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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

The usual Xena: Warrior Princess fight scenes - no more, no less.

This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depiction’s of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story

Old Friends

Written by Arlene Lugo

On beautiful green pastures that touched upon a lake, an old woman with long blond-gray hair walks slowly to the waters edge. She seems to be in her late 60’s, though it’s hard to be sure. She sits herself down on a large rock - the same rock she always comes to when she wants to tell her stories - her cane rests at her side. She sits alone and stares pensively out over the lake. The high sun reflects off the waters surface in golden specks of light. The water’s ripples are calming. The sound of children’s laughter shakes her from her daze. She turns to see three children running down the green hillside. The first and oldest was Raulf. Ah, he takes right after his father. He was long and lanky with a rugged square jaw. The youngest, a shy boy with a soft face and dark curly hair, ran behind - desperately trying to keep up. His expression showed he’d never give up. That’s my boy! The old woman smiled. Their sister ran in between them, her blond hair bouncing around her cherub face. Fiercely independent yet loving and soft, she was adored by all. She takes after her namesake ... in spirit as well as features ... more and more everyday - even down to the sparkling green eyes. She took the lead in the foot race mainly because Raulf pretended to trip - of all, he adored her most. He would protect her with his own life, if need be.

The old lady used her cane to move toward them, the young girl ran full speed towards her. She stopped just short of the old woman with a smile, not wanting to knock her over. They hugged tightly and the woman made room in her arms for the other two children. "Auntie!" They yelled happily. They called her ‘auntie’, though she was their great-aunt, her sister was their grandmother. "Auntie, I’m so happy to see you!" Gabby remarked with an extra hug. The children escorted her gently back to her favorite rock where she sat herself down again. The youngest of the three, Bri, asked, "Oh please tell us another story." He was out of breath and spoke in gasps, "Mother said you would." Of the three children, Bri could sit and listen to her stories without end, he would never tire. The old woman took his chin in her hands and gave an affectionate squeeze, "Okay, sit down and get comfortable." They followed her instructions and watched her eagerly.

The old woman handed each child a glass and slowly filled each glass with some juice and gave them each a wink. She knew her slow movements made them all the more anxious to hear her story, but they had learned to be patient and wait quietly for her to begin.

"It may have been chance or perhaps it was destiny that brought these two women together. One was young, innocent and pure. Her heart knew no hate and she looked at the world, perhaps too naively, as a place of good. A band of slave traders came to her small town and gathered up her people - she was courageous enough to offer herself in hopes that the others could go free. The other was a warrior with battle scars deeper than those left on her skin. She was worldly, but had a heavy heart. She was ready to change from her evil ways and in doing so, change the world around her. She just happened to be there to witness the brave act and in that moment decided to fight for these people. The slave trader grabbed the young girl, but the warrior would not have it. She took a staff and threw it at his back, forcing him to release the young one. Without hesitation the young blond hit the trader and brought him to his knees. Both were beautiful and drawn to each other... "

"Auntie, you already told us that one." Bri piped in. "Yeah!" The others agreed. The woman thought for a moment, "Oh yes, yes, now I remember." Now that her memory was jarred, she regained her composure and began again.

"Did I ever tell you about the time that they nearly destroyed each other? Their relationship seemed to come to an end. Xena tied Gabrielle to her horse and dragged her for miles. When they got to the edge of a cliff, in all her anger Xena picked her up and was about to throw her over. Gabrielle awoke just in time to hit Xena with her foot. In doing so they both tumbled over the edge ... "

"Yes, Auntie, we know that one." This time it was little Gabby that interrupted her. The two boys nodded their heads in consent. "Ah, well, how about the death of Caesar? Have you heard that one?" The children shook their heads and yelled out, "No!", "Oh tell us!" They prepared themselves for a good story.

"Yes, this is a good one. You know Xena had one nemesis that she hated more than any other: Caesar, Julius Caesar." She paused for effect and looked at each child. A few wanderers began to gather about her also, interested in her story. She continued, "Any chance either one of them would get to take the other down would be taken with joy. Neither ever missed an opportunity to defeat the other. Sometimes Xena would get the better of him, other times Caesar would win out. It was an ongoing feud, but it was Xena that won out in the end - although ironically it was her greatest lost. Yes, she was there when Caesar was killed, and yes she had something to do with it."

As the old woman pauses to take a sip of her juice, she looks around at her audience which has grown considerably. She has become well known in these parts as a true storyteller - rare for this age, a fading art. There is one person in the crowd that she doesn’t notice. Against a tree, within hearing distance, stands a tall slender figure, with a hood. Her aging face and dark hair covered, her vibrant eyes watching the storyteller intently.

"Caesar, as you all know, was a dominating ruler. But there was a time that he, Crassus and Pompey were in alliance. They called it the First Triumvirate. What it meant was that they would check with each other before making any drastic moves. They tried not to step on each other’s toes. But Caesar always wanted more -- he wanted to rule the world. After Crassus died - which, by the way, is another story - the alliance fell apart. Pompey and Caesar where constantly at odds.

They finally went head to head in the battle of Pharsala, where, as you all know, Caesar emerged victorious. Now Caesar had a friend - not someone I would call a friend, for her betrayed Caesar. His name was Brutus. Brutus was an ambitious and greedy man and he wanted power just like the rest of them. He sided with Pompey at Pharsala, but when Pompey was defeated, Brutus realized he needed Caesar. Caesar pardoned Brutus for his betrayal and Brutus was no fool, he accepted. He took advantage of every and any opportunity that arose for him. He knew if he was patient, his time would come. Brutus stayed close to Caesar, advised him and watched his every move."

"Auntie, I think we all know the story of how Caesar was assassinated." Bri interrupted.

"Ah, I’m sure many of you do. But here’s where it gets interesting..." The old woman insisted.

"Xena and Gabrielle had just arrived in a small town just outside of Rome. They were heading to see an old friend, Sabina. Being so close to Rome brought up a lot of bad feelings and memories, but they had only planned to be there a few short days and then leave. They sat in a tavern talking over ale and stew.

"How strange." Xena commented as she watched three men in white togas with purple sashes walk into the tavern and cross to the back, entering a private room.

When Gabrielle was sure she could identify everything in her stew as being edible, she looked up from her bowl and asked. "What’s strange?"

"Did you see those men?"

"Which men?" Gabrielle searched the room for something or someone unusual.

"It’s too late now - they’ve entered that room in the back." Gabrielle turned her head all the way around to see the room that Xena referred to. Xena shook her head and took a spoonful of stew in her mouth. "Ugh! What’s in this?" She drank some ale to wash down the rancid flavor.

"Well, I’m not sure." Gabrielle turned her attention back to the stew. "I can definitely say that this here," pointing to something floating in the stew, "is a potato." Xena nodded slowly. "This here, "Gabrielle spooned out something brown, "is supposed to be the lamb, I think. The rest is just water and herbs." Gabrielle said confidently.

Xena stirred her stew and then spooned out something unidentifiable and showed to Gabrielle. "And this is?"

Gabrielle grimaced. "Uh, I’m not sure." Xena pushed her bowl away from her and to the edge of the table and focused on her ale, which wasn’t so bad.

The door opened again and another aristocratic roman walked into the tavern. He paused in the door and looked around the room. He had black curly hair and a beard to match. His sash matched the color of the men that had entered before him. Xena had turned her head to see who entered and their eyes met. He recognized Xena and gave her a barely noticeable nod of his head, then walked to the back door and withdrew.

"Was that -"

Xena nodded and finished Gabrielle’s sentence, "Brutus, Caesar’s right hand man. I wonder what they’re all doing here."

"Well who were the other men that entered before him?"

"I think I recognized one of Caesar’s advisors, but why come so far out of Rome - to this tavern - when they have access to the finest wines and meals, the colosseum the forum the theatres? Something is very strange."

Just as Xena tried to put the small pieces together, a servant boy came out of the private room and approached their table. The two women looked to the boy as he excused himself for interrupting them.

"What can we do for you?" Xena asked curiously.

"The gentlemen in the private room have extended an invitation to join them in dining."

Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. Gabrielle became excited by the notion of eating a real meal, not this ... this ... stuff a ravenous wolf wouldn’t even touch.

"Did the ‘gentlemen’ say why they are requesting our company?" Xena inquired.

"Yes, they would like to discuss some business opportunities with you."

"Really?" Now Xena’s curiosity was really peaked. What was going on here?

"Uh - what are they serving in the private room?" Gabrielle asked. She avoided Xena’s look of shock at her audacity.

"Well, miss, we are serving a fine feast of roasted pork, fresh fruits, broiled fish, wine and an assortment of breads."

With a hungry smile, Gabrielle asked, "Nut bread?"

"Oh yes, indeed." The boy answered. Xena shook her head and laughed at the mouthwatering expression that her friend had given her.

"Tell the men we’ll be right in." Xena instructed the boy. With a bow he left their table and went through the door at the back of the room. "I hope you know what your stomach is getting us into." Xena remarked to Gabrielle as they both left their untouched bowls of stew and headed for the mysterious banquet.

The smells were enticing - potent incense, burning candle wax and the delicious scents of food all intermingled - making Gabrielle’s stomach growl. A long table stretched out on one side of the room with several place settings - many empty. The table was adorned with flowers and candles. It also held a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Decanters filled with wine were cluttered near the men and in the center rested a large roasted pork. His skin a juicy golden-brown and his mouth held the usual apple.

Across from the table was a platform for entertainment -- it was empty. At the far end of the room were several smaller tables for playing cards - also empty. There was a small divider near these tables for the vomitorium. Gabrielle curled her lip in disgust. Romans were known for overindulging themselves, then spewing it back up to make room for more. This room was obviously used for large private parties though there were only four men at the banquet table. Xena and Gabrielle took their seats near the men. Several servants waited on them, ensuring their cups were filled with wine and taking away their dirty dishes and bringing in new ones.

"So Brutus, dining so far from home? I can’t believe the food here is that good." Xena spoke as she watched the servant fill her goblet. She held in a smile as she saw Gabrielle dive into her meal without hesitation.

"Xena, we heard you were in town. Glad you and your friend could join us." Brutus remarked.

After several bites of the soft tender pork, Gabrielle looked up to see who her gracious hosts were. Brutus was the man that she had seen enter the tavern. She didn’t know much about him, except that he worked very closely to Caesar. Next to him sat a younger man with blond locks. He wore the standard white toga and a wreath of ivy on his head. He held a leg in his hand and focused on picking the bone thoroughly of its meat. Next to him was a darker haired man with the same dress. He had untrusting eyes that jumped quickly from one person to the next. He rested his gaze on Xena for longer periods of time. He seemed nervous but that didn’t stop him from his gluttony. He washed his food down with several gulps of wine. He then placed a handful of grapes in his mouth. As he chewed he placed some olives and bread on his plate - all the while he looked from person to person. Watching him eat made Gabrielle lose her appetite, so she took her eyes off of him. The other man in the room was the complete opposite from the bundle of nerves. He calmly took in the two guests. When Gabrielle met his eyes, he gave her a slow nod and a slight smile. She grinned back. Gabrielle watched as he place an olive in his mouth, seeming to savor the flavor. He moved it about his mouth, as she could see one cheek bulge and then the other. He swirled his wine patiently in his goblet before taking a sip. His black hair fell down around his face like a frame for his calm pale eyes. He sat with his legs crossed at the knees and watched as Xena and Brutus conversed.

"Thanks for the invite." Xena stated. She allowed herself to indulge in the appetizing delicacies before she spoke again. "So you didn’t answer my question, Brutus." She eyed him. "Why so far from home?"

"Ah, Xena, always so direct." His eyes moved from Xena’s to the calm man’s eyes. - seeming to get approval. He waved the servants away and waited for them to leave. "It’s much easier to plan an assassination when the royal ears are not listening."

Gabrielle was shocked by his blunt statement. She wasn’t sure he was serious - but his eyes held Xena’s unwaveringly. She knew it was no joke. Her stomach dropped and she pushed her plate forward so that she could focus on the conversation. She hoped Xena would not get caught up in this - it gave her a bad feeling.

"Assassination?" Xena questioned, "Go on."

Brutus smiled noting the warrior’s controlled expression. "Yes - we all agree that Caesar simply has too much power now. It’s too dangerous this way. Someone has to take care of him."

Xena looked at the other men in the room, sizing up their expressions and intentions. The one with the nervous eyes looked away quickly, avoiding hers. The calm one met her gaze fearlessly. The third man appeared a bit nervous, but hopeful. Xena looked back to Brutus.

"Always looking for a way to get on top, huh? That incident at Pharsala didn’t teach you much, did it?" Xena took a bite off the pork which melted deliciously in her mouth.

Brutus laughed, "oh it did. It taught me to be patient and now the time has come."

"So why tell us about it?" Xena glanced at Gabrielle sensing her friend’s anxiety.

"Well Xena, it’s no secret that you and Caesar are enemies. There is no love lost between you two. We thought you might be interested in helping us."

Gabrielle tensed up even more. This was bad! Of all the people that could push Xena’s buttons, Caesar was the main one. She looked pleadingly and Xena in hopes that the warrior would see her wariness. She could see a hint of interest in Xena’s eyes. It scared her and Gabrielle felt that bad feeling grow in the pit of her stomach.

"Help?" Xena asked. "You want me to help you kill Caesar?" She laughed. "I’m not an assassin, Brutus. If I were, Caesar would have been dead long ago." Brutus smiled and took a sip of his wine.

"Too bad, maybe all this could have been avoided." The calm man also smiled. He stood up and pushed his long hair off of his face - tucking it neatly behind his ears. He slowly walked to the front of the table where Brutus was seated. He put a hand on Brutus’ shoulder. With a nod Brutus rose and took another seat. It seemed every movement this man made was methodical. He sat down and crossed his legs again. He lifted his eyes to meet Xena’s.

"It will happen." He spoke in a soft calm voice that matched his character perfectly. Gabrielle kept her eyes on him mesmerized by his deliberate motions. "If you choose to help us or not - it will happen." He paused for effect. "Caesar’s destiny is about to come to an end and we thought, since you were in town, that you’d like to share in his ... egress."

Gabrielle could stay quiet no longer, "Why are you deciding his destiny?" She looked around at the men. "I mean, I’m certainly no fan of the man, but who gave you the right to decide when his life should end?"

"Please don’t tell me your friend here is as naïve as that?" The man directed the question to Xena. This angered Gabrielle and she rose to her feet, resting her hands on the table, starring at the man.

Xena placed a hand on Gabrielle’s, then spoke, "I don’t think she’s naïve at all. Why do you want to kill him?" She released Gabrielle’s hand and Gabrielle took several steps away to calm herself. She wanted to leave and wished that Xena would too.

"Look, Caesar has done some wonderful things for our Empire." He explained in a tranquil tone. "He’s acquired much land, extending our boundaries beyond any of our imaginations. But ..." he paused, stood up and looked over at Gabrielle. "... Caesar has too much power. He’s stopped listening to any of us." He waved at the other men in the room. "We think he’s going too far and putting us at risk. His time has come ... it’s as simple as that."

Gabrielle turned her head away from him. Please Xena, don’t allow yourself to get involved in this. It seemed like something awful always happened when Xena focused her attentions on defeating Caesar.

Xena rose to her feet, "Gentlemen, we are grateful for your hospitality. Your secret is safe with us ..." She looked directly into the calm man’s eyes, "but, we are not interested."

Gabrielle looked to Xena, relieved. She took a deep breath.

"That’s too bad."

The very nervous man suddenly jumped to his feet, "Wait! Cassius, we can’t trust her!" He yelled out.

"Easy, Cimber, she may have a change of heart." The calm voice dismissed him. Brutus walked over to the door and opened it to let the women out.

"Xena it will happen." He assured her. "On the 15th." He spoke confidently. Xena nodded at him, registering the date, the Ides of March. She led Gabrielle into the tavern’s main room and silently out into the cool night.

When they exited the tavern, it was dark. The sky was cloudy and the air was warm. Xena walked over to Argo and untied her reigns. Gabrielle followed Xena quietly, gathering her thoughts. Xena looked up to the clouds then to Gabrielle, "Let’s get a room at the inn - looks like rain."

Gabrielle agreed. They headed toward the stables to settle Argo in for the night. "Xena, we’ve got to do something." Xena listened but didn’t turn to see Gabrielle. She filled Argo’s feeder with grain and attached it to her muzzle. She gave the stable boy a few dinars. Gabrielle watched and waited for a response. When Xena was done she dusted her hands off and picked up their bags. "Xena?"

"Gabrielle, I know what you’re thinking - but I think, this time ... we should just stay out of it." She handed Gabrielle her bag and headed towards the inn. Gabrielle was stunned for a moment then followed her friend.

"Xena, a man is going to be assassinated and you think we should just ignore it? Just ‘stay out of it’?" Xena stopped and turned to face Gabrielle. She took a deep breath. She knew Gabrielle was right - if this were anybody else, she’d do everything in her power to stop it. But Caesar? Why should she protect him?

"Gabrielle, look at what he’s done to Greece, not to mention how his empire is growing beyond control ... maybe - "

Gabrielle didn’t let her finish that thought. "No! Xena, I can’t let you say that it would be better if we just let this happen. I’m not happy that Rome controls Greece, either, but it hasn’t been that bad."

"Yes, but at any moment he could give the order and then ..."

"So are you expecting things to just go back to the way they were if he dies?" Gabrielle could sense the volume of her voice increase, but couldn’t help it. "Xena I don’t thing that will happen. If anything, things are going to get worse! I mean, who do you think is going to take his place?"

"Gabrielle, I don’t know." Xena paused trying to control the emotions that were rising in her. She didn’t want to argue with Gabrielle about Caesar. As if she didn’t carry enough weight on her shoulders over the last time she faced off with him. The memory began to drift back to her. She stood on the battle field atop a green hill. Caesar and his army on the opposite hill. She had been so focused on bringing Caesar down that she had no idea her dearest friend needed her so much. She looked to the temple and saw the black clouds hanging over it ... but when she reached the temple, it was too late. Xena took a deep breath and shook the thoughts from her head. "I don’t know if I can ... help ... here. I don’t want to get involved, either way. I think it’s best if I just stay out of it."

Gabrielle sighed as she watched her friend enter the inn. That bad feeling continued to grow. There must be something I can do, she thought quietly to herself.

Xena paid for a room on the second floor and was content to remove her boots and plop herself down on her cot. She stared up at the ceiling. She knew her answer, earlier, didn’t explain her position very well. She rarely talked about her burden. Gabrielle had had enough to deal with and so much time had passed. Better to leave it in the past. She often thought to herself. She was sure Gabrielle wanted to question her, push her, and she had every right to - but what answer could she give? Xena was afraid if she did get involved in this ... conspiracy, it’d be on Brutus’ side.

Gabrielle quietly sat on her cot, watching Xena. She placed her bag down and intertwined her fingers on her lap. "Xena," she spoke softly, she knew this was a sore spot for her friend. "Do you really think they’ll go through with it?"

Xena kept her eyes fastened to a strange stain on the ceiling, "I don’t know, but I believe they’re going to try."

"We can’t ... I can’t just sit back and do nothing, Xena, I can’t do that."

Xena rolled onto her side, propping her head up onto her hand. She looked at Gabrielle who sat with her eyes down. Xena sighed and then sat up so that they were facing each other. "Your right," she admitted. Gabrielle brought her eyes up in surprise. Xena continued, "we should do something to stop this - or at least alert Caesar somehow. But Gabrielle, I want you to understand something ..." she paused. "I’m afraid that even if I try to help Caesar - I may end up giving in to that side of me that would love to see him - dead." There. She said it. It was ugly but it was the truth.

Gabrielle didn’t know what to say. That last word hung in the air. Finally she spoke. "Maybe I should go and warn his guards or something and you stay here and visit with Sabina."

"Gabrielle, Cassius is Caesar’s chief commander. He controls the guards and all." A look of disappointment crossed Gabrielle’s face but she quickly replaced it with one of determination. "Maybe I can get in to see him and warm him?"

"No." Xena shook her head. "Too dangerous." Xena stood and walked to the window. "I’m sure Brutus and Cassius are on the lookout for us - just in case we do try to help Caesar." She turned to face Gabrielle. "Look, why don’t we sleep on it - I’ll think of something tomorrow." Her voice was tired.

Gabrielle looked at Xena with hope in her eyes, "Okay, good idea."

The old lady paused with a deep sigh. She gave her audience a moment to contemplate the events she had just described. She used her cane to adjust her weight on the rock and got into a more comfortable position before going on with her tale.

"The following day Xena awoke to the sound of light rain pattering off of the shutters. Her eyes again found the stain on the ceiling and she starred at it not seeming to see it. Her heart was heavy. Gabrielle had already awoken and watched Xena with half opened eyes. She could tell this whole situation weighed on her friend. She wanted to be over with it all, she wanted to be on her way with Xena - but she knew it would not be that simple.

They had washed and gotten dressed in silence and headed out to visit their friend. Xena assured Gabrielle that she was thinking about the situation and that she would come up with something. Gabrielle had to trust her. She had trusted her friend with her life so many times before, she wasn’t going to stop trusting her now. Even if she could feel that something was very wrong.

It was not a long walk from the inn to their friends house so Xena left Argo in the stables. The rain had subsided although the sun was covered by a thick layer of clouds. It was dreary and Gabrielle found it hard to think of good things to talk about. "I’m really happy for Sabina, I can’t wait to see what her new husband is like."

"Uh-hum." Some time passed and Gabrielle tried again.

"This is a nice walk, isn’t it?" She admired the green pasture and row of trees that lined the path.

"Yeah." Xena sighed to her.

Finally they reached their destination and Xena gave a soft knock on the door. The door was opened by a young man in his twenties. He had light brown hair and wore a light tunic. He looked at Xena from head to toe and then turned his eyes on Gabrielle. He gave a big smile when he realized who had knocked. "You must be Xena and Gabrielle! Please come in!" He invited. Xena forced herself to return the smile and entered to see a young woman with child approaching her with open arms. Gabrielle followed.

"Oh Xena it’s so good to see you." Sabina hugged Xena and then Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, I’m so glad you two could make it!" Gabrielle returned the hug forgetting her problems for a short time. "This is my husband, Horace." They all shook hands.

After their greetings and some casual conversation, Sabina told them all about their wedding. She was not as good a storyteller as Gabrielle, but she gave plenty of description and details. Xena tried to keep a look interest on her face, which when Gabrielle looked at her she had to hold in a laugh. For a second, she felt good about herself because she had never seen that expression on Xena’s face when she told a story.

But Xena had other things on her mind. She had to decide what she was going to do about Caesar and how.

"That sounds like a beautiful wedding, huh, Xena?" Gabrielle asked. Xena stifled a yawn and nodded, "Oh yeah - sorry we missed it." Sabina smiled and gave Xena’s arm a squeeze.

"So since you’re so close to Rome, were you planning to go in for a visit?" Sabina asked them.

Gabrielle and Xena eyed each other quickly. "Uh - no - I don’t think so." Xena replied, "we were planning on making this a quick visit to see you. That’s all."

"Well you are planning to stay the night, aren’t you?" Gabrielle gave a nod and a smile. "Great! Well we," she put her arm around her husband’s arm, "were planning to go to the forum in Rome tomorrow." Horace nodded.

"Yes." He spoke for the fist time since the wedding story began. Throughout the story he sat on the arm of Sabina’s chair with a smile glued to his face, nodding. His eyes were glazed over. Now he came to life, "There’s a special council meeting of the senate to be held in public at the forum. Many great speakers will be there, including Caesar himself." He stated proudly.

"Tomorrow?" Xena questioned.

"Yes," Sabina answered then looked to Gabrielle, "I thought we could go to the markets and view some entertainment while Horace attended the meeting of the senate." Gabrielle smiled and turned to Xena.

"What date will it be tomorrow on your Roman calendar?" Xena asked. Gabrielle’s eyebrows came together in puzzlement.

"Uh, the fifteenth day of March. Why?" Horace supplied the requested information. Xena looked to Gabrielle and shook her head slightly to try to avoid any questioning here, in front of their hosts. "I think that sounds great, what do you think Gabrielle? We can extend our visit a bit. Perhaps we can get some tunics or something to fit in a bit more." Xena suggested tugging a bit on a loose thread on Gabrielle’s top. Gabrielle was a bit confused by Xena’s sudden interest in staying in Rome and she hoped it had something to do with her promise to try and think of something to help stop the assassination.

"Sure that sounds great." Gabrielle responded.

Xena turned to Horace with an air of business. "Would you mind if I accompanied you to the meeting?"

"Well," Horace looked a little uncomfortable with the request. "Citizens can participate in the senate but plebeians and visitors can not."

"I thought you said it was a public meeting?"

Horace looked to Sabina a bit uneasy. He was obviously afraid of insulting Xena. Sabina stepped in, "Xena, you can attend, but it just wouldn’t look right for Horace to bring you. He is often involved in discussions and public speakings and rarely even takes me, his wife. It would look ... strange ... if he were to take you. Please don’t be offended." Xena accepted the explanation.

"I understand. I am not a citizen of Rome and I am not his wife." She smiled at Gabrielle. "But I can go on my own to watch, if I wanted to?"

"Oh yes." Horace insisted. "As a matter of fact, if you are interested in philosophy and politics I assure you, you will be pleased with what you see and hear tomorrow." Again Horace seemed proud.

Xena nodded at Horace then turned her attention to Gabrielle. "I should go back to the inn and collect our things and bring Argo back with me."

"Okay." Gabrielle walked Xena to the door and spoke in a whisper, "Do you have a plan?"

Xena whispered back, "I think they will try to do it tomorrow at the senate."

"In public?" Gabrielle was surprised.

Xena nodded. "I’ll do what I can."

Gabrielle smiled at Xena and nodded. She knew if Xena said it, she meant it. "Please be careful!" Now Xena smiled and nodded at Gabrielle. She placed her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder and squeezed - then with a wave to Sabina and Horace, she left.

Xena returned to the inn as she said she would and then went to the stables. She gave the stable boy an extra dinar for taking good care of Argo. She rode towards Rome, but found a secluded area that she could spend the rest of the day light in. She knew Gabrielle would be fine, although a bit bored, with Sabina and Horace. Now she could focus on what she had to do.

Caesar had just come out of a warm bath. He put on his fine white toga and his slave put his purple sash in place. It showed not only one’s aristocracy but also their loyalty to Rome and to Caesar, himself. He had finished dining with Brutus and several other friends earlier. Something in Brutus’ eyes seemed distant - he had seemed bothered, but didn’t want to discuss it. Perhaps it was the resurgence of rumors. Yes, they had bothered Caesar too, but he had learned to ignore them. He walked to his chair and waved to his slave, indicating a glass of wine. The slave quickly retrieved the drink and handed the glass to him. Caesar sat in his lush divan that faced the open doors to the balcony. The curtains swayed. The night breeze was cool and refreshing. As he was taking a sip of wine, he thought he saw something move out on the balcony. He sat up straight. What was that? "Get me Casca!" He demanded. The slave rushed to the door of the luxurious room, opened it and allowed a richly dressed guard to enter. Casca walked directly to Caesar, "Yes your excellency?"

"Check the balcony! Are the guards on patrol?" Caesar asked trying not to sound disturbed.

"Yes your excellency, the guards are on patrol and on strict orders to bring any suspicious people directly to Cassius." Casca explained as he walked out onto the balcony. Caesar remained seated, eyes pinned to the darkness that Casca walked into. He could see the curtains, he could see several plants, but he could not see Casca. Caesar felt a lump start in his throat, but then Casca reappeared. He let out the deep breath he had held.

"It’s all clear. I checked everything." Casca reassured.

"Good. Check the rest of the room and then both of you leave. I want to be alone." Caesar demanded. Casca nodded his head and did as ordered. The slave waited by the door for Casca to finish his search and then followed the guard out. Caesar was alone. He drained his glass of the wine, dropped the glass and closed his eyes. He let his head fall back onto the soft cushion. He thought he heard footsteps. Couldn’t be. He opened his eyes to see a very familiar, beautiful, but unwelcome face. He quickly sat up again. "Xena?" He tried to regain his composure as he had obviously lost it for a moment.

Xena leaned against the frame of the balcony door. Her arms crossed in front of her. She allowed a slight grin to cross her face at the sight of this great leader losing his poise. "Caesar - wish I could say it was good to see you again." She spoke low and calm.

"So the rumors are true. You’re the one whose come to ‘assassinate’ me." He laughed with a shake of his head. "I should have known."

"You’re wrong Caesar. We both know if I were the one ... " She dropped her hands, walked to the wine and poured two glasses full. "... well, let’s just say we wouldn’t be here - talking." She handed him one glass.

Before he spoke, Caesar took a long sip. "Then why are you here?"

"Well," Xena also took a sip which she found pleasing. "This is good." She held the glass up to him. "I’m here to warn you, but it seems you’ve already heard."

"I’m I to believe that you - my arch enemy - are here to warn me about an assassination?" He paused. "Why don’t I believe that?"

"Well believe it, or not. I’m here because a friend asked me to come and warn you." Xena kept her voice low but serious. She put her glass down and walked to the door, where she placed her ear on it to listen. Caesar watched unsure of what to expect or believe. When she seemed satisfied with what she heard she approached him quickly.

"You know I could call the guards and have you placed in the dungeon, so don’t try anything." Caesar could feel the grip on his composure loosening. Those rumors and his fears must be getting to him more than he had thought.

"Caesar we both know that if you call for you goons, I mean guards, I could kill you before they get to me. Or I could be gone. Whichever I choose. Now I’ve already said I’m not going to hurt you." She waited for him to settle back down on his chair. "Tomorrow, during your senate meeting." Caesar looked up to her in surprise. "I think it’s going to happen then."

"Are you out of your mind? Xena, don’t you know I hear rumors such as these often enough to know that they are usually harmless threats. Nothing more."

"You’re wrong. This time it’s real. And they’re right under your nose!" She was getting tired of having to convince him of his own danger. But for Gabrielle’s sake she decided to give it one more try. "Look, if I were you I’d be very careful. Don’t put your trust or safety in anyone’s hands but your own. Sometimes your closest friends can be your worst enemies." They stared at each other for a silent moment. Just when it seemed that Caesar was about to speak, a soft knock on the door interrupted them. Xena looked at the door, then to Caesar. "Tomorrow, Caesar." The knock came again, then a deep voice, "Caesar are you all right in there?" Xena recognized the voice of Cassius. Caesar turned to the door, his back to the balcony and to Xena. Before he spoke to answer Cassius, he heard a low whisper in his ear, "Beware the Ides of March, Caesar. Beware." He turned to the voice but it was gone, and so was Xena. All he saw was the darkness that covered the balcony and the curtains blowing in the slight wind.

"Caesar, are you all right?" Cassius entered and now approached Caesar quickly. "You look pale and we thought we heard another voice." Cassius looked suspiciously to the balcony.

Caesar looked at Cassius and then to the now opened door where Casca stood. He shook his head quickly. "No, I’m fine. Can’t you see there is no one here?" He sounded annoyed.

The following morning Xena awoke with a bad feeling. She had filled Gabrielle in on her conversation with Caesar. They had decided that Gabrielle would go with Sabina to the markets and Xena would go to the senate meeting and they would meet when it was over. Gabrielle didn’t like the feelings she was getting about this plan - but she had no other choice.

The sun was high and warm and Gabrielle wore a light tunic that she borrowed from Sabina. She knew she would blend better although she insisted on carrying her staff. Sabina accepted her friends idiosyncrasies and was happy to have her company while at the forum today. They talked about the weather and about the latest fashions. Gabrielle tried to keep her mood light even though in the back of her mind she worried about what might happen that day.

Xena told Horace to go on without her - which he seemed happy to do. She was able to borrow some linen and fashion it into a toga, over her leather and armor. It didn’t look great, she mused, but it would have to do. It’ll pass. She thought to herself.

When Xena arrived at the forum there were crowds of people enjoying the beautiful day. There were men and women of all classes walking through the market. Boys returning from school discussing the philosophy they just learned. Slaves tended to their masters. She could hear and see all forms of entertainment and she watched the crowds of people gathering in circles around the entertainers. She walked on towards the senate as inconspicuously as someone as noticeable as she was could.

Gabrielle feigned interest in the items that Sabina chose to buy. She had convinced Sabina to shop near the senate. "Being a bard, myself, I always find it interesting to hear skilled speakers, philosophers, and even politicians speak. I can always learn something."

"To be honest, Gabrielle, I just don’t have an interest in all of that. I leave that to Horace." Gabrielle gave a smirk. "But seeing that Caesar is going to speak, I suppose we could go ahead and listen in." Gabrielle followed Sabina to the crowd that had already gathered around. They leaned against a tall pillar. Gabrielle scanned the area hoping to see that familiar face. There were so many people in the crowd, it seemed hopeless. She, at least, felt relieved knowing that she and Xena were in the same vicinity. Suddenly she felt the crowd grow excited. There was cheering, clapping, shouts from all around.

"There!" Sabina pointed out Caesar as he took center stage. Gabrielle’s heart dropped when she saw that Cassius was to his left. Cassius had that calm look on his face as his cool eyes took in the cheering crowd. Brutus was on Caesar’s right. If she looked closely, even at her distance, she could see he had a smirk on his lips. Xena was right! It is going to happen here. Her heart started to pump and she couldn’t contain herself. Xena - where are you?" Again she scanned the crowd for her friend, but to no avail. Gabrielle grabbed her staff tightly and turned to Sabina. "I’ll be right back." Before Sabina could answer, Gabrielle was on the move. I have to do something. She pushed her way through the tightly packed crowd, trying to get to the front. She could hear one of the speakers begin his introduction. She stopped for a moment to look. That very nervous man from the tavern was now a few feet behind Caesar. His eyes darted back and forth quickly. He wrung his hands together and looked extremely anxious. They’re surrounding him! She felt panicked. She knew she’d never get through the crowd in time to stop this. Oh Xena where are you?! The clapping and shouts increased in unison as Caesar was introduced. Then quickly, before he knew what was happening, he was surrounded by his closest friends. They moved in on him quickly and Brutus pulled a dagger from Cassius’ armor and began to stab at Caesar. Caesar cried out and the crowd began to yell frantically and run in all directions. Brutus continued his assault as some of Caesar’s loyal guards began to attack. Cassius and Casca fought them off. Caesar clutched at his wounds hopelessly. He fell on his back, eyes to the sky. The sounds of yelling began to fade as did the sharpness of his pain. "Brutus, enough - let’s get out of here." Caesar heard the voice through the commotion. He turned onto his stomach trying to crawl on his elbows. Through the running crowd he was able to make out one distinct figure. "X... Xena..." He let out a hoarse cry as their eyes met. The blood poured out of him in rushing waves as his heart beat futilely. He tried to crawl on but could not. The darkness enveloped him - he died. Chaos broke out - rioting. Slaves fought against their masters, the plebeians fought against the patricians, the patricians fought for their lives. Merchants fought off the looters. Gabrielle had lost sight of Sabina but she knew where she was supposed to meet Xena and she headed that way. She fought her way through the crazed crowd. "Xena!" She yelled in relief as she saw her friend fighting off some men. Xena made her way to Gabrielle and held her tightly for a brief moment. They looked into each others eyes, "I could’ve stopped them!" Xena admitted. Gabrielle shook her head, "Don’t think of that now - let’s get out of here!" Xena nodded. That answer would be good enough - she knew Gabrielle would forgive her. She grabbed Gabrielle’s hand and led the way. "I lost Sabina!" Gabrielle yelled over the noise. Just then a guard came rushing towards Xena. She pulled her sword and deflected his first blow and kicked him in the groin which sent him down to his knees. They ran past him.

"So now you see how Xena won?" The old woman asked her audience. They all nodded as they exchanged glances. "But here is how she lost."


Xena and Gabrielle were separated on that fateful day. They were making their escape. Barbarians had heard the rumors as well and were prepared to attack the city if the assassination was successful. Xena and Gabrielle could see the barbarians riding in and slaying all in their way. As Xena fought off attackers, Gabrielle ran ahead. She turned in time to see Xena, who was several steps behind her, go down. Gabrielle didn’t know what had hit her friend but she tried to rush to her friend’s aid. Just then an explosion shook her, sending her to the ground and dirt and dust rose all around her. It must have been from a catapult, Gabrielle couldn’t be sure. But when she looked for Xena, she was not there. The dust settled and she quickly looked around, she was sure Xena had been right in front of her. The sounds of barbarians moving in made her hasten her search. Perhaps Xena had not been wounded, maybe she just tripped and had gotten up and ran for the woods. Gabrielle did the same. She made it safely to the woods - it was where they had planned to meet, if by chance they were separated - but she was alone. Gabrielle waited all night and in the morning she returned to the scene of destruction. There were dead bodies everywhere, smoke still hung thickly in the air, some fires still blazed. The forum had been nearly destroyed. Some of Caesar’s guards had been wounded but left behind to die. Their moans pierced the air. Many searched for their family members. Some merchants cried over their ruined goods. The smell was pungent - hot dead bodies decaying quickly in the sun. Gabrielle searched for her dear friend, to no avail. She did, at least, have a sense of relief knowing that her friend had not been killed. And she knew Xena well enough to know that whatever bind she was in - the warrior princess would get out.

She went to Sabina’s house and found that they both made it out okay, although Sabina had broken a leg making her escape. At least they were both alive. She explained what she had witnessed and told them to keep their eyes open for Xena.

Gabrielle stayed close to that area for a long time but saw and heard nothing from her friend. After some time she decided to head home to Poteidaia, where she knew Xena would look for her - if she hadn’t already. With high hopes, she set off."

The old storyteller paused again, there was a sad look in her eye, though no one noticed. Eager expressions met hers, except one - the tall person by the tree. Her back was to the crowd and the storyteller, but she listened as a tear rolled down her face. The storyteller watched her curiously but continued with her story.

"Gabrielle arrived at the edge of her small town, but to her dismay everything was destroyed. She couldn’t believe it and a strong guilt grasped her heart. She knew she should’ve been there to protect her home. She walked through the littered streets. Men and women were cleaning up, many of their houses burnt down. Who could have done this? Why? She was extremely fearful as she approached her own house. She didn’t see or hear any movement. She arrived at the broken down front door and peered inside. It had been ransacked. Tears filled her eyes. Why is this happening to me? Just then she heard her name being called by a familiar voice. She turned to see her sister, Lila, running towards her. They embraced and with tears in their eyes, her sister guided her away.

‘Gabrielle it was awful, I’m glad you weren’t here when it happened!’

‘What about mother and father?’ Gabrielle asked hesitantly. With a sad look in her eyes Lila explained that barbarians came through and ransacked many of the small towns and villages nearby, ‘It began the day Caesar was killed. There was no one who could stop them! Mother and father died bravely defending our home.’ Gabrielle was in shock and she fell to her knees in disbelief - she cried uncontrollably."

"Days and months went by and it was very difficult for Gabrielle to accept that Xena had not come for her. She had learned that just before her parents death they had given Lila their blessings to marry a young man from the village. She had done so with Gabrielle at her side. But Gabrielle could not eat or sleep - it was a very difficult time for her. She missed her parents, she missed her friend, she felt very alone. Maybe she’d been wrong to leave Rome - maybe she should’ve searched harder ... longer. She finally made up her mind, one day, to go back and find her friend. Lila begged her to stay and tried to lift her spirits with the news that she was pregnant with their first child. ‘We promise that if it is a girl we’ll name her after you.’ Gabrielle smiled at her sister, ‘That’s nice, really, but I can’t stay here any longer and do nothing. I’ve got to go search for her, it’s the only hope I have left.’

"It seemed hopeless, where would she begin? Naturally she went to Amphipolis - the warrior’s hometown - but they had had no word from Xena. Xena’s mother cried on her shoulder at the thought that Xena might have crossed over to the other side. ‘I’ll keep looking.’ Gabrielle assured her, and she did. She went to see her Amazon sisters, who had also heard nothing, they did agree to keep a look out for her. Gabrielle became more and more desperate. At night, as she lay alone by the fire, she’d look to the stars and remember their adventures. She was haunted most by a sentence that her friend had uttered most casually. It was when they had gone to help her friend Meleagar the Mighty. He had been arrested for murder and was going to be executed. There was an old bitter woman there. Gabrielle had turned to Xena and made a comment about how she had hoped she’d be knitting booty’s at that age. It was Xena’s response that stuck with her now, "People in our line of work never get to be that age." Could it be true? Could Xena have crossed over? Maybe that’s where I should be looking for her - on the other side."

The old woman had to stop again. She wiped a tear as it gently rolled down her cheek. Bri couldn’t wait to hear what happened next, "well? What happened Auntie? Was she dead?" Gabby also took this moment to ask, "Did Gabrielle find Xena?" Raulf knew better than to interrupt, even during a pause. With a sad look in her eyes, the old lady resumed,

"Well ..." she breathed deeply ", she never did find her dearest friend. But Gabrielle continued working for the ‘greater good’, as they called it. Wherever she could, she would help out. She opened a hospice in several towns and continued to write her adventures, those with the warrior princess and those without her. You know she was an excellent bard" The woman chuckled a bit. "But no, she never found Xena: Warrior Princess and she never became so close to anyone again.

Everywhere she traveled, however, she’d look and ask - but it was as if her friend had disappeared. There were many rumors about the death of Xena, but she didn’t know if she should really believe them. Many warlords were extremely happy about that news. Gabrielle did go on with her life, but she always had one regret: not fulfilling a promise to Xena."

"Xena had been shot with a poison dart and didn’t know how serious it would be. She didn’t know if she’d make it. She asked Gabrielle for a favor. "Gabrielle--if it does happen - I want to be taken back home to be buried next to my brother, Lyceus. "

Gabrielle had promised she would. But not knowing where Xena was, if she was dead or alive, how could she fulfill that promise?

The old woman stopped speaking and stood up - she stretched and rubbed her back with her hands. "There really is no happy ending here." The crowd looked back at her, they seemed disappointed. They were used to hearing how Xena saved the day, with Gabrielle at her side. "That can’t be how it ends Auntie!" Bri insisted. The old woman shrugged her shoulders as if to say there was nothing more to the story.

"No." It was a low, husky voice from the crowd. The audience turned to see the tall figure approach the story teller. She removed her hood revealing her long black hair streaked with silver. Her blue eyes stared knowingly into the storyteller’s eyes, as she gasped. "That’s not how the story ends." She limped to the front and settled herself on the rock, the audience seemed thrilled by this turn of events but the old woman just watched as she leaned her weight upon her cane.

"Xena did not die in that final battle, but she was seriously injured. She had been struck on the head from behind, and she too felt the shake of the ground below her as she fell to it. The last thing she saw was the dark earth being lifted around her like a thin veil, she felt arms grabbing at her and pulling her away. She wanted to scream to Gabrielle, but she could make no sound, then it was all dark. She awoke in a foreign place. Time had passed but she couldn’t tell how long it had been since they had captured her. She felt pain throughout her whole body and she was strapped to her bed. She could not move her legs and she knew her injures were severe, she could barely speak, but her memories were vivid. The barbarians that kept her obviously wanted her for profit. She often overheard the guards talk about her and that was how she had discovered their plans. They knew that if they could nurse her back to health, they could fetch a hefty price for the warrior princess They fed her little, enough so that she would not starve. They gave her small intervals of time to go outside, guarded of course, and get some fresh air. When she could not walk, they carried her and she sat on the green grass and cried. But she exercised and with help from their medic, who became quite fond of her, she regained the use of her legs. She spoke only to the medic, and even then, only in short phrases so that he would not know how much she actually knew or remembered. She played along with their game and allowed herself to be nursed back to health. A major miscalculation on their part. They thought they could break her but they would not. Eventually they removed the straps from her bed and let her roam around her small concrete room. There was a small window with bars in the ceiling and a similar window in the door. Her room held a hard cot and a hole for her ‘private needs’. It was dirty, it smelled and she often had visitors of the rodent species."

The woman stopped to breath in a breathe of the fresh air. The audience was mesmerized by her narrative and the other old woman watched her with misty eyes. She began again.

"Her visits outside remained short as they were afraid she would try to escape. Often when the guards were not looking she would pick up a few twigs and place them in her shoe. She didn’t know how or if she would get to use them, but she knew she had to be prepared, if the time to make her escape arose. She was lonely and often spent time thinking of the one motivation that kept her going: her friend, Gabrielle."

Again she paused and let her blues eyes gaze into the eyes of the old woman with the cane.

"It was the lowest time in her whole life! She felt despondent and both Ares and Hades came to make deals with her. Ares offered to save her if she would return to him and fight in his name. Hades offered to end her misery and take her to Tarturus. She refused them both accepting her suffering. It must have taken 5 long, grueling years for her to get herself back into shape and even then she knew it would be hard to get her body to do what it had done before. At night she would work out harder and harder, pushing her body to it’s limits. During the day she would follow their regimen, eat the little they fed her, go through the motions and sleep. She lost weight and much of her strength. The barbarians were confidant and cocky and they were in no rush to turn her over ... they were waiting for the right moment. During her fifth year, she noticed there was turbulence amongst the men that kept her, they were running out of money, men were abandoning them, they felt they could wait no longer. It was time for them to let the world know that they held Xena: Warrior Princess captive and that they would auction her off to the highest bidder to do with her as he wished. Xena knew her time had come and if she were to escape, alive and free, she would have to put her plan into motion immediately.

That night she reached into the hole that she had used so regularly and found the pack of twigs which she had inconspicuously collected on her short trips outside. She had spent many nights sharpening the edges against the stone walls turning them into dangerous darts. They were small and she had practiced how to send them quickly and accurately across the room, they would be used the next morning.

She tried to rest up that night, but it was difficult. So much time had passed, she wondered if Gabrielle was okay ... does she think I’m dead? Has she given up on me? The next morning arrived and Xena was ready - she didn’t wait for the warlords and warriors to arrive for the auction. As soon as they brought her breakfast she made her move. Swiftly she pounced on the first guard, breaking his neck with ease as the adrenaline rushed through her veins. Before the second guard could arrive, she threw two darts at him, they both pierced his neck opening his jugular. He fell to his knees and blood poured forth as from a fountain. She grabbed the sword from the first guard and made her way through the underground imprisonment. Other prisoners called to her to release them and she tossed the keys from the second guard to one prisoner. She knew the other prisoners could fend for themselves, and their escape attempts would help to distract the guards from her own. Her body responded better than she had expected, though she was still weak and ran with a limp. There were, of course, some things she could not do ... like flip through the air and land 20 feet away. Each blow she received from the guards felt magnified. Her body had lost it’s ability to accept such punishment. Nevertheless, she swarmed through the pack of guards, she stabbed, sliced, kicked and punched her way out of her prison. No one could hold her and she vowed she would die trying - her sole motivation was to get out and find Gabrielle. When she escaped she cared for her wounds and headed straight for Poteidaia.

"Wow! That was some fight, huh?" Bri whispered to little Gabby. "Ssh!" Raulf interrupted them. "Pay attention!" he whispered back. The tall old woman looked to the blond little girl and gave her a wink. She took a sip from a glass handed to her by one from the crowd. She nodded to the young man.

Xena arrived in Poteidaia and was happy when she found Lila, Gabrielle’s sister. She learned that Lila had two sons and was pregnant with their third child. Lila hoped this one would be a girl and she told Xena she had planned to name the child after her sister. Xena also learned of the death of Gabrielle’s parents. She was saddened to know that she had not been there for her friend. Xena told Lila about her predicament and escape and she explained her desperate hopes of finding Gabrielle in Poteidaia. ‘Well she did wait for you Xena," Lila explained, "but it was too difficult for her to sit and do nothing. She decided she would go and find you." Xena had to smile at her friends urgency and she understood.

‘Then do you know where I can find her, now?’ Xena asked.

‘We do keep in touch occasionally. She is often on the move, but when she settles in a new town or village she usually sends me a letter filled with her adventures and deeds.’ Xena sat and listened to Lila for a long time. Lila described all the good that Gabrielle had done. She told Xena of her sister’s adventures and all the new things Gabrielle wrote her about. Xena was happy that her friend had continued on her quest to do such good things. She also felt hesitant. Maybe Gabrielle is better off without me. I’m the one that needs her. Xena asked Lila to tell Gabrielle that she would be heading to Amphipolis and hoped to hear word from her soon. Xena was excited at the thought of seeing her friend again - but things didn’t go as she had planned.

Xena waited and waited but word never came. She too found it difficult to sit and do nothing. It had been so long ... perhaps Gabrielle hadn’t sent word on purpose. She put those thoughts out of her mind and decided to say goodbye to her mother and head out in search of her friend. Upon returning to Poteidaia she found that Lila had died during childbirth, the little girl also died. Gabrielle had probably never received her message. She didn’t even know that Xena was alive. It seemed as if the two friends were traveling in opposite directions, Xena never able to catch up to Gabrielle. Her body complained as Xena pushed forward and she grew very tired. Then it happened.

The tall woman had to stop here. She could feel the weight of the eyes upon her, but the green eyes from the storyteller were the ones she felt the most. She feared looking into them but she did. Her own eyes giving an apologetic look.

She found Gabrielle ... but only watched from afar. She felt that if Gabrielle appeared happy and safe then she would leave her. If Gabrielle seemed sad or in need then she would, naturally, show herself. It was at this moment that Xena realized she needed Gabrielle more than anything, but Gabrielle was busy and smiling and she seemed happy. For a moment Xena thought she saw a glimpse of sadness enter Gabrielle’s eyes, but instantly her eyes shined with a smile like two stars. Xena knew it was out of selfishness that she wanted to go and put her arms around her beautiful friend. Her heart ached, but she resisted."

"Why?" Bri questioned the woman who towered over him.

Because Xena needed mending and she knew that Gabrielle could do it. The past few years had broken Xena after all. Her body ached more and more each day, though she tried to ignore it she knew she wasn’t healed. She didn’t want to fight, but she was always weary of those around her. If someone might recognize her, it might lead to a dual and Xena could not fight anymore. She knew she could not bring Gabrielle into that type of life again. Gabrielle had finally found stability and was still holding on to her hopes of saving the world. Xena knew if the world were to know peace it would be because of people like Gabrielle, not people like herself. She watched Gabrielle with tears in her eyes. It had started to rain and dark clouds moved overhead. Xena heard the roll of thunder and she decided it was over. She could go on now knowing that Gabrielle would be okay, no matter what happened.

More unconsciously than anything, Xena withdrew. She traveled far away to a land where no one knew her name or reputation. There she settled in a small village with natives and she learned their language and lifestyle. She taught them what she knew of medicine, fighting techniques and weaponry. They helped her and she began to think of her friend with happiness, instead of sadness. Time passed unnoticed and before she knew it she grew old. She knew she would die in this far away land ..."

The old blue eyes starred into space, as if she were remembering something. The storyteller touched her arm gently. Their eyes met again, a smile almost touching their lips - but a young voice broke in ... "so they never met again? Xena gave up and Gabrielle went her own way and that’s it?" Bri was complaining, he’d always liked the happy endings. The tall woman looked at him and patted his head, "Sorry kid," she smiled sadly, "but our times now, the Pax Romana, they don’t need heroes or warrior princesses."

The crowd began to break up and many in the audience began to leave. The two old women stood and watched the crowd disperse. Some complained about the ending, making them both smile a little. The taller woman watched as the storyteller hugged the three children. "Now don’t forget to tell your mama I want her to come and visit soon." "Yes Auntie," the boys replied. The little girl wrapped her arm around the old lady’s waist and handed her her cane. "You be careful walking home Auntie." She demanded. "I will sweetie." She watched them run back up the hill as quickly as they had run down. She then turned to meet the eyes that were watching her in amazement. The tall woman walked over to her and they quietly looked at each other. The smaller woman spoke first, "I do." A quizzical expression responded. "This day and age might not need heroes or warrior princesses but I do!" They continued to look at each other for several long quiet moments, then they embraced.

Xena released Gabrielle enough to look into her loving eyes, "I’m so sorry Gabrielle - I never meant to give up on you. I meant to be by your side always, but I thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want to be your burden ..."

Gabrielle cut in, "I don’t blame you Xena, but I’ve missed you!" She wiped away the tears that stained her friends cheeks. They hugged again. "I’ve missed you too." They released each other as Gabrielle asked, "How did you know to find me here? When did you return?"

"Well, I came back because I knew I didn’t want to die so far away. Actually, I never expected to live so long ... but, I figured the end had to be near, so I returned about a year ago. I had heard rumors of a talented old bard telling stories of adventures, battles, and wars. I had to see for myself who that might be." She smiled at the smaller and somewhat frail old friend. "I realized I was so wrong to walk away from you Gabrielle, but as more time passed I felt like it was just too late to turn back. I guess I finally got the courage." Gabrielle couldn’t believe that she was looking into the eyes of her oldest and dearest friend and all the time that had passed seemed meaningless to her now that her friend was here again.

"Xena, listen, I don’t want you to think about that any more. We’re here now, together, and that’s all that matters." They shared a smile. "Uh, you weren’t planning on going anywhere were you?"

"No! I’m home again and this is where I intend to stay." Gabrielle wrapped her arm around her friends waist and in her other hand she held her cane. They began to walk away from the lake.

"Good, because I wasn’t planning to let you go this time. What do you say we finish out the rest of this life together - however much we have left of it?"

"Sounds like a happy ending to me!" Xena agreed with a smile. All of their guilt, all of their pain seemed to lift away and was replaced by the simple joy of love.

The End

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