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Disclaimer: The characters Xena, Gabrielle, Hercules and Iolaus all belong to MCA/Universal studios, no copyright infringement is intended.

There isnít much violence in here because Iíve written other stories that are full of it, so Iíve decided to just settle for a drama J It shouldnít offend anyone.

As all bards do, please gimme feedback on this, I know itís not one of my best, but have mercy I had a headache!! Or if you wanna emila me to chat about Xena then feel free.

Vansen@thefree.net

The Darkness Night Brings

By Jessica Short

The two women lay supine to the stars that painted a tableau before them, though neither of them saw the endless drift of stars, both were comforted by their existence.

The opening where they lay for Morpheus to encapsulate them was a hollow pitch where the trees stood in a sphere around them leaving only dirt in the opening, a fervent fire burnt with the dying embers dancing on top of the blackening wood, small streaks of smoke made their way up into the blackness.

One of the woman stirred, suddenly sitting up as the past memories crept into her sub-conscious, at first she breathed unsteadily but gradually it became rhythmic, like she had practised. She stood up revealing her bare leather-clad that would usually have brass armour hanging from it, her long, thick, black hair swung below her shoulders and drifted slightly in the small breeze, she stood tall, her beauty glowed in the firelight. Her saddened, deep blue, penetrating orbs looked down onto her sybarite partner, the bard. Her friend seemed to have stolen all of the quilts and pillows through the night and now her face was submerged in the comfort of them, the bard, although smaller than the warrior that looked down on her, was a good fighter, her vocation had improved immensley, the warrior agreed with herself smiling at the thought of the 'irratating blonde' trying to swing a staff when she first met the Amazons.

Almost as soon as she had looked down on the bard she had felt a certain envy come over her, one that appeared every night in this situation, one where she wished she could sleep as soundly as the bard, but her sable past wouldn't allow it and neither would she.

It was early morning, the fire had died out completely and rays of strong sunlight protruded through the dense forest that surrounded the clearing lighting the place in a somewhat mystical and eerie way.

The warrior sat silently against a tree, her hope of sleep enveloping her had faded when the sunset had appeared, and now she just waited for the bard to wake so they could move on.

"Gabrielle." Xena whispered crawling towards the bard and softly shaking her shoulder. "Gabrielle it's time to wake up." She whispered, her deep voice almost lost in the snorts of Argo waiting to be fed. Now usually the warrior would try to wake Gabrielle up, wait a while and then threaten her with bodily harm if she still wouldn't get up. But today Xena just sighed, stood up and went over to her war horse to feed him, her unabundent sleep forbid her to move quickly, she decided to feed Argo, splash a bit of water on her face, then get Gabrielle up.

Gabrielle's procrastination to get up slowed down the journey to the next village of Anstensia.

"I'm telling you Xena, to be a bard you need the correct syntax." The bard told her as she picked the staff into the ground with every right foot, occasioanlly kicking stones out of the dust path dividing the forest into two.

"Sure Gabrielle, whatever." The warrior mocked, pulling on Argo's reins to slow her slightly.

"You're just grumpy cuz you don't know what syntax means." The bard nodded deciding to herself that that was why the warrior seemed so obdurate this morning.

The warrior shook her head bringing a slight smile to her face. "Syntax...hmmm...the grammatical arrangement of words showing their connection and relation."

Gabrielle stopped walking and looked up to her friend in confusion.

"Gabrielle, I'm going to go ahead to Anstensia and get as a room in an Inn okay?" The warrior didn't wait for an answer as she kicked on Argo into a soft canter leaving a dust cloud behind her.

"Yeah, well everyone knows what it means." The bard muttered kicking another stone off the path and watching the dust cloud settle in front of her.

Xena slowed Argo as they entered the small village, very similar to Amphipolis. Her eye caught an inn and she turned Argo towards it.

The bard arrived shortly after Xena, also noticing the simularities between Anstensia and Amphipolis, she ambled over to the inn to find Xena talking to the barman.

"Hey Xena." She said as she appeared beside the warrior.

"Who's she?" The barman asked.

"She's my...liegeman." Xena smiled as anger shot from the bard's eyes, Xena, knowing the lecture to come she quickly grabbed her drink and went to a nearby table.

"I am not her liegeman...woman...whatever!" Gabrielle waved a hand at the barman and stormed over to the warrior who continued to laugh at the ever angry Gabrielle.

"Well, at least you've cheered up a bit." The bard muttered sitting beside her friend in the small inn.

"It was a joke Gabrielle." The warrior sighed rolling her eyes, holding back a laugh.

"Xena, I am not your 'faithful follower', we're partners, sidekicks...equals." Gabrielle explained using her hands to over exagerate the point.

"Uh huh, sure Gabrielle." The warrior nodded raising her eyebrow to the bard,

Gabrielle grunted in return.

That night Gabrielle managed to drag a shickered Xena up to their room. The room was small, lit only by candles and the moonlight edged in through the small window in the slightly damp wall. There was one single bed that took up most of the room, Gabrielle sighed.

"You sure get your money's worth." She muttered, steadying the warrior that hung from her shoulder who was muttering unintelligible words into the bard's ear.

"Great, a drunken warrior and a bed barely big enough for one of us." The bard sighed looking down at Xena and rolling her eyes.

"C'mon, let's get your armour off." The bard whispered literally throwing the warrior onto her back on the bed, it took almost two candle lights to get the warrior's armour off with the little help from Xena that she got. The warrior occasionally passed out, sitting beside her Gabrielle spent most of her time trying to catch the vomit of her friend in a bowl, though half usually ended up on herself. But her tiredness and Xena's apathy was too much for her and slowly, her eyelids began to shut, her head began droop and her sensibility eventually left her, her upper body slumped quietly onto Xena's stomach.

The night crept in, and unfortunately so did the warrior's nightmares.

Xena paced over her friend's body in the Thessalin temple, how could she have risked Gabrielle's life over a stupid short cut? Fool Xena, dumb dumb dumb, That was when it began, the most painful, excrutiating moment in her life, the moment where her heart was ripped out and shredded slowly by Hade's sword. The moment when Gabrielle went into a seizure. Xena began to panic, she had never seen this before, her actions turned in turmoil as she tried to restrain Gabrielle's arms and legs, she had wished that she could supplant Gabrielle's life, at that moment of incoherent violence she would have given anything for it to be her lying there, bleeding, on that table, anything.

As the bard's breathing had slowed, so had her own, her world had turned sable and the will to go on began to break. That was when the feral feeling came to her and she began to go to any lengths to dry and drag Gabrielle back into this obdurate world.

"Don't leave me, don't you leave me, don't leave me don't leave me, wake up, wake up, WAKE UP!!"

Xena's body shot up right as the bard's name slipped through her lips in a desperate scream to revive her, a blanket of perspiration covered her body, her jet black fringe stuck against the dampness of her forehead and her breathing became uneasy. Gabrielle was thrown backwards to the floor not waking up until her head smacked against the cold, damp wall, the pain, although growing, subsided as she watched the warrior violently thrash about now screaming her name.

"Xena?!" She scrambled to her feet, grabbing at the back of her head as unceasing pain stabbed through her head, her feet stumbled over Argo's bags, her hands reached out in front of her to break her fall knocking both her and Xena flying off the bed into the small space beside the door. Xena landed first onto the crook of elbow, the pain efficiently stunning her out of her nightmare, her body crunched onto her elbow her body slid up against the wall, the bard landed head first into her stomach causing her to cry out for air, the bard managed to break her fall into Xena's body quite comfortably.

The commotion of screaming and crashing came to an impending halt and the two women lay motionless, only the sound of their heavy breathing could be heard in the torchlit room.

"Gabrielle? Gabrielle are you okay?" Xena's voice was strained by the weight of the bard digging into her gut.

"Yep, you?" Came the hoarsed reply.

Xena managed to slowly open her eyes, she was slid up against the wall, her elbow still bent painfully behind her. Gabrielle lay on top of her on her side shaking her head of the constant blurness that persisted in her vision, she managed to focus on Xena benath her, realising her position she moved slightly causing the warrior to let out a loud gasp as the bard's elbow was jerkily removed from her ribs, broken ribs.

"By the gods Xena, are you okay?" Gabrielle turned onto her front and supported herself onto her hands either side of the warriors head.

"I will be when you get off me." Xena tried to smile in her discomfort.

"Oh, right, sorry." The bard muttered picking herself up, assessing herself there was no real damage done, only the small bang on her head.

Xena slowly turned onto her side and pain wrenchingly pulled out her arm knowing it's fate, she cringed as the blood rushed to it creating even more pain, but her stoic mask remained over her face as she quickly stood up and brushed herself down.

"Xena, your arm it's..." Gabrielle began.

"Nothing, probably just a dislocation." The warrior sighed, she looked over to the wall and in one sudden movement rammed herself shoulder first into it, relocating the dislocation in her shoulder, Gabrielle cringed as she heard the 'pop' in her friend's arm.

"I'm so sorry Xena." Gabrielle shook her head.

"Gabrielle it's not your fault, but I can think of better ways to wake someone up." She joked bringing lightness to the situation.

Xena sat down keeping the pain in her ribs under control, the bard had enough confusion in her mind, telling the bard that she had just broken a warrior's ribs was not something Gabrielle would take to lightly.

"Are you sure you're okay Xena, nothing else hurt?" The bard offered.

"Gabrielle I'm fine, what about you?" The warrior asked in a more than serious tone.

"Y'know Xena I can take care of myself." The bard nodded pointing a finger at the warrior.

"Gabrielle." Her voice was obdurate and the bard gave in.

"Well, I hit my head on the wall, but it's probably nothing." The bard explained diffidently.

"Let me see." The warrior insisted, Gabrielle sighed sitting beside the warrior on the bed and turning the back of her head towards the warrior.

Xena ruffled through Gabrielle's strawberry blonde hair until she felt the bard cringe.

"Gabrielle! This looks quite bad." She said scrutinising the small cut encapsulated by a bruise on the back of her friend's head.

"It doesn't hurt." the bard gritted her teeth as Xena's fingers gently caressed the tender area.

"There's nothing broken, I'll get you some herbs." The warrior straightened Gabrielle's hair and quickly left, as the door clicked shut the warrior let out a small gasp clutching her ribs in agony, the walk down the small dark corridor to the inn was torture but she wouldn't let on to Gabrielle.

Xena found the barman, he hadn't yet gone to sleep but remained awake counting the night's earnings.

"Excuse, sorry..." Another shot of pain. "Sorry to disturb you but do you have any herbal tea here? I'd be glad to pay." She asked trying to keep the smile on her face from cringing.

"Sure missy, but I won't charge ya, everything okay?" He asked, the warrior nodded and waited as the man brought her a small pouch of powder and a bottle of cider.

"This should do, just mix the two together." He smiled handing them to the warrior.

"Er...I don't suppose you have anything that I could...a long piece of strong cloth I could borrow." The warrior gave her sympathetic look towards the barman who sighed. "I'll see what I can find." He walked off into the next room, it seemed strange to Xena that he left all his earnings on the table infornt of the stranger, maybe he was a very trusting man.

"Here, I've got this, it's a kind of belt that my wife used to wear, quite strong." He smiled pulling it tightly.

"Thanks, I'll pay for it tommorow." The warrior smiled.

"That won't be neccessary, I'm not gunna charge for that piece of scrap." He smiled.

"Thank you, you're too kind." The warrior smiled back a genuine smile then quietly left. Gabrielle lay on the bed still trying to focus. "My head's not so bad now." She moaned as Xena entered leaving the belt outside.

"I've got some herbs, I'll mix them for you, they'll help the pain but also make you very sleepy." She smiled, the bard sighed. "Just as well I s'pose."

It took serveral minutes for Xena to mix the herbs with the cider without letting on to Gabrielle about her pain, but soon it was ready and the bard gulped it down noting the pungency of the drink.

"That was vile, worse than the headache." The bard smiled.

"You sure you're okay?" Xena asked sitting onto the bed stroking Gabrielle's cheek with the back of her hand.

"Xena I'm fine, we should get some..." The bard's eyelids fluttered slightly and soon Morpheus had taken control of her mind.

That was Xena's cue, she quickly crept out into the stables with Argo, where she carefully and painfully stripped down to her shift and placed the belt the barman had given her around her two broken ribs, 'get ready Xena, you haven't done this in a long time' she mused, seconds later she pulled the belt as tight as she could causing the two ribs to click back into place, she tied the belt ends together but the pain was too overwhelming, and the alchol from the previous night didn't help much, she fell back into the hay unconscious, but in a much worse place than with Morpheus.

The air was fresh, the breeze just right and the sun was burning, Hercules couldn't get enough of it, his auburn hair blew back slightly as he inhaled another gust of wind which cooled his bare muscular torso that wrinkled as the horse he sat on moved up and down in a rhythm. The day was fervent and perspiration had built on his forehead, he was lucky he had a horse, walking this distance would make any man fatique.

"Hercules, what's on your mind?" Iolaus asked from behind him.

"Huh? On nothing, just taking in the scenery, the sun..." His deep voice floated through the air like a cloud.

"The excitement of seeing Xena again." Iolaus finished, rolling his eyes.

"Yeah I suppose." The demigod laughed.

"How far is it, I am dying for a drink." The young blonde haired man complained.

"Not far, just around the bend." Hercules kicked the horse on faster as Anstensia came into view.

Gabrielle woke, her eyes slowly adjusted to the sunlight let in by the window, she shielded them with her elbow and slowly sat up, aware that the headache had gone. "Those herbs must've worked wonders." She whispered noticing Xena's absence, her eyes searched the small room, she wasn't there, 'relax Gabrielle, she can take care of herself, she's probably in the inn having a drink', remembering the previous nights events, in all the commotion Gabrielle hadn't asked Xena what the nightmare had been about, the question began to bug her and she decided to find Xena, the sooner the better.

Hercules jumped off the horse, his six feet of muscle shon golden brown as the sun reflected off it, Iolaus landed behind him, slightly shorter.

"I'll stable the horse, you go find them." Hercules told him, he nodded.

Hercules led the horse into the stable immediately noticing Argo, the only pableo mare there, he smiled.

"Hey Argo, you remember me?" He whispered as the horse nuzzled his face.

There was a small stir from beneath Argo and Hercules looked down in amazement as Xena began to softly shake her head in an attempt to wake herself up.

"Now there's a sleeping beauty." He muttered folding his arms and shaking his head at the warrior.

Xena's head throbbed, 'never again Xena' she muttered opening her eyes slowly as the sunlight poured in, her hand quickly covered her eyes blocking out the sun, a numd pain circulated her body as she remembered the previous nights events, her ribs. There came a cough from above her and she was soon up onto her feet in a fighting stance.

"Woh! Xena, calm down it's me, Hercules." The demigod laughed.

"Hercules!?" She smiled shaking her head.

"Looks like you had a bit too much to drink." He smiled.

"Actually I can't remember." She muttered.

"Why are you down here in the hay half naked?" Hercules asked admiring Xena.

All of a sudden the warrior became a little diffident.

"Oh...I..." She hesistated to tell him and Hercules could tell something was wrong.

"What's happened? Have you and Gabrielle had a fight?" He asked.

"No. Just...Well I got a little drunk last night, Gabrielle took me to bed and I had...a nightmare." The warrior explained putting her leathers back on.

"That doesn't explain why you're out here though."

"Well in trying to wake me from the nightamre Gabrielle somehow jumped on me, sent us both flying onto the floor." The demigod supressed a laugh.

"When Gabrielle landed on me she broke two of my ribs, I didn't want to tell her so I came out here to fix them and just fell asleep."

"Are you okay?" Hercules asked in concern under the silent laughing.

"Yeah, just don't tell Gabrielle." She poked him in the chest noticing it was bare and very delicious.

"What's with the bare chest?" She asked.

"Xena it's baking outside." He shook his head and threw his thumb over his shoulder.

"Oh."

"Come on, Gabrielle will be worried about you." He smiled grabbing her hand and pulling her along.

Iolaus managed to find Gabrielle as she was asking the barman if he had seen Xena.

"I saw her last night came to get some herbs, that's the last time I think." He shrugged his shoulders.

"Gabrielle what's wrong?" The small warrior asked, Gabrielle turned to him. "Iolaus!" She cried throwing her arms around him in a tight embrace Iolaus gratefully returned the hug then asked again.

"What's going on?"

"I've lost Xena, she must have got up early this morning and gone for a walk or something, I'm worried about her Iolaus, last night she had a terrible nightmare and in the process of waking her I managed to physically hurt her." Gabrielle shook her head.

"Don't worry Gabrielle, I'm sure she's fine, I'll get Hercules and we'll go find her."

Just as the sentence finished Hercules stepped into the tavern.

"That won't be necessary." He smiled as Xena stood beside him.

"Xena!" Gabrielle cried. "Where in Hades have you been? I was worried sick about you." The bard almost angrily said. Xena, slightly embarrassed by Gabrielle's open effection just stuttered. "I...I went to feed Argo." She told the bard.

"Oh, okay."

"Have you girls got anything planned today?" Iolaus asked.

"No." The warrior shook her head.

"Great, as me and Hercules were on our way here we passed this small lake, thgouht we could grab some food and go there." He suggested.

"Sounds great." Hercules smiled.

"Yeah." Xena added.

They had grabbed some lunch and put it into Argo's saddlebags and set off on their horses, the lake was only about fifthteen minutes from the town but the relentless sun beating down on the four of them made them all fidgety and were glad to get off the horses at the lake.

It was beautiful, the lake was different shades of blue and green and glowed as the sun shon onto it, a grass embankment surrounded it and suprisingly there was no-one else there.

"Wow, this place is beautiful." Gabrielle whispered.

They unpacked their food and sat by the lake.

After they had eaten Xena decided she was going for a paddle, she took off her brass breastplates, boots and arm holders and dipped her feet in to find the water somewhat cold, the warrior stood from the water by the side, she didn't hear Hercules creep up behind her but felt his hands press against her back and before she knew it the cold water had encapsualted and she was lost into the depth of it, the shock was immense and as she fell she could hear everybody laughing, but not for long she thought.

After about a minute Xena still hadn't resurfaced, Hercules was becoming increasingly worried.

"Xena?" He shouted shaking his head he dived in after her and swam around using his arms as his eyes, he brushed against something. Turning quickly he saw the limp body of the warrior princess, her eyes were closed, she floated lifelessly beneath the lakes surface, he grabbed her arm and quickly resurfaced to the small two-man audience who watched in concern at his rescue. The demi-god pulled Xena to shore and, with the help of Gabrielle and Iolaus, lifted her onto the river bank.

"Hercules she's not breathing." Iolaus panicked, Hercules brushed the wet hair from his face and knelt down beside the warrior and slowly pressed his lips over hers and breathed into her mouth, he rose, still no sign of life, then took another breath and breathed it into Xena, as he was pulling away he felt a hand press against the back of his head forcing him back down, this time his mouth was greeted by the warrior's lips opening and sticking her tounge into his mouth. It all happened so quickly he hadn't had time to react before the warrior pushed him away, sat up and began uncontrollably laughing. Then Hercules realised it had been a trick.

"Had you going there didn't I?" Xena laughed. "Hercules, my hero."

"Very funny Xena." Hercules nodded, watching in amusement at Xena's hysteria.

"The look on your face." She whispered calming down.

"Xena, you had us worried." Gabrielle cried sitting beside her.

"I'm sorry Gabrielle, but Hercules hadn't pushed me in..."

"Okay, okay, my fault." Hercules raised his hands guiltly into the air.


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