned.

She tried wiping off the kohl eyeliner around his eyes and Solan whined. "Stop!" he begged, pushing her hand away from his face.

Gabrielle heard footsteps coming up the stairs and her heart raced. "Um, Xena, we need to leave."

Xena nodded and grabbed hold of Solan's hand and took off down the hallway. They were met with a group of elite Romans and Solan gasped. The three ran down a separate hall and Solan had trouble keeping up with both of them.

He yelped and tripped over his own feet. Xena groaned and picked up the small boy into her arms and ran down a flight of stairs, leading towards the back entrance of the palace. Gabrielle fearfully looked behind her and heard the Romans chasing after them.

"Do you have any ideas?!" Gabrielle yelled as they turned tight corners in the palace maze.

"Oh now you like my ideas?" Xena teased.

All three exited the palace and Xena looked at the docks. There was a ship and people were boarding, getting ready to leave. There was no way she was going to stay here and allow Caesar to take her again, not this time.

She put Solan down and told him to run as fast as he could towards the ship. She grabbed Gabrielle's hand and took off running behind Solan. Gabrielle immediately saw the ship and began shaking her head. "Oh, no! Xena! Are you insane?!"

Xena smiled sneakily, "why do you keep asking me that like it's a surprise?" she jested.

Cleopatra ran outside with her Egyptian guards and saw Xena, Gabrielle and Solan running onto the ship just before it set sail into the Mediterranean Sea. She yelled furiously watching them escape and so quickly too. She was sure that Caesar's men would have caught them already. "You idiots are worth nothing!" she yelled at a tall Roman and pushed the horde out of the way, storming back into her palace to sulk. She would have terrible news for Caesar when he arrived in Cairo in a few days.

Nearly half a day after departing from Cairo's port, Xena leaned over the railing of the ship, looking at the orange sunset. She smiled and thought that her days of being on ships had come to an end but apparently not. She thought of Sinbad and how everyone feared him yet many loved him. He was the master of the seas and he was also very kind, even though he was a thief.

She began to think that she had mistreated Sinbad so horribly, Gabrielle made that a point several times. Now that Sinbad had been dead for years, she realized that she once treated everyone in her path like they were dirt –nothing. They meant nothing to her ambitions but now those ambitions were long gone. But at least she had two things that reminded her to keep her steady on a new path, a good path. Solan, her son, given to her by Sinbad, would always be a reminder of the infamous sailor and his generosity. Of course, she couldn't forget Gabrielle. The two never saw eye to eye at first, but soon enough, Xena realized that Gabrielle wasn't going anywhere. She had done so much for her already. She took care of Solan when she couldn't. Xena thought she couldn't ever thank Gabrielle enough for what she had done. She was more than a friend.

"How do I look?!" Solan startled Xena in her thoughts and she turned to see him with his face washed and clear of any eye makeup. He was also wearing more suitable clothes, not that awful white cloth that Egyptian's called clothes.

Xena smiled and knelt down, stretching her arms out. "You look very nice," she said and he ran to her, wrapping her arms around her neck. She squeezed his small body tightly and he gasped for air.

"Mom!" he begged and she chuckled softly, pulling away from him. He smiled, touching her dark hair. "Don't ever take me to Egypt again," he said and Gabrielle stifled a laugh.

"I promise, we won't be going back," his mother winked and she then slapped his thigh gently and his eyes widened. "But don't ever run off like that again! You could have been killed!"

Solan lowered his head. "Okay...I'm sorry." He said and Xena nodded, thankful to hear that he obviously understood that he had done something wrong. "So, where are we going?" he smile lit up his entire face. He saw the foremast and immediately wanted to climb to the top to see the ocean. He ran off and Xena frowned.

"Xena..." Gabrielle warned.

The warrior mother grabbed a rope from the railing and stepped forward. "Don't worry Gabrielle..." she smiled and tossed the rope forward, wrapping it around Solan's small frame and pulled him in.

"Hey!" he groaned and tried to set himself free from the ropes. "I just wanted to look!" he pouted.

Xena shook her head. "I think you've had enough adventures for today," she yanked his body close to hers and tied the rope to her belt loop. "Now you will just have to spend the rest of the day with me and Gabrielle."

He gasped. "But mom!"

"It'll be fun," Xena smiled and turned to Gabrielle. "Right?"

The blonde nodded and looked down at the sad boy, reluctantly stuck to his mother's side, literally. "Oh yes, loads of fun..." she chuckled and looked out at the vast ocean. Solan grumbled to himself and plopped down on the deck, pouting that he was unable to leave and do what he wanted. "So...where are we going exactly?" she nudged Xena's arm.

"Somewhere far from here," Xena said, grabbing the blonde's hand firmly. She felt a tug on her belt and saw Solan trying to crawl away. She yanked on the rope and he fell onto his back with a loud thump. "I told you, you're not leaving my side." She warned and Solan whined.