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Everything slowed to a pace which made Gabrielle moan at the time it took, the drawn-out agony being suffered by her best friend. "No..."
"Gabrielle!" She was being shaken, hard, the tone of voice above her rough with anxiety. "Wake up, Gabrielle. It was only a dream. Shhh... you're safe now."
Gabrielle relaxed slightly, the nightmare lessening its hold over her mind. Xena held her tightly, cradling the shivering bard.
"Xena..." Gabrielle's voice dissolved into terrified tears. "Oh, Xena!"
The warrior pulled the bard closer, longing to ease her friend's pain; not knowing how to help her. Tears flowed from Gabrielle to Xena as the young woman curled up in a ball against her friend, weeping softly.
"It's all right, Gabrielle. I'm here."
"Xena... it was the worst nightmare I've ever had. You died, I was all alone..." Gabrielle sobbed. "I'd die too if you weren't here with me!"
Xena cursed herself for letting the bard come with her to Milenae. A runner told her he'd been sent to find her by his village, once they knew she was in the area, because of a warrior who called herself Cassenia was terrorizing the countryside for miles.
It was Callisto, as bent on destruction as usual. This time, the warped warrior's mind contrieved a trap even Xena fell into. Before the kill, Callisto loved playing with her enemies. The most satisfying 'game' was torture.
Xena grimaced at the memory. She still carried scars. But for the bard, they went deeper. The warrior wished she could have killed herself rather than let Gabrielle see her that way.
A soft snore permeated the darkness of the cave. Gabrielle slept. Wrapping a blanket about the petite Poteidaian, Xena slipped out. She needed to be alone.
Gabrielle relived the nightmare again... Xena hanging from a burning pole, sword gashes all over her... "NO!"
"Shhh. You're safe. You're in Atronos. Kendar, she's still in the grip of her dream!"
It wasn't Xena... Xena was still hanging... Gabrielle screamed. And screamed. Hands were holding her down, forcing a reed between her lips. Something cool trickled down her throat. The bard relaxed. She was safe. But Xena?
"Xena..." she moaned, pushing the ministering figure away.
"Don't worry. That she-demon will never harm anyone again."