Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all others associated with the television series of the same name are owned by Studios USA. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.

The other characters and the organization of ICON is property of T. Novan and may not be used without written permission.

Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes, they are in love with each other.

Sex: Implied

Violence: Nope

Language: None.

Other: 01/17/03. This is a work of fiction and a lot of it is science fiction. Only the very basics of the medical work is being presented here and some of it will not be accurate because this piece deals with a science that is far from perfect.

 

ICON

By T. Novan
tnovan@aol.com

 

Xena zipped up the garment bag and looked around the corner to see Gabrielle still sleeping in their large bed. Sighing she moved into the main part of the hotel room and sat down next to her slumbering partner.

Placing a gentle hand on the blondeís shoulder, she gave s shake to the sleeping form. "Gabrielle, honey, you need to get up and get ready. We need to check out."

The woman groaned and rolled over, revealing swollen, bloodshot eyes. "All right," she tried to push the covers back, but fell short in the attempt. "I feel like crap."

"You look like crap." Xena reached for the phone and punched zero. She placed her hand on Gabrielleís forehead while she waited for an answer. She wasnít happy to find it warm and damp. "Yes," she spoke to whoever was on the other end of the phone. "This is Ms. Alexander in room 513. Would it be possible for us to keep the room another day or two? My partner isnít feeling well and I donít think sheís quite up to traveling."

She pulled the blankets up around Gabrielleís shoulders and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead as she listened into the receiver. "Thank you, very much." Hanging up the phone, she looked into the face of her companion. "Iím going to go find a pharmacy and get you some cold medicine."

"I love you," Gabrielle managed to choke out right before a powerful sneeze brought her head up from the pillow.

"And Kleenex," Xena teased as she stood and collected her wallet. "Just go back to sleep, I wonít be gone long."

"Kay," Gabrielle pulled the covers up to her chin and rolled over, closing her eyes and feeling eternally grateful that she had an understanding partner. She had seriously been considering jumping out the window if Xena really wanted to leave. They were five stories up; it probably would have done the job.

After asking directions at the front desk, Xena strolled down the street to the closest place to get the required medicines for her pitiful partner. She had never had to do this before and it was quite apparent as she looked over the shelves of various cold remedies. Picking up one and reading the label she bit her lip. "Okay she has a fever, but no cough." Holding the first one she picked up the next one. "Sneezing, yes. Running nose? I have no idea."

Briefly she considered pulling her cell phone out and calling, but she decided that letting Gabrielle sleep was probably just the best thing. "All right then weíll just take one of everything."

The red basket was loaded with pills, capsules, creams and liquids that promised to relieve everything from stuffiness to chest congestion. There were tissues of every conceivable shape and size, with lotion, without lotion, puffy and extra puffy for sore, raw noses.

She grabbed a few bags of snacks, or various kinds realizing that if Gabrielle was going to be down for a few days she would need to keep reserves hidden to snack on between calls to room service.

Not that she minded the concept of holding up in this room. It was very nice and compared to some of the places they had stayed in the past. And including some of the places she had memories of staying in, this hotel with its hot shower, coffee pot in the bathroom and cable TV was heaven on earth.

*****

Twenty minutes later she was on her way back to the hotel, properly prepared to take care of her partner through what appeared to be a really bad cold. Quietly entering the room she found Gabrielle was still sleeping and apparently resting comfortably. Taking everything out of the shopping bag, she decided to hold off on administering medicine until the blonde was awake.

She settled down on the small sofa with a cold soda and turned on the TV. Settling on some educational entertainment channel, she watched with divided attention to some documentary about Roman gladiators. Her attention was drawn back to Gabrielle, who was experiences a coughing fit. She was at her partnerís side, pulling her up and easing her through it.

"Easy sweetie, I gotcha."

On it had passed, Gabrielle opened water, swollen eyes and tried to smile. "Kill me now?"

"No sweetie. I canít do that. Youíre all Iíve got in this lousy world. Iím keeping you."

"Filthy rich," Gabrielle rasped out before she began coughing again.

"Doesnít matter. Come on," she helped her sit up and then retrieved a bottle from the table of cold medicines. She read the label and looked to Gabrielle. "Okay letís see here, youíve got sniffling, sneezing, coughing. Do you ache?"

"God yes."

"And I can hear youíre stuffy." She looked back to the bottle. "Yup, this one is for you." Taking the cap off she poured a dose into the small plastic cap. "Drink."

Dutifully, she took the cup and drank down the medicine, making a horrible face and letting her entire body shiver when she did. "Oh thatís awful!"

"Yes, but if it helps then thatís all that matters." She laid Gabrielle back down and kissed her on the forehead. "Go to sleep, youíll feel better when you wake up."

"I couldnít feel any worse, thatís for sure."

"Rest. Weíve got nowhere to be. Weíve got all the time in the world."

"I love you."

"I love you too. Now be a good little clone and go to sleep."

*****

Xena watched TV for a few hours then decided a shower before ordering up some dinner was the ticket. Grabbing boxers and a t-shirt from the dresser she headed for the bathroom where she ran a nice hot shower.

The water was blissful and she had no desire to leave its warmth anytime soon. She closed her eyes, washing her hair and just relaxing as much as possible. There was a flash of a memory, which she shook her head to remove from her minds eye. She hated these memories and did her best to ignore them when they chose to arrive.

She knew what she was, and she knew that the things that had happened three millennia ago couldnít bind her. She could not, would not, be responsible for that life. It was a waste of time and energy as far as she was concerned. She didnít ask to be here, but she would certainly take control of this life and that meant not rehashing things that were so far in the past they didnít make a difference to anyone but historians and archeologists.

Stepping out of the shower, she dried off and slipped on her T and shorts and headed back into the sleeping area. The news had started. Gabrielle was still sleeping peacefully. Carefully, as not to disturb her, Xena slipped into bed. She smiled when Gabrielle rolled over immediately and cuddled up next to her. Letting her partner find her place on her shoulder, Xena hugged her closed and kissed her on the top of the head. "Sleep well, Bard."

The tall woman sighed. With all her efforts to block out the ancient memories, she was still amazed when that particular nickname slipped out. Some things just werenít worth fighting.

*****

When Xena woke the next morning, the TV was still on. She had felt herself falling asleep during one of those inane late night talk shows, but had no desire to disturb Gabrielle who was sleeping peacefully in her spot on Xenaís shoulder.

This was also the spot that the blonde still occupied and Xenaís everything was sore form not moving in the last several hours. Even though she didnít really want to do it, she had no choice but to slide out from under Gabrielle and stretch. She rolled her neck and stretched her arms above her head.

Gabrielle raised her head and slowly opened her eyes. "Morning."

"Good morning. How do you feel?"

"Mmm," she gave it serious consideration for a moment. "Not bad, certainly better than I did yesterday. Whatever that was you gave me yesterday did the job."

"Glad to hear it. How Ďbout some breakfast?"

She nodded as she threw back the covers. Sitting up on the edge of the bed she felt a bit dizzy, but didnít feel like she was going to black out. "You order something while I grab a shower?"

"Absolutely. Iíll order up something that will be easy on your stomach."

"Thank you."

Watching as Gabrielle made her way to the bathroom, Xena picked up the phone and ordered a breakfast of fresh fruit and cereals. She had just hung up the phone when she heard Gabrielle yell her name. It was a panicked plea and she dashed to the bathroom to find her partner, curled up on the floor, holding her stomach. A trickle of blood seeped from the corner of her mouth.

"Help me, please God help me!" She turned pleading eyes on her partner, knowing that Xena would do anything she could.

Without hesitating, Xena picked her up and carried her back to the bed, where she grabbed the phone. "I need an ambulance. Room 513." Without another word she slammed the phone down and turned her attention back to Gabrielle.

*****

Xena held Gabrielleís hand, trying to stay close to her, but out of the way of the EMT treating her partner as the ambulance screamed through the city streets in route to the hospital.

Gabrielle has lost consciousness a few minutes before the ambulance had arrived and remained that way despite everyoneís best effort to wake her.

Xena sat quietly, willing her partner to be all right, but remaining quiet and allowing the technicians to do their work. She listened as they sent messages detailing Gabrielleís condition to the hospital. She didnít even pretend to understand half of what they where saying, but she did understand the word Ďstableí and that made her feel just a little better. Although Gabrielleís refusal to come to still had her concerned.

She followed them through the emergency doors staying as close as she could, until a nurse put her hand on her chest to stop her. "Youíll have to wait out here."

"ButÖ"

"Iím sorry. Let the doctors work and as soon as she know anything, someone will come for you."

The nurse went through the doors, leaving Xena to stand and watch through the small windows. Her eyes never strayed as she watched people work on her partner. They attached monitors and started more IVís all in an effort to determine the cause of the illness that had overtaken the young woman so rapidly.

*****

Xena sat in the waiting area, sipping coffee out of a paper cup and trying to be patient, but growing tired of not being able to get any answers. She took the last drink and crushed the cup, tossing it in a nearby can before standing up. She was ready to try again when a young doctor came out of the examine room where they had been treating Gabrielle. He stopped at the nurseís desk and they pointed him in Xenaís direction.

"Are you withÖ"

"Yes," she nodded and took his hand as he offered it. "How is she?"

"Iím Doctor Evans, Iím treating yourÖ?"

"Sheís my lover." Xena answered honestly. "How is she?"

He sighed and it was clear he was trying to find the right words. "Sheís stable, but unfortunately I really canít offer more than that." He led her back to the chairs and sat down with her. "Can you tell me exactly what happened?"

"She woke up yesterday morning with a cold. I went out and got some medicine and we stayed put. Then this morning she got up and, well thatís when we ended up here."

"And the only medicine she took was what the ambulance brought us?"

"Yes, and she only had one dose of that."

"Well, she presents with what looks like pneumonia, but thatís not right and I know it. The symptoms are the same, but not exact. Iíve ordered a toxscreen one her and the medicine."

"You think she was poisoned?"

"It canít be ruled out. And weíve had situations where medicines have been tampered with before."

"I would never hurt her, sheís all I have."

"I donít mean that you would hurt her. There have been instances of over the counter medications being tampered with."

"What kind of sick human being does something like that?"

"Thatís a good question," he smiled and patted her leg. "Listen, why donít you go sit with her. Once we get the test results back, weíll be able to decide what to do next. Right now sheís stable and resting. Let me take you over there."

"Thank you."

*****

"Hey," Xena leaned over and kissed Gabrielleís forehead. "Itís time to wake up. Please?" She wanted to cry, but refused to show weakness now, when Gabrielle needed her so much. "I need you to get up."

She sat down on a stool, the doctor had provided and held the blondeís hand. With her other hand she gently ran her fingers through Gabrielleís hair. "You listen to me. You canít leave me here Gabrielle, I donít know how to survive in this world without you. I need you. You keep me sane in this insane place."

Xena laid her head down next to Gabrielle and within a few minutes she was sleeping next to her partner.

*****

"Ms. Alexander?"

Xenaís head came up and she looked at Dr. Evans. "Yes?"

"I got the lab results back. The good news is, your partner wasnít poisoned. The bad news is we donít know exactly whatís wrong. She seems to have developed a virus of some sort that is effecting her blood."

"What can we do?"

"Iím calling in a specialist. Heís a friend of mine and tops in the field." He looked at Gabrielleís chart and back to Xena, a look of frustration clear on his face. "Iíve never seen anything like this before. Itís complicated, but the simplest explanation I can give you is that, her cells seem to be collapsing in on themselves. It doesnít look like any kind of cancer Iíve ever seen and itís not even remotely related to the AIDS virus."

Xena wanted to ask a million questions all at once, but none of them made sense and she didnít even know where to begin. The doctor could see the obvious confusion in her face and he took a stool next to her. "Let me try again. Gabrielleís blood seems to be attacking her. Her RNA is not sending the proper signals to the DNA and therefore her blood is not recycling the way it should be. Iím sorry, thereís just no simple way to explain this."

"Is she dying?"

"If we canít determine the cause of this and find a way to stop it from happening, it is very likely that she will succumb to the virus."

"What about a transfusion orÖorÖsomething. There has to be something!"

"And as soon as Doctor Greene gets here and can examine her weíll decide on a course of treatment. Until then I donít want to do anything that could make her worse. The one thing that is obvious is that this is not a normal problem and standard treatments could do more harm than good."

Xena just nodded as her eyes strayed back to Gabrielle. "I understand."

"I promise," he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "We will do everything we can. Jeff Greene is the absolute best. Heíll find an answer."

"How long before he gets here?"

"Heís on his way. It shouldnít be too long. In the mean time Iím going to admit Gabrielle and weíll get her moved upstairs."

"I can go with her?"

"Absolutely. Dr. Greene is going to have some questions to ask you after he examines Gabrielle, so weíll need you to stay close."

"Iím not leaving her."

"Okay, just relax and weíll get you settled upstairs."

"Thank you, Doctor."

*****

Xena sat in a small waiting room, drinking coffee and picking at a sandwich. She had zero appetite, but a nurse who reminded her of Cyrene, told her that she wouldnít be any good to anyone if she didnít eat.

The door opened and both doctors entered. Dr. Evans smiled and took a seat. Dr. Greene made a couple notes on Gabrielleís chart and then took a seat across from Xena.

"Ms. Alexander, where are you and Gabrielle from?"

"Los Angeles."

"And youíre in Philadelphia, why?"

"Weíre just visiting, on vacation. Well, Gabrielle was doing research for a book, but mostly just relaxing."

"All right. Well, let me tell you that Iíve found some very unusual things in your friendís blood and I need some straight answers if Iím going to help her."

"Iíll tell you anything you want to know. But what kind of unusual things?"

"There are some markers in her RNA that shouldnít be there, unless," he hesitated and then looked Xena right in the eye. "She was cloned."

"How did you know?" The admission was simple enough. She knew there was no way to deny it.

"Itís a scientific anomaly. When cells are cloned, the copies, for lack of a better term, mark themselves. We canít explain it. It seems to be a natural occurrence in cells that are copied."

"You seem to know a lot about the process."

"I do. I actually work for the government."

Xena looked to Dr. Evans. "You knew?"

"No I didnít know, but the things we found where so unusual, I knew Jeff was the best man to call."

"We need to move your friend to Washington. I have facilities and equipment there to properly care for her."

"Iíll do whatever you need. You need to save her."

"Weíll do our best." Dr. Greene looked to his colleague and lifted his chin toward the door, requesting privacy. The younger man left and Dr. Greene turned his attention back to Xena. "Tell me, how did you know she was a clone?"

"Because I am too."

*****

Xena was in the back of the van with Gabrielle, continuing to hold her hand. It had been a long day. Before she really knew what was happening, she and Gabrielle were aboard a medical transport and on their way to Washington. Next they were loaded into a windowless van and they had been traveling for less than 10 minutes when the van came to a stop.

The doors opened and Dr. Greene along with two other doctors and three guards armed with very large rifles began unloading her gurney. Xenaís protective senses were on high alert when she saw the guards.

"Relax, Ms. Alexander this is a high security area and these men are here for your protection. No one here is going to hurt you. We only want to help."

She followed them into a nondescript concrete block building. The moment she was inside she knew things were about to take an interesting turn. The interior was amazing, monitors and screens and state of the art computer equipment seemed to adorn nearly every free inch of wall space.

There were armed guards walking about and no one seemed to be paying the little group any attention what so ever.

She followed the team transporting Gabrielle onto a large elevator. She retook Gabrielleís hand as Dr. Greene pushed a button for L6 and they began their descent.

"As soon as we get her settled, weíll take you to your room."

"I donít want to leave her."

"Youíll be right next door and youíll be able to see her through a window, but we need to isolate her. Her immune system is decaying at a rapid rate and we need to get her into a sterile environment."

She watched with a sense of complete hopelessness as Gabrielle was taken into one room and she was taken into another. The nurse who stayed with her was quick to open a curtain to reveal a large window, which showed her Gabrielleís room.

Xena leaned on the window and watched as the medical team very carefully moved Gabrielle to a hospital bed and began attaching various monitors.

The nurse turned a knob on the wall. "You can speak to the doctor through the intercom. You can monitor everything that is going on."

"Thank you."

"If you need anything else, just pick up that phone. There is a fully stocked refrigerator in that small room behind you. It also leads to the bathroom. You can shower and clean up there if you like. Thereís a television in the cabinet and a secure laptop on the desk." The nurse stepped forward and rested her hand on Xenaís arm. "I know all this is frightening, but I promise you that weíre only here to help you and your friend. We are the good guys."

Xena nodded, but never took her eyes from Gabrielle. She noticed that the team taking care of her was not the team that had brought her in. These three people were dressed in white suits from head to foot, including a helmet with a large plastic face shield and gloves.

*****

She wasnít sure how long she had been standing there when the door to her room opened. Dr. Greene entered and took a seat in a large overstuffed chair. "Gabrielle is still resting comfortably. I need to ask you some questions."

"Anything." Xena took a seat across from him.

"Itís a common misconception that clones can be grown full size. People think that when you clone something you get an exact replica, same age, and same size. Thatís not normally how it works. Generally you get a baby that grows into a copy of the original. But the tests Iíve run on Gabrielle donít support what I know as scientific fact. Can you fill in more information?"

"I can try. Youíre may not believe me."

"Xena, I clone things for a living as part of my work for ICON. Thereís very little Iíll doubt."

"All right," she wiped her palms on her slacks and laced her fingers together before beginning. "About two years ago, Gabrielle and I woke up in a lab in Los Angeles. We were told that we were clones of two ancient Greek warriors and that we had been brought back because this world needed a hero. As it turns out thatís not why we were brought back. A woman named Alti cloned us so she could program me for violence."

"So you donít remember anything about the process?"

"Nothing. All I remember is waking up."

"So then what happened?"

"Well, Alti tried to have Gabrielle arrested in an effort to make the violence programming kick in. She knew Iíd go berserk if they tried to separate us."

"Did it work?"

"Yes, it did. I broke Gabrielle out of the jail and then, well I wasÖIÖ" she shook her head. "I came back to myself because Gabrielle brought me out of it. I fought Alti and then Gabrielle and I took off and weíve been doing our best to survive every since. We got lucky and managed to get a hold of some treasureÖ"

"Go on."

"The original version of me lived about 3000 years ago. She hid some treasure away and a few months Gabrielle and I managed to reclaim it."

"I knew by Gabrielleís DNA that your werenít Ďmoderní, if you will. There are markers. But to be honest, I need to know more about the process used to clone you before I can do much for Gabrielle. My superiors have an offer for you."

"Yes?"

"We will send you and one of our agents to Los Angeles to help you try and find the lab and any information that might be available."

"Iíll do whatever I have to."

"All right, Iím going to let you go in and see Gabrielle, but our agent will be ready to leave in a half hour."

"Thank you. Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course."

"Why donít you seemed fazed by any of this?"

"Iím a research scientist employed by a secret government organization. Nothing fazes me."

*****

Several hours later, Xena and Agent Tucker landed at a private airstrip just outside of Los Angeles.

They had spent the time in the air getting to know each other and luckily they found they liked each other and believed that working together wouldnít be difficult. However, he was a little less than thrilled with her refusal to use a firearm. She assured him that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself and after a short demonstration of her abilities, Agent Tucker was pleased to see that Xena knew her way around self defense with the grace and ease of a cat on the hunt.

On the way out of the hanger to the truck that was waiting to take them to the location of the lab, Xena found a broom and snapped the handle off of it. He watched as she checked its balance with a series of intricate maneuvers that left him grinning. He liked this tall woman and hoped that this would be a relativity easy mission. He knew she was worried about the woman that had been left in the care of ICON medics.

The drive was silent. Neither of them speaking, unless it was to ask for or give directions. They pulled up in front of the large building and when Xena got out of the truck, she stopped and stared.

"Is this the place?"

"Yeah, this is it. I havenít seen it in two years, but I know itís the place. The lab was in the basement."

"Letís go."

Entering the building they went directly to the basement and found the door to the lab. The lab had been dismantled and the room was now empty.

"Damn!" Xena slapped the wall.

"Easy, weíre not done yet. Letís see if we can find a manager."

Returning to the first floor, the directory in the lobby listed the building manager as being on the third floor.

The office was well staffed and they didnít have long to wait before someone took notice. The young woman smiled and ushered them into her office. "What can I do for you today?"

Agent Tucker opened his ID, which identified him as a member of a federal law enforcement agency, which one wasnít exactly clear.

"Maíam, we need information on a group that occupied the basement level of this structure approximately two years ago."

"Oh yes, well I remember that tenant. She left suddenly and we had to vacate the space."

"What did you do with the equipment?" Xena piped up, nervous that it had been thrown out or sold off.

"We put it in storage."

Agent Tucker took control and offered, "Maíam weíll need to look at that equipment."

"I wish I could help you, but weíre holding that equipment as collateral. If she comes backÖ"

"The woman," Xena leaned forward. "Wonít be coming back."

"How do you know?"

"Sheís dead."

"Oh, Iím sorry."

"Donít be, she was a bitch."

Agent Tucker leaned forward and placed his hand on the womanís desk. "We have reason to believe that the woman who rented that space may have committed a serious crime and we need to look through that equipment for records of that crime."

The young woman looked between the two in front of her desk, and decided that she didnít want to argue with them. "Let me get the key."

*****

Agent Tucker sat in front of the laptop computer aboard the plane and sent all the information they had collected via a secure connection. Once it was complete he leaned back in his seat and looked to Xena. "Weíll be home in a few hours."

"Good."

"Itís been a hell of a day for you hasnít it."

"Iíve had worse. Iím just worried about Gabrielle."

"If there is a way to help her, Dr. Greene will find it. Heís amazing. And a damn good doctor."

"You sound like you speak from experience."

"I do." He watched her for a minute then held up his left hand. "See this?"

"Yeah."

With a twist he removed that hand that not one minute before had looked like a part of his body. "He gave this to me after I lost my hand in a fire fight last year."

"Robotics?"

"No, bionics. The hand is a part of me."

"Thatís amazing."

"Yes. Trust me when I tell you that he will help your friend if he can."

"Why would your organization offer us help anyhow?"

"ICON has been doing research into cloning for years. Itís never been really successful. Iím sure that Dr. Greene is hoping that youíll help him better understand the process and aid him in his research."

"If he saves Gabrielleís life Iíll owe him the world."

*****

"Xena?"

She looked up from her dinner at Dr. Greene. "Yes?"

"Iíd like to draw some of your blood."

"Of course. Howís Gabrielle?"

"Her breathing has eased. The antibiotics are helping, but they arenít the answer." He drew a needle, tourniquet and small glass tube from his lab coat pocket. "Iím hoping Iíll find the answer in your blood."

Rolling up her sleeve Xena presented her arm without hesitation. "How so?"

"Well, according to the records that you and Tucker got for us, you were both created at the same time. If thatís the case there should be a reason that youíre not having the same problems. The answer may be in your blood."

"Iíll give her all of it, if itíll help."

Dr. Greene drew the blood and chuckled. "I donít think that will be necessary. You need yours too. I may need to do some other tests."

"Just tell me when."

"Okay. Would you like to go see her?"

"Absolutely."

*****

Sitting next to Gabrielle, Xena wished that she didnít have to wear the sterile outfit, but she understood the reasoning behind it.

"Hello sweetheart. You look a little better. I know youíre trying to get better. I know you donít want to leave me. Weíre doing everything we can. Dr. Greene is really on top of this. If thereís an answer out there, heíll find it. I love you Gabrielle, hold on sweetheart. Just hold on."

A nurse entered the room and checked on Gabrielleís condition, making a few notes in her chart. "Her fever is down."

"Thatís good. Right?"

"Thatís very good. It shows improvement."

"Thank you." Her attention went back to the blonde. "You hear that. Youíre getting better. Keep it up, Bard."

Dr. Greene came into the room and placed his hand on Xenaís shoulder. "I have very good news."

"Yeah, what?"

"I can do a marrow transplant. I can use a donation from you that might help Gabrielle."

"When can we do it?"

"Iíll need to harvest some material from you, then put it through a process in our lab that will stabilize it. Then Iíll be able to give Gabrielle the transfusion and if weíre very lucky weíll see some marked improvement in two or three days. She may even open her eyes."

"She has beautiful green eyes."

"Iím sure she does and I assure you that you will be the first thing she sees."

*****

Xena was lying in her stomach. Her back was draped with surgical curtains and enough anesthetic had been administered that she was feeling no pain. Dr. Greene had told her that her could put her to sleep, but she had requested not to be put out.

"Ready Xena?"

"As ready as I can be."

"Okay, youíre going to feel some pressure on your lower back near your hips, but if you feel any pain I want you to tell us. All right?"

"Yeah."

"Letís get to it then."

The process took about two and a half hours and Xena found herself placed back in her own room to recover. A nurse remained with her, but she could still see Gabrielle in the next room.

"How are you feeling Ms. Alexander?"

"Sore."

"Thatís to be expected. It should ease up in the next few hours and by tomorrow it should be negligible."

"Do you think Dr. Greene is going to be able to make this work?"

"If anyone can, itíll be him."

Taking one last look at Gabrielle, Xena let her eyes slip shut.

*****

Up and moving around, Xena took a nice hot shower. Her back was sore and bruised but the pain was bearable and if it helped Gabrielle it was completely worth the effort.

Dr. Greene had just been in with an update and since they had performed the transplant, Gabrielleís temperature had spiked and they were working to bring it down. He assured her that despite the minor complications that were bound to crop up, everything looked good and within a day or so they should be able to tell if the marrow would graph properly.

Tightening the belt around her robe, she grabbed a towel to start working the water from her hair. As she was about to sit down there was a knock on the door, answering the door she found an older man that she hadnít met in the last few days of her stay in the facility.

"Ms. Alexander, Iím George Stratton. Iím the director of ICON."

"Please come in. Iíd like to thank you for your help."

"Itís the least we could do considering your situation. I hope that we can have a reciprocal relationship."

"Meaning you helped me out of a tight spot and now you want something from me."

"Well, we would like to make you an offer."

"One I canít refuse?"

"Itís nothing like that. Once Gabrielle is well enough to travel you are free to leave. But I think youíll find my offer interesting."

"All right, Iím listening."

"We would like to offer you a place with ICON."

"A job?"

"Yes, we want to make you part of the organization. You would be one of our agents."

"Why?"

"Several reasons really. But the two most important are that youíd be a great help to Dr. Greeneís work and you would make the perfect operatives because, you donít exist officially."

"I see."

"Think about it Ms. Alexander. ICON could be very good to you and your companion."

"Tell me, what does ICON stand for?"

"International Counter Operations Network."

"And exactly what is it you do?"

"Whatever needs to be done. We go places and do things that canít be handled by our more Ďpublicí brothers and sisters like the CIA and the such."

"I see now. Youíre a shadow organization."

He smiled and nodded. "Basically. We do what needs to be done." Placing his hand on the doorknob, he glanced back to her. "Think about our offer."

Xena only nodded as he walked out the door.

*****

Standing next to Gabrielleís bed, Xena was glad that she didnít have to be in the sterile suit any long her and could make contact with Gabrielle. Dr. Greene stood next to the bed loading a syringe.

"Iím going to give her a shot of adrenaline to see if we can get her to come around. Be ready."

"Oh Iíve been ready for a week." Xena brushed her fingers through Gabrielleís hair and smiled down at her slumbering partner. "Come on sweetheart, open your eyes."

The injection was given and they waited. Gabrielleís heart rate picked up and her respirations increased. There was rapid movement behind her eyelids and within a few minutes, she opened her eyes.

Xena nearly collapsed from relief.

Dr. Greene stepped forward and smiled at his patient. "Hi Gabrielle, welcome back."

She moaned and licked her lips, wanting noting more than a cold glass of water. "Xena?"

"Iím right here, honey. Iím right here."

*****

Sitting up in bed, the last three days had been good for Gabrielle. Her monitors and IVís were gone. She was eating solid food and she and Xena were no longer separated. The entire story had been relayed to her and she told them of what she remembered over those last few days.

She actually remembered all the times Xena has sat with her and talked to her and she knew they were working on trying to find out what was wrong.

Today was her first real attempt at getting up and walking around and she was glad to be finally getting out of bed. Holding onto Xenaís arm they walked slowly down the hall.

"Can we leave soon?"

"Well, actually, an offer has been made to us. I think we should consider it."

"What kind of offer?"

*****

They walked down the hall to the Directorís office. Several weeks of intense training had come to an end and this was going to be their first trip into the field.

Gabrielle had to admit she felt funny carry a gun, but she knew it was now required. She and Xena hadnít taken these jobs lightly and were bound and determined to do the best jobs they could.

They had made it quite clear they were a team and anything they did for ICON, they did together.

"Hey Xena, you know what?"

"What?"

"This is going to make a great story."

 


Return to The Bard's Corner