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Captured Heart

by Becky Lutzke
Sept.3, 1996

Part I

This takes place about three and a half weeks after Is There a Doctor in the House. As our story opens, Xena is on Argo and Gabrielle is standing next to her. They are at the entrance of Potadeia.

Gabrielle is talking to Xena. "Can't you stay just a few more days? Then maybe....."

"Gabrielle, Tarragon wouldn't have sent for me unless he needed me." Xena can tell Gabrielle is frustated over the turn of events.

For a moment the stubborn fire comes to Gabrielle's eyes. "Then let me come. You'll need my help." Xena couldn't help but smile at her friend. So soon back from death's hold and still just as stubborn. If I had lost her forever, she thinks but then pushes that thought away. Gabrielle was strong and had come back.

"No, Gabrielle. Your body needs time to heal and your.... She stops looking at her friend.

"It's because of the dreams isn't it?" Gabrielle looks at her friend, "It would be easier if you stayed." Gab says quietly.

"Partly." Xena lays a hand on Gabrielle's cheek. "Archelaus needs my help urgently. Please Gabrielle understand."

Gabrielle knows, but knowing doesn't give any solace. Put on a brave face, Gabrielle thinks. She smiles, "Yes, I understand. Go on. Argo, take care of her or no apples when you get back."

Argo snorts!

Xena turns and rides off. Lilla comes up behind Gabrielle and lays a hand on her shoulder. "Come on. She'll be Ok! You need some rest."

"Actually, I think I'll go down by the river, to the glade. I need to practice and think," Gabrielle says as she looks at her sister.

Lilla looks worriedly at her sister, but gives in. "All right, just don't over do it. Ok."

"Ok." Gabrielle hugs her sister and grabs her staff. She walks down the road toward the glade.

Lilla watches her sister and says a Thank You to the Gods and Xena for allowing her to return from the otherside. When Xena and Gabrielle had arrived two days ago, Lilla had been excited. Until she caught sight of the bandages and noticed it was Gabrielle riding Argo and Xena walking.

The story had come out later that evening as they sat around the fire about the Thessilian and Mitoan War and the temple and Gabrielle's wounding and death. And how Xena had brought her back. Strangely, Xena had told most of the story giving Gabrielle the credit for coming back. Gabrielle had stayed quiet til that point, and then insisted that it was Xena who had brought her back.

Lilla didn't know whether to be angry at Xena for risking Gabrielle's life or happy that she had saved it. She had decided on the latter. But only after watching Xena care for Gabrielle's healing wounds and then watching that night as Xena held Gabrielle as she had woken from a nightmare.

The pain in Xena's eye's had told Lilla all she needed to know.

The next couple of days had been nice. Xena and Lilla had actually started to get along and Gabrielle was looking much better. Except for the nightmares and Xena had told Lilla it would take time for those to fade. Gabrielle's attacker had been merciless and Xena blamed herself for the loss of a piece of Gab's innocence.

Then a messenger had come from a village a day and a half from Potadeia. A village elder named Archelaus begged Xena for help. A ruthless warlord had captured his daughter and 4 other girls from the village. Xena couldn't ignore the message because Archelaus had once saved her life long ago.

Gabrielle was not happy, knowing that she couldn't help Xena yet. Lilla sighs and says to herself, "Gabrielle you can be so stubborn." She walks off to get the day's chores started.

Gabrielle has now reached the glade. It is not a long trip but she sit's down on a rock to rest. Her mind wanders to Thessily. She deliberately blocks out the thoughts of the attack on her. But she will never forget Xena's voice coming across the void saying, "Don't leave me!" She had almost stayed in the Elysian Fields believing Xena could make it without her. But Xena's voice had been like a cold water splashed in her face. Hearing the desperation, pain, and love, Gabrielle had fought to come back. When she had opened her eyes again, and saw Xena crying she knew she had been right to come back. So many tears, she had never seen the warrior princess this way before. Not even Marcus's death had provoked this response. "Now I know for sure." Gab says to no one in particular. She gets up and walks to the center of the glade with her staff. She closes her eyes and begins to practice. She opens her senses to everything around her. She hears the river, the grass waving in the breeze, the animals moving about and something, no someone else.

"You still have the fire in your heart, my beauty!"

Gabrielle's eyes snap open. She knows this voice. She turns defensively to see Talmadeus standing with four other men. "What do you want?"

"I couldn't put you out of my mind Gabrielle! Your fire and beauty have captured my heart. So, I've decided that you will be mine." Talmadeus is smiling.

Gabrielle looks shocked, "I'm almost flattered, but I'll have to decline the invitation."

Talmadeus loves her wit and chuckles, "You know I've gone to a lot of trouble to find you. I heard that Xena had taken you through that little war. Endangered your life without a thought. I thought you two were friends."

Gabrielle is puzzled by Talmadeus words, "She is my friend, she brought me back from the dead."

Talmadeus looks at her slyly, "From what I've heard it was you who did that, not her."

"Xena would never leave me." Gabrielle is getting angry.

"Really, Where is she now when you need her most?" Talmadeus looks around, "Some friend, who can't even be there when you need her!!" Talmadeus words hit their mark with Gabrielle. "Get her, but do not harm her or it will be your lives."

Talmadeus men move in. Gabrielle easily takes out the first two, but the strain of the fight on her healing body shows quickly. The last two men are manuvering around Gabrielle. She swings her staff and takes out the third man, but it has allowed the fourth to come in behind her. He presses something over her mouth and nose holding it tight. She inhales and an acrid smell starts to invade. With all the strength she can muster she rams her war staff backwards into his stomach and he falls. But the drug has done it's work and she begins to stumble. Talmadeus catches her as she falls and the last thing she see's is his evil smile, "You are a rare beauty!" then all goes dark.

Lilla and one of the village men have headed toward the glade. It is late evening now and Lilla has grown concerned. In her rush of chores, she hadn't realized Gabrielle had not returned until just now. She had gotten a friend, Marith, to come help, figuring Gabrielle was too tired to walk back.

"She's overdone it again. Xena warned her about this." Lilla is angry with concern.

"She is probably fine Lilla. Don't fret!" Marith says.

"I'm going to knock her over the head for this. Causing me to worry like this."

Marith chuckling, "You two alway did argue. You're both very stubborn!"

Lilla swings her hand at Marith, who easily sidesteps it and smiles.

As they approach the glade, Lilla's heart drops. Gabrielle's staff lays on the ground and her war pouch. Blood stains the pouch and Gabrielle is no where to be seen. There has obviously been a fight. They search the area, but there is no sign.

"No! Where is she? Marith, Who could have done this??"

Marith leans down near a large rock on the edge of the glade and picks up a shiny peice of metal. It has a warlord's marking, but he has never seen this one before.

"Come on Lilla, we need to get a message to Xena. She is the only one who will be able to find her." They rush back to the Village. A messsage is written and the piece of metal enclosed in it. Then a runner is sent to Archelaus' village.

"Will he get there in time?" Lilla asks Marith.

"Only time will tell, Lilla." Marith watches the runner disappear from sight.

Xena arrives in Alchelaus' village the following morning. Alchelaus is already waiting !!

"So do you alway wait near the entrance of the city to greet visitors?" asks Xena.

"Only ones that are special." he says with a small smile. " Thank you for coming so quickly. Where is your companion I've heard so much about?"

"What have you heard?" Xena is surprised.

"That she is brave and has a fire about her. And that she is an excellent bard!" He says..

"I'll tell her that when I get back to her."Xena says wondering, " So tell me what is going on."

Alchelaus leads Xena to an inn and orders for both of them. "Do you know a warlord named Talmadeus?"

"Yes, he is held in one of the lower provinces." Xena says with a little surprise.

"Not anymore, he came through here a couple of days ago. He didn't touch the village, but a few of our daughters were down by the pond. He decided to take them. The two men sent along for their protection were killed! Xena I need your help. I am an old man now. My daughter is my most precious treasure as are the others daughters. Please!"

Xena thinks of Gabrielle.Looks at her old friend, "I'll get them all back, I promise. Do you know where he was headed?"

"All we know is he was headed the way you came." Alchelaus is hopeful now!

A shadow crosses Xena's brow momentarily and then she rises. She mounts Argo and heads off. For some odd reason she gets a funny feeling. But she pushes it back and concentrates on the task ahead.

Gabrielle awakens, She is on horseback and is sitting in front of Talmadeus. He is caressing her hair and face. She struggles from his grip and is hauled unceremoniously down from the horse.

"We have a ways to go my love. So you will forgive me, but I can't have you struggling. Even though the thought is exciting," he says as he motions one of his men near. In his hand he carries a cup and Gabrielle smells the same acrid odor as with the cloth before.

She refuses to drink. Talmadeus smiles.The next thing she knows she is being held down and it is forced down her throat. Things begin to slide away and she feels one of the soldiers reaching her to Talmadeus on horseback. Talmadeus kisses her on the head and then darkness intervenes...

Gabrielle's head is pounding as she awakens. She views her surroundings. She is laying in a luxurious bed. It is covered in silk coverlets and pillows. Her wounds have been tended, though it won't be long and they will be completely healed she notices. She is in a gown of the loveliest silk she has ever seen and she pales when she thinks of who might have changed her. The tent flap rustles and is pulled back as Talmadeus enters.

"My Dear, you're awake, I thought you might sleep away another day." He says smiling.

"How long I have I been here?" Gabrielle climbs off the bed

"It is the second day after you're coming to be with me." He is in a jovial mood.

"Do you have any idea what you've done!" Gabrielle's voice is rising, "When Xena hears about this......"

"Oh, never fear my dear! Xena will be here soon, but not for you!!" Talmadeus runs his eyes over her body and it sends a shudder through her.

Gabrielle is afraid, but puts up a front. "What are you talking about?"

Talmadeus approaches Gabrielle. "I told you Gabrielle. I've went to a lot of trouble to find you. I've been planning this since you and Xena defeated me. Your Warrior Princess friend will not be able to help you." He grabs her and kisses her firmly on the lips. Gabrielle shoves him away and slaps him.

He begins to laugh. "It is going to be a pleasure to break you! Xena has trained you well, but your soul is wild and free. No wonder you walk with her!" He grabs Gabrielle again. Holding her hands behind her back he begins to kiss her neck, "You.. will come to my side soon enough. And you will give yourself to me!"

Gabrielle responds, "Xena will cut your heart out before that happens."

"We shall see, we shall see!" and he kisses her again and throws her on the bed. "There is an outfit on the stand, change into it and be ready when I return." Gabrielle looks at him stubbornly. "Or I will change you myself and take my time at it!" He laughs and leaves from the tent. Gabrielle lays back and lets out a shudder. "Xena where are you?"

Xena is at this moment in a tree watching Talmadeus camp. She see's Talmadeus leave a small tent and head toward a cage containing 5 woman. He points to one and she is hauled out of the cage and forced toward a large tent in the center of the camp. Xena is seen enough. The camp is not well guarded. Seems Talmadeus has few followers. Xena counts about 20 or 30 men. Xena slowly moves in, taking out the perimeter guards. She makes her way past the small tent that Talmadeus left earlier and heads toward the girls. She quietly takes out the two guards and releases the girls. She directs them toward the woods and where they should wait. She continues on to Talmadeus' tent. She listens and then uses her knife to tear the back open. It is dark inside with only candlelight for vision. The tent has been walled off on the inside. The girl lays on the bed in the room Xena has entered. Xena listens, motioning the girl to remain quiet. Talmadeus and his lieutenant are talking on the other side of the wall. Xena motions the girl toward the opening and she complies quickly.

"This is a dangerous game you are playing!" the lieutenant says.

Talmadeus angrily responds, "That's none of your buisness. She is mine! I will have her very soul when I'm done!"

The lieutenant speaks fearfully, "And what about Xena??"

Talmadeus looks at his lieutenant, "I will take care of Xena. She will never get her out of here alive!!"

As Xena slips through the back of the tent, she smiles, believing she has outsmarted Talmadeus. She and the young girl leave out the tent flap. And as they head toward the wood, the alarm is raised in the camp. Xena takes out one more guard and then ushers the young girl into the woods. The lieutenant looks into the bedroom. "They're gone! You were right!"

Talmadeus smiles at his mastery. Xena never knew how close she came to her friend. "I told you my plan is working out just fine. Send four men after Xena and the girls. They are not to capture them, just to make it look like they are being pursued."

"Yes, Talmadeus." The lieutenant turns and leaves.

"And now, lets go see how my beautiful spitfire is doing?"

Xena arrives back at Alchelaus' village late that evening. She has pushed the girls so that they were not recaptured. She had missed Gabrielle this time. She alway was better at talking to others than she was. Everyone is overjoyed at their return. And Alchelaus asks Xena to stay for the celebration.

"No, my old friend. I need to go. It's been three days and I need to get back to Gabrielle. She'll be starting to worry." Actually it is Xena who is worried about Gabrielle.

Alchelaus gives in, "All right, but next time you come through we will celebrate, OK! I owe you much!" as he hugs his daughter close to him.

Xena smiles, "Ok!"

"RUNNER COMING!" is shouted from a lookout.

Xena and Alchelaus look up. The runner is very winded, but is able to hand over his message. ""

"Yes, Why?"

The runner hands Xena the message and is led away by some villagers. Xena reads about Gabrielles dissappearance and looks at the piece of metal. She had just saw this type of emblem not a day's ride from here. How many days, two, no three days Talmadeus had had her friend.

Alchelaus looks at the pain in her face. "Xena, what's happened?"

She looks up, and begins to move toward Argo. "I've got to go. Talmadeus has taken Gabrielle!" Xena mounts Argo and anger builds as she heads toward Talmadeus camp. If he has hurt her in anyway.....She pushes Argo on.

Shortly after Xena's departure Gabrielle is brought out of the small tent. She is dressed in an outfit much like her amazon one, only it is a deep forest green. Gabrielle smiles, she likes the feel of it. Then she feels Talmadeus hands running over her back and down. She spins around to hit him and he catches her hands. "You are a quite a fighter aren't you!" He kisses her neck and shoulders.

"Please Stop!" Gabrielle says with tears coming down her face.

"You are mine Gabrielle. Can't you feel how strong we are together." He releases her and motions to one of his guards. "If you refuse my romantic ovations, then maybe we should try something else." He smiles wickedly.

A fighting staff is thrown to her. Talmadeus picks up another staff. A circle forms around them. Gabrielle looks confused. Talmadeus continues to smile and then attacks. Gabrielle blocks and wields the staff to hit him in the side. But he blocks and continues to press her and pull back. He draws her into showing what she has learned. Like a lover memorizing every move, block and thrust. Gabrielle realizes he is toying with her and anger begins to build. Anger ignites her strength and speed. Talmadeus laughs at what his deception has done to her. Gabrielle strikes his feet out from under him. And just as she is going to strike the next blow, he kicks her hard in the stomach. Pain lances through every fiber of her being and she drops the staff. In the next few seconds she has fallen on top of him. He looks into her eyes and sees the anger still smoldering, and then he kisses her ever so gently on the lips. And to his surprise and pleasure, Gabrielle responds. Just as quickly as it happens, Gabrielle pulls away. Confusion is in her face.

Talmadeus smiles, "Take her back to her tent!" He knows he is breaking through.

Gabrielle is taken back. Once alone in the tent, she sits down and starts to cry. Why did she kiss him? Xena Where are you? Why haven't you come? And she sobs.

End of part I

Part II

As dawn approaches, Xena nears Talmadeus camp. Her thoughts run to Gabrielle. He wants revenge, and Gabrielle was the perfect target. But unknown to her, she couldn't be further from the truth.

She halts Argo, and dismounts. Quickly and quietly she heads through the wood toward the camp. Strangely she encounters no soldiers along the way. What she see's makes her pale. They are gone. Talmadeus has moved his camp and in a hurry it looks like too. Fear begins to creep in, as she realizes Talmadeus had been planning this. The thought of Gabrielle alone with him and what may be happening only goes to further her anger. She rushes back to Argo and heads off in Talmadeus' direction. At least he will be easy to track, Xena thinks. "Gabrielle. Hold on, I'm coming!"

Gabrielle is on a horse, her hands are tied. Talmadeus rides next to her. She is at the front of a long line of soldiers. Talmadeus's Lieutenant rides forward to give a report. "All is as you ordered. The men are in place to slow down Xena. The army will make camp at the Heart of Souls tonight."

Gabrielle looks worriedly at Talmadeus on hearing Xena's name. "What does he mean everything is set?"

"Oh, I've got a little surprise for Xena, IF she ever decides to come after you!" Talmadeus eye's glitter with evil.

"She will get here." Gabrielle says, but uncertainty has crept into her voice.

"Are you sure? She was in the camp the other night and left you behind." Talmadeus is enjoying himself. He see's the doubt spreading in Gabrielle face. "Some friend!"

Gabrielle is hurting. "You lie!"

"No, She was there and she took the women I had for slaves. You heard the alarm that was raised." They've stopped now. Talmadeus looks directly at her. "She left you, because she doesn't need or want you!"

Gabrielle's voice is low and angry. "You're wrong! She brought me back from the other side! She will rescue me now!"

"Yes, She brought you back. So she could ease her conscience, nothing more. You have no more value to her then a common villager. Your just another way to redeem her soul before she leaves to the otherside one day. How does it feel to be USED as an atonement for Sins of the Past!?!?" Talmadeus words cut like a knife and Gabrielle looks away. Trying to deny the words.

They ride on in silence, as Gabrielle's mind continues to scream No at her. Talmadeus words are starting to win out.

Talmadeus smiles. "How good are you on a horse Gabrielle?" He is thinking about her ride through his camp as Xena.

"I prefer walking!" she says coldly.

"Yes, I can see how strong your legs have become and how beautiful!" Gabrielle continues to look away. "Would you like to race?" Talmadeus says.

Gabrielle turns back, her eyes afire with the chance of escape. "How? You've tied my hands ?"

"I'm willing to race you to the next bend in the road. But don't think about escape!"

"Why?" Gabrielle fires back.

"Because I've never been beaten and the rest of my army awaits me up around the bend." He looks at her with a fire in his eyes and cuts the ropes that bind her hands.

"Xena beat you!" Gabrielle responds as she rubs her wrists.

"But you didn't!!" Talmadeus taunts.

"Maybe I will!" and with that she spurs her horse on. Talmadeus takes off after her, loving how his plan is falling into place.

Gabrielle rides hard. She must beat him. She smiles to herself seeing him behind her. The wind flows through her hair and for a moment she feels free again. The bend looms ahead and Talmadeus has drawn up next to her. "NO!" Gabrielle screams. She pushes the horse harder edging ahead. Gabriellle is smiling. They reach the bend and Gabrielle reigns in her horse without realizing it. She laughs at Talmadeus, "See I told you I could beat you!"

Talmadeus brings his horse closely up next to her. "I concede this race, my Dear!" He kisses her hand ever so lightly and looks into her eye's. Gabrielle's heart catches. The he kisses her an the lips and this time Gabrielle doesn't pull away.

When they finally part, he asks "Stay with me, of your own free will Gabrielle! I will treat you like a queen and we will ride next to each other. I will never leave you!"

He catches Gabrielle off guard and confusion crosses her face again. She knows this is wrong, but has become strangely drawn to Talmadeus. Why ?! Where was her friend? Was he right about Xena? No! He had to be wrong, or was he??

"No I can't. She will come for me." But there is doubt in her voice. And Talmadeus kisses her one last time. The he turns and rides toward his waiting army "Maybe." he says. Gabrielle follows without realizing it.

Xena has ridden hard trying to catch up. She is tired, but force of will and worry for her friend keeps her going. As she passes by a large tree near the road, one of Talmadeus soldiers signals ahead to the others. Xena senses the danger only seconds before an arrow would have pierced her side. She grabs the arrow in flight. Several men appear on the road ahead and Xena stops Argo, flipping off to land only a few feet in front of them.

"Get out of my way!" Xena says with anger.

One of the soldiers steps forward. "I have a message for you!"

"I don't care what Talmadeus has to say, I've come to get my friend!" Xena's anger continues to build.

"The message isn't from Talmadeus. It's from Gabrielle!" This catches Xena off guard. "Go ahead"

The soldier looks at her. "Your to leave her alone. She's chosen to stay with Talmadeus!" Xena smirks until the next sentence comes out of his mouth. "At least he won't leave me when I need him." The words strike Xena at her most vulnerable part, but they only raise her anger now!

"No Deal Boys!" and she attacks. It's not a long fight. Xena's pent up anger and frustration is all taken out on them. The last man is very unlucky to be conscious. Xena puts the touch on him. "Now you only have minutes before you're dead. Tell me what wants."

The young soldier trys to strain against the touch, but finally gives in. He has no interest in you. It's the girl he wants!"

This shocks Xena. "What does he want with her?"

"Talmadeus wants her for himself. He loves her!" The soldier is in pain.

Xena chuckles, "Well, he will lose. Gabrielle is very stubborn. I bet she has put up a good fight!"

"Yes, but not for much longer!" The soldiers parting words score a direct hit and he strats to lose consciencousness.

"What do you mean?" Xena questions angrily.

"" The soldier collaspes and Xena releases him before he dies.

Xena begins to realize how fragile Gabrielles soul was when she left. And guilt starts to enter, knowing she has failed her friend again.

"I won't fail you again Gabrielle!" And she gets on Argo and moves forward.

Talmadeus has stopped and set up camp in a valley known as the Heart of Souls. It is known for it's ethereal beauty, but also for one reason above all. As Gabrielle is soon to discover... He hopes that here will be the final push Gabrielle needs to commit to him. It is the only piece of the plan that he cannot control.

Gabrielle is brought out into the center of the camp. She is guarded by only one man and not bound.

"Well my dear, I have someone I want you to test for me!" Talmadeus face is serious.

"What do you mean TEST!" Gabrielle is curious.

"You are excellent with your war staff. I have a soldier who is lagging behind in his lessons. I want you to teach him one!!" Talmadeus has the soldier brought forward.

Gabrielle is intrigued. "How ?"

"Fight him and don't worry. He's tough, he won't break. At least for his sake, I hope he doesn't break!" Talmadeus laughs.

Gabrielle is pushed into the center of the circle of soldiers. The young soldier is on the other side. Gabrielle is just about to say no when the young soldier says "She's only a girl. Where's the challenge?" They all start laughing, except Talmadeus who watches.

Gabrielle is angry. The last time she heard this was from that IDIOT Joxer!! A wanna be warrior! She'd proven to him who was a warrior. And she would prove it to this BOY!

Under her breathe she says, "Just a girl huh!" and she responds by ramming her staff into his side. All the laughing stops, and the fight begins. The boy is definitely mismatched in skill. All Gabrielle's anger comes out. Anger at the soldier that almost took her life forever, and anger at being used again and again and Anger at Xena for not being there when she needed her! "I'm fed up with you!" She yells at a ghosts that are not there. Two soldiers come into stop her from beating the boy to death! That was their mistake. She takes them and two more out. A wicked fire gleams in Gabrielle's eyes.

And before Gabrielle knows it, Talmadeus is holding her. Several soldiers are laying on the ground. The boy has been beat unmercifully by her. She starts crying and Talmadeus holds her closely. He is stroking her hair and trying to sooth her.

"Easy now Gabrielle! Shhhh.. It's ok. I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere. Shhh...."

He picks her up and carries her to his tent. Gabrielle has no defenses left. She is a bare wound, bleeding emotionall and physically desolate. Exhaustion is seeping in. Once inside the tent Talmadeus siezes the moment.

Gently he gives a final push. "Gabrielle, You never have to feel alone again! Stay with me."

Gabrielle looks at him. She is tired and doesn't want to fight anymore.

"Yes, Talmadeus. I will stay with you." And she reaches out and kisses him. Talmadeus eye's light up! But before he can go any further, Gabrielle slips off into an exhausted sleep. Talmadeus chuckles, slowly caressing her face. His plan is almost complete! He enjoys a moment of satisfaction as she lays sleeping next to him in the bed. He lays down next to her and drifts off to sleep with a smile on his lips!!!!!

The End Part II

Part III

Xena watches from the forest. There are twice as many men as before. She will have to sneak in quietly to get Gabrielle. Moving quietly through the camp she comes to Talmadeus's tent. She slips in through the front after distracting the guards. She smirks thinking that a guard in her camp would have lost his life for allowing that to happen. Her eyes grow accustom to the dim light inside. She see's she is in the outer room and moves toward the flap for the next room. She pulls back the flap and gazes in, shocked..........

Gabrielle lays in Talmadeus bed, her head pillowed on his shoulder. Talmadeus arms are holding her. "Gabrielle ??"

So shocked is she, that she doesn't hear the soldier behind her until it's too late. She falls unconscience to the floor. Talmadeus wakes from the sound of the commotion. He carefully moves Gabrielle off his shoulder. She mumbles and drifts back off to sleep. He smiles, then goes to the outer chamber. The soldier has Xenas' hands and feet tied. She is still unconscious. Two other soldiers stand nearby.

"Gag her and remove her to the far side of the camp. Tie her to the pole there and make sure she is well guarded." The soldiers turn to leave with Xena. "If she escapes, you three forfeit your lives."

When Gabrielle wakens Talmadeus is laying next to her, gazing at her. "Sleep well ?"

Memory comes back to Gabrielle and for a moment she is caught off guard. Then slowly she reaches over and pulls Talmadeus near and kisses him. When they part, Talmadeus eye's reflect triumph and fire is burning in her eyes.

"Come, I have a gift for you." Talmadeus says.

Excitement flashes in her eyes. "What ?"

Talmadeus laughs. "Have breakfast and clean up, since you're already dressed."

Gabrielle looks down, realizing she had fallen asleep clothed. She is relieved and yet somewhat dissappointed. Talmadeus laughs again, reading her face. "There will be time enough for that later!!"

And he gets up and departs. He leaves instructions with the guards that Gabrielle may move freely through the camp, except where Xena is tied up at. Talmadeus heads toward Xena's location. He is extremely happy with himself.

Xena is awake and the look on her face could kill Talmadeus where he stands. Her hands are tied above her to the pole. And a rope is around her neck, tied to the pole. Talmadeus is taking no chances.

"Remove her gag." Talmadeus orders the guard. "So Xena, we meet again. But this time I hold all the cards."

"Where is Gabrielle?!!" What have you done to her?!!" The fury in Xena's voice is barely containable.

"Done, why I've done nothing! She has chosen to stay with me as my love!" Talmadeus waits for the reaction from Xena. Xena doesn't believe him for one minute.

"You are a liar!! She would never agree to that unless you were holding something over her."

"I assure you, she did! And she even has freedom to come and go as she pleases." Xena is smoldering with anger.

"You'll see soon enough. Just watch toward my tent." And he laughs wickedly as he walks away. "Gag her." Xena strains against her bonds, but the ropes hold her fast.

Talmadeus reaches his tent as Gabrielle walks out. Xena is watching carefully. Gabrielle is unaware she is there. Run, Xena wants to scream, but the gag prevents her.

"My Dear." says Talmadeus. He reaches out lovingly to Gabrielle. Xena strains harder and then her heart drops at what she sees next. Gabrielle reaches out and kisses him. Xena is stunned, desperately trying to believe it's some sort of trick. But this no ordinary kiss. It is a passionate kiss filled with longing.

They part slowly. "You said you had a surprise for me." Gabrielle's eyes sparkle.

"Yes, actually I have two." He motions to one of the soldiers and a beautiful, sleek quarterhorse is brought out. "She is yours, a gift of my love for you."

Gabrielle is speechless. She'd never thought about having a horse. She assumed she would be walking next to Xena, but then she assumed Xena would be there for her.

"Go ahead, get on." Talmadeus assists her on to the horse. He then mounts his which has been brought also. "Let's see if you can beat me today, my love."

"You're on." Gabrielle is in a playful mood now. "To where shall we race?"

"How about to the springs near the hills?" Gabrielle looks where he is pointing and sees the steam rising on the horizon. "Alright" Gabrielle chuckles. Talmadeus smiles glancing in Xenas direction with a look of sheer victory. Xena has an excellent view. The pain in her eyes is worth more than any sword through her heart!!!

Talmadeus takes off before Gabrielle's ready. "Not fair!" she shouts and takes off after him.

Xena can't believe what she has just seen. It's impossible! Talmadeus has done something to Gabrielle. No matter what, she thinks, I'll break his hold on her!!

The race is just what Gabrielle wants. Her blood rushes with the excitement of adrenaline. Her horse feels like it was made for her. The feeling of freedom rushes through her. Never before has she felt like this. The feelings of danger and excitement seem so much more real and alive! And before she wants the race over, Talmadeus has won. But not by much.

"I would of beat you again, if you hadn't cheated." Gabrielle is mildly miffed.

"Only following your example my dear." Smiling Talmadeus gets off his horse, and walks near one of the pools of spring water. He sits down and Gabrielle sits near him.

"You know why they call this place the Heart of Souls?" He looks deeply into her eyes.

"Why?" she responds.

"Because it is said that if you drink from one of these springs, you will be forever bonded with the one you truly love in your soul." Talmadeus cups his hands and holds a drink out to her.

"Isn't it enough that I want to stay with you ?!!" Gabrielle is leery of this.

"Yes, but this way no one could ever separate us. NEVER!" Talmadeus moves closer.

"No! I have to think about this. Please!" Gabrielle is frightened.

Talmadeus grows angry. "You do not want to stay with me. You don't really care!"

"No thats not what I said." Gabrielle stammers. "Let me have a day to think about it. I'll give you my decision tonight." She reaches over and pulls him near. "Please!"

And now it is Talmadeus who stumbles and gives in."One day, no more!" He is angry, but is willing to allow it.

They get up and ride back. Gabrielle shifts the conversation. "You said you had two presents. What is the other?"

Talmadeus fire returns. "Come I'll show you." Talmadeus leads her to the far side of the camp. Gabrielle is distracted by something Talmadeus is saying. When all of a sudden he stops and points toward a post.

Gabrielle looks and to her astonishment Xena is tied there. "Xena!" She turns to Talmadeus. "What is she doing here ?" You said that we would be together and she wouldn't come."

Xena tries to speak but the gag is in the way.

Talmadeus chuckles. "I thought you wanted to see her. Remove the gag."

Gabrielle is furious at Talmadeus. "I have no desire to....."

"Gabrielle!" Xena yells, "You've got to get away from here."

Gabrielle looks at Xena. "Get away, Why? Talmadeus loves me. He was there when I needed someone. Where were you?!!" Anger flashes in her eyes.

Xena winces at the accusation. "I'm here now Gabrielle. We're friends, you can't just let that go."

Gabrielle looks at Talmadeus. Her voice is low and dangerous, Xena has never heard her like this before. "I want nothing to do with her. And don't you ever do this to me again!!" Gabrielle takes one last look at Xena and wheels her horse and rides off toward Talmadeus's tent.

Talmadeus laughs. "Such good friends."

"I will kill you Talmadeus. I don't know what you've done to Gabrielle, but I'm going to get her back!" It's all Xena can do to contain herself.

"Wishful thinking Xena. By this time tomorrow she will be bound to me heart and soul forever. And there is nothing you can do." Talmadeus rides off laughing as Xena screams his name.

Gabrielle is trying to think. No, she doesn't want to go with Xena. But she doesn't want her killed either. And in her mind a battle begins on an unstable battlefield. And memories assault her from Thessily and Talmadeus and Xena. And pain from innocence lost starts to flood forth.

The End of Part III

Part IV

It's night and arguing can be heard from Talmadeus's tent. The guards around Xena have fallen asleep. Xena, discoevering earlier in the evening that the ring above her head that held her ropes had a sharp edge, is now working quickly to free herself. With one final drag acroos the rope she is free. She quicky removes the gag and the neck restraint. She heads toward Talmadeus's tent, avoiding the few soldiers that are on guard duty. As she nears the tent, the flap flies open. Quickly she takes cover by a nearby wagon.

Gabrielle storms out. She is livid with rage. Talmadeus follows. "Come back here!" he shouts.

"Why ? I told you I don't want her hurt or killed. Just get her out of here!" Gabrielle yells.

"Gabrielle, Sse will kill me. Is that what you want??" Talmadeus asks. "Do you want me dead?"

Her rage continues. "No! I don't want you dead. But I don't want her dead either. No matter what, she was my friend once!" She turns grabbing her war staff nearby and starts to walk off.

"You get back here or I'll..." He yells.

"Or you'll what? Go ahead just try it....." The look in Gabrielle's eyes tells him not to even think about it or he'll end up like that boy the other night.

"Where are you going!?" Talmadeus demands.

"To get some peace. I'll be back in a while!" and she storms off into the night.

Talmadeus's frustration boils over and he punches out the guard on duty at his tent. Then he storms back in.

Xena is chuckling softly in the shadows. "Annoying isn't she Talmadeus?" Gabrielle could be very stubborn. And she heads off the way that Gabrielle has gone. Gabrielle has entered the forest off the side of the camp. She finds a clear area and begins practicing to calm herself. She takes her rage out on unseen warriors. As she calms, the struggle begins again in her mind and she loses concentration. The voices become louder and she says in a shaken voice, "Stop please. Go away, I can't take your voices anymore." She is pleading with her soul.

"Gabrielle??!" She refocuses again. And standing before her is Xena with a worried look.

Relief and anger flood in again at the site of Xena. "Good, you've freed yourself. Now you can leave!" And Gabrielle begins to walk back to Talmadeus's tent.

"No you don't! Your going to stay right here until you tell me why you are doing this?!" And Xena grabs her by the arm.

Gabrielle turns on Xena and in a low dangerous voice says, "Let go of me!"

"Not this time Gabrielle!" The force in Xena's voice tells Gabrielle all she needs to know.

Gabrielle swings her staff around and rams it into Xena's stomach. Xena falls to the ground and Gabrielle begins to walk away.

"Don't you turn your back on me. Not after all we've been through." Xena grabs Gab's leg and tosses her to the ground. "Now you tell me what's going on with you."

Gabrielle has had it. She attacks Xena with her war staff. Xena dodges the first few blows, but is forced to pull her sword to defend herself. "Why did you leave me?" Gabrielle screams.

The fight continues as Xena trys to explain. "Gabrielle, you said you understood." Xena just misses another blow and blocks the next with her sword. "Archelaus needed my help."

"And what about me ? What about what I need?" Gabrielle sends another blow toward Xena's head that is blocked. "Did you stop to think about that?" Gabrielle's attack is slowing as she grows tired. And the voices she hears in her mind are growing again.

"Gabrielle I..." Xena starts and then through the trees we hear Talmadeus and his soldiers. "Gabrielle, where are you!"

Xena looks at Gabrielle. Gab is in an awful state. "Gabrielle come with me and we can work this out, PLEASE!"

"No, I'm staying." Then Gabrielle yells out. "Talmadeus over here!" She looks back at Xena and puts her hands to her head. And starts crying.

Xena knows there is no time left. "I'll be back for you!" Xena takes off into the trees.

Talmadeus and his men burst into the clearing. Gabrielle is slowly falling to her knees, pain is wrapped on her face.

Talmadeus rushes to Gabrielles side. "Gabrielle ?" Talmadeus looks questioningly at her.

"She's gone." Gabrielle trys to get control. "You don't have to kill her now!"

He holds her and she falls apart in his arms. This is not what he had planned.

Four soldiers come running back into the clearing. "There is no sign of Xena, Talmadeus."

"Gabrielle" Then he notices the pain in her eyes and the withdrawn look in her face. He shakes her. "Gabrielle!"

She looks up and says, "Make them stop. Why won't they stop. Please make the voices stop."

He looks up at his soldiers. "Find Xena. This her fault and she will pay for ruining my plan." The soldiers run off to comply with his orders and he picks up Gabrielle gently and carries her back to camp.

Xena watches this all from overhead.She knows she can't abandon Gabrielle, but is at a loss on how to bring her back into her right mind.

End Part IV

Part V

Gabrielle steps out of Talmadeus tent and heads for the spring. She is unaware of her destination, she only knows the inner struggle within. Xena watches from her hiding place and follows. Gabrielle reaches the spring. Her mind is filled with two voices locked in battle for her heart and soul!

Flashback Sequence:

Xena in Is there a Doctor in the House:
"Gabrielle Wake Up! Don't Leave Me!"
Talmadeus in chapter 2:
"She left you behind!"
Gabrielles memory of Xena saving her from Callisto.
Talmadeus in chapter 2:
"How does it feel to be USED as an atonement for sins of the past!?"
"I love you!"

The noise is almost deafening. And Gabrielle falls to her knees, her hands cover her ears to block out the noise. A scream rips from her soul and lips, "NO! Xenaaaa!" Cool hands grasp her face and a voice breaks through.

"Gabrielle, I'm here. Look at me..Please...Come on...You can do it...Gabrielle...Please, come back. I will help you through this." Slowly and painfully, Gabrielles eyes focus. The voices recede to the edge of her mind, waiting for next moment of weakness.

Xena's face comes into view. Concern and fear showing in it. "Thats it. Come on, I'm here."

Gabrielle starts to speak, "Xena I need....."

"So you came back Xena." Talmadeus and twenty soldiers have shown up. "And now your hurting Gabrielle."

Xena stands, "Your the only one hurting her. You've played an emotional mind game on her when she was weak and needed healing!"

"I have only done what Gabrielle needs, She needed someone, You weren't there. But I was." There is anger in his voice and a wild look in his eyes.

Anger is rising in Xenas voice. "Your using her and you've pushed too far. She is falling apart."

"STOP IT !!" Gabrielle screams. Both Xena and Talmadeus turn to look at her. She has risen to her feet. A wild look in her eyes. The war staff is in her hands at the ready. "I can't take any more of you two. Can't you just give me some peace!" voices are echoing in her mind, growing louder.

Xena and Talmadeus start toward her. "Gab....."

"NO! NO!" and she strikes at Xena and lays her out on the ground. Talmadeus smiles til he finds himself laying on the ground by Xena. Gabrielle has snapped! The soldiers attack and Gabrielle begins taking them out one by one! Adrenaline shoots through her. She fights with no care for anyone.

"STOP!" Talmadeus yells. Several of the soldiers pull back. The rest lay on the ground around Gabrielle!

Xena stands near Talmadeus, her sword drawn and held at the ready.

"Xena there is only one way to bring her back. We have to get her to drink the water from the Heart of Souls. It can heal her mind and bring her back." Talmadeus smiles believing he has won.

Xena looks at Gabrielle. Fearing the outcome if her friend has truly fallen in Love with Talmadeus. "She'll be yours then. That's all you want."

"Yes, I've wanted to strike out at you both since you two defeated me and had me imprisoned. But do you really want your friend to go on like this. The water has the power to clear her mind to her soul. She will be sane again!!" Talmadeus words are true. Xena does not want to see Gabrielle ripped apart on the inside.

"All right. Get the water. I'll get Gabrielle!" Xena puts her sword away and approaches Gabrielle. Talmadeus goes to the spring and collects the water.

"Gabrielle... Its me, Xena...put the staff down Gabrielle. I want to help you! Come on..."

But Gabrielle has become paranoid and begins the attack again. Xena catches the staff and knocks Gabrielles feet from under her. Gab releases the staff so she can break her fall. Xena grabs her and holds her tight. Not an easy task, as Gabrielle is struggling wildly.

Xena looks toward two of the soldiers. "You two, come here and help me." They run over and help Xena hold Gabrielle down. "NO!" rips from Gabrielles mouth. "Let me go!" Xena can't believe this is the same friend from a week ago.

Talmadeus rushes over. He holds Gabrielle's head and forces the water down her throat! Gabrielle screams one last time and grows very still. Xena and Talmadeus nervously watch.

The crescendo of voices begins to calm and one begins to come through clear as crystal. With it is the sounds of cool clear water and peaceful silence.

In Gabrielles mind.......

Gabrielle stands by herself as Xena walks towards her. Xena reaches out and pulls Gabrielle into a hug. All the pain and hurt comes out as Gabrielle's body is racked with crying. "I love you Gabrielle!" Xena says. "You should know that by now."

Gabrielle calms and looks up. "I do, I just am so tired. I'm tired of fighting."

Xena looks at her friend lovingly. "The world is a very hard place, but our friendship binds us together in a way that will never keep us apart. When you have nothing left to hold onto, my friendship will alway be there for you! Never doubt it!"

Gabrielle looks at her. "I will never doubt you again!"

Xena's image fades.......

Gabrielle's eyes begin to open. The confusion and pain are gone. Her mind and soul are clear. She is laying with her head pillowed in Xena's lap.

"Gabrielle..." Xenas voice is worried. "Are you Ok?" Talmadeus kneels nearby.

"I think so, can I stand please." Talmadeus and Xena help her up. She looks at Xena and Talmadeus. Then she turns to Xena. "Xena, I'm sorry I hurt you. I just needed someone and..." Xena smiles realizing Talmadeus plan has fallen through and her friend is back.

"NO!" yells Talmadeus and grabs his dagger and goes for Gabrielle. Xena intervenes.

"Not this time. Your mine now!" and Xena battles Talmadeus. She enjoys every second of it. After everything he did to Gabrielle.

"If I can't have her, no one will!" Talmadeus says. He lunges toward Gabrielle. Xena blocks his path and stabs him through the heart with her sword.

He looks at Gabrielle. "You are a beauty...." and falls over dead. Tears spill down Gabrielle's face. Knowing that he never truly loved her and she had begun to care for him.

End Part 5

Part VI

Xena and Gabrielle are back in Potadeia. The day is bright and beautiful. Lilla is humming and going about the daily chores.

Gabrielle is sitting in a chair with her feet up. She's listening to nothing but the daily noise of life. There is a smile on her face and her eyes are closed. Xena comes walking from the stable and sits next to Gabrielle. Xena watches her friend for the longest time, enjoying the peace that is now in her face.

"So do you alway watch me or is this just your caring side showing!" Gabrielle teases.

Xena gives Gab a nug. "I'll never tell!"

Gabrielle opens her eyes. Xena is relieved to see the clearness in them. The shadows there the day before are gone now. It had torn Xena's heart out seeing the way Gabrielle had been.

Gabrielle looks at her friend. "Xena, thank you for coming after me. I'm sorry I let you down." Gabrielle's head lowers and a tear slides down her cheek.

Xena gently lifts Gabrielle's chin up and brushes the tear away. "Gabrielle, you didn't let me down. Sometimes things are out of our control. I didn't realize the toll that events in Thessily had taken on you. I'm sorry I left you so soon after."

Gabrielle looks at her friend, unsure about what she is about to say. Then decides to to get it out. "Xena why did you let Talmadeus give me the water from The Heart of Souls, if you thought I'd stay with him? Why??"

"You're my best friend. I couldn't let you go on like that, no matter the cost." Xena's guard slips for a moment. "Our friendship is what counts!"

Gabrielle looks at the emotion in Xenas face. "You've captured my heart Xena and no one will come between our friendship again!" Gabrielle has caught Xena off guard and it shows!

Just then Gabrielle senses something flying her way and catches.........a bucket. She looks in the direction it came from.

"If you two are done chatting, you can go get the water from the stream." Lilla smiles and walks off.

Gabrielle and Xena get up laughing. Xena glances at the bucket and then at Gabrielle. "Well, maybe only Lilla's bucket!" And they head off toward the stream laughing.

The End!

Thanks to the TXM for making me upset enough to write. Everytime you all tell me I can't do something, I do it!! Special Thanks to the TXM, CB, Xenatized, EM and especially Ambrosia.(I never forget AM!) Sorry for messing with your Character Renee, Gab's the perfect target though!

You never know until you try!

Xena Forever
Becky(A SOUL is a terrible thing to Waste!)
TXM Enforcer

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