DISCLAIMER: Xena and the rest of the Xena universe are copyrighted characters owned by Ren Pics and Universal. Lucky bastards!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was a late-bloomer in watching Xena and then reading, much less writing, fanfic. Now, I'm hopelessly obsessed, and I couldn't get this story out of my head. This is my first attempt…be gentle.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Calliope


Part 1

Gabrielle spent three summers trying to carry on the work she and Xena started by traveling to the Land of the Pharaohs. They had a need for a "girl with a chakram" so it seemed only right for Gabrielle to continue the path set before her. She had grown to know no other way of life. Somehow, though, it didn't feel right. After the many moons of living on the road with Xena, Gabrielle had become an elite warrior. Few enemies expected such power from a petite blonde bard from Potidea. She had painfully earned the nicknames "battling bard" and "warrior bard." But it felt empty, lifeless, much like her life now that Xena was gone. The image of Xena's headless body still haunted her. The ashes long ago lost when Gabrielle was first attacked by a band of renegades she managed to easily dispatch on her trek out of Japa.

But Xena had never really left Gabrielle. From Elysia, Xena had watched her take on multiple tribes and warriors across the Egyptian land. Moments of pride were interspersed with endless days of worrying for Gabrielle's safety. She watched helplessly on three different occasions when Gabrielle was captured and once was nearly killed. It was then that Xena ached for her mortal body so she could come to her rescue as before, but all she could do was whisper in her ear that she was not alone. That was when Gabrielle spat in the face of her captors and was beaten until she lost consciousness. Gabrielle had given up her skill of talking herself out of trouble and at times even quit fighting. As time passed, her despondency actually discouraged her captors causing them to let her go, seeing little use in keeping someone without any fight.

The hopelessness took on a deeper twist just over a summer ago. There were moments that Gabrielle sensed Xena's presence as she journeyed across the Egyptian deserts. A soft breeze would blow or a star would streak across the sky as Gabrielle told an old story of their past adventures to her absent warrior. More than anything, the bard ached for the night so she could see Xena again. The warrior had made a deal in Elysia that she would stay as long as she could visit Gabrielle in her dreams. Every night, she came to her bard telling her all of the things she wished she could and should have while alive. The time from dusk to dawn was bittersweet. The touches and caresses only made both women ache for it in their waking reality.

Xena had wandered the Fields searching for a way, any way, to get her mortal body back. Eternity without Gabrielle was becoming too much to bare. She thought the afterlife was supposed to be pain-free, but learned the hard way that nothing hurt more than being near Gabrielle in spirit but not body. Her choice was simple but difficult: lose the salvation of the souls she had freed in Japa and be reunited with her soulmate or forever be separated from Gabrielle. Freeing the souls had been her redemption, but her redemption was coming to mean little to her without Gabrielle.

One night the sands of the dunes whipped furiously at Gabrielle as she sought shelter among trees of an oasis. Gabrielle struggled in her sleep as Xena came to her. A gentle hand on her face steadied the bard. Sensing the unshed tears in Xena's eyes caused Gabrielle to struggle again.

"It's okay, Gabrielle. Trust that I'll always be with you and I'll always protect you."

The words worried Gabrielle. "What are you saying?"

"You'll know when the time is right. I love you, Gabrielle. You are the best of me, my heart, my soul, my one true love, and you always, always will be." Xena leaned in to place a cool, ethereal kiss on Gabrielle's lips. Not liking where this was leading, Gabrielle reached frantically for Xena but jerked awake with a start as her arms passed through the empty air.

"NO!!!!" She cried in aching sobs, screaming out into the dark, empty night. It had to be just a nightmare caused by the storm. She'd try to sleep again and certainly Xena would come to her. Night after night Gabrielle searched in her dreams for Xena, but she never came. Eventually, Gabrielle barely slept. If Xena wasn't going to be there, there was little point anymore.

That was when Gabrielle knew she had to give up the path. She was doing the legacy of Xena no good in her current state. The idea of returning to her family, or what was left of it, in Potidea, was not an option. She considered briefly going to Athens and teaching at the Academy, but she hadn't written any stories since Xena died and to be honest she wasn't inspired anymore. The Amazons, her adopted family and sisters, was the one place she felt safe and at home, as if she still had a purpose. It was time to go home.

The sun rose high in sky as the Queen looked out over the field of warriors. Everywhere she looked the skin of young warriors glistened under the intensity of the cloudless sky. The women would pause only long enough to hear comments from their trainers before restarting their moves, each more fierce than the last. To the right, beyond the meager soldier huts, slightly older Amazons were racing horses, making adjustments to the hooves of the animals that needed it, and breaking in the newest of their steeds.

Just two days ago, Gabrielle had conducted the initiation ritual of six new Amazon warriors. Yesterday had been a day of celebration. Today, the new initiates were practicing on the training field with the best Amazon warriors. Like in the games of their youth, the initiates were being tested by their superiors on a variety of fighting skills and weapons. The leaders observed and made notes until ultimately deciding which division each new Amazon would be best suited for.

Gabrielle had to give it to the Amazons…they definitely let a woman develop her natural talents. She just never envisioned that ruling an entire nation would be hers! Xena was supposed to be the Conqueror, not her.

Ephiny wandered up to her Queen quietly. Since Gabrielle had returned, she'd been curious and wanted to ask about her experiences over the last three summers, but something in the way Gabrielle held her body stopped her short. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something was amiss.

"Wine, my Queen?" Ephiny tried to make light conversation.

"Hum? Oh, yeah, thanks." Gabrielle noticed the blonde curly hair that has become lighter around the temples. A solid streak of gray was now hanging just past Ephiny's left eye. Ephiny tried to tuck it back behind her ear in vain as she handed the goblet over to Gabrielle. It's amazing the difference three summers can make. Let's not forget the, oh…25 that you and Xena were locked away in an ice cave. Considering that, Ephiny has aged well!

After taking the wine, she retureds to watching the warriors on the field. One of the initiates just took out one of their best seasoned warriors with a combination of kicks, flips, and a pretty sinister use of a staff to an unguarded knee. Gabrielle visibly winced. Ouch! That had to hurt!

The young dark-haired initiate stepped back cautiously from her opponent, holding the staff out in a guarded position. She had a smug but guarded look on her face. Oh, yeah, she knew she was good but she wasn't stupid enough to let her guard down either. Gabrielle smirked at the cockiness. She remembered this one during the ritual, but being her first major act as the returning Queen, she wasn't quite cognizant of everything yet. Damn if she couldn't remember the girl's name! The training session ended and the leader, having noticed the Queen's appearance over an hour ago, led the group in a deep and heartfelt bow towards their Queen. Gabrielle nodded her head, but blushed slightly. No matter how many moons passed, these displays of worship and adoration still managed to unnerve her. It was just another ritual, upon another ritual, that followed yet…another ritual. She looked back up to see a piercing set of ocean blue eyes and a sly smirk staring back at her.

Suddenly, Gabrielle had a hard time breathing. Ephiny had turned to head back to the main compound and asked Gabrielle if she was coming to the banquet tonight. When she didn't hear an answer, she looked back to see Gabrielle staring into space oblivious to her question.

"My Queen?"

The Regent walked back closer to Gabrielle's side. "My Queen, are you alright?" Gabrielle jumped when she felt a hand on her arm.


"I was just wondering if the Queen would be coming to the banquet tonight." Ephiny looked at her puzzled.

Exasperated, Gabrielle spun on her heels and started to walk away. She realized that Ephiny was simply being formal in the presence of the other Amazons milling around, but it still aggravated her, "Since when have I not come to a banquet? And, please, stop saying 'my Queen' all the time." Gabrielle spoke loudly over her shoulder.

"Jeez, fine! Ask a simple question…"

The hall was decorated in festive red, green, and gold tapestries. Musicians were playing merrily while seven barely dressed women danced in a circle around the group. Hundreds of women were talking, laughing, and drinking. The end of initiation had come for the new Amazons. All nine women were attired in clothing representative of their initiate promise to the Queen and the Amazon tribe. The woman to uphold purity was clad in a simple white tunic. Pride was elaborately decorated in brightly colored silk robes and a massive headdress of jewels and feathers.

Watching from the head table on the raised dias, Gabrielle blandly took in the sights and sounds. Food had been delivered but she couldn't remember what she ate. She had drank, perhaps more than her fair share, but she did remember drinking. She made a short speech but she hadn't planned what to say. Giving a rousing speech wasn't hard for Gabrielle. She had many seasons of practice. She knew there were certain words to say, certain facial expressions that convey strength, loyalty, and family. She was the leader of this nation and the welcomer of the new women. There were requirements in demeanor and action necessary to convey it all and Gabrielle had become adept at being a leader.

Ephiny sat to the right of her Queen. She watched over the proceedings, but was concerned with Gabrielle's lack of enthusiasm and engagement with her people. They had known each other long enough for Ephiny to know something was wrong. It had to be hard on Gabrielle to lose Xena. She had only heard rumors of what had happened and never got the story directly from her Queen. Everyone knew that Xena was Gabrielle's champion, but few knew the truth of their relationship. Ephiny respected this and kept this knowledge to herself. They had been soulmates, eternal companions. Suspicions had rippled through the tribe, not that anyone really cared. The more Xena shared a tent with the Queen, the more boisterous the rumors became. On more than one occasion, Ephiny had nearly come to blows with a warrior in Gabrielle's defense. Thank the gods that Xena had never heard about it! However, it was Ephiny who knew the truth after overhearing a heated conversation as she passed the Queen's tent. Gabrielle and Xena had been traveling together for several summers.

Xena was intent on going to battle in the Queen's honor after she had been taken hostage by a neighboring warlord. Gabrielle was furious with her for not respecting her wishes to talk to the leader herself. After all, Gabrielle had always been the negotiator and Xena the fighter. But, Ephiny knew she had heard too much when she heard Gabrielle begin to weep, fall to her knees, and begin to beg Xena not to go. She was afraid for Xena and didn't want to lose her.

"Why?" A long silence followed and Ephiny was getting ready to bolt, certain that the frustrated warrior would turn to leave and catch her eavesdropping.

"How could you ask me that? I can't believe that after all of the time you've know me, you don't know that. Because I love you, you dumb warrior," Ephiny gasped at the subtle insult more than the emotional revelation. It was like Gabrielle to give herself to another heart and soul. Everything she did, she did with abandon.

"I love you too, Gabrielle. It's because I love you that I want to fight for you, protect you, keep you from harm. Don't you see? I love you more than my own life," a rustling of fabric was followed by very distinctive feminine moans.

"Do you see, Xena? I love you so much I'll give you everything," Gabrielle's voice dripped with untamed sensuality. Ephiny heard the bed creak under the weight.

"Yes, Gabrielle, I see."

"See more, say less, Xena. Come here."

"No words?"

"No words are needed."

Ephiny had a newfound respect for her Queen after that. She smirked at the memory. Evidently, Gabrielle had the power to tame the most hardened hearts. Xena never did go to battle with that warlord. She may have had many skills, but escaping the love of Gabrielle wasn't one of them!

Since Gabrielle's return to the Amazon tribe, something was definitely wrong. Ephiny sensed it the moment she saw her. Aside from the awful presence of grief, there was something else. Gabrielle's soul was lost…wandering. She didn't seem to have an anchor in her life.

Ephiny was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't see a dark-haired Amazon approaching the dias. Actually, all she could see was long, dark hair, blazing blue eyes, and strong sculpted legs extending from a flowing royal blue silk wrap. The outfit was adorned with red cording and tied off with a red sash. Jewels adorned the edge of each part of the outfit. It was Warrior Courage, the living manifestation of a top-ranked Amazon virtue. With the woman's face covered by a mask of elaborate ostrich feathers, Ephiny was unable to read her intentions, but she did see that the woman's eyes burning a direct line to Gabrielle.

Bowing deeply, "My Queen, may I have the honor?"

What in Hades? Surprised by her own delayed reaction, Ephiny finally realized the woman was asking Gabrielle for a dance. Her head spun in time to see Gabrielle's breathing stop momentarily before simply giving her head a firm shake of rejection. The woman graciously bowed but slowly raised her eyes to meet Gabrielle's. They locked eyes for a few long seconds before Gabrielle sadly looked away.

"Perhaps another time then, my Queen."

Ephiny watched the exchange and the back of the retreating woman. "What was that about?" Gabrielle just shrugged and expelled a long, weary sigh.

Ephiny watched her friend then gently touched her on her forearm. "Why didn't you go dance with her?"

"I'm not in the mood," Gabrielle stated flatly.

She didn't know if this was the right time to bring it up, but lately with Gabrielle, it had never been the right time to talk to her. To say Gabrielle was a little snippy would have been a severe understatement. Taking a deep breath, Ephiny took a chance, "Look, Gabrielle, I know you miss Xena terribly, but you know she wouldn't want you to let life…or love pass you by."

Gabrielle turned a vicious look on Ephiny making her wilt. Gods, she could kill warlords just with that look alone! "What do you know about it…or Xena, for that matter!"

"More than you know," the Regent stated, trying to convey her knowledge with as much tact as possible.

Gabrielle just stared at her coldly then shook her head, "You don't know."

Much like Xena, words weren't Ephiny's strong point, but nevertheless, she spoke in the most gentle voice she could find, in spite of being stung by Gabrielle's anger, "I know that Xena was…is your soulmate," she paused trying to feel out if she should say more. Gabrielle's jaw was clinching in barely controlled rage, but she decided to press forward. She wasn't getting past this on her own and it was time she talked about it. "She was also the love of your life, the only person you were willing and still willing to live and die for. The bond the two of you had is eternal. It can't and won't be undone by any one mortal or immortal. But, you know, Xena wouldn't want you to live as if you're dead."

Barely visible but there, Ephiny saw her take a shuddering breath as Gabrielle ran fingers through her shoulder-length blonde hair. A single, sad tear dropped down Gabrielle's cheek.

"How did you know?" Gabrielle's whisper was hardly heard over the music and laughter. The moment seemed so out of place. Respect for Gabrielle kept her from telling her how she really knew about the truth of their relationship.

"It wasn't hard to tell. I saw the way the two of you looked at each other. Love was written all over both of you," Ephiny smiled thinking back to instances where, before she knew, it would have been easy to read these two, if she had paid attention! For a warrior, she sure could be dense!

Gabrielle leaned forward, elbows resting on both knees as she put her head in her hand, a bit embarrassed but relieved. Ephiny couldn't help but think how her friend had picked up so many of Xena's mannerisms over time. Gabrielle looked over at her friend and chuckled, "Yeah, I guess we didn't try too hard to hide it. I hope it's not a problem…"

"Oh, please, Gabrielle! You're Queen of the Amazons, a tribe of women warriors well-known for…well, you know," Gabrielle raised one eyebrow teasing Ephiny to continue before they both broke into a fit of laughter. After a few minutes of giggling like little girls and garnering a few curious stares, Gabrielle sighed.

"Gods, that felt good! Thank you."

"You're welcome," Ephiny grabbed a couple of bottles of wine that had been placed in front of her and Gabrielle, "Come on."

"Where? The party's not over. It wouldn't look right for the Queen to leave so soon."

"I just got you to confess about your secret love for Xena and laugh for the first time since your return. Do you really think I'm gonna let you off the hook from spilling the rest of the juicy details?" She was already standing and holding out her hand to Gabrielle, not giving her much choice. "Besides, you're the Queen. You can do anything you want."

Gabrielle knew when to resign herself to a lost argument. She had learned that with Xena. Shrugging and reaching up to take Ephiny's offered hand, "Very well, but it's a good thing you got two bottles. A lady doesn't talk unless properly inebriated."

They talked until the first rays of light began to brighten Gabrielle's hut. For the first time in a long time, Gabrielle let go of her pain. She laughed freely, cried occasionally, but was in the end grateful to talk about her and Xena openly. In an odd way, it was like she was a bard all over again, regaling Ephiny in story after story of their love and adventure. Gabrielle had forgotten how much she loved telling these stories. The Regent loved the story of Gabrielle finally getting a whack in on Xena's nose with her staff the most. The vision of a stunned Warrior Princess had her laughing so hard her side hurt.

Conversation had slowly dwindled as the sky brightened and the first sounds of movement were heard outside.

"If I don't get out of here soon, there will be serious rumors flying around about us!" Ephiny slowly stood up with a groan. Gods, I'm getting' old!

"So what?! Let 'em talk. After all, I'm the Queen, right?" It was good to see a glimmer of the old Gabrielle back. The bright smile and playful banter was something that Ephiny had been sorely missing from her friend.

"Think you'll come out to the practice field later?"

"Definitely! Maybe I'll even join in. I feel like a workout today, but…first, I want a nap."

"What…no food first!" The words alone caused Gabrielle's stomach to grumble audibly. Ephiny unconvincingly hid her snicker behind her hand.

"Out…out now," Gabrielle tried to feign anger, but instead smirked, "or you'll get your butt kicked on that practice field today," Ephiny raised her hands in mock defeat, "Yeah, yeah, yeah…see you later."

Gabrielle gazed out over the practice field. The sleep had done her good but her late morning breakfast had been even better. The sky was surprisingly bright and crisp for the summer, giving Gabrielle an adrenaline rush. After several months of not holding, much less using her staff and sais, she thought they would feel awkward in her hands. But as she balanced the staff and caressed the dark wood's intricate designs, she felt like she had come home.

I never should have let the path go, Xena. I should have held on. She pushed her shoulders back a little further. I just didn't want to do it alone.

Gabrielle moved up to the side of Ephiny.

"Mornin'!" Gabrielle's voice reflected the lightness of the day.

"Well, you're awfully chipper for someone who only got a few hours sleep! Guess you needed last night." It was more of a statement of fact than a question.

"Yeah, I guess I did. Thanks, Ephiny."

"Don't thank me yet. Your rusty butt still has to face me on the practice field!"

"Are you challenging your Queen?" Gabrielle couldn't stifle her grin as she watched a slightly befuddled Ephiny squirm. "Oh, it's on now. Come on!" Gabrielle bumped her in the shoulder to drive the point home as she headed out to the field, effectively clearing the others by her mere presence.

Glad to see you back, Gabrielle.

After an hour of light practice, Gabrielle was falling into a comfortable groove. Ephiny had gradually increased the intensity of their workout to the point where it was hard to tell if they were just practicing or actually battling. A large crowd had gathered to watch their Queen in action. For the newest Amazons, this was a sight to behold. Gabrielle had picked up many of her best moves from Xena. Those who observed or engaged Gabrielle were always amazed she could pack such power.

While most Amazons stared in wonder at the exhibit, the dark-haired warrior that Gabrielle had initiated just a few nights ago stood apart from the crowd on the hill. She watched the surrounding grounds in a constant state of caution, but viewed the display below in her peripheral vision. The sleek moves of the Queen diving, rolling, and matching the Regent blow for blow caused a barely concealed smile of admiration to dance across the young warrior's face. Even though the warrior was a new recruit, she held herself like a seasoned veteran of the field. Rarely did she move about in public without her full array of weapons but her sword was her pride and joy which she held in an elaborate feathered sheath attached to her back. Her violet eyes glinted from the sunlight as they fully observed her surroundings.

The crowd erupted in applause as Gabrielle performed a wildly difficult move with her sais, which knocked Ephiny onto her back. Out of the corner of her eye, the dark warrior caught a glint of light in the trees to her right. The sunlight bouncing off of the flint at the end of the arrow was pointed directly at Gabrielle's chest. In a matter of seconds, the warrior had run and jumped off a hill, over the heads of her fellow Amazons and came down head over feet, dropping into a roll. She jumped up a few feet from Gabrielle, who only had a split second to express dumbfounded shock, before the warrior tackled her around the waist. The arrow whizzed by barely missing the warrior's back, coming to an unfortunate rest in the shoulder of an Amazon standing on the perimeter of the observation circle.

In a flash, the warrior grabbed one of Gabrielle's sais laying beside her, twisted away and flung it skillfully into the cluster of tress. A groan and a breaking of branches preceded the sickening thud of body hitting ground.

The warrior turned back to Gabrielle, who was moaning and having difficulty opening her eyes. The warrior leaned over her gently touching her face.

"Are you okay?

"Ugh. What the…what happened?" Gabrielle worked hard to focus her eyes but was only seeing a blurry outline of dark hair. The image drew closer and she smiled at the familiar scent of clove, leather, and sweat. "Xena?"

Gabrielle reached for the hand on her face, "Oh, Xena. Gods I've missed you." Ephiny had returned from tracking down the other two bandits to witness the exchange. What the…?

"My Queen, perhaps we should get you to the healer," Ephiny reached down to lift Gabrielle but was stopped by a hand.

"I'll do that," Ephiny read the sorrowful expression on the warrior's face. She knew the young woman felt guilty for being so aggressive. With a nod of understanding, the lithe woman picked up Gabrielle being careful to cradle her head to avoid further injury.

Gabrielle was fading in and out of consciousness, giving a slight moan at being moved, "I've got you. Trust me," Gabrielle relaxed into the embrace. It was like her dreams and she hoped she didn't wake this time.

The healer, an aged woman with a solid silver braid to her waist, gave a nod to Ephiny as she entered the hut. The dark warrior was holding Gabrielle's hand but was obviously sound asleep in the chair next to the cot. Ephiny made sure the perimeter was secure and that only three stupid marauders were the culprits. The two still alive were being guarded until trial. The sun was starting to set requiring that the healer light several torches throughout the tent. The light infused the humble tent with flickering shapes and shadows casting the women in warm tones. At any other time, the light would have set a romantic mood, but the feeling was more somber.

"How long has she been here?" Ephiny tilted her head to the Amazon in the chair while whispering to the healer.

"Since the beginning," the healer spoke sagely then toddled off as Ephiny took in the scene in front of her. If she didn't know better, the young warrior could have been mistaken for Xena, only younger and lankier. She gently put her hand on the younger woman's shoulder causing her to jump from the chair and swing around with her sword, which in the semi-darkness Ephiny didn't notice had been resting unsheathed in her lap. Reacts like Xena too!

"Whoa, Alexa, it's just me!" The Regent put her hands up defensively but stepped back a few paces until she knew the woman was coherent.

"Hades!" Alexa lowered her sword and bent over, evidently gathering her wits and trying to slow her heart rate down. Gabrielle moaned at the disturbance but didn't wake, pulling both women back to the matter at hand.

"What does the healer say?"

"She took a good blow to the head, but she'll be okay," Alexa retook her seat and gently brushed the back of Gabrielle's hand. Something about the intimacy of it made Ephiny look away in embarrassment. "Actually, she could have woken up earlier, but the healer gave her a sleeping potion. Said the rest would do her good, help her body heal."

"What you did was very brave. You saved the life of our Queen." The silence became awkward and Ephiny started to leave.

"Ephiny," the Regent turned back, watching the warrior search for the right words, "What exactly did I do?"

"What do you mean?" Another long pause.

"I…I don't…," a deep sigh emanated from Alexa, "don't think I'm crazy, please, but…I can't remember what happened."

"Have you told the healer? Maybe you got a hit on the head too," Ephiny assumed a blow to the head would be a logical explanation.

"No, I didn't. I would have come to her long before if it had been a simple case of a head wound."

"I'm not sure I understand," Ephiny came around so she could see Alexa's face but the woman looked down.

"It's been happening more and more. I've been forgetting whole sections of the day, as if it never happened," Alexa hated to admit this for fear she'd been taken from her regular duties. If she wasn't a warrior, what else would she be? Certainly, Ephiny will think she's ill, but it's just going from bad to worse. Now she's the cause for the Queen being injured, yet she doesn't even remember how or why it happened.

"I didn't mean to hurt her," she looked at Gabrielle, "but I can't seem to control it."

"You didn't hurt her. You saved her. That arrow would have surely killed her if you hadn't pushed her out of the way," No matter how it happened, Ephiny was glad that Alexa did what she did.

"When did this start, Alexa?" Ephiny pulled up a chair, knowing that getting to the bottom of this may take a while.

"Right after my village was attacked, when I was taken hostage. I remember the men grabbing me, hitting me, and I felt myself being dragged along the ground. The next thing I remember is standing over one of the men with a dagger in my hand and blood all over me. They were all dead. I was all that was left," her eyes had taken on a sad, distant look, "I remember walking in the forest, stripping as I went trying to get the dirt, grime, and stench of death off of me. I don't know how long I walked but eventually I ended up on the edge of Amazon territory."

"I take it that it's happened since then too," Ephiny was searching for a pattern, some kind of common thread, "you said that it's happening more and more."

"Yeah, now almost every time on the practice field, the other night at the celebration, today," Ephiny held up her hand to stop her.

"The celebration?" Alexa scrunched her eyebrows together and nodded. "What do you remember?"

"The dancing, the food, the music that played just before the Queen gave her speech. There was some more music, then it seemed like I was getting up to walk but the next thing I knew I was in my hut."

Ephiny remembered. "You came over to ask her for a dance," a look of shock came over the young woman.

"No, I wouldn't do that! That…she's my Queen, it would be disrespectful to assume…," Alexa shook her head, "I did?"

"You did."

Alexa was almost scared to ask the next part, "What happened?"

"She shot you down…pretty bad," Ephiny couldn't resist. Bad, bad Ephiny!

"Oh," Alexa slid her chair back, starting to leave. Oh, great! A sensitive warrior! Alexa didn't seem the sensitive type. Way to go, Eph!

"Whoa, wait," Ephiny followed her and turned her before she could leave, "it's not you. She…she," Man, Gabrielle will kill her for telling anyone this, "she's been going through some rough stuff. Her partner was killed several years ago, and it recently hit home, I think."

The young Amazon nodded with understanding, "Xena," she spoke the name with reverence, "I've heard the stories. She keeps saying Xena's name in her sleep."

"Yeah, most don't know the extent of their relationship, but they were…bonded and will be for eternity," Alexa was looking at the sleeping form of Gabrielle. Ephiny noticed a shift in the look. Her eyes became a little bluer, the stature more proud, the slight smile was intimate and knowing. An aura of strength and power emanated from Alexa.

"Alexa?" Ephiny watched as the young warrior walked over to Gabrielle's bedside and grazed her fingers over Gabrielle's cheek. Gabrielle stirred and mumbled, "Xena."

The warrior leaned over Gabrielle and with the slightest touch placed a feather light kiss to her lips, "My Bard."

"Gods…Xena?" The warrior glanced up at the Regent and gave her the unmistakable Xena trademark eyebrow quirk.

"Hey, Eph," It was the last thing Ephiny remembered before hitting the floor.

Part 2

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