Out of Time
Part 2 of 2
by: Maureen McGowan
Xena had led her army out a few hours ago. From what Kate could remember from the talks last night, the charge should begin any moment. And as promised, she had a front row seat, whether she liked it or not.
Xena had moved her supply wagon to the top of the hill theyd stood on last night. Kate was then shackled to one of the wheels. This time she couldnt move much at all...Xena had personally seen to it that both her wrists were secured to spokes on opposite ends of the wheel, and had even taken a chain and fed it through her collar so that she could only move her head slightly from left to right. As the Warrior Princess had promised, she was going to be a spectator to the slaughter to come.
In the distance, Kate heard an all-too-familiar war cry. Even at this range, she felt the ground shake and heard the thundering of hooves as the attack got underway. Then she saw Xena leading one segment of her army towards the village below. Looking over to the far side of Sirus, she saw Darphus leading another contingent into battle. It was only a matter of time before Kate heard the echoes of screams from the village as the slaughter began.
Kates gaze locked on Xena. The warrior rode Argo into the long grass surrounding the village and pulled her sword from her side sheath, preparing for battle. As she neared the fortified barriers surrounding the town, the Warrior Princess let out another battlecry and braced herself as Argo leaped over the village wall. Kate watched in horror as Xena ran her sword through the first villager who stupidly went up against her.
"NOOOOOO!!!!" Kate began to fight her bonds, tears streaming down her face. She knew it was useless to even try. Xena had made sure she wasnt going anywhere. And as much as she tried, she couldnt keep her eyes closed to the carnage.
Within minutes, Xena had personally killed dozens of people. Kate had watched as the chakram she carried flew cutting down four men at once. The screams from the village filled the air. The slaughter seemed to go on forever. There was smoke coming from some of the barricades, as Xenas army began burning the village fortifications.
"Hey!" Malik kicked Kates leg. "Time to go."
Kate tore her horrified gaze from the town and looked up at Malik. Hed stayed behind with her and the rest of the slaves, supplies, and horses at Xenas order.
Stooping down, Malik unchained Kates ankles, and then untied her wrists. Using the same chain hed just released, the horseman drew the links through the rings in Kates wrist cuffs, pulling her hands together and locking them in place. The majority of the chain hung loosely from her wrists. He then unchained her collar and helped her stand up.
"The othersll get the supplies down to the village...youre to come with me."
Malik pulled Kate using the chain from her wrists as a lead. Once he got to his horse, he helped her up into the stirrup. Following her up into the saddle, the horseman turned his steed around to face the remaining slaves. "Xena expects her things to be in Sirus before sundown." He then led his horse towards the village.
It was the stench that hit Kate first. The smell of smoke, blood, sweat and human fear mixed together into a sickly odor that was overpowering. Kate found herself gagging as Malik led them into Sirus. There was still fighting going on, and the horseman had his sword drawn, alert to anyone coming near them. Darphus spotted them coming into town and sent a few men over to lead them through the town. He knew that Xenad have their heads if anything happened to her new plaything.
Kate was openly crying as the shock of seeing body upon bloody body laying along the village streets assailed her senses. Not everyone was dead, and the cries for help, being ignored by Xenas men, cut through the womans heart. When Malik pulled to a halt outside a stone structure, Kate could not hold it in anymore.
"Im gonna get sick...."
"Here..." Malik offered her his arm and guided her off the horse. "Hurry up."
True to her word, the minute her feet hit the ground, Kate dropped to her knees and lost the small amount of food shed been fed that morning.
Malik waited till Kate seemed to settle down. "Come on...I need to get you inside. Its not safe out here."
Helping Kate up, Malik led her into the stone structure. Kates heart sank as she realized this was the town jail. The horseman led her down the earthen stairs and into a small dark cell.
"Xena wants you here till she sends for you. Therell be guards outside."
As Malik turned to leave, Kate called out. "Wait...what about these?" Kate held up her shackled wrists.
"The Warrior Princess said to leave them on."
The horseman had already turned and walked out of the cell. Kate watched as the door closed, hearing the locks go into place. She turned and walked over to the back of the cell, sliding down the wall. She began to cry again...unable to keep the screaming villagers out of her mind.
It was fairly dark in Kates cell, as the light from the one cell window far above began to fade. She had lost all sense of time, having tried to close her mind to everything around her. Finally, sometime during the day, the sounds outside diminished. Although there were still sounds of running, some crying...for the most part, the screams had stopped. Shed heard a number of scuffles outside her cell earlier in the day, and knew that some of the villagers were now prisoners in the jail, just like she was. She tried to shut down her mind again.
Kate heard noises outside her cell door...men laughing. She then, much to her dismay heard the sounds of her cell being unlocked. As the door to the chamber slowly swung open, Kate saw four of Xenas guards advance into the dark enclosure.
Without any preamble, the lead guard walked towards the frightened woman. "Get up."
Kate began to stand, but was forcefully assisted by the warrior. She didnt utter a sound as they led her out of the jail and escorted her through the village. She tried to take the time to glance around, seeing death and destruction wherever she looked, not to mention the look of frightened villagers watching her being led through the town. She wanted to stop and tell them how sorry she was for their grief, however, her arms were being torn from their sockets by the head guard, who was pulling her forward with the lead from the chain around her wrists. The guard behind took great pleasure in assisting his compatriot by occasionally pushing her from behind. Kate was smart enough to see that she needed to stay quiet. These men had a strange look about them...almost feral. The last thing she wanted to do was to force anymore attention to herself.
It was finally clear where they were headed. A small cabin, situated near the outskirts of the village was surrounded by campfires and guards. Kate assumed this was where Xena had set up her new quarters. Being pushed past the men outside and led up the three stairs into the cabin, she saw she was right.
Kate stood still and took in what she saw. The cabin seemed to have a small kitchen area, which also contained Xenas tub, and a living room of sorts, which was where she was standing. She could see that the only other room in the cabin was a bedroom in the back. Xena was standing near the blazing fireplace, not 10 feet away from her. She wore a silk robe, having discarded her leathers earlier that day, after the fighting was over. In her hand, she held a goblet of wine.
Looking at the Warrior Princess, Kate saw that she too had that strange feral look about her. She seemed like a tightly wound top, ready to explode any second. The intensity of the looks the warrior gave her as she sipped her wine mesmerized Kate...and scared her at the same time.
"I washed up a bit earlier, but I want to soak a while. Get the soap and wash my back."
Kate watched as Xena slowly removed her robe and walked seductively over to the tub. After Xena got into the water, her wine still in hand, Kate shook her head and moved to get the soap, which was conveniently sitting on a nearby countertop.
"Um, I...the chains?"
Sipping her wine, Xena smirked and turned towards the bound woman. "What about them?"
"Ah, nothing...I mean, well...." Kate found the Warrior Princess gaze hypnotic. The woman was reeking of sex. And she knew it and was flaunting it. Kate realized in very short order that the battle had left the warriors, including Xena, with some sort of bloodlust. Having read about such things before, specific to modern day battlefield accounts written by her fellow reporters, Kate realized that she was in a very precarious situation. Oh god...this isnt good...what am I gonna do? Clearing her throat, Kate completed her sentence. "Its just kinda hard to wash your back with my hands chained together. I thought...."
The Warrior Princess continued to sip her wine and watched Kate blush under her gaze. "Do the best you can."
Not waiting for further instructions, Kate began washing Xenas back. Although it was hard to manipulate, she quickly lathered the warriors shoulders and rinsed them off. When she was done, Xena gulped down the remainder of her wine, then dropped the goblet on the floor. Like she had done the other night, she dunked herself under the water to rinse her entire body off, then stood up.
"Get me a towel."
Kate nearly tripped over her own feet trying to get a towel to Xena quickly. She extended her arms, presenting the clean cloth to the warrior, eyes cast down towards the ground, blushing furiously. Not good...not good....
Instead of accepting the towel, Xena smiled at Kate and reached over lifting her chin up. "Dry me off."
"Excuse me?" Kate was becoming frightened. She did not like the way this was going at all. Not at all.
"Kate, whatve I told you about making me repeat myself?" The gaze of the Warrior Princess scared her into action. Spreading the towel between her bound hands, Kate began drying off the woman in front of her. Xena watched and smiled as Kate hurried to finish her task, her hands trying to move quickly over the warriors body.
Once she was done Kate backed off as much as she possibly could, bumping into the hot tub of water.
Seeing Kates nervousness , Xena casually remarked. "Your turn."
"Yeah...well, Xena, I really dont think I need...."
Taking the key for the lock on Kates chain from a nearby table, Xena cut off Kates plea by reaching out, grabbing her prisoner and unlocking her wrists. "Get undressed and into the tub Kate." The warrior then turned around and got another goblet of wine. Once she started sipping her wine, she cocked her head and casually addressed the hesitant slave again. "Kate?"
Grasping at straws, Kate reached out and grabbed another dry towel, moving it within arms distance of the tub. She then quickly got undressed, always with her back towards Xena, and then practically jumped in the tub. She could barely hold the soap in her hands they were shaking so much, but she washed as fast as she could. She then bolted out of the water and wrapped herself in the towel shed placed near the tub.
Xena couldnt help but laugh as she continued to drink her wine and stare at Kate.
"So, Kate...would you like some wine?"
Kate could barely think. "Uh, no...thank you anyway. Arent you cold? I mean, uh, do you want me to get your robe or something?" Please do not let this be happening....
"Dont you find me attractive Kate?"
The warriors smile said way too much to the frightened woman. "I dont think you need me to confirm that youre a beautiful woman." She found herself nervously searching the room for a way out...knowing that she wasnt going anywhere.
Cocking her eyebrows, Xena continued to push. "Evading answers again. Weve talked about that." Walking towards Kate, the warrior taunted her more. "Youre blushing a lot tonight. Whys that?"
Kate backed up, feeling like a fly caught in a spiderweb, until she fell down onto the living room seating. "I.... Please Xena...I dont...."
"Answer my question Kate. Do you find me attractive?"
Not able to stand the feral gaze of the warrior, Kate looked down. "Yes, youre an attractive woman Xena...but...."
"Choices." Xena continued to drink her wine as that one word slipped from her mouth.
"Choices?" Although she posed the word back as a question, Kate knew all too well where the warrior was headed.
Finishing her wine, Xena sat down next to Kate. "Were back to choices Kate. You have one right now. And I think you know what the options are."
Regardless of how frightened she was, Kate found the courage to talk. "Thats not a choice Xena. I dont want this to happen."
Looking at the frightened woman, Xena pondered the words, then responded. "Hmm...interesting take on things. But consider this. Youre mine to do with as I please. Im giving you the opportunity to set the stage...so to speak. This can go one of a number of ways, any of which Im satisfied with. Im giving you the choice, which frankly even surprises me, to walk through that door." Xena looked over to the bedroom, then back at Kate. "If you dont walk by yourself, Ill take you through. But those are your only options."
Kate stared down at her hands. It was like everything was moving in slow motion. Struggling with herself, she looked up at the warrior, tears forming in her eyes. "I...." Looking back down, knowing that words would not help her at this point, Kate made up her mind. Hating herself, Kate took a deep breath, rose up from her seat, and walked towards the bedroom. After a moment, Xena followed.
It was not quite dawn when Kate woke up. She remembered right away where she was, then felt Xenas right arm draped over her side; the warriors hand placed directly over her left breast. Xena had spooned herself against Kates back, her arms circling the younger womans body. Oh god...it wasnt a dream....
Kate surprised herself by not jumping out of the bed. She had hoped that by some miracle Xena would still be asleep. Frankly, she had no idea how to react to the woman.
"Well...say something Kate." The Warrior Princess moved closer, squeezing her arms tighter around Kates body.
Still turned away from the warrior, the younger woman answered. "What do you want me to say?"
"Hmmm...oh, I dont know. What do you usually talk about in bed afterwards? Im curious." Xena smiled knowing that Kate had to be fighting with herself at this point. As much as she would hate to admit it, the warrior knew her bed companion had responded to all her attention last night. "Well, then let me ask some questions." Thinking a minute, she began. "I take it youve done this before."
"This...yeah, this...with a woman."
Trying to come to terms with herself, Kate responded before she thought. "No, Ive never done *this* with anyone. Ive never been forced before." Kates tone turned angry. "So, Im sorry if I dont have anything to compare this with for your enjoyment." I dont care...let her do what she wants. I just dont care....Oh god...what was I feeling last night?
Xena was quiet for a while.... "Point taken. But answer the question. Youve been with women before?"
Sighing, Kate responded, "Ive been out since I was 19 years old."
"Out? Out where?" Xenas brow furrowed knowing she was missing something.
Maybe it was the tension...Kate didnt know. But she began laughing. Out where?
"What?" Xena knew she was the hind end of something but had no clue what it was. Smiling, she knew she enjoyed hearing the woman she was hugging laugh. For a moment, that thought bothered Xena. Why do I care what she thinks or feels...shes just a slave...nothing more...shes not even a good slave for Gaias sake.
"Um...no...I meant, yes, Ive been with a woman before." Kate was sniffling...partially from laughing, partly from crying.
"Oh.... Okay...thought so." Thinking of more ways to get this strange woman to open up, Xena unwrapped herself from Kate and stood up from the bed. "Im gonna get us something to eat. Be right back." She turned as she got to the door. "The chamber pots over there in case you need to...you know...." The warrior disappeared through the doorway into the other rooms of the cabin.
By the time Xena returned, Kate had gotten up and relieved herself, then not knowing what else to do, got back into bed and covered herself up.
The Warrior Princess came back into the room and deposited a few bowls on the bed. Hopping back under the covers, she produced a flask of water. "Here, I want you to drink and eat something. I know Im famished." Xena picked up some bread and a chunk of cheese. Seeing Kate make no move to get any, the warrior handed over her food. "Eat."
Kate reached out and took the food. It was only after her first bite that her body remembered how hungry she really was. Xena didnt have to prompt her anymore. Once she was done with the bread and cheese, she reached for some of the grapes in one of the other bowls. The Warrior Princess was amazed at the amount of food that the smaller woman put away. I know I havent been feeding her much...but this is ridiculous.
Once the bowls of food were gone, Xena dropped them onto the floor and turned back to Kate. "You were hungry."
Looking at Xena, Kate responded sarcastically, "I havent been eating a lot lately."
The warrior laughed. "No you havent." Settling back down in the bed, Xena turned on her side and looked over at Kate as the younger woman spoke up.
"Can I ask you something?"
Getting her courage together, Kate turned and looked at the warrior. "Why?"
The Warrior Princess propped her head up and quizzically looked at her bed partner. "Why what?"
Clearing her throat, Kate let it fly. "You can have anyone in this camp...and you know it. Why did you have to...." Finding herself tearing up, Kate took a deep breath and continued. "Whyd you have to force...me to uh...."
"Youre mine. I wanted you. Its that simple. And Kate, if I remember correctly, you walked through that door."
"WHAT? Like I had a choice! I either came in here like I did or you would have beaten me to a pulp again. Either way, Id be right where I am now."
Xena found she was enjoying Kates honest anger. "You seemed to be enjoying yourself after a while...once you got used to the idea."
Xena could see misplaced guilt flood Kates expression. Tears began flowing down her cheeks. Then she completely broke down. The warrior watched as Kate sobbed next to her. And for the first time the Warrior Princess could ever remember, she found herself worried about a slave...and she wrapped her arms around Kate in an attempt to comfort her.
After a few moments, Kate seemed to calm down but also realized she could not break out of Xenas hold. "Please...Xena...I dont..."
"Shhhh....Im not going to hurt you Kate." I cant believe I just said that.
"You already have." Thinking for a second, Kate continued. "And if you really meant it, youd let me go."
Xena pulled back a little. "Besides the fact that I seem to enjoy your company a bit too much to let you go, lets say I did...I let you go. Where would you go to? If youve been telling me the truth, just exactly where would you go?"
"I...I dont know! But itd be my choice."
"Hows this...Ill make you a deal. You just do what youre told and I promise not to hurt you again...no more chains, no more rope and no more hitting. For some reason, I seem to want to get to know you better." Before she knew what she was saying, the normally stoic warrior kept going. "The first time I saw you...I knew there was something special there. I knew whoever owned you was a lucky person. And here you are." Xena began pulling Kate back towards her.
"Xena...please, I cant...."
"Youre not, I am."
It was midday when Kate woke up again. Xena had left the cabin earlier telling the younger woman that she had business to take care of. Shed told Kate that the only thing she wanted her to do was rest...and stay in the cabin. She was adamant with Kate that she not even open the door. The younger woman asked why, only to get a half answer about the first few days of a raid being the most dangerous. There was food in the kitchen, water to drink and wash with. But there was more than an implied threat about trying to leave.
The woman in bed would have preferred to stay asleep. Once she woke up, Kate was racked with self hate. Here she was, a prisoner of an obviously brutal warrior, and last night she could not help but respond to her touch. God...where did she learn to do those things.... And although she could forgive herself the dangerous attraction shed finally admitted to have felt on and off since shed met Xena...after all, this was a very attractive, charismatic woman...having feelings for her other than loathing were out of the question. Yet here she was, feeling...feeling what?
I cant think about this right now. Getting up, Kate found the water Xenad left for bathing and scrubbed herself clean. Looking around for something to wear, she was stunned to find that Xena had laid out her jeans and top on one of the cabin tables. She quickly dressed in her familiar clothing and went into the kitchen area to look for something to eat. Finding some bread, a few familiar vegetables, some dried meat, and a knife, Kate sliced up a few pieces of the bread and made a quick sandwich. Getting some drinking water, she moved over into the living quarters and sat down running through her mind all that happened the night before.
Why had she been so gentle? Kate remembered her terror as she walked into the bedroom. And although it was clear that what Xena wanted, she was going to get, Kate had expected something totally different. Remembering how brutal shed been to her just a few days ago, Kate was shocked when the warrior was almost...considerate. She even remembered a look of something close to confusion on Xenas face a few times...like she herself was wondering why she was behaving almost civilly. And this morning...she talked to her almost like a casual friend or lover would. Not like... Like what Kate? What are you to her? Shes using you...shes abused you...shell do it again in a heartbeat.
Kate was startled when the cabin door opened and Xena strode in followed by Darphus.
"...just do it! No more arguments."
"Youre just asking for trouble Princess. Theyll take advantage. We need to keep them locked up. The town, theyll think youre weak. We shouldve killed them all yesterday as an example."
"This isnt up for debate. Ive given you a direct order. Now follow it."
Darphus looked at Xena, and seeing that her mind was made up, slightly bowed and turned to leave. Once he was out of the door, the Warrior Princess turned to Kate.
Xena looked at Kate for only a second before she began talking. But thoughts ran through her mind about how her entire day had been spent thinking about this beautiful young woman. The Warrior Princess felt like she was possessed. One minute she had a slave...just a slave, then last night.... Last night, feelings shed been trying to ignore couldnt be denied anymore. At first, Xena had thought it was the wine, and the battle. She was filled with desire before Kate had even been brought into the cabin. But as the evening went on, and Kate was with her in the bedroom, Xena found herself trying to please the woman. She could not lie to herself anymore. The feelings she had for Kate were like nothing shed felt since Lao Ma.
"Whats that youre eating?"
Still very unsure of herself near this woman, Kate was a little hesitant in answering. "Oh, uh, just a sandwich. You said I could...."
"Yeah." Kate stiffened just a bit as Xena walked over and sat down next to her.
"Looks good. What is it...I mean, whats it made of?"
Kate was slightly taken aback, then realized that this warrior had no idea what a sandwich was. That fact almost left the younger woman speechless. "Man, this is unreal. Youve never eaten a sandwich before?"
Xena looked at Kates face. "No." Gods, whats gotten into me? Why am I so taken by this woman. Xena sat almost mesmerized as Kate went through what sandwiches were and the variety of ways to prepare one.
Why am I babbling here? Sandwich history 101...what am I doing? "Im sorry...I was just, um, surprised that youd...you know, never....never mind."
"Can I try some?"
"Uh, sure...here." Kate gave Xena half her sandwich and watched the warrior take a bite. Seeing that Xena seemed somewhat relaxed while she ate, the younger woman decided to see where the boundaries of conversation were. "What was Darphus talking about when he said you should have killed them to set an example?"
Finishing chewing, Xena responded. "Darphus is just a bit overzealous. Thats all. Its none of your concern." She took another bite of the sandwich and saw the look on Kates face. "What?"
"Nothing." Her head dropped down and she stared at her food.
Seeing the reaction, Xena commented. "He wants to execute the wives and children of the town leaders as an example of what can happen if things get out of hand here. Ive said no. I may do a lot of things, but I dont slaughter innocent women and children." Why do I all of a sudden care what she thinks?
Kate looked up. "Thats who I heard being brought into the jail yesterday?"
Xena took another bite. "Probably. But now that thingsve settled down some, Im sending them home. Darphus has a difference of opinion."
"Oh." Taking a deep breath, Kate posed a painful question. "Xena how many people got killed yesterday?"
"I dont know...less than some raids, more than others. Why?"
"Why? Dont you care that youve killed people who..." Kate stopped talking. She looked up at Xena with almost pleading eyes. "I dont understand how you can just...."
The conversation stopped while Xena ate her sandwich. She had not attempted to answer Kates question or to justify her actions. To her credit, the young woman had realized that this was probably not a good topic of conversation and stopped probing. Now she just sat next to the warrior quietly.
"Kate," Xena commented after finishing her food, "I want you to feel you can ask questions. I may not answer them, but you can ask." I want her to talk to me...whats going on?
Sighing, Kate felt she had to know where she stood with the woman next to her. "Okay, then let me ask why youre all of a sudden being nice to me. Is it because Ive slept with you? Is that what it took? Youve half starved me, beaten me, and then...well, last night you...I cant say the word.... Um, last night, you forced me to bed, and now you wanna talk like were old friends. Im afraid of you...I dont know when youll go back to hurting me. When you get tired of me, does it start again? What do you want from me?"
Tears flowed down Kates face. Reaching out with her right hand, Xena softly brushed the tears from the younger womans face. "I dont know."
Frustrated, Kate pulled back and raised her voice. "You threatened me this morning. First you say you wont hurt me again, then you imply that you will if I go out. Which do I believe?"
Xena lowered her head and thought a minute. "Kate, believe it or not, Im trying to figure this out too. Ive never had the feelings I have right now for anyone. But this morning, I had to make sure you stayed inside. I suppose I used what I knew...a threat...to make sure you listened. This village is still a dangerous place. Normally it takes a few days for things to calm down...for the people to get used to the army being in charge. They may not like it, but they come to a sort of acceptance. Until then, youre a prime target for anyone who wants to get back at me. I cant allow that to happen." Thinking about Kates other question, Xena tried to answer. "As for what I want. Its true...I dont know. What I do know is that for some reason, I honestly feel a need know you better. Ive fought it since you were brought into my tent. I was probably a bit more, um, ruthless than I needed to be, fighting what I was feeling...I dont know. I just need to...."
"What about these?" Kate said, cutting Xena off as she pulled on her collar and looked at the cuffs on her wrists. "You say you want me to feel free to...."
Shaking her head. "I need...its better those stay on for a while yet." Seeing the young womans expression, she frowned. "Kate, its just easier this way."
"Easier? Whats that supposed to mean?"
"Youre a beautiful woman. That fact isnt lost on my men. And although they know better than to cross me, knowing that you belong to me ensures you dont get hassled."
"Belong to you...." Kate said sarcastically.
"Its a reality of life here. I know you come from a different place, one that I want to talk with you about. But here, the reality is that this is a dangerous place to be. And whether you like it or not, Im the only one who can protect you. Right now its easier to make people believe that youre still my slave."
Kate looked into Xenas eyes. "So, are you saying Im not?"
I cant believe Im doing this. The Warrior Princess looked at the woman in front of her. "Yes, thats what Im saying. But Kate, Im not going to let you get yourself hurt. Youre new here, you dont know how dangerous it is. I have a lot of enemies and if they know that I...that I, um, care about you, theyll target you."
Kate lashed out. "So, as long as I sleep with you, youll protect me? Thats the price? And what if I say no. What then?"
Xena stood up and went to the kitchen area. Getting two goblets of wine, she returned and sat down. Handing Kate one of the cups, Xena drank, pondering her response. "I promise you that I wont hurt you again...no conditions."
Seeing Kate eye her wearily, the warrior stood up. "I need to go out for a while. Ill be back later tonight with our dinner. And if youre up to it, Id like to talk about that Washington place you mentioned." Xena walked over and opened the door, then, turned towards the young woman. "Like *you* said before, I guess I wouldnt believe me either." Shrugging her shoulders, Xena offered one more thought. "Please dont try to leave. The guardsll stop you...for your own good."
Xena sat next to Darphus as they looked at the bound men kneeling in front of them. They were all located inside the town jail. A small cell had been converted over to an interrogation/torture room. The men at their feet had been in the cell for most of the day enduring countless sessions with Darphus and a few of his more eager lieutenants.
"So," the Warrior Princess began, "each of you thought...what...that you could just disobey my men?" Looking over to her second in command, Xena asked. "Whatd they do again?"
Darphus smirked as he looked over the battered men, each in various states of consciousness. Theyd been beaten again before Xena arrived. "They all tried to hide food from our men, and this one," the warrior pointed to the man farthest on the right, "well, he thought about cutting your life short...literally."
Xena smiled. "So, youre the one...." The warrior remembered how one villager got a little too close yesterday as she fought off four other farmers. Standing up, the Warrior Princess walked over to the villager. The man looked up at the woman warrior and shuttered as she drew her sword. "Let me finish what I started yesterday." With that statement, she ran the bound man through. The other men all reacted differently. Most cried, but one man fainted dead away. That brought another round of laughter from the Warrior Princess and her men.
"Throw the rest of them in a cell. Ill decide what to do with um later."
"But I thought...." Darphus was perplexed at Xenas dismissal. "Xena, these men all deserve to be made examples...let my men...."
"Why is it that youre so eager to anger me Darphus? I said Id deal with them tomorrow, and I meant it. Im tired and hungry." Turning and walking out of the jail, she stopped at the entrance. "If its an example you want, take that one," Xena pointed to the dead man at her seconds feet, "and stake him out in the middle of the village. Make sure everyone has a good look at him for a day or two. That should make it clear we mean business, dont ya think?"
Darphus grunted and smiled as he nodded in agreement. As Xena left, she could hear the warrior issuing orders to her men.
It was dark when one of the guards opened the door to her cabin allowing Xena to enter with her hands filled with trays of food. Kicking the door closed behind her, the Warrior Princess looked around in the darkened room for Kate. Carefully laying down the food on the kitchen table, Xena proceeded to light a few of the torches illuminating the living quarters. She found the young woman huddled in a corner of the room staring at her feet.
"Kate?" Xena walked slowly over to the other side of the room and knelt down next to the younger woman. "Kate, why dont you let me help you up. I brought some food."
The Warrior Princess was surprised that Kate didnt fight her. They got to their feet and walked to the seating near the cabin fireplace.
"Here hang on and let me get this thing lighted." The warrior quickly got a fire going, hoping the warmth would somehow make the cabin seem more hospitable to the distraught woman. "Kate, why didnt you light the torches when it got dark?"
Kate responded in a low voice. "What? Oh, um...I dont know. I guess I was hoping I couldnt see anything in the dark. But it didnt work...my mind kept replaying everything." Tears flowed down her face. "I just wanna go home."
Xena didnt know how to respond. "Oh. Um, well, I dont know how to do that, but I did bring some food. Maybe youll feel better if you eat. My mother always said that it helped the disposition if you ate."
Kate looked at Xena. Shed forgotten that someone like Xena even had a family. "Your mother...whats she like?"
Xena turned and went to the kitchen, getting the food and wine before heading back to the fireplace. Sitting down, she put the food between them and urged Kate to eat. Seeing that the young woman expected a response, the warrior decided to answer. For the first time in too many years to count, she confided her past to someone. Once she started, the words flowed from her...how Cortese invaded her home, she and her brothers gallant attempts to save Amphipolis and Lyceus death. "So, you see, I havent seen my mother in over 8 years. I think shed kill me herself if I set foot in Amphipolis."
The story fascinated Kate. It also took her mind off her own troubles for a time. "Im sorry. But you seem tove become what you hated the most...I dont understand."
Xena sat back and looked at the beautiful woman next to her. Remorse was something the warrior never felt anymore...or so she thought. Shaking her head to rid herself of those destructive thoughts, she smiled at Kate. "I dont either. But enough about me. Tell me about your home."
The Warrior Princess sat fascinated as she listened to Kate talk about where she came from, a life full of wonders for the warrior. As fantastically unbelievable as the story was, Xena was sure that Kate was telling the truth.
Hours later, Xena again found that she had more questions that she wanted to ask Kate. But the young woman looked like she was ready to collapse.
By the gods shes beautiful. "Come on Kate. Time for bed." Xena stood up only to see the young woman start to tense up again. Knowing what the problem was, the warrior smiled down at the blonde woman. "I promise not to do anything you dont want me to do. But theres only one bed in the cabin and we both need to get some sleep." Holding out her hand, she again tried to reassure her. "Kate, my word is my bond. Please...just come to bed."
Finally Kate reached out and allowed Xena to help her up. They walked into the bedroom. Not knowing what to do, the young woman just stood near the doorway.
"What side of the bed do you like?" Xena smiled at Kate as she began removing her armor.
"I...uh...it doesnt matter." The young woman watched as Xena removed her boots, bracers, and finally her leathers. My god she is a beautiful woman....
When the warrior finally had on nothing but the thin cotton shift she wore under her leathers, she gazed at Kate. Blinking to clear her head, she smiled again. "Well, um, okay then...if it doesnt matter to you, Id like to be near the door. Kinda out of habit you know...."
Kate watched as Xena slipped under the covers and turned to face the doorway. At first the young woman didnt more. Finally, when she saw that Xena had shut her eyes, Kate walked around to the other side of the bed. She removed her jeans, but left her top on and scrambled under the covers, turning her back towards the woman next to her. She waited for Xena to reach out for her...but it never happened. Finally, not able to keep her eyes open any longer, Kate drifted off to sleep.
Xena nearly bolted out of the bed when Kate cried out. Although she was normally a light sleeper at best, the warrior had somehow been lulled into a total sense of security around the young woman at her side, and had actually been fairly deep asleep.
Turning quickly towards the other side of the bed, Xena saw that the blonde woman was having a nightmare. Kate began thrashing around the covers, seemingly trying to escape from something. Probably me.... "Kate...calm down, its just a dream...Kate..." Getting no reaction from the younger woman, Xena reached out and got her arms wrapped around her bed partner. As gently as possible, she held her as her wild movements slowly began to subside. "Thats right...its okay...no ones gonna hurt you anymore. Go back to sleep...." Kate began to settle down and into Xenas embrace.
It was light inside the cabin when Kate finally began to wake up. Before she was totally awake, she inexplicably felt a total sense of security, and as she opened her eyes, she found she was smiling. She also, much to her horror, found herself curled up and halfway around Xena. The warrior woman was holding onto her gently, and smiling down at her.
Kate scrambled to extricate herself from Xenas hold. The Warrior Princess quickly let go of her and watched as the blonde woman scooted to the far side of the bed.
"You had a nightmare last night. Nothing happened Kate. You seemed to need to be held. It calmed you down. Thats all that happened...I promise."
The younger woman seemed to accept what Xena was saying. "I...um...Im sorry."
"Nothing to be sorry about. Now, whats say I get outta here so you can wash up. I thought you might like to get out of the cabin for a while today...Argo misses you. For some reason, shes taken a liking to you." Xena smiled warmly at Kate as she got out of bed and moved to put her leathers on. "She needs a good grooming and would probably love it if you helped me."
"Uh...yeah, sure. Id like that."
Xena strode towards the door then turned around. "Ill be back in a while. Got some business to take care of, then Ill come get you. We can eat in the tavern after we take care of Argo, all right?" Seeing Kate nod, Xena left the cabin.
"Mercy Princess, mercy!" The nameless villager cried out again as the whip came down on his back.
Xena was sitting on a stool near the cell door watching as Darphus practiced one of his favorite pastimes...inflicting pain. It disturbed her that she found herself totally uninterested in the goings on...very much unlike herself. As a matter of fact, she was more than a little annoyed that she just wanted the session over with. "Thats enough Darphus. Letim down." Standing up and wiping her hands together, Xena began walking out. "Let all of them go home. I think theyve learned their lesson."
Darphus marched over to the Warrior Princess. "Whats gotten into you lately?"
"I dont know what youre talking about. Look at them...." Xena pointed over to the broken men huddled in the corner of the cell. All had already been on the receiving end of either Xenas or Darphus whip. "They look like a threat to you? Send all them home now. Im gonna take care of Argo and get something to eat." Xena saw Darphus shake his head, as she walked out the door into the sunshine.
Kate was dressed and ready to go when Xena returned to the cabin. Once the warrior had washed up, she looked over to the blonde woman and smiled. "Okay, we need to go over some ground rules. First, I dont want you talking to anyone and stay next to me all the time. I mean all the time Kate. Im gonna have a guard go with us just in case, but I need you to tell me that youll do what Im asking."
Seeing Kate nod affirmatively, Xena smiled. "Good, now lets go and take care of Argo...Im starving."
Walking outside the cabin, the first thing that hit Kate was that there seemed to be no one around but Xenas men. The destruction of the raid was still evident, but it was also obvious that a major cleanup of the debris had taken place. The smell of burning wood was still in the air, but it lessened as they walked towards the corral; the barricades that she had seen being burned during the raid had all been on the other side of the town.
Kate watched Xena as they walked along. She was like a gun ready to go off. Although to a casual observer, she would have appeared to be just out for a walk, the blonde woman could see her eyes darting in every direction, her muscles tensed ready for action. As they neared the corral, Kate saw Malik come out and walk towards them. Xena turned to the guard that had accompanied them. "I doubt anyone will try anything, but just in case, you make sure no one comes anywhere near her...got it?" Seeing the warrior nod, Xena turned towards Malik.
"Shes just fine Princess...waiting for you like always." Seeing Kate standing behind Xena the horseman looked quizzically at Xena. "Want me to put her to work today?"
"No, shes gonna help me with Argo."
Kate followed as Xena went into the nearby stable and over to Argos stall. Again, as shed seen the first day she was with the warrior, her demeanor totally changed as she talked and pet the beautiful mare. Kate walked over to the water trough and got a few buckets of water, bringing them over to Argo.
"Thanks. Ill do the tough job...why dont you find some brushes in my saddlebags."
Kate estimated that it was an hour later that they walked into the town tavern. The room hushed as they saw the Warrior Princess enter. Kate could feel every emotion in the room. Fright and hate were two that were permeating the place. She looked at Xena and noticed that she seemed to ignore it all as she walked towards the back of the room.
As they neared the table, Xena walked to the chair that allowed her full view of the tavern with her back against the wall. She sat down and offered the chair next to her to Kate. "Habit. Need to keep my view of the room clear...you never know." Smiling, she looked at Kate settle down a little and then looked over to the waitress, who came running to the table.
"Well have whatever you feels good. And bring a couple of ales over."
Watching the waitress make a hasty retreat, Kate looked down at the table.
"Whats the matter?"
"Xena, these people are scared to death of you. Doesnt that bother you at all?"
The waitress returned with some bread and the ales. Once shed left, Xena took a gulp of the liquid and then answered. "Actually, Id be in trouble if they werent. Thats what theyre supposed to feel Kate." Biting into the bread, she smiled at the younger woman. "I told you...this is what I do. Well stay in Sirus for a while longer then move on. Now, really, you need to eat."
Kate took some bread and began eating. "I just dont understand."
"Its probably good that you dont. Now lets talk about something else. What were those things you said you could talk to people with...telepiles?"
Kate couldnt help but smile. "Telephones." Xena was like a kid in a candy store when they talked about anything having to do with Kates home. She soaked up the information like a sponge. The young woman actually found she enjoyed talking with the warrior. She was extremely smart, asking all sorts of questions that threw Kate. This womans not just a brute...theres a quick, intelligent brain in there. God shes beautiful.... "Huh?"
"I asked if you were gonna to eat?" Xena smiled as she looked down at the plates that had been delivered when Kate was off daydreaming.
"Oh...yeah...right." Kate blushed furiously as she picked up her spoon and began eating her stew.
I think I know what she was thinking about. Look at that red face. Xena continued to smile as she began eating.
The days passed. More and more Kate accompanied Xena out of the cabin to eat or just to walk around. Although Sirus, the village of a few weeks ago, no longer existed, it did begin to recover. Kate, who was now able to sit outside the cabin unaccompanied, would watch as the distant villagers tried to get on with their lives. They only hoped that the army would soon be gone. And according to Xena that was to be the case. Her plan called for the army to move on in a number of days.
Kate thought about her life...or what it had become. Here she was, wherever that was, or whenever I should say.... Xena, the enigma of Xena was in her every thought. She just had to look around and see what this woman was capable of. Kate shook her head as she remembered the funeral procession shed watched yesterday from the cabin. A farmer, injured in the raid, had finally succumbed to his mortal wounds. Xena had allowed the funeral to take place, but had assigned more of her men to guard the crowd in case they got any ideas. Kate had also seen more guards around the cabin. Xena was taking no chances with her life.
Yet Kate could not keep her mind off this woman. As she had promised, Xena had not touched her since the first night in the cabin. She was more than gracious to her, answering most of her questions, and allowing her all freedoms she could, as long as she felt they didnt jeopardize her safety. Theyd even taken Argo out and had a picnic one day. The more time she spent with this woman, the more she...she.... The more I what? Love her? Lust for her? What? Shes a cold blooded killer. Attractive...yeah, shes a knockout. But shes a killer.
Shaking her head...Kate refused to admit her feelings were running pretty deep. And it wasnt like Xena didnt know. It seemed like every morning, Kate found herself with some part of her body touching the warrior. This morning, she was almost in the same position shed been after her terrible nightmares. Yet, Xena never took advantage of the situation, which again surprised Kate. Would I try to stop her if she did? AAAAHHHH!!!!! God this is a mess.
Kate blushed again as she looked up and saw one of Xenas men standing in front of her. "Im sorry, my mind was elsewhere."
"Oh, well, Xena asked me to come get you. She had some business to deal with and wants you to feed her horse for her." The guard nervously shuffled his feet waiting for Kate to get up.
The blonde woman looked quizzically at the guard. "We just fed her a few hours ago. Why...."
"Im just following orders. Now come with me."
Kate was befuddled, but didnt question the man. Standing up, she wiped off her pant legs and began walking with the warrior as they made their way from the cabin. Although she was still thinking about her feelings for Xena, meaning she wasnt paying total attention to where they were going, Kate soon realized that they were headed in the wrong direction.
"Um, excuse me, but I thought you said...."
Before she knew what hit her, a bag of some sort was thrown over her head from behind and she felt herself being picked up. Before she could scream, she felt an intense pain on the side of her head and lost consciousness.
"What do you mean shes not here?"
The nervous guard backed up as the Warrior Princess began to move his way. "Princess, all I know is that you sent me here to get her and she was gone. The slave couldnt have gotten far. I have men out searching now. Runaways never get that far."
Xena had been informed by Darphus that her slave had apparently run away earlier in the afternoon. The lead guard on duty was now cowering in front of the Warrior Princess explaining that Kate was gone and no one had seen her. Although she tried to remain calm, her heart was pounding and she was having trouble focusing on what people around her were saying.
Turning away from the guard, Xena walked into the cabin and looked quickly around. Nothing was misplaced and there were no signs of a struggle. Darphus walked up behind the warrior and shook his head.
"Xena, well find her soon enough, and when we do, shell...."
"Shut up Darphus. Shes missing, she didnt run away. I want hostages taken from the village now. Lock them up in the jail." Turning to her second, only to see him hesitate, she yelled, "DO IT! NOW!"
After everyone had left, Xena slowly walked into the bedroom then out into the living area of the cabin. Sitting down, she stared at the fireplace. Ill get you back Kate...I promise.
It was near sundown and the entirety of the village Sirus was gathered, as instructed, in the center of the town. Earlier in the day, large numbers of their fellow farmers were brutally taken from their homes, and now were located on the hastily constructed platform in front of the crowd. A hush came over the crowd as Xena made her way to the center of the wooden structure.
Looking out into the crowd, all Xena could think about was Kate and wondered if she was still alive. She has to be...theyd be foolish not to keep her well, until they get what they want anyway.
Xena refocused herself and took a deep breath. "People of Sirus. Earlier today, one or more of your fellow village residents took something that belongs to me. Ill make this short and to the point. If shes not returned to me - unharmed - by tomorrow evening, I start killing these hostages. And when I run out of these hostages, Ill get more. Let me be totally clear. Im willing to kill everyone in this town if need be. Take that to the people who have my property and make it very clear to them what the price of their stupidity will be." Xena turned and walked off the platform to the horrified murmurs of the crowd.
Kate felt miserable. Her head was splitting open, both literally and figuratively. Whomever hit her had opened a cut along the side of her head. Besides the blood she could sense along the side of her head, she felt like someone was inside her temple with a sledgehammer. Groaning, she tried to open her eyes and sit up. She was only partially successful.
Once the young womans eyes were open, she was able to make out very little. Although she could see a small torch in the distance, the light from it was faint from where she was laying. Kate then realized that she was prone on some sort of cot and that leather ties were being used through her ankle and wrist cuffs to secure her down. No wonder I cant get up...this is not good. She tried focusing her efforts to somehow loosen the bonds, but nothing worked. And all the activity just made her head feel worse.
The young woman shut her eyes and tried to calm down. Once shed gotten her breathing under control, she opened her eyes again and looked around, trying to figure out where she was. From the look of things, she was in some sort of cave. The rock walls created a musty odor and the temperature was pretty cold. She began shaking. I must be underground.... Kates train of thought was interrupted when she heard footsteps getting near. She turned her head and saw the torch lifted up by a shadow figure which slowly moved towards her.
"I see youre awake." The man with the torch moved into the cell-like alcove that Kate was situated in.
"Who are you? I dont understand...."
The kidnapper shook his head, almost in disgust. "Who am I? Im just a poor farmer whos land has been burned by *your* master...that she-devil called Xena."
Kate didnt know what to say...and so she remained silent hoping that the man would continue to talk. She wasnt disappointed.
"She needs to be brought to justice for what shes done here. My friends and I worked our entire lives for our farms...and she comes in and ruins everything in a matter of days." The distraught man began pacing in the alcove near Kates cot.
"Um, how does kidnapping me help you? Im not a warrior or anything."
"Shes obviously fond of you...weve all seen the way she looks at you...the way she treats you. You wear the markings of a slave...but she doesnt treat you like one. If she cares about you...shell do what we want."
"Whats that? What do you want?" Kate winced as her head felt like it wanted to explode. What Id give for an aspirin or six right now....
The man stuck the torch in between two rock outcroppings and sat down on the side of the cot. "We want her to give herself up to justice. Thats what."
Kate shut her eyes. She wanted to compose herself and try to talk some sense into this man. "Sir, I know whats happened here is terrible. God only knows how to express my deepest sympathy for everyone whos lost something...whether it be land, or loved ones. But you have to know this isnt going to work." Looking deeply into the farmers eyes, Kate tried to get her point across. "This is going to backfire...its going to have the exact opposite effect on her. I dont know everything about Xena, but Ive been on the receiving end of her anger. You have to let me go. If you think this is going to make her give herself up, youre wrong. Youre only going to get more people killed."
A noise in the distance of the cavern alerted the man next to Kate. He immediately reached over and put his hand over her mouth to make sure she remained quiet. Moments passed, and then finally two more villagers made their way into the alcove.
"Dolas..." One of the men tried to speak but was totally out of breath. "Listen...we need to let her go. Xena...."
Removing his hand from Kates mouth, he stood up and walked over to his brother. "Meklan, calm down...whatre you talking about?" Turning to the other man, he shook his head. "Whyd you come here. We agreed that youd all stay away till that monster was locked up and her army was gone."
Tobias was the only one to speak. "Dolas, Xenas threatened to start killing everyone in Sirus if you dont let her go. She means it. I think we need to cut our losses and let her go. That way...."
"NO! That woman has to pay for what shes done." Dolas stomped over to the cot and looked down at Kate. "Im not letting you go. And if she kills anyone else, we kill you."
Kate felt she had to try to get the farmers to see reason. "Look, if you let me go unharmed, she was planning to leave in a few days anyway. I promise not to identify you. I dont want to see anymore blood spilled either. But youve got to let me go. Its the only way to save yourselves and the other people in the village."
"SHUT UP! I need to think." Turning towards his brother and their friend, Dolas ordered them out of the alcove. Picking up the torch, they left to discuss their options, leaving Kate in the dark with her own thoughts.
"Well?" Xena sat in a chair near the fireplace of her cabin. Darphus stood near the doorway.
"We had our scouts out in the woods surrounding the town. They spotted two men leaving in a hurry after your little speech. They headed in the direction of those caves we passed on our way here." Walking in and sitting down on a nearby chair, Darphus continued. "Our men had to back off because the farmers kept backtracking. But the caves would be an ideal place to hide. What do you want us to do?"
Xena stared at the fire. "Nothing."
"Nothing? Why not take some men and attack? Theyd never know what hit them."
The Warrior Princess stood up and adjusted her armor. Checking her sword and chakram, she walked towards the door. "Kate would be dead before we got near the place. Im going alone."
"Think thats wise? You dont know...."
Xena had barely reached the door when her second in command saw Xenas expression. The look in her eyes scared him.
"Trust me, when Im done with them, theyll be begging me to kill them." Before she walked out the door, she smiled a deadly smile. "Theyll get their wish...just not right away."
Xena had dismounted Argo some time ago and had advanced to a place near one of the entrances to the caves before her. Fools, left tracks everywhere...but Kates arent here. They mustve carried her...Ive got to believe that....
As Xena watched, she saw a faint light coming from the cave entrance. It got brighter as if someone was coming towards the front of the cave. The Warrior Princess slowly made her way through the brush to a large rock about 3 meters from the entrance. Whomever was coming outside the cave was in for the surprise of their life.
Tobias needed to get away from Dolas. The man was adamant that they follow through with their threat and kill the slave if Xena touched any of her hostages. Tomorrow morning he and Meklan were supposed to go back to Sirus and present their terms to the Warrior Princess. The man has a death wish for all of us...we should let her go.... As Tobias stepped out of the cave, he took a breath of fresh air. Thats when his world became one of pain.
The man dropped to his knees in front of Xena. Stooping down so the grimy farmer could see and hear her, she calmly explained his circumstances. "Ive just cut off the flow of blood to your brain. Youre dying. Tell me where the girl is now!"
Pleading eyes filled with pain looked into Xenas face. If the man had not already been dying, he would have died of fright by what he saw in this womans eyes. "...shes all right. Inside...please...."
"How many of you are there...answer me!"
"...th...three...." Blood ran down the mans face from his nose. The Warrior Princess debated just letting him die there, then decided that there were better ways to end his worthless life.
Xena quickly released the nerve pinch on the farmer, then delivered a roundhouse kick to the side of his head, rendering him totally unconscious. Grabbing his legs, the warrior moved the mans body out of sight in the nearby brush. She knew that she had time to fetch him after taking care of the others.
Kate was laying on the cot, trying to ease her headache. She knew that the cut was still seeping blood, but apparently it had clotted somewhat. What she most worried about was not herself, but the men who held her. Although Xena had changed how she treated her, Kate was not blinded to the brutality she continued to show the townspeople. She keeps telling me its what she is...and she proves it every day. Although Xena had gone out of her way to shield Kate from the horrors of what her life was really like, every once in a while, she saw glimpses of it. And when she walked with Xena around the village, the looks of hate, pain...any negative feeling you could have, were all directed her way. Probably for good reason.
Not another one....Kate sighed as her muscles in her legs started cramping again. Shed been laying in the same position for way too long. The only time Dolas had let her get up was to use the chamber pot in the corner. That seemed like lifetimes ago. And he insisted on securing her back the way she had been laying right away. Relaxing her body...Kate tried to take her mind off things, and began thinking about Xena again.
Just when she thought shes relaxed herself enough to ease the cramps, she was surprised to see a body flying into the alcove and come to rest at the foot of her cot. Looking as best she could, she recognized the back of Meklans head. She heard him groan once, then seemingly lose consciousness. There were sounds coming from the front of the cave area headed her way. Straining to see what was going on, she was surprised when Dolas ran into the alcove, tears streaming down his face, with a knife in his hand. He stared at her for only a fraction of a second then quickly made his way to her side.
Raising up the knife over his head, he looked down at Kate. "Im sorry, shes to blame."
Kate closed her eyes as the knife started down towards her chest.
Later, the young woman understood that the sound she had heard came from the chakram flying through the air. The knife never made it near her, but was deflected out of Dolas hand when it was hit by the round weapon.
Xenas battlecry echoed through the caverns as she suddenly appeared from nowhere and attacked Dolas. The poor farmer never stood a chance with the Warrior Princess. If it had not been for Kates yelling pleas directed at her, Xena would have beaten him to death.
Finally the young womans begging got through to the warrior. She dropped the bloodied villager at her feet and looked at Kate for the first time. "Gods...youre bleeding." Dropping to the cot at Kates side, she untied the bonds holding her to the bedding. Reaching down, she helped the young woman sit up. Both women looked at the other for a second, then wrapped their arms around each other.
Sniffling, Kate was the first to speak. "I knew youd come." She continued to hold Xena feeling a total sense of security and...love.
"I thought Id lost you." Pulling back, Xena took a hard look at the gash along Kates right eyebrow. "That needs to be stitched."
Xena hugged Kate once more, then began to stand up. "But first...." The young woman watched as the warrior left and returned with the unconscious body of Tobias on her shoulders. Xena dropped him into a heap then walked over and got some water from another cave alcove. After letting Kate drink some, she threw the rest on the kidnappers, waking all them up.
"Xena...can I ask a favor?" Kate had watched as Xena dealt with the men that had kidnapped her. She didnt like what she saw.
Turning her attention away from the men for a second, the warrior smiled at Kate. "Of course you know you can. Why dont you wait outside while I take care of things here, then we can talk."
Standing up, Kate walked over to Xena and put her hand on her arm...more to make her point. "Um, Xena, I want you to let them go." The look on the Warrior Princess face told Kate that this was not going to be easy. "Xena, they really didnt hurt me and...."
"Kate, they kidnapped you, look...youre bleeding right now, and that one," Xena said with caustic vengeance pointing at Dolas, "was going to run you through with a knife."
Looking in Xenas eyes, Kate calmly continued. "Youre right. All thats true. But Im fine, you got here in time. Nothing happened. Xena, these men...theyre farmers. Theyre not warriors or fighters. Theyre scared men whove lost everything. They reacted to that. Look at them...do they look like theyre anything but frightened men? Youve won. Whats the point of killing them?"
"They took what was mine Kate. I cant just let that go. An example has to be made."
Smiling at the warrior, Kate grabbed onto Xenas hand. "Ah, so its an ego thing huh? Well, first of all, I thought wed agreed that I dont actually *belong* to you. And secondly, you can make an example without killing them. My god Xena, look at them. By letting them go, youll have walking poster children for your cause. Dead theyre martyrs." Taking a deep breath Kate tried one more time. "Please...for me?"
Xena walked away and sat down on the cot. Kate let her be for a few minutes, then walked over and sat beside her. Xena looked into her eyes. "All right...this time I do it your way. But Kate, I keep telling you that what I do and what I am...it is what it is. I dont make apologies or excuses for it. Dont expect that to change."
Kate moved her hand onto Xenas face, lightly brushing her fingers over her skin. "Thank you." She then cupped her hand in back of Xenas neck and brought her head down towards her own until their lips met in a sweetly romantic kiss.
Both women pulled apart and looked at each other. Slightly flustered, Xena stood up first and then helped Kate to her feet. "Uh...okay, then, well, um, yes, uh...we need to be getting back. Besides the fact that Darphusll start slaughtering townspeople soon, I need to get that cut stitched."
Kate just smiled at Xena and replied. "Right."
As the women made their way out of the cave, Xena could see and hear that the winds had picked up. "Guess were in for a storm. Lets see if we can get back before it starts."
When they were actually outside, it was obvious that a major storm was brewing. Xena turned to Kate. "Im gonna go get Argo. Shell never hear my whistle in this noise." The Warrior Princess was practically yelling to be heard. "You start out. Follow that path and Ill catch up with you. If were lucky we wont even get wet!" They both smiled at each other as Xena trotted off to retrieve her horse.
Kate quickly began walking in the direction Xena pointed out. The winds really began picking up and the young woman couldnt help but notice how dark it was getting. Looking up through the trees, she saw the sky turn a strange purple color. Kate blanched.
Oh my god.... Looking around for Xena, Kate got scared. This is like...oh no.... She began running as fast as she could, ignoring the pounding in her head. The winds continued to howl and then the rain, thunder and lightning began. "XENA!!!!"
Running was no use. The storm overtook Kate quickly. And like she remembered happening before, it seemed like the lightning bolts were advancing on her...xeroing in for a strike. Tears mixed with raindrops on the frightened womans face. She continued to run. Not again...please not again....
Kate was forced to stop running when a tree directly in front fell in her path after being hit by lightning. Changing her direction, she turned around and saw Xena riding Argo coming towards her. "XENA!!!" She began running to her.
Just then, the loudest thunder clap yet echoed out. Kate had to stop to cover her ears. She could barely make out Xena, who had jumped off Argo and was running her way. "XENA!" Then the sky lit up. Knowing what she would see, Kate looked up and watched as a bolt of lightning came directly for her. She barely had the time to turn to Xena, seeing the warrior cry out her name before her world went black.
....two years later in ancient Greece....
A lone woman rode on her horse through the countryside somewhere between Amphipolis and Poteidaia. From all outward appearances, she was a proud warrior atop her war-horse. But if people could get near to her, theyd see something different. This was a beaten woman...someone with such self-loathing that it seemed to emanate from her body. Shed been riding for days with little food and water, headed towards Amphipolis.
The last few years had been a tumultuous time for the Warrior Princess. Slowly, over time, self doubts, and more importantly remorse had entered her world. It seemed to have all started with Kate. And although her warrior ways had continued after shed lost the young woman, those forbidden thoughts that should never enter a warriors world were there...growing stronger each day. Finally it all came to a head with Darphus and Hercules. It was Darphus who forced her out of her own army, and Hercules who showed her a new path to take.
When shed last seen Hercules, she knew she had a new life to live, a life to make up for her past. But after a few weeks on the road, alone only with her thoughts and nightmares, shed come to doubt that she could go on knowing all the harm shed caused. Then shed come across that young boy...starving and without parents, all because of her. The thought of living with herself seemed too much to bear.
Riding Argo out past the burned village, Xena found a cove of trees. Dismounting her mare, she made her way to a small clearing inside the cove, and began to undress. All the armor, all her weapons came off. Finally, she was left in only her shift and boots. As she tried to bury her past, the sounds of people crying out still would not leave her mind. I should probably just fall on my sword and leave it at that. Mother will never forgive me anyway...why am I even trying?
Sounds coming from outside the trees continued, and Xena realized that they werent her memories, but that people were coming towards her. Backing up behind some bushes, she resigned herself to let the people pass, then continue on to Amphipolis. This is none of my concern...none of my concern.
The Warrior Princess watched as the warriors boxed the villagers in. Although shaking her head in disgust, knowing her own men had done this same thing under her orders all the time, she berated herself as the drama unfolded in front of her. Wishing that the group would just move on, she was barely aware of the young blonde girl who came forward to confront the leader of the slavers.
When the woman began to speak, Xena tried to make out who was talking. Something about that voice. The slaver moved slightly, enough for the Warrior Princess to get a short glimpse of the young woman. From a distance, she looked like...Kate?
The slaver grabbed for a whip to teach the young woman a lesson. Xena, reacting to what she saw moved in quickly to stop him. If for only a second, the Warrior Princess got a better look at the young woman. It was clear that she wasnt Kate...she was a bit younger, but there was something about her...something drawing Xena to her.
....the same two years later...present time....
The limousine pulled up in front of the Super Crown at Dupont Circle. As the young blonde woman exited the car, she was met with a cheering group of fans lined outside the store, awaiting her appearance. Smiling and waving at everyone, she and her small entourage entered the store for her book signing.
Although Kate had been on her book tour for four months now, coming home was a thrill. She still couldnt get used to all the attention she was receiving. Limousine rides, top hotels, people at her beck and call...this was just not something she was used to. I could get used to this....
As Kate was introduced to the store manager and all those people whod be helping her with the crowd, she looked over and saw stacks of her novel sitting near the signing table. Out of Time was a hit...a phenomenon according to her publishers at Simon and Schuster. It had been on the top 10 list for as long as it had been out, and had been in the number one slot for most of that time. Movie deals were already in the works, and with that, Kate knew she was set for life.
Two years ago when Kate began to regain consciousness in the hospital, she was greeted by a score of doctors and nurses, all very happy that shed woken up from the coma shed been in for three weeks. When Kate actually opened her eyes, she could not believe what she saw and immediately asked where she was. The doctors were perplexed and called it a miracle that shed apparently suffered no brain damage when her car was hit by lightning. Other than the coma, the only injury that they could find was a severe cut along Kates right eyebrow, assumed to have been caused by her head hitting the steering wheel when the lightning hit the car. Although they had stitched it up, it was clear that a scar would remain there.
Kate never told anyone what she had been through. She didnt understand what had happened to her, but between the scar, the vivid memories, and the feelings she had, she knew that it wasnt a dream. She knew that it really happened. Instead of letting it go, she wrote about it. The novel Out of Time was the result. Although shed left out some parts, changed names, and was not exactly forthcoming with a few details of the lead characters feelings towards the brutal female warlord who captured her, the basic story in the novel was hers.
Taking a deep breath, she nodded her head and began to say hello to her hometown public.
Although shed been obligated for only one hour of signing, she stayed until the entire line of fans got a signed copy of her book. Three hours later, there were only a few people left. Kate was tired from all the traveling shed done recently, and for some reason, the scar along her eyebrow was bothering her. Reaching up and rubbing the mark, she looked up to see the last person in line. Kate dropped her Sharpie marker and had to catch her breath.
The tall, dark haired woman smiled and answered. "Kate its good to meet you. My names Xena Papanicolas. I feel like we already know each other. If youre done here, Id love to sit down with you and talk."
Kate found it hard to breath. The woman in front of her, dressed in black jeans, a blue satin blouse and a leather jacket, was the double of Xena...her Xena. Swallowing, she nodded her head. Looking over to the Simon and Schuster people, she asked if the woman at the table could accompany her in the limousine back to her townhouse.
Once outside, Kate stumbled towards the waiting car. The dark haired woman grabbed her arm to steady her. "Its okay Kate. I think I can explain this to you. Take it easy."
As the car pulled away through the traffic, Kate settled down in the comfort of the limousine and finally looked at the woman next to her. "Xena, is that really you?"
"Well, um, no. I mean, Im not *that* Xena." Shaking her head the tall woman tried to compose herself. "This is hard for me too Kate. I grew up with you...the story of your time with the other Xena." Seeing the total look of confusion on Kates face, she began to tell her story.
"As you could probably guess from my name, Im Greek. My family has a very intense love of our heritage...always has. When I was a kid, I can remember my great grandmother telling me stories...the same stories that her grandmother told her.... The main focus of our family legends is a warrior woman named Xena. Im named after her. And part of the story Ive heard since I was a child is about the time a strange blonde haired woman named Kate spent with her."
Seeing that Kate was taking her story in, she continued. "Kate, the legends of our family history are kept within our clan...passed down through the generations. You can imagine my shock when I saw your book in the stores and picked it up to see what it was about, only to find myself reading my family history." Reaching over and grabbing her hand, Xena smiled. "Then I saw the name...Kate Delaney. Youre our Kate...."
Finally able to talk, Kate smiled back at Xena. "You look just like her."
"Um, yeah, you do." Smiling at Xena, Kate looked outside the windows and saw that they were just outside her house. "Please, can you come in and talk some more? I have a feeling weve got a lot to discuss."
It was obvious that both women felt the electricity of their unspoken connection. As Kate held her door open for Xena and they walked into the house, it was like shed somehow come full circle...like it had all been for a reason.
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